Prayer as a frightening weapon

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The Atlantic Magazine published an article alarmed by the rosary, the rosary that Catholics use to keep track of their prayers, calling it an “extremist symbol” and associating it with the AR-15 rifle.

Just as the AR-15 rifle has become a sacred object for Christian nationalists in general, the rosary has taken on militaristic significance for radical-traditional (or “rad trad”) Catholics. In this extremist fringe, the rosaries have been woven into conspiratorial politics and an absolutist gun culture. These armed radical traditionalists took a spiritual notion that the rosary can be a weapon in the fight against evil and turned it into something dangerously literal.

Now, theologically conservative Catholics will use the Rosary, and politically conservative Catholics will support the 2nd Amendment. Catholics who are two-way conservative are likely to have both rosaries and AR-15s, though they are unlikely to say the latter is a “sacred item.” They can even put pictures of their rosaries and AR-15s on their websites. Right-wing Catholics may believe in “conspiratorial politics,” be “survivalists,” oppose the LGBTQ movement, reject feminism, and champion other positions that alarm progressives as “extremists.” But, while progressives often like to scare themselves with religious bogeymen, they really don’t need to be scared of rosaries.

Panneton makes much of the teachings of popular Catholic piety — including non-extremist, non-right-wing Pope Francis — that the rosary is a “weapon.” It is a metaphor, meaning that prayer helps to overcome sin and the devil.

The answers to Atlantic article, like that of The Federalistit is Thomas Griffin, point out that the rosary is truly a powerful weapon, not against people as Panneton suggests, but against the powers of darkness. Although these powers can use people and infect cultures.

That the Rosary inspires so much fear in progressives and such a passionate defense in devout Catholics might make us Protestants wish we had something like this. (Indeed, the rosaries would be fly off the shelves after the publication of this article.)

The catholic rosary is centered on devotion and prayer to the Virgin Mary, who is said to have revealed her to Saint Dominic, founder of the Dominican order, in 1214. See the Wikipedia article for more information on the rosary, including the prayers said with each of the 59 beads. In addition to veneration of Mary – although not all prayers are directed to her – Protestants would be concerned about Jesus’ warnings about “vain repetitions” in prayer (Matthew 6:7), for so many short prayers are repeated and more.

There is, however, a Lutheran rosary. Really, several different typesthe rosary being an example of the “rosary” used in many religious traditions.

There is a version similar to that of Catholics which substitutes for biblical texts and prayers, including those already frequently used in Lutheran worship and devotions (the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Gloria Patri, the “Jesus Prayer” of the early Church[“LordJesusChristSonofGodhavemercyonmeasinner”excerptsfromtheMagnificat)[« SeigneurJésus-ChristFilsdeDieuayezpitiédemoipécheur»extraitsduMagnificat)[“LordJesusChristSonofGodhavemercyuponmeasinner”portionsoftheMagnificat)

Another, the Crown of Christa.k.a pearls of lifefrom Sweden, has only 18 beads, connected to 18 brief prayers and spiritual meditations.

Martin Chemnitz, the chief theologian of Lutheranism after Martin Luther and formulator of Lutheran orthodoxy, is pictured holding a rosary. The Chemnitz Rosary is based on the prayer of Catechismlike other versions.

Other Lutheran prayer beads are based on the The Lord’s Prayer and the days of Lent,

You can see and learn more about the different Lutheran Rosaries – and buy them – at Lutheran prayer beads. Or you can get one from the LCMS art site Ad Crucem. I like those “prayer hats” by Kelly Klageswhich consist of only seven beads, plus a cross and a larger element, and which can be used for different cycles of meditation on various themes, as described here. See also how to bead a lutheran rosary yourself.

Do you think there is something wrong with that? Too Catholic? Still a problem of “vain repetitions”? Or would this not apply when the prayers derive from the Word of God? Have any of you used one of these Lutheran prayer beads? Would you recommend them?

Be that as it may, the interest of rosaries, whatever their design, is that they involve pray. And prayer, which doesn’t need pearls, is indeed a weapon. One we should wield more than we do.

Photo: How to Pray the Lutheran Rosary by Wikihow, Creative Commons

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