Category Archives: General

When Political Tension is a Good Thing

Political tension is built into the fabric of our nation. The Founders intentionally created a checks and balances tension that forces cooperation and enforces collaboration across political differences.

However …

  • …when “we” are in power, we wish those checks and balances were not in our way.
  • …but when “they” are in power, we are grateful for the tension that limits the tyranny of the majority.

Good tension maintains the strength of a suspension bridge; creates beautiful music from a guitar string; produces lovely woven and knitted fabrics.

But, of course, there are other meanings of the word “tension:” definitions that include words like headache, anxiety, stress, anger.

This is where too many of us find ourselves in today’s political climate. This is why Parker Palmer wrote his wonderful little book: Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit.

Continue reading When Political Tension is a Good Thing

Across All Our Aisles

To The Paris News

Guest Column by Charlotte Coyle

Once again, I want to compliment our party chairs for the Party Views column offered regularly by The Paris News. This last one (Sunday, June 9, 2019) was especially good. Both Gary O’Connor and Chris Dux stuck to their point without (much) snark or (many) red flag words. This is what we want: your well reasoned rationale for your position. We readers are pretty discerning: we can see right through Straw Man arguments that attempt to sensationalize and demonize the other side.

Both Mr. O’Connor and Mr. Dux commented on the bipartisan efforts of our Texas Legislators displayed in this past legislative session. As O’Connor pointed out, one reason this across the aisle cooperation happened is because there are more Democrats seated in the House and the Senate since the 2018 midterm shift.

This is a good thing.

This greater balance is good for Texas and I hope all of us applaud the many ways more people can now participate in our public and political conversations. When most of our Representatives are White Christian Republican Males then we all suffer because this demographic does not at all represent the wide diversity of Texans. Even though the love of my life is a White Christian Male and I am ever so blessed to have him in my house, in the Texas House and Senate I expect a healthy balance of men and women, Republican and Democrat and Independent, a variety of Christian as well as non-Christian, gay and straight, rich and poor, white and black and brown. Only then will Texans be appropriated represented. Only then will our public laws and policies reflect the needs of all of us and protect the rights of everyone.

This political process is what our Founders intended. Even though I doubt they could have envisioned the diversity we enjoy today, still they understood that checks and balances force cooperation and ensure a process that limits the tyranny of the majority.

This is a good thing.

My hope is that we Texans will not feel this cooperation with one another is a burden but will instead recognize the gift and will take more opportunities to connect with our neighbors who think differently than we.

Consider checking out the On Being Civil Conversations Project on-line. Or look into the good work of Living Room Conversations and Better Angels. May more and more of us take the initiative to reach across all our various aisles.

Find the Civil Conversations Project here:

Join a Living Room Conversation here:

See what the Better Angels effort is doing here:

Charlotte Coyle is a retired minister who lives in Paris. She blogs about intersections of faith, politics and culture at her website:

They Rise (guest post from Rev. Don Underwood)

“All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one’s heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.” (Cormac McCarthy, The Road)

Is it possible that something holy and profound might grow out of this moment?

The most extraordinary thing about the Christian faith is not that we believe in a transcendent God, or that life does not just end at the grave, or that failure and sin can be overcome by something we call grace (or love). It is the fact that all these beliefs are rooted in the dark moment of the Cross, in the deadly betrayal of a follower, in the cowardly lack of leadership by a politician, in the pitiful cheers of ordinary human beings who, for reasons inexplicable, cried “Crucify him!” Had we been there, we would surely have experienced the chaos and the hate and the cruelty as some kind of prelude to the end of times, or at least to some kind of dystopia that would not be worth enduring. Instead, we look back at that moment when all of humanity hung on the cross, and we proclaim it as a beginning rather than an ending. That is why we willingly descend into the season of Lent; ironically, it is our great affirmation that hope rises from the ashes.

I’ve been hearing the voices of children this week. I use that word carefully, because they are not children if judged by maturity or ability or even wisdom. The voices of some are stronger and more insightful than any of their parents, any of us. But they are children in the best sense of the word, undeterred by political and social realities, their sensibilities and love-for-life not yet tainted by the cynicism that has become pervasive in the world around them.

