Religious Wars: The 2007 Edition
By Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jul 25, 2007, 00:43

The �infallible� pope declared all non-Catholic churches inherently false or, at best, defective if they didn�t accept papal authority. A few days later, Bible-waving fundamentalists screeched, �Lord Jesus, protect us from this abomination,� when Rajan Zed, a Hindu chaplain from Reno, Nevada, offered a serene invocation to open a session of the United States Senate.

On July 10, Benedict XVI authorized a statement that would be appropriate only in the darkest of the Dark Ages, which is pretty much where the pope intends to return �his Church�:

Pope Benedict XVI has reasserted the universal primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, approving a document released Tuesday that says Orthodox churches were defective and that other Christian denominations were not true churches.

Benedict approved a document from his old offices at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that restates church teaching on relations with other Christians.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was formerly known as The Holy Office of the Inquisition. Its former head was Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI. As Shakespeare asked, �What�s in a name?�

�Fun-da-mental-ists.� They aren�t much �fun.� They�re a rather dour, fire and brimstone lot. Their echoing of the late Jerry Falwell�s �da� notion that the Bible is �absolutely infallible, without error in all matters . . . such as geography, science, history� makes their mental faculties somewhat more than suspect. But they do make lists of people and beliefs to revile. The fundamentalists� inquisitional ranting in the Senate gallery on July 12 made that crystal clear.

They may have been the lone protesters in the Senate chamber, but they were not alone in voicing Christianist objection to the invocation. Even before Rajan Zed spoke, the founder and chairman of the Dominionist American Family Association, Don Wildmon, was issuing one of his hysterical �action alerts�:

Hindu to open Senate with prayer

Send an email to your senator now, expressing your disappointment in the Senate decision to invite a Hindu to open the session with prayer.

On Thursday, a Hindu chaplain from Reno, Nevada, by the name of Rajan Zed is scheduled to deliver the opening prayer in the U.S. Senate. . . .

WallBuilders president David Barton is questioning why the U.S. government is seeking the invocation of a non-monotheistic god. Barton points out that since Hindus worship multiple gods, the prayer will be completely outside the American paradigm, flying in the face of the American motto "One Nation Under God."

TAKE ACTION -- Call your Senators at 202-224-3121

Rajan Zed�s invocation:

�Let us pray,� Zed 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 heaven. May he stimulate and illuminate our minds.

�Lead us from the unreal to real, from darkness to light, and from death to immortality. May we be protected together. May we be nourished together. May we work together with great vigor. May our study be enlightening. May no obstacle arise between us.�

Seeking the blessings of god on behalf of and for the Senators, Zed declared, �May the Senators strive constantly to serve the welfare of the world, performing their duties with the welfare of others always in mind. Because by devotion to selfless work one attains the supreme goal of life. May they work carefully and wisely, guided by compassion, and without thought for themselves.�

�United your resolve, united your hearts, may your spirits be at one, that you may long dwell in unity and concord!" he added, and ended with, �Peace, peace, peace be unto all.�

Before stepping away from the podium, Zed also said, �And, Lord, we ask you to comfort the family of former First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson,� wife of the former and late President Lyndon Baines Johnson, who died at age 94.

What Mr. Zed said would offend no one except religious bigots like Wildmon and the pope who think they and they alone are right and that they and they alone know �God.� As Barry W. Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church said, the protest against Zed�s invocation �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.�

Only the ultimate blasphemers -- those who pervert spirituality for their own purposes -- could possibly have been offended by Mr. Zed�s invocation. But not surprisingly, Wildmon�s propaganda organ, �One News Now,� featured several immediately after the event. More than a week later the sanctimonious were still screeching.

The �chaplain� of the Family Research Council, another Dominionist organization, claimed the �historic Hindu prayer to open the U.S. Senate is �just one more step away� from America�s Christian heritage. The founders of the United States, says Pierre Bynum, would never have wanted a pantheistic prayer to open that legislative body.�

Mr. Bynum claims to know -- absolutely -- what the founders of this country thought 231 years ago, as well as what they would think and recognize as appropriate now, in the twenty-first century. The FRC chaplain might want to read Jon Meacham�s American Gospel. A pantheistic understanding of Divinity was very much involved in how �the founders of the United States� saw �God� in pluralistic America. Moreover, as Meacham noted, �In a treaty with the Muslim nation of Tripoli initiated by Washington, completed by John Adams, and ratified by the Senate in 1797, the Founders declared that �the government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.�

Another One News Now item on July 13 -- �Former Navy chaplain labels Hindu Senate prayer �idolatry�� -- featured the comments of Gordon James Klingenschmitt. Bigotry and its arrogant condescension appeared early in the article: �Gordon James Klingenschmitt says when he heard that the Hindu man . . ." [italics added].

�The Hindu man�? A nameless entity somehow less than a human being because he differs from the beliefs of those in power.

As for �idolatry,� Klingenschmitt might want to have a look at all the graven images and venerated statues in Catholic churches, the only �true� Christian denomination, according to the pope.

As the One News Now article noted, �Klingenschmitt was in the Senate gallery earlier today to witness the prayer being given by the Hindu chaplain -- a prayer that was interrupted twice by individuals in the gallery. �About 50 feet away from me there were these other Christian people [who] stood up like everybody else . . . �� [italics added].

