Thursday, May 07, 2009

Obama Is a Secret Atheist!

Which proves he isn't a secret Muslim.

Apparently, the United States has something called National Day of Prayer.  This is news to us at the Egg, and you might have thought we would have known.  It goes back to President Truman, and in recent years (meaning, explicitly, the administration of George W. Bush) has been observed with great hoopla (if by "hoopla" you mean not so much "prayer" as "ostentatious gatherings of Christian and Jewish leaders which pointedly exclude Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Taoists, Unitarians, Mormons and the Baha'i") at the White House. 

But we didn't know about it, apparently because nobody told us.  Which makes us think this is one of those inside-the Beltway things, the ones that don't really make a difference to anybody except the stuffed shirts and sock puppets who organize and participate in them, for whom they have symbolic power.

Evidence to support this hypothesis is provided by responses to this year's National Day of Prayer.  Apparently, President Obama issued the traditional proclamation, but didn't do much else to observe it.  (Well, apart from actually praying, which his press secretary says he does every day, and which would seem like the most sensible observance).  But there was no gathering of clerics in the East Room, to have their photos taken and look important.

James Dobson is "disappointed in the lack of emphasis," on the grounds that "this is our history."  It's not really clear what that means, but Dobson is an old man, and hasn't made sense since, well, ever.  (Actually, it makes perfect sense, if you have lost your short --term memory, and think "history" began in 2001.  Otherwise, not so much). Congressman John Kline  claims to be "surprised," but gives a pretty good idea of why a thoughtful president might choose to pray privately and let it go at that:

“Many of us who are in the bipartisan congressional prayer caucus [Kline said afterward] believe that recognizing and underscoring the deep and rich religious history, frankly the Judeo-Christian history, with our founders is an important part of America and this place.”

Ah.  So the idea here isn't to pray, per se, but rather to celebrate American history -- or rather, to celebrate one particular aspect of it.  And a fairly controversial one at that.  Because, while it is readily apparent that many of the nation's founders were Christians, at least by their own standards, the Klines and Dobsons of the world are in the business of helping us forget how strange those standards were (Jefferson's mutilated Bible, Washington's refusal of Holy Communion), or the profound significance to our early history of doubters and skeptics (Thomas Paine, obviously; but also Ethan Allen, who halted his own wedding service until he could make the celebrant agree that the "God" before whom he made his vows was the God of nature; and even sober John Adams, who said "This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it").

And don't get us started on the folly of a "Jud[a]eo-Christian" history.   Of all hyphenates, that one most boils our blood.  While of course the two religious share a great deal of history, most of that history is soaked in blood.  Jewish blood, specifically.  Despite the shared scriptures, their truth claims are dramatically different.  The holiest truth of one is a scandal to the other.  The dimwitted custom of treating them as cognates -- political correctness of the 1950s vintage -- is an insult to both.  And we are appalled by the notion that America's history -- very largely a history of Christian schismatics uncomfortably learning to tolerate first one another and then, much later, adherents of other religions altogether, all for the sake of civil peace and material prosperity -- is somehow "Jud[a]eo-Christian"

So.  The President has decided to do what most of his post-war predecessors have done, or claimed to do:  sign a piece of paper encouraging prayer, then pray, then get back to work.  Good for him.  As for those who are disappointed and surprised that they weren't invited to the East Room this year, we feel their pain, and encourage them to go out and find a synagogue or a street corner to pray on, where everybody can see them.


Pastor Joelle said...

Yea but at least the Mormons managed to posthumously baptize his mom...

PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

Good comments. I'm not comfortable with people making a show of praying in public and I even have some problems with people in a public event "sharing" their faith, although I'm a Christian. This happened at a concert I attended the other day which took part in a school auditorium, although it wasn't a school event. I never quite know if it is to proclaim their own faith or to kind of be smaltzy and supposedly get in the good graces of the audience.

fausto said...

If Dobson really wanted Unitarians to be "pointedly excluded" from these "ostentatious gatherings", they would have to take the Jefferson and Adams portraits (and the later J. Q. Adams, Fillmore and Taft portraits) down from the walls before the invocation...

Father said...

And, in all fairness, I don't know that he did. That bit of the post was an improvisation, and I'm not really sure who was or wasn't invited to the Bush White House's prayer meetings. Well, apart from me. I know they didn't invite me.