What Are You Gonna Do? Arrest Me for Praying?

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The Supreme Court heard arguments this week on whether or not the town of Greece NY had violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The reason?  Most of the prayers that opened its city council meetings were given by Christians. 

From what I’ve read, Greece opened its city council meetings with prayers from many faiths through the years, including Jewish and pagans. The argument is that most of the prayers were offered by Christians, which means …

What?

Evidently it means that Americans United for Separation of Church and State found a couple of people to say that this offended them and were who willing to be plaintiffs in a court case. This Court case has ended up at the United States Supreme Court. 

The issue in Town of Greece v Galloway, as described on the Supreme Court Blog, is …

Issue: Whether the court of appeals erred in holding that a legislative prayer practice violates the Establishment Clause notwithstanding the absence of discrimination in the selection of prayer-givers or forbidden exploitation of the prayer opportunity.

What is the establishment clause that gives the federal government the right to intrude into small-town city council meetings and censure the speech of citizens who address those meetings? Just this: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.

That clause, (which, by the way is an accurate description of it, it is a clause and not a sentence) is the pry bar that those who hate religion in general and Christianity in particular have used for decades to attack the presence of religious speech in the public sphere.

Of course, the clause is not a sentence. Here the entire sentence in which this clause rests: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. 

Those of you who read the comments on this blog might have noticed that there is a group that decries the fact that these rights — all of them, by the way — apply to Christians as well as other citizens. 

“Christians can believe whatever they want,” they say, “but I don’t want them trying to force their beliefs on me.”

They are not talking about mobs of Christians showing up on their front yard carrying torches and demanding that they get baptized. 

No.

What they are talking about and speaking against and trying to stop is the exercise of these free rights by American citizens who happen to also be Christians. What they are objecting to is that there are people, some of whom are  motived by their Christian faith, who vote according to their conscience and petition their government either by contacting their elected officials or through the courts.

They steadfastly refuse to admit this, even as they maintain the position, but what they are objecting to is the freedoms of other Americans to disagree with them and to act on that disagreement. 

In other words, what they object to is the fact that Christians have and exercise the same rights that they do. They try to frame political involvement by Christians as somehow or another a violation of “separation of church and state” or, failing that, an attempt to “force other people” to do something or other. 

But it is not. All Americans, including Christians, have these rights. That is called democracy. 

This one-sided application of American rights and freedoms shows up with boring repetition in the com boxes and public debate. It also shows up in court cases. The establishment clause, it would seem, is the only part of the First Amendment that those who want to limit religious expression in the public sphere believe should apply to Christians. 

All that stuff about the government not interfering with the free exercise of religion, or everyone having free speech and the right to petition the government, including Christians, is nixed right out of their conversations and their court cases. These same people will make self-righteous statements about how they support the Constitution, but what they mean is they support their own interpretation of the Constitution and want to use that interpretation as a hammer to beat those who disagree with them into silence. 

For the past few decades, the Supreme Court has been playing catch to their throw. Every case that gets tossed to the Court ends up limiting religious expression in public situations. The Town of Greece v Galloway is particularly galling because it is aimed directly at one religious group, and that group is Christians. 

I don’t know what the Supreme Court is going to do with this case. But I do know that I, for one, will feel no compunction to obey any ruling limiting my right to pray in public. I say that as an elected official and an American citizen who has the right to free speech.

I’ll pray if I want. 

What are they going to do? Arrest me for praying? 

From Fox News:

The Supreme Court is wrestling with the appropriate role for religion in government in a case involving prayers at the start of a New York town’s council meetings.

The justices engaged in a lively give-and-take Wednesday that highlighted the sensitive nature of offering religious invocations in public proceedings that don’t appeal to everyone and of governments’ efforts to police the practice.

The court is weighing a federal appeals court ruling that said the Rochester suburb of Greece, N.Y., violated the Constitution because nearly every prayer in an 11-year span was overtly Christian.

