I Don’t Know Any Atheist Parents Bitching About Charlie Brown

Recently, students at Terry Elementary School in Little Rock, Arkansas were planning a class field trip to attend the stage version of “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown” at a local church, and an atheist group known as the Arkansas Society Of Free Thinkers were none too happy about it. It’s my opinion that there probably aren’t too many members of this group who have children, because most parents either love the nostalgic charm of Charlie Brown, and if their personal religious beliefs conflict with Linus and his speech about the origins of Christmas, they probably use that as a “teaching moment.”

We live in a world where our kids are inundated with new television carton characters constantly, and a lot of these characters aren’t the best for our kids. It’s not because of their religious beliefs, it’s because so many kids shows these days are just so one-dimensional. These modern characters are worlds away from the simplistic and sweet world of Charles M. Schulz, that have sparked many amazing conversations with my own kids about the way Lucy Van Pelt and some of the other Peanuts gang treat Charlie Brown. Charlie Brown, at least to this parent, is sort of the original “bullied kid.” When watching the specials with my own children it helps them to relate to Charlie and how even though a lot of the kids around him treat him badly, he stays true to himself and keeps trying. Charlie Brown is an eternal optimist. Plus, I love Snoopy. There are many lessons to be learned from these characters who are over 50 years old, and one of my favorite lessons is that Christmas is too commercialized, and that what matters most is being with the people we love. But because there is a small segment in the cartoon and stage play which talks about the religious origins of Christmas, some people feel it violates religious freedom.  From The Christian Post.com:

Teachers at Terry Elementary School recently sent a letter home to parents that says the play will “expose your child to Christianity” but “if you prefer your child to not attend the program they may stay at school.” The production is scheduled to be held at Agape Church on Friday, Dec. 14, during school hours, and one of the school’s teachers attends the church and is to be a part of the play.

One upset parent told KARK-TV she doesn’t want her daughter to see the play, but is letting her attend out of fear that her daughter will be singled out by her classmates. The mother also contacted the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers (ASF), which believes the school has violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution by exposing students to a play that contains Christian themes.

The “A Charlie Brown Christmas” cartoon was created in 1965 and follows the story of beloved Peanuts character Charlie Brown on his quest to find the meaning of Christmas in the midst of commercialism that often dominates the holiday. In one of the cartoon’s scenes, the character Linus quotes a portion of the Gospel of Luke in an attempt to explain to his friend how Christmas began.

I can understand if you are a parent and some of the messages in the play offend your beliefs, but the field trip isn’t mandatory, you can opt to have your child not attend. I think in an ideal world our kids would be exposed to all sorts of different religions and customs during the holiday season by all of us parents, and even though I can sympathize with those parents who feel A Charlie Brown Christmas is giving their kids the wrong message, I also feel like there are so many other things parents can be offended by that our kids are exposed to around Christmas. People can be angry about their kids being exposed to Charlie Brown, I’ll be over here getting pissy about shit like this:

(image: A Charlie Brown Christmas)

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  • chickadee

    Yeaaaaaah…I can understand why this is problematic. If it were a play based on the special that was being performed by a community theatre, I’d probably be fine with it. But this is being performed by a church group AT their church, and their website has this statement on the front page:

    “Our desire is to teach you the Word of God so that you can teach others.”

    Which is an awesome statement when you are a church, and less awesome when you are a public school. Organizing a field trip to YOUR CHURCH to watch a play that quite probably is introduced or concluded by a Christian statement by the players or one of the pastors is awkward, to say the least. Particularly when that church and that school are in the Bible Belt, which makes it more important than ever that the schools maintain a strict delineation between religious activities and school activities. Because, you see, for a parent to object to their child’s going to a church not of the parent’s choosing to hear a religious message that may clash with the tenets of their own religion (or their lack thereof) causes problems in religious communities.

    We have experienced this ourselves, and it is incumbent on the schools NOT to blur the lines between school and church. I would have objected to this field trip, because churches like Agape are not where I want my children. We attend the Episcopal church which has a less community-intrusive idea of religion (at least, ours does).

    • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

      Ooooo, see, I assumed the kids would just see the play, I didn’t think they would be sermonized to after the performance.

    • chickadee

      They might be. They will DEFINITELY be invited to “visit” sometime, and why don’t you bring your parents? No pressure!

      My kids were inundated with this kind of stuff all the time….like the Fifth Quarter get-togethers after football games….at people’s churches where there would be pizza and sodas and stuff and also BONUS TESTIMONIES. Proselytizing masquerading as entertainment or social gatherings. I want to move to a heathen state. :(

    • ipsedixit010

      Proselytizing masquerading as entertainment or social gatherings is spot on.

      In my younger days days, we went to a non-denominational Christian church. They would have events at the church that kids could go to (invite your friends!) that were put on by the youth group. Totally innocuous on the outside, but some definite witnessing and testimonials once you were there.

    • http://www.xojane.com/author/eve Eve Vawter

      I have yet to encounter this with my own kids, but I know this happened to me as a teen!

