Thursday, April 03, 2008

Thank the Great Spiritual Beings!

My brother was asked to say a prayer at his high school grad banquet in Saskatoon, SK. He eagerly accepted.

Then they gave him the "school board approved" prayer... if it can even be called a prayer. Check this out:

"In the spirit of humility we give thanks for all that is.
We thank the great spiritual beings who have shared their wisdom.
We thank our ancestors who brought us to where we are now.
We are grateful for the opportunity to walk this planet,
to breathe the air,
to taste the food,
to experience sensations of a human body/mind,
to share in this wonder that is life.
We are grateful for the natural world that supports us,
for the community of humankind that enables us to do many wondrous things.
We are grateful that we are conscious,
that as intelligent beings we can reflect upon the many gifts we have been given."

Gag me. Danice says he should just hijack the whole thing and pray something of his own. It's grad, he's finished school ... what can they do to him?

What would you do?


tankzilla said...

I guess it depends if anyone complains - if no one does, it'd likely fly under the radar. It's not an academic initiative, per se, but grad could be considered part of the "normal operations of the school" and if it was considered a disruption, then if they were being pissy about it, they could fine him $50 (Education Act, s. 367). There would be no real academic implications, but maybe detention or other non-academic implications?

Personally, I'd go for it. It's not actually a prayer unless you pray to someone/thing, and this prayer doesn't really seem to have either.

tankzilla said...

My advice to him if he wants to change it is to use this one as a framework and produce something similar, but meaningful.

Follow the spirit of the law, if not the letter ;) (bad pun intended)

Anonymous said...

Gag me, too. Danice is right. In any case, they have no business asking anyone to say some lawyer's notion of the politically correct so as to make it seem as though Daniel is praying. I dare say they meant to be helpful, but the end is manipulative and meaningless. I doubt even Shirley MacLaine would approve of this tripe. Furthermore, Daniel is obviously known and respected for his beliefs in his school--no one would believe these words come from him.

Beth said...

Anonymous, who are you?

Maxim G-J said...

I posted this on facebook as well, but I want to make sure it is seen:

On the other hand, since it's a public school, maybe he could just try to go with it and not offend anyone.

"Hijacking" this prayer is a great way to make what should be a positive experience for all into an "awesome" experience for some, and a negative experience for everyone else.

Saying a prayer at a high-school grad at all is already offensive to the many atheists that go to our school. By making it specific to a certain religion, it excludes even more people. School should be a place where everyone feels accepted.

I'm surprised at the people who see themselves as "loving" and "caring," and yet are so intolerant of other people's belief systems. Yeah, the prayer is badly written. That's no reason for Daniel to abuse his privilege and bully his fellow graduates. And yes, the level of uncomfort this would cause at high-school graduation, a time that is supposed to be special for all, would amount to bullying.

Beth said...

Hey Maxim,

I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be offensive with this post. The idea of "hijacking" the prayer was kind of joking and tongue-in-cheek... you know Daniel as well as I do, and you know he wouldn't do something that disrespected or alienated ("bullied") a large number of people, even if it was the end of school and he couldn't be held accountable. Neither would I. But it's good that you wrote what you wrote, because it might not be a good thing to joke about. Religious intolerance is a serious issue, and we probably shouldn't be so glib and treat it so lightly.

On the other hand, efforts for religious tolerance, no matter how well-intended, can become silly, and this is why I posted this... with the serious question "What would you do?" at the end. The people who wrote this 'prayer' were trying to be as inoffensive as possible. But as you pointed out, it is impossible to write a prayer that everyone can agree with, since atheists don't believe in praying in the first place. What ends up happening (as in this case) is that the prayer is empty of meaning, and reflects nobody's faith. You're right - people should feel accepted at school - but with a prayer like this, no one feels accepted, because no one is represented.

I think that's why the 'hijacking' idea seems better to some people... If you have to pray, maybe it's better to say something profound that at least some people can connect with, instead of praying empty words like these, that no one really connects with. But as you pointed out, this is not the best solution, because it's still exclusive.

I think it's good to seriously think about this ... why did they take the Lord's prayer out of school assemblies (which I think was a good thing, considering the schools aren't Christian schools, and no one religion should be given priority in this way), but they still have a prayer time at the grad banquet? It doesn't make sense. The best thing would probably be to give a moment of silence, so that people can pray their own prayers silently, or just sit and wait, if they happen to be atheists. I personally think this is the best solution. Or let people pray on their own, before they eat their meal, like they do in all other public places. Why should we expect there to be a time set aside for this at a public school gathering?

Anyway, I apologize again, Maxim, because I can see how you would have interpreted all of this offensively, and that wasn't my intention. Thanks for prompting all of us to think more seriously about this. I'm curious what you would do, as a Jew, if you had been asked to pray at grad, using this prayer? Any thoughts?

emily said...

Stanley Hauerwas was asked to do a similar thing and he prayed some prayer that actually pointed out how silly and meaningless it is to pray a generic prayer that "all" people will be okay with - it's printed in some book of his prayers somewhere, but I don't know what it's called. It's pretty tongue in cheek. If I were Daniel... I would either change it and pray a respectful and loving prayer but to the specific Christian God (b/c it wouldn't come from him to pray to anyone else, would it?) or I would decline and give them my reason, or I would offer to give a blessing of some sort instead, maybe. Good question.