I have a friend who is firmly convinced that I'm going to burn in hell because I'm Jewish and haven't accepted Christianity. It's what her church teaches, and she sincerely believes it. Every now and then, she feels obligated to witness to me (for my own good, as she sees it), but since I used to be chaplain and know my Bible fairly well, I'm usually able to hold my own in any debate about scripture. We've managed to stay friends in spite of this theological impasse (we have many other things in common); but I know that deep down, she keeps hoping she'll find the right verse to persuade me to see "the truth."
But she won't. The problem, of course, is that her truth is not mine. I respect her beliefs, and I have nothing against them. I simply wish she could understand that I really like being Jewish and I have no wish to accept some other religion. Unfortunately, there are a lot of folks who share her belief that the Jews need to convert, and I've met quite a few of them over the years. Some are very assertive about it, like the missionaries who go door-to-door, or the high school kids who called me a "Christ-killer" and pushed me down some stairs.
On the other hand, I've met some folks who were much kinder and gentler about it. They just assumed that everyone would be fine with Christian prayers or Christian symbols, and they were stunned (or offended) if anyone objected. I grew up in the era when there was still prayer in public schools-- it was always Christian prayer, followed by a Christian hymn. And if a Jewish student ever asked about that (as I once did), the answer was that this was what the majority wanted. There was no expectation that those of us in the minority would be included, nor any understanding of why this morning ritual (in what was supposed to be a public school) might seem like imposing one religion and ignoring all the others.
What brought this back to me was the recent Supreme Court decision in favor of a high school football coach who likes to engage in Christian prayer at the end of a game, surrounded by his team (and sometimes by players from the other team). The conservative Christian judges in the majority seemed okay with this. They said it was not imposing Christianity on the players, since they were not being forced to participate. Except, they really were. Imagine if one of the kids on the team walked away and didn't join the prayer circle. Imagine if one of the kids thought a football field isn't a place for a prayer circle. I suggest that such views would not have been warmly welcomed-- by their coach or by others in attendance.
Many years ago, I too was told if I didn't like the Christian prayers and songs, I could leave and come back-- but you tell me, dear readers, how I would have been treated by the other kids if I had done that. Yet here we are, decades later, with a Supreme Court that seems oblivious to the harm it might cause by allowing the football coach to do something he wants to do and potentially turn anyone who disagrees into a pariah.
I know some of you will think I'm being anti-Christian. I'm not. I just don't think public spaces, like football games, are the right place for religious ceremonies-- from anyone's religion. Frankly, I don't think God cares who wins the football game. And I don't think God wants us to make a public show out of our piety-- I vaguely recall Jesus saying something in the New Testament about those who pray loudly so that others will see them; he recommended that we pray quietly and privately, so that only God sees us. The judges on the Supreme Court who voted to weaken the separation of church and state probably think they did a wonderful thing. But on behalf of those of us from different faiths than the majority, we wish they had thought more about being inclusive and tolerant, and less about imposing their "truth" on everyone else.
Yes I agree with you Donna you should be able to act as per your culture and be respected as per and not be ridiculed because of this. We are a diversified country so we should respect each owns cultural heritage.ReplyDelete
I am familiar with this practice of doing post-game prayer in a circle following football game, but only in the context of the Christian school, some of whose players' parents were friends of mine. The team would pray after every game, certainly when they played other Christian schools, but also public schools, and almost without exception, all players joined, perhaps out of peer pressure. I seem to recall a couple kids not joining and walking towards the locker room or bus. I am amazed that the coach at a public school thought this would be OK, UNLESS this is in a district where many, many people are likeminded, of the demographic that finds it perfect acceptable. Bremerton is right across Puget Sound from Seattle. It is a naval town, that is 74 percent white, 7.5 pct African-American, 5.5 Asian. For a town and school the size of Bremerton High, just under 2,000 grades 9-12, that probably fits the bill. But for a Supreme Court that, ostensibly, considers greater society as a whole, over the rights of just one, or one group of people, this is shocking, part of a swath of shockingly partisan decisions in the last week and a half. Happy 4th Weekend, Donna!ReplyDelete
I am a Christian, and I agree completely with your statements above. If Christians (or adherents of any spiritual or ethical tradition, really) would like to "let their light shine" publicly, the best thing they can do is simply comport themselves in a way that demonstrates charity and compassion for their fellow humans. Public grandstanding that intimidates and alienates others, does neither.ReplyDelete
Excellent blog. I've decided to pretty much live and let live, but as you point out so well, many people don't follow that. In the words of Neil Peart: "Conform or be cast out." It's so sad that our society has not evolved past that.ReplyDelete
I believe that if people can perform acts that can be construed as racist on the field, then this coach can pray. I am not a Christian or anything else. I do not believe in a god. In fact, I was once called for jury duty and refused to agree to the oath that ended with "so help you god". So if some irrelevant coach at some nothing high school in nowhere UISA wants to pray, it doesn't affect me at all, so let him. I also am of the mindset that if any "it" doesn't happen within the confines of my yard, I just don't care. You do you. Christian, Jewish, gay, straight, racist... whatever. It's not my role here to try to change you.ReplyDelete
I agree with your view in your post. What is mind boggling to me is that this case went all the way to the Supreme Court. Why? Did we need to really establish that Christian prayer is allowed on a personal level during a public event? I’m a Christian, but I don’t think it’s appropriate for anyone to be subversively forced to participate in prayer of any kind. I believe, ultimately, this is what this judgment calls for. It is very disheartening.ReplyDelete
Well said, Donna. I’m right there with the previous 4 comments. Thanks, as always!ReplyDelete