Monday, August 24, 2015

Apocalypse Now in Mississippi?

Because Band Can't Play How Great Thou Art

That's stupid - this is still Mississippi
Oh gosh they really did the right thing and showed that stupid judge he couldn't tell them what to do!!!!! GO BRANDON, MS
It would also seem to me that a certain federal judge needs to be put on sick leave. i am sure he will be wearing a few casts and bandages....that should qualify for sick leave, right? NATION! GOD HELP US!!!
Screw our worldly leaders and let's stand behind our Christian leader! Amen! Let's all worship our Lord the way we want to people! 
      - Comments on MS State Senator Chris McDaniel's Facebook Page

When I was in high school, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, a student read 2 Chronicles 7:14 over the PA system for that morning's devotional. Seemed appropriate. 

My first serious thoughts that having God in the public schools might not be such a good idea came, when I was a couple of years out of seminary, in Union, Mississippi. Union in the 1970s was like a lot of small Mississippi towns. There was a big Baptist Church. There was medium-size Methodist Church. There was a small Presbyterian Church. The Baptists pretty much ran things.

I was sitting in my study at the Presbyterian Church one morning - probably staring at the wall waiting for a sermon to appear - when the phone rang. It was a secretary at the public school. "Brother Smith, we need you to come to the school. Some of the kids are really upset." What was the problem? That week was spiritual emphasis week which, so far as I know, neither the Methodists or the Presbyterians had anything to do with planning. That morning some of the students were having a "sinners in the hand of an angry God" moment. They had seen a movie dramatizing the rapture and were afraid.

What was I supposed to do? Maybe I should have taken advantage of the moment and said, "If you don't want to be left behind, come to my church. I'll show you how to be sure you'll be caught up in the clouds before the tribulation." If it happened today, I would be pretty likely to say, "That rapture stuff is not in the Bible. It's crappy, novel doctrine." Soon it would be all over town that I don't believe the Bible. But, really, as a minister, you do have to worry about the kids, don't you? What should and could I say and do in that situation? 

My one (or was it two then?) son was a baby. I think there was one, maybe two, kids from our church in school. I wasn't too concerned about public school. But that incident did two things. (1) It made me realize that, if you are going to have religion in a public school, the majority religious culture will decide what it is. There is probably a pretty good chance it won't occur to them that anyone wouldn't believe what they believe, and, if it should occur to them, they will probably think, "Majority rules." (2) I made me understand what if feels like to be in a minority that does not want your kids exposed to what you don't believe. 

Last Friday the Brandon, MS, High School Band did not put on its half-time show. Why? Well the program included the hymn, "How Great Thou Art," and on Thursday the Rankin County School Board decided that song must not be played. 

The background is that the School Board had been sued because prayer assemblies were held at another high school in the same county. The school district agreed it was improper and signed an out of court agreement that included a pledge that it would not happen again. However, later the same school held an awards ceremony at which a minister prayed. Southern District Court Judge Carlton Reeves found that the district had violated the agreement. He imposed a fine and "permanently enjoined (the district) from including prayer, religious sermons or activities in any school sponsored event including but not limited to assemblies, graduations, award ceremonies, athletic events and any other school event. That means administrators, teachers and staff of the Rankin County School District may not participate in any religious activity, or solicit or encourage religious activities at school or while performing duties as a RCSD employee."

The School Board, perhaps being overly cautious,
facing another lawsuit and fearing being found in contempt of the court's order, told Brandon High School that "How Great Thou Art" could not be played. But, the fans, like David defying the God-defying Goliath, the three Hebrew young men defying the command to bow before the image of Nebuchadnezzar, Martin Luther defying the Pope, and Ross Barnett defying the order to let James Meredith attend the University of Mississippi, would have none of it. They stood and sang "How Great Thou Art" before the kickoff. It brings to mind the scene in Rick's Cafe in Casablanca when the French patrons drown out the Nazis and defiantly sing "La Marseillaise." 

