Shouting for Privilege

(I posted about this earlier. Then I tried to write something a little longer. Then I forgot about it for a while. Here it is anyway.)

A couple of weeks ago (yes, this is a little late. I got distracted) the Senate invited a Hindu cleric to give their morning invocation. Apparently this was a big historic first-time thing, so of course somebody had to screw it up.

You can see the video here. The poor guy hasn’t even started when this droning half-zombie voice breaks in with a prayer to Jesus so mechanical that it must have erupted from some automatic place without passing through the speaker’s brain. And the sergeant at arms restores order in the Senate, and the chaplain starts his spiel, and another voice breaks in ranting, this time in the exact tone small children use for “Mom! I’m booooooorrrrrrred!

It’s amazing that they thought they could do this
; that standing up and shouting down a speaker in the Senate was in their clouded minds somehow the right and natural thing to do. This is the bald obliviousness to normal standards of behavior you’d expect from a severe Asperger’s sufferer. How did they get to this place in their heads?

Well, for one thing they’re brainwashed. But it’s partly our own fault. We encouraged them. We encouraged them by giving the Senate a “morning invocation” in the first place.The constitution is pretty clear on the place of religion in government. It doesn’t have one. The people who wrote the Constitution had more historical perspective than we do today; they remembered the results of government-endorsed religion, conflicts that had torn across Europe and torn apart lives. So, prior to the Bill of Rights, the main body of the Constitution only mentions religion to say that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States”. We’ve stuck to the letter of that rule, but abstained from the spirit.Every morning for who knows how long, the Senate has started its day with a prayer. A “nondenominational” prayer, but in a country where the religiously inclined are overwhelmingly Christian, everybody knows what *that* means: something the Catholics and Protestants can agree on—and if anybody *else* is happy, it’s a public relations bonus. Something like this representative sample (from the Congressional Record, July 9 2007):

Let us pray.

O God of our lives, we confess that we have often been too distracted by busyness to hear Your words of truth. Keep us from being pressed by the insignificant. Instead, help us to take time to listen to the whisper of Your spirit. As the tender tug of time reminds us of our beginning and our end, teach us to embrace Your truth which transcends life and death.

On this first day returning from recess, give our Senators strength for all they will encounter today. May they feel Your power keeping them from stumbling and slipping. Remind them that You are the final judge of their leadership and the only one they ultimately need to please. Use them for Your glory.

We pray in Your precious Name. Amen.

I always kind of thought the final judges of our Senators’ leadership, and the ones they ultimately needed to please, were the people of the United States of America. But then, I guess I’m too distracted by busyness.

What we say, when these prayers are read out in the people’s place of business, underneath the pleasantries about strength and glory and the tender tug of time, is that to truly be a United States Senator, a proper Senator, you’ve got to be a particular kind of American. The kind of person who starts the work day off with a vaguely Christianish public prayer.No wonder these clowns thought they could get away with hassling some other guy’s holy man. We’ve been telling them all along that they’re privileged.