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Religion for show

Do prominent Christian pastors actually study the Bible?

For example, President Obama heard this during the inaugural sermon at the National Cathedral today by Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins:

In the later chapters of Isaiah, in the 500’s BCE, the prophet speaks to the people. Back in the capital city after long years of exile, their joy should be great, but things aren’t working out just right.

Leaving aside the “BCE” nod to political correctness, Dr. Watkins put Isaiah in the wrong century. Wrong side of the Babylonian exile. Not even close.

Isaiah lived and prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, which puts him in the 700s BC. Thus, Isaiah lived about 200 years before the Babylonian captivity, which was in the 500s.

Imagine if she’d put George Washington in the 1970s. How credible would the rest of her sermon have been?

*** EDIT *** It’s been pointed out to me that Dr. Watkins, who must be an intelligent woman, is probably not ignorant of history but rather subscribes to the Deutero-Isaiah theory. This theory holds that the latter part of the Book of Isaiah must have been written after the return from Babylon, because otherwise Isaiah would have prophesied specifically about the Persian King Cyrus, who allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem.

So please forgive my intellectual arrogance — a little more research on my part last night would have resulted in a slightly different piece.

As “Kentucky Packrat” notes in the comments, some liberal Christians are more willing to believe that Muhammad saw Gabriel in a cave than in the divine authorship and fulfilled prophecies of their own sacred book. *** /EDIT ***

Dr. Watkins’ message was a feel-good mashup that meandered through Cherokee mythology, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and a recent ecumenical document from Muslim scholars before closing with verses by African-American poet James Weldon Johnson (which Rev. James Lowery also used to open his benediction at the inauguration). I didn’t expect a truly Christian message (in the sense of Christ, and Him Crucified), but Dr. Watkins was obviously stretching to include everybody.

The irony is that if Dr. Watkins really understood the verses from Isaiah (58:6-12), she’d have preached on the hypocrisy of outward religion, religion for show — which the National Prayer Service most definitely is.

She might also have mentioned that it is impossible for us humans to “feed the good wolf” without submitting to the Holy Spirit, for on all the Earth, “there is none righteous; no, not one.”

Nah, Paul was too, um, divisive to get a mention. In fact, Jesus was only referenced because, according to Dr. Watkins, he “summed up” the message of Isaiah — which was to love God by “facing hard times with a generous spirit”.

Huh. I thought it was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Maybe it’s the building. The National Cathedral is where the Right Reverend John Bryson Chane, Bishop of Washington and Dean of the Cathedral, preached on Christmas Day, 2003, that the angel Gabriel delivered messages from God to Moses, Mary, and Muhammad.

Forget for a moment that the Bible never records a visit to Moses by the angel Gabriel. The idea that a Christian bishop would describe the Quran as “sacred” in a sermon is beyond bizarre.


Well, it’s no surprise the majority of professing Christians are doctrinally ignorant. The pastors who preach to presidents don’t even bother with basic fact-checking before delivering sermons so soaked in political correctness that they’ve been bleached of all spiritual truth and relevance.

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