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Wannabe Presidents of the United States of America must run a grueling gauntlet of presidential election primaries and debates. Part of the experience is proclaiming, defending, and attempting to minimize damage regarding one's "faith" or religion. Are you Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Mormon? And come on now, are you really?

Voters, or at least the public, want to parse every response. Some of this, I contend, is legitimate: voters are trying to understand the candidate's character, or at least I hope that's the motive. Some of this goes over the top: voters are trying to crucify one candidate on his or her altar in order to advance another favored candidate.

But what should we think about presidential candidates' religion? Here's my take on the subject:

Does any religion guarantee, or preclude, a great presidency?

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

It's that time of year again. You know, when presidential candidates dash about the country declaring why they and they alone should be elected the next POTUS. (If you've missed this I'm guessing you just got back from Mars.)

One of the resume items candidates most like to cite is their fidelity to God, religious faith, maybe Christianity specifically, or just faith in general. No one, at least no one yet, seems to want to run as an atheist. And there's good reason for this, atheists may vote, but there are not enough of them to fill a good-sized polling booth.

But religious folk? Now that's a different story, at least it still is in America. Something like 98% of us say we believe in God, even those of us who turn around and live like the Devil. And us religious folks vote. So is it any wonder reasoning-if-not-always-reasonable candidates want to align with "people of faith?"

But what does it mean when political candidates claim they "have faith"? And how should we evaluate this claim or respond? That's the subject of this video.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievancesFirst Amendment of the United States Constitution

We all want religious freedom, right? Of course we do. But we may now be getting more than we once bargained for or ever anticipated possible.

The times, they are a changin’. The Judeo-Christian-based moral consensus that once undergirded the country and culture’s public philosophy, as well as once dominant Christian denominations, is diversifying, declining, or maybe disappearing.

No longer does “religious” mean “Christian” in the broad sense of the term. Now it means any form of devotion to any form of faith in anything.

America is an increasingly religiously pluralistic nation. Recent case in point: Mayor Michael Hancock, newly elected chief executive of the city of Denver, was blessed by five different religious leaders during his inauguration ceremonies Monday, July 18. Among the religious figures was Grace Gillette, a Native American of the Denver Power-Wow Committee, who waved eagle feathers and chanted over the mayor.

I am a proponent of the First Amendment and religious freedom. I am a proponent of an individual’s right to worship as he or she chooses. I am not anti-Native American or for that matter anti- any ethnic or racial group. This does not prevent me, however, from respectfully disagreeing with the Mayor’s decision to ask a Native American shaman to bless him during his inauguration.

Native American religious beliefs do not typically acknowledge Jesus Christ, the Word of God, or Christian teachings. Some traditional Native American beliefs are monotheistic, focusing upon the “Great Spirit,” some are pantheistic, seeing god in all of nature and imputing to nature animate and divine characteristics and powers. Not all Native Americans embrace these traditional religions, perhaps not even most. But some do. I wish them no ill, but I respectfully disagree with their beliefs.

I do not believe that waving feathers and chanting over someone blesses them in any way other than via well wishes of the person waving the feathers. Asking a Native American to bless his mayoral inauguration and coming term was more about politics, multiculturalism, and political correctness than it was about connecting with the Sovereign God of the Universe.

However, though I disagree with the choice I understand that the First Amendment extends to the Mayor the right to make this choice. I also recognize the development of other non-Christian religions in America and the likelihood more odd experiences like this Indian blessing and possibly more tensions will occur in the future.

An average of one new mosque is built every week—now as many as 2,000 in the States. More individuals are demanding their “spirituality” be recognized or at least permitted on university campuses no matter how bizarre. In 2010, for example, an official Wiccan stone prayer circle was installed at the Air Force Academy. All of these developments have been challenged and will continue to be.

The First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of religion is a precious right. But as America becomes even more religiously pluralistic, more friction between fundamentally disagreeing groups is going to occur. I hope we will find a meaningful balance allowing peace and social interaction to occur amongst them all. The alternative is a more than scary breakdown in America’s social fabric resulting in a religiously balkanized, combative, and weakened society like India. No offense to India, but this is a future the United States does not want to contemplate, much less embrace.

