Category Archives: religious news

‘Separation of church, state’ need not be written

I cannot let this one pass without offering a brief rejoinder.

Dave Henry, the director of commentary for the Amarillo Globe-News, offered this tidbit in a column Sunday about what is written in the U.S. Constitution.

His column dealt with myths and other untruths that show up on social media. He writes: The fake “City of Amarillo” Facebook page reminded AGN that, “The free press is a cornerstone of democracy.”

Is the free press a “cornerstone” of a republic? I hope so, because the word “democracy” is nowhere to be found in the U.S. Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. Unfortunately, what is actually written in the U.S. Constitution – and what is not – does not matter anymore. For example, “separation of church and state.”

He quibbles correctly about whether the founders created a “democracy” or a “republic.” It was the latter, for certain.

But then …

Henry repeats a canard that needs some further explanation. He says the Constitution does not contain the words “separation of church and state.” True. But only as far as it goes.

What that remark — cited often by conservatives who keep arguing that it’s OK to teach religion in public schools — ignores is that the Constitution implies such a separation in its First Amendment. The founders didn’t need to write “separation of church and state” when they declared that Congress shall make no law that establishes a state religion. The prohibition against writing such a law translates quite nicely, in my humble view, to a church-and-state separation.

What’s more, the federal courts have upheld that standard repeatedly through countless court challenges over the course of, oh, 200 years.

I just have grown weary of the tired refrain that the Constitution needs to say something specifically in order to make an issue relevant. Church/state separation is covered by the nation’s governing document — even if it doesn’t say it in so many words.

Revisiting myth of our ‘national Christianity’

Some issues just never go away. They lurk on the edges of our national consciousness, occasionally returning to a spot under the lights.

I have written a number of blogs on this venue about whether we live in a “Christian nation.” I concluded long ago that the founders deliberately left the word “Christian” out of our Constitution.

Here’s a post from 2015:

A ‘Christian nation’? Never have been one

I suspect we’re going to be talking, maybe soon, about this issue once again. After all, the president who’s alleged to have had an affair with a porn queen has been courting the evangelical community since he began running for the office. I fully expect the evangelicals to talk about religion and their “faith” in the president.

Indeed, I saw a tweet this morning that reminds us that Barack Obama and George W. Bush were faithful to their wives, but it took a serial philanderer who’s allegedly involved with a porn star to get evangelical Christians so energized.

And somewhere along the line, someone is going to blurt out some nutty notion that the United States is a “Christian nation,” that it is rediscovering its Christian roots.

I’ll say it again, just as I will say it now.

Baloney!

We aren’t a Christian nation. We are a nation founded by and large by men who adhered to Christian principles; many of them were men of faith who didn’t necessarily follow Jesus Christ’s teachings. Yes, there is a Judeo-Christian ethic written into the Constitution.

However, the founders explicitly excluded any reference to Christianity in the nation’s founding document. Why? Because those men fled religious persecution from tyrants who demanded that they must believe a certain way. They came across the ocean intent on preserving people’s right to worship as they please — or not worship if that is their choice.

I am acutely aware that the founders didn’t craft a perfect document. It didn’t grant full citizenship rights to every living human being in this newly created country. But on the issue of the nation’s religiosity, they got it right.

God bless those brave and wise men.

Behar apologizes to faith community … good for her!

You think you “know” someone based on what they say on the air … and then they surprise you.

Loudmouth comedian/TV talk show co-host Joy Behar had popped off on “The View” not long ago about how Vice President Mike Pence hears wisdom from Jesus Christ. She said Pence must suffer from some sort of “mental illness” if he hears voices from the Lord himself.

Behar’s comment at the time offended people of faith across the land. I was one of those offended and said so in an earlier blog post.

‘Comedian’ crosses a sacred line

Then we hear from Pence, who told Fox News’s Sean Hannity that Behar had called him immediately after her ill-advised snarkiness and apologized to him for her remarks. Pence told Hannity that as a devout Christian, he extended God’s grace to Behar and accepted her apology, but then said he told her she ought to apologize to millions of other Americans of faith for her comment.

What do you suppose Behar did this morning? She apologized. On the air.  On a segment of “The View.” What’s more, she didn’t offer one of those phony “If I offended anyone” non-apologies. She didn’t try to explain anything. She didn’t say “That’s not who I am.” She apologized. Period.

We live in a strange time, folks.

I am not yet certain that Joy Behar quite understands how faithful individuals receive guidance from Scripture. She likely doesn’t quite get how that guidance doesn’t come in the form of audible voices. The very issue of faith is deeper than that.

The vice president is a man of deep faith and as a devoted Christian he is able and willing to extend grace as it is taught in the Bible.

That’s what he did. Joy Behar did her part, too, in telling the rest of us — through her apology — that she made a mistake.

Good for her.

America’s Pastor kept the faith

One of our country’s true giants has gone to reap his great reward.

