Tuesday, May 3, 2011

National Day of Prayer

Apparently, Thursday is the National Day of Prayer. I've never participated in this event, but I have heard about it and I've seen the literature and website published by the National Day of Prayer Task Force.

I personally have some problems with this organization, and with this event. First of all, I see that one of their goals is to "Foster unity within the Christian Church". As I read through their definition of prayer, though, they seems to intentionally exclude much of the prayer offered in Lutheran worship (which could be viewed as formulaic, and not spontaneous).

Second, the call to prayer on this one particular day is extended exclusively to Christians. I'm sure most of us are aware that our nation is home to many different religious traditions: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Native American traditions, Sikh, Buddhist, Hindu, Baha'i, LDS ... it's quite a long list. However, the National Day of Prayer Task Force is interested in only Christian prayer. This doesn't seem very national to me.

From the other perspective, though, it certainly does seem very national to me ~ particularly because of the way in which the Task Force seems to emphasize (and pray for) USAmerican superiority. Now, from a patriotic perspective, I don't have a problem with folks wanting their own nation to be the best in the world. Provided they don't become vindictive or destructive, patriotic tendencies can be beneficial to national identity.

However, from a Christian perspective, I'm not sure it's healthy to pray or advocate for the superiority of one nation over another. See, if one nation is better than another, then the people of that one nation are better off than the people of the other nation ... and I don't believe that G-d sees national boundaries. When G-d created humankind in their image, it wasn't just USAmerican humankind. G-d created all of humankind in the image of the divine, and praying for some of G-d's creation to be less well off than the rest of G-d's creation becomes problematic (at least from my own angle on and gift of faith).

This is the heart of the reason that I don't believe our nation should ever become a Christian nation ~ there is too much conflict between nationalistic impulses and Christian belief.

So, Thursday is the National Day of Prayer. I have not been invited to participate, and don't expect to be. I would participate, though, if I were allowed to publicly advocate love for the enemies of USAmerica, and to pray for those who persecute us. In particular, this year I'd be interested in praying for President Obama, the house and senate leadership. I'd want to pray for the people who are leaders of North Korea, of Cuba, of Afghanistan, and of Iraq.

Further, I'd be inclined to not participate if citizens of our nation who are not Christian were excluded from offering their own prayer.

Maybe I'll just celebrate Cinco de Mayo this Thursday.


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