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July 20, 2007

Comments

Considering the apparent number of secularists in Congress and the probability that this has been a trend for a number of years, I believe that prayer as sentiment has been why our elected leaders have acquiesed to its continuation up to now.

"But it is not because they think the prayer actually accomplishes anything. I think that's what's really disturbing about the Buddhist invited to pray at the Senate."

Plus the pluralism practiced is only ankle-deep. Where is the witch prayer? How about a Jehovah's witness? The Scientologist? If we're going to get tolerant we should really show what America's made of when showing off our right to religious persuit.

As for our leaders not taking prayers seriously, that's another great credit to our political system...our leaders are as unbelieving about prayer as the people they represent. Revival starts on the ground not from politicians.

I know there was a Hindu who led the Senate prayer, but was there a Buddhist too? Or did you mean to say a Hindu?

Here is the Wikipedia entry on HINDU chaplain Rajan Zed; as near as I can tell, no Buddhist has ever performed this task:

"Zed was the first chaplain asked to read a Hindu prayer to the Nevada Assembly on March 19, 2007[3] and then the Nevada Senate on May 7, 2007.[4] On July 12, 2007 he became the first Hindu to deliver the invocation, or opening prayer, of the United States Senate.[5] On July 12, 2007 he spoke before the US Senate to recite the morning invocation, the first Hindu to do so, but was interrupted initially by three protesters Ante Nedlko Pavkovic, Katherine Lynn Pavkovic and Christan Renee Sugar.[5]. They were members of an anti-abortion organization Operation Rescue/Operation Save America.[6] The protesters shouted "Lord Jesus, forgive us father for allowing a prayer of the wicked, which is an abomination in your sight" and other similar statements after being removed from the floor by the Sergeant at Arms. Zed then continued his opening prayer successfully."

Here is his prayer:

"Let us pray. We meditate on the transcendental Glory of the Deity Supreme, who is inside the heart of the Earth, inside the life of the sky, and inside the soul of the Heaven. May He stimulate and illuminate our minds.

Lead us from the unreal to the real, from darkness to light, and from death to immortality. May we be protected together. May we be nourished together. May we work together with great vigor. May our study be enlightening. May no obstacle arise between us.

May the Senators strive constantly to serve the welfare of the world, performing their duties with the welfare of others always in mind, because by devotion to selfless work one attains the supreme goal of life. May they work carefully and wisely, guided by compassion and without thought for themselves.

United your resolve, united your hearts, may your spirits be as one, that you may long dwell in unity and concord.

Peace, peace, peace be unto all. Lord, we ask You to comfort the family of former First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson. Amen."

Here is information about the three Christianist protesters who had to be removed:

http://electioncentral.tpmcafe.com/blog/electioncentral/2007/jul/12/head_of_christian_right_group_calls_hindu_senate_invocation_gross_idolatry

"After all, it's a historical fact that our government is founded on Judeo-Christian principles."

I believe democracy is a Greek thing, the concept of a republic and the "separation of powers" as an organizing principle is Roman, and habeas corpus is English. Paul seems to be referring to Rome when writing about the rule of law in Romans 13.

Our government was founded by Christians who drew from many (including Pagan) sources in putting the Constitution together. There are many Classical, as well as other historical references in the Federalist papers but, I don't believe, any from the Bible. George Washington modeled his public career on the pagan Roman Consul Cincinnatus.

BTW, had the original post been linked to sources (a common blogging practice) the error would likely have been caught before posting.

I wish this term 'Christianist' would be explained to me. I have never heard anyone who is a follower of Christ refering to themselves by such a term.

Mo,

Good luck there. I've posted that question on this blog before but haven't received an answer. Maybe it is intended to be an insult or a label, I don't know.

The term "christianist" was coined by Andrew Sullivan (see http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1191826,00.htmlSo)
(Or google "christianist Andrew Sullivan:)

"Let me suggest that we take back the word Christian while giving the religious right a new adjective: Christianist. Christianity, in this view, is simply a faith. Christianism is an ideology, politics, an ism. The distinction between Christian and Christianist echoes the distinction we make between Muslim and Islamist. Muslims are those who follow Islam. Islamists are those who want to wield Islam as a political force and conflate state and mosque. Not all Islamists are violent. Only a tiny few are terrorists. And I should underline that the term Christianist is in no way designed to label people on the religious right as favoring any violence at all. I mean merely by the term Christianist the view that religious faith is so important that it must also have a precise political agenda. It is the belief that religion dictates politics and that politics should dictate the laws for everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike."

Hi Karen, fair quote, thanks. The term certainly applies to the three protesters.

The definition of "Christianist" is so stupid that I can't believe anyone can use the word with a straight face. Do you not realize that Christianity is by its very nature political. As Christians, we are called to conform every aspect of our lives to Christ's standards, and there is no room for a sacred/secular divide.

Anyone who can use this term with a straight face does nothing more than show their complete ignorance of Christianity, or of the highly political nature of its claims and commands.

With a stupid term like this, an attempt to separate "Christianists" from the "true Christians" essentially says that we can believe anything we want so long as we don't follow those beliefs to their logical end. That we shouldn't let our beliefs inform our politics, for example; that would be bad. Never mind that by not conforming our political views to the Christian standard we're being disobedient. I'm sure God will understand.

You're ignorant of the nature of Christianity, and so is any Christian who is gullible enough to actually believe this "real Christianity is apolitical" crap. Note I say Christian, as I don't feel the need to give them a derogatory label or say they can't be "true Christians" just because they are wrong on this matter. Horribly, harmfully wrong, but not heretical. Just ignorant.

Can the religious left be called christianist too?

"Can the religious left be called christianist too?"

No, we call them self-refuting.

Hi Derek and Doug, were the Framers wrong to include Article VI in our constitution?

'Christianist' as shown by the quote given by Karen A., is used here as a derogatory term. And by his use of it, Sullivan shows his apparent ignorance of both Christianity and Islam.

***
He says:
'Muslims are those who follow Islam. Islamists are those who want to wield Islam as a political force and conflate state and mosque.'

I don't know what he thinks Christianity actually is, but as for Islam, that's exactly what it is and does. Islam is a political and legal force in all the countries where it is the dominant religion. No other religions are even legal in such places. The penalty for conversion is punishment and even death. And it's not an empty threat. It is carried out.

Now, you show me anything comparable regarding Christianity in this day and age - anywhere in the world.

And we'll be waiting a long time, because it does not exist.

This argument is brought up CONSTANTLY. And it's based in nothing.

Hi Mo, read Derek's and Doug's posts. Derek's could have been written by Osama bin Laden.

I did read both posts again. As to Doug's, I agree, since the 'Christian left's' position on just about everything is contrary to what Scripture teaches. Call it whatever you like, it is not Biblical Christianiy.

As to Derek's (longer) post, I find nothing objectionable in it.

Nowhere in his post does he claim that Christianity commands or condones violence against unbelievers. Nor does Christianity ever teach those things.

Your attempt to compare Christianity to Islam, (especially as practiced by Osama bin Laden and those like him) have no basis. Christianity and Islam are not comparable, never have been, never will be. How do we know this? By 1) the foundational teachings of each one and to a lesser degree, 2) by the actions of those who adhere to each religion. (Assuming said adherents are actually following what their religion teaches, and not doing something contrary to it.)

So you can continue saying such things all you want. There's nothing to back it up. Nothing.

