Terrifically Terrible Prayer

  • Covenanter_and_Independent_from_The_Knavery_Of_The_Rump_optLet’s not talk politics. Let’s talk prayer and not prostituting prayer in the service of partisan politics. Whatever the merits of Donald J. Trump as a candidate, he should repudiate a prayer given at this convention.

On the first Monday of the convention, not-so-orthodox Pastor Mark Burns gave the worst prayer I have ever heard. Now as a pastor’s kid who went to Bible college, this is a major accomplishment. I have heard heretical prayers, but God loves a heretic. I have heard prayers I could not follow, because the person kept saying “praise the lord” every few seconds. I have heard prayers where the pastor told God what to do.

This, however, is the worst prayer of my fifty-three years.

Let’s take it line by line . . . right through the introduction.

First tip: a prayer is talking to God Almighty and does not require you warming me up.

Hello Republicans!

This is a good start since this was, in fact, a Republican Convention. However, theologically this is the high point.

I am Mark Burns from the great state of South Carolina.

This is getting long . . . as I am sure God knew who he is and the delegates need only look at the program. Still so far nothing terrible yet.

I am going to pray and I am going to give the benediction.

This might help the delegates to know what he is going to do, though I am unclear on why they would need to know this since he could just do it.

And you know why?

Like a Trump entrance in smoke and blue light, one is given a sinking feeling that something terrible is about to happen next. Something oddly fascist, but Vegas too . . . as if set designer for the fight of Rocky and Apollo Creed in Rocky IV were at the Convention.

Because we are electing a man in Donald Trump who believes in the name of Jesus Christ.

This seems a bit rich given Trump’s life, but perhaps it only means that Trump believes the name “Jesus Christ” exists. This is surely true.

But why this prayer? Why introduce the precious name of Jesus and associate it with a candidate? Maybe, we hope this is not going to do what we fear it will do. The old-timers had a word for those who mixed power politics with bad theology: knavery.

And Republicans- we got to be united- because our enemy is not other Republicans- but is Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.

Please note: we are still not praying. However, we have committed a theological error, been rude, and destroyed part of our social compact.

First, as the Bible points out, our foes are not people, but principalities and powers. Evidently, Pastor Mark does not wrestle with devils, but with Hillary Rodham Clinton.

This seems, on the one hand, to be giving her too much credit and, on the other, too little humanity. Clinton is a powerful politician, but she is a weakling compared to the Prince of Darkness. She also is a soul created in the image of God.

She is not all bad.

Second, this strikes me as failing in love. If Secretary Clinton is the enemy, we should love her as Jesus commanded it. 

Third, I am a Republican, but saying “we Republicans” have to unite as if that is the Christian church is dangerously wrong. We must never confuse church and state. God has given each a role. The pastor also assumes none of God’s children are Democrats, a fact I know to be false.

A small complaint: if Pastor Mark was asked to pray, I wish he would. He has no theological or philosophical training and his failure to pray while he lurches into theology and political philosophy is a cheat. When one goes to Trump U, one goes to learn how to make money in real estate, not about the Blessed Trinity. In the same way, when we ask a cleric to pray, we would hope that he would pray and leave areas outside his expertise alone.

Finally, the religious majority has always prayed at American political conventions. That is fine, but there is no reason to be rude to our secular friends by making the prayer as offensive as possible.

Let us pray together.

At this point, a sane response would have been “no thank you, I am a Christian,” but perhaps one can just be still and the prayer will end. This is polite and Republicans tend to be polite.

Father God, in the name of Jesus, we are so thankful for the life of Donald Trump.

This could be a pro-life statement. All lives do matter to God! I suspect, however, that we have fallen into idolatry: messianic rhetoric.  Pastor: the chief executive of the Republic is not the Davidic monarch. In fact, you named the David monarch: Jesus!

He does not need Donald J. Trump to be his vice-regent on earth.

We are thankful that you are guiding him, that you are giving him the words to unite this party, this country, that together we can defeat the liberal Democratic Party, to keep us divided and not united.

If you were worried, this sentence should end your worries. If I were an atheist creating a parody of Know-Nothing, hateful, theocratic folly, this would be it.

First, God might be guiding Donald Trump, but then God is surely guiding anyone who calls on God’s name.

Second, I am not sure how the pastor knows God is creating a Third Testament from the Words of Trump, but this is a remarkable insight. What evidence do we have that this is true? Has Mr. Trump been a uniter?

Third, Pastor Mark has again associated the Republican Party with the Church. This is heresy and bad government. It is incompatible with the Constitution of 1789. I can assure the pastor that God is not a Democrat or a Republican, but a monarchist.

Fourth, leaving aside the theological error that our job is to defeat people, Pastor Mark has associated our task with politics. This is theocratic and theocracy is a very, very bad idea politically.

Iran is not quite a theocracy, but it is close enough to give the Pastor the flavor. “We,” the good people, are Republicans while “they” the bad people are liberal Democrats. This would be more odious if you did not start to believe that the Pastor is just a mega-church grifter. I have met them: they say what the sheep want to hear so they can fleece them.

He cannot mean this . . . and yet he said it in a serious place.

Let’s be clear: for a Christian, politics is an uncertain art. I am a conservative republican, but Christian belief is compatible with many political ideas. We pick our politics out of prudence and what we (hope) works best. To demonize one group (liberal Democrats) as if we know based on religion that all their ideas are wrong is a category error.

What do I mean?

We know that we should feed the poor. A liberal Democrat Christian has one idea how to do it. I have a different idea. We listen, learn, talk and have an election. Somebody wins.

We agree on the goal, but are unsure of the means.

Because we are the United States of America and we are the conservative party under God.

Patriotism is a good thing. I love my country, but jingoism is patriotism gone bad. Just as my love for my family can become too possessive and become wicked, so my love for the USA can become jingoism, idolatry of the nation.

America is a special place just now, but we are not “better than” everyone else in some divine sense. I am unsure how conservative Trump is, or why being the conservative party makes us “under God.” I suspect this is jingoism mixed up with a theocratic urge powered by a desire to ask me for money.

To defeat every attack that comes against us, to protect the life of Donald Trump, give him the words, give him the peace, give him the power and authority to be the next President of the United States — in Jesus name, if you believe it shout Amen.

I do not believe it. I might have shouted things other than “Amen” if I had been there.

To mix spiritual warfare with partisan politics is Caesaropapism: we are confusing Caesar with the Lordship of Christ. God is not raising up a Davidic monarch so praying that he have peace and authority is wrong.

He will get his authority from the Constitution as the proximate cause and God as the ultimate cause. Those are the only words he needs in his state job. The President is not our pastor. He is not our king. He is not even our boss and he cannot fire us.

Let me be bold to say that taking on the mantle of Samuel and anointing a king is risky business. If you are a prophet, the standard is that all your prophecies must come true. If you speak for God and God has not spoken, you blaspheme.

I do not know Pastor Mark’s heart, but this prayer is terrible. It is bad theology, bad politics, though charmingly delivered. Sadly, for Pastor Mark the message matters more than the medium when it comes to messianic statement.

Praying for Trump’s security is good as is a prayer for his peace. At the end of this convention, perhaps we can have someone pray that God save our constitutional Republic, God save the separate institution of His church, and God save our sense of sanity until November.

 

 

You can watch this theological and political disaster for yourself!  Or you can go and pray that God would deliver the Party of my family, since 1856, from the evils of Caesarism and submitting our moral values to partisan politics. Surely Trump will wish to disassociate himself from such knavery.

 


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