Archive for the ‘American Theocracy’ Category


Why Is Christian America Supporting Donald Trump?

John Fea teaches American history at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. He is the author of the new book, Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump (Eerdmans Publishing, June 2018).

 

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A week ago Sunday, June 24, 2018, First Baptist Church of Dallas held its annual “Freedom Sunday.” The church website described the special service this way: “Celebrate our freedom as Americans and our freedom in Christ with patriotic worship and a special message from Dr. Robert Jeffress, “America is a Christian Nation.”

Not everyone in Dallas was happy about it. Robert Wilonsky, an opinion writer at the Dallas Morning News, wrote that Jeffress and the First Baptist Church were “divisive” for claiming that America was a Christian nation. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings agreed. Atheists protested. Eventually, the billboard company contracting with the church removed signs advertising Freedom Sunday.

This, of course, did not stop the service from going forward. The people of First Baptist Church spent the morning of the 24th waving American flags, wearing red, white, and blue shirts, singing the Star-Spangled Banner, and celebrating the United States military. Vice-president Mike Pence sent a letter of encouragement.

Was this a religious service or a celebration of nationalism? What was the object of the congregation’s worship?

Jeffress has been preaching his “America is a Christian Nation” sermon for a long time. On Sunday he stuck with his usual script. He indicted the “secularists, atheists, and infidels” for “perverting” the Constitution. He chided the federal government’s failure to acknowledge God in the public square. He told his congregation that academics, historians, and teachers have been lying to them about the religious roots of the United States.

Jeffress made one problematic historical reference after another. He made the wildly exaggerated claim that fifty-two of the original fifty-five signers of the Constitution were “orthodox conservative Christians.” He peddled the false notion that the disestablishment clause in the First Amendment was meant to apply solely to Protestant denominations.

Near the end of the sermon, Jeffress suggested that spikes in violence, illegitimate births, divorce, and low SAT scores in America are the direct product of the Supreme Court’s decision to remove prayer and Bible-reading from public schools.

Jeffress concluded the service with an altar call. He asked people to come to the front of the church and profess their faith in Jesus Christ. I am sure Jeffress was sincere in his desire to lead people to Jesus, but after his message it was unclear whether he was inviting them to accept Jesus Christ as Savior or embrace the idea that the United States was founded, and continues to be, a Christian nation. Maybe both.

***

Robert Jeffress is best known as a Fox News religion commentator and one of the first evangelical leaders to support Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy. He has called Trump “the most faith-friendly president in history.”

Within two weeks following the announcement of his candidacy, several polls had Trump leading among white evangelical GOP voters. In November 2016, 81% of these evangelicals cast their vote for Donald Trump for President of the United States. The reasons for this are complex, and we probably need to wait a generation or two before historians can begin to make sense of them, but three young sociologists have published a scholarly essay that suggests the most plausible explanation.

Andrew Whitehead of Clemson University, Sam Perry of the University of Oklahoma, and Joseph O. Baker of East Tennessee State University argue that “the more someone believed the United States is—and should be—a Christian nation, the more likely they were to vote for Trump.” They conclude that “no other religious factor influenced support for or against Trump.”

These sociologists found that the average Trump voter believes the federal government should: declare the United States a Christian nation, advocate for Christian values, oppose the “strict separation of church and state,” allow the “display of religious symbols in public spaces,” and return prayer to public schools. Likewise, Trump voters believe that whatever success the United States has had over the years is “part of God’s plan.”

This essay is revealing, and it confirms much of what I have written about since the 2011 release of my Was American Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction. But it does not address why and how Americans have come to believe these things. The answer to that question invites us to think historically.

Ever since the founding of the republic, a significant number of Americans have supposed that the United States is exceptional because it has a special place in God’s unfolding plan for the world. Since the early 17th century founding of the Massachusetts Bay colony by Puritans, evangelicals have relished in their perceived status as God’s new Israel—His chosen people. America, they argued, is in a covenant relationship with God. The defenders of this idea like to apply Chronicles 7:14 to the United States: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Though dissenters have always been present, the Christian culture of the United States remained intact well into the 20th century. But since World War II, the moorings of this culture have loosened, and evangelicals have responded with fear that their Christian nation is about to collapse. Robert Jeffress is correct about this.

