Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Podcast: Interview on John Basel's "No Hate Zone"

Here's a link to a podcast of my interview today with John Basel, host of the "No Hate Zone" radio program on KPFT in Houston. We talked about the work of Mainstream Baptists, about the push toward theocracy in America, and about religion and politics.

War, Tax Cuts and New Orleans

Editor & Publisher has information about the effect that war spending and tax cuts had on New Orleans' preparedness for a hurricane. It's not a pretty picture. Here's a quote:
Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars.

On Reducing God to a 4% Gap

While creationists and intelligent designers are still railing about all the gaps in the theory of evolution, today's Financial Times is publishing news that "Chimp and Human DNA found to be 96% identical."

That leaves their "God of the gaps" a whopping 4% cushion.

When the genetic evidence for evolution is examined, the real problem for creationists and intelligent designers is: "Why is there so much 'junk DNA' in the genetic code of both humans and chimps and why is 96% of it exactly the same?" (If I understand what scientists mean by 'junk DNA' correctly, it is superfluous, inactive material that has accumulated in the genetic code over the course of evolution)

Neither creationists nor intelligent designers like to deal with the evidence from DNA. Their God is clearly too small. I prefer to believe in a God who is big enough to accomplish his biological purposes through the processes of nature.

The Imago Dei is not to be found in the 96% of DNA that we share with chimps. It's not in the 4% we don't share with them either. The image of God is spiritual, not biological.

NOTE: An article in the 9/1/05 Miami Herald places the percentage of identical DNA between chimps and humans at 99%. Here's a link.

Spirituality and Blogging

Blogger TallSkinnyKiwi spoke recently at a conference on "The Spirituality of Blogging" in England. What he had to say deserves wide circulation:

Blogging is a spiritual discipline because to blog is to find oneself in a place of:

1. Praise (public acknowledgement) - "publish glad tidings daily"
2. Accountability. (Eph. 5: 21 "Submit yourselves to one another", quote from Athanasias)
3. Vulnerability (Daniel's window)
4, Given-ness (Freely you have received, gift economy, Prov 11:24)
5. Creative Naming (Adam, Neighbors in Ruth)
6. Repentance (editing/deleting/changing our mind in new media)
7. Fellowship (hypertext linking, Koinonia)
8. Evangelism (storytelling, blogging from our lives)
9. Integrity (writing matches our speaking, design reflects reality)
10. Posterity. (store/guard what has been entrusted, writing history)
There was also another one: Watchfulness ("watch and pray").

For All the Saints Marking Time Around New Orleans

"But let all who take refuge in Thee be glad, Let them ever sing for joy; And mayest Thou shelter them, That those who love Thy name may exult in Thee." -- Psalm 5:11

Everyone must face the winds of change and the tempests of life. The intensity and frequency of these storms will vary from life to life, but no one escapes them. Some just face them more literally than others. Whatever their form, the only sure refuge during the storms of life is the Lord. He alone can shelter us from every hurricane that blows through our lives.

Those who know the Lord and love his name can find a peace that surpasses understanding. They've seen the calm at the eye of the huricane. They've weathered the wind and the rain. And they'll survive the flooding that follows.

Even in sorrow, a melody rings in the hearts of those who know the Lord as a refuge. Those who keep on singing and improvising through the storms of life may find that their music gives them hope and courage.

At the moment, the song has the somber tone of a funeral dirge, but a day will come when the chord will change and fresh jazz riffs will spontaneously arise to transform the blues into new songs of gladness and joy. The saints will come marching home.

Someday the sound of New Orleans will rise again in a crescendo of music and many of its inhabitants will exult in the Lord.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

On Openness to Teaching Creationism

Pew Forum has just released results of its most recent survey on religion and public life.

The survey reveals that, at the present moment, 64% of Americans say they are "open to the idea of teaching creationism along with evolution in the public schools."

Just looking at the summary results, two questions enter my mind. First, does this figure represent the percentage of Americans who think that the scientific method can either prove or disprove creationism? Or, second, does this figure include people who believe that creationism should be taught in classes on comparative religion while evolution should be taught in classes on science?

I'll have to examine the full 45 page report to see if it sheds any light on these questions. If it doesn't, then the survey questions were not sufficiently precise to draw conclusions of real significance.

Enabling Danger on 9/11

Last Friday Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball interviewed Anthony Shaffer -- a former army intelligence officer who was assigned to an intelligence unit called "Able Danger." Shaffer and other officers assigned to that unit assert that they identified Mohammed Atta and three other 9/11 hijackers as potential Al Queda threats more than a year before 9/11.

The intelligence officers contend that pentagon lawyers prevented them from giving the FBI the information that they had. In the spring of 2001 "Able Danger" was disbanded and the techniques they were using to detect terrorist risks dismantled. Here's a quote from Shaffer describing his thoughts when he learned that Atta and the three other hijackers they identified had flown hijacked planes into the World Trade Center:
We all realized that we had these guys. And then we started asking some questions to ourselves. Why was Able Danger, why was this whole technology piece turned off four months before the 9/11 attacks? In the spring of 2001, it was dismantled, all, completely...

Shaffer asks an important question. Why was "Able Danger" dismantled? And, why didn't the 9/11 Commission follow-up on the information that Shaffer and others gave them about "Able Danger?"

NOTE: The interview with Shaffer is about 2/3 of the way into the transcript (after the T. Boone Pickens interview). There is more disturbing information in the interview with Shaffer. I don't have the time or the stomach to comment upon all of it.

Podcast: Air America Interview

Those who missed my interview on Air America's Ring of Fire program hosted by Mike Papantonio can click on the link above to download an mp3 file of that interview and listen to it on your computer, mp3 player or ipod.

The download also contains audio of Pat Robertson calling for the assassination of Venezuela's President.

Air Force Issues Guideline for Religious Expression

After the Task Force investigating religious discrimination at the Air Force Academy asked for guidance from higher up the chain of command, the Air Force has issued some guidelines on the limits for official religious expression.

The guidelines say that "public prayer should not usually be included" in official meetings, classes or sporting events. "A brief non-sectarian prayer" may be recited in ceremonies of special importance "to add a heightened sense of seriousness or solemnity."

Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff, a retired Navy chaplain who was hired to help draft the guidelines, said:
They urge commanders to welcome requests for accommodation of religious practices, and they place no restrictions on "voluntary, peer to peer" discussions of faith. But they say officers must be "sensitive" to the potential for comments about their own faith to be perceived as official statements, and they say chaplains "must be as sensitive to those who do not welcome offerings of faith, as they are generous in sharing their faith with those who do."

Differences about the role of religion in the military permeate all branches of the military. In addition to a story about the new Air Force Guidelines, today's Washington Post has two other insightful stories religion in the military. Both are about divisions that some evangelical chaplains are causing within the chaplain corp. Here and here are links to those stories.

Clearly, the hostility that some evangelical's feel for the religious pluralism that the First Amendment guarantees is threatening to the cohesiveness, unity and morale of the military. Those chaplains who cannot uphold the Constitution in good conscience should resign from service as military chaplains.

John Dean Says Robertson Violated Criminal Statutes

John Dean, former counsellor to President Nixon, says Pat Robertson violated criminal statutes when he called for the assassination of Venezuela's President. Dean wrote:

It is a federal felony to use instruments of interstate or foreign commerce to threaten other people. The statute is clear, and simple. Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 875(c), states: "Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of another, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both." (Emphases added.)

The interstate or foreign commerce element is plainly satisfied by Robertson's statements. Robertson's 700 Club is listed as broadcasting in thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia, not to mention ABC Family Channel satellites which cover not only the United States but several foreign countries as well. In addition, the program was sent around the world via the Internet.
Dean also says that if Robertson were a Democrat, he would probably be hiring an attorney. Here's a quote:

Indeed, had these comments been made by a Dan Rather, a Bill Moyers, or Jesse Jackson, it is not difficult to imagine some conservative prosecutor taking a passing look at these laws - as, say, Pat Robertson might read them [a strict construction] -- and saying, "Let's prosecute."
Such double standards -- one standard for the wealthy and powerful and a different standard for the other people -- is precisely the kind of thing that brought prophets like Amos out of the hills and into the public square to pronounce God's judgment on Israel.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Real Live Preacher on Marketing the Church

Gordon at the Real Live Preacher weblog is one of my favorite bloggers. His blog has been one of the best on the internet for several years.

A couple days ago he wrote a blog that is truly outstanding -- and all his posts are good.

His blog on the Marketing of Sacred Things is essential reading for Mainstream Christians.

Will Pat Robertson be Extradited to Venezuela?

CBS News is reporting that Venezuela may ask the United States to extradite Pat Robertson.

Robertson publicly called for the "assassination" of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on his television program.

Chavez says, "Calling for the assassination of a head of state is a terrorist act."

He's got a point.

How can the U.S. succeed in getting Middle Eastern nations to regulate the terrorist rhetoric of their clerics if we won't do the same with ours?

On Terrorism and Politics

The Scotsman is reporting that a former Scottish Police Chief claims that key evidence in the Lockerbie bombing trial was planted by the CIA.

His report adds credence to other reports that, for political reasons, U.S. agents planted evidence to place blame on Lybia for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, England.

Evidence suggests that the bomb was actually planted by the Syrian led Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine -- General Command.

How can we succeed in waging "war on terror" if we obstruct justice and view terrorist acts as opportunities to further our own political purposes?

A Conservative Plan for Reducing the National Debt

Associated Press is reporting that every American's share of the national debt is $145,000 and rising.

I've been told that there was a time when "conservative" politicians avoided running up debts and favored balanced budgets. They reportedly believed that running up massive debts and leaving the tab for their children and grandchildren to pay was immoral. That was before my time.

Today conservatives have different values. More than anything else, today they are standing for "family values."

I've been puzzling over how the national debt fits in with "conservatives" idea of "family values." I'm beginning to suspect that opposition to birth control and family planning could prove to be a brilliant strategy for reducing the burden of the national debt. If Southern Baptists like Al Mohler and others can help get the population to grow significantly faster than the debt their "conservative" family values politicians are piling up, they may have found a way to claim that tax cuts for the wealthy reduced the per capital burden of the national debt without raising a single cent in taxes and without a single cent being paid on the debt. More babies, more suckers to saddle with debt.

Such strategic, long-term thinking could put ole "Kenny Boy" Lay and the best-in-class accountants at Enron to shame.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Aloha Hawaii

We are back in Oklahoma from Hawaii.

Here's a picture we took at the Memorial to the U.S.S. Arizona at Pearl Harbor and a final beach picture from the North Shore of the Island of Oahu.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Dinner with Rob Schumacher

About seven months ago, when I started getting serious about blogging, I happened across Rob's Blog. From the moment that I found his blog, it has been one of my favorite places in the blogosphere.

Rob is a submarine sailor stationed in Hawaii who calls himself "A Florida Liberal in King Kamehameha's Court." He has little patience with the religious right and often writes some of the most penetrating exposes of their actions and insightful critiques of their thought that you can find on the net.

The day I bought my ticket to Hawaii I began arranging a meeting with Rob so I could shake his hand and tell him personally how much I appreciate the time and effort he puts into his "Online Magazine." Rob and Joshua, my son-in-law, and I had a very interesting conversation about politics, religion, world affairs, submarines, the war in Iraq, and just about anything else you can think of last night.

Rob is pictured above standing with me in front of Honolulu's original Dixie Grill. (No, I don't own stock in the Dixie Grill. It's down the street from my daughter's apartment and they have some great jumbo coconut shrimp.)

Friday, August 26, 2005

Sutton's Scholarship Slipping

Jerry Sutton, VP of the SBC, in a TV appearance on Chris Matthew's Hardball did his best to obscure the gravity of Pat Robertson's call for the "assassination" of the President of Venezuela.

While Sutton agreed that Robertson's statement regarding Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was unchristian, he ignorantly insisted that Robertson did not use the word "assassinate."

Sutton earned his degrees before fundamentalists took over the SBC and changed the standards for scholarship. He knows better than to depend on research derived from secondary sources.

Meditation for Pat Robertson

"'You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD." -- Leviticus 19:18

Civilized society is an ordered society. The world secures order by laws. God's kingdom is ordered by love.

Worldly society exists to secure a just order. Individuals are not permitted to execute vengeance on their own. Justice is secured by the rule of law.

God's kingdom secures abundant and eternal life. Individuals are not permitted to hold grudges. Fellowship is secured by the rule of love.

The law preserves order by fear and force. Love secures order by grace and forgiveness. The law is restrictive. Love is liberating.

Loving your neighbor as yourself fulfills the law and creates a fellowship of happiness and hope.

Enjoying Polynesian Culture

We spent the day at the Polynesian Cultural Center.

Everyone had a good time.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Air America Interview

A few weeks ago I was interviewed by Mike Papantonio for his "Ring of Fire" radio broadcast on Air America. The broadcast will air this Saturday from 5:00-7:00 p.m. EST. It will be rebroadcast between 3:00-5:00 p.m. EST on Sunday in most markets.

