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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sing Praises to Obama? Yes We Can; Sing Praises to Christ? No Can Do

A good friend of mine asked me two days ago what I thought of kids in school singing praises to president Obama. I told him it felt a bit creepy but that I had no problem with it beyond that. He then asked me if I would feel “creeped-out” if they were singing praises to someone else, for example Martin Luther King. I had to admit that kids singing praises to Dr. King would not be creepy but rather commendable. I then asked my friend, “How about kids singing praises to George Bush, Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin?” He responded by saying that some more liberal people might take offense because of the polarizing nature of these people, but that he wouldn’t have a problem with it ultimately. My next question started a pretty interesting discussion and provided the material for this article. I asked my friend, what if they were singing praises to Christ? His answer was, “You can’t do that because now they would be involving religion.” It is to this point that I will now turn my attention.

Why is it ok for a teacher, acting on affections for her president, allowed to express that affection openly? Why am I restricted (under punishment of law) from showing affections for my God? Many people on the right (politically) do not like the idea of teachers politicizing the classroom. For me the real issue here is the censoring of Christians. When I heard school children sing praises to Obama, I thought to myself that I dare not attempt such a thing as a Christian, and I want to know why; what makes me and others like me so special. When we venture to ask why, we are beaten over the head with the misguided notion of separation of church and state. Just so we are on the same page, the first amendment to the constitution reads:

”Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

There is nothing in this amendment that even comes close to prohibiting Christians in government from doing or saying Christian things as a group or as individuals. The only place you will find anything coming close to suggesting a hard separation between church and state, would be a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802. [1] But I know, and so do many of you, that the silencing of Christians isn’t about a noble attempt to uphold the law, anymore than abortion is about where life begins. In both of these cases the real issue is something completely different than the one being presented. [2]

When someone declares we shall have no prayer or practice any Christian rituals in public schools, you can be sure that what is really going on is the assertion of human autonomy from the Christian concept of morality and that in their heart of hearts they know it is incumbent on them to follow these principles. Liberals for example know deep down (perhaps very deep down) that it is wrong to kill an unborn child, but because they want to have their own way, they suppress what they know to be true. I can understand people affirming their autonomy, as a matter of fact; the bible tells me to expect it. What I don’t understand is why Christians have to be silenced (by law) when we profess or try to promote these standards? As far as I can tell, people who are not Christian (especially liberal ones) have such an axe to grind that they will swing that axe right at my first amendment rights. Again, I’m not surprised by this level of antagonism, given the bible’s warning of this sort of behavior. Furthermore, I would like an explanation as to why the separation of all things religious from the affairs of the state is such a noble endeavor? And why is the lack of an acknowledgment of God not ignoble?

Consider a hypothetical with me:

Two men elected to public office serve as present and past presidents of the United States. One of these men believes that wealthy people and big corporations are inherently evil and must be taxed to keep them in line and so that the much more noble poor people can be given their just deserts. The other man believes that all people are sinners (not just the wealthy ones) and in need of restoration in the image of God through Christ. Because of his beliefs, the second man believes that prayer and church attendance is a way in which we might help all people, rich and poor. My question is this, why is one allowed to espouse and pursue his worldview and the other is restricted by law from doing so? Why is it that a teacher can assemble her kids and tech them to have an allegiance to president Obama, but cheerleaders who storm the field of a football game carrying a banner quoting a bible verse are bared from ever doing so again because it violates the constitution? [3] It seems to me that the decision to single-out religious views (especially Christianity since the word church is traditionally a Christian term. Cf. separation of Church and State) is simply arbitrary.

It is true that Christians in public life are free to practice religion in their private lives, Jimmy Carter for example regularly teaches Sunday school. [4] I am concerned however, by a type of “religious Jim Crow” America that is evolving in our day. There are parts of our society with signs (not seen by the naked eye) over their entryway that says, “No Christians Allowed.” Fortunately for Christians (unlike black people), our worldviews cannot be ascertained by looking at us. I am also concerned by the fact that liberals are not neutral on Christian commitments. It is not the case that when liberals use the courts to chip away at Christian influence in our society that that void is left vacant. That void is replaced with liberal ideas, as Ann Coulter puts it, the liberal religion.

You see, liberals can’t have it both ways, either they allow religious people to be who they are with the freedom to espouse their worldviews, and thus allowing the best ides to win the day. Or, they must bar the promotion of all worldviews, Christian and otherwise. In which case, no elected official could ever say anything ever again, since no one is objective and all of our actions, thoughts and speech flow from some kind of a worldview. Actually, a silent government might not be a bad thing right now; perhaps the liberals are on to something here. We must not infringe upon people’s right to free speech, especially and I must emphasize especially, when we don’t agree with that speech.

