The Supreme Court ruled recently that praying before the beginning of the Greece, New York city council meetings does not violate the Constitution. I must admit I felt a guilty pleasure at the thought of the angst the secularists (read atheists) experienced when the decision came down. I know, I should be praying for them, and I do when I pray that everyone's eyes would be opened to the truth. My guilty pleasure came from the fact that those who would violate the "free exercise" of religion (and deny those who believe their right to publicly show their faith) love to poke their collective finger in the eye of God and His followers and now they got some of their own.
The decision got me thinking.....
Why are these folks so upset? I know, I've heard the arguments that some feel excluded or uncomfortable when religion shows up in the public arena. It mystifies me. If I understand correctly, anyone offended by a public demonstration of religion either doesn't believe in God (or the God of whoever is publicly demonstrating religion) or has so much empathy for those who don't believe that he's offended that they are uncomfortable. Since there are two viewpoints (atheist or agnostic, or those from a different faith) we'll take each one separately.
For those of different faiths: if you really believe yours is the one true religion, someone praying to a god you don't worship shouldn't make your faith any weaker or irrelevant. If you believe all faiths get you there you should embrace the other road taken and celebrate belief. The fact that all don't share my beliefs never causes me to doubt my decision to follow Christ, it just makes me feel the need to share my faith with them.
For those of you who don't believe: this is where the fun begins. Why are you so offended by someone you don't believe in? I don't believe in the Easter Bunny, but I don't want to restrict people's egg hunts in the spring. I don't believe in a "Zombie Apocalypse but if you want to prep for it and talk about it- fine by me. If folks truly don't believe in God, how can they be offended by mention of God? To them it should be just a harmless myth that gets (delusional) people through their lives.
It seems something deeper is at work here. Possibly many people do believe, deep down in a place they wish to keep buried from their conscious mind. It's much easier to say "I don't believe," than to deal with the implications of believing. I'm reminded of a story Paul Little relates in his book "Know Why You Believe" about a student he had discussed Christianity with:
"A student once told me I had satisfactorily answered all his questions. 'Are you going to become a Christian?' 'No,' he replied. Puzzled I asked, 'Why not?' He admitted, 'Frankly, because it would mess up the way I am living.'"
He saw the issue wasn't intellectual but moral. I believe many blind themselves to this fact, but don't want to be reminded of it. So they unintentionally join with those who truly hate God in an attempt to drive Him and His followers from the public arena.
One of the cornerstones of the founding of this country was (and hopefully still is) religious freedom. Sadly, many believe that "Separation of Church and State" is a phrase written into the Constitution to restrict religion in the United States. This is wrong on several levels. First, it's not even in the US Constitution! The phrase came into use following a letter written by President Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists in 1802. The only constitution that specifically mentions "separation of Church and State" that I'm aware of is the constitution of the old Soviet Union.
Second, there was never any intent to restrict religion in the US Constitution. In spite of what some Common Core lessons try to teach kids, the Constitution was written to restrict the government not the citizens. The restriction was on Government's potentially establishing a state religion (the establishment clause) and on any government attempt to prevent the free expression of any religion. Thus Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and all other religious groups are free to express their beliefs without restriction in the US.
Will this decision end the debate and the attacks on free expression in public? Not for a minute. Organizations that actively try to drive God and His followers out of public life will never quit. When they can't get Nativity Scenes removed, they push for "Festivus" displays adjacent to the Nativity scenes. Billboards pop up denigrating Easter and Christmas celebrations around the country as the secularists' answer free expression with the boorishness of those who talk on their cell phones at your local movie theatre.
What saddens me most about this whole situation is the knowledge that a split second after they take their final breath, so many will realize that their are spiritual laws and they are as real as the physical laws of the universe. A person can go to the top of the new One World Trade Center building, step off and say, "I don't believe in gravity." For 1775 feet you probably don't regret your decision, then....
At that point, they haven't got a prayer.