Now, Religion in the News, a report and comment on religious trends and events being covered by the media. This week’s item is from the Associated Press, January 20, 2003, with the headline, “Jesus Not Welcome: Orange County city councils are accepting a new reality for the new year. God is welcome at their meetings, but Jesus isn’t. That’s the result of a California appellate court ruling that the Supreme Court let stand last month. Orange County city councils are now starting to comply with the ruling.
Referring to “God” in opening prayers is all right, but referring to “Jesus” or any other specific religious figure promotes a particular religion and is therefore unconstitutional, the court ruled. This has prompted at least five Orange County cities, San Clemente, Fullerton, Buena Park, Laguna Nigel, and La Palma, to put out new or reinforced policies.
“This is indicative of how confused we are, spiritually speaking, about what God is,” said pastor Ron Sukut of Cornerstone Community Church in San Clemente. He declined to give his invocation at Wednesday’s council meeting after he was told he couldn’t mention Jesus. “I think we have a constitutional right to choose which god we are praying to,” Sukut said. “Taking that right away is what is unconstitutional.”
Tom: Dave, you know we’ve been talking about the last times, the apostasy, and so on, but also in the world, there is an issue here that is a little bit off the point of this news alert, but sometimes Christians, when they have an opportunity to speak, especially before the public, in pluralistic environment, they will talk about God but they won’t talk about Jesus. On the other hand, you hear Jesus’ name all the time, whether it be on the golf course or wherever it is, I mean, he’s used as a swear word, and so on. But why is there all this confusion about it, and why are some people saying, “Well, Jesus is, yeah, he was a good man; he did a lot of good, and yeah, we honor him, and so on, but just don’t name—don’t bring his name up.” What’s going on here?
Dave: Well, the name of Jesus is offensive, and the Bible tells us that at the name of Jesus, one day every knee will bow. It’s like a person says, “Well, I’m spiritual, but I’m not religious.” In other words, “I don’t want any rules.” And when you talk about Jesus, well, you can’t escape what He says. He said, “I am the way, the truth, the life, no man comes to the Father but by me.” Well, that’s pretty narrow minded, but when you talk about Jesus, this is who He is and who He claimed to me.
Of course, we are getting very ecumenical. It’s one of the problems, for example, with getting prayer back in the schools. I’m not in favor of it. Let each student pray silently as they wish, but if you are going to get prayer back in the schools, who is going to lead the prayer? To whom are you praying? Do you want to have a Muslim leading Islamic prayers? Do you want to have a Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon? So, I understand the rule here at city council. We don’t want to push anything on anyone. But this is not an official prayer. When you ask a pastor to come in, he gives what’s called “the Invocation,” which this pastor refused to give because they told him not to mention Jesus. He should be able to mention anything he wants—this is his individual choice. The city council or the government is not endorsing it, and they would probably bring in various kinds. I think Muslims have come to Congress, haven’t they?
Tom: Yes, they have. There have been prayers in the name of Allah.
Dave: Right. At some of the Memorial services you have that sort of thing. Well, aren’t we offending atheists now?
Tom: We’ve had some demonstrations by them, if you remember a while back. Not a lot showed up, but…
Dave: Even to mention God! So if you would take this route ,you just can’t even pray! And that’s, of course, where we’re going until Antichrist comes along, and then they will recognize him as God and as the Messiah.
Tom: Dave, we know, in some endeavors—whether it be people trying to help other people through AA or people joining organizations such as the Masonic Lodge and so on—there’s an attempt to be religious…Oh no, as you said, there’s an attempt to be spiritual and to bring in whatever spiritual entity that you want, yet, at the same time, almost like this situation here, if you begin to speak about Jesus, you’re out.
Dave: See, the idea is, Tom, anybody can have their own idea about God. So, when you mention God, to whom are you referring? Is there a God? Does God exist? Is He the creator of this universe? Does He have any ideas about who He is? Or can anybody come up with their own ideas?
Tom: Just as long as they are sincere…
Dave: Yeah. It is stupidity. I’m sorry, it does not make any sense at all.
Tom: You mean sincerity doesn’t count for anything?
Dave: Well, sincerity counts for something, but if you are sincerely wrong, you are still wrong.
Dave: But it’s like God doesn’t have any rules? He doesn’t have any ideas? God apparently doesn’t know who He is, or if He does, He is not able to communicate it to us. Or He really doesn’t care, just so long as you use the term “God.”
No, God does not want us to have false ideas about who He is. He is very jealous of the truth about who He is—His name and His plans, His purpose, His salvation. And so, what they are saying is, “It doesn’t matter. Talk about God, but it means nothing.” Well then, don’t talk about God. Forget it, if it means nothing! You are just dishonoring the true God by speaking about Him in this way.
Tom: And it’s a delusion. People say, “Look, it doesn’t matter. We’re moving all in the same direction; we’re moving toward a higher power, or we are moving toward God.” But it’s grand delusion, Dave.
Dave: He has some rules. He’s got something to say about this—we’d better find out about it!