Do you know what is better than charity and fasting and prayer?

It is keeping peace and good relations between people,

as quarrels and bad feelings destroy mankind.

- Prophet Mohammed


Day 19

I'm not trying to talk about the World Cup so much, but there are a lot of interesting things that occur in sports and their relationship to religion and even to Quakerism. Like all sports, players sometimes pray, bow or cross-themselves before or after the competition.  I've always found such prayers to be somewhat futile as both teams are secretly asking God to give them the edge although some might say they're simply asking for the power to do their best. God doesn't care who wins the game. Regardless of what they are asking for, prayers of some sort occur in nearly every sporting event. 

Is there something wrong with that?

Well, according to Joseph Platter (President of FIFA), religious gestures are "a danger" and that "there's no room for religion in soccer". That's odd considering that the majority of teams that dominate the sport of very Catholic. He's not alone though. Korean Buddhists have taken up the same "cause" and called on the government to ban all Christian athletes from making gestures after scoring goals. To me, it seems that public prayer only bothers those who allow it to bother them. 

I know this topic teeters on the edge of a much bigger discussion on public prayer, so I'll keep it focused around the Quaker notion of how prayer is conducted. First of all, I should say that I think a separation of church and state is the only way to preserve religious freedom. Without that protection, a state religion is adopted and then the problems start. On the other hand, banning the private prayers of individuals (regardless of their position in society) is just as dangerous. 

I must admit that there was a time in my life when praying in public was the most obnoxious thing that religious people could do. I always viewed it as an in-your-face flaunting of moral superiority. I think that's what's going on within the mind of Platter. He has a personal problem with religious people and lets that guide his decisions rather than reason and reality. The Korean Buddhists are totally different. Like America, religion in Korea has become politicized with the Buddhists  representing the progressive wing and the Christians on the conservative wing. Both are wrong. 

When I was a Buddhist, meditation was very important to me. As a Catholic, following a structured regiment of prayers and rituals were important. As a Quaker, the value of prayer has been upped as I have really found my silent time with myself (and therefore God) very important to maintaining my own mental and physical health. Why in the world would any body or government want to hinder that? I firmly believe that forced prayers (in school especially) are just as dangerous as banning Muslim prayer in airports, but restricting someone's very personal and private relationship with their god is more than wrong. 

As you know, Quaker worship is centered around the idea of prayer. Without that, Quakerism as a religion would religion be damaged because they believe that the relationship with God that is made during silent prayer and worship is what defines them. I've met a lot of religious people the past three months and the joy they get from their prayers is amazing. And while prayer is very important to them, they will not take an oath for government positions or in court. (They will affirm.)  In fact, some believe that affirmation was added to the Presidential oath because of Quakers. They don't swear because the Bible tells us not to. (Remember what I said, Quakers seem to be the purest of Christians.)
"Above all, my brothers, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your "Yes" be yes, and your "No," no, or you will be condemned." James 5:12
It's really a shame that some people feel so threatened by spirituality that they seek to ban it for their own personal qualms without every truly asking themselves why. I don't know where I'll end up at the end of this project, but I can tell you that I will never again feel threatened or angered by others praying. 

1 comment:

  1. Opposing teams praying for God to help them win reminds me of opposing armies each asking God to help them defeat the enemy. In secular France the controversy the past two decades has been over whether religious symbols such as the Muslim veil, the Jewish yarmulke, or Christian crosses can be worn in public schools, financed by a government that has clearly required separation of church and state since 1905 . The decision has been to ban them.