Friday, April 22, 2005

Developments

Apologies for not being able to post very much in the past couple of days.

There have been a number of developments today:
  • The LATimes, with the assistance of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AU) has broken a story on a Justice Sunday organizers' meeting in March that revealed some of their real agenda. More here.

  • DriveDemocracy and allied organizations are organizing a counter-rally in Louisville on Sunday. George Lakoff of Don't Think of An Elephant fame announces it here. Meanwhile, the church hosting the main event has tightened security.

  • The National Council of Churches has released a statement denouncing Justice Sunday. Of particular interest:
    Religious groups, including the National Council of Churches and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, plan to conduct a conference call with journalists on Friday to criticize Senator Frist's participation in the telecast. The program is sponsored by Christian conservative organizations that want to build support for Dr. Frist's filibuster proposal.

    Among those scheduled to speak in the conference call is the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, a top official of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., in which Dr. Frist is an active member.

    "One of the hallmarks of our denomination is that we are an ecumenical church," Mr. Kirkpatrick said in an interview on Thursday. He also said, "Elected officials should not be portraying public policies as being for or against people of faith."

    Thanks to dKos' Newsie for providing the link.


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Laura F.

I am a Democrat who appreciates faith. I was raised in a Roman
Catholic household where faith was a very important matter. Each of
the children was expected to attend weekly mass and during school
expected to attend religious training. My faith is very important to
me and has proven to be a source of great strength during difficult
times. I admire anyone of faith for their faith.

I disagree with Senator Frist's characterization that Democrats are
"against people of faith." Nothing could be further from the truth. I,
for one, am appalled that the Senator would stoop so low as to smear
Democrats of faith such as he has done. Using religion as a brickbat
against Democrats is hypocritical and not worthy of his high office.
All people of faith regardless of their political affiliation should
demand that he retract such statements and apologize to Democrats.

Apologize, Senator Frist!

Regards,
Laura FitzPatrick
Seattle, WA


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United Church of Christ

Here's what the UCC Justice and Peace Network has to say about Bill Frist:
It is deeply disappointing that Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) has decided to polarize and divide the nation by joining with the Family Research Council to promote "Justice Sunday" on April 24th. The telecast event is intended to send the message that anyone who disagrees with President Bush's judicial nominees and anyone who supports the Senate filibuster rule is "against people of faith." Sen. Frist's support for this campaign moves the public dialogue to a new level of mean- spiritedness.

To suggest that faith and morality is only on one side of any policy issue severely damages public dialogue in our country. It runs counter to our country's cherished tradition of religious respect, tolerance and pluralism.

In an April 20th UC News release, UCC General Minister and President John Thomas notes that, "With all that threatens to divide Christians today, we don't need U.S. senators driving a wedge between us for self-serving political gain."

It is incumbent that people of faith urge Sen. Frist to reconsider his participation in "Justice Sunday", and to encourage all elected officials to uphold the values of fairness, integrity and mutual respect for differing viewpoints which are essential to a healthy democratic process.

To contact the office of Sen. Frist and urge him to reconsider his participation in "Justice Sunday" click here.

To link to the UC News release on "Justice Sunday" click here.


That second link should take you to a story quoting UCC President John Thomas on the story. Good stuff.


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Harriet K.

I am a Sunday School teacher at University Christian Church in Seattle, Washington.

Next Sunday is Earth Sunday. It's traditional in many churches to do special things to commemorate Earth Day.

After the children's sermon, each child is going to take an animal toy and put it on the altar.
The reader will call out the animals and the congregation will respond:

Thank you God for elephants
Thank you God for elephants
Thank you God for zebras
Thank you God for zebras
Thank you God for gorillas
Thank you God for gorillas
Thank you God for cows
Thank you God for cows
Thank you God for horses
Thank you God for horses
Thank you God for eagles
Thank you God for eagles
Then each child will light his or her candle, and we'll walk downstairs for a snack and another lesson.

To Whom It May Concern:

Why are you calling this day Justice Sunday? Judges protect families from environmental hazards. Judges impose sentences based on the law. Judges follow the decisions made in prior cases. When they change a precedent, I accept their decisions whether I like them or not.

It is especially shameful that you do this in a church. Many judges go to church!

If you are in a position of power, I would prefer that you spend your time figuring out how to do something useful on Earth Sunday, like making policy to help prevent mega-wildfires in the western United States. We have a lot of problems to solve and you should be planning for the long term.


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Julia H.

My name is Julia Hamilton. I will be entering seminary this Fall at the Harvard Divinity School to study for the ministry. I am a Unitarian Universalist.
  • I am American, and I consider myself a person of strong religious faith, but I am not Christian.


  • I reject the idea that one cannot be a good American without being Christian.


  • I reject the idea that my faith is judged by who I vote for.


  • I reject the idea that God has bestowed special favors on America over other nations.


  • My President is not my minister, or pastor, or rabbi, or imam, or pope.


  • My television is not my pulpit.


  • My congressmen and women are not my spiritual intermediaries.


  • I respect the Christian faith, as I do the Hebrew, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, and the multitudes of other faiths that make up this great country of ours.


  • My faith is personal to me. I will share it with you, but I will not seek to convert you.


  • I am dedicated to keeping faith free, and that means a necessary separation of church and state.

I am proud of the role that my faith (Unitarian Universalism) has had in the hearts and minds of the leaders of our country, such as John and Abigail Adams and Thomas Paine.

I believe that people of all faiths should have the opportunity to be leaders of this country. There is no theological test required for the Presidency or any other office.

We the People established the constitution to secure the blessings of Liberty, not God. Any mention of deity was purposefully omitted from the Constitution of the United States of America.

The only hope we have of establishing a More Perfect Union is to allow each individual to find their own way to faith. For those of us who feel strong in our faith, it can be a source of inspiration and power. But for many, faith is a fragile, new and gentle thing, easily trampled by the will of the majority. We need to make room for this tender faith, and allow each person to blossom in time. This cannot be achieved by turning faith into a blunt political tool of intimidation, an inquisition of morality and righteousness, or a tidal wave of public anger.

Namaste.


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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Faithful America.org



Has the Religious Right Gone Off the Deep End?
April 4, 2005

The far religious right, led by a radical right-wing political movement, is now trying to get their own ultra-conservative judges appointed to the courts by a shameless and decidedly Un-American tactic – touting those who differ with their views as anti-faith!

Take Action NOW or read on:

The far religious right, led by a radical right-wing political movement, is now trying to get their own ultra-conservative judges appointed to the courts by a shameless and decidedly Un-American tactic – touting those who differ with their views as anti-faith!

In an unprecedented display of bravado disclosed in an article by the New York Times , an ultra-right wing para-church organization, The Family Research Council, has organized a telecast scheduled for Sunday, April 24 that will portray those who oppose certain judicial nominations as "anti-Christian” or “anti-faith.” The event is entitled, “Justice Sunday: Stop the Filibuster Against Faith.” Senate majority leader Bill Frist has agreed to participate in the event!

Let me repeat. Your U.S. Senate majority leader Bill Frist has agreed to participate in an event that portrays those who oppose their choices for judicial nominees as 'anti-Faith' This must not stand, and we need your help to change it.

Think about it. Can anything be more Un-American? Has radical Christian fundamentalism now become the “state religion?” As people of a rich tapestry of faiths and beliefs, are we ready to roll over and let a fanatical right in power now use religion as a weapon to take political ground?

The systematic extermination of public opinion in the name of religion should give us all – regardless of our faith – reason for grave concern.

This so-called “Justice Sunday” is, in truth “JUST-US” Sunday. Their views are not the views of faithful people across this nation, but they may have their way in Washington if we don't speak up now!

The head of the para-church organization who is heading this event said:

"As the liberal, anti-Christian dogma of the left has been repudiated in almost every recent election, the courts have become the last great bastion for liberalism… For years activist courts, aided by liberal interest groups like the A.C.L.U., have been quietly working under the veil of the judiciary, like thieves in the night, to rob us of our Christian heritage and our religious freedoms." Tony Perkins, President, Family Research Council

Exercising our right to question our politicians constitutes robbery? Can they really mean it?

