Category Archives: religious news

Hearing the unspeakable … in church

(Andrew Sentipal/Dreamstime/TNS)

I could have lived an entire lifetime without hearing the words that opened our Sunday morning worship service in church today.

A wonderful gentleman who we have befriended at our Collin County church stood before us and implored those in our congregation who have a state of Texas-approved concealed handgun permit to bring their weapons with them to worship. 

To be brutally honest, the message from our friend hit me like a punch in the gut.

We are reeling in North Texas by the events of a week ago, when a gunman walked into the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, near Fort Worth, and opened fire. He killed two parishioners before a volunteer security guard at the church fired a single shot from his pistol and killed the gunman.

The guard is being hailed as a hero. Indeed, he did his job perfectly. It took all of six seconds to eliminate the threat by the shooter.

This is what we have come to in this country of ours. Men and women of faith are now fearing for their safety in houses of worship. In the name of God Almighty, what in the world is happening to us? Moreover, I am quite certain other church congregations all across the country heard something similar to what we heard this morning as we prepared for prayer.

Our friend acknowledged that he packs a pistol hidden away; he is licensed by the state. He said he attended a seminar sponsored by our police department that spoke to the danger posed by lunatics who venture into houses of worship to perform their evil acts.

He gave us a brief primer on what to do in the event gun violence erupts in our church. Our friend told us what he would do while standing guard at the door, as he does each Sunday.

I know I am stating the obvious, but we are living in dangerous times. I just never imagined hearing what came to us today. It illustrates the dire peril we all face … even as we go to church to pray.

God help us.

Evangelical movement showing signs of splintering

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

If the soon-to-be-former editor in chief of Christianity Today has accomplished anything with his scathing critique of Donald J. Trump, it is that he has revealed deep divisions within the evangelical movement and its love-loathe relationship with the president of the United States.

Mark Galli wrote an editorial condemning Trump, calling for his removal from office on the grounds that he is “profoundly immoral.” Galli, who is retiring soon from his post, calls the impeachment of Trump a deal-breaker, saying that the articles of impeachment suggest a president with no moral character.

Other evangelical leaders have rushed to Trump’s defense. One of them is Franklin Graham, the son of Christianity Today’s founder, the late Billy Graham. Others have joined in as well, condemning Galli for challenging Trump, who many say has done more for the issues friendly to evangelicals than any president in modern history.

The evangelical Christian movement, therefore, is having a serious debate within its ranks that, as I see it, mirrors what is occurring across the nation along more secular/political lines.

This is a healthy development within a key Trump constituency.

I credit Mark Galli for breaking this matter open, for exposing the divide for the rest of us to witness in real time.

And yes, there is a certain irony that this debate is occurring at this holy time, as Christians around the world celebrate Jesus Christ’s birth. It might be that was Galli’s intent all along, to publish the editorial, to provoke this discussion at this time of the year.

If that’s the case, then all I can add is this: well played, sir.

I want to share the editorial with you one more time. Take a look.

Merry Christmas.

Who would have thought it? Evangelical leaders rally behind Trump

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Donald J. Trump has just received a well-deserved roasting from Christianity Today, a mainstream magazine founded by the late, great Rev. Billy Graham.

The publication calls Trump “profoundly immoral” and declared its belief that he needs to be kicked out of office.

The reaction to the magazine’s blistering critique? What did current evangelical leaders say and do? They’re standing behind Trump. They aren’t criticizing the magazine’s assertions, per se. They just want their guy to remain in office so he can appoint conservative judges to the federal bench and push policies with which they are most comfortable.

There you have it. Politics and policy mean more to these folks than the behavior, the history and the proclivities of the individual who is their champion.

According to the New York Times: The response from his leading Christian supporters was laced with animosity that mimicked Mr. Trump’s signature style, and reflected the extent to which they have moved into lock step with him, even in rhetoric.

None of this is a big surprise. Christianity Today has become almost quaint in its mainstream view of Christianity. As the editor in chief, Mark Galli, has noted, evangelical Christianity is a “diverse” group that comprises faithful believers of all stripes and political persuasions. The politically active evangelical movement doesn’t seem to mirror that big-tent view.

Franklin Graham, son of the late Billy Graham, says his father would be “disappointed” in the publication he founded. I believe he would be even more disappointed in the highly partisan posture his son has assumed, given Billy Graham’s aversion to such overt political activity.

Still, the editorial is worth reading. It is worth studying. It is worth heeding. It’s a beaut.

Trump’s reaction to criticism reveals what many of us suspected

Donald Trump’s bizarre response to an editorial published in a mainstream evangelical publication appears to affirm what many of us have thought all along about the current president of the United States.

Which is that he doesn’t know a thing about the publication he is criticizing.

Christianity Today has come out with an essay calling for Trump’s removal from office. It was written by the magazine’s editor in chief, Mark Galli. It’s a brutal critique of Trump and the circumstances surrounding his impeachment by the U.S. House of Representatives.

