Ask and ye shall receive,
even if you already have it
I met God in Plainview, Texas when I was six. Maybe seven. I’m thinking six.
The Presbyterian Church in that Panhandle home of mine those early years was constructing a newer, more modern church out near the loop.
The old one I suspect was indeed, old. Heck, I was six at the time. Everything was old.
And you’d think that I would have been excited about the prospects of doing the Vacation Bible Week at the new digs with radically vaulted ceilings, colorful prisms of light reflecting from the stained glass windows into a pristine clean sanctuary, and a second generation sound system cracking crisp stacatto notes that reflected off the massive roof beams.
But, it turned out, I preferred the old church, even at that innocent age. Old weathered brick, witness to countless whispered conversations and silent prayers, survivor of persistent winds of spring’s violent flatland storms, audience to the echos of bells peeling away the stillness of Christmas morning.
A natural, private courtyard in that old church was where I met Him during one of my final days there. In this place, tall trees anchored the yard, and on this day they were filled with the young leaves of a new year, the noon light shooting a thousand prisms of gold-white light through them. I was alone, and it was still, not even a hint of sound.
Maybe I wished Him into me at that time. I had been through a number of Sunday school classes, a few sermons, and not nearly enough pot luck dinners. I had prayed at home each night before dinner with the family (God is Great, God is Good, Thank You for This Food...Amen). Heck, I was six at the time, so how deep could I have prayed for Him to send me a signal of his existence? Fate be as it is, that’s when I met Him.
It involved no conversation. No spoken words. No speaking of the tongues. He just filled me with his presence with no warning, and I remember it to this day and will to my last.
From an early age, and especially since that day in the church’s courtyard, I have believed in God. I’ve also believed myself to be Christian. Still do today.
I found my religion in the weekly sermons of a Littlefield Presbyterian preacher who’d survived a horrible fiery car crash. I found it in the Sunday School classes at the Iowa Park Presbyterian Church.
I found it in every hot casserole those dear ladies from the church brought to the pot luck dinner.
I found it later in places like a men’s weekly Bible Study in Fort Worth.
I’ve also found it on every trailhead I’ve hiked, and in every instance where my life was in the balance.
I didn’t need a Texas House Bill signed by the governor to experience any of the above.
I didn’t need the religous far right going to bat for me so I could pray in school.
Trust me, I prayed often, usually before every Algebra test. And before every football game. Mostly silent or whispered, because it was my prayer to my God.
The U.S. Constitution didn’t prevent me or my teammates from reciting the Lord’s Prayer before a game. Athletes in Texas high schools don’t need a bill from the Legislature permitting that right today.
I write this column today because I have a right as an American to practice what I believe in. If I want to get religious instruction or advice, there are a dozen preachers out there who will take my phone call, and I’m sure their church doors are always open for me.
I believe we already have enough safeguards in place for students to express their religous beliefs in school. I believe the 11th-hour passage of HB 3678 (so-called "Religious Viewpoint Anti-Discrimination Act”) in Texas is not only a dangerous example of a conservative religous paranoia-based movement in the nation, it also does nothing but polarize the debate because those who believe such a law is stepping over the boundaries of rational thought, including myself, will likely be branded as “non-believers” by those who think such laws are necessary in this country.
Implementation of this bill will be a headache for local school boards. It will be a boon for lawyers billing major league hours as they argue the constitutionality of the new law in court, not to mention the inevitable discriminations that will result.
In fact, the bill’s main author was lawyer Billy Coghlan of Coghlan and Associates (and website christianattorney.com). Coghlan sent this email following the bill’s passage, after it had failed to receive a two-thirds majority vote in the Texas House one day, but was revived and passed the next.
“This bill was dead last night. Five minutes ago ... it was resurrected by the hand of God. This is a miracle. Your prayers—your persistent and fervent prayers—have moved the hand and heart of God. Thank you dear Lord for hearing our prayers for the 4.5 million school children in our Texas public schools. They will now have the clear constitutional opportunity to bring a public recognition of you, Lord, back into our schools, with no fear of retribution ...”
Problem is, other than the fact Coghlan will reap huge profits from the upcoming litigation, is that those 4.5 million school children already have a clear constitutional opportunity to recognize their religion publicly.
Which makes the motivations of Coghlan and other members of the religious right even more suspect, especially when much of their approach is to play on fears that are falsely manufactured, therefore morally corrupt.