A Simple Request

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I have a request.

Let’s try to just enjoy the Super Bowl this year.

There are a lot of obstacles to this seemingly simple request. Some like to make the rest of us feel guilty during the Super Bowl by saying silly things like, “If you cheered as loud at church this morning as you did for that last touchdown, the world would be a better place.” Over time, we’ve learned to tune these folks out. But, there’s one topic that still keeps finding it’s way into our Super Bowl enjoyment.

Race.

Are you surprised?

Neither am I.

Earlier in the week I saw a split screen picture on the Internet of Peyton Manning and Cam Newton, the two quarterbacks in this year’s big game. Peyton was wearing a suite and Cam was dressed like a kid who just left a skating rink. We were made to believe that this picture told us everything we need to know about the two men. The guy in a suit is the kind of guy you name your kid after and the guy in the knit cap is the guy you keep your kid from. Be like the guy in the suit. Don’t be like the guy in the knit cap.

Never mind the fact that Cam Newton frequently shows up to press conferences dressed in a suit that costs more than your home. And never mind the fact that Bill Belicheck’s wardrobe appears to have been picked out by a college freshman who thinks that it’s okay to wear pajamas to work. Every moment of our life is not a job interview. Clothes don’t tell you everything you need to know about someone.

I have never cheered for Cam Newton.

It’s nothing personal. I just don’t like the teams he’s played for. Also, the fact that those teams typically beat my teams doesn’t help.

A lot of people have a problem with Cam. They don’t like the dances he does after big plays and touchdowns. They don’t like it when he seems to be too competitive or doesn’t handle the sign of an opposing team’s fans with care. But there is one guaranteed, sure fire way to make those people suddenly have no problem with Cam’s antics.

Trade him to their favorite team.

Look, I don’t like to see Cam dance in the end zone. But boy, I sure did love it when Deion Sanders was an Atlanta Falcon and acted like MC Hammer after twelve too many Red Bulls whenever he picked off the other team’s quarterback.

One of the great things about sports is that it exposes our hypocrisy. We talk a lot about character and integrity being important for professional athletes. We make ourselves care about these things. That is, until our favorite team gets a running back with the ethical standards of Charlie Manson who also happens to run the 40 in 3.5 seconds. Then, it’s just a game.

I’m not telling you to cheer for Cam. I won’t be. I’m just pleading with you to enjoy the game and not make it about race. My fellow whites, Peyton Manning does not represent us. He represents the Broncos. And black friends, Cam’s Super Bowl performance won’t do much to advance or hinder black America.

Most of the men and women who are really doing something of importance will not be playing in the big game on Sunday. Instead, they are the ones who work hard on their marriage, invest heavily in their children, love their neighbor and, if that’s their thing, just have a good time watching two great quarterbacks in the Super Bowl.

So, at least for the Super Bowl, let’s look beyond the memes. Let’s not give in to the typical racial division that seems to find its way into every other aspect of our life and culture. Let’s pay more attention to the orange and blue uniforms than we do the black and white skin colors.

Let’s just enjoy the game.

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A Terribly Offensive Quote From Martin Luther King Jr.

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The original quote on the wall at the University of Oregon was taken down because it used the word men. My guess is that the offended party would rather it said people or womyn or anything other than the generic men.

So the school took it down. But they had a great idea for a replacement. It was a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. Unless you like to spend your time wearing white hoods and sheets, you can’t find much to disagree with in these words.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Well, some students at the University of Oregon did.

While the school was remodeling the campus building in which the words of Dr. King reside, some brought up the idea replacing the quote. And no, the members of the offended party did not like to spend their time wearing white hoods and sheets. They were more into rainbow colors.

Some students wondered aloud if the quote accurately represented them today seeing as how Dr. King had the nerve to not mention the LGBTQRSTUVWXYZ community in his stirring speech.

In the end, something unusual for a college campus happened. Common sense prevailed. The quote from Dr. King remained. But, according to those in the know, there was quite a battle to keep it there.

This little dust up can teach us a lot. Members of the LGBTQRSTUVWXYZ like to compare their movement to the one that Dr. King led all those years ago. Those who were offended by this quote did us a favor by showing us all just how different these two movements are.

