In the wake of the tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, I’ve seen tons of commentary on Facebook and Twitter about prayer in schools. There is a vocal group of people who proclaim that this event happened because we’ve taken prayer out of schools. I’ve bitten my tongue for a couple of days about this, but I just can’t anymore.
No one has taken prayer out of schools. There is prayer in schools all day, every day. Many schools begin the day with a moment of silence, when everyone can pray as they like. Students pray before tests all the time, in whatever manner suits them, and to whatever higher power they believe in. They can talk about their religious beliefs, out loud, and that’s OK.
What’s not OK is state-sanctioned forcing of a certain type of prayer on all students. Our government has not said you can’t pray in school. What is has said, however, is that you cannot force kids to pray, and that you cannot force them to pray to a God they do not believe in. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I look at many of the Christians I know who are crying for a return of praying to “their” God in schools, and I think about what would happen to them if, for example, they had to move to a Muslim country for work. If they enrolled their kids in school, then found out their kids were forced to kneel and pray to Allah, they would flat-out lose their minds. If that scenario is not OK, then neither is forcing a diverse population of public school students in America to pray to a Christian God.
Besides that, what exactly are we expecting prayer in schools to do? Form some magical force field, or a protective bubble, around the buildings? That’s not how prayer works. Just thinking good thoughts, or asking for the right stuff, or remembering to say “thank you” does not protect anyone from the realities of the world. There are bad people at Christian schools, and bad things happen there. There are good people at secular state schools, and good things happen there. Simply praying or being a “good Christian” doesn’t give you a lock on an easy, trouble-free life here on earth.
If you want to make an argument that tragedies like Newtown happen because society has turned its back on God, faith and family, then go right ahead. You can make some good points for that. If you want to argue that our country glorifies violence, sex, and a lot of other bad stuff, instead of glorifying Christian values, then have at it.
And do you want to help prevent tragedies like this, starting right now? Then stop talking about prayer, and start spreading love. Stop judging, and start listening.
But don’t you dare say that 20 sweet children and six good school employees lost their lives because we don’t have prayer in schools. Because to do so is simplistic, immature, and downright hurtful.