Which is the “Christian Nation” Now?

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() - Emblems of belief available for placement...

() – Emblems of belief available for placement on USVA headstones and markers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the great ironies of recent history is that Russia, the quintessential atheistic society when it was the largest part of the Soviet Union, is returning to Eastern Orthodoxy. While much of its population retains its atheism, the government of Vladamir Putin strongly supports the Orthodox Church and has increasingly supported a traditionally Christian society. Like the African churches (outside of South Africa), the Russian Orthodox Church is theologically and morally conservative, much more so than mainline American churches.

Although the United States was originally more deist and agnostic than religious, after the Second Great Awakening in the late 1700s it, in effect, became a Protestant Christian nation. There was a general understanding held by the vast majority of Americans, including Roman Catholics and Jews, that a fairly conservative traditional morality was to be followed. This morality included opposition to abortion (abortion, over time, was made illegal in most states during the nineteenth century), opposition to premarital sex, adultery, and homosexual activity, and support of a traditional conception of male and female roles in the family. Going to church (or synagogue) was considered a commendable thing to do. Prayer and Bible lessons took place in both private–and public–schools. Although many people violated the common morality, even the violators, for the most part, believed they were committing morally wrong acts. Church attendance remained high. The last religious revival in the United States continued through 1965.

There were precursors to the destruction of the Protestant consensus before the 1960s, but it was after the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963, that social change rapidly occurred. The intellectual classes, already quite liberal, did not have the intellectual nor the cultural resources to halt the tide of radical activism. David Horowitz, who participated in much of the activism, was a red diaper baby, a crusading Communist, and he points out that despite the claims of those reacting against the late Senator McCarthy, the radicals behind the 1960s revolution were openly Communist. As such, they were atheists who also opposed the Protestant consensus that included a common morality. The advent of artificial contraception was used as an excuse to defend “free love,” a movement that began as early as the Kennedy years. The late 1960s saw the apex of the debate over the morality of abortion that led to the January 1973 “Roe v. Wade” Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion. With marriage effectively separated for childbirth combined with easy divorce (which had been a staple of some states since the late nineteenth century), marriage was seen as a way for someone to become happy rather than as a sacrament and a permanent commitment. Once marriage became separated from the right to have sexual intercourse, it became more and more a civil arrangement–and it was a small step to support same-sex marriage. Given that climate, one wonders how long it will take before American society supports incestuous marriage or pedophilic marriage. Once the foundations of a social order are destroyed, the house quickly follows.

Many of the Christian Churches, especially the mainline Protestant denominations, have more or less yielded completely to the new social norms. The Evangelicals, tied up for years in gimmicks rather than in Biblical teaching, development of Christian character, and the beauty of traditional worship, are rapidly given ground on traditional moral positions regarding sexual ethics. American Roman Catholics remain deeply divided after radical priests and bishops fundamentally changed many churches during the late 1960s and 1970s. The Fundamentalists remain faithful to traditional theology and morals, but too often focus on minutia rather than on the cultural war that they have, in effect, already lost. Stating traditional Christian positions, already a crime in the UK and in much of Western Europe, is becoming socially unacceptable in many American circles. Eventually, stating traditional positions on sexual morality or defending the exclusive nature of Christian claims will become hate crimes in the United States if current trends continue.

The United States is no longer a Christian nation. To claim that is is denies the obvious transvaluation of values that has taken place during the last 50 years. Russia is the last major superpower that can claim, at least at the level of government policy, to be a Christian nation. If the common people of Russian embrace the Orthodox faith again, it will be Russia that will be a shining light to the world, with the United States a decadent shell of its former self.

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Sucessionism

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Map of USA with Hawaii highlighted

