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Friday, November 09, 2007

This one time, at Jesus Camp....

It's time for the Friday Forum, Edition #2. Today's topic is the FCA, which is the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and its public school sponsorships.

Let me start by saying that I am a member of the Catholic church, my kids attend Catholic school. I am not anti-Christian. I may not be, nor have I ever been athletic, but I am not anti-athlete.

I did some research- not extensive, but I went to the FCA site. I found out that "Since 1954, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes has been challenging coaches and athletes on the professional, college, high school, junior high and youth levels to use the powerful medium of athletics to impact the world for Jesus Christ." I don't find that to be too earth-shattering. Their mission statement is "To present to athletes and coaches and all whom they influence the challenge and adventure of receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, serving Him in their relationships and in the fellowship of the church." As an organization, I can't see anything wrong with it. Those who wish to join, join. Those who don't, don't. There doesn't seem to be any message to those not wishing to join that they are less worthy than those who do, and I don't get that from people who are part of it, either.

I do question, however, its place in a public school. I asked one of my students who is a member if non-athletes could join, and he said no. Makes sense. I asked if Jewish kids could join. (I have a great rapport with this kid and have known him for 3 years now- it was a very friendly conversation.) He said very matter-of-factly that unless they believed in Jesus, then no. Again, makes sense. But what message does that send to our students- especially when a prominent faculty member is the advisor of the group? What does it say to the Jewish kids, the kids whose families do not practice any religion-and there are many, the Unitarian kids, the Muslim kids (I don't think we have any), the Buddhist kids (we have a few, mostly Vietnamese), the Wiccan kids? Doesn't it exclude them in an institution that is supposed to accept all of them? Do they get around it because they meet outside of the school day?

Plus, honestly, I just don't get the juxtaposition of religion and athletics. (Unless it's a Hail-Mary pass) Call me crazy, but I just don't.

I know that many kids could use a little Jesus in their otherwise messed up lives. I know that. But is a public school the place?

*PS: Claire attended a Christian sleep-away camp last summer- with more of a focus on the camp than the Christian. Great experience- will send her back. Yes, I saw the movie Jesus Camp and although I was deeply disturbed by it, I don't think everyone who is a Christian is like that.

5 Comments:

Blogger ms-teacher said...

It seems pretty amazing that they would be allowed to exclude people in a public institution. I think that even with clubs that are for ethnic groups, they would still have to allow people of different ethnicities to join.

As long as the person wanting to join doesn't have a problem that it's a Christian group, what's the problem with letting them join? By automatically excluding them they may be missing some people who may be interested in Christianity.

11/09/2007 6:45 PM  
Blogger Professor J said...

I'm with you. I don't care if people want to have christian athletic groups, but the should not, in any way, be supported by our public schools.

11/10/2007 9:28 AM  
Blogger Adeline said...

I got this from their (FCA) website and thought it was enlightening...

The rights of student clubs in public high schools are protected by the First
Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Equal Access Act (“the Act”), passed by Congress
in 1984.1 The basic purpose of the Act is to put religious clubs on equal footing with all other
student clubs by allowing them the same privileges and access to school facilities that other
recognized student clubs enjoy.2 Once the school recognizes a single non-curriculum related
club, it is said to have created a “limited open forum,” triggering the Act and entitling all other
qualified student clubs to the same access and benefits of school facilities as that
first club.

My first thought about the exclusivity of the club was what constitutes an athlete? What if an equestrian wanted to join? Is it only for team sports? What if a kid was on a team that was like his dad's company's kids baseball team, and what if he wasn't sure if he was a Christian? Or what if he was just curious? What if he was a weightlifter and just did it at the local gym? What's an athlete?

I would be really surprised (and disappointed) if a "Christian" organization kept people out who were not Christians. What kind of Christianity would that be? Not the kind I know about.

I laugh to think of a church checking people's cards as they enter the church, to make sure they were "real" presbyterians or whatever.

11/10/2007 11:29 PM  
Blogger Mrs. T said...

I had the same "althlete" discussion. What constitutes and athlete? The kid I was talking to felt that "athlete" was limited to participants in team sports- not including golf, tennis, gymnastics. (I'm sure equestrian falls under that as well.)I wonder, too, if a kid just loves sports and goes to church and wants to join- maybe that's the place? I don't think the club actually turns people away because of their athletic status, nor do I think they shun people who aren't really vocal about their Christianity. If someone joins, I'm sure it is with the understanding that it is Christian based and if someone doesn't want to participate in it, they sure don't have to.
Thanks for doing the research!

11/11/2007 9:08 AM  
Blogger EHT said...

Your post is one of those things today that have made me go "Hmmmmm...."

At my daughter's school the FCA is very active and very inclusive. My daughter is not an athlete and they invite anyone from the student population to join. They have a speaker each week, local youth ministers are at the meetings, and they have a band and singing (my daughter is one of the members who leads the singing) as well. It's very well attended.

11/12/2007 12:31 PM  

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