Friday, March 20, 2015

SCOTUS on Christian Prayer at Town Meetings (6 May 2014)

This much on the early May 2014 ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States allowing specifically Christian prayers to open town meetings:

     First, I'd like to be the 215th Bible-educated liberal to quote at the Supreme Court Jesus's injunction to pray in private, to wit: “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. [...] But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. [...] And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words" (Matthew 6.5-7).

     As an occasional and selectively-observant Reform Jew of Leftist and religion/State-separatist inclinations, I'll note this much positive in the decision: It should remind politically conservative Jews (and some non-SCOTUS Catholics) that their allies-of-convenience who talk of the USA as "a Christian nation" mean exactly what they say. In this theory — or doctrine — the USA is a nation and that nation is Christian; to be outside the true Church is to be outside of the nation and just a guest on that Christian nation's territory. (And as a nice young student once said to me in [mostly] innocence, "I used to be Catholic, but now I'm a Christian."). A bad possibility that's been brewing for a generation or so is that doctrinal tolerance among the various faithfuls will allow them to work together to impose a vague "nondenominational" religiosity on us all. This Supreme Court decision may help put that off.

     Meanwhile, I suggest that readers suggest to the City Parents of the Town of Greece and similar pious places this highly appropriate, and now perfectly legal, opening for their meetings: "Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Ha-Olam, asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav, v'tzivanu la-asok b'tsorchei ha-tzibur." Or, for those of us who don't do Hebrew, "Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with Your mitzvot and enjoined us to occupy ourselves with the needs of the community."

     The next week they might open with this poetic prayer of beginnings:

                     In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
                     Praise be to God, the Lord of the Worlds,                     The Merciful One, the Compassionate One,                     Master of the Day of Doom.
                     Thee alone we serve, to Thee alone we cry for help.                     Guide us in the straight path                     The path of them Thou hast blessed.                     Not of those with whom Thou art angry                     Nor of those who go astray. 

    If your town council aren't much into subtlety, use "Allah," the Arabic for "God."

    I'm dead serious here, people: If we're gonna play, let's play, and — to repeat an obvious suggestion — that means you, too, Scientologists and Satanists, laconic neo-Pagans (though Jesus may've been prejudiced there), and Awaiters of the AI Singularity. Let us make members of that Christian nation welcome as we begin some meetings our way (many of our various Ways). 

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