"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Saturday, May 4, 2013

National Prayer Day–American Political Sanctimony At Its Worst

Last Thursday was National Prayer Day designated by Congress as a day for collective worship.  As Sara Posner reports in The Guardian (5.3.13):

Thursday is the National Day of Prayer, the annual spectacle of activists and elected officials, in Washington and around the country, gathering for unabashedly conservative Christian public worship. This year's theme: "Pray for America", because there is a need, organizers say, "for individuals, corporately and individually, to place their faith in the unfailing character of their Creator, who is sovereign over all governments, authorities, and men".

Strange, you might think, that in a country so dedicated to the separation of church and state that a public body – Congress – would decide that it was their sovereign right to get into the God business.  Even stranger still that the organizers of this year’s events would choose to remind everyone that their Creator “is sovereign over all governments”.  There is no more venal, self-serving, arrogant, and un-Christian public institution which rejects anyone’s sovereignty than the United States Congress.  Lip service may be paid to God and his holy governance, but not one of those seat-warming, money-grubbing charlatans acts as though he is. Take away all the religious flapdoodle and what you are left with is a very secular, materialistic, and ambitious group of politicians, no more, no less.

Now, the Catholic Church, the world’s premier private religious institution, is not all that different. There is certainly a lot more cant and ceremony – and those clothes are marvelous – but it is still a lot like our Congress.  Grumpy old men fighting for power, influence, and the inside track to the Pope.  They talk about God a lot, but the real business of the Church is no different from the England of Shakespeare’s histories when it amassed and managed great wealth forcing the likes of King John, Henry VI, and Henry VIII to raid the monasteries every once and a while to finance their wars. The Church has its high-level representatives (cardinals and bishops), its network of smaller institutions (parishes), and it runs the whole affair as a public-private network much like Congress.  The parishes exact tithes and assure the fidelity of their faithful just like local political organizations, the archbishops and cardinals keep order and convey the Vatican party line. 

Both institutions – the American Congress and the Catholic Church – go about their business of generating and collecting money; ruling a vast, multi-faceted and multi-tiered institution; resisting any threat to their power and longevity; and issuing edicts, proclamations, and laws that are for the most part self-serving.

The comparisons between the Catholic Church and Congress are endless without even having to mention the sordid history of buggers and thieves, adulterers, whore-mongers, liars and cheats.

We accept moralizing and preaching from the Vatican and from thousands of parish pulpits. We accept the fact that when the basket is passed, the donations go for all the gold patents, embroidered chasubles, 24-karat chalices, and bottles of Jameson’s for the rectory.  We even can accept the sexual delinquency of priests – they are men, after all, and living cloistered with no official recourse to women or self-abuse (both mortal sins) must be a psychological pressure cooker.  A few vicars of Christ would certainly go off the rails under those conditions.  We accept the contradiction because we have bought the Church’s claim that each and every one of these unctuous posturers is descended from Jesus Christ himself in an unbroken line.  Once a priest becomes ordained and remains within the confraternity of the Church, he speaks for Our Lord no matter what he has done.

We have a harder time accepting the contradiction of the dereliction of members of Congress and their sanctimonious invocation of God.  I don’t just mean sexual indiscretion or shady financial dealings.  I mean the mean-spirited, take-no-prisoners, win-at-any-cost mentality that they all share.  What voter in his right mind can possibly claim that the partisan hostility, ramparts ethos, and fuck-‘em attitude reflects a respectful or devoutly Christian nature?

When these craven and duplicitous politicians go on the hustings and rant on about God and His goodness; when they bow their heads in prayers of supplication; and when the invoke the blessing and favor of Jesus Christ, we know they are full of shit.

Even that we can tolerate – boys will be boys, after all; but when it comes to National Prayer Day, all but the most gullible of us have to retch and gag at the very idea. 

It is bad enough to have hundreds of Congressmen kneeling, bowing their heads, and blabbing on about God and Jesus Christ as their personal savior; but when they start in on America the godless and Washington as the seat of the Devil, it is too much even to contemplate.  America was a god-fearing nation, they say, until the infection of socialism took hold, and a priesthood of the anti-Christ and its LGBT acolytes took over.  The battle against these perversely secular forces must be engaged as soon as possible:

Although the US Congress designated the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer, these organized prayer activities are staged by the National Day of Prayer Task Force, a Christian, rightwing organization. Despite its lofty claims, the NDPTF represents neither all Americans nor all Christians. As just one example of its extreme positions, the group promotes a strain of Christianity that teaches marriage equality is satanic, as pro-LGBT groups have pointed out.

The issue here is not religion.  For better or worse America is one of the most religious countries on earth; and tens of millions of Americans take guidance, solace, and comfort from their faith.  Most do so seriously; that is, without the false piety of our elected officials.  This all puts their sanctimony in an even worse light – in their public avowal of religion; in their calculating evocation of God and his incarnation; they are manipulating this devout electorate in the most shameful ways.

Do you trust this man?

(Greg Laurie is the Senior Pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California and the speaker for the Harvest Crusades. Pastor Laurie is also serving as the 2013 Honorary Chairman for the National Day of Prayer Task Force.)

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