The Lord’s Prayer

I recently received an email with an “inspired” poem about prayer in public schools. I’ve included it in its entirety at the bottom of this post. It claims to be written by a 15 year old in Minnesota. I looked on a few fact checking websites and it is not clear if a teenager wrote it. It has also circulated with different places of origin. The author and source maybe unclear but it is clear that the facts represented in the body of the poem are inaccurate.

It suggests that guns have been outlawed and that quoting the Bible could be considered ‘libel.’ Of course, neither of these statements are true. This loose relationship to the truth makes me suspicious about the claims about the author being a 15 year old.

The poem is written from the perspective of a victim. It implies that schools may no longer ‘teach right from wrong.’ It says that chaos has taken over in schools and the implication is that this is because of a lack of prayer and God’s word.

Our two children went through public school and there was no chaos. The schools did a good job of fostering a respect for all people and not tolerating acts of violence or disrespect. My daughter is now a middle school teacher and my wife teaches in a community college. I hear first hand about the many problems faced by teachers in schools. They have to do with issues of  neglected children, addictions and abuse in families. Their students come from many different situations that range from affluenza to homelessness. I’m not sure allowing a public prayer in the morning would change those issues.

The First Amendment to the Constitution, written by James Madison, says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

In the past, our court system has ruled that having everyone in class say a common prayer was the govt. ‘establishing a religion.’ Of course, they could not and did not prohibit personal prayer.

I want to contemplate what it would look like if we reintroduced public prayers and scripture reading in school.

If we were to bring public prayers back into school, which divinity would we pray to?  Jesus? Allah? The Great Spirit of Native American religion?  Buddha (Technically not a divinity.) Would you read from the Quran, The Torah, The New Testament, The Book of Mormon, The I Ching of Taoism, The Divine Principle by Rev. Moon?  I could see a system that tried to rotate between all sacred scriptures. It would be up to school boards to determine which sacred text had value. Or maybe they would declare them all to be worthwhile. Yet, if schools were to present all scriptures as equal, I would argue that would be creating a Theology of Syncretism. That would imply that all sacred texts are equally valuable. If we did that then I would object the government was creating a new religion.  

Also, how would we respect the estimated 7% of the students who are Atheist or Agnostic? Would we give them equal time to explain to other children why they don’t think God exists?

I’m not trying to be difficult, I genuinely want to know how you would word such a prayer.  I’ve been asked to pray at inter-faith events before and it is possible and meaningful, yet, it would be even harder if everyone in the group wasn’t theistic. It would be impossible if some of the group were adamantly a-theistic.

If you know of a prayer that that meets those criteria please send me the text. It would be interesting to use it for sermon material.

The Lord’s Prayer

By a 15-year-old school kid who got an A+ for this entry

(TOTALLY AWESOME)!

The Lord’s Prayer is not allowed in most U.S. Public schools any more. A kid in Minnesota, wrote the following:

 

NEW School Prayer

Now I sit me down in school
Where praying is against the rule
For this great nation under God
Finds mention of Him very odd.

If scripture now the class recites,
It violates the Bill of Rights.
And anytime my head I bow
Becomes a Federal matter now.

Our hair can be purple, orange or green,
That’s no offense; it’s a freedom scene.
The law is specific, the law is precise.
Prayers spoken aloud are a serious vice.

For praying in a public hall
Might offend someone with no faith at all.
In silence alone we must meditate,
God’s name is prohibited by the State..

We’re allowed to cuss and dress like freaks,
And pierce our noses, tongues and cheeks.
They’ve outlawed guns, but FIRST the Bible.
To quote the Good Book makes me liable.

We can elect a pregnant Senior Queen,
And the ‘unwed daddy,’ our Senior King.
It’s ‘inappropriate’ to teach right from wrong,
We’re taught that such ‘judgments’ do not belong.

We can get our condoms and birth controls,
Study witchcraft, vampires and totem poles.
But the Ten Commandments are not allowed,
No word of God must reach this crowd.

It’s scary here I must confess,
When chaos reigns the school’s a mess.
So, Lord, this silent plea I make:
Should I be shot; My soul please take!

Amen

 

If you aren’t ashamed to do this, Please pass this on.

Jesus said, ‘If you are ashamed of me,
I will be ashamed of you before my Father.’

~~~~~~~~~AWESOME~~~~~~~~~~

Not ashamed. Passing it on!

This is complicated…

I was excited when we decided as a staff to talk about the issues around Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter. I wasn’t sure how we were going to approach it, but I knew we had to talk about it. A few people warned me that it wasn’t an appropriate conversation for Church because it is ‘too political.’ This discussion is so much more than political. It is a conversation about how each of us sees ourselves and how other people see us. It gets to the heart of what it means to be created in the image of God. If God has created each one of us and the Holy Spirit of God dwells in all people, who are we to create barriers and walls between people who are so equally blessed?

When I am trying to promote upcoming events for Church, I sometimes run ads on Facebook. In the past they have not been very effective. Thousands of people see the ads, but I can see from the result almost no one clicks on them. So when I spent $250 of the Churches money promoting this theme for worship, I didn’t have great expectations.

I was surprised by what happened. Apparently, our simple logo, showing the expressions, “Black lives matter and All lives matter,” spoke to a lot of people. Immediately, we began to receive lots of comments. Right away someone said,

“This should not be in a church. If this was the church I attend I would leave. I am a Christian conservative. All lives Matter! Yes we have quite a few blacks. Thus sounds like a race issue. Come on this is 2016. People this is not the the 60s.”

Another person added, “It’s about Blacks always wanting to appear the victim- when in reality, they are the problem.” My initial response was to delete anything I didn’t like. But Phillip patiently responded to this comment and others, encouraging people to have an open mind and a compassionate heart.

Maybe my favorite response came from a woman in the Twin Cities,

“How about do you have any black people in your church or discussing this issue? No? Then fail and point missed. Edina? Seriously.”

I assured her that three of our five presenters were people of color, but she still saw it as tokenism. She posted:

“Racially diverse dialogue in the sermon? Shadow throwing. Do you have black members in your church? Do you march for equality? Social justice? You have a lot of action and home work to do. You can’t just discuss with big words and drink coffee and cookies, oh my goodness. BE Real. Go to the north side and attend a church there and have a racially diverse dialogue. Looking down your white Edina noses will not get the job done.”

The more comments we received about race the more important I realized it was to talk about. Even among the staff we were far from one harmonious position.

One person emailed me to say we should stick to preaching about the ‘love of God.’ It is hard to argue with that. It is just that I see God’s love as a powerful force which transforms us. It seeks out our sinfulness and condemns it, and in its place it creates a new person.

The act of being recreated is never simple or comfortable. It pushes us into to think and act differently. It constantly challenges us how to live in the world, with love and respect for all people.

And so we waded into a discussion that most people steer away from. We each shared who we are and what our backgrounds were like. Because that is what has made us who we are today. I think the best chance we have to changing in the futures is to be aware of where we have come from in the past and how that has shaped us into the person we are today. If I can do that, it is my hope that I can be‘re-created’ into someone different. To paraphrase Martin Luther Kind, I want to be a person who can judge people, “by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin.”

I hope that you can join us on a journey of self-discovery and an awareness of how of our ‘human-ness’ we all share.

Let me know what you think.

Peace,
Pastor Ed