I have never understood the popular Christian viewpoint that god should be in schools. The debate about the separation of church and state is the number one way Christians in America like to sabotage their own cause. Why isn’t it more obvious to them? If you have followed my story you know that I once traveled in a Christian group that challenged this separation daily. I know firsthand that for many students across our nation, no such separation exists.
For the latter part of my high school career I was a devout Christian. I brought my bible to school. I prayed around the flag pole once a year. I prayed before eating my lunch. I attended weekly Fellowship of Christian Athletes meetings. My friends and I participated in open discussions about faith. And no one ever challenged me on any of this. I had complete freedom to worship how I wanted and when I wanted. I could even speak the name of Jesus in science class if it had been relevant to the discussion. It never came up.
Of course, my teachers couldn’t do that. Staff could not teach anything religious or lead students in prayer. I doubt I would have been allowed to stand up and lead my Psychology class in prayer, either. I don’t think I would have wanted to. I knew that I would also never be required (or heavily persuaded by authority) to pray to any other god. Or be subjected to another religion’s teachings. The limits on what I could do only existed when it meant I was pressuring others to participate in some way. It protected me, too.
You may ask, “Who cares if someone leads a Christian prayer outside of a voluntary Christian group? Can’t people simply choose not to participate?” Yes. That’s what I would do, and it wouldn’t offend me. I am subjected to ideas outside of my belief system every day and from every direction. But where do we draw the line in our schools, where children can be heavily influenced by authority figures? Most of the time we are talking about Christianity, so as you decide where you stand on that- always consider the scenario as if it were a religion you object to. Because when you say yes to one religious prayer, you are saying yes to all of them.
Most Americans identify as Christian. Within those numbers lie a wide variety of denominations and thoughts on god. How much religious education do you want for your child? The loudest voices protesting a lack of god in schools are the same ones who will yell the loudest when their children are taught something different. Maybe a different version of hell. Maybe a Muslim prayer. Perhaps a Satanic verse or two. Do you really want teachers to be able to freely share their faith with students? Do you even want students leading classroom discussion and prayer on their version of god? What will they say about the Christian god of the bible? Even if you somehow manage to acquire the unconstitutional dream of teaching only from the Christian bible, I assure you there are no less than a million things to disagree about.
Honestly, if I thought for a second that all viewpoints could be presented equally in the classroom? I would say let’s do this thing. But since that isn’t possible, maybe we should save world religion class for a time when our children’s reasoning skills have developed a bit more. Or when they are adults and have a choice. Don’t get me started on Christian objections to the ungodly forces at play in higher education (also known as “information that exists outside the compound”).
When this argument is brought up in America, the assumption across the board is that we are talking about Christians. Think about what that means. It means we are so far away from the scenario where another religion dominates our culture that Christians can’t even imagine how mixing church and state could backfire. Of course it would be the Christian god invited daily into the classroom. He’s already there. And in spite of this truth, many Christians would go a step further and proclaim themselves persecuted because it isn’t more official.
In high school I had three friends who practiced a different religion from me. One was Jewish. One was Mormon. And one practiced Hinduism. But fuck those kids, I guess. Something tells me it wouldn’t be the first time they received that message.
Christians are not underdogs. We live in a country with complete religious freedom, and Christianity still reigns as king. You can pray and read your bible publicly. You can go door to door spreading the word. There are countless places of worship in my town, and on Sundays I can turn on my TV and explore a wide variety of Christian sermons. People are still afraid to “come out” as unbelievers to friends, family, and coworkers. Politicians must present themselves as Christian, and will even be measured by how true their faith seems. People are pretending to be Christian. No one is pretending to be an atheist.
There are many Christians who believe they are under attack by a godless nation, and yet they have all the freedom in the world to make their case for god. What are they doing with that freedom? Sabotaging themselves. They are drawing lines in the sand. They are acting like schoolyard bullies; demanding no limit on their power over others, even when it comes to raising our children. They are building walls around themselves to keep others out, and inspiring those inside to escape.
The only Christians being persecuted in America are the ones who follow their faith with humility and embrace their freedom to worship freely. Those Christians who should be the face of Christianity are slowly becoming extinct. Victims of their own kind.