Friday, June 10, 2011

Another Day in the Bible Belt

I've been reading about our nation's great need to come together to pray and fast. The first thing I think about calls of this kind is that they are a complete waste of time and that I'm fairly happy if the retrograde morons responsible for them keep themselves occupied with this frivolous crap rather than continuing to push a harmful political agenda on the American people. At least, I always think, they might lose a little weight.

Of course, that's not what these calls are all about. These calls for national prayer and massive organized prayer meetings are entirely political; they are an attempt to turn people frightened and uncertain about economic conditions into a mass movement to support their political agenda without, often, those people even realizing they are being used in that way. Look at how they sell their prayer jamboree (or prayerboreetm).

First, they draw our attention to certain unnamed threats to our country.

It's important to keep those threats deliberately vague so as to increase the membership in the group. If you mention, say, an increase in illegal immigration as a threat, you will get anti-immigrant groups to sign on, but you will discourage participation from other groups. If you mention capitalist exploitation of the poor and working class, you will alienate different groups. Thus, the threats must be as vague as possible to draw in the largest number of participants.

Everyone knows, from their own lives, what they feel is threatening to them and their nation, so you don't really need to fill in the threats with something specific. In addition, a mention of a specific threat might indicate a specific, workable solution, and that undermines the point of calling for prayer which, as the call for prayer emphasizes, is intended for problems we cannot solve on our own.

Second, they bring together these people together for some act of solidarity: a prayer meeting, a day on which they pray together. That provides the appearance of mass support for the as-yet unstated agenda. Maybe the organizers and participants believe that prayer will solve their unnamed problems. However, it's fairly likely that people are praying on their own anyway, if they believe prayer is efficacious. And this call is not for quiet, solitary prayer but for an organized gathering (in Houston) for that prayer. So the point is not prayer per se but a large gathering committed to whatever agenda the organizers can push on our gullible media as the point of the meeting. We have to look a bit for the real agenda. What are they pushing under the guise of a generalized prayer for American well-being? (Do we not care about anyone else now? Can we pray for the good of all humanity, or is that too much work?)

The agenda is, of course, explicitly Christian, but not of a specific sect. Here's an example from the call:
The ancient paths of great men were blazed in prayer – the humility of the truly great men of history was revealed in their recognition of the power and might of Jesus to save all who call on His great name.
I don't know what truly great men they have in mind, but I honestly have trouble thinking of people who did great things because of their recognition of Jesus' power and might. But the call isn't just Christian, it implies a rejection of non-Christians and people not of (their) faith. In the FAQ section, they add:
We believe that America is in a state of crisis. Not just politically, financially or morally, but because we are a nation that has not honored God in our successes or humbly called on Him in our struggles.
Here they say:
Why did God desire fasting, weeping, and mourning – or, to put it differently, contrition and humility – from the people? A "sacred assembly" (Joel 2:15) was a gathering that served a few purposes: first, in gathering, the people were acknowledging that their nation had drifted away from its foundations in morality and faith. Because of this moral decline, the people were not prepared to face the external threats rising up against them: economic, political, and military in nature. God wanted His people to understand that their internal threats (moral decline) were far greater than their external threats (economic crisis and military invasion).

(Oddly, despite noting in the list of the few purposes, a "first" purpose, there is no "second" purpose mentioned. Could they only count to one?)

This passage conflates faith and morality, and faith is treated as exclusively Christian, so the call is to return to some imagined Christian past of our nation to change the government in whatever direction the leaders want. (They mention Catholics and Protestants as responsible for the previous spiritual movements, so their intent is to elide differences within Christianity to produce the largest Christian movement possible. I've always been amazed that they think all these differences--do you need to listen to the Pope to go to heaven?--are irrelevant.)

Finally, the leadership of the event is entirely conservative and Republican, led by Texas Governor Goodhair (I mean, Rick Perry). So, this is just another mostly transparent attempt to take advantage of the fears of the ignorant to support their conservative/Republican political agenda. Probably most of the people who would attend prayergasmtm 2011 would want to send the conservative political message that its backers want to send, but it's a sign of the intellectual poverty and dishonesty of the movement that they refuse to make any such explicit calls when trying to gain public support. Instead they rely on fear-mongering against vague or undefined threats in order to bolster the appearance of public support for their views and then, presumably, they will try to parley that public show into support for them politically.

In other words, just another day in the Bible Belt.

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