Insecurity Within the Faith.

One way to interpret the phrase, freedom of religion, would be to say there will be absolutely no government entanglement with religion. This would reflect approval of people wanting to practice religions of their choice, but no preference given by government.

Another interpretation of freedom of religion would mean people could practice whatever religion they please, but the majority is going to promote its particular brand by using government.

There is unending disagreement about which the founding fathers intended when they drew up the papers establishing the United States. Certainly, some were testifying Christians.   But, others were what we would call today, agnostics.

The last half of the 1700’s, when the Constitution was written and ratified, has been called the most secular period in U. S. history. Since then, the pressure to make Christianity the preferred religion has never let up.

Following World War II, our currency was inscribed with the words, “In God We Trust.” That same phrase was adopted by Congress as the motto of the U. S. just a few years ago. As a Professor Emeritus from the University of Chicago remarked, “There has been considerable insecurity about religious pluralism.” That is an understatement.

Efforts continue to make “In God we trust” the flagship phrase of the Federal Government. Bashing of other faiths, recently Islam, is a constant. The bashing of those with no faith has made it virtually impossible for such a person to be elected to any office.

A return to the confidence of the 1700’s is needed.

[Links consulted for this blog can be clicked from the first comment.]


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Politicians Can Teach Christianity How to Succeed.

President Obama is the first President to recognize in a speech people of no faith. He is now navigating a fault line within the Muslim faith.

Like gay marriage has moved across the U. S. state by state, data on religious beliefs shows something similar is happening in religion. There are now 23 states that have a majority that poll unaffiliated in any identifiable faith. To complicate matters, 16% of Americans report following rituals and practices of more than one faith.  One out of four Americans is married to someone of a different faith. About one third of white and Asian Americans do not identify with a particular faith.

It is said about politicians they are always behind their voters. However, successful ones running for statewide and nationwide offices are more in tune than most Christian denominations.

Insight into what is happening can be found in that largest losses are among the young. The solution is to find a way for the culture of the faith to align itself with the culture of the young. There is so much resistance to change in the faith it is easy to conclude it will be lost to the sands of time. This is not inevitable.

What Christians should do is study how skillful politicians change as culture changes. The politicians to watch are those elected President, Governor and to the U. S. Senate. These politicians need broad support, just what denominations aspiring to grow need.

When a group needs help, it should look to experts.

Click on this length in the first comment.

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Economists and Theologians.

I had forgotten from my student days how often the Almighty showed up in the field called The History of Economic Thought.

Today there are still factions on both the religious left and the right who both blame societies ills on economics but use it to reinforce their particular take on religion. There is the social justice faction, Pope Francis a member, who want wealth and income to be more equal. And, there are the free market factions who use various Bible stories to justify their dislike of government.

Adam Smith wrote the book, An Inquiry into the Wealth of Nations, in 1776. At the time, all the writing about economics had been done by men in the church. They railed against  self serving commerce.

The social change of Adam Smith’s time was the growing influence of manufacturers and merchants. They liked him. Smith found the motives of man to be good and virtuous, contrary to the religious views of the time. The nature of man to do good meant there was little need for government.

When intellectual and influential thinkers fraternized, the fellowship included both philosophers like Smith and elite members of the clergy. I can imagine conversations over ale about the nature of man that went long into the night.

I’m afraid religion has not helped us much in coming to agreement on the nature of man. Conservatives see the motives of people on welfare as suspect but the motives of business people as good. Liberals see it just the opposite.

P. S. Click on an interesting link in the first comment.

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The Lesson from ISIS.

There is a lot of concern just now about the spread of Islam.  It’s moving from country to country by the power of the sword. Some Muslims have crowed they will take Rome in time.

We all know the branch of Islam marching across the Middle East is but one branch of a complicated religion. I’ve read ISIS is made up of three factions, the faithful, former Baathists and foreign adventurers. This complication makes its future unpredictable.

