I need to preface this with the following disclaimer: I know quite a few atheists. Most of them are beautiful, wonderful people; in fact, there are some of my atheist friends who regularly put Christians to shame in terms of the love, acceptance, and generosity they display. As is always the case, however, it is the vocal minority who earn the media attention which offers them the power to paint their group’s public image. This is highly unfortunate.
In fact, it happened again today. In a symbolic protest, the Lakeland chapter of the Humanists of Florida Association (HFA) held a figurative ceremony to ‘wash away’ the prayers of a local ministry who were openly praying for the safety of the families in Polk County. The Christian movement, named ‘Polk Under Prayer’ (PUP), began by arranging a gathering where various leaders in the local government, including the Lakeland mayor, Polk County sheriff, and Polk County School District Superintendent spoke about the challenges the county was facing in terms of safety, leadership, and education. It should be noted that this act of providing information was the extent of the involvement local leaders had with the movement.
PUP, however, took seriously the Christian admonition to pray for our leaders, and to pray for our community. Thus, after learning what the needs of the community were, they went to the primary road leading into Lakeland and held a prayer service, asking the Lord to watch over and protect the families in Polk County, and to shield us from evildoers by convicting their heart to repentance, empowering the law to catch and incarcerate them, or by simply preventing them from entering. At the heart of this was the cry for the safety of the families living in Lakeland, Florida. As a symbolic gesture, they then poured a thin line of anointing oil across the road, marking a line representing the border over which evil hearts would not enter. The oil ceremony was symbolic, but it marked the heart of the movement’s cry: protect our families, and let evil not enter this land.
At the heart of this was the cry for the safety of the families living in Lakeland, Florida.
Apparently, this is offensive. Thus it was that the HFA, led by Ellen Beth Wachs (who has a notable penchant for consistently earning the starring role in controversial news stories), later went to the same location and had their own ceremony. In tongue-in-cheek fashion, they beheld their own anti-religious ritual whereby they spoke against the prayers offered by PUP and symbolically washed away the line of oil with their own hoses and buckets of water.
This is where their behavior baffles me. According to their spokesperson, the purpose behind this counter-demonstration was to protest a perceived violation of the separation of church and state. However, there was no government involvement in the prayer ceremony for the families of Polk County. The extent of government involvement was the dissemination of information given by a trio of local government leaders with respect to their own areas of expertise. So, unless education is now banned, there was no government involvement whatsoever. Even so, Wachs went on to claim that “we understand that Christians have their way of life, and we’re not trying to take it away from them. But they need to realize that there are many other types of faith, and people of non-faith as well.”
So, in an attempt to promote “unity,” Wachs and her organization went out of their way to be incite offense and division? How does that work, exactly? Furthermore, from a secular perspective, prayer is considered little more than wishful thinking. So how, exactly, does ‘wishing’ for the safety of the families (of all faiths) within a particular community violate the ability for other types of faith (and non-faith) to feel welcome?
…because I can certainly see how anti-faith activism does it.
What do you think?
- The God of 18000 Starving Children (ofdustandkings.com)
- Does Higher Education Innoculate Against Religion? (ofdustandkings.com)
- Four Days After Declaring War on Christianity, ‘Anonymous’ Finds Themselves on the Defensive (ofdustandkings.com)