Spring Spheres and Christian Persecution

On April 13, 2011, a story broke that seemed too weird to not be true, and at the same time, seemed to buy into many Christians’ perceptions regarding the increasing secularism of American society. A young woman named Jessica who attended a private high school claimed to have been doing volunteer work at a Seattle public high school, where she offered to hand out Easter eggs full of candy to the students. The teacher agreed, so long as Jessica called them “spring spheres”.

Needless to say, this story – which seemed to be yet another example of tolerance and political correctness run amok, and of liberals and secularists thumbing their noise at Christian traditions – had folks in a tizzy from one end of the Internet to the other. I saw a number of people, many of them Christians, letting the snark flow on Twitter and Facebook and calling out the idiocy of the Seattle public school system. Indeed, a good number of the comments on the original article heralded this as a sign of the Apocalypse, or at the very least, a red flag for America’s future. For example:

  • “Easter and Christmas are now taught in school to be pornographic words as America slumbers in darkness. As America sleeps, Gog and Magog form their alliance.”
  • “The school administrators in this case are simply showing their true face. As is the case of most liberal thinkers today, they are hypocrites that demand tolerance for their beliefs and ideas and display gross intolerance of those who have a different view.”
  • “…we have these idiot PC types eliminating that which we have held sacred for so long and people are OK with that. Maybe the radioactivity from Japan has toasted their brains. Naw, that was assuming they had brains in the first place.”

Atheists and non-Christians soon chimed in, calling out the Christians for believing that America was founded on Judeo-Christian values and for wanting to impose their beliefs on others. From there, the comments devolved into name-calling from both sides, as comments on articles concerning controversial issues such as religion are wont to do.

And I confess, I got caught up a bit as well, and posted some snarky reactions of my own. I wasn’t so much offended by what I saw as religious persecution as I was by the alleged neutering of the language, and by the fact that in their desire to politically correct, public school administrators were being geometrically incorrect. But even so, I had a knee-jerk reaction to the seemingly asinine story.

However, there’s a distinct possibility that all of this snark and outrage were for naught: a spokeswoman with the Seattle public school system has been unable to confirm that the “spring sphere” incident actually happened. Indeed, the whole story does have the whiff of being a hoax about it, especially considering there’s little to no corroborating evidence to back up Jessica’s story.

I’ve been reflecting on this story ever since I first heard of it, and when all is said and done, I keep coming back to the same response that I have regarding the war on Christmas that gets discussed every year come yuletide season: a big, hearty “meh”.

Talking about persecution is an interesting thing. It seems to be one of those things that American Christians love to hate to love. I can’t go a week without hearing about how some atheist, secularist, socialist, Marxist, or some other big, bad “ist” is infringing on our religious freedom, mocking our Judeo-Christian heritage, or engaging in some other form of what is, essentially, persecution. And yet, I can never seem to get too worked up about it.

Mind you, I’m no masochist. I have no desire to experience perseuction and I have no desire for my children or my children’s children to experience it either. But the Bible makes it clear: we will suffer persecution for the sake of Christ’s name. We’re not to seek it out — after all, we are called to live peacefully with those around us. What’s more, we’re told to even bless those who persecute us. But if even those who were closest to Jesus while He was on Earth were told “you will be hated by all for my name’s sake”, how can I really expect anything different?

But if we’re honest with ourselves, is “Spheregate”, as some have called it, really an instance of persecution? I ask this because there are two words that immediately come to my mind whenever allegations surface of religious persecution here in the States: Adam Eashoue. Adam was a four-year-old boy who was among those killed in Baghdad last October when five Muslim extremists held the congregation of the Church of Our Lady of Salvation hostage.

I realize that some readers might say that I’ve just proven their point: that if we don’t speak out when our rights appear to be threatened in seemingly trivial ways, then they’ll eventually be threatened more severely. That if we don’t stop persecution in its nascent form, it’ll only get worse and worse. But even if that were the case – and mind you, I’m not saying that we should be afraid to speak our minds and tenaciously hold onto whatever civil freedoms we may have – some sense of perspective should be maintained.

I wonder what Christians in places like Iraq would think of us here in the States, were they to see us getting worked up over a renamed Easter activity that, in today’s culture, has so few ties to the resurrection of Christ (i.e., the “reason for the season”) when they’re getting gunned down. And what would be the result if American Christians spent a little less time worrying about our rights and instead, spent that time praying for our brothers and sisters who can’t set foot inside a church, or even their own neighborhoods, for fear of being killed?

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • brittany

    As a Christian, I don’t have a problem with the name. The battle for Christ is not fought over Easter eggs. As a mathematician, I have a problem with the name. An egg is not a sphere. It is an egg.

  • Brittany, maybe “sphere” is referring to the yoke?

  • brittany

    Seth, I hate to burst your spherical bubble here, but a sphere is just a “shell” with no thickness and no interior. (A bubble is actually a good way to imagine it). In mathematics, we’d call a yolk a “closed ball”. Weird mathematicians.

    FYI: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unit_sphere

  • Yokes aren’t hollow????? P-p-p-p-p-p-paradigm shifffft!


  • Ben Pitseleh

    I think the definition of Persecution is being questioned here. For my two cents (and I expect change back) I believe this story and those like it (since there is question of this stories validity) are forms of persecution. I do not think they are on the same level of persecution as countries that deal with torture or death, but they are all forms of persecution. Now, what should our response be? Not the knee-jerk reaction that we tend to have, myself included. A mature and well versed response will go much farther than a “Christians are being oppressed!” rant. In fact, those who are on the fence or don’t know what to believe will also see the mature response and respect it rather than think, “There go those crazy Christians again.”

    My final comments are these:
    @Brittany: I love how your brain works and your response
    @Seth: I love how you are so cynical and give everybody a hard time. Wait, maybe I hate it. It’s one of them though, I’m just not sure.

  • Yeah, I think a response in accord with Jesus’ admonition to bless those who (are perceived to) persecute us would go a long way to removing the unchristian stigma associated with being a Christian. Rather than seeing us as vitriolic, hate-mongers who flip out over trivialities, they might be able to see our love and compassion and mercy instead. I mean, sure, they’d still think that we were deluded and believed in something unfathomably lame, but then at least there’d be something attractive about us.

    Like: “I can’t believe Christians believe in some faerytale sky-god who burns people who don’t like him forever, but they sure are good people. And so helpful!”

    As it is: “I can’t believe Christians believe in some faerytale sky-god who burns people who don’t like him forever and they hate me and my kind and want to lord their personal beliefs over mine and force me to live according to their groundless principles—while they call me names. The only nice Christian I know is my Grandma the nominal Methodist.”

    I think the idea that we need to transform/fear the culture around us has done immeasurable harm to our cause and kingdom.

  • @Ben Pit:
    It very well could be both. I like to think that I am all things to all men all at once. Love, hate, sarsaparilla, etc.

  • Ben Pitseleh

    You had me at sarsaparilla. Except I would have said saspirella; let’s call the whole thing off.

  • We may be even closer than you imagine, since sarsaparilla is pronounced “sasparilla”!