Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Schilling in the Name

John Freshwater wants to be a martyr. As a middle school science teacher at a public school in Mount Vernon, Ohio Freshwater has gone out of his way to draw attention to himself and his faith. The center of the controversy seems to revolve around his decision to keep a bible on his desk. It seems innocent enough and Freshwater claims that the bible is for his own personal use. Fair enough.

Still officials put the screws to Freshwater and he enlisted the support of local religious activist Dave Daubenmire who was at the center of a controversy back in 1999 when he was sued by the ACLU for leading the football team he coached in prayer sessions before and after practices and games. His school district ended up footing the bill for an out of court settlement, but Daubenmire parlayed the ink into a cottage industry. Now he has a ministry and a website dedicated to his glory. You can even make a donation. Surprise, surprise, surprise.

It’s interesting that seems more committed to promoting Coach Dave than it does Jesus Christ but in the wacky world of evangelicalism that’s really the name of the game. Vanity and greed. It’s not about morality it’s all about a salary. (Apologies to Kris Parker.)

As you start to delve deeper into the Freshwater saga, which you can by visiting The Columbus Dispatch, you realize that this guy was itching for a fight. He wanted to cross the line so he could be the center of a controversy (i.e. attention).

Why? Maybe he wants to start his own ministry. Perhaps Daubenmire is selling how-to guides online and Freshwater bought one. There’s also the possibility that Daubenmire put him up to it in order to drum up some publicity. That seems to be the big issue on Coach Dave’s website. Nothing brings in those donations like a big fight against Liberals and their godless agenda.

Of course the ACLU will take some flack even though the ACLU has a track record of winning cases on both sides of the issue. It’s ironic because Freshwater volunteered to monitor meetings of his school’s chapter of the Federation of Christian Athletes, an organization the ACLU has championed. What the ACLU fights against is the participation of school officials in these student led meetings. Freshwater crossed that line and not only participated but cast out demons and conducting healing sessions.

It’s amazing how Christians eat this stuff up. They believe they’re persecuted and that our society promotes atheism. The reality is that our society still promotes Christianity. It’s only recently that people have started to push back and challenge some of the conventions that allowed Christians to assume a position of power over everybody else. So now when somebody points out that the city park is a public area and shouldn’t be used to display a religious nativity scene Christians see it as an infringement when the reality is that they were the ones infringing on everybody else.

That’s what Freshwater is doing. The school has been very careful to respect Freshwater’s beliefs, the issue is that he’s using his position as a teacher to proselytize. That’s fine in a Christian school, but Freshwater chose to teach in a public school system. He’s got to follow certain rules as do all teachers.

On local blogs Christians are whining that if Freshwater had a copy of the Quran on his desk that this wouldn’t have been an issue but the issue wasn’t the fact that he had a bible on his desk. The issue was why it was there. Through his actions Freshwater made it clear that he was using that bible to influence the beliefs of his students. More succinctly he wanted to be suspended over this. The more press the better. He’ll milk it for all it’s worth and retire from his public teaching position to start his own ministry under Dave Daubenmire’s wing…the typical Christian pyramid scheme. Then Freshwater will recruit some other teacher and the cycle will start all over again.

Unfortunately most Christians, particularly those of Freshwater and Daubenmire’s ilk, simply refuse to respect the beliefs of others. When Daubenmire was leading his football team in prayer he didn’t stop to think about how kids who weren’t religious might feel. It’s ironic because Christians claim to honor the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. How would Freshwater feel about his child’s science teacher displaying a copy of Anton LaVey’s Satanic Bible? What would Daubenmire do if his son’s football coach led the team in a Buddhist chant before each game?

Christians don’t have a real answer for that question. They’ve either convinced themselves that these things happen everyday and nobody says a word or they’ll turn it around and cite dubious stories about Christians being fed to the lions.

When Christians behave like Freshwater and Daubenmire that doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.

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