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December 14, 2007

Good Christian Soldiering

The poll asked: "Are you Christian?" Two billion people answered yes, plus or minus the few who didn't understand the question or don't like to boast to strangers. Now, 2,000,000,000 is a big round number, and you'd think Christians would go to sleep with the confidence that comes from knowing they're the biggest, baddest team in the game.

Not so fast! Who knows they won't wake up the next day Jewish, atheist, or, God forbid, Muslim? Can't happen? Yeah, right, and Bush's reelection couldn't happen either. In this post-9/11 world, one can never be too vigilant and so, by a vote of 372 to 9, the House of Representatives just approved Resolution H. Res. 847, entitled "Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith."

About time, I say.

This cult of Christmas makes perfect sense. Ask yourself: why do the good Christian soldiers standing guard in Congress all love Baby Jesus so much?

Because babies can't talk! That's why. The minute Jesus opened his mouth it was all downhill from there. "Help the poor! Love the destitute! Assist the crippled!" Come on, what was he thinking? Let's be clear: just because Jesus went all socialist on us at an early age does not mean 2 billion innocent souls have to pay the price. Haven't Christians suffered enough? So, please, keep your Jesus cooing and gurgling, OK?

Me, I just can't wait for the 2009 State of Christendom Address, when President Huckabee tells us what fun it was to ride dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden.

— Bernard Chazelle

Posted at December 14, 2007 09:34 PM

I'm sure there'll be dinosaurs in heaven, and I can't wait!

Posted by: ethan at December 14, 2007 10:40 PM

If there really is a Heaven there would have to be dinosaurs. Otherwise it would be more like Purgatory.

Posted by: Ashley at December 14, 2007 10:56 PM

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,. . .

1.a. To set up; found.
b. To bring about; generate
2.a. To place or settle in a secure position or condition; install:
b. To make firm or secure.
3. To cause to be recognized and accepted:

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--
(1) recognizes the Christian faith as one of the great religions of the world;
(2) expresses continued support for Christians in the United States and worldwide;
(3) acknowledges the international religious and historical importance of Christmas and the Christian faith;
(4) acknowledges and supports the role played by Christians and Christianity in the founding of the United States and in the formation of the western civilization;
(5) rejects bigotry and persecution directed against Christians, both in the United States and worldwide; and
(6) expresses its deepest respect to American Christians and Christians throughout the world.

Aye votes were 372. Fifty reps didn't vote aye or nay, but here's the nine who voted "nay": Ackerman, Clarke, DeGette, Hastings (FL), Lee, McDermott, Scott (VA), Stark, Woolsey

Nine brave reps supported the US Constitution. Nine.

Posted by: Don Bacon at December 14, 2007 11:37 PM

This doesn't present anything close to an Establishment Clause issue.

But it really, truly amazes me how many people who identify as Christian these days don't seem to have even a passing familiarity with the New Testament, or with Jesus. I don't know where so-called Fundamentalists are coming from, but I don't like what they have to say, and they should get the hell out of my Government.

Posted by: Guest at December 15, 2007 12:09 AM

Since they mention CHRISTMAS maybe it's more about the war on SANTA then some war against JESUS.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at December 15, 2007 12:16 AM

Guest: This doesn't present anything close to an Establishment Clause issue.

Why not? To establish is to "To place or settle in a secure position" and that's what this bill does with "supports the role played by Christians and Christianity in the founding of the United States"

Posted by: Don Bacon at December 15, 2007 02:16 AM

There are those who believe Jesus was spying on the Jews for the Romans. Then he got religion and both turned on him, uniting sin and victimhood.
Ho, ho, ho.

Posted by: donescobar at December 15, 2007 08:56 AM

Regarding the doctrine of vicarious atonement, in his book Beyond the Post-Modern Mind Huston Smith stated that there is a Zen saying, "No one else can go to the bathroom for you."

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at December 15, 2007 09:48 AM

Whatever. Was it the Inevitable March of Dhimmihood that compelled them to pass a similar resolution recognizing Ramadan? No. No, it was just Congress being needlessly fuzzy. Relax.

Posted by: saurabh at December 15, 2007 11:29 AM

Don Bacon, "establishment of religion" can't be defined by waving your finger over a contemporary dictionary and choosing a definition at random. Instead you have to look at how the term was used by late 18th-century post-colonial lawyers. Try looking at Constitutional scholar Leonard Levy's book The Establishment Clause.

Oh, and Jon, don't forget the other wonderful things that came out of Jesus' mouth once he stopped being a baby: "If your eye leads you to sin, pluck it out! Become a eunuch for the kingdom of Heaven! I come to bring not peace, but a sword! Anyone who comes to me and does not hate his mother and father and sister and his brother and his own life is no disciple of mine! This generation will not pass away until I come with glory at the right hand of Power! It is not fitting to take the children's food and give it to the dogs!" And so many, many others. Of course, since we here are so much better eddicated and informed than the ignorant Christian masses, I don't need to provide chapter and verse for these inspiring words, do I?

