Aug. 28, 2006
August 28, 2006
DEATH OF A CHURCH-STATE CASE PIONEER
The woman who brought an early church-state separation case to the Supreme Court has died in Champaign, Ill. I hope someone writes a good history of these cases through the eyes of the people who helped make this history. I'd read it. Wouldn't you?
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RAISING STORMY QUESTIONS
As we mark the first anniversary of the remarkable Katrina hurricane (and worry about Hurricane Ernesto), we would do well to think about the theological questions natural disasters raise and the many ways faith communities respond to the disasters themselves.
Click here for Catholic Online's first part of its year-later coverage as an example of the stories being told.
It's hard to imagine how many people were affected by all this, either as victims or as responders. To put the devastation in perspective for folks who live in the Kansas City area, someone recently suggested that we imagine a six-mile wide tornado that hit the ground at Manhattan, Kan., and stayed on the ground all the way to Columbia, Mo. Whew.
It seems as if each of us knows Katrina (pictured here) victims or helpers. My church, for instance, sent a youth group to work in the Gulf Coast recovery work. And my cousin and his wife from Denver spent weeks and weeks working for the Red Cross in the Gulf Coast after Katrina. I also have friends -- columnists in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, for instance -- who lived through the trauma.
You may recall that after the tsunami struck in Asia late 2004 various people were asking how God could allow this kind of thing. In fact, I did a Kansas City Star story exploring that very question, which is the old question of theodicy. It goes something like this:
* An all-powerful God could prevent evil.
* An all-loving God would want to do that.
* But evil and suffering exist.
* So should we conclude that God is weak, not loving or simply nonexistent?
A remarkably honest answer came from John E. Thiel, professor of religious studies at Fairfield University in Connecticut, and author of God, Evil, and Innocent Suffering: "There are no easy answers to such questions."
In the end, Thiel said, he's concluded that "God does not cause death in any way, and there are no higher or mysterious purposes in death at all. Death is a tragic fact of life that God regards as an enemy that eventually will be defeated," and God demonstrated power over death in Jesus' resurrection.
Well, there are many ways to ponder the theodicy question, and that's what I invite you to do as you continue to remember the victims of such natural disasters -- remember and respond to their suffering in any way that you can.
To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.
P.S.: Rep. Katherine Harris, whose exclusivist remarks about religion and politics I mentioned here over the weekend, now says her remarks were misconstrued. Yeah, well, maybe. But they seemed pretty clear when she said them.
When Man accepts that Earth was Colonized by our High Tech Human Ancestors from Space and that They reproduce by High Tech, the Higher Nature of reproduction, then we will understand Humans were created 'perfect' in the beginning, by the Higher Nature. Our HTA do have High Tech Eternal Pure-bred Physical Life.
When the perfect people 'fell' to Heterosexual Body Birth, the Lower Nature of reproduction, of Cain, Abel, Seth, etc., all the evil began on Earth.
We will not be able to understand all the evil on Earth, until we accept that the the Original Sin of perfect Man, was the Heterosexual Body Birth of all humans since the Fall. This started inequality, division, disease, war and death on Earth. This is the result of Fallen Man, not God.
Cain killed Abel and went out and married and started another nation, and this has continued for 6000 years. Now we are in the Last Days of Mis-Breeding. We have polluted the Eco System that causes all the disasters, and have High Tech weapons of massive destruction.
Our HTA, called God by fallen Man, do not cause the evil on Earth, Man does.
A balanced Eco System was set up at the Colonization, and Man was supposed to be the Caretaker of it and All Life. Earth is a spacehsip with all the resources on board. How is the Crew of Spaceship Earth doing?
My web site: http://home.kc.rr.com/hightech/home.html
Posted by: Dolores Lear | August 28, 2006 at 05:01 AM
Dolores, I must say that I am speechless, after reading your post.
This is a response to your column, Bill. First, it sounds like a marvelously interesting project and a terrific idea to have a rabbi narrate.
However, when I saw the date of the performance, the first thing I asked was, "Why perform a piece commissioned for Good Friday in Sept?", and the second, "Why the week before the important Jewish holiday of Rosh HaShanah or New Year, when Jews are supposed to begin self-examination and repentance?" To be frank, it seems like a bit of a slap at Judaism to schedule the performance at this time, although I'm not Jewish.
I was wondering if the addition of a rabbi was to help assuage any concerns. It would be interesting to know if this is my over-sensitivity or if Jews have had their concerns too.
Posted by: Patricia | August 28, 2006 at 08:01 AM
Rep. Harris's comments should be a huge concern for everyone regardless of political affiliation or philosophy or religious belief. She, in essence, has said that if elected she would ignore a central tenet to the US Constitution - the very document she would be sworn to uphold.
Is hers the real "hidden agenda" of the Christian Right's involvement in the Republican Party? Funny how "hidden agenda" is a term frequently thrown at liberal ideas or positions.
One might even suggest her comments were treasonous.
Posted by: D.A. | August 28, 2006 at 08:02 AM
Delores...what else can I say?