Aside from continuing the no-name denigration of Mr. Zed, the phrasing �other Christian people [who] stood up like everybody else� makes it sound like the whole gallery was filled with �Christian� protesters. In reality, there were only three fanatics and Klingenschmitt. He didn�t join them in their Bible-waving ranting. Perhaps he was too embarrassed by the distasteful public display of fanatical religious bigotry, preferring instead another, less visible way to expressing his.

According to the One News Now article, Klingenschmitt �went to the U.S. Senate in hopes of gaining equal access. . . . he went to the office of Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada) seeking permission to offer a Christian prayer in the Senate at some future date. Not being from Nevada, Klingenschmitt was turned away and directed to the office of one of his senators -- Hillary Clinton (D-New York) -- whose staff also reportedly declined his request.�

The former Navy chaplain�s final �thought� reported in the One News Now article is also interesting: �[A]pparently one kind of prayer is permitted and even honored on the floor of the Senate; the other kind of prayer is seen as disruptive.� What�s truly �disruptive� to twenty-first century America is religious bigotry.

On July 20, more than a week after Mr. Zed�s invocation, Wildmon�s One News Now featured yet another article, �Folger labels Christian activists who interrupted Senate Hindu prayer as �heroes��:

A well-known conservative Christian commentator says the U.S. Senate turned its back on God last week when it officially allowed the first Hindu prayer to be uttered aloud in the chamber.

That �well-known conservative Christian commentator� was Janet Folger of the Faith2Action ministry. She continued Klingenschmitt�s idolatry theme by accusing Hinduism of having �false gods,� and went on to call the protestors -- Ante Pavkovic, his wife, and his 19-year-old daughter -- �heroes� for railing against �an abomination.�

But the �best� part of Folger�s comments was her explanation as to why her wrathful, egotistical �God� would not strike America -- or the Senate chamber -- with apocalyptic terror and punishment for this �idolatry� and �abomination�:

�When I saw that [the three fanatics ranting in the Senate gallery], I had hope for America,� Foger [sic] states. �That comment, those stands of those very bold people -- he and his wife and his daughter -- I believe may be what spares us from the judgment of God. . . ."

Let�s see. Folger�s �God� gets pissed off about a gay parade and sends a hurricane to wipe out New Orleans thereby killing, injuring and otherwise hurting thousands of innocent people. But this same capricious, ill-tempered �God� is appeased by three fanatics protesting an invocation to Divinity from a representative of the world�s oldest and third largest religion that pre-dates Christianity and its concoction of �the Trinity� to avoid having two gods, �Father� and �Son.� (We�ll ignore for the moment all of Catholicism�s demigods called �saints� to whom the faithful can pray for special favors.)

Perhaps Wildmon, Bynum, Klingenschmitt and Folger really believe in the petty, anthropocentric version of �God� they created in their own image. Or perhaps they�re just using that creation to nurture and exploit people�s fear of others who are different or who believe differently. They�re certainly using it to line the coffers of their pro-discrimination organizations and to increase their own political clout.

The brouhaha over Mr. Zed�s invocation highlights, yet again, the bigotry underwriting the Christianist agenda. The narrow-mindedness that defines religious dogma is also at the heart of the pope�s reiteration of Catholicism�s superiority over all other versions and expressions of Christianity.

The president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Albert Mohler, is quite familiar with the bigotry religious dogma manifests. On March 2, Rev. Mohler published an article titled �Is Your Baby Gay? What If You Could Know? What If You Could Do Something About It?� In it he acknowledged that sexual orientation probably has a genetic component and/or is hormonally determined prior to birth, but looked forward to the day when medical science could change the ordained order of things:

If a biological basis is found, and if a prenatal test is then developed, and if a successful treatment to reverse the sexual orientation to heterosexual is ever developed, we would support its use as we should unapologetically support the use of any appropriate means to avoid sexual temptation and the inevitable effects of sin. . . . If such knowledge should ever be discovered, we should embrace it and use it for the greater good of humanity and for the greater glory of God.

In Mohler�s dogmatic �thinking,� homosexuality is �God�s� punishment -- selectively applied -- for �original sin.� So he proposed using genetic engineering and hormone therapy to repent for the �sin� of mythical Adam and Eve �for the greater glory of God.�

The Latin version of that phrase -- ad majorem gloriam Dei -- is well known to The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the �holy� Catholic and apostolic church. Its leaders used it to justify the Holy Inquisition�s autos da f� at which tens of thousands of �heretics� were burned at the stake.

What did Mohler have to say about the pope�s pronouncement? From his blog:

Pope Benedict was already in hot water with the media because of his recent decision related to the (limited) reinstitution of the Latin mass, complete with a call for the conversion of the Jews. He was not likely to be named �Ecumenist of the Year� anyway. This latest controversy just adds to the media impression of big changes at the Vatican under the current papacy. . . .

The Roman Catholic Church believes we [Protestant evangelicals and fundamentalists] are in spiritual danger for obstinately and disobediently excluding ourselves from submission to its universal claims and its papacy. Evangelicals should be concerned that Catholics are in spiritual danger for their submission to these very claims.

Or, as filtered through Wildmon�s One News Now, �In response, the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Albert Mohler, says evangelicals must proclaim, without apology, that any church, which defines itself in terms of the papacy, is not the true church. . . . He also says Evangelicals should be concerned that Catholics are in spiritual danger for submission to the papacy.�

To summarize:

�Your gods are false. Only our tri-part god is true.�

�Your churches are false. Only ours is true.�

�Your church follows an earthly power. Only ours are true to the gospels.�

Dogmatists bickering. Spirituality lost. The 2007 edition of Religious Wars.

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