Be Careful How You Pray

From their start as the “Moral Majority” through their as the “Christian Coalition” and all the way up to the “Values Voters” who supposedly returned President Bush to office in 2004, Religious Right leaders has long claimed the exclusive right to speak for people of faith in the political arena.  In order to bolster that claim, the Right has developed an entire repertoire of attacks against those who might dare to disagree:  complaining about perceived anti-religious bigotry, warning that Christians are under constant attack, demonizing and disrespecting other faiths, and accusing Democrats of attempting to dupe faithful Americans into abandoning the only political party that represents a “truly biblical worldview.”

Normally, such attacks were directly solely against Democrats, but they started to get used against Mitt Romney and his Mormon faith when he showed up on the presidential scene.  The Right, not knowing know how to react to a Republican candidate who did not subscribe to a faith with which they were comfortable and familiar, began to flail about, giving rise to all sorts of speculation about whether rank and file right-wing voters could ever support such a candidate, allegations that other candidates were exploiting the issue for political gain, worries that Romney’s unique beliefs would somehow hijack the Right’s traditional messaging … even allegations that a vote for Romney was “a vote for Satan.”

Eventually, Romney was compelled to deliver a speech reminding voters that a religious test for candidates and office holders was prohibited by the US Constitution and proclaiming that “no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. “ 

The speech didn’t accomplish much and Romney was eventually forced to drop out of the race – and now the Right has been able to get back to what it does best:  attacking Democrats.

Amid the strong showing that Barack Obama continues to make in the Democratic primaries, we have begun to notice that Obama’s proudly declared strong personal faith appears to be rankling some on the Right who see his talk of faith as a threat to their perceived hegemony and have begun striking back by attacking not just his positions or policies, but the nature of his faith itself. 

Routinely, right-wing commentators have been attacking Obama’s church and declaring that his “Christianity [is] woefully deficient.”  Just last week, Rob Schenck did an entire segment on Obama’s faith, suggesting that he might really be a Muslim despite the fact that he identifies himself as a Christian and even questioning Obama’s claim that he “[prays] to Jesus every night, wondering why he would “pray to Jesus” rather than “pray to God in Jesus’ name.” 

Apparently, the mechanics of Obama’s personal prayer and his understanding of the Trinity are of great concern to people like Schenck and Mychael Massie who seem to think it is now acceptable to encourage voters to oppose a candidate or office holder based solely on how he or she exercises their personal faith: 

Suffice it to say that his comments are objectionable on many levels, not least of which is because the fundamental construct for prayer is given in Matthew 6:6-9, and nowhere in same does Jesus say to pray to “Him.” In fact, nowhere in all of Scripture are we told to pray to anyone save God Almighty Himself.

In Philippians 2:9-11, Paul writes that while God has given Jesus a name above all names, and that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, and that every tongue should confess Him as Lord, this is done to the glory of God the Father. Paul, in verse six of the same chapter, writes that, “…in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be known unto God.” He doesn’t say make them known unto Jesus.

Is it possible Obama doesn’t understand the meaning and order of the prayer the Lord instructed us to pray in Matthew 6:6-9? Does Obama presume Paul didn’t mean what he said? Or does he place his biblical literacy above him whom God inspired? Perhaps Obama just doesn’t understand the true nature and order of the Triune God – allowing that is the case, then it is incumbent upon him to revisit the definition of devout.

Jesus Himself references God the Father as “His God” and “my God.” At no time and in no place does Jesus say pray to Him, but rather in John 16:14-28, He instructs the exact opposite.

So word to the wise: if you consider yourself a Christian, you’d better bone up on the details of how to pray properly because otherwise the Right is going to accuse you of being a posturing, ignorant phony whose faith is fundamentally illegitimate.