Thursday, March 31, 2005

Gay Friendly Contracts

Kudos to Bob Allen at Ethics Daily for his article about Mohler's defense of Southern Seminary's contract with a gay friendly firm. Mohler said,
We want to be faithful to our own convictions, but we recognize that we will inevitably be doing business with companies and individuals whose convictions on some of these issues may differ from our own.... This is not a surprising phenomenon.

Mohler also said he would see a problem if the seminary had to "violate its own conscience . . . change its convictions or be silent about its convictions, but that is not required here."

I commend Mohler for his logical and ethical response on this issue. I just wish he would extend the same logic to contracts between homosexuals. Gay "civil unions" pose no more threat to society than seminary contracts with gay friendly firms.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Another Republican Breaks Code of Silence

A week ago, U.S. Representative Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) broke the code of silence among Republicans about the Religious Right's takeover of the Republican Party. He admitted, "This Republican Party of Lincoln has become a party of theocracy."

Today, former U.N. Ambassador and Congressman John Danforth (R-Mo.) has issued the most outspoken admission of the takeover by a Republican to date. In an Op-Ed in the New York Times, Danforth said,

In America, everyone has the right to try to influence political issues, regardless of his religious motivations.

The problem is not with people or churches that are politically active. It is with a party that has gone so far in adopting a sectarian agenda that it has become the political extension of a religious movement.

. . .

During the 18 years I served in the Senate, Republicans often disagreed with each other. But there was much that held us together. We believed in limited government, in keeping light the burden of taxation and regulation. We encouraged the private sector, so that a free economy might thrive. We believed that judges should interpret the law, not legislate. We were internationalists who supported an engaged foreign policy, a strong national defense and free trade. These were principles shared by virtually all Republicans.

But in recent times, we Republicans have allowed this shared agenda to become secondary to the agenda of Christian conservatives.

It is good to see that Republican politicians are awakening to the theocratic agenda of the Religious Right. I hope they will be able to help rank-and-file moderate Republicans wake-up. I doubt that they will be any more successful than moderate Baptists were when many of the same people took over the Southern Baptist Convention.

Bibliolatrous Baptists form International Network

ABP is reporting that Southern Baptists and Conservative Baptists have formed a new International Baptist Network to compete with the Baptist World Alliance. This network will be held together by Fundamentalist doctrine.

For them, first and foremost is the belief that "the Bible is the inerrant, inspired Word of God without error, and is the only authority for Christians and churches."

The Mainstream Baptists website has posted several articles that expose the heresy of the doctrine of "inerrancy." Here are a couple links where readers can find the material:

Inerrancy Test
Baptist Faith & Message Revision

All that I would add to the present conversation is the observation that moderate, Mainstream Baptists have never affirmed a doctrine of "sola scriptura" as formulated by the International Baptist Network. Instead we have affirmed a doctrine of "suprema scriptura."

Anyone who knows the details about how and when the scriptures were written, collected and canonized cannot plausibly deny that tradition is also a source of authority for Christians and the churches.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Philosophy and Intelligent Design

Personally, I think the "Intelligent Design" argument was carefully crafted by a lawyer (Phillip Johnson) to bring creationism back before the courts and give the Religious Right another political wedge issue to rally hordes of "values voters."

Ono Ekeh, however, on his Ono's thoughts blog offers a very good discussion as to whether "Intelligent Design" deserves to be categorized as philosophy or science. It is well worth reading.

It's a shame that last year Ono lost his job with the U.S. Conference of Bishops for openly supporting John Kerry's presidency.

Before the Shooting Begins

Paul Krugman's essay "What's Going On?" in Today's New York Times ends with a dire warning:
What we need - and we aren't seeing - is a firm stand by moderates against religious extremism. . . .

The closest parallel I can think of to current American politics is Israel. There was a time, not that long ago, when moderate Israelis downplayed the rise of religious extremists. But no more: extremists have already killed one prime minister, and everyone realizes that Ariel Sharon is at risk.

America isn't yet a place where liberal politicians, and even conservatives who aren't sufficiently hard-line, fear assassination. But unless moderates take a stand against the growing power of domestic extremists, it can happen here.

Krugman's warning reminds me of a similar warning that James Davidson Hunter gave in his book, Before the Shooting Begins. The casual use of military metaphors and talking about conscientious differences of judgment and opinion as "culture wars" can easily incite some minds to respond with literal violence.

Podcast: Keith Parks Interview, Part 2

Part 2 of 2 of Dr. Bruce Prescott's 9-22-02 "Religious Talk" radio interview with Dr. Keith Parks. Dr. Parks is a past President of the SBC's Foreign Mission Board and the retired Coordinator of CBF's Global Missions Program.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Near Miss on Constitutional Crisis

Editor and Publisher has published a story about a near miss on a constitutional crisis in Florida.