They rise. They speak. And they do so with the expectation that they will be heard.

Depending on where you stand, you may or may not like some of their policy ideas, but that really isn’t the point, is it? What is the point, you say? The point is that they stood at the Cross on that day, in the midst of the thunder and the bedlam and the death; they were witnesses to the cries and the agonies and the endings; they were schoolmates to the one who betrayed them.

And now they rise. And they say we can do better.

We can create a better world, and we will, for the simple reason that we breathe the same air and we need one another. Out of the grief and ashes, they remind us of grace and beauty and hope.

Reverend Don Underwood, pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in Plano TX




Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Florida; Photo credit CNN

Truth Will Out

Years ago, as a brand new minister, a woman in my church told me she had been sexually assaulted. I did not believe her. I knew the man she was accusing: a kind hearted, hard working regular guy. I just couldn’t believe he would do something so horrific so I took his word over hers.

That terrible mistake still haunts me.

It took immense courage for her to come forward and tell me the things she had experienced. The truth was painful and embarrassing and humiliating.

It took an immense cowardice for him to deny it. His lying was a self-serving, self-protective survival response. But it didn’t save him from the truth.

Truth will always come out. Continue reading Truth Will Out

When Women Were Objects

The stories keep coming. This politician and that corporate mogul face the accusations of numerous women who say they were touched inappropriately without their consent. This sports star and that news personality face public censure because of sexual harassment or violence against women.

The stories are not new. What IS new is that – finally – the stories evoke outrage in the American conscience.

Surely the women-as-objects paradigm is as old as time. Across the ages, across the globe, social systems evolved based on the premise that “might makes right” and physical strength justifies domination. Women are not the only people to find themselves on the bottom of this perverse hierarchy, but women and children are the most common targets throughout human history.

Within my own Christian religious tradition, patriarchy has been the norm. Our own Scriptures offer multitudes of examples of this cultural norm. Not because our religion created male dominance but rather because any religion can incorporate any kind of cultural expectations and baptize them with religious justifications. Continue reading When Women Were Objects

How Long, O Lord?

People of faith have endured violence since the beginning of time. Maybe the main reason for this truth is that people in general have encountered violence for all of our existence; people of faith have never escaped that human reality.

The massacre at Sutherland Springs TX takes our breath away and we find ourselves grappling once again with the epidemic of gun violence that infects our nation. The mass murders of these people who were worshiping within their sacred space evoke our anger, our confusion and our deepest indignation.

Continue reading How Long, O Lord?

When Respect is a Cultural Construct

Countless words have been spoken, tweeted and typed about the recent national anthem protests. My two cents: respect is a real and solid attitude but the ways we demonstrate respect is fluid. The signs of respect are a cultural construct.

When I was growing up in White Southern Christianity, it was disrespectful for women and girls to wear pants to church. In some traditions, for many years, it was disrespectful for women to attend church without a head covering – a hat or a scarf or a veil. Even today, in many Black churches, it continues to be a sign of respect for women to wear hats and men to wear suits.

In my current church culture, women aren’t expected to wear head coverings but men still remove their hats. Other signs of respect include standing, bowing and kneeling. I usually stand, I rarely kneel and I never bow. Is that disrespectful?

In my Southern culture, it was disrespectful for men to wear their hats at the dinner table; however, that was not true for the women in the room. Now, men wear their ball caps and cowboy hats in diners and restaurants all over the South.

In my world, it was disrespectful to call an older person by their first name; we called our elders Ms. Daisy or Mr. Smith. I still do that out of habit and respect when I greet my Meals on Wheels friends but now I call other people who are old enough to be my parents by their given names. Am I being disrespectful?

When I attend Rotary meetings, I am happy to stand, place my hand over my heart and recite the pledge of allegiance because I still believe in the ideals behind those words (even though I have never actually seen my nation live up to its promises!) But then I remove my hand and stand silently when the rest of the room recites the pledge to the Texas flag.

