Yesterday was the National Day of Prayer, a day in which I do not participate. I pray often, but I do it in private – as Jesus instructed. The only public prayer that I participate in is prayer in the house of worship which I attend – and that is more “corporate prayer” in an appropriate setting, rather than the “public prayer” that is encouraged during the National Day of Prayer.
The National Day of Prayer, while it has good intentions, is one of those things that I find highly disingenuous in the United States of America. We hear a great deal of “God Bless America” prayers during this day, and while prayer is meant to change the heart of the one praying, you never see any change in federal, state or local governments after a full day dedicated to prayer.
Why would our leaders pray for God’s blessing on our country, and then continue to work towards stigmatizing and criminalizing poverty, as well as cutting the already meager benefits that people in extreme poverty receive from the government? “Whatever you did unto the least of these, you did unto me.”
Why should God bless America when our government passes laws that benefit the richest in our society – the 1% of our population that possesses most of the wealth of our nation – while further burdening those who are struggling? “Sell all of your possessions and give the money to the poor…. it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.”
Why should God bless America when we have the greatest concentration of wealth in the world, yet children and adults starve in the streets? “This was the sin of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned. They did not help the poor and needy.”
Why should God bless America when thousands die by gun violence every year, while we pass laws that allow gun owners to carry them openly in the street? “Put away your sword! Don’t you know that he who lives by the sword will die by it?”
Why should God bless America when we send our military to other countries to kill “enemies”, and kill hundreds of thousands of innocents in the process? “It has been said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But, I say, love your enemies, bless those that curse you, and pray for those that wrong you.”
Why should God bless America when we actively seek wars with nations that are willing to speak with us peacefully? “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
Why should God bless America when we revile and turn away the poorest and neediest from other countries, and shout curses at children that come seeking our aid? “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born.”
Why should God bless America when we owned people as property only 150 years ago, denied those same people the right to vote until only 50 years ago, and now imprison them at a rate higher than we enslaved them? “Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper rooms by injustice, who makes his neighbor serve him for nothing and does not give him his wages.”
Why should God bless America when we hold foreigners and citizens alike in secret prisons, when we torture them, and when a high percentage of Christians support these acts? “To crush underfoot all the prisoners of the earth, to deny a man justice in the presence of the Most High, to subvert a man in his lawsuit, the Lord does not approve.”
Why should God bless America? Because we are “the land of the free and the home of the brave?” Our bravery only applies to force of arms, when our bravery should be in standing in the face of oppressors and standing with the oppressed. Our freedom applies only to those who can afford their freedom, while millions of others live in the slavery of poverty, of joblessness, of hunger, of homelessness.
Why should God bless America? Because we have the words “under God” in our pledge, and “in God we trust” on our money? We spit on the commands of Jesus, we throw away the words of the prophets against injustice, we kill and defame the voices that speak for justice and equality.
Why should God bless America? Because we have a church on every street corner? Many of these buildings are monuments to our own vanity, stain-glassed idols that we worship in place of a God that stands with the poor in the shadows of our steeples.
Why should God bless America? We’re blessed that he hasn’t utterly destroyed us yet.