We who love this country, who value its diversity of thought, its protections under the law, its respect for human dignity, must NOT sit idly by and watch our nation's leaders use religion to choke dialogue and turn people of faith against each other. The fact that the nation's Senate Majority leader is a participant in this affair signals a dangerous and unprecedented turning point in our nation's history.


Take Action NOW


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Stacy J.

My name is Stacy Jarrell and I live in Bristol, Tennessee. The same Tennessee that has Bill Frist as our Senator.

I AM A CHRISTIAN, although not always the best one, but I try to follow what Jesus wanted us to do. And when I falter, I know he will forgive me and still hold me in his hand. I ask him to guide my life and pray not for what I may want, but what He thinks is best.

I AM A CHRISTIAN who wants everyone to know of God's everlasting love. I look at the people Jesus hung around with and I shudder at what He would be called today. Somewhere, somehow those that judge us as "non-believers" because we don't agree with them forgot who Jesus ministered most to. He is the one that told us not to judge others and if God said it I believe it. And, as they say, that's good enough for me.

I AM A CHRISTIAN and I always thought - and still do think - that my life should emulate Christ's life. That I should do nothing that would be a stumbling block to anyone else coming to Christ. That it is my actions and not my words that make me a Christian.

I AM A CHRISTIAN, but that doesn't mean I should throw God's name around to make my opinions the right one. No one should claim to know the mind of God. He gave us the Bible to guide us, prayer to talk to him and free will to decide for ourselves. Swearing is not the only way of taking God's name in vain.

I AM A CHRISTIAN and a liberal. I believe God wants us to take care of those that need it. Whether it's a financial, spiritual or health burden. The least I can do is help my neighbor. If I have one and my neighbor has none - how can I not share?? It's what God told us to do. He was very pointed on how hard it is for a rich man to get into the Kingdom of Heaven. I pray for Him to provide what I need and trust in Him to do it.

I AM A CHRISTIAN that dreams of a world that shows the loving, inclusive nature of my God. Yes, He is capable of striking us down at any moment or forcing us to come to Him. Instead, in His wisdom, He has given us the joy of coming to Him of our own accord. I dream of a country - MY country - that allows us to use the free will he gave us to make our choices instead of one that berates or condemns us when our choice is not what the "Christians" in politics think it should be.

I AM A CHRISTIAN and more than anything I want people to know it without me ever saying a word to them. I want my life to show my faith. I will pray for those that would do me, and my faith, harm. It is the least I can do as a Christian. And I believe that Senator Frist is at the top of that list right now. I hope he will search his heart and listen when God speaks. It is never too late for forgiveness.

Stacy Jarrell,
Bristol, Tennessee


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Bob

Oh, those wacky Lutherans. Linky. Make sure you check out the "modified" picture...


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Sheri D.

Sheri D.

I am a lifelong Democrat and an ordained minister. I am more spiritual than I am religious and believe that the 5 major world faiths have more in common than differences so we need to unite and come together in love.

I walk in Spirit and know in the deepest regions of my being that we have been given a great national treasure and it is called the United States Constitution.

In the next 10 days the Republicans will try to use the "nuclear option" to seize absolute power to appoint judges who will roll back decades of progress in protecting worker rights, the environment, and privacy. The "nuclear option" is a parliamentary trick to eliminate the filibuster - the right to extend debate on controversial judicial nominations. Today our democracy is hanging by a few threads and if the "nuclear option" is successful then our democracy as we know it is gone.

One of the first judges the "nuclear option" would force through is Janice Rodgers Brown of California, who is nominated for the Washington D.C. Court of Appeals, a common stepping stone to the Supreme Court.

Judge Brown follows an extremist judicial philosophy that calls for the courts to block Congress from guaranteeing such things as the 40 hour work week, the minimum wage, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act.

If a federal judgcial nominee cannot gain the approval of both Democratic and Republican legislators, as our Constitution requires to ensure a fair court, then they have no business being considered for a lifetime judicial appointment.

I strongly oppose rolling back the filibuster in the Senate because the Democratic Senators represent more than than half the population of this country and these "minority" voices have the right to speak and exercise their power. The Republican leadership is behaving like power-drunk tyrants. Our founding fathers never intended for one political party to run this entire country. Indeed, it is our brilliantly vital system of checks and balances that has enabled America to survive 229 years.

I consider the Republican theocratic platform repugnant, arrogant, mean-spirited and a threat to the survival of America. The Christian right believes they know what is best for everyone, defines Christianity in a stifling way while catering to our lowest moral common denominator which is a puritanical zealotry. The Christian right's allies are corporate America (companies like Walmart) which care about little except furthering their capitalistic, short-sighted agenda.

My God is about love, unity, faith, choice, hope, grace, courage, redemption, wisdom and the circle. All are One and always will be.

From the minute Bush and the Christian right stole their way onto the
national political stage in 2000, he has sought to tear this country apart based on war, a cynical use of race, homophobia, class warfare and pettiness used as distractions. Due to a reckless, dishonest and dangerous leadership of the past four years, America is now in a downward spiral.

The good news is that all is in divine order and this is what America must go through in order to reclaim our system of checks and balances, remember what it means to truly participate in American democracy as citizens beyond simply voting, heal our relationship with the rest of the World and begin the process of spiritually cleansing ourselves.

I am 38 years old and was born and raised in America. Up until I discovered that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, I took a lot of things for granted, such as the assumption that Democratic and Republican politicians would always respect the US Constitution's separation between church and state, checks and balances, privilege logic over emotion, operate based on moderation and respecting the United Nations as the greatest hope and source of international unity. No more.

There comes a time when decent, reasonable Americans must take a stand and speak on their terms and organize and fight for the heart and soul of America and, by extension, the World. A grimy evil has come brazenly to the fore for all to see on American television during the Terri Schiavo televised tragedy and it must be rebuked by any means necessary.

As an ordained minister, my divine path is the fusion of spirituality and politics. The day is gone when we expect that it is enough to simply vote. We must fully participate in all aspects of democracy (organize, protest, lobby, write, run for office and inspire reform from the outside and inside our political system) as was done during the Civil Rights Movement which was the last great fusion of spirituality and politics. The time is here again.

By the end of George W. Bush's reign, America will no longer be a Superpower - and perhaps that is not a bad thing. For America's greatest promise and strength is the ability to inspire hope with our Constitution, humility and bridge-building. At our best, we inspire possibilities, healing, justice, wise moderation and choice.

We must commit to fight to retain the best parts of our American identity grounded in a progressive faith and politics of balance and love.


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Monday, April 18, 2005

David R.

My name is David R. I am a lifelong member of the United Church of Christ, having wholeheartedly embraced Christian discipleship beginning during confirmation class in my early teens. My faith has carried me through many times of personal struggle. I am a lay leader both in my home congregation and in my local Association of the United Church of Christ. My faith in God informs not only my participation in the life of my congregation and denomination, but my career, my civic involvements, and, yes, my political beliefs as a Democrat.

I was not always a Democrat. I grew up in a non-churchgoing but conservative family, and was confirmed in a rural UCC congregation that was and still is quite conservative. The pastor had little use for what he called "the social gospel." But we had a lay minister in the congregation who preached in the pastor's absence from time to time--and invariably his text was Jesus's parable of the sheep and the goats as recorded in Matthew 25. The lay minister's sermons reminded me that Jesus's test of discipleship was not orthodoxy of belief, but concern for "the least of these"-- that as we feed (or do not feed) the hungry and clothe (or do not clothe) the naked, we follow (or do not follow) Christ. The sermons of that lay minister have stuck with me, in a way that my childhood pastor's ruminations about the Second Coming have not.

My transition from Republican to Democrat began in my college years, when I attended a UCC church near campus in which the pastor, the college group leader, and many of the student members engaged in regular discussions of nonviolence and hunger issues, and saw this as part of their path of discipleship. While I did not at that time share these priorities, I learned to respect those who did. The transition accelerated in my 20's, when I came out as a gay man in the late 1980's, and spent much of the next several years in hospital rooms and memorial services, as friends and acquaintances, one after another, died of AIDS. Many of these friends and acquaintances died alone, estranged from or abandoned by families of origin, disowned by their faith communities, and cut off from their partners and "families of choice" due to the hospital visitation policies of the time. I could not reconcile what I saw happening to my friends with the heartless rhetoric about God's judgment coming from conservative churches, nor could I remain in a Republican party that tried to justify death-dealing policies with glib rhetoric about "God's will".

