Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Melissa Rogers on Justice Sunday III


Melissa Rogers, visiting professor of religion and public policy at Wake Forest University Divinity School (and one of my professors from last semester), has written an excellent article particularly on Justice Sunday III, but more generally on the state of religious freedom and many of the false statements coming from the religious right about the current state of religious freedom in the U.S. It is definitely worth a read, so click here.

If you want to read more about her, you can visit her bio on the Wake Forest Divinity School website by clicking here.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great stuff!
Thanks!

I thought you might like to read my post about the IMB controversy. Let me know what you think.


Howie Luvzus

Roger said...

A problem here is that they are trying to say that Christians can't 'acknowledge' God. That's scary when acknowledgement is seen as 'advocation' or 'proselytizing'.

How far do the courts and this zealous enforcement of church-state separation have to go before Christians realize that it is idolatry - putting the words of man above His?

>The court’s rejection of this policy demonstrated faithfulness to the Constitution.

Language like that seems to convey a reverence toward the Constitution as some kind of Deity. I've heard of treating the Constitution as a 'living document' but this is ridiculous. And besides, I don't see where obeying the letter of the law over the spirit of the law gets us anywhere. It never worked for the Pharisees. Note: the Pharisees weren't dumb Christians, they were intelligent and lost. I see all the advocates of these things (like Barry Lynn and others) and they always have a list of academic credentials a mile long, but no statements to tell me that they are a born-again Christians. Note: the writer mentions she is a 'Baptist Christian' - what's that? It sounds like when someone says they are a 'good person' - and most likely working for their salvation. So, given that and the fact that true spirituality cannot be turned on and off - folks that advocate this seem to be just 'playing a role'. Unfortunately, they seem to think they are on the right path. Such is the nature of deception.

Gil Gulick said...

Roger,

Where do you read anything that says Christians can't acknowledge God? Did you actually read the article? Quoting from the third paragraph:

"Led by the U.S. Supreme Court, the judiciary has long protected the right of individuals and groups to express their religion in our nation’s many public squares, even as it has prohibited the government from promoting religion."

As for your problem with "faithfulness to the constitution", you are reading the Christian definition of Faith into the article in a way that was clearly not intended. According to Webster's Dictionary another definition for faithful is "true to the facts, to a standard, or to an original" and that is her use of the term there.

The writer says she is a Christian. That should be enough. What more do you expect for her to say? You are making judgments on her character out of ignorance, and in doing so, bearing false witness which is a sin. As I mentioned in my link to the article, I do know her. She freely discussed her faith with us in our Church and State class, and she firmly believe she is doing the work God intended for her to do.

Roger said...

>Where do you read anything that says Christians can't acknowledge God? Did you actually read the article? Quoting from the third paragraph:

I attempted a summary of the whole church-state conflict as it appears to be from watching it unfold through the years. Deception is the enemy's method. He would never be so foolish as to blatently tell the church that they couldn't worship their God, just that they would have to do it within his parameters. Now, that is looking more familiar. The modern tactic he is using is that 'it is quite alright to acknowledge God, but just do it in such a way that the end effect is that God isn't acknowledged at all.'

>As for your problem with "faithfulness to the constitution", you are reading the Christian definition of Faith into the article in a way that was clearly not intended. According to Webster's Dictionary another definition for faithful is "true to the facts, to a standard, or to an original" and that is her use of the term there.

That was a tongue-in-cheek reference on my part. In reality though, when given the chance to be more loyal to what a constitutional scholar says or God's word - you and me both know which one the society will move toward. And recently, the church is giving up her first love and moving that way too.

>The writer says she is a Christian. That should be enough.

That is not Biblical. If someone is doing something suspect or preaching something suspect, it's all good and resolved because they say they're a Christian? Also, if someone thinks they are saved and they are lost, we do them an immeasurable favor by letting them know that they are indeed lost! There are many people in church today that have no idea that Christianity is a relationship with Jesus, about His Lordship in their lives and NOT a ritualistic reading and following of Jesus' words in the NT. Given that fact, I was just making an educated guess on the curious language she used. I can't judge her, nor do I want to. I just want people to look closer at what people say and not fill in the gaps or assume too much. Why did Jesus tell Nicodemus that he must be 'born-again'? Because he was lost, even though he thought he was saved. The Holy Spirit inhabits the believer. The HOly Spirit is our righteousness, our strength, and our testimony. Remember, that they're called fruits of the Spirit, and not of 'the believer'. That tells us that any good works outside of being born-again are worthless and futile towards salvation or pleasing God.

>she firmly believe she is doing the work God intended for her to do.