How then does a Christian learn to hold and advance his or her views in a post-Christian nation?


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

I wrote a column this morning for SAT-7 USA called “The Practical Impact of Christian Values.” I’ve been thinking about this for some time.

The column’s thesis is that we sometimes spiritualize Christian values to the point we think of them only as a means to inner peace or worship or emotional wellbeing or religious expression. If we take this to an extreme, which I believe some do, we miss the fact or forget that Christian values rightly understood and applied can also make an enormous practical impact.

The idea is that Christian values were providentially designed to make our lives run more smoothly, more enjoyably, more fruitfully. I make no case, for the Bible doesn’t, that individuals who live lives characterized by Christian values miraculously escape all problems. No, I’m simply saying that persons who embrace and live out Christian values live lives closer to what God intended in the first place, i.e. reality, when he brought us into Creation and defined his values in the Scriptures. When we live aligned with God's reality we're better off.

Think about these examples of the practical impact of living based on Christian values:

--If more people were honest and did not steal, we could tak e the locks off doors and wouldn’t need to fund costly criminal justice systems of police, courts, jails, and counseling centers.

--If people did not behave in sexually immoral ways, we would not need to fear AIDs or fund medical research pertaining to AIDs and other STDs, or even abortion.

--If people did not lie or cheat, we could avoid contracts, lawsuits, and the expensive attorneys who go with them.

--If married individuals loved their spouses, stayed committed for life to their marriages, did not covet another’s spouse or commit adultery, divorce, alimony, child support, prenuptials, and a lot more would diminish or disappear.

--If people were not greedy, did not hate, and loved their neighbor, armies, wars, rumors of wars, low and high tech ammunitions, security systems, and the intelligence community would not be draining the federal treasury.

--If people did not commit people-on-people crimes of assault, battery, and murder, we could take long walks in the dark without fear, avoid incarcerating and supporting criminals at tens of thousands of dollars per person per year, and stop buying weapons for protection.

--If people exercised good stewardship and conservation of the natural environment and its resources, we would not face costly oil spill eco-damage and cleanups, contend with smog or other air and water pollutants, or debate global warming; nor would the Passenger Pigeon be extinct.

This is a short list of ways Christian values could leverage truly positive and extensive practical impact upon our daily lives if simply enough people actually applied them. It’s amazing really, and it’s not rocket science.

An old adage (long but erroneously attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville) suggests “America is great because America is good.” Insofar as this observation has been arguably true, it is disconcerting to think of the implications of its reverse: “America is no longer (or, not) great because America is no longer (or, not) good.” Christian values, though not embraced by all, have historically played a role in the good to greatness of this nation. I hope we don’t forget the practicality of those values and thus lose a shot at continuing greatness.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

The words in the title of this piece seem jarring in close association. The reason is they really don’t fit together, other than that Terry Jones has sensationally forced them into the same articles, comments, and reactions worldwide.

Jones is the pastor of the approximately 30-member Dove World Outreach Center of Gainesville, Florida, who apparently burned a Quran in his effort to “put on trial” a holy book and a religion with which he disagrees. Last fall he threatened to burn a Quran on an “International Burn the Koran Day,” but apparently demurred when General David Patraeus and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates implored him not to do so because it might cost American lives. President Obama made similar public comments at the time.

But Jones finally put his plan in action, allegedly burned a Quran, and the result to date has been more than 20 killed in Afghanistan, including United Nations employees. Related protests continue in Pakistan.

So as a Christian what am I to think of this? Here are a few things to consider:

--It’s a free country. We enjoy an incredible gift of freedom of speech (which the US Supreme Court has expanded to freedom of expression) that most of us did nothing to earn. It is our political birthright. But what may be legal is not always moral or ethical.

--As a believer we enjoy the incredible gift of Christian liberty, something we did nothing to earn. It is our spiritual birthright. But 1 Corinthians 10:23 reminds us, “’Everything is permissible’—but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible’—but not everything is constructive."

--Scripture tells believers to speak the truth in love. It does not endorse what today we call “hate speech,” acts of violence, or incendiary in-your-face actions against those with whom we may disagree. In fact, Scripture commands us to “turn the other cheek” and to “love your enemies,” whomever we may perceive them to be.