The tenor of the argument indicated the justices would not agree with the appellate ruling. But it was not clear what decision they might come to instead.

Justice Elena Kagan summed up the difficult task before the court when she noted that some people believe that “every time the court gets involved, things get worse instead of better.”

Greece is being backed by the Obama administration and many social and religious conservative groups in arguing that the court settled this issue 30 years ago when it held that an opening prayer is part of the nation’s fabric and not a violation of the First Amendment. Some of those groups want the court to go further and get rid of legal rules that tend to rein in religious expression in the public sphere.

On the other side are the two town residents who sued over the prayers and the liberal interest groups that support them. Greece residents Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens say they and others who attend the meetings are a captive audience and should not be subjected to sectarian prayers.

At its broadest, the outcome could extend well beyond prayer and also affect holiday displays, aid to religious schools, Ten Commandments markers and memorial crosses. More narrowly, the case could serve as a test of the viability of the decision in Marsh v. Chambers, the 1983 case that said prayer in the Nebraska Legislature did not violate the First Amendment’s clause barring laws “respecting an establishment of religion,” known as the Establishment Clause.

Constitutional Rights for Me, But Not for Thee

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In America, almost nobody has read the Constitution.

But …

Everybody is a Supreme Court justice.

Americans tend to regard the Constitution in much the same way they do God: As a true and absolute reflection of themselves. Americans think that God is made in their image, and they also think that their Constitutional rights are exactly what they want them to be. They include in this, oddly enough, the fact that those Constitutional rights do not belong to other Americans, but to them, or at most, their group, alone.

This willingness to abrogate the rights of other people on the basis of self-serving and entirely bogus Constitutionality is not only false, it is of fairly recent origin. It is also concentrated in the arguments of a few groups of people that I call (paraphrasing Mary Ann Glendon) “rights talkers.”

I don’t remember reading anything Martin Luther King, Jr ever said that implied that the Constitution did not apply to white people, native Americans, or anyone, for that matter. His arguments were based on the idea that the Gospels of Christ, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution applied to everyone.

His method of arguing his case elevated the debate of this whole nation. He made us better people by what he said and what he did.

But Martin Luther King was a great man and a Christian man who found his primary and basic claim to the humanity of all people first and foremost in the Gospels of Christ.

That is a transcendent difference between him and the rights talkers of today.

I think the change began with abortion.

There is no possible way that anyone can argue for the “right” to commit wholesale slaughter against a whole class of people without totally nullifying the basis of Martin Luther King’s arguments. His call for equality was based on a deep understanding of the essential equality of all humanity, created as it is in the image and likeness of God, and endowed, as our founding documents say, by that Creator with certain unalienable rights. Abortion on demand does away with that premise as an arguable point.

There can be no equality of human beings if some human beings are not even considered worthy of having a basic right to life.

The debate about legalized abortion opened the doorway for the bastardization of the basic principles on which this country stands. It was but a short step after that to begin redefining the freedoms we have always regarded as belonging universally to all Americans in new, selective and narrowed ways.

People who try to argue for human rights without access to the foundation of all human rights, which is our profound equality before God, end up discriminating. They very quickly begin to advocate for practices which are not only discriminatory, but are flat-out tyrannical.

Since the types of things and the manner of debate that is employed by these people almost by definition puts them at odds with the Christian ethos of the equality of humanity, they also put them at odds with Christians, themselves. Abortion, the killing of unborn infants, is anathema to Christians who have from the beginning of the faith stood against human sacrifice of all types, including the practices of abandoning and exposing unwanted infants.

The split in our civil society began when that civil society departed from its roots to enter into the violent discrimination against an entire class of human beings by defining them as non-humans who may be killed with impunity. Those who adhered to this logic sheared themselves loose from the moorings of American society.

As their various “rights movements” took shape, they were always rooted in other soil than the great American enterprise of freedom and equality for all humanity.

