Beyond ‘religion’

By Steve Woodward

After the Palm Sunday service, I thanked one of our pastors for praying for the President. I added, unable to resist, that I wished we knew for whom we are praying.

A fellow church member, scowling, said, “Don’t you know about religion and politics?” To which I should have replied, “Don’t you know I was not speaking to you?”

Instead, I said, “They are intertwined.” That, actually, was the better response.

I pondered what I said over brunch, and decided that I likely never had been more fast on my feet. Even in dress shoes.

In 2021, Christianity in the United States never has been more under assault, and the attacks come from multiple fronts. Religious entities have locked the doors to churches for months on end. Avowed Christians have sheltered in place and derided citizens who push back against Wuhan virus hysteria as businesses die and Americans sink into to depression and paralysis. Churchgoers wear masks into houses of worship even as they profess that God is their rock.

They lower their masks to read from John 12: “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

It is worth noting here that in 2020, as the virus pandemic swept across the globe, the Presbyterian Church USA, aka, “the Presbytery”, issued as 20-page document entitled, “Returning to Public Worship: Theological and Practical Considerations”. Across the thousands of words in this document, 7,312 to be precise, God is mentioned only 38 times. Scripture rarely is cited. There is not a single passage in this document that urges Christians to prioritize faith above government tyranny.

I soon became an ex-Presbyterian church member after discovering, in July 2020, that a church in my community was not bowing to virus hysteria and proving it by unlocking the doors for worship on Sundays. Without hesitation I can say that the silver lining during these dark days has been my realization that “religion” is not Christianity. Thank you, Brownson Memorial Presbyterian Church, Southern Pines.

C.S. Lewis, the famous author who transitioned from atheist to devout Christian, and wrote about it so as to confound his fellow academics, articulated the difference.

“If ‘religion’ means simply what man says about God, and not what God does about man, then Pantheism almost is religion. And ‘religion’ in that sense has, in the long run, only one really formidable opponent — namely Christianity. (If a Minister of Education professes to value religion and at the same time take steps to suppress Christianity, it does not necessarily follow that he is a hypocrite or even a fool. He may sincerely desire more ‘religion’ and rightly see that the suppression of Christianity is a necessary preliminary to his design).”

The interaction with my fellow worshipper — no intersection of politics and religion, she cried — impressed on me that there is a divide, perhaps previously ignored, between American values and religion.

Many self described Christians, we have discovered, have little use for American principles of liberty when facing a media fueled pandemic hysteria. Despite showing high regard for the “science” behind masks, they show total disregard for the rule of law by turning a blind eye to Black Lives Matter’s violent rioting, or to the failure to protect the southern U.S. border. Other Christians defend abortion, or vote for politicians who openly work to sustain generational dependence on government entitlements.

The Christian spirit aligns readily with rapidly fading — and under assault — ideals rooted in knowing that we derive unalienable rights from our Creator. In the face of a fast deteriorating culture, I would argue that there is no distinction to be made between Christianity paired with ideological conservatism, and “religion” being cozy with the radical Left. Look no further than the Democrats’ so-called Equality Act awaiting a vote in the U.S. Senate after House passage. It is an all out declaration of war on our nation’s Judeo-Christian traditions.

“The Equality Act would become the first major piece of legislation in the history of the United States to exclude protections for religious freedom,” writes David Dockery for Christianity Today.

President Joe Biden was declared by The New York Times as “the most religiously observant commander in chief in a half-century”, to which conservative culture columnist Joe Concha, writing for The Hill, replied, “What exactly is liberal Christianity? That’s a contradiction within itself.” Concha goes on to call out the obvious contradiction between Biden’s faith and his support of taxpayer funded abortion. In fact, Concha notes that Democrat President Jimmy Carter, a self-described born again Baptist, was the last pro-life Democrat president. Carter was an inept president, but he did not sell out his faith to party loyalty. What a concept.

