Monday, February 4, 2013

imagine if Christians did this ...

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A Jewish Orthodox rabbi has set up a 'pop up' temple in a disused shop near the high school in Great Neck, New York. Jewish kids are welcome to come in and are given lunch at no charge. But there's no such thing as a free lunch: the price of admission is instruction in the faith - solid Jewish Orthodox teaching. 

Naturally, the school is freaking. They can't believe that, having given the students the freedom to do as they pleased during their lunch hour, some are actually choosing to use the time on religion. And in a great 'ha, ha' moment the ones who would have been happy for the kids to stuff their faces with fast food or go to a video arcade (do those still exist or am I really showing my age?) can't do anything to stop them from going to the temple.

In my own town, come lunch time the local shops and fast food outlets are swamped with students buying sandwiches, crisps, and chips etc. I wonder would a 'pop up' church work here? Free soup and sandwiches accompanied by lessons on the faith ... after all, if it's working in Little Neck, New York, how could it fail in Ireland? Gosh ... maybe it's an idea that Christians all over the western world could try. Why not - what could go wrong (except, maybe give young people the idea that we're actually interested about them and care about passing on the faith to them)?

Answers on a post card (or email ... Oh, all right; in the combox, then).


  1. Hi Mr M,

    that's the US school system for you ... I've never really gotten the obsession with keeping all references to God out of schools ... but it seems to be taking it to extremes to throw a hissy fit about what the kids do with their own free time. They'd hate my parish school: I'm in there every week, leading assemblies, telling the children Bible stories in their classrooms, and taking them up to the local church several times a year for various services ...

    Oh, & welcome back!

  2. One problem which I see with this Levi, is that in Ireland the Church did teach religion to children - often by force and with great violence. Now we have child protection laws. Maybe the New York authorities could take a leaf from our book. The lessons were hard learned.

    1. Hi homophilosophicus,
      thanks for your comment & welcome to my blog! I'm glad I was able to follow the link back to your blog; with this being our first 'encounter' I wasn't sure where you were coming from with your comment; your blog gives me some idea where you stand!

      I lived through some of the violence dished out in Irish schools. Was it any worse than that handed out, for example, in the UK? Some pretty savage stories have been told of what went on in Eton & Rugby etc. I'm inclined to think it was of its time. And I'm sure they have child protection laws in NY!

      I don't think violence & religion can be linked in this instance in any case. The children have been given the choice to do with their free time as they please. They are choosing to study their faith. Why should the school authorities have any more concern than if they were down at the local library?

      by the way, why 'Levi' rather than 'Father' or 'Fr Levi' in your comment? If you prefer not to call me Father, that's ok, but I'd rather in that case you simply didn't use any form of address at all.

    2. Dear Friend, You ask if the violence meted out in Irish schools was any worse than the violence in schools throughout the United Kingdom. Indeed, this is a good question. Yes, the treatment of children in Britain was appalling and often brutal - in this regard the violence in Ireland was much the same as that in England. Yet violence is not merely physical brutality. Irish religious violence was different - in essence - from the violence in English schools. We need take only the reformatory schools and the Magdalene asylums to see more clearly the nature of the religious antagonism towards the child. Children - in the greater part of the Christian world - are the result of 'sexual sin.' This is evinced in the repulsive doctrine of Original Sin and the practice of exorcising an infant at Baptism. Remember that these silly ideas and rituals have behavioural and cognitive consequences. It is the substance rather than the form of the violence in Ireland that was fundamentally different from that over the water.

      When you say that they were 'choosing to study their faith,' we must remember that they are children and 'choice' isn't so free for children. We take some choices from the young, and for good reason. We send them to school for a reason. It is not a matter of choice. When some elderly man with a model temple starts feeding them and teaching them religious notions over which their parents have no control then we have a problem.

      On the question of titles - I do apologise that my failure to address you by a specific religious title of honour has caused you discomfort or offence. That was not my intention. If it has caused you offence then may I assure you that it is merely your ego that has been bruised. In time this will heal. Pride is a sin (one which I am partial to myself - so you are in good company). But, alas, no. I find it awkward to give people honours and titles. I give sincere respect to good people and admire achievement - titles, hmm, not so much. So, seeing as you would prefer no title other than that specified - which I (with kindness) will not offer, I will address you are Friend. Jesus had something to say about calling people 'Friend (John 15:15).'

    3. tut, tut: it would have been enough to say you preferred to call me 'friend' as anything else makes you uncomfortable. As to the rest of what you had to say on the topic ... clearly I hit a nerve - I'm sorry if it was a painful one. I suspected there was more to it than a simple lapse.

      As I don't want to turn this into a re-run of the issues around various abuse scandals, I'll 'park' your remarks about the Irish school system.

      On the actual topic: the school in question deliberately gave the teenagers the choice to do what they willed with their free time. If they went down to a local cafe to make eating choices or listen to music their parents don't approve of we have no reason to believe the school would have intervened. Having chosen to intervene, a simple note home to the parents would have been sufficient. As the chairman as the Board of Management of the parish school, that would have been my course of action; & as a parent that is what I would have expected the school to do the moment they learned about the temple school.

    4. Penny just dropping - I am very slow sometimes! As far back as we go, my friend, you can call me anything you like ... just don't call me late for dinner (the way I, or anyone else, didn't call you for breakfast at a certain selection conference many years ago!)!

    5. No nerve was hit, I assure you. It is simply the case that I am not down with religious titles. So other than the child safety concerns - let's just say that the proselytisation of children is not so high on my priority list.
      We have a simple situation. God is one of three things, a) all-loving, in which case no one needs to know about 'their faith,' b) non existent, in which case no one needs know about god, or c) not all-loving - in which case god is better forgotten about. A good theologian should be both a and b.


    6. Glad that no nerve was hit brother ... & having figured out who you are (even though I was more Watson than Holmes about it!) I think I understand why you might not be keen about religious titles.

      I don't think I'd agree with your definition of a good theologian, but I think can agree that we don't have to agree about everything (or even most things!).

      God bless

  3. This is a great idea!!! I think kids have a natural curiosity about God. I really do. I think they are craving guidance and information on the One their heart unconsciously seeks. It makes sense that they'd gravitate towards something like this, ESPECIALLY since it's something that happens on their terms. No one is forcing them, no one is requiring it. It's a free choice that gives them control and makes them feel somewhat adult.

    Good for them. And good for the rabbi for doing this!

    I work in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia now. Since September of last year, our Continuing Ed Office has tried to do a similar lunch hour session in which we watch a video by a great Catholic speaker (Fr. Barron - he's incredible. Oh, I couldn't possibly sing his praises enough... that man is a true representative of Christ!). Afterwards, we're encouraged to stick around and discuss.

    I'm part of maybe 10 people who consistently show up. It's heart breaking... I wish we had the curiosity of these kids. I wish we still, as a people, had the desire to know God more intimately.

    Bless you, Father, for being a fire for your students. Them seeing you, learning from you, watching you lead... it has no doubt made such a difference for them and their view of God.

    Well done, good sir. Well done. :)