GIVE IT UP, CHRISTIANS: THE ISSUE OF SCHOOL PRAYER
Alright, so I'm not much for religiosity. And if you know me, you know I don't mind telling people that. I don't mind talking about it. I don't mind engaging people who are curious about it or who want to "get me saved" because of it. The conversations often don't last long when they discover that, almost universally, I know more about the history and mechanisms of their chosen religions than they do. It's a gift.
And yet people still attempt to sway me. The attempt at the sway usually isn't so much centered around converting me to one particular religion, though when that happens it's always Evangelical Christianity. Evangelical Christians seem the world over to be the only people who - like a bad infomercial - won't be content until everyone is herded into buying their system. More, though, it comes in the form of trying to convince me that they're in some kind of misunderstood, persecuted, maligned little group that just wants to be left alone to do their own thing. Of course, if that were the case, I wouldn't be bothered to write what you're (hopefully) about to read.
A Christian friend with whom I've had an ongoing debate over the years just recently forwarded a version of the below essay to me. I did a little research on what I was sent and found that it had been a little bit edited and attributed to the wrong author, someone named Paul Harvey. I don't have a clue who Paul Harvey is, but the following was written by a sporstwriter for a Teas newspaper named Nick Gholson and is intended to be a defense for prayer in schools:
"Some people, it seems, get offended way too easily. I mean, isn't that what all this prayer hullabaloo is all about - people getting offended? At least that's what I hear the courts and the ACLU telling us. If you read Sound Off, you know I am not easily offended. Outside of getting run off the road by a Mack truck, nothing much offends me. Daddy and Mama gave little Nicky a sense of humor.
Some people, however, either weren't born with a sense of humor or they lost it in a crap game. These people are still in the minority, but those of us in the majority are always tippy-toeing around, trying to make sure we don't step on the toes or hurt the feelings of the sense of humorless. And you can bet there's a lawyer standing on every corner making sure we don't.
Take this prayer deal. It's absolutely ridiculous.
Some atheist goes to a high school football game, hears a kid say a short prayer before the game and gets offended. So he hires a lawyer and goes to court and asks somebody to pay him a whole bunch of money for all the damage done to him. You would have thought the kid kicked him in the crotch. Damaged for life by a 30-second prayer? Am I missing something here? I don't believe in Santa Claus, but I'm not going to sue somebody for singing a Ho-Ho-Ho song in December. I don't agree with Darwin, but I didn't go out and hire a lawyer when my high school teacher taught his theory of evolution. Life, liberty or your pursuit of happiness will not be endangered because someone says a 30-second prayer before a football game.
So what's the big deal?
It's not like somebody is up there reading the entire book of Acts. They're just talking to a God they believe in and asking him to grant safety to the players on the field and the fans going home from the game. ‘But it's a Christian prayer,’ some will argue. Yes, and this is the United States of America, a country founded on Christian principles. And we are in the Bible Belt. According to our very own phone book, Christian churches outnumber all others better than 200-to-1. So what would you expect - somebody chanting Hare Krishna? If I went to a football game in Jerusalem, I would expect to hear a Jewish prayer. If I went to a soccer game in Baghdad, I would expect to hear a Muslim prayer. If I went to a ping-pong match in China, I would expect to hear someone pray to Buddha. And I wouldn't be offended. It wouldn't bother me one bit. When in Rome . . .
‘But what about the atheists?’ is another argument. What about them? Nobody is asking them to be baptized. We're not going to pass the collection plate. Just humor us for 30 seconds. If that's asking too much, bring a Walkman or a pair of earplugs. Go to the bathroom. Visit the concession stand. Call your lawyer. Unfortunately, one or two will make that call. One or two will tell thousands what they can and cannot do.
I don't think a short prayer at a football game is going to shake the world's foundations. Nor do I believe that not praying will result in more serious injuries on the field or more fatal car crashes after the game. In fact, I'm not so sure God would even be at all these games if he didn't have to be. That's just one of the down sides of omnipresence. Do you think God Almighty himself would have watched Spearman beat Panhandle 50-0 Friday night if he didn't have to? If God really liked sports, the Russians would never have won a single gold medal, New York would never play in a World Series and Deion's toe would be healed by now.