Martin Luther King Jr. wanted his people treated fairly. The perpetually offended sexual progressives want to be treated as masters.

Dr. King taught that character matters. To the sexual progressives, nothing matters more than being treated as normal when acting on your feelings, no matter how bizarre those feelings might be.

Dr. King was willing to go to jail so that his children could live in a just world. The sexual progressives want everyone else to go to jail for not agreeing with them.

The line has to be drawn somewhere. You may be the most tolerant person alive, but at some point you have to say no. A friend was telling me of a conversation with a young student who had no problem with homosexuality. When he asked the student about transgenderism, the response was the same. No problem.

And then he asked the student about men being allowed to use women’s rest rooms.

The student, a female, suddenly had a problem.

What an intolerant, bigot she was.

Or maybe she was just a hypocrite.

Eventually, everything becomes too offensive and all statues and quotes have to be taken down, all books have to be burned and all speech must be policed. This is no way for a free people to live. Free people train themselves to deal with something that they may passionately disagree with but which does not directly harm them.

Dr. King fought so that all people could be judged by the content of their character.

But that’s not enough for today’s sexual progressive. They would rather be judged by their feelings and judge others by their own hurt feelings.

But this shouldn’t surprise us.

Being offended by a quote about character is quite natural for a people with no character.

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Defending Wayne

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When a man stands up for something, you can be certain that others will try to make him sit back down. When he refuses, it’s his character that suddenly finds itself in the crosshairs.

You probably have never heard of Wayne Grudem but if you pay any attention to national politics, you’re about to hear a lot about him. And my guess is that most of what you hear won’t be good.

Wayne Grudem isn’t a politician. He’s a seminary professor and author. His most notable work is called Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. If you’ve spent any time in a quality Christian college or seminary, you’ve come across this book. But none of that has anything to do with why you’ll be hearing Wayne Grudem’s name.

Wayne Grudem is a complementarian. That means that he believes that a husband should do the job of leading is wife and children. Well, that’s the actual definition. Progressives would use a different one. To them, a complementarian is someone who sits on the couch all day telling his woman to get him another beer while he considers his next rape victim.

Along with writing books, Wayne Grudem serves as a religious liberty adviser for presidential candidate Marco Rubio. That’s why you’re going to be hearing Wayne Grudem’s name a lot.

In fact, it’s already happened.

Time Magazine calls him “controversial.” One blogger says that he, “limits women.” As Rubio’s numbers continue to rise, you can expect more people to attack Wayne Grudem. When politicians shine a light on religious men who stand with conviction, you can always expect the character attacks to follow.

But rather than listening to all of the attacks and misinformation, perhaps we should look at the man himself. In doing so, we might just get a good picture of what it really means for a man to lead his family.

Wayne Grudem was a department chair at a major evangelical seminary in the Chicago area. For his field, it was a dream job. You could say that it was like coaching the New England Patriots, minus all of the cheating of course. He had the job that hundreds of Bible scholars would love to have.

But all wasn’t well. Wayne’s wife was sick and the Chicago climate made her illness worse. A job opened up for Wayne in Arizona, a climate that had already proven to be much more friendly to his ailing wife. Here’s how Grudem handled the decision of walking away from his dream job of 20 years and moving to a new place to work at a school that few had even heard of.

“On September 19, 2000, when we were in the middle of this thinking process, I came to Ephesians 5:28, ‘Even so, husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.’ If I were living with the pain in my body that Margaret is living with, I thought, would I move for the sake of my health? Yes, I would. So, if I were to love my own wife as I love my own body, then shouldn’t I move for the sake of Margaret? It seemed an unmistakable implication of this verse.”

That sounds nothing like the caveman that Wayne Grudem and other complimentarians are often presented to be. It sounds more like a man who loves his wife enough to lead her and make personal sacrifices for her good.

But the decision making process wasn’t over for the Grudem’s. Wayne wanted desperately to avoid the leadership mistakes that he had made earlier in their marriage.

