Teens today rely on very few things more than that of a wireless connection. Everywhere you turn, they’re exchanging photos and videos, streaks and Snapchats. We live in a world that is more connected than ever before, yet still so DIS-connected from the one thing that matters most: A connection with Jesus.
Prayer is the world’s greatest wireless connection.
And most adults would agree, they’d rather their teens be connecting with Jesus than with predators on social media.
So when widespread DEBATE broke out over this group of high schoolers praying before their meal on the way to prom, I was genuinely concerned about the world we are living in.
Frank Somerville, a journalist at KTVU in Oakland, California, often shares heartwarming stories on his Facebook page — many of which are submitted to him.
On Tuesday, Somerville posted a picture sent to him by a woman named Noelle Smith.
“So impressed with these young people on their prom date at Longhorn,” Smith wrote. “They all said Grace before eating and were all well behaved.”
“I want to share a picture of my daughter and her friends from prom night,” she added with the photo. “Now with the stories today about teenagers and tide pods and condoms gathering headlines—this picture speaks for itself.”
And it does.
Older generations have historically looked down on newer generations based on their negatives instead of their highlight reel. We tend to be bitter about those preceding us, rather than coming alongside them and lifting them up. We often don’t cheer on their success but point out their shortcomings.
But this, this picture, and this beautiful group of young people praying is a generational representation of we can all get behind.
Or so I thought.
That is — until I read some of the comments on Somerville’s post.
I guess in 2018, it’s no surprise that a photo of teenagers praying before they eat WOULD spark controversy on the internet. Because obviously, when compared to the other headlines I saw this morning: “Woman rejects man’s advances, so he set her body on fire,” “Bill Cosby convicted of sexual assault,” and “His Royal Highness finally has a name: Louis,” a photo of kids praying over their meal is DEFINITELY the most offensive.
(In case you missed it, the sarcasm game is STRONG on this Friday morning).
People took to Somerville’s post with vengeance, arguing that the group was being labeled as “nice kids,” simply because they were pictured praying.
“Saying grace over your food says nothing of your moral compass, integrity or character … Behaving well at a restaurant while in your late teens, and being considerate to people, should not be Facebook praise worthy,” one commenter wrote.
“I see well behaved people doing terrible things, misbehaved people who just take care of someone in need. Being a [C]hristian doesn’t mean they are well behaved,” argued another.
Or my personal favorite: labeling CHILDREN based purely on your disgruntled opinion:
“My guess is their opinions on gay marriage, interracial families, equal rights, and other things we hold dear might not thrill you,” wrote another user.
Y’all, WHEN did this world decide that a photo of teens praying before a meal was a BAD thing? PLEASE tell me one time where PRAYING to GOD in the United States of America — a country FOUNDED on the principles of FAITH — was something to be berated.
I mean, am I alone in this?
I quickly found out that I am not.
Many commenters on Somerville’s post were quick to defend the teens’ actions — and Somerville’s for that matter — reminding those hateful users that “not once did [Somerville] say that these kids are any better than non-Christian kids.”
Others still argued that praising the teens for their faith — which Somerville said was “REALLY nice to see,” — is polarizing, and unfair to his followers who don’t share the same Christian beliefs and values.
Some even took it further than ridiculing the kids and the praise they were receiving, and instead just attacked Christianity and the Church as a whole.
“So now we are supposed to praise kids for praying to an invisible man in the sky for animals that were slaughtered so they could eat?” one commenter wrote. “Maybe they should be thanking that animal for giving up it’s [sic] life so they could eat instead. So tired of Christians pushing their beliefs onto everyone else.”
Literally, it didn’t stop!
“I’m so tired of the arrogance many religious people display and their disdain for non-believers,” wrote another. “If you are confident [sic] in your beliefs then you don’t feel the need to ‘save’ everyone else.”
And we’re the arrogant ones?
Listen, I get it. Christians have a bad rap. And historically, throughout society, it’s the few negative visuals of Christianity that have become the focal point for this religion. And that really sucks.
But HOW on Earth, have we gotten to this place where everyone’s beliefs are protected EXCEPT for the belief in Jesus Christ?
Like, WHY is that commenter so easily allowed to just throw fighting words around and call people names because their personal belief in Jesus, is not that of his own personal disbelief?
I could go on forever, but, I digress.
Somerville circled back to his post to express his sheer shock at how controversial it had become.
“I’m honestly surprised by some of these comments… I wasn’t trying to imply that you have to be a Christian to be a good person.. what I see from these kids is that they are respectful… that they are humbled… and that they are appreciative for what they have. … I could care less whether they are religious…. but by saying grace it shows me that they have those qualities.. and those are the qualities… regardless of whether you believe in God … that I admire..”
He later elaborated, telling Fox News:
“What I took from the picture that that by saying grace on their prom night, it showed that they have qualities that I admire, qualities like respect and appreciation,” said Somerville. “But to be clear … you certainly don’t have to say grace to have those qualities. I should also say that I enjoy and encourage people to have honest discussions on my posts. I think that’s how we learn, by hearing different points of view.”
Noelle Smith reached out to Somerville and told him that she would not be reading the negative comments because unlike the rest of Facebook who decided to have an opinion, she knows each one of those kids, and she knows that they are “great kids.”
Smith says she didn’t take the picture herself, but simply wanted to share because as a mother, she was impressed by it.
As was I Noelle. As was I.