The World Wide (Religious) Web for Wednesday, August 10, 2011


MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: “The Cause of All the Trouble.”

It’s hard to imagine a vision for this country that’s farther from a “libertarian Christianity” that minds its own very private business and politely declines to have anything to say about the public realm. So if you too are convinced by Andrew’s denunciations of “Christianism,” it’s past time to point your critique at the source of all this trouble: Martin Luther King, more than anyone else, is responsible for bringing an explicitly Christian and Biblical critique of America into the mainstream of modern politics.

(And if you don’t happen to be interested in denouncing Dr. King, then maybe your problem is not with anyone and everyone who brings Christian convictions into the public sphere, but rather with some particular convictions that some Christians emphasize. After all, Dr. King’s faith commitments were at least as encompassing in their scope, as universal in their claims, as publicly political as Rick Perry’s — and make no mistake, it was that faith that drove and anchored Dr. King, and Fannie Lou Hamer, and John Perkins, and many of the other heroes of the Civil Rights movement. So maybe, just maybe, it’s not an utterly privatized and “libertarian” Christianity that we need but rather one that reads the Bible better. But if that’s true then the term “Christianism” is vacuous and misleading, and Andrew needs to step back and start over.)

I agree with Alan Jacobs on this one. If we establish a principle that rules out religious appeals in political debates, then we rule out the Civil Rights Movement. And any principle that rules out the Civil Rights Movement is a bad principle.

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THE SAME-SEX MARRIAGE DEBATE: “We’re Arguing Definitions, Not Rights.”

So the question is, which definition should we use? It’s fine for you to argue that your definition of “two people who love each other” is better than my definition of “one man, one woman,” or someone else’s definition of “one man, multiple women,” but we need to start off by understanding that we’re arguing definitions, not rights.

It’s not unconstitutional to adopt either my or your definition, as long as it’s applied equally to every individual. Remember that the Constitution doesn’t recognize rights for combinations of people; rights only belong to individuals. So one can’t say that a man and five women have a right to get married; one can only say that each individual man or woman has the right to enter into marriage (no individual is excluded). This right is then acted upon according to the boundaries set by the state’s definition of what marriage is—boundaries which are equally applied to every individual. You would like to equally apply the boundary of “two people who love each other” (excluding some other combinations), and I would like to apply the boundary of “one man, one woman” to each individual equally.

But I agree that the boundaries we place on marriage need to be relevant to the institution of marriage in order to be legitimate, so why don’t we sit down and talk about the reasons why we each think the country should use our definition?

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HOPE AND CHANGE? “Mormonism and Mitt Romney’s ‘Weirdness.’”

Thanks to the current spate of awful economic news, we pretty much know what kind of re-election campaign Barack Obama is going to wage: A relentlessly negative one, which, like George W. Bush’s re-election campaign against John Kerry, will focus almost exclusively on making the challenger seem unacceptable rather than defending the sitting president’s accomplishments. Thanks to Ben Smith at Politico, we also know roughly how the White House plans to “destroy Mitt Romney,” if he turns out to be that challenger: By “attacking him as inauthentic, unprincipled and, in a word used repeatedly by Obama’s advisers in about a dozen interviews, ‘weird.’”

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YES, BUT… “Rick Perry’s Political Theology.” David Sessions makes some good points in this column, but this paragraph is a howler.

The founders of the United States were part of the Enlightenment tradition that, responding in horror to the bloody religious wars of medieval Europe, had conceived of a new kind of politics where divine appeals would be seen as illegitimate. Enlightenment thinkers disagreed on just how darkly to view religion, but most agreed that unreformed religious passions led to violence and tyranny. Their work reoriented thinking about religion toward what men and women can observe directly and demonstrate conclusively. Their materialist vision of the political state echoes in the U.S. Constitution, with its prohibitions against federal establishment of religion.

And yet, the Declaration of Independence (by that arch-Enlightenment revolutionary, Thomas Jefferson) appealed to “Nature’s God” and “their Creator.” Moreover, the Constitution did not prohibit the establishment of religion at the state level. In reality, the Founders freely mixed classical republicanism, Enlightenment liberalism, and Protestant Christianity in their political ideology, as Jeffry H. Morrison demonstrates in his book, The Political Philosophy of George Washington (which I’m reading and will review.) You might also want to check out John Fea’s Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?, which provides a complex yes/no/depends answer to that question.

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I LIKE JP2 AND ALL, BUT THIS IS A LITTLE CREEPY: “Capsule containing Pope John Paul II’s blood heading to Mexico.”

“In the perception of a Mexico plunged into terror, pain, hopelessness, anguish, vengeance and rancor as a result of insecurity and violence … the veneration of the relics will be an opportunity for the baptized and people of good will to turn their eyes to God,” the Rev. Manuel Corral, the council’s public relations secretary, told reporters.

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LOVE YOUR ENEMY? “Air Force’s use of Christian messages extends to ROTC.”

In a lesson designed to teach the Air Force’s core values to ROTC cadets, Christian beliefs such as the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, and the Golden Rule are used as examples of ethical values, CNN has learned.

I understand why the military might use the 10 Commandments and Golden Rule to teach ethics, but the Sermon on the Mount? Have they actually read the Sermon? “Blessed are the peacemakers,” “turn to them the other cheek also,” and “love your enemies” aren’t exactly war-friendly verses.

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APPLIES TO PROTESTANTS TOO: In “Making the Gospel ‘go viral,’” Phil Lawler offers two propositions: (1) “We are about to begin an era of explosive growth in Catholic evangelization.” (2) “If we don’t see explosive growth in evangelization, it will be our own fault.” To which all I can say is, “Yep.”

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HALAL IS KOSHER. “Whole Foods denies canceling Ramadan promotion.”

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ATHEISM AND MISOTHEISM: “Doubting God’s Existence, But Angry Nonetheless.”

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BUT DOES JESUS LOVE JUSTIN BIEBER? “Justin Bieber Loves Jesus.”

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One thought on “The World Wide (Religious) Web for Wednesday, August 10, 2011

  1. GPW,

    I happen to have family in Mexico (my wife is from the border area) and recently saw a commercial on Mexican TV offering a medallion of John Paul II for sale, and in a crowd scene from one of his visits I saw a big banner: “México, Fiel al Papa” (Mexico, Faithful to the Pope)

    Says a lot about the religious majority south of the border. Thankfully, tradition is falling to the Gospel in many places.

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