There's a Royal Banner Given for Display
We’ve all been to high school football games where the team comes out on the field and runs through a banner held by the cheerleaders with some school-spirited slogan written on it. Both my girls were cheerleaders at Denbigh High, and the slogan was usually something like “Maintain Dignity” or “We’re #9!” But ever since September 11, the cheerleaders at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High in Fort Oglethorpe, GA have been holding up banners printed with Bible verses. The banners said things like “Surely I am with you always to the end of the age,” “Commit to the Lord, whatever you do, and your plans will succeed,” and “If you have the faith of a mustard seed, nothing shall be impossible to you”— complete with the corresponding Bible reference. Coming up with a different Bible verse each week was a challenge for the girls, and the banners were something in which they took great pride. (At Denbigh High, the verse would have been “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”)
Last week, word came from the school superintendent that the Bible verses had to go. There had been a complaint raise, and it was decided that the practice violated the separation of church and state. The cheerleaders can put up the banners outside the stadium if they want, but the football team now runs through a banner that says “This is Big Red Country.”
It’s not surprising that this happened. In our multicultural, post-Christian world, people are going to be offended by any expression of religion. All it took was one person who called the school superintendent to complain for this practice to be banned. Just the threat of lawsuits and the ACLU can be quite daunting.
What happened next is the story in this story (for me). The community was galvanized by this ruling. Hundreds attended a rally this week supporting the banners. Many of the students attended classes on Friday wearing shirts with Bible verses, and some even had "Warriors for Christ" painted on their cars. The entire football team stopped to pray right after they ran through the new generic banner. At the game there were dozens of signs all over the place in the stands. There were even some young men walking around shirtless with Bible verses painted on their chests (a practice that likely won’t continue into November, one would think).
I think this is a somewhat exaggerated illustration of something that has always been true. The power of the Christian faith has to do with the willingness of individual believers living lives that reflect their commitment to Christ. The state recognizing the power of religion is not nearly as important as you and me living out our faith in such a way that people see the difference that God makes in our lives. 1 Peter 3:15-16 says,
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
OK that may be a little too long to fit on a verse to run through before the game. But we need to make it something that we live by every day.