When I was 14-years-old I was attending a small Christian school. We had a social studies class where we were supposed to write what amounted to “position papers” on social issues in the class. I chose the issue of capital punishment. Since it was a Christian school we had to use scriptures to back up our position on the issues. I thought I could do that.
The teacher misunderstood, and presumed I was writing in favor of capital punishment. I told her that in fact I was going to write opposed to it, saying that our government shouldn’t put people to death—and if it did, we shouldn’t speak in support of it as Christians. She was shocked, and said that I couldn’t do that because I would need to use scripture to oppose it. I was young, but still felt like I knew enough scripture to do so.
I had grown up in a vibrant Christian home where we used Bible Quiz cards to ask questions of each other after dinner, so I knew a ton of scriptures. I had also gone to Christian School since the 3rd grade, so I had memorized a bunch of things by rote that I had forgotten by the time I was 14. However, I was deeply influenced by the Bible by this age.
I wrote my paper and then gave a verbal presentation. I don’t remember all my arguments, but I do remember using a lot of scripture along the way. The teacher wasn’t pleased. She argued with me about my position after class, and when she graded my paper she gave me a “C” on it. I was very angry and felt that she was persecuting me for my position on an issue just because I disagreed with her at the time. Several of the other students, including one that wrote on that subject from the other position agreed with me.
This is when I discovered that while persecution of Christians is very real and intense in many places, in America, at least, there are some Christians who try to persecute those who don’t believe like they do. Certainly getting a C on a paper is not getting tossed to the lions in the Colosseum. However, this experience has helped me think through how I treat those that don’t believe the way I do; those who don’t have the faith I have.
I’m thankful that my parents didn’t treat me the way my teacher did. I didn’t know their position on this issue at the time—but I knew they encouraged me to explore every angle of things and not to be close-minded.
No, I didn’t lose my faith because of this teacher. However, I did start to think that whatever belief she had—the one that would make her close-minded to a student’s earnest beliefs, the kind of belief that would make her harshly judge and penalize a person who honestly disagreed with her, even using her power to do so—that kind of belief was one I wanted nothing to do with.
How about you? What’s your take? I don’t want to make this thread about the subject I wrote on as a kid. Instead, tell me this: have you ever had someone judge you and penalize you for a belief you had? Have you ever encountered people whose faith made them close-minded to any other thoughts outside their system—no matter how small the disagreement? Have you ever known a persecuting Christian? If so, what effect did it have on your faith?[P.S.: let’s make this thread a safe place for anyone to post—even anonymously—responding with kindness, grace and understanding.]