The story says State Police were sent to Terri Schiavo's hospice to take her to a hospital and re-insert her feeding tube. Local police stationed at the hospice refused to let them enter unless they brought a judge with them. A "showdown" was averted when State Police backed down.

In related news, late last week a man was arrested for offering $250,000 for the murder of Terri Schiavo's husband and $50,000 for the death of the judge that ordered her feeding tube removed.

Motivating these actions is a lot of right-wing rhetoric that equates the removal of feeding tubes with "murder." I predict that the rhetoric will continue long after Terri passes away.

I pray that it ends before other lives end in tragedy.

Podcast: Keith Parks Interview, Part 1

Part 1 of 2 of Dr. Bruce Prescott's 9-22-02 "Religious Talk" radio interview with Dr. Keith Parks. Dr. Parks is a past President of the SBC's Foreign Mission Board and the retired Coordinator of CBF's Global Missions Program.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

OBU fires PR Director

Tim Sean's latest blog discusses one of the neglected costs of discipleship. An earlier blog is also helpful.

There was a time when Baptist churches grew uncomfortably large and deliberately called out members to leave and start new churches in their community. That was in the 1940's and 50's and 60's when ministers were more concerned about building God's kingdom than their own.

Today, many Baptist ministers just seem to be interested in building bigger barns. To human eyes, money spent on brick and mortar seems more durable than resources invested in transient and fragile flesh and blood.

OBU's former PR Director seems to have suffered from an attack of truth-telling. He asked whether it was healthy for the community-at-large for an established, influential church to abandon an inner city. He questioned the value of spending more than ten million dollars to build new facilities in an affluent neighborhood and wondered whether it would drain scarce resources that might best be used improving the spiritual atmosphere of an impoverished neighborhood.

Shawnee is not the first city to see it's churches abandon the impoverished neighborhoods where the needs are greatest. This is not the first truth-teller to lose his job for failing to hold his tongue. Many moderate Baptists will find the truth he tells as offensive as do Fundamentalist Baptists. We know how to follow the money as much as they do.

Still, we ought to be wondering whether this former PR Director is not right for pointing out the foolishness of our churches. What does it profit if we gain the whole world, and lose our own souls?

Friday, March 25, 2005

Good Friday with Sister Dianna Ortiz

Sister Dianna Ortiz, a victim of government sponsored torture in Guatemala, offers a Good Friday devotion about our having "No Blood on Our Hands."

As the Jewish scholar Abraham Joshua Heschel said, "Only a few are guilty, but we are all responsible."

(Thanks to Rabbi Arik Ascherman, "The Rabbi who Pricks Israel's Conscience," for calling my attention to the Heschel quote.)

The Plot over "Temple Mount"

Kudos to Bryan Peters at the Young Evangelical blog for posting a number of links about a recent plot by Jewish extremists to takeover the "Temple Mount" in Jerusalem.

I still haven't seen anything in the U.S. media about this recent plot.

If there is a human trigger that could actually lead to Armageddon, this is it.

Interfering with the Peace Process

Common Dreams has posted a story about Christian Zionists and Jewish extremists making preparations to stand in the way of peace in the middle east.

I must confess that I am disturbed by Christians who insist on giving more weight to some obscure and fanciful interpretations of end-times prophecies than to the clear and direct teachings of Jesus' sermon on the mount.

Israeli's are also troubled by U.S. extremists meddling in their affairs. Gershom Gorenberg, the associate editor of The Jerusalem Report and the author of "The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount," is quoted as saying,
"U.S. Jewish radical right groups have a very bad image here (in Israel) -- a combination of resentment of the radical right with a generalised dislike of people who don't live here, don't serve in the military, don't take the risks, then try to force Israel to take their positions."

A National Endowment for Religion?

Bill Berkowitz has written an interesting article about the Bush administration's program to fund religion. While the President is cutting the budget everywhere else, he is committed to expanding payoffs for his political base.

Nothing demonstrates America's moral bankruptcy more than the way some of our religious leaders are lining up for a chance to get some "easy money with loose accountability." It's surprising how many people will sell their birthright for a bowl of pottage.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Reclaiming our Heritage

Perhaps moderates and progressives can regain our voice if we will reclaim our heritage.

Today's post at the Young and Relentless blog might be a good place to start.

Moving Toward Theocratic Oligarchy

The filibuster in the Senate is one of the last checks and balances between the democratic form of government that we have known and the theocratic oligarchy that the Religious Right and Tom DeLay are working to create.