The Rev. Billy Graham was 99 years of age. He had grown frail in recent years. He had become something of a recluse, staying at his North Carolina home away from the spotlight, eschewing the attention that other noted evangelical preachers had sought out feverishly.

But this man, who found his calling at a young age and then became arguably the nation’s most iconic evangelist, remain true to his belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ.

To my mind — and heart — Rev. Graham kept the faith. He sought to preserve Christian purity as taught by Jesus two millennia ago. His belief was that one need not mix faith with secular politics. He delivered an unvarnished message of love and faith.

Rev. Graham was a confidant to U.S. presidents, all of them from Harry Truman to Barack Obama. You want bipartisanship? Rev. Graham embodied it, providing spiritual counseling to presidents of both parties. Yes, he was closer to some than to others. For instance, Rev. Graham developed a close personal friendship with President Nixon and stood by him during the Watergate scandal that eventually forced the president to resign. When it became clear that the president was complicit in the coverup, Graham was said to be hurt terribly by that revelation.

Still, he remained — in his own view — “above the fray” of partisan politics, which is a lesson that was lost on other noted evangelists. I think, for instance, of Revs. Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell, two men who in my view sullied their standing as spiritual leaders with their involvement in partisan politics.

That lesson also has been lost on the Rev. Franklin Graham, the great man’s own son, who also has stooped to the level of political hack. Papa Graham could not have been happy about that, even as the younger Graham carried forth the tradition of the famous Graham “crusades” around the world.

It’s been reported that Graham spoke to roughly 200 million people during his many years of preaching Jesus’s Gospel. He no doubt was heard by many more than those who stood before him, whether in revival tents or across sprawling landscapes in much larger venues.

It’s not an overstatement to suggest that Rev. Graham will be known forever as America’s pastor. He was passionate in his faith and was unafraid to share it with the world.

As it has been said about many iconic figures who have come and gone, the Rev. Billy Graham won’t ever be compared to anyone else.

‘Comedian’ crosses a sacred line

Joy Behar calls herself a “comedian.” She also purports to be a political pundit, using her post as co-host of the TV talk show “The View” to express her views on politics and public policy.

I’ve never considered her to be either funny or insightful.

She has, however, now established herself as a boor.

This week, Behar decided to do something I find wholly repugnant. She ridiculed another person’s religious faith. The other party happens to be Vice President Mike Pence, a self-described devout Christian.

Pence supposedly said he receives guidance daily from Jesus Christ. Behar decided to ridicule Pence, saying that anyone who hears Jesus’s voice is “mentally ill.”

Oh, my.

I’ve long held true to some tenets in my own political commentary. I do not like to poke fun at people’s appearance, their name or their religious faith. Those three areas are off limits. Period.

Behar crossed that line with her hideous ridiculing of the vice president. She does not seem to understand how people of faith are able to receive guidance from holy Scripture. For her to suggest that Vice President Pence, or anyone who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ, are “mentally ill” because they receive daily guidance from the Holy Bible.

If Behar wants to criticize Pence’s policy statements or his extensive record as an elected public official, that’s fine. She is entitled to do that. She’s also entitled to utter distasteful comments about the vice president’s faith. The same Constitution that grants Behar that right also enables folks such as yours truly to call such commentary what we believe it is.

As a conservative political commentator noted in a pithy comment about Behar, had she declared that “gay people” are “mentally ill,” ABC-TV would have “fired her on the spot” and hauled her off the set on live television.

Disgraceful.

No, Mr. POTUS, Islam doesn’t ‘hate’ us

I watched a two-year-old video of Donald John Trump in which he told an interviewer that Islam “hates Americans.”

That comment has bothered me from the moment I heard it the first time.

I’ve long wondered, given what the president said at the time, why this country is full of so many Muslims. Why do people who follow the Islamic faith choose to live in a country full of those they supposedly “hate”? And, oh yes, what about Islamic Americans? How do we categorize those fellow citizens?

To me the answer is obvious. Muslims don’t “hate” Americans just because we are, um, Americans.

Muslim perverts — those who commit terrorist acts in the name of Islam — certainly do hate Americans. They also hate other Muslims.

I remember the night President Barack Obama told the world that U.S. special forces had killed Osama bin Laden. The president made it clear — just as President George W. Bush had made clear — that bin Laden wasn’t a Muslim leader. “He was a mass murderer of Muslims,” President Obama said.

I keep circling back to that notion every time I hear Donald Trump harp on this falsehood, that the Islamic faith teaches its followers to hate others who adhere to other faiths.

CNN’s Fareed Zakaria posed the question the other day to Jordanian King Abdullah about whether the president was right to say that Muslims “hate Americans.” The king said, quite simply and with eloquence, that the president needs to learn more about Islam before making any statements about what the faith teaches.

Indeed, the president needs to learn more about, oh, just about everything before he opens his mouth.

Christians face troubling dilemma with POTUS

Leave it to the granddaughter of one of America’s great spiritual leaders to finally — finally! — put some perspective on one of the nation’s strangest political alliances.

