BEFORE YOU READ THIS POST, PLEASE NOTE THAT THERE IS A FOLLOWUP POSTING.
A couple days ago I got a call asking if I might speak at a freedom of religion rally downtown Scranton that was being coordinated with another 130 rallys across the country. The president of our Lutheran Church Missouri Synod has been a key figure in objecting to the HHS guidelines that the Obama administration has been proposing as part of the new national health plan. Of course I have a problem with these guidelines and I think we need to work to change the way things are headed, so I said I would speak.
So this morning I spent some time researching and wrote about 3/4 of a page of considered words that I wanted to share. I showed up and there was a decent (not huge) and quite happy crowd in front of the federal court house downtown Scranton. I put money in the parking meter to cover 1 hour. “That should be enough time” I thought. I couldn’t imagine it lasting longer than that, since each speaker wasn’t supposed to speak for more than 5 minutes…. (you are supposed to start laughing at this point!)
OK, so things started off a bit differently than I thought with some effective opening remarks by a Baptist pastor. He really covered a lot of ground and said it all very well in 10 minutes – and it would have been great if everything would have ended right there. BUT then they had invited him to pray the opening prayer – which he did in the name of Jesus (as a Christian must). Grrr… You know, sometimes it just ISN’T appropriate to pray! This seems to be one of those times. We are supposed to be trying to defend the rights of people of ALL religions. When you are trying to be inclusive of ALL religions – it ISN’T a good idea to pray! Praying to a specific god separates and offends. So the thing that really bugged me about this whole event was that it ended up to be a Christian pep rally. I am all for Christians having a pep rally – but not cloaked as a religious freedom event!!!!!
The second speaker was a local doctor who really only talked out against contraception – which we were all informed NOT to speak on. I don’t understand why smart people like doctors can’t read the directions. The topic was religious freedom, not contraception.
The third speaker was the highlight of the event. And he was a Pagan Priest! (Sorry, I don’t remember names.) As a former military officer he related how he fought for the high ideals of our nation and took an oath to defend our constitution. He spoke of how the communist and fascist governments’ goals of stripping religion and religious values from the people was so that the government could then take the place of God and determine the values and thinking of the people. Excellent stuff, although he was proof that even Pagan Priests have trouble shutting up. But no one minded listening to this fellow.
From then on it was pretty much downhill. There were the annoying political tirades from a crazy Tea Party activist, the performance of the nice Christian song which didn’t have anything to do with religious freedom, sung by the obligatory pretty young girl, and the hysterical screaming of a hispanic minister who must have thought everyone was 100 years old and needed hearing aids (I think most people did need hearing aids AFTER his turn at the mike). There was a reasoned speech by the Catholic Priest, but it was at least 10 minutes too long too. So what started out as a nice event had finally worn everyone out completely after an hour and a half. I was SO, SO glad that the organizer called up the priest to say the closing prayer – having forgotten to call me up!!!! She saw me afterward and was so mortified that she had forgotten me, but the reality was that no one would have heard anything of what I had to say anyway.
I was reminded so very powerfully as to why I really dislike these kinds of events. The problem is that they tend to over-simplify the issues. Even though I am disturbed by the HHS problem, the reality is that the relationship between church and state is extremely complex. Just take THIS for instance: we could ask why we Christians are not in favor of letting Mormons or Muslims have polygamist marriages? They should have every right to it because that is what they believe in, right? It is their religion! But of course most folks don’t even notice such anomalies! It is a difficult thing to navigate the issues and nothing (NOTHING) is simple.
So in the end the thing that I was most thankful for was that there was no parking ticket on my car when I got back to it 45 minutes past its timer! Haha!