Saturday, May 9, 2009

Sticky Labels

Threatening a student for going to a prom is not exactly in the mainstream of Christian thought. To identify it as simply a Christian school is misleading and superficial. says there are 2.1 billion Christians in the world, and, surprise, they don't agree at all on many issues.

Ohio Christian school tells student to skip prom

The story does better: it identifies the school as a fundamentalist Baptist, though I'm not sure what broader group, if any, the school belongs to. It certainly wouldn't be a member of the American Baptist Churches USA, a fairly liberal organization. And I'm not sure if "fundamentalist" does the job, either since the term has specific theological roots, but it could be correct.

There are problems with this story, though. There are references to rules, but no explanation of what they are. It seems that the student got his principal's written permission as required but the latter then asked a church committee, which issued the suspension threat.

FINDLAY, Ohio – A student at a fundamentalist Baptist school that forbids dancing, rock music, hand-holding and kissing will be suspended if he takes his girlfriend to her public high school prom, his principal said.

Despite the warning, 17-year-old Tyler Frost, who has never been to a dance before, said he plans to attend Findlay High School's prom Saturday.

The problem of overly broad labels is hardly unique to this story. And labels shift: political stories often refer to "moderate" Democrats (I guess that makes the rest of them radicals?), people who in past years would have been labeled conservatives.

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