Try offering that to the lady who shares your home and life. Now, there is a sure route to a night on the couch, a cold supper, frigid shoulder, and a hot stare.
Yet, this is essentially how Christian leaders are being asked to pray in public.
Listen to what a supposedly Christian clergyman had to say on the subject. I take this quote from Al Mohler's blog, January 14:
Bishop Robinson said he had been reading inaugural prayers through history and was “horrified” at how “specifically and aggressively Christian they were.”
“I am very clear,” he said, “that this will not be a Christian prayer, and I won’t be quoting Scripture or anything like that. The texts that I hold as sacred are not sacred texts for all Americans, and I want all people to feel that this is their prayer.” (Bishop Robinson is a Bishop in the Episcopal Church, which claims to be Christian.)
Can a prayer addressed to a maybe God--I want to be unoffensive, so even if I do believe, I'll act like I don't--truly be called a prayer at all?
I had mentioned this a couple of posts ago in relation to a controversy that is ongoing in a neighboring municiplaity, and thanks to the aid of the ACLU, threatens even governmental meetings in areas as small as mine. This is pluralism gone amuk. Public respect, and politeness ought not to mean that one never says or prays anything that could potentially be offensive to anyone. Maybe some hypotheticals will help make the point:
- When a Rabbi prays I know that he/she does not think that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. In fact that prayer may be offered with the thought behind it that for many centuries, many who called themselves Christians have done horrible things to Jews. I need to respect that prayer. I ought to behave in a respectful way when it is offered. If I find it offensive I ought to examine my heart and see if I am among the guilty. If so I need to repent. Since the prayer is coming from a Theological viewpoint that I believe is flawed I ought not to expect that it will be in full agreement with me. To the extent that I find agreement with the requests offered in the prayer, I am likely to silently add, "I ask this in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen"
- If a Muslim prays and asks for peace to come in the Middle-East, I can offer a qualified "Amen." Meaning that I am taking a prayer that is theologically flawed, from my viewpoint, and translating it into a prayer--from my heart, offered to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God Who eternally exists in the three persons of the Trinity--for peace in that war torn part of the world. The fact that likely we disagree radically about what a just settlement of that conflict looks like, does not prevent me from being prompted to pray. My prayer interests overlap with the Immam's so I can in that sense be led in prayer by him.
- If an atheist stands up at the beginning of a council meeting and says, "Friends, there is no one here other than we people. I take this moment to remind us to do the best we can--to let the best of our humanity shine forth . . ."
I will, in the privacy of my heart, smile at his/her ignorance of the true God (or perhaps weep), and the true nature of people. I will acknowledge that we ought to do our best, but that without God's help, I know we won't. I will ask God to help us to do so. . . .
- If the chairman of the Can't-we-all-just-get-along, vegan, recycling-is-the-way-to-save-the-world, hug-a-tree, and be-nice-both-your-mothers--the one who gave birth to you, and mother earth (maybe even Mother Goose) society calls for a moment of silence and then interupts the quiet with an "OOOMMM," I won't join the chant, but I won't picket the meeting either. I will redeem that moment of quiet as an opportunity to talk to my Father, the creator and sustainer of the world. I will commit to be a good steward of the resurces that God has placed at my disposal . . .
I won't be offended. I see no reason for others to be offended when I pray in Jesus name.
A civil society requires not only that we not be needlessly offensive, but that we not be excessively offended.
There is a sweet term that is used by folk who still have some Southern genteelity about them. "Don't be ugly." When called on to pray in a public forum, we ought not to be ugly. Some of my colleagues, Christian and otherwise, have not heeded that advice. But to ask me to pray like I don't really believe in the God to Whom I am praying is idiotic.
I'm not asking people of other faiths to pray that way, so I ask that people of other faiths not ask me to pray that way.