Thursday, March 28, 2019

Government God

The Buffalo Springfield, circa 1966 :There's something happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear.

There is something going on, probably not exclusively in Pennsylvania.

Voters of the State of Pennsylvania, after twice voting for Barack Obama for President, rejected (the slightly more religious) Hillary Clinton while opting for Donald J. Trump. Oddly (or appropriately), then, (state) Representative Stephanie Borowicz, forced-birth extremist (quelle surprise!)

was on the ninth “Jesus” of her opening prayer in the Pennsylvania statehouse when other lawmakers started to look uncomfortable.

Speaker Mike Turzai, a fellow Republican, glanced up — but Borowicz carried on, delivering a 100-second ceremonial invocation that some of her colleagues decried as an offensive, divisive and Islamophobic display shortly before the legislature swore in its first Muslim woman.

“God forgive us — Jesus — we’ve lost sight of you, we’ve forgotten you, God, in our country, and we’re asking you to forgive us,” Borowicz said, followed by a quote from the Bible’s second book of Chronicles that implores God’s followers to “turn from their wicked ways.” Then she praised President Trump for his unequivocal support of Israel.

“I claim all these things in the powerful, mighty name of Jesus, the one who, at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess, Jesus, that you are Lord, in Jesus’ name,” Borowicz said.

By the time she said “Amen,” Borowicz had invoked Jesus 13 times, deploying the name between prayerful clauses as though it were a comma. She mentioned “Lord” and “God” another six times each and referenced “The Great I Am” and “the one who’s coming back again, the one who came, died and rose again on the third day.”

You are outraged, as you should be, and as many of her fellow legislators were:

As the prayer reached a crescendo, at least one member shouted objections. Turzai, standing behind her, looked up again and nudged her elbow, prompting her to quickly conclude the address. Afterward, the protests only grew louder.

“It blatantly represented the Islamophobia that exists among some leaders — leaders that are supposed to represent the people,” Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell, the newly sworn-in Democrat who is Muslim, told the Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Monday. “I came to the Capitol to help build bipartisanship and collaborations regardless of race or religion to enhance the quality of life for everyone in the Commonwealth.”

Though not technically "Islamaphobic"- a phobia is a fear- the prayer was an intended rebuke of Islam at a public gathering and intended to offend many people, especially Johnson-Harrell.  We learn that Borowicz's prayer provoked an interesting reaction

Johnson-Harrell won a special election earlier this month to fill a seat vacated by the resignation of Democratic Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown, who had been re-elected in November after being convicted of bribery. Johnson-Harrell's swearing-in drew 55 guests, a majority of them Muslim. A Muslim prayer was said from the House dais during the ceremony....

Another Muslim lawmaker, Rep. Jason Dawkins, D-Philadelphia, opened the session on Tuesday by reading from the Quran. His invocation was followed by applause.

We have a problem, Harrisburg.  Atheist Deana Weaver already has delivered the invocation/prayer in the state Senate twice but Assembly Speaker Mike

Turzai has blocked atheists from delivering the opening prayer in the chamber, a matter currently tied up in federal court. Last year, when the House lost in federal court – it has appealed – Turzai went to great measures to block nonbelievers from delivering the invocation, abandoning the use of guest chaplains and allowing House members to deliver the opening prayer.

This would have been a great big clue for Turzai, were he not so politically correct as to ignore it. The prayer in these circumstances is anachronistic and should be retired.

The prayer should be eliminated not only because it's obviously an establishment of religion, whatever a court might say.  It need not be eliminated only because there will be an increasing number of Muslims performing, which would offend not only the likes of Borowicz and other narrow-minded Christians, but also open-minded believing Christians.

But it should be excised because it is in fact becoming a performance.  Presumably both Borowicz and Dawkins are sincere in their beliefs, devoted to their religion, usually referred to in polite company as faith.

While a prayer is not technically a performance, it might as well be, when such invocations of "faith" are increasingly cheered, as in "his invocation was met with applause."

Elimination of the "invocation," as it is euphemistically described, would not require elimination of the communal expression of religious faith among lawmakers upon the occasion of a government meeting or other event. 

They could follow the lead of National Football League players, some of whom upon completion of a game swiftly and voluntarily, meet on the field, kneel, and very briefly pray. Public officials could meet either before or after the event, praying as they wish, in combination with or apart from  Christians, Jews, Muslims, members of any other religion, or even as New Age spirit worshipers.

In fact, they already can do so, yet another indication that a public prayer at a government gathering is, in pertinent part, largely a performance.

Blogger's note in the interests of full disclosure: upon request, I once delivered a prayer at the opening of a municipal council meeting. By choice, it was- other than reference to "Father" (a term typically invoked only by Christians)- completely monotheistic and non-sectarian. (Thankfully, no applause.)

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