AARGHHHHH! This kind of stuff drives me up a tree.
Lisa, I live on a reservation in AZ. Many students hold devout
Christian beliefs, while at the same time they take part in
traditional Apache ceremonies. Like many indigenous peoples that
were brainwashed by the missionaries, they have incorporated some
traditional aspects into their Christian ceremonies, and vice
versa. There are also a number of "purists" who consider
themselves either traditional or Christian.
I think my students would be pretty incensed at the attitudes of
your students (which are obviously a reflection of their parents'
attitude). And you can tell them I said that! When confronted
with that sort of religious snobbery myself, I try to explain
that much of the art produced over the millenia reflected the
beliefs of the cultures that produced it, and we should respect
that, just as they would expect respect for their own beliefs.
If anyone gets really adamant--very rare here, admittedly--I
point out that in the scheme of world history, Christianity is a
relative newcomer on the scene, and a minority religion at that.
There are more people who follow other beliefs than in all the
Christian religions put together. (Okay, I'm a real in-your-face
kind of person. Probably not an argument you could make with
I love the moment of (shocked) silence after I've been waxing
rapturously over Masaccio's frescoes or van Eyck's
_Annunciation_, and then mention casually that I'm not a
Christian. It points out to them that you can still appreciate
another's culture without being a member of that culture.
Good luck with this one. This is why I fled NC 22 years ago.