Monthly Archives: November 2011
If you have visited an American high school in the past few years, you might have seen something called “See You At the Pole,” where students go to the flagpole on campus and pray to God. Students will gather in numbers ranging from a small handful to, at least the largest one I have seen in photos, a few hundred.
The nation-wide SYATP event is supposed to be on the fourth Wednesday of September for those students who are participating to, according to their own website, “…lift up their friends, families, teachers, school, and nation to God,” with a prayer rally before class starts, but individual campuses are encouraged to continue it every week, or whenever they can, and the people at my high school did just that.
But why is See You at the Pole such a big deal? Okay, some people are getting together in public to basically write letters to Santa, but what’s the real harm? None, depending upon one’s own view of the matter. If one takes the Christian fundamentalist perspective of simply: students worshipping God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost (sure sounds like monotheism), trying to get friends and other believers gathered together, and not being afraid to show their faith in a public area, then I guess there is no harm in the event.
Now, if one were to take the rational person’s perspective, then one should see the hypocrisy and damage these kinds of events can cause. The big one for Christians themselves is that Jesus said that you should not pray in public areas, because it makes you a hypocrite, and that instead you should pray in your own room, where God will reward you (Matthew 6:5-6). Those who pray in public are wanting to be seen by others; they want their piety shown to the world, and Jesus, their own Lord and Saviour, is calling them hypocrites for it.
In the About section of their website, under a brief description of the event, it has a list containing its supporting ministries. After a quick look through the list, one finds a ministry that most of us should be familiar with, Focus on the Family. Yes, a supposedly loving event that is about bringing students closer to their deity is in association with one of, if not, the most anti-gay rights organisations in the country. Look through some of the ministries that they have listed, and one will see some of the most fundamentalist, dominionistic rhetoric that exists out there today.
The event, which started in Texas (big surprise) back in 1990, claims to be a “global movement of prayer which is student-initiated, student-organized, and student-led.” So it’s all supposed to be about students who are just gathering together to show their love of God? Alright, then why does the Baptist General Convention of Texas own the trademark for the See You at the Pole name and event? Why do the Student Discipleship Ministries, also from Texas, produce and distribute promotional devices for the event? Why do the National Network of Youth Ministries (which is the only non-Texas based organisation in the bunch) handle all of the media relations and promotion for See You at the Pole? Sure does sound like it’s all just spontaneous student action!
The SYATP prayer events are evangelism and dominionism masquerading under freedom of religion. Dominionism, in case one is unfamiliar with the term, are the beliefs and actions taken by conservative Christians to influence or replace a secular government with one that is either run entirely by Christians or with a system of government that is based on biblical teachings and principles. The organisations that run and promote the event or are associated with it are dominionistic. Focus on the Family, First Priority of America, Advocates for Faith and Freedom, Campus Crusade, Life Teen, and many of, if not, all those listed by the SYATP website are: dedicated to converting students, third-worlders, and other vulnerable people, anti-gay, and anti-secular schools and government.
The SYATP is a peer-pressure group. They promote proselytising of other students in school to bring them to Jesus, more so to bring them to their narrow interpretation and rituals concerning the Christian scriptures. They are a discrimination machine. At a SYATP event at an Oklahoma high school, the names of non-Christian students were written on pieces of papers and nailed to a wooden cross that someone had brought to place by the school’s flagpole, which is in violation of separation of church and state. However, secularism is not the main issue here. The issue is that people in a majority Christian school, community, and state that were not Christians had their names posted for all the fundie Christians of the school to see. “Oh look! Johnny is a pagan, Rick is a Jew, Susie is an atheist, Aisha is a Muslim. We better do whatever we can to bring them to Jesus!”
All in all, despite nothing legally that can be done about the event as far as I’m aware, the See You at the Pole event is not “student- initiated,” “student-organized,” or “student-led.” It’s run and promoted by and associated with ministries and religious organisations that are aimed at converting as many confused and vulnerable teenagers as they can by any means necessary and are threats to freedom and equality, especially concerning gays and religious minorities, and to secularism in America. It’s harmful to the community of a school environment, which is supposed to be a safe place for children of all socio-economic, political, and religious backgrounds, not a place where religion can be shoved in the faces of the student body and could be utilised as a discrimination and harassment tool used against gays, religious minorities, and non-fundamentalist Christians. It’s stealth evangelism hiding in a smokescreen of religious tolerance and freedom.