One ... Two ... Three ... Four! Let Kids Cheer for God Some More!

Categories: Schutze

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Education historian Jonathan Zimmerman has a provocative piece on the op-ed page of The Dallas Morning News today proposing that people in general and liberals in particular should support the right of cheerleaders in Kountze, Texas, to display religious banners at public school football games.

Zimmerman, author of Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory, thinks liberals should see the Kountze controversy as a free speech issue. I guess I don't get why he thinks free speech is a liberal thing, but what if we were to look at the Kountze case still another way, as a theological issue?

And, if we did, then would we not have to agree with Zimmerman that people need to be able to talk it out? Please correct me if you feel that I err, but for me the religious banners held up by high school cheerleaders Kountze belong in the same theological department with remarks by Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock to the effect that God wills every single thing that happens including rape.

creation of adam.jpg
American God: He's just like this dude you know. Likes big dogs, pickups, fantasy football and domestic beer.
And I guess I would have to toss in most of the prosperity preachers, from Fort Worth's Kenneth and Gloria Copeland to Dallas's own T.D. Jakes, who believe that God cares who makes how much money.

Three mutually contradictory qualities are essential to all of these versions of God. One is the belief that life itself and human experience are aspects of a clockwork universe in which every event, including the outcomes of high school football games and every rape in the world, is invented by God.

A second piece is the belief that we can get God to change his mind and switch to our team by holding up banners. By this doctrine, shouldn't we all carry banners saying, "Dear God, please don't rape me?"

The third -- for me the truly blasphemous one I must admit -- is the belief that we can get to know God as easily as we know people. God is just this dude, this guy, lives down the street, wrote a book, real easy to get to know, great guy, a sweetheart, maybe not the one you want to coach your kid's Pop Warner team but definitely somebody to have over for dinner.

Taken all together, these mutually contradictory beliefs form what theologian John Shelby Spong has so aptly described as a fundamental heresy central to the moral and religious decline of America. The first thing people do when they decide God is a guy, Spong explains, is decide that he probably forgives them for everything from illegal holding in football to rape.

Doesn't even want to hear about it. All God wants is for you not to feel bad about anything. He's a therapist. Just come on down, and don't forget to put some money in the plate.

This is my own version. I may not have it exactly right. Everything I know about theology, I learned as a reporter for The Ingham County News. That's why I had to leave.

But here's the deal. What if our issues in this country really are moral and theological? Then isn't Zimmerman right? We should all err on the side of free speech in order to get this worked out.

If the Kountze cheerleaders made their own banners and held them up of their own free will, then why should their speech be banned? In fact isn't the banning of religious speech just about the last thing we need at this moment?


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106 comments
PresidentMormonMan
PresidentMormonMan

Let's all cheer for 'American Exceptionalism,' dinosaurs dancing with Neanderthals, global cooling, leprechauns  and fairy tale deities.

 

Can I get a big 'wha-wha' for virgin birth, parting of the Red Sea and the 'miracle of loaves and fishes' ????

 

It is difficult to believe this is happening in 2012, but I remind myself this is Texas.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

Oh, oh, I want to debate that jackwad on his blasphemous belief in the Trinity.  I want him to understand the heresy he embraces, I mean he's all for open discussion of this stuff right?  Idiots who can't even read the Bible without bringing in external ideas that have been whispered in their ears since Childhood.  Why does Jesus fail to say, "worship me," "I'm 1/3 of God" and who failed to explain why we should embrace a heretical idea?  Is that loving?  I think I'll discard the extraneous pagan based ideas and focus on what Jesus says, "love your neighbor as yourself, regardless of faith, nationality or tribe."  That's enough for American Christians to contemplate for a lifetime.

leftocenter
leftocenter

If only we could divide genuine thoughtful commenters with the trolls and haters...these comments could be a thoughtful exchange of ideas...

 

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

You want religion in your school?  Start a private one, then.

Fb2012
Fb2012

These young women have plenty of opportunity to practice their religious beliefs without creating a divisive controversy in their school. They are the tools of adults who want to use issues like this to raise money and claim there is a war against religion. Their actions are selfish and show a lack of regard for the feelings and rights of their fellow students and others who attend the games.  None of this sounds very Christian to me. Meanwhile, taxpayers foot the bill for this foolishness.

DISDTeacher
DISDTeacher

Personally, I want no religious anything anywhere near a school.  Not mine, yours, or anyone else's.  Religious issues--like the kids who ask me my stance on abortion, angels, and sexting (but what if it's your boyfriend!)--are places I don't go with other people's children.

