Is Wednesday “Ignore Jesus” Day at the Planned Parenthood?

Oh, I know, every day is “Ignore Jesus” Day at the Planned Parenthood.  But I mean, among Christians, is Wednesday the day of the week you get to take off from doing what Jesus says?

Because every Wednesday, I drive by the Planned Parenthood and there are usually three, but today five or six, people standing on the sidewalk praying.

“Hmm,” I said to myself, “Something about this sounds familiar…”  And so I turned to the actual Bible, a book most Christians have at least heard of, and I read in Matthew (6:5, for those of you who want to read along in your pews), “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.”

So, Jesus is teaching folks how to pray (this is right before he teaches them the aptly named Lord’s Prayer) and he says, don’t go standing out where folks can see you to pray.

And yet, when the folks who pray on the sidewalk in front of the Planned Parenthood do it, isn’t part of their purpose to be seen by other people?  They want the women who go to Planned Parenthood to see them and have second thoughts about going in.

How does that square?

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I wonder this about folks like Fowler, too, who seem to think that the whole not lying and not bearing false witness is expendible when you’re in the middle of trying to establish a theocratic state, but I get it.  He’s absolutely in it for the power, not for the religion.  So, him lying and falsifying his witness is not that surprising.

But I think it’s safe to say that these are sincere Christians.  And yet, every Wednesday, I drive by and see them praying in public where everyone can see them, for the purpose of being seen.

And I just wonder about that.  Why is it okay for you to go against what Jesus explicitly says in order for you to force me to do what you think God wants?

If you can’t walk the walk, why are you trying to force me to?

31 thoughts on “Is Wednesday “Ignore Jesus” Day at the Planned Parenthood?

  1. Sometimes, PP clinics only offer procedures (you know, abortions) on a specific day of the week — Wednesday could be that day for your local clinic.

    I was not aware of the Matthew quote — as I never bothered to read the Bible. But I like it!

  2. You realize that’s a little weak, right? Given the context of both of your examples, I don’t think they’re the same situation. Matthew gives me the impression that Jesus didn’t want people flaunting their prayer just to affect other’s opinion of them. If you use the literal interpretation you’re pushing then you pretty much wouldn’t be able to give any outward signs of being a Christian at all.

    If the folks in front of PP are sincere Christians then they’re probably praying there because they feel that babies are killed in that place and those babies deserve a little prayer.

    If Jesus meant to be taken as literally as you are doing here, then he didn’t want people praying in church or at weddings or funerals. Even if you give those a pass because it’s the house of God and those are religious ceremonies. But surely he didn’t mean for people to not say a prayer before breaking bread in public.

    I’m a little out of touch with my Bible, but I’m pretty sure he himself prayed in public. One of the gospels even quotes him as praying while on the cross in public.

    And my last argument…… would you prefer they approach the women on their way into PP and tell them that God hates whores and baby killers? They seem to be making their point in a pretty benign way.

  3. That’s so funny – I use that scripture frequently when dealing with people that flaunt their Christianity in loud demonstrative ways (I’m lookin at you, mom). It’s quite handy because often that bit of scripture is forgotten.

  4. W., I’m not arguing “Oh my god! What they’re doing is horrible.” I honestly don’t understand how they understand what they’re doing. It seems clear to me that Jesus was not big into public displays of piety. He wanted his folks out there DOING, not showing. In other words, praying about the hungry isn’t enough; you have to feed them.

    So, I wonder how they understand it. It’s pretty pagan to believe that a soul stays where it dies, so, if praying must be done for the souls of those fetuses, it’s not exactly Christian to believe that you must go to where those souls are located. So, if they’re praying there, it certainly should not be because praying there is necessary to make those prayers more effective. So, it seems to me to be because they want to be seen and recognized as praying.

    And that seems to me to be what Jesus was specifically speaking out about.

    People who pray over a meal in public are asking for a blessing on their food. They’re not praying so that folks can see them pray.

  5. I seem to be having trouble finding the right way to make my point. So what do you feel like would be an acceptable method of protest? Would it work better if they have signs? Should they stick to secular things?

    To me any invoking of God seems like some form of prayer (or curse).

  6. Oh, well, that explains it. I think what they’re doing is a perfectly acceptable form of protest. I just also think that, if you want to make a public statement, you have to accept that people are going to wonder about it. So, I wonder about it.

    And poke fun.

    But I think what they’re doing is a good way to do it.

  7. Well I agree with W. that motive is everything. And judging guessing at someone’s motives is usually a mistake. On the other hand I wished you’d go and ask them about this – and then tell me what they say.

