Senate Chaplain’s Calls for a Divine Intervention

Black: "I must be doing something right."
National Journal
Mike Magner
See more stories about...
Mike Magner
Oct. 15, 2013, 6:56 p.m.

After jolt­ing Con­gress with some out­spoken in­voc­a­tions dur­ing the gov­ern­ment shut­down, Sen­ate chap­lain Barry Black of­fi­cially entered the pop­u­lar cul­ture by be­ing por­trayed in a fake news seg­ment on Sat­urday Night Live last week­end.

A former Navy chap­lain who grew up on the mean streets of Bal­timore, Black, 64, caught the at­ten­tion of The New York Times and oth­er news out­lets over the past two weeks when he opened each ses­sion of the Sen­ate with pray­ers that be­came not-so-gentle ad­mon­i­tions.

“In these days that try our souls, strengthen our weak­ness, re­pla­cing cyn­icism with faith and cow­ardice with cour­age,” the chap­lain in­toned on Oct. 1, the first day of the shut­down.

“Have mercy upon us, O God, and save us from the mad­ness,” he prayed two days later. “De­liv­er us from the hy­po­crisy of at­tempt­ing to sound reas­on­able while be­ing un­reas­on­able.”

And last Thursday, Black in­voked, “In­spire them to take a step back from par­tis­an­ship and to take a step for­ward to­ward pat­ri­ot­ism, striv­ing to strengthen and not weak­en this land we love.”

It was by no means the first time that Black, the Sen­ate chap­lain since Ju­ly 2003, has summoned the Almighty to as­sist law­makers. In 2011, when a su­per com­mit­tee bogged down try­ing to reach a com­prom­ise on the fed­er­al budget and debt, Black prayed for its mem­bers:

“Re­move dis­tract­ing pri­or­it­ies from the minds of our sen­at­ors, lead­ing them to fo­cus on the things that really mat­ter. Take away dis­turb­ing doubts, provid­ing them with cer­ti­tude re­gard­ing your provid­en­tial power and pur­pose.”

But this month marks the first time that Black has be­come known bey­ond the world of C-SPAN. On Oct. 6, The New York Times ran a story about the chap­lain un­der the head­line, “Give Us This Day, Our Daily Sen­ate Scold­ing.”

The story was ap­par­ently read by the writers at Sat­urday Night Live, who had act­or Ken­an Thompson por­tray Black in a seg­ment with “Week­end Up­date” host Seth Mey­ers.

Thompson star­ted out by grasp­ing Mey­ers’s hand and clos­ing his eyes. “Let us pray,” said the faux Black. “Lord, give us strength, but es­pe­cially to those in Con­gress, and let them stop be­ing a bunch of blub­ber­ing knuckle­heads that go onto the tele­vi­sion and spout all kinds of non­sense, un­til you want to smack ‘em across the face with a bag full of quar­ters — now that’s change I can be­lieve in.”

Then after be­ing told by Mey­ers that Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, wanted to keep the shut­down go­ing, the chap­lain ex­pressed sur­prise and reached for Mey­ers’s hand again.

“Let us pray,” he said. “Lord, bless and for­give these bray­ing jack­asses, lest they do something that makes people want to pin them on the floor, shove a sweaty sock in their mouth, and then whoop ‘em up and down with a pil­low­case full of Skittles.

“May they find them­selves in a re­stroom stall devoid of toi­let pa­per, with noth­ing to use but a re­ceipt from CVS in their wal­let, a re­ceipt for a small pur­chase that they must then tear in­to small pieces, and while they are fu­tilely blot­ting their be­hinds, grant them grace to real­ize that they are des­troy­ing this great na­tion. This we humbly ask. Amen.”

Fi­nally, when told the House and the pres­id­ent still wer­en’t sup­port­ing a com­prom­ise bill to re­open the gov­ern­ment, the chap­lain ex­claimed, “Lord, send a flood to Wash­ing­ton and just drown every­body!”

In an in­ter­view Monday, the real Black called the SNL seg­ment “my 15 seconds of celebrity” and said it was well re­ceived by fam­ily, friends, and col­leagues.

“I thought that it was a tad bit ir­rev­er­ent but also pretty funny,” he said.

Black said he had no warn­ing that he would be fea­tured on late-night tele­vi­sion — he was not watch­ing SNL, but saw the seg­ment on­line later. He as­sumed the writers must have read about him in The New York Times last week. “A lot of comedi­ans use the news­pa­per as a re­source for get­ting ma­ter­i­al,” he said.

Black said he ap­pre­ci­ated that Thompson didn’t use a clip-on bow tie, but also com­men­ted that the act­or por­tray­ing him should have lowered his voice more.

“The premise and the way it was done was hy­per­bol­ic, and of course I would nev­er call for a flood on the be­loved city of Wash­ing­ton and I would not hit someone up­side the head with coins and per­ceive it as change I could be­lieve in, but it was funny,” Black said. “It’s an hon­or to be spoofed on Sat­urday Night Live. I must be do­ing something right.”

Black also said if asked, he “prob­ably would” ap­pear on the pro­gram. But only “if they would let me be­gin with, “˜Let us pray.’ “

Elahe Izad contributed to this article.
What We're Following See More »
INFLUENCED BY NUKES, POLLUTION
Scientists Declare Dawn of Anthropocene Epoch
41 minutes ago
WHY WE CARE

"Humanity’s impact on the Earth is now so profound that a new geological epoch—the Anthropocene—needs to be declared," according to a panel of scientists. "The new epoch should begin about 1950, the experts said, and was likely to be defined by the radioactive elements dispersed across the planet by nuclear bomb tests, although an array of other signals, including plastic pollution, soot from power stations, concrete, and even the bones left by the global proliferation of the domestic chicken."

Source:
EPI-PEN PRICES
House Committee Investigating Mylan
42 minutes ago
THE LATEST

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has requested documents from the CEO of Mylan, "the pharmaceutical company under fire after raising the price of EpiPens more than 400 percent since 2007." Meanwhile, top members of the Energy and Commerce Committee are pressing the FDA on the lack of generic competition for EpiPens.

Source:
PROCEDURES NOT FOLLOWED
Trump Not on Ballot in Minnesota
4 days ago
THE LATEST
MOB RULE?
Trump on Immigration: ‘I Don’t Know, You Tell Me’
5 days ago
THE LATEST

Perhaps Donald Trump can take a plebiscite to solve this whole messy immigration thing. At a Fox News town hall with Sean Hannity last night, Trump essentially admitted he's "stumped," turning to the audience and asking: “Can we go through a process or do you think they have to get out? Tell me, I mean, I don’t know, you tell me.”

Source:
BIG CHANGE FROM WHEN HE SELF-FINANCED
Trump Enriching His Businesses with Donor Money
6 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Donald Trump "nearly quintupled the monthly rent his presidential campaign pays for its headquarters at Trump Tower to $169,758 in July, when he was raising funds from donors, compared with March, when he was self-funding his campaign." A campaign spokesman "said the increased office space was needed to accommodate an anticipated increase in employees," but the campaign's paid staff has actually dipped by about 25 since March. The campaign has also paid his golf courses and restaurants about $260,000 since mid-May.

Source:
×