Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Taking Issue with Memes

Since last Saturday, I've been writing this blog in my head.  At first I was seething mad and then when I let myself process the anger, I realized I was hurt and disappointed.  A bit disillusioned if you will.  When my mind won't let go of something, I know I need to process it deeper.   Before I could write here, I had to let all the nasty, biting comments out in a safe place because snark doesn't heal wounds or solve problems, so I assure you that everything I am writing now comes from a heart that wants people to understand.  

First and most importantly, my faith is important to me.  I believe that faith in God is powerful.  I believe that Jesus is the answer to society's ills.  I believe He came and died to fix what is broken.  I want people to know the hope I have.  

I also believe that God hardwired me to teach.  I've want to be a teacher since I was four years old.  I asked for a grade book and teacher's editions for Christmas.  I made my precious brother endure years of school before he every stepped foot into South Columbia Elementary.  I don't feel alive and fulfilled unless I am teaching.  I loved my nine years at home with Kenly and Corah, but if I am completely honest, I felt like a huge part of me was hibernating for nine years.  For the first time in nine years, all of me feels alive again because I am back in a school.  

I also love Facebook.  While many times Facebook can feel like a pit of poison, I also see the app used for good--a way to encourage people, to share a quick laugh, and to connect with people you might otherwise forget.  Most of the time, Facebook fills me up.  However, in the wake of a major issue or controversy, Facebook is an emotional drain for me.  I've learned to walk away until the battle cools because reading the worst humanity has to offer destroys me.  It's all too much.  

In the wake of the latest school shooting, I felt like Facebook was a battleground.  I am becoming more aware that social media is not the arena for fighting for social change.  Intimate personal conversations cannot happen through a screen.  It is too easy to give into negativity, defeatist attitudes, and and us against them mentality.  In order to change the world, we have to listen to each other.  Deep listening.  All that being said, I love memes.  I love quick, witty ways to promote an agenda.  I find them clever.  Memes about motherhood and parenting are my favorites.  However, memes are getting darker and more sinister.  At first read, I find myself longing to share the memes, but something always stops me.  Memes are often short-sighted, unable to look at a whole issue.  Lately the memes that turn my stomach the most have religious undertones.  Most of these memes, I probably would have share in my early twenties.  Time and experience have been great teachers.    On Saturday I was scrolling through Facebook when the following memes caught my eye and troubled my heart.  

I promise I am not judging in sharing these.  If you've read this far and you've shared one of these, I am sure you did it with good intentions.  I just want people to think before quickly sharing something.

I understand the theology behind this quote.  I understand the idea of God being a gentleman and not forcing himself on a nation, a school, or our lives.  However, I feel like this is a misguided statement.  I've always understood God to be omnipotent and omnipresent.  I grew up reading Psalm 139:7-12

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day,    for darkness is as light to you.

 I realize this passage is talking about a believer, and I understand the meme is referring to a nation as a whole--believers and unbelievers alike. But, if I am being honest, it rubs me wrong to suggest that God will back out schools just because we asked him.  Do we hold that power?  It also rubs me wrong because I work in a public school.  I see men and women walking into a public school every day like they are walking on to a mission field.  They pray for students.  They are the hands and feet of Jesus every single day.  God is present in schools, if only in the lives of those who believe in Him.  

This meme drives me crazy because in my mind, God never left schools.  Teachers might not start class with prayer.  They might not teach the Bible, but God is active and present in schools.  If I believe the Bible to be true, and I do,  then the Bible promises me that I will not be left alone.  Matthew 18:20 says, 
"For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”  This year alone, I've joined hands with other teachers to pray over issues that are out of our control.  We've prayed for guidance and wisdom, for strength to do the job before us.  The Bible also says in Deuteronomy 31:6 that we should "be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” 

Many of my church friends might disagree with me, but faith education has no place in a public school.  If you study history, you'll see all sorts of horrors done in the name of religion.  You'll also see our founding fathers built our nation so religious persecution would not be tolerated.  Personally, I want a gospel of grace presented to my children. A gospel founded in the life and death of Jesus.  I believe in Jesus' death and resurrection.  I believe it with every fiber of my being.  I want others to know and believe too, but I also know that many hold different religious beliefs.  Those of differing faiths are just as passionate as I am.  Choosing one faith to teach as a nation would be going against principles our nation was founded on.

This meme bothers me.  It suggests that we are more powerful than God.  If this is the case, why serve Him?  If I can bully God whenever I feel like it and bend Him to my will, then He is not God.  

This meme is just plain wrong.  If you think this is the case, you haven't been in a public school in quite awhile.  I am a first grade teacher assistant.  I have a Bible on my desk.  In every school I've taught in there has been a Bible on my desk.  Most middle and high schools have active Fellowship of Christian Athletes clubs.  Prayer at the Pole is held on a regular basis.  Any student who wants to attend can.  As a public high school student, I carried my Bible to school on a regular basis and I was never given a hard time.  A few people might have snickered or poked fun, but I didn't care.  Sharing things like this perpetuates false information.

All in all, I'm finding it so easy to click and share these short-sighted tidbits of information without checking them against the whole of our belief systems. 

If you read this far, thank you for listening to my babble.  I don't know what I'm trying to accomplish by typing this, but I needed to get this of off my chest.  Sometimes writing helps me calm the mental storm.  

Edisto/Spring Break--Part 3