Right-wing politicians and pundits are quick to mention that America is a Christian nation; after all, during the Pledge of Allegiance, we proclaim to be “one nation, under God” and our money says, “In God We Trust.” But – as anyone who lives in a diverse, urban area – or even a small city like Dearborn, Michigan – knows, not everyone living in America is a Christian. We may be a nation under God, but let’s not forget, our nation’s founders believed staunchly in religious tolerance. James Madison wrote, “the Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every…man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an inalienable right.”
That’s why I believe if anyone is going to claim to sponsor a “National Day of Prayer,” religious diversity must be encouraged within that celebration, or the sponsors should have the dignity to call it exactly what it is: Petrified, Intolerant Christians Who Feel Compelled to Beg Jesus for Mercy Thanks to All the Other Heathens in America Day – or something like that.
It’s not that I’m against prayer or religious observance, nor am I against the rights of atheists not to participate. Some would certainly argue that prayer has no place in public life at all, but I’ll leave that to the American Atheists. I believe in prayer both as a right and a powerful tool, and I would actually like to see prayer and healing encouraged in this country. I worry every time I see a psychopathic driver in a neighborhood full of kids that America is slowly (rapidly?) becoming a nation full of morally bankrupt narcissists. But I think if we’re going to try to bulk up the moral fiber and concerned citizenitude of our people, we need to make everyone who lives in this country feel like a welcome part of the process.
The National Day of Prayer 2011’s theme is “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” based on Psalm 91:2 which states: “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Ah, yes. The lyrics of “On Eagle’s Wings.” Who could forget that tune? “And He will raise you up on eagle’s wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, make you to shine like the sun and hold you in the palm of His hand.” Where my Catholics at, yo?! That ish is sick, son!) Not a bad verse to choose, in terms of its potential for inclusion. It doesn’t reference Jesus in particular (though of course it does indirectly), and it could simply encourage reverence and strength in tough times. But the vision statement of the National Day of Prayer Task Force states in plain and clear language that they are not interested in fostering religious tolerance or diversity. They write:
In accordance with Biblical truth, the National Day of Prayer Task Force seeks to:
- Mobilize and encourage personal and corporate prayer, regardless of current issues and positions (Colossians 4:2, Romans 12:12, Matthew 18:19-20, Joel 2:13-16, II Chronicles 7:14)
- Preserve America’s Christian heritage and defend the religious freedoms granted by the Constitution (Deuteronomy 6:6-8, Proverbs 14:34)
- Emphasize prayer for America and its leadership in the seven centers of power: Government, Military, Media, Business, Education, Church and Family (I Timothy 2:1-6)
- Foster unity within the Christian Church (Psalm 133:1, Ephesians 4:11-13)
That second bullet point there is a contradictory statement, the doublespeak of the oppressed majority. (I smell fear!) And here are some interesting facts that might be of particular interest to parents: the National Day of Prayer Task Force is chaired by Shirley Dobson, wife of Focus on the Family’s James Dobson. According to his Wikipedia page, James Dobson not only advocates spanking, but private school vouchers and tax credits for religious schools. (Wait right-wingers, let me get this straight: it’s okay to write-off religious instruction but not a breast pump? Tit – in this case, literally – for tat is too much to ask? Weird.) And speaking of getting things straight, let’s get down to brass tacks here. Dobson thinks “tolerance and its first cousin, diversity, are almost always buzzwords for homosexual advocacy.” (Don’t worry, Dobson klan, there are no gay Muslims! Just ask Ahmedinejad.)
So, that’s why, despite the fact that I do pray with my daughter from time to time, we won’t be participating in this “National Day of Prayer.” Because I like to pray for a world that is finally tolerant of gay people, fair to women and kind to the underdog. I just wish the ruling class would stop looking at the rest of us as a threat and start to see us as equals. That’s what Jesus would do.