Opinion

Paul Ryan doesn’t have a prayer

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speaking in 2011 to the Conservative Political Action Committee in Washington, D.C. Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons

The Rev. Patrick Conroy has been chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives since 2011. RNS photo by Brent Wojahn/The Oregonian

(RNS) — The Rev. Patrick Conroy, the chaplain of the House of Representatives, is resigning effective May 24.

Normally, such news about an official the public sees as ceremonial — but who provides a vital service to many House members and their families — would not cause a stir.

But nothing about Conroy’s departure is normal.

Capitol Hill erupted in anger this week when The Hill newspaper obtained a copy of Conroy’s resignation letter, which indicated that House Speaker Paul Ryan fired him.

“As you have requested, I hereby offer my resignation as the 60th Chaplain of the United States House of Representatives,” Conroy wrote.

Members of both parties are demanding answers.

Ryan did not even have the courtesy to inform Conroy of his decision in person. He sent an underling to fire the respected Jesuit priest.

Democrats and Republicans want to know whether Conroy was fired because Ryan objected to a prayer Conroy offered in the House chamber on Nov. 6, as the Ways and Means Committee began work on a trillion-dollar, deficit-financed tax bill designed to benefit the wealthiest Americans.

“May all Members be mindful that the institutions and structures of our great Nation guarantee the opportunities that have allowed some to achieve great success, while others continue to struggle,” Conroy prayed.

“May their efforts these days guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.”

In addition to being an admirable sentiment, this is an innocuous and nonpartisan prayer.

Yet in a smug and condescending rebuke, Ryan told Conroy, “Padre, you just got to stay out of politics.”

Perhaps Ryan simply did not want his own conscience troubled about giving tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires that would cause his party to balloon the national debt and later demand massive cuts in federal spending that benefits poor and vulnerable people.

But it seems likelier that junior congressmen in Ryan’s party, of which he is supposed to be the leader, forced the speaker to punish the priest.

How dare a chaplain remember poor people before God on a day the House proceeds on a tax cut for the rich?

Adding insult to injury, a Ryan spokeswoman said that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was informed of the firing in advance but did not object to it. Pelosi’s office said she did object. 

If all this was not bad enough, a Democratic aide told The Hill some evangelical Republicans objected to Conroy inviting a Muslim to give an opening prayer. The Republican Party speaks often of its support for religious freedom, but perhaps they don’t mean to preserve it for everybody.

Conroy has served as House chaplain since 2011, when he was nominated by then-Speaker John Boehner. The priest was magnanimous in an interview with The New York Times after his firing, saying, “My understanding going into this is that I serve at the prerogative of the speaker.”

As always, there may be more to the story.

But until we know more details, this episode looks horrible for Ryan, who regularly acquiesces to the ugliest Republican trends in the Trump era.

Ryan should not capitulate to the most odious and extreme impulses of his caucus. As speaker, he is supposed to act with the best interests of the institution in mind. Having announced his own retirement earlier this month, Ryan should now avoid the abdications of leadership and failures of courage that have marked his speakership.

Firing the House chaplain makes Ryan look weak and vindictive. Maybe new details will surface that justify Conroy’s ouster.

Until then, the speaker doesn’t have a prayer.

(Jacob Lupfer, a frequent commentator on religion and politics, is a writer and consultant in Baltimore. His website is www.jacoblupfer.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jlupf. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of Religion News Service.)

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Jacob Lupfer

75 Comments

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  • The best way to avoid this happening again…is not to have a Chaplain in Congress.

    There are plenty of Washington DC churches, temples, mosques, etc. to provide for the spiritual needs (real or fake) of the elected representatives.

  • For those curious about separation of church and state: Chaplains serving government, in the military or otherwise, are often able to fulfill the needs of any denomination. They are adept at working with people of all faiths and are called to do so regularly. A church on a Base serves everyone, all religions, all needs. There is no establishment of religion with a chaplain.

  • Everyone is not religious in a secular state. A Chaplain doesn’t serve any needs for the non-believers. For those with religious needs, as Damien Priestly mentions, their are sufficient religious institutions in the District. We don’t need the government providing these needs at public expense.

  • You didn’t hear the good news?

