A Religious Litmus Test for Public Office?

Despositphotos Image ID: 2240287 Copyright: eddiephotograph

Should there be a religious litmus test for public office?

That question has arisen in regard to Russell Vought, an appointee to the office of deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. As a Wheaton College graduate, he defended the College’s decision to terminate the professor who wore a hijab in solidarity with Muslims and said that Muslims worship the same God as the Christians. His statements made in that defense became the subject of his confirmation hearing.[1]

In his statement, Russell Vought, stated what most orthodox Christians and Muslims believe: that Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God. Christians obviously believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to God, and Muslims believe that Allah, alone, is God, and Muhammad is his messenger. Those beliefs are held by millions of people and are not controversial, in that sense.

An increasingly large segment of western society views religious beliefs negatively and takes the position that religious beliefs of this kind do not belong in the public square. They go further, implying that people who hold such religious beliefs are not qualified for public office. Thus, the question: should there be a religious litmus test?

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Reading Between the Lines

Donald Trump by Gage Skidmore

If anyone ever thought that we could accept a news story at face value, even one written by a nationally respected news source, those days seem to be over. Not only do we have to be concerned about fake news, we need to be concerned about bias in the media, all media.

Frankly, bias has always existed. The media Mantra of objectively reporting the news has always been an ideal at best. Maybe we are just now throwing off the pretense.

Whatever the case is, reading between the lines has never been more important or, perhaps, more difficult. When it comes to Donald Trump, can we believe anything he says? Can we believe anything the media reports?

These are my thoughts as I read Washington Bureau reporter, Tracy Wilkinson’s and Brian Bennett’s, article: “President Trump Has Backed off Many of His Provocative Foreign Policy Promises “.

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Whose Side Are We on?

depositphoto Image ID: 12096314 Copyright: ZouZou

depositphoto Image ID: 12096314 Copyright: ZouZou

I saw this posted on Facebook:

Apartheid was legal,

The Holocaust was legal,

Slavery was legal,

Colonialism was legal.

Legality is a matter of power, not justice.

I am not sure of the point of this meme, but it got me thinking. For one thing, power and injustice don’t always go together, but there is certainly a strong correlation between the powerful and injustice to the powerless.

In that context, think about these words from the most famous sermon given by Jesus:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.[1]

Jesus was not talking to the powerful in this sermon. He was preaching good news to the poor.[2] He wasn’t urging the poor, the downcast, the meek to rise up and riot or challenge the power of the powerful. He was telling them they were blessed, for great is their reward in heaven!

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Should Google Censure the News?

Some of the backlash following the surprise results of the recent presidential election is the focus on the bogus news sites that were ubiquitous on social media during the dreadfully long campaign season. I’ve witnessed many conversations and multiple, people of good faith ask: how do we know when a news source is biased?

The latest thing on social media is the creation of lists of fake news sites for people to avoid. Everyone seems to be eager to jump in as a consultant. LA Times,[1] AOL News,[2] US News & World Report,[3] Snopes,[4] of course, and many, many others. The problem is compounded when the people reporting the list of fake news sites are charged with being misleading.[5]

Even the answer to the question of what news sites to avoid depends on who is answering the question. According to Scott Shackford of, Editor of Reason.com, false news and satirical news sites are one thing, but slanted news sites are another.[6] If the news being reported isn’t false, who’s to say how slanted is “fake”? Continue reading

Vetting the Truth in Our Echo Chambers

I don’t want to live in my own echo chamber, but I fear that most people do. Judging by the things I see on social media, a large number of people hear what they want to hear, see what they want to see and think what they want to think, regardless of the facts.

We all have our own worldviews. Some try to keep an open mind, but all of us see through filters that we have either consciously or unconsciously developed. These worldviews are a visceral part of us. Our identities are closely connected them, whether carefully crafted or inadvertent.

It seems that most of us have hard time seeing past our own worldviews, and I include the media in that generalized statement. I don’t exclude myself from that observation. I have to fight (myself) to maintain even a semblance of an open mind. Continue reading

The Visceral Nature of Truth

Taking a step back from the clamor on social media, from the pundits and news sources, which have rarely been so vitriolic, righteous and passionate since the last presidential election, the more distant perspective gives me pause. One thing rings out to me as truth in the cacophony of disparate voices; it seems that everyone believes passionately that truth is truth, and truth is objective and people should know what truth is.

Yet, there is so much disagreement, and so many shades of disagreement. There is a virtual panoply of disagreement on all subjects, an almost infinite array of shades of disagreement even on matters on which some agreement can be found. But there is one common denominator.

The common denominator is that we all seem to believe that truth exists and that truth is objective. Continue reading