Is protesting Bobby Jindal’s prayer rally a sin? Organizers seem to think so.
For the past few weeks, organizers of this weekend’s prayer rally with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal have been sending out calls to prayer and fasting in support of the event. This week they’ve added daily prayer calls at which they have led participants in prayer for Jindal, for the event’s organizers, for those in charge of logistics like sound and security, and even for those who will be protesting the event. While there is a big rhetorical emphasis on rally leaders having a “posture of humility,” this week’s prayer calls have demonstrated what you might call spiritual arrogance regarding those who have been planning a protest. Protesters being organized by Louisiana State University students and progressive allies have been portrayed as spiritual enemies. During open prayer time, one call participant asked forgiveness for the protesters, saying “they hate us because they hated You first.” One participant prayed that God would “silence the mouths of those who would speak against You.”
On Tuesday, prayers for “those who would stand against us” asked that protesters would experience God’s love from rally participants. On Wednesday’s call, prayer leaders asked God to forgive the protesters, saying “they know not what they do” — language used by Jesus asking God to forgive those who were crucifying him, according to the account in the Gospel of Luke. Martyrdom and crucifixion returned on Thursday’s call, with a call leader praying that God “release” the protesters to God, the way Stephen asked forgiveness for those who were stoning him and Jesus did for those who were crucifying him.
Clearly, Response organizers have embraced the tendency of Religious Right leaders to portray disagreeing with them as a form of persecution. One prayer leader cited the biblical story of God appearing to Saul, who had been persecuting Christians but saw the light and become the evangelist Paul. A woman asked to lead prayer for the protesters prayed that God would similarly release “the angels of the harvest” over them.
Organizers are worried that the protesters, who are planning a rally and activist training, might be a threat. They prayed that God would help police and security officers see any “flanking” or “positioning” maneuvers. One prayed that God would “bind any demonic assignment” and one thanked God that He would send angels to guard the arena where the rally is being held, and declare it a “no-go zone for demons in the name of Jesus.” (That’s a clever reference to Jindal’s recent comments about Muslims, which according to call organizers have stirred up more “anger” and “angst” against Jindal.) “There is a confrontation in the heavenlies going on,” declared one prayer leader.
It seems that Response organizers are making a lot of awfully big assumptions about people who simply think it’s a bad idea for a governor and potential presidential candidate to lend the power of his office to an event promoting anti-gay bigotry and religious exclusion: namely, that all such protesters must not be Christians, must not be right with God and may in fact be demonic agents, and are in need of forgiveness for their audacity to “stand against” Jindal and his prayer warriors.
Response organizers might want to pray a little harder for a spirit of humility.