Thursday, April 28, 2016

Week of April 23, 2016

This Sunday, we'll talk about prayer in worship.  John 5 stirs some serious thought on the nature of prayer and one's attitude in praying.  The following Thursday, May 5th, is National Day of Prayer.

This day is an acknowledgment by the state of a long, strong tradition of faith in America.  Yet, it should stir mindfulness to the blessing and the curse of such a state-sponsored acknowledgment.
The great blessing is "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" that colors a republic like ours, and nothing is valued more than one's freedom of conscience.  By National Day of Prayer, then, the state cannot mean National Day of (Christian) Prayer.  If it did, then any denomination or religion could occupy those parentheses.  Putting "Christian" in the parentheses jeopardizes one's right to practice even Christianity freely.  That's the beauty of this republic, though: it was founded upon principles which refused even its founders the opportunity to dominate.

Attempts to dominate is the curse.  Well-meaning cultural icons, while moving Evangelical Christianity forward in America by leaps and bounds in the Twentieth Century, have also tread closely (too close?) to a philosophical line even the most liberal of Constitutionalists or French Revolutionaries ne'r dreamt.

My guess is that they'd agree wholeheartedly with the fiercest fight to protect the right of an American citizen to practice faith according to his conscience, assuming to do so in no way infringed upon another's right to practice faith in accordance with her conscience.  At the same time, however, I imagine they'd be uncomfortable with the notion of the church "having the President's ear."  While at least 70% of American people polled today would be on the "right" team were Christianity established as the official faith, the Founders experienced firsthand the state's attempt to dominate individuals' consciences and believed following the philosophical principles they expounded in the Constitution of the United States of America would bring about the greatest good.

This makes National Day of Prayer, then, really about trust.  Do we have the faith to exercise trust when we pray as a nation on May 5th? and to stay all of our attempts to dominate others in the fear of losing what we think belongs to us?  Can I truly be thankful that I belong to a republic which--even upon this dizzy, spinning, war-torn ball--provides a safe haven for a free conscience?  If so, May 5th just might be a blessed day.

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