Thursday, May 1, 2008

Politicizing Prayer

Today is the National Day of Prayer in the United States. And while this nation is facing some of the greatest challenges in its history, some good citizens have found a way to politicize even a day of prayer.

A Little Background on the Day
courtesy of Wikipedia:

There have been several national days of prayer in the U.S. before the day was made official in 1952. The Continental Congress issued a day of prayer in 1775 to designate "a time for prayer in forming a new nation". Thomas Jefferson argued however, that although individual religious organizations had the right to designate a day of prayer, the U.S. government should not have that right.

On April 17, 1952, President Harry S. Truman signed a bill proclaiming the National Day of Prayer into law. It was in 1972 that the National Prayer Committee was formed. It went on to create the National Day of Prayer Task Force, with the intended purpose of coordinating events for the National Day of Prayer. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill into law decreeing that the National Day of Prayer should be held on the first Thursday of May.

The intention of the National Day of Prayer was always that it would be a day when members of all faiths could pray together in their own way. It would involve Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Aboriginals, Zoroastrians, Bahá'ís, Satanists, Pagans and all others, of any faith or of no organized religion, who had a religious faith and wished to participate.

Yet those who look for every opportunity to advance a political agenda have found a way to turn a day which should unite us as a nation into just one more way to keep us divided.

As reported in the Christian Science Monitor:

"The National Day of Prayer "has been hijacked," says Jane Hunter, co-director of Jews on First. "Only Christian clergy are invited to participate.... And they encourage their coordinators to enlist elected officials or stage their observances on public property." This undermines the First Amendment's prohibition against any establishment of religion, she says.

On the National Day of Prayer Official Website, the task force requires that volunteer coordinators agree to a lengthy belief statement that begins: "I believe that the Holy Bible is the inerrant Word of the Living God. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the only One by which I can obtain salvation...." The coordinators are to ensure that only Christians conduct the events, although anyone may attend them.

"From our standpoint, we feel our nation was founded on Christian principles, and that's our basis for making the day Judeo-Christian," says Brian Toon, vice chairman of the task force. "We don't exclude others from holding their own events.

On Tuesday, Channel 10 in Tampa Bay reported:

Coordinators of this Thursday's National Day of Prayer are taking hits from both sides.

Jews on First and the Council on American Islamic Relations accuse the National Day of Prayer Task Force of turning the day into an evangelical event that excludes others. The Jewish and Muslim groups are calling for alternative gatherings that are more inclusive.

Meanwhile, conservative Christian hosts on the VCY America Radio Network are criticizing the honorary chairman of this year's National Day of Prayer, Doctor Ravi Zacharias, for posting an official prayer that concludes “in God's holy name” instead of “in Jesus' name." They call that a "betrayal” that suggests that the event's organizers are “ashamed of Jesus.”

Leaders of the National Day of Prayer Task Force say others are free to organize prayer events that fit their own religious perspectives.

I agree that The National Day of Prayer Task Force chaired by Mrs. Shirley Dobson, wife of Dr. James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, organizes public events which advance the Christian Fundamentalist religious doctrine and world view. In my opinion, Mrs. Dobson and her organization are free to do so. However, I am also free to express my faith without participating in their activities or promoting their agenda. In fact, anyone with the time, money and resources is free to organize any form of prayer event they like and invite the public to their event.

Quite frankly this entire controversy reminds me of conversation that I had with a college friend when Ronald Reagan was running for President with a promise of returning prayer to the schools. I told my friend, a young Republican, that if parents prayed with their children at home and prayed with their children at church (substitute synagogue or mosque if you like ) then they wouldn't have to worry about their children having to prayer in school or any other public place.

So following this line of thought, if each of us who chooses to observe the National Day of Prayer is free to do so in our own manner ( in our homes, in our places of worship ) does it really matter to you if your religious organization is not standing in the public square?

Does it matter to God?

For those of you who are not familiar with Christianity or just haven't read this scripture in awhile here is what Jesus said on that subject:

Matthew 6:5-13 (NKJV)
courtesy of

“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.[a] And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.

“Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. In this manner, therefore, pray:

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen

or as the Message Bible translation reads:

"And when you come before God, don't turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat?

"Here's what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.

"The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They're full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don't fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this:

Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what's best— as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You're in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You're ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.

I believe it's just that simply. You can't , nor should you try to, politicize prayer.

Yesterday I wrote a post on the economic nightmare that has been created by trying to solve an energy problem by diverting a large portion of the corn crop ( a food staple ) into ethanol production. As I was writing I was also watching C-SPAN2. Senator after Senator discussed oil prices, oil company profits, food prices, the economic stimulus checks, eroding wages and the fears of their constituents. And as each Senator spoke it was very clear that while some offered suggestions for temporary measures not one of them have any idea of how to fix this problem in the long run.

The Senators aren't alone. On Tuesday, President Bush stood on the White House lawn blaming Congress for not addressing the economic problems but did not offer any ideas of his own.

The mainstream broadcast media has spent the past few days discussing a politician's relationship with his former pastor.

Meanwhile, the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan rage on, the UN is begging for food aid, people are making choices between taking life saving medicines and food, the Middle East seems no closer to peace, there is a faction in Iran that wants to destroy Israel, there is a faction in the US that wants to invade Iran, Palestinians are dying, Israelis are dying, Iraqis are dying, Haitians are dying, Sudanese are dying, the polar glaciers are melting, wildlife is dying, the bridges are in disrepair, the Great Lakes are receding, truckers can barely make a living, no one is sure if the food is safe or the food is even natural and ..

there are people in America arguing about which day should be a National Day of Prayer and who should organize it.

Does this make sense to you? It doesn't to me.

With all of the critical issues facing the world, everyday should be an International Day of Prayer because obviously our political leaders need wisdom and moral guidance.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.