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National Day of Prayer

posted by Scot McKnight

NatlDayPrayer.jpgAt the Washingon Post, a controversy is brewing over government disinvitation of Franklin Graham. Here is the discussion set of questions:

What do you think?

National day of prayer and controversy

Did the Pentagon do the right thing by disinviting evangelist Franklin Graham from a National Day of Prayer event next week? Should government officials decide who can or cannot speak at such an event? Should the government even proclaim a National Day of Prayer? Was a federal judge right to rule it unconstitutional?



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kevin s.

posted May 1, 2010 at 1:08 pm


If making negative statements about other religions is sufficient to be disinvited to the event, then scrap it. At best, it becomes a meaningless exercise of civil religion. At worst, it’s an affront to God, denying those who rightly call out other religions for the sin inherent in their practice.
Of course, religious leaders are critical of other religions (Christianity not least of which) all the time. In this case, the offended party was Islam, which rules the politically correct roost these days.



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Jeremy

posted May 1, 2010 at 1:09 pm


I actually agree with the military on this one. We’re currently embroiled in two conflicts in Islamic nations. Having Mr. Graham speak shortly after making the remarks that he made would be…problematic. They have a lot of very complex relationships to manage and continuing would have put a nasty dent in them.



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William Birch

posted May 1, 2010 at 2:20 pm


I completely agree with Kevin. Well stated.



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JRS

posted May 1, 2010 at 3:45 pm


The question comes down to this for me.
Do we want ministers of the gospel censored at any level?
I don?t like what my pastor says so I?ll get a pastor whose message suits me.
I don?t like what my pastor says so I?ll find a church where the message agrees with me.
Funny, I thought we expected ministers of the gospel to speak the truth as God reveals it to them even if we don?t like it.



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K. Rex Butts

posted May 1, 2010 at 4:07 pm


The Pentegon/National-Government can invite and disinvite whoever they want to…there house, their right to do what they want.
I am more concerned that for many Christians who participate in the National Day of Prayer (NDoP), that this participation is nothing more than a growing nationalistic idolatry. I participated in a NDoP prayer service among Christians a couple of years ago and this is when I really began to start having concerns about nationalism.
Grace and peace,
Rex



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Cole

posted May 1, 2010 at 4:15 pm


Muslim leaders can say they want Islam, to be the leading authority in the US, but as with Maj. Hasan, Muslims find they can take advantage of the politically correct environment around Islam, that offers protection from normal criticism.
Some Muslim leaders, who have been invited to speak and offer prayers in State Senates, have stated that Islam should be included in the US Constitution.
CAIR’s founder, the group to complain the loudest from the Muslim side, has said Islam is in the US to dominate, not to get along, and eventually to be the highest authority in the land.
But if you criticize their intolerance, you would be deemed as problematic.
Further, what was worrying about the initial complaint about Rev. Graham is that to invite him to a ‘prayer’ meeting, would invite Muslim attack.
A better question would be, should the Pentagon moderate its behaviour around fear of Muslim/radical attack?
On top of this, one of the ways Graham caused offence to [some] Muslims, was to invite the radical terrorists to come to Christianity. It would be a relief to the whole world if they all considered his invite and turned away from this destructive philosophy.
But where we must be careful here too, is not to create one law that protects Muslims, or judges them less harshly for comments that offend the idea of democracy and the western way of life, but at the same time punishes Christians more for perceived slights to Islam or Muslims.
One of the problems in Europe, here of late, has been the enforced side-lining of all things Christian from the public square, while allowing and even promoting what is Muslim [in the name of inclusion]. This while Muslim groups ask for less freedom, around respect for Islam, and even the introduction of Shari’a into European law.
Politicians who support Islam, at any cost, while maligning Christianity suffer in the polls.
People view it as a betrayal. And that’s hard to undo.



