Much of official Washington, D.C., including the president, will attend the National Cathedral’s series of interfaith events on September 11 called “A Call to Compassion.” Unlike the New York 9-11 commemoration, which is excluding all clergy and formal prayers, the D.C. events at least acknowledge America’s spirituality.
The National Cathedral is facing either bad luck or divine displeasure; recent earthquake damage and a collapsing crane have forced the cathedral to move its 9-11 events to a nearby synagogue and the Kennedy Center, with a spokesman explaining the cathedral is going “on the road.” More seriously, the National Cathedral’s seeming view of America’s religious demographic is skewed from reality. Secular elites, and their Religious Left fellow travellers, love to imagine that America is multi-culturally, evenly divided among Christians, Muslims, Buddhist and Hindus, with some allowance for Jews. Most surveys show about 75 to 80 percent of Americans identifying as Christian, about 2 percent as Jewish, under 1 percent as Muslim, and fewer as Hindu and Buddhist. (Some Muslim groups claim that Muslims don’t answer polls and that their actual numbers are closer to 2 percent.) About one third of Americans identify as evangelical Christian.
Apparently the National Cathedral will not include any evangelicals or non-Episcopalian Protestants in its “A Call to Compassion” 9-11 remembrance. It reportedly will include the president of the Islamic Society of North America and a Muslim musician, along with a Buddhist nun, a Hindu priest, a rabbi, and a Roman Catholic bishop. The National Cathedral is an Episcopal church that styles itself as “spiritual home for the nation.” It is often the stage for great civic pageants, such as Ronald Reagan’s funeral, and the post 9-11 prayer service featuring evangelist Billy Graham in one of his last major national appearances. Both were attended by all of America’s living presidents, except Nancy Reagan represented her ailing husband at the 9-11 service. The post-9-11 event included a wide range of Christian clergy as well as a rabbi and imam. Graham, then already an octogenarian with over 50 years of public life that included ties to every president dating to Truman, masterfully preached a moving sermon that was inclusive yet still deeply Christian. As America’s most prominent clergyman, he showed that even dreaded evangelicals can behave at great national events.
The National Cathedral seemingly believes that such an important public event can only be entrusted primarily to clerics of its own dwindling Episcopal denomination. Over the last 40 years, America’s population increased by 50 percent, while the Episcopal Church’s membership declined by 50 percent. But the shriveling communion still has many beautiful buildings and enough well-heeled, WASPs with trust funds who can maintain them. The nearly all Anglo white denomination is among the least diverse in the nation. But according to the National Cathedral, “A Call to Compassion” will emphasize “diversity.” By “diversity,” they seem primarily to mean the Islamic Society of North America, whose own radical ties and controversies call into question its claims to represent most American Muslims.
A cathedral spokesman boasted that “diversity was first and foremost” in planning the 9-11 remembrance. “The goal was to have interfaith representation,” he explained. “The Cathedral itself is an Episcopal church and it stands to reason that our own clergy serve as Christian representatives.” A representative of the Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest Protestant body with 16 million members, or 8 times the Episcopal Church’s membership, understandably disagreed. “It’s not surprising,” said Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, in an interview with Fox News. “There is a tragic intolerance toward Protestants and particularly toward evangelicals and I wish the president would refuse to speak unless it was more representative.” From the Religious Left perspective, “diversity” only includes participants in the multiculturalist consensus of the Left, which emphatically excludes Southern Baptists and most evangelicals. The “Call to Compassion” predictably will include a lecture from multiculturalist icon Karen Armstrong, author if such books as “The Battle for God” and “A History of God,” and whose primary worry is typically Christian “fundamentalism.”
Far more interesting than Armstrong’s likely hectoring lecture or the service of interfaith prayers will be the evening “Concert of Hope,” where President Obama will speak, and where “R&B legend” Patti LaBelle and “country superstar” Alan Jackson will perform. LaBelle and Jackson probably represent and appeal to more Americans than any of the other unrecognizable names who will pray and preach. The other exception will be the Catholic bishop, who, unlike the Episcopal bishop is slated to speak, actually represents millions of American Christians.
“It is our hope that the Cathedral’s commemoration, especially with President Obama’s participation in it, will move us further down the path toward healing,” explained the cathedral’s dean about “A Call to Compassion.” But how much “healing” can there be at a jamboree almost exclusively for left-wing multiculturalists?
National Cathedral’s 9-11 service of 10 years ago, featuring such robust hymns as “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” represented and inspired a great nation in a time of crisis. Seemingly the cathedral’s “A Time for Compassion” aims to do neither. Fortunately, America’s innate faith and fortitude do not depend on the National Cathedral’s narrow, faux “diversity.”
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