I do not wish to see my church become divided over the issues of our day. Indeed, a church service is first and foremost a gathering for solemn worship and a refuge from worldly concerns. But I do believe that Christians have a duty to adhere to what we believe, making no distinction as to the day of the week. If we make our “religious” hypocrites on the Left uncomfortable, so be it. Christianity for sure, and religion generally, is not intended as a comfort zone.

“I call it ‘religion’ advisedly,” writes C.S. Lewis. “We who defend Christianity find ourselves constantly opposed not by the irreligion of our hearers but by their real religion.”

Channeling C.S. Lewis

By Steve Woodward

Following Nazi Germany’s relentless bombing campaign in 1940 and 1941, Londoners would face many more years of hardship until World War II ended in 1945. There was fear of occupation. There was rationing. And, everywhere, there was destruction.

Through it all, Brits had come to depend on the reassuring counsel of C.S. Lewis, arguably among the most famous writers of the era, first as a novelist and by the 1940s owed to his writings on Christianity. The Irish-born, former atheist was an accidental celebrity to say the least. The Village Chapel’s Pastor John Jacobs, a Lewis expert, says he seemed to appeal to readers across the spectrum of religious allegiances because he wrote about his newfound faith as a lay person, not as a theologian.

In 1941 the British Broadcasting Corporation, through its director of religious broadcasting, asked Lewis if he would agree to deliver brief radio commentaries to its listening audience. He accepted. In the years to follow, the 15 minutes Londoners spent with Lewis on Sunday nights were viewed as sacred; an appointment not to be missed.

The gift Lewis gave to his war-weary citizens was quite the opposite of the inspiring, rhetorical flourishes delivered by Winston Churchill. Lewis made common sense out of Christianity and made it relevant to the vulnerable.

“What’s the sense of saying the enemy is in the wrong,” Lewis said, “unless right is a real thing?”

Here in 2021, do we not repeatedly ask this question, knowing that it is the central question? But I would ask another question first. Do we have a yet undiscovered C.S. Lewis in our midst in the 21st Century in America?

We have Anthony Fauci, a Swamp creature annoyed by all of us because we want to live as free citizens. We have Rush Limbaugh. We as conservatives are blessed to have Rush as our ideological voice but the other side was thrilled by Limbaugh’s lung cancer diagnosis a year ago. We have Franklin Graham, who honors his father’s legacy by delivering God’s love tangibly to the world’s suffering. We have Tucker Carlson, to whom we owe our gratitude for crushing hypocrites and exposing deception at every turn.

But what America desperately needs today is a C.S. Lewis, a scholar who dreaded the scholarly, an author who wrote not for peers but for real people, and who stepped forward as a servant of God at a moment in history when no else could have served as well. Imagine, today, fringe talk show host Bill Maher, a witty, far Left atheist, converting to Christianity. That would be a wake up call.

First, it must be said that Great Britain, in 1941, identified entirely as a Christian nation. In 2021, the U.S. is a Judeo-Christian nation teetering on the brink of becoming a Socialist nation in which religion has long been marginalized and is increasingly persecuted, even despised.

If we have in our midst a C.S. Lewis he will not be invited by the establishment media to come forward to console us. He will emerge at a considerable risk to his livelihood, his security and his reputation.

Perhaps we delude ourselves thinking there is one such person in this social media age. Perhaps the answer to our dilemma is not found in a person but in a chorus.

Why unity?

By Steve Woodward

In his inauguration speech, incoming President of the United States Joe Biden intoned that he seeks “the most elusive of things in a democracy: Unity.”

Upon which his administration took steps to support more abortion of babies, more gender reassignment rights, less energy independence and more mandates to crush the U.S. economy under the guise of “saving” us all from the Wuhan Virus.

This raises the question: What is unity? And another question: Why do we desire it?

Should we sign on for unity if it strips us of our religious liberties guaranteed under the Constitution? Should we uphold absolute unity if it empowers rogue, unemployed young Americans to rampage through cities, hurling bricks through storefronts?

Unity has to be two-sided, yet policy executive Ryan Anderson notes in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that Biden has made clear that his administration will not negotiate on transgenderism.

