Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Depleted Uranium To Come Before Congress

Truthout is reporting that Congressman Jim McDermott is introducing a bill in congress calling for scientific studies into the health and environmental impact of depleted uranium.

We definitely need some experts to look into this under the light of public scrutity. It is hard for a layman to decide which experts to trust on this issue.

The Totally Connected Church

Reuters is reporting that a church in Wales has installed a Wi-Fi wirefless network access point at the church. The pastor reportedly said he has "no problem with people quietly sending an email or surfing the Internet in church, as long as they respect the church."

It used to be that people waited until the pastor was finished before they critiqued his sermon, now it looks like some churches are going to have real-time critiques by e-mail while the sermon is in progress.

Rumsfeld Questioned About Iraq Air Offensive

Information being reported in the London Times about preparations for the war in Iraq is having serious repercussions in the United States. Raw Story is reporting that Congressman John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee is writing a letter to Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense, asking him to provide information about an air offensive in Iraq that was launched before Congress gave approval to go to war.

Here's a paragraph from a draft letter of Conyers letter to Rumsfeld:
The allegations and factual assertions made in the May 29 London Times are in many respects just as serious as those made in the earlier article. If true, these assertions indicate that not only had our nation secretly and perhaps illegally agreed to go to war by the summer of 2002, but that we had gone on to take specific and tangible military actions before asking Congress or the United Nations for authority.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Faith-based Outreach to African-Americans

This administration's use of faith-based incentives to buy enough African-American votes to dismantle civil rights era legislation is back in the limelight. The L.A. Times is running a story about the latest episode in this continuting saga. Here are a few of the more salient paragraphs:
Rice and the pastors discussed the possibility of establishing an office of faith-based initiatives within the State Department that would direct federal funds for overseas aid to church and community groups, as similar offices have done in other Cabinet agencies.

The meeting reflected the expanding relationship between some of the country's best-known black clergy and the Bush administration -- a relationship that has been nurtured through a White House program that encourages funneling government grants to religious charities.

Illustrating the political benefit of that relationship, White House officials injected some Capitol Hill strategy into the session. They solicited support among the black pastors for controversial legislation that would allow faith-based charities in the U.S. to discriminate in hiring based on an applicant's religious beliefs -- a provision that has spurred opposition from some Democrats and civil rights groups."

An Ominous Sign

A left-wing speech writer describes why he's joining the right.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Religious Supremecists Vow Revenge

I'm being politically correct today and using the term "religious supremecists" for those I have heretofore called "theocrats." Frankly, I'm not inclined to be shy about using the term "theocracy" but theocrats don't seem to be offended as much by being labeled "religious supremecists."

Whatever you call them, a couple Religious News Service reporters have published a revealing article about the reaction of the "Religious Right" to the filibuster compromise in the Senate. John McCain is squarely in their cross-hairs.

Battle lines have clearly been drawn in the battle for the soul of the Republican Party. Democracy may hang in the balance.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

On Goldwater and Falwell

Thanks to Buzz Flash for posting a link to an old Arizona Republic report about how Barry Goldwater, a "Conservative pioneer became an outcast" in the Republican Party.

I'm particularly grateful to the article for calling attention to a 1981 quotation from Goldwater --

"I think every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass."

Friday, May 27, 2005

Discounting Theocracy

Bill Berkowitz's essay "Laura-palooza" has an insightful quote from Max Blumenthal about how the White House is working to dispel concerns about the religious right's theocratic agenda:
"In the wake of the Terri Schiavo debacle, the Republican elite seems to be engaged in a concerted campaign to dispel the notion that its alliance with the Christian right could usher in a theocracy," said Blumenthal. "Their refusal to take the Christian right's stated intentions seriously only highlights their underlying cynicism."

The White House, however, is not alone in its reluctant to take the right's stated intentions at face value. Even commentators expressing concern about the religious right's stealth politics feel obliged to discount the harshest implications of the analogies they draw.

U.S. Constitution v. State Constitutions

Thanks to Rob's Blog for posting some of the valuable information he has gleaned from his readings about the First Amendment. Here' a quote from a blog he posted on May 24th:

In reading the book "A Companion To The United States Constitution And It's Amendments", I came across a court decision, Torasco v. Watkins from 1961, in which the Supreme Court decided in favor of Torasco, an appointee to the office of Notary Public by the governor of Maryland. He refused to declare a belief in God as required by the Maryland constitution. The Supreme Court held that the free exercise clause of the First Amendment extended the ban on religious tests in Article VI to the states, rendering any of the aforementioned state constitution requirements moot.

On Admitting Mistakes

Thanks to Ethics Daily for posting a story that reveals that Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina has decided that it was a mistake to support the war in Iraq.

Now, if he would rethink the logic of his so-called "Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act." Endorsing that legislation could be the biggest mistake he has ever made.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Impeachment Impending

Raw Story is reporting that a coalition of citizen's groups are planning to ask Congress to file a Resolution of Inquiry, the first necessary legal step to determine whether President Bush has committed impeachable offenses in misleading the country about his decision to go to war in Iraq.

The memorandum from the coalition's constitutional lawyer asking Congress to file a Resolution of Inquiry has also been posted.

Pastor Apologizes for Church Sign

Creighton Lovelace, pastor of the Danieltown Baptist Church in Forest City, N.C. has apologized for posting a sign that said "The Koran needs to be flushed." I commend Lovelace for issuing an apology.

Lovelace's apology comes after Morris Chapman, President of the Executive Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, issued a release disavowing Lovelace's statement.

Ethics Daily posted a story that recounted the long and sad history of incendiary statements by SBC leaders that preceeded Lovelace's actions. The article concludes with a comment from Robert Parham, Director of the Baptist Center for Ethics:
"Southern Baptist fundamentalists are flip-flopping about Islam. . . . They readily defended Jerry Vines' harmful remarks. Now, they are back flipping away from Creighton Lovelace's mean-spirited sign, attempting to sound civil and respectful."

"After two decades of hateful comments about Muslims, Jews, Catholics, moderate Baptists, mainline Protestants and Democrats . . . Southern Baptist leaders will find it impossible to convince the discerning public that they have left behind the hate that is synonymous with fundamentalism."
Longtime observers of the SBC may well wonder whether one of the denomination's megachurch pastors would have received the same treatment that Lovelace received from Morris Chapman. Still, the fact that any SBC denominational leader is showing even the least measure of sensitivity to the beliefs and opinions of Muslims is worthy of approbation.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Theocrats Vow Payback for Filibuster Pact

The Denver Post published story today titled "Religious right vows payback for brokers of filibuster pact." Kudos to Ken Salazar for speaking publicly about the intentions of the religious right:
One member of the coalition not up for re-election until 2010 is Ken Salazar, the Colorado Democrat who has clashed with Focus over the filibuster.

Salazar agitated ministry leadership again Tuesday by saying Dobson and other Christian conservatives are pushing the country to become a "theocracy."

"I don't want us to become another Saudi Arabia or another Iraq, and I think that people who are part of that radical right would have our country go in that direction," Salazar said in an interview with MSNBC.

Middle Class? What Middle Class?

Newsweek has an ominous article about The Big Squeeze that is coming as middle-income, white collar and skilled blue collar jobs are outsourced overseas. Here's some of what the report calls "calming" information:

Europe is less vulnerable to offshoring than America. Rigid labor laws insulate its workers from pay cuts and layoffs. Still, Deutsche Bank predicts that 2 percent of all service jobs in Germany could move overseas within four or five years. Ian Marriott, head of global-offshoring research for the Gartner Group, says that Nordic companies have been slow to catch on to offshoring and will soon be "at a financial disadvantage to global competitors who come into their markets."

