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Obama’s Faith

Obama’s Faith

This is not a political blog but with all the news buzzing about President Obama's faith and views on Islam it fits with my writing on religious matters.

First, let me state unequivocally that I do not believe that Obama is a Muslim.  He professes to be a Christian.  There is no reason to doubt that this profession is not real.  Shame on Christians who say otherwise.  This is the President and we want him on our side!

However, a recent Pew report suggests that a growing number of Americans don't agree with me on this issue.  According to this Pew survey, between March 2008 and August 2010, the percentage of Americans who believe that Obama is a Muslim has increased from 12% to 18%.  The number who believe he is a Christian has declined from 47% to 34%.

Clearly, the idea that Obama is a Muslim is on the increase.

Why is this?  It could be the polemical push of the political right, of course.  This is the argument that the political left will be making.  According to this view, it's a right-wing conspiracy designed to win the fall elections.  There is much truth in this argument.

Another reason could be Obama's own actions.  I note the following (culled from online sources across the Internet – feel free to fact check this and I will make corrections if they are wrong):

  • Obama offered no Easter prayer or offeratory statement on the White House website even though he did both for Ramadan.
  • He did not participate in the National Day of Prayer in the way past presidents have.  In fact, he "disinvited" the prominent evangelical Franklin Graham for negative comments on Islam.
  • He did participate at a Ramadan prayer dinner and made what I perceive as a positive, pro-Islamic speech at the dinner.
  • He supports the very unpopular Ground Zero Mosque initiative.  I happen to agree with his first statement (that they have the right) but that doesn't equate with it being an acceptable project.  He should have stayed out of this debate but by entering he appears to be pretty pro-Islamic.
  • He has made the decision to avoid joining a Washington DC-based church of any kind.  I think it's pretty obvious to most people that Christians tend to go to church, "good Christians" tend to belong to a church (however you want to define that).

The list could go on, and I have been sent some lengthy lists of quotations that sure seem to be anti-Christian and pro-Islamic.  I don't have the time or energy to research these and I bet some or most are taken out of context.  In politics, of course, that doesn't always matter.

When combined with his childhood exposure to Islam these actions are lending credibility to the claim that Obama is a Muslim in the minds of many Americans.  His support for the Ground Zero Mosque is just one more example of this.

To be sure, George Bush also made many conciliatory statements about Islam while in office.  The difference, to me, is that Bush did it out of a concern for national security against a backdrop of outspoken Christianity.  Obama's "canvass" is quite different.

As I noted in a previous post on the Ground Zero Mosque, I am concluding that a liberal pursuit of diversity is the real reason for Obama's Islamic push.  Because Christianity is the dominant, majority faith in America, this diversity must come at its expense.

This is religious affirmative action at work. No more, no less.

I invite your opinions on this… but let's keep it friendly if we can!

Ground Zero Mosque

Ground Zero Mosque

Now that our President has weighed in on the mosque controversy I know that many of you are waiting, breathlessly, for my opinion.

Ok, maybe not, but let me share my thoughts on this since I do often write about Islam.

I think that we as Americans must agree that President-O was correct in stating that it's "their right" to build a mosque in the USA.  This is, of course, one of the maddening things about being a free society.  There isn't a reciprocal right in most Muslim nations.  Islamic societies are not fair and open societies.  Islam cannot  stand up to the onslaught of free speech in which both secularism and Christianity have survived (in fact, thrived).

Thus, we are forced to conclude (correctly, I believe) that Muslims are taking advantage of us.

Many have pointed out that Muslims build mosques as memorials to battles they have won.  This is, of course, true.  To argue otherwise is disingenuous.  What's at stake is the ongoing claim of subjection that Muslims will make over the 9-11 site and America in general if they, in fact, build the "Ground Zero Mosque."

Liberal democracies like ours are not really good at fending off ideological warfare like this.  We don't have safeguards or other mechanisms in our legal system that protect us from ideology.

It is important to note that Muslims do not necessarily have a right to this particular spot. The New York Port Authority has not allowed a church to rebuild nor are they allowing them to build the sort of church structure they want to build (read about it here – if there is new info, please let me know) even though there was a church there before the terror act (the church was buried under the rubble of the two towers).

Why is it "no" to the church and "yes" to the mosque? There is evidently more going on than simple zoning and local ordinance issues being played out in a busy city context. Something tells me I don't have the whole story on this, but until I learn more, I smell a conspiracy.  President-O's statements over the past few days have only served to bolster my feeling that, for some reason beyond my understanding, he wants a mosque there and is going to help make it happen.

