Tag Archives: Separation of church and state

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The Monumental Failure of Trumpism

Can we call the President’s behavior and accumulated tweets an “ism” at this point?  Unlike other isms, he lacks any philosophical core.  He is not so much an ideologue as he is a self-centered, unhinged manager who has been promoted to a position absolutely outside of his skill set or intellectual capacity. But this is really not my point.  Whatever we call this, Trumpism or Republican Governance, it is a monumental failure.

This all feels to me like times when I drove around in circles lost. This would have been prior to GPS guidance on my phone but I think you’ll agree, even when you use GPS to guide you somewhere, you still look for landmarks. So in Washington DC, as you can imagine, one of the easiest landmarks to spot is the Washington Monument.  You can pretty much get lost anywhere and from a considerable distance still spot the abolisk rising 555 feet into the air.  If you have a landmark like that, then you can eventually find your way home.

Outside the White House where Mr. Trump resides, stands that monument to our First President.  Not far away are other landmark monuments:  the Lincoln, the Capitol, the eternal flame on President Kennedy’s grave in Arlington.  I note this because on this July 4th,  it is quite apparent to most of us that the country is drifting further and further downstream, unmoored and rapidly removing itself from the founding ideas of our Republic.  We are nearly at a point where none of those monuments is visible to us and most disturbing of all, the current president seems oblivious to them and yet, they are just outside his residence.

On this Independence Day, find a landmark.  Read the Preamble to the Constitution. Read the Bill of Rights. Read Frederick Douglass’ speech, “What To The Slave Is The Fourth Of July?”  Or visit one of those monuments. Enter the Lincoln Memorial and read the words inscribed on the temple walls. Any of these and more can guide us back to the vision and dream of America—a vision and dream yet to be fully realized but one that calls to us to do so.

I’m  a Baptist clergyman.  I do not believe in the entanglements of Church and State. I prefer the State to remain out of religious matters and Presidents to stop talking about God and begin living up to their constitutional responsibilities.  As a citizen then, I am noting on July 4, 2017, that we are in danger as a Republic, as the President twitters away the very notion of E Pluribus Unum.   There is no excuse for us to be lost. There are simply too many monuments and monumental moments in our history for us to give up on the dream.  But we’re lost. Instead of driving around in circles, let’s just admit that.    May this Independence Day become a landmark for finding our way back to the cherished dreams of our founding documents.

Trump Order on Religious Liberty a Sham

EO-on-religious-liberty-FINAL

The premier Baptist body dedicated to religious liberty and separation of Church and State, the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, has provided a thorough analysis of President Trump’s Executive Order titled, “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty.”  The Director, Amanda Tyler, speaks eloquently to the sham of this executive order.  You can find the complete analysis on the BJC web site.

The Interim Journey: November 2016

A Stone from the Sea of Galilee, gifted to Riverside Baptist Church by Rabbi Daniel Zemel of Temple Micah.

A Stone from the Sea of Galilee, gifted to Riverside Baptist Church by Rabbi Daniel Zemel of Temple Micah.

For a while now those of you who have been attending worship have realized that I really like this text from the book of Numbers, the tenth chapter, in the Hebrew scriptures, that speaks to the wilderness wandering led by Moses after the people have been to Sinai and covenanted with God.

11 In the second year, in the second month, on the twentieth day of the month, the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle of the testimony, 12 and the people of Israel set out by stages from the wilderness of Sinai. . .

I love the texture of those verses, their concreteness, their particularity, striking into time itself the moment when they got up and began to journey.  So it is, that in November of 2016, Riverside Baptist Church is also on a journey.  We can call it our interim journey since we have an endpoint or goal to our “wandering.”  The old church building is about to be deconstructed, its stained glass saved for the new building and then in December it may come down.  The expectation is that we will enter our new church building by September 30, 2018.  We might want to enter on Reformation Sunday of 2018–that would be fitting and an inspiration all by itself!

