The Predicaments of Praying from Privilege

Some of you may know Mark Weathers from his comments here. I wanted to point you to his series starting in the Austin Examiner: The Predicaments of Praying from Privilege. After a quote by Thomas Merton, Mark starts the series off with a couple of difficult questions for many American Christians:

In the grand scheme of history, I have never confronted the magnitude of difficulty that befell the vast majority our human ancestors. Pestilence, famine, tribal warfare, drought, systematic persecution, discrimination, religious violence and hunger are alien concepts to me. I confront them only as newspaper headlines. If I even look around the globe today, the global nexus of journalism opens my western mind to distant moral epidemics that I cannot even contemplate. Oppression of women, the poor and racial minorities around the world is simply staggering.

I set up this rather general backdrop because therein lies my spiritual conundrum. How do I pray before God, taking into account the rather minuscule weight of my problems?

... how do we speak our experience of crisis to God, and still remember that our pressures are minor when weighed on the scales of human history?

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5 thoughts on “The Predicaments of Praying from Privilege”

  1. Good question. I've often wondered what to do when preaching through many of the Psalms. How do we connect David being chased out of town by murderous Saul (or Absalom) to the mild problems we Westerners have?

  2. Maybe the question to ask is "Why do we pray?" If prayer is a confessional time to, well, meditate upon what God would want and help me to align my life more with God's, then we should share all of the stuff in our life to try and align it more with God's way.
    If on the other hand prayer is seen as a way to "push God to fix my problems", then I agree, how do I pray about me when all of this other stuff happens?
    Among other works, J.B. Phillips "Your God is Too Small" comes to mind here.

  3. Why qb, how Reagan-esque of you! Just like him, you take a minuscule sample and paint it into a large swath to make an easy target.

    He's still the master magician though: Reagan through his propaganda based slight of hand, fixed the gaze of the middle class and Kincaid Christians on the "thousands and millions of Cadillac Welfare Queens"; his skilled use of misdirection kept us from seeing the pimp class usurping the working class of its share of the wealth. We believed him when President Ronald "Kincaid" Reagan reassured us that pimps always make sure that enough money trickles down to their means of production.

    What did David Stockton say a couple of weeks ago on Sixty Minutes"? Something about, that in the period from 1981 to the present, the increase in wealth on the part of the top 1%, increased by a measure greater than the total wealth produced by man kind until 1981.

    The irony of course, is Kincaid Christianity's disdain for Prostitution.

  4. FYI, Mike, it may seem like a contemptible "some of my best friends are X" thing to you, but qb does a LOT of youth sports coaching and prefers to take his boys' teams to the Northside YMCA to practice basketball in the frigid gymnasium there. The Northside Y serves north Amarillo, which is a disproportionately low-income area with a disproportionately high minority population. My wife teaches at the public charter school next door to it and is so devoted to those children that she was recently recognized as the school's teacher of the year. I helped her set up an art blog where she can, and does, highlight the wonderful art products that her students are generating and which which her students are now, for the first time in the institutional memory, participating in and winning ribbons at the Tri-State Fair. Maybe we're early in the process, but we are progressively immersing ourselves and our family in this subcommunity hoping we can bring some light and life there to those who need it.

    So don't lecture me about making generalizations! I may not be the most knowledgeable person in the world about such things, but this is not theoretical puffery. I see it with my own eyes and hear it with my own ears. (It's embarrassing to have to establish bona fides on this, but apparently it's necessary.)

    Many of the hugely talented children from that area are on the school lunch program and get into the lunch line with diamond bling in their earlobes and around their necks. I don't begrudge them their bling, their satellite dishes, their tricked-out cars, or their cell phones; if they can afford them, that's great, and may their blessings overflow beyond all measure! I do, however, object to them claiming federal and state largesse on the disingenuous notion that they couldn't otherwise afford to eat. That does the truly disadvantaged a terrible disservice.


  5. Em, I don't know that my points came across very well so let me clarify a couple of things.

    1. I wasn't speaking of the poor, I was speaking of the middle class. Reagan villainised the poor by lumping the whole population into the few that abused the system. The worse effect, was that he turned the focus of the middle class to a problem that was trumped up; the result being that the middle class sided with policies and ideologies that serve the ultra rich the best.

    As David Stockton cited on Sixty Minutes just a couple of weeks ago, the top 1% increased their wealth from 1981 till the present at a rate where JUST THIS INCREASE ALONE is more than all the wealth man kind created until 1981.

    Meanwhile, middle class wealth in real dollars remained flat at best. Middle class families compensated for this flat wealth development by sending their mothers into the work place. When this move fell behind, families turned to credit. The economist Robert Reich writes extensively about this and he's accessible by blog or by book.

    2. My disdain then, is really about a Christianity that is all about a focus on the family, yet uncritically buys into economic ideology that has worked against the family. And more, buys into the likes of Sarah Palen et al, who use language to incite rather than make visible the issues at hand. Reagan used "welfare queens with Cadillacs" while Palin uses "death panels". In either case no serious discussion can be had. You used "politics of envy".

    3. Things are too complex to be rendered perfect by policy changes. In such complexity, cause and effects aren't chain like and happen in ways that are difficult to detect (linear vs. non-linear). What we can do, is begin considering what we want out of work and how we want it to support our making of society together. We can hold competing interests in a creative tension to see if we can find higher levels of order. We can begin to have real and sophisticated (read adult) levels of conversation about how we share in creating wealth together within a free market context.

    Hopefully, steps such as these, lead us to creating society in ways that taste a bit like Heaven--and ease the burden of middle class families.

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