Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Maybe a Hindu prayer will actually help the Senate to do some good

On July 12, a Hindu clergyman offered the opening prayer for the U.S. Senate. He was interrupted by protesters who had to be removed by security. Once they were gone, the prayer continued.

It appears that the American Family Association had a campaign to stop a Hindu prayer from happening, because it would contribute to the United States turning away from its Judeo-Christian values.

The first question that comes to my mind is why groups like the AFA are so invested in the whole America is a Christian nation thing? Actually, I have a number of ideas--trying to prove America is a Christian nation means that as a Christian you would be a part of the powerful majority and power equals money and influence, also stirring up intolerance of different faiths is a great way to make money and again, generate power, such prejudice has been a part of this nation from its inception, finally such views operate from the perspective that only Christianity, or at least a mono-theistic religion, can possess real morality--the truth is people of all religions and no religion can be moral, good Americans.

Another question this incident raises for me is why did this take so long? America is a nation of many faiths and our government is supposed to represent and serve people who are from all of them. Why is it that just now a Hindu clergyman is offering a prayer when Christian clergy have been doing it for so long. In more recent years, Muslim and Jewish clergy have offered similar prayers. One of the great strengths of our country is supposed to be a respect for all religious minorities and that all are free here. If our government is supposed to protect our pluralistic religious culture, why isn't their more diversity in those who offer prayers before government?

The final question I have is should anyone of any faith be offering prayers before the Senate? There is supposed to be a separation of church and state--no matter how much conservative Christian groups wish to deny it. Although these prayers are largely symbolic and do not represent a strict government endorsement of a particular religion, symbols matter. It seems to me that if these prayers are going to happen, then every reasonable effort should be made to include every faith in our nation rather than a few. Should Scientologists be allowed to lead prayers? What about voodoo priests? What about African traditional religion? What about Buddhist meditation? If everybody doesn't get an equal chance, then doesn't this mean government is privileging the few over the many?

As a Christian, I believe individuals can be Christians but nations cannot. At most, they can have a majority of Christians living in them, but nations cannot make faith confessions--not with any real integrity. Also as a Christian, I do not need my government to hold prayers from my tradition. I only need the government to allow me to worship as I feel led by God.

Grace and Peace,


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