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Religion & Law: Mirror of Justice
Cheering for Jesus? Of Girls' Basketball, Catholic High School, and Religious School Pride
My daughter Caitlin is in her freshman year of high school at Benilde-St. Margaret's in the Twin Cities. When the time came to select a high school, she wanted a high school with both solid Catholic teaching and advanced academic classes, which led her to Benilde-St. Margaret's (BSM), even though it meant that she went a different direction than most of her junior high friends. We were proud of her mature and conscientious decision.
With all the attention given to March Madness and college basketball, let us not forget that this is also the time of year for state high school basketball tournaments. The Benilde-St. Margaret's Girls' Basketball team finished their season by going through the tournament and winning a close championship game for the Minnesota state championship (triple A). Go Red Knights! No, my daughter wasn't on the team, but she was in the pep band, which of course played its own integral role in supporting the team.
As the BSM girls proceeded through the tournament, during one game the two schools competed in opposing cheers, as is common, usually in good fun, and displays team spirit in any sports rivalry. At one point, the other school's cheering section began yelling "Public SchOO-uls. CLAP. CLAP. Clap-clap-clap." In extemporaneous response, the BSM cheering section began to chant: "We Got JEE-sus. CLAP. CLAP. Clap-clap-clap."
Out of an understandable sense of discretion, the BSM administration quickly closed down this responsive cheer. And being sensitive to the general audience, the nature of the opposing school, and respect for the name of our Lord, I might have made that same call on the fly. After all, no Christian school should appear triumphalist -- and there is a fine line between faithful pride and religious arrogance -- and needless religious division should be avoided. Moreover, when we encourage the faithful to call on the Name of Jesus, we probably don't have in mind a rally cry for a sports team.
But after thinking about it, I began to second-guess my initial reaction. Isn't it a healthy thing that Catholic high school students immediately identified their commitment to Jesus as something that sets them apart from a public school and proudly proclaimed it in a public setting? In fact, "We Got Jesus" is one of the logos for t-shirts available for sale in the BSM "Spirit Shop." Is this another example of how our society has become so secular and so discouraging of public expressions of religious sentiments that even people of faith tend to hide their light under a bushel lest we give offense to others?
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