And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
Let’s just ignore that little instruction, attributed to Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 6. Because today is the National Day of Prayer, the whole idea of which is to make a public show of our devotions, just like the old hypocrites of biblical times, who loved to be “seen of men.”
Never mind stepping silently into your closet, or private room, and praying to the Heavenly Father in secret. Get yourself to the steps of Schenectady City Hall at noon today, for just one example, and pray as publicly as you can, that you may be “seen of men.”
Forget Internet rumors that President Obama canceled the National Day of Prayer. No such thing. He issued the standard proclamation for it, he just isn’t going to hold a White House ceremony.
The only president who held a White House ceremony every year he was in office was George W. Bush, who of course loved to flaunt his faith.
His father (his earthly father, that is) held just one such ceremony in his four years in office, as did President Reagan. President Clinton held none. So it wasn’t much of a tradition.
Obama-haters nevertheless characterized Obama’s not holding such a ceremony either last year or this as a “cancellation,” I suppose for rhetorical effect and also to advance their suspicion that he’s secretly a Muslim.
But our president is clearly a good Christian. In his proclamation, he asked, among other things, “Let us remember in our thoughts and prayers those suffering from natural disasters in Haiti, Chile and elsewhere,” which is perfectly in keeping with the Christian view (and also the Jewish and the Muslim view): The world is ruled by a Supreme Being who loves us and who presumably could prevent earthquakes if He chose to but who mysteriously lets them rip anyway. We thank Him for His love, and we pray for those He has buried under a pile of rubble, all in the same breath.
Also never mind the recent ruling by a federal judge in Wisconsin that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional. The judge said government may no more support prayer than it may “encourage citizens to fast during the month of Ramadan, attend a synagogue, purify themselves in a sweat lodge or practice rune magic.”
Imagine the impudence, equating evangelical Christianity with pagan magic or with a peyote-headed sweat lodge!
The ruling will be appealed, and if it stands, I’ll eat my book of runes.
Anyway, let’s face it, that’s what this National Day of Prayer is — an evangelical Christian operation, for all its pretensions of ecumenism.
Its chief backer and organizer is the National Day of Prayer Task Force, chaired by Shirley Dobson, wife of James Dobson, both of them stalwarts of the conservative Christian movement, best known for Focus on the Family, which actually has the same headquarters.
You can be a volunteer on their task force, but you have to sign a statement declaring, “I believe that the Holy Bible is the inerrant Word of the Living God,” and so forth, which I think is really funny.
You have to believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God, but you have to ignore Matthew 6:5-6.
(I telephoned a question to the task force about that little problem and did not get a call back.)
Ecumenism? The task force says on its website, very tolerantly: “People with other theological and philosophical views [that is, besides Christians] are, of course, free to organize and participate in activities that are consistent with their own beliefs.”
Which I think is swell of them, granting that liberty. But they themselves require a loyalty oath.
I know what’s going to happen at this point. People are going to write letters accusing me of “bashing Christians,” as they always do, but ladies and gentlemen, you can see I’m not bashing anyone. I’m just pointing out a little discrepancy, that’s all. If anyone is going to get upset with me, I ask them to address it, so I may understand.
You say you believe in the Bible as the word of God.
Jesus tells us in the Bible we should not be like the hyprocrites who pray in public but rather we should pray in private.
Yet today you will make a public spectacle of yourselves praying on the steps of City Hall.
When you are done denouncing me, please explain that to me.
On another subject altogether I noticed that Schenectady County recently advertised for a director of emergency management, to replace the former director, Tom Constantine, who left in November.
I noticed that a requirement for the job was a bachelor’s degree plus seven years of emergency-management experience, or a master’s degree plus five years of experience, or failing either of those, 20 years of law enforcement experience.
Now, pardon me for being skeptical, but does that sound to you like a requirement written to accommodate a retired cop? Having in mind that cops may retire after 20 years.
I was going to apply myself, but I missed the deadline, which was Monday, and now I can’t find out how many people did apply. But I wait with eagerness to see who gets hired.
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