Category archives: Religion & Culture

The God of Gene Robinson’s Understanding

by Peter Sprigg

January 17, 2009

The homosexual Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson will offer a prayer at a pre-inauguration event at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday. Here’s part of what he told National Public Radio about his preparation (thanks to David Brody of CBN for this link.):

Robinson: I have actually read back over the inaugural prayers of the last 30 or 40 years and frankly I’ve been shocked at how aggressively Christian they are. And my intention is not to invoke the name of Jesus but to make this a prayer for Christians and non-Christians alike. Although I hold the scripture to be the word of God, those scriptures are holy to me and Jews and Christians, but to many other faith traditions they have their own sacred texts. And so rather than insert that and really exclude them from the prayer by doing so, I want this to be a prayer to the god of our many understandings and a prayer that all people of faith can join me in.

 

NPR Host: The god of many understandings?

Robinson: “Yes. I was treated for alcoholism three years ago and grateful to be sober today. And one of the things that I’ve learned in 12 step programs is this phrase, ‘the god of my understanding’. It allows people to pray to a God of really many understandings. And let’s face it, each one of us has a different understanding of God. No one of us can fully understand God or else God wouldn’t be God.”

NPR Host: I’m not sure that a God of many understandings has been invoked at an inauguration before?

Robinson: Well, I’ve done a lot of things for the first time in my life and I will be proud to do this one.

Let me note a couple of things here. Robinson says he is shocked at how aggressively Christian” inaugural prayers” of the last 30 or 40 years” have been. Forty years ago would have been the inauguration of Richard Nixon, which was probably the first inauguration I ever watched, and I think I’ve watched all but two of them (when I was overseas) since. I haven’t actually done the research Robinson has, but I don’t remember any as “aggressively Christian.” My impression is that prayers at such events tend to be blandly, generically monotheistic, while perhaps also being “aggressively” patriotic. Giving an altar call would be “aggressively Christian.” Simply praying “in Jesus’ name,” or quoting from the Bible, is not.

Secondly-does it strike anyone else as odd that a Christian clergyman, a bishop no less, takes his theology from a twelve-step program? Such programs have helped a lot of people, and I’m glad Bishop Robinson got help for his alcoholism-but didn’t the man ever go to seminary? A Christian seminary, even?

Robinson is right in a certain sense when he says, “No one of us can fully understand God or else God wouldn’t be God.” But Christians believe that our own incapacity as finite humans to figure out God on our own is the very reason why God took the initiative to reveal himself to us, both in the person of Jesus and in the words of Scripture. That’s where Christian theology goes beyond the twelve-step theology.

With that said, though, Bishop Robinson seems to be mis-applying even the twelve-step theology. The idea is for each individual to pray to “the god of my understanding.” That is not the same as one individual praying to “a God of many understandings,” which is what Robinson is pledging to do.

I would submit that when a Christian clergyman prays at a public event “in Jesus’ name,” he is doing exactly what the twelve-step program calls for-praying to the “[G]od of [his] understanding.” It is those who would deny him that right-not the Christian clergyman-who are guilty of the worst form of intolerance.

The Ice and the River on Christmas Night

by Robert Morrison

December 26, 2008

This week, almost all of us will join with our families for Christmas Eve services. We will gather in our family circles on Christmas Day to exchange gifts, to sing carols of joy for the newborn King, and to share Christmas dinners at over-laden tables. This is a good thing to do. And while we are mindful of those who are alone at this time of year, the vast majority of us will be surrounded by our loved ones. We will hopefully be able to put aside the cares of the day, of the preceding weeks. Little thought will be given, or even should be given to the bad economic news of recent months, to political woes, or even to wars and rumors of war.

This precious freedom was not a cheap gift. In this country, the freedom to worship, to speak, freedom from want, and freedom from fear were bought dearly. And that challenge was taken up again and again throughout our history. It is being met today in Iraq and Afghanistan, in the skies, and beneath the seas.

