Saturday, March 24, 2007

Keeping faith so that faith may be kept

The following is an outlook paper of The Jacksonian Party.

My thanks to Baron Bodissey at Gates of Vienna and larwyn for bringing this to my attention.

Here are a couple of things to consider in the realm of the modern world as it pertains to our lovely Congresscritters looking to give partisan support to one religious credo, sect, viewpoint or any such thing, from the US Constitution:

Article. IV.

Section. 1.

Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.

Section. 2.

The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.

A Person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State, shall on Demand of the executive Authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime.
Seems pretty simple, that Section 2, doesn't it? The 'Privileges and Immunities' section is to ensure that laws are equitably enforced across the States and that all sorts of inter-State laws are adhered to and that extradition is forthcoming no matter what the State you ran *to* feels about the matter. This caused problems in the era of slavery, as 'free States' had to extradite known slaves back to their owners in the 'slave States'. Equitable enforcement of the Law is paramount as is given by Due Process.

This did, however, leave open loopholes in which a State could have laws that were fully Constitutional for *itself* but could *not* be broadly applied to the Citizenry of the Nation and that, indeed, individuals who shifted away from places due to persecution solely for their views and beliefs could *not* be enforced across State lines. Thus things like dissent were protected, even if there were edicts, laws and pending prosecution if an individual had to flee from oppressive laws solely based on those things.

As part of the original Philadelphia Convention of 1787, those things were the first 10 Amendments added to the Constitution known, collectively, as the Bill of Rights. You see, when the United States came into being, it did have a preponderance of Europeans who well remembered the last 200 years of their history books of what had happened in Europe over these things. The modern day evangelical movement tries to paint them all as 'Christian' when, in their variety of beliefs, the feeling back then was that 'not all Christians were the same'. The devastation of Europe due to the 30 Years' War had left it weakened enough for plague to sweep through those areas that had been over-run with military forces multiple times. This was a fratricidal and internecine struggle purely *within* Christendom over such things as Church authority and if the State should be beholden to the Church.

Mind you all sorts of wish-washy Christians and 'Christians in name only' mercenary sorts would fight on both sides of that war and, quite often, CHANGE sides without respect to religious alignment. Catholic today, Lutheran tomorrow, and something else the third day, all depending upon paymaster. By the State forcing adherence to religion *inside* the State, a change of the head of government, usually Royalty of some sort, the State *also* had a change in religion and then required *everyone* inside that State to change to that religion. The problem comes, of course, with the side-changers that changed sides at the drop of a hat thus making a mish-mash of religious affiliation and worship. And whatever the ascendant religion was, it would then seek to *expunge* the previous one from its 'flock'.

Also known as: driving them away or killing them.

What the end of that series of conflicts under the broad '30 Years War' label did was end in the Peace of Westphalia and give birth to the modern Nation State concept. This did two great things: First, and foremost, is solidified National boundaries and made them purely in the temporal realm so that States could have an official religion that is *not* dictated to by outsiders but wholly within the Nation State, and, Second, that individuals had the right to worship any of the three brands of Christianity - Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, and Calvinism.

The death tolls to *get* there was 15-20% of the population in those lands fought over, although when taken into consideration along with loss of growth of population, that then becomes a staggering loss to all of Europe. All of that because folks just wanted to believe the way they wanted to and *not* be forced to do so at the whim of the State. By the time you fast-forward through enlightening times and yet more and bloody wars, you get to marginalized Christian breakaway sects getting persecuted and just wanting to get the hell *away* from any State oversight of religion. The Puritans, Quakers and other diverse sects did not come here merely to found a new life, but to escape the repression and virtual death sentence that hung over them in the parts of Europe they came from. In addition the supporters of the purely secular State, that would have NO religious affiliation *also* came to the New World as *they* were not looked upon with so much glee, either.

