May 5, 2011
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. --- II Chronicles 7:14
The date was January 21, 1985. The great cloud of witnesses represented the highest levels of the American government and the foreign diplomatic corps. They were crowded into the massive Capitol Rotunda of the United States.
It was a rare event, the inauguration of a president on a Monday. Thats because January 20th had fallen on a Sunday, the Christian Sabbath. It was also unprecedented as the first inauguration held indoors. The outdoor ceremony had been cancelled because of dangerous arctic winds that hit Washington.
Sen. Joe Biden was doubtless there, but happily no one let him near a microphone. John Chancellor, that always grave, chin-stroking journalist, was there. He served as anchor of NBC News. He provided the hushed and solemn words of the voiceover for the millions of Americans listening at home and around the world. President Reagan has his hand on the open Bible, Chancellor intoned: It is open to a favorite passageEleven Chronicles 7:14.
Few of us imagined that II Chronicles would be so read by such an august figure on national television. It was hilariously funny to those who happened to know that there are only two books of the Bible titled Chronicles. Do you think maybe Mr. Chancellor thought it was inflation? He never caught himselfand no one on his network seemed to notice the gaffe.
How would they? As scholars Stanley Rothman and S. Robert Lichter would soon demonstrate in a classic study, our media elites almost never attend worship services of any kind. What John Chancellors famous faux pas shows us is they apparently dont read the Bible, either. Thats doubtless why CNNs Bill Schneider famously said: The media doesnt get religion.
Its not just the media. Many of our secular elites dont get religion, either. Take the famous incident of Gov. Howard Dean. This gentleman, a highly educated medical doctor, was asked to cite his favorite book of the New Testament. The book of Job, he happily responded. Duh! Was that right church, wrong pew? How about out the door?
Gov. Dean flamed out in the Iowa caucuses in 2004, but was given the chairmanship of the Democratic Party as a consolation prize. He then proceeded in 2005 to knock the Republicans as pretty much a white, Christian party. And doubtless readers of the book of Job.
Howard Dean was immediately taken to task by then-Sen. Barack Obama:
"As somebody who is a Christian myself, I don't like it when people use religion to divide, whether that is Republican or Democrat," Obama said. "I think in terms of his role as party spokesman, [Dean] probably needs to be a little more careful and I suspect that is a message he is going to be getting from a number of us," Obama explained.
Howard Dean never got the point, but when Barack Obama won the presidency, Dr. Dean did get the boot.
With that seemingly greater sensitivity to religious sensibilities in America, Barack Obama managed to persuade millions of American Christians that he was one of them, that he shared their core beliefs.
Therefore, it had to come as a shock to these supportive Christians when President Obama went to Al Azhar Mosque in Cairo, Egypt to give his major address to what is termed the Muslim world. That was in June, 2009. Al Azhar is a hotbed of Muslim Brotherhood activity. That should have been troubling enough.
What he said there was more troubling still. He called the Koran holy. If it is, then it supersedes the Holy Bible. Thats what the Muslim Brotherhood believes. He said the Mideast is the region where Islam was first revealed. Thats a most revealing
statement. He didnt say where Islam began. Or call the Mideast the region from which Islam spread throughout the world. He said: was revealed. That means it was revealed by God. If that is so, then Jesus is not the Alpha and Omega, after all. How can He be?
We dont elect our presidents to be theologians-in-chief. Americanseven in the early days when more than 98% of us were Protestant Christianscould never have agreed on one established church. Thats why we have been blessed with the worlds greatest example of religious freedom. But when a president makes a point of speaking to a worldwide religious community, he ought to be most careful with his words. He ought not to deny the tenets of the religion he is so determined to tell us he practices.
We have much to ponder in our hearts on this National Day of Prayer. We can thank God for the fact that Osama bin Laden has been brought to justice, or, rather, that justice was brought to him. We can surely pray for a restoration of peace and prosperity to our land. If we turn from our wicked ways, we may yet see His face.