Apparently, Bill Frist is preparing to sweep away the filibuster. E. J. Dionne reveals what is really going on here,
Regime change disguised as a narrow rules fight. We could choose to institute a British-style parliamentary system in which majorities get almost everything they want. But advocates of such a radical departure should be honest enough to propose amending the Constitution first.

Frist and DeLay to Push Theocratic Agenda

Americans United is providing audio from a Family Research Council conference in which Senate Majority leader Bill Frist (R. Tenn.) and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R. Texas) pledge to push the theocratic agenda of the Religious Right through congress.

"Religious Right leaders are determined to run all of our lives, from the moment of conception through the end of life," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. "And top congressional leaders are conspiring behind closed doors in Washington to help them do it. It's appalling.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Christians for Change

There's a new organization of moderate Christians who hope to help change the political climate of our nation. This group adds a studied, thoughtful, mainstream voice to the mix of evangelical Christians who are rising up to speak about the relation of religious values and politics.

Here are some links to their blog and to their website. I expect to be linking to them a lot in the future.

Pardon me, but your Theocracy is showing

Finally, a Republican is speaking about the theocratic takeover of the G.O.P.

Today's New York Times quotes U.S. Representative Christopher Shays of Connecticut, one of five House Republicans who voted against the Schiavo bill:

"This Republican Party of Lincoln has become a party of theocracy," Mr. Shays said. "There are going to be repercussions from this vote. There are a number of people who feel that the government is getting involved in their personal lives in a way that scares them."

When are true Republicans going to rise up and clean the theocrats out of their house?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Regarding the Schiavo Case

There are a lot of things worse than death. Fifteen years in a comatose state with a body sustained by machines is one of them. I try to live with a clear conscience in relation to God, so death holds no fear for me.

On the other hand, I can understand the reluctance of some to pull the plug. A glance at Baptist Press will show that Southern Baptists have been on a frenzy supporting Tom DeLay and those who are working to prolong Terri Schiavo's death. Those whose conscience in relation to God is troubled may have deep reasons for enacting laws to assure that technology postpones face-to-face relations with God for as long as possible.

Considering the way Southern Baptists have mistreated their moderate educators and missionaries and their women called to ministry, they need as much time as they can get to repent, confess their sins, and make amends. Still, time is running out.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Myopic Moderates

Fred Clarkson's blog on Sunday, March 20, 2005 about "How to Beat the Christian Right, Part I" is loaded with valuable information and advice. It is advice that I take very seriously.

I wish some other Mainstream Baptists would stop giving lip service to the Baptist legacy for supporting church/state separation and start doing something to preserve the first amendment. Unfortunately, most think the Baptist Joint Committee can do everything that needs to be done from Washington, D.C. Like Moderate Baptists during the Fundamentalist takeover of the SBC, they won't recognize the need for grass roots organizing until it is too late.

Hammering Social Security

I'm about 3/4 of the way through reading Lou Dubose and Jan Reid's, The Hammer: Tom DeLay: God, Money, and the Rise of the Republican Congress, published in 2004.

In the discussion of how DeLay has bullied corporations to dismiss lobbyists that oppose him and hire lobbyists who will help him further his and Grover Norquist's "revolutionary" agenda to remake American society, I unexpectedly found this quote from Washington Monthly's Nick Confessore explaining why, in 2003, DeLay's political machine pressured the Investment Company Institute (ICI) to marginalize its top lobbyist, Julie Domenick:

For years, conservatives have been pushing to divert part of Social Security into private investment accounts. Such a move, GOP operatives argued, would provide millions of new customers and potentially trillions of dollars to the mutual fund industry that would manage the private accounts. The profits earned would, of course, be shared with the GOP in the form of campaign contributions. In other words, by sluicing the funds collected by the federal government's largest social insurance program through businesses loyal to the GOP, the party would instantly convert the crown jewels of Democratic governance into a pillar of the new Republican machine. But to make the plan a reality, the GOP needed groups like the ICI to get behind the idea -- by funding pro-privatization think tanks, running issue ads attacking anti-privtization Democrats, and so on. The ICI, however, had always been lukewarm to privatization, for which conservatives blamed Domenick. Hence, the GOP machine decided she had to go. In the end, to quell the Oxley scandal, Domenick was allowed to keep her job. But ICI hired a former general counsel to Newt Gingrich to work alongside her, and the GOP's campaign to get K Street behind Social Security privatization continues.

Everyone knows how the Bush administration has pushed privatization since the book was written. What I didn't know was how some in the investment community had to be bullied into supporting privatization.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Reading More than a Big Bible

Robert Parham, Executive Director of the Baptist Center for Ethics, is undergoing treatment for leukemia. We are grateful his doctors learned how to read the results of modern medical research. We pray for the success of his treatment and for his rapid recovery.

