By Christopher Smith
As dark clouds formed over the Whitfield County Courthouse Thursday afternoon, Brad Smith shared a grim description of the youth of America.
“They’re slipping into hell,” he said.
Smith pleaded with hundreds on the courthouse lawn to pray and help stop “rampant” drugs, abortion and homosexuality from spreading. Several prayers from local pastors and public servants at the 29th local National Day of Prayer event were hopeful, but most were dire. The military, government leaders, public servants, churches, communities and the youth of the nation are all in need of one thing, several pastors and chaplains said: revival.
“We never thought we would see the things that come before our Supreme Court,” Charlie Bridges of Grove Level Baptist Church said to the crowd. “There are things — legislation — presented as good and normal that the Word clearly calls sin (same-sex marriage, abortion). In the midst of this darkness, the world cries out: ‘What’s the answer?’ The country cries out: ‘Is there any hope?’ Even the church cries out: ‘What are we to do?’ ... Lord, you’re the answer for a lost and dying world.”
Several shouted “amen” to Bridges’ words, while others raised their hands upward. Jessica Alvarez of Chatsworth sat by herself uncomfortably.
“I just felt (the prayers) were more political than I wanted them to be,” she said. “It wasn’t about praying for the nation as much as it was praying for the nation to be more a one-size-fits-all society. It made me realize how things are — y’know? Like, how tense things are. I’m a Christian, but it felt like the message came off ‘If you’re different, if you’re gay, then you’re not wanted. Jesus doesn’t really love you after all.’”
Daniel Cobb of Dalton disagreed.
“I support everything they prayed for,” he said. “We all need to pray for the whole country. We need more and more prayer the way the world is going. It’s just falling apart and we need our government leaders to be prayed for, from the top down.”
Acceptance — “not necessarily prayer” — is what’s needed, Alvarez said.
“The Bible says homosexuality is a sin, yes,” she said. “But when you get in front of the courthouse and say that America is going to hell because things like homosexuality (same-sex marriage) might be legalized ... well, it’s a message of fear, not hope. Fear that people different than you will ruin your nation.”
But that’s a real fear, Bridges told the crowd.
“Our words are not welcomed anymore,” he said. “We Christians are told to slip back into the shadows. Our opinions and convictions are not wanted.”
In the face of such views, Christians should be bold believers, Bridges added.
“Regardless of what they (anyone anti-Christian) do to us,” he said. “Regardless of whether they egg our houses and key our cars and condemn and slander us.”
Some people don’t have houses or cars to be vandalized, Alvarez said.
“That’s telling,” she added. “That was very telling to me where mainstream Christianity’s priorities are: With houses and cars. That’s persecution? Really? I don’t think the disciples (of Jesus) were really worried about their cars and their houses when they preached love and grace and got murdered for it. I don’t think they were all too worried about the Supreme Court either.”
That’s not the point, said Rico Garcia of Dalton.
“The point is Christians are being pushed out of the conversation across the nation,” he said. “We’re not worried about losing material things. We just don’t want the truth to be buried under man’s word over God’s command.”