Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Replacing Activist Judges with Activist Advisors

This administration has gained a reputation for its pledge to replace "activist judges" on the Supreme Court with "strict constructionists." Supposedly "strict constructionists" will interpret the constitution "strictly." Among the list of possible nominees were Harriet Miers, Alberto Gonzales, and John Ashcroft.

Recent disclosures about the President's authorization of illegal wiretaps have revealed that these supposedly "strict constructionists" have all been "activist advisors" who secretly granted the President extra-constitutional and extra-legal powers.

If I were doing the choosing, I'd take the activist judges. At least they do their work openly and in the full light of public scrutiny.

Ethics Daily's Baptist of the Year

Ethics Daily has named Paul Montacute, Director of Baptist World Alliance Aid, as their Baptist of the Year.

Paul deserves the award and he has certainly had a most demanding year.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Russia Turning Back to Dictatorship

Russia's experiment with democracy may be ending. Andrei Illarionov, the chief economic advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin, resigned yesterday saying, Russia is "no longer a democratic country, no longer a free country."

The example that the U.S. has set over the last five years has not exactly been like a beacon shining a light for democracy either.

Chomsky on Politics in America

Working for Change has an insightful interview with Noam Chomsky discussing the current state of American politics.

He doesn't paint a pretty picture.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Barron's Editorial Issues Call to Consider Impeachment

Thanks to Raw Story for publishing excerpts from a Barron's editorial that calls on Congress to consider impeaching President Bush. Barron's is a widely circulated weekly magazine for investors published by the Wall Street Journal. Here's a quote:

...Putting the president above the Congress is an invitation to tyranny. The president has no powers except those specified in the Constitution and those enacted by law. President Bush is stretching the power of commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy by indicating that he can order the military and its agencies, such as the National Security Agency, to do whatever furthers the defense of the country from terrorists, regardless of whether actual force is involved.

Surely the "strict constructionists" on the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary eventually will point out what a stretch this is. The most important presidential responsibility under Article II is that he must "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." That includes following the requirements of laws that limit executive power. There's not much fidelity in an executive who debates and lobbies Congress to shape a law to his liking and then goes beyond its writ.

Willful disregard of a law is potentially an impeachable offense. It is at least as impeachable as having a sexual escapade under the Oval Office desk and lying about it later. The members of the House Judiciary Committee who staged the impeachment of President Clinton ought to be as outraged at this situation. They ought to investigate it, consider it carefully and report either a bill that would change the wiretap laws to suit the president or a bill of impeachment.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Courts Rebuking Bush Administration

Common Dreams has posted a story on "Double Rebuke for Bush as Judges Attack Terror Moves."

Will the judges clip this President's wings, or will this President stack the supreme court with obsequious judges who will grant the President sovereign powers?

Just asking the question makes it seem like we've regressed from 230 years of American history.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Dialogue (Part 10 of 10)

Dialogue is honest, open and respectful conversation between two or more persons. It is talk with an other listening. It is talk that listens to others.

Dialogue is the culmination and conclusion of trustworthy talk. It is the talk of those who have such confidence in the trustworthiness of others that they can share themselves freely. It is the talk of those who, in the communion and conversation with others, are growing to become mature and responsible.

This is the kind of talk that everyone desires. Those in dialogue are open to others and find joy and fulfillment in a community based on fellowship and love.

Dialogue is Jesus telling his disciples that those who abide in His love will not be called God?s slaves, but will be named among His friends. (Jn. 15)

Teaching (Part 9 of 10)

Teaching is talk that opens the mind. Teachers speak with the authority of wisdom and experience. They continually search for deeper forms of analysis, broader perspectives and a more complete understanding of truth. They seek to instill within the student a passion to quest for truth and understanding. Teachers share the skills and abilities necessary to analyze experience, to evaluate or correlate alternate viewpoints, and to develop new forms of speech and expression.

This form of speech suppresses suspicion by increasing tolerance and understanding within the community. It elevates trust by extending the community of trustworthy talk to strangers and foreigners.

