Only churches can be religious

How to restrict religion given the Bill of Right’s protection of the “free exercise” of religion?  Easy, the secularists in power are finding:  Define religion as only what goes on behind the walls of churches.

That’s what the administration has done in its abortion pill/contraceptive mandate in exempting only church congregations, while requiring church-run hospitals and other ministries to provide that coverage free of charge even when they violate their religious convictions.

Now colleges are using the same strategy, as Greg Forster reports:

The Supreme Court declared in 2010 that public universities must permit religious student clubs to select leaders who share their faith. UNC-Greensboro is now getting around this by declaring that a Christian student club isn’t really religious.

On what grounds? It isn’t affiliated with a church.

Other schools are apparently pursuing this strategy as well. Expect to hear more about it.

via An Arm of the North Carolina State Government Says Christianity Isn’t a Religion » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

The next step, as in the former Soviet Union:  Religion is restricted to what goes on inside of your head.

 

 

Issues, Etc., returns to KFUO

The saga of Issues, Etc., after much drama, is moving to a happy resolution.  The confessional Lutheran radio show  was booted from the LCMS-owned radio station KFUO for its uncompromising theological stands, sparking an uproar that, arguably, contributed to the election of new, more conservative leadership in the church body.  After being killed off, Issues, Etc., hosted by Todd Wilkens and produced by Jeff Schwarz, rose from the dead on the Internet, raising their own money and purchasing some time from another St. Louis station.

But now the program is coming back in triumph to KFUO AM.  (Though the Missouri Synod sold the classical FM station, it still owns the AM facilities.)  But the program will retain its internet presence, its own funding, and its independence.  Paul McCain tells the tale:

It was, to say the least, a horrendously bad decision when Issues, Etc. was removed from KFUO AM. Issues was, by far, the most popular show on KFUO and the only theological programming The LCMS was producing of this depth and substance.

After that most unhappy incident, Issues Etc. went on to establish itself as a strong, independent voice for confessing Lutheranism. I officially learned today that they are returning on March 12 to KFUO AM in syndication which will allow them to retain total control over their content, while giving the St. Louis and KFUO AM listening audience access to two hours of programming, Monday to Friday.

This is great news! Here is the press release.

“Issues, Etc.”, a radio talk show produced by Lutheran Public Radio and hosted by Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod Pastor Todd Wilken, will begin broadcasting live Monday, March 12 from 3-5 p.m. CST weekdays on KFUO, 850 AM in St. Louis. “Issues, Etc.” has been broadcasting on KSIV, Bott Radio Network in St. Louis since June 30, 2008. KFUO is owned and operated by the LCMS. The popular radio show aired for more than 15 years on KFUO. However, the LCMS cancelled the program on March 18, 2008.

“By purchasing airtime on KFUO instead of KSIV, we will be able to offer ten hours of live programming each week to St. Louis area listeners instead of five hours of programming. KFUO also provides a stronger signal for our listeners in southern Illinois,” said Jeff Schwarz, general manager of LPR.

“We will not become employees of KFUO or the LCMS,” said Pastor Todd Wilken, host of Issues, Etc. “Lutheran Public Radio and KFUO are totally separate entities. When listeners donate to KFUO, they won’t be supporting LPR and vice versa. It is vitally important for us to have complete editorial control and financial independence from the LCMS.”

via The Boys are Back in Town – Issues, Etc. Returns to KFUO AM Saint Louis | CyberBrethren – A Lutheran Blog.

Denying Communion to a lesbian

This story marshalled so much outrage that it made the front page of the Washington Post:

Deep in grief, Barbara Johnson stood first in the line for Communion at her mother’s funeral Saturday morning. But the priest in front of her immediately made it clear that she would not receive the sacramental bread and wine.

Johnson, an art-studio owner from the District, had come to St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg with her lesbian partner. The Rev. Marcel Guarnizo had learned of their relationship just before the service.

“He put his hand over the body of Christ and looked at me and said, ‘I can’t give you Communion because you live with a woman, and in the eyes of the church, that is a sin,’ ” she recalled Tuesday.

She reacted with stunned silence. Her anger and outrage have now led her and members of her family to demand that Guarnizo be removed from his ministry.

