Praise Jesus!

There are a few things that I have found hard to adapt to since moving to the Midwest. One of them is the omnipresence of religiosity.

I was reminded of this early this morning in a most strange circumstance. It was the beginning of my husband’s second triathlon of the season. It was a short triathlon, and had attracted a few more than 100 participants, men and women, young and old, from as far away as Nebraska, Belgium, Switzerland and Minnesota.

As the sun rose in the east, the announcer gathered the competitors around the starting line and welcomed them to the event. After rousing the crowd with some good pep talks, an announcement that the Nebraskans would have to run faster than the others to get anywhere, and an introduction of the referree, who had the power to disqualify anyone, he introduced the director of the Twin Lakes Christian camp—the event sponsor.praying-hands

I hoped, but did not pray, that he would keep it clean. He didn’t. After telling the crowd that this event has been a growing and successful event each year since its inception, he said: Let’s pray. I looked over at my husband, and we exhanged knowing and humored glances, and then the prayer started. First, the director thanked God for bringing such a glorious day upon us, good for a morning of racing. Then he invoked the name of Jesus, as in Thank You Jesus! for blessing us all.

As he prayed, head bowed to God’s Green Earth below, I looked around the crowd. My intention was to see if any one was not praying. I saw one or two—aside from my husband—without a head lowered in mimicry. But the majority of the 100-plus folks gathered in the circle obliged with the prayer. Maybe they had known before hand this was a Christian event.

As a non-Christian, sudden explosions into prayer to Jesus and God, have always been strange. Actually, invoking God outside of a religious service was not just rare—it didn’t happen. But since moving to the Midwest, I have come to know these gatherings and outbursts of praise as commonplace. They say the Bible Belt extends from Florida’s panhandle northward along the Atlantic to northern Virgina and southern West Virginia, westward, swallowing all of Missouri and the east end of Kansas, and southward through Texas and back along the Gulf Coast. Iowa is technically not in the Bible Belt. Rather, it is the Corn Belt. But this geographic omission does not exclude it from its fervent adherence to Protestant Evangelism.

I have lived other places (Santa Maria, Ca.) where there seemed to be more churches per capita than gas stations, restaurants and shoe stores put together, but there was no outward invasion of my religious sensibilities. I know people may tag me as a heathen for writing this, but I just find it a little presumptuous that a stranger would assume everyone needs to pray before subjecting their bodies to athletic torture in a swim, bike, run. I certainly don’t. And I can bet that Jesus did not help guide my husband to a fourth place win. Perhaps one would argue that Jesus could have helped him achieve a first place finish if he had just prayed harder, or even believed in the first place. But who am I to speculate? Who are any of us to speculate that something so irrational could exist?

Bottom line, during future impromptu prayer groups with a bunch of total strangers, I would like someone to allow for an opt-out for us non-Christians. Thank you, Jesus!

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9 Comments

  1. I have dealt with this my entire life, including — believe it or not — in school (Separation of Church and State, my ass). The non-religious tend to quietly put up with this ambush of other’s beliefs on a regular basis. But if we try to express our non-beliefs were labeled as heathens and sinners.Separation

    Reply
  2. (nodding head emphatically in agreement) yup!
    Growing up in the south it was hard to escape that sort of thing….

    Reply
  3. Karen

     /  November 4, 2009

    Actually, Christian means: Christ-like. And since you’re saying you don’t want to pray, you’re not a christian. But, what harm is really being done just by “praying”? Hmmm.

    Reply
  4. John

     /  November 23, 2009

    Not sure what the issue is here.

    Did anyone actually force you to pray? Or think any less of you for failing to pray? Or perhaps they would not let your husband compete because of his beliefs? No, I didn’t think so.

    Your decision to pray, or not, is part of your Religious Freedom, just as it is of others to decide to pray.

    When it is offered as a group prayer, I can see how you feel singled out, but those feelings are your choice. No one forced you to pray, and no one is judging you for not praying. You may feel differently, I can certainly understand that, but rest assured, coming from the Bible Belt I can tell you that few of us would ever scorn your decision.

    The path to salvation is one that must be tread by one who seeks it. No manner of influence, either passive or aggressive, will convince someone to walk that path. Knowing this, many Christians will not interfere with your personal Spiritual path, and trust that God will make his appearance in your life… in His own time.

    If you were offended, by this event that I did not attend or even knew took place, please accept my personal apologies.

    I personally think that “Non-Believers” feel like they need to maintain a level of Tolerance for these events. That is unfortunate as you certainly do not need to.

    Just as you are not expected to read the Foreign Subtitles that accompany most commercial DVD’s (but they are included anyway, just in case you would have a need for them), look at these instances where you feel you need your Tolerance. Perhaps it is simply that these instances are offered to you in the event that you need them, and that if you do not think they apply to you, feel free to do your own thing. No one is going to judge you.

    I hope this helps you!

    -John

    Reply
  5. Anon

     /  September 13, 2011

    That’s why living in the United States of America is so wonderful……we have religious freedom to pray or not to pray.

