This is about the third blog that I have started in about as many weeks, so I am hoping that I can make it through it completely. If you are reading this now, then you can assume that I did make it.
Before anyone goes any further in reading, DON'T do it before you read this story from the Pensacola News Journal athletic about Frank Lay and the lawsuit brought against him for leading a prayer at an banquet http://www.pnj.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2009909180338.
OK. Now that you have taken a couple minutes to read that, here is my take on the topic of prayer in our public school system. I am aware that not all of you may agree, and some of you might get flustered, but don't...it is just my opinion.
First of all, I do support the right of students to pray in the public school system. What would or should this entail is the question. As a Christian, I try as much as possible to make prayer a part of my daily life. With a family and 3 daughters, it is not always easy, but I will pray in moments throughout the day when I find the time. Our students should be afforded the same rights and privileges. If a student prays before their meal or during a "moment of silence" that is provided by the school, they should take advantage of it. In addition, if a group of students want to start a student led Bible study as a student group after classes, that is a part of their rights and does not violate any so called "separation of church and state" laws. This is what I think of and support when I think of prayer in schools.
OK..since many of you may be waiting for the other shoe to drop, here is my counter to that. I DO NOT or CANNOT support teacher or faculty led prayer in public schools. I have many reasons behind this, so please hear me out on this one.
Teachers by their very nature have a very strong influence in children's lives. We have heard that for years and they are probably some of the most important people that our children will come in contact with in their lives. Younger children especially, believe that their teachers are right on everything and that they can do no wrong. They are not old enough to realize that they are just people too.Their duty and job is to teach the subjects that have been assigned to them and not to evangelize or prostylatize the students. There are two parts of this. First of all, all the students in that class have been given to their parents by God as their children, whether we agree with what they are being taught about God or not. At the end of the day those parents will be held responsible to God for what they did with those children and what they taught or did not each them. We must remember that as Christians we are called to evangelize, but we are also called to use wisdom. Christian teachers and educators have a responsibility to respect the familial boundaries that are in place, again, whether you agree with them or not. As a reminder on our end, we should always be ready and able to answer questions on our faith, but answering questions and leading prayers is not the only form of evangelization. God is the only one who has the ability to change the hearts of people and we must accept that we are not the only source that God would use to show himself to these children.
Secondly, it seems as Christians that sometimes we have a LOT of double standards. We fight for the right of prayer in our public schools, yet we fight if some other religious ideas foreign to our Christian beliefs are brought into the classroom. If we are going to press for the rights for public prayer in schools, then we MUST be willing and able to allow that same opportunity to EVERY other religion: Islam, Judaism, Hindu, Buddhist, Wiccan, the list goes on and on. I know that as a Christian, I do not want my child being led in a Buddhist meditation, or a prayer to Mohammed. And no offense, I also don't want any teacher telling my child that they are "going to hell" or "are not saved" or called "idolaters" or "blashphemers" because of their Catholic beliefs. This causes a lack faith of what the child believes and can also cause distrust of the parents by the children.
Lastly, remember that the spiritual teaching and direction for children comes from the home with their parents and also from their church or religious organization. If you belong to any religion, that priest, pastor, or rabbi is who you feel adequate with instructing you and your family with the ways of your particular faith. I would much rather leave the religious instruction in capable hands rather than trying to undo what a teacher has taught to my children that I don't want them to embrace.
God has given every person on this earth a free will to choose how to worship and what to worship. As Christians we should always take care to take every opportunity to be the hands of Christ to all that we come in contact with, but that does not necessarily mean quoting Bible verses to them or trying to determine the desting of their their soul. Serve them and love them as people and as children of God. From that point, use wisdom and ask for guidance from the Holy Spirit that God has given you to make the most of opportunites that arise that can give those people one more insight into the person of Christ.
He is the one that draws them in anyway...not us.