President Obama is now freeing captured terrorists from Guantánamo Bay, isn’t it about time we freed the rights of Christians to espouse their beliefs in all facets of American Life? [5]

Danian Michael,
Political Agenda.


[1] This is what Jefferson wrote in his letter (which is not legally binding):

“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.”

It is clear to me that Jefferson’s intention was not that Christians serving in public office would be bared from suggesting Christian solutions to problems, but that the state would leave us alone to practice our faith freely. The exact opposite is happening, when we see the State tell cheerleaders that they can’t show a bible verse because doing so is breaking the law.

[2] In an earlier article titled, “The Big A – Abortion Not Apple.” I made the very bold claim that the abortion debate is not and never was about where life begins. It is actually about a woman’s unwillingness to take care of a child.
Read the entire article:

[3] The picture associated with this article was taken from the Chattanooga Times Free Press. The caption reads, “9/18/09 At a football game on the school's field, cheerleaders at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School hold up a sign with a Biblical verse on it. After a complaint last week, the school has banned the cheerleaders from using any more signs with religious statements on them, saying it violates the U.S. Constitution.”
Read the article:

[4] The Associated Content News article titled, “Former President Carter Teaches Sunday School in Hometown of Plains, Ga” shows that not only was former president Carter a professing Christian, but that he also did very Christian things like teach Sunday school. President Carter is an unusual case however, and I would argue inconsistent, because although he is a professing Christian, Carter believes that elected officials should leave their faith at the door when they represent the State or do State business. He is inconsistent because of this basic Christian principle; exposing your whole life to the lordship of Christ, and leaving nothing to yourself.
Read the Associated Content News article:

[5] This New York Times article titled, “freed detainee arrives in Britain” chronicles the activities of freed Guantánamo Bay detainees.
Read the article:

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Anonymous Tom said...

Hi, Danian. Do you really think that the idea of separation of church and state is meant to suppress Christians? In my experiences, this has been equally applied to Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, etc. I don't hear them complaining. I'm curious why you and fellow Christians feel you are the targets. It's nothing 'personal'. Separation of religion and governmental affairs is simply a policy set forth based on the recognition that the citizens of this country possess a multitude of religious beliefs that should not be suppressed. Christianity seems to be thriving in this country.

October 2, 2009 at 9:33 AM  
Anonymous Diane said...

My first question is: what do you mean when you refer in your article to "a teacher, acting on affections for her president, allowed to express that affection openly..."

Do you mean "affection" as in "I love Obama, and you should too" (or "I love Bush, and you should too"). And expressing specific affection for certain ideas/ideals/political positions?

Or do you mean expressing affection, as in, expressing and teaching basic respect for the President, and the office of the President, overall?

October 2, 2009 at 10:44 PM  
Blogger Danian Michael said...

Tom - Thanks for writing,

Let me first say that during slavery, many blacks didn’t complain at all about their lot in life (now affectionately know as “House Slaves”). These house slaves weren’t driven to complain because of how well they were treated, relatively speaking. Might I suggest that there is an analogy here; Christians are singled out insofar as government policies are concerned. I would argue that these other religions should be complaining also.

Notice that my argument was not to say that Christians aren’t free at all. I am simply asking why Christian aren’t free everywhere.

Let’s say 200 senators get together to solve the problem of man-made global warming (if it existed). What if 50 of those senators are physicist and suggested a solution that involves the use of physics, but instead of entertaining those solutions, the other senators summarily dismissed the 50 physicists because their solutions involve the use of physics. “We don’t want to show a preference for any of the sciences”

You know I have asked this question of people who are against my position and their answer is to simply say that physics isn’t a religion. Well you don’t justify discrimination by announcing it. I know that physics is not a religion; what is fruitful in making that distinction? I really believe that people on the left have an axe to grind against the Christian.

October 5, 2009 at 10:51 PM  
Blogger Danian Michael said...


I meant the latter. For example, I tell my friends all the time that I have great affection for my pastor.

October 5, 2009 at 10:57 PM  
Anonymous Diane said...


Isn't there a big difference between "respect" and "affection"?

(You said you meant the latter - of my two examples. But my latter example was about respect - and not necessarily affection.)

October 6, 2009 at 2:30 PM  
Anonymous Diane said...


