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The Banality of Religion: ‘Prayer summit’ at the Vatican fails to inspire

Israel/Palestine
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Shimon Peres, Pope Francis and Mahmoud Abbas in the Vatican gardens on Sunday for a “prayer summit.” (Photo: Associated Press)

Shimon Peres, Pope Francis and Mahmoud Abbas in the Vatican gardens on Sunday for a “prayer summit.” (Photo: Associated Press)

This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

Taking a title page from Hannah Arendt’s famous reportage on the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem, the “prayer summit” at the Vatican yesterday should be dubbed “The Banality of Religion.” Or worse.

The comparisons move beyond the title. Arendt saw Eichmann as an innocuous bureaucrat, a kind of mindless social climber. Willingly or not, all involved in the prayer summit yesterday exhibited a kind of mindlessness as well.

Watching the ceremony yesterday, I couldn’t help but wonder if anyone attending thought of the sheer absurdity of orchestrated prayers without purpose or content. Chalk up the prayer summit as a Theater of the (Religious) Absurd. No wonder the best and brightest among us are thoroughly secular.

The New York Times captured the (lack of) spirit descriptively:

The ceremony was held in a garden behind St. Peter’s Basilica that is enclosed by a high hedge to provide a sense of intimacy (as well as a spectacular view of the cupola of the basilica). It also was chosen as a place that seemed somewhat neutral in terms of religious iconography. The service was carefully organized into three successive “moments,” in which prayers and readings were offered by Jews, then Christians and then Muslims. Then the three leaders spoke.

In the moments before the ceremony, the three men rode together in a small bus to the garden, along with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, the Orthodox Christian leader. At moments, they even appeared to share a laugh.

Laughter might have been the highlight of the ceremony. Seated upfront and on both sides of Pope Francis, Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas seemed bored to death. The prayer delegations representing the Israeli and Palestinian nationalities sat formally divided across the green. They weren’t praying together. Neither side showed any desire for common prayer that led anywhere at all.

Featured were costumed religious figures who were all dressed up with nowhere to go. But the reality on the ground of Israel-Palestine is seething. It’s going downhill.

The prayer summit did little to disguise the breakdown of the peace process. Nor could it disguise the fact that the world’s attention has moved on. During the last weeks, the news cycle in the United States has revolved around the Ukraine. Currently it is feasting on the release of the American prisoner of war, Bowe Bergdahl and his bearded father. Maybe the Pope should have a prayer summit on Afghanistan, Guantanamo and United States military interventionism and leave Israel-Palestine behind.

The Times is as heavy as the lightweight summit itself when it closed its report with a message from Esteban Troncosa, 16, of Santa Fé, Argentina, a youngster in Rome for a one-month language study trip. Reflecting on the Pope’s involvement in the Middle East conflict, Troncosa says it all:

His gesture can help solve the situation. His message has always been to stop wars, and avoid any form of violence. I am sure this can make a difference. The pope can’t sign political agreements, but he is a symbol, and can make people and politicians think.

You can’t blame reporters for their failure to rise above the occasion, such as it was. I can’t imagine anyone with any political fortitude thinking more because of the Vatican event. Instead, the banality of religion exhibited at the Vatican yesterday is cause for alarm. With the situation in Israel-Palestine so dire, it’s hard not to see religious figures on both sides, whatever their private opinions might be, as enablers of injustice and censors of the public discourse.

Perhaps the silence of the religious leaders and, worse, some of their public comments before and after the summit, should encourage an exploration of the role of religious leaders in perpetuating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After viewing the Vatican prayer summit, I’ve can’t help feeling that it isn’t only war crime politicians who should have their day in the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

For when religious leaders take the global stage and offer platitudes as prayers – instead of a detailed and systematic critique of unjust power – then they, too, are responsible for the crimes committed in God’s name.

About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is retired Director and Professor of Jewish Studies at Baylor University and author of The Heartbeat of the Prophetic which can be found at Amazon and www.newdiasporabooks.com

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54 Responses

  1. eGuard
    June 9, 2014, 9:58 am

    Maybe you missed the point. Read it as diplomacy. The Vatican is entering I/P politics.

    • ziusudra
      June 10, 2014, 3:36 am

      Greetings eGuard,
      …the vatican is entering ……
      All three religions have been hijacked and politized from the get go.

