The Scarlet Letter, or Jesus Loves You


Another short week as we wrap up the Jewish holidays (for now). We had a short week with Rosh Hashanah, a regular week with a half-day on Friday before Yom Kippur, a short week last week for Sukkot, and a short week this week for Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. I have been able to get a lot of long-term planning done. I mean, I am on the ball. I know what I’m doing for basically a couple months down the road.

Because of the holidays, the students had long prayers (tefillah), which meant we missed classes. Today, I only taught one class (although it was a double block). It was a great class. We started off reading Jonathan Edwards’ fiery sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” which made those kids glad they’re not Puritan. I had the excellent opportunity to explain some Christian theology — not proselytize, mind. I don’t do that. It was to explain where these Puritans are coming from and what they believe. The students were very interested and asked great questions. We then discussed the first portion of The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I think once we started discussing it, they warmed to the book. Hester is really a pretty interesting old gal. Discussion of Puritan (and Christian) theology in general continued. We discussed a bit the ways in which religion is still a part of our laws, and it seemed like the discussion really took off. One student brought up Blue Laws, I mentioned the Ten Commandments and sodomy laws, and before you knew it, we were talking about how religion has impacted education and separation of church and state. I gave my opinion, as I’ve stated here recently, about the perfect appropriateness of requiring religious education when one goes to a religious institution, but the complete imappropriateness otherwise, and of course, there were no dissenters in that classroom. They have actually, most of them, been in a position of feeling uncomfortable about being the only Jew in a room full of Christians — of feeling like “the other.” One student shared a particularly appalling story with me.

She said she went to public school in the 5th grade. Her teacher sat her up front, near her desk. On the corner of her desk, she kept a copy of the New Testament and frequently offered to loan it to my student, should she be interested. She also frequently attempted to get her to borrow the Left Behind series books. Bleh. So my poor student felt very uncomfortable, but also afraid to say any thing lest the teacher hold it against her. In short, she was afraid it would affect her grade. Finally, it became unbearable, and my student went to the principal, who, from what I was told, handled the situation properly. But my, oh my. Can you believe it? Put yourself in someone else’s shoes, those of you who have ever been guilty of trying to force your relgious beliefs (or even lack thereof) on someone. What right have any of us to try to undermine what a parent is teaching his/her child about religion? Don’t we keep saying over and over that something like that is best left to the parents? Actually, it reminded me of a story I read recently in the Atlanta Jewish Times.

So this is why I wrote what I wrote about Marilou Braswell. I’ve had some negative feedback about it. No one who will leave a real name and valid e-mail. I got tired of it and closed comments on that entry. I figure that if someone really wants to tell me off, then they’ll just have to e-mail me. So far all anyone’s really done is basically tell me I’m wrong, that I don’t know the facts (I guess the news and UGA also got the facts wrong, if that’s the case), and insult people involved (Jaclyn Steele and someone named Demon Damon that I don’t even remember — and that was from an actual e-mail). Oh, and they shared with me that I can learn the truth of the matter at I don’t want to be accused of not giving equal time, so check it out if you must, but please God, don’t tell them I sent you. The last thing I need is more anti-Semitic evangelicals telling me I’m wrong, Jaclyn’s going to hell, and I’m disseminating lies for the uneducated masses who, you know, all rely on me for their information, and all that crap.

Actually, I had a great day. I really did.


2 thoughts on “The Scarlet Letter, or Jesus Loves You

  1. First, gracious! You're right about all the holidays. I wonder how in the world you work around all of those. Second, I wonder when people will figure out that you show what you and your religion is made of by how you treat others.

  2. Hello,

    My name is Matt Braswell and I'm Marilou Braswell's husband. I read some of your comments. I appreciate your listing our website for those looking to hear "our side". Regarding one specific comment, I was wondering if you thought that the possibility of UGA and the press "getting it wrong" was less than plausible. I'm not sure if you've had the time or inclination to read through the website yourself. I'd be interested to see if it made a difference in your position.

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