You Say “Polytheistic Situations” Like It’s A Bad Thing

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  November 1, 2011 — 49 Comments

Talking Points Memo reports that Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, up for reelection next week, has come under attack from his opponent, Senate President David Williams, from a surprising angle: idolatry. You see, Beshear attended a a groundbreaking ceremony for Indian company FlexFilm, and during that ceremony a traditional Hindu blessing was performed.

Gov. Steve Beshear

Gov. Steve Beshear

“Gov. Steve Beshear sat cross legged on a white cushion for an hour in what may be the first bhoomi poojan ceremony held in Kentucky. He hopes it’s not the last, the governor said Friday at a celebration of the Flex Films (USA) Inc. investment in Elizabethtown. […]  For more than an hour, guests observed the traditional Indian blessing through a haze created by burning incense and a ceremonial fire. A handful of participants, including Beshear and Elizabethtown Mayor Tim Walker, sat cross legged and shoeless on cushions while a priest chanted Hindu prayers. At the end of the ground blessing, participants shoveled the newly blessed earth into a hole in the center of the pit.”

You can watch a video of the ceremony, here. It seems Williams isn’t happy with Beshear sitting in fellowship with the Hindus, intimating that a Christian Kentucky governor shouldn’t involve themselves in “polytheistic situations.”

“If I’m a Christian, I don’t participate in Jewish prayers. I’m glad they do that. I don’t participate in Hindu prayers. I don’t participate in Muslim prayers. I don’t do that. To get down and get involved and participate in prayers to these polytheistic situations, where you have these Hindu gods that they are praying to, doesn’t appear to me to be in line with what a governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky ought to be doing.

Apparently being an honored guest a Hindu ritual makes you a polytheist by default. According to Williams you “disrespect other peoples’ religion when you go down there” (ie sit on a cushion during a blessing ceremony) and that Beshear’s Baptist grandfathers “wouldn’t be very pleased” with him. Beshear’s campaign spokesman responded saying the attack was “pathetic and desperate,” and that he is “proud that 250 new jobs are coming to Elizabethtown.”

If we’re going to split theological hairs, where exactly is the line between attendance and participation?  If a secular political leader is invited to sit with Hindus during a blessing ceremony, instead of at a theologically imprecise safe distance, does that mean he’s worshiping Hindu gods? Or does it simply mean that he’s showing support for job creation during a recession? Keep in mind that this is the same governor who obtained tax credits for a to-scale replica of Noah’s Ark (much to the derision of the left), so I doubt he’s suddenly gone polytheist on us. Williams says he isn’t showing disrespect to Hindus with his comments, but when you treat a religion like a contaminant that will tarnish you if you get too close I can’t see how one wouldn’t take some offense. Also, even if Williams is correct, and Gov. Beshear is now an idolator, why would that disqualify him in any way for political office? I thought the state of one’s soul is a personal matter, not a talking point during a campaign.

ADDENDUM: The Hindu American Foundation has released a statement.

“The words of Sen. Williams are not only an affront to Hindu Americans, but all Americans as he conjures up the lowest sentiments of exclusion and bigotry. ” said Suhag Shukla, Esq., HAF’s Managing Director and Legal Counsel. “He’s shown he’s ignorant and intolerant — two qualities that we hope Kentuckyians will reject at the polls.” […] “While it is necessary to condemn Senator Williams’ intolerant comments, it is equally important to congratulate Governor Beshear and Mayor Tim Walker for respecting America’s religious diversity by participating in the ceremony,” said Samir Kalra, Esq., HAF’s Director and Senior Fellow for Human Rights. “Their actions epitomize our nation’s great traditions of religious tolerance and pluralism, and they should be celebrated.”

It should be interesting to see if Sen. Williams will walk back his remarks, or double down.

Jason Pitzl-Waters