July 28, 2006
July 31, 2006

July 29-30, 2006, weekend


In Seattle, one person is dead and five wounded in a shooting spree at a Jewish center by a Muslim man who said he was angry at Israel. Police have increased security to prevent further attacks. The question is always the same: What in the world drives someone to religious violence? And just to ask the most pragmatic question, has such behavior not always created more problems than it has solved?

* * *


You know you're behind the times when even the pope has more high-tech gadgets than you do. Vatican Radio employees recently gave Benedict XVI an iPod, it's reported. Yes, but my question is whether he knows God's e-mail address.

* * *


As the 2008 presidential campaign season revs its engines, it's time to consider a question that continues to surface: Will Americans elect a Mormon president?

Mitt_romneyMitt Romney (pictured here), the Republican governor of Massachussets (right there is an anomoly -- the Bay State electing a GOP chief executive), is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And by all accounts, he wants to be president.

But when another Mormon, Sen. Orrin Hatch, ran in 2000, he did so in the face of a 1999 Gallup poll showing 17 percent of voting Americans declaring they'd never vote for a Mormon. Indeed, some people who would describe themselves as conservative Christians at times refer to Mormonism derisively as a cult.

So today I'm giving you links to several pieces that discuss this matter to get you thinking about it more carefully. As you look at all this, think back to when John F. Kennedy ran in 1960 in the face of prejudice against Catholics. (My own Presbyterian minister in northern Illinois told us then that if JFK was elected, the pope would run the country. I was a teen-ager then and couldn't vote yet.) Is the Romney-Mormon situation parallel to the JFK-Catholic connection or are there substantial differences?

The first piece is from the Weekly Standard, and is somewhat dated, appearing in June 2005, but it's worth a read. (You also may want to look at my July 4 blog entry in the archives for another brief discussion of this matter.)

An even earlier piece from Newhouse News Service raised many of the same issues, as did this piece from the Boston Phoenix.

A few months later, in September, the Washington Monthly did this piece about what it called Romney's "evangelical problem."

This spring, Slate.com weighed in on the subject with this article.

And earlier this month, Religion News Service offered this piece, mentioning that more recent polling shows 37 percent of Americans now say they won't vote for a Mormon.

So, is this just a rerun of the nonsense about the pope packing up and moving to the White House in 1960? Or is something else at play here?

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here. (My Saturday column this weekend was written from Quincy, Mass., birthplace of John Adams, and has to do with how children learn about religion.)

AND a P.S.:

I'll be teaching a weekend writing class Oct. 6-8 at the Kirkridge Retreat and Study Center in Bangor, Pa. Think about joining us. For a description of the class, click here. It's called "From Pain to Hope through Writing." In it, we'll spend some time thinking about what Christianity means by hope and then we'll go to those places of personal or collective pain in our lives and write about them, remembering what it means to have hope. We'll also share some of that writing with each other. Writing about pain can be a healing process as we write toward the light. The weekend begins with a Friday evening dinner and session and ends with lunch on Sunday. An Autumn weekend in the Poconos spent with words. What could be better? Hope to see you there.


Kansas Bob

Hard to believe the candidates that are emerging on the national scene ... don't particularly see anyone that I really like. Seems that our choices are more and more about voting against a candidate rather than for one.

It amazes me that there are so few qualified people that run for political office. Perhaps it is too nasty of a business for talented people to enter.

Just Thinking

I suspect that a marriage ammendment might read differently with a President of the Mormon faith!

Maybe it would include the necessary provisions to prevent second marriages except in cases of infidelity. That would be good. 80% of the people in jails come from these broken families; it's an enormous cost to society. We should never have allowed "irreconcilable differences" as an excuse for bad behavior.

Those of the Mormon faith seem to practice what THEY preach a whole lot more carefully than mainstream Christians. They police their own Church as the Bible says, and they stay away from being too critical of outsiders, also like the Bible says. They're always out there evangelizing, spreading the good news and helping others; almost every member does missionary service.

I'd hate to see an LDS President--mainstream Christians might have to start taking a serious look at themselves, and who knows what might come out of that ... it's never happened in this country so far as I can tell. I just hate it when people use actions to prove who they are instead of all those lovely words; it's just not fair. Some of us just aren't good at taking action!

If faith has to start including action like James said, then will the faith-based initiative money end up going somewhere else? Christians won't have to start reaching out or even loving those they don't like, wlll they?


The faith of a particular president makes no difference whatsoever. the U.S. government is thoroughly secular, except for a few remnants of American Civil Religion, which offends only die-hard atheists. Any President who tried to insert his Muslim or Christian beliefs into the U.S. government would be immediately taken to task by the U.S. Supreme Court and the ACLU.

