The fray about prayer at Citrus County School Board meetings seems to consist of two mutually exclusive concepts. One can't use God against God. Therefore, I feel it is necessary to state my position, and what I believe to be the position of other non-Christians, as plainly as possible because we have heretofore not gotten through to the School Board.
Very simply put, it is not the wish or desire of most of us:
That an "us" versus "them" atmosphere be created.
That prayer be eliminated from school.
That God be absent from school.
That Christian children be discouraged from practicing their faith.
That the board be forced to believe in or agree with anyone else's path to God.
However, what we do desire is:
That we work together to address something that is obviously an issue.
That prayer in public forums not be limited to Christian prayer.
Acknowledgment that God is present in the lives of many in ways you may not know or understand.
That non-Christian children also be encouraged to practice their faith.
That you respect each individual's right to their own path to God, and be grateful for the values all religions instill in their followers.
Even more simply, we are talking about our children _ all of our children. I desire for my children the same love, compassion, courtesy and respect board members desire for theirs. The display Feb. 27 at Forest Ridge Elementary School only demonstrates the majority of families in Citrus County are Christian. However, as adults involved in the public educational system, you are enjoined to be concerned about the welfare of all children in the county. That means if only one student is non-Christian, that student's rights and sensibilities must be defended.
Hear this. No one is asking board members to deny their Lord. No one is asking them to not practice their faith. Jews, Hindus and Buddhists have no quarrel with Jesus. The Baha'is and Islam affirm the divinity of the Christ Jesus. Who has an issue here? As a resident, you are each entitled to investigate other faiths, or ignore them. As Christians you are forbidden to judge them (Matthew 7:1). As public servants, you are obliged to protect and serve all citizens, regardless of their faith.
Further, if Christian students are persecuted at school, I almost would be willing to bet that the persecution is not coming from non-Christian children of faith. The persecutors most likely are from families that identify with a Christian background and heritage, though may be non-practicing.
If Christian students are being harassed in such a manner, try to imagine what the non-Christian child is going through. Not only is she or he being harassed for being an individual of faith, but he or she also is being harassed by people who should know better (adults in positions of authority such as pastors or teachers, or other persons of prominence in the community, i.e., doctors and their wives) because he or she is a member of the "wrong" faith. I have never told anyone, especially a child, they are going to hell for their beliefs.
The behavior of the board is, in my opinion, very anti-Christian. I can find no biblical support for its intolerance and animosity. Perhaps it would be beneficial for members of the board to attend a few meetings of the Inter-Faith Council to find out how we can work with each other in a spirit of cooperation.
People of other faiths are not the enemy. They are striving to keep God in their lives the same as board members. They are struggling with public morality issues the same as the board members. They are attempting to raise their children in a faith-based environment within a seemingly Godless world, the same as the board members. In an attempt to preserve only one brand of religion, all religious principles will be weakened and our children will be left to struggle with the immorality of the world on their own.
If the board members continually target people who are not on their side as the mistaken enemy, they will leave a gaping wound into which decay will easily creep. When that happens, it will not have been the non-Christians who have allowed it.
God is huge, omnipotent, omnipresent. Please stop attempting to put him into a very tight-fitting, dogmatic box.
_ Jamie J. Cooper lives in Inverness. Guest columnists write their own views on subjects they choose, which do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.