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Diversity: Not All Churches Oppose LGBTs

This point was made clear in a 1989 interview with the now-defunct Animals' Agenda by Reverend Andrew Linzey, an Anglican priest, author of Christianity and the Rights of Animals, and the foremost theologian in the field of animal-human relations.

Christians have found themselves unable to agree upon many pressing moral issues -- including abortion. Exodus 21:22-24 says if two men are fighting and one injures a pregnant woman and the child is killed, he shall repay her according to the degree of injury inflicted upon her, and not the fetus. On the other hand, the Didache (Apostolic Church teaching) forbade abortion.

"There has to be a frank recognition that the Christian church is divided on every moral issue under the sun: nuclear weapons, divorce, homosexuality, capital punishment, animals, etc.," says Reverend Linzey. "I don't think it's desirable or possible for Christians to agree upon every moral issue. And, therefore, I think within the church we have no alternative but to work within diversity."

On pilgrimage to a Krishna temple in Santa Cruz, CA with the beautiful bhaktin Kim Grant, I pointed out that there are so many different denominations within Christianity:

Catholics, Baptists, Unitarians, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Christian Scientists, etc...

With differing views on the divinity of Jesus, the afterlife, grace Vs works, the Trinity, etc...

So there's no reason they can't be accepting of Krishna devotees, too, as part of the American mainstream.

"But they (the different Christian denominations) all hate each other!" Kim exclaimed.

She's right.

It's possible that without church-state separation, religious strife would have torn our country apart.

A secular state is laissez-faire towards all belief and disbelief.

It was Thomas Jefferson who established the separation of church and state. Jefferson was deeply suspicious of religion and of clergy wielding political power.

Jefferson helped create the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom in 1786, incurring the wrath of Christians by his fervent defense of toleration of atheists:

“The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts as are only injurious to others. But it does no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

"This country (the United States) wasn't founded by Christians..."

--Ron McClellan, 1990

A Roman Catholic priest, Reverend David K. O’Rourke, said, “Every religious group in the United States is a minority group. Some may be unhappy with this status and wish they had official standing. I am not unhappy with it. The Catholic Church, the largest of these minorities, has prospered greatly in this country where we separate church and state.”

According to journalist Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State: “We have a vibrant, multifaith religious society that, with the exception of a few fundamentalist Muslim states, is admired all over the globe. We have a degree of interfaith harmony unmatched in the world. Our government is legally secular, but our culture accommodates and welcomes a variety of religious voices. New faiths take root here without fear...

"Some European nations have passed so-called anticult laws aimed at curbing the rights of unpopular new religions. Such laws would not be acceptable in the United States or permitted under the First Amendment.

Children are no longer forced to pray in school or read from religious texts against their will, yet they are free to engage in truly voluntary religious worship whenever they feel the need. The important task of imparting religious and philosophical training to youngsters is left where it always belonged—with each child’s parents or guardians...

“Americans remain greatly interested in religion and things spiritual—unlike their counterparts in Western Europe, where religion is often state subsidized but of little interest to most people...

“Because the U.S. government is secular, religious groups are left to contend for members based solely on their own initiative. They create a free marketplace of religion that spurs competition and a vigorous religious life. This explains why the United States, which maintains church-state separation, retains a high degree of religiosity among its people.

(On the other hand, as my friend and college roommate John Antypas noted in 1985, the deeply religious fled religious persecution in Europe and came to the United States, so, "We got all the nuts!" That's John... always the cynic!)

“In a multifaith society such as the United States,” observes Boston, “a type of religious marketplace does exist. Religious groups that aggressively seek converts, such as the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, are well aware that people in the United States are able and even willing to change their religious beliefs. To these groups, it’s well worth it to enter the marketplace and advertise their goods. Lots of people might buy them...

“The more sophisticated and perceptive believers realize that the separation principle is a boon to their faith,” notes Rob Boston. “They see danger in any attempt by government to decide which religion is true and which is false. They know that a faith that is in favor with the government today can be out of favor tomorrow. These believers are thankful for the free marketplace of religion and the secular state that makes it possible. They understand that the way to get new members is through persuasion, not government aid.”

****

"I understand something about the deep spiritual concepts which are upheld in India and I appreciate them," said Pope John Paul II. "I've heard about Krishna. Krishna is great." Srila Prabhupada was pleased when Southern Cross wrote a very favorable article about the Hare Krishna movement. He wanted Christians and Vaishnavas (the devotees of Lord Vishnu) to cooperate and respect and appreciate each other's faith.

And this spirit of interfaith discussion and cooperation extends to people of other faiths and others as well (Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Jains, atheists, agnostics, Wiccans, Scientologists, etc.)!

In 1974, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada asked Father Emmanuel Jungclaussen, a Benedictine monk, "What is the meaning of the word Christ?"

Father Emmanuel replied, "Christ comes from the Greek word Christos, meaning 'the anointed one.'"

Srila Prabhupada said, "Christos is the Greek version of the word Krishna."

Father Emmanuel answered, "This is very interesting."

Srila Prabhupada explained: "When an Indian person calls on Krishna, he often says 'Krishta.' Krishta is a Sanskrit word meaning 'attraction.' So when we address God as 'Christ,' 'Krishta,' or 'Krishna,' we indicate the same all-attractive Supreme Personality of Godhead.

"When Jesus said, 'Our Father who art in heaven, sanctified be Thy Name,' that name of God was 'Krishta' or 'Krishna."

George Harrison similarly said in a 1982 interview, "Hallelujah may have originally been some mantric thing that got watered down, but I'm not sure what it really means. The Greek word for Christ is Kristos, which is, let's face it, Krishna, and Kristos is the same name actually."

(Secular scholars and theologians dispute this interreligious claim!)

A few years ago, when Kim and I were staffing a table at the World Vegetarian Weekend festival in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, we were seated next to the Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA).

Kim immediately went up and introduced herself to Patricia Koot, an Adventist Christian, whose husband Dave is an ordained minister.

Kim explained we're all worshipping the same God, whether we address Him as "Christ," "Krishna," etc.

Patricia didn't know what to make of Kim's attempts at interfaith harmony, but hey, that's another story!

I later told Dave, when he was saying grace over some vegan cuisine, that saying grace is second-class, and Srila Prabhupada taught us that the highest standard is to offer one's food to the Lord beforehand.

Srila Prabhupada gave an example of guests seated at a banquet. He said the third-class man will immediately dig in and start eating without acknowledging the host who has provided the food. The second-class man will thank the host and then begin to eat, but the first-class man will say to the host, "You first," and will eat only after the host has partaken.

Similarly, I said, the highest standard of worship is to offer one's food to God beforehand.

Again, Srila Prabhupada wanted Christians and Vaishnavas to cooperate and respect and appreciate each other's faith.

There's no reason why we, in a secular democracy, can't give copies of the Bhagavad-gita to Dave & Patricia Koot, Reverend Cecil Williams of Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco, Reverend Barry Lynn of the United Church of Christ, etc.

Americans United
for Separation of Church and State
1301 K Street NW, Suite 850, East Tower
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 466-3234 fax: (202) 466-2587
americansunited@au.org

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