Posted by: Duncan at December 15, 2007 11:45 AM

The purpose of the Establishment Clause, countering the European example, was to avoid all governmental preferences for religion and especially for particular religions. The very essence of the Clause was to prohibit the preference for a particular religion (Christianity) which is the unconstitutional intent of the subject bill.

James Madison, the 'Father of the Constitution' was for total separation of state and church. He was against congressional and military chaplains, for example. Madison wrote about the evils of laws which taxed people for churches, and he took it further to the idea of preferences.

"Religious proclamations by the Executive recommending thanksgivings & fasts are shoots from the same root with the legislative acts reviewed. Altho' recommendations only, they imply a religious agency, making no part of the trust delegated to political rulers.

"The objections to them are
1. that Govts ought not to interpose in relation to those subject to their authority . . .
2. The members of a Govt as such can in no sense, be regarded as possessing an advisory trust from their Constituents in their religious capacities. . .
3.They seem to imply and certainly nourish the erronious idea of a national religion. . .
4. The tendency of the practice, to narrow the recommendation to the standard of the predominant sect. . .
5. The last & not the least objection is the liability of the practice to a subserviency to political views . . ."

Clearly the government should not be engaging in religious matters according to the US Constitution as interpreted by James Madison (and Bernard Chazelle). The government is no more justified in religious involvement than churches are in the political.

Posted by: Don Bacon at December 15, 2007 12:50 PM

Don Bacon: EXACTLY.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at December 15, 2007 01:53 PM

Duncan: You are making one mistake: Assuming that Jesus said many (or even any) of the words and doctrines attribued to him.

Christianity is totally misnamed. It should be really called "Paulism." "Saint" Paul never knew Jesus and totally rejected the company of and knowledge of those who did )or were tied to those who knew Jesus). Paul cribbed from various mystery religions and cults floating around the roman world for centuries. If anything, Paul was really the 1st century's Joseph Smith (Keep that in mind when you chortle about Romney's religious flavor).

Posted by: Brian at December 17, 2007 02:00 AM

Don Bacon: Madison was one of the 18th century lawyers I had in mind. I agree with him on the impropriety of legislative chaplains, of tax exemptions for churches, of government-declared days of prayer and thanksgiving, and the like. I think he was right. But clearly, not all his fellow 18th-century lawyers agreed with him; it seems that even the deists and closet atheists like Jefferson were softer on the separation of church and state than he was. Congress did get a chaplain, the churches enjoy tax exemptions, and we have an official national holiday of Thanksgiving. Which is too bad. H. Res. 847, though it violates my own hard-line approach to the First Amendment, seems no more dangerous than, say, Jefferson's declaration of days of thanksgiving.

Actually, Brian, it wasn't me who made that mistake, but Jonathan, who I presume was drawing on the New Testament for his account of Jesus. And your reconstruction of early Christianity is bogus. Paul did have an ambivalent (and sometimes hostile) relation to Jesus' original followers, but he didn't invent early Christianity single-handed, or out of nothing. Some of the other New Testament writers were hostile to Paul's doctrines. No, he wasn't a first-century Joseph Smith (and I haven't "chortled" about Romney) -- you aren't claiming that Paul wrote the entire New Testament, are you?

Posted by: Duncan at December 19, 2007 10:40 AM

What Jesus Said

The book The Five Gospels - by Funk, Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar - makes an earnest attempt to discern what Jesus really said. The title gospels are Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Thomas. The Jesus Seminar voted on each saying, and in this book the sayings are printed in colors reflecting the consensus of the committee as to authenticity. These dudes are well-intentioned, AND informed, and they have had the life-changing experience of writing a dissertation (today's equivalent of 40 days alone in the wilderness, except it takes longer).

The problem is that ALL the Jesus Seminar guys are professors in leather-elbow-patched tweed sports coats (figuratively speaking). Hey, I had one once myself (a leather-elbowed sports coat- it was corduroy, though - but I also had a couple of tweed sports coats - unfortunately, I've outgrown them all, in a literal sense).

Let's turn instead, to Kurt Vonnegut (now in the next life, if any), and his actual 1999 commencement address to Agnest Scott College, in which he quotes Jesus while blaming many of the world's problems on revenge:

What antidote can there be for an idea that popular and poisonous? Revenge provides revenge, which is sure to provide revenge, forming an endless chain of human misery.

Here's the antidote: Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.


Some of you may know that I am a Humanist, not a Christian. But I say of Jesus, as all Humanists do, ''If what he said was good and so much of it is absolutely beautiful, what can it matter if he was God or not?''

May the Creative Forces of the Universe have mercy on our souls, if any.

By the way - when Father Guido Sarducci broke from Rome and started the People's Catholic Church, with its doctrine of the Popehood of All Believers, a radically egalitarian privileging of the individual conscience - tutti uomini sono Pietri, "all men are Peters" - I chose Devananda as my Papal name. I also began d/b/a the Sentient Beings Unitarian Universalist Association. All theological statements in this posting are guaranteed to be correct, or your money cheerfully refunded. Some conditions may apply.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at December 20, 2007 11:17 AM