For NBA Teams, Religion Can Be Unifying or Divisive

Doc Rivers during the Clippers at Wizards game in December 2013 Photo courtesy of Keith Allison, via Wikimedia Commons.

Long before head coach Doc Rivers found himself defending his Los Angeles Clippers players who were the unwelcome participants in team owner Donald Sterling’s racist comments all week, he was concerned about another sensitive subject: religion.

It was late 1999, the start of Rivers’ first season as coach of the Orlando Magic, and he saw a situation in the locker room that he felt needed to be addressed.

As his players took part in the pregame prayer that was part of their routine, Rivers noticed something he didn’t like.

“I looked up in one of the prayers, and Tariq [Abdul-Wahad] had his arms folded, and you could see that he was really uncomfortable with it,” Rivers said. “So the next game, we were standing up in a circle, and I said, ‘Hey guys, we’re no longer praying.’”

Supreme Court Approves Sectarian Prayer at Public Meetings

Susan Galloway, a resident of the town, Greece, NY, who filed a lawsuit against the town. RNS photo by Katherine Burgess.

The Supreme Court Monday declared that the Constitution not only allows for prayer at government meetings, but religious prayer.

Writing for the 5-4 majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy held that the town of Greece, N.Y., did not violate the Constitution’s Establishment Clause, which forbids the government from endorsing a religion — by sponsoring clergy who delivered sectarian prayers.

“To hold that invocations must be non-sectarian would force the legislatures sponsoring prayers and the courts deciding these cases to act as supervisors and censors of religious speech,” Kennedy wrote for himself and the conservatives on the court.

Lawmakers and judges would otherwise have to police prayer, he wrote, involving “government in religious matters to a far greater degree than is the case under the town’s current practice of neither editing nor approving prayers in advance nor criticizing their contact after the fact.”

Why Some Evangelicals Are Praying President Obama Will Reject the Keystone XL Pipeline

Cross-published at the Sojourners "God's Politics" blog Maybe I'm a near-sighted Bible-thumping holy roller, but I can't see angel wings flapping on oil executives. No doubt some are community pillars. They're Little League umpires, tithers and PTA volunteers. They've got lovely houses and manicured lawns.

Tennessee Death Row Inmates Invite Governor to Pray With Them

Shane Claiborne and Gov. Bill Haslam. Courtesy Shane Claiborne

Shane Claiborne and Gov. Bill Haslam. Courtesy Shane Claiborne

Last week, the men on Tennessee’s death row, four of whom have scheduled execution dates in the near future, invited Gov. Bill Haslam, the man who signs the death warrants, to join them for prayer

The backdrop for the story is that Tennessee has more executions scheduled in a year than the state has had in the past 50 years. Last week as Christians around the world remembered Good Friday, the day Jesus was executed, legislators in the Bible Belt state passed a bill to reinstate the electric chair (which would make it the only state to require death by electrocution). The only thing that could be more troubling would be if Tennessee decided to start crucifying people again. I even heard one politician defend his position saying, “It is God’s job to judge them, but our job to get them to Him.”

Most Voters Favor Prayer, Minus Jesus, at Public Meetings

Susan Galloway, a resident of the town, Greece, NY, who filed a lawsuit against the town. RNS photo by Katherine Burgess.

The U.S. Supreme Court will soon rule on the constitutionality of prayer at public meetings. But a new survey finds U.S. voters clearly favor prayer – as long the public prayer is generic and not specifically Christian.

Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind survey asked about attitudes on high profile cases before the court, including Greece v. Galloway. That case addresses whether elected officials can open public meetings with religiously specific prayers , such as praying in Jesus’ name.

A Jew and an atheist brought suit in Greece, N.Y., saying the Christian prayers excluded many citizens and violated the Constitution, which bans government establishment of religion. Even when the town began inviting non-Christians to give invocations, the “establishment” issue remained a question.

