Relax, God has NOT left the room!

From a child I have been a person of deep faith.  When my mother took me to church unlike most my peers I actually wanted to sit towards the front instead of hiding in the balcony.   I wanted to be up close so I could especially hear what the minister was saying.  If I sat too far back, I would get lost and eventually fall asleep.  Learning about God and the characters in the bible was a fascinating thing to me.  I took those opportunities seriously.

My spiritual journey has taken me through many places.  One principle that has reinforced and remains with me is that my faith is a very personal journey.  The journey itself and the fruits thereof may be shared with the public at large.  But the beauty of it being a personal journey is that no one can prevent my soul from connecting or communing with my creator.

I thought about this when I came across an email recently that suggested (not the first time I’ve heard) that a major downfall of this country happened when the Supreme Court took corporate prayer out of public schools.  Since that time lack of prayer has been blamed for dropout rates, teen pregnancy, school violence etc.  Years ago I was lukewarm on the subject at best.  I remember having corporate prayer in school and the benefits of it was debatable.

There was still mischief, bullying, drugs and pregnancy.  Nowadays I have strong opinions that taking public prayer out of public schools was not the tragedy people made it out to be.  Especially considering the world we live in today.  I’ll make my case:

Religion is Polarizing

We live in a society that is more diverse than ever before.  With that comes faith with all sorts of flavors.  Who gets to decide what brand of faith is emphasized for public schools?  The general consensus among those desiring prayer in public schools is Christianity.  But which kind of Christian; Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist?  Of course not only would either of these choices leave out another Christian persuasion, it would also exclude and isolate people of other faiths that do not include Christianity.

The natural strife would distract from the original emphasis of primary education which is to teach the basics of reading, writing (typing) arithmetic, and now technology.  Remember we are talking about publically tax payer public schools.  This brings me to my next point.

This is what private schools are for

In any given metropolitan area, there are hundreds of private schools which in addition to academics emphasize their faith.  There is nothing wrong with a family choosing a school based on their own faith.  Some schools have struggled to remain solvent as the economy has suffered making it more difficult for parents to afford tuition.  And some have been vibrant enough to offer scholarships to those less fortunate.  I have several close friends who put their children in private school for both religious as well as academic purposes.  All of them are not coming straight out of pocket either.

Some live in public school districts known to be inferior.  Some seek Catholic institutions for their young though the parent’s faith is far from Catholicism.  They simply believe the quality of the Jesuit education will prepare their children for college better than the local public school will.  It is a beautiful thing to have educational choices for American families.  Still, I have never heard one parent tell me that they chose a school because there is corporate in it.

God has never left the building

While I never attended private school of any sort, it never stopped me from praying neither in school nor out.  I prayed for good grades on test before and after I took them.  I prayed to make it off school grounds fast and slick enough to avoid bullies and being jumped on.  I prayed not to get thrown out of school for fighting.  I prayed my team would hit the jump shot or score the touchdown against the cross town rival to win the big game.  Since I believed that God and prayer were within my grasp as surely as my own personal belief, nothing could prevent me from making a connection.  No politician, no school administrator, no teacher.  I didn’t need my relationship with God legislated to make it any more legitimate.

To believe that I don’t support God or prayer within the scope of society or youth would be the furthest thing from the truth.   As I’ve stated I have a strong faith in God and a deep appreciation for prayer.  When I go to some private schools as a sports official, some of them conduct pre-game prayers.  I participate in these prayers with the kids and coaches.  Not because I have to, but because I want to.  When a school is private, they have a unified point of view that everyone agrees to following before enrolling.  No one is singled out or ostracized in the midst of any of those prayers.  Prayer should be a unifying tool, not a dividing one.

I’ve heard it said many times that Christianity is under attack.  I believe that in the United States of America that sentiment has been greatly exaggerated.  It’s easy and historic for most all religions to claim victimization.  Certainly there is conflict and strife among people of faith vs. those that claim none.  The same can be said about differing Christian organizations/denominations etc.  I explained all of this in a previous article titled, “Why I Refuse to Join A Church Part 2”

The reason I say that Christian ‘martyrism’ has been overblown is because there are thousands of churches in any given metropolitan area.  Startup churches are being formed daily.  Nothing is stopping them.  There has always been a running joke about the city I’m from that on every block, there is a Rice House, (Chinese take-out restaurant) a liquor store, and a church.  I don’t call that an attack.

Faith is as American as our desire for freedom.

Finally, I’m not some ACLU honk.  While they have served a good purpose at times, they are also often more zealous and ridiculous as any raving mad TV evangelist.  I look at some of the causes they take up and just wish they would go away.

What I am saying is that at the end of the day prayer is a private and personal thing first.  And if we do well others will be attracted to our faith through our displays of character that reflect the love of our creator.  One doesn’t need religion to have character.  But without character, religion is tyranny.  There is a scripture that says “they shall know me by the love you show one another,” That carries more weight than a nativity scene on school property.