    • enquiring mind

      Subliminal marketing to children is not cool, obviously, but why is it okay for businesses to have an ‘open day’ where they lure you in with rides and music to get you to listen to their sales pitch, but nefarious when churches do the same thing?

    • Gravity322

      I’ve never been terribly fond of those, either.

    • ipsedixit010

      Uh….well, I don’t like marketing to children in general. However, I don’t see a store “free day” as quite equal to a youth group testimonial. I feel religion is a more deeply held personal belief than basic consumerism.

      However, that wasn’t the topic that was being discussed nor was it ever brought up in conversation. Saying “why isn’t this bad?!?!” in a topic when you don’t know they poster’s feelings is rather silly.

    • Justme

      There was one church that my Catholic youth minister mother would never let me go to with friends. I thought she was just the meanest mother because that’s where all the “cool” kids went to church. Turns out she was protecting me from being told that I was going to hell for being Catholic and then saved as a new member of this certain denomination.

    • chickadee

      Your mother sounds like my mother….I spent a weekend with a friend and she took me to their church, which was having a revival. I got “saved” that weekend, because I was 11 and didn’t know that “come down to the altar if you love Jesus” meant “come down, heathens, and get some religion” (I was also Catholic and we attended church every Sunday followed by CCD). When my friend’s mother told my mother proudly that I had been saved, you could almost see the steam coming out of my mother’s ears and she thanked her and then shut the door, unleashing a load of theology and doctrine on me until I understood what had actually happened.

    • Justme

      Like I said, at the time I thought she was being so incredibly over-protective but now as an adult I understand her motives. I don’t think that it was that my mother didn’t want me to be exposed to different thought processes and beliefs….I don’t think she wanted me “bullied” for the beliefs I do hold. And living in Texas….Catholics aren’t the majority nor are they always looked upon favorably.

    • ipsedixit010

      Yes! We actually left the church I was previously talking about because at one point, a youth minster told us that Catholics were heading to Hades. (of note, these ‘minsters’ sometimes have little to no training in theology or any type of advanced degree. Our main pastor at this church was an accountant.) Of course, I was too young at the time to really question them, but it certainly didn’t sit well with my parents after I came home and asked why my father’s family were idol worshiping heathens.

      It didn’t do too much good though. I ended up converting to Catholicism in my adult years. ;)

    • Justme

      I was told several times in school that I would be going to hell since I wasn’t “saved” but little did my friends know that us Catholics have this thing called “Confirmation” which is more or less along the same lines….it’s just affirming the beliefs that your parents took for you during Baptism and saying that you will live according to God’s plan as an adult. Similar concept just with different wording.

      I had one boy in my 10th grade World History class that I almost clobbered once because in response to my innocent question of something along the lines of “why did people hate on the Catholic church so much,” he answered with “well duh, it’s a cult of course!” I still remember my friend Trey’s arm jutting out from the desk to restrain me from jumping out of my chair. Now I understand it was because of all that pesky Crusade stuff. ;)

    • A. Levy

      Even without reading the extra insight provided by chckadee, I would have a problem with this. Time is being taken out of a school day to expose children to Christianity. If school buses are used for transportaion, that means public funds are involved. Sorry to break your streak, Eve, but this atheist parent does have a problem with it.

  • Eileen

    I had atheist parents, and they totally sent us to church preschool and weren’t opposed to letting us be exposed to other religions. They didn’t want anyone forcing their views on us…but they also didn’t force their OWN views on us, especially as we got older and started developing thoughts, ideas, and belief systems of our own.

    Also, I’m sorry, but “Society of Free Thinkers”? And people wonder why there’s prejudice against atheists.

    • Spiderpigmom
    • SusannahJoy

      I think a school organizing an event to a church is definitely crossing a line, but I’m also totally ok with my children being exposed to Christianity, despite my husband and I both being atheist. This country is largely Christian, it’s part of our culture, our heritage etc etc. I think it’d be good for my kids to know the story of Christmas, as told by the majority religion Whatever it may now, it was a religious holiday. And if my children came home asking about church and why we don’t go? Great! I’ll sit down and explain why. And tell them that if they want to go see what it’s all about, I’m more than happy to take them. I was free to choose my beliefs, I hope my children feel just as free.

  • justhypatia

    As an agnostic I have no problem with “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” I love Christmas specials and I will share it with my child when they are old enough. Charlie Brown is awesome.

    That said however, I would NOT be ok with a public school dragging a young child to a church where they will receive a religious message. That crosses a line.

    Also “opting out” is a horrible option. That’s my child being punished for not having a religious upbringing. All the other kids get to have fun at a play but little Susie Atheist has to sit at a desk and do her homework for the afternoon feeling like she has done something bad.

  • Vikky

    I have a problem with this AS A CHRISTIAN!
    Seriously, separation of church & state is important–no school should have a field trip TO A CHURCH for any reason whatsoever.
    If the non-Christian kids “opt out” then they don’t get to go on the trip and, in effect, publicly shamed for not being Christian,

    This is NOT acceptable!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Carmen-Finnigan/841528248 Carmen Finnigan

    Public schools need to be neutral on religion. This schools is not, and that is a problem. Just because there are other problems in the world doesn’t mean we should ignore the ones in front of us. The Freethinkers have got this one right.