    Humanist, 28, will lead a team of three priests after being appointed first atheist head chaplain in the NHS [National Health Service] amid increasing demand for pastoral support from patients with no religion
    Daily Mail – April 9, 2018

    Jane Flint: ‘Having an atheist chaplain is about patient choice’: The first non-religious pastoral carer in the NHS on why patients need someone to just be there – to hear their stories or bear witness to their pain, whatever their beliefs
    The Guardian – October 26, 2017

  • Get with the times, dude. Atheistic chaplaincy is no longer an oxymoron, donchano.

    (1) Humanist, 28, will lead a team of three priests after being appointed first atheist head chaplain in the NHS [National Health Service] amid increasing demand for pastoral support from patients with no religion
    Daily Mail – April 9, 2018

    (2) Jane Flint: ‘Having an atheist chaplain is about patient choice’: The first non-religious pastoral carer in the NHS on why patients need someone to just be there – to hear their stories or bear witness to their pain, whatever their beliefs
    The Guardian – October 26, 2017

  • Nothing (political) to see here, folks. Strictly professional & predicated on performance, chaplaincy-wise, is all. Just go with this explanation for now, that all this is that “Ryan … forced Conroy out because he wasn’t doing a very good job tending to the pastoral needs of lawmakers and that lawmakers had brought concerns to him. … ‘He had a number of complaints that the chaplain was not meeting the pastoral needs of the members in general’ … [Conroy’s replacement shall instead be] ‘someone who has the instincts to go and minister to those that are hurting as opposed to someone always waiting (for someone) to come to them.’ … [I mean, for crying out loud, do remember that at] a service earlier this month for a former House staff aide [Chaplain Conroy] repeatedly mispronounced the former aide’s name and referred to the aide’s ex-wife as his wife”!

    Source: Andrew Taylor, “Paul Ryan accused of firing U.S. House chaplain over his political beliefs”, The Associated Press, April 27, 2018.

  • -> “which prohibits an establishment of religion, is neutral…”

    A fair definition of secular.

    -> …”and which generally views religion as a positive civic good.”

    Didn’t always view it that way …and may not in the future (and maybe not now).

  • Thanks, this was news to me. I just read the article on Patheos.
    The British may consider this logical. If I wanted counseling about life or death, I would rather have a secular counselor with a background in Psychology and Philosophy.

  • I agree with you. In a secular environment it would be acceptable to consider religion and faith as good or bad. The government would be prohibited from taking sides on this.

  • As Diana Butler Bass said in an excellent Twitter thread yesterday, U.S. (white) Christians just don’t want to hear the bible — to hear the bible preached by their pastors. It’s too uncomfortable and too inconvenient: she writes,

    https://twitter.com/dianabutlerbass/status/989846391601225729

    “I’m not a pastor, but I preach about 20 times a year — different churches, different places. And, during the rise of Trump, preaching and praying in public became an increasingly contentious practice. 3/

    Because, frankly, Jesus — and the Bible more generally — say a lot of stuff that sounds political. About poverty, immigrants, outsiders. About compassion and hospitality and justice. 4/

    I personally know a half dozen clergy who have lost their jobs over a sermon preached or a prayer prayed — one that was interpreted as an attack on Trump or thought to ‘divide’ a congregation. 12/

    If Father Pat got fired for speaking Jesus’ words about the poor, Father Pat is in good company. Because this is happening. Good people, being faithful to the texts, are getting fired. 20/”

    To sum up what I hear her saying in this valuable thread:

    American white Christians to their pastors: “Don’t you DARE preach the bible to me, or the words and example of Jesus.

    Because that’s political and I will get enraged if you go political on me.

    Preach that message that makes me feel comfortable. The one that makes me feel especially comfortable despising and attacking the poor, targeted minority groups, immigrants, gay folks.

    You know, the bible that consists of a handful of verses I’ve snatched out of context because they apply to SOMEONE ELSE I prefer to hate — not to me.

    I don’t intend to hear that other political stuff about love and the poor and the least among us and how God judges nations for being inhospitable and building walls.”

  • And why do we have a chaplain for the House of Representatives? What are we paying them? Out damn spot as obviously prayers in this or any other institution are a waste of time and money!!

