Pray for the President?
"No religious reading, instruction or exercise, shall be prescribed or practiced [in the elementary schools] inconsistent with the tenets of any religious sect or denomination." -Thomas Jefferson: Elementary School Act, 1817.
The United States of America is not a Christian nation; don't believe the hate mongers that loudly proclaim it so, such as Pat Robertson. From the "get go" our nation has been a haven for those seeking religious freedom; our forefathers designed the Constitution with that in mind. It seems rather amazing to me that people forget this very simple history that we are taught as children. The Pilgrims left an England where Church and State were one, so as to be free to worship as their conscience dictate.
The Constitution is clear in the fact that our nation is has no Christian foundation. The first amendment seems to make that clear. I'd like to link to an article that is pretty comprehensive in its approach to the subject of religion and the founding of the United States. Thomas Jefferson interpreted the 1st Amendment in his famous letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in January 1, 1802:
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State."
In reference to the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom, one of Jefferson's crowning achievements, the religious tolerance of the day is highlighted:.
"Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting "Jesus Christ," so that it would read "A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;" the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination."
The Treaty of Tripoli was sent from the Secretary of State Timothy Pickering to President John Adams who set it for approval of the Senate where it was ratified and signed by President Adams. I'd like you to read Article 11:
"As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,-as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen,-and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."
Here too one should note that the treaty was read aloud before being ratified and was published in three newspapers of the day. Also that it was one of only a few laws that up to that time had passed with a unanimous vote as this one had.
The founders of our great nation founded it on toleration:
I will never, by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance, or admit a right of inquiry into the religious opinions of others. --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Edward Dowse, April 19, 1803
"Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?" --James Madison 1795
Now we have the likes of John Ashcroft covering the exposed breast of a statue of The Spirit of Justice in the Hall of Justice. We have a fellow in the White House that claimed Jesus Christ as his favorite philosopher and US troops are recieving pamphlets entitled "A Christians Duty" that go so far as to with suggest prayers:
...the pledge card includes prayers for Bush, his family, his staff and U.S. troops for each day of the week. Tuesday's suggested prayer is that the troops have courage and that "the president and his advisers will have the unified support of the American people as well as that of other countries around the world."
Enclosed with the pamphlet is a tear-out card
"to be mailed to the White House pledging the soldier who sends it in has been praying for Bush"
The World Council of Churches, a fellowship of 342 Churches in 120 different countries has reasoned against the against the attacking of Iraq since well before the war's inception. The pope has spoken strongly against using war rather than diplomacy:
When God seems to be silent amid oppression, injustice and suffering, he still loves human beings and comes to their aid when invoked, says John Paul II.
"To discover, with the eyes of faith, this divine presence in space and time, but also in ourselves, is the source of hope and trust, even when our heart is troubled and shaken," the Pope said during today's general audience.
In the presence of several thousand pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square, the Pope reflected on the canticle in Chapter 42 of the Book of Isaiah, which mentions the mysterious "silence of God," an experience of the believer in times of trial.
"The prophet makes us conscious of the fact that even when [God] seems to be silent before oppression, injustice or other forms of evil that touch man, he never ceases to love man and comes to his aid if man turns to him in trust," the Pope said in the summary he gave in Polish.
"It might seem to the believer, especially if he bears the weight of a painful experience, that God is silent," he added. "Even the great mystical saints experienced this state, which St. John of the Cross called the 'dark night of the soul.'"
"The prophet Isaiah teaches us that, whoever believes with confidence, despite everything, that God is near and acts, will survive the time of trial and will give thanks to God with joy for his constant love, which delivers from all evil," he said.
God's silence does not indicate "absence, almost as if leaving history in the hands of the perverse, while the Lord remains indifferent and impassible," the Holy Father said during the main address in Italian.
On Sunday the Pontiff said:
``Let us pray to (the Virgin) Mary for the victims of the current conflict. Let us pray to Mary, with both grief and trust, to intercede for peace in Iraq and in all the world's conflicts.''
What the Pope says contrasts deeply with the thoughts on the White House prayer request.
