Category Archives: religious news

Oh, yeah, and Mary was a virgin, too

The Amarillo Globe-News published a brief editorial today that takes to task an Alabama Republican politician who sought to defend embattled fellow Republican Roy Moore against accusations that he made improper sexual advances on a 14-year-old girl.

Here’s what the G-N published:

The recent statement by Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler in reference to the scandal surrounding GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore is wrong on many counts.

However, we will stick to one — it is historically wrong, at least according to the Bible.

Zeigler invoked the relationship between Mary and Joseph as some sort of reason not to criticize Moore, who has been accused of sexual assault against a 14-year-old girl decades ago when Moore was in his 30s.

In the Bible, specific ages are not provided for Mary and Joseph, although it can be assumed Mary was a teenager at the time she gave birth to Jesus.

According to Jewish customs at that time, men were also typically young when they were “betrothed.” Therefore, it is quite likely Joseph was not much older than Mary.

The editorial, I need to mention, omits a critical element about Mary and Joseph. It is that Scripture tells us that Mary was a virgin. She and Joseph didn’t produce the child she was carrying, according to the New Testament.

And that, in my mind, makes the Alabama auditor’s “defense” of Roy Moore even more ridiculous.

They’re going to church this Sunday

Tragedy quite often can beget courage.

Such is the case in Sutherland Springs, Texas, a tiny community near San Antonio that is reeling from the monstrous act of evil that killed 26 people and injured 20 others. Some of the victims were children; one was an infant; yet another was an unborn child.

First Baptist Church was rocked to its core. The community is in utter grief.

The gunman walked into the church and methodically murdered about 7 percent of Sutherland Springs’ population.

But here’s the courageous element: They’re going to have church on Sunday. The First Baptist Church family will gather in another location; its sanctuary is uninhabitable and well might have to be destroyed and rebuilt.

This is one measure of how courage in the face of unspeakable tragedy and evil presents itself.

May the congregants feel the love of an entire nation as they gather to worship.

How does Trump hold the evangelical base? How?

We’re going to take note during the next day of a landmark event from the 2016 presidential election.

Political junkies such as yours truly will get to relive the leak of an astonishing audio recording of the man who soon would be elected president of the United States. I was tempted to publish a portion of it verbatim on this blog, but then I thought differently. It’s full of sickening profanity and misogyny.

But it does beg the question: How in the name of God’s holy word does Donald J. Trump continue to enjoy the support of evangelical voters?

The infamous “Access Hollywood” recording became known to the world on year ago. It was recorded in 2005. It captures a conversation between Trump — then a mere 59-year-old reality TV celebrity and beauty pageant mogul — and TV host Billy Bush.

It references how Trump wanted to have sex with a married woman; he, too was newly married to the woman who would become the nation’s first lady. He talks to Bush about this woman’s anatomical enhancements. He refers to needing to swallow breath mints in case he started kissing her. Then he mentions how he can do anything he wants because, by golly, he’s a celebrity. Oh, and then he mentions grabbing women by their private parts.

What part of any of this should be appealing to a bloc of voters who pride themselves on their own moral rectitude and who — apparently until the 2016 election — demanded that political candidates live by their same straitlaced standards?

Someone has to explain to me how it is that evangelical voters cling to this moral leper.

This recording became known a little more than a month prior to the 2016 election. I was among many others around the country who knew with absolute certainty that the “Access Hollywood” recording would doom this guy’s presidential bid.

Oh, I was so wrong!

But it remains a maximum mystery to me how this guy — who’s entire professional life prior to running for the presidency — was focused solely on self-enrichment, self-aggrandizement and self-gratification.

I am all ears if someone can persuade me that there isn’t a huge dose of hypocrisy attached to this bizarre political alliance.

Roy Moore would bring a scary element to U.S. Senate

I don’t have a vote in Alabama. Whatever I say about that state’s U.S. Senate race is worth, well, damn near nothing to the voters there.

But if Roy Moore gets elected to that state’s Senate seat, then he’s going to be involved in legislation that affects citizens far beyond the Alabama state line.

Moore is the Republican nominee. He beat a sitting senator, Luther Strange, in the Republican primary this week. Strange was appointed to the seat after Jeff Sessions left the Senate to become U.S. attorney general. Moore now is going to run against Democratic nominee Doug Jones, a former federal prosecutor.