  8. would you prefer they approach the women on their way into PP and tell them that God hates whores and baby killers?

    That is exactly what they are doing, in a ‘benign’ and passive-aggressive fashion. They’re saying “God is on our side; He’s not with the baby-killers and the shameless sluts.” They are working a facile demonstration of their ‘faith’ into a very public political statement, which they have a constitutionally protected right to do. And I have the same right to ridicule their narrow-minded hypocrisy.

  9. So what do you feel like would be an acceptable method of protest?

    I’m content to not judge these people’s motives, but this statement appears to indicate that you believe their public prayers are a form of political protest (and I’d agree that is the most obvious conclusion). It seems to me that if these people are using prayer as a form of protest, their activities are in fact intended for the benefit of humans rather than the divine. Unless they are somehow demonstrating against god.

  10. I love your blog! I am so happy I stumbled upon it! The religious right is always taking little excerpts from the bible and using them out of context for their own purposes. They just don’t like it when someone does it to them!

    And W’s argument is just as weak or even weaker. It doesn’t matter if you are at church or on the street; what does matter is whether you are praying because you need to pray or praying so others can see you pray. It’s a pretty simple thing, really.

  11. Dr. King said the marchers would like to kneel and pray.

    The officer said:

    “You can have your prayer and then return to your church if you so desire.”

    The marchers began singing “We Shall Overcome.” “

    MLK Jr: — Rank Hypocrite — al least according to the standards of some of the above commenters.

  12. MLK Jr: — Rank Hypocrite

    It seems to me that the difference between praying at a protest and praying as a protest is fairly significant.

  13. I get what you’re saying and you’re not entirely wrong. Although I have to say it does depend a lot on what is in the heart of the pray-er.

    If they are there because they feel that some or all of the women are in deep need and feel alone, they may believe that their presence there in non-confrontational prayer is a tacit way of letting those women know someone cares about them and is hoping that in their time of trial they can take comfort in knowing someone cares.

    If they are there because–as many of you seem to have inferred–that they want folks to know God is explicitly on their side against all the whores and baby-killers then they are in direct violation of the Whited Sepulchre Directive.

    Much of the root of the problem in the ongoing abortion war is that each side automatically assumes the other has base motives. I personally believe that a move toward mutual understanding would be the most beneficial for everyone involved.

    I feel a bit bad for many of the pro-lifers because they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If they walk up to the women and say that they care, they are harrassing. If they just stand there and quietly pray they are hypocrites.

    While I believe a good number of them probably are vainglorious and self-righteous I think that there are also a few who are genuinely concerned with helping women and aren’t quite sure how to go about it.

    And while I agree with Lee in his example up there, isn’t there yet a sub-clause to Godwin’s Law involving the invocation of Dr. King as a refutation of left-wing arguments?

  14. Yeah, I have to admit, I’m fascinated. I do think they’re sincere, at least the three that are usually there. This week there were more and they had a purple banner and some young folks who were clearly just there for the culture war. But I’m intrigued by the three old folks.

    And I do wonder how they understand it.

  15. It seems to me that the difference between praying at a protest and praying as a protest is fairly significant.

    at vs. as?

    Distinction without a difference. If you go to a protest planning on praying, then praying is part of the protest, no? The at becomes as.

    But to stop playing games, I think this is a situation where any protest or cause some commenters are sympathetic towards, they’d find the prayer innoculous, but a protest they don’t like, not so much. The logic to rationalize the difference can come later.

    (Not all commentators though. Aunt B, W, and Kat have a good conversation going on.)

  16. Distinction without a difference.

    Only if one doesn’t understand the concept of prayer. Prayer is a form of communication between human and divine. Protest is a form communication between human and human. If someone is attending a protest and is do caught up in their cause that they wish to seek the assistance or guidance of the divine and therefore pray, then to me they are genuinely praying, and their prayer is happening AT a protest, not AS one. But if one is praying to send a message to other PEOPLE, then I consider that Protest, not prayer (unless you word it as prayer AS protest, which I believe to be a faux type of prayer).

    Now as to what the people at planned parenthood (or the MLK march) had in their hearts, I can’t say (as I said in the very first post I made). But what I can say is that if W is corrected that they are praying as a form of protest, then my belief system doesn’t allow prayer as a form of protest. In my belief system, prayer is by definition communication with the divine, so unless you are protesting the divine, prayer can not simultaneously be protest.

