A woman walked into a Myrtle Beach seafood buffet restaurant, stayed for four hours then claimed Jesus would pay the tab.
We got a big chuckle out of the whole thing.
But what is an acceptable reliance upon God? When should that reliance be scoffed at? When should it be revered? High-profile atheists over the past few years have made their preference clear, that faith in things unseen and scientifically unprovable should be discarded the way first century superstitions have been.
That’s unlikely to happen any time soon, meaning we must continue to grapple with where to place the proper dividing line between private faith and public pronouncement, between admirable adherence to a higher power and a destructive dependence an invisible man in the sky.
The need for such a conversation is long overdue and has grown more urgent because of recent Supreme Court decisions that made some of us deliriously happy and others wondering if people of faith are under literal attack.
Here are just a few ways faith has been played out in the public square:
A former president said God told him to bring peace and stability to the Middle East, which included invading Iraq.
Thousands of Myrtle Beach area Christians, Jews, Muslims, Baha’is, Buddhists and others of faith pray daily to ask God for guidance to live their best lives while helping others live theirs.
Around the world and in South Carolina, many people have said God called them to do harm to supposed evildoers, from banishing their children from their homes and removing them from their wills to chopping off their hands and heads.
Ku Klux Klan members, who recently held a pro-Confederate flag rally at the S.C. State House, said they usually read the Bible and listen to a sermon during their more private gatherings, and that that influences their public actions.
Probate judges and pharmacists have cited their adherence to God to deny services to people they believe are committing sinful acts.
Some preachers cite God to oppose equality for gay people while other pastors cite the God in their life to fight for those rights.
We’ve invoked God to kill abortion doctors and shame young women — and invoked God to protect abortion doctors and young women.
We’ve opposed the widespread use of contraception on religious grounds even though it has been shown to be one of the most effective ways to reduce abortions, which we’ve called murder.
When I talk about God and you talk about God, we may not be talking about the same thing.
We laugh at the woman in the restaurant wanting Jesus to pay her tab but we sing along with gospel artists and preachers telling us that God will take care of all our needs and that we must ask Jesus to take the wheel.
The questions we’ve never had good answers for include: who gets to decide whose God takes priority; and whose version of “the right” God should become the standard for deciding where the proper dividing line must be? There aren’t just differences between different religions, but under the same religious umbrella.
I’d like to hear from those who have solid answers and I will share their responses.
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