The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

CHURCH AND STATE: This past week, in a shocking display of contempt for the ordinary decencies of political life, avatars of the Hindu monkey god Hanuman assassinated the deputy mayor of Dehlhi, India, accomplishing this dastardly and altogether not terribly numinous act by shoving the unfortunate pol off of his own balcony. While all right thinking people should deplore this act of divine lese—majeste; I think we can all agree that the principle of the separation of church and state cannot withstand this sort of divine intervention on a regular basis; the larger question of whether or not Hindu deities ought to play any role at all in this nation’s political life has gone largely unexamined.

In dealing with the intersection of religious faith and the body politic, most Americans still favor making the right on red and then praying no one is coming, as well as shoring up Thomas Jefferson’s wall of separation between the two so that it survives the occasional attempt by committed theological crash test dummies to plow right through that wall and into the City of God. This is as it should be, even if the insurance company won’t cover the damage to the car since you smashed into the wall on purpose. The church deals with issues of morals and faith, whereas the state deals with the more mundane matters of governance, and hopefully never the twain shall meet, unless the pols decide to suck up to one or another special interest group and then everyone’s umbrage starts umbraging all over the carpet without a tourniquet anywhere in sight. However, the principle of church—state separation is stood on its head if the state no longer has to deal with the church as middleman, but with the deity directly; traditionally, church—state relations are a strictly retail relationship. There is no constitutional basis in this country for dealing with the Divine on a wholesale basis.

Now, every so often you get the occasional preacher asking the Lord smite some politician hip and thew for his presumption about one thing or another; this will always make the TV news and send the liberal pundits into a tizzy about how the country is going to hell in a hand-basket, not that they actually believe in hell, you understand, but break out the smelling salts anyway, I feel the vapors coming on, and sends the reporters, most of whom have forgotten what little they ever knew about the Bible, scrambling for their dictionaries to find out what the hell a thew is, followed by a quick check with legal to find out whether the Lord can actually smite a thew in the United States without someone suing Him (He can, except in Vermont, Alaska, and for some reason, American Samoa—don’t ask me why, I just work here), but the furor usually doesn’t last very long. The Almighty, as Mr. Lincoln reminded us in his Second Inaugural, has His own purposes, and most of the time those purposes do not include smiting hips and thews on behalf of people whose hair has not moved one fraction of an inch since the Ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.

The large number of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent, however, has changed the theological balance of power in this country. Where once the politicians could rely on the Lord to stay out of political matters, there is no such constriction on any of the Hindu pantheon. Given the monkey god’s recent direct intervention in Indian municipal politics, can we here in this country expect that he will choose not to involve himself in American politics as well? And if he chooses to involve himself, what will prevent other Hindu deities from trying to influence the course of American political life? It is difficult at best to see how the Republicans can go on using the elephant as their party’s symbol in the face of Democratic complaints that the elephant is a blatant Republican attempt to recruit followers of the elephant god Ganesha into the Grand Old Party. It is also difficult to gauge what the reaction of many Americans would be should Ganesha, in a spirit of elephantine solidarity, choose to have something very large and heavy other than the Clintons’ collective ego fall on the Democratic presidential candidates before the New Hampshire primary.

I think, therefore, that no matter how laudable divine intervention in the political process is in the abstract, in the practical everyday world of practical politics it is not very desirable, especially if the body politic must deal with a politically active pantheon of divine beings. Most Americans, being monotheists, are just not up to the constant demands of keeping track of who is up and who is down in the divine hierarchy, and there is no show like Divinity Tonight to tell them what is going on and to get the straight skinny on what is really going on with the gods these days. Politicians, already fearful of political retribution from billionaire leftists and Internet netroot moonbats, will do even less, if such a thing is possible, if they face divine retribution for their various malfeasances and peculations, which will leave the average citizen in the grip of a divine bureaucracy, each one demanding its own special form of tribute in order to work at all, and the entire political process, if not life itself, bogs down while waiting in line at the cosmic department of motor vehicles. It is enough to drive you to atheism, if you hadn’t already smashed your car into the wall of church—state separation. That’ll teach you not to do that again, won’t it?

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