For two hundred years this idea of freedom and equality had marched forward, expanding as it went. The founding fathers made tortured accommodations to slavery which could not stand. We fought a great civil war over slavery in particular, and the principles in the ideas on which this country was founded in general. Women, half the people, used the freedoms in the Constitution and the arguments in the Gospels to gain voting rights for themselves. Martin Luther King based an ultimately successful case with the American people for an end to segregation on them.

But these new “rights” movements of the last quarter of the 20th century and now into the 21st century cut themselves loose from the essential American logic at abortion. All people were no longer created equal in their way of measuring such things. And they certainly were not endowed by their Creator with certain rights such as the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Clearly, in the logic of those who follow abortion, not everyone is entitled to the same rights. More to the point, this iron wall of the God of Gospels on Whom such ideas of the universal equality of all humanity are based, must be taken down, by force if necessary.

It was, and it is, either Jesus Christ or their right to kill with impunity. The two cannot coexist.

What has grown out of this ethos is a deadly rhetorical stew of bad ideas and bastardized Constitutionalism that seeks to apply the bill of rights to those who hold certain ideas and to withdraw those rights from those who disagree with them.

Traditional Christianity as it has been taught and practiced for 2,000 years can not and will not bend on questions that strike to the heart of what we are. The question of who is human is simple in Christianity. We are all human. The question of who matters is equally simple. We all matter.

No group that agitates for their “rights” need look further than that for their arguments.

However, if the definition of those “rights” begins to tamper with the essential question of who a human is in ways that deny the basic moral structure of functioning humanity, then they no longer have access to the Gospels as their support. That is what has happened in contemporary America.

The result has been that we find claims to “rights” that do not exist, either in the Gospels, or the Constitution. These so-called “rights” are not “rights” at all, but rather a limitation of the Constitutional guarantees found in the First Amendment.

Suddenly, we are faced with people who use rhetorical film-flam phrases which align in sound but not meaning to American values and freedoms to claim that Christians do not have the same rights that other Americans enjoy. Christians who engage the larger culture by use of free speech, freedom of assembly and the right to petition their government are accused of attempting to “force their religion on others.”

Christians who work together in groups, which is a clearly guaranteed Constitutional right used by every “rights talker” who is attacking them for doing it, are suddenly accused of violating “separation of church and state” and threatened with the tax man bogeyman.

At the same time, any “rights talker” group whose 501c3 status was challenged would yell about their “rights” and “freedoms.”

The question becomes do Christians have the same rights as other citizens?

Do Christians have the right to free assembly? Do Christians have the right to free speech? Do Christians have the right to petition their government?

The right to free assembly goes deeper, since people who attack the Constitutional rights of Christians are also actively seeking to limit the First Amendment right to free exercise of religion. They do this based on a hypothetical construct we like to call separation of church and state. Separation of church and state does not appear in the Constitution.

What does appear is a prohibition against the government passing laws to form a state religion and a prohibition of the government passing laws to interfere with the free exercise of religion. This is found in the same amendment that gives us our rights to freedom of speech, assembly and to petition the government. It reads like this:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people to peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for redress of grievances.

The courts have looked deep into their own navels in the past half century and created a “wall of separation between church and state.” They have increasingly determined that is “wall” that they created means that the government has a duty to censor religious free speech of all types, and religious freedom of assembly in public places ranging from schools, to athletic events to parks.

At the same time, our president has pushed the government into the business of coercing religious people to violate their beliefs, including beliefs based on 2,000 years of constant Christian teaching, under the guise of the HHS Mandate. There is also a combative and often hectoring subset of our population who try to break up Christian discussions on on-line web-sites and/or in public debate.

These people always seem to toss around phrases such as “freedom of worship” and “privacy of your own homes.” They seek to apply these limits to Christian activity. Christians, they tell us, have “freedom to worship” in their “own houses of worship” and to believe what they want “in their own homes.” But that they do not have the freedom to engage in public debate based on their beliefs the same as other citizens.

