(Video link above)
In many ways, I feel for the speaker in this youtube video. Here he stood, in a position where he’s being directly told not to mention god or his beliefs in his high school graduation speech. As a staunch believer, he defies these oppressive credences and proclaims his faith in triumph.
It’s a situation I don’t doubt has happened before. Was the administration right to deny this person the right to talk about religion in his speech? In some ways, yes. We don’t know where he goes to school, but I assume this was a public school. Addressing things as if that were the case, there doesn’t really need to be mention of religious views in the senior speech. He’s in a setting where you can’t just say that the majority believes what you believe, and in respect staying silent about things so close to the hearts of many is wise.
Of course, it was a little silly to try and censor any speech that even mentions the word god, though no one can say how stringent the rules were in reality. For all we know it might’ve been that the student in question was planning on saying as much about god or more in his speech than what he did say in actuality.
As a former believer, I understand how much of an opportunity to be the ideal christian seemed to be presented when it came down to the wire and he had to decide whether or not he was going to defy the administrations wishes. But how he ended up handling it was the very thing that even a very lenient speech editor couldn’t let slip by, as lightly religious as it still was. The speech starts off essentially talking about how there will be times when people will be told to do things against their own conscience and beliefs, and that his speech was a perfect example as he had three drafts rejected for the mention of god in them. But, as he points out, we should be acting in ways that we believe is morally good and not for others. Ending with a verse, he blessed the audience in the name of the god of the christian bible.
I wouldn’t have had much of a problem with the speech, though in the end it is still too religious in a moment where you just can’t assume the religion of your audience. The problem I do have is how it’s already becoming the staple example of fighting against religious oppression when the “oppression” was a general policy probably meant to respect the beliefs of everyone. Even in my old high school, where the percentage of christians in the school almost definitely match the amount of muslim and sheik beliefs, no mention of religion is ever made simply because outside of the passing reference, is it really a necessary part of the speech? Also, is the christian religion being oppressed? It’s like the time when an atheist fought to eliminate mandated prayer became the day “prayer was taken out of our schools” as if nobody was allowed to pray anymore. I definitely sympathize with the level of backlash christians have gotten for the rise in gay politics, if only because I can see how sincere most of the responses can be, as sincere a simply bigoted response can be at times. But this is nothing short of an illusion of oppression in many instances. Outside of peer pressure, at least. And even as a atheist I can say that while sex isn’t wrong, pressuring to have it is terrible. But again, outside of this, christian theology is probaly one of the most priveleged parts of the nation in a broad stroke.
At the end of the day, this wasn’t the huge levels of preaching I expected it to be, though it is honestly enough for any editor to say that it should be changed. One of the recurring points I lean on is the idea that this would be a different scenario if the speaker was a muslim or anything else. School graduation speeches are a place to tell parents and students about moving on and growing up, about setting goals and achieving them. Sure, a passing mention on religious beliefs are fine, but it’s hardly a victory against oppression to feel the need to break policy made not to oppress but to allow for respect.
-A nonbelieving bard with the completely “insane” ability to sit through speeches containing some religious perspective