Understandably, the conference that Parham was organizing on "Living from the Big Bible: Reshaping American Politics" has been postponed until he recovers.

BCE continues to provide the best daily religious news and analysis on the net. A good example is Keith Herron's column on "Is Biblical Counseling Biblical?" revealing how inadequate Southern Seminary's new approach to psychological education will be.

It's too bad that Southern Baptists no longer believe that their counselors should learn to read the results of modern psychological research. Wayne Oates used to provide an outstanding example of reading psychological research in light of a biblical understanding of humanity.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Dominionism and the Old South

A few days ago I wrote a blog about the Dominionist takeover strategy and mentioned that I had ordered a Dominionist homeschool textbook called America's Providential History.

My used copy of that book arrived in the mail yesterday and I can tell you that the book is a work of art. The cover is a color picture of George Washington on his knees in the snow at Valley Forge. Drawings, diagrams, sketches and pictures are embedded on every other page.

The pictures and sketches within the chapter on "The War for the Union" are particularly striking. The first picture is of Confederate troops, followed by a picture of the Lincoln Memorial, then sketch of John Brown after his capture, then small sketches of Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, and John C. Calhoun, then a picture of Stonewall Jackson and his men at prayer, followed by a sketch of Robert E. Lee, then a full page sketch of Stonewall Jackson on his knees praying for his army to be baptized with the Holy Spirit, followed by a 1/2 page picture of Lincoln signing the Emanipation Proclamation, followed by another small sketch of Stonewall Jackson, then a 3/4 page picture of Pickett's charge, followed by a 1/3 page picture of Robert E. Lee, followed by a 1/2 page picture of Lee praying with his soldiers, then a 1/2 page picture of Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg address. All that for 19 pages of 8 1/2 x 11 text.

The chapter following "The War for Union" is entitled "The American Apostacy and Decline." Here's the first paragraph:
Only if we correctly identify and diagnose the true cause of America's problems, can we begin to really solve them. Most Christians today place the blame on various conspiracies of men: the humanists, the ACLU, the big bankers, the Trilateral Commission, the New Age Movement, the World Council of Churches, the Homosexuals, the Feminists, the Communists, the Democrats, the Pope, etc. Information regarding such groups and their activities can be useful, yet must never be regarded as the source of our problems.

The book goes on to say that "Christians are Responsible. The church has been given authority to shape history. If our nation is in awful condition, God holds us responsible."

The next chapter is entitled "The Power for Reforming America" and lays out the takeover strategy that I wrote about in a blog a few days ago. That chapter is followed by the book's conclusion which delineates seven principles of "biblical" liberty.

Clearly, the Old South has been rising under a new banner. Now I know where Lifeway Books is finding the market for its biographies of Stonewall Jackson. (Lifeway is the Southern Baptist Convention's publishing house)

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

America's Most Popular Dominionist

The Christian Science Monitor has published a story about evangelicals "reclaiming" America that provides some undisguisedly Dominionist rhetoric from D. James Kennedy:
As the vice-regents of God, we are to bring His truth and His will to bear on every sphere of our world and our society. We are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government ... our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors - in short, over every aspect and institution of human society."

When I was in Seminary in the mid-1970's, Southwestern Baptist Seminary had more than 5,000 ministerial students being trained in Kennedy's "Evangelism Explosion." Kennedy has been a popular televangelist for decades. Most Southern Baptist ministers are familiar with his ministry and his writings. When he speaks, you can be sure that a lot of people are listening.

No Room for Personal Truth

Al Mohler has been writing a lot about post-modernism lately. I'm not enamored with post-modernism, but my issues with it are vastly different than Al's. Today Mohler posted a weblog that finally deals with what is the heart of the issue for him. For him, "Evangelicals are faced with a stark choice: either to join the postmodern descent into a truthless, foundationless confusion, or to stand with conviction on the truth of God's Word."

For Fundamentalists, theology is always a debate about the Bible. The foundation for their faith is not Jesus, it is the Bible. A simple affirmation of the authority of the Bible is not enough for them. For them, only an affirmation of the inerrancy can save you from joining "the postmodern descent into a truthless, foundationless confusion."

In their eyes, if you affirm biblical inerrancy, you have an objective foundation for the truth claims of your worldview. If not, you "are embracing the radical subjectivity, perspectivalism, dehistoricism, and relativism of the postmodernist academy."

The demand for an "objective" foundation reveals Mohler's standard for truth. For him, truth is propositional. It is a property of words and/or sentences and governed by the rules of logic and reason. At bottom, for Mohler, truth is embodied in the cold, dead logic of timeless precepts and rational propositions.

