The Devil Wants You Praying in Public

Mary's Gourmet DinerProbably my biggest problem with religious people, as I generally find them here in the United States, is that it is all style and no content. I usually refer to them as “Cultural Christians.” And that’s a good why to sum them up, although the problem is not limited to Christians by any means. What it gets at is how people use their religion. And I want to be very clear: the Cultural Christians are often very serious about their Christianity—ridiculously so. But they use it primarily as a cultural signifier and not as a way to get closer to God, how ever they may define the concept.

And the poster child for the Cultural Christian movement is, of course, Tim Tebow. Now for those of you who are neither Cultural Christians nor football fans, Tim Tebow is a middling NFL quarterback who was a cause celebre for his ostentatious praying on the field. Of course, the Cultural Christians will tell you that he is pure of heart and just witnessing for the Lord. But I don’t think that’s true. I’m sure he started off pure enough, but after a while it became a thing. And he got lots of extra attention for it. I wrote about this before, Tim Tebow Hypocrisy.

To me, the most interesting gospel is Matthew. I actually like Mark better. But Matthew is where we get the Sermon on the Mount, which is really the best condensation of Jesus’ message. It contains the only part of the Bible I actually have memorized, “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”[1] Now that’s a prayer!

The whole middle section of the Sermon deals with not being a Cultural Christian. It is all about not doing “good works” just to get in good with God. Jesus explicitly says that when you pray, you should shut yourself away in a room. Just look at what our man Jesus has to say about public expressions of holiness:

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.

This actually comes back to a recurring theme throughout the Bible: be modest, not prideful. The word I most associate with the Old Testament is “hubris.” And God really doesn’t like it. He has this tendency to wipe out whole cities when he sees it. But among the Cultural Christians, I see almost nothing but hubris. There is this constant drone coming from the movement that they know what the Bible means and so they know what God wants. This is particularly offensive when one of the things they know is that abortion is wrong, which is not only not in the Bible, but which was an issue debated for centuries by the church.

So it was with some annoyance that I saw a headline at the Huffington Post, North Carolina Diner Offers Customers 15 Percent Discount For “Praying In Public.” The wait staff at Mary’s Gourmet Diner in North Carolina, have the option to give a 15% discount when they see “someone in [the] restaurant honoring their gratefulness at my table.” Long before I started reading the Bible I found people saying grace in public offensive. There is no denying it: as heartfelt as it may be, a large part of it is making a spectacle of the person praying. “Look at me! I love God so much that I’m making a big deal of telling him out loud that I’m grateful that he didn’t make me born in some poor time or place when I would be too busy surviving to make a spectacle of myself in a restaurant”!

15% Discount: Praying in Public

But this is so much worse. It says on the receipt that the discount is for, “Praying in Public.” It makes you wonder: are these actually Devil worshipers who are just trying to anger God? After all, he sent his only begotten son down to earth to make a big speech—very likely the most famous speech in the history of mankind—and the people at Mary’s Gourmet Diner are encouraging people to do exactly what Jesus told his followers not to do. But that, I’m afraid, is exactly the point.

The Cultural Christians are not followers of Jesus. Largely, they are people who want to wipe out dissent. They want to create a theocracy based upon their own interpretation of the Bible. And that interpretation of the Bible is that women’s birth control should be illegal and gays should be in jail at the very least. At the same time, of course, they will just as ostentatiously “love” the women who they are forcing to die of blood poisoning resulting from a dead fetus. And they will “love” the gay men who are beaten to death. But most of all, they will love that 15% discount at Mary’s Gourmet Diner!

[1] This is actually not what I have memorized. I always quote from the New American Standard Translation, because it is reputed to be the closest to the original Greek. Also, the last part—”For yours is the kingdom…—is a later interpolation. So even if you think Jesus actually did give this sermon, that part is not in the earliest manuscripts of the Bible. But you can see why they added it: it is, as Jimmie Walker would say, “Dyn-o-mite!” (I mean that: it gives the whole thing a great cadence.)

H/T: Mad Kane

5 thoughts on “The Devil Wants You Praying in Public

  1. Jesus was opposed to voluntary fasting; the Catholic Church for years forbade the eating of meat on Fridays. Jesus prohibited the taking of oaths; Christian Americans fight relentlessly for the inclusion of God in the Pledge of Allegiance.

  2. @Mad Kane – Thank you for the original link!

    @Mark Czerniec – After all these years of Christians saying, "Let’s put Christ back in Christmas," I now wonder, "Why don’t you put Christ back in Christianity?" You would think a lot of Christians were Jews the way they are so focused on the Old Testament. Of course, they are focused on parts of the Old Testament that Jews generally are not. For a lot of people it is just an excuse to be bigoted and dumb.

  3. The Sermon On The Mount is thought by many scholars not to be a speech given to the followers of Jesus but a compilation of his advice given at various times. Regardless, it is a tremendous liberal statement and if followed by us all would lead to a very different world than we have now. I am not christian but I love the Sermon. How can conservatives read this and think like they do?

  4. @Norm – Yes, if you look at Luke, you will see various passages from the Sermon in different places and in different contexts. It is part of the Q document, which is a theoretical book (now lost) filled with the saying of Jesus, that both Matthew and Luke used (along with Mark) to write their gospels. See:

    [url=…]The Case Against Q[/url]

    I agree with you: it is beautiful, and it doesn’t much matter what translation. But in my many encounters with American Christians, they tend to like the Old Testament. Their favorite Gospel is John–the last one written. It is also the most antisemitic, although apologists try to argue otherwise. It’s where the Nazis (and others) got their "Jews are Christ killers!" rhetoric.

    Our nation would be far better if Christians spent more time with the Sermon. There is no doubt about that!

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