A response to Sarah Palin and divisive rhetoric…

Liberals pray, too!

Earlier today some preachers visited the White House. While the President bowed his head, they place their hands on his shoulders and prayer for him. Someone took a picture, which CNN shared on TV and online.

Then Sarah Palin shared her opinion. Here’s the article. She felt that one news anchor was being snarky when noting that the President’s moment of prayer was a little out-of-the-ordinary. And she felt that a subsequent online post from CNN was mocking prayer altogether by mentioning that the President’s prayer occurred during a time of political crisis (which Palin interpreted as saying that the President was only praying BECAUSE he is in crisis). Predictably, Palin declared the CNN sources to be “liberal,” promoting her viewpoint that all liberals are, of course, godless folk who know nothing of things like prayer. That’s when things got ugly:

A dear, dear old friend shared the Sarah Palin article on Facebook. Then some other friends shared it, too. Then others. When the first friend voiced her lockstep agreement with Palin (commenting about how sad it is that liberals don’t know about God or prayer), I felt maybe a comment might be warranted. I won’t call her out, by name, but here’s what I’d like to say:

[Remember, the very purpose of Neighborfy is to encourage healthy dialog about important public topics. By this post, I hope to remind people who disagree with me politically, especially those folks who are part of my faith community, that we ought to view each other more charitably. And, by providing that reminder in the manner set forth below, I’m just trying to practice what I’m preaching — I’m hoping to model grown-up dialog of the sort I’m advocating. You can comment below, but please play by the rules – be thoughtful, be respectful, be charitable.]


Dear Old Friend,
Before I say what I’m gonna say (see below), let me be sure to say first that I think you’re awesome. I think there’s probably nothing you could say or do that would change how much Angie and I adore you. You rock.

Having said that, your post/comment provides the occasion to make a point, so I’m going to make that point here, but I didn’t want you to think it’s aimed at you personally. What follows is a gentle reminder and plea for ALL my friends here on Facebook, whatever their political leanings. Here goes…

1. Liberals pray, too.

2. Liberals also pray for the President, no matter who he is. I have prayed for President Trump. In fact, I’ve led whole gatherings of people – conservatives and liberals alike – in praying for President Trump. Even out loud in public! I’m sure I will continue to do so. (Just as I did for his predecessors and as I fully expect to do for his successors.)

3. Please understand what Sarah Palin has just done: She didn’t like what someone said, so she used it as an opportunity to divide entire groups of people. She didn’t like what Erin Burnett said, so she branded her a “liberal,” which means “bad” in Sarah-speak. For the record, I’m pretty sure Erin is a conservative, and in any event she’s a financial news commentator, not a political commentator. If she made a mistake by saying it was strange to see Donald Trump surrounded by pastors praying, just forgive her. Move on. (Speaking of moving on, you might want to check out the petition on MoveOn_org, where people are pleading for CNN to fire Burnett because they think she is a conservative with considerable conservative bias. Apparently I’m not the only one who doesn’t consider Erin a liberal.)

4. It WAS unusual to see Donald Trump surrounded by pastors praying. That’s not something one sees everyday. Noting that fact, as Erin did (and as I’m doing right now), is not the same thing as mocking prayer. Not even remotely close to the same thing. I’m glad people are praying for Donald Trump. In contrast to the way so many of my conservative friends view the President, I don’t get the sense that the President is a very religious man, so actually I’m delighted to see him spending a little time listening to the perspective of persons of faith. And if he were to develop a prayer life himself, what a wonderful development that would be. It WAS unusual, but saying so does mean it’s unwelcome. (It also doesn’t make Erin Burnett, CNN, or me “bad.”)

5. CNN’s post, commenting that President Trump is praying in the midst of crisis, is also a true statement. He IS in the middle of some crises (more than one) – another reason I’m delighted that he’s praying (and another reason I’m praying for him). There is absolutely NO reason, looking at CNN’s words themselves, to infer sarcasm or mockery. You’d have to start from an ASSUMPTION that anything written by anyone receiving a paycheck from CNN is automatically biased. That means YOU’RE biased if you make that assumption. In truth, far more people are likely to conclude that the President is mocking Christians by pretending to care about the things that are important to them. Some very rational, kind, AND CHRISTIAN critics have concluded that the President is simply attempting to manipulate kind people (like those pastors) who are eager to see the best in him. The critics might be right, really, and I don’t relish saying that, because I’M ALSO one of those people who wants to see the best in him. Let me ask this: Have you ever met a religion editor for a major periodical or major news outlet? I have. They are spending their careers writing about religion – not exactly a get-rich-quick scheme, nor a stepping stone to bigger careers. They do it because they’re interested. They are NOT, generally speaking, opposed to faith or religion. Do you know who that person is who wrote the CNN post? If I were a betting guy, I’d bet that the writer is a person of faith who cares deeply and respectfully about the faith lives of the communities that he/she writes about. Sarah Palin took a shortcut: She saw that the post came from CNN and decided that it MUST be mockery, because she thinks that CNN is “liberal” and “bad.” We are better than that. IF WE DON’T WANT PEOPLE TO SEE THE WORST IN US, OR TO SEE THE WORST IN THE PRESIDENT, THEN SHOULDN’T WE STRIVE NOT TO ASSUME THE WORST IN EVERYONE ELSE?

There are ways that I’m a liberal. There are ways that I’m a conservative. All of the ways I am are my effort to lead a good and decent life. And where I fall short, I’m working on it, and while I do, I hope my community won’t simply do as Sarah Palin just did by dismissing and damning slightly more than half of America. You don’t want to do what Sarah just did, do you?

Please don’t fall for the divisive rhetoric of public people trying to score points (like Sarah P in this instance). We love you, old friend. Together, let’s model the kind of conversation that we want our larger community to adopt. How about this – you say a prayer for me this evening, and I’ll say one for you (and the President)? Deal? (On second thought, even if you don’t pray for me, I’ll do so for you, and I’ll be sure to express my gratitude to God for my old friend, who is truly one of His great works.)



1 Comment

  1. For the record, I prayed for my friend last evening – a prayer of gratitude for her and for our friendship. I’ll do it again. (I don’t even know if she saw my post.) And I prayed for the Donald. I don’t much like him but that doesn’t mean I wish him ill. He currently shoulders huge (aka “yooge”) responsibilities that affect you, me and, by the way, the “least of these” in our society. I want him to find some wisdom, inspiration, courage and will to do a good job. We should all want that.

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