At a time when President Bush's faith and John Kerry's Catholicism are increasingly scrutinized, the Washington Post, in a story picked up around the country, questions the appropriateness of mixing prayer and politics during the National Day of Prayer.
The theme of this year's Day of Prayer is "Let Freedom Ring," and organizers say it is in response to efforts to remove the words "under God" from the pledge and the Ten Commandments from public buildings. The Day of Prayer's suggestions for prayer include, "Many of our schools and universities are minimizing traditional subjects such as history and math, and are instead promoting a radical social agenda. For example, some schools begin teaching homosexual propaganda to kindergartners."
Not only are Christians (Muslims and Mormons have been excluded) praying for these things, the Post writes that the President is taking a major part in today's activities.
President Bush's participation in a National Day of Prayer ceremony with evangelical Christian leaders at the White House will be shown tonight, for the first time in prime-time viewing hours on Christian cable and satellite TV outlets nationwide.
For Bush, the broadcast is an opportunity to address a sympathetic evangelical audience without the risk of alienating secular or non-Christian viewers, because it will not be carried in full by the major television networks.
Focus on the Family has encouraged churches to pick up the live feed and host potluck dinners while congregants watch the President. Vonette Bright, widow of Campus Crusade for Christ founder Bill Bright, and Shirley Dobson, wife of Focus on the Family founder James C. Dobson, have arranged the activities since the 1980s under President Ronald Reagan. During the '90s, President Clinton kept a "low profile," says the Post, while Bush has made his presence felt, especially this election year.
The piece failed to mention anything about Kerry's participation, or lack of it. Weblog could not find anything online about Kerry's opinions regarding the National Day of Prayer, and while Kerry's relationship with the Catholic church has been a hot topic, it's unfortunate that we hear more about Kerry's communion-taking than that what he prays for.
Unfortunately, the Washington Post frames its report in purely political terms. It misses the fact that many Christians believe praying about certain issues—abortion, homosexuality, public expressions of faith—is a religious duty. Certainly the pledge, the Ten Commandments, and public school curriculums are political matters, but they are also matters for prayer.
A Christian Science Monitor article does a better job describing potential difficulties mixing politics and prayer (especially when people with differing political opinions are involved), but it ends with a condescending quote from Alan Wolfe: "Prayer is really about the heart, and political life is about thinking and hard choices. That's why it's better not to mix these two."
Wolfe talks as if it's impossible to pray and think at the same time! But, perhaps just as importantly, he doesn't want prayer to include anything more than "the heart."
This comes at the same time that public prayer is being marginalized. The Supreme Court recently upheld a lower court ruling banning prayer before dinner at the Virginia Military Institute, and the ACLU recently threatened to sue La Mesa City Council in California if it doesn't stop beginning its sessions with prayer.
Unfortunately, calling the National Day of Prayer too political because Christians want to pray about specific issues completely ignores the reason millions of people are setting aside this day for prayer. National morality matters, and thank God people are praying about it.
National Day of Prayer:
- People pray for a reason | Will supporters of praying to God win out tomorrow over the forces of human reason or will reason edge prayer? It's a question that surrounds the state Capitol, as Christians and other believers in Almighty God prepare to celebrate the National Day of Prayer (Tom Barnes, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
- Christians plan National Day of Prayer events Thursday | Believing that there's power, not just safety, in numbers, Christians along the Treasure Coast and across the nation will gather Thursday to participate in the 53rd National Day of Prayer. (Stuart News, Florida)
- Group limits Mormon participation in National Day of Prayer | Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not allowed to conduct the services at an event put together by the National Day of Prayer Task Force (KTVX, UT)
- Let us pray | Greenvillians will gather at City Hall on Thursday for National Day of Prayer Thursday is a National Day of Prayer recognized across the nation as a time for people of all persuasions to come together with uplifted hands and spirit-filled hearts. (Delta Democrat Times, MS)
- Recognizing the power of prayer | City officials, local clergy and McKinney residents will gather at Towne Lake Thursday evening for the annual National Day of Prayer, uniting under the theme Let Freedom Ring. (McKinney Courier-Gazette, Texas)
- Bush to appear on Christian TV for prayer day | Three-hour program airs tonight (Washington Post)
- National leaders urge Americans to participate in day of prayer | Today is the annual National Day of Prayer, but some believers say they find it hard to hear that still, small voice of the divine amid all the political posturing the occasion conjures up. (The Post and Courier, Charleston, SC)
- With LDS excluded, faiths snub prayer day | For the past three years, Seventh-day Adventist Chaplain Linda Walton has helped organize services for the National Day of Prayer. But this year, Walton and other religious leaders in Utah are opting out of today's commemoration. The problem, she says, is that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not allowed to conduct the services (Associated Press)
- National Day of Prayer gathering will be today | Community members will gather on the steps of the Stearns County Courthouse today for the National Day of Prayer. (St. Cloud Times, Minn.)
