Thursday, August 21, 2003

A Puzzler

A couple of days ago, I received an e-mail entitled "Weekly Happenings." Kelly, the ministry assistant of a Baptist church in Arizona, in her hurry to get out the church's weekly events mistyped a parisioner's e-mail address. Some poor woman in Phoenix has no idea what is going at the local church, but a jaded New Yorker does. Funny these little twists and turns of the internet.

Now no one get mad at me. I am not making fun of religion or anything. But I am going to tell you some of things that go on in Baptist church in Arizona, because, frankly, I'm baffled. Alright I get "Family Night" at the ice rink on Friday night, but Sunday's teaching series is a puzzler...

"Sunday, in 2.42 @ 9:30AM, we kick-off a new teaching series based on the movie "The Matrix." The topic for this Sunday is "What is the Matrix? - Modernity, Organized Religion: 'There is no spoon.'" Come prepared for a great morning of praise and learning through interactive discussion."

I also learned that there is a gas crisis there and they will provide a list of "prayer needs" to help community through that crisis. "The gas distribution problem in the valley is an opportunity for you to share the light of Christ with your coworkers and strangers!"

Meanwhile in Alabama, a State Supreme Court judge and dozens of his supporters are protecting a statue of the 10 Commandments displayed in the court house. Barry Lynn, the head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, is throwing up a stink as usual. There is a lot of talk about "the separation of church and state."

I'm not going to give a little history on church/state separation now. Jeffrey Rosen did a nice job in a Times Magazine piece a couple of year ago. He explains that the roots of this doctrine are in anti-Catholicism in the South at the beginning of the century, and gives a nice history of important court cases.

Church/state issues have been a big issue for the court in recent years -- school vouchers, prayer at school gatherings, college funding of religious clubs. The papers have covered these decisions carefully, as they should. Many have been alarmed by the court's swing to the right in this area.

So far, these cases have not roused me out of my nap. If people in Alabama want this statue, let 'em. I don't really get why it so important to display it, but if they want that ugly thing in their lobby, let 'em. So what if this Godly statue is in a court house. People do things differently in Alabama.

Whenever I try to get a debate going in class about this topic, that is also the sentiment of the students. They couldn't care less if public money goes to religious schools, if the schools do a good job of educating kids. I think this wall is supported by extremists. And older extremists.

I have no clue what that prayer meeting in Pheonix is about, but as long I don't have to go, let 'em.

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