Pope — CEO Or Spiritual Leader???

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Pope1I spent my first fourteen years in the Catholic church but really haven’t kept up with the details except for an occasional theology study.  I know the picture here is a once in an era event. It has been centuries since a pope has resigned from office. The first thought that came to mind when I saw the picture here is that of two very old men embracing each other. I wish the new Pope Francis a successful reign, or whatever his term is called, no matter how many years it is. He was a Jesuit and I know they embraced simplicity and empathy as their worldview. I hope he carries out that theme in his time at the head of the Catholic church.

I think almost everyone knows that the Catholic church is one of the biggest bureaucracies in the world. If they were a corporation they would definitely be in the top ten or maybe even number one.  They have accumulated vast wealth beyond most comprehension. I also know that their structure is very vertical in nature.  That is the Pope/CEO has the ultimate authority and can veto almost anything that he wants.

I don’t know whether the Pope is like a monarch who is more of a ceremonial thing or like a CEO?  I am thinking maybe a little of both. But I do know that the previous pope has had a rough time of it while he was in office and can understand why he would want to resign and let someone else take over.  I’m sure he is exhausted from all the battles the church has faced during his reign.

I am surprised that the cardinals chose a South American as their next leader. Admittedly South America and Africa are where the most potential growth comes from. But those two continents are also known for bucking the edicts of Rome on occasion.  They just don’t always align with papal authority. Now that one of their own is in charge that may change but probably not.

Ending this post I really wonder just what went on in selecting the new pope. Rome as usual tries to keep this sort of thing hidden. Maybe that is to make it seem more mysterious or spiritual. I don’t know.  I know that most of my years in the church were spent hearing Latin; I didn’t really  know why that was either.  I guess I am just too American in that I want things to happen in the light of day and not behind closed doors or behind hunched shoulders.

I enjoyed all the cartoons about speculation of what went one in the pope selection process.  The funniest one was that the first cardinal to make a basket from half court was the new pope. 🙂  I don’t hate the pope as I think many of my Protestants brothers and sisters are taught so I wish him well in his duties whatever they are.  I don’t want to insult my Catholic friends here but I really don’t think Pope Francis has any different of the track to God than any of the rest of us.  God is just not into hierarchy stuff as the Roman Catholic church is. He is, to continue the basketball theme,  more one-on-one.

About The Church & Politics…

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The church is in Politics more than the Politicians.  
February 17, 1929  — Will Rogers

As I have mentioned a few times already in our study of Thomas Jefferson, his principle of the separation of church and State was more to protect the State than the church.  It seems that Will understood this also. Unfortunately not much has changed since even Will’s day.  The bible says we are not of this world but you couldn’t tell it by the words of some of my conservative Christian friends. They literally hate our president, especially since he has been re-elected. I am told they even voice that hatred when they are studying the Bible together! They should take the message of Buddha from one of my recent posts to heart. The hate they have punishes them much more than anything it could possibly accomplish.  Why can’t they drive their hate out of themselves and replace it with the love of Jesus.

But then again these times are nothing compared to the post-Constantine period and far beyond that period where the church leaders were literally the politicians and that included judge, jury, and executioner for thousands they deemed as “heretics”. Church history, even including recent history, is messy…. but the messages of Jesus Christ are quite clear if only we listen and actually do what he said. I have hopes that that is actually happening today in the emergent church movement.  If you want to learn more about that see today’s post at RedLetterLiving.

But I’m just a simple guy, so what do I know…

The Slippery Slope…..

 


Slippery
I am totally sick of the “slippery slope” that my conservative friends so often cling to!!

If I hear another person give me a slippery slope story I just might punch them. The idea of the slippery slope consumes so much of their lives. It is the center point for their current stands against gun regulation. It is the center point for their current stands of excluding anyone from their religious circles who don’t totally align with them.  It is the center point of their current stands on taxes.

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Separation of Church and State — Taxes

Source: Churches and Taxes – ProCon.org.

US churches received an official federal income tax exemption in 1894, and they have been unofficially tax-exempt since the country’s founding. All 50 US states and the District of Columbia exempt churches from paying property tax. Donations to churches are tax-deductible. The debate continues over whether or not these tax benefits should be retained.