To be fair, there is no doubt that my views are prejudiced by what I perceive as an anti-Christian culture among the White House staff, on the part of the President, and for sure the left-wing political establishment in general. It seems to me that Democrats want to see an "affirmative action" plan for religion.  I think they believe that Christianity needs to be taken down a few notches to make room for minority religions in the USA.  If that is true, it is an unwanted government intrusion into religion.

So… my view regarding the 'Ground Zero Mosque?"  No thanks… but I am way open to hearing other views.

What do you think?

What value do people have?

What value do people have?

Today I am reminded in a rather sad way of why I am a Christian. Matt Green pointed me to an article posted by Kevin Myers titled, “Africa is giving nothing to anyone – apart from AIDS.”

The basic premise of Mr. Meyer’s article is that the unbroken poverty cycle in Africa should cause us to stop helping Africans in crisis. It is precisely the type of morality one would expect in an increasingly secular world that has embraced naturalism and a deformed form of libertarianism.

There is a valid, reasoned, position that “Teaching a man to fish” is better than “giving a man a fish.” If that’s all Mr. Meyers wants to say, then fine. But it’s not all he suggests.

The value one places on a human being comes from a theological position. If your theology states a person’s worth is based on their ability to “contribute” in some form or fashion, then you don’t have a particularly Christian worldview. Christians believe in the inherent worth of the individual because God created them and loves them. If God sees them as worthy, certainly we should.

Meyers is revealing to us an alternate moral worldview. It is a secular morality.

Mr. Meyers suggests that Africans need to be weeded out. They are, according to Mr. Meyers, growing too close together and mass starvation should be a part of the solution (hey, it happened in Ireland, after all, and look where we are now…).

Welcome to the post-Christian world, friends. This is survival of the fittest in foreign policy form. It is the logical extension of a secular morality.

Africa, Mr. Meyers, has given me much, and I have only spent a few weeks there. Whether you like Obama or not, we can all see that just “half of an African” might impact us all. It always astounds me to hear arguments about saving the rainforest because, “There just might be the cure for cancer lurking in the amazing jungle fauna.” Yet, we cannot apply this same reasoning to the potential cancer researchers currently dying on the African plain.

Even that anology is a poor one. Why? Because each one of those fly-bitten, stomach-extended little children starving in Africa are precious in His sight. If we can help, we should. No questions asked.

Africa is in a sad state politically. Who could disagree? I would never argue against African empowerment and responsibility – I fully embrace the need for Africa to take responsibility for Africa when it is possible. Greed, corruption, sexual immorality, a lack of leadership, ingnorance, and a host of other problems must be overcome. The poverty cycle must be broken. We can embrace these goals while giving aid and assistance to the least powerful.

However, let’s not resort to “final solutions” in fixing these problems, like letting people starve when we could do something about it. That’s just wrong and immoral. I see in subsequent columns Mr. Meyers tried to back off his cold-hearted approach some (see ”
Writing what I should have written so many years ago“) but the ethic, the morality, is there for all to see and it’s a secular one.

One reason I am a Christian is that I agree with the concept that each person has inherent value. God’s love for me as an individual does not come from what I contribute to the world.

Nor does Africa’s.

Who Really Cares?

Who Really Cares?

I have a special interest in charitable giving because the food on my table is provided by generous givers. When I saw that Arthur Brooks had written a book on who gives in our society I obviously wanted to read it. When it arrived I was a bit surprised to find out that it was, in fact, a comparison on liberal versus conservative giving.

Missions mostly happens when people are generous givers. Oh sure, there are some models that are based on business structures but most of these are incubated or staffed by workers who have learned language and culture as support-based missionaries. So, let’s see what Brooks says about who in our society are charitable donors.

Brooks notes that there are four lifestyle and worldview differences between givers and non-givers. These are really somewhat intuitive, although they will make those with left leaning political views mad. The factors are:

1. Faith
He notes on pages 31 and 32 that both the citizens of San Francisco and South Dakota give roughly the same amount each year to charities, about $1,300. The big difference is that San Franciscans make about 78% more annually than their counterpart in South Dakota. The average South Dakotan gives away 75% more of their income than the average San Franciscan. He draws a correlation to religious practice. 50% of South Dakotans attend weekly church services while only 14% of San Franciscans are weekly worshippers. 49% of San Fran’s residents never attend church, while only 10% of the South Dakotans are church teetotalers. This is just one of many data points given in the book (yes, yes, he does look at the cost of living index and all sorts of possible counter-arguments – you’ll have to read it yourself for the whole scoop).

2. Political Viewpoints Regarding Income Distribution
I quote from page 56 in which Brooks discussed a survey: “People in favor of government income redistribution give less to charity, even when survey questions are framed in such a way that they might elicit a response favorable to redistribution.” When people think that the government should be in the business of Robin Hood politics, they give less. Furthermore, argues Brooks, liberal politics directly correlates to less charitable giving. He quotes Ralph Nader as stating, “A society that has more justice is a society that needs less charity” (p. 63). Liberal writers have made the case that charitable giving strengthens class distinctions (p. 65).

