No novelist could construct some of the news stories that have recently started my mornings here in Mexico.
The dueling Elvises whose dispute spilled over into (literal) poison pen letters putting the lives of political leaders at risk. Or the lesbian police officer who hired another woman to kill her live-in girlfriend, but the police officer was really a "he" having undergone a transgender operation.
But one of the strangest was in this weekend's news.
Cheerleaders at a Texas high school (in the town of Kountze -- I am not making that up) have emblazoned banners with a Bible scripture at football games. Their team then dashes onto the field shredding the banner -- and the scripture with it. There may be more symbolism there than these young Wesleys had intended.
Because it happened in The States, the next step was a lawsuit. Not by an offended Bible-loving citizen (that would have been a far more interesting story), but by some organization ham-fistedly calling itself "The Freedom From Religion Foundation." Rolling out another episode in what has come to be called "The Culture Wars."
Usually, I would have merely been yawning at this point. No one even attempts to be clever these days with their words. Where are people like my brother, who, when the Boston Marathon Bombers were captured, wanted to know why the news anchors did not announce: "The Boston Terrothan is over."
I am not a stranger to disputes that arise under the establishment and worship clauses of the First Amendment. And you already have a rather good idea of where I stand. After all, I told you Potter Stewart was my favorite Supreme Court justice back in college in high school. i know it when i see it.
A judge has now issued his opinion in The Cheerleaders Gone Wycliffe" case. I would have bet on the outcome. The courts have recently treated high school students as if they were the robotic tools of the education establishment. (A view that shows just how long it has been since any of them has stepped into the halls of a public high school.)
Because they cannot think on their own, all of their actions are attributed to the school. That is the only way that the anti-public religion folks can shoe horn their particular prejudice into the First Amendment. No state action. No Religion Clause protection.
But I would have been wrong. Judge Steven Thomas ruled in favor of the cheerleaders -- making an argument that Justice Stewart over 50 years ago. The cheerleaders have individual rights under the First Amendment, and they can express their views -- separate from those of the school. In this case, the school administration was fighting against the cheerleaders.
Judge Thomas has added a bit of common sense in what has become a reductionist bout of hysteria whenever the topic of religion in the public square comes up. But this particular case really has nothing to do with religion. At least, not orthodox Christianity.
The verse the cheerleaders used was "If God is with us, who can be
against us?" The best that can be said is that it is a verse from The Bible. Romans 8:31 to be exact.
The problem is the cheerleaders have sucked any theological meaning out of the verse. In Romans, Paul is discussing the fact that nothing can separate us from the love of the Messiah. To use it as a magic talisman to imbue a football team with magical powers verges on the sacrilegious.
And that is not a matter for the courts. Some wise pastor should have pulled the teenagers aside and suggested that if they wanted to be trite, it might be best to leave scripture alone.
The most rabid atheist could not do more damage than did these young scholars with their trivialization. If the humorless folks over at The Freedom From Religion Foundation had given this a little thought, they would have realized the cheerleaders were their allies, not their enemies.
Of course, no one in this dispute realized that religion was not involved at all -- even the judge -- because the American and Canadian heresy of God being a genie to grant our every wish has seeped deep into what we think is religion.
It is not orthodox Christianity. It is what I just called it. A heresy. A topic on touched on in national limitations.
At least we can be glad of one thing. If the bubbly cheerleaders had written a verse from the Quran on the banner -- in the spirit of multiculturalism -- and the banner had then been shredded by their beefy boyfriends running onto the field, the Kountze football field would probably now be a smoking hole.
We can thank God for small favors.