Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Wrapping Christian worship in the American flag

I wish to thank Mason for starting our conversation about praying for enemies and extend a handshake to Richie for expressing himself concerning Sunday's service, and Gene for extending the conversation. Like Richie and most Christian I too "pray for our U.S. soldiers and our Allies' forces as well." In fact, June and I do so daily, especially in the evening when we pray the Litany and offer to God this petition:

For our public servants [here we say the name of President Bush], for the government and those who protect us [here we pause to pray for police officers, fire-fighters, emergency medical people, and our troops at home and abroad] they may be upheld and strengthened in every good deed."

This intercession from The Daily Prayer of the Church, a Lutheran publication (382)) is much like that in The Book of Common Prayer (150).

And like Gene, I too am greatly disturbed that we seldom (if ever) hear a prayer for our enemies--especially when the Lord Jesus specifically asked us to love, pray for, bless our enemies (Luke 6.27-28).

Like Barabar Brown Taylor, I find it disturbing that "there is no better place to forget that United States is at war than in the church." We not only never mention the war in church, we only prayer that God will "support our troops who are in harm's way." Something is wrong with our Christian witness.

Prayer is one way we continually transform the way we think about and act out our Christian witness. To eliminate public prayers for our enemies surely unfortunately suggests that before God we ought seldom concern ourselves with our enemies' needs, hopes, aspirations, frustrations, hatred, and anxietes. Such forgetfulness (it is not deliberate, I hope) does not reflect the "mind of Christ" which St. Paul (Philippians 2) encourages us to cultivate. Surely our orthodoxy must be more generous, and I urge all of us to speak to our pastors and those who lead us prayer to express the will of God as articulated, not necessarily by our government, but by the life and witness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let all of us who commit ourselves--privately and publically--to the Lordship of Jesus in our lives, pray for our enemies. In particuular, let us pray for insurgents and their families, for Iraqi Muslims who hate us, and for those who belong to al-Quaida. For starters, we might use a prayer like this prayer written by Sid Lovett, Sr., a 1916 Union Theological Seminary graduate, who wrote a series of prayers during World War II and the Korean War:

O God, Who art kind unto the unthankful and to the evil, and sendest Thy rain on the just and the unjust: send forth into our minds, we beseech Thee, the spirit of Thy Son, whereby we may acknowledge Thee to be the Father of all men, and may from our hearts pray for our enemies, not that their will, but Thine, be accomplished in them, even as we pray that Thy will and not ours be done in us. So shall we all be children of the Highest, abounding in hope through the power of the same Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.


Blogger Gene Kleppinger said...

Where did you find that strange picture? Is he holding up a "peace sign" gesture? It's incredible, and I do mean "unbelievable."

Wednesday, 05 July, 2006  
Blogger Gene Kleppinger said...

My conscience does not permit me to pray for the "success" of our military enterprises, because they are aimed so straightforwardly at killing people. I do not believe that "the American way" is worth preserving through attacking other nations' military forces and civilians. I do not understand how military chaplains (etc.) can "bless" troops primed to kill others. I also do not understand how a Christian soldier decides that his/her own life, or the life of any American, is more worthy of protection than that of an "enemy." I am sometimes able to get past those blockades and pray for the safety and rationality of the individuals on various sides. But I see them (mostly) as locked into hierarchies and roles that invariably prevent them from acting humanely or Christ-ly as the first principle. I also try to pray that God's Spirit will lead to greater active resistance among Christians in the military, but I know that the "servanthood" of military service can easily masquerade as "honoring God."

I know that there are also "peacekeeping" military activities, and I hope to find more ways to pray for the individuals involved in them. I am actively interested in promoting the idea of a Peace Tax Fund to permit conscientious objectors (like me) to divert that part of our federal taxes that currently pays for war into funding for peace actions.

Wednesday, 05 July, 2006  

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