When the president decided to nix the National Day of Prayer (except for his signature on a proclamation), I thought of the old cliché about the guy who is approached by a charitable organization and makes short work of them by saying "I gave at the office." What President Obama tossed out for our consumption through his press secretary is that he prays "privately." Indeed. But a president is keenly aware of the importance of symbolism in his office, and it is clear enough to anyone who wants to see it that the man is distancing himself from religion.
I wonder if the highly educated leader of our not-so-free nation is aware of what an Enlightenment statement he has made in calling prayer a "private" matter. We all tend to think of our ideas as original and sui generis, when in fact every idea traces its roots to something before us. I wonder if President Obama realizes that it would never have occurred to him before Emmanuel Kant to banish religion to the irrelevant backwater of "private" observance. In all the centuries of history except for the last two, political affairs would have been inextricably woven with religious ceremony.
Then came Kant (1724-1804), dividing the world into "facts" and "feelings," into things we could all have an intelligent discussion about because they are certain (like orchids and refrigerators) and things less certain (like love and God). Francis Schaeffer described this bifurcation in terms of an "upper story" and "lower story."
The inevitable outcome of this dichotomy is a temporary countenancing and patronizing of those who still take love and God seriously, followed by a social marginalizing, followed (in its extreme manifestation) by a banishing and persecuting. Beware of those who sing songs to private religion.
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