Christians who use their freedom of speech of speak out about their beliefs in the public square, or who organize to effect changes in policy by means of petitioning their government or exercising their right to vote are told that they are out of line. They are trying to “force their religion” on other people.

These exact same people are engaged in using their freedom of speech when they say these things. They are usually actively organizing into groups to seek redress in the courts and to petition their government.

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But they do not want Christians to have the same freedoms. They want Constitutional rights for themselves, but not for those who disagree with them.

This rhetoric is rooted in the fact that these rights talkers are the intellectual heirs and political allies of the abortion movement. They are, at their core, convinced that some people are more equal than others. In fact, one of their founding principles is that whole classes of human beings are not human enough to have an inherent right to be alive.

No good thing can come from a philosophy that is built on this murderous idea.

It is not an accident that rights talk has morphed so seamlessly into demands for limitations of the basic rights of those who disagree with the rights talkers.

It is a natural and inevitable outgrowth of a philosophy that is based on the darkest sort of discrimination. I am talking about a form of discrimination so dark that it says that the murder of a whole class of human begins is a “human right” of the murderer.

So long as “rights talkers” deny the human rights of whole classes of people, they are incapable of creating a consistent philosophy of human rights for themselves or the world they are trying to create.

How Much Influence Does this Christian Basher Have at the Pentagon?

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Remember Michael, aka Mikey, Weinstein?

It’s not a name that falls trippingly off the tongue, but I’m beginning to think it is worth remembering. Michael Weinstein recently penned a diatribe against Christians that hails back to the hate-speeches of every genocidal maniac spawned in the 20th Century.

He is a self-proclaimed “guardian” of Constitutional freedoms in the military. His backers include the usual list of suspects, such as  branches of the ACLU, the former Oklahoma Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and various atheist organizations. 

According to “Mikey,” Christians are (and I quote), monsters, bloody monsters, well-funded gangs of fundamentalist Christian monsters, carpetbaggers, senseless and cowardly, bandits who coagulate their stenchful subtances in organizations such as the Family Research Council … and who disingenuously bellow mournfully like the world class cowards they are, fundamentalist Christian monsters of human degradation, marginalizaton, humiliation and tyranny, who have a putrid theology… of their rapacious reign of theocratic terror. 

I could go on, but I’ll bet you get the point. “Mikey” Weinstein is a world class Christian basher and bigot who foments hatred toward a whole group of people and then blames them for his personal moral and emotional viciousness. 

Sound familiar? It you’ve read the history of the dehumanizing language that precedes every mass slaughter of whole groups of people, it should. It’s especially repugnant that Mr Weinstein chose to quote Elie Wiesel at the end of the rant I’m referencing. 

After Huffington Post published this hate-article, an internet rumor sprang up that Mr Weinstein held an official position with the Pentagon under the Obama Administration. I found no evidence of this. However, I did find a sort of denial about it from the Pentagon. 

I decided to leave the question with that. 

The reason I’m taking the subject up today is another Huffington Post article titled The Pentagon Most Certainly is Listening to Mikey Weinstein. A reader sent me a link to this article, and when I read it, I decided that it is something you need to know about. 

The author, Chris Rodda, is the Senior Research Director at Mr Weinstein’s organization, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. She is also the author of Liars for Jesus.

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Ms Rodda admires her boss. The article she writes seems to be in a race with itself as to whether it will attack Christians or express over-the-top praise for Mr Weinstein. She makes him sound like the kind of guy who can change the course of mighty rivers with his bare hands and jump the Pentagon in a single leap. 

I say this to caution you: This article is almost certainly at least partly hyperbole and self-promotion by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. It claims that an individual representing 22 airmen who, the article also claims, were all Christians of various denominations, contacted the Military Religious Freedom Foundation because they were offended by a poster or painting (I’m not sure which it was) hanging on the wall of the Air Force base where they work. 

