The answers to both questions in the headline above are yes.


But let’s back up and examine the context here. What we’re talking about is the ongoing debate over President Obama’s argument at last week’s National Prayer Breakfast that “terrible deeds” have frequently been defended in the name of religion.


“In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ,” Obama said.


He was right, of course. As we see HERE, slaveholders in the American Confederacy often cited biblical justification for keeping black folks in bondage. And much the same attitude existed among Southern segregationists even in my own adult lifetime.


But, then, there’s also truth in the argument that Christians often were the backbone of the movements that abolished slavery in the 1860s and eventually overturned  Jim Crow segregation laws a century later.


You see, there was no single Christian point of view on matters of slavery or racial segregation. And there is no single Christian point of view on certain matters today — abortion, contraception, gay rights, etc.


Reza Aslan, a professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside, argues HERE that adherents of the same religion often have radically different views depending on their cultural, ethnic and geographical roots:


[R]eligion is often far more a matter of identity than it is a matter of beliefs and practices. The phrase “I am a Muslim,” “I am a Christian,” “I am a Jew” and the like is, often, not so much a description of what a person believes or what rituals he or she follows, as a simple statement of identity, of how the speaker views her or his place in the world.


As a form of identity, religion is inextricable from all the other factors that make up a person’s self-understanding, like culture, ethnicity, nationality, gender and sexual orientation. What a member of a suburban megachurch in Texas calls Christianity may be radically different from what an impoverished coffee picker in the hills of Guatemala calls Christianity. The cultural practices of a Saudi Muslim, when it comes to the role of women in society, are largely irrelevant to a Muslim in a more secular society like Turkey or Indonesia. The differences between Tibetan Buddhists living in exile in India and militant Buddhist monks persecuting the Muslim minority known as the Rohingya, in neighboring Myanmar, has everything to do with the political cultures of those countries and almost nothing to do with Buddhism itself.


No religion exists in a vacuum. On the contrary, every faith is rooted in the soil in which it is planted. It is a fallacy to believe that people of faith derive their values primarily from their Scriptures. The opposite is true. People of faith insert their values into their Scriptures, reading them through the lens of their own cultural, ethnic, nationalistic and even political perspectives.


 


 


 

The answers to both questions in the headline above are yes.

But let’s back up and examine the context here. What we’re talking about is the ongoing debate over President Obama’s argument at last week’s National Prayer Breakfast that “terrible deeds” have frequently been defended in the name of religion.

“In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ,” Obama said.

He was right, of course. As we see HERE, slaveholders in the American Confederacy often cited biblical justification for keeping black folks in bondage. And much the same attitude existed among Southern segregationists even in my own adult lifetime.

But, then, there’s also truth in the argument that Christians often were the backbone of the movements that abolished slavery in the 1860s and eventually overturned  Jim Crow segregation laws a century later.

You see, there was no single Christian point of view on matters of slavery or racial segregation. And there is no single Christian point of view on certain matters today — abortion, contraception, gay rights, etc.

Reza Aslan, a professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside, argues HERE that adherents of the same religion often have radically different views depending on their cultural, ethnic and geographical roots:

[R]eligion is often far more a matter of identity than it is a matter of beliefs and practices. The phrase “I am a Muslim,” “I am a Christian,” “I am a Jew” and the like is, often, not so much a description of what a person believes or what rituals he or she follows, as a simple statement of identity, of how the speaker views her or his place in the world.

As a form of identity, religion is inextricable from all the other factors that make up a person’s self-understanding, like culture, ethnicity, nationality, gender and sexual orientation. What a member of a suburban megachurch in Texas calls Christianity may be radically different from what an impoverished coffee picker in the hills of Guatemala calls Christianity. The cultural practices of a Saudi Muslim, when it comes to the role of women in society, are largely irrelevant to a Muslim in a more secular society like Turkey or Indonesia. The differences between Tibetan Buddhists living in exile in India and militant Buddhist monks persecuting the Muslim minority known as the Rohingya, in neighboring Myanmar, has everything to do with the political cultures of those countries and almost nothing to do with Buddhism itself.

No religion exists in a vacuum. On the contrary, every faith is rooted in the soil in which it is planted. It is a fallacy to believe that people of faith derive their values primarily from their Scriptures. The opposite is true. People of faith insert their values into their Scriptures, reading them through the lens of their own cultural, ethnic, nationalistic and even political perspectives.