Detroit officials turn to prayer to combat growing violence.

In a display that shows politicians in Detroit can entangle religion and government just as well as any in the south, officials held a “day of prayer” at all 13 of Detroit’s police precincts yesterday. Violent homicides are on the rise in Detroit with over 102 in the first three months of this year compared to 68 for the same period last year and the only solution the Mayor and other officials can come up with to combat the problem is to bring in the Bible thumpers to hold an hour-long session of sermons and praying in hopes that God will suddenly make everyone in Detroit stop killing each other for no apparent reason.

LOOKING FOR STRENGTH: Faced with a deadly rash of violence, Detroit officers join in day of prayer – Detroit Free Press

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings participated at the 11th (Davison) Precinct, which patrols the neighborhood where four children and their mother were battered to death Thursday.

Their message: There was nothing that police could have done to prevent the deaths—or the deaths of the three people at a party on the city’s west side Sunday. The change, the mayor and chief said, must come from the community and with God’s help.

It depends on everyone to call “on the power of God,” Kilpatrick said.

The mayor, police chief and about 200 participants were led in prayers by seven religious leaders.

“We are assembling to raise our city,” said Chief Police Chaplin Robert Holt.

On Monday, many people found the prayer experience so uplifting that the department is considering holding them again, said Tara Dunlop, third deputy chief for the Office of Public Information.

But not everyone greeted the event with praise.

“That sounds like a police agency that’s thrown its hands in the air,” said Lance Smith, the director of community policing at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

Issues of church and state aside, I have to say that’s exactly what this sounds like. What’s next? Bringing in an ‘expert’ in Feng-Shui to rearrange the city to be more conducive to positive energy flow? Perhaps a tribal shaman to do a little dance and scare away the evil spirits plaguing the city? Give me a break.

On the good side there’s at least one local official who understands the reality of the situation:

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said that while the police could not have prevented last week’s homicides, they can prevent similar crime in the future by changing the public’s attitude.

“All we can really do is educate,” Worthy said.

Values are taught, not delivered from on high. Children emulate the adults around them and then they grow up to pass those values (or the lack of them) onto their own children. It doesn’t take a belief in God to teach a child right from wrong. What it does take are adults who not only care enough to teach kids what values they should hold, but who practice those values themselves. If you want your kids to respect you then you have to act in a manner that is worthy of their respect. If you want them to understand right from wrong, then you need to lead by example. Words alone are not enough. Belief in a higher power is not enough. There are plenty of people out there who believe in God and are still some of the most immoral and corrupt people you are ever likely to encounter.

The thing that gets me though, is the belief among some Christians that large numbers of people making sincere appeals to their God will bring about change through divine intervention. If you’re a Christian and you believe your God is real and you accept the rules on how things are supposed to work under that belief system then you should realize that praying for God to open someone’s heart to his existence and make them a better person should be completely futile. The Bible makes it clear that believing in God and accepting him as your savior has to be a completely voluntary act on the part of the person doing so. God reaching down and tampering with someone to make them “see the light” would be a violation of the free will God supposedly granted everyone and values so much. God suddenly imbuing someone with a value system they didn’t have before would make the whole free-will thing kinda pointless. At best you might hope that God will be motivated to protect someone from harm, perhaps by nudging a bullet a little off course or causing a flat tire that requires stopping which avoids an accident they would have gotten into otherwise, but tampering directly with the individual would seem to be a no-no God won’t engage in. If you really believe in him, that is. Which is part of why I always find it amusing when some Christian tells me he or she will pray for me. Go ahead, but according to the rules that won’t make any difference.

All of that said, I will concede that religious belief can be very useful for imparting good values to not only your children, but yourself and other adults. There’s plenty of good advice on how to behave in just about every religion out there, but none of that matters if folks don’t care enough about themselves or others to want to try and be better people. The conditions in many urban settings being what they are it can be easy to grow apathetic and disillusioned. Why should someone care about the value of life if their lives aren’t worth living in the first place? Grinding poverty and other social problems that go along with it part of what results in the violence inner cities are known for. A lot of these problems are tied together and the chain can be tough to break, but humans can inspire each other to care even in the worst of situations and therein lies our best hope of breaking the cycle. People have to help each other to develop a reason to care and to hope. Hoping your God will intervene is hoping for a solution that doesn’t involve any real work on your part and according to the rules laid down in your Bible, it don’t work that way.

28 thoughts on “Detroit officials turn to prayer to combat growing violence.

  1. The question of intercessory prayer—e.g., for God to “soften the hearts” of others—is a tough one for Christians.  One decent explanation I try to hold to my own heart is that when we pray for God to do something, we’re to be stirred to do our part in it—for God to work through us.

    And that means doing a hell of a lot more than just standing there and praying.