Map of USA with Hawaii highlighted (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A colleague of mine compared secessionists to the people in Germany who supported the rise of Hitler into power. Despite the obvious oddity of a group in favor of decentralization of government being linked with a group in Germany who were for more centralized government, the claim remains absurd for other reasons. A number of people in more conservative states feel disenfranchised by the recent re-election of Mr. Obama. Older members of this group are frightened as a man who hates their vision of America is confirmed in power. Now Mr. Obama clearly won the election–even if accusations of voter fraud in Pennsylvania and other places were valid, Mr. Obama still had the numbers to win. Yet if one examines a map of the vote for Mr. Obama, a few densely populated urban areas, especially in the northeast, along with the usual “left-coast” voting, determined the outcome of the election. Small town voters, rural voters–most voted for Mr. Romney. A map of the United States showing counties won by Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney reveals a sea of red surrounded by a few urban pockets of blue. Urban tax consumers can now routinely outvote rural and small town taxpayers. In addition, the values that many Americans hold dear–moral and religious values–are increasingly under attack by a more aggressive federal government. The “contraceptive mandate” is the most egregious threat to religious freedom in recent years, yet it slides through court challenges as if the constitution no longer means anything–which is de facto what has happened. The succession movement is symbolic–no person who signed the petitions thinks that the federal government would allow a state to succeed. The petitions are expressions of frustration, a way of “letting off steam.” Now I have always believed that the states are sovereign units, that any unit that voted to join the United States should not be forced to stay within the United States. This was the general viewpoint before 1861, and Mr. Lincoln went against established law in trying to force the Southern states back into the Union. With the illegal passage of the 14th Amendment, the domination of the states by the federal government became enshrined in law. Although I believe succession to be legal under the original Constitution, it would be practically impossible to pull it off today. Now if in the future a massive economic collapse occurs and a country of this size becomes ungovernable, then succession may become a realistic possibility. Given the diversity of populations within the individual states, I doubt that even a nonbinding resolution for succession would pass. The recent petitions, however, reveal the complete frustration of people who have seen the world in which they were reared turned upside down by the forces of radical leftists. Mr. Obama does not govern as an economic socialist; however, his background is Marxist and I doubt that he has fundamentally changed his earlier philosophical stance. Conservatives realize that Mr. Obama supervises, albeit indirectly, a vast federal bureaucracy which is already dominated by leftist thinkers. They also realize that it will be further radicalized by the Obama Administration appointments, especially at the middle management level, and that such bureaucrats write federal regulations. The regulations coming down on the states are growing exponentially. How long will it be before such regulations wrest control of education from the states? How long will it be before abortion is rammed down the throats of religious organizations or else–excuse me, that has already happened. Conservatives would like to be free from such overarching control, and they resent the fact that the difference in the election was the votes of people dependent on the federal government (this is not to deny that many working people also voted for Mr. Obama, but to point out one of the key voter blocks supporting Mr. Obama). They want real independence from the overarching tyranny of the federal government and see no way out. Thus they sign (foolishly, I think since they have to give their names on a federal government site) petitions for succession to assuage their emotions. This is the opposite of a Fascist move to force their views down others’ throats–if anything, it is the most peaceful form of protest in which people can engage–in signing a petition. At least the left should stop making ignorant comparisons between groups, especially if they do not understand one of the groups they are insulting. Such behavior is all too typical of the political left.

Stop Being So Sensitive!

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I am utterly sick of sensitive people–not those “sensitive” in a good way, but those people who are professionals at being offended in order to get their way or get money. Those after money are only different in degree than someone who points a gun at someone and says, “Hand over your money.” Discussing certain issues is taboo at many colleges and universities due to the intimidation and (sometimes) violence of the left. Consider what has happened to conservative speakers who come to college and university campuses. While some are treated with respect, others have been shouted down or threatened physically (as Tom Tancredo was treated a few years ago at UNC-Chapel Hill, when a brick was thrown through a window by a thuggish group and

English: The Old Well and McCorkle Place at th...

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his talk was cancelled for the sake of everyone’s safety). In other cases, academics have lost their jobs when they criticized the politically correct mainstream–I know one personally. Most of them have either gotten their jobs back or been given a settlement since, thus far, the courts have respected freedom of speech. That could change in the future as Mr. Obama‘s appointments pile up in the federal judiciary.

Stifling discussion of controversial issues or only allowing one side to express itself does not allow room for learning and discussion. Some of the most productive class discussions I have experienced are when I bring up controversial topics or express “non-politically correct” positions. For example, I am morally opposed to abortion even in cases of rape or incest. Usually I am the only person in class holding that positions, and students are free to argue with me (and they do–vehemently). I learn something from their arguments and hopefully they learn something from mine. What if some “sensitivity Fascist” had said that my position on abortion should no longer be part of the “public square” because it offends some people? Since when did college and university students gain the right not to be offended. I do not mind the Marxist professor two doors down from me expressing his views to his classes as long as students are free to disagree and are not penalized for their positions. Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and if Marxist positions can be presented, so can conservative positions in economics, morals, philosophy, and/or religion.

