21 November 2005

Removers vs. Restorers

This article from today’s edition of USA Today is one of the most encouraging articles I’ve read lately on the topic of religion in public schools.  It presents a balanced viewpoint, siding with neither the “Removers” nor the “Restorers”, which is about where I stand on the issue.

The problem I have with the “Removers” is with their premise that curricula should be religion-free.  I find it hard to imagine learning the history of our world without considering the religious context in which it takes place.  Was Martin Luther merely a political activist agitating for a more just society?  Did the Pilgrims cross the Atlantic simply to fulfill a sense of adventure?  Can current events be understood absent their religious context?  Good luck figuring out Middle Eastern politics without factoring in religion.  

And in the realm of literature, can one really understand Milton’s Paradise Lost or Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience without respectively engaging these authors’ understanding of Christian theology?

A religion-free worldview is a faulty one, having huge blind spots.  Ignoring the religious dimension of humanity and pretending it doesn’t exist is hardly good educational policy.  To advocate such a view seems akin to burying one’s head in the sand like an ostrich.

The “Restorers” don’t fare much better in my book.  So many people just assume that my being a pastor means that I naturally would support efforts to undo the Supreme Court’s 40-year old decision removing prayer from the classroom.  But I don’t.  In my community, which is quite homogenous (99.6% white according to the last census), the school administration enjoys a cozy relationship with the local ministerial association.  The tacit assumption among the local “Restorers” seems to be that any prayers in school will be of a Protestant white bread flavor, which certainly is in line with the dominant demographic here.  

If that doesn’t fly, I suppose the fallback position for them would be having prayers of a generic universalist variety.  Masons are thick in these parts, and that would be right up their alley.  Same goes for the fans of the nearby Quaker pastor whose several “Christian” best sellers unabashedly advocate universalism.  I have no use for such prayers, and certainly don’t want the children of my parishioners praying them.

The “Restorers” never seem to think very often of that huge mosque 5 miles to the north, and what will happen when Muslim families move in and demand equal time in the official prayer rotation for their kids.  I suppose the local Jehovah’s Witlesses and Mormons would want in also, not to mention the Wiccans and pagans.  I want no part of any of that for my parishioners.

Another beef I have is with Lutherans that support the “Restorers”.  Why should the government have any responsibility for your child’s religious upbringing?  That should be happening first and foremost at home, and also at church.  If it’s so important to you that religious values are passed on to your kids at school, why aren’t they enrolled at a Lutheran school?  A Lutheran school will do a much better job of teaching the Christian faith than any public school ever will.

If the issue is simply being able to pray in school, there’s nothing stopping you from teaching your child how to take a moment for silent prayer in school.  For that matter, your kid might even be able to get his circle of friends to say grace at the lunch table together.  Besides, you’ve probably heard the phrase already—as long as there are math tests, there will be prayer in school!  Most people in the workplace have to do the very same things if they want any sort of prayer in their workplace.  Teaching your kid how he may pray in school on his own will be a skill he can use throughout his life.

UPDATE:  Orycteropus Afer at Aardvark Alley has awarded this particular post an Aardie, the Aardvark Award for Raillery, Doctrine, or Intellect in Exposition.  I haven’t even had a chance to practice my acceptance speech (“I’d like to thank the Aacademy…”)!


At November 26, 2005 10:22 PM, Blogger Orycteropus Afer said...

Congratulations on a thoughtful, well-written post. It's been given props in Aanother Round of Aardvark Honors. If you desire, you may claim your Aardie at any time.


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