I don’t know what part of this to believe. It comes from an organization whose founder and leader has published hate speech labeling Christians, and by derivation me, my family and just about everyone I love, as “rapacious, bloody monsters.” Just call me small-minded, but that tends to color my opinion of the organization’s integrity. 

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The real question here is not whether or not I admire Mr Weinstein’s assessment of my faith (I do not) but how much he influences things at the Pentagon. The part of the article which is pertinent to that question relays how Mr Weinstein reacted to the appalling threat to the Constitution posed by this painting. The pertinent part of it says (emphasis mine):

Mikey immediately called the Pentagon because, you know, he can do that (to the obvious consternation of the folks at breitbart.comcertain members of Congress, and other modern-day Christian crusaders).

Mikey gave the Air Force an hour to take action.

By the time Mikey talked to the Wing Commander at the base a few minutes later, the Wing Commander had already been contacted by the Pentagon.

Fifty-six minutes after his call to the Pentagon, the image of the crusader, with its odious melding of the crusader flag with the American flag, had been removed from the dining hall.

Nobody is sure exactly how long this utterly inappropriate and blatantly unconstitutional image has been hanging in the dining hall, and whoever should be held responsible for deciding to place it there may very well no longer even be at the base. But the current Wing Commander, although not responsible for the hanging of this now removed dining facility artwork, is responsible for everything that happens on his base now, and to his credit has decided to take action beyond just the removal of this single offensive display.

The question: Is this claim of Mr Weinstein’s personal influence with the Pentagon brag, or is it fact?

Since we are dealing with people who specialize in braggadocio and scalding hot rhetoric, it’s difficult to know for sure. I am assuming that the basic facts of the article are true; that there was a painting which hung at an Air Force base, that there was some sort of complaint and that maybe the complainers may have gone to Sunday school or something and are claiming to be Christians, and that Mr Weinstein complained and the painting was taken down. 

As I said, I am assuming these things are true. I do not believe that this painting was ever a “threat to the Constitution.” Artistic vision, perhaps. But not the Constitution. I also do not believe that you can trust what these people say. 

I believe Mr Weinstein is a Christian-bashing bigot. The language I read in his article is inflammatory, hate-filled and ugly. If he told me it was raining outside, I would get up, go to the window, and look for myself. 

This leads back around to the question: Does this Christian-bashing bigot and his inflammatory, hate-filled rhetoric have some sort of gravitas at and with the people who run our military? That is a sobering question. 

Politics, Religion and Lilies That Fester

To Dolan or not to Dolan? That was the question.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan and his offer to pray the Benediction at the two political conventions were all the news a few weeks ago.

It seems that he offered to pray at both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. The Republicans, who are sharper tacks all around when it comes to currying religious political favor, answered with an immediate yes and then used their publicity machine to spread the word.

They made the most of the fact that Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the head of all the bishops in these United States, was going to dip his vote-getting toe into their little pond. In their glee over what they obviously wanted to play into a de facto endorsement by the Catholic Church, they did everything but put out press releases saying, “We bagged the big guy!”

The Democrats, on the other hand, dissed the good Cardinal and his attempt at bi-partisan even-handedness by not even bothering to reply when he offered to pray the benediction at their convention. Their message, which was equally loud and clear, was “We don’t need no traditional Christians.”

It would have stayed like that if the Republican publicity machine hadn’t set off a mini-firestorm with its announcements. It looked, as the Rs intended, like Cardinal Dolan was playing favorties between the two political parties. Gloating Republicans slapped him on the metaphorical back while outraged Dems denounced him for being a partisan political hack.

Forced to defend himself, he explained that he had offered to pray at both conventions, and the Republicans had accepted his offer. The Democrats, on the other hand, had not even acknowledged it.

The officials who run the Democratic Party evidently had their heads stuck so far up their own militant secularism that it took them a couple of days to figure out that this wasn’t the big vote-getter they had originally believed. This gave time for the whole thing to become the church-state fight du jour.

