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Religion & State: The Less Mixed the Better

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Virginia Anglicans Persecution Baptists in the 1780s

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Robert Heinlein wrote that, “Almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so.” His words are quite relevant and in a way consistent with the desires of the founders of the United States.

Since I am still getting readjusted to life back in the states after my very nice trip in Germany where I was mostly off the grid I will just share a few thoughts. They are not really original to me, but they are born of reflection on the palpable political anger of the politicians, pundits and preachers of the political-religious movement that I refer to as the “Christian Right.”

In order to be clearly understood it is important for my readers to understand that I am not lumping all “conservative Christians” into the political Christian right. In fact some conservative Christian traditions and their followers are diametrically opposed to the political theology of the Christian Right, which has as its heart the theology of Christian Dominionism, something I have written about many times. This is a modernized understanding of political Calvinism, which has sometimes known as “Seven-Mountain” theology, as such I make a profound distinction between such groups and the political movement which calls itself the Christian Right and assumes that as such it speaks for all conservative Christians.

Gary North, a prominent ideologue of the movement who has advised many of the current Christian Right leaders of the Republican Party, and whose ideas are widely promulgated by the politicians, pundits and preachers of the Christian Right was quite clear in what this movement desires. “The long-term goal of Christians in politics should be to gain exclusive control over the franchise. Those who refuse to submit publicly to the eternal sanctions of God by submitting to His Church’s public marks of the covenant–baptism and holy communion–must be denied citizenship, just as they were in ancient Israel.” Thus, every time you hear the words “religious freedom” or “religious liberty” being uttered by them, please understand that they are talking about their religious liberty only, and that that liberty has at its heart the desire to establish their political-religious dogma as law of the land. Thomas Paine, the author of the amazing little book “Common Sense” which was so much a part of the thought of our founders noted, “Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law.”

Robert Ingersoll, one of this first prominent skeptics in this country and acknowledged atheists wrote something quite profound in understanding the nature of what our founders intended and why there were protections both for and from religion in the Constitution:

“They knew that to put God in the constitution was to put man out. They knew that the recognition of a Deity would be seized upon by fanatics and zealots as a pretext for destroying the liberty of thought. They knew the terrible history of the church too well to place in her keeping or in the keeping of her God the sacred rights of man. They intended that all should have the right to worship or not to worship that our laws should make no distinction on account of creed. They intended to found and frame a government for man and for man alone. They wished to preserve the individuality of all to prevent the few from governing the many and the many from persecuting and destroying the few.”

Ingersoll correctly reflected the thoughts of Jefferson, Madison, Adams and even George Washington as well as early Virginia Baptist John Leland, and other pioneers of religious liberty like Roger Williams, the founder of the colony of Rhode Island.

According to every scientifically based survey of Christians and non-Christian attitudes toward the church and its religious involvement show that ever-increasing numbers of Christians are fleeing the church. Likewise, increasing numbers of non-Christians want nothing to do with it, even if they are favorably disposed to Jesus and his teachings.

In light of this fact, maybe it is time for Christians to get off their high-horse expecting that they should hold the rights to the political franchise and remember the words of James Madison who said, “Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.”

Have a great night,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Heaven, Hell, Homosexuals & Kim Davis: The Pandora’s Box of Political Religion

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Kim Davis Greeting Supporters (above) Her Pastor Below

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World

Kim Davis, the recalcitrant County Clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky has now decided that the reason that she cannot issue marriage licenses to Gays is that it is a heaven or hell decision, in other words, if she complies with the court order she will quite possibly go to hell. Actually as a theologian and historian I find this fascinating, and regardless of what happens next in this sorry saga, we must remember the words of Captain Jean Luc Picard “But she, or someone like her, will always be with us. Waiting for the right climate in which to flourish, spreading fear in the name of righteousness….”

Davis, who was elected to the office last November, following her mother who held the office for the 37 years prior, makes $80,000 a year to serve as the Country Clerk and one of her big duties is issuing marriage licenses to citizens of the county. The only problem is that Marriage Equality is the law and gays are entitled to the full rights of all citizens based on a Supreme Court ruling which said that based on the 14th Amendment that Gays, like all other American Citizens were legally entitled to the same rights as all other citizens. Likewise it appealed to the Civil Rights Act of 1965. By refusing the recalcitrant County Clerk of Rowan County Kentucky is in violation of the law. However, because she is an elected official she cannot be fired. She can only be impeached by a state legislature whose members need the votes of her supporters in the state. 