We are in an area where confusion enters in easily.
1) Paul wasn't making a case for or against a 'Roman only'form of government. He was making the point that government is used by God to maintain order in a general way. The scripture says God turns the heart of kings(rulers) according to His will; God is in ultimate control.
2) I assume you are referring to the ,"no religious test" requirement in the last paragraph of Article VI.? As atheism/Darwinism 'colors' to one degree or another the culture today, even my rejection of his theory as an origins explanation is colored by his theory, I am forced to " give a defense ", if you will. So Calvinism of one degree or another 'colored' the culture of our founders day, even those like Paine had to tailor their theism to counter the overall world view of the day. The point is that the term religion meant denomination in the time of our founders. They were countering the fact that certain of the independent states at the time had official state denominations. Virginia's official religion was The Church of England. BTW, that carried over post ratification. The National Government had very limited jurisdiction in the states.
3) Our founders were very astute historians, it is true, but whether pagan Rome guided his theology and thus his life is very dubious. In the late 1890's, there were 14 personal prayers of Washington's discovered and verified as being his handwriting. They were never intended by him to be published. I've read six of them, there is nothing remotely pagan or Roman in them. He may or may not have used some examples from various historical figures of the past, but I doubt he would be referring to pagan religions in the main, in the VIth article. I believe it was Jefferson who stated that we must take our definitions from the circumstances closest to the original writings.
5) Now to the present. One of our founders was a Muslim and fought on the side of the colonists. There was also a small Buddhist presence at the time. So there is no warrant to assume that our founders weren't familiar with other world views, and a case might be able to made for the religious test meaning any religion, I just don't know for sure.
6) This is probably the most important of all. It involves the study of the specific theologies of the various faiths. Like it or not, Christianity is incompatible with any theory of past, present and future, especially eternity.
John 14:6 states that Jesus is the only way. No matter what your faith is, it depends on that statement. Other faiths depend on Jesus not being who and what He says He, Christians depend on Him being who and what He says He is. So no matter what you believe, it still depends on Him, there is no middle ground. The hard cold fact is, is that Jesus would call that Hindu prayer,' vain babbling '.
Please understand that I'm not making a case that Christianity is true or false here, I'm merely pointing out what ' The Bible ' says. One thing I can say for Muslims, they believe their 'book' more fervently than most Christians believe the Bible.
7) Here I am making a case for Christianity, my life is changed beyond explanation. We can debate many issues in the field of apologetics, but the change in my life is beyond debate. In my life, a) Jesus is exactly who He said He is. b) He continues to be and do what He said He would and c) He can and will impact others lives as He has mine. You are free to explain it away if you wish, but I am not. I've been bought with a price and I am His bond servant now. On this Rock I stand.

Thank you, Mo. You said pretty much what I would have said, and probably did a better job.

Alan is right about one thing -- both Osama and I could say the same thing about our religions, if we're taking them seriously, having political ramifications. Many things have political ramifications, though, so complaining about my statement on that ground is meaningless.

No, one has to look at the specific effects belief, if taken seriously, would have on an individual's life. In Islam, we see commands for hostile takeovers, cruel and unusual punishments, and death to unbelievers. In Christianity we have a high respect for law(except specific cases in which we would be made to sin), punishments that fit the crime, respect for fellow humans(even those we disagree with) as God's image-bearers, and a desire for honest, unforced conversion of nonbelievers.

Mo is right. The two religions are completely incomparable in any way that truly matters. Osama and I could say the same words, but the meaning behind our statements would be vastly different due to the differences in our religions.

Derek, I have heard the line of thinking so often, I could probably recite it in my sleep.

Now, if it's from someone who hates religion pretty much equally, that's one thing. I can deal with that. (Again the solution is looking at what a religion specifically teaches. People truly are under the impression that they all just teach people to be 'good' and to be nice to each other.)

What gets me is that it's like pulling teach to get some of these same folks to say a word about the problems being caused by the religion of Islam.

I can't tell you how many times I've brought up the latest news story regarding Islamic terrorism, and people will not even touch on that. Immediately the focus is put on those 'Christian extremists' or the 'all religions can cause evil' argument.

Here's a religion in the news almost every day, who's adherents are involved in everything from kidnapping to bombing to beheading, and these people don't say a word. (But if you say that, they get offended and say, 'Of course I'm upset about Islamic terrorism!' Yet it takes practically a point-blank asking to get them to say a word about it on their own.)

Mention anything about Christianity (or sometimes just religion in general) and all the anger comes out.

That's what baffles me.

Oh, for an edit key!

It should be WHOSE, not WHO'S.

Ugh!

"Alan is right about one thing -- both Osama and I could say the same thing about our religions, if we're taking them seriously, having political ramifications. Many things have political ramifications, though, so complaining about my statement on that ground is meaningless."

