Hallelujah! Obama Did Something Right!

May 13th, 2009

The National Day of Prayer, started by President Truman, was in my opinion a bad idea then because it suggested that the government and the president himself needed Divine intervention if this country was to survive. That’s a pretty sad statement for a president to make — a leader of a nation needs to have both feet on the ground, not one here and one in some paradise inhabited by Gods and angels, and needs to present himself as if HE is in charge.

But despite what I think, the idea of a National Day of Prayer stood and it still stands. The impression that our country is slowly developing into a theocracy of sorts was even stronger during the President George W. Bush era. Bush let it be known loudly and clearly that he consulted God before making the tough decisions (I wonder if that was before or after he consulted his trusted advisers), and he turned the National Day of Prayer into a political circus by turning the seat of our government into a place of worship on that day. It all made many Americans wonder and worry about how far we were going with this commingling of religion and government.

President Obama has made the first move to put some separation between politics and religion, and I applaud him for that. President Obama commemorated the National Day of Prayer by issuing the expected (almost mandatory) proclamation, but the President Bush style public circus to mark the day has been cancelled. Needless to say many, many religious conservatives are, to put it mildly, miffed.

The National Day of Prayer Task Force is protesting loudly. Their stated mission is: “mobilizing the Christian community to intercede for America and its leadership.” If that means that their job is to pray for our country and its leaders, there is no reason for them to be upset; they can spend the entire 24-hour day praying and even the next few days after that. It is far more likely, however, that they mean that their job is to “influence” the actions of American leadership. If that’s the case it makes the National Day of Prayer Task Force more dangerous to our Constitution than the Taliban.

The mostly right-wing religious talk show world had another arrow in their quiver when Obama sent the circus out of town. The apparent leader of their cause, Rush Limbaugh, was being snide and puffy as usual: he suggested that the president is “asserting his authoritarian control” and followed that with one of the nasty jibes that listeners to talk radio are used to: “They say he prays privately.  I have no doubt about it.  Does he pray to himself?  Who does he pray to?”

Personally, I have nothing against prayer, for those who believe, as a personal communication with their God, but personal communication should be just that — personal. Public prayer (outside of the home or church) is, as it always has been, just a show put on by those who are so insecure in their beliefs that they feel a need to stand up and say “Look at me! Look how Holy I am!” If you believe, there is no need to stand on a street corner or at a lectern and shout your prayers to God; no need to beseech God from the halls of Congress — if you really believe in Him, you know in your heart that He is already there.

News links:

Obama’s understated National Day of Prayer, Guardian.co.uk
Prayer as a civic act isn’t deluded – but it is diluted, Fort Wayne News-Sentinel

Blog links:

A lot of lies about the National Day of Prayer, Pointer’s Weekly
National Day of Prayer and Liberal gods, Deo Vindice

(This article was also posted at My View from the Center.)


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10 Responses to “Hallelujah! Obama Did Something Right!”



  1. larry |

    Harvy
    I disagree with your entire point of view.


  2. doris |

    The Bible says to pray in private, in a closet, to God. Prayer is supposed to be private, praying in public is just for show and social reasons. Most religious fanatics are two faced and turn out in the end to be the worst of the worst. Truly religious people don’t have to proclaim publicly their love of God, God already knows, by their actions and deeds. My church is right out my door, in nature, I don’t need to impress God with my clothes and gossip, as in most churches. God knows me and knows my deeds, he’s the only one who needs to.