    But to stop playing games, I think this is a situation where any comment made by a commentor another commentor is sympathetic towards, they’d find the comment innoculous, but a comment they don’t like, not so much. The logic to rationalize the difference can come later.

  17. I have a kind of standoffish relationship with the Divine, so where and how someone prays is practically irrelevant to me. But the scripture in Matthew isn’t ambiguous. So I can see the validity of the argument that Dr. King might have been trespassing against Jesus’ admonition to not make public spectacle of prayer. And I also don’t give a shit.

    If not for the tactics of Dr. King and his fellow travelers, I wouldn’t have much of a life today. I’ll cut them some slack for their little trespass on account of the great sacrifice many of them gave on behalf of my liberty, dignity, and comfort.

    I’ll grant that some of the people praying outside PP sincerely believe that they are saving Teh Babeez. But they and their fellow travelers are trying to create a society straight out of the Handmaid’s Tale, where the bodies of my wife and daughter belong to a state that operates under a twisted, totalitarian interpretation of Judeo-Christian doctrine. So I respect their constitutional right to make a spiteful public display of divine conversation, but I give no respect or benefit of the doubt to their motivations. A society in which they get their way– all the way– would really suck.

  18. Thanks, Francesca. I am a mind reader, but usually it’s a terrible burden. People think you’re strange, overly nosey, etc. It’s great that someone on the internet recognizes that it’s sometimes helpful.

  19. Katherine said more or less what I was trying to get at.

    Dolphin, I think you’ve decided I’m saying something other than what I intended. The original post was about B’s opinion that they were violating Jesus’ teaching about praying in public. She’s interpreting the scripture literaly, but I think it was actually about motives. IMO Jesus was saying If you’re praying where people can see you just so they think ‘gee, what a great person’ then that’s a bad thing. I don’t think he intended that to apply to people who were sincerely trying to ask for God’s blessing.

    There’s no way to know what the motives of those people are, but B was the one who was there and she thinks they’re sincere. In which case I don’t think they’re violating any scripture.

    That is exactly what they are doing, in a ‘benign’ and passive-aggressive fashion.
    Sam, you’re reading a lot more reading a lot more into it than you can really know. And once again, I’m going off B’s assumption of sincerity from these people. If they’re being sincere then they aren’t implying the things you say they are. You assume motives for the people completely the opposite of the person who was actually there. Just because someone disagrees with you it doesn’t mean they’re some base villian.

    Prayer can be used as a weapon like Sam is talking about. But I think it’s wrong to assume that’s the motive every time someone bows there head in the same room as non-believers like Sam seems to think.

    My general feeling is that if a person is praying out loud in public then they’re doing it for appearances. If they bow their head and pray to themselves, then they’re being sincere. I may be assuming wrongly, but that’s the best I can do when dealing with strangers with unknown motives.

    And W’s argument is just as weak or even weaker.
    Well it’s good that you cleared that up and pointed out all the flaws in my weak argument.

  20. W,
    I don’t think that we disagree exactly. I foremost agree that the scripture B quoted indeed discusses motives not physical actions, and noted that we can’t know the motives of the people out in front of PP (or the people at the MLK march, though Lee in his infinite wisdom apparently knows both, and mine). I further agree that Jesus was talking about the “look at me and how uber spiritual I am” attitude in that passage, but I’m looking a bit beyond that passage. But it was you’re line, “So what do you feel like would be an acceptable method of protest [instead of prayer]?” which I was responding to. To me that line indicates that you suspect (as do I) that these people were using prayer as a form of protest. I have trouble imagining that they just all happened to be strolling down the street and were overcome by the desire to pray has they happened to walk past PP, every Wed.

    While prayer as a protest isn’t the prideful act that Jesus was condemning in that passage, I still think that prayer as a protest, by definition, is aimed at people, not god, and I believe that is a misuse of prayer.

  21. Well … let’s say the people B sees are sincerely praying, for what they understand to be the intended sins of the women entering the clinic, or for what they are taught are the lost souls of the fetuses about to be aborted. Both of those are perfectly legitimate uses of prayer, by anyone’s estimation who accepts prayer as legitimate behavior. BUT by insisting on praying outside the clinic (instead of in a place of worship, in a private room, quietly in their hearts as they attempt to reach the divine) — by the location they choose, they seem to be indicating that the content and spiritual purpose of their prayer is less important than being seen to be praying. They are praying to be seen praying, whether they want the prayer to be seen as a warning/reminder or as a passive-aggressive attack. I mean, if you think that any abortion is a murder, and you want to ask that the hearts of people who would procure or perform an abortion be softened or turned to the right or whatever language you want to use, why is that prayer more efficacious in front of the clinic? That makes sense only if they are praying at people, rather than praying to the divine.

