Colorful Thoughts about Public Prayer

I had a strange dream once. It was about some people in the future who had developed a faith in some sort of God and had become very enthusiastic about it. This encouraged the wearing of certain weird and tacky pieces of clothing to identify themselves as believers. In my dream it consisted of bright yellow clothing, shirts, pants, bright yellow socks, shoes and hats Now the strangeness of their attire did not seem to be too much of a problem, since their religion was accepted by everyone within their culture. Their government identified strongly with this belief system and it was actually required that everyone wear these pieces of clothing in public.

But something happened. Apparently their culture began to move away from the faith. Over time the government began to relax their standards, no longer requiring public adherence to the dress code. Now it became easier to identify the true believers from those who were not. Fewer and fewer people were seen sporting the yellow accessories and those who remained faithful were now beginning to feel like a very visible minority. Some began to wear less yellow, perhaps only sporting handkerchief or carnation. Soon these folks were lamenting the cultural changes and many complained about how they were now subject to ridicule by their more ‘sophisticated’ fellow citizens, those that tended to sport earth tones. Not only that, other people were moving in who also wore bright colors, but reds, greens and blues. No yellow. If only there could be a return to the days in which everyone wore yellow.

I don’t believe that all dreams mean something, that there is always a message hidden within. But this time I woke up remembering every bit of dialog and almost immediately seeing the similarity to today’s US Christians who are having a hard time dealing with culture shock. The yellow clothing seemed to be symbolic of overt “Christian” behavior, particularly public prayer. (Stay with me here. It’s just a dream.)

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At one time in the USA it was mandatory that every child in school pray to the Christian God. After all, most of us professed to be Christians and we considered the USA to be a Christian country. As it became apparent that not everyone was comfortable with this practice it devolved into a voluntary activity. But then others (some of them Christians) began to see that, though it was said to be voluntary, in reality it created a stressful environment for those minorities that were not Christian. So it was banned in most school districts, to the distress of many Evangelicals and Fundamentalists. Even political conservatives, who probably hadn’t picked up a Bible in years, were dismayed over this predicament.

As a follower of Jesus I am mostly satisfied with the current situation. I truly feel that there should be a formal separation between religion and government. It is never good when anyone is induced (or intimidated) to participate in what should be a personally held belief activity, such as praying, even for those who hold to the belief in question. I do not think that God is interested in coerced praise and worship. (As a child in Catholic school we prayed many times daily. It was mostly meaningless to many of us and usually viewed as a chore, not a joy. And this was in a school where we were expected to be immersed in religion.)

Now I don’t agree with the secularists who say that the men who founded this country espoused a separation of church and state. But they should have. Now we are only redressing this oversight. The shame of it is that in this process of attempting to be compassionate to those of different or non- belief’s, we have gone too far and squeezed nearly all spirituality out of the public sector. Happily there appears to be a returning to the academic and civic arenas a sense of something more than just the mundane and material.

As to why so many conservative Christians are up in arms over this (second) Hindu prayer in congress is puzzling, since they claim to emulate the ways of Jesus. After all, plenty of Hindus, Muslims, Navajos and Hare Krishnas pay taxes and vote in elections. Why give their faith short shrift? How compassionate is that? I seriously doubt it assists with enticing many to consider conversion to Christianity.

So, if you choose to wear the yellow, wear it with both pride, humility, cheerfulness and somewhat of a thick skin. But remember it is your choice and thank the Lord that you have that choice and no one is forcing you to honor their God (or even your own).

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  1. #1 by Ambrosia de Milano on July 16, 2007 - 11:57 pm

    Curious, Geoge. Sounds like Dr. Seuss’ book, The Sneetches (which reminded me of a Sunday School lesson I taught).

    I targeted my barbs well–opening the lesson with Dr. Seuss’ book about privilage and prejudice (darn it, I cant find the study). I was hoping for a reaction, especially from the one to whom my message was aimed. What I saw was indifference.

    Rank and privilage. This reminds me of the time at a Christian college when I sliced my leg on the rusty bumber of a car belonging to one of the older folks–a young lady who sat at the table of the Yellow People. I showed her the cut on my leg–hoping she would at least say she was sorry and cover my medical expenses–but nothing but apathy (of course, what would anyone do when some goofy underclassmen came running up and complaining about a rusty bumper).

    Anyway, at different Christian colleges I have attended, and at churches, there have always been those who sat in places of prvilage.

    Remember Mrs. Zebedee? She came to Jesus and asked that her sons would have the special seats next to Jesus in the coming Kingdom. Jesus politely told her no–although they did have close places with Jesus in this life. The privilages of this position? James became an early martyr, and John was exiled.

  2. #2 by rogueminister on July 17, 2007 - 8:16 pm

    That great stuff. It really is a shame that some people are more concerned about the situation they perceive our country to be in, than they are about the Kingdom of God.

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