Saturday, April 30, 2005
Those whose intention is to post the equivalent of electronic graffitti will discover that I will persist in erasing their gang insignias.
Their favorite club is the "You can't be a Christian if you don't agree with me!" stick. Jerry Falwell is an MVP at swinging this bat. Just last September he said, "You cannot be a sincere, committed born-again believer who takes the Bible seriously and vote for a pro-choice, anti-family candidate."
If that's not a home run, it is at least a triple. In the swing of a single sentence he made a connection that questioned the sincerity (first base), salvation (second base), and spiritual fidelity (third base) of anyone who doesn't vote for candidates he approves.
Still, it frustrates the Religious Right to see a runner standing on third base. They've got to drive their point home. That's why they always have a clean-up hitter on deck. The clean-up man swings the "You've got to be a baby killer!" stick. This one often clears mainstream Christians from the ballpark, but not because they are convinced. They leave because they don't know how to respond to people so insulting.
I've learned that the only way to hold your own in a political game with Fundamentalists is to turn the tables on them. That's why I always keep a quote from C. Everrett Koop handy. C. Everrett Koop was the Surgeon General in the Reagan Administration. He co-authored, with Francis Schaeffer, the book and film series that educated most evangelicals about abortion -- Whatever Became of the Human Race. In Bill Martin's book, With God on Our Side, Koop explains why he dropped out of the abortion controversy:
If the pro-life people in the late 1960's and the early 1970's had been willing to compromise with the pro-choice people, we could have had an abortion law that provided for abortion only for the life of the mother, incest, rape, and defective child; that would have cut the abortions down to three percent of what they are today. But they had an all-or-nothing mentality. They wanted it all and they got nothing.
Note that the exceptions Koop described coincide exactly with the exceptions that Southern Baptists supported before the takeover of the SBC. Since the takeover, Southern Baptists have shifted to the "all-or-nothing mentality."
The truth is, even if the Fundamentalists were correct about all abortions being murder, then Fundamentalist intransigence is responsible for 97% of the murders and compromising moderates are guilty of 3%. None of us will come out of this guiltless, but one percentage requires a lot less grace.
Friday, April 29, 2005
Some pro-lifers who believe that life begins at conception say "morning after" contraception is really a form of abortion, because in some cases the pills work by preventing a fertilized ovum from implanting in the wall of the woman's uterus.
"A so-called fertilized egg is an embryo," said Ben Mitchell, a consultant on biomedical and life issues for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. "An embryo is a very young human being."
"The morning-after pill is another technological fix for a sexually promiscuous and anti-natal culture," said Mitchell, an associate professor of bioethics and contemporary culture at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill. Primary users, he said, are "sexually active women who do not want the responsibility that goes along with having sex."
When Mitchell studied this issue, he should have learned that enormous numbers of human embryos, or in his words "very young human beings," spontaneously abort through natural processes. At some point, those who profess to have thought through these issues might be expected to wonder why God could not also be accused of treating so many embryonic human beings "irresponsibly."
If every embryo is indeed a "very young human being," why would a loving God who designed a good universe create a process so wasteful of human life?
To my knowledge, Southern Baptist ethicists have never addressed this issue.
Thursday, April 28, 2005
The Guardian reveals that Former Secretary of State Colin Powell and his deputy, Richard Armitage, are working to undermine the nomination of John Bolton as U.N. Ambassador.
Clearly, Powell and Armitage have decided they can best serve their country from outside the administration.
The best way to understand the struggle that is currently going on within the Republican party is to read James Mann's The Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet. Bolton is the only player in this drama that is not caricaturized on the cover the book -- but there is plenty about the role he plays within the book.
The stakes are extremely high in this chess match. It is a struggle for the heart and soul of the GOP. When the game is over the GOP will be either a party of conservative capitalists creating a global marketplace, or a party of neo-conservative imperialists who create vassal states and exploit their resources.
The article talks about "mind reading" and "empathy." I prefer to subsume this ability "to pretend to be in another person's mental shoes" under the general category of "imagination."
Whatever it is called, it may provide neurological evidence for an ability that some have treated as unverifiable.
I think the ability to exercise our imaginative capacities sympathetically is a vital component in the formation of our conscience.
"The people he's dealing with are not going to rest until there's a constitutional Armageddon in which the religious right controls all three branches of government."
The circus surrounding the Schiavo case and the power politics of "Injustice Sunday" have clearly awakened many people to the theocratic agenda of the Religious Right.
