On a backdrop of Blackface bookended by a Green New Deal and a Red-faced President who refuses to release his tax returns a friend reposted a meme by "Tyrannowhale" that disparaged so-called Christians who crusade for total (dare I say mandatory?) prayer in school. As interesting as that idea may sound – every Christian will agree we really need God back in our schools – forcing prayer in school is wrong. Forcing any element of Christianity on anyone, non-believer and believer alike, is wrong. And I'd postulate anyone trying to force prayer on anyone else is a false prophet bent on destroying the Church from "within."
True Christians – true Christianity – doesn't force anything. Wolves in sheep's clothing force prayer. False prophets force prayer. To the untrained eye they look like Christians, but they are not. They might carry the Bible, use religious words, even quote scripture, but despotic theism is not the same as Christianity. Rather, those wolves are trying to soil Christianity "from within." They do more harm than good because they draw away some who are fragile at a time when they truly need God but can't discern His truth from Satan's lies. Imagine me telling you "if you truly want to be free, you must carry this book and recite this code every day." That's not freedom, that's slavery wrapped in shiny paper and tied up with a pretty little bow.
Just look at Jesus' example. Never in the Bible did Jesus demand loyalty, prayer, sacrifice. Jesus rightly spoke of loving God above all else, then serving man second because He knows love leads to service, not the other way around. He gave us a universal, absolute truth, but never demanded universal servitude.
"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matt 22:36-40, NIV)
Even when challenging his own Disciples, Jesus gave them a choice first.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? (Matt 22:24-26, NIV)
Here's the other thing just about everyone in this conversation fails to define. While Engel v. Vitale (1962) and Abingdon School District v. Schempp (1963) are among two of the most celebrated secular victories banning official school prayer, none of the official court actions in these United States actually removed prayer from schools. We did that ourselves when we found prayer in school too hard or the lack of prayer in school too easy. The truth of the matter is, while we may not vocally or physically oppose the law, true Christians never stopped praying in schools. True Christians simply pray silently, sometimes alone and sometimes in groups – and sometimes with adults, even!
So, to my atheist friend who groups all Christians among those wolves and false prophets, ask yourself if you know of any "Christian" who practices what he/she preaches, yet has never tried to force his/her faith on you. If you can answer "yes," then you have seen the true face of Christianity.
–Mark Klages is an influential contributor, a former US Marine and a lifelong teacher who focuses on applying a Christian worldview to everyday events. Mark blogs at https://maklagesl3.wixsite.com/website under the title "God Provides where Hate Divides," with a heart to heal social, political, relational, and intellectual wounds through God's divine love and grace. Mark can also be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mark-klages-04b42511/.