Thursday, April 18, 2013

Praying for the Devil

Monday’s Boston Marathon Bombing resulted in millions of people sending good thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families.  It is as it should be.  The United States does not have a religion, but is religious.  When Gallup surveyed people an average of 40% reported attending worship services 'in the past week.'  That differs from the trends reported by a Hartford Seminary study that shows significant decreases in attendance.  Some figures report 8% of Americans are atheists.  Bill Maher is as evangelical about his atheism as any proselyte!  For me, I was raised with regular Church attendance, was an altar boy and later a leader in the choir.  And then there was the 13 year gap.
I experienced an unfortunate 'fire and brimstone' sermon early in my college career that coincided with coming to terms with my identity socially, scholastically and sexually.  Thirteen years later I was on the board of Vox Femina Los Angeles which held a concert in a small Church in Hollywood.  The sense of having arrived home permeated my entire being when I set foot in the gothic building.  I went to the Sunday morning service and became a fixture for the next fifteen or so years – even pre-paying and selecting my spot in the wall for when the time comes (hopefully later rather than sooner).  In my travels over the past couple of years I have not been able to replicate the specialness that place has…but that doesn’t stop my attending services and exploring my spiritual life...indeed seeking home.
Wandering from Parish to Parish while I was in Minnesota provided me a unique opportunity to examine whether my preference for a liturgical style was thanks to the more 'theatrical' side of my personality, or something more.  Having the smells and bells of a traditional Anglo-Catholic Parish definitely is more than show - it enhances my experience.  But it’s the community and the connections that contributes to a sense of home.  Ultimately what matters the most spiritually is the message.

Whenever something bad happens – personally, professionally or in the world – I look to understand it.  I do so politically through the prism of my libertarian perspective.  I do so personally through my life experiences.  I do so spiritually through my beliefs, teachings and of course the Bible.  Somehow they all coalesce in the pastiche that is who I am.
Bishop Prior of Minnesota sent out a message on Monday, as did many Bishops and Dioceses of many denominations.  His message perfectly communicates my own thoughts and beliefs – especially about praying for the perpetrator.  It is the most evil amongst us that I think need our prayers the most.  It is the hardest prayers for me to do, yet for me it is the essence of how I understand and express my faith and what God means to me.  It works for me – it won’t for everyone…and thank God I have those Libertarian beliefs as well that allows me to accept and celebrate those who disagree!
Here is Bishop Prior’s message:
It is with great sadness and shock that I learned of the explosions at the 26th mile of the Boston Marathon a few hours ago. While the apparent bombings and subsequent injuries and deaths are themselves horrific and saddening, the fact that they occurred exactly at the spot meant to honor the 26 dead in Newtown is especially heartbreaking.
At times like this, the deep injury that violence has caused to us as a society and as a people can often feel overwhelming. The divisions and problems in our society that are underscored by such random and brutal violence can threaten to define us.
But we do not have to accept this self-definition: of ourselves as a violent and frightened nation.
We can focus on the helpers: the brave people who rush in to protect, to comfort, to heal. The strong people who speak out against violence -- even when it is not politically expedient. The resilient and passionate victims of violence who advocate for change, who work hard, who speak up. Who witness; who testify.
We can choose to emulate those people. We can choose to reach out to one another across lines rather than drawing fearfully away. We can see ourselves as a united people, working together and praying together to put an end to such violence.
To that end, we pray for the victims of these bombings: those who were injured in the blasts and their families, but also those who now see the world as a less safe place. Those who are rattled and frightened, angry and miserable. We pray for the families in Newtown who have received more emotional injury at the hands of violent people.
And we pray for those who have perpetrated this violence -- that they might feel a sense of connection to the rest of humanity; that their hearts might be moved in the direction of peace and wholeness.
Pour out your peace over us, Lord, that we may all know that we are brothers and sisters in your name.
Go forth into the world in peace;
be of good courage;
hold fast that which is good;
render to no one evil for evil;
strengthen the fainthearted;
support the weak;
help the afflicted;
honor all people;
love and serve the Lord,
rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

(From the Book of Common Prayer)
Brian N. Prior
IX Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota

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