Friday, July 13, 2007

False Witness

For reasons mysterious, I am still and yet again astonished by so-called Christians who seem content, nay, eager, to lay aside their Bibles and their Ten Commandments and the stated principles of him who they claim to revere in order to slander, degrade, and repudiate any and all who aren't in lock-step with them and their opinions, philosophy, and prejudices.

Latest case in point: Yesterday Hindu Chaplain Rajan Zed said the prayer with which U.S. Senate sessions typically open. This was the first time that a Hindu prayer opened a Senate session.

Naturally, "Christians" were outraged. A "Christian" family in the gallery disrupted the prayer and had to be removed by the sergeant-at-arms.

(Side note: A couple of years ago, on a visit to Washington, D.C., we were treated to a tour of the Capitol by a staffer from Senator Tim Johnson's office, which included a short stop in the Senate gallery. We were instructed beforehand to be absolutely silent (even though they weren't really doing anything at the moment); I said afterward it was like being in church, only more so. Indeed, one of the ushers, or bouncers, or whatever he was, went over to some clown who was wearing his stupid softball cap and made him remove it. So for a family to disrupt the proceedings--especially, I would think, during the opening prayer--strikes me as fairly extraordinary.)

What was the objection? Well, that those heathens in the U.S. Senate were kicking off their business with a prayer by someone who "does not pray in Jesus' name."

Here's a sampling of some of the un-Christian rhetoric foisted on an unsuspecting Senate by Chaplain Zed:

"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."

"United your resolve, united your hearts, may your spirits be at one, that you may long dwell in unity and concord."

"Peace, Peace, Peace be unto all."

Well, clearly, these are all un- if not anti-Christian messages. When did Jesus ever say anything about peace? Where in the Christian Bible does it give any indication that God is everywhere? Where in Christianity do we find any exhortation that people need to get along for the common good?

(Hmm…actually, you may have me on that last point.)

So one wonders what the brouhaha is all about. I suppose…
    A. Zed is neither a Christian nor a "Christian." Duh. (The distinction between the two is this: the former is someone who genuinely strives to follow the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, and who probably accepts him as the Son of God and Savior of the World; the latter is someone who has a list of the "right" words and the "right" action that he or she uses to judge whether someone is a "real" Christian. You might be a God-fearing churchgoer who accepts and lives out everything in the first clause of the previous session, but if you don't attend the "right" church or use the "right" shibboleths, you are not a "real" Christian.)
    B. Zed did not use the phrase "in Jesus' name." See above re shibboleths, as well as re Zed being neither a Christian nor a "Christian." Also he referred to the Creator as "the Deity Supreme" and not "God"…as, apparently, God intended.

    C. Zed is not the "right" kind of chaplain: See, my guess is that the "Christians" who tried to shout him down would have made a scene even if he had been a Christian chaplain…but the "wrong sort" of Christian, i.e., a Christian and not a "Christian."

    D. These "Christians" persist in perpetuating the fiction that the United States was founded by "Christians" just like them, and that that "Christian" land has been wrested away from them by godless liberals, Democrats, and homosexuals who are either not "Christians" or the "wrong sort" of Christian and who tend to use words like
    tolerance and ecumenism and cooperation instead of "in Jesus' name" or "personal savior" or "born again."

    E. Some people are always spoiling for a fight.
One might by now be thinking that the title of this piece, "False Witness," pertains to D above. Sort of, but not precisely. I was more taken by an item I came upon online while reading about the hullabaloo surrounding Zed's prayer. It starts with this provocative headline:

Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid Refuse to Allow Chaplain Who Prays "in Jesus Name," but Welcome Hinduism to the Floor of the U.S. Senate

And then comes this intriguing byline:

By Press Release: Wanda Sanchez on Jul 12, 07

"By Press Release"? What the heck does that mean? And a press release from where? Ordinarily one expects to see sources for a press release. And who is Wanda Sanchez? Who does she work for? What are her credentials?

I read on:

WASHINGTON, July 12 /Christian Newswire/--

Uh-oh. Christian Newswire. AKA "Christian" Newswire. This can't be good. But onward I press:

WASHINGTON, July 12 /Christian Newswire/--A Hindu chaplain will pray a Hindu prayer on the floor of the U.S. Senate for the first time in history. But yesterday, staffers from the offices of Senator Clinton (D-NY) and Harry Reid (D-NV) both denied a request for equal access to a chaplain who prays "in Jesus name."

And it goes on from there, in the same vein, viz., they let in pagans but keep out "real" "Christians." Read the whole thing for yourself here (where I first found it), or on the "Christian" Newswire here. And note ye this: No sources are given for this alleged "news" item. It's a complete rant. One is especially leery of such statements as

"Yes, we sponsored today's Hindu chaplain from Nevada to pray Hindu prayers on the Senate floor," admitted Reid's staff, "but we won't sponsor you because you're from New York ," they told Chaplain Klingenschmitt.

"Reid's staff"? They all gathered together and delivered the message in unison? One begins to pick up the sweet aroma of fiction.

And there's nothing in the "press release" that enables one to verify any of it. Googling some of the phrases in the "release" produces a few hits…but all of them right-wing blogs that have simply picked up the piece and slavishly passed it along as more "evidence" of how those godless liberal Democrats are trying to destroy "Christians." Nor does one find any clue to the identity of "Wanda Sanchez."

Well, I'm certainly a liberal Democrat, and not a "Christian," and probably not even a very good Christian, but I do seem to recall something in the Bible along the lines of "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." I'm pretty sure that translates to don't lie about other people.

And so, the question of the day: If the Ten Commandments come from God; if Christians believe that God's Commandments are to be obeyed; and if the Eighth Commandment prohibits lying about people…then why don't "Christians" feel obliged to honor God's Commandment?

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