Britt Towery at Ethics Daily does a good job of describing the dangers that abound when church services promote political agendas.
Tomorrow a conference in New York City will be filled with people who once thought that Fred Clarkson was overstating his case by describing the right as "theocrats." Today they know just how close the "Religious Far Right" is to controlling all three branches of our government.
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
There is a glaring error or two in Whitney's essay (The founding fathers of the American Revolution  were not influenced by the French Revolution ), but the experience of discrimination that prompted his article is real. He says,
Face it, atheism in America is a lonely experience. Atheists are widely distrusted and there is a palpable undercurrent of discrimination directed at them, even though it is less noticeable than the prejudice aimed at other groups. In many ways, atheists are social pariahs; America's leper colony. Just about everyone is wary of atheists, as the polls repeatedly indicate. . . .I am in frequent contact with atheists and agnostics. They are an embattled minority. Some are frightened by the militancy of evangelical Christians. Others are getting angry and militant themselves. The Religious Right has been using them as a scapegoat and foil to stir up theocratic sentiment and action for more than a generation. As is currently happening in Idaho, they are the one's who are really being denied a voice in the public square.
The fact is, atheism simply doesn't exist in America. It is the forbidden topic, like homosexuality 20 years ago. . . . Regrettably, in our "free" society, no one is even allowed to openly debate the issue.
At times, atheists can be as fanatical as evangelical Christians in expressing their religious convictions. The chief difference being that atheists are eager to engage in genuine dialogue with people who question the reasons for their unbelief, while most evangelical Christians systematically avoid genuine dialogue with anyone who questions their beliefs.
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Racist roots run just below the surface of a lot of prominent preachers and politicians. Today they know to keep it under cover.
My biggest surprise is learning how valuable a mailing list of racist "good ole boys" can be. Had I known that, while I was living in Houston I would have recorded the names and addresses of disgruntled ex-church members and neighbors who delighted in attending David Duke's rallys.
Now all I have is a list of moderate, Mainstream Baptists. Nobody has ever offered me anything for that.
Associated Baptist Press has identified James Dobson as the speaker of the comments that Reuters attributed to Mohler. I apologize for chiding Mohler for comments that Dobson actually made.
I still recommend the video about his takeover of Southern Seminary.
How God got involved in all this is a bit of a mystery. Some Christian Dominionists decided the Almighty is in favor of changing Rule 22. Led by James Dobson, who runs Focus on the Family, they decided 22 is "a filibuster against the faithful," implying and in some cases stating that anyone who opposes them is anti-Christian and probably working for Satan.
Last time I checked, no one had elected Dobson to decide who is a Christian and who is not. It's a joke that the right wing claims it is against "judicial activists." What they want are judicial activists who agree with them. These people don't want to govern, they want to rule.
Nobody says it better.
Estimates of the number of women enslaved by the European sex industry are staggering. It is a problem around the world. An organization called Global Women has been calling attention to this problem for a number of years.
I'm praying that it does, but my personal experience in these matters is not encouraging. Within the Southern Baptist Convention over the past 25 years politics has beaten conscience in every case.
Most people find it inconceivable that their leaders could put personal ambition ahead of the people and institutions that they serve. They'll believe the flimsiest lies to avoid facing the truth. Frames trump facts.
Monday, April 25, 2005
I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute--where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote--where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference--and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.
I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish--where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source--where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials--and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.
For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew--or a Quaker--or a Unitarian--or a Baptist. It was Virginia's harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson's statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victim--but tomorrow it may be you--until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.
Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end--where all men and all churches are treated as equal--where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice--where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind--and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.
That is the kind of America in which I believe. And it represents the kind of Presidency in which I believe--a great office that must neither be humbled by making it the instrument of any one religious group nor tarnished by arbitrarily withholding its occupancy from the members of any one religious group. I believe in a President whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.
I would not look with favor upon a President working to subvert the first amendment's guarantees of religious liberty. Nor would our system of checks and balances permit him to do so--and neither do I look with favor upon those who would work to subvert Article VI of the Constitution by requiring a religious test--even by indirection--for it. If they disagree with that safeguard they should be out openly working to repeal it."
He addressed those ministers, mostly Baptists, to allay their concerns that he would be obligated as a Catholic to give more allegiance to his church and his pope, than to his country and its constitution.
