Monday, November 29, 2004

Economic Armageddon?

Today's Ethics Daily has posted a story quoting Tony Campolo saying the Church will suffer for partisan politics. Campolo is undoubtedly correct. The Religious Right has sown to the wind and the whole world is reaping the whirlwind.

Those interested in spotting new storms before they strike might be interested in reading an article about Stephen Roach, chief economist at Morgan Stanley, who is privately warning wall street about the "economic armageddon" that is rapidly approaching. His concerns are echoed by Paul Krugman and Robert Reich.

Once Americans experience the full wrath of economic depression, they are sure to give full credit for their suffering to the influence of evangelical Christians on politics.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

On Fundamentalists Taking Over Moderate Churches

Kudos to Rick Jordan for his column today on Ethics Daily that discusses "Moderate Pulpits: The Next Target." He writes,

Anecdotal stories of “stealth fundamentalists” interviewing for known-moderate churches are abundant. Sometimes these ministers will say whatever it takes to convince a search committee that they are the one to present to the church.

Jordan gives some good advice on how to prevent Fundamentalists from taking over your church. Jordan is right to contend that the key is an informed laity.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Land Trying to Shed Lapdog Image

Today's New York Times has an interesting article saying "G.O.P. Constituencies Split on Tax Change." Richard Land and Grover Norquist are said to be at odds about strategies for reforming the American tax system. Norquist favors a "stealth tax overhaul" that would gradually lead to a system that only taxes consumption. Land says, "People are not going to give the kind of support necessary for tax reform that leaves the investor class untaxed."

Has Land suddenly become a socialist and decided to challenge wealthy investors? Or, is he merely trying to get some leverage on Norquist to effect the legislative agenda where the President will spend the "capital" he gained from the last election?

Who will win in the battle to influence the President's agenda? Who got Bush elected? Social conservatives or economic conservatives? Who is setting the agenda? Economic conservatives or social conservatives?

A Faustian Bargain

Thanks to Carlos Stouffer at the Jesus Politics blog for calling my attention to yesterday's outstanding essay by Charles Haynes at the First Amendment Center. Haynes quotes from James Madison's Memorial and Remonstrance and writes,

Madison understood then what leaders of the religious right would have Christians forget today: When churches join forces with any political party, they are lured into a Faustian bargain — trading the authentic power of faith for the fleeting rewards of worldly influence.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Politics Trumps Principle -- Even on Abortion

As loyal Republican votaries, Richard Land and James Dobson are muting their opposition to Sen. Arlen Specter's confirmation as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and meekly retreating to the sidelines. Baptist Press quotes Land as saying,

I'm disappointed that Senator Specter is going to be chairman, . . . But I'm not surprised given the ways in which the senators of both parties tend to cherish, if not worship, seniority.

As I wrote on Nov. 4th, when it comes to getting things done in congress, it is Grover Norquist that crafts the message and sets the agenda for Republicans. Norquist will see that the President's agenda stays focused on economic issues and not social issues. Again, here's Norquist's agenda as reported in the Nov. 4th edition of the New York Times:

Social conservatives are a very important part of the base, but they are not enough alone," said Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform and a conservative strategist close to the Bush administration, noting that in Illinois, Alan Keyes had taken a drubbing in the race for the Senate after running a vigorously conservative campaign on social issues.

Mr. Norquist eagerly predicted the accomplishment of a long agenda of government reduction: repealing the estate tax, privatizing Social Security, restricting medical and other liability lawsuits, closing military bases, opening more government jobs to competitive bidding to lower costs and weaken unions, imposing new disclosure requirements on organized labor, and expanding health care and investment savings accounts.

Once again evangelicals deliver the votes but can't effect the changes they say they are after. When are evangelicals going to realize that politicians will patronize them just long enough to get elected? When are Baptists going to realize that abortion has never been the real issue?

The real issue has always been securing a place at the table of power for people like Land and Dobson and Falwell. The problem of abortion could have been solved decades ago if the religious right had been willing to reach a compromise (See my Oct. 1 blog). But if they had done that, how could they keep motivating people to vote for "conservative" candidates?

On Second Thought

The previous post was from my charitable side. I do want to give everyone -- even Fundamentalists -- the benefit of a doubt. Experience, however, sometimes makes me cynical.

