Category Archives: religious news

Melania goes scarf-less? Heaven forbid!

Melania Trump has arrived with her husband, the president of the United States, in Saudi Arabia.

She and her husband, Donald Trump, strode down the stairway from Air Force One and greeted the Saudi king.

Oh, but wait! Her head was uncovered. She wasn’t wearing a scarf, per Muslim custom. Where’s the outrage? The recrimination? The howls of disrespect?

There wasn’t any. Nor should there be.

Hey, let’s hold on! Michelle Obama did the same thing when she and her husband, also the president of the United States, went to the Middle East a couple of years ago. Her head was uncovered, too. Oh, but the conservative media went semi-nuts.

So did at least one notable Republican politician. His name? Donald John Trump! That, truth be told, is what makes this an issue worthy of a brief blog post.

Being of a more tolerant strain as it regards religion, I am not bothered in the least that non-Muslim female dignitaries don’t cover their heads when they travel to Muslim-majority nations. They aren’t “dishonoring” their hosts.

Let’s stay focused on the aim of these visits, which has nothing to do with making fashion statements.

Get ready for Trump speech on (gulp!) — Islam!

Donald J. Trump is getting ready to climb headfirst into the belly of the beast.

He is planning a speech on Islam. The venue? Saudi Arabia, where two of Islam’s holiest cites are located.

Politico offers a list of do’s and don’ts for the president to follow.

Here it is:

As we know, the president isn’t known for his nuanced approach to foreign policy. He doesn’t seem to have a foreign policy. He doesn’t think strategically. He doesn’t look at the big picture. He speaks in the moment and seems to react to the last person who has his undivided attention.

I feel compelled, though, to remind everyone that he will be speaking to an audience full of people with lengthy memories. I’m quite certain they’re going to remember what candidates Donald Trump said about Muslims way back when, how he intended to impose a blanket ban on “all Muslims” entering the United States “until we figure out what the hell we’re doing.”

He’s backed off of that. He’s tried to impose executive orders banning Muslims from certain countries, only to have the federal judiciary strike them down. Why? They discriminate against people of certain religions, which the U.S. Constitution forbids.

As Politico reports: According to the president’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, “The speech is intended to unite the broader Muslim world against common enemies of all civilization and to demonstrate America’s commitment to our Muslim partners.”

Be very careful, Mr. President.

Trump speech venue laced with irony

One word came to mind when I heard over the weekend that Donald J. Trump would deliver a commencement speech at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.: ironic.

There was so much to confound us about the 2016 presidential election that I am hesitant to rank the most puzzling element that arose from it.

I’ll place one development near the top: the support Trump earned from the evangelical community. The president’s Liberty University speech is a continuation of that relationship.

One line has gotten the most attention. It’s when the president said Americans “don’t worship government, they worship God.” Gee, do you think?

Why the ironic view of this venue?

Liberty U. was founded by the late Jerry Falwell, a highly political preacher. Falwell was a sworn enemy of former President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary. He once produced a hideous video that purported that the Clintons were complicit in the death of their dear friend Vincent Foster, who committed suicide not long after Bill Clinton became president. That’s not a Godly thing to do, you know?

Liberty is a religious-based university of some renown. Its curriculum espouses conservative values. Biblical studies are required for graduation. All of that is common at faith-based institutions.

Why, though, the embrace of Donald Trump? I’ve never perceived Trump’s life to be necessarily informed by a devotion to the holy word, to the Gospels, to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Quite the contrary, my perception of Trump — and I believe the perception of millions of other Americans — is that he has placed great value on material wealth, on personal enrichment, on self-aggrandizement; he’s also boasted publicly about his boorish behavior and he has routinely denigrated women.

Does Scripture lift all of that up, to be something to which we should aspire? It’s not in the Bible I have read for my entire life.

So there he was, telling the students at Liberty U. about the virtues of swimming against the tide, telling them to be unafraid of criticism. They cheered, clapped and hollered.


Liberty U. is now run by Falwell’s son, Jerry Jr., who recently referred to Trump as evangelicals’ “dream president.” The younger Falwell must have turned his TV off during the campaign when word leaked out about Trump’s admitting that he has grabbed women by their genital area, that he has forced himself on them because he’s a “celebrity” and a “star.”

Jerry Jr. also must have turned away at the news of Trump’s two divorces and his acknowledged marital infidelity as it regarded his first two wives.

This clown is a dream come true?

Go figure, folks.

Trump is evangelicals’ ‘dream president’?

Jerry Falwell Jr. attended an executive order signing ceremony today and declared that Donald J. Trump is the “dream president” for the nation’s evangelical Christians.

Wow. Let’s ponder that one.

* Trump has been married three times. I don’t fault him for that, per se. However, he has boasted about cheating on his first two wives.

* The president was riding a bus a dozen years ago with Billy Bush and was overheard telling the “Access Hollywood” host that he grabbed women by their private parts. He said he could get away with that kind of behavior because he is a “celebrity,” a “star.”

* The president has mocked a reporter with a serious physical disability.

* Trump has talked about how he was able to walk in on half-dressed beauty pageant contestants because he owned the pageant.

