Over last couple days I’ve been privileged to attend events for National Day of Prayer, organized for many years by Shirley Dobson, and the Israel-Christian solidarity event at the Israel Embassy, for which IRD was a co-host.
Anne Graham Lotz, Billy Graham’s daughter who is herself a formidable speaker, spoke at two of the National Day of Prayer events here in DC. James Dobson also spoke. Franklin Graham, sounding very much like his father, spoke at the Israel Embassy event. The Grahams and the Dobsons have devoted decades to Christian service with profound impact on millions. The Church and the nation are beneficiaries.
At both National Day of Prayer events I attended, there were prayers and pleas for revival and national healing. At the Israel Embassy, Franklin Graham explained he supports Israel because he worships a Jew. Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer spoke on the remarkable, historically unprecedented return of the Jews to their ancient homeland after two millennia.
Praying specifically for America and Israel is not fashionable in some quarters of liberal Christianity. This blogger at RedLetter Christians claims National Day of Prayer exemplifies “religious nationalism” and exalts “American exceptionalism.” He alleges: “The god most at home in National Day of Prayer gatherings is a domesticated tribal deity, the god of American civil religion. This little god is not worthy of our devotion.”
Very likely this blogger, who predictably quotes proudly anti-American neo-Anabaptist Stanley Hauerwas, wouldn’t approve of Christian-Israel solidarity events either. Much of liberal Christianity is deeply discomfited by particularistic, “tribal” loyalties. It prefers adherence to broad, general principles of social justice untethered to particular subsets of human groupings. Although it commonly professes aspirations to build “community,” it is often reluctant to celebrate existing, organic communities.
The Deity of Christians and Jews is not tribal of course and is Lord of all. But He has indeed worked through tribes in special ways, above all the Jews, through whom He revealed His law, and through whom He generated the Savior Jesus Christ. This Deity is particularistic, not abstract. So should we be, showing our Love for Him by loving those communities in which He most immediately places us, starting with family, friends, neighbors and including nation.
God works His will through The Church, through individuals, through nations, through countless other human institutions and gatherings in infinite ways. We can and should prayerfully celebrate those particular communities, knowing His knowledge and Providence extend over all creation, numbering even the hairs on each head, and every sparrow that falls from the sky.