My elementary school years were in the 1970s and high school years in the 1980s. It was an era when cities and towns had Christmas displays, high schools often had a prayer before sporting events and no one objected if you suggested God bless someone who sneezed.
Somewhere along the line God went out of fashion. Some objected to prayer at public events. Satan worshipers demanded equal time (and space) for displays during the Christmas season. Saying Merry Christmas became taboo and the generic “Happy Holidays” was substituted so as not to offend those who celebrated winter solstice instead. Many people stopped dressing up for Sunday church. Then they stopped attending altogether. God it seemed, was on the ropes. Some might have even suggested he was down for the count.
In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on America, signs appeared in front of businesses from coast to coast with some variation of “God Bless America.” As my wife and I drove by a local bank with those three words prominently posted on its corporate message board, I recall turning to her and saying two things. First, it was great to see so much public recognition of a supreme power greater than ourselves and, second, I wondered how long it would be before the sentiment faded and it again became socially unacceptable to mention God, Jesus or faith. I correctly predicted that the outpouring of praise and proclamations would mostly disappear within six months.
In the years since, not only have the corporate signs disappeared, there have been lawsuits against high school coaches leading athletes in post-game voluntary prayer, against a century old cross-topped memorial for World War I veterans who died in service to America and countless high school kids were told they couldn’t wear a crucifix or other religious objects to their own public school. High-profile athletes were roundly criticized for taking a knee and blessing themselves in thanks to God, but others were widely praised for taking a knee in intentional disrespect for America and the flag that represents it.
Hollywood elites and mainstream media regularly criticize religion and faith in God. Such faith is described as weak, as a crutch and as a place to hide behind when exhibiting hate and intolerance. During one of his presidential campaigns, Barack Obama openly mocked those who respect God and support the ownership of guns.
Chuck Todd recently read a letter on NBC’s “Meet the Press” essentially laughing at believers. The educated, self-anointed elite often dismiss those who believe God created the Earth, the sky, the oceans, the animals and mankind itself. Darwin knew more than Jesus. Science knows better, they scoff (like science knew the earth was flat or that certain people were witches). These same self-righteous guardians of science believe that if you think marriage is between a man a woman you must hate anyone who identifies as LGBTQ.
Pounded by these negative messages day in and day out, it is understandable how some would worry that God is all but dead in American society.
But a funny thing happened on the road to perdition.
During a span of just a few days this past Christmas season, I couldn’t help but note something completely different. I went to the 2020 Citrus Bowl with family and friends and during the pre-game warm ups, more than a dozen players from one team walked to the end zone and knelt in prayer. Each came in his own time. Each prayed silently and individually. Some looked skyward while others reflected more inwardly. None sought any specific attention, but in the midst of the hoopla that is a college bowl game, each carved out some discreet quiet time for their Creator.
Likewise, while I was watching one of the NCAA football college playoff games on television, the first post-game interview words from the winning coach were to thank God. When the quarterback from the same game was interviewed on the field, he quoted scripture and brilliantly worked it into the topic at hand, deftly demonstrating how his beliefs played an important role in his athletic success.
Two nights later, I was watching a world championship boxing match on Showtime. Boxing has a reputation for attracting some of the roughest and most troubled athletes on Earth, but after 12 brutal rounds that included blood, knockdowns and more than one foul word shouted from the fighters’ corners, the judges declared the defending champ the winner and he celebrated his continued reign as world champion. When a Showtime reporter tapped him for an interview, one eye beginning to swell shut and bathed in his own sweat, the champ smiled, looked at the camera and said, “I give all the glory to God.”
Most recently, college football’s best known player, Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Taugliovolia, a University of Alabama junior, scheduled a news conference to announce whether he would return to UA for his senior year or would declare for the NFL draft. His much anticipated press conference was carried live on various sports networks and safe to say had a huge weekday audience. Tua opened with “First I want to give thanks to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
In all of the examples above, those proclaiming their faith in God are real people in unscripted moments. That speaks volumes. Like much of America, these high-profile folks believe. Don’t be fooled by pop culture nor by those who try to convince you that faith is no longer acceptable or in style. After careful observation (and some reflective prayer), I am happy to report God is alive and well in America in 2020.
God Bless You.
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