The Politics of Prayer

priest

One thing I've never understood is the controversy religion inspires. After all, when you look at the biggies -- Christianity, Judaism, Islam -- don't all three share the same core values of a belief in a deity that is bigger than what we see in front of us every day? Of goodness and good works that come from caring for our fellow man? And isn't it people, not the religion itself, that always seems to get in the way?

Here in Missouri, an amendment to protect the rights of Christians to pray in public passed overwhelmingly. Apparently, some felt they were under attack because they can no longer open public meetings with a Christian prayer. It's an interesting argument given that 80% of Missourians are Christians.

Our school (a private school) had a similar concern. And a traditional grace that was said before lunch was changed to a non sectarian one. And here's the key. They did it without involving all of the parents. At first, that rubbed me the wrong way but then I thought about the controversy a move like that might have inspired. The basic purpose remains the same. The children still pause for reflection and offer gratitude. There is still a moment of silence when an individual can say a traditional prayer to himself. But no one is forced to pray to a God that isn't their own.

Maybe that's the way to change the world. Start at the kids' level. Let's teach them that religion is a private matter. Separation of church and state is one of our country's founding principles. No one can ever take our right to pray away. Nor should they.

Of course, any time a vote like this comes up in a tightly contested election year like the 2012 Election promises to be, I immediately think "wedge issue!" This could galvanize the base and likely will. And upon closer "reflection," isn't that what it is ultimately about? Religious freedom is already guaranteed in the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution. Which begs the question of what is really going on here? As I've said before, maybe we all need to pray that we can get the religion out of politics!

This post is part of a weekly conversation with our Moms Matter 2012 political bloggers. To see the original question and what the other writers have to say, see Do States Need Right to Pray Amendments?

2012 election, islam, religion, politics