The Separation of Church and State

National Day of Prayer continues to advance Christian Nationalism

  Andrew L. Seidel

The First Amendment is admirably clear: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion . . .” And yet, Congress made a law establishing a national day of prayer.

This wanton abuse of power occurred back in 1952, during a wave of Christian Nationalism that saddled us with other Christian Nationalist scars and artifacts, such as the National Prayer Breakfast (1953), “under God” added to the Pledge of Allegiance (1954), and “In God We Trust” adopted as the national motto (1956).

Rev. Billy Graham behind National Day of Prayer

When U.S. Rep. Percy Priest (yes, that’s his name), a Democrat from Tennessee, introduced the bill that would become 36 U.S.C. § 119, he openly credited the Rev. Billy Graham: “I am sure the people all across the country, of all faiths and all creeds and all religions, were challenged yesterday by the suggestion made on the east steps of the Capitol by Billy Graham that the Congress call on the President for the proclamation of a day of prayer.”

While Priest cloaked his Christian Nationalism in ecumenicalism, Graham did not. His challenge, issued during a weeks-long revival that culminated in the Capitol call for a law establishing a national day of prayer, was laced with Christian Nationalist rhetoric: “our Nation was founded upon God, religion and the church.” Graham was not interested in ecumenical prayer, but Christian prayer: “Christ, through his men, directed the affairs of this Nation for many years . . . We have dropped our pilot, the Lord Jesus Christ…”

Graham “believe[d] that this evangelistic campaign here in the Nation’s Capital was sent by God at this particular time to give one more warning to the American people.”

This is the genesis of the National Day of Prayer, which law decrees the U.S. must recognize on the first Thursday of May. A private organization called the National Day of Prayer Task Force keeps the tradition alive every year – including its Christian Nationalist agenda. This year is no different.

NDP and the Seven Mountains Mandate form of Christian Nationalism

The Task Force’s promotional graphic. with its sword-and-shield imagery, is nothing short of militant (and oddly Roman). But it’s the text of the task force’s 2024 prayer that is explicitly and unabashedly Christian Nationalist. The prayer, which begins with a profession of faith to “Jesus,” incorporates Seven Mountains dominionism, a particularly virulent strain of Christian Nationalism:

“Jesus, we profess our faith in You. Lead us forward to dispel the darkness and bring light throughout the Church, Family, Education, Business, Military, Government, and Arts, Entertainment, and Media.”

That list may seem random to the casual observer, but it reflects the Seven Mountains, or seven spheres of influence, in that eponymous strain of Christian Nationalism. Different prophets of Christian Nationalism have issued different versions of the Seven Mountains Mandate, but the goal is the same: conquest and influence. The graphic here is representative and closely reflects the content of the prayer: Religion/Church, Family, Education, Business, Government (including Military), Arts & Entertainment, and Media.

National Day of Prayer’s militant imagery and rhetoric

Kathy Branzell, president of the NDP Task Force, apparently wrote the prayer. She also authored the book, “Prayer Warrior: The Battle Plan to Victory.” Chapter 1 is titled, “Onward Christian Soldiers” and kicks off with more conquering rhetoric: “How sweet to know that we follow Jesus into battle. He is the leader, our commanding officer if you will, and we march behind the cross of Calvary, perhaps with drops of Christ’s blood staining the path. Set your sights on Him and set your mind to battle as Christ set his mind….”

The graphic for this year’s National Day of Prayer underscores the militant, conquering, crusading message.

From the moment Graham conceived and called for this day up to now, it has been about making America a Christian nation. But what Graham and Branzell and their ilk will never understand is that the moment America becomes a Christian nation, it will cease to be America.

Photo: An graphic representation of the Seven Mountains of influence; source unknown.

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