Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Let us pray...

     Before we begin today’s column, I’d like to open with a prayer. Please bow your heads and repeat after me:

     Eternal Father, thank you for guiding us and strengthening us, and helping us to know in our hearts where to have lunch. We praise your white and red checkered overalls, your Reagan-esque pompadour, your beatific smile, the giant burger you loft continually on our behalf at the entrance to your namesake restaurants and on your menus. O beloved Big Boy, protect us in our wayward hours, and guide us toward the salad bar, to counterbalance the caloric heft of your mighty triple-decker burgers. Anoint our lives with special sauce, as we enjoy this high-quality column. Amen.

     Now on to business. The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday that government can begin its various public functions with a sectarian prayer. The court ruled, 5-4, that the small town of Greece, New York, did not violate the Constitution by tucking Christian prayer, which included lines like, “the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross,” before its monthly meetings. The risk that citizens who are Jewish or Muslim or atheistic — or who worship the Big Boy burger mascot as a deity — might feel excluded or offended is not significant.
     “Offense ... does not equate to coercion,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote.
     And that is true. Nobody forces you to embrace a religion by inserting its prayers into the daily machinery of government. Northbrook could start its village board meetings with a priest in red, swinging incense and intoning Latin, and I wouldn’t feel coerced to abandon my faith, such as it is. But there is still a not-so-subtle message, a disconnect from being forced, before you’re allowed to air your concerns to the government, to participate in a little service for a faith to which you don’t ascribe, similar perhaps what you felt worshipping Big Boy (What? You didn’t say the prayer? What’s the matter with you? You’re not a Ronald McDonaldarian are you? I knew it!). Thus waiting to testify how the enormous illuminated cross they want to erect in front of Northbrook Village Hall (people who push their faith never stop pushing) will shine in my windows, disturbing my cats, I might wonder if perhaps this government, which supposedly represents me too, is in fact giving my views their fair weight.
     One out of four Americans isn't Christian, either because they worship another faith (a shock, I know, there are other faiths; sorry to be the one to tell you) or none at all. That's a big chunk of the country to shrug off. Yes, you can toss them a prayer or two. But this case isn't about towns wanting to celebrate diversity. It's about Christian prayer being jammed where it doesn't belong as a show of imaginary solidarity.
     If I showed up in Northbrook to deliver my Big Boy prayer, the trustees might permit it—how dare they suggest my religious conviction isn't sincere? But they'd also wonder: Why is he doing this? Why is he making a show of this ridiculous ideology when they have important business to conduct?
      Exactly. If we had a smoothly operating government, maybe a case could be made for nodding to faith. Give how deadlocked we are along party lines, introducing the haze of theology into a system already teetering on collapse is madness. Let's try to look impartially at this judicial change:
     A) The upside: a chance to recognize our nation's valuable religious heritage.
     B) The downside: the quarter of Americans who don't follow these beliefs are forced to attend an unfamiliar mini-church service before testifying in front of the zoning board (except on the days when the 99 percent of Americans who aren't Jewish or who aren't Muslim have to hear the rabbi or the imam pray, because it's only fair, and Tuesday it's the rabbi, then the Wiccan priest, then Rob Sherman eating an apple).
     How can the court decide A) trumps B)?
     I was joking with my Big Boy prayer. I don't even eat there anymore. Here's a sincere prayer, from the heart, that I will happily show up and utter before the next village board meeting: 

    Beloved Void. Please spare us from the nitwittery of our leaders and the hypocritical bullying of our fellow citizens. Brace our judges to understand that their it's-our-country-ain't-it? muscular Christianity went stale in 1962. Strengthen our officials' ability to actually do the job we elected them to do, for once, and not constantly be distracted with symbolic trifles while jamming their big bazoos into areas where government just doesn't belong. Temper the raging faux victimization of those who confuse toleration with being oppressed. Grant them the true knowledge that comes with humble self-awareness. And let us say, "Amen."


  1. This is easily the worst Supreme Court since Roger Taney was chief justice in the 1850s!
    Five religious loons who want to inflict their garbage on the rest of us.

  2. Yes, Becca, yes! I find this very upsetting. What a step backwards.

  3. There is no pumpkin but the GREAT Pumpkin and Charlie Brown is his prophet!

    1. Linus was the Great Pumpkin's Prophet you infidel! Charlie Brown was a skeptic.

  4. We knew you would rise to the occasion Neil. Nicely done. Obviosly a bad decision. The desire to not upset a historical applecart is no reason to needlesly impose a continuing affront to the minority, no matter how small and fragmented it may be. Jefferson and Madison will be spinning in their graves. Madison, who probably wrote it, believed the first Amendment, and in particular the anti-establishment clause, to be the most important of the Ten. He strenuously opposed the appointment of a chaplain to the Senate, and believed that a strict separation of church and state was good for both, the wisdom of which can be confirmed by looking around the world today.

  5. Neil, this is God speaking.

    I saw on your Twitter account that you think I am a male. You use the male pronoun "He" to describe my awesome-ness.

    I am a She. That explains why Christians have such different gods in the Old and New Testaments and why people of the Jewish faith have waited so long for the Messiah: have you ever tried to hurry a woman while she's at the mall shopping? Or better yet as a young teen on a nervous date in a dark parking lot? Yes, Womyn hear me roar.

    So there may be a Wise Latina on the court, but there is a FeMail God in the sky. Better change those pre-gobbermint meeting prayers: Hell hath no fury like a womyn scorned. Just ask Michael Jordan or any male divorcee.

    -- A. Gold.

  6. I always wondered what the relationship was between Ed Gold and Andrew Gold.


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