Sunday, September 21, 2014

DEAR JOKER:





It's been a while when I saw this (on Facebook, where else - seriously, what people used to write about in times before social media!?). Apparently a kid somewhere decided to ignore his high school's policy that a prayer not be included in the graduation ceremony and said it anyway.

Big deal, right?

I wouldn't pay much attention to it, if it weren't for reactions of some of my Facebook friends, who seemed to be just as confused about WHY "everyone loses their minds" as our friend Joker above. And they were cheerfully celebrating the young hero who scored yet another victory for Jesus Christ.

The problem is, that while I can see why Christians might consider such an action a victory, we shouldn't be forgetting that there aren't only Christians living in this country (and sending kids to public schools).

While surfing the Internet looking for opposing viewpoints I found a comment at Yahoo Answers that summarizes so well how I feel about this that I took the liberty to quote Jennette H., whoever she is:

"Prayer in school is fine, if every child of every faith is allowed to do so. If little Amar is allowed to leave class and pray facing Mecca, if Dana is allowed to offer prayers to Vishnu, if is Susie who is Buddhist is allowed to meditate, Lars is allowed to offer prayers to Odin, and little Jenny is allowed to chant and pray to the Goddess.

The problem being that I doubt that you or many other Christians would tolerate any such thing happening in a school that you child attends. If you want your child to have a Christ-centered education I would suggest sending them to a church-run school. There are many around these days and quite a few of them are affordable, and then there are always Catholic schools."

Read the whole discussion thread here, if you are interested. And kudos to Jennette for making such an excellent point in several sentences (while I was thinking the whole afternoon how to word it). I appreciate Jennette's comment especially because she identifies herself as a Christian; proving once again that it IS possible to be religious yet open-minded.
Following up on that, I would be curious to find out how many high schools would be okay with the class valedictorian, who just happens to be a Muslim (or insert any other religion, including - gulp! - atheism), to recite a Muslim prayer and quote the Qu'ran at a graduation ceremony!

I know that this is something that Christian fundamentalists have a difficulty to understand, but there is a separation of the church and state in this country - or should be, if we really want to call themselves the leader of the democratic world.

Let's say for the sake of the discussion that a public school is located in a predominantly Christian community. Even then I have difficulty to believe that there aren't at least SOME students of different faith, agnostics, or atheists. Why should they listen to a Christian prayer at THEIR graduation ceremony!?
Having beliefs is fine. Pushing them on others is not. 

When they announced a prayer at my college graduation four years ago, I wasn't exactly jumping for joy. I'm not a Christian and so naturally I have no desire to participate in Christian rituals. But here is the fundamental difference: My college was a Methodist institution. No one forced me to go there. I chose it voluntarily - because it was a good school (liberal enough that my spirituality wasn't threatened) and because it offered a very generous academic scholarship. So if I didn't feel comfortable during a prayer at the graduation, it was on me, not on the school.

And yes, I survived just fine! And I know that some people would argue whether it's really such a big of a deal to sit through a prayer.

Well, it is and it isn't! I have plenty of Christian friends who would be horrified if I invited them to participate in, say, Wiccan celebration of Samhain, because it's a pagan ritual and as such against their beliefs.

Fine.

But reciting with others that Jesus Christ is my savior happens to be against MY beliefs. I don't plan on ever having children, but if I did and sent her to a PUBLIC school, I would expect everybody's beliefs in that school being treated as equal.

So this, dear Joker, is the reason why (some) people make such a fuss about Christian prayer being included in a public school's official event. It's not an attack on Christianity, as some might lead us to believe; it's because even in the United States, not everyone is obligated to be a Christian - and those that are not might not feel comfortable participating in a Christian ritual - even if it's only a short prayer.That's democracy for you...


6 comments:

Jema630 said...

Thank you for this. Yes, yes, and yes.

Global Chick said...

Thanks for an enthusiastic response, Jema630!!! :)

RoyO said...

Public schools should not promote the activities or beliefs of any religion. But if an individual student is asked to speak he should be allowed to express his personal views, whether religious, or political, or lifestyle -- as long as he doesn't attack or degrade others.

Audience members don't need to agree with what a speaker says, but they should respect an individual's right to express his earnest beliefs.

Global Chick said...

Well, I personally prefer when an individual expresses his earnest beliefs somewhere where I don't have to be involved :)

No, seriously, the way I see it, at events like a high or college school graduation the individual is usually selected to represent the WHOLE STUDENT BODY. Since it would be virtually impossible to let every single graduate to say a few words, we select one or two, usually on the grounds on their academic excellence and/or leadership qualities, but they are up there as representatives of all students, not themselves. Their speech should reflect that. Now, when said individual goes to party afterwards with his family, relatives, friends, and whatnot, who gather to celebrate him and him only, I don't care if he spends hours praying...

Just so it doesn't look like I'm picking exclusively on Christians: I wouldn't be very excited if a representative of my school started to express his personal views about anything; may it be religion, politic, or lifestyle. Who the hell cares!? Once again, he is there as a REPRESENTATIVE of his classmates, not a one-day celebrity...

P.S. I was the one giving a speech at my high school graduation ceremony. Opinionated as I was, it would never occur to me to start yakking about myself and my beliefs. I was speaking for everybody - and my speech reflected that. There are plenty of other opportunities when an individual can express himself freely!

RoyO said...

Global Chick,

I agree with a lot of what you are saying, and I didn't mean to imply that expressing ones views means talking just about yourself, or neglecting your audience, or ignoring the purpose of the speech.

But I do believe plenty of inspirational public speeches include some of the speakers values -- part of speaking from the heart. The Gettysburg address is not a lesser speech because Lincoln referred to God.

Elisa said...

Hey GC,

I agree that a speaker is representing the whole institution when they speak at a public event. I also really like the idea of having a time in school where everyone gets to pray/meditate in their own way. Seems like it would be a great way of educating people about different cultural practices -- even just that other cultural practices EXIST might blow some poor Christian child's mind..... :)