There are so many issues on which this nation is deeply divided–sexual ethics, racial issues, gender issues, issues regarding the role of government in combating poverty, issues surrounding health care. If discussion is halted just because someone is “offended,” this only serves to increase resentment on the part of those who disagree with the position of the professional sensitive person. We become even more divided and angry at one another. The best way for the culture war to become a true war rather than a war by means of language is to stifle discussion.

If “sensitivity training” really dealt with bad behavior, I suppose there would be no problem with it–men and women are wrong if they are in a supervisory position and request sexual favors from an employee before they promote that employee. That is unethical and illegal, and it should be. If someone constantly tells sexual jokes after being warned not to several times, that is bad behavior that can and should lead to termination from a job. But a man who is of equal rank in a company to a woman surely has the right to ask her out unless the company forbids inter-employee dating. Often a woman really will have plans on the day the man wanted to go out, so he will ask her again. Now if she says no then, if I am not mistaken, society generally says “two time’s the charm” and the man should not ask her out again (although there are men who married women whom they asked out many times–and they remain happily married). If some professional sensitive woman whines about sexual harassment when a man asks her out in a nice way on a date, this is oversensitive behavior from someone who either hates men, is a psychopath, enjoys hurting people, or wants easy money. Have some common sense, folks!

Racial issues have become so sensitive that many people won’t talk about them lest someone be offended. I do not deny that there are racists in our society–every society has them–and that sometimes racists will discriminate against those of a different race. When the race card is overplayed, however, in cases in which it is unwarranted, eventually any racial incident comes across as “crying wolf” and genuine incidents of racial prejudice may be unnecessarily ignored. When any criticism of Mr. Obama’s policies is labeled “racism,” that ignores the fact that many people disagree with the President’s policies–including some who voted for him. I do not hate or even dislike Mr. Obama, but I disagree with a number of his policies–and that does not make me a racist. I am a conservative, so of course I will disagree with Mr. Obama on some points. What else would you expect?

Liberals gain their power by playing on the sensitivity and resentments of people. They play up the envy the poor have for the middle classes and the wealthy. They emasculate man by calling any comment “sexist” that does not fit their radical feminist agenda of changing human nature, either by denying differences between males and females or trumping up “female virtues” as superior to “male virtues.” Those positions are self-contradictory, of course, but to the liberal, especially to the “postmodern” liberal, coherence is not a truth preserving condition.

As outspoken as I am, I keep some positions to myself, not because they are wrong, but because I know there would probably be a professional sensitive person in the audience who would misrepresent my beliefs–knowingly. On religious and moral issues I am more outspoken. Political issues are not values free, but they are contingent matters about which people even of similar world views disagree, and I must pick my battles. But I have grown more outspoken over the years because I am sick of a false, hypocritical “sensitivity” stifling discussion, especially of conservative positions, on issues important for the good of society.

Leftist Pressure Groups and Freedom of Expression

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Pat Buchanan

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In the past it was often the far right that opposed freedom of expression. There was once a movement in one state to ban the book, The Wizard of Oz because it has as one of the characters “a good witch.” I have personally experienced the dogmatic closed-mindedness of extreme Christian Fundamentalists, and I believe I can recognize that mindset in other groups, both right and left.

Pat Buchanan was recently fired as a commentator on MSNBC. I have found his books to be well-argued, and Mr. Buchanan has a vast knowledge of history that is sadly lacking in most Americans. I agree with his view that immigration should be limited so that those who move into the United States have sufficient time to assimilate to the culture, especially if they come from nations without a tradition of democracy. His position against free trade and in favor of tariffs on incoming Chinese goods is also a good suggestion, a first step in bringing back some of the American manufacturing lost through outsourcing. The same follows for his suggestion that the United States revoke NAFTA. As a traditional Anglican Catholic, I agree with most of Mr. Buchanan’s views on theology and ethics. I also believe that the 1947 partition of Palestine has been a disaster, and although Israel has a right to exist and advocate for her national interests, the United States should not provide support for Israel no matter what she does. Too many people confuse antisemitism and anti-Zionism–they are not the same thing. Many Jewish people are anti-Zionist.