Seriously, while I wouldn't phrase it just exactly the way you phrased it, and while I would certainly define the attributes of God differently, I think you've done a wonderful job of making the point. Man is the cause of man's ills. If we want to minimize suffering, we should maximize righteousness. In doing so, we glorify God, truly love our neighbors, and live our lives to the fullest measure.
Posted by: SC in KC | August 28, 2006 at 08:07 AM
Please don't misunderstand my question. I genuinely want to understand a point that you suggested.
What did Rep. Harris say that you think might be considered treason?
Posted by: SC in KC | August 28, 2006 at 08:11 AM
From Merriam-Webster online
1 : the betrayal of a trust : TREACHERY
2 : the offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign's family.
Is not an affirmative statement declaring her willingness...and her plan...to "overthrow" a critical part of our Constitution - the founding document of our Government - potentially treasonous?
Admittedly, the term is a bit harsh - I offered it solely to suggest that because her motivations may be acceptible to some (i.e. conservative Christians) it is no less contemptible and should be noted as such
Posted by: D.A. | August 28, 2006 at 08:36 AM
According to Bill's post, John Thiel said that "God does not cause death in any way." I guess Mr. Thiel hasn't spent much time actually reading the Bible.
Posted by: Steve S | August 28, 2006 at 08:49 AM
Regarding Katherine Harris:
One of the problems with a politician pronouncing herself as a Christian representing Christian values, is that she is then held to higher standards.
I think that the most important question to be asked is not whether Christian values be put into action in government, but rather, when someone proclaims that Christian values are being instituted, are they REALLY?
What abcd was trying to say yesterday and said rather crudely and rudely, is that many of us believe that the louder the proclamation of Christian belief, the more evil we see in action.
There seems to be less respect for fellow men and women.
I don't know that we can expect any less. If politicians have previously been willing to sell their souls to the devil, they seem now to be able to sell themselves to the brandname of Christianity. Loud and public prayer is a great mask for some rotten policy and activity.
This reign of self-proclaimed Christians in power has produced:
More pork skimming and greed than ever before;
A rise in poverty;
Continued personal corruption in gov, by those claiming to be Christian;
Some of the dirtiest campaigning methods I've witnessed(read Barbara Shelly on Matt Bartle);
A seemingly deaf ear to the poor in New Orleans during the Superdome occupation;
A greater divide between rich and poor, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer;
Greater divisiveness and hate in the nation;
A lower quality of life for children;
A higher infant mortality rate;
Less healthcare for all and resulting higher mortality for treatable illnesseses;
Rising death rates from AIDS as promises for funding are broken and programs destroyed;
An unnecessary war that has killed over 50,000;
Failure to protect civilians in Iraq, after having destroyed their police and protection systems;
Uncensored use of cluster bombing(a genocidal measure) and mines to kill civilians;
A failure to effectively respond to the moral challenge of genocide in Darfur.............
Christian, the brandname, could more accurately be branded Death or Corruption.
A self-proclaimed Christian politician is the best reason I can think of to give my vote to her opponent. I think the Bible has its own term for a Christian politician. It's "False Prophet."
Posted by: Patricia | August 28, 2006 at 08:53 AM
Mis sent my last post.
Our HTA are the Man Gods/Angels that flew in the air in fiery chariots. High Tech is the 'super'natural of religion.
My web site explains all of this and is posted above.
Posted by: Dolores Lear | August 28, 2006 at 08:55 AM
My last comment was to SC in KC, not Patricia.
Posted by: Dolores Lear | August 28, 2006 at 08:59 AM
Think this was a very interesting post in the responses to the K. Harris story in the PB Post:
"This is profoundly anti-democratic. It’s also not surprising, given that Ms. Harris spent time at Francis Schaeffer’s L’Abri in Switzerland. Schaeffer was the father of all this culture warring, and he held a dim view of democracy. It’s apparent that Harris shares her Christian guru’s views on the subject."
Posted by: Patricia | August 28, 2006 at 09:59 AM
Thank you SC in KC.
Posted by: Dolores Lear | August 28, 2006 at 12:01 PM
I believe Bill posted something a few weeks ago about the importance of electing a Muslin to Congress. Why is that a admirable goal, but electing a Christian to Congress is treason?
Posted by: Ron | August 28, 2006 at 03:33 PM
I never said electing a Christian to Congress was treason. I said that Rep. Harris's comments "that the separation of church and state is a "lie we have been told" to keep religious people out of politics." is a rebuke of our Constitution - which she is Sworn to uphold - that borders on treason (see definition above). There are many Christians that are in public offices - from all spectrums of beliefs, religiously and politically - that serve with honor. Only Rep. Harris has suggested an imperative to ignore our Nation's laws, ignore one of the core tenets of our nations existence.
She declared "If you're not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin,". So ONLY Christians can be elected - otherwise it's sin????
And I'll declare the same sense of "treason" if a Muslim candidate - or any other candidate religious, secular, ethnic, etc. - offers the notion that our Constitution is something we can ignore, in part or in whole.
