March 19, 2008
March 21, 2008

March 20, 2008


Pope Benedict XVI has been trying to improve the Vatican's relations with the Chinese government as well as with Catholic churches in China that have been operating with independence from Vatican oversight. So he was slow to respond publicly to the crisis in Tibet. But Wednesday he spoke out. Geo-political-religious relations always seem to require some compromise. But that's because the world is complicated and doesn't operate in only black and white, as lots of folks seem to wish.

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Over the years there's been lots of debate about whether the United States is now or ever was a "Christian nation" and about what the religious beliefs and intentions of the nation's founders were.

Waldman_2Among the good recent books about this subject, I recommend Forrest Church's So Help Me God. (I mentioned Forrest the other day here on the blog.) But Steven Waldman, the founder of, has just come out with one I haven't yet read but that looks good -- and, it has the added advantage of being tied to a whole new archive of material on a Beliefnet site by and about the founders that you can reach by clicking here.

The archive is not exhaustive but it appears to be extensive enough to give you a good feel for what lots of different people said on different topics. And you can search either by author or by topic.

Click on Thomas Jefferson, for instance, and you'll get 23 entries. Or click on John Adams and you'll turn up 18 results.

Two things bother me about many discussions having to do with the founders and religion. One is that many people want to dismiss the importance of religion to them. A second is that many people don't want to acknowledge that the nation has evolved through various laws, constitutional amendments and case law to be different in many ways from the country the Pilgrims thought they were starting to create.

At any rate, Waldman's collection should give all of us some help when trying to nail down what various members of our nation's founders thought about religious matters.

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P.S.: I've written a special extra column today examining the controversy over Barack Obama's former pastor.

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Former Kansas City Star reporter Karen Blakeman and others who teach journalism at the University of Kansas are doing a survey of people who read blogs connected to newspapers. If you participate, which I hope you will, you'll even have a chance to win $50. To read about it and do the survey, click here. The idea is to help scholars understand the way poeple use blogs connected to newspapers, and there's been precious little academic research into that subject. So, if you can, lend these KU J-School folks a hand -- even if, like me, you're a Missouri grad.

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.

Today's religious holidays: Maundy Thursday (Christianity); Mawlid an Nabi (Islam); Ostara (Wicca; Northern Hemisphere); Mabon (Wicca; Southern Hemisphere).


Joe Barone

You notice the Pope didn't condemn China. He just talked about tolerance on both sides. I think we should boycott the Olympics. Given the pollution problems and everything (the pot calling the kettle black), it was a crazy place to have them in the first place.

Mary Behr

After reading the piece by the Pope and Tibet and Bill's extra special KCStar column on O'bama's former pastor (and ESPECIALLY the comments on that in that paper) I want to say a big AMEN to Bill's comment re the Tibet piece:

"Geo-political-religious relations always seem to require some compromise. But that's because the world is complicated and doesn't operate in only black and white, as lots of folks seem to wish."

In geo-political and in other situations, things are often complicated and not easily resolved when viewed simply in black and white. Many things need to be considered.

One of the comments on Bill's column in the Star gratuitously insulted him. That did not add to an intelligent discussion. Only showed the cast-in-stone tunnel vision bias of the commenter. It would behoove us to suspend final judgment untill considering all the information available. Passion is fine in it's place but cannot take the place of mature considertion.


I saw parts of Obama's speech and read it and, in my opinion, he took the "high road" by attempting to address heady issues regarding race in America. He could have chosen an easy out by simply casting his old preacher to the wolves. It's worth noting that his choice that reflects intelligence and integrity will probably not help his campaign that much, due to the realities of politics.

I have a lot of problems with merely labeling the words of Wright and other pastors as "prophetic voices" and, thus, mightily disagree with your column.

The whole point of the "prophetic voice" is that it is supposed to be the voice or message from God that a minister channels to his "flock". At some point, in the hearing of the message, it's incumbent on us not to be unthinking sheep.

That means that we have a responsibility as moral adults to stand up and say. "Wait a minute, the nature of God is not to spew anti-Catholic prejudice." Or, "God would not reward me with virgins, if I strap on a bomb and go kill innocents." Or, "But Rev Hagee, God would not really flood New Orleans just because there was going to be a gay pride parade that weekend."

The examples that I've just mentioned should not be given the honor of being included in "prophetic preaching".(Neither should some of Wright's comments.) They should be called what they are. "False prophetic preaching." And we should all know what the responsibilities of each moral person are, when it comes to discerning and following false prophecy.


Bill Tammeus' analysis of Reverend Wright falls short of the mark. Calling for God to damn America because of her actions against blacks is wrong for two reasons. First, it is wrong to call for God's damnation of another. Everybody knows that. However, there would be nothing wrong with pointing out that God will judge people for their actions, regardless of who they claim to be. A bad action is still a bad action, but Reverend Wright is not qualified to call on God to damn anyone. Second, it is wrong to deal with this as a racist issue. God's justice, His law, and His mercy are not racist. Those who commit evil acts against their fellow humans are wrong, regardless of their (racist) motivations. And, yes, God will judge a person's actions. But it won't be because of the race of the victim, the race of the perpetrator, or the racial hatred of those involved; it will be because of God's unbiased justice. And God will not condemn someone's actions because of Reverend Wright; God's law, justice and mercy will determine whether or not God damns the person.

