Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dare I say that lots of people have been praying?

Gulf Surface Oil Vanishing Quickly - NYTimes.com

Let's not neglect to pray and act with thankful and changed hearts.


caheidelberger said...

Tim, is that headline saying what I think it's saying?

TLF+ said...

Cory - people of faith will consider unexpected improvement a blessing and an answer to prayer. Favorable natural phenomena and successful human effort are not ignored - in fact they are the primary means through which God would be understood to answer prayer in most faith traditions.

Obviously, a purely mechanistic, natural answer is the alternative.

This does not resolve the core conflict between faith that all is random/accidental and faith that there is a divine agent involved in events. The headline merely points up that on going difference in assumptions.

The NYT article is clear that the problem is not over - so what the headline does not claim is a miraculous, immediate healing of the gulf.

As I've written in other places, prayer is the church's unique contribution to common life. Our alternatives are irrelevance or theocracy - the twin symptoms of our efforts to justify ourselves by earthly utility alone.

Functionally, secular people might welcome even prayer effort as the church engaging the environmental issues it has been faulted for neglecting in the past. People of faith can't force others to take prayer seriously, nor should people who don't believe in prayer expect people of faith to approach an issue without it. How we find common ground or at least common tolerance around our differences is a good test of our civic life.

caheidelberger said...

Now that's the thoughtful explanation I was looking for. Thank you.

Of course, on the efficacy of prayer itself, I remain in camp with Tom Joad and Jim Casy. The Word is good, but it's up to us to turn it into work... though I don't mind if we all hope fervently for no hurricanes.

TLF+ said...

Cory - you'll notice that I've put you and Bob Ellis in the "Useful Links" on my blog now that BNN is kaput. Wish I could link so many more but at least two exemplars of SD politics from left & right, East River and West.

caheidelberger said...

Thanks for that link, Tim! You've directed me to plenty of other useful online text as well. Keep up the good work!

Sudden random thought: is there any analogy to be drawn between prayer and blogging? Power of thought and word? Typing text instead of taking action? I know it sounds like a poor substitute, but it just now occurs to me that here on the secular side, I post my own "devotions" or "prayers" every morning, imploring a being greater than myself, the body politic, to help me out and make the world a better place.

Steve Hickey said...

Tim - You beat me to it on this post. I've been busy but not to busy to notice all those who are now praising mother nature, micro-bacteria and the tiniest members of the ecosystem! And who can we thank for that perfectly ordered natural healing design? That's right... Darwin! O wait, he's dead.

I lack the blind faith the evolutionists possess... and chuckle when people praise the ecosystem instead of the one who ordered it perfectly. I can't even look at a tiny little bird without thinking of the stunning foolishness of those who swallow the delusion that it is a product of uber-billions of years of unguided random mutations.

I am grateful for the legislators in LA who, painfully aware of the arrogant emptiness of the ideas of man, had the humility and wisdom to ask for Divine Aid.

Cory - yes there is a link between words and change. That's how this all came about in the first place... God spoke it forth.

Though this nation deserves no favors from heaven, we continue to pray God's mercy on every living thing in the Gulf. And we pledge to better steward the wonders of his creation.

Had God prompted a scientist somewhere to solve this problem I would have been praising God while the world bestowed awards and honors on the man. Surely God wearies of the boasting of man. These micro-members of the ecosystem have risen up as one of the little mercies of God and ironically, as simple as they are, they are presently confounding the wise. That too is evidence God is behind this dissipation.

TLF+ said...

Cory - I think there are some phenomenological similarities. Certainly, the discipline that goes into blogging (well) and praying (well) have much in common.

I think the analogy breaks down in this sense: prayer is intended to gather people (a "horizontal" relationship, if you will) in praises and petitions of God (a "vertical" relationship) - while blogging both gathers and petitions people on the same horizontal plane.

The Prophet Amos reveals God as angry at those who offer prayer inconsistent with their practices... so both praying and blogging have the potential to royally piss off their audiences :)

Steve - thanks for the reminder that there were prayer efforts by the elected leaders in the Gulf region. I like your phrase, "humility and wisdom." I was reminded of the Declaration of Independence, in which the Founders stated their case but, at the end of the day, left the rightness of their cause to the judgement of God.

Torey said...

"Favorable natural phenomena and successful human effort are not ignored - in fact they are the primary means through which God would be understood to answer prayer in most faith traditions."I have come to understand that through my own experience.

caheidelberger said...

Steve: "micro-members of the ecosystem... little mercies"—echoes of H.G. Wells! The Martians were "slain, after all man's devices had failed, by the humblest things that God, in his wisdom, has put upon this earth."

I'll note that I'm not necessarily praising Mother Nature or bacteria or building any altars. If the bacteria are eating this spill, I would assume they would eat the next spill, regardless of how many people pray. Ditto with evaporation. The knowledge of the scientific processes at work help me (well, help engineers, biologists, and other scientists doing the real work) understand this disaster and plan for the next disaster. I just can't get myself to see the usefulness of prayer in that vein.

Tim: I appreciate such brilliant and humorous words (especially from a man carrying a shotgun). As a secularist, I have to look for the double-horizontal benefits of prayer. Not seeing the vertical plane, I have to hope that prayer will have a "petitionary" effect on the people making it—open their hearts, focus their attention, get them thinking about what they can do to be God's instrument in making the desired change happen.

Torey: But that's where I get Sure, there are plenty of instances where prayer is followed by favorable natural phenomena and successful human effort. But there are plenty of instances where prayer is followed by disease, death, and destruction. How do we tell which prayers worked and which didn't, and why? I'm of the impression that the theological effort required to make those distinctions is greater than the effort required to just do science and fix the things we can fix ourselves.

[word verification: religess. Fascinating.]