Heckling the Hindu

July 15, 2007

This past week, a Hindu offered a prayer for the first time at the start of a U.S. Senate session. It was interrupted by Christians who shouted until they were arrested and removed (if you missed it, you can watch it here). Apparently, these Christians feel that heckling is part of their Christian calling! Wiley Drake, who was until recently the second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention offered his support for the uncivil protestors. He claimed that the protestors "politely spoke out." Politely? Yelling at someone and disrupting a prayer is polite? If that is the case then I sure would hate to see what the rude protest would look like! (Although, considering Drake's troubling connections in the past with Moonies and people who support killing abortion doctors, maybe his reaction is pretty mild.)

This whole mess leaves me with a couple of conclusions. First, this case should make us question why we get so supportive and defensive of a civil religious act that waters down our faith. Prayers--even ones from Christians--do not justify or sanctify what occurs within Congress (that should not be a revelation to anyone who pays attention to the junk that often comes from our politicians). If we really want to change our nation, the civil religious prayer before a Senate session does not seem like the place to look. Instead, we need millions of Christians to pray diligently (preferably in their closets instead of on C-SPAN).

The second conclusion is that Christians need to quit acting like such jerks. Is heckling really going to bring people to Jesus? The response of those present suggests they were quite turned off by the whole charade. And ironically the protest actually brought more publicity to the Hindu prayer, which allowed many more people to hear the prayer (and to see Christians acting rude). It is time to reach people with the love of Jesus and leave the heckling for the athletes.

UPDATE [7-16-07]: One of the protestors now claims they were not shouting or interrupting the official prayer. He explained:

We were praying. ... If our prayer disrupted anything, then so be it, but we were not shouting. ... I don't want it to be mischaracterized as we were there just heckling this man. We were not.
This guy is living in a dream world! First, if that is his normal way of praying, then I sure would hate to be his neighbor or a member of his church (unless he only prays when the TV cameras are on). Second, praying and shouting are not mutually exclusive. One can, as these protestors unfortunately proved, shout a prayer.