Pray for the Day of Prayer

© St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Tad Armstrong

Something’s in the air. Few discuss it, but most everyone knows it’s out there somewhere. Whether it comes in the form of another terror attack or severe depression or the chaos of Arizona on a national scale, most of us have had the sense for quite some time that our nation is out of control. Indeed, our world is out of control.

Right is wrong. Wrong is right. Hate-crime statutes precipitate hate. Illegal immigrants rape, kidnap and murder in Arizona, and mindless city governments boycott from afar for the state attempting to right such injustice.

David Letterman shed a tear for his country on 9-12-01 and on 6-9-09 described a vice-presidential candidate as having a “slutty flight attendant” look and made an inappropriate sexual joke about the candidate’s daughter and a Yankee player. And his audience laughed. And he still has a job. And I weep for my country and my grandchildren.

Our vice-president dropped the “F” bomb at a microphone poised to a worldwide audience and the Democratic Party responded with T-shirts sporting “BFD” (Big F—ing Deal) to raise money for its cause. The Republican Party spent $2,000 on erotic entertainment, and people buy T-shirts and quickly forget. And I weep for my country and my grandchildren.

We cannot expect one person or group to make it all go away. We have relied on government far too long to take care of us. It’s time to rely on God. It’s time to pray. Perhaps Congress should designate an annual day of prayer.

Alas, Congress did that in 1952. But three weeks ago we were told by Judge Barbara Crabb that our constitution does not permit it.

You can read “Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. v. Obama” for yourself if you browse its name. If you are too lazy to read it, you are not entitled to criticize it. Wallowing in ignorance in the midst of the information age is the downfall of our great nation.

I predict Judge Crabb’s well-reasoned opinion will be reversed on appeal, but it is of little consequence to me, either way.

A challenge by atheists to a simple “declaration” is silly, and I bet that most atheists have the common decency to stand in silent respect for the views of others on this occasion, although common respect is yet another virtue of the past for many, including I’m afraid, some Christians.

There is a place for religion in the public square. It is that narrow place where the freedom of speech and the freedom to exercise one’s religion trump governmental intrusion into a holy domain. It is a president’s personal right to add “so help me God” to his oath and, so long as public funds are not tapped, it is his right to invite ministers to pray at his inauguration. On the other hand, there is a proper time for religion to distance itself from government for the sake of its own survival.

Judge Crabb’s decision will not be enforced this year while on appeal. If it is reversed, next year believers of all faiths can continue to pray in earnest on that one day a year when Congress – which 70% of us say we do not trust and many of us feel is corrupt – says it’s OK. How comforting.

If you get a chance, I urge you to attend a National Day of Prayer breakfast tomorrow (May 6). But, in the land of the free, we do not need nor should we seek the blessing of Congress before organizing such an event ourselves. Christianity hardly needed the blessing of Rome to survive.

If you have studied the Supreme Court decisions on this subject, you probably understand that at least a “short fence of separation,” as opposed to an impenetrable “wall,” is one reason why this nation has been spared the religious turmoil and bloodshed we have seen in every other corner of the world. If you have not, I am certain you would be very surprised at how friendly the judiciary has been to religion.

As Judge Crabb said, “The same law that prohibits the government from declaring a National Day of Prayer also prohibits it from declaring a National Day of Blasphemy.” To my fellow Christians and to people of all faiths, please be ever so careful what you ask government to be for religion – what you ask government to provide for religion – and what you ask government to sanction on behalf of religion. You just might get it.

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