  3. Tiffany |

    I too strongly disagree with your entire point. Hallelujah is I thought supoposed to be a word to o rejoyce in the LORD!!! It saddens me that anyone would think taking God and or prayer out of anything we do privately or publicly, would make our situation better. If we believe in God, we do know he is there looking out for us and He does know our thoughts always but why would it ever be wrong to show our love, thankfulness, and dedication to Him. And no one should be able to say we can’t do that it publicly! Ah! And Doris I am sad you say “most religous fanatics are two faced and turn out to be worse than the worst.” That is no a “most” I dont believe. God is the only person who can judge us. But I am sure that most churches would just be happy to have you there not judge your clothes. People that truely believe and love God would be happy you are worshiping Him.Yes we can do that any where but in the Bible is states that there is a house of God to go and worship HIM. I go to my church (in a dress) to show my respect for HIM in his house but if I didn’t have oa dress I would still go and worship him and be welcomed by other people there. If they want to judge me let them, When I am at church I know I am in the right place no matter how I am dressed.
    ANOTHER STRIKE FOR OBAMA! He will un doubtedly lead us all to the lowest we’ve ever been.


  4. Kevin |

    Pulling off a PR stunt in the name of “God” is now tantamount to it being God’s will? Really? Does that include when White Supremecists do it? When radical Muslims do it? When Pastor Phelps protests outside the funerals of soldiers who died in Iraq and claims that they’re going to hell?

    Does the claim just automatically make it God’s will?


  5. Tom |

    I agree with the primary thrust of Harvey’s argument.

    Religion is a personal and private matter best left to the individual human heart and soul. People who believe the same things and share the same faith come together in common fellowship. Our Constitution guarantees our right to think and associate in freedom. It also guarantees the right not to have religious faith.

    The Constitution also prohibits the mingling of religion and government. It has to be that way because no one stream of religious thought and belief represents all the people. If the government is strictly focused on Christian beliefs on that one day, what happens to the millions of Americans who aren’t Christians? Are they simply shut out, no longer part of the body politic?

    Bush was wrong to place such emphasis on the National Day of Prayer, and Obama was right to reduce that emphasis and affirm that the religion of each person is a private and personal matter.


  6. Harvey |

    Toms point . . .:

    “The Constitution also prohibits the mingling of religion and government. It has to be that way because no one stream of religious thought and belief represents all the people. If the government is strictly focused on Christian beliefs on that one day, what happens to the millions of Americans who aren’t Christians? Are they simply shut out, no longer part of the body politic?”

    . . . is vital to the reason I wrote this article. I feel very strongly about the blend of religion and politics for this and many other reasons.

    I don’t believe the wording of the Constitution actually “prohibits” this ‘blending’ — though many people interpret it that way. Anyway, the bit of controversy I stirred up is healthy for all of us; it allows each of us to give the others something to gnaw on.

    Excuse me while i go gnaw!


  7. doris |

    Tiffany, I said fanatics, not zealots. No one proposes to deny you or anyone the right to proclaim your religion aloud and publicly. We just don’t need a national day for it, nor do we need the work of the president or congress or any other body of government to declare a day for it and stop all activities. I agree with Obama’s decision and I don’t think God’s will has been usurped. Just how does a dress show respect, anyway? Respect is actions, not clothes.


  8. John Q |

    I am religious but I agree with Harvey. As a Catholic I felt a little bit excluded when Bush did things like National Prayer Day. He said it included all religions including Muslims but he was just so strong as a protestant I don’t think he really meant Catholics or other religions. I’m much more comfortable with the way Obama has handled it.


  9. Kevin |

    John Q cuts to the heart of why this matters.

    “First the Nazis came for the Communists; and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews; and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. When they came for the trade unionists I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a trade unionist. And when they came for the Catholics I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me… and by that time there was no one left to speak for anyone.”

    Attributed to Pastor Martin Niemoeller


  10. doris |

    Well said, Kevin.

    A Rabbi, a Protestant preacher, and a Muslim arrived in Heaven. The Rabbi was told to go to room 2, the Protestant was told to go to room 3, and the Muslim was told to go to room 4, but whatever they do, don’t go to or past room 6. The preacher asked the guide why can’t we go past room 6? The guide said because that’s the Catholics’ room, and they think they’re the only ones here.

    Unfortunately, that is the feeling of most religions, and I think that probably is my problem with organized religion. Obviously, we are all created by the same entity, and our actions and belief in God should be the only thing that matters to God.


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