FOT 2008, Day 3

Until I was a sophomore in high school, I took a week or two off from school for the Feast of Tabernacles. My family would go to Virginia or Panama City, Florida. Of course, someone in my family had to tell my teachers that I would be absent for some time. Their responses varied. Some wanted to know more about my religion. One was happy that I was going off to see major sites of American history (e.g., Williamsburg, Jamestown, etc.). She wanted me to give the class a report when I returned.

In seventh grade, my mom met with all of my teachers to tell them about my impending absence. Then, I got to hear what my teachers really thought about me. And it was a surprise. The one I thought didn’t believe in me actually believed in me the most.

But that was a year when I was absent from school a lot. Our school was having mandatory vaccinations for the measles, and my family didn’t believe in vaccinations. So the school required us to be absent for a few weeks. And that dovetailed right into the Feast of Tabernacles. So I guess I was gone for a month!

I never really encountered serious problems until our school district implemented an attendance policy, which would take away our credits and boot us out if we missed a certain number of days. Fortunately, I got to stay in school, but I soon found myself in the middle of a little revolt. You see, there were other people in the school who were negatively affected by the attendance policy, and we united as a group to oppose it. When I went to a school board meeting on the subject, a bunch of us got up and left when the board was limiting discussion. Another student told me it looked like I was leading the walkout, since I was in the front of the line.

In the course of this controversy, my mom ran for the school board and lost, but the policy got changed for the better. I don’t remember how exactly, but it did.

When I was a sophomore, there was a Feast site in French Lick, Indiana (Larry Bird’s hometown), which was close to where I lived. I decided that I didn’t want to take a whole week off just to go to French Lick. And there were people in my family who weren’t entirely enthusiastic about the Feast of Tabernacles. So that was the first year that I only took off the high days, while going to school for the rest of the Feast. And that’s what I’ve done for years.

It’s not exactly as exciting as the old vacations we took for the Feast, but I do more religious reading on the high days than I did when we traveled for two weeks. Also, it’s not easy to follow a different calendar from the rest of the world. Taking a few weeks off of work or school doesn’t fit everyone. I wish the world were more flexible and did not treat us like serfs, but that’s the way it is. And, eventually, fighting the system becomes tiring.

But I learned a lot through those experiences. I’m more sensitive to the religious freedom issue than I would have been without them. And my mom became an expert on Supreme Court cases at that time.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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2 Responses to FOT 2008, Day 3

  1. Anonymous says:

    I am happy you have some good memories of those FOT days…I wish I did (-:. But, that’s water under the bridge.



  2. James Pate says:

    Yeah, you’re one of the “people in my family who weren’t entirely enthusiastic about the Feast of Tabernacles.”


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