Prayer and politics

  • Article by: LORI STURDEVANT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 23, 2011 - 12:25 PM

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An uplifting new book offers the Minnesota House an antidote to the dismay caused Friday by an anti-Obama, Christian-specific opening prayer.

Chaplain of the House” by the Rev. Dennis Johnson is a concise book of wisdom and selected prayers offered by him and guest chaplains in the House in 2009-10. It’s newly released by Hennepin House of Minneapolis.
Johnson, a Lutheran and former president of Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, was the official House chaplain in those years, while Gustavus alumna Margaret Anderson Kelliher was House speaker.
“We have a special burden to include all people in our prayers and to make the prayers nonsectarian,” Johnson writes in what seems a prescient rebuke of Bradlee Dean, the conservative radio preacher whose Friday prayer brought protests from DFLers and a public apology from GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers.
“Prayer in the public space has the potential to unite us as a people,” Johnson writes. “In that act we may also acknowledge we are all brothers and sisters.” 
Friday’s events demonstrated that the opposite potential is also present when prayer is spoken in the statehouse.
If legislators want the custom of daily prayer to continue, they must be more vigorous in insisting that prayers be inclusive and nonsectarian.
Johnson’s book could serve future chaplains and legislators as a useful and inspirational guide.
 Lori Sturdevant is a Star Tribune columnist and editorial writer.
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