Sunday, May 11, 2014

Public Prayer - Calling God "God"

Last week’s Supreme Court ruling kind of caught me off guard. I knew the Court was going to come down in favor of Public Prayer; and I am not in disagreement over that point; but I was surprised that they would uphold Sectarian Prayer. After all, this is really the heart of the issue.

Very few people have a problem with public prayer; per se. I fall into this category. It doesn’t bother me in the least when the government invokes the name of God. I find it comforting. What makes me uncomfortable is when the government gives Him a name. In the Navy the Chaplain always referred to God as "Our Father", as in the Psalm. Nobody ever complained about that back then. Today that would be offensive to some women.

Generally speaking, people believe in God in one way or another. Atheists have no horse in this race as far as I can see, since you cannot protest what you profess not to believe in. Those who do believe just call him by different names. There’s Buddha, Jesus and Mohammed, along with a whole cluster of other Gods too numerous to mention here. And, of course, some of us just call Him God. That last category is representative of me. I believe in God. Just plain old God. Kind of like the picture above. He has His good days and bad days; just like you and me, only on a larger scale.

The question really boils down to this; if I can respect your God by calling him God; which doesn't offend you; then why can’t you respect my beliefs by calling him God instead of Jesus or Allah etc. when in a public forum? It seems so simple. And it’s inclusive rather than divisive. Isn't that what religion is supposed to do?

Then there is the legalistic aspect of this issue. Town Meetings; Zoning Commission Hearings; etc, all result in legal consequences, just as in a Court of Law where you are asked to swear an Oath to God. Give me an oath to Jesus, and as a Jew I might not feel morally bound to an entity in which I do not believe. Would it still be perjury? This is inconsistency in its worst incarnation. It is embarrassing to me as an American  that the Justices do not understand this.

Also there is nothing as rude as being invited to a town meeting, or high school reunion for that matter; where the people in charge know there will be multiple faiths represented; then having a blessing representative of only a portion of those present.

This is akin to Shylock being offered dinner at the home of Basanio in “The Merchant of Venice.” He is welcome to come and eat of the pork which Antonio’s own prophet; Jesus; would have had to decline. This is the exact same position that people of various faiths are placed in when you invite them to a meeting; or reunion; and then conduct a prayer which excludes them. Think about it; and then tell me “What Jesus Would Do”.

The illustration at the top is the face of God as envisioned by Michelangelo. Kind of how I see him myself.

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