In the last few weeks, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time enjoying a podcast which replays many of the episodes of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen’s radio and television show entitled “Life Is Worth Living.” In one episode, Bishop Sheen says the words, “If we do not live as we think, we will soon think as we live.” In other words, you must take heed to conform your life to that which you believe, so that you do not end up believing those things that suit the way you live.
Earlier today, I decided to head over to the Episcopal Church Foundation for Vital Practices (ECFVP) to see what I could find regarding resources for anti-racism training or racial justice. While there, I decided to pop in to see the updates to their blog section, and ran across this blog from which I’ve stolen my title: lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi. This translates to “the law of prayer is the law of believing, which is the law of living,” or more clearly, “what we pray for, determines how we live.” Or stated in the reverse, “we live according to our beliefs, and what we believe is expressed in our prayer.”
Many of us, in the days following the riot and attack on the capitol building on January 6th of this year, have come to wonder how people who claim to know Jesus could have ended up storming the capitol with the intent of causing harm to those within its walls. Causing harm, when the Jesus they claim to follow expresses the mandate to “love your neighbor,” and “pray for your enemies.” Nowhere does Christ seem to indicate that violently beating your enemies with a flagpole is the way of love, nor even something he wants his followers to do.
In trying to decipher why some people would believe the lies that led them to think that they were standing up for God’s will, I ran across an interview with Elizabeth Neumann, a former top official at the Department of Homeland Security who resigned from the Trump administration in April 2020. In this interview, regarding the adherence of so many Evangelical Christians to conspiracy theories, she states:
There was a big movement in the ’90s called Seeker-Friendly Churches. Willow Creek [one of the most prominent of these churches] did a self-assessment about 10 or 15 years ago, and one of the things that they found is while they had converted people to Christians, there was a lack of growth in their faith. They were not learning the scriptures. They were not engaged in community. They were not discipling anybody. And [Willow Creek’s] assessment was: We failed. We baptized some people, but they’re not actually maturing.– Elizabeth Neumann
One of my questions is: Are we seeing in the last four years one of the consequences of that failure? They didn’t mature [in their faith], and they’re very easily led astray by what scripture calls “false teachers.” My thesis here is that if we had a more scripturally based set of believers in this country — if everybody who calls themselves a “Christian” had actually read through, I don’t know, 80 percent of the Bible — they would not have been so easily deceived.
“They would not have been so easily deceived.” Meaning that they found something to believe in, and what they believed led them to live in a manner that justified committing violence against not only their country, but their fellow citizens. Which then just begs the question, How -or about what – were these rioters praying?
A couple months ago, I wrote a blog about how every denomination or believer remains the Hand of God, even if they focus on an aspect of God that is different from our own focus of God’s attributes. I was thinking more in terms of the charismatic, legalistic, social justice, or monastic threads of the faith, and not in terms of those who commit violence. If I were to write that same blog entry again, I would point out that those who focus on the charismatic, the social justice, or the monastic attributes of God, among others, can still come together and agree on the need to love God, and love neighbor, despite differences in worship style or worship emphasis.
A few weeks ago, I was speaking with the priest of my parish, and we were discussing the riots at the capitol. I mentioned that there were people at the capitol who claimed to be Christians, and how these people claim to believe the same God that I do. I mentioned that these rioters had faith in something to such a degree that they were willing to storm the capitol and commit violence on behalf of that belief. He responded that yes, they may have believed something enough to act on it, but “their faith is different than mine.”
Which brings us back to the question: for what, or how, were these capitol rioters praying? What were they praying for, such that their beliefs allowed for violence?
In the ECFVP blog entry mentioned above, the author, Ranjit Matthews points out that “Our purposeful alignment then with God in prayer is critical to the enjoining of our will with God’s.” Our very job in prayer is to seek out God’s will in the world, and to align our will to God’s will. If we seek to bend God’s will to our own, or merely spend time praying for our will to be done through God’s mighty power, then we have already failed to understand the necessity of making God the Lord of our lives, and instead we find ourselves seeking to make our lives the lord of our God.
“There are ultimately only two possible adjustments to life; one is to suit our lives to principles; the other is to suit principles to our lives. If we do not live as we think, we soon begin to think as we live. The method of adjusting moral principles to the way men live is just a perversion of the order of things.”– Fulton J Sheen
Mike is a jack of all trades, master of none. He’s a data analyst, programmer, and loves to cook. If he doesn’t have his face buried in a book or is staring blankly at a computer screen, you can find him on a motorcycle, enjoying the ride.
Mike holds a Masters of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary.