THIS could go under “politics” or “religion” ...
Hindu Groups Ask ‘08 Hopefuls to Criticize Protest
By Michelle Boorstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 27, 2007; A04
U.S. Hindu organizations are urging presidential candidates to denounce the protesters who disrupted the Senate as the first-ever Hindu opening prayer was being delivered this month.
Ante Nedlko Pavkovic, Katherine Lynn Pavkovic and Christan Renee Sugar—identified in the Christian media as a couple and their daughter—were removed from the Senate floor and arrested by Capitol Police on July 12 after they began shouting, “This is an abomination,” and asking for forgiveness from God.
Several Christian organizations spoke out against the prayer, before and after it was delivered. The American Family Association circulated a petition, urging its members to contact their senator to protest the prayer. “This is not a religion that has produced great things in the world,” it read. The Rev. Flip Benham of Operation Rescue/Operation Save America issued a statement saying the prayer placed “the false god of Hinduism on a level playing field with the One True God, Jesus Christ.”
Soooo many things to say here. Of course, to start, we shouldn’t be allowing sectarian prayer on the floor of Congress. However, if we are going to allow prayer, then clearly it should involve all sides of the issue. Indeed, if we are going to allow discussion of religion, we should also allow a non-religious or atheistic perspective as well.
But the bigger question in this case is about bigotry and intolerance. Oddly, the article goes on to claim that the Christians were most worked up by their belief that Hinduism was polytheistic, and the Hindus responded that “this criticism reflects ignorance of the monotheistic underpinnings of their faith”.
Claiming Hinduism is monotheist is really not accurate. Or to the extent that it is, one might also claim that Greek, Roman and Norse mythology were also monotheistic in that they had a ruling god (Zeus, Jupiter and Wotan, respectively). Yes, there are some interpretations of Hindu theology that make it into a variety of monotheism, but IMHO that does a poor job of replicating what goes on on the ground.
So it seems that the Hindus have been cowed by the Judaeo-Christian-Islamic conception of god into twisting their faith into a variety of monotheism, at least for US consumption. I find that an odd development. I mean, it’s as though there were some standard somewhere that says “monotheism is better than polytheism”. Where does that come from?
The further irony is that Catholicism is manifestly polytheistic in just the way that Hinduism is. (Well, Hinduism is a bit more explicitly polytheistic, in that their gods are claimed to live mythical lives and have interactions together). The Catholic pantheon is full of supernatural creatures that listen, act and respond to prayer. I am referring, of course, to the mass of saints, to Mary, etc. On the ground, in Catholic churches, I would venture to claim that most believers are interested more in their local saint, in Mary, or in some “intermediary” than in god or Jesus. Each town in Europe, each european country, has its local saint to whom the local cathedral is dedicated, and to whom petitions are sent. This is monotheism in name only.