There was recently a controversy where the Pentagon disinvited Franklin Graham from speaking at a National Day of Prayer event because of his previous negative comments about Islam. The rational given was that the U.S. Armed Forces respect all of their members of all faiths. This was very commendable.
Of course, this fails to take into account the 23.4% of members of the military who profess no religious affiliation.* How does a National Day of Prayer event benefit the almost one quarter of the military that aren’t religious?
This leads to the larger question of why the President of The United States calls for a National Day of Prayer at all. Let’s leave aside the whole issue of separation of church and state issue and look at is from a practical point of view. Assuming that the 23.4% figure mentioned above applies to the entire U.S. population that means almost a quarter of Americans will be left out of a National Day of Prayer.
I think a much better use of the time and effort that normally goes into National Day of Prayer events would be served by something all Americans can feel comfortable being involved in. I suggest that from this day forward, the President of The United States call for a National Day of Giving. Not Thanksgiving, but real giving. I’m not talking about the Christmas type of gift giving either; I’m talking about giving that will have a real and positive effect for as many people as possible.
My thought is the National Day of Giving should be a day when people are encouraged to give of themselves and their time. One of the best things they can give of themselves is blood, something which can literally save lives. For those who cannot give blood or who choose not to, then how about giving an hour of their time to a local charity? Let’s take pride in doing something for those who are truly in need. Let’s take all that time that would have been squandered on prayers for intangible generalities and use it for real giving that can have real, positive effects, and maybe even save lives.
*The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, Military Religious Demographics, http://www.maaf.info/demographics.html