Mr. Buchanan’s book, The Suicide of the West, is what got him into trouble with MSNBC. Under pressure from radical leftist groups who claimed the book was racist and “homophobic,” MSNBC’s (already radicalized) staff decided to fire Mr. Buchanan. I have read The Suicide of the West and find it to be a convincing indictment of the Enlightenment attempt to deny that humans are embodied by denying that embodied properties, even accidental properties, have a great deal to do with an individual’s perceived self-identity. While Americans of European descent do not usually have a specific sense of identity, both African-Americans and Hispanics tend to have a strong sense of identity. Pat Buchanan never says that there is anything wrong with that–he states that it is a part of human nature. Unless there is a consensus civilization to unify various ethnic, religious, and cultural groups, a multicultural society cannot work in practice and leads inevitably to violence (as is the case in California, especially in the prisons, today). For many people in the world, their self-professed identity includes race. Mr. Buchanan does not condemn them, but suggests that such self-identity resists being placed in a “melting pot.” Ethnic and tribal strife in the former Yugoslavia, the former Soviet Union, in Somalia, Uganda and other African nations that were artificially divided across tribal lines by European colonialists, are examples, as are some Asian countries. The United States may believe it is beyond such strife, but in the end, the human propensity to divide into self-contained groups will win out over multiculturalism (or “multi-civilizationalism” as one commentator in Chronicles Magazine once noted).

Mr. Buchanan has also affirmed traditional Roman Catholic moral positions on sexual ethics. This has resulted in a hostile reaction from groups that hate Roman Catholic restrictions on sexual behavior. But as Mr. Buchanan says, “Since when did it become a crime to express traditional Catholic moral positions?” Apparently it is a crime today.

A libertarian might argue that as a private company, MSNBC has every right to fire or hire employees. From a legal point of view it does. But from a moral point of view, it is interesting that a network that claims to value pluralism caved into to radical pressure groups that do not accept freedom of expression. There is hypocrisy there. Left wing political correctness is out of control, just as Fundamentalist political correctness was rampant among some people around whom I was reared.

Someone will probably attack my view, stating that the “progressive” position on issues is the only correct stance to take. Such a claim requires argumentation to justify, not bullying.

The Health and Human Services Department’s Attack on Faith-Based Organizations

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Logo of the United States Department of Health...

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The United States Department of Health and Human Services mandated that employers offer health care insurance to employees that includes payments not only for standard birth control, but also for abortificants. Faith-based organizations are not exempt from this mandate. The Roman Catholic Church is resisting this mandate, as well they should, and since abortificants are also paid for, all faith-based groups who oppose abortion are being forced to violate their beliefs. I have no doubt that the social democrats and socialists who read this post will disagree, which is their right. What about the right of a faith-based organization to establish employment benefits in line with its beliefs? H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr., a bioethicist and physician at the Baylor College of Medicine, has argued for ideological pluralism in health care choices. That is, if someone accepts abortion, she can buy insurance through a company that accepts abortion. Roman Catholic groups could have what Engelhardt calls “Vaticare” or something like that. Now Engelhardt is a Classical Liberal who is consistent that pluralism be respected. What the government is doing is the equivalent of telling “Vaticare” or similar organizations that their beliefs be damned. The government will now tell you what to do, and if you don’t like it, suck it up. The result, if this rule is not overturned, will be a mass closing of faith-based organizations that help a significant number of people.

Although Mr. Obama has tended to be a friend of Wall Street and warmongers, his ideological roots are strongly Marxist, and, I would claim, totalitarian. The fact that he is no more totalitarian than Dubya does not change the fact that Obama desires as much power as did Mr. Bush. Regulatory agencies have been one way that government can gain power without legislative approval. Congress should establish a conscience clause in the health care bill in order to allow for faith-based organizations to offer insurance to their employees consistent with their own beliefs. To do otherwise would be another step toward a “social democratic benevolent” dictatorship that the most radical on the left wing desire. Although this is by now a tired cliche, it remains true that freedom of religion was never construed by the founding fathers to mean freedom from religion. I am pleased that Eastern Orthodox Bishops (The Council of Canonical Orthodox Bishops) as well as conservative Protestants have joined the effort to reverse this rule change. I hope they succeed.

