Wednesday, April 9, 2014

NO SUBSTITUTES PLEASE

Give me the real deal.  I'm not fond of artificial sweeteners, fake eyelashes, or phony apologies. Carob doesn't satisfy me when I want chocolate. It annoys me to pay for a product and receive a substitute in its place. This may seem like an odd analogy, but I feel the same way about those politically correct non-prayers that substitute for denominational prayers at public gatherings. 

Many years ago I attended a special service at a centuries old Catholic cathedral.  The priest, in what no doubt was an attempt not to offend the many non-Catholics attending, recited some vague bit of poetry about nature's beauties instead of offering a Catholic prayer.  I was disappointed.  I was in a Catholic church, I wanted and expected a Catholic prayer.  

I've come to very much dislike the bits of poetry, the vague references to some euphemism, random references to some force of nature, and empty moments of silence that substitute for prayer at many public gatherings.  In our zealousness to not offend anyone, we've become atheistic worshippers of a non-god, followers of a pessimistic religion of doubt. 

When visiting a synagogue, mosque, revival meeting, or Christian Sunday School, I want to hear the prayers of the people who ascribe to those faiths.  I don't want them to cater to my beliefs.  When I attend a public meeting, I want to experience the prayers that have meaning for those who attend the meeting.  I want to experience the richness of prayers given by those of other cultures and faiths. 

There are those who deem public prayers as unconstitutional.  I don't agree.  Prayers are only unconstitutional if they are mandated to be of a particular denomination.  My fifth grade teacher made each of us in her class responsible for the prayer on a rotation basis (down one row, then the next, so we each had a turn then started over.)  We could say the prayer ourselves, have clergy come, or skip the prayer for that day.  It was our call on our assigned day. As the only Mormon in the class, I found it a great opportunity to learn how others prayed and what was important to them.  When I worked for the legislature I had a similar experience when each day someone different offered the prayer and we heard from religious leaders from Reverend Francis Davis, an imam, a rabbi, LDS General Authorities, and many local protestant leaders. 

For those of faith there is something deep and meaningful in prayer.  For those who profess no belief, it is an opportunity to build group cohesiveness and discover what matters to others.  To me prayer is both of these things and I feel cheated when that opening appeal for divine guidance is skipped or a substitute is offered.  Even when a prayer feels strange and not of my choosing, I consider it an educational opportunity.  When it's an honest appeal for those of diverse beliefs to work together, there can be no substitute.

2 comments:

Mindi Battraw said...

I love your teacher's idea! What a great way to include everyone's faith.

Carol Stratton said...

Well said!