Category Archives: religious news

Yes, there is a church-state ‘separation’

A former colleague of mine used to insist that because the United States Constitution doesn’t contain the phrase “separation of church and state” that the concept somehow is not relevant.

Well, I would remind him that the First Amendment about a prohibition against writing laws that establish a state religion implies the separation graphically.

Enter the new man nominated to become the U.S. attorney general, William Barr. He has declared his skepticism about the “secular” state the founders created in the late 18th century. He wants to invoke “God’s law” when enforcing the laws of the land.

I am going to presume he means the laws of the Christian God. But what about the laws of all the other gods that Americans worship? The Islamic god, the Jewish god, the Hindu god, the Buddhist god, the Shinto god? Do they matter? Of course they do! Or at least they should.

Except the founders created a Constitution that say there should be no law passed “with respect” to a particular religion. It stipulates there should be “no religious test” for anyone seeking public office.

The words “Christian,” “Christianity” or “Jesus Christ” are not mentioned in the Constitution. Nor does it mention “Jewish” or “Muslim” or “Buddhist” or “Hindu.”

So, to the AG-designate, I merely want to urge him to stick to enforcing the laws of the land, as enacted by Congress, signed by the president and affirmed by the courts.

Rename the ‘Community Prayer Breakfast’?

When you see a billboard advertising an upcoming “community prayer breakfast,” you might be inclined to think of it as an inclusive event that welcomes people of all faiths.

I certainly would.

With that, I am going to venture briefly into an area that I am certain is going to bring some potentially scathing criticism to this blog.

Amarillo is going to play host Tuesday morning to its annual “Community Prayer Breakfast.” I attended quite a few of them over the years when I lived in Amarillo. They’re lovely affairs with lots of fellowship, a nice breakfast served to crowds exceeding 1,000 individuals who get up early in the morning to attend the event at the Civic Center.

However, it’s not a “community” event that welcomes people of non-Christian faith. If you’re a Jew, or a Muslim, or a Buddhist you don’t feel welcome necessarily. These events have the look, sound and feel of a Christian revival meeting. There’s a bit of evangelism going on.

I am acutely aware that the Texas Panhandle is an overwhelmingly Christian community. But it’s not exclusively Christian.

I aim any criticism only at those who continue to call it what it is not. The broadest definition of Amarillo’s “community” has to include those who worship non-Christian deities. Were they to walk into this event, they wouldn’t feel as welcome as those of us who do worship Jesus Christ.

I say all this as one who was baptized as a Christian. I have been a devoted Christian my entire life. I believe in the salvation that comes with a belief that Jesus is the Son of God.

But I speak only for myself. Not for others. Thus, the “Community Prayer Breakfast” needs either a new name — one that reflects its Christian emphasis — or it ought to consider broadening its appeal a more ecumenical audience, which is what the National Prayer Breakfast seeks to do.

Prayers from a rabbi or an imam would be a start.

This just in from Kentucky: Kim Davis loses

Who, you might ask, is Kim Davis?

She is a Rowan County (Ky.) clerk who made a spectacle of herself when she declined to sign marriage licenses requested by same-sex couples. That was her reaction to a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2015 that made gay marriage legal in all 50 states.

Well, Davis has lost her bid for re-election.

Too bad? Actually, no. It isn’t.

Davis proclaimed that her religious beliefs precluded her from signing marriage license requests for gay couples. She had run initially as a Democrat; she switched parties, becoming a Republican. Her refusal to uphold her oath landed her in jail briefly. She came out and made a big show of it by standing alongside Baptist preacher (and former Arkansas governor) Mike Huckabee.

Here’s the deal, though. Davis’s oath of office demanded that she obey the U.S. Constitution. She declined to remain faithful to her oath. She then let deputy clerks sign those certificates to protect the boss from doing so.

She’ll be out of office by the time January rolls around. That’s fine. Hit the road, Mme. Clerk.

Evangelical support of POTUS remains a mystery

I am shaking my head. Hard. I cannot believe how this particular president has managed to do the seemingly impossible: retain the support of the nation’s Christian evangelical movement.

I’ll start this rant, though, with a word of praise for Donald Trump. I am thrilled that he and his administration were able to obtain the release of an American pastor held captive in Turkey for the past two years. Andrew Brunson is a free man and the president insists the United States gave away nothing — not a thing — to secure his release from the Turks.

Leaders praise Trump

Brunson went to the White House to thank the president. The men prayed in the Oval Office. I am delighted he is home, a free man once again. Congratulations belong to the president and his team.

***

But then comes the strange endorsement of Trump from religious leaders who continue to sing the man’s praises, even though they know of his myriad indiscretions, his serial philandering, his abuse of women, his hideous public rhetoric about how he has never sought forgiveness for his sins.

Televangelist and Trump adviser James Robison said this: “He wouldn’t be our Sunday school teacher necessarily but he’s doing a great job of leadership.  I love him so much I can hardly explain it.”

Necessarily, Rev. Robison? Do ya think?

How in the name of all that is holy did this president pull this off? Sure, he has made some policy pronouncements that have stoked joy in the hearts of evangelicals. He recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel; he sought to ban transgender Americans from serving in the military; Trump has been able to seat two conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court.

I just cannot get past the man’s lengthy history of decadence and behavior that used to send chills up the spines of the most faithful among us. No longer, or so it seems.

Evangelicals are willing to give him a pass because he is so effective at pandering to their wishes.

Baffling. In the extreme!

Reports of sexual abuse are truly stomach-churning

I am sickened, right along with millions of other Americans, at the news out of Pennsylvania involving reports of sexual abuse of thousands of children by priests associated with several Catholic dioceses.

These children have grown to be men and women. They are speaking out. The church is now having to deal with yet another terrible scandal involving is holy men and the children under their spiritual care.

But there’s another aspect of the story that also sickens me. It is that Pennsylvania has a statute of limitations that prohibits these individuals from being prosecuted for their heinous crimes.

I am thinking that one legislative remedy might be for Keystone State lawmakers to rescind the statute of limitations for sex crimes, particularly those involving children.

They ought to look, for example, to Texas, which has no such time limit on when it can prosecute someone for crimes they commit against the most defenseless among us.

This story is far from its conclusion. May the victims — who call themselves “survivors” — find some measure of peace. I hope they draw some strength from the love that comes their way from the rest of the nation.

What do evangelicals see in POTUS?

Of all the elements of Donald Trump’s base of support, the one that baffles me in the extreme is the evangelical Christian movement.

I keep hearing how religious leaders, such as the Rev. Franklin Graham, have parted company with the president over the “zero tolerance” policy that yanks children from their parents’ custody at the southern border of the nation.

What I’ll never understand is how Trump managed to garner their support in the first place. He is not a Godly man. He isn’t associated in any demonstrable fashion with any religious organization. Trump has never been attached to, say, Habitat for Humanity, American Friends or any other faith-based non-government organization.

Yet the evangelical Christian movement aligns itself with this guy.

He’s a serial philanderer. He has admitted to grabbing women by their, um, whatever.

Still, despite all this — and more! — he maintains this base of support.

How in the world does that happen?

No doubt about it: U.S. is ‘secular nation’

An interesting argument has surfaced over the discussion about the use of Scripture to justify the separating of children from their parents as they enter the United States illegally.

It comes from the newspaper where I used to work, the Amarillo (Texas) Globe-News.

Here’s the editorial with the title, “The Spiritual Double Standard.” 

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently cited Romans 13 to justify the policy of yanking kids from their parents along our southern border and housing them separately. It also seems to suggest that the United States might not be a “secular nation.”

Actually, the United States most certainly is a secular nation. Of that there can be no serious debate.

The founders intended to craft a governing document that is free of religious requirements. Their ancestors came to this world fleeing religious persecution. Right? Yes!

The editorial seems also to suggest that critics of the AG are targeting Christians. Hmm. I don’t believe that’s the case. The founders didn’t even mention Christianity in crafting the U.S. Constitution. The Amarillo Globe-News opined: This is becoming a common tactic of many of those who support open borders – attempting to shame Christians by pointing out how federal immigration laws are not in line with Christian teachings about how to treat your neighbors, immigrants, etc.

The secular nature of our government is not aimed at Christians. It excludes any religious litmus test for government. Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus … you name it.

The G-N also suggests that secularists shouldn’t use Scripture to debunk the AG’s citing of the New Testament to justify the policy.

Fine, except that if the attorney general is going to bring it up first, then it is totally fair for critics to use the Bible to rebut what they believe is his misdirected justification.

The G-N notes, “As the saying goes, you can’t have it both ways.”

Actually, in this instance, I believe you can.

