From Pine View Farm

Not a Prayer 0

A friend of mine, knowing I would delight in the full wingnuttery of it, forwarded me this email referring to a report on CNN. You can read the full CNN story here.

Let’s see – covers up religious symbols at a catholic school, his car is named the beast, doesn’t go to church and now this –
Umm – what has America come too ????

    (CNN) — For the past eight years, the White House recognized the National Day of Prayer with a service in the East Room, but this year, President Obama decided against holding a public ceremony.

    “Prayer is something that the president does everyday,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday, noting that Obama will sign a proclamation to recognize the day, as many administrations in the past have done. Asked if Obama thought his predecessor’s ceremonies were politicized, Gibbs said, “No, I’m not going to get into that again.”


I won’t even waste my time on the wingnut claptrap with which the original emailer prefaced the quotation. You can find more here, here, and here.

There’s some history here.

The United States was not founded as a “Christian nation.” Indeed, for most of the colonial period, the colonies were not particularly religious, with the exception of the descendants of the Puritans and the Pilgrims in New England. And their vaunted desire for “religious freedom” had nothing to do with religious freedom for others; rather, they wanted freedom for themselves, but were quite intolerant of those whose religious practices differed from theirs (they are the spiritual ancestors of today’s Religious Right).

Indeed, in most of the colonies, the Church of England was the established church; the fellow who founded the little Baptist Church in which I grew up spent time in jail for his missionary activities on behalf of Baptist beliefs. (Which makes it doubly ironic that many of today’s Baptists seem to want to return to the days of establishmentarianism. Ah, well, those who forget history and all that.)

In the mid-1700s and then again in the early 1800s, there were waves of revivalism, usually referred to as the First and Second Great Awakenings. In the succeeding years, the place of religion in the public square waxed and waned.

But, frankly, the National Day of Prayer has nothing to do with that.

Public religious observance increased right after WWII with the beginning of the Cold War. That’s when “under God” got added to the pledge of allegiance to the United States.

It was part of a larger effort to publicly differentiate between western democracy and “godless” communism. It was, if you will, religion as a Cold War weapon, not true religious feeling. I remember public service ads urging persons to “attend the church of synagogue of your choice,” as if some religion–any religion–were better than no religion.

The truth, as far as moral behavior is concerned, is that some persons’ religions are better than some other persons’ religions. In some cases, at least as far as public conduct is concerned, no religion is better than many religions.

One of my friends is relentlessly and fiercely atheistic. I will take her as an example of moral, humane, kind, and loving behavior over James Dobson and his flock of intolerant sycophants any day of the week and twice on Sundays. Three times on Sundays. I have another friend whose theology is extremely heterodox and would not pass the creed test for any mainstream church (except possibly the Unitarians)–certainly not the litmus tests of the Religious Right–but who is one of the kindest, most caring and considerate persons I know.

I also notice the descriptions of the Bushie “ecumenical” services in the CNN story refer to Protestants, Catholics, and Jews. No mention of Buddhists, Hindus, Taoists, Confucians, Sikhs, Rastafarians, or (gasp!) Muslims.

(Imagine the howls from the Religious right at a truly ecumenical service.)

Politically, no service is probably a lot safer than a truly ecumenical one.

Symbolic acts are important, but only insofar as they reflect sincerity. I prefer leaders who do not attend church but who try to lead with integrity and morality to those who loudly profess their religious beliefs while, say, for example, just hypothetically speaking you know, facilitating greed, condoning torture, and committing unjust war.

I reserve my respect for someone who quietly lives with integrity; I do not grant it to someone who believes in the kind of God that you have to wind up on Sundays.


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