So why, you ask, is that generic civic Christmas scene on top of this GetReligion post as the temperatures in the Greater Baltimore-Washington, D.C., area finally begin to show signs of real summer baseball weather? I am assuming that, at this point, we have seen our last snow flurries in these parts.
I’ll come back to the reindeer in a minute. Trust me, there is a logical connection between that image and the subject material in this week’s “Crossroads” podcast, which as usual is a joint production of the GetReligionistas and host Todd Wilken of Issues, Etc. Click here to listen in.
For now, click pause on your reflections on years of the “reindeer wars,” which is actually one of the busiest fronts in America’s lively “Christmas Wars.” I want you to picture another church-state battlefield.
Let’s pretend that it is 10 minutes before a meeting of a government body in some typical American setting, perhaps even a place with a name like Town of Greece or what have you.
On this night there is an issue before this government body — perhaps a zoning question affecting a booming evangelical megachurch — that is special relevance to religious institutions of all kinds, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Wiccan, etc., etc. So there are going to be lots of different kinds of religious believers present. Atheists and agnostics are also highly involved in this dispute, stressing that religious groups should not receive special rights.
Now, under the recent 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision, this Town of Greece meeting will open with prayer.
Try, try, try to imagine a prayer on this occasion that would please all of the participants. Depending on who is up to bat in the community’s much disputed multi-faith prayer rotation, there are a number of possibilities and let’s keep score. Ready?
Yes, you could have an evangelical pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Who is happy? (Of course, these believers could gather outside on the sidewalk or steps and pray to their hearts content, even out loud, but who wants to settle for that. Right?)
You could have a liberal or traditional Jewish rabbi pray (substitute liberal or Jewish Islamic cleric if you which). Who is happy, including those present from among the traditional and/or liberal bodies in the faith who lost the coin flip?
You could have an agnostic, or a liberal mainline Protestant, or a Unitarian offer a completely nonsectarian prayer that would sound something like this: