Struggling to confront a worsening homicide rate, the mayor of Birmingham asked pastors and citizens Friday to don burlap sacks and ashes Friday in an Old Testament-style sign of biblical repentance.
Mayor Larry Langford said his "sackcloth and ashes" rally at Boutwell Auditorium was inspired by the Book of Jonah, where residents of the ancient city of Ninevah wore rough fabric and ashes as a sign of turning away from sin.
A pastor who helped organize the rally said Langford purchased 2,000 burlap bags that will be handed out at the event.
"We believe things begin to dramatically change when the mayor, or leader, calls for prayer. I don't think there's ever been a city called to sackcloth and ashes," Green said.
Since he took office last year, Langford has held three prayer rallies as a way of addressing crime and violence. Bibles were handed out at one of the events.
"This city needs to humble itself," said Langford, a professing Christian.
So far this year 27 people have been killed in Birmingham, compared to 19 at the same time last year.
Which of course has raised the ire of some as witnessed in this piece entitled Sackcloth and Asses:
At any rate, the Birmingham prayer rally has serious goals. The News reports that Langford admonished the pastors surrounding him and others not to attend the rally for spectacle, but for a religious experience.
“Do not come looking pretty,” he said. “If you’re too cute to put a little ash on your hands, stay home. If you’re too cute to pray, stay home.”
I’ve got a better idea. Langford should stay home, and he should read the Constitution of the United States. Government officials have no authority to meddle in religion, and he should repent of his unconstitutional activities.