Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Interfaith Life

It's October. October means that my world history classes are studying the Roman Empire, which means that, as the month reaches its end, we are studying the beginnings of the Christian religion.

My ninth grade students are (a few) conservative and (most) Orthodox Jews, with little knowledge of Christianity and little experience in interacting with Christians. Probably the single most important thing that I do in my life these days is to act as one of their few liasons to the Christian religion, and one of even fewer who will attempt to respond to all their questions about Christianity. No rancor. No agenda. Each year at this time, after I have supplied some of the historical and doctrinal basics, I allot a day or two to "ask Ms. C. anything you want about Christianity." The students are vibrant, energetic, curious. They are full of good will, sweetness, and skepticism. I usually tell them that, after a few days with me, they will know more about Christianity than most Christians do.

It's exhausting.

Among today's and last Friday's questions:

Are Christians monotheistic or polytheistic? Do you worship the Virgin Mary? How could she have been a Virgin? Do you believe the Jews killed Jesus? Does Mel Gibson hate Jews? Why do you have Christmas trees? Why do you put them in your house? How was the New Testament canon decided upon? What do Easter bunnies and eggs have to do with anything? Why would Christians believe that Jews have to do something (return to Israel) so that the Christian religion could be fulfilled? Why would early Christians hate Jews who thought that Christians should follow Jewish law? Were there gospels in which Jesus was more man than god? How could God be his own son? God IMPREGNATED Mary? Did Jesus have a regular father? Well, what did he do? Why was the Christan Bible written in Greek and not Latin? How was the Vatican formed? Are Presbyterians Christian? What is a bishop? Who decided that Jesus was the son of God? Who saw Jesus after the resurrection? If Jesus didn't intend to start a new religion, how did that happen? Do YOU believe that Jesus was the son of God?

Coming tomorrow (I know this from experience): What is Halloween? What are saints? Why do you carve pumpkins? Why did you adapt so many pagan holidays? What is the difference between Catholics and Protestants? What do you think about the pope? Do you like the new pope? What is that thing about white smoke? What do Presbyterians believe that other Christians don't? Do YOU think Jews are wrong? Do YOU believe in the Resurrection?


Kathryn said...

I love all those questions - a lively and interesting discussion. I know that sometimes your job drags you down but from here it looks excellent.

Cynthia said...

Those would have to be very interesting days in your classroom, but I'd be exhausted at the end of them if I were you. You're a brave, brave woman.

Paul said...

As Father Moran used to say, the answers to those questions are heeeeaaavvvy mysteries.

Anonymous said...

' I usually tell them that after a few days with me,they will know more about Christianity than most
Christians do.' please tell me you were employing hyperbole.

Carol said...

I'd love to be a fly on the wall in your classroom as I could certainly use the answers to most of those questions myself.