Mohler's theology is more rationalist than Christian. That is why he fails to discuss Incarnational Truth. In his theology, there is no room at the inn for Truth that is personal. Truth embodied in the "Living Word" with arms open to personal relationships with real people is too "subjective" and "individualistic" for him.

Mohler assents to the idea that, "Christians understand truth to be more than propositional," but he neither understands this Truth, nor discusses it. Instead, he emphasizes that truth is "never less than propositional."

Mohler may be satisfied living in relation to "propositional truth," but I think I'll keep trying to live in relation to the living, personal Word of God to which the Bible points.

I'm Just a Layman, But ---

On economic matters, I'm just a layman. But -- when Bush sends his chief war strategist to be head of the World Bank, it is probably a signal that world monetary policy has come to the forefront of U.S. strategic interests.

Here are a few reasons why we should all be concerned:

1) The days of cheap oil have ended.

2) U.S. government spending is being shifted from the domestic economy to defense.

3) There are growing fears that the global credit boom is about to implode.

4) China is emerging as a military and economic superpower.

Those who only have time to follow one link should follow the link on China. It summarizes all the other trends.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Baptists Abandoning Cooperative Program

In 1925 Southern Baptists created a Cooperative Program for churches to give a percentage of their receipts to do the Lord's work beyond the walls of local, independent congregations.

Individually, few Baptist churches had the resources to support hospitals, children's homes, colleges, seminaries or missionaries in foreign lands. Together we could pool our resources to support a wide network of such institutions and agencies, both in the United States and around the world. That is what the Cooperative Program did. It was a system for giving and supporting mission causes that was based on mutual trust and cooperation.

When moderate Baptists led the Southern Baptist Convention, they were careful to involve Baptists from across the theological spectrum in positions of leadership and responsibility. All Baptists felt a sense of ownership and had a stake in the work being supported by the cooperative program. Most Baptist churches believed they had a responsibility to send a tithe of their income to support denominational work.

Fundamentalist mega-churches started a trend away from supporting the work of the denomination. They started their own Bible Colleges and non-accredited seminaries and justified it by saying that the denominational seminaries were too liberal. Then they needed to find a way to place their graduates in positions of service, so they began a few new churches and started sending out their own missionaries. Then they decided to takeover the Southern Baptist Convention and purge it of all the moderates and "liberals" who were supposedly undermining the spread of the gospel.

Now, twenty years after they have had complete control of all the institutions and agencies of the SBC, the Fundamentalist mega-church preachers are still refusing to give a tithe of their multi-million dollar mega-church budgets to support the Cooperative Program. Here's what Baptist Press quotes Morris Chapman, Executive Director of the SBC, as saying to SBC leaders last week:
"Twenty years ago the average church was giving 10.6 percent through CP," Chapman said. "That percentage coming out of the local church has slipped to 6.99 percent. If that trend continues, obviously our missions enterprise around the world is going to be in a desperate condition."
Moderate churches are leaving the SBC and taking their money with them. Moderate state conventions like Texas and Virginia are creating new programs and shifting their funds to more trustworthy partners. Fundamentalists can't count on moderate Baptists to fund their fiefdoms any more.

It is past time for the Fundamentalist mega-churches to start carrying their weight. They are definitively proving that it is Fundamentalism, not moderation, that undermines the credibility of the gospel.

Baptists Overcoming Geographical Divisions

Ethics Daily reports that First Baptist Church in Rome, Georgia has left the Georgia Baptist Convention and joined the Baptist General Association of Virginia.

The Georgia Convention is dominated by Fundamentalists. The Virginia Convention is led by Moderates.

Baptist congregations are independent and autonomous. They are free to affiliate with any association or convention of their choosing.

In times past, geographical proximity was paramount in the configuration of the partnerships in which Baptist congregations found fellowship, support and cooperated to support missions, benevolent institutions, and educational institutions.

Today, Southern Baptists are reconfiguring and theological affinity is replacing geographical proximity as the primary determinant in the formation of denominational partnerships.

This is good news for Mainstream, moderate Baptists and bad news for Fundamentalist, Southern Baptists.

Fundamentalism in Baptist life reached its apex in 1989. It has been in decline ever since. It's demise will continue to be slow and painful, both for Baptists and for the nation and world that the Fundamentalists are trying to dominate rather than serving to redeem.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Scott Ritter on Iran and Iraq

Raw Story has posted an interview with Scott Ritter, former UN weapons inspector in Iraq.

For those looking for insight into the trajectory of U.S. foreign policy, this is essential reading.

Those who wish to remain blissfully ignorant should avert their eyes.

