Separation of church and state / the Bible and the Constitution

Obama Condemns ‘Distorted’ Faith at National Prayer Breakfast by Adelle M. Banks, God’s Politics Blog, Sojourners, 02-05-2015 President Obama on Feb. 5 called for an emphasis on what is just about the world’s religions as a way to counter the ways faith has been distorted across the globe. “We see faith driving us to do right,” he said to more than 3,500 people attending the annual National Prayer Breakfast. “But we also see faith being twisted and distorted, used as a wedge — or worse, sometimes used as a weapon.” He urged believers of all faiths to practice humility, support church-state separation and adhere to the Golden Rule as ways to keep religion in its proper context. “As people of faith, we are summoned to push back against those who try to distort our religion — any religion — for their own nihilistic ends,” Obama said. “Here at home and around the world we will constantly reaffirm that fundamental freedom: freedom of religion, the right to practice our faith how we choose, to change our faith if we choose, to practice no faith at all if we choose, and to do so free of persecution and fear and discrimination.”

Marcus Borg and the New Face of Christianity by Philip Clayton, Ph.D., Claremont School of Theology, huffingtonpost.com, 01/26/2015 …Marcus Borg died a few days ago…[his]  The Heart of Christianity …clearly expresses the kind of Christianity that most of us want our lives to be associated with… Borg’s humility, which so many of us experienced, was the natural expression of a Christian faith built around Jesus’ radical way of compassion first, with everything else a distant second…Borg was an open, out-of-the-closet liberalBorg described a God worth believing inBorg’s unencumbered Christianity didn’t negate other religions and spiritual paths…a Christianity without exclusion or intolerance…

Fundamentalists take issue with the writings of Marcus Borg By Bill Uhrich, readingeagle.com, February 1, 2015 “Conflict about the Bible is the single most divisive issue among Christians in North America today,” wrote Marcus Borg, who died Jan. 21…Through his writings, Borg offered an alternative viewpoint to fundamentalist views of the Bible, particularly in his 2001 book “Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally.”…This perspective flies in the face of the fundamentalists’ belief in verbal plenary inspiration, the idea that every single word and all parts of the Bible are God-given and authoritative…Borg’s participation along with 200 other scholars, including John Dominic Crossan, in the Jesus Seminar of the 1980s and 1990s, which revived historical Jesus studies…Using modern tools available to scholars, the seminar came to the conclusion that 18 percent of the sayings and 16 percent of the deeds attributed to Jesus in the gospels are authentic, according to the Westar Institute, which sponsored the seminar. The rest are essentially reflections of the early church and early Christian understanding…this methodology also raised howls of scorn from fundamentalists…”I describe myself as a nonliteralistic and nonexclusivistic Christian,” Borg wrote, “committed to living my life with God within the Christian tradition, even as I affirm the validity of all the enduring religious traditions.”

Tony Perkins: 2015 ‘Most Dangerous Year’ For American Christians by Peter Montgomery, rightwingwatch.org, 1/27/2015 …Religious Right leaders have adopted a strategy of portraying just about any policy they disagree with as a dire threat to their religious freedom. And they love to portray President Barack Obama as a sinister enemy of religious liberty. Today’s frantic email from the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins is a model of both the Obama-is-evil paradigm and frothing-at-the-mouth alarmism… flat-out lies…To avoid any accusations that we’ve taken Perkins out of context, here’s today’s fundraising letter in full:…“…President Obama seems willing to do anything to further his radical agenda—even if it means violating the Constitution to take away your religious freedom. This President has clearly placed the religious freedom of millions of Christians like you in his sights. Why? You are among the people who are standing in the gap against his radical plans to transform America into a godless, secular country where government reigns supreme. In these evil days it is more important than ever that you stand your ground for religious freedom!…

Evangelical Political Operative Reveals Plan to Fundamentally Transform America — and It Involves 1,000 Pastors by Billy Hallowell, theblaze.com, Jan. 27, 2015  …The faith leaders assembled for the Issachar Training Event, which was organized by the American Renewal Project, an organization that is working toward bringing 1,000 preachers into the public square next election cycle…[American Renewal Project founder David Lane] launched the American Renewal Project after he began to think about the societal transformation that could happen if he was able to recruit 1,000 pastors to run in 2016 — a prospect that he said “would change America.”…“Somebody’s values are going to reign supreme. Our values or somebody else’s values,” Lane told Brody. “It’s our goal to bring spiritual men and women into the civil government arena.”…[Louisiana Gov. Bobby] Jindal wrote. “There is a great need for the kind of leaders we read about in the Old Testament, ‘The Men of Issachar’ (1 Chronicles 12:32). We need such men and women of wisdom today who will accept the challenge to restore our Judeo-Christian heritage in America.”… “These engaged evangelicals would be voting for their biblically-based conservative values.”

