Prayers, Cribs, and Pine Creek High School

I flipped on the light as I opened the door. He was a young man, mid twenties, and I wondered why he was ringing my doorbell on a Sunday night. Since I didn’t see a tie or stack of Watchtowers, I decided to satisfy my curiosity. Some people open their door to anyone or answer the phone whenever it rings. I am not one of those people. But he had a humble and anxious look about him. Besides, he looked vaguely familiar.

“Hi,” he said. “I don’t know if you remember me, but I put a deposit on your crib at the garage sale.”

It came back to me. Our youngest son had turned three and graduated to a big boy bed. So we had held a garage sale two weeks earlier to get rid of all of the baby stuff. The solid oak crib was quite an attraction. Many people came specifically to try to buy it. But the young man with dishwater blonde curly hair was there on Saturday, promptly at nine, and paid for right of first refusal. He was so excited by the crib. It was in perfect condition . . . $600 new and priced to sell at $125. He wanted to bring his wife to see it before he paid the balance and promised to bring her by that afternoon. It was their first child, he said. She was two months pregnant. and he knew it was the best crib he could afford. But he never came back. So on Sunday, the wife of an assistant pastor from one of the many garage churches we have in Teller County ended up with it.

“I’m sorry I didn’t come back,” he said. “I didn’t have your phone number, and I wanted you to know that you can keep the deposit. I hope I didn’t cause you any trouble.” He cleared his throat and then stumbled through the difficult words that came next. That Saturday, his wife was feeling ill when he got home. He ended up taking her to the hospital Saturday night where she miscarried. He fought back the tears as he said the words.

“It’s OK,” I told him. “We found a buyer.” I told him I was sorry for his loss and returned his deposit. He stood for a minute composing himself. Then he thanked me and returned to the darkness.

As I turned the outside and hall lights off, I remembered the pastor’s wife as she had stood on our porch while paying for the crib. She was almost overcome with the Holy Spirit right there on my porch. She told me that she and her husband and their whole congregation had prayed that morning for the young man to change his mind so that she could buy the crib. She thanked Jesus so profusely for answering their prayers that I almost tore up her check just to make a point. But I didn’t. Now I wished I had her phone number so I could ask if she believed that God had killed another couple’s baby just so that she could have an oak crib.

Currently, a number of people in Colorado Springs are upset over Pine Creek High School’s decision to stop a Christian youth group from using school facilities for an after-school prayer and bible study group. Exhibit A is a lawsuit, as well as angry letters to The Gazette. There is even a guest column wondering how such a thing could happen in such a devout city like Colorado Springs. Kids need more prayer and more God in their lives, the writers say. That’s why everything is so screwed up in this country. We took God out of school, and look what has happened. From the tone of all the writing, you’d think turning public schools into parochial ones would allow our high school seniors to test favorably with Chinese elementary students for a change.

I agree the school is a little overboard on this. But it is the fault of parents, lawyers, and courts that school officials have to act this way. It is parents, often Christian, who are afraid of any ideas outside of their own religious beliefs, and who have brought so many successful lawsuits against schools, that has led to every school having lawyers on speed dial. It is not the school officials, but rather the school district lawyer, who decided to shut down the prayer group to avoid problems. I’d have a little more sympathy for these parents if they weren’t the same ones who sued to prevent yoga classes on campus. Somehow, I suspect that if a group of Muslims, Buddhists, or Wiccans were using the school for religious study, quite a few of these same Christians would blow a gasket trying to stop them.

Yes, kids need healthy groups to belong to in order to survive the teen years. Athletics, band, and theater are not enough for some kids. Religion or some cause bigger than themselves is necessary to help kids make it. Christians, bummed by their banishment from school, sued to get atheism and secular humanism classified as religions just so they could be banned as well. Only in America could a lawyer successfully argue that not believing in God is a religion. Therefore, programs that help teach teens to connect to humanity as a whole, minus the religious impediments, get attacked and shut down. I grew up when prayer was allowed in school, and as an Air Force brat, I attended many different schools. Saying the Lord’s Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance every day did little to curb the problems that we faced. Furthermore, they were the same problems that kids face today. There is a different context and greater opportunity for mischief today, but lack of school-organized prayer is not the problem. If you think it is, I suggest you double check those brownies you’ve been eating.

Christians should thank Pine Creek for preventing these teens from engaging in the same kind of misguided prayer and bible study the crib lady from the garage church promotes. The faithful need to get serious about working with kids in some useful ways. Instead of taking the easy way out by targeting public schools where kids are a cinch to find, they need to compete in the marketplace for young people. Go to a mall, for example, and set up shop. If Christians have a message that can compete with the arcade and Victoria’s Secret, then they’ll be doing the Lord’s work for real. Otherwise, either let all religions find a home in schools or keep everybody, including Christians, out.

In the meantime, I’ll say a prayer for you.