When you strip away the excess baggage, the racist attitudes and motivations of Reverend Wright stand out like a sore thumb. And that draws into question Obama's attitudes and motivations when he has been immersed in such racial thinking for 20 years. Does he even see the distinction between racial thinking and God's thinking? If not, then he should not lead America.

Joe Barone

Jean, Obama called Wright's condemnation (and his other comments) "appalling," and that's enough for me. I appreciated Bill's comments about the Wright controversy in the Star today. My opinion is expressed below in something I put on Lee Judge's blog. Admittedly, I am an Obama fan, so you can take these comments with whatever grains of salt you need to take them:

I wonder how many years of Wright's sermons people had to mine to come up with those especially incendiary comments? To me, the whole thing is just another example of Swiftboating. In the old politics, when someone runs for office (Obama, Clinton, McCain, Romney, Huckabee or whoever) people mine everything to try to find incendiary tidbits to replay over and over again, not to build themselves up but to lower the vote for the enemy candidate. It is a kind of smear.

Obama addressed the issue acknowledging the pain and anger on all sides. He made the point that poor and middle class struggling minorities and poor and middle class struggling whites have similar needs for jobs, education, etc. If they can work together, they can both rise. I think it's a good point. I think it is time to put aside the Willie Horton, Swiftboat type of politics.



What delineates false prophetic preaching from true prophetic preaching?

Dolores Lear

This is the reason Reverend Wright, and other Ministers, Priests, etc., lose patience with people, that run the government in the USA. All the Inequality of it's Citizens, especially, the Indians and the Blacks, is not of God.

Love God. Do Not Kill, and
Turn the other cheek. What does this mean?

Love God above all 'things', and Love your Brothers/Sisters of Life, as yourself.

No one lives up to this. In any religion, whether used as a State Relgiion, or not, Satan's Hate of our Earth and our Brothers/Sisters, comes first.

Most believers do not Love God's Temple, our Earth. It is Polluted and bombed with weapons of massive destruction. Why? Love of God?

Believers do not believe in Equal Sharing with All Brothers/Sisters and All Life on Earth. There are starving and homeless Humans. Why? Love of God?

Who did God make to be the Caretakers of the Earth? The Species Human?

When did God divide up the Earth, between the White, Black, Brown, Red and Yellow?

God gave the Earth Free for All Species, but Man is the only one that sells God's land, and it's resources to their Brothers/Sisters of God. The birds, animals, etc. all have it for Free, as Human were also.

When did God give the land and resources to only some of his Children? Where else is the needy and starving to go?

What is the Truth about Planet Earth and the Life on it?
Will we Kill our Home and All Life, before we accept, it was to be Shared Equally with All Species? And that the Species Man was to be in Charge?

Who is in charge of this mess? God?


Thank you, Joe, for your comments to me. I did not mean to be offensive. The part that has me concerned about Reverend Wright is how he clearly divides issues along racial lines, as I mentioned before. How has being immersed in this way of thinking affected Barack Obama?

You seem to feel that it has not affected Barack Obama, but there is evidence to the contrary. For example, he said this of his Grandmother: "The point I was making was not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity. But she is a typical white person. If she sees somebody on the street that she doesn't know. . .there's a reaction in her that doesn't go away and it comes out in the wrong way."

That is an example of racial thinking as opposed to God's thinking. It's what I was talking about, and I don't think it can so easily be dismissed. Reverend Wright may well be part of the cause of this kind of flawed thinking.


Here's a quote that comes from

[begin quote]
Wright does not focus his ire on white America alone,
said Martin Marty, a retired professor of religious
history who taught Wright at the University of

"He is very hard on his own people," Marty said. "He
criticizes them for their lack of fidelity in
marriage, for black-on-black crime. He is not saying
one part of America is right and one is wrong."

Obama and others also have highlighted Trinity's
extensive social safety net. It offers college
placement help, drug and alcohol counseling, a credit
union, and domestic violence programs.
[end quote]

I think this puts Wright's so-called racist comments in a new, fuller context.


"What delineates false prophetic preaching from true prophetic preaching?"

Hey, PDJ, good to have you challenging me again. Each of us has to find the answer to the question in our hearts. When a teacher or preacher is leading an exemplary life and combining that with sound logic/doctrine and a faithful obedience to God as revealed in the Bible and in life, then we may make a judgment that she is prophetic. It is, of course, a completely subjective assessment or belief.

THANK YOU, RichB, for providing an intelligent discussion that gives context to Rev Wright's speeches. It's one reason that it is so very dangerous that white conservative propagandists are dirtying up public airways with 24/7 condemnations of both Rev Wright and Obama. It, indeed, can righteously be compared to Swiftboating, JoeB. In this case, perhaps more aptly termed BackoftheBussing.

Joe Barone

Jean, I've never considered what you have said offensive. I just see you expressing what you believe, and I admire you for that.

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