  2. I remember several Bible stories in which God tampered with the minds of humans.  For example, in Exodus he appeared to Moses as a burning bush and hardened Pharaoh’s heart against freeing the Hebrews, and in the New Testament he struck Paul blind on the road to Damascus.

    I agree that what they’re doing in Detroit is useless, Les.  But I think it’s consistent with their beliefs.

  3. Just as an aside, the main lesson my four-year-old came away with after a cursory explanation of the Hebrews’ slavery in Egypt was:  “If the Egyptians want to have friends, they had better be nice to people.”

    What more do you need?

  4. hi
    I hate to say this but there is evidence that mind can affect the material world.
    However it has nothing to do with religion.
    It’s just physics.
    Einstien said “God does’nt play dice"I am willing to bet that if he did he would’nt roll snake eyes.

  5. Just came across your site - really good stuff.

    (and that you’re gonna teach your kids to play D&D? I’d say SWEET, but the cool part about it is that your parents aren’t supposed to understand)

    On this subject - Prayer is a form of demonstration, a show of force, and, obviously, free press. Its not the solution, but if it helps focus some people, they should go for it.

  6. I hate to say this but there is evidence that mind can affect the material world.
    However it has nothing to do with religion.

  7. Well this is good news for the criminal element in Detroit at least.
    What is always the first sign of defeat and last hope for the downtrodden? Prayer!
    Basically the Detroit Police Dept. have been reduced to a bunch babbling idiots on their knees praying to a non existent being to “save them”.

    That is truly scary and just as sure a sign as I can think of why religion needs to be publicly proven to be exactly what it is, bullshit!
    Public officials in a secular nation ignorantly resorting to prayer, something that has time and time again been proven to be of ZERO help is a disgrace.
    The only so called “Studies” that believe they have proven otherwise were nothing more coincidence at best, there has never been and never will be any proof that prayer does anything other than make you look helpless.
    The largest study which was done by a Bible thumping university even clearly showed absolutely zero effect.

    Im sure every hard-core criminal in Detroit is just smiling ear to ear right now.

    Why is it exactly that Christians believe the more that pray to their good little pavlovian God the better the result? Here ya go God good boy, here’s a cookie *pat-pat*
    One person isn’t good enough? If so then when you as an individual pray you must know perfectly well its fruitless since prayer only works in huge groups right?
    God only listens to large groups.

    ““Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”“

    This country has been reduced to a bunch of sniveling idiots that believe some omnipotent being which doesn’t exist is the answer to all their woes.
    If it weren’t so sad & downright frightening it would be funny.

    Crap like this will lead to dangerous precedents being set.
    Why stop here, lets all just pray terrorist will stop world wide, there ya go problem solved.
    Onward Christian Soldiers.

    We can go ahead and get rid of our military right now, all we need to do is pray and God will keep us safe, woot just saved Billions problem solved.

    Medicines? Oh hell who needs that we have prayer.
    Senior health care problem solved. WooHoo we are on a roll.
    Oh hell lets just let er rip, lets all just quit our jobs, and go to church for a living since all we need to do is ask God for everything we need, he will protect us, feed us, clothe us, and so on.
    Aahhhh Yes, the power of Religion.

    Lets just change everything into religious propaganda like the Christians desperately want, lets have a Church replace every liquor store, lets put “In God we trust” & “Under God” with God, For god, By God, Up God, Down God, Beside God on everything we possibly can.
    No need for the Ten Commandments to be placed in every courtroom since we wont need courts anymore once everyone becomes a “True Christian” you see true Christians are perfect and would never ever commit any crime ever.

    WOW , you know your almost there right?
    I mean already between 70-80% of the country is Christian, just beat the rest of us heathens & not true Christians into submission and your set, all you need to do is simply elect Pat Robertson as President, Jerry Falwell as Vice Pres., we don’t need any other positions but “Prayer Leaders” in the rest of the government and we are GTG.

    All them damn faggots will be dealt with quickly.
    All of our needs will be met, we wont need anything but a good place we can all gather daily to pray for everything we need.
    Get rid of all those hospitals, just bring the sick to church, Get rid of all those Courts and Police depts., we are all True Christians incapable of any wrong doing.
    Get rid of that military, God is all we need.

    You are well on your way to exactly that, if all the good “True Christians” have anything to say about it.
    Just listen to President Robertson on the only show you need to be watching from here on out if you think that’s not exactly what he thinks.

    Bleh, /excuse me while I go throw up my Breakfast.

