Since the Atlanta Braves relocated their spring training facility to North Port on the gulf side of Florida, a relaxing dinner at Snook Haven has become a new post-game tradition. This old Florida fish and barbecue dive is the perfect spot to continue unwinding.

Last March, I shared such a peaceful evening with my longtime baseball compadre Marshall Kerlin — who, I must add, now sports a 2021 World Series championship ring due to his extensive contributions to the team’s winning ways by running in-stadium replays.

Earlier, during spring training of 2020 just before the COVID-19 shutdown, we made our first visit to Snook Haven along with another friend, Chip Bishop. The entertainment for that evening happened to be a y’all-come gathering of belly dancers.

On the latter visit, earlier this year, a single singer with a mellow voice and acoustic guitar covered familiar tunes by Johnny Cash, the Beatles and other popular singers of our generation.

Oh, but then he stopped singing and talked. A sincere but sincerely misguided testimony came forth.

He had more to offer the shorts, sandals and PFG shirts crowd than just “I walk the line” and “Here comes the sun.” We came for seafood and sauce but got a sermon.

His singular point was that “America failed when we took the Bible out of schools.”

My rarely relaxed mind had long shifted into neutral that day as I watched the great ballet of baseball played out on green grass in sunshine with no concern about the exhibition game score. That mellifluous mood had continued into the evening as we sat at a riverside picnic table for dinner and a song.

But such peacefulness was now over as my eyes rolled and mind reengaged.

Preaching singers, like singing preachers, should come with warning labels.

I wondered (not aloud, though tempting) if this white male tune strummer had ever given serious thought to his obviously passionate conclusions and comments.

Most likely, he has long lived in the oblivion of some romanticized past with no consideration of his own privilege and the resulting oppression of others. And he’s not alone, especially in the evangelical subculture.

Surely he has never seriously considered how often those of us from insular, Christian-claimed communities had paused for Bible reading and prayer in our public schools while others were shut out solely due to racial identity.

Could he imagine the implications of his professed ideals in places of diversity in the U.S. — or in school districts in which evangelical Christians are of a minority faith and would endure the imposition of a different majority faith? No. The answer has to be no.

He just heard something that made an emotional connection, and he regurgitated it for his unsuspecting audience. Sadly, thinking through something doesn’t seem to be a prerequisite for speaking authoritatively on a topic.

I recall hearing Martin Marty, the superb commentator on religion and culture, once say that government-sponsored prayer in schools is a really good idea — “until you think about it.”

It’s that latter part that so many Americanized Christians keep leaving out on a variety of topics. For just a little pondering can bring much-needed perspectives.

For example, our evening entertainer failed to mention that not all Americans share the same religious beliefs — and that wisely the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees religious freedom for everyone, not just those with majority status.

Like many, he seemed oblivious to the founders’ brilliant constitutional design in which authentic faith can and does freely flourish.

Also, there was no reference to the reality that those who wave the Bible the highest seem to have the longest history of abusing its teachings — especially that which Jesus revealed about how to relate to the most vulnerable among us. You know, Jesus, the one for whom the Christian faith is named.

With so many pertinent issues to address, I wondered how someone got stuck in the shallow waters of these kinds of pronouncements. And why would anyone else be interested in such?

Both answers likely lie in the sad reality that so many people aren’t willing to consider an idea more deeply than whether it already fits neatly into their preconceived notions.

It’s doubtful that the singer’s comments — made over a bustling crowd — got any more consideration than they deserved. Except, of course, from me.

My previously relaxed mind — that had traveled from the peaceful pastures of America’s pastime on down a sandy road to an enclave of food, drink and nature — had been forced back into gear.

And I just couldn’t help but wonder — and be troubled by — how easily some people get snookered.

Martin Luther King Jr. keenly observed: “There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.”

And Jesus, who came up with some pretty good things himself, called his followers to not limit their love of God to merely their hearts and souls.

Loving God with our minds suggests that some serious thinking should precede our words and deeds.

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