Tim Tebow knelt on the football field every time he scored a touchdown. I understand that to be a sign of respect for his God even in the midst of a very secular setting. Was he scolded for using the NFL to flaunt his personal beliefs? Was he chastised by fans because he was praying on NFL time?

Colin Kaepernick knelt on the sidelines whenever the national anthem was played. I understand that to be a sign of respect for the ideals of the Constitution and a protest of the ways America continues to fall short of its ideals.

Was he scolded for using the NFL to flaunt his personal beliefs? Was he chastised by fans because he was kneeling on NFL time?

The answers to the above questions are either “yes” or “no” depending on which “side” one is on.

Maybe part of the controversy goes back to religion. Secular folks criticized Tebow’s public religion and his seeming disrespect of America’s secular spaces. Religious folks criticized Kaepernick’s public protest and his seeming disrespect for America’s civil religion. (See Charlotte’s blog: Yes, Civil Religion is a Real Thing.)

Ironically, both situations can be seen as positive examples of the First Amendment in action.

The freedom to express one’s faith.

The freedom to protest.

Too many different “sides” in this controversy have disrespected the various embodiments of our Constitutional guarantees demonstrated in Tebow and Kaepernick. The signs and symbols have become more important than the actual, core values of America. That is why this has become such a divisive maelstrom.

Signs of respect are cultural constructs.

And over the years, those signs, those symbols of respect evolve as cultural traditions and expectations change.

But a person’s core attitude of respect and true patriotism can only be discerned by behaviors deeper than superficial signs. Not by kneeling or standing, not by words we mouth or decorations we wear on our lapels. But rather by the ways we actually participate in our national life together. The ways we understand our role as Americans and live that out as citizens within a shared and equitable society.

Let’s go deeper. Let’s be wiser, America.

Let’s stop hyperventilating over superficialities and find the ways we can work together to truly help America be great and kind and good and committed to her promises.

And let’s stop judging one another. Instead of accusing and demonizing, let us strive to presume good intentions of our fellow citizens and find our way to common ground. Let’s build something great together with mutual respect and courageous conviction.


Here are two excellent pieces I recommend.

David Frost’s blog on “Two Christianities.”

Dale Hansen’s challenge concerning the hypocrisies of the current anthem kerfuffle.


Image credit: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Charlotte Vaughan Coyle lives in Paris TX and blogs about intersections of faith, culture and politics on her website and Intersections Facebook page. She serves as national president for Coffee Party USA and contributes regularly to the Join the Coffee Party Movement Facebook page.

Charlotte is an ordained minister within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and also blogs about Scripture from a progressive Christian approach in her Living in The Story Musings.

Is it Really the End of White Christian America?

I am a White Christian American born and raised. So it’s been an interesting experience to read Robert Jones’ book: The End of White Christian America.

Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), begins with an obituary:

White Christian America is survived by two principal branches of descendants: a mainline Protestant family residing primarily in the Northeast and upper Midwest and an evangelical Protestant family living mostly in the South. Plans for a public memorial service have not been announced. 

He then tracks the history of White Christianity in America, from the founding of the nation all the way through the recent election in which 81% of White Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump.

(Black Christian America and Catholic America both have a different story. The work Jones tackles is challenging enough as he unpacks the complicated family tree of us Protestant White folks. But the analysis he offers about White Protestant Christians is important, critical even, in order to understand our current political climate.)

White Christian America was a given at this nation’s founding. Of course there were a handful of Deists among the Founders but almost everyone was some sort of Christian. Some were pious, others were nominal; some were active practitioners while others wore the name simply because of the comfort of its cultural pervasiveness. The culture of the day was White and Protestant. The leaders of the day were Free Male Land Owners.

So the question: “Is America a Christian nation?” never has been an appropriate framing of the situation. Yes – many of the Founders were some sort of Christian and often their thinking and writing reflected that orientation. Yes – America has been majority Christian for its entire lifetime. But No – the First Amendment makes it clear that, even if there is a religious majority within the nation, the federal government is to be neutral, not establishing (nor disestablishing) any particular religion. And Yes – ongoing amendments and common law have unpacked the First Amendment so the Constitution has been evolving across America’s entire lifetime.