“At that time, I thought that God wanted me to teach at a seminary, and though I had asked Margaret what she thought, I did not honestly listen. I think that I failed to understand that though the husband is head of the wife, as Christ is head of the church (Ephesians 5:23), a well functioning head has ears. Perhaps if I had listened more, and involved her more in the process, many of the details of the decision would have been different.”

Now wait just a minute! Wayne Grudem didn’t drag his wife by her hair all the way from Chicago to Arizona?

Grudem has endorsed Marco Rubio for president. I have not. But I am endorsing Wayne Grudem. Not for president but rather for a man who we would all be better of having listened to and read.

In the coming weeks you will be told that Wayne Grudem is against women. As his own life story shows, he is not. What he is against is feminism. You know, that failed worldview that virtually demonized all sex, scares men out of even thinking about approaching a woman without first signing a contract of mutual engagement and that has led many women to put aside the so-called ball and chain of an apron and trade it in for the much heavier one that comes with grabbing for more and more power.

So to put it another way, Wayne Grudem is very much for women. If you don’t believe me, just ask his wife. You can look for them the next time you’re in Arizona.

Your Dirty Mouth

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When I was in high school I had a job with this girl who you might say had a potty mouth. But that’s probably not the best way to describe her mouth. It was much worse than that. Let me try again. Her mouth was more like the bathroom at a rest area in New Jersey. There, that’s more like it.

But she wanted to change. And she had a friend who was willing to help. When she went away to college, her roommate put a jar on the shelf. Whenever someone spoke one of those words one might find written on the wall in the restroom at a New Jersey rest area, they had to put cash in the jar. Now I never saw that jar but my guess is that by the time the first semester was over, there was enough money in there to pay off the national debt, get tickets to the Super Bowl and buy yourself a little something nice at Starbucks on the way.

The jar didn’t work.

That’s because this girl’s real problem was not her dirty mouth. She’s no different than the rest of us. Paying money, trying harder and those sorts of things are good for window dressing. But they’re no good for repairing the actual problem.

My kids are in that stage right now where they are asking me a lot of questions about cuss words. You should hear our conversations on the way home from school. It always makes me stop and think when I have to explain to them what makes one word bad and the other word okay. A lot of it comes down to culture. Ma’am, for example is polite in the south. I know guys in the northeast who tell me that saying ma’am to their mother would have gotten them sent to the ER.

Maybe you’ve noticed that the Bible never gives a list of the words we’re not supposed to say. I think that’s because you can stay away from saying the words that will get you kicked off of public airwaves and still have the same problem that my foul-mouthed co-worker had.

Rather than simply giving us a list of words to avoid saying, Jesus reminds us that, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). That means that even those of us who have the hardest time watching our language do not really have a mouth problem.

We have a heart problem.

There are plenty of good, church going folks who would never even dream of saying anything worse than fiddlesticks or good giggly wiggly. They would easily pass the money in the jar test. So much for paying down the national debt. But when it comes to the words they use toward their husband, their kids or the lady who’s been driving for the past three miles with her blinker on, things aren’t quite as good. They miserably fail the heart test.

Put all the money you want in a jar when you let out a few words on the golf course but it will do nothing to help the actual problem. It will just make you poorer. Instead of a jar, we need grace.

Grace opens our eyes to our true need. Grace reminds us of who we are and what is ours when we fail. Grace does what we cannot do on our own. Dead trees don’t suddenly start producing fruit. There has to be a drastic transformation. That’s what grace does to us.

By now, we all know that the old saying about sticks and stones breaking our bones and words never hurting us is a big lie. Words do hurt. Just one careless word spoken from a mother to her daughter can mean a lifetime of pain. But that’s not all that words do. Along with being hammers that can crush others, our words can also be scalpels that rip us open and expose the true nature of our heart.

Perhaps you haven’t said a cuss word in 25 years.

Congratulations!

But perhaps this morning, like some evil scientist, you mixed together a bunch of perfectly acceptable words to create a horrible sentence that crushed your husband.

No jar can repair that damage or keep it from happening again.

Only grace can.

