Susan and Mike Rheaume stand by the ‘Pray Vote Pray’ display at The Christian Shop in Palatine, which they own.
by Catherine Guiles
Nov 03, 2008
For Mike and Susan Rheaume, “Pray Vote Pray” isn’t just a slogan on T-shirts they sell at The Christian Shop in Palatine.
It’s also a way of life.
“We pray every day when we open the store” and have a board for employees to share prayer requests, Susan Rheaume said. “In daily prayer, we’ve been praying for wisdom in who to vote for, and we’re waiting for the bolt of lightning.”
The Christian Shop has a display near the front door featuring “Pray Vote Pray” shirts and bumper stickers.
Underneath the first “Pray” is a reference to 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Underneath the word “Vote” is a quote from Edmund Burke, an 18th Century Irish politician: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Underneath the second “Pray” is a reference to 1 Timothy 2:1-2: “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”
The display also has other T-shirts that read “Whose Side Are You On?” and have an elephant and donkey on the front, with a quote from Abraham Lincoln on the back: “My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”
All are made by Kerusso, based in Berryville, Ark.
Kerusso president Vic Kennett said his company first made the “Pray Vote Pray” shirts during the 2004 election season and added the “Whose Side Are You On?” ones this year.
“What I like to do is take any kind of current event that’s big enough and turn the thoughts of the viewer toward God through that timely topic,” Kennett said. “I also wanted to present what I think is a Scriptural approach to an election.”
For elected officials, Kennett, a nondenominational Christian, said he would pray for wisdom, protection and strength. Also, “if there’s a particular thing, a ruling or a bent that’s against what Scripture says about something, then I’d pray they have a change of heart.”
Although the 2 Chronicles passage refers to ancient Israel under King Solomon, “I don’t think it’s a problem that they’re using the verse that way” on the shirt, said Cheryl Anderson, an associate professor of Old Testament at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston.
However, “Christians might disagree” as to what the “wicked ways” are, she said.
The passage in 1 Timothy refers to a time when the early church was undergoing persecution, which “shaped the kind of texts they were,” Anderson said.
“I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t” pray for politicians today, she said. But she noted that interactions with government “can also mean working for change.”
Kennett said voting is one way to do that.
People should “get involved in the process,” he said. “Don’t sit back and grumble and complain.”
Voters should also learn about the candidates, he said.
“Even before you pray, study, get educated, get informed,” Kennett said. “You want to be intelligent about how you cast your vote.”
To help with that, the Web site for the T-shirts features links to voter guides from conservative organizations, including the Christian Coalition and the Family Research Council.
“I think the evangelical Christian base is probably going to bend more that way,” Kennett said. However, “I kind of take the position I believe pastors should. You can’t preach one candidate or the other from the pulpit. That’s not my end; that’s not my goal. It’s bringing people to Christ.”
Kerusso products are carried at Christian bookstores nationwide, including the Family Christian Stores chain.
That’s where Carl Stagner, a senior at Anderson University in Indiana, found his gray “Pray Vote Pray” shirt.
“I decided I had to get it because it encourages Christians to vote and reminds Christians what the most important thing to do during an election season is,” Stagner said. That is to “pray for God to guide our nation, guide the voters, and that his will would be done and that we would trust him even if the outcome does not go the way we’d like it to.”
Mike Rheaume said that message appeals to different types of Christians.
He and Susan are Catholic, and unlike many Christian stores, theirs sells products geared toward Catholics as well as Protestants.
“’Pray Vote Pray’ has nothing to do with denomination,” he said.
The Rheaumes said sales of the shirts have been slow.
“We’re not in the T-shirt season,” Mike Rheaume said. Also, “people have become disillusioned with politics.” But “we’ll find a use for them.”
Kennett said Kerusso will “probably” bring the shirts back in four years.
And regardless of who wins on Nov. 4, he said the message of prayer will continue to help: “I’ve found it much more difficult to complain about someone if you’re praying for that someone.”
Kerusso makes two T-shirts related to the presidential election.
The Christian Shop in Palatine.
©2001 – 2013 Medill Reports – Chicago, Northwestern University. A publication of the Medill School.