published Sunday, June 24th, 2012

David Cook: God is not insecure

  • photo
    Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) reacts to a foul call against him in the first half of Game 7 against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday.
    Photo by The Commercial Appeal /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Why do we pray?

A strange question, especially if you haven't had your second cup of Velo coffee yet. In a city with more than 560 churches listed in the Yellow Pages, there will be more praying in the hours before noon today than at any other morning in the week.

Why?

Do we enjoy it? Need it like water? Believe it changes things?

Does it?

Are we afraid of what might happen if we don't pray?

The Hamilton County Commission is being sued because of its continued use of prayers -- most ending in "Jesus' name" -- to open meetings. Plaintiffs Tommy Coleman and Brandon Jones want something less imposing and more constitutionally appropriate.

"A moment of silence," said Coleman, 28, on Friday afternoon as we sat outside the locked doors to the County Commission chamber.

Lots of folks feel this is akin to replacing the American flag with a Cuban one. Trading the dollar for the euro. Bush for Obama. Cronkite for Couric. Football for soccer. Well, maybe that's going too far.

The commission should stop praying before its meetings for several reasons, but as someone who prays -- or at least fumbles at it -- one tops my list.

God is not insecure.

God is not threatened by whether the commission prays.

Prayer ought to happen in those still, small places in our lives. Prayer can be profound when it sinks from the head to the heart, and we stumble onto St. Paul's instruction to pray without ceasing, King David's Psalmist honesty or Mohammed's call to be ever mindful of prayers.

But prayer should not be a form of peer pressure or religious bullying or superstition, akin to rubbing an invisible rabbit's foot.

The walls aren't going to crumble down if the commission replaces its prayer with a moment of silence.

God is not scared of that.

In fact, it might send a refreshing, welcoming message. With a nod toward sensitivity and inclusiveness (two things Southern Christianity has rarely had at the top of its calling card), the commission could gently and generously end the lawsuit tomorrow.

Because its blend of prayer isn't the only kind in this town. And plenty of people who don't even pray have just as much standing in that commission room as those that do.

God knows that. The commission should, too.

If the commission wins the lawsuit, it actually loses. By continuing to fight, it has turned a legal setting into a mini-religious skirmish, all the while praying "in Jesus' name."

Win the lawsuit? Congratulations. Now we have more division. All in the name of Jesus, the one who counseled peace-making, loving your enemies and siding with those on the edges of society.

But by losing -- by replacing the prayer with a moment of silence -- the commission wins. Individual prayer can happen during the moment and during every other private moment of the commissioners' lives, plus the Constitution and spirit of religion are both honored.

"All persons are therefore created equal, being entitled to equal treatment under the Constitution and laws of the United States and the State of Tennessee," reads the Hamilton County human rights policy.

"The interests of justice and community harmony demand that these principles and beliefs should be reaffirmed by all governments that desire to promote genuine peace and understanding among its citizens," it says.

Coleman and I read it together.

A copy is posted outside the commission door.

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

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mommawave said...

Simple and to the point. Thank you David Cook for bringing this issue away from the asinine argument of "us vs them", and back to the core reasons Tommy and Brandon are right. Christians need to learn that they are NOT victims, at least not here in the south, and their rights can exist in harmony with the rights of every other religion and belief system.

June 24, 2012 at 8:03 a.m.

Yes, it's good to admit your obsession. Now go get treatment.

June 24, 2012 at 2:39 p.m.
Stewwie said...

[The Hamilton County Commission is being sued because of its continued use of prayers -- most ending in "Jesus' name" -- to open meetings.]

Mr. Cook, how can you write this sentence and not see how ridiculous this is? A lawsuit for saying "in Jesus' Name?" ARE YOU KIDDING ME???

You should have written the article chastising these young men for not doing something more productive with their time. Instead, they are the ones wasting taxpayers' time and dollars with this lawsuit. Why not tell these fellas to "generously end the lawsuit tomorrow?"

As a Christian, it should bother you to see a lawsuit like this. The 1st Amendment guarantees freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion. There's a huge difference. A government official saying "In Jesus' Name" doesn't force anyone to be Christian so there's nothing wrong with the official's free exercise of his/her prayer.

June 25, 2012 at 8:37 a.m.

What a silly, uninformed (and diversionary) diatribe. Slapping “insensitivity” and “bullying” tags on those who want to continue a long-standing, constitutional tradition is a lazy, PR gimmick. And to claim that you have God’s perspective on the matter reflects the kind of arrogance that these prayers are intended to discourage.

“O Lord our Heavenly Father, high and mighty King of kings, and Lord of lords, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers on earth and reignest with power supreme and uncontrolled over all the Kingdoms, Empires and Governments; look down in mercy, we beseech Thee, on these our American States, who have fled to Thee from the rod of the oppressor and thrown themselves on Thy gracious protection, desiring to be henceforth dependent only on Thee …

“Be Thou present, O God of wisdom, and direct the councils of this honorable assembly; enable them to settle things on the best and surest foundation. That the scene of blood may be speedily closed; that order, harmony and peace may be effectually restored, and truth and justice, religion and piety, prevail and flourish amongst the people. Preserve the health of their bodies and vigor of their minds; shower down on them and the millions they here represent, such temporal blessings as Thou seest expedient for them in this world and crown them with everlasting glory in the world to come. All this we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son and our Savior. Amen.”