- Praying in the USA | Where the National Day of Prayer comes from--and where it's going. (Weekly Standard)
- When prayer and politics intersect | As part of Thursday's National Day of Prayer, many Americans will address public policies. (The Christian Science Monitor)
- Local residents gather for prayer | Richland County Ministerial Association (RCMA) is leading a National Day of Prayer gathering at 12:10 p.m. Thursday at the courthouse. (Olney Daily Mail, Ill.)
Religion in the media:
- Across the great divide | Why don't journalists get religion? A tenuous bridge to believers (Columbia Journalism Review)
- Religious disputes bring out the worst in us | Liberals and centrists, feminists and anti-feminists, advocates for and against gay rights, Presbyterians and Roman Catholics, Episcopalians and Baptists —we all tend to sound alike when our feathers get ruffled, our faith is challenged, and we go on the attack. (Tom Ehrich, Indianapolis Star)
- God is everywhere in today's pop culture | But it's well within the tradition, now apparently restored, of raising spiritual questions in popular media. (Knight Ridder Newspapers)
- Limits on stem-cell research re-emerge as a political issue | The debate over embryonic stem-cell research, which occupied President Bush during his early days in the White House, is re-emerging as an election issue as advocates for patients, including Nancy Reagan, press the president to loosen the limits on federal financing for the science. (New York Times)
- 5 babies born to save ill siblings, doctors say | The controversial procedure, which employs cutting edge genetic tests during in-vitro fertilization, expands the possibilities of the creation of so-called "savior babies" to provide stem cells for older children who lack compatible donors for bone marrow transplants. (Chicago Tribune)
- Lab created 5 babies for stem cells | In a practice that troubles some ethicists, a Chicago laboratory helped create five healthy babies to be stem-cell donors for siblings ill with leukemia or a rare anemia. (Associated Press)
- Expert fights horse cloning ban | A UK scientific expert in horse breeding has accused the government of giving in to animal rights activists after it rejected his bid on cloning. (BBC)
- Ingenious genetics | New ways to create medically promising stem cells may raise fewer moral and religious objections. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
- Bill pits religious, health-care agendas | Church: Coverage for birth control sinful (The Times-Picayune, Louisiana)
- Stillborn twin mother evades jail | A Utah woman whose baby died after she allegedly refused a Caesarean has been given 18 months' probation. (BBC)
- Utah judge sentences woman for refusing Caesarian | A judge has sentenced a Utah woman to 18 months probation for refusing a Caesarean section that doctors said would have saved her stillborn baby. (The Independent, UK)
Missions & ministry:
- Backpacks for the homeless ministry started | Backpacks for the homeless means purchasing low cost goods, stuffing them into a resale shop backpack and carrying it around in your car until you find someone who needs it. (The Chattanoogan)
- Mission to Jamaica | Laura Jackson loves going to Jamaica, but she couldn't care less for the beaches. No, Jackson's mission has much more to do with charity than perfecting her tan. (Star News, Minn.)
- 'He survived a drastic thing' | Ex-Giants pitcher, Dave Dravecky, speaks at prayer breakfast (Battle Creek Enquirer, Mich.)
