You are Christians and Fools.

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. WTF is wrong with you so-called patriots.jpg

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 didn’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.

531 thoughts on “You are Christians and Fools.

  1. My experiences have been just the opposite of Jessus follower. I was born in Trinidad into a Christian family. I saw firsthand the intolerance and bigotry towards other Indian origin people who were not Christian and even towards other Christians who were not Presbyterian. My first experience with anti-Semitisim, more spicifically Jew hatred was spewed not just by the minister but his congregation, and none of them had ever inter-acted with a Jew. They also hated and scorned their Hindu neighbors.

    Ironicaly, it was when I attended a Jessuit high school on the island of Jamaica that my eyes were opened. The Jessuit priests asked me probing questions that caused me to to some research. The Jessuits would say to me “question everything”.

    I went to the Jamaica public library every Saturday. They had an impressive section of books on Indian history as well as Hinduisim donated by a Punjabi doctor by the name of Varma whom knew personaly.

    I then realized that they (Jessuit priests) were introducing me to my Hindu heritage. My grandparents betrayed their ancestors by allowing missionaries to convert them. I corrected this by studying, reading and attending Hindu worsip with a few friends at the university nearby and stopped going to church.

    When I returned to Trinidad I demanded that my father legaly change my first name to reflect my heritage and I named myself. I then found a spiritual guru who had a Pundit perform Namaskar Sanskar and formally become a Hindu.

    Except for one cousin, my relatives do not speak to me. Now everybody knows my life story.

  2. SM Intern:

    Your comments are off-topic, intolerant and anti-secular; thus, they are clear violations of our comment policy. Consider this your first warning. You don’t get to judge if she meets your “standards for Christianity”, that would be another violation.

    If you read my post you’ll see that I was asking the Bible to set up standards for Christianity. The blog post was a blatant rip on Christians and you’re trying to get off on calling me anti-secular?!??! Why don’t you first apologize for calling Christians fools?

  3. I agree that agreeing to your fundamental beliefs takes some comprehension which is exactly why the Dalits (those ignorant villagers that you speak of) processed the fact that they were being treated as sub-human for centuries by really nuanced people like yourself.

    They are not treated that much better when they start going to church. Upper caste Indian christians don’t want to sit beside them. Do the research. Social class does not change when you convert.

    On the other hand, the bhakti traditions of India have for centuries spoken out against the evils of the caste system and welcomed people of all backgrounds into their fold. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu of West Bengali was one of the main bhakti prophets to do so.

    SM Intern was correct in keeping us ON TOPIC.

    Let’s get back to talking about American constitutional rights, which, as a citizen of America and NOT India, I am primarily concerned with.

  4. No caste Hindu:

    Upper caste Indian christians don’t want to sit beside them. Do the research. Social class does not change when you convert.

    I did the research – I sat next to them myself!

  5. Rahul …ironically I do not even consider myself religious. And I have studied in schools of most of the major religions. I went to a Christian preschool which my mother pulled me out of when I started asking questions in a scared tone like “Does jesus’s blood run through my veins?”. Then I went to a private grade school where we basically worshipped the God of patriotism. Then catholic high school,which I actually liked.. the nuns and fathers got the distinction between divine qualities and religion and were actually both kind and smart. I have also studied various philosophers and philosophical sects… so I wouldnt even call myself a practicing Hindu…actually maybe I would because I try to practice acceptance more than anything. And I like to celebrate. I like jesus too. The Buddha is my buddy and I admire the Dalai Lama. But I have never met more narrow minded dangerous simple minded people than those who call themselves “devout Christians”.

  6. If you read my post you’ll see that I was asking the Bible to set up standards for Christianity. The blog post was a blatant rip on Christians and you’re trying to get off on calling me anti-secular?!??! Why don’t you first apologize for calling Christians fools?

    Your comments are not as innocent as you are suddenly pretending. You know exactly what I meant re: her priest and his words; I’m sure he, like super Christian-you, is slightly familiar with the bible. If you dislike what he preached, that’s not our problem, NOR IS IT GERMANE.