Scripture does not justify cruelty

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s use of the holy word to justify a cruel government policy simply boggles my mind.

It also boggles the mind of many other Americans.

He stood in front of a nation and declared that the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans said that we all must obey the government. Therefore, the AG said, the Donald Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents who enter the United States illegally is justified by New Testament Scripture.

What an absolute abomination! What a profoundly offensive use of the Bible to justify cruel treatment of children.

Sessions cited Romans 13. Yes, Paul instructed us to obey the government. But that’s not all that his letter said. Paul refers to the Old Testament commandment to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Look, the idea that the attorney general would invoke Scripture as a justification is insulting and demeaning on its face.

The Trump administration has decided to get tough on illegal immigration by taking children, many of them infants, from their mothers and fathers if they are caught entering this country without proper documentation. Hundreds of children have been separated from their parents with no assurance of when they will be reunited — if ever!

Someone has to tell me how that kind of policy is in keeping with the love and compassion that Jesus Christ taught the world while he was walking among us.

And think of the irony here. Sessions is the chief law enforcement officer in an administration led by a man with zero demonstrated commitment to the teachings brought in Scripture.

Therefore, does anyone actually believe that the attorney general is speaking for Donald John Trump while invoking a passage from the New Testament?

Shameful.

Do these symbols speak for a community?

CLARENDON, Texas — We have been traveling through this community for more than two decades en route from Amarillo to the Metroplex … and occasionally beyond.

During a relatively recent span of time, though, I have been struck by the plethora of religious symbols that have sprouted up on both ends of the highway that courses through the Donley County community.

Some of them are crosses, symbols of Jesus’s crucifixion. There are signs, too. They speak about God. There’s a touch of preaching in them; some of the signs speak of the “only path to salvation.” That kind of thing.

I’ve long wondered: Who put these messages out there? Did the city sanction them? I’ve sniffed around only a little bit.

Then I found a link to an Amarillo TV station that rooted out an answer or two.

As KFDA NewsChannel 10 reported: A local resident, Jim Griffin, put the signs up. They are meant to predict consequences far worse than 9/11. They seek to espouse Christian belief.

Not everyone is happy about the signs, or the crosses, or the message some have construed — which is that Clarendon is welcome only to Christians.

Hmm. I don’t buy that. I’ve never felt “evangelized” when I read the signs or look at the crosses.

The signs generally speak of hope and faith. Is there something really wrong with that? I think not.

Yes, it is a curious community feature. I have noticed that all the signs and the crosses are sitting on private property. I haven’t noticed anything on the Clarendon College campus, or at the Donley County Courthouse, or at Clarendon City Hall. There clearly would be a constitutional concern were there to be such messages delivered on public property. That First Amendment prohibition, after all, does prevent government from sanctioning any specific religion.

Not everyone is happy about it. Read the editorial in the Clarendon Enterprise here.

As for non-Christians’ feelings as they motor through Clarendon, I am sensitive to that, too. However, I am unaware of anyone forcing individuals to abide by whatever message the signs convey.

I rarely stop in Clarendon for anything other than gas or perhaps a convenience snack or cold drink. I might feel differently about the crosses and the signs if a convenience store clerk were to start preaching to me.

My response would be: Talk to me on Sunday — in church!

Faith on the rise? Yes, but here is a cynical view

Vice President Mike Pence posted this little nugget on Twitter.

Faith in America is rising again because Trump and our entire administration have been advancing the very principles that you learned here in the halls of College.

Yep, you read that correctly. The vice president says the serial philanderer president is “advancing the very principles” taught at Hillsdale College, a conservative faith based school in the Midwest.

I’m not usually prone to cynical responses, but I’ll offer one here to the vice president.

It well might be that “faith … is rising again,” but perhaps for vastly different reasons than any policy initiatives coming from the Donald J. Trump administration.

It might be instead that people are turning to God and praying that he protects us against the craziness that emanates from the White House. I know that’s a terribly cynical way of looking at an important part of many people’s lives.

As a practicing, church-going Christian I do not take my faith lightly. But for the life of me I cannot see how the president’s long history of self-aggrandizement, personal enrichment, hideous behavior with his first two wives (which he has acknowledged) and his serial lying along with his philandering have called Americans to answer the call of their better angels.

I am left only to presume that the vice president’s belief in a boost in religious faith in this country is a result of a sort of collective fear that Donald Trump is going to do something so stupidly irrational that he places the entire nation in harm’s way.