Religion Posts

  • My new Twitter handle is now live - check me out at @jackiewgibson!

  • CNN has posted a history of bias against Sikhs - more reason for people to learn about religions before they attack anyone:...

  • Sikh temple shooting unfolding, learn about Sikhism here:

  • Sikh temple shooting unfolding, learn about Sikhism here:

  • Hackers group Anonymous takes down Vatican website:

  • WGN-TV calls doomsday prophecies "an illusion":

  • RT @graceishuman: Really,? Asking people JUST LEAVING the service how they felt about it? Tacky, tacky, inappropriate

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

  • #teacher ? Here are appropriate responses to situations with your Jehovah's Witness student:

  • #Teachers: Want to know why your Jehovah's Witness student won't say the pledge and how to respond?

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Politics & Religion

Religion has been used in various times and places – not for good, but for evil. It would seem that religious fanaticism represents a faith hijacked by those who would use it for judgmental, political, and sometimes murderous purposes. For those of us who see religion as a positive – as something that can heal, restore, and uplift the world – it can be difficult to understand WHY religious fanatics would use religion for anything but good. It can also be hard to understand how killing can ever be a good thing, particularly when it is done in the name of religion.

If you’d like to understand the motivations behind modern-day terrorism and grave acts committed in the name of religion, I recommend When Religion Becomes Evil by Charles Kimball and Terror in the Mind of God by Mark Juergensmeyer.

I would also recommend a new film, Not in God’s Name: In Search of Tolerance with the Dalai Lama (South Carolina ETV/Paradise Filmworks). This movie was released to public TV stations this spring and is now available on DVD.  The film explores India, which houses eight religions. The film explains how those religions peacefully coexist…and why sometimes they do not. The filmmaker interviews the Dalai Lama (no stranger to conflict resolution) who recounts the causes and solutions to conflict in the name of God. Here is the trailer:

Through these media you will learn how religious violence often starts with political conflict, economic hardship, or socio-cultural divisions and disagreements. If we as humans can get to the root of these problems, we may find that religion can be a catalyst for peace and relationship-building – instead of a device used to tear down, judge, and destroy. We may find, as the Dalai Lama says in the film, that we are one family. And that we don’t have to blame religion for tearing us apart.

Created by Religion Transcends, 2010

On April 15, US District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that the law authorizing a National Day of Prayer in the U.S. is unconstitutional and violates the First Amendment (which prohibits a federal endorsement of religion). The National Day of Prayer has been a lawful celebration since 1952 and would have been celebrated this year on May 6.

In this article, Crabb said she didn’t want to suggest prayer is wrong; rather, she wanted to send a message that the government cannot endorse any one religious message from any religion.

President Obama’s role
President Obama did not put an end to the National Day of Prayer. Initially he had said he would proclaim the day but would pray privately (instead of publicly, as the day calls for). Crabb’s ruling stops him from being able to call for the celebration. Obama’s administration says it will appeal the ruling.

The American Center for Law and Justice has also filed an amicus brief to have the decision overturned. The group represents 31 members of Congress.

The Graham issue
The National Day of Prayer Task Force had organized an event at the Pentagon for the National Day of Prayer. Franklin Graham, son of Christian evangelist Billy Graham, was set to speak at the event. But after 9/11, Graham had called Islam a “wicked religion.” So Muslims called for him to be removed from the National Day of Prayer event, and the Pentagon withdrew his invitation. Following the withdrawl, the National Day of Prayer Task Force backed out of the Pentagon event.

Their anger hasn’t died down. But it all seems kind of moot if no one will be able to publicly celebrate the National Day of Prayer.

It seems both sides could be argued – of course Americans would like their freedoms protected without having government tell them what to believe. But does removing a long-held celebration suggest that what’s being celebrated is wrong? What do you think?

Created by Religion Transcends, 2010

When Barack Obama took over the office of United States president, he switched up a number of traditions from his predecessors. Or at least he switched up a couple of programs instituted by his predecessor, Former President George W. Bush. The world is constantly watching to see what Obama will say about Islam, Christianity, God, prayer, religious leaders, etc. And we’re watching to see how often he attends a religious service – which service is it? where is it? is it enough? What is our fascination with Obama and religion? First let’s check out a brief timeline of Obama’s intersection with religion-related activities.