    Spewing anti-Hindu comments IS anti-secular. There is nothing to apologize for and if you dislike that, seek other virtual distraction.

    The bloggers here on this private site, have the right to blog about whatever they choose, from whatever angle. They invested years of time and energy in it, it’s the one privilege they have. If you don’t like this post, you have the right to go elsewhere. This blog doesn’t exist for your approval, nor do we have to continue to allow your inflammatory comments. You seem potentially reasonable, it would be a shame if you couldn’t calm down and were then banned. I don’t want to ban you, but we try and moderate aggressively, lest this space resemble where you think everyone here is going, since they don’t accept your truth.

  7. I dont think a discussion of the core beliefs of different religions is out of place here to some degree. The reason Jesus freaks are what they are in my opinion have a lot to do with how they became that way to begin with…. they were told to accept jesus as lord and to fear and disdain those who think/worship differently.

    And of course that is/should be deemed unconstitutional.

  8. I dont think a discussion of the core beliefs of different religions is out of place here to some degree.

    True. But Graham Staines? That shameless, logic-free threadjacking will not be tolerated and yes, will be deleted from here on out.

  9. I have to say I’m feeling a little left out in all of this. Nobody passionately, lyncherifically, head-on-a-staketastically hates atheists anymore. Except for Walter. Nihilists! Fuck me. I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, dude, at least it’s an ethos.

    Alright gotta go now. Just got a call from meine dizpatcher. He says zere is problem mit deine kaable.

  10. You know, this really captures the feel of this thread, and the Mutiny, of late.

    I would have thought this

  11. I think “Jesus follower” has valid points. It was the same with Prema earlier. It is better to know diverse view points to get the truth. “Jesus follower” is clearly in line with those three protestors. The threat to ban him without giving him a fair chance smacks of “censorship”.

    Disclaimer: Ofcourse, this is your blog and you have the ultimate rights.. :-)

  12. I think “Jesus follower” has valid points. It was the same with Prema earlier. It is better to know diverse view points to get the truth. “Jesus follower” is clearly in line with those three protestors. The threat to ban him without giving him a fair chance smacks of “censorship”.

    Telling American citizens who pay taxes to this government that they should consider the way non-Christians are treated in India (a totally different country to which they are not responsible or paying taxes to)before they make any comments about the country that they are citizens in and the government they are paying taxes to, is LUDICROUS. So no, I don’t see any valid points in his/her statements.

  13. Telling American citizens who pay taxes to this government that they should consider the way non-Christians are treated in India

    Correction;

    should be

    “Telling American citizens who pay taxes to this government that they should consider the way non-Christians are treating Christians in India “

  14. Tax paying American citizen:

    I just said “Jesus follower” has valid points. Did I say EVERYTHING he said was valid?.

    He was quoting from the “Bible” to say what the protestors did was right and he has a point. If people believe in this religious mumbo-jumbo they do get offended and let others know that they are offended. I don’t think there is anything wrong in expressing their feeling of offence through non-violent methods. They are not PHYSICALLY attacking or injuring the priest.

    I’m Ok with attacking others belief systems / religions / ideas etc. and I fully endorse the rights of others to attack my beliefs / ideas / thoughts.

  15. He was quoting from the “Bible” to say what the protestors did was right and he has a point. If people believe in this religious mumbo-jumbo they do get offended and let others know that they are offended. I don’t think there is anything wrong in expressing their feeling of offence through non-violent methods. They are not PHYSICALLY attacking or injuring the priest. I’m Ok with attacking others belief systems / religions / ideas etc. and I fully endorse the rights of others to attack my beliefs / ideas / thoughts.

    Time, place and circumstance. The Senate was not the appropriate time, place and circumstance for expressing offense at a 20 second LEGAL prayer.

    Rather, they should have met with the man after, in the parking lot, to discuss their ideas in a humble, christian way. Or shoot him an email or invite him to church or something.

