Friday, May 08, 2009

National Day of Prayer and Obama's Christianity

Yesterday, some religious conservatives criticized the president for, as they see it, his failure to hold a ceremony honoring the National Day of Prayer. Wendy Wright of the "Concerned Women for America" told The Washington Times, the conservative paper of record in the capital city, that the president should have "lived up to the office" and host a faith gathering ceremony.

In her statement to the conservative newspaper, Wendy Wright revived the accusation that was used in the campaign to discredit the president when he was running for the White House - that he is not a Christian. "For those of us who have our doubts about Obama's faith," Mrs. Wright said, we did not expect him to have the service." He should have, in her opinion, "put his lack of faith aside" and honored the event.

The president did of course, issue a proclamation honoring the event which, for a lot of us who believe in the separation of church and state, was itself a step taken too far. His press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said Obama "understands, in his own life and in his family's life, the role that prayer plays" and prays privately every day.

The reporter at The Washington Times implicitly accused the president of favoring Judaism over Christianity by noting that he held a seder for his Jewish friends and family members while refusing to partake in a public Christian ceremony honoring the National Day of Prayer. No such favoritism was expressed however. The Passover Seder which he hosted was conducted in private, behind closed doors. He would have spoken to his family and friends on his own behalf. The National Day of Prayer events which the religious evangelicals wanted him to host however, would have occurred before the cameras and anything which the president said would have been attributed to his role as the Head of State.

Reverend C. Welton Graddy of the Interfaith Alliance defended the president on Rachel Maddow's MSNBC show last night, reminding the viewers that the Christians' acknowledged savior (as they see it) himself condemned the Pharisees for praying in public while strongly urging those who prayed to do so in private. Ironically, the conservatives who defended George W. Bush's right to practice his faith in the private square as he sees fit is now attacking the current president's decision to practice in public as he sees fit.

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