The nation’s leaders might want to consider seriously the nation’s faith life in light of the natural disasters, drought, record heat, economic failings and violence, such as the Colorado theater rampage, that have dominated the news cycle in recent days, not dismiss it flippantly.
That’s according to Publisher Dr. Anthony Harper of InterMountain Christian News.
He was the reporter at the White House daily news briefing Wednesday when Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack responded to a question with the reference to daily prayers for rain for the nation.
In fact, Harper was the one asking the question, recorded by the White House website this way: “I’m Dr. Harper, the InterMountain Christian News. And Gov. Perry last year had this national day of prayer and fasting, and he was encouraging people to pray and fast in these national disasters. Do you have any figures on that?”
Vilsack, accompanying White House press secretary Jay Carney to the briefing, responded, “Well, I can only speak for myself. I get on my knees every day and I’m saying an extra prayer now. If I had a rain prayer or rain dance I could do, I would do it. But honestly, right now the focus needs to be on working with Congress – they have the capacity to help these producers by creating greater flexibility to programs, providing us some direction in terms of whatever disaster assistance can be provided. Those are the kinds of things we’re focused on.”
Harper told WND that the question was just a beginning, but he wasn’t allowed to follow up.
He said he was starting with a foundational question, but wanted to progress to: “Secretary Vilsack, Gov. Perry of Texas and others involved with the National Day of Prayer and Fasting held last year in Texas referenced the scripture 2 Chronicles 7:14 as foundational to understanding why our nation is experiencing many disasters and that our nation is under God’s judgment for violating His Law. Would you agree with Gov. Perry and others that our nation needs to have a national dedicated time of ongoing repentance and prayer and would you say that our rights of life and liberty come from Jesus or men?”
Harper said he believes Americans would like to have an answer to that question.
He cited the biblical reference that says, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
Harper said some reports distorted the context of Vilsack’s comments to place him with Barack Obama, instead of being in the press room with reporters.
“This gave the impression that Vilsack’s thoughts were prepared or even a natural statement in a briefing to the president,” he said.
And, he said, Vilsack didn’t “offer” this comment freely, but only mentioned prayer at all because of prompting by the contextualized question (about Gov. Perry and prayer and fasting).
Further, while Vilsack may say he’s on his knees every day, he undermined his claim by flippantly adding, “If I had a rain prayer or a rain dance I could do, I would do it.”
“This mocks prayer in equating it to a superstitious practice or ‘good luck’ gimmick. It is important to note that only the prayers of those of the righteous [James 5:16], that honor the Son [Jesus] (John 5:23) and have repented of their sins [Luke 18:13] are heard by God,” he said.
Barack Obama did lead in a moment of silence, during which there undoubtedly were many prayers offered, on Friday over the shooting rampage in Colorado where 12 were killed and another 59 were wounded.
Harper said it was a miracle of Jesus that he was allowed to ask a question, as he travels to Washington as part of his work only rarely.
But even such an innocuous answer was too much for some people.
According to a report in Politico, officials with the Council for Secular Humanism blasted Vilsack for saying he was praying for rain.
“That’s not just government entangling itself with religion, that’s government publicly practicing it, and wallowing in superstition,” said spokesman Tom Flynn.
Politico also reported, “Oddly, just hours after Vilsack’s prayer, Washington, D.C., and New York City were inundated by severe thunderstorms and heavy rain.