Christ is Missing

A manger scene without baby Jesus?

ST. ALBANS, W.Va. – Christ is missing from Christmas in this small town. The community’s holiday display has a manger with shepherds, a guiding star, camels and a palm tree, but no baby Jesus, Mary or Joseph.

The parks superintendent said Jesus was left out because of concerns about the separation of church and state.

Ah yes, camels and palm trees, the reason for the season.

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Democrats Misplay "God Card"

I wrote last July that I fully expected the liberal Democrat party to try and claim Christianity for themselves under the name of “progressive Christianity.”

A prime example is in USAToday recently that tries to show that “playing the God card” isn’t working for George Bush and the Republicans. Even if, as the author admits, “Bush, for his part, at times has invoked religion appropriately and even eloquently” and that even while overall support for Bush may be dropping, evangelicals still overwhelmingly support Bush.

I am not surprised that both Republicans and Democrats will attempt to invoke religion to win elections in 2006 and 2008. But the USAToday article misses a key point – Christian conservatives vote Republican because the Republicans support their ideals. Democrats do too, but only occasionally and when politically expedient, then come off as hypocritical when they do. Townhall’s Patrick Hynes discusses that playing the “God Card” has actually hurt the Democrat Party. Before the 2004 election, 40% of Americans viewed the Democratic Party as “friendly toward religion.” After trying clumsily to gain support for their policies by calling on God, this fell to 29% by August 2005.

Democrats have some serious decisions to make about the future of their party and its message. The Democrat Party cannot long stand as one that demands separation of church and state in all — even symbolic — matters while at the same time claiming Biblical substantiation for liberal public policies. They cannot imply John Roberts’ queasiness about Roe v. Wade breaches the “impregnable wall,” as Sen. Dianne Feinstein did during Roberts’ confirmation hearings, while at the same time urge income redistribution because “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:25). They cannot call Republicans “theocrats” for trying to save Terri Schiavo while they also claim John the Baptist endorsed their welfare state when he said, “He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none …” (Luke 3:11).

Just as Democrats are telling voters they are unserious about national security through their over-the-top rhetoric about Iraq, the Democrats’ “God card” gambit demonstrates to the American public that they are not serious about matters of faith in public life.

The big problem the Democrats have is a) much of their party is composed of people not just passive about God, but actively opposed to God. They support removing “under God” from the pledge of allegiance and prohibit the free expression of Christianity in schools, then the other half tries to undo that perception by claiming the liberal “give to the poor” philosophy is something Jesus would want. The Democrats won’t be able to have it both ways; it comes off as way too insincere, even for politicians.

Separation of Church and State

Here’s an early Christmas present; thanks to CADRE Comments for the tip.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Mercer County’s right to display in a court house the Ten Commandments along with the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta, and the National Motto (“In God We Trust”). American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky v. Mercer County, No. 03-5412 (6th Cir. December 20, 2005). The best part, though, was the smackdown the Court gave to the ACLU:

The ACLU makes repeated references to “the separation of church and state.” This extra-constitutional construct has grown tiresome. The First Amendment does not demand a wall of separation between church and state. Our nation’s history is replete with acknowledgment and in some cases, accommodation of religion. After all, we are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being….

We will not presume endorsement from the mere display of the Ten Commandments. If the reasonable observer perceived all government references to the Deity as endorsements, then many of our Nation’s cherished traditions would be unconstitutional, including the Declaration of Independence and the national motto. Fortunately, the reasonable person is not a hyper-sensitive plaintiff. Instead, he appreciates the role religion has played in our governmental institutions, and finds it historically appropriate and traditionally acceptable for a state to include religious influences, even in the form of sacred texts, in honoring American legal traditions.

A Non-Christian Narna

People that hate Christians should not go see “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”

The Guardian Unlimited, England’s ultra liberal rag, says “Narnia represents everything that is most hateful about religion.” Exceprts:

The Christian radio station Premier is urging churches to hold services on the theme of The Gospel According to Narnia. Even the Methodists have written a special Narnia-themed service. And a Kent parish is giving away £10,000 worth of film tickets to single-parent families. (Are the children of single mothers in special need of the word?)

I would say “yes.” I don’t know what the author has against single mothers, but apparently she’s opposed to them receiving Christian aid and encouragement in any form.

The president’s brother, Jeb Bush, the governor of Florida, is organising a scheme for every child in his state to read the book. Walden Media, co-producer of the movie, offers a “17-week Narnia Bible study for children”. The owner of Walden Media is both a big Republican donor and a donor to the Florida governor’s book promotion – a neat synergy of politics, religion and product placement. It has aroused protests from Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which complains that “a governmental endorsement of the book’s religious message is in violation of the First Amendment to the US Constitution”.

