Posts Tagged National Day of Prayer

Christian Colonialism: the culture of the Borg

As reported in the Huffington Post:

According to (Sarah) Palin, the recent backlash against the National Day of Prayer is proof that some people are trying to enact a “fundamental transformation of America” and to “revisit and rewrite history” in order to shift the Christian nation away from its spiritual roots.

Palins’s advice: “Go back to what our founders and our founding documents meant — they’re quite clear — that we would create law based on the God of the bible and the ten commandments.

“What in hell scares people about talking about America’s foundation of faith?” Palin continued. “It is that world view that involves some people being afraid of being able to discuss our foundation, being able to discuss God in the public square, that’s the only thing I can attribute it to.” – the Huffington Post

Funny choice of words.  I mean, she hits the nail squarely on her own head – because it is really conservative Neo-Evangelicals like herself who are afraid of taking a fresh look at our country’s foundation. When they encounter new (or suppressed) information about old events, information that tends to bust patriotic and religious myths, they ridicule it as revisionist history. Of course, revisionist does not mean wrong. It’s usually the other way around.

In “Guns, Germs and Steel”, Jared Diamond argues effectively that it was not moral or intellectual superiority that allowed Western civilization to advance technologically while others didn’t: it was merely an accident of geographical fate. Our  more ‘advanced’ culture had access to plants and animals that were easily domesticated (like wheat and horses) that other people in other places did not. This led to an early Eurasian agricultural system that could support a class society that included not only rulers, scribes and scholars and explorers but also a professional warrior caste. The Aztecs, Incas and Mayans had developed many of these same things: they were empires as well.  But, because of their native geography and it’s relative lack of natural resources, their technology was quite a few centuries behind Eurasia.

When the Europeans met the Native Americans they came equipped with cavalry, steel armor, swords, cannon and a thirst for empire.  Even very small bands of armed European soldiers could decimate Native American armies hundreds of times their size, which is what happened at Cajamarca.  Factor in European diseases and plagues introduced to the New World, diseases that killed millions of native people, and the outcome was inevitable.

One line in the book reminded me that our European forefathers were more like the Borg of Star Trek than the founders of the “Christian Nation” who live on in the imaginations of people like Sarah Palin:

“The initial success of Pizarro and Cortes did attract native allies. However, many of them would not have become allies if they had not already been persuaded, by earlier devastating successes of unassisted Spaniards, that resistance was futile and that they should side with the likely winners.”

Resistance was futile. “Assimilate or die”could be another way of saying “that they should side with the likely winners”.  Almost makes me wonder if the Star Trek writers were thinking about Western civilization when they conjured up the Borg.  And of course, it was not just the Spanish, but the French, Dutch, Portugese, English and Americans who helped conquer the New World by enjoying the same imbalance of power.

But, am I just guilty extremist thinking here? Isn’t this all just liberal exaggeration? Well, let’s consider all those native cultures and nations that have been able to coexist peacefully with Christian (Catholic and Protestant) European colonists and their descendants.  Funny, I can’t seem to think of any. They either no longer exist or were assumed into the Western collective.

Perhaps it is a bit outlandish to compare the human colonialists with the terrifying and monsterish Borg. But try looking at the Europeans from the perspective of a Native American. Or Fiji islander. Or a Bantu farmer. I think the ships, horses, armor and weaponry used by the colonizers might be just as terrifying. And the soldiers just as monsterish.  But at least they were Christian.

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So, the Pentagon honors all its soldiers, even Muslims?

In response to the Pentagon dis-inviting him to its National Day of Prayer event, Franklin Graham had this to say:

Graham also said the Pentagon decision was an ominous sign for the future of religious freedom in America.

“I think no question … religious freedom is under attack,” he said. “There has been an erosion now for many years, but we have seen it really accelerate in the last 10 years.

“This political correctness that has crept in, that if we stand for what we believe in, all the sudden we are not tolerant. They almost make it look like we are participating in hate speech, when we say that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, and there’s no way to God except through Christ and Christ alone. They are interpreting that now as being hostile and hate speech.”

No, Franklin, that’s not exactly the case.  It probably has more to do with some of your earlier comments, like this one:

“We’re not attacking Islam but Islam has attacked us. The God of Islam is not the same God. He’s not the son of God of the Christian or Judeo-Christian faith. It’s a different God and I believe it is a very evil and wicked religion.”

Since there could be as many as 10,000 Muslims serving our country in the U.S. armed services, I think the Pentagon is fully justified and commend it for honoring all soldiers, not just Christians.

Imagine if the shoe was on the other foot – an imam or rabbi invited to speak at the Pentagon after saying that Christian soldiers, sailors and Marines belong to  a ‘evil  and wicked religion’. What would you think of that, Franklin?

Someone who is on Frank’s side in this hunt is Pat Robertson, who recalled a discussion he had with Billy Graham about his son’s remarks:

“You know,” Robertson told viewers, “I met with his father some time ago and commented on the fact that I agreed with Franklin. And Billy said, ‘Well look, I’m an evangelist. I don’t want to get anybody upset, and attack anybody.’

