While liveblogging John McCain’s rally in Davenport on Saturday, John Deeth reported on the unusual invocation offered by Pastor Arnold Conrad. I admit that I didn’t pay much attention at the time, because I have read so many reports about right-wing preachers telling people that God wants them to vote for McCain, or even that true Christians are required to vote for McCain.
But Conrad wasn’t saying that. He was saying something much stranger. Here’s the video and partial transcript, courtesy of TPM TV:
I also would also add, Lord, that your reputation is involved in all that happens between now and November, because there are millions of people around this world praying to their god—whether it’s Hindu, Buddha, Allah—that his opponent wins, for a variety of reasons. And Lord, I pray that you will guard your own reputation, because they’re going to think that their God is bigger than you, if that happens. So I pray that you will step forward and honor your own name with all that happens between now and election day.
I have no idea how the crowd received this invocation. It was all over the national media, prompting McCain’s campaign to distance itself with this statement:
“While we understand the important role that faith plays in informing the votes of Iowans, questions about the religious background of the candidates only serve to distract from the real questions in this race about Barack Obama’s judgment, policies and readiness to lead as commander in chief.”
Why am I piling on when Keith Olbermann has named Pastor Conrad the “worst person in the world” for a day?
To me the issue is not whether Conrad is misusing his authority as a clergyman, because as I said, I am used to reading about that kind of behavior on the religious right. (My own rabbi won’t even reveal how he votes, let alone try to influence the congregation.)
Rather, I am trying to get my mind around the mentality that produced Conrad’s invocation.
Ben Craw of TPM TV called this “Mothra vs. Godzilla: Monotheistic Deity Throwdown,” which conveys some of the prayer’s absurdity.
But setting jokes aside for the moment, how presumptuous and even blasphemous is it for Conrad to assume the following?
1. He knows that God would prefer John McCain to become president.
2. He knows that God’s reputation is riding on the outcome of this election.
3. He fears that the all-powerful God might hesitate to use his power to make sure McCain wins the election.
4. He suspects that the omniscient God may not be aware that his reputation is riding on the outcome of this election.
5. He thinks God needs to be reminded that “all that happens between now and election day” will affect whether God’s name is sufficiently honored on earth.
Aren’t evangelical Christians supposed to believe that God is sovereign and we are not to second-guess His actions?
I remember reading an article years ago about the religious right’s impact on the 2004 election. I can’t find the link now, but a woman quoted in the piece said something like, “I am so glad that God sent us a strong leader in George Bush, because I was worried He would punish us with John Kerry.” I laughed at her apparent insight into God’s mind. She believed that God controlled the election, but in her mind, only a Bush victory would indicate that God preferred Bush. A Kerry victory would indicate that God had decided to punish America.
Pastor Conrad has taken this presumption to a new level. If Obama wins the election, it won’t be because God has consciously decided to let the “wrong” candidate win, it will be because God wasn’t sufficiently clued in about what’s at stake or didn’t care enough about His name being hallowed on earth.
Conrad is apparently in a better position to know what’s best for us and what’s best for God than God Himself.
Like I said, bizarre.
Share your thoughts and interpretations in the comments.