BTW, the only reason Gov. Romney is being talked about for U.S. President is because he has nice hair. If he didn't have that, his name would never be mentioned.

Just Thinking

It can make a difference. For example, President Bush told an Amish audience, "I trust God speaks through me. Without that I couldn't do my job."

Now some have disputed that, but it's tough to claim that these Amish people and an Amish reporter would bear false witness against a man. Remember that there are harsh penalties when they lie, not like when the President or Rumsfeld, or Cheney or Scooter lie.


I don't doubt for a minute that George Bush believes that God speaks through him. How that influences his actions could be profound.

What about a President of some other faith? What might their God tell them to do?

Just Thinking

But you are right, at least in part, about faith not mattering for the President. It surely doesn't matter for the current one.

I'll bet Romney would never say things like the quotes below because his Church would hold him accountable. There was talk of dropping Bush from the Methodist roles because he doesn't show up enough. I think he should be dropped from the roles for other reasons.

"The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our number one priority and we will not rest until we find him." — 9/13/01

"I want justice...There's an old poster out West, as I recall, that said, 'Wanted: Dead or Alive,'" —9/17/01

"...Secondly, he is not escaping us. This is a guy, who, three months ago, was in control of a county [sic]. Now he's maybe in control of a cave. He's on the run. Listen, a while ago I said to the American people, our objective is more than bin Laden. But one of the things for certain is we're going to get him running and keep him running, and bring him to justice. And that's what's happening. He's on the run, if he's running at all. So we don't know whether he's in cave with the door shut, or a cave with the door open -- we just don't know...."—Crawford TX, 12/28/01

"I don't know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority."—3/13/02

"I am truly not that concerned about him."—3/13/02

"I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him."—3/13/02

"Uhh—Gosh, I —don't think I ever said I'm not worried about Osama bin Laden. It's kind of one of those, uhh, exaggerations." — Tempe, AZ, 10/13/2004


If you have never studied the Mormon faith, I would recommend "Under the Banner of Heaven" by Jon Krakauer, who wrote "Into the Wild" and "Into Thin Air." Impeccable research and an unbiased approach, giving the full history of the faith.


I will vote for Mitt in a New York minute. And I don't care about his religion. Seriously,-- the media will continue to place so much artifical importance on the topic that it will eventually distract, divert and otherwise cloud serious debate about his Presidential run. And where's the fun in that?

Just Thinking

You know, I agree. It's time to start looking at content of character for a change, instead of meaningless phrases like, "I am a Christian." You can't know if they're telling you the truth, and even if they are, my experience with Christians is that a lot of them are hateful, immoral, judgmental and hyprocritical, just like many other people. The Christian litmus test just doesn't work. Let's go back to looking at character.

Here's a fun little snippet for your consideration concerning Donald Rumsfeld and his lies to associate Al Qaida with Saddam. You know, there's nothing lower than a man who lies to start a war; so far as I am concerned that's treason:

On Sept. 27, 2002, at a Chamber of Commerce lunch in Atlanta, Rumsfeld asserted that the Bush administration had "bulletproof" evidence linking Saddam and al-Qaida, the organization that carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

But on Oct 4, 2004, Rumsfeld revised his assertion, telling the Council of Foreign Relations in New York: "To my knowledge, I have not seen any strong, hard evidence that links the two."

Just Thinking

Here's more information if you don't think it was Bush behind all of these lies and deceptions.

Back in April 2006, Paul R. Pillar, the CIA's national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005 published an article in the journal Foreign Affairs, a highly respected journal.

In the article Pillar said that the Bush administration "used intelligence not to inform decision-making, but to justify a decision already made. It went to war without requesting -- and evidently without being influenced by -- any strategic-level intelligence assessments on any aspect of Iraq." Though Pillar himself was responsible for coordinating intelligence assessments on Iraq, "the first request I received from any administration policymaker for any such assessment was not until a year into the war."

Pillar aso cited President Bush's claim, made in his 2003 State of the Union address, that Iraq was purchasing uranium ore from an African country. Pillar said, "U.S. intelligence analysts had questioned the credibility of the report making this claim, had kept it out of their own unclassified products, and had advised the White House not to use it publicly."

"But the administration put the claim into the speech anyway, referring to it as information from British sources in order to make the point without explicitly vouching for the intelligence."

Bearing false witness against a man is serious business. Eye-for-an-eye justice of God's says that any man who would do that is deserving of the very thing that he wanted as punishment for the other person. That's from the Old Testament, but I'm told that's still valid.

Now, of course, we know that evidence was false. And the person who exposed that fact, Ambassador Wilson, mysteriously had his wife's identity as a CIA agent made public.

It's time to look at character, not mere words, "I am a Christian." The antichrist will come that way, too. He will even claim to BE Christ.