We are carrying with us during this time a stone from the First Baptist Church in America gathered by Roger Williams in 1638 and we’ll place this stone near the date stone of our new building; we are carrying with us a stone from the Sea of Galilee where Christ ministered and first called disciples and we will place that at the threshold of the new sanctuary once we reach our destination.  And we carry with us the vision of this collective of radical Baptists who believe in soul freedom, the separation of Church and State, and the priesthood of believers, believing our voice raised for justice and peace is as vital now as ever.

Meanwhile, we worship in the auditorium of Jefferson Middle School Academy on Seventh Street at 10 a.m. Sundays.  We are vibrant. We are full of hope.  And we invite you to worship and travel with us.  ~See you Sunday

Assessing Pope Francis: A Baptist View

pope_francis_2015(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)
now edited to include a statement about Pope Francis’ secret meeting with Kim Davis.

When you begin your speech to Congress with references to Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton, then you have sent a very loud signal to everyone that you are a pope of peace and justice. Indeed, Pope Francis even used that phrase as he used a velvet hammer on the noggins of a Congress that has used up most of its vital energy devising ways to overturn the Affordable Care Act.  I had thought progressive Catholicism to be nearly extinct but in one speech and then in a whirlwind of activity aimed at uplifting the marginal and at-risk, this pontiff has single-handedly revived it.

Mind you, as a Baptist (and let’s keep in mind that of the three individuals noted above and referred to by the Pope as models of what it means to be a Christian citizen, King was the Baptist clergyman in the list), and as someone then who believes strongly in separation of Church and State, I do not believe the pope should have been invited to speak to the Congress.  We would never, ever consider inviting an Islamic Imam of a country like Iran to speak  before the Congress and that is as it should be. But allowing the pope to do so merely obfuscates the separation and is a dangerous thing to do. Why? Because our founders knew personally how terrible a thing it is when religion and state combine in their efforts to control people. The Church armed with the power of the State and the State armed with the rhetoric of God is flat out dangerous and comes very close to blasphemy.  But leaving this important issue to the side, what Francis said penetrated the  brassy patriotism of a deformed Christianity pawned off by politicians who resemble goats, not the sheep brought into the kingdom for their acts of justice and compassion.  The cynical invitation to bring the pope here as a way of embarrassing the President–much as bringing Prime Minister Netanyahu before Congress to embarrass the President–backfired.  Francis blessed the President for his efforts on behalf of immigrants and the uninsured while declaring to the Congress that they should take their moral lessons from three progressive Christians:  Day, who was a pacifist and resisted WW1 and set up soup kitchens in NY to feed the poor and unemployed; King who denounced racism and led America’s second revolution, the Civil Rights Movement; and Merton, a contemplative monk who with his pen denounced the Vietnam War and worked for peace and interfaith understanding.

This is a special pope, a Jesuit with a Franciscan heart of service to the least of these.*  It was a joy to hear him and watch him and he reminded me, a Baptist, why I find Catholicism to be so beautiful and rich in both history and liturgy.  May God bless his efforts and the efforts of all those who seek peace and justice in our world. And may the Congress of the United States, sent to serve the People of the United States, move past religious rhetoric and do its utmost to live up to the sacred documents of the United States–its constitutional guarantees and Bill of Rights.  ~See you Sunday

*So now I need to add an asterisk to the statement that Pope Francis is a special pope with a Franciscan heart. What a deflating disappointment to know that this pope who cited peace and justice warriors like King, Day and Merton and seemed compassionate for the least of these actually sided with a homophobic, misguided clerk from Kentucky.  Yes, she has a right to be a conscientious objector but CO’s bear the consequences of such objection. She should not be clerk of a court anywhere.  Those on the right who compare her to Dr. King are delusional for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that King worked tirelessly for the freedom and human rights of all people.  Kim Davis is a homophobe who loves Jesus.  And the pope just smeared his own remarkable visit with us in the United States by his embrace of her behind closed doors.  Shame, shame, shame.  Dear Gay Brothers and Sisters, God bless and keep you.  You are fully human and thus, you should have all the rights and privileges of being a human being, including marriage.  I, like you, am so  disappointed . At the same time, we welcome you into our church!