I read with more than a little amusement about Senator Mike Miller’s frustration concerning a pastor who had the nerve to close his opening prayer in the Senate chamber on March 25 by invoking the name of Jesus. Herewith the rant that ensued:
“Miller (D-Calvert) asked that Lehman's remarks not be journalized, that is, saved for posterity. Then, sounding annoyed, he asked the secretary of the Senate, ‘Do we see these things ahead of time? Do we?’"
In this particular instance, the pastor, The Rev. Mark Lehmann, senior pastor of Cornerstone Assembly of God, had done everything properly, and he told the Washington Post he was “confused and disappointed” by Miller’s criticism. He also said he couldn’t pray without calling on the name of his Lord and Savior; omitting His name would be tantamount to denying Him.
Perhaps Mike didn’t appreciate being reminded there is a higher being than himself presiding over the Senate. Romans 13:1 says, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”
Whether he understands it or not, he’s arguably the most powerful politician in Maryland because God has willed it, not because of anything he’s done.
The ecumenical prayers preferred by our elected officials may be politically correct but they’re mere Hallmark moments for all the meaning they carry. Why does the General Assembly bother to open in prayer at all if they’re praying to a nameless God? Do they honestly believe these prayers will be blessed, or is it all for show?
Bravo to Rev. Lehmann for calling the Lord by name. If they invite a Muslim cleric or a rabbi to give the opening prayer, they should have the opportunity to invoke Allah or Yahweh respectively. At least they are expressing themselves to a designated presence on the other end of the line. These prayers to no God in particular may be inoffensive to us humans, but they mightily offend the heart of God:
“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or hot. Since you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am going to spit you out of my mouth.”
Miller’s knee-jerk reaction to Rev. Lehmann’s prayer is emblematic of the lie that’s been perpetuated in this country for the past several decades that specific expressions of faith in the public square are prohibited by our Constitution.
This lie has been so thoroughly ingrained in our culture that politicians, teachers, civil servants and others with a connection to government are prowling the halls of our public buildings, snatching up Bibles from children or putting duct tape on the mouths of believers so they don’t utter the offensive name “Jesus” while on the premises. I contend that these actions to suppress the free expression of individual faith are unconstitutional and should be challenged as such.
Anyone who objectively reads the writings of the Founding Fathers, public or private, knows the intent of the U.S. Constitution’s establishment clause was to prevent the creation of a state-sponsored religion – no more, no less. Moreover, the free exercise clause gives individual citizens the right to practice their faith, or no faith at all, unencumbered by government coercion.
Does saying the name “Jesus” in a public prayer constitute the state establishing a religion? Given the many denominations that pray in the name of Jesus, which specific church is being established by this act of prayer? Is this prayer causing people to go to church or read the Bible against their will? Does a child choosing to pray or read the Bible during their lunch period or in the library make him or her an enemy of the state because their acts have automatically established a church on school grounds? Is the absurdity of the “separation of church and state” crowd becoming apparent to you?
Let’s expose the lie for what it is. This isn’t about preventing the state from establishing an official religion. It didn’t happen in the formative years of this nation when individual citizens and the general public were openly expressive of their faith and believed us to be a nation blessed by God. It’s certainly not going to happen today when the culture is doing everything it can with the instruments of public opinion – academia, entertainment and the press – to belittle and shame people of faith, almost exclusively Christians.
The Jewish faith has the stain of anti-Semitism and the crime of the Holocaust to keep the irreligionists at bay, and Islam has the implied threat of violent retaliation by its more radical elements. That makes Christians the only major monotheistic faith toward which bigotry and discrimination are socially acceptable and widely practiced, even by the elected officials who swear on Bibles to uphold oaths that invoke the name of God.
The truth is the irreligionists know the only thing that stands between them and their dream of the state as the sole authority on the planet is Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior of billions around the world in spite of all attempts throughout history to shut Him up.
Even His brutal murder at the hands of the Roman authorities and with the encouragement of the Sanhedrin in ancient Israel, a tactic that had worked in the past to quash numerous messianic Jewish sects, didn’t keep Him quiet. The wise Pharisee doctor of Jewish law, Gamaliel, was prescient about the rise of Christianity:
“Then he addressed them: ‘Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.’”
“The Way” grew and spread across the globe despite all attempts to destroy it. The disciples who walked with Jesus died horrible deaths or passed away in exile but never recanted their story that Christ rose from the dead.
The apostle Paul, who as Saul was the most zealous persecutor and murderer of early Christians, became its greatest evangelist and was beheaded in Rome for his unyielding faith.
The Roman authorities that once used the bodies of Christians as torches to light the roads at night eventually declared the mighty Roman Empire to be a Christian nation.
It was the wisdom of this Pharisee in Acts 5:35-39 that led my wife to faith in Jesus Christ because she believed the evidence of history. This history was enough to persuade her that Christianity was of God and not men.
This time of year is holy to all Christians because we are commemorating the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and His victory over death and Satan. Christianity found a home in America because here we have been free to speak his name without fear of coercion, imprisonment or death. Even today, millions of people around the world are jailed, tortured or murdered for speaking the name “Jesus.”
The criticism of a bullying politician is child’s play, and so is the organized opposition of the irreligionists. Thank you, Rev. Lehmann for not being ashamed of the gospel, “for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20).
If you wish to send him a note of thanks or encouragement, please contact him by email. Visit his blog to read his prayer since, at Senator Miller’s direction, it won’t be part of the state Senate’s official record.
As for the irreligionists, you have nothing to fear from us. We won’t make you go to church on Sundays or any other day, nor will we make you recite Bible verses during your lunch break. We won’t be having communion in the State House or passing the collection plate during public hearings. If you want to learn more about the reason for our hope, our doors and arms are open to you. If you don’t care to know, that’s OK, too. We’ll pray for you because God loves you whether you believe He’s there or not, and you matter to us because you matter to Him.
But we will not be quiet.