More than once in life I've closed one chapter and opened another. I like to think I learned valuable lessons each time. I bet you feel much the same about your life too.
Birth Of A (Christian) Nation: Scholars Debate The Genesis Of A Popular Myth
The New York Times over the weekend ran a provocative column by Kevin M. Kruse, a history professor at Princeton University, on the origins of the “Christian nation” myth.
Kruse, author of the book One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America, argues that the “Christian nation” idea really took off in the early 1930s when a band of business leaders endorsed the concept as a way of fighting back against President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.
I haven’t read Kruse’s book, but his Timescolumn is thought-provoking and well argued. It’s worth your time. I was especially interested in Kruse’s use of the term “Christian libertarian” to describe some of the prominent corporate leaders of the “Christian nation” crusade. I’ve had the same thought while attending meetings of Religious Right organizations. At the annual Values Voter Summit sponsored by the Family Research Council (FRC) there’s very little talk these days about religion and theology. Rather, the events have the feel of Heritage Foundation briefings. (In fact, the Heritage Foundation co-sponsors the Summit.)
These events are essentially primers of libertarian economic theory, with the main idea of the FRC these days being not that Jesus is good but that government is always bad. God is still part of their trinity, but the other two figures are President Ronald W. Reagan and Ayn Rand. (Ironically, Rand was an atheist.) At the Summit, Reagan’s name is dropped constantly – Jesus’s, not so much.
Kruse’s ideas are interesting and worth exploring in more detail, but I think there may be more to the story. This July, former Americans United Legal Director Steven K. Green will publish a new book titled Inventing a Christian America: The Myth of the Religious Founding. I received an early copy and read it a few weeks ago. Green, who is now a professor of law at Willamette University in Oregon, argues that the “Christian nation” myth springs from the 1820s, during a time of growing religious piety when a generation that rose up after the Founding Fathers began to cast about for a foundational myth that would link the still-new nation with the Almighty in a profound way.
I think Kruse and Green are both right. The “Christian nation” thesis, it seems to me, rears its head most powerfully during times of change and tension. It’s not surprising that the concept first appeared early in the 19th century. As the growing nation struggled to find its place on the world stage, a belief that the United States was God’s holy experiment and somehow favored by the hand of Providence provided comfort and assurance that what the country and its leaders did was right and good because it was ordained by God. (Even when it wasn’t right – such as our treatment of the Native peoples.)
The concept arose again powerfully during the Civil War (with both sides claiming God’s support) and its aftermath. The belief was that a “Christian nation” would sort through the chaos and secure its destiny and build a new American empire from sea to sea.
During the Great Depression, obviously a time of great upheaval, the “Christian nation” concept flared anew. If Kruse is right, this time it was pressed into service to fend off the rise of centralized, activist government and the “socialism” of the New Deal.
The nation saw a flicker of the concept again during World War II, with some pastors arguing that only a unified “Christian nation” could defeat the Axis Powers. But the idea went into fairly steep decline for many years after that. Kruse notes that President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s religious concepts were much more non-sectarian. Thus, it was blandly ecumenical phrases like “In God We Trust” and “under God” that were pressed into service against the Communists. America’s “civil religion” was born, a concept that is itself not without problems.
One thing is clear: The “Christian nation” concept does not belong to the Founders. The idea has surfaced from time to time throughout our history, but it can’t be pinned on the men who wrote the Constitution.
For proof of that, we need only read the text of the document itself.
I'm wrote my story in hopes that it will inspire others to share their story. I don't know if there is a "book" in everyone but I know for certain there is a story in there. I encourage you to share your story of overcoming some of life's challenges. Someone needs to hear what you have to say. They are waiting!
Poll: Brits View Atheists As More Moral Than Believers, Religion More Harmful Than Good
Nov 8, 2014
An eye-opening survey conducted in the UK reveals a truth many in the United States will find shocking. When asked if atheists are more or less moral than religious people, our allies across the pond favor atheists.
The British feel those who identify as atheists are more likely to be good people. In fact, 12.5% of Britons believe atheists are more moral, while only 6% say atheists are less moral.
Fewer than a quarter of Britons believe religion is a force for good. On the contrary, over half believe religion does more harm than good. Even 20% of Britons who describe themselves as ‘very religious’ are on record stating religion is harmful to society.
The poll, conducted by Survation for the HuffingtonPost UK’s series Beyond Beliefdoesn’t address why Britons have come to this conclusion, however faith in God and religion is falling in America as well. Jerome Baggett, a professor at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California told The San Francisco Business Times why he thinks people are retreating from religion in the United States,
“Religious institutions themselves have lost their legitimacy in the eyes of many Americans due to sexual and financial scandals, or political overreaching ‘by the so-called Christian right.'”
Linda Woodhead, professor of the sociology of religion at Lancaster University, told The Huffington Post UK she found the results of the poll “striking,”
“This confirms something I’ve found in my own surveys and which leads me to conclude that religion has become a ‘toxic brand’ in the UK. What we are seeing is not a complete rejection of faith, belief in the divine, or spirituality, though there is some to that, but of institutional religion in the historic forms which are familiar to people.”
Woodhead explains the reason Britons are distancing themselves from religion are “numerous” and include: sex scandals involving Catholic priests and rabbis, as well as Islamist terror attacks and conflict in the Middle East,
“I’d add religious leaderships’ drift away from the liberal values, equality, tolerance, diversity, [which is] embraced by many of their own followers and often championed by non-religious and atheist people more forcefully”.
Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association had this to say,
“This survey just confirms what we know is the common sense of people in Britain today – that whether you are religious or not has very little to do with your morality. Most people understand that morality and good personal and social values are not tied to religious belief systems, but are the result of our common heritage and experience as human beings: social animals that care for each other and are kind to others because we understand that they are human too. Not only that, people understand that religious beliefs themselves can be harmful to morality: encouraging intolerance, inflexibility and the doing of harm in the name of a greater good. We only need to look around us to perceive that fact.”
I found this article very meaningful for me. I believe it takes a lot of effort today, for most of us, to stay positive in a negative world. These are some lighthearted points on how to do just that.
12 Steps To Stay Positive In A Negative World
BY DR. JOEL KAHN
OCTOBER 8, 2014
This weekend we celebrated the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur. One of the clergy scheduled an hour-long healing session sandwiched between the full day of prayers on this fast day. Fifty people showed up, some willing to share the pain they were feeling from recent diagnoses of cancer, loss of loved ones, or family traumas, and others remained silent.
When it was my turn, I brought up the challenge I felt trying to stay positive in a negative world. Cruelty, brutality and insecurity seem to me more palpable than in the past, perhaps due to 24/7 connectivity with reports of wars, tragedies and beheadings. I described steps I use to emphasize the positive during the day while still being grounded in the events occurring in the world.
Here are 12 of the techniques I use to maintain a positive outlook when the world seems so incredibly negative:
1. Control the amount of negative news in my life.
While I want to stay up on the events occurring in the world, sometimes a headline is sufficient to grasp new developments. I limit the time I spend with TV, radio and Internet, selecting only a few stories to read in full.
2. Control the number of negative people in your life.
I spend most of my days talking to patients about their problems, and some days are filled with more uplifting reports than others. However, I can select how much time I spend with relatives and friends that dwell on the negative. As painful as it may be at times, my calendar may not open to those who consistently drag me down.
3. Listen to music.
I find positive music playing in the car, my home and at work to be a great source of uplifting spirit. One of the most positive collections of music is what I have found in Kundalini yoga. I can feel bountiful, beautiful and blissful with just a few clicks of my phone.
I choose to practice a Kirtan Kriya as taught by Dr. Dharma Singh Khalsa, since it takes 12 minutes with a mantra and mudras that are simple. I often do this in the sauna, something I call saunitation, as it seems to clean out the junk in my brain.
5. Live consciously.
Awareness of my breath, the origin and nutrition of my food while eating, a blue sky, a purple flower, a bird’s song all can draw me into a feeling of gratitude for the moment that overcomes forces that can drag me down.
6. Practice gratitude.
Appreciating people for anything they may do to help during my day is always my goal, some days more successfully practiced than others. Helping others, holding a door, buying a surprise coffee for someone behind me in line (I call it random acts of caffeine), or letting someone merge into an intersection can be uplifting.
In my faith there are a couple prayers that are recited on awakening. A simple two-phrase prayer expresses thanks for the return of the spirit to the body after a night’s rest. Another prayer is odd, but one of my favorites: a prayer written over 1000 years ago to be recited after urinating or defecating to acknowledge that the body is still performing its daily miracle. Although an odd blessing, when I care for patients with bowel and bladder illness, I appreciate both how grounded this moment of reflection is.
8. Read positive books and interviews.
I've read my share of Dale Carnegie, Tony Robbins, Og Mangino, and Louise Hay but going back to them every now and then is a positive moment. Also, I select TED talks that describe new innovations, survivors of challenges, and insights into nature and feel better after viewing them.
9. Give hugs.
I love hugging others and, if my patients permit, I hug and scratch backs on most visits, which brings out huge smiles. I can just watch the stress of others diminish and my own stress decrease.
My phone is my pager, my social media, my calendar, and my tether 24/7. The smartphone is a wonder of technology that is on my waist, in my hand, or with me in the car. Some sacred time requires that it be shut off, whether it's one day a week as many religions mandate, an hour in the yoga room, or while meditating. I work to keep my phone and my brain far apart using speakerphone, Bluetooth or headsets.
Years ago, author Norman Cousins demonstrated the healing power of comedy on the course of ill patients and humor can play a healing role today as well. I often end my day with a few minutes of comedy that I have recorded on the DVR. I put the days’ worries behind, enjoy a few belly laughs, and think positively about the coming day.
12. Connect with animals.
My medical work day ends when I walk in my home and see two tails wagging with joy for the fact that I've returned. I have to lie down right then, whether in a suit or scrubs, to let Jake and Eva lick my face over and over. I doubt there's a better therapy after a long day, and I'm sure many of you feel that the love from a pet can counter so much negativity.
My wife and I have joked for years about moving to an isolated island where life is simple. Decades later, careers, children, and goals have kept us from fantasy. The Dalai Lama was quoted as saying, “When we meet real tragedy in life we can react in two ways, either by losing hope and falling into self-destructive habits or by using the challenge to find our inner strength.”
When it comes to religion, I honor everyone’s right to believe whatever they want, but not to do others harm, even if their belief says it’s OK. After the “state,” the “church” is the second most destructive institution in recorded history. Think of the suffering, hatred and death associated with the words Crusades, Inquisitions, witch hunts, heretics, burnings at the stake, Arabs vs. Jews, Catholics vs. Protestants, Hindus vs. Muslims and on and on.
"The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift."
S.L. Brannon, B.A., M.Ed., D.Div. You can learn more about me on facebook and linkedin.