Please. If you want to show how holy you are or impress people with the sincerity and fidelity of your faith, just—please—stop peppering Facebook with all your “Praise the Lord”s.
I’m just as overjoyed, grateful and teary-eyed with relief as you are that the twelve Thai soccer players and their coach were saved from Tham Luang caves in Thailand. It must have been a terrifying experience for the boys—the entrapment as well as the rescue itself. It must have driven despairing parents to raise desperate prayers. For those of us who are the praying sort--I among them--our prayers went up, as well.
And while I think the impulse and perhaps even duty to pray is meet and right, we need to save our “Praise the Lord”s and “The power of prayer!” platitudes. For starters, they are sanctimonious: my prayers helped save these boys. Well, they didn’t. Thai Navy Seals and advanced technology did.
And the reason for putting the brakes on praising the Lord is not to not praise God. I’m all for that. But certain folks feel compelled to opine their praises to the Lord when a successful outcome is effected—and it seems only when a successful outcome is effected. (What offends me as clergy is not the taking of a knee in football but players crossing themselves after a touchdown—as if God intervenes in football but not in scoring goals against world hunger, poverty, injustice, etc.)
When we ascribe credit, as well as responsibility, to God for personally maneuvering a positive outcome—perhaps egged on by our own prayers—we are turning God into a dollhouse master who can change the terms of play at God’s own whimsy. So we praise the Lord when the soccer players are rescued in a lengthy, expensive and heroic process to be reunited with their families after a two-week separation. But do we then assume that God can’t work the same wonders to effect reunions between the children and parents separated at borders?
Hmmm. It strikes me that we have the same stake in making those reunions happen that the Navy Seals did in saving the boys.
Truly, God is not the puppetmaster, willy-nilly letting genocides occur, but intervening when it apparently suits God to score some praises from the hoi-paloi.
Instead, I think God is watching us. I think God wants to see what we intend to do in this world, not privatizing and supernaturalising God’s beneficence to private dramas, but extending them broadly, through our commitments and efforts, to serve the world at large.
Twenty-three prominent Christian leaders—among them Bishop Michael Curry who gave the homily at the recent British royal wedding--with long experience in social justice struggles created a declaration, “Reclaiming Jesus: A Confession of Faith in a Time of Crisis.” It asserts and affirms that “how we treat the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the sick and the prisoner is how we treat Christ.”
And they add that “while we share a patriotic love for our country, we reject xenophobic or ethnic nationalism that place one nation over others as a political goal” and resist “any moves toward autocratic political leadership and authoritarian rule.” This nation was never conceived as nor intended to be a theocracy. The failure of the Massachusetts Bay Colony long before we were the United States is clear testimony to that—history always being good to read and learn.
So it is perfectly laudable to give thanks for this amazing and uplifting rescue in Thailand. But God did not will that any more than God wills the miseries that plague our world. So if praising the Lord is your desire and your aim, praise God that we are equipped to do so, so very much good in the world to redress those miseries. And then we are to do our best to do it.