Much has been made of late about Keith Ellison's insistance that he be sworn in as a U.S. Congressman on the Koran rather than a Bible. As a Muslim, his request is understandable. Still, traditionalists and those who feel that we are a Christian nation are up in arms over this "anti American" request.
Now there's a lot of good points made about the Constitution expressly forbidding a religious test to hold an elected office. That would seem to mean that while a tradition, swearing on the bible is not a legal requirement. But legalities aside, I think everyone is missing the larger point.
The reason we want someone to swear on a Bible is based on a belief that while someone might be inclined to lie to another person, they would be less likely to lie to God. The hand on the bible is a visceral reminder that the vow you are taking is not just before your peers, it is before and in witness of, God.
But if you are Muslim, of what significance is the Bible? The whole point is that the swearer should feel the presence of God while he swears. The Bible does not invoke that feeling in a Muslim. The Koran does. For crying in your beer, we want this guy to swear on a Koran. It has meaning for him, the meaning we desire. For him, swearing on the bible is as significant as swearing on Thursday's edition of USA Today.
Sometimes we get so caught up in the mechanics of ritualism, we forget why the ritual exists. The motions become more important than the meaning. And we become sheep, blissfully tended by shepherds long sice dead. Assuming that the worn paths in the fields represent their wisdom, and losing their larger purpose to the ether.
Bleat for me…