It's tricky to make generalizations about Christians. After all, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of independent Christian sects, each one formed by followers who believed that all the other Christian sects were not following the proper Christian path. Such widespread lack of aggreement is remarkable given that the heart of Christian dogma is the assertion that the Bible is the single written text of divinely-revealed truth. If all Christians accept the same book as the word of God, containing absolutely unquestionablew instructions about how to live in the correct way, how come Christians end up dividing themselves into competing groups according to their disagreements about the right way to live?
One explanation is that the Bible is poorly written, with vague instructions, faulty logic, and an inconsistent collection of messages which contradict each other. Another explanation is that Chrisitians don't really base their religious lives upon the teachings of the Bible.
The latter explanation is supported by the public, ostentatious manner in which most Christians pray. The Bible is very clear in what it says about the proper way for Christians to pray, stating in the Gospel of 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.
The message is clear: if you claim to follow Jesus you ought to pray in secret, avoiding ostentatious displays of prayer intended to serve as a display of holier-than-thou pride before others. Most Christians seem either to be ignorant or to just not care about the message of these Biblical verses, contradicting the instructions of their own divine savior in order to satisfy their own egotistical religious identities.
Consider, for example, the See You At the Pole campaign. The See You At the Pole organization encourages students at public schools to gather in repeated displays of communal prayer. The point is to pray in a manner so as to be seen by the entire school, to set an example of Christian behavior for all others to follow. Not only does this group do everything it can to make a big show members' prayer to students, faculty and administration in the local shcools, the central organization even encourages members to publicize the prayer events in newspapers, on television, on the radio, and through other forms of the mass media.
What's the real purpose of the See You At the Pole campaign? Is it to pray? Certainly not, for Christian students and teachers can pray at any time at any place, inside or outside of public schools. The point is to be seen praying by others who choose not to pray, so as to make an impression. The point is to use the ostentatious display of prayer as a means with which to make a statement to others, a public declaration of religious identity. The people who organize the See You At the Pole demonstrations claim that the events are a natural outgrowth of participants' Christian religion, forgetting all the while that their own Christian holy book instructs them not to make public displays of prayer!
Such Christian ignorance of the teachings of the Bible is in even stronger evidence in those public schools where Christian groups try to force everybody else to pray along with them. Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that it was an unconstitutional violation of students' rights to use the power of public schools to hold officially-sponsored prayer sessions at public school football games. All attendants at these secular government games had been forced to stop their activities to witness a prayer read over the loudspeaker. Were these Christian-imposed public prayers stopped after the judgment of the Courts was handed down? No. Instead, Christian factions within the public schools led massive takeovers in which public mass prayers over loudspeakers became even more common, held as demonstrations against the desire of non-Christian students to receive equal treatment. The Christians prayed in public to show their power to impose their religious will upon other groups, using the power of government-sponsored events to do so.
Heck, even the President gets in on the act! One of George W. Bush's first acts after he rode minority support into the White House was to designate an official governmental day of prayer. As President, he felt that it was his duty to use the power of the federal government to put on a national show of prayer. There he stood, with television cameras whirring and photographers snapping, using prayer as a public relations gimmick. President Junior's long-time support for governmental time-grants for prayer in public school was an unavoidable undercurrent to the event.
It seems that these folks are so busy making a show about their Christianity that they've forgotten what their own Bible says about being Christian: that Christian prayer should always be a private matter, conducted without fanfare and without an audience. The words are right there in bold print for any literate Christian to read, but Jesus' teaching about the hypocrisy of public prayer remains a true secret of the Bible.
Better hurry and speak up now,
before John Ashcroft does away with that pesky 1st Amendment!
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