By Shyamon Jayasinghe –
We have reflected often on the vital need for an ongoing self-examination of the ideas and beliefs that we hold from time to time.The thought was inspired by Socrates’ exhortation to humanity to keep our ideas constantly under scrutiny and not buy them without taking a good look. “An unexamined life is not worth living,” said Socrates.
An illustration for this admonition is apt and I found a good one among my recent emails. This email was sent to me by a Christian friend but it could as well have been shared by any God-believing religionist. I thought we may take this up as a general illustrative case. I produce the piece sent by email with the advice that I should circulate the wisdom to all. Here it is:
“THE PRAYER THAT SHOCKED THE WORLD
When Minister Joe Wright was asked to open the new session of the Kansas Senate, everyone was expecting the usual generalities, but this is what they heard:
“Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, “Woe to those who call evil good”, but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values.
We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.
We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.
We have killed our unborn and called it choice.
We have shot anti-abortionists and called it justifiable.
We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self esteem.
We have abused power and called it politics.
We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition.
We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression.
We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.
Search us, Oh God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Amen!”
The response was immediate. A number of legislators walked out during the prayer in protest. In 6 short weeks, Central Christian Church, where Rev. Wright is pastor, logged more than 5,000 phone calls with only 47 of those calls responding negatively.
The church is now receiving international requests for copies of this prayer from India, Africa and Korea.
Commentator Paul Harvey aired this prayer on his radio program,
“The Rest of the Story,” and received a larger response to this program than any other he has ever aired.
With the Lord’s help may this prayer sweep over our nation and whole-heartedly become our desire so that we again can be called: “one nation under God”
If possible, please pass this prayer on to your friends. “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for everything.”
There are a few immediate questions that cross my mind. Why did the legislators walk out at a very commonplace and cliched sermon? The pastor Joe Wright said nothing that was new. The list of hypocrisies and discrepancies have been on for centuries of human civilisation and so they aren’t anything new about them. We live and have been living with the contradictions. That is human nature. My guess is that the audience wanted to protest against the anti-abortionist standpoint of the pastor. Take another look at the list and you will find two sorties against abortionists. In America a prominent stoush is on between those in favour of abortion and those who oppose it. Anti-abortionist evangelists have even gone gung -ho and used rifles to exterminate the sinful abortionists. In this particular instance, the pastor Joe used rhetoric. My email friend didn’t realize this context and he was apparently carried away by the rhetoric about our hypocrisies.
The deeper issue I have with this emailed piece is about seeking God’s forgiveness for the listed sins committed by us, humans. Obviously the list contains human failures that have been exhibited throughout human history thereby suggesting quite legitimately that such failures are a consequence of our human nature. From a God-believer’s stance God had bequeathed a nature like that when he created man and woman. Humans have abused power. They have exploited the vulnerable. They have coveted their neighbour’s possessions including their attractive spouses. And so on. Then why ask for forgiveness?
The piece concludes by invocating God to build ”our nation” as “One nation under God.” Here again, I have something to quarrel about. Isn’t the task of building a nation as one unity something belonging to its citizens? It is you and I who divide our nation and it is only you and I that can make a change of heart to unify the nation. Why pass the buck to God? God has already the onerous task of overseeing 7 or 8 billion people.
I have left the troubling question as to why the pastor wants to construct a nation “under God.” Aren’t there millions who do nor believe in a God and millions in the future who now believe but who may drop that belief in the future?
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org