Senate Chaplain’s Calls for a Divine Intervention

Black: "I must be doing something right."
National Journal
Mike Magner
Add to Briefcase
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 »
CONTINUES WAR OF WORDS
Trump Goes After Germany In Tweet
5 minutes ago
THE DETAILS
MAYBE MORE COMING
Cohn Rules Out Easing Russian Sanctions
5 minutes ago
BREAKING
MAY 18
Trump Comms Director Resigns
12 minutes ago
BREAKING

Mike Dubke, Donald Trump's communications director, has resigned his post in the White House. Dubke offered his resignation on May 18, but offered to stay on through the completion of Trump's first foreign trip to allow for a smoother transition. Trump immediately accepted Dubke's resignation when it was offered. There have been weeks of rumblings that Trump was considering a major shakeup to his advisers, specifically citing Trump's discontent with his communications shop.

CITES CONFLICT OF INTEREST
Lieberman Withdraws from Consideration for FBI Job
4 days ago
THE LATEST
MANAFORT AND FLYNN
Russians Discussed Influencing Trump Through Aides
4 days ago
THE DETAILS

"American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers." The conversations centered around Paul Manafort, who was campaign chairman at the time, and Michael Flynn, former national security adviser and then a close campaign surrogate. Both men have been tied heavily with Russia and Flynn is currently at the center of the FBI investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login