Obama on Religion and Politics

I’m watching a video of a speech Barack Obama gave about religion and politics. It’s really good; I don’t necessarily agree with all of it, but in general it’s commendable stuff.

Among the topics discussed are Obama’s religious experience (he is not a Muslim, despite the emails you may be getting), the need for separation of church and state to preserve religion, and the way to mesh religious faith with a pluralistic society.

It’s about forty minutes in total, but it’s worth the time if you’re interested in where Obama stands on religious issues.

ACLU Defends Christian Student’s Religious Expression

For too long Christian organizations have condemned the American Civil Liberties Union as anti-Christian and anti-religious freedom, accusing them of wanting “to remove any vestige of Christianity from public life.” This accusation is false.

What the ACLU actually opposes is the promotion of any particular religion by the government or by government-run organizations. In fact, their position on religion in public schools is quite balanced, and a position that Christians should be able to stand behind (my emphasis):

The ACLU defends students’ free speech rights in the public schools and defends students’ rights to pray in the schools. Additionally, whenever a teacher allows children to choose their own topics for an assignment (such as which book to read, which song to sing, or which topic to study for a presentation), students may choose religious themes – and the ACLU has protected their right to do so. Schools may also offer courses about religion or about the Bible or other religious works.

Public schools themselves should not, however, be in the business of promoting particular religious beliefs or religious activities. While it is permissible for public schools to teach about religion, it is not permissible to promote particular religious beliefs. While public schools should not be leading children in prayers or religious ceremonies, they should be respectful of the religious beliefs of students. Further, public schools should protect children from being coerced by others to accept religious (or anti-religious) beliefs. Public schools should seek to create an environment conducive to learning by all students and not act as vehicles proselytizing for religious or anti-religious beliefs.

The ACLU believes that the religious education of children should be directed primarily by parents, families, and religious communities – and not the public schools.

This isn’t just rhetoric. For example, in 2004, the ACLU sued a school for censoring a student’s yearbook entry which contained bible verse.

But you’ll never hear a pastor talk about how the ACLU defended religious liberty, will you?

Right now, the front page of the ACLU web site prominently displays a Bible verse.

But of course, the ACLU is an evil organization bent on destroying America’s Christian culture, right?

Enough already.

The ACLU says that the government and the schools shouldn’t be trying to influence your kid’s–or your–religious beliefs. That’s what the separation of church and state is all about. Why would you want the government telling you what to believe?

Christians: Stop attacking the ACLU. You’re only hurting people trying to protect your religious liberty.

UPDATE: Further investigation turns up “The ACLU Fights for Christians,” a collection of news links demonstrating that the ACLU fights for–and not against–Christians. For example: The ACLU defends a girl who wants to sing “Awesome God” at a school talent show, ACLU demands that a county put up a Christmas tree, and the ACLU helps free a street preacher from prison.

Not Again

idol.pngSome folks in Florida have erected a new 10 Commandments idol in front of the Dixie County courthouse.

*sigh* Here we go again. We can look forward to the ACLU suing Dixie County, to pastors around the country denouncing the ACLU and using this event as a demonstration of how “oppressed” Christians are in the United States, to the courts eventually deciding in favor of the ACLU, and to a few months of peace before some nutjob tries this again.

Here’s an interesting bit of trivia: A block of granite that size costs $20,000. How many people can you feed with $20,000? How many gospel tracts can you buy? How many missionaries could your church support for a year with $20,000?

This isn’t about spreading the gospel or doing any kind of good. It’s about building the egos of the donors and the Dixie County commissioners. Don’t believe me?

Former Commissioner John Driggers broached the subject on behalf of an unnamed county resident, asking whether the board was “bold enough” to allow the monument to be placed at the courthouse. After then-county attorney Joey Lander told the board he would defend any lawsuits stemming from the decision for free, commissioners voted in favor of allowing the project to proceed.

Joey Lander and John Driggers are using the ten commandments as a publicity stunt. Maybe, just maybe, this time conservatives won’t fall for it like they did the Roy Moore publicity stunt in 2003.

But who am I kidding?

Preaching Politics

Rev. Gregory A. Boyd, an evangelical pastor of a church in Maplewood, Minnesota, preached a series of messages entitled “The Cross and the Sword” in which he stated that the church should stay out of politics.

According to the New York Times, the pastor is not a liberal; he opposes both abortion and gay marriage. His message, although presented for his conservative church, is intended for all politically-motivated churches, whether Republican or Democrat.

From the article, Boyd in his own words:

“America wasn’t founded as a theocracy,” he said. “America was founded by people trying to escape theocracies. Never in history have we had a Christian theocracy where it wasn’t bloody and barbaric. That’s why our Constitution wisely put in a separation of church and state.

“I am sorry to tell you,” he continued, “that America is not the light of the world and the hope of the world. The light of the world and the hope of the world is Jesus Christ.”

I have long maintained that separation of church and state is not the great evil that my Christian school teachers and pastors have made it out to be. In fact, separation of church and state is one of the things that makes this country great.

Think about it: Should you have to be a member of a certain church to vote? Should the government be collecting tithes in the same way they do the income tax? Should the government publish Bibles? What about Korans? Which church should the government promote?

Likewise, from the church’s side: Should your church promote the candidate that opposes abortion and gay marriage, or the one that supports feeding the poor and giving medicine to the sick?

Here is the primary reason that evangelical churches should not push politics from either side of the aisle: The goal of the church is to get as many people saved as possible and to get those people to follow Christ’s teachings to the best of their ability. But when the preacher starts, say, praising the war in Iraq, people who oppose the war are instantly turned off from the whole message. At best, it’s a distraction from the gospel. At worst, the people who oppose the war reject the gospel along with your politics. In other words, people are going to hell because you wouldn’t stop promoting your politics from the pulpit.

By all means, promote your politics with rallys, advertising, protests, and petitions. But for God’s sake–and I mean that literally–don’t try to affililate Christ with your political views. Stick to preaching about Christ and his teachings from the pulpits of your churches.

(Thanks to The Sycamore Tree for the link.)