Sacred ground.

There are times when you just know you are standing on sacred ground. Today I experienced one of those times. Every Tuesday I take a year 5 and 6 Scripture class and in a few short minutes, which can range from 15 – 20 I have the opportunity to share Christ with the class. I have to say upfront that I have never considered myself to be a teacher – especially within a classroom environment. And yet, teaching is part of the pastoral gifting / calling of which I believe I am called.

I try and do something different with the kids in class to make a difference. I have observed that far to often it seems to me those in authority speak at the kids. The teachers speak at them. The principal speaks at them. But, under God, my own prayer is Lord, help me to engage with the kids in a way that you are truly shared. We live and minister in a broken area. There is a lot of violence. There is a lot of abuse. A lot of brokenness, crime and broken families.  There is a lot of hurt and there is a lot of anger. And yet, within this, time to time we find faith. We find hope. And we find love.

Most of the kids I minister too have to grow up quick. Many of them loose the very innocence that they should not. The area I speak about is often derided in the media. It’s hard for people to find jobs when they tell their prospective employer where they are from. (I recently spoke to someone who was well qualified, and had applied for 60 odd jobs and each time was told no. They lied about where they lived, and put down a previous address which was in a more so called “acceptable’ suburb and they got that job)And so the theme of my message to them is a constant “God is for you and not against you!” Anyway I digress.

Today I felt inspired to talk about how God has given us the spirit of love, power and sound mind which is the opposite of fear. I opened up in talking about fear and we had a discussion about what fear does. Then I spoke about how God doesn’t want us to fear him as in being scared.. rather he wants to empower us, love us and wipe away all confusion from us. I shared how God isn’t out to get us and because of his love for us – he will empower us to walk through any circumstances of life which comes our way.

I only shared for about 9 minutes. But during this time, the kids just sat quietly, eyes wide open. I prayed for them and then the bell rang.

*Warning! Tear Jerking Story Following!*

As everyone else left the class under the teachers orders, a young boy came up and asked if he could talk to us and if we would pray for him and his family. He shared how his dad had walked out on them, saying he had fallen out of love with his mum. While he was saying that – this young boy stood tall and said, “That is bull, he has walked out on me and my brother also!” And we listened to this young boy (who is quickly growing up beyond his tender years) pour out his pain and heartache of loosing his dad. I asked him if I could place my hand on his shoulder, which he said yes.. and I prayed for him, asking the Lord to comfort him, bless him, bring reconciliation in his family and heal their hurts.

This young boy made a comment that made me truly aware of the fact that we were standing on sacred ground. For he said to me “Thank you for telling me that God will never leave me on my own – I so needed to hear that today!”

As that young man walked back to class,  Jon Owen (other scripture teacher) and myself looked at each other, tears freely pouring down our cheeks, and gave each other a huge hug as we acknowledged that something mighty and powerful just took place.

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About Craig Benno

I'm an average aussie guy who has lived perhaps a not so average life.
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11 Responses to Sacred ground.

  1. tildeb says:

    I cannot comprehend how any public school system allows this travesty to continue: by what and whose authority do you enter a public classroom and evangelize? Why not a radicalized muslim? a scientologist? a voodoo priest? If my understanding is correct, you’re in front of ten and eleven years old captive children! This is morally and ethically wrong in so many ways.

  2. Craig Benno says:

    Tildeb. In Australia, every religion has the right to teach its scripture in every public school, with the proviso the parents allow it. For the kids whose parents don’t allow, they go to non Scripture. For yourself, it may very well be a travesty.

    But for many, its a source of comfort, hope and strength to know that God is for them and not against them… and that even goes for you.

    • tildeb says:

      But for many, its a source of comfort, hope and strength to know that Vishnu is for them and not against them… and that even goes for you.

      But for many, its a source of comfort, hope and strength to know that Baal is for them and not against them… and that even goes for you.

      But for many, its a source of comfort, hope and strength to know that Allah is for them and not against them… and that even goes for you.

      Bear with me.

      These three gods represent three very different and conflicting scriptures that each damn those who do not follow them. This is what the children are subjected to, a divisive religious indoctrination without any curriculum standards to legitimately compare and contrast what these theologies promote done by those without any teaching standards and proper accreditation to hold those who proselytize them accountable to professional conduct. In other words, it’s unprofessional.

      In every way, this religious incursion into the public school classroom is antithetical to the core values of what we call education: the development and exercise of critical and creative thinking. In other words, it is religious and not educational.

      Those two reasons alone – and not my religious preference or lack of it – is why what you’re doing is a travesty, a blatant incursion using public funding in a public institution to promote private religious beliefs on to a vulnerable population… no matter how juiced you might get from positive individual responses. That’s simply not the point of why it’s a travesty.

