Not to sound too morbid, but you died in 1996 — a good 16 years(ish?) before Angry Birds really took flight. Let me catch you up:
Angry Birds: a highly addictive computer game where addicts (players) lauch various forms of furious bird-life into defensive fortresses built by pigs.
The damn pigs took our eggs! That's why!
Theyz stoles them! Filthy, rotten thievessss! They tooks them! Myyyyy precioussssssss…
Aaaaand that would be a bad segue into another (and incredibly more complex) addiction, exposing my inner geek. On the upside, the world has gone somewhat geek and it's cool now to know the intricacies of Middle Earth and Angry Birds. But enough about Geekdom.
To the point.
The Angry Birds have had their eggs stolen. Obviously anyone would be horrified at having their young taken away, and would mobilize in such ways as to focus on the need at hand, carry out a rescue mission, and succeed in retrieving what's been lost.
In Angry Birds, yes.
In Middle Earth, yes.
In real life… no.
I was attending a "Prayer Rally for Christian Unity" in my town not long ago. For the past year and a half I've been congregating with a mainline liturgical church. For deeper reasons I won't go into here, I needed to leave North American evangelicalism. I will say it's been one of the best decisions I've ever made. So that was my "assumption space" (worship style, mindsets, prayer requests) going to this prayer rally that perhaps undid me, which was being held at a charismatic church.
Having attended charismatic churches in the past, I knew quite a bit of what to expect — full body worship expression, emotive music, and choruses repeated like a gazillion times (not that repetition is wrong; but after the gazillionth time I think even the Spirit is like "Move on already!"). Some of my born and raised liturgical friends were not so prepared. Some got frustrated quickly with the style of music, and others tried to be more understanding. No worries. We were all there to learn from each other, right?
What I didn't expect was the prayer to jail the drug-dealers.
You heard me.
I went expecting Christians from across the denominational spectrum to be asking forgiveness from God and one another for the petty squabbles, the judgments, the name-calling, the labelling, the Theology Wars, and the Culture Wars.
That was MY assumption.
The assumption of a couple other pastors was that all Christians present were ALREADY united in Christ and were eager to pray away the drug dealers… straight into prison.
"Lord! Bring those drug dealers into our churches! And if they refuse, send them to jail where they will be forced to face the error of their ways! We don't want them in our neighborhoods! Give us the power to take dominion over this land you gave us! Give us the power to stand on your promise to take DOMINION!"
My head snapped up.
My jaw dropped.
My heart froze… then broke.
We're praying wha–????
"Just as artists search for the style that is most their own, so people who pray search for the prayer of their heart. What is most profound in life, and therefore most dear to us, always needs to be properly protected as well as expressed. It, therefore, is not surprising that prayer is often surrounded by carefully prescribed gestures and words, by detailed rituals and elaborate ceremonies" (Nouwen, The Way of the Heart, p.95).
Are we the Angry Birds demanding our young back? Or are we the carefully fortressed Pigs who have taken what is not ours to take?
More prayer expounded on Christians taking back the land rightfully "ours"… and I hung my head not in prayer but in shame. Is that wicked of me, Henri? This land of Canada was never ours and is not ours to conquer now. Yet our prayer language still reeks of dominion. Even against drug dealers.
My dad is a retired prison warden. While I believe consequences need to fit criminal actions, I know what goes on inside prison walls. Shove a bunch of drug dealers into a cell block and believe they're all going to think long and hard about their actions?
Does anyone know how hard it is to fight to keep chaplaincy programs going in prisons?
Did these pastors even stop to think that maybe… just maybe… our unwelcoming demands on our community (even the criminal community) could be one of the causes of the brokenness around us? It's too hard for me to speculate, but here I was trying to pray for Christians to stop hurting Christians; and the rest of the group (sans a few) were praying against the drug dealers… the devils of Lac La Biche.
Maybe these pastors have gone out to the dealers… the panhandlers… the traffickers… the speeders… the adulterers… the gluttons (oh yes, let's do be specific here shall we?). Maybe they have and have been met with failure. It's more than I know, and more than I can say. But you'd think that with our prayers being so carefully worded (are they really?) that we'd want the best for the worst.
Maybe these pastors have already tried church unity prayers, and have found the whole journey to be lacking or useless or otherwise silly. Maybe not. But it seemed grossly unfair to blame drug dealers around us for the darkness in town, when we ourselves hadn't come to one another in humility and reconciliation.
Tell me, Henri: what happens when Christians prayer against one another?
I wanted believers to put everything down, listen to one another, find mutual love and understanding, and heal from there.
These pastors wanted the Spirit to take more dominion over our land ("our"), and to get rid of the drug dealers. I prayed "against" the pastor, so to speak, because no amount of criminalization of drug dealers will heal what's broken within the Body!
But my voice was drowned in choruses of "Amens!", and "Preach its!", and "Hallelujahs!".
I left without a drop of hope for Christian unity. Not for a second did I want to be aligned with white privilege, dominionism, power-chasing, or well-intentioned spiritual warfare where no war needed to be started.
Guess I was the one lacking unity.
What does God do, Henri? Who does He listen to, respond to, or answer when His children have such quarrelsome prayers?
I'd like to think we're all heard and responded to perfectly, just as God is a perfect God. But what about those people who don't know or recognize God and are prayed against? Prayer is a weapon now?
Are my prayers anemic because they don't shout? They don't demand more land? They don't demand more money? They don't demand more, more, MORE in the name of "blessing" (which really seems to be greed disguised as entitlement… like that's any comfort)? Are their prayers more right? Are their prayers stronger?
Do our prayers do some cosmic battle in the air? Last prayer flying wins?
How does this work, Henri? Help me understand our world — our Bride — just a bit better; because right now I don't want to be a part of tearing others' lives apart until we're just as willing to tear our own lives apart, remove the gangrene and heal in Your Holy Spirit.
It only seems fair.
Until next time,