Friday, June 17, 2011

Religious Division

NPR and I are tight. If I was telling someone this in person I would cross my fingers and maybe even kiss them to express how tight we are. During graduation season I heard a news report about a high school senior that wanted to say a prayer at her commencement ceremony since she was the valedictorian. Because we need to make news out things that are not always news worthy there were political commentaries on the controversial speech. One expert witness stated " well, religion is always divisive..." and as he continued, my mind drfted and proceeded to get all worked up.

Why is religion divisive exactly? If this commencement speaker stated that she was going to pray, does that actually force others to do the same? Does that actually change the beliefs of someone in the audience? Would an atheist suddenly say...OH! So THERE IS A GOD! No. What it provides is a moment for the girl. The girl that is charged with the giving the speech. It brings me to my next question, is religion divisive or is it people? Recently I was teaching a group of freshmen about Islam when I realized that they have never lived in a world without the "war of tara", oops....I mean terror. They don't remember life before 9-11. They don't know anything about the images of Arabs without machine guns and of course the proverbial t-shirt that says MUSLIM. Consequently, I have students that began sentences such as, "so you know how all Muslims are terrorists...." And then after discussing that thoroughly another student states, "well most of them are." Really? 1.5 billion people all out to the the United States...we really are a super power! We have super powers from outer space apparently. As a nation we have ingested kryptonite. But I digress...

God is not the divide. God is not responsible for the atrocities of humanity. Don't blame God. I normally wouldn't think of myself as the individual marching on the steps of the capital chanting "allow prayer in schools" because well I don't anyone tell the children what to believe but rather school is meant to teach the children to think. To question. To investigate. To synthesize. And eventually to defend! To declare! To share! But really, don't pollute my NPR with bizzaro blanket statement propaganda about God or religion. Pretty sure, the commencement speaker didn't damn everyone to hell at the conclusion of her speech and thus it was a moment of reflection to be thankful for a celebration.

For me, humanity is interconnected. Faith is one. I could continue to rant. I could argue for religion or for God. For peace. For justice. For freedom of speech.  Instead, I will end with this:

May the Lord bless you and keep you,
May the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you.
May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace." 

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