Hope I don’t sound heartless when I say to the relatives of the climbers lost on Mt. Hood, “Please, keep God out of your news conferences. Don’t use this tragedy as a platform for your religious faith.”
Today Frank James, brother of climber Kelly James, said on Fox News:
We are waiting and praying. Certainly there is a lot of praying. There are from time to time, tears. From time to time there is laughter…Our faith is strong. Our faith is three-fold. We have faith in Kelly, and Brian, and Nikko. We have faith in the rescuers. And we have faith in God.
There is little doubt that our faith is being refined these days. We understand how serious these weather conditions are. But our faith remains strong. It’s amazing. When you’re in these kinds of circumstances you might think that people would turn away from God. Precisely the opposite has happened. We’ve all turned to God in deeper and more profound ways.
Well, that’s nice, Frank. I just have to be honest. As a devoted agnostic, I share your humanness, because I’m human. But I don’t share your religiosity, because I’m not religious.
I listen to you empathetically when you speak of tears and laughter. However, when I hear you giving a mini-sermon to the reporters gathered on Mt. Hood, it turns me off. Didn’t Jesus advise praying in secret?
This is one of Irregular Times’ Secrets of the Bible.
It seems that these folks are so busy making a show about their Christianity that they've forgotten what their own Bible says about being Christian: that Christian prayer should always be a private matter, conducted without fanfare and without an audience. The words are right there in bold print for any literate Christian to read, but Jesus' teaching about the hypocrisy of public prayer remains a true secret of the Bible.
I hope the climbers are found alive. Yet I don’t believe prayer is going to make any difference in whether this happens. I understand why the families of the lost men pray together. This is a natural human inclination, whether or not it does any good.
Earlier this year I wrote on my other blog that the West Virginia mine disaster shows the absurdity of prayer. The best prayer, one that even my Taoist soul can embrace, is “Thy will be done.” (“Thy” can mean anything: God, Allah, Tao, Buddha-nature, fate, the laws of nature.)
So if God needs to be brought into the public face of a tragedy, anyone can do this in a simple, humble, and universal manner. Just say, “We’re hoping for the best. But what will be, will be.”