Is praying for rain such a "dotty" thing to do?
Asking God for good weather has been a characteristic of mainstream Christian traditions. It is the subject of some beautiful petitions in the Book of Common Prayer:
"¶ For Rain.
O GOD, heavenly Father, who by thy Son Jesus Christ hast promised to all those who seek thy kingdom, and the righteousness thereof, all things necessary to their bodily sustenance; Send us, we beseech thee, in this our necessity, such moderate rain and showers, that we may receive the fruits of the earth to our comfort, and to thy honour; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
¶ A General Collect for Fair Weather.
O ALMIGHTY Lord God, who for the sin of man didst once drown all the world, except eight persons, and afterward of thy great mercy didst promise never to destroy it so again; We humbly beseech thee, that although we for our iniquities have worthily deserved a plague of rain and waters, yet upon our true repentance thou wilt send us such weather, as that we may receive the fruits of the earth in due season; and learn both by thy punishment to amend our lives, and for thy clemency to give thee praise and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
But even if praying for rain appears odd to many people today, I have a more pertinent question: Should Justin Webb, the US Editor of the "impartial" BBC, be likening "praying for rain" to "a get-together of Stone Age men"?
Mr Webb was blogging after Georgia's Governor prayed for rain to end his state's drought. Many have ridiculed the Governor for his public prayer and it would have been quite appropriate for Mr Webb to have quoted those people's ridicule. That's what the Los Angeles Times did in its news report. But is it right for a public service broadcaster to treat the religious beliefs of many people with such derision?
Some of the comments below Mr Webb's post raised all of the right issues:
"I can guarantee that a BBC correspondent would never compare Muslim beliefs with those of "Stone Age men". I'm an atheist so it's all a crock as far as I'm concerned, but it's clear to me that the BBC treats religion in America differently to anywhere else in the world." - DB
"Would you call the Remembrance Sunday prayers at the Cenotaph a 'stone age' event?" - JR Lewis
"I don't see the BBC mocking Orthodox Jews davening at the Wailing Wall. I don't see them casting pilgrims in Mecca as self-deluded nut jobs. In fact, just today, I read a featured article about the heroism of Burmese monks. No mention of Stone Age meetings there. As a southern American, I am horrified, not by your thinly coated Anti-Americanism, but by your appalling dearth of decent manners." - KJ
"'Dotty'? So, when King George VI led the British people in a day of prayer on Sunday, 26th May 1940, His Majesty was 'dotty'?" - R G Montgomery
Mr Webb has form in disparaging religious Americans. This is what he told Radio 4 listeners in October 2004:
"That is why the President has held his own and might well win on November the 2nd. Because backing the President is about faith not politics. In politics when the facts change, you are free to change your view, change your strategy, if necessary. In matters of faith, when the facts change you are comforted by the knowledge that the rational world need not touch the engine that drives you forward."
BritainAndAmerica will be keeping a close eye on Webb-on-the-web from now on...