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At the RNC, Benediction raises eyebrows

At the RNC, Benediction raises eyebrows

During the opening day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, there were some predictable moments of disagreement and the lingering effects of an unusual primary race to the nomination. The opening prayers might have been expected to rise above the fray. But Pastor Mark Burns, a last-minute addition to the Convention, offered what Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times called a “malediction” rather than a benediction.

Yahoo‘s headline read, “RNC breaks precedent with explicitly partisan prayer,” while the Huffington Post said, “Republican Convention Prayer Goes Completely Off the Rails.”

You can view the benediction on YouTube or below. What do you think of Pastor Burns’ prayer?

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Paul Woodrum

I got the impression Trump sees himself, not as Hitler, but as America’s Savior, coming from the East through artificial fog, descending on a gilded rainbow escalator, and surrounded by his family of angels, singing, “Hail! The conquering hero comes.” Then again, maybe it’s the same difference.

Father Mike Waverly-Shank

Don’t forget there were Christians who sided with Hitler! And Trump may be the closest thing to Hitler we’ve ever faced.

Steve Ayres

As vicar of the Old North Church, I am often asked to pray at public ceremonies, including delivering the opening prayer at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. I wasn’t asked to pray because of my religious or political leanings, but rather because Old North Church is one of the most famous and beloved churches in America and it was only five blocks from the convention site.

I have three rules for praying in public: 1. Be as inclusive as possible in my choice of words and images. Pray so that anyone in the audience can feel comfortable saying “amen.” 2. Ask for God’s blessing, never God’s judgment. My first sermon ever was on “Do not judge lest you be judged”. I live in fear that a curse I may utter will boomerang back on me. 3. Use prayer to help deepen the audience’s spiritual connections to God and to the world.

Pastor Mark Burns prayer violated all three rules. It was divisive and offensive to all but a narrow group of so-called Christians. It cursed political opponents. It was shallow to the point of being unrelated to reality.

My opening prayer at the 2004 DNC was an interesting experience. As I walked out to the podium, I realized that I was probably the only speaker whose comments weren’t put on the teleprompters and that I would be on national TV looking down at my prayer.

The arena was only a third full. Most of the delegates and reporters did not stop to pray. I was background noise. The notable exceptions were delegates of color, who all stopped to listen and pray. A thought went through my head – “is anyone besides my mother watching this at home?”

I was introduced by DNC chair Terry McAuliffe as if we were long time friends, which was very flattering since I have never met the Governor of Virginia.

I began my prayer by inviting the delegates to walk around the corner to visit Old North and breathe in the patriotic values we enshrine. Few did. I am convinced that if John Kerry had taken the time for a photo-op at Old North, he might have won Ohio.

I reminded the delegates that while Old North Church was famous for the two lanterns that launched the Revolutionary War, our fame wasn’t established until Longfellow wrote a poem on the eve of the Civil War that summoned the nation to a new battle for freedom, a battle we still seem to be fighting today. I concluded this short history lesson with a prayer that the freedom we enjoy be extended to all citizens of the nation and the world. I was then whisked off the stage, out of the dark hall, and out into the summer heat.

Later that week I said a prayer at the dedication of the Rose Fitzgerald Greenway, aka the Bog Dig. The Kennedy Clan and Governor Romney attended and prayed together. If only we could learn how to pray together again.

JC Fisher

A very interesting (and rather moving) story, Rev Ayres, but I would caution you

“delegates of color, who all stopped to listen and pray” [Emph. added]

…against stereotyping.

Larry Graham

“When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and waving a cross.” – Sinclair Lewis

Cullin Schooley

He may as well have cried, “Heil Hitler!”

Br. Cullin R. Schooley n/OSB

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