[If I were to list the books that most inspired my life, somewhere in the top five it would surprise many people to hear that I would firmly place the autobiography of Marilyn Manson titled The Long Hard Road Out Of Hell. I first read this book in 1998 at a very sensitive and transitional moment in my life and it filled a personal need at the time so perfectly that it is almost impossible to convey. It is a personal tale one day I hope to tell.
Among the many interesting elements of Manson's autobiography is his upbringing. In particular, that he attended a strict fundamentalist Christian school from elementary age all the way into his second year of high school. This school was called Heritage Christian School in Canton, Ohio.
In 2000 I had the opportunity to visit Canton, Ohio with my wife Maria whose hometown was about an hour away outside of Cleveland in Concord, Ohio. One of my desires was to visit all the sites associated with Manson mentioned in his autobiography. First we visited the house he was raised in as an only child. Interestingly a few years later I would come to find out that his next door neighbor was a friend of mine in Seminary who as a child Manson was the babysitter for (he said Manson was the nicest and coolest guy he knew). From there we went on to the home of his grandparents, which we found out from the name plate outside the house that it was still occupied by his surviving grandmother. In his autobiography Manson describes the horrors he witnessed as a child in the basement of this house that would forever change his life (yes we trespassed and snuck a quick peek through the basement window). We then went to Heritage Christian School, then Canton High School and finally ended our journey on home plate in the baseball field where Manson describes losing his virginity (which I was surprised to find out how close the proximity was to a busy street and surrounding houses). But as far as what made Brian Warner into Marilyn Manson, this became most apparent when we entered Heritage Christian School.
Heritage is a school that breeds either fundamentalism or rebellion. All over the walls were verses from the Bible to evoke fear in the students. When I went into the bathroom there were no doors for the toilets and there were signs about the exact way a child should wash his hands. Everywhere you went you were bombarded with rules on how to live your life and warnings that if you didn't live your life this way then wach out. As a traditional Christian myself, it was a very depressing atmosphere and it is no wonder that Manson had nightmares that came from this school well into his adult life. It is also no wonder how when Manson visited Canton while on his "Dead To The World" tour a few years earlier, he payed a visit to Heritage and walked the hallways dressed in his signature gothic style with fellow bandmate Twiggy Ramirez. No doubt it was a cathartic moment for him.
The reason for this post is because Heritage Christian School was in the news last week. It was not the Heritage in Canton, but in Findlay, Ohio though they still have the same system. What I found most interesting about this news story is that Heritage has not learned its lesson from its most famous student. Those familiar with the stories about Heritage in Manson's autobiography will see in fact that little has changed in the school, which may give some hope that Manson may not be the last rock star after all. -J.S.]
Ohio Christian School Tells Student To Skip Prom
Friday, May 8, 2009
FINDLAY, Ohio – A student at a fundamentalist Baptist school that forbids dancing, rock music, hand-holding and kissing will be suspended if he takes his girlfriend to her public high school prom, his principal said.
Despite the warning, 17-year-old Tyler Frost, who has never been to a dance before, said he plans to attend Findlay High School's prom Saturday.
Frost, a senior at Heritage Christian School in northwest Ohio, agreed to the school's rules when he signed a statement of cooperation at the beginning of the year, principal Tim England said.
The teen, who is scheduled to receive his diploma May 24, would be suspended from classes and receive an "incomplete" on remaining assignments, England said. Frost also would not be permitted to attend graduation but would get a diploma once he completes final exams. If Frost is involved with alcohol or sex at the prom, he will be expelled, England said.
Frost's stepfather Stephan Johnson said the school's rules should not apply outside the classroom.
"He deserves to wear that cap and gown," Johnson said.
Frost said he thought he had handled the situation properly. Findlay requires students from other schools attending the prom to get a signature from their principal, which Frost did.
"I expected a short lecture about making the right decisions and not doing something stupid," Frost said. "I thought I would get his signature and that would be the end."
England acknowledged signing the form but warned Frost there would be consequences if he attended the dance. England then took the issue to a school committee made up of church members, who decided to threaten Frost with suspension.
"In life, we constantly make decisions whether we are going to please self or please God. (Frost) chose one path, and the school committee chose the other," England said.
The handbook for the 84-student Christian school says rock music "is part of the counterculture which seeks to implant seeds of rebellion in young people's hearts and minds."
England said Frost's family should not be surprised by the school's position.
"For the parents to claim any injustice regarding this issue is at best forgetful and at worst disingenuous," he said. "It is our hope that the student and his parents will abide by the policies they have already agreed to."
The principal at Findlay High School, whose graduates include Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, said he respects, but does not agree with, Heritage Christian School's view of prom.
"I don't see (dancing and rock music) as immoral acts," Craig Kupferberg said.
Information from: The Courier, http://www.thecourier.com/