Religion Posts

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  • Whitney Houston's funeral service really took the world to church. Love Pastor Winans' honesty, very moving.

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Politics & Religion

My God is a God who wants me to have things. He wants me to bling. He wants me to be the hottest thing on the block. – Mary J. Blige

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) began an investigation in November 2007 into the spending of American televangelists. Yesterday Grassley released his report, bringing a close to the investigation. The findings showed concern for the “lack of oversight of finances” but contained no penalties, according to the Associated Press.

The investigation looked into the ministries of six televangelists including Joyce Meyer Ministries, Benny Hinn Ministries, Kenneth Copeland Ministries, Creflo and Taffi Dollar of World Changes Church International/Creflo Dollar Ministries, Without Walls International Church/Paula White Ministries, and Bishop Eddie Long/Bishop Eddie Long Ministries. The latter four refused to provide complete information to Grassley.

Why these six televangelists?

The Associated Press notes that all six televangelists preach the “prosperity gospel.”

What is the Prosperity Gospel?

Maybe you had already heard of Joyce Meyer, or maybe you’ve seen Joel Osteen on TV or on a book cover. Meyer and Osteen (and the televangelists probed in the investigation) promote prosperity theology, a belief by some evangelical Christians that God wants to make His people prosper financially.

The idea is a little bit “do this and you’ll get this” or perhaps it’s more passive: Just be Christian and God will give you things. One follower of this belief was quoted in Time magazine as saying, “Because I want to follow Jesus and do what he ordained, God wants to support us. It’s Joel Osteen’s ministry that told me. Why would an awesome and mighty God want anything less for his children?”

Such beliefs are often traced back to the covenant God made with His people in the Hebrew Bible. (Learn more about the covenant in this Judaism overview.) If these are God’s people, the thinking goes, and God wants to give them blessings, then surely that includes material goods. Others point to the New Testament of the Bible – ““For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

The movement has not been without its fair share of critics, particularly within Christianity. Click here to learn about these criticisms.

Created by Religion Transcends, 2011

In late May, the Texas State Board of Education voted on 213 amendments to state education standards. They approved new social studies curriculum standards (final vote 9-5) to be put into effect in the 2010-2011 school year. According to their Web site, the Texas State Board of Eduaction manages the textbook adoption process and oversees development of the state’s curriculum, among other tasks.

So why is everyone up in arms?

The board approved new standards that will:

- Ensure Texas textbooks state that the Founding Fathers were guided by Christianity
- Ensure Texas textbooks would make positive references to the National Rifle Association
-Require U.S. history students in Texas to learn about leading conservative groups from the 1980s-90s (though they aren’t required to learn about liberal groups).

Initially, the board also wanted to minimize Thomas Jefferson’s role in founding the country because he pushed for separation of church and state. In the end, the board put reference to Jefferson back in the curriculum – but minimized separation of church and state by pointing out that it wasn’t in the Constitution.

The board consists of elected members – a majority of whom are conservatives. Those who stood against the changes claimed the board was pushing a conservative Christian agenda. Agenda or no agenda, it can be difficult to ignore one’s own religious upbringing when making decisions for a diversity of schoolchildren. One member, Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, did not check her beliefs at the door; she opened the board meeting by stating that the United States is a “Christian land governed by Christian principles.”

Some board members claimed these changes should balance out the liberal teachings that they believe dominate American classrooms.

Why should you care?
Texas will have to revise their textbooks and lesson plans for the next school year to begin teaching the new required standards. Texas children will begin learning just one side to some complex issues involving religion while students in other states will learn either the liberal side or the unbiased version (depending on your political leanings).

For other states, if any politicians follow Texas’s example, there’s a chance that politicians could be editing out what they don’t like in our nation’s textbooks and replacing it with wording they DO like.

Of course, editors edit out what they don’t think is appropriate all the time. But the goal of education is to inform students about the facts.

