Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pray for them

The Anchoress (via NRO) has up a rant about first responders and clergy being excluded from the commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. It speaks for itself and I have nothing to add to that aspect of it.

I was, however, taken aback by this statement from one of the articles she links:

During the 2001 "Prayer for America" service at Yankee Stadium, leaders from the major religions—Roman Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Protestants, Sikhs, Greek Orthodox—addressed the crowd of thousands and an even larger TV audience from a podium atop second base.

"I brought every major religion to this event in Yankee Stadium," said Mr. Washington, who is considering holding a news conference on Sept. 11 to object to the exclusion of clergy.

"I'm very upset about it," he said. "This is crazy."

It seems to me that if Mr. Washington is upset because he believes people would benefit from prayer on this sad and solemn occasion then the appropriate thing to hold would be not a news conference, but a prayer service. Or lots of prayer services at lots of houses of worship, perhaps at the same time as the official ceremony and including sincere, loving prayers for all those who were touched by this disaster. I think it would be a particularly nice touch if the first responders were warmly invited to these services.

There are two verses I remember from Sunday School that cover this situation pretty thoroughly:

But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.

It seems worth nothing that the latter verse ends:

And they marvelled at him.


E Hines said...

There comes a time, though, when you're out of cheeks and it's time to get physical in response. As the Israelites recognized with regard to the Philistines, for instance (my history is hazy here, and there are likely better, and more contemporary examples, but you get my point).

Along these lines, part of Caesar's due is retribution for his misdeeds (admittedly outside the scope of Jesus' injunction at the moment).

It may be that an appropriate response to the reprehensible exclusion (a "justification," by the way, has been that they've had their turn) is both: the press conference and the separate prayer services that you suggest.

Eric Hines

Elise said...

It may be that an appropriate response to the reprehensible exclusion (a "justification," by the way, has been that they've had their turn) is both: the press conference and the separate prayer services that you suggest.

Sure, if you want to convince everyone that what you're really upset about is yourself rather than those who suffered and died as a result of 9/11; and that what you're really praying for is your own power, prestige, and recognition.

E Hines said...

Or he's upset about the exclusion of one of the groups that helped in the recovery. "This is one of the pillars that carried us through," he [Councilman/Pastor Cabrera] said, referring to religious leaders. "They were the spiritual and emotional backbone....

The objections to including them all seem to center on the fatuous "we've always done it this way" and on the cowardly "It's, well, hard to include them." And your own "it's nothing but an ego trip for the objector."

Eric Hines

Elise said...

Except that I am not suggesting the clergy should be excluded from the ceremony - never have, never will.

Grim said...

The words are worth some marvel. Take the second quote, for example. What does it mean for something to belong properly to Caesar, and not to God?

I think it would have to mean that Caesar creates and sustains it, as God creates and sustains the world. I am thinking especially of the later chapters of Job. When Job protests to the loss of his worldly goods, the answer is to ask whether or not he really ever had a right to them, or if they weren't in fact always God's to dispose of as he would.

So, "render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's" may mean that Jesus is recognizing Caesar's rightful role; or it may mean that he is asking us to question it.

Elise said...

I went back and read the surrounding verses for the "render" quote and apparently Jesus was avoiding a trap set by the Pharisees. Based on a little poking around, it seems there are many interpretations of this story. (Wikipedia has a round-up of at least some of them.) Many of them focus on what Jesus was saying is owed to Caesar. When I used it here, I was thinking more of what is owed to God.

cokaygne said...

Good for you, Elise. Too many religious leaders have lost the virtue of humility.