Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Continental Congress: "I Am Going to Congress"

During my preparations for going to the Continental Congress, the issue of prayer at the Congress has raised its ugly head. I say "ugly head" because there is a certain segment of what I would loosely call b . . . um, Fundamentalist Christians--probably in the minority--who wish to impose upon the full assembly a prayer ending in the name of their messiah, thus excluding anyone who is unable to assent to such a prayer. This is so even though the organizers of the Congress have very reasonably arranged to allow for Chapel time prior to the Congress convening each day, and have even taken a poll to see which religions would be present and are considering how to divide that chapel time. All of this so that a non-sectarian prayer or moment of silence may be done upon the full assembly.

Of course, I am in the extreme minority, as one of only a few (or one) Jews present, so I shall simply pray the morning service privately each day, and find a synagogue for Shabbat.

However, on the planning discussion boards quite a ruckus has been stirred over this issue. What is particularly ugly is that the Fundy C's (as my kid's dad calls them) have threatened to boycott the Congress altogether, disrupt the prayer to make it as they wish it, and many have taken to name-calling, questioning patriotism, and personal attacks on those of us who have been reasonable in presenting a different point of view.

Early in the discussion, a few young and brash libertarian atheists made some comments about the Flying Spaghetti Monster as well, and the Fundy C's took it seriously, not knowing about this a parody that pokes fun at the divisions and religious animosity among Christians of various sects. This added fuel to their apparent distress.

Foolishly, I entered the fray. I believe that there is something written somewhere that Jews don't read that warns against the casting of pearls before swine. Naturally, lured to the prospect of a debate, I ignored the warning.I wrote several well reasoned essays about the issue arguing (in the academic sense) for a moment of silence. Perhaps I'll publish one of them later, edited of course to protect the identity of the religious fanatics. Here, at least, my pearls would not be wasted.

Personally, I could deal with a non-sectarian prayer to a "Creator", but the Fundy C's will allow nothing but that a proper hot-farting preacher should lay it on thick in the name of the Christian trinity. Particularly the number two spot. Never mind that even many Christians would be uncomfortable with that. It would be an exercise in allowing them to fantasize that the Founders were all Fundy C's. ( They weren't. Fundamentalism did not come onto the American scene until 1900.)

In any case, as I watched in dismay, all reasoned arguments were ignored or sidestepped, but the personal attacks and outright libels were directed at anyone who had the temerity to disagree with these few people. (And I do mean few. Maybe five?). It was ugly.

Last night as I was wondering about what I had gotten myself into --picture Elisheva in the Fundamentalists' Den--I got an e-mail from another wounded warrior of what we are now calling "the good fight." I had stopped posting my pearls, but some of the<> Christians were still making sure I got theirs by e-mail. As I read a post that was attempting to blame me and a few others for delegates choices to boycott, I realized these people are a very small fringe among all the delegates. They are unable to make a short, reasoned argument, but fall immediately into ad hominem attacks and other logical errors.

And then I thought about Abraham Lincoln. There's this great story about his first Congressional

run against a rather hot-farting revivalist preacher in 1846. It was in Sandburg's Lincoln. I could even see the page in my mind. So I looked it up and here it is:

“Cartwright in due time said, “All those who desire to give their hearts to God and go to heaven will stand.” A sprinkling of men, women and children stood up. The preacher exhorted, “All who do not wish to go to hell will stand.” All stood up—except Lincoln. Then Cartwright in his gravest voice: I observe that at my first invitation many stood up who desire to give their hearts to God and go to heaven. And I further observe that all of you save one indicated that you did not desire to go to hell. The sole exception is Mr. Lincoln who did not respond to either invitation. May I enquire of you, Mr. Lincoln, where you are going?”

“Lincoln slowly rose. “I came here as a respectful listener. I did not know that I was to be singled out by Brother Cartwright. I believe in treating religious matters with due solemnity. I admit that the questions propounded by Brother Cartwright are of great importance. I did not feel called upon to answer as the rest did. Brother Cartwright asks me directly where I am going. I desire to reply with equal directness: I am going to Congress.” So it was told.” (Sandberg, C. (1939)Lincoln: The Prairie Years. Harcourt, Inc.:Orlando, FL (p. 82).

I, like Lincoln, am going to Congress. This time the Continental Congress.

I am not going there to participate in a religious revival, but I am going to do some speaking.

Speaking in favor of the Constitution. That document of which the First Amendment says this:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

I am going there to be part of a Congress called to deal with the last ten words; our charge is to outline the next steps for a Free People because the Federal Government has been engaged for the past 100 years in massive violations of its Constitutional powers.

And like Lincoln, I do not feel called upon to answer.

I don't feel called upon the make a statement of faith, or to help a small group of people fake reality by pretending that the United States has the established religion-Christianity; or even that everyone there is in agreement with their narrow view of theology and history.

I am going to Congress. I am not going to Heaven. I am not going to Hell and I'll be damned if I am paying to go to Chicago to go to Church.

Those grade school years of being a Lincoln fanatic have paid off. I read Sandburg's Lincoln and never forgot it.

So I'm going to Congress.


Susan said...

oh brother.

My first thought was you all should accommodate these people in their boycott, and it would likely be to advantage of the whole.

(Are some from IL? Had to ask)

It makes sense that there would be such diversity in this Congress. It's unfortunate that the same appreciation and stalwart observance of the business at hand isn't observed now.Just as it was in the founding of the Declaration and the Constitution.
Ya'll just keep fighting the fight. We're a troubled nation, and this is a piece of the problem that can be resolved.
-From someone 'allowed to read' about the possibilities in casting pearls before swine. ;-)

ChristineMM said...

