Tuesday, December 2, 2014

With Liberty and Justice for All?

one evening during the recent american thanksgiving holiday we sat with several relatives around our kitchen table.  somehow the conversation turned to the issue of prayers before high school football games.  one person said, "just because one atheist complains, all the rest of us have to give up pre-game prayers in the name of political correctness."  others agreed.  when my wife asked why there should be prayers before any athletic competition, another relative said, "we should pray that the players would escape injury."  i pointed out that these prayers didn't seem to work, since high school football players were always being injured, prayer or no prayer.  one couple felt that this "discrimination against christians" that is exemplified in banning public prayers at school athletic events was just an example of a societal prejudice against christians.  when my wife and i persisted in our position that the purpose of such prayers can only be to impose one religion's beliefs on everyone in attendance and should therefore not take place at a clearly secular activity, a tense silence prevailed for a few moments before someone introduced another topic.

as i reflect on this conversation, i am pained that the couple who played the "christian discrimination" card sincerely believe that the majority religion ought to be able to impose its will on the minority that follow other religions or no religion.  here in our part of the country, it's difficult for members of a religious minority to speak out against such a point-of-view, lest those who protest be ostracized or ridiculed.  the "one atheist" remark is typical of the attitude of many christians here; inherent in such a remark is the belief that non-believers are rare, and that the followers of religions other than christianity are not much different from those who follow no religion.  how must adherents of judaism, hinduism, buddhism, or islam feel when forced to be participants in christian prayers at activities where public prayer is inappropriate?  why do some christians believe that they have the right to turn secular events into opportunities to impose their religion on others against the will of those others?

may we embrace the multi-cultural, multi-religious society in which we live, a society that developed because children of the enlightenment struggled to create a system that prevents minorities from being tyrannized by the majority.  may we espouse tolerance and mutual respect for followers of all religions and for those who follow no religion, and may we acknowledge that none of us has the right to impose our beliefs on another.  shalom.

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