The OECD recently analyzed how many European jobs could be affected by service-sector offshoring. It examined occupational classifications where people use PCs heavily, use the Internet to transfer work, and where the work involves "codified information" (as opposed to "implicit knowledge") and little face-to-face contact with customers. The study found 15 at-risk job categories -- among them clerks and keyboard operators, engineers and architects, mathematicians and statisticians, chemists and physicists -- representing 19 percent of total employment in the EU-15."

CEO's Missing in Action

Thomas Friedman's op-ed in today's New York Times hits the nail on the head.

Where are American CEO's who have a grasp of the common good?

I have an idea where you can find the answer. Get a copy of Lou Dubose and Jan Reid's The Hammer: Tom Delay: God, Money and the Rise of the Republican Congress and read the chapter about how Delay trained "K Street" lobbyists to fetch water for the Republican leadership.

On Dobson and De La Torre

Miguel De La Torre is leaving Hope College in Holland, Michigan.

Ethics Daily reveals that he leaves after James Dobson wrote a letter to the school's president complaining about an essay that De La Torre wrote that criticised Dobson's accusation that SpongeBob SquarePants promoted homosexuality.

De La Torre is going to Illiff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado.

Congratulations to the Illiff School of Theology. De La Torre has one of the brightest minds and sharpest pens in contemporary American Christianity.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

"A constitutional abuse of power"

Raw Story has posted some comments from an interview they did with Congressman John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. Here are the paragraphs from the story that will raise the most eyebrows:
"For the president to be at one time misleading the Congress about his intentions, and at the same time working carefully with Prime Minister Blair and many in his cabinet as the declassified memos now reveal, as far as eight months before the war started, we don't just have deception," Conyers remarked.

"This is a constitutional abuse of power, and what we want to do, is first deal with this media silence," he continued, and spoke briefly about the forum he is holding today on media bias. "We want to get to why the media approaches this with such reluctance" [it] begins to unfold something like Watergate did; it appeared in page A35 of the Washington Post as a three sentence story and of course it kept going on."

Conyers demurred to say if he was considering a resolution of inquiry, the first step in any impeachment process.

Theocratic Reactions to Filibuster Compromise

Tony Perkins,"Concession is not an option. . . . If these wavering Republican senators, after four decades of judicial activism that has created an environment of hostility to people of faith, cut and run at this critical moment when irrationally senseless activist courts are gaining in influence they ensue the end of Republican control and will likely cause the loss of the White House and potentially Congress by 2008."

James Dobson, "This Senate agreement represents a complete bailout and betrayal by a cabal of Republicans and a great victory for united Democrats. . . .We share the disappointment, outrage and sense of abandonment felt by millions of conservative Americans who helped put Republicans in power last November. I am certain that these voters will remember both Democrats and Republicans who betrayed their trust."

Gary Bauer, "The Republicans who lent their names to this travesty have undercut their President as well as millions of their most loyal voters. Shame on them all."

Paul Weyrich, "Once again, moderate Republicans have taken the victory and thrown it overboard."

I'll be adding additional quotes as they become available.

On Christian Standards

Rev. Creighton Lovelace of Danieltown Baptist Church in North Carolina offers a succinct description of how Fundamentalists measure the effectiveness of their witness. After being criticized for posting a message on a church sign that said, "The Koran Needs to be Flushed," Dateline Alabama quotes Lovelace as saying:

"If we stand for what is right and for God's word and for Christianity then the world is going to condemn us and so right away when I got a complaint I said, 'Well somebody's mad, somebody's offended, so we must be doing something right.'"
For all the lip service they give to God's Word, Fundamentalists refuse to acknowledge the standard by which Jesus said our witness would be measured:

"But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on his right, and the goats on the left.

Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.'

Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite you in, or naked and clothe You? And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?

And the King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'

Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.'

Then they themselves also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, on in prison, and did not take care of You?'

Then He will answer them, saying, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

(Matthew 25:31-46 New American Standard Bible)

Faith in Action

Bill Gallagher of the Niagra Falls Reporter has written a story about the Calvin College professors who protested President Bush's speech at the school's commencement. His comments about one of the professors, David Crump, caught my attention:

David Crump, a professor of religion at Calvin, was one of the leaders of the faculty protest. He told the Detroit Free Press he felt compelled to speak out because "the largest part of our concern is the way in which our religious discourse in this country has been largely co-opted by the religious right and their wholesale endorsement of this administration."

I spoke with Crump and discussed the faculty letter and politicians who cloak themselves in religion. He struck me as a soft-spoken, committed person whose conscience led him to action. Crump has taught at Calvin for eight years and he's up for a tenure appointment this summer. Speaking out like he does requires more guts than Bush, Rove and a division of Busheviks have ever displayed.

Crump said he's tired of all evangelicals being lumped together and people "naturally associating us with the right wing."

David Crump and the other dissenting professors at Calvin College have given hope and encouragement to a lot of other evangelicals who are tired of being lumped together with the right wing. When so many Christians do little more than give lip service to a faith that risks everything for Christ, thanks for having the courage to put your faith in action.

On Bald Eagles and Ostriches

Robert Dreyfuss has an article on the Tom Paine website that tries to explain why the American news media have been loathe to discuss the significance of the Downing Street memo.

Drefuss gives plausible explanations why both Republicans and Democrats have chosen to ignore the memo. At bottom, it all boils down to the fact that the truth is too hot for Americans to handle.

It looks like Bald Eagles have gone extinct and we've made the Ostrich our national bird.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Common Sense about Healthcare

Dr. Robin Cook's article, Decoding Health Insurance in yesterday's New York Times, reveals that even members of the medical profession are beginning to realize that the current health care system is unsustainable and rapidly approaching dissolution. Here's a quote:

Although I never thought I'd advocate a government-sponsored, obviously non-profit, tax-supported, universal access, single-payer plan, I've changed my mind: the sooner we move to such a system, the better off we will be. Only with universal health care will we be able to pool risk for the entire country and share what nature has dealt us; only then will there be no motivation for anyone or any organization to ferret out an individual's confidential, genetic makeup.

Designing Intelligent Science Education

Whereas "Intelligent Design" is a statement of faith and all the arguments in the world cannot shake the faith of those who adhere to this political wedge strategy, and

Whereas the "Intelligent Design" folks have already demonstrated in the Southern Baptist Convention that they have the votes to force teachers to "teach that pickles have souls," and

Whereas the "Intelligent Design" folks have easily got sufficient votes in several states to force teachers to teach that the earth is flat,

Science teachers might as well resign themselves to "Having Fun With Intelligent Design." David Morris' suggestions posted on AlterNet today are hereby commended.

P.S. I'm still waiting to hear an answer to how the "theory" of "Intelligent Design" can be tested to prove its veracity or falsity and how the "theory" expands our understanding of nature. Without a viable answer, I still conclude that it is a statement of faith designed to end debate about origins.

Have We No Decency?

Here's an obscene quote from today's Washington Post:

Mary Tillman says the government used her son for weeks after his death, perpetuating an untrue story to capitalize on his altruism -- just as the Abu Ghraib prison scandal was erupting publicly.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Au Revoir Paul Ricoeur

Paul Ricoeur passed away Friday at the age of 92. He was one of the greatest philosophers of all time.

I read Ricoeur's Symbolism of Evil in the summer of 1983 as I was preparing a prospectus for my doctoral dissertation. That was the first book by Ricoeur that I had read. It completely reoriented my research on the theology of love and pointed to a way of thinking that always seems to provide fresh glimpses of the inexhaustible depths of God's love and grace.

