Virtual Voices

A prayer-free 9/11

Religion

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's decision to bar prayer from New York's upcoming 9/11 commemoration is to be expected from someone in the habit of making decisions with a moistened finger in the air. It's not that the strong current of American opinion runs against religion, it's just that the angry gusts do. Let a preacher get up to offer a prayer at Ground Zero, and in no time you'll have a phalanx of delicate atheists converging to shout about how their tender feelings are offended by the mention of Jesus.

On their heels you'll get demands that a rabbi join the preacher, and an imam, and a Buddhist, and a Hindi, and a Wiccan, and most likely a secular humanist hoping to offer good thoughts to the universe about mankind. Then will come calls for the preacher to clarify his position on same-sex marriage, and abortion, and Astroturf. These will most likely not be satisfactory, and so this scrutiny would be followed by demands that a preacher with more inclusive views about Christianity be chosen-which always means someone whose views exclude not only most of Christendom but a fair portion of the Nicene Creed to boot.

Even if you can find a happy-faced-enough preacher, and with him a chuckling rabbi, a cheerful imam, a Buddhist who looks more Buddha than aging California hippie, and so on, you're still going to make the angry atheists unhappy, because anyone who mentions God in a public forum is by definition a bloody-minded theocrat bent on establishing a police state.

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So who can blame Bloomberg for throwing in the towel? We'll just come together and remember the dead, but without reference to any kind of life after death, which makes the entire exercise seem pretty darn silly. But it's been 10 years and so you have to do something, even if that something excludes the very thing most of us did when we saw the planes hit the towers, which is collapse to our knees and pray that God saw it too, and that He would do something about it.

But even denuding the service won't help poor Bloomberg, because now people are in an uproar about it. Even Jim Wallis is holding a press conference to simultaneously urge the inclusion of religion and denounce other preachers for holding press conferences where they, well, urge the inclusion of religion. It's so hard to be a progressive Christian sometimes.

And it's even harder to be a politician in a country where-for just a while longer, at least-you can't just ignore religion. Poor Mayor Bloomberg.

So what is a Christian to do? The answer is the one thing that cannot be legislated or regulated or shamed away, which is to go directly to the Father and pray for a country that mentions God on its currency but can't see its way clear to mentioning Him in its memorial services.

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