Politics and Religion    rev.10.16.2007 Back to Lessons Page

10.11.2007: Thank You, Henry in California and the New York Times and Jon Meacham...

Op-Ed Contributor
A Nation of Christians Is Not a Christian Nation

Published: October 7, 2007
Correction Appended

JOHN McCAIN was not on the campus of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University last year for very long — the senator, who once referred to Mr. Falwell and Pat Robertson as “agents of intolerance,” was there to receive an honorary degree — but he seems to have picked up some theology along with his academic hood. In an interview with Beliefnet.com last weekend, Mr. McCain repeated what is an article of faith among many American evangelicals: “the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation.”

According to Scripture, however, believers are to be wary of all mortal powers. Their home is the kingdom of God, which transcends all earthly things, not any particular nation-state. The Psalmist advises believers to “put not your trust in princes.” The author of Job says that the Lord “shows no partiality to princes nor regards the rich above the poor, for they are all the work of his hands.” Before Pilate, Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of this world.” And if, as Paul writes in Galatians, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” then it is difficult to see how there could be a distinction in God’s eyes between, say, an American and an Australian. In fact, there is no distinction if you believe Peter’s words in the Acts of the Apostles: “I most certainly believe now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears him and does what is right is welcome to him.”

The kingdom Jesus preached was radical. Not only are nations irrelevant, but families are, too: he instructs those who would be his disciples to give up all they have and all those they know to follow him.

The only acknowledgment of God in the original Constitution is a utilitarian one: the document is dated “in the year of our Lord 1787.” Even the religion clause of the First Amendment is framed dryly and without reference to any particular faith. The Connecticut ratifying convention debated rewriting the preamble to take note of God’s authority, but the effort failed.

A pseudonymous opponent of the Connecticut proposal had some fun with the notion of a deity who would, in a sense, be checking the index for his name: “A low mind may imagine that God, like a foolish old man, will think himself slighted and dishonored if he is not complimented with a seat or a prologue of recognition in the Constitution.” Instead, the framers, the opponent wrote in The American Mercury, “come to us in the plain language of common sense and propose to our understanding a system of government as the invention of mere human wisdom; no deity comes down to dictate it, not a God appears in a dream to propose any part of it.”

While many states maintained established churches and religious tests for office — Massachusetts was the last to disestablish, in 1833 — the federal framers, in their refusal to link civil rights to religious observance or adherence, helped create a culture of religious liberty that ultimately carried the day.

Thomas Jefferson said that his bill for religious liberty in Virginia was “meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mahometan, the Hindu, and infidel of every denomination.” When George Washington was inaugurated in New York in April 1789, Gershom Seixas, the hazan of Shearith Israel, was listed among the city’s clergymen (there were 14 in New York at the time) — a sign of acceptance and respect. The next year, Washington wrote the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, R.I., saying, “happily the government of the United States ... gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance. ... Everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

Andrew Jackson resisted bids in the 1820s to form a “Christian party in politics.” Abraham Lincoln buried a proposed “Christian amendment” to the Constitution to declare the nation’s fealty to Jesus. Theodore Roosevelt defended William Howard Taft, a Unitarian, from religious attacks by supporters of William Jennings Bryan.

The founders were not anti-religion. Many of them were faithful in their personal lives, and in their public language they evoked God. They grounded the founding principle of the nation — that all men are created equal — in the divine. But they wanted faith to be one thread in the country’s tapestry, not the whole tapestry.

In the 1790s, in the waters off Tripoli, pirates were making sport of American shipping near the Barbary Coast. Toward the end of his second term, Washington sent Joel Barlow, the diplomat-poet, to Tripoli to settle matters, and the resulting treaty, finished after Washington left office, bought a few years of peace. Article 11 of this long-ago document says that “as the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,” there should be no cause for conflict over differences of “religious opinion” between countries.

The treaty passed the Senate unanimously. Mr. McCain is not the only American who would find it useful reading.

Jon Meacham, the editor of Newsweek, is the author of “American Gospel” and “Franklin and Winston.”

