Wednesday, May 12th, 2010 | Author:

The Word for Wednesday (WFW) is a once-a-week opportunity for Christian bloggers to collectively share what the Lord is working in their hearts. If you’d like to participate, click the WFW tab above.

Note to regular readers: I will resume my End of the Age review of the Olivet Discourse as the Lord leads. Today I’m off on a more topical issue.

The National Day of Prayer

In 1952 Congress, at the request of Billy Graham, established the National Day of Prayer where people were asked to “turn to God in prayer and meditation.”  In 1988, they set the first Thursday in May as “the day for presidents to issue proclamations asking Americans to pray.”

On April 15, 2010, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional on this basis:

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb wrote that the government can no more enact laws supporting a day of prayer than it can encourage citizens to fast during Ramadan, attend a synagogue or practice magic.

“In fact, it is because the nature of prayer is so personal and can have such a powerful effect on a community that the government may not use its authority to try to influence an individual’s decision whether and when to pray,” Crabb wrote.

In her ruling, she stated that the issue would not go into effect until it has been through the appeals process, and Obama dutifully issued his proclamation.

My first response to all the backlash Crabb’s ruling generated was, “So what?” Do we really need – or want – Obama (or Bush or Clinton or ?) to tell us when and what to pray?  Would the lack of a presidential proclamation prevent us from praying?

When I read Crabb’s reasoning, I tended to agree with her.  If the President can call us to pray on a particular day, hosting special events for that purpose, could they not also try to direct us to non-biblical acts?  This, in fact, is already being attempted, as the New Apostolic Reformation of C. Peter Wagner joined forces with the Christian Right  in what was dubbed “A Cry to God:  May Day 2010” at the Lincoln Memorial.  As Herescope documented, this was less than biblical:

One of the most amazing aspects of the May Day event, planned in Washington, D.C. at the Lincoln Memorial on May 1, 2010, is its Official Program stating the “Prayers of Repentance for the Seven Mountains of Culture.”[3] Many good-intentioned believers are being led into this event because they support its conservative political ideologies and moral overtones. They support Israel and they are against abortion. But do these folks also support the Seven Mountains of Culture Mandate? And are they fully in agreement with the esoteric theology of these spiritual warfare prayers and the Dominionist goals of the NAR leaders of the May Day event?

I’d encourage you to read that article and follow the links it contains, as well as this article and this one.  There is a long-planned co-opting of Christianity being implemented, and discernment is required.

All of this has led me to reflect on the larger issue of America as

A Christian Nation

“America was birthed in prayer and founded on the Bible,” said Shirley Dobson, chair of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, on Thursday.

A solemn mood prevailed at this year’s National Day of Prayer, as speaker after speaker lamented what they perceive as an attack on our Christian Nation, but … does it really matter?  Can any man-made law make us Christian or prevent us from being Christian?  Can any nation actually be Christian?

Before everybody gets in a dither, let me state that I agree with Dobson’s statement.  I’ve learned a lot from my friend Hercules Mulligan, and I agree that, by and large, the founders of America were Christian and attempted to base our government on God’s law.  But that does not make us a Christian nation.

Jesus told Pilate this:

My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” (John 18:36)

Nowhere in scripture did Jesus attempt to change the worldly governments.  Nowhere in scripture did Jesus tell his disciples to change the worldly governments. In fact, history has shown that since Constantine tried to establish the first “Christian nation,” nothing but disaster has resulted.  Every government that has tried to enforce Christian principles wound up killing in Jesus’ name and desecrating His name – and America is no exception.

A Young Soldier, in a follow-up to the Wikileak Collateral Murder video (which has over 6 million views to date),  has posted Part 1 of an interview with Josh Stieber.  Go here to watch the whole interview or read the transcript.

Josh Stieber enlisted in the army after graduating high school. He was deployed to Baghdad from Feb 07- Apr 08 with the military company shown on the ground in the Collater Murder video. Upon his return from Iraq, Josh was granted conscientious objector status.

So who is this young man?  What was he thinking when he enlisted?  Here’s part of the interview.

STIEBER: I grew up very religiously and very patriotic, in a selective sense that, you know, I only wanted to hear things that I wanted to hear and only things that I thought would make my country look better and make my beliefs look better, and I wasn’t very interested in understanding other perspectives. And the vision I had of my country was that, you know, we were going all throughout the world doing, you know, all this great stuff and helping people in need. And, you know, after 9/11 I was obviously affected by that and wanted to protect the people that I cared about, and, from everyone I trusted, was told that the military would be a good way to do that, and then was also told, you know, there’s this country Iraq that’s getting oppressed by this horrible dictator who’s also a threat to us, and if we can get rid of him, not only will we be keeping ourselves safe, but we’ll also be helping this other country in the process.

JAY: How interwoven were your beliefs in America and what America stands for and your religious beliefs?

STIEBER: They were pretty closely intertwined. I went to a religious high school. And one example is, in a government class that I was in at this religious high school, we read a book called The Faith of George W. Bush. And people like that were held up as, you know, these—these are people that are fighting for God’s will here on Earth. So religion was very interwoven with a sense of nationalism.

So what happened to change his beliefs?

JAY: So you go to Iraq. You join, you go through boot camp, and you’re sent to Iraq, and you’re still more or less the same mindset. Tell us a little bit about boot camp and the kind of training that takes place to prepare you for war. I mean, your religious training is supposed to be about love thy neighbor, and then you’re sent to war. So how do they get you ready for that?

STIEBER: Yeah, I guess that’s where I started to see, maybe, some of these contradictions, just by the kinds of things that we did on a regular basis in basic training, whether it was the cadences that we sang as we were marching around, some that even joked about killing women and children.

JAY: Like what?

STIEBER: One that stands out in my mind is—it goes,

“I went down to the market where all the women shop
I pulled out my machete and I begin to chop
I went down to the park where all the children play
I pulled out my machine gun and I begin to spray.”

JAY: That’s as you’re marching.


JAY: So this is, like, an authorized chant, you could say.

STIEBER: Yeah. I mean, the training, they focus on the physical aspect, or, you know, they say that’s the challenging part, but then they slip all these psychological things in along with it.

JAY: Well, that’s got to be shocking for you to hear that the first time.

STIEBER: Yeah. And so I started writing home to religious leaders at my church, saying what I’m being asked to do doesn’t really line up with, you know, all these religious beliefs I had. And I would get letters back with explanations that I needed to have more faith in God, or this is just how the military works.

JAY: They would write back and defend a chant like that, that it’s okay to go down where the kids are playing and start to spray? They would defend that?

STIEBER: They would either defend it or say that ends justify the means or say, you know, maybe you personally don’t say chants like that and just march silently, but you still go along with the whole system.

If these are the words taught by a “Christian Nation,” it’s no wonder the Muslims hate America.  And it’s no wonder that they hate Jesus.

I’ve taken some liberties with the following scripture, but based on Matthew 5:43-48 when Jesus tells us to love our enemies, I don’t think He will object.

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love for Muslims,
I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge;
and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love for Muslims,
I am nothing.
And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor,
and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love for Muslims,
it profits me nothing.
Love is patient,
love is kind and is not jealous;
love does not brag and is not arrogant,
does not act unbecomingly;
it does not seek its own, is not provoked,
does not take into account a wrong suffered,
does not rejoice in unrighteousness,
but rejoices with the truth;
bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
(1 Corinthians 13:1-7)

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8 Responses
  1. Rebecca says:

    I’ve read quite a bit by Hercules Mulligan regarding this point. I have looked in depth at the history and documents of our founding, and can declare that yes, we WERE indeed a Christian nation. The facts are there, it’s not based on opinion or sentiment. We never regulated Christianity (as Europe regulated Catholicism), as that would immediately negate the Christianity! But the truth is, America was a Christian nation. Just because we aren’t now, doesn’t mean we should deny the past and start to dismantle Christian standards and landmarks (physical and spiritual) in the country.

    It is a mistake to judge the truth of something by the behaviors of those who claim to adhere to its truth. In other words, just because there are idiots bringing reproach on the name of Christ does not mean there is reproach on the name of Christ. Sure, Jesus nowhere told anyone to build a Christian nation, just like He didn’t tell us to go to the bathroom… but the Bible does say “Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord.” And Israel was expected to be a nation committed to God (but failed… and yet still God held them accountable for the calling).

    America was indeed a Christian nation, absolutely. Our country– its traditions AND laws– were based upon the tenets of the New Testament, the teachings of Jesus Christ. Just because our nation is now “post-Christian” cannot erase that fact. We never imposed rituals or church taxes or church attendance on the population, like other nations did. That doesn’t disqualify us as a Christian nation, though.

    I understand what you mean when you lament about the condition of our country- it’s truly deplorable. But the present conduct in no way denies the truth that our country was founded on Christian principles, for Christians, and for Christian liberty.

    Regarding the ritual of a National Day of Prayer– in no wise should it be allowed to be squelched, especially by sinners who would only be empowered by such an action.

  2. Rebecca says:

    P.S. I take issue with your statement, “Every government that has tried to enforce Christian principles wound up killing in Jesus’ name and desecrating His name – and America is no exception.”

    Untrue. Christian principles in action never kill people and desecrate His name. And enforced Christian principles are not Christian principles. Something’s a-kilter with that statement. America never 1.) enforced Christian principles, b.) killed people doing so.

    Also, Catholicism is not Christianity, so for historians who point to that as “proof” that Christianity “kills” people– sorry, wrong!

    We all gotta get the terminology right here.

  3. Dave says:

    I would rather live in a nation of Christians than in a Christian nation. After a government becomes officially “Christian”, the number of believers goes down. People become complacent, expecting the central government to do everything for them and putting their faith in the secular legal system.

  4. Dave says:

    Akagaga, you only scratched the surface of the problems with the military. That is not to say that anyone should disrespect military people or that military people are immoral or hypocritical. However, military service should not be glorified or whitewashed.