Robert Jones outlines the historic divisions between the two major representatives of White Christian America: Protestant Mainline Christianity and Evangelical Christianity. He does this through the lens of three critical issues: politics, race and family. I will skim through his analysis of White Evangelical Christianity.

Politics in White Christian America

The marriage of White Evangelicals to the Republican Party is a fairly recent development. Jones identifies how a “White Christian Strategy” arose out of the “Southern Strategy” of the 1960’s when White Southern Democrats flocked to the GOP in droves because of their disdain for the Civil Rights Movement. Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority tapped in to this “Great White Shift” and the Christian Right became a political force. In 1976, Falwell’s “I Love America” rallies were filled to overflowing with people who wanted political solutions to their targeted issues of abortion, feminism and homosexuality. Heirs of this religious-political movement continued to gain steam during the 1990’s, but during the 2000’s, there were numerous scandals, stumbles, divisions and declines within White Christian America. This led to the election of President Barack Obama in 2008.

Just a few months into the Obama presidency, however, the Tea Party emerged. There have been numerous explanations for this movement but Robert Jones cites PRRI data that clearly links the Tea Party to the Religious Right. It wasn’t just about taxes and small government like they claimed; rather objections to abortion and gay marriage dominated the Tea Party movement, demonstrating to Jones that the Tea Party was “another revival of White Christian America.”

Robert Jones added a chapter to this book after the 2016 election, analyzing the fact that 81% of White Evangelical Christians voted for Trump. Jones remains convinced that the End of White Christian America really has arrived, and he sees the current situation not as a revival but rather as the last gasps of a growing minority. White Christian America has been in power for 239 years and we should not expect it to go quietly into the night.

White Christian America and the Family

Jones shows how successful the Christian Right was in its early efforts to outlaw gay marriage based on its commitment to “traditional family values.” Numerous states passed laws and even Constitutional amendments that outlawed marriage equality in the years leading up to the 2015 tumultuous Supreme Court decision. Since that ruling, a variety of religious freedom issues continue to arise that demonstrate the ongoing resistance from the Religious Right.

Racism in White Christian America

In my opinion, the most powerful chapter in Jones’ book is chapter 5. Race: Desegregating White Christian America. In recent years, when young Black men and women were being killed in epidemic numbers by police officers across the nation, President Obama said: “This has been a slow-rolling crisis. This has been going on for a long time. This is not new, and we shouldn’t pretend that it’s new.”

But for White America, it did feel new. PRRI asked Black and White Americans about their perception of police violence.

“Is this part of a larger pattern or are these isolated incidents?”

The perception gap was huge.

Three quarters of Black Americans see a broad pattern while less than half of White Americans do. (The numbers barely changed over the two decades since Rodney King.) But among WCA, the gap was even larger. 74% of Black Americans see a problem but only 26% of White Evangelical Christians do. We look at the same world and we see things entirely differently.

The Ongoing Grief Process

Robert Jones concludes his work with an interesting discussion of the grief process. He says the loss of power, privilege and predominance for White Christian America is evoking the classic stages of grief: Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. And then finally Acceptance.

Jones specifically mentions David Gushee, an Evangelical ethicist, who is nudging conservative Christians to accept the end of White Christian America. But it is an acceptance tinged with hope.

Gushee makes the following appeal to his fellow evangelicals: “We have to grow up—past conspiracy theories, demagoguery, single-issue voting, partisan seductions, mudslinging, and God-and-country conflations and confusions.”

Naming reasons for decline, addressing the causes and finding new pathways forward is the only way through the current dilemma for White Christian America. Gushee is one my recent favorite writers as he seeks to carve out a center space for conversation and collaboration with Non-White, Non-Protestant, Non-Christian America.

Is This Really the End?

I am a White Christian American born and raised. My own path has led me out of fundamentalism, through conservatism and now into liberalism. (Whatever all those fuzzy terms mean!) My own theological studies and my pastoral work with congregations of Christians across the conservative to liberal spectrum has convinced me that White Christian America needs to die.

Too much of what we see represented as Christianity in this nation is an empty shell, a hollow structure.