“Transgender equality is the civil rights issue of our time,” Biden said. “There is no room for compromise.”

Unity is the Left’s end game because it actually equates to submission. If you want harmony, do as we say. But if Republican Conservatives are honest — there a few of us — we shine a light on the hypocrisy of this unity narrative. The Left is guided only by radicalism. The Left has no use for the Constitution. The Left can not fathom that our nation is founded “under God”. The Left seeks to overturn the First Amendment so that we no longer can expose a corrupt American media.

Unity is smoke and mirrors. The president of the Ethics and Policy Center said it best.

“While the moniker ‘cultural warrior’ seems to be applied only to those on the right,” writes Ryan Anderson in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. “We aren’t the ones who imposed abortion on demand up to and even during birth, forced Catholic nuns to pay for abortifacients, redefined marriage, harassed evangelical bakers, or declared it ‘unlawful discrimination’ to refuse to put a confused child on puberty-blocking drugs.”

Unity? How?

Cancel socialism

By Bill Demastus

I am a good, hard nosed Republican with conservative views on most issues in America. With that said, there is something happening in our country today that is very concerning, at least to me.

I believe many of our good conservatives have drunk the Kool-Aid and truly believe that we have to be, at least, “concerned” about what played out on January 6 at the Capitol.

It is the “we” that disturbs me.  It was not good conservatives who stormed the Capitol and brought down the wrath of God on our heads.

We conservatives have nothing to be ashamed of, or to feel responsible for.  We were there in January but, when the trouble started, we turned and left the scene.  Just look at the facts of who is being arrested almost daily since the occurrence. It isn’t us. Social media and fake news painted everyone who dared to travel to D.C. with the same insurrection brush.  That does not change the facts. We are not insurrectionists.

Little by little, it is becoming more and more clear that it was, in fact, a well-rehearsed, well-implemented insurrection by individuals not riled up by our President, Donald Trump; but those riled up by issues in America tracing to the 1960s.

During the last 60 years we have become more and more guided by principles totally outside the framework of a Constitutional federal republic.  A system wherein the people elect citizens to represent them, (the people), to uphold Constitutional issues and that which impacts the people.  That’s what this country was founded on and that is what we were, with hic-cups along the way, until the ’60s.

We now vacillate between a Socialist state and a Constitutional republic, depending on which party is in power.  Much to our chagrin, the Socialist state is expanding, no matter which party is in power.

These newly elected Socialists, and they are so far Left, many Communist admittedly so, might well deliver good news because their overreach improves chances that Republicans will regain the House and Senate in two years. Though not guaranteed, it is a good bet.  Why, because, as always, the liberal left now have complete control except for the Supreme Court that refuses, under John Roberts, to engage in “politics.” Even when our elections are subverted.

President Biden’s endeavors from the very first day indicate just how radically they will push an agenda down the throats of Americans. Can we all remember ObamaCare? Seems the Left already has assured tough elections ahead.  Still, they cannot help themselves.  They are like kids in a candy store…or a better comparison may be a drunk in an ABC store.  

Another standard Leftist attitude is their firm belief in “cancel culture”. They are rabid in their belief that everything and everyone that does not follow their agenda need to be taken out.  

Under President Trump’s leadership, the Left spent most of its time going after him. Now that he is gone it isn’t a surprise, with the help of social media and fake news, to have them going after individual Americans.  That is definitely the case for outspoken Trump supporters in our communities: Capt. Emily Grace Rainey; David Hensley; and Sherry-Lynn Womack.  Get ready. Almost anyone who currently supports President Trump’s policies, or him, will find themselves in cross hairs.

So, what do we do?  I believe we should do what good conservative Republicans have always done; nominate and elect strong conservatives in municipal elections in 2021, and great Conservatives who emerge to run for state and federal seats in 2022 and 2024. The journey begins now.

Will those who seek and secure these jobs all be people that agree with all of us who work to get them elected?  No.  And, if they were, they would not be Republicans.  We tend to not agree with each other about a lot of things.  But one thing we should learn from the leftists is to not fight among ourselves.  They stick together to advance their miserable agendas, even at the risk of their own jobs; but it helps them win elections. 

