Does God Listen?
Last month, Tim Tebow, the famously religious quarterback who kneels in prayer before, during and after games, led the Denver Broncos to several wins. During one memorable game, the phenom passed for an astonishing 316 yards in 10 throws. People were quick to link that to the verse from John’s Gospel (3:16) that Mr. Tebow had written on his “eye black,” the patch of paint under his eyes to cut glare. His victories have made fans (and others) wonder: Is God answering Tim Tebow’s prayers? (Mr. Tebow acknowledges that he prays for God’s help in the game.)
The answer is: Yes, no, and we don’t know. First, yes. God hears everyone’s prayers, no matter who you are; just as Jesus says that God causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust, and sends the sun to shine on the evil and the good. But does believing in God mean that you will get exactly what you want? No. At first blush, that would seem to be what the Bible promises. Jesus says, “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Clearly, though, believers do not always obtain precisely what they ask for in prayer (think Broncos vs. Patriots on Jan. 14). So why are our prayers—especially those to end suffering—not answered in the ways we would wish? That leads to, We don’t know. As the Book of Isaiah says, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ says the Lord.”
Why God does not respond to everyone’s prayers as they would like is a tough question to tackle. But in the end, the answer to our prayers is not a touchdown or a Super Bowl victory or a new car or a raise or even good health. The answer is deeper than that, and more lasting. The answer to our prayers is God.
Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) that corporations could expend unlimited funds to influence elections, observers have been speculating about the myriad ways money would pollute the political process. Sadly, some of the worst fears are already coming true. Put aside the negative advertisements in Iowa aimed at Newt Gingrich, which allowed Mitt Romney’s supporters to attack Mr. Gingrich without entangling their candidate in bad publicity. The most troubling development came after the Iowa caucuses, when Sheldon Adelson donated $5 million to a super PAC that supports Mr. Gingrich. Mr. Adelson is a longtime friend of Mr. Gingrich, so the gift was not unexpected. But it seems that one of Mr. Gingrich’s infamous historical broadsides may have persuaded his friend to make the donation.
According to reports, Mr. Adelson, a strong supporter of Israel, and of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in particular, is in full agreement with Mr. Gingrich’s recent comments on Palestine. “Read the history of those who call themselves Palestinians, and you will hear why Gingrich said recently that the Palestinians are an invented people,” said Mr. Adelson. “There are a number of Palestinians who will recognize the truth of this statement.”
Mr. Gingrich was pilloried for his statement, and rightly so. Yet now, thanks to the Wild West nature of campaign financing in the United States, he is, in a way, being rewarded for his outrageous remarks. Mr. Adelson is exercising more influence over the Republican debate than any voter from South Carolina or Florida. Just as worrisome, he has a questionable business background (his casino company is under federal investigation) and holds extreme views on foreign policy. Even those who have defended Citizens United must admit that this is a very dangerous scenario.
A Catholic Candidate?
Of the two Catholic Republican presidential candidates still standing, Pennsylvania’s former senator, Rick Santorum, to a greater degree than other candidates, has constructed his image around an altar boy youth, his coal miner father and his big family of seven children, including the loss of a son born prematurely in 1996. He has gone out of his way to distinguish himself from President John F. Kennedy, who, he says, constructed a “threatening wall” that froze moral convictions out of political discourse. At the same time, although he calls himself “pro family,” in November 2011 he questioned the value of the government’s helping poor families with food stamps, Medicaid and housing assistance. “Suffering,” he said, “if you’re a Christian, is part of life.”
But there are several gaps between Mr. Santorum and the Catholic Church’s social justice teaching. The bishops want citizenship for undocumented immigrants; the former senator says that would invite migrants to break the laws. Pope Benedict XVI deplores the “scandal of glaring inequalities”; Mr. Santorum says, “I have no problem with income inequality.” The encyclicals support labor unions; this Catholic candidate would abolish public sector unions. While the bishops have condemned all use of torture, in a televised debate Mr. Santorum endorsed waterboarding and “enhanced interrogation techniques.” He has also long championed the death penalty, but now says he is thinking it over.