Sunday, September 18, 2005

An Open Letter To The Person Who Sent Me The Petition To Reinstate Prayer In Public Schools

When I knit, part of my brain is occupied, thus allowing me to go to lofty thoughts. As luck would have it, I began this shrug on the same day that I received an email petition from a friend. Although this blog is not Federally funded, consider it my entry for Constitution Day (which was actually yesterday, but since it occurs on a weekend, I have some extra time). With any luck, I can create a series: "Deep Thoughts Whilst Knitting".

Dear Friend,

My disbelief of your email exists on several levels. While I am aware of your theory that leading children in daily compulsory prayer would somehow lead them to a Christian life, simply sending a petition to the President is an ineffective means to such an end for several reasons.

To begin, such a petition shows an ignorance of the workings of the United States Government. To reintroduce compulsory daily prayer in schools, a petition to the President is not going to do the job. Witness the recent court rulings on the Pledge of Allegiance. If the practice is to change, it would do so through the courts. A case would be brought before the courts wherein a teacher led students in prayer and required them to participate. The ruling of the courts, either through an initial ruling or through appeals, would declare such prayer Constitutional.

And let's just pretend for the sake of argument that such a thing happened...

Now the argument of whose faith is to be represented must be considered. Are minority faiths to be represented? Am I as a public school teacher going to be required to lead a separate prayer for students of other faiths? Will the children of my Christian friend in Salt Lake City be required to participate in Mormon prayer? What about the children of my Jewish friends here in Oklahoma? Or Christian children in Jewish communities? Perhaps the solution here is to form the Anti Federalist ideal of small, homogeneous communities so the need for such "equal time" will no longer be a problem. Of course, this means that there will have to be quite a bit of shuffling of folks from place to place, and those without a faith or in search of one will have a hard time, but let's say that it happens.

So, children will pray every morning in school, then they will live Christian lives.

Which brings me to my third and final point, compulsory prayer does not make one faithful. I have recently reunited with a former classmate from my Christian school days. He teaches at my school now. He graduated from XYZ Christian Academy, I transferred out in 10th grade. With nearly every new classmate's name that is mentioned, a new sordid tale is revealed. This one had a drug problem; another was exorcized of a demon one summer at youth camp only to get knocked up the following school year; another engaged in various untoward acts to "preserve her virginity" (a young lady ahead of her time); with just as many drunken parties per capita as my public HS. All of these kids prayed every day. They prayed at the beginning of every class, aloud before every test, and attended chapel every week. Sure, there were kids who lived the Christian life they were expected to live, but prayer in school made little or no change in the lives of those who didn't. By that same token, there were Christian kids down the street at my public High School who lived a chemical free, True Love Waits (before the line of jewelry) life. All this to say, prayer in school is not the deciding factor to Christian behavior.

And so, well meaning friend, I ask of you a few things:
  • Examine your logic.
  • Find ways to live and communicate your faith and don't expect the Government to do it for you.

or at least..

  • Remove me from your list for future mailings.


Streak said...

I liked Jon Stewart's comment on the "under God" pledge. Paraphrasing, but he said something like "you want to make a phrase irrelevent, just make 5th graders say it every day!

don't you think this is a result of a "magical" christianity. The Bible becomes a talisman and prayer an incantation. If people touch one and say the other, God will make them good. We both know it doesn't happen that way, but it seems to be how many Christians conceptualize it.

Susan said...

I am sure that you already know about the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, yes?

That is all.

P M Prescott said...

Very succintly put. Just ask how patriotic it makes our student to stand while the plege is recited every day? I don't know if they do that in OK, but we have to suffer through it here.

Unknown said...

I agree that actually living out your faith is a much better witness and contributer to abundant (from biblical perspective) life than saying any words especially those imposed by government. Besides isn't it a lot more subversive and fun to pray anyway even when there is no mandate...the mandate takes all the fun out of it. Wearing an overtly Christian T-shirt might get me somewhat in trouble according to who interprets the establishment of religion clause...but no one ever knows how often I pray for and bless my students in the name of Jesus which ultimately has greater effect than the T-shirt.

Scott Jones said...

so nicely put.

Anonymous said...

If and when the opportunity comes for me to respond to someone in a similar situation, I am simply going to go to my hard drive, where I have right-clicked, cut and pasted this letter into a Word Document, sign the bottom of it, and pass it off as my own writing.


I am leading a Suday night small group for teenagers discussing what is distinctive about Baptists, of course putting our more Anabaptist influences in teh best of light. This letter will be assigned reading. I might even use it this Wednseday night, since Wednesday is "See You at the Pole" day. --Tim Youmans

educat said...

Thank you all. A couple of people have commented on the "stones" it took to write such a thing and have asked if I really responded to my friend with this.

Wouldn't it be great to say that I did? I didn't. It's a lesson to me to hold my tongue (keyboard?) until I can say what I truly mean. I did assure my friend that there's been prayer all along and that the Government is best kept out of our spiritual lives.

Tim, use this with my blessing! I am honored to be a part of you and your kids. If I could make your youth group extra life lesson credit for my kids, I would do it.

But that would violate the Establishment clause that I love so much and therefore invalidate this post.

Anonymous said...

I usually ingore such things. I find them incredibly annoying. But I generally like the people who send them, so I hold my tongue. That's a very good analysis. You're a smart lady.