Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Annoyance of Imposed Salvation

Tell the men and messengers
Salvation is my own affair
- finneus gauge, "Salvation"
I have a collection of "words of wisdom" tacked to a filing cabinet in my office.* The first one, from Frank Zappa, goes like this:
Anybody who wants religion is welcome to it, as far as I’m concerned – I support your right to enjoy it. However, I would appreciate it if you exhibited more respect for the rights of those people who do not wish to share your dogma, rapture or necrodestination.
That's a hard position to argue with. At the end of the day, all many of us want is to be "let alone," which, as Justice Brandeis put it, is "the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men." That's why it rubs me so the wrong way when over zealous Christians, driven by the commands of their faith to spread the "word" and save us sinners, run around doing press gang salvations. With kids, no less.

Take, for instance, this example, from USA Today (via Kos):
A mother is angry about a trip led by the head football coach at Breckinridge County [Kentucky] High School. The coach took about 20 players on a school bus late last month to his church, where nearly half of them — including her son — were baptized.

Michelle Ammons said her 16-year-old son was baptized without her knowledge and consent, and she is upset that a public school bus was used to take players to a church service — and that the school district's superintendent was there and did not object.
It's unclear whether the coach was up front with others about whether the meeting would include only an "inspirational" speaker and a meal or was going to be a "revival" and how "voluntary" the whole thing was. Regardless, one wonders what salvation has to due with football in the first place (Touchdown Jesus and the Immaculate Reception aside, of course).

Lest you think that Ammons is one of us wild-eyed non-believers:
Ammons, who lives in Big Spring, said that she is a Baptist but her husband, Danny, is Catholic, and that both feel like their son should wait until he is 18 to make important decisions on religion.

'We felt he was brainwashed,' she said.

* * *

'They have no right to take my son on a school bus across county lines to be a church to be baptized,' she said.
One wonders how all those apoplectic souls who were up in arms about Obama's big speech today feel about something like this? My guess is they're not all concerned (it's all for the "good" after all).

That story called to mind something that PZ uncovered over at the Answers in Genesis web site (the loons responsible for the Creation "Museum"). It's a testimonial from two believers who hosted an exchange student from France, an agnostic. In joyful tones, they tell how they turned the girl to Christ, admitting that, when it came to going to their church "we didn't really give much of an opportunity for her not to agree." What gracious hosts!

Even if that story is true (which I find kind of unlikely), it's revealing that someone would still think is says something positive about them. That they took in a child from another country and saw it as an opportunity for conversion, rather than cultural education and exchange. Can you imagine the absolute furor that would develop in this country if a young Christian student went overseas and came home an atheist or agnostic? And it would be justified.

The bottom line is this - folks are free to believe whatever they want to believe. And they're free to discuss what they believe to anyone who is actually curious about what they have to say. Go knock on doors, or what have you. No problem there. It should go without saying, however, that captive audiences - of kids, in particular - are off limits.

Just remember that, as Uncle Frank said, we don't all share your dogma, nor do we have to. And as Uncle Louis said, some folks just want to be let alone. Be a decent human being, rather than a zealous salesman, and respect those wishes.

* If you're curious, the others are from Matt Groening (about Frank Zappa), John Adams (decidedly not about Frank Zappa), and former WVSC Justice "Dandy" Dick Neely, who said once that "the entire criminal law system most often boils down to the powerful state with all its weapons – police, prosecutors, courts, prisons, and probation officers – going after poor, uneducated, stupid folks." That's from his dissent in State v. Rummer, 432 S.E.2d 39, 55 (1993).


Chris James said...

Hmm...Now I wonder what John Adams would have to say about Zappa...

JDB said...

He probably wouldn't have liked Thing Fish, either. But I bet Franklin would love "Titties 'n' Beer"!