Teaching is Paul, a Jewish Christian apostle, mentoring Timothy, a Gentile Christian pastor, in the word of gospel ministry (1 Tim. 4)

Proclamation (Part 8 of 10)

Proclamation is talk that speaks faithfully about God and His kingdom. The faithful preacher receives revelation with an open heart, reflects on scripture, tradition and experience with a critical mind, and shares a growing insight and understanding with humility.

This form of talk reduces suspicion by announcing the "good news" that God?s grace demolishes all the artificial distinctions that keep genders and races from having genuine fellowship with one another.

Proclamation is Peter speaking to the council of the church in Jerusalem and affirming that Gentiles were being saved by grace through faith and should not be required to keep the law of Moses. (Acts 15:1-11)

Trustworthy Talk (Part 7 of 10)

The legacy of Bethlehem and Pentecost is a world of trustworthy talk. Trustworthy talk correlates word and deed. It is speech that elevates others and seeks to serve them. It is talk that respects the freedom and dignity of others. Trustworthy talk creates a community based on love and trust. There are at least four forms of talk that are trustworthy.


Testimony is talk that gives honest and open expression to experience and understanding. It risks exposing one?s self to ridicule, rejection and persecution in the hope that others will be receptive and responsive to a word that is truthful and trustworthy. It speaks with the hope of extending the community in which persons can grow to become responsible and mature.

Testimony increases the level of trust in a community by always speaking the truth. It reduces the level of suspicion by speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:14-16) Whenever called upon to testify against sin and error, the faithful witness always speaks without vindictiveness and with integrity, discretion and respect.

Testimony is Paul speaking about his conversion experience and call to ministry before King Agrippa (Acts 26).

The Birth of Trust (Part 6 of 10)

Overcoming the legacy of suspicion necessitates a new beginning. Creating a conversation based on mutual trust and respect requires a faithful and true unity of word and deed. Word must become flesh. Truth must be embodied. A new kind of man must speak and create a new kind of community. That is what God did in Christ. Jesus initiates a new kind of talk. His talk is trustworthy.

A community based on trust ends in unity and understanding. That is what happened in the upper room on the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit was poured out on those trusting in the Lord and waiting on him. Everyone heard the gospel in his own native tongue. (Acts 2) A new kind of talk was being spoken and a new kind of community was being extended. A community that ends in unity and understanding was created.

Monologue (Part 5 of 10)

Monologue is a single speaker talking. It is talking without listening. Monologue is the culmination and conclusion of suspicious talk. It is the talk of those so suspicious of others that they trust no one but themselves.

There is no community in monologue. It is the talk of those who have closed themselves off from others and are tormented by their isolation and loneliness.

Monologue is old King Saul brooding about his sins and suspicious that a shepherd boy was plotting to seize his throne. (1 Samuel 18:1-15)

Indoctrination (Part 4 of 10)

Indoctrination is talk that closes the mind. Indoctrinators speak with unquestioned certainty and unshakable conviction. They believe they possess the truth. They transmit a formula for faith, a uniform way of viewing the world, and a standard form of speech and expression to their pupils. Questioning the formula is not permitted, perceiving different points of view is not tolerated, and deviating from the standard form of speech and expression is not welcome.

This form of speech reduces trust to the small group of the indoctrinated. Suspicion of others can be so intense that adherents often feel threatened by any friendly and open conversation with those who do not accept their doctrine.

Indoctrination is the Sanhedrin commanding Peter and John "not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus."" (Acts 4:1-22)

Propaganda (Part 3 of 10)

Propaganda is more than lies frequently repeated. Propaganda consists of facts falsely interpreted and actions falsely attributed to unworthy intentions and motives. Propagandists always speak in tones of moral indignation. They reduce trust by identifying a group as a threat to community. They raise the level of suspicion by relentless verbal attacks designed to isolate the group and exclude it from community.

The more prolonged and passionate the rhetoric of the propaganda, the greater the likelihood of violence against the isolated group. Impressionable individuals will be incited to collective action against the perceived "enemy." Perniciously, the reproach of association with the isolated group discourages discerning members of the community from protesting about injustices against the group.

Propaganda is the Pharisee who observed Jesus heal a demoniac and attributed his compassion to the spirit of Beelzebub (Mt. 12:22-37).