 

On the other hand, I bet these kids have learned a lot through this process--which is what we want them to do.

 

I don't think  that this is about "free speech" or "religious freedom" for the kids.  What is motivating them is their interaction with a usually for-adults-only world.  

 

I can't think of a better place for teens to learn about the minefield that is public property v private expression, public good v individual freedoms, freedom from religion, constitutional rights, etc.

 

Despite Mike Miles and the rest of the overpaid admins in DISD and across the state, schools really don't exist to funnel money to a few people.  Schools exist to allow kids to figure out the world.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

From reading these comments, I have to wonder if those against these banners are also against allowing Muslim students to pray according to the pillars of Islam, and excusing them from class at those times.  I'm guessing we're all against individuality in school.  We all support school specified uniforms, grooming, dress and language while in class regardless of the student's religion or cultural background.  We are against African American Heritage month since that establishes a government preference for one race over another.

According to the comments here, Public School is not the place for diversity; religious or cultural.  Public school is the place for conformity.  Send the kids there to learn readin' , writin', and 'ritmatic.  Everything else has it's place at home, or on private land, or on public land at events not in any way sanctioned, sponsored, encouraged, or planned by any public or government agency.

I'm not trying to be obtuse or sarcastic here.  I'm really trying to understand how someone can support cultural diversity, racial sensitivity, religious tolerance and individuality in almost every case unless it happens to be a christian in the middle of it.  Then, it violates the Constitution.

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

So go there with banners for Allah, Yahweh, Buddha, Confucius, etc

1dailyreader
1dailyreader

Well then, what would happen if an Atheist brought a bible to school and burned it?  That person could argue that he is expressing his freedom of speech with a public display.   And why then was prayer at graduations or baculerate's forbidden?

todd
todd

I attend H.S. Football games of my own volition and for my own enjoyment.  IF anything offended me, I wold have the freedom to get up and leave.  It seems to me that that freedom is not widely held, that some people feel they are forced to be in the presence of which that offends them.  What am I missing?

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Simple answer.  Public school.  No religious banners.

PresidentMormonMan
PresidentMormonMan

 @scottindallas

Could care less about the Trinitarian blather, or the rest of the Biblical nonsense, but I appreciate the 'love your neighbor as yourself, regardless...' part. Sounds like a great idea...when it was posited about 500 years before Christ.

 

But I can't find any of your 'love thine enemy Christians' in Texas who aren't sporting a handgun, slamming a 40 ounce or spouting off about Islam-o-Terriers all freaking day.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

 @leftocenter It's not really that difficult.  ignore the troll comments and respond to the genuine.  Unless trolls are yet another thing we need the government to protect us from.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

 @Fb2012 The cheerleaders aren't the ones that created a "divisive controversy" in the first place. They only made some goofy banner with some meaningless verbiage that offended some thin-skinned atheist's tender sensibilities. You and I may not like it, but that is the fashion in which they were raised and that is their right. This isn't the government shoving a state sponsored religion down your throat.

 

I'll even go along with your assertion that they show a lack of regard for the feelings of others, but not that they are being intentionally selfish or that they are infringing upon the rights of other students or football fans. They're freakin' teenage girls, of course they are self-centered. Those fans can up and leave or look the other direction if they are offended, and the other students are free to bring their own banners to the game if they choose to. That may not go over well but that remains to be seen, and then we can have *that* conversation.

 

It's not like they're trying to permanently post the ten commandments on the scoreboard or something.

leftocenter
leftocenter

First, thank you for being a teacher.  As an adult dealing with other people's children, keeping your personal opinions personal is very wise.  And, you assessment of the bottom line -- figure out the world.  Amen!

 

 @JimSX Read the "red letters" all the way through.  You may not agree with or appreciate it, but you'll notice that in the Lord's prayer, Jesus prays "God's will be done."  I don't think he'd need to pray for that if God is a puppet master and everything that happens is God's will.  There's a lot of sin in the world, and that's NOT God's will.  Ok, I'm off track...

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

 @RTGolden1 I would say that the two prayers during the work/school day are silent prayers.  There is flexibility with the timing (that an hour schedule would allow)  If a few students wanted to pray in a secluded place and were routinely 1-2 minutes late (these are also shorter prayers) then they would likely be of little disturbance--as those coming from those prayers would likely be more quiet than is typical of school kids.  Frankly, between morning break and lunch, prayer might fit in those two windows with no disturbance.  Might as well wonder about someone saying grace before they eat their lunch. 

