Prayer as Public Policy – in Canada

I thought that government officials who think prayer is good public policy was limited to the United States; turns out I was wrong. The new police chief in Winnipeg, Canada seems to think that prayer is the key to solving that city’s apparently serious crime problem.

“I’m a little tired of us…being ‘[the] murder capital of Canada,’” says Devon Clunis, who was appointed chief of police at the beginning of October. “People consistently say, ‘How are you going to solve that?’ It’s not simply going to be because we’re going to go out there and police it away. I truly believe that prayer will be a significant piece of that.”

“What would happen if we all just truly—I’m talking about all religious stripes here—started praying for the peace of this city and then actually started putting some action behind that?” he adds.

The exact same thing that would happen if you skipped the prayer and put some actions into place. Those actions, whatever they are, will either work or not work — but it won’t have anything to do with praying. Does he think no one in Winnipeg is praying now? Are there just not enough people praying? What’s the minimum number, in absolute or per capita terms, before God will listen and get involved?

9 comments on this post.
  1. eric:

    Prayer effect = N*B*S*k, where N = number praying, B = fraction of those with the correct belief, S = strength of belief, and k = a proportionality constant, which we empirically set to 0.

  2. grumpyoldfart:

    He’s just establishing an escape route for his ego in case things get worse during his watch. If crime rates stay the same or improve, he will forget about god and prayer and take all the credit for himself. But if the crime rate gets worse he can say: “I warned you. I told you to pray but you didn’t pray hard enough. It’s all your fault, not mine.” The citizens won’t be impressed, but it doesn’t matter what they think as long as he doesn’t have to admit to himself that he was a failure. That’s what religion is all about – protecting fragile egos.

  3. jamessweet:

    Prayer effect = N*B*S*k, where N = number praying, B = fraction of those with the correct belief, S = strength of belief, and k = a proportionality constant, which we empirically set to 0.

    Ah hah hah hah, love it..

  4. thisisaturingtest:

    “What would happen if we all just truly—I’m talking about all religious stripes here—started praying for the peace of this city and then actually started putting some action behind that?” he adds.

    I may be over-analyzing the semantics of this (and we know where that can go- “acts of terror,” anyone?) but…this isn’t real clear to me. Is it possible that “putting some action behind that” refers to the praying, rather than any actual concrete efforts to maintain the peace (he specifies that he’s only “talking [to] all religious stripes here”)? After all, these are folks who consider prayer to be a concrete thing- maybe he’s calling for some type of compulsory church attendance law here. Just a thought.

  5. vmanis1:

    Well, it’s true that Winnipeg has serious crime problems, and, in a perverse way version of Pascal’s wager, I suppose prayer couldn’t really make anything worse (well, unless in a fit of extreme ecumenicism, Phoenician-style infant sacrifices to burning idols were included). In the absence of actual measures to reduce the crime problem (e.g., revising Canada’s drug laws, providing better nutrition and education opportunities for children, even more comprehensive enforcement), one might as well pray.

  6. evilDoug:

    “Prayer effect = N*B*S*k …”

    I would propose N*B*S*j (if you are an engineer), or
    N*B*S*i (if you are a mathematician),
    where i = j = -1^0.5, which is, of course …

  7. tacitus:

    Pull back far enough and any personal testimonies as to the material power of prayer quickly vanish in a sea of statistics.

  8. wscott:

    Does he think no one in Winnipeg is praying now? Are there just not enough people praying? What’s the minimum number, in absolute or per capita terms, before God will listen and get involved?

    Is your all-knowing God not aware of the problem until enough people yell loud enough? Is your all-powerful God not able to do anything until he has enough prayer-power to draw upon? Or does your all-loving God just not care until enough people beg him to get involved?

    If it’s #1 or #2, your God is kindof lame. If it’s #3, your God is kindof a dick.

  9. garyb:

    Frikkin brilliant. The problem is due to gang violence, brought about in large part by aboriginals leaving reserves and heading to the city hoping for some kind of life and finding poverty, bigotry and drugs instead.

    Annoying religious person needs to look at addressing the core issues, none of which can be dealt with through talking to a magic sky fairy.

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