Tag Archives: Christianity

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.

President Carter has more work to do

**FILE**Former President Jimmy Carter takes a question during a conference at The Carter Center in Atlanta, Tuesday, June 7, 2005. An independent panel Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2005 reversed a Pentagon recommendation that the New London submarine base in Connecticut, base be closed. One of the panel members even said a letter from Carter _ the only president to ever serve as a submariner _ pleading the panel to keep the base open was one of the reasons he voted against closure. (AP Photo/Ric Feld, File)

Count me as one American who was thinking dark thoughts when President Carter announced some months ago that his doctors had found cancer in his brain.

There was a certain sound of resignation in the former president’s voice as he told the nation of the diagnosis, while announcing he would proceed with radiation treatment.

Then came news today. It was much better news … at a time when we Americans are looking for a glimmer of hope somewhere in light of recent events in California and the still-simmering aftermath.

President Carter told his Sunday school class he is cancer-free. The cancer is gone. The treatment worked, did its job.

This is an admirable man. He spent four years in the White House and has spent the longest post-presidential period in the nation’s history doing good work around the world. He’s been building houses for poor people; he developed the Carter Center in Atlanta; he has been monitoring elections in countries that never had free and fair elections before; he’s been speaking out on issues of the day.

I was delighted to hear this good news about the former president’s  health.

Yes, he’s an old man. He’s past 90 and he’s lived a full and fabulous life. When it’s his time to leave this world, the president — a deeply devout Christian — will be ready.

I’m glad to know his time among us isn’t up just yet.

 

Let’s not condemn them all

ku-klux-klan_3153153b

The image that jumps out at me from this picture might not be what you think it is.

It’s not the low-life cloaked in that robe. It is the burning crosses in the background.

What do the crosses symbolize? Well, I suppose you can say they represent Christianity’s holiest symbol, the crucifix on which Jesus Christ lost his earthly life.

Yet the Ku Klux Klansman pictured here no doubt proclaims he burned those crosses to stand up for “Christian values.” Isn’t that what those loons proclaim?

Well, as a practicing Christian, I do not consider them in any shape or form to represent my faith. They are outliers in the extreme.

So, too — in my view — are the terrorists who commit their horrible acts today in the name of Islam.

And yet …

There are individuals around the world — including Americans, some of whom are friends of mine — who continue to tar all Muslims with the same brush with which they are painting the monsters who commit hideous crimes against humanity.

This prejudice and bigotry goes far beyond declarations by state governors, such as Greg Abbott in Texas, that seek to ban refugees from Syria from entering their states. They are concerned over whether some so-called refugee is a closet terrorist seeking to deliver more misery.

The bigotry being displayed by many against all Muslims is no more acceptable than it would be to label all Christians as believing in the hatred that is spread by Klansmen.

Yes, the Islamic State carries the name “Islam” in its own label. It does not, however, represent the tenets of what remains one of the world’s great religions. It is a murderous cult that has perverted Islam’s teachings to suit the demented ends of a terrorist organization.

And that, I do believe, cuts straight to the view that’s been expressed by the nation’s two most recent presidents — Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Barack H. Obama — that the war in which we are engaged is not a war against Islam.

It is a war against murderous perverts.

Obama ‘pretends to be a Christian’? Really?

Bible2

How in the world does Mike Huckabee possibly know what’s in another man’s heart and soul? What on God’s Earth qualifies him to make such a claim by saying another man “pretends to be a Christian”?

That’s what the former Arkansas governor and current Republican candidate for president has done with Barack Obama.

He said the president “pretends to be a Christian,” suggesting quite openly that the president’s profession of faith in Jesus Christ — which he has made several times during his presidency — is somehow inauthentic.

Huckabee has stepped in it with this ridiculous assertion.

What’s more, he contends that the president and his administration are making it more difficult for Christians to worship as they please.

Let’s hold on here.

I would challenge Gov. Huckabee to offer a single example of how Christians these days are less able to worship in their church. He needs to provide specifics on how individuals are being punished or harassed or ostracized by the federal government because of their religious faith.

If he’s referring to the case of Democratic Rowan County (Ky.) Clerk Kim Davis, who’s made news by refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples based on her religious belief, well, that argument is a non-starter. Davis took an oath to serve all the people and she has no right under the secular law to which she swore to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

As a friend of mine noted on social media, the only authority that can judge someone’s faith “isn’t from Arkansas.”

Why is Obama’s faith an issue?

“… but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

— U.S. Constitution, Article VI

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker got a question the other day about whether he thinks President Obama is a Christian.

