Monday, February 28, 2005

Watching Religious Broadcasters

Max Blumenthal's Air Jesus -- With the Evangelical Airforce offers an interesting glimpse into the paradoxes and contradictions that lie under the surface whenever the National Religious Broadcasters hold a convention.

Nothing is more puzzling to me than the bond between Israel and the Evangelical dispensational premillenialists who eagerly look forward to the genocide of all but 144,000 Jewish inhabitants of Palestine. Some Israeli's are also troubled by the connection. Blumenthal writes:
I paid a visit to the Israeli Tourism Ministry's booth in the convention's cavernous exposition hall. There I met a tall, svelte blonde named Marina, who lived on a cooperative mango farm near the Sea of Gallilee. I asked her if she agreed with the political views of the NRB conventioneers.

"No, no, and no," she stated firmly.

Then what was she doing there?

"I walked around here earlier today looking at everything," Marina said, "and I wondered to myself, 'What am I doing here?'" Her eyes welled up with tears. "I mean, come on, these people are anti-Semitic." Though I didn't see any overt anti-semitism in evidence at the conference, evangelical leaders like Pat Robertson and Don Wildmon of the American Family Association (website) have long histories of anti-semitic statements.

Consistency and Ethics

Ethics Daily is running a story about the debate between Jim Wallis and Charles Colson over the consistency of their ethical stances.

Colson faults Wallis for finding moral equivalency between opposition to abortion and opposition to war and poverty. Colson gives weight to abortion and thinks this assures that his ethical stances will be logically consistent. Wallis wrote a response denying that he equates all moral issues. He then went on to say opposing war and economic injustice is as important as opposing abortion.

I agree with Wallis, but I'm not sure his response was a strong as it could be.

I suggest that we test both of them by the consistency of their ethical responses to the evidence of policies and practices that lead to the abuse and torture of prisoners.

Colson has spent the greater part of his life working with prisoners. It would be natural to think that he would be acutely sensitive to the ethics of prison life and the handling of prisoners. Yet, Colson had an ingenious response to revelations that American soldiers were abusing and torturing prisoners at Abu Ghraib. He ignored the policies and blamed the soldiers saying, "when you mix young people who grew up on a steady diet of MTV and pornography with a prison environment, you get the abuse at Abu Ghraib."

Try to find anything more that Colson said publicly about the involvement of government agents in torture and abuse of prisoners. Here's a link to a google search.

Wallis has been an outspoken critic of policies that permit the abuse or torture of prisoners. Here's a link to one of his best articles.

In practice, it looks like Colson's ethic is far from logical or consistent. I think he needs to remove the log from his own eye before he tries to take any specks from Wallis' eye.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Spirits of the Times Redux

I'm back from the Mainstream Baptist Network convocation.

One of the speakers passionately emphasized digging into the Church's history of spirituality. As he spoke, one of my early blogs (6-30-04) came to mind. I think it is worth posting again:

There seems to be a lot of self-conscious searching for the spiritual these days. Most of these efforts leave me puzzled.

The spiritual realm is the world in which we live and move and have our being. Spirit is not something that is looked upon from the standpoint of a spectator. Without spirit we are like fish without water.

Instead of emulating fish leaping out of water for an instant at a time, it seems to me that our conscious efforts might best be directed to searching for ways to address the spirits that are polluting the environment where we have to live.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Podcast of Interview with Rob Boston, Part 2

Part 2 of 2 of Dr. Bruce Prescott's 2-23-03 "Religious Talk" radio interview of Rob Boston, author of Why the Religious Right is Wrong: About Separation of Church and State. Rob Boston is Associate Editor of Americans United's Church & State Magazine. Click on the podcast title to download the audio.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Podcast of Interview with Rob Boston, Part 1

Part 1 of 2 of Dr. Bruce Prescott's 2-23-03 "Religious Talk" radio interview of Rob Boston, author of Why the Religious Right is Wrong: About Separation of Church and State. Rob Boston is Associate Editor of Americans United's Church & State Magazine. Click on the podcast title to download the audio.