We cannot fight the government; we can fight issues and we can fight against candidates and for candidates, but we can do neither as a fractured party.  This is exactly what the leftists wish us to be, fractured.

Keeping me awake at night is the fact that I was so sure that President Trump would be re-elected because he was GOD’S CHOICE.  I just could not understand how God would permit him to lose to a party that believes in abortion, no God in church, no God in schools; in fact, no God anywhere.  Believe me I have asked my Lord that question over and over during the past several weeks.

Yesterday in church, I think God gave me the answer.  I listened to a very conservative, God-fearing minister explain that, heart breaking as this election loss may be for us, we should, of course, pray for ourselves and for our country.  However, not for what I thought would be the reason, but because of what half of our country believes in and how they live. He says he believes we are just where the Kingdom of Judah found itself. It’s people persisted in their ungodly ways, even after years of God’s prophets warning them to repent. They chose to live otherwise.  Not all of them, just half of them.  But God didn’t just give Nebuchadnezzar half of Judah; he gave him all of it. Thus, all had to pay.

Our minister said he doesn’t mean that we, the believers, should give up or quit fighting issues and policies but it doesn’t mean we should not expect to suffer with those that caused HIS edict.  We have to change the system with prayer and teamwork.  We cannot change it with Sig Sauer or a long knife.  

Stop the finger pointing.  Stop the backbiting.  Fight those who caused this mess. God will be on our side.

RIP journalism

By Steve Woodward

In another lifetime I was a young newspaper journalist who had fallen in love with the profession as a teen after reading The Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn. It was a book about the 1950s Brooklyn Dodgers, but it also was a book about Kahn’s experiences as a cub newspaperman who eventually covered the team during a bygone, or more precisely, long gone era.

The Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1957, and Brooklyn never was the same. It was part of a decaying New York City in the 1960s and ‘70s. Today, pre-Wuhan virus, Brooklyn has made a ferocious comeback. All the cool New Yorkers want to live there, real estate is (was) sky rocketing. Brooklyn once again has a professional sports team, the NBA Brooklyn Nets. 

Journalism is not making a Brooklyn style comeback. Sportswriters are, today, cultural commentators. They have no time for games, box scores or the crack of the bat. Journalists generally have forsaken everything that moored a Roger Kahn.  Apart from sportswriters, newspaper legends such as Jimmy Breslin, or Jack Anderson, or even, in his prime Bob Woodward, are not being replaced. 

Unlike Don McLean who can pinpoint “the day the music died” (1959), I cannot say for sure when journalism died. It’s demise probably is similar to a senior relative who is the life of the party until, one day, he’s not. It just happens and you do not see it coming. 

Journalism’s illness probably was undiagnosed, or, in the current vernacular, asymptomatic, around the time that the political media dropped all pretense of objectivity to worship at the altar of Barack Obama. And, thus, began the revolution that would deem all of American life irredeemable and racist. Before we knew what had hit us, journalism was compromised and became an agenda driven cause, no longer a legitimate profession (although they’ll still take the money to masquerade as hard-hitting reporters).

This is a rather lengthy pretext to explain why I am not capable of being shocked by the revelation, reported by our new generation of citizen journalists, that the editor of The Pilot, John A. Nagy, and the Director of Communications of Moore County Schools, Catherine Murphy, are partners in a real estate transaction that will result in ownership of a lot on which, presumably, a home will be built. 

If you are surprised that journalists are readily compromised by the company they keep, you have not been paying attention. This is small time collusion, friends. In Washington, the celebrity journos are married to scions of power and influence. Their children attend the same private schools. They attend the same parties in the Hamptons and on Martha’s Vineyard. And at 6 am weekdays, they all receive the “talking points” issued by the keepers of the Deep State. This is not conspiracy theory. This is certainty. But be not dismayed. Journalism is committing suicide right before our eyes. Knowing this, we can do their jobs for them until there are no more jobs. For them.