Faith on the Hill

A new study by the Pew Forum analyzing the religious affiliation of Congress shows American politicians overwhelmingly self-identify as religious. The study, which polled every member of Congress, found only one representative who identified as an atheist (although the individual in question, Rep. Pete Stark, is also a Unitarian, thus placing  him as religious in the poll results), and six members who refused to answer.

Most members of Congress identified as Christian (Protestant and Catholic), but there are representatives of all major world faiths, including Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism, but not Hinduism or Jehovah’s Witness.

The results compare the makeup of Congress to that of the American public at large, and generally finds things to be even, except in unaffiliated category. Judaism and Christianity are slightly overrepresented (Protestants by about 5%, Catholics by 6%, Jews by 5.5%), but other world religions are proportionally represented. Again, except in the case of those who are not religiously affiliated.

Why is that the case? While 20% of the American population claims to be non-religious, only one member of Congress is willing to identify himself as an atheist. You would think, given the location of many House districts, that it would be fairly easy for an open atheist to gain votes. Is atheism closeted in America? Since 1961, not a single member has self-identified as non-religious, and this during a time period in which Protestants in Congress have dropped by 17%.

It appears there is still a religious test of sorts for politicians in America. While I can imagine an urban House district electing an atheist, it would be all but impossible to do so in a state-wide election. In my state of Missouri, an atheist or agnostic (or anyone besides a Christian, to be honest) may find support in Columbia or St. Louis, but would find very little support in the Ozarks or the Bootheel.

And this leads to a much larger question: would any Christian readers have a problem voting for an avowed atheist? (As opposed to the many atheists we have voted for who pretended to be religious.) Imagine a candidate for Senate with whom you agreed politically, but not religiously. Could you vote for such a candidate? When you vote, do you seriously take into account a person’s religion or are other factors more important?

The Evil Twins of Our Age

In a beautiful op-ed by Dr. Alveda C. King (neice of Martin Luther King, Jr.),  abortion and racism are described as evil twins, born of the same lie. You have to read this.

Abortion and racism are evil twins, born of the same lie. Where racism now hides its face in public, abortion is accomplishing the goals of which racism only once dreamed. Together, abortionists are destroying humanity at large and the black community in particular.

Abortion has taken a gruesome toll on the black community, killing more than AIDS and crime combined. Some 14 million black babies have been aborted since the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in all stages in all 50 states. That’s equal to one-third of the number of blacks living today.

Thomas Jefferson on Centralized Power

Since we (in the U.S.) will be celebrating our Independence Day this week, I thought it would be nice, as well as helpful, to post some comments by the Founders on government. The first is Thomas Jefferson.

What has destroyed liberty and the rights of man in every government which has ever existed under the sun? The generalizing and concentrating all cares and powers into one body, no matter whether of the autocrats of Russia or France, or of the aristocrats of a Venetian Senate. And I do believe that if the Almighty has not decreed that man shall never be free (and it is blasphemy to believe it), that the secret will be found to be in the making himself the depository of the powers respecting himself, so far as he is competent to them, and delegating only what is beyond his competence by a synthetical process, to higher and higher orders of functionaries, so as to trust fewer and fewer powers in proportion as the trustees become more and more oligarchical.
Jefferson to Joseph C. Cabell, 1816. ME 14:421

When all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.
Jefferson to Charles Hammond, 1821. ME 15:332

Rick Warren's Invocation

Rick Warren provided an unlikely invocation during President Obama’s inauguration today.  Following this summer’s posts on Christian prayers in the public sphere, I’d like to know what others think about the prayer.  He clearly did not bow to public pressure from just about every corner to “lighten” the prayer and not pray it in Jesus’ name.

I think he did an admirable job, clearly knowing a good portion of the people there were not interested in what he had to say, but nevertheless being unafraid to speak the truth.  Opponents of Warren may have something to say about his theology or methods, but you can’t say anything about this guy’s courage.  He prayed what needed to be prayed.

Here is the video of the prayer:

And the text:

Let us pray.

Almighty God, our father, everything we see and everything we can’t see exists because of you alone. It all comes from you, it all belongs to you. It all exists for your glory. History is your story.

The Scripture tells us Hear, oh Israel, the Lord is our God; the Lord is one. And you are the compassionate and merciful one. And you are loving to everyone you have made.

Now today we rejoice not only in America’s peaceful transfer of power for the 44th time. We celebrate a hinge-point of history with the inauguration of our first African-American president of the United States.

We are so grateful to live in this land, a land of unequaled possibility, where the son of an African immigrant can rise to the highest level of our leadership.

And we know today that Dr. King and a great cloud of witnesses are shouting in Heaven.

