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.
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