Archive for April, 2011

The War Verses In The Koran

Very much in the news lately has been the issue of a couple of churches letting their facilities be used by Muslims as a temporary mosque. In trying to establish an opinion consider the following.
First, there are Muslims who know little more about the 6000 verses of the Koran than some Christians do the Bible. In countries where Islam is not dominant they are perfectly willing to live in harmony with persons of other faiths. They are not militant. In Muslim dominated countries many are open to coexistence with people of other faiths.
There is a challenge in differentiating who is what however.
In his Cairo speech President Obama said there are seven million Muslims in America. Eight percent of the Muslims participating in a recent survey said they believe suicide bombing is acceptable in defending Islam. Of those between the ages of 18-29, fifteen percent who participated agreed and sixty percent said they were Muslims first and Americans second.
The first part of the Koran has some beautiful passages and positive peaceful verses. The last part advocates acts of violence.
Sura 9, verse 5 states, “Fight and slay the unbelievers wherever you find them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war. But if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them….”
Sura 9, verse 29, “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day … until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”
Now here is a part that is confusing as to why groups would like to use churches. Sura 5, 51, “Oh ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for our friends and protectors; they are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them in friendship is of them. Verily Allah guideth not the unjust.”
Here is a heavy verse, Sura 3, verse 28, relates to the subject of “taquiyya.” It is a doctrine that states that Muslims should not be friends with the infidel except as deception, always for the purpose of converting, subduing, or destroying them.
All of these verses are in the last part of the Koran and conflict with some in the first half. That conflict is explained by Muslims by the theory of abrogation which teaches that when there is a conflict the last statement on the subject should take precedent over the first statement.
Regarding the possibility of Christians and/or Jews using a Mosque an internationally known Muslim figure said they are welcome to come and experience the enlightenment. That is the same as saying to them you are welcome to our places of worship to be evangelized.
The above figures indicate there are 56,000 Muslims living in America who approve of suicide bombers.
Hopefully those Muslims who do not favor jihad will reason with those who do. In the meantime those Muslims who sense a stand-off spirit toward them by non-Muslims need to know the above verses cause that attitude and not mere religious bigotry.

Why Don’t Christians Speak Out?

John Locke, a seventeenth century philosopher, said there are three forms of law —- divine, civil, and opinion. He, considered the father of modern liberalism, claimed the law of opinion is the only one by which people really abide. It is the law governing what a person feels they can express without being in danger of isolation. This produces what Dr. Elizabeth Noelle-Neumann, professor of communication research at the University of Mainz in Germany, calls a spiral of silence.
When put in an environment where person feel they might be laughed at or turned away in derision if they say what they really think the spiral begins. People want to avoid the social stigma that comes from having a different opinion on social issues. To avoid it they switch to a go-along-to-get-along mode even if they are considered to be a conformist. That is considered to be better than rejection. Most people want peace and contentment so badly they don’t speak out.
The electronic and print media give us most of our knowledge of the world around us. Most of the national media does not give a balanced insight into what people are thinking proportionate to the various opinions. The selective perception given primarily by TV makes it appear everyone thinks as they represent issues. The media’s sanctioned view tends to bias the nation’s judgement. This can make the minority appear to be the majority.
This is where the spiral starts. Those who hold the opinion fostered by the media are emboldened thereby and speak out all the more. Those who hold a view contrary to the media are silent in order to avoid ostracism.
Pick any one of several controversial social issues. A position on it in the media appears to be the accepted norm. Many people are unwilling to take an opposing view in a group for fear of rejection. Take as examples freedom of religious speech,  don’t-ask-don’t-tell or abortion. Does the media project what appears to be an accepted view on these subjects? Is it popular to speak out in opposition to the reported popular attitude? If one does speak out in a group that concurs with the image fostered by the media what is likely to be the reaction of the group? Does the person holding an opposing view risk getting a cold-shoulder? Who wants a cold-shoulder? Often the only way to avoid it is silence. The spiral is then complete.
Alexis de Tocqueville, in the nineteenth century gave this analysis of the decline of religion just before the French Revolution.
“People still clinging to the old faith were afraid of being the only ones who did so, and as they were more frightened of isolation than of committing an error, they joined the masses even though they did not agree with them. In this way, the opinion of only part of the population seemed to be the opinion of everybody.”
Could that be happening in the religious community in America today?
Nonconformist Henry David Thoreau wrote of his civil disobedience: “It is always easy to break the law, but even the Bedouins in the desert find it impossible to resist public opinion.” He seems to agree with Locke that people obey only the law of public opinion.
Fortunately there are those who have deep seated convictions who are willing to risk all to defend the divine law. They seek to obey and propagate it. Society can only be changed by those who are willing to risk isolation to defend their faith.

