On Thursday, TheBlaze reported about an intense controversy surrounding The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), a non-profit women’s organization devoted to promoting patriotism. According to a subset of DAR devotees, references and mentions of Jesus Christ have been removed from the group’s official book. Additionally, these individuals also claim that select poems and prayers have been axed, with members allegedly also being told to refrain from praying in Christ’s name. But as the debate heats up, DAR is pushing back, claiming that these charges are unfounded.
In a message posted on the group’s official Facebook page, the women’s group decried the supposedly “false and incorrect information” that is being circulated about its 2011 Ritual and Missal book. The post also noted that the organization is “disappointed” to learn about the spreading of these charges. Accompanying the message is a link to a press release that attempts to debunk critics’ claims.
To begin, the release addresses the allegation that the group is “taking out references to God,” noting that such a charge is untrue. The statement goes on to tout the more than 300 mentions that the Ritual and Missal book makes to a higher power.
“In fact, as currently written, the 113 page Ritual and Missal contains over 300 references to “Almighty God,” “Great God our King” (America hymn), “Our Heavenly Father,” “Heavenly Father,” “God of Hosts,” “God,” “Lord,” “Eternal God,” “Your Holy Spirit,” “Lord your God,” “Gracious Lord,” “Almighty and Everlasting God,” “Gracious Father,” and similar variations,” the press release notes.
DAR also addressed the claim that chaplains and other members of the group have been instructed not to pray in Jesus’ name, calling this, too, “an absolute falsehood.” Rather than disallowing invocations using Christ’s name, the group explained that chaplains and officers are invited to “create their own prayers into into which they may insert the name of Jesus Christ as deemed appropriate for the occasion and the audience.”
In April 2012, the organization had already addressed this subject, DAR noted. President General Merry Ann T. Wright wrote a blog post last year in an effort to clear up some of the controversy surrounding organizational policies on prayer. Rather than mandating that Christ be excluded, her announcement took a more inclusive approach, allowing for members of non-Christian faiths to adapt the book as they see fit. Her explanation read, in part:
The Executive Officers believe that the new Ritual and Missal can be used by members of any faith, substituting words as they wish, changing the prayers to suit the needs of the meeting in which they are being used. At our Executive meetings, knowing that we are all Christian, we pray in the Name of Jesus. When those are present whose faith is unknown, we pray in God’s name. However, we all recognize that when Christians pray in God’s name we are, indeed, praying in Christ’s name because the Christian faith believes in the Trinity of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We also understand that our Jewish members know God as Jehovah or Yahweh, Muslim members use the name Allah for God and there are those whose spirituality may have a still different higher power or none at all.
We have in no way mandated that one must or must not use the name of Jesus Christ in the prayers. In our DAR rituals, prayers are included. Most of the prayers begin with “Our Father” or “Almighty God” and end “in Your Holy Name.” Christ’s prayer, known as The Lord’s Prayer, the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, Easter and Passover prayers and prayers for other religious observances are included.
The press release concludes by addressing one final alleged falsehood — that Christ’s name has been entirely removed from the Ritual and Missal. DAR provides links to the current book and to past versions to show that this isn’t the case. The 2011 book — the one that is at the center of the current debate — mentions “Jesus” one time (in a section describing the Easter celebration). The word “Christ” is also mentioned numerous times in the Easter and Christmas sections.
Here are two prayers from the 2011 Easter portion of the document that do, indeed, speak about the Christian savior:
O God, who by the joy of Easter has brought new hope to a disordered world; teach us Your children to understand the purpose of the life that You have given us. Help us to work for all that encourages peace and goodwill among men and grant that the spirit of the risen Christ may dwell in our hearts so that we may glorify Your Holy Name. Amen.
O God, our Creator, we come before You in the consciousness of our mortality, recognizing the shortness of our life-span and our insignificance in Your boundless universe. Humbly we give thanks to You that You have set Your love upon us through Christ, our Savior, so that our sentence of death is changed into an offer of life and we have the hope of resurrection and of glory. Let this Holy Season be for us a time ofself-realization, deep humility and thankfulness for the sacrifice of Your blessed Son, by whom our salvation for everlasting life was made. Amen.
When compared to the 2008 book, which appears to be the last version before the 2011 changes were made, there are, indeed, some notable differences. The name “Jesus,” for instance, is mentioned 14 times in the 2008 edition, with most of the inclusions standing as a part of the conclusion to various prayers; “Christ,” too, has more mentions than in the 2011 book. While terms like, “in Christ Jesus’ name we pray” are included in the 2008 version, the 2011 Ritual and Missal is more generic (i.e. “in your holy name” and “amen”).
Regardless of some of the more all-encompassing changes, DAR is correct in stating that the document does not remove Christ entirely. And the above prayers do corroborate that notion, as they recognize God’s “blessed Son.” In the press release, the group explained that its amendments have been done in a way that allows the organization to honor the Founding Fathers’ “desire for freedom of religion.”
“In promoting the importance of freedom of religion upon which our country was founded, our Founding Fathers intended for all religions and not one specific faith to be allowed and respected,” the release reads. “It was in the spirit of our Founding Fathers desire for freedom of religion that the most recent changes to the Ritual and Missal were made.”