Monday, July 15, 2013
I covet all the prayers I can get...
I know what he meant but I also know what he meant. On the one hand his was a typical comment made often to all kinds of clergy -- suggesting they are closer to God than others and therefore have more sway with the Almighty... But on the other hand, he was also saying it matters little which deity you pray to as long as the prayers get answered. The more the better. The more diverse the pray-ers the more likely the prayers will be answered -- as you like.
I get this all the time. I am sure every Pastor does. But it has taken on a new meaning. With the diversity of religious expression now cultivated as well as found in America, the prayers and blessings of a breadth of people, religions, and deities are treated much the same way we might have welcomed the prayers of Christians of different denominations in the past.
So it took on new form when I read of a multi-faith baccalaureate service in which all the holy folk got up to raise their hands in blessing and impart the good wishes of a multiplicity of religions and gods upon those attending. How could you go wrong with so many folks prayin for ya! Indeed!!
Western Nevada College held a unique Multi-faith Baccalaureate Service on May 20 in Carson City, the first in its 41 plus years of existence.
According to religious statesman Rajan Zed, co-organizer of this Service along with Douglas Diversity Student Club of WNC; faith leaders belonging to Christian (various denominations), Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Baha’i and Native American traditions blessed the graduates with their respective prayers in this Service. Dance and music also formed part of this ceremony and a representative of non-believers also addressed the Service.
Religious leaders who participated included Saint Teresa of Avila Catholic Community Carson City Pastor Father Charles T. Durante, Carson City 1st United Methodist Church Pastor Reverend Dixie Jennings-Teats, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Quorum of the Seventy Member George Marion Keele, Northern Nevada Muslim Community President Doctor Sherif A. Elfass, Universal Society of Hinduism President Rajan Zed, Reno Buddhist Center Priest Reverend Jikai’ Phil Bryan, South Lake Tahoe Temple Bat Yam Rabbi Evon J. Yakar, Baha’i teacher Catherine B. Thayer, and Paiute Elder Ralph E. Burns. Patrick J. McCarthy from Reno Freethinkers (atheists, agnostics, skeptics, humanists, etc., promoting secular values) also addressed Service held at Carson City Community Center.
The only problem with this is that any deity worth his or her salt would be offended by being treated as merely one of the cafeteria choices available. The only problem with this is the God of Gods who has sent forth His Son refuses to be counted as merely one of many options and is a jealous and exclusive God who shows mercy inclusively through one Savior and who hears the prayers of His people. When we multiply the prayers and blessings to and from a variety of deities, we end up diluting the meaning and power of the whole thing. Faith is not a what if but a because.
Perhaps it is my fault. Instead of merely smiling as people asked my prayers along with the prayers of every religious and religion they encounter, I should have confronted this honestly. Perhaps we are not reaping our rewards for a tacit approval that presumed it to be a wholehearted endorsement of religious pluralism. Now we are caught. When we defer from such a kumbayah we sound arrogant, when we refuse to join the fun, we sound aloof, and when insist upon that which offers integrity to the Triune God, we sound exclusivistic.... all the while we are merely trying to be faithful... Indeed!