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Pray or Prey: Take Your Pick

I was listening to NPR the other day and learned of a prayer movement called Light the Highway that runs prayer vigils along Interstate 35 from Texas to Minnesota. The group asks God to do away with systemic poverty, drug addiction and hopelessness, along with other plagues like homosexuality and abortion.

I have no idea how much poverty there is along I-35, nor do I know for a fact that it more ridden with drug addicts, gays, lesbians and nihilists than any other road in America. As for how many people have abortions on the highway, that too is a number I cannot glean. Nevertheless I like the idea of bands of young people praying for bands of drivers traveling from Laredo to Duluth. Here are some reasons why.

First of all, I can’t imagine driving from Laredo to Duluth, so let us pray for those that do. Second, anyone desperate enough to have an abortion while riding in a car needs our prayers. Third, gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgendered people fleeing from Laredo to Duluth in hopes of finding a safe haven from bigotry are sure to be disappointed, so they too need our prayers.

But the best reason for supporting this effort is the one provided by Pastor Steve Hill of Heartland World Ministries in Irving, Texas: “What would you rather have? A group of young people praying on I-35 or a group of young people dealing drugs on I-35? Take your pick.”

You can’t argue with that. In fact the more I pondered the pastor’s logic the more convinced I became of its validity. So I am writing to encourage you to take Pastor Hill’s logic to heart, and use it to garner support of a host of civic-minded projects. Here are some possible programs and the rationale behind them:

1. To promote a program centralizing drug dealing in your city, offer this argument: Which would you rather have? A group of young people dealing drugs on the highway or a group of young people shooting passersby on the highway? Take your pick.

2. To limit the murder rate in your community, try this: Which would you rather have? A group of young people shooting passersby on the highway or a group of young people shooting students in our elementary schools? Take your pick.

3. To support the ghettoizing of homosexuals and homosexual activity, use this: Which would you rather have? A group of homosexual young people fornicating in one well-run, well-policed and well-heeled neighborhood, or a group of homosexual young people fornicating in our churches and community centers? Take your pick.

And if all of this bothers you, think of it this way: Which would you rather have? A group of young people getting politically active and working to eliminate poverty or a group of young people standing on the sidelines praying that God do it for them? Take your pick.

The logic is unassailable.

Rabbi Rami Shapiro is director of the One River Foundation in Murfreesboro, Tenn. This column appeared originally on his blog.

Rabbi Rami Shapiro appears in a new Baptist Center for Ethics DVD “Good Will for the Common Good: Nurturing Baptists’ Relationships with Jews.”