I have always said that my greatest reward in writing this column is sparking letters and web postings from outraged readers. By that measure, my column two weeks ago was one of my most satisfying in a long time.
You may recall that I wrote about local Christian schools which require the parents of each student to sign statements saying they are born-again Christians and giving narratives of their born-again experience. I made particular note of Grace Christian Academy in Ladson, which requires parents to go a step further and sign a statement saying they believe in the biblical Lake of Fire, where the souls of the damned burn for eternity: "the one who dies in his sins without Christ is hopelessly and eternally lost in the Lake of Fire, and therefore, has no further opportunity of hearing the Gospel or repenting. The Lake of Fire is literal..."
I went on to suggest that such fear-mongering is not healthy for individuals or society and that, in fact, it is used to enforce social norms and political authority in the South. I could not resist making some fun of this Lake of Fire, suggesting that it might better be used as a source of power in our impending energy crisis.
Well, you would have thought I told a child there was no Easter Bunny! The postings poured into the Charleston City Paper website. Most of them were mad as hell, and some of them suggested broadly that I might soon be swimming in said Lake of Fire.
A couple of the correspondents took me to task for criticizing Christian schools which required statements of faith from parents. "So WTF were [you] expecting? And more to the point, what kind of big secret do you think you're un-earthing here with your little expose?"
It came as a surprise for me to learn of these statements, as I think it did to many City Paper readers. Bishop England High School, operated under the Diocese of Charleston, is the largest and oldest Christian school in the region. Yet it requires no statement of faith from its parents, according to Kit Brownell of the Bishop England admissions department. Twenty-four percent of BE's students are non-Catholic, Brownell said, and some of those are non-Christian.
The difference between Bishop England and these little homegrown parochial schools of the Protestant persuasion is that Bishop England is in the business of educating children. These other schools are in the business of indoctrinating helpless children into unscientific, unworldly, and anti-social dogmas. Hence, the emphasis on the Lake of Fire as a means of controlling the minds and behavior of its charges. After all, if you can't believe something because the teacher says it, maybe you will believe it to avoid frying for eternity like a chimichanga in the Lake of Fire.
I don't know what effect this teaching by terror has on small children, but I do know that it makes for intellectually and emotionally stunted adults. One need only look at the politics and culture of the South, where this brand of religious terror has dominated for generations, to know that this is true.
I suspect that some of these "Christian academies" have more in common with Islamic madrassas than they have with mainstream American education. And that brings us to another refrain that was struck by a couple of web postings: "I wonder, Moredock, if you were to visit a mosque and found them discussing infidels, Allah, and 72 virgins, would you have the same reaction? Would you sneer at them in your little column the way you do Christians?"
If mosques and Muslims dominated our society the way churches and Christians do, I'm sure I would. But Muslims are insignificant in number and influence in this region of the country. Christian fundamentalists, on the other hand, are a huge bloc which has obstructed social progress in everything from race relations to public health. Some of them openly rejoice at the idea of Armageddon and support Israeli and American warmongers whom they pray will hasten the end of the world and the destruction of humanity. If I found Muslims publicly behaving this way, I would haul them into the dock and try them in my "little column."
And finally, there was the web poster who wrote, "Moredock is a piece o' sh*t, he hates white people, Christians, people from S.C., Republicans, conservatives, white people, southerners, white people, white males, etc., etc. I am not sure why he lives here."
I will not comment except to say that I live here to annoy the hell out of people like this dear correspondent.
So keep those cards, letters, and web postings coming in. The angrier the better!