A few days ago, I started a blog post about the erroneous assertions that prayer is not allowed in schools and that the Bible has been banned. It was sparked by one of these photo/text memes making the rounds these days.
Here it is:
Listen, people, neither the Bible nor prayer are banned in school. What’s prohibited is state-sponsored prayer. That’s a big, and important difference.
And then Newton happened, and this showed up:
Let me say this again: Neither the Bible nor Christianity have been banned from schools. STATE-SPONSORED faith-teaching has.
It’s not the job of the schools to teach faith to our children. It’s the job of families, and you and me — AS INDIVIDUALS.
I acknowledge that even some school administrators don’t get this. They’ll tell the Fellowship of Christian Athletes it can’t put a poster in the hall, but allow other organizations to do so. That’s not what the law requires.
But that doesn’t mean we should return to the days when every school started the day with prayer — a Christian prayer.
There’s a story I like to tell, well actually repeat, from years go when we were members of North Anderson Community Presbyterian Church in Anderson, S.C.
One of the members was the attorney for a local school board, and he recalled that after one of the board’s meetings where so-called “prayer in the schools” was an issue, he was in conversation with one of those decrying the “banning” of prayer.
“Look,” my friend said, “I’m a good faithful Christian, a Presbyterian elder, a man of faith, so I am all in favor of prayer. But let me ask you this: we’ve got all sorts of teachers in the district. We’ve got Baptists and Presbyterians and Catholics and Methodists and Jews and others. Maybe even a Hindu or Muslim. So who would you want leading those prayers?”
The “pro-prayer” fellow got this quizzical look on his face, my friend reported. “I thought I had made a breakthrough,” he said. Then the fellow looked up and said, “Who hired all ’em people, anyway?”
Whenever my friend told this story, it always got laughs, but at the same time illustrates much of the problem.
With that in mind, I was not surprised to see this facebook post from a virtual friend named Jim Moss, a Presbyterian pastor from Clarksville, VA (who also happens to hail from my hometown, Greenville SC):
I found these quotes (and many more like them) on an anti-gun control Facebook page. I post them not to ridicule them, but to remind us that our challenges going forward are a lot deeper than passing laws.)
“I think the Liberal Left has created these series of shooting the past four years. WHY you ask, well it’s simple to me. It’s to “PASS GUN Control Laws” ! ! It’s called collateral damage in War. Think about it !”“They want gun control so bad, that they are using weak minded individuals to commit these horrible acts and then they hope that we will have enough and bow to their gun control wishes! So disgusting..but I don’t put anything past these liberal/communists in our country.. they will do anything to get our guns and force us into submission!”
This is the world in which we live these days. Perhaps Dr. Drew Pinsky (yes, that Dr. Drew) really got to the core of things on CNN yesterday. What he said, essentially, is that we are now reaping the results of the seeds we have sown of divisiveness and animosity that have built over the years — in political discourse, in our neighborhoods, even in entertainment, in society at large.
It’s up to each one of us as individuals to put a stop to this, but it is not as simple as controlling (not banning) access to guns or any of the other solutions that are flooding my facebook and Twitter feeds and yours.
But it might be as simple as learning, and teaching, that we are all connected and we should all care for each other. If we truly view our neighbor, the “other,” the immigrant, the poor, the rich, the homeless, the sick, the well, as our brothers and sisters, then we will be on the road to addressing the issues.
I am not better than you; you are not better than me. White is not better than black or brown; black or brown is not better than white. Left is not better than right; right is not better than left. Richer is not better than poorer; poorer is not better than richer. American is not better than Iraqi; Iraqi is not better than American. Christian is not better than Jew or Muslim; Jew or Muslim is not better than Christian.
We are all, in the end, the same. We are all God’s creations and God’s children. You are my brother and sister. If I am taught that, I am less likely to do you harm, or to allow harm to be done to you. However that might happen — tackling the prevalence of guns, tackling the paucity of mental health care are only two avenues — flows from that foundation.
There is a lot that has been said and will be said, and a lot of folks on all sides will try to use the events at Sandy Hook Elementary School and Hoboken, NJ, to advance their own agendas. Let’s not let that happen.
It will be easy to be “demagogue” this (that’s not really a verb, but it fits here) from all sides. Let’s not let that happen.
Even without state-sponsored faith being taught in schools, we raised our children to be faithful (and one turned out to be a Presbyterian pastor, married to a Presbyterian pastor, who also had strong Christian parents — one of whom actually served on the local school board; the other is a person of strong faith who lives her life on those principles). “Prayer in schools” or not made no difference in either household.
Because it was up to my wife and me, and our daughter-in-law’s parents, not the state as embodied by the school, to teach that.
Until we begin to truly believe and understand that, it will get no better.
And that’s what’s so tragic about Sandy Hook, Columbine, Clackamas, Aurora, Iraq and Charles Whitman (University of Texas), Timothy McVeigh (Oklahoma City), Vernon Howell/David Koresh (Waco, TX), …
Oh, Lord, hear our prayers.