No National Day of Prayer
at Nation's Capital
Natalia J. Garland
Removing the National Day of Prayer would be like removing In
God We Trust from our coins and bills, or the Pledge of
Allegiance from our schools, or the National Anthem from sports
events and other ceremonies. There was a time when these patriotic
and spiritual expressions did not exist. However, they seem to
have come into existence in order to reinforce our historical
roots and our common values, purpose, and future as Americans. If
any of them were removed at this point, our solidarity would be
diminished to some extent.
This year, our
nation's Capital did not provide a public celebration of the
National Day of Prayer. Instead, the President issued a statement
and apparently observed the day with a private prayer. What is
the difference between public and private expressions of prayer?
A public expression involves the celebration of a power greater
than self: a deity figure and usually a doctrinal system
associated with that deity. It is a public confession of a
personal belief, evidenced by one's participation in a communal
celebration. A private prayer involves the personal relationship
between the individual and the deity, without the participation of
other believers. Both forms of prayer are legitimate expressions
in the lives of believers.
There are, however,
some possible negative interpretations and repercussions of this
year's lack of the public aspect of worship at the Capital. (1)
Submission to political correctness. (2) The failure to reinforce
peaceful co-existence among the nation's religions. (3) A
disregard of the importance of Christianity in the building and
sustaining of America. (4) An enabling of arrogance.
correctness demands that mainstream Americans not offend anyone who
differs with their beliefs and customs. Now, the majority of
Americans are Christians and it is expected that the majority show
special regard for the feelings (the feelings, not just the
rights) of the minority--even to the point of self-destruction.
The minority would include Muslims and other types of believers,
atheists and agnostics, and people whose lifestyle choices cannot
be sanctioned by most religions. This category could also include
those clerics who would not have been invited to officiate at the
Capital ceremonies. From Reverend Jeremiah Wright to Pastor Rick
Warren, there is a wide range of clerics and church members who
might have felt hurt at not having been invited to participate.
(2) The National Day
of Prayer, despite one's approval or disapproval of any particular
cleric who might invoke a prayer or give a sermon, is both a
manifestation and symbol of our Constitutional rights. It shows
the best of America: the ability of people to come together in
harmony. It is an opportunity to show the world that America
guarantees freedom of speech, assembly, and religion. Not to have
a public religious gathering is to fail as an example of democracy
before the world's leaders and to withhold hope from the world's
oppressed and persecuted.
(3) Since America
is mainly a Christian nation, the non-observance of a form of
public worship--even an interfaith ceremony--contributes to the
annihilation of Jesus Christ and the erosion of positive Christian
influence. When Christians join together with one another and with
people of other faiths, it shows the openness and goodwill of
Christians toward all people. To remove the National Day of
Prayer is to isolate other types of believers from Christians and
to prevent communication, as well as to obliterate or minimize the
positive impact of Christianity on the development of American
government and culture. With little notice and even less
objection, the lack of a public ceremony at the Capital contributed
to the chipping, slipping, dripping away of religion, particularly
Christianity, as a meaningful force in people's lives.
(4) When religion
becomes exclusively a private matter--not regarding the freedom of
choice but regarding expressions of prayer and worship--and not
also an organized gathering and communal experience, then religion
becomes archaic. Then, something else will rush in to fill that
void. In the absence of God, of a power higher than self and the
related teachings that guide human behavior, then various
tendencies could be unleashed in different people and at different
levels: arrogance, self-importance, selfishness, megalomania,
confusion, disorder, anxiety, injustice, despair, hopelessness, an
endless search for meaning, etc. Moreover, these tendencies would
be without recourse to a true spiritual pathway, but with increased
susceptibility to falsehood and idolatry.
government is based on the centralization of power and control.
The governing elite would become the designers of the country's
systems and the masters of its citizens' fate. A fascist
government is based on authoritarianism. The leader, not God,
would be the one who decides what is best for everyone. An
American president, for example, could claim the authority to rule
over the masses and to overrule the U.S. Constitution--perhaps a
claim based on a message directly delivered to him by the Supreme
Being during a moment of private prayer.
Until we meet