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.

An unholy alliance

By John Rowerdink

As an American and especially as a Republican, the events of January 6 in Washington, D.C., make me sick in the pit of my stomach. It was a jarring reminder of the unrest and turmoil that exists in our country and the extreme partisanship that infects our political system these days.

It’s easy to see and even easier to say that President Trump incited this reaction among his supporters. That is no doubt true. But that’s also the easy answer, the one that sits on the surface where anyone can see it. But there is a deeper problem. Remember that the reason Donald Trump was elected in the first place was because millions of Americans were fed up with politicians and their failure to address the real problems facing our country and everyday Americans.

For the huge throng that traveled to Washington for this protest, their current anger was directed at an election they feel was corrupt and stolen. But it’s deeper than that. The protest had its genesis in Democrats’ refusal to accept the 2016 election and that they pursued non-stop resistance for four years. It has its genesis in an unholy alliance between Democrats, the media and members of the government bureaucracy to unseat a president duly elected by the people. It has its genesis in the witch hunt that became the Mueller investigation, which tied our government in knots for two years. It has its genesis in the impeachment of the president on the flimsy “evidence” of a phone call. It has its genesis in the image of the Speaker of the House ripping up a president’s State of the Union speech on national television. It has its genesis in the former president unlawfully using the FBI to investigate a rival political campaign. And it has its genesis in vicious attacks on a Supreme Court Justice nominee for a vile charge that could not be verified. These things all contributed to the anger that erupted in Washington today.

So blame President Trump for inciting the violence in Washington. He might deserve that criticism. But that’s the easy answer. It’s deeper than that.

January 6th

By Steve Woodward 

Dulles Airport Terminal D appears almost normal on this historic January 6. Gate areas are at capacity in many cases as 5 pm approaches. But then, of course, this is a mirage. Nothing is normal. All of the useless masks prevail, even hiding the glowing faces of children. And a constant parade of Trump ski caps, baseball caps, buttons and banners go by, which most certainly is not a common sight in the deep blue D.C. area.

A nearby group traveled from Los Angeles, I overheard. One demanded that the TV monitor within her view in a bar be switched to ESPN from CNN. Waiting for President Trump to speak earlier today during the Saving America March near the White House, I heard patriots share tales of overnight drives from Kansas, Ohio, Illinois and Massachusetts, and seemingly everywhere from coast to coast. 

They stood for hours, shivering in brisk winds under gray skies. 

But what matters is that they came, determined, fearless and, largely, angry. They came with dogs, with strollers and with smiles amid their despair. It was a beautiful expression of the spirit that defines the United States citizenry in spite of what we have been going through since China unleashed the Wuhan Virus. These fervent travelers have been told for four years to be quiet. But who feared they would be silenced by government tyrants, tyrants who shut down their businesses, separated them from aging loved ones, denied their children the opportunity to learn in a classroom, and their neighbors the right to worship almighty God?

Something had to give on this bittersweet day when Georgia voters apparently handed control of the U.S. Senate to the radical Left by “electing” (largely via mail-in ballots, again) a black Marxist and a hyper-privileged white elitist. The optimism of Wednesday morning following Trump’s remarks was soon crushed by news that Vice President Mike Pence declined to so much as try to mount a challenge to the stolen elections in the major swing states. He sent his intentions in a letter. Another Republican who can’t — will not — fight. It’s an epidemic.

We keep electing them as the lesser of two evils, and perhaps that is, in fact, the only choice before us. Sen. Thom Tillis or a scumbag Dem?  

As afternoon arrived, January 6 was swept into history. The corrupt media will insist it was a tragic day, though tragedy never characterized the numerous weeks and months of Antifa and BLM rioting, looting and burning. Nothing tragic to see here. Move along. That was “social justice”. 

After an untold number of people (probably fewer than CNN will report), around mid-afternoon, penetrated security boundaries, filling the steps of the Capitol, and then the chambers of Congress and the offices of elected officials, the disgust aimed toward these “Trump marchers” shifted to outrage. 

But as one who was surrounded on January 6 by attendees of the Save America March, and as many other Moore Republicans will attest, it is beyond my comprehension that these were the people who stormed the U.S. Capitol. Texts I received from the coordinators never fomented violence. “We are on our way to the Capitol. Join Stop The Steal as we demand that our Representatives #DoNotCertify!” 

The questions for which we must in this aftermath demand answers are these:

  • Who are the people who swarmed barriers and the Capitol Police to seize the steps outside and penetrate the chambers of Congress inside?
  • Why were Capitol Police and supporting law enforcement so vulnerable to these unarmed attackers?
  • Who shot and killed an Air Force veteran, Ashli Babbit, in a corridor of the Capitol? Will this patriot be defended as a victim of brutality or dismissed as a member of the mob who had it coming?

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who perhaps symbolizes better than anyone why Americans assembled today in Washington, took a defiant stand late in the day as the Senate re-convened to certify November 3 results.

McConnell applauded the “clockwork of our democracy” and insisted that certifying an election stolen by the Left is a “peaceful expression of the popular will”. He described the patriots who assembled beneath the Capitol steps as “an unhinged crowd”.

And, finally, The Turtle sent a shot over the bow: “The United States Senate will not be intimidated.”

The Republican Senate not only has been intimidated throughout the Trump era, it has been trampled by the agenda driven media, and by the Left. And, today, it has been overthrown. Not by crazy people wearing bandanas and brandishing signs, but by the very people we elected to protect it.