      That many parent go along with this travesty is not a meaningful vote in its favour out of some appreciation for its content and effect of message. It is a recognition that separating peers because of parental involvement who know enough about education to understand why it’s a travesty is a recipe for dividing kids into sectarian camps. This is what you are promoting, a sectarian incursion where it has no legitimate educational business being… no matter how strongly or in favour I or you or anyone else might feel about some particular brand that is preferred.

  3. Craig Benno says:

    Tildeb, Tell me what creates more comfort for a grieving person… Sorry your an accident of the universe from the big bang which gives you no inherent value as a person…

    As for me, I shall continue to share the good news that thereis a God of the universe who cares so much for you, that he gave his only son, so that who so ever believes in him shall receive abundant life…This same God promises to never leave you nor forsake you.

    While in your own mind you may think you have the higher ground. But you forget, I have personally experienced the living God delivering me from demons and in doing so healing me from being a drunkard, pornography and gambling addiction in an instant! I have received the empowering baptism of the Holy Spirit as is recorded in the book of Acts.

    My experience of the living God outweighs your none experience and so I continue to pray for your conversion and that you too will come to know forgiveness of sin and the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit living in, through and over you.

    • tildeb says:

      As far as inserting religious indoctrination into the public school classroom, you have neither the pedagogical basis nor professional background to do so. All you are really doing is creating a sectarian divide between citizens on the public dime and it lacks any educational merit. Your comment in no way addresses this travesty but tries to smoother these justifiable criticisms with soothing words of religious comfort.

      Not good enough.

      You also write Tildeb, Tell me what creates more comfort for a grieving person… as if alleviating grief was the role of religious indoctrination… again, having nothing to do with its insertion into the public classroom. There are professional grief counselors if grief counseling is the reason. You’re not a grief counselor.

      As for what creates more comfort for a grieving person outside of the classroom, I’m afraid my knowledge is rather broad… my spouse, after all, is not just a coordinator of regional hospice but also quite aware of how much additional suffering religious belief more often than not brings into this complicated process. Don’t try for a moment to pretend religious belief should be assumed to bring comfort when the fact is that it usually lessens it to a considerable and extensive degree. When extended into palliative care, religious belief in the form of anti-euthenasia is almost always a significant detriment that causes additional real suffering to real people in real life. The common meme that religion plays a central role in offering aid and comfort is a naked emperor exposed when end of life becomes not some hazy notion to which theology can be metaphysically applied but very real and in your face. I can also assure you that volunteer staffing is motivated by those who wish to offer their services and experiences to those non-palliative caregivers now undergoing this difficult and challenging transition as well as offer them selves and their time and effort to the palliative patients who by and large drop their religious cloak altogether and start to really live in the here and now. It is often very surprising to many that about half of the hundreds and hundreds of hospice volunteers have no religious affiliation whatsoever.

      But I can assure you that volunteers who try to push their religious agenda on palliative patients and their caregivers are often confronted directly by them to stop because it simply isn’t helpful. You may believe it is helpful, that it offers hope to others that you found valuable, that it is a worthwhile doctrine to push on children, but these are simply your beliefs and not a blueprint we find accurate in reality.

      Living – not believing – is meaningful, and you screw up this order by assuming incorrectly that your faith is appropriate teaching material for children to find meaning in your holy book rather than their own lives, children too young to know any better, children who are susceptible to the message of love and caring and concern you are offering not realizing that you do so not for their sake but for your own and your beliefs, to reinforce your own faith in your scripture, your interpretation of them, your particular brand of theology. You are welcome to your faith in your private life and the communities you belong to based on it but you have no good pedagogical reasons to use the public classroom to spread it. By doing so, you cause unnecessary harm whether you see it or not. And the cover of offering comfort is just that: a necessary disguise. This is a clue…

      • Craig Benno says:

        Tildeb. I find it rather ironic, that I am man enough to own up to my real name be a real person as to what I believe. Where you always hide behind a anonymous persona. To me that smacks of the greatest hypocrisy of someone who doesn’t really believe what it is they are spouting off.

      • tildeb says:

        Yes, this is a common criticism. But having undergone very real and dangerous threats and attacks and professional persecution to both me and my family for daring to publicly comment about controversial topics, I understand better than many why anonymity is important for some of us. Where you see ‘hiding’ I see ‘protection’; where you see ‘hypocrisy’ I see ‘prudence’.