November 2008: Obama enrolls his children in a Quaker school in DC.

January 2009: Obama gives his first interview (speaking to Muslims) on Arabic TV.

February 2009: Obama introduces the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

May 2009: Obama chooses not to publically pray at the National Day of Prayer event and instead prays in private.

July 2009: Obama meets with the pope to talk about ways they can cooperate.

Fall 2009: The Bush administration had initiated a faith-based initiative to get involved in religious charities without telling religious charities who they can hire.  Controversy surrounds Obama’s decision to maintain Bush’s faith-based initiative related to charities.

March 2010: Obama is urged to appoint a religious freedom ambassador (a position required by law).

Later that month, Obama tells NBC:

“We’ve decided for now not to join a single church. The reason is because Michelle and I have realized we are very disruptive to services,” Obama replied. “We occasionally go across the street to St. John’s, which is a church that a lot of presidents traditionally have gone to. We love the chapel up in Camp David. It’s probably our favorite place to worship because it’s just family up at Camp David. There’s a wonderful chaplain up there who does just a great job. So usually when we go to Camp David we go to church on Sundays there.”

Controversy surrounds this decision (check out the comments on this Fox Nation page).

April 2010:

At the beginning of the month, Obama spoke to multiple faiths with an interfaith holiday greeting (around Passover and Easter).

People are now counting the number of times Obama has attended church since he took office (the answer is four).

It seems that all of this controversy backed Obama into a corner where he likely felt forced to talk about beliefs he considered private. At a White House Easter breakfast on April 6, Obama told Christian leaders that he has been redeemed by Jesus Christ and is thankful for his sacrifice.

When a judge rules that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional, Obama’s administration says it will appeal the ruling.

Does it matter whether he is religious/supports religions?

One’s religious beliefs could certainly have an effect on one’s ability to do his job, one’s decisions within that job, and so forth. And while we can all attempt to separate our beliefs from our life’s work, our worldview colors our actions. At this point, it seems Obama would do well to be open about his faith and religious views, setting an example of honesty and understanding for the country. But would it matter at this point? Have people already decided what religion Obama professes without hearing him out? If he came out and said “I’m Christian” would that satisfy those who are angry? Would it in turn anger members of other religious groups? Where do you weigh in?

Created by Religion Transcends, 2010

I visited China in 2004 on the 25th anniversary of the massacres at Tiananmen Square. My tour guides were lovely, jovial, proud of their country.

As expected, they pointed out the lovely, jovial, proud parts of their country. Look at the mosques over there, the churches on that side – oh, we are quite supportive of religious diversity. I was encouraged. But let’s be honest, the People’s Republic of China is still Communist. Religious diversity? Seriously?

Earlier this month, a Chinese religious scholar named Liu Peng dared to publish a statement in China Daily (the government’s official English-language newspaper) stating China is ready for “an institutional guarantee for the legality and quality of all religions.” He called for equality and legal recognition of religious groups (putting them out in the open instead of forcing them to hide behind closed doors). As Christianity Today explains, the very fact that a government-owned newspaper would publish his statement seems hopeful. Perhaps China is up to the task of talking about religion in public.

Talking, sure, but enacting laws? True religious freedom and diversity under the Communist party seem unlikely at the moment. The Chinese constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but only if you’re part of one of the state-run organizations. The government is still cracking down on independent religious institutions, shutting down churches and arresting religious leaders. Is it really religious freedom if the government tells you which churches you can attend and denies admittance to others?

The Associated Press estimates that about 60 million Chinese are worshipping in churches independent of the government, risking arrest. So it seems like the popular movement is toward religious freedom. Kudos to Liu Peng for getting the discussion rolling. It only takes a spark.

Now the PRC needs to do more than just put on a good face for outsiders. They need to enter the 21st century and allow their people the ability to worship the way they want. Individually. Unrestricted. Accepted.

Created by Religion Transcends, 2009