On the Road Again

I'm on my way to Atlanta to the Fourth Annual Mainstream Baptist Network Convocation.

As you'll see from the link, we've got an all star cast of speakers this year. Theo Angelov, the past General Secretary of the European Baptist Federation, Penny Marler, Associate Professor of religion at Samford University, Albert Reyes, President of the Baptist University of the Americas in San Antonio, and Walter Shurden, Baptist Historian and Director of the Center for Baptist Studies at Mercer University will all be speaking.

I hope to post some blogs from the Convocation. Meanwhile, here's a link to a speech that one of the speakers gave at the Mainstream Baptist Network Convocation last year.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Podcasting Re-activated

Thanks to Chris McIntyre at Podcasting Alley for advising me about the phenomenal rates for bandwidth at Liberated Syndication. Their rates for a year's worth of service are lower than two weeks worth of service with my web host provider.

I opened an account and uploaded the file for my radio interview with Greg Horton yesterday.

The February 9th Podcast: Tsunami and Theodicy has now been re-activated.

The February 12th podcast of the interview with Dr. David Berliner, Part 1 has now been re-activated.

The February 13th podcast of the interview with Dr. David Berliner, Part 2 has now been re-activated.

The February 17th 30 second videocast of the Americans United Video supporting public schools and opposing vouchers has been re-activated. It works fine with my Internet Explorer browser, but it locks-up my Firefox browser.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Where Will This End?

Matt Sellers, a Christian blogger in Birmingham, England posted a disturbing blog today.

Looking back, Scott Ritter and Seymour Hersh both drew more credible conclusions than the administration about the existence of WMD's in Iraq and the probability of protracted conflict in that country.

I pray they are in error about this administration's plans to wage war with Iran, but the President's bellicose rhetoric does not sound very encouraging.

Grace Halsell's Forcing God's Hand looks more prescient every day.

Our Podcasts are Stretching the Limits

The podcasts of our interviews with Greg Horton and with Dr. David Berliner are temporarily off-line. The same is true of our v-blog of a 30 second video opposing vouchers and supporting public schools. They proved too popular. So many people downloaded them that we exceeded the bandwidth limits on our contract with our web hosting service. The interviews with Dr. Charles Kimball are still active. Those are being hosted by Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists organization.

The bill for the last couple weeks of service already exceeds what I normally pay for an entire year of web hosting. That is one of the reasons why there is a new DONATE button prominently displayed in the right margin of this weblog.

Donations to the Mainstream Baptist weblog (the site you are on right now) will NOT be tax deductible. Those who would like to make tax-deductible contributions can go to the Mainstream Baptists website which is hosting the podcasts of Dr. Charles Kimball (The link in this sentence takes you to a different website).

I've already signed up with a new, more reasonably priced service to host my podcasts and the AU video. As soon as I figure out how to download the podcasts of Greg Horton and David Berliner and the AU video to that site, I'll reactivate the links for those podcasts.

Uncovering the Council for National Policy

Thanks to Carlos Stouffer at the Jesus Politics blog for calling attention to Sarah Posner's article on the Secret Society.

I've written a previous blog about the relation of prominent SBC leaders to the Council for National Policy. Baptists are very familiar with the effectiveness of secretive cabals that set the priorities and agenda for political takeovers. We've been facing one for twenty-five years in the Southern Baptist Convention. Many of the same players are in the Council for National Policy which has been orchestrating the right-wing political takeover of our country.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Pushing for a Draft?

The Washington Post is reporting that, for the first time since 2001, the Army is having trouble meeting its recruiting goals. Last month, the Marine Corp fell short of its monthly recruiting goal for the first time in a decade. The National Guard and Reserves are already undermanned.

Clearly, the volunteer military is under strain.

So, why is our President issuing sabre-rattling ultimatums to Iran and Syria? He's been calling them an axis of evil for three years. The dust literally had not settled before he was accusing Syria of planting the bomb that killed Rafik Hariri.

It seems that the more difficult it gets to recruit volunteers for the military, the more belligerent and bellicose the President's rhetoric becomes toward Iran and Syria.