  5. Dave says:

    Akagaga, thanks for the link to Herescope. I had read it before, but only this time noticed the connections between the Wagner group and the Worldview Weekend folks.

  6. Hi Jean. Haven’t commented in a while, due to my very hectic schedule of late (this book is taking some time!). But your post subject caught my eye.

    It is very easy to become very angry at how America has CLAIMED to be fighting for Christian principles of freedom around the world while committing horrible atrocities. War is necessary when self-defense is involved (and Muslim extremism will always hate Christianity whether America was perfectly Christian or not — it hated Jesus long before America got here). However, we must not throw out the baby with the bathwater. We must remember that even though this country has soiled its rich Christian heritage, we still have it, and we have a duty to uphold it.

    Of course I agree that no number of proclamations will turn this nation around. But that does not mean that we side with sinners who can’t stand even the relic of our godly past — nevermind the living substance of it!

    I’m sorry you agree with Crabb’s ruling; it truly misses the point of the National Day of Prayer. Now I agree with Crabb that the decision to pray is personal; however, that does not mean that the institution of the National Day of Prayer is FORCING anybody to pray. It is merely an expression of our national reliance upon God.

    Now of course, we should be TRULY RELYING upon God as a nation first, before we can expect the NDOP to do much good in and of itself. But the institution of it is constitutional, because the Day acknowledges the very thing that made this nation, and our Constitution itself, possible — humbling ourselves before God in prayer, whether we are ordinary civilians, or public officials.

    The Founders themselves (for example, Washington and John Adams when they were President, besides the various other Founders who served as state governors) issued not only days of prayer, but even “fasting and humiliation”! And we are told that one half-hearted speech by a non-Christian President to observe the tradition of the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional … oh how far we have gone.

    You ask, “Can any man-made law make us Christian or prevent us from being Christian?”

    That depends on what you mean. If you mean a “Christian nation” like the one Constantine, and the various nations of Catholic Europe, established, the answer would be “yes.” Because in their definition, a “Christian nation” was a nation whose monarchial head was obedient to the pope, and whose people outwardly recognized the papal authority of Rome. This indeed, you can establish through human law.

    But if you mean a “Christian nation” as in a nation whose jurisprudential worldview is biblical, or a “Christian nation” as in a nation of people who profess to hold the Christian Scriptures as the guide for faith and practice, I would answer your question as “Indirectly.” Law would not create a Christian nation ex nihilo; law would and could create (and itself be the product of) a Christian worldview. On a deeper level, those laws would come from the true source of a Christian nation — a Christian people.

    You further ask, “Can any nation actually be Christian?” Yes, and from the definition of a Christian nation given above, I would say that America was once proof of that.

    You say, “Every government that has tried to enforce Christian principles wound up killing in Jesus’ name and desecrating His name and America is no exception.”

    I don’t know of any government that truly enforced truly Christian principles in its political practice that wound up killing people in Jesus’ name. If America has killed anybody unjustly, it has not been in the name of Jesus — although, the name of Jesus has been linked with propaganda to garner support from the patriotic community in America (which of course, are mostly religious Christian people). The story of the young soldier Stieber, telling as it is, does not disqualify the idea of a Christian nation. It does, however, point to what happens when a nation goes into “post-Christian” mode. We cling to the visage of our heritage, ignore the substance of it, and use it as a front to justify our selfish causes. Yes, that causes other nations who do not understand Christianity to look at us wrongly.

    But even if we stopped war with all the radical Muslim nations now, they would not suddenly become Christian, or think that Christians aren’t so bad after all.

    I think I understand your point of view. We both know that legal documents and proclamations do not make us a Christian nation. They do not save our heritage, or save our country. Only a move of God, which would bring about genuine repentance and a return to adhering to the Bible as the guide of our faith and conduct, can do that. However, what I have said heretofore was simply to point out that just because the substance has been rotted does not mean that we should side with those who would love to finish off the outward forms of our post-Christian nation (such as a National Day of Prayer). And while we are discussing these things, let us remember the difference between a nation with a form of Christianity, and a truly Christian nation.

  7. akagaga says:

    I suspected that this post would generate some comments, but I didn’t realize it would raise the dead. Welcome back, Herky! :)

    Thank you all for sharing your thoughts. Instead of responding here, though, I’ve decided to do a separate post. Rebecca is right that I need to define my terminology, so I hope to fill in some blanks and then maybe we can all speak the same language.

  8. Jim Wetzel says:

    Great post!

    Concerning “National Days of Prayer,” Isaiah 1:10-15:

    Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom; give ear to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah. “What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?” says the Lord. I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle; and I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats. When you come to appear before Me, who requires of you this trampling of My courts? Bring your worthless offerings no longer, incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies— I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, they have become a burden to Me. I am weary of bearing them. So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you, yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.”

    Yes, the atmosphere of the palace has always been deadly to the Church. Persecution is the food on which she grows.