Next time you see her, you should make sure that she is trusting in the Holy Spirit to do what He will do through her and not that she is trying to please God by works outside of the spirit. I didn't say she was not saved. I don't know. But I do know that she didn't say enough for me to say she is saved. And from experience, I'm telling you that what's not said is just as important as what is said. And another thing, you can never assume that someone knows something. The enemy will get us to rest on our laurels all the while people remain in their error or lostness.

You can test what I'm saying. I don't want you to take it as truth. I want you to know it as truth. Here's what you can do. Search for Barry Lynn's testimony on the internet, or anywhere. I haven't succeeded in finding it. He's the lynchpin of the modern day church-state separation movement and he provides a reassuring presence to folks who look to his credentials as an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and his vast scholastic accomplishments. My question is: does that automatically mean he's a believer - and that he knows Jesus - that the HOly Spirit is in him?

That is critically important for someone in his position of influence in issues of faith. Knowing what scripture says about spiritual things and how only those that are born again can see them, it is possible for someone with good intentions to work against the things of God because the enemy has blinded their eyes. It is also possible for someone to intellectually know the gospel but not believe it in their heart...they can believe about Jesus but not actually believe in Jesus - or know Him (for an example, see Matthew 7:21-23 as used here:
http://www.thoughtquotient.com/2006/01/16/he-was-living-the-good-life-or-so-he-thought/). I've also heard of active deacons in churches realizing they were not saved. Therefore, a list of Barry Lynn's academic acomplishments and mentioning that he is an ordained minister is not nearly as important as his salvation experience. I have never met any born-again Christian that would not share his or her testimony, or was ashamed of God's grace in their lives....so why is there no talk of grace or what Jesus means to him? I'm serious...I am troubled by all of this. I don't want to bother you or make you angry. I'm just acting on what I seriously believe is a problem these days. I didn't come to this conclusion in a few days either...it's took me quite a few years and just recently God has been putting the pieces together for me as I dig deeper in His word. Look through scripture to back up what I'm saying. Let's take the things that are unclear in the dark and hold them up to the light so we can see them better.

Gil Gulick said...

>>The modern tactic he is using is that 'it is quite alright to acknowledge God, but just do it in such a way that the end effect is that God isn't acknowledged at all.'<<

Give me a specific example of what you are talking about here. Those who do not support a separation of church and state have not studied history. Mixing of the two corrupts the church and state equally. But, I don't know what your stance is there, so I will wait to respond until I know for sure. Do you disagree with the decisions mentioned in the article?

I find it interesting, and it may not be intentional on your part, that you did not address any of the deceptions the religious right is spreading about the church-state argument, and let me tell you, they are speading lies. I just spent a semester studing the history and curent state of church-state issues.

As for her statement that she is a Christian, Christians cannot always share their full testimony every time they are asked to write. This article would be an example, she simply wanted to make the point that she is writing from a Christian's perspective. Journalists are given very limited space in order to get their point across. I think we have to give someone the benefit of the doubt, until their actions prove otherwise. Her's do not. I spent a semester in a class in which she was one of the professors. This included a weekend spent in Washington talking to folks from both sides of the issue. I have spent enough time with her and heard her talk about her faith enough to know that her faith is genuine.

I am a little perplexed about your discussion of Barry Lynn, do you want his bio on the AU site to tell about his salvation experience? Well, let's look at a website on the other side of the issue. Dr. James Dobson's bio on the Focus on the Family website doesn't mention his salvation experience either. I also think you are generalizing from one person to all "advocates of these things." I have relationships with Melissa Rogers and Brent Walker, who is the head of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. I have heard Walker speak on several occassions, and he tells his faith story, including the story of his call into his ministry at the BJC. What I am warning you against is making generalizations.

I agree with you that is posible to know the gospel intellectually and not spiritually. And I am sure there are examples of this kind of person on both the right and the left.

Don't worry, you are not making me angry, and I think this kind of discussion is healthy. Sometimes I come across a little bit harsher than I intend to.

Roger said...

I've thought about this some more and felt like addressing some points from her article:

>Led by the U.S. Supreme Court, the judiciary has long protected the right of individuals and groups to express their religion in our nation’s many public squares, even as it has prohibited the government from promoting religion.

