Tuesday, March 23, 2004

One Nation, Enriched by Biblical Wisdom: "The lesson I draw from all this is that prayer should not be permitted in public schools, but maybe theology should be mandatory. Students should be introduced to the prophets, to the Old and New Testaments, to the Koran, to a few of the commentators who argue about these texts.
From this perspective, what gets recited in the pledge is the least important issue before us. Understanding what the phrase 'one nation under God' might mean -- that's the important thing. That's not proselytizing; it's citizenship."

I continue to like David Brooks, and I agree that theology should be taught, but I have to disagree with his other conclusion here. Granted, I'm biased because I am such a religious person, and according to some (including my own mom) I'm fanatical about it at times.

My problem is, I firmly believe that the intent of the Founders in writing "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." was not to keep religion out of public life, but exactly the opposite. It was to allow everyone, both publicly and privately, to practice whatever form or religion he wanted, and to whatever extent he chose.

More than that, I maintain that this is still a good premise. We should not have organized prayer, under any circumstances, but the right to pray in school should not be limited in any way. As it stands right now, many public schools in this country have abolished the moment of silence to prevent prayer. I've heard stories (maybe urban legends, but maybe not) about students who have knelt down, or even just bowed their heads before a test, maybe crossed themselves, and been reprimanded, even suspended for such behavior. It's a scary prospect for me that God is being forcibly removed from public life. Is it so terrible that many of us continue to pray for God to bless us, and for God to bless America? There's a reason Yale still sells banners that say For God, For Country, and For Yale. Right or wrong, religion is a source of inspiration, of encouragement, and of hope for a better life. Isn't that what America is all about?

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