As a Democrat, my political priorities are in line with the values of my faith. The same Christian beliefs that lead me to volunteer at my church's food cupboard also motivate me to support legislation to increase the minimum wage, provide food stamps, and otherwise create a safety net to keep people from starving. The same Christian beliefs that lead me to welcome strangers at church and visit or telephone those who are sick and shut-in also motivate me to support social policies that are inclusive and supportive of people who are vulnerable and marginalized. The same Christian beliefs that motivate me to forgive others on a personal level and occasionally to visit those in prison, also motivate me to work for policies that gives offenders a chance at rehabilitation. The same Christian beliefs that lead me to sing hymns such as "For the Beauty of the Earth" also lead me to support environmental policies that maintain the beauty of the earth.

And yes, I'll say a word about gay marriage, since it is a hot-button topic today. My partner and I have been together now for nearly 16 years. We've been through some very difficult circumstances together, especially during our first decade together, and have come through the stronger for the experience. At the inception of our relationship, my partner was extremely hostile to the church, reflecting the hostility he had always experienced from organized religion. As time marched on and our relationship progressed, he began to drop in at church occasionally. After my current congregation voted to become Open and Affirming, his occasional visits became more frequent. Several years ago he joined my congregation. Within a year thereafter our pastor blessed our union with a covenanting ceremony, with most of the active members of the congregation in attendance. Far from being a stumbling block, our relationship and our faith commitment have been mutually supportive.

In short, my Democratic political affiliation is not in conflict with my faith, nor is it a substitute for faith, but it is one way in which I attempt to act on my faith.


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Carolyn M.

As a woman who is a Christian, praying daily and helping whoever I can in
the course of the day, as Jesus would have us to do, I believe that
telling truths is Christian, helping people to do the best they can is
Christian, casting no judgements on those I do not agree with is
Christian, respecting the needs and rights of each individual is
Christian. To this end, I work, with God's help. If getting rid of the
fillibuster so that human rights are further trampled on, I as a Christian
will be in great sorrow.

Carolyn Modeen,
Sun City AZ


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Karen P.

I am Karen Price, an ordained lay minister of the Community of Christ. Along with my fellow progressives, I am not hostile to faith, but must bravely state my opposition to the tactics of the Right and their anti-Christian behavior carried out in the name of Christ. We Progressives have been falsely accused in an age-old power-grab attempt.

When I was converted, my nature began to respond more and more to the progressive political agenda in this country until in 1987, I changed to the democratic party. I was and still am devoutly converted to Jesus Christ whose call to action is spelled out in the sermon on the mount. I have not found perfect people anywhere, but to grow spiritually I must identify with progressives who are in the forefront of those organizations striving to serve Jesus. "And they will say, 'Lord, when saw we thee sick, afflicted, hungered, naked, and in prison and ministered unto thee?' And I will say, whenever you did it unto the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me."

Just as today, Religion was used by the powerful at the time of Christ to increase their own power over the people. They were finally successful in preaching to the fearful that Jesus would destroy their religion and bring down their nation. I believe that I am on earth to become like the gentle teacher I worship, to never to tire of turning the other cheek. The sword He promised was a separation from sin, even if we had to separate ourselves from those closest to us, but the sword He spoke of was never an advocacy to violence. Instead He told us to leave the 90 and nine to save the one sinner, the one lost, the one fallen, not to turn our backs on a sinner.

He walked and talked and ate with the sinners and held up for example those who deeply repented of their sins. He lived to serve the lost, the fallen, the poor, the helpless. He never demonstrated the value of worrying about the things spoken divisively by the Christian right. In fact, the only righteous indignation He demonstrated was against the commercialization of the place of worship.

And now His religion is being politicized by the right and some followers are being taught to fear me and my fellow progressives falsely teaching that we would destroy their religion and bring down their nation. (Our nation.) They suppose they see our hearts and our sacrifices and call that which is good evil. These unauthorized judges will one day see the errors of their false judgments and at last follow the truth as detailed in the book they misread and at last hear the whispers of the One they misrepresent.

Sincerely,

Karen Price


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Barbara M.

My name is Barbara Medlock and I have worked in nursing and mental health for 30 years. I was raised a Catholic, hence am Christian. My beliefs in social justice, peace, choice, church/state separation, tolerance and true democratic principles put me in line with a progressive democratic domestic and foreign political agenda. I am no less a Christian for these beliefs nor for opposing the destruction of civil rights, oppression of the poor, corporate welfare and the imperialist agenda of our right-wing Republican government and the Christians they say they speak for.

I want all people to be represented by our elected government and a government who respects all people.

Barbara L. Medlock


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Shawn A.

My Name is Shawn Anthony. I am presently living in Lancaster, PA. I am
finishing my first year of seminary studies and tracking towards
parish ministry in the Unitarian Universalist Association. Yes, I am a
registered democrat and an espouser of a progressive philosophy of
life and being.

I believe in God.

I believe in the God of Jesus of Nazareth.

I believe in the religion of Jesus of Nazareth.

I believe in the Kingdom Jesus of Nazareth pointed toward. It is a
Kingdom of egalitarianism, freedom, equality, and justice.

I also have a wonderful wife and three children. I too love family. I
too adhere to a "family values" system.

I am a man of faith. I have faith in humanity, God, and love. These
things are not the property of republicans or democrats - they belong
to a universal humanity which refuses to be branded by the iron of
political power moves.

I am a human being who happens to be a progressive, a democrat, and a
religious liberal.

I would greatly appreciate the immediate cessation of your continual
practice of making those human beings who are different from you into
something they aren't for the sake of perpetuating your own political
power. This continued action on you part is seriously anti-religious,
anti-Christan, and anti-Christ. You need to stop it.

Thank you for not misrepresenting progressive religion, people, and
ideology any more. Perhaps you dignity will begin growing back at any
moment.

Sincerely,
Shawn Anthony


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Karl W.

I'm Karl Weber, a 51-year-old Christian, a member of the Episcopal church, and a proud progressive Democrat.

Raised in no religion, I attended Quaker meetings for a time when I was a teenager (along with my girlfriend, now my wife of 31 years). We became Episcopalians soon after our marriage and have been active members of four parishes in the years since then. In my case, I was drawn to the church partly by the writings of such great Anglicans as George Herbert, John Donne, and C.S. Lewis, as well as by meeting people of faith and social conscience who touched and inspired me--for example, the priests who founded and ran Emmaus House, a half-way house for ex-cons in New York's East Harlem.

For the past fourteen years, we've lived in Westchester County, New York, and worshiped in the church where our son was married, where our two grandchildren were baptized, and where all three of our grown-up children still attend from time to time. I have served as a vestry member, a Sunday school teacher, a lay reader and chalice bearer, and the editor of our parish newsletter.

I'm grateful to have a personal relationship with the God who created and loves me (although I don't always maintain my end of the relationship as faithfully as I should). And though there is so much about my God that I don't understand, there are some things I know to my marrow.

I know that God does not hate or reject any of the creatures that he made. I know that God gave all human beings intellects to be freely used, hearts with which to freely love, and talents to be freely shared, not hidden or repressed.

I also know that God is seeking a pathway into every human spirit, that each pathway is different, and that many of these are pathways that I will never fully comprehend. Recognizing God's presence in the deeds and words of Gandhi and Rumi, Nelson Mandela and Dorothy Day, Walt Whitman and H D Thoreau, Albert Einstein and Sojourner Truth, I know that God is not white or Black, male or female, gay or straight, Christian or Muslim or Hindu or Jew, but that he embraces them all.

And I know that anyone who professes to speak for God while sowing among his children seeds of dissension, resentment, jealousy, bitterness, arrogance, hatred, and fear is telling lies.


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Katy T.

