Category Archives: religious news

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.

Sharia law? It is not possible in the U.S. of A.

This meme showed up on my Facebook timeline today and it compels me to write a brief rejoinder to what I consider to be the mother of red herrings.

Many Americans — too many of them, actually — seem to have this unnecessary fear of Sharia law. The picture attached to this blog post shows Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota taking her oath of office with a hand on the Quran, the Muslim holy book. The meme accuses Omar of committing an act of “treason” because the Quran recognizes “Sharia law.”

Let me be crystal clear: The U.S. Constitution is a secular document that prohibits the federal government from enacting laws that have their basis on religious faith. The Constitution doesn’t mention Christianity by name; it makes no mention of Jesus Christ; it doesn’t mention Islam; nor does it invoke the name of Mohammad.

It is a secular document!

Therefore, any attempt to invoke Sharia law — the ultraconservative doctrine to which a segment of Muslims adhere — is laughable on its face. Sharia law cannot possibly become part of any federal law enacted by Congress.

Furthermore, let’s get real on this point: Does anyone believe the current U.S. Supreme Court, with its current conservative majority, is going to reject any Sharia law-based complaint that finds its way to the highest court in the land?

The hatred of Muslims and of officeholders who adhere to Islam is far more troubling to me than any unfounded fear of Sharia law.

I also need to point out that Article VI in the Constitution states categorically that there shall be “no religious test” applied to anyone who seeks public office in the United States of America.

I know this post won’t stem the tide of mistrust and outright hatred of Muslims. I just needed to get off my chest this goofy notion that we need to cower in fear of the imposition of Sharia law into the lives of Americans.

The U.S. Constitution itself serves as an impenetrable shield against any such intrusion into the way this country governs itself.

VP ignores hypocrisy in his commencement speech

Vice President Mike Pence told graduating students at Liberty University this weekend that they will be “shunned” and “ridiculed” because of their Christian faith.

He said his wife, Karen, has been subject to such bad behavior because she hooked up with an evangelical-based educational institution.

“Some of the loudest voices for tolerance today have little tolerance for traditional Christian beliefs,” Pence told the Liberty U grads, calling himself “a brother in Christ.” “As you go about your daily life, be ready.”

For those who ridicule others merely because of their faith, yes, that is wrong, hateful, hurtful and not in keeping with any great religious faith of which I am aware.

However, the VP might be missing a critical element in the criticism that comes toward those who proclaim their Christian faith. It is the hypocrisy associated with Christian leaders who talk a good game about faith, but who continue to stand with a president whose own life and his brief career in public service have been testaments to practically everything counter to what Jesus teaches the world.

I would put the vice president in that category.

I don’t doubt Pence’s faith. I have serious doubt about Donald Trump’s proclamations of faith. I cannot wrap my noggin around the idea that just because the president says he’s a believer that he actually is one.

His entire life prior to becoming a politician has been focused exclusively on one element: enriching himself. Yet there is the vice president standing with him as he panders openly to evangelicals who comprise the political base that keeps buttressing his support.

Scripture instructs us to be truthful. Has the president followed the commandment that we “must not testify falsely against your neighbor”?

It’s the hypocrisy, Mr. Vice President, that puts evangelicals too often in a position to be “shunned” and “ridiculed,” even if they aren’t deserving of either.

‘Church/state separation’ surely is included in the Constitution

While the president of the United States renews his boast about how he has brought “Merry Christmas” back into fashion during the holy holiday, I am reminded yet again of a phony argument that many on the far right continue to use about what the U.S. Constitution says about religion.

A former colleague of mine at the Amarillo Globe-News was fond of saying how the Constitution does not contain the words “separation of church and state.” His argument, preposterous as it sounds, was that if the Constitution doesn’t state it declaratively then such “separation” does not exist.

I sought on more than one occasion to counsel him that the Constitution does not need to make an overt statement to stand on a principle.

The First Amendment says that Congress “shall make no law” that establishes a state religion. Right there, in plain English, is the separation of church and state argument.

I mention it because Donald Trump continues to extol the virtues of Christian belief in a nation comprising people of many religious faiths. It’s laughable that this president, given his sickening personal history, would even venture into that briar patch . . . but he does.

He told the nation just the other day that since he became president, people are saying “God” in public again, as if they ever stopped saying the word. Then he talked yet again about how business owners are instructing employees to wish customers “Merry Christmas” during the holiday season. That, by golly, is the way it should be, according to the president.

I need to remind those who read this blog who might be disposed to side with Trump on this matter that the Constitution is as clear as it can possibly be on the matter of religion.

The government does not require people to worship any deity. None. It declares that the absence of a state religion means that citizens are free to worship as they wish — or not worship at all, if that is their choice.