Cardinal Dolan, and through him the Catholic Church, became one of the many bones of contention that allow the two political parties to chew on one another in their never-ending quest to get to 51% of the electoral vote.

After a few days of dealing with public indignation over this bit of hubris, the Ds evidently decided that maybe one itty bitty prayer wouldn’t compromise them all that much. Cardinal Dolan and his benediction were a pill they would swallow.

The two political parties want slightly different things from the Church. The Republicans want control of the Church’s moral voice so that they can use that voice to win elections. The Democrats, who have given up on using the Church’s moral voice, want to silence the Church, and, as much as possible, strip it of all its ministries.

Both parties want to bend the Church to their purpose and their will. The Republicans want to do this by patronizing the Church. The Democrats by attacking it. The result in both instances would be to slice and dice the Church down to an equally voiceless political carcass to be fed on and ignored.

That is precisely what the Rs and the Ds have done to every other denomination who has worked with either one of them. The so-called liberal Christian denominations and the so-called “evangelical” or “conservative” denominations have both carved up the Gospels to suit their politics. We expect certain denominations to give us a hatched up phony Gospel supporting corporatism, and the economic rape of the American people. We know that certain other denominations are going to come blaring in with their truncated Gospel supporting abortion on demand and same-sex marriage.

We expect it. We know it’s coming. And truth be told, this weary wariness of what are obviously bogus claims to holiness on the part of these denominational-leaders-political-operatives is a big part of what is driving the ugly secularism that is developing in this country. We just don’t believe these guys are speaking for anybody but themselves.

These religious leaders have so destroyed the Gospels on which they stand in order to fit in with their political crowd that they are useless and shorn. They don’t have a moral and prophetic voice left.

The only denomination I’ve seen that has stood against this, the only voice that has refused to edit the gospels down to a political convenience in the name of getting their boy elected is the Catholic Church.

My great fear is that the pressures of fighting these fights against the out-of-control secularism and social nihilism that are tearing at our society will erode the Catholic Church’s determination to stay clear of politics and follow the Gospels. I am afraid that the Church will allow itself to become another bite of power in the maw of these two political parties. I dread the day on which the Catholic Church’s moral and prophetic voice is cast before political swine. I dread it to my core; not only for my Church, but for my country.

I hope and pray that I will never hear the American Bishops endorse a political candidate or a political party. As a Democrat, the way my party treated Cardinal Dolan disgusted me. If I had any remaining ability to be ashamed of my party, I would be ashamed of them. If I was a Republican, I would be equally ashamed of them, for different reasons.

I have seen the way that Republican office-holders treat the religious leaders who pushed to get them elected once they are in office. I have also seen those same religious leaders cow-tow to the elected officials and back down on the very moral issues that they say prompted them to be politically involved in the first place. It is an ugly and disillusioning thing to have to watch.

I don’t know how to be cynical enough about both these two political parties. I try, but my cynicism just can’t keep up with them.

I am not cynical about my Church. I go to mass and touch Jesus in the Eucharist and I am healed. There’s no way to be cynical about that.

I understand that the bishops are trying their best to defend the Church in what is an unprecedented attack in the HHS Mandate. I understand how grave this is. I also know, sadly, that both parties want the Mandate, each for their own reasons.

The Mandate helped the Republicans bag the big guy. It is probably why more and more Catholics are switching from Democrat to Republican. I think it is why the Democrats rudely ignored Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s generous offer to pray at their convention. Both parties are playing to their base, and right now their lead violin is the Catholic Church.

The only church that the politicians I know still respect at all is the Catholic Church. I think there are two reasons for this. First, the Catholic Church is big. It represents millions of votes. Second, neither party has succeeded in getting the Church to edit the Gospels to suit their politics. The Catholic Church still calls both parties to task when they violate the teachings of Christ. The same Pope who refuses to bend the Church’s 2,000-year-old teaching on the sanctity of human life also refuses to support neo-con goals of corporate dominance and the endless wars of empire. I don’t know of any other church that does this.