Searching for Wisdom

"I (Wisdom) love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me." -- Proverbs 8:17

The Hebrews personified wisdom. They found wisdom in personal revelation. Unlike the Greeks who searched for wisdom in formal thought and abstract conceptions, the Hebrews searched for wisdom in practical, personal living. For them wisdom was akin to righteousness. Wisdom was knowing how to live in fellowship with God and others. They were certain that if they desired this and searched for it diligently, that God would reveal it to them.

When the Hebrew scriptures were translated into Greek, the translators searched for a Greek word that would convey this idea of wisdom to the Greek mind. They used the word "logos" from which we derive the word "logic." For us "logic" is something abstract and formal. For the Greeks "logos" was the divine mind or reason and, at times, they talked about it in personal terms.

That is why the Apostle John calls Jesus the "logos." To the Hebrews he is God's wisdom and righteousness in the flesh. To the Greeks he is the divine mind and reason personified. To us he is the "Word" and "Wisdom" of God.

Seek and ye shall find.

Under the Rainbow

As we were going out to eat at Honolulu's Dixie Grill this evening we found ourselves at the foot of a rainbow.

Candice, Kylene, Kathy & Joshua stopped long enough for me to take this picture.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Intelligence Professionals Speaking Out

Common Dreams has posted a news release from a group calling itself Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. The group represents an impressive number of whistleblowers and former intelligence professionals who refuse to stand by and ignore the distortions and misrepresentations that characterize this administration's handling of the war with Iraq.

Their recent Memo to the President is an eye-opener.

Addressing Royal Consciousness

Thanks to Carlos at Jesus Politics for calling attention to Doug Muder's blog "Walter Brueggemann, Meet Cindy Sheehan."

In my opinion, Muder has written the most insightful blog about Cindy Sheehan's vigil on the net.

God's Logic

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord." -- Isaiah 55:8

Man's logic is a logic of equality and equivalence. It is a logic that measures things by reason and prudence. It is a logic that gives us rules to live by -- an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

God's logic is neither reasonable nor prudent. His logic is one of generosity and superabundance. His reasoning transcends rules and regulations. Instead, he gives us patterns of response -- turn the other cheek, walk a second mile. The Christian pattern of life is one that responds to others by giving more than can be asked by ordinary judiciousness.

The pattern of response that Jesus asks of us is the same pattern we find in God's response to us. That is what prompted Paul to say, "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." -- Romans 5:20

Note: This blog is a synopsis of an essay on the "Logic of Jesus, the Logic of God" by Paul Ricoeur published in Christianity and Crisis sometime in the late 1970's.

Short Wave

We spent some time at Waikiki beach today. Unfortunately, the surf was not up much today. This little wave is all I saw during the time we were there.

I wish I could say that I was one of the guys with a surf board. Actually, I'm just a guy with a camera.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Lost in Paradise

Joshua and Candice live in the Punchbowl area of Honolulu. Yesterday, after taking Candice to the Mid-Pacific Institute where she is doing her student teaching, I got lost trying to find my way back to her apartment.

One wrong turn and I found myself at the National Memorial Cemetary of the Pacific.

The picture above was taken there.

No, I didn't stop and ask for directions back to Candi's apartment. I found a convenience store and bought a map.

On Being Citizens of God's Kingdom

"For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come."
-- Hebrews 13:14

Christians are strangers and pilgrims in this world. We are "in" the world but not "of" the world and we live "between the times." We are citizens of the kingdom of God sojourning in a foreign land.

Christians should be conspicuous and peculiar in their manner of life. They neither think nor act like the men who are at home in this world. Men of the world think by a logic of equivalence. At best, men of the world live by rules, regulations and laws. Laws help us treat each other equally and fairly, but laws do not permit us to respect individual differences.

Christians think by a logic of superabundance. They live by faith. That faith is expressed by a pattern of life that allows us to respond to each other as individuals and persons. Christians live according to a standard that is higher than justice. We measure ourselves by Christ's love. That's why we can turn the other cheek, walk the second mile, give both our coat and our cloak, and forgive one another seventy times seven.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Robertson Defames the Name of Christ

Media Matters is reporting that Pat Robertson has suggested on the 700 Club that the President of Venezuela should be assassinated.

For Robertson to make such a suggestion on a broadcast that advertises itself as "Christian" is more than disgraceful, it is disgusting.

Robertson and other extremists have hijacked our faith and they are destroying the credibility of the gospel in the eyes of the world.

There ought to be some way to distinguish Christians who follow the teachings of Jesus from those who wear the label while ignoring the teachings of Christ and defaming the name of Jesus -- particularly when they literally advocate violence on a broadcast beamed around the world.

Beyond the Desert of Criticism

Kudos to Cliff Vaughn for his review of Brian Flemming's documentary of "The God Who Wasn't There." Vaughn criticizes Flemming for his lack of critical perspective:
"Moderate Christianity makes no sense," argues Flemming, suggesting that the Bible really allows for no tempered approach. "Is it no wonder that so many people choose the Christian leaders who actually have the courage of their convictions?"

What's troubling, however, is that Flemming doesn't allow for the possibility that some Christians actually see and even appreciate the gray areas of life and thought. Newsflash for Flemming: Some Christians appreciate intellectual, philosophical and theological nuance. This appreciation is something Flemming presumably holds, but he himself demonstrates very little higher-order thinking.

Flemming would do well to spend some time reading philosopher Paul Ricoeur's religious writings. Exposure to a second naivete understanding of faith that traverses through both the simple, childlike understanding of a first naivete faith and through an adolescent distantiation informed by critical doubt to arrive at a mature faith could give him a different perspective on Jesus, Paul and the Christian faith.

On the Island

Live from the Island of Oahu!

After eight hours in the air, we added five more hours to our day.

Once we'd been on the freeway, I understood why my 5' 3 daughter believes she's finally found a place where she's tall. I saw a number of little ladies who could just peer over the top of the steering wheel in their Toyota Echoes.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

In the Air

We are riding high in the skies on our trip to Hawaii today.

Will post next from the Island.

The picture above is of Todd and Tammy Snively, parents of Jake below. The cheesy smiles came when they learned that they won't have to meet us at the airport at 5:00 AM when we return from the Islands.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Jake Snively Hits Two in Stride

Jake Snively shared cupcakes and snow cones with family and friends as he celebrated his second birthday this morning.

Parents Todd and Tammmy beamed with pride as young Jake wowed the crowd with his smooth moves on the slip and slide. He's clearly got a bright future ahead should he choose a career in a sport that values the ability to slide into bases.

Jake is shown here with the smug grin of a young man who knows how to take being showered with gifts in stride.

On the Road

I am officially on vacation, so this weblog may begin to look like a travel log for the next week.

