With the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial, a question before Americans is how the late civil rights leader would have responded to the nation’s recent decades of greed, war and decline. Rev. Howard Bess poses the same question as to how ancient Israelites reacted to hostile empires and to their own.
Curiously, it has often fallen to the U.S. military to take the lead in changing the society’s patterns of discrimination, even as churches sometimes lag. After World War II, the military took up the fight against racial bias. Today, the target is bigotry against gays, as Rev. Howard Bess notes.
Some neoconservatives, Christian fundamentalists and right-wing Jews insist that a “clash of civilizations” is underway with Islam – and that peaceful coexistence is not an option. But Rev. Howard Bess, a Baptist, sees hope from fair-minded scholarship about the Bible and the Qu’ran.
Friction between Christians and Muslims is growing, as the world’s two largest religions – with a long history of conflict and animosity – collide in a shrinking world. The Rev. Howard Bess sees some of that friction as unavoidable but urges dialogue and understanding to avert the worst.
The tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks stirred up some powerful and painful memories of that day and the 3,000 victims. But the Rev. Howard Bess says his Christian faith has compelled him to think also about the carnage that followed – and whether any war is “just.”
If Christian conservatives truly understood and accepted the teachings of Jesus, they would not be at the Tea Party barricades fighting to protect the money, power and privileges of the rich; they would be demanding what Jesus wanted, a radical redistribution of wealth and decent treatment of all, as the Rev. Howard Bess notes.
Republican presidential contenders – Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann – profess their Christian fundamentalist faith, but denounce efforts by the government to restrain the power of the rich. The Rev. Howard Bess looks at this enduring contradiction between Christianity’s principles and its alliance with the wealthy.
Among Republican presidential hopefuls, several – such as Rep. Michele Bachmann and Gov. Rick Perry – have stressed their commitment to fundamentalist Christianity, which bases its approach to cultural issues on a literal reading of the Bible. But the Rev. Howard Bess notes that many of those ancient traditions are repugnant to modern society.
Pentecostalism, a non-rational form of Christianity whose adherents believe they speak directly to God and favor apocalyptic prophecies, is adding to the polarization of American politics behind the movement’s champion, Sarah Palin. Rev. Howard Bess explains the emergence of this distinctive brand of Christianity.
Though the United States has a tradition of separating church and state, the 2012 presidential campaign may test the limits of that tolerance. Not only do some Republicans continue to question Barack Obama’s Christianity, but GOP front-runner Mitt Romney is a Mormon and other contenders, such as Sarah Palin, are Christian fundamentalists, as the Rev.…