Let #ExposeChristianSchools Motivate Us to Take Action to End Religious Trauma

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If you use Twitter or read atheist blogs, you are probably aware of at least some of the relevant hashtag campaigns that have taken place there. Examples include #WeExist, #AtheistVoter, and #AtheistsENGAGE. Most of them haven't caught on or been particularly effective. But there have been exceptions, and of the most interesting recent exceptions is #ExposeChristianSchools. I wholeheartedly support Chrissy Stroop for all she has been doing to promote this campaign.

The point of #ExposeChristianSchools is simple; people who attended Christian schools are encouraged to share their experience. And boy have they been sharing! If you are an atheist who attended public school (like me), you'll probably be horrified to read some of them, but I think it is important that we do. My overall assessment is a simple one: the problem is far worse than I could have imagined. It isn't that I was unaware that this stuff was going on, but I did not have a clear sense for how many people it affected or how it affected them. And yes, it is still happening. Children are being subjected to this stuff today. This kind of damage is still being inflicted on young minds and bodies.

It is true that my experience attending a Christian college was nowhere near as negative as most of the stories I have heard. In fact, I look back on those years as being pretty good ones in most respects. Then again, the Christian college I attended was neither evangelical nor fundamentalist. The people I knew who attended fundamentalist Christian colleges at the same time had very different experiences, and many hated it so much they dropped out.

I don't think any of us can accurately predict which hashtag campaigns will gain traction and which will quickly fade away, but I find it encouraging to see how well this one has done. It seems to have hit a nerve and given lots of former evangelical Christians (or people raised by evangelical Christians) an excuse to tell their stories. I hope telling their stories proves to be therapeutic, and I also hope that those of us who haven't had these experiences are paying attention. Perhaps at least some non-fundamentalist Christians are encountering this hashtag and learning something about the fundamentalist forms of their faith too.

The image that pops into my head at this point is one of a young child asking questions of a parent. "If people know this stuff is happening and kids are being treated like this, why is it allowed to keep happening? Why does everyone put up with it?" I wish I had a satisfactory answer. I won't live to see it, but I think the day will come when this kind of interaction plays out in much the same way questions about the genocidal campaigns waged against native peoples, slavery, and all sorts of other social ills would play out. Most of us know better now, but how could people living in those times not have figured it out? And why are we putting up with it today?