Thursday, July 31, 2008

Obama prays: ‘Make me an instrument of your will’

And well might we all. In private. But Melanie Phillips has discovered something more than a little distasteful about the prayer which Barack Obama lodged in a crack in Jerusalem’s Western Wall last week. It was allegedly removed ‘by a religious student’ and subsequently published in the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv.

Sacrilege. How unprincipled. Outrageous abuse. Appalling breach of privacy.

Not a bit of it.

Ms Phillips was on to Senator Obama from the outset: “Was it really likely,” she asks, “that Senator Obama would have inserted such a note in such a place, with the serried ranks of the world's media lenses pointing at him, without at the very least harbouring the teensiest suspicion that within seconds it would be removed and its contents find their way into a newspaper?”

And the contents of the note were then broadcast to the world:

Lord - protect my family and me. Forgive my sins, and help me guard against pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will.

And she speculates that the messianic ‘Redeemer from Illinois’ had pitched a prayer not to the Almighty, but one ‘tailored for those American voters who are perhaps amongst the most suspicious of Barack Obama – evangelical Christians who would surely be moved and impressed by a display of such piety’.

But it has been revealed that ‘Obama’s note was published in Maariv and other international publications following his authorisation to make the content of the note public. Obama submitted a copy of the note to media outlets when he left his hotel in Jerusalem...

So, while there are denials, it appears that the pious and devoted Christian Barack Obama wrote his sincere prayer and stuck it in the Western Wall with the fullest knowledge that it should be made public.

The scriptural injunction is clear: ‘But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly’ (Mt 6:6).

It is the exercising of ourselves in secret prayer which distinguishes sincere Christians from hypocrites, who go through their religious exercises merely to be seen and approved by man. Such people love to pray standing on the street corners, in full display, or have their prayers broadcast to the world simply to invigorate their campaign and ameliorate their opinion poll rating.

Well, the Lord tells the Senator that he has received his reward in full.

Religious hypocrites place a far higher value upon the applause and adulation of man than they do upon the approbation of the Lord. The outstanding mark of a hypocrite is that he is one thing in private, but quite another in public. The genuine Christian knows that God sees and hears him in secret, and cultivates communion with him in private devotion. The diligence with which we perform our private devotions is the criterion of our sincerity.

Whether this story is true or not, Cranmer does not know. But Ms Phillips draws attention to a much more serious issue, which is the undoubted disparity that exists between the way the media treats the ‘religious right’ and what is rarely termed the 'religious left’ (which does not appear to exist, notwithstanding the Socialist Bishops of the Church of England). President Bush was mocked and vilified for disclosing that he prayed, with the world’s media portraying him as a ‘religious nutter’ for ‘taking instructions’ on how he should govern and wage war. ‘Barack Obama, however, has actually asked the Almighty - in a handwritten note that he purportedly imagines will be read by the Divine eyes - to make me an instrument of your will.’

She might well ask ‘Where are the howls of outrage from the rationalist media now?’

Why is it that politicians on the religious left are respected for their sincerity, piety and humility, while those of the religious right are judged to be fanatical, fundamentalist, superficial and hypocritical?

Is it because they are right?


Blogger Sammy said...

Yet another interesting piece Your Grace.

Do you believe a Christian should post prayers in a wall used by a no-Christian faith?

31 July 2008 at 10:32  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Why is it that politicians on the religious left are respected for their sincerity, piety and humility, while those of the religious right are judged to be fanatical, fundamentalist, superficial and hypocritical?"

Respected by whom? If you mean The Guardian, Independent etc, then obviously because they are left-wing, not because they claim to be religious. The 'religious left' doesn't take religion qua religion that seriously because it treats questions like divine intervention, divine communication, specific intercession, judgment, and the afterlife as problematic and doubtful at best. Obama's own 'faith' is a fairly secular kind, more interested in social activism than mystical communion, whether visions of glory for the catholic, kneeling (er, sitting) before the (metaphorical) cross for the protesant, or demon-busting glossolalia for the charistmatic. Perhaps he wouldn't agree with Howard Dean that Job is his favorite book of the New Testament, but otherwise they are probably on the same page.
What he can't escaper is his narcissism: the 'prayer' is 'all about me'.

31 July 2008 at 10:32  
Blogger mckenzie said...

We are being threatened by religious nutters, so maybe one of our own wouldn't go amiss. The nutters from the left don't seem to be aware of the dangers, so maybe a Christian nutter is what we need.
I seem to fit the description of religious nutter myself, and I know what my response would be: a Phineas one.

31 July 2008 at 18:43  
Anonymous hear o israel said...

or just how the media treats christianity , as being an unprovable nutters organisation .

it is nice prayer , however looking at how mr obama uses litigation you do wonder if your latter paragraph may not have been nearer

31 July 2008 at 18:46  
Anonymous Confused said...

'the diligence with which 'we' perform our devotions', Your Grace?

'....I am.....non-religious, (although) empathetic to the concept...'

31 July 2008 at 19:31  
Blogger mckenzie said...

For those of us who believe that the Bible has something remotely to do with our Christian faith, then if we can know anything, we can surely know this: God judges nations.

31 July 2008 at 20:42  
Anonymous Stonemason said...

I presume you were not shocked to see a surfeit of hypocrisy, could you expect honesty from the political classes, no matter what flavour.

Come now your Grace, the "Obama" circus is far to base a subject for your contemplation, I fear the machinations of the US political parties are rotten beyond putrefaction, a world where right is might and truth is a variable commodity bought and sold in the market place.

31 July 2008 at 20:52  

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