each year since 1952, the usa has observed a national day of prayer (ndop). this year's observance took place a few days ago on may 2. the day was mandated by congress, and the president issues a proclamation on that day calling americans of all faiths to pray for the nation. the intention was that this would be a non-sectarian observance, but, over the past several years, the day has been taken over by an organization called "the national day of prayer task force," an organization comprised of fundamentalist christians based in colorado springs, colorado. this group and local organizers associated with it refuse to allow non-christians to participate in its ndop functions. in many cases, even christians of the "wrong" kind are excluded.
during the administration of president george w. bush, this task force was the official white house organizer of the ndop, but neither presidents clinton nor obama endorsed this group or participated in its ndop activities. it goes without saying, that this group and its allies have roundly criticized both democratic presidents for their "shortcomings." the task force believes that the usa is rife with moral decay, and its goal is to turn the nation "back to God," so that the usa will once more be God's favored nation.
in our area, as in many across the country, local observances are dominated by those who think as the ndop task force does. one minister quoted in the local paper said, "the moral decline is everywhere, even on our economic and spiritual levels. poverty, sin, divorce, all these things are on the rise. churches are on the decline, the families are on the decline, the rate of marriage is going down, but the divorce rate is going up." true, poverty is on the rise, due to our national economic policies, and the rate of marriage is going down, but the divorce rate has been declining for the past several years. most of the rest of his statement is subjective, and his intention is to preach national decline that only prayer by a certain kind of christians and election of those who think as they do can reverse. The idea is to pray away and legislate away all those "others" who disagree with the religious right so that all will be well in the usa and in the world.
the american humanist association has been sponsoring a "national day of reason" since 2003 in response to the religiosity of the ndop and particularly to the overtly fundamentalist christian tone that the day has taken. the organizers of the national day of reason are sponsoring a petition urging the president to issue a proclamation calling for such a day, as is done for the ndop. it is difficult to fathom why a "national day of prayer" should be needed. those who wish to pray may do so any day of the year, and those who believe in the power of prayer should be praying for the welfare of the nation and its citizens every day. for many, this requirement of congress to observe such a day infringes on the religious freedom of all, and the way in which it has come to be observed smacks of the establishment of one religion as the "official" religion, particularly when sectarian prayer services are held in the white house and other government buildings.
my prayer today is that we will see that we are all the same--north, central, and south americans, europeans, asians, africans, polynesians, buddhists, followers of islam, christians, jews, hindus, humanists, people of every race, language, and religion, as well as those who subscribe to no religion--all of us hurting some of the time, rejoicing some of the time, needing to break down the barriers that separate us and come together to care for one another, rather than looking for an "other" to make the scapegoat for the suffering in the world. shalom.