  • We should replace all chaplains, priests, nuns, imams, and other clerics with the following notification:

    Putting the kibosh on all religion in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    • A constant cycle of reincarnation until enlightenment is reached and belief that various beings (angels?, tinkerbells? etc) exist that we, as mortals, cannot comprehend makes for a no on Sikhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    “The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother’s womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. “

  • The reason they have a chaplain is to show the world how righteous and holy they are! The Bible tells them “don’t be like the hypocrites that pray on public street corners or who sound bells and trumpets on their way to the temple–when you pray, pray quietly in the privacy of your home…..” I paraphrased here.

  • Now the following report, however, from the week before, makes no sense – if yesterday’s news makes sense. The one contradicts the other.

    “The in-house chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives is stepping down next month after seven years in the post. Rev. Patrick J. Conroy, 67, a Catholic priest of the Jesuit order, has served in the post since 2011, when then-Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi pegged him for the post. … Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin commended Conroy for his work as chaplain Monday [April 16, 2018]. ‘As chaplain, Father Conroy has been a great source of strength and support to our community,’ Ryan said in a statement. ‘He is deeply admired by members and staff. Father Conroy’s ministry here has made a difference, and we are all very grateful to him.'”

    Maybe there IS something going on here, after all.

    I take back what I said yesterday.

    Source: Griffin Connolly, “House Chaplain Patrick Conroy to Step Down In May: Jesuit priest has served in the role since 2011”, Roll Call, April 17, 2018.

  • They’ve had a paid chaplain since the founding of the country.

    The Founders believed religion to be a civic good.

  • One assumes that you consider Diana Butler Bass’ Twitter thread “excellent” because you happen to agree with.

    Ms. Bass exited two churches and wound in a church where the Bible is not even considered binding – the Protestant Episcopal Church – and even some bishops do not consider it inspired.

    That’s hardly the platform from which to make her argument.

  • One assumes that you are unable to deal with anything Diana Butler Bass says here because mounting an ad hominem argument is so much easier. Cheaper.

    And so much less persuasive or substantive.

  • Given you and your cohorts at Bilgrimage’s frequent use of ad hominems, be they aimed at other posters, church dignitaries – up to and including popes, especially John Paul II*1 – or whoever happens to be the current target, I am not sure you’re more more persuasive from your platform than Ms. Bass is from hers.

    I also note in passing that my comments did not constitute an ad hominem.

    That would require that I disparage Ms. Bass personally.

    What I pointed out was that her current church holds the Bible in little or no regard, while her previous two churches were mainline Bible Protestant denominations, and that PECUSA may not be the platform from which to make a pro-Bible argument.

    *1 – http://bilgrimage.blogspot.com/2010/01/john-paul-iis-penitential-practices-and.html

    “And the revelations of this week that John Paul practiced self-flagellation and slept on the floor at night with his arms outstretched are part of that campaign—a political campaign, one has to note, which seeks to place the stamp of canonization on the church-politics of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and on the re-clericalization of the church these two popes have sought.”

  • It is neutral on the subject of religion or lack thereof…secular is not hostile to religion.

  • Sometimes even non-believers just need someone to talk to, in the military services chaplains and military psychologists are available to help any and all members with counseling needs, each to his or her own preference. Perhaps eliminating congressional chaplains is not the answer, but provision for a congressional psychologist would be.

  • “Ryan did not even have the courtesy to inform Conroy of his decision in person. He sent an underling to fire the respected Jesuit priest.”

    This reflects the cowardice that has emerged as the defining quality of Paul Ryan’s character, or lack of it.

  • Congressmen receive ample medical insurance. They can find a counselor of their preference in the private sector.

    The chaplain leads prayers in Congress. This should not be happening at a government event or on government property. Non-believers should not need to endure a religious service when attending a government function.

    There are proportionally more Evangelical pastors in proportion to Evangelical believers in our military.

  • The next hire should be Muslim as there are 2 Muslim congressman. That would go over well, wouldn’t it?

  • Considering the idiocy of Catholicism that Conroy represents, Ryan should have simply sent him a pink slip via email.

    Idiocy of Cathocism?

