Thursday, May 5, 2011

National Day of Prayer

Today is the National Day of Prayer in the United States. I know because, as I was driving through Detroit, I tuned into WMUZ Radio and heard it from Bob Dutko, host of "The Bob Dutko Show". The National Day of Prayer is an annual day of observance held on the first Thursday of May and designated by the United States Congress: people are asked “to turn to God in prayer and meditation.”

I was intrigued to listen to Dutko’s show because he was about to ask listeners of the program what they were praying for today. Dutko began by reading President Obama’s proclamation, who honored the service and sacrifice of the men and women of the United States Armed Forces “we recognize that it is because of them that we continue to live in a Nation where people of all faiths can worship or not worship according to the dictates of their conscience…As we observe this day of prayer, we remember the one law that binds all great religions together: the Golden Rule, and its call to love one another; to understand one another; and to treat with dignity and respect those with whom we share a brief moment on this Earth…Let us also use this day to come together in a moment of peace and goodwill…Our varied beliefs can bring us together to feed the hungry and comfort the afflicted, to make peace where there is strife; and to life up those who have fallen on hard times.”

Dutko launched into a passionate invective of what constituted “appropriate prayer” and by whom. Dutko proclaimed that only prayers delivered to our One True God delivered by true Christians were appropriate and beautiful. He did not consider prayers by Muslims or Hindus appropriate for today (reserved for true Christians) nor did he consider them beautiful because they were prayers to a false god. In fact, he considered this act of prayer “ugly”.

“The One True God is a jealous God,” Dutko reminded us, invoking the first of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1-3: thou shalt have no other gods before me.

After taking several calls from listeners, Dutko proceeded to give us his prayer for today, which ran along the same lines as his introduction: he prayed that so-called enlightened Christians would change their misguided false beliefs that included Darwinian evolution, unconditional love, respect and inclusion of marginal groups like homosexuals and different races. Duco advocated a revival of the old fundamentalist Christianity that invoked Jesus as the savior of our sins.

Not only is this very unsporting of Dutko; it lacks respect for the majority of humankind (who are NOT fundamentalist Christians or Creationists).

It saddens me to hear that this very closed-minded exclusionary sentiment continues to prevail in the world during a time when peoples and cultures need to communicate with one another respectfully and with compassion. Such exclusionary sentiment is predicated on fear and fear-mongering and a hubristic sense of righteousness. God is not exclusively your God or exclusively my God; God is all things to all people. God may come to one culture as the personification of a wise man and to another as the divine Universe of Intent. They do not exist in mutual exclusion. Because God is God. Like so much in the Bible, God’s commandment to Moses—do not worship other gods before me—is best read metaphorically.

What did God really mean by “false gods”? How many of us cherish our personal possessions? How many of us worship our material wealth? How many of us obsess over our outward image (“It’s all about optics, Nina,” my old boss used to tell me)? How many of us are ruled by lust and other desires? How many of us vigorously compete for status (often at the expense of others). So, Mr. Dutko, what are our real destructive false idols? Allah? Yahweh? Vishnu? Shiva? How about greed, power-mongering, lack of compassion, and obsession over physical beauty—to name a few.

When we judge someone else’s faith as ugly, or exclude another’s reverence in a divine presence as less worthy than our own, we are judging and excluding ourselves from our own divine nature. For they are us.

Dutko mocking Hinduism or the Muslim faith as false or Florida pastor Terry Jones publically burning a copy of the Quran are not just the immature antics of bullies; they represent the most insidious form of terrorism on world peace.

So, here’s my prayer…

I pray that humanity may be graced by the wisdom to love purely, to look beyond the surface and the literal and see that deep down at the metaphoric level we are the same and all deserve respect and compassion. ALL OF US: Muslim, Jew, Christian, woman, man, child, animal and plant, water and mineral.

Our beloved Earth and her home, the Universe, deserve better. We all do.


Jean-Luc Picard said...

Hugely sensible, Nina. Many like Dutko further their bown beliefs. Sadly here, in Britain we would never have a day of prayer, as it bwould offend other minorities, including atheists

SF Girl said...

That is rather sad... I certainly hope Christmas doesn't disappear for the same reason... I think our obsession with being politically correct does not give minorities the chance to be gracious and respectful. Surely if minorities are respectfully given the chance to practice their beliefs, they in turn will respect ours. Just a thought... :)

Thanks for sharing, Jean-Luc.

CatMum said...

I agree with you 100% Nina, thank you for your well founded and informative article on National Day of Prayer. In my opinion as a lay minister with the Anglican Church of Canada (and others will have theirs), Dutko's argument strikes me as being dogmatic and Draconian in both tone and message. Then we should be looking at the the very heart of Jesus's message of love in the first Epistle to the Corinthians written by Paul of Tarsus Chapter 13, which advocates unconditional "agape" love.

Ironically, the danger of extreme fundamentalism risks strangling the very essence of our faith. The imposed restrictions of fundamentalism--no matter what religion--erodes the beauty and integrity of our faith and souls. It changes the face of God from that of LOVE to a dictatorial parent--it negates the ability of people to be empowered in a positive way and pushes us away from our faith. We should be looking at building up the body of Christ in ALL HUMANKIND.

I would also like to add that J.B. Phillips reminds us in his book "Your God is Too Small", how we can loose our focus and become too boxed-in in our theology.

SF Girl said...

Thanks, Catmum, for your and thoughtful remarks.

I appreciate your comment that we should be focusing on building the body of Christ in ALL humanity. I find Dutko's position (and his hateful words like "ugly" in reference to other's reverence) the tactics of a school-boy bully, based on fear, hatred and exclusion (also the arms of fear). All bullies operate out of fear and self-loathing.

I advocate that humanity cultivate respect for ALL faiths, something only possible through self-love and self-respect.

So, my wish and prayer is that those like Bob Dutko, who limit their view of what our loving God is capable of, will eventually learn to love and respect themselves enough to mirror that into the world. And give God--and themselves--credit for so much more.

You become what you believe in...

CatMum said...

Dear SF Girl,
Thank you for your response to my comments.

Yes, I agree with you in that Dutko's position has definite tones of hatred and bullying. This is so negative, destructive and counter productive.
Fear is the opposite of 'trust' which is so positive and much more beneficial to our healthy psychology as humans.

Your reflections on prayer are so inspiring which ultimately points to our pathway into the wholeness to God.

I look forward to sharing my thoughts with you on this subject and others.

SF Girl said...

Thanks, Catmum! I also look forward to sharing with you. God Bless...

FishHawk said...

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SF Girl said...

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