It is important, then, to have truths from both sides of the table in our historical accounts. Otherwise we are telling kids they HAVE to believe that all founders were Christians (see American Gospel by Jon Meacham) and they should NOT appreciate or even accept separation of church and state. Both sides of the political fence should be actively working to keep true accounts in textbooks and let students decide whether they like the way history played itself out. Should we eliminate the Great Depression from our textbooks because it was a hard time? Or tell only one side of the Crusades? History needs to be recorded in its actuality so we can draw our own conclusions.

Furthermore, we should continue to work toward diverse representation in our government, school boards, etc. so that all religions and political beliefs are represented in these types of debates.

Created by Religion Transcends, 2010

Following the retirement of Protestant John Paul Stevens from the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court will include no Protestants. Elena Kagan, awaiting confirmation to replace Justice Stevens, is Jewish. That puts the count at 6 Catholics and 3 Jews on the court:

Catholic Justices: John G. Roberts, Jr. (chief justice), Anthony M. Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor

Jewish Justices: Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan (awaiting confirmation)

Per the U.S. Constitution, religion cannot be a factor in the choice for who will fill a government office. But people certainly think about it. With Kagan in place, the court will no longer have a Protestant voice – a fact some consider scary and others consider hopeful. For those in the latter category, they say it’s great that justices are no longer pigeon-holed into the “woman” or “Jewish” category but are welcomed into the court even if they don’t have a stereotypical role to play. They say it’s exciting that we’ve become diverse enough that we it doesn’t matter whether we have a Protestant in place. Not to mention the Supreme Court existed for almost 50 years before adding a Catholic to the bench and it took another 80 years beyond that to include a Jew.

Those on the other side say the Protestant voice isn’t going to be heard at that level and decisions won’t be made that fit within Protestant values (particularly related to abortion, marriage, etc.). Given that half the United States claims to be Protestant, the lack of a Protestant justice is, at the least, surprising.

The Wall Street Journal speculated as to why more Catholics and Jews than Protestants are becoming justices.

Of course, representation for everyone would be ideal. The court now includes African American and Hispanic justices, women and men, Jews and Christians. But how can we as a nation sit back and question the lack of a Protestant justice when the court is also lacking Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist, LGBT, and Asian-American representation?

Perhaps when it’s time to choose the next justice, we should be considering all genders, all races, and all religions. And for now, we can sit back and be proud of the diversity we have attained so far.

Read biographies of the justices on the Supreme Court site.

Created by Religion Transcends, 2010

If you’re in America, you’re surrounded by people who pray. Check out this graphic from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Many Americans are praying. And if you’re Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon, you’re almost certainly praying at least once a day.

Yet prayer continues to be a question for some. Is it always ok? Is it ok at lunch? Is it ok in school? Is it ok in government?

Prayer is not lawful at many school graduations. Prayer during graduations was ruled unconstitutional in the 1960s. Find out why online.  And this April, a federal judge in Indiana ruled against prayer at a local graduation.

If you missed the National Day of Prayer in the U.S. this year, that’s because it was ruled unconstitutional. Find out why in this post.

Baptist Pastor Welton Gaddy wrote an interesting post to the On Faith blog about the National Day of Prayer. He said, “if the U.S. government believes it has a duty and right to proclaim a National Day of Prayer, it must ensure that the day is inclusive and open to people of all faiths and backgrounds.” Of course, technically National Day of Prayer has been open to people of all religions/non-religions. Yet historically, only Christians have been invited to lead the National Day of Prayer in DC. Perhaps if the day can become more inclusive – more OBVIOUSLY inclusive – the nation will take back its day for prayer. And all people will be able to come together to pray for peace, understanding, and a better world.

You CAN be a part of the Global Day of Prayer, which takes place this Sunday, May 23. Official since 2005, 220 countries participate in the Global Day of Prayer annually. Find the history of the Global Day of Prayer along with prayer guides online.

Created by Religion Transcends, 2010