How many times is too many to mention 'Jesus' in a prayer? That's the controversial question in Pa.

A Pennsylvania lawmaker is drawing fire for a prayer in which she referenced controversial figures, including Jesus, God and Donald Trump.

In fact, she mentioned “Jesus” 13 times and “God” six times in less than two minutes, noted a critic who tweeted about the “offensive” nature of the legislative prayer:

Here’s how The Associated Press summarized the fuss in a national news story:

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A freshman Republican’s opening prayer Monday in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives drew complaints that it was inappropriately divisive.

Rep. Stephanie Borowicz began the day’s session with a Christian invocation that thanked Jesus for the honor and President Donald Trump for standing “behind Israel unequivocally.”

“At the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess, Jesus, that you are Lord,” said Borowicz, elected in November to represent a Clinton County district.

Her remarks also brought up George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.

A quick aside: Since we’re counting words, AP uses “remarks” three times to describe what Borowicz said in the prayer. Given that she was praying (read: talking to God) and not making a floor speech (although I guess that’s open to interpretation), I wonder if there’s a better term AP could have used in the story.

But back to the main point: Was the prayer divisive? Or did the lawmaker simply pray — as she claims — like she always does?

Courtesy of the Friendly Atheist blog, which transcribed the prayer, here is exactly what she said:

Thank you speaker. Let us pray. Jesus, I thank you for this privilege, Lord, of letting me pray, God, that I, Jesus, am your ambassador here today, standing here representing you, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the great I Am. The one who’s coming back again. The one who came, died, and rose again on the third day.

And I’m so privileged to stand here today. So thank you for this honor, Jesus. God, for those that came before us like George Washington at Valley Forge and Abraham Lincoln who sought after you in Gettysburg, Jesus, and the Founding Fathers in Independence Hall, Jesus, that sought after you and fasted and prayed for this nation to be founded on Your principles in Your words and Your truth.

God, forgive us. Jesus, we’ve lost sight of you. We’ve forgotten you, God, in our country. And we’re asking you to forgive us, Jesus, that Your promise and Your words says that if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek Your face and turn from their wicked ways, that You’ll heal our land.

Jesus, You are our only hope.

God, I pray for our leaders. Speaker Turzai. Leader Cutler. Governor Wolf. President Trump — Lord, thank you, that he stands beside Israel unequivocally, Lord. Thank you that, Jesus, that we’re blessed because we stand by Israel, and we asked for the peace of Jerusalem as your word says, God.

We ask that we not be overcome by evil, and that we overcome evil with good in this land once again. I claim all these things in the powerful mighty name of Jesus, the one who, at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess, Jesus, that you are Lord, in Jesus‘ name, amen.

What do you think? For those familiar with prayers in evangelical settings, does that one seem over the top? Or does it sound quite normal?

The first quote cited by AP comes directly from the New Testament. Romans 14:11 says:

for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”

But the prayer — and the setting — caused an uproar. More from AP:

Borowicz’s remarks occurred shortly before the swearing-in of Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell, D-Philadelphia, the first woman Muslim to serve in the chamber.

Democratic Leader Frank Dermody of Allegheny County called Borowicz’s invocation “beneath the dignity of this House” and asked that a group be set up to review the procedure.

Dermody said Borowicz’s invocation stood out during his 28 years in the House.

“Never have we started out with a prayer that divides us,” Dermody said on the floor afterward. “Prayer should never divide us, it should be inspirational.”

AP’s concise wire report hits the high points and seems relatively fair.

What might have made the quick-hit coverage better? I would love to have seen a theological scholar comment on the actual contents of the prayer.

Is this a legitimate political scandal or a case of political correctness run amok? The answer may depend on one’s religious and partisan leanings.

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