As I was driving down the road today, my eye was caught by a colorful billboard announcing the upcoming National Day of Prayer on May 5th. I was surprised, because ordinarily I expect such a momentous event to be heralded by the whispering voices of saints and angels inside my head. Apparently I’ve fallen from their good graces, perhaps because I haven’t been praying enough.
The National Day of Prayer is brought to us by the National Day of Prayer Task Force headed by Shirley Dobson, wife of Focus on the Family leader Dr. James Dobson – the man who discovered that Spongebob was gay. Apparently this activity has been going on for some years on the first Thursday in May, but I had never picked up on the aetheric good vibrations of all that prayer until now.
The idea of the National Day of Prayer is that we should all get together on that one day and use our collective power of prayer to pray for our leaders and our world. It promotes organized prayer events for families, schools, businesses and everyone else to get together and pray our sinful world back to godliness. It’s all very positive and very patriotic and underneath it’s more than a little bit creepy.
According to Shirley Dobson, we need a National Day of Prayer becauuse “As a nation, we have rebelled against the Creator. Our culture is steeped in immorality and self-sufficiency and is growing increasingly hostile toward religious expression.” Well, based on what I read on the National Day of Prayer website I’m getting more and more hostile towards at least some forms of religious expression and more and more glad I’m self-sufficient enough not to be sucked into their morass of evangelistic fascism. If these are the people who speak for God then I’m glad to be on the side of Satan and the rest of the rebels.
At the philosophical heart of the National Day of Prayer is a document called the Lausanne Covenant, a truly scary sort of declaration of evangelical holy war on secular society. The scariest sections are section 9 on The Urgency of the Evangelistic Task and section 10 on Evangelism and Culture. In the first they raise the great lament that 2.7 billion people have been “neglected”, meaning that they have not yet had Christianity rammed down their throat along with a spoonful of rice in the hand of a missionary, a failure they’re very serious about remedying in a crusader-like righteousness. In the second they express their desire to free people from the bonds of culture and instead put them in bondage to scripture. Non-christian culture is evil – “Because men and women are God’s creatures, some of their culture is rich in beauty and goodness. Because they are fallen, all of it is tainted with sin and some of it is demonic.” So that’s the ultimate goal – destroy the demonic cultures around the world, purge the demonic from our own society, and bring the whole world to Christ whether it wants it or not.
The NDP is deisgned as an important step in purging the demonic from our society and bringing faith into every aspect of our lives. The NDP task force lays out everything to help you do your part. First, of course, we all have to pray. To simplify this – since you presumably can’t figure out who or what to pray for on your own – they provide a list of what and who to pray for. This list includes all of the Republican leaders of our nation and five key institutions – government, media, education, church and family. They call these the ‘Freedom Five’. Interestingly they don’t seem to want us to pray for any Democrat leaders. I guess they’ve decided the Demoncrats are so far into Satan’s clutches that no amount of prayer will save them.
The NDP program focuses on organized prayer activities. There are guidelines for organizing prayer sessions at your place of work, or in your neighborhood or in your school. This last is one which particularly caught my eye. It looks like the public schools are one of the most fertile grounds for missionary work among the corrupted children of our godless society. One of the prominent links on the main page of the NDP website is to a section on bringing the NDP and prayer in general to schools, which includes a 31 page PDF manifesto and guidebook called the School Events Guide which is all about absolutely filling your schools with godliness, from prayer in class to starting after school prayer groups, to starting christian athelete clubs, to sneaking prayer into every aspect of the school day. As far as the NDP itself goes, they show how you can make sure your prayer event is held using public school facilities and explain how the Equal Access Act of 1984 makes this legal. They also suggest literally plastering the school with detailed posters about the NDP and your bible or prayer group since that’s also protected, not to mention making sure your group announcements get broadcast to everyone on the school PA system. Ironically this program to fill the schools with God goes under the cynical title “Freedom: National Day of Prayer for Students”. Take time to read that PDF and look at the photographs. There’s something truly disturbing about the pictures of otherwise normal kids praying while surrounded by other kids engaging in their regular school activities. It brings to mind the idea of conversion by viral infection and a kind of environment of silent confrontation which could only be unhealthy for the learning environment.
The hidden agenda aside, what exactly is the National Day of Prayer going to do for us and for the nation? At a time when it’s so abundantly clear that what we need is greater self-reliance and a rebirth of personal responsibility – not to mention calling on our government to exercise responsibility and restraint – they want to urge us to look to a higher power for answers. They actually single out self-reliance in the Lausanne Covenant as the single greatest threat to society. People taking responsibility for their actions, solving problems for thenselves and working to make the world better is in direct opposition to their philosophy of turning to God for every solution and the church for every answer.
The problem with this sort of fundamentalist Christianity is that it hammers home a very, very negative message. It tells us that we aren’t in control of our own lives. When something goes wrong, blame it on the demonic forces in our secularized society. It tells us that we don’t need to take responsibility to solve our own problems and make our nation a better more responsible nation. All we have to do is turn to God and faith and prayer will solve all our problems. And if that doesn’t work, then government will solve them, so long as we make sure there’s enough godliness in the government. This is a sick, selfish and opportunistic abuse of Christianity and of those Christians weak enough to be sucked into it. It conditions them to look to God and prayer as a great escape clause and to church leaders for day to day guidance. It paints as acceptable the subordination of individual will and representative government to the rule of God and faith.
Bondage to a single, exclusionary, cult-like religious sect isn’t exactly what I think of when I see the word ‘freedom’, and it’s not at all what this country was founded on. In fact, many men of faith throughout history – like Martin Luther and John Wesley – argued that it’s not what Christianity should be about either. Their fanaticism makes people like Dr. James Dobson and his followers strong. They have no doubts, no questions, no consideration for anything but their agenda. While our minds boggle and we laugh off the idea of a concerted campaign to virally Christianize our children, they just plug ahead with programs like the NDP to make that plan a reality.
As you’ll see from their website and literature, the insidious thing about the NDP is that it’s so well presented, so effectively marketed, that otherwise rational Christians will feel motivated to join in and think that it’s just a harmless, feel-good event. They’ll be attracted to the superficial message and never look too deeply at the reality behind it. By joining in they lend the people behind the NDP legitimacy and encourage political leaders to take them seriously and tacitly endorse the many questionable activities and the truly frightening Christian absolutism which are the underlying heart of the NDP agenda.
So, why not do something different on May 5th? I call for a national day of self-reliance. Instead of praying, pick one problem in your life, no matter how troubling, and find a way to face up to it, deal with it and fix it. Or if you’re life’s going pretty well, look at our nation and the world and identify a problem where your efforts might help make things better. Write a check to a charity, volunteer your time for a good cause, or start speaking out about your issue of choice. And don’t look to me or your minister or God for the answers. Pick your own fight and work hard to win it on your own terms. You may be answerable to God down the road, but he’s not going to hold the good things you do here on earth against you.
(BTW, the photo at the head of this article shows what is apparently now the evangelically approved way to pray based on pictures from the NDP website)