My cynical side tells me that BGCO's calling their first ever female VP was a deft public relations move. It is perfectly timed to help deflect the glare of publicity that is coming as the story about Molly Marshall's treatment at Southern Seminary is being remembered and her appointment as President of Central Baptist Seminary is being announced. Molly is a native of Oklahoma and a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University.

I will discover which side is right -- charitable or cynical -- when I see how long it takes for BGCO to elect another woman to serve as Vice President. I suspect it will take more than a hundred years before they elect a woman to serve as President of BGCO and longer than that before a woman could be called as President of Oklahoma Baptist University. You can be sure that it will be a cold day in Hades before a woman ever serves as President of a Southern Baptist Seminary.

A Pleasant Surprise

I was pleasantly surprised to read that the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma has elected a woman to serve as Vice President of the state convention. Here's a quote from Baptist Press:

Oklahoma Baptists made history when messengers to the annual meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma elected a woman to one of its three top offices.

Marty Odom, a member of Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, was elected second vice president without opposition.

It is rare that I find much to commend about the leadership of Oklahoma's Fundamentalist dominated state convention, but this action is truly commendable. It sets a precedent worthy of wide and frequent emulation.

Once Oklahoma Baptists discover that thunderbolts won't rain down on them for placing a woman in a position of some authority over the state's pastors, perhaps they'll learn that they have nothing to fear when a Baptist church feels led to call a woman to serve as pastor.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Tennessee Baptist Colleges have opportunity to repudiate Bibliolatry

ABP reports that Tennessee Baptists voted to investigate the biblical views of three of their Baptist colleges. In an attempt to breathe life into a state convention takeover attempt that has been failing in Tennessee, Fundamentalists got the Tennessee Baptist Convention to launch a heresy hunt at the Baptist colleges in Tennessee.

Tennessee Baptist colleges are at a crossroads. Will they identify the true heresy -- the bibliolatry of the 2000 BF&M -- or will they try to pretend that there is no difference between the 2000 BF&M and what traditional Baptists believe and teach?

Here are a few more links related to bibliolatry and the 2000 BF&M:

The Baptist Faith and Practice

On Bible Idolatry

The Chief Sin of Fundamentalism

Testing Inerrantist Truthfulness

SBC President Assigns Attributes of Deity to the Bible
Mainstream Baptist Correspondence with Paige Patterson, SBC President

OK Pastor Defends "Divinity of the Scriptures"

On Clarifying Bible Beliefs

Making the Bible an Idol

Who Controls the Bible?

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Holding Baptist Republican's Feet to the Fire

Kudo's to Robert Parham for setting a clear agenda for the public witness of Ethics Daily. One of his objectives is to begin expecting Baptist Republican's to work to exercise influence on their party that accords with their Baptist Heritage. Here's what Parman says:
A sharper justice commitment means that we will challenge the religious right’s anointment of the GOP, as God’s Only Party. We will take on the religious right’s definition of the nation’s moral agenda and refuse to let those off the hook who enable the right’s distortions. We will expose the religious right’s hypocrisy, point out its idolatry of nationalism and critique its campaign promise to strengthen families based on false fears and faulty analysis.

Equally important, we will look for opportunities to highlight the leadership of Democrats and Independents who are active Christians, as a way to counteract the lie that the only Christians are Republicans. We will encourage Baptist Republicans to remain true to their Baptist heritage and faithful to the biblical witness.

I'll second what Parman says with a hearty Amen! It's time for the Mainstream Baptists who are Republicans to start exerting some influence within their party to preserve separation of church and state.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The New Precedent at Central Baptist Seminary

Kudos to the Trustees at Central Seminary for calling Dr. Molly Marshall to be President of the Seminary. She is the first woman to serve in such a capacity at any ATS accredited Baptist Seminary. As the school's press release said:

The Board of Directors of Central Baptist Theological Seminary unanimously elected Dr. Molly T. Marshall as the seminary’s 10th president. . . . This is the first time a woman has held this position at any Baptist-affiliated seminary accredited by the Association of Theological Schools.

Al Mohler, Paige Patterson and all the rest of the Fundamentalist leaders of the SBC have reason for worry. The glory has departed from your schools and the Holy Spirit is about to use the brightest ember from an extinguished torch of learning to spark a revival at Central.

