Palin’s church may think that’s possible, but there are better things to pray for
By Steve Charing
When I first heard a representative from the anti-gay group Focus on the Family asking his flock to pray for rain of "biblical proportions" to screw up Barack Obama’s outdoor nomination acceptance speech on August 28, I rolled by eyes and scratched my head. Is THIS what people should pray for?
As one blogger aptly put it, "They didn't want Republicans to pray for rain in drought stricken areas of the world causing famine….They only wanted God to dump torrential rain to disrupt an acceptance speech of their political opponent. As ‘Christians’ they didn't want to pray for rain to ease suffering. They asked all their fellow Republicans to ask God for rain to cause misery to political opponents."
I’m not a deeply religious person, much less a theologian. But I wonder, like so many other lay persons who don’t have direct access to God the way that Dr. James Dobson and other evangelicals profess to have, does each human being on Earth receive an allocation on the number of prayers we can execute in a lifetime? Or is it an endless supply whereby some prayers can be wasted.
Praying for rain to sabotage a political event would fall into the waste category. So would "praying away the gay," the theme of a Focus on the Family-sponsored conference promoted by the church that GOP vice-president contender Sarah Palin attends.
"You'll be encouraged by the power of God's love and His desire to transform the lives of those impacted by homosexuality," reads the insert in the bulletin of the Wasilla Bible Church, where Palin has prayed for about six years.
To be fair, Sarah Palin never publicly stated that she agreed with that position. During her interview with Charlie Gibson on ABC, she said she didn’t know if homosexuality is genetic or learned and that she doesn’t want to judge anybody. Nonetheless, she opposes same-sex marriage and domestic partner recognition.
Anti-gay fundamentalists proffer that homosexuality is not innate, and it forms the core rationale of political opposition to gay rights: being gay is a choice and, therefore, not deserving of "special rights" or legal protections.
To combat this choice and still appear Christian, groups such as Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council and others promote the idea that gay people, through reparative therapy can see the light and venture down the straight path to conversion. This has led to what is popularly referred to an the "ex-gay movement."
Reparative therapy, as well as sexual conversion therapy, are complex processes that involve psychological and physical treatments that have been proven to be harmful to many of those who have undergone them. The key component, however, is prayer.
Most mainstream professional psychological organizations have debunked the theory that praying away your sexual orientation would result in a conversion. Noted psychologist Jeffry G. Ford, who referred to reparative therapy as a "pseudo science," said succinctly, "Reparative therapy is neither." And those who have tried unsuccessfully to convert have exposed the ex-gay movement for the sham it is, which resulted in an ex-ex-gay movement.
But the misinformation spewed by Focus on the Family, and others seep into the school systems and finds its way to the mainstream media. This creates just enough doubt to prevent lawmakers from acting on supporting equal rights, domestic partnership and hate crimes legislation.
Recognizing there is more acceptance towards gays by society, the "praying away the gay" crowd is using the softer solution of prayer to advance their message that homosexuality is a choice that can be changed. It would not be too much of a stretch to believe that if the acceptance of gays was less advanced at this point in time, these religious organizations would be considering "incarcerating the gays" or "quarantining the gays" as their mantra.
Nobody knows with certitude the power of prayer, if any. But there are enough people in the world who believe in it, so it cannot be dismissed.
Back in the pre-Stonewall days when society looked down at homosexuals as the scum of the earth, I tried to pray away my gay. It didn’t work. I don’t feel that way now, of course, and neither do millions of other gays and lesbians. But some still do.
I’d rather use my prayer allotment to end human suffering—a far more worthy cause. But I also want to pray away those who want to pray away a key component of who I am.