In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I am an atheist. Anyone reading my tweets will have figured that out long ago. I have no particular animus toward religion -- it's just that I don't see any compelling evidence for the existence of a god and, as such, there's no reason to pretend to pledge life-long fealty and obedience to some invisible, paternalistic sky wizard. I still get along with most believers, including my family and co-workers, but every so often an incident crops up that makes me wonder how much believers really practice what they preach. To be sure, we have plenty of examples here in Indonesia, but the one currently on my mind happened in the good ol' US of A, land of milk, honey and freedom.
Jessica Ahlquist is a teenager in Rhode Island who was involved in getting a prayer banner removed from her public high school. That in itself is remarkable -- she showed more guts and self-confidence, not to mention knowledge of the Constitution, at age 16 than the vast majority of high school students past, present or future. She argued, quite correctly, that a public school has no business promoting religion, even if the majority subscribes to said religion. As their way of thanking her for the timely refresher on the separation of church and state, Christians near and far have been spreading their special brand of love Jessica's way.
This is turning the other cheek? This is loving thy neighbor? This is doing unto others as you would have them do unto you? Read these reactions to Jessica asking to have the same rights as every other US citizen and tell me that's What Jesus Would Do. I note from the Facebook avatars that these individuals are not all teenagers, whose stupidity can be excused by the fact that they're, well, teenagers. Many of them are adults -- grown individuals who are allegedly at least partially educated. Oh, and don't forget this person, who clearly wins at life.
Thankfully, the many threats against Jessica and her family have proven hollow (idle threats on the Internet? The hell you say!) and she's suffered the slings and arrows with grace and good humor. She's even flung a few projectiles back in the opposite direction:
That's so well-struck, I'll even forgive her putting two spaces after the periods. [removes copy editor hat]
Many people have told me that they are opposed to the Prayer’s removal because they’re of the Christian faith. Well that argument has no standing for a million reasons, but here is my favorite:
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.Even Jesus says not to shove your religion down the throats of others. And yes, that’s exactly what this is. It doesn’t matter that we aren’t forced to recite it. It’s still there, entitled “SCHOOL PRAYER”, and plainly displayed in a public school. You’re wrong legally, and according to your own scripture. So please, FOLLOW YOUR OWN RULES.
What's that you say? Those people saying those vile, hateful things aren't REAL Christians? Sorry -- that argument doesn't work for Scotsmen, and it doesn't work for you, either. Besides, it's not the people on the receiving end of the threats to whom you should be directing your protestations. It's those compassionate, caring Jesus lovers who are making you look bad:
Between this and the enlightened response to #GodIsNotGreat trending on Twitter (41:30 mark of the podcast), I'll have no end of material the next time some Culture Warrior tells me I should pity the poor, put-upon Christians of America.