just be it It’s about the work involved in establishing a dedicated practice to feelings of a bigger belonging through practices aimed at increasing feelings of compassion, gratitude and forgiveness

The Public School Prayer Problem

Published on 28/03/16
by randy


In 1971 the Supreme Court came up with the Lemon test after the Lemon vs. Kurtzman case. It laid the following as criterion for prayer in schools:

1.Must have a secular purpose;
2. Must neither advance nor inhibit religion; and
3. Must not result in an excessive entanglement between government and religion.

I maintain that whoever can crack this nut will win the next presidential election and I have a way to do this. Our democracy and capitalistic economy crumble when we inhibit the spiritual element of our life journey. The secular purpose for respecting and honoring that which is bigger than our own selfish interests is peace. When we practice the Golden Rule we’re motivated to care for one another, to offer a deeper stewardship to the gift of just being, and to recognize the interdependence of all things and beings. When we limit ourselves to rigid thinking, attacking diversity, accentuating fear and greed through violent rhetoric and persuasion technique, we freeze our growth. Our current government system is frozen and I suggest it can be thawed through the re-introduction of prayer. This is not a prayer specific to a religion. It’s not a linguistic petitionary prayer to a personal god. And rather than entangling government and religion, it will offer the deepest respect to the need for shared common sense as we face a rapidly changing world.

Here are a few quotes from our founding fathers and a couple contemporaries about the necessity of bowing to that which is bigger than us:

I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that “except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing governments by human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.

I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service.

Ben Franklin

Give up money, give up fame, give up science, give the earth itself and all it contains rather than do an immoral act. And never suppose that in any possible situation, or under any circumstances, it is best for you to do a dishonorable thing, however slightly so it may appear to you. Whenever you are to do a thing, though it can never be known but to yourself, ask yourself how you would act were all the world looking at you, and act accordingly. Encourage all your virtuous dispositions, and exercise them whenever an opportunity arises, being assured that they will gain strength by exercise, as a limb of the body does, and that exercise will make them habitual. From the practice of the purest virtue, you may be assured you will derive the most sublime comforts in every moment of life, and in the moment of death.

Thomas Jefferson

I think human history, for the most part, has been a cycle of hatred and revenge and indifference and callousness to the weak and vulnerable. But we’re experiencing an awakening. That’s what happens in America. Right when America is about to go under we get a spiritual and moral awakening.

Cornell West, 60 Minutes interview March, 2016

I believe that in the twenty first century we have to be open and must not put anymore ideological differences in front of the best solutions.

Mauricio Macri, President of Argentina, 60 Minutes interview March 2016

[I]f we and our posterity reject religious instruction and authority, violate the rules of eternal justice, trifle with the injunctions of morality, and recklessly destroy the political constitution which holds us together, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us that shall bury all our glory in profound obscurity.

Daniel Webster

So when the constitution was written almost all of the founders had a Christian tradition. As the world has grown smaller through migration, global trade and education, we’ve come to see better how we language the Divine. No doubt, there are those who believe it’s their religious duty to convince others to believe what they believe. Any attempts to persuade another to a religious belief would fail the Lemon test. Yet, can’t we argue that any attempts to deny a time of spiritual communication inhibit religion? So how can we solve this problem?

Just as ‘how’ we language our various religions has resulted in most of our conflicts and threatens our world today, moving to prayer without language can be our best chance for healing and touching peace. Indigenous cultures recognized this power for centuries. Silent, collective breathing creates that unified space for the Divine to bubble up. It lines up to a place that’s bigger than our hopes and fears. We can touch a real faith to that which is supporting us in ways beyond the thinking of our small minds. It’s a space that readies us to communicate with one another for a stewarded ‘joining’ rather than attacking one another in survivalist ‘separating’. The ancient Hawaiians referred to the Christian mission workers as ‘haole’, translated as breathless. They referred to them as ‘those who prayed without breathing first’. Traditionally, they recognized the aligning, humbling power of collective, silent breathing before uttering words.

Today our government has been captured by big money and special interests that fail to carefully examine harm caused from their positions of belief. We’re facing a time where the power of listening and silencing the mind have appeared to have lost favor. I tend to agree with Cornell West that America is on the verge of a spiritual and moral awakening. The politics of attack, hatred and greed have been accentuated through the rhetoric of our current political campaigns. As a populace, we’re following the lead of our elected officials, refusing to deeply listen to one another for common sense.  We’ve lost our in faith that Divine Providence that will produce a bigger, better solution. We have to be open to the limitations of language and the need to move beyond our ideologies, high ideals and noble thoughts. Our spiritual work is to offer “caring and kind attention to our breath, our children, to the trees around us, and to the earth with which we are so interconnected.” (Jack Kornfield). In his book A Path with Heart, Kornfield writes:

When we listen as if we were in a temple and give attention to one another as if each person were our teacher, honoring his or her words as valuable and sacred, all kinds of great possibilities awaken. Even miracles happen. To act in the world most effectively, our actions cannot come from our small sense of self, our limited identity, our hopes, and our fears. Rather, we must listen to a greater possibility and cultivate actions connected with our highest intentions from the patient and compassionate (Divine) within us. We must learn to e in touch with something greater than ourselves, whether we call it the Tao, God, the dharma, or law of nature. There is a deep current of truth, no matter what happens, our actions will be right. p. 300

Our founding fathers inserted this in the end of The Declaration of Independence and referred to it as a reliance upon Divine Providence.

So I challenge us to find our grounding once again through shared, silent, collective breathing and close with a poem written by a child immediately after 9/11:

For Our World

We need to stop.
Just stop.
Stop for a moment
Before anybody says or does anything
That may hurt anyone else
We need to be silent
Just silent.
Silent for a moment
Before we forever lose
The blessings of songs
That grow in our hearts
We need to notice
Just notice.
Notice for a moment
Before the future slips away
Into ashes and dust of humility.
Stop, be silent, and notice
In so many ways, we are the same.
Our differences are unique treasures.
We have, we are, a mosaic of gifts
To nurture, to offer, to accept.
We need to be.
Just be.
Be for a moment
Kind and gentle, innocent and trusting,
Like children and lambs,
Never judging or vengeful
Like the judging and vengeful.
And now, let us pray,
Differently, yet together,
Before there is no earth, no life
No chance for peace.

Mattie Stepanek, 9/12/2001

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