The concerns of those Baptist ministers was not entirely unwarranted. It is important to know ahead of time how politicians prioritize their loyalties and allegiances. Concerns about divided loyalties and the compromises necessary for political office led some early Anabaptists to forbid their members from serving as magistrates.
Frederick Clarkson has written a blog about "The Pontifical Secret" revealing that concern to protect the institution of the Church can also lead to dangerous compromises. Compromises so serious that an enterprising American prosecutor might discover sufficient evidence to indict the new pope for "obstruction of justice."
The point is that people sense, correctly, that Mr. Bush doesn't understand their concerns. He was sold on privatization by people who have made their careers in the self-referential, corporate-sponsored world of conservative think tanks. And he himself has no personal experience with the risks that working families face. He's probably never imagined what it would be like to be destitute in his old age, with no guaranteed income. . . .
But Americans are feeling a sense of dread: they're worried about a weak job market, soaring health care costs, rising oil prices and a war that seems to have no end. And they're starting to notice that nobody in power is even trying to deal with these problems, because the people in charge are too busy catering to a base that has other priorities.
"And Jesus said to his disciples, 'Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.'" (Matthew 19:23-24)
How many times does Jesus have to tell us before we get it?
During the broadcast, Dr. Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, portrayed minority Democrats and "about six or eight very squishy Republicans" as obstructionists to judicial appointments.
Mohler said those senators need to hear from conservatives who are concerned about the courts and blocked judicial appointments.
"Let them know that you don't want them to delay and you don't want them to postpone," Mohler said. "Tell them that you care and that you will remember how they vote."
Among those "six or eight very squishy Republicans" is Senator John McCain -- not a man known to cave-in under pressure.
For anyone who might think it wise to examine Mohler's steadfastness and integrity before following him into battle, I would advise viewing the filmed documentary of Mohler's takeover as president of Southern Seminary. The film is titled, Battle for the Minds: A Controversial Film about Fundamentalism and Women by Steven Lipscomb. Here's a phone number where you can obtain a copy 1-800-343-5540.
Sunday, April 24, 2005
Here's a link to AP's report of Frist's statement at the "Injustice Sunday" rally in Louisville.
The Rev. Jim Wallis, author of the book "God's Politics" and editor of the Sojourners Christian-ministry magazine, urged like-minded congregations to "wake up" to what he called a Republican-led "religious war" intended to usher in a "theocracy."
The "religious right," Wallis said, has tried to "steal our faith" and turn it on its head.
"How is it that Jesus has somehow become pro-rich, pro-war and only pro-American?" asked Wallis, a United Church of Christ minister. "Justice Sunday is an attempt to hijack Christianity for a partisan and ideological agenda, and it's time to take our faith back."
Wallis' metaphors about "religious war" and "hijacked" faith are apt. The weapons are "ballots" instead of "bullets." Mainstream Christians will be forced to ride in the back of the bus until we start turning some of our activism into votes at the ballot box.
Kevin Ezell, pastor of the church organizing a political rally declaring those who vote against ending the filibuster in the Senate as "against people of faith," questioned the motives of Phelps and the other ministers saying, "The biggest story here is that he wants to be on TV, he wants to be in the paper. He needs to spend more time reaching people than criticizing other churches."
Ezell needs to practice what he preaches.
(Thanks to Chuck Currie for calling attention to this story.)
Saturday, April 23, 2005
It's time to tell the truth.
There is no "filibuster against people of faith." Religious people are on both sides of the debate about the filibuster and certain Bush-nominated judges. And it's wrong for one of the country's foremost political leaders to lend legitimacy to a contrary notion. Just as no one should have to pass a religious test in order to hold political office, no one should have to pass a political test in order to claim religion or morality.
The program airs "live" at 11:00 AM CST on KREF (1400 am) in the Oklahoma City area.
It also airs in "live streaming audio" over the internet at kref.com.
You'll need to download some free software to hear it. Here's how:
Click here go to surfernetwork.com and download the free software SurferNETWORK player (1.66 MB) -- the software is in the middle of the left-hand column, once the software is installed, go to kref.com and click on the speaker icon.