Church/state separation is a reality in our nation’s governing document. On that score — and, yes, they missed the mark on a few matters in the creation of this great nation — the founders got it exactly right.

God should not become a political tool, Mr. POTUS

Mr. President, I am having trouble understanding your relationship with the Almighty.

You invoke God in public speeches. You mention him by name. I heard you interpret a portion of God’s holy word at the National Day of Prayer event at the White House.

I hear all this stuff, Mr. President, but then I keep wondering: Does he really mean it?

It’s difficult for me to question anyone’s faith, Mr. President. It’s such a deeply personal matter. Whether you’re a Christian, or a Jew, or a Muslim, or Hindu, or Buddhist, how we worship should be of no on else’s concern. Isn’t that what “religious liberty” is all about? Well, I think it is . . . but that’s just me, I reckon.

Here’s the deal, Mr. President, about why I wonder about your religious sincerity. You keep mentioning your own political ambition in light of these holy matters. You did it again at the White House this week.

I heard you say that the word “God” was rarely spoken in public before you took office, which I thought was a silly assertion. You made that goofy campaign promise in 2016 to ensure that business owners ordered their employees to wish customers a “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy Holiday” when they purchased items at Christmas time. No president can force anyone to do such a thing. Yet that was what I heard you imply.

I have to wonder, too, about one of the Ten Commandments and whether you violate it when you insert yourself into discussions about God. The Third Commandment instructs us — according to my New Living Translation of the Bible: “You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.” 

One of the many fascinating aspects of the Bible is how one can interpret its meaning. I take that passage to mean, Mr. President, that it is wrong to reap personal or political gain from the use of the Lord’s name.

Hey, it’s just my reading of the Bible, a book I’ve been reading since I was a little kid.

Thus, I run into this sincerity question whenever I hear these references come from you.

I will attach this link to this blog post, Mr. President. It speaks to the kind of questions I believe surface in the minds of many Americans when they hear you say such things.

Here it is.

Tread carefully, Mr. President. The Good Lord is watching. He knows every single thing about every one of us.

What Bible is Franklin Graham reading?

The Rev. Franklin Graham inherited the mantle of his late, great father, the Rev. Billy Graham, in preaching biblical doctrine as pitched initially by Jesus Christ.

I do not deny Franklin Graham’s influence on the nation’s evangelical movement. However, I have to wonder which version of the Holy Bible empowers him to say:

That a Democratic candidate for president, Pete Buttigieg, should “repent” for his “sin” of being gay, and that it’s OK to throw his support behind Donald Trump, who has cheated on all three of his wives and who has acknowledged that his celebrity status enables him to grab women by their pu***.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Franklin Graham in 2000 when he came to Amarillo for a series of “crusades” at Dick Bivins Stadium. He came across as a pleasant man and we had a cordial visit. I recall asking him about his political activism and he spoke forthrightly about his support for politicians who espouse their Christian faith.

However, the man’s support of Donald Trump continues to perplex me. He looks past this president’s lengthy life prior to becoming a politician, a life that has included an endless array of behavior, conduct and lifestyle that spits in the face of the holy figure he purports to worship.

Juxtaposed with that we hear Rev. Graham suggest that “Mayor Pete” Buttigieg must repent because he is an openly gay man who also happens to be faithful to his husband. Graham recently cited the Old Testament passage that calls for gays to be put to death, for crying out loud. He also did not mention that Jesus called on us to love everyone unconditionally.

Buttigieg’s presidential campaign has caught fire in recent weeks. He has emerged from a no-name, unknown Midwest mayor to become a legitimate contender for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Many conservatives, though, are focusing on his sexual orientation.

Franklin Graham is one of them.

Perhaps this matter illustrates one of the beauties — or curses, if you choose to call it that — of the Bible. We are free to interpret it any way we wish. We can take certain passages and mold them to suit our own bias.

I choose to draw a different interpretation from the Bible that Franklin Graham and I both read.

As for his support of the serial liar, philanderer, pu*** grabber Donald Trump . . . well, that’s his call. It doesn’t make sense to me.

Easter is perfect holiday to note rebirth of cathedral

There’s symmetry to be found in the tragedy that struck the Cathedral of Notre Dame in the middle of Paris, France.

Think of it. The fire broke out during Holy Week, which Christians celebrate Easter, the most joyous holiday on their calendar. Easter symbolizes the emergence from darkness, brought on by the death of Jesus Christ.

The holiday celebrates the resurrection of Jesus. Christians sing joyful hymns in church and welcome the rebirth brought on by the spring season.

The Cathedral of Notre Dame was damaged heavily by fire. French government officials vow to rebuild the iconic structure.

What many of us find fascinating is the survival of the crucifix in the cathedral’s sanctuary. Pictures of it seem to glow amid the rubble left by the blaze.

