Hijacking the National Day of Prayer
Fighting back against the hijacking of the National Day of Prayer at the Pentagon and other government venues is not anti-religious and not anti-Christian. The NDP Task Force is trying to impose a narrow definition of American religious orthodoxy, something that our Founding Fathers worked hard to insure would not happen in this country.
The National Day of Prayer Task Force is led by Shirley Dobson, wife of Focus on Family founder James Dobson. The organization leads thousands of "official" NDP events each year, many of which include the participation of government officials. The Texas Freedom Network, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Pluralism Project at Harvard all feature information about the exclusivity of these task force events.
There are two separate controversies taking place over the National Day of Prayer (NDP). One is a recent court case in which a federal judge declared the event to be unconstitutional. The other is the push to make the NDP more inclusive and to pry it out of the clutches of the "official task force" which does not represent all Americans. The attempts to make the NDP more inclusive have been ongoing for years, including recent organized efforts by the Interfaith Alliance and Jews on First.
My Zeek article "Our Day, Their Prayers", published yesterday, addresses the second issue - the hijacking of the NDP by the task force headed by Shirley Dobson. Zeek is a publication of the Jewish Daily Forward and in this article I stressed the fact that the NDP Task Force's claims that they are "Judeo-Christian" are deceptive. A primary emphasis of the Lausanne Movement is aggressive proselytizing of Jews, which is facilitated by the Lausanne Consultation of Jewish Evangelization (LCJE).
In that article I also describe the the history of the task force as well as the mission of the Lausanne Movement. A history timeline is on the NDP Task Force website, and also on the site of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a legal organization headed by Jay Sekulow and founded by Pat Robertson to counter the ACLU. Several Lausanne Movement websites credit Vonette Bright, co-founder of Campus Crusades for Christ with her late husband Bill Bright, as heading the Lausanne Movement entity that evolved into the NDP Task Force.
Billy Graham told President Richard Nixon in 1973, that he was initiating the original Lausanne international conference as a counter to the World Council of Churches and "to change the religious picture." Both Nixon and Graham described the World Council of Churches as being too friendly to communists. (A partial transcript of the audio can be found following this article. The audio and longer transcript can be accessed at The Presidential Recordings Program of the Miller Center of Public Affairs, University of Virginia.)
Certainly it is the right of adherents of the Lausanne Movement to practice their faith, which includes belief in proselytizing others, and to hold as many prayer events as they wish, whenever they wish. However, there is nothing anti-religious or anti-Christian about objecting to the NDP Task Force's commandeering of official events at public venues and involving government officials.
Imagine if the Roman Catholic Church, for instance, or maybe the Church of Latter Day Saints, decided to create its own task force and hold thousands of "official" prayer events including government officials, military observance, and distribution of public school educational materials. Imagine if these events were limited to leadership by Catholics or Mormons who were required to sign a statement of belief and could exclude any speaker that did not meet their religious qualifications. Imagine that these were marketed as "official" NDP events and included the participation of the president, senators, governors, and representatives of congress. What if "official" events were exclusively Jewish or Muslim? Would there be an outcry?
This is precisely what is happening if you replace those examples with evangelicals who adhere to the Lausanne Covenant. Since 1983 the Lausanne initiated 501C3 has been involved in official National Day of Prayer events, and formed the current task force to direct events across the nation in 1989.
Now that there is a court case striking down the constitutionality of the National Day of Prayer and, separately, a push for a more inclusive National Day of Prayer, the news is full of complaints from the NDP Task Force that its opponents are anti-religious. The right wing blogosphere is enraged. Yesterday Newsmax posted an article titled "Pentagon Widens Christian Ban: Franklin Graham Says Its Anti-Religion."
"The entire National Day of Prayer task force, including the Rev. Franklin Graham, has been 'disinvited' to the National Day of Prayer observance to be held at the Pentagon, sources tell Newsmax.
Incredible. The NDP Task Force emerged from an entity started by Billy Graham to compete with the World Council of Churches and to aggressively proselytize those of all of other beliefs outside the parameters stated in the Lausanne Covenant. Now that there have been objections to this sectarian belief system hosting an official Pentagon event event (also a violation of Defense Department rules), Franklin Graham declares it "anti-religious." The Lausanne Covenant does not represent religion, quite to the contrary, it is working aggressively to rid the world of all other faith systems beside that stated in the Lausanne Covenant. Depending on one's perspective, could that not be described as anti-religious?
