Prayer in Schools–Why We (I) Reject It.

Dear reader, there has been a lot of talk about religious issues on this blog lately. Although I don’t adhere to the axiom: “avoid politics and religions,” I am weary about focusing on just one or the other topic. However, and you saw that one coming didn’t you!, I would like to touch on religion once more and then I promise that I will not make it a focus of discussion all the time.

I had an interesting experience in one of my classes, the Bible in Judaism, last week. One student, who is a Christian (it is a mixed faith class—look at me sitting there—talk about a religious mutt), asked why people hated Christ and Christians so much and why they don’t want Christ mentioned in the schools for school prayer. Granted we had gotten off the topic at hand but, still, it was a valid question. What struck me about her thought was that she really believed people hated Christ and Christians and that was why people (like me) objected to prayer in school. Our professor, a very wise and interesting man, asked her to talk with someone who did not hold the same beliefs as she, and ask them their point of view. He made a very important observation that we do not listen to each other –that we hear but that we do no listen (understand) – oddly enough, my friend Rebecca and I were having the same conversation before class, on the way to school, about needing to encourage people to step in other people’s shoes.

In hopes of helping this practice along, I thought I would explain my, and I believe others like me, point of view about this topic—step into my shoes and I promise to try yours on.

First, I (and others I know) do not hate Christ or Christians. Truly and absolutely! I have no reason to hate either Christ or Christians and have many Christians as my friends (for example, my friend Rebecca mentioned above). Hate has nothing to do with the relational for not wanted prayer in school at all, nor does any values that Christians hold. Our concern focuses on one single word: “prayer.” This means Christian prayer, Jewish prayer, Hindu prayer, Pagan prayer, Muslim prayer, Native American prayer, Atheist prayer (hum, joke) and the like. You name it, we object to it. The reason the ideas of Christian and Christ comes up so much in the debate over prayer in schools is that this country is predominantly Christian in one form or another (I am talking about all the different Christian practices that include Lutheran, Baptist and so on)–and so, it is often easier to talk about these religions under the wide umbrella of “Christian.” Also, Christians tend to be the ones trying to get prayer in school. Now, I am not saying that other religions have not also petitioned to get prayer in school; I am saying that “predominantly,” in the United States, this effort is backed and introduced by Christians. Because of this, when folks object to prayer in school, they often aim their rejections and frame their objections in such a way as to point to Christians. The word “Christian” comes up because it is normally Christians who are trying to get prayer in school.

My argument is, simply, if, let’s say for argument sake, that it was the Pagan population who were trying to get prayer in the schools, then it would be the word “Pagan” we would hear about along with the objection to prayer in school.

If there is widespread hate, as my dear classmate suggested (and I don’t mean this sarcastically—I happen to think she is a very interesting person), towards Christ and Christians—I don’t really know about it and I do not hold with such doctrines. Neither does my “liberal” (I guess I should be saying progressive now shouldn’t I?—I must blog about this new word) friends. I do not hold with the Christian faith (I am a kind of Wicca-pagan at heart) but I do not hate the faith. How could I? Or, rather, why should I? I do dislike some of the dogma which, try as hard as I might, I just can’t find the logic in, but that is not a basis for hate.

Most folks, like me, object to prayer in state funded schools because we do not believe that one spiritual belief should be held over any other spiritual belief in a state sanctioned institution. Our fear is that once we allow prayer in school, even under the best of intentions, whichever predominate belief happens to exist in that area, it will “rule the roost” and end up excluding members of that school’s society. We also believe that separation of church and state should be just that, which means that no religious belief (nor all religious beliefs) should be sanctioned by the state and state financed schools. This is why (well, one reason or benefit) there is an opportunity in this country to have accredited private schools—although, to be fair, I realize that most people can’t afford private schooling—but this can of worms is for a different blogging session.

So, there you have it! We do not hate Christians or Christ. We just don’t want any religious activities in state funded institutions period.

What do you think? R

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