The primary issue is not that goverment is promoting religion, it's that government is stifling Christian expression and activity. The writer could have also mentioned the ACLU as it is a force to be reckoned with these days. The ACLU is suing the InnerChange Freedom Initiative (a prison fellowship ministry) in Iowa saying that it violates the separation of church and state. That, quite simply, is doing the enemy's work. The IFI program is resulting in lives being changed, and souls being saved. The results speak for themselves. However, the ACLU would rather say it is not right (ignoring the results - that were from God, not IFI) and saying an enforcement of a man-made law should keep the IFI out of there (in effect, doing the enemy's work by putting a stop or slowdown to the souls being saved). God is doing that for His glory, so when people in the name of a law or whatever step up to challenge the activity (evidence of God's working) - then that is serious business. Can you see why I'm confused why Barry Lynn calls himself a Christian and can consciously and consistently endorse the things he does?
(more info:
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/law/july-dec03/ministry_9-1.html )

>During a series of Justice Sunday events, however, the Family Research Council and its partners have repeatedly distorted church-state law and the motives of certain judges

Many justices are plainly antagonist towards Christians and they don't really try to hide it in their rulings that they write. Take for example, the rulings by the ninth circuit appeals court. Motives can be logically deduced by the language and tone of their writings.

>Although the Family Research Council says the courts are demonstrating “hostility toward the church and Christianity in particular," the winning litigants in these and many other court cases were Christian organizations.

Anyone can take out certain cases for examples of fairness. However, the tide is against people of faith. That really shouldn't be surprising given what scripture tells us. So, all believers should understand that they're not going to be the friend of the world. However, we're supposed to be salt and light in all we do, and I think it's our job to know the truth and uphold it wherever we can. When people say the truth is a lie, believers in absolute truth should stand up and defend it. For example, Roe Vs Wade is an extraordinary example of bad law - and a good example of a ruling against the church and Christianity. God's word tells us that we are accountable to Him. Roe Vs Wade says we are not. God's word tells us that when we do things our way, we end up only hurting ourselves. Roe Vs Wade says that choice trumps all.

>Contrary to the suggestions of the Family Research Council, the impetus for this ban on government-endorsed religion is not hostility to faith, but rather a desire to ensure that the government doesn’t meddle in religion.

How do the folks that hold these views deal with stuff like this:
The inscription of "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free" (from John 8:32) above the CIA headquarters; the stone tablets in the Supreme Court; the many bible verses on the library of Congress and on the steps of the Washington Monument; the prayer carved in the marble over the fireplace in the state dining room in the White House; the murals in the Capitol's rotunda; a three-branch government based on Is. 33:22 - Judicial(Judge), Legislative(Lawgiver), Executive(King). Note: these things do not denote a theocracy, but are acknowledgements of the God of the Bible.


>The balance the court has struck in this area has helped safeguard the rights of conscience and ensure that religious matters generally remain the sole province of the religious community. Some of the results of this careful balance are civic peace amidst great diversity and remarkable religious vitality.

What she calls religious vitality is a church that is falling away from the truth. How many churches will stand on God's word anymore? How many churches act like 'inerrancy' is a bad word? I don't know how any believer can be pleased with the state of the culture in regards of it's rampant materialism, love of self, unchecked sexuality ... which all results in lots and lots of hurting people. Like I said earlier, there are many people in the church today that do not have relationships with Jesus Christ. They may think they are saved by doing certain things or knowing scripture, but they must be born-again. If not, they haven't surrendered to Christ.

>In addition to making blanket charges against certain judges, Justice Sunday speakers have taken issue with a number of specific judicial decisions. For example, they have criticized a 2000 Supreme Court ruling involving school-sponsored prayers at public high school football games. In this case, the court struck down a policy whereby the school orchestrated a majoritarian vote on whether a brief invocation and/or message would be said by a student at the games. The prayers were broadcast over the school’s public address system at these official school events. Thus, while the prayers were uttered by students, it was clear that these religious expressions were backed by the government.

How do they equate that with 'government backing'. That's an overzealous enforcement.

>Public school students should be able to participate in school events without being made to feel like outsiders because of their faith, or lack thereof. Nothing in this ruling prohibits students from organizing informal prayer sessions before, during or after football games on their own initiative.

What if outsiders are offended by the sessions before and after? If offending someone is the guage, we really can't draw a line anywhere. Again, I don't anticipate unbelievers to understand, but how can Christians (who know the exclusive statements by Jesus in scripture about Himself and truth, and the fact that the message is offensive all by itself) sit idly by and wait for government to declare that biblical pulpit preaching is offensive and ban it from the churches? Canada has already started doing that with the book of Romans, correct? What business do Christians have associating themselves with such foolish and harmful decisions? These are decisions and precedents that the enemy will use to continue to put parameters on the proclamation of the truth. He knows he can't outlaw the church here in the U.S., so he'll subtly neutralize its message by whatever way he can.

>Justice Sunday speakers also complained about a recent ruling by an Indiana judge who followed Supreme Court precedent and directed official legislative prayers to be nonsectarian. They failed to note that legislators are free to form unofficial prayer groups that meet in government buildings where they may pray in their specific faith traditions.

This kind of talk ignores our history...where society didn't have this attitude until post-modern times.