- Ministry targets vulnerable population: Ex-prisoners | Community partnership offers employment programs, job training, church mentors (Washington Post)
- Prayer breakfast features CEO | The chairman of Interstate Battery Systems of America will speak at the National Day of Prayer breakfast Thursday in the Gainesville Civic Center. (Gainesville Times, Georgia)
- Church help for migrants | Clergy in the countryside are so concerned about public reaction to foreign labourers working on farms they intend to turn places of worship into welcome centres. (Times, London)
- Patriarch suspends ties with Greek church | The spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians suspended relations Friday with the head of Greece's Orthodox Church — a move that could lead to severed ties between the two churches. (Associated Press)
- Split draws in Athens | Patriarch's envoys meet Karamanlis, Giannakou to visit Istanbul (Kathimerini, Greece)
- Proposed SBC resolution calls for abandoning public schools | The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) will consider a resolution next month urging parents to pull their children out of public schools and educate them either by home schooling or sending them to Christian private schools. (Raleigh Biblical Recorder, NC)
- First divorced bishop appointed | A Church in Wales clergyman has become the first divorced person in the UK to be appointed as a bishop. (BBC)
- Priests told to cut out the hugging | Roman Catholic priests who wander up and down hugging or shaking hands with worshippers during services are to be told to stay at their altars under a new Vatican crackdown. (The Telegraph, UK)
- O'Malley writes an apology to women | Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley apologized yesterday for upsetting women with his decision not to wash the feet of women on Holy Thursday and for his inclusion of feminism in a list of societal ills in a homily. (Boston Globe)
- Elderly missionary priest denied visa extension, given expulsion order | A Dutch missionary who has worked for decades in India, much of that time in the troubled Jammu and Kashmir states, has been ordered to leave the country immediately. (AsiaNews, Italy)
- A show of support: Utah's Catholic leader speaks out, offers prayers for striking miners | Bishop George Niederauer stepped out of his sedan and into the warm spring afternoon along state Road 31 on Tuesday, arriving to show his support for miners who have been on strike here for months. (The Salt Lake Tribune)
- China drops ban on outspoken bishop | The head of Hong Kong's Catholic church said Tuesday that he visited China last week at the invitation of mainland officials, marking the end of a six-year ban on one of Beijing's most outspoken critics. (Associated Press)
- Vatican purges modern 'abuses' in Communion | Strict new rules have been issued by the Roman Catholic Church aimed at stamping out modern "abuses" of the rite of Holy Communion. (Times, London)
- Ex-RiCI warden skips training, has pay docked | Religious program got him demoted, so atheist refuses to train at church (Mansfield News Journal, Ohio)
- Nation's first faith-based prisons seek to stem revolving doors | Lawtey, about 30 miles southwest of Jacksonville, was transformed in December from a regular prison to one welcoming inmates who seek a religious life, regardless of faith. Participation among the 750 inmates is voluntary and they are always free to go back to regular prison life elsewhere. (Associated Press)
- Faith-based prison seeks lifelong change | Inmates choose program, participation voluntary (Associated Press)
- Report: Screening lax on Muslim chaplains | Federal prison officials are failing to adequately screen Muslim chaplains and others who provide Islamic religious services to inmates to determine whether they hold extremist views, Justice Department investigators say. (Associated Press)
- Ex-college officials face fraud case | Indictment charges former William Tyndale College leaders with funneling financial aid to bankrupt school (The Detroit News)
- Christian leader charged in theft | Martin Andrew Nalitz Jr of Littleton was arrested Thursday on charges of theft of more than $15,000 involving more than $1 million lost by an investor through fabricated mortgage transactions. (UPI)
- Ohio priest indicted on murder charge | A Roman Catholic priest has been indicted on an aggravated murder charge in the slaying of a nun 24 years ago. A grand jury had met Friday to consider the charge against the Rev. Gerald Robinson, but its decision was not announced until Monday. (Associated Press)
- US priest charged in nun's death | A Roman Catholic priest in the US has been charged in connection with the death of a nun 24 years ago in what may have been a ritualistic killing. (BBC)
- Psychology dean accused of sexual relationship with patient | The dean of psychology at Seattle Pacific University is on probation in his off-campus clinical practice after being accused of having a sexual relationship with a private patient. (Associated Press)
- Pastor faces jail over sex attacks | A charismatic church preacher was facing prison today after being convicted of preying on some of his flock of young women for sex. (PA News, UK)
- Sexual abuse by clergy not limited to Catholics | sexual abuse by ministers is not limited to any single denomination or religious faith. (Editorial, San Antonio Express-News)
- Sex-abuse watchdog leader faults bishops | The head of a Roman Catholic bishop's lay review board on sexual assault by priests has criticized efforts by some bishops to delay the board's review of reform efforts in U.S. dioceses. (Associated Press)
- Idaho high court takes up gay dad's case | Homosexuality should be no more of a factor when determining child custody than a health condition like epilepsy, the attorney for a gay father argued before the Idaho Supreme Court on Monday. (Associated Press)
- Gay bishop proves it's never too late to fall in love | The ceremony lasted two hours and 45 minutes. When it concluded, Otis Charles, 78, the world's first openly gay Christian bishop, also became the world's first bishop to wed his same-sex partner in church. (San Francisco Chronicle)