Correction: October 13, 2007

An Op-Ed article on Sunday, about the idea of the United States as a Christian nation, incorrectly described the number of the original Constitution’s religious references. Article VI forbids the use of “a religious test” for officeholders; the phrase “the year of our Lord” is not the sole allusion to religion.

09.16.2007: from People For The American Way...

  1. "It's time for the candidates to be asked whether homosexuality is a sin.
  2. It's time for them to declare whether the killing of the unborn is ever right.
  3. It's time for them to answer whether their Justice Department would prosecute preaching biblical truths as hate crimes."
    -- Dr. Rick Scarborough, Vision America

Let me think about that a second... ok... Done:

  1. Um, no it isn't. Why not? Because it isn't a sin. That's your belief. Learn to differentiate between "beliefs" and "facts." Oh, you don't? I didn't think so. "Sin" is nowhere defined as a crime, other than in "holy books," right? Correct me if I'm wrong here. [doesn't look like I'm wrong...]
  2. Ah, no, let's not ask them. If it's never right, you're declaring that you're willing to have many women die as a consequence of being pregnant. If that's what you want, say so explicitly. And you're saying that if someone rapes them and they get pregnant, you have taken over complete responsibility for all decisions regarding the fetus, taking that right completely away from the woman bearing the fetus. If that's what you mean, say it explicitly and also take over all of the costs involved in the birth and life of that fetus, too. Oh, you won't? I didn't think so.
  3. Well, maybe... if the preaching tells followers to go out and kill gays or blacks or immigrants because they're members of those groups, yes, those are hate crimes and the preachers should be considered accessories to the crimes. The problem, again, is to use "biblical" and "truths" in the same sentence together. Their anwers should prove very interesting in that regard.

from an internet email, 01.18.2007:

"Something not to laugh about...

The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday Morning Commentary:

I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are: Christmas trees.

It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, "Merry Christmas" to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu . If people want a crèche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution, and I don't like it being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship Nick and Jessica and we aren't allowed to worship God as we understand Him?

I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too.

But there are a lot of us who are wondering where Nick and Jessica came from and where the America we knew went to.

In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it's not funny, it's intended to get you thinking.

Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her "How could God let something like this Happen?" (regarding Katrina)

Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said, "I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives.

And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?"

In light of recent events...terrorists attack, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found recently) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK.

Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about and we said OK.

Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.

Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with "WE REAP WHAT WE SOW."

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell.

Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says.

Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail and they spread like wildfire but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing.

Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

Are you laughing?

Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it.

Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.

Pass it on if you think it has merit. If not then just discard it... no one will know you did. But, if you discard this thought process, don't sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in

Just a few problems with that, please?
  • First, Ben Stein didn't write it. See the bottom of the page of this link.
  • Second, imnsho, if you look around the world today, there are more problems, hatred, anger, wars and unhappiness caused directly by religion than prevented by it. I was raised in the era before "under God" was added to the United States' Pledge of Allegiance --- the same era that many staunch and ultra-conservatives point to as the time when "dad brought home the pay, mom stayed home and raised the kids and the kids respected teachers," etc, etc, etc. Adding "under God" to the Pledge did NOT, as so many accuse or believe, do anything to change or delay any of the problems that the alleged Ben Stein quote above complained about!
  • Third, all this crap about "prayer in schools" is just that... crap. Any kid who wants to pray in school or on the bus on the way to school or home is free to do so and nobody should stop them. What's wrong is when anyone says that time from the school curriculum should be set aside for prayer. Those hours are paid for by all of us, including atheists. Nobody should have the right to direct where that time is used, other than for education. Prayer is not "education." Sorry, it's not. If anything, all of the terrible things listed above happened because parents stopped teaching kids how to behave and respect others' opinions and beliefs, not the opposite.
Get over it. Cope with it. But don't point the blame where it doesn't belong.

Let's see if I understand how America works lately . . .

If your teen-age son kills himself, you blame the rock 'n' roll music or musician he liked.

If you smoke three packs a day for 40 years and die of lung cancer, your family blames the tobacco company.

