Friday, May 27, 2011

Splitting Hairs on Religion

The Department of Veterans Affairs in Houston asked Rev. Scott Rainey to offer the invocation at the Houston National Cemetery this Memorial Day weekend along with the stipulation his prayer be subjected to approval and editing. According to a story by Terri Langford in the Houston Chronicle Rev. Rainey was originally told he couldn't use the words "Jesus Christ" at the close of his prayer; they have since relented.

"Rainey's prayer, less than a page long, includes the recitation of the Lord's Prayer and closes with one reference to Jesus: "While respecting people of every faith today, it is in the name of Jesus Christ, the risen Lord, that I pray. Amen."

"Rainey was instructed by the cemetery to submit his prayer for review a month ago. Cemetery director Arleen Ocasio then emailed Rainey on May 19, informing the pastor that the prayer was still in need of editing."

The issue of whether or not individuals have the right to express religious views in public has been under fire and likely the powers of darkness will never cease their attempts to eradicate references to God or His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ; however the Supreme Court has on previous occasion upheld an individual's constitutional protection of free speech in the public square, even on religious matters.

"The government cannot gag citizens when it says it is in the interest of national security, and it cannot do it in some bureaucrat's notion of cultural homogeneity," (U.S. District Judge Lynn) Hughes wrote in his order, granting the Rev. Scott Rainey's motion for the court to intercede. "The right to free expression ranges from the dignity of Abraham Lincoln's speeches to Charlie Sheen's rants."

However, even with the dispute seemingly defused others were not especially pleased; expressing less enthusiastic reservations. An old Ricky Nelson tune comes to mind, "You see you can't please everyone, so, you have to please your self..."

"Rabbi Mark J. Miller, of Congregation Beth Israel, called Rainey's prayer "beautiful" but said that "it is a prayer to which I and many others cannot say 'Amen.' "

I once heard a wonderfully related story about a good Christian who'd been invited to a Jewish family meal. Being a close friend and honored guest the fellow was asked to bless the meal, "...but please respect my insistence that you not close your prayer "in the name of Jesus Christ", the host quietly implored. Had there not been considerable mutual respect such an opportunity could not have come about and so the blessing was carried out; carefully and thoughtfully ending, " the name of the God of Abraham, the God of Jacob and the God of Isaac, Amen".

At the close of the prayer the host added his "Amen". He then smiled toward his friend, adding, "You did it anyway, didn't you?" Would it have mattered had that prayer ended, "in the name of Nature's God", "Our Creator" or "the Prince of Peace"; don't they all refer to  the same Individual ?

Memorial Day serves as an opportunity to consider the miraculous journey our nation has had from its inception. We recognize God's hand in all things; Providence acknowledged in securing victory and preserving us a nation. He is the source of comfort as we honor those who gave their all in defending liberty. 

When we close our prayer, "in the name of Jesus Christ", withhold your "Amen" if you must; but isn't that narrow minded, a form of ingratitude seeing as your Creator and mine happen to be one and the same?

This article has been cross posted to The Moral Liberal , a publication whose banner reads, “Defending The Judeo-Christian Ethic, Limited Government, & The American Constitution”.


David said...

*sigh* The maroons... objecting to the guy's prayer and trying to censor it? That's government regulation and interference in religious expression, something specifically forbidden to the feds by the First Amendment.

T. F. Stern said...

"The maroons...", makes me think of an old Bugs Bunny cartoon; except these aren't as fun.

MK said...

Maybe he should have shouted all hail satan or something equally stupid. Isn't it odd that only references to Christianity invokes such irritation and discomfort among the haters.

"I once heard a wonderfully related story about a good Christian who'd been invited to a Jewish family meal."

To be frank, i think it's rude and a bit stupid of a host to invite a Christian and ask him to pray and then ask him to refrain from his beliefs. It's like asking a muslim to pray out aloud but please don't make any reference to allah.

T. F. Stern said...

You hit the nail on the head MK.

The probligo said...

Having been in this situation quite frequently - my step-mother being devout Anglican and me not - I still ask her before a meal in my house whether she wants to say Grace or no. Usually she will defer to my non-belief, but at Christmas and Easter a brief thanks is offered.

I have no problem with that, nor does she.

Tell me, am I being too broad-minded here? Or are others much more insular in their thinking?

T. F. Stern said...

Probligo, A couple of thoughts; first being there is a difference between tolerance within the confines of your home with that of a pubic forum, or at least there should be. If you chose to have someone offer a blessing in your house, even though you are not a religious person, that is none of anyone's business except you and those invited.
In the public forum when somebody is asked to speak, there is also an implied agreement that whatever is spoken has already been approved regardless of the outcome. In other words, don't ask somebody to speak and then complain about the topic later.
Some have interpreted our 1st Amendment to be freedom from religion rather than the inclusive freedom of religion.