Sunday, February 08, 2015

Ideoplogy and Religion Mix at the National Prayer Breakfast

by Gary Berg-Cross

The National Prayer Breakfast often stirs up controversy, although different ones in the secular and religious communities. In the past, for example, we had the context of the  Hobby Lobby Case and we found there was a link to  a somewhat
“secretive group" called "The Family” playng a role of hosting the  National Prayer Breakfast. This was reported on the  MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show, by author Jeff Sharlet who publicly accused "The Family" of this role.

This year I was at a discussion group after the Breakfast event and the buzz was about Obama’s “crusader” comment:

“And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”

As the Post noted, “Critics pounce(d) after Obama talks Crusades, slavery at prayer breakfast”
There was lots of ideas and symbols wrapped up in the spaces between the words and suggestive connections to other parts of the speech.  An example is that patriotic, hot button issue of American exceptionalism. Well, as noted, the Greeks think their country i special, too). Then there is the contrast with uncomfortable Bush-era practices such as those interrogation practices, euphemistically called “harsh” for years, but in the Obama era more correctly called  torture that goes along with the invasion of Iraq a tragic, hubristic mistake. Perhaps we should pray for forgiveness for these things as well as our prior heavy hand in Central and South American.

Are these things too sensitive and ideological to discuss at a “prayer” meeting or ask forgiveness for?  Do they downplay ISIS evil too much?   Well conservatives like The Family and Baltimore’s Ben Carson believe so. Any number of outraged Republicans voices could be heard such as former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore who said,

“The president’s comments this morning at the prayer breakfast are the most offensive I’ve ever heard a president make in my lifetime. He has offended every believing Christian in the United States. This goes further to the point that Mr. Obama does not believe in America or the values we all share.”

Well it  seems to some of us as a good use of the Prayer Breakfast pulpit to talk about the moral side of things and for the Religious-American complex to take an historical,  self-reflective stance. It is a timely context seeing something bad done in the name of Religion to humbly note that Faith, and not just one Faith, can be perverted and its name used to justify revenge killing and harm.  It’s about the need for the prayerful to”stand up against those who try to use faith to justify violence, no matter what religion they practice.

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