Saturday, February 03, 2007

Prayer Breakfast

From Joel Rosenberg:

For one brief shining moment yesterday, bitter partisanship was replaced by prayer, and it couldn't have been more refreshing. Lynn and I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the 55th Annual National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton, along with 4,000 business and political leaders, diplomats, military officials and journalists representing all 50 states and 160 different countries.

We met and shook hands with Sen. Barack Obama, perhaps the biggest rock star to move through the room since Bono came as the keynote speaker last year.

The President and First Lady were gracious and humble, breaking bread with Democratic leaders while thanking Americans for being "a nation of prayer" and for praying for our troops overseas and our leaders here at home.

Senators Hillary Clinton and John McCain sat together, swapping stories and jokes and taking a respite from what will no doubt be a long and heated presidential campaign. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Democrat from Missouri as well as a former Methodist minister, was a fabulous emcee -- funny, insightful, collegial and sincerely eager to encourage his fellow Washingtonians to humble themselves before God.

The highlight of the morning, however, was the keynote address by Dr. Francis S. Collins, the director of the Human Genome Project and thus arguably the most important doctor and scientist on the planet today. He and his colleagues have mapped out the 3 billion letters of the human genetic code imprinted into each of our cells. ("Three billion -- that's a very large number," he deadpanned, "even in Washington.") They are figuring out the Creator's "instruction book" for the human body, and thus racing to find cures for cancer, diabetes, and so many other horrible diseases. And for him, it is a journey of faith as well as science.

Dr. Francis explained that he was raised on a small farm in Virginia by a family for whom religion was not that important. He developed a fascination with medicine and science early in his life and along the way, like many of his colleagues, thought of himself as an agnostic, and eventually as an atheist.

But one day, an elderly woman who was a patient of his and dying of cancer, explained to him that she had no fear of dying because she had a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. She explained the good news that God loves us and has a wonderful plan for our lives, and offers us a way to eternal life through Jesus, and then she asked, "Doctor, what do you believe?" Dr. Collins said he fled the room as fast as he could. He was touched by the woman's story, and moved by her faith, but he didn't have a satisfying answer to her question, and he said it was as if all of a sudden "the atheistic ice under my feet was cracking."

Though he was a scientist, he said he had never really considered the evidence for whether Jesus was the Messiah and Savior that He claimed to be. Why not? What was he afraid of?

So he began to study the life of Jesus. He began to read the works of famed atheist-turned-believer C.S. Lewis, the brilliant British professor. He learned that the New Testament teaches that "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen," (Hebrews 11:1) so he began pursuing the evidence wherever it led. And along the way he said that he found Jesus a man unlike any other -- humble, caring, willing to love His enemies, ready to forgive sinners of any race, creed or color.

"The evidence demanded a verdict," Dr. Collins explained, and the verdict, he concluded, was that Jesus really was who He said He was: "the Way, the Truth and the Life" (John 14:6) So one day he bowed his head and prayed for God to forgive him and make him a fully devoted follower of Jesus, and it changed his life.

"But you're a scientist," Dr. Collins said people say to him so often. "Doesn't [all this talk of Jesus] make your head explode? Doesn't this create a huge conflict for you between faith and reason?" His answer, simply, is "no." True, only 40% of scientists believe there is a God, but he said he sees science as a means both of discovery as well as worship. The more he learns of how God has created and wired us, the more he feels he has "caught a glimpse of God's mind."

"There's an unwritten taboo among scientists about talking of one's spiritual leanings," Dr. Collins conceded, but he urged this not to be the case. It was a moving and personal talk from a hero of modern science, and one I hope is reported widely in the coming days in the media. Dr. Collins concluded by asking us to sing a song with him, as he played the guitar. That's not something you see every day at Washington political gatherings. The song was "Praise The Source of Faith and Learning," by Rev. Thomas Troeger. Here's the first stanza:

Praise the source of faith and learning
that has sparked and stoked the mind
With a passion for discerning
how the world has been designed.
Let the sense of wonder flowing
from the wonders we survey
Keep our faith forever growing
and renew our need to pray.

America the Beautiful.

There is no other country on the face of the Earth which affords such sanctuary to the Church. Of course, God doesn't necessarily need our sanctuary, and we ought not be arrogant about it, but the truth is, in countries like Saudi Arabia, China, and the old Soviet Union, Christians were and are horribly persecuted to the point of imprisonment, torture, and death.

Thanks be to God that we are free to choose whom we will worship here in America. Thanks be to God that we can make a choice to follow Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God that we have free and easy access to Bibles, and churches which sit on street corners, instead of darkened rooms with the shades drawn.

Let us all understand the fragility and the exceptionalism of freedom. Let us understand that there are people who want to take that away from us, and that it is possible that they could, if they aquire nuclear weapons.

Let us understand that life would never be the same if we allowed that to happen.

Let us work together to make sure it does not happen.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, at a Democratic National Committee meeting, an Imam, who is a known terror supporter, opened the festivities with a prayer which slyly asked God to take all our rights away from us, and sadly, no Democrat has protested.