    Limbo, the denial of priesthood to 50% of their membership, the restriction of priesthood to supposedly celibate men (except ex-Episcopalian priests), the continued train of Vatican “leadership” by old European/Argentinian white men, bodily resurrections, ascensions, assumptions, holy ghosts, indulgences and sin atonement by a long-dead, illiterate Jewish rabbi.

  • Paul Ryan follows Ayn Rand. He thinks it’s possible to follow Ayn Rand and Jesus at the same time.
    I do agree that there are plenty of religious organizations of all kinds to provide spiritual guidance and a chaplain isn’t necessary.

  • my guess is that ryan who is staying until the end of his term still has some items he wants to get done . for that he needs the full support of his fellow republicans .

    as some seem to really not like conway–for the silly reasons noted in the article : a prayer for fairness and a invitation to a muslim cleric to the house–they wanted him gone .

    but none of the possible speakers in the next term wanted to have to do something so divisive at the start of their term . thus ryan was pressured to do it now so that he would have the backing for what he wants before he leaves .

  • just to be clear .

    the appointment of an atheist as a head chaplain of “n.h.s.” is about the british national health service . and it was an appointment for a regional area in that health service not for the country as a whole . and it has nothing to do with the united states or the u.s. congress .

    other than that the comment is accurate .

  • Micah 2:11

    Suppose a prophet full of lies would say to you, “I’ll preach to you the joys of wine and alcohol!” That’s just the kind of prophet you would like! (NLT)

  • “[Mr. Arnzen] mounting an ad hominem argument is so much easier.”

    It’s his specialty.

  • You’re excellent at providing ad hominems — including the indirect kind.

    I can vouch for your quals here.

  • “A Chaplain doesn’t serve any needs for the non-believers.”

    And my late Catholic chaplain at a VAMC would likely say otherwise (full-time chaplain at the medical center for ~ 25 years).

    And so would his patients, believers or not.

    SIGNED – USCG veteran and VAMC retiree

  • The son of neoevangelical Tony Campolo is an atheist chaplain in the US. RNS did a scoop on that last year.

    US Navy will get an atheist chaplain sooner or later. The demand for such is high among the soldiers.

    I’m happy for you atheists. Plus for the Freethought Caucus in Capitol Hill.

  • It is good to hear that your Catholic chaplain is an effective counselor for non-believers. I expect there are others who are able to take a secular stance. I also know that even though they all are supposed to operate in this way, this is not usual in the military.

    I am also benefiting from the VA Medical Program which I feel is far superior to private health care system. I am very concerned that the Republican Administration will privatize it using “Choice” as an excuse.

  • I believe that was added in the anti-communist 1950s to separate us from the Godless Communists.

  • Torah means teaching or instruction. It does not necessarily mean that you have to take every world literally. Atheists are sometimes as literalist as fundamentalists. Jews can always question. The rabbis said so in the Talmud.

  • I’m not going to take the bait. You’ll just tell me it doesn’t mean anything unless you believe in Jesus as God.

  • It actually dates back to 1864, during the Civil War, when it was placed on the two-cent piece.

    The same period produced the Battle Hymn of the Republic:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_Hymn_of_the_Republic

    and caused Lincoln to say:

    “Amid the greatest difficulties of my administration, when I could not see any other resort, I would place my whole reliance in God, knowing that all would go well, and that He would decide for the right.” – October 24, 1863

  • Just to note your near complete unfamiliarity with the topic, “the restriction of priesthood to supposedly celibate men (except ex-Episcopalian priests)” is almost completely erroneous.

    All of the Eastern churches in the Catholic Church permit marriage.

    While the Catholic Church does accommodate former Anglican ministers in the Anglican Use (somewhat akin to a “rite” within that church), it also accommodates former Lutheran pastors, and on a case-by-case basis others.

    Every time I encounter one of your rants in the midst of a discussion, I am reminded that Shakespeare said it best:

    “… it is a tale told by an idi-t, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

  • I was reading Love, Joy, Feminism yesterday and she had this post: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2018/04/why-answers-in-genesis-apologetics-falls-flat.html

    Her description of how she was taught by Answers in Genesis to refute other religions suddenly reminded me of the comment f yours.

