Thursday, May 6, 2010

Bow Your Head With Us

Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has his own purposes.
Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address

Today is officially the National Day of Prayer despite federal judge Barbara Crabb's ruling a month ago that the NDOP violates the establishment clause of the 1st Amendment. Crabb allowed the NDOP to continue until all appeals are exhausted. EasyYolk concurs with Crabb's pro-prayer, anti-establishment ruling, but we feel quite compelled to participate in the Day of Prayer as long as tens of thousands of fundamentalist groups are organized and gathered to pray their prayers all over the US. If these groups are praying, indeed, our voices must be heard as well. At times like these, standing (or rather bowing) on the sidelines in an apathetic stupor won't do the world any good. So, please, bow your heads with us...

We live in a country plagued with fear and anxiety. We are afraid of terrorists who plot to kill American citizens. We are afraid of losing our jobs and houses. We are afraid of various forms of Big Government and Big Business that make us smaller and more impotent than ever. We are afraid of "acts of God" like rising rivers and hurricanes and earthquakes. We are afraid of "acts of humanity" like oil spills and automobile accidents. We are afraid of declining state budgets that sap resources from our most vulnerable citizens: the elderly, the sick, the unemployed, the orphans, the immigrants. Life is chaotic, out of control, mysterious and unpredictable.

Forgive us for attempting to numb our increasingly anxious lives with addiction or scapegoating or celebrity-worshipping or apathic cynacism or trivializing distractions. Forgive us for basing our lives on a quest for profit, fame, comfortability and convenience at the expense of "the least of these." Forgive us for our gossip and our gluttony, our lust and our lip service.

Empower us to be disciples characterized by Your love and humility and grace and empathy and service. Shower upon us wisdom and discernment to know the truth in a society with agenda-driven, entertainment-obsessed media options. May we be in awe of the wonder and diversity of your creation. Give us the courage to speak truth to Power and to swim upstream in this culture. May our lives truly reflect the simple-living intentionality of Jesus of Nazareth who had no place to lay his head and wept for a people who were sheep without a shepherd. Above all, lead us in a fight for the underdog, just like Jesus who gathered together a motley crew of lepers and losers and prostitutes and peasants. We lament that, on this National Day of Prayer, so many Americans call upon You, loudly chanting your name while clinging to certainty by (mis)quoting their "inerrant" Scriptures. May we bury ourselves in our prayer closets (Matthew 6:6), petitioning and praising and meditating on You and then emerge to boldly live the Truth, echoing Your servant Francis: "At all times preach the gospel and, when necessary, use words."

In related news, Franklin Graham was on Fox News last night lamenting his revoked invitation to officially pray at the Pentagon during National Day of Prayer festivities. He has referred to Islam as an "evil" religion that degrades women and preaches hatred. Here's his 5-minute segment:

EasyYolk has all sorts of problems with Graham's mentality and we believe that it does not reflect the "gospel logic" of Jesus. How so? Let us count the ways:

1. Let's start with the women. How can Graham possibly have problems with "how muslims treat women?" Because he is a fundamentalist Christian who takes everything literally, we are sure that he has read the letter from the Apostle Paul that calls women to "learn in silence with full submission" (I Timothy 2) and that preaches that women must not be allowed to teach or have authority over a man. This has led to thousands of Christian congregations worldwide that keep women out of the pulpit, let alone the entire decision-making process in both the church and home.

Graham whines that Muslims take offense to the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders coming to the Middle East to "inspire" the troops, but we are sure that he takes literally the words jumping off the very same page of the Bible where Paul exhorts the young pastor Timothy that "the women should dress themselves modestly and decently in suitable clothing?" The irony.

BTW, Christian leaders all over the theological spectrum are in an interpretive debate about how Christian communities should perform texts like this (a later subject for EasyYolk to tackle), but the entire fundamentalist side of the spectrum from John MacArthur to Rick Warren to Billy and Franklin Graham all deny (or "suppress") women key rights and privileges in their communities and it is quite hypocritical when they protest (or "project") actions of leaders from competing faith traditions.

2. Graham shows his hand by complaining that the Muslims get to have their own holidays at the Pentagon (like Ramadan) so why can't Christians have theirs? This plays right into the hands of "the judge from Wisconsin" who ruled against the National Day of Prayer. The problem with the National Day of Prayer is that it endorses a particular brand of conservative Evangelical Christianity that has been monopolized by the National Day of Prayer Taskforce (of which Graham currently holds the position of the 2010 Honorary Chairman) to organize tens of thousands of prayer gatherings around the nation (gatherings that do not allow Muslims to lead prayers at). With all this said, Evangelicals still claim that the Day allows all religions equal opportunity to organize and pray. But Graham seems to be outright admitting it right from the beginning of the interview.

3. Graham claims that if Obama does not intervene to have the Pentagon invite him to the ceremony, then it is "a slap in the face of all Christians" (Van Susteran says it in her intro and Graham confirms it). This is a tremendous example of the kind of myopia associated with conservative Evangelical leaders who claim to lead the entire Body of Christ as their fold. EasyYolk rejects the leadership of Graham and the Dobsons (and many others) and we would add that if Obama somehow were to make a last-second veto of the Pentagon and re-invite Graham, it would be truly a slap in the face to Christians all over the world who takes seriously the call of our Lord to be humble and compassionate as we serve our neighbors and enemies alike. Graham's ego and ruthless determination to wield "the Truth" knock him off course. "Take up your cross" and "become like a child" are unequivocal charges to shake off the privilege, status and triumphalism that entice all of us.

4. Last November, we reported on Billy and Franklin's Graham's two-and-a-half-hour meeting with Sarah Palin in which Franklin summarized:

Daddy feels God was using her to wake America up.

The Grahams, of course, meet with powerful political leaders from both sides of the aisle (they met with Obama recently), but they don't use language like this for many of them. If they've aligned themselves with Palin's "Christian" brand of uber-nativist, pro-war and obsession with end-times political maps, then we must take seriously groups like the National Day of Prayer Taskforce who made Franklin the honorary chairman.

On this National Day of Prayer, we pray that these brands of Christianity may be gently exposed and lovingly corrected and that a more faithful kind of discipleship will blossom in the US and beyond.

--Theological Autopilot

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