Sunday, April 25, 2010

National Prayer Day

          Billy Graham's son Franklin Graham was disinvited from the Army's celebration of the National Day of Prayer. The reason given is that Graham has described Islam as evil and offensive. He wants Muslims to know that Jesus Christ has died for their sins. Prayer day sponsors hope to find a more inclusive speaker.
           Franklin Graham is not known for his inclusive prayers, so it is surprising he was invited in the first place. At George W. Bush's 2001 inauguration, Graham prayed in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, even though the presidential inauguration should be an event uniting all Americans, and, of course, all Americans are not Christian. Last year, Steven Waldman posted an excellent essay explaining that as the country has become more diverse, the inaugural prayers have become less inclusive and more Protestant in content. 
          That is the problem with government-sponsored prayer. Prayer is by definition exclusive, not inclusive. Muslims have their prayers (but not to Jesus Christ) and Protestant Christians have theirs (but not to Allah). There is no common prayer that can unite all the nation's believers and nonbelievers. That is why Americans are free to pray in their mosques and churches, where they can practice their own particular faiths without having to worry about including non-members. 
          The government should not be in the business of inviting or disinviting Franklin Graham to pray. The Army is mistaken to think it must just search harder for a more inclusive prayer. Prayer is never inclusive of all Americans. 

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