Voters take prayers to the polls
October 10, 2008
When Linda Steele walks into the voting booth on Nov. 4, she won’t be alone. God will be at her side.
"We want right now to pledge our allegiance to you, Lord," she said at a prayer meeting Thursday afternoon at the Christian Center of Park City. She opened her palms and turned them out, as if making two stop signs. "We, right now, are at a crossroads. We pray you would give us insight as you guide us and tell us who to vote for."
Steele, a member of Mountain Life Church, organized a prayer group scheduled to meet every Thursday at noon leading up to Election Day. No place for lament-like chants or abstractions, participants talk to God directly and explicitly about the economic crisis, home foreclosures, health care, racism, abortion and deception on the campaign trail.
Anecdotally, some religious leaders in Park City insist that prayer is on the rise, brought on by a precipitous crash in the stock market and an election that many are calling the most important in our lifetime.
State and federal law prohibits tax exempt nonprofit organizations — including churches, synagogues and temples — from endorsing one candidate over another.
But when times get hard, people get on their knees and pray more often, say religious leaders. Churches provide a forum for congregants to discuss the issues that matter to them. Pastor Doug Folsom of Saint John’s Anglican Church in Quarry Village plans to host a viewing party for Wednesday’s presidential debate. "The election and the economy are on a lot of people’s minds and there’s a lot of concern," he said. "I want to provide a forum for people to discuss their views respectfully. We’re not trying to influence anyone’s decision."
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Folsom said his congregation is split down the middle. Half will likely vote for Democratic nominee Barack Obama and half for Republican nominee John McCain. "I like to remind people that the right wing and the left wing are part of the same bird," he said.
Culture war, round 2,008
Make no mistake, for Linda Steele this election is about faith, family and freedom. "We are in a culture war," she said Thursday. "We are going to let scripture interpret scripture."
The prayer group at the Christian Center, now entering its third week, follows an Evangelical curriculum set forth by the national Presidential Prayer Team, which was started the day after 9/11. For 40 days leading up to Nov. 4, the faithful are asked to recite a different devotional prayer from their "America the Beautiful" booklet.
Participants met for about 45 minutes Thursday, day 15 in their booklet and began the informal service by imploring God to bring truthfulness and candor to those running for public office. "Let the truth about any candidate for office, from the local level to Washington, D.C., be brought forward so we can honor you with our loyalties and our votes," Roger Shaw, a member of Mountain Life, read.
Roger Shaw’s wife, Sheila, prayed for safer schools and the pealing back of abortion laws. "We have all kinds of ways to save a dog and we would throw away the life of child and call that choice?" she lamented.
She later added that she found the nomination of Gov. Sarah Palin to the Republican presidential ticket appealing because of her "belief in life." "All the candidates are just human beings," she said. "No man is going to satisfy."
Another congregant prayed for unity, no matter who wins the election. "They have chosen a tireless job," she said, "and if they are elected they will become servants first for you and then for the people of this country."