Zachrilege: College Football and Prayer

I don’t know if Saturday was a turning point for me. It was a reminder that I’m a minority in this country. I have been in a nice majority position all my life as a white male. That “shell” allows me privilege that I usually don’t notice. I have to go out of my way to raise suspicion.

I attended a college football game in Knoxville, Tennessee last weekend. My experiences to date at football stadiums has been with the singular corporate feel of a Tennessee Titans game in Nashville. It’s the same state but a completely different feel.

I like the small-town feel of these games. Walking on a college campus reminds me of my own college days. Knoxville, Tennessee has a population of about 180,000. The football stadium has a capacity of 102,455. It’s a sad day indeed when the stadium is not filled to capacity.

There are differences between college and pro. There’s nothing that can compare to being an alum of a school, with all of the memories associated with your school, many of them associated with the football team. A pro team can’t have that kind of pull, except for its attachment with a city, and that’s never as big as it is with a college. We stood in our end-zone seats and watched the marching band perform, playing the iconic Rocky Top fight song and dancing up and down the football field in the form of a big T.

The most stark difference was when the PA announcer asked us to stand up, remove our hats, and listen to a prayer. I needed a second. I understood the ritual of playing the national anthem before our national sport. But a prayer? Yep.

There’s been a bit of a kerfuffle about this already, with the Freedom From Religion Foundation getting involved. Heck, I’ll post to an article that’s pro prayer. I can see that we’re dealing a legally obscure situation. Here’s a similar situation. It would be like Tennessee performing Dixie before the game, and when people complained, say the NAACP, the school would say that the song is promoting the South, not the specific policies of the South.

School officials may say that the prayer is generic, and it is by wording. If someone said “Praise Allah!” afterward, I’m sure they’d be accepted with no complaints. It’s a Christian prayer and it makes me feel like an outsider.

These are exciting and dangerous times. It’s not the cease and desist letter that was sent to the University of Tennessee, it’s the reactions to it that’s scary. The wording is that they are under “attack”. When you’re the majority, you think that anyone who tries to remove your privilege is attacking you. They’re just asserting their rights, but please, continue praying. Pray for the removal of the FFRF, the President, and of course, pray for your team to win. It didn’t go so well on Saturday.

In conclusion, let’s quote the ultimate arbiter for the majority of people who stood up on Saturday, because only their feelings matter. It’s from Matthew 6:6.

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Oh, and my wife’s alma mater, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, agreed to stop the pre-game prayer and have a moment of silence. Sometimes a compromise can be reached.

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