This morning, I read an article written by Reverend Michael Bresciani titled “National Day of Prayer out says federal judge — America’s identity eroding.” It’s generally more of the ignorance commonly displayed by the religious right when claiming the United States is a “Christian Nation,” though Bresciani does claim that label is inaccurate. He does, however, display much ignorance over the issue in general.
Let me show what he got right, first, though. Regarding the ruling declaring the national day of prayer unconstitutional, Rev. Bresciani says…
With mid-term elections looming only months from now any decision to drop the day would surely add to the growing dissatisfaction with the Obama administration. The move to restrain himself is seen as politically motivated by most and, it is not consistent with his previous stand on Christianity. [sic]
I couldn’t agree more… except for the last bit because I’m not sure what Bresciani is referring to when he talks about Obama’s “previous stand on Christianity.” However, any decision that continues the day of prayer will most definitely be political. The outrage from Christians over their false sense of “persecution” would probably be overwhelming. Obama knows that, and even though the federal judge who ruled the day of prayer unconstitutional did so lucidly, logically, and correctly, the sense of entitlement that many Christians feel because of their religion will most likely compel him to still issue the “Day of Prayer” proclamation. The point that Bresciani makes about it being political is true. It certainly isn’t Constitutional.
Here’s another point of agreement I have with Bresciani… taken slightly out of context because the surrounding text contains points of disagreement.
[…] President Obama’s administration started off in the same vein with his now famous proclamation that America is “not a Christian nation” Of course we are not a “Christian” nation because there is no such thing.
Christianity is something each individual must decide upon for themselves. […]
In fact whenever any religion becomes the “national religion” it ceases to be spiritual and can only become tyrannical. If by not ascribing to the national religion you become a law breaker what would most people do?
Aside from leaving out the key “at least not just” phrase of the “no longer a Christian nation” quote, Bresciani seems to agree that we are not a Christian nation… because Christianity is something personal. I’m not sure he’ll get all that much agreement from many on the religious right, but I’m with him when he says that we’re not a Christian nation… and that Christianity (and religion in general) is an individual decision. His point about a national religion ceasing to be spiritual is another point of agreement, though I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. That it can only become tyrannical is arguable. I don’t think I would consider the Church of England to be tyrannical.
Sadly, that’s about the extent of our agreement. The rest of his article is packed solidly full of straw men, hyperbole, bible quotes, and outright falsehoods. I’m going to hit a few key points, but read his entire article to get the full gist of how “off the mark” Bresciani’s thinking is.
Our national identity and our Christian roots are being ignored, denied or challenged on every level.
Really? Our national identity? Our Christian roots? I have a sneaking suspicion that, to Bresciani, those two are one and the same. If he is absurdly assigning Christianity to our nation’s identity, which seems to be the case, wouldn’t it be right to challenge that nation, given the purely secular nation of our Constitution… that Constitution that prohibits any laws respecting an establishment of religion? As for Christian roots, that’s just more misguided propaganda by the religious right.
More accurately we are a nation that was founded on Christian principles and up to now has had more praying Christians than any other nation in history.
No. No we are not a nation founded on Christian principles. We are a nation founded on secular principles as specifically spelled out in the Constitution. I can’t refute that we have more “praying Christians” than any other nation but praying or not, it doesn’t mean that Christians should be afforded any special rights or privileges. That would most certainly go against the founding principles of our country!
Bresciani goes off the deep end the more he writes.
We know that it’s universally acceptable to refer to some places as Muslim nations but somehow we are ashamed to be called a Christian nation. We also know that if Muslims were denied their right to pray five times per day facing Mecca in Saudi Arabia they would riot, war and die fighting against that ruling.
Interestingly enough. those “Muslim nations” have governments that are very, very specifically Islam-based. They don’t have anything resembling our secular government or our secular founding documents, so it’s quite appropriate to call them a “Muslim nation.” However, given our government and our founding documents, it’s wholly inappropriate and inaccurate to call the United States a “Christian nation.”
The second point speculating about Muslims being denied their right to pray is, I’m assuming, a reference to the “National Day of Prayer” ruling, but it’s an entirely inaccurate comparison. Nobody is this country is denied their right to pray… any time, any place. The NDOP ruling doesn’t take away that right. It doesn’t affect it in the slightest. What it does, is prevent the US government from promoting a call to religious action… something the judge very clearly spelled out in the ruling. Bresciani obviously misses the point.
