I belong to an e-mail list that purports to be about dance. In particular, it's purpose in the world is to inform interested folks in the community about the dates, times, and locations of opportunities to get out and dance (swing, west-coast swing, salsa, night-club tango -- stuff like that).
Yesterday's post, however, was somthing completely different. It reminded me of some of the things we get on Facebook -- and of other things I generally consider spam. I wound up respnding to the fellow who sent it in a way that was pretty honest, but may yet get me evicted from the list But, doing so made me realize that this is one of those things that I'd like to discuss with thoughtful people... so I'm tossing it out here.
The email I received said this- in all sorts of fancy fonts and big letters which I'll spare you:
"BY A 15 yr. Old SCHOOL KID IN ARIZONA
New Pledge of Allegiance (TOTALLY AWESOME)!
Since the Pledge of Allegiance and The Lord's Prayer not allowed in most Public schools anymore because the word 'God' is mentioned..... A kid in Arizona wrote the attached
NEW School prayer:
I sit me down in school
Where praying is against the rule
For this great nation under God
Finds mention of Him very odd.
If scripture now the class recites,
It violates the Bill of Rights.
And anytime my head I bow
Becomes a Federal matter now.
Our hair can be purple, orange or green,
That's no offense; it's a freedom scene..
The law is specific, the law is precise..
Prayers spoken aloud are a serious vice.
For praying in a public hall
Might offend someone with no faith at all..
In silence alone we must meditate,
God's name is prohibited by the state.
We're allowed to cuss and dress like freaks,
And pierce our noses, tongues and cheeks...
They've outlawed guns, but FIRST the Bible.
To quote the Good Book makes me liable.
We can elect a pregnant Senior Queen,
And the 'unwed daddy,' our Senior King.
It's 'inappropriate' to teach right from wrong,
We're taught that such 'judgments' do not belong..
We can get our condoms and birth controls,
Study witchcraft, vampires andtotem poles..
But the Ten Commandments are not allowed,
No word of God must reach this crowd.
It's scary here I must confess,
When chaos reigns the school's a mess.
So, Lord, this silent plea I make:
Should I be shot; My soul please take!
If you aren't ashamed to do this, Please pass this on..
Jesus said, 'If you are ashamed of me, I will be ashamed of you before my Father.'
Now, I totally understand that the whole debate about whether or not to keep the prhase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance really gets to some people, I struggle with getting stuff like this in public forms. I finally gave in, and responded to him...
These are the thoughts I shared (which, of course, I've edited slightly for you all, because, well... I coudln't stop myself). (I have neglected to go through and point out the factual errors in the lines of the poem that are inaccurate reflections of the state of the law.)
Got your thing about the Pledge of Allegiance --- didn't want to respond to the WHOLE group, but I find myself compelled to respond. Here are my thoughts:
First --- about the pledge of allegiance it self.
The pledge of allegiance, when required at any public school, becomes a State Action (legally speaking). The United States Constitution clearly separates Church and State, and prohibits us from making any law (or from any State Action) that discriminates on the basis of religion, or impedes any one's right to freely practice his or her religion
Even though the majority of U.S. citizens may well be Christian, this is NOT a Christian nation. This is a nation which allows complete freedom to each of us to practice our own religions, whatever they may be, so long as doing so does not violate any other law (e.g. ritual sacrifice of live oxen in the middle of the public streets is likely to be forbidden).
The pledge of allegiance (which was written in 1892) did not contain a reference to god anywhere until 1951, when the Knights of Columbus added it to their verson of the pledge. Over the next few years, there was a push to get that phrase change added, and in 1954, the change was affirmed by congress. (Historical note, the phrase, "of the United States of America" was also not part of the original pledge). It started as a truly non-denominational statement of patriotism, and not of religious afflilation or persuasion. The original pledge reads:
I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
-- Taking the phrase "under god" away again now, as our country is so openly home to peoples of so many religions, seems more in keeping with the original premise upon which we built this country than does keeping it there.
Not every patriotic American is Christian. That's been true from the beginning. Furthermore, not every religion worships a deity which (who?) is referred to as "God". Some religions are polytheistic -- they recognize more than one god -- and many goddesses. To these, the statement "under God" is blasphemous.
Just as we are all allowed to worship our own deities... we are allowed to NOT worship. Forcing an atheist to say "under God" is forcing a religion on him or her -- which would be, well, against the Constitution. I consider it a patriotic act to uphold our constitution. Seems like the time when we make a statement affirming our patriotism ought to be a time when we uphold the Constitution.
We do not require anyone to swear on the Bible in court for just these reasons.
I don't think ANYONE is prohibited from praying in school -- the public schools, however, are not allowed to define a time or form for prayer, because doing so would constitute a state action, and thus would violate the constitution. If you want to say grace at lunch, no school employee will prohibit you from doing so (even if some of your peers may tease you).
I then went on to address that closing line about passing the thing on if I'm not ashamed to do it. I'm not ashamed to do it. I am, however, a little embarrassed.... because I find things like this feel like diatribes against everyone who is not a certain kind of Christian. Heck, Jehovah's Witnesses objected (and sued -- and won) to a requirement to say the pledge bacause to them, they were being asked to put the country above God -- pledging the flag was seen as a kind of idolatry.
So, as I told the person who sent me the email, I'm not ashamed of my faith -- but I don't necessarily think it's anyone else's business -- certainly not to the extent that I find it appropriate to proselytize in open forums.
JESUS didn't teach that we should go out and force things down other's throats. Nor did He teach that we should wear our faith like a badge of honor. He taught us to love one another, to be kind, and gentle, and generous, and to forgive one another.
He did not teach us to condemn each other for our choices or our failings, but rather to offer a consoling, forgiving hand to help each other up.
I think the posts like the one about the kid who wrote the poem about the Pledge of Allegiance should be shared with those who have ASKED for them, and who find them heart-warming. But I worry that they tend to alienate good people when sent to those who don't share the sender's beliefs. In fact, they alienate me -- even if I do share the sender's beliefs, because they seem to be saying "is your faith as good as mine" or even "my faith is better than your faith" ...
And then there's the part where I think it's wholly inappropriate to assume that everyone on ANY list-serve (yahoo group) that is devoted to something as wide reaching as a dance group shares your religion, your faith, or your approach.
In the end, I asked whether there is there any way to take me off the list of folks who get posts that can be read as saying "I believe in Jesus and if you don't (and maybe even if you don't believe enough, or in the right way) you're wrong" without losing access to the Dance information? We'll see what he says.
In the mean time, what do you all think of that kind of email?