What did Trump do in response? He called it a “far left magazine.” He said the magazine founded by the late Rev. Billy Graham knows nothing about a “perfect transcript of a routine phone call.”

My point is that Christianity Today is not a “far left magazine.” It is a mainstream publication that appeals to the broad, diverse world of evangelical Christians. Galli has sought to make the point that the evangelical movement is not a monolith. It comprises a wide-ranging school of thought among Christians who adhere first and foremost to the tenets of Christianity, starting with their devotion to Jesus Christ.

Does anyone who knows anything at all about the president believe that he shares that view, that he has any understanding of the Bible, or the teachings that Jesus and his apostles offered the world? No!

Trump is, as the author Jonathan Alter described him this week, a “religious reprobate.”

So, for Trump to refer to Christianity Today as a “far left magazine” only reveals to many millions of us what we know already: that Donald John Trump is a pandering fraud.

Christianity Today: Trump has crossed moral line

My head is still spinning over the extraordinary condemnation of Donald Trump published by Christianity Today, a publication founded by the late Rev. Billy Graham and has become a leading voice for evangelical Christians who form arguably the president’s most reliable support bloc.

The editorial in the magazine takes Trump to task for across-the-board immoral behavior and asks his supporters how they can maintain their support of him while he continues to act with no moral compass.

It’s an extraordinary commentary. Editor-in-chief Mark Galli says that the impeachment inquiry was the deal-breaker for him and for his publication. He said the inquiry has revealed without question that Trump solicited personal political help from a foreign government; that act, Galli writes, is “profoundly immoral.”

Galli has expressed in eloquent and elegant prose feelings my wife and I have been expressing to each other for the past, oh, three years. It is that Donald Trump’s pandering to the religious right should be seen as an affront to those who actually believe in Christian theology and live by its teachings.

We have noted repeatedly that Trump, in our eyes, has violated practically every one of the commandments handed down by God himself. Christianity Today agrees, saying: That he should be removed, we believe, is not a matter of partisan loyalties but loyalty to the Creator of the Ten Commandments.

Will this be a decisive argument? That remains to be seen. He will keep insisting that he intends to appoint judges faithful to the issues near and dear to evangelical voters.

So far, Trump has managed to maintain that support, even while he behaves like a religious reprobate.

Mark Galli has written a superb essay. Take a look at it here.

 

Christianity Today delivers the goods

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The Rev. Billy Graham would be proud … I believe.

Christianity Today, the magazine founded by America’s Pastor, has delivered a stunning rebuke of the current president who has courted the evangelical movement as if he actually believed the teachings offered in the New Testament.

The publication has called for Trump’s removal from office. Read the analysis here.

The essay is written by editor in chief Mark Galli, who declares that Trump’s ethical incompetence and “moral deficiencies” render him unfit for high office.

Galli’s essay does take Democrats to task for having it in for Trump all along and for the nature of the impeachment process. Still, the publication’s editor states: But the facts in this instance are unambiguous: The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.

Does this essay now mean that millions of evangelical movement votes will abandon the president? Hardly. It does, though, suggest a leading Christian publication has retained a significant sense of outrage over a man who pretends to be faithful to Christian teachings.

This individual isn’t faithful to anything other than to his own well-being, his own poll standing, his own political future.

It appears to me that Christianity Today has, shall we say, found some necessary religion.

The Rev. Billy Graham is looking down on this world with a smile on his face.

Religion and politics: as toxic a mix as you get can get

A social media meme is making the rounds calling for the elimination of religion from the world of politics.

I should add my own description: I mean “secular” politics.

Donald Trump’s re-election bid is likely to be fueled in good measure by the support he continues to have among evangelical voters who, for the life of me, cling to rear bumper of the clown car with Trump at the wheel. Why they continue to hang onto this guy’s message — such as it is — is beyond me.

However, religion in my mind has its place when discussing certain aspects of certain issues. I get the religious element to issues such as abortion, prayer in public places, same-sex marriage. I listen to those arguments and will argue my own point of view, which normally conflicts with the evangelical views on the issues I have just listed.

Then we have those on the right and the far right who continue to insist that they support political candidates on the basis of their faith. More to the point, they make judgments on candidates’ fealty to the New Testament, or whether they are devout enough in their Christian faith, or whether they worship God at all, or whether they adhere to faiths other than Christianity.

Indeed, this is where Trump’s support among evangelical voters would seem to break down, except that it doesn’t, again for reasons that escape me.

The U.S. Constitution states specifically and categorically that there should be “no religious test” applied to officeholders or those who seek to hold public office. The founders were as categorical on that subject as they were on practically any principle they wrote when building the nation’s governing framework.

And, yes, the Declaration of Independence, written 13 years before the Constitution was ratified, does refer to “God” and “the Creator.” They left it to the authors of the Constitution to develop a secular governing document which they wrote precisely that way to steer clear of injecting religious policy into the laws of the land.

