Officially re-defining religion

The Constitution carves out space for religion so that it does not fall under government jurisdiction.  So, as Charles Krauthammer points out, the  government, which currently demands jurisdiction over everything, is re-defining religion:

And thus, the word came forth from [Health & Human Services director Katherine] Sebelius decreeing the exact criteria required (a) to meet her definition of “religious” and thus (b) to qualify for a modicum of independence from newly enacted state control of American health care, under which the aforementioned Sebelius and her phalanx of experts determine everything — from who is to be covered, to which treatments are to be guaranteed free of charge.

Criterion 1: A “religious institution” must have “the inculcation of religious values as its purpose.” But that’s not the purpose of Catholic charities; it’s to give succor to the poor. That’s not the purpose of Catholic hospitals; it’s to give succor to the sick. Therefore, they don’t qualify as “religious” — and therefore can be required, among other things, to provide free morning-after abortifacients.

Criterion 2: Any exempt institution must be one that “primarily employs” and “primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets.” Catholic soup kitchens do not demand religious IDs from either the hungry they feed or the custodians they employ. Catholic charities and hospitals — even Catholic schools — do not turn away Hindu or Jew.

Their vocation is universal, precisely the kind of universal love-thy-neighbor vocation that is the very definition of religiosity as celebrated by the Gospel of Obama. Yet according to the Gospel of Sebelius, these very same Catholic institutions are not religious at all — under the secularist assumption that religion is what happens on Sunday under some Gothic spire, while good works are “social services” properly rendered up unto Caesar. . . .

Therefore: To flatter his faith-breakfast guests and justify his tax policies, Obama declares good works to be the essence of religiosity. Yet he turns around and, through Sebelius, tells the faithful who engage in good works that what they’re doing is not religion at all. You want to do religion? Get thee to a nunnery. You want shelter from the power of the state? Get out of your soup kitchen and back to your pews. Outside, Leviathan rules.

via The Gospel according to Obama – The Washington Post.

We see this same new definition in the government’s failed litigation in the Hosanna-Tabor case.  It’s basically the same one used in the former Soviet Union, which provided for “religious freedom” in its constitution, construed as private interior beliefs, while at the same time forbidding evangelism, worship, education, religious child-raising, and any other external expression of religion in actual life.

Join us for morning prayer & devotions online

I am always saying how I appreciate my congregation, St. Athanasius Lutheran Church, and our pastor, Rev. James Douthwaite.  I would like to invite you to join us online for our daily morning prayer and devotion.

It starts at 7:00 a.m. Eastern Time (I know, that’s really early on the west coast) and lasts for 20-25 minutes.

What we do is begin with the opening of Matins, then we do the readings from the Treasury of Daily Prayer (a Psalm, Old Testament, New Testament, a  classic spiritual writing, a hymn verse, a collect), followed by prayer (including for prayer requests).  (If you don’t have a Treasury, you can follow along in your Bible.  A list of readings is given for every day.)

Go here: Daily Morning Prayer on the Web.  You’ll need to download a bit of free software the first time you come, but you can do that ahead of time.

I think it’s kind of cool that the online technology allows me to invite you to participate in an activity of our church.  I am not advocating “online church,” as if clicking on an online site is the same as actually meeting together, as the Bible calls for.  This is just morning devotion and prayer, not a worship service.  But I think you might find it helpful, edifying, and meaningful.

This might be something your own congregation could do.  (Are there other ways that your congregations are “reaching out” by using the web?)

Has Castro become a Christian?

George Conger reports stories in the Italian press that Fidel Castro, the communist dictator of Cuba, may have “rediscovered Jesus” and will be reconciled with the church from which he was excommunicated:

Fidel Castro will be received back into the communion of the Roman Catholic Church during Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the island in March, the Italian press is reporting. If true, this is a remarkable story — and one that has yet to catch the attention of editors this side of the Atlantic.

On 1 Feb 2012, La Republicca — [Italy’s second largest circulation daily newspaper, La Republicca follows a center-left political line and is strongly anti-clerical; not anti-Catholic per se but a critic of the institutional church] — reported that as death approaches, the octogenarian communist has turned to God for solace.

ABC’s Global Note news blog is the only U.S. general interest publication I have found that has reported this story. It referenced the La Republicca story and said that Castro’s daughter Alina is quoted as saying “During this last period, Fidel has come closer to religion: he has rediscovered Jesus at the end of his life. It doesn’t surprise me because dad was raised by Jesuits.” The article quotes an unidentified high prelate in the Vatican who is working on the Pope’s Cuba trip: “Fidel is at the end of his strength. Nearly at the end of his life. His exhortations in the party paper Granma, are increasingly less frequent. We know that in this last period he has come closer to religion and God.”

via GetReligion » “The press . . . just doesn’t get religion.” — William Schneider.

If this turns out to be true, it would be arguably a greater miracle than the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union:  the collapse of communism in the heart of one of its most bloodthirsty adherents.  It would also be one of the most dramatic conversions of an atheist in recent memory.  The man put untold numbers of Christians in front of firing squads.  How amazing is a grace that would accept him, forgive him, and accept him as one of those Christians as he faced his own death.