      Emp. Constantine in 315AD and hijacks immediately to :
      One Empire, One language, one Religion and later
      Emp. Augustus; one wife!
      King Cyrus of Persia wouldn’t allow the freed Judeans a Kingship
      in 536BC. The Judaic Clergy filled the political gap till today!
      Califa Muawija hijacks Islam politically and removes to Damascus
      in 661AD!
      ziusudra
      PS Shove all three political religions…….
      PPS The new Pope Plays the pauper in his little white car, but all
      the other Cardinals slide by in them big assed limos!
      Me? a lapsed Catholic.

  2. just
    June 9, 2014, 10:20 am

    It inspired me. I don’t find it banal.

    I think the world is paying more attention to the I/P and BDS will prove effective.

    “Perhaps the silence of the religious leaders and, worse, some of their public comments before and after the summit, should encourage an exploration of the role of religious leaders in perpetuating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After viewing the Vatican prayer summit, I’ve can’t help feeling that it isn’t only war crime politicians who should have their day in the International Court of Justice in The Hague.”

    Nope.

    “Watching the ceremony yesterday, I couldn’t help but wonder if anyone attending thought of the sheer absurdity of orchestrated prayers without purpose or content. Chalk up the prayer summit as a Theater of the (Religious) Absurd. No wonder the best and brightest among us are thoroughly secular.”

    That’s certainly some exceptional hubris that you’re carrying around, Professor. Must get really, really heavy for you! It’s obvious that it causes you unbearable pain to deal with other than “the best and brightest among us”.

    I’d wager that prayers for peace are probably not rejected by the heavens… I see that you find no merit in sitting quietly in contemplation & meditation & prayer. A break in the violence/vitriol is just meaningless to you.

    A shame.

    • eljay
      June 9, 2014, 10:43 am

      >> I’d wager that prayers for peace are probably not rejected by the heavens…

      People pray for peace all the time. Given the on-going turmoil in the world, “the heavens” are either indifferent to prayers or non-existent.

      >> I see that you find no merit in sitting quietly in contemplation & meditation & prayer.

      Quiet contemplation and meditation and prayer are very nice, but they don’t resolve conflicts any more than they heal the sick.

      • RoHa
        June 9, 2014, 8:12 pm

        “People pray for peace all the time. Given the on-going turmoil in the world, “the heavens” are either indifferent to prayers or non-existent.”

        Krishna tells us that he listens to all prayers, no matter which god they are directed to. (Like phone tapping and reading other people’s mail, this is not the conduct of a gentleman. I am surprised the other gods put up with it.) He does not tell us what he does about the prayers.

      • eljay
        June 10, 2014, 8:31 am

        >> Krishna … does not tell us what he does about the prayers.

        He may laugh at some, cry at some and be moved or get angered by others. In the end, though, he doesn’t play favourites: He ignores all prayers equally.

        :-)

      • aiman
        June 10, 2014, 12:27 pm

        “Given the on-going turmoil in the world, “the heavens” are either indifferent to prayers or non-existent.”

        Do you have any scientific evidence for this claim? You don’t, because it is a belief. To you your belief, to us ours. I for one concur with the belief that without prayer to the One Universal God, not Krishna nor any tribal definition or jealous deity promised to a particular people or land, the world would be worse than it is … surely man could have inherited the earth with global warming already in place. But freedom of speech and action has allowed man to either veer toward good or bad. How about blaming the heavens for CO2 emissions as well?

      • eljay
        June 10, 2014, 7:02 pm

        >> Do you have any scientific evidence for this claim? You don’t, because it is a belief.

        I believe that the heavens don’t exist precisely because I do not have any scientific evidence that they do. If you possess that scientific evidence, please do share it.

        >> To you your belief, to us ours.

        I haven’t denied you your right to a belief.

        >> How about blaming the heavens for CO2 emissions as well?

        Since I don’t believe in the heavens – because I do not have any scientific evidence that they exist – why on earth would I blame them for CO2 emissions? That makes no sense at all.

      • RoHa
        June 10, 2014, 8:21 pm

        “Do you have any scientific evidence for this claim? You don’t,”

        Yes, he does.
        Did you learn any science, or anything about scientific method, at school?

        The basic principle is that if there is no reason or evidence to believe that something exists or something happens, then we are justified in thinking it does not exist, or does not happen.

        There is no reason or evidence that prayer affects anything other than the people doing the praying, so it is reasonable to believe that prayer is ineffective. This is our null hypothesis.

        Your hypothesis is that prayer is effective. If it were, we would see that prayers for a particular effect were fairly regularly followed by that effect. But, as other commenters here have pointed out, that is not the case. This is empirical evidence that your hypothesis is false.