My name is Katy T. I am a Democrat of faith. I am a member of the Greek Orthodox church. I love God, and I revere the teachings of Jesus. I am a Democrat because of my faith not in spite of it.

Jesus wanted us to care for the poor. Democrats think the needs of the poor come before the needs of the rich.

Jesus wanted to heal the sick. Democrats believe in people being able to afford medical care.

Jesus said blessed are the peacemakers. Democrats value peacemaking and diplomacy and try to make it work.

In addition to my faith, I fervently love my country, a country that was founded on liberty and the separation of church and state. I feel my country is in danger now, in danger of having its traditions of liberty stripped away, in danger of having its core, the Constitution, undermined by those who put partisan politics and their own thirst for power before the good of their country. That is why I am speaking out.

I can no longer stand silent while politicians demean my faith by playing politics with Christianity. Jesus did not allow himself to become a political tool.

"Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's." Luke 20:25

I can no longer stand silent while hypocrites claim Jesus as their leader, but turn a deaf ear to his teachings.

"Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves." Mark 11:17

Finally, I can no longer stand silent while false prophets claim to fight in Jesus's name, but instead do the Christian faith and our beloved nation harm in the pursuit of their own glorification.

"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits." Matthew 7:15-16

I am a Christian. I am a person of faith. I am a proud American. I am a Democrat. I ask that religion no longer be used as a partisan weapon in this country. The Senate fillibuster should be preserved because it is a valued American tradition that preserves the rights of the minority from oppression by the majority, not because it has anything to do with religion.


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Robert E.

That's the Rev. Robert Edgar to you, also known as the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches USA.

Thanks to Chuck Currie for the link!


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Sunday, April 17, 2005

Rick L.

My name is Rick Ledbetter, and I follow the teachings of Jesus, as written in the Gospel of St. Thomas. I was brought up Presbyterian in the Deep South, then turned to Eastern philosophy in my 20's. I studied Lao-Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Buddhism, Confucius, as well as the Hindu faith. I learned about the spirituality of the American Indians. I read Doors of perception while "altered", and the books of Alan Watts, principally "Psychotherapy East and West". I learned Kung Fu as a spiritual discipline. I have gone to a lot of Christian churches, Catholic as well as Protestant. Had a relative who was a priest and attended a Jesuit college in a heavily Catholic town. One day, I reread the New Testament words of Jesus, and saw the remarkable similarities between what is taught in the East and what Jesus was saying to the people of Israel. I found the Gospel of St. Thomas and that became the foundation of what I follow today. I believe that no person should tell another what to believe unless asked. I believe that everyone should learn how to hear the voice of on their own. I do not believe on professing my beliefs in public, rather, through my actions and how I can help and inspire others. I do not believe in the idolatry of Jesus. that all said, I believe that this country has lost its way, and those in power are running us over a cliff. I am willing to stand up and make my voice heard to return this country to the principles of its founders. It is time to stand for what we know is right. It does not matter what faith a person may have, the principle of treating each other as we would ourselves is nearly universal, and should be the bedrock for all humanity. Bur wresting power from the corrupt ones that hold it now will not happen without a fight. And I will, as the person who stands against evil in the name of good.


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Zoe W.

My name is Zoe W, and I believe in the teachings of Christ and try to apply
them in my life, but I cannot call myself a Christian for personal reasons.
Still, I am a person of faith who reads the bible and who tries to live my life
according to the word of God.

It angers me that our elected officials have begun to define God as only
supporting the conservative agenda of the far religious right. They represent
but a tiny fraction of people of faith, yet they are pandered to every time
they scream about being "persecuted". None of these people has ever had to
suffer for their beliefs, and they have no idea what persecution is.
Persecution is being marched into a gas chamber en masse to be slaughtered.
Persecution is having everyone know you were sent to die, and having them all
shrug and turn away because they believed you deserved what you got. The Jews
were persecuted, and now the Muslims are being persecuted in their own
countries, but you on the religious right, whose lives have never been
threatened, you have never even imagined what real persecution is. You are all
hypocrites, and woe be to you for your follies.

I believe in an America where I as a person of faith can live in peace with
people of secular belief and other religions.

I believe in an America where justice is defined by the law, not by a few
religious extremists who think America is only for them.

I believe in an America where politicians discuss issues of substance like the
economy, education reform, or foreign policy, not which judge or politician is
what religion.

I believe in the America that our forefathers built, and that my ancestor
helped refine over the years. In our short history, we have accomplished so
much for the greater good of all our people, and to have all of that threatened
by the religious right is a travesty that cannot be met with silence. I will
stand up and let my voice rise at every suggestion that God is on the side of
the religious right, because God is not a politician.

Zoe E W.


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Thurman H.

Since when did it become necessary to become a
Republican to be a Christian?

My name is Thurman Hart and I live in Jersey City,
NJ. I was raised in an independent Church of Christ
and am currently a member of the United Methodist
Church. I was taught the Bible was the basis of
Christian belief from the time I could read. Much of
my childhood was spent memorizing Bible verses and
learning how each of these small bits tied together
into a cohesive theology. I stand today as a
Christian man to say that I oppose Senator Bill Frist,
Representative Tom DeLay, and anyone else who attempts
to twist the holy words of Jesus to further their own
political goals.

Jesus spoke these words almost two thousand years
ago, and Republicans would do well to remember them:
"The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All
therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that
observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for
they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and
grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders;
but they themselves will not move them with one of
their fingers." (Matthew 23: 2-4).

The Bible speaks harshly of leaders who mistreat the
poor and the weak while building their own wealth.
One of the Ten Commandments says very specifically,
"Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in
vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that
taketh his name in vain." Yet this is exactly what
the Republican leadership is doing when they say that
Democrats are opposing their judicial nominations
because they hate Christians. Republicans are lying
through their teeth and they are shaking their first
at the very Bible in which they say they believe.

The fact is that every single judicial appointment is
opposed because of a specific record of acts against
the best interests of justice. The fact is that the
very same people that Republicans are trying to put on
the bench are being put there because, and not
despite, they have issued a significant number of
verdicts and opinions that are not in keeping with the
mainstream view of justice. They certainly do not
reflect the words of Jesus who said, "Love each other
as I have loved you." Remember – Jesus loved us
enough to die for us. I don’t see Republicans even
opening their wallets for the rest of us.


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Betsy

My name is Betsy and I live in Southwest Florida. I'm an agnostic who is still pondering the truthfulness that a God exists, but I have studied the lessons of Jesus and believe in his message wholeheartedly. For that reason, I am a Democrat, because I believe in helping the poor, caring for the sick, clothing the naked, housing the homeless. Jesus was a liberal, his views are not synonymous with exclusion or targeting certain people for hatred. Those who want to intertwine politics with the Christian religion in hopes of creating a theocracy don't seem to care about the poor, the power they wish to use will not provide for anyone who is suffering on any grand scale, instead that power is a weapon to be used against those Jesus wants to help. Those who believe in such theocracy may say they believe in Christ but their actions say otherwise. They do not welcome the stranger, they welcome laws against the stranger, such as a ban on gay marriage. I am not gay myself, but I even I can see those who espouse such hatred do not follow Christ's message at all.

Whenever we are reminded that Jesus said "whatever you do to these little ones, you also do to me" we should all look at which policies we believe in and how those policies do or do not fit in with Jesus' admonition. Excluding others from society for any one reason or another excludes Jesus as well. We should let others be who they are, and let Jesus sort it out; anything less than that tells me those who espouse beliefs that target others do not believe in Jesus, they believe in their own human and ungodly power.

Humans who believe they are doing Jesus' work by creating laws against others are not doing Jesus' work at all, they are in fact working against a faith in Jesus and show us they do not believe Jesus can do it himself.


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Pamela

My name is Pamela and I live near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I am a Conservative Jew and a liberal Democrat. I wholeheartedly believe that a just and righteous society strives to tolerate and respect the beliefs and values of its members.

As an American citizen, I understand that the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. . . " not Congress shall make no law respecting establishment of a religion. I know that it is possible to exercise one’s own religion without infringing on another’s right to religious freedom.

