Inertia, Broken Windshields, and the Boundaries of “Religion”

By Craig R. Prentiss

A decade ago, I was driving with my family on a highway in Tennessee when our windshield was hit by a stone. My focus soon shifted from the fresh crack in the glass to the signs on the back of each vehicle in a convoy of gravel trucks reading: “Stay Back 300 Feet: Not Responsible for Broken Windshields.”

Furious, I wailed, “How is it possible that they’re not responsible?!” I searched the trucks for a telephone number as I passed, to no avail. Reaching for an (absurd) analogy, I yelled, “What’s next? Serial killers wearing t-shirts saying ‘not responsible for accumulating corpses’?” I was quite proud of the analogy, but my family was more concerned about my rage than the $200 it would eventually cost to replace the windshield.

I thought about that windshield this fall when a former student shared an invitation she received from the Governor of Missouri to “The Thirtieth Annual Governor’s Student Leadership Forum: Faith and Values in Leadership.” Only the top students in the state receive the invitation, so she was rightly honored to have been selected. A description of the three-day event in Jefferson City was enclosed. It explained: “Each January, student leaders across the state gather with leaders in politics and business to discuss the servant leadership philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth . . . . The forum is not religious. We seek participants of all faiths . . . .” The forum is subsidized by the annual Governor’s Prayer Breakfast. Selected students pay a fee of $350 to attend, and no tax dollars directly fund the forum. Continue reading “Inertia, Broken Windshields, and the Boundaries of “Religion””

Meet Me in St. Louis: The Simpler Side of Identity Politics

St. Louis Arch

When I was a young child, I lived in the third largest city in Missouri – Springfield – and I hadn’t really traveled much outside of the region. At the time I loved to look at atlases and read maps, and I distinctly remember the day that I came across a factoid indicating that the largest city in Missouri was Kansas City (a city I’d never seen), with St. Louis a close second.

I was livid, convinced there was a mistake, for as we all know, being bigger is better, and St. Louis was clearly superior because I’d a) been there, and b) had fun there. In other words, my positive affiliations with St. Louis, while founded on nothing more than visiting some tourist draws and swimming in a motel pool, were enough for me to align my own identity with the city and therefore create strong positive, and in the context, illogical opinions about it. (Ironically, I now live in Kansas City). Continue reading “Meet Me in St. Louis: The Simpler Side of Identity Politics”