The title of my doctoral dissertation is The Symbolism of Love and in it I tried to show that woven into Ricouer's text on The Symbolism of Evil and throughout his other writings there is a theology of love that is deeper and more profound than can be found in the writings of contemporary theologians.

In my mind, Martin Buber's I and Thou and Ricoeur's Symbolism of Evil are the two theological works from the 20th Century that will have the most lasting influence. The only other book that could compete is Ricoeur's Oneself as Another which combines the best insights of both works.

For those who would like a taste of Ricoeur's thought without the philosophy, the descriptions of sin that I gave in my recent speech On the Ethics of Evangelism are all simplifications of themes in Ricoeur's Symbolism of Evil.

U.N. Condemns U.S. Treatment of Afghans

As Congress prepares to confirm an Ambassador to the United Nations who hates the U.N., the U.N. is condemning the alleged abuse of detainees at the main U.S. base in Afghanistan.

The New York Times reports that in 2002 two detainees died after being shackled and beaten.

Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Afghanistan -- the pattern of this evidence is compelling to anyone who has eyes to see.

It makes me sick at my stomach.

Where are the people with all the megaphones -- Richard Land, Al Mohler, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, D. James Kennedy, and all the other self-righteous blow hards who make a living railing about the decline of morals in America? When are they going to start rooting out the moral melanoma that is right under their noses and visible to the entire world?

It would be hard to find a stronger indictment of the spiritual degeneracy and moral bankruptcy of 21st Century American Evangelicalism.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Reagan Republicans Turning on President

The current President has had more than his share of cabinet members and advisors giving interviews and writing books that have been critical of his decisions. Now prominent Republicans around the country are raising their voices.

Paul Craig Roberts, who served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Reagan, published an essay this week calling for the President to be impeached.

I am accustomed to members of the opposition party issuing calls for impeachment. It is something new to me to see members of the President's own party calling for his impeachment.

Underwear Photos

A British tabloid has printed more Saddam Hussein underwear pictures. What is it about the British psyche that finds photos of Saddam Hussein in his underwear so fascinating?

Shoot, we Americans have pictures of men in their underwear in our papers every day. I even remember some hip chick reporter asking President Clinton what kind of underwear he wore.

You can be sure that all the American tabloids will be clamoring to print their own pictures of Saddam lounging around in his underwear.

I can't wait until the people running newspapers grow up and start asking questions and printing stories about the naked lies that keep streaming out of Washington, D.C.

Friday, May 20, 2005

On Religious McCarthyism

Faithful Progressive has an outstanding blog about Religious McCarthyism on the Community Forum at the Christian Alliance for Progress website. Here's some of the best analysis I've seen regarding judges being brought for confirmation:

Next May, Old Faithful Progressive will celebrate twenty years of practicing law. In that time, I've appeared before and personally known literally hundreds of judges. In my experience, it makes little difference if a good judge is politically liberal or conservative. Frankly, most judges see enough of life and of human weakness at close range that it tempers any kind of political stridency. Eventually they come to see that their own personal views must give way to become a true servant of the law and of the people. But, then again, some judges never get this: there are always those few who see everything through the lens of their own pre-existing agenda. These are the trial judges that always lead the substitution numbers: people know that the facts of their case will be contorted to suit the personal agenda of the judge. The same tendencies exist with appellate courts, and in roughly the same numbers. So far, the approval of Bush judicial nominees also roughly reflects these facts: those with an identifiable agenda have been rejected, most have been approved.


What do you get when you mix a female episcopal acolyte with a male Baptist layman?

One of the most delightful pleasures of writing a blog is meeting people who have either read your blog or who write blogs that you have read.

A few months ago I connected with Brad, A.K.A. Streak, at a restaurant near the OU campus. Streak is a environmental historian with a flair for religion and politics -- my kind of guy. He also has a very sharp wit -- as can be seen from his recent blog on evolution and history.

Today I had the added pleasure of meeting his wife Lisa, A.K.A. Small Glimpses. I had read Lisa's blog and have had her blog linked to mine for several months, but never realized that I was also reading her coffee drinking husband's blog.

Lisa is a bit shy about her blogging. I almost didn't discover her addition to the medium, but I'm very glad that I did. Her blog on Equality and Equal Standing is about as good as they come.

Currie Challenges Scarborough

Today's Houston Chronicle has printed a story about SBC Texas pastor Rick Scarborough and the national attention he has attracted to get evangelical Christians behind the right wing assault on the judiciary. The article quotes David Currie, Coordinator of the National Mainstream Network:

Scarborough has a contentious history with David R. Currie, the executive director of Texas Baptists Committed, an anti-fundamentalist group that won a war with Scarborough over the direction of the Texas Baptist General Convention. Scarborough ran for the convention's presidency in 1996 and lost to a more moderate candidate. He was a key figure two years later when conservatives left the group to form their own convention.

Scarborough said recently that he regrets the rift with moderate Baptists because he would like to "get men on both sides of that divide involved" in his new cause.

"I think he's a very dangerous man," said Currie, also a former pastor and a devout Baptist, in a recent interview. "That whole 'Christian nation' movement is attempting to undermine the absolute strength and genius of this country, and that's the First Amendment."

"To make judges a religious issue is ludicrous," Currie continued.

Kudos to Currie and other Mainstream Baptists in Texas who will stand up for separation of church and state.

Religion and the Air Force Academy

Thanks to Ethics Daily to providing additional details about the controversy over religion at the Air Force Academy.

While my expectations of Baptist football coaches is low, I would expect that a chaplain endorsed by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship would be sensitive to the need for government to be strictly neutral in matters of religion. That would include creating training materials that do not appear to be singling out any religion for approbation or disapprobation.

That said, the information in news reports continues to reveal an atmosphere at the Academy that is dominated by a muscular and aggressively evangelistic form of Christianity. Comments like, "In your presentation, Christians never win" may not be reassuring to those weary of being subjected to spiritual competition.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

On Talking about Church-State Separation

Thanks to Ethics Daily for publishing Jim Huff's article about the need for Baptists to talk about church-state separation.

This has definitely become a controversial issue in some moderate Baptist churches. As Huff says,
It is a shame that a meeting related to the historic Baptist principle of separation of church and state has been allowed to evolve into such a public disagreement. This is a classic example of the current political and religious climate. There is a hesitancy to have a meaningful dialogue over a critical aspect of the Christian faith for fear of being divisive and placed in opposing camps.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Home Schools and White House Interns

Kudos to Frederick Clarkson for the great job he did explaining our Constitution's separation of church and state on NPR's Fresh Air today. Clarkson was on after D. James Kennedy was interviewed on the same program.

Kennedy claimed to be opposed to theocracy but, in the very next breath, quoted the Great Commission and gave it a decidedly political thrust. It is clear that, in his opinion, Christians have a responsibility to create a culture in which civil institutions (i.e. the government, the courts, and public schools) are involved in "teaching" all nations "to observe all" that Jesus commanded. When "culture" assumes the mission of the Church, it is hard for me to understand how this differs from "theocracy."

Clarkson did an admirable job of explaining how the intentions of our nation's founders differed from what Kennedy described. He also disclosed information that I had previously missed. Clarkson said something to the effect that he had heard that there were more interns in the White House from Patrick Henry College than from any other institution. Patrick Henry College is a school whose primary mission is to prepare Christian Home Schoolers, many of whom have been indoctrinated with Dominionist theology, for positions in government service.

Evangelical Professors Protest Against Bush

The World Peace Herald has published a story about some professors of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan who are protesting President Bush's commencement speech at their school.

The professors have paid for an advertisement in the paper which says:
"No single political position should be identified with God's will," says the ad, which also chastises the president for "actions that favor the wealthy of our society and burden the poor."

