Church & State

Nashville Mega Church Fights $425,000 Tax Bill for Gym, Bookstore & Cafe

“The question of who can decide which parts of a church are religious and secular is drawing national attention, with some calling it a First Amendment issue. Christ Church shut down its cafe and bookstore and handed off its gym to the YMCA of Middle Tennessee this year as the dispute dragged on, moves meant to keep the tax bill from increasing.”
The Tennesseean

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"A US federal court judge has placed a temporary block on an Oklahoma amendment that bans state judges from consulting Sharia law"

“Last week, State Question 755, a constitutional amendment, was approved by 70 percent of Oklahoma voters banning state judges from consulting Sharia law.”
Muneer Awad of the Council on American-Islamic Relations: “You have a state-endorsed amendment in our [Oklahoma ] Constitution that isolates, targets and marginalizes Muslims as a threat to the American way of life”
US judge halts Oklahoma’s ban on Shariah

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The Christian and Patriotism

At the risk of Bauder overload, we offer here two posts from the archive on the subject of patriotism—in honor of election day. (These posts appeared at SI on July 6 and 9 of 2005 but did not make it back into the article database after “the crash of 2006.”) The original discussion of part one may be read here. Part two here.

Part One

During late June or early July, American Christians bedeck their churches with red, white, and blue. They lift their voices in hymns of praise to their nation. They repeat a solemn, public vow, pledging their allegiance to the government represented by the flag of the United States. Their chests swell and their eyes moisten with thoughts of the greatness of their nation—for their nation is great. Gauged by the combination of military might, distributed wealth, and human political freedom, it is unparalleled in human history.

At such moments, we Americans need to remember two things. First, greatness is not identical with goodness. Second, if America is great, we are not the ones who made it great. We can take no credit. What we have received is given to us as a gift and a stewardship. It is up to us to do the right things with it.

The inclusion of patriotic exercises as part of American worship perplexes and even annoys Christians throughout the rest of the world (beginning with our immediate neighbors to the north and the south). Some question the value of patriotism in general; others simply object to expressions of nationalism in church. In turn, Americans often find these objections puzzling and sometimes off-putting.

Should Christians be patriotic at all? If so, then should they carry their patriotism into their churches? I would like to offer tentative answers to these questions—tentative because I am an American and I share most of the American sensibilities. Therefore, my answers will hardly qualify as impartial. The questions, however, are important and should not simply be dismissed.

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Apolitical Faith? Objections to Christian Political Engagement, Part 2

Read Part 1.

Should Christians be engaged in the American political process? Should involvement in politics ever go beyond a bit of reading and vote-casting? Do pastors and teachers have an obligation to address political topics? Should churches be involved in any way?

Many doctrinally-serious evangelicals and fundamentalists are now answering all of these questions in the negative. But do their objections to Christian political engagement justify keeping political thought and activity to such a minimum? In Part 1 of this series, I began considering and answering several representative objections to more-than-voting involvement in politics. Here, I’ll evaluate several more objections.

First, some attention to the meaning of “political engagement” may be helpful.

Forms and levels of political engagement

For the purposes of this article, “engagement” occurs in two forms and on many levels. The form of engagement may consist of involvement with the ideas or involvement with the process—or both of these. We are ideologically engaged when we ponder points of political (and social) philosophy that relate to the political issues facing our society and seek to think biblically about them. We are involved in the process whenever we act to influence the choice of leaders or policies, whether the action is writing a letter to the editor of the local paper, calling a legislator, marching in a rally or simply casting a vote.

These forms of engagement also occur on many levels. At the most basic, minimal level, idea engagement means listening to the claims of political figures and considering whether they are true in light of what we already know from Scripture. Engagement at the deepest level might take the form of earning a PhD in political theory or writing a book, working for a think-tank, or touring the country on a lecture series.

Casting a vote is pretty much the minimal level of process engagement. Arguably, putting a bumper sticker on the car is more visible but less influential on the final result of an election or policy decision. Deeper levels of engagement range from passing out campaign literature, to donating, to joining a campaign staff, to holding public office.

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