The United States of Jesusville
Last week’s presidential inauguration lasted a relatively brisk 90 minutes. About half of the official swearing-in ceremony was comprised of speeches. The other half was filled with lively music and assorted patriotic fanfare.
Lost in the controversial aftermath of political protests and petty partisan bickering over attendance figures on the mall that day, was the disturbing amount of time given to religion. The nation’s biggest platform was frequently turned over to religious authorities. Prayers dominated the order of the day. In fact, prayers accounted for nearly as much stage time as President Trump’s much-anticipated inaugural address. There was the actual swearing in process also, buttressed by not just one, but two versions of The Holy Bible. A copy of Trump’s own The Art of the Deal was reportedly ready on stand by.
For we secularists, calls for public prayer are typically but a minor annoyance. Most of us do respect the rights of others to pray and/or show other outward signs of their faith. We stand quietly while others choose to worship, even though we believe such rituals make about as much sense as praying to the Easter Bunny. Everyone, everywhere should be afforded the right to demonstrate their beliefs (including we), both in private and public. However, our patience does get tested. Our tolerance is abused. While we’re perfectly willing to pretend-pray and play along, we don’t like getting smashed over the head by the imposition of a pious religious order. That’s precisely what happened in Washington last Friday.
President Trump’s 17-minute inauguration address was framed by six — count ’em SIX — prayers. Three prayers were held at the beginning of the ceremony [Pastor Paula White, who is Trump’s “spiritual adviser,” followed immediately by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, and then Rev. Franklin Graham]. That was followed by three more prayers near the end [Rabbi Marvin Hier, Bishop Wayne T. Jackson, and Rev. Sam Rodriguez]. All that was missing was the Little Drummer Boy and a partridge in a pear tree affixed to a giant cross that screams “Jesus Saves.”
Usually, non-denominational religious rituals include a benediction from each of the so-called “Big Three” — which is Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. But this year, Christians covered the point spread and smashed the over easier than the New England Patriots in the championship game. At Trump’s inaugural, there were five Christians and one Jew upon the Deus. What ever happened to the Muslim? Islam was shut out. Perhaps the imam’s car got caught in traffic at the “largest crowd ever to witness an inauguration,” according to White House propagandist, Sean Spicer. We’ll have to check on that.
Were five Christian prayers necessary in order to bestow the imaginary blessing of the world’s phantom superpower upon the incoming Trump Administration? Might just one, or two, or even three prayers have been sufficient? Gee, even three seems like overkill. One realizes that not only are all the religions divided among themselves, denominations too are subdivided into different belief systems, each requiring plenty of grandstanding and gerrymandering. And so, a sort of Christian ice cream cone was stacked with all the most popular flavors of Baskin-Robbins at the inauguration. The only thing missing was hot fudge and a cherry.
Once the swearing in ceremony officially ended — for those horrified at the sight of this historic moment, the swearing at began. The billionaire ruling class accompanied by their congressional puppets and new cabinet appointees and excused themselves over to Union Station, just a 10-minute walk from the Capital. That where the inaugural luncheon was officially held and began with….(take a wild guess)….yet another prayer. Some verses were quoted out of a holy book written 2,000 years ago laden with contradictions which mysteriously even condones slavery. I don’t remember what was said exactly. I doubt anyone was listening, or paying much attention since everyone’s hickory smoked brisket was getting cold on the plate while the mullah rambled on about the ancient Corinthians. There were a lot of thou’s and ye’s slung around, though.
In the spirit of bipartisanship, President Obama’s inauguration ceremonies had plenty of religious fanfare, also. And, I was just as annoyed about it then as I am now with this new Administration. In fact, religious gets used as a political prod by many politicians in both parties. But this was akin to smoking the frankincense. Curiously, most in attendance at these types of public events don’t appear take prayers very seriously, as evidenced by the bitterly deep political divide fueled by institutionalized greed and avarice for money and power that’s come to inflict the ruling class. It’s as though once the praying ends, it’s open season and the political pickpocketing begins. Let’s steal and kill for Jesus.
Next came Day Two. Any notion that the first full day of the new Administration would take on a more serious tone was shattered when, on the following morning, less than 24-hours after seven prayers were offered, President Trump’s first order of business was to attend something called a “National Prayer Service,” held at Washington’s National Cathedral. Somehow, instead of just Christians and Jews peppering the pews and slinging the sermons, a Muslim and Hindu miraculously passed through security. Once again, we’ll have to look into that.
Prayers and preaching has no place in or at any official government function, assuming one shares a literal interpretation of the Constitutional separation of church and state. Millions of American secularists share this view. Fortunately, the previous Administration even acknowledged what’s become the fastest-growing of all factions on religiosity (which is the “nones” — meaning those having no religious belief). We aren’t growing smaller. We’re increasing in size. But you wouldn’t know any of this given the holy liturgy of events over the past three days and all the lapdog attention afforded to Christian evangelicals.
Surely, there’s at least one thing on which we can probably all agree. believers and secularists alike. There’s plenty of praying going on right now, right this very instant. Even many of those who strongly oppose President Trump and his policies are out there praying. They’re praying with as much conviction as anyone else. I sometimes wonder how any spiritual being, real or imagined, could handle the disparate prayers of so many contradictory hopes and wishes. All this praying is enough to make any god ignore the incessant chatter and flip the off switch.