The reaction of some on the Christian Right to Hindu Chaplain Rajan Zed's groundbreaking prayer before the US Senate was a textbook case of religious bigotry--one of the worst examples to mar the American political scene in some time. Zed's response has been quite graceful, and while I am saddened that a significant portion of America's "Christian" community has reacted so poorly, I am heartened that so many Americans of all creeds have stood up to defend the chaplain. Hindu groups are urging 2008 Presidential candidates to condemn the ugly anti-Hindu sentiments that were present in the protest, and I hope every last one does so.
For once the door is open to religious bigotry of this sort, none of us are safe. In Iowa, supporters of Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee (former governor of Arkansas) attacked fellow Republican candidate Senator Sam Brownback (KS) on religious grounds. A letter by the Rev. Tim Rude urges that evangelicals support Huckabee because "he's one of us," rather than Brownback, who is Catholic. Rude writes that "as a recovering Catholic myself,(!) that is all I need to know about his discernment when compared to the Governor's."
This is a slimy broadside that insults the faith of millions of Americans. I hope and expect that Huckabee will disavow it, of course. But this is the path of religiously divisive politics in America. Those of us who see religion as something holy and sacred in our lives must be ever-vigilant to insure that our faith is not degraded into becoming just another political football.