We Need Your Prayers

Sojourners staff

Sojourners staff, Photo by Brandon Hook / Sojourners

It’s been a year of struggle and a year of rejoicing. We wanted to give you a glimpse into our lives here at Sojourners and also ask for your prayers. In particular, we hope that you will pray for our dear colleague and friend to many of us, Elizabeth Palmberg, or as many know her, “Zab.” You might have read some of her reporting or commentaries in the magazine or seen some of her videos about prayer, bread making, and other topics. If you’ve read the magazine or used one of our resources since Elizabeth arrived as an intern in 2002, you have likely seen something created, influenced, or just plain made better by Elizabeth.


Continuing to 'Run the Race With Perseverance'

Silhouette of young man running, KieferPix /

Silhouette of young man running, KieferPix /

I finished my first Boston Marathon in 2002, running with two parishioners to raise funds for our church. The experience was exhilarating, and I’ve run the course six times since, relishing each year the cascade of powerful moments. Speaking as a preacher, the marathon was the sermonic gift that kept giving: the challenge of Heartbreak Hill, the boost even we slow runners get from cheering multitudes, the necessity of water and salty snacks. And Hebrews 12 gives us our text: “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us …”

With last year’s Boston Marathon, however, everything changed. Our church did have a runner in the race — he crossed the finish line six minutes before the first bomb exploded — but any interest in locating metaphorical gems was overshadowed by the real-time incursion of evil. Some parishioners knew victims, others were near the scene, and everybody joined in the immediate grieving of our city.

When we learned later that the perpetrators were Muslim, we felt another round of anguish, fearing that the incident could trigger a wave of religious prejudice and bigotry. 

VIDEO: How to Build a Memorial Prayer Altar

From graffiti memorials and ghost bike displays to crosses on the side of the road, public memorials serve as visible reminders of the fragility of life. In “'We Will Never Forget You'” (Sojourners, May 2014), Brittany Shoot explores the “public nature of grief” and the sacred act of remembrance offered through public memorials.

Watch this Sojourners video to help you create your own memorial prayer altar in remembrance of those you love and will never forget.

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Praying for a Breakthrough on Climate Action

Man praying for the earth, Gandolfo Cannatella /

Man praying for the earth, Gandolfo Cannatella /

As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases a groundbreaking and comprehensive report detailing the impacts of climate change as “severe, pervasive, and irreversible,” young evangelicals across the United States are coming together to pray for urgent and responsible climate action to protect life and defend their future. Organized by the Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, the Evangelical Environmental Network, and Renewal: Students Caring for Creation, prayer events are being held across the Nation — and on more than 20 Christian campuses — in recognition of April 3 as the 2014 National Day of Prayer for Climate Action.

While evangelicals are not typically associated with climate action, YECA spokesperson Ben Lowe points out,“Climate disruption is not just a scientific or political issue — it’s first and foremost a moral issue and biblical issue … It’s about protecting life and, as evangelicals, we’re particularly concerned about the ways our pollution and political inaction is affecting the poor and those who are most vulnerable.”

Communities around the world are already experiencing the negative impacts of climate change. The new IPCC reports details how the poorest countries are being seriously affected by climate change, with severe consequences to global food security, human health, and economic development. The poor will not be the only ones influenced by climate change, as IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri says, "Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change.”

Did Jesus Pray to Allah?

IS IT WRONG for a Christian to pray to Allah? When a Muslim worships Allah, is she worshiping God?

Questions like these have arisen with more urgency than usual in the months since a Malaysian lower court ruled in October that the word “Allah” was exclusive to Muslims and therefore the Herald, a Malay Catholic newspaper, could not use the word “Allah” in print. (The decision is currently under appeal.)

Many Christians lament the lower court’s decision. They see it as an infringement on the rights of religious minorities. But other Christians welcome the ruling. They claim that it actually helps Malaysian Christians by protecting them from confusion and preventing them from making a grave mistake.

For example, Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary here in the U.S., has argued that Christians should not call upon the God of the Bible using the word “Allah,” because “Allah” refers only to the god of the Quran, a god who is radically different from the true God of Jesus Christ.

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