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Faith at Work

The other day some tween girls sought me out to ask about my cross.  I bought it at a pawn shop in Boca Raton, Florida some 15 years ago.  I love my cross.  It reflects my Orthodox Christian faith.  (I'm hoping that it is not the only thing about me that reflects my faith.)  The girls showed me a symbol that, they said, is associated with witches in Salem.  Our school is near Salem, Massachusetts, so I'm not sure if the symbol is concerning the famous witches of the past or the Wiccas of the present.

I explained to the girls that is was NOT a sign of witchcraft, but something quite opposite.  It is a sign of the cross of Christ.  I explained the details of the cross.  The top bar represents the sign that read, "King of the Jews", etc.  The girls thought that crucifixion sounded pretty gory and I agreed.   My officemate broke into the conversation and said, "you should say that some people believe that this happened.  The bible wasn't written for 100 years after the events."  I was a bit flabbergasted.  Has political correctness come to the point where we cannot answer a simple question about faith without provisos?

In The United States, we have freedom of religion and freedom from religion.  I have the right to wear my cross and to explain my beliefs or state historical facts to students where appropriate developmentally.  The crucifixion is an historical fact, the resurrection is a matter of faith.  A professor, teaching a course on Catholicism, was fired for giving the church's position on homosexuality.  He was later reinstated after a national outcry.  I was scared when my colleague said what she did because I  didn't want my job to be on the line if I answered a simple question from a student.  As a country, we've concentrated too much on freedom from religion and not allowed freedom of religion.

Thousands of people wear turbansstars, crosses, scapulars, hijabs, kippots, bindis, and other visible signs of their inward faith.  It is the lack of understanding of those faiths that has lead to the hysteria and fear that grips our country.

We need to set the example.  Find out what you'd like to know.  Ask a woman how she ties her hijab and if it gets hot in the summer.  Ask a balding man with a kippot how he keeps it on.  If you've always wanted to know something about a faith, just ask.  I'm sure that the adults would love to share the information.  Everyone would prefer to be asked than for answers (usually not flattering ones) to be assumed.  I cannot tell you how much Muslim parents appreciate my good wishes to them during Ramadan or the pleasure an Hindu mother has in sharing her favorite recipes for the Dawalli festival.  Let's not settle for tolerance.  Understanding is the beginning of peace.  Peace is the ultimate goal.

If you pray for a student, tell them when it is appropriate.  I was touched when a Muslim parent prayed for my mother as she was dying.  That kind of love transcends differences.  I'm currently saying a Novena for a few of my students who are dealing with cancer in their families.  Maybe someday I'll tell them.  It just hasn't come up yet.

I will continue to answer questions when asked and to pray for my students and colleagues.  I don't preach and I don't proselytize.  I'm just being who I am, a woman who wears a cross.  

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