Meanwhile I’d just assume teachers and administrators do what it takes to make our schools better and prepare our youth to create and compete in this ever increasingly competitive market.  I don’t need James Dobson trying to ‘take my local school for Jesus.’

I’ll pass the concept of faith to my children at home.  I’m just saying.

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Ideals vs Ridiculous Ideologies

          

I have had some pretty heated debates with blogger buddies as well as personal friends regarding the extreme reaction of the liberal and gay communities regarding President Elect Barack Obama’s choice of Rick Warren to participate in his inauguration.  I am on record as saying that any wise group will learn to pick their battles and that there are differences between ideals and ideologies.  To me ideas should be fought for.  The ideal of equal rights or equal pay for women for instance.  Ideologies are often a set of extreme beliefs that people try to push off on others.  I’ll give you an example:

So did you hear the story about the woman in Florida who says she got fired because she refused to answer the company phone with the greeting, “Happy Holidays,” because it was a against her religious views not to say Merry Christmas?  Well apparently she felt it was selling out to the mainstream to say anything generic regarding the day commemorating the birth of Christ.  Nevermind that we live in a diverse nation and some people don’t celebrate Christmas.  Nevermind that some people celebrate Hanukkah, some Kwanzaa and others none of the above.  Oh no, she couldn’t stomach the thought of considering that for one minute.  Instead she decided to buck her boss’s wishes and go “rebellion” by doing her own thing.

I have been in church circles long enough to know where this comes from.  Its the evangelical victimization thinking that Christmas and Christ are under attack by a liberal god hating society.  I remember having a discussion with a former co-worker who refused to go to the company “holiday party” as long as it was called a holiday party and not a “Christmas” party.  He wanted me to sign on to a petition to change the name.  I wasn’t buying it.  I know that some people are turned off by Christians bombarding them with their beliefs.  I know that some anal ACLU types like to drive the city looking for nativity scenes in public places so they can try to legally have them removed.  There is a battle for control of the culture.  Both sides of these and other arguments are often trivial to the big picture in terms of what we lack most in this country – RESPECT FOR OTHERS and their beliefs.  Both the woman in the above story and the anti-Christians are ridiculous in my view.  But I will deal with the Christians on this rant.

I have a few questions for Ms. Tonia Thomas and people who believe as she does – that to say “Happy Holidays” is some sort of sin.

1) Is there a Christmas Holiday in the bible?

2) Is there any record in the bible (which you believe is the authentic Word of God) of Christians yearly celebrating the birth of Christ – similar to the Jewish faith in celebrating the Passover?

3) Was Jesus born on December 25th?

The answer to all of these is a resounding NO!

Memo to Tonia Thomas and others who pontificate on such ridiculous treaties:  You can choose to celebrate Christmas anyway you desire.  That is what freedom is all about.  But to lose your job over whether you say Merry Christmas or not is ludicrous!  For one that is your JOB!  You work for a company.  That company has an owner or ownership group.  The powers that be get to decide how they want to greet their customers!  When YOU own your own business, you can say Merry Christmas, Praise the Lord, hell you can speak in tongues if you want to cause its YOUR business!  It’s no strike against your religion, nor is is a diss to Christ to say Happy Holidays.  I am sure Jesus is not turning cartwheels because you thought you were making a stand but merely lost your job because of your insubordination.  (Look that up in the bible about obeying those whom you work for)  I know you really thought you were doing something.  But sorry; this isn’t like someone asking you to deny your faith or worship Baal.  You allowed someone at church to soup you up into believing this rhetoric.  And it’s a shame.  But this is why folks can’t get along today.  You are NOT going to win over any of your secular friends by being a blow hard at a job that you don’t own over how to answer the phone that you don’t pay the bill on.  You are no martyr like Paul or John.  And Barack Obama won the election too – so get over yourself!  Folks are losing their jobs at an alarming rate all over the country, and you refuse to answer the damn phone the way they ask you to.  How stupid is that?  If I was your boss I would have fired your ass too.  “What you can’t do what I ask and I am paying you?  BYE!”

 menorahKwanzaa Clip Art

 

Glad I got that off my chest.  I’ve officiated more than a few basketball games in December.  A lot of them at Christian and Catholic schools.  When I congratulate a coach or shake his/her hand, it’s come quite naturally for me to say, “Merry Christmas” as I understand this is a special time for them.  I’ve celebrated Christmas as a child.  And at the same time never taught my kids to believe in Santa Clause nor expect me to break the bank for toys and gifts.  As well I will never question, judge, or disrespect my friends who teach Santa to their kids, no revere the Advent season.  It’s all about respect!  We need to learn to do more of that.

There are times to protect religious beliefs.  And there are times when folks are just plain silly and trivial. 

With that said, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, and Happy Holidays. 

Peace and God Bless~