Perennial issues

Spring update:
It’s here. On my walk to work today I saw that ‘the force that through the green fuse drives the flower’ is waving little green and yellow and red flags at the tips of the bushes and fruit trees. And it smells gloriously fecund out there.

What I’ve got out of the library this week:
Nonzero, the Logic of Human Destiny, by Robert Wright
The Left Hand of God: Taking Our Country Back from the Religious Right, by Michael Lerner (So far seems to have a lot in common with my platform address a couple weeks ago.)
The Battle for God, by Karen Armstrong
–Thanks to those who recommended these books to me

Speaking of God:
There’s been a lot in the media this week about Missouri House Resolution No. 13, which resolves that “our forefathers of this great nation of the United States recognized a Christian God and used the principles afforded to us by Him as the founding principles of our nation” (etc., etc.), and therefore “we stand with the majority of our constituents and exercise the common sense that voluntary prayer in public schools and religious displays on public property are not a coalition of church and state.”

Now I could shoot at the fish in this barrel (or the vegan equivalent), for a long time, starting with the principle that when it comes to freedom of and from religious expression, what we need are not lawmakers who stand with the majority’s “common sense” but lawmakers who will stand up for the rights of minorities. If we’re just going to go with majority rule, we don’t need lawmakers at all—-the mob is much more efficient.

However, yesterday I heard of another piece of legislation making its way through the MO house, this one a proposed state *constitutional amendment*, HJR 39, “Religious Freedom in Public Places,” sponsored by Rep Bearden. HJR 39 is a short and more inclusive-sounding prayer-in-school bill that “reaffirms a citizens’ right to choose any religion or no religion.” However, as anyone who has ever been a child should know, public prayers are inherently coercive and isolating, “voluntary” or not.

People right now have the right to pray any time, anywhere, including in schools. Silently. If the intent is to commune with your god for comfort and inspiration, that is more than adequate. A god that is all-knowing and all-powerful cannot also be hard-of-hearing. Public, communal prayer is a powerful force with an important function in religious communities: to solidify religious solidarity, reinforce shared beliefs, train children and newcomers, and so on. Those who want to force public, communal, “voluntary” prayer on schoolchildren clearly have those functions in mind, not anyone’s need for comfort or inspiration.

And so I wonder if the clearly offensive HR 13 “Christian god” bill is not really just a smokescreen for HJR 39’s prayer-in-school bill. After all, if Missourians reject the official Christianizing of our state, perhaps we’ll be willing to “compromise” with “nondenominational” school prayers written and promoted by the majority.