Tuesday, June 28, 2022

The Theologian In Me…

...thinks this (too) is a terrible use of prayer. The “Our Father,” after all, is a prayer of humility. It’s a prayer offered voluntarily, not under compulsion. It isn’t “magic words,” that compel salvation or piety. Spoken outside a community of faith they may not even make sense. Spoken within one they may mean one thing to one community, something else to another. The universality of the King James Version can make it just sounds. I mean, who uses “art” as a form of the “to be” verb anymore?  Is it the words that matter? Or what they mean? The former explanation is just magical thinking; the latter is much closer to wisdom. But "what they mean" depends on what they are, doesn't it?

We'll consider that question in a moment.

Any coercion used for prayer, is a terrible use of prayer. And yet, a fine example of the distinction between wisdom, and religion. Try to imagine wisdom being coercive; and yet, religion?

Wisdom is not distinct from religion, nor should it be. But coercion is the wrong direction from wisdom. It’s away, not towards. 

Added irony:  Matthew 6:5-15 is Jesus instructing his disciples on how to pray.  Do it in private, he says, not in public like the "phonies."  His advice on prayer leads quite smoothly into how to pray.  The answer to that question is:

Instead, you should pray like this:

Our Father in the heavens,
your name be revered.
Impose your imperial rule,
enact your will on earth as you have in heaven.
Provide us with the bread we need for the day.
Forgive our debts,
to the extent that we have forgiven those in debt to us.
And please don't subject us to test after test,
but rescue us from the evil one.

Matthew 6:9-13, SV

Just that shift in the line about "debts" clarifies the meaning of the KJV, which, in its day, was the common tongue.  It was also Early Modern English, a language of English none of us speak anymore. The line puts us in communion, in common purpose, with everyone else.  "Lord, when did we see you?"  "When did you not?," is the answer.  To the extent you forgive, so will you be forgiven.  Oh, not by God; by others.  Step away from the circle of judgment.  Step out of the cycle of debt and recompense.  Take these words as directions for how to live (wisdom), not just words reflecting doctrine and soteriology (religion).

So, as I say, which version today (KJV, SV, other) is "orthodox"?

And since we're doing this in the context of recent Supreme Court decisions, one has to acknowledge this pretty much flows from Gorsuch's majority opinion on the praying coach:
Allthough I will say it's my understanding Islamic prayer is either corporate or private, and seldom, if ever, done on the 50 yard line of a football field, after calling TV stations to come watch.

So, you know, there is that.

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