--Jones’s “ministry,” if not a cult, is certainly “cultish.” He emulates the dictatorial pastor of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, who also has apparently burned a Quran. They do not lead as shepherds. They rule and demean and pontificate and sensationalize. They have their 15 minutes of fame. I question what rewards they will receive in heaven.

--Burning the Quran accomplishes nothing but inciting to anger those who revere it. Is this a way to express love, to build a relationship based upon trust or mutual respect? If someone knocked on your door and insulted Christ or burned a Bible would you feel inclined to initiate a friendship? Does Jones really believe he is battling for truth? Or is he applying his warped worldview in the name of Christianity, all the while enjoying his time in the media sun?

--Burning the Quran is more than burning a given book. It’s an act of political malice akin to burning any symbol vested with the ideals of a people. Not long ago, some US Congressmen submitted bills intended to make burning US flags illegal. To date these amendments to the US Constitution have not been ratified by a sufficient number of states. Flag desecration is a protected act of “symbolic speech” in the US—while in many other countries such acts against the national symbol are illegal. The point is, while according to rulings by the US Supreme Court desecrating an American flag is protected speech, as is burning a Quran, we still don’t have to like it, embrace it, consider it wise, or report it via news media. Interestingly, national media are beginning to figure that out, dropping most references to Jones and hopefully letting him fade away from lack of attention.

--Is Jones’s faith so small, so lacking in confidence, that he fears placing the teachings of the Bible alongside the teachings of the Quran and allowing people to make their own decisions about truth, love, forgiveness, and hope?

--I feel sorry for Jones and his followers, for they are clearly enveloped in a false understanding of Jesus’s ethic of love and the beauty of the Christian faith. While I condemn the killing of innocents in Afghanistan in reaction to Jones’s Quran burning, I feel badly for the families who lost loved ones as part of the ripple effect of Jones’s actions.

--Jones is no more representative of biblical Christianity or of most believers than are members of the Ku Klux Klan.

--Burning the Quran or any other holy book from any religion is not an act of Christian love or an overture toward spiritual reconciliation for those who embrace those religions. It is an act of fear and prejudice, self-righteousness and ignorance. No true follower of Christ can or should condone such acts.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at


U.S. Representative Katherine Harris (R, FL) recently called separation of church and state “a lie” and said that God and the Founding Fathers did not intend a “nation of secular laws.” She also told a religious journal that if Christians are not elected than in essence Americans have elected people who will “legislate sin.”

Rep. Harris’ comments come in the midst of her campaign for one of the State of Florida’s seats in the United States Senate. Needless to say her comments have drawn criticism from her opposition, but she’s also lost support among other Republican Party leaders.

Whether Rep. Harris should be elected to one of Florida’s Senate seats is a decision for the people of Florida. But we can say that her grasp of early American political history needs a tune up.

Most of the Founding Fathers were religious people, some were Christians, some were Deists, and some were less committed individuals. A few were not believers at all. To a person, though, they distrusted Church governance of the State and State governance of the Church. Then-recent European history was replete with negative examples of too much Church/State interconnection.

While the term “separation of church and state” does not appear in the key documents, The Declaration of Independence or the United States Constitution, it was a political doctrine promoted a century earlier by Roger Williams and embraced after the Constitutional Convention by Founders like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution forbids government from establishing a religion and prohibits government from intervening in the free exercise of religion.

What perhaps Rep. Harris intended to say is that the Founding Fathers never intended and did not establish a separation of religion and politics. They did not because they valued the input of religion, believed religion helped keep politics true to appropriate values, and was impossible practically speaking to separate from politics anyway. What they intended was for the Church not to control the State and the State not to control or establish any given Church. They believed in religious and political liberty.

While I cannot judge her motives or her character, I can say that Rep. Harris’ remarks about church and state, and about others who do not share her Christian commitment, are unwise and unnecessary. They feed fuel to those who do not share her religious and political values and needlessly offend those who may share her political values but not her religious views.

We’ve said before that journalists need to grow more sophisticated in their understanding of religion and its intersection with politics. Perhaps religious, and especially specifically Christian, people need to become more sophisticated in how to express their religious views in politics.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at