If your daughter gets pregnant by the football captain you blame the school for poor sex education.

If your neighbor crashes into a tree while driving home drunk, you blame the bartender.

If your cousin gets AIDS because the needle he used to shoot up with heroin was dirty, you blame the government for not providing clean ones.

If your grandchildren are brats without manners, you blame television.

If your friend is shot by a deranged madman, you blame the gun manufacturer.

And if a crazed person breaks into the cockpit and tries to kill the pilots at 35,000 feet, and the passengers kill him instead, the mother of the deceased blames the airline.

I must have lived too long to understand the world as it is anymore. So if I die while my old, wrinkled ass is parked in front of this computer, I want you to blame Bill Gates, OK?

Also check out Your Bill of No Rights

Originally posted 06.17.2001: I predict the predictions found at this link will not come to pass: http://home.att.net/~armageddon_watch/armagedon.html [error 404]

Update: 05.28.2004: That page has disappeared from the World Wide Web.... out of embarrassment?

Ah, it may have been moved here... http://www.waynegreen.com/wayne/badnews.html [ROTFLOL, btw...]

So far, by the way....(12.21.2004), so good, on that prediction....
So far, by the way....(08.18.2006), so good, on that prediction....
So far, by the way....(09.19.2007), so good, on that prediction....

September 19 (2nd Coming of Christ) "... just before they can announce which day is the "day that no man knows the day or the hour," (Matthew 24) when the first crescent of the moon is visible they are killed and lie in the streets for 3 ½ days. However on the Feast of Trumpets, 3 ½ days later Christ will descend "with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the Trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first."

... Nope

October 1, 2001 (2nd Coming of Christ) "You've probably heard it said over and over by many prophecy gurus that no one can know the exact times, the day nor hour, the year etc. because our calendar could be up to 50 years off base. They are lying, and they are lying to hedge their poor date setting and total lack of discernment. Or they are just plain ignorant."

... Nope

2003: (Nuclear Holocaust) "One-half second before midnight strikes on April the 14th in the year 2003, Israel time ( 2 pm on Sunday afternoon M.S.T.), the doomsgate will open. No man knoweth the day nor the hour. Is midnight the 12th hour of Sunday or the 1st hour of Monday?"

... Nope

2003: (Nuclear Holocaust) "Atomic, Nuclear judgment comes upon the USA, Canada, European Union, and Japan. The whole earth supports image of mystery Babylon = the UN/New World Order supports mystery Babylon = Revelation 13:1 with the beast government rising from the sea which is the peoples, nations; supporting mystery Babylon. Supporting information for consideration. "


Did you make any money betting on these "2003" predictions being winners....

Take a look at this site, too....

Starting in 1997 the earth's warming trend, steming [sic] from her core, will be noticed and is a general topic of conversation. This is when you should prepare for self sufficiency in a safe location.

Minor problem here... it ain't happening, and by the way, Carbon DIOXIDE isn't the major problem [i.e., internal combustion engines...], it's METHANE, byproduct, to a large degree, of cows. Expelling gas. Yeah, really. And the loonies are beating our cars into bicycles. Duh.

Starting in 2000, three years prior to the cataclysms, a period of crop shortages will be so severe that alternative food production needs to be begun and practiced in earnest. This is when you should become practiced at self sufficiency.

Sure, except Russia and China where they are creating so much wheat that imports from US farmers won't be needed.... much to the dismay of the subsidized farmers in the USA. Shortages? Sure: in dictator-run and communist countries in Africa, plus Cuba.

I missed one really good one on the same site:

"Sometime after May 15, 2003, the earth's rotation will slow within days and stop for several days just prior to the pole shift. This is when you and your loved ones should be situated at your safe location."

Just for the information of the science-challenged amongst you, if the earth stopped rotating that quickly, the energy of rotation would have to be dissipated within those few days. If that could happen, the energy transformed from rotation to heat would vaporize the entire earth. It won't happen; and it can't happen. Although there are some valid hypotheses about the earth's magnetic field reversing itself periodically. One major effect would be that magnetic compasses wouldn't work the same way as they do today. That's not exactly something that will destroy civilizations.....