  22. NM, would you say the same about the anti-death penalty folks who gather outside a reformatory the night of an execution, or anti-war folks gathering on busy street corners — often sending out press releases beforehand giving the media a heads up — and then proceed to have group prayers, and the media with their cameras just happen to be there? Aren’t they doing the same thing?

    *****

    And Dolphin, I will tell you right now… that you do not believe there was absolutely no theater involved, whatsoever, in an entire group of protestors, kneeling at the same time in the middle of a busy throroughfare, immediately before a representative of the govt enforcing the laws that they protest.

    I will tell you right now… you do not believe that group prayer was done spontaneously solely for the benefit of God to grant them guidance and support, and absolutely not at all for the benefit of spectators and the members of the media covering the event like the NY Times reporter who wrote the article I originally linked. Maybe some

    You’re not that obtuse, though you are trying to play the part for rhetorical purposes.

    But when I merely relayed the example of Dr. King, So yeah, I call bull crap on you.

  23. Praying against war on street corners? Public, yes, but unless it’s passive-aggressively aimed at the people who happen to be on that particular corner, not exactly the same. Praying outside a prison during an execution? I’m not sure; I’ve never been involved in such an event, so I don’t know whether the prayers are kinda sorta fake-accidentally directed against people going in and out while the execution is happening.

    Now, I’m not a Christian, and I have no particular problem with public prayer, even when it’s obviously directed with great anger, even hatred, against people whom those praying would clearly rather attack with violence. (B has clearly described a very different situation; I’m thinking of things I have seen elsewhere.) But I have a huge problem with the hypocrisy of those who act that way and claim that they’re “just praying.”

  24. NM, would you say the same about the anti-death penalty folks who gather outside a reformatory the night of an execution, or anti-war folks gathering on busy street corners — often sending out press releases beforehand giving the media a heads up — and then proceed to have group prayers, and the media with their cameras just happen to be there? Aren’t they doing the same thing?

    *****

    And Dolphin, I will tell you right now… that you do not believe there was absolutely no theater involved, whatsoever, in an entire group of protestors, kneeling at the same time in the middle of a busy throroughfare, immediately before a representative of the govt enforcing the laws that they protest.

    I will tell you right now… you do not believe that group prayer was done spontaneously solely for the benefit of God to grant them guidance and support, and absolutely not at all for the benefit of spectators and the members of the media covering the event like the NY Times reporter who wrote the article I originally linked. Maybe some

    You’re not that obtuse, though you are trying to play the part for rhetorical purposes.

    When I merely relayed the example of Dr. King, no extra commentary included, you just had to immediately jump in and say that the difference was, quote, “fairly significant” using your at vs. as formulation as some weird sort of justification.

    Kat may have a good point that using a King reference might be a subset of Godwin, (an anti-war or anti-death penalty example could have been more subtle) but by referencing an example of King blatantly using prayer as public theater, you took the bait — hook, line, and sinker — on how a situation you were sympatheic with was completely different.

    So yeah Dolphin, I call bullshit on you. I’m a meanie like that.

  25. Katherine said, “While I believe a good number of them probably are vainglorious and self-righteous I think that there are also a few who are genuinely concerned with helping women and aren’t quite sure how to go about it.”

    That really rang true for me; I do think most people who go to the trouble of at least appearing to pray are doing it for the right reasons. But the second part hits a snag: is it really that difficult to figure out how to help women? To put it another, less-gracious way, if there were that many people who are both a) anti-abortion, and b) sincerely concerned with helping women, wouldn’t there be, like, a movement?

    My point is that the anti-abortion, pro-women crowd has comprised for 30 years only people who generally skew left. The ‘abortion bad, we care about women’ efforts of those not already on Our Team are mostly of the slut-shaming and bad-for-women’s-health variety. Which is to say, they have absolutely nothing to do with reducing, let alone ending the demand for, abortions.

    It all comes back to something I just can’t wrap my head around: anyone who’s so absolutely committed to ending abortion should, by any logic, be 100% in favor of comprehensive sex education, free and generous access to contraception, and a complete upheaval of how our society thinks about sex. Ha, it’s like the latest Bristol Palin quote (which I’m going to mangle), “If girls knew the consequences, no one would be having sex.” If we had a bunch of people who were so vigorously anti-abortion and pro-women, wouldn’t we have dealt with most of this by now? Would it even be a smidgen of the ongoing problem that it so clearly is?

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