Faith Of Our Fathers” Our National Heritage

In the compendium of quotes by our Founding Fathers regarding our Christian heritage there are a few bogus quotes which tend to discredit legitimate ones. There are also persons who extract comments out of context and distort their meaning in an attempt to discredit the legitimate record of our heritage. However, the legacy of Christian influence on our emerging nation is valid.
For example few know that at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, James Madison, known as the Father of our Constitution, proposed the plan to divide our central government into three branches after reading Isaiah 33:22: “For the Lord is our judge, (Judiciary) the Lord is our lawgiver, (Legislative) the Lord is our King; (Executive) He will save us.” The parentheses are mine added for clarity.
Hear some of the founders as they yet speak for themselves from the grave.
Ben Franklin’s faith was evident in the 1749 plan he proposed for education saying the schools should teach “the excellency of the Christian religion above all others, ancient and modern.”
Alexander Hamilton was a founder of the Christian Constitutional Society the purpose of which was to help spread over the world the two things he said made America great; (1) Christianity and (2) a Constitution formed under Christianity.
In 1828, Noah Webster wrote in the preface of his “American Dictionary of the English Language,” “No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.”
It is true some of our founders were more Deistic than Christian. They still believed in the Bible’s moral and ethical tenants. It is said George Washington was a Deist who never referred to God or Jesus Christ, but instead used the language of Deism in referring to a supernatural power.
Not so, he frequently made entries such as these in his prayer journal.
“I have sinned and done very wickedly, be merciful to me, O God, and pardon me for Jesus Christ sake.”
“Bless my family, kindred, friends, and country, be our God and guide this day and for ever for His sake, who lay down in the grave and arose again for us, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
If he were a Deist why did he summons his friend, the military chaplain and former pastor of First Baptist Church of New York, Reverend John Gano, and command him to baptize him in a river. This is attested to by an article in “Time” magazine in 1932, saying the baptism was witnessed by 42 individuals. Accounts from the era support the act as historical. Still today some try to deny it.
Proponents of the true meaning of separation of church and state have reason to be confident in the pre-revisionists’ record of the influence of the Bible and the Christian faith in our heritage. Some modern atheistic evangelists seek to deny it and refute it by distortions and misrepresentations of facts. A favorite tactic they use is to take a quote from a founder out of context and exploit it while denying the counter comments of the spokesman. Mendacity knows no bounds.
This column is merely a recounting of history not to advocate making our government a state/church or church/state as some have been known to try to make my writings. I believe in separation of church and state but not the ridiculous extent to which it has been taken.

Jefferson On Seperation Of Church And State

Thomas Jefferson in 1802 wrote a letter to the Banbury Baptist Association in response to their overture. They were concerned Congress might do as some states had already done and name a specific denomination as the official national denomination. The Baptists in Connecticut were chaffing over having to pay to support the Congregationalist church which was the official state church in their state.

Jefferson was a masterful politician. His opponents, the Federalists, accused him of being an atheist. He was at best a deist, perhaps an agnostic, and suspicioned of being an atheist. To counter the claims of him being an atheist he used pious tones assuring them of his prayers: “I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common Father and Creator of man, and tender you for yourselves and your religious association, assurances of my high respect and esteem.”

The Baptists were his supporters and primarily voted Democratic-Republican. He wrote to appease and console them. Some states had state supported church like Connecticut. Some wanted an official national denomination.

The issue really was not Christianity, it was denominationalism. Jefferson’s position did not entail hostility toward religion in government. He even invited people to join him in prayer at his second inauguration.