Thanks Derek, that was my point and we agree. Where we disagree, no doubt, is where your POV takes the United States.

Mo, the problem isn't, IMHO, which religion but traditional societies confronting modernity. Hitchens was dead wrong about religion, it is tradition and social conservatism that makes your form of Christianity and Osama's the same after we strip away the theological irrelevancies (important qualification: I'm referring to the point at issue, I'm not making a statement here about ultimate truths); it is those impulses that constitutes the poison that flows through human history.

Hi Tim, on the road, but you made some points that need to be answered more fully.

Hi Alan,
As always, I look forward to talking with you. Also, I have some questions in an unrelated area I would like your take on.
Stay safe.

Alan: "Thanks Derek, that was my point and we agree. Where we disagree, no doubt, is where your POV takes the United States."

Yes, we do. You speak of Christianity as if it is comparable to Islam in ways that it simply is not, showing you are ignorant of both religions and the claims that their Scriptures make about the institution of government, the value of human life, and a number of other things.

Alan: "Hitchens was dead wrong about religion, it is tradition and social conservatism that makes your form of Christianity and Osama's the same after we strip away the theological irrelevancies . . ."

You are certainly free to believe this, but you can't back up your assertions. At least not without taking both Christian and Islamic scriptures out of context to make your points. The truth of the matter is that our different scriptures teach very different things about the value of human life, how we as adherents are to interact with our government, and a number of other things.

I'm not entirely sure what you mean by "theological irrelevancies" either. If you mean those things that are not practical advice and direct commands in our scriptures, then if you strip those away you still end up with entirely different sets of practical commands that would lead to completely different outcomes when applied to society at large. To assert otherwise only shows that you are completely ignorant of the scriptures of both religions and have no idea what you're talking about.

Even if this wasn't the case, it's an incredibly stupid qualifier. Adherents of Islam and Christianity who take their religion seriously do not strip away the "theological irrelevancies" when they approach politics. They do not act in a theological void. It is completely useless to posit that "if X which has never and will never be the case were the case, then Y would be the result."

I'd like to know what you consider to be a "theological irrelevancy," though. I've studied Christianity for a while, so I have some understanding that theological ideas that on the surface may not seem to influence much can, upon deeper understanding, be shown to have profound effects on how one thinks and acts. After seeing you on this blog for a while, I don't expect you to understand that. Still, I'd like to know what you find irrelevant. I'm sure it'll be good for a laugh, if nothing else.

I praise God that I can boldly come before the throne of grace and receive mercy in my time of need. He hears our petitions and answers prayer (though not always in ways we have in mind). You are right - more often than not prayer in public settings like these are little more than a nod to God or should we say gods? Yikes.

Alan,

I've read your final comment several times and am not quite clear on what you mean. It seems you are still holding Christianity and Islam as comparable in some way. If that's still your point, then Derek's next comment addresses that,and I have gone as far as I can go.

(But I did read your comment several times and I wasn't quite sure what you were trying to say. If you were making a different point, then I apologize. Maybe your final comments with tim will make it clear exactly what you meant. Darn that real life that keeps us from being online 24/7!)

MO,

Alan means he prefers the liberal spin as oppose to the conservative spin to Christianity. That's what makes his world comfortable. Vanity, vanity! All is vanity!

"Christianity, in this view, is simply a faith"

What does this mean, 'simply a faith'?

It's simply the high tone, matter of fact, pseudo-intellectualism those of the liberal persuasion express when they want to belittle the opponents view point. He also meant that Christianity would be held as a religious belief without any philosophical, ideological or political inferences.

"When a potpourri of religious leaders are invited to lead the opening prayer, it demonstrates that our culture in general doesn't think prayer actually does anything real anymore."

I wonder where they got that idea? Maybe trial and error?

Marc, I will have to let Alan speak for himself.

To the point you bring up, however, let me just say this. There is no conservative vs. liberal 'spin' on Christianity. Christianity stands on its own. Any religion or teaching with the label 'Christian' on it that deviates from what Scripture clearly teaches is not Christianity at all.