Suspicious Talk (Part 2 of 10)


The legacy of Eden and Babel is a world of suspicious talk. Suspicious talk separates word and deed. It is speech that subordinates others and seeks power over them. It is talk that violates the freedom and dignity of others. Suspicious talk creates a community based on self-interest and mistrust. There are at least four forms of talk that are suspicious.


Talking takes place within a community. Communities are comprised of persons who relate to one another on the basis of mutual trust. The level of trust within a community depends upon the degree to which persons talk to one another honestly, openly and respectfully. Slander, gossip, lies, half-truths and all forms of deceitful speech reduce the level of trust and increase the level of suspicion within a community.

Lies destroy both the community and the individual. Liars wound their victims by depriving them of mutual respect and injure themselves by destroying self-respect. They harm the community by undermining the foundation of mutual trust and personal respect on which civil society is built. Both the individual and the community are degraded.

Lying is Peter in the courtyard of the high priest cursing and swearing he never knew Jesus (Mk. 14:66-72)

Redeeming Conversation (Part 1 of 10)

I'm going to be away from my computer for the next ten days, so there won't be any blogs on current events for a few days. Instead, I have a series of blogs that examine conversation from a theological perspective.

The title for this series is "Redeeming Conversation." One blog in this ten part series should be posted each day. Here's the introduction:

"Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth." 1 John 3:18

In the beginning God spoke and created all that exists and has life. His Word expresses his loving nature. God?s Word perfectly correlates with His deed.

God made us in his image. He gave us power to create words and symbols that express our nature. When Adam and Eve first spoke they knew exactly what the other had in mind when they were talking. The meaning of their words was clear and transparent.

The Birth of Suspicion

Things began to change when the word of the serpent was heard. Words were whispered that made the first couple suspicious of God?s intentions. A division between word and deed was created. When Adam and Eve acted on the basis of suspicion, life based on trust died. No longer would the meaning of words be clear and transparent. No longer could they take each other?s words at face value. No longer could they be sure they knew what the other had in mind when they talked. Talk had been degraded. It was filled with distortions, half-truths and lies.

Each of us repeats the experience of Adam and Eve in our own lives. Shortly after we learn to speak, we begin to lie. There is no natural correlation between word and deed for us. Each of us speaks out of our own self-interest. Each of us learns to listen to others with suspicion.

A community founded on suspicion always ends in conflict and confusion. That is what happened when people agreed to build a tower at Babel. They were united in purpose and spoke in one language when they began. Before they could finish they were divided and spoke with many tongues. Confusion and division always results when community is based on word or tongue but not in deed and truth.

Southern Baptists and Intelligent Design

If there was any doubt whether Southern Baptists officially endorse Intelligent Design, Richard Land has laid those doubts to rest. Here's a quote about the ID decision in Dover from yesterday's Washington Post:

"This decision is a poster child for a half-century secularist reign of terror that's coming to a rapid end with Justice Roberts and soon-to-be Justice Alito," said Richard Land, who is president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and is a political ally of White House adviser Karl Rove. "This was an extremely injudicious judge who went way, way beyond his boundaries -- if he had any eyes on advancing up the judicial ladder, he just sawed off the bottom rung."

Richard Land is issuing American judges the same kind of threats that were used during the Fundamentalist takeover of the SBC to warn ambitious Southern Baptist pastors and educators that their livelihoods were on the line.

We haven't seen the last of Intelligent Design. Southern Baptists' chief political organizer just gave notice that America's largest non-protestant denomination intends to settle the issue at the ballot box.

Will Republicans Save the Republic?

Ray McGovern, a retired CIA analyst now working for the Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C., has written an essay with an interesting historical parallel entitled, "Will Republican Senators Save the Republic?" Here's a quote:

Let's hope history does not repeat itself. The constitution of ancient Rome was put in place in 510 BC, when the republicans overthrew the last of the Roman kings, Tarquin the Proud. As was the case 2300 years later in the newborn USA, the introduction of constitutional order meant the rule of law and not of kings, providing liberty under law for every Roman citizen. That experiment lasted almost five centuries, until the Roman senators fell down on the job.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Logic of Lamby Liberals

Jonathan Hutson has posted a very insightful essay entitled "The Adventures of Lamby the Liberal" at the Talk to Action website. He graphically illustrates the logic of "Lamby the liberal" and "Sammy the secular."

