Will National Prayer Breakfast Once Again Flaunt Fake George Washington 'Prayer' ?
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 08:54:01 AM EST
It was February 2006. President George Bush, King Abdullah of Jordan, and Bono all gathered at the 2006 National Prayer Breakfast. If they read the printed program accompanying the event they would have seen a falsified George Washington quote: fake history in essence. Did they know ? According to Jewish Standard reporter Jacob Berkman, literature printed to accompany the event featured 'George Washington's prayer for the United States of America from June 8, 1783, which ends "Grant our supplication, we beseech Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord." ' But George Washington did not write those words. The quote was fake.

Congressional Representative Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) declaimed the falsified "prayer" at the 2005 National Prayer Breakfast, and it was on the National Prayer Breakfast program in 2007. According to an article in The Christian Century the falsified 'prayer' was in the printed program at the 2001 National Prayer Breakfast too. It was a pattern.

Even among die-hard Christian nationalists one would be hard-pressed to find advocates for the falsification of American history. But for years, up through at least 2007, the official programs and speakers at the National Prayer Breakfast have cited a fake George Washington quote known as "Washington's Prayer."

The falsified "prayer" has also been repeatedly declaimed on the Senate floor, in 1994 by former Senate chaplain Richard Halverson and in 2002 and 2003 by former Senate chaplain Lloyd Ogilvie. In 2009 Congressional representative Michele Bachmann (R-Minn), used the fake 'prayer' to attack president Barack Obama.

As president Gerald Ford stated at the 1976 National Prayer Breakfast, 'Let us make it our "earnest prayer," as George Washington did two centuries ago, that "God would graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with charity and humility, and a peaceful temper of mind, without which we can never hope to be a happy nation." ' Did Ford know the origin of the cooked, falsified "Washington's Prayer" that has been held up, for perhaps a century or more, by Christian supremacists claiming the United States was founded as a "Christian nation" ?

Where did the "George Washington's prayer" come from ? Historian Chris Rodda, author of Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History, explains:

Well, it's a rewriting of the last paragraph of the circular letter sent by Washington to the governors of the states in 1783, when he resigned from the Army at the end of the Revolutionary War. This paragraph was altered by a church, inserting a few "Thys," "Thous," and "Thees," and adding the "Almighty God" opening at the beginning, and the "through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen" closing to the end, thus creating Washington's "prayer for the nation." This fabricated prayer was put on plaques in several churches associated for one reason or another with Washington, then spread to to the Christian nationalist American history books, and eventually to the internet, which is apparently where Michele Bachmann gets her historical "facts."

Here is the text of the falsified "Washington's Prayer, with text that has been added, to the original parent text derived from Washington's Circular Letter, in capital letters:

ALMIGHTY GOD, WE MAKE OUR EARNEST PRAYER THAT THOU WILT KEEP THESE UNITED STATES in THY holy protection, that THOU wilt incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government; to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellow citizens of the United States at large, And finally that THOU wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without an humble imitation of Whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation. GRANT OUR SUPPLICATION, WE BESEECH THEE, THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD. AMEN.

Here is the parent text, from Washington's Circular Letter, with text that has been omitted, in the purported "Washington's Prayer", in capital letters:

"I NOW MAKE IT MY EARNEST PRAYER, THAT GOD WOULD HAVE YOU, AND THE STATE OVER WHICH YOU PRESIDE, in HIS holy protection; that HE would incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government; to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow-citizens of the United States at large, AND PARTICULARLY FOR THEIR BRETHREN WHO HAVE SERVED IN THE FIELD; and finally, that HE would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without an humble imitation of whose examples in these things, we can never hope to be a happy nation.

"I HAVE THE HONOR TO BE, WITH MUCH ESTEEM AND RESPECT, SIR, YOUR EXCELLENCY'S MOST OBEDIENT AND MOST HUMBLE SERVANT. -- G. WASHINGTON."

I have traced the "prayer" back as far as a British abolitionist tract, "The Anti-Slavery Reporter", published somewhere in Vols. 3-8, 3rd series that was printed 1853-1859. But I suspect the falsified 'prayer' may be even older than that. The effort to rewrite American history, to 'prove' the United States was founded as a Christian nation is an old enterprise going back almost to the founding of the nation, and recent decades of redoubled efforts, by history falsificationists such as David Barton, have begun to bear fruit:

In 2007 a poll from the First Amendment Center showed that 65% of Americans believe the founders intended the US to be a Christian nation and 55% from that poll thought the US Constitution establishes the US as a Christian nation.

A centerpiece in the effort to reverse the will of the founders of American government, to remake the United States as a sectarian Christian nation, has since 1953 been the National Prayer Breakfast, founded and organized by the cultic evangelical Christian association, known as "The Family" or "The Fellowship," founded in the 1930's by Abraham Vereide and run by a man who has for decades befriended US presidents and who is on video celebrating the leadership lessons of Lenin, Mao, and Hitler: Douglas Coe (see video of NBC exclusive on Doug Coe and The Fellowship, below.)

As Talk To Action co-founder Frederick Clarkson wrote in History is Powerful: Why the Christian Right Distorts History and Why it Matters, published in the Spring 2007 issue of Public Eye, a publication of Political Research Associates,

The notion that America was founded as a Christian nation is a central animating element of the ideology of the Christian Right. It touches every aspect of life and culture in this, one of the most successful and powerful political movements in American history. The idea that America's supposed Christian identity has somehow been wrongly taken, and must somehow be restored, permeates the psychology and vision of the entire movement...

But the Christian nationalist narrative has a fatal flaw: it is based on revisionist history that does not stand up under scrutiny. The bad news is that to true believers, it does not have to stand up to the facts of history to be a powerful and animating part of the once and future Christian nation. Indeed, through a growing cottage industry of Christian revisionist books and lectures now dominating the curricula of home schools and many private Christian academies, Christian nationalism becomes a central feature of the political identity of children growing up in the movement. The contest for control of the narrative of American history is well underway.

[below: US president John Fitzgerald Kennedy at the 1961 National Prayer Breakfast]

[below: George W. Bush at the 2002 National Prayer Breakfast]

[below: Barack Hussein Obama at the 2009 National Prayer Breakfast]




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