In the same article Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council weighs in,
"This decision is further evidence that the leadership of our nation's military has been impaired by the politically correct culture being advanced by this administration," Perkins said. "Under this Administration's watch we are seeing the First Amendment, designed to protect the religious exercise of Americans, retooled into a sword to sever America's ties with orthodox Christianity.
Are we to assume that Tony Perkins or perhaps the Lausanne Covenant to which all task force members must sign, represents orthodox Christianity or an orthodox American Christianity? Thomas Jefferson must be rolling in his grave.
What about the First Amendment rights of the millions of Americans whose beliefs fall outside the narrow parameters of the Lausanne Covenant? Does Tony Perkins right to proselytize, trump the right of other Americans not to be proselytized at government sponsored events?
This supposedly "orthodox" American Christianity is being marketed by the NDP Task Force along with David Barton's revisionist histories. Barton is the leading practitioner of Christian Nationalist history being promoted in schools and adult training sessions across the country, and is also one of the advisors involved in the controversial changes to the social studies curriculum for Texas public schools. The NDP Task Force's "School Event Guide" for private, public, and charter schools, can be downloaded from their website.
The donations page includes a section for supporting education:
With a gift of $180 you can place "Drive Thru History America: Foundation of Character" in one of our country's public schools. The National Day of Prayer Task Force worked with historian David Barton and renowned curriculum developers to create this resource to align with public school's social studies standards.
The NDP Task Force continues to press their case in major media with little counter information provided about the hijacking of the event by the task force. Few journalists have written about the controversy over the NDP in the past week in terms other than atheist vs. public prayer, or Muslims vs. Graham speaking at the Pentagon.
It is separation of church and state which has allowed the numerous Christian denominations and the post-denominational movement to flourish side by side in this nation, along with Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and non-theists. Separation of church and state protects all denominations and faiths from having to conform to a contrived orthodox American Christianity. It allows Baptist to really be Baptist, Jews to be Jews, Mormons to be Mormons, Lutherans to be Lutherans, Pentecostals to be Pentecostal - all participating as first class citizens of this great nation.
Apparently that is not enough for the NDP Task Force. The roster of the leadership is a list of luminaries in the battle against separation of church and state and against religious pluralism. The list includes self proclaimed "dominionist" C. Peter Wagner, Presiding Apostle of the New Apostolic Reformation, and one of the original executives of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization and chairman of its Strategy Working Group. Wagner has dedicated entire books to the issue of battling the "Queen of Heaven," the territorial demon that he claims blocks both Roman Catholics and Muslims from being evangelized.
The New Apostolic Reformation is an effort to reinvent Protestantism as a unified nondenominational church under the authority of the Charismatic apostles and prophets in Wagner's network. One of their major campaigns is "Reclaiming the Seven Mountains of Culture." (See the five minute video in the middle of the page.)The NDP Task Force list also includes Jack Hayford and Rick Warren, who are both on the advisory board for the 2010 Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization to be held in October in South Africa.
A stated mission of the National Day of Prayer Task Force is to "foster unity in the Christian church" which sounds nice until you realize this means standardizing a one size fits all belief system with the size being determined by the Lausanne Covenant. The task force goals also include "mobilizing the Christian community to intercede for America and its leadership in the seven centers of power: Government, Military, Media, Business, Education, Church and Family." This list is exactly the same as the seven mountains campaign of Wagner's New Apostolic Reformation, except that arts and entertainment are folded into media, and the military is added as the seventh center of power.
Thomas Jefferson stated in his Notes on Virginia, 1784,
But is uniformity of opinion desireable? No more than of face and stature. Introduce the bed of Procrustes then, and as there is danger that the large men may beat the small, make us all of a size, by lopping the former and stretching the latter. Difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office of a Censor morum over each other. Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites.
There is nothing anti-religious or anti-American about challenging the NDP Task Force's efforts to standardize an American orthodoxy. The future of the government mandated National Day of Prayer is in doubt, but meanwhile, let your government leaders know that any official event should be inclusive of all Americans, not led by a task force committed to the mission of proselytizing America.
Following is a partial transcript from the White House Tapes from Febraury 21, 1973. The audio can be accessed or downloaded along with the longer transcript at The Presidential Recordings Program .
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