• First published in 2004 as Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion (BNOR).

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The Idol Bush

When I read a while back that Bush ghost-writer and confidant Karen Hughes considered that God had arranged things so that George Bush had “come to a royal position for such a time as this”, I assumed she must be some sort of Christian Reconstructionist, thirsting for Christian dominion over society. But her Westlake Hills Presbyterian Church would same to have a different, quite mainstream perspective. Although Calvinist, the church belongs to the Presbyterian Church (USA) denomination, which holds the position that:

Because we live as Reformed Christians in this tension between obedience to civil authority and critical evaluation of it, we have strongly supported the separation of church and state as institutions. While this does not mean that we have put our faith aside as Christian citizens, it does mean that we have not only felt free to challenge those in authority but also have resisted efforts to impose the beliefs of any particular religion, including our own, upon the whole of society through the use of governmental authority.

What’s more:

It is the job of the church to see clearly the “idolatries in church and culture” that we are called to “unmask” (Brief Statement of Faith). The pastor of one of our large Presbyterian churches, preaching in the aftermath of “9/11,” raised the question, “Are we going to take off our WWJD (“What Would Jesus Do?”) bracelets and replace them with the American flag?” We may well wish to wear both, but we should never be in doubt as to which one deserves our highest loyalty…we can challenge every earthly authority to remember that they serve at the pleasure of a God who is just and merciful and requires the same of them.

Also of interest: Hughes’s pastor, Douglas Fletcher, appears to be a supporter of Palestinian rights. Perhaps he could have a word…

No Love for Atheists

Jesus’ General recently [May 3, second item] brought to my attention Rep. Jay Love of Montgomery, Alabama. In the run-up to the National Day of Prayer Love got some attention for decreeing that those praying outside could move inside the state capitol in the case of rain, whilst those attending a rival Atheist Law Center rally would just have to get wet, on the grounds that:

Many of the beliefs that [ALC head Larry Darby] espoused and said publicly, a great deal of my district finds offensive. A great deal of the people of Alabama would find offensive.

Standing in the rain would have been especially just, since, according to Love’s Calvary Baptist Church, Montgomery:

all such as continue in impenitence and unbelief are in His sight wicked and under the curse (Romans 3:19-23)

Love’s church has an exceptionally long list of things that must be believed, including:

the King James version of the Bible is the divinely preserved word of God for the English-speaking people

We believe the Genesis account of creation is to be accepted literally and not allegorically or figuratively (Genesis 1); that the creation was accomplished in six (6), twenty-four (24) hour days

the unbelievers left behind [after the Rapture] will go through a seven year period called the Tribulation

At least Love takes his church’s positions seriously. And any other Christian group wanting to use the state capitol had better be careful:

We are opposed to the ecumenical movement, neo-orthodoxy, new evangelicalism, liberalism, and modernism that emphasize an unequal yoke with unbelievers.

“New evangelicalism”, by the way, means the likes of Billy Graham, Carl Henry and Christianity Today.

A Whited Sepulchre

Since we’ve heard so much about Kerry-the-pro-Choice-Catholic, I’ve decided that checking out the actual places of worship of other political figures might be fruitful. First up, from the statement of faith of the First Presbyterian Church of Tulsa:

In sovereign love God created the world good and makes everyone equally in God’s image male and female, of every race and people, to live as one community. But we rebel agaist [sic] God; we hide from our Creator. Ignoring God’s commandments, we violate the image of God in others and ourselves accept lies as truth, exploit neighbor and nature, and threaten death to the planet entrusted to our care…

But:

…In a broken and fearful world the spirit gives us courage to pray without ceasing, to witness among all peoples to Christ as Lord and Savior, to unmask idolatries in the church and culture, to hear the voices of peoples long silenced, and to work with others for justice, freedom, and peace.

So how does church member Rep. James M. Inofe get from that to his now-infamous remarks supporting the torture of prisoners in Iraq?