Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Praise to the Man: Not Praying to Jesus through Dave

It is understandable for Protestants to mistakenly think we worship Joseph Smith when they hear the words "Praise to the Man" in the context of their use of the word “praise” - but I think it is ludicrous to interpret it that way when our actual beliefs are known. Individuals (even Mormons) carry their respect for other people too far all the time - but it happens for athletes and politicians and writers and artists and actors and popes and reformers and televangelists ad infinitum - and, often, that borders on true idolatry much more than 99% of the Mormons do with Joseph.

A quick, though tangential, example: I attended a Fellowship of Christian Students school year kick-off rally when I was a teacher in Alabama. I and a Baptist coach co-sponsored the group. At one point in the rally, the spokesman, a young evangelical youth minister named Dave, asked everyone to bow their heads, close their eyes and join him in prayer. In the middle of the pep talk/prayer, I heard these words, "Now, everyone here who wants to commit themselves to Jesus, raise your hands and say, 'DAVE, I commit myself to Jesus.'" He asked those kids to address him (Dave) in the middle of a "prayer" and make their promise to him (Dave) in prayer. That might not be idolatry in the classic sense, but it is much closer in actual format than singing a hymn of praise (not worship) to a martyred prophet.

Furthermore, I immediately opened my eyes and refused to participate further. I looked around the room, and there were other youth ministers standing along the perimeter - during the "prayer" - with pen and paper in hand, writing the names of anyone who did not raise their hand and commit themselves to Jesus.

I prefer to pay tribute in song to a fallen prophet.


Clean Cut said...

Interesting experience, indeed. I appreciate your perspective. Especially since recently we sang "Praise to the Lord" not long after "Praise to the Man", and I had a huge epiphany on how "others" could perceive this.

To be clear, one is a hymn of worship ("Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation. O my soul, praise him, for he is thy health and salvation!"), and the other is a hymn of adoration for a prophet ("Jesus anointed that prophet and seer"). Could it be a bit too gung-ho? ("Kings shall extol him and nations revere"/"earth must atone for the blood of that man") Perhaps. And I think so. But it's understandable considering the experiences W.W. Phelps had been through before he penned the words.

Papa D said...

"But it's understandable considering the experiences W.W. Phelps had been through before he penned the words."

Amen, CC - and it's too easy to forget the foundational context.