Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Beating up Jesus

Pat Boone has recently written about several statements made by President Obama. (You should read his column on the Newsmax.com website [http://www.newsmax.com/boone/Obama_Muslims_Christians/2009/06/08/222718.html] before reading my comments.) At the top of Boone’s column you’ll find the following statements from Mr. Obama:
"We're no longer a Christian nation." - President Barack Obama, June 2007

"America has been arrogant." - President Barack Obama

"After 9/11, America didn't always live up to her ideals."- President Barack Obama

"You might say that America is a Muslim nation."- President Barack Obama, Egypt 2009

Boone then states: “I keep wondering what country be believes he’s president of.”

Now, a political column by a 1950s pop star would not normally be worthy of comment, except that I have seen it passed around with great approval by Christians, and by some that might be considered prominent. Unfortunately, there are some real problems with Boone’s comments – both logical and historical.

First of all, Mr. Boone needs to pay attention to the context of President Obama’s comments. Meaning is derived from context, and Boone has excerpted these remarks out of their original context and placed them alone at the head of his column. If I were to do the same to Boone’s column, I might comment quite truly that Boone wrote, "Damn the United States ! I wish I might never hear of the United States again!"

Or further, it could be truly stated that Boone makes a case for the US being a Jewish nation. Yes, read his column and you’ll see it.

Boone also refers to the story by Edward Everett Hale, “A Man Without a Country,” but tells it as if it were really true. He begins by saying it is one of his favorite stories, but then recounts the movie version in which the main character, Philip Nolan, damns America. Boone remarks: “The stunned silence in the courtroom is palpable, pulsing. After a long pause, the judge soberly says to the angry lieutenant: ‘You have just pronounced your own sentence.’”

Um, Pat – it’s fiction! I’m glad it moves you to tears, but it has no bearing whatsoever on reality. And people who can’t tell the difference between fiction and reality . . . . Oh, nevermind.

But the fiction continues as Boone asks President Obama: “Just what country do you think you’re president of?” And this because, according to Pat, “America is emphatically a Christian nation, and has been from its inception!”

Uh, really? You mean the nation that arrogantly committed genocide on the original residents of “our country,” many of whom continue to live in poverty on “reservations”? And the history of the “reservations” in my state of Oklahoma is more than enough to make you want a dictionary definition of the word “reservation,” or at least wonder if it has any concrete meaning at all!

Do you mean the nation that imported and enslaved Africans for a couple of centuries, and in which civil rights were only for white people until the 1960s, and in which those civil rights for black people had to be won through long and difficult battles? And the nation in which bigotry is still rampant?

And Pat – aren’t you a citizen of the nation that also invaded Viet Nam and fought an unjust war there? And secretly bombed Cambodia? And . . . . And . . . the list could go on for pages. Sorry, Pat, but I cannot accept your arrogant claim that America has not been arrogant. BTW: “imperialism” probably equals “arrogance.” For the record.

For which of these actions do we get to be called “Christian”? If I understand the Bible much at all, it seems clear that the nation of Israel was condemned by its God because of its injustices, especially toward the weakest members of its society (the orphans, widows and the foreigners). Can we hope that we have done better? I think not.

But Boone goes on to claim that 70% of Americans claim to be Christian. I suppose that could be true. It will, of course, depend greatly on which poll numbers you accept. At any rate, it’s interesting to note that Boone was once a member of the Churches of Christ but was essentially run out because of his beliefs in spiritual gifts. He can now be seen on some of the Christian cable channels from time to time. You might think he would be a little sensitive about Christians who refuse to accept the faith of others who call themselves Christians. Hmmmph. Nope – he questions the Christianity of Obama’s home church in Chicago, the Trinity United Church of Christ, and asked if that’s where he got the idea that America has been arrogant. So, let me get this straight: Boone is arrogantly asking if Obama’s church, which Boone (arrogantly?) has a difficult time calling “Christian,” is the place where Obama learned that America is arrogant. Got it.

So, does that mean that any church that believes that America has been arrogant is no longer really Christian? If so, Pat, you probably just severely cut into your percentage of Christians in America, since many American Christians are black. Given the American history of racism – and isn’t racism inherently arrogant? – and since most American political leaders in our 200 plus year history have been white – seems to me almost impossible to make the claim that America has NOT been arrogant! But in Pat’s view, that would make me not a Christian, so my view will no longer count.

