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Debate Questions About Prayer

By The Reverend Published: August 21, 2007

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I did not watch the Sunday Democratic "debate".....don't you think there are waaaay too many of these primary debates? What's up with that?

Disclaimer: The following post may offend religious folks. If you are easily offended by hard questions or challenges to Christianity, you may not want to go any further.

Anyway, being The Reverend, I was interested in the transcript of the "prayer" question, asked by George Stephanopolous, and the subsequent answers by the big three (Clinton, Edwards, Obama) in Sunday's "debate". Let's look at the question first.....

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me move on now. We've got a question -- we've got an e-mail question from Seth Ford of South Jordan, Utah.

And he said, "My question is to understand each candidates' view of a personal God. Do they believe that, through the power of prayer, disasters like Hurricane Katrina or the Minnesota bridge collapse could have been prevented or lessened?"

There are two questions in that question. The first is implied. "....view of personal God....". The questioner is really asking if the candidates have a relationship (prayer) with a "personal God". A (faith) relationship that would lead them to believe that asking God to do stuff could actually make God....do the stuff they ask. That's the question. John Edwards gave the only answer. The others avoided the question. Here's Edwards....

EDWARDS: I have prayed most of my life; pray daily now. He's enormously important to me.

But the answer to the question is: No, I don't -- I prayed before my 16-year-old son died; I prayed before Elizabeth was diagnosed with cancer. I think there are some things that are beyond our control.

And I think it is enormously important to look to God -- and, in my case, Christ -- for guidance and for wisdom. But I don't think you can prevent bad things from happening through prayer.

John Edwards answers the question. He prays but he doesn't believe the God he prays to will "prevent bad things from happening" because of prayer. That's honesty. If you are looking for honesty....that is what it looks like. It's painfully obvious that God, if he's out there, doesn't stop bad things from happening because we pray. Edwards mentions the two bad things God didn't prevent in his family. Devout prayerful Christians have terrible things befall them all the time.

Hillary Clinton didn't answer the question. She tried to inject a bit of humor into her answer and by doing so made it seem like everything was all about her. Very calculating answer but politically very smart.

CLINTON: Well, I don't pretend to understand the wisdom and the power of God. I do believe in prayer. And I have relied on prayer consistently throughout my life. You know, I like to say that, if I had not been a praying person before I got to the White House, after having been there for just a few days I would've become one.

Barak Obama didn't answer the question either. He probably understood, as Hillary did, that the question was a kind of 'gotcha' question. It's that implied "personal God" thing the questioner was really after anyway. Obama answerd differently than Clinton or Edwards.....

OBAMA: I believe in the power of prayer. And part of what I believe in is that, through prayer, not only can we strengthen ourselves in adversity, but that we can also find the empathy and the compassion and the will to deal with the problems that we do control. Link>

Obama believes that prayer, like meditation, is for our own personal benefit, subjectively. Not that prayer, if done sincerely enough, or in huge numbers, will 'persuade' a "personal God" to do something he wasn't planning on doing, like, say, stop a bridge from falling down.

I bring this all up for a couple of reasons.

One, my counterpart, Political Guru, has submitted one post that I know of which states, "Religion and politics Dont Mix And should never Mix."

All due respect and all, however, I do believe that train left the station a long time ago. The Republican Party has MADE religion an issue, particularly under the reign of King George II. And nothing has changed much during his reign either. I still hear, see and read those oh-so-self-righteous comments by GOP'ers reminding me that they are the party of the "values voters".

And isn't it interesting to see the new GOP frontrunner exercise program. The program I call the fustercluck of flip-flop. Romney and Giuliani can't flip their viewpoints fast enough to satisfy those "values voters". I imagine it's better than aerobics.

The truth is the Republican Party has hitched their wagon to the extremist evangelical right and now can't win without their support. Right or wrong, religion in politics is here to stay.

Secondly. The belief, held widely in America, is that the God of Christianity is a "personal" God. A God with whom believers can form a "personal relationship". The essence of the "debate" question.

A few questions. How can a human being have a "personal relationship" with a "personal" God, if that God neither speaks, can be seen, nor responds to us when we pray, as Edwards rightly stated? We have "personal relationships" with, like, persons. Persons talk to us, persons can be seen and touched and, you know, related to. But God? A "personal" God? We can even have a "relationship" with our pets. We can interact with them, pet them, even communicate somewhat with them. Can we do this with God?

Evangelical Christianity's "gospel" involves a "born again personal relationship" with the Christian Saviour God. A Saviour we can't see, who doesn't talk, and who doesn't save us from tragedy. In other words, a Saviour God who NEVER has personal relationships with humans, at all. It is self-apparent that this is true.

In spite of that, 'personal relationship in God' believers, whose united prayers never prevent tragedy from happening, still insist on asking Democratic candidates, in an oh-so-pious way, if they believe in the "power of prayer".

Evangelical Christianity and today's Republican Party are made for each other. They are both dishonest.

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