We’re often told that it is too bad we do not have more people engaged in the fight to defend faith, family, and freedom in this country. Far too many, we understand, take for granted all the freedoms we were purchased at a high price.

We could always use more volunteers, more generous supporters, more Christian friends praying that we will make wise use of our resources. We, too, pray that we will make a strong case for the independence and integrity of the church and the family when we are confronted in the public square.

Tonight, though, we should thank you, the few who read this message, who pray, and who lead in your churches and communities. We should have more, but we should always be grateful to the Lord for what we have.

General George Washington could certainly have used twice or three times as many troops when he entered the boats on that ice-choked Delaware River on Christmas Night, 1776. He had with him only 2,400 men. They were freezing. They were wet. Many were sick. Many marched with bleeding feet wrapped in rags, leaving bloody footprints in the snow.

If America had had a military draft in 1776, we could have raised a Continental Army truly worth of the name. We would have seen 300,000 young men called to the colors.

But General Washington crossed the Delaware with less than one percent of that number. Yet, his prayers were answered. With that little band, he bought America’s freedom, he saved a continent.

So to you, our little band of friends and supporters, God bless you. We thank each one of you for your steadfastness, for your generous backing, for your availing prayers. We could achieve nothing without God’s favor and your help. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Is it too wrong to wish someone a “Merry Christmas?”

by Krystle Gabele

December 12, 2008

It seems like America has been plagued by the notions of being politically correct lately. Too often, you walk into a retail store and they are offering holiday sales, not “Christmas” sales.In today’s society, you are persecuted if you say, “Merry Christmas,” because the powers that be deem it too controversial.

If your child is in school, they do not throw Christmas parties complete with Santa Claus and the goodies. Instead, they throw Holiday parties with no such entertainment (except for a controversial movie or two). If you buy a Christmas tree, the man who puts the tree on top of your car wishes you, “Happy Holidays.” I believe you bought a Christmas tree, so where is the customary “Merry Christmas?”

Now, it seems like there is an assault by the leftists and religious separatists to remove Christianity from Christmas. According to the Stop the ACLU blog, there is a community threatening to stop Christmas carols from being sung in public places. Why? Because the organizers do not want to risk alienating the Muslims or Atheists due to Christ, and this is especially odd considering that the community is 75% Christian and 1% Muslim.

Enough is enough, right? Christmas is about celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ and giving to others in his name. There is nothing politically wrong about doing this, and it is time we return to our faith, especially in the times we are facing ahead. It will be our faith in God that will sustain us.

In the Second Week of Advent, Newsweek Gave to Me…

by Michael Fragoso

December 8, 2008

Via the Corner, there is this profoundly misleading piece from Newsweek on marriage and the Bible.  In it, Lisa Miller attempts to go through the Bible bit by bit, showing how “Biblical” marriage is a ridiculous construct that no reasonable person would want-polygamy in the Old Testament, and Pauline prudishness in the New.  In the end, we should just adopt the Bible’s narrative of “inclusion” to be good Christians and accept same-sex marriage. 

Just to take one of her points: are self-described “Biblical” Christians bound to the polygamy of the Patriarchs?  Of course not.  In the 10th Century, Aelfric, Abbot of Eynsham, was asked to translate the first seven books of the Bible by his king into what is now known as Old English.  In his preface to the Book of Genesis he expresses his unease at such a task, worried that those who do not understand the canons of Scriptural Interpretation might misunderstand facts of the Old Testament.  Certain Biblical actions followed “the customs of the age” but were robustly condemned by the contemporary Church and had been since its inception, such as the polygamy of the Patriarchs or the attempted sacrifice of Isaac.  Aelfric notes that those who hear these stories should not be allowed to dwell on the literal actions of the Patriarchs, but rather on the educative functions: such as polygamy as representing the fecundity of the Church, or the sacrifice of Isaac prefiguring Christ on the cross.  Instead, he feared, any powerful Saxons who had this read to them by an unthinking priest-as the non-clerical classes were largely illiterate at the time-would see Genesis as a license to commit polygamy or engage in human sacrifices, against the expressed teachings of their Church, but with an apparent “Biblical” mandate. 