    Did you come from an evangelical background? If so, how were you taught about other faiths? Were you raised with the idea that it is important to tell other people that their beliefs are wrong and that your are right? What personal connections have you had in real life to members of non-Christian faiths?

  • Background: ex-Catholic, science background with three degrees in said sciences, now atheist based on the research done on the history and foundations of all religions, went to school with people of all faiths and no faith.

    The Great Kibosh is based on the following studies:

    1. Historical Jesus Theories,
    earlychristianwritings.com/theories.html – the names of many of the
    contemporary historical Jesus scholars and the t-tles of their over 100 books
    on the subject.

    Early Christian Writings,
    earlychristianwritings.com/

    – a list of early Christian doc-uments to include the year of publication–

    30-60 CE Passion Narrative

    40-80 Lost Sayings Gospel Q

    50-60 1 Thessalonians

    50-60 Philippians

    50-60 Galatians

    50-60 1 Corinthians

    50-60 2 Corinthians

    50-60 Romans

    50-60 Philemon

    50-80 Colossians

    50-90 Signs Gospel

    50-95 Book of Hebrews

    50-120 Didache

    50-140 Gospel of Thomas

    50-140 Oxyrhynchus 1224 Gospel

    50-200 Sophia of Jesus Christ

    65-80 Gospel of Mark

    70-100 Epistle of James

    70-120 Egerton Gospel

    70-160 Gospel of Peter

    70-160 Secret Mark

    70-200 Fayyum Fragment

    70-200 Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs

    73-200 Mara Bar Serapion

    80-100 2 Thessalonians

    80-100 Ephesians

    80-100 Gospel of Matthew

    80-110 1 Peter

    80-120 Epistle of Barnabas

    80-130 Gospel of Luke

    80-130 Acts of the Apostles

    80-140 1 Clement

    80-150 Gospel of the Egyptians

    80-150 Gospel of the Hebrews

    80-250 Christian Sibyllines

    90-95 Apocalypse of John

    90-120 Gospel of John

    90-120 1 John

    90-120 2 John

    90-120 3 John

    90-120 Epistle of Jude

    93 Flavius Josephus

    100-150 1 Timothy

    100-150 2 Timothy

    100-150 T-itus

    100-150 Apocalypse of Peter

    100-150 Secret Book of James

    100-150 Preaching of Peter

    100-160 Gospel of the Ebionites

    100-160 Gospel of the Nazoreans

    100-160 Shepherd of Hermas

    100-160 2 Peter

    4. Jesus Database,
    http://www.faithfutures.org/JDB/intro.html –”The JESUS DATABASE is an
    online a-nnotated inventory of the traditions concerning the life and teachings
    of Jesus that have survived from the first three centuries of the Common Era.
    It includes both canonical and extra-canonical materials, and is not limited to
    the traditions found within the Christian New Testament.”

    5. Josephus on Jesus mtio.com/articles/bissar24.htm

    6. The Jesus Seminar, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_Seminar

    7.
    http://www.biblicalartifacts.com/items/785509/item785509biblicalartifacts.html
    – books on the health and illness during the time of the NT

    8. Economics in First Century Palestine, K.C. Hanson and D. E. Oakman,
    Palestine in the Time of Jesus, Fortress Press, 1998.

    9.The Gnostic Jesus

    (Part One in a Two-Part Series on A-ncient and Modern G-nosticism)

    by Douglas Groothuis:
    http://www.equip.org/articles/gnosticism-and-the-gnostic-jesus/10. The
    interpretation of the Bible in the Church, Pontifical Biblical Commission

    Presented on March 18, 1994

    ewtn.com/library/CURIA/PBCINTER.HTM#2

    11. The Jesus Database- newer site:

    wiki.faithfutures.org/index.php?title=Jesus_Database

    12. Jesus Database with the example of Supper and Eucharist:

    faithfutures.org/JDB/jdb016.html

    13. Josephus on Jesus by Paul Maier:

    mtio.com/articles/bissar24.htm

    13. http://www.textweek.com/mtlk/jesus.htmm- Historical Jesus Studies

    14. The Greek New Testament: laparola.net/greco/

    15. D-iseases in the Bible:

    http://books.google.com/books/about/The_diseases_of_the_Bible.html?id=C1YZAAAAYAAJ

