I've been in Texas over the weekend for a family member's graduation. With a few hundred graduates seated on the floor of the local Expo center, I was prepared for a long evening. I was in for a surprise when the ceremony begin with a prayer.
You, Me, and MY God
I don't know why I was surprised. The graduating student opened with a prayer to the Christian God, thanking him for getting them through the school year alive, and asked that everyone -- not just her, her family, or even the class...EVERYONE in the building -- continue to "seek God and do His will". I shouldn't have to say how presumptuous, disrespectful, and unnecessary this was, but I'll do it for the benefit of the believers who read this and just can't see why it's not okay to assume that everybody within earshot believes in YOUR god.
As the ceremony progressed, I was increasingly disheartened by the notion that nearly every speaker just had to say something about God. One even read from the bible! After every mention of religion, I found myself tuning out the speaker. I would be agreeing right up until I heard them talk about how Jesus blessed them with the knowledge they have. No matter what came after, it would be tainted with the discovery that the speaker lacked true critical thinking skills. I wonder what exactly was talked about in their government, history, and science classes. "We've learn a lot," one would say. Have you?
We Did It
One theme that was common was the motto, "we did it", a pretty universal high-school graduation adage. And yet, the religious graduates continually described how God gave them this, God blessed them with that, "God's hand has been on our class". One student's speech started out with her thanking God for everything, THEN giving thanks to the apparently less important ones like her mom and dad. I see this all the time from god-believers and those who specialize in doublethink. "We did everything; we're smart, we have wonderful teachers and supporting parents. But GOD gave us the knowledge and the blessing and blah blah blah". Either give the credit to the ones who've earned it (yourselves) or sit there like the puppet you think you are and give all the credit to your "savior and Heavenly Father"!
I was relieved to discover the school had a disclaimer printed at the bottom of the program that stated the students were given the chance to make speeches on the topic of their choice, and their views didn't reflect nor were they endorsed by the school. I am all for free expression, and I'm in no way condemning the students for exercising their rights and choices. I just wish they'd made a little better informed ones. All in all, I (and perhaps a few others in the large audience) was uncomfortable and belittled, but at least I got to see my cousin graduate.