Churches Should Emphasize Universal Beliefs · November 13, 2014

Posted: November 16, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Prophetic Intelligence Briefings

Would you like to know how President Obama views religion in society? Back in 2006 he gave a keynote address at the Call to Renewal’s Building a Covenant for a New America conference in Washington, D.C. Here are some excerpts.

“Today, I’d like to talk about the connection between religion and politics and perhaps offer some thoughts about how we can sort through some of the often bitter arguments that we’ve been seeing over the last several years…

“For some time now, there has been plenty of talk among pundits and pollsters that the political divide in this country has fallen sharply along religious lines. Indeed, the single biggest “gap” in party affiliation among white Americans today is not between men and women, or those who reside in so-called Red States and those who reside in Blue, but between those who attend church regularly and those who don’t…

“But over the long haul, I think we make a mistake when we fail to acknowledge the power of faith in people’s lives — in the lives of the American people — and I think it’s time that we join a serious debate about how to reconcile faith with our modern, pluralistic democracy.
And if we’re going to do that then we first need to understand that Americans are a religious people…

“But what I am suggesting is this – secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square…

“This brings me to my second point. Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.”

Though Senator Obama’s speech acknowledged that religion plays a part in the public square, it is clear that he was suggesting that religions should seek to emphasize values that are not “religion-specific” but are universal; in other words, they should champion beliefs that are held by them in common with other religions and those of no faith at all. Of course, that is a practical impossibility. Political harmony can never rest on the common beliefs of all because then there would be no beliefs at all. This is really “political ecumenism;” a focus on the common good instead of on the distinctive doctrines that each religion my hold.

This is the same teaching of the Catholic Church concerning the ecumenical movement. Each faith should focus on beliefs that are held in common with all others. Where does this lead?

When the leading churches of the United States, uniting upon such points of doctrine as are held by them in common, shall influence the state to enforce their decrees and to sustain their institutions, then Protestant America will have formed an image of the Roman hierarchy, and the infliction of civil penalties upon dissenters will inevitably result. Great Controversy, page 445.

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