    Not every event is an open invitation for non violent protest.

  16. Time, place and circumstance. The Senate was not the appropriate time, place and circumstance for expressing offense at a 20 second LEGAL prayer. Rather, they should have met with the man after, in the parking lot, to discuss their ideas in a humble, christian way. Or shoot him an email or invite him to church or something. Not every event is an open invitation for non violent protest

    That is apparently your idea of protest and not theirs and I am not against either. There is a rule that people who disturb senate proceedings will be arrested(??) and I think that has been followed.

    As a tax paying non citizen (who is angry at being ripped off for Social security and Medicare taxes :-) ) I’d ideally go with Jefferson’s quote

    “Our rulers can have authority over such natural rights only as we have submitted to them. The rights of conscious we never submitted, we could never submit. We are answerable for them to our God. The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

    But I won’t mind if people indulge in protests based on their “religious beliefs of One God / many gods / no god”. It adds some fun.. :-)

  17. Ponniyin Selvan, what bothers me is not the protest itself, but the reason behind the protest, which is to claim exclusive rights to America only for Christians. And to the extent that Indians are conflated with Hindus, there is a personal element to it which I am sure factors in somewhere in my aggravation. Although brave souls like this one (link posted on Ultrabrown, I think by Kush Tandon) are fighting that fight. In any case, I guess the protest is good because it illuminates this not uncommon view among many Americans, and the hypocrisy involved in their claim to free exercise of religion in the public sphere.

    I do agree with the part of Jefferson’s quote about people’s right to their beliefs, and I am fine with people believing that I am destined for an extreme Madras scenario in my afterlife with a muddy Cooum-like river all around it, intolerable heat, high humidity, and constant boiling oil, as if appalams are to be fried. Although, I must admit I have a problem when they ring my doorbell at 9 am on a Sunday, all chirpy and brimming with zeal. I am no expert at convincing other people to my point of view, but surely they must realize that people woken up halfway through a disturbed sleep and nursing a hangover after a night of drunken carousing are not going to be at their most receptive?

  18. Rahul,

    ROFL.. That dude KG Paul on “youtube” looks like one of my friends. It is very funny. I like the Christian missionaries. I have seen that on my trips to India now, the mornings start with Christian missionaries in many cable TV channels (typically white westerners, whose preachings are dubbed into Tamil). It is funny to hear the dubbing and watch them speak. I switch to those channels when I get tired of watching the same film song again and again..

    I think If hell is like “Cooum river”, i’ll be happy. I grew up on the banks of Cooum. And it is no big deal.

  19. As a white American Hindu, it saddens me to see this http://youtube.com/watch?v=ZhNEYcrz-ZE

    It doesn’t bother me that Indians or Indian-Americans are Christians, but that they understand so little, or rather nothing, about the various philosophies, sects, etc, that go under the banner Hinduism.

    The statement about Hindus worshipping 33 million gods or whatever, and that the Hindu man praying in the Senate was violating one of the ten commandments that states “thou shalt have no other gods before ME”.

    The Supreme Deity (or however he phrased it) spoken of in that prayer was indicating the one transcendent entity without material form – that same “ONE GOD” supposedly worshipped by Christians.

    It is very sad to see Indian people speaking ignorantly like some ordinary ol white or black Southern Baptist.

    I would suggest more Indians do research on their ancestors’ culture before they degrade it by talking about things they know nothing of. I’m not suggesting they convert to Hinduism like our Trini friend above did. That is not neccessary, unless you want to of course. However, it would do you well to educate yourselves a bit on the theories, philosophies and cultures of India before you speak about them. Otherwise a non-Indian Hindu like myself is going to make you look like a huge fool in case we ever debate in public.

  20. As a white American Hindu, it saddens me to see this http://youtube.com/watch?v=ZhNEYcrz-ZE

    It gets better. Hinduism: High Gas Prices. I guess OPEC, geopolitics, geology, technology, hedge markets, hostile oil, dwindling reserves, supply and demand all are bogus.

