I received an email this morning about why there was no prayer during a local high school football game. A lot of parents were more than a little upset that the game didn’t begin with prayer, which is traditionally what has opened ball games, graduations and other ceremonies since, well, forever I guess. These prayers are simple with a request for God to keep the players safe and ensure every family returns home safely and unharmed. I’m sure it’s the same prayer said thousands of times across the nation every single day. There’s a sense of unity and peace for most Americans and for many, it might be the closest they get to Sunday morning services. Either way, it’s what bonds everyone to each other and the other team; a common strength everyone shares.
The absence of the opening prayer recently resulted in a lot of upset players and families in south Mississippi. The superintendent released the document that scared him into ceasing these prayers. The letter was from a group called Freedom From Religion Foundation. I read the letter and then hit their website.
At first, I thought, “Oh, they only have 17,000 members” and then (crazy as this sounds) it occurred to me a line from an old Law & Order episode where a huge group of pedophiles had just escaped the law. The captain was having problems in his department about the refusal of some departments to share information. The episode closed with, “They’ll always have us beat. They’re organized and work together.” So even though this group is “just” 17,000 strong, it occurred to me they’re a tight knit group. Maybe they have to be. Maybe they, like pedophiles, are viewed as the crud on society’s shoes.
They’re atheists. They’re judgmental and in my opinion, hypocritical. There’s one image where several of the members are wearing t-shirts with the American flag. Yet they refuse to acknowledge the very foundation that flag is built upon. They have a campaign that encourages others to “come out of the closet” with their atheism. Then, they have images of past presidents whose words they’ve twisted. Their “freedom from religion” campaign is anything but for those they’re forcing their beliefs on. There’s no freedom when you demand others to abandon everything they believe in, including a brief prayer before their kids go onto the football field, whether as players or cheerleaders. Forcing high schools to cease prayer is not freedom at all. Bullying school districts goes against everything that flag they’re wearing represents.
I think what strikes me as most disturbing is the willingness of these people to pose for these photos with t-shirts that say “This is what an atheist looks like”. It’s true we fear the unknown. But there are some things that go against everything I know and those are things I want to remain ignorant on. I don’t want to know what my heart would feel like if it were beating without my faith. I will say that I believe there’s a difference in faith and religion – just as I am at a loss as to why some people refuse to believe, I also find myself frustrated with those who go to the other extreme and are so judgmental about their neighbors and even family members. I don’t think God is any happier with those folks who choose who’s worthy of His grace than those who denounce Him. And finally, contrary to what the letter from this group to the superintendent says, I do not believe this group has received “thousands of letters from Mississippians who want prayer out of their school districts”.
So, as they proudly wear their declarations of atheism across their chests and smile boldly for the cameras, proud of what they’ve accomplished, maybe one day one of them will truly come out of the closet and let the rest of the world know what they do in those moments of silence, when they’re in their darkest hours, and when their lives are crumbling; who do they turn to? What is that foundation truly built on? I don’t think I’d find much comfort in knowing my foundation is a group of “17,000 strong”. I want something a bit more reliable than another human being – or even 17,000 human beings.