I am sure all of you know of the massive storm that hit Moore, Oklahoma from Monday. I watched on TV as that monster formed and knew it was going to be bad. I didn't realize it was going to be this bad. I still haven't been up to see the damage as the last thing I want to do is get in the way. There will be time for that.
Meanwhile we have already had some craziness. First, it was our own Oklahoma Senator Coburn suggesting that aid will come to Oklahoma only after it has been offset by other budget cuts. As I told someone else, this is the equivalent of offering to save a drowning man, but only after he signs off on payments to you.
Then, we got the ubiquitous crazy right wing fundamentalist in the form of Pat Robtertson suggest that the victims could have avoided the storm had they prayed harder. I know. The man is a complete loon and nutjob. But here he has more in common with saner Christians than they would like. Robertson says that if enough people prayed, God would have intervened. That is essentially how many Christians already talk about prayer. This is the logical conclusion. If more people praying is better than less, then God somehow needs prodding, and he is prodded in a democratic fashion. And if a bad thing like this happens, then it is a result of not enough people praying. All of this is reminiscent of Smitty's great comments on equally bad theology coming from a ND legislator who blamed gun violence on abortion.
A friend recently panicked when her mother had a severe health issue, and asked that people "pray hard." One of her friends commented, "I just prayed." What does any of that mean? Is God only swayed when people pray "hard" or does he take note of those comments? I feel like I am stuck in Bill Moyer's story about LBJ asking him to pray in a cabinet meeting. Moyers started and heard LBJ shout from the other end of the table, "speak up, Bill. I can't hear you." To which, Moyers responded, "I wasn't talking to you." I doubt very much that any of this is aimed at God.
Robertson sees all of this as literal. I suspect that for many people, "I will pray for you" or "can you pray for me" is simply an expression of concern or a cry for help. I have no problem with that. I have no problem with praying for people in crisis that they might be able to find peace or comfort. But I have a big problem with prayers that turn God into an ogre.