        So eljay’s belief is justified. What justification can you offer for yours?

        Krishna is not a tribal god. He is one of the main gods of Hinduism. I do not know whether he or any other god exists or not. There is no solid evidence, and there are no solid arguments to support the idea.
        (Philosophy of religion is one of my areas of professional expertise.)

        And it seems the world was created with global warming as part of its natural cycles. Geology and historical records reveal that the Earth has warmed and cooled by natural forces many times over the last few million years. Those natural forces have changed the CO2 levels many times as well.

        Of course, according to the official records (RSS), there has been no global warming for the past seventeen years, even though CO2 levels have been rising rapidly during that period.

  3. Joe Catron
    June 9, 2014, 10:31 am

    “No wonder the best and brightest among us are thoroughly secular.”

    I’m sorry if this is petty of me – and it probably is – but can I be the only one who thinks Marc’s endless ruminations are at least as absurd as anything that transpired in Rome yesterday?

    Some of the best and brightest I know are thoroughly religious, Marc. And yes, there are plenty of the other sort, too.

    This is not only bigotry, but the very dumbest kind of it.

    • just
      June 9, 2014, 10:45 am

      Interesting POV for a ‘theologian’, isn’t it?

      • Joe Catron
        June 9, 2014, 10:50 am

        Tell me about it. I’m the kind of weirdo who reads liberation theologians for fun (yes, everyone point and laugh). And the the thing about them is, they keep their metaphorical guns trained on their own traditions, rather than policing everyone else’s.

        Marc seems to have made it his personal project to try the opposite. The results are not flattering to him.

      • just
        June 9, 2014, 11:06 am

        There’s no reason for anyone to “point and laugh” at you. An inquisitive mind is to be celebrated.

        I find Prof. Ellis’ recent posts to be increasingly difficult to reconcile with the Prof. that I used to read with interest. Lately, they have been filled with lots of blame and precious little introspection or ideas for solution to problems.

        And what is the point of this, pray tell? :

        “After viewing the Vatican prayer summit, I’ve can’t help feeling that it isn’t only war crime politicians who should have their day in the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

        For when religious leaders take the global stage and offer platitudes as prayers – instead of a detailed and systematic critique of unjust power – then they, too, are responsible for the crimes committed in God’s name.”

        Surreal.

      • Feathers
        June 9, 2014, 7:09 pm

        the banality of Marc Ellis.

      • Dan Crowther
        June 9, 2014, 11:15 am

        I haven’t commented in a while, but this from Joe is just too perfect. He makes my point – and the point of so many others here – perfectly.

        I’ve been Eliss’d for a long while now. Hey, Phil, can we change it up here? I mean, I can write some self congratulating pseudo intellectual essays if you really feel it’s necessary for the site – let’s give another hack a try!!

      • Chu
        June 10, 2014, 11:00 am

        well said Joe. Enough Kvetching from the theologian already.

    • eljay
      June 9, 2014, 10:51 am

      >> This is not only bigotry, but the very dumbest kind of it.

      It certainly does come across that way.

  4. weareone
    June 9, 2014, 11:02 am

    Thank you, Just and Joe. I agree and it inspires me also. I would definitely not qualify as one of Professor Ellis’ “best and the brightest among us” as I participate daily in a worldwide prayer circle. Many people believe that prayer,(“where two or more are joined together”), contemplation and meditation effect the world in silent, yet powerful ways.

  5. Kay24
    June 9, 2014, 11:04 am

    The Pope did bring world attention to this unending situation, and he did try to bring two of the leaders together. The biggest achievement out of all this, was that indelible image of the Pope standing next to the apartheid wall, with the words Free Palestine in red. That was a strong message, and an awesome image, that will always remind people that the Palestinian people live under a brutal occupation, and no basic rights.
    Everything else is secondary.

  6. irishmoses
    June 9, 2014, 11:56 am

    Money quote:

    “For when religious leaders take the global stage and offer platitudes as prayers – instead of a detailed and systematic critique of unjust power – then they, too, are responsible for the crimes committed in God’s name.”

    I was encouraged by the Pope praying at the apartheid wall. Unfortunately, his joint prayer meeting and urging that both sides try to look work for a reasonable solution attached a moral equivalency to the issue that it doesn’t deserve. I don’t want a Pope who tells me Jews are my big brothers, I want a Pope who has the courage to take strong, moral positions on issues as significant and clear cut as Israel’s decades-long oppression of another people. This guy plays to the crowds. His kind of papal clap trap is why I gave up Catholicism as my ultimate sacrifice for Lent many decades ago.

