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October 15, 2007

tiny tv evangelists

Did anyone else watch this week's Kid Nation? Basically this show is the youth version of Survivor. Nothing unexpected. But this week's assignment in the never ending process of reviving and maintaining the ghost town was to establish a religious service.

If I weren't as cynical I would ask why. But the answer is simple--ratings. It's obvious that religion would be one of the easiest ways to stir up tensions. Look at next week's political campaigns as another example. Obviously, they are trying to get more interesting television.

What I saw though wasn't heartening or uplifting. It was sad and divisive. Kids, who are way too young to have formed their own opinions on spirituality, were being bigoted and close minded and spewing out cliched bits of intolerance and religion.

Some of them were very adamant about not wanting to be in a room with people of other beliefs. I will give credit to the few who seemed genuinely interested in learning about others traditions and beliefs, there were a few. But in general, it seemed more about proving who was right and not being willing to mix together. There was a lot of fear--fear of being exposed to something "dangerous," fear of having to define their ideas and not just label themselves, fear of doing something "wrong."

Odd, isn't it, that they didn't want to mix because they knew that religion would make them fight. One of the biggest arguments against an ecumenical service was that it would cause fighting amongst the kids. Why? Why should it cause fighting?

The producers obviously went out of their way to assure a well mixed group of kids in regards to race, religion and socio-economic backgrounds. I get it. It makes for better tv. But what is truly disheartening is the fact that at such a young age they are already parroting not only beliefs, which is fairly typical without exposure to varied ideals, but bigotry and intolerance. Is that what these families are teaching as part of religion?

The atheist girl, and yes, we were represented as well, was questioned in a very typical way. In a "I don't see why you are getting upset that we have to pray" sort of way. While I wish that she also would have been open to learning about the other kids customs, I am not surprised that enforced religion, of any kind, ecumenical or not, was offensive.

In the end, a small group of kids had an open prayer meeting where each took turns sharing a typical prayer from their family/culture/religion. It was a nice thing for them and a fairly adult move. Their parents should be proud of them.

The show's climatic moment--where they choose between two prizes--was a little odd. The kids could have either had a free full scale mini-golf course or a set of religious texts. After a vote, the kids chose the religious texts. Really? If it was that important you wouldn't have brought it along? Do you need the texts to connect spiritually? Were you afraid of some "punishment" if you chose golf over bibles?

This started a discussion at my house. My youngest wanted to know what we religion we were. Although we discuss spiritual ideas all the time I guess he felt he needed an identifier. I told him he could be whatever he wanted to be, whatever he felt suited him best but that his parents choice was that we didn't believe in organized religion. I explained that we would take him to services or answer any questions that he had. But in the end, sadly, he said, "Yeah, but are we Jewish or Christian?" Divisive. And upsetting that this seemed merely a polarized decision. Either this or that. Black or white. Right or wrong. There are so many more choices, shades and variations. Why should just two or three or four, etc. have to stand for everyone?

Posted by michelle at 11:10 AM | Comments (0)