Monday, November 15, 2004

The Pride of Liberalism

Thanks to Mercer's Baptist Studies Bulletin for publishing Henlee Barnette's last Op-Ed on "Why I am Proud to be a Liberal." At a time when most Baptists would rather be viewed as "conservative" than be observed following Christ's teachings at the Sermon on the Mount, Barnette's essay comes as a breath of fresh air.

Barnette's essay is also a healthy corrective to the social darwinism that underlies Amit Ghate's appeal for liberals to join libertarians in making an individualistic economic argument to defend separation of church and state. Ghate and other libertarians would do well to reflect on these words from Barnette:

I am a liberal because I know what it is like to work under a conservative and an oppressive economic system. In the "good old days" (1925-1935) I worked in a cotton mill ten hours per day, five and one-half days per week. Beginning pay was eighteen cents per hour. There was no medical care, no retirement program, no minimum working hours, and no minimum wage. A worker could be fired for no reason at all. All members of the family had to work to survive. This was so-called "free enterprise." Progressive liberals changed the system and we now have legislation that provides a quality of life more in harmony with the principles of The Constitution, the Declaration, and the Bible. Practice of these principles saved us from revolution that plagues other nations.

Neo-cons denounce economic and social progress led by liberals: minimum wages and working hours, Medicare, social security, and welfare for the poor. (Conservatives oppose welfare for the poor, but not for the corporate welfare.) Ironically, they gladly accept these government services for their retired parents and grandparents and will for themselves when they become older. Too, they argue for less big government and fiscal responsibility. But that is changing with the Bush administration. Government control of all areas of our lives is occurring and we have the largest US debt in history.

The Theocratic "Shadow" Campaign

Kudos to Max Blumenthal for his article "The Christian Right's Humble Servant." Blumenthal is one of the few journalists who knows where to find the fingerprints of the right-wing cabal that is methodically pushing our nation toward theocracy. Here's an interesting paragraph:

When the official Bush/Cheney re-election campaign kicked into high gear, the religious right's shadow campaign had been underway for nearly a year. The Southern Baptist Convention's Land had created a program to cultivate "values voters" called IVoteValues, which included a Web site rating candidates according to issues of concern to conservative Christians. Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, a legal arm of the Christian Coalition, sent mailers to 45,000 conservative pastors explaining how to rally support for Republican candidates without threatening their church's non-profit status. The Presidential Prayer Team, a private evangelical group bankrolled by Arizona Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo ran ads during the summer on 1,200 radio stations urging listeners to get on their knees and pray for the president.

While Blumenthal gives a lot of print to the issue of homosexuality, Brad Carson, a Baylor grad who lost to theocrat Tom Coburn in the recent campaign for one of Oklahoma's U.S. Senate seats, has recently written in The New Republic about the role that the issue of abortion played in his campaign. Here's a quote from his article:

After the morning rituals, the pastor called me to the stage, and we engaged in a lengthy discussion about abortion, homosexuality, "liberal judges," and other controversial matters. After leaving the stage, I rejoined the congregation, and the pastor launched into an attack on the "pro-choice terrorists," who were, to his mind, far more dangerous than Al Qaeda. Yes, he acknowledged, thousands had died on September 11, but abortion was killing millions and millions. This was a holocaust, he continued, and we must all vote righteously. Vote righteously! In 13 months of campaigning across the vast state of Oklahoma, I must have seen or heard this phrase a thousand times, often on the marquees of churches, where, outside of election season, one finds only clever and uplifting biblical bromides. But it was not until that September Sunday in Sallisaw, one of the most Democratic towns in Oklahoma, that I first understood that the seemingly innocuous phrase "vote righteously" was the slogan not of a few politicized churches, but the cri de coeur of millions--millions who fervently believe that their most deeply held values are under assault and who further see this assault as at least tolerated by the Democratic Party, if not actually led by it.

One of the best responses I've seen to the theocratic rights' fixation on sexual ethics is an editorial in the last issue of the Texas Baptist Standard. Marv Knox writes:

But (high school boys' imaginations to the contrary) there's more to this world than sex. And every American, particularly every person of faith, who is motivated by "moral values" should press our leaders to act on a wider range of issues. They include, but aren't necessarily limited to: (I'm just giving the headings without Knox's discussion)

Poverty . . . Healthcare . . . Environment . . . Debt . . . Nationalism

Friday, November 12, 2004

SBC President issues book for "Holy Warriors"

As Baptist Press admits, Bobby Welch and Broadman-Holman Press are trying to "capitalize" on the war in Iraq and on the country's spiritual interest as they issue the book You, The Warrior Leader.

