08/31/2005 06:15 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Pat Robertson and the Productivity of Prayer

I just got an interesting e-mail from the Christian Coalition, the group founded by Pat Robertson. It was a press release from Jim Backlin, Vice President of Legislative Affairs at the Coalition, praising the U.S. Naval Academy for its announcement that it would continue to conduct prayers at mealtime.

Yet in the same release, Backlin criticized another service academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy, for its “politically correct” announcement that public prayers would be discouraged—this decision being made, of course, in the wake of allegations about coercive evangelizing at the Air Force Academy.

In the words of the press release, “At a time of devastating natural disaster in America and during the midst of the war on terror, the U.S. Air Force Academy's decision to discourage prayer is counterproductive and is itself a very discouraging decision.”

“Counterproductive”? What does that mean? Does Backlin mean that the lack of officially sanctioned prayer at the Air Force Academy—as distinct from the enormous amount of unofficial praying at the Colorado Springs campus—is going to make it more likely that the Academy, or the U.S. Air Force, or perhaps America itself, will suffer another natural disaster or terrorist strike?

Actually, it’s hard to believe there’s any other possible interpretation of “counterproductive.” After all, Robertson has boasted that his prayer averted a hurricane from hitting his hometown of Virginia Beach, Virginia. And he has asserted that America’s sins brought divine judgment in the form of 9-11. Indeed, the idea that praying is tangibly productive, in the here and now, is part of the Robertson/Christian Coalition worldview.

Of course, it’s possible that Robertson is on to something. Hurricane Katrina has taken his loose talk about assassinating Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez off the front page. So how do we know that one of Robertson’s prayers wasn’t answered?