    • MHughes976
      June 9, 2014, 5:40 pm

      Colleagues here know I’m a bit of a Protestant sourface when it comes to Popes and I agree that there is a regrettable moral equivalence here. However, we live in such a strange world that even moral equivalence, not making the Palestinians into horrible anti-Semitic terrorists who want to wrap our beautiful women up in veils, could be regarded as a step forward.

    • Shmuel
      June 9, 2014, 6:18 pm

      I was encouraged by the Pope praying at the apartheid wall. Unfortunately, his joint prayer meeting and urging that both sides try to look work for a reasonable solution attached a moral equivalency to the issue that it doesn’t deserve.

      I saw the gesture at the wall (together with the visit to Mt. Herzl) as little more than a giant exercise in moral equivalence, until I read Peter Beinart’s take on the far-reaching moral and political significance of the pope’s coupling of peace with justice. I also failed to consider the religious significance of the gesture (and completely misunderstood the invitation of Peres and Abu Mazen), until yesterday’s ceremony in Rome. It was not a political event at all, but a profound expression of faith in prayer — where politics and diplomacy have failed miserably.

      • just
        June 9, 2014, 6:28 pm

        “It was not a political event at all, but a profound expression of faith in prayer — where politics and diplomacy have failed miserably.”

        Well stated.

        “the far-reaching moral and political significance of the pope’s coupling of peace with justice. ”

        The two are inextricably linked. One cannot happen without the other.

        Thanks Shmuel.

      • Woody Tanaka
        June 9, 2014, 6:40 pm

        I read Beinart’s piece with frank frustration, as if decades upon decades of calls for justice around the world meant nothing. The fact that someone who hails, as Beinart does, from South Africa who is just now discovering the difference between peace and justice is disheartening in its lateness. Better late than never, I guess…

      • Shmuel
        June 10, 2014, 3:39 am

        The fact that someone who hails, as Beinart does, from South Africa who is just now discovering the difference between peace and justice is disheartening in its lateness.

        Beinart’s piece was not about his own discoveries, but about the significance of the papal visit. The connection between peace and justice in I/P may seem obvious, but it is precisely what western leaders never miss an opportunity to miss.

      • Woody Tanaka
        June 10, 2014, 10:27 am

        “Beinart’s piece was not about his own discoveries”

        From the article: “I had to read the statement twice. ‘Stable peace’ is familiar enough. What threw me was the word ‘justice.'”

        Sounds like it to me.

  7. talknic
    June 9, 2014, 12:10 pm

    Was G-d there in nineteen fourteen?
    Nineteen forty five?

    For the Holocaust or in Dresden when
    folk were gassed and burned alive?

    For Hiroshima, Nagasaki?
    Korea, Vietnam?

    Now you’re praying G-d will make things fine
    in Palestine?

    The Law exists because G-d doesn’t.

    • Citizen
      June 9, 2014, 6:04 pm

      @ talknic
      “The Law exists because G-d doesn’t.”
      Some say Israel exists because G-d doesn’t.

  8. LanceThruster
    June 9, 2014, 12:15 pm

    NOTHING fails like prayer. ~ LT

  9. bryan
    June 9, 2014, 12:18 pm

    Televised prayer is akin to religious pornography, a display of acts better reserved for private, I would not be surprised if the Pope, who had such a significant impact on a short visit to Jordan and the West Bank, did not have some impact in behind the scenes discussions with the two leaders.

  10. Kris
    June 9, 2014, 12:50 pm

    “After viewing the Vatican prayer summit, I’ve can’t help feeling that it isn’t only war crime politicians who should have their day in the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

    “For when religious leaders take the global stage and offer platitudes as prayers – instead of a detailed and systematic critique of unjust power – then they, too, are responsible for the crimes committed in God’s name.”

    I agree with Marc Ellis; there was something horrible about this “prayer summit,” just as there is about any other “prayer” event held by politicians. It is an exercise in hypocrisy, just like the “prayer breakfasts” where our political leaders cover themselves with false piety before they get back down to the business of oppressing the poor and distributing heartache and terror, here and abroad.

    If even the Pope can’t be clear and direct in talking to world leaders, he makes it clear to his flock that we should live in fear of worldly power, and not worry about offending God.