That would certainly be hard to prove since the words “Christ” and “God” never appear in the movie in any form.

Disney may come to regret this alliance with Christians, at least on this side of the Atlantic. For all the enthusiasm of the churches, Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ bombed in Britain and warehouses are stuffed with unsold DVDs of that stomach-churner. There are too few practising Christians in the empty pews of this most secular nation to pack cinemas. So there has been a queasy ambivalence about how to sell the Narnia film here.

If you were unsure of the author’s hatred of Christians, that should have cleared it right up for you.

Most British children will be utterly clueless about any message beyond the age-old mythic battle between good and evil. Most of the fairy story works as well as any Norse saga, pagan legend or modern fantasy, so only the minority who are familiar with Christian iconography will see Jesus in the lion. After all, 43% of people in Britain in a recent poll couldn’t say what Easter celebrated. Among the young – apart from those in faith schools – that number must be considerably higher. Ask art galleries: they now have to write the story of every religious painting on the label as people no longer know what “agony in the garden”, “deposition”, “transfiguration” or “ascension” mean. This may be regrettable cultural ignorance, but it means Aslan will stay just a lion to most movie-goers.

Explain to me again that if “Aslan will stay just a lion to most movie-goers” why the Americans United for Separation of Church and State are complaining? I find this sad, that the European young have lost touch with their faith and are no longer being taught by their parents.

Of all the elements of Christianity, the most repugnant is the notion of the Christ who took our sins upon himself and sacrificed his body in agony to save our souls. Did we ask him to?

Goodness. How repugnant. I wonder if the author feels free to insult all other religions, too, or if she’s reserved a special hatred for Christianity. The answer, by the way, is no, we did not ask Him to. God did it for us, unasked. It is a gift, it is grace.

There’s lots more hatred of Christians (and conservatives) aplenty if you’re interested:

  • So the resurrected Aslan gives Edmund a long, life-changing talking-to high up on the rocks out of our earshot. When the poor boy comes back down with the sacred lion’s breath upon him he is transformed unrecognisably into a Stepford brother, well and truly purged. (The author doesn’t say what part of Edmund’s new behavior is repugnant.)
  • Philip Pullman – he of the marvellously secular trilogy His Dark Materials – has called Narnia “one of the most ugly, poisonous things I have ever read”.
  • Because here in Narnia is the perfect Republican, muscular Christianity for America – that warped, distorted neo-fascist strain that thinks might is proof of right.
  • I once heard the famous preacher Norman Vincent Peale in New York expound a sermon that reassured his wealthy congregation that they were made rich by God because they deserved it. The godly will reap earthly reward because God is on the side of the strong. This appears to be CS Lewis’s view, too. In the battle at the end of the film, visually a great epic treat, the child crusaders are crowned kings and queens for no particular reason. Intellectually, the poor do not inherit Lewis’s earth. (The author has mistaken earthly riches for heavenly riches and so misses the point entirely – Michael.)

Children are supposed to fall in love with the hypnotic Aslan, though he is not a character: he is pure, raw, awesome power. He is an emblem for everything an atheist objects to in religion. His divine presence is a way to avoid humans taking responsibility for everything here and now on earth, where no one is watching, no one is guiding, no one is judging and there is no other place yet to come. Without an Aslan, there is no one here but ourselves to suffer for our sins, no one to redeem us but ourselves: we are obliged to settle our own disputes and do what we can. We need no holy guide books, only a very human moral compass. Everyone needs ghosts, spirits, marvels and poetic imaginings, but we can do well without an Aslan.

So ghosts and spirits are great, but not a faith in a redeeming savior. The author has preformed ideas about Christianity and uses those ideas to bash Christianity. Setup the strawman and knock it down. Do Christians use their faith to avoid taking responsibility, or do Christians feel their faith calls them to devote their lives to service in faith? There are thousands of Christian faith-based service organizations feeding the poor, helping the homeless, with millions of volunteers. That’s a far cry from the author’s portrayal of Christians.

And all of the Christian-bashing over a movie that never utters a scriptural word.

Intelligent Design in Public Schools

Andrew Coulson at the Cato Institute has a question – why are we fighting over Intelligent Deisgn vs Evolution? Does it matter to one parent if another parent teaches their child about God?

Supporters of the theory of human origins known as “intelligent design” want it taught alongside the theory of evolution. Opponents will do anything to keep it out of science classrooms. The disagreement is clear.

But why does everyone assume that we must settle it through an ideological death-match in the town square?

Intelligent design contends that life on Earth is too complex to have evolved naturally, and so must be the product of an unspecified intelligent designer. Most adherents of this idea would undoubtedly be happy just to have it taught to their own children, and most of my fellow evolutionists presumably believe they should have that right. So why are we fighting?