- Area Presbyterian ministers react to same-sex ruling | Commission ruled denomination's constitution doesn't prohibit gay marriage (Zanesville Times Recorder, Ohio)
- Papal envoy breaks ranks on gay couples | The Pope's ambassador to one of Europe's leading Catholic countries has hinted that the church should "acknowledge" gay partnerships - a significant crack in the Vatican's resolute opposition to "evil and deviant" gay relationships. (The Guardian, UK)
- Massachusetts governor warns on gay marriages | Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney warned other states across the nation on Thursday that unless they give him permission, he will not allow gay couples from out of state to be married here starting next month. (Reuters)
- United Church of Canada to endorse same sex "marriage" at supreme court | Canada's largest non-Catholic Christian denomination is arguing in favour of homosexual "marriage". The United Church of Canada has issued a media release which says, "Christian morality and religious principles require that same-sex couples have access to the same marriage rights as opposite-sex couples." (Life Site News, Canada)
- Effort to ban gay marriage falls short | An effort to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriages apparently is dead for the year. (The Wichita Eagle)
- Same-sex ban amendment stalls in Kansas | An effort to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriages apparently is dead for the year. (Knight Ridder Newspapers)
- Massachusetts shifts a bit on gay marriage | In the face of protests from cities and towns around the state, the administration of Gov. Mitt Romney appears to be softening its approach to excluding same-sex couples of other states from marrying in Massachusetts. (New York Times)
- Mass. residency proof not required for gay marriage | Out-of-state couples can't legally wed there (Washington Post)
- Europe 'will fight anti-Semitism' | European and North American states have pledged to fight a growing wave of anti-Semitism in the West. (BBC)
- Europe condemns anti-semitism | European nations pledged yesterday to teach schoolchildren more about the Holocaust and make greater efforts to prosecute racist crimes, as part of a campaign against rising anti-semitism. (The Telegraph, UK)
- 'New forms' of anti-Semitism denounced | A 55-nation group of European and North American countries on Thursday denounced "new forms and expressions" of anti-Semitism and rejected any attempt to justify them on the basis of strife in the Middle East. (Associated Press)
- OSCE condemns biased anti-Israelism | Jewish leaders won a major victory Thursday with the announcement by an important European political body that Israel's actions do not legitimize anti-Semitism. (Jerusalem Post)
- Wiesel calls for 'manifesto' on anti-Semitism | At high-profile Berlin conference, Nobel laureate says 'sacred document' against hatred of Jews should be composed, taught in schools. (Jewish Week, New York)
War & terrorism:
- For war families, it's not political | What I object to is not pictures of our dead soldiers and Marines but the fact that so many people seem eager to politicize the issue of our war dead for short-term political gain. (Frank Schaeffer, USA Today)
- US pays bounty for arrest of Philippines rebel who beheaded American tourist | The military said Limbong was the person who beheaded Californian Guillermo Sobero, who was abducted by the gunmen along with Kansas missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham and a group of Filipino tourists in May 2001. (AFP)
- Probe of U.S. general's anti - Islam remarks drags on | Arab- and Muslim-Americans are increasingly frustrated by the Pentagon's failure to discipline a top U.S. general who said Muslims do not worship "a real God,'' and say it raises questions about whether the so-called war on terrorism is not a war on Islam. (Reuters)
- Member of Iraqi council pays visit | A member of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council made a stop in Phoenix on Tuesday to ask members of the sizable Assyrian Christian community living here to invest in the rebuilding of Iraq. (The Arizona Republic)
- New constraints squeeze churches in Holy Land | Christian churches in the Holy Land are facing an unprecedented crisis that some say is jeopardizing their future, including their capacity to maintain the faith's holy sites and charitable institutions and to educate clergy. (The Christian Science Monitor)
- Catholic schools buck U.S. trend | Like their counterparts nationwide, D.C.'s Catholic schools only a few years ago were flourishing in well-to-do areas and hurting in the inner city. During the past three years, Catholic schools across the country have been closing twice as fast as they have been opening. The rare exception to this trend has been the nation's capital (Washington Post)
- Crucifixes back in Iona classes | Iona has been a Catholic college since it was founded by the Congregation of Christian Brothers in 1940. Near the main entrance stands a statue of Saint Columba, a 6th-century Irish missionary who helped establish Iona, Scotland, as an early center of Celtic Christianity. Take a walk on campus and you can't miss a prominent Celtic cross and other unmistakable symbols of faith. But an alumnus and high-profile benefactor who visited the campus in the fall for homecoming was struck by what was missing: the crucifixes that he remembered in Iona's classrooms. (White Plains Journal News, NY)
- Christian school confirmed | The Henderson Zoning Board of Adjustment cleared the way Tuesday for the construction of an 89,796-square-foot Christian school on 27 acres on Old County Home Road. (Henderson Daily Dispatch, NC)
- What's God got to do with RE? | Christianity should only be taught alongside "other principal religions and world views", a new national framework for religious education recommends. (Times, London)
- Interfaith event focuses on Abraham | Sunday, Sacramento area faith leaders will discuss Abraham's sacrifice and what it means at a special program sponsored by the Children of Abraham. The free event is from 7 to 9 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church and is open to the public. (Sacramento Bee, Calif.)