Immediately the two leading true conservatives in the Mississippi State Senate, Chris McDaniel and Melanie Sojourner, jumped in, both posting more than once on Facebook. Senator McDaniel wrote:
Out of fear it might violate a a federal judge's order, the band was told it would not be able to
perform at halftime during the season opening game.This is absolutely ridiculous, and an absurd interpretation of the Constitution's establishment clause. The federal court is dead wrong. It's time to push back. Conservatives better wake up.
I'm proud of the people of Brandon, MS.
The Rankin County School District (out of fear of a federal judge) may have kept the Brandon High School Band off the field on Friday night, but they didn’t stop the parents and fans from voicing their support for the band’s intention to play the hymn “How Great Thou Art”...Keep singing. Keep fighting. We will eventually prevail.
The liberal chattering class is arguing that a high school band playing a religious song somehow violates the Establishment Clause. Don't fall for it. Pure ignorance, on display for the world to see.
Confusion over the legality of public displays of religion prompts government officials and "everyday people" to choose a "safer course" of purging "from the public sphere all that in any way partakes of the religious,"...Time to take a stand.
Senator Sojourner posted:
Enough is enough. Students don't yield their religious rights just because they go to school. I
understand the Rankin County Schools have an injunction against them for religious activities that are considered to have been "state sponsored". But, we can't let it end there.Two years ago, along with Sen. Chris McDaniel, we passed the Student Religious Liberties Act, which clarifies how a student can exercise their religious rights, even at school  Students absolutely can take actions and push back. In the coming weeks we will be scheduling student workshops with several church youth groups in Pike County to inform students on the language of the law that does help protect their religious rights.
God bless the parents and students at Brandon High who refused to yield!! If we are going to make our nation great again we must continue to push back on those in the system who failed us. No one should yield their rights because a federal judge misinterpreted the Establishment Clause. 

I keep up with Mississippi politics, and I find it very hard to figure out what to make of these two "no compromise" conservatives. When I read their comments on the Brandon High School Band and the comments they allow to remain on their Facebook pages, I get the impression that for them believing in Christianity, being committed to conservative politics, detesting Haley Barbour,Tate Reeves, Mitch McConnell, and John Boehner, refusing to change the Mississsippi State Flag with the Confederate Battle Flag in upper left corner, and stirring people up about a high school band halftime show are all pretty much the same.  I wonder: "Do they really believe these things they say? Or, are they just feeding red meat to their bases which they hope to use for their longer term political goals?" A "yes" to one requires belief either that (1) they are simplistic thinkers, or (2) they are cynical politicians. I don't know. But the word "demagogue" comes to mind with increasing frequency.

But, why would a school in effect pick a fight by including "How Great Thou Art" in a halftime show? I mean, is the band music library so limited that you cannot help but use hymn arrangements? And, why would sincere Christians want to cheapen a hymn by its being played by a marching band with its flag girls on a high school football field? (Given the state of church services today, maybe I do get that.) And why would they turn a spiritual exercise (singing the hymn) into an act of political defiance? How many schools have hymn sings in the stands while they're waiting for kickoff? If you've got to engage in culture wars, aren't there better fields of battle than whether a high school band can use a hymn in its halftime show?

All this reminds me of how impossible it is and how unwise it is to try to have religion in the public schools. Whose religion? What sect? Why yours? Why not mine?

J. Gresham Machen wisely argued that, if you want school education mixed with religion, the place to do it is not the public school but the private. In other words don't ask the Presbyterian, or Methodist, or Episcopalian, or Roman Catholic, or Jew, or atheist, to pay for your Baptist public school. On Bible reading in the school Machen wrote: 
I think I am just about as strongly opposed to the reading of the Bible in state-controlled schools as any atheist could be.
For one thing, the reading of the Bible is very difficult to separate from propaganda about the Bible. I remember, for example, a book of selections from the Bible for school reading, which was placed in my hands some time ago. Whether it is used now I do not know, but it is typical of what will inevitably occur if the Bible is read in public schools. Under the guise of being a book of selections for Bible-reading, it really presupposed the current naturalistic view of the Old Testament Scriptures.
But even where such errors are avoided, even where the Bible itself is read, and not in one of the mistranslations but in the Authorized Version, the Bible still may be so read as to obscure and even contradict its true message. When, for example, the great and glorious promises of the Bible to the redeemed children of God are read as though they belonged of right to man as man, have we not an attack upon the very heart and core of the Bible’s teaching? What could be more terrible, for example, from the Christian point of view, than the reading of the Lord’s Prayer to non-Christian children, as though they could use it without becoming Christians, as though persons who have never been purchased by the blood of Christ could possibly say to God, ‘Our Father, which art in Heaven’? The truth is that a garbled Bible may be a falsified Bible; and when any hope is held out to lost humanity from the so-called ethical portions of the Bible apart from its great redemptive core, then the Bible is represented as saying the direct opposite of what it really says. (From "The Necessity of the Christian School)

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