Nothing Fails Like Government Prayer

Ask and ye shall not receive

Some conservative Christians like to point out that although there was no prayer during the Constitutional Convention of 1787, which resulted in the successful longest-lived constitutional democracy in history, there was indeed formal Christian prayer spoken 13 years earlier during the Continental Congress in 1774. Many believers point to that earlier prayer as evidence that the United States was founded as a Christian nation.

But remember that this was before the First Amendment, before the Revolutionary War, and before our country, as we know it, even existed. There was no prohibition of laws “respecting the establishment of religion.” There were no U.S. laws at all. The Continental Congress was not the formation of the United States of America: it was a botched first attempt to form a confederation which turned out to be too loose and too weak to be called a nation.

The results of that 1774 Congress, blessed by “our Heavenly Father, high and mighty King of kings,” were not only wholly inadequate, they were a dismal failure. The prayer, delivered by the Episcopal Reverend Jacob Duché, asked the “Lord of Lords” to “defeat the malicious designs of our cruel adversaries . . . [and] constrain them to drop the weapons of war from their unnerved hands in the day of battle!”

In other words, “God, don’t let there be a war.” The King of Kings was supposed to supernaturally stop the King’s Army from even firing a shot.

It didn’t work out that way.

As many as 50,000 fighters, from both sides, were killed in battle, wounded, or died in prison. About 1 in 20 military-age males lost their lives. (Today, that would represent millions of lives.) Why didn’t the “high and mighty Lord” cause them to drop their weapons?

The history of governmental prayer offers us an often too bloody object lesson of the truth: “Ask and ye shall not receive.”

[NOTE: FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel reminds me that "True to the flexibility of religious thinking and principles, the Rev. Duché later abandoned his fellow colonials in their fight for independence and defected to the British. He was convicted of treason against Pennsylvania and decamped to the warm bosom of his King.  Not one of the brighter stars in our founding history."]

Comments

#120 - Mr. Scott Stahlecker said on July 26, 2013
It wouldn’t surprise me if most conservative Christians still look back on that prayer as contributing to the victory over the British. They would likely view it as a delayed answer to prayer, albeit a prayer answered by God differently than they had requested.

The prayer itself is not unlike those uttered on ancient battlefields by warring tribes thousands of years ago, who believed their people and way of life to be superior to other tribes. (They just needed a god to help them prove this.) These days tribalism has given way to nationalism, but the kinds of prayers still offered by the leaders of nations that wage war today are no different than long ago. The “our God is bigger than your God” mantra is still being sung, and still being used to justify the horrors of war.
#122 - Jim said on July 30, 2013
Great spot on your radio program (re the continental congress prayer business) Dan and Annie. I am so proud to be a member of FFRF by the way. You gave more information than this blog on the radio show and I am going to make very close notes of it all. We (Inland Northwest Freethought Society) just did a one day booth (first time at this one) at a local fair. We do 2 Interstate fairs (5 days and 10 days) a year as well placing our atheist booth among many theist booths with an amazing reception. Julia Sweeney is scheduled to attend our Spokane fair if the stars align or however that works. Anyway, at this most recent fair we had a "drive by" commentor who said...after reading our Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli sign...that "the Continental Congress started their session with a prayer. That is all I have to say!" and he literally ran off. If that happens again, and it will, I will be armed with your wonderful info, including that the invocating preacher defected to England! And that this business happened before the Constitution or First Amendment. I live, I learn and I love it. If I win the lottery you folks are getting a BIG check!!! And....Andrew Seidel and compatriots...such good work. Andrew, your Utube videos are wonderful! Jim Hudlow .....
ps...our group, with permission of San Diego CoR, STOLE their banner design for our own. It has a curtain being lifted by a pile of books to expose a natural scene in the natural beyond. It says, Atheism: A Relationship with Reality. It is stunning, really. The guy who thought of the pile of books was Bruce Harris who has done other work for you. You can see the design at the San Diego CoR site....or email me at [email protected] and I will email it to you. I think it has potential to be a national symbol. But then I am just a farm boy (well...62) living in the foothills of Mt. Spokane. Keep up the GREAT work you all. Jim
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