So the remedy is not to suddenly add scores of new four letter words to our vocabulary, just as long as we say them in a nice way. Rather, we should remember that our words are important. They are important for the impact that they have on others. And they are even more important for the impact that they will have on us when we stand before Christ.

So don’t just watch your mouth.

Watch your heart too.

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak. Matthew 12:36 (ESV)

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Parenting Your Kids Like You’re Running For President

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Being a parent can be difficult but now there’s help. Instead of doing the hard work of instilling character into your children, just train them up in the discipline and instruction of a presidential candidate.

The Trump Approach

My son had to give a presentation in front of his class on Thursday morning. He spent a week or so doing all of the reading. Earlier in the week I helped him put everything together  so that it would all flow smoothly on the big day. But none of that helped on the morning of the presentation. He wasn’t his usual, bouncy self. Instead, he walked around the house like he had seen a ghost.

He was nervous.

So I had a talk with him.

I told him that the teacher who would be grading his presentation wasn’t fair. She wasn’t a top notch educator. In fact, she was out to get him. And then I convinced him to just skip the presentation, stay at home and watch M*A*S*H reruns. For the veterans, of course.

The Bernie Approach

The next time your kids argue over wanting more of something, do not yell at them. Do not  even correct them. Just give them more of what they want. But, you might ask, how is a parent supposed to pay for all of this?

Easy.

Just go next door, force the parents over there to raise the allowance they give to their children and then take that extra money to make your little angels’ every wish come true. When the money runs out next door, just keep moving down the street. When all of the money is gone, turn the entire street into a prison camp and call it economic equality.

See how simple that was?

Feel the Bern!

The Hillary Approach

Don’t worry yourself with what your kids are fighting about, struggling with or suffering from. All of that is beneath you. Let them eat cake.

But know this. Inevitably, because of your neglect, something terrible will happen. When it does, just let out a creepy laugh, keep saying, “What difference at this point does it make!” and blame the whole thing on a YouTube video. I suggest the one where those folks in Alabama are looking for a leprechaun.

You may not like the presidential candidates but they’re all rich, powerful and on TV a lot. And after all, isn’t that every parent’s goal for their children? Simply following the example of some of our country’s most talked about politicians may not make your kids rich or powerful but I can guarantee you that it will eventually land your kids on television.

Or on a YouTube video looking for a leprechaun.

Good luck!

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Scars In Heaven

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Christians have a lot to look forward to. No matter how bad it gets on this earth, we know that things won’t stay this way. Pain and heartache will not last. Death does not get the final say.

That’s not to say that life isn’t hard for Christians. It is. And it doesn’t mean that we look forward to the day of our death with some creepy fascination. We just know that hardships are no match for the eternal joy that will be ours with Christ. We know that death, though painful, does not get the final say.

Of all people, Christians have the greatest reason for hope.

As our bodies age, hurt and betray us, we know that we have the promise of a new and imperishable body that will be beyond description and equipped with everything that we need to fully enjoy and obey God (1 Corinthians 15:42-49).

In the new heavens and new earth, there will be no cancer hospitals, no AIDS, no jails, no political corruption, no divorce, no broken hearts and no sin.

But there will be scars in heaven.

Those scars won’t be ours. That weird mark just above your eyebrow from the time when you thought that the sliding glass door was opened will be long gone in heaven. Your new body will not carry the marks of your kidney surgery or that old football injury.

The only scars in heaven will belong to Jesus.

In talking about our new bodies, Paul tells the Corinthians that we will bear the image of the resurrected Christ (1 Corinthians 15:49). After Jesus rose from the grave, he was not the bloody mess that he was while the Romans beat him. He didn’t walk around with the fatigue he had on the cross. But he still the scars.

Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” John 20:24-28 (ESV)

In his resurrected body, Jesus walked with people and carried on conversations with them (Luke 24:13-35). He walked through walls (John 20:26) but he was no ghost. In his resurrected body, Jesus even prepared and ate breakfast with his disciples (John 21:1-14).

But why? Jesus had the power to conquer death. Couldn’t he also get rid of the scars that the crucifixion left on his body? Of course he could. But there’s a reason why he didn’t.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5 (ESV)

Jesus did not die simply to redeem our souls. His death redeemed us as whole persons. That includes our bodies.

