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Obeying church and state

Freedom of religion conceptual image United States flag overlayed by the Constitution and a crucifix (Credit: JcJg Photography - nation's Catholic bishops recently "urged resistance to laws that church officials consider unjust."  They encouraged "fellow Catholics and fellow Americans to be on guard, for religious liberty is under attack, both at home and abroad."  The Obama administration and Catholic leaders clashed earlier this year over requiring most employers to cover birth control costs for their employees; this conflict has not yet been resolved.

I write each week for the Texas Faith blog of The Dallas Morning News.  This week we were asked to respond to this timely question: "How far should people of faith go in resisting laws they consider unjust?"  Here's my response:

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The Bible and Obamacare

His hand on the Bible from Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration, held by his wife, Michelle, Barack Obama takes the oath of office as the 44th president of the United States as he is sworn in by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts (Credit: Reuters/Jim Young)The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (commonly known as the ACA) is the most hotly debated legislation of our time.  Its fate now rests with the Supreme Court, which recently heard three days of oral arguments regarding its constitutionality and promises a ruling by late June.

It is beyond my purpose or ability to discuss the Act in detail (the published summary alone runs to 13 pages).  Nor do I intend to endorse a political position on this issue.  But I would like to consider some biblical principles that seem relevant to the debate, whatever the Court decides.

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Faith is believing what you know ain't so

Indiana Jones steps onto the invisible bridge in a scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Credit: Paramount Pictures/Lucasfilm Ltd)Marilynne Robinson is the Pulitzer Prize winning author of Gilead.  Her latest collection of essays, titled "When I Was A Child I Read Books," calls mainline Protestants to task for "retreating from the cultivation and celebration of learning and beauty . . . as if people were less than God made them and in need of nothing so much as condescension."

Evangelicals are not much better these days at encouraging the life of the mind, according to the Washington Post's E. J. Dionne, Jr.: "Popular Christianity often seems to denigrate rather than celebrate intellectual life and critical inquiry.  This not only ignores Christian giants of philosophy and science but also plays into some of the very worst stereotypes inflicted upon religious believers.

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Should churches be able to endorse candidates?

Prince of Peace Presbyterian Church in Crofton Maryland polling place 2006 midterm elections (Credit: Polling Place Photo Project)I write a weekly column for the Texas Faith blog at The Dallas Morning News.  One recent question was provocative: should the federal ban on political activity by churches and religious institutions be repealed?

In 1954, Lyndon Johnson spearheaded the effort that created the ban.  Since that time, it has prohibited ministers and churches from using their tax-exempt platform to endorse specific candidates.  Is this a good or bad thing?  My response follows.

Martin Luther King, Jr. never publicly endorsed a political candidate.  Billy Graham did, and later said his personal involvement in politics was one of his greatest regrets.

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Why the Afghan shooting imperils Americans

An Afghan woman is interviewed next to the body of a child killed by a rogue US soldier in Kandahar province, March 11, 2012 (Credit: Reuters/Ahmad Nadeem)The shooting of 16 Afghan civilians last Sunday continues to lead world headlines. Anti-Americanism was already boiling over in Afghanistan after U.S. troops burned Qur'ans last month and a video of Marines debasing alleged Taliban corpses was posted on the Internet in January.

Now we learn that the soldier charged in the assault experienced a traumatic brain injury at one point and had problems at home after his last deployment. However, he was considered fit for combat duty and deployed to Afghanistan in December. This was his fourth overseas assignment in 10 years.

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