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Ellen Haroutunian

posted May 1, 2010 at 4:32 pm


It’s time for us to be wiser about these things. We need to read the OT through the mind of Christ, that is, to keep in mind that while in the OT God judged the bad practices of unbelieving nations and cults, Jesus did not attack the surrounding culture nor other religions. Instead, He showed all of us the way to enter the Kingdom, and also the means by which His followers are meant to be known, which is love. He told us that He is doing a *new* thing. He took an axe to the roots of many causes of division. Graham’s statements here do not reflect Jesus, nor do they call anyone to repentance or to re-think their religion. They merely serve to build walls of resentment and anger. Therefore, I think to dis-invite him was a good decision. I am *not* saying Graham is a bad Christian or cannot serve God in other capacities but even “leaders” need to be called to reflect on the gospel again once in a while. Maybe more often than that. We all forget how strange and expansive it is – loving our enemies and all that.
Keep in mind that just because some from Islam feel free to criticize us, does not mean we respond in kind. That tit-for-tat thing is more reflective of the legalism -which is rampant in Islam -than grace. We follow Christ – so let’s humble ourselves to show Him as He is.



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SuperStar

posted May 1, 2010 at 5:38 pm


The better option for the government and the Pentagon would be to eliminate the National Day of Prayer. We really don’t need this day as we can pray every day of the week if we choose to. There is no need to continue a remnant of a 1952 decision that acknowledged our country’s gratefulness for the results of World War II.



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Ron

posted May 1, 2010 at 6:14 pm


People are confusing what John Corrigan and Winthrop S. Hudson in their classic, Religion in America, distinguish as church religion and civil religion. Franklin preaches church religion, that is, the distinctives of his Christian faith, which, Corrigan and Hudson define as “intensely personal and focused above all on individuals and their salvation.” There is nothing wrong with this, however, it runs counter to civil religion. Prayer at the Pentagon is an expression of civil religion, that is, it is “public religion, a religion available to all through natural reason” and focused on “the nation and its mission.”



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Steve S

posted May 1, 2010 at 7:38 pm


Franklin preaches church religion, that is, the distinctives of his Christian faith, which, Corrigan and Hudson define as “intensely personal and focused above all on individuals and their salvation.”
This is neither church religion, nor Christian faith. Christ is a political title, Jesus was a political figure, and was treated as such by all of his contemporaries, right up to the point where he was executed by the government for political rebellion…



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kevin s.

posted May 2, 2010 at 2:52 am


“We need to read the OT through the mind of Christ, that is, to keep in mind that while in the OT God judged the bad practices of unbelieving nations and cults, Jesus did not attack the surrounding culture nor other religions.”
Jesus most certainly attacked the surrounding culture, figuratively, verbally, and physically. If he didn’t attack the surrounding culture, what did he do?
“Instead, He showed all of us the way to enter the Kingdom, and also the means by which His followers are meant to be known, which is love.”
Nope. It was by believing him as the way, the truth, and the life. Of course, his way was love, but love was also HIS way. You cannot create your own definition of love, and pretend that this is what Christ was preaching about.
“He told us that He is doing a *new* thing. He took an axe to the roots of many causes of division.”
No he didn’t. He got himself killed. He called himself a sword that would divide people. He wasn’t referring to a literal sword, but he was referring to literal division.
“Graham’s statements here do not reflect Jesus, nor do they call anyone to repentance or to re-think their religion.”
What? The only reason the statement got him into trouble was because it called people to repentance, and asked them to re-think their religion.
“They merely serve to build walls of resentment and anger. Therefore, I think to dis-invite him was a good decision.”
What if he had said that anyone who neglects the poor will not inherit the kingdom of God. This would certainly build walls of resentment and anger. Would it be a cause for dis-invitation?
“I am *not* saying Graham is a bad Christian or cannot serve God in other capacities but even “leaders” need to be called to reflect on the gospel again once in a while.”
Same goes for blog commenters.
“Maybe more often than that. We all forget how strange and expansive it is – loving our enemies and all that.”
So loving our enemies entails countenance of our enemy’s systemic mistreatment of women? You are free to call Graham and “leaders” on the carpet for expressing what is manifestly true, but if they do the same to Muslims, that is problematic? Please explain how this is a consistent position.
“Keep in mind that just because some from Islam feel free to criticize us, does not mean we respond in kind.”
He wasn’t responding in kind. Muslims do not criticize us for our mistreatment of women. They criticize us for regarding women as people.
“That tit-for-tat thing is more reflective of the legalism -which is rampant in Islam”
Wait. Why is it cool for you to note that legalism is rampant in Islam, but it is not cool for Graham to note the sexism is rampant in Islam? I know what you are trying to accomplish here, but it undermines your broader point.
“We follow Christ – so let’s humble ourselves to show Him as He is.”
Christ hates Islam. He hates it. He may love Muslims (this is not defined in scripture either way, in my view), but he hates false gods. There is no reasonable argument to the contrary that does not dispense with the New Testament entire.



