May. 20, 2016

Mountains or Molehills?

During the early 1990’s, our school district made the decision to teach self-esteem curriculum as part of their health education classes. The curriculum they chose was entitled, “Positive Action,” and focused on mental health.  At the time, I was a columnist for the hometown newspaper. Many people asked me if I had any information regarding “Positive Action.” Like any good reporter or columnist, I began to research the curriculum selected and its author.

The fear among the church community was that “Positive Action” found its basis in New Age philosophies and its teachings would suck children into a bizarre world where God did not exist. Hmmm….I didn’t realize there was a world where God does not exist?

What I found in the material was very positive – thus the name – and consisted of worksheets, lessons and life-applicable stories that teachers would share with their classroom during the health class each day. There was a complaint that the material forced children to “worship a false god,” when the author referred to a “feelings rock.” I was exposed enough to psychology that I realized the rock was nothing more than what some people call a “feeling stone.” I’ve seen children’s therapists give their younger patients the feeling stone and they teach them to rub the stone when they are angry, afraid, or not having a very good day. The children’s therapists I worked with were Christians; most received their Master’s degrees from either Houston Baptist University or Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. One gave me a feeling stone when my son was deployed to Iraq. I rubbed it raw.

Another part of the curriculum that Christian parents found offensive was when the children were taught, “self-talk.” Meaning they would find words to build themselves up like, “brave,” or “courage” or “nice” or “friendly” and they would reject words that made them feel sad like, “fat,” “four-eyes,” “nerd,” etc.

At the basis of the complaints and fears was a local, self-made “preacher” who presented himself as the man seeking to save the children of Deer Park. The problem was the man didn’t have a very good reputation and had been asked to leave a number of churches in the area. Anyone willing to do their research would have discovered this Pied Piper of a man was merely blowing his own horn and leading concerned parents down a path of despair over – well, a molehill.

The adversary contacted my newspaper demanding that I retract my column stating that the opponents were “making a mountain out of a molehill.” I was ganged up on but my Editor stood behind me. She stood behind me because I dealt in fact; not fear.

People in my own friendship circles and in my church were angry at me. They yelled at me when they saw me and they gossiped terribly about me and my children. Some people knew me but didn’t know this bully of a man, yet they sided with a stranger that convinced them that God no longer existed in my brain and He wasn’t present in “Positive Action.” My oldest son was confronted at school by a church friend who said, “My dad said your mom is evil.”

It was a difficult point in the life of the school district, my writing, some friendships and area churches.

Let me sum up the story by saying it all worked out in the end. The school district, as they always do, allowed any parent not wanting their children to go through the self-esteem curriculum to have free reading time in the school libraries. I kept writing. Friendships healed. Necessary apologies were offered and accepted. The antagonist wound up in prison for unrelated problems. That’s a pretty big molehill.

We typically make mountains out of molehills based on: fear, rumors, gossip, lies, lack of knowledge, or we may simply choose to go with the pack in cases where we really don’t know which side to choose. One of the great things about serving a living God is that He has the power to turn mountains into dust. Real mountains or our perceived mountains have no power when God shows up.

Mark 11:23, “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.” Signed, Jesus.