Upside down

The Texas State Board of Education ignores history, and Glenn Beck ignores the teachings of Jesus.

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These are the people who claim to be "protecting" America? No wonder we're in such bad shape and seemingly headed the wrong way.

A front-page article in the Dallas Morning News reports how the State Board of Education voted down a recommendation that would have "required Texas students to be taught the reasons behind the prohibition of a state religion in the Bill of Rights."

Democrats supported the proposal, and Republicans shot it down. This concept historically has transcended partisan politics. It still should. Unfortunately, we've gotten so sideways to history that everything revolves around power and agenda rather than principle and altruism.

At least every Baptist in Texas should support teaching children the history of the two religion clauses in the First Amendment. It's in our DNA.

Religious liberty only for the powerful

While it is true that many, if not most, of the the people who colonized America sailed to the New World for religious liberty, it is not true that they desired religious liberty for all people. They wanted to practice religion they way they desired, and they felt empowered to force others on their turf to practice it their way, too. Sort of a Golden Rule in reverse: Do unto others as has been done unto you.

So, we had a hodgepodge of religion-themed colonies that protected their own religious rights but denied liberty to others: Congregationalists in Massachusetts, Anglicans in Virginia, Catholics in Maryland and so on. 

Roger Williams got thrown out of Massachusetts Colony in the middle of winter because he would not let the Congregationalists baptize his infant child. So, he planted the first Baptist church in America in Providence and founded the colony of Rhode Island to establish a place of true religious freedom for all kinds of people—not only Baptists, but Quakers, Jews, "Turks," and people of all faiths and even no faith. Williams, the first Baptist in America, instinctively knew that, to be authentic, faith must be free.

Religious liberty for all

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Fast forward about 150 years, and the young United States of America is attempting to find its way forward. Early on, faith was at risk because religious liberty had not been guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. That was when a Baptist pastor, John Leland, convinced James Madison to write guarantees for freedom of religion into the First Amendment. 

Religious liberty is called the "first freedom" because it is the first principle guaranteed in the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibity the free exercise thereof." 

These guarantees have ensured the vitality of faith and religious practice in the United States. Contrast that with the countries where government supports religion. Either—as in Western Europe—the churches are anemic, or—as in the Middle East and Eastern Europe—adherents to all the nonsanctioned religions are persecuted. If the United States turns its back on the religion clauses of the First Amendment and denies its rich heritage of church-state separation, we're headed toward similar fates or, ironically, both fates simultaneously.

Shooing to hell

And then there's Beck. Surely he's just pandering for viewers.  He told his TV audience the term "social justice" is a "code word" for communism and Nazism. Then he urged those viewers to leave their churches if the churches advocate on behalf of social justice. He said: "I beg you, look for the words 'social justice' or 'economic justice' on your church web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!"

Apparently, Beck has not read the New Testament. Jesus preached more about care for the poor, the disadvantaged, the outcast, the outsider than anything else. When churches talk about "social justice," they're talking about ministering to and caring for the people Jesus called "the least of these." In one of the most clear-yet-troubling passages in all the Gospels, Jesus says our fate will be linked to how we treat these people.

So, if you believe what Jesus said as recorded in Matthew 25:31-46 and then take Beck at his word, you've got to conclude Beck is the opposite of an evangelist. He's shooing his followers straight to hell.

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