The biggest political story that doesn’t involve Donald Trump involves a freshman Republican state representative from Pennsylvania, Stephanie Borowicz. On Monday, Borowicz turned a lot of heads and raised a lot of hackles with an invocation that was better suited to a religious right gathering than a legislature. In case you missed it, watch it here.
In the state that trades on the legacy of religious tolerance represented by William Penn and Benjamin Franklin, Borowicz, who represents Lock Haven and some State College suburbs, declared herself “your ambassador here today,” and railed that “we’ve lost sight of you” and “forgotten you” as a nation. She reminded the audience that “every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that you, Jesus, are Lord.”
This prayer would have been grossly inappropriate on any occasion, but was even more so since it occurred on the day that Democrat Movita Johnson-Harrell became the first Muslim woman ever to serve in the Pennsylvania legislature. Johnson-Harrell denounced Borowicz’ prayer as Islamophobia on steroids, a sentiment backed up by Dickinson College professor Erik Love.
Borowicz didn’t seem to understand what the fuss was about, saying that she was just praying “how I pray everyday” and didn’t think she felt the need to apologize. It doesn’t look like she has any intention of understanding, since she merrily shared a Facebook post in which Franklin Graham applauded her.
Now you may be wondering–how could someone this tone-deaf possibly be elected to a state legislature anywhere in this country? Well, we may have gotten an answer on Thursday, when Borowicz used her first national interview since this controversy broke to peddle alternative facts about Franklin in an effort to claim his legacy.
Borowicz picked a receptive audience for this interview–Fox News Radio’s Todd Starnes. Listen here. Borowicz, a devout charismatic Christian, reiterated that she was merely praying in the same manner she does every day. She said she prays the same way at home, as well as at her church, Crossroads Community Church near Williamsport, where her husband is associate pastor. “I’m standing for Jesus, no matter what,” she said.
When asked about people calling her prayer Islamophobic, Borowicz shrugged it off, saying that it reminded her that “there’s power in the name of Jesus,” and that prospect is “offensive” to many people. As she sees it, it’s all the more reason to use that name.
Um, Stephanie? They weren’t upset that you prayed in Jesus’ name. They were upset that you used an invocation in a state legislature full of Jews and Muslims as well as Christians to essentially preach at them. But her background may explain such tone-deafness. According to her state house biography, she graduated from Altamonte Christian School, a private Christian school near Orlando. She then attended Vanguard University, an Assemblies of God school in Orange County.
In other words, Borowicz has spent most of her life in a bubble where in-your-face Christianity is the only acceptable form. It’s also a bubble that teaches an alternative version of U. S. history. That became clear later in the interview, when Borowicz claimed that she believed with all the scriptural passages present in the Pennsylvania State Capitol, God led her to “pray a prayer that Benjamin Franklin maybe prayed in that State Capitol.”
There are two problems with this. One, Harrisburg didn’t become the capital of Pennsylvania until 1812–22 years after Franklin’s death. During Franklin’s lifetime, Philadelphia was the colonial and state capital. It moved to Lancaster in 1799 before settling in Harrisburg.
More seriously, though, any serious analysis would show that Franklin would have never prayed in that manner. Franklin published a statement of his beliefs in 1728, which made no mention at all about salvation or the divinity of Jesus. Indeed, in his 1771 biography, he described himself as more deist than Christian.
Now why does this matter? Well, in most Christian schools around this country, kids are taught early on that this was a Christian nation, and that the Founding Fathers were devout Christians who wanted to build this country on Christian principles.
Even though this has been debunked time and again, this urban myth still persists today–no thanks to this alternative history being peddled in Christian schools and championed by the likes of David Barton, Pat Robertson and others for the better part of four decades. It’s how you get people like Borowicz on our municipal and county councils, state legislatures and in Congress.
By all means, Borowicz must be called out. By all means, she must be put on notice that she won’t be in Harrisburg for long unless she understands–and quickly–that she doesn’t just serve alongside Christians and that she doesn’t just represent Christians. But in order to understand how she turned out this way, we have to understand the culture that produced her.
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