Friday, July 20, 2007

Hindu Prayers in the Senate

Last week the "separation of church and state" was in the news when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, invited a Hindu chaplain to open the Senate in "prayer." The Hindu chaplain was interrupted by three Christians who denounced the event as idolatrous, and are interviewed here.

This was the first time in Senate history that a Hindu prayer began the Senate's workday. It was not a result of a massive groundswell of grassroots lobbying by millions of Hindus across America. It was partisan theatre by Democrats designed to attack the idea -- perceived to be a Republican one -- that America is a Christian nation. "We appreciate your courage," chaplain Rajan Zed told Reid in the Senator's office. "You stood up to them." The Senate prayers have now become a way for one party to "stand up" to the other.

Is America a Christian nation? Would there be Hindu chaplains in the Senate in a Christian nation? (Would there be a Senate in a Christian nation?)

Another way to ask these questions is, "Does the Constitution require Hindu prayers in the Senate against the wishes of Christians?" Further, "Does the Constitution prohibit Christian prayers in the Senate?"

One way to answer these questions is to ask, "What did the Framers of the Constitution intend?" That's a question I would ask, but most "constitutional scholars" denounce that question, claiming that ours is a "living constitution."

I agree with James Madison, "the father of the Constitution," that coercive extortion of taxes to pay for a Congressional chaplain is wrong. But then, I believe the coercive extortion of taxes to pay for anything is unChristian. Even if the Chaplain were a volunteer, or were funded by private donations, we would still have a constitutional issue: can the government endorse Christianity by permitting Christian prayers in the Senate? This "endorsement test" is the current trend among Supreme Court Justices. It is the right question, even though the Court answers it the wrong way.

How should we answer it? How would the Founding Fathers answer it?

The Court has ruled that a copy of the Ten Commandments cannot be posted in a public school classroom, even if the poster was paid for with private funds. Not a single person who signed the Constitution would agree with that decision. The Constitution would not have been ratified if the states had been told that the new federal government would have the power to remove the Ten Commandments from local schools. If Britain had attempted to impose recent Supreme Court decisions on the colonies, the American Revolution would have ensued even if there had been no taxation and perfect representation.

The Founding Fathers generally believed that the government should endorse Christianity. I believe that every individual and every institution has a duty to promote Christianity. I believe the Mafia has a duty to endorse Christianity. I believe the government has a duty to endorse Christianity. But that leads to the question of "ends and means." Are the tactics and strategies of the Mafia a legitimate way to promote Christianity? Are the tactics and strategies of "the government" a legitimate means to promote Christianity? The Founding Fathers believed Christianity should be promoted, not Hinduism, but there was a difference of opinion as to means. Only a pure libertarianism can correctly sort out these issues and safely sail between Scylla and Charybdis.

If the Framers of the Constitution could travel through time, they would gain a measure of "epistemological self-consciousness." That is, they would understand the implications of the Christian position with greater clarity, as well as the implications of other religions. They could see America and thus understand the implications of Christianity, they could see India, and understand what Hinduism produces, and they could see the gulags of the Soviet Union and understand what the religion of Secular Humanism leads to.

And as a result, their endorsement of Christianity would be even stronger than it was when the Constitution was ratified.

At about the time the American War for Independence was being fought against Britain, mercantilist Britain was nationalizing the British East India Company's power in India. A movement began among the British to destroy the religion of Kali, the Hindu goddess of chaos and annihilation. Followers of Kali believed in systematic robbery and murder. Britain also minimized the baneful effects of the caste system, and such practices as suttee (the burning of a widow on her husband's funeral pyre).

There is debate over what empire does to a culture. Some have cited examples of cultural progress under colonialism, such as the less-developed more-pagan British colonies experienced, and the contrast is also drawn when a colony loses all economic and cultural progress made under colonialism and descends into tyranny (think "Mugabe"). After defeating George Foreman for the heavyweight title in Zaire, Muhammad Ali returned to the United States where he was asked by a reporter, “Champ, what did you think of Africa?” Ali replied, “Thank God my grand-daddy got on that boat!”

