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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Faithful Nation or Nation of Faiths?

With the recognition of Druidism/Druidry (?) as a religion in the UK and a generally good response from many people, one wonders how the U.S would feel in a similar situation. It has only been a little over 20 years since Dettmer v. Landon, where a Wiccan practitioner was agreed to have had his 1st Amendment rights violated. Wicca was officially recognized to be a religion and thus protected in free exercise, even in prisons, including the use of ritual objects. And it’s been only 3 years since the family of Patrick Stewart, a Wiccan soldier killed in action, was granted a Wiccan pentacle on his gravestone, since the U.S Army hadn’t recognized Wicca as a religion worthy of recognition by the Army in practically 20 years. I can’t imagine why; except that the army also discriminates against homosexuals, so why should I have been surprised at this? As I said two weeks ago, Wicca is quite possibly one of the highest growing movements in the U.S., so frankly, I am happy that the UK is making more progress, especially considering Druidry’s no doubt higher demographics across the sea. There is of course a strain of thought even in England that appears to regard giving Druidism the status of religion as a pandering to New Age thinking or other arguments suggesting that tolerance and acceptance are exactly the same in legal terms (p.s., they’re not). The critic of Druidism’s status as a religion also makes a questionable assessment of what is considered a religion by trying to say that because Druidry doesn’t have a shared set of beliefs it isn’t a religion, but a fringe cult. It’s hard to imagine that even in England there exists a similar, though not necessarily as strong, current of thought that suggests that without Christianity there would be no cause for moral behavior.

I remember reading a book for a class on New Atheism by David Bentley Hart, an Eastern Orthodox scholar, who noted that many of the claims about Christianity in the Middle Ages and prior are misrepresented. His scholarship was indeed correct from what I could determine, but his claim that we have to acknowledge Christianity’s place in history, even if we are becoming post Christian, I can only tentatively agree with. Any involvement of Christianity in culture and history should properly be viewed, even in a Christian perspective as a matter of fortune, not of providence. Any involvement of God’s will in relation to Christianity’s existence would be moreso related to its survival, not its precedence in the “fleshly kingdoms”.

The very notion of a Christian nation is something I’ve spoken of before, though it has been months no doubt. Jon Meacham’s argument still stands as a strong Christian argument against the notion that America is a Christian nation, and honestly the very idea would no doubt strike even the Protestant arbiter Luther as blasphemous. The idea that God would favor any kingdom or nation on earth is preposterous on the grounds that in the Gospels, Jesus himself called to bring together all the nations of the world, all people, Gentile or Jew, male or female, high or low class, even those regarded as heretics like the Samaritans. Not to mention he said the kingdom of heaven is not of this earth, so that’s another nail in the coffin.

If the Religious Right that persists today, even through my own generation, disappointingly, got its way, they’d probably have legislation to discriminate against virtually any religion that wasn’t derived from the Abrahamic tradition, though it’s doubtful if they’d even allow Islam to exist with the climate that surrounds anything related to Muslim activities in America, faith based or otherwise. It’s always heartening to hear Christians reflecting tolerance towards even those that in their religion’s perspective are condemned to hell unless they shift their faith towards a God that is both three and one (however that works) while ironically in many areas of Wicca, the God and Goddess are practically two in one. I’m especially curious about what will happen with the future possibility of a Wiccan Senator or even a Wiccan President/Vice President. How long will it take? Will I even be alive when it’s a possibility? Will I even be aware of it unless I’m told by someone else? And when will it be an insignificant issue about what faith the person is as opposed to whether they stand for basic democratic “American” ideals that people can admire and respect even if they both aren’t going to heaven? Hopefully, before I’m as old as my parents. Until next time, Namaste and aloha.

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