Mrs. Davis is an Apostolic Pentecostal Christian. Her Church, Morehead First Apostolic Church belongs to the United Pentecostal Church International. This denomination is one of the early Pentecostal denominations in the United States, founded in 1905 during the Pentecostal Awakening. It split from another Pentecostal denomination, the Assemblies of God over the issue of the Godhead. The United Pentecostals reject the traditional understanding of Trinitarian Christianity. Their theology is Monotheistic and they interpret the references to Father, Son and Holy as modes in which God reveals himself. In other words, God was the Father, and then the Son, and then the Holy Spirit.

According to mainstream Christianity since the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. the theology of the United Pentecostals was considered heretical, by all Eastern and Western branches of Christianity. This means, and I hate to be a theological hard ass here, but technically, they are not Christian, because they worship a different God. Now personally, I am not such a hard ass and believe that God forgives a lot of bad theology, even my own; but the United Pentecostals don’t, and here is where it gets really interesting.

The United Pentecostal Church believes that in order for a person to be “saved” that they must first repent of their sins. No problem there, I think repentance is a good thing. Next one must be baptized, and here is where it gets tricky. If you are not baptized “In Jesus’ Name” your baptism doesn’t count. Sorry all you folks that were baptized “in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” you may have repented but you are not saved and yes you are heading for that eternal vacation on the Lake of Fire, so don’t forget your asbestos water skis.

But that’s not all my friends; to Kim Davis and the United Pentecostals you must also be baptized in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of Speaking in Tongues. If not, by their doctrine you are going to hell, and don’t forget to go to bathroom first because it is “damnation without relief” and if you do not go it will be a very uncomfortable eternity. But wait there’s still more…. Even if you a member of these churches, like Kim Davis is and you make it through those first three gates, you can still go to hell; you have to Persevere to the End, that means that she must wear those frumpy clothes, no makeup or jewelry, and avoid doing sinful things and that is kind of tricky because there are so many ways to screw up. No wonder she is afraid of going to hell for doing the duties required by the law.

I find it fascinating that Mrs. Davis and her supporters are so hell bent on making sure that homosexuals cannot get married, or enjoy the same rights as other citizens and condemn homosexuals all to hell based on their interpretation of the Bible. Interestingly enough many of her big supporters are Trinitarian Evangelicals and other Conservative Christians, who by doctrine Kim Davis and the United Pentecostal Church does not consider Christians.

This is the fascinating part. Her biggest defenders and her lawyers are all Trinitarian Christians who Kim Davis and her church believe are going to hell, at least which is what their doctrine says, and these wonderful Trinitarian Christians are so full of animosity to homosexuals that they will defend a person who believes that they too are going to hell with those horrible homosexuals. Imagine, if Kim Davis and her church are right, Mat Staver, lawyer from Liberty Counsel will be sunning himself on the banks of the Lake of Fire with the homosexual that he so loathes, and I hope he takes some tanning oil. The irony is rich, but I digress….

You see this is the problem when you decide to let theologically and historically ignorant religious fanatics run government. But that is the morass that conservative Christians in the United States have created for themselves. Ever since the 1970s when Jerry Falwell began the charge the situation has got increasingly stickier with every passing year. Odd alliances are made by groups who all believe that they have to only way to salvation and that all others are going to hell. The problem is that this alliance cannot hold. Should the Religious Right ever get control they will start persecuting each other in the areas that they are strongest, because it is an alliance of convenience and in their hearts they despise each other almost as much as they do the gays. It will Balkanize and fracture our society beyond belief; but then who cares so long as our religion wins.

Robert Heinlien observed, “Almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so.” That is what Davis and her backers want, if they cannot stop the law they want legal authority to disobey it while getting paid to administer it as government officials.

Is it no wonder that James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and others of our founding fathers were so adamant about separating church and state? Madison said why this is so necessary, “The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.” And why Conservative Atheist Christopher Hitchens remarked “How dismal it is to see present day Americans yearning for the very orthodoxy that their country was founded to escape.”

