At a local town council meeting on Thursday, an area resident stood up and suggested that public prayer before the meeting was inconsistent with the concept of the separation of church and state. His request to remove the prayer was met with an angry chorus of hisses and boos and accusations of ‘atheism,’ even though his position was completely consistent with traditional Anabaptist teaching.
“I always thought of myself as a devout follower of Christ, so I have no clue why these people were accusing me of atheism simply for suggesting that prayer is a private thing,” said Neuhoffnung resident Arthur Lepp. “The Americans didn’t invent the separation of church and state. Anabaptists had that idea centuries earlier. This has nothing to do with atheism.”
Lepp then quoted from the Anabaptist founding document, The Schleitheim Confession: “The rule of government is according to the flesh, that of the Christians according to the spirit…Their citizenship is in this world, that of the Christians is in heaven.”
Still, Lepp was decried as an atheist.
“If he doesn’t want to pray in a secular environment, then he must not be a Christian at all!” said one man in a heated Facebook discussion. “Being a believer means praying in public; it’s just as simple as that.”
Lepp then cited Matthew 6:6: “When you pray, go to your inner room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is unseen. And your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Still, the chorus of boos and hisses only grew, with some people suggesting that those words of Jesus didn’t apply in the 21st century and were not meant to be taken literally.
“You can’t expect us to follow that clear commandment of Jesus,” said one man. “As much as I’d like the reward from my Father in Heaven, I’d much prefer the praise and adoration of people here on Earth who see me praying in public.”
(Photo credit: by Montgomery County Planning Commission )