At first glance, there really isn't much going on in this little Detroit News metro feature entitled "Pastor believes prayer can save city." The focus is on Greg Barrette, pastor of Renaissance Unity, and his vision of an Aug. 24 day of prayer to somehow "levitate the economy right out of its doldrums." There are some slightly spacey quotes and then some politicians get involved, sort of pointing their fingers at each other. This happens in politics from time to time.
But people get on board with the project because, what the heck, interfaith prayer doesn't cost any money. What can this hurt? Then he hit this final strange passage in Laura Berman's story:
Renaissance Unity dispatched 15,000 e-mails this week, an effort that will be followed by a mass snail-mailing to other churches, synagogues and mosques. He argues that prayer is personally beneficial ("It raises cortisol levels"), even if you're not supernaturally inclined.
Kenneth J. Flowers, pastor at Greater New Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, insists that "prayer is always in order." After praying for economic uplift, he thinks the city of Detroit will need its own special day to pray for scandal relief.
In Clawson, the Rev. Harry T. Cook, rector at St. Andrews Episcopal Church, a self-described agnostic, dismisses the idea of a group prayer day, saying "these are man-made problems that require man-made solutions." The rector suggests politics: voting, mobilizing, taking action.
All together now: The rector said WHAT?!?
Now, before we get started on jokes about Episcopalians (the church does contain a bishop who is not a theist), let's stop and think about this for a minute. If this priest really called himself an "agnostic" -- someone who is not sure whether he believes anything about spiritual and eternal issues -- then the journalist owes the reader a bit more content. In a way, dropping this little bombshell and then moving on is a kind of insult against the religious left.
Or, do you think that the priest said that he "is an agnostic" on the issue of whether this kind of interfaith, politically correct prayer day will have any real impact?
I vote for the latter. I think. Either way, it's a strange reference that needs some tweeking.