        Look, if my comments do not stand on their own merit then they are not worth further consideration. The quality they produce is not determined by the context of their author but must stand or fall entirely on their own merit. I use personal experience only when confronting charges that I am ignorant about something about which I am not ignorant, and these experiences can be locally verified if you, for example, were to talk to a local hospice coordinator on the effects of religious belief in their client population, a local teacher who sees the playground effect of children between those who stay and those who leave the classroom when religious spokespeople enter, a local faculty of education dean or professor on the pedagogy of ‘scripture’ classes. I try to introduce my experiences only when they can be independently and locally verified… because I really do know what I’m talking about and offer it not as an opportunity for ‘spouting off’ but as a valuable and knowledgeable contribution in the value of the comment.

        In this case, scripture classes in a public setting are a travesty and I have very good reasons for describing them as such independent of my private belief or non belief. They are harmful to children.

      • Craig Benno says:

        You have consistently failed to disprove that Jesus Christ.

        1.) didn’t exist.
        2.) Was either a liar, lunatic and wasn’t who he claimed to be.
        3.) That Christ is not God incarnate.
        4.) That Christ was not resurrected from the dead.

        Till then your arguments no matter how clever you think they are continue to fail on all accounts. Within your own framework of understanding, you believe they are a travesty …

        yet, within the very framework of understanding of those whose beliefs you are yet to disprove – (Though I have repeatedly asked you on this blog to do so.. ) are speaking the truth and therefore, as the truth, scripture has a very real and important place within the public education sphere.

        If its not truth, then prove the points I have repeatedly asked to to engage in.

      • Craig Benno says:

        P.S I think its sad that you have suffered persecution for your beliefs.. but it also seems to me, that if you were in a position of power, you too would persecute those you disagree with…;)

      • tildeb says:

        My family and I have been subjected to harassment and violence for my expressed opinions about certain race-based public policies.

        I am a secularist and liberal who endorses enlightenment values of individual autonomy, legal equality, and dignity of personhood. I would have to act contrary to these values to persecute anyone similar to what I have experienced. That’s why I keep telling you that I think we – meaning both of us – have equal rights to believe what we want. What we don’t have is the right to reduce these rights and freedoms for others in the name of private beliefs. Most atheists I know, for example, are the greatest supporters of your secular right to religious freedom… in the private domain. Where conflict in opinion arises is in the public domain where the exercise of religious privilege – like proselytizing ten and eleven years old children in a public school – is unearned and unwanted because, believe it or not, such exercised privilege by faitheists of all stripes undermines the very value used to protect it! That’s why it’s legally unethical even if popular and even if legal!

      • tildeb says:

        If you are going to claim that your scripture is the truth, then by what means can all people arbitrate it?

        Well, reality is not your friend, which is why you, by your own admission, require faith. But your faith is not a means by which I can arbitrate the claim.

        This creates a significant problem for us when you argue that you should be allowed to proselytize in public classrooms. You believe your claim is true. I believe your claim is not true.

        How, then, to proceed?

        You wish the public domain to provide you access to children to be able to act on your belief. I offer compelling reasons why this is harmful. Rather than address these criticisms specifically – to show that scripture classes have a basis in pedagogy, provide a means to compare and contrast, to utilize critical and creative thinking, carried out by trained teaching professionals under the guidance and ethical standards of peer reviewed curriculum, you announce your faith-based claims are simply true and, so, deserving of this platform.

        I disagree.

        I offer compelling reasons why contrary and conflicting claims about the truth of various scriptures based on an equivalent reliance on faith you utilize to support your own faith creates problems in the public domain, problems that create differences and divisions between real people in real life that have very real negative consequences.

        I allow you the same right I have to believe whatever you want in your private domain and faith communities to which you belong without any censure from anyone else. Not satisfied with this equal treatment and in response to these specific criticisms I have about your activities in the classroom, you tell me I have to disprove your claim that your faith-based beliefs – and presumably all the other religious faith-based claims contrary and in conflict with your own but that have access to these students as well – are true depictions of the reality all of us share. But you have already discounted any means you will accept that can accomplish this impossible task because you have already ruled out any arbitration by an indifferent third party – namely, reality.

        Sure, you use bits and pieces of reality to support your faith-based beliefs but do not account for all the other bits and pieces of reality that do not. This makes you biases and prejudicial. And this is an intransigent problem when trying to curtail the use of the public domain for private faith-based initiatives.

        If you want your truth claims to be taken seriously as truth claims about reality, then you have to allow its arbitration of your claims! You must turn away from the use of faith as an argument (based as it is on personal revelation) and turn to the use of knowledge adduced from reality to prove your case. Unless and until you are willing to do this, the burden of proof rests squarely on your shoulders to show how reality alone supports your claim. And until you accomplish this task, you have nothing but bias and prejudice to inform your assumption that you have access to the truth. In the meantime, children in the public school classroom are best left alone from your – or anyone’s – religious proselytizing.

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