Am I the only one who wonders whether he's turning up the heat to justify pushing for a draft?

Friday, February 18, 2005

Podcast: Interview with Dr. Charles Kimball, Part 2

Part 2 of 2 of Dr. Bruce Prescott's 11-24-02 "Religious Talk" radio interview of Dr. Charles Kimball, author of the best selling book, When Religion Becomes Evil. Dr. Kimball is Chair of the Department of Religion at Wake Forest University. Click on the podcast title to download the audio.

For Peace and Safety in the Christian Home

Thanks to Robert Cunningham for sending me the link to the Peace and Safety in the Christian Home website.

If you wonder why there needs to be a distinctively Christian network to deal with the problem of domestic violence, here's a link to a file in Adobe PDF format. Evangelical Christians have been laggards in addressing domestic violence. The Fundamentalist Christian insistence that wives be submissive to their husbands has been more hindrance than help in addressing domestic violence.

Follow this link for a Mainstream Baptist perspective on family issues.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Podcast: Interview with Dr. Charles Kimball, Part 1

Part 1 of 2 of Dr. Bruce Prescott's 11-24-02 "Religious Talk" radio interview of Dr. Charles Kimball, author of the best selling book, When Religion Becomes Evil. Dr. Kimball is Chair of the Department of Religion at Wake Forest University. Click on the podcast title to download the audio.

Underestimating Dominionism

Thanks to Pastor Dan at the Faithforward blog for posting the link to Dignan's blog about being Inside the "Religious Right."

Dignan shares a remarkable story about his experiences with Religious Right leaders. It is encouraging to read about his pilgrimage away from the self-defeating extremism of "Operation Rescue".

I would caution him and his readers about underestimating the current influence of "Dominionism." After the excesses of "Operation Rescue," few people will openly admit sympathy with dominionist thought.

Rushdoony's thought is still very influential. To find its trail, you have to trace the reasons why the religious right is pressing to stack the supreme court and judiciary with "strict constructionist" judges. The fingerprints of Dominionist influence are even more obvious in the popularity of Judge Roy Moore and his crusade to make ten commandments monuments a symbol of the establishment of theocratic law.

Religious Leaders Critique President's Budget

A group of more than 80 moderate and progressive religious leaders from around the country has written a letter to members of congress that criticizes the President's proposed budget for turning "it's back on our nations oldest and most enduring values of compassion, justice and honesty. It demands an unequal sacrifice, and so it is unworthy of who we are, as children of God."

Here's a link to a copy of the letter that has been posted on the internet.

Videocast -- Supporting Public Schools

Videocast of a 30 second video produced by the Education Committee of Americans United for Separation of Church and State to oppose vouchers for private schools. Click on the Videocast title to view video.

Note: This video proved too popular. We exceeded bandwidth limits with our webhosting service. Contact Dr. Bruce Prescott at bprescott@mainstreambaptists.org to get a copy of the video.

Falwell's "Pit Bull"

Ethics Daily is running a story about the new Dean at Jerry Falwell's indoctrination center.

The recent appointment of Ergun Caner, a converted Sunni Muslim, worries some who are concerned about Christian-Muslim relations.

Caner's own website admits that the national media have described him as "the intellectual pit bull of the evangelical world."


Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Mainstream Baptist to Videocast

I've been in Washington, D.C. for the past four days attending an executive board meeting for the national organization of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

I didn't take my laptop with me, so I did not have an opportunity to post to the blog for the last few days. I did get an opportunity to work with Dr. David Berliner who was interviewed in the last two podcasts.

I came back from D.C. with a 30 second video that the Education Committee at AU produced to oppose siphoning funds from public schools and giving it to private religious schools. I plan to use it as my first videocast and hope to have it up by the end of the week.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Podcast of David Berliner Interview, Part 2

Part 2 of 2 of Dr. Bruce Prescott's 11-30-03 "Religious Talk" radio interview of Dr. David Berliner, author of The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud and the Attack on America's Public Schools. Dr. Berliner is professor of Education at the University of Arizona. Click on the podcast title to download the audio.