Dominionist Takeover Strategy

Katherine Yurika at the Yurika Report has an interesting analysis of Bush's 2nd inaugural address. She provides some interesting quotes from a Dominionist book, America's Providential History, that she calls a "home school classic:"
"If Christians in every locality became a controlling influence in a political party after two years of serving there consistently, then every godly representative in the state legislatures and the Congress could be replaced within six years to work with a godly president."

"If we work for more godly representatives in 2/3 of the state legislatures then we can bypass Congress and call a new Constitutional Convention to clean up all of the mess we have made of it in the past 200 years! Then with godly state legislatures, the odds are good that delegates appointed by them to a new Convention will be godly and wise as well."

Every Mainstream Baptist and anyone familiar with the history of the Southern Baptist Convention over the last 25 years will see a striking resemblance between the strategy of Dominionism and the successful Fundamentalist strategy to takeover the SBC. Here's a summary of that strategy:

In the late 1970s two men, Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler, devised a plan to takeover the Southern Baptist Convention and change its direction. . . . Patterson and Pressler studied the SBC's constitution and bylaws and discovered that the convention was ultimately controlled by the appointment powers of the president. By electing change minded presidents for ten consecutive years and having those presidents appoint only change minded people to serve as trustees, within ten years they could replace the heads of all SBC institutions and agencies with change minded administrators. Beginning in 1979, that is what they did.

The similarities between the Dominionist strategy and the SBC Fundamentalist strategy should come as no surprise. The possibility of developing and implementing such a strategy was exactly what Dominionist Gary North was talking about when he interviewed Paul Pressler, the architect of the Fundamentalist takeover of the SBC, in a radio interview in 1985. That radio interview is noteworthy because it was the first time that the Fundamentalists publicly explained their takeover strategy.

I've ordered a copy of America's Providential History and will give more analysis after I have had an opportunity to read it myself. Meanwhile, the Jesus Politics blog posted a link to buddenblog which has posted a review of the book that appeared in the February issue of Harper's Magazine.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Theocratic Fusion has Come

The front page of today's Dallas Morning News has a story about "Values lobbyists have White House's ear" in which Richard Land, chief lobbyist for the Southern Baptist Convention, features prominently.

There's not much in the article that is new to anyone who has observed the activities of Richard Land and the other religious right lobbyists that were mentioned. Most Baptists, however, have not paid attention to what the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC has been doing since Land and the Fundamentalists took charge. The article should make it obvious that they have been working to destroy separation of church and state.

That their mission is nearly accomplished is apparent from a quote from Lou Sheldon who said, the "fusion of religion and morality and public policy has now come about."

Saturday, March 12, 2005

It Seems the Good Die Young

Sadly, I learned from the ICTHUS blog that Stanley Grenz passed away today.

Like so many to whom my intellectual and spiritual life is indebted, I never had an opportunity to meet Stanley Grenz.

I have read his book, A Primer on Postmodernism and found his explanation of postmodernism to be clear and insightful. I've often recommended it to people looking for an introduction to postmodern thought.

Podcast: Bud Welch Interview, Part 2

Part 2 of 2, Dr. Bruce Prescott's July 2000 Religious Talk radio interview with Bud Welch.

Bud Welch's daughter, Julie, was a victim of the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

Bud speaks about his opposition to the death penalty and shares impressions from his conversations with the family of Timothy McVeigh.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Working Together for Good

ABP reports that the Membership Committee of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) will recommend membership for moderate led state conventions in Texas and Virginia.

Texas and Virginia Baptists are taking a step that asserts their autonomy from the fundamentalist dominated Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). If BWA admits these state conventions, it will be creating partnerships with Baptists in the southern United States at a deeper level than previously contemplated.

The new partnership will strengthen the BWA and infuriate the SBC. The SBC, however, lost its voice in BWA by leaving the BWA and cutting off support for it.

When all is said and done, it looks the SBC's pulling out of the BWA was the best thing that could have happened to the BWA.

This looks like a good example of how God makes all things -- even the mean-spirited actions of SBC fundamentalists -- work together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28).

Podcast: Bud Welch Interview, Part 1

Part 1 of 2, Dr. Bruce Prescott's July 2000 Religious Talk radio interview with Bud Welch.

Bud Welch's daughter, Julie, was a victim of the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

Bud speaks about his opposition to the death penalty and shares impressions from his conversations with the family of Timothy McVeigh.

Brightening the Future

Kudos to Bess Hinson, a junior at Yale University, for her essay Reclaiming Christianity from the Christian Right. The future looks much brighter when I see the next generation saying things like:
We must better articulate the more moderate side of Christianity as it exists today in the South and Middle America in order to counteract the popular assumption that the entire region is sold on the radical Rightist principles. . . .

