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.