This week there were two separate incidents involving academia that demonstrate just how far America has devolved into a sick, twisted, and religiously hate-driven society. No-one in their right mind can refute that here is a certain segment of the population that not only cannot tolerate the truth, public education or reality, they refuse to countenance anything remotely different than their own pathetically dysfunctional worldview. Obviously, the incidents involving education in America also involve that bastardized form of Christianity that is neo-American evangelicalism that cost one tenured University professor a six-month suspension and closed down an entire school district in Virginia.
What is not surprising is that both the school district shuttering and University suspension center around the Republican and evangelical movement’s current cause célèbre; Islamophobia. It is bad enough that Republicans have incited over 20 acts of domestic terrorism against Muslims and their places of worship with perfect impunity, now they can count shutting down a school district and getting a college professor suspended. It is the new America where the Founding Fathers’ intent to protect all faiths in the Constitution has been rendered null and void by Fox News, Republicans, and those hateful evangelical fundamentalists.
First, there was a wild controversy in Augusta County Virginia because a teacher following the state-approved curriculum for World Geography class asked students to “try to copy an example of Arabic calligraphy.” The purpose of the normally accepted exercise was “to give students an idea of the artistic complexity of calligraphy;” the students “were not asked to translate the statement or to recite it.” Still, some students refused to do the exercise and many of their parents went batsh*t ballistic and demanded blood. It is noteworthy that the teacher had just covered the required curriculum that included Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism with no outrage from angry evangelical parents, no cries of apostasy, or mesmerizing the students away from Jesus Christ into the waiting arms of ISIS.
One woman, a certain evangelical Christian named Kimberly Herndon was outraged at the teacher’s apostasy to Jesus and organized an angry protest because when the teacher did her job; “She gave up the lord’s time. She gave it up and gave it to Mohammed to indoctrinate” good little evangelicals into Islam.
Many parents demanded that the teacher, Cheryl LaPorte, be terminated immediately; but that was just the start. After Fox News entered the fracas and incited a religious war over a teacher doing her job, all Hell broke loose prompting law enforcement officials to call for every school in the county to be closed.
Apparently, law enforcement recommended the total closure of all Augusta County Public Schools after “voluminous phone calls and electronic mail locally and from outside the area” frightened them senseless and into preventative action “due to the tone and content of the threats;” and who can blame them? This is America where Fox News inciting domestic terrorism is not only a daily occurrence, it is their stock and trade because they have never been prosecuted for “criminal solicitation.”
In what should be another source of abject shame in an alleged “free religious society,” a tenured political science professor at Wheaton college, a private evangelical university, was put on a six month, immediate suspension for uttering a well-known religious truth. The professor had begun wearing a headscarf, or hijab, to show “solidarity with and to support her Muslim neighbors.” The religious school did not have a fit over the head covering, but when she posted a message on her Facebook page saying, “I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book (bible). And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”
The silly Christian professor should have known better than to utter the truth about anything, but especially about religion. Subsequently, instead of administering finals to her students, she is starting her six-month suspension for repeating a truth that Pope Francis uttered a little over a week ago at an Islamic enclave in Africa. According to a Wheaton spokesperson, “The school doesn’t believe Muslims and Christians worship the same God. The college had no choice.”
For an alleged institution of higher learning and an evangelical liberal arts college, Wheaton administrators are either dirt stupid or hate Muslims. Not only did the Holy Father, Pope Francis, indeed state the Gospel truth that Christians, Muslims, and Jews all worship the same god, the Pope joined Muslims under siege from heavily-armed Christian militias in a similar show of solidarity with Muslims because as the Wheaton professor reiterated from the Holy Father; “We worship the same god. Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters.” As an aside, Muslims not only worship the same god as Christians and Jews, they also acknowledge and give due honor to all of the Christian bible’s prophets from Adam to Noah to Moses to Abraham to Jesus Christ; all of whom they utter “peace be upon him” when the say their names.
A group of disgusted Wheaton students issued a letter of protest to the ignorant evangelicals running Wheaton that said, “We believe there is nothing in Dr. Hawkins’ public statements that goes against the belief in the power and nature of God, Christ, or the Holy Spirit that the Statement of Faith deems as a necessary requirement for affiliation with Wheaton College.” But of course there was nothing in Dr. Hawkins’ statement that goes against the truth, or belief in god, Christ or the holy spirit, but that is not the point.
Dr. Hawkins made the tragic mistake of speaking the truth about Christianity and Islam. She seriously should have known, as a tenured political science professor no less, that this is America and speaking the truth about anything, much less Islam, is a very grievous sin. In fact, talking about Islam positively is nearly as heinous a mortal sin as speaking the truth about evangelicals forcing their bastardized version of Christianity on all Americans; what Republicans consider and attempt to legislate as religious freedom. Religious freedom in America is as phony as the pretend Christians intent on creating a theocracy founded on hate, greed, misogyny, guns, white racial purity and stupidity.
It seems that there is no end to America’s slide into absolute evangelical insanity. The sad fact is that the events in both Virginia and Wheaton are not unique or isolated instances of religious-borne hatred; it has touched this author personally as well as many friends and colleagues in public education. Teaching in the public schools is a difficult enough task due to underfunding, economically-challenged families, and bad parenting, but those difficulties are all just part of the job; being harassed and threatened by evangelical extremists should not be, but they are.
This tyranny of allowing evangelical fundamentalists to issue threats against teachers with impunity for following state-mandated curriculum, or suspending professors for speaking the truth is just the latest sign that America is, for all intents and purposes, on a downward spiral into becoming what Republicans and their evangelical base yearn to create; a white Christian theocracy to rival the extremists running ISIS.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.