>n an appropriate case, the court is likely to use similar reasoning to uphold public school policies requiring the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance with the words “under God,” while maintaining the option for students to refrain from saying it.

What are we to make of the decisions by the ninth circuit court of appeals where they declared the pledge unconstitutional?


Now, to address some of your points:

>>The modern tactic he is using is that 'it is quite alright to acknowledge God, but just do it in such a way that the end effect is that God isn't acknowledged at all.'<<

>Give me a specific example of what you are talking about here
.

For example, when the courts will say that somebody can't say a prayer in Jesus' name. How can a Christian pray to any one other than the true God? Or when the courts (as they have in Canada) have ruled some parts of the Bible as hate speech. Should we be happy for the fact they are letting us still read the Bible, but just not preach it? Both of these rulings are deceptive with the end result of trying to attack God through the hindering of His people. That's exactly what the enemy does. So, again, this is doing the enemy's work.

>I find it interesting, and it may not be intentional on your part, that you did not address any of the deceptions the religious right is spreading about the church-state argument, and let me tell you, they are speading lies. I just spent a semester studing the history and curent state of church-state issues.

I'm not denying that there are views out there that are not scriptural, but whatever is going on by folks in the political arena, it doesn't negate the reality of what I've mentioned here.

>As for her statement that she is a Christian, Christians cannot always share their full testimony every time they are asked to write. This article would be an example, she simply wanted to make the point that she is writing from a Christian's perspective. Journalists are given very limited space in order to get their point across. I think we have to give someone the benefit of the doubt, until their actions prove otherwise. Her's do not. I spent a semester in a class in which she was one of the professors. This included a weekend spent in Washington talking to folks from both sides of the issue. I have spent enough time with her and heard her talk about her faith enough to know that her faith is genuine.

...as long as her faith is in Christ, and not works. I may be a little gun shy as I just spent a week talking to a guy online thinking that he was just a little off-track on his theology and biblical interpretation, but in reality he was putting his faith in following Jesus' words literally and being a good person instead of surrendering his life to Christ and coming to know Him through a relationship. I am convinced that there are many in the church today that are just like him. For example, check out http://www.ecapc.org/
They have a page of endorsements from "church leaders" here:
http://www.ecapc.org/endorsements.asp

I don't know all of those folks on there, but at least two are not born-again Christians.
MARCUS BORG and JOHN DOMINIC CROSSAN beliefs can be found on beliefnet.com as they have several articles there. 15-30 minutes of time reading their commentaries will reveal that they don't believe God's word is true. If unbelievers are held up as examples, then that is a sign of a serious lack of discernment or understanding of the truths of scripture.

>I am a little perplexed about your discussion of Barry Lynn, do you want his bio on the AU site to tell about his salvation experience? Well, let's look at a website on the other side of the issue. Dr. James Dobson's bio on the Focus on the Family website doesn't mention his salvation experience either.

I am not looking for an explicit: "Here is my testimony ....." sort of thing. I'm just looking for anything in his writing or talks or references by other people that shed light on what he believes in regards to salvation. Is he putting his hope in works? Anybody that listens to James Dobson or reads his writings will find that he loves Jesus and that he's born again. All my searches on Barry Lynn + salvation + faith + Jesus have come up empty. Note: You will find a lot of references where Barry Lynn is talking about Jesus, but it amounts to him talking about somebody mentioning His name somewhere that they shouldn't. What are we to make of that? How does that harmonize with Mark 3:25?

>Sometimes I come across a little bit harsher than I intend to.

No, I didn't think you were harsh. To the contrary, your comments are well thought out. I was just afraid that I would come across wrong. I'm not mad, just troubled by all of this.

Gil Gulick said...

I have a couple of papers due tomorrow, so it may be a couple of days before I can reply the way I want to.

But, in the mean time, I would really like to hear your opinion on the separation of church and state including both the establishment and free exercise clauses. I think that may help focus the conversation a little bit.

Finally, I want to thank you for the tone of your posts. Posts on things like this can often get nasty, and I don't want that to happen here. We may eventually have to agree to disagree, but I think the dialoge is very important.

Roger said...

>But, in the mean time, I would really like to hear your opinion on the separation of church and state including both the establishment and free exercise clauses. I think that may help focus the conversation a little bit.


I'm not against separation of church and state. I don't want a theocracy, and I don't want government stifling religious expression either. I just have a problem with a lot of the zealous interpretations that people are clinging to these days.

Truth can stand on its own. So, in the free exercise of religious ideas, it is not threatened and will thrive.
The enemy knows that as well, so the tactic is to keep it from being expressed at all so people will not truly know it. He can't wipe it out, so he'll try to take its voice away.