Christians are just sick and tired of turning the other cheek while our courts strip us of all our rights. Our parents and grandparents taught us to pray before eating, to pray before we go to sleep. Our Bible tells us to pray without ceasing. Now a handful of people and their lawyers are telling us to cease praying. God, help us.
And if that last sentence offends you - well, just sue me."
Now I'm not going to comment very much on the specifics of Nick's article. I wasn't around for the 1999 football game Nick was talking about, and taking on most of his patently absurd points would be like trying to teach string theory to a retarded kid. To Nick, I'll only say this: thanks for sharing your opinion. Now stick to sports, because you're a daft fucking idiot when it comes to this issue.
Rather, I'd like to tackle the overall sentiment in the piece, especially since I got a laugh when my friend presented this to me in sort of a "Oh YEAH - take that, sucker!" type of moment, as if this statement nicely presented Christian opinion on the matter of prayer in school. If that's the case...you Christians up in arms over the matter are even less intelligent and aware than I've been giving you credit for. And I really haven't been giving you much credit at all.
OK, I'm going to say something, Christians, and this is going to come as a SEVERE shock to your delicate little systems, so please brace yourselves: no one wants to take away your right to pray. No one. Not the believers of other religions, not the agnostics like yours truly, not the atheists. No one. I can think of very few things I'd like to do less than take away your right to pray. Part of the reason for that is because I don’t give a big blue fuck what you do in your personal life. Another is because there is no way for any of us to do that. Are you surprised? Confused? Let me explain.
You have the ablity to pray anywhere and anytime you want to. Before school. After school. During school. At home. At work. In the car. At the movies. Before fucking. After fucking. During fucking. At sporting events. In libraries. In butcher shops. On top of a mountain. Literally anywhere and anytime you can think of, you should be able to pray. And you know what? You can. Are you reading this in school? Pray real quick. Seriously, do it. I'll wait.
(. . .)
Did you do it? Wow, congrats! No one came to tell you to stop? Do you feel like you did something bad, though? It's OK, because you know what? You didn't. Isn't that amazing? How do I know you didn't do something wrong? What? You think it's illegal to pray in school? Well that's positively silly. It is not now nor has it ever been illegal for you to pray in school. Seriously. No, I'm NOT joking with you.
I find it absolutely fucking hilarious when incompetent braindeads like Nick Gholson try to tell me that "courts strip (Christians) of all our rights". Do they really, Nick? Can you or anyone else please show me where law was passed that prohibits anyone of praying to any god they want to pray to at any time in a public school? Show me where that's happened. Anywhere. I would wait here for all of you, but then I'd be waiting for the rest of my life. Because that's never fucking happened.
You know what HAS happened? Because our government has set up the public school system to protect our children from promotion of ANY AND ALL religions - not just Christianity - the law states that a public school may not sponsor or conduct prayer. That's it. That's all it says. It does not prohibit a public school student from praying anytime or anywhere. During a math test, during lunch, during a football game. Any student. Literally anytime during school. So please, someone explain to me how, as a Christian, your rights are being stripped away by the government merely preventing schools from having to advocate one religion over other beliefs. I am DYING to hear this argument.
And yet you still bellow and caw because you “can't” pray in school. Since we've already established that such a belief is utter bullshit, let's ask a question: as a Christian or a Christian parent, would it sit well with you if your child went to school and, over the intercom or by a teacher, was engaged in Muslim prayer time? Or Jewish prayer time? Or Buddhist prayer time? No? Well then why should children of secular or non-Christian beliefs be engaged in Christian prayer?
Oh, right. You're going back to those two age-old tenets you love so much: that a) Christians make up a majority of the spiritual believers in this country and b) because the United States was founded on Christian principles. Right, I forgot about that. Only one problem there: these two heavily-armed points are worth exactly fuck-all. Are you surprised? Confused? Let me explain.
I can’t argue with you that Christians make up the religious majority of this country. I can’t argue that with you because it’s a fact. However, that being a fact has very little bearing in the scope of this issue. Why? Because the rules and laws governing this country simply don’t equate majority and right under the law. There’s really no simpler way of saying that. Sorry to bust your bubble. With that squashed, let’s tackle your other conceit: that this country was founded on Christian principles. This is only true in the most academic sense, and I would challenge anyone to pick up a copy of the Constitution and show me a facet of it that was designed specifically around Christianity. I would wait for you to do this again, but…well, you know the drill there.