Today, though, the president signed some executive orders that allows preachers to endorse political candidates from the pulpit. He also signed an order that enables business owners to cite religious objections when they refuse to provide services to, say, gay customers.

He did all this in the name of “religious liberty,” which pleases Falwell, the president of Liberty University.

Thus, evangelicals’ dream has come true. All the other stuff, the boorish behavior, doesn’t matter.

Oh, boy.

Texas Senate deciding whether to defy U.S. Supreme Court

I cannot believe the Texas Senate is considering a bill such as the one it is considering.

Senators are debating whether to allow county clerks to deny gay couples a marriage license.

Let’s see. How is this supposed to work?

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled two years ago in a landmark decision that gay marriage is protected under the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. It ruled that every state in the country should allow same-sex couples to marry, which requires them to obtain the legal documentation necessary to become married — just as straight couples are required to do.

The highest court in the nation — to which Texas belongs — ruled that gay marriage is legal.

County clerks, thus, are required to obey the oath they take to honor the laws of the land. Isn’t that right? A handful of county clerks quit their posts rather than perform the duties required of them as a result of the court ruling. Those who remain, though, must fulfill the oath they take — regardless, it seems to me, of their own religious conviction.

Amarillo straddles a border separating Randall and Potter counties. Renee Calhoun and Julie Smith, who serve as county clerks in Randall and Potter counties, respectively, both declared they would issue licenses to gay couples who requested them.

Given the political nature of this discussion, I feel compelled to note that both Calhoun and Smith are Republicans. A healthy majority of Republicans are inclined to oppose gay marriage as a matter of principle, relying on their belief in biblical assertions that marriage should be performed only between one man and one woman.

To my way of thinking, there shouldn’t even be a bill considered in the Texas Legislature that would give county clerks an “out” if they chose to deny gay couples a license to marry.

The Supreme Court of the United States, acting as the final arbiter on these constitutional matters, has decided the issue once and for all. Gay marriage is legal and county clerks ought to be required to do the job to which they swore an oath to perform faithfully.

I must stipulate that they swear their allegiance to the Constitution, as secular a governing document as any ever enacted.

Let the kids pray, Mr. Attorney General

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has decided to make an issue where none exists.

The non-issue involves some Muslim students at Liberty High School in Frisco, Texas, a Dallas suburb. They’ve been attending prayers in a classroom for years. They have been practicing their faith — of their own volition. The school has allowed the students to use the classroom and there’s been no issue with the other students.

Enter the attorney general, who has sent a letter to school administrators expressing his alleged concern about the Muslim prayers being recited in a public high school.

But then there’s this item, as reported in the Washington Post:

“Paxton attracted national attention last December when he waded into a dispute in Killeen, Tex., between a middle school principal and a nurse’s aide who put up a six-foot poster in the school with a quote from the classic animation special “A Charlie Brown Christmas” that read: ‘For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord.’

“After the principal told the aide to take the poster down, Paxton wrote to the Killeen school district: ‘These concerns are not surprising in an age of frivolous litigation by anti-Christian interest groups … Rescind this unlawful policy.’

“When the school district refused, Paxton helped the nurse’s aide sue, and won.”

So, there you have it. It’s OK to sanction Christian activities in a public school, but when a group of Muslim students seeks some quiet time to pray, why, the AG expresses concern?

I understand what the Constitution says about government establishing laws that favor certain religions. The Constitution does not prohibit students from praying on their own. That is what is occurring in Frisco.

As the Post reports: “’This ‘news release’ appears to be a publicity stunt by the OAG to politicize a nonissue,’ schools superintendent Jeremy Lyon wrote in reply to the state. ‘Frisco ISD is greatly concerned that this type of inflammatory rhetoric in the current climate may place the District, its students, staff, parents and community in danger of unnecessary disruption.’”

It’s fair to ask: Would the attorney general have expressed concern had the students been Christian?

Frisco school officials have told the Post that the state never asked about the nature of the prayers when the school began allowing the students to use the room. Why is Paxton raising the issue now?

The anti-Muslim climate in this country is being fanned by policies enacted at the very top of the government chain of command. The president of the United States seeks to ban refugees from certain Muslim-majority countries and has run headlong into objections from federal judges who contend his executive order violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

As for what is occurring at Liberty High in Frisco, let the students pray, Mr. Attorney General.

They burned a mosque … where’s the outrage?

Someone torched a mosque in Victoria, Texas several days ago. No one was hurt but the house of worship is destroyed.

Did I miss the statement of outrage from Donald J. Trump? Did the president issue a statement of condolence for the families affected by the fire? Did he offer federal support to local law enforcement agencies as they investigate the cause of the fire?

I don’t recall hearing it. He must have been too  busy tweeting about other matters, the big stuff: Arnold Schwarzenegger’s sagging ratings for “Celebrity Apprentice,” or the “so-called judge” ruling against his refugee ban.

We are living in hyper-contentious times relating to people’s faith. The president’s ban on refugees is aimed at seven countries that comprise a mostly Muslim population. He wants to invoke “extreme vetting” of all immigrants.

Then a mosque is burned to the ground.

