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27 October 2011

High School Football, Christians, and an Atheist

If you're the lone guy out of 300 who doesn't like to hear "Jesus" at the beginning of a football game, for Pete's sake, go buy a $1.97 set of earplugs, you whining cheapskate.

The story is now national news. Ace news-hound and pal Leroy alerted me this morning that FOX News has given Lauderdale County High Schools, Christians, and an atheist a moment in the sun.

The man who complained about prayers over the intercom at high school football games cites the elusive "separation of church and state" precedent in the First Amendment. Whoops! Nobody seems to have let him know that this is actually a phrase most famously written by Thomas Jefferson (who did not participate in authoring the U.S. Constitution or the First Amendment) in 1802.

While Christ-followers may see this as a major issue, we all need to understand that this situation has more depth -- and potential negative consequences -- than we realize. It's not simply a matter of Christians standing up for their religious rights or yet another argument about whether certain things are guaranteed in the First Amendment.

We may be on the same page so far, but if you keep reading get ready to dislike me, unfriend me on Facebook, say I'm compromising with the world, or whatever. Think about what I have to say, though.

I have incredible problems with the implications of the Christian community's response and the double-standard it is clearly communicating. It would be better if the local Christian community said, "We DO want Christianity to be the sanctioned public religion," because frankly, that's much more honest.

A pastor is quoted in the article saying during his sermon on Sunday, "It’s very sad. I would think that any other prayer from another religion would not receive this kind of negativity."

Really? I'll probably give him that if he's referring to the media not being negative about other religions or public prayers. But the Christian community would go absolutely ballistic if a small group of Hindus prayed over the intercom to Krishna or Shiva, or if a Muslim group offered prayers in Allah's name over the P.A. System.

Take the same insulted and indignant Christians in the news story and put them in that circumstance. Spend a few moments imagining their reaction.

Also from the article, referring to the pastor: "Christianity, he said, is under attack. 'It’s going on all over the place,' he said. 'You just hate for it to be coming to your doorstep.'"

But haven't we all heard sermons on this passage? Or this one? What about this other one? How about when Jesus said this? Are we seriously supposed to dread it when people attack Christianity? Jesus says that we're supposed to be glad about it. Very glad. The rest of the Bible reiterates this. Our response is to get PO'ed, though: "You heathens will NOT take away our 'God-given right' to worship the way we choose!" I can't find that concept anywhere in the New Testament.

The first-century Church's response to attacks was, incredibly, to go out and preach Jesus Christ and leave the defense of their "rights" to God if He saw fit.

"And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word. Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus." After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness." - Acts 4:29-31, NLT

While we may feel like we're doing the right thing in the way we publicly respond and in the way we discuss this with friends or co-workers, we're often displaying repulsive hypocrisy to non-believers.


Anonymous said...

But the Christian community would go absolutely ballistic if a small group of Hindus prayed over the intercom to Krishna or Shiva, or if a Muslim group offered prayers in Allah's name over the P.A. System.

There's the rub. As long as the prayer was appropriate, I don't think I'd have a problem with a prayer to any of the above. Although their understanding of God is different than mine, we believe in a Supreme Being and His desire to bless us.

If a Muslim prays to Allah that the participants will be safe and sportsmanlike, I'm OK with that just like I would hope he would accept/tolerate me praying for the same things.

I may not actively participate if the method of prayer conflicts significantly with my beliefs, but I'm willing to accept that we share some common belief in God. To not accept that is hypocritical.

Anonymous said...

However, it isn't the Muslims complaining. It is from one who feels his right has been violated.
The main thing we all need to remember is that if the prayer is not Biblical, there is no honor to Jesus and should not have our Amen (so be it). Yet when hear those who seem to be extremely critical of a Christian's stand and seem to side with those who say Christians are the wrong ones, Christians do feel wronged. This happens alot by those who claim Christianity but want to say I have it right and I'm more like Jesus than others.
Sadly, many ignore the opportunity to be strong and courageous andexpress the greatness of the One True God. Should we ignore the opportunity? No more than we should intentionally sin and expect grace.
Btw, rarely do Christians sue because they aren't allowed to pray, just straightforward in saying we won't be stopped.