In fact, what you’ll find, if you look closely enough, is that there is actually a specific section that deals with the separation of church and state, a concept that disassociates government from promoting one religion over another (broken record, I know, but you're really not getting it needs to be repeated at every opportunity). Now, call me crazy, but it sounds like that section firmly entrenches us in a base that’s NON-Christian by default. Oh, but right – the no killing, no stealing, etc, etc. Yeah yeah, got that. OK, so here’s this: not killing, not stealing, not infringing on the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness…those have kind of been basic tenets of every sustainable culture since the beginning of time. Half of the "Commandments" that make up the morality of Christianity are based on common sense. The other half aren't in the Constitution. So really, if our Constitution is based on Christian principles, it’s also based on Jewish principles, Muslim principles, Buddhist principles…I mean, you get the idea.
Oh fuck, right, I forgot – “one nation under God”. Well, as we’ve discussed before, Dwight Eisenhower added the “under God” part to the Pledge of Allegiance during his term as President in the 50s, so…there’s that. But yes, it does mention God several times in the Constitution. More often than that, it mentions a “Creator”. So you’ve got that. Although…and look, I’m just playing Devil’s Advocate here, but…it’s not really specific, is it? “Creator”? That could be, you know, a lot of things. And I’m just spitballing here, but the central figure in Christianity is Christ, right? So if the Constitution is based on the principles of Christianity…shouldn’t Jesus get some love in it somewhere? Be mentioned at some point? Because he kind of…you know, isn’t. Anywhere. At all. Is that just a big oversight? It seems like that would be akin to writing an article about the vaunted history of Microsoft and neglecting to mention Bill Gates.
Oh, I know the reason they didn’t mention Jesus in the Constitution – because it’s not fucking based on Christianity. In fact, many of the Founding Fathers who wrote it, developed it and put it together were in fact reformed Christians, more Deists than anything else, who were so turned off by the heavy-handed role of Christianity in England’s government that they excommunicated it from their lives altogether. And then they sought to make sure the exact same thing didn’t happen again in America. So they wrote our laws to ensure it wouldn’t, and this is the basis of what you find so fascist and inconvenient today: that the government doesn’t see Christianity as more special than any other religion. I mean, that’s what we’re really talking about here, right? You’re pissed because you're just just not getting a theological handjob from the folks in Washington DC.
And with that in mind, I guess I’d just have to ask…is your personal faith – or your religion itself – so weak that a simple declaration of governmental non-endorsement can set you off in such a panic? Because that’s what it looks like to me. You act as if the government has attempted to prevent you from practicing your religion, when in fact it’s done nothing of the sort. It’s merely stated that it and its employees and representatives cannot support or promote one religion over another. It says nothing of what you can do in your own head and heart. And actually – and maybe you just glossed over this part – it specifically guarantees you the right to practice your religion anywhere you want, anytime you want. It’s called Freedom of Religion. Still a little difficult to grasp? Maybe take a nap, relax yourself, and then dive back into it. I know the notion is a daunting one.
My advice to all you Christians who don’t understand our laws and how they work: take a course in civics and get a fucking life. You and I both know that this isn’t about rights or liberty or the Constitution: it’s about another chance for you to whore for attention. Fess up to that. How spineless are you if you think the government can take away your right to pray? It’s almost too stupid to even conceive of, and the Christian arrogance that people are out to get them – a lawyer on every corner to prevent them from praying – isn’t just a paranoid myth, it’s a belief that makes you look like lunatics. If you can’t conceive of the difference between someone not wanting you to pray and someone not wanting your faith imposed upon them, you’ve got a host of problems that I’m sure you’re not even aware of.
If Nick Gholson’s opinion is really the rallying cry for offended Christians, I hope I become the Pied Fucking Piper of people who shake their heads at such idiocy. And by all means, Evangelicals, keep judging us secularites and bawling that you're being taken to the cleaners by a government and a nation of people that are out to get you. I'll be right here to explain to you how the world actually works.