'IN GOD WE TRUST' ZAPPED
Clearly we Americans haven't finished negotiating the location of the line between protecting religion from the state and protecting children from something a lot of people think won't hurt them. A new Texas example shows where the battle continues to be fought. How much do we need to protect children from religious ideas that might offend them? This much?
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BAD OLD RELIGIOUS IDEAS
One evening last week I was transported back to my high school days -- and, for some reason, to an odd but important spiritual moment.
I attended a concert of a local high school band that was trying to raise money for new uniforms -- the very Kansas City high school, Lincoln College Preparatory Academy, from which my two daughters were graduated some years ago.
At any rate, the uniforms reminded me of the uniforms our high school band wore when I played the oboe. And I drifted back in my memory to those long-gone days in Woodstock, Ill. As I was pondering being a high schooler again, I remembered reading Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham, and I recalled, especially, the bad idea it gave me that through me for a spiritual loop for a time.
There's a character in the book named Cronshaw who gives to Philip, the main character, a Persian rug.
Here's part of Chapter 106: "Thinking of Cronshaw, Philip remembered the Persian run which he had given him, telling him that it offered an answer to his question upon the meaning of life; and suddenly the answer occurred to him: he chuckled: now that he had it, it was like one of the puzzles which you worry over till you are shown the solution and then cannot imagine how it could ever have escaped you. The answer was obvious. Life had no meaning. . .
"There was no meaning in life, and man by living served no end. It was immaterial whether he was born or not born, whether he lived or ceased to live. Life was insignificant and death without consequence. Philip exulted. . .
"'Oh life,' he cried in his heart, 'oh life, where is thy sting?'"
It was the sort of simplistic and sophomoric (I think, actually, that I was a sophomore when I read the Maugham book) conclusion likely to appeal to a searching teen-ager, and it took me several years to untether myself from it.
Perhaps my experience is not so uncommon. It's why young people need solid spiritual leaders they trust (I didn't), leaders to whom they can put hard, doubting questions. As I've said before, the road the faith inevitably leads through the valley of doubt. If you get stuck in false certitude before ever getting to faith, you wind up in a very different place. A good guide can help young people avoid that.
To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.
Today's religious holiday: Declaration of the Bab (Baha'i).