Silence of the Sheep Herder

Before the last national election, Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, was front and center in the Religious Right's drive to herd their sheep to the polls to vote their "values."

After the President was re-elected, Land was in the forefront of those receiving credit for helping swing the election to Bush.  He was among a select group of religious leaders who consulted with the White House on a weekly basis.

Now that the President he helped elect has 1) been exposed as using false information to launch an unjust pre-emptive war (in violation of God's law and just war doctrine), 2) presided over a "cabal" that conspired to break Geneva Conventions and International Law in the treatment of detainees and prisoners (condoning the use of torture), and 3) admitted he ordered that the Constitution and the laws of the United States be set aside in order to eavesdrop on the American people --  Now that all these foundational rules of law and order have been discarded by the President and administration that Richard Land championed, what does he have to say about these egregious violations of American and basic human "values"?


And that in sharp contrast to all he had to say about how a previous President's lies over a sexual incident with an intern would destroy the "rule of law."

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Paper Calls for Perjury Investigation in Dover

Kudos to the Editorial Staff of the York Daily Record which serves the community around Dover, Pennsylvania. Today's paper calls for a perjury investigation regarding the testimony of former school board members about their reasons for mandating that "Intelligent Design" be taught as science in the Dover School District's public schools.

The financial repercussions that community will face due to the imprudent decisions made by their former school board members will have deletorious effect on that community for years to come.

Their former school board members need to bear responsibility for their actions. Should they be convicted, I suggest that they consider suing some trusted pastors, the Discovery Institute, televangelists like Pat Robertson, and other Religious Right leaders and organizations for misleading them with the lies they have been telling for decades about this issue.

Administration's Overreach leads to Judicial Resignation

Associated Press is reporting that federal judge,James Robertson has resigned from a special court set up to oversee government surveillance, in an apparent protest of President Bush's secret authorization of a domestic spying program. Here's a quote:

Robertson was one of 11 members of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees government applications for secret surveillance or searches of foreigners and U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism or espionage. Robertson's term was to end in May.

"This was definitely a statement of protest," said Scott Silliman, a former Air Force attorney and Duke University law professor. "It is unusual because it signifies that at least one member of the court believes that the president has exceeded his legal authority."

Mything in Action

Kudos to the national office for Americans United for Separation of Church and State for their report on "The Religious Right's Phony 'War on Christmas': Mything in Action."

It sets the record straight about a lot of tall tales being told by the Religious Right and Fox News.

On Eschatology and Politics

Thanks to Fred Clarkson and Jonathan Hutson for challenging the extremist rhetoric directed at me from Chris Ortiz (and thanks to Chris for toning it down a bit in response). Having written a blog about a new theological emphasis emanating from Southern Seminary, a Baptist institution, I was surprised to find that the most vehement response to my blog came from the Chalcedon Foundation. This might be an indication of yet another convergence between Baptist thinking and Reconstructionist thought - but what thought or idea, exactly, is at the point of the convergence?

At the moment, my best guess is that the "full quiver" theology emanating from Southern Seminary is converging with the "post-millennial" eschatology of Christian Reconstructionism.

"Post-millennialism" is not new in Southern Baptist theology. By 1979 (when the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention began), however, it had been thoroughly eclipsed by C.I. Schoffield's "dispensational pre-millennialism" as popularized by Hal Lindsay. In fact, a major undercurrent within the takeover movement was outrage at the "liberalism" of seminary professors who espoused an "a-millennial" eschatology instead of some form of "pre-millenialism." As far as I know, twenty-five years ago no noteworthy "living" Southern Baptist was arguing for post-millennialism. Now, thanks to influence of Christian Reconstructionism, we may be witnessing the renewal of post-millennial eschatology among Southern Baptists.