Friday, April 22, 2005
ABSTRACT: Depleted uranium munitions are used during combat because they are extremely effective. However, in winning these battles through use of uranium munitions we have contaminated air, water, and soil. Consequently, children, women, and men have inhaled, ingested, or got wounds contaminated with uranium. Uranium is a heavy metal and radioactive poison. The toxicity is not debatable as the Director of the U.S. Army Environmental Policy Institute stated in a congressionally mandated report that "No available technology can significantly change the inherent chemical and radiological toxicity of DU. These are intrinsic properties of uranium" (Health and Environmental Consequences of Depleted Uranium Use in the U.S. Army: Technical Report, AEPI, June 1995).
When will the mainstream press stop sitting on this story?
Thursday, April 21, 2005
What's worse than stagflation? Depression?
Does anyone remember a chairman of the Federal Reserve using language like this before in an official setting?
McCain says, "The only thing we're focused on is where the money went."
It looks like it funded more than overseas junkets and skyboxes for Tom DeLay.
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
His blogs Why Not Just Give Up? and Allow Me to Ask a Naive Question wrestle with issues that are central to the mission and ministry of the church in America.
Every time I read the gospels I ask myself, "Why did Jesus send the crowds away and focus his attention on discipling a handful of disciples?"
Is there something about discipleship that mega-church preachers don't get? Is there something about discipleship that people who attend mega-churches don't get?
Now that Ratzinger has been elected Pope, Joan Chittister, E. J. Dionne, Norman Solomon, Frederick Clarkson, Max Blumenthal, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Bill Berkowitz , Leslie Scrivener and Greg Warner best express the wide range of reservations that many have about the new Pope.
Speaking to a "First Freedoms" Conference held last week in Washington, D.C., Shurden diagnosed the Baptist vision saying, "With age, we Baptists have developed cataracts. Our denominational vision, once crystal clear on First Amendment issues, today is opaque. Impervious to the light of our denominational history and family commitments, we have blocked out heroic chapters of our very own story."
When Shurden drives home a point, he hits every nail on the head.
I am really sorry I missed this conference. My only consolation is knowing that on the same day I was making an impassioned speech of my own about the First Amendment to a group of students at the extension campus of Oklahoma State University in Oklahoma City.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Most of the international religion stories these days have to do with theocratic suppressors of freedom, would-be monopolizers of religious expressions. We've been spared such holy wars here. But Frist and company, in the name of their interpretation of American freedom, sound more like jihadists than winsome believers. It would be healing to see them on their knees apologizing to the larger public of believers.
"It is quite proper for people of faith to weigh in on the policy decisions of the day, including debates over parliamentary procedures like the filibuster rule in the Senate. But it is a shameful abuse of religion to suggest that God has taken up sides in the debate. There are people of faith on both sides; neither has God in their hip pocket on this issue."Rev. Welton Gaddy, Executive Director of the Interfaith Alliance wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and raised a pertinent question:
With a religious conscience as enflamed as the conscience of anybody in the religious right, I oppose the election of judges who will, in the name of religion, make decisions that politicize religion and blunt the vitality as well as compromise the integrity of the rich religious community in this nation. Must my religious conviction be attacked as "anti-faith" simply because I do not agree with you when you attempt to destroy a democratic process that has been tried and true? If I feel that way as a person who is a member of your faith tradition, you only can imagine what people from other religious traditions and people within no religious tradition are feeling about such tactics and the implicit, if not explicit, endorsement of those tactics by you and other political leaders.Rev. Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State urged Senator Frist to distance himself from the group saying:
All of these men are persons of deep faith and conviction. None of them are "against people of faith." It is time for the religious right to stop denying the faithfulness of people who disagree with them.
"Sen. Frist should disassociate himself from the Religious Right's unseemly and increasingly shrill campaign to destroy the nation's independent judiciary. I am appalled that Sen. Frist would lend his support to this attack on our court system."
MSNBC says that the Oklahoma City bombing split the radical right and that in the late 1990's the FBI cracked down on the "Common Law Court" movement. They neglected to trace links between the thinking of the "Common Law Court" movement and the congregants around Roy's Rock, and the protestors outside the Schiavo hospital room in Florida, and the participants in the "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith" conference in Washington, D.C. Those thinly veiled threats emanating from the mouths of Texas Congressmen Tom Delay and John Cornyn were addressed to somebody.
The mindset of the "Common Law Court" movement is still alive and well in Texas and Oklahoma and a lot of other states. It just went underground for a decade. It is already beginning to raise its head again and this time it has a lot more political clout.
For more information, I recommend Daniel Levitas' The Terrorist Next Door: The Militia-Movement and the Radical Right. Or, you could just listen to talk radio in Oklahoma and Texas.
