What part of 'When you pray, go into your inner room' did you not understand? (from Mt 6:6, NASB) / PsiCop original graphicBy now most of my readers have heard of the case now before the U.S. Supreme Court, Town of Greece v. Galloway, in which arguments have been heard, and which will be decided in the middle of next year. Lots of ink has been spilled … and bits transmitted … about it. And there will, no doubt, be much more to come. Religionists rail and fume at the insolence of the plaintiffs for having dared sue in court over the town of Greece, NY opening its council meetings by leading everyone present in Christian prayers. Non-believers laugh at the insipidity of many people publicly mouthing words up at a being that may or may not even exist to hear them.

But what no one is saying — at least, not that I’ve yet heard — is that this case should, by all rights, never have even seen a courtroom, because public prayers of the sort being proclaimed in Greece, NY are thoroughly, demonstrably, and undeniably un-Christian.

You read that right: they’re un-Christian.

As I’ve blogged many times before, and described in my page cataloging Bible verses that nearly all Christians staunchly refuse to obey, Jesus unambiguously condemned any and all forms of public piety. His words on the subject, as recorded in the gospels, are clear and explicit. There are no caveats, and no wriggle-room. Read for yourself what Jesus said about public piety:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1-6)

On another occasion, Jesus condemned public piety using this brief story as an example:

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14)

The scriptural evidence is in, and it’s clear: Jesus didn’t want his followers trying to impress others with their righteousness. This has many implications, some of which Christians will find inconvenient. Among them, is that they shouldn’t be praying in public. Now, I fully understand … having been a Christian myself … why they feel compelled to do it. What good is it, after all, to be a Christian, but not let others know it? Since Christianity is the majority faith in Greece, NY and nearly all of the U.S., what better way to make it known you “belong,” than to be seen praying to the same Christian God that most everyone else prays to?

I honestly get it. Really, I do. The emotional satisfaction — and personal pride — that come from publicly expressing one’s piety is seductive and compelling. It’s a natural manifestation of human nature. Even so … Jesus did expressly forbid this kind of behavior. No matter how normal it may be for Christians to engage in expressions of public piety, it contradicts Christ’s own teachings. Christians shouldn’t be in the position of defending public piety — not before the Supreme Court, and not anywhere else. Instead, they should just not be doing it. At all.

I’m left asking myself, “What part of ‘go into your inner room’ do Christians not understand?”

Photo credit: PsiCop original, based on Mt 6:6.

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