July 2004: John Kerry on "One of the Oldest Commandments"

When referring to Social Security in his nomination acceptance speech, Kerry invoked "one of the oldest Commandments: 'Honor thy father and thy mother.'" While the adjective "oldest" is puzzling, Kerry did neatly sidestep a denominational divide by avoiding a reference to numbers. "Honor thy father and thy mother" is the fourth commandment for Catholics, but the fifth for Protestants, who would think of the fourth as "Honor the Sabbath day." Jews also number the Commandments differently. See three faiths' versions simultaneously (PDF). July 2004: John Kerry Crosses Himself Before Speeches It's reported that Kerry crosses himself before making speeches. Some Catholics make the sign of the cross before embarking on difficult or stressful work. Bert Ghezzi, author of "The Sign of the Cross," says that along with its other functions, "Making the sign of the cross over our body is a way of saying yes to the battle and of accepting hardship as our share of Christ's suffering" (read more). Other Catholics make the sign of the Cross simply to bless themselves. How does it work for U.S. Catholics? The believer touches the fingertips of his right hand to his forehead, chest, left shoulder, and right shoulder. The gestures correspond to the liturgical text "in the name of the Father" (forehead), "Son," (center chest), "and Holy Spirit" (left shoulder, right shoulder).
The practice originated in the very early Church: Tertullian (c. 160-225), a Christian writer, refers to "mark[ing] our foreheads with the sign of the Cross." In liturgies today, worshippers may cross themselves several times: while kneeling before entering or leaving a pew, when the priest begins and ends the service, or when the Trinity is mentioned. The practice varies widely among denominations and cultures. Eastern Orthodox Christians, for example, touch their right shoulder before their left, and may hold their fingers in a pinching gesture while crossing themselves. March 2004: John Kerry on James 2:14

During a speech at a Baptist Church in which he criticized "our present national leadership," Kerry cited James 2:14: "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?" Whether or not Kerry intended it, this verse recalls the historic split between Protestants and Catholics on whether salvation comes by "works" (good deeds) or faith. Protestants have traditionally emphasized that if you don't have faith in Jesus, you won't gain salvation. The James verse summarizes what some might call the Catholic position: that faith without works is dead. In recent years, the denominations have found more common ground on this point. Unlike most of the letters found in the New Testament, James was not written by the Apostle Paul. Pauline epistles are crucial to the development of Protestant theology (like President Bush's Methodism). Some scholars see the Letter of James as coming from the Jewish strain, not the Gentile strain, of early Christianity. Behavior and actions might have been emphasized more in Jewish Christianity, whereas faith and belief would have held more sway among Gentile Christians.

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