The Real Origins of the Religious Right By RANDALL BALMER, politico.com, May 27, 2014 They’ll tell you it was abortion. Sorry, the historical record’s clear: It was segregation.

Mike Huckabee’s Christian Sharia Law by Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, February 1, 2015 Mike Huckabee is known as a former governor, an author, a onetime Fox News host, and as a possible contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination…When he last ran for president in 2008, he argued that we “should amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards.What would be the reaction if a Muslim candidate for president…argued that we should amend our Constitution to agree with the Quran? The right wing in this country would explode… many of those same right-wing people who fabricate the claim that Muslims in America want to impose Islamic law have no problem when a Christian politician tells us point blank he wants to impose what is, in essence, Christian Sharia law. The good news: Our First Amendment prohibits the establishment of any religion in our country, be it Christianity or Islam or anything else…in the United States at least, our laws must be based on public policy considerations and the Constitution, not passages of religious text.

 

Jeff Sessions cited a Bible passage used by American slaveholders to defend Trump’s family separation policy

It’s rarely been used since the Civil War.

By Emily Stewart, vox.com,

Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended the Trump administration’s family separation policy for asylum seekers by invoking a controversial passage in the Bible that’s rarely been cited since the Civil War because it was used by Southerners to defend slavery.

This is what Sessions said at a speech to law enforcement officers in Fort Wayne, Indiana, on Thursday, according to NBC News:

Persons who violate the law of our nation are subject to prosecution. I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order. Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.

The historical context spread across Twitter. Yoni Appelbaum, a historian and editor at the Atlantic, showed the passage was cited during key moments in the American debate over slavery:

The Washington Post’s Julie Zauzmer and Keith McMillan spoke with experts for a piece that ran Friday morning and concluded that Sessions’s decision to cite Romans 13 is an unusual one, given how the passage has been used historically.

“This is the same argument that Southern slaveholders and the advocates of a Southern way of life made,” John Fea, a professor of American history at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, told the Post.

Abolitionists argued that slavery was unconscionably cruel and pointed, specifically, to separating families as a violation of religious principles, Appelbaum explained. Slavery defenders said the duty to abide by law was part of the Bible and specifically cited Romans 13. Abolitionists, ultimately, won the argument over slavery.

Fea told the Post that after the Civil War, there haven’t been as many references to Romans 13 because the passage’s message about submitting to authority is regarded as un-American. “Whenever Romans 13 was used in the 18th and 19th century — and Sessions seems to be doing the same thing, so in this sense there is some continuity — it’s a way of manipulating the scriptures to justify your own political agenda,” Fea said.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders made the same “the Bible says follow the law” argument on Thursday

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders on Thursday was asked about Sessions’s invocation of the Bible to defend the administration’s family separation policy. She said she wasn’t “aware” of the attorney general’s specific comments but sided with him on the Bible part.

“I can say that it is very biblical to enforce the law,” Sanders said. “That is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible.”

When CNN’s Jim Acosta asked whether she believes the practice is moral, Sanders replied, “It’s a moral policy to follow and enforce the law.”

President Donald Trump in a surprise appearance on Fox & Friends on Friday defended the policy as well, but he didn’t mention the Bible. “That’s the law,” he said.

Family separation isn’t the law

The Trump administration has recently implemented a policy of separating children from their parents as they attempt to enter the United States seeking asylum at the US border. They’re typically splitting up families by charging parents with illegal entry into the US and sending them into criminal custody and treating their children as if they were “unaccompanied alien children” who had tried to enter the United States alone.

The policy has sent shock waves across the country, igniting outrage on the part of immigration advocates, human rights groups, and citizens across the political spectrum. Multiple reports of uniquely aggressive or inhumane treatment have added fuel to the fire, including a Honduran man who died by suicide less than a day after being separated from his wife and 3-year-old child by Border Patrol agents, and a Honduran woman who says officials took her daughter away while she was breastfeeding her in a detention center.

The White House is arguing that what it’s doing is just what the legal code says. “We’re a country of law and order, and we’re enforcing the law and protecting our borders,” Sanders said.