    All said, my home boy from Hyderabad does have a serious fetish for Hindu actress, Ashwaryia Rai. He lives in India but somehow all his youtube releases are released for US audience. All hail Amrika, and Paul bhaiya. Repeat with me, everyone.

  21. It doesn’t bother me that Indians or Indian-Americans are Christians,

    That’s nice of you. ;)

    but that they understand so little, or rather nothing, about the various philosophies, sects, etc, that go under the banner Hinduism…Otherwise a non-Indian Hindu like myself is going to make you look like a huge fool in case we ever debate in public.

    Whoooooa, taxpayer. Let’s not tar every Christian with a brush dipped in that youtube-broadcasted crap. I think a non-Indian Hindu like yourself would make HIM (Paul? The guy from Andhra with the Aish-fetish) look like a huge fool, if you were both ever in a debate. There are actually Christians who either know more than you are giving them credit for or are humble enough to admit they don’t know what you do.

    The biggest problem with this thread was the tendency on the part of an excessively harsh (and vocal) few to take the deplorable actions of extremists and use them to accuse EVERYONE from that religion of evil, i.e. Graham Staines was murdered by Hindus…therefore Hindus are all intolerant monsters who like to burn innocent Christians. Not all Christians are misguided and rude hecklers or conniving missionaries, not all Muslims are terrorists and not all Hindus are homicidal bigots. It’s not so binary.

  22. Kush, your friend is also found of the term “Judeo-Christian”. What about “Judeo-Christian-Islamic”? since Islam come from the same source and is the third and latest of the Abrahamic religions. I wonder why he likes to exclude Islam? Islam accept Christ as a prophet, Judaism does not, so I would think he would lean more towards “Christian-Islamic” than “Judeo-Christian”. Anyway, I have a few very intense Christian friends here in USA (they are respectful of my religion, not like the fanatics in Senate), and they are all up into that Judeo Christian thing. One considers herself “messianic jew” and there is a whole right wing political alliance (christian) that is supporting Israel and hobnobbing with the Jews against Muslims, which I don’t get coz the Muslims accept Jesus! When I asked my friends about that they said, “yeah it seems weird but the Jews are God’s “chosen people”, so as Christians we have to support them.” Whatever!

    There are actually Christians who either know more than you are giving them credit for or are humble enough to admit they don’t know what you do.

    I know that. I was not referring to them in my post above.

  23. Dear SM Intern,

    If you are going to crack down on Jesus Follower under the rationale that “Spewing anti-Hindu comments IS anti-secular” then please offer that same consideration for anti-christian comments as well. After all, fair is fair.

  24. please offer that same consideration for anti-christian comments as well. After all, fair is fair.

    I wouldn’t read too much in to it– I think it has more to do with a lack of staff than anything unfair. If almost everyone has “gone fishing”, then things are going to be uneven. I’ll understand and tolerate that vs. see the thread closed down.

  25. Not that this incident is particularly relevant to the overall point, but this is a Judeo-Christian nation. All you have to do is see the rhetoric on an average day in the Senate to understand that, and all the whining about it in the world isn’t going to change it. Political power is either found in A) the barrel of a gun, or in B) big, very big, money. Focus on A or B, or expect that we will always be guests in this country.

  26. What about “Judeo-Christian-Islamic”? since Islam come from the same source and is the third and latest of the Abrahamic religions. I wonder why he likes to exclude Islam? Islam accept Christ as a prophet, Judaism does not, so I would think he would lean more towards “Christian-Islamic” than “Judeo-Christian”.

    I think Thomas Friedman said it right.

    Islam’s self-identity is that it is the most perfect and complete expression of God’s monotheistic message, and the Koran is God’s last and most perfect word. To put it another way, young Muslims are raised on the view that Islam is God 3.0. Christianity is God 2.0. Judaism is God 1.0. And Hinduism and all others are God 0.0.

