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Author Topic: Is this normal? Prayer at meetings?  (Read 40029 times)
fancypants
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« on: October 11, 2010, 7:50:45 AM »

At a meeting of a local part of a larger professional organization I had been thinking of joining--which is, as far as I know, in no way affiliated with any religion--everything was kicked off with an "invocation," which turned out to be a prayer to God, during which time we were expected to join in by bowing our heads and offering assent in the form of an "Amen."

Since our institution (and our faculty and staff) are quite diverse, this seemed inappropriate at best.  And, being who I am in terms of faith, I was quite uncomfortable with being led in an organized prayer.  However, I am hesitant to bring this up because I am untenured and the person leading the prayer is in a position of power at my institution.

I haven't been to many professional organization meetings, so I have to ask those of you who have--is this normal?
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stickball
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« Reply #1 on: October 11, 2010, 8:20:58 AM »

No - not normal or ordinary.  Run away.
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promovenda
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« Reply #2 on: October 11, 2010, 2:05:25 PM »

"Amen" means "so be it" and is a form of assent. If you in fact don't agree with the prayer, I'm sure it's proper to stand quietly and say nothing. In your situation, that may be safer than bringing up objections.
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embitteredhistorian
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« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2010, 10:45:51 PM »

WTF is going on--are people accessing this forum from the fifteenth century or something?
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dellaroux
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« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2010, 11:06:25 PM »

WTF is going on--are people accessing this forum from the fifteenth century or something?

Hunh? Was there a spammer we missed?


Re: the OP, you might (if it's safe) do the "I'm confused....what should I do if I'm not Christian during the prayer" thing, which puts the situation back on the person in charge without making any judgments or further revelatory disclosures on your behalf.

I start church meetings with a prayer, certainly, but not in any other setting! 

Although I will say I just saw something that surprised me the other day...there were a bunch of chairs pulled up in the small area just outside the Town Hall last Saturday, and a podium off to the side, near the steps. I thought at first it was either voter registration or something like that, until I saw the sign, "Say a decade of the rosary for our town!"

Never, ever had I run into something like that before....
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collegekidsmom
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« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2010, 11:10:21 AM »

Never have I seen anything like this in many years with many professional associations.
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amador
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« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2010, 10:56:27 PM »

No - not normal or ordinary.  Run away.

Chime
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pikachu
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« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2010, 11:06:20 PM »

WTF is going on--are people accessing this forum from the fifteenth century or something?

No, probably just from the South.
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larryc
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« Reply #8 on: October 18, 2010, 11:35:39 PM »

Untenured, I'd STFU.

Post tenure, I'd walk out.
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punchnpie
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« Reply #9 on: October 19, 2010, 3:03:54 AM »

I have been to many meetings where most participants are black and no one thought a thing about saying a prayer. When I was in law school, it was typical for someone to start off an exam with a prayer - this was at an HBCU, but not a religious school.  And just the other day, I got an email from a new black practitioner group in my field and it closed with some religious statement. I was a bit surprised, but this must be something cultural where people think they can call for a prayer, etc. and no one's going to be offended.

I wouldn't be offended if there was a call for prayer at faculty meeting at my current employer, but I would be surprised. A lot.
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promovenda
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« Reply #10 on: October 24, 2010, 2:15:41 AM »

WTF is going on--are people accessing this forum from the fifteenth century or something?

No; they wouldn't be questioning whether it was normal.

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polly_mer
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« Reply #11 on: October 24, 2010, 8:20:51 AM »

In many places where I've been, starting everything with a prayer is normal and expected.

However, good atheist that I am, I don't pitch a fit unless the prayer is something other than a generic, "Let's be grateful for what we have and being here together, let us have the strength and courage to do our best when something else would be easier and more convenient, and let us remember to live for a greater purpose than ourselves to help make the world a better place".  I've simply learned to live with the appeals to a patriarch, a matriarch, or a general life force to help us be better people.

I seldom say the "Amen", but I'm willing to observe a moment of silence with bowed head while someone reminds us that part of what makes us human in the best sense is remembering that we're not just rats in a maze running to the next bit of cheese.
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biomancer
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« Reply #12 on: October 24, 2010, 8:43:22 AM »

PretentiousSLAC did this at some large ceremonial student gatherings - matriculation, honors convocation, senior dinner, graduation, but not at faculty gatherings.  The prayers were intentionally and obviously wide in scope as there was a lot of religious diversity there.

Big State doesn't do this, or at least hasn't in two years.

Now, the professional organizations for hazmat responders and firefighters invoke prayers at the beginnings of conventions and before meals - but the hazmat and fire folks are generally a more religious bunch.  I'm also an atheist, so I just sit there quietly (there are plenty enough people who would be very uncomfortable knowing my religious views) but I certainly won't object if someone invokes a higher power as I'm pulling that big white suit on to go rescue someone and/or stop the leak.  If I'm wrong and there really is a deity out there, I'd prefer for it to be on my side and not the side of the dichloro-kill-ya-quick.
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fancypants
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« Reply #13 on: October 25, 2010, 8:38:46 AM »

Yes, this is taking place in the South, though the meeting was for a local chapter of a national organization.  It just took me by surprise, since neither the college nor the organization have religious affiliations, and since the organization as I understand it would seem to be one that does not concern itself with such matters.

Of course I was polite and silent during the prayer, as I am in other occasions when this comes up.  I know to expect such things at, for instance, dinner in others' homes or certain ceremonial occasions, and I deal with it.

As I am untenured, I am taking the STFU route, and based on this and the general tone of the meeting (e.g. one of the leaders saying "Oh, I forget we aren't allowed to say 'Christmas' anymore.  I mean 'holidays'" while rolling her eyes), I am thinking that I don't need to be a part of this particular organization in the first place.
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nikolite
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« Reply #14 on: October 25, 2010, 7:54:09 PM »

To punchinpie, that is true.  Its something very unnerving to me, but there is no way for even black atheists in these groupings to pipe up about this--within African American culture Christianity is so integrally taken as given. Prayer can be a part of professional meetings, sports events, lectures, nearly everything, when the audience is presumed to be exclusively black (or mostly so).  Its just as commonplace to learn to STFU in these settings.

To the OP, I think you made a good decision overall. 
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