..If He were in our schools…

Yesterday afternoon, I woke to the news of yet another school shooting. My initial reactions were much like many. I thought of my own daughter, now in third grade. What if this happened in her own school? There’s nothing that prevents someone from walking from the front to the back of the building, shooting everyone in their path. Her classroom is the third one you come upon while walking through the academy. I thought of my own friends with Kindergarten-age children. Such babies still with their whole lives ahead of them. I wondered what would motivate someone to open fire on 20 innocent lives.

I paged through my social media feeds and found references to the lack of gun control, the lack of social control and, most disturbing, the lack of God in our public schools. “If God were allowed in our (public) schools, this would have never happened,” people wrote. “When God was taken out, Satan was let in!” But, did these people who felt this way really sit and think about what they were saying? Was this considered from a broad perspective or a narrow, knee-jerk reaction to a rather emotional event? Would having God and prayer openly allowed in elementary schools have actually prevented a grown man from entering a school and killing children? Did prayer in the school it prevent it from happening at West Nickel Mines School six years ago?

school-prayer1What IF we had prayer in school again?

Well, let me first explain my own background. I grew up attending three separate Catholic schools from first to sixth grades. I attended church each Friday and kneeled to pray the Rosary, say my Hail Marys and say the abbreviated version of the “Our Father” along with everyone else at my school. Each Mass was almost identical, like a rehearsed skit. I took Communion with the rest of my class and drank from the communal wine chalice.

Thirty years later, masses still remain the same in structure. The pattern is universal and predictable nationwide. I’ve attended Catholic churches in Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Minnesota, Tennessee and Wisconsin and the hymns, prayers, schedule of the service and closing actions are all the same no matter where you go. It is the nature of the Roman Catholic Church.

My father’s family, here in Arkansas, is Southern Baptist. Now, I’m sure you can imagine the culture shock I endured with each Christmas visit to my paternal family. I had no idea how to answer the questions as to whether I’d been saved. Saved from what? Catholics don’t believe in being saved. Catholics do believe in resurrection, however. I wondered what my grandmother was in her past life. This, of course, was a foreign concept to my Arkansas family. I was horrified one Sunday morning at my grandfather’s church when I witnessed a full submersion baptism. For a brief moment, I was convinced they were drowning the poor 10-year-old girl. I was also confused. I thought baptisms only happened in infancy.

One evening, while visiting my Baptist side of the family, I was asked to lead the dinnertime prayer. Having only been taught Catholic prayers, I immediately led everyone into a round of “Hail Mary”. My grandfather looked up from his hands and his blue eyes turned almost white. They always turned a lighter shade when he was concerned or furious. Embarrassed, I trailed off with “now and at the hour of our death, amen.” I had no idea how to pray like a Baptist. I made the sign of the cross to myself and ate in silence.

In 1995, I started dating a Lutheran (Wisconsin Synod) and attended church with him sporadically. The services were admittedly similar to what I had become accustomed to in my twenty-one years, but when it came to the Lord’s Prayer, I stopped with “and deliver us from evil..” but the congregation kept going… “for thine is the kingdom…” I wasn’t familiar with that portion of the Prayer. Was I not taught that? Then, it dawned on me that in the Catholic Church, the priest finishes the prayer, not the congregation. Again, I made the sign of the cross to myself, as I had rehearsed throughout childhood. I was the only one who did.

A relative of mine recently proclaimed that everyone needed Jesus. Everyone. “Even my Jewish friends?” I asked. Everyone. “Even my Buddhist friend? My Muslim ones?” Everyone… Her only response was “Everyone needed Jesus”. Certainly, if someone insisted that every Christian needed a Muslim figure in their lives, such a statement would not be as acceptable.

And so, we come to the topic of religious instruction in schools. Mandatory school prayer in the public school was ruled unconstitutional in 1962, when most of the Baby Boomer generation was still in Junior High or High School. Since, we have become a less segregated society. Things that were taboo are no longer. We have welcomed most other cultures into our society with open arms rather than discriminate against them.

If we were to reintroduce prayer (which, admit it, is a form of religious education) into our public schools, what form of prayer would be used? Would your Catholic daughter be asked to recite a Baptist prayer? Would your Jewish child be asked to have Jesus watch over them? Would the Muslim child in the same school be asked to pray the Hail Mary? How would one regulate or even come up with a single prayer to “God” that would not alienate a single student in a melting pot society?

The Constitution, nor our Government was not built upon our faith in God. The phrase “One Nation Under God” in our pledge was not adopted until 1942, at the height of our involvement in World War II. This was nearly 200 years after our Constitution was drawn up. “In God We Trust” started replacing “E pluribus unum (One of many)” in 1956. It was added to coins nearly 100 years prior. The phrase “In God We Trust” was originally a part of the Star Spangled Banner, which was written during the War of 1812. Again, it was not part of our Constitution and was many years before we started becoming the multi-religous melting pot that the country is today.

Second, is the public school, a government entity, where you feel that your child should be taught one of the most intimate of personal beliefs when even within religions, each family has their own doctrinal views? We as a society frequently claim that we do not trust our government. If that is so, then how can we, as a society, trust our government to instill our children with and guide our children in the religious direction we want? Why do we want a federal and state government to teach our children how to pray when so many wars throughout history have been about religious doctrines? Is this really what we want our country to do?

I didn’t think so.

If you want the school to teach your child your personal religious beliefs, then enroll them in a school designed just for that purpose. Don’t make Muslim, Buddhist, Pagan, Catholic, Baptist, Jewish or even Athiest-raised children pray the way and where YOU feel is right.


About gespurr

I was born in Southwestern Louisiana and has moved over 20 times in her life through nine different states. I spent most of my life in Minnesota, where I met my husband and had my only child. I graduated from Stillwater (MN) High School in 1992 and from the University of Wisconsin in 1997 with a BS in Journalism. Three years later, I met my husband, George, and we married in 2002. Our daughter, Kathryn, was born early in 2004. I relocated to Arkansas in 2005 after being away for 30 years. I currently work as a customer service representative for an insurance company and live in the Little Rock metro. When not taking care of her daughter she is either cooking, working, cleaning house, sewing, gardening, knitting, crocheting hiking, traveling or spending time with her husband.

Posted on December 15, 2012, in Current Events and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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