Different Christian views of the millennium can have political implications. The pessimistic outlook of pre-millennialism can easily lead to a nuclear holocaust if it becomes the ideology that guides the diplomacy of modern politics in the Middle East. The optimistic outlook of post-millennialism can lead to a theocracy if Christian Dominionists can outbreed the heathen and work to subdue them. While an a-millennialism that understands the Kingdom of God to be a "spiritual" kingdom, rather than a "political" kingdom, can live in peace with people of other religious convictions and treat those of different faiths with mutual respect.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Lying by Design not Intelligent

Judge John E. Jones has ruled that the Dover Independent School District erred when it ordered that "Intelligent Design" be taught as science. He said it was "creation science" in disguise and criticized school board members for deliberately lying about their religious intentions. Here's a quote from the AP news story:

The judge also said: "It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy."

Fundamentals of Hate

Kudos to Tony Cartledge for his outstanding coverage of the latest rift within the Southern Baptist Convention.

Cartledge calls attention to a blog by Oklahoma Fundamentalist pastor Wade Burleson who says,

Our convention hated liberalism twenty years ago and we expelled it from our midst, but at this hour we better hate legalism and Fundamentalism as much as we did the former liberalism or we will find ourselves so fractured and fragmented that we no longer have the ability to cooperate about anything, including missions.

While Burelson calls for conservatives to sheath their swords, he continues to use the sabre-rattling rhetoric that draws them out. Burleson still talks about hating "liberalism," and now he's added hating "legalism" and "Fundamentalism." The thread tying these all together is a heart that still condones "hate." That's what's killing the SBC. Hatemongering and the rhetoric of warfare always leads to division and death.

The bleeding won't stop until Baptists like Burleson stop competing to be seen as most "conservative" in the eyes of other Baptists and start competing to be seen as most "Christ-like" in the eyes of their Savior. You'll know that they've turned the corner when you stop hearing them scapegoat "liberals," and start hearing them talk about loving all their neighbors.

Sooner or later you'd think these guys would realize that "liberal" is a relative term. If recognizing "context" wasn't so foreign to their way of thinking, they might not be so slow in catching on.

Monday, December 19, 2005

On The Pro-Life Continuum

AlterNet has a very helpful essay by David Morris on "The Pro-life Continuum." He distinguishes between those who are "Pro-sperm," "Pro-zygote," "Pro-fetus," and "Pro-baby."

I agree that these terms are preferable to "Pro-life" vs. "Pro-choice."

Sunday, December 18, 2005

A President, Not a King

Raw Story has posted some excerpts from Senator Russell Feingold's response to President Bush's admission that he has authorized illegal wiretaps of American citizens:

"The President's shocking admission that he authorized the National Security Agency to spy on American citizens, without going to a court and in violation of the Constitution and laws passed by Congress, further demonstrates the urgent need for these protections. The President believes that he has the power to override the laws that Congress has passed. This is not how our democratic system of government works. The President does not get to pick and choose which laws he wants to follow. He is a president, not a king.

On behalf of all Americans who believe in our constitutional system of government, I call on this Administration to stop this program immediately and to fully cooperate with congressional inquiries and investigations. We have had enough of an Administration that puts itself above the law and the Constitution."

Well said, Senator Feingold. Many of us "have had enough of an Administration that puts itself above the law and the Constitution."

The silence of Southern Baptist denominational leaders on revelations about this administration's authorization of pre-emptive war, illegal wiretaps, torture, and lies is deafening. Then again, for the Fundamentalists and Dominionists that took over the SBC, their ends have always justified the means.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Electronic Voting Machines Easily Hacked

Tests on the electronic voting machines in Florida are revealing how easy it is for hackers to alter the votes that are recorded. It's so easy that "eighth-graders" could do it. Here's a quote:

Thompson told The Herald he was "shocked" at how easy it was to get in, make the loser the winner and leave without a trace. The machine asked for a user name and password, but didn't require it, he said. That meant it had not just a "front door, but a back door as big as a garage," Thompson said.

From there, Thompson said, he typed five lines of computer code -- and switched 5,000 votes from one candidate to another.

"I am positive an eighth grader could do this," Thompson said.