Early colonial life was the strange hodge-podge of so many different religious outlooks that trying to blithely call them all 'Christian' when their adherence to what Christ actually *meant* to humanity varied from: Son of God all the way to 'good teacher'. From the Divine to the merely mortal and a bit more far-sighted than the rest, is what you had, and some few did not even give especial credit to the Bible beyond the idea that it imported a creative force, but that we just had problems figuring out what that force really *was*. Then you also throw in Jews, who were always looking to escape repression, and a sprinkling of 'others' that are not so well defined, and you get the feeling that these Colonies were very devout in the idea of letting each man figure it out for himself.

After the Revolution cost the new Nation 10% dead and about 15% fled to Crown colonies, a huge debt load, and a still larger question of slavery, the idea of trying to put into place multiple and diverse religiously guided States that were, themselves, non-homogeneous as to sect, was not a welcome idea. Look back at the 30 Years' War and then apply that death toll percentage to what remained and stepping off into *that* abyss was seen as suicidal. Five long and hard years with the Nation nearly failing brought forth the minds of that era that realized that they had *failed* in providing a cohesive government to do even the beginnings of just protecting individuals and they looked towards strengthening that first. And kick the can of slavery down the road for a hoped-for accommodation between the recovered States if they survived that long.

Recover the States did! But come to a good conclusion on slavery they did *not*.

What is interesting, however, is that aforementioned Bill of Rights, that I will get to in just a bit, allowed one of the greatest and most diverse flourishing of religion, mostly Christian but also a wide gamut of other and lesser religions, during that period between the Revolution and the Civil War. Just getting into the meat of Michael Oren's Power, Faith and Fantasy that looks at the US and the Middle East, one comes to the conclusion that America was starting up the greatest revolution in religious thought ever seen. This is a period I would encompass as: DIY Religion.

What is surprising is not the adherence to any single sect, but the flourishing of brand new outlooks on not only Christianity but of other religions as well. Not only the Mormons and Adventists, but whole slews of lesser belief structures flourished under the optimistic views of the role of the New Nation and her People in the advancement of the World to a glorious new era. Many of those were, of course, seeking to bring about the new Kingdom of Jerusalem, but when they actually GOT to Jerusalem they found it not what they were led to believe. Thus the disenchantment with many religions *also* happened and even newer ones sprung up to attempt to meet the personally perceived failings of the previous ones. And in this great flourishing, which would also hit Europe later, was the type of sect that is almost absolutely, purely American.

The Sect of One Person.

That blending of new ways of looking at man's role in society also led to new ways of looking at man's relationship to the Divine and that religious freedom and leeway was *born* out of the Constitution. It has a very simple set of statements, and they come from the Bill of Rights:
Amendment I

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.

[..]


Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.


Amendment I is the enabler to religious freedom, but IX and X are the final nails to secure that freedom firmly. These three Amendments clearly demarcate that the Federal Government shall not speak prejudicially for or against religion, nor stop religion from being practiced, nor stop the promulgation of religion, nor stop the invention of religions, nor stop the ability of individuals to CHANGE religions. The freedoms of the Individual are sacrosanct in these areas, and while States may have a religious outlook, they are also disallowed from religious persecution because of the Protections given in Article IV, Section 2. This is the basic restatement of the Peace of Westphalia to ensure that it is kept and respected internally between the States.

The Federal Government has not been pure in that, but the spirit towards mankind shown by various holidays and such is evident. A holiday here and there and the sparse few days the Government allows its workers to find some sort of communion with the Divine is traditional, in that in this era a day-off can be put to good use even if it is not a holy day for one's religion. When I take a look and see more and more 'Sects of One', however, the apparent concept that an umbrella term to try and unite such highly individual and disparate views on even a generally agreed-upon basis is fraught with danger.

And that danger is back in the world with us today with avengance.