I have no personal understanding of why Islam has appeal to people. I have heard explanations. One is that when practiced in Arabic, the religion is so beautiful as to be almost irresistible. I asked the young man from the Middle East about this at a recent gathering of atheists. He said that, yes, the expressions in Arabic are beautiful. They are so beautiful, he said, he still feels the tug of the faith though he now no longer believes any of it.

The future of Islam, however, surely will not play out from its beauty in Arabic nor from the Koran or from logical argument. It will play out as religions have always done, by the cultures in which it finds itself. The kind of Islam practiced by most Muslims in the U. S. looks at the Islam of ISIS as if it is an entirely different faith.

One lesson for us all in the current success of Islam is what happens when religion and government become one and the same. It should strengthen our collective resolve to keep them separate.

P. S. Link can be clicked from the first comment. Thanks.

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It’s Come to This: Religious Rules About Rest Rooms.

The reason those of us outside the faith get our hackles up about religion in government is that there are factions within the faith that have no concept of boundaries.  To them, the power of government is the way they can force their will onto the reluctant public.

We’ve all heard this phrase, “You can’t make this stuff up.” It refers to news stories so ridiculous a comedian could not have written fictitious comedy material as funny as actual events.

A few days ago, Franklin Graham and some of his pals appeared before his hometown Mayor and City Council to protest unisex or “transgender” public restrooms. They argued child molesters would await children entering unisex labeled rest rooms. This, of course, is contrary to known facts that pedophile statistically are most often males. That means the current system is more dangerous.

But, Franklin and company did not stop there. One of them said being forced to use a unisex public rest room would be an infringement on their religious liberty. Does Christianity forbids use on unisex rest rooms.  That was a surprise to me. There were no rest rooms when the Bible was written. Bathrooms in homes are used be whatever genders are there.

We have had, in the U. S. our hundred years or so of “whites only” rest rooms, water fountains and restaurants. After those were tossed out, no one has been harmed by the integrated world.

Religious liberty will be used for every prejudice practiced by Americans.

P.S. Link can be clicked on in comments section.

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A Judeo/Christian Absolute That has Been Changed. More to Come.

Several times every day someone must say, “The truth of the Bible never changes. Society changes but we Christians do not.”

One of many rules changed over time is working on Sunday. The Bible condemns working on Sunday under no uncertain terms. The link refers the Sabbath as the most ignored of the Ten Commandments.

A preacher I know says he still preaches against working on Sunday. What he means by “working” and what his congregation mean by it I have no idea. I’m just sure that most of his congregation does things on Sunday that would have been considered sin only a few decades ago.

The church cleverly adjusts its version of sin to what society wants. I’ve always wondered what the Catholic Church rules were in Spain for Sunday when Spain conquered the Aztecs and Incas. I can imagine the Catholic colonizers said, “Look, the Indians can only come into the village once a week. Let’s set build a church in the middle of their traditional market place. To heck with the ‘no work on Sunday’ Commandment. We’re here to convert, whatever it takes.”

So it is with Sunday shopping malls and sports bars. There is safety in numbers–when everyone sins it doesn’t count anymore.

That’s the way Catholic lay people feel about birth control. Soon, gay marriage will be as popular as birth control.

There are pockets of both the Protestant and Catholic branches trying to hang onto things the public now ignores. These will go the way of the Sabbath.

P.S. Click on the link in “Comments”.

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Rand Paul Refuses the Opportunity to be a Fake Evangelical.

While I did not watch the interview of Rand Paul on the Christian site, I found an atheist’s review of his comments most fascinating.

Those who interviewed him expected the usual response to questions such as, “What led you to Christianity?”, “What is your personal relationship with Jesus?” and so on. The acceptable narratives by politicians to these questions be, “I was a sinner, alcohol and drugs. Then Jesus called me. I am a saved but humble sinner. Glory!”

But, Paul could not seem to bring himself to stay on script. His answers went over to, “Being a good Christian is believing in smaller government.” When asked if he was “saved”, his answer rambled that sometimes you have to saved more than once and then drifted off into smaller government.

The interviewers were apparently not expecting quite those answers and scrambled a bit to move forward. But, to his credit, Rand Paul never quite took the bait.

