I have no doubt that Meet The Press host David Gregory is a man of faith, but if his questioning of Michele Bachmann on a recent edition of the show was any indicator, he fits the description once offered by fellow Sunday host Bob Schieffer who unforgettably observed that there was a deep division in America between those who were merely religious and those who were religious "in a secular way."
In the case of the Gregory/Bachmann showdown, it quickly became apparent that Gregory was nonplussed that Bachmann seemed to believe that God, (presuming His existence of course) listens to and acts upon prayers offered to Him and seemed to align himself with those who believe that the whole exercise of prayer is akin to wishing upon a star-that is, that nothing really happens, but it makes one feel better.
According to a 2010 Gallup study, 83% of Americans believe that God actually answers prayers which would apparently put Gregory among the distinct minority of 17% who believe otherwise. When Bachmann tried to put herself in the camp of those historical figures like Washington and Lincoln who had prayed for, and apparently expected to receive, guidance, Gregory interjected: "There's a difference between God as a sense of comfort and safe harbor and inspiration, and God telling you to take a particular action."
To be clear, I'm just as suspicious as the next guy of those who presume to hear God's voice and act upon it without a hint of doubt or self-reflection. Once in college one of my housemates told me that God had told him not to pay the rent to which I responded that I too had heard from the Almighty and that He had told me to change the locks. And I did.
But Gregory's notion that God is akin to a "Precious Moments" figurine which one pulls out in times of stress in order to feel better even as he poohoo's the idea that God might provide concrete direction to someone like Bachmann, merely shows how out of touch he is not only with the vast majority of Americans, but also with a basic tenet of the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Catholics speak of "signal graces," while Protestants sometimes call it the "leading of the Spirit," but in both cases the idea that God "speaks" in numerous ways to His people-through dreams, through seeming coincidences, through a sense of an action that is to be taken or through the words of others which serve to lead people to decisions that they believe He wants them to take. It's not necessarily hocus pocus, but merely the confidence that when one prays and asks for direction from the Almighty, that He "answers" in any number of ways that doesn't usually include an actual voice from on high.
Even rock stars seem to understand this concept, and the next time U2's lead singer Bono is in D.C., he might stop by the "Meet The Press" studio and get Gregory up to speed on that rare religious doctrine upon which nearly all Americans agree: that God answers prayers.
On the cover of the band's album "All That You Can't Leave Behind," Bono later admitted to photoshopping the phrase J333 onto a sign on the platform of a train station, calling it a reference to a Bible verse, Jeremiah 33:3 which he called "God's phone number," a verse which reads: "Call unto me and I will answer thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not."
Mark Joseph is a producer, author and publisher of Bullypulpit.com. He was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan and travels there frequently.