When my brother was in third grade he was sent home with a homework assignment to look up his horoscope, and that was the end of our lives at public school. Well, not the end because we both graduated from public school, but it ended my life in public school until my senior year. I know you’re wondering why looking up your horoscope would lead to all of this. Let me explain it with a little Bible story.
Once upon a time there was a Hebrew king named Saul. The Hebrews were at war with a tribe called the Philistine. King Saul was freaking out because Samuel, his prophet and chief advisor, was dead. Saul tried to go directly to God himself for advice, but God was silent. So Saul asked the other Hebrew prophets who also came up with nothing. Previously, Saul had removed/killed all the mediums and magicians in the land, because they counted on sources other than God for their power. However, the Philistines were badass and Saul was terrified, so he asked his buddies to find a medium to advise him. His servant told him about a medium from Endor. I really want it to be the same Endor that the Ewoks are from, but I’m pretty sure it’s just some town. Anyway, Saul and his buddies disguised themselves because they knew this woman wouldn’t meet with Saul if she knew who he was. As it was, she was skeptical and refused to conjure anything for them because Saul had killed all the other mediums. They finally convinced her and she conjured up the spirit of the recently deceased Samuel. Apparently, she didn’t know that was who she was conjuring, because as soon as she realized she had conjured Samuel she figured out the guy in disguise was Saul and freaked out herself. The spirit of Samuel was not thrilled about his conjuring either, and reminded Saul that he had already prophesied that all of this would happen, because Saul never obeyed God and God was dunzo. Samuel told the Saul that the Philistines would kick ass the next day and Saul would die, and he did. And that is why you do not look up your horoscope.
I was eight years old and this was the explanation my mom gave for moving us to private school. I was sad about leaving my friends at public school but grateful my mom had rescued my brother and I from certain death by Philistine. My brother was devastated we had to switch schools and has never forgiven the Witch of Endor. To this day I rarely look up my horoscope and when I do I have anxiety about it. I was scared to read the Harry Potter books too, but they are amazing and I think Jesus would approve. Of note, we never had any problems with fortune cookies when I was growing up, so the moratorium on fortune telling was not consistent.
Within my first month at Christian school I made a huge mistake when answering the “what did you do last summer?” question. Much to my fathers chagrin, my uncle had taken us on a tour of nude beaches in Northern California. As an eight year old there was nothing sexual about it, but there was a great deal of hilarity to it. To be honest, in my forties I’m more likely to find a skinny, hairy, naked hippy running and jumping to catch a frisbee way more funny than sexy, so I’m not sure my perception of that summer would have changed much. My former boss once described me as “verbally graphic”. I suspect that day in my third grade classroom I may have shown some early verbally graphic enthusiasm as I explained what I did that summer. At some point I realized I was the only one laughing. I remember the saucer sized eyes of my fellow students staring back at me, and then I saw the rage on my teachers face. I remember her pointing her finger at me and yelling “You’re a liar. You made that up. Confess your sin.” I dropped my butt back in my desk, put my head down and started sobbing as any confused child would have done. My teacher responded by grabbing my wrist and pulling me back to my feet. I recall my hips hitting the desk as she stood me up. I also remember her nails digging in to my wrist. My response was to promptly become a liar by “admitting” that I was a liar who made up my family vacation at the nude beaches, and apologized to the class. I also spent the next recess ironically writing the sentence “Thou shalt not lie” over and over until my friends returned from the playground. I should have learned something about oversharing, but I did not. I do feel sorry for that teacher though. If you can’t see the humor in a child’s perception of a nude beach, you have no capacity for joy and I pity you. Also, I’m never going to be forced into lying about lying again.
In the eighth grade my Bible teacher told us technology works better if you allow it to honor the sabbath. He was a lovely man with a large square head and an impressive comb over. He truly cared about us and was paid almost nothing to teach us. I adored him and believed everything he said. Granted, when I was an eighth grader technology was my brothers Casio keyboard, our Atari game system, and my Texas Instruments calculator. I did my damndest to make sure I didn’t use them on Sundays, and tried to get my dad to find a church we could walk to so the car could have a break. My dad said it was hogwash, and our poor car was never allowed to honor the sabbath. As a result of my Bible lesson, I’m still very good about turning off lights and the computer when they are not in use. I may not give them an actual sabbath, but I do give them breaks that might add up to a day off. Admittedly, my phone and car never get a day off, but lets face it phones are decidedly pagan, they wouldn’t honor the sabbath anyway. A friend of mine thinks that this crazy notion has probably decreased my carbon footprint. Full disclosure, I need all the help I can get. I can’t recycle for shit. I try. I really do, but my husband and son are constantly taking things I put in the recycle back out and saying “you can’t recycle that”. They do the same thing with what I put in the trash asking “why didn’t you recycle that?”. To which I remind them that I was raised by republicans and went to Christian school, who the in hell was going to teach me to properly recycle?
