Monday, January 23, 2012

More Religious Bias in the U.S.

In an earlier post I wrote about Mayor Bloomberg’s apparent religious bias in rescinding the right for churches and religious organizations to meet in public schools despite the Supreme Court approving such arrangements. These groups meet when the buildings are unused, and they pay fair market rent. Sadly, this is not an isolated incident of prejudice against religious groups or religion.

The number of anti-Semitic incidents has increased all over the country. Just recently somebody painted swastikas on buildings and synagogues in a neighborhood in New York City.

Militant atheists continue to bring lawsuits against Christian groups or activities they see as “establishing religion.” Sympathetic courts and judges, who have rejected the original meaning and intent of the First Amendment, often rule in favor of the atheists to “protect” the population from religion. How we have gone astray!

Mormons are also suffering from bias, especially since Mitt Romney could possibly be the Republican nominee for President. Some rather hateful things have appeared in the media concerning Mormons, including in the New York Times. We must realize that Mormons are not orthodox Christian, because their theology and especially their eschatology are far from mainline. Moreover, they have The Book of Mormon in addition to the Bible as their sacred scripture.

However, not being Christian doesn’t mean they should be mistreated and suffer from bias. I remember when John F. Kennedy was running for president in 1960. The anti-Catholic rhetoric was astounding. Given what I hear about Romney and his Mormonism today, it seems we haven’t made much progress since 1960.

If you are religious, let me suggest that you follow your holy scriptures and love your neighbor. You may not agree with your neighbor, but the Bible says we are to love him or her. Let’s not just give lip service to what the Bible says, but do it (“be doers of the word, and not just hearers”).

If you aren’t religious, let me suggest that you actually practice the tolerance you so self-righteously preach. Maybe then we can make the world a better place to live.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Religious Bigotry in NYC

Although I don’t live in New York City, I am in the greater metropolitan area and am familiar with what’s going on in the Big Apple. In general, I like some of what Mayor Bloomberg is doing, such as trying to improve public school education even if it means taking on the powerful teachers unions. There are, of course, some things he’s doing that I don’t like.

Sadly, Mayor Bloomberg has exhibited egregious religious bigotry in that the City revoked the right for churches and religious organizations to meet in public schools. These congregations meet when schools are closed and unused, they pay fair market rent, and the Supreme Court has ruled that renting public spaces to churches and religious organizations is constitutional. Moreover, Bloomberg’s ban will cost the city millions of dollars of lost revenue. What is he thinking? It’s a lose/lose proposition!

I’m surprised that Bloomberg, coming from a religious and ethnic group that has suffered persecution for thousand of years, from Haman to Hitler, would engage in such behavior. If he’s worried about the Constitution, it has been clearly established that renting to religious groups does not violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution as long as certain conditions are met. In addition, these churches and groups often are located in some of the worst neighborhoods in the city, ministering to those most in need. They work to reduce crime and provide services that help the city overall. So I don’t know where Bloomberg is coming from, except that this is a case of pure religious bias.

When clergy and other people peacefully protested against this ruling, they were summarily arrested. Since when did kneeling in prayer in public become illegal? Under Bloomberg, New York City is becoming a police state in which congregations are being thrown out of spaces they have paid fair market rent for years to use, and clergy are being arrested for exercising their constitutional right to free speech and assembly. I hope Bloomberg and the City Council see the error of their ways and reverse this terrible decision. I also hope no more clergy and other peaceful protestors get arrested and mistreated for exercising their constitutional rights.

Please pray for New York City as well as the rest of the country.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Spiritual Apathy

In my last post I commented on an article in the Poughkeepsie Journal concerning people’s attitudes towards God and church. I’d like to continue the discussion by providing some thoughts on spiritual apathy in this country.

I believe spiritual apathy comes about mainly because of lack of exposure to God and Scripture. You can’t care about what you don’t know. Today there are quite a few people who have little or no knowledge of God. They may have been in a church only a few times, usually for a funeral or wedding.

When I was a kid in the 1950s and 1960s, more families went to church, at least it seems that way. There were no kids’ sports on Sunday and the stores were closed. Even if the parents didn’t attend worship, they often sent their kids to Sunday school or CCD so they would get a grounding in faith and morals. Many kids today have little or no concept of God or what church is about. Their ethics are situational and their morals are often lacking.

