Saturday, 08 January 2011
Do you feel that prayer should be put back in public schools? ...Do you feel that mandatory Christian prayer should be in public schools? Or would you be all right with Christianity, Islam, and any other religious groups having their own prayer times in public schools as long as prayer is not mandatory?
Here is my answer:
I don't think it matters much if prayer is allowed or forbidden in [public] schools. I don't think Christians ought to demand it be allowed either. If a Christian is demanding prayer be allowed in schools I would venture to say they potentially are putting the American ideals of "equality" and "freedom of religion" above fearless faithfulness to God. They may be putting American ideals above kingdom ideals. I'm not saying that freedom to practice religious liturgy is wrong or not worth pursuit but that isn't a Christian ideal. It is an American ideal. It'd be nice but I'm not convinced it's entirely possible. I'd rather see Christians seek the kingdom and see how that works out. Fortunately, we have an example in scripture of how believers ought to address the legalization or the forbidding of prayer.
In Daniel 6 we read about a great man of God named Daniel who was faced with a situation in which he had to deal with the conflict of illegal prayer. Daniel certainly didn't demand prayer to be legal or accepted when it was outlawed for anyone to prayer to Yahweh. He just prayed. He prayed at predictable times and in a known place. It was no secret to his adversaries (who coaxed the king, who loved Daniel, into creating the irreversible law for the exact purpose of getting Daniel in trouble) that he was breaking the law. Not only did he rebel against the laws of men and refuse to fight the absurd law but he was one of the most powerful men in the government! He had more pull with the king than anyone else and yet he accepted the law and acted against it. In doing this he, like the apostles later on, held to the truth that he "must obey God rather than human beings" (Acts 5:29).
Daniel's situation was far worse than the potential "banning of prayer in schools." He faced death for praying to Yahweh. Nothing happens to students who pray. Nothing. At least nothing happened to me or any of my friends and I've yet to hear from a first hand source that something has happened to a student who prayed in school. If something does happen, it's not serious. Well, not as serious as being thrown into a den filled with lions. If it is this serious, praise God for the world declaring itself the world and the faithful servants of God declaring themselves as such! Also, he has clearly proven himself able to protect his faithful ones in such times. Persecution is not something to fear (1Peter 3:14). We're called by God to be faithful and to obey him and not men. The rules of men are basically irrelevant. If they compliment the way of God then we are obedient to them and if they go against the way of God then we rebel against them in holiness just like Daniel.
I don't put much stock in the American ideal of freedom of religion (see my post Rethinking Freedom of Religion). Again, I'm not saying it is bad but I just don't believe it is possible and I don't think that is necessarily something to mourn. I believe that type of peace among men is only possible through Christ and inside his kingdom (see my post My Struggle with Political Involvement). Everyone getting along is a nice thought but it is simply impossible in a sinful world. A government can not please everyone and should not try (for that is not the purpose of government). It is my belief that the U.S. is often attempting to please everyone. Tolerance seems to be king a lot of the time. Christians, in contrast, should be concerned with pleasing God. Christians in the U.S. are often too focused on having "rights" instead of seeing all good things as gifts from the Father. Rights don't matter. Not really. Not for the Christian. Not for the sake of protecting them from persecution anyway. We're not entitled to anything (see my post Replacing Gifts with Entitlement). We've never been taught to fear or fight against the possibility of persecution. Perhaps we flee at times but that's it. If we're fighting for the legal right to pray then we are misguided or cowardly or both. At least, that's my currently leaning.
At the end of it all, it doesn't matter if prayer is allowed, forbidden, or demanded. Christians are merely concerned with being a faithful witness to Christ. That includes praying no matter what the surrounding circumstances may be. Instead of fighting for rights let us simply fight to be faithful. Let us fight against the evil powers that attempt to keep us from being faithful by actually being faithful instead of pushing papers in front of government officials. Scripture tells us it pays to suffer for doing what is right (1Peter 3:13-22). We are not told in scripture that it is good or right to fight to get our way or to have government permission to live out our faith. Rather, we are instructed to live rightly and endure whatever consequences that may bring us. In it all, we praise God. Just like Daniel.
What are your thoughts on prayer in schools? Have you ever participated in a school-sanctioned prayer? Does prayer in schools need to be legalized in order for Christians to pray at school?