Why does Moore give me the heebie-jeebies? He’s a religious zealot, that’s why.

He says homosexuality is an abomination and goes against God’s will. He once said that “homosexual activity” should be made illegal. He operates under the premise that “God’s law” takes precedence over the law of the land. He has said that Muslims should not be allowed to serve in the U.S. Congress; he made that assertion specifically about Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., one of two Muslims now serving in the U.S. House.

He was removed twice as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. The first time was because he removed a Ten Commandments monument from the court’s grounds; the second time was when he refused to obey a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made gay marriage legal in the United States.

His reasons for both actions? Fealty to the Old Testament.

Moore went to law school, so he knows what the U.S. Constitution says about religion. It declares, among other things, that there shall be “no religious test” required of anyone seeking public office.

If he’s elected to the Senate this fall, he will be required to take an oath that commits him to obeying and defending the Constitution. I feel the need, therefore, to remind Judge Moore that the Constitution is a secular document. 


Here’s what I wrote about Moore earlier this year:

‘Ayatollah of Alabama’ seeks U.S. Senate seat


Houses of worship deserve FEMA assistance

I can almost hear the grumbling now: The U.S. Constitution prohibits any relationship between government and religious organization, which means churches shouldn’t be eligible for federal emergency relief assistance.

I’ll respond this way: As Col. Sherman T. Potter would say: Mule muffins!

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton have asked for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help houses of worship ravaged by the wrath of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey.

Abbott and Paxton wrote in their letter to FEMA: “When Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas, wreaking devastation over a huge swath of the Texas Gulf Coast, scores of churches and houses of worship jumped into action to serve thousands of Americans in their time of need.”

Indeed, those houses of worship also suffered grievously from Harvey’s savagery, just as every other inhabitant along the Texas Gulf Coast.

I get what the U.S. Constitution says about the prohibition against making laws that establish a state religion. This is different. FEMA stands as an agency committed to helping all Americans.

Harvey delivered a killer punch to Texas. It brought substantial misery all along the coast from Corpus Christi to the Golden Triangle — and many miles inland.

Everyone affected by the horrific storm — including houses of worship — deserve assistance from the federal government that aims to serve them.

Christian nation or a ‘nation of Christians’?

A former colleague and critic of this blog made a fascinating — and legitimate — point while participating in an exchange about a post I wrote about a guest columnist whose work appeared recently in the Amarillo (Texas) Globe-News.

I asserted in my own critique of the essay that the nation’s founders established a “secular government” when they wrote the U.S. Constitution.

My former colleague/critic pointed out that the nation comprises a population “of Christians” and that the nation was founded on “Judeo-Christian principles.” I agree with his assertion about the nation and that the founders likely were motivated by their deep religious faith.

However, that doesn’t dissuade me from insisting that the Constitution is as secular a document as it possibly can be.

The founders were direct descendants of people who migrated across the Atlantic Ocean to escape religious persecution, among many other repressive actions brought on them by their European rulers.

They launched a revolution in 1775. They gathered in July 1776 to sign a Declaration of Independence, which does contain a reference to the “Creator” and to “Nature’s God.” Neither term, though, is specific to Christianity. Each of them could — if one were to interpret them liberally — refer to any of the world’s great religions. Some of us today, though, choose to ascribe Christian theology to any reference to the Creator or to God.

Eleven years later, after we won our independence from the British Empire, our founders crafted the Constitution. They specifically avoided using the term “Christian” or “Jesus Christ” or even “God” or “Creator.” Did they bicker and quarrel among themselves while putting this governing framework together? Of course they did.

I remain committed to the document they produced, the one ratified by the 13 states comprising the United States of America. I have scoured it repeatedly over many decades and I have yet to find any reference to religion, other than in the First Amendment, which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion … ”

Are we a nation “of Christians”? Certainly. Are we a “Christian nation”? Certainly not.

There. Does that settle it? Hah! Hardly.

Church attendees dig deeply to help Harvey victims

I am going to presume for a moment that this scene played out in church sanctuaries all across Texas — and, indeed, the nation — earlier today.

We attended church this morning at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Amarillo, Texas. The senior pastor, the Rev. Howard Griffin, was presiding over a combined service; First Pres normally has three services each Sunday, but on this Labor Day weekend, the entire congregation gathered for a single service.

