God and Graduation



This is graduation season.  A time of…




Controversy.  Yes controversy.

Graduates of Willard High School, Willard, Missouri, and their families and friends,  gathered at JQH Arena in nearby Springfield for the graduation ceremony.  The celebration moved into controversy when Superintendent Kent Medlin chose to, in the words of one student, “talk about religion instead of graduation.”  Students told the Springfield News-Leader, that Dr. Medlin started with the “usual words of encouragement” typical of commencement speeches, but then the talk “got more religious.”  Some of these students asked Dr. Medlin for an apology.

Dr. Medlin used the acronym GUTS and the first three letters stood for grit, understanding and teamwork (That’s clever).   He brought it home with “S” – someone or something to guide them to the finish line.  Dr. Medlin acknowledged that he told the audience, “For me, that S stands for my Savior.”

According to the “News-Leader’s” report, other religious talk included

*quoting the Bible numerous times.

*asking the graduates and attendees to stand with him for a prayer.

*inviting students to his office for coffee and to discuss “the Lord.”

Claudette Riley, the “News-Leader” reporter who wrote the story, reminded her readers, “the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that prayers at public school-sectioned events, including graduation, violate the Establishment Clause – which protects against, among other things, the promotion of one religion over another – and forces an individual to choose between attending a school event or avoiding prayer.”

People feel strongly about the issue, as seen in the comments on the News-Leader’s Facebook page:

“Good for him!  If we had more Christians stand up and go against the flow and not worry about being politically correct we would have a much better world.”

“We as Christian must stand for Christ or our country and world will fail!!!” 

“The best graduation I have ever been to.”

Almost all of the 277 (at last count) comments were of the same flavor as those above.  There were a few exceptions:

“I’m proud of those graduates for speaking up.  To have a superintendent violate the constitution at their commencement ceremony is disgraceful.” 

“Organized prayer aimed towards one religion at a PUBLIC school’s graduation ceremony is not ok.  Not all of those former students are Christian.  They shouldn’t be subjected to sit through a prayer that caters to any religion.”  

What do you think?

On which side of the line are you?

What is the relationship between church and state?

What did Jesus mean when he said, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and give to God the things that are God’s.”

Would supporters of the Superintendent’s religious expressions feel differently

-had he prayed to Allah,

-had he invited students for coffee and a discussion of Buddha,

-had he testified that the “S” that takes him to the finish line was not the Savior Jesus,       but Shachi, a Hindu goddess?

What is the best way for a Christian to express his/her commitment to Christ in these situations?

In the next post, let’s think about this in the context of our history – American and Christian.

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