Christians are to be characterized by love and gentleness, it adds, but "we believe that your administration has fostered intolerance and divisiveness and has often failed to listen to those with whom it disagrees."

Moreover, says the letter, set to run in the Grand Rapids Press, the Bush administration's environmental policies "have harmed creation," and it asks the president "to re-examine your policies in light of our God-given duty to pursue justice with mercy."

Historic Proceedings

Counting down to melt down.

Here's a link to live streaming video of the Senate proceedings on C-Span.

Patriotism Betrayed

Common Dreams has posted an Air America interview with a candidate who ran for Parliament against British Prime Minister Tony Blair in last week's election. Here are a couple paragraphs describing what motivated this candidate to run for office:
Laura Flanders: Tell our audience why you decided to run for Parliament, have you always hankered to be in politics?

Reg Keys: No, eh (laughs), well not really . . .no, I've never hankered for politics whatsoever! Like most people in Britain (and probably in America as well), I believed my Prime Minister's rhetoric, as you believed Mr. Bush's rhetoric about Saddam posing this evil threat and being able to launch weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes.

"My son believed that, I believed that, and the nation believed the Prime Minister but we were all deceived. Sadly, we were all betrayed by our own government. Iraq couldn't launch within 45 minutes, Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction or WMD program and I feel that my son's oath to allegiance to Queen and country was betrayed. His patriotism was betrayed and that young life was snuffed out in a filthy police station in Iraq for what?"

Does this father have a point?

Baptists Moving to Gaza?

Israel National News is reporting that police believe 50,000 Baptists will soon arrive from the United States and take up residency in Gaza.

There is no doubt that many Baptists are Christian Zionists who would work diligently both in the U.S. and in Israel to impede any peace plan that involved trading land for peace and dismantling settlements in Israel. I think that it is highly unlikely that 50,000 of them will be taking up even temporary residency in Gaza. If there is any truth to this rumor, I suspect that 5,000 would be the upper range of possibility and 500 might be more realistic.

Baptists are much more likely to give money to the causes in which they believe. Few of them would actually engage in any act of civil disobedience -- particularly in a foreign country.

(Thanks to Baptists Today for calling attention to this story.)

On SBC Bibliolatry

Southeastern Seminary President Danny Akin is denying charges of bibliolatry. Simple denials, however, lack credibility. Akin and others in the SBC would have to repudiate the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message to successfully avert the charge of bibliolatry.

There is ample evidence of bibliolatry at the Mainstream Baptists website. I've made the charge and documented the reasons several times. I am not alone in this assessment. My own theology professor, Dr. William Hendricks, made the same charge after reviewing the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. He said:
The shift of emphasis from a Christological principle of interpretation to an assertion that Christ is the focus of the Bible is seismic. Behind the 1963 statement is the reformation principle, long affirmed by Baptists, "Christ is King and Lord of Scripture. Jesus Christ is the definitive revelation of God, is One with the Father, and is the fullness of the Godhead bodily."

To remove the living Christ as the touchstone for interpreting the Scripture is to downgrade Christ and promote bibliolatry.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Facing the Truth

Molly Ivins essay on "Don't Blame Newsweek" makes way too much sense for many Americans. She concludes:
So where does all this leave us? With a story that is not only true, but previously reported numerous times. So let's drop the "Lynch Newsweek" bull. Seventeen people have died in these riots. They didn't die because of anything Newsweek did -- the riots were caused by what our government has done.

As evidence mounts that our government is employing lies, abuse and torture, many Americans seem to lack the fortitude necessary to face the truth.

At this point, bystanders can no longer deny that they are empowering the perpetrators.

Monday, May 16, 2005

More from Moyers

John Nichols blog at Nation Magazine has another great quote from Moyers:

"An unconscious people, an indoctrinated people, a people fed only partisan information and opinion that confirm their own bias, a people made morbidly obese in mind and spirit by the junk food of propaganda, is less inclined to put up a fight, ask questions and be skeptical," Moyers said. " And just as a democracy can die of too many lies, that kind of orthodoxy can kill us, too."

It also provides a link to online video of Moyer's speech and online audio at

Moyers on the Media and the Radical Right

Bill Moyers spoke at a conference on the media over the weekend. Common Dreams picked up a story that was published by the St. Louis Post Dispatch. Here's an interesting quote from the article:
Moyers said he knew his broadcasts have created a backlash in Washington.

"The more compelling our journalism, the angrier became the radical right of the Republican Party," he said.

"That's because the one thing they loath more than liberals is the truth. And the quickest way to be damned by them as liberal is to tell the truth."

Sunday, May 15, 2005

DeLay Disputes Justice Department Findings

The Galveston County Daily News reports that Tom DeLay is still defending exploitation and abuse in Saipan.

DeLay has long upheld Saipan as a model of unregulated, free market capitalism. Here's an excerpt from the story in the Daily News:

Hard Evidence

But the U.S. Justice Department did find proof of sex slavery.

In 1999, Soon Oh Kwon, president of Kwon Enterprises, and his wife pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to violating federal laws against involuntary servitude.

The two admitted to bringing Chinese women to Saipan in 1996 and 1997 on contracts to work as waitresses. Instead, they were forced to work as 'bargirls' at Kwon Enterprises' karaoke club, K's Hideaway. The women were forced to have sex with the patrons, Kwon said.

If the Chinese women said they wanted to return home, they were told they could not leave until they repaid their debt for coming to Saipan. In case they had any thoughts of leaving any way, they were told they would be killed if they tried, Kwon said.

The case was one of 10 involuntary servitude cases the Justice Department brought in the Northern Marianas during a three-year period. They involved more than 150 victims, according to a Justice Department statement.

While the Justice Department found hard evidence that people were using Saipan's immigration rules to make women sex slaves, DeLay never did.

Amazingly, none of DeLay's Religious Right cronies seem concerned about the justice department's hard evidence either. They're still supporting DeLay against all the "liberal" detractors who question his ethics.

Those interested in further discussion of the links between Tom DeLay and Saipan's exploitative industries should read Lou Dubose and Jan Reid's The Hammer: Tom DeLay: God, Money, and the Rise of the Republican Congress.

Air Force Chaplain Transferred Overseas

The Chaplain who confirmed reports that evangelical Christians were using strong-arm evangelism tactics at the Air Force Academy has been reassigned to duty overseas and may end up in Iraq.

Today's New York Times report on a conversation with Capt. Melinda Morton says,
She also said that in March she received orders to transfer to Okinawa, and from there could be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. Captain Morton said she was surprised because in December she was told by Colonel Whittington that she would be staying at the academy through summer 2006 to see several projects through. At the time, Captain Morton was developing a sensitivity training program for the academy and was involved in pastoral care for cadets who were victims in a sexual abuse scandal that swept the academy in 2003.

An academy spokesman, Lt. Col. Laurent Fox, said in an interview that Captain Morton's dismissal as executive officer and her reassignment to Okinawa were entirely routine, and not retribution.

Frederick Clarkson's blog "When the State becomes the Church" has begun to describe such violations of the First Amendment as the handiwork of "religious supremacists."

Self-defeating, aggressive evangelization tactics are in vogue at more places than at the Air Force Academy. Students in the Religious Studies Department at the University of Oklahoma recently sponsored a forum on "The Ethics of Evangelism" to address some of the tactics being used by some evangelical groups on that campus. The chief difference between OU and the Air Force Academy is that at the Academy the tactics are being encouraged and assisted by the School's Administration while at OU the Administration has maintained a benevolent neutrality.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

On Ecclesiological Fundamentalism

Thanks to Robert Cunningham for calling my attention to Theo Hobson's article on "Ecclesiological Fundamentalism" in the Autumn 2004 issue of Modern Believing.