The gorgeous First Pres sanctuary was full.

The pastor announced that all the proceeds from this morning’s offering was going to aid a church — First Presbyterian Church of Houston — in its efforts to help the victims of that monstrous hurricane-turned-tropical storm that deluged the Gulf Coast region. The video we watched while sitting in our church pews was heart-wrenching; the devastation along the coast — from Corpus Christi to the Golden Triangle — takes one’s breath away.

Griffin said previous efforts to aid other disaster victims have brought hefty five-figure amounts when the plates get passed throughout the congregation. I am quite certain many of our fellow congregants dug a little deeper this morning to assist their fellow Texans in this time of desperation and despair.

I am also going to suggest that this act of generosity, compassion and godly spirit occurred all across this great nation in houses of worship of all faiths and all great religions.

That’s what we do as Americans. We offer our treasure to those in trouble.

I am one American who this morning was proud to play a small part in what I am certain was a gigantic act of compassion.

Meanwhile, our prayers continue to flow down yonder.

‘Civil war’ if Trump is impeached? Oh … please!

Jim Bakker is flapping his yap once again.

The convicted felon/TV preacher is declaring that evangelical Christians would launch a second “civil war” if Donald Trump is impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives.

I won’t spend a lot of energy commenting on this clown’s comment, given his seedy past. Bakker, though, does command something of an audience around the country. No, it doesn’t include yours truly.

His threat of a civil war does bring to mind one of the most nagging questions I have about the presidency of Donald Trump. How in the name of all that is holy do evangelical Christians manage to stand behind this guy?

I have seen zero evidence in Trump’s life prior to becoming a politician of any commitment to spiritual matters. I am unaware — as are most of us, I’m quite certain — of any stated devotion to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Nor am I aware of any financial commitments he has made to any sort of Christian mission or ministry; and I am quite certain that if Trump had made such a financial commitment he would be more than happy and willing to boast about it.

Now we have a TV preacher with some celebrity status — a guy who served prison time for fraud and conspiracy, and who quit his PTL ministry after a young woman accused him of raping her — telling us of a threat of “civil war” if the president is impeached?


Bible gives POTUS authority to blow up the world?

One of the many wonderful aspects of the Bible is that it can be interpreted in countless ways.

My understanding of the Bible I’ve read since childhood is that no one is entirely right or entirely wrong … if they believe in what they are interpreting.

So, when a preacher says that the Bible gives the president of the United States all the authority he needs to blow another nation to bits, well, that’s the preacher’s belief. It doesn’t have to be mine.

The Rev. Robert Jeffress is an avid Donald Trump supporter who went on “Fox and Friends” — the president’s favorite TV show — to proclaim that Romans 13 gives the president justification for attacking North Korea in the wake of that country’s threats to the United States.

I looked up Romans 13 in the Bible on my desk. I scoured through it and I don’t read anything of the sort. Then again, I’m not a biblical scholar. I’ll give Jeffress credit for studying the Bible more than I have. But as I noted already, we ultimately are left to our own value systems to interpret words written thousands of years ago. Believers can differ in their understanding of the holy word.

Some of them take the words literally; others — such as yours truly — take a more interpretive view of its contents. I won’t challenge Rev. Jeffress’s faith. I’ll just stand by a different view of the Bible’s contents.

The Bible I’ve read tells me Jesus Christ preached love and tolerance. I don’t know where he says it’s all right to destroy thousands of human lives because of a political dispute.

Is it in there? Somewhere? I don’t believe it is.

Why the silence on mosque bombing?

The president of the United States is elected to represent all Americans.

He takes an oath to defend us, to fight for us against our enemies. The presidential oath makes no mention of certain Americans deserving more protection than others.

Some of our countrymen have been attacked. Their place of worship was bombed. It is a mosque near Minneapolis, where Muslims pray and worship.

And yet … the president hasn’t condemned the attack. His silence on this incident is, shall we say, deafening in the extreme.

We all know of Donald J. Trump’s feelings about Muslims. He once called for a complete ban of all Muslims entering our country; he softened it somewhat; the federal courts have challenged what’s now called a “travel ban.”

Meanwhile, some Americans who happen to be devout Muslims are dealing with damage being done to the place where they worship. They need a word of support and encouragement from their president.

It’s time for him to deliver it.