It's rare that we get any possible evidence that prayer works, so the story of Birmingham, Alabama mayor Larry Langford is a particularly interesting one. Let's start back on April 23, 2008. On that date, the mayor, already known for his public prayer vigils and sermonizing, issued a proclamation that his city was going to fight crime through "humbling itself." This was done through the wearing of sackcloth and ashes, and in this way, according to Langford, there would be divine intervention:
Mayor Larry Langford declared Friday as "It's Time to Pray Day" in Birmingham and will mark the event with a prayer service at Boutwell Auditorium.To me, this sounds like an absolutely nutty idea. Still, maybe it worked after all.
Langford made the proclamation Tuesday during the City Council meeting.
"We're going to pray for a change in this city," he said.
During the service, participants will be given sackcloth to wear and ashes to put on their skin. The practice is mentioned in the Bible of the Bible as an act of repentance and humility.
Langford ordered 2,000 of the sacks...
Langford continued to defend his religious rallies and calls for prayer, saying the city needs both government and divine intervention to solve major problems including crime.
"The moral fiber of this community is also our responsibility," he said...
— The Birmingham News, April 23, 2008
Today, Larry Langford was arrested on 60 counts of corruption, bribery and filing false income tax returns. Hmmm...
Federal authorities arrested the mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, on Monday in a corruption probe surrounding a massive sewer bond debt that has forced Jefferson County to the brink of bankruptcy.Can I get an "amen"?
Authorities arrested Mayor Larry Langford at his place of business in Birmingham at 7 a.m. (1200 GMT) and indicted him on 60 counts including bribery, conspiracy and filing false tax returns, according to U.S. Attorney Alice Martin...
"He sold out his public office to his friends Blount and LaPierre for about $235,000 in expensive clothes, watches and cash to pay his growing personal debt. All the while, Blount was paid fees topping $7 million," said Martin.
"Through a web of financing agreements Langford required many institutions to use Blount as a consultant so Blount would make fees and in turn pay off Langford," Martin told a news conference, adding: "It was a classic pay-to-play scheme..."
— Reuters, December 1, 2008
If patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, surely piety must be penultimate.