Monday, April 12, 2010

Reclaiming our Religious Heritage

For a few weeks, people whose prayer lives were almost nonexistent were foaming at the mouth over an urban legend that had been going around. According to this urban legend, Barack Obama had canceled America’s annual National Day of Prayer. It wasn’t true. It got people thinking about prayer, although for the wrong reasons.
In a show of patriotism a few months earlier, American Muslims gathered in Washington to “pray for the soul of America.” The event backfired, because whiners whose prayer lives were probably nonexistent painted the event as evidence that a “Muslim President” was attempting to supplant Christianity with Islam. Again, prayer was defended, though for the wrong reasons. If Christians had prayed the same prayer, the whiners would have accepted it.
Religion is under assault from many angles: from government, from Hollywood, from well-funded, self-proclaimed enemies of religion; and from misguided believers themselves. Believers of different faiths do themselves a disservice when they assist the enemies of religion by undermining the religious practices of others.
With regard to the attacks from government, it behooves us to take a close look at our shared religious heritage. For this short paper, I’ll mention only one aspect of that heritage and hope that it serves as an example.
Look at the wording of the religious clause of the First Amendment: "Congress [That means the lawmakers in Washington--not government officials of any other variety or at any other level of government.] shall make no law [That means a decree enacted by a legislative body. It doesn't mean anything that anyone at any level of government happens to do.] respecting the establishment of religion [That means, favoring one organized religion over another. It doesn't mean, accommodating religions.] or prohibiting the free exercise thereof [Golly, gee, how did that one get in there? Aren't those governmental jackasses aware of that part of the First Amendment? If they were, why are they prohibiting the Boy Scouts from a camp on the grounds of religion?]
To give you some perspective on the intent of the framers of the religious clause, after the Constitution was ratified, ten states continued to have official state churches, and two others had churches that were partially favored by the state. After all, the prohibition was on Congress, not the sovereign states. President Thomas Jefferson, whose name is associated with the "wall of separation between church and state," signed a bill that allocated $5,000 to build a church-related school for Native Americans in the Northwest Territories.
The "wall of separation" wasn't erected to protect government from religion but to protect religion from government. The Bill of Rights is essentially a "negative" document, placing prohibitions on abuses by the federal government.
In the final analysis, though, we don’t need a presidential decree to get Americans to pray. Just look around us. We should be driven to our knees by the awful realization that our own wisdom, as well as the wisdom of everyone around us, is inadequate for the day. We should join others, regardless of what the believers in their religion call the Supreme Being, in praying for His guidance.
We should pray for our leaders, and we should pray that the Lord grants us the wisdom to choose leaders based on virtue above all else. We should also pray for the will and the wherewithal to work with our leaders for the benefit of all.

We should share with others a constant reminder of those prayer needs. As a visible reminder, I propose a simple shoe lace tied in a clove hitch, attached to a belt loop, purse, book bag, or something else. People were ribbons of various colors for various causes. Why not a lace of any color, tied into a clove hitch?
Seen from one side, a clove hitch is two strips running parallel to one another, symbolizing unity of purpose between leaders and their constituents. From the other side, you can see that the two parallel strips are lashed together in a form that resembles the Greek letter Chi (X.) Like every “good” knot, the clove hitch is easy to tie, won’t slip, and easy to untie. Simple instructions for the clove hitch are easy to find on the Internet. There are many videos and sites for that purpose.
I’d like to add another note concerning the need to reclaim our religious heritage. Too often, righteousness is defined by what we refrain from doing rather than by what we do. Sins that we’re not tempted to do (but others may be) are too often considered more serious than sins that we ourselves commit. We’re also tempted to regard our own culture as the standard for judging the cultures of others. In so doing, we blind ourselves to our own shortcomings and spotlight the perceived shortcomings of other cultures.
Nine years ago, I wrote a story about the tendency of many professing Christians to do this. It’s based on many actual events. People who have known me for more than ten years may recognize themselves in the story. I’ve changed the story very little since then because I believe that the observations I made then apply to us today. The chief observation is this: If the greatest of all virtues is Love, then the vilest of all sins is insufficient Love.
Part of reclaiming our religious heritage must necessarily by "reliance on Divine Providence." We all have some view of how we want the world to become; but, unless Divine Providence is the architect and builder of this house, the laborers build in vain.

No comments:

Post a Comment