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Uh, What Exactly Does Rolling Stone Magazine Think Prayer Is?

Rolling Stone Magazine has an interesting scoop about Liberty Counsel’s Peggy Nienaber claiming that she prays with Supreme Court Justices. If true, the article claimed, that could be a conflict of interest, since the Liberty Counsel brings lawsuits before the Supreme Court. Liberty Counsel had an amicus brief that was cited in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, which overturned Roe v. Wade.

Those are matters that definitely bear some looking into (Liberty Counsel founder Matt Staver denied that any prayers with Supreme Court justices had occurred and could not explain why Nienaber said they did) said but it’s also worth asking …uh, what exactly does Rolling Stone Magazine think prayer is? Because the article contains this quote:

“Prayer is a powerful communication tool in the evangelical tradition: The speaker assumes the mantle of the divine, and to disagree with an offered prayer is akin to sin.”

Uh. What? 

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Admittedly, evangelicalism is a broad tradition with a lot of different theologies about prayer. But if any evangelical teaching on prayer involves “assuming the mantle of the divine” and teaches that disagreeing with prayer is “akin to sin,” then that is news to this outlet. And as far as it being a “powerful communication tool” goes, that’s just a frankly bizarre string of words. Even if you could make the case that some Christians might have cynically used prayer as a public speaking device or for political gain, that’s not what any good faith person would describe as “normal.” On the contrary, a good deal of evangelical teaching stresses the intimate, personal nature of prayer. No “mantle of the divine” necessary.

Look. It’s not a huge deal. Nor does it undermine the charges made in the article, which are important. But at a time when many Christians are distrustful of mainstream news outlets, it’s a significant lapse that feeds a narrative about how poorly evangelicals are understood by legacy news. If places like Rolling Stone want to be taken seriously by their readers, they need to do them the service of writing about them accurately. That didn’t happen here.

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