March 13, 2016

Religious Education

Good morning, congregants and welcome to the church of veritable pastiche, a non-denominational gathering place where all are invited to respectfully speak what's on their mind. Sarcasm is allowed, as are conflicting opinions and, incredible as it may seem, facts are warmly invited.

Today, respecting that the sermon at the open door/non-denominational church down the road is God's Role in Politics, we'll have a little religious education. Regular readers know I'm not a religious person, but I try to learn, so I'm doing this as a service to myself as much as anything else.

Do you remember that time when Franklin Graham, the son of America's Pastor Billy Graham, let us know what he was thinking about the 2016 Election? Back in December, he said
I'm not endorsing any specific candidates in next year's election, but I am strongly endorsing prayer - and I'm strongly urging Christians to get out and vote.  We need to elect candidates at all levels that most closely support biblical values and principles. This may be the most important election in our nation's history. America is headed in the wrong direction and only God can turn it around. 
In an interview with CNN, also from December, he said that he had renounced his Republican faith and doesn't like them or Democrats - both sides are broken, a common refrain regardless of one's religion or lack thereof.  He's an Independent now, but I suspect not a Bernie Sanders type of independent. Bernie focuses on raising up the poor, leveling the playing field, taking care of those who cannot take care of themselves. Graham, still very engaged even though he has disavowed organized political activities, focuses on bad Girl Scouts, insulted Christian bakers, and transgender bathrooms.

He also has an opinion on immigration. In fact, he notes in the interview, we should stop all immigration, but particularly immigration from the Middle East, and had previously noted that we need to do that until "we can vet them properly" (the current process takes 18-24 months) or until the "war against Islam is over." That last part confuses me. With my limited religious education, I think the war will only be over, as are all religious battles, when everyone of one faith is either killed, enslaved or otherwise vanquished by the other faith. I suspect that's going to be a long time where we don't let anyone - anyone at all - in to our great country.

Graham also is OK with building walls; he made that clear in the CNN interview, where his example of confessing sins and being rewarded was of Nehemiah's rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem and rehanging the gates, in a mere 52 days! All "because he had received God's favor" for his confession,

He also made that very clear in response to the time when Pope Francis made comments about walls and Christianity, and how someone who focuses only on building walls, and who says horrible things in the process, is not Christian. Graham noted on his Facebook page in February that
The Pope has suggested that Donald J. Trump is not Christian because he wants to build a wall between the US and Mexico. I agree that as Christians we should try to build bridges with everyone we possibly can, but that doesn't mean we should compromise our national security.
Pointing out that other candidates also favor building a wall, including Marco Rubio, Rafael Cruz, Dr. Ben Caron, and Governor John Kasich, Graham noted
Are they not Christian either? My advice to the Pontiff - reach out and build a bridge to Donald Trump. Who knows where he may be this time next year! 
What you probably don't remember are the comments by Jerry Falwell Jr, Liberty University president and himself the son of another former America's Pastor, Jerry Falwell Sr. The Junior Jerry said
I think the Pope is mistaken. I think John F. Kennedy would be rolling over in his grave right now if he could hear what the Pope is saying.That's a man who fought against lots of prejudice because many Protestants in this country did not want to elect a Catholic president. He broke down those barriers, and here is the Pope trying to say...we have to choose leaders that share his faith, the Christian faith. 
In the middle of an election, to question someone's Christianity, the Pope is bringing up Christianity as a criteria for being president, in my view that is what he said. I think it was wrong for many Christians to refuse to vote for Mitt Romney because he was a Mormon. I don't think that's our job.'
It's not our job to choose the best Sunday School teacher like Jimmy Carter was. Our job is to choose who can best defend and protect our nation, who would be the best president and who would lead us away from $20 trillion in debt and restore  our country's economic viability.
Help me understand. One official faith leader suggests that wall-building is not Christian, in particular when it's accompanied by hateful language. Another faith leader (by inheritance) says we need to get more religion into our politics and our politicians, and yet a third faith leader, also the inherited kind, says we need to get religion out of politics.

Who am I, a mere mortal, to believe?

I think I'll follow the lead of another guy who inherited his opportunities. As I noted in this post from last June, Jeb! Bush (remember him? The Protestant turned Catholic former presidential candidate?) said
I hope I'm not going to get castigated for saying this by my priest back home, but I don't get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinal or my pope. I think religion ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting in the political realm.
Can I get an Amen on that?

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