Friday, December 17, 2004

Christmas with Mustang's Angry Christians

{Revised 12-19-04. Separated TV comments (bold type) from prepared comments (regular typed)}

I just finished my first interview on National TV news. FOX News asked me to comment on the uproar in Mustang, Oklahoma over the removal of the "live" Nativity scene from a public elementary school's Christmas play.

Christians in Mustang are suing the school district for discrimination because the play mentioned Kwanzaa and displayed a Menorah while the nativity scene was removed. Right-wing religious rabble rousers are complaining that, "political correctness" and a pervasive "secularism" is taking Christ out of Christmas. To show that they are not going to take it any more, residents of the city took it out on their kids education. They voted down a school bond issue.

The interview went so fast that I cannot remember the sequence of questions and answers. Frankly, until I get some more practice at this, I'm finding it much more comfortable to speak into a microphone and listen through a headset in the radio studio than to speak to a camera and listen through an ear plug at a TV studio.

I did get something from three of the four points that I wanted make on camera. In bold print below is an approximation of what was said on the air. Some of the bold is what I had prepared to say (who knows what I actually said? I can't remember and I did not manage to get the program recorded). The interview was conducted live at 10:30 AM CST. Though it was slated to be part of FOX's series about Christ being taken out of Christmas, it did not air in later segments of that series. They substituted a different story out of Florida.

The News anchor (Bridgette __?__) introduced the topic and asked the other guest what he thought was happening in Mustang. That guest replied something to the effect that there was a "systematic" effort across the country to remove Christ and Christian symbols from Christmas.

Then the news anchor asked me something about whether I was hearing a lot about such controversies. I said something to the effect that we were hearing a lot complaints this year and then launched into the major point I was trying to make:

"We need to dispel the myth that Christ was expelled from the public school Christmas program in Mustang, Oklahoma. The children sang "Silent Night" which repeats twice that "Christ, the Savior is born" and repeats twice "Jesus, Lord at his birth.

The people in Mustang are complaining because their children could not stage a dramatic visual climax to a play that was designed to give dramatic emphasis to one faith -- the Christian religion."

Then the news anchor asked me, "If the school can display Menorahs, what's wrong with a nativity scene?

I responded, "The children were acting-it-out. They were role-playing the nativity scene. That would have been too much for a public school."

Our constitution does not permit the government or its agencies, and public schools are agencies of the government, to elevate one faith above another or treat people of minority faith as though they were second-class citizens.

Then the news anchor said, somewhat exasperatedly, "This is not the issue we wanted to talk about. . . . It's Christmas. I just think it's natural to conclude with a nativity scene."

In regular type below is the full text of the comments I hoped to make on the air. There were four points that I was trying to make:


1. We need to dispel the myth that Christ was expelled from the public school Christmas program in Mustang, Oklahoma. The children sang "Silent Night" which repeats twice that "Christ, the Savior is born" and repeats twice "Jesus, Lord at his birth."

Frankly, those are affirmations that I hold, but it is not the mission of public schools to teach children the doctrines of the Christian faith. It is the responsibility of the churches to be teaching the articles of faith. Mustang has more than twenty churches. The Christians there need to focus on providing religious education in their churches rather than expecting the public schools to do it for them.

2. We need to dispel the myth that Christians are being persecuted in our public schools. Most of the instances I hear about Christians being persecuted are really examples about Christians no longer being permitted to dominated the stage and school or takeover the public square.

In Mustang, people are complaining because their children could not stage a dramatic visual climax to a play that was designed to give dramatic emphasis to one faith -- the Christian religion.

If public schools are going to talk about religion, they need to see that each faith gets faith and equal treatment. They cannot give token mention of minority faiths while providing catechisms and Sunday School lessons for the majority faith.

3. The First Amendment was designed to protect the rights of minorities.

Our constitution does not permit the government or its agencies, and public schools are agencies of the government, to elevate one faith above another or treat people of minority faith as though they were second-class citizens.

4. We need to practice the Golden Rule. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Some statement of the Golden Rule, either positively or negatively, is common to all faiths. It is not a controversial value. If everybody would practice it, we could put an end to about 90% of these church-state cases.

I'm a Baptist preacher. I am a "born again" evangelical Christian, but it is high time that evangelical Christians start practicing the Golden Rule and living our faith instead of trying to make a show of it and forcing everyone else to play a role in our show.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bruce, that was great! Congratulations. It is very nice to see your voice out there.

Carlos

greg said...

Well done, Bruce. I wish I'd seen it.

Eric Lee said...