I had not heard of this term coined by Donald MacKinnon in 1967, but it cogently expresses the source of the uneasiness that I feel whenever I read the works of George Lindbeck, Stanley Hauerwas, and John Milbank.

I was particularly pleased to see Hobson make an assessment of Hauerwas that is similar to a conclusion I drew from a response that Hauerwas gave to a question that I asked him when he gave a lecture at Houston Baptist University about a decade ago. Hobson says,

In Hauerwas's vision, there is no real distinction between church and politics. The task is to upbuild this unitary community, the new polis of the church. He is ultimately a theocrat, an advocate of Christendom's revival.

It also lends support to another conclusion I drew several years ago. To the extent that Hauerwas's vision has been appropriated by Baptist re-envisioners (See my 7-9-04 Blog on Baptist Identity), the difference between them and Southern Baptist Fundamentalists is ultimately the difference between tweedle-dee and tweedle dum. Theocratic political impulses underlie the theology of both groups.

True Values

Helen Thomas is my heroine. Few reporters any more are as bold, direct, succinct, and accurate as she is in her reporting.

Yesterday she published a story that clearly expresses a truth that current events have forced many of us to reluctantly face. Reporting on reactions to the revelation from British intelligence sources that the intelligence and facts that led the U.S. and England to war with Iraq were fixed around a predetermined policy to go to war, she said:
I am not surprised at the duplicity. But I am astonished at the acceptance of this deception by voters in the United States and the United Kingdom.

I've seen two U.S. presidents go down the drain -- Lyndon B. Johnson on Vietnam and Richard Nixon in the Watergate scandal -- because they were no longer believed. But times change -- and I guess our values do, too.

I am convinced that when this dark chapter in world history is finally written, this will be the lasting impression left by the recent evangelical experiment in "values voting." It's a legacy that will hang like an albatross around evangelical Christianity's neck.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Our Thoroughly Evangelical Air Force Academy

Americans United asked the secretary of defense to investigate religious favoritism at the U.S. Air Force Academy. The Air Force responded quickly. Then the Air Force Academy chaplain that blew the whistle on the strong-arm evangelization tactics at the Academy was fired.

Meanwhile, the commander who is the subject of the complaint is up for promotion.

This kind of response seems to be standard operating procedure at the Air Force Academy. It sure served them well in solving the problem of sexual harassment at the Academy.

On the Value of Health Care

A very special thanks to Robert Parham for his article in Ethics Daily on Looking First Hand at America's Health Care Crisis.

Robert is undergoing treatment for leukemia and writes from his first-hand experience with the sticker shock associated with the astronomical costs of his health care and medicines.

America has been in a health care crisis for more than a decade. Too many of us have closed our eyes to the needs of brothers and sisters who have lost health insurance, have inadequate health insurance, or have never attained the elite status of being covered by health insurance.

I've talked about this issue with many moderate Baptist laity and deacons who are completely blind to this ever expanding problem. Most Baptist clergy, both moderate and fundamentalist, are very much aware of the problem but few feel convicted to speak out about it. In too many minds universal access to health care has become associated with "communist" or "socialist" ideals that have been derided as creating a "nanny" state. They are not much convicted to speak out against the stern-father "police" state that has been created since 9-11 either.

Perhaps Robert Parham and others like him will help Baptists find our voice on this issue.

On "Results Oriented" Justice

Truth Out has posted "Willie's Story" (You'll have to scroll down to the second story at this link) revealing details about a tragic and needless death by justice involving Bush administration judicial nominee Priscilla Owens. Here's an insightful quote:

Willie Searcy's case was a textbook example of "results oriented" justice that is common in Texas. Often, judges first determine the desired outcome of a case. Then they adapt the facts and the law to make it happen. It was also a glaring example of judicial activism, or making law from the bench, which is anathema to conservative Republicans -- unless it serves their purposes, as it did in the Terri Schiavo case.

Baptist Middle Man

The current cover story for the Weekly Planet, "The Man in the Middle" is about Brent Walker, Executive Director of the Baptist Joint Committee in Washington, D.C.

It is good to see Brent Walker and the Baptist Joint Committee getting some well deserved publicity.

The Baptist Joint Committee is a watchdog agency protecting First Amendment freedoms for almost all Baptist denominations except Southern Baptists.

On Torture and Intimidation

The current issue of The Nation Magazine has an interesting article about "Torture's Dirty Secret: It Works."

The title is interesting because it signals to the nation's pragmatists that the tactics of the administration are working. Since, for them, truth is what works, there is no cause for alarm. Safety can be secured by ignoring moral concerns about the use of torture.

The article is interesting because it says precisely the opposite. It reveals that there is great cause for concern about the administration's use of torture and intimidation and that, in the long run, it will not make us safer but lead to greater insecurity and instability.

I enourage people to read the article. Don't let the title throw you off.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Politicizing Church Discipline

Al Mohler has been cozying up to politicians for so long that he is now confusing church discipline with political party discipline. In an article entitled "Should a church discipline members over politics?" Mohler says,
The right form of the church requires a common commitment to certain shared convictions. These commitments are irreducibly theological, but come with inevitable political consequences. Until recently, our domestic political debates have failed to reach a point of crisis with regard to these consequences, but crisis cannot be rejected as a possibility. In such cases, the church must maintain its witness and convictional commitments. A church should exercise discipline against a member who, while claiming to be a Christian, would vote for Adolf Hitler -- or David Duke.

It has long been a practice of political parties to discipline its members over how they vote. Until the recent sad events at East Waynesville Baptist Church, to my knowledge, it has never been the practice of Baptist churches to discipline members over how they vote. That is the chief reason why when Baptists send representatives to associational, state and national conventions we call them "messengers" and not "delegates." Historically, Baptists have strongly advocated and respected the right of persons to vote in accord with their own conscience.

Frankly, it is not out of the realm of possibility that some members of the church that I pastored in Houston did vote for David Duke during a presidential primary. While I strongly disagree with the way they voted, they are not accountable to me or their church for the way they cast their ballot.

For people living in a democratic society, the voting booth is sacred space. Each person must examine his or her own conscience and give an account to God alone for the way they cast their ballot.

If Mohler and others on the Religious Right would ever learn to recognize that, in a democracy, the right to vote is a sacred duty and a solemn responsibility, then both major political parties would surely be united in demanding that every citizen have equal access to the ballot box, that every vote be counted, and that every ballot be tabulated by accurate and publicly verifiable means.

It's the democracy part that hangs them up. Their theocratic impulses blind them to the link between the inalienable rights of conscience and the sacredness of the ballot box.

Amway's Victims

I suspected that Amway was a pyramid scheme with a lot of hapless victims. Too many fundamentalist ministers that I knew were so heavily invested and so blindly committed to it that it was impossible for them to make objective judgments about it.

Now, thanks to Bill Berkowitz at the Working for Change website, I've got a statistic to quote for the success rate of Amway distributors. Here it is:

"99 percent of those recruited into Amway Quixtar motivational organizations lose money."

So who is making money? The article says a Dateline investigation confirmed that,
"The company is merely a front for a hidden pyramid business based on selling books, tapes, and registrations to seminars and rallies to new recruits, with nearly all participants losing money."
I encourage readers to scan Berkowtiz article and download the free book mentioned in the article.

On Teaching the "Debate" about Evolution

Today's Houston Chronicle has published an outstanding essay by Ellen Goodman about the Religious Right's new found desire to "teach the debate" about evolution. Goodman writes, "My, how the opponents of evolution have evolved." and adds, "It's the height of irony to hear the same partisans who intimidate science teachers positioning themselves as the defenders of fair and open debate."