If this were even possible, which it isn't, there wouldn't be any safe places on earth to go to, whether the poles were to shift the next day or not.
Do the math, get a life. The site should be called "Troubled Minds," not Troubled Times... and, if the Earth is vaporized from the heat of its rotation stopping, would you please explain where you'll put your "safe location"? The Moon? duh!

These "scientific" predictions are complete rubbish.

Bush Starts Off by Defying the Constitution 
The very first act of the new Bush administration was to have a Protestant 
Evangelist minister officially dedicate the inauguration to Jesus Christ, 
who he declared to be "our savior." Invoking "the Father, the Son, the 
Lord Jesus Christ" and "the Holy Spirit," Billy Graham's son, the man 
selected by President George W. Bush to bless his presidency, excluded 
the tens of millions of Americans who are Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, 
Shintoists, Unitarians, agnostics and atheists from his blessing by his 
particularistic and parochial language.   The plain message conveyed by 
the new administration is that George W. Bush's America is a Christian nation,
and that non-Christians are welcome into the tent so long as they agree
to accept their status as a tolerated minority rather than as fully
equal citizens. In effect, Bush is saying: "This is our home, and in our
home we pray to Jesus as our savior. If you want to be a guest in our
home, you must accept the way we pray." 
 But the United States is neither a
Christian nation nor the exclusive home of any particular religious
group. Non-Christians are not guests. We are as much hosts as any
Mayflower-descendant Protestant. It is our home as well as theirs. And
in a home with so many owners, there can be no official sectarian
prayer. That is what the 1st Amendment is all about, and the first act
by the new administration was in defiance of our Constitution. 
 This was surely not the first time in our
long history that Jesus has been invoked at an official governmental
assembly. But we are a different and more religiously diverse nation
than we were in years past. There are now many more Muslims, Jews,
Buddhists and others who do not accept Jesus as their savior. It is
permissible in the U.S. to reject any particular theology. Indeed, that
is part of our glorious diversity. What is not acceptable is for a
presidential inauguration to exclude millions of citizens from its
opening ceremony by dedicating it to a particular religious "savior." 
 Our first president, George Washington,
wrote to the tiny Jewish community in Rhode Island that in this new
nation, we will no longer speak of mere "toleration," because toleration
implies that minorities enjoy their inherent rights "by the indulgence"
of the majority. President Bush should read that letter and show it to
the Rev. Franklin Graham, who told the media on the day before the
inauguration that his prayer "will be for unity"; instead, it was for
the Trinity. Uniting for Jesus may be Graham's definition of unity, but
it is as un-American as if a rabbi giving the official prayer had prayed
for the arrival of the "true Messiah," thus insulting the millions of
Christians who believe Jesus is the true Messiah. 
 Inaugurations are not the appropriate
setting for theological proclamations of who is, and who is not, the
true Messiah. Perhaps at Bob Jones University it is appropriate for an
honorary degree recipient to declare Jesus to be the only king of the
United States, but the steps of the Capitol should not be confused with
the lectern of a denominational church. The inauguration ended with another
Protestant minister inviting all who agree that Jesus is "the Christ" to
say, "Amen" (ironically, a word that originated in Jewish prayer or,
alternatively, originally a Jewish acronym for "God, the King,
forever.") Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), along with many others who
do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah, was put in the position of
either denying his own faith or remaining silent while others around him
all said, "Amen." This is precisely the position in which young public
school students are placed when "voluntary" prayer is conducted at
school events. If they join in prayer that is inconsistent with their
religious beliefs, they have been coerced into violating their
conscience. If they leave or refuse to join, they stand out as different
among their peers. No student should be put in that position by their
public schools at an assembly, just as no public official should be
placed in that situation by their government at an inauguration. 
 If George W. Bush wants all Americans to
accept him as their president, he made an inauspicious beginning by
sandwiching his unity speech between two divisive, sectarian and
inappropriate prayers. 
- - - 
Alan M. Dershowitz Is a Professor at Harvard Law School

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