We must now stand firm and be unafraid to say, "I profess a different Christianity from the Christianity professed by the Christian Right." . . .

If a distinct, clear voice is not given to mainstream, moderate and liberal Christians, our generation risks an increased misconception of Christianity.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Counting Down to Armageddon

Ian Williams at Nation Magazine makes explicit the rationale for John Bolton's appointment as ambassador to the United Nations:
If his appointment is confirmed, Bolton's task is likely to be to bully the UN into supporting an Iraq-style fiasco in Iran or Syria.
The trajectory of our foreign policy should become apparent to anyone who grasps both the volatility of the religious climate as described in Timothy Weber's highly acclaimed On the Road to Armageddon and the long expressed intentions of American neo-conservatives as explained by Jim Mann in his Rise of the Vulcans.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Vulcanizing the United Nations

The Village Voice has an acerbic article about the Bush Administration's appointment of John Bolton as Ambassador to the United Nations. There was a day when I would have completely ignored articles like it. But that was before I read Jim Mann's The Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet.

Unfortunately, I now know that there is more reason for concern than is expressed by the Village Voice article.

Bill to Politicize Churches is Back

ABP reports that Walter Jones has reintroduced his bill that would legalize the politicization of churches. The bill is backed by the leaders of religious right, including Richard Land who heads the Southern Baptist Convention's political action committee.

The bill is bad news for a variety of reasons. Here's a link to a speech that highlights several of them.

There is a simple solution to the dilemma that Jones is trying to address. Churches that engage in political activity ought to surrender their tax exempt status. Then their political activities would not be subsidized by all U.S. tax payers. Either that, or extend tax exempt status to all political organizations. That is the only way to assure equal rights for all organizations that are involved in overt political activity.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Living in the Twilight Zone

Reading the news this morning makes me feel like I woke up in the Twilight Zone.

The Senate just defeated a minimum wage increase, but is likely to pass legislation stripping the poor of bankruptcy protections.

Meanwhile, the President of Venezuela says, "The world should forget about cheap oil" and warns that "any bid to kill him would result in the halting of Venezuela's oil shipments to the United States, which imports 15 percent of its crude needs from the Latin American nation."

I think I'll go back to bed and try getting up on the other side.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Robert Parham takes Rick Warren to Task

Kudos to Robert Parham of Ethics Daily for his editorial "Does Rick Warren Read from a Small Bible?"

It is time for all Christians to be more conscientious about giving open attribution to the sources that inform their thought.

It is also time for evangelical Christians to exercise some humility when interpreting scripture. Saying that "God's word is clear" on an issue does not make it so. Nor does it assure the validity of your interpretation of scripture.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Fact Check on J.M. Dawson

Seeing Fred Clarkson quoting my quotation of a James Madison letter to James Monroe prompted me to go the library to verify a quotation I got from J.M Dawson.

J.M. Dawson was the editor of the Baptist Standard (1943-1946) and was first full-time director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs (1946-1953). On pages 106-07 of his book Baptists and the American Republic (Published by Broadman Press in 1956), Dawson gives the following quotation of a 1784 letter from James Madison to James Monroe in reference to the debate in Virginia over Patrick Hentry's bill for a General Assessment to support the teachers of the Christian religion:

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 firmly 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.

Dawson's footnote references Madison, Writings, II, 183-191.

I went to the University of Oklahoma's library and checked "The Writings of James Madison, 1751-1836," ed. G. Hunt 1900-1910 (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons) Vol. II 1783-1787.

I discovered that pages 183-191 are the pages for Madison's Memorial and Remonstrance. So I checked the letters from Madison to Monroe. On pages 129-132 I found a letter from Madison to Monroe dated April 12, 1785 where Madison wrote Monroe about support for Henry's bill. It said:
Episcopal people are generally for it, tho' I think the zeal of some of them has cooled, the laity of the other sects are equally unanimous on the other side. So are all the clergy except the Presbyterian.

I scanned letters for nearly and hour and never could find the quotation that Dawson gave. It is impossible to verify its authenticity without reading through the entire volume of letters. Each letter discusses a variety of issues and there are many letters. I looked at the letters to Monroe and Jefferson closely and could not find the quote. Madison used similar language about Henry's General Assessment bill in letters to several people. In one of the letters it became apparent that the Presbyterians began to divide in their opinion about the bill.

Scanning through the letters did make it clear that Madison, Monroe and Jefferson were all opposed to Henry's bill.

I'm going to ask my daughter, a student at OU, to check this volume out of the library for me. Whenever she does so, I'll look at the volume more closely and see if I can find the quote hidden in a letter to someone other than Monroe.