Doug Indeap said...

A word should be added about the common notion that this is all about people easily offended. We’re not talking about the freedom of individuals to say or do something others find offensive. We’re talking about the government weighing in to promote religion. Under our Constitution, our government has no business doing that--regardless of whether anyone is offended. While this is primarily a constitutional point, it is one that conservatives--small government conservatives--should appreciate from a political standpoint as well. While the First Amendment thus constrains government from promoting (or opposing) religion without regard to whether anyone is offended, a court may address the issue only in a suit by someone with "standing" (sufficient personal stake in a matter) to bring suit; in order to show such standing, a litigant may allege he is offended or otherwise harmed by the government's failure to follow the law; the question whether someone has standing to sue is entirely separate from the question whether the government has violated the Constitution.

Dean Lusk said...

Thank you all. I'm grateful for the comments and the perspectives they bring to the table.

I want to specifically address some of the things you guys have mentioned but I don't have the opportunity to do so right now. In the meantime I wanted to let you know that I'm glad you took the time to offer some great feedback.

Dean Lusk said...

@Anon1, I think that followers of Christ absolutely must consider those kinds of scenarios. It seems to me like the position of the most "loud" Christian presence in situations like this is "The government must not prohibit the free exercise of our faith in public," which sounds great, but the logical outworking of that is what you're presenting, and I really don't think that's the goal of the vocal "Christian right" (forgive the phrase, please) in this case.

@Anon2, I'm NOT suggesting that Christians pray to any other God than YHWH, in Jesus' name. Not at all! I just want to point out an inconsistency in the position here that seriously undermines the credibility of everyone who calls himself a Christian. I'm afraid I didn't make the point well enough, and I apologize for that. If it comes across as attacking Christians, I am one, first of all. Second, I'm not "judging" anyone based on my own standard or an idea that I'm somehow better. We Christians say we have the standard and we proclaim it loudly for the world to hear, and we violate it so often that it's embarrassing.

@Doug, I've read many opinions about this story (and others like it) on both major sides and everything in between. Your comment here was one of the most level-headed ways of presenting that stance that I've read, and I really appreciate that. My contention would probably be against the idea that a small-town high school allowing a preacher to verbalize a prayer over the PA system would not constitute the federal government weighing in to promote a specific religion. But to be terribly honest, I don't know that I could argue that point too well. That's why I opted to stay with a point of view that was really aimed at "my own people," for better or worse. I just want us to live the way we say we live, if that makes sense. Hypocrisy sickens me, even though sometimes it's unintentional (and I'm sure I'm an offender without realizing it) and happens just by going about things the way we've always done them. That's unacceptable.

John King said...

Refering to "Deans" later comments. I have 3 quick points. there not inteeded to make anyone cry or be hurt.......this is my opinion....
1st...most who say they are "Christians". Are not being the church. Church on Sunday has become for most a 'country club". Followers attempting to Lead and teach. Worst most churches turn a blind eye to these people and the church ends up argueing. Thats 'not church for me sorry...
2nd...Christians are about love forgiveness an never letting "God" come 2nd or most often...'Last". So why is it that Christians, or Christians who are going through the motions. Why is it that they fight the "most' with each other. Its so oblivious who has a true heart for Jesus 1st. And those are the ones that get stoomped on all of the time. But nothing is ever done. This is wrong....Tables need to be knocked over in many churches that refuse to open the bible.
3rd...This is a Christian Blog. The purpose to my understanding is to learn from each other. Yet we have Christians who write. And use..."Anonymous". And im not picking on the one in this Blog Comment, there are alot. Why are we afraid to say are name. shame, fear of being wrong, writing to just write. Take down the walls. When you come home open the curtains go outside stop hiding. Be the church 100% of the time. Im wrong alot in here, and when told so. I've learned. By not giving a name, most in my opinion will not follow up on your post. This could hurt you from learning. If were Anonymous in a Blog. What are we in life?
Would Jesus say his name was Anonymous. I'm sorry I just think for some who do this, or use fake names. Are not 100% in Christ. and I truly don't understand it. I'm truly interested in your opinions.

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