    16. Religion on- Line (6000 articles on the
    history of religion, churches, theologies,

    theologians, ethics, etc. religion-online.org/

    17.
    The New Testament Gateway – Internet NT ntgate-way.com/

    18
    Writing the New Testament- existing copies, oral tradition etc.

    ntgat-eway.com/

    19. JD Crossan’s conclusions about the authencity
    of most of the NT based on the above plus the conclusions of other NT exegetes
    in the last 200 years:

    http://wiki.faithfutures.org/index.p-hp?title=Crossan_Inventory

    20. Early Jewish Writings- Josephus and his books
    by title with the complete translated work in English
    :earlyjewishwritings.com/josephus.html

    21. Luke and Josephus- was there a c-onnection?

    in-fidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/lukeandjosephus.html

    22. NT and beyond time line:

    pbs.org/empires/peterandpaul/history/timeline/

    23. St. Paul’s Time line with discussion of
    important events:

    harvardhouse.com/prophetictech/new/pauls_life.htm

    24. See http://www.amazon.com for a list of JD
    Crossan’s books and those of the other Jesus Seminarians: Reviews of said books
    are included and selected pages can now be viewed on Amazon. Some books can be
    found on-line at Google Books.

    25. Father Edward Schillebeeckx’s words of wisdom
    as found in his books.

    27. The books of the following : Professors Gerd
    Ludemann, Marcus Borg, Paula Fredriksen, Elaine Pagels, Karen Armstrong and
    Bishop NT Wright.

    28. Father Raymond Brown’s An Introduction to the New Testament, Doubleday, NY,
    1977, 878 pages, with Nihil obstat and Imprimatur.

    29. Luke Timothy Johnson’s book The Real Jesus

    “Did Jesus Exist?: The
    Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth [Hardcover]

    Bart D. Ehrman (Author)

    “Large numbers of atheists, humanists, and conspiracy
    theorists are raising one of the most pressing questions in the history of
    religion: “Did Jesus exist at all?” Was he invented out of whole
    cloth for nefarious purposes by those seeking to control the masses? Or was Jesus
    such a shadowy figure—far removed from any credible historical evidence—that he
    bears no meaningful resemblance to the person described in the Bible?

    In Did Jesus Exist? historian and Bible
    expert Bart Ehrman confronts these questions, vigorously defends the
    historicity of Jesus, and provides a compelling portrait of the man from
    Nazareth. The Jesus you discover here may not be the Jesus you had hoped to
    meet—but he did exist, whether we like it or not.

  • A late coming Christian “tramp stamp” on our national character. Far different from our actual pluralistic national motto which means “Out of Many, One”

  • Do you have any deep, real-life experience with non-Orthodox Jews and Judaism?

    Because you don’t seem to realize that you are critiquing a caricature. You are failing to persuade because you don’t understand the basics of what non-Orthodox Jews do or don’t believe, what values they hold or why they identify as they do.

  • An extensive bibliography, but entirely unrelated to the questions I asked since this is about Jesus and I asked specifically about what you knew about members of non-Christian religions.

  • Look at the books referenced and read by yours truly .Exegetes such as Armstrong and Borg studies cover Islam, Buddhism et. al . Crossan intertwined a lot of Judaism in his studies on the historic Jesus and Paul as both were Jews.

  • I did a search on Marcus Borg’s books. There is a whole lot on Jesus, and one book on parallel saying between Jesus and Buddha. Borg’s frame of reference is clearly Christian.

    Studies in Judaism as it was 2,000 years ago really don’t have anything to do with understanding Jews today.

    Karen Armstrong clearly comes from a Christian (esp. Catholic) background, but you are correct that she has done some work with comparative religion including Judaism and Islam. How have you read and understood her work in those areas? I read this interview with her: http://www.powells.com/post/interviews/karen-armstrong-turn-turn-turn One quote stood out for me: ” I say that religion isn’t about believing things. It’s ethical alchemy. It’s about behaving in a way that changes you, that gives you intimations of holiness and sacredness.