Background Music Added

I lost the DSL service at my house yesterday and have not been able to post to the blog. DSL service should be restored later today.

Meanwhile, thanks to Rob Schumacher, submarine sailor and blogger extraordinaire, for revealing how he added background music to his blog.

The background music currently playing is Ecclesiastes 3 by Nathan Brown, a graduate student at the University of Oklahoma -- soon to receive his Ph.D. in English. Nathan leads the InterAction Student Ministries at OU and yes, he is the son of Dr. Lavonn Brown, retired pastor of First Baptist Church in Norman. Here's a link where you can learn more about Nathan's music and can order his CD.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Decalogue May Deck First Amendment

The Supreme Court heard arguments over ten commandments monuments yesterday. It is obvious that Justice Scalia believes the constitution permits the establishment of the majority religion. Here's what he said:
Justice Antonin Scalia saw a different problem in the court's precedents, noting that they effectively force governments to adopt nonreligious pretexts for what should be unabashed religious displays.

The Commandments, he told Chemerinsky, are "a symbol that government authority comes from God, and that's appropriate." When Chemerinsky objected that "it is a profoundly religious message," Scalia responded: "It is a profoundly religious message, but it's shared by the vast majority of the people. . . . It seems to me the minority has to be tolerant of the majority's view."

Scalia has turned separation of church and state on its head. The first amendment was designed to assure equal rights and tolerance for the minority faiths.

There is little doubt in my mind that the majority would be highly offended if the symbols of minority faiths were place prominently on public property. For anecdotal evidence, read the reaction of the Southern Baptist State Convention Executive to the Interfaith Day of Prayer and Reflection that I organized on the steps of the Oklahoma state capitol last year.

If SCOTUS permits posting ten commandment monuments on public property it will create a public forum for all religions. People of all faiths and people of no faith have the right to express themselves in a public forum. If atheists and people of minority faiths and their symbols are excluded from such participation, then they are in fact second-class citizens with lesser rights than the majority and we will in fact have officially established a majoritarian religion.

Majorities can change. Force your faith on people long enough and, sooner or later, a majority will reject it.

People who are genuinely concerned about the credibility of the majority faith ought to be the strongest proponents of keeping church and state separate. They are also going to have to start becoming more vocal and visible with their support for the First Amendment.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Centrist Christians to Reshape Politics

The Baptist Center for Ethics (BCE) is announcing a conference on faith and politics with the theme "Living from the Big Bible: Reshaping American Politics" that will be held in Nashville on May 2-3.

BCE Director Robert Parham says the religious right ignores most of the Bible:
They read a "small Bible," he says, speaking only to a few issues, like abortion and gay marriage. The "big Bible," he says, addresses both personal morality and social justice, speaking to an array of issues.

Speakers include Jean Carnahan, former Senator from Missouri, Susan Pace Hamill, law professor at the University of Alabama, and Miguel De La Torre, professor of Ethics at Hope College.

This looks like a very interesting conference. Hearing Hamill and De La Torre together makes it worth double the price of air fare. I've got this one on my calendar.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Coded Blueprint to Armageddon

Thanks to Robert Cunningham for calling my attention to a review of Glenn Shuck's book, Marks of the Beast: The Left Behind Novels and the Struggle for Evangelical Identity.

Shuck, a member of the Religion Department at Williams College, says the Left Behind "novels contain a coded blueprint for the machinations of the New Christian Right." The themes of doomsday prophecy and imperative political activism "to make the world safe for evangelicalism" are of primary concern in the novels.

I share Shuck's concern that the series' prophecies can be "self-fulfilling." The more the current administration asserts its influence in the Middle East, the more I fear that certain "readers searching for signs of end-times prophecy may find it where it is not and, in the worst case scenario, they may create it themselves."

Sound Advice on Social Security Reform

Paul Krugman's Op-Ed "Just Say No" in today's edition of the New York Times offers some sound advice regarding Social Security reform:
The important thing to remember is why the right wants privatization. The drive to create private accounts isn't about finding a way to strengthen Social Security; it's about finding a way to phase out a system that conservatives have always regarded as illegitimate. And as long as that is what's at stake, there is no room for any genuine compromise. When it comes to privatization, just say no.

If you need further corroboration, you might look at the article on "Pensions and Penury" in the February 27th edition of the U.K.'s Guardian Unlimited. Here's what its reporter concludes:

Two fundamentals are beyond doubt, however. Firstly, privatisation will offer higher potential benefits in return for greater risk - more so in the Bush plan, which would include stocks, than in the Galveston plan, which is based on bonds.

Secondly, social security involves a significant element of redistribution, because high earners help fund the pensions of the poor, who receive more than they pay in. In a privatised system, it is everyone for himself.