There’s an old saying in politics; keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. The Church is the enemy of both the Democrats and the Republicans for the simple reason that it has, at least until now, refused to be co-opted by either of them. Politicians want to control, to co-opt groups and organizations and turn their purposes to the politician’s use. That is what the Republicans have succeeded in doing with a large number of denominations and what they are currently trying to do with the Catholic Church.

If they can’t control and co-opt, then politicians try to strip the person or group of power and influence so that they can’t give them any trouble in the future. It’s the classic “you’re either with me or against me” scenario played out in terms of budget items, regulations and laws. That is what the Democrats are trying to do to the Catholic Church right now. They have, as their Republican counter-parts have, managed to co-opt a large number of denominations; to get them to interpret the Gospels in ways that favor Democratic party goals. But they’ve given up on ever being able to turn the Catholic Church to their purposes.

Enter the HHS Mandate, the refusals to give grants to Church organizations who won’t refer for abortion and all the other ugliness we’ve seen and will continue to see.

The bottom line here is that neither political party is anybody’s friend. Nobody’s. Not yours. Not mine. And certainly not any church that preaches and teaches the Gospels of Christ.

Do we need the Church to step up and be the prophetic voice of God in our society? Oh my, yes we do. We need them more now than ever before.

But the very fact that we need them so badly is a reflection of what choppy water they are going to encounter as they do this. Our culture is trapped in a downward spiral. It is disassembling itself morally, spiritually and economically. Only the truth of the Gospels can equip the American people to save themselves from themselves. We need revival, but we will never get it from anyone less than a true follower of Jesus Christ.

Politics and politicians have to be engaged. We live in a democracy, which makes involvement in politics our duty as well as our right. But our god must be God, not our political parties.

Too many good people have been led astray  by bad shepherds who have taken the R or the D for their god, and have taught us to do the same. These religious leaders have become false prophets and failed shepherds who lead the flock astray. They are like Shakespeare’s lilies, who, when they fester, stink far worse than weeds. One failed religious leader does more damage than many militant secularists.

My humble suggestions to the bishops, and any other religious leader who is thinking about involving themselves in politics, are these:

1. Never, never, never compromise the Gospels of Christ for any political party. Call the Republicans out on their economic policies and blast away at the Democrats for their attacks on the sanctity of human life and marriage. Don’t compromise the gospels for these birds. Please.

2. Be prepared to be disliked, pandered to and, if the pandering fails, accused and abused. The world does not like real Christians. It never has.

3. Let the laity be the ones to slug it out in the political trenches, but arm us with good teaching and absolute fidelity to Christ so that we may do it well. Teach us. Lead us. Inspire us.

The Catholic Church is the only effective moral and prophetic voice left in this country. My plea to Cardinal Dolan and all the bishops is please, don’t allow my Church to become another religious political pawn.

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Rendering Unto Caesar: Pulpit Politics and Christian Witness

Tomorrow, October 7, has been labeled Pulpit Freedom Sunday. It is a day when participating pastors will take a stand against threats against their freedom of speech by giving sermons that “preach Biblical truth about political candidates.”

The fact that ministers of the Gospels feel sufficiently pressured and harassed to self-censure their sermons to organize such a day says quite a lot. My great hope is that they will give America an astringent dose of genuine Gospel preaching without falling into the trap of indulging in personal attacks against any person or group of people. If they do that, tomorrow will be a great day.

It’s interesting to me that things have gotten this far. I can tell you for sure that the pastors in the house district that I’ve represented for going on 17 years have never been shy about speaking out. Back in the day when I was pro choice, they denounced me roundly and loudly from the pulpit, including saying a whole host of things that were untrue and extravagantly malicious.

