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It's interesting when a teenage agnostic and a federal judge understand the nature of the church better than do some church staff.

A plaintiff known as Doe 2 recently said that if s/he had to attend a high school graduation ceremony in a Christian church, s/he would be "forced to submit to a religious environment that … will make me feel extremely uncomfortable and offended."

Doe 2 (as in "John Doe") was one of five plaintiffs who sought an injunction against Enfield Public Schools to prevent them from holding the graduation ceremony in First Cathedral, a Christian Church. The judge granted the injunction, in part because she agreed that there was the "likelihood of irreparable harm" coming to the plaintiffs.

That phrase—"the likelihood of irreparable harm"—made me laugh when I first read it, but after examining the ruling, I understood. Doe 3 is Jewish and said s/he would not have attended the ceremony because s/he would "feel that the Cathedral is proselytizing its Christian beliefs … through its scriptures and symbols." A high school graduation is indeed an important cultural marker, so one can empathize how deeply disappointing it would be to miss it.

But as I thought about it, I realized the judge said more than she knew, because it is true that those who spend time in church really do have the likelihood of experiencing irreparable harm—for one thing, they'll have to die to self. After all, it is the sovereign sphere of another Lord, who, like his title implies, makes unreasonable demands on his servants: expecting them to give away their wealth and to love their enemies.

The sovereignty of this Lord is announced in many ways in churches, in word and sacrament, to be sure. But it's also proclaimed ...

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SoulWork
In "SoulWork," Mark Galli brings news, Christian theology, and spiritual direction together to explore what it means to be formed spiritually in the image of Jesus Christ.
Mark Galli
Mark Galli is Editor of Christianity Today in Carol Stream, Illinois.
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