It is hard to imagine an image more contradictory to the Spirit of Christ and more incendiary to the Muslim world than the cover of Welch's book.

Having gained positions at the top of the Baptist world, Welch and his publishers may not be fearful of losing their souls. They do need to consider that it would be better for millstones to be tied around their necks and be cast into the sea, than for them to cause any little one to sin by confusing human warfare with spiritual warfare. (Luke 17:1-2)

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Falwell driving to be "boss man" for "values voters"

Fifteen years ago, Jerry Falwell stepped down from spearheading the "Moral Majority" saying that, under Fundamentalist rule, the SBC would be doing the work of the organization. Yesterday, Americans United (AU) issued a news alert and Associated Baptist Press (ABP) issued a report that show that Falwell is positioning himself to reassume control of a well oiled political machine that Richard Land and the Fundamentalists controlling the SBC have created for him. Both AU and ABP leave the impression that Falwell is trying to "cash in" on the values vote. I think they've misread Falwell. He's not after money, he wants to be "boss." He's after power and control.

For the past fifteen years many Baptists around the country have been sending a tithe of their tithes to the SBC to support missionaries who have dedicated their lives to sharing the gospel around the world. Throughout that time the Fundamentalists have been methodically dismantling the system supporting professional, career missionaries that made our work effective. They've been micromanaging missionaries until they resign in frustration, firing missionaries who could not conscientiously support their bibliolatrous theology, and selling off/closing down the system of schools and hospitals in foreign lands that we created to earn a hearing for the gospel. In place of the former system, the Fundamentalists have created a system designed for short-term evangelistic work by a workforce with rapid turnover. In brief, our mission boards have become a placement center where SBC seminary graduates receive a brief internship before being dumped back into our churches. SBC Seminaries and Mission Boards have become little more than Ferris wheels that indoctrinate our churches in Fundamentalist theology and political ideology.

Missions is the bait that keeps money flowing to the SBC, but the money has been systematically switched to efforts to oil a machine that can control the secular political life of this country. To see this happening, all you have to do is look at the size of the increases for the past fifteen years in the budgets of the SBC's Executive Committee and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Now that this political "Hummer" is up and running, "Boss" Falwell is receiving the keys and will soon be in the driver's seat.

All that remains to be seen is how long it will be before "Boss" Falwell becomes President of the SBC. Will it be 2006 or 2008?

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

SBC Hardwiring to GOP Exposed

Monday the Washington Post reported that Richard Land, head of the SBC's political action committee, was a frequent participant in weekly conference calls with Karl Rove and other White House officials running the president's campaign for re-election. The report said,

The White House struggled to stay abreast of the Christian right and consulted with the movement's leaders in weekly conference calls.
. . .

According to religious leaders, the conference calls with White House officials started early in the Bush administration and became a weekly ritual as the campaign heated up. Usually the participants were (Karl) Rove or Tim Goeglein, head of the White House Office of Public Liaison. Later, Bush campaign chairman Ken Mehlman and Ralph Reed, former executive director of the Christian Coalition and the campaign's southeast regional coordinator, were often on the line.

The religious leaders varied, but frequent participants included the Rev. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, psychologist James C. Dobson or others from the Colorado-based Focus on the Family, and (Charles) Colson.

Such a revelation is not entirely unexpected. What is surprising is the overweening naivete that could swallow the idea that this, "mobilization of evangelical Protestants and conservative Roman Catholics . . . took off under its own power."

These revelations make it clear that the head of an SBC agency was coordinating political activity on a weekly basis with leaders of a partisan political campaign.

There was a day when Baptist preachers and lay people would have been alarmed by and indignant about this egregious violation of the Baptist principle of separation of church and state. Today Southern Baptists are so cowed by and subservient to their denominational overlords that it will hardly raise an eyebrow.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Francis Schaeffer credited with influencing 2004 Election

Kudos to Max Blumenthal who, as far as I know, is the first journalist to trace the results of the 2004 election to the influence of Francis Schaeffer. There is no doubt that Schaeffer was instrumental in awakening an evangelical reaction against abortion and he was not shy about denouncing homosexuality.

