Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Court Ruling Permits Some Governmental Prayer: Does it Matter?

Religious spin doctors have been hard at work recently, dissecting the US Supreme Court ruling permitting prayer at government meetings in Greece, New York. Does the ruling matter?

It depends. Some groups cheer the Supreme Court because the ruling affirms a view that the United States is a historically Christian nation. Some groups critique the ruling because it moves toward a governmental establishment of religion, which goes against the First Amendment. The jockeying for privilege connected to a particular worldview is of paramount importance to numerous groups and people. While the civics and legal consequences of this ruling are debatable and interesting, what does it mean for a person of faith?

Context is important in considering the meaning of the ruling. Anglo Christians have benefit from numerous societal privileges throughout the history of the United States, and privilege is hard to relinquish. Anglo Christians have rarely lived in situations in the United States where their faith practices represent a grave risk. This is a privilege that non-Anglo Christians or other faith traditions do not carry in this country.

I am thankful that I can do my work and practice my faith without the stress of bodily harm. My challenges as a pastor and a person of faith are more related to apathy than threat. As I consider the ministry and actions of Jesus during his lifetime, I think about my own attempt at a faithful response to the Supreme Court ruling. I have yet to see a reflection of "What Would Jesus Do" related to this ruling. Would Jesus work to uphold his privilege? All I see in my reading of the Gospels is that Jesus either avoided or abdicated any religious or societal privilege. If I'm missing something from my reading, please correct me.

If my energy is invested in maintaining my religious privileges, this has more to do with my comfort than my faith. I have my example of what to do with my privileges, which challenges me more than any court ruling could ever do.


  1. Your religious freedom in America was purchased with a price paid by Christians who came before you. Vigilance is needed to preserve it. Of course, time and circumstances could still change the course of history for American Christians. Persecution can come here, even though many deny this possibility. Generations change. Still, we who follow The Lord will live by faith. To pray in public is not an endorsement of religion by the government. It is fitting we fight for this right as a free people, and as Christians.

  2. The decision sounds like a blow for Christianity, but the same constitutional "right" applies to all other faiths. Freedom of religion or religious beliefs is included in the basis for our founding documents. When prayer requests are made from other praying faiths, what will we think? Be ready. Remember that Jesus didn't advocate overthrowing the reigning government that was about to kill him. An imposed "Christian" government may have serious social divisiveness. Think it through. Which "brand" do you want?