    Islam accepts Christ (even though its own story of “Christ”, not the Christian story), because it was aware of Christ, founded after the period of Christ, since Judaism is an older version of God, it won’ tknow of the future prophets and does not recognise Christ. Friedman’s logic can be used in this case too. Like how Muslims think that in pre-islamic days people were living in “jahilya”, the Christians think in pre-Christ days people were living in “idolatory/polytheism” (equivalent to jahilya) etc.. and worry on seeing that such things are respected in the US senate.

  27. So much to say. Thanks, firstly, to ANNA for covering this.

    As for those Americans who ran on that platform…there’s a reason they lost. There’s a reason we’ve never had a pro-segregation president. Because America isn’t racist the same way India isn’t religiously intolerant even though both had their share of violence over the two issues.

    I seriously don’t buy this argument, nor do I buy the “these are all funded separately and clearly are not part of a larger trend” argument. Just as you argued that Rahul lacked nuance, there is an absolute lack of nuance here as well.

    The fact that a Hindu guy can do this in the US Senate of all places shows that Christianity is dead in America. Which is actually a good thing.

    Not really.

    i think do they violate the EC. if school prayers are such a violation, then you can easily apply the same EC tests to senate prayers with the same result.

    Again, not really. I think razib elucidated on this back in the first 100 posts, but the chaplaincy and opening prayer is seen as a private service for the Senators. I believe they pay for it out of pocket (although not really out of pocket, more out of the taxpayer’s pocket). At any rate, many chose not to attend on the same grounds. I’m not saying it’s right, but it is true that people can opt in/out of attending the opening prayer. Also, Senators aren’t children. Part of why prayer is illegal in schools is because it reeks of indoctrination, particularly on young children who do not have the option to leave school or go elsewhere when prayers are being recited.

    The reason that I was a little ticked off by the lead article and especially its title is that people with an India background have no business bashing the expression of American Christian faith without taking a good long look at how Christians in India are muzzled and killed. On that, most ethical people would agree.

    This is a ridiculous argument, and I don’t think most ethical people would agree with you. As an AMERICAN I have the right to comment on anything that I find depressing or disheartening within my country, including acts of intolerance such as this one. That also doesn’t preclude me commenting on other similarly disappointing phenomena. If that’s how you feel, then European-Americans (i.e. nearly all white people in the U.S.) should only be allowed to comment on things like Portugal’s anti-abortion stance, Italy’s rape approach, and Sinn Fein.

    The blog post was a blatant rip on Christians and you’re trying to get off on calling me anti-secular?!??!

    It was not a rip on Christians, it was a rip on 3 intolerant jerks who, under the guise of Christianity, behaved shamefully. I don’t know how you feel, but I don’t stand by extremists and idiots within my own faith tradition, especially because their behavior does not reflect the values and teachings of my faith. Given that the majority of Christians in America are not extremists, I think it would behoove them to view this similarly. Don’t feel that you have to apologize on behalf of these people — just realize that they are crazy and are maligning the religion more than any outside commentary could do.

  28. i think do they violate the EC. if school prayers are such a violation, then you can easily apply the same EC tests to senate prayers with the same result.
    Again, not really. I think razib elucidated on this back in the first 100 posts, but the chaplaincy and opening prayer is seen as a private service for the Senators. I believe they pay for it out of pocket (although not really out of pocket, more out of the taxpayer’s pocket). At any rate, many chose not to attend on the same grounds. I’m not saying it’s right, but it is true that people can opt in/out of attending the opening prayer. Also, Senators aren’t children. Part of why prayer is illegal in schools is because it reeks of indoctrination, particularly on young children who do not have the option to leave school or go elsewhere when prayers are being recited.

