Last Monday was intended to start in celebratory fashion with my university, Oglethorpe University, receiving a citation of honor at Georgia’s statehouse. Our newly elected state representative, with the help of one of his interns (an Oglethorpe student, of course) had gone out of his way to make arrangements for more than a dozen students to join me at the Capitol to witness our state government at work and to receive our citation. And while this part of the day went according to form and was greatly appreciated, I have rarely been so humiliated by the spectacle we witnessed beforehand.
At the beginning of each session of the House, a Chaplain of the Day is introduced to deliver a prayer. This morning (and I was told by others who are regulars that what I heard this morning was typical of most days), the prayer was preceded by a sermon, some 15 minutes in length. I have lived in the South for 11 years now and I am quite accustomed to prayers before meetings and meals. It’s a regular occurrence and I appreciate the time to pause, reflect, and give thanks. In my experience, the people delivering such prayers, whether they are clergy or lay persons, have been uniformly sensitive about the potentially diverse nature of their audience. Some have more Christian content than others to be sure, but as a person raised in the Jewish faith living in a country which is majority Christian, I have learned to accept that.