Usually, when I link to an advice column, it’s because the advice-giver said something so completely wrong, it’s deserves mocking. When the advice column is written by a religious figure, the odds of that happening are even greater. (Think Rev. Billy Graham‘s column.)
But Rev. Jason Peterson, writing for the Algona Upper Des Moines newspaper, had such a fantastic response to the question “How should Christians approach the question of school prayer?” that it’s worth our attention. Instead of arguing about those damned liberal hippie Communist atheists who took prayer out of our schools, Peterson gives us proper background on the issue and offers a very reasonable approach for Christians to follow:
… Interesting to note is that it is not only atheists or religious minorities who oppose school-sponsored prayer. Rather, many Christians actually oppose prayer in the public schools as well, usually because they do not desire that their children be led in prayers which might contradict the doctrinal position of their church…
In the wake of the school prayer prohibitions, there then occurred an overcorrection of sorts. Many citizens who were uninformed about the legal reasoning involved began to mistakenly conclude that all religious speech and action are forbidden in public schools. On the contrary, courts have consistently held that it is acceptable to read various scriptures as world literature or to describe religion in the context of history and the social sciences.
Of course, in such an emotionally-charged topic as religion, there will be occasions where the rules are abused, manipulated, or ignored, but Christians should resist the temptation to engage in such tactics. Instead, the Christian is called to defend their rights as a religious citizen, while at the same time doing so in a legal, ethical, and non-malicious manner.
The first step should always be to seek to work with the school and its officials to ensure students’ rights are protected, and even if such efforts fail, to pursue the defense of their rights without spitefulness or a desire for revenge, but instead in the interest of protecting the liberty of their neighbors and community.
The only thing I wish he would’ve mentioned more explicitly is that atheists, often blamed for the false charge of removing prayers from public schools, are not trying to take away Christians’ right to pray. We’re only trying to stop the overreach of religion, like when teachers or administrators attempt to proselytize to students.
Still, what a pleasantly rational response from an unexpected source. I’d love to see more pastor advice columns like this one.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)