In a TV commercial about buying gold, former Watergate figure and current radio talk show host Gordon Liddy transfers several coins from one hand to the other and says, "That's the sound of security; that's the sound of gold!"
After the events of last week, somehow gold doesn't seem to offer the kind of security we need.
First, there was the attempted terrorist bombing in Times Square. Next came a 1,000-point swing in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The exact cause remains a mystery.
The problem with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has contributed to a lack of faith by some in the security of offshore drilling, though the cause of the oil rig explosion and leak may have been beyond the control of British Petroleum, which leased the rig from Transocean LTD.
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Amid all of this, a group of Christians came to Washington to participate in the National Day of Prayer. They appear insecure over where the Obama administration is leading us. While their Book has a lot to say about prayer, the instructions of its Author are for a kind of prayer that has nothing to do with public displays: "And when you pray," said Jesus of Nazareth, "do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." (Matthew 6:5-6)
That seems straightforward. Public prayer can be a snare. It can make people think there is strength in numbers, when their Scripture teaches the opposite. These gatherings give many a false sense of security and present a bad example to those who do not believe as they do.
Judge Barbara Crabb, a U.S. district judge in Wisconsin, recently ruled it is unconstitutional for the government to endorse the National Day of Prayer. She did not rule prayer unconstitutional, which would be an entirely different matter. The decision will likely be appealed, but again, that Book says Christians are to obey the government because God instituted it. How do they justify disobeying a government God has put in place, including one led by President Obama, who many "Christian leaders" spend more time bashing then they do praying for? And if they believe, as Paul wrote, that all authority is from God, why are they spending so much time criticizing the authorities and focusing on the "kingdom of this world," instead of focusing on that other "kingdom" they say they believe is eternal?
Could it be that their security, in practice, is more from this world than in the next? They want to see results, though they are admonished to "live by faith, not by sight." (2 Corinthians 5:7). They are not alone. Religious, or not, people are looking for things they can cling to, hoping to gain meaning, purpose, hope and security. But as these events have shown, our faith and quest for security are misplaced if we are looking to government alone to save us from terrorists, volatile markets and oil spills.
There is no ultimate security in this world and no guarantee of protection from anything, including disease and death. That ultimate security comes from somewhere else. It isn't from public displays of prayer, investments, security cameras, or things you buy. Such things are the sounds of insecurity.
Contact Thomas, a syndicated columnist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.