A National Day Of Humiliation

David Stokes
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Posted: Apr 18, 2010 12:00 AM
A National Day Of Humiliation

Of course, it will be appealed and wind its way through a process of judicial, if not national debate before all is said and done, but the mind fairly boggles at the arrogant absurdity of a court in this land ruling the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional. Back when George W. Bush occupied the Oval Office, the radical anti-theist group (read: atheists on steroids), “Freedom From Religion,” filed a lawsuit and the toxic seed planted then has now borne poisonous fruit. Stay tuned.

I know it’s fashionable these days to bash-Bush, blaming the man and his administration for all the ills our current leaders find to be overwhelming and resistant to their heady scheme-dreams, but our 43rd President is a man of passionate faith. Sometimes he’s accused of wearing his faith on his sleeve, but personally I find that to be preferable to politicians who always seem to have something up their sleeves.

I had the privilege the other day of receiving a nice note from Mr. Bush. He had received a copy of my new book, a Texas story from the 1920s called, “Apparent Danger—The Pastor of America’s First Megachurch and the Texas Murder Trial of the Decade in the 1920s.” In the note, along with kind words about the book, he said something that I find quite timely in light of the news about the ruling by Judge Barbara Crabb in U.S. District Court (a Jimmy Carter appointee, by the way)—something about prayer: “During our time in the White House, Laura and I were inspired by the strength of the American people and sustained by your prayers and encouragement.”

Certainly, I understand that he was talking about personal prayers, not necessarily public ones, and that there is nothing in the current court ruling banning private prayer. Duh. I get that. But there is nuance, code, and an unmistakable trend. Our current president and his sometimes profane pals seem to be very uncomfortable with any form of pious-speak, and downright out of place in any role requiring lip-service to faith.

Religion—well, let’s be fair, anything related to Christian or Jewish religion—is increasingly being relegated to stepchild status. In the case of Islam, exceptions are made all the time, of course.

I would appeal to President Barack Hussein Obama today, to reach back beyond his Muslim, Marxist, and Liberation Theology (which is to real Christianity as anthrax is to sugar) roots and try to connect with his “inner-Lincoln.” It is clear to all of us that he very much loves to tap into Lincoln-like moments and trappings. From his announcement to run for president in Springfield, Illinois, to his train ride from Philadelphia en route to his inauguration following the route Lincoln took in 1861, to using Lincoln’s Bible while taking the oath of office, he has deliberately cultivated this clever image.

The year 1863 was a critical one for an America then immersed in nation-rending conflict. It was a year that began with his famous Emancipation Proclamation. Later that year, President Lincoln would travel to Pennsylvania and deliver immortal words at a place called Gettysburg. But almost forgotten among our 16th President’s writings, speeches, and proclamations, is something else he said that same year. As the Civil War raged, Mr. Lincoln proclaimed a National Day of Prayer—only he didn’t quite call it that. It was actually called, are you ready for this? “A Day of National Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer.” Now, that would make any liberal “living-constitution” judge’s head spin all the way around today, don’t you think?

Among the things the President said in his 1863 Proclamation were these words:

“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us! It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion. All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.”

These days it is fashionable and politically expedient for our President to travel the globe confessing our purported geo-political sins to would-be enemies in an effort to appease and impress. But wouldn’t it be far more effective for our future, and refreshing for the republic, if we had people in charge who were willing to humble themselves before Almighty God, instead of petty potentates, as a shining example to all of us?

Oh, and speaking of Presidents and prayer, maybe someone in the White House should pull out any good biography of another Obama hero, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and turn to the part about D-Day in June of 1944. There they’d find what I consider FDR’s finest moment and most effective and eloquent utterance and it was in the form of a prayer. That’s right—he led the nation, via radio, in prayer. And, in part, he said this:

My Fellow Americans:

Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our Allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.

And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity. Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

That’s right. Mr. New Deal said that those heroes storming the beaches of Normandy that fateful day were doing so to “preserve…our religion.” We’ve apparently come—or better, descended—a long way since then.