During the 1960s, the Supreme Court removed prayer and Bible reading from public schools, the federal government cut federal funding to Christian academies and colleges that practiced segregation, the country grew more diverse through immigration, and the sexual revolution threatened evangelical patriarchy and gave women the right to choose to have an abortion.

The fear that America’s Christian civilization was falling apart translated into political action. In the late 1970s, conservative evangelicals such as Jerry Falwell, Tim LaHaye (the author of the popular Left Behind novels), and a group of politicians who had been closely affiliated with the 1964 Barry Goldwater presidential campaign, developed a political playbook to win back the culture from the forces of secularization. Most of the 81% of American evangelicals who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 understood, and continue to understand, the relationship between their faith and their politics through this playbook.

This playbook, which would eventual become the culture-war battle plan of the “Religious Right,” was tweaked occasionally over the years to address whatever moral issues seemed most important at the time, but it never lost its focus on “restoring,” “renewing,” and “reclaiming” America for Christ through the pursuit of political power.

When executed properly, the playbook teaches evangelicals to elect the right President and members of Congress who will pass laws privileging evangelical Christian views of the world. These elected officials will then appoint and confirm conservative Supreme Court justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade, defend life in the womb, and uphold religious liberty for those who believe in traditional views of marriage.

The playbook rests firmly on the Religious Right’s understanding of American identity as rooted in its view of the American past. If America was not founded as a Christian nation, the Religious Right’s political agenda collapses or, at the very least, is weakened severely.

To indoctrinate its followers in the dubious claim that America was founded as a Christian nation, the Religious Right has turned to political activists, many of whom claim to be historians, to propagate the idea that the founding fathers of the United States were in the business of building a Christian nation.

The most prominent of these Christian nationalist purveyors of the past is David Barton, the founder of Wallbuilders, an organization in Aledo, Texas that claims to be “dedicated to presenting America’s forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on the moral, religious, and constitutional foundation on which America was built—a foundation which, in recent years, has been seriously attacked and undermined.” Barton and Wallbuilders were the source of most of the historical information Jeffress presented in his Freedom Sunday sermon on June 24th.

For the past thirty years, Barton has provided pastors and conservative politicians with inaccurate or misinterpreted facts used to fuel the Religious Right’s nostalgic longings for an American Christian golden age. American historians, including those who teach at the most conservative Christian colleges, have debunked Barton’s use of the past, but he continues to maintain a large following in the evangelical community.

David Barton peddles fake news about the American past. Yet, if Andrew Whitehead, Sam Perry, and Joseph Baker are correct, his work is essential to the success of the Trump presidency in a way that I imagine even Donald Trump and his staff do not fully understand or appreciate.

Trump does not talk very much about America’s supposedly Christian origins. His grasp of history is not very strong. But his evangelical supporters see him as a gift of God—a divinely appointed figure who has emerged on the scene for such a time as this. He is in the White House to preserve God’s covenant with America, to make America Christian again.

The support for the President is a sign of intellectual laziness in the evangelical community. Rather than thinking creatively about how to move forward in hope, Trump evangelicals prefer to respond to cultural change by trying to reclaim a Christian world that is rapidly disappearing, has little chance of ever coming back, and may never have existed in the first place.

The American founding fathers lived in a world that was very different from our own. In the eighteenth century and into the nineteenth century, America was a nation of Christians—mostly Protestants—who put their stamp on the culture.

Yet, amid this Christian culture, the founders differed about the relationship between Christianity and their new nation. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison defended the separation of church and state. John Adams and George Washington also opposed mixing church and state, while at the same time suggesting that Christians, because Christianity taught an ethic of selflessness, could be useful in the creation of a virtuous republic in which citizens sacrificed self-interest for the common good.

