The Prayer I Would Pray at the Republican National Convention
Of all the places we could have been born, You chose to bring us to life inside of a nation of invitation.
The first air we sucked into our lungs was the air of commission.
As children, when we were told the story of our homeland, we were asked to be a part of something larger than ourselves.
We were not asked to be beneficiaries -- but givers, investors, defenders.
You chose to bring us to life inside of a nation dependent upon stewardship, a joint stewardship that asks each member of the body to stand up for what is just, merciful, and good.
How rare this.
As we look across the scope of time and space, how few human beings have ever been asked to do what we have been asked to do?
But now that America is in real trouble -- now that the time has come to face the grave responsibilities Your sovereignty has given to us -- there are many among us who are retreating. Some claim to be too holy to invest in a nation that has invested in them their whole lives. Some simply feel like the task is too large or too messy.
Those who remain are asking for Your help.
If You have planted us inside of a country where the rights and responsibilities of altruism are ours, we will not demand from You a more pristine work.
We will operate within the microcosm of earthly citizenship, a citizenship that is resourced in what we are learning from our eternal Citizenship -- the beauties of of selflessness, the strengths of incarnation, the labors of compassion, the considerations of shrewdness, and the infinite resources of innocence.
Still, while we claim that this is our desire, we have not chased it well.
Here we stand in the mess we have made, represented by the two party leaders we have chosen. We have proud buffoonery on one side and deceitful self-idolatry on the other. Our leaders boast of hostility and domination without blushing. This is what we have become, Lord.
How well those two leaders represent us.
Here is our story. We will tell it to You:
Our nation stands knee-deep in the blood of a million of our own children slaughtered each year by our own hands.
We stand knee-deep in the blood of our own cultural injustices and the violence that has arisen as a result of two hundred years of human lives dishonored.
We stand knee-deep in the blood of our own innocence lost, little children and women abused by our own savage men who live lives of bottomless consumer lust.
We stand in the fat of our own gluttony. We have consumed whatever we desired with no concern for others or how our goods have come to us.
We stand in the fat of our own women who have lived preening and flaunting themselves; who have tossed their heads and manipulated and stolen.
We stand in the fat of unrestrained spenders who medicate insecurity and loneliness by shopping irresponsibility, without caring what damage is done by our greed.
We stand in the fat of our sloth. We have wasted so much time.
We have sat on our couches watching garbage for years and years - movies and television shows that have saturated the entire world, infecting foreign and vulnerable lands.
We have not taken good care of our bodies, not taken good care of our environment, not taken good care of our marriages, not taken good care of our poor.
We have grown flabby, weak of mind and muscle.
We stand in the fat of our own rewritten morality — our diet of drive-through justifications. We demand the right to be right.
We stand knee-deep in the dry bones of our dead faith -- the skeletal remains of a country that has hidden behind religion to do terrible deeds.
We have used Your name blasphemously, slanderously, to try to accomplish our own ends.
We have not seen You clearly or spoken of You clearly.
And we stand here now, knee-deep in the bile of our attempts at self-salvation.
Many of us have come to this convention because we have believed that we could rescue America with the strength of our own might.
Have you heard us shouting? Have you heard us declaring ourselves capable?
But, God. These two candidates -- this Republican and this Democrat -- what are these two but wretched, epic symbols of our worst traits? Our Scylla and our Charybdis. They are the spirit of our age.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, help us weep today instead of cheering. Help us be silent, and sorry, and serious.
Let us not feign excitement where there is agony.
Let us stop telling lies out of fear.
Voting this year is a bitter medicine to swallow — but let us drink it down to the dregs instead of running from it.
Like a child receiving his discipline, perhaps as we stand in the privacy of that booth, staring at the two terrible choices before us, we will finally admit the limitations of our autonomy. Perhaps as we push the button, we will finally be forced to weep as we should weep. Perhaps we will finally see how much we need You.
No. We will not disengage. We will not hide. We will own this severity.
For who among us will not vote without also whispering that the lesser of two evils is a terrible evil still. Who will not leave that room crying out, “I have done what I could, and still I have failed. We have all failed. We have all failed ourselves?”
Lord, we do not know if You are willing to help repair our country after all we have done. It’s hard to imagine that a nation so diseased could ever know life.
But whatever is to come next, will You at least help us to speak the truth? Will you help our national confession begin in the same way our first breaths were taken as Americans... in the intimacy of our own lungs?
Show us ourselves truly. Show us what we have and have not done with the vast opportunity of our citizenship.
Help us kneel today and pick up these broken fragments of our liberty and justice instead of throwing our fists into the air and claiming blind, stupid dominance. Help us be sober about what our pride and our greed have accomplished. Shut our mouths where we would boast.
Instead of roaring, let the pain of this severe, honest reflection settle in our chests, and help us mourn together instead of rejoicing.
We have nothing here. Nothing but straw and grass, and our enemies are approaching, and our enemies are among us.
If our party has attempted to gather to lead America, let us lead then first by penitence. Perhaps that is the cardinal endeavor of our citizenship, the one great accomplishment of our generation.
Perhaps we might be known as those men and women who finally confessed the sins of our time.
And then, perhaps You would raise our chins and show us where to serve our fellow Americans. Perhaps You would direct our hands and transform us into true citizens at last. Perhaps You would help us put aside our greed, our gluttony, our violence, our self-determination.
Perhaps You would finally make us grateful instead of entitled, willing to work hard to give back to a community that has given so much to us?
Perhaps You would give us discernment and compassion.
Perhaps You would teach us citizenship that reflects Your grace and truth?
God, would You give us a vision for what it means to stand firm against those evils both inside and outside of our borders? Would You show us where to fight to defend and where to kneel to wash the feet of those in need?
Thy will be done, not ours, oh God. Our allegiance is to You above all, and it has good for us to be reminded of this.
But as long as You extend to us (within that ultimate allegiance) the invitation to be stewards as citizens of America, help us embrace that opportunity wholeheartedly. Help us be good and faithful servants.
God, and if it falls somehow within Your mercy to do so, please bless America. Please heal our land.