Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Is there a prayer for a prayer to please the prayerful types among us?

I can’t say I was overly offended by the Supreme Court of the United States ruling that said local governments could proceed with their desires to kick off their board meetings with a prayer.

What clergy would be willing to pray in front of, instead of for, the City Council? Photograph by Gregory Tejeda
In my duties as a reporter-type person, I have encountered such bodies that feel the need for a prayer.

USUALLY, THOSE PRAYERS turn out to be some generic statement that doesn’t come close to appeasing those in our society who want their particular religious faith to prevail over our society as a whole.

In fact, it always cracks me up when a pastor includes a line that goes something like, “Give our local government officials the strength to avoid screwing everything up.”

Actually, the pastors usually find a more diplomatic way to phrase that sentiment. But praying for government to avoid saying, or doing, something stupid is probably about as positive a sentiment that can be expressed.

My point is that the actual prayers that come out of these government meetings usually don’t amount to much.

AS FOR THOSE people who will argue that allowing such prayer permits the notion of organized religion in our society to be reinforced, I’d wonder what fantasy world you’re living in.

Many organized religions do have a place within the society as a whole. Trying to claim they don’t exist, or play any role in our society (How many hospitals and charitable organizations have religious affiliations?) is about as ridiculous as pretending the Chicago Cubs are a pennant contender right now!

So the nation’s high court, in a 5-4 ruling that went largely along politically partisan lines, issued a ruling saying that the idea of permitting a generic prayer at the beginning of a Village Board or City Council meeting was not, in and of itself, a violation of the concept of “separation of church and state” that is a primary point of our way of government.

Even though the overly-religious amongst us seem to resent that idea. And I’m sure they right now are giddy with joy at the thought that they scored a moral victory over all the immoral reprobates amongst the rest of us – who are the majority of us.

YET I CAN’T help but wonder if those people realize that these prayers are ever so generic to the point that I occasionally hear people complain that they’re not “holy” enough.

I wonder if the high court has just reinforced the idea of generic prayer. To the point where the overly-religious types will start complaining that their particular view isn’t getting big-enough play.

I know of one village board I routinely cover in my current duties with a suburban newspaper that makes a point of rotating prayer duties amongst every single church in town – meaning each pastor gets to do a public prayer about once each year-and-a-half.

No more! No less! Then, there's the Cook County Board, which goes out of its way to have such a variety of clergy do its opening prayers that I'm sure somebody is bothered that so much diverse religious thought is given credence.

I KNOW OF another suburban city council I cover that never offers up a prayer, although I suspect the only way a clergy member would ever set foot in that particular council chamber was if he/she could douse the room with holy water first.

What with all the borderline seedy deals that have been concocted (and approved) there during the past few decades.

The only real harm is from the people who want to perceive the prayer itself as the reason for a government meeting, instead of the conducting of its business.

When the “prayer police” start ranting that there “wasn’t enough Jesus” in the opening prayer, or that people weren’t somehow being respectful enough during their moment of silence, then we’ll get the problem.

ALBEIT ONE THAT I suspect most of us will address by disregarding these religious rants.

Because we all know of people who just feel the need to find something to complain about. If it isn’t the prayer, it will be something else.


No comments: