Swearing in on the Koran
by Leon Satterfield
OK, I give up. What's going on in Washington? Has it been taken over by people who've managed to make a pretty good living by being militant Christians?
I'm talking about what I assume all of you are talking about too: the way in which newly-elected Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota) has offended those militant Christians.
He offended by going to the wrong church.
So brace yourselves. According to John Nichols in "The Nation," Rep. Ellison is the "first Muslim to be elected to Congress."
That's the U.S. Congress. You know: the one in Washington where everyone swears in by putting their hand on a Bible.
Then along comes a misfit like Rep. Ellison who earlier this month insisted on taking his oath of office with his hand on the two-volume Koran instead of the Bible.
Make your blood boil? Well, I should say. Remember, the Koran is to Muslims what the Bible is to Christians.
So Rep. Ellison is the first House member in the nation's history to be sworn in with his hand on the Koran. And the new Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-California), also put her hand on the Koran as the oath of office was administered.
Don't they know that we're giving aid and comfort to most of the people we're fighting in Iraq because they see the Koran in the same way a goodly number of Americans see the Bible? And not only are Rep. Ellison and Speaker Pelosi on their way to hellfire and damnation, they're suggesting that it really doesn't matter much what book they've got their hand on when they're sworn in.
(Should I ever get elected to some high office I will be sworn in with my hand on a copy of either Mark Twain's "The War Prayer," or J.D. Salingerís "The Catcher in the Rye." I haven't made up my mind yet.) And you know what the Ellison-Pelosi defense is? Get this:
They say that the Koran in question here comes from the rare book and special collection division of the Library of Congressas if that might give it a kind of authority equal to that of the Bible.
And that's not all.
They say that this particular copy of the Koran got into the Library of Congress because it once belonged to our third President, Thomas Jefferson. The implication being that if Jefferson once owned the book it must be OK and somehow equal to the Bible.
And I'll bet that our current Presidentlike menever corrupted his mind by reading the Koran. That's one of the differences between him and Jefferson.
Who was it who said at a White House gathering of Nobel Prize winners that there hadnít been so much intelligence in the White House since Thomas Jefferson sat there alone?
If you agree with that witticism, you were/are probably an English major. In which case you, like me, probably agree with most of the outrageous things Jefferson wrote. To wit:
Jefferson was one of those founding fathers who maintained that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office of public trust under the United States."
And in his outrageous (and appealing) chapter on religion in his only book, "Notes on the State of Virginia," he wrote a number of things that probably got him sent to hell.
For example, the chapter called "Query XVII. Religion" is full of very appealing blasphemy. Like this: "Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites."
Or like this sentence from a letter he wrote to James Madison: "A little rebellion now and then is a good thing."
Or this from a letter to Peter Carr (a passage I find to be the most outrageous thing I've read of Jefferson's): "State a moral case to a ploughman and a professor. The former will decide it as well, and often better than the latter, because he has not been led astray by artificial rules."
Having put my time in as both a ploughman and a professorin that orderI have to agree. Turning a furrow used up hardly any of my mental resources. Grading papers made me a little loony.
So Jefferson gets my vote. A little late, I admit, but he'd have us out of Iraq by sundown. And any congressman who wishes to be sworn in with anything Jefferson wroteor readis OK by me.
Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail address is: email@example.com.
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