His answer? “I presume he is … I’ve never asked him about it.” Then said he takes “the president at his word” that, yep, is he’s a Christian.

Walker wants to succeed Obama as president of the United States. He’s one of 17 Republicans seeking the GOP nomination; four Democrats are running, too.

I keep wondering, though, why this question keeps coming up about the current president’s faith.

Hasn’t he stated time and again that he believes Jesus Christ is his savior? Hasn’t he attended church services with his family? Hasn’t he made the declaration that he is a Christian?

The issue ought to be moot. The Constitution says we shouldn’t set a religious standard for candidates seeking any “office or public trust.”

Why can’t these individuals answer such ridiculous questions in a straight-forward matter? Perhaps something like this:

“Thank you for the question. Let me answer it in two parts.

“First, the president is a Christian. He’s stated his faith repeatedly since taking office and I believe him.

“Second, the question is not relevant to any discussion about those who hold public office or those who seek public office. The Constitution says there shall be ‘no religious test’ for candidates. I happen to support the Constitution of the United States, which is crystal clear on the place of religion in politics.”

I really don’t blame Walker for keeping this issue bubbling. The blame belongs to the media who keep raising it.

Enough already!

Are Americans becoming less religious?

A Pew Research study says fewer Americans today identify themselves as Christians than before.

It also says other religions haven’t declined in this country.

What does that mean? Well, one thing I believe it means is that we’re more diverse — religiously speaking — than at any time.

So, are we going to Hell?

Hardly.

http://dallasmorningviewsblog.dallasnews.com/2015/05/why-americans-increasingly-are-questioning-religion-especially-christianity.html/

Tod Robberson, writing for the Dallas Morning News, has an interesting analysis of the Pew findings. He contends that he is not threatened by the decline in Americans associated with a given faith. He says his own non-religious upbringing hasn’t harmed his children. I get that.

I also get that one’s faith is an intensely personal thing. As one who does worship in a Christian church — on most Sundays — I am entirely comfortable in my own religious skin. My wife is as well. So are my sons. I am worrying not tiny bit about what my fellow Americans are feeling today about their faith.

Indeed, I’ve long held the view that Americans remain among the most religious people on Earth precisely because of the freedom we have to not worship if we so choose. The Pew study on Americans’ faith journey may be shocking to some, but look at what’s happening in Europe, where countries have established state religions. The people’s response throughout the continent has been to stay away from church in droves. Church attendance is a fraction of what it used to be, let alone what it continues to be across The Pond, in the U.S. of A.

I like what Robberson writes: “A mass departure from established religion in America doesn’t necessarily mean millions of us are losing our way and are walking into the arms of Satan. It just means that we do not rely on preachers, priests, rabbis or imams to tell us how to live our lives. People who do attend regular religious services are otherwise guided, and good for them. They should not stand in judgment of the non-religious any more than the non-religious should stand in judgment of them.”

I’ll just keep going to church, saying my prayers to Jesus Christ and ask him to forgive me for my sins. I believe he’s done that.

Therefore, I’m good to go.

 

'No religious test' ends this discussion

“The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

— Article VI, Paragraph 3, U.S. Constitution

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has had a tough time of it in recent days.

He sat in the room when former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani questioned whether President Obama loved America. Walker didn’t refute the ex-mayor’s nonsense.

Then came a question about whether President Obama is a Christian — as if that even is relevant to any discussion about anyone on Earth, let alone the president of the United States. Walker said he didn’t know, offering some lame notion that he’s never discussed Obama’s faith with him.

I hereby refer to the U.S. Constitution’s Article VI. See the above text.

Right there is all the evidence I need that this discussion has no place in today’s political discourse.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/02/21/scott-walker-s-terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad-answer.html?via=mobile&source=twitter

But yet it keeps coming back, particularly as we reference the current president. Why is that?

Has anyone ever wondered aloud whether any of the men who preceded Obama were Christian? Why didn’t Walker swat that idiotic question aside by saying something like:

“That question is irrelevant. You’ve never asked such a thing of George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, John Kennedy … none of them. Barack Obama’s faith is his personal business and the fact that he’s had to speak about it all — and he’s declared his belief in Jesus Christ as his Savior — is because the media and the president’s foes keep bringing it up.

“Next question.”

A president’s faith — or the faith of anyone seeking public office — according to the nation’s founders, is of zero consequence. Does that mean a candidate should necessarily hide his faith from public view? Of course not. Candidates are free to proclaim whatever they wish to proclaim and if their religious faith informs how they set public policy, that should be a factor that voters should consider.

However, the Constitution expressly declares that there should be “no religious test” that candidates for public office must pass.

