The Church of England recently commissioned a survey about prayer. I don’t know about you, but if I were to hire a fancy polling firm to help me figure out how the public perceives one of my core products, I’d have all kinds of burning questions. In the case of prayer, I’d want respondents to tell me:
– Do you pray?
– If not, have you ever prayed?
– How long ago was the last time you prayed?
– How often do you pray?
– How many years have you been praying?
– Has your prayer frequency increased or decreased since ten years ago?
– What is the benefit you derive from prayer?
– Do you believe your prayers are answered?
And so on. It took me less than a minute to come up with those.
Curiously enough, none of those questions were asked of the more than 2,000 Britons who took the survey. That might be — I’m just speculating — because the Church of England knew it wouldn’t like the results. Presumably, “Half the people think praying is a load of bollocks” would not be a well-received summing-up at Church Headquarters. Yet that would be a likely summary in a nation whose Christianity was thought to be “in terminal decline” even a dozen years ago, and whose hurtling down the path toward secularization has only accelerated since then.
I took the trouble of scanning through all 30 pages of the “Prayer Survey” results just now (PDF here). There’s a grand total of one question about prayer. This one:
Irrespective of whether you currently pray or not, if you were to pray for something at the moment, what would it be for?
And that wet noodle of a question is it. All the other queries in the Prayer Survey — that’s its official title — aim to find out whether respondents have gone on a foreign vacation recently, which social-media sites they frequent on their mobile phones, how many cars they own, and so on.
But it gets better. Much better. You see, not only did the Church hire a big-name polling firm (ICM — Clear Thinking In a Complex World) to ask 2,000 Britons one puzzlingly-worded question about prayer; the Church then also secured the services of an aggressive PR outfit, the Press Agency, to spin and spread the result.
How do you suppose a team of
mendacious creative media specialists might present the exciting news about prayerful Britain?
Like this: Nineteen percent of the respondents said that regardless of whether they ever prayed, if they had to pray for something, they’d pick … nothing. They couldn’t come up with anything, or didn’t care to. So the Press Association, on behalf of the Church of England, twisted that into the following crappy headline:
Power Of Prayer Believed In By Four Out Of Five UK Adults
The Press Association managed to put that passive-voiced monstrosity on the UK Huffington Post and various other low-standards media outlets today. Meanwhile, the Church of England published a version on its own website that was just as factually douchey, if not as grammatically contorted.
Guardian columnist Martin Robbins rightfully pointed out today that
…the ninth commandment tells: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor”, which is old-person-speak for “don’t make stuff up”. Or as Exodus puts it, “You shall not spread a false report.” A newspaper report, say, spread through a wire agency.
I’m not a praying man, but if I were, I’d probably ask God to take whatever actions He deems appropriate against devious twits who fib in His name.