Saturday, June 23, 2012

Charlotte NC Government Removes Jesus from Prayers

According to a report in the Christian Post, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police chaplains are no longer allowed to pray in Jesus’ name. According to Jim Gronquist, a former Methodist minister and now practicing attorney with the ACLU, it is good for agencies to “it is improper to mix up religion with the function of state agents.” Terry Sartain, senior pastor of Horizon Christian Fellowship and a CMPD chaplain says he understands government’s position. He adds that he disagrees with it and in fact, that he hates it. He also will apparently abide by the new rule without resigning his position. He adds that if he is ever asked to stop praying in Jesus name altogether that he would resign. Barbara Weller, an attorney from the Christian Law Association says the move is intolerant and bigoted and that it is not required by law. So, my question concerns the Christians response. How should Christians respond to new policies in local government that clearly reflect a degree of hostility toward the gospel?

It seems to me that this move violates the individual religious freedom of the Chaplain and sets up the local government in Mecklenburg County for a legal battle. If it is my sincere religious conviction that prayer should be offered in Jesus’ name in order for it to be offered properly within the bounds of my religion, then insisting that I abandon that practice is indeed infringing upon my religious expression. However, I must admit that I am not an attorney in any way and therefore, take what I say with a grain of salt.

Secondly, the government’s objective is to eliminate offense. The thinking seems to be that removal of Jesus’ name will result in fewer people of other religions being offended. I wonder what those other religions might be. Which religions are we offending when we use the name of Jesus? Secondly, why doesn’t Christianity have parity with other religions in the area of offense? If the government wants to avoid offending people with religious beliefs, and that is really their goal, doesn’t that include Christianity? Moreover, I would submit that the government has offended most Christians with this new policy. I can’t help but think that this seems to be a bit disingenuous, a bit uneven, a bit, what is the word, hypocritical. Now consider that not only has CMPD failed to hit their goal of avoiding offense, they have actually increased the number of the offended. Let’s say you have 100 people at an event. 70 of them have a Christian background, while 15 are Muslim, 5 Jewish, and the other 10 a mix. If I pray in Jesus’ name, I might offend 30 people in total. Well, we say, that’s bad. We don’t want to offend anyone. In response to this, let’s pray a religionless prayer. Immediately I offend most of the 70 people who were brought up with Christian backgrounds. Congratulations, I just doubled the number of people I offended.

It is easy to see that “offense” cannot possibly be what is driving this new policy unless CMPD really has people who cannot think at all on their staff, making these decisions. Rather than decrease offense, the decision has had the opposite effect. In addition, CMPD seems to be brewing for a legal fight by violating the constitutional rights of individual chaplains by telling them to check their religious convictions at the door. I think CMPD has much bigger problems to deal with than worry about praying in Jesus’ name at public events in a city that is located in the middle of the Bible belt.

What should Mr. Sartain do? He should continue to pray in Jesus’ name as should every other Christian chaplain. Let the chips fall where they may. I would continue to live my convictions and if that costs me my job as a CMPD chaplain, then so be it. It is ungodly to allow unregenerate government entities to mold your religious practices as a Christian. Christ is Lord over all. He has jurisdiction over how we pray, not CMPD.

That being said, I have to wonder about secular governments having chaplains in the first place. It is hard for me to believe that a secular government would allow you do what Christ requires you to do in that role to begin with. What do I mean? I mean your primary role is to represent Christ to a unit of unbelievers day in and day out. You’re the chaplain. You must give them the exclusive truths of the gospel as part of your duty. You are not a Sargent in charge of a police unit, there to protect the public. You are specifically there to offer spiritual services and the services you offer had better reflect the gospel of Christ. It seems to me the first time a chaplain would have to inform a homosexual that repentance is the true fruit of salvation, the chaplain would likely be terminated. I may be wrong, but it just seems to me that chaplains would be required not hold certain positions that are politically controversial if they wish to be a chaplain.

Finally, prayer is a sacred and serious matter. We pray before sporting events, NASCAR, dinner, etc. And we do it as part of a cultural practice more than a true religious practice. In other words, prayer is mostly a “check-the-box” activity in Americanized Christianity. We do it, but with little sense of what it is we really are doing. The result is that prayer becomes debased by wicked sinners who think they are actually doing something when they petition God, however intense their feelings may or may not be. Yet they have no intention of acknowledging God in any way in their lives.

Christians need to return to calling it like it really is and cease and desist from the indirect, fluffy, politically correct nonsense in which we seem to revel. When we see prayer becoming nothing more than a form of religion used by wicked men to justify their own self as if they are truly behaving righteously when they pray, we must respond with rebuke. We cannot allow the ungodly to think good of themselves for giving the appearance of religious conviction without any depth whatever. Such displays of self-righteousness have always stirred the wrath of God. Let us remember that we have a very sober responsibility to speak and preach the truth.

What does Scripture teach us about the practice of religious law-breakers incorporating prayer into their lives and ceremonies to make themselves look better? He who turns away his ear from listening to the law, Even his prayer is an abomination.  Prov. 28:9 (NAS)

The prayer of a wicked man is an abomination before God. This is a very sobering Proverb but one that we must never forget. It is like slapping God across the face when we ignore His commands and refuse to acknowledge His right as sovereign Creator while at the same time saying with our lips that we love and appreciate Him. Few things are more pernicious than an unrepentant and wicked soul petitioning the God it hates for some sort of favor while refusing to acknowledge Him as Lord. God is not an American and He knows nothing of our political games. The cup of His wrath runs over toward those who continue to exist without acknowledging Him as the source of all that is, including their very existence.

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