“We’re halfway there, livin’ on a prayer.” -Bon Jovi
Whether you’re a fan of professional athletic entertainment or not, we’ve all seen images showing us athletes in many sports praying, turning to God after an incredible touchdown, that long overdue home run, or the perfect 3-pointer. We see them kiss their hands, and gesture to the sky, take a knee in silent prayer, do the sign of the cross. Then we praise them for being such Godly men and women. We talk about how faithful and dedicated they are, how they’re not afraid to publicly express their faith and beliefs. And, we’re not wrong in saying or thinking any of that.
But then there’s the flip side of that coin: those who do the exact same things, but while honoring the tenets of a different religion or faith set. In the 2014 NFL season, then Kansas City Chiefs free safety, Hussein Abdullah, a devout Muslim, scored a touchdown, and fell to his knees in prayer, receiving a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, aka, excessive celebration. The penalty was later overturned, in a very unceremonious fashion, but this still begs the question: why was Abdullah penalized in the first place, when so many of his Christian counterparts are praised for their expressions of faith?
American society has become indoctrinated, through praising God in the Pledge of Allegiance, to having God mentioned in multiple patriotic songs. Our courthouses have recently had to remove statues of the Ten Commandments. Hell, our nation’s motto is “In God We Trust.” We’ve come to accept only one “version” of God, one religion, one way of life: Christianity. Sure, in theory, all religion can be practiced here, but think of how often you hear about, witness, or maybe even participate in, the shaming of Muslim peoples? Have you thought of them as terrorists? Have you thought that they’re worshiping the “wrong” God? Have you thought that you should pray for them, for their souls? Have you been uncomfortable when a woman in a hijab walks by you? You can admit it. It’s okay. No one will know.
What have we become, in a country that’s very foundation includes the freedom to practice whatever religion you so choose? Wouldn’t the very definition of patriotism be celebrating those differences in our faiths, promoting and encouraging those who practice and believe something that we may not understand? Imagine our world if it were reversed: if we had set times for calls to prayer, had to abide by strict dietary restrictions to keep our bodies pure, were mandated to be such peaceful followers of God/Allah that we had to retreat in times of aggression mounted against us? Imagine that you’re a Christian, or an atheist, living in a society where Islam is the primary faith, and you’re constantly harassed for attempting to practice your own religion.
This isn’t about a Starbucks cup, or banning teachers from leading students in prayer. This isn’t about people saying “Happy Holidays” in lieu of “Merry Christmas.” This is about the sanctity of your faith, your safety while trying to practice it, or just exist in it, and how it can affect your career. Your entire life has now necessitated a hyper vigilance, just so you can be a Christian. Imagine that.