Behold the Power of Prayer: Harrisburg, PA files for bankruptcy protection.

Remember back in June when I wrote about the mayor of Harrisburg Pennsylvania, Linda Thompson, announcing she was going to fast for three days and pray like crazy in the hopes that God would provide her with the means of solving the city’s deficit problems?

In case you’ve forgotten, here’s a snippet:

The mayor is going to not eat for three days and pray like she’s never prayed before. Yeah, that’ll probably work. God responds so well to people who starve themselves and beg him repeatedly to do something. Why I’m sure they’ll wake up on the fourth day to find the city’s coffers suddenly overflowing with money from nowhere.

Well it appears that God must hate either Linda Thompson or the city of Harrisburg as they’ve just announced they’re filing for bankruptcy:

Pennsylvania’s capital has authorized a bankruptcy filing, making the city the nation’s highest-profile municipality to acknowledge that it can no longer handle its burdensome debt.

Harrisburg’s city council authorized the measure Tuesday after the government spent the past year and a half trying to find a solution to its $300 million debt crisis.

In the face of a continuing political battle over whether the city should restructure its debts, Harrisburg’s leaders finally capitulated and said the Chapter 9 filing is the only way out of the situation.

via Pennsylvania’s State Capital Seeks Bankruptcy Protection – US Business News – CNBC.

Prayer is really just another name for wishful thinking and the problem with wishful thinking is that reality has a way of crushing it in time. Especially when you try to use it to solve real-world problems rather than, you know, doing something useful.

Perhaps next time the voters in Harrisburg go to the ballot box they should try to elect someone who has a better plan than begging to an absentee God to solve their problems.

Harrisburg, PA Mayor turns to prayer to solve city’s financial problems.

Up next in our ongoing series of incompetent politicians turning to public displays of religiosity in place of actually doing something useful is Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s mayor Linda Thompson. It seems the city is facing a looming deficit of $3.5 million dollars which is expected to grow to $10.4 million by 2015. A good portion of the problem stems from an incinerator project started in 2003 that was supposed to be a revenue generator, but has instead has been a money hole.

So, of course, there’s only one possible solution:

“Things that are above and beyond my control, I need God,” Thompson told WHTM TV, the region’s ABC news affiliate. “I depend on Him for guidance. Spiritual guidance. That’s why it’s really no struggle for me to join this fast and prayer.”

The mayor is going to not eat for three days and pray like she’s never prayed before. Yeah, that’ll probably work. God responds so well to people who starve themselves and beg him repeatedly to do something. Why I’m sure they’ll wake up on the fourth day to find the city’s coffers suddenly overflowing with money from nowhere.

Personally, I think if the mayor can’t come up with any solutions beyond fasting and prayer then perhaps she should reconsider her career and let someone who isn’t a drooling idiot take over who might have more practical ideas to try.

This is the problem with electing people because they share your religious views and say things you want to hear. Too often they don’t have the skills it takes to actually run things properly and when faced with a crisis they turn to useless displays of piety because they either can’t or won’t consider ideas that would help due to their ideological blinders. This is especially true of anyone who claims to be a TEA Party member who ends up being particularly flustered when their ideological approach doesn’t work thanks to reality getting in the way.

But I suppose the folks in Harrisburg are simply getting the government they wanted, and deserved, for electing an idiot to office.

Hat tip to @HumanityPlague for sending this in.

Governor Rick Perry’s solution to America’s problems: Pray it away.

Texas Governor Rick Perry rarely misses an opportunity to mix religion with politics, but he’s really going all out with his latest promotion. It seems he’s joined up with the nutcases at the American Family Association and issued a call for a day of prayer to address all the ills America suffers from today.

Fellow Americans,

Right now, America is in crisis: we have been besieged by financial debt, terrorism, and a multitude of natural disasters. As a nation, we must come together and call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles, and thank Him for the blessings of freedom we so richly enjoy.

Some problems are beyond our power to solve, and according to the Book of Joel, Chapter 2, this historic hour demands a historic response. Therefore, on August 6, thousands will gather to pray for a historic breakthrough for our country and a renewed sense of moral purpose.

I sincerely hope you’ll join me in Houston on August 6th and take your place in Reliant Stadium with praying people asking God’s forgiveness, wisdom and provision for our state and nation. There is hope for America. It lies in heaven, and we will find it on our knees.

via The Response: A call to prayer for a nation in crisis.

