Should that even have a question mark?

Questions….questions…..

There are several here, in this USN&WR religion blog
concerning President Obama and National Prayer Day. I wasn’t going to
cover this after scanning a few critical articles and commentaries and
reading White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs’ responses. But this
is just….curious.

Dan Gilgoff starts off saying Obama declining to participate in
public observations of National Prayer Day is no big deal, at least
historically speaking. Yes, his decision has “set many tongues wagging”
(the ‘chattering classes’ always are). And Gilgoff runs down a few
samples.

But then he says this:

Why would a White House that’s been so careful to avoid
upsetting religious Americans—issuing controversial executive orders on
hot-button social issues on Friday evenings to avoid maximum scrutiny,
for instance—invite so much negative press by forgoing a prayer day
event?

Hold on. That’s some nice spin, that the White House
has released statements on ”controversial executive orders on
hot-button social issues on Friday evenings to”….what?…..avoid
upsetting religious Americans? By the maximum scrutiny those orders
would have otherwise received had it not been the start of the weekend?

Good that USN&WR noted those controversial releases coming out
as they have on Friday evenings. But as every administration knows,
that’s when they can more easily slip it under radar hoping no one is
paying attention. And seriously, the Obama administration doesn’t get
“maximum scrutiny” from major media on anything controversial. He gets
a lot of help from them on spin, though.

And if he were really taking care not to upset religious Americans,
why would he tell the world (in a speech in Turkey) that America is not
a Christian nation (or a religious nation of any sort, though the world
knew we have no ‘established State religion), but a “nation of
citizens”….without following up that the nation’s founding principles
are grounded in fundamental moral beliefs about human rights, and the
majority of those citizens are religiously informed voices still today
(which is why we are a greatly generous nation in global humanitarian
aid, for instance, but that’s quite a run-on sentence and I digress…).

The White House has declined to explain why it’s
skipping the event, though it stressed that there was no annual prayer
day event at the White House prior to Bush.

So, there’s an explanation “it” gave right there, no? And Robert
Gibbs did say the president prays every day, and prefers to do so
privately. But Gilgoff is turning a corner here and starting to wonder,
himself.

What makes the decision more mysterious is that, to
date, Obama has gone out of his way to showcase the role of prayer in
his life and administration.

Then he ventures an answer that may excuse Obama from the official
ceremony (because it would draw high-profile evangelicals to the White
House) . But…

Then again, Obama has courted high-profile religious conservatives with more zeal than any other Democrat I can remember.

So…….where’s this all going? To another explanation:

Another explanation for skipping an event: The Obama
team might not have wanted to needle its generally secular base after
catching so much flak over the Rick Warren inauguration appearance,
expanding White House faith-based initiatives, and inviting
conservative evangelical Tony Dungy onto its faith advisory council.

Wait….no….Tony Dungy is now controversial? Obama took flak over the beloved Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts’ Tony Dungy, because he’s a devout Christian?!

All of which is to say that I’m somewhat mystified as to why Obama skipped a formal prayer day event.

Me too, Dan. It would be a good occasion to remind citizens that
change has come to America, and it doesn’t include discrimination
against Christians.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....