Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Rest...

I watched the U.S. presidential inauguration hoopla last night (it was around midnight here in Taiwan), and one thing struck me as a little unbalanced. That is, there was a lot of talk about God, and not just God, but specifically the Christian god.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not against that at all. I'm a Catholic by rearing, and that's how I view the world. But I'm thinking about the rest of Americans. Those who have a non-Christian, or even completely non-spiritual belief system.

According to the CIA Factbook, the religious breakdown in the US is estimated as Protestant 51.3%, Roman Catholic 23.9%, Mormon 1.7%, other Christian 1.6%, Jewish 1.7%, Buddhist 0.7%, Muslim 0.6%, other or unspecified 2.5%, unaffiliated 12.1%, none 4%. That means that "Christian" people make up 78.5 percent of the population. That's a pretty big chunk, to be sure, but what about the other 21.5 percent? Sure, the Jewish and Muslim folks believe in God, and it is arguably the same as the Christian god (which invites the question as to why they often seem so eager to kill each other--but that is a different story), but the man who made the invocation was Rick Warren, a Christian minister who recited the Lord's Prayer, a specifically Christian prayer.

Now, President Obama (man, it feels good to type those words) made a point of saying how the American dream is supposed to be for everyone. Clearly his election is a huge breakthrough in terms of race in the US. But what about faith? What about lack of faith? If more than twenty percent of people in the US are not Christian, how did they feel when they heard Rev. Warren's speech? I've heard estimates that there are 20 to 30 million atheists in the US. How did they feel? Are they represented?

I'm not even going to get into the question about Rick Warren's anti-gay position. Enough better-informed blogging has been done about that. Still, it adds weight to the question about how, despite the loudly trumpeted "new inclusiveness" of the political environment in the US, many groups were essentially snubbed by the inauguration proceedings.

My point is not whether any of the groups I'm talking about are right or wrong, good or bad, but that they are all members of that group we call "the people," and as such, in my thinking, should be accorded a certain amount of respect. I realize that we could say that, "Hey, almost 80 percent of Americans are Christian, so if the other 20 percent don't like it, that's just too bad. Majority rules!" But when you think about it, only about 13 percent of Americans are black. Are you going to say the same thing to African Americans as to non-Christians?

I hate to listen to other people complain about stuff without offering some kind of solution, so here is what I suggest: why not make the rhetoric at national events inclusive of more groups. I don't mean the easy road that many government-funded organizations have taken by changing Christmas to "the festive holiday season," in other words, making everything "religion-neutral." That is a bunch of crap. What they could do, for example at an inauguration, is have some speaker who at least mentions the fact that not everyone believes in the same God, or in any god at all for that matter, but that we are all in this together, and if you can't do the right thing because you think it is what God wants, you can still do it because it is simply the right thing to do. I mean, why shouldn't it be enough to do the right thing when it is for the benefit of your fellow citizen, your fellow human, whether or not God is looking over your shoulder? If God's there, all the better, if not, hey! you did a good thing. Go feel good about yourself.

Okay. I'm tired, and what started out as just a passing observation turned into a rant. I hope I didn't offend anyone. Give me a hug.