The founding fathers believed in God, but most of them did not believe that God inspired the Old and New Testaments or sent His son to die and rise from the dead as the ultimate payment for human sin. The God of the Declaration of Independence is a providential deity who created the world and the people in it, but there is nothing in this important American document that defines this God in terms of the Incarnation or the Trinity.

The United States Constitution never mentions God or Christianity but does forbid religious tests for office. The First Amendment rejects a state-sponsored church and celebrates the free-exercise of religion. This is hardly the kind of stuff by which Christian nations are made. Yet Barton and Jeffress invoke these founders and these documents to defend the idea that the United States was founded as a distinctly Christian nation.

***

If the Christian Right, and by extension the 81% of evangelical voters who use its political playbook, are operating on such a weak historical foundation, why doesn’t someone correct their faulty views and dubious claims?

We do.

We have.

But countering bad history with good history is not as easy as it sounds. David Barton and his fellow Christian nationalist purveyors of the past are well-funded by Christian conservatives who know that the views of the past they are peddling serve their political agenda. Barton has demonized Christian intellectuals and historians as sheep in wolves’ clothing. They may call themselves Christians on Sunday morning, but, according to Barton, their “world view” has been shaped by the secular universities where they earned their Ph.Ds. Thanks to Barton, many conservative evangelicals do not trust academic and professional historians—even academic and professional historians with whom they share a pew on Sunday mornings.

I know this first-hand from some of the negative emails and course evaluation forms I received after teaching a Sunday School course on the history of religion and politics at the Evangelical Free Church congregation where my family worship every Sunday. Because I was a college history professor—even a college history professor at a Christian college with strong evangelical roots—I could not be trusted.

What David Barton does not understand is that there are hundreds of evangelical historians who see their work as part of their Christian identity and vocation. These historians are women and men who pursue truth about the past wherever it leads. This pursuit of truth is a deeply Christian pursuit, as is the case with all efforts to distinguish truth from error.

When people like David Barton cherry-pick from the past to promote political agendas, they do a disservice to the past, fail to treat it with integrity, and ultimately harm their Christian witness in the world. They make evangelicals look foolish. This is not what Paul described in 1 Corinthians 1:18 as the “foolishness of the cross,” it is just good old-fashioned foolishness. It is a product of what evangelical historian Mark Noll has described as the “Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”

Many of us engaged in trying to bring good history to the evangelical church need the support of Christians who are concerned about the direction Donald Trump, the Christian Right, and the pseudo-historians who prop-up their political agenda are trying to take the country and the church. Good history is complex. It is nuanced. And it is an essential part of truly worshipping God with our minds (Luke 10:27). Unfortunately, complexity, nuance, and intellectual discipleship are not the kinds of subjects that inspire Christians to dig into their pocketbooks.

What would it take to fund evangelical historians to travel to receptive churches around the country and spend some concentrated time teaching American religious history, and American history more broadly, to lay men and women? Perhaps such visits could also include times of worship and prayer?

It is unlikely that such an effort would reach the Robert Jeffress’ of the world. but there are many evangelicals who are open and willing to listen and learn. This was another lesson I took away from my Sunday School class. In fact, the criticism I received paled in comparison with the positive comments I got from those who had never heard a fellow evangelical offer a different, more accurate, view of American history.

American evangelical political engagement is built on a very weak historical foundation. It is time that Christian philanthropists, motivated by an entrepreneurial spirit informed by the pursuit of truth and a concern for the testimony of the Gospel in the world, take the long view and invest in responsible Christian thinking about the American past. The American republic, and more importantly, the witness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, depends on it.

 

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Dispelling Christian Nation Myths
by Ed Brayton

In the comments on a previous post there has been a conversation about separation of church and state and the Christian Nation myth that is worth moving up here to its own post. All comments in blockquotes are from commenter James Goswick, coupled with my responses.

Then why did the framers allow prayer in schools and themselves pray in Jesus’ name? Obviously, modern separation doctrine is wrong.