I'll still be posting on current events and Baptist happenings, but not as frequently.

We will be vacationing in Hawaii, so the atmosphere of the graphics will soon be more tropical.

Today, I'm on my way to Dallas to a birthday party for one of my nephews.

Friday, August 19, 2005

On Our Bipartisan History of Dirty Elections

Information about the "dirtiness" of the last two presidential elections has long been available on the internet and it is beginning to come to light in the mainstream media. Paul Krugman's editorial "What They Did Last Fall" in today's New York Times is a good example.

Krugman reviews Andrew Gumbel's book "Steal This Vote." Here are a couple paragraphs from Krugman's editorial:
Mr. Gumbel throws cold water on those who take the discrepancy between the exit polls and the final result as evidence of a stolen election. (I told you it's a judicious book.) He also seems, on first reading, to play down what happened in Ohio. But the theme of his book is that America has a long, bipartisan history of dirty elections.

He told me that he wasn't brushing off the serious problems in Ohio, but that "this is what American democracy typically looks like, especially in a presidential election in a battleground state that is controlled substantially by one party."

That this country has a "long, bipartisan history of dirty elections" has been an open secret for quite some time. Larry Sabato's book "Dirty Little Secrets" ably documented that fact long before the 2000 election.

The difference between earlier instances of corruption and voter fraud and the instances in the last two presidential elections is the internet. In earlier eras the mainstream media could ignore the fraud and corruption and the public remained uninformed about it for generations. That is no longer the case. Those who know where to look on the internet and who have the discernment to distinguish partisan ranting from thoughtful analysis have long known about the illegitimate methods by which this administration came to power.

It is good to see the mainstream media publishing more about the "dirty little secrets" that they've long been withholding from the public.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

On 'Intelligent Falling'

Kudos to the ever tongue-in-cheek Onion Magazine for their satirically insightful article "Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity with New 'Intelligent Falling' Theory." Here's a quote:
Things fall not because they are acted upon by some gravitational force, but because a higher intelligence, 'God' if you will, is pushing them down," said Gabriel Burdett, who holds degrees in education, applied Scripture, and physics from Oral Roberts University.

Burdett added: "Gravity -- which is taught to our children as a law -- is founded on great gaps in understanding. The laws predict the mutual force between all bodies of mass, but they cannot explain that force. Isaac Newton himself said, 'I suspect that my theories may all depend upon a force for which philosophers have searched all of nature in vain.' Of course, he is alluding to a higher power."

North Carolina Convention Snubs CBF

The Biblical Recorder has reported that the board of directors of the Baptist Convention in North Carolina has decided that churches giving to Cooperative Baptist Fellowship through the convention will no longer be credited with "Cooperative Program" giving.

Board members gave numerous explanations for why this action was taken. All of them ignored the issue that is at the heart of the action. The real issue is whether the SBC loyalists, who now hold a narrow majority on the convention's board, will respect those who support the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship as equals in the work of the state convention. They won't.

Despite all the talk about how this will help unite the state convention, it won't. This is just another step in the Fundamentalist's plan to eventually expel those who support CBF from the convention. Those who suggest that the objectives of Fundamentalists leading North Carolina are different from those of the Fundamentalists leading the national convention are either lying or deluding themselves.

SBC Fundamentalism is essentially a movement to "purify" the convention and those who support CBF are "impure" in their eyes.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Taize Community Founder Murdered

Roger Schutz, the founder of the Taize Christian ecumenical community in France, was stabbed to death at a prayer service in Burgundy today.

Taize worship that is meditative in nature and emphasizes scripture reading, repetitive chanting, instrumental music, silence and prayer has become popular in many churches around the world.

Regarding the Creationism Flap at Tulsa's Zoo

Mercer University's Baptist Studies Bulletin has posted my second dispatch from the frontlines of America's culture war. This one is about the creation science flap at the Tulsa Zoo.

I have to admit that this skirmish ended a lot quicker than I expected it would.

Dr. Vic Hutchinson, a faithful member of First Presbyterian Church in Norman, and other members of Oklahoman's for Excellence in Science Education are hereby commended for their role in effectively opposing governmental endorsement of religion at the Tulsa Zoo.

A Profile in Courage

I'm not a big fan of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. He's done many things that I think have impeded the progress of the process toward peace in the Middle East.

Today I must commend him for the statemanship that he is now demonstrating to advance the process toward peace. Here's a news brief about the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza:

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon today said images of Gaza settlers being removed from their homes were "heart-breaking".

He praised the restraint of both settlers and soldiers.

"It's impossible to watch this, and that includes myself, without tears in the eyes," he said.

Sharon appealed to pullout opponents to avoid physical and verbal confrontation with the security forces. "Attack me -- I am responsible for this. Attack me, accuse me, don't attack the men and women in uniform," he said.

Israeli President Moshe Katsav, who sat next to Sharon, cut in to correct the prime minister's choice of words. "You mean criticise, not attack," Katsav admonished. Sharon did not respond.

Israeli security forces have warned that Sharon, like his murdered predecessor Yitzhak Rabin, could be targeted by extremists.

Sharon defended his decision to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and part of the West Bank, saying he did it for the good of Israel.

"I believe with all these difficulties, Israel will come out stronger," he said.

Pedaling fast and going nowhere

Kudos to Maureen Dowd at the New York Times for her editorial "Biking Toward Nowhere."

Dowd has provided a truly memorable image of the current administration's handling of the war in Iraq. Here are some quotes:
This president is in a truly scary place in Iraq. Americans can't get out, or they risk turning the country into a terrorist haven that will make the old Afghanistan look like Cipriani's. Yet his war, which has not accomplished any of its purposes, swallows ever more American lives and inflames ever more Muslim hearts as W. reads a book about the history of salt and looks forward to his biking date with Lance Armstrong on Saturday.
. . .

At long last, a senior Bush official admits that administration officials can no longer cling to their own version of reality. "We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we're in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning," the official told The Washington Post.

They had better start absorbing and shedding a lot faster, before many more American kids die to create a pawn of Iran. And they had better tell the Boy in the Bubble, who continues to dwell in delusion, hailing the fights and delays on the Iraqi constitution as "a tribute to democracy."

The president's pedaling as fast as he can, but he's going nowhere.

On Science and Religion

Thanks to Bob Allen at Ethics Daily for calling attention to Sjoerd Bonting's new book "Creation and Double Chaos: Science and Theology in Discussion."

We certainly need more dialogue between scientists and theologians on how to bridge the gap between science and religion. Bonting appears to be a scientist/theologian with an intellect and spirit similar to that of Eric Rust.

