Separation of Church and State III

My response to the Freedom From Religion Foundation turned their position on its head. Rather than keeping religious leaders out of politics, we need to keep political leaders out of religion. The tendency for leaders to cross lines is one of the greatest dangers to religious practice.

Steve Matichuk offers a summary of the absolutist Christian position. Essentially, as Christ seeks a universal brotherhood, any celebration of national identity dilutes his message. Steve holds out for some accommodation. My response below:


This is very close to my mind at this point, as I am just working through a video teaching on Revelation 13. In Revelation 12 the dragon (or Satan) is expelled from heaven, and in 13 he plots his dominance of earth by raising up tyrannical governments that are supported by hypocritical religious practices.

On the other hand, in Christian terms some governments are better than others. We should celebrate actions that manifest Christian ideals, while avoiding at all cost the use of government to enforce Christian morality.

As I emphasize in the video, the real battle is in the human mind, which continues to evolve after birth. Beginning with the collaborative experience of nursing, the brain actually develops centers that support socialization, culminating in adulthood with the center responsible for altruism – or what Christians would call “Unconditional Love.”

The holidays that you list are manifestations of many of the virtues listed in 2 Peter 1:5-8. But it is those virtues that should be celebrated – not some abstract ideal like our “freedom.” We are all yoked to God’s purpose, and so none of us should consider ourselves to be privileged with absolute freedom.

Revelation Book 7

Book 7 finishes up the preliminaries in heaven. Given that Revelation brings us the angelic perspective on Christ’s service to love, I’m happy that we’ve caught up to the second line of Genesis 1!

Heaven Knows Victory

This is getting to be more and more fun. I enjoy selecting the images, and the recording and editing isn’t as painful as it used to be. If only I could control my ‘s’s better…

Slush Fund of the Apocalypse

Rachel Maddow reported today that a Venezuelan businessman bought access to Trump’s National Security Council for his son. The purpose was to go over a ten-point plan that would remove US sanctions on Venezuela, instituted by the Obama Administration in response to the deaths of those protesting government corruption.

Access was apparently linked to a contribution of $666,000.00 to the president-elect’s inauguration fund. The fund raised more than $100 million, of which probably 20% was necessary to fund the celebration. The rest of the money is unaccounted for.

What amuses is that the original donation was $500,000. Someone on the Trump team felt it necessary to hold out for an additional $166,000.

“666”, of course, is the number of the beast in Revelation.

Anomie in Action

I ate dinner on Easter at Jack-in-the-Box. Fox News was broadcasting a synopsis of the Gospels. I came in just as John the Baptist was being dragged before Herod. The reaction of Jesus was portrayed as an angry invocation to his disciples to pick up the sword. The lines were (I paraphrase):

I understand now the anger of my father. It is time to take up swords against his enemies!

Followed on the Temple steps by a threatening diatribe against the religious authorities.

Obviously, this is a corruption of the story related by the Apostles. I just shook my head and turned the other way.

Last night at Bible study I found myself counseling a man of deep convictions who had come in railing against the hypocrisy of those that use Revelation to justify dropping bombs on our enemies. I suggested that he not argue Revelation with them – the symbolism is too complex, and in the past we have seen that often only those doing the work can interpret prophesy. Rather, take heart in the actual words of Jesus that so clearly contradict pronouncements of hate.

This came up again this morning with my Muslim colleague at work. He related a call-in broadcast with a scholar who was attacked by a young man claiming that the scholar was spreading lies regarding a Wahhabi theologian. When confronted with the actual words of the Wahhabi, the young man continued to assert that what was said was a lie. The moderator finally intervened, telling the young man to please not call in until he had studied the source materials.

Was that the right approach, though? Or will it leave a bitter taste that will continue feed anger and violence in the caller?

Put two rats in cages and subject both to shocks. In one cage, install a red button that the rat can use to interrupt the sequence of shocks. Ensure that both rats still receive the same number of shocks. Guess what? The rat with the button will behave pretty normally. The rat without the button will lie motionless. The motionless rat suffers from anomie, a type of hopeless paralysis.

As the lower 90% of our society slides slowly into desperation, receiving shock after psychological shock, they will grasp at anything that gives them a sense of control (no matter how displaced) over their situation. Expressions of anger are a great way of shutting people up, as is brandishing of a weapon. They don’t have any affect on our circumstances, but like the rat in the cage with the button, they enable us to continue to act when we otherwise would succumb to hopelessness.

So I would say that the young Muslim caller should have been congratulated for reaching out, and offered sympathy for the circumstances that provoked his anger. Stories from the lives described in the Qu’ran – including Moses, Joseph and Muhammad himself – would guide him towards patience and faith.

Political and religious zealots of all stripes arise in desperate times. They flourish because we don’t pay attention to the circumstances that create desperation. Shutting them out of our gardens won’t solve the problem.