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“The Optics are Not Just Bad, but Potentially Deadly”

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Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 12/04/15

Some provocative thoughts on public prayer from retired Col. Lawrence Wilkerson:

In last weekend’s football game featuring the U.S. Air Force Academy’s team and the University of New Mexico’s team, 57 of the 60 Academy football team members knelt and prayed — ostentatiously, publicly — in the end zone prior to the game. They did not, as Christ’s disciple Matthew advises, put themselves in a closet; they prayed in front of the world. Therein rests the problem. When I saw the photograph depicting this “prayer circle,” I had one immediate thought: what would have happened if two or three of the team had withdrawn slightly from the clearly Christian circle, dropped to both knees, bent over repeatedly to touch their foreheads to the turf, all the while speaking Islamic exhortations to Allah; or if one or two had stepped back, stood, and recited the Torah, as many Jews do when praying; or if even one had stepped back and simply shrugged his atheist’s shoulders at the circle in its worshipful attempt to push its Christian god into favoring USAFA’s football efforts (in any event, the Christian prayers did not work; Air Force lost the game). My next thought was how dangerous such an image was for the United States at this particular moment in time. Here’s what one active duty USAF general officer had to say after seeing the event: “The optics are not just bad, but potentially deadly.” No doubt, he was thinking of how almost any Islamic terrorist group, from Lashkar e Taiba, to al-Qa’ida, or ISIS/ISIL could employ the video, or just a still shot, for propaganda purposes. A retired USAF general officer remarked: “This plays easily into the hands of those trying to portray Muslims as victims of the West, and who make a case to justify defensive jihad. Bottom line: Academy leaders and coaches should ensure religious observances in groups are kept off the field and out of the locker room.”

Read more. He has some strong opinions about the appropriateness of Christian public prayer in the armed forces.

However: one could argue, I think, that stifling this kind of prayerful expression plays into the enemy’s hands.

Photo: Huffington Post/Department of Defense

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