- Symbols of faith hold multiple meanings | from faith to faith, the meaning of the symbols can be similar or quite different. (Kansas City Star)
- Lutheran man modifies rosary | Protestant unity with Catholics one of his goals (Religion News Service)
Islam in America:
- Hate at the local mosque | Not long ago in my little mosque around the corner from a McDonald's, a student from the university here delivered a sermon. To love the Prophet Muhammad, he said, "is to hate those who hate him." He railed against man-made doctrines that replace Islamic law, and excoriated the "enemies of Islam" who deny strict adherence to Sunnah, or the ways of Muhammad. While he wasn't espousing violence, his words echoed the extremist vocabulary of Wahhabism, used by some followers to breed militant attitudes. (New York Times)
- Muslim call to prayer stirs a Midwest town | Some in this longtime Polish Catholic suburb of Detroit are fighting a mosque's plans to announce worship times over a speaker. (Los Angeles Times)
- Tension in a Michigan city over Muslims' call to prayer | To hear people in this blue-collar city tell it, things were fine until the al-Islah Islamic Center petitioned to broadcast its call to prayer, or azan, over an outdoor loudspeaker. (New York Times)
- God's country | America is the revival that never ends, the camp meeting that never fully adjourns. Jonathan Edwards, Joseph Smith, Mary Baker Eddy, Billy Graham, Jimmy Swaggart and —can it be? —Mel Gibson. (New York Times Magazine)
- Challenging worldviews | Atheists and agnostics group battles misconceptions (Lawrence Journal World, Kansas)
- Compassion is key to helpful understanding | Our challenge and our privilege today is to find a God-honoring way to offer sincere love to those in alternative lifestyles, while continuing to proffer the eternal truths that hold out the same hope that has been our salvation. (Kevan Breitinger, Philadelphia Daily News)
- Not all Christian films are Bible tales | Whatever you might think of The Passion of the Christ, you can't categorize it as anything but a Christian film. But there's more than one way to make a Christian film, and not all of them have to do with biblical tales. (The Dallas Morning News)
- Hollywood riled up over ClearPlay $70 DVD player can filter movie content | A new DVD player —slim, black, looking much like all the rest —is just starting to show up on Wal-Mart's shelves. But this one has Hollywood spinning in anger. The $70 player from a company called ClearPlay has built-in ''filters'' (USA Today)
- Bowdlerized 'Bruce' not as funny Sanitized movies may please some | The Passion of the Christ and Schindler's List will not be altered, but many major Hollywood movies rated PG-13 or R will soon be edited for language, sexuality and violence using ClearPlay technology for DVD. (USA Today)
- An irreverent comedy is seeking Christians | MGM is holding one of a series of screenings of "Saved!," a small, irreverent comedy, set to open on May 28, about an evangelical Christian high school. But the movie is proving difficult to market. Though Hollywood is eager to capitalize on the Christian audience that emerged in huge numbers to see "The Passion of the Christ," movie executives are unsure about what kinds of movies will appeal to it. Does "Saved!" fit the bill? (New York Times)
- A cut above | How did The Passion hit the screens despite being in violation of the law? (Egypt Today, Egypt)
- Gibson movie creates overnight theologians | It's worth noting that never have the media been more filled with religious programming and controversies. Much of that, of course, was fuelled by Mel Gibson's shrewd timing and marketing of The Passion Of The Christ (Tom Harpur, Toronto Star)
- Groups say 'Passion' sparks hate acts | Rehoboth Christians, Jews to discuss issues (The News Journal, RI)
- Blame me for Jesus Christ's death | It should have come as no surprise when Mel Gibson and his movie, "The Passion of the Christ," came under intense scrutiny and criticism —before it was released —by people who had never seen the film. (Charles Brooks, The Mississippi Press)
- Christians rage over Gibson's "Passion" | Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ" seems to have become a rage among the Christians in the country even before the film hits theatres across the country on Friday. (Webindia, India)
- Third Day reflects broad influences | At first blush, the lineup for Third Day's Live tour might seem a bit puzzling—acoustic-pop singer-songwriter Warren Barfield, DC Talk'er tobyMac with his rap/hip hop/R&B sound, and the headliners, dedicated and relentless rockers. (The Dallas Morning News)
- Christian hip-hop festival comes to town | Holy hip-hop. Alternative Christian music. This weekend's concert will have a little of both. And it won't cost you a thing. (Baytown Sun, Texas)
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