Monday, April 18, 2005
1. Frederick Clarkson Interview, Part 2 -- 4-10-05 interview with Frederick Clarkson, author of Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy. Clarkson is an expert on the radical right.
2. Frederick Clarkson Interview, Part 1 -- 4-10-05 interview with Frederick Clarkson, author of Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy. Clarkson is an expert on the radical right.
3. Jann Linn Interview -- 9-19-04 interview with Dr. Jan Linn, author of What's Wrong with the Christian Right.
4. End of Life Issues -- 4-3-05 interview with Sally and Terry Jackson about the Terri Schiavo case and end of life issues. Sally Jackson is a nurse practitioner who specializes in Alzheimers disease and neuro degenerative diseases at the VA Medical Center in OK City. She has also served on the hospital's ethics committee. Her first husband was in a vegitative state prior to his death. Terry Jackson is a Baptist minister who serves as a hospice chaplain.
5. David Berliner Interview, Part 1 -- 11-30-03 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.
6. David Berliner Interview, Part 2 -- 11-30-03 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.
7. Bud Welch Interview, Part 1 -- July 2000 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.
8. Tsunami and Theodicy -- January 9, 2005 interview of blogger Greg Horton at the The Parish Blog about his December 28, 2004 blog titled "What to Do."
9. AU Video Opposing School Vouchers -- 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.
10. Bud Welch Interview, Part 2 -- July 2000 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.
11. Rob Boston Interview, Part 1 -- 2-23-03 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.
12. Keith Parks Interview, Part 1 -- 9-22-02 interview of 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.
13. Keith Parks Interview, Part 2 -- 9-22-02 interview of 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.
14. Charles Kimball Interview, Part 1 -- 11-24-02 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.
15. T Thomas Interview -- interview on 4-17-05 with T Thomas, Coordinator of the Cooperating Baptist Fellowship of Oklahoma. We discuss T's first year's work with CBFO and His Nets -- a ministry to prevent Malaria in sub-Saharan Africa by distributing insect repellent mosquito nets.
16. Charles Kimball Interview, Part 2 -- 11-24-02 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.
17. Barbara McGraw Interview, Part 1 -- 1-11-04 interview with Barbara McGraw, author of Rediscovering America's Sacred Ground: Public Religion and Pursuit of the Good in Pluralistic America.
18. Rob Boston Interview, Part 2 -- 2-23-03 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.
19. Barbara McGraw Interview, Part 2 -- 1-11-04 interview with Barbara McGraw, author of Rediscovering America's Sacred Ground: Public Religion and Pursuit of the Good in Pluralistic America.
The State Department decided to stop publishing an annual report on international terrorism after the government's top terrorism center concluded that there were more terrorist attacks in 2004 than in any year since 1985, the first year the publication covered. . . .
Current and former officials charged that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's office ordered "Patterns of Global Terrorism" eliminated several weeks ago because the 2004 statistics raised disturbing questions about the Bush's administration's frequent claims of progress in the war against terrorism.
"Instead of dealing with the facts and dealing with them in an intelligent fashion, they try to hide their facts from the American public," charged Larry C. Johnson, a former CIA analyst and State Department terrorism expert who first disclosed the decision to eliminate the report in The Counterterrorism Blog, an online journal.
Sunday, April 17, 2005
The interview, split into 2 podcasts, has been posted for less than a week and already holds first and second place for the number of podcasts of the "Religious Talk" radio program that have been downloaded. The second half of the interview has been downloaded a few more times than the first half. In case you missed either the first or second half of the interview, here are the links:
Part 1 of 2 of Dr. Bruce Prescott's 4-10-05 "Religious Talk" radio interview of Frederick Clarkson, author of Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy. Clarkson is an expert on the radical right.
Part 2 of 2 of Dr. Bruce Prescott's 4-10-05 "Religious Talk" radio interview of Frederick Clarkson, author of Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy. Clarkson is an expert on the radical right.
Saturday, April 16, 2005
Now, the battle over the confirmation process has become enmeshed with this third and most extreme stage of conservative thinking. What we are seeing, for the first time, is a fundamental challenge to the rule of law itself.
With all due respect to professor Sunstein, I don't think it is the "rule" of law itself that is being challenged. It is "rules" of law that have served us well for 215 years that are being challenged.
The Religious Right and their political underlings are committed to the "rule" of law -- they are just operating under what they consider to be a "higher" law than the Constitution.
