Posted by: Mike Willoughby | May 4, 2010

Stay the Course

Over the past few weeks, much has been made of the April 15th ruling by U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb. On a day when many Americans were praying over their income tax returns, Judge Crabb was issuing an opinion that the National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional. In her ruling, she wrote that “the government can no more enact laws supporting a day of prayer that it can encourage citizens to fast during Ramadan, attend a synagogue or practice magic.” This was in response to a lawsuit filed against the federal government by The Freedom From Religion Foundation arguing the National Day of Prayer violated the separation of church and state. Crabb further wrote that “her ruling shouldn’t be considered a bar to any prayer days until all appeals had been exhausted” which indicates the ruling is more of an encouragement to the government not to encourage folks to pray until the inevitable Supreme Court case is heard.

Clearly I don’t agree with Judge Crabb’s logic in this matter and I expect her ruling will be overturned. I actually find myself in rare agreement with President Obama since the administration responded to the ruling by pointing out that the statute in question simply acknowledges the obvious role of religion in the United States. The National Day of Prayer, presumably still to be observed on Thursday May 6th, is an inter-faith event that includes every religion that prays. The event is as ecumenical as they come. In short, the day is a very broadly targeted and largely unorganized recognition of the role of religion in U.S. society. The event will not intrude on anyone’s normal life on May 6th unless that individual opts into some organized event. Furthermore, as Judge Crabb clearly stated when commenting on the ruling, “no one has been banned from praying on May 6th.” At least not as long as you’re not in a public school building.

Fortunately as U.S. citizens, we are free to respond to this ruling in a variety of ways. We can protest the ruling in an exercise of free speech. We can exercise our political right to vote for candidates that will support judicial appointees who strictly interpret the constitution. We can support organizations that respond when conservative values are threatened by liberal judges by appealing rulings such as this. We can write blog articles and encourage our friends to respond. As U.S. citizens, these are things we have the right to do in response, but they are not required. However, as believers, do we have a responsibility that demands a certain response?

We can look to the example of Daniel to see our responsibility. In Daniel chapter 6, Daniel’s rivals concoct a scheme to trick the Persian king Darius into signing an irrevocable law that made praying to any God other than the god-king of Persia a capital offense for 30 days. Once the law was signed, Daniel did not have the rights we enjoy to lodge an appeal or protest the law. Daniel only has the choice to obey the law and cease his prayers to God or disobey the law and face capital punishment. Read about Daniel’s choice in Daniel 6:10-13:

When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God. Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the injunction, “O king! Did you not sign an injunction, that anyone who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.”

Although it grieved the king greatly to know that Daniel was caught in a trap by the law he had been tricked into signing, he also had no choice but to follow the law. Daniel was thrown to the lions. Of course, if you have ever been to Bible class or a vacation bible school you no doubt have heard how God sent his angels to shut the lions’ mouths and protected Daniel all night. You probably also remember how Daniel’s accusers took his place in the lions’ den with no angels in sight for protection.

Unlike the recent National Day of Prayer ruling which does not interfere with our worship, Daniel was banned from exercising his responsibility to pray to God. Daniel stayed the course and obeyed God’s will rather than Persian law. Prayer was his responsibility even when it was no longer his right as a citizen of Persia. We share Daniel’s responsibility.

This Thursday, you and I will still have the right to pray to God just like we do every other day of the year. When I hit the floor Thursday morning I will be thanking God for the rights I have as a U.S. citizen. I ask God to help me never take these precious rights for granted. Perhaps you will join me observing our National Day of Prayer. Do we really need a Presidential Proclamation to give us permission?

Until next week,

Meet me at the intersection!


Responses

  1. Great post, Mike!
    Our faith in God and devotion to Jesus Christ are founded on a personal relationship with the Creator and Savior. They are not dependent on a National Day of Prayer, nor would they be diminished if such a day were not recognized. Civil religion is a shallow substitute for genuine faith. I’ll be posting in the few days about a March decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in which “In God We Trust” on our coins and currency was upheld as constitutional on the basis that the phrase is merely “ceremonial” and “patriotic”; in other words, “it’s harmless and doesn’t really mean anything substantive or religious in nature.” That’s the kind of god that national religion leaves us with.
    Thanks, again, for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Today is the National Day of Prayer. I can`t honestly say that it makes any difference to my life or to my communication with God. However, I recognize that I am a believer, which sets me apart from the world. If observances such as the National Day of Prayer are removed from our society, the world will have no reminder that our Creator exists and the enemy will chalk up another win. I am concerned that the camel, who already has his nose under the tent, will see no reason he shouldn`t wiggle in much farther. At that point it makes it very difficult to get him to change his mind and back out of the tent.


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