In one of those questions about the difference between words and actions, the Republican character once again emerges as a spirit of supremacism and hatred in Idaho.
Three state senators, all Republicans, boycotted the chamber floor on Tuesday morning to protest the presence of a Hindu guest chaplain because he offends their Christian identity. Kimberlee Kruesi and Betsy Z. Russell bring the detail:
Three lawmakers refused to attend the Idaho Senate’s daily invocation after objecting to the offering of a Hindu prayer.
Rajan Zed, guest chaplain, gave a lengthy prayer in both English and Sanskrit on Tuesday that focused on selflessness and peace. Senators from both sides of the aisle shook his hand and thanked him for coming.
“Fulfill all your duties, action is better than inaction,” Zed said. “Even to maintain your body, you are obligated to act. Selfish action imprisons the world. Act selflessly, without any throughout of personal profit.”
However three lawmakers, all Republican, only came back onto the floor once the prayer was over: Sens. Steve Vick of Dalton Garden, Sheryl Nuxoll of Cottonwood and Lori Den Hartog of Meridian.
It is about what you would expect; the only real redemption in this sad occasion is that it lays plain a spectre looming over conservative politics that for some reason many people pretend is exceptionally subtle or not even there at all.
Nuxoll says she declined to attend because she believes the United States is a Christian nation.
“Hindu is a false faith with false gods,” she said. “I think it’s great that Hindu people can practice their religion but since we’re the Senate, we’re setting an example of what we, Idaho, believe.”
Nuxoll added that she wished the Senate had conducted a Christian prayer along with the Hindu invocation.
Vick had announced his objections the day before, saying that he would ask his colleagues to join him.
Den Hartog said it would’ve been disingenuous to her Christian faith to attend.
“It was a personal decision, I didn’t want to announce it prior to the event,” Den Hartog said.
Unfortunately, the morbid comedy of supremacism and cowardice doesn’t stop there. Mr. Vick’s objections, according to Russell are pretty straightforward:
Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, says he’ll walk out if a Hindu prayer opens the Idaho Senate on Tuesday morning.
“They have a caste system,” Vick said. “They worship cows.”
Welcome to Idaho.
Because this is a show that keeps on giving.
Kruesi and Russell note that a total of nine senators did not show; five were apparently already in meetings, three chose absence as demonstration of Christian identity and supremacism, and then there was Sen. Bob Nonini (R-Coeur d’Alene), who explained: “I was just late getting up there―I didn’t want to walk in in the middle of it”. And that probably would have been just fine, except Mr. Nonini is a Republican, and thus felt compelled to polish his Christian identity: “I was disappointed that we didn’t also have a Christian prayer.”
A major component of the spectacle is something we might otherwise describe as childish except for the fact of insulting children by doing so. The various modes of Christian identity, nationalism, and supremacism share a common aspect, an underlying dualism that, while present throughout our society―indeed, it is one of the most prominent contributions of our Christian heritage in these United States―stands out in sharp relief under certain circumstantial coincidences. And, to be certain, we have a demonstrative occasion. Consider what happens when this brand of Christianity invokes dualism, a word here meaning constriction to binary opposition:
• Multifaceted: To share equally, you count, “One for Christian, one for Jewish, one for Muslim, one for Hindu, one for atheist, &c.”
• Identity dualism: To share equally, you count “One for Christian, one for Jewish; one for Christian, one for Muslim; one for Christian, one for Hindu; one for Christian, one for atheist, &c.”
Both Nonini and Nuxall have appealed specifically to the identity dualism; where most recognize diversity according to its many components, there are only two in the Christian supremacist paradigm―Christian and everybody else.
Think of it this way: If you insist that the Jew is different from the Muslim is different from the Wiccan is different from the atheist, you are violating a Christian’s constitutional rights.
If that proposition fails to make sense, you are just an anti-Christian bigot, a servant of the Devil.
See how this works?
Naturally, religious leaders whose faith is less invested in bigotry are appalled. As Betsy Z. Russell reports in her continuing coverage of the Gem State debacle, Sen. Nuxoll’s hatred has evoked calls for apology:
The religious leaders calling for the apology include the Episcopal bishop of Nevada; an official with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Reno; a rabbi and Jewish leader in Nevada and California; a United Church of Christ pastor; a Nevada Buddhist leader; a Unification Church leader; the president of the Hindu Temple Society of North America; and more.
“Being a public official, it was highly inappropriate and insensitive for Ms. Nuxoll to call a major religion ‘false,’ ” said Dan Black, director of the Boise Institute for Buddhist Studies. “To show responsibility, respect and understanding that her words were hurtful to the Hindu community, Ms. Nuxoll should apologize.”
His comments were among many in a joint statement issued Friday. Rabbi ElizaBeth Beyer said Nuxoll “should be called upon to offer a public apology, and perhaps even be sanctioned by the Senate for her inappropriate, insensitive and insulting remarks.”
And then Sen. Nuxoll went on to compare herself to Mother Teresa.
And then fell back to an identity dualism:
“He can say a prayer anywhere he wants in the Capitol,” she said, adding: “I’m in a floor session bound to follow the Constitution .... It is a Christian nation based on Christian principles. To start out our day, we usually say a Christian prayer. I would’ve been fine if we had also had a Christian prayer.”
Because, you know. One for you, one for me. One for her, one for me. One for him, one for me. That’s the only fair way, you know?
David Adler, a professor who teaches constitutional law at Boise State University, said Nuxoll’s wrong on the “Christian nation” claim and on the Constitution.
“She has betrayed the very constitutional justification for legislative prayer – religious pluralism,” Adler said. “Her words and actions, if followed by all legislators, would not only sanitize the chamber for expression of only those religious beliefs with which she agrees, but it would convert the Senate to a body that advocates particular religious beliefs, which would represent an ‘establishment’ of religion in violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.”
While such advice is hardly a surprise to others, it is important to keep in mind that Christian nationalism doesn’t actually care about history. Christian identity doesn’t actually care about history. Christian supremacism doesn’t actually care about history. These elements, these results of Christian education and faith, feed on their own mythopoeia.
Which is why Nuxoll falls back to citing supportive emails.
“There was one from a lady who said she had lived with the Hindus,” Nuxoll said. “She said there was a great amount of infanticide and abortion.”
And remember, these people are elected. Sadly, we must accept at some point that these manners of ignorance and bigotry are essential to the moral character of Idaho.
Kreuesi, Kimberlee and Betsy Z. Russell. “Idaho Senate opens with Hindu prayer, some lawmakers protest”. The Idaho Statesman. 3 March 2015.
Russell, Betsy Z. “Hindu prayer draws fire from North Idaho senator”. The Idaho Statesman. 3 March 2015.
—————. “Religious leaders call for Idaho senator to apologize for remarks about Hinduism”. The Idaho Statesman. 7 March 2015.