What struck me most about the inauguration ceremony was the prayer content. Silent prayer, performed prayer, eyes open prayer, eyes closed prayer. A Christian Country publicly and politically proclaiming its leadership to be Followers of The Way. The previous administration was no different. Mixing images of Trump’s hairstyle being cossetted by the hands of church leaders in Power of Prayer – with claims of fake news, alternative facts, and 180-character sledgehammer insults on a daily basis.
Perhaps I am just a tad world weary, but the eternal and expected corralling of God to the coat-tails of politicians makes me sigh each time. In the same world weary way I was taught to pray for our “world leaders” every Sunday (or more frequently if I had a Prayer List).
Local leaders never seem to merit prayer time. Just national and world leaders. A conversation there for another day perhaps.
And I was always taught to pray with my eyes shut. Just another thing one accepts when young as the way Followers of The Way do God stuff. When I was older I looked around. Meeting the eyes of another “eyes wide open” pray-er was always fun. Each “eyes wide open” pray-er assumed they would be the only one. And eye-contact always caused the other to quickly look away and do the heads down/eyes closed prayer pose.
Some of this God stuff is really weird.
Many on the Presidential Platform were eyes wide open. The President-elect being one. Not during his silent prayer call – obvs. Just when others were prayer performing. Because that’s how these prayers come across to me. A performance. Displaying loyalty to the Supreme Being whilst entrapping the Supreme Being to the will of the Political Circus. A weird God Stuff relationship where the Supreme Being being worshipped is expected to deliver the Political Institution’s shopping list. Which is the same for the vast majority of prayers all suffixed with “in Jesus name we ask, amen.”
We seem to be addicted to our Performance and Shopping List Prayers.
I was the Chief Performance Shopping List Prayer Writer at Junior School. Any special assembly, any reason for a school gathering where prayers were needed – I was that prayer writer. And they were performance prayers. Written by me to God for us and only us. I have no memory of the words I wrote but they were good.
You don’t get the title – and keep the title – if the words aren’t good.
And I recognise the flippancy of my words in this post. Yet I see that same flippancy week after week, time after time, in ceremony after ceremony. In inaugurations and celebrations and church services. Eyes tight shut or wide open is irrelevant. A scheduled and practiced delivery of God stuff with just the right words for just the right occasion.
Words written by us for us.
Before getting straight to work and shredding many of the outgoing administration’s policies. Just as the previous administration did after its own God Seal of Approval. And let’s not mention all those millions and millions of “earthly” dollars spent shredding each other on the way to even getting a shot at the title/position of authority enabling their shredding. God is so very convenient so often and for so many.
And yet …
The Institution of God runs on those same earthly dollars and pounds (and any-every currency on earth). It takes money to convert peeps, to keep converted peeps, to pay the building bills, the staff wages, the taxes and supplier bills.
The stock market and investments of all sorts is the church’s answer. Ethically – obvs. Church taxes are called tithing nowadays. Giving back to God (allegedly) what God gave to us (or a small percentage). Ten-percent is biblically correct. Which means God is obviously happy that we keep the other ninety-percent of His bounteous bounty. A generous God indeed!
No wonder we give performance prayers at every opportunity!
I wonder if any political party gave ten-percent of the obscene amounts of money raised for political canvassing and media slandering and shredding of the other side? Just asking – seeing as the prayer performances are explicit: God is with us more than with them.
Except they say and believe the same: God is with us (who are now them) more than them (who are now us). Just like when we go to war – God is with us and not them. Except their God is with them and not us.
All of us tying God to our comfortable way of life and protected institutions. Tying God to our earthly ambitions and earthly success. The Good News illustrates how that ends up usually.
God gets stuffed.
I hope that God is tied to this administration – to all administrations. But I fear that when the Institution of God (or “church” as we know it) ties God up in very secure knots of so many different and conflicting versions of “biblical correctness” – and then cultivates a partnership of mutual convenience with political institutions the world over …
I am not so sure.