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secular logic and the handwriting on the wall

On April 15, 2010, United States District Court Judge Barbara Crabb, for the Western District of Wisconsin, struck down the National Day of Prayer statute, 36 U.S.C. § 119, as violating the Establishment Clause.

Judge Crabb ruled that the statute serves no secular purpose, but rather calls the nation to engage in a religious exercise – prayer.

This decision makes perfect sense from a secular viewpoint. It is logical in a pluralistic society which must accommodate atheists as well as all stripes of religious beliefs.

But if U.S. leaders cannot call upon people to pray or acknowledge any kind of higher power, then this is problematic if in fact there is a Power who can (or does) bring blessing or disaster. So in a sense atheism has been "established" as our guiding governmental philosophy.

In other words, we cannot say for certain that a religious exercise "serves no secular purpose", when in fact it may be supportive of the national welfare. To so rule against this is to take a religious viewpoint, namely, that religion serves no purpose.

Is this what the framers of the Constitution had in mind? What was their intent in non-establishment of religion? Was it to prohibit such calls to prayer and dependence upon God? (Or was it rather not to establish one state church?) Shirley Dobson, chair for the National Day of Prayer task force, writes:

In her ruling, Judge Crabb has completely ignored the truth of our history. In 1789, only a few days after the passage of the First Amendment she cites, Congress asked President Washington to declare a national day of thanksgiving and prayer, and he issued the proclamation shortly after on October 3, 1789. More than 600 public proclamations have been recorded since that time, and 33 of our 44 presidents have made such declarations. In 1952, a bill unanimously passed by Congress was signed into law by President Truman setting aside an annual National Day of Prayer. And, in 1988, legislative steps were taken by Congress and President Reagan to establish the first Thursday of May as the specific day for the observance each year. [Email message, April 20, 2010]

It would appear that the original framers of our Constitution, and the national leaders for 200 years afterward, have not seen a conflict with the establishment clause and a call for national prayer.

We've come a long way.

Is it time for Christians to panic? No. Will Christians pray anyway? Yes. We don't pray because it is legislated from national leaders, but because it is legislated from above, by God. Is this the end of our country? Probably not, but who knows...

The point is, this court decision is a symbolic action of a deeper mindset of many of the ruling elite of our country. It is the belief is that there is no law higher than ourselves, and that there is no dependence upon anyone but ourselves, at least from the national perspective. Lex Rex (the law is king) has become Rex Lex (the king is law, or "he who rules makes the rules.")

When theism is rejected from the public square, then humanism is king by default.

The problem we face, however, is that God not only deals with individuals, but he also deals with nations corporately. The attitudes and actions of national leaders, however logical by secular standards, do come under God's scrutiny and judgment.

Hear the prophet Daniel as he relates to a Babylonian king how the Persians will soon topple the great Babylonian empire...

Then Daniel answered and said before the king, "Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another. Nevertheless, I will read the writing to the king and make known to him the interpretation. O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty. And because of the greatness that he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whom he would, he killed, and whom he would, he kept alive; whom he would, he raised up, and whom he would, he humbled.

"But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him. He was driven from among the children of mankind, and his mind was made like that of a beast, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. He was fed grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will.

"And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.

"Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. And this is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN. This is the interpretation of the matter: MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; TEKEL, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians."

(Daniel 5:17-28 ESV)

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