    camille, while i agree there are clear differences, i don’t think it is enough to overcome similar results after application of the EC tests. the service may be a private one, but it is being conducted in a public forum. the EC applies to government situations/venues, and i don’t think the prayer can somehow make this an exception because the senators pay from their own pocket. the end result is that there is a religious prayer being performed in a government building – if it is such a private service, it should be conducted off government property (and the fact that it comes from taxes makes it arguably not private). furthermore, the EC is an issue in two separate ways – complete separation of religion and state, and not favoring any particular religion(s) so as to equate it with establishment. even if senators have a ‘choice’ not to pray, the very existence of a religion-based prayer in a government building supports both the very use of religion in government settings, while also supporting the particular religions chosen for service – thus violating EC on both issues. the result, in fact, is in many ways worse than for school prayer : this sends a message to the entire country, that our senators favour religion, and certain ones, at that. nothing that goes on on the senate floor is private, camille – even if individual senators may absent themselves, it does not change the milieu that comes from using religion in a government setting.

  29. ak, I’m not a lawyer, but I respectfully disagree. For example, football teams, christian prayer groups, etc., are allowed to pray on public grounds within schools. The only delineation is that this cannot be school-endorsed/promoted; for example, one cannot pray over the school loud speaker. All that’s allowed in public schools, which are much more narrowly governed than the Senate.

    I understand your ire; in general, I think it is stupid for the Senate to open with prayer. I also found it offensive for John Ashcroft to open meetings with DOJ officials with (evangelical Christian) prayer. That said, I don’t think people conflate opening prayer sessions with the establishment of a state religion. I understand that it tacitly approves of the existence of religion, in general, but I don’t think this is anywhere near the same thing as establishing a “Church of the US” (which is the context in which the EC was written). I just think it would be a stretch to interpret this as anti-EC, and I think if Senators were worried that people would view it as such they would make payment of Senate chaplains even more privatized and would still pray publicly in government spaces, largely because this is what helps keep them elected.

  30. camille, i think we are at an impasse – and i am not saying this because of the rulings that have come out from the USSC, but more so because i think all these things do go against the spirit of the EC, even if they have not been ruled unlawful by a court or called out by politicians or citizens. what i am getting at is that even if there is not one religion associated with government, there is the concept of religion associated with government/tax-funded circumstances, and that is my main issue. it goes against the very core of the EC. also, i do think that we, as a society, have accepted christianity as the prevailing culture, so many who are of that faith, or others who are so accustomed to its general societal presence, will clearly not question it or consider it wrong – i.e. i am not taking my cues from senators, since most probably do not think this concept of prayer is even controversial vis-a-vis the constitution. the examples you had given – save the bible study group – still support the importance of religion itself, unless the prayers are wholly secular (no reference to god). and more importantly at a federal government level – it is the height of hypocrisy to deem our country as secular, equal etc while continuing to use religion (in any form, of any any faith) in governmental proceedings.

  31. I think Thomas Friedman said it right.
    Islam’s self-identity is that it is the most perfect and complete expression of God’s monotheistic message, and the Koran is God’s last and most perfect word. To put it another way, young Muslims are raised on the view that Islam is God 3.0. Christianity is God 2.0. Judaism is God 1.0. And Hinduism and all others are God 0.0.

    Anything to distance themselves from Islam. Islam and Christianity have a lot in common, at least as much as, possibly more so than Judaism and Christianity.

    Both Islam and Christianity can be very aggressive in prosylization efforts and conversion techniques. Though at this point in time Christianity tops the list for that.

    Keep in mind I am not faulting either the Prophet Muhammed or Christ or their teachings for this.

    It’s basically how their teachings have been interpreted by many in their fold.

    There is a certain type of Christian who seeks to convert you in every conversation. I’m sure there are some Muslims like that too. Out of my Muslim friends and acquaintaces, there was only one like that. Out of my Christian friends and acquaintances, more than 50%. They feel it is their religious duty to bring as many people to Christ as possible. No problem. But it can get very annoying when you feel like the person sees you as a “conquest” rather than an individual. And then there is always that looming sense of judgement you feel they are casting on you.

    Especially here in USA. I guess because they have been the majority religion, or religion by default here so long, they have a stronger sense of “priority” and an over-abundance of “self-confidence”, that they have no qualms whatsoever in just assuming that everyone they meet needs to be “saved”.

    I find it arrogant.

