Rep. Janice Hahn walked out of the National Day of Prayer service on Capitol Hill after calling remarks by Rev. James Dobson "inappropriate." Hahn, who represents the San Pedro area of greater Los Angeles, described Dobson's comments as "a hateful political rant."
Dobson, whose wife Shirley is Chair of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, called President Barack Obama, who was not at the gathering, "the Abortion President," and took him to task over contested portions of the Affordable Care Act that require coverage for contraception and abortion. Dobson read a letter he said had gone out to"over 250,000 people" in which he challenged the President to "come and get me."
Rep. Hahn had been the co-host of the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C. in February. She observed that the breakfast "provides a rare and special opportunity for leaders to come together, put aside our labels and divisions to unite in prayer and fellowship."
Dobson, however, did not seek that common ground, choosing instead to level a partisan attack against the President. It is not really surprising, given that he is the founder of Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian organization with deep involvement in right-wing political action. Dobson clearly believes that the "prayer" in National Day of Prayer means Christian prayer, and that "Christian" means conservative evangelical Christian.
The only possible justification for a National Day of Prayer is to bring together the diverse religious communities of the nation, ranging far beyond the narrow form of Christianity promoted by Dobson and his associates. It would be to discover the common ground we share and our common commitment to the good of the community.
That's a difficult task, and seems clearly to be beyond Dobson's capabilities. If we are not able to embrace the full diversity of religious expression in our community, then it might be wisest to scrap a "National Day of Prayer." It just divides a community which desperately needs to come together.