They didn’t allow prayer in schools; they had nothing at all to do with public schools at the time. The establishment clause did not originally apply to the states at all. The states were even free to have official churches and many of them did. That changed with the passage of the 14th amendment.

How could the framers design a secular govt. when the States mandated Christianity for office holders:

Because they were designing a federal government, which had almost no power over the state governments at the time. The federal government was explicitly secular and religious tests for office were specifically forbidden at the federal level.

Modern separation is wrong. TJ himself said modern separation is wrong.

No he didn’t. There are two separate questions here: how the establishment clause should be interpreted and whether it should be applied to the states or only to the federal government. At the time it was applied only to the federal government. But Jefferson’s interpretation of the establishment clause was pretty much identical to the modern judicial interpretation. He was opposed to all government endorsement or support for religion, even when entirely non-coercive and merely suggestive.

The framers believed in separation as a national church ruling the state as in the Church of England. That is the context. Now, it’s all whacked out. TJ left States to establish whatever religion they wanted.

And for the second time, that changed with the 14th amendment, which applied the Bill of Rights to the states. You see, constitutions can be amended. And those amendments change reality.

If adminstrators lead prayer, it was mandated until the 1961 SC decision.

1963, actually. And again, the federal constitution had nothing to do with what state-funded public schools could and couldn’t do until after 1868.

None of the States had state religions. The point is all Christian sects were equal–others were not. If the federal laws contradict TJ’s et al. words, they are wrong, and the Supreme Law of the Land (the Constitution) has been subverted–which it has.

Actually, many of the states had state religions at the time. The letters between Jefferson and the Danbury Baptists was all about the fact that Connecticut had an established church — Congregationalist. Virginia was officially Anglican until Jefferson and Madison led the fight to disestablish the church with the Act for Establishing Religious Freedom. Massachusetts was officially Puritan. Only Rhode Island lacked an official church originally. After the passage of the Virginia act, which formed the basis for the First Amendment, the states disestablished their state churches one by one, the last one (Massachusetts) being removed in 1833.

The very fact you brought this up proves my point. The founding fathers executed homosexuals, which proves the bill of rights did not protect them.

And as wingnuts always do, you continue to ignore the 14th amendment as though it didn’t exist.

It is the founding fathers you are opposing, which they said you weren’t supposed to do. The Constitution is only to be amended not contrary to Christianity. They set up the Christian nation, not me.

Please provide a single provision of the U.S. Constitution that establishes a Christian nation. Your ancestral wingnuts at the time were opposed to the passage of the Constitution precisely because it didn’t do that. They railed against the ban on religious tests and the lack of a declaration of belief in God in the document, claiming that this would bring down the wrath of God on the nation. They tried and failed to amend those things in the state ratification conventions and they tried and failed more than a dozen times to pass amendments over the course of the next hundred years to do the same thing. Then suddenly, in the early 20th century, the argument changed. After a century of arguing that the Constitution was a godless document that had to be amended to make us officially Christian and avoid the wrath of God, they suddenly started arguing that it was intended to be a Christian nation all along.

The Father of the 14th Amendment, Sen. Bingham from Ohio, makes it clear in the ratification debates, the 14th referred only to giving rights to slaves. How its applied now is disgraceful–flying in the face of TJ’s “religion is left to the States.”

This is false. Bingham repeatedly said during the debates over the amendment that the purpose was to apply the first 8 amendments in the Bill of Rights to the states. On Feb. 27, 1866, he said that the amendment was intended to “arm the Congress … with the power to enforce this bill of rights as it stands in the Constitution today.” In a similar statement he said that the amendment would “arm Congress with the power to … punish all violations by State Officers of the bill of rights.” More importantly, the language of the amendment is clear. It was not limited to former slaves, it was much broader. It says that “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” Those privileges and immunities were those found in the Bill of Rights.

