We’ve seen lately, posted, shared, and re-shared on social media, stories of young people touted as heroes for “standing up for their faith” in their high school commencement ceremonies. Two I read this graduation season submitted speeches to their schools for review then delivered different speeches altogether from what had been was approved.
One of them was Roy Costner, the valedictorian of his class at South Carolina’s Liberty High School. Roy submitted a speech for approval by the school. When he stood before the crowd on graduation day, however, he tore up his speech in front of the crowd and, instead, made a few comments about being raised in the Christian faith and then recited the Lord’s Prayer. The staff on the dais with Roy showed no reaction, but the crowd applauded and cheered as he recited. You can watch it here (or thousands of other places on the web): http://now.msn.com/lords-prayer-replaces-graduation-speech-for-valedictorian.
Another was Remington Reimer of Texas’ Joshua High School. He also prepared and submitted a speech which was approved by his school but, rather than delivering it, he gave a different speech, one expressing his faith in the life, death and atonement of Jesus Christ. When he deviated from the approved speech, his microphone was turned off (which was the policy explained to the student speakers ahead of time). You can watch Remington here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwvzXCIhFWQ
On Facebook, these young men are lauded as heroes. I’ve no doubt their intentions are good, and I certainly share their beliefs, but I think we may have led them astray. I can’t see that what they did was heroic, or even Christian. I’m grateful they have a Christian faith that is important to them, but I wonder if they are representing well the faith they claim. Is it Christian to tell those in authority we will do one thing and then do another? Is it Christlike to agree in private to submit to authority, then defy them publicly? Would it not have been better for them to submit what they really wanted to say with all references to their faith and to Jesus included. And then, if turned down by the administration could they not have declined to speak based on their convictions?
I admire the young men for wanting to speak of their faith at graduation. I acknowledge the foolishness of asking successful young people to share from what has shaped them into the people they are without letting them share the part faith plays in that shaping, but lying to those in authority undermines the very message the speakers want to convey. What about Jesus’ instruction to “let your yes be yes and your no, no”?
The reports I read from different sources mentioned that Roy Costner recited the Lord’s Prayer as a protest of his school district’s new policy banning religious prayer. Is the Lord’s Prayer something to be recited as a form of protest? Was he praying, or merely reciting something to make a point? If the people in the crowd were as enthusiastic in their support as they seemed, why did they yell and cheer rather than to pray along with him? It almost seemed to be more about defying authority than about praying.
These young men are being lauded as heroes of the First Amendment, crusaders for free speech and the free exercise of religion. Costner says, ” I want to emphasize that everyone should be free to say what they want. Just because I prayed to my God doesn’t mean that someone else isn’t allowed to pray to who they want or say what they believe. We should all have free speech.” (Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/interview-valedictorian-roy-costner-iv-on-ripping-up-his-approved-speech-reciting-lords-prayer-97552/#SeH2WkPkW7qT5Rcg.99) But can schools really allow students to stand at commencement ceremonies and say anything they want? Is that practical? There is no limit to where that could go. This isn’t a public forum for exchanging ideas. It is a school event honoring the graduating class and conferring their diplomas.
I, too, am concerned about the increasing restriction on the verbal expression of the Christian faith in our society. It frightens me at times. But I wonder, if our time and energy would be better spent “living out our faith” rather than “standing up for our faith”, and teaching our kids to do the same. We, and these young men, are free to do that.
There is no restriction on walking in the Spirit; no government on earth can regulate that. Many have tried; none have succeeded. These graduates have been free throughout their 13 years in public school to live out their Christian faith. They have been free to let their light shine among men. They’ve been free to befriend the student who always eats alone in the cafeteria and to offer to pray for the one who is sick or hurting. They have been free to refuse to cheat on their work when it seemed everyone was taking the easy way out. They’ve had complete liberty to treat their classmates and teachers with respect. And they were free to submit to the authority of the school concerning graduation speeches or to respectfully decline if their convictions wouldn’t allow them to do so.
Their defiance makes good Youtube viewing, but I wonder if it speaks well for their faith or represents well the Savior they purport to honor. Your thoughts?