How our government thinks of religion

Joseph Knippenberg at First Thoughts finds a telling quotation from Leondra Kruger, Assistant to the Solicitor General, arguing at the Supreme Court in the Hosanna-Tabor case:

The government’s interest extends in this case beyond the fact that this is a retaliation to the fact that this is not a church operating internally to promulgate and express religious belief internally. It is a church that has decided to open its doors to the public to provide the service, socially beneficial service, of educating children for a fee, in compliance with State compulsory education laws.

Mr. Knippenberg points out that this mindset helps explain why the government is requiring religious institutions except for churches to provide their employees free Morning After pills and birth control devices, even if doing so violates their religious beliefs:

The reasoning here is perfectly consistent with the thought animating the narrowly-drawn exemption to the widely reviled contraceptive mandate. Whenever a church or house of worship ceases to be simply inward-looking, when it in any way engages or serves the wider public, it becomes subject to much the same sort of government regulation as any secular entity. Relgious freedom is a purely private freedom. The moment you enter the public sphere, you’re subject to regulation. The public sphere is by definition secular, not pluralistic, with its tone, terms, and limits set by governmental authority. . . .

The logic of its argument in these two cases is that any religious institution that is public-serving has to behave in many instances (those determined by the state) like every other public-serving organization. The religious presence in the public square can’t be distinctive except in ways the government permits.

Pursued consistently across the board (and the Obama Administration hasn’t yet done this), this approach would gravely threaten religious freedom. It’s one thing to say (as some have, though I disagree with them), that if you take public dollars, you have to be thoroughly secular in your operation. Anyone can escape the secularizing effect of public money by refusing to accept it. It’s quite another to say that if you serve the public, your religiosity can’t permeate your efforts and your organization. This would require almost every religious organization I know of to choose between reaching out as a bearer of good news and a helper of widows and orphans and remaining faithful to the very understanding that inspired its outreach. Under these circumstances, a church can’t remain a church.

via The Obama Admininstration’s Crabbed Vision of Religious Liberty » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

French court rules in favor of de-baptism

Using the law to deny that a historical event occurred.  Another example of the government and the law and unbelievers not understanding theology enough even to oppose it:

In France, an elderly man is fighting to make a formal break with the Catholic Church. He’s taken the church to court over its refusal to let him nullify his baptism, in a case that could have far-reaching effects.

Seventy-one-year-old Rene LeBouvier’s parents and his brother are buried in a churchyard in the tiny village of Fleury in northwest France. He himself was baptized in the Romanesque stone church and attended mass here as a boy. . . .

But his views began to change in the 1970s, when he was introduced to free thinkers. As he didn’t believe in God anymore, he thought it would be more honest to leave the church. So he wrote to his diocese and asked to be un-baptized. “They sent me a copy of my records, and in the margins next to my name, they wrote that I had chosen to leave the church,” he says.

That was in the year 2000. A decade later, LeBouvier wanted to go further. In between were the pedophile scandals and the pope preaching against condoms in AIDS-racked Africa, a position that LeBouvier calls “criminal.” Again, he asked the church to strike him from baptismal records. When the priest told him it wasn’t possible, he took the church to court.

Last October, a judge in Normandy ruled in his favor. The diocese has since appealed, and the case is pending.

“One can’t be de-baptized,” says Rev. Robert Kaslyn, dean of the School of Canon Law at the Catholic University of America.

Kaslyn says baptism changes one permanently before the church and God.

 “One could refuse the grace offered by God, the grace offered by the sacrament, refuse to participate,” he says, “but we would believe the individual has still been marked for God through the sacrament, and that individual at any point could return to the church.”

 French law states that citizens have the right to leave organizations if they wish. Loup Desmond, who has followed the case for the French Catholic newspaper La Croix, says he thinks it could set a legal precedent and open the way for more demands for de-baptism.

 “If the justice confirms that the name Rene LeBouvier has to disappear from the books, if it is confirmed, it can be a kind of jurisprudence in France,” he says.

Up to now, observers say the de-baptism trend has been marginal, but it’s growing. In neighboring Belgium, the Brussels Federation of Friends of Secular Morality reports that 2,000 people asked to be de-baptized in 2010. The newspaper Le Monde estimated that about 1,000 French people a year ask to have their baptisms annulled.

via Off The Record: A Quest For De-Baptism In France : NPR.

HT:  Mary

 

Lutheran pastor attacks Lutheran view of Lord’s Supper

An article on the Christian Post website and picked up by RealClearReligion is an in-your-face attack on the Lutheran theology of the Lord’s Supper.  The thing is, the author,  Dan Delzell, is the pastor of Wellspring Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska.

The church website says that it rejects membership in any synods, as being hierarchical like Roman Catholics, but it is affiliated with the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC), which broke away from the ELCA for being too liberal.  The LCMC says it holds to the Augsburg Confession and Luther’s Small Catechism, both of which have clear teaching on the Lord’s Supper.

Here is Rev. Delzell’s article:  The Lord’s Supper Helps Christians ‘Keep it Real’, Christian News.

It is so full of misunderstandings and theological bloopers that one does not know where to begin.  I know, of course, that other theological traditions reject the Lutheran understanding of Christ’s real bodily presence in the Supper (not “consubstantiation”!) so that the bread and wine are the true body and blood of our Savior given for the forgiveness of sin.  I don’t, however, expect a Lutheran pastor to reject this teaching or to misunderstand it in such a spectacular way.  In what sense, I wonder, can he still consider himself a Lutheran?

How would you answer what he says, setting the record straight for the readers of the Christian Post?


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