Not all Christians think public prayers are a good thing. I read a very moving piece by a devout evangelical Christian who had an experience that not many US citizens will ever have. Gary B. Christenot was in the military and was assigned to a base in Hawaii. The small town where his family was assigned housing was predominantly Chinese and Japanese immigrants, but the family was able to find a small Baptist church that filled their needs. Most of the other churches in the town were Buddhist and Shinto temples. They decided to attend a football game at the local high school, and after the normal pre-game warm-ups were complete, the announcer asked all to rise for the invocation. To the shock and dismay of Christenot and his family, it was a Buddhist prayer! He describes his family’s feelings of shock and embarrassment:
“What to do? To continue to stand and observe this prayer would represent a betrayal of our own faith and imply the honoring of a pagan deity that was anathema to our beliefs. To sit would be an act of extreme rudeness and disrespect in the eyes of our Japanese-American hosts and neighbors, who value above all other things deference and respect in their social interactions.”
After inquiring if the prayer rotated among the various religions, he was told that only Buddhist and Shinto prayers were offered. “Needless to say, that was our first and last football game,” he added.
I read this story in “Church & State” magazine, a publication of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. I did not think they would make this story up, but I decided to do some checking anyway. I found that Christenot originally published his story on a Religious Right web site called WorldNetDaily under the title “Why I’m Against Pre-game Prayers.”
Christenot is clearly no supporter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The following disclaimer appears adjacent to the article:
“Though the positions expressed in this article support the policy positions of Americans United as regards prayer in public schools, Gary B. Christenot is an evangelical Christian who is in strong disagreement with most of the positions and agenda of Americans United. In the interest of furthering public debate, Christenot has agreed to have his views on this issue published in Church & State. However, the inclusion of his opinions in this publication are not to be construed as expressing any support for the larger views or mission of Americans United.”
Any Christian who demands Christian prayers at public events should read this story and think long and hard about it.