This post is going to be a little bit like how I go on runs during track season: darting back and forth through the trees, haphazardly jumping over bushes, crossing through random people’s yards (okay, I only did that once, and it was by accident). I suppose you could say my weekend was an exploration of the full range of human emotion–bittersweet nostalgia, anger, triumph, irritation, deep contemplation, sadness. So, in advance, thank you for your forbearance.
On Friday, I made an overnight trip down to Portland for a cross country meet. (Sadly, I didn’t get to run–but at least I got to take pictures…lots of pictures. Also saw some people there who I met at cross country camp this summer–one even won the race I would have been in had I run. And, it was sunny!). In addition to the individual champion I knew, my district high school won their division as a team. Lots of excited posts on Facebook when I got home! So…it wasn’t as fun as it’s been in previous years, but still worth it.
On the ride down, I listened to/slept through an obnoxious conversation/monologue about TV shows. I became quite skilled at monologue-killing (e.g., distracting the van’s resident orator by asking for random items). On the way home, however, I got into an interesting discussion (with my long-winded companion and our coach) about the differences between and benefits versus opportunity costs of private and public schools. I have attended a private, religious prep school my entire life; my friend has gone through multiple schools of different types and qualities; the coach currently has children in another private school.
We concluded that the academics at our small prep school are superior to those of many other institutions (public and private), but that the social environment is not always ideal. How? Nobody is “normal”. That may seem like a good thing (“Yay! Individuality!”), but that’s not what I mean. The people in our high school lack the diversity of a “normal” high school. Too many individuals are not individual. The atmosphere tends to be one of high-maintenance, homogeneous hyper-intellectual snobbery, for lack of a better word. People are smart, and they know it. I love being with people who can hold an intellectual discussion, but at my school, this bears its own problems. At least in part because of the high level of intelligence, people are constantly on guard against intellectual attack. Thus, there is a sense of distance and hesitancy: often, people are unwilling to be honest about their true beliefs for fear of a frontal assault of logic, arrogance, and Grapevine strangulation. (Here, the intellectual meets the social: we like to say that other people know your gossip before you know it yourself–and it’s true…people have heard about their own breakups through mutual friends before their now ex-significant others broke the bad news.) A small school means that you know everybody, and, to an extent, have to be friends with everybody; this amplifies any drama that can occur. The social life can be exhausting, relationships rarely deep.
Though my relationships with my peers may range from non-existent to tumultuous, the relationships I have formed with a number of teachers are some of the most valuable I have. They are honest with us; we can be honest with them. There are a number of teachers who I know I can talk to about anything, anytime. they are willing to give us access to their personal emails, phone numbers, and Facebook profiles. More important, though, is the honesty they express in their teaching. Since my school is Christian, they incorporate their faith into their lesson plans–and lives. And they manage to do it intelligently, but not arrogantly or accusatorily. No over-the-head Bible-bopping here. (The one exception I would make is the majority–but not all–of the Christian Studies department, ironically enough. For some reason, most of my Christian studies classes have failed to be honest, failed to deal with real issues, failed to deal with Christianity at the higher intellectual level to which we are accustomed. To an extent this is the fault of the students and their lack of honesty, but I think that the teaching philosophy itself is inherently flawed.) But generally, teachers teach as who they are: Christian, loving, intelligent, caring, knowledgeable, invested, honest.
Basically, though, we decided that we are glad to have spent our education (and money and energy and time and stress) where we have. It is worth it now, and will be even more so in the future.
Moving on to today. After a series of unfortunate events this morning, I made the last minute decision to visit another church by myself. (I would have skipped church entirely, except that I felt that I needed to attend today, and I am on the border of looking for a different church to attend regularly, anyhow.) I drove to the church of a number of my close friends (some of the very few I have at school), prepared for a normal service. Instead, I was greeted by an usher who told me that this service would be “unusual” because the church was experiencing a period of “transition”. Uh oh. Alarm bells started going off in my head–I’ve been here before. But, there’s no use in going home after driving for almost thirty minutes, so I stay. The news? The entire leadership staff is resigning, the building is being surrendered to the denomination, and part of the church is going to vote to withdraw from the denomination. Now, I know this church well enough to know that it had been having some issues, so this wasn’t a total surprise. What surprised me was how much the news affected me.
It was like déjà vu, only it was real.
My childhood church went through a somewhat similar (very different, though) situation almost exactly three years ago. (The situation there, I suspect, is a cause of some of my wariness towards churches, specifically of growing to attached to one.) I’ve moved on, found a new church, but today brought back the same flood of thoughts and emotions of November 2008. This morning, I could feel this congregation’s pain and confusion–the same pain and confusion I remember. I could try to rationalize with them. I could hope to hold strong with them. But what can I really do, except say, “I understand,” and pray that their situation resolves itself better than ours did? What can we do as members of the Church, universal and local? Division is inevitable, inescapable. People–even “good” Christian people–can’t always be trusted. “The work of Satan,” some say. But who cares who caused it? Just because Satan or your worst enemy or your best friend caused it–it still happened. Try fixing it.
So…that was my weekend. How was yours?