When we finally get to enjoy the new heavens and the new earth with our scar free bodies we will look to Jesus and be constantly reminded of how it all came to be. Scars have a way of reminding us of things.

Every scar has a story just beneath it.

Several years ago I was playing with my dog in the backyard. I named him Hines after Hines Ward, the great Georgia Bulldog football star. My dog was big and looked mean but he was really friendly. Sometimes he was too friendly. I have a scar on my hand from one of Hines’ friendly moments. Whenever I look at that scar, I think about Hines.

And so it will be for us in eternity. The scars that remain on our Lord will remind us of what really matters. They will help us to remember that our new bodies are only possible because of Christ’s broken body.

I can’t wait for the day when all diseases are gone. I’m looking forward to finding out what it will be like to have a body that is not broken by sin. But, as nice as that will be, none of it is the ultimate point.

Christ is.

And for all eternity, his scars will remind us of that.

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Stop Listening To The Perfect Parents Of Perfect Kids

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My son’s Apgar score was kind of low.

An Apgar score, in case you’re wondering, is the test given to a child as soon as he is born in order to evaluate his health. Ten is the highest score possible. If your child gets that, he’s destined to either grow up to cure cancer or to be the bad guy in every 1980s romantic comedy ever made.

I can’t remember exactly but I think that my son scored somewhere around a negative 13. If your child scores a negative 13 on his Apgar, he’s destined to one day drive a car with a War Eagle bumper sticker on the back of it. That is to say, his future isn’t too bright.

My son was born with one difficulty after another and spent the first moments of his life hooked up to wires, suction cups and other medical devices that doctors and nurses use on sick kids. A few days after he was born all sorts of people were asking me about him. They were the usual questions. Are you getting any sleep? How is he eating? Have you made him wear the Dale Earnhardt Jr. onesie that I gave you at the baby shower?

But there was one question that caught me off guard.

What was his Apgar score?

After I gave my answer, the questioner looked at me as if she was surprised that he was even alive and then told me about some of the problems that he could have. As you might imagine, I didn’t walk away from that conversation feeling very encouraged.

About a year later my son was in his stroller while my wife was talking to another mom. The other mom seemed concerned about my boy. You see, he wasn’t talking in complete sentences yet. And, of course, her daughter was. Oh, and those sentences were in both Latin and English. And I think that the little girl was only two weeks old and had already been accepted to Harvard. The other mom suggested that my wife teach sign language to our son to help him catch up. Again, that wasn’t a very encouraging conversation for my wife.

My son is nine years old now. A few days ago we went for a half mile run. I couldn’t catch him. He can speak 4,000 words a minute. When he has math homework, I can’t help him with it because my brain shuts down when letters, decimal points, fractions and, well, numbers start getting involved. Perhaps that says more about my Apgar score than my son’s but you get the point.

He’s doing just fine.

One day, if God wills, my son will interview for a job. The man on the other side of the desk will not ask for my son’s Apgar score. And he won’t ask if he knew how to use full Latin sentences before his second birthday. More importantly, my son will one day stand before God to give an account for his life. Apgar scores and Latin accomplishments won’t come up then either.

But some parents like to act as if all that will matter. They brag continuously about the accomplishments of their kids in a way that seems to demean you for allowing your kid to actually be a kid rather than a full grown adult in a toddler’s body. Stop listening to these people.

For the most part, things even out. I’ve seen a lot of tiny athletic and academic freaks of nature who never quite live up to the unrealistic standards that their parents had for them.

Remember this, perfect parents of perfect kids do not exist. To put it another way, anyone who tries to come across to you as the perfect parent of a perfect kid is lying to you. They are simply covering up their common flaws with accomplishments that just don’t matter all that much. So stop listening to them.

When my wife was still carrying our son, she went to work one day despite not feeling all that great. Her friends were all coming up to her and saying that today could be the day that she gives birth, even though the actual delivery date was still a few weeks away. They were all excited and happy. And then came an expert to rain on the parade.

“You’re nowhere close to having a baby. I can tell by the way that you’re carrying.”

