Sunday, January 04, 2009
A CHRISTIAN WHO THINKS ATHEISM IS UNAMERICAN
And from the other end of the spectrum comes the story of a Baptist minister and his legal travails as he tries to inject God back into the public sphere. See what you think. BW3
Posted by Ben Witherington at 8:08 AM
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It seems to me that it is no business of the state to endorse a prohibition against worshiping any god other than Yahweh. In a free society, whether and whom to worship is the business of the individual.
"'The church-state divide is not a line I see,' Mr. Riner, a Baptist minister, said of the lawsuit."
That's a little surprising. I don't think the guy is a real Baptist.
What I'd be interested in, is how would this fellow behave if he was running a company? Would he post the Ten Commandments in (for example) a retail store or at a gas station?
Of course, we'll never know.
But it does strike me as odd that there are more calls for spreading religious messages at the government level (by some politicians) than in the sphere of private enterprise. There are a few companies that do, like Alaska Airlines, but that's a rarity.
And wouldn't you espect more proselytizing with private enterprise? There are no courts standing in the way.
It think the reason is that people see government as, pardon the expression, a coersive force - even if it isn't most of the time. Maybe because government is associated with schools, there's the sense that if the state proclaims something, it's more likely to be heeded than a message from a private party (e.g. a business).
Just guessing, really. But I'd love to see how Mr. Riner would behave outside of government.
The mixing of Christianity with government has been ingrained in this land since the days of the Puritans and their "city on a hill." But, it is not a NT concept.
I've commented on this here before. These calls by evangelicals and fundamentalists to "keep" or "make" America a Christian Nation create an unholy hybrid of what NT Christianity is designed to be (a kingdom not from men but living among men). It also will lead to a backlash. It's all about power. As long as Christians are in power - they are fine with the government invoking their ideals in the public square. But, when they lose control they have set a precedent that will lead in the opposite direction.
This idea that America is a "Christian" nation is absurd. It is no more "Christian" than China is (maybe "less" Christian). NT Christians were not about forming earthly governments; they were about bringing souls into the kingdom of God and modeling a New Creation to others in they way they live - loving their neighbors and loving one another in self-sacrifice (e.g. Acts 2:42-47; 4:28ff).
This person who thinks atheism is Un-American should recognize that such a concern is ungodly - God is not concerned about Christians trying to make laws to force others to accede; God wants people to follow him freely and allows individuals the freedom to go their own route in rejecting him (cf. Luke 15 and the parable of the two sons).
Reading the brief summary of Riner's life story given in the article, I can't help but admire the guy. He is clearly living out his faith in every way possible ... I had the luxury of time to read N.T. Wright's recent book "Surprised by Hope" over the Christmas holiday (I hope no one is offended that I've used the word Christmas). One of Wright's main points is that a primary goal (and largely successful) of the Enlightenment project was to force Christians to retreat into a sphere of private spirituality that does not impinge upon the public conversation or sensibilities. Wright says, no, it's time to throw off that sort of thinking and announce the Lordship of Christ to Ceaser and the various powers of this world. And, to be willing to endure the opposition that comes with that announcement. Now, I'm not sure that Wright would applaud Riner's particular actions in the KY legislature (I'm not sure I do), but I do believe he would admire the humble boldness and worldview behind them. Riner seems to be saying "Jesus is Lord, whether the world likes it or not". As we know from the New Testament, Ceaser and the powers of this world don't like it at all.
The problem though is that "Atheism", or for that matter any non-Christian worldview (which gets even more messy among Christians who view some Christian churches as non-Christian, like how some view Catholics), is held by many sorts of people of all sorts of walk. It's very unwise to think such worldviews are only held by powerful elites of society. And do correct me if I'm wrong, but every American President has proclaimed or shown they consider themselves as Christians. So, I think you, and anyone else, are wrong to paint American government as the clone of Roman Imperialism.
with all these reference to God in public as unconstitutional, what's keeping courts from declaring the star-spangled banner unconstitutional?
Then maybe they can also start lobbying to repeal P.L. 84-140 to remove "in God we trust" from the US currency to suite and apeace the aetheists from getting Asthma attacks when they see the word "God".
Thinking atheism is "un-American" is unAmerican.
We have a First Amendment, which protects our right to believe, pray and worship as we choose. We would be foolish to claim it as dead.
How would Mr. Riner feel if Sen. Orrin Hatch, when acting as president of the Senate pro tempore, were to say that Joseph Smith was the prophet of God, and that Thomas S. Monson is the current emissary of Jesus on Earth, as Prophet, Seer and Revelator of Jesus' Church.
Surely Mr. Riner would have no objection, would he?
Sauce for the goose, gander and Baptist alike. If it's unfair for Orrin Hatch to subject Mr. Riner to Prophet Monson, so it is unfair (and illegal) for Riner to subject anyone else to Mr. Riner's version of Prophet Monson.
And do correct me if I'm wrong, but every American President has proclaimed or shown they consider themselves as Christians. So, I think you, and anyone else, are wrong to paint American government as the clone of Roman Imperialism.
Sure thing. Washington's Christianity was questionable at best, though he was polite to Martha's preachers, perhaps more polite than they deserved. Thomas Jefferson was widely perceived to be an atheist, and he took no pains to disabuse anyone of that view. If by "Christian" you mean someone who believes in the resurrection, then Jefferson was not one, nor were either Adams.
While a member of a church, Lincoln had professed his atheism in his race for Congress. The people of his district elected him anyway.
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