I guess Billy Graham just doesn’t have the religious conviction that his son has. Which just goes to show you how too much conviction, religious or otherwise, can be a bad thing.

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Good news, Christians: the National Day of Prayer will soon be gone

So a federal judge in Wisconsin has finally determined that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional. Personally, I think this is great news. As much as people like to say that this day is for all people of faith, its history and its practice is Christian. Call it what you want, it is the offspring of Christianity and all PC speak aside, that is what it remains.

Not that there is anything wrong for Christians (or Jews or Muslims or Wiccans) across the country to decide on one day a year for nationwide prayer. But it shouldn’t be championed by the government. If the idea has any relevance for people then it should stand on its own merits, without the institutionalized support of our nation’s lawmakers. In fact, this is exactly what is happening. President Obama, a citizen with rights just like you and me, has decided to go ahead and continue to recognize this day anyway. (But wait! Isn’t he some kind of anti-Christian crypto-Muslim?)

You’d think serious Christians could see that there is something about civic prayer that smacks more of Caesar than it does of Jesus. But they don’t. They’ve even pulled out the big guns on this one: Chuck Norris. Personally, I always thought the idea of a “National” day of prayer was pretty bogus. Sort of sounds like the old vanity that “God is on our side” – that America is particularly favored by God.

Why not a true inter-faith International Day of Prayer? (Organized and administered by the private sector, of course). But that might mean praying with people of other countries who might very well be praying for things that are odds with our own national interests. Can’t have that.

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Atheists Take On U.S. Prayer Warriors

“The Freedom from Religion Foundation filed a claim last week that President Bush in conjunction with the Evangelical based Focus on the Family group who runs the National Day of Prayer Task Force is breaking the nation’s First Amendment.” The Examiner

The article’s author, Laura Jean Kerr, wrote that ;

“Another area of contention is that anyone who wished to volunteer for any of those events were made to sign an Evangelical statement of belief that stopped many mainstream Christians form participating in the events.”

Since Kerr “just happens to be a Pagan” (according to her bio) I thought that perhaps this line might be an exaggeration. So I went to the horse’s mouth , so to speak, to see what it had to say:

The National Day of Prayer Task Force’s mission is to communicate with every individual the need for personal repentance and prayer, mobilizing the Christian community to intercede for America and its leadership in the seven centers of power: Government, Military, Media, Business, Education, Church and Family.

Kerr’s claim seems to be in step with their mission statement, although they were generous enough to throw non-Christians a spiritual bone;

People with other theological and philosophical views are, of course, free to organize and participate in activities that are consistent with their own beliefs.

Pretty gracious of them, letting others know that they are allowed to worship in their own way that day. Classic CYA (Christians You Aren’t). It may be perfectly acceptable for Christians (or Jews or Muslims or Buddhists or Pagans etc) to organize a national day of prayer or fasting or bingo. But it is not within the purview of our government to endorse or assist in any such endeavor.

According to the Supreme Court decision in Emerson v. Board of Education in 1947:

Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organization or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect “a wall of separation between church and state.”

Many Christians would take exception to this court decision as well as the pending law suit. But is this just another case of religious people looking through the spectacles of the majority? There is good reason to believe that government participation with things pertaining to faith does little to help the cause of either religion or government. In 1821, in a letter to F.L. Schaeffer, James Madison said;

The experience of the United States is a happy disproof of the error so long rooted in the unenlightened minds of well-meaning Christians, as well as in the corrupt hearts of persecuting usurpers, that without a legal incorporation of religious and civil polity, neither could be supported. A mutual independence is found most friendly to practical Religion, to social harmony, and to political prosperity

He was however not entirely opposed to the essence of a National Day of Prayer. In another letter,this time to Edward Livingston, Madison says:

Whilst I was honored with the executive trust, I found it necessary on more than one occasion to follow the example of predecessors. But I was always careful to make the Proclamations absolutely indiscriminate, and merely recommendatory; or rather mere DESIGNATIONS of a day on which all who thought proper might UNITE in consecrating it to religious purposes, according to their own faith and forms.

Remember that when Madison wrote this the country was nearly uniformly Christian, with most inter-religious tension lying between Protestants and the arriving Catholic immigrants. It would seem that today’s particularly “Christian” day of prayer might not fit within Mr. Madison’s guidelines and that the the Freedom from Religion Foundation has a good case.

But outside of that, does the National Day of Prayer come close to accomplishing it’s goals, or is it more successful at generating negative publicity for the faith? Of course, with the tremendous number of ‘national’ days that have little relevance to most people (National Bring Your Teddy Bear to Work Day, Reptile Awareness Day, Inspire Your Heart with Art Day, Mother Goose Day and the National Day of Reason) this lawsuit may end up backfiring on the FFRP.

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