3. Income Level and Source of Income
While those who are the richest in our society give the most in total dollars, they give a smaller percentage of their income. The lower the overall household income is, the higher the percentage given. But, there is a catch to this one. Low income household are givers if they earn their income. If they are living on welfare, they give less. In fact, low income household living on earned income give 6 times more than their welfare recipient neighbors (p. 82). Welfare depresses giving. Brooks points out that “A further explanation for why political conservatives in America score higher on measures of giving than political liberals is that the unusually charitable working poor are disproportionately politically conservative, but the relatively uncharitable nonworking poor are much more liberal” (p. 92-93).

4. Family Life
Larger households give more. Parents give more than non-parents. This one will be a bit controversial for some, but the author makes the case that there are “Few acts of voluntary beneficence are clear than the unconditional care and love of a child” (p. 99). People on the political right are more likely to exhibit a pro-family lifestyle (p. 109) which is one more indicate of why Brooks says that conservatives are better givers.

The author devotes a chapter to national giving. He notes that charitable giving by American far outweighed charitable giving by Europeans. Europeans response was to give governmentally. He ties European non-charity to their secular worldview.

There is a chapter which argues that giving makes one happier and wealthier. He looks at social theory, religion, and then tries to pull in various data points to suggest that giving and wealth accumulation are correlated.

The final chapter lays out some strategies for increasing charitable giving.

Not much to say about elections…

Not much to say about elections…

Well, I haven’t posted much about the elections. I don’t feel I have had much to offer. If there is any lesson about this from a cultural standpoint it might be that cultural outsiders sometimes have more insight about a culture than insiders. The terrorists have repeatedly made the claim that Americans will be quick to give up, that we don’t have the stomach for long conflicts, that we are won’t be able to send our soldiers to their deaths for very long. I think this election might prove that they are correct. We have voted for the quickest way out.

On a positive note, I think that there was certainly a growing sense of Republican entitlement to leadership that needed to go. From scandal to growing scandal the Republicans were giving every indication that they needed to step aside for somebody else to govern.

I remember when Bush ran for office the first time and was lauded as somebody who was able to work in a bi-partisan mode. He had supposedly done this well in Texas. I guess we are going to find out if that’s true.

Secular Fundamentalism

Secular Fundamentalism

I came across an article on the leftwing site Alternet discussing decency and morality movements. What struck me about this article (which is an interview about the religious right) was the statement down the page about combatting the religious right by “by bringing out the core meaning of decency, which is inclusion and acceptance.” I guess what I find interesting about this claim is that is a moralistic statement, sitting in the middle of a page discussing the need to combat moralism.

Now, I don’t disagree that decency includes a respect for others. I don’t think that these people would, in fact, really argue for inclusion and acceptance in an absolute sense. One could mention all sorts of heinious human actions that nobody accepts, as well as lifestyles that even the left do not feel inclined to include.

What this statement really means is this: decency is MY definition – if not, then you’re a bigot. This is the fallacy of the left’s secular orientation. While accusing the religious right of being fundamentalists, they are, in fact, fundamentalists.

Palestinians torch Qalqilya YMCA – News from Israel, Ynetnews

Palestinians torch Qalqilya YMCA – News from Israel, Ynetnews

Here is an article about the current state of religious freedom in Palestinian areas of Israel: Palestinians torch Qalqilya YMCA – News from Israel, Ynetnews The only thing surprising about this article is that the YMCA is not a missionary organization yet they are taking the brunt of the Islamic attack. I would like to quote Acts 5:38-39 in reference to this type of persecution: “And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.”



Well, if you haven’t followed the Reuters debacle over at LGF , you’ve missed some good rhetoric.  To sum it up, Reuters posted a photo of Beirut under attack with obvious “enhancements” which make the Israeli attack look much worse than it was.  The photographer who submitted the picture cannot submit any more photos to Reuters and Reuters has sent a “Picture Kill” notice out asking its news outlets to refrain from using it.

However, and here is the interesting rhetorical part, bloggers have begun using a new word.  The Urban Dictionary is looking at a submission for the word “Reutered.”  It means “Altering a news photo in Photoshop for the purpose of falsifying or exaggerating a news story. Made famous by news outlet Reuters, who altered a photo of Israeli raids in Beirut to make the strike appear worse than it was by using the clone-stamp tool in Photoshop to enlarge smoke clouds.”

This is a great case of a new definition being created to diss a player in the global information age because of their mistakes.  It is one more case of the new media holding the old media accountable.