So, as this campaign gets wound up and as we start heading down the campaign trail toward the White House, it is my fervent hope we can make our judgments on candidates’ fitness for the office without seeking to determine whether they are holy enough in their principles.

That’s what I want, so help me God.

Trump’s weird association with evangelicals takes an even weirder turn

It looks as though the nation’s strangest political alliance has taken a strange new twist.

Donald Trump has hired a thrice-married, money-loving televangelist to be his link to the evangelical Christian community that continues to support the president, even in the wake of a mountain of impeachment evidence that is piling up all around him.

This person’s name is Paula White. She is far from your run-of-the-mill person of the cloth. She has been marred by marital scandal. She lives in a glitzy mansion in Florida. She reportedly believes God wants believers to gather wealth. She delivers her ministry on television.

Doesn’t sound so, oh, very Trumpian? I believe it does.

The New York Times noted some fascinating spiritual comparisons.

The Times reported that Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon turned the Rev. Billy Graham, who the Times said was “so ubiquitous he became known as America’s Pastor.” President Obama turned to Rick Warren, whose best-selling book “The Purpose Driven Life” became the second best-selling hardcover book in American history; the No. 1 best-seller is, um, The Bible.

Read the Times story here.

Paula White comes from a vastly different mold than previous presidential pastors. She is, shall we say, more than a tad unconventional in her approach to God’s holy word.

She preaches something called “the prosperity gospel,” which the Times reports has drawn widespread criticism from mainstream religious leaders. Imagine that … if you can.

But there she is, working within the White House as a sort of “spiritual adviser” to a president who, to my way of thinking, has lived one of the most un-Christian lives of any notable public figure I’ve ever seen.

Didn’t he once tell us that he’s never sought “forgiveness”? He has admitted cheating on two of his three wives; and there’s plenty of evidence that he’s fooled around on Wife No. 3. He has preached a doctrine of toughness to obtain business success. Trump has mocked others’ physical disabilities, their appearance, their intelligence.

Does any of that resemble what Jesus Christ would endorse?

Don’t answer that.

Now he has someone named Paula White advising him. She will work to shore up his religious movement support.

Weird, man.

Atheist group needs to settle down

So now we hear that the Freedom from Religion Foundation is angry with a Texas trial judge because the judge gave a convicted murderer a Bible at the end of a sentencing hearing.

I believe I’ll weigh in with this: The atheist group needs to settle down and look for more egregious examples of public officials shoving religion down citizens’ throats.

District Judge Tammy Kemp presided over the trial of former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger, who a jury this week convicted of murder and then sentenced her to 10 years in prison. Guyger shot a man, Botham Jean, believing that Jean was an intruder in her apartment — except that she went to the wrong dwelling and shot Jean in his own place.

Botham Jean’s brother, Brandt, then spoke to the court after the jury sentenced Guyger to prison; he asked the judge if it would be all right if he could hug her brother’s killer. He said he forgave her. Brand Jean and Guyger embraced.

Judge Kemp’s gesture was meant to provide a level of comfort to a woman who is going to spend several years in the custody of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. The Freedom from Religion Foundation believes Kemp’s act of kindness is a form of foisting religion on citizens in a public place.

C’mon! Judge Kemp did not instruct Guyger to read the Bible and to adopt its teachings while she is serving her time. All she did was hand her a holy book. Period. Had she placed some sort of ludicrous caveat on her giving the Bible to Guyger, well, that would be different.

She didn’t. Judge Kemp sought to endorse in some fashion the compassion and grace demonstrated by the brother of the man Guyger had shot to death.

The atheist group needs to give it a rest.

Trump tries to re-define political ‘disloyalty’

Donald Trump’s blathering about Jewish voters endorsing Democratic candidates brought to mind a nearly six-decade-old commitment stated by a previous president of the United States.

Trump’s statement has been taken by some to be an anti-Semitic utterance from someone who presumes political candidates must be “loyal” to Israel and to Israeli government policies. So the rationale — if you want to call it such — is that Jewish voters would be “disloyal” to Israel if they back candidates who might be not quite as friendly to Israeli policies as candidates from the other major political party.

This is utter hogwash, claptrap, bull corn — whatever you want to call it — from the president.

In 1960, Sen. John F. Kennedy was running for president as a practicing Catholic. There were whispers that turned into shouts about whether a Catholic president would take his marching orders from the Vatican. Sen. Kennedy sought to assuage those concerns and he did so in a most brazen manner.

He attended a Texas convention of Protestant clergy, stood before them and said categorically that he would take the oath of loyalty to the U.S. Constitution. It would be to that document that the president would adhere.

Presidents do take an oath to defend the Constitution. They do not defend the Bible, or the Torah. Their loyalty first and foremost is to the secular document crafted by the nation’s founders in the late 18th century.

Donald Trump’s abject ignorance of the very oath he took in 2017 reveals the danger we face if we return this guy to office in 2020.