    From Matthew 23: Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

    5 “Everything they do is done for people to see…

    15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

    In staging events like this “prayer summit,” Pope Francis accomplishes nothing except furthering doubt and despair through yet one more display of hypocrisy by a supposed representative of God.

    • Kris
      June 9, 2014, 7:47 pm

      I do appreciate the comments that point out that the Pope believes in prayer; maybe I am too cynical about this. But surely the Pope knows that Jesus said to pray in secret (Matthew 6:5-6).

      The prophets did not pull their punches; they said what God wanted them to say. They spoke plainly and clearly about God’s displeasure with the oppression and victimization of the poor. They warned that idolatry and mocking of God would lead to destruction. They didn’t hold prayer summits. Of course, they were mostly martyred for their witness, but they were faithful anyway, maybe because life is short and eternity is very long.

  11. W.Jones
    June 9, 2014, 1:47 pm

    Taking a title page from Hannah Arendt’s famous reportage on the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem, the “prayer summit” at the Vatican yesterday should be dubbed “The Banality of Religion.” Or worse.

    Yes, there is a banal side to it, because I doubt Peres is going to go back and do pro bono work for Beth TSelem. But there is also a radical side to it. If you can bring two opponents together, especially where one is a dominator, to an interfaith prayer service led by the Pope, perhaps this is also a radical achievement?

    If the Protestant Pilgrims are massacring Indian villages and a Catholic priest comes and prays for peace and they join in, even if they are not particularly interested, but rather out of conformity, perhaps it is not a total loss? If a drug user goes to a lecture and hears about stopping drugs, perhaps it is still a tiny bit helpful because a mental seed has been planted that may or may not grow.

    No, I don’t look at the drugee’s attendance at a mandatory talk, or Peres’ attendance at the meeting as proof that things will correct, but the talk and meeting still seem nice.

  12. ThorsteinVeblen2012
    June 9, 2014, 2:11 pm

    I would think the appropriate distance to give the affair the proper antiseptic environment.

    They certainly wouldn’t want to get one another’s germs.

  13. just
    June 9, 2014, 4:25 pm

    Oh, and by the way:

    “Seated upfront and on both sides of Pope Francis, Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas seemed bored to death. ”

    In the picture that you chose to publish, I see both the Pope and Mr. Abbas reading. Mr. Peres is staring at something– perhaps the abyss.

    (Maybe you are the one who was “bored”, sir. Projection and all that, but it certainly has provided you with fodder.)

  14. Paldi5
    June 9, 2014, 5:33 pm

    I think the reason this prayer meeting lacked the power to persuade and uplift is because only one faith was represented theologically. It might have been better if there was the Pope, a Rabbi and an Imam plus perhaps an atheist. Politicians should not be praying. Most are too involved in fraud to set foot near a church.

    • Citizen
      June 9, 2014, 11:09 pm

      @ Paldi5
      At the prayer summit in the Vatican garden, prayers were said from different faiths.

  15. Rusty Pipes
    June 9, 2014, 6:44 pm

    Don’t underestimate what the Pope is doing, no matter how the MSM is covering it. On the first day of his Middle East trip, he lashed out against war-mongers who are profiting from the destruction of Syria. The following day, Jordan expelled the Syrian ambassador. His photo at the Bethlehem wall is worth a thousand words; it got reprinted in the MSM more than any other image from the trip. If you pay attention to what the Vatican Secretary of State is saying, it is very clear that the Pope “gets it.”

    But you can’t be surprised that the head of the Roman Catholic Church believes in God, considers prayer an important part of his work and wants to get different people together who claim to be interested in peace to pray for peace in ways that can work out well for all who attend. It’s not just a public ceremony for the Pope; he thinks that prayer makes a difference. (also, there is no accounting for what he might be saying to world leaders behind closed doors to influence their actions.)

    • just
      June 9, 2014, 7:05 pm

      It was a simple request and act. In that most simple and basic of acts, the Pope appealed to, and focused on, the similarities between people, rather than the differences.

      All too often, politicians and leaders all over this world who profess to be “right through might” only focus on the differences. They all seem to forget that we all bleed the same color and share the planet with other humans who all yearn to live & breathe free. I am grateful for his efforts.

  16. DICKERSON3870
    June 9, 2014, 9:29 pm

    I wonder if the whole point of the exercise was simply to snub Netanyahu by inviting Peres rather than King Bibi. I bet Netanyahu will be secretly pouting for months.
    Perhaps this was done because Bibi’s intransigence was seen as causing the failure of the recent peace process, and/or because some of his comments to the Pope during the visit seemed a bit like public rebukes made by an overbearing salesman.