I then added another comment:

Yeah, this notion that religious freedom is a Biblical idea simply couldn’t be any more ridiculous. How many times are slaughters justified in the Bible because the targets of the attack worship different gods? There isn’t a single verse in the Bible that even suggests the concept of religious freedom. And it was the long history of officially Christian governments destroying religious freedom, including in the original colonies, that prompted the push to disestablish the churches and forbid the federal government from establishing Christianity. This is what Jefferson was talking about when he wrote:

Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned: yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.

And one thing I forgot to add to my previous comment was that the notion that the only thing the Establishment Clause was intended to prevent was the official establishment of a national church is clearly contradicted by history. During the debates over the Bill of Rights, Congress considered and rejected several alternate wordings for the religion clauses of the First Amendment that would have done exactly that. Here’s one:

Congress shall not make any law, infringing the rights of conscience or establishing any Religious Sect or Society.

Here’s another:

Congress shall make no law establishing any particular denomination of religion in preference to another, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, nor shall the rights of conscience be infringed.

Here’s a third:

Congress shall make no law establishing one religious sect or society in preference to others.

If they had wanted only to prohibit the official establishment of a specific sect or denomination, they could have done so but they voted such wordings down in favor of the much broader one that was ultimately ratified, which forbids any even “respecting” an establishment of religion.

There were disagreements over the exact requirements and boundaries of that prohibition, of course, but none of the men involved believed that it only prevented the official establishment of a specific denomination. There was famously a split between the first four presidents. Washington and Adams believed that the government could give rhetorical support to religion in general (not to Christianity specifically; they always used broader theistic language) as long as it was non-coercive and they issued many proclamations of thanksgiving and urging people to fast and pray. Jefferson and Madison argued forcefully that the First Amendment forbid the federal government from saying anything at all on the subject, even if it was merely rhetorical and suggestive. Madison, the man in charge of actually writing the First Amendment, believed that it even forbid the military from having chaplains unless they were paid for by the churches rather than the government (a position not taken even by the ACLU today).

And a third round:

Ed, since the Bible was mandatory reading to promote religion in schools, do you have proof the Founding Fathers prohibited prayer?

I didn’t say they prohibited prayer. I didn’t say anything like that. I said they didn’t have anything to do with the subject. Because the First Amendment didn’t apply to the states and the federal government had nothing to do with public schools at the time, what public schools at the time did or didn’t do has no bearing at all on how the First Amendment should be interpreted (which, again, is a separate question from whether it should be applied to state and local government actions — interpretation and application are distinct issues that you insist on combing).

And incorrectly so as you yourself claim, “The establishment clause did not originally apply to the states at all. The states were even free to have official churches and many of them did.”

WTF are you talking about? You do realize that later amendments supercede the previous text, don’t you? The 14th amendment is obviously not in line with what the founding fathers intended; that’s why it was necessary. If it had been consistent with what was originally intended, there would be no need to have the amendment. So no, the 14th amendment didn’t apply to the states “incorrectly” — it changed the nature of the Constitution and asserted the Bill of Rights as binding on the states as well as the federal government.

The framers prayed in Jesus’ name.

Some of them undoubtedly did. Thomas Jefferson certainly didn’t because he didn’t believe Jesus was anything but a man. But this has nothing at all to do with what the government can do. Like all wingnuts, you confuse personal practice with the meaning of constitutional provisions.

I wrote:

And for the second time, that changed with the 14th amendment, which applied the Bill of Rights to the states.

And you replied:

Violating every branch of govt, including the Judiciary:

These amendments demanded security against the apprehended encroachments of the General Government — not against those of the local governments. In compliance with a sentiment thus generally expressed, to quiet fears thus extensively entertained, amendments were proposed by the required majority in Congress and adopted by the States. These amendments contain no expression indicating an intention to apply them to the State governments. This court cannot so apply them –Chief Justice Marshall. Barron v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore, 32 U.S. 243 (1833)

Holy crap, you are a moron. You cited a Supreme Court decision from 1833 explaining that the Bill of Rights did not originally apply to the states — which is true, of course — as evidence that a later constitutional amendment “violated” that ruling. But as I said, amendments change the constitution itself. That’s the whole point of amendment. The 14th amendment didn’t “violate” Barron v Baltimore, it changed its result. In 1833, the Bill of Rigths did not apply to the states; after 1868, it did. The 14th amendment changed that, quite intentionally.