Likewise, all of Miller’s “novel” objections to St. Paul’s famous “It is better to marry than to burn” line* or questions about Christ’s evident chastity have been answered countless times throughout Christian history, but that doesn’t stop her from making them as if she’s done something terribly groundbreaking in the process.

Frankly, dealing any more with Miller’s specifics would not be at all fruitful.  She elides much of the New Testament, and her history is reliant on the quotably wrong Stephanie Coontz.  Where does one begin to answer imputations that King David was a homosexual?  How can one comprehend-let alone respond to-an argument that first apparently admits Christ’s virgin birth and then proceeds to equate the Holy Family to “Jesus has two (Immaculate) Mommies”?  The Bible is simply a weapon-at-hand for her preferred policy ends.  She’s the sort of person Aeflric was worried about. 

*It is worth noting that even here Miller’s translation betrays a prejudice.  She takes St. Paul to mean “burn with passion.”  Perhaps.  He also might mean “burn [in Hell].”  The early Fathers were divided on the issue, as were many prominent glossators.  It’s funny how the inconvenient, morally absolute reading-found in King James, among other translations-doesn’t get picked up by Miller. 

Judge: This land is your land…

by Suzanne Bowdey

October 20, 2008

It’s been five years since the Episcopal Church consecrated its first openly gay bishop, but the shockwaves are still rippling through the national church.  Across America, congregations have exploded in protest.  Despite pleas from many in the 2.2 million-member church, Episcopal leaders stubbornly refuse to back down from their liberal, pro-homosexual theology. 

After months of negotiations failed to bring the denomination back to its conservative teachings, a band of 11 Virginia churches took the unprecedented step to sever all ties and realign under the Anglican Church of Nigeria.  Together, these congregations made the courageous-and costly-decision to separate from a denomination whose American roots are more than 300 years deep. 

But the stand for Biblical truth has come at great price to the faithful in Virginia.  They face financial hardship, eviction from their property, and a multi-million dollar lawsuit from Episcopal headquarters. 

Since early 2007, the Diocese of Virginia has attacked the churches in a vicious suit that threatens to confiscate their church homes.  With almost no resources, the 11 churches banded together in defense of their land, resulting in the largest property dispute in the history of the Episcopal Church. 

At every stage of the Episcopal Church and Diocese of Virginia court battle (now four rounds old), Circuit Court Judge Randy Bellows has ruled in favor of the breakaway churches.  Last week, Judge Bellows rounded out this series of victories by ruling that Truro Church-the second largest parish-“could retain ownership of land sought by the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.”  In a story of true David versus Goliath proportions, the news continues to stun the mainstream church.

But despite how far the Virginia parishes have come, the Episcopal Church shows no sign of giving up.  Its national leaders have vowed to fight these decisions all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary.  In a press release, the Diocese says it “will continue to explore every legal option available” to seize these church homes.  Despite the mass exodus this month from parishes in Pittsburgh and San Joaquin (see George Will’s Sunday column “A Faith’s Dwindling Following”) and the impending rift in Fort Worth, the Episcopal Church leaves no doubt that the legal battle has just begun.  In fact, it could continue for years.  

If you’re interested helping the churches at “Ground Zero” in the Anglican crisis, please log on to Truro’s website  and consider standing with them for biblical truth.

Underage Drinking—Costs and Protective Factors

by Michael Leaser

August 19, 2008

Most people are well aware that underage drinking can exact a deadly toll, approximately 5,000 youths every year. What may prove even more disturbing is just how young underage drinkers can be. According to the National Institutes of Health, 11 percent of eighth grade students have engaged in binge drinking (blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher), and this percentage increases to 22 percent of tenth grade students and 29 percent of twelfth grade students.