Just Thinking

Religious Violence.

I think that when you ask everyone to adopt some basic, simple ground rules that will foster cooperation and peace, and nitwits just can't see the wisdom of such ground rules, then you get war.

Either you call a truce, find a compromise and learn to leave with each other, or you end up with war. It only takes one dogmatic side to start a war, but it takes two to cease fire.

If it's just one side that won't give up, won't ever compromise because of their dogma, then they're really to blame, aren't they? That's why so many wars are religious.

You know, maybe John Lennon was right

... Imagine there's no countries
..... It isn't hard to do
... Nothing to kill or die for
..... And no religion too
... Imagine all the people
..... Living life in peace...


Can a Mormon win the White House?

Why not? We've already seen, in the last two elections, that a Moron can win it (especially with a little help from daddy's appointees to the supreme court).

Just Thinking

Oh, that's a horrible distortion ... don't forget that Moron also has a brother who was governor in a critical state.

Just Thinking

Remember two things about the Moron that make everything else okay:
1. He's a good Christian; he'll tell you so.
2. Moron even knows Billy Graham. You remember him, right? He was the one caught on the Nixon tapes making horrible anti-Jewish remarks.


call me crazy, but I dont see a moderate mormon from Mass winning a gop primary in South Carolina.

I actually fear for his saftey during the campaign. May he be blessed by all the Latter Day Saints.

Just Thinking

Oh, don't talk too much about them nice South Carolina boys. If you're going to do that, you need to write in code or start using big words, you know, the kind they learn you in the latter years of high school.

Strom Thurmond is still dead, isn't he? I hope the hell so. Did you know he was the only man alive who got to vote against Civil Rights twice in their career? But I'm sure his spirit lives on in the hearts and souls of all good Christians in that state.

SC in KC

Regarding religious violence...

Bill Moyers' "On Faith & Reason" episode last night dealt, in part, with this issue. His guest, whose name I have already forgotten (it's tough, getting older) used a remarkable phrase that I absolutely loved. He distinguished between Islam, as found in the Koran, and "Islamism", which is a fairly modern construct of radical militancy embraced by Hamas, Hezbollah, etc.

While I cannot presume to advise Muslims or Jews how to limit violent expressions of their own religions, I certainly have ideas about how to prevent Christians from distorting our faith with violent consequences. Sound Christian doctrine, based upon Scripture and Scripture alone, provides a loving response to any issue, and sound Christian pastors guide their congregations toward those loving responses.

"Blessings crown the head of the righteous,
but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked."
Psalm 10:6

"Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness."
James 3:18


We have reached a new low in the blog if we have to resort to quoting John Lennon.PLEEEEESE! Give me a break.

Just Thinking

Oooooh, that sounds like some of that Christian love we've all come to respect so much.

Tell me, how often do you haul off and love your neighbor like that?

Just Thinking

Here's a little exercise we do in the jails sometimes: How would you approach someone if you want to influence them to your point of view, and yet stay honest?

So often people learn bad habits because they really don't care about other people and a lack of love always ends up showing through as a lack of respect.

So, let's go back and you tell me what it is you don't like about John Lennon and the idea of everyone living together in peace.


"While we were still sinners, Christ died for us; that's complicated theology ... but more than that, it's love."

"Just Thinking" in a previous blog you'd stated the above. You've also quoted some wonderful passages of scripture to enforce the points that you're trying to make. The posts you've made today, though, seem more acrid than in previous days. I hope that everything is okay. Know that you are being prayed for, as are the rest of the bloggers that post here.

I just hope that with this anonymous platform we don't do to each other in our hearts what the Muslim man did in that Jewish center.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:21-24: "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell. Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift."


1 John 2:9 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness.

1 John 3:15 Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.

Just Thinking

It's interesting how you have approached this.

It's hard to explain to soomeone the difference between love and rules, but you've illustrated it nicely. You cannot learn to love by rules, but the rules are naturally obeyed by the heart of love.

Christian Love
"unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another: as (1) : the fatherly concern of God for humankind (2) : brotherly concern for others b : a person's adoration of God"

This is why love is the fulfillment of the law. Love goes beyond the law to a real, genuine concern for you and for everyone. We love only because God first loved us.

Romans 13
8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Galatians 5
14 The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 15 If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

I can be right and stick to my guns, but I am still wrong if there is no love in it. Please care about somebody before you correct them. They're a person, not a project.

Thanks for Grace. I'll bet everyone likes Grace.


Romney will not be able to make it past the Republican Presidential Primary. End of Story.


I know Bill often posts on stem-cell related issues...

I found the following article today on the St. Louis Post Dispatch’s website. It is in regard to the various positions held by some Missouri religious bodies on the upcoming stem-cell November ballot issue.

For those interested:


Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)