Never one to shy away from self-promotion, the Archbishop of York, ‘the most reverend and right honourable’ John Sentamu, has begun a week-long fast and prayer vigil for world peace. The Archbishop reckons this will show ‘solidarity with the suffering people of our world, particularly in the Middle East.’
How, I hear you ask, will it do this? How will John’s fasting and praying – ‘on the hour, every hour’ – be any more effective than, say, his cutting up his dog collar in 2007 in protest at Mugabe’s presidency of Zimbabwe (seven years later and Mugabe is still there.) What will all the prayers and the fasting accomplish, other than thrusting the Archbishop briefly into the limelight once again?
Does God need Sentamu’s prayers to alert him to what is going on in the world? Doesn’t God know already? Will his pleading prick God’s conscience so that he intervenes and brings to an end the bloodshed in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine? Why doesn’t God do something anyway?
And isn’t all of this rather arrogant, this assumption that God will only act if problems are pointed out to him by fallible human beings? (Even Jesus thinks this is how it works in Luke 11.5-8.) What sort of God is this, who is unaware of how things are here on Earth and is unable or unwilling to do anything about them until important
show-offs men like the Honourable Rev. let him know?
Maybe though, the Archbishop is less ambitious. Perhaps he just wants to demonstrate to those caught up in the world’s conflicts that he stands with them – though only metaphorically. But if that’s it, what exactly is he saying in all those prayers, on the hour, every hour?
Whatever it is, there will be no divine intervention. There is no God to take action, as evidence throughout history has shown us time and time again. Religion is part of the problem not its solution.