Good for you.

Have been thinking of you lately especially when I'm out seeing new plants and trees & identifying them. I'm too busy to do the 100 species thing for my blog but I'm doing the real work & learning & enjoying it.

Today I discovered I have a witch hazel tree, a pretty big one. What fun to learn & discover it.

Did you see Temple Grandin on CSPAN BookTV this last weekend? In Depth had her on x3 hours.

You can watch it online for free too.

Was thinking yesterday my older son is turning into a geek I guess as when he picked out his classes for MIT Splash he picked stuff like nuclear fusion and black holes and all kinds of stuff. He was so excited over the topics, stuff that DH and I would never take. Probably due to our public schooling having turned us off to such scary topics. Three cheers for the homeschoolers and the geeks!

Hope you have been well!

Consent of the Governed said...

Wow... now that is a shame to hear this is happening. The Founders were also religious men - but this bickering is just silliness.

Anonymous said...

Politics, religion don't argue the da-- things and you'll stay out of trouble. Well, not really, someone will always stalk you out and push the buttons to make you react.

I don't know what transpired in the middle, but in the end ... the end of the immediate article, you stood yourself proud.

Have fun at the conventional convention, ha!

Crankenpants said...


Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Thanks, everyone.

Susan, yes I am from IL. Born in a small town on the Illinois River, raised in Normal.
Actually, I studied 12 hours of Christian Scripture with a former Jesuit prof at the Univ. of Albuquerque. It was fascinating, but the intellectual level of the discussions was vastly different from the ones for CC2009.

Christine, I have been neglecting my blog terribly. Too busy getting sucked into message boards for CC2009. They're an addictive time sink. I just took myself off of them now. I can still go to them but I won't get an e-mail announcement of every hot-farting fundamentalist statement of faith.

You know, I can deal with most Christians, but those Fundy C's--oy vey ist mir! They have no concept of religious privacy. In any conversation with one, sooner or later they'll sidle up to The Question: "Are you a Christian?" My stock answer has become: "Why? Does it matter?" or "Why? If I answer no, will that change how you treat me?"

Judy: I actually think a discussion would be valuable, if it was a discussion. Mostly, though any reasoned responses are ignored in that the ideas in them are not discussed. Rather, than arguments one gets personal attacks. Or threats. Very unsavory.

Gadabout Blogalot (Ijust love to use your whole Blog Handle!!!): I think I have comported myself well in the matter, sticking to ideas rather than ad hominem attacks. And I have a PLAN! Always helps to do so.

Anonymous said...

Should you have any further questions about the mindset of the supporters of this movement, I suggest you read the "commentary" directed at Elie Wiesel for having the effrontery to condemn the use of Holocaust images by those in the movement, to be found at Politco:

Among the more unsavory:

"This hollowcost thing is totally overblown by the jewish."

"I see many Jews that are homosexual-actively promoting it as a "normal" lifestyle. I see many Jews involved in the ACLU- which I call the "Anti Christian Liberal Union", this bothers me as how can one be against their Father and Son in Heaven who are for Life??...He sent his only son to Earth to die for our sins and I think He is wondering the direction our Country is taking??. I am praying for our Country and all the Jews in our Country ...'

"Most objective WW2 researchers agree now that the beastial Nazi''s, who happened to be anti-capitalist Socialists, killed even more Slavs and Gypsies in their concentration camps than Jews, but you don't see the Slavs and Gypsies trying to profit off the "Holocaust" like some of the shameless powerful Jews in the media. "

"The fact is that at a time in history, The Rosthchild family controlled practically everything."

"Rothschilds nothing! Everyone knows that Obama is George Soros sock puppet. Wasn't Soros Jewish once upon a time? May the Schwartz be with you."

"Please get back to *****town, will you?"

"The jews need to clam up and accept the fact that they are in a Chritian country."

Of course, it might be easy to dismiss many of the comments as coming from people who are simply caught up in their anger at their own situations and ignorance (amazing how many refer to Mr. Wiesel as "she"). Historically, poor white Christians usually blame minorities rather than themselves. But we have seen where that leads if they manage to get themselves in power, and it would be prudent to keep that in mind.

I disagree in large part with your political beliefs, but certainly support your right to have them and act on them. What I don't support is this "teabag" movement, in which anti semites and bigots of all stripes have found a welcoming home. They claim support for Israel, and yet have such strong dislike for Jews here in America. I don't understand how you -- an intelligent and thoughtful Jewish woman, can lend your support to this movement.

If you use ignorant thugs as your foot soldiers, eventually some of them are going to be in a position to turn and use their prejudices on you.

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

After some thought, I have decided to publish a post by Anonymous, which demonstrates that bigotry and stereotyping is not confined to religious fanatics on the so-called "right", but also is part and parcel of what is often called "the left." Both points of view are collectivist, in that each tars everyone they don't like with the same brush because they assume a uniformity of thought among those they hate. They assume that knowing a "sound byte" of a person's stance on one issue is sufficient to characterizing her ideas about every possible issue. This is a logical fallacy, and it creates the kind of stereotyping you will see below. Feel free to have at it.

Crimson Wife said...

I've always found it very odd when certain folks ask the "what church do you go to?" as an icebreaker. Talk about nosy! I have no problem answering the question when it's relevant but usually it isn't. And I hate feeling like the asker has a "correct" answer he/she is looking for (as long as I'm happy with it, it shouldn't matter to anyone else).