2/22/05 -- The link to the podcast was de-activated due to our exceeding bandwidth limits for our web hosting service.

2/23/05 -- The link to the podcast was RE-ACTIVATED using our new, more reasonably priced podcasting host -- Liberated Syndication.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Podcast of David Berliner Interview, Part 1

Part 1 of 2 of Dr. Bruce Prescott's 11-30-03 "Religious Talk" radio interview of Dr. David Berliner, author of The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud and the Attack on America's Public Schools. Dr. Berliner is professor of Education at the University of Arizona. Click on the podcast title to download the audio.

2/22/05 -- The link to the podcast was de-activated due to our exceeding bandwidth limits for our web hosting service.

2/23/05 -- The link to the podcast was RE-ACTIVATED using our new, more reasonably priced podcasting host -- Liberated Syndication.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Insuring the Risks of Global Warming

William Greider in an article about The New Colossus: The New Politics of Capital has some interesting things to say about the insurance industry's assessment of the risks of global warming. Here's what he says:

The noose of global warming is tightening on US industry, as the Kyoto Protocol enters active enforcement. The global reinsurance firm Swiss Re has warned its corporate clients to come up with strategies for global warming or risk losing their liability coverage. The Association of British Insurers warns that "businesses responsible for high emissions of greenhouse gases could be held liable for the damage that is caused by climate change."

CERES, the environmental coalition that does strategy and research for Nappier's network, explains that the business risks go further than lawsuits and regulation. Electric utilities that build new power plants without incorporating carbon reductions may find they have misused billions in capital and are stuck with obsolete plants. Auto companies that continue to resist the transformation to nonpetroleum cars will lose market share to forward-thinking competitors like Toyota. Energy firms that ignore renewable sources are missing future business opportunities.

Serious Concerns about Depleted Uranium

Here's another story in the mainstream press about the depleted uranium being used in our military munitions.

If the story about depleted uranium parallels the one about agent orange, it is going to take a lot longer for it to make the big media's radar screen.

I don't know anything about the human body's tolerance to radioactive dust, but I have seen documents that advise military personnel and emergency personnel to use extreme caution when handling materials containing DU that is in a deteriorating or corroded condition.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to convince me that breathing radioactive particles is likely to be a death sentence. I've read the reports about what breathing friable asbestos does to your lungs (one of the reasons for tort reform according to this administration). Having spent countless hours and tens of thousands of dollars making sure that the buildings at my church's religious school could prove that they met the federal government's environmental code, I know that there is good reason why you need to seal areas with friable asbestos off from the public and wear space suits to clean it up.

The dust from depleted uranium makes friable asbestos look like aroma therapy.

Social Security Lemmings

Many Baptist ministers my age put money in a Convention operated retirement plan to supplement whatever we were supposed to receive from social security when we retire.

Suppose we got a letter from the President of the Convention telling us that if we didn't agree to drastic changes at the Annuity Board, and accept reduced benefits, the board was projected to go into bankruptcy. Suppose that at the same time we got our letter, all the younger preachers in the Convention were advised it would be best to stop sending money to the Annuity Board and start putting their money into their own private investment accounts.

Suppose that as we investigated the reasons for our Annuity Board's insolvency we discovered that the Convention had been providing exorbitant benefits and perks to the powerful executives and trustees and friends of those who run the convention and that they had been dipping into the funds at the Annuity Board to pay the expenses of the Convention.

Would we still line up like loyal lemmings following our leaders, or would we be looking for a District Attorney and some lawyers and accountants who would press charges for embezzlement or fraud?

What difference is there in the scenario I just described and the agenda of this Administration regarding their tax cuts for the wealthy and their revision of Social Security?

This Administration is using the suplus revenue we are paying into Social Security to reduce the size of its deficit spending. Spending is in deficit because they gave exorbitant tax breaks and tax credits to the wealthy and powerful people who run our country.

Why are Southern Baptists still lining up like loyal lemmings to follow these leaders?

