Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Worshiping Empire's God

I always find the disputes surrounding religion and politics fascinating. I am watching with interest the kerfluffle over the National Day of Prayer. Here is a story from AP:
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — To pray or not to pray? That's the issue government leaders across the country are facing after a federal judge ruled that the National Day of Prayer set for May 6 was unconstitutional.

The ruling can't take effect until all appeals are exhausted, but that's not stopping atheists and prayer advocates from firing off letters, e-mails and even planning to put up billboards to convince state and local leaders across the country to see things their way. (Read More)
According to the mayor of Topeka, Kansas, Bill Bunten:
"Some of these judges have lost their way," Bunten said. "Every day is a day of prayer in most Kansas lives, whether they are Christian or Muslim or Jewish or whatever, and to say that a prayer day is illegal is just ridiculous. That judge better go back and read some history about how this country was formed. Next thing you know we won't be able to sing 'God Bless America.'"
Someone does need to read some history to be sure. The Freedom from Religion Foundation has been motivated:
They were drafting an online petition where people could urge Obama to honor Crabb's ruling and "leave days of prayer to individuals, private groups and churches, synagogues, mosques and temples." Annie Laurie Gaylor, one of the foundation's leaders, was putting the finishing touches on a full-page ad for the New York Times.

The foundation also plans to take out billboards promoting the separation of church and state in Colorado Springs, Co., home of the National Day of Prayer Task Force. The signs will read "God and government: A dangerous mix."

"Whether or not we win in court, I want to win in the court of public opinion," said Gaylor. "This law is based on lies and bad history."
The irony is that modern day atheists are in a similar position to pre-Constantine Christians in Rome. These early Christians were called atheists because they wouldn't participate in the Empire's cult. The gods of the Roman Empire were in their experience, gods of war, slavery, and exploitation. They wanted nothing to do with them.

The emphasis of the National Day of Prayer isn't on the word "prayer," but on the word "national." The important part of the phrase "God Bless America" isn't "God." It is all about "America." But it isn't America for everyone. It is a particular kind of America: a cultic, superstitious, militaristic, and self-absorbed America. It is an America in which freethinkers are not welcome.

The National Day of Prayer does little more than stir up passions for the empire's cult. Christian leaders who think they are witnessing for Jesus by participating in this spectacle are deceiving themselves. Jesus (the historical person, not the cultic figure he has become) would have stayed a long way away from this charade.

He might have said instead something like:
‘And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.