Mrs. Davis can hold whatever religious views that she desires, and she can chose to worship the God of her choice and take her chances on landing in hell or heaven. However, her duties as an officer of the government require her to carry out the law. If she cannot carry out the law her choice is to resign. She has no right to be paid by the government and then substitute her religious beliefs for law she is to carry out, and thereby sabotage the law, which is meant for all citizens. Since she is unlikely to resign, cannot be fired, and most likely will not be impeached, there is no remedy for the citizens of Rowan County, none of who are able to get a marriage license. It reminds me of the days when White officials in the South defied Congress and the Courts to defend Jim Crow Laws in the 1959s and 1960s. 

Let’s turn this around for a second and put Mrs. Davis standing at the counter trying to get a marriage license following one of her three divorces. Imagine how Mrs. Davis would have felt if some hard-assed Trinitarian Catholic Christian denied her application for a marriage license due to her three divorces, and his belief that divorce was a mortal sin and that to issue a marriage license violated his religious beliefs.

That my friends is the path that Mrs. Davis and her supporters are taking us down. It is the path where a personal belief trumps the law, and one’s duty as an officer of the government to carry out that law.

Mrs. Davis needs to resign, or face the consequences. She will be considered a martyr for a cause by people who she, if she actually believes the teachings of her church, are going to go to hell alongside of the homosexuals that they are defending her from. I love that irony, and since Davis and many of her supporters would probably beleive that I am going to be damned for my support of the civil rights of Gays then I will have to agree with Captain Jean Luc Picard who once said “If we’re going to be damned, let’s be damned for what we really are.”

Make it so…

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Hatred in the Name of God: The Ultimate Trump Card

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Atticus Finch, the hero of the book and film To Kill a Mockingbird said: 

“Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of (another)… There are just some kind of men who – who’re so busy worrying about the next world they’ve never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results.”

Eric Hoffer wrote that “Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents. Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a god, but never without a belief in a devil.” We like to believe that religion is a benign or positive influence in the world. As much as I want to believe the positive aspects I have to admit based on the historical and sociological evidence that this is not so, especially during unsettled times of great change. We live in such an era and when it comes to identity and supremacy, God is the ultimate trump card and hatred in the name of God is something that many religious groups and people specialize.

This has been especially true in the lead up to the Obergfell v. Hodges case that was argued at the Supreme Court regarding Gay marriage. The religious opponents of Gay marriage, in particular conservative Christians have many times resorted to the most unmitigated hatred masked in insipidly shallow theology to condemn the gays and anyone that supports them. Of course the final argument they posit is that God will punish the United States for Gay marriage.

That is fascinating. God will punish the United States for Gay marriage but not for waging unjust, illegal and immoral wars? God will punish the United States for Gay marriage, but not for the way we treat the poor? God will punish the United States for Gay marriage, but not for unabashed materialistic greed that is so condemned throughout the Christian Bible? God will judge the United States for Gay marriage but not the extermination of Native Americans and the enslavement of African Americans? God will punish the United States for Gay marriage, but not the unmitigated quest for material wealth and power that so defines the most popular churches and pastors in the country? God will punish the United States for Gay Marriage but excuse everything else?

Truthfully I find it stunning that of all the things a supposedly vengeful and just God could punish us for, that Gay marriage is the tipping point. But such is the unhinged message of the preachers, pundits and politicians of the Christian Right who believe in a capricious “God” who coincidently just happens to hate the same people that they hate, which is very convenient. But then as Annie Lamott said: You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”

Of course they are not alone. In fact the most fanatical individuals and groups on earth are almost all tied to religions, whether it is the Islamic State and Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Hezbollah, Orthodox Jews, radical Hindus and Buddhists as well as militant Christians. Of course all of these groups have different goals, but their thought and philosophy are quite similar. The fact is that for all of the, God is their trump card. End of argument.

Robert Heinlein wrote:

“Almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so.”

Heinlein, author of the classic Starship Troopers was absolutely correct. Just look at any place in any time where any religion, sect or cult has gained control of a government. They are not loving, they are not forgiving and they use the police power of the state to persecute any individual or group that is judged to be in error, or even worse has the gall to question their authority.