Family members said the priest left the altar while Johnson, 51, was delivering a eulogy and did not attend the burial or find another priest to be there.

“You brought your politics, not your God into that Church yesterday, and you will pay dearly on the day of judgment for judging me,” she wrote in a letter to Guarnizo. “I will pray for your soul, but first I will do everything in my power to see that you are removed from parish life so that you will not be permitted to harm any more families.”

Late Tuesday, Johnson received a letter of apology from the Rev. Barry Knestout, one of the archdiocese’s highest-ranking administrators, who said the lack of “kindness” she and her family received “is a cause of great concern and personal regret to me.” . . .

Johnson called the letter “comforting” and said she greatly appreciates the apology. But, she added, “I will not be satisfied” until Guarnizo is removed.

via D.C. archdiocese: Denying Communion to lesbian at funeral was against ‘policy’ – The Washington Post.

So church discipline is now the business of the news media, the public, and people who do not belong to the church.   I wonder if the person who was denied communion could sue for having her rights violated.

Having said that, the incident seems to bring up some differences between the Roman Catholic use of the Sacrament and that of, for instance, Lutherans.  (I’d like to hear from Reformed, Baptist, Orthodox, and other traditions about how they would handle this.)

For Catholics, one should be free from sin–confessed, absolved, penance performed–before receiving the Sacrament.  Lutherans, in contrast, see the Sacrament as being specifically for sinners.  To receive the Sacrament unworthily is to receive it without faith (Small Catechism vi).

And yet, I’m not sure how this is handled pastorally.  Perhaps someone living in open and unrepentant sin is likely not in a state of faith.  On the other hand, perhaps she has repented.  If she confessed her sin in the rite of confession and she was absolved, hasn’t she, in fact, been objectively forgiven?  Lutheran pastors, how would you have dealt with this woman?  Again, I’d like to hear from pastors of other traditions also.  (For those of you who think communion is only symbolic, would this not be an issue at all since it doesn’t really matter?)

For this discussion, please do me a favor:  Please leave out complaints about Lutheran churches that practice closed communion!  (“You’d commune that lesbian, but not me because I’m a Methodist!”)  We have had that discussion.  Your complaint is registered.  Let’s stick to the issues raised in this story.

HT:  Aaron Lewis

Santorum’s sermons

People are digging up Rick Santorum’s religious addresses from years back.  And though what he says is pretty conventional to most of us Christians, his sermons are being used to alarm the voting public.  This is about something he said in 2008 at Ave Maria University, a conservative Catholic college:

“Satan has his sights on the United States of America!” Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum has declared.

“Satan is attacking the great institutions of America, using those great vices of pride, vanity, and sensuality as the root to attack all of the strong plants that has so deeply rooted in the American tradition.”

The former senator from Pennsylvania warned in 2008 how politics and government are falling to Satan.

“This is a spiritual war. And the Father of Lies has his sights on what you would think the Father of Lies would have his sights on: a good, decent, powerful, influential country – the United States of America. If you were Satan, who would you attack in this day and age?”

“He attacks all of us and he attacks all of our institutions.”

Santorum made the provocative comments to students at Ave Maria University in Florida.

via DRUDGE: SANTORUM’S SATAN WARNING.

Wouldn’t any of us agree with that?  I’ve heard even liberal theologians with liberal politics talk like this.  And yet, in a political context, from someone running for president, it sounds whacky, if not crazy and dangerous.  But it isn’t!

Santorum doesn’t seem to have moral transgressions in his closet, so the opposition researchers are focusing on his religious beliefs.  (He doesn’t believe in birth control!  He believes Satan is attacking America!)  But whose religious beliefs couldn’t be made similarly scary?  (He wants to eat Jesus and drink His blood!)

Lent begins

To contemplate Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, those sobering words accompanying the imposition of ashes are a good place to start.  (More personally, “you are dust, and to dust you shall return”!)

This is called a memento mori, a reminder that you are going to die.  How can it be helpful to meditate on that unpleasant fact?  How can that change your perspective on things?   What does that have to do with Lent?

Rev. Harrison on Lent

I am appreciating more and more the ability of Matt Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, to witness to our faith in the public square.  Here are his Lenten greetings:


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X