Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Hard Truth From Orlando

Commentator Andy Rooney feels like American Christians need to take back the right to pray in school, at games, before government sessions. He thinks it’s okay that it’s a Christian prayer because the U.S. and Canada were founded on Christian principles and Christian churches outnumber all others better than 200 to 1. He says that the U.S. courts are taking away their right to pray. He’s wrong. The courts are reasserting everyone else’s right not to have to be held hostage at public gatherings to the anyone’s particular brand of religion.

Yes. America was founded predominantly by Christians. They were seeking the freedom to pursue their beliefs, free and separate from the Government endorsed religion. They were Christians, mostly, but their brand of Christianity was not "recognized" by their governments and therefore they were not permitted to follow their conscience without government-sanctioned penalties. So they looked for some place that they could worship independent of their respective Old World governments.

That's the part of history that our "Christian" prayer in school group keeps forgetting. They think because it's their group that has the numerical religious majority then they get to inflict their brand of religion on everyone else in the country. And because they've decided that they are always right because they are the majority, then everyone else has to tolerate their beliefs -- but they don't have to respect anyone else's. That's what put the end to prayer in school. That's what causes conflict everywhere the prayer issue comes up -- the insistence that those not part of the group must also bow their head if they want to participate in gatherings.

I went to school in the 60's when the First Baptist Church was THE church in the area. All of the teachers had to belong to that Church or they didn't get tenure. If you weren't a member of that Church, you didn't get invited to your classmates’ birthday parties or any other gathering. You were excluded at recess; you were ignored by the teachers. To this day, if that church catches on fire, I want to be there with hot dogs and marshmallows and celebrate its destruction.

I remember my first tour at the Florida State Prison chapel, which they proudly boasted was non-denominational. But it had a HUGE cross affixed at the front -- and a healthy percentage of any inmates are practicing black Muslims, with a sprinkling of other faiths. Bet they felt real welcome worshipping under that big cross.

Non-denominational means no symbols, no religious messages -- just a quiet place to reflect and a podium at the front for the service conductor. That's what a non-denominational chapel SHOULD be.

It's like the prayer breakfasts and gatherings they all insist on having -- at government functions -- and the guy doing the blessing ALWAYS has to say "In Jesus name we pray." They can't just say Amen. I challenged once and asked if they could say the prayer without the "In Jesus name" so they cancelled the prayer altogether and the entire meal the chaplain sat and glared at me...turning around in his chair to make nasty faces.

I asked one woman why they always have to say "In Jesus Name" and she advised me that if you didn't say that, God couldn't hear your prayers. How interesting. I didn't know people could read God's mind. I thought God was supposed to be omniscient and knew everything about everyone; not selectively deaf and/or requiring passwords to motivate his beneficence.

I remember one of the big issues at the prison I worked at was the administration trying to deny this guy (a convicted burglar and embezzler) the right to worship Satan. Now, I think that’s totally fruitloop on that guy’s part, but he wasn’t into blood sacrifices or hurting anyone. He just believed that Satan was on the side of people, God wasn’t, and he wanted to read his Satanic Bible (yeah, there is such a thing) and have time in the chapel to do it. Which is pretty weird, I admit, but who was he hurting? No one. But you’d have thought he set fire to babies in the middle of the quadrangle from the way administration was acting. They tried to claim it wasn’t a “real religion.” Well, frankly, most people will tell you that any religion that isn’t theirs isn’t a “real” religion; it’s myth, it’s a lie, it’s a cult, it’s a – whatever, but it isn’t like theirs, so it isn’t real.

He won the law suit and they had to let him have an hour each week in the chapel, where he read his “bible” and meditated, and caused no damage and no scenes. He behaved the way Christians like to claim they do, with compassion, tolerance and true charity.

The Wiccans won the right in court to conduct their services at Ft. Hood back a few years. The local Christian (and military chaplains) churches came unglued because it’s “not a real religion and it’s witchcraft.” But it’s a religion and there was a congregation and they had the same rights the Christian churches wanted exclusively for themselves. And a number of service members were Wiccan and they wanted the same rights for themselves that they were in the military to protect. Fair’s fair, and that’s how the courts saw it.

I remember the stranglehold the Officers Christian Fellowship had in the military, too. You're not a member? You get excluded. There was a whole subculture of OCF officers who excluded and penalized non-members, who were good officers and good military service persons. And there were blatant threats, join the OCF or you don't get a good performance review and your career in the military will be short-lived unless you "come to Jesus" through their organization.

You know what? A cold day in hell before I ever willingly attend another service or any function that starts with a prayer. And if I ever sit through another graduation ceremony where some stuck up little evangelical shit feels they have the right to preach at us because they "have a calling" and we're there to see our kid graduate so we're trapped while they lecture us about how we can only be saved through their Jesus and their brand of religion, I'm going to feel free to exercise my First Amendment rights and disrupt and cause a scene.

Round them all up, tie 'em together and give them a baptism in the middle of the Pacific Ocean . Let's see if their version of God wants to fish them out or let them walk on water.

I don't object to prayer. I don't object to worship. I don't object to religion. I object to individuals insisting we all have to listen to their brand of religion and that they alone have the right to speak out on what they believe. Arrogant Fundamentalist jackasses. I equate them with the Taliban and all the other religious egomaniacs who have decided to play God and insist everyone else has to play along with them, too.

Yes. Everyone has the right to pray. They don't have the right to make me pray with them. And that's why Andy Rooney's wrong. This nation was not founded on the Christian religion. This nation was founded on freedom of expression and the freedom to explore your own conscience and find your own path to self-awareness and morality. The Christian majority’s rights end at the tip of my nose – if that bothers them, they can pray for me somewhere I don’t have to listen to them.

Florida Cracker

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