Morgan Cryar was a Liar

Back when I was a born-again Christian, one of the many Christian artists whose albums I bought was Morgan Cryar. He was a lot like Richard Marx in his sound. One of his hit songs was “Pray in the USA”. The lyrics for it are as follows:

Teacher sayin’, Can’t be prayin’,
says it’s against the rules
we’re free today, in the USA,
not here in my school
Well I got news for you today,
you can’t stop a heart that prays

You can still pray in the USA,
You can still pray in the USA
’till they steal your heart away
You can still pray in the USA,
yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Well, I’m no rebel, just a pebble
stuck in some judges shoe
my bended knee may not be free
but my hearts gonna break on thru
they’re pouring fuel on the fire
tryin’ to stop what God desires

You can still pray in the USA,
You can still pray in the USA
’till they steal your heart away
You can still pray in the USA,
yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,

Someday we may hear it
“Prayin is a Felony”
I guess they’ll call us criminals then
I guess that’s what I’ll be
oh yeah

pray in the USA, You can still pray in the USA
’till they steal your heart away
don’t you know, You can still pray in the USA,

You can pray in the USA,
You can still pray in the USA
’till they steal your heart away
You can still pray in the USA,

Here is the song itself if you want to hear it.

Even back then, I wondered what Cryar could have possibly been referring to, since I already knew that the First Amendment allows free exercise of religion, including the right of individual students to pray on their own time and in their own way. Having been brought up in public schools, I had no understanding of the controversy.

Years later, after I deconverted from Christianity and took another look at this matter, I learned the truth.  Cryar was NOT protesting against the actual prohibition of prayer in schools, but against the U S Supreme Court forbidding TEACHERS from LEADING classes in prayer, whether the students wanted to pray with the teacher or not. Such a useless process, instead of spending more time actually teaching, is ironically the polar opposite of religious liberty!

The case was brought by a group of families of public school students in New Hyde Park, New York, who complained that the voluntary prayer written by the state board of regents to “Almighty God” contradicted their religious beliefs. Led by Steven Engel, a follower of Judaism,[1] the plaintiffs sought to challenge the constitutionality of the state’s prayer in school policy. They were supported by groups opposed to the school prayer including rabbinical organizations, Ethical Culture, and Judaic organizations. The acting parties were not members of one particular religion; despite being listed in the court papers as an atheist, plaintiff Lawrence Roth later denied this allegation and described himself as religious but not comfortable with prayer.[2] The five plaintiffs were made up of three Jews and two self-proclaimed “spiritual” people who did not belong to any one organized religion.

Of course, if you are an evangelical Christian, you are inclined to believe that only your religion is true and should be believed by everyone (a delusion that is insulting to human dignity), so of course you would have no understanding of how violated Jews and others may feel as having their beliefs, which may be as strong as your own, be disrespected in an institution that receives tax money from citizens in general, including non-Christians.

Either religious freedom applies to EVERYONE or it is not freedom. And part of that freedom actually means there are certain things you (and everyone else too) cannot be allowed to do. Like demanding that someone else convert to a religion or take part in any religious activity before serving in a public institution. Freedom is also EQUALITY, as illustrated here. What Cryar was really singing about wanting was Christian privilege.

The incredible ignorance and arrogance of many American Christians is explained to some degree here:

As the culture evolves, people who benefitted from the old ways invariably see themselves as victims of change. The world used to fit them like a glove, but it no longer does. Increasingly, they find themselves in unfamiliar situations that feel unfair or even unsafe. Their concerns used to take center stage, but now they must compete with the formerly invisible concerns of others.

If you are one of the newly-visible others, this all sounds whiny compared to the problems you face every day. It’s tempting to blast through such privileged resistance with anger and insult.

Tempting, but also, I think, a mistake. The privileged are still privileged enough to foment a counter-revolution, if their frustrated sense of entitlement hardens.

Which explains the overwhelming appeal of conservative politics in America, no doubt.

George never demanded a privileged role, he just uncritically accepted the role society assigned him and played it to the best of his ability. And now suddenly that society isn’t working for the people he loves, and they’re blaming him.

It seems so unfair. He doesn’t want anybody to be unhappy. He just wants dinner.

Levels of distress. But even as we accept the reality of George’s privileged-white-male distress, we need to hold on to the understanding that the less privileged citizens of Pleasantville are distressed in an entirely different way. (Margaret Atwood is supposed to have summed up the gender power-differential like this: “Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them.”)

George deserves compassion, but his until-recently-ideal housewife Betty Parker (and the other characters assigned subservient roles) deserves justice. George and Betty’s claims are not equivalent, and if we treat them the same way, we do Betty an injustice.

As a white Christian boy, I never thought of myself as “privileged” because I was friends with almost no one who was not white or non-Christian. For me as a Southern Baptist, even Catholics were outsiders, let alone anyone of a truly different religion. I was….ignorant.

Privileged distress today. Once you grasp the concept of privileged distress, you’ll see it everywhere: the rich feel “punished” by taxes; whites believe they are the real victims of racism; employers’ religious freedom is threatened when they can’t deny contraception to their employees; English-speakers resent bilingualism — it goes on and on.

And what is the Tea Party movement other than a counter-revolution? It comes cloaked in religion and fiscal responsibility, but scratch the surface and you’ll find privileged distress: Change has taken something from us and we want it back.

Confronting this distress is tricky, because neither acceptance nor rejection is quite right. The distress is usually very real, so rejecting it outright just marks you as closed-minded and unsympathetic. It never works to ask others for empathy without offering it back to them.

At the same time, my straight-white-male sunburn can’t be allowed to compete on equal terms with your heart attack. To me, it may seem fair to flip a coin for the first available ambulance, but it really isn’t. Don’t try to tell me my burn doesn’t hurt, but don’t consent to the coin-flip.

Christians everywhere can indeed still pray, still attend church, and still publish literature promoting their religion. No federal court has ever ruled they cannot, so the entire premise of that song above by Morgan Cryar is an outright lie.

And yet people deluded enough to believe that lie still helped elect Donald Trump!

2 thoughts on “Morgan Cryar was a Liar

  1. Complete dog crap! Baseless and ignorant.

    (Dale Husband: If you are referring to the lies about school prayer, absolutely! We really need to start holding religious bigots accountable for such lies they make before the public.)

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