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One Thing We Can All Do for Our Country

One Thing We Can All Do for Our Country
You [Lord] who have imbued us with unalienable rights that we may serve you in freedom … we ask your blessing upon us now. Conscious that unless you build the house those who build it labor in vain and unless you watch over the city we keep vigil in vain, we ask you first to grant us that holy fear to revere the dignity, responsibility, and freedom you have entrusted to us.

The Rev. Paul Scalia spoke these powerful words in his invocation at The Heritage Foundation’s 50th anniversary celebration gala. This invocation was brought to my attention via Tucker Carlson’s recent widely-viewed speech at the same event. At the beginning of his speech, Carlson takes a moment to offer Scalia a note of appreciation: “And I want to thank you, Father Scalia, that invocation for some reason, that really got me.  … It reminded me that I don’t pray enough for the country, and I should, but the answer is to include the country in your prayers, and thank you for reminding us.”

Scalia is the son of deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and a priest in the Diocese of Arlington, which happens to be the diocese where I live, and he is known here for his holiness and gift for words.

Indeed, in his invocation, Scalia’s words speak to the heart of America. In the quote opening this article, he reminds us that dignity, responsibility, and freedom are entwined and that you can’t have one without the other two.

“Bless our nation for whose good we strive,” he continues. Indeed, all too often, many of our leaders from across the spectrum of politics make vigorous efforts on behalf of a cause but neglect, in the process, the good of the country at large.

Near the end of his invocation, Scalia says, “Finally, be with us in this time of thanksgiving and joy, to bring grace to our conversations, to our friendships, old and new.” And though he is addressing those present at the gala, we can again find meaning for ourselves and ask for these same attributes of grace in our relations with others.

At another point in his own speech, Carlson returns to Scalia’s invocation: “Father Scalia, I was actually overcome a little bit with emotion as you prayed, because I realized that I was so upset by the behavior of some people I love, frankly, in a country I revere and always have, that I wasn’t praying for the country. That’s on me and we all should be.”

In his concluding remarks, Carlson once again harkens back to this idea of prayer. Of the current struggles between what he sees as good and evil in our country, he says: “Maybe we should all take just 10 minutes a day to say a prayer about it. … I’m coming to you from the most humble and lowly theological position you can. … And even I have concluded it might be worth taking just 10 minutes out of your busy schedule to say a prayer for the future, and I hope you will.”

All of us are acutely aware, as are these two men, of the many tribulations now besetting our country—the bitter political and cultural divides that tear apart friends and families, the contempt of our enemies overseas, the mistrust of our allies. In the face of these unceasing storms, we feel powerless, unable to make any sort of difference. This feeling of futility is incredibly dangerous, for it is the mother of hopelessness, which is despair under another name. Smother hope, and whatever battle we are fighting is already lost.

By way of example and suggestion, however, Scalia and Carlson have given us a means of counterattack against despair. We can daily lift up our hearts and minds to God. Whether we pray for 10 minutes or 10 seconds a day, we can ask God’s help for our besieged country, offering prayers of thanksgiving for the existence of the United States and prayers of petition asking that our nation always defend life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And for those who aren’t accustomed to such prayers, or who need help with the words, Scalia’s words throughout this article may aid you along the way.

There’s an old quip, often attributed to Otto von Bismarck, that goes, “God has a special providence for fools, drunkards, and the United States of America.”

Maybe we’re not too late to ask Him for some help.

Image credit: PxHere, CC0 1.0


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Jeff Minick
Jeff Minick

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    May 12, 2023, 9:51 am

    I'm sorry, but I cannot take this essay seriously. If there is one thing we know by now it is that, even if God exists (still a totally unresolved question), He most certainly does NOT respond to petitionary prayer. The most difficult issue for theists is why a benevolent deity allows evil and suffering. No one has yet formulated a universally agreed upon answer. But we know that prayer does nothing. Why should it? Why should God favor some earnest prayers, but not others? Surely the Ukrainians are more worthy of divine solicitude than Americans. Why should we expect God to aid us before he aids them?

    This is the hard truth Christians (perhaps all theists) must accept: we live in a world which we did not create; is deeply unfair; is utterly heedless of suffering; and yet within which we are expected to live moral lives without expecting any correlative temporal reward – though, given that God may not exist at all, and even if He does, doesn't help anyone in this life, our duties to Him are correspondingly limited (to, as implied above, living morally). Frankly, I think it's a crappy deal, but I'm just a person -a creature without control over anything except my own actions. Maybe God will reward our ethicality in an afterlife (or not; who really knows?).

    After many decades of observing American conservatives, I've come to the conclusion that all this "muh faith" stuff is just a put on for the rubes' benefit. It is also sometimes used as an excuse not to dirty one's hands with the kinds of morally problematic actions that real leaders often must take in this sinful world. Indeed, the very call to prayer is almost a form of world-weary resignation – "We're too weak to take or even advocate the hard measures we know are all that can save this dying nation, so let's act like we're dong something by offering up prayers." It has a nice ring to it – makes its speaker seem like an admirable chap – but it accomplishes nothing.

    God will not save America. We must do it ourselves – and it's going to take a multitude of actions that might not square with the pristine and superficial moral understandings of today's Christian Americans.


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