Give to our new president, Barack Obama, the wisdom to lead us with humility, the courage to lead us with integrity, the compassion to lead us with generosity. Bless and protect him, his family, Vice President Biden, the Cabinet, and every one of our freely elected leaders.

Help us, oh God, to remember that we are Americans, united not by race or religion or blood, but to our commitment to freedom and justice for all.

When we focus on ourselves, when we fight each other, when we forget you, forgive us. When we presume that our greatness and our prosperity is ours alone, forgive us. When we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the Earth with the respect that they deserve, forgive us.

And as we face these difficult days ahead, may we have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches, and civility in our attitudes, even when we differ.

Help us to share, to serve and to seek the common good of all.

May all people of good will today join together to work for a more just, a more healthy and a more prosperous nation and a peaceful planet. And may we never forget that one day all nations and all people will stand accountable before you.

We now commit our new president and his wife, Michelle, and his daughters, Malia and Sasha, into your loving care.

I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life, Yeshua, Isa, Jesus, Jesus (hay-SOOS), who taught us to pray, Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.

Amen.

Archbishop Tutu on Obama's Election

Desmond Tutu, archbishop emeritus, on Barack Obama:

Obama’s election has given hope to people everywhere that change is possible, that this debilitating status quo of a polarized world of “them” and “us” can change. People the world over want the U.S. to take its rightful place as leader in the commonwealth of nations. They want to see a U.S. without the arrogant unilateralism that led to the disastrous Iraq invasion, to the rejection of the Kyoto Protocol and the refusal to sign the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court. All this left the world resenting a bullyboy U.S.

The world now expects the new President to close down that abomination, Guantánamo Bay; to bring viable initiatives for peace in the Middle East; to bolster a good Bush project, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR); to take real notice of Africa and other developing parts of our global village.

Today, those who want to end the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance, those who want to promote justice, peace and greater tolerance among different faiths are celebrating because Barack Obama is the new President of the United States.

From Time.com

Why the Obama Antichrist Email is Important

Since I first posted on the email saying the Bible teaches Barack Obama is the anti-Christ, I’ve received a number of emails and a few comments suggesting that I am any number of unmentionable things, including a racist anti-Christ.  Not once did I actually ever say I believed Sen. Obama is the anti-Christ (unless you count sarcasm), but people’s perceptions about my hidden intent made them believe I was saying just that.  In fact, even after making it clear I do not believe the email, people still wrote to me claiming I did believe it “in my heart.”

So why do I keep subjecting myself to this?  Aside from the humor of it (and don’t get me wrong, I find it amusing to no end), is there any reason to even bring up this crap?  I mean, it seems to be doing nothing other than getting people mad.  Well, I believe there is a purpose to posting on these emails, and it has everything to do with the Gospel.

First, it’s important because people actually believe this stuff.  I still know some co-workers who are against Obama because he won’t put his hand over his heart when the national anthem is playing, or he was sworn into the Senate with a Koran.  Even after pointing out, with proof, that it’s not true, these people still persist in believing he’s some kind of secret Muslim terrorist.

For some reason, and I really don’t know if I completely understand it, when some people get an email that confirms their suspicions, they hold onto that belief despite any and all evidence to the contrary.  So, these lies need to be brought into the light and mocked.  I suppose I’m contradicting myself, because I know they probably won’t change their minds, but the more absurd we can make these lies, the better.

I’m not telling people to support Obama, but if you’re going to be against him, be against him for what he actually does believe, not some lie you read in an email.  And the same goes for Sen. McCain.

Second, and perhaps the most serious, pointing out this email is important because someone, in the name of Christianity, is lying.  This email, and many others like it, are bald faced lies.  I don’t know the author, so it could be someone pulling a prank; I’ve often thought of making up an email about a supposed threat, just to see how long it takes to get back to me.  But assuming it isn’t, some person out there sat down at their computer and composed an email full of lies for the express purpose of defaming a man’s character (to say nothing of connecting it to an innocent man, Dr. John Tisdale).  This is serious stuff, and if I were the one doing it, my church would probably have something to say to me about it.

Finally, I find it important to bring up this email and mock it because it advances unbiblical teachings.  I have never tried to be a discernment blogger, nor do I think I’m smart enough to be one, but the crap in this email purporting to be biblical truth needs to be pointed out for what it is.  I don’t know of a single respected dispensationalist who teaches what is found in this email.  I know there’s a rich history of “discovering who the anti-Christ really is”, but not in serious academic circles.  If this is really what is being taught in some churches, then it is a sad commentary on the state of Christianity.

So, I bring up and mock this email, not because I’m a McCain supporter (I’m not), or because I’m a racist in the KKK (I’m not and I don’t even know where they would meet or how you would sign up), nor because I am the anti-Christ myself (I don’t think someone can accept Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God and be anti-Christ) but because it’s full of crap and needs to be made fun of.