Jerushah Armfield, whose grandfather is none other than the Rev. Billy Graham, said this on CNN: “In order to forgive somebody, that individual needs to repent and apologize. And I don’t think America has seen that from our President in any scenario.”

Why “forgive” in this case? Because the president of the United States uttered some despicable language when referring certain nations of the world. He called nations in Africa and Haiti “sh**hole countries,” a comment that has drawn international scorn.

Armfield, though, isn’t so alarmed that Donald Trump used that language, but is perplexed at how he dehumanized millions of people. And yet so many evangelical Christian leaders are willing to give the president a pass on that conduct. Why? Because they support his policies.

Armfield went on: “I understand a lot of evangelicals supporting him because of his policies,” she said. “I’d love to see a Christian leader come out and say that they support Trump for his policies, but that his behavior disgusts them, and he needs to clean up his act.”

His behavior hasn’t “disgusted” leaders, such as Armfield’s uncle, the Rev. Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son and one of Trump’s key evangelical supporters.

Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, has said Trump deserves a “mulligan,” that his comments — and his admitted deeds — aren’t enough to repulse people of faith.

Armfield said more: “My president doesn’t have to be a Christian … I just don’t want him to be held up as the poster boy for Christian evangelicals because he doesn’t represent most of us.”

Yet, the president continues to bask in the support thrown his way by leaders of a movement who — I am utterly certain — wouldn’t tolerate a fraction of the hideous behavior from a politician whose policies they oppose.

Weird.

How do you punish these religious perverts?

I have been using the term — or some variation of it — “religious perverts” to describe the Islamic State and other terrorists who commit dastardly acts in the name of a great world religion.

That term now applies to a California husband and wife who’ve been arrested and charged with crimes that simply overwhelm our sense of decency.

David and Louise Turpin are locked up in the Riverside County jail on multiple counts of child endangerment/abuse and related crimes.

Police raided their home and found 13 children chained to their beds. They had been starved to within inches of their lives. The youngest of the Turpins’ children is 2 years of age. The oldest of them has reached adulthood.

Bail has been set at $9 million for each of them. If I were King of the World, I’d make the bail a hundred times greater.

Why did they do this? Family members allege the couple follows some sort of religious tenet. What in the name of the Holy Father can motivate anyone to do such a thing?

If it is a form of religious fervor that drove the Turpins to do this, then all I am left to say is … please, God, shower your mercy on those poor children.

The so-called mother and father of these children need never to be free ever again.

One neighbor told the media he had “no idea this was going on.” It’s easy, I suppose, to condemn neighbors for failing to act. The house reportedly smelled to high heaven.

However, maybe we can ask ourselves: Does anyone with a semblance of decency ever envision adults shackling their children to their beds and damn near starving them to death?

Take a good look at the faces of the Turpins attached to this blog post. You are staring straight into the faces of evil.

Left hand, meet the right hand

I consider High Plains Blogger to be a forum for commenting on politics, policy and life experience. I use it to comment on those matters with with great glee.

For a moment, though, I want to veer far from any of those topics. Well, maybe “life experience” might qualify.

I learned something today in Sunday school that had me scratching my noggin about our secular world and how we human beings morph the Holy Word occasionally into something quite different.

We are studying Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. Then we ran into this passage from the Gospel of Matthew 6:3. According to Scripture, Jesus Christ instructs us, “But when you give to someone in need, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”

Given that I am far from a biblical scholar, I wasn’t aware of those words of wisdom — until I saw them today.

Why scratch my head? Because in our contemporary society, we now use the reference to our “left hand not knowing what the our right is doing” as a pejorative. We scold individuals or those who run institutions by saying that “the left hand doesn’t know … ” You get the point, right? Of course you do!

However, according to New Testament Scripture, Jesus Christ himself tells us to avoid letting each of our hands know what the other is doing. How in the name of all that is holy did this bit of divine instruction become a metaphor for criticism?

I might never use that saying ever again when I witness confusion unfolding before my eyes. I’ll have to get creative.

There. Now, back to more worldly matters.

Guns in church: strange scenario

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says it’s OK for licensed gun owners can carry their weapons into church.

Is it me or does that seem like the strangest of juxtapositions: guns and houses of worship?

Paxton issued his ruling in the wake of the Sutherland Springs church massacre that left 26 people dead in the worst mass murder in modern Texas history.

I don’t know about you but I am uncomfortable with the idea of guns anywhere near a church sanctuary.

Churches have option to say ‘no’

Paxton says churches, of course, have the option of banning guns on their property. I am going to check with the church my wife, son and I attend to see if it allows firearms into its sanctuary. I am going to pray to Almighty God in heaven that it does not.

Texas legislators loosened prohibitions on concealed-carry laws by allowing guns in churches. I am not as opposed to concealed carry legislation as I used to be. I feared shootouts would occur as road rage erupted into gun violence. Silly me. That hasn’t happened.

I just have this aversion to guns in holy places where people worship in the name of the Prince of Peace.

I’ve touched on this before. Here is an earlier post:

God wouldn’t allow guns in church