If anyone wants evidence some evidence of the irony Goodman identifies, they need look no further than the story in today's Minneapolis Star Tribune about a children's book on evolution that is being censored and its author blackballed from speaking appearances.

The truth is, the controversy over "Intelligent Design" is a wedge strategy devised by a lawyer to encourage the Religious Right to keep public schools in turmoil over the teaching of evolution. It is a statement of faith designed to end debate about origins. The easiest way to discover this is to ask the proponents of "Intelligent Design" to explain how their "theory" can be tested to prove its veracity or falsity and how the theory expands our understanding of nature. If you get an answer, be sure to let me know. I am still waiting to hear one.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Faith-based News

The current issue of the Columbia Journalism Review has a revealing story about the alternative universe of faith-based news that evangelical Christians have created.

This alternative universe has not grown up over night. It has been growing for more than thirty years. It is one of the biggest reasons why so many evangelical Christians have no grasp of reality on matters related to church/state issues, WMD's, and other political issues. FOX news directly competes for the attention of these viewers and the rest of the mainstream media have followed suit. That is one of the reasons why newscasting has slanted so far to the right.

Fortunately, the internet provides a lot of unfiltered and uncensored information. If you know where to look, it is possible to learn a lot more about what is happening in the real world than ever before. Most evangelicals, however, are blind to these sources. Even when they see them on the internet, the information doesn't fit their frame of reference and they refuse to accept its veracity. As Lakoff says, "Frames trump facts."

Some day, I trust, the faith-based scales will fall from their eyes and facts will begin to inform frames.

Franklin Graham Against Interfaith Prayer

Agape Press reports that Franklin Graham has weighed in against our Interfaith Days of Prayer (here and here).

Like Dobson and most other leaders of the Religious Right who wrongly proclaim that the U.S. is a "Christian Nation," they only want liberty for their own brand of religion.

Mustang's Christians Cool Off

Baptist Press reports that Christians angry with the Mustang, Oklahoma school district have cooled off at it for cancelling the live nativity scene at their school last Christmas.

I appeared on Fox News and wrote a blog about the event when it happened.

The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and Baptist Press did much to stir up the anger of the Christians in Mustang. I commend Dave Bryan, pastor of Chisholm Heights Baptist Church in Mustang for ignoring the directives of Oklahoma Baptist leadership and for doing a good job of sorting through the issues related to this issue. The committee he chaired approved a policy that affirms "the proper role or religion in the public school curriculum is academic and not devotional" and says "Mustang Public Schools uphold the First Amendment by protecting the religious liberty rights of students of all faiths or no faith."

Bryant's committee met for two days with Charles Haynes of the First Amendment Center in Washington D.C. Haynes is the co-author/editor of "Finding Common Ground, A Guide to Religious Liberty in Public Schools."

While President of the Houston Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State I reviewed Haynes' book. Here's a link to that review.

Waynesville Political Boss Resigns

Thanks to Dr. Mike Kear at the Emmaus Theory blog for keeping an eye on the developments at the East Waynesville Baptist Church in North Carolina. That is the church whose pastor booted nine members out of church for not following his directives when voting in the U.S. presidential election last fall.

The pastor/political boss resigned, but not before Baptist Press printed articles defending him and his actions. Dr. Mike has written a scathing response to the Baptist Press articles.

It is ironic that a moderate Baptist pastor is declaring discussions about the separation of church and state as "too political" for his church at the very same moment that the Southern Baptist Convention openly supports political electioneering at their churches.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Ogburn's Obfuscations

Tom Ogburn, pastor of First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City, has an article on Ethics Daily defending his decision to rescind permission for Mainstream Baptists and Americans United for Separation of Church and State to hold a discussion with Barry Lynn at his church.

Ogburn provides an impressive list of activities and partnerships in which First Baptist Church is engaged. The fact that many of them involve working with moderate Baptists serves only to accentuate the inexplicability of his actions toward Mainstream Baptists and Americans United.

Ogburn persists in declaring that he was misled about the nature of the meeting. This is now the second time that Ogburn has impugned the integrity of a member of his own church in the press. The church member whose reputation he has maligned is a former chair of CBF Oklahoma who is currently an officer of both Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists and of the Oklahoma Chapter of Americans United.

If Ogburn has a case to make against this church member, he ought to take the matter before his congregation and not the media. Since he took it to the media, readers interested enough to investigate the matter can find in Ogburn's own press release enough evidence to question his assertion that he had been misled.

First, Ogburn clearly knew that the meeting was related to the Interfaith Day of Prayer and Reflection that was being held at the State Capitol. He wrote, "The church staff had agreed to allow the group to gather for a brief question and answer time tied to a meeting planned earlier in the day at the state capital building."

Second, Ogburn clearly knew that the meeting would involve Americans United for Separation of Church and State and that Barry Lynn would be featured. He wrote, "It was the understanding that the meeting would be very small in size and that promotion of the event would in no way infer a tie between the church and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State or Barry Lynn."

If Ogburn worried that an Interfaith event at the Oklahoma State Capitol would have a "political tone" or that Americans United and Barry Lynn would not reflect "an appropriate separation of church and state," then he should have been forthright and up front in refusing permission for the use of church facilities. There has been no sudden change in the tone or in the positions of American United or of Barry Lynn in the last three months.

Now that the obfuscations have been removed from Ogburn's statements, it is easy to discover that the real issue for Ogburn is the amount of publicity the event received. His press release said, "Recent promotional flyers and news accounts of the meeting make it appear that the church is hosting Barry Lynn as a speaker and is in support of the AUSCS. In light of the manner the promotion has been handled, the church has rescinded permission for the group to meet in the church facility."

I handled promotion for the event. I produced and distributed the newsletters and I talked to news media when they called for more information about the event.

The church member that Ogburn insists on flogging in the media did little to promote the event. Seven days before the event, he passed out a few newsletters from both Mainstream Baptists and Americans United from a booth at the CBF Oklahoma General Assembly. Ironically, that Assembly was held at FBC in Oklahoma City four days before Ogburn rescinded permission to use church facilities. I also attended that meeting and I saw Ogburn at the meeting. He said nothing to me about his concerns at that time.

Indeed, the materials that I produced did not suggest that the church was "hosting" or "sponsoring" the event. Nor did it suggest that the church "endorsed" AUSCS. The types of materials announcing this meeting differed in no way from those that have been used to promote both Americans United meetings and Mainstream Baptist meetings that have been held at FBC of OKC on previous occasions. All the materials clearly stated that these Interfaith events were sponsored by the Interfaith Alliance, Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists, and the Oklahoma Chapter of Americans United. The materials simply announced the location of the evening meeting with Barry Lynn. In fact, in the Oklahoma AU Newsletter, an announcement for a different meeting did indicate that that church was sponsoring its event by naming the church at the top of the notice while announcing the location at the bottom. FBC did not receive similar billing at the top of the notice for the event at that church.

Unless Ogburn expected us to hold a secret meeting, it is hard for me to comprehend how he expected us to announce this event. Neither Mainstream Baptists nor Americans United hold secret meetings.

Frankly, it is hard for me to believe that newsletters promoting the event are the true object of Ogburn's concern. If they were, then Ogburn has proven himself to be exceedingly devious and vindictive. We were first notified that the doors would be closed 3 days before the event. The newsletters were being delivered to homes 10 days before the event, Ogburn discussed the Mainstream newsletter with at least one church member 8 days before the event, and Ogburn permitted the newsletters to be distributed at the CBFO General Assembly 6 days before the event. Readers will have to decide for themselves whether our newsletters really prompted Ogburn to close the doors of his church.