Evangelical readers of Blumenthal’s article may feel uneasy about his linking Schaeffer’s influence to militant anti-abortion groups like Operation Rescue. There is no doubt, however, that there is a direct link between the militant rhetoric of Schaeffer’s A Christian Manifesto and the militancy of anti-abortion groups like Operation Rescue.

For a fuller understanding of the influence of both Schaeffer and his colleague, Rousas Rushdoony, the founder of Christian Reconstructionism, on militant anti-abortionists read Jerry Reiter’s Live from the Gates of Hell: An Insider’s Look at the Antiabortion Underground and Frederick Clarkson’s Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Bush's New Agenda

The Religious Right delivered the vote for Bush. Now they anticipate a "revolution" and expect him to deliver on their social agenda. But, already there are signs that the thrust of Bush's agenda will be more economic than social. Below is a quote from Grover Norquist in today's New York Times. When it comes to getting things done in congress, Norquist crafts the message and sets the agenda for Republicans. Here's Norquist's agenda:

Social conservatives are a very important part of the base, but they are not enough alone," said Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform and a conservative strategist close to the Bush administration, noting that in Illinois, Alan Keyes had taken a drubbing in the race for the Senate after running a vigorously conservative campaign on social issues.

Mr. Norquist eagerly predicted the accomplishment of a long agenda of government reduction: repealing the estate tax, privatizing Social Security, restricting medical and other liability lawsuits, closing military bases, opening more government jobs to competitive bidding to lower costs and weaken unions, imposing new disclosure requirements on organized labor, and expanding health care and investment savings accounts.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The End is Near

The end is near for the First Amendment of the Constitution. It had a good run -- 215 years -- and it may coast along for a little bit longer. The 2004 elections, however, make it clear that it’s days are surely numbered.

Death won’t come suddenly. It will be a slow, convulsive and painful death as people of conscience gasp for the last breaths of the air of freedom that made dialogue about religion civil in this country.

Chief among those choking the life out of religious liberty are Baptists. Seminal in conceiving liberty of conscience and instrumental in giving it birth as a civil right, Baptists are now eager to bury it alive and cover it over with the dirt of civil religion.

Perhaps it will flower again in the soil above the graves they are digging for those who are prepared to take up a cross and follow Jesus. Some sort of crucifixion is sure to befall all who stand against an imperial civil religion's claim to divine blessing for a nation that willingly embarks on crusades to exercise dominion over all the peoples of the earth.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Voting Considerations

Thanks to Carson Snow for sending me the link to John Hay, Jr.'s blog on “Seven Considerations I Make When Voting.” Here's a sample of what Hay has to say:

PARADOXES IN THE PLATFORMS. Earnest Christians are faced with tough choices in the voting booth. Whoever one casts a vote for, it may feel like something less than making a clearly Christian choice. There are paradoxes in the candidates and their platforms. I hope folks struggle hard and long with how they will vote, and then second-guess themselves all the way home from the polls.
This blog is so good that it is hard to limit myself to quoting a single paragraph. I encourage readers to use this link to read the entire essay. Kudo's to John Hay, Jr. for succinctly expressing what weighs on the hearts of many moderate evangelicals.

On Godless Constitutions

Last Friday the heads of state in Europe signed the European Union's first constitution. The Pope viewed it as a setback. Instead of explicitly recognizing Christianity, the European Constitution separates church and state and upholds religious freedom.

Two hundred and fifteen years ago the United States of America became the first nation in history to separate church and state and grant religious freedom to all its citizens. The most reputable religious leaders of the day viewed it as a setback. They wanted a system of government that united church and state like the ones in Europe. They denounced the new constitution as being "a godless constitution" and prophesied doom and gloom for people of faith. Today, however, faith is recognized as being more vibrant and extensive in America than it is in Europe.

Ironically, at the very moment when Europe is officially endorsing the principle of voluntary religion that made America so attractive to people of conviction searching for religious freedom, many Americans are being mobilized to cast votes that will ensure legislation and adjudication that will require every citizen to acknowledge a religious "worldview," practice a form of "ceremonial deism," and live by the moral codes of a subset of a single religion.

Should the theocrats succeed, there is little doubt in my mind that, two hundred years from now, faith will be more vibrant and extensive in Europe than it is in America. Faiths resort to force when they are in decay. Strong faiths grow by the persuasiveness of their convictions.