The Fourth Circuit has upheld the ban of a minister from praying at city council meetings in Fredericksburg, VA. His crime? He prays in Jesus’ name. That’s a sectarian prayer. Yes, it is and it’s a good thing too.
I can’t think of a non-sectarian prayer, at least not one in which I would want to be involved. As I understand Scripture non-sectarian prayer is idolatry.
People will decry this ruling as blow to religious freedom and freedom of speech (it is perhaps the latter) but there may be no clearer example of the confusion of the two kingdoms when Christ’s ministers do the bidding of Caesar by praying for divine blessing on behalf of the magistrate, as a civil function. Ministers and all Christians are commanded by God to pray for the magistrate. We do so during the week. We do so on the Sabbath, but do we have any business doing so to open legislative sessions? Legislators ought to pray as private persons before, during, and after their civil work but ministers are called by God as Christ’s servants in his eternal, immutable kingdom. They are not called as civil servants. If they will to be civil servants they have only to resign their ecclesiastical office. To attempt to function as an officer in both kingdoms simultaneously is a blow to the spirituality (which doesn’t mean ethereality) of Christ’s church.
Afraid that the local imam will be opening a legislative session near you? You should be, but not because he’s a Muslim, but because he has no more business opening a session than your minister. God is sovereign. He raises kings and dashes them to the ground, but he administers two distinct kingdoms, by his sovereign power and will, in two distinct ways. He governs the spiritual kingdom, the visible church by the Word of God. He governs the civil kingdom by general revelation and the 2nd table of the natural law.
Dominic Aquila has the story. For more on how to think about this see D. G. Hart, A Secular Faith. Can you imagine the Apostle Paul opening a session of the Roman senate? The real question is whether we’re going to continue to try to hang on to the last remnants of Christendom.