My wife went into labor that night.

Beware of those parents who know it all, have seen it all and who have it all together. They will beat you down. They will discourage you. And they will lie to you. Stop listening to them.

Instead, listen to the people who love you enough to share their parenting fears, failures, victories, imperfections and words of wisdom with you. And if you know any young or soon to be parents, be that kind of a friend for them.

There is no shortage of parenting experts.

But what most parents could really use is a friend.

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You Don’t Really Want Prayer Back In Public Schools

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I grew up thinking that every problem in the country, at least the educational problems, would be solved if the government would just allowing prayer in our schools again. Now that I’ve got a few more gray hairs, I’ve come to realize that I’m not really for “putting prayer back in public schools.”

To be clear, I haven’t gone off the deep end, traded in my Bible for the writings of Gandhi and replaced the preaching time in my church with yoga. I’m firmly committed to Christ, his word and his people.

It’s my faith in how good of a job the government would do at leading and teaching legitimate prayer that is lacking.

At some point long ago, we started believing that in order for our prayers to really work, they need to be said by the principal every morning on the intercom right after reminding everyone that prom fees are due by next week. Before we get what we ask for, let’s take a moment to consider what would happen if prayer were allowed back in public schools.

There are a lot of Christlike teachers, teacher’s aides and principals working in public schools all across this country. But can you be certain that one of them will always be leading your fourth grader in that day’s prayer? Of course not. There is the very real likelihood that your fourth grader will be led by his teacher in a prayer to Lothi the Tree God followed by an interpretive dance to Hillary the God of Womanhood. Are you sure that you want that kind of prayer in school?

A while back I heard a guy talking about the school that his kid goes to. Here’s a quick recap of what he said.

“Man, it’s a great school but they push Jesus too much.”

And here’s the funny part.

His kid goes to a Christian school.

Rule of thumb: if your kid goes to a school with Christian in the name, unless of course that school is Christian Laettner Elementary School, don’t be surprised if he comes home having been taught a Christian worldview. It’s what Christian schools do. Well, at least the good ones. But it doesn’t stop there. If your kid goes to a public school, that is one that is funded and operated by the government, don’t be surprised if she comes home having been taught a secular worldview. You know, how to put condoms on bananas and that sort of thing. No matter the educational setting, it is your job as the Christin parent to use the Bible to either affirm or deny what your children have been taught that day.

If you insist on sending your kid to a public school, teach him to pray. Teach him that prayer doesn’t always have to be out loud. Teach him that God hears the prayers of his people wherever they are. Teach him that some prayers are made without a sound.

But if you prefer to send your kid to a school where teachers and administrators pray to the Father by the help of the Spirit and in the name of Jesus, don’t hold your breath waiting for the government to give that to you. Find a good Christian school.

Putting prayer back in schools is one of those loaded political phrases like, “Hope and Change” or “Make America Great Again” that either has no meaning at all or more meanings than you would like to know. Don’t get me wrong on this. I believe that prayer in school is a good thing. I think that kids are better off starting out the day with their teacher or principal leading them in a legitimate Christian prayer. I think that coaches should be free to pray with their teams. But in a religiously diverse society such as ours, we must remember that in many institutions, prayer would mean nothing more than public statements of whatever faith, or lack thereof, rules the day at that school. At a school in rural Georgia, that could mean praying to God. In Madison, Wisconsin it will likely mean something completely different.

So before we start repeating the talking points about putting prayer back in school, perhaps we should start praying that genuine repentance and renewal would happen in our homes, churches and communities. Without that, your kid would be left with nothing more than diversity day if his school were to start throwing in public prayers every morning.

Prayer never was taken out of public schools. I went to a public school for seven years and prayed frequently. Especially during those moments when the teacher asked everyone to turn in their 12 page paper on the complexities of thermonuclear physics and all I had was a notecard reminding me that some really long paper about something that sounds really hard was due sometime in the distant future. As long as that happens, as long as a girl comes to school after having just watched her family fall apart, as long as classmates die and as long as terror looms, there will always be prayer in school.

No government can stop that.

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