The first line of this Star-T piece on the dispute over National Day of Prayer leaves no doubt as to where the reporter’s sympathies lie: “Federal Judge Barbara Crabb may wear a black robe and wield a gavel, but she isn’t more powerful than prayer.”
Um, actually, Crabb may turn out to be more powerful than prayer – if the Supreme Court agrees with her that National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional. Some legal experts say she makes a sound, sober case that this annual national event serves no broader public purpose and is perilously close to an establishment of religion.
Many believers think that praying at public events – outside of a church service – is an annoying demonstration of vanity that has more to do with the faithful looking pious than with the higher power they’re trying to contact. Meanwhile, conservatives crow about all the profanity and sexual explicitness in pop culture, but they manage to miss the rampant spiritual exhibitionism of people who shoehorn the words “God” and “Jesus” into every possible exchange. (You could hawk a whole late-night DVD series called Evangelicals Gone Wild! with all the faith-flashing those folks do). And don’t get me started on pre-game prayers that ask God to watch over your high school’s loser football team — or, for that matter, the NFL team you’ve signed a multi-million dollar contract to play for.
The New Testament is filled with deliberately vague quotes and parables that’re misused for all kinds of political purposes. One teaching, however, is crystal clear: “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” None other than J.C. himself made that judgment. Why do so many of his followers ignore it?