There is a meme that makes the rounds on my Facebook feed after every school shooting that makes my blood boil. It takes the form of two letters.
The first says “Dear God, Why do you allow so much violence in our schools? Signed, a concerned student.”
The response reads “Dear Concerned Student, I’m not allowed in schools. God”
I find the sentiments of this meme incredibly offensive as well as theologically inaccurate, at least from a Christian tradition.
I know countless teachers and school employees, from administrators to cooks to custodians. Many of them are people of faith who are part of what we call The Priesthood of All Believers in the Lutheran tradition.
What that means is that they exercise their faith through their vocation. They feel called to be teachers or paraprofessionals or school cooks or administrators. They bring glory to God by ministering to the students they serve and see their work as a calling.
I know that they pray fervently for their students, during school hours and afterward, and they bring God with them to school every day.
I also know countless students who are people of faith. They show love to their classmates, sit by the kids who are lonely, share their meals with kids who don’t have a lunch and quiet bullies.
I know these students bring God with them to school every day — not just praying before exams but reflecting God’s love to others.
This arrogant meme implies that we have the power to control God and keep God in a box, letting God be some places and not others. Like we are the ones who control God.
But I believe, as a Christian, that when Jesus said, “I am with you always,” he meant it. God is never absent and is with us always. I believe God is true to God’s promise and that means that God is very present in every school. Nothing can keep God away.
The only thing being kept out of schools is a watered down prayer forced on people — that, in order, rightly, to honor our Constitution and the diversity of people’s faith lives, could not honor anyone’s God. After all, who decides what people are to pray or to whom?
People pray all the time in schools. We simply don’t have required prayer. I don’t want some government or school bureaucrat writing a prayer for kids to say. And I certainly don’t want the religious leaders who send around that meme to do it because they clearly think they are in control of where God goes and what God does.
The problem is not that God is not in the schools. The problem is that too many people are placing their trust in a false idol, their guns, the NRA or their political power and lack the courage to enact simple reforms that could help curb the violence that is becoming, sadly, all-too present.
A forced prayer would not be from the heart but instead would be as worthless as the “thoughts and prayers” of those who refuse to enact common-sense gun reform that would help prevent these kinds of tragedies.
“Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” — 1 John 3:18.