Students Speak Out on the Role of Religion
With national debates going on about whether public schools can discuss creationism along with evolution, and with widespread intolerance of different religions after the war in Iraq and riots like the one that happened in Toledo, it's not surprising some young people may find the topic of religion a difficult one to approach. Kids from different religious backgrounds spoke out about how they feel about the role religion can play in their lives.
Reciting prayers is only part of being religious for many young people including Jaye Wilcox.
"Well, Sunday is Sunday school, and Wednesday I go to Hebrew school," Wilcox says.
She and her friends feel comfortable discussing their beliefs at Sunday school, but as Pastor Wade Reck says, outside this context things can get tricky.
"In the culture we live in right now, there is a wall put up between the secular and the sacred, between the religious and the non-religious, and religious matters aren't talked about as much as inside the church, and the environment is such that it's not such a comfortable thing to do so," Reck says.
And the reason for that discomfort may come from hurtful things people can say, even when they have the best of intentions. One Sunday school student ran into this situation.
"Like one of my friends said, she was like, 'I'm so sorry you can't come to heaven because Jesus is the gate to heaven,' and I was like, 'oh, ok.' And I told my Hebrew tutor, and she just started cracking up because the same thing happened to her. She's like, 'don't worry about it; you're going to heaven," Meredith Ziegler says.
Despite the negatives, students say they want to discuss their religion with their peers.
"When you talk about it in the classroom other kids can learn from like what your religion is and they'd have a more open mind, and if you were just to save that for home life then kids would be- well, I wouldn't say narrow minded, but they would kinda not know what other people's religion is," Wilcox says.
"I would like to discuss it," Ziegler says.
"I'm completely comfortable with it; I'm not offended or anything," Leah Gold says.
Some students even said they'd like to show their friends what they do to practice their religion, like lighting candles on Friday night. Wilcox says she hopes inviting her friends to her Bat Mitzvah will show her friends what it's like being Jewish.
"I hope they will learn, like, what this whole process is and how hard it is to prepare, and I hope they'll learn more about me and my religious ways; that I really do care about me being Jewish," Wilcox says.
But however these Sunday school students share the richness of their experiences, Pastor Reck has a warning.
"Be faithful in your own convictions, just take great care not to express them in a way that makes another person feel disrespected," Reck says.
These young people say they find their religions fulfilling, but that doesn't mean that their religion is for everyone. Wilcox and her friends agreed it's important to raise your voices about what's important to you, but it's also important to listen, learn and respect.