Pastor Scott Rainey was invited to deliver a Memorial Day invocation at Houston National Cemetery. Cemetery director Arleen Ocasio told him:
The tone of all messages must be inclusive of all beliefs, need to be general and its fundamental purpose should be specific to those we are honoring, and non-denominational in nature.”
Sounds like the typical way government tends to wrap itself in religion… but Rainey wasn’t having any of that. He filed a lawsuit to make sure he could say “Jesus Christ” in the prayer.
Rainey asked the federal court to grant a temporary restraining order to prevent Veterans Affairs from censoring the prayer. He claims the agency violated his civil protection from being told by the government how to express his religious beliefs.
The federal court sided with him, too.
U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes wrote in his order, granting the Rev. Scott Rainey’s motion for the court to intercede. “The right to free expression ranges from the dignity of Abraham Lincoln’s speeches to Charlie Sheen’s rants.”
Though no one’s inviting Sheen to deliver a Memorial Day invocation…
So we can expect Rainey to “Jesus” the hell out of this thing. I’m sure if he threw in a “Fuck you, atheists” at the end, no one would mind that, either.
Frankly, saying “Jesus Christ” doesn’t bother me all that much. He’s a Christian pastor. Why would we expect him to be inclusive when his religion dictates that Jews and Muslims and other non-Christians are going to hell?
Menachem Wecker, at the Houston Chronicle’s blog, doesn’t even think people of other faiths should care. Here’s his brilliant idea of what non-Christians should do during a Christian invocation:
People of other faiths who hear his talk ought to be mature enough to play Mad Libs with it.
If someone listening to the pastor’s reference to Jesus is a practicing Muslim, she or he ought to be able to substitute “Allah” in her or his head. Others, depending upon their faith, can meditate on the words Hashem, God, Vishnu, Bahá’u’lláh, Jehova or a variety of other names.
Got that, everyone? It ok when a pastor mentions “Jesus” in a government speech. You can just pretend he said “Allah.” (I guess that means I can pretend he was silent…?)
Wecker obviously doesn’t get it.
The problem here isn’t Jesus.
The problem is inviting religious figures to deliver an invocation in the first place.
There are plenty of people who know how to pay respect to our veterans without invoking their own mythology. I don’t know why a call wasn’t made to any of them. Hell, if this happened in my area, I’d do it for free.
Somehow, the powers-that-be decided that only religious leaders know how to honor our veterans. They’re wrong. And they would save themselves a whole lot of hassle if they simply stopped reaching out to people who get off on saying their god’s name everywhere they go. Believe it or not, some of our veterans aren’t Christians, and they deserve to be honored, too.