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Oct 8

Written by: Greg Runyon
10/8/2009 8:16 AM 

I read a story recently, which you can read by clicking here, about a bunch of cheerleaders who were told to stop putting religious verses and whatnot on the banners they display at their public high school football games.  There is now, not surprisingly, uproar from the holier-than-thou among that community.  The mayor, for one, said, “If it’s offensive to anyone, let them go watch another football game.  Nobody’s forced to come there and nobody’s forced to read the signs.”


How Christian of him. Want a bunch of evangelical-style Muslims preaching to your precious children down at the football game?  I’m guessing not.  How ‘bout some Satanists?  Don’t care for it?  Go to some other football game.  Ass.


Now look, I’m what I would call “spiritual but not religious.”  You might call me a heathen; shan’t bother me a bit.  You do your thing and I’ll do mine.  What gets me is this:  I’m guessing these same people would be apoplectic—apoplectic!—if someone were holding up banners with quotations from the Quran or the Talmud. 


In the Biblical book of Luke, we find the gem, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  That’d be yer Golden Rule right there.  That’s smack-dab in the same book from which they’re getting their banner material.  Am I the only one who sees the irony there?  I dunno, maybe if you wouldn’t care much for having someone else’s scripture shoved in your face at an otherwise secular event, perhaps the decent thing to do would be to keep yours to yourself, too.


I suppose that’s my general philosophical problem with evangelism.  It presupposes that there is a right way and a wrong way in which to be spiritual.  More to the point, it presupposes that I am right and you are wrong.  Problem is, there ain’t-a-one-of-us on this earth who knows for sure.  That’s why they call it faith.


Not a damn thing wrong with faith, religious or otherwise.  It can be a great comfort.  But the key admission in the concept of faith is belief without proof.  So we’re all just making our best guess as to the proper way to worship our God, or if She even exists.  In this country, we’re all free to make those choices on our own.


I’d have no problem with the banner display were the school involved a religious academy, as opposed to a public school.  If you elected to be educated by a private religious school, one would suppose you’d have no problem with such verses on display pretty much everywhere.  This is a public school though, and there is no place for proselytizing there.  That’s one of the very foundations of our nation, not subjecting others to government-sanctioned religious beliefs.  Don’t give me a bunch of freedom-of-speech-First-Amendment hoo-ha, either.  Both the freedom to say what you want and the freedom from state-sponsored religious promotion are covered in ol’ Numero Uno, so you can’t just take the part of that Right you want while disposing of the other. 


One might argue that the cheerleaders were not agents of the state with their signs, and as such ought to be able to express themselves freely in this regard.  I’ll grant you that they probably aren’t acting at the behest of the government.  However, if you’re offended that their conduct has been halted, just ask yourself—again, this is the key—how you’d feel if they were holding up signs with verses of a religion other than yours.  While you’re pondering your answer, remember one other thing:  The answer “I wouldn’t care,” comes awfully easy when you are in the majority, and you’ve got like-minded pals all around you.  Would you feel that way were you the lone Christian in a football crowd full of Jews while banners with scripture from the Torah were displayed by cheerleaders?  Remember, you’re all by yourself there.  Feelin’ pretty alone now, aren’tcha?  Why do that to other people?


It really just comes down to being nice to your neighbor, which to me ought to be at the very heart of religious practice anyway.  This ought not be such a stretch for people who claim (often with a great deal of fervor) to be Christians.  “Christian,” to me, implies (or ought to) a kindness toward others. 


We live in an age of great freedom.  With freedom comes great responsibility.  One of those responsibilities, at least in my mind, is being respectful of those who don’t share your beliefs, religious or otherwise. 


Feel free to put that last statement to the test.  Comment below.


6 comment(s) so far...

Re: Cheerleaders Causing Problems

So then should the lines in the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" where George Bailey wishes people and places a "Merry Christmas" be changed to "Happy Holidays" so that we are respectful of those who aren't Christians but want to watch the movie? Just curious what your thoughts on that might be?

By Loretta Welsh on   10/8/2009 4:57 PM

Re: Cheerleaders Causing Problems

To me, wishing someone a Merry Christmas is different than promoting "Bible verses (and) urging fans and players to 'commit to the Lord.'” The message in the former is akin to "have a nice day." The message in the latter can too often be translated as "you're wrong if you don't believe what I (and all these other people sitting around you in the stands who are going along with it) believe."

