Diversity and Religion Exclusion

Growing up in a small town, I never really experienced religious diversity for most of my childhood. Although I knew other religions existed, nearly everyone in our town of three hundred people went to the same church. My parents were of different faith backgrounds, but my father was not very active in his church and did not regularly attend. It wasn’t until I was around the age of ten that I had my first experience with religious diversity and moreover, religious exclusion. In the fourth grade, students from our school could begin playing competitive basketball on a team, which was combined with students from a town several miles away. At one of the first practices, I remember noticing that a group of about five or six girls from the other town refused to talk to or even acknowledge two of the other girls from their town. As I continued to observe the practice, I noticed that there were no obvious reasons as to why the two girls were being excluded; they were both fairly friendly and athletic and one could even make reverse layups, which was an impressive skill at the age of ten. However, the other girls would not associate with them on and off the court, refusing to even pass them the ball. At the end of practice, when the girls who had been excluding the others were gone, I asked the friendlier of the two excluded girls why this was happening. I still remember the discouraged and embarrassed look on her face as she said, “We’re Mennonite. We don’t go to the right church.” This was incredibly confusing and frustrating for me, as I couldn’t comprehend how a group of Christian individuals could exclude other Christians because of their faith. The main goal of Christianity that I knew up until that point was to accept and love others, not to use religion as an excuse to disallow others the opportunity of friendship. To this day, I have yet to understand how people who consider themselves Christians use this title as a way to ostracize others of different faiths, pushing them out of their lives, and in more recent cases, out of the country. As a moral Christian, and moreover a compassionate individual, I believe we must come together as a country to curb the belief that those different than us are less than people. We must see others for what they are, human beings like ourselves trying to make a life for themselves and those who they care about.

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3 thoughts on “Diversity and Religion Exclusion”

  1. I am shocked that religious discrimination occurred at a 4th grade basketball practice. I think this specific example of religious discrimination is a travesty, and I’m glad you addressed it. In today’s culture, unfortunately, religious discrimination is not a taboo. I credit this to poor parenting techniques. What shocks me most about your story is that these 4th grade girls didn’t consciously know they were discriminating based on religion, they had been trained at a young age to not accept Mennonites, and they were most likely trained by their parents. I think that in order to reduce discrimination of all kinds, parents need to be more communicative with their parents about how wrong discrimination and hurtful speech is.

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  2. I can really relate to this because I also grew up in a very small town of about 300 people. However, we had three churches in our town that were each different denominations of Christianity, so as kids we were used to having friends that went to different churches, but our faiths were more closely related. It is astonishing to me that children that young would exclude other children for their faith. I feel that children wouldn’t naturally do that, and it was something that may have been imposed on them by their parents and then spread among their friends, but that is not an excuse. This shows that we really need to teach more about diversity in our schools to help educate children that different is not bad.

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  3. This story of exclusion in 4th grade I believe is such a perfect example of how big a problem religious exclusion and fear has become not just in the US but also in the world. Whats even more surprising to me is that it was simply a different branch of christianity that was being excluded rather than a different belief in its self. I think that speaks to people being opposed to the fact that they have simply a different label rather than the difference in beliefs. I doubt if you asked any of those kids the differences between their religions they would have known but since they have different names thats probably what sparked the exclusion.

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