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Kevin Bermeister Headshot

With God and Church on Their Side: Which God Is That?

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An interesting article appeared in the weekend papers that ostensibly featured GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum. What fascinated me about the piece was the fact that, in highlighting the Republican candidate, the article likewise demonstrated the growth of evangelical political power. At a campaign rally in Louisiana, Pastor Dennis Terry introduced Mr. Santorum by rallying against the enemies of freedom and decency in America. "I don't care what the liberals say," fired Terry, "I don't care what the naysayers say. This nation was founded as a Christian nation. The God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob! There is only one God. There is only one God and his name is Jesus." The audience in the room jumped to its feet in thunderous applause.

These authoritative words and the attending response struck me. The Evangelical Christians who name their God Jesus cannot profess to do so in the name of the Old Testament God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. "The Name" -- YHVH which is the God of the Old Testament -- refers to the all-important element that binds all monotheistic principles together and is expressed through four increasingly secretive levels of learning and understanding of the Old Testament. "The Name" is exclusively revealed in its ancient Hebrew language form, thus, to substitute "The Name" with any other name would, by definition, instantly abolish any connection to the Old Testament.

You may ask why this is important. Let sleeping dogs lie. But I can't. It's the essence of a Jew and a Christian's divine departure and ultimately impacts the very moral decency Pastor Terry hopes to defend. Most Christians and most secular Jews fail to comprehend that "The Name," the God of the Patriarchs of Israel, cannot simply be reapplied as a catch-phrase for divinity. In fact, this contrived contradiction should be addressed if we are to remove the distortions in society that result from people's misunderstanding of this enduring fact.

The present states of justice, morality and decency in the United States are decaying and carry downward with them a significant economic impact. These too are the concerns of Pastor Terry and many American's along with him. To fix this state of decline, one has to get to the root values that should define society and serve to restore a powerful nation. Re-establishing these core principles can lead people back to the healthy, strong, family-oriented state so many people desire, but this cannot be done by misleading or lying. This cannot be accomplished by simply substituting "The Name" of God. If one wants to believe in Jesus, great, go ahead, but then discard the Old Testament connection. If one wants to believe in "The Name," then abandon Jesus. What one can't do is embrace and mingle both and expect large swathes of people in American communities to have a reliable religious constitution upon which they can depend and in which they can seek truthful leadership. If the Pastor's statement was scrutinized by the standards that call for truth in advertising, it would be deemed false marketing and subject to significant fines and possible banning!

Granted, the word "God" has become a modern, ambiguous catch-all referring to any deity. This is not exclusive to the Deity of monotheism upon which Jews, Christians and Muslims purportedly base their religious adherence. Nevertheless, gratuitous substitutions for the Deity believed in by the Old Testament fathers do not work. Indeed, when Pastor Terry says the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob is Jesus, it's akin to saying "the God of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson and his name is Mohammed" -- give me a break!

Isn't it time to get literal and begin to delve seriously into the ancient controversies that are inherent in the New Testament's departure from the Old Testament and its definitions? Only when we sit down to examine this divergence can we hope to stop the confused state of being that currently plagues Western society. The universal nature of the Old Testament caters to the broad spectrum of people and invites deep exploration and discovery that can and has helped to establish laws for just, moral and decent societies. In addition, it includes a basis for the spiritual elevation of the world. Perhaps Christians who want to be true to form ought seriously to re-think the statements their pastors, leaders and teachers are making and begin to face the hard decisions about the definition of the God in which they choose to believe.

With God and Church on their side, political leaders will continue to milk audiences, manufacturing untruths that, while inaccurate, serve as the driving force toward political victories. Setting the desire for political victories aside, this dazzling Godly rhetoric is ultimately diverting. What these political hopefuls and supports fail to do when they co-opt the Divine for political purposes is they fail to expound upon the unifying principals of society's religious frameworks which should provide guidance, direction and inspiration for people to excel. President Obama has blurted the name Jesus on national media more often than any other American President. What does he mean? What message is he trying to convey by using this hallowed name in such a hollow manner?

Does anyone want to resolve the problems manifest in a society that loosely substitutes "The Name" or am I just another Jew who is seemingly praying toward a cold stone wall?