Also, "It's a Wonderful Life" is a movie. If you don't care for the message, shut the blasted thing off, or walk out if you're in a theater. Now, to me it's not terribly fair to say you should not attend your child's football game if you don't care to have the cheerleading squad try to convert you to their faith. That's not the appropriate venue for proselytizing.

If an individual were to wish me a happy Hanukkah or a peaceful Ramadan (or whatever the correct pleasantry would be), I'd be delighted, despite the fact that I don't partake in those holidays. If a large group were doing likewise, I'd probably be a bit more nervous. No one wants to feel like they're apart from the crowd.

It's simple civility, and being aware of how our actions impact others. None of us is infallible on this point. The thing that got my goat about this story is how, when it was pointed out that maybe it wasn't appropriate, instead of doing the Christian thing and being reflective about the way they were "Do(ing) unto others," the response from the mayor of the town was essentially "shove it." Not cool.

Just for the record, It's a Wonderful Life is, in my opinion, one of the best movies ever made. One of the best character names of all time is, without a doubt, Clarence Oddbody.

By Greg Runyon on   10/8/2009 4:55 PM

Re: Cheerleaders Causing Problems

Well said sir, now open your billfold and hand over all the cash that says "In God We Trust"...:)

By Loretta on   10/9/2009 7:54 AM

Re: Cheerleaders Causing Problems

I don't deny that there is an interesting dichotomy in regard to "In God We Trust." On the one hand, the founders of our nation sought to keep the state and religion separated, and on the other, they put a nod to a diety on the money.

Look, let's be realistic about this: This nation was founded by people with religious conviction, generally of a Christian bent. What they were not too keen on was being told by someone else, specifically in this case their king, how to worship.

As this country has evolved, and accepted the tired, poor, huddled masses of immigrants from all corners of the globe who have sought freedom, things have changed somewhat vis à vis this country and religion. I'm not sure the Founding Fathers could have envisioned the breadth of religions now worshiped here. Scientology would probably have set their hair on fire!

Regardless, if you believe like I do that religion ought to be based on kindness to others rather than "I'm right and you're wrong and you're going to burn in hell for all eternity," then we need to be respectful toward others and accepting of their differences from us, and that includes not shoving our opinions (because religion is nothing more than a belief system, which is an opinion, not a fact) in other people's faces.

No one knows until they're dead whether they were right about their belief system. I believe in a loving, forgiving God. Others believe in a God who is pissed off at us, and believe that it's their job to do God's pissed-off bidding. I believe that neither God nor Jesus would care much for people being unkind toward one another in their names. Others believe that it's their job to make everyone conform to their belief system. Am I right? Are they? None of us will know until it's too late.

What I do know is that I, for one, can try (I will fail at times, but I am committed to trying) to be kind and respectful towards others, even if I believe they are wrong. Reasonable people can disagree and remain friends, but to do that you kind of have to be nice to each other. I don't think the people in the article that started this discussion were sufficiently concerned with being nice to people who don't share their beliefs, but that's just my opinion.

By Greg Runyon on   10/9/2009 8:31 AM

Re: Cheerleaders Causing Problems

And that is exactly why you and I are friends. We agree to disagree on points and poke fun at our differences but would never be malicious or forceful of our views and opinions on each other. Thank you again for another insightful blog. Now...that SHOULD be the last word! No seriously...that's all that needs to be said Greg! Stop, I mean it. Dont' make me come back there and throw my W.W.J.D. bobble head at you!

By Loretta Welsh on   10/9/2009 9:45 AM

Re: Cheerleaders Causing Problems

(Very well-put Uncle!) Adding to Greg's statements, I also can state with a fair certainty that the "In God We Trust" statement was somewhat meant to be left to interpretation. Now, to be fair, it is true that most founding fathers would have meant this to be a Christian God. However, they were also pioneers in acceptance and freedom, and who is to say that this statement cannot be applied to any religion present in our country today? Must it only be a Christian God? I do not see why any Muslim, Buddhist, or other faithful person must put their trust in a Christian based statement made 145 years ago simply because Christianity was the most common faith in the U.S. at the time.

By Dana on   10/9/2009 9:45 AM

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