Both the Founders and the U.S. Supreme Court in the first 100 years under the Constitution understood "freedom of religion" in a Christian context. Followers of Kali thuggism, Joseph Smith polygamy, or Huitzilopochtli human sacrifice, were all denied their "religious freedom" because, the Court said, this is a "Christian nation."

The Founders were evangelistic. They disagreed over which version of Christianity should triumph, but they all wanted to see their own version prevail. Even Jefferson was an optimistic postmillennialist:

Once primitive Christianity was fully restored . . . Christianity would escape all danger of being eclipsed or superseded. "I confidently expect," Jefferson wrote in 1822, "that the present generation will see Unitarianism become the general religion of the United States." And to the Harvard professor and Unitarian Benjamin Waterhouse, Jefferson that same year observed: "I trust that there is not a young man now living in the U.S. who will not die an Unitarian.
(Gaustad, Faith of Our Fathers: Religion and the New Nation, p. 105.)

"Unitarianism" in Jefferson's day was far more fundamentalist than it is today. Jerry Falwell and Thomas Jefferson were both enthusiastic promoters of public unitarianism. All Falwell wanted taught in public schools was unitarianism. That's all he asked for. All that Tom Paine wanted taught in public schools was "intelligent design."

But none of the Founders wanted Hinduism to prevail. And if Calvinists and Arminians, Trinitarians and Unitarians disagreed slightly on the end in mind, they also were not perfectly clear on the means. Neither Falwell, Paine, nor Jefferson clearly saw that government-run schools were a powerful engine of tyranny and ignorance. I would like to think that both the unitarians and Calvinists among America's Founders would both become pure libertarians if they were alive today. The ACLU and its ilk want to impose atheism on America using the coercive power of civil government.

I agree with these words from Virginia's Act for Religious Freedom:

"Whereas, Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishment, or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion, who, being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do; that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, have established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time; that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical, and even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing from the ministry those temporary rewards which, proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct, are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labors, for the instruction of mankind;

The Act, written by Thomas Jefferson, was passed by The Virginia General Assembly on January 16, 1786, and January 16 is now observed as "Religious Freedom Day." This is one of the most important declarations of law in American history. It says three things that are not popular among those who insist that America must be a "secular" (atheistic) nation, or who believe in the modern myth of "separation of church and state," the myth which prohibits government from "endorsing" or "promoting" belief in the God of the Bible:

First, following the Declaration of Independence, the statute acknowledges that our rights come from "Almighty God" -- that our nation is "under God," and no "wall of separation" exists between God and government to negate our nation's duty to acknowledge and obey God.

Second, as the U.S. Supreme Court said in the days before the invention of the myth of "separation of church and state," America is a Christian nation. The Statute speaks of "the Holy Author of our religion." "Our" religion? This is an obscenity in the ears of the ACLU. What is "our" religion? Hinduism?

On July 9, during the war of 1812, when Madison was President, he issued a proclamation calling for a national day of prayer to "Almighty God"

that He would inspire all nations with a love of justice and of concord and with a reverence for the unerring precept of our holy religion to do to others as they would require that others should do to them....

The Author of "our holy religion" is the One who said to do to others as they would require that others should do to them (Luke 6:31), and it was not Mohammed or Krishna that Madison was quoting, nor were they in the mind of the Virginia General Assembly in 1786, nor "We the People" in 1789.

Finally, according to the Statute for Religious Freedom, there is such a thing as a "false religion." Today's myth is "tolerance." When someone does something that is abusive, oppressive, immoral, or unethical, too many Americans will refuse to criticize the offender: "Who am I to judge?" they say.

It is trendy in our day to speak of all religions as equally valid (except Christianity, which teaches that all other religions are false religions). There is "one mountain, but many paths up the mountain."

It should now be obvious that this thinking about religion is horribly wrong. All religions are not the same. Some are false religions. Today, most clearly, we see at least one religion -- Osama bin Laden's religion -- that is not climbing up the same mountain as the other religions. In fact, Osama's co-religionists are standing next to the mountain, strapping explosives to themselves in the hopes of blowing up the entire mountain, killing every man woman and child climbing the mountain because they are all "infidels." So much for harmony among the "different paths."

