Not only Christians have the right

To while away the time waiting for car repair, I brought Axcess magazine, featuring sisters pornstress Christy Canyon and author Carla Sinclair, and enjoyed reading it. I kept it appropriately hidden, though. That kind of material offends some people, already up to their armpits in irritation with car repairs.

While politely hiding my morning Porn Flakes, I listen to fellow hostages say they heard on some Christian talk show that "if you think El Nino is bad, it's got nothin' on Jesus." I also hear that Jesus is everything -- the master, the mechanic, and for all I know, the suet in your Twinkie and the ink on your ticket to paradise. I know they're just yacking, but I don't want to hear or even overhear a sermon from Flabby Bigmouth at the body shop at 8 a.m. I wonder how they'd like it if I started quoting Axcess: "Flashing should make a comeback ..." But I won't do that. Loudly selling your own Private Idaho is inappropriate when unsolicited. That's manners.

In school, we all had to learn stuff we didn't care to, like how to meet a deadline (useful for work), how to fake sick (useful for work), how to say "Shut up" in French (useful for telling French people to shut up). Some of it was important. None of it just happens on its own. It takes lots of people in a coordinated effort to produce school -- it's not like a burp, it doesn't just come out without anyone suspecting it's going to.

Learning disorder

Except at Teague Middle School, where there was a required student assembly at which the Fellowship of Christian Athletes performed a segment with a background intoning, "The only hope for America is Jesus," and something about it being better to hand out Bibles in school than condoms. (If you don't believe in the contraceptive powers of the Bible, hit your date in the nuts with it.)

Mistakes, as they say, were made. Yes, it was inappropriate to require students to listen to religious messages. Yes, the school apologized for this unforeseen display. And no, it's not the end of the world -- no one is going to die from having to listen to Christians. (You say it, I'm not saying it.) But here's the gum at the bottom of the Tootsie Pop: The Christian students were so offended that they were considered offensive that two of them are suing the school for apologizing for them.

I came of age in the '80s, the golden age of cheek, but I cannot imagine Sinead O'Connor suing the Pope because she got bad press for ripping up his picture. Part of free speech, even ill-gotten, sneaky free speech, is putting up with the fact that some people think what you say is a load of prunes. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him want to get baptized. Anyway, it wasn't so much the message as the chute it was delivered through.

In America, we do not advocate religion on company (read: tax-payer) time. That's the rule, and it's golden in that Christians would raise holy hell if others did this unto them, if they had to sit through an assembly of "Wicca is the answer" or "Buddha is our pal." Spirituality is like ice cream. Sure, most people would benefit from a little of it, but not everyone likes vanilla, and you never, ever sue a guest for turning down dessert -- I don't care how hard you worked to prepare it. It's not manners. What would Martha Stewart think?

do feel some empathy with those insulted Christian kids. Being a teen-ager is thorny-crown enough, but when your work and values get snubbed it hurts. I know. I get a lot of hate mail. I'll get more of it when this comes out, from tiffy Christians. But none of them will have had a teacher forcing them to read this on school time. (If they do, the schools are in worse shape than recently reported, although I must recommend the personal ads to the social anthropology teacher for serious study, with gloves and lab goggles.)

Attention deficit

And I did learn something from that assembly, but not "x = Jesus." It was that we should all get a booster shot of the star-spangled chutzpah those Christian kids have. Christians don't own the national megaphone, so how come they're always the ones out there crab-assin' about everything from the death penalty to same-sex marriage? If the non-Christians among us would clear our throats and let out that one little "Yop" that let's all the cries of "We are here!" come out, like in "Horton Hears a Hoo," the broader spectrum of views that really make up this country could be heard, and not dismissed and disrespected like it was that day, like it so often is. It's harder to step on anything, a dust speck, a school assembly, a family-planning clinic, the right to die or marry, when you hear a human voice coming from it. Just try it. Just "Yop."

You won't get boiled in Beezlenut oil, not if you Yop on your own time. And it's fun to Yop. Don't be afraid it's inappropriate. Remember, the meek may inherit the earth, but only after the Flabby Bigmouths have decided how it's going to be run.