The tiny town of Kountze, Texas was placed on the national radar this past week. After a series of court cases and injunctions, the Kountze High School Cheerleaders are allowed to continue to use Bible scriptures as part of their pre-game, run though banner. (read here) Because of their actions it has caused a firestorm of press, debates and protests. The central issue (as I understand it) is whether or not it is appropriate for the cheerleaders to use Bible scriptures at a school event. The superintendent of Kountze ISD stated that he barred them because the banners violated school policy and so the debate started. Do the banners that the players run through before kickoff amount to school sanctioning of religion?
I am not a lawyer by profession but I believe there is a different issue at the forefront here. The cheerleaders in my opinion are walking a very fine line. Yes they are student lead and under the letter of the law they should be “ok” to continue, but what about doing it in uniform on the field of school sponsored football game? Does that change the context and thus change the nature of the event? I believe it does.
What this boils down to is that in a predominately Christian area of the state, Christianity can not be professed everywhere and this upsets people and any push back is seen as an attack of freedoms. The fact of the matter is that at Kountze ISD there is an amalgamation of people from various faith backgrounds, contexts and ideas. By having the cheerleaders promoting their brand of religion is stating that their way is more correct than the others. Since they have the platform to promote their voice to a wide audience, they have the opportunity to broadcast what ever they want. This is not fair or correct.
People have been arguing that this issue is centered on the notion of freedom of speech. While I agree with this, would the fine people of Kountze be ok with an uplifting passage from the Koran or from the Bhagavad Gita? If you open the door under the notion of freedom of speech then you open it to all. You have to give the same platform for Muslims, Jews, Atheist, Agnostics and even Satanist. It has been reported that the cheerleaders take turns choosing the uplifting message; would the parents who fought so hard to get a Philippians 4:13 banner, fight just a hard for a Hindu cheerleader to promote her religion? Maybe, but maybe not.
There is this idea that society is assaulting Christianity or that the world has some vendetta against Christianity. I do not believe this is the case. I believe that some people have an issue with religion being shoved down their throat. This has been an issue with Christianity for centuries. Some followers of Christ believe that they have a moral imperative to make sure that everyone believes their version of Christianity. I believe that Christianity is multi-faceted and complex; it is rich and layered with multiple ways to interpret and act upon the scriptures. Yes there will be those who will claim that their foundation is in the Bible and the Great Commission, but I think this is pushing it past the limits of its intent. The Great Commission calls on all who follow Christ to spread the message of love, hope, peace, joy and reconciliation. Christ had many enemies but it was his changing of social structures and acceptance of those who society had cast out that helped the movement to grow. No where in the Bible does Christ ever command his followers to many banners and have padded football players run through it.
Don’t the scriptures deserve better respect than to have a team of players tear it to shreds?
Faith is something that is inherently personal and for some Christianity has left a bad taste in their mouth. Maybe it was a bad experience with a minister or perhaps they were told that because of their life choices they were not accepted in the Kingdom of God. How would it feel to then see a banner proclaiming the best virtues of Christianity when those were not shown to you? Instead of making a situation worse, why not live your lives in a way that expresses the faith that you hold so dear? This will be the biggest witness that you can ever have. I understand that to many this is a ‘non-issue’ but for the church to be seen in a positive light, people must know that just because a banner is not raised does not mean that Christianity is dead.
I know that many of you do not share the same view as I do and that’s ok. Its not about who is right and who is wrong, rather it is about the conversation and the examination of widely held beliefs. Many people might consider me (like many do about the Superintendent of Kountze ISD) un-Christian or even anti-Christian, but that is off the mark. I am just expressing a theological opinion, the right of every person.
This situation is far from over, but the fact remains that Christ’s central message was love. Let’s remember that.