As a Christian minister, I believe the Church needs to find its way back to the authentic witness of the Christ whose name we wear. If we don’t live as Christ-people, then we ought to die. As an American, I believe our nation will benefit from a rebirth of Christianity and the transformation of American Christians: White, Black, Brown, Conservative, Mainline, Gay, Straight, Rich, Poor, Republican, Democrat, Independent.

When we Christians begin to “treat others as we want to be treated,” then America will be kinder. When we Christians begin to “love our neighbors as we love ourselves,” then America will be stronger. When we Christians begin to “empty ourselves” in humble service to others, then America will be greater.

So (as T.S. Elliot said) the end can be the beginning.



Robert P. Jones, The End of White Christian America. Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.


Charlotte Vaughan Coyle lives in Paris TX and blogs about intersections of faith, culture and politics on her website and Intersections Facebook page. She is national secretary for Coffee Party USA and contributes regularly to the Join the Coffee Party Movement Facebook page.

Charlotte is an ordained minister within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and also blogs about Scripture from a progressive Christian approach in her Living in The Story Musings.


Charlotte and Janie Talk about Diversity, Unity and Assimilation

Janie and Charlotte were best friends in college. They still maintain a good friendship even though Janie grew to the “Right” while Charlotte grew to the “Left” and now have some very different perspectives on politics, culture and theology. Charlotte and Janie have begun talking about their differences in a shared blog. You can find their earlier conversations here.

Janie: In our last conversation, we left off with a question from you: “Why does diversity cause such fear and anger in people? And how is unity possible when there is a fundamental rejection of our inherent diversity?” We also agreed to look further into a widely-discussed Atlantic article by Peter Beinart: “How the Democrats Lost Their Way on Immigration.”

To address your first question: Diversity causes fear and anger in some people regardless. I do believe that the majority of Americans, both conservative and liberal, have no problem with diverse groups who come to America wishing to be Americans. It’s true that most of us are more comfortable hanging out with people who are like us, with common interests and goals, but that’s only human. By and large Americans take a live-and-let-live approach to other cultures as long as we perceive no threat. Most of us, I think, even get a little misty-eyed when a naturalization ceremony is televised, when new citizens of every shade and background express their joy at becoming part of this nation.

As for the second question, I’m not sure about your premises. I read your blog about Unity in Diversity and found some of it puzzling. You say, “Our unity has always, will always arrive out of our shared values and our common dreams: liberty and justice for all . . . a union the Founders conceived in the midst of the creative diversity of their day and . . . still being perfected here in the ethnic, religious, and intellectual diversity of our own day.” The stated shared values of the founders were “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” but I would say liberty was the chief value that pulled all thirteen colonies together. That was in opposition of many of their own citizens who didn’t see the need to separate from the mother country. The “creative diversity” you mention wasn’t nearly what it is today—almost all the colonists were white, Christian (by identity if not practice), and of European descent. Their very real regional diversity was not a source of strength—it was a serious weakness that tore the nation apart in a mere fourscore and four years.

Over the last thirty years or so I’ve been hearing that American strength lies in its diversity. But that makes no sense on the face of it; strength lies in unity. Diversity is great for expanding our little worlds, learning generosity and humility, and trying lots of delicious new recipes! But diversity in itself is not strength. We are stronger when can come together in spite of our diversity, not because of it, and that means discovering our shared values and being willing to defend them.

That’s what makes some of us nervous. As Beinart says near the end of his article, “Americans know that liberals celebrate diversity. They’re less sure that liberals celebrate unity.” What are those shared values, exactly? What do we have to fear from immigrants and even native-born citizens who regard most of American history as a chronicle of injustice? How should we feel about undocumented immigrants waving Mexican flags at protest rallies? What about groups like LaRaza and the New Black Panthers, who don’t appear to have any interest in unity?

You asked about assimilation. To me, that does not mean giving up your culture, your special holidays and observances, or even your language. It does mean accepting the Constitution as the law of this land, obeying the laws, learning English (or at least encouraging your children to learn it), and pledging allegiance to the flag. What about you?