The only additional publicity that appeared prior to Ogburn's first press release was an article about the Interfaith Day of Prayer and Reflection that appeared in the Religion Section of The Oklahoman. There the evening meeting with Lynn was listed third in a text box announcing the time and place for all three of the meetings related to the Interfaith Day of Prayer and Reflection.

I did indeed talk to the reporter who wrote the story, as I did for the story she penned last year when she covered our first Interfaith Day of Prayer and Reflection. Her questions were about the event at the Capitol. My responses were about the event at the Capitol. We did not discuss the evening meeting with Lynn. Nothing in her article suggests that FBC of OKC sponsored or hosted or endorsed AU or Barry Lynn. She, too, simply announced the meeting.

Tom Ogburn is free to provide his own definition of First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City. As long as he persists in impugning the integrity of either Americans United or Mainstream Baptists while crafting his definitions, I will persist in pointing out his misrepresentations of the truth.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Hard Landing Assured for the Elderly Poor

The New York Times has published a report about "The Perfect Storm that Could Drown the Economy." Here's a quote:
There's a pattern that is familiar from so many other countries that have gotten into debt problems," said Jeffrey A. Frankel, an economist at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. "A simultaneous rise in interest rates, fall in securities prices and depreciation of the currency."

China's The Standard has published a report that may describe the event that could trigger a perfect storm. The Standard says "U.S. 'Playing with Fire' on Yuan Drive." Here are a couple quotes:
Politicians are playing with fire,'' said Ronald McKinnon, an economics professor at Stanford University in California.

Nouriel Roubini, a former adviser to treasury secretary Robert Rubin, said the United States' reliance on China to plug record US budget deficits means lawmakers risk ``biting that hand that feeds'' the economy.

Meanwhile, the social safety net for the most vulnerable has been shredded. The New York Times is also reporting that "Elderly people with low incomes may lose some of their food stamps if they sign up for the new Medicare prescription drug benefit."

I think we should just drop the elderly poor off at the White House for dinner every day.

Podcast: Religious Talk 5-8-05

5-8-05 broadcast of Religious Talk with Dr. Bruce Prescott. Dr. Prescott talks about the Second Annual Interfaith Day of Prayer and Reflection in Oklahoma and about the controversy between Mainstream Baptists and First Baptist Church in Oklahoma City over Barry Lynn's speech.

Live Preacher Really Back

It is good to see that "Real Live Preacher" is blogging again. He took a month's vacation from blogging and some of us missed reading his posts.

SBC Slowly Dying

Baptist Press says the Southern Baptist Convention is in an "evangelistic crisis" but claims to have proof that it is dying more slowly than the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

The article failed to note how many SBC baptisms are "rebaptisms" of people whose baptism was previously reported. It is probably safe to assume that the number of "rebaptisms" in CBF churches is nil. Inflating baptismal statistics with "rebaptisms" has been rampant in fundamentalistic SBC churches since long before Bailey Smith's tenure as President of the SBC.

Blogging on Waynesville Baptist

Thanks to Carlos Stouffer at the Jesus Politics blog for calling attention to a blog on Dkos that interviews a deacon that was ousted from East Waynesville Baptist Church.

The blog has several links to news stories about the handiwork of the pastor/political boss of that church.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Portents of Things to Come

Associated Baptist Press reports that a Baptist church in Waynesville, North Carolina dismissed members for disagreeing with the pastor's political views. The report also says,

In October, one month prior to the November 2004 presidential election, Chandler (the pastor) announced in a sermon that anyone who was supporting John Kerry should repent or resign from the church, Lowe said, and then the pastor offered to hold the door for them to leave.

We can expect to read a lot more stories likes this if Walter Jones' bill to politicize churches, the so-called "Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act," passes congress.

Dr. Mike Kear at the Emmaus blog has an insightful response to this pastor as "political boss" model of pastoral leadership. He said, "Freaky. For some strange reason I thought it was Jesus we were supposed to follow."

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Christianity Today and Theocracy

A good sign of how widespread theocratic sentiment has become in evangelical circles is in a blog by Ted Olsen posted yesterday at the Christianity Today website.

Christianity Today has always been on the right, but it has clearly moved farther right than many comprehend. Here's how this blog about persecution and theocracy ends:

Evangelicalism, however, has always been a reform movement. And there is always more to reform. The Kingdom of God has arrived, but is not yet here. And we won't be satisfied until the king comes in all his glory.

And that's evangelical Christianity's little secret right now. We really are theocrats. Only in exactly the opposite way from how some op-ed columnists think we are. Our hopes lie far beyond the next election, or the next judicial fight. Our king isn't elected, and our judge isn't appointed. Sometimes we forget that. But it's what we're all about.

Evangelicalism has indeed always been a reform movement, but it was lives that we were concerned about seeing reformed and transformed, not the culture. The political agenda of the religious right has only come to the forefront in the last twenty-five years. It is sad to see Christianity Today lending its voice to those who believe the mission of the church is to set up a secret theocratic political kingdom for Jesus to receive.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Another Chapter in the OK City Saga

Ethics Daily is running a story today highlighting the fact that our Interfaith Day of Prayer and Reflection may be used as a national model by Americans United.

The article says First Baptist Pastor Tom Ogburn on Thursday told EthicsDaily.com that "the event in question turned out to be different from the way it was described when staff members agreed to open the church's doors to Prescott's group."

I did not personally discuss the meeting with staff before it was cancelled, but anyone can observe that the church's own press release belies that assertion. Staff clearly knew that the meeting would be with Barry Lynn and that it would involve a "question and answer" session.

Apparently, the staff expected us to hold a secret meeting that would not be publicly announced. Neither Americans United nor Mainstream Baptists hold secret meetings.

For more information about the Interfaith Day of Prayer and Reflection at the State Capitol, here are links to coverage before the event from BeliefNet and the San Francisco Chronicle. Here's a link after the event from The Oklahoman.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The Saga Continues

After First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City assured that the Second Annual Interfaith Day of Prayer and Reflection in Oklahoma City would be politicized before he arrived, Barry Lynn arrived last night and already has at least one national TV interview scheduled today.

Ethics Daily has the latest story in the print media.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Oklahoma Event to be National Model

National Americans United has issued a press release about Oklahoma's Interfaith Day of Prayer and Reflection and suggests it as a potential national model.

Here's a link and a quote:
Said AU's Lynn, "The Dobsons are essentially telling people of other faith traditions that they are not welcome and to take a hike. I want all of them to know they should hike on over to our event, where they will be welcomed and encouraged to take part."

Continued Lynn, "Americans United's event is about inclusion, not exclusion. It's a different celebration that honors the Constitution and celebrates our diversity."

Lynn said Americans United hopes to export the Oklahoma City model to other communities.

Interfaith Dialogue Rejected in Oklahoma

Another milestone has been reached in the march toward theocracy in Oklahoma. As usual, Baptists are leading the charge. This time, however, it is being led by moderate Baptists who know better.

Today, for all the world to see, First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City has sent a signal repudiating interfaith dialogue. Other Baptists and the public-at-large in Oklahoma will perceive that the church has identified with the "Christian Nation" evangelicals that will occupy the Capitol tomorrow at a prayer rally opposed to the Interfaith Day of Prayer we organized.

Here's a link and the last six paragraphs from the story that appeared in today's The Oklahoman:
Prescott said he was "absolutely shocked" by Ogburn's statements and the churches decision. He said the local Americans United for Separation of Church and State chapter did nothing wrong in the way it promoted the dialogue with Lynn. The group simply stated where the meeting was to be held, he said.

