Jun 7, 2014

Court: No Prayerful Prayer

Kennedy: Constrain Your Prayer
In Town of Greece v. Galloway (May 5, 2014), the United States Supreme Court held that Christians and others may be invited by legislative assemblies to offer "sectarian" prayers, e.g., prayers in Jesus' Name, but only if prayer is otherwise constrained in purpose so as to conform to the requirements of ceremonial deism.

The additional constraints that make prayer conform to ceremonial deism necessarily exclude any Christian from praying before U.S. governmental bodies. Kennedy explains why at page 14:
In rejecting the suggestion that legislative prayer must be nonsectarian, the Court does not imply that no constraints remain on its content. The relevant constraint derives from its place at the opening of legislative sessions, where it is meant to lend gravity to the occasion and reflect values long part of the Nation's heritage. Prayer that is solemn and respectful in tone, that invites lawmakers to reflect upon shared ideals and common ends before they embark on the fractious business of governing, serves that legitimate function ... [i.e.] to elevate the purpose of the occasion and to unite lawmakers in their common effort. 
But Christian prayer is not a show put on to improve a legislator's emotional or cognitive outlook. If this is the only legal purpose of prayer in American legislature, then Christian prayer is illegal in our public assemblies. 

Real prayer is guided by the Holy Spirit and not Caesar's hubris. Prayer is not ornament, like Kennedy's dark robes, "meant to lend gravity" to public occasions, to hide the real nature of what is underneath. Prayer is not musicians' mood music, some short prelude played softly and slowly to create a "solemn and respectful" feeling for the legislative box-holders' benefit. It is not an artist's mural painted to "reflect values long part of the Nation's heritage." A Christian's prayer does not "invite lawmakers to reflect upon shared ideals and common ends" because we do not pray "to elevate the purpose of the occasion and to unite lawmakers in their common effort." 
"You may offer your sect's prayers before me but only for MY purposes."
We pray to thank and obey God, to seek the glory and grace of God. 
1Th 5:17-8 Pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
Joh 14:13-4 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
After Town of Greece, however, no U.S. governmental unit may legally invite a Christian to pray to obey and glorify God. No Christian can now regard themselves as invited or licensed to do so. Government officials can ask for prayer only for a purpose that all Christians must refuse, i.e., for the sake of mere form and ornament, to create a "tone." Christians are invited only to symbolize a lost heritage that our rulers, especially rulers like Kennedy who dismantled marriage law, have contemptuously rejected. Christians are permitted to display themselves only as quaint relics, enacting a ritual alien and atavistic in American government. If we accept the invitation, we will be like sandaled actors performing an ancient Greek augury in cheap togas for a modern movie and its ogling audience. 

Since it would be unconstitutional to invite a Christian to give glory to God and to lead the body in corporate obedience to God by seeking His grace, Christians would be rebelling against government officials (or acting as accomplices to lesser government officials own rebellion against the highest law of the land) if they appeared in public governmental assemblies to offer authentic prayers. Christians should not rebel against legitimate governmental authority and, therefore, they should obediently refuse to offer prayers before the U.S. Congress, Supreme Court or any other body bound under Kennedy's ruling. No Christian Marshal or believing bailiff should ever say "God Save This Honorable Court" while Justice Kennedy's decision determines the way in which he could be legally permitted to say it, i.e. not as a sincere call to our Lord but as a mere service for Caesar. 

Once a Chaplain of God, Now an Ornament for Men
Kennedy's opinion only allows the Christian to be invited to invoke the name of God in vain and blasphemous ways, i.e., not for the purposes that God ordained but only as a ceremonial ornament inducing a mood of gravity and national unity, not as a sincere appeal to our great and saving God. These are not proper uses of the invocation of Christ's Name in prayer. They are a misuse.
Ex 20:7 "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name." 
Kennedy concludes his opinion with a final summary of the amputated nature of legal prayer allowed under his binding interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. Caesar teaches us that the ceremonial prayer that he permits is not prayer at all:
Ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this Nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond the authority of government to alter or define and that willing participation in civic affairs can be consistent with a brief acknowledgment of their belief in a higher power, always with due respect for those who adhere to other beliefs. 
"Ceremonial prayer" is like a ceremonial sword or rifle, blunted and stoppered and powerless and illusory. It is not a real prayer "but a recognition [that] many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by [certain] precepts." Ceremonial prayer must be "brief" and affirm the consistency of "belief in a higher power" with "participation in civic affairs." 

But for Christians, it is no longer true that prayerful participation in civic affairs is consistent with their belief, not after Town of Greece. Belief in Jesus Christ is emphatically not consistent with prayerful participation in U.S. legislative assemblies if prayer is allowed to be offered only for the symbolic benefit of men. This is Kennedy's fault.  Kennedy has decreed that Christians can "pray" before Caesar in Christ's Name, but as a matter of law, only briefly and vainly for Caesar's purposes. Kennedy has decreed, therefore, that Christians cannot pray. 

Even if Christians do pray, Kennedy warns us not to get too carried away:
If the course and practice over time shows that the invocations denigrate nonbelievers or religious minorities, threaten damnation, or preach conversion, many present may consider the prayer to fall short of the desire to elevate the purpose of the occasion and to unite lawmakers in their common effort. That circumstance would present a different case than the one presently before the Court.
I wonder which prayers Kennedy had in mind as he wrote this? Why would he think that Christians might pray in ways that denigrate or damn or convert? Perhaps, he remembers the prayer that the apostles Peter and John offered after they were arrested for "sectarian" proclamation of the death and resurrection of Jesus, which indeed denigrated, damned and sought conversion. Perhaps, he knows that apostolic prayer would shake the foundations of his secular fundamentalism:
Ac 4:24 "Sovereign Lord," they [prayed], "you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: "'Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. ' 27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus." 31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
Isn't this exactly the prayer that Kennedy needs to hear? He needs not an empty "God Save This Court" but an apostolic reminder that the boldness of Christian prayer prevails over Pilates who say "what is the truth?" He doesn't need prayer to "elevate the occasion" of his Court's decisions; he needs prayer that will shake and humble.

Or, perhaps, Kennedy is thinking of other prayers of David, which threaten damnation:
Ps 5:1 Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my sighing. 2 Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. 3 In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. 4 You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell. 5 The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong. 6 You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the LORD abhors.
 7 But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house; in reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple. 8 Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies-- make straight your way before me. 9 Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with destruction. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongue they speak deceit. 10 Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall. Banish them for their many sins, for they have rebelled against you. 11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
 12 For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield. 
Or, perhaps this prayer, which calls rulers to be judged before God:
Ps 58:1 Do you rulers indeed speak justly? Do you judge uprightly among men? 2 No, in your heart you devise injustice, and your hands mete out violence on the earth. 3 Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies. 4 Their venom is like the venom of a snake, like that of a cobra that has stopped its ears, 5 that will not heed the tune of the charmer, however skillful the enchanter may be. 6 Break the teeth in their mouths, O God; tear out, O LORD, the fangs of the lions! 7 Let them vanish like water that flows away; when they draw the bow, let their arrows be blunted. ...
Or, perhaps this one, which does not quite celebrate national heritage or serve the power of men:
Ps 10:1 Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? 2 In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises. 3 He boasts of the cravings of his heart; he blesses the greedy and reviles the LORD. 4 In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. ...16 The LORD is King for ever and ever; the nations will perish from his land. 17 You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, 18 defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.
These prayers, prayers of men of God speaking the Word of God, are banned in U.S. governmental assemblies. But these are precisely the prayers that government officials need to pray. This is cause for prayer for the U.S. and the judges who have done this thing.

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