Charlotte: I said at the outset of these conversations that I believe you and I can find much to agree on and I think we are finding some of that agreement here. For example, I can certainly agree with your description of assimilation above and I appreciate that you don’t think assimilation demands giving up one’s culture. Of course all people who live here should accept and obey the laws. But I have to wonder if your statement implies that immigrants and newcomers disrespect and disobey laws more than natives do. You said before:

What some fear…is allowing in more immigrants, “legal” and not so much, who do not subscribe to American ideas and want to change it to something else. Or they’re coming for welfare benefits or criminal activity or outright subversion. These are the minority, I know, but there are significant numbers to cause concern.

Where is this coming from, this conviction that there are “significant numbers” of immigrants who do not subscribe to American ideas and want to change it to something else? I know it’s out there; I see it too. But I don’t believe it’s nearly as real as many Conservatives think it is.

Stereotyping is rampant and over the top these days: “Hispanics are all illegal and here to steal your jobs and rape your daughters. Muslims are all terrorists and secretly plotting to subvert the Constitution into sharia law.” A LOT of people actually believe this stuff! How do we combat such harmful prejudices?

You say you don’t understand the premise of this question of mine: “How is unity possible when there is a fundamental rejection of our inherent diversity?” Then you quote from my blog and say some things there “puzzle” you. I am puzzled why you are puzzled; it seems pretty straightforward to me. I have been a huge advocate for unity for years and I thought my blog portrayed that passion.

Old and Young. Rich and Poor. Gay and Straight. Religious and Humanist. Black and White and Brown. E pluribus unum. From many, one.

When we move out of our uniform, homogeneous tribes and recognize the shared humanity inherent within our wide-ranging diversity, that’s when we will discover a glimpse of a true unity that is far better than any sort of uniformity.

So I am agreeing with you that affirming our shared humanity and our common goals is an important source of our unity.

But then again, I have had experience talking to people who seem to believe even naming our differences is divisive. I’ve heard people say they are “color-blind” and they only see how we are alike. But that’s just not possible. We ARE different. Our diversity is a fact. And honoring each person’s uniqueness honors their humanity.

I do believe that both our variety AND our commonality provide strength for America. Tapping into people’s different perspectives, abilities, experiences, insights and then crafting all that varied wisdom into approaches that help us attain our common goals is what this nation has done again and again. Our variety gives us a broader base of resources. If my husband and I are unified in our desire to buy something we want but really can’t afford, then that unity is no strength. On the other hand, if one of us says: “Wait. Let’s look at if from another perspective,” then it’s our differences that make us stronger.

Our disagreement here is slight. (I would not say our strength is “in spite of our diversity.” That’s too negative a phrase.) But we both make the point that our strength lies in coming together from our diversity into unity. (But not uniformity, as I say in my blog.)

Here is a moving essay from Parker Palmer, wise Quaker. He too celebrates the strength of our American diversity and understands its valuable contributions to our efforts for unity.

I’m arguing from my perspective on the Left and I asked an honest question about “Why does diversity cause such fear and anger in some people” from the Right. And I have to say that all my reading and pondering and conversing brings me to this conclusion: White Christian America is being displaced and diluted and I believe much of the anxiety we see has to do with that loss of power and privilege. When we look closely, it’s pretty obvious that the immigration debate is primarily about Brown people.

Back to the Peter Beinart article in The Atlantic. He says this:

Studies by the Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam…suggest that greater diversity doesn’t reduce trust and cooperation just among people of different races or ethnicities—it also reduces trust and cooperation among people of the same race and ethnicity.

Trump appears to sense this. His implicit message during the campaign was that if the government kept out Mexicans and Muslims, white, Christian Americans would not only grow richer and safer, they would also regain the sense of community that they identified with a bygone age…

This echoes my own diagnosis. And it repeats my question: why does greater diversity reduce trust and cooperation? Are we doomed to such a small practice of our shared humanity? Or can Conservatives and Liberals find our common ground and widen it into a great space?

Janie: Okay, I’ve been thinking about this. I do believe conservatives and liberals need to find common ground in order to make policy, but I’m afraid “shared humanity” is so broad as to be unworkable. Let me offer two examples.

