Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Lord's Prayer

Have you ever noticed that some things that sound like a good idea, but end up being stupid. Like the time your sister told you to climb up the slide and jump off holding a pillowcase for a parachute. Sounded like it would work, sounded like it would be fun, but in reality you were lucky to escape without breaking your leg. Or the time your youth pastor read in a youth magazine that it was really cool to pour lighter fluid on a mirror and then ignite it, because it gave a cool double 3D effect (yes, I really was dumb enough to do this), and the actual result was a rather frightening flash that made everyone jump and no one noticed whether the 3D effect was cool or not, because you were all trying to prevent your eyebrows from being burnt off.

I have another one for you: Dennis Kruse, senate education committee chairman, is attempting to push legislation which would require Indiana public schools to recite the Lord’s Prayer at the beginning of each school day. On first read many Christians would say that that sounds like it might be a good idea, but let's pretend just for a moment that it is passed.

Which version of the Lord's prayer are you going to use? The one from the old English Book of Common prayer that uses trespasses? The one from the King James version of the bible that uses debtors? The one agreed upon by the National Council of Churches as the ecumenical version that uses sins? What about the shorter version in the book of Luke? And which ending are you going to use: the protestant one or the Roman Catholic one? We will have one kid trespassing, another debting, and a third sinning, while half the class is going on forever and ever. Will the teacher say, "let us join together in the Lord's Prayer" or "the Our Father"? You see, as Christians we can't even agree on what to call the prayer.

And that, my friends, is just the easy questions -- we haven't really delved into theological debate. What are we going to do about inclusive language? Are we going to assume that everyone is okay with the idea that God is Father? Are we going to ignore feminist voices that have reminded us that God also has characteristics of Mother? Or will we choose the gender neutral term Parent?

And then there is question on the line "deliver us from evil." Many authorities point out that the Greek actually appears to be better translated as "deliver us from the evil one." So are we going to ask for deliverance from evil people, or from Satan? There is a rather important difference.

The problem with the idea, and with the whole prayer in school debate is that people forget that prayer -- even one as common as the Lord's Prayer is deeply theological -- in other words it takes a very distinct religious position. What we believe shapes the words we choose when we pray, so much so that some denominations refuse to pray with people of other denominations. On the surface, it sounds petty and rather arrogant to refuse to pray with others, but on further examination it should serve as a reminder to us that prayer contains doctrinal statements that we may or may not want forced upon our children.

Of course, Senator Kruse has included the opportunity for children to opt in or out of participation. Right. Like that will work. Children are like herds, and if any one child tries to act differently than the herd, they get picked on, called names, and ostracized. As if we don't have enough of a problem with bullying now, lets bring back religious bullying because that will definitely cut down on school violence.

It may surprise you to hear a pastor suggest that school prayer is a bad idea, but that is exactly what I am suggesting. Imagine that you live in an area where the religious majority is different that your own -- do you really want your children to be forced to pray their prayers? I don't. The history of government sanctioning of religion is that religious people end up being killed. Sure, if you happen to be in the majority it sounds like a good idea, but what if you aren't. Think about it. It is rather like trying to parachute off that slide, or lighting a mirror on fire -- someone is going to get hurt.

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