"Any religion or teaching with the label 'Christian' on it that deviates from what Scripture clearly teaches is not Christianity at all."

Well, I label myself "Christian" and I deviate from scripture sometimes. Strictly speaking only humans are offered to be "Christian" but it's fair to also use the label to identify things we belief would be harmonious with Christ's actions.

For this reason it doesn't bother me at all to say that Hollywood is "anti-Christian" and that Focus on the Family is "Christian". Pat Robertson? I don't know. Tony Campolo? I don't know. Jimmy Carter's politics? NO. His Habitat for Humanity? Sure.

I could also use the "christian" label to point to political parties, where one party can definitely take on more Christ-like attributes than another even though Jesus clearly wasn't a politician. The Nazi Party acts less Christian than the American Constitution party. Ayn Rand is more Christian than Communists but probably less Christian than other parties.

On many issues I find a Mormon like Mitt Romney to be more "Christian" than a Baptist like "Al Gore" (I'm thinking of the Life stances of each right now).

So saying things better or closer embody Christ's principles is different than saying the scriptures endorse a political party as an official Christian institution.

I know I could be wrong about divining what Christ might think of today's politics but I don't think I could be as wrong as Alan about any of this.

That was the point I was making in phrasing it that way and ending with Ecclesiastes 1. Everything is meaningless apart from the Truth found in Scripture and in His creation. One is in error "stuffing" the bits of gospel into their own comfortable worldview to suit themselves. This is the age old sin of Man: I have the Knowledge Lord not thee.

But surely if God has the Knowledge and he has chosen to share it with us in the Bible, and if he has commanded us to subdue the world, to take charge of "our garden" as responsible managers, and surely if God found the condition of the enslaved Jews unjust, that this same God cares about how we conduct ourselves in the public discourse.

If one CHristian's vote could determine if a government operated like Stalin's Gulag or Reagan's Morning in America doesn't a Christian have a duty to vote one way or the other? Are all governments equal in the mind of God since he doesn't serve Republicans or Democrats...or Nazis?

I think God cares about our works and deeds, including which party we vote for.

"If one CHristian's vote could determine if a government operated like Stalin's Gulag or Reagan's Morning in America doesn't a Christian have a duty to vote one way or the other?"

I shouldn't, when I owe Mo an answer, but how can one resist? Later for the rest but doug begs the question. The real problem is how does one discern just what one is voting for, as the voting usually precedes the result. In the case before us the criteria (Christian, born again, plain spoken, etc.) were obviously insufficient. What does one do when it becomes clear that one can't tell the difference between that "Morning" and the gulag? Or, put another way, can the frog ever figure out the water is getting too warm?

"I've read your final comment several times and am not quite clear on what you mean. It seems you are still holding Christianity and Islam as comparable in some way."

Hi Mo, not the core religions but some of the folks who identify themselves as one or the other. In the end a Christianist society would likely be as oppressive as an Islamist one.

"In the end a Christianist society would likely be as oppressive as an Islamist one."

How did you arrive at this conclusion?

Look at Islam in action today, look at how it is implemented in Africa and the Middle East today.

Take a read of the book Because They Hate and you'll get a clear idea of how life changed in Lebanon when the adherents of Isalm decided to take charge.

There's a reason that men in Islamic countries wear beards or as close to a beard as they are able to grow. They get punished otherwise and likewise for women wearing a burhka and those are simple things.

Alan,

John has beat me to it and replied with the question I would have brought up.

Part 1 - How do you come to the conclusion that an Islamic and 'Christianist' society would be equally oppressive?

***

Part 2 - I used the word Christianist because you did. But as I've said before, it's not a term I hear often, nor has it ever been specifically defined for me. As far as I'm concerned, there is no such thing.

It is simply a derogatory term used to refer to followers of Christ, but it's not one that they would use of themselves. Nor is it used any Christian tradition that I'm aware of.

I don't know if you are of another religion, or none at all. But you don't see me referring to you by any ugly or misleading names, nor have I seen it done to you by others here. It would be nice to have that same courtesy returned.

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