I’m also pretty sure Boone would not accept the “Christianity” of Thomas Jefferson, nor of most of the other “founding fathers,” most of whom had Deist beliefs. Jefferson even published a version of the Christian Gospels that edited out everything that was in any way miraculous, believing all that to be mere superstition. So, for Jefferson, there was no virgin birth, no resurrection, no miracle of any kind. Jesus was just a really nice guy and pretty good moralist. Mr. Boone, would you call him and his Deist friends “Christian”? Highly doubtful.

Of course, those who want to claim that America has always been a Christian nation will tend to overlook the Deist doctrines of the Founding Fathers and point to their alleged “Christian morality” and the idea that the basic ideas of our republic are Christian ideas. An interesting concept, but not demonstrable. Tell me: where in the Bible do you find any talk of “rights”? There is only one passage – 1 Corinthians 9, where Paul the Apostle speaks of the rights he could claim based on his status as apostle, and then clearly states that he has given them up! So, if we Christians are to follow the Biblical pattern concerning rights, not only can we not fight for them, we must give them up! There is no talk anywhere in the Bible about “basic human rights,” or about any “rights” that are “unalienable.” So, while I would argue that Christians should indeed value human lives God has created, to think about life, liberty and pursuit of happiness as “rights” is to go outside of Biblical language and concepts. Further, if you believe that “life” is a right, then you cannot justify killing someone to gain that right. To do so would be a self-contradiction. But that is precisely what our Founding Fathers did in the Revolutionary War. So, apparently “life” is only a “right” if you are not standing in the way of my pursuit of happiness. Can the concept of setting aside “life” in favor of “pursuit of happiness” be found anywhere in Christian scripture? No. So, the “Christian principles” of the Founders only guided them so far – to the extent that such “rights” might interfere with their economic pursuits. Not very Christian, I’d say.

Moving on: it is almost laughable – ok, it is COMPLETELY laughable – that Mr. Boone attempts to educate the former law professor about American legal precedent. Talk about arrogance.

Boone also asks President Obama: “Did you not ever read the statement of John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and an author of the landmark ‘Federalist Papers’: ‘Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers - and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation - to select and prefer Christians for their rulers’?”
Fair enough. I’d bet my last dollar Obama has not only read, but dissected and taught about the Federalist papers. But we might ask of Mr. Boone: why does this particular opinion of one man continue to matter? If it does, we should do away with the Bill or Rights, because Federalist Paper no. 84 argues that we don’t need it. So, while the opinion of John Jay is important for constitutional law, it is indeed nothing but one man’s opinion. John Jay’s opinion that we are a Christian nation was his pipe dream, nothing more.

Further, since Mr. Boone is presumably speaking as a Christian, we might ask if he can provide any support for Mr. Jay’s statement from Christian scripture. For Christians scripture is supposed to matter more than any other document, even more than the Federalist Papers, so we ultimately have to ask whether Scripture supports the idea that we Christians have the duty to elect Christian rulers. Of course, the answer is no. The viewpoint of the authors of the New Testament, as a whole, is that governments are always pagan and evil, so Christians should have very little to do with them. Certainly the New Testament authors do not envision a “Christian government” or even a “Christian nation.” So, trying to tell us that Christians have a duty to elect Christians to public office, while perhaps now and then a good idea, is certainly an error.

Boone also quotes some statements from the Quran about killing infidels, jihad, etc. Mr. Boone, an opponent of Christianity could also point to passages in the Christian Bible that, for instance, tell the Jewish people to commit genocide on the inhabitants of Palestine (book of Joshua), and pronounce a blessing on those who slam babies of the Babylonians against rocks (Ps. 137). Of course, Mr. Boone might reply that those statements are in the Old Testament and are not directed to Christians. Fair enough. Consider, then, Galatians 5:12, where the Apostle Paul wishes that those who are trying to force Galatian Christian men to circumcise themselves would go a step further and emasculate themselves! So, wishing ill on one’s enemies is not just a Muslim concept.

Furthermore, historically Christians have been quite well treated in areas ruled by Muslims. Unfortunately, the reverse has not been true (does the word "Crusades" mean anything to you?). So, despite Boone’s citation of the Quran coupled with his reference to some contemporary nations which are ruled by “conservative” Muslims, his insinuation that all Muslims want to kill all Christians, or that Muslim nations always persecute their Christian citizens, cannot be upheld. It is simply more right-wing scare-tactics. I would be willing to bet that Boone has never consulted a contemporary Muslim scholar to hear how they interpret those passages in the Quran. I would advise him to do so before he starts throwing around charges of hate and violence.