  • JLH

    I can remember as a kid Wednesday mornings we walked up to the local church and had religious instruction there. It was optional and kids who opted not to go got to stay at school and…watch movies, do arts and crafts, have extra recess or whatever the teacher had planned for that hour. My parents left me with the option and I did both alternatively until I aged out of the option. I don’t recall anyone being singled out because they did or didn’t go. However, from what I can determine from this article, the parents aren’t mad about it being Charlie Brown, they are mad that it’s performed by a Church Group in a Church. There isn’t an equally fun alternative (or more fun in my school’s case). If they want the kids to see Charlie Brown, get a DVD or wait for a community theater showing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alexandria.township Alexandria Towns-hip

    this is a letter i had initially addressed to bill o’reilly, in response to something he said, but i know that it can relate to rush limbaugh, sean hannity, glenn beck, feminists, gays, as well as masculine apologists and anyone else with gender-identity issues.

    commenting on a church’s cancellation of some type of christmas play featuring charlie brown, bill o’reilly said these words: “secular progressivism wants to destroy the christian holiday”. while i don’t take issue with this statement at all, i must point out the ways in which bill o’reilly is “buying into” the progressive democrats’ destruction of the ideals that have contributed to the strength and the success of america.

    maybe bill o’reilly is fighting the intolerant and anti-christian viewpoints of the left, but he is walking in lock-step with another weakness-promoting aspect of the left – and that is the subjugation of gender.

    by referring to members of the taller/wider/stronger gender as “guys,” and by never failing to refer to members of the egg-bleeding/milk-spouting/lesser gender as “women,” bill o’reilly is buying into the political correctness of the left which kowtows to a notion as ridiculous as “gender equality” (as well as the words “a woman can do anything a man can do”).

    now, as long as they’re not competing against men, it may seem like women are just as capable as men…but the very existence of gender-based sports teams surely places an asterisk after the “anything a man can do” line.

    by referring to members of the apt gender as “guys”while referring to members of the menstruating gender as “women,” bill o’reilly (as well as society in general) is subjugating men through the undue respect of females. referring to men as “guys” rather than “men” is as disrespectful as referring to females as “broads”. in today’s society, we have any egg-bleeding and milk-spouting specimen of motherhood being referred to as a “woman,” but it seems that the only way anyone is going to refer to a man by using the word “man,” is if the man has accomplished something that is worthy of respect. “he’s not a MAN,” says the angry ex-wife with much contempt for who she disrespects. “you’re not a MAN,” says the straight man, contemptuously to the masculivoid who looks at men with a crooked type of misunderstanding that beckons him to take a closer look at men.

    gay “men” and “strong” women – these masculine slights are the only ones who are given the letters M-E-N. this is compromise of masculine integrity, plain and simple, and it is contributing as much to the deconstruction of america as is the tolerance of muslims.

    aside from being ironic, it’s kind of oxymoronic (if that is a word) for there to be a buzz-phrase like “strong women” or even “gay men”. i say this because the “strong woman” lacks the physical makeup to be anything but “strong FOR A woman,” just as the muscular “gay man” lacks the gender-identity/emotional makeup to be anything but the classic “kid in a candy store” when he’s around half-naked men. “manly for a gay,” “strong for a woman,” this is how the integrity of men and masculinity is slighted. “manly for someone who hasn’t internalized masculine gender-identity,” “strong for someone who lacks the physical attributes of a masculine body,” this is how the integrity of men and masculinity is slighted, because if a woman can be considered “strong” and if a gay guy can be considered “manly” then the very essence of manhood is compromised

    there is a reason for the “parking for pregnant women” signs, there is a reason for the gender-based sports teams, there is a reason that the coney island hot dog eating competition had to add a “womens’ division”. the reason is that females are somewhat disabled when compared to men, just as gay “men” are somewhat disabled and rendered dazed or confused when faced with real men. yet, the buzz-phrases “strong women” and “gay men” are commonplace, while the average man is not a man but only a dismissible “guy”.

    so, the next time anyone suggests that people stand up to democrats and their hatred of religious holidays, they should be reminded that standing up to democrats’ deconstruction of america means standing up to feminists’ dismissal of men.

    let me be clear and say that i’m not in any way suggesting that every man should rape any feminist with a carving knife so that her vagina bleeds more profusely than it does during her normal monthly egg-leak. i realize that womens’ penis-receptacles are necessary tools for men to use just to further the very existence of the human race. i also am not suggesting that we stop basing physical competitions on gender, for i realize that gender-based sports teams are necessary to keep sports competitive. we must keep sports competitive, because with females fighting for equal representation where they don’t belong…well, let me just ask this question: who’d want to see a 5 second boxing match between a strong woman and a broad-shouldered, thickly-built specimen of muscle who exercises with weights that are three times as heavy as the ones at curves fitness centers?

    as prince sung in a song from the 1989 film called “batman,” i will answer my own question: “NO…BO..DY”.

    dylan terreri, i

  • ideal_rain

    I wonder if the kids are being exposed to Hanukkah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa and Winter Festivus.That would be interesting for the kids.