As a person of faith, I resent religion being co-opted for political purposes as much as the hijacking of government for religious purposes. This country was founded by those who wanted to escape the imposition of a religion on non-adherents to that religion. Religion and Spirituality are personal matters; the details of my beliefs, how/what I practice are between G-d and me. It is my responsibility to live in accordance to my moral beliefs (religious or otherwise); it is your responsibility to live in accordance with yours. Just as it is not my right to impose my religious beliefs (or lack thereof) on others, neither the government, nor another person has the right to require my life to be lived in accordance the doctrine of a religion other than my own.

As a person of faith I am disgusted at those among us willing to bastardize that faith in order to use religion as a weapon instead of a salve; focus on condemnation instead of love; legislate decisions for us lest we dare to exercise free will; and/or lay claim of knowledge to what cannot be known for their own political gain/ambition.

As a person of faith, I cringe at use of G-d as a mascot and religion as fodder for slogans/headlines and political campaigns. I do not understand the need for enforced, overt and hypocritical public displays of faith that Matthew 6:5 admonishes against: "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your father, who is unseen."

As a person of compassion I am aware that we are a diverse country and that tolerance and mutual respect are necessities in a civilized world, and I fully appreciate the true meaning of the words tolerance ("the capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others") and respect "to avoid violation of or interference with" when used in this context.

As a person of conscience I am aware of the evil that can arise when the tyranny of the majority is visited upon the minority.

I was raised to believe the United States was a great and unique country. This was a country that learned from history, including our own. This was a land that freed the oppressed and fought the oppressors. This was a country where people could be who they were instead of hiding behind masks out of fear. Jefferson spoke of a wise government that would restrain people from injuring one another while affording its citizens the privacy to live and worship as they see fit providing they do not infringe on another’s equal right to do so. I want that to.

Baruch HaShem!


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Christian K.

My name is Christian Kendrick, and I was raised Presbyterian. I consider myself one to this day, though I am affiliated with no congregation or synod and both of my children were baptized in Episcopalian churches.

My religious views are an amalgam of Southern folk tradition, formal Presbyterian doctrine, life experiences and hopefully more than meager dash of learning behavior.

I have been shaped by the comments of older relatives, friends and self-perceptions. I was raised from early age to be aware that much was expected of me, that I had been blessed with a vast arsenal of talents, a trust that was guarded by the angels themselves. I was made aware of folk prophecy concerning my generation within the family, that I had an important part to play in a very important story.

But perhaps my great-aunts were crazy. After all, we are telling a Southern story, here. :)

More below the break. Much more.

The Folk Context of my Faith

Christians make out that their faith is shaped by Scripture and the teachings of their particular church. Sometimes, apocryphal and folk teachings creep into the mix.

This is quite true in the South. I assume it is the case elsewhere, else there would never be schisms and heresies.

I was raised to belief that the gift of prophecy was alive and well, that guardian angels were for real. I had a couple of near-lethal accidents as a child that reinforced this belief, one of them involving being run over by a car as a six-year old.

That a spiritual war for each and every soul in the cosmos was being fought, for as there were angels, there were demons. Perhaps those vast tracts of childhood, seemingly unprotected by any guardian angels per the folk accounts, are in fact conquered territory, at the mercy of the fallen ones. Perhaps I do not like to think too closely on a realm that my contemporary science cannot observe, and am in fact thankful that it cannot.

That God was real, and really interested in each and every one of us. I never thought too much on what God thought of other people as a child, save in terms of how much He thought of me. I remember thinking that the Hindu concept of the avatar made perfect sense -- that God had lots of avatars, an infinite number of them in fact, to handle watching over the little guys.

That there is free will, because unlike God, we do not experience all the dimensions of reality directly. Heck, we cannot even experience three-dimensional reality comprehensively, relying heavily on instrumentation to peer into the deeps of space, to pry loose the Pandoran secrets of the genome, to make X-ray pictures of cancerous lungs and pulse football field-wavelength radio waves into the heart of the Earth and look at the center of a planet that is, in fact, the center of nothing, save for part of the countenance of God.

I was raised to believe that to those whom much is given, much is expected, and that there is a dreadful price paid for not living up to one's side of the bargain.

In later life, I would come to learn personally what that meant for me, and then to look around me and see that almost no one truly honors their intended purpose, to the fullest of their talents, for fear and resentment and envy and simple doubt get in the way.

I was raised to accept that even tragedy has its place, that God is a good pool player, a real cosmic shark that makes all sorts of bankshots.

I was also raised to accept that the Devil has his way, quite often, for his work is enabled by human hands, mostly willing ones. Blessings come from God; injustice, now; that is the work of wicked men. The world where God dictated the spectrum of human happiness and sorrow does not exist; we are free and sovereign beings, free to afflict ourselves and one another if we so wish -- and we wish, oh so often, to do just that.

I was raised to see myself as something special, and fell to arrogance on many occasions.

Then I fell to despair, at having failed to meet the standard that ruled my life since birth.

Then I simply wanted to blend in, to be average, plain, to avoid Fate.

Oh, yes. I was raised to believe in Fate.

Then I got everything I wanted. A normal house, a normal career, a normal wife and kids. Middle-class happiness. My problems are shadows of the deprivations and torments that afflict the multitude of others, nothing compared to the self-inflicted agonies that I visited upon myself and others not so very long ago.

And yet I remain unsettled, for I feel the responsibility of not having taken, bravely and forthrightly, the path laid before me by the instructions of family and of my own faith.

And what was that path? That's just it. I have no idea, just vague instructions from older relatives, long since dead, to...fulfill, and a cryptic fragment told to me on my tenth birthday, the statement of a great-great-grandfather on his deathbed.

...it will fall to the fourth generation.

My great-great aunts Connie and Gladys shared this with me; they were among the youngest of nine daughters. My great-grandmother was the oldest, my grandmother the oldest, my mother the oldest.

I, however, am not the oldest, I told them. My brother is. Then what about all the cousins?

They said something else: None of them are left-handed. You are. So was our father.

That was a lot to lay on a kid.

So I ran.

And kept running for over twenty years.

But I think I know what I'm supposed to do now, thanks to visiting here late last September.

Lessons learned

Much of what has stuck with me from my religious education as a child is the apocrypha; I suspect the same is true for most persons, unless they adhere to a regimen of scriptural study and theological discourse worthy of a master seminarian --- or a scholarly monk.

For me, there is God, a speculative mystery for us all, and then there's me. My fumbling, bumbling journey down an ill-marked and ill-announced path -- then off of it as far as my spiritual legs could carry me - is my vocation, and mine alone. Your path is yours, and yours alone.

For Christians, Christ is the way, not Church is the way. But this is a gross, even abominable simplification of the responsibility for taking the path, and sticking to it, for learning as much empirically as from teachings how to live that path.

It is for each of us different, how to best exemplify our best purposes. However, I do not think that much of what I see the current Republican Party espousing as faith bears any resemblance whatsoever to my views -- nor to Scripture.

And for this rede, I shall stick to Scripture.

But I wanted you to see the context.

Note: this is a variation on a GOP email bashing Kerry a few months back. It was sent out by an aunt of mine...I replied to her entire email list.

Two relatives applauded the move.

My aunt has yet to speak to me again.

Castigation against the Right and their Religious Slander

What follows may come across as harsh, but these are in substance not my words, but rather The Word.

I write this to caution, not to admonish. This is the season when a free people chooses whom to entrust with the fate of the next four years, and perhaps for what span of years remains to the United States of America. It may be right soon, when last banner is furled and taps is played for the final time. I pray not, but it is not my place to choose, only in my small role to assist in the choosing of who shall act as servants of the people, who shall guide a free nation four years closer to its ultimate achievements.

I am troubled by the ease with which many cast what can only be called religious slander espoused by the leadership of the Republican Party in this dark and troubled hour.

I am troubled because everything I learned
and understand to be true about our faith says this sort of behavior is wrong, wrong, wrong.

But never mind what I think. Let's read together what God thinks about it:

Exodus 20:16: "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour."

Exodus 23:1: "Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness."

Those who would denounce and deny the faith of others had best be certain the charges had best ensure the charges are accurate ones.

