Thursday, December 27, 2012

Taking God out of Schools

Many commentators, including ordained Baptist minister Rev. Mike Huckabee, have attempted to link the shooting spree at Newtown Elementary School in Connecticut to the government "taking God out of schools."  Many on the right wing have picked up on that theme, apparently referring to the landmark 1962 Supreme Court cases Engle v. Vitale and Abington School District v. Schempp, where the court ruled that mandatory prayer and Bible readings in schools violated the establishment clause of the 1st Amendment.

The lessons of Scripture reveal to us a God who is omnipotent and omnipresent.  In particular, Psalm 139 says this:  "Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend into heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, you are there; if I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you." So we cannot flee from God's presence, because God is present wherever we flee to.  God is present and powerful even in the darkness, even in the public school where "God has been banned."

The lessons of Scripture also reveal to us a God who is not impressed by flowery prayers at football games or NASCAR races or over the school intercom system.  Christ Himself taught us this about prayer in Matthew 6:   “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.  And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."  There is no virtue in public prayer, and certainly no Scriptural basis that encourages us to impose prayer on others.

So as Christians, it seems to me we should reject the notion that government has somehow "removed God from schools," because it is bad theology.  The God we claim cannot be banned from any place.  As the prophet Amos says, God hates our feasts, and despises our solemn assemblies as practicing our piety in public.  The world will not know us because we require the world to pray our prayers or observe our holidays, rather they will know us by our fruit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

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