Consider the bill that Rep. John Conyers wants to pass: Resolution Regarding Religious Intolerance. And what is the basis for this bill? Well, Rep. Conyers tries to do some nice window dressing and say that it applies to all religions, but he has decided that Congress should show especial attitude towards ONE religion. And that religion is? From the text of that Resolution we get the following:
Whereas believers of all religions, including the Abrahamic faiths of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, should be treated with respect and dignity;

Whereas the word Islam comes from the Arabic root word meaning “peace” and “submission”;

Whereas there are an estimated 7,000,000 Muslims in America, from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds, forming an integral part of the social fabric of America;

Whereas the Quran is the holy book for Muslims who recite passages from it in prayer and learn valuable lessons about peace, humanity and spirituality;

Whereas it should never be official policy of the United States Government to disparage the Quran, Islam, or any religion in any way, shape, or form;


Now here is a very, very interesting bit of work, isn't it? Do we remember that bit on the 30 Years' War? 15-20% of Europe dead? Yes, a nasty, nasty affair about the establishment of various sects of Christianity and how they viewed the Divine and what was or was not accepted practice, all leading to some of the longest most brutal killing, rapine and outright slaughter of people ever seen. All from the varigated followers of 'The Prince of Peace'. So do excuse me if a religion that has "peace" in its central conceptual sphere and yet has problems adhering to it do not get any special recognition for having same in their sphere. Perhaps we could judge individuals on their actions, not on their religious affiliation?

Even worse is the singling out of the Koran and Islam to give it especial significance. Also, and even worse, is the citation of the number of people in the US following that religion. Tell me, Rep. Conyers, is that citation a promise of good behavior, or a threat if the rest of the Nation does not go into "peace" and "submission" of favoritist religious laws? Why single out the Koran when there are scads of other Holy Works and Divinely Inspired tomes and such that should *also* get especial recognition? Why do you cite it specifically in the following:
(3) recognizes that the Quran, the holy book of Islam, as any other holy book of any religion, should be treated with dignity and respect; and
Why not say that ALL religious works, tracts, books and all Divinely Inspired Works or of religious import should be protected without respect to its Source? Why single out ONE book for mention and give it higher recognition than any other? If you need a list of books that are of import to religions past and present, from minor to major, you could have stated so and then amended a fuller listing, like the following:
Poetic Edda
Hávamál
The Younger Edda
Kitáb-i-Aqdas
Kitáb-i-Íqán
Persian Bayán
Arabic Bayán
Selections from the Writings of the Báb
Epistle to the Son of the Wolf
Four Valleys
Gems of Divine Mysteries
Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh
Hidden Words
Some Answered Questions
Long Healing Prayer
Seven Valleys
Summons of the Lord of Hosts
Tabernacle of Unity
Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh
Tablet of the Holy Mariner
Paris Talks
Secret of Divine Civilization
Some Answered Questions
Tablets of the Divine Plan
Will and Testament
The Advent of Divine Justice
Bahá'í Administration
God Passes By
World Order of Bahá'u'lláh
Tripitaka (Pali Canon)
Mahayana sutras
Tibetan Buddhist canon
Tanakh
Talmud
Holy Bible
Biblical apocrypha
Kolbrin
Book of Mormon
Pearl of Great Price
Doctrine and Covenants
Principia Discordia
Śruti
Smriti
Vachanas
Mantra Gopya
Shoonya Sampadane
Shaivite Agamas
Qur'an
Hadith
Nahj al-Balagha
Tattvartha Sutra
Ginza Rba
Arzhang
Course in Miracles
Conversations with God
The Gnostic Gospels
The Urantia Book
The Kebra Nagast
the Holy Piby
the Kebra Negast
The speeches of Haile Selassie I
Royal Parchment Scroll of Black Supremacy
The Samaritan Pentateuch
The Satanic Bible
The Guru Granth Sahib
The Dasam Granth Sahib
The Kojiki
The Nihon Shoki or Nihongi
The Spirits Book
The Book of the SubGenius
The writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
Daozang
The I Ching
The Holy Books of Thelema
Divine Principle
Wolli Hesul
Wolli Kangron
The Katha
The Avesta
The Dēnkard
The Bundahishn
The Mainog-i-Khirad
The Arda Viraf Namak
The Zartushtnamah
The Sad-dar
The Rivayats
The Zend
The Enuma Elish
The Seven Evil Spirits
Ishtar and Izdubar
Koryak Texts
Chukchee Mythology
Tales of Yukaghir, Lamut, and Russianized Natives of Eastern Siberia
The Man in the Panther's Skin
Devil Worship: The Sacred Books and Traditions of the Yezidiz
Tibetan Folk Tales
Ainu
The Voyage of Bran
The Second Battle of Mag Tuired (Cath Maige Tuired)
The Cattle-Raid of Cooley (Táin Bó Cúailnge)
The Destruction of Dá Derga's Hostel
Cuchulain of Muirthemne
The Gododdin Poems
Carmina Gadelica
The Confucian Canon
The Egyptian Book of the Dead
The Egyptian Heaven and Hell
The Liturgy of Funerary Offerings
The Demotic Magical Papyrus of London and Leiden
The Burden of Isis
Beowulf
The Faerie Queene
Le Morte d'Arthur
The Mabinogion
The High History of the Holy Graal
The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage
The Magus
The Book of Ceremonial Magic
Sixth Book of Moses
Seventh Book of Moses
The Key of Solomon The King
The Tale of the Armament of Igor
The Kalevala
The Lay of the Cid
The Necronomicon
The Book of Dzayan
Hermes Trismegistus
the Turba Philosophorum
Olaus Wormius
The Gardnerian Book of Shadows
The Golden Bough
Aradia, Gospel of the Witches
The Malleus Maleficarum
Dæmonology
The Syrian Goddess
Oahspe, A Kosmon Bible in the Words of Jehovih and his Angel Embassadors
Book of Knowledge
The Origin of Oahspe
The Samoan Story of Creation
Noa Noa
Sacred Formulas of the Cherokee
I am sure the Congressional Research Service can do a *much* better job than I can, but this seems to cover a goodly portion of all known religious texts, volumes, tracts, records and such that really should be adored and protected as the common heritage of humanity. I am sure I missed a few as many religions have depth in their amount of writing and some of those listed are multi-book affairs or even broader classifications upon tens or hundreds of books. And you could even say that the list is not inclusive and then also put in a provision for any devout group or individual to place upon that list their additional inspired works. And then you could get further from language like this in your proposal:
(1) condemns bigotry, acts of violence, and intolerance against any religious group, including our friends, neighbors, and citizens of the Islamic faith;

