In the early 1960s I told my kindergarten teacher that I was Jewish, in the forlorn hope that I could get out of the round-robin manner of saying prayers in class. A shy child, I always froze when it came time to say the prayer, which always included the name of Jesus, our Christian savior.
Already a boy of the world, so to speak, despite my shyness, I was aware that there were those in this world who had nothing but contempt for folks of the Jewish persuasion, who weren’t quite “like the rest of us.” One friend of my family occasionally used the phrase, “ . . . back there with the Jews,” which to a five-year-old could have meant almost anything. But I did know this:
They didn’t go to any of our churches, so they they had a distinct advantage in this school prayers business.
It should be understood that at this point in my life I also believed that God was actually in the back room behind the church sanctuary, so we aren’t talking rocket scientist material here.
Nevertheless, my cunning plan worked - at least for a few days. Then my teacher, worried about my immortal soul - and possibly not pleased with how happy I was to be excluded from saying the daily prayer - called my mother, seeking her advice in the matter. Though the word “diversity” wasn’t in wide usage at the time, it was obvious what the poor woman had in mind, as she struggled to find a prayer that might include me, since we were Jewish.
“What?” my mother denied me as the cock crowed. “We’re not Jewish! We’re did you get that idea?”
Looking back on it now, the silly woman could probably have just taken any reference to “Jesus” out of the prayer in the first place and I wouldn’t had had any plots to hatch in the first place.
In 1963, the United States Supreme Court sided with Madalyn Murray O'Hair, and prayer was removed from American public schools. The very next day, most of our teachers began selling drugs during recess to augment their meager paychecks.
An entire generation was lost.
The year before, in Engel v. Vitale, the Court had decreed that Bible readings would be a thing of the past in public schools. Isn’t it odd how no one seems to recall that case?
I had one more brief - and potentially painful - experience with prayer in school, when we stayed with our grandparents in Liverpool, England, in 1964, and my sister and I had to attend the school at St Bridget's Church for a time. Several mornings a week we had to listen to a radio church service, and boys who acted up were taken to the headmaster’s office and given “six of the best.”
Even looking at a picture of the place - a school where nine year-old-boys had to read Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Donne, gives me the creeps today.
On the other hand, one of our history books had a really graphic description of drawing-and-quartering, so it wasn’t all bad.
Prayer in school? Why? Are they doing such a bad job of it in homes and churches?
I keep meaning to call area churches and ask how their remedial reading classes are going.
Shall I tell you about the elementary school kids who were sniffing glue on school buses in the early 1960s? Including some of my friends?
Or the rampant bullying which took place in every school I ever attended?
Or the casual bigotry?
Or the young people who would come to school with bruises all over them, and school authorities would look the other way, because interfering in the home just wasn’t the thing to do?
No, I won’t, especially if you are one of those who have boarded the “Bring School Prayer Back” bus, as if not only will praying in school solve all of our problems, but also believe that America lived in some sort of idyllic wonderland in those bygone days.
Ask those who survived, if you want to know the truth about prayer in school.
The Connecticut shootings and the moral bankruptcy of religious television
So this is a sort of non-scientific survey I have been carrying out over the past two weeks, so my impressions are not conclusive by any stretch of the imagination.
But they are pretty close to reality, sadly.
I watch Daystar on occasion, out of an odd fascination, but in the past days I have extended my reach to other stations, with just one question on my mind. How will these hard-right religious programs deal with the tragedy in Connecticut? About every half hour I flick through all of the usual culprits, seeking something, anything.
It is entirely possible that I have missed something important. But still . . .
These are programs which have not shied away from controversial topics before. Just a few days ago, I heard a passionate denunciation of “Obamacare” from the pulpit of a large church, and we are regularly warned against liberal influences.
Yesterday, I learned that the national Cathedral in Washington is not a “Christian” church.
And what have I seen and heard since the shootings?
Israel needs money.
If you “loan” money to God, you’ll get a lot more back.
“Obamacare” is bad for us.
God spoke to me last night, and told me how much you need to send my ministry, and for how long.
This is sort of unfair because I know that some shows are pre-taped, and yet I also know that special programming can also be produced - which doesn’t seem to be anywhere. It isn’t that they have baptized themselves in the River of Denial, but rather that suddenly they have all stopped in one place, hoping the subject will go away, until, perhaps . . .
. . . Images from the shootings can be worked into fund-raising appeals?
Quote of the Day
It would be a service to mankind if the pill were available in slot machines and the cigarette were placed on prescription. - Malcolm Pott, MD