Coming as I do from Ireland, and being born at a critical time that means I remember a time before the economic boom and church paedophilia scandals, I was part of a generation of schoolchildren that were probably the last to enjoy a primary education that was dictated by the Catholic Church. Religion was a large part of my education from the ages of 4-12, which involved at least an hour per school day saying prayers and learning about Jesus and how great he was. This is a level of indoctrination that would be mocked if we heard about something similar happening in North Korea, but back then it was part of life and it didn’t seem like anything strange at all. In the separation of Church and State during the process of Irish Independence, somehow the Church had been given control of the nation’s children, which is intuitive, as the Church works for Jesus, and there was no better man.
These daily religious lessons focussed mostly on Jesus and his travels, with a lesson to be learned from each story about how to live in society and function as a reasonable person. One of the stories I remember most from my tenure as an Irish primary school pupil was the story of Zacchaeus, a tax collector who learns from Jesus that there is more to life than collecting taxes. Basically, people in a town get pissed off with Zacchaeus taking all their money and chase him up a tree. Jesus comes and saves the day before the taxman presumably gets lynched by the angry crowd. It’s unclear to me to this day precisely why Zacchaeus was the bad guy in this situation, and apart from some very obvious anti-Semitic undertones there is little substance to the parable. It did make me think at the time that a tax collector was obviously a bad person, since Jesus had to help him out and set him on his path. This conflicted with everyday life of course, as tax men were a part of normal life, and it didn’t seem like there was anything wrong with their choice of profession. Continue reading