Pilgrims is the name commonly applied to early settlers of the Plymouth Colony in present-day Massachusetts. Their leadership came from a religious congregation who had fled a volatile political environment in the East Midlands of England for the relative calm of Holland in the Netherlands. Concerned with losing their cultural identity, the group later arranged with English investors to establish a new colony in North America…Their story has become a central theme in United States cultural identity. [wiki]
This country was born because people desired the freedom to worship their God in their own way. To me, that is so American.
To have the freedom to be yourself, to be entitled to respect, to experience tolerance instead of persecution…these are the central themes with which I define my American identity.
What else is American? E pluribus unum. Out of many, one. One cultural identity, comprised of hundreds of influences, origins and traditions. If you take a step back and ponder it, America seems like a miraculous idea; you start to respect the safeguards put in place to protect people. One of the most significant? The separation between church and state. This is where things get complicated, but that’s not a bad thing. Everyone is complicated, why should we expect our nations not to be? Yes, there are religious words on money and everyone knows that there is a Judeo-Christian foundation to a lot of what is considered American…but there is also respect for other ideas. Or at least, there should be. At the very least, there should be the freedom for others to worship their God, in their own way, no matter what you or I think about it. There should be mutual respect. There should be.
A Hindu clergyman made history Thursday by offering the Senate’s morning prayer, but only after police officers removed three shouting protesters from the visitors’ gallery.
Rajan Zed, director of interfaith relations at a Hindu temple in Reno, Nev., gave the brief prayer that opens each day’s Senate session. As he stood at the chamber’s podium in a bright orange and burgundy robe, two women and a man began shouting ”this is an abomination” and other complaints from the gallery.
Police officers quickly arrested them and charged them disrupting Congress, a misdemeanor. The male protester told an AP reporter, ”we are Christians and patriots” before police handcuffed them and led them away. [NYT]
No, you are Christians and fools. Way to make Team Jesus look awful, as you misrepresent everything that the man stood for and preached.
For several days, the Mississippi-based American Family Association has urged its members to object to the prayer because Zed would be ”seeking the invocation of a non-monotheistic god.” [NYT]
Yes, because the prayer he offered was SO offensive to actual Christians, agnostics or those who have been touched by a noodly appendage:
Zed, the first Hindu to offer the Senate prayer, began: ”We meditate on the transcendental glory of the Deity Supreme, who is inside the heart of the Earth, inside the life of the sky and inside the soul of the heaven. May He stimulate and illuminate our minds.”
As the Senate prepared for another day of debate over the Iraq war, Zed closed with, ”Peace, peace, peace be unto all.” [NYT]
Let me tell you something about what that Uncle said– it was far kinder and more welcoming than a lot of what I heard in Catholic school, especially if the Pope was involved. For shame. Perhaps the most offensive aspect of his spiritual offering was its emphasis on peace?
Zed, who was born in India, was invited by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Speaking in the chamber shortly after the prayer, Reid defended the choice and linked it to the war debate.
”If people have any misunderstanding about Indians and Hindus,” Reid said, ”all they have to do is think of Gandhi,” a man ”who gave his life for peace.”
”I think it speaks well of our country that someone representing the faith of about a billion people comes here and can speak in communication with our heavenly Father regarding peace,” said Reid, a Mormon and sharp critic of President Bush’s Iraq policies. [NYT]
As several of you pointed out via email, news tab and flaming arrow, THIS is the money quote:
Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said the protest ”shows the intolerance of many religious right activists. They say they want more religion in the public square, but it’s clear they mean only their religion.” [NYT]
What these Jesus-freaks are forgetting is that Christ was a man of peace. He didnâ€™t surround himself with the pious and faux-righteous; he called those people out, as he deliberately and controversially chose to befriend the lowest of the low, tax collectors, prostitutes and the like. Was there ever a better example of tolerance in the Christian faith?
As I bitterly read the articles about this troubling, hurtful incident, I am reminded of those who persecuted Jesus, for what they perceived as his “blasphemy”. Two thousand years later, some of his so-called followers have become so drunk off of hate and fundamentalism, they cannot see straight, they cannot grasp that if this were two millenia ago, Jesus would be the man in the orange robe and they, they would be the hypocrites who attacked him and then cheered at his suffering.