America's Founding Fathers realized that not all religions are equal, and that America must always seek to be founded on the true religion. This religion is Christianity, and as the Statute for Religious Freedom above makes clear, the true religion is a libertarian religion, eschewing the use of force and government coercion to Christianize the world.

Secularists and separationists criticize people like former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, whose Ten Commandments monument was confiscated by federal thugs in a most blatant violation of the First Amendment, which was demanded by the states as an assurance that federal thugs would never interfere in religious affairs among the states. Moore would probably agree with the Virginians who adopted the Statute for Religious Freedom, and who believed the following:

1. Any legislation should be voted down if the policy of the bill is adverse to the diffusion of the light of Christianity.
2. The first wish of those who enjoy this precious gift, ought to be that it may be imparted to the whole race of mankind.
The first charter of Virginia, granted by King James I. in 1606, after reciting the application of certain parties for a charter, commenced the grant in these words:

"We, greatly commending, and graciously accepting of, their Desires for the Furtherance of so noble a Work, which may, by the Providence of Almighty God, hereafter tend to the Glory of his Divine Majesty, in propagating of Christian Religion to such People, as yet live in Darkness and miserable Ignorance of the true Knowledge and Worship of God, and may in time bring the Infidels and Savages, living in those parts, to human Civility, and to a settled and quiet Government; DO, by these our Letters-Patents, graciously accept of, and agree to, their humble and well-intended Desires."

As President, Jefferson appropriated money to fund Christian missionaries to evangelize the heathen, that is, "native Americans," who lived in darkness. These were "the merciless Indian Savages" Jefferson mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, "whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions."

Roy Moore would continue analyzing Hindu prayers in the Senate by comparing

3. the number of those who have as yet received the light of Christianity with the number still remaining under the dominion of false Religions; and how small is the former! Does the policy of the prayer tend to lessen the disproportion? No; it at once discourages those who are strangers to the light of (revelation) from coming into the Region of it; and countenances, by example the nations who continue in darkness, in shutting out those who might convey it to them.

Benjamin Rush, Bible-thumping Signer of the Declaration of Independence, said he would rather have heathen but monotheistic prayers in public schools than none (and some have argued that the Hindu prayer in the Senate was vaguely monotheistic):

Such is my veneration for every religion that reveals the attributes of the Deity, or a future state of rewards and punishments, that I had rather see the opinions of Confucius or Mohammed inculcated upon our youth than see them grow up wholly devoid of a system of religious principles. But the religion I mean to recommend in this place, is that of the New Testament.

This is debatable. Some would argue that no prayer is better than an idolatrous "prayer." But an any rate, a Christian Congressman should view all bills and all public acts on the floor of Congress through the lens of "Liberty Under God." "Liberty" means the refusal to coerce or compel religious belief using government force or violence. "Under God" means a recognition that America is based on the true religion, and as a shining "City on a Hill," seeks to bring all other nations out of the darkness of false religions.

But the ACLU wants us to believe that the Constitution turned America into a secular nation, and that Roy Moore is wrong.

The most famous work of James Madison, "the father of the Constitution," is "The Memorial and Remonstrance" of 1785, written in opposition to a bill in the Virginia legislature to raise taxes. In section 12, Madison opposed the bill on the following grounds (these are Madison's words, not Roy Moore's):

12. Because, the policy of the bill is adverse to the diffusion of the light of Christianity. The first wish of those who enjoy this precious gift, ought to be that it may be imparted to the whole race of mankind. Compare the number of those who have as yet received it with the number still remaining under the dominion of false Religions; and how small is the former! Does the policy of the Bill tend to lessen the disproportion? No; it at once discourages those who are strangers to the light of (revelation) from coming into the Region of it; and countenances, by example the nations who continue in darkness, in shutting out those who might convey it to them. Instead of levelling as far as possible, every obstacle to the victorious progress of truth, the Bill with an ignoble and unchristian timidity would circumscribe it, with a wall of defence, against the encroachments of error.

All legislation should endorse and promote the true religion, and lessen the number of people trapped in the darkness of false religions.

The Hindu prayer in the Senate did not do what America's Founding Fathers would have wanted done. It moved us away from -- not closer to -- the ideals of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and America's organic

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