[..]

(2) declares that the civil rights and civil liberties of all individuals, including those of the Islamic faith, should be protected;

(4) calls upon local, State, and Federal authorities to work to prevent bias-motivated crimes and acts against all individuals, including those of the Islamic faith.

Because this is starting to sound like a separate Islamic Bill of Rights leading to a total withdrawal of Islam from the Common Governance of the United States. When any piece of legislation singles out any single religion in a broader 'religious protection bill' you are bluntly stating that you are no longer respecting all religions equally before the Law of the Land. Now you *could* remove the Islamic and Quran references and bluntly state your support for ALL Citizens to have respect of their beliefs. Otherwise you stand in opposition to Amendment I, and now put the force of the Federal Government due to especial mention FOR one single religion by citation and mention above ALL OTHERS.

Why not just pass a resolution to re-affirm the Rights of Citizens without regard to their religious outlook to practice their religion in peace so long as it harms none, Mr. Conyers?

Oh, we already have that.

In the Constitution.

Just in case you forgot, Rep. Conyers.

The document you have sworn to uphold and defend.

7 comments:

Tiger said...

A Jacks, I always enjoy how you're able to take history and make it so sacrosanct-ly contemporary!

Conyers is pointing us towards one thing, as you point out; the adoption and protection of only one religion; Islam.

This "movement" is part and parcel to Republicans AND Democrats from what I've read.

The future does not look bright.

A Jacksonian said...

Tiger - Much thanks!