Since the Christian groups tend to thrive in the West, they only speak in terms of violence, most, with the exception of Russian Orthodox Christians, do not have a government to translation of those words into action. Many, especially conservative Catholics and some Evangelical and Charismatic Protestants seem for a long for the day when they can assume control of a theocratic government.

Samuel Huntington wrote in his book The Clash of Civilizations:

“People do not live by reason alone. They cannot calculate and act rationally in pursuit of their self-interest until they define their self. Interest politics presupposes identity. In times of rapid social change established identities dissolve, the self must be redefined, and new identities created. For people facing the need to determine Who am I? Where do I belong? Religion provides compelling answers….In this process people rediscover or create new historical identities. Whatever universalist goals they may have, religions give people identity by positing a basic distinction between believers and non-believers, between a superior in-group and a different and inferior out-group.”

Huntington was right, you see the true believers, those who follow their religion without question and believe that it is superior to all others also believe that their religion entitles them to be atop the food chain, others who don’t believe like them be damned, if not in this life, the next. That is the certitude of the true believer, especially the religious one. Secular or atheistic fanatics could care less about the next life, for this life is all that they have. But the religious “true believers” are not only interested in destroying someone in this life, but ensuring that in the next that they suffer for eternity, unless they believe in the annihilation of the soul after death, which really spoils the whole Dante’s Inferno perspective of the damned in the afterlife.

Eric Hoffer wrote:

“The impression somehow prevails that the true believer, particularly the religious individual, is a humble person. The truth is the surrendering and humbling of the self breed pride and arrogance. The true believer is apt to see himself as one of the chosen, the salt of the earth, the light of the world, a prince disguised in meekness, who is destined to inherit the earth and the kingdom of heaven too. He who is not of his faith is evil; he who will not listen will perish.”

That is why they, the religious true believers of any faith are capable of such great evil, and why such people can murder innocents in the most brutal manner simply because they do not believe correctly.

Please do not get me wrong. I am a Christian, a priest, a historian and a theologian, but I also know just how insidious those who hold their religion over those of others can be. While I hold faith dear, I know that it can be abused for the claim of some to have God as their final authority is a sort of trump card with which they are able to justify the most obscene and evil acts against others.

One of my heroes of religious liberty is John Leland, a Baptist whose passionate defense of religious freedom prevented Virginia from re-establishing a state church after the American Revolution and whose influence was key in the decision of Madison and Jefferson to amend the Constitution with the Bill of Rights, particularly the First Amendment. In fact, late in life, well after his success in working with Madison and Jefferson Leland wrote:

“The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence; whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks [Muslims], Pagans and Christians. Test oaths and established creeds should be avoided as the worst of evils.”

Like Leland, I contend for more than tolerance and I contend for acceptance. But that acceptance ends when any person or group is willing to use their religion to enslave, murder, or otherwise dominate other people in the name of their God, not just in this life, but in the next. This is especially true of those who use the police power of the state to enforce their beliefs and hatred on others.  I will do whatever I can to expose them for what they are, regardless of the “faith” they supposedly represent.

I guess that is why I am even more frightened of religious true believers than non-religious true believers. While the non-religious true believer may sacrifice everything for the sake of power and control in this life, and may in fact commit the most heinous crimes against humanity, their hatred is bounded in space and time to this earth. The religious true believer is not content with that, their enemies must be damned and punished in this life, but for eternity, without hope of salvation.

That is why they are so dangerous for their hatred is unbounded by time, or space, it lasts for eternity, and eternity my friends is a very long time.

With that I wish you a good day and try to love someone.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Religion, Identity and Hate

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World

A second short article for the day. I actually have been working on it a few days and finally decided to post it even thug already posted an article earlier today.

Peace

Padre Steve+

Atticus Finch, the hero of  the book and film To Kill a Mockingbird said: 

“Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of (another)… There are just some kind of men who – who’re so busy worrying about the next world they’ve never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results.”

We like to believe that religion is a benign or positive influence in the world. As much as I want to believe the positive aspects I have to admit based on the historical and sociological evidence that this is not so, especially during unsettled times of great change. We live in such an era and when it comes to identity, God is the ultimate trump card.