Which ones? No State had an established religion. All Christian sects were provided equal protection.

No they didn’t. In Connecticut, for example, all people, regardless of their religion, had to pay taxes to support the Congregationalist church. Until the early 1700s, it wasn’t even legal for any other church to exist. After 1708, the state would exempt certain churches from that law — ones they called “sober dissenters” — but not others. This is not equal protection by any coherent definition.

I wrote:

Please provide a single provision of the U.S. Constitution that establishes a Christian nation

And you replied:

The Constitution leaves religion to the States and the States formed non-denominational Christianity as their religion. Moreover, The Constitution neither abolished nor replaced what the Declaration had established; it only provided the specific details of how American government would operate under the principles set forth in the Declaration.

So much stupid in one paragraph. yes, the constitution originally left religion to the states. For the millionth time, the 14th amendment changed that. And some of the states had established religions, but following Virginia’s example they removed them one by one. And the Declaration of Independent didn’t establish anything. While I’m among those who think the Declaration is an important document for interpreting the Constitution (many disagree, even on the right; one of the big distinctions between Justices Scalia and Thomas is that Scalia rejects the Declaration as an interpretive tool while Thomas thinks it is a necessary one. I agree with Thomas), it had and has no actual legal force. It did not create a government, or even attempt to create one. But even so, bear in mind that it was written by a man who explicitly rejected Christianity.


Are evangelicals a national security threat?

A new poll suggests that American Christians (unlike Muslims) are likely to put their faith before their country

By David Sirota

If you have the stomach to listen to enough right-wing talk radio, or troll enough right-wing websites, you inevitably come upon fear-mongering about the Unassimilated Muslim. Essentially, this caricature suggests that Muslims in America are more loyal to their religion than to the United States, that such allegedly traitorous loyalties prove that Muslims refuse to assimilate into our nation and that Muslims are therefore a national security threat.

Earlier this year, a Gallup poll illustrated just how apocryphal this story really is. It found that Muslim Americans are one of the most — if not the single most — loyal religious group to the United States. Now, comes the flip side from the Pew Research Center’s stunning findings about other religious groups in America (emphasis mine):

American Christians are more likely than their Western European counterparts to think of themselves first in terms of their religion rather than their nationality; 46 percent of Christians in the U.S. see themselves primarily as Christians and the same number consider themselves Americans first. In contrast, majorities of Christians in France (90 percent), Germany (70 percent), Britain (63 percent) and Spain (53 percent) identify primarily with their nationality rather than their religion. Among Christians in the U.S., white evangelicals are especially inclined to identify first with their faith; 70 percent in this group see themselves first as Christians rather than as Americans, while 22 percent say they are primarily American.

If, as Islamophobes argue, refusing to assimilate is defined as expressing loyalty to a religion before loyalty to country, then this data suggests it is evangelical Christians who are very resistant to assimilation. And yet, few would cite these findings to argue that Christians pose a serious threat to America’s national security. Why the double standard?

Because Christianity is seen as the dominant culture in America — indeed, Christianity and America are often portrayed as being nearly synonymous, meaning expressing loyalty to the former is seen as the equivalent to expressing loyalty to the latter. In this view, there is no such thing as separation between the Christian church and the American state — and every other culture and religion is expected to assimilate to Christianity. To do otherwise is to be accused of waging a “War on Christmas” — or worse, to be accused of being disloyal to America and therefore a national security threat.

Of course, a genuinely pluralistic America is one where — regardless of the religion in question — we see no conflict between loyalties to a religion and loyalties to country. In this ideal America, those who identify as Muslims first are no more or less “un-American” than Christians who do the same (personally, this is the way I see things).