Before the recent fundamentalist ossification of theological inquiry and discussion, Baptists used to encourage efforts like Bonting's to spark theological dialogue with scientists. Now they are just repackaging stale apologetics and trying to cram it down the throats of scientists by force of law.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Ashcroft, Rove and Valerie Plame

An article by Murray Waas in the Village Voice reveals that former Attorney General John Ashcroft insisted on being briefed about the investigation regarding the outing of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame long after investigation focused on his good friend Karl Rove.

Waas's weblog adds even more information about the unethical actions of one of the most sanctimonious political figures in recent memory.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Sutton's Delusions

Thanks to Bob Allen at Ethics Daily for his coverage of Justice Sunday II.

I was astonished to see the quote from Jerry Sutton, pastor of the church that hosted the event:
"I've heard a lot recently about Terri Schiavo," he said. "She was murdered by a combination of an adulterous husband, a corrupt court and a medical establishment with no conscience."
Jerry Sutton and I were in classes together at Southwestern Seminary. That was before he suffered from the delusion that he possessed any competency to refute Jeb Bush's criminal investigators and to submit indictments of both the doctors and the judges whose proficiency has been confirmed by autopsy reports.

When we were grading each other's papers in Clyde Glazener's Greek class, Jerry certainly possessed more humility.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Justice Sunday II Highlights Baptist Divisions

The Lexington N.C. Dispatch has published an outstanding story quoting Hollyn Hollman and Bill Leonard about how Justice Sunday II highlights the divisions among Baptists. Here's a quote from Hollyn Hollman:
"We're very interested in making sure that a large Baptist gathering doesn't speak for all Baptists," said Hollyn Hollman, general counsel for the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. Religious freedom is best maintained when politics and religion are kept apart, she said.

Here's a quote from Bill Leonard discussing differences among Baptists after the Fundamentalist takeover of the SBC:
Since then, a sharp divide has emerged. Conservative Southern Baptists "believe secularism is an unofficial established religion," Leonard said. "They are always dissenting against secularism to claim a rightful place for Christians to practice their faith.

"On the other hand, Leonard said, the Baptist Joint Committee believe their Southern cousins "are looking to privilege their kind of religion with some kind of state support and are themselves looking to become an unofficial established state religion."

Kudos to both Hollman and Leonard for helping keep the record straight about the Baptist heritage supporting separation of church and state.

Bush Prepared to Use Force Against Iran

Reuters is reporting that German Chancellor Gerhard Shroeder insists that using force against Iran to get it to end its nuclear program is "not acceptable."

Shroeder's remarks came after President Bush made the following statement:

"As I say, all options are on the table. The use of force is the last option for any president and you know, we've used force in the recent past to secure our country," he told state-owned Israel Channel One television.

As it becomes increasingly clear that the use of force was not our last option in dealing with Iraq, Bush's words are sure to be reassuring to the rest of the world community.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

The "Ph"undamentalism of "F"onics

Thanks to Carlos at Jesus Politics for calling attention to the section on phonics in Stan Cox's essay on the "Weird Science on the Religious Right." Cox cited an article by Mark Thogmartin in Home Education magazine that highlighted some of the reasons why homeschoolers and religious schoolers are enthusiastic about phonics. Here are a few:
  • "More holistic approaches to reading instruction are more child-centered and seem to assert the inherent goodness of the child, which is opposed to the basic Christian doctrine of a sinful nature derived from the fall of Adam."
  • "A phonics approach to reading instruction, with its usual dependence on drill and rote memorization, is more compatible with the rigidly disciplined environment of most Christian schools."
  • "Often, theorists who believe in a more holistic, meaning-centered reading instruction philosophy have ... suggested that a child's ability to extract the meaning from print is the primary objective of reading any passage. This may sound almost blasphemous to Christians who believe in the literal, verbal inspiration of scripture."

Thogmartin's article provides some confirmation for conclusions I drew in an essay that I once wrote on "The "Ph"undamentalism of "F"onics." Here's an excerpt from that article:

Whole language instruction teaches phonics "indirectly" and "intrinsically" in the context of meaningful reading. The goal of the instruction is grasping the meaning of words in context more than grasping the sounds of letters. Phonics advocates insist that phonics be taught "directly" and "extensively" by routine drill and repetitive instruction in letter sounds. The goal of the instruction is an automatic mental association between sounds and letters. Later the letter sounds will be combined to form an automatic association with the sound of words and the sound of words will automatically be associated with a single meaning.

I was taught to read by the direct-extensive-drill method of phonetic instruction. My recollection is that it was boring to an extreme. We drilled for days and days on sounds without meaning. Then, when we learned that the sounds could make words, our thirst for reading was quickly quenched by reviewing the same words over and over again. Who can forget the monotony of weeks reading, "See Dick run. See Jane run. See Spot run?" The teaching was perfectly designed to make the intellect lethargic, to create a passively receptive mind, and to produce an automaton.

I think fundamentalists promote extensive phonics because it is the most likely method to produce minds that will automatically accept a literal interpretation of scripture. They fear that a mind that actively searches for meaning, as whole language encourages, might see beyond the letter of the law to its spirit. Public education has no business developing theories to favor any method of scriptural interpretation. A mind actively searching for meaning is as free to interpret scripture literally as it is to interpret it metaphorically.

Friday, August 12, 2005

How Intelligence to Congress was Fixed

Raw Story has broken a story about how the Senate Intelligence chairman "fixed intelligence" and "diverted blame" from the Whitehouse over Iraq.

The bottomline: key leaders betrayed our trust. They used claims for a need for secrecy as a means to fix intelligence and secure a preconceived policy objective -- going to war with Iraq.

They knew that, had the intelligence been handled openly and honestly, they were unlikely to achieve their objective.

Now that the deceptions and manipulations of our leaders are coming to light, how will any future leader be able to secure our trust if it is ever really necessary to restrict the free flow of information to key leaders?

Carter vs. Land

Kudos to Joe Trull for his outstanding essay, "Women and the SBC: Carter vs. Land" that is published today on Ethics Daily. His comparison of their recent remarks about women in the church does an excellent job of revealing the spirit that animates the work of each man.

Those with discerning spirits will know whether or not the Spirit that fills their heart and prompts their words on this issue is holy.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Frog's in the Kettle

Today's Guardian reports that "Global Warming Hits Tipping Point." Like frogs in a kettle being slowly brought to a boil, the heat is rising all around us. Predictably, the frogs who lead our country refuse to believe we have a problem.

Scientists are reporting that a million square kilometer area of permafrost in Siberia is thawing out for the first time in 11,000 years. As it thaws it will release billions of tons of methane gas into the atmosphere. That means that sooner than anyone predicted, the earth is going to be seeing "a 10% to 25% increase in global warming."