Elsewhere, we read about the worth of persons of great power and reputation, and the futility of either in the search for salvation, or the use of either as measuring-sticks of goodness:

Matthew 19:16-17: "And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments."
(Mark 10:17 , Luke 18:18 )

You can be certain of but one thing - the greatest among us is just a man, and as all men mortal since the casting-out from Eden. Further, everything that he has down to the bones in his skin is a gift. The only thing that is his, and at terrible cost in separation from God, is his willful, sinful soul, which is free to stumble back toward the light...or despair and sink into darkness.

In other words, he's just like you and me. He's a prisoner on death row, condemned to die, and there is no reprieve, only a leap of faith that the Resurrection awaits on the other side, that the last sighing good-bye in this Earth is not a parting of ways for the faithful, but a rejoicing at reunion with friends and loved ones who have gone before...and a promise to those who remain that this separation is but for a short time in the grand scheme of things.

Matthew 10:39: "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

Which makes on wonder - Why the recourse to religious slander? Why take such chances, why depart from a course of embracing the Word as a shield, and taking dangerous license with its other usage -- as a sword? Surely, Jesus said -

Mathew 10:34: "Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword."

But who other than the Son of God is skilled enough to use The Word as a sword?

And who among the GOP elite has wisdom comparable to Christ to know whom to call 'enemy', and whom to call 'friend' on God's behalf?

There is no good man among them. No, not even one.

There is a difference between what is true, and what the mortal heart wants to be true, on account we are all born in sin and without constant prayer
and diligence, we are prone to see in the little wrongs of others shadows of the great wickedness without every one of our own hearts.

The Lord, however, doesn't miss a beat -

Proverbs 6:16-19:
These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.
Many claim the mantle of righteousness, and lacking the blessing of the Holy Spirit, cover evil schemes with loud claims and wordy prose.

Pause - Okay, so I'm going on a bit, here. I'm loud and wordy and scheming. :)

Matthew Chapter 6:1-6 speaks to how such posturing is both unnecessary..and unwelcome.
Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Pubs want you praying secretly, so they can prey upon you and call you godless heathens. But God knows this, and has rewarded them in full; it's just a question of when the check will be cashed.

More on the "hypocrites" passage: I take this to mean that it is not the place of mortals to usurp God's judgment of the worth of any man's faith, or statements to that effect. God sees our true mettle as Christians, and dispenses rewards accordingly.

The philosopher Plato posed the question to his students: "Is it better to be virtuous and despised, or villanous and admired?"

The true Christian knows the answer without hesitation, since the lesson comes straight from the Gospel.

And yet, in a free society, we must judge both by prayer for insight and judgment as to the heart and works of those who hold stewardship over the
principle, power, prosperity and reputation of of a great nation. We cannot NOT judge; it is the law of our land to choose our stewards:

Luke 12:42-48:
The Lord said, "Who then is the faithful and wise steward, whom his lord will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the right times? Blessed is that servant whom his lord will find doing so when he comes. Truly I tell you, that he will set him over all that he has. But if that servant says in his heart, 'My lord delays his coming,' and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken, then the lord of that servant will come in a day when he isn't expecting him, and in an hour that he doesn't know, and will cut him in two, and place his portion with the unfaithful. That servant, who knew his lord's will, and didn't prepare, nor do what he wanted, will be beaten with many stripes, but he who didn't know, and did things worthy of stripes, will be beaten with few stripes.

To whoever much is given, of him will much be required; and to whom much was entrusted, of him more will be asked.
We covered this verse above, at self-indulgent length, but it is worth repeating: To whoever much is given, of him will much be required; and to whom much was entrusted, of him more will be asked.

Take heed of the Word, if not my words. I pray that my commentary is a true and accurate understanding of the Scriptures, as best as has been given me to understand them. Let none be led astray by any misstep of mine. Let all come to the light in the time and fashion ordained by the father. For not even Pharoah was permitted to see the truth, until it served God's plan that He do so.

I do not think matters are any different in the age.

Yours in Christ,
Christian Kendrick


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Jackie G.

My name is Jackie Guensler and I am a Christian.

I am also a progressive.

I am very disturbed that some of our elected representatives in Washington think that the two are incompatible.

One of the great strengths of our great nation has been separation of church and state.

We are dangerously close to ignoring that fine tradition which has been a guiding force to all those who have walked the Halls of Congress before us.

If the representatives of the people of the United States use their Christian faith to guide them, then, as a fellow Christian, I urge those same members of Congress and The President to ask themselves in their hearts: What Would Jesus Do?

Would he promote wedge issues to divide people ?

Would he promote war ?

Would he try to make the wealthy even wealthier ?

Would he deny help to the sick and the poor and the needy ?

Would he try to block representation by the minority in the Senate ?

No !!!!!!

So, you see, Representatives of the people in Washington need to actually represent all the people and stop trying to divide the people of this country on religious grounds, for political gain.

And, most importantly, they need to remember that they are not in the Pulpit; they are governmental representatives. Sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America.

We are not a theocracy. We are a representative democracy.

Let us remain clearly so.


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Amber

My name is Amber and I am an atheist from Binghamton, New York.

I strongly support the right of everyone to worship, or not worship, whomever they choose. Religion and faith are very personal matters and I would never force my beliefs upon someone else.

I do not believe our constitution or founding fathers intended for the government to mandate a national religion or establish a theocracy. I expect our leaders to understand and accept the fact that there is a vast diversity in beliefs throughout the nation and govern justly.

I envision a nation where the poor, ill, young and elderly are cared for adequately, where differences in opinion and faith are treated with respect, where the American people are truly listened to rather than being manipulated by the press and religious leaders, where the government works to help people and not corporations, where bigotry is no longer acceptable, where women are allowed control over their bodies and lives, where everyone has the right to marry the person they love, and where we do not attack other countries without real provocation.

I wish to see America become the beacon of freedom and democracy that it claims to be.


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Steven

My name is Steven, and I live in the Georgia mountains. I was raised in the Southern Baptist church in the seventies, became Disciples of Christ, converted to Catholicism in 1998 and now attend the local Episcopal Church. Like every soul on this planet- 6 billion of us, all equal in God's eyes, I am on a journey. I am a Christian. I believe in the true Jesus. I publicly profess this. I affirm faith.

I strongly disagree with what the religious right is trying to do through federal legislation. I say this out of concern for my country. I believe we are slipping back through deliberate, planned steps- purposefully done- into some kind of Social Darwinism/ Gilded Age type of society, where the weak are trampled upon. I see no connection to the divine in this plan. Also, I believe these attempts to marry the political and the religious in such a strange way is hurting the community of believers, driving many away. So, I am also concerned about our faith.

I believe the United States can break through all this fear and divisiveness to become unified again. I think we can do it if we are all ready to compromise just a bit on our actions. Its' going to have to come from the people. They are going to have to be the ones to stand up to the politicians that are doing this and reject them at the ballot box. We can come together again. I know it.


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Chet S.

My name is Chet Scoville. I'm 36 years old; I'm married; I'm a blogger known as the Green Knight; I'm an Anglican Christian; and I'm a progressive.

I believe that we are to walk humbly and quietly with God, not to parade our religion on television and in the Senate chamber.

I believe that the peacemakers, not the warmongers, are the blessed.

I believe that true religion is helping the widows and orphans, that is, the weak, disadvantaged, and marginalized.

I believe that the kingdom of Heaven is not of this world, and that theocracy and empire are an idolatrous perversion of that kingdom.

I believe that politics that serve the cause of greed are antithetical to what God wishes.

I believe that the hatred and anger sown in America today are not of God.

All this I believe because the gospel of Christ tells it to me.

I also believe that the church should not be an arm of the state, or the state an arm of the church.

I also believe that the so-called "culture war" does not exist, but is a distraction devised by political elites to divide and conquer ordinary people.

I also believe that the right's attempt to impose one narrow version of Christianity on everyone else is a disaster of epic proportions.

And I believe that once religious exclusiveness is enshrined into law, the process of exclusion will never stop.

All this I believe because history tells it to all of us.

I will not stand for the perversion of my faith by the intolerant.