So the rebuilding will commence . . . eventually. French fire investigators need to determine the cause of the fire. What is left of the structure needs to be assessed and it needs to be determined how much of it can be saved. Initial reports indicate the structure is sound enough to withstand reconstruction.

How much better can it get than that, albeit given the tragic fire that has scarred this iconic holy building?

The world will await the resurrection of the heavily damaged Cathedral of Notre Dame. The more I think about it, the symbolism of the church’s pending rebirth juxtaposed with the timing of the event that brought so much misery could hardly be more perfect.

If you can believe it, hope emerges from Notre Dame tragedy

The world is still recovering from the shock of the fire that ravaged the Cathedral of Notre Dame in the center of Paris.

The iconic church’s steeple collapsed. Its roof caved in. The interior was engulfed in flames. That’s the bad news.

However, the twin towers are still standing. The sanctuary’s crucifix is, too. Many of the church’s most cherished artifacts have been saved from the inferno; one of them is the crown of thorns believed to have been worn by Jesus Christ on the day he was crucified.

There’s more hope emerging. French billionaires have pledged as much as $300 million to restore, repair and revive the iconic symbol of the Catholic Church.

That the fire would erupt during Holy Week only adds to the heartbreak as Christians worldwide prepare to celebrate the joyous Easter holiday. Thus, the Notre Dame cathedral usually stands as an iconic symbol of the joy that Christians feel as they celebrate Jesus’s resurrection. This year, though, the cathedral — nearly destroyed by a fire believed to have started because of work being done on the 850-year-old structure — stands as a reminder of hope in another fashion.

It stands as a testament to the will of people to rebuild a cherished symbol.

I feel the need, too, to salute the heroic effort of the firefighters who faced down the flames, controlled the fire and somehow managed to prevent a horrific catastrophe from becoming even more heartbreaking.

French President Emmanuel Macron vows to “rebuild” the Cathedral of Notre Dame. It would be foolhardy to bet against it.

Iconic cathedral destroyed . . . oh, the tragedy!

Fire has swept through the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the iconic Paris church and an overarching symbol for the Catholic Church.

The bell towers reportedly are safe. The spire has collapsed. Reports seem conflicted. Is the cathedral a total loss?

I know what we all are thinking now as French firefighters battle this blaze: Is this the act of a terrorist? No such organization has claimed responsibility as I write this brief post. I pray none will surface. If it’s a bogus claim from some faker, I trust French intelligence officials will know.

I’ve not been to Paris. I have not seen this iconic structure. Those I know who have seen have come away enriched beyond measure just being in the presence of this holy site.

Thus, the world should mourn what is unfolding in Paris at this moment.

My heart is broken.

SCOTUS errs on Establishment Cause ruling

Can it be that judicial conservatives are capable of court activism?

The U.S. Constitution is abundantly clear to many of us on this point about the establishment of a state religion: Government cannot show preference for any religious faith, period, done!

An Alabama prison inmate wanted an Muslim imam to pray for him before he was put to death. The 11th Court of Appeals had issued a stay for Dominique Ray. But then the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the lower court was wrong to issue the stay, and it allowed Ray’s execution to go forward.

The 11th Court had ruled that Alabama officials violated Ray’s constitutional rights by disallowing the imam to pray for the inmate. The state said it would allow Christian prayers, but not from a Muslim religious official.

According to Reason.com: The Alabama prison typically allows a Christian chaplain, also a prison employee, in the execution chamber, where the chaplain may stand near inmates and pray with them. But for security reasons the prison does not allow non-employees into the chamber, and it refused to make an exception for Ray’s imam.

Oh, my goodness. This is utter nonsense.

The U.S. Constitution does not allow government to favor any religion over another one. Indeed, the nation’s governing document does not even mention the words “Christian,” or “Jesus Christ.”

It is a secular document. Why in the world is that so difficult to grasp?

Dominique Ray, to my way of thinking, clearly was denied his constitutional right to have a member of his preferred clergy pray with him as he prepared to die for the crimes he committed.

As Justice Elena Kagan wrote in her dissent: “The clearest command of the Establishment Clause,” this Court has held, “is that one religious denomination cannot be officially preferred over another.” But the State’s policy does just that. Under that policy, a Christian prisoner may have a minister of his own faith accompany him into the execution chamber to say his last rites. But if an inmate practices a different religion—whether Islam, Judaism, or any other—he may not die with a minister of his own faith by his side. That treatment goes against the Establishment Clause’s core principle of denominational neutrality.

Dominique Ray was executed. He deserved the opportunity to pray with a religious leader of his choosing. The state of Alabama was wrong to deny it. The nation’s highest court was wrong to go along with the state’s misguided decision.