Two blows against the National Day of Prayer in one day!
For the second year in a row, President Obama has canceled the National Day of Prayer ceremony which was previously held every year in the White House since congress declared the day during Harry Truman’s administration in 1952. Separately a court case just decided that the designated day is unconstitutional.
The cancellation by the president has once again stirred deep anger and suspicions in the Christian community. Obama’s relationship with self-ascribed Christians has been at best a tenuous one given his background and general indifference to Christian faith doctrine.
Before we get to the National Day of Prayer at the White House, let’s review U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb decision today. She ruled the day unconstitutional after a case was brought by a group of atheists and agnostics in Wisconsin called the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Her decision will undoubtedly by overturned eventually on appeal as is customary. What happens in culture war cases like this is that the advocating group shops the issue around for liberal judges to rule in an expected way, and the resulting favorable decision is appealed.
But that decision is not the only bad news for God today. Two years running the president himself canceled the regular National Day of Prayer White House ceremony that has been a fixture in Washington for years. The day is designated on the first Thursday in May, which this year would be May 6th, 2010.
Last year White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs explained that the president would spend the day in personal, private prayer (see video below) rather than conduct the usual public ceremony. There is no explanation yet forthcoming on the president’s decision this year.
It is perhaps helpful to understand Obama’s interesting actions by reviewing his own faith journey.
The president’s father was a strict Muslim and his mother an atheist. The president was raised a Muslim in Indonesia until he left that country at the age of 9. There he attended mosque regularly, as part of his schooling, where he bowed to Mecca three times daily as is customary in the Islamic faith.
Observers of the 2008 election looked on with interest as the president attempted to distance himself from his Islamic roots. Many speculate that the reason Obama did not produce a birth certificate is that the baby and parent’s religions were listed on birth certificates in Hawaii.
Until Obama fancied a political career in Chicago he did not attend church services of any faith. But in Chicago, thanks partly to his wife Michelle, Obama found a kinship in Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s Black Liberation Theology church. The church was nominally Christian but was as much a force for political advocacy as it was a force for cleansing souls.
Black Liberation Theology was founded during the black panther movement of the 1960s. It is an offshoot of the (non racial) Liberation Theology doctrine that was responsible for the bloody communist revolutions of the 1970s in Latin America. The charter of Obama’s church in Chicago advocated not just equality for African Americans, but in certain parts advocated black supremacy in keeping with it’s Black Power roots. The more controversial online references on the group’s website have been scrubbed since the election controversy surrounding Obama’s church.
Nevertheless Obama was at that time at least nominally a Christian in practice. No record of his baptism exists so it is likely he never technically converted to Christianity, a fact that bothers fundamentalist Christians. But he did attend church there with Michelle and family at least irregularly until 2008.
During the election Obama was forced by political expedience to renounce his own pastor and church. He quit the church for political survival and vowed to find a new church in Washington after the election. That never happened so to our knowledge Obama has not attended any church services in eighteen months.
So given the presidents schizophrenic religious background, perhaps he has had enough of worship for one lifetime. In that light canceling the National Day of Prayer 2010 ceremony may be his little revenge on a tumultuous religious heritage.