I'm probably in for a world of backlash from some of my friends for posting this but the anger I feel as a human being, a Christian and a teacher over what is being said and agreed to is beyond the backlash. So let me apologize up front for offending people, because I know that I will and I simply don't care. This is my blog, my place to write about how I feel and right now I'm angry!
I've already written my response as a teacher and a person in general to the heartbreaking tragedy that happened at Sandy Hook Elementary. I've written how it broke my heart and made me angry but how I'm choosing a higher path in dealing with it and in living in general. I believe that this will better honour the victims, their families and God. But then I see the above video plastered on Facebook and YouTube. And I watch it. I watch because I am curious and because plenty of the people who quoted from it or shared it are people I admire and appreciate for the strength of their faith and morals. But I was so angry and insulted when I watched this. I almost wrote right away but slept on it, ruminated on it some more and found I was still angry and that this post was brewing in my head... so I NEED to get it out.
Let's break it down... The gentleman in the video (Huckabee) talks about the reason for the shootings and he believes it's because God isn't in the schools anymore. Um... isn't He? The Bible tells us that where we are, so is He: 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20.
I believe this. I feel this whenever I know that my brothers and sisters in Christ are with me anywhere. I don't think this passage refers to the times we are gathered in a church or Bible study only. I believe that wherever I go, God is with me and when I am where others are who also believe, He is there.
Then there is talk that because schools don't have instituted prayers on a daily basis, we are shooing God from our lives and cultures and that's the reason this shooting took place. Lord, give me strength and the right words because I simply want to scream at the ignorance and stupidity of that. Just because students don't stand in neat rows reciting a prayer they may or may not believe in, doesn't mean there isn't prayer in schools. I taught in the US for two years (I'm a Canadian teacher who works internationally) and prayer was VERY evident in that school. Several teachers gathered weekly to pray over the school and the students, and I know plenty of others who did so both in and out of the building on a much more regular basis. Just the other day another friend of mine teaching elsewhere in the US was on lockdown because an outside shooting incident was happening not far away. The students in that class were with another teacher at the time but when they returned, several of them reported to their teacher that they prayed for safety for themselves and their teacher. Personally, I pray every single day over my students and school (usually its as simple as a thank you for a great place to work and great kids to work with and please let me do my best there and with them today kind of prayer). So please don't tell me that prayer and God aren't in the schools.
There are plenty of countries around the world that do not have prayer or religious teaching in their public/government schools and they seem to get away with less violence than US schools. Check out this link to see a startling timeline of school violence in the 1990s. So, no, I don't think that having prayer and religious teaching in schools in the magic answer to school violence. I think we need to stop blaming it on someone and something else and start looking in the mirror. The United States of America is a world leader that sells the dream of "you can have anything you want" and celebrates their villains (from the ridiculousness of The Joker from Batman to Bonnie and Clyde or Al Capone) in the same breath. A society that's best selling films romanticize violence and crime (think Oceans 11, 12 and 13 - I enjoyed all three movies but when you think about it... the criminals are the heroes), thinks guns are the best way to protect yourself, and is by nature very litigious is bound to have issues. I'm sorry to say it, but those are the culprits, not the lack of organized prayer or religion in schools. Perhaps bringing respect, kindness, caring, communication, responsibility, thinking skills, tolerance, integrity and other such characteristics back into our teaching in schools would be more effective. Perhaps teaching how to deal with our emotions, defuse problems and handle conflict would be more helpful than memorizing a prayer. Perhaps setting higher standards and expectations for what we expect from each other makes more sense than simply telling everyone that prayer is the answer.
God gave us prayer as a way to communicate with Him on a daily basis. In fact, some have said that we should be ceaseless in our prayer and I love that idea of constant communion with your higher, spiritual Father (or however you see it according to your beliefs), but I'm not sure God meant that prayer was meant to be a mindless ritual recitation that is taught as some kind of voodoo trick to keep evil at bay. And I'm sad that so many people think that simply putting Christian prayer back in schools is what will keep children safe.
Do I believe in the power of prayer? Yes, yes I do. Do I believe that instituting Christian prayer in schools where children of all faiths attend is the right way to teach about faith and tolerance and love? Nope, I sure don't. I believe that we should all be allowed to pray wherever and whenever we want and that we should respect people's desire or lack of desire to do the same. I believe prayer is powerful but I don't think having it in schools in an instituted fashion would have stopped the man at Sandy Hook Elementary or any of the other violent criminals from doing what they have done.