In 1867 Karl Marx published Das Kapital. By the end of the decade hundreds of Eastern European immigrants to America were committed socialists. The years between 1878 and 1898 saw bloodiest labor wars the USA has ever experienced. There were lots of reasons for this, not just immigrants with bad ideas. But in most of those riots and shootouts, eastern Europeans were prominent players. There were some positive effects in focusing attention on severe labor abuses and gradually bringing change; I suppose you could say diversity helped bring about eventual unity. But it was at a great cost over an issue that could have been handled other ways, and made socialism seem like a viable alternative for the US, at least for some. I don’t want to debate the virtues of socialism just now (!), only to say that, in my opinion at least, socialism as a system is not compatible with the nation that was founded in 1776.

Another system incompatible with the US, and with the western tradition generally, is Sharia Law. I have no idea how widespread the notion of imposing Sharia Law in this country might be. In some areas of high Muslim concentration, such as Dearborn and Detroit, judges are trying to figure out how to balance practices connected with Sharia (such as female genital mutilation) against American civil law. But the huge influx of Muslim immigrants is becoming a significant problem in Europe. A couple of weeks ago I came across this article, which has also been referred to me by others. The title is alarming: “I’ve Worked with Refugees for Decades. Europe’s Afghan Crime Wave is Staggering.” The point is not that Muslims should not be admitted to safe havens in Europe, but that certain Muslims who subscribe to a radical form of Islam (which includes imposing Sharia Law) are wreaking havoc by their utter contempt for Western standards.

Could that happen here? The US is very different from Europe, culturally and geographically, so I don’t know. But I think that is what some are afraid of, and an example of what I meant by certain immigrants wanting to make this country into something else. What are we willing to allow? What are we prepared to defend? What principles of this nation must be protected at all cost, and (this is crucial) what policies will help protect them? “Liberty and justice for all” is not a policy; it’s an ideal. As we encountered before in our debates about health care: Nobody is arguing about the ideal, but how do we institute these noble goals without bankrupting ourselves or committing suicide? More to the case, what policies do we need to continue as a welcoming nation committed to liberty, free speech, and opportunity?

Charlotte: A lot of my liberal friends and I wonder if the agenda of far right white Christians is our own homegrown version of a kind of “sharia law.” I have to say some of the proposed policies of my Texas legislators are “alarming” and “wreaking havoc” in our communities. Here’s an article for you to consider with a fair number of comments that voice some of our anxieties. (Article from the Texas Observer exploring Dominion Theology: “The Fringe Theology That Could End Religious Freedom.”)

How ’bout I read your article and do some homework so I can respond to your concerns and you read mine and tell me how you would help allay my fears? Sounds like another challenging topic for our next conversation. I’ll start.


Janie B. Cheaney blogs at Gobsmacked by Life … sometimes

Janie has published six novels for teens. Her historical fiction is especially well done with solid research, engaging characters and great writing.  Janie’s J.B.Cheaney Facebook page is a fun and helpful author resource.

Charlotte Vaughan Coyle lives in Paris TX and blogs about intersections of faith, culture and politics on her website and Intersections Facebook page. She is national secretary for Coffee Party USA and contributes regularly to the Join the Coffee Party Movement Facebook page.

Charlotte is an ordained minister within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and also blogs about Scripture from a progressive Christian approach in her Living in The Story Musings.

American Civil Religion. Yes, It’s a Real Thing

It wasn’t until I was in seminary twenty years ago that I learned about our American civil religion. Like a fish that doesn’t know it’s in water, I had never seen all the ways our American patriotism has morphed into religious-like beliefs and behaviors. Now that I see it, I see it everywhere.

The concept of “civil religion” describes how a society marks as “sacred” some of its beliefs, symbols and rituals. It explains why we place our hands over our hearts, remove our hats and stand in reverence in the presence of our red white and blue sacred symbol and our holy hymns.

Civil religion explains why it is so important to us to determine who belongs; who is in and who is out. Continue reading American Civil Religion. Yes, It’s a Real Thing