What part of 'When you pray, go into your inner room' did you not understand? (from Mt 6:6, NASB) / PsiCop original graphicAs I type this, tomorrow will be the National Day of Prayer, 2017. Around the country, politicians and all sorts of other folks will attend all kind of events, showing each other how much they like to pray. Most all of them will insist they’re doing it out of love for their deity — which, for most participants, is Jesus Christ. The problem with that is … it’s un-Christian of them to be involved in such a thing!

Yes, that’s what I said: Christians participating in the National Day of Prayer is decidedly and undeniably un-Christian.

A lot of folks will be amazed at this. “What are you talking about, you hateful, cynical, godless agnostic heathen? How dare you say that!” That people might find my statement surprising, is the real tragedy here. Any Christian who attends a National Day of Prayer event obviously hasn’t read his/her Bible and doesn’t realize that public piety — as I’ve blogged on numerous occasions — is something Jesus clearly, explicitly, and unambiguously forbid his followers ever to engage in!

Here, in case you missed it, is the most important scriptural passage which explains this:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” …

“Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18)

Jesus didn’t want his followers using their righteousness for self-aggrandizement, and with that as the goal, ordered them never to express their piety in public (whether by praying or making an issue of it in any other way). He was clear about it. There are no caveats, no exceptions, no wiggle-room at all. Just a clear order to “go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret.”

I really can’t understand why Christians are so militant about not obeying this teaching. I’ve discussed it with many of them, and they actually get very agitated when I show them that public piety is un-Christian. I can only assume that’s because, for them, one of the benefits of being a Christian in the first place is to be able to display their Christianity to others and to show they’re part of “the club.” An inability to express their piety publicly would rob them of that precious perk. I guess. I mean, what other explanation can there be for it?

At any rate, no Christian who actually wants to obey Jesus will attend any National Day of Prayer events. He made his wishes known, and they can be found in any Christian Bible. Time for Christians to open it up, read it, and just do as they’re fucking told, for once.

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic, based on Mt 6:6.

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  • Olga

    I understand your Christian angle of looking at it. And I agree about praying. But the second part about giving…If people really care about increasing charity participation, they should do it publicly, not anonymously. Humans are public creatures. They learn by watching and by relating. It’s been proven (just google research), that participation in donations and volunteering increases greatly when donations and good deeds are done publicly, with names attached. People get inspired by real people’s actions. Not by theories. P.S. I am an atheist if it makes any difference.

    • I understand the propensity for charity to follow from charity (i.e. people donate when they see others donate). It can create a cascade effect, e.g. as famously happened with the “Ice Bucket Challenge” a couple years ago that netted many tens of millions in ALS research money that would otherwise never have come in. I don’t deny the power of that effect at all. Nor am I saying it’s the best way to operate. 

      What I am saying is, it’s not what Christianity teaches, at least not explicitly according to the gospels that Christians claim to venerate. If Christians want to deviate from Jesus’ teachings, that’s fine. But they need to ‘fess up to it and face that reality head-on, like mature adults. But they won’t. Rather than just say out loud, “Hey, look, we know our Jesus supposedly told us to do X, but we plan to do Y, and here’s why,” they cook up weird rationales and all sorts of rhetorical dodges in order to claim that, even though they’re disobeying their Jesus, they still revere his teachings. 

  • Jacob Anson

    I’ve written about this numerous times on Contextual Criticism (http://mythandhope.blogspot.com). But after years as a Lutheran pastor and years of intensive biblical and theological study the conclusion I’ve reached is that Christianity as it has been known from the beginning has no core connection with the Jesus character in the New Testament. Hells bells, most of the perpetrators of the Holocaust considered themselves “Christians.” Trump thinks he’s a Christian and he hasn’t a clue what that might mean. The so-called “evangelicals” who are really fundamentalists don’t give a damn about the bible except in so far as they can find passages which seem to bolster whatever hateful conclusions they base their lives on. If the Jesus of Mark and Matthew and Luke were to spring from the pages of the bible, Christians would immediately pronounce him to be an atheist, a whore-monger, a charlatan and call for his head. In Alabama they’d put him in the electric chair. In Washington, D.C., he’d be denounced as a fraud and a danger to the country and he’d probably disappear in the black hole that is Trump’s White House.

    • Re: “… the conclusion I’ve reached is that Christianity as it has been known from the beginning has no core connection with the Jesus character in the New Testament.” 

      I agree with you, Pastor, and thank you for saying so. I noticed this long ago (in fact, back when I was still a young fundagelical myself), and have even cataloged a number of scriptural passages that Christians have, historical, brazenly disobeyed. You’ll get no argument from me about this! 🙂 

      Re: “The so-called ‘evangelicals’ who are really fundamentalists don’t give a damn about the bible except in so far as they can find passages which seem to bolster whatever hateful conclusions they base their lives on.” 

      Yes, cherry-picking is a favorite pastime for that crowd! 

      Re: “If the Jesus of Mark and Matthew and Luke were to spring from the pages of the bible, Christians would immediately pronounce him to be an atheist, a whore-monger, a charlatan and call for his head.” 

      Hmm, yes, you might be right about that. In other words, they’d be a lot like the Pharisees whom (if the gospels are to be believed) tried to trick and trap him. Interestingly, the Barna Group — an evangelical outfit — arrived at a similar conclusion, a few years ago

      Yet, the fact that they use their own Bibles as weapons in an effort to bludgeon everyone else into getting their way — rather than open the blasted things, read their contents for once, and just do what they’re freaking told within it — shows they don’t actually revere them the way they say they do. What they’re doing, instead of viewing their Bibles as writings which present ideas they should live by, is treating them as idols to be propped up and venerated, untouched. 

      In other words, they engage in a practice I long ago called “Bible worship.” It’s a form of idolatry, of course, which the Bibles they claim to revere explicitly forbids … but they do it nonetheless, and they claim to do it in their Jesus’ name. 

      Which leads me to wonder when other Christians — who can see through them and know the game they’re playing — will finally have enough of this crowd making a mockery of their faith and, finally, figure out that it’s time to put an end to it, once and for all? Assuming the fundagelicals are a minority of Christians — a contention I often hear — it shouldn’t be difficult for the reasonable, clear-thinking majority of Christians to shut them down or marginalize them for good. But to date, it hasn’t happened, and no such effort is on the horizon, either. If anything, fundagelicals often get the explicit support of the more-reasonable majority of Christians: Otherwise, it’d be impossible for them to be in the majority in both houses of Congress as well as the majority of most statehouses in the country). 

      I dunno, maybe there’s some plan in place to rein them in and demolish their movement, that this cold-hearted, cynical, godless agnostic heathen is simply unaware of … but I really don’t think so.