Sandhya Bathija's latest blog post at the AU's Wall of Separation presents an interesting question: did Rev. Jonathan Falwell intentionally tell a lie in order to get a expressly Christian prayer before Congress?
The long & short of it is this: Falwell was invited to give the opening prayer at a Congressional session last week. Fine. No problem. The chaplain's office reviews all prayers beforehand to ensure it is non-partisan & non-sectarian. Fine again. Not a problem. Makes sense to avoid politics in an exercise such as this. It also is in everyone's best interest that the prayers be non-sectarian to prevent bickering over theology when the purpose of the session is to bicker over running the government.
So when Falwell presented his written version (as is on the Congressional House chaplain's website) it ended with in your precious name we pray. Amen.
But what did Falwell do? He made the prayer sectarian & instead ended the prayer In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
There are several possibilities here. First, Falwell could have done this intentionally in order give an expressly Christian prayer before Congress. That would mean he lied by presenting a written version he never intended to deliver. Second, he fully intended to pray the prayer he had submitted before hand but changed his mind at the last minute. That means instead of having integrity & telling the chaplain's office he couldn't abide by the rules, he opened the door to allow all other faith groups to give their sectarian prayers before Congress. Thirdly, it is possible Falwell simply ended his prayer out of force of habit. That means it was an unintentional slip.
I would hope it is the latter. The other two options would call into question Falwell's character & I don't want to believe that someone I actually admire would stoop that low. (Maybe admire is not the right word. Perhaps have high hopes for is a better phrase. While I'm sure he is a great guy, I am gravely concerned about his Revisionist version of history & how he wants to apply that to the political sphere.)
That only leaves the last option. It was simply a mistake. The problem is Falwell stated that he spent a great deal of time praying about the words I would use in my congressional prayer because, above all else, I wanted Christ to be magnified in that place. (Liberty University news article.) So if Falwell spent so much time going over what he was going to say, he sure wasn't very careful about getting it right. And since he did say that his aim was to make it expressly Christian, I am worried that this may have been intentional. Note that the Liberty News site does have the ending phrase in Jesus name & that means somebody at Liberty knew what was said, though it certainly didn't match the prior submission to the Chaplain's office.
And then I read Falwell's op-ed piece at WorldNetDaily & realize the guy did this intentionally. He lied. He flat out lied. He intentionally submitted something he never intended on following. Not only does that violate one of the Big Ten, it is not in keeping the ethic of Christ. News flash: the end does not justify the means.
As I read more of the op-ed piece, I realize that the propaganda of the Revisionists is still going strong. Falwell gives some quotes that were taken out of historical context & even goes so far as to give the tired, old & debunked myth that there was a church in the halls of Congress. Sorry, but that means either Falwell is intentionally lying or is showing his lack of historical research --- any history major worth his salt knows that is simply not true. I remember going over that myth while in college --- not all that complicated. (See Chris Rodd's excellent piece at Talk to Action that debunks the myth.)
The reality is that if we allow Christ's name to be praised in the legislative halls, one day it may be Allah's name. Or Buddha. Or even the Big Oak Tree Out Back that gets revered.
Perhaps we should ask if lying is something God condones.