Thursday, December 8, 2011

Does Prayer Force Anything on Christian-Phobics?

Here, an e-friend, whom I love as a Christian sister (and who has frequently indicated that he likes being "lambasted" with replies and comments), expresses the emotional reaction of an ex-Christian going through an atheist, Christian-phobic phase:

As Donald Pennington knows, I'm no fan of Rick Perry...but not because Perry is one of many people who have objected to Christian-phobic policies that interfere with audible, visible religious observances by students in public schools.

On the ground of freedom of speech, if on no other ground, I think we have to support children's right to voice their thoughts and feelings about all sorts of things, including religion. I think parents need to warn their children that whatever another child blurts out about his or her faith does not necessarily have much to do with either what that child's parents have tried to teach him/her, or what that child is likely to believe when s/he is old enough to begin to understand what his/her religious doctrine actually teaches...or even what that child believes now (kids don't always have the vocabulary or the cognitive ability to verbalize what they mean). But I think more harm is done by hushing children than by allowing them to blurt.

When I was a young college student, a school in Bristol, Virginia, came under fire in the national news media for allowing a teacher to lead a prayer and Bible study group during recess time. I remember a conversation in the Bristol bus station in which someone pointed to me as obviously the youngest person present: "You're from Gate City? You went to school in Gate City, didn't you? Did anybody ever stop you from praying?" No, the absence of formal religious study groups led by a teacher never prevented me from praying. Then again, if I had been speaking to other students, in a casual conversation or in a meeting of an organized group, and had felt moved to utter a prayer, nobody would have tried to stifle me with a whine about how that was violating their rights, either.

Also, back then, I thought it was both hilariously funny and depressing-if-one-tried-to-take-it-seriously that anybody would ever look back on the Carter Administration as "good old days"!

At that time my family were in the minority of Protestants who reject all celebration of Christmas. Christmas was celebrated at my school; I was actually kept home on the day when the rest of the class drew names to buy each other presents. I couldn't be kept from participating in concerts where the school band and chorus performed Christmas music, though, and it never occurred to me to whine that my rights not to observe Christmas had been violated. I did onstage what I later did when I was allowed to be in a Muslim family's home during their prayers: I stood still and silently prayed for peace and good will among people who are seeking the truth on different paths. I think that this option presents no problem for anybody who is not suffering from pathological Christian-phobia.

Although Donald Pennington likes to be "lambasted," there's no comment section below his article, for good and sufficient reasons. I'm praying for him to be able to work through his emotional issues as smoothly as may be possible. I believe that all real Christians who read his article will be doing the same.