Analyzing additional federal survey data, the latest Mapping America reports that one of the most significantly protective factors against abusive underage drinking is frequent religious attendance.

The 7th Circuit sends the Italian genius packing …for now

by Pat Fagan

August 7, 2008

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that The Freedom From Religion Foundation had no legal standing to sue the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for incorporating chaplain work into its veteran health care. What does this have to do with Gramshi, the Italian genius of soft communism?

To have the federal government expand its reach into virtually every corner of life (family, school, health, the economy) and simultaneously to push for a radical “wall of separation of church and state” is to ban religion from life. It is the perfect scenario for a slow but Sherman-like “march through the institutions” as Gramsci envisioned.

As Mapping America shows, the practice of religion is integral to superior outcomes in most dimensions of life, and medicine is no exception as reviews of the literature make clear.

The plaintiff in a case against Veterans Affairs for their support of chaplains’ work with ill patients, The Freedom From Religion Foundation, clearly falls among the ranks of those dedicated to a Gramsciite deconstruction of American society, not a building up of her strengths nor even of the care of her sick soldiers.

Close ties to Planned Parenthood = Common Ground?

by JP Duffy

May 2, 2008

One of the participants in this recent Pew Forum interview is Jennifer Butler - the Executive Director for Faith in Public Life.  You may remember that this group organized the Compassion Forum  early last month.  Faith in Public Life said they would discuss the abortion issue at the forum and issued this statement: “We hope to get to the heart of the issue and why it’s so divisive. We hope to try to pry the door open to potential common ground and ask if the political labels we use when it come to abortion really capture where Americans are on the issue.”

However, in this Pew Forum interview,  Ms. Butler proudly points to her strong connections with Planned Parenthood and her speaking engagement at the “Planned Parenthood prayer breakfast”:

BUTLER: Yeah, well, it is interesting you asked that. I am

speaking at the Planned Parenthood prayer breakfast tomorrow. And

we have worked very closely with some think-tanks in

town with Third Way and with Center for American Progress. Many of these groups

are also very interested in connecting more strongly with faith communities. And

I’d say there has been a resurgence in their interest, an intensification since

2004. So I think it is extremely important to build those bridges there…

…There has been some recent progress in that arena because it has

been a point of tension. I mentioned earlier our work with Third Way. And they

worked with leading evangelicals and progressives to outline a strategy for

approaching the abortion issue which, interestingly enough, did not involve

compromise. And they were very clear that they didn’t want a

watered-down solution to the problem, nor did they want

people having to compromise on their ideals…

Butler should explain how working “closely” with Planned Parenthood helps achieve

common ground” to solve the “problem” of abortion.

Straw Poll on the Issues

by Jared Bridges

October 23, 2007

The FRC Action Values Voter Straw Poll has been making lots of news, but one of the poll questions that hasn’t yet gained as much attention was question #3, which asked participants to rank the order of importance among a set of issues. Here are the results:

Please indicate which issue is the most important in determining your opinion of the candidate that you will most likely vote for?

Here’s the statistical breakdown:

ISSUE VOTES PERCENTAGE
Abortion 2398 41.52%
Same-sex “Marriage” 1141 19.76%
Tax Cuts 626 10.84%
Permanent tax relief for families 563 9.75%
Federal “hate crimes” legislation 331 5.73%
No vote on this question 181 3.13%
Taxpayer funding for abortions 151 2.61%
Prayer in schools 93 1.61%
Reinstatement of the “Fairness Doctrine” 88 1.52%
Public display of the Ten Commandments 57 0.99%
Enforced obscenity laws 54 0.94%
Embryonic stem cell experiments 48 0.83%
Voluntary, student-led prayer in schools 44 0.76%
Total 5,775 100%

Now that you’ve got the numbers, feel free to crunch away.

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