by Sena Hughes
Last week, bombs went off at one of the most celebrated and iconic athletic competitions in our nation, leaving three innocent people dead and many injured. Several months ago, 20 elementary school children and six educators were shot on an average school day. More than eleven years ago, several planes were hijacked and flown into prestigious and recognized buildings; thousands of lives were lost in the act.
When we read statements such as these, we get knots in our stomach. We cringe. We feel heavy. We crave meaning, depth and answers.
Facebook newsfeeds and public press releases alike explode with “prayers for…,” “God bless…,” “In God we trust…,” and with Bible verses referencing hope, healing and God’s protection.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Our culture elevates this clause. On the whole, the American people are very dedicated and loyal to the philosophy that individuals have the freedom to believe what they will, without the influence of government.
Whether it’s a Mormon on the election ticket, or the petition to change the definition of marriage, citizens get heated because we love our freedom of religion. Our mantra of ‘believe whatever you want, just don’t impose it on me’, is the crux of our tolerance gospel. And yet when crisis hits, it all goes out the window. We pray, read scripture and sing hymns along with our businesses, schools, media and political leaders.
Several will still protest any religious presence, and then some religious extremists will arise and call the entire atrocity the wrath of God. Looking at the middle of the spectrum, it is religion, spirituality and this idea of a good, divine power that actually works as a force of unity within the American people in crisis.
However, this response is more nationalistic than it is spiritual. It’s a call to a God who is clearly on our side. The God that America worships is draped in red, white and blue.
We sing for him to bless us, forgetting that we’re already the wealthiest and most prosperous people that have ever lived. We pray earnestly when bombs go off in Boston and change the channel when it happens everyday in Gaza.
As a person who is both American and of Christian faith, I don’t disagree with calling on God in response to horrific events. The evil and the pain of the atrocities at hand cannot be belittled. We should hurt when we hear about innocent people dying at the will of another’s decision.
As an American, I wholeheartedly support our lack of religious establishment and consider it essential to the American government and way of life.
No one needs to be expected to pray or practice faith in order to receive basic safety and rights. But as a devout believer, I do not think God should be kept on a shelf and pulled off when we need Him.
Christians are called to something higher than just asking for God’s favor when catastrophe hits American soil. Imagine a world where we prayed for our brothers and sisters in the Middle East, in Asia, and in Africa with the same eagerness and hurt as we do during the comparatively-occasional emergency here at home. I think that is a convicting and challenging first step in what it really means to trust on God in the face of evil.
Contact Sena Hughes at email@example.com