The Contamination of Prayer

Over the weekend I was speaking at a retreat for some amazing undergraduate students at Oklahoma Christian University. The theme of the retreat was "Embrace" and I was sharing some of my work on the psychology of hospitality.

At one point I was talking about the disgust and contamination psychology discussed in my book Unclean. I was talking about proximity and contact attributions in judgments of contamination, how we become contaminated by making contact with a polluting object.

And in the midst of that discussion I told the students how on Sunday I had been asked to lead a prayer for ISIS at a prayer vigil for the Syrian refugee crisis. I noted how that prayer would likely contaminate me in the eyes of some. By praying for ISIS I make contact with them and, thus, become contaminated. That was the worry I had in leading the prayer, that it would contaminate me in the eyes of people.

That's the scandal of praying for enemies, I said to the OC students, the contamination of prayer.

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