Secular prayer

Most legislative bodies in this country begin with a prayer, whether by an official chaplain as in the United States Congress or by visiting clergy, who are allowed to pray according to their traditions.  But in Maryland, the House of Representatives has the politicians themselves saying the prayers, according to strict guidelines that require the prayers to be inclusive and not addressed to any particular deity.  In the word of one representative, they are “secular prayers.” [Read more…]

Projecting Christianity onto other religions

David Forsmark makes a point made by our own loyal reader, author, and Nordic expert Lars Walker, speaking of the Norse deities.  Forsmark writes:

Americans have a naïve view of religion. The religious freedom that is so ingrained in our tradition — and our Constitution — has morphed beyond tolerance to a sort of anthropomorphic acceptance of pretty much anything.

In other words, in order to prove how tolerant we are, we take our basically Judeo-Christian view of what religion and God should be, and assume all other religions share the same goals, have the same values, and are just differing manifestation of the same loving and just God.

Nothing could be further from the truth. [Read more…]

“God is really blessing the LCMS”

Todd Wilken with an important  reminder in light of the uproar over the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod’s stand against our civil religion, with its president disciplining a pastor for participating in an interfaith service for the school shootings in Connecticut:

God is really blessing the LCMS this week.

How do I know? Here’s how.

All I had to do was read some recent comments on the LCMS Facebook page after the story of the Pr. Morris’ apology hit the secular press. [Read more…]

What consenting adults do in private

“Jesus Christ in the conversation embarrassed her the way sex did her mother.”  So said Flannery O’Connor of one of her characters in the short story “The Displaced Person.”  Sex, though, today is out in the open.  But religion, to be socially and politically acceptable, must be closeted.

The great sociologist Peter Berger (a Lutheran) surveys the array of lawsuits in the United States and Europe against open displays of Christianity.  Here is what he concludes:

In all these cases the authorities accused of violating the plaintiffs’ rights operate with a definition of religion as a private matter to be kept out of public space. . . .There is a very ideological view of the place of religion in society. In other words, religion is to be an activity engaged in by consenting adults in private. [Read more…]

Paying dues to the synagogue

Churches rely on offerings to meet their financial needs.  Jewish synagogues, on the other hand, charge their members dues.  Lisa Miller tells how this works and how some synagogues are trying to change this practice to attract more members:

From Young Jews rebelling against paying dues – The Washington Post:

Traditionally, when an American Jew couldn’t manage to pay his annual synagogue dues, he had to apply for relief. This often meant a shameful conversation with the temple’s financial secretary, a plea for mercy and sometimes even a revealing of personal financial documents. It’s not surprising that many people in such circumstances would rather walk away than submit to judgment. . . .

Across the country, young Jews are rebelling against the old, dues-paying model of synagogue membership. [Read more…]

Lance Armstrong in Oprah’s confessional

We Lutherans believe in confession and absolution.  That happens in every Divine Service, and, when someone is particularly troubled with a sin, the individual confesses to a pastor, who brings Christ’s forgiveness.  This is an evangelical version of what Roman Catholics do (instead of requiring acts of penance, our pastors forgive sins in terms of the Gospel).  (See John 20:21-23.)  Anglicans and Orthodox also have something similar.

In our culture, though, Oprah Winfrey is our priest, or rather priestess.  She is the one who took charge of all of our religions to organize our national worship service in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. She has her index of books that we are to read. She teaches us our morality. And now she serves as confessor for one of our heroes who has fallen from grace, with champion cyclist Lance Armstrong confessing his sin of doping on her show. [Read more…]


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