Going further off the deep end…
If viewed in its converse form, we could say that when secular forces of atheism, agnosticism and anti-Christian bigotry go to the law against prayer in our national life, it is they who have decided to get the fed to make laws regarding the establishment or more accurately, the dis-establishment of religion. This may be the very argument used to challenge the ruling.
Again… completely wrong on multiple counts. The challenges to nationally-sponsored prayer or religious practice are not an attempt to make laws, they are attempts to enforce already existing laws. They are attempts to enforce the basic tenants of our Constitution. None of the laws try to “dis-establish” religion. They keep religion from intruding in government matters… just as the Constitution dictates. Despite what Bresciani seems to think, preventing someone from breaking a law is not the same thing as creating a law.
While the ACLU and others spend big bucks to fight crosses at memorials, nativity scenes, prayer in the congress or any public place, prayer in the military and classroom mentions of God why haven’t we equated that with a huge move to violate our right to religion and a willingness to engage the powers that be to make laws that adversely affect the establishment of religion?
Wow. That entire paragraph is a monstrosity of logical and factual failure. Bresciani not only misses the point, but he misses it to such a large degree that he seems to be arguing against a straw man of monumental proportions.
The ACLU does not fight nativity scenes. They fight governmental displays of nativity scenes (which amounts to illegally promoting a specific religion… again with that pesky Constitution!). Nativity scenes are not banned in non-government public places, as is evidenced by their widespread use by churches, private organizations, and homeowners all throughout the holiday season. The ACLU rightly fights against government-sponsored prayer, but not in “any public place.” They would vehemently fight for your right to pray wherever you want to pray… as long your prayer is not being sponsored or promoted by the government.
Nothing the ACLU does violates a right to religion. The converse is true. They protect people from having religion forced on them by the government and, once again, they are backed up by our Constitution. Bresciani is portraying Christians as being stripped of their privileges and entitlements… as poor, sad, abused victims of persecution… because they are not being allowed to force the government to give them special privileges or special treatment.
This is not a matter of atheists (or any other non-Christian demographic) forcing their beliefs down the throats of Christians. The notion is absurd. The ACLU and other supporting groups are watchdog groups who prevent Christians from doing what they falsely accuse others of doing.
While some atheists will loudly proclaim their beliefs and vociferously decry any sort of religious belief as harmful and ignorant, it is well within their rights to do so. It is also well within someone’s rights to decry atheism… to mercilessly criticize those who do not belief in a personal God who answers prayers. Freedom of speech is a precious right in this country and I (and the ACLU) fully support it. Promote your religious beliefs as loudly as you dare.
They line gets drawn, however, when the government is used to promote your religious beliefs. That’s such a huge key point and is so often missed (or blatantly ignored) by the Christian right when they’re spouting off about attacks on their faith or unfair treatment or persecution. They complain when they can’t use government property to display their religious icons. They complain when they can’t have government-funded public schools promote prayer. They complain when they can’t have the government create a special day calling for religious action. They complain when they can’t make government-funded schools teach a biblical creation stories. They complain when they aren’t allowed to display their bible verses in government courtrooms.
But do they complain that they can’t put nativity scenes in the church’s front yard? Do they complain that personal prayer is banned in a national park? Do they complain that they can’t teach their own children their religious beliefs? Do they complain that they aren’t allowed to meet with like-minded people to worship?
No. No they don’t. And the reason they don’t is that they are allowed to do all these things. They have an unprecedented level of freedom to practice their religion as they choose, when they choose, and where they choose.
The only two caveats are that they can’t infringe on the rights of others and they can’t be funded or promoted or organized by the government. Shouldn’t that be enough? Shouldn’t that freedom be enough?
Evidently, many Christians don’t seem to think so. They want the government to support them… and only them… and to relegate the rest of the citizenry to a lesser standing in society. When they demand the government sponsor a national day of prayer, when they expect the government to display their religious icons, when they expect the government to encourage everyone to participate in their religion… what they are doing is calling for a theocracy.
If the Christian right got their way, our government would be as outwardly religious as the governments in some Middle Eastern countries. Freedom of religion, in their minds, seems to mean freedom to practice the Christian religion… and if you happen to have other beliefs, you should just shut up and keep them to yourself.
Perhaps they don’t want Christianity to become the governmentally-declared religion of our country (because as Bresciani says, it would make it political instead of spiritual), but I have no doubt that many of them would have Christianity as our “official” religion… complete with special privileges and entitlements (much like they have now, in some cases) so that it would be the official state religion in every way except for a legal proclamation. They won’t be happy until we are a Christian nation… and people like Bresciani are pushing for it more every day.
If they could only get rid of that pesky Constitution.