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Baptist Press Links Social Security to Marxism

Since the end of WWII, no tactic has served Fundamentalists better than devising ways to link their adversaries with communism.

When Martin Luther King led marches for civil rights for African-Americans, segregationist fundamentalists and conservatives said he was a communist. When women pressed for equal rights, misogynist fundamentalists and conservatives tried to link the movement to communism.

It was a tried and true tactic that used to work well in forming the kind of "herd mentality" by which unthinking masses could be manipulated. But, the communist empire collapsed and with it the "knee jerk" fear and anxiety that had been associated with it. For more than a decade, most right-wing demagogues switched to linking their adversaries with nazi's, as in "femi-nazi's," or with terrorists whenever they were trying to create hysterical mental associations.

Southern Baptists seem to be behind the curve. Baptist Press, the propaganda arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, just published a three-part series on social security. Their pathetic attempt to link the social security system to Marxism is so lame that it is laughable.

It would be hard to find a better example of how debasing it is for a religious denomination to place loyalty to a politician above the proclamation of the gospel.



Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Podcast "Tsunami and Theodicy"

Dr. Bruce Prescott's January 9, 2005 radio interview of blogger Greg Horton about his December 28, 2004 blog titled "What to Do." Click on the podcast title above to get the audio of the broadcast.

2/22/05 -- The link to the podcast was de-activated due to our exceeding bandwidth limits for our web hosting service.

2/23/05 -- The link to the podcast was RE-ACTIVATED using our new, more reasonably priced podcasting host -- Liberated Syndication.

Southern Baptists & Social Security

Baptist Press, the propaganda arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, has started a three part series about Social Security. We'll have to wait for the next two installments to see what the official SBC line is going to be on Social Security reform, but the first installment leaves the impression that SBC elites will continue to be loyal lapdogs for the President.

For people who are interested in a more studied appraisal of the President's proposals, here's a link to the latest article by Paul Krugman, an economist at Princeton University.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Mainstream Baptist to Podcast

Podcasting is the next big thing on the internet. People with a little technical expertise can send audio broadcasts to "ipods" and other computers.

I've got audio tapes of weekly radio interviews for the past five years that I've done for the "Religious Talk" radio program that airs in central Oklahoma. I'm in the process of transfering that audio into a digital format in order to begin "podcasting."

Among the programs to be digitized are interviews with Rob Boston, author of Why the Religious Right is Wrong about Separation of Church and State, Frederick Clarkson, author of Eternal Hostility, Greg Horton, author of the weblog The Parish, Charles Kimball, author of When Religion Becomes Evil, Barbara McGraw, author of Restoring America's Sacred Ground, Keith Parks, Ret. Coordinator of CBF's Global Missions, Robert Parham, Executive Director of Ethics Daily, Foy Valentine, Ret. Executive Director of the SBC's Christian Life Commission, Daniel Vestal, Coordinator of CBF and author of The Doctrine of Creation, Brent Walker, Executive Director of the BJC and author of The Trophy of Baptists, Jim Wallis, author of God's Politics, Greg Warner, Editor of Associated Baptist Press, Mel White, author of Stranger at the Gate, Mark Whitten, author of The Myth of Christian America, Phillip Wise, co-author of Fundamentalism, Jeff and Karen Zurheide, authors of In Their Own Way: Accepting Your Children for Who They Are and many more.

I hope to have our first "podcast" up by the end of the week.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Conservative Lip Service to Compassion

Media Transparency has posted an interesting article about "Don Eberly's Conservative Civil Society." He's another conservative social engineer cashing in on the dismantling of the social safety net for the poor.

It amazes me how many ways conservatives can repackage and sell their solution to the problem of poverty. They refuse to see the inequities of social structures or of economic cycles as a source of poverty. The blame for poverty rests solely with the poor. The cure must be "moral restoration." That's why the "welfare state" must be replaced by either the "theocratic state" and/or the "police state."

