Ah, Facebook! The place where all kinds of people go to post pictures of the meal they’re about to eat, and share all kinds of ideas, even bad ones. Today a friend sent me a link to a petition request: “Put Prayer Back in School.” As a retired teacher, and a fan of prayer myself, I decided to visit the site to see how the drive was going. I discovered that backers of the petition were just over halfway to a goal of 200,000 signatures.
What would this change accomplish? Simple:
“IF PRAYER IS PUT BACK INTO SCHOOLS KIDS WOULD BE BETTER AND DO BETTER IN SCHOOLS[.]”
Sounds good to me! Maybe we can even drop all the expensive standardized testing if this works! (We certainly know standardized testing isn’t working). Unfortunately, like so much of what passes for conservative philosophy in the early years of the 21st century, it’s more “wishful thinking” than a serious attempt to come to grips with complex issues.
First of all, you can’t stop anyone from praying in school if they want to. If a teacher sits at her desk in her third grade classroom and in her mind forms a thought: “Please Lord, keep all my students safe today,” that’s prayer in school, is it not? If a young boy recites “The Lord’s Prayer” to himself, God (if He exists) will hear.
That’s how it works. Or so we’ve been told.
Indeed, if a seventh grade girl hasn’t studied for her history test, she can pray to her heart’s content: “Dear Lord, please unleash a storm of locusts and drive us all from this temple of learning.” You never know. It could happen. And it can’t hurt. (Pascal was right about gambling on the existence of God). If the locusts don’t come, you’re no worse off than before.
The big problem, when people talk about prayer in school, is that what they almost always mean is their kind of prayer. They say, for example, “Let’s put the Bible back in school.” History shows that they can’t even agree on which version to use.
So, you go to the petition site for guidance and find comments like this:
John Gbla: I agree with this petition. Society is suffering from moral decay. We need to go back to nature and meet with our first love to understand the essence of our being.
Mr. Gbla’s kindly sentiment garners 572 “likes,” but it’s not long before you begin to sniff the odor, not of fire and brimstone, but intolerance in the comments of others:
Greg Jeppson: I wish that Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance to our Flag was (sic) brought back in. If Muslims can pray why cant we (sic). Why do Americans disregard their history because it offends some one else. (sic)
LeAnna Turner: Whoever allowed Muslims those rights should allow Christians their rights. And as Christians, we need to stand up and let our voices be heard. The other religions have no problems speaking out and getting what they want done. In some way, this has been done to Christians because we have allowed it.
Jose’ Mercado: As a retired teacher of over 30 years…I have seen a great change in kids. When I started we were allowed to pray and as the years went on it disappeared. It was called separation of church and state but actually it became separation from God! I did see a great difference when we used to pray for our kids and fellow teachers and now you see the consequences of taking Jesus out.
Finally, a contributor goes straight to the point:
Janice Spears: I would love to see Christian values returned to our schools.
She garners 170 “likes.”
A voice of reason interjects and poses a question for Spears:
David Miller: What “Christian values” are you referring to exactly? It’s wrong to kill? Cheat? Steal? Rape? I have news for you, honey, those ideas and others aren’t unique to Christianity, it’s called being a decent human being. It’s pretty arrogant if you think morality is singular to religious belief.
This brings a rather un-Christian response:
Tyson Garza: @David Christian values you libertarians know nothing about and should just as well join a mosk to pray with the Muslims even at your age you can see the difference in school and children today because of what you lack of faith had achieved… so find God or get bent!!! (sic)
It’s the start of a theological donnybrook! Jimmy Stull, an avowed atheist weighs in, saying he doesn’t want his kids to have religion forced down their throats. Not all the religious folk are happy:
William Larry Stockton: get rid of the muslems (sic)
Ruth Ann Sargent: David MillerDavid and Jimmy something has happen in your life we have no control over,you had better get rigt with the Lord, before it’s to late or your going to be like the rest of these idiots out there.. God Bless! (sic)
Pamela Benton: Yes the Muslims kill there little girl Babies if they don’t want them.. Just throw them in the river, let them drown. NO ONE Cares over there.. But I think it is Sad.. (sic)
Walter Terrell: Jimmy Stull REad And Study the Koran , The Haditth, and Mohammed’s, life I did for 8-10 years, It is Violent and Brutal , I have 2 close Muslem friends that are either CLULESS to their own so called religious Doctrines , or Blatantly Practicing TAQUIYYA , Taquiyya defined = use lies and deciet in any way possible to promote the spread of Islam…(sic)
Terrell continues his little diatribe; but you get the idea. Apparently his “close Muslem friends” are all liars.
Ruby Jean Roberts: @ Jimmy Stull…”most atheists like myself have read and studied the Bible”. So, you HAVE read the Bible, and you HAVE studied the Bible. How much time did you spend in it? Are you STUPID or just obtuse? You blatently said you “reject God”, well, Jimmy Stull, oneday you WILL stand before your Creator, you see, you are not an accident, God chose you or you wouldn’t be here to write this. How long have you been studying Muslim? Budda or whatever? None of them died for you Jimmy Stull. There is one God and one Man between us and God, our Mediator, Jesus Christ. And oneday, EVERY (including you) KNEE WILL BOW AND EVERY TONGUE CONFESS THAT JESUS CHRIST IS LORD. (sic)
So… that’s how it goes on this petition site, where the point is to put God back into public schools. The religious ideas—and the anger—fly. I’m tempted to ask one of the biggest fans of the Bible if he’d be comfortable, in a state like Utah where Mormons are the majority, if teachers substituted the Book of Mormon when it came to “prayer in school.” Or, could a Muslim teacher bust out a good old “Allah Akbar?” I decided it’s probably not worth it to ask.
In any case, I left the site without signing the petition. In fact, I think this is why they “took prayer out of schools” in the first place.