The Constitution is the enactment of wisdom that had come before and its full statement that the Nation as States can have religious freedom so that the People may worship as they please without singling out any creed or sect for especial notation. The People via their elected representatives at the State level may, indeed, choose State outlook, but the freedom for unimpeded worship by the People is sacrosanct and no religion may be forced upon the People.

That is Westphalia and the tradition leading *to* the Constitution to avoid religious based wars.

In trying to cite and single out *any* religion in any way for preference or special notice, beyond good deeds of its indidivuals, is something that then starts to cause a rift in that commonality We hold dear. That is not *done* in this framework we call the Constitution. The States may uphold as they wish and cite as they wish, but the Nation holds the Common ideal of freedom for ALL the People and especial citation of no religion as its outlook. Those who came here sought that above all else so that they would never be persecuted by any other sect or creed.

It is a main point of astonishment in the Middle East in the 19th century that *all religions* are equal before the Law in the US. The strength of the US is not in having religion, but in allowing all religions to prosper and not infringe upon each other. The Secular State is not anti-religion but allows *all religions* to be held with discrimination and preference to none, lest we fall back into that miasma that killed so much of the world before the founding of the Nation.

We may hold the Divine in Common, by saying: In God We Trust.

But the country store tells that story: "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash."

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Peregrine John said...

This (as so often) will take me a little while to properly digest, so for the moment I'll just applaud.

One thing popped a little cartoon question mark over my head, though: Beowulf a religious text? Some matter of religion was mentioned in it, which until modern times was nigh-inescapable in any wise, but I don't recall it being particularly doctrinal. Have I forgotten something?

A Jacksonian said...

Johm - My thanks!

Beowulf is not a doctrinal religious text, but is a story set about a man within the context of his society and beliefs. We do not discount parables and minor stories in other texts, and the Bible as an example, is rife with them, and while the full understanding of Beowulf cannot be had as a stand-alone story, within the larger tradition it is an example of what duty is to one's family and society. The Mahabharata is a long series of volumes of stories and interconnected religion that demonstrates how this works in the Hindu religion. Beowulf, coming as a last remnant of pre-literate times in Old English can be seen as part of something similar, and, in any event, should be cherished as a text of that society that is now gone and yet had so much influence upon later Anglo-Saxon culture that the outlooks expressed then are still applicable to this day.

We may never be able to rebuild that entire suite of culture that Beowulf was a part of... just as the Epic of Gilgamesh is very hard to fit into *its* culture. Yet it, too, is just a fantastical story of a religion now dead that tells us of duty. Religion is more than just doctrine: it address the soul, the spirit and man's place with the Divine. A large part of that is duty. And by seeing what one man will do for that duty, we learn of his spirit and his belief in it and himself.

I would say that neither Beowulf nor Gilgamesh nor any of these old stories shorn of their surrounding works are any less religious than if all we had from the Bible were a story of Joshua or one of Moses wandering in the wilderness. We may not understand these stories fully, but those people held to them with reason because it spoke to them of their times, their beliefs and their duties.

As I said, many will disagree with texts I placed there. But I give *all* works that help define what Duty and Divinity *are* placement, so that we may better learn from them... and not discount them just because they are *old*... and only give special favor to those that are recent. We may never understand that tradition, but if anything *else* is found to help place it, then we will understand it better and the people it had and their relationship to the spiritual.

And, perhaps, ourselves.

Peregrine John said...

That makes sense. It's a matter of context, the values displayed and the set of assumptions that becomes what we call a culture. These areligious times separate matters of faith from matters of living far more than any previous that I am aware of.

I just noticed your commentary at Shrinkwrapped. Well said, sir.

A Jacksonian said...

John - One of the great missions of each American is to find our fit with this greater realm around us. We hope to come to good conclusion by that work and enrich ourselves and the Nation thereby. And to do that we hold a Nation in common and yet apart so that we may have that freedom to search, and put none at peril.

One of the greatest endeavours undertaken was to do that, and we live as testament to its successes and failures. We hold the self-evident truths as just that, and hope to make them so to all peoples. So that each may find their way.