Monday, April 28, 2014
In the past, the Interfaith Council’s diversity-based contribution to the region’s public observance included Buddhism and so brought rain and protection of Dyess AFB from budget cuts.
Political considerations being what they are, I particularly wonder this year whether our mayor and the city of Abilene intend to be mindful of the constitution or disregard it. Last year, it was almost as surprising as the cold weather and sprinkle of rain that City Hall had assented to hosting an evangelical Christian ceremony at noon on the National Day of Prayer.
As a patriot of faith, I felt called to visit City Hall just exactly then, to get in on the religious freedom. In my denomination we ring a bell, burn incense and chant. I was respectful and timed my participation so as not to be disruptive; nor did my small protest sign violate civil etiquette.
After all, for several National Days of Prayer in a row, church groups appeared to have accepted their obligation as good citizens to carry out their Christian-only event somewhere besides City Hall, and for those several years the City of Abilene accommodated/endorsed no religion. As our Atheist neighbors are quick to point out, that is one good way to keep things lawful and just.
The other way would be for the mayor and city to welcome proponents of all the various options in faith and philosophy, perhaps even affording alternative and minority religions advance notice and invitation. That, goodness knows, will be the day and amen.
No, I’d say there’s a 50/50 chance city government and church culture will get together again this year and try to carry on with allegiance to Shirley Dobson’s ultraconservative constitution-stomping cult, the National Day of Prayer Task Force. Now that Abilene’s Atheists have organized, I hope a few of them can take over guarding the “no establishment” national covenant and be prepared to make an appearance at City Hall, 555 Walnut, on May 01 if the situation calls for it. High noon is the traditional time, but let’s all call City Hall a few days beforehand to confirm.
I feel sorry for San Angelo, where they’re nearly certain to violate the rights of thousands with a Christian-only observance at Tom Green County Courthouse! Such events do nothing to protect us against terrorism, oil spills and freakish weather.
Meanwhile, happily, the open-minded Abilene Interfaith Council is planning its inclusive ceremony and bread-breaking embrace of our nation’s religious pluralism, slated to occur at the Center for Contemporary Arts, in sight of oft-consecrated Minter Park. How positive, and how powerful!
My generation went through a phase of liberal religious tolerance and relativism when a sentiment prevailed that all spiritual teachings and beliefs are true. That, of course, is not the case at all. Some religion fails the test of reason. Some religion engenders misunderstanding instead of respect and compassion, and produces backward, hateful politics instead of progress along the road to universal peace and justice. But if constitutional religious liberty continues to operate in this society, a sort of free market effect should lead to the eventual extinction of bad religion and success and survival for superior teachings.
(article printed in the Abilene Reporter-News)
at 11:21 AM