    Reply
  6. Randy

     /  October 23, 2011

    These NT testimonies can’t be mistaken. It is the Father (who many claim as their God) who has glorified the Son and in the Son the Father is glorified. The law of Moses had punishments per transgression and the world outside Israel in the 1st Century was full of false Gods and ignorance. God solved both issues through His Christ and His message of salvation. A light to the gentiles and glory for His people Israel. At the end of this age Jesus (who received His authority) will raise up all those that belong to Him from the end of the heavens into a single nation on this earth. A bodily Resurrection. That kingdom will never end. That kingdom can’t be destroyed.

    Jesus was found worthy of honor, and glory, and power for He purchased for God people from every nation by His blood.

    I am free will as are many Christians. I know many kind and compassionate Christians.

    So I do praise Jesus who is “Christ the Lord” I don’t pray before road races but such prayer doesn’t offend me.

    After the life of the body the answer from Jesus can be a joyful one or one of fear. That is our choice (freewill) to make. I don’t know how the testimony could have been made any clearer.

    possible answers “I don’t know you” or “hello my friend”

    My testimony – How can one have the Spirit of Christ in them and not know Jesus lives? I tell you the truth “Jesus Lives” and I tell many that for their “good”.

    Randy

    Reply
  7. Randy

     /  December 18, 2011

    The gospel is still preached to this very day. You won’t find a prophet in Israel. I often wonder why the offer of eternal life is ignored by many. Jesus gave the good confession to Pontius Pilot that He was the King of the Jews but His kingdom was not of this world. Jesus at His (unwarranted arrest) stated He was the Christ and the Son of God. A Son given who is called Immanuel.

    John the immerser (who was a prophet) knew Jesus came from above and that Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit. The reason John came was that the Christ would be revealed to Israel.

    13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
    15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

    16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

    There was a time that it was taught Jesus was the first born of God. In fact that’s what Paul wrote.

    The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all “HIS” fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
    21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of[g] your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

    Jesus never dies as the fullness of the Father dwells within Him. Jesus is all that the Father is. However Jesus has always been the Son and the Father is His God and our God.

    The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord (Father) is the Spirit of truth that Jesus spoke of.

    In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Note the word “Son”

    One God One Lord
    In the written testimony
    yet for “us” there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, “through” whom all things came and through whom we live.

    John the Apostle saw that as well as seeing Jesus was all that the Father is “God”

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 “Through” him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.
    6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

    9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

    14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

    Jesus received “all authority” from His God.

    Randy

    Reply
  8. Randy

     /  December 24, 2011

    I am not a Morman but I tell you blessed are those who put their hope in the Son. Cursed are those who rage against Him. How do you read this? See 2nd Psalm -context end of the age (to me) Currently under the year of the Lords favor grace exists to accept or reject salvation. If we were under the law of Moses that law had punishments per transgression. Whew! I like God’s new covenant plan much better. Needless to state we are not free to sin.There will come a day when the Mount of Olives is split in two to make a way of escape into the desert from the surrounding armies and the outcome is victorious. Both those conditions didn’t happen in the 1st century. The sun will be darkened on that day but by evening there will be light. Those attacking armies will not be defeated by human power. Zechariah 14

    Jesus overcame the world as a servant not a King. He sits at the right hand of God UNTIL…… At the 2nd coming on the last day and at the Will of God He will raise up all those that belong to Him (a bodily resurrection) into a single nation on this earth. About the Christ and the gathering don’t you think Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob belong at that gathering? Where are they now? God declared their names long after their bodies died because God is the God of the living. At that resurrection and as Christ Jesus gathers His own from the ends of the heavens there is neither marriage nor people given in marriage. We will be like the angels of God. New bodies that never grow old or die. A everlasting kingdom that God promised His servant Abraham who believed God. Mortal flesh and blood can’t inherit that kingdom.

    Jesus (the one who judges) didn’t hold the act of the cross against Israel. He stated “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” That’s called love.

    Psalm 2

    1 Why do the nations conspire[a]
    and the peoples plot in vain?
    2 The kings of the earth rise up
    and the rulers band together
    against the LORD and against his anointed, saying,
    3 “Let us break their chains
    and throw off their shackles.”
    4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
    the Lord scoffs at them.
    5 He rebukes them in his anger
    and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
    6 “I have installed my king
    on Zion, my holy mountain.”

    7 I will proclaim the LORD’s decree:

    He said to me, “You are my son;
    today I have become your father.
    8 Ask me,
    and I will make the nations your inheritance,
    the ends of the earth your possession.
    9 You will break them with a rod of iron[b];
    you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”

    10 Therefore, you kings, be wise;
    be warned, you rulers of the earth.
    11 Serve the LORD with fear
    and celebrate his rule with trembling.
    12 Kiss his son, or he will be angry
    and your way will lead to your destruction,
    for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
    Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

    Footnotes:
    Psalm 2:1 Hebrew; Septuagint rage
    Psalm 2:9 Or will rule them with an iron scepter (see Septuagint and Syriac)

    Reply
  1. Puritanical, indeed! « Stories from the Heartland

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