Another cause of apathy, and even hostility, is the negative portrayal of people of faith in the media. Devout Christians are ridiculed, and the stereotypes of “they’re all hypocrites” is put forth. Sadly, crooked televangelists and sex abuse scandals have hurt the church’s image.

Still another cause of apathy is the belief that you don’t need God. When things are going well, you feel you don’t need the “crutch” of faith in God. “I’m doing OK, I don’t need God.” When things aren’t going well, you might feel that God has let you down so why turn to him. It’s amazing that people blame God for bad things happening but give themselves or “luck” credit when good things happen. Which leads me to the final cause of apathy.

Finally, another cause of apathy is anger with God. I know a good number of people who were brought up in the faith but dropped out because they feel God let them down. They figure “Who needs God?” because God is unreliable, or is unable to prevent bad things from happening. You have a large number of Jewish people who feel that way because of the Holocaust (haShoah). Can you blame them?

Nevertheless, as a person of faith, I believe everybody needs God. Why?

●God loves us, his creation, and while God may not prevent bad things from happening to us, God will help us through them. However, if we don’t have a relationship with God, it will be difficult for God to break through to us to help and guide us in times of crisis.

●We don’t always know what’s best for us, but God does. If we pray for guidance, God will give it to us.

●God created us to be in relationship with him. Ignoring God means we aren’t fulfilling our purpose in life.

●As a Christian, I believe Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life.” Living without Jesus means we are living an incomplete life now, and who knows where we’ll end up when our earthly life is over?

I wish people were more open-minded about God, faith, and the church. However, when people are apathetic, hostile, or angry, they aren’t going to be open to hearing the message. I believe this country (and the world) would be much better off if people took Scripture seriously, trusted in God, and loved one another as Jesus commanded. As we continue to turn our backs on God, I believe things will continue to deteriorate in this country and the world. Why should God bless us when we systematically remove him from our lives?

I pray that revival will come, starting right here in the good old US of A. What a difference it would make!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Is Church Important?

I read recently in the Poughkeepsie Journal about the church-going habits of Americans. Being a Pastor, I read about this sort of thing often. Let me throw out a few thoughts on the matter of being part of a church, which can include any form of regular corporate religious activity such as joining a synagogue.

Today, some people feel the church is irrelevant, and serves little purpose. They believe they can be “spiritual” without any formal religious activity. Generally, people today are mostly concerned about “What’s in it for me?” Since some people don’t see much benefit to them by being part of a church, they’ll sleep in, watch “Meet the Press” or do something with the family.

Why be involved in a church or synagogue? Why come out on a Sunday morning? Why bring the kids to Sunday school? Let me try to answer those questions. In doing so, I’ll use Rick Warren’s five purposes of life from his best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life as my guide. It is my belief that the church is the best place to accomplish those purposes.


We are called, not only to worship God, but to do so as a community of faith. In the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) we see corporate worship played an important role in the lives of the Israelites. The commandment to “Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.” (Exodus 20:8, NRSV) not only means to rest but to devote that day to God. For us today I believe that commandment means attending church and refraining from commercial activity.

In the New Testament we see communities of faith gathering for worship and The Lord’s Supper. The writer of the Book of Hebrews had this to say about communal worship:

And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another. (Hebrews 10:24-25a, NRSV)

We gather as a community to worship because God is worthy, God commands us to do so, and we receive a blessing by doing so. Isn’t God worth one hour or so a week?


We are encouraged to be a community in that we support one another, learn from one another, enjoy one another’s company, and serve the Lord together. Unfortunately some come to church strictly for the social aspects. While that is important, the other purposes are important as well. Our main motivation should be to do God’s will.


Discipleship is a fancy word for learning more about God, growing in the faith, and maturing as a Christian. We get to know God better by listening to the sermon, participating in a Bible study, and attending Sunday school. When your children attend Sunday school, what they learn there reinforces the values you are teaching them at home. So the church can be your partner in raising your children.


The church is a good place to be engaged in ministry and mission. Different churches are involved in different kinds ministries and missions. Some are called to social justice activism, some to helping the poor, some to domestic or foreign missions, some to other kinds of outreach. The church and faith-based ministries provide the ideal vehicles for working to improve the world. Look at what the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, and others have done.


Lastly, Christians are called to tell others about Jesus, which he himself commanded:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20a, NRSV)

Again, the church and faith-based ministries are good vehicles for doing that. Sadly, many churches don’t see the need for evangelistic activities, and as a result are losing members. God is not going to bless disobedient churches.

So what’s in it for you? God’s grace, blessings, and joy.