Yesterday I had a (non-virtual) onversation with a Christian friend of mine, regarding my blog post Guns II. This friend falls into what I believe to be an under-represented portion of my readership, Christians who are openminded enough to hear, respect, and genuinely evaluate the opinions of nonbelievers. I wonder if the polarized and occasionally belligerent comments sometimes dissuade this segment from adding very valuable contributions. My friend made a point that was eye-opening to me, and I believe it deserves a place in the conversation.
In what I hope to be a truthful representation of her opinion, she informed me that not only nonbelievers, but many Christians are also offended when the word “prayer” is thrown around after a tragedy. She acknowledged that we would not agree on whether prayer was a form of action. But regardless of that, to throw around the word prayer as an empty and automatic form of condolences was no less disturbing to some Christians than it was to some atheists. When I reenacted my repulsion by the “prayer chain letters” on Facebook, her words were, “That was the same exact reaction I had.”
Admittedly, it hadn’t occurred to me that “flippant Christianese” might be as bothersome to Christians as it was to me. I mistakingly assumed that all Christians would applaud an increased use of words and phrases that acknowledged the existence of God, regardless of whether the context was truthful or appropriate. It bothered me that Trump would use the word prayer instead of one that invoked action. That bothered her as well. But additionally, it bothered her that Trump would use the word prayer when he was probably not really praying. To me, prayer had no meaning. To her, it had special meaning. We were equally offended for different reasons, by the superficial use of the word.
I always appreciate input that stretches my understanding. I think it’s important for each of us to take a breath and listen to others, whether their worldview matches ours, opposes it, or crosses it somewhere in the middle. Life is a journey, and we’re all on it together. And that, my friends, is probably the cheesiest sentence you will ever get out of me.
But it’s true.