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

@RTGolden1 Excellent post. Thank you. I agree whole heartedly with your statements regarding the penchant for conformity. The problem with the cheerleader squad is there is only one squad. If the school and circumstances permitted equal time or access to the football field for Muslim, Jewish and atheist teams, etc. I believe this would be permissible. But there is only one squad. I support the students' freedom of speech, but that freedom must be afforded to all if it is granted to one.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

 @1dailyreader I dunno, but I think lighting fires in school is probably against some kind of law or ordinance somewhere.  If not, it should be.

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

 @1dailyreader they'd be scraping dead atheist up off the floor, that's what would happen, in the name of gawd don'tcha know.

leftocenter
leftocenter

 @RTGolden1

 You're right -- but it is discouraging.  We don't need protection from trolls, but I do think removing anonymity would be a good thing -- not imposed by the govt, but adopted voluntarily.  Some of us couldn't continue to post, because our jobs don't allow it (for good reason), but I'd give up my ability to post to be able to read the thoughful, non-troll comments.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

 @TheCredibleHulk  @Fb2012 You make an excellent point about teen-aged girls. I'll tell you what the real front-age news would be: "Teen-age girls found in remote Texas hamlet, believed not to be self-centered." Dateline Kountze: Anthropologists believe they have discovered a small band of teen-age girls in a village deep in the remote reaches of Texas who are not self-centered and therefore refrain from expressions of religious conviction lest they offend persons of differing belief.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

 @scottindallas You missed the forest for the trees, Scott.  I support allowing anyone to practice religious requirements in school if it is not disruptive.  There are schools that are making exactly the allowances you describe, with exactly the effects you describe.

 

I was wondering about the motivations of the people making the comments themselves.

leftocenter
leftocenter

Let's assume there are non-Christian students who feel offended, let them exercise THEIR free-speech with a counter-banner.  Oh that we might raise kids to have an opinion and be politically active.  Keep the parents and lawyers out of it!

 

pak152
pak152

 @primi_timpano  @RTGolden1 "If the school and circumstances permitted equal time or access to the football field for Muslim, Jewish and atheist teams, etc. I believe this would be permissible." I would suspect that you would have to import the Muslim, Jewish and atheist teams as I suspect that there are very few in that towncheck out the census breakdownhttp://www.zip-codes.com/city/tx-kountze-2010-census.asp

total population is barely over 2,000

http://www.texas-demographics.com/kountze-demographics

and if you look at this google map you'll see the various churches in Kountzehttp://goo.gl/maps/4N8zS

 

todd
todd

 @Montemalone Perhaps.  I am not a religious person, probably agnostic.  Yet I fail to understand being offended by biblical passages on display at a voluntary gathering.  

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

 @pak152  @Myrna.Minkoff-Katz Although I don't agree with her, Myrna does have a valid point.  The simplest solution would be to not allow teams or other gatherings of students at school sponsored events to display religious symbology.

Demographics doesn't enter the conversation.  Democracy is not mob rules.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

 @pak152  @Myrna.Minkoff-Katz those churches can do what they want with those banners.  Pak, you know that 7th Day Adventists don't believe in the Trinity, and find some of those messages offensive? 

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

 @leftocenter  @RTGolden1 I'd rather keep the anonymity and be able to see what really lurks in the hearts of some folks than try to gloss over it. It's good to know the real sentiments of a certain segment of our population as it reminds us that hate and enmity towards others is a real, tangible thing and not just a concept that we bat around conversationally. 

 

I bet it would be a gas to find out who's really behind some of the more hateful commentary here. However, if you made these people sign their real world names, they wouldn't have the courage to write the crap that they do. 

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

 @JimSX  @Fb2012 That would be startling news.

 

However, I doubt it would generate the traffic for you that this story did.

leftocenter
leftocenter

 @scottindallas  @leftocenter

 Actually, yeah!  Don't underestimate kids ability to be creative, clever, and progressive.  Kids get humor and irony...it's the parents that have sticks up their...senses of humor. 

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@leftocenter so, the two Muslims and the two Jews each have a banner and the two 7th Day Adventists hold another?  And the one atheist kid holds his?   Get real.

leftocenter
leftocenter

 @scottindallas

 Naive?  Maybe...be we are talking about a highly improbable hyypothetical...requiring a student to take a position, one candidate over another.  There are some great teachers out there (my kids can't figure out their political party, which means they are really making an effort).   It would come down to doing what WON'T get them sued, or in the paper or on the front page of the observer. 