Proponents argue that a tax exemption keeps the government out of church finances and thus upholds the separation of church and state. They say that churches deserve a tax break because they provide crucial social services, and that church tax exemptions have been in place for over 200 years without turning America into a theocracy.

Opponents argue that giving churches special tax exemptions violates the separation of church and state, and that tax exemptions are a privilege, not a right guaranteed by the US Constitution. They say that in tough economic times the government cannot afford what amounts to a subsidy worth billions of dollars every year.

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The Separation of Church and State — The Founders Views…

I am going to do a couple of posts here on a pretty controversial topic and that is church and State. I just finished three months worth of political posts so I thought I might as well tackle another difficult issue before my blood pressure  finally goes down to normal.

Being a U.S. history buff I have read quite a bit on Jefferson and his views of the separation of church and State. The primary information about this topic comes from his writing called “An Act For Establishing Religious Freedom” written in 1786.  Another writing prominently mentioned in this area is his response to Danbury Baptist Association letter written in 1801 when he was president.

Let’s take a look at some of the words from these letters:

Be it therefore enacted by the General Assembly, that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place or ministry whatever, nor shall he be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or beliefs….

I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”

One of my heroes James Madison who is widely recognized as the Father of the Constitution said this about church and state:

 “practical distinction between Religion and Civil Government is essential to the purity of both, and as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.”

It is quite clear to me that these two great leaders in the separation of church and state had two things in mind. One was that people should not suffer any consequences in civil society because of their religious belief or the lack thereof. The second thing was their fear that some future religious body would attempt to establish itself as the “official” religion of the country.

  • Does this mean that neither the federal nor state governments can give preferences to one religion over another?
  • Does this mean that office holder cannot be required to have certain religious convictions?
  • Does this mean that the state is prevented from requiring religious institutions to believe certain things?

I believe that answer to all three of these questions is yes.

  • Does this mean that the State cannot make laws that are applicable to the church as included in the general population?
  • Does this mean that the church is exempt from paying taxes?
  • Does this mean that personal contributions to the church are automatically tax exempt?

I belive the answer to all three of these questions is no. None of these things are related to the original separation intent.

Religious institutions must abide by U.S. laws like all persons or institutions. The current practice of excluding from taxes money paid to support religious institutions is not by nature something endemic to our constitutional principle of church/state separation.  It is something that can be changed and I believe it should be changed. More on that next time

If God Is Love… (Part1)

I am going to start a series of posts around quotes from some of the many books I have read. One of the favorites is the book “If God is Love” by Philip Gulley. Here is the quote for today:

The theology of love begins with the assumption that all people are God’s cherished children and deserving of love. “We love because he first loved us. Those who say ‘I love God’, and hate their brothers and sisters, are liars, for they do not love a brother or sister who they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen”  (1 John 4:19-20). Jesus demonstrated his lover for outcasts, those many considered unlovable. Regrettably, many Christians have been unwilling to adopt the ethic of Jesus — a theology of inclusion, acceptance, and love, We’ve been unwilling to love and accept our enemies. We haven’t even be excited about loving our neighbors.When Jesus redefined kinship, he was challenging their exclusive circle by declaring that anyone in any place who did the will of God regardless of social standing or religious affiliation, was his brother or sister.  Kinship is not a matter of racial, religious, or cultural conformity. It was the by-product of a commitment of the will of God — to love and care for all.

We should all be getting out of our church pews and into the community to re-affirm that we do indeed love our neighbor. We must show the Lord’s love in our lives if we are true followers of Jesus Christ. To hunker down in our church building  against the big bad world and wait for the second coming is not what Jesus preached. Jesus was a lover of the unlovable and we should at least attempt to do the same. If we are only willing to allocate those two hours a week on Sunday mornings to God then maybe we should occasionally skip the pews and get out in the community and get our hands dirty!

I must admit that I feel closer to God when I do community service than when I am sitting in a church pew.  And according to Jesus that is how it should be.

RLL Blog Announcement

I am just posting a quick “aside” here to let you know that starting today I am posting again over at RedLetterLiving.net. The posts will primarily be about a study I am currently engaged in on how the Christian church got from its beginnings to where it is today and what the future might be.  If you are interested in that sort of thing pay me a visit there. I will be posting at least a couple of times a week for a few months.  This study will be historical in nature and I will try as much as possible to avoid theological discussions  and “church-speak”.