We all pray in a different way. Some of us say a prayer before a meal or bedtime, some of us at specific times of the day, and some of us when we score a touchdown. Another “blog” post making it’s rounds on local online forums and Facebook threads contests that “PRAYER IN ST.CLOUD PUBLIC SCHOOLS OK FOR MUSLIMS- NO ONE ELSE.” This statement is what we call in the field of psychology as a “cognitive distortion,” in this case a “black and white” or “all or nothing” statement, used on purpose, to encourage you and others to get angry.
First, let’s point out how this statement is simply not true. District 742 lays out in it’s policy, clear as day, and easily found online (http://isd742.org/Page/99) in Section 609:
- The purpose of this policy is to identify the status of religion as it pertains to the programs of the School District.
- The School District shall neither promote nor disparage any religious belief or non-belief. Instead, the School District encourages all students and employees to have appreciation for and tolerance of each other’s views.
- The School District also recognizes that religion has had and is having a significant role in the social, cultural, political, and historical development of civilization.
- The School District recognizes that one of its educational objectives is to increase its students’ knowledge and appreciation of music, art, drama, and literature which may have had a religious basis or origin as well as a secular importance.
- The School District supports the inclusion of religious music, art, drama, and literature in the curriculum and in school activities provided it is intrinsic to the learning experience and is presented in an objective manner without sectarian indoctrination.
- The historical and contemporary values and the origin of various religions, holidays, customs and beliefs may be explained in an unbiased and nonsectarian manner.
So, back to the “blog” article’s statement (I put blog in parentheses because the author(s) do not publish their names and hide behind a theme instead). I’m going to ask you to try something real quick; when you read this statement, “PRAYER IN ST.CLOUD PUBLIC SCHOOLS OK FOR MUSLIMS- NO ONE ELSE.”, what do you feel? Sit on that for a second or two.
The term “NO ONE ELSE” is such a very bold statement, it likely made you feel left out, or maybe even hurt and betrayed. My guess is that it also made you feel either angry, frustrated, confused, or annoyed, and maybe you would even click on the article, only to intensify that feeling, which was created by a very distorted statement. See what’s missing here? You likely became angry just by a headline, and then, in a moment of anger you re-post the link without reading it, henceforth spreading more anger and frustration, only to further damage an already sensitive issue, based on a lie. We simply react, act without thought, or actually act with a thought that was briefly put into our head by an article headline.
Even I react to articles like this sometimes, it’s human nature, part of our nature we would benefit from being more mindful of. In this case, we would benefit from being mindful of that fact that since most of us truly do respect each others right to their own religion, we must also recognize that different religions pray in different ways. For me, growing up in a laid-back Scandinavian ELCA Lutheran family, seeing someone pray publicly has always seemed out of the ordinary, so I go back to what I learned from my religion that has always been the most helpful when coming across something that is different to me. Judge not.
So, as a therapist, and as your friendly neighborhood redhead, I’m asking we all take a deep breathe and re-read that headline before we react. It’s ok to have done it, newspapers and magazines count on us to react to headlines like that, and we all have and likely will again. We are surrounded by statements that encourage distorted thinking, and in this case, it’s another one encouraging us to divide our community….Muslims, vs. everyone else. We are all in this together, and we all do things a little differently, I pray all the time and you would never notice when, where, or how I’m doing it. I pray that we simply don’t judge others because they do it differently; I don’t see how that would benefit anyone in a positive manner.