The “Naked Public Square” in Fayetteville, North Carolina

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First page of Constitution of the United States

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A federal judge has banned Christian prayers from the city council meetings in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Only “non-sectarian prayers” will be allowed. This is the latest sortie in the attempt of the United States government to enforce what the late Father Richard John Neuhaus called “The Naked Public Square.” That term refers to the systematic removal of religion (especially Christianity) from public discourse in the United States. Usually proponents of the naked public square refer to Thomas Jefferson’s referring to a “wall of separation” between church and state. Yet the term “separation of church and state” does not appear in the U.S. Constitution–the First Amendment only forbids the U. S. Congress from establishing a religion and forbids the government from prohibiting the free exercise of religion. It does not even forbid a state from having an established church if that individual state so choose. It took the creative reading of meaning into the First Amendment by members of the Supreme Court and by secularist federal judges to force a so-called “religiously neutral stance” on the American people. Religion is relegated to the private sphere.

Yet no one can remain neutral on religion–as William James pointed out in his famous essay, “The Will to Believe,” “neutrality” is de facto a rejection of religion. Religions claim to have implications for the whole of life, public and private. To privatize religion is to destroy an essential part of religion’s identity. A “neutral stance” of the government is, in effect, an endorsement of practical atheism.

There also can be no such thing as a “nonsectarian prayer.” A prayer to a deity of any kind reflects a bias toward theistic religions such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Theravada Buddhists do not believe in God, or else believe that whether a deity exists is not important to ending desire and suffering. Would not a prayer to a deity oppose their teaching? Atheists would not agree with any kind of prayer. A prayer not using the name of Jesus is nonsectarian; it is biased against Christianity and toward the other two great theistic religions. A removal of a prayer from city council meetings would not help, since this would reflect a bias toward (practical) atheism.

A better solution would be to allow ministers from various faiths to present a prayer or devotional at the city council meeting. A Jewish rabbi or a Muslim Imam could pray to God without invoking the name of Jesus. A Theravada Buddhist could present some sayings of the Buddha about ending desire. A Christian could pray in the name of Jesus. An atheist might present a short meditation on the glory of science. Those in the audience who do not agree with the theology behind a particular prayer or devotional or meditation can surely tolerate it–no one is forcing them to give up their religious beliefs. If I am ever asked to pray publicly, I will pray in accordance with my religion, Christianity. I will end my prayer “in Jesus’ name.” To do otherwise would violate my conscience. A Jewish rabbi who leads a prayer should not be required to use the name of Jesus. A Theravada Buddhist need not make a reference to a deity. That is a solution fair to different religious groups that makes more sense than a “nonsectarian prayer.”

 

Should Christians Pray as Christians?

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A Baptist pastor, Ron Baity, was told that his services were no longer needed at the North Carolina House of Representatives after he led a prayer in the name of Jesus. This brings up an interesting point about those who scream “intolerance” at Pastor Baity and other Christians who insist praying in the name of Jesus. They are intolerant and offensive themselves. There is no such thing as a “nonsectarian prayer.” Prayer by its very nature is bound to a tradition. Traditional Christians are more tolerant than liberal Christians or atheists since they generally do not protest if a Jewish Rabbi does not pray in the name of Jesus. Christians recognize that Jews have a different understanding of the nature of Jesus than Christians, and the vast majority are not offended if a Jew leads a prayer without using Jesus’ name in a public forum. There are Orthodox Jews who understand that if a Christian is praying in the name of Jesus, that Christian is only following his own religious tradition. What is so intolerant about allowing all who lead prayers to pray according to their tradition–this is fair to all religious groups and does not perpetuate the fiction of a “nonsectarian prayer.” It is usually liberal Protestants, liberal Catholics, or liberal Jews, some of whom are de facto atheists, who protest the loudest against Jesus’ name being spoken in prayers. Only people who do not believe in the distinctive claims of their religious tradition could claim that prayers could be nonsectarian.

A friend of mine, The Rev. Ervin Crain, led a prayer about fifteen years ago at the University of Texas at Austin commencement. He finished the prayer in the name of Jesus. When a liberal rabbi protested, The Rev. Crain quite sensibly replied that as a Christian he felt duty bound to pray according to the beliefs of his tradition. He said that if a Jewish rabbi led the prayer, he would not be offended at his not using Jesus’ name, since he realized that the rabbi would pray in accordance with his tradition. Liberals are infected with selective tolerance–they tolerate every expression of religious faith except the traditional Christianity that they hate. They are the truly intolerant ones.