Russell Moore – Why Public Prayer Is About More Than Culture Wars

Source – Huffington Post

President Obama and religious conservatives are rarely on the same side of the culture wars. But a case now headed to the Supreme Court has forced a sliver of consensus between the White House and right-leaning people of faith on – of all things – praying in public, in Jesus’ name. Perhaps this little truce in the red state/blue state divide can give Americans of all faiths, and no faith, an opportunity to think about why our pluralistic society is better off with uncensored, unscripted public prayers. (Photo www.uu.edu)

The case is Town of Greece v. Galloway, a lawsuit by two citizens against city council meetings in a small New York town opening with a spoken prayer by an invited clergyperson. The plaintiffs argue that the prayers – especially since some of them were explicitly Christian – represent an establishment of religion by the government, an establishment forbidden by the First Amendment. The case, now headed to the Supreme Court, represents the first high court test of the constitutionality of such prayers in nearly a generation.

As the legal briefs were filed with the Supreme Court, they initially took the typical trajectory of such disputes. Religious conservative groups – such as my denomination – defended the legislative prayers, while so-called „strict separationist” groups called for an end to „sectarian” prayers that would alienate citizens such as the plaintiffs, one Jewish and one atheist.

The Obama Administration surprised some by siding with the defendants in the case, and defending voluntary prayers by invited clergy at public gatherings. The White House’s decision ameliorated the potential for a „red state/blue state” shouting match over this case, and made it more difficult for some to suggest that Town of Greece is some advance toward an intolerant „Christian America” zealotry.

prayer constitutionBut that caricature of a theocracy-seeking evangelicalism, hell-bent on establishing official up-to-code prayers everywhere „in Jesus’ name” – as easy as it is – doesn’t line up with reality, anyway. Conservative evangelicals don’t want government support for our faith, because we believe God created all consciences free and a state-coerced act of worship isn’t acceptable to God. Moreover, we believe the gospel isn’t in need of state endorsement or assistance. Wall Street may need government bailouts but the Damascus Road never does.

In fact, most of us support voluntary public prayer not because we oppose the separation of church and state but because we support it.

After all, at issue in this dispute, is the supposed „sectarian” nature of these public prayers. Few suggest that any invocation at all is unconstitutional – especially since invocations have been going on in such forums since the Founding Era. The problem is that these prayers are specifically Christian or specifically Jewish or specifically Jewish or specifically Wiccan, or what have you.

But that’s precisely the point. A prayer, by definition, isn’t a speech made to a public audience but is instead a petition made to a higher Being. For the government to censor such prayers is to turn the government into a theological referee, and would, in fact, establish a state religion: a state religion of generic American civil religious mush that assumes all religions are ultimately the same anyway. To remove the „sectarian” nature of prayer is to reduce such prayers to the level of public service announcements followed by „Amen.”

Evangelicals pray in Jesus’ name not because we are seeking to offend our neighbors, but because we’re convinced that through Jesus is the only way we have access to God. We can’t do otherwise.

Read the article in its entirety here – Huffington Post (Photo credit www.washingtontimes.com)

Doug Wilson – Religious Freedom and the First Amendment

Doug Wilson is pastor of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, theologian and author of several dozen books, and has also debated Christopher Hitchens throughout the United States. the following are notes from 2 clips and just the 3rd clip by itself from his sermon October 7th, 2012 which was designated Pulpit Sunday throughout the United States:

So what do we say to secularists? What do we say to these men who do not want this risen Jesus to rule over them?

We say: We say that Christ had died. Christ was buried. We say that Christ was risen and we add, „There is nothing whatever that you can do about it now. You can’t undo it. If you didn’t want Him to rise from the dead you should have thought about that before you killed Him. You should have thought about that before you crucified Him.

Paul says, „This was not done in a corner. Hundreds of people saw the resurrection. Jesus was crucified in the public square. If you don’t want Jesus to be the Lord over the public square, you should have thought about that before you crucified Him in the public square. Because, when He went in the ground, He came back from the dead, and He came back from the dead in public.