    People have such clear ideas of what God is you know: creator, father, personality watching over me. It’s not what I believe in, even though I like to use the word sometimes. So people will ask, “Is traditional faith wrong?” And I say, “No.” It doesn’t really matter what you believe as long as it leads you to practical compassion. If your belief in a traditional God makes you come out imbued with a desire to feel with your fellow human beings, to make a place for them in your heart, to work to end suffering in the
    world, then it’s good. Nobody has the last word on God, whether they’re conservative or liberals.” ”

    What is your view on that quote? I also note that Armstrong does seem to have some connection with actual living non-Orthodox Jews today, since she has taught as a Reform Jewish college, and that quote seems to reflect a POV which is quite consistent with Reform Judaism.

    Even with the addition of Armstrong though – I’m not seeing you going to sources that are a direct reflection of what members of non-Christian religions think, what they value and what makes them tick. Can you see that it is all being filtered through a Christian lens? There is some value in explaining other religions in a way that Christians can understand, of course, but that isn’t the same as having direct knowledge of how Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, etc. view the world themselves. It’s a translation of sorts.

  • I’d argue that some stuff is actually more powerful when you don’t take it literally.

    Imagine a debate 2,000 years from now, on the other side of the world, arguing about whether 1984 or Animal Farm is true. Someone from Answers in Orwell tries to do a presentation to argue that talking animals could have existed. Someone else has done some archeology and found that artifacts from 1984 don’t seem to match up exactly with the events describe in the book. There are calls for these books to be utterly rejected because they are false – because nobody understands that they were written in a context that reflected realities around them even if it wasn’t a literal history, and that the story was intended to make some profound points, which other people found truthful and relevant.

  • As noted in my original response, I went to school with atheists, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Shintoists and those having most of the brands of Christianity. Ditto for years of employment In various very large research centers.

  • What did you learn from them as a result? [We’ve had classmates, colleagues and neighbors of all different faiths, and what we learned or shared varied, depending on the situation, closeness of the relationship and comfort level.]

  • this christian is also happy that american providing counseling and spiritual help for those without determined faith .

    but do you believe that the navy is less faith based than the air force or army ? maybe its the lack of foxholes when on ships .

  • I learned that there was a need for the Great Kibosh. Mission accomplished.

    An enhancement thereof:

    1. Abraham founder/father of three major religions was probably a mythical character. If he was real, he was at best a combination
    of at least three men. 1.5 million Conservative Jews and their rabbis have relegated Abraham to the myth pile along with much if not all the OT.

    2. Jesus, the illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter possibly suffering from hallucinations, has
    been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth.

    Analyses of his life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Crossan, Borg, Ludemann and Fredriksen, via the NT and related documents have concluded that only about 30% or less of Jesus’ sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian sects.

    3. Mohammed, an illiterate, hallucinating Arab, also had embellishing/hallucinating scribal
    biographers who not only added “angels” and flying chariots to the
    Koran but also a militaristic agenda to support the plundering and looting of the lands of non-believers.

    This agenda continues as shown by the conduct of the seven Muslim doctors in the UK, the 9/11 terrorists, the 24/7 Sunni suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers , the 24/7 Shiite
    suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers , the Bali crazies, the Kenya crazies, the Pakistani/Afghani koranics, the Palestine suicide bombers/rocketeers, the Lebanese
    nutcases and the Filipino koranics i.e. a summary of the War on Terror-the Muslim “who are the bad guys” Problem.

    4. Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley et al, founders of Christian-based religions, also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of “pretty wingy thingie” visits and “prophecies” for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immaculate conceptions).

    5. Hinduism ( – “Hinduism cannot be described as an organized
    religion. It is not founded by any individual. Hinduism is God centred and therefore one can call Hinduism as founded by God, because the answer to the question ‘Who is behind the eternal principles and who makes them work?’ will have to be ‘Cosmic power, Divine power, God’”

    The caste/laborer system and cow reverence are problems when saying a fair and rational God founded
    Hinduism.

    6. Buddhism- “Buddhism began in India about 500 years before the birth of Christ. The people living at that time had become disillusioned with certain beliefs of Hinduism including the caste system, which had grown extremely complex. The
    number of outcasts (those who did not belong to any particular caste) was continuing to grow.”

