Oil washed ashore in major amounts on Alabama beaches Saturday, providing the strongest evidence yet that the state will suffer significant damage from the BP oil spill.
One citizen reacted by calling on churches to lead prayer trips to the coast.
While we respect anyone's right to practice their faith, we are afraid this will be a case of "too little, too late."
Actually, it's probably a case of "the wrong kind of prayer, at the wrong time."
Jo Dawson, a member of Bethel Baptist Church of Pea Ridge in Shelby County, told The Birmingham News she is trying to organize prayer trips to Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, and other areas hit by the BP spill.
"The best thing to do is pray," Dawson said. "I don't think BP is going to solve this. Only God can stop this. We need to pray to God to stop the leak and keep the ecosystem from being destroyed. I don't see any solution but divine intervention."
I agree with Dawson on a number of fronts. I don't think BP will solve it either. And I'm not sure there is a man-made solution to the problem.
Unfortunately, I suspect it's a little late to be asking for the Almighty's help. I don't claim to be a theological expert, but life experience has taught me that you can't repeatedly make bad decisions and then expect God to bail you out at the 11th hour.
As a nation, we've been making bad decisions regarding the oversight role of government for at least 30 years. Too many Americans, including myself for about 10 years, bought into the Reagan Revolution and its mantra to get government out of the way of business.
I don't know Dawson's age, but she probably would have been better served to have started her prayer effort back in the early 1990s. That's when it was becoming clear, even to me, that Reagan's ideas were leading the country down a dangerous path.
A good prayer might have gone something like this: "Lord, we pray that you will grant our citizens the wisdom to see that we need reasonable government oversight over corporations. Help us to understand that while businesses do a lot of good, we need regulation to keep human greed in check and to protect the greater good. Help us to choose leaders who will represent the interests of all Americans, including 'the least of these,' and who will protect the natural resources that sustain all life. Amen."
What if American Churches had been teaching such a prayer instead of handing out "voting guides" that encouraged the election of "conservative," pro-business candidates? What if congregants really bought into such a prayer and acted accordingly? Would we have a brewing disaster in the Gulf of Mexico right now?
I doubt it. My guess is that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Karl Rove never would have sullied our White House. And Alabama's beaches still would be among the most beautiful in the world.
There is irony in Dawson's call for prayer. Like me, she apparently lives in Shelby County. And unfortunately, that happens to be one of the most conservative counties in Alabama. It's so conservative, in fact, that we have almost no Democratic officeholders in the county.
I certainly have no problem with Dawson's efforts to rally folks behind prayer. But I would suggest that she also needs to enlighten Shelby County citizens about their voting habits.
Perhaps the BP spill will not damage the Gulf of Mexico beyond repair. But if we continue to elect leaders who promote a pro-greed, anti-regulation stance, we will almost certainly have another major spill down the road. And at some point, we are going to ruin one of the most important ecosystems on the planet.
Prayer is fine, but God gave us brains. It's time more of us started using our brains when we go to the voting booth.