Teach theology, not religion

The quotes below come from input from Irish high school students when asked about having religious studies in their school system. The wisdom of these kids’ words are way beyond their years.

2016-08-29_17-39-25.pngBy giving all children the opportunity to learn about the beliefs and values of diverse groups in society, the government would be providing for their education in some of the liberal democratic values on which the State itself is based. They include openness to a range of views along with inclusive and respectful citizenship.


Perhaps, as religion is one of the greatest causes of conflict in the world, rather than teach religion in schools we might study theology and get a greater understanding of our fellow man.


Source: Teach theology, not religion

The Irish certainly know something about religious strife having lived through decades of Catholic/Protestant war in the north of their country.  They are basically proposing the teaching of theology instead of a particular religion. Theology has a very high brow look to many of us but it is really quite simple. It is the study of religion.

Given that there are currently about 39,000 different versions of Christianity alone we need to study and learn why so many have deemed it necessary to leave one version of their religion for another.  Then there is the Shia, Sunni, and other versions of Islam that need to be understood.

Everyone seems to be almost seeking their own private version of God. Maybe it is time to study that fact instead of insisting that “our” version be the only one to consider.

I imagine that there are many inside all the various religions who fear that if their kids learn that their parents religion is not the only one out there that they may lose their souls. But the reality is that whether they like it or not their children do not “inherit” their parents faith. They must come to God on their own terms. Seriously teaching them the entire religious spectrum may be better than trying to force them to join a particular version with no knowledge of other options. Everyone must come to God on their own, no one else can do it for them.

Just a thought for this Sunday morning…..


Happy July 4th… And…


First of all I want to hope everyone has a good day on this important national holiday. 240 years ago a bunch of rebels got the idea to make a nation based on freedom of choice. The exact right group got together to hash out the details and those details have allowed us to for the most part flourish since then. I thank God for the wisdom of our founders. If only we could get a little of that today, especially in our presidential campaign… but that is another story.

Now comes the “And” part of the title.  In yesterday’s post I talked about the strange, at least to me, fascination with our country’s wars. Some make it a major part of their lives to recount every battle in our biggest failure as a country and that was the Civil War. They celebrate our biggest failures? Some, especially in the south, look back at the pre-Civil War days as the time when America was at its greatest.

Too many are too fascinated with our wars!  Even our national anthem glorifies the little known war of 1812 and particularly the battle of Fort McHenry in the Baltimore harbor. Some say that war was chapter two of our war for independence. I believe we as a nation of immigrants are much greater than our wars.  For that reason I would love to see a drive to replace our current national anthem with “This Land Is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie.

Our National Anthem should celebrate the beauty of our land and our success as a people who cherish our land everyone who fills it.  Woody Guthrie’s song epitomizes that feeling.  I will close out here with the lyrics to again say:

Happy July 4!!!

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.
As I was walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me that golden valley
This land was made for you and me.
I roamed and I rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
While all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me.
When the sun came shining, and I was strolling
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
A voice was chanting, As the fog was lifting,
This land was made for you and me.
This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

(Original 1944 lyrics)

Memorial Day Is Not On the Church’s Calendar

I have been holding off on this post so as not to offend some people’s views of that holiday.

My friends at Red Letter Christians have spurred me in thoughts once again. This time it is about Memorial Day. I have always found it strange that we as a nation celebrate our wars. Some even seem obsessed with them. To me war is the failure to accomplish our goals in a Christ like manner of peace.  Here are some brave words about that:

2016-07-02_07-22-21.pngTo a great extent nationalistic claims merge with claims of Christian faith in Memorial Day sermons so that the distinctiveness of Christian faith is blurred. Preacher David Whitten compared death of soldiers to the incomparable sacrifice of Jesus: “Thank God for those who died to make us free….Similarly the price Jesus paid afforded our salvation.” Similiarly? Such a comparison diminishes the astonishing nonviolent, self-giving act of God in Christ in order to bestow exaggerated honor on those who died in bloody conflict.

Despite the fact that freedom of religion was not at stake in a single American war, Whitten declared, “Because men died for this country we have a right to preach God’s word freely.” Yet freedom of religion for Americans has not been at stake in any war the nation has fought. Misleading assertions of this sort are not uncommon in Memorial Days sermons.

Memorial Day exercises in worship, like those in non-church settings, are all too often exercises in false memory. While lost loved ones are rightly grieved and courageous and sacrificial actions are justly admired, it is definitely not true that all American wars have been for just causes or fought in a just manner… To “remember” in a way that suggests otherwise, as many sermons have done, is deceptive and destructive, bestowing honor where honor is not due and illegitimately glorifying, not only warriors, but American wars.

Memorial Day rightfully is America’s holiday. But it is not one of the Church’s holy days and it should not be treated as though it is. It is no part of the church’s purpose to celebrate the wars or the war dead of any nation. Christians come together in worship as a transnational community of faith bound together by Christ, not nationality.

SOURCE:  Memorial Day Is Not On the Church’s Calendar – Red Letter Christians

“Bound together by Christ, not nationality” is a real but seemingly pretty naive thinking in today’s world but that is my reality. I know I am often one who goes against the grain of conventional thinking so you should not be surprised by my words.  To even have the U.S. flag behind most church alters is wrong headed to me. We are told that we should be children of humanity through Christ who knew no borders in his teachings.

