The Journey 176: No School Prayer
Read; Joshua 24:1-15
The June 25, 1962: It was this day fifty years ago, that , the Supreme Court of the United States declared that having prayers in school as unconstitutional. Justice Hugo Black in the ruling stated that "a union of government and religion tends to destroy government and to degrade religion." Hence the banning of the public prayer in schools. The statement of the ruling is a very apt. But on the contrary Justice Potter Stewart, who was the lone dissenter, said that "To deny the wish of the school children to join in reciting a prayer is to deny them the opportunity of sharing in the spiritual heritage of our Nation." This decision soon brought another decision. Next year, the high court ruled that you can't read the Bible in the schools – for devotional purposes – but they explicitly said that objective "study of the Bible or of religion" is to be allowed in schools. But ultimately many schools eventually threw the Bible out entirely. How has this nation moved forward after such landmark decision? What has history of the last 50 years taught us with respect to the foundation of institution like school or family? Can the people in authority whether in school, or church or in family be silent when very structure of such institutions are being broken down? This week we start on a new theme for our meditation and that is “ Transformation in my family”. The portion that we are using for our meditation is from Joshua 24:1-5. This is one of the portion in the Bible, where the people have been asked to decide how their future should be and who should be the foundation of their life, their family and their nation. Joshua has assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem and has also summoned the elders, the judges and officers of Israel, before he announces what God has to say to them. In verses 14 and 15, he makes a decisive statement that the people of Israel has to decide whom they are going to serve and who will be their God. The nation of Israel has reached the promised land, and they are now in the land of milk and honey. The pain that they had to undergo at the hand of the oppressors is gone and now they are totally free. Their life is now secure and they have nothing which is actually causing problems to them. Joshua knows that this could bring a sense of complacency in the life of the nation and in the life of the individual. It is in such a context that Joshua tell the nation of Israel to re dedicate themselves to the Lord. We also live in a time when there is no one to question our faith or as to why we believe a particular faith tradition. Even if we have faith or no faith we are not penalized. Thus for most of the people it does not matter whether their lives are directed by God. When supreme court ruled that prayer is not needed in school or in public sphere of life, we have also taken that decision to remove all sorts of spiritual influences and foundation from our life and conveniently use it only as and when we require on certain days or occasions. If our family has to be transformed we need to consciously evaluate and decide who is the foundation and the Lord of our life and our family irrespective, whether the law of the land gives me the freedom to practice my faith in public sphere or not.