"I don't know if he even knows who he's praying to," [Tim Wildemon, president of the AFA] said.... David Barton, president of WallBuilders, a foundation that researches and promotes the Christian origination of American law and culture, said the Hindu belief in multiple gods contradicts the U.S. motto of "One Nation Under God."
Sometimes, I get angry. Often, I get angry at Christians. Why? Probably for the same reason that folks find it easier to get angry at a family member than a stranger. You know them well, you've seen their spots and wrinkles, and for better or worse, you think that they should know better than to do whatever it is that pissed you off.
One of the things that consistently pushes my buttons is the sweeping, shocking misinterpretation of other faiths' basic premises and beliefs by Christians. Sometimes this is plain old ignorance, and other times it's done for rhetorical effect. It's maddening in either case, because Christians are generally the first to split hairs and play out the "you just don't understand the faith" card when someone complains about Christian beliefs.
The article linked at the top of the post is a WorldNetDaily article. It discusses the controversy surrounding the recent delivery of a prayer in Congress by a Hindu. Naturally, a group of Christian protesters went absolutely apeshit. I'll leave the discussion of hypocrisy and double-standards for later, and sidestep around the comparison of pluralistic democracy to Old Testament theocracy. (Bonus question for Christians who say the Old Testament should guide our approach to other faiths: you realize Jesus was a blasphemer, right? And that Christians would be considered pagans in the Old Testament?)
Let's focus on the meat of Barton's statement: "...the Hindu belief in multiple gods contradicts the U.S. motto of 'One Nation Under God.'" What makes it sadly-hilariously-awfully ignorant? Hindu theology holds that various deities are just representations of different aspects of a single monotheistic god, or Brahman. Christians believe in a similar concept: The Trinity.
Ask a group of Christians to pray, and they'll usually start things off the same way. Eyes close, perhaps a circle of people will hold hands. And one of them will start: "Dear Heavenly Father..." Or, perhaps: "Jesus, we ask you..." Depending on the denomination or the topic being prayed about, you might hear them start: "Holy Spirit, please guide us..." Christians believe that these three separate personalities (God the Father, Jesus the son, and The Holy Spirit) are unique and distinct entities that also miraculously form a single God. All Voltron jokes aside, this is one of those basic points of theology that you have to accept as suspension of disbelief. A paradox. Perhaps "an elegant hack" to merge polytheism with monotheism.
Which brings us back to Barton's claim that only monotheistic faiths can be resolved with our nation's motto. By his own rule, Hinduism is no less legitimate than orthodox Christianity. Using a hard-line definition of 'monotheistic,' only Judaism and Islam would survive the Battle Of The Major World Faiths.
There are simpler, more common examples of this kind of misrepresentation that happen every day. My (least?) favorite is a bumper-sticker pull-quote I've heard from many pastors and preachers: "Buddha never died for your sins." The implication (to a Christian audience, at least) is that Christianity stands alone because only Jesus actually solved the fundamental problem of mankind's sinful nature. The absurdity of this statement, though, becomes apparent when you invert the comparison. Did Jesus ever achieve enlightenment and become an Arhat? Clearly, no. Thus, Buddha is better than Jesus. Case closed!
"Buddha never died for your sins" unpacks to a tautological statement of orthodoxy: "Only the Christian God did what the Christian God did. If you accept our presuppositions, only we make sense." It's fine and good if you're preaching to the choir, because everyone already accepts the fundamental presuppositions of the faith. If you think you're communicating to anyone, or that you've scored points with some kind of apologetics zinger against another religion, you've only revealed your own ignorance. Just keep repeating to yourself: Jesus never achieved Nirvana, either. And remember that trying to actually understand other faiths -- including what fundamental human problems they believe even need solving -- is a good first step before you start comparing them to Christianity.
For folks like David Barton, it's also something to remember before claiming prayers by non-Christians are anti-American.