  17. broadside
    June 9, 2014, 11:12 pm

    You’re weird, Phil.

    Adieu.

  18. Stephen Shenfield
    June 10, 2014, 6:04 am

    Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church is also very keen on prayer summits. He hosted one for the leaders of Moldova and Transnistria on Mount Athos in Greece. The pope has to compete.

    The trouble is that the participating politicos may just treat it as a free vacation — a relaxing break in pleasant surroundings. They should be required at least to submit proper reports, listing what prayers they have said and assessing the results of each.

  19. michelle
    June 10, 2014, 7:19 am

    Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves

    Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them
    .
    G-d Bless

  20. eljay
    June 10, 2014, 8:26 am

    >> The trouble is that the participating politicos may just treat it as a free vacation … They should be required at least to submit proper reports, listing what prayers they have said and assessing the results of each.

    I like it!!! :-)

  21. John Salisbury
    June 10, 2014, 9:02 am

    Good article Marc. You are quite right.Prayers will not help.They never do.6,000,000
    people slaughtered in The Shoah.No prayers pleading for god to stop the slaughter were answered.It took the atheist Red Army to finally close down Auschwitz. Prayers will not help. They never do.

  22. Baldur
    June 10, 2014, 10:22 am

    I must be one of the few then, who thinks this event could prove worthwhile.

    When negotiations produce nothing, obviously it is time for something else, something that will change the facts on the ground, the rules of the game. That is the idea behind the BDS movement. The problem behind BDS is that even if it proves successful in forcing some concessions from Israel, it will have divided Israelis and Palestinians and created resentment on the Israeli side.

    The prayers might have achieved nothing tangible, but in the best case efforts like this will be important symbols to bring together the Israeli and Palestinian communities.

  23. piotr
    June 10, 2014, 11:51 am

    I guess it is a bit unfair. Prayer meetings rarely produce tangible results, but this is also true with meetings in general, so Marc H. Ellis is guilty of “singling out”. One of better known futile prayer meetings was a day of prayer organized by the governor of Texas to beseech the Lord on the occasion of a very acute drought affecting Texas at the time (and Oklahoma as well). A number of ministers, rabbis etc. participated and the drought continued for at least two more months. But it eventually rained.

  24. Keith
    June 10, 2014, 3:01 pm

    MARC ELLIS- My gracious! So much criticism coming your way, much of it unjustified. A lot of micro nitpicking concerning your “prophetic” macro analysis of organized religion as a soothing palliative, when what we need is a morally grounded call to action. Of course, expecting organized religion to be other than a mythological distraction/justification of the existing power structure is, perhaps, unrealistic. No, railing against systemic injustice is for zealots and prophets who can thereby be assured of receiving their fair share of abuse and little else.

    • libra
      June 10, 2014, 5:57 pm

      Keith: Of course, expecting organized religion to be other than a mythological distraction/justification of the existing power structure is, perhaps, unrealistic.

      Especially unrealistic when blaming the religion that is not directly involved in the particular injustice that is our focus here.

  25. W.Jones
    June 10, 2014, 5:43 pm

    Let’s say the Pope comes out with full blown anti-Apartheid in his stance. Yes, it will raise awareness among Catholics, and there are many Catholic countries, which generally have recognized Palestine as a state. It will raise international awareness, and may be very helpful. Perhaps it would be better.

    On the other hand, there are some weak points about doing this. First, the Pope’s goal is to have the dominator and the target treat each other better. He does not really have the political power to enforce peace by himself. I believe that he is aware of the injustice too. Thus, his prayerful peace stance at least brings them together to think about peace and morality. Were he to take a vocal anti-Apartheid stance, it may push away the Israelis from having close, positive relations with him. He does want to get along with them, after all. Other things that could happen is that the media might be more critical of the Pope. Perhaps it would find a way, like some recent scandals, to make him look bad. Perhaps it will also go into describing the Pope as “anti-semitic.”

    And if the Pope did take a strong anti-Apartheid stand, would M. Ellis’ response be fully positive about the Pope and the Catholic Church in an essay he would write about it? Granted, M.Ellis was exceptionally positive about the Church of Scotland Document. But being called “anti-semitic” is a more forceful charge than being called “banal.” What do you think?

  26. lyn117
    June 10, 2014, 6:25 pm

    I think the pope is allowed a moment of piety*, or a pious* moment, or something

    *these two words are often used in mockery of their given definition

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