Wow. Amen! Your words are rather sobering when I've been hearing so much of the opposite from the mainstream news lately. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Bruce, but I disagree with you...if you were in Budapest, would you expect to see a Christian play? No! Well, this is America...a CHRISTIAN nation and as long as I can remember, we have emphasized the birth of CHRIST at CHRISTmas...that is why we have it, after all. I attended public school in the late 50's and early 60's and we had devotions and prayer everyday! We did not have nearly the problems that occur in this day & time. It is definitely time for Chritians everywhere to stand up and say enough is enough! We are taking a stand for Christ! This can be done with love and conviction at the same time!

Anonymous said...

Sorry Bruce, but I disagree with you...if you were in Budapest, would you expect to see a Christian play? No! Well, this is America...a CHRISTIAN nation and as long as I can remember, we have emphasized the birth of CHRIST at CHRISTmas...that is why we have it, after all. I attended public school in the late 50's and early 60's and we had devotions and prayer everyday! We did not have nearly the problems that occur in this day & time. It is definitely time for Chritians everywhere to stand up and say enough is enough! We are taking a stand for Christ! This can be done with love and conviction at the same time!

jeshua said...

Please continue to make your voice be heard. Christians really do need to spend more time SHOWING others what it means to be Christian rather than TELLING them. Christians would never want to live in a state where they had to bow to the whims of a dominant religion that wasn't their's...so why do this to others. When I was little, I went to an elementary school in Salt Lake City ...as a Christian, not a Mormon. Mormonism certainly made itself known in the public schools and it was often confusing for me when I was little. I was taught that the church and the state were not the same. This is not what I experienced.

Dr. Bruce Prescott said...

Dear Anonymous,

I encourage you to read the entries about patriots and pioneers under "American Colonial Baptists" in the Baptist History section of the Mainstream Baptist website.

Here'a link:
http://www.mainstreambaptists.org/mbn1/american_colonial.htm

A little Baptist history can go a long ways toward dispelling the myth that America was designed to be a Christian nation.

Grand Moff Texan said...

if you were in Budapest, would you expect to see a Christian play?

Yes. Have you been to Budapest? I have. Christianity is far older there than it is here.

Anonymous said...

THank you!! Finally a voice of reason...please don't let the early 80's happen again, that would be a disaster.

http://www.theocracywatch.org/av/liberty.wmv

Anonymous said...

Grand Moff and Anonymous, You guys need to relax. Can't you read?? This story, like so many others over the last 25 years, has been completely distorted. The nativity scene was NOT banished. This is a matter of the Christian Coalition fabricating an issue to generate anger over a non-existent issue. The real issue is that they are trying to funnel more and more federal vouchers to infiltrate public schools. We've already seen what that leads to..Abstinence education that teaches children they can contract HIV by having someone sweaty arm accidentally rub across their skin! Come on people, this is book burning all over again. We did this already in the 50's and the 80's.

Anonymous said...

I really just have one point to make...and it is this:
the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States explicitly states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. Quite simply, the Congress has NEVER made a LAW respecting the establisment of religion, be it Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or any other. Furthermore, Congress has no right to prohibit the free exercise of any religion. As such, I fail to understand why public school students are seemingly now forbidden in many places to display their (and their family's) spiritual beliefs. I suspect that in the majority of instances, it is merely an expression of one's faith, and not meant as a derision of other faiths. Personally, I am a Christian (Catholic, actually), and I am married to a most wonderful woman who just happens to be Jewish. We totally respect each other's beliefs and celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas. Love of one's family and neighbors should know no boundries, regardless of one's deeply personal spiritual beliefs.

Rob said...

Dr. Prescott...let me say that though I'm not a Christian, I have more respect for your point of view and your faith after reading this one post on your blog than I've had in the last year of having "evangelical Christianity" rammed down my throat, especially since the election.

If only more people did practice the Golden Rule!

Honestly, I've been pessisimestic about faith for a long time, but an example such as yours makes me think I may have harshly misjudged Christianity.

As to Anonymous (the one preceding this post)...the 1st Amendment has been long interpreted as prohibiting the government (and by extension any government/government funded entity) from endorsing any particular religion...overtly or tacitly. Thus the restrictions on certain religious performances in public schools. Does this get carried too far sometimes? Yes...but the trend I have seen throughout my life is that the silly calls for stamping out all mention of religion/faith in places like schools come when the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of these places getting too overtly religious. Balance between allowing personal affirmation of faith and at the same time not having an institutional bias in favor of a faith is the necessary component of making things like these successful and fulfilling for all without being offensive to anyone. In other words, I respect your right to practice your faith...just don't be pushy about it. :)

Lou Mohr said...

Since you are "President of the Oklahoma Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State" you know that there was no intent by the founding fathers to kick God out of government. Many of them said that government without God will not work. It was the establishment of a state religion that we fear. Separation of church and state is a recent construct of the Supreme Court and not a basic tenet of this countries laws and government. Let the kids put on a play for cryin' out loud. You may be a Mainstream Baptist, but you're no mainstream Baptist.