Let’s focus fully instead on policies that affect people’s lives.

'Every believing Christian' offended? I think not

Jim Gilmore, a former Virginia governor, and a possible Republican presidential candidate next year, is trying to put words into my mouth.

Of the remarks made this week by President Obama about the Crusades and how Christianity has produced acts of violence in the name of its religion, Gilmore said that Obama has “offended every believing Christian” with his statement.

Um, governor? As a “believing Christian,” sir, I am categorically not offended by those remarks.

So, there.

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/232027-white-house-defends-prayer-breakfast-remarks

If you listen to the president’s remarks in their totality, he said at the prayer breakfast that Islam isn’t the only religion that’s been perverted by cultists who are performing terrible deeds in the name of their religion. Christians launched the Crusades a millennium ago and, yes, did some terrible things to non-believers who stood in their path as they marched through the Middle East.

“Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ,” Obama said. “In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”

The president is holding the United States up to a higher standard than all that he cited.

Deputy White House press aide Eric Schultz said: “The president believes that America is the greatest country on earth, not only because of our military or economic prowess or because we serve in a unique leadership role amongst the international community.”

That hasn’t stopped right-wing critics from slamming the president. Erick Erickson, author of RedState.com, said Obama isn’t even a “meaningful” Christian, whatever in the world that means. Good grief, young man. The president has proclaimed his faith repeatedly whenever he’s given the chance.

But I digress …

Barack Obama understands history as well as any American, and as well as any practicing Christian. He knows Christians have committed barbaric acts. He merely was seeking to put this whole discussion of present-day terrorism being carried out by Islamic radicals in some historical context.

And I’m fully confident the remains fully dedicated to fighting those radical Islamists to the death.

So, let’s chill out here. I’m not offended by what the president said. I am more interested in ensuring that we continue to fight the war against international terrorism.

Crusades, slavery … in the name of Christianity?

Barack Obama cannot possibly have a tin ear to the prevailing attitude among his harshest critics.

Can he?

The president stood before the National Prayer Breakfast audience Thursday and managed to offend Christians by invoking the memory of the Crusades and ol’ Jim Crow laws in scolding those who contend that Islam is the only great religion that produces horrible acts against humanity.

Not true, the president said. The Crusades and slavery were carried out — in the minds of many — in the name of Jesus Christ.

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/critics-pounce-after-obama-talks-crusades-slavery-at-prayer-breakfast/ar-AA92xT8

Let’s understand something: President Obama spoke the harsh truth about the Crusades and U.S. laws that placed Americans in bondage.

He said: “And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”

His comments enraged some Republicans. According to the Washington Post: “’The president’s comments this morning at the prayer breakfast are the most offensive I’ve ever heard a president make in my lifetime,’ said former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore (R). ‘He has offended every believing Christian in the United States. This goes further to the point that Mr. Obama does not believe in America or the values we all share.’”

Have we gotten over-sensitized to hearing such harsh scolding from our politicians? I’m beginning to think that’s the case. The late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy used to admonish Americans for not exhibiting more understanding and compassion toward others and he, too, enraged critics by speaking words not everyone wanted to hear.

Barack Obama’s own Christian faith ought to give him some license to tell the truth the way he sees it.

That, of course, won’t sell to those who continue to insist he has “Muslim sympathies,” or even that he’s actually a “closet Muslim.” He has proclaimed his faith in Jesus Christ more times than I can remember, but that won’t quell the critics this time.

Then again, the Constitution of the United States declares there should be no religious litmus test for those seeking public office. But what the heck, that’s another story for another time.

 

Sudan frees Christian woman

Every so often — even in this world of madness and chaos — you see glimmers of hope that justice can prevail.

Meriam Yehya Ibrahim is a 27-year-old Sudanese woman who had been sentenced to death. Her “crime”? She refused to renounce her Christian faith in a Muslim country.

http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/23/world/africa/sudan-woman-freed/index.html

Great news has just arrived! Ibrahim is free. She reportedly has rejoined her husband after being released by Sudanese government officials.

It’s not often we get to cheer this kind of news. We hear too often of religious persecution that covers the wide range of faiths. And all the great religions have their radical elements that pervert their holy documents to suit some outrageous political agenda.

Christians have been persecuted and have died around the world because they have the temerity to proclaim their faith openly in violation of certain countries’ laws that prohibit such religious expression.

Meriam Ibrahim had been caught in that trap.

Now she’s free. Don’t expect a sea change in Sudan. Just rejoice in the freedom that one young woman — whose only “crime” was to proclaim her faith — has been released from her bondage.