I  never questioned their right to preach about me from the pulpit and I never made any attempt to force them to stop doing it. I think that America needs a free and untrammeled church for its health and well being as a society and a culture. I also think that the right of Americans of all walks of life to criticize their politicians and elected officials is a core freedom. I didn’t like being the target of all this hate from the pulpit, but I never wanted to curtail the freedom of speech on which it was based.

I’ve written before about the threats many pastors have faced from non-governmental groups and their vague, chain-rattling allusions to possible legal actions against those who fail to comply. I find this behavior disgusting.

The idea that the government would use or threaten to use the tax codes to silence potential critics is appalling. However, while I heartily support the right of pastors to speak freely from the pulpit, that does not mean that I support everything that gets said there. All civilized people are called to exercise personal responsibility in what they say, and Christians, especially Christian leaders, should adhere to an even higher level of personal responsibility.

I know from my own experience that when pastors regard their pulpits and the respect people hold for their position as an entitlement to attack and harm people, they damage the Body of Christ.

It is past time for clergy to stand up against the oft-proclaimed notion that the pulpit should be a free-speech-free zone where government censorship can run riot. But I do hope that whatever truth they decide to proclaim is, in fact, the truth, and not just an amalgam of oft-repeated slanders.

That’s what happened when pastors attacked me. They said outlandish, slanderous things. They said things that were personal, sexual, and verifiably untrue. They were cruel, vicious and, I realize now, an embarrassment to Christ and genuine Christianity.

What these preachers said didn’t convert me at all. In fact, they hardened me in my thinking. I experienced a profound religious conversion a few years later. But most of my friends of that time remain hardened in their dislike and contempt for Christianity and, by default, Jesus Himself. What these preachers said about me isn’t the only reason for this, but it is a contributing factor.

I will be praying for these pastors who plan to “speak truth” this Sunday, but probably not exactly as they would expect. I pray that they will tell the truth and not go off into some hellacious slander fest. I also hope that they remember that they are most likely not Jeremiah and John the Baptist all rolled up into one person, so maybe they should behave with a bit of judicious thoughtfulness before engaging in wild denunciations of individuals and whole groups of people.

America needs the cleansing fire of strong Christian preaching. Say a prayer with me that this is what happens tomorrow.

For more about Pulpit Freedom Sunday, go here.

 

 

President Obama and Religious Freedom, the Lighter Side

St Peter’s List, has a series of political cartoons concerning President Obama, the Church and the HHS Mandate which they have generously offered to share. I’m printing some of them here. Enjoy

For the whole article or to visit St Peter’s List, go here.

 

 

 

British Government to Christians: Leave Your Faith at Home or Lose Your Job

 “Leave your faith at home.”

I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that. It’s right up there with “Separation of Church and State,” which a good number of ignorant souls seem to think is written down somewhere in the Constitution of the United States of America.

Of course, this particular time, the “Leave your faith at home” claptrap is not coming from an irate, muddle-headed advocate for abortion on demand or some such. It’s straight out of the mouth of a lawyer who is speaking for the Government of one of the great Western democracies. This attorney is representing Great Britain in the European Court of Human Rights against four of her own citizens.

The British government’s ignoble position is that its citizens should be willing to forego simple expressions of their faith such as wearing a cross on a necklace to work. If they aren’t willing to do this, then they have no right to complain when this costs them their jobs.

That is why I’m asking all Christians to begin wearing a cross, outside their clothes, every day. We need a visible, non-violent way to stand together as Christians. 

Join the discussion in the comments section on the best way to do this. All constructive ideas are welcome. 

The article describing the British Government’s position reads in part:

Govt lawyer: Christians should leave faith at

home or resign

Wed, 5 Sep 2012

Christians in Britain should leave their faith at home or accept that they might have to get another job, a Government lawyer has told the European Court of Human Rights.

The comment came as the Court heard the cases of four Christians, including that of registrar Lillian Ladele who was disciplined for her stance on civil partnerships. All four say the UK Government failed to protect their religious liberty. (Read more here.)

 

 

 


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