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Do you want to hear something really funny?
As a Lutheran Christian pastor, a few months back I was invited to lead the Invocation—the opening prayer—before the Michigan State Senate. It was somewhat of a last minute request, but since I can write stuff pretty quickly and easily, I was happy to help.
After submitting the prayer’s manuscript for the record, it was returned to me censored, having been marked up as essentially too Christian. In other words, I didn’t allow room in my prayer for accommodating the doctrines of all the other systems of belief that would be present in the Senate chamber. In one particular phone conversation, I was told the prayer wasn’t really supposed to be a prayer in the formal sense, anyway, but rather more of an opportunity to encourage the Senators, giving them praise for the good work they’ve done and are doing.
First of all, why refer to it as a prayer, then? If it’s nothing but a hip-hoorah session, just call in a motivational speaker and deem it a team-building exercise. Second, I don’t think the Senate is actually finding much success in their work. For one, the Christian Church is experiencing unprecedented levels of persecution in Michigan. In this regard, I think they’re failing the populace miserably, which is why I’d much rather bring them together to ask for God’s help than to encourage them to continue pursuing such folly. Thirdly, I’m one who, like Charles de Gaulle, believes politics is far too serious a matter to be left to politicians, and so when given the opportunity to influence the course of public policy, I’m going to stick to my principles and lend my voice. I suppose lastly, isn’t it getting pretty close to the peak of disingenuousness to ask a Christian pastor to pray in a way that would imply the Atheists in the room could be right? I mean, how would that even happen with any seriousness?
“Heavenly Father, hear our prayers this day—that is, if You exist. But hey, if You don’t, no worries. This is all for show, anyway. Great job, folks! Keep up the good work! Oh yeah, and amen!”
Anyway, I was given the opportunity to rewrite the prayer, which I did try to do somewhat. But with each resubmission, the results were the same. In the end, I just couldn’t stomach the changes being demanded, and with that, I felt the need to bow out.
To make a long story short, after doing what I could to reach out to the folks in charge, I eventually voiced my concerns in protest by way of social media. A facet of my complaint involved writing a more satirical prayer, one that I felt communicated a more genuine spirit of what the Michigan Senate was asking me to do. Within days my concerns gained fairly significant traction throughout the state. By the following weekend, I’d received a phone call and apology from the Senate Majority Leader, and I was invited back as his personal guest to offer the prayer as it was originally written.
This still hasn’t happened. I’m going to assume this is true because the COVID-19 crisis landed on the country right around the same time this was all being sorted out.
Hmm. That’s peculiar.
Still, I haven’t gotten to the humor in all of this.
I’m guessing most of my readers know I’m no stranger to the political scene in Michigan. For the most part, people around here know this. What’s funny is that over the past few weeks, as we’ve drawn nearer to a rather significant primary election, I’ve received the usual requests from various candidates and their managers to consider writing public endorsements for them. All of these candidates typically claim the title “conservative.” Most even wear the badge “Christian.”
But beware. Even villains know how to smile.
Indeed, this year there’ve been some who not all that long ago worked pretty hard to prevent me from offering that prayer before the Senate, saying behind closed doors it was far too partisan a thing to do. One candidate in particular was exceptionally vicious in her efforts, using her power behind the scenes to malign and shelve me.
Nothing ever really came of it, though. I think this is true because to the wiser among us, a comparison was made. I’d taken a principled stand on something we both claimed, and yet she’d proven herself unprincipled and mean-spirited when it came time to do the same. This became apparent to folks who didn’t know this of her before. Beyond that, I think she also miscalculated my lazy concern for her efforts. She already has the reputation of going after anyone who gets in her way, and I suppose this tendency has been fostered by so many who’ve responded by simply submitting to the intimidation. But I’m a pastor. I get crapped on all the time. Jesus said this would happen, and I can deal with that. What I can’t do is sacrifice the Church’s integrity or break from faithfulness to the Lord who established it. When a politician drops a load on me, the level of bother is no different in this regard. In fact, it’s even less of a concern when it’s from the kind of person who’ll praise others only if they praise her first.
In my humble opinion, this has all been an exercise in seeing that for many in positions of authority, honor will always be a luxury, while for the rest of us, it’s something we must actually bear and employ lest the trenches that actually matter be overrun.
The citizens are the ones holding the line against the darkness, not the politicians.
Needless to say, I won’t be endorsing certain candidates. They’re obviously in it for the glory. Of course if they called me to chat, and we somehow were able to work through these concerns in a way that revealed my ponderings to be in error, I’d be glad for the discussion. Admittedly, a whisky summit sounds nice. Undeniably, such things are never beyond the borders of my willingness. I’ll even bring the booze—something crisp, and most certainly peace-inducing.
In fact, I know just the edition for the occasion: Batch 003 from the Tamdhu “Batch Strength” series.
There are a couple of reasons why this whisky comes to mind in this instance. The first would be the basics of its vibrant contours. With a rich nose of vanilla-soaked blackberries, to share this whisky with a foe would communicate a genuine desire for peace. No one but God would share such treasures with an opponent knowing full well the person may continue to despise him.
To travel together past the scent to a generous sip from the bottle’s spicy plumcot innards steers even deeper into this truth.
The finish—a lengthy draw of malty citrus and spice—would, at a minimum, seal the deal on cordiality.
The other reason for sharing this particular dram is less about establishing amity and more about strategy. With a cask strength ABV of 58.3%, a few generous pours would see to my lightweight opponents being well-numbed during the negotiation. Translating this into politispeak, they’d be more likely to yield to my terms than I would be to theirs.
“Be as sneaky as snakes and as gentle as doves,” the good Lord said—who, for the record, I fully believe exists, and as the ancient Creeds declare, is far more than just the cuddly, sheep-toting Shepherd we like to envision, but also the Pantocrator—the One who will at the last apply His standards in judgment, not ours.
When you really believe this… well, you know the whole “sticks and stones” thing.