The National Day of Prayer (NDP) was nearly a week ago, and Christian nationalists are still whining about the proclamation President Joe Biden issued. Its problem? It failed to contain the word “God.”
Despite not name-checking the Almighty, Biden's proclamation, which, by law, the president is required to issue, is still plenty religious. You can read it for yourself here. It lauds prayer as a daily practice for many and notes, “Today, we remember and celebrate the role that the healing balm of prayer can play in our lives and in the life of our Nation.”
That wasn’t good enough for Christian nationalists, who began carping almost immediately. Here’s an example from Catholic League President and perpetually outraged foghorn Bill Donohue.
There’s a certain irony in seeing this come from the same people who spent four years bending over backward to excuse the biblical illiteracy of Donald Trump. Remember the time Trump said his favorite Bible verse is one that doesn’t exist? Or his famous “Two Corinthians” gaffe? You might also recall how Christian nationalists responded to that: Crickets.
The fact is, the Trump-worshipping strain of right-wing Christianity was going to find some reason to moan about Biden’s proclamation no matter what it said. Still smarting from the fact that Biden beat their new messiah in November, they’re hard at work at a tiresome game: using religion to divide Americans and further the culture wars.
So, let’s call their bluff with a modest proposal: How about we ditch the National Day of Prayer entirely?
Biden’s NDP proclamation was less offensive and less exclusionary than those Trump issued – Trump typically implied ALL Americans pray and his proclamations tended to be studded with offensive “Christian nation” mythology. But even though Biden was careful not to paint all Americans with a prayerful, Christian nationalist brush, those who don’t pray or don’t have any particular religious tradition are bound to feel excluded when the president of our secular nation issues calls to prayer.
Those of us who advocate for separation of church and state won’t miss the NDP because we argue that government, as a secular entity, has no business meddling in the religious lives of its citizens, including offering advice on when, where, how or if they pray. At the same time, Christian nationalists won’t have to worry about their tender sensibilities being offended because the president fails to employ the religious terminology they prefer. Both sides will be happy.
I call that a win-win.