I am a U.S. history buff in that I have read hundreds of books on the topic and have also visited hundreds of historical site throughout the country. But I purposefully avoid the monuments and battlefields of our wars. Wars are not to be celebrated, but they should be mourned for the loss of life they incur. That is what Memorial Day is to me…


U.S. Reveals Death Toll From Airstrikes

When I voted for President Obama in 2008 I saw him as someone who would take a biblical dove view of the world and treat war and murder as an abomination to be avoided at all costs except for eliminating imminent danger for U.S. citizens.  He has proven to NOT be that person. In fact he seems no better than any of his predecessors. It funny how all those generals in the flashy uniforms and many medals can turn a peace leader into a hawk.

WASHINGTON — Partially lifting the secrecy that has cloaked one of the United States’ most contentious tactics for fighting terrorists, the Obama administration on Friday said that it believed that airstrikes it has conducted outside conventional war zones like Afghanistan have killed 64 to 116 civilian bystanders and about 2,500 members of terrorist groups.

The official civilian death count is far lower than estimates compiled by independent organizations that try to track what the government calls targeted killings, and human rights groups expressed doubts about the reliability of the government’s numbers. Most of the strikes have been carried out by drones in chaotic places like Libya, tribal Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, though a small number have involved traditional aircraft or cruise missiles.

Source: U.S. Reveals Death Toll From Airstrikes Outside War Zones – The New York Times

As mentioned in the source above he took President Bush’s use of drones and elevated them to an extreme level. We are told that the innocent lost of life because of these drone strikes are one of the primary reasons so many hate us in that part of the world.  They strike so quietly and devastatingly to strike terror into innocent citizens of those Middle East countries. Yes, we are known by some as terrorists in that part of the world.

If only we could have admitted our mistakes as soon as they happened we might be in a very different place in our world.  But given the renowned bravado of U.S. citizens that was never going to happen. We would never say we were wrong about WMDs and then quietly leave. Instead we simply dig a deeper and deeper hole for ourselves.  Instead of liberators we have become those hated Americans to far too many in that part of the world.

Vietnam was the war of my generation. We invaded that country to keep the world free of communism. Of course we know that didn’t happen. In fact our number one trading partner, read someone who makes all our “stuff”,  is an avowed communist nation.  We also know that the body counts the generals came up with in that war were grossly over stated. I admit that because of that and other things I am a skeptic when it comes to information coming out of our military establishment, they are all kind of Dr. No’s to me, so I expect the same thing this time around.

Hillary Clinton who is likely, if we maintain our sanity as a nation, our next president is on the surface is much more hawkish than the current office holder. I can’t imagine what kind of trouble she will get us into.  My mantra is “Give Peace A Chance”. Pretty naive isn’t it?

The Blob… aka The Bush Doctrine…

The Blob is an interesting description for our foreign policy in the last 15 years.  I like the description but I think it should be more appropriately named the Bush Doctrine.  Invade foreign countries and install a docile client state…

For nearly 15 years now, America has been in continuous war in the Middle East, and for about the last 10 of those years, the U.S. foreign policy establishment (a.k.a. “the Blob2016-06-23_12-01-24“) has been consumed with narrow tactical questions. Both the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq had strategic objectives — defeat al Qaeda and install a docile imperial client state, respectively. The U.S. failed at both, of course, and the latter was monstrous in the extreme, but they were both at least comprehensible.

But since then, the focus of American foreign policy thinking has shrunk to a pencil’s width. Endless analysis has focused on counterinsurgency doctrine, the best use of drone strikes, under what circumstances special forces should be deployed, and so on….

By contrast, there is vanishingly little discussion of what all that force is supposed to achieve. Instead, there is only the bedrock post-9/11 view of the Blob: That if there are Islamist militants anywhere (but especially in the Middle East), then the U.S. military should be trying to kill them somehow. I suggest that if the U.S. ever wants to stop squandering hundreds of billions of dollars in an endless military campaign that causes more problems than it solves, a return to strategic thinking will be a necessary first step.

SOURCE: How America stopped thinking strategically about the Middle East

I know some of you young guys out there don’t know about “The Blob” so maybe I need to educate you a little. The Blob was a movie made in 1958 starring a very young Steve McQueen. It was about a shapeless mass that was trying to take over the world…

Yeah that sounds like the Bush Doctrine to me, a shapeless mass.  But like Vietnam of my generation we failed miserably. I don’t know a lot of the history of the Middle East but I do know that there have been warring factions battling each other for at least a thousand years there. They just don’t seem to know how to get along with each other. Many among the current day terrorists are Muslims but the fact is that 98% of their victims are also Muslim. If we were to just leave them alone I expect that number would quickly get back to 99+%.

I hope the next president has some more common sense and is able to think strategically  but given the present choices I think we will have to wait a few more years for that.  We need a strategic thinker in the White House.  I was hoping it would be our current president would fill that bill but since he seems to love his drones more than strategy he disappointed me greatly in that regard.