Except that’s not the case. As Vox’s Dara Lind points out, there is no law that requires immigrant families to be separated:

The decision to charge everyone crossing the border with illegal entry — and the decision to charge asylum seekers in criminal court rather than waiting to see if they qualify for asylum — are both decisions the Trump administration has made.

Other administration officials back up Trump by pointing to the laws that give extra protections to families, unaccompanied children, and asylum seekers. The administration has been asking Congress to change these laws since it came into office, and has blamed them for stopping Trump from securing the border the way he’d like. (Those aren’t “Democratic laws” either; the law addressing unaccompanied children was passed overwhelmingly in 2008 and signed by George W. Bush, while the restriction on detaining families is a result of federal litigation.)

In that context, the law isn’t forcing Trump to separate families; it’s keeping Trump from doing what he’d perhaps really like to do, which is simply sending families back or keeping them in detention together, and so he has had to resort to plan B.

Romans 13 English Standard Version (ESV)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

13 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

Fulfilling the Law Through Love

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

11 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV)® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

 

13 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

Fulfilling the Law Through Love

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

11 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Romans 13

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV). ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Submission to the Authorities

13 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

Fulfilling the Law Through Love

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law….

 

How to Lose the Midterms and Re-elect Trump

by Frank Bruni, Opinion Columnist, New York Times, June 13, 2018

Dear Robert De Niro, Samantha Bee and other Trump haters:

I get that you’re angry. I’m angry, too. But anger isn’t a strategy… You’ve chosen cheap theatrics over the long game, catharsis over cunning….You’re right that Donald Trump is a dangerous and deeply offensive man, and that restraining and containing him are urgent business. You’re wrong about how to go about doing that, or at least you’re letting your emotions get the better of you. It’s about maturity, pragmatism and plain old smarts — and the necessity of all three when the stakes are this high.

Many Democrats get that. Maybe even most do. In the primaries last week and on Tuesday, Democratic voters by and large chose House candidates whose appeals were tempered and whose profiles make them formidable general-election contenders. They’re the best bets for wooing less fiercely partisan voters and snatching seats currently in Republican hands.

The results in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District on Tuesday were a perfect example. State Senator Jennifer Wexton, a former federal prosecutor, won, and will take on the Republican incumbent, Barbara Comstock. That was precisely what Republican strategists didn’t want, and at the beginning of the year, they chattered hopefully about Wexton’s being thwarted by more strident Democratic rivals to her left. But she beat the second-place finisher by almost 20 points.

I’m buoyed by that and by what I’ve witnessed when I’ve met with Democratic candidates in potentially red-to-blue House districts. They’re not getting bogged down in impeachment talk, which can sound to many voters like a promise of ceaseless partisan rancor and never-ending Washington paralysis. They’re not frothing at the mouth about Trump.

They understand that there’s no need for that. …most American voters, who already know how they feel about him…[are] less certain about are their alternatives. If you want to make sure that at least one chamber of Congress is a check on Trump, talk to them about that.

 

 

Moral politics – suggested reading

Forrest Church, God and other famous liberals – recapturing Bible, flag and family from the far right (NewYork: Simon and Schuster, 1991)

Parker Palmer, Healing the Heart of Democracy, the courage to create a politics worthy of the human spirit (San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 2011

Forrest Church, The American Creed, a spiritual and patriotic primer (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2002)

Jacob Needleman, The American Soul, rediscovering the wisdom of the founders (New York: Penguin Group, 2002)

Justin Buckley Dyer, editor, American Soul, the contested legacy of the Declaration of Independence (Lanham, MD: Roman & Littlefield, 2012)

Duncan Howlett, The Critical Way in Religion, testing and questing (Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books, 1980)

Karen Armstrong, The Great Transformation, the beginning of our religious traditions (New York; Alfred A. Knopf, 2006)

Michael Dowd, Thank God for Evolution, how the marriage of science and religion will transform your life and our world (New York: Penguin Group, 2007)

Michael Lerner, The Left Hand of God, taking back our country from the religious right (New York: Harper & Collins, 2006) 6 ,8

“This political Right achieved power by forging an alliance with a Religious Right that is willing to provide a sanctimonious religious veneer to the selfishness and materialism of the political right in exchange for the political power it needs to impose parts of its religious agenda on America6

…I will certainly do everything I can to prevent them from popularizing the notion that people have to be religious or believe in God to be moral and to challenge their particular understanding of what God wants from us.8