  8. hi
    I know the Einstien quote is out of context and how he regretted it.Just my attempt at lightening up and not taking this all to seriously.
    As for your request.
    There are well documented studies on non causal or synchronistic anomalies.Arthur Koestler The Roots of Coincidence does a fair job of picking up where Jung left off.
    A later work I found very interesting so much so that it is the most dog eared and annotated I have
    is Earthdream by Robert Hamilton ISBN 1-870098-11-0.
    As for mind over matter,there is no known mechanism /explanation as to how the thought “I want to move my hand ” generates the electro chemical response that results in nerve stimulus and muscle movement.
    An explanation may be found but it seems to me that currently it’s mind over matter.
    I try not to be to serious about this stuff,but I find it a much more interesting line of thought than whether or not god exists.
    Also that it may be possible to come to some clearer understanding which is never going to happen in the god debate.
    I am not educated in the deconstruction and debating methods that you guys employ.
    My formal education stopped at 12 so I do not have the analytical tools that you have learned to apply to these issues.
    You will just have to do it for me,maybe.

  9. elwed
    Since so many eminent scientists have already spent a great of time utilised state of the art techniques and still failed to find mind among all those electro chem processes it would be futile for me to try and provide empirical proof.
    So fair point, I will do some thinking on it.
    So what about action at a distance influencing dice etc. Again I can only refer to the “evidence”
    documented by Koestler and others.

  10. I remember several Bible stories in which God tampered with the minds of humans. For example, in Exodus he appeared to Moses as a burning bush and hardened Pharaoh

  11. Spacemonkey, it is easy to construct incredibly complex things from very simple building blocks. Look at the Mandelbrot and other fractal graphs…

    I doubt that we’ll ever understand how the human brain works, but it doesn’t follow that some otherwise unknown forces must be at play.

    Regarding Koestler, I haven’t had much time to google today. The questions that immediately come to mind are exactly how his eperiments are conducted, how the results are evaluated, and more importantly, can he offer a set of basic instructions from which other researchers can reproduce his results?

  12. On the one hand, Les, I would say that public officials who are supposed to keep order publicly praying to God to help them keep order are basically admitting their own failure.

    On the other hand, when you write

    The thing that gets me though, is the belief among some Christians that large numbers of people making sincere appeals to their God will bring about change through divine intervention. If you

  13. Paul_H, I don’t really care if they pray for me, I just find it amusing that they do. It’s usually thrown at me as their last words when giving up on having a conversation with me. Sometimes the words are sincere and sometimes they’re spoken as though it was some sort of threat. In almost all cases it was a signal that they wouldn’t be discussing things any further with me.

  14. elwed
    Don’t bother to much about the Koestler book It’s a dry read anyway worth a read if you happen to come across it.
    However there is what I consider to be an excellent book that has gone a long way towards shaping my current thoughts.
    Earthdream (The Marriage of Reason and Intuition)
    by Robert Hamilton.ISBN 1-870098-11-0
    Being quite an isolated individual in an isolated environment I have not had the opportunity to discuss the really quite startling (to me)issues he raises.
    In posting here I also realise that I do not have the necessary depth of understanding to put forward a good case for this mans work.
    I hope you can get a copy and look forward to discussing the issues it raises with a common reference point.

  15. But seriously, Les, as a Christian myself, I see your point.  While I stand by my earlier statement (about nuance, etc.), I will admit that I have trouble with prayer myself.  The last time I tried praying for another, the reply I received (not that you believe the reply to be anything from outside my own head) was more about my own shortcomings in not doing my part to help the friend I was praying for.

    Personally, I find intercessory prayer (asking God for stuff) to be a largely selfish act.  I have benefited from prayers for understanding.

    I would not really characterize myself as a praying man, though….

  16. David said, “If God appeared to you, in all His glory, and proved through His power that there was no question the Bible is true to you, would you even seriously consider not being a Christian?”
    In a word, yes.  Having seriously considered, researched, and studied the texts and followers of Christianity, I know it is not right for me.  I feel the religion is corrupt, manipulative and oppressive, proceeding directly from it’s deity to it’s least adherent.  If God appeared before me and “proved” there was no question that Christianity was “true,” I would politely decline to join the party.

  17. 00Ooooohhhhh NN0oooooo these people aren’t suffering any mental disorders at all.

  18. Funny thing is murder is NOT on the rise its actually lower than its been in 30 years.

    Media hype, just like Mad Cow which out of 6 Billion people on the planet has in some way we arent exactly sure how managed to kill just 139 people, the one way we know people DONT contract it is actually by eating infected beef LOL.

    Less BTW than ASPIRIN has probly killed TODAY alone, Less than die from Lightning etc.
    Media preys on the ignorance of the masses so does religion.

  19. Hey, Nunya, did you watch the “Safety Hysteria” episode this week on Penn & Teller: Bullshit! too?  Hilarious.

    Scared people will do anything to feel safer—including buying just about anything.

  20. ARRGGHHH! Now that Nunyabiz is agreeing with my stand on BSE, I’m going to have to go back and completely re-evaluate it… this just cannot be!

  21. Yes I did , love that show.

    Although I was already fully aware of most of that particular “bullshit” from some earlier discussions I had pertaining to the media over a year ago.

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