It’s just a sneeze: hold the trigger warning

Last night as I was getting dinner ready to serve, I turned around and sneezed (away from the food. You’re welcome.)

“GOD bless you,” TheKid said to me. Then he continued, “Some of my friends have this teacher who’s an atheist, and they’re not allowed to say ‘God bless you’ in class when someone sneezes.”

Apparently any mention of the word “God” in this classroom makes the teacher upset.

“Are there consequences?” I wondered.

“Well, I know the teacher yells at them. So they say the ‘God’ part really loud. Like this: GOD bless you,” TheKid told me.It's just a sneeze

If the only thing that’s happening when the students mention God in class is that the teacher yells at them, then it’s a good thing that this is one ineffective teacher.

But what happens when an effective teacher, an influential teacher, decides that it’s OK to deny students the right to mention the word “God” when someone sneezes?

What happens when the school administration supports some teacher’s (or student’s) “right” not to have to even hear mention of the word “God”?

Are we really to believe that, for atheist teachers in public schools, the word “God” requires a trigger warning?

And are the students’ parents good with this? Or don’t they know that, for 45 minutes per day, one person’s desire not to hear a certain word mentioned trumps the free-speech rights of 25 others?

Image credit: Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain. Modified in Canva by the author.

Art and Irreverence

Last summer the Four Evangelists came to church.

evangelists behind altar
Last summer’s Evangelists, AKA the Traveling Willburys

They were set up behind the altar where they distracted me at each and every Mass. There they were, looking over Father’s shoulder as he recited the prayers. If I didn’t keep my eyes closed, I’d find my gaze wandering over to see if I could find the guy on the left’s other hand. The Evangelists were larger than life, but oddly proportioned, with any visible hands flat and deformed and smaller than mine.

And they weren’t in any kind of order, either, as we found out when the pastor conducted a little Who’s Who tour during the homily one day. Not alphabetical, not chronological, and not the order in which the Gospels appear in the Bible.

We musicians, of course, dubbed them “John, Paul, George and Ringo.” After about two months, they disappeared, but we found them again at the other church within our parish. That’s when they got a new name:  the Traveling Willburys.

I’m pretty sure that the purpose of art in a church isn’t to inspire the assembly to new heights of snark. It’s also not there to distract from worship. It should lead the mind to God. It should inspire not sarcasm but devotion.

Gary ColemanI’d forgotten about this particular venture in ecclesial decor until today, when a new set of Evangelists had taken their places behind the altar. These were even larger, and from where I sat in the choir area, it seemed that the one on the far right was giving the musicians the side-eye.

My teenage neighbor told me after Mass that she thought they looked creepy. For the moment, I’ve dubbed them the Suspicious Evangelists.

(That would be a pretty good band name, come to think of it.)

I’m guessing that the Traveling Willburys have taken up residence in the other church, and now that we have two complete sets (collect ’em all!) we’ll all get to be distracted by the various Evangelists until the end of Ordinary Time.

If I had my druthers, the only things behind the altar would be the crucifix and the tabernacle. There’s got to be a spot somewhere else in the church where the Evangelists could go, somewhere that can’t be seen from the pews during Mass.

Lead us not into distraction, Lord, and deliver us from creepy Evangelists.