In a two-year election season we see a lot of ugliness, and a lot of boundaries pushed, and the publishing of Barack Obama’s prayer at the Western Wall – the holiest site in Judaism – is seriously out-of-bounds.
I’m kind of appalled that anyone took his prayer out of that wall, more appalled that it was made public, and incredibly appalled that some a faith-based site is “fisking” the prayer while a few bloggers (and forum commenters) are daring to mock it or to judge its content as being insufficient because it does not mention his country, or Israel.
To which I have to reply – to anyone enjoying or exploiting the theft of this prayer, or judging it: “screw that. You don’t get to decide on or judge another’s prayer.”
If that seems uncharacteristically harsh, well…I never said I was a saint. In fact, it is precisely because I am no saint that I am so offended by the idea of anyone glomming on to someone else’s prayer – particularly for the very basest of reasons: to make political hay of it.
I’ve had a few emails from people niggling at the fact that he used hotel stationary (so what? – it was supposed to be private and unseen!) or that he used a yarmulke from the box provided, instead of bringing his one of his own (so what? – he went to the Wall and he did it reverently!) or that he did not capitalize the Y in “your” (SO FREAKING WHAT? What shames God more – an uncapitalized Y or the ugliness you’re allowing to feast within yourself? You hate when the Bush haters get unhinged and ugly in their hate, why are you allowing yourselves to succumb to all of the same temptations? How is that glorifying God?)
I probably shouldn’t be writing, because I’m pretty angry right now, and whenever I write angry, I end up regretting it. But you know…shanty Irish, over here…must bellow a bit.
Obama’s prayer seemed to me to be a deeply personal prayer – and one I have prayed myself, as have countless others; it is a petition for protection, forgiveness, help with personal weaknesses and for wisdom. It expressed a willingness to be an instrument of God’s will. St. Francis prayed like that. I do. Everyone I know does. And, again, can’t be said enough – the prayer was private.
And for heaven’s sake, had the prayer included a reference to the country – or Israel or the world – these same critics would probably be the first to crow that the prayer and its theft was a choreographed event meant to appeal to the religious right. Or, they’d be saying, “look, more proof that he’s a megalomaniac! He’s praying for countries and the world!”
A megalomaniac Obama may well be…but who among us has no fault, no weakness, no neuroses? And how dare anyone step on a man’s prayer?
Someone wrote to me:
Campaign posters do not belong at the Kotel
No, they don’t. But private prayers are not yours or mine to judge!
I know that sometimes our prayers are open-hearted intercessions for friends, strangers, nations, etc. But sometimes our prayers are simply about those concerns nearest our hearts; they are simply “me, me, me, mine, mine, mine, please, please, please.” So what?
None of us are perfect – none of us pray perfectly – and good heavens most of us would not like the deepest parts of our prayer put out there for public judgment and mockery. I know I wouldn’t. My prayers, unless I’m clearly sharing them with others, are between me and God, and they’re no one else’s damn business.
There is no man so good that if he placed all his actions and thoughts under the scrutiny of the laws, he would not deserve hanging ten times in his life. – Michel Monataigne
If you’re a human person trying to live in the world with other human persons, you have to remember their humanity, and you have to maintain a little bit of your own. You have to have some appreciation for boundaries, too.
As Reason writes: this is a foulball, badly played. I’m glad now, that President Bush did not go to the Western Wall and leave a prayer, because undoubtedly something similar to this would have played out, because more and more people – on both sides – seem to have no sense of boundaries, and society itself seems to have lost its understanding of basic decency.
God, help us.
Ed Morrissey links, Thanks Ed.