"Anyone who has followed Baptists knows that they have been backsliding from their commitment to religious liberty for all Americans for 25 years," Prescott said in a statement.

"Apparently a number of people at First Baptist are uncomfortable with the Baptist legacy supporting church/state separation, and the current leadership of the church is too timid to address it."

He said the event will go on because of the graciousness of the Rev. Mark Christian at First Unitarian Church.

The lecture is in conjunction with the National Day of Prayer. The Interfaith Day of Prayer and Reflection observance will be at 11 a.m. Thursday on the south steps of the state Capitol. It is hosted by the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists.

Interfaith Alliance and First Christian Church will host a dialogue event at 7 tonight at First Christian Church, 3700 N Walker. The evening of Interfaith dialogue will focus on the religious culture of Turkey with Muhammed Cetin, president of the Institute for Interfaith Dialogue.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

On Timid Leadership

Moderate Baptists have been cursed by a plethora of timid leaders.

The current chapter in this sad and long tale of ineptitude is being written at historic First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City. A church once graced with the leadership of strong moderates like Dr. Gene Garrison and Dr. Jeff Zurheide has stumbled into the trap of appeasing their most fundamentalistic and conservative members.

There is no doubt that First Baptist OKC has been subjected to extensive and intense pressure from fundamentalists loyal to the Southern Baptist Convention. After leading the church out of the SBC, their last pastor was subject to an anonymous written smear campaign orchestrated by a trustee of the fundamentalist dominated Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO).

You might expect a church so thoroughly exposed to slanderous propaganda against itself to have developed enough perception and discernment to recognize scandalous propaganda being used to discredit others. Alas, such is not the case in this instance. Apparently, enough people at FBC OKC still ascribe credibility to the fundamentalist screeds of Oklahoma's Baptist Messenger for the leadership of the church to be ambivolent about both Americans United and Mainstream Baptists. Here are a couple pertinent examples of the journalistic artistry of Oklahoma Baptist leaders regarding Americans United and Mainstream Baptists.

The last link is an article raising opposition to the Interfaith Day of Prayer and Reflection that Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists and the Oklahoma Chapter of Americans United organized last year. Here's a link to more accurate information about that event. Which brings us to the subject of this blog.

This year we organized a second Interfaith Day of Prayer and Reflection and we asked Barry Lynn, national Executive Director of Americans United, to speak at our event. Barry agreed and we wanted to give people who could not take off from work to hear him to have an opportunity to hear him speak. We could have asked any of a number of churches for the use of their facilities. We asked First Baptist of Oklahoma City and they agreed. Then we wrote newsletters (here and here)and purchased advertising (it will appear tomorrow here) and talked with media (here and here) to promote our event. Our work paid off. It helped having had a year's experience under our belt.

Then, at an hour too late to revise tomorrow's advertising or stop the presses, I was indirectly informed that First Baptist was rescinding permission to use their facilities and that they were issuing a press release to that effect. Here's a link to that press release and my response.

I'm praying for a spine to grow in some leaders at that church.

Sex and Religion

Sex and religion have either been at odds or entwined since the dawn of mankind.

The latest episodes in this continuing saga have recently been released. Associated Baptist Press is reporting about Lindsay Lane Baptist Church in Athens, Alabama using a billboard to attract patrons at a topless bar to church. Not to be outdone, Ethics Daily is reporting about a documentary called "Missionary Positions" about a couple missionaries who minister to those struggling with addictions to pornography.

Spring can be a time of surplus creativity.

Averting Attention from the Health Care Crisis

Former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, says Social Security reform is just a diversion:
Social Security is a place holder. As long as it remains on the domestic agenda, it blocks consideration of the real domestic crisis President Bush doesn't want to touch: the health care system.

Consider the symptoms. Medicare, the government's health care program for the elderly, is heading toward bankruptcy faster than Social Security. Its future unfunded liabilities are seven times larger. Social Security is projected to be in financial trouble in four decades; Medicare, within 10 years.

Reich blames the Medicare crisis on the continually rising cost of health care. Those who must pay for their own health care and medical insurance will know that Reich's essay rings true.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Targeting Church/State Separation

Dick Polman and the Seattle Times are catching on to the intentions of the religious right. Here's a quote from an article in yesterday's paper:
Religious conservatives, emboldened by President Bush's re-election and confident of their political clout, are not interested in merely overhauling the judiciary. Ideally, they are seeking a judiciary that would remove the wall of separation between church and state.

This ambition is stated clearly in numerous legal briefs on file at the Supreme Court in connection with a pending case; they seek removal of "a Berlin wall" that is "out of step with this nation's religious heritage." Their leaders argue in interviews that the church-state barrier is a "myth" invented by the high court in 1947, thanks to a twisted interpretation of our founding documents.

Religious conservatives are either unfamiliar with the efforts of Colonial Baptists, with Madison's Memorial and Remonstrance and with Jefferson's Act for Religious Liberty, or they are determined to obscure them.

The Baptist Legacy

Liberal Baptist has been posting some insightful blogs about the Baptist legacy.

The First Amendment is the Baptist legacy. At our nation's founding, Baptists were the most vocal, persistent and numerous advocates for separating church and state.

Unfortunately, some otherwise thoughtful Baptists have decided that "Resistance is futile." They see the juggernaut of theocracy approaching and, being of the majority faith with little to lose, have already made peace with it.

There is a price to pay for collaborating with theocrats. This generation may be able to live comfortably with theocracy, but another generation will surely revolt. Religious values that must be imposed by force of law are the dying gasps of a declining faith. Vibrant faith lives by the stength of persuasion and voluntary commitment.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Barry Lynn to Speak at Oklahoma State Capitol

News is getting out that Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, will be speaking at the Second Annual Interfaith Day of Prayer and Reflection at the Oklahoma State Capitol on May 5th.

The Daily Oklahoman ran a feature story and the Norman Transcript printed a notice about the event.

Here are some excerpts from the story in the Daily Oklahoman:

An Interfaith Day of Prayer and Reflection observance, featuring speakers from five faith traditions will be at 11 a.m. on the Capitol's south steps. The observance is sponsored by the Interfaith Alliance, the Oklahoma chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists.

The interfaith observance was held for the first time last year as a way to bring together people of different faiths to celebrate religious freedom.

"It went well last year, and we decided that that was something the community needed," said organizer Bruce Prescott, a Baptist minister who is head of both the Oklahoma chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists.

Prescott said members of the interfaith group were incorrectly labeled as "protesters" last year. Rather, he said, the group that will come together for the outdoor service is united in its celebration of religious freedom, he said.

"The common value that we share is the First Amendment, which is religious liberty. The constitution gives us the right to worship as we please. We're celebrating that right," he said. "We are not protesting them. We are trying to find a way to get broader representation from the community. It's a national day -- it's for everybody."

Prescott said a Muslim scholar, a Jewish rabbi, a pagan and a humanist are scheduled to speak at the event.

Representing the Christian faith tradition will be the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Prescott said in addition to his talk at the interfaith gathering, Lynn will give a related talk Thursday evening at First Baptist Church-Oklahoma City.

Here's a link to more information about last year's event. Here's a link to more information about this year's event.

On Domestic Spying

The Albuquerque Tribune is reporting that New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is concerned that some of his phone calls to former Secretary of State Colin Powell were monitored by a U.S. spy agency and that transcripts were given to the current nominee for ambassador of the United Nations.

It is hard to believe that I am reading in my hometown newpaper about something like this happening in the United States of America.

It is harder to believe that the current Chief Executive thinks people like Powell and Richardson need to be monitored by someone like Bolton.