The Perils of Public Prayer

According to The Washington Post, “State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz was on the ninth ‘Jesus’ of her opening prayer in the Pennsylvania statehouse when other lawmakers started to look uncomfortable.” No wonder.

In less than two minutes, Borowicz managed to set off a firestorm of controversy. “[The prayer] blatantly represented the Islamophobia that exists among some leaders — leaders that are supposed to represent the people,” said Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell, a Muslim. “I came to the Capitol to help build bipartisanship and collaborations regardless of race or religion.”

And Rep. Jordan Harris, who identified himself as a devout Christian, criticized Borowicz for “weaponizing” her religion.

So what exactly was wrong with Ms. Borowicz’s prayer—and wasn’t?

Was it all those mentions of “Jesus,” instead of a nicely American generic God, as in the official motto “In God We Trust”? Was Representative Borowicz clearly aiming thereby to rile up her non-Christian colleagues?

Well, maybe. But I’ve learned not to attribute to wicked motives what can be accounted for merely by…difference.

If you have prayed with certain kinds of Christians, as I have, you know people who do pray in exactly this way, with “Jesuses” and “Fathers” and “Lords” and “justs” serving as verbal punctuation and intensifiers. If you’re not used to that style of prayer, it’s odd, even off-putting. But there’s no reason to assume it is dark with nefarious intent.

It is also perfectly fine to pray in Jesus’s name in public if you’re a Christian who has been asked to pray in public. If I’m a Vaishnavite Hindu and I pray to Lord Vishnu, you likely would get exactly what you asked for: a sincere prayer to (my) God.

[For the rest, please click HERE.]

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