Reverend Jacob Duché, Rector of Christ Church of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (The Prayer in the First Congress, A.D. 1774, September 7, 1774)

June 25, 2012 at 9:52 a.m.
ebenji87 said...

Stewie, it doesn't matter how insignificant the words "In Jesus' Name" are, it still doesn't change the fact that what they are doing is unconstitutional. Not every tax payer in this town, county or country is Christian, so our government that we all pay for, cannot endorse any specific religion during government meetings. Before, after, any other time, GO FOR IT! Say a thousand prayers with a loud speaker outside your car. But don't do it and force me or other non-Christians to sit and listen to it against our will during a meeting that our tax dollars fund. If you still want religion-specific prayers during the meeting, then you'd better allow some people from ALL religions to get up and pray, because it's either all or none. No religion is higher and more important than another, sorry to break it to you.

June 28, 2012 at 8:18 a.m.

"All this we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son and our Savior. Amen.”

June 28, 2012 at 8:54 a.m.
ronford said...

What I do not understand is all the good old people wanting to pray before a meeting, They use the Constitution trying to tell us if it is wrong or right, Why do we just do what we are told to do by the Bible? If you believe the Bible then you are not doing Gods works by praying in Public but you are a hypocrite Wanting to be noticed by men So to heck with what the Constitution says, it is more important to do what the Bible says.. Then we do not have a problem

Matthew chapter 6, verses 5-6,

"When thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."

Ronald Ford

June 28, 2012 at 1:35 p.m.
Sean_Dickerson said...

We have already lost our moral compass as a society, collectively. We will see lives lost -- many of them -- due to this nation's lack of moral compass. Evil is judgment for evil. We have wicked leaders taking over this country because that is exactly what we deserve here collectively. You don't have to like it, but it's the truth. A righteous people cannot be ruled by tyrants. They will not allow it. It is not compatible. But are we truly a righteous People? Think about it. Have we given up our rights for a temporary feeling of false security? Yep. Ever since the Civil War.

So when they come to get us now, we will either starve or get rounded up somehow and put into a concentration camp, F.E.M.A. camp -- whatever. Why is this? Simply because they do not want us. We didn't take the mark. And Obama said that this isn't a Christian nation (as a declaration of war on the Christians). That part he is actually right about for the modern sense of the idea -- we AREN'T a Christian nation -- ANYMORE! We have proven that! America will never be what it once was or should be even now. Now I don't like bringing this kind of news to people -- I really don't. It hurts me just as bad, and I wish it were not true -- BUT IT IS! And I can't change the truth! I just can't.

And if anyone thinks that this nation will be saved through an election, or writing to their current elected officials, they might as well forget it. If they are not doing it for God, then they have already lost the battle. They might as well go ahead and hang it up now, because it's doomed for failure. Over 52 million babies killed in the womb, Sodomites and lesbians in positions of authority, perverts in the public schools influencing the minds of today's children and younger generation -- this is sufficient evidence that America is DAMNED...DAMNED...DAMNED!!!

It's become reprobate. It's already over for this Republic. It's NOT over, however, for individual souls to be led to Christ. As for this Republic, it is DEAD! And it is GONE! The only thing we can do now is prepare physically and spiritually for the rough times we are soon going to face, most likely, this year, in 2012. Because I am telling you, folks, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

June 28, 2012 at 3:10 p.m.
Sean_Dickerson said...

The 501-c-3 spiritual whorehouses they call "churches" are also the main reason why we are in this mess.

And I will never again commit such an act of idolatry in putting my hand over my heart, vainly singing "God bless America", either. Nor will I pledge to the U.S. flag:

They can take that flag that now stands for whatever corruption it has turned into representing for the abominations we now have as a nation before an Almighty God, and they can cram it where the sun don't shine!

Out of the millions of churches in the United States, NOT ONE of them ever rose up against this uncircumcised, heathen, infidel bastard! What if David would have rolled over for Goliath? What do you think would have happened? Would the Israelites have rolled over for the Philistine Army? They would have been DEFEATED by them! So why do many Christians do what they do now, not rising up against this New World Order giant? I'll tell you why: because they seek to save themselves. The Declaration of Independence considers what Obama did as an act of treason, and the penalty of such treason is death by execution. Obama is guilty of treason, according the the standards of our founding documents, written and signed by our forefathers. Therefore, Obama shall be sentenced to an execution! If we still had a Republic that was not as corrupt as it is now, Obama would have been hung from the highest rope outside the courthouse. He has betrayed this country!

June 28, 2012 at 3:10 p.m.
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