The “War on Christmas” season is over, but the Religious Right’s campaign to portray Christianity under attack in America continues. You might be surprised which organization the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins is slamming as hostile to Christianity — it’s that notoriously radical group, the Daughters of the American Revolution. Perkins’ attack on the DAR makes it clear just how narrowly the Religious Right views the role of religion in our society — and how they twist thoughtful efforts to promote respectful, inclusive religious language into an assault on Christians and Christianity.
In this week’s Washington Update, Perkins promotes a breathless report from Fox News’ Todd Starnes, which recycles complaints about 2011 changes the DAR made to its Ritual and Missal in order to make its prayers more inclusive of non-Christians who might be members of the group or participants at its events. Starnes reported, incorrectly, that the DAR had directed members to refrain from praying in the name of Christ. Here’s Perkins:
For the organization, which was established in 1890, this signals a dramatic change in the strong Judeo-Christian roots of the DAR. After all, this is a service group meant to perpetuate the memory of the American Revolution and the values for which we fought. Like it or not, those values and our nation’s identity were rooted in the Christian tradition. And while society may have changed over the years, the intentions of our founders–to build a godly nation–has not.
Note Perkins’ odd use of “Judeo-Christian” to complain about changes that removed prayers in the name of Jesus Christ (the materials are still full of hymns and prayers to God). The “Judeo” in Perkins’ “Judeo-Christian” is a fig leaf the Religious Right uses to mask the fact that they are promoting the notion of a Christian nation.
The DAR’s President General Merry Ann T. Wright, herself a Christian, addressed false charges that the group’s revisions rendered organizational documents godless months ago in a series of blog posts. Here’s part of what she had to say last April:
The Executive Officers believe that the new Ritual and Missal can be used by members of any faith, substituting words as they wish, changing the prayers to suit the needs of the meeting in which they are being used. At our Executive meetings, knowing that we are all Christian, we pray in the Name of Jesus. When those are present whose faith is unknown, we pray in God’s name. However, we all recognize that when Christians pray in God’s name we are, indeed, praying in Christ’s name because the Christian faith believes in the Trinity of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We also understand that our Jewish members know God as Jehovah or Yahweh, Muslim members use the name Allah for God and there are those whose spirituality may have a still different higher power or none at all.
We have in no way mandated that one must or must not use the name of Jesus Christ in the prayers. In our DAR rituals, prayers are included. Most of the prayers begin with “Our Father” or “Almighty God” and end “in Your Holy Name.” Christ’s prayer, known as The Lord’s Prayer, the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, Easter and Passover prayers and prayers for other religious observances are included.
The Ritual and Missal is a guide and may be adapted to reflect the composition and thoughts of whoever is using it. There is always the option of writing other prayers or not using prayers at all. Our primary concern was to show our faithful love and respect to all who belong to DAR whatever their faith might be. We believe the current Ritual and Missal shows that respect and inclusiveness.
How does Tony Perkins respond to the DAR’s goal of respect and inclusiveness? “This is blatant historical revisionism, and it’s driven by the environment of hostility this administration has created toward every kind of Christian expression.” Sure, Tony.