I don't think I'll be signing for any long term mortgages in Florida or Louisiana or on coastal property anywhere.

Mohler's Inconsistent Hermeneutic

Baptist Press has published a story about Southern Seminary President Al Mohler's statements to Time Magazine about creation and evolution. Mohler argues the case for young-Earth creationism in six literal days. Here is an excerpt from the BP story:

Mohler, a young-Earth creationist, says the Bible is clear about the way in which God created the earth in six days. He argues that Christianity and evolution offer opposing views of human origins.

"Given the human tendency toward inconsistency, there are people who will say they hold both positions," Mohler writes. "But you cannot coherently affirm the Christian-truth claim and the dominant model of evolutionary theory at the same time.

"... I believe the Bible is adequately clear about how God created the world, and that its most natural reading points to a six-day creation that included not just the animal and plant species but the earth itself.

"But there have always been Evangelicals who asserted that it might have taken longer. What they should not be asserting is the idea of God's having set the rules for evolution and then stepped back. And even less so, the model held by much of the scientific academy: of evolution as the result of a random process of mutation and selection."

It's obvious that Mohler's chief concern is for hermeneutical consistency. He wants to be consistent about interpreting the Bible literally. The problem with that hermeneutical approach is that it is impossible to do that and be a Baptist (unless, of course, you are Al Mohler and can define Baptist beliefs as whatever you believe. Paige Patterson himself once labelled Al the "Baptist pope").

What is consistent about interpreting the "days" in the first chapter of Genesis literally and interpreting "body" and "blood" in the Eucharist (lord's supper) symbolically? If Baptists can interpret "body" and "blood" symbolically while the vast majority of Christians interpret it literally, why can't they interpret the six days in Genesis symbolically?

I'd say that Mohler's logic is taking Baptists yet another step toward the theology of Roman Catholicism -- except, Roman Catholics have no problem reconciling creation with evolution. They have had the benefit of centuries to reflect on the errors of logically consistent theologians like Mohler who, in the days of Copernicus and Galileo, once insisted that Christianity was irreconcilable with a heliocentric solar system.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Podcast: Hali Thomas

Hali Thomas, Flutist extraordinaire, leaves Norman tomorrow to begin her studies at Mercer University. In the picture above, Hali is the sightly blond. The attractive brunette beside her is her sister Andi. They are the daughters of T and Kathie Thomas.

The boys in Norman aren't the only ones who will be missing Hali. She's an accomplished flutist and she frequently blessed the members of NorthHaven Church in Norman with her music.

Here's a link to her most recent solo at NorthHaven and a link to another solo she did a couple months ago.

You can be sure that some boys in Georgia will soon be acquiring an interest in the sound of the flute. I suspect that this pied piper might be leading some of them right into a good CBF church. My advice to anyone who wants to win her heart is to learn to speak French. This girl might drive a black pickup and listen to country & western music, but she could be equally at home in haute couture.

Incomplete 9/11 Commission Report

News reports indicate that U.S. defense intelligence officials knew for more than a year that four of the hijackers were part of an al-Qaida cell but failed to tell law enforcement. Here are a few paragraphs from an AP report:
Rep. Curt Weldon, a Pennsylvania Republican who serves as vice chairman of the House Armed Services and Homeland Security committees, said a classified military intelligence unit known as "Able Danger" identified the men in 1999.

That's an earlier link to al-Qaida than any previously disclosed intelligence about Atta if the information, which Weldon said came from multiple intelligence sources, is true.

A group of 9/11 widows called the September 11th Advocates issued a statement Wednesday saying they were "horrified" to learn that further possible evidence exists, and they are disappointed the 9/11 Commission report is "incomplete and illusory."

Someone needs to determine who was running this defense intelligence operation and ask them 1) how they could have failed to keep Atta and his cohorts under surveillance, or 2) if they did have them under surveillance, how they could have failed to sound an alarm about their plans for 9/11, or 3) if they did sound an alarm, how their superiors responded when they received this information.

Christian love or self-interest?

Jim Evans has an interesting essay at Ethics Daily that talks about what a "Christian Nation" would be doing. Here's his conclusion:

If we are serious about this Christian nation stuff we might want to re-visit our attitudes and practices towards the poor. As Jesus himself noted, it is not how energetic we are in shouting his name that matters, but rather how faithfully we attend to the matters he taught were really important. Otherwise, it may be that we really don't know him.

While I agree with Jim about the need to do more for the poor, I'm still uncomfortable with all talk about "Christian Nations." As I see it, talk about a "Christian Nation" is oxymoronic. By definition, all nations act out of "self-interest." They are incapable of putting the interest of others above their own. The best they can do is strive for actions that are in "mutual self-interest" with other nations.

Christians live by a completely different standard. The love God has shown us through his Son removes the necessity to act out of self-interest alone and enables us to put the interests of others above our own. Christians are empowered to act "self-sacrificially." That is something that nations, as we have defined them, can never do.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

What Moral Authority?

Today's New York Times has a story about Christian groups pressing Bush to put pressure on North Korea to end human rights abuses in that country. The Midland, Texas Ministerial Alliance, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Southern Baptist Convention and other groups are taking the lead in this effort.

I'm in complete accord with the efforts to call for an end to the human rights abuses by the government of North Korea. I also believe Christians need to call for an end to human rights abuses by the government of the United States.

What makes conservative Christians think that this administration and this country has any moral authority to put pressure on any country to end human rights abuses?

What are the Midland Ministerial Alliance, the National Association of Evangelicals, and the Southern Baptist Convention doing to put pressure on Bush to end the torture and abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib?

The eyes of the entire world are focused on conservative, evangelical Christians in America. History will give evangelical Christians full credit for unconscionably supporting this administration's pre-emptive war under false pretenses, it's criminal treatment of prisoners of war, and it's hysterical suspension of civil rights. Nothing has done more to undermine the credibility of the gospel in the eyes of the unbelieving world in my lifetime.

When are evangelicals going to start removing the logs that are in our own eyes?

Melissa Rogers on 'Justice Sunday II'

Melissa Rogers, visiting professor of religion and public policy at Wake Forest University Divinity School, has written an outstanding essay highlighting the concerns that a lot of us have with the rhetoric of the Religious Right as it rallies to stack the judiciary. Here's her conclusion:

It has become fashionable to say that the court is demonstrating hostility toward faith when it prevents the government from promoting faith for us. But those who make this argument are either ignorant of or willfully blind to the rationales expressed in Supreme Court precedent in this area. The court traditionally has refused to promote or to interfere with religion not because it is anti-religious, but because it wants to leave people free to make choices in matters of faith and to ensure that religious people and organizations may worship as they see fit, rather than as the government sees fit. Further, anyone who suggests that the court has scrubbed religion from the public square is inexplicably missing the rich religious landscape all around us -- a landscape that has thrived in the midst of the Supreme Court's so-called "hostility" toward religion.

