Saturday, September 5, 2015

Prayers Before Football Games: Fact is, it's just rude

I am a Christian, though I readily admit I'm not a very good one despite my best attempts. Truth is, most of the time, I am envious of other believers who do a much better job at The Faith than I do. Still, I give it a good shot.

I'm also a Baptist. And not just any Baptist, but a Southern Baptist. From GA. From a small town that has more Baptist churches than people (that is an exaggeration, but not by much). And I am even a former pastor while still doing some pulpit supply even today.

So when I write this entry, I don't do so lightly. I fully understand I may be taking Sunday-Dinner-on-the-Grounds out of my life entirely.

I'm just going to put it out there: we're rude. Yes, rude. Christians have gotten accustomed to the privileged status that comes from being the majority faith and we have been throwing our weight around in ways that are rude.

Let's start with prayer at school functions, particularly at Southern football games. Yes, we all know the Supreme Court ruled that school sponsored prayer was illegal way back in 1962 (Engle v. Vitale), but news travels slowly to many school boards in the South. Even when the court expressly said pre-game prayer over the loud speakers was illegal in 2000 (Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe), many parts of the South just ignored it. The court said that official school prayers or school directed / sponsored prayers are an endorsement of religion and thus a violation of the 1st Amendment. This doesn't mean students may not pray, but it does mean the prayer may not be lead by, endorsed by, sanctioned, or promoted by the school.

Basically it says the pastor of the largest church around, and who happens to be good friends with the coach or principal, can't get a few minutes on the loud speaker with a few thousand people to promote his church and invoke his version of God.

But students and those few thousand people at the game may pray. And they may pray in unison. And they may pray without asking those who don't want to pray to step outside until the prayer service is over.

So envision all those Christians spontaneously reciting the Lord's Prayer as soon as the National Anthem is finished over the loud speaker (the time everyone knows is where the prayer over the loud speaker is always given but is now not allowed). Yes, it is beautiful to hear and see and experience --- unless you're one of the few who doesn't believe as the thousands of others do and are now forced to sit through a prayer time in order to watch your kid play football.

An unwanted prayer is forced on you and your kids, and you had to buy a ticket to be there, too.

It is rude for us to do that to people. Very, very rude.

How would we Christians feel if the majority were Muslim and before the kick off, nearly everyone bowed towards Mecca? There you are waiting to watch your child play football, but the coaches, players, cheerleaders, band members, teachers, administrators -- everyone -- are all praying to Allah, while you sit silently waiting for it to be over. Don't you think maybe your kids are getting the impression that being Muslim is the preferred identity in the community and that you as a parent have forced him or her to be a social outcast? Don't you think your son or daughter would feel the pressure to conform to the majority's faith in order to be part of the team? Wouldn't you be very uncomfortable?

It is just rude.

And it certainly doesn't treat others the way we would want to be treated.

So for Oneida High School in TN, or for West Laurens High School in Dublin, GA, may I say God bless your zeal, but honestly you're setting the stage for Muslims or some other religion to perhaps return the favor upon your grandchildren one day.

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