In Praise of (Public) Praise


Catholic Insight, October 2001

� 2001, Jennifer M. Paquette
Do not reproduce without explicit permission from me!!!

In May, Catholic Insight highlighted two Jewish activists rampaging through Canadian courts, pressuring lawmakers to ban public worship.As a religious Jew, nothing could alarm me more.

The article mentioned that these secular Jews don't represent the Jewish faith; indeed, their beliefs are the furthest thing from it.Secular Jews are Jewish by culture only, but because our culture is distinct, it's too easy to abandon the faith while clinging to the externals, still claiming to be �good Jews.�

And they mean well.Informed by prophetic traditions, they fight injustice everywhere. But their good intentions overstep our greater goal, Judaism�s task of pointing the world towards God � certainly, not away from Him.

I grew up assimilated, and only began exploring Judaism as an adult.In public school, I recited the Lord's Prayer, along with Catholic and Greek Orthodox classmates.At the time, I didn�t realize it was Christian scripture � if I�d known, I might have remained silent.I wasn�t given a choice, which is where secular Jews take issue.But, while they feel they�ve solved the problem, I see no cause to rejoice.

Secularists claim morality can exist without religion.I believe that � like I believe a fish thrives out of water.�� In place of faith, schools offer bland exercises in situational morality (�Ethics and the Media�).Ontario ministry curricula claim to prepare children to �function as informed citizens�and�compete in a global economy.��� How low have our standards gotten, that we�ll settle for functional, competitive children rather than moral and worshipful ones?

When my son began Grade One in a Jewish school, he complained that public school kids don�t have to pray.�� I told him, "Even in public school, I prayed every morning."Will future parents be able to say the same?Or, now that daily prayer has been replaced by �meditations� from various belief systems, will they only recall fidgeting through feel-good tidbits from some teacher's self-help book of the month?

Although I shudder at having been spoon-fed Christianity, I�ve come to appreciate that reciting passages regularly transforms prayer into ritual, carrying us beneath familiar words towards deeper connectedness.Meditations, though, render students passive; hungry bystanders at a rich banquet.

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Can a moment of silence achieve the same effect?Maybe for Remembrance Day; on a regular basis, students will see it as a moment to scribble notes, fiddle with hair clips, dash off that overdue History essay; anything but reflect on their gratitude and obligation to the Source of life.

Our Charter of Rights and Freedoms declares that Canada is founded upon recognition of "the supremacy of God."But that three-letter word has become a battlefield.Are we talking about the Christian God?The Jewish Adonoy?The Muslim Allah?One Hindu deity, or perhaps a multitude?

Secularists seek to eliminate this �confusion,� claiming references to God discriminate against �non-Christian and non-religious� Canadians.Jewish groups like Bnai Brith � whose name, ironically, means "Children of the Covenant" � join them, shrilly opposing �organized prayer, religious exercises or bible classes �including 'moments of silence' or 'meditations' by which prayer is � encouraged or recommended.�

Yet while Bnai Brith, the ACLU and their ilk wield the mighty sword of political correctness, and school boards and governments bow down, what is the ultimate cost of their victory?

If they have their way, our children will never realize religion has a place outside of church or synagogue.Secularism robs us of the chance to proclaim our strength and uniqueness, but isn�t that what diversity is supposed to be all about � not some sham "non-religion" that has become our lowest common denominator?

After Columbine, Colorado officials admitted they�d �become so fearful of affirming one religion or one value over another that [they had] banished them all.�They called for a return to �faith-based morality� � not some watered-down version, but honest-to-God faith, straight up.

Our country's multiculturalism is based on a belief that we�re created in God's image.How will minorities be treated here if we no longer affirm a Godly spark igniting their souls � if we're no longer permitted to even suggest they possess an eternal soul?Though secularists may hide behind Jewish banners, Jews stand to lose as much as Christians if God becomes a shameful secret.We must work together to dispel the darkness.

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