    “However, in Buddhism, like so many other religions, fanciful stories arose concerning events in the life of the founder, Siddhartha Gautama (fifth century B.C.):”

    Archaeological discoveries have proved, beyond a doubt, his historical character, but apart from the legends we know very little about the circumstances of his life.

    http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/BUDDHISM/SIDD.HTM

    Bottom line: There are
    many good ways of living but be aware of the hallucinations/embellishments and
    myths surrounding the founders of said rules of life.

  • What does “mission accomplished” mean? Did your schoolmates and colleagues all have a mass loss of religion upon hearing your words? Did these religions suddenly vanish without anyone noticing?

    Your last paragraph makes some sense. Just 2 points:
    1. Wouldn’t folks already be aware of the myths about the founders, and if they were, why would you calling those things myths be persuasive to them?

    2. Why do the lives of the founders matter at all? Teachings are either good and useful, or they aren’t.

  • My religious family and friends all suffer from the 3B Syndrome, Bred, Born and Brainwashed in their beliefs. Unfortunately, the Great Kibosh has yet to be a cure for most but one must keep hammering and thanks to you, the the hammer continues to strike daily with said words entering the clouds of Amazon etc. server farms as we text. Danke schoen!

  • Cynthia is right. You haven’t read anything written by Jews. You have no knowledge of non-Orthodox Jews at all. Do you know that all non-Orthodox denominations allow gay marriage?

  • I recently made a comment. Our friend challenged it. I then cited the two underlying scriptural verses for my remark.

  • My time on active duty involved 21 months aboard a river buoy tender on the Arkansas River and two years (to the day!) of shore duty on the banks of the Ohio River. We had no chaplains but relied, instead, on local churches (I’m Catholic). Other than boot camp with a Navy chaplain by name of McHale (!) and an informal chat with an Army chaplain at Ft. Campbell while visiting the post for the Office of Personnel Management, I’ve had no experience dealing with military chaplains. The classification standard for Chaplain, GS-0060 should be available at https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/classification-qualifications/classifying-general-schedule-positions/standards/0000/gs0060.pdf.

    Based on my nearly 10+ years working in HR at two VAMCs, my impression is that most clinical and administrative staff are struggling to help patients and their families in an unduly complex work environment. Medical centers seem typically to be underfunded by Congress. I’ve no problem with VA relying on private healthcare practitioners in carefully circumscribed and very limited circumstances, but the answer must necessarily be more money for the VA healthcare system. (I might note that one of our former VAMC directors had just recently stepped down from his presidential appointment as head of the entire VA healthcare system.)

  • Simply go to my Disqus page, click the various article titles, and scroll down to our exchanges. Since I’ve provided at least 95 percent of the substantive information in our dealings, I’ll let you do the easy part.

  • By the way, this, too, is great news:

    Hemant Mehta, “MIT Humanist Chaplain, the First at a Tech-Focused School”, Friendly Atheist, April 24, 2018.

  • I agree with you that the VAMC is drastically underfunded. In spite of this their care is more effective and less expensive than that of the private system.

    The VAMC is in danger from the present administration not because of the real problems its having but because its a good example of the benefits of health care that is not profit based. The corporations that lobby this administration have many friends there and the administration is planning to increase private care at the expense of VAMC funding.
    By cutting the funding of the VAMC they can show that the private sector is necessary. As the private sector intends to make a profit, Either the government will need to drastically increase funding, or let veterans receive less care

  • It is probably not fair to leave the impression that Conservative Judaism allows same sex marriage.

    In Conservative Judaism, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) of the Rabbinical Assembly makes the movement’s decisions concerning Jewish law.

    On December 6, 2006, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards adopted diametrically opposed responsa on the issue of sexual orientation. The CJLS’s action permits each congregational rabbi and rabbinical school to decide which responsum to adopt and hence set its own policy on the subject. The adoption of dual, contradictictory responsa was a straddling of the contemporary societal divide over sexual matters.

    As with Christian denominations, this is leading to a schism within the movement, with those rejecting same sex behavior slowly forming its governance.

    There are congregations which allow gay marriage, and those which do not.

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