This, at least, seems to be the attitude of the Kentucky’s liberal media.
Let's be honest here. If David Williams had gone to a Christian church and participated in some religious ceremony and his Senate office had sent out photos of it, editorial writers from the Louisville Courier-Journal and the Lexington Herald-Leader would be falling all over themselves lamenting that Williams was pandering to his base—if not violating the separation between church and state—and their reporters would be calling up left-wing professors at the state's universities and writing stories about it.
In Friday's CJ, Peter Smith took both me and Republican gubernatorial candidate David Williams to task for remarks about Beshear’s very solemn and respectful exploitation of a Hindu rite. He and other reporters covering the story went out and got the comments of Hindu organizations, at least one of which demanded an apology from Williams—an apology they rightly never got.
Smith charges Williams—who had portrayed Beshear as sitting in the Lotus Position, with a red mark on his forehead, bowing and praying to Hindu deities—with mischaracterizing the Hindu ceremony:
In fact, that incorrectly describes Beshear’s sitting posture or that of anyone else in the photo. None of them could be mistaken for assuming the tight, cross-legged meditative lotus position.The Lotus Position, it turns out, is a cross-legged sitting posture in which each foot rests on the opposite thigh. In addition, he says:
Hindus have said that sitting in the ceremonial pit of such a ceremony and receiving the ceremonial “tilak” on the forehead does not necessarily mean one is engaging in Hindu worship.In other words, the governor wasn’t sitting in the Lotus Position receiving the ceremonial “tilak” on the forehead with his eyes closed and his head bowed and with incense burning in a religious ceremony that involves making offerings to various gods and worshipping them.
No. It wasn't anything like that. All he was doing was sitting cross-legged receiving the ceremonial “tilak” on the forehead with his eyes closed and his head bowed and with incense burning in a religious ceremony that involves making offerings to various gods and not worshipping them.
Glad we’ve got that cleared up. I mean, who could possibly have mistaken one for the other?
Beshear claims to be a Christian. But one thing is for sure: Shadrach the governor is not. Or Meshach. Or Abednego. This is clearly not a man who will ever find himself in a lion's den--not with all the available alternatives.
And then, of course, there was my post, in which I made light of the whole thing and employed a number of blatant and obvious stereotypes in order to do it. The problem there? I used blatant and obvious stereotypes to do it.
He’s got me there.
And then there was the fact that I was making light of it at all. My post “makes one-liners out of issues that deserve serious discussion in their own context.”
Well, I suppose if my intention had been to discuss the issue seriously in its own context I would have discussed the issue seriously in its own context. But as it so happens that was not my intention.
In fact, getting serious about religion is not something the media does particularly well. Smith is certainly well-intentioned, but here is his comment on the Hindu caste system:
The oppression of Hindu untouchables is also real, serious—and also draws resistance from within the Hindu community itself. The Hindu American Foundation says “caste-based discrimination is not, and has never been, intrinsic to the essential teachings of Hinduism.”And it's David Williams who is mischaracterizing Hinduism? Not only has the caste system been considered (in and outside of the religion) as an essential part of Hinduism throughout its history, but it is integral to its belief in reincarnation, and rebellion against it is considered to result in a lower rebirth in the next life. In fact, the only thing that has moderated the caste system in recent times is the introduction of Western beliefs into Indian thinking.
This is the thing about multiculturalism: the Western liberals who spout it never allow the real beliefs of non-Western thought systems to complicate their presentation of it. Many non-Western beliefs, it turns out, are racist and sexist, among other unfortunate things. So they have to clean it up first and make it presentable. The next thing you know we'll be reading news stories about how Hinduism isn't polytheistic.
CJ reporters need to be careful about how they characterize Hinduism. If they're not careful, they could end up being reborn as politicians.
Pop Quiz: Which act displays the more serious attitude toward a religion: participating in one of its holy rites for purposes of a cheap political photo op (or, for that matter, downplaying its potentially objectionable beliefs), or taking it for what it is and arguing against it because you think it's wrong?
If you take Hinduism seriously, as Williams clearly did, you’re intolerant. If you make light of it, then you’re insensitive because you’re not taking it seriously. It’s important to realize the dilemma you can get into here.
Otherwise you might think it was just bad Karma.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Peter is a great guy and really wasn’t as hard on me as I suppose he could have been. But I’m trying to remember the last time he or any other CJ reporter went out and sought a request for apology from a Protestant denomination or Catholic church for, say, one of State Rep. Tom Burch’s hostile outbursts during one of his committee meetings at the State Capitol—or for that many any of the frequent and equally hostile remarks about Christianity made by State Sen. Kathy Stein.
In fact, I’m trying very hard to think of any similar display of media indignation at any instance of ill-intentioned criticism of Christianity and I’m just not coming up with anything.
Maybe I’ll remember it in my next life.
In fact, has Smith ever heard of the Page One Kentucky blog (That’s a rhetorical question. Of course he has. All the CJ reporters read it), where Jake Payne takes almost daily potshots at conservative Christianity? Has he ever written a column condemning Payne for religious intolerance?
When it's a liberal Democrat showing favor to a non-Western religion, the media sings its hosannas to the principle of religious tolerance, but when it's a conservative Republican showing favor to Christianity, they call fire down from heaven.
Even a liberal Democrat can't escape impaling himself on one or the other horn of the media's contradictory Tolerance standard. Just compare on the one hand the treatment Beshear himself received when he actually participated in a Hindu ceremony for the camera (solemn and starry-eyed respect for all the religions of the earth and lectures about all the world singing together in perfect harmony), and on the other when Beshear granted tax incentives for the building of the Ark Park, which is formally not even a religious organization (grim rhetorical expressions and hostile, school-marmish finger-wagging about how we should be very careful about crossing the line between church and state—the only thing the media thinks is really holy).
Will there be any observations forthcoming from the state media about the inconsistency between the Beshear administration renaming the state Christmas tree the state “Holiday” tree because it is too religion specific on the one hand, and on the other actually participating in a religion-specific Hindu ceremony?
If the media worshipped a god, it would be the Roman god Janus, who has two faces pointing in opposite directions.