Mortal Matters

Pleading with God to fix what ails America insults both democracy and the divine

Years ago, a very devout people executed a revolution and overthrew a tyrant. As a matter of strategy, those revolutionaries held onto a handful of the tyrant’s foreign allies who were in that country during the upheaval, in that some of their country’s wealth was held in the hostages’ homeland. The hostages’ countrymen, far mightier than the holy revolutionaries, mounted a rescue.

But a miracle crushed that rescue attempt. Some are taught that God defended the holy revolutionaries with a violent sandstorm and other favors. In the end, Operation Eagle Claw failed. Eight American servicemembers were killed. The hostages remained imprisoned. And Ayatollah Khomeini praised God for divine intervention.

It’s the sort of disgusting praise that was likely repeated after last week’s horrific helicopter crash in Afghanistan, presumably at the hands of the Taliban. Some of those heroic Navy Seals who helped rid the world of Osama bin Laden were on that helicopter. Everything, from a Taliban perspective, is God’s work, and there’s no doubting this was seen as such.

As if that were not enough to stomach, right here at home we had ”The Response” last Saturday in Houston. As the Lone Star State’s quasi-secessionist governor wrote in his invitation:

”We believe that America is in a state of crisis. Not just politically, financially or morally, but because we are a nation that has not honored God in our successes or humbly called on Him in our struggles.

”According to the Bible, the answer to a nation in such crisis is to gather in humility and repentance and ask God to intervene. The Response will be a historic gathering of people from across the nation to pray and fast for America.”

As a gay man, The Response could disturb me for some of its notoriously homophobic associates. There’s Don Wildmon, founder of the American Family Association, leading the boycott against Home Depot for what it terms promotion of ”the homosexual agenda.” And James and Shirley ”Focus on the Family” Dobson. Don’t forget the nauseating Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, which will send you a free copy of The Top Ten Myths about Homosexuality. (Hint: They don’t agree with Lady Gaga.)

The Response does not leave me seething because I am gay, though it could. It has me seething because I am an American.

Whatever the long-dead Khomeini or the Taliban believe, I know God is not on their side. If I’m wrong, so be it. I will spend eternity in some far-right Islamic hell. Better that than believe that whatever God is or isn’t, such an entity would use omnipotence to kill those would-be rescuers or to destroy that helicopter in Afghanistan.

In that vein, I say shame on The Response for saying that could be exactly the case. For saying that there is a God who would favor one country over another; a God who would consider an entire nation worthy or not of blessing.

Perry is right that our nation is in crisis. But he and his Response crowd are irresponsible and lazy to turn to God to help the economy, fiddle with elections, or otherwise dirty his or her hands with manmade problems. The messes in our country are ours to fix, not God’s.

I am not religious, and I don’t claim to have any definitive answers beyond the three dimensions before me. I wholeheartedly respect those who pray in order to commune with some higher power, to find peace or better grasp their place in existence. But for inheritors of our revolutionary, progressive experiment in democracy to pester the absolute entity in the universe for a holy bailout because they are otherwise throwing in the towel is offensive. They’ve got more in common with the Taliban than with the founding fathers.

Follow Will O'Bryan on Twitter @wobryan.

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