I wish I could edit or delete my previous comment! I just re-read it, and I think I was vague and confusing. Sorry about that, D.

I think my main point is that we could maybe benefit from making the distinction between expressing affection - versus expressing straight-up respect.

(I can deeply respect our President - the current one or Presidents past - while not having affection for him.)

What do you think about that?

As a secondary question to you - if I'm a teacher in a public school, is it okay for me to express to my class my personal and passionate affection for Buddhist teachings, or a particular Buddhist figure? Even if that's okay, would it be okay (or should it be okay) for me to then also lead them in some group activities like singing or chanting Buddhist chants? I mean, I do it, and I love it (it's a very important part of my daily prayer life). I even feel that sharing it with others - adults and kids - has the potential to help them and change lives. But should it be okay for me to express that within the public school setting? What do you think?

I mean, I'm very into having conversations about religion in all settings. So I'm not asking that as someone who is anti-religion - and I'm also not asking that as someone with a strong church-and-state-separation view.

October 6, 2009 at 2:48 PM  
Blogger Danian Michael said...


Respect and affection are different feelings but I would argue, not mutually exclusive; they don’t have an either/or relationship. For example the affections I have for my pastor grew from a deep respect for him. I think more often than not, affection tends to be a natural by-product of respect and so when I used it in my article to describe that teacher, I wasn’t being derogatory. I would assume (I hope this is the case) that the teacher’s affection for the president grew from a respect for him. In my experience however, many people have a blind commitment to Obama; that was not my assumption with this teacher; I gave her the benefit of the doubt. Does that answer your question?

To your second point: Would it be ok (should it be ok) for a devotee of Buddhism to teach in a public school system without subterfuge. The answer is; no it would not be ok as far as the law (the prevailing interpretation of it) is concerned. Should it be ok? That is a great question Diane and I have been thinking a lot about that; would I want my own child, as a Christian Parent to be exposed to a Buddhist teacher? My answer is this, I would not have a problem with a Buddhist teacher being true to who she is, and as a matter of fact I would insist on it. And I certainly wouldn’t make it unconstitutional to do so. I would not have a problem with a group of Buddhist kids displaying their beliefs openly. I would say this however that in the classroom, teachers should stick to the syllabus, but I would make that a matter for each school to enforce – not the government.

Complicated issue, you and Tom are making me think about my position.

Great questions – as usual.

October 6, 2009 at 4:05 PM  
Anonymous Diane said...


Oh... okay, I get you! And I know what you mean about the "blind commitment" thing. (Totally.)

And about leaving some of this to each school to enforce (and not the gov't) - doesn't that potentially put each school leadership in a precarious and difficult position to play "the bad guy"?

I mean, I don't know. Maybe that's not the case. I'm not an expert on this topic (at all). That was just a thought that popped into my head when reading what you wrote. Standards imposed from a higher authority are sometimes more easily carried out without people taking it personally.

You know, admittedly though, I don't know all the ins-and-outs of this issue (shameful, perhaps - but I'm being honest about my ignorance and the potential irrelevance of that last comment of mine about gov't enforcement)!

But overall, I think I get you. And I'm inspired to learn more about this and maybe even get more involved. Thanks for taking the time to reply!

October 10, 2009 at 5:06 PM  
Anonymous Smile said...

There is this chasm between what we say and what we do.

Over at Cobb, Michael Bowen posts some salient thoughts.

"So if you think I'm a liberal or a conservative, I'm not. It's not about stance. It's not about be. It's about do, and the do has to do with looking towards global regimes of truth. I use the term without any deference towards the relativistic connotations. They only apply to the reactionaries."

October 23, 2009 at 12:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For some reason I feel as though the person that asked you about singing praises to Martin Luther King Jr. was being a bit racist. Did this person no think about asking you how you would feel if we sang praises to Constantine I?

November 7, 2009 at 4:48 PM  
Anonymous Smile said...

If people think students are in school for a scholarly education, think again. It's shocking how little this seems to matter to people in the Detroit area as they continue to vote in lockstep with whatever the Democrat Party proposes. Decade after decade, results don't seem to matter as the Democrat machine is allowed to keep it's strangling grip on this city. Year after year politicians scratch the backs of special interest groups. The citizens don't benefit yet they seem unable to make these connections and can't even insist on school vouchers. One can only scratch their heads as the citizens parrot the Democrat Party like a bunch of zombies as if there's something in the drinking water.

But it's okay to throw Tamara Greene under the bus. Why should Detroit continue in the same direction, decade after decade?

November 11, 2009 at 8:23 AM  
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