Bushís hurricane prayer day stirs controversy - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
September 17, 2005

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Bushís hurricane prayer day stirs controversy

-17/09/05

US President George W. Bush was still under fire this morning for his response to the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Katrina ñ despite a day of remembrance and prayer yesterday, which he said would ìunite the nationî.

One black pastor told Ekklesia: ìHeís using prayer as a sentimental sticking plaster, and those of us who believe in a God of justice find that really offensive.î

Meanwhile the response to the beleaguered Presidentís national call to prayer was described by news agencies as ìtepidî among churches in many areas, and was denounced by humanist groups as unconstitutional.

President Bush used his high profile address at Washington National Cathedral, and later in a live broadcast from New Orleans organised by his media team, to admit directly for the first time that the Hurricane had revealed deep racial and social divisions across America.

ìAmericans of every race and religion were touched by this storm, yet some of the greatest hardship fell upon citizens already facing lives of struggle: the elderly, the vulnerable, and the poor,î he said.

In the church service, broadcast live on many networks, he talked about the damaging ìlegacy of inequalityî, but later declined to reverse massive tax cuts for the rich which, along with war spending, have left the federal administration in a dilemma about how to find the estimated 200 billion US dollars the Katrina recovery programme will cost.

Last night neo-conservative allies, of the President, wary of ëbig governmentí, were swift to condemn what they see as a drift towards too much federal responsibility for the crisis. Instead they called for swingeing spending cuts in other areas.

But former president and millionaire Bill Clinton, in a break from the steadfast bipartisanship among senior politicians, expressed unease at having received four tax breaks while the poor remained vulnerable.

From the other end of the spectrum, black and civil rights groups, including church representatives, expressed concern that Mr Bushís social conscience was a short-term play to electoral considerations, rather than a genuine change of heart.

ìWe need prayer thatís walking and not just talking,î the Rev Enoch Fuzz of the Tennessee interdenominational ministers group declared. "We need a prayer with legs right now."

Meanwhile, the Rev Reginald Jackson, president of the Black Ministers Council of New Jersey, said that the Presidentís response looked to some like it was too little, too late.

ìWhat we have here is a disunifying event. We have groups pulled apart from one another, particularly along racial and social class lines,î commented Wade Clark Roof, a professor of religion and society at the University of California in Santa Barbara.

Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists, said that President Bush's proclamation of a National Day of Prayer violated the constitutional separation of church and state and amounted to a ìcheap political show'î to distract public attention away from government incompetence.

Reports indicate that while many churches, synagogues and mosques across the USA took part in the event, others felt uncomfortable about participating in what looked like ìstate religionî, or pointed out that they had organized their own vigils two weeks or more ago.

In Ohio, part of the Midwest heartland, no-one at all turned up to a prayer meeting at the Statehouse in Columbus, leaving ministers and a few organizers to pray on their own before empty chairs.

Find books now:

Bush's hurricane prayer day stirs controversy

-17/09/05

US President George W. Bush was still under fire this morning for his response to the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Katrina - despite a day of remembrance and prayer yesterday, which he said would 'unite the nation'.

One black pastor told Ekklesia: 'He's using prayer as a sentimental sticking plaster, and those of us who believe in a God of justice find that really offensive.'

Meanwhile the response to the beleaguered President's national call to prayer was described by news agencies as 'tepid' among churches in many areas, and was denounced by humanist groups as unconstitutional.

President Bush used his high profile address at Washington National Cathedral, and later in a live broadcast from New Orleans organised by his media team, to admit directly for the first time that the Hurricane had revealed deep racial and social divisions across America.

'Americans of every race and religion were touched by this storm, yet some of the greatest hardship fell upon citizens already facing lives of struggle: the elderly, the vulnerable, and the poor,' he said.

In the church service, broadcast live on many networks, he talked about the damaging 'legacy of inequality', but later declined to reverse massive tax cuts for the rich which, along with war spending, have left the federal administration in a dilemma about how to find the estimated 200 billion US dollars the Katrina recovery programme will cost.

Last night neo-conservative allies, of the President, wary of ëbig government', were swift to condemn what they see as a drift towards too much federal responsibility for the crisis. Instead they called for swingeing spending cuts in other areas.

But former president and millionaire Bill Clinton, in a break from the steadfast bipartisanship among senior politicians, expressed unease at having received four tax breaks while the poor remained vulnerable.

From the other end of the spectrum, black and civil rights groups, including church representatives, expressed concern that Mr Bush's social conscience was a short-term play to electoral considerations, rather than a genuine change of heart.

'We need prayer that's walking and not just talking,' the Rev Enoch Fuzz of the Tennessee interdenominational ministers group declared. "We need a prayer with legs right now."

Meanwhile, the Rev Reginald Jackson, president of the Black Ministers Council of New Jersey, said that the President's response looked to some like it was too little, too late.

'What we have here is a disunifying event. We have groups pulled apart from one another, particularly along racial and social class lines,' commented Wade Clark Roof, a professor of religion and society at the University of California in Santa Barbara.

Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists, said that President Bush's proclamation of a National Day of Prayer violated the constitutional separation of church and state and amounted to a 'cheap political show'' to distract public attention away from government incompetence.

Reports indicate that while many churches, synagogues and mosques across the USA took part in the event, others felt uncomfortable about participating in what looked like 'state religion', or pointed out that they had organized their own vigils two weeks or more ago.

In Ohio, part of the Midwest heartland, no-one at all turned up to a prayer meeting at the Statehouse in Columbus, leaving ministers and a few organizers to pray on their own before empty chairs.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.