But if our politics and culture are going to continue to make extrapolative judgments about citizens’ patriotic loyalties based on their religious affiliations, then such judgments should at least be universal — and not so obviously selective or brazenly xenophobic.


In symbolic gestures they trust

“This is simply an exercise in saying, ‘We’re more religious than the other people, we’re more godly than the other people, and by the way, let’s waste time and divert people’s attention from the real issues that we’re not dealing with,’ like unemployment,” [Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.)] said.

A GOP-backed resolution reaffirming “In God We Trust” as the national motto passed overwhelmingly in the U.S. House this week when all but eight Democrats (and one Republican) refused to step into a culture-war trap.

Given that there’s no movement afoot to alter the motto, is it an act of piety or a blasphemy to use the name of God for a cheap political stunt?

But beyond that, why is it the proper business of a nation with a secular government to officially declare that its people trust in God, particularly when the laws are quite clear that you’re no less an American if you don’t trust or even believe in God?

The U.S. Department of the Treasury explains  that Salmon P. Chase, who headed the department during the Civil War, responded to calls from the clergy to “relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism” by asking the director of the U.S. Mint to craft a motto for coinage suggesting that “no nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in his defense.”

You don’t have to be an ignominious heathen to think a freedom-loving government oversteps its bounds when it issues an opinion like that, then, in 1956, cements that opinion by making “In God We Trust” the national motto.

But you have to be prepared to be portrayed as an ignominious heathen if you say so. The Republicans on Capitol Hill are well aware that many voters, even those who pay lip service to freedom of religion, feel that true patriotism and good character are impossible without a belief in some sort of God.

They are fine — more than fine — with an official, implicit endorsement of religion that marginalizes the minority of nonbelievers. They would freak out at the idea of replacing the motto with “In Reason We Trust,” even though a reliance on reason is fundamental to the crafting of our laws and the daily functioning of our society.

But anyway. What is it that the collective “we” are supposed to be trusting God to do or not do, as the case may be?

I put this question to one of the sharpest theological minds I know, Phil Blackwell, senior pastor of the First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple.

“At best, it implies that we trust God to provide a context of meaning by which we can make sense out of public life,” he replied, of “what matters most, what is of highest value, how we trust one another and what we do with all that we have.

“At worst, it suggests that God will help us to win battles, dominate economically, be immune to natural disasters and assume a privileged place in the world.”

Split the difference and you have a banality — a ceremonial, vaguely smug watchword that strips faith of just enough real meaning to let it squeeze under the constitutional bar.

Those who oppose it don’t have a prayer.

Via:- http://blogs.chicagotribune.com/news_columnists_ezorn/2011/11/in-symbolic-gestures-they-trust.html


Boykin: The Church Is Called To Occupy
      Submitted by Brian Tashman

Jerry Boykin last week sat down with Paul Crouch Jr. of the Trinity Broadcasting Network’s show First To Know to discuss a new movie based on his autobiography “Never Surrender.” Boykin, who earlier this month demanded that mosques be banned in America, told Crouch that the Church needs to become more politically active because of threats to religious freedom from groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and MoveOn. He called on viewers to work “so that the Church emerges as the dominant influence in America,” adding, “I refuse to believe that we can’t, because God told us to occupy.”

Watch:

Boykin: The Church had the dominant influence in America. Today we have ceded that to other organizations like the ACLU and MoveOn.org and Code Pink and ACORN. It is time for the Church, for Bible-believing Christians regardless of denomination, to unify and understand that we truly serve the same God, Jesus Christ, and we need to come before Him and ask for His forgiveness for where this nation has gone and how we’ve turned our backs on God, and ask God to lead us to do our part, individually, to do our part to make a difference in America so that the Church emerges as the dominant influence in America in what we were called to be, again, the salt and light for this nation.

Crouch: And that in your opinion, that is possible? We can take this nation back, in your opinion?

Boykin: We absolutely can take this nation back and I refuse to believe that we can’t, because God told us to occupy.