Category archives: Religion & Culture

That “Muslim World” Formulation

by Robert Morrison

February 10, 2009

President Obama gave his first interview to the Al Arabiya television network. He talked of a new U.S. effort to reach out to “the Muslim world.” He’s hardly the first one to use that phrase. Think tank director John Esposito of Georgetown University regularly speaks of the Muslim world.

Question: What would be the reaction from the pundits and the talking heads if the President spoke of the U.S. reaching out to Christendom? That word used to describe the collection of countries in which Christianity predominated. You can well imagine. He would be denounced immediately as a theocrat. The very idea of Christian countries offends the cultured despisers of religion. Or, at least it offends the despisers of some religions.

When I hear Western leaders and intellectuals speaking of the Muslim world, I’m reminded of the late Meg Greenfield’s comments at the time the American hostages were being held in Iran. Some of her fellow liberals were so eager to see things from the other fellow’s point of view, she wrote in Newsweek, that if they were missionaries stewing in a pot, they would try to see the situation from their captors’ perspective.

I miss Meg Greenfield’s commonsensical liberalism. I doubt that anyone would have complained if the President had spoken of reaching out to Muslim friends in the Middle East, in South Asia. Or seeking to repair relations with majority-Muslim nations. But when we concede that there is something called a Muslim world, are we not at the same time conceding that there is a region of the world in which Christians and Jews may not go, may not live peaceably, must suffer dhimmi status if they survive at all?

George W. Bush was often accused of wearing his Christianity on his sleeve. He certainly didn’t wear it on his flight jacket. President Bush invited the king of Saudi Arabia to his Texas ranch. There, he was photographed walking hand in hand with King Abdullah.

I confess I prefer the photo of President Franklin D. Roosevelt on board the USS Quincy back in 1945. There, the commander-in-chief sits with Saudi Arabia’s legendary founder, King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud. The two men look serious, but restrained. The pose is formal, dignified, and correct. There’s no gush. No obeisance. No apologies. Maybe that’s why no one thought of throwing a shoe at FDR.

FDR on USS Quincy

We do need a new relationship. We should speak candidly to the Arab states and to those Muslim-majority nations where some claim to be offended by American conduct. We should tell them of our own happy experience with religious liberty. When George Washington wrote to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport in 1790, he said America must be a land where all enjoyed civil liberty and legal equality. He prayed to God and cited the Hebrew Scriptures: “Let each sit under his own vine and fig tree and let there be none to make him afraid.” This bold statement, regrettably, has not always been true in America. Still, it is true that the government of the United States, in the timeless words of George Washington, “gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.” Where in those regions where Islam predominates can this be said to be true—either in history, or today?

The Bells of Britain

by Robert Morrison

February 9, 2009

My wife and I took our teenage children to London ten years ago. We tried to get in to Westminster Abbey for Easter sunrise service, but England’s ancient church was filled to overflowing. So we darted in to the smaller, more accommodating St. Margaret’s Chapel next door. Following a powerful resurrection sermon, we stepped out to be greeted by the booming bells of the Abbey. We could not hear the vicar’s Easter greeting for the din. We could not hear one another’s voices as the pealing of the Abbey bells was so thunderous. With a motion of my head, our family trooped off, marching a mile away before we could speak and be heard.

Those bells are the voice of Britain’s past. In 1940, they were silenced by order of Prime Minister Winston Churchill. With the daily threat of German invasion, no church bells sounded in the island fortress for three years. Church bells ringing during the Battle of Britain would have signaled Hitler’s landing. Only with the defeat of Rommel’s Afrika Korps at El Alamein in November, 1942-where “the glint of victory” reflected off their soldiers’ helmets-did the church bells of Britain joyfully ring forth.

Britain’s Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali returned to that theme of church bells during his recent visit to Washington. The Pakistani-born prelate was asked whether Muslim muezzins should be permitted to call the faithful to prayer in British cities. “Certainly,” the Anglican leader said, “as soon as church bells ring out in Mecca.” Bishop Nazir-Ali came to sound an alarm-but for a different kind of invasion. He said Britain’s national existence is menaced by a cringing Establishment. Britain is a Christian culture supported by centuries of English law. Both of these elements are being undermined by a quiet surrender to the demands of political correctness and relentless Muslim pressure.

