MARTY RUSSELL: Politicians may just want us out of closet

By Marty Russell/NEMS Daily Journal

A federal judge last week struck down the National Day of Prayer as a violation of the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution which prohibits establishment of a state-sanctioned religion and requires a separation of church and state. Good for them.
The very next day, President Obama indicated he planned to go ahead and issue the presidential proclamation declaring May 6 as a National Day of Prayer in spite of the ruling. Then this week, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour tapped Tuesday as a statewide day of prayer for the victims of last weekend’s tornados and storms. Good for them? I don’t think so. They’re both hypocrites.
Now, before you start lobbing holy hand grenades my way, remember that I’m not the one who labeled them as such. Jesus did in no uncertain terms in Matthew 6:5-6 when he said, “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.”
Can’t argue with the Big Guy.
Days of prayer, whether national, statewide or even local, are much more politics than religion. A chance to be “seen” as a religious person while actually currying votes from a voting base that is made up largely of people who at least profess to be “religious” people. If this were primarily a, say, Druid nation, these same politicians would be calling for a National Day of Human Sacrifice, and I don’t think it would be anything like Lent.
The National Day of Prayer started back in 1952 and in recent years has been largely a conservative, Republican event chaired by the wife of evangelist James Dobson – that is until a group called the Freedom from Religion Foundation challenged it resulting in last week’s ruling that it was unconstitutional for the federal government to proclaim such a day.
Why do we need the government to tell us to pray? Are politicians really that concerned about our immortal souls or did they just mistake “pray” for “prey”? Why do we embrace and defend these public spectacles when the very person most are praying to specifically said not to?
Jesus said, “When thou prayest enter into thy closet and when thou has shut thy door pray to thy father which is in secret.”
He didn’t say get as many like-minded people together as you can and maybe a few TV news crews and gather around this pole and show those heathens out there that you’re a force to be reckoned with by praying as loud as you can. Bring a bullhorn.
Last week’s court decision is sure to be appealed or ignored but perhaps it at least got some people thinking about the fact that we’re free to pray anytime, anywhere without anyone’s permission or edict and these kinds of events are more politics than proselytization.
We can only pray.
Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 222 Farley Hall, University MS 38677 or by e-mail at marusse1@olemiss.edu.