Here's another one:

"These were sold as safe systems. They passed tests as safe systems," Sancho said. "But even in the so-called safe system, if you don't follow the paper ballots, there is a way to rig the election. Except it's not a bunch of guys stuffing ballots in a precinct. It's possibly one person acting in secret changing thousands of votes in a second."

Predictably, machine manufacturers and election officials are basically saying, "Just trust us."

Friday, December 16, 2005

Once More on the 'Friend or Foe' Christmas Campaign

The Center for Baptist Studies at Mercer University has posted the December 2005 issue of the Baptist Studies Bulletin.

The issue includes both Brent Walker's essay "Is there a war on Christmas?" and an essay I wrote entitled "Jerry Falwell's 'Friend or Foe' Christmas Campaign" that discusses last year's live nativity controversy at a public school in Mustang, Oklahoma.

AU Opposes Confirmation of Alito

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has just released a 22 page report (pdf) detailing why the organization believes Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito would be a threat to established church/state jurisprudence.

Here's the first paragraph of the report:
According to Judge Samuel A. Alito, Jr., the First Amendment puts few limitations on politically powerful majorities' ability to use the machinery of government to advance their religious views, even at the expense of the religious freedom of minorities. Replacing Justice Sandra Day O'Connor with Judge Alito would fundamentally alter First Amendment law and immediately put at risk many of the crucual protections for religious minorities that the Supreme Court has recognized and consistently enforced over the past sixty years.

In a press release issued with the report, Barry Lynn, Executive Director of AU said,
Judge Alito appears to be exactly what the extreme right wants for the nation's top court a judge eager to seriously weaken the wall separating religion and government. As a federal appeals court judge, Alito has consistently sided with powerful religious groups who have sought government help in promoting their work.

In my opinion, religious liberty for everyone -- not just Christians -- is our first freedom. It's the first freedom because it is the bedrock foundation upon which every other form of freedom rests. It secures our right to a free conscience and protects the rights of minorities. If you can strip away the right of any minority to worship as they please, to be free from indoctrination into someone else's religion, and to be exempt from paying taxes to support someone else's faith, then you can undermine any other right that minorities enjoy in our society.

I encourage others to join AU in opposing the confirmation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

Congress Addresses "War on Christmas"

Thanks to Lorie Johnson at Talk to Action for calling attention to the debate in Congress over the so-called "War Against Christmas."

Kudos to Congressmen Ackerman, Scott and Dingell for their remarks on this issue.

Progressive Christians Arrested at Capitol

Associated Baptist Press reports that more than 100 progressive Christian leaders were arrested at the nation's capitol Wednesday. They were protesting budget cuts to services for the poor.

Kudos to those arrested for challenging the unethical priorities and immoral values that are being reflected in the budget of the most prosperous nation in the history of the world.

Lawmakers increasingly think they can dump the poor, the sick and the disabled at the doorstep of the church or synangogue or mosque or temple and walk away.

Houses of worship do not have the resources to provide the physical and material necessities for those that American society has discarded and abandoned in their hour of need.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Rhetoric of Religious Right Threatening to Jews

Reuters has published a story revealing how the rhetoric of the Religious Right is beginning to worry the Jewish community in America. Here's a quote:

"Every room (from bedroom to classroom) in the American mansion is under assault to impose either de facto or de jure a Christian theocracy -- I call them Christocrats," said Rabbi James Rudin, former head of interreligious activities for the American Jewish Committee.

"They are people who believe there should be a legally mandated Christian nation, where the concept of separation of church and state is weakened or abandoned," he added.

A Step in the Right Direction

President Bush and Senator John McCain have announced that this administration has agreed to support McCain's legislation banning the use of torture.

This is a step in the right direction. It is shameful that it had to overcome so much opposition from the White House.

Ode to Addie Davis

Addie Davis, the first Southern Baptist woman to be ordained as a pastor, recently died. Associated Baptist Press and Ethics Daily have printed stories about her.

Adrian Rogers, first president in the fundamentalist takeover of the SBC -- a movement that creedally prohibited Southern Baptists from ordaining women to serve as pastors, preceeded her in death by a short time.

Now that the two of them have met their maker, I am confident that they both clearly see what their Lord meant when he said, "The first shall be last, and the last shall be first."