As long as the Constitution is read in conformity with their interpretation of "Biblical law," the "rules" of law under which our nation operates are fine. If not, rules like separation of powers and principles like separation of church and state can and must be swept away (such specific language is not in the Constitution anyway).
Our country is being led by theocratic "culture warriors" who have already declared that the U.S. is a "Christian Nation" (Frist endorses David Barton's revisionist history) and they are already working to enforce their version of a "biblical worldview" on our country.
It looks like the theocrats will accomplish their objectives before most people realize that they are truly "revolutionaries," with no love for democracy and little respect for the rights of minorities, who are using political processes to destroy the basis for pluralistic society.
Friday, April 15, 2005
Answer: Tell evangelical Christians that they are being persecuted.
Question: How do you get enough votes to repeal the First Amendment?
Answer: You can't. There aren't enough evangelical Christians.
Question: How can you establish theocracy without changing the constitution?
Answer: Get judges to interpret the First Amendment as establishing a theocracy.
Question: How can you get judges to interpret the First Amendment theocratically?
Answer: Elect them, bully them, and elect people who will appoint theocrats.
Question: How do you get the votes needed to elect theocrats?
Answer: Tell evangelical Christians that they are being persecuted.
Question: How do you change the judiciary when filibusters screen out theocrats?
Answer: Put an end to filibusters.
Question: How do you get Americans to support ending filibusters?
Answer: Tell evangelical Christians that they are being persecuted.
Yesterday's Washington Post made it clear that Bill Frist wants to pass the quiz. Ending the filibuster will make him the evangelical favorite for being the next GOP Presidential candidate.
Today's New York Times makes it clear that Frist and theocratic leaders will be working side-by-side to convince America's evangelicals that a vote to block theocratic judges is a vote "against people of faith."
Thursday, April 14, 2005
"The US external deficit has so far been financed relatively easily, aided by continued financial globalisation," the report said. "However, the demand for US assets is not unlimited... a continuing sharp rise in US net external liabilities will carry increasing risks."
As well as the possibility of a disorderly decline in the dollar, the fund identifed the possibility that inflation pressures lead to a spike in US interest rates, and the high and volatile oil price as key risks to the global outlook.
The Bush administration's pledge to halve the US fiscal deficit is not credible, owing to a number of items left out of the budget arithmetic, and "insufficiently ambitious" in any case, the report said.
Meanwhile, the administration's most trusted and prescient advisors are hounding "activist" judges (appointed by the Reagan administration) out of their churches and holding rallys to stack the judiciary.
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Lyons says political moderates are waiting "quietly for the metaphorical pendulum to swing to the center."
Moderates in the Southern Baptist Convention were using the same metaphor and precisely the same words to allay "alarmist" concerns that the SBC was being taken over by Fundamentalists.
The "alarmists" were right. The pendulum got stuck. The SBC moved to the right and the moderates who are awake have left.
Now, literally the same Fundamentalists are organizing rallies to takeover the courts. If all moderates do is wait "quietly" for the pendulum to swing back to the center, it won't happen in their lifetimes. It may not happen in the lifetimes of their children and grandchildren.
We are dealing with patient revolutionaries who are using democratic processes to install a theocracy. When they are through, democratic processes will no longer be operative.
Henry Kissinger, writing a different context, accurately described our present situation:
Lulled by a period of stability which had seemed permanent, they find it nearly impossible to take at face value the assertion of the revolutionary power that it means to smash the existing framework. The defenders of the status quo therefore tend to begin by treating the revolutionary power as if its protestations were merely tactical; as if it really accepted the existing legitimacy but overstated its case for bargaining purposes; as if it were motivated by specific grievances to be assuaged by limited concessions. Those who warn against the danger in time are considered alarmists; those who counsel adaptation to circumstances are considered balanced and sane. . . . But it is the essence of revolutionary power that it possesses the courage of its convictions, that it is willing, indeed eager, to push its principles to their ultimate conclusion.
Laws made by legislators must be rooted in constitutional values and reasoned analysis, not someone's personal take on scripture. Put bluntly, if your representative in Congress can't explain a vote on abortion or the environment without "proof-texting" it to the Bible, he or she has failed to do the work of a legislator in America.
He asks, "Is Lynn suggesting all speech in Congress must be stripped of references to religious moral arguments?" He thinks, "Legislators should be able to frame their positions in any way that speaks to their constituents, even 'proof-texting.'"