So far, it seems, the candidate who is all Jesus all the time is Mike Huckabee. There are others who were all in last time around but are holding back a little with their Jesus talk. Then, there is Donald Trump who has said, “My faith is very important to me. I attend church every year  at Christmas and Easter.”

On the entertainment meter, all the Republicans rank higher than any of the Democrats, especially Hillary. It’s just that the trait that make them amusing are the reasons I hope none of them will be President.

P,S. Click on link in comments.

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San Francisco Catholic Students Challenge Their Archbishop.

Students in S.F. protested against the backward views of their Archbishop on homosexuality.

Young people who are skeptical of their church’s teaching have the same dilemma as their parents. Do they stay in the church and try to change it? Or, do they walk away from it?

My impression has been the majority of the young have walked away. But here is an example of the opposite. And, these young people are fighting well embedded hierarchical religious institution, the Roman Catholic Church.

It is hard to imagine protests like this one, even if they spread across the country, changing the Catholic Church. Yet, with the new Pope appointing different kinds of people to governing bodies, one feels change is in the air. For change to occur, these young people need help from adults skillful in the maneuvering of the faith through change.

One skill is wordsmithing. We saw the best of that during revisions of the Church’s position on Galileo. For centuries, the Church hung with the idea the sun revolved around the earth even though it knew if was false. It needed a way to say the Pope is never wrong. After a ten-year study in the 1970’s and 1980’s, it concluded “mistakes were made”, never admitting the mistakes were by the Vatican.

“Mistakes were made” or something equally clever is needed by the Church now on homosexuality. Protests by the constituency the Church most needs, the young, may set in motion another plan of wordsmithing.

P.S. On the comment board the link can be clicked on to be seen. Thanks.

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Preachers, Spread God’s Word Through Gay Marriages.

Marriage has always been a responsibility of government. In earlier times, and still today in some places, marriages are arranged by those in authority. They are arranged by the tribal leaders or by families which are the government.

Religion elbowed its way into marriage from the outside. Now clergy act as government’s representatives by signing a government marriage document.

Preachers write periodically that they should stop signing this document in protest to the legalization of same sex marriage. Their fear they will be forced to perform and sign off a same sex marriage against their will.

To refuse to act as the government’s agent in marriage would be to abandon hundreds of years of effort to take marriage away from government. The entire idea of getting into the government’s business was to bind religion and state together. It was a way to spread the word.

Preachers would be smarter to simply try to talk their way out of performing same sex marriages until they are able to accept them. If couples insist, the preacher should soldier on and do it. Surely most experienced clergy have done some straight weddings they thought were bad ideas.

To those preacher/priests who think performing gay weddings is contrary to Biblical thinking, I would suggest this. Read Matthew 28:19 and several other passages which command you to spread the word.

Spreading the word through religion in government was the idea in the first place.

If you want to click on this link, go to the comment section where the click system still works. Thanks.

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Home Schooling and Culture Wars.

It seems logical that parents should have the right to school their children at home. Also, it seems logical the quality of schooling the children get should allow those children to complete with others in their later work life.

We’ve know the decades about Amish and some other groups that wished to remain separate from the rest of society. They ran their own schools, teaching children what they needed to know to function in a closed Amish society. Employment was offered to everyone who stayed within the community. The only problems were that people who left had to make up for what they had not learned in the religion’s schools.

Today, fundamentalist parents who want to shield their children from influence outside the faith cannot offer them employment within the faith like the Amish. This makes lack of standards more problematic with implications extending beyond the family and particular branch of the faith.

One of the motives for home schooling, and I stress only one, is to shield a child from changes in the culture the parent does not like. I can understand the desire of parents to want their children to have the same values and religious beliefs they themselves have. We can all wonder what sacrifice in academics balances the values instilled by parents.

The most common way to make this balance is to let the children attend secular schools and teach the family’s values outside of school. For whatever reason, this is not good enough for some parents.

P.S. I made another request today to make clicking on the link bring to up. Sorry it does not yet work.


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