    Mind you, this is not ALL Christians, just some, that I have met many, many, times.

    I am attracted however to more contemplative forms of Christianity — cloistered nuns, Fransiscan monks, the Jesuits, Ethiopian Orthodox Church, etc. I would like to see these types more in USA, adding their wisdom of meditation to the national mileu. That is very much welcomed.

  32. Camille, I come down on the side of ak’s position because it is very hard to allow free exercise of religion in the public sphere (which, to me, includes the Senate floor), while still guaranteeing equal representation (whatever that means) to all religions. Razib made this point in several of his early comments. And this is even ignoring the practice of atheism. I also don’t understand what it means for senators to pay for services “out of their pocket” when it is taxpayer money that they are using.

    I think this Slate piece nails it eloquently.

    So, what do we do about the fact that the current First Amendment jurisprudence is not neutral toward religion but instead seems to persecute the true believer? To quote a more respected jurist than Moore, Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote, in a dissent in a case prohibiting prayer before school football games: “[The majority opinion] … bristles with hostility to all things religious in public life.” Is it possible for the state to celebrate a plurality of religions without establishing one or several as more legitimate?

    No. Because we live in a zero-sum constitutional world. In order to be “neutral” toward all religions, including atheism, the courts have had to erect equal barriers to all. In order to privilege no religion (or even non-religion) the courts have elected to privilege none. This includes the vague “Judeo-Christian” theism that most Americans would probably like to see more of in the public square.

    Is there an alternative? Justice Clarence Thomas holds that the state should be “neutral” toward religion and allow people to make free choices. But wouldn’t such a “free market” lead inexorably to Moore’s world—in which the majority decides which religion the state should endorse? And isn’t that why the people first boarded freezing, leaky boats over here from England? That’s why the sensibilities of Buddhists and Zoroastrians count—at least in this case—more than the wants and desires of the majority of religious people who may simply wish to practice their faith in public spaces.

    That seems unfair to religious citizens who seek some sort of “balance” in the law—equality for religious and atheist alike; equality for majority and minority religions. But what does “equality” mean when you’re talking about religion and particularly state-sponsored religion? Doesn’t it mean that some religions will necessarily be more equal than others? The framers seemed to think that was an appalling prospect for religious freedom.

    One of the hard lessons of the religion cases is that if the public square is going to welcome everyone, it cannot necessarily welcome all of their gods. Perhaps the most American sentiment of all is the faith that somehow, He will be there anyhow.

  33. Sorry, the entire piece after “I think this Slate piece nails it eloquently” is a quote from the article. Apparently, the italicizing tag does not extend across paragraphs.

  34. Ditto to Merry Xmas, It has been more than a decade since comming accross someome trying to convert me to Christianity. I was politely invited by a good friend to convert to Judaisim. (Now that was a high honor for me) I politely told her that I had been there, done that, and don’t want to do it again, and that I can still be a friend of Israel as a Hindu.

  35. it is very hard to allow free exercise of religion in the public sphere (which, to me, includes the Senate floor), while still guaranteeing equal representation (whatever that means) to all religions.

    rahul: the EC clause has to be seen within the context of the free-excercise clause, and the general non-abridging of freedom of speech and press. it is well-established 1st amendment law that the govt cannot viewpoint discriminate. if we choose to subsidize an art gallery, we cannot say that anti-Christian art is not welcome, as Giuliani once tried. but if the govt is allowed to subsidize a crucifix submerged in urine, it should be allowed to subsidize a crucifix.

    subsidized art may very well result in an over-representation of stalinist artists like picasso and kahlo, as opposed to artists who share my view, but it is only equal access, not equal outcome, that is protected.

    you are right to note that the establishment clause prohibits the government from preferring one religion over another. but the 1st amendment does not guarantee equal representation of viewpoints. so allowing religion a stage on a the public square may result in christians being overrepresented, but as long as access is not denied to other religions, the EC clause remains intact.

  36. but it is only equal access, not equal outcome, that is protected.

