Religion & Beliefs

Did You Miss The National Day of Prayer?

I guess I kind of dropped the ball yesterday, because I failed to mention that the first Thursday in May is National Day of Prayer. And if that’s not practical news, I don’t know what is—right?? If you want more … Read More

By / May 4, 2007
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I guess I kind of dropped the ball yesterday, because I failed to mention that the first Thursday in May is National Day of Prayer. And if that’s not practical news, I don’t know what is—right?? If you want more info about the National Day of Prayer it would be natural for you to head to the official website of the NdoP. You might expect to find one of those nifty search engines that lets you look for the nearest church/synagogue/mosque. And probably pictures of all different kinds of people praying together. And maybe a kind of neutral vanilla statement about believing we all came from a higher being, and today we come together to praise that higher being. That seems like the obvious content for a website about a day when all Americans are supposed to pray. But in fact, when you head over to the About NDP page on the official website you find this heart-warming statement:

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 five centers of power: Church, Education, Family, Government and Media.

Then there’s a place where you can click to buy a $163 print of ‘The Prayer at Valley Forge.’ What a bargain! But seriously, how strange is it that the task force for the National Day of Prayer has an exclusively Christian doctrine? (And how scary is it that they have a task force? Are they, like, the enforcers of the prayer community?) The site then lists the NDP’s “Vision and Values” which starts with “Foster unity within the Christian Church” and continues “Publicize and preserve America's Christian heritage.” Are you feeling the multi-cultural, inclusive spirit yet? Way down at the bottom of the page is something called, “Official Policy Statement on Participation of "Non-Judeo-Christian" groups in the National Day of Prayer.” It seems to me like it should read “Participation of ‘Non-Christian’ groups” since there’s nothing Judeo about anything we’ve read so far, but let’s get right to the Offical Policy Statement so you can judge for yourself:

The National Day of Prayer Task Force was a creation of the National Prayer Committee for the expressed purpose of organizing and promoting prayer observances conforming to a Judeo-Christian system of values. People with other theological and philosophical views are, of course, free to organize and participate in activities that are consistent with their own beliefs. This diversity is what Congress intended when it designated the Day of Prayer, not that every faith and creed would be homogenized, but that all who sought to pray for this nation would be encouraged to do so in any way deemed appropriate. It is that broad invitation to the American people that led, in our case, to the creation of the Task Force and the Judeo-Christian principles on which it is based.

Wow! People who aren’t “Judeo Christian” (whatever the fuck that means) “are, of course, free to organize and participate in activities that are consistent with their own beliefs.” That’s awesome! Thank you, NDP, for allowing me to lay tefillin on Thursday. I really appreciate it! It turns out yesterday was also National Day of Reason, a little holiday started by the American Humanist Organization to combat the bullcrap spewed by the NDP Task Force. Their own mission statement starts off reasonably, then gets kind of angry, and then calms down again:

Humanists see the National Day of Prayer as a dividing intrusion instead of a chance to seek commonality…

Millions of Americans don’t see prayer as an answer to any question, especially now, after the American Heart Journal published the damning results of the most scientifically rigorous study of the efficacy of prayer to date. Millions more Americans who retain faith in prayer see it as a private matter and are offended by politicians’ attempts to hijack their deeply held religious beliefs to boost their poll numbers.

“But all Americans, regardless of their worldview, can join us in celebrating a National Day of Reason,” said AHA president Mel Lipman. “Reason is commonly recognized as a sound basis for decision making. Scientific reasoning explains much of human progress and potential, and no one, religious or not, wishes to be unreasonable.”

Good point! But is National Day of Reason listed on all Hallmark calendars, like National Day of Prayer? I think not. Take that, atheists! It’s too late anyway. If you didn’t pray or act reasonably yesterday you didn’t celebrate either holiday, you foolish heathen! Don’t worry, though, there’s always next year.