Should Britain expel the Muslims already there? Should Britain cut off future Muslim immigration? No, the Bishop replied. As Christians, Britons have a duty to welcome the alien, a duty to show him hospitality and not contempt.

The European Union is all for human rights,” he said, “but they are unwilling to say where human rights come from.” They come, he maintains, from the Judeo-Christian ethic. Jews and Christians believe that we are made in the image and likeness of God. Thus, we are endowed with our fundamental human dignity. It is from this source, and not from the Koran, that we derive our laws.

To Bishop Nazir-Ali, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s acceptance of Muslim shari’ah law probably reflects the opinion of the Britain’s deracinated elites, the Establishment. Nazir-Ali said that many times, Muslim women who are coerced into so-called cousin marriages plead for help from the police. In their distress, they are handed over to Muslim police officers, who simply return them to the very families that threaten them with death. “All people in Britain must have access to British law,” Nazir-Ali firmly said.

London is now the center of international Muslim investment, fueled by petro-dollars. The power of that moneyed interest is driving many government decisions.

There is something else at work here. The secularists in Britain and Europe can give no reason why humans should have rights. They cannot say that one culture recognizes human dignity and another crushes it. Their cringing before Muslim threats only encourages more concession. Already, there are vast areas of British and European cities where the police fear to go.

In lands where Islam has predominated, the status of Christians and Jews has been clear for centuries. They are tolerated at best, but subordinated. They are called dhimmis. This Arabic word is often translated as “second-class citizen,” but it is hardly that. It is best understood as a caste system to which the dhimmis are consigned-and to which they are forced to consent. In this caste system, dhimmis are forever marked with the badges of servitude-legal and spiritual inferiority.

The very enlightened secularists of Britain, Europe and the U.S. still hold nominal power. Increasingly, however, they use that power to give way, to salaam, before the daily growing power of their demanding guests. While holding temporary sway, these cringing elitists can best be described as dhimmicrats-empowered only to be impotent.

Listening to Bishop Nazir-Ali-who has received death threats for his fearless Christian witness-you have to wonder why the rest of the Church of England clergy are not standing up and speaking out—or at least ringing their church bells.

Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast

by Constance Mackey

February 5, 2009

I listened this morning to President Obama as he addressed the National Prayer Breakfast. I was filled with awe. Not because of his smooth delivery or his gracious style.  Rather, that his style so completely belies what his motives are.  This president is the most pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, anti-life movement president in the history of the United States, and oh by the way, very likeable as he glides through with his wrecking ball on life and marriage issues.  When he refers to the fact that religion should not divide people, does any thinking person doubt that he is speaking of abortion and marriage policies?

This president seems so completely owned - not just politically, but mentally as well - by the liberal philosophies which are drummed into students’ brains on college campuses, that he has the audacity to tell a Prayer Breakfast audience that he will change the Faith-Based Offices from faith-based to faith-based plus non-faith-based groups. What might some of those be? Perhaps, Planned Parenthood because they have done such “fine work” in the community? 

He can get away with diminishing the purpose of the faith based offices with Americans who are not familiar with the ways of politicians, but this writer sees right through to his intent. His gleaming smile cannot hide the giant wrecking ball he wields.  He has begun the dismantling of the protection of marriage (because standing up to the gay attack on Christians and their beliefs is “divisive”), he has voted against protecting human life in and out of the womb (because to defend the voiceless is “divisive”) and he will put in place those people and those organizations who know just how to do it (read bios here.)

Sadly, he is popular enough to attend a national prayer breakfast and deliver a speech that carried more criticism of religion than the worth of it.  I know that by blurring the tenets of all religions he was sending a message of hope to radical Muslims who have pledged to kill those who disagree with them.  Oddly, I get the feeling he was sending the same message to those of us who would stand and defend the unborn and who would demand that the sacrament of marriage be left alone.

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.

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