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

 @leftocenter o my kids wouldn't wear Romney gear, but they'd have no problem saying no, and why. Id have an issue with it...sure...absolutely."  Then I dare say you are naive how groups work.  This issue issues from the coaches (or the cheerleader's equivalent) and their bias is forced on the student and for speaking out, can get them discriminated against.  And, I seriously doubt that those heterodox thoughts will get a fair airing and discussion by the good faithful teacher, who thinks other views are damnable. 

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

 @todd  @CraigT42 the intramural is extracurricular, the private leagues are extracurricular.  I guarantee you that the football team, the band and the cheerleaders have a curriculum.  There's only one, and if you're into resume building, they're not extras. 

leftocenter
leftocenter

Yes - in fact, social isolation is one of the main ways kids are bullied, and that isolation has led to everything from suicide to violence.  It's the in-your-face-you're-not-welcome-here kind of hate.  Not fitting in or having friends is painful for kids, and can be bullying.

 

Calling people names when you disagree with them is just mean.

Glenn
Glenn

 @CraigT42  @leftocenter  So the definition of bullying now includes "being excluded and left out"? Speaking of asinine ...

leftocenter
leftocenter

@CraigT42. Well, so much for keeping hate and anger out of the dialog. "Assinine, bigoted, ignorant?" Social exclusion is certainly a form of bullying, but exclusion by the school would be illegal discrimination, plain and simple. No, I don't think not being able to participate is even remotely ok...your assumption, though wrong, won't ellicit anger, but will provoke thought as to what made you think that? No my kids wouldn't wear Romney gear, but they'd have no problem saying no, and why. Id have an issue with it...sure...absolutely.

todd
todd

 @CraigT42  @leftocenter "You and Todd seem to think that not being able to participate in a school sponsored activity is an appropriate response to not holding the same beliefs as the others around you." 

 

I never advocated non-participation.  I question your requirement to "protect the 15 year old girl on the" (voluntary) "cheerleading squad who doesn't share the faith of her classmates..."

CraigT42
CraigT42

 @leftocenter Being excluded and left out is bullying. You and Todd seem to think that not being able to participate in a school sponsored activity is an appropriate response to not holding the same beliefs as the others around you.  It isn't.  Saying just don't participate is asinine, bigoted and ignorant.  especially with today's hyper competitive admissions process for colleges, where extracurricular activities like cheerleading or sports can push an application to the top.

 

And left of center, if your kids were being told that to participate in their events they would have to wear Romney supporting T shirts you would be OK with that?

 

 

leftocenter
leftocenter

Can we stop "protecting" kids from diverse ideas and opinions?  and I agree with you about keeping the hate and anger out, btw...

 

Seriously, I don't want to see any kid bullied, but you are diminishing the meaning of the word "bully" using it in this context.

 

My kids -- 2 of 3 -- are Dems and I encourage them to form their own opinions, though of course they hear mine and may be influenced.  But, being the only Dem in a suburban school makes them brave, not bullied.

 

Politically active and aware kids will make this world better...

 

todd
todd

 @CraigT42 I've been to more than my fair share of HS Football games in small town Texas and have a pretty solid grasp of god's presence there.  It's annoying.  But it's  extracurricular so I don't see how your "protecting the 15 year old girl" argument holds water.  Unlike the classroom, her presence on the cheer squad is not compulsory.  So absolutely protect her in the classroom.  But I do not think it's necessary for extracurricular activities. 

CraigT42
CraigT42

Todd, here is a serious answer without the anger and hate that Christians obviously don't have a monopoly on.   These policies and laws that keep biblical passages out of courtrooms and classrooms aren't there to protect the adult on the sidelines who can leave whenever he wants.  They are there to protect the 15 year old girl on the cheerleading squad who doesn't share the faith of her classmates and is being defacto bullied and repressed by their actions.  Maybe she is an atheist who rightfully fears for her spot on the squad, her friendships, and any place in a small town community if she admits that to her the bible just doesn't make any sense. Or maybe she is of another faith and doesn't dare bring it up around her "friends" , because she, like many of us who grew up in small towns, has seen how quickly they will turn on her and shun her for not believing as they do.

It can be hard to grasp here in our urban areas but if you are in Dallas you are only a 30-45 minute drive from a number of towns where the first question you are asked in job interviews is what local congregation you have joined.

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

 @toddIt's not the passages per se. It's the forcing on the public of those passages. There's a church on every fucking corner in Texas. If you want to see jeebus, go inside and pray away.

Like I said in other comments, if this was allah or zeus or buddha or Cruise-entology, the xtian uproar would make so much noise we'd all go deaf.

The persecuted xtians have been on the same rant for over 2000 years and won't be satisfied until they've forced their garbage down the throats of every living being on Earth, and in Romney's case, the dead ones too.

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