If one wonders why the most fanatical individuals and groups on earth are tied to religions, whether it is the Islamic State and Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Hezbollah, Orthodox Jews, radical Hindus and Buddhists as well as militant Christians. Of course all of these groups have different goals, but their thought and philosophy are quite similar.

Robert Heinlein wrote:

“Almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so.”

Heinlein, author of the classic Starship Troopers was absolutely correct. Just look at any place in any time where any religion, sect or cult has gained control of a government. They are not loving, they are not forgiving and they use the police power of the state to persecute any individual or group that is judged to be in error, or even worse has the gall to question their authority.

Since the Christian groups tend to thrive in the West, they only speak in terms of violence, most, with the exception of Russian Orthodox Christians, do not have a government to translation of those words into action. Many, especially conservative Catholics and some Evangelical and Charismatic Protestants seem for a long for the day when they can assume control of a theocratic government.

Samuel Huntington wrote in his book The Clash of Civilizations:

“People do not live by reason alone. They cannot calculate and act rationally in pursuit of their self-interest until they define their self. Interest politics presupposes identity. In times of rapid social change established identities dissolve, the self must be redefined, and new identities created. For people facing the need to determine Who am I? Where do I belong? Religion provides compelling answers….In this process people rediscover or create new historical identities. Whatever universalist goals they may have, religions give people identity by positing a basic distinction between believers and non-believers, between a superior in-group and a different and inferior out-group.”

Huntington was right, you see the true believers, those who follow their religion without question and believe that it is superior to all others also believe that their religion entitles them to be atop the food chain, others who don’t believe like them be damned, if not in this life, the next. That is the certitude of the true believer, especially the religious one. Secular or atheistic fanatics could care less about the next life, for this life is all that they have. But the religious “true believers” are not only interested in destroying someone in this life, but ensuring that in the next that they suffer for eternity, unless they believe in the annihilation of the soul after death, which really spoils the whole Dante’s Inferno perspective of the damned in the afterlife.

Eric Hoffer wrote:

“The impression somehow prevails that the true believer, particularly the religious individual, is a humble person. The truth is the surrendering and humbling of the self breed pride and arrogance. The true believer is apt to see himself as one of the chosen, the salt of the earth, the light of the world, a prince disguised in meekness, who is destined to inherit the earth and the kingdom of heaven too. He who is not of his faith is evil; he who will not listen will perish.”

That is why they, the religious true believers of any faith are capable of such great evil, and why such people can murder innocents in the most brutal manner simply because they do not believe correctly.

Please do not get me wrong. I am a Christian, a priest, a historian and a theologian, but I also know just how insidious those who hold their religion over those of others can be. While I hold faith dear, I know that it can be abused for the claim of some to have God as their final authority is a sort of trump card with which they are able to justify the most obscene and evil acts against others.

One of my heroes of religious liberty is John Leland, a Baptist whose passionate defense of religious freedom prevented Virginia from re-establishing a state church after the American Revolution and whose influence was key in the decision of Madison and Jefferson to amend the Constitution with the Bill of Rights, particularly the First Amendment. In fact, late in life, well after his success in working with Madison and Jefferson Leland wrote:

“The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence; whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks [Muslims], Pagans and Christians. Test oaths and established creeds should be avoided as the worst of evils.”

Like Leland, I contend for more than tolerance and I contend for acceptance. But that acceptance ends when any person or group is willing to use their religion to enslave, murder, or otherwise dominate other people in the name of their God, not just in this life, but in the next. This is especially true of those who use the police power of the state to enforce their beliefs and hatred on others.  I will do whatever I can to expose them for what they are, irregardless of the “faith” they supposedly represent.

I guess that is why I am even more frightened of religious true believers than non-religious true believers. While the non-religious true believer may sacrifice everything for the sake of power and control in this life, and may in fact commit the most heinous crimes against humanity, their hatred is bounded in space and time to this earth. The religious true believer is not content with that, their enemies must be damned and punished in this life, but for eternity, without hope of salvation.

That is why they are so dangerous for their hatred is unbounded by time, or space, it lasts for eternity.

With that I wish you a good day.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

 

 

 

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