He negotiated a treaty with the Kaskaskia Indians designating federal money to build a church and provide ministers. Weigh that against today’s interpretation of the establishment clause.

Foreign to Jefferson’s concept today’s application of the principle of separation undercuts the idea of freedom of religion. If all freedoms noted in the First Amendment were interpreted to be restricted like the part related to religion, we would lose our freedom of speech, the press, the right of assembly and the right to petition Government for a redress of grievances. They are all grouped together in the First Amendment. Take for example the freedom of the press. Our free press is protected by the amendment from government interference. Banning the free press is a frightening thought. How would the public respond today if the right to petition the Government were prohibited?

Why Jefferson ever got involved in this debate is puzzling. He never used the phrase related to a wall of separation again. He was out of the country when the Constitution was adopted and the First Amendment debated. He never sat on the Supreme Court. Yet, one misunderstood statement in his letter to the Banbury Baptists is the dominant issue in the debate of separation of church and state. His metaphor, “a wall of separation” is the basis of today’s law on the subject.

Justice Hugo Black, a member of the Ku Klux Klan and arch anti-Christian issued the ruling in 1947 in the Everson v. Board of Education. In an amicus brief filed by Everson  he warned against turning the wall into an iron curtain.

It is worth hearing the great detective Sherlock Holmes again. He got it right when he said, “We are suffering from a plethora of surmise, conjecture, and hypothesis. The difficulty is to detach the framework of facts — of absolute fact — from the embellishment of theorists.”

God’s Judgement Of Nations

Not everybody has the same world view. That is, not everyone sees alike. Some have a secular world view with a spectrum ranging from a humanistic philosophy, to asceticism, to deism, and various points in between. Others hold a biblical world view. That is they tend to interpret life in light of the teachings of the Bible. This too is a broad field of belief.
Within this latter school of thought is the idea expressed by Benjamin Franklin at the time of the drafting of the Constitution: “…God governs in the affairs of nations….” That is, God is involved in the human arena. He is active in lives and events. He has been so excluded in the market place seldom do people try to understand things going on around them in light of this.
The biblical record reveals God judges nations in time. To say that is to call in a firestorm of criticism. Not to say it is to look the other way when confronted by reality.
He often judges in kind. Let me illustrate. As a child I disobeyed my mother and slipped to eat pickles she had forbidden me to eat. As always she caught me. I was delighted when she  invited me to eat another. Then yet another and another. Based on my experience I can confirm pickles taste a lot better going down than they do coming up. I had been judged in kind.
The Bible speaks of a time when the condition of a society is such God gives them up and to what He gives them up. It is so much of what they want they get sick of it.
Many believe God is judging America in kind. We evidenced greed was good and excess was acceptable. Individually millions of people and government entities exercised greed and our society including individuals and institutions are suffering the consequence.
Having thrown off normal moral restraints culturally we have said we want sexual freedom and an entertainment community that espoused promiscuity. If God is punishing us in kind the proliferation of sexually transmitted diseases, broken homes, undesired pregnancies, and emotional problems are the in kind discipline. He is giving us what we wanted and the unwanted consequences.
We have tried to blame everyone and everything for the senseless shooting in Arizona. Different political parties, social classes, gun advocates, our national mental health program, and likely even Amos and Andy have been blamed.
The Arizona case in point involved a person who appears to have mental and/or emotional problems. Blame that. Our national self-flagellation does little good. Aside from head cases few people are willing to say there is a heart problem in our nation. If however the travesty were to motivate us to see this as a time of moral reform then benefits can result.
The rash of evil being suffered by our nation has its origin in individual hearts. It is a moral problem. “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and blasphemies… (Matthew 15:19). Check the media, even our advertisements, and see if these things are glamorized and popularized. It is this root that must be addressed to avoid the fruit.
Benjamin Franklin also said, “…all crime will be punished, and virtue rewarded, either here or hereafter.” Here? Is our nation suffering in kind here, that is, now?
To think of changing America one person at a time may be a great act of faith. To think of doing it any other way is an act of lunacy.
Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”