Putting the mental in fundamentalist

obama-nope-tshirtAs you would expect, your GetReligionistas have received quite a few breathless emails asking us why this site has had nothing to say about President Barack Hussein Obama's plans to address the nation's public-school students about the importance of discipline and education in their lives. Haven't we noticed all of the protests by parents from sea to shining sea? Yes, I'll admit that there has been a little bit of ink spilled on this subject. More than a little, actually.

Once again, it seems that many GetReligion readers do not understand what we are doing at this here weblog. Clearly, quite a few people out there in cyberspace just don't get GetReligion.

So let's all repeat the mantra: GetReligion is not a religion-news blog. It's a blog about how the mainstream press struggles to cover religion news.

Which raises an interesting question. Why do people automatically think that there is a religion hook in this major news story?

As best I can tell the logic runs like this: Crazy people are protesting the president's innocent plans to address the nation's school children about education and self discipline. Religious believers are crazy (especially right-wing Christians). Therefore, crazy Christians must be leading the charge to protest this unique presidential address. Duh.

I am not denying that there is some logic to this, seeing as how religious conservatives have zero trust in this White House when it comes to moral, cultural and religious issues -- especially linked to freedom of association and freedom of speech. However, it seems that this particular protest has as much, or more, to do with the timing of the address during the thick of the health-care debates. Consider the top of this typical Associated Press analysis piece, under the headline "Furor over speech typifies polarization." Steven R. Hurst writes:

The furor over President Barack Obama's start-of-school speech to the nation's students -- challenging them to work hard, earn good grades and stay in school -- typifies the country's widening rift over politics and social issues.

It's certainly an unwelcome distraction as the president prepares to address both houses of Congress and the nation Wednesday about his embattled attempt to overhaul the health care system, which has taken a hammering from Republicans and some middle-of-the-road Democrats.

Dating back to his campaign for president, some Obama opponents have tried to paint him as a "socialist." Since winning the White House, the attacks have continued over his attempts to invigorate the tumbling economy with a $787 billion stimulus. Far-right critics now charge that Obama would use his back-to-school remarks Tuesday to indoctrinate youngsters into his alleged "socialist" agenda.

That sounds pretty normal and political. However, it's easy to go online and find out that some of the usual religious suspects are raising questions about the address. This angle from the Liberty Counsel squad seems typical, arguing that this is an illegal federal attempt -- focusing on the state-funded educational materials prepared for student use after the address (As in the rumored, "How did the president inspire you today?") -- to control what is done in local school systems.

That's an interesting angle, but note that this is a secular issue, as well.

I've been searching to see if anyone in the mainstream press has written an actual story on how major, middle-of-the-road evangelical and Protestant groups -- think Southern Baptist Convention and the Assemblies of God -- have responded. Have I missed something?

I did enjoy this analysis over at the website of World, which is kind of like Newsweek for evangelicals, only with more hard news content. It pointed toward comments by Craig Dunham, a Christian school leader in St. Louis and the husband of World writer Megan Dunham. I'll end with this quote:

Am I missing something here? If it's not in the home (and why a homeschooling family would not use this as an opportunity for discussion I have no idea -- we are), I would think parents would at least want their kids engaging live presentations like President Obama's in a Christian school, where I as a teacher am going to ask questions like "What can we affirm?" (importance of education, faithful study, etc.) or "What needs to be challenged?" (ideas different from Scriptural truth, etc.). It shouldn't matter who the speaker is -- these are the conversations I would think a parent would be PRAYING to take place. Why keep your kids home from them? This logic does not compute; after all, why are they/we here?

At some point, folks, Christians have got to stop putting the mental in fundamentalist and start interacting with the world. Teaching our kids to stick their heads in the sand and ignore anyone they may not totally agree with is, in a word, unChristian. Folks, we can't counter the culture unless we encounter the culture, so let's take off the blinders, read through Acts 17 again, and be some salt and light around here for crying out loud.

Actually, there is a valid religion news story in there. What are culture-savvy Christian educators and home-school families going to do with this address?

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