Someone on kimchi mamas asked about sending one's child to a different faith school. This is such a complex issue for me that I'm actually stumped on what a real answer is.
I'm buddhist. My parents have always been pretty strongly buddhist and raised me as such. And over the past decade or so, my mother has become more and more devoutly buddhist. J is some sort of Christian, mostly episcopalian with some lutheran thrown in for good measure. We're both non-practicing in actuality, but we both seem to have the tendency to identify with these religions that we really only belong to nominally.
I think (and I'm biased of course) that my particular affinity has little impact on our lives. After all, my particular brand of buddhism is practically inert. It's non-proselytizing, self-reflexive, very zen (yes, I know that Zen is a specific branch of buddhism, and no, I'm not speaking of zen specifically). I fear the same is not true for J's. J's family is (as far as I can tell) your typical New England episcopalian family. They go to church every Sunday, they even participate in bible study occassionally, there are a couple of members of clergy hidden here and there among the aunts, uncles, and second cousins, and it is all done jovially, almost tongue in cheek, because at the same time, they are all NE liberals and god forbid that there's any connection between them and those red state religious fanatics! But then underneath the tongue in cheek, there is an even deeper undercurrent of devotion, that these values that they practice are the good values, that these values are what make them better than others. I'm totally babbling now, but I just cannot put into words the levels of complexity that I believe there are in J and his family's relationship with religion.
Suffice it to say, I have always had a sensed that behind all the good natured acceptance, there is a most ferverent piety. How do I know this? (1) Both my children have been baptized. This despite the fact that I have not been (and was therefore not allowed to be at the alter) and the fact that noone in my family has ever been (and are therefore unqualified for the roles of godparents). I was not totally comfortable with all of this, but it was important to J and was no (real) skin off my back, so I just went with the flow. (2) J's family has an almost maniacal attachment to Christmas. J says its because the holidays represent "family" to them. But since J's parents are divorced, and the fights over who gets to see whom when brings me nothing but heartburn, it's hard to equate such misery with idyllic family harmony. Finally (3) J was adamant about having a church wedding, again, despite the fact that (a) neither I nor my family are christian and (b) I was generally against having a formal wedding at all. But once again, I tend to give in on things that I'm just not that impassioned about. You know, know what battles to fight and all.
So how is all this relevant? I find it creepily frightening that even among the nominal Christians there seems to be this kind of possessed need to conform to these standard practices. There is some awkward logic to this: if the difference between making it to heaven and not is something as marginal as doing a few religiously oriented stuff, why the heck not? Why not indeed? Well, because there seems to be a coincident need to make other people do the same religiously oriented stuff. Ok, so I don't get it. Do these people not understand that as a non-Christian, I don't find it cute to pseudo practice Christianity? Do they not get that when they push all these traditions at my children, that at some point, it is at the expense of my own traditions? I guess I have a POV that is closer to the atheists and the agnostics than maybe someone Jewish or Muslim. Buddhists don't really have any holidays, any ceremonies, and most especially, anything children-friendly. I don't have much to give to L and K until they are old enough to understand that life is suffering (guffaw). I suppose if I had a religion that was competitive with Christianity, I wouldn't feel so much the loss of myself when giving in to J's desires.
Now, religious schools. Intellectually, I have no problems with religious education. Heck, I want my children to read the bible. Religion is so deeply interconnected with literature and the arts that to not expose them to religion would be to lessen their appreciation of the others. But I don't think there are any religious based curriculums that don't push just a teeny tiny bit of proselytizing. A teeny tiny bit of the we are better than them mentality. And that is why I won't let Loo and Kal go to a religious based school.
*Sigh* It's hard to feel this way. Having lived in BFV (bumfuckville) recently, I know there are parts of the country where the Catholic/Parochial/Religious schools are heads and shoulders better than the public school. What decision would I make then? I think I would stick to my guns, but when you talk about quality on top of religion - that's a much harder bargain to turn down. And what about the private schools that are nominally Christian (pretty much all private schools in the NE for example). I haven't sorted out how I feel about these. Great institutions, insidious or not?
Makes me grateful that I grew up in a community that had a decent public school system.