What a monumental waste of time and money. None of the problems Perry lists are “beyond our power to solve” so long as we’re willing to get off our asses and actually do something about it. Dealing with the aftermath of natural disasters, in particular, tends to be much more manageable when we aren’t wasting time on our knees praying to an absentee deity.

This is nothing more than simple pandering toward the overtly religious and the cynical side of me thinks it’s probably in preparation for announcing his candidacy for President.

And it looks like I’m not the only one to think so:

The new event is the largest display of faith he has planned, and it occurs a week before the Iowa straw polls.

“It’s a continuation of his so-far successful effort to keep his name in the papers. He’s been maintaining a high profile — some think to run for president, others think for different reasons. This is surely that,” said Bruce Buchanan, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, whose specialties include presidential politics.

“It also bespeaks the kind of constituency that he wants to reach and address — what he thinks his base is, for whatever purposes he may have.”

Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, called the rally “an obvious appeal to fundamentalist Christians, who comprise 60 percent of the turnout in the Iowa caucuses. It could be even higher in South Carolina, another early primary.”

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, said she understood how some Republican Christians may be holding out hope for Perry to join the race, particularly after Mike Huckabee announced he would not run in 2012. Huckabee, who also used the restoration movement during his campaign, had been a favorite in Texas.

The only good thing about this event is that the nutcases at the AFA are paying for it rather than Texas taxpayers. Still, it’s aggravating to see someone so blatantly make use of division politics in such a way.

Granted, it is Texas and that’s sort of how they do things there, but still. You’d think he’d at least pretend to be running to represent all Americans and not just the far religious right.

Gov. Perry asks Texans to pray for rain. God says “fuck you.”

Pic of Jesus flipping the bird.

Don't you understand? Those wildfires are part of my ineffable plan!

If you’ve been paying attention to the news then you’ve probably heard that Texas has been on fire, literally, for over a week now. With some 8,000 wildfires, the state is breaking records it would rather not in terms of yearly wildfires. So naturally Governor Rick Perry sprang into decisive action to deal with this ongoing crisis. What did he do, you ask? Did he rollback the cuts to fire departments that he and the Republican legislators had worked so hard on and then go a step further and supply emergency funding to train more firemen?

Nothing so useful. Instead, he opted to do the least useful thing possible: He asked Texans to pray for rain:

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) has declared “the three-day period from Friday, April 22, 2011, to Sunday, April 24, 2011, as Days of Prayer for Rain in the State of Texas.”

And in a proclamation issued today, Perry says “I urge Texans of all faiths and traditions to offer prayers on that day for the healing of our land, the rebuilding of our communities and the restoration of our normal and robust way of life.”

As Perry notes, “Texas is in the midst of an exceptional drought, with some parts of the state receiving no significant rainfall for almost three months, matching rainfall deficit records dating back to the 1930s.”

And, more than 8,000 wildfires “have cost several lives, engulfed more than 1.8 million acres of land and destroyed almost 400 homes.”

Because that strategy worked so well in 2007 for Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue. The only way he could have been less useful is if he’d stuck his thumbs up his ass and sang a hosanna.

God, in his non-existent way, gave a big Fuck You to Texas by dumping so much rain on other parts of the country that the levees in parts of Missouri have failed putting towns at risk of severe flooding. Oh, and as a added treat, he also smashed the living shit out of several states with multiple tornadoes just for the fun of it.

Granted, some parts of Texas did see a little rain fall on Monday which did help ease some of the trouble, but they’re already being warned that this week could see a whole new set of fresh blazes breaking out:

Marq Webb, a public information officer with the Texas Forest Service, told Monday that a “dry line” of weather, with winds of 50 mph and low humidity, was expected to move across the state from the south-west Monday.

He said people living west of a line from the Dallas-Forth Worth area to Del Rio should be prepared to evacuate at short notice.

The fresh outbreak of fires was expected after the weather gave a brief respite.

“We’ve had a few days of relief on many of the large fires we have been working on,” Webb told by phone. “We have been able to make a lot of progress on containment and control on a number of large fires over the last few days.”

“However, a dry line will push in from the west today (Monday) … It’s an extremely critical day. The next three days through Wednesday are going to be critical weather days,” he added.

