Going through over 850 prayers this summer, we came across a few gems I wanted to share with you prior to the release of our study on Monday.
Unfortunately, we can't embed the videos here but the prayers are the first item of business if you want to watch them (you might need to skip ahead past the procession).
If you think prayers like these have no place in the legislature, make sure to send you MLA an email.
In 2008, former Delta South MLA Val Roddick rose in the chamber to give the following prayer in her attempt to destroy atheists and the irreligious.
Focus on who you are rather than who you are not. Focus on what you have rather than what you lack. Focus on what you know rather than what you doubt. Focus on the evidence of God’s presence rather than the apparent evidence of his absence. Focus on health rather than pain. Focus on your abilities rather than your limitations. Focus on the future rather than the past. Focus on God as the source of life rather than random circumstance. Amen
Despite Roddick criminally overusing the word “focus”, she is clearly using her opportunity to give a prayer to try and evangelize to everyone listening in person and on television. Not only is she trying to put forward an (unconvincing) argument for the existence of God, she is also taking a clear pot-shot at evolution in bad faith. Perhaps if Roddick spent some time learning about evolution, she would not sum it up as “random circumstance.”
In 2004, Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Kevin Krueger stood up to give his prayer in the BC Legislature, he began in a very Christian manner, as he usually did. Hidden in the middle of the prayer however, was a clear pat on the back for himself and his party:
Thank you Father God for good health and strength, and the honour and joy of serving the people of British Columbia in this house and we thank you for the work that we got done last evening. And we pray for the HEU members who went back to work, that you'll help them to carefully appraise their opportunities and make choices that will be the right ones for themselves and their families. We pray that you'll bless the outcome of this and we'll soon be able to restore services to patients who are needy throughout British Columbia. We thank you for our province and our resources, especially the people that we represent, the four million people of British Columbia and this wonderful time and place that we live. We pray that you'll help us to honour you in all of our deliberations today and that you'll bless our great province as we move forward. We pray these things in Jesus' name, amen.
When the Hospital Employees Union went on strike in 2004, Gordon Campbell's Liberal government passed Bill 37 to bring them back to work. The morning after, Krueger used his prayer as an opportunity to let the HEU know that he wants God to help them to “make choices that are the right ones.” Whether you agree with the Government's decision at the time, this is the clearest example of an MLA using the time for prayer to serve their own political goals, and a pretty good reason why prayers should be ended once and for all.
In her first prayer as the newly elected MLA for Saanich South, the now Minister of Agriculture gave us one of the longest prayers - or maybe it's more accurately a poem - ever given in the BC Legislature, clocking in at 219 words.
As headlines swirl and climates whirl
and Wall Street finds its feet,
there’s one refrain that doesn’t change,
‘Mommy what’s there to eat?’
Well listen child, I’ll tell you what,
there’s no small query there.
Come over here and sit right down,
in fact, pull up a chair.
You’re question dear, though you ask
with all good heart intended,
is fraught with complications
that aren’t often comprehended.
What we call food is not the same
as what our grandmas ate.
Would she have had yellow 5 and 6
on her child’s dinner plate?
What about acesulfame potassium?
Can you pronounce that, love?
Did grandma have a jar of that
in her cupboards up above?
What would she think of all these things
you children eat today?
Perhaps she’d bow her gentle head
and just begin to pray.
But since she’s no longer here,
it’s up to you and me
to be the ones who will inspire
her true food legacy.
Perhaps we will begin this quest,
we might cut the colours first
or try to avoid things we can’t pronounce.
Tell me, which do you think is worse?
You see my little one in our hands,
in our minds and in our hearts,
we have the ability to effect remarkable change.
So love, where should we start?
I’m sure that she was trying to make a very important point. I’m just not sure what that point is. Maybe it's inspired by a pseudoscientific chemophobia, which is worrying for supporters of evidence in public policy.
In 2001, then Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick stood up in the BC Legislature to give his prayer. It was a short but specific one.
We pray to God to keep us mindful of the special and unique opportunity we have to work for our constituents in our province. And we thank the people of Canada for the shipbuilding contract.
What Letnick was referring to was an $8 billion shipping contract that was awarded to the Vancouver based company Seaspan, in order to build Coast Guard and civilian vessels. While the contract was a big win for the communities who would have benefited from it, it clearly has no place in the prayers in the BC Legislature. If Norm wanted to make a statement on this matter, he could have waited until members’ statements to pat himself on the back.
Kamloops South Thompson MLA Kevin Krueger seems to love talking about labour disputes in his prayers. In a tense time of labour negotiations between the employer and the BC Teachers Federation, Krueger stood up to deliver the following prayer:
Thank God for this day, this beautiful Province we live in; glorious day out there. Thank you for the responsibility and the privilege of representing our constituents and all British Columbians as we work in this Chamber this beautiful place where so many great people have come before us. We pray for the teachers of the Province that you will give them peace about the situation we are working through with them that we will have the right outcome. Thank you for our education system, for all the children we are jointly responsible for, may you bless them in their school year. Thank you for this time together to help these things today. We ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Undoubtedly, today many MLAs, teachers and parents are hoping for a resolution to the present negotiations between the BCTF and the Government that doesn't require job action. However, I suspect few would think it's appropriate to ask Jesus for "the right outcome" in the Legislature.
Former Nanaimo MLA Leonard Krog loves to deliver prayers to his colleagues. In fact, he gave one out of every nine prayers since video records began being kept in 2003, most of which have been explicitly Christian in nature. This works out to a prayer every eighth day while he was serving as an MLA between 2005 and 2018. Five of those 96 times, he stood up and delivered the Lord’s Prayer, a practice that hasn't been allowed in BC schools for 30 years! He makes adjustments, as follows:
Lord, we pray this morning as many of us were taught: Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
On June 1st, 2011, Premier Christy Clark proclaimed that the day would be known as “BC Beef Day”. While proclaiming “BC Beef Day” or “BC Agriculture Day” is something that all governments do, adding an advertisement for it in a prayer is in bad taste, at best.
We give thanks for the bounty of our province, our people, our land, our beef and our resources. We pledge ourselves to tend with care our heritage on behalf of all British Columbians. Amen
Where’s the beef, you ask? Well, it’s in the prayer. Or not, depending on who you ask.