We’re fighting because the institution of public schooling forces us to, by permitting only one government-sanctioned explanation of human origins. The only way for one side to have its views reflected in the official curriculum is at the expense of the other side.

This manufactured conflict serves no public good. After all, does it really matter if some Americans believe intelligent design is a valid scientific theory while others see it as a Lamb of God in sheep’s clothing? Surely not. While there are certainly issues on which consensus is key — respect for the rule of law and the rights of fellow citizens, tolerance of differing viewpoints, etc. — the origin of species is not one of them.

The sad truth is that state-run schooling has created a multitude of similarly pointless battles. Nothing is gained, for instance, by compelling conformity on school prayer, random drug testing, the set of religious holidays that are worth observing, or the most appropriate forms of sex education.

Not only are these conflicts unnecessary, they are socially corrosive. Every time we fight over the official government curriculum, it breeds more resentment and animosity within our communities. These public-schooling-induced battles have done much to inflame tensions between Red and Blue America.

But while Americans bicker incessantly over pedagogical teachings, we seldom fight over theological ones. The difference, of course, is that the Bill of Rights precludes the establishment of an official religion. Our founding fathers were prescient in calling for the separation of church and state, but failed to foresee the dire social consequences of entangling education and state. Those consequences are now all too apparent.

Fortunately, there is a way to end the cycle of educational violence: parental choice. Why not reorganize our schools so that parents can easily get the sort of education they value for their own children without having to force it on their neighbors?

Doing so would not be difficult. A combination of tax relief for middle income families and financial assistance for low-income families would give everyone access to the independent education marketplace. A few strokes of the legislative pen could thus bring peace along the entire “education front” of America’s culture war.

But let’s be honest. At least a few Americans see our recurrent battles over the government curriculum as a price worth paying. Even in the “land of the free,” there is a temptation to seize the apparatus of state schooling and use it to proselytize our neighbors with our own ideas or beliefs.

In addition to being socially divisive and utterly incompatible with American ideals, such propagandizing is also ineffectual. After generations in which evolution has been public schooling’s sole explanation of human origins, only a third of Americans consider it a theory well-supported by scientific evidence. By contrast, 51 percent of Americans believe “God created human beings in their present form.”

These findings should give pause not only to evolutionists but to supporters of intelligent design as well. After all, if public schooling has made such a hash of teaching evolution, why expect it to do any better with I.D.?

Admittedly, the promotion of social harmony is an unusual justification for replacing public schools with parent-driven education markets. Most arguments for parental choice rest on the private sector’s superior academic performance or cost-effectiveness. But when you stop and think about it, doesn’t the combination of these advantages suggest that free markets would be a far more intelligent design for American education?

Incidentally, the reason those that we’ll continue to fight over this issue was mentioned yesterday – the Left hates Inequality. All children should be taught equally, and that means your child taught whatever the state decides.

In God We Trust

I find this non-ruling interesting: The U.S. Supreme Court was asked to review whether the words “In God We Trust,” written prominently in large block letters on the Lexington, N.C. county government center, violated the so-called separation of church and state.

As an aside, I’ll keep saying this until the news media gets it: there is no constitutionally mandated separation of church and state. If you think you’re suddenly converted to Christianity by walking under the words “In God We Trust,” then you’re too easily influenced. You’re not converted into a mosquito when you attend the Clute, Texas, Mosquito Festival, either.

Anyway, an appeals court said the words were fine just the way they are:

A U.S. appeals court ruled that the lawsuit failed to show that the display had no legitimate secular purpose, that it has the effect of endorsing religion or that it has resulted in an excessive entanglement of government and religion.

The appeals court said Congress first authorized the phrase “In God We Trust” on coins in 1865, and Congress made it the national motto in 1956. It is inscribed above the speaker’s chair in the U.S. House of Representatives and above the main door of the U.S. Senate chamber.

Of course the opposition appealed; the opposition was two lawyers who had hired lawyers to represent them. The more time in court, the better. The U.S. Supreme Court basically said, “Nah, not interested. Next!”

I suspect that “In God We Trust” will be stricken from coins within my lifetime, but it’s refreshing to see that it won’t be happening this year.

National Day of Prayer

Today is a National Day of Prayer. And no, Google doesn’t have a special logo for this one, either.

And in San Francisco, they don’t like the fact that this day is dominated by Christians.

The day has been taken over by evangelicals,” said Robert Boston, a spokesman for Americans for Separation of Church and State, which is organizing an alternative event in Oklahoma City featuring several different denominations. “It’s legal, as legal challenges to it in the past haven’t been that successful.”

The reason: The National Day of Prayer events are organized by a private organization, not the government.

Might have something to do with the fact that three quarters of Americans say they’re Christian. But hey, I’m just going out on a limb there.