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Bob Cornwall

posted May 2, 2010 at 8:55 am


There are several things at work here.
1. National Day of Prayer as an event. If government sponsored then it should reflect the diversity that is religious America. Thus, having someone speak at a government sponsored event who has made disparaging remarks about another religion would be irresponsible.
2. National sponsored religious events — Should government sponsor such things? I’m not sure. My sense is that they devalue both faith and state.
3. Do they unite the nation? See #1 — no they don’t.
4. Is it time to drop it? Probably — but the President who does will get “crucified” — consider the flak that Obama gets because unlike his predecessor doesn’t have a Shirley Dobson sponsored event in the WH.
Finally, the anti-Muslim rants I read above remind me why Franklin Graham shouldn’t be given a state sponsored podium!



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kevin s.

posted May 2, 2010 at 1:53 pm


@Bob
What anti-Muslim rants? There are no rants on either side of the issue in this thread.
You are correct that, if Obama cancels the day of prayer, he will be crucified. But it is by the logic of your diversity argument, which skews leftward politically, that he would cancel the event. Many do not see diversity as an inherent positive. I think he would take flak in that regard.



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Fish

posted May 2, 2010 at 3:08 pm


Oh, I’d definitely call that post an anti-Muslim rant. And a classic example of why we don’t need a National Day of Prayer.



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Ray

posted May 2, 2010 at 4:41 pm


In the spirit of minority rights, I propose that the President declare a National Day of Secularism where he encourages every citizen to devote one full day without any reference to religion, display of religious artifacts, or conduct any religious practice, whatsoever.
If you are repulsed by this suggestion, you have just felt a bit of empathy toward atheists exposed to the National Day of Prayer. But you would still have a long way to go before understanding the indignity of being told to pray while in military formation. Whenever the government does anything which goes beyond protecting religious freedom, it treads on someone’s individual rights. Unless you are that person or can empathize with that person, this trespass probably doesn’t bother you in the least.



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Gwyddion9

posted May 5, 2010 at 4:52 pm


I believe it was then President Clinton who asked Dobson to be in charge of the National Day of Prayer. In retrospect, this was a mistake as Dobson has turned the National day around to become a Christian day of prayer. His website details what one must agree in order to lead or participate in the ND of P. Clearly, it has become overtly Christian and specifically, Dobson?s type of Christianity.
The ND of P was intended for all citizens, regardless of religion, faith, deity, to get together and pray to whatever that individual defined as deity and ask blessing for the country. If the ND of P could become inclusive, as it was intended rather than exclusive, I?d support it but as it stands, it should be scrapped.
Again, the idea of ND of P was to pray for the country. It was not a time to say who was right or wrong. I think that the Pentagon?s actions were appropriate in dismissing Graham. He can choose to believe that Islam is evil or wrong, personally or in his church but at a National event for all religions, such would be wrong and counter productive.



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whyNDP

posted May 6, 2010 at 3:07 pm


If you are religious, please answer this question: Why is it important to have government sponsor prayer? Do you need the governments approval to make you feel ok about being religious? Why do we need GOVERNMENT sponsoring NPD?



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agreeWithRay

posted May 6, 2010 at 3:11 pm


Well said Ray.



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volunteer

posted May 6, 2010 at 3:22 pm


How about a National Day of doing something constructive for the country. A National Day of Volunteering would be far more productive than a national day of prayer.



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NDQ

posted May 6, 2010 at 3:27 pm


How about a National Day of Questioning your faith. I don’t believe most americans have really spend any time questioning why they believe what they believe. Most were probably just raised that way. It would be great if everyone gave it some thought. Read your holy book at the very least. Not just a few passages selected by your pastor, but the whole thing.



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robert robinson

posted May 6, 2010 at 3:48 pm


I believe that Franklin Graham has the right too speak up loud about our LORD and SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST ,any time any where he choses to.we still live in Amaerica don’t we? Because we are Christians, doesn’t stamp these words on our foreheads walk on me!People stood by and let one woman take prayer out of schools, and you see what is taking place there!. its time for al;l Christians to stand up and put GOD back in the Whitehouse ,it didn’t do wrong for our past presidents and it want start now.



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