Picking our battles: on Bible class and Trump’s wall



It’s just a shirt. That’s what I kept telling myself on the silent-treatment ride home after back-to-school shopping with my teen daughter. We’d just gone a few rounds at the mall over her having to have a particular, oversized, $90, blue and green flannel shirt.

All mothers of teenagers know this scene. There was no way, no way on earth, I was paying for that ridiculous, unnecessary, overpriced shirt. No way, until I pulled out my credit card and bought it. We have to pick our battles.

I feel the same about President Trump’s border wall. His wall is ridiculous; his wall will cost billions of dollars we don’t have; his wall is a structural impossibility along the border terrain and will not keep anyone out. But so what. Let’s give him the money. Let’s let him have his wall.

We have smaller but important battles closer to home, like the latest about whether or not to teach Bible literacy at our public high school. You can’t throw a rock in this county without hitting a church, and don’t most of these churches have youth groups and Bible study and Sunday school and church camp?

Setting aside the obvious incendiary arguments, let’s take on the practical. Who would we hire to teach such a class, who would be acceptable? Do we have a religious preference, because what happens when the Baptist teacher we’ve hired gives his or her take on a Bible story, and the Catholic, Methodist, or Evangelical kid goes home and tells Mom and Dad it’s not the same as what he learned from grandma or their longtime pastor?

If we’re going to teach the Bible at our public high school, will we also be teaching math at church? Of course not, but in the Jan. 17 issue of this newspaper, Superintendent Sheila Mitchell said, “What we’re waiting on is some information from the department on how to determine guideline standards for the curriculum if we were to create one.”

What information are we waiting for exactly, besides how much controversy such a class will inevitably create?

And Principal Chris Glass said, “[We’ll] see where we go after the water clears. I like to give our kiddos options.”

If it’s real options we’re after, why wouldn’t we consider options our kids can’t get at our local churches — classes that could make them more knowledgable, understanding and tolerant (more, in theory, Christian) — like the study of Judaism, Buddism, Islam, Hinduism, Atheism?

As odd as it sounds, the national debate over President Trump’s wall and our local debate about whether to teach the Bible at our public high school germinated in much the same way: a possibly well-intended concept that is neither needed nor practical, and what is the cost in both implementation and fallout?

Trump’s wall, the story goes, was never even Trump’s idea. A “wall” was simply the metaphor used by his earliest advisers as they schooled the real estate mogul on the basic concepts of border security. “Look at it like this, sir,” you can almost hear them saying, “you’re a builder. Imagine building a big, impenetrable wall to keep the bad guys out.”

Excited about the concept, the metaphor fresh on his mind, Mr. Trump belted out at his next campaign rally, “I’m going to build a big, beautiful wall!” The crowd erupted with cheers. To keep the cheering going, he followed it up, “And Mexico will pay for it!” and the cheers grew louder.

But now he’s the president. And Mexico’s not paying. And he’s stuck. For three years he’s promised a wall, but how does one border wall keep out bad guys arriving by air, by sea, through our computers, social media, power grids? It can’t. Of course it can’t. As a friend recently said, it’s a 3rd century solution to a 21st century problem.

The president’s $20B wall, much like my daughter’s $90 shirt, is more symbol than substance. It’s just a wall. As any mom of a teenager knows, we have to pick our battles. To keep the peace, let’s let him have this one and move on.

Here in Anderson County, we can’t afford enough teachers, but we’re talking about adding Bible class? All due respect, we don’t need more information, and we don’t need more options. We need to pick better battles, like how to attract and keep the best, most qualified teachers, and how to pay them every dollar they deserve.

12 thoughts on “Picking our battles: on Bible class and Trump’s wall

  1. wyllowpatty

    I love this. You are so right. And I get it about the shirt. I have a granddaughter who is almost 13…

  2. Marilyn Whited

    When my teens wanted something I couldn’t afford, or rarely refused on whatever other grounds, I suggested that if they feel that strongly about it, YOU buy it. Save your allowance, get a teen type job like mowing neighbors lawns, babysitting, washing cars in the neighborhood or for a local dealership! My oldest son actually turned a hobby into crafting swords & hunting knives for his customers, by commission only! He was making real money!! The same son mowed lawns ; I consented to drive the mower w/him to local jobsites; I sat in the car reading the paper while he mowed their lawn.! I made friends of these people too. My daughter had a separate calendar for keeping track of her babysitting jobs! She packed a “babysitting bag” specific for the child’s interests! She was in demand! If she sat for a baby, I made sure I stayed home so she knew there was backup if she needed it. She called me just once; the older child was being a cranky butt so I came over to sooth that one while my daughter fed & diapered the baby. Then I went home. The middle child, a PT Barnum wanna be, traded his used comic books w/a local barber he befriended, who let him then have the used comic books from his shop. I’m proud of all of them.

  3. Catherine

    Mmm, I agree with Marilyn. Once a kid is old enough to pick out their own clothes, they get an allowance and it’s up to them to decide whether they want 1 $90 shirt or a cheaper upgrade to their wardrobe.

    There’d be no room for complaint because they already have all the money they’re getting from me!

  4. Jude Lieber

    It’s more than choosing children or choosing to oppose wall. Also, it’s not up to Betsy DeVos, it’s up to the Judges, because what you are describing in your district is illegal by Federal law. Protecting our government systems from religious bias and stopping the wall are both are for our children, and we must oppose both. The wall is killing the habitat of threatened monarch butterflies, the endangered Texas tortoise and endangered black rose cactus, to name a few. We must preserve this earth so our children and grandchildren can enjoy it.

    1. Teri Post author

      I am an environmentalist too. I hear you. My suggestion here is not to build the wall, just to appropriate the money and take away his leverage. The wall will never be built. —- Also, this is an OpEd for a small Kentucky town, and teaching the Bible is legal in this state.

  5. Richard Chandler

    I agree with your comments on teaching the Bible in public schools, but you’re very far off on the wall. It is not a smallish sacrifice mom makes for here daughter, but $20 billion dollars of complete waste. It is to bless a lie.

    1. Teri Post author

      Appropriating the money and actually spending the money are 2 different things. My suggestion here is that we give him the wall, because he will then have nothing with which to whip up his base. The wall will never be built — it has always been imaginary — so let’s take away his bargaining chip. —- It’s simply something to consider.

  6. Catherine

    As for teaching the Bible in school, there IS some practical use for it. In English literature class, where just about every piece of classic writing has some form of religious reference.

  7. Paula Bauer

    When I attended Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii in the mid 1950s, there were a few mandatory classes we all had to take. One such class was Religion. It was not a specific belief class but a comparative belief class. It was a class about understanding and accepting whatever one believes.
    How this relates now. We have it seems, turned into a my way or the highway religious belief period. I sure as heck am not going to wear a uniform every day…nor am I going to eat the same food at every meal. We all have choices! These choices MUST be respected and as long as we all understand everyone has their right to choose how, when, and what to do in all aspects of life as long as it doesn’t infringe on others or in others spaces.
    Freedom of choice is what makes the world go around.

  8. savorygrace

    Regarding the sweater parallel, it would follow to require Jared Kushner’s profits to pay for it. Were a just authority available to account, the deals that he is (allegedly) making with countries throughout the planet on behalf of the Trump empire using the American largess as collateral, should pay for it in short order.

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