Thursday, September 30, 2010

Rush Limbaugh, M.Div.

Yesterday, I had the distinct displeasure of hearing Rush Limbaugh attempt to define the "tenets" of the Christian faith, and fail miserably in doing so. I have nothing against Mr. Limbaugh, particularly. I'm also not a huge fan and I'm certainly not a "Dittohead."

The context of Rush's remarks was that President Obama recently said, in trying to articulate why he is a Christian, that he holds to the Golden Rule (though he didn't refer to it by its moniker) and (rather oddly) that he should be his brother's keeper. Limbaugh, in suggestion that the President doesn't understand his own declared Christian faith, had this to say on yesterday's show:
RUSH: Now, ladies and gentlemen, you have to forgive me here, but -- and not disputing -- President Obama says he's a Christian, that's good enough for me. And there's a lot of people who do not know details of their own religious belief. But the Golden Rule is not a precept of Christianity. I hate to point this out, but the Golden Rule does not emanate, originate, from Christianity. And this brother's keeper business? That's not Jesus. I hate to say this, but Jesus Christ did not talk about brother's keeper. That is from the story of Cain and Abel, and even that story is misunderstood. The story of Cain and Abel -- my brother's keeper does not mean, "I'm going to take care of my brother or take care of my sister". The story of Cain and Abel, Cain killed Abel, and then he said he had no idea. He denied it. He denied killing Abel, and then said to God, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Meaning, "What, is he my responsibility? He's not my responsibility, I didn't kill my brother." Now, a lot of people misunderstand all this, but the Golden Rule doesn't come from Christianity, and Cain and Abel is not, "I'm going to take care of my brother and I'm going to take care of my sister," and Jesus Christ has nothing to do with either one of them
RUSH: The code of Hammurabi is from ancient Babylon. Many people's first experience to the Golden Rule is actually... like my brother, David, told me that he first heard of the Golden Rule when he opened up a fortune cookie at the Purple Crackle Club in East Cape Girardeau, Illinois, and the fortune cookie had the Golden Rule in there as a fortune. How many of you have you seen the Golden Rule as a fortune in the fortune cookie? Now, the code of Hammurabi is from ancient Babylon, which is modern Iraq. Ancient Babylon is modern Iraq. You could even find the story of Cain and Abel in the Koran -- sorry -- the Holy Koran, as Mrs. Clinton points out. And so was the Golden Rule. I'm getting a lot of e-mails that the Golden Rule is in the Old Testament, that it's in the New Testament, but it's the Code of Hammurabi, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, do unto others. But the point is, I am my brother's keeper. There is an effort -- the reason why this is important, there's an effort by the left to say that Jesus was a socialist, and they are using this to turn many evangelical people into global warming people. We are the stewards of the planet and so forth.
What Limbaugh is (quite foolishly) suggesting is that because the Golden Rule, in some other expression, predates Christian, that it's not a tenet of the Christian faith. Mr. Limbaugh simply does not understand Christianity.

If you believe that the "tenets" of the Christian faith are expressed in the New Testament, you need only look to the New Testament to see if the Golden Rule is in it. By golly, it is! Jesus said, as recorded in Matthew 7:12, " Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." As recorded in Luke 6:31, "And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise."

It is completely and utterly irrelevant that the Golden Rule might be expressed outside the New Testament or even in some form or fashion in the "holy books" of other faiths. The point that Limbaugh made was that the President, in paraphrasing the Golden Rule and pointing to it as evidence of his personal Christian faith, did not express a Christian belief.

That would be like saying that because the concept of "democracy" did not originate in the United States, valuing democracy is not valuing an American ideal or belief. If Limbaugh were correct, any expression of Christian beliefs that incorporated the Ten Commandments would not be expression of Christianity, at all, but of ancient Judaism. That, of course, would be foolishness.

Mr. Limbaugh should stick to politics and stay away from teaching the Bible.

Friday, September 10, 2010

International Burn a Mosque At Ground Zero Day

I am no fan of Islam, radical or otherwise. But that's not really what's on my mind. It's 9/11, the on-again-off-again "International Burn A Koran Day" at the tiny church in Florida was originally set for today. Protests against the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" still rage in NYC. President Obama is wringing his hands, worried about how these storms of controversy will cause us Americans to be perceived abroad. Meanwhile, Pastor Terry Jones somehow appointed himself -- probably not entirely by accident -- the voice of American Christianity. These are exciting, scary, and even bizarre times.

With that as a backdrop, a few things have been nagging at me.
  1. At the risk of being judgmental, I don't understand why Pastor Jones and his church members fail to see that they would be forsaking Jesus's commands to love your neighbor as yourself and to do unto to others as you would have them do unto you just to prove that they have the right to burn some books. Just because you have the right to offend someone doesn't mean you should.
  2. I must confess that I have been impressed (at least somewhat) by the willingness of at least one Imam to talk to Pastor Jones and make a promise to approach Imam Rauf about the so-called Ground Zero Mosque. It's nice to see that Muslim leaders -- at least a few -- are willing to at least consider that things done in the name of their faith might possibly be the cause of all this backlash, what the media is calling "Islamaphobia."
  3. That our President, General in Afghanistan and Secretary of State are concerned that the burning of a few so-called "holy books" would put "Americans in harm's way" or "endanger the lives of our troops" in Afghanistan or Iraq proves precisely what many "Islamaphobes" have been trying to say: Islam is not a religion of peace, but a religion of war, terror and death. That we have to be concerned that Muslims would kill human beings over the burning of a few hundred copies of their "holy book" is a pretty good indicator that something is aschew in that religion. Bibles are destroyed in other countries, but Christians don't murder people in retaliation.
  4. I appreciate, as indicated, that Muslims are now forced to start considering why there is a backlash in this country. But rather than go on the defensive, why not spend time, energy and resources to de-radicalize elements within their own faith? If all the terror committed in the name of Islam is really the work of "a few extremists," the de-radicalization process shouldn't be terribly difficult. Instead of trying to convince me your faith is a "religion of peace," why don't you show me that you do not tolerate murder in the name of allah? In other words, do some housecleaning and then get back with me on your sales pitch.