Posted by: D.A. | August 28, 2006 at 04:01 PM
I'm sure what Rep. Harris is referring to is that neither the phrase, nor the concept of "separation of church of state" appears anywhere in the US Constitution. It only protects against the government establishing an official, state-sponsored religion. To my knowledge, no one has proposed this. The Constitution is safe from harm if Rep. Harris is elected, or if laws based on Christian values are enacted. Heaven knows, the laws enacted based on secular philosophies aren't helping matters any.
Posted by: Ron | August 28, 2006 at 04:23 PM
The concept of Separation of Church and State is a clearly articulated doctrine by the U.S. Supreme Court and has repeatedly - through "liberal" and "conservative" courts - been determined to be the manner in which our nation ensures that the Government shall establish no religion.
I wouldn't mind nearly so much if Rep. Harris had indicated she would work - within the framework of our government as articulated in the Constitution and the Supreme Court and the Congress and the Presidency - to establish this nation as a "Christian Nation". This, would of course, at the very least require a Constitutional Amendment. What she averred was she will IGNORE the Law of the Land, that it is a "LIE".
And this speaks clearly to the point I suggested in the first posting. You are clearly willing to overlook, forgive even DEFEND her statement because you apparently agree. Had Rep. Harris been the Muslim you so feared, would you be stating such? I'd bet your howls of denunciation would clearly drown out mine - though we would be singing the same tune.
Posted by: D.A. | August 28, 2006 at 05:33 PM
I would be curious as to which laws you consider to have been enacted based on secular philosophies.
Posted by: Patricia | August 28, 2006 at 05:33 PM
Cooking up long laundry lists against members of one group or another is just a way to drum up support for irrational bias. It's no better than the bias in the opposite direction that some have used. We shouldn't blame all Christians for the actions of some who claim to be Christians. That's illogical. It's as bad as the logic that someone uses to elect Christians just because they profess to be Christians.
The right approach is for people to examine the record of each candidate apart from the party or religious affiliations that they claim. You can never know if someone is a Christian or not just because they profess to be; maybe they're just a wolf in sheep's clothing. Their actions in regard to the Church are far more important than their confessions.
Posted by: Just Thinking | August 28, 2006 at 06:01 PM
Patricia, based on the comments above against any laws that might be enacted by someone based on Christian values, I guess all the current laws are based on non-Christian, or secular, values. That's what our Constitution requires, right? The Supreme Court said so.
Posted by: Ron | August 28, 2006 at 06:52 PM
I'm sorry that you were unable to identify the thesis statement in the above post, JT. It was certainly NOT directed at all Christians. Let me see if I can repeat for you in simpler terms.....
"There is a difference between a politician claiming to be a Christian and actually behaving as a Christian."
Perhaps if I put it yet another way, it will further clarity my point.........
" Beware of FALSE prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves."
Posted by: Patricia | August 28, 2006 at 07:14 PM
I think that perhaps we're back to those language differences that you and I talked about, Ron. We live under secular law, not "secular values".
One definition of secular is "not overtly or specifically religious". It's interesting to note that it evolved from a church term. Secular priests were clergy who did not belong to a religious order or congregation.
Translated into law, that doesn't mean that secular law is devoid of moral underpinnings that may be the same as Christian tenets. It really just means that the law needs to be written to allow for all religions to function under it, without any one being favored.
For the past approximately fifty years, the Supreme Court has also ruled that atheists and agnostics must be able to function under a given law. I think that it is important to note here that atheist and agnostics can live under extremely high moral codes. Morals that can be the same as Christian law without putting any kind of religious definition on them.
It might help to think of laws as being non-sectarian, as opposed to the word secular, because somehow I am getting the impression that you believe that God's laws can't or don't function under secular law.
It is really just the laws of a specific or favored church that cannot function.
Posted by: Patricia | August 28, 2006 at 07:36 PM
Your thesis seemed quite clear in the statement you wrote:
"A self-proclaimed Christian politician is the best reason I can think of to give my vote to her opponent. I think the Bible has its own term for a Christian politician. It's "False Prophet.""
Posted by: Just Thinking | August 28, 2006 at 07:52 PM
Patricia, I understand your point. It just seems to me that we are holding Christian politicians to an impossible standard. They are supposed to set aside a big part of who they are and enact laws that are acceptable to non-believers. In your ideal world, Christian politicans would set aside who they are and what they believe and vote on proposed laws based on a sectarian world view. This may be what the Constituion requires, but it does put these folks in a difficult situation, don't you think?
Posted by: Ron | August 28, 2006 at 08:30 PM
One definition of religion in Merriam Webster's dictionary is:
"a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith"
It seems to me that atheism might qualify as a religion. There is certainly faith and ador in this system because the atheists act very strongly on their beliefs. Why not have our government declare it as a religion. They're already protected from all other religions. The only change would be that other religions would also have protection against atheists.
Posted by: Just Thinking | August 28, 2006 at 08:32 PM
The only Christian who is a true hypocrite is one who claims to be perfect. Some of the worst behavior comes from Christians because it often takes terrible brokenness to bring people to their knees.
The atheists look better when they lose broken people; the Christians might look worse, but God is glorified, and that is what counts.
I wonder if there is a way for an atheist to be a hypocrite other than to have a moment of belief in God.
Posted by: Just Thinking | August 28, 2006 at 08:41 PM