    Letter. Spirit. Construction. Interpretation. Equal access is not an end in itself, it is meant to achieve “equal” outcome (again, whatever that means).

  37. Manju, I must clarify that I don’t know what the “right” answer is. But I do think that just saying all religions are equally welcome misses the big point of how things happen in practice, and it is my personal bias that I’d solve the problem by eliminating all religious practice in the public sphere, because that is the lesser evil. I can see how religious people might find this draconian, though.

  38. “Zed, the first Hindu to offer the Senate prayer, began: “

    After 491 comments, I am almost afraid prolong the thread, but what part of India is Pundit Zed from? Never heard of the name Zed before.

  39. re: # 484–Merry Xmas


    Dude–seriously–if over half of the Christians in the US you’ve met have tried to convert you–you seriously need some higher-class friends. Where the hell are you hanging out? At some kind of a mega-church or something? I mean, I’ve me a few people like that, but damn!

  40. what part of India is Pundit Zed from? Never heard of the name Zed before.

    Floridian, I was wondering the same thing. Like any good Hindu holy man, his origins seem to be shrouded in obscurity. I was almost ready to guess that his last name was a contraction of Zedasapeemapetilon, when I came across an interview of his, which gives a little more information. I love how coy he is about where he is from.

    Did you come here from India?

    I came from California. I like it here. We have over 500 families here in Northern Nevada. We speak different languages. In India, we have 18 different languages in our Constitution. They are not dialects–they have different scripts. … Most are here. So in order to communicate, we speak to each other in English. The Indians here, most are from Gujarat, Punjab, Andhra /Pradesh.

    What about you?

    Himachal Pradesh. … So, we have the India Association of Northern Nevada. It takes care of the affairs of East Indians. Then the Hindu Temple; it raises money for the temple. I’m on the board of directors for both groups. The Hindu Temple, we have prayers about once a month [at various people's homes]. … They post notices at the Indian grocery stores, so even the non-Indians, sometimes they show up.

    There is also another article I stumbled across, which talks about celebrations in a town in Southern Punjab where he worked.

  41. “What about you?

    Himachal Pradesh”

    That’s the answer, then. I’ll have to ask my HP friend about the last name, Zed, tomorrow.

  42. My two cents, having raised the issue @8:

    Zed is not a completely uncommon name by itself, in North America, though decidedly so among desis. There is, of course, also Zed Books. The name ‘Zutshi‘ does exist among Kashmiri Brahmins, and also others from neighboring areas.

    Some people change their last names on immigrating, even more, if, for example, they “lose” their previous passport, etc. (Note: I am not implying any such thing in this instance)

  43. what part of India is Pundit Zed from? Never heard of the name Zed before.

    He’s from the very last part of India.

    (A little British alphabet humor there.)

  44. Tell me, would a Christian prayer be allowed in India’s parliament? What about India’s persecution of Christians by right-wing Hindu fundamentalists? Indian Christians are often beaten, raped and killed by the like of RSS/Shiv Sena daily. This is reported in mainstream media though. I should know because I knew a couple who were killed in India for being Christians. Why does America have to be all things for all people? This is a Judeo-Christian country. If I moved to India, I would have to live according to India’s religious practices, India’s holidays, India’s customs etc. Our constitution was framed by founding fathers who were Christians. The freedom of religion clause was never for all faiths to be practiced here. Yet we allow every other faith to build their temples, mosques etc, and make laws to make it harders for Christians to practice their own faith right here in America.

    Would it be easy for me to build a church in India? Or would I have the likes Shiv Sena/RSS ready to beat, rape and kill me for even doing so? What about the political movements to stop Dalits from embracing Christianity for fear that these Dalits would realize that they are not the “sub-humans” that higher caste Hindus have portrayed them as? You should glad that all these protesters did was interrupt that priest. Your blog entry is just another example of the pot calling the kettle black.

  45. Correction: “This is not reported in mainstream media though”. Reference to Indian Christians being persecuting and killed.