God in a Small Town
A small news item caught my attention, a few days ago. Something now so commonplace that I might not have even noticed, if not for the fact that it involved the high school my family graduated from. Medina Valley High School, in Castroville, TX, was to lose a long held, traditional graduation prayer. A lawsuit on behalf of a single graduating student (who would be offended by the prayer), was to end a tradition very special to the community. The prayer is not denomination-specific and is invoked by chosen members of the graduating class. Normally very general in nature -- a heartfelt wish for the happiness and well-being of the graduates, a word of thanks to parents and community, expressed appreciation for the efforts of teachers and staff, and a love of school and the memories created there -- just the normal elements of prayer that are so profoundly offensive to some.
Last Friday, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals lifted the ban on prayer at the graduation, restoring the tradition of graduation prayer, overruling the federal district judge who had ruled against prayer.
Let me introduce you to the town of Castroville, which is the home of Medina Valley High School. This is a small town of seemingly average citizens. It is probably a conservative estimate to say that perhaps 70% of the people not only express that they believe in God, they also show up, week after week, to worship God. Predominantly Catholic, but also represented by all the usual faiths, as well. These are the type of people who take time out of their busy lives to celebrate each others weddings, baptisms, and graduations. They also never fail to be present to offer their support when a neighbor or friend, or simply a member of their church passes. They volunteer to drive elderly friends to doctor appointments and shopping. They prepare and deliver mountains of food when someone in their community is sick or suffering. And of course, they can always be counted on to offer their (oh so offensive) prayers. The goodness of these citizens elevates them from average, to extraordinary.
The practice of church attendance and Christian devotion has some side benefits which often go unacknowledged. When we (Believers) are humbled, each week, in the presence of our Creator, we cannot avoid taking stock of our sins. As we leave our churches, we are renewed with the determination to do better, to be better. When human impulses begin to interfere with our resolve, the visible signs of God that we see around us are sometimes enough to remind us of our commitment and put us back on track. Over time, and with practice, we become better sons and daughters of our heavenly Father. With any luck, it also makes us better stewards of our faith, and consequently better citizens of our communities.
What makes Castroville and its people so special is the fact that God is the backbone of this community. Many of its children choose to stay and raise their children in the comfort of its close knit community. Many of the graduates, who will walk across the stage to receive their diplomas, follow in the footsteps of their parents, uncles, aunts and even grandparents. Tradition. Values. Principles. Faith. These are the threads of this community, which have been woven in its churches.
But, this is a cautionary tale for believers. When we cast our votes, we are participants in the outcome of what we elect. There is great responsibility involved in this decision, from a faith standpoint. As believers, we know that there will be a day of reckoning before God, and that we will be held liable for our wrong doing. One wrong choice in an election can wreck havoc on a nation, as well as the world. Adolf Hitler is the perfect example. Do you think God will hold responsible those who supported and defended him?
This militant movement that began decades ago to remove God from public life is resoundingly an effort of the left -- the Democrats. It is obvious that, by their sheer determination on this effort, they wish to remove Him not just from our town square, but from our very lives. If you vote for Democrats, you own that.
The left will continue to try to emove God from our public square, until He can be seen no more. As believers, we must fight this to the end. Our battle cry should be the one given to us by the apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:12-13: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand."
We must make sure that we keep God visible where He can be seen by all -- on our faces, in our hearts, in our kindness and outreach to others. We must make God such a central part of our lives that His light shines out from our hearts to lighten the dark void that is growing in our land. With each cross, Christmas tree, Nativity scene and prayer that is removed from our public lives, we must not replace them with anger or resentment, but rather with the spirit of the One, the actual One who sent us to this world to fulfill His purpose. We must be a living symbol of His existence and sovereignty in the public square. We must stand.