Bob's discomfort over what Lynn is saying could be quickly cleared up if he followed a suggestion put forward by Dr. Barbara McGraw, who is on the National Advisory Board of Americans United. In her recent book, Rediscovering America's Sacred Ground: Public Religion and Pursuit of the Good in Pluralistic America, McGraw suggests that there are two tiers in America's public forum and she identifies a morality that is appropriate to each. The morality of the civic public forum preserves by force of law the "sacred ground" that is necessary to preserve a just and equitable pluralistic society with religious liberty for all. The morality of the conscientious public forum is preserved by persuasion, not by force of law, as diverse individuals and groups promote their competing visions of the common good. Using this distinction, Lynn's comments would refer to the civic public forum. The work that Jim Wallis is doing, which Bob is trying to preserve, is properly part of the conscientious public forum.
I suspect that Barry Lynn has something like McGraw's distinctions in mind as he speaks and writes. I know that he has read McGraw's book and he has interviewed her on his radio program. I recently posted my own radio interview with her in two podcasts (here and here). Here's a link to a blog that I wrote last summer reviewing her book.
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
It's no surprise to me that my own U.S. Senator's chief of staff provided the most outrageous quotes. His sentiments accurately reflect the perspective of his boss.
Most Oklahomans, however, just think they elected a "Christian."
On his April 11, 2005 radio broadcast Dobson said,
I heard a minister the other day talking about the great injustice and evil of the men in white robes, the Ku Klux Klan, that roamed the country in the South, and they did great wrong to civil rights and to morality. And now we have black-robed men, and that's what you're talking about.
Monday, April 11, 2005
A day of fiscal reckoning is looming on America's horizon. It doesn't look like a sonrise to me.
When the homeless and hungry knock on my door, I think I'm going to buy them a tent and encourage them to camp-out on the manicured suburban lawns of the right-wing evangelicals who dismantled the social safety net and directed the money to churches for faith-based initiatives.
At the end of his blog Clarkson posted a link to Barton's speaking schedule. One place you won't find listed there is Oklahoma City on May 5th.
May 5th is the National Day of Prayer and we are planning another Interfaith Day of Prayer and Reflection at the Oklahoma State Capitol. Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, has agreed to speak at our event this year.
For the evening of May 5th, I invited David Barton to debate Barry Lynn about the place of the ten commandments in American civic life. Barton declined. It looks like he's too busy revising history to submit his views to scrutiny.
Sunday, April 10, 2005
Now Ralph Neas with People for the American Way has written Frist and asked to withdraw his sponsorship of the tour.
Jeremy Leaming of Americans United has also weighed in and called Barton's "misguided tour" "Christian Nation" propaganda. Americans United has a lot of information about Barton's misinformation on their website.
The Baptist Joint Committee has not yet addressed Barton's tour, but they do offer a critique of Barton's taped presentation of "America's Godly Heritage."
The program was broadcast on KREF (1400 am) in Norman, Oklahoma.
The program was also broadcast in LIVE STREAMING AUDIO over the Internet at kref.com
To listen to any "Religious Talk" radio program when it is "live" you'll need to click here go to surfernetwork.com and download the free software SurferNETWORK player (1.66 MB -- It is near the bottom of the page in the left hand column). Once the software is installed go to kref.com and click on the speaker icon at 11:00 CST on a Sunday morning to hear the program.
Listeners who would like to and ask questions can use this toll free line -- 1-866-355-KREF.
I'll post a podcast of the interview sometime this week.
Friday, April 08, 2005
It is time for all politicians and preachers to distance themselves from revisionist historians like Barton who mythologize American history.
Tom DeLay, speaking under a cloud of scandals and ethics violations, delivered a message by tape and said we have "a judiciary run amok."
The most ridiculous statement, however, came from the chief of staff of my own U.S. Senator:
"I am in favor of impeachment," Michael Schwartz, chief of staff to Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, said in a panel discussion on abortion, suggesting "mass impeachment" might be needed.
You can be sure that the first judge on the list for impeachment will be Florida Judge George Greer who presided over the Terri Schiavo case. Judge Greer has already been hounded out of the membership of his Southern Baptist church.
For twenty-five years Baptist laymen have closed their eyes to what the Fundamentalists were doing to moderates within their churches. "It's just a preacher fight," they said over and over again. Well, it's surely not just a preacher fight any more.