At present, these social engineers are dismantling the "welfare state" by trying to replace its centerpiece, Social Security, with personal investment accounts which do precisely what Eberly accuses the welfare state of doing:
Eberly argues passionately for a society where achieving the common good is a fundamental priority. He criticizes what he calls, "the Republic of the Autonomous Self, where the individual is the only real sovereign, where 'mediating' structures have been leveled, and where rules proliferate and yet lack legitimacy."

What he, and the other conservative social engineers, are doing is twisting the criticisms of their own policies and projecting them back onto the policies they are dismantling.

This isn't a debate. When their clever arguments achieve their aim, real people suffer.

Meanwhile, the social engineers, pockets filled with taxpayer money, will probably be sitting around thinking of ways to build "bigger barns" for themselves. Jesus had some advice for them (Luke12:15-21).


Saturday, February 05, 2005

Cole to Inoculate DeLay?

Today's New York Times is calling the new U.S. House Ethics Committee "Tom DeLay's Inoculation Committee." The NYT may be rushing to judgment on this.

My current U.S. Representative, Tom Cole, is one of the new members of the committee who is supposed to innoculate DeLay.

While I do not share Cole's political philosophy and have often been unhappy with the way he has cast his vote, I do not know of any reason to question his ethics or personal integrity.

I trust that, should the evidence warrant further action against DeLay by the Ethics Committee, that Tom Cole will put the interests of the country above the interests of his party.

Should Cole's loyalty to his party cloud his judgment, I promise to raise the issue with him in person, in print, on the internet and in the public square.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Inhofe's Hoaxes

A few days ago Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, Chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said global warming is "the second largest hoax ever played on the American people, after the separation of church and state."

Apparently, someone forgot to tell that to the insurance industry. Here's a link to an article in the Insurance Journal, "Emerging Risk Symposium to Focus on Global Warming." Unlike U.S. Senators, insurance industry executives' jobs depend upon their ability to make accurate appraisals of future risks.

At least there is actual debate about the risks of global warming. For Inhofe to call separation of church and state a hoax is to demonstrate complete ignorance of both the U.S. Constitution, which he has sworn to uphold, and American history. It also demonstrates ignorance of Baptist history and Inhofe serves a state where 20% of the people profess to be Baptists.

Despite what theocrats like Inhofe and David Barton say, the idea to separate church and state came neither from the constitution of the Soviet Union nor from Thomas Jefferson's letter to Danbury Baptists, it came from Baptists like Roger Williams and John Leland. James Madison, the chief author of the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment, knew that well. Before the constitution was ratified, he wrote a letter to James Monroe discussing opinions about Patrick Henry's bill to provide government funding for religion in Virginia. Here's what he said:

The Episcopal clergy are generally for it. . . . The Presbyterians seem as ready to set up an establishment which would take them in as they were to pull one down which shut them out. The Baptists, however, standing firm by their avowed principle of the complete separation of church and state, declared it to be "repugnant to the spirit of the Gospel for the Legislature thus to proceed in matters of religion, that no human laws ought to be established for the purpose.

Henry's bill failed after Madison circulated his Memorial and Remonstrance as a petition throughout the state. Then Madison successfully won passage of Thomas Jefferson's Act for Religious Freedom. Virginia Baptists were instrumental both in defeating Henry's bill and in promoting Jefferson's Act.

Separating church and state is Baptists' greatest legacy to the science and practice of politics. It would be wise for Senator Inhofe to stop calling it the largest hoax ever played on the American people.

Confirming Torture

The confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General is one of the darkest moments in U.S. history. There is little doubt that Gonzales' legal rationales are linked to the abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.

In the eyes of the world, the U.S. has openly confirmed a policy of torture. It makes me ashamed of my country. As Marisa Arrona poignantly asks, "Is this the best we can do?"

I stand firmly with Sister Dianna Ortiz. There must be "Zero Tolerance for Torture."

Sweden Stepping Over the Line

Ethics Daily has posted a story about a Swedish court jailing a pastor for denouncing homosexuality in a sermon. It is obvious that Sweden does not have adequate constitutional provisions for free speech.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution assures both freedom of religion and free speech. That means that some strange religions and offensive beliefs are protected, but to quote Locke, we believe that "Truth can shift for herself" in a free marketplace of ideas.