Community rallies for unity

Granted, there has been support expressed by community members in the South Texas city. Victoria residents have rallied to help the families who worship at the Victoria Islamic Center. They deserve high praise for the rallying that has occurred.

As the Texas Tribune has reported, the support has been ecumenical in nature: “Just hours after the fire, Victoria’s Temple B’Nai Israel offered its synagogue for local Muslims’ five-times daily prayer needs. Similar proposals followed from three Christian churches and the owner of an empty building in town. After initially accepting some of those offers, the Islamic Center is preparing an adjacent building on its property — cramped, but unburned — for prayer. That move delays plans to open a free weekend medical clinic in that structure.”

But in this time of national angst over matters relating to religion and the president’s aim to target Muslims seeking refuge in the United States, a statement of condolence from the Oval Office would resonate loudly across the nation.

Wouldn’t it?

Finding long, lost ‘family members’

PORTLAND, Ore. — We went to church this morning.

It was just any ol’ church. It was at the church where I grew up. Where I was baptized. They call it Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral these days. We knew it then only as the “Greek Church.”

We listened to the liturgy. We heard lots of chanting, prayers, a short Scripture lesson from the priest. Then we had a short reception in another room, part of which was to honor my uncle, a longtime church member who turned 90 this weekend.

But while we were meeting and greeting some lovely folks who came up to wish my uncle a happy birthday, I met two women; they are sisters.

Their names were Cathy and Kiki. One of them is in her mid-90s; the other is a bit younger and I won’t venture a guess.

They told me their father worked in the same bakery as my grandfather, my Papou George — who was the father of my uncle and my late mother.

“Oh, we knew your mother so very well,” Cathy told me. “She was such a lovely girl.”

I asked them their last name. “Delastraty,” they said. “Oh, really?” I replied. “My godmother, Katy, is a Delastraty.” Of course, they responded, “She is our first cousin.”

“Excellent!” I said. Then I told them about how close Katy and I have remained over many years. You see, in the Greek Orthodox tradition, the godparent becomes a sort of surrogate parent, or perhaps a supplemental parent. Tradition holds that if something were to happen to one’s biological parents, the godparent would step in to take over rearing you.

Katy never had to fill that role. But she remains a part of our family. My wife adores Katy and her husband, Christ … and they adore her, too.

So I told Cathy and Kiki about my understanding of the godparent/godchild relationship within the church.

“So … that means we — you and I — are family!” I exclaimed.

This trip back to the city of my birth, thus, has revealed a family connection I didn’t know I had.

What a wonderful discovery.

His majesty, the president-elect?

The Republican National Committee will have to explain itself with a good bit more precision.

The RNC put out a message that says the following: “Over two millennia ago, a new hope was born into the world, a Savior who would offer the promise of salvation to all mankind. Just as the three wise men did on that night, this Christmas heralds a time to celebrate the good news of a new King. We hope Americans celebrating Christmas today will enjoy a day of festivities and a renewed closeness with family and friends.”

The “new king” is, um, who … precisely? Would that be the president-elect, a guy named Donald J. Trump?

The RNC says oh, no. It’s merely referring to Jesus Christ, whose birth has been celebrated by Christians all over the world.

Perhaps I’m a little thick. I could swear as I read the statement that the RNC was making a direct reference to the new president.

RNC communications director Sean Spicer — who’s about to become the White House press flack — said this in a tweet: “Christ is the King. He was born today so we could be saved. Its sad & disappointing you are politicizing such a holy day.”

So help me, Sean, I would say that you folks — with this “new King” reference — are politicizing the day.

‘Pastor’ displays anti-Santa exhibitionist traits

lighten bag

David Grisham proclaims himself to be a “pastor.”

His actions are far from pastoral. He ventured to Westgate Mall in Amarillo over the weekend and berated children and their parents over the kids’ desire to sit on Santa Claus’s lap and tell the Jolly Old Man what they want for Christmas.

Grisham has demonstrated this tendency before to thrust himself into the media limelight, whether it’s seeking to burn a Quran at a public park in Amarillo or launching a boycott against another Texas city because voters elected an openly gay mayor.

The good news from this “pastor’s” latest rant, though, is that the kids aren’t buying the garbage he is peddling, which is that Santa ain’t real.

Of course he is in the hearts of the children. How dare this clown seek to tell the kids any differently!

As KFDA NewsChannel 10 reported: “John Bennett was one father who can be seen in the video standing in line with his children to see Santa. He says he was outraged when Grisham began to impose his beliefs onto children. ‘Seeing the looks on my children’s faces of them hurting made me hurt and I wanted to put a stop to it just like the rest of the parents in line did,’ Bennett said.”

Grisham now says he’s getting “death threats” because of his ridiculous ranting at Westgate Mall. I won’t pass judgment on whether he is or isn’t getting such threats — which is something this “pastor” perhaps ought to do regarding the existence of Santa Claus.

Perhaps it might suit Grisham better if he simply affirmed to his Repent Amarillo flock what they already believe, which is that Christmas should be reserved solely for the celebration of Jesus’s birth.

He also ought to cease the ridiculous exhibitionism for which he has become infamous in his hometown.