And then He gathered His disciples who had been discouraged and they were despondent. They were hiding in the upper room. He gathered them all up together and he gathered them up on a mountain and He said, „Go. Tell everybody. Even the Americans… especially the Americans… because they’re gonna get above themselves. They’re gonna think they’ve got this zone of neutrality. They’re gonna think that they’ve got this thing going. They’ve got this secular vibe going. Tell all the nations, every nation, every tribe, every language group, every people group, tell every last one of them that they have been purchased with my blood . They don’t belong to them selves anymore and moreover they cannot belong to themselves anymore. It’s done. Jesus rose and there’s nothing whatever that can be done about it. Glory to God. (SEE VIDEO clip HERE)

Religious Freedom and the First Amendment

Sermon Clip: Religious Freedom and the First Amendment from Canon Wired on Vimeo.

My notes from Religious freedom & the 1st amendment – Doug Wilson: We believe that all kings and all presidents, we believe that all Congresses, all parliaments, every assembly of men have a moral and a true obligation to bow down and kiss the Son, lest He be angry with them. Psalm 2:12 We believe that Jesus told us, our marching orders were to disciple all the nations of men, teaching them to obey everything that Jesus commanded. That’s in Matthew 28:18-20. Now, if Jesus says to disciple all the nations, if He says to baptize them, if He says to teach them to obey everything I’ve commanded you- that includes our nation.

Jesus didn’t say this about all the nations, excepts ones that have a first amendment- falsely interpreted. The first amendment does not require Americans to be religiously neutral. If it did, then the Bible would require us to ignore the first amendment…. In a federal system like ours, it doesn’t cause any problems at all if the national bird is the bald eagle and the state bird of Maryland is the Oriole, and different states have different birds. You can have a national flower and a state flower and nobody gets worked up. But, if you have a particular denomination of Christians that’s the established church of Virginia, and another one that’s the established church of Connecticut, and another one that’s the established church of Pennsylvania (let’s say), if you have different established churches and then you create a church of the United States- a national church over the whole shebang, you’re setting the stage for religious conflict.

When the constitution was adopted, 9 of the 13 colonies had established christian churches  at the state level. 9 of the 13 colonies that approved the constitution had established christian churches at the state level. 9 of 13. The constitution did not prohibit the states from acknowledging the fact that Jesus was Lord.  ( of the 13 did acknowledge that Jesus was Lord when the constitution was adopted. They said, in the first amendment: Congress shall make no law concerning the establishment of religion. Congress is the only entity that can violate the first amendment…. And they can violate it by establishing a church of the United States, like there’s a Church of Denmark, and there’s a Church of England. They could violate it by doing that.

They could also violate the first amendment by prohibiting the free exercise thereof. Which they did in 1954, when they passed the Johnson amendment saying: You can’t say this from a christian pulpit.  You can’t say that from a christian pulpit. Somebody’s gonna say, „You’re getting into politics in the pulpit, you’re violating the first amendment.” No, no. Congress is the only entity that can violate the first amendment and Congress has in fact done so repeatedly, over and over again. And, christians, like so many sheep have just followed along and bah. Now, we are sheep and we are supposed to follow along and we are supposed to bah, but, we’re supposed to follow the shepherd, not these people.

Now, this charge that Jesus gave in the great commission to disciple all the nations includes America… We are not secularists with a tiny christian corner in our hearts. We are christians in public, and we are christians in private, with no authorized secular corner in our hearts (that’s compromise)…

…We are christians all the way in… we are christians all the way out. And there are many christians who have compromised themselves by saying, „Caesar can have all the public stuff and I’m gonna keep ‘little devotional cubby’ in the recesses of my heart.” Jesus doesn’t want your devotional cubby, He doesn’t want your little niche, where you go and pray to Jesus, in that little spot. That makes Jesus a sort of limited, finite, household god. He doesn’t wanna be a household god in your heart. He doesn’t wanna be a local Baal. He is the one who rose from the dead and claimed universal dominion over all things.

Who is Being Extreme?

Sermon Clip: Who is Being Extreme? from Canon Wired on Vimeo.

 

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