On occasions, even here in the U.S. some expressions of free speech evoke powerful responses. Here's a link to a current U.S. free speech issue.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Parham Off-target Today

Normally I agree with Robert Parham's editorializing, but today his pen is off-target. Today Parham is taking Barry Lynn to task for reminding politicians that they "are not preachers, and political debate should not be turned into religious conflict." I think Lynn is right and Parham is wrong to criticize him.

Lynn is also right about Jim Wallis' accommodative approach to church/state relations being as dangerous as the theocratic approach of Dobson. Wallis' domestic partnership between church and state, changing the sheets for a different partner every time there is a change of administrations, could prove to be worse than a monogamous theocratic marriage.

Wallis is not known as a champion of the First Amendment. He has long been an advocate for government funding of religious institutions and organizations. I was present when he was warned by numerous constitutional advocates that politicians would distribute "charitable choice" funds in the form of political patronage -- using it to consolidate their power and thwart advances toward justice for the poor -- a prediction some now see being fulfilled. From personal conversations with him, I know that he comprehends the threat to the credibility of the church posed by the "easy money and loose accountability" of the Clinton/Bush government funded religion initiatives. (Here's a link for further information and documentation -- you'll have to scroll down to the 8-4-04 blog)

Barry Lynn did not say that religion and religious people should have no voice in the public square. He said,

"The nation's public square is not without religious debate, and no one is advocating for a suppression of religious discussion. But our nation's laws must be rooted in constitutional values and reasoned analysis, not someone's personal take on scripture."

Lynn is also right when he says, -- elected officials should make decisions based on the public good, not private religious belief." When all is said and done, as much as is possible, it is the responsibility of elected officials to make decisions that are based on convictions shared by people of all faiths and of no faith. No faith group's sacred scriptures, or interpretation of a sacred scripture, holds special or uncontested authority in the public square when public policies are being debated. The idiosyncratic convictions peculiar to certain faith groups, even if it is the majoritarian faith group, are not appropriate topics for legislation.

Parham needs to reconsider his unquestioning defense of Wallis and his myopic critique of Lynn.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

What President Bush Really Said About Social Security

Here's my read on what the President really said about Social Security in his State of the Union address tonight.

To people 55 and over he said, "I'm going to take care of you."

To people 54 and younger he said, "It's a roll of the dice."

The truth is, when President Bush was elected our country was running enormous budget surpluses. Instead of investing that money to provide Social Security benefits for people 54 and younger, he gave nearly all of it to the wealthiest 1% of tax-payers in tax cuts. He, and all the other politicians in Congress, knew the demographics of Social Security when he made the decision to promote those tax cuts. Then the President ran up enormous budget deficits waging war in Iraq. The President is still running up the national debt. He knew the demographics of Social Security when he pushed for his pre-emptive war in Iraq. Now everyone 54 and younger will be paying war debts instead of saving up for their Social Security benefits after 2018-2042.

The bottom line -- if you are 54 and younger, you need to start gambling on Wall Street to have any hope of retiring. You should also be warned that whenever China and/or Japan decide to stop investing in dollars because the value keeps dropping, the value of your investments is going to drop precipitously.

If you wonder what qualifies a Baptist preacher to be dispensing investment advice, then you also ought to be wondering why the President is telling you that "personal" investment accounts are better than Social Security as a base for retirement. He's telling you that it is each "person" for himself/herself. It's either become an expert yourself, or roll-the-dice.

Who can you trust? An insider-trading oilman like George W. ? A smooth talking business executive like Kenny Boy Lay? A Wall Street tycoon who believes, "Greed is good?" Or, a straight-shooting preacher-man like me? Roll-the-dice.

President Bush is going to be long gone when people 54 and younger finally realize what he did to them. You can discover it now by reading the revelations from President Bush's former Treasury Secretary in The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O'Neill by Ron Suskind and by reading Princeton economist Paul Krugman's The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century.