“We’re gearing up to go back to new fires,” Webb said, adding: “If people are told to evacuate, they don’t need to question that, they just need to evacuate.”

That God is such a kidder! Here, have a little rainfall in answer to your prayers! Wait, I forgot that had to go to Missouri so here, have a new batch of wildfires instead!

With that kind of help, perhaps they should be praying that God doesn’t intervene. Or, better yet, perhaps they should reconsider slashing the funding for firefighters in Texas.

Naaaahhhh, that would require spending money when it’s so much more easy (and profitable) just to pray.

Church attempts to use the power of prayer to lower gas prices.

You gotta give Christians credit for being consistent. No matter how many times they pray for something only to have God ignore their request, they keep trying in hopes that God will deign them worthy of altering his Grand Design to their whims. Doesn’t matter how many times they pray for someone to be healed instead of taking them to a hospital only to have the victim recipient die within days or how many times they pray for some politician they don’t like to have a nasty accident involving a wood chipper and several tons of explosives only to have said politician continue on blissfully unharmed, they’ll keep praying.

It’s a testament to their faith that no matter how many times prayer fails to accomplish a damned thing they still think it’s applicable to every problem that comes along. Problems like high gas prices:

It’s an effort started by the Beacon of Light Christian Center in Dublin.

“I believe if we come together and pray as a community we can really make something happen,” says the church’s pastor, Marshall Mabry.

Indeed you can. You can get a lot of people to make public fools out of themselves by standing around a gas station and praying. Beyond that, probably not too much you’re going to accomplish.

But I’m sure that’s not going to sway you from trying. I bet you’ve tried it before, right?

“It’s the third time,” he says, “I want to start a movement. I want this to go from Dublin to Macon, from Macon to Atlanta and all over the country.”

I thought so. Didn’t work last two times. What makes you think it’ll work this time? Is there some magic number of attempts you have to get to before God starts taking notice?

Actually, I know the answer to the question of what makes them think it’ll work: Low expectations. You see, if you set the bar for success low enough even a non-existent divine being can eventually get the job done:

“If it doesn’t drop down to nothin’ but ten cents, I’m happy with that. But what I really want to believe God to do is drop down $1.50, hey, I’m glad with that, too,” says the pastor.

If it drops by ten cents, the good Pastor will be happy. Given that gas prices tend to flux with world events, that’s probably going to happen sooner or later regardless of whether they stand around chanting at the local station.

Especially if you’re persistent:

Pastor Mabry says he hopes it’ll kick off a first Saturday prayer event every month, and they’ll see a drop in costs at the pump soon.

It’s a win-win situation for the church. They get a lot of publicity and — as long as they can keep up the act — they’ll eventually get enough of a result to claim it was the amazing power of prayer at work. See? See how great God is? He dropped the price of gas a whole ten cents!

Ignoring the rather self-centered nature of the request in the first place, you have to wonder why it doesn’t occur to these people that a truly powerful God could solve the gas problem by simply making it unnecessary. Sure he’d have to break the laws of physics to pull it off, but that should be easy peasy for an all-powerful entity capable of creating all of reality by simply wishing it were so.

Speaking of wishing it were so. did you spot the bit of magical thinking the Pastor used up above? The bit where he says what I really want to believe”? That’s what religion is all about. What people really want to believe instead of just dealing with reality as it is.

Because praying is infinitely easier than actually doing something to effect change.

Clergy try to exorcise demons from Chase Bank.

A group of clergy gathered together on the steps of JP Morgan Chase on Park Ave in New York City to perform an exorcism on the bank. They said that the bank was possessed by the demons of “selfishness and avarice” because according to the group’s new study, only 6% of New York homeowners seeking a loan mod have gotten it in the past year. The exorcism happens at 0:57. No satanic spirits fly out of the banks, but money does fly out when the clergy closes down their bank accounts.

via Clergy Perform Exorcism On Chase Bank – The Consumerist.

Yeah, I’m sure that’ll do the trick. Thanks for the effort, but the problem with Chase Bank isn’t a demonic one so much as it’s a human one. It doesn’t take demons for people to be greedy and selfish.

You want to get their attention? Hit them were it hurts them the most: Their wallet. Yank your money out and encourage others to do the same. If you can convince enough others to follow your example then you just might bring about some change to how it does business. Keeping the pressure on in the press wouldn’t hurt as well.