Tuesday, February 26, 2008

separation of church and partying

My friend's birthday was this weekend and we all went out to celebrate. One of her friend's was also having a birthday so they combined their birthday celebratory efforts into one big outting. Although I don't really know this friend of a friend, she is nice and her friends were very welcoming.

After drinks at a bar/restaurant in Adams Morgan, we head over to Meskerem for dinner. Slightly off topic but I've had better Ethiopian food than Meskerem (I'm partial to Dukem, actually) and the chairs there are super uncomfortable. My spine was very grateful when I finally stood up at the end of the meal.

There was a nice hodgepodge of people there to celebrate the two birthdays. One of my favorite things about living in DC (not that this is limited to DC in particular but it's something I rarely experienced back home) is how you can have a group of very different people get together and have intelligent conversations about the biggest issues going on in the world. I got the sense that we were all on the same page here, except for the one guy at the table who was supporting McCain (not that there's anything wrong with that except the fact that he's anti-choice).

When our food came, I was ready to dig in. Oh no, but wait! Someone wanted to pray. Huh? Well, I normally wouldn't object to thanking the Lord for the food we were about to eat, it was something I hadn't done outside of my mother's presence since elementary school. It was odd and I was pretty uncomfortable about it. As we all held hands and people bowed their heads in reverence, I looked over at the birthday girl, who just so happened to be raised Muslim, and gave her a "What the heck?" look as soon as I heard the prayer leader say the word 'God'.

Even today, several days after the outting, I am still wondering why this bothered me so. Have I become so anti-Catholic that normal Christian activities make me uncomfortable? Was I upset over the fact that the prayer leader (who's idea it was to pray) didn't take other faiths into account during her prayer? Am I just incredibly hung up on being politically correct?

I don't know. Maybe all of the above?


Aesop said...

Muslims and Christians are all the children of Abraham. The prayer to God is uniting and appropriate among Jews, Christians, and Muslims (even Mormons).

- 'Sop

Freewheel said...

Maybe it's the fact that one person made the decision on behalf of everyone that you should pray. And then he said a prayer on behalf of everyone, even though he didn't know what everyone personally believed.

Shannon said...

I'm not religious (I believe in God, but not religion). In group prayers, I usually bow my head out of respect for the beliefs of others, but don't say "amen" or cross myself or anything. It's a compromise that I'm comfortable with.

lizzie said...

aesop: hey! long time, no comment. glad you're still reading. and i guess i stand corrected on the deity issue.

freewheel: you know, i did feel obligated to join in. after all, we were all holding hands in a circle. heaven forbid i didn't participate. for all i know, there could've been an atheist in the group.

shannon: i'm not used to group prayer outside of a religious setting (say, in a church). so i didn't quite know what to do. but i like your suggestion. it's a reasonable compromise.

Capitol Hill 20210 said...

yeah I like Shannons suggestion as well.......always ackward in those situations.........

intellileg said...

I hope it was a birthday prayer, and not your usual run of the meal Lord-thank-you-for-the-food-yadda-yadda-yadda crap, or it was just plain rude and thoughtless.

Mme. Meow said...

It was rude-- you shouldn't foist your religion on a group of people you don't know well-- even if they all pray to a similar god.

Jilian said...

In a group (especially at a restaurant) if you don't know everyone, a group prayer is very awkward. If you'd like to give thanks before your meal - then bow your head and give thanks. No need to make a production and include everyone.

The only time I'd think this might be appropriate is if it were all family and your bible study group or something.

In my opinion it's actions like this that turn people away from Christianity as a whole.

(Opinions coming from a Christian, Believer, Jesus-Freak - whatever your term of choice is ;))

lizzie said...

CH 20210: yes, the situation was pretty uncomfortable.

intellileg: no, it was not a birthday prayer. it was a thankyouforthefood type of prayer.

mme. meow: you know, maybe if we hadn't held hands, i would've felt better just letting them pray without being forced into it.

jilian: well, the group was pretty divided. half of the people knew one birthday girl. the other half knew the other birthday girl. there was really no overlap, so our prayer leader only knew half the group.

and thank you for your insight as an insider! :)