Best Religious News on the Net

Kudos to Ethics Daily for consistently providing, on a daily basis, the best religious news on the Net. Today is a good example of the breadth and quality of news and commentary that they are offering.

Mark McEntire's article "Morality Isn't Guaranteed by Politics in Jesus Name" is just the kind of realistic and astute evangelicalism that the secular media keeps overlooking.

Miguel De La Torre is a frequent essayist at Ethics Daily. His essay "When the Bible is Used for Hate" is another good example of the prophetic voice that resonates through all of the writings of this remarkable Baptist scholar.

Managing Editor, Bob Allen, provides timely and thoughtful coverage of Baptist news on a daily basis. Since he began at Ethics Daily, it is rare for any other Baptist journalist to beat him to press with a story. The story "BFA Fraud Trial postponed till August" is a good example of the quality reporting that he is doing.

Robert Parham, Executive Director of Ethics Daily, also provides forward thinking and insightful essays that focus on the core values distinguishing mainstream Christians from the other voices debating values in the public square. His essay "Does Cal Thomas Read from a Small Bible?" is a good example of the contributions that he is making to the public discussion of religious values.


Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Disgraceful? No, Disgusting!

AlterNet's story about Uncle Sam "Nickle-and-Diming the Troops" is an eye-opener.

Am I the only one who expected our country to be paying a whole lot more than $7.50 a day to the men and women serving in combat?

Disgraceful may not be strong enough to describe this level of nickle-and-diming. It's disgusting.

If the Department of Education can find $240,000 to pay a single journalist for propaganda supporting the President's "No Child Left Behind" initiative, why can't the Pentagon find the money to pay our soldiers a decent wage?

CT's take on Time's Most Influential List

Christianity Today's blog about Time's Most Influential Evangelical List raises a lot of questions, but there isn't a peep about the theocratic impulses underlying the thinking of several persons listed.

Theocratic objectives don't seem to raise an eyebrow any more at Christianity Today.

That is unfortunate, eighteen years ago the magazine was one of the first to highlight the growing influence of Dominionist thought. See Rodney Clapp, "Democracy as Heresy," Christianity Today (February 20, 1987)

On the Wisdom of Serpents

Last week as I was driving to a meeting I heard a reporter with NPR interviewing a minister at President Bush's inaugural. The name of the minister rang a bell with me. His name was Rob Schenck. He is the leader of a 5,000 member organization that calls itself the National Clergy Council. He and the council were very active in events around the inauguration.

Here's a link to an article that quotes some of what he said in the interview that I heard. In this article Schenck is defending the President's quoting from the Koran as "being in Jesus' words, wise as a serpent."

Schenck's name rang a bell with me because I have read Jerry Reiter's Live From the Gates of Hell: An Insider's Look at the Antiabortion Underground. Reiter was a journalist in Houston during the time I pastored in Houston. He became an informer for the FBI who provided them information about the plans that militant Christian Reconstructionists and other right-wing extremist Christians were making to commit acts of violence against abortion providers. Reiter's entre into an underground network led by Donald Treshman, founder of Rescue America, was his relationship with the twin brothers Paul and Rob Schenck. His book is full of information about the Schenck's support of the anti-abortion underground.

Influential Evangelicals

The current issue of Time Magazine is featuring a story about the 25 most influential evangelicals in America. Most of the names will be familiar to Baptists. Among those whom many Baptists may find unfamiliar are a couple that are worth noting.

# 2 on the list, Howard and Roberta Ahmanson are noteworthy because they fund most of the right-wing religious think tanks and causes that are working toward theocracy in America -- including the Christian Reconstructionist Chalcedon Foundation and the fundamentalist-conservative Institute for Religion and Democracy (IRD).

#14 on the list, Diane Knippers is noteworthy because she heads the IRD which has been tirelessly working to reproduce fundamentalist takeovers of the Episcopal, Presbyterian and Methodist denominations modeled after the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Those interested in detailed information about the work of the Ahmansons and the IRD should read Lewis C. Daly's A Moment to Decide: The Crisis in Mainstream Presbyterianism and Leon Howell's United Methodism at Risk: A Wake-Up Call.