What do Hindus, Harry Reid, and The United States Senate have in common?
…Well honest, not much. BUT that didn’t stop Harry Reid (D. Mich.) from inviting Rajan Zed (Nevada), a Hindu clergyman, to open the Senate floor in prayer. Where the usual dress code on the senate floor is a suit, Rajan came flaunting his saffron orange robes, and a mala around his neck. He read from his Rig Veda, Bhagavad Gita, and then continued in his prayer:
“We meditate on the transcendental glory of the deity supreme, who is inside the heart of the earth, inside the life of the sky and inside the soul of heaven. May he stimulate and illuminate our minds.”
“Lead us from the unreal to real, from darkness to light, and from death to immortality. May we be protected together. May we be nourished together. May we work together with great vigor. May our study be enlightening.”
However, the prayer wan’t as peaceful as one would guess. In the middle of the service, a few Fundamentalist from a group called Operation Save America interrupted the event with shouts of: “Lord Jesus forgive us father for allowing a prayer of the wicked,” and “We shall have no other gods before You.”
The protestors were quickly tossed out the door by presiding marshals.
Now what’s odd about this scene? Besides the childishness of the protestors, I do believe the back of the dollar says “One Nation Under God,” for a reason. Now I’m not going to go down the pathway of “this nation was founded by Christians,” because that gets nowhere, but a Hindu prayer opening up the Senate is odd on several levels.
For starters, our nation DOES have a rich heritage as one under God (The Supreme Court would agree). The fact that we have those sayings on our currency is one reflection of the rich symbolic role God the Creator plays in the foundation of this nation, and it’s history.
The framers of the Constitution and Declaration do mention a single creator, which would be in sharp odds with the 300,000,000 Gods found in Hinduism.
According to the Senate Chaplains office:
“the purpose of the opening prayer is to seek God on behalf of, and for the senators,’ and ‘the prayers should affirm our rich heritage as a nation under God.’ “
When you remove any form of symbolic, historical value, you find the support of a polytheistic invocation opening a government lawmaking session tricky. Seperation of Church and State could come into play, and it’s just so clearly at odd’s with this countries religious tradition (and I DO celebrate it’s religious diversity).
The Senate website puts it best:
“…Throughout the years, the United States Senate has honored the historic separation of Church and State, but not the separation of God and State…all sessions of the Senate have been opened with prayer, strongly affirming the Senate’s faith in God as Sovereign Lord of our Nation…”
To Zed’s credit, he is the first Hindu clergyman/chaplain to ever open the Senate in prayer.