Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Day of Prayer

Today is the National Day of Prayer.

Note: the Founders weren't averse to prayer. Benjamin Franklin famously proposed that each session of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia open with a petition to the Almighty, a motion the delegates rejected (Alexander Hamilton quipped the delegates didn't require any "foreign aid.") But few of the Founders would have been comfortable with the narrowly sectarian focus of a National Day of Prayer.

The National Day of Prayer was established by law in 1952. It was the height of the Cold War, when Congress was anxious to counter the perceived threat of "atheistic communism." This was also the period when the phrase "under God" entered the Pledge of Allegiance (in 1954), and when Congress adopted the phrase "In God We Trust" as the nation's official motto (in 1956).

Today, volunteers for the National Day of Prayer are required to subscribe to a strict doctrinal confession: "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." A Lutheran clergy friend of mine received a letter stating that "ecumenical" Christians weren't welcome. Only "evangelicals" need apply.

That's a far cry from Franklin's non-dogmatic faith. Old Ben said of Jesus that "I have some doubts as to his divinity" and, far from regarding the Bible as inerrant, actually re-wrote the Lord's Prayer to make it shorter and make the King James version conform to what he considered better English.

The Founders intended the United States to be a land where people of all faiths were welcome--not just Christians. In this country, Jews, Christians, Moslems, Buddhists, Hindus and atheists alike are free to proclaim and practice their beliefs. That why religion flourishes here as nowhere else on earth, and why people of differing spiritual views have managed for over two hundred years to co-exist as equal citizens, in friendship and in peace.

Let's pray it stays that way.

15 comments:

Jonathan Rowe said...

You might want to put "purportedly," before your claim about Hamilton and "foreign aid." It is, as far as I know, "unconfirmed" in the Founding record as David Barton would put it. It is also, as Barton would put it, entirely characteristic of Hamilton's attitude during the stage in his life when he helped frame the US Constitution (he was a bit of an arrogant ass).

Brian Tubbs said...

My understanding is that the National Day of Prayer itself is non-sectarian and open to people of all faiths.

However, the National Day of Prayer Task Force, which is a private organization, is Christian -- specifically evangelical Christian.

When Bush was President, he gave the Task Force a very high-profile role in observing the National Day of Prayer. Obama is downplaying that.

Erp said...

The National Day of Prayer Task Force doesn't make it obvious that it is a private group until you get to the secondary pages. On their main web page "National Day of Prayer" is highlighted then "Official Website" then in letters that almost fade into the background "Task Force".

I thoroughly approve of President Obama distancing himself from the group. It would be good if he could have somehow included the non-prayers of the nation (some have suggested National Day of Prayer and Reflection). But given the abuse he is getting from just reverting to the custom of previous presidents I will take what is given.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Today, volunteers for the National Day of Prayer are required to subscribe to a strict doctrinal confession: "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."

Not finding this support for this claim anywhere on the internet, Mr. [Rev.?] Kowalski. Pls advise. We would not want to spread urban legends. Lord knows the "Christianists" do plenty of that.

Brad Hart said...

Brian Tubbs writes:

"My understanding is that the National Day of Prayer itself is non-sectarian and open to people of all faiths."That was my understanding as well. As a result, I see little wrong with the National Day of Prayer.

bpabbott said...

Rev. Spirits: "That why religion flourishes here as nowhere else on earth, and why people of differing spiritual views have managed for over two hundred years to co-exist as equal citizens, in friendship and in peace."

I agree with your conclusion.

Today it appears to me that the many commonly voiced examples have little context during the founding period, for example.

It would be of interest to me to see these sort of conflicts examined, as best they can be, from the perspective of the founding.

Regarding the National Day of Prayer, I have no problem with it provided each individual is able to observe it as he/she wishes.

bpabbott said...

Regarding the claim; "volunteers for the National Day of Prayer are required to subscribe to a strict doctrinal confession" ... Those interested can check out the application form here. Toward the bottom is the "Statement of Belief" which must be answered by Yes or No.

"Statement of BeliefI 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 and have an ongoing relationship with God. I believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, his virgin birth, his sinless life, his miracles, the atoning work of his shed blood, his resurrection and ascension, his intercession and his coming return to power and glory. I believe that those who follow Jesus are family and there should be unity among all who claim his name.
I agree that these statements are true in my life.
(?) Yes (?) No"

And while I see little problem with a National Day of Prayer, the task force is another matter :-(

Brad Hart said...

WOW! Aint that the truth! Thanks for posting this, Ben.

bpabbott said...

Glad you liked it Brad. Finding definitive evidnece for current events is much easier than for the founding.

Tom Van Dyke said...

For the record, the National Day of Prayer Task Force is a private, Christian activist group with no connection to the government.

Naum said...

For the record, the National Day of Prayer Task Force is a private, Christian activist group with no connection to the government.Not with the current administration.

But with past Republican administrations, they indeed were well "connected", and given instrumental roles in policy formation and participated in weekly consultation with White House.

Sorry, do not mean to inject politics into this post, but a distinction must be made.

Also, agree with how Obama handled this, but he's criticized by conservative Christians who falsely claim that he turned his back / refused to recognize the day…

Tom Van Dyke said...

Sorry, do not mean to inject politics into this post, but a distinction must be made.

No problem, Mr. Naum. The politics were injected with the original post.

However, I don't believe the president is being falsely accused at all. His actions were clearly purposeful.

Revolutionary Spirits said...

Thanks for your many comments. The National Day of Prayer Task Force is not an official body of the U.S. Government, but was closely connected to the Bush administration and included in the planning of White House observances, enhancing the perception that it represents a quasi-governmental entity, and casting an Evangelical Christian tone over a religious observance established by Congress.

Tom Van Dyke said...

True enough.

The praysters from other sects should only be so devout and activist in that good ol' American pluralistic way. Then what a day of prayer it would be!

But some people are more concerned about Bush than about God, which is a shame.

bpabbott said...

For those interested, I came across a YouTube video of a segment from the Rachel Maddow Show on this subject.

For those who lean waaaayyy over to the right, here's another video from Michelle Malkin ... blahh, spit, choke, puke ;-)

Finally, for a fair and balanced perspective check out this video ;-)