President Trump’s Executive Order on Religious Freedom

President Trump signed an Executive Order regarding religious freedom today. Here is my summation of the act, as far as I understand it. Click here for the full text of the Order.

Section One in my words: The Constitution says we have the freedom to be religious without fear of federal interference. This order lets people know that the Executive branch is on board with protecting people’s religious freedom as stated in the Constitution.

Section Two in my words: The government agencies in charge of taxation will not be allowed to target or penalize religious groups for expressing political opinions.

Section Three in my words: Religious organizations who conscientiously object to various practices will be allowed to conscientiously object without government penalty.

Section Four in my words: The Attorney General will guide the procedures for keeping religious liberty.

Section Five in my words: Something about how if one part is violated the other parts will still stand? Maybe? I don’t know. Too lawyerly of language for me here.

Section Six in my words: Basically this is already the law, this is just an attempt to reassure people this will be enforced. It makes no new laws, nor does it do violence to existing laws.

In summary, I don’t think this makes much difference to anything. I think this was originally created for situations such as the baker who didn’t want to make a cake for a gay wedding to be allowed to refrain from so doing without government penalty, which is fine.

Religious liberty has always been a part of American government and this merely restates what has existed. Previous presidents, including Obama and W. Bush, have played around with religious stuff that often looked like interference with religious practice. President Trump is attempting to score points with religious types by passing an executive order that does nothing really except sound nice. He will now be able to tell religious voters he’s “fighting for you.”

There is a chance I am completely misunderstanding this order, but this is my take. It’s one more piece of unnecessary legislation that will be propped up as either 1) Evidence that the Antichrist is coming, or 2) Evidence that Christians are about to take over the world. Neither is true.

Carry on.

UPDATE two hours later:
To confirm my suspicions, the ACLU, which threatened to sue over President Trump’s Religious Freedom Order, has decided not to. Here’s why, in their words:

“Today’s executive order signing was an elaborate photo-op with no discernible policy outcome. After careful review of the order’s text we have determined that the order does not meaningfully alter the ability of religious institutions or individuals to intervene in the political process.”

In other words this executive order does nothing except sound nice.

Pastor Says Polygamy is a Christian Lifestyle

Apparently we have too many churches. This is the only explanation for why the church stoops as low as it does to hire guys as pastors.

A 60-year-old Ohio mob enforcer-turned-pastor married his teenage bride and got her pregnant, all with the blessing of the other lady in his life — his 44-year-old wife.

Thom Miller is a pastor in Mansfield, Ohio. Apparently his church is not too keen on his marriage situation. Good for them. “Pastor” Miller is apparently very keen on his marriage situation.

“I don’t preach about polygamy, but I feel it’s a very Christian lifestyle,” he said. “This is America and my wives and I have a right to live any way we please, providing we’re not hurting anybody.”

Yes, exercising a right to “live any way we please” is certainly the bedrock of a Christian lifestyle.

No word as to whether he is still employed by his church. One would think randomly picking a guy off the street would lead to getting a better pastor than this guy.

Are there polygamist marriages in the Bible? Yes there are, and God wasn’t happy with any of them. You don’t find any in the New Testament, incidentally. You also find a verse saying that one of the qualifications of a pastor is that they be “the husband of one wife.” A-hem.

Man Killed By Pastor for Trying to Leave Church

The pastor of an insular New York church where a young man was beaten to death and his younger brother seriously injured was among seven people charged Tuesday with murder.

The pastor, along with his mom and two brothers who were also leaders in the church, beat to death a guy during “spiritual counseling” he was getting for wanting to leave their Word of Life Christian Church.

The victim’s brother was also beaten, but he survived. The session he “estimated was six or more hours, the teen said he was pummeled with fists and whipped with a 4-foot, folded electrical cord on the back and elsewhere, suffering injuries to his torso and genitals.”

I have been aware of several churches in my life that had brothers as leaders. In each case they were legalistic and abusive churches. This is anecdotal evidence, of course, but still, there seems to be a remarkable consistency.

If you have to beat people to keep them from leaving your church, it’s a good indicator your church is worth leaving.

Holy Bat-room, Pope!

I saw this headline on the internets today and couldn’t pass up the article. I wanted to pass it up, I just couldn’t. Which says more about me than the headline, no doubt.

Ecuador Built Pope Francis a Holy Bathroom

The article begins like this:

Where does the Pope poop?

In a bathroom that includes an Asian-style rug and a painting of Jesus — when he’s in Ecuador at least.

It goes on to say:

“The bathroom also includes a large toilet, a shower and a large mirror.”

No explanation as to why it contains a “large toilet.”

There are too many things a guy could say that probably shouldn’t be said, so I am just going to leave this here and move on.

You’re welcome.

Black Churches Are Burning

It’s a very poorly reported story, but six black churches have burned since the Charleston shooting. Six.

Although there may be no connection, nor do the fires show any graffiti or racist anythings, it is slightly suspicious.

Also suspicious this gets no coverage. Imagine if it were six mosques?!

You can donate some money to help these churches here.

UPDATE: It’s now up to seven churches.

Joel Osteen’s Self Help Talk Heckled

Joel Osteen’s “church” was interrupted six times be hecklers yesterday. These hecklers were apparently from another church in a coordinated effort!

The first interruption was right when Osteen began his self-help talk when a heckler yelled “Joel Osteen, you’re a liar.” Can’t argue there.

Not sure heckling is the best approach to opposing Mr. Osteen, nor, based on the recent shooting in another church, was the timing very good.

But hey, you can’t fault people for trying, or can you? I guess you could. Better them than me, but quite frankly, good for them!

The NBA and Jesus

There are two stories about Christianity involving NBA players.

The first is from the Muslim Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who railed on the Prosperity Gospel in a Time Magazine interview. Among other things, he said:

“Like the professional pardoners of the Middle Ages who pedaled indulgences to the highest bidders, they pervert teachings for profit. These are the people that the word shame was invented to describe. . .

“According to the purveyors of prosperity gospel, your friends and neighbors will know how righteous you are by the size of your bank account and the make of your car. . .

Adbul-Jabbar pointed to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus said, “Tend to what is permanent (the soul) over what is temporary (material goods).”
“Yet, those pimping the prosperity gospel are preaching the opposite.”

I would whole-heartedly agree this critique.

At the same time, Andre Iguodala of the NBA champs Golden State Warriors, had this to say about God:

The player said he credits the team’s success to God.  In an interview after the Warriors’ win, Iguodala said, “We got a team full of believers. We all go to chapel before every game. We all believe and we all say God has a way for you—a purpose for you. This is my purpose.”

“When people see us on the court, we want them to see God’s work. We want to be a good representation of what we believe in. When you go out there, you’re not just representing your country or the NBA, you’re representing your beliefs. You want to play hard for Someone who died for you.”

As much as I appreciate good guys succeeding, these kinds of quotes always make me cringe.

Believers are to do all things heartily as unto the Lord. We are supposed to be concerned with how our performance in what we do reflects our faith and the Gospel. I applaud that.

However, chalking up a team’s success to God is pretty close to the teaching of the Prosperity Gospel–your righteousness will be displayed by earthly success, whether that’s money or wins.

I wonder when Iguodala mocked Lebron James’ injuries on the court if that was why God rewarded them. Making such “God statements” means people will critique everything you do.

Yes, we need to do our job well, and players on Golden State appear to be good guys. But mouths should be stopped with humility. There is a fine line between crediting God and being arrogant about your awesome faith. Tread the line carefully.