My husband is forever amused and delighted by lack of knowledge on earth sciences, and how I was raised to regard Charles Darwin the same way I regard Hitler and Stalin. When I’m feeling particularly frustrated and competitive with Garry because I’m constantly coming up short, I’ve actually considered challenging him to a sword drill. For those of you who don’t know what a sword drill is allow me to disappoint you. The sword drill I speak of has nothing to do with an actual sword. No my friends, the sword is the bible itself (Ephesians 6:17). A sword drill involved all of us pupils standing at attention beside our desks “swords” in hand. Our teacher would yell out a bible reference “Psalms 118:5-11” and whoever found it and started reading it first was the winner. I bet you wish you had this life skill. I challenge any of you to a sword drill anytime anywhere. I don’t even need a bible with tabs indicating the chapter. I’m that good. I’m kidding, I’m not that good. I completely lacked any motivation to win. When you’re dyslexic and winning means you get read aloud from the King James Bible, you are more than happy to lose.
Easily the most fantastical things I learned in Christian school regarded sex and dealing with the opposite gender. As a child I was taught that Jesus loves me this I know, for the bible tells me so. Once I hit puberty there were a few caveats thrown in. Jesus still loved me, but my value was inescapably tied to what may or may not be happening between my legs. We were divided into male and female groups for sex education. I’m told the gym teacher, that had to teach the boys, couldn’t say the word “penis” without stuttering, he was so uncomfortable about the topic. Abstinence till marriage reigned supreme, although it was not very effective judging by our astronomical pregnancy rate. My English teacher told me “a lady should not wear black patent shoes because they are reflective and boys could see your underwear”. During my naughty school girl phase, in my twenties, you bet I rocked a pair of black patent heels. Wearing white cotton skirts made boys think of bed sheets. Modest is always hottest. The difference between a good Christian girl and toilet seat is a toilet seat warms up to you when you touch it. I look back at much of my sex-ed with amused disdain. When I was in my twenties a male friend from church took me to lunch to tell me that I was a “stumbling block to Christian men” and needed to evaluate the way I dressed and acted. I complained to a non-christian friend about it, and he said “that is the rapiest thing I’ve ever heard”. It wasn’t until that moment that I really began to see how much the onus of “sexual sin” was placed on the girls. When a girl got pregnant she was expelled. The father of the child was benched for a handful of basketball games. We, the girls, MADE men lust and it was our fault when they faltered. Stumbling block, my ass… my saggy grandma ass.
My brother and I begged to go back to public school pretty much from the time we left it, and were finally allowed to finish there. I actually regret it though. I had been at the same school from third grade on. Well almost, I spent half of fourth grade and all of fifth grade at a different Christian school. Oh, and I was briefly expelled in eighth grade for telling the music teacher I was praying for him to get fired. So, I was home schooled spring semester. But aside from that, I had grown up with these people and done everything at that school. I regret that it’s not my Alma mater. I regret that I’m not alumni and invited to reunions. Although, I did learn many of the things my senior year at public school that had been missing at private school. AIDS was still terminal and spreading, and we practiced putting condoms on bananas in at least three classes. If you ever need to encase your fruit in a condom, I’m your girl. I don’t do pineapples though. The boy that was my egg-baby-daddy in my Sociology of the Family class taught me what a 69 was. Up until that point I had no idea it was more than a number. He started by having me look at the number, then progressed to a yin-yang which also didn’t help. Finally, he drew people. He was a very good artist, and I got the gist of it pretty quickly. My new public school friends loved the novelty of having a completely naive play thing. They were all very respectful and kind about it though. I didn’t drink at parties so I was a handy designated driver. I was also petrified of sex and pregnancy and pulled more than one drunk friend out of a frat guys clutches. I would later discover that I have no capacity to separate my body from my heart. You get my body, you get my heart. The fear of Christ’s rejection for not saving my “special gift” for my husband, probably saved me a few years needless heartache.
The best teacher I ever had was at Christian school. She taught literature, speech, and drama. She added layers and depth to the great books and encouraged my flair for drama and performance. She was sarcastic and wickedly smart. Her only agenda was to teach and inspire, and she did that beautifully. Mostly, I think she really liked all of us. Every year we took a Bible class and once a week we had chapel. I know my Bible. I don’t read it the way I did then. I have life experiences that have changed my perspective. I’ve rejected a great many of the philosophies and some of the theologies that I once accepted without question. But I know my Bible. I know when someone is using it out of context or has lost sight of the intended audience or historical setting in which it was written. Context is important. The Bible without context is dangerous. It’s a sword. My husband still marvels at some of my naive moments and ah-has in life, but I like to think it makes me endearing to him. I will always make fun of my Christian education, but I will also be grateful for it. I know my Bible, and I won’t easily be fooled (at least not in that front) and that is of great value.