A Baptist pastor, Ron Baity, was told that his services were no longer needed at the North Carolina House of Representatives after he led a prayer in the name of Jesus. This brings up an interesting point about those who scream “intolerance” at Pastor Baity and other Christians who insist praying in the name of Jesus. They are intolerant and offensive themselves. There is no such thing as a “nonsectarian prayer.” Prayer by its very nature is bound to a tradition. Traditional Christians are more tolerant than liberal Christians or atheists since they generally do not protest if a Jewish Rabbi does not pray in the name of Jesus. Christians recognize that Jews have a different understanding of the nature of Jesus than Christians, and the vast majority are not offended if a Jew leads a prayer without using Jesus’ name in a public forum. There are Orthodox Jews who understand that if a Christian is praying in the name of Jesus, that Christian is only following his own religious tradition. What is so intolerant about allowing all who lead prayers to pray according to their tradition–this is fair to all religious groups and does not perpetuate the fiction of a “nonsectarian prayer.” It is usually liberal Protestants, liberal Catholics, or liberal Jews, some of whom are de facto atheists, who protest the loudest against Jesus’ name being spoken in prayers. Only people who do not believe in the distinctive claims of their religious tradition could claim that prayers could be nonsectarian.
A friend of mine, The Rev. Ervin Crain, led a prayer about fifteen years ago at the University of Texas at Austin commencement. He finished the prayer in the name of Jesus. When a liberal rabbi protested, The Rev. Crain quite sensibly replied that as a Christian he felt duty bound to pray according to the beliefs of his tradition. He said that if a Jewish rabbi led the prayer, he would not be offended at his not using Jesus’ name, since he realized that the rabbi would pray in accordance with his tradition. Liberals are infected with selective tolerance–they tolerate every expression of religious faith except the traditional Christianity that they hate. They are the truly intolerant ones.