I was brought up Christian and have read the Bible numerous times, leaving me to agree with Tolstoy's judgement that a true Christian cannot fight in war. Read the Bible, what we are given as the words of the man held by the faithful to be God manifest in human form. Read the Beatitudes, my favorite part of the Bible. In the Older Testament, yup, lots of ass kicking. Some of Psalms is painful. But go to the words of the fellow the religion is named for and ostensibly based on and you get a view of Love, of Justice. Of community and sharing. "A rich man having a better chance of getting through the eye of a needle than into Heaven", the guy that said that. They call him the Prince of Peace, remember? So Christian chaplains blessing bombers is apostasy if one believes Jesus uttered the word of God. Sorry. Who would Jesus bomb?
Yeah, yeah, I know, the whole temple thing gets trotted out. Jesus was violent they say. Swinging a whip and turning tables over. If he was violent he could have set his people free. If you've read Christian scripture you'll remember that he pointed a a fig tree and made it whither. Zzzat, and it was done. Now the Romans... if Jesus was violent they'd have seen "Shock and Awe" alright. I'm no theologian but you just have to give the words attributed to him a chance.
Now enter the theologians. I'll include Paul because he was an interpreter of the "Word of God", Jesus Christ. I guess because he goes on about seeing Christ on the road to Damascus and all he is a channeler sort of guy. I am acquainted with a couple modern day channelers and they seem like nice enough folks. Very good...
The theologians intellectualize faith. Thanks to people interpreting the words of Jesus one got Christians that could live their civic life one way, their personal life another. This separation allowed them to say, work in a Nazi Death Camp and go to Church on Sunday.
Augustine was such a good thinker that he was called "Doctor of the Church" and sainted. I'm a brain damaged guy in New England and I interpret Christ's words simply: I read what they say. I see nothing in his actions or words that sanction war. I do see how a religious hierarchy would need to fight to remain in existence. Christianity as a state religion would require bloodshed. As a personal religion it is another story.
In reading "Nothing Sacred: Women respond to religious fundamentalism and terror" edited by Betsy Reed I found it striking that in a article by Leila Ahmed called "Gender and Literacy in Islam" she touches on something very similar. She notes that the Islam she learned from her Grandmother and Mother was a way of being "A way of holding oneself in the world- in relation to God, to existence, to other human beings." She noticed that she was taught a pacifist sort of Islam; much as I would imagine Christian adherents the first century after the crucifixion of Christ would have practiced a pacifistic version of what grew to be called Christianity. Her mother recited for her what was the essence of Islam "he who kills one being" nafs, self, from the root nafas, breath, "kills all humanity"
Ms Ahmed realized that the people who studied classical texts, usually males, got a sense of Islam that allowed violence while that people who gained their sense of Islam aurally, person to person, did not gain a dogmatic sense of their faith. Men would have dogma imparted to them on Fridays at the mosque, women would recite the suras themselves, self- interpreting what it means to be a Muslim.
Everyone should read the Koran, especially now. It is a book of great beauty. What sticks in my mind is " Allah, the Beneficent and Merciful sees all, do nothing that you'd be ashamed for him to see". Obviously, it has been years since my reading so the words give sense, an approximation of the thought I read. But I am conscious of the vision of a loving God that calls us fulfill our promise as humans with this gift of life he has afforded us.
Just as an aside, it seems really weird to me that as the Pope was asking people to fast and practice self denial for peace (starting the Lenten season) Mr Bush made a sacrifice; he quit eating candy. Mr Bush calls on our elected representatives to sacrifice America's future by giving tax cuts to the rich. He is calling on the men and woman of our armed forces to make the ultimate sacrifice. Meanwhile on the homefront he and his GOP buddies are cutting Veterans Benefits. Is that supporting our troops?
Prince Saud of Saudi Arabia has asked Saddam Hussein to take the high road and for his country, give up his leadership.
PRINCE SAUD: Well we have called on Mr. Hussein to - since he has … asked his people to sacrifice for the country - that he should be the first to sacrifice for his country. And his … if his staying in power the only thing that brings problems to his country, we expect that he would respond to a sacrifice for his country, as he requires any citizen there to … sacrifice for his country.
Saddam Hussein could save his people. Just like that. Bastard.
But what can one say about a leader that rushes to war, breaking international law...?
When you look at world leaders you just have to be thinking "What's this world coming to?"
Dbya Dbya 3
Saints preserve us.
Oh, an update on Coalition partners, up to 47. Along with Moroccan mine finding monkeys we have a medical ship, a sub and battleship. 2000 Australian Troops. 45,000 British troops. Be sure to take a look at the money involved...