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When zeal outruns discretion

The opening football games this year made the front pages of many Texas newspapers. While the sports pages covered the actual game heroics and results, the front pages related the "to pray or not to pray" struggle.

Before the first kickoff fans were up in arms about the federal court ruling outlawing prayers before the games. "This was not about football, it was about God" one student said. Others across the state were outraged that they could not continue the praying custom.

Football has become a religion to many of the fans. "Fan" is short for "fanatic." And there is nothing more deadly than a religious fanatic. For those who doubt this, look up the following: The Spanish Inquisition; The Crusades; Northern Ireland's Catholic-Protestant predicament; Palestinian-Israeli centuries-long mutual hatred, and the religious dislike of Muslims and Hindus in Pakistan and India. Such is the result of church-state marriages.

Mixing religion and government has never been a good idea. When the Swiss did not want Roman Catholic rule they set about having their view of Protestantism as civil law. The Swiss' zeal often outran their discretion. Whenever one religion is "the chosen one" of a country, other opinions and religions suffer.

Our Pilgrim forefathers (and mothers) fled the State Church of England to be free to worship as they saw best. But, sadly, when they found themselves in power in New England, they chased others, such as Roger Williams and the Baptists, out of Massachusetts.

God is best honored and the people best served when no one particular religion or denomination has the final say. It has worked well for over 220 years. It has weathered many a storm but church and state must be kept separate. Thus both can do what they are here to do more effectively.

People of all religions pray. Prayer is a natural emotion of the human heart. Prayer is not something which the major religion believers parade before the minor religion followers or non-believers.

For the Christian believer prayer is communion with God; the offering to God of petitions for mercy or blessing. Prayer is thanksgiving and praise for blessings and mercies received. Prayer is the soul's desire for God. If prayer is so important why do we so easily forget what Jesus said about it: "And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they love to stand in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by men ... but you, when you pray, go into your inner room ... and pray to your father who is in secret." (Matthew 6:5-6)

Prayer and faith are very personal matters that are not to be decided by the courts but more important are not to be paraded before the public as is the custom of some.

When two private Christian schools play a game of football then it would be most appropriate for them to begin and even end the event with Christian prayers. They might want to sing a few hymns at halftime.

Religion and prayer go together. Since religious people pray to all sorts of gods, it follows that football fans should have a god to whom they can pray. And should the home team get behind, I would suggest stopping the game for another prayer. But possibly I am letting my zeal outrun my discretion on the subject. -- Sept. 10, 1999 Waco Tribune Herald; Sept 10, 1999 Bulletin


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