Justin and I had an interesting argument (we tend to do that occasionally) yesterday about school prayer. Apparently, some girl, somewhere in America (I tried to find the story, but I couldn’t) was stopped during her address at her graduation for talking about Jesus.
Justin said he saw nothing wrong with her invoking the name of the Lord.
I beg to differ.
Let me preface this by saying that I’m a Christian, I go to church often as I can, I’m going to Heaven when I die. And nobody can tell me any different. I also believe that whether you’re Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Catholic, Jewish, or whatever, you have an equal chance of getting into Heaven. There won’t be any barbed wire and barking dogs to separate us when we get there. No need to act like there will be while we’re here.
But bringing religion into high school graduations is a step over the line. Granted, there’s the likelihood that the great majority of people in the crowd had no problem with it. But that’s not the issue. The issue is that some people may have had a problem with it. America was built not only on majority rule, but on minority rights. There’s no need to step on the minority’s rights when it comes to religion. If the people in the audience wanted to hear a sermon, they could have went to church.
Now, at this point in our argument, Justin added that, “Well, they didn’t have to stay in there and listen. They could have walked out.” Well, this was a high school graduation, so chances are everybody was there to see one of their children/grandchildren/etc. graduate. They really were a captive audience.
I posed the following hypothetical to Justin: Suppose, at our graduation, our valedictorian got up at expressed her love of Allah, her believe in multiple nature gods, declared she had no belief whatsoever in any god, or so on and so forth. Justin didn’t like the sound of that. He said he would take it as a chance to minister to them. But I asked if he didn’t think he would be upset that his graduation, something that happens only once in his life, was turned into a Jesus-bashing meeting. He didn’t like that, either.
So, basically, when it comes to shows of religion in school, I’m for the moment of silence, I’m for voluntary prayer (to a degree–after some point it becomes basically compulsory), but I’m strongly against any kind of prayer over the p.a. system, prayer to a captive audience who may not want to hear it, or expression of any kind of religious belief to a big group of people if it may offend some of them.
UPDATE: Justin’s account of what was said differs with my accounting of it. He says: 1-He wouldn’t care if someone expressed their love of Allah, etc. 2-He wouldn’t use it as a chance to minister to the person. 3-He says he wouldn’t have any opinion if a graduation was a “Jesus-bashing” meeting. SO, you have both sides of the story here.