BREMERTON, WA—Graduating high school senior Sarah Henson was invited to stand in front of her church on Sunday while other members surrounded her, laid hands on her, and prayed that she would miraculously stand firm in her beliefs when hit with basic secular arguments the church had never once attempted to prepare her to face.
Leaders at Hope Life Baptist Church are always careful to pray for their graduating seniors, that the Lord would miraculously stop them from deconverting, even though the church doesn’t spend a single second addressing even basic secular arguments against the faith.
“You’re about to leave us and enter the belly of the secular beast,” said youth pastor Wilbur Coburn. “Your deeply held beliefs that you have never had questioned and are mostly professed out of obedience to your parents will be challenged like never before. We haven’t prepared you for this onslaught, but we are going to remedy that right now with sixty seconds of ceremonial prayer.”
Henson asked, “What are some of the arguments? Can you give me just a brief overview of—” but was cut off as the prayer began.
“God, Sarah is gonna learn about a lot of worldviews that seem fairly rational to someone who has never really thought outside of our little bubble here—arguments that cause the average young believer to reconsider their entire belief system. But you are the God who defies all understanding. Those arguments out there in academia may be big, but you are bigger. Therefore, we send her off with complete confidence that—despite our not having ever even gone over the basic rationale behind what kinds of challenges she will face in a secular university, or why we even find our own faith to be supported by anything but blind feelings—you are a God of miracles, a God who can bring all things to those who will ask of you…” prayed Lead Pastor Martin Kennison as his hand rested on Henson’s shoulder.
As the concert of prayers and murmurs of agreement subsided, Henson reports she had to remove herself from the clutches of the prayer circle with some degree of force. “It’s like they were worried the moment I left I would never come back,” she said. “They just kept holding on and saying things like ‘resist the world’ and ‘believe on the Lord.’”
Before Henson left for Portland to begin her college studies, the church members offered up a final prayer. ‘Wait, maybe there is more we can do,” said Coburn. He handed her a copy of “The Case 4 Jesus 4 Kidz,” a popular booklet for tweens that debunks all of the philosophical and scientific arguments of the last 20 centuries using hip, simple language and brief, easy to read chapters. With the 68-page book in hand, she drove away. “She’s in your hands now, Lord,” said Coburn. “We’ve done all we could do.”