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LOEWEN: The politics of Jesus and the National House of Prayer

Image Credit: Compilation/Jennifer Stahn
December 31, 2014 - 8:23 AM

Your scribe is happy to bid adieu to 2014. It’s been an interesting year, to say the least; but it is with ever hopeful eyes that I look forward to 2015 as the year in which we say “so long, farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, goodbye” to the calumnies and deceits of the current government. There’s an election on the horizon, and my secular prayer is that we disembark from the current ship of fools and build ourselves a better Ark for the storms to come.

There are some, however, in our nation who approve of the tactics and punitive practices of the government of the day. One of the strongest components of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s voter base is the prosperity-preaching, evangelical Christian church; and frankly, these cats scare the bejesus out of me.

PM Harper has learned the lesson well, from his mentors south of the border starting with demented-but-popular President Ronald Reagan. He was among the first to recognize the power of the reactionary evangelical church to bring consistently large and devoted blocks of voters to the ballot boxes.

President Reagan noted how incredibly malleable church congregants could be when petitioned from the many pulpits of America to support a guy who professed faith in a personal saviour like Jesus. The “Christian Right” came to be counted back then; and they have been there every step of the way ever since. Piss off the pious and kiss goodbye your chances of getting elected, baby. It’s as important to one’s chances at victory as bussing the befouled behinds of the corporate elites.

PM Harper, and predecessors like Preston Manning and Stockwell Day, were only too keen to replicate the American co-opting of the church to support their own political ends. In fact, PM Harper can be counted on to favour his Christian base at every available opportunity -- even to the extent of granting key Christians access to the Conservative caucus that even national news reporters can only dream of. Because, under PM Stephen Harper, it is almost impossible for parliamentary reporters to get comment on anything at all from the governing members.

But that’s not true of the founders and folks that fill Ottawa’s “National House Of Prayer.”

What the hell is THAT, you may ask? Well let me tell you, brother and sister. It’s hard to believe that such a place would exist anywhere but in a theocratically nihilistic nation; but this is a Made In Canada story all the way.

The iniquity of the World-as-it-is and the perceived recession of Christian values from Canadian life in favour of increased “secularism” and “liberalism” were issues that concerned (Vernon, BC Baptists) Rob and Fran Parker deeply as the World turned the corner on the current millennium.

According to the National House of Prayer website, “(Rob and Fran Parker) heard the call to create an “Embassy of Prayer” in the nation’s capital on Canada Day – July 1st, 2000 after Rob had made a 73-day Prayer Walk from Calgary to Ottawa.  After several years of sharing the vision with other leaders across the nation they moved to the capital in 2004 to begin establishing a ministry that would mobilize prayer for government.”

Thus was born in our nation’s capital a “House Of Prayer,” a short walk from Parliament Hill itself. And the folks that hang out there, come from across the length and breadth of this country with the expressed purpose to “mobilize informed, focused, and strategic prayer for Canada and its leaders.” In other words, they attempt to strategically intercede in government affairs by petitioning their God to, in turn, intercede in the political life of Canada.

Of course, not everyone who is a Christian shares the same policy objectives of the fundamentalist evangelical church (not to mention the many other, non-Christian religionists who are still allowed to practice their traditions). In fact, many, non-idolatrous believers are loathe to begin even speculating upon what God’s will might or might not be for this country.

Now, forgive me for mentioning Jesus in this context; but my understanding of his “gospel” seems to be at odds with many right-wing evangelicals. It seems to me that every time Jesus spoke to his audience, he did so in terms that they could understand. Jesus knew that the powers that controlled his people were utterly corrupt, that their goals included the ongoing oppression of his people, the Jews, and the many other peoples that made up the territories controlled by Rome.

Jesus’ message was always directed at the oppressed and “the least among us.” His opinions of wealth and status singled him out as a prophet ever-ready to expose the inhumanity of individualism and the greedy accrual of personal riches.

We read that Jesus rejected the offer from Satan to become the ruler of the World, if only he would show God’s Fallen favourite a little respect.

And we read too that Jesus could be moved to violence in the face of usurious bankers settling into the Temple to do their business of further indenturing its congregants. Jesus is said to have drawn his whip to flog the money-changers and overturned their tables to demonstrate his contempt for their misappropriation of his “Father’s House.”

But this is not the message one typically hears at the many churches in our midst. Somehow the message one hears from these over-populated pews is all about personal salvation, obedience and meek acceptance of one’s lot. The hope being that through bowed obeisance, one’s “larders will be filled to overflowing” (as if piety could ever equal material wealth).

Politically, this translates to accepting the status quo. And accepting the status quo is not where I want to go, folks.

Call me a heretic, but I dig the political Jesus. I dig the saviour that calls governments to account. I applaud the Biblical reading that cultivates a message of resistance to the powers that would bend the World, its people, and its resources to its own ends. I applaud the church that has the balls to speak truth to power.

Instead, I see a church that is all too quick to yolk itself to power. Instead I see a church whose members are truly crippled and blind to the true plight of those in our midst who are most oppressed.

Until the government-enabling evangelical church STOPS praying for the government and STARTS demanding a dismantling of the structures and policies that ensure the continued alienation and further impoverishment of the majority of the Canadian electorate, it will remain an institution that betrays the saviour it claims to worship and damns the very people it professes to shepherd along the path of righteousness.

It’s time the church sided with those that Jesus came to serve: The rest of us.

In the meantime, I wonder if the prayers from the National House of Prayer will be as welcome on the Hill when the new crew kicks out the current lot. I suspect not.

Amen.

—  Having lost his 2,500 volume library in the Okanagan Mountain Park Fire, Jeffrey is beginning to fill the void by writing his own. Reach him at jeff.loewen(at)gmail.com

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014
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