It should also be noted that Boone’s citation of a Supreme Court decision of 1892 is a fabrication. It’s not Boone’s fabrication, but he has propagated an error that is commonly found in writings that seek to prove the United States is a Christian Nation. Information on the proper citation can be found by clicking on the following links:



As you’ll see, the statement quoted by Boone occurs in a State of Illinois Supreme Court case, so at best would only be binding in the State of Illinois. But, since it is making a statement about the nation as a whole, it is not really rendering a judgment even on Illinois. Again, it is just the opinion of some of the judges in Illinois in the year 1892. It is not binding on our nation as a whole, and is in fact irrelevant.

What Boone (and others) seem to want is something that never has really existed: a Christian United States. Mr. Boone, the America you imagine never existed. You are, therefore, a citizen of a non-nation. Please move back there immediately.

If you do wish to stay here in the real world, we would love to have you contribute to our conversation about how we can all get along in this nation and in this world – all of us, including the Dutch and the English, as well as the Native Americans, the Korean Americans, the Chinese Americans, the Japanese Americans, the African Americans, and the variety of our citizens and immigrants who happen to profess the Muslim faith. But Pat, if you wish to be part of the conversation, you will be required to do better research, think more logically, and speak more politely to other conversation partners. A “power play” by which you try to “take America back for Christians” not only has no historical foundation, it is simply one more episode of attempted coercion by Christians, one more example of hate by professed followers of the Son of the God of love, one more episode that gives Jesus a black eye. Jesus doesn't need to rely on Muslims to beat him up -- his own followers have done a pretty good job.


Divine_Contemplative said...

Chip, you tell it like no one wants it to be, but still is.

You know, I was actually just thinking about the Confederate flag. Some people want to keep it around because to them it symbolizes a way of life. I thought of a theoretical response an old German might have about wanting to put a swastika bumper sticker on his car because he misses the extreme nationalistic pride of the 1940s.

I've often wondered if European settlers came here, read the book of Joshua, and then said to themselves "Oh my God! This is US! This is what's happening right now! God has obviously given us this land, just as the sons of Israel had Canaan!" Chip, since you are far better at history, do you know if that theory is true? Was a self-reading-into of Joshua the pseudo-rationale for conquest?

On another tangent: I've only read two pages of the Quran, which belong to Miranda B, but I found a typo on the second page. "People" was misspelled as "poeple."

Divine_Contemplative said...

Another tangent: I just downloaded a good version of "Awesome God" which has Pat Boone featured in it. Now I have mixed feelings, but he's a good singer.

If only singers didn't try to be politicians...

Jimbo Dolan said...

"If only singers didn't try to be politicians..."

Amen! Does that also apply to people like Bruce Springsteen?

Laura Ingraham was right: Entertainers need to "Shut Up And Sing!"

Divine_Contemplative said...

I was actually thinking of Natalie of the Dixie Chicks...

Lucky said...

As a political agnostic, how would he count me? My particular views say that crediting democracy (or any political movement) with improving the world is idolatry. Does that mean I'm not American by his views?

Divine_Contemplative said...

I believe so.

chip said...

Luckty, I'm not sure what you mean by "political agnostic." But I suspect it's not true, because you are committed to God's polity == the kingdom life == how people get along together in light of the fact that God is in charge.

But, though I see your point about political idolatry, I guess I've decided that I should vote for the person, party or platform that most closely approximates God's polity of justice and mercy. Ultimately I believe God will clean up the horrid messes we've made. But at the same time, if God is working toward the ultimate victory of his kingdom/polity, I have to try to also work toward and for it. How does that sound?

Lucky said...

That sound good. I vote when I can tell the difference between candidates or when there is a fairly clear ethical issue on the table; my qualm is not with voting, but with believeing that my vote, or the will of our nation, really controls our national situation.

The declarations of the prophets (esp. Daniel & Jeremiah) indicate that God is in control of the larger historical situation, though it may not seem so in the moment.

Dave said...

I am amazed at your meticulous attention to every detail of this issue. Patiently articulate and thorough. This is what is needed with those who are so misguided on this whole issue. And kind (which you are) but no less forthright. I spend time with non-believer/atheists who find much of this "Christian Founder" rhetoric not just offensive but downright ignorant and absurd. Thank you for this kind, patient and detailed response to a typical and potentially damaging "apologetic".

Dave in Singapore

chip said...

Thanks, Dave. My regards to the brewcrew!