from articles by
Michael Gerson


Newspaper items


index pages:

“Our money or their lives”

distributed by the Washington Post Writers Group;
published in the Star Tribune May 14, 2008

For all of conservatism’s evident virtues, it can have one furtive, seedy vice: A justified suspicion of government can degenerate into an anti-government ideology — rigid, stingy and indifferent to human suffering.



text checked (see note) May 2008

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“McCain’s no fool, just a victim of circumstance”

distributed by the Washington Post Writers Group;
published in the Star Tribune October 15, 2008

[...] I remember how truly obnoxious such advice can become. If only the candidate would fire his entire campaign staff and travel the country in a used Yugo, speaking in the parking lots of 7-Elevens, the gap would be closed. If only the candidate would buy three hours in prime time and give a bold, historic speech (which has been helpfully sent under separate cover), the entire election would be turned around. If only the candidate would finally highlight his opponent’s ties to Colombian drug cartels, the illuminati and the British royal family — or perhaps abandon all this suicidal negativity — the election could certainly be won. And yes, above all, the candidate must be himself.



text checked (see note) Oct 2008

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“How religious thought lights up your brain”

distributed by the Washington Post Writers Group;
published in the Star Tribune April 17, 2009

“Neuroscience cannot tell you if God does or doesn’t exist,” Newberg states with appropriate humility.

But Newberg’s research offers warnings for the religious as well.

Contemplating a loving God strengthens portions of our brain — particularly the frontal lobes and the anterior cingulate — where empathy and reason reside. Contemplating a wrathful God empowers the limbic system, which is “filled with aggression and fear.” It is a sobering concept: The God we choose to love changes us into his image, whether he exists or not.

For Newberg, this is not a simple critique of religious fundamentalism — a phenomenon varied in its beliefs and motivations. It is a criticism of any institution that allies ideology or faith with anger and selfishness.

Note (Hal’s):
Andrew Newberg is coauthor, with Mark Robert Waldman, of How God Changes Your Brain.

— end note



text checked (see note) Apr 2009

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“Cap-and-trade eight are really not traitors”

distributed by the Washington Post Writers Group;
published in the Star Tribune July 1, 2009

It is typical that we praise independent judgment and political nerve in our elected officials — until they actually show those qualities.



text checked (see note) Jul 2009

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“A nation of many creeds”

distributed by the Washington Post Writers Group;
published in the Star Tribune October 22, 2010

[...] America was not founded as a Christian nation precisely because America’s founders were informed by a Jewish and Christian understanding of human nature. Since humans are autonomous moral beings created in God’s image, freedom of conscience is essential to their dignity. At least where the federal government was concerned, the founders asserted that citizens should be subject to God and their conscience, not to the state.

The Founders were not secularists. They assumed that people would bring their deepest moral motivations to political life – motivations often informed by religious belief. But they firmly rejected sectariansim.



So does the Constitution, in Jefferson’s gloss, require the “separation of church and state”? Institutionally, yes. Theologically, yes with one notable exception. Nearly all the most important teachings of faith – doctrines on individual salvation or the destination of history – have no public role or relevance. But one belief – a belief in the nature and rights of human beings – is the basis of any political philosophy, including our own. It matters greatly if “all men are created equal” or not.

Religious faith remains one of the main foundations for belief in human equality and dignity – as it was in the Declaration of Independence. But this conviction leads in a different direction than some religious people imagine. It is honored by respecting the priority of conscience.


Separation of church and state

text checked (see note) Oct 2010

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Background graphic copyright © 2003 by Hal Keen