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The Sun-Times - Heber Springs, AR
  • Brad Pfeiffer: Conflicting Prayer Requests

  • It may very well be helpful for people of different political and religious affiliations to pray together for the good of our nation.
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  • As Democrats rejoiced from Obama's re-election, I overheard some comments that God really does answer prayer. I don't claim to know about those things, but the comments did get me thinking along those lines.
     
    At the National Prayer Breakfast a few weeks back, Obama told lawmakers that he hoped the spiritual lessons of the event would carry over with a longer shelf life. "Faith is a process." he said. He lamentingly joked that when he goes back to the White House, "it's like we didn't pray."
     
    It may very well be helpful for people of different political and religious affiliations to pray together for the good of our nation. Though it does seem reasonable to wonder what they might be praying for and if God might be getting conflicting requests.
     
    For example, recall Angelina Grimke, the pre-Civil War South Carolinian who openly prayed to end slavery. She wrote "An Appeal to the Christian Women of the South" to end the 'un-Godly institution of slavery.’ As one might expect, she was ex-communicated from her church and widely condemned throughout the South where her writings were publicly burned. She was up against religious attitudes such as those of Jefferson Davis who said in 1861: "We recognize the Negro as God's Book tells us to recognize him — our inferior, fitted expressly for servitude." Davis and Grimke surely had conflicting requests in their prayers.
     
    One can imagine that Obama prays for such things as getting America's ultra-wealthy to pay fairer percentages on taxes — it took years and a re-election mandate to get Republicans to a mild capitulation. But we still have a long way to go with many tasks — like closing loopholes that ultimately allow America's ultra-wealthy to pay lower tax rates than nurses, teachers, and policemen. At times it may seem easier to pass a camel through the eye of a needle than for Republicans to give up their tax breaks for the wealthy. We poor folks don't have the money to compete with the Koch brothers and other wealthy right-wingers in influencing elections and legislative outcomes (as they have done here in Arkansas), but we know that the Democrats and President Obama greatly appreciate our prayers of support. We know that Republicans must be praying for God to keep taxes low on mega-millionaires.
     
    Obama is undoubtedly praying for equality for gays and lesbians. Religious people are saying that God has answered those prayers in our military and in many states like Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Iowa,... etc. Do you suppose that God is helping people understand that He (or She) didn't make everyone alike? Do you suppose that God wants us to understand that people are not trash just because their sexual orientation is different than most of us? If that's true, then many Republicans are not understanding God. Rather than reaching out in loving acceptance, many still firmly believe that they need to "pray away the gay."
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    Obama and other Democrats are surely praying for God to protect reproductive rights and freedoms for all women. They are praying that such decisions remain personal — between the woman, her doctor and her God. Many Republicans are praying to end these rights and freedoms for women.
     
    Democrats are praying that we can wean ourselves from dirty fossil fuels that are destroying our environment. Republicans seem very worried that all this talk about protecting the environment will cut into their wealth. They are praying for God to protect the great profits of fossil fuels.
     
    Democrats are praying that God will protect us from those who seek to undercut or even destroy programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Many Republicans are praying tor God to end these "communistic entitlements."
     
    Democrats are praying that the Republicans do not once again manufacture a "fiscal cliff" crisis in another attempt to undercut social programs and protect mega-millionaires from paying more taxes.
     
    Democrats are praying to end the sorts of vulture capitalism that produced many of these mega-millionaires at the expense of working-class Americans. Republicans are praying that God will keep government off their backs so they can do whatever they want in the sanctity of free-markets — no matter who gets cheated.
     
    We could go on and on. Religious people seem to believe that God can sort through all these requests and intervene as He (or She) sees best.
     
    Do you suppose the election was God's way of helping some of us understand that we are indeed a multi-cultural society that is not based on any particular religion? A colleague noted after the election that one only had to compare the photos of the Romney "celebration room" and the Obama "celebration room" to understand the outcome. The Romney room showed a sea of lily-white, high-society types staring at the results in dumbfounded disbelief: It was as if the slaves had risen up and burned the plantation to the ground. In contrast, the Obama room appeared as a rainbow coalition of Hispanics, Asians, Blacks, Whites and all mixes in between. Welcome to Real America.
     
    (Brad Pfeiffer of Heber Springs is one of two local contributors to Progressive Voice, a “progressive viewpoint” column)
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