Family Research Council has every right to hold this event. The precise role religion should play in public life, the exact place where the court should draw the church-state line, and the morality of abortion as well as other policy and legal matters are all legitimate topics for public debate. Religious citizens have the same rights as non-religious citizens to argue their side. But disagreement with those positions is not automatically anti-religious bigotry or hostility to faith.

Jakes Favors Church-State Separation

USA Today published an article today that indicates Dallas Mega-church pastor T.D. Jakes favors separation of chuch and state. Here are a few paragraphs:

It is Jakes' super-pastor standing that makes his answer to the question so important. "I don't think we are a Christian nation," he said. "And I don't think we were meant to be."

In saying this, Jakes - whose appeal crosses racial and ethnic lines - put himself at loggerheads with those on the religious right who claim that this nation is a Christian state and who clamor for politicians to follow their lead. Their push for government action to allow school prayer, and for the federal government to fund just abstinence-only sex education programs and to ban gay marriages, is rooted in their belief that this country's government is a secular instrument of their religion.

Jakes, on the other hand, sees a clear distinction between his ministry and the role of the ministers of this nation's government. "As we continue to try to politicize God, or market God, or say that America is Christian, or that God is with one (political) party, or that God is here and not there, it only further points to the fact that we don't understand how big God is - and how great God is," he said.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Baptist Dies in Iraq

AlterNet has published an article by a Vietnam veteran about a young man he knew that died recently in Iraq. His discussion of the young man's faith caught my attention:

Christopher was a pretty gentle and easy-going kid. If someone said to him, "Hey let's go shoot some kids from Sealy," a rival school, he would obviously have said, "You're crazy -- get lost!" But Iraqis, why, it's open season.

He only saw the differences. He had somehow developed enough hatred to override his sense of right and wrong, and any teaching of love of fellow man. He went to the Southern Baptist Church here, and I know it was taught to him. On the other hand, the president of the Southern Baptist convention declared this a "just war." A little hypocrisy there and probably confusing for Christopher.

Dobson is Shameless

Dobson is standing by his comment likening stem cell research to Nazi experiments of live subjects. Media Matters reports that he refuses to apologize to Jews for the comments and had one of his subordinates insist that Jews should agree with him.

The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America supports stem cell research.

I'm still waiting for Dobson to explain why he thinks the imago Dei must have a genetic structure rather than a spiritual one. Logically, that would mean that sin -- which corrupted the imago -- also had a genetic structure.

If eight cell blastocysts are fully human persons -- created in the image of God, but with a propensity to sin -- then why don't we have genetic engineers searching for the "original sin" gene. If they could find it and remove our rebellious nature, we could all be sinless and perfect.

Then no one would have to be "born again" and Jesus' death would have been unnecessary.

Podcast: Andi Thomas Interview

Dr. Bruce Prescott's 6-19-05 Religious Talk radio interview with Andi Thomas. Thomas is a student at Furman University who feels called to devote her life to missions ministry. We talk about her internship last summer with CBF's rural poverty initiative Partners in Hope and about her internship this summer with His Nets (a ministry devoted to combatting malaria is sub-Saharan Africa). Andi is the daughter of T & Kathie Thomas who served as missionaries both with the Southern Baptist Convention and with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

The Logic of the Death Penalty

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens condemned the death penalty in a speech before the American Bar Association yesterday. He laid out a substantial case showing that our system for imposing capital punishment is flawed. Most serious was Stevens assertion that DNA evidence has shown "that a substantial number of death sentences have been imposed erroneously."

AP reports that according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a group opposed to capital punishment, "more than three dozen death row inmates have been exonerated since 2000."

Such a record seems adequate to Kent Scheidegger, legal director for the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, a pro-death penalty group. He is reported to have said, "I wouldn't say that 20 or 30 cases out of 8,000 constitutes a broken system."

In Scheidegger's eyes it's obviously acceptable to risk 20 or 30 innocent people being unjustly executed than for our entire nation to perish under the burden of giving 8,000 criminals life in prison without possibility of parole.

It seems to me that I've seen Scheidegger's utilitarian logic of expedience at work before:
"You know nothing at all, nor do you take it into account that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish." (John 11:49b-50 NASV)

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Podcast: National Energy Policy

Bob Stephenson Interview # 2 -- 8/7/05 radio interview of Oklahoma City Petroleum Geologist Bob Stephenson. Follow-up to our 7/10/05 interview about "Peak Oil." In this interview Stephenson critiques the recently passed energy bill, talks about the restructuring at the University of Oklahoma to create a broader energy department, and outlines his proposal for OU and the Sarkey Foundation to take the lead in developing a national energy policy with input from nationally recognized experts on energy, the environment, science and technology working openly without influence from politicians or industry lobbyists.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Sibel Edmonds Petitions Supreme Court

Sibel Edmonds, a former translator for the FBI, has petitioned the Supreme Court to hear her case. Edmonds is a whistleblower who was fired for reporting serious irregularities in the way Middle Eastern intelligence was being translated and handled prior to 9/11.

The September issue of Vanity Fair (not yet online) is publishing a noteworthy article about Sibel Edmonds and her case.

Information related to Edmonds' case is reported to be very damaging to high ranking officials in our government. Information so damaging that Edmonds contends that securing justice would involve criminal charges.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Ret. General Speaks out Against Torture

A retired Army General who spent the last 18 years of his career training military interrogators is speaking out about the need for legislation that will put an end to the kind of abuses of prisoners that is happening at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. The Salt Lake City Tribune interviewed Army General David Irvine who retired in 2002. Here are the last few paragraphs:

Nonetheless, in the classes Irvine taught, there was always someone who felt the Field Guide's provisions didn't go far enough. "There are always going to be those who feel that the ends justifies the means," he said. "Those who feel the training they got was too Mickey Mouse for the circumstances they find themselves in."

Acting on such seductive thinking, he said, results in the forfeiture of "any moral objection to similar kinds of treatment."

And that scares him most of all.

"We've lowered the bar ourselves - if X-Y-Z is OK for us to do, it's OK for the same treatment to be meted out to our people if they're captured," he said.

"It's not rocket science; it's the Golden Rule."

The Guardian also published an interesting article on this topic today. It advises Britain to stay out of the "dirty war" that is being waged "above the rule of law" against suspected terrorists in U.S. custody.