People who divided a Christian denomination firing Seminary presidents and professors and then massively terminated career missionaries won't loose a wink of sleep over dividing a nation with "massive impeachments" of judges.
The worst thing about the propaganda that is currently coming out of the White House is not that it is "covert," but that it is explicitly designed to convince people to give the President permission to pick my pocket of my social security benefits.
Having got that off my chest, you can be sure that the President will never let me into one of those "townhall meetings" where he discusses his plans for Social Security with legions of mindless drones.
Thursday, April 07, 2005
At present, there are few signs that Republican leadership is ready to step out of the batter's box on any of these issues.
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
Police think robbery was a factor in their murder.
The author's definition of "Good Christians" falls somewhat short regarding divine incarnation:
They are the ones who understand that Jesus was, quite simply, one hell of a powerful teacher, and healer, and mystic, and visionary, a pacifist, a liberal, a feminist, the ultimate outsider, one of the finest examples in all of history of how to radiate pure love and compassion and divine interconnection and Lord knows we could all use more of that.
But I wholeheartedly agree with this conclusion:
They are, in short, those who understand the deep irony that, when it comes to religion, the ones who scream and stomp and whine the loudest are often the ones who understand their faith the least.
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Over the past twenty-five years, Southern Baptists have experienced a lot of abuse at the hands of their pastors. Now that the abusers have purged the denomination of healthy leadership, they are preparing to wed her to the even more rigid and abusive Independent Fundamental Baptists.
For Fundamentalist takeover leaders, this is a prudent decision. After a decade of abuse at the hands of Independent Fundamental Baptists, Southern Baptists will completely forget the moderate servant leaders and wounded healers that were banished from the denomination and will fondly remember the takeover leaders as benevolent dictators.
Now, as the majority party under a Republican president, they want to reshape the federal court system to curb what they see as its liberal bias -- especially in decisions on social issues such as school prayer, civil rights and abortion.
Both principles, separation of powers and separation of church and state, protect the rights of minorities. The Theocratic right has worked for decades -- ever since the civil rights era -- to achieve the power necessary to change the constitution. They intend to establish the Christian religion. Then you can be sure that they will try to revise the Constitution to ensure that it can never be changed again by democratic means.
To see the impending threat to religious liberty, just read these paragraphs with the first amendment protections for minority faiths in mind:
Democrats say the filibuster provides protection from "tyranny of the majority."
They note that the framers of the Constitution intended the House of Representatives to be run by the majority, but specifically designed the Senate as a forum where the minority party and small states would be given greater weight.
Taking away the filibuster, the Democrats argue, would fundamentally alter the character of the Senate and, by extension, the balance between majority rule and minority rights enshrined in the Constitution.
"The whole design was to protect minority interests," said Sheldon Goldman, a professor of political science and an expert on judicial history at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. "So what is being proposed now is of immense historical proportions."
But Republicans argue that Democrats are using the filibuster in a way the framers did not intend -- not to block legislation, but to withhold the "advice and consent" the Constitution requires the Senate to give on presidential nominations to the executive and judicial branches.
If you wonder what kind of treatment people of minority faiths can expect in their "Christian America," just look at the heavy-handed way the Theocrats are treating the minority party. Democrats and moderate Republicans are already being treated as second class citizens in this country.
Monday, April 04, 2005
And that's only half of their line-up for today.
Sunday, April 03, 2005
Saturday, April 02, 2005
Friday, April 01, 2005
The editor of the Oklahoma Baptist paper has decided that Schiavo's death is a call for hatemongering. In an article entitled "Hate what God hates" he says, "Part of loving what God loves is hating what God hates." What follows is a tirade about "hands that shed innocent blood." He exclaims,
The blood of a disabled, special needs person is on the hands of our nation's governmental leaders. Since we elect our national leaders or elect those who appoint the judiciary, we are people with blood on our hands.
Throughout his screed he equates the death of Terri Schiavo with an "extermination."
Some Baptists may be accustomed to a hyperbolic, guilt-tripping style of rhetoric, but the rest of the world is not. Such language is inflammatory, incendiary, dangerous and self-defeating. It serves to do nothing more than further polarize positions and entrench opinions.
Jesus never encouraged hate, he commanded that we love everyone -- even our enemies -- with a self-giving, sacrificial love. The first thing that should be sacrificed is the rhetoric of hate.
Apathy is the opposite of love, not hate.
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