God is in our Schools


Shortly after the Sandy Hook massacre, a friend of mine on Facebook posted the following (because the calls against politicizing the event only applied to calls for firearms regulation):It's time to put God back in schools. We don't need more laws. We need a fear of God & a respect for human life. God will "Bless the USA" when we invite Him back in it.

I responded as politely as I could (though perhaps not politely enough):

I’m sorry, I’m confused. I thought that God was omnipresent, and that the only thing not allowed in schools was the right to shove your idea of god down the throats of people with a different idea of god.

Her response was to ask me what my view of God is (but, notably, not what my view of the First Amendment is). The following is my response:

God is an omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent force that infuses all of existence (which does seem inconsistent with the presence of evil in the world, but I’m OK with inconsistency). God loves all of creation, so does not take sides in petty human disputes, but hopes only that all of creation attempts to approach him and love him. God is greater than any human’s understanding, and beyond the scope of any denomination, religion, or creed. All religions attempt to approach God, but none of them do (or will) succeed. Christ was the human expression of God (Holy Spirit in human form, perhaps). One’s relationship with God is personal, and organized religion is more likely to damage and restrict that relationship than to encourage it, and any sort of government-endorsed prayer would be hollow and undermine one’s personal relationship with God. And, importantly, I am wrong about God, but possibly no more or no less than everyone else — and (therefore) have no right to impose my interpretation on anyone else.

I could have added (but didn’t), that I see an inherent falseness in public professions of faith, that even in a community of believers such professions are more a statement of belonging than an expression of one’s relationship with God, and that when made outside of the community of believers their effect is more to exclude non-believers than to open dialogue or deepen one’s understanding of God. This means that I express my faith rarely, but that when I do, I take a few hundred words to do it, so that it is fully understood.

There’s a lot there, and almost certainly some questionable theology (as I mentioned before, I know I’m wrong). And I’m not eager to get into a debate about relative wrongness of my theology as compared to someone else’s. The important thing in this discussion is that I have a strong, fully-formed theology. It is probably rare, possibly even unique, some would even say it is heretical (mind you some say that about Protestantism, some about Catholicism, some about the LDS Church…) but it is mine. It is also wholly dependent on the personal relationship with God.

And that is exactly the beauty of the First Amendment: even my faith is protected from government interference, as is the faith of mainline Protestant, the Evangelical, the Catholic, the Mormon, the Jew, the Muslim, the Buddhist, the Hindu, the Sikh, the Shinto; as is the belief of the atheist that there is no god. The public schools and the public square belong to all of us.

Restrictions on school-established prayer do not ‘take God out of our schools,’ but allow all students to see God in their own way. There are no Constitutional restrictions on individual student prayer beyond the establishment of a learning environment, nor should there be. Some may claim that school-endorsed prayer can be legal, so long as all faiths are given equal time, but what is equal? One prayer per world religion? One prayer per belief represented in the school? How about prayers on a percentage basis? Even after answering that question, it leaves the question of what to do about those whose theology is personal, rather than public. No, neither equal nor equitable prayer can resolve the issue.

Supporters of school-established prayer should remember that every belief is a minority somewhere in our country. So if they won’t oppose school-established prayer for the atheist, the Muslim, or for a heretic like me, maybe they will for someone else. They can do it for the Baptist in Utah, the Catholic in the Arab neighborhood school in Dearborn, or for the Lutheran in the Little Havana neighborhood school.

We can leave God in the schools. There’s no way we could remove Him anyway. But we must continue to respect people of all faiths (and none) and keep the government out of the business of teaching our children how to pray.


2 Responses to “God is in our Schools”

  1. 1 Wanda

    The graphic didn’t load on my iPad but I assumed the “worst” based on your response so your piece makes perfect sense.

  1. 1 Reflections of an Eagle Scout « withamouthfullofstones

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