Intelligent Design: Comparing Apples to Oranges

The Mt. Pleasant Morning Sun has published an outstanding article by Eric Baerren that says the proponents of Intelligent Design are trying to compare apples to oranges. Here's a quote:
This really is an issue of fruit.

In one hand, you've got an orange (evolution). In the other, you've got an apple (Intelligent Design).

If you engage in a broad discussion about fruit (why we exist), it's proper to weigh the two. If you're talking about citrus fruits (science), you steer clear of apples.

Why? The apple isn't a citrus fruit. It's a fine fruit - it's kept many a doctor away, and knowledge of how to pie it made mom all-American - it's just not a member of the citrus family.

The president, however, looked at both and said, "I think this apple just might be citrus fruit."

That, however, isn't the best quote in the article. Here's the best:
If the president really thinks Intelligent Design is science, however, he's a buffoon. His own science adviser panned the idea earlier this year, and the president could get the world's top scientific minds on the phone if he wanted a second opinion. The president's word carries a lot of weight, and it's reasonable to expect that he'd educate himself a little before throwing his weight behind an issue.

How Do Ya Like Them Apples?

The Washington Post has an article today that explains "Why the Red Delicious No Longer Is."

Modern science has proven less than marvellous trying to improve apples.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Shame on Dobson

Yesterday James Dobson compared stem cell research to the Nazi experiments on live patients during the holocaust.

Some day I would like for Dobson and Mohler and the Pope to explain to me why they think the imago Dei must have a genetic structure rather than a spiritual one. Logically, that would mean that sin -- which corrupted the imago -- also had a genetic structure.

If eight cell blastocysts are fully human persons -- created in the image of God, but with a propensity to sin -- then why don't we have genetic engineers searching for the "original sin" gene. If they could find it and remove our rebellious nature, we could all be sinless and perfect.

Then no one would have to be "born again" and Jesus' death would have been unnecessary.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Thanks for the Support

A few days ago someone got upset with the fact that I have a contribution button on my weblog. He accused me of soliciting funds under false pretenses for putting the phrase "Help Keep This Weblog Online" with the contribution button.

To prove that a contribution would indeed "Help Keep This Weblog Online," I promised to pull this weblog off the internet if no one believed the information herein was worth a small contribution.

Well, several of you responded. More than ten people made contributions. Contributions ranged from $5.00 to $200.00. The most generous contributions came from people whom I have not yet had opportunity to meet.

Frankly, I received more than I expected. I'll post a blog with total receipts and itemized expenditures at a future date.

Intelligently Designed for Legal Debate

Yesterday President Bush came out in favor of teaching "Intelligent Design" as science in public schools. Associated Baptist Press and Ethics Daily both have good articles on the story.

I've written about "Intelligent Design" before. Here's a blog about "Intelligent Design -- Another Concept that Closes the Mind" that is a companion to this one about "Inerrancy - A Concept that Closes the Mind." Here's one "On Teaching the 'Debate' about Evolution," here's another one about "Philosophy and Intelligent Design," and another one about "Designing Intelligent Science Education." For those interested in a more thorough discussion about creation and evolution, here's a link to a speech on "Evolution and Religion: Do They Conflict?"

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Clara Luper Interviewed

AlterNet has posted an interview with Clara Luper, a civil rights activist in Oklahoma.

I've heard Clara speak a couple times. She is a very interesting lady. It's good for people outside the state to learn a little about her.

Prisoner Abuse May Have Been Approved at the Top

An Opinion Editorial in yesterday's Cleveland Plains Dealer suggests that the abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Graihb was approved at the top. If that is the case, then merely closing those prisons will not put an end to the abuse.

We shouldn't need legislation to assure that the prisoners we hold are not abused and tortured, but we do.

Politicians Not Equal to the Challenge

The most astute summary that I've seen of the recently passed energy bill is a quotation by Philip Clapp that is posted on the Common Dreams website:
Philip Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, said all sides of the rancorous debate that accompanied the energy bill's passage had missed the point.

"Both Republicans and Democrats are completely paralyzed in addressing the nation's three big energy challenges -- reducing our dependence on Middle East oil, reducing gasoline prices for consumers, and beginning to shift our economy to renewable energy technologies," he said.

"On all three issues, the bill is a big fat zero."

Monday, August 01, 2005

Top Twenty Podcasts

The top twenty downloads from the "Religious Talk" radio program to this date.

1. Bob Stephenson Interview -- 7/10/05 radio interview of Oklahoma City Petroleum Geologist Bob Stephenson. Stephenson talks about "Peak Oil," the escalating price of gasoline, the impact of China on demand for oil, and the critical need for our country to develop an energy policy (openly, not secretly) that will reduce our dependence on oil.

2. 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.

3. 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.

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. Jann Linn Interview -- 9-19-04 interview with Dr. Jan Linn, author of What's Wrong with the Christian Right.

6. The Day of Prayer Controversy -- 5-8-05 broadcast of Religious Talk. 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.

7. 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."

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. 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.

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. 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.

15. 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.

16. 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.

17. 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.

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. 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.

20. 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.

Dr. Prescott's personal favorites: Charles Kimball Interviews, Part 1 (for background on Dr. Kimball that you'll not find anywhere else on radio, TV or in print) and Part 2 (I could listen to the last 15 minutes of this interview every day and never get tired of hearing him say it).

Top Video Cast:

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.

Novak vs. Johnson

Thanks to Susanhu at the Booman Tribune for doing an outstanding job of highlighting the debate between journalist Robert Novak and former operative CIA Larry Johnson over the outing of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Oceans Rising

I found this news report about scientists warning that the Arctic ice cap has already melted beyond historic summer levels. The last sentence stood out:
Now some scientists are wondering if the melting of the sea ice has already gone beyond a critical threshold from which it can't recover.

You can be sure that no one in the current administration is worried. They don't plan on being around when Florida and Louisiana become prime attractions for scuba divers.

Bush Kicks Senate with Bolton Appointment

News reports indicate that President Bush has appointed neo-conservative waterboy John Bolton to be Ambassador to the United Nations.

In confirmation hearings Bolton was described as having a classic "kiss up, kick down" personality. There's plenty more about Bolton in James Mann's Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet.

It looks like our Emporer picked up a few pointers from Bolton on how to deal with his underlings at the United States Senate. Since they wouldn't confirm him, he gave Bolton a "recess appointment." Thus kicking down at the Senate and kissing up to the neo-conservative empire builders in his administration.

In an administration replete with examples of abysmally poor judgment in making appointments to positions of vital importance, this stands out as one of the worst. I would say it was the worst, but Bush has still got 3 1/2 more years to top it.