A prayer for laid-off coal miners

On Nov. 7, right after President Barack Obama was elected a second time by the people of the United States, the CEO of Murray Energy (Robert Murray) laid off 154 coal miners in Ohio and Utah, the Washington Post reported.

He said a prayer, asking God for forgiveness, which was first printed in the Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Gazette and confirmed by the Post. We reprint the entire prayer, as published, below:

Dear Lord:

The American people have made their choice. They have decided that America must change its course, away from the principals [sic] of our Founders. And, away from the idea of individual freedom and individual responsibility. Away from capitalism, economic responsibility, and personal acceptance.

We are a Country in favor of redistribution, national weakness and reduced standard of living and lower and lower levels of personal freedom.

My regret, Lord, is that our young people, including those in my own family, never will know what America was like or might have been. They will pay the price in their reduced standard of living and, most especially, reduced freedom.

The takers outvoted the producers. In response to this, I have turned to my Bible and in II Peter, Chapter 1, verses 4-9 it says, “To faith we are to add goodness; to goodness, knowledge; to knowledge, self control; to self control, perseverance; to perseverance, godliness; to godliness, kindness; to brotherly kindness, love.”

Lord, please forgive me and anyone with me in Murray Energy Corp. for the decisions that we are now forced to make to preserve the very existence of any of the enterprises that you have helped us build. We ask for your guidance in this drastic time with the drastic decisions that will be made to have any hope of our survival as an American business enterprise.

Amen.

The quote from the second epistle of Peter can be confirmed, and it’s one of my favorite quotes. It emphasizes that we begin with faith, and from there, we get all these good things, which eventually lead to love.

Love, as shown through actions and taught by our Lord, Jesus, in his gospels, means caring for people who have been victimized, laying down your life for your friends. If we can be considered friends of the Earth (the Earth is just as inanimate as corporations, which are considered people under federal law), that would be making sacrifices in order to protect the environment. If we can be considered friends to a person, that would mean laying out our money to ensure they have an opportunity to preach the gospel’s message of love as well.

For example, the greatest story of love in the Bible (perhaps) is the story of the Good Samaritan, told from the lips of our Lord himself: A community leader and a religious leader walk by a man who has been beaten and robbed. Then, a third man comes to his aid, giving him some money for a hotel room and making sure he has enough to eat. Jesus confirms in the telling of the story that the third man is the one who acted neighborly.

What we read in the above prayer is a twisting of words to equate love with personal financial gain. The two concepts are not equal. In fact, our Lord and savior, Jesus himself, split the two wide apart when he told questioners to give to Caesar what was Caesar’s and give to God what was God’s.

The “what is God’s” part means love; the “what is Caesar’s” part means money. The bulk of what the CEO talks about as he “prays” is about how people in America have the right to invest in and build an enterprise and profit from it. Then they put other people to work. This path, taken by business, is distinct from the path laid out by Peter. The CEO doesn’t understand this distinction.

The path to love for a business enterprise—i.e., employing people and giving them the opportunity to care for their loved ones—is distinct from the path to love written about in Peter’s letter, wrongly usurped by an uninformed CEO.

In fairness, we must report that Murray Energy, through its various subsidiaries, has seven times been found to dump coal slurry into local streams, polluting the water supply for individuals and animals downstream and resulting in more than 100 deaths to God’s children in Ohio. This was reported in the Columbus Dispatch.

The CEO’s prayer is the definition of hypocrisy, a textbook example of it. He fails to acknowledge that he has taken from the Earth, that he has taken lives, that he has acted selfishly and without consideration of known facts and trends in America. America has given him time to change his ways, and he continues to act sinfully but doesn’t acknowledge that. Instead, he wastes his words and his precious time to complain about the election results.

In the CEO’s prayer, no mention is made of how he is a sinner, as we all are. No, there is none of that. There is only a cherry-picked story about how America has gone to the dogs and what a great job he has done for the people who work for him—either because they are ignorant of or specifically deny known facts, or because they have no other choice. Many of those laid off will seek assistance from the government, programs put in place by those who understand the love our Lord showed for his people.

That love is an example of God’s mercy. Surely, God condemns those who fail to tend to this garden he entrusted to us. Surely, he condemns those who take lives through their own actions in order to satiate their own temporary greed. Surely, he would condemn an organization that leads its employees down a dead end job, without providing training for a future any schoolteacher will tell you is coming, and then cuts them off when things don’t go its selfish way. Yet, we provide for them, allowing them the necessities to live and the time to repent.

Many do not repent of their sinful ways, and I’m sure the CEO and I would be in agreement about the many long-term welfare recipients who don’t make an effort to find work and come off welfare. But God’s mercy would allow Murray Energy to survive, despite some discomfort at the moment (see, for example, the mercy God showed to Jonah in the fish or under a bush). It is hypocritical, though, to suggest that Murray Energy is somehow more deserving of God’s mercy than the more than 100 lives the company’s actions wiped out, God’s children every one of them.

Furthermore, in terms of prayer, God is not impressed with the good things we have accomplished and want to call to his attention with our words. He is, on the other hand, impressed with our truthful acknowledgement of our own shortcomings. The following is a story told by our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ, according to the gospel of Luke:

Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector (publican). The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”

But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

The prayer of the CEO, as quoted in two newspapers, is ineffective. Look, folks, we have enough non-believers taking our Lord’s name in vain; we don’t need to add to the noise. I’m sure God can handle it and find the signal in our noise, but let’s not make the noise worse on purpose, OK?

My prayer is not for the survival of a corporation but rather for the health, welfare, and long-term success of 154 people who will have some tough times ahead, in all likelihood. America is reducing its need for nonrenewable resources, switching to renewable resources where we can and to nonrenewable resources like natural gas that are cheaper and result in less murderous pollution to the environment, which, by the way, God himself commanded us to act in stewardship over.

My prayer is that these energy workers will find new success with new forms of energy, rather than complaining too long for an outdated and unclean system of energy production, and that they will get the training they need to turn this closing of a door into the opening of a better path in the service of our Lord and savior.

Dear Lord, please allow the good people of the United States, sinners though we are, to take care of these newly unemployed people, their families, and their communities, fellow sinners and spreaders of your true gospel, while they look for new work. Merciful Father, give them and all of us the time we need to make amends that result in our better stewardship for the world you let us use and better friendship with all your people. In Jesus’ name, we pray …

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