In Wilmington, Delaware a court case is taking place in which four citizens of Sussex County are asking the that the county council refrain from the 41 year practice of council members beginning sessions by citing The Lord’s Prayer.
In this article I am not debating the merits of either side of the case. Instead I am focusing on the comments of the attorneys from both sides as they relate to this biblical prayer.
It is apparent that neither of the attorneys involved is learned in biblical studies. While it may be too much to hope that lawyers have a theological grounding, one would think that they would study the text they are debating. Sadly, their comments do not give any indication that they did so.
County Attorney J. Scott Shannon gets the ball rolling with this insightful comment,
Legislative invocations are not religious practice.
Really? It might be argued that some legislative invocations are not good religious practice, but surely prayer is a religious practice. Scott supports this by indicating that The Lord’s Prayer is a generic prayer. That description conjures up the image of a non-branded prayer in a plain drab wrapper.
He continues by adding that prayer is tolerable and contains language that fits with the beliefs of other faiths. In fact, the prayer does not even mention Jesus. Again, really? It was Jesus who spoke the prayer in teaching his disciples how to pray.
Shannon went on to say that the prayer might be associated with Christianity but that
Jesus was not offering a Christian prayer in the Christian tradition because no Christian tradition existed.
As the kids text today, SMH (Shakes My Head). Not leaving well enough alone, Shannon added that prayer actually came from a Jew.
Not to be outdone, the opposing attorney Alex Luchenitser responded by stating that the “Our Father” in the prayer was a reference to Jesus.
That’s a Christian way of referring to Jesus. This is not something that reasonable people disagree over.
If his last statement is true, count me as an unreasonable person. The Father and Jesus are distinct.
These legal comments are sad. Instead of this story about two lawyers in a courtroom, the public would have been better served with a “Two Lawyers Entered a Bar” joke. The judge has yet to rule on the case. Perhaps he can sentence the two attorneys to a year in a good Sunday School class.
Here is The Lord’s Prayer from Matthew’s gospel:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
(Matthew 6:9-13 ESV)