I crept out the big front door and down the steps of my kids’ school recently, laughing at the conversation I was overhearing about the newly added Pledge of Allegiance to the morning routine. Evidently one family in the community was upset that it hadn’t been institutionalized school-wide, and so…now it is.
One mom was uncomfortable with it because she teaches her children not to pledge to flags. Another was an expat, and felt conflicted about teaching her kids to pledge to the flag of their temporary home. A father quipped that there should be a way to pledge to the idea of country and democracy, but not to wars or illegal occupations.
(You have to love Brooklyn sometimes.)
I jumped in, sheepishly admitting that I taught my daughter to say “Under Bob,” and lots of heads nodded in sympathy.
I do not take for granted how lucky I am being a progressive, secular, liberal Atheist Jew (PSLAJ), in this particular city, during this particular time in history, which allows for such things. I love that I can have a conversation with a random neighbor about “under God” being added to the Pledge in 1954 in opposition to the Communist scare, without anyone looking at me like I’m some immoral heathen. In a few months, we’ll be saying Merry Christmas! and Happy Chanukkah! and Happy Holidays! with equal gusto. Whatever it is that people celebrate, it’s all good.
The teachers even ask at the beginning of each school year to let them know if you have a child who doesn’t celebrate anything at all, so they can distract them during the cupcake parties.
I often forget that the rest of the country does not operate this way.
This week I got an email pitch that was somewhat interesting on its own, but the signature made it even more so–it quoted a psalm. One that told me to “put your faith in the LORD.”
As someone who does not put my faith in the LORD any more than I put my faith in DIANA, GODDESS OF THE HUNT or CLOONEY WHO IS A GOD AMONG MEN IN THAT METAPHORICAL WAY it made me wildly uncomfortable to be told to do so.
(Notice I Haven’t used the word “offended” It takes a lot to offend me. If she had said “put your faith in the COWBOYS” however, I know for a fact that Nate would be offended. That’s totally different.)
Part of my issue was that it wasn’t an inspirational psalm like “there is no fear in love” or even a personal statement like “the lord is my shepherd.” This particular quote is intended to encourage a change or renewed commitment to a particular faith. It was evangelical in nature.
I’ve said before that I hate when people sign business emails with “blessings” and Amy did a good job describing why it annoys her too. Especially when neither the email writer’s business nor mine have anything remotely to do with faith. But I guess I feel like a proselytizing quote crosses a line from mere annoyance into “whoa there missy, do we have to talk?’
I considered responding.
But first I asked, Twitter, my own Dr. Phil (only much smarter), and a decent discussion ensued; or as good as one you can have on a complex subject in a crappy 140 characters. Wow, were there different opinions.
Scattered Mom, who’s not a Christian, worried that it “might affect things” in their business relationship. Mary in Ottowa suggested that she would think of the business as somehow more moral or ethical because of the tie. Schmutzie said if Christianity had no actual tie to the product–i.e. the pitch was not for bedazzled Christening dresses– it made her question the sender’s motives. (She also added that she’s “not interested in a PR person’s faith or talking deeper life questions. Just toaster ovens or what have you.” Which is why I love Schmutzie.)
In all this, Journey Mama, a woman of faith herself, gave me the perspective I was lacking. She reminded me that in some cultures, like India where she lives, religion is pervasive and a part of everything. In other words, she probably wouldn’t have thought twice about a religious quote in a signature, whether Buddhist, Hindi or otherwise.
That’s a far cry from a nation in which we debate the merits of two words in a flag pledge.
In the end, I decided to bite my tongue and ignore the email.
I also didn’t give into my second instinct, which was to write back, having edited her own quote below to read “put your faith in LORD FAUNTLEROY.” Just to see if she’d notice.
How do you feel when you see religious sentiment in otherwise secular emails?