Glenn H. Burkins is editor and publisher of Qcitymetro.com. His commentary on the recent CMPD decision to remove the name of Jesus in public prayer is a bold and well made statement.
As much as it makes CP despondent, he's right. When we removed school prayer we landed on the well greased slippery slope. But the First Amendment which the church and state debate is based on requires that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." While for the past 60 years the emphasis has been on the first part "establishment" maybe it is time to focus on the last part, "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof".
Should we eliminate prayer before Panthers games? What about NASCAR, and boxing? Don't our gladiators of sport deserve and need prayer? What if there is no prayer and some tragic accident happens? After all tragic accidents happen all the time in sport even with prayer, so without how bad could it get without?
But what do you think?
By Glenn H. Burkins:
So, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has asked its chaplains to stop invoking the name of Jesus when they pray at official department ceremonies.
John Diggs, who heads CMPD’s volunteer chaplain program, told the Observer’s Mike Gordon the move was not meant to “demean anyone’s Christian beliefs” but rather to show greater sensitivity to all religions practiced by the department’s 2,000-plus police employees.
A bold stroke in a town sometimes called “the city of churches.”
Sadly, though, not bold enough.
If Chief Rodney Monroe had asked for my opinion, and clearly he did not, I would have advised him to go one step further and eliminate prayer altogether at events such as police promotions and graduations.
No, I have not taken leave of my Christian senses. Neither have I forsaken the teachings of my father, who every Sunday of my youth called his wife and children around the breakfast table and led us all in family prayer.
What I have done is come to the reluctant conclusion that public prayer – be it of the Christian, Muslim, Hindu or Jewish variety -- has no place when Americans gather for secular events.
In explaining the police department’s move, Diggs told the Observer, “CMPD is not anybody’s church.”
Precisely. Neither is it anybody’s synagogue, mosque, temple or prayer closet – all appropriate places for personal expressions of faith.
Who among us has not attended a business or community luncheon where all in attendance were directed to stand for a public invocation? For me, those occasions rank among my most uncomfortable moments as a Christian.
Will the person praying call on the name of Jesus and risk offending every Muslim or Jew in the house, or will he ignore the name so sacred to my faith and leave me feeling ambivalent? And what about the guy fidgeting next to me who desires no faith at all?
In our noble attempt to avoid every offense, we have watered down public prayer to a point where it has become more rote than religious. At that point, it ceases to have significance.
In a conversation I had with Bishop Claude Alexander late last year, he touched on this topic. Increasingly, he said, he is being asked to pray at public events in Charlotte without mentioning the name of Jesus.
“Well, personally,” he said, “I’m accepting fewer invitations to pray.”
I often hear people whose opinions I otherwise respect lament the day that prayer was taken out of our public schools. Look where it got us, they say.
For me, it was a no-brainer.
I remember watching in elementary school as a quiet kid who seemed to have few friends exited our classroom every time we prepared to pray or hold Bible study. (Yes, we actually had Bible study in school back then.)
How strange it was that our schoolmate would leave us, we all whispered, which only added to this kid’s alienation. It wasn’t until years later that I learned that he was a Jehovah’s Witness and that his parents did not want their child participating in what amounted to our classroom worship service.
The beauty and genius of the United States is our racial and cultural diversity. China and India will never touch us in that category. But it’s also the quality that, more than any other, may lead to our undoing.
As much as some might desire it, we will never go back to the days of big-finned automobiles when practically every American was either black or white but all most likely were Christian. If we are to survive as a nation, we must find a way, somehow, to respect our growing differences while avoiding situations that might allow our differences to become nation-busting fault lines.
Public prayer, alas, is one of those situations.