I will not back down from defending the truth.

I will not be quiet.

I will not cooperate with the dismantling of the Constitution.

I will not permit the blaspheming of the name of Christ by those who serve only raw power and greed.

And I will not submit to any but God.


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Brad H.

My name is Brad Houston. I am a 23-year old graduate student and
registered Democrat. I am also a Jewish-American, both culturally and
religiously. Far from the contention of the religious right that I am,
as a liberal, hostile to faith, I wholeheartedly embrace it.

There are those who might suggest that as a liberal Jew, my comments
on this matter might not "count" as much as those of liberal
Christians, or even that they are irrelevant. Respectfully, I
disagree. For the Family Research Council claims to speak for all
people of faith against the rule of law, which encompasses Judaism
just as much as it does Christianity. And as a person of faith, I am
infuriated that the FRC presumes to speak for me.

Rabbi Hillel, the renowned Talmudic scholar, was once asked to explain
the entire Torah while standing on one foot. The Rebbe replied: "That
which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the law;
the rest is commentary." It is a philosophy I have tried to follow,
and it was also espoused by the first-century rabbi Yeshua ben Yosef.
My brethren and sistren in the Christian faith know him better as
Jesus Christ. Yet, I wonder how well these men of God on the right
follow this basic precept.

Is not legislation designed to give a surfeit of riches to the already
prosperous at the expense of the poor and unfortunate hateful? Would
it not be better to design laws to help those less fortunate?

Is not discriminating against lesbians and gay men hateful? Would it
not be better to allow them the opportunity to have the same rights as
straight couples in the expression of their love?

Is not leading the country into an unnecessary war with 100,000+
civilian casualties hateful? Would it not be better to use war as a
last rather than a first resort?

Is not willful ignorance, and attempts to force that ignorance on
others, of basic precepts of the universe's function hateful? Would it
not be better to see Nature's methodical workings as an expression of
God's will unto itself?

Is not the attempt to impose your faith on others hateful? Would it
not be better to allow people to approach or not approach the Ultimate
Reality as they see fit?

Religion in the minds of these people is about what people CANNOT do.
In my mind, religion is about the basic goodness that people SHOULD
do. Religion in the minds of these people is about making the world in
accordance to their worldview. In my mind, religion is about making
the world better for people of ALL worldviews. And yet, theirs is the
religion that gets the attention, that causes the wars and calls for
the hate and the end of democracy as we know it.

I am tired of having my faith represented by these fringe elements of
the faith-based community. They do not speak for me, nor for the God
in whom I believe. Today I reject the Big Lie that one must be a
reactionary theocrat to be a person of faith.

I am a progressive and a man of faith. More than that, I am a
progressive BECAUSE I am a man of faith.


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To help you understand...

what this is all about, read this post by dKos' Armando, and then follow the link below:


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Kenneth B.

My name is Kenneth Bernstein. On various electronic fora I am known as Teacherken. Much of my life has been an inchoate search for meaning. During my almost 59 years of life I spent time in a variety of religions. While I am now officially a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), I have at various times attended regularly at synagogues (Reform, Conservative and Orthodox), been an active member of churches (Episcopalian and Orthodox Church in America), received a masters degree from a Roman Catholic seminary, taught comparative religion in synagogue, church and public high school. As I write this I sit in a room full of books on religion. Trained as a musician much of the music I love is derived from people's dedication to their faith, and I have served as a choir director in the Orthodox Church.

In my own search for meaning I have spent a summer in an Episcopalian Benedictine monastery, and had several extended stays on Mount Athos in Greece, where for almost a decade my personal spiritual father was the abbot of one of the monasteries. My wife --who is an active Orthodox Christian who is pro-life in every sense (including opposing the death penalty) as well as an ardent environmentalist -- and I were married in an Orthodox church ceremony. I do not believe that any reasonable person could consider us hostile to people of faith.

I am officially an independent, as I live in Virginia, which does not have party registration. I have voted for a few Republicans for local office over the years I have lived here, but I have never campaigned for anyone except Democrats. I consider myself quite liberal / progressive on most issues, although I do believe in fiscal responsibility in government. Thus the two presidential candidates about whom I have been most excited were both social liberals who were fiscal conservative, Fritz Hollings and Howard Dean.

Perhaps because I teach government, I am appalled by the misinterpretation of our Constitutional tradition that I hear from people like Tom Delay and Bill Frist, or from people who claim to be Christian. This nation was founded on principles of the enlightenment, with a conscious effort by most of the important founders to separate the government from religion, and thereby to protect religion from government. It is worth noting that even before the Constitution we had a strong tradition of this separation. When states wrote constitutions in 1776 to replace their colonial charters, many, like that of Pennsylvania, guaranteed religious freedom, that document near its beginning stating

That all men have a natural and unalienable right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences and understanding: And that no man ought or of right can be compelled to attend any religious worship, or erect or support any place of worship, or maintain any ministry, contrary to, or against, his own free will and consent: Nor can any man, who acknowledges the being of a God, be justly deprived or abridged of any civil right as a citizen, on account of his religious sentiments or peculiar mode of religious worship : And that no authority can or ought to be vested in, or assumed by any power whatever, that shall in any case interfere with, or in any manner controul, the right of conscience in the free exercise of religious worship.

The Constitution itself does not mention God, and clearly states in Article VI that no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

As one who has seriously studied the Bible, I resent those who quote selectively, who use distorted translations, who ignore the clear import. I fail to see how anyone who would call themselves Christian could ignore the life of the Jesus of Nazareth who was criticized for dining with tax collectors and sinners. I am shocked at those who would prescribe harsh penalties for those they claim violate "God's laws" when Jesus challenged them by saying that only those who were themselves without sins should cast stones at the woman taken in adultery, or who challenged those condemning others for motes to look at the beams in their own eyes. And I cannot imagine that someone can consider themselves Christian when acting, saying, or implying that those who suffer in life because of poverty or hunger or nakedness or imprisonment have only themselves to blame when the clear words of Jesus in Matthew 25 is that how we will be measured will be by how we acted towards "the least of these" whom he calls his brethren.

My purpose in this message is not to engage in a bible quoting -- or Constitution quoting -- contest. As a person who believes deeply I want my religious beliefs to be free from government interference. Lincoln told us that as he would not want to be a slave neither would he want to be a slaveowner. I apply that as follows: I am a member a tiny religious minority, and I was born into a religious tradition that has been subject to discrimination and far worse. I value the protection offered me by our Constitution. As I would not want to be be oppressed because of my beliefs or what others might consider by unbelief, neither would I wish to impose my beliefs on others.

To any politician or those who seek political influence who wishes to impose one particular view of morality and religion, I say you are not only not acting an an American fashion, you are not acting in a Christian fashion. In your attempts to impose or mandate your beliefs you admit your fear that your ideas will not have appeal on their own. Perhaps that may be because those ideas are neither American nor Christian in their origin. Oh I grant that they may be developed by people who lived in the united States and who considered themselves Christian. But there are almost two billion Christians of various denominations around the world, and what you express would be alien to most of them. And as a student of history I know that Founders like Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Franklin, to name just a few, would absolutely reject what you claim was their intent in the establishment of our system of government.

As a liberal, one influenced by the teaching of both the Jewish and Christian bibles, I know that to live a faith based on either or both of those documents requires humility -- men do not, after all, have the mind of God. Such a life requires a recognition of our responsibility as individuals and as a society for those not well off. Such a life could not find support for the doctrine of unfettered capitalism that offers no concern for the poor -- after all one Mitzvah for the Jew was to leave the corners of the field unharvested so that the poor might have something to eat. There is no justification in either "Testament" for greed, for self-aggrandizement and justification, for seeking power in order to accumulate wealth, or for seeking power merely to be powerful. Rather, both collections of spiritual wisdom offer many condemnations of those who mistreat the poor, or show a lack of hospitality to strangers, the Jewish Bible pointedly reminding its readers that they are not to deny justice to the sojourner in their land because they themselves were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

I will not condemn you if I think you are wrong. I will hope that you will allow the spirit of God as you know it to fill you with love. In the words of John, men will know that people are disciples of Jesus because they will love one another even as he has loved them. And I will not accept that you have any moral authority to condemn those with whom you disagree. That surely shows a lack of faith in a God who is all loving, who is thus capable of persuading all to turn to him.

