Air Force squadron sings ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ during mandatory prayers

Julie M. wrote to me with a pretty funny story:


Good luck. My air force brother asked me to forward this. He hopes you’ll get a kick out of it.

He had a squadron commander who liked group prayer. This made two men in my brother’s crew uncomfortable.

Solution, organize the whole squadron to hum Mary had a little lamb very softly during prayers. Prayers stopped.

Hilarious. I suppose that’s one way to make like a shepherd and get the flock out of there!

Mary had a little lamb

I can’t see this strategy working in my unit, as I’m one of the handful looking around during the regular prayers and invocations. I see a few atheists looking around, but even they are outnumbered by the giggling children who don’t understand prayer. Perhaps this anecdote is from a different era.

The first thing they say is “All rise and remain standing for the arrival of the official party, the national anthem, and the prayer / invocation.” Then the Chaplain tells the crowd “Please bow your head… blah blah blah… thank you dear lord for this and that… please keep them safe as they go through blah blah blah… Amen.” (sometimes they’ll even throw in ‘In Jesus Name, Amen’)

There is no such thing as ‘all-inclusive prayer’

I once had a high ranking chaplain tell me that he tries to be all-inclusive with his invocations. The conversation went like this:

CH: “I don’t use the phrase ‘In Jesus Name’ because I want everyone to pray in their own way.”

JG: “Sir, that’s your Christian privilege showing again.”

CH: “How so?

JG: “Think about it. How many times have you given invocations. Perhaps hundreds or even thousands, right?”

CH: “Perhaps.”

JG: “Have you ever seen a small group of soldiers turn to face Mecca? Has that ever happened even once?”

CH: “Well, no. I guess not. But I wouldn’t have a problem if they did.”

JG: “I should hope not. But, will you give them time to orient themselves and perhaps look it up on google maps, or something?”

CH: “I see what you mean.”

JG: “And what about me? What if ‘my way of praying’ is to scream very loudly? And, of course, swearing with great frequency – is that acceptable?”

CH: “Ha ha. Yep, I see what you mean there. It’s very interesting.”

The conversation drifted elsewhere, and I’m paraphrasing from memory. But it was telling. He is a genuinely nice guy, and his intentions were noble. But the system is broken. Prayer as a part of official ceremonies is not all-inclusive, and this thought hasn’t even occurred to some of the most open-minded chaplains.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • R Hayes

    Pray like a pirate, arrrgh!

  • Mark

    Hi, yes, “not believing” in prayer is not a “form of prayer”,

    and for non believers even an “inclusive” prayer is still a prayer. But there is a way forward, for remembrance ceremonies we have the minutes silence, and of course, silence to remember the dead, is of course non-denominational and as secular as you want it to be, so perhaps in ceremonies we can have silent periods of remembrance where people are permitted to pray silently, or merely reflect, in their own way.

    Ultimately, we should ask who religious ceremonies are for. If it were for a fallen comrade, then, if they were religious, then so should be the ceremony, and as an atheist, I would respect that. I am undecided whether I should pray myself, maybe out of respect for them and what they believed in, being only words, taking part out of respect for an individual.

    But if it were a more “inclusive” ceremony, where some people may not be religious, then there should be no prayer, and if their were, then I would not pray. In fact, in this context, the silence is the only amicable solution, ie to impose my desire *not* to pray on those who wish to, is as onerous as imposing prayer on me against my wishes, so those that wish to pray should be allowed to do so, and those who do not, need not. For this, time should be allowed, but it be in silence. If one were religious, one would probably believe that your god knows what is in your heart, so there should be no need to pray “out loud”, and any worthwhile god would realise that.

  • LOL, Mary had a little lamb. I love it. Almost makes me wish I would be subjected to prayer so I can give it a go. Thankfully, I live where that only very infrequently happens.