I respect those whose belief may be different than mine. That is why I believe so strongly in the separation of Church (or synagogue, temple, pagoda, or mosque) and state. Insofar as you will advocate against such separation, I will oppose you. I will oppose you as violating the principles on which our nation was founded. And I will oppose you as violating the clear intent of the teaching of Jesus, and the far broader understanding of the Christian world both in much of the past and in much of the world today. It is precisely because I respect people of faith that I will do so.


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Michael

My name is Michael, and I live in DeKalb, Illinois. I am an adult convert to Roman Catholicism and a practitioner of zazen meditation. I hold a lay minister's certificate in liturgy in the Diocese of Rockford, and have been very active in my local church community in the past. I have twice made pilgrimage to the Holy Land (in 1998 and 2000), and once to Rome, for the Great Jubilee of 2000. My religious beliefs were but one of the reasons I cast my vote in 2004 for Sen. John Kerry.

I say all of that not to brag, but to demonstrate exactly how ridiculous is the idea, put forward by people calling themselves Republicans and Christians, that anyone who opposes Mr. Bush's atrocious policies must ipso facto be hostile to the faith or to other people of faith. I call that allegation exactly what it is: hogwash.

My faith is not threatened by liberals: it's far more likely to be put into practice by them. Indeed, one of the reasons I am myself a liberal is that I can't see any other way of behaving if I want to remain faithful to the principles of my faith tradition. More than a century ago, Pope Leo XIII wrote Rerum novarum, the first so-called "social" encyclical. While it denounced the socialists and found that there was absolutely a right to private property, that encyclical also enjoined upon "the wealthy owner and the employer" the duties of treating their employees as persons "ennobled by Christian character," noting that it was "truly shameful and inhuman" to treat workers "as though they were things in the pursuit of gain, or to value them solely for their physical powers." Employers were enjoined to give their workers time off for their religious duties, and to see to it that they did not neglect "home and family" or squander their earnings. Their "great and principal duty is to give every one what is just."

Pope Leo wasn't just pulling those phrases out of thin air, either. Jesus told his disciples (Luke 10:7, my translation from the original Greek) "The worker is worthy of his pay" and also this (Matthew 25:31-40, my translation):

Whenever the Son of Man may come in his glory, and all the angels with him, then will he sit upon the throne of his glory. He shall gather together before him all the nations, and he shall separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He shall place the sheep at his right hand, and the goats at his left.

Then the Ruler will say to those on his right, "Come here, you who are blessed of my Father, inherit the realm that was prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, sick and you watched over me, I was in prison and you came to me."

Then the just will respond to him and say, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you to drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison and come to you?"

And the Ruler will answer them, saying, "I solemnly assure you, as often as you did so for one of the least of my brothers or sisters, you did it for me."

That passage does sound an awful lot like a political platform. It just doesn't sound anything like the Republican one. It certainly doesn't sound like the policies this administration has enacted.

And that is why I am so upset at these people's attempt to hijack my faith for their political ends. Mr. Bush claims to be a Christian, but his actions belie his words. As Jesus himself said (Matthew 7:16), it's the actions that count: "By their fruits shall you know them" and again (7:21), "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, lord' will enter into the Realm of Heaven, but rather that one doing the will of my Father in heaven."

Rather than admit that he's not doing a good job of living up to the faith he claims to profess, Mr. Bush prefers to attack the faith of anyone who happens to disagree with him, the better to ramrod his hateful policies through a recalcitrant Congress and force them upon a population that seems increasingly not to trust him.

The First Amendment to our Constitution gives Mr. Bush the right to believe as he chooses. It gives me exactly the same right, and it also prohibits our government from either forcing one brand of religion on all of its citizens or from interfering in how we choose to live out our beliefs, as long as we don't break any laws in doing so.

I think our founders got that position exactly right. Nobody should be allowed to tell anyone else how they should believe, what manner of life they should live, or how they should put their own faith into action. Are there things I would like to see in the laws of our land? Absolutely. But unless I can find solid reasons to enact those provisions into law that are not bound up solely with the tenets of my faith, I'm going to be unsuccessful in that endeavor--and that's the way it should be.

I came to Catholicism as an adult of my own free will. I would not want anybody to be able to tell me that I either had to join that church, or that I could not. Consequently, if I want that freedom for myself, by what right do I deny it to anyone else? I recognize that reasonable people can come to different conclusions about ultimate things, and that in no way threatens my faith or my church--or my government. I believe, with the Catholic Church, that there is a spark of truth in all religions that are not oriented specifically toward evil, and for my part I believe in dialogue with those other traditions, so I can try to learn from them that facet of the Truth that they, and they alone, see most clearly.

So no, Senator Frist, I am not hostile to faith or to people of faith. But I'll tell you what I am hostile toward: wolves in sheep's clothing who parade around wearing their faith upon their sleeves and proclaiming it loudly on the street corners and in the marketplaces, but whose actions demonstrate that their allegiance is not to the Most High but to Mammon. I am unshakeably hostile to people who prate on about freedom and democracy, yet seek to destroy both of those things not only abroad but also here at home. I will rail against anyone who suggests that I should give up even the least and littlest of my civil rights in the name of some trumped-up war on a nebulous terrorist enemy that we can neither define nor catch. I will protest, vociferously but peacefully, anyone who attempts to prosecute aggressive war in my name. I will work to defeat anyone who attempts to dismantle the social safety net that keeps our youngest and our oldest citizens safely housed and fed and cared for, and offers a helping hand to anyone who needs it. I will not hesitate to cry out that the emperor has no clothes when he claims to act out of a concern for the ordinary citizen but in reality only enriches the already-wealthy corporate fatcats who would fleece him of his last dime and do it gleefully. I will oppose, with every fiber of my being, any politician, any so-called priest or minister, and any judge or judicial nominee who attempts to violate the constitutionally mandated separation of powers (or the separation of church and state), or to impose any kind of a religious test for public office. I will not brook any unwarranted governmental interference in my private affairs--of whatever kind.

You are calling your attempt to do all of those things "Justice Sunday." I will suggest to you, sir, that you do not understand either the meaning of the word "justice," or the respect that the Sabbath day is due. If you did, you would not now be pushing the false dilemma of a young man having to choose between public service and faith, nor would you be working for political gain (which surely counts as "work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God" within the meaning of No. 2185 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which you should know well, given your claim to be a practicing Catholic) on the Sabbath.

I reject out-of-hand the corporatist, elitist, and warmongering agenda of the Republican leadership. It is not worthy of consideration by serious people of any faith, based as it is on entirely selfish and self-centered principles, and given that it has manifestly resulted in tremendous suffering for people both here in the United States and abroad. But I do not do that out of any hostility to faith: far from it. I do it precisely because I am a person of faith, and I hold fast to the principles that Jesus taught in the Gospels: caring for the widow and the orphan and the poor among us, sharing my bread with the needy, sustaining the sick and those in prison, rendering to Caesar what is Caesar's but at the same time never forgetting to render to God what is God's, and God's alone.

I recommend the same course to you, Mr. Frist, and to you, Mr. Bush, and to all of your fellow Republican leaders. Let me paraphrase for you a few other words from the Scriptures (Matthew 23:13-15, 23, 25, 27; my translation from the Greek):

Woe to you, neoconservatives and Republicans, hypocrites, for you slam shut the Realm of Heaven in people's faces. You will not go in yourselves, but neither will you allow anyone else to go in.

Woe to you, neoconservatives and Republicans, hypocrites, for you go all over lands and seas to make a single convert, and when you get him, you make him a child of hell twice as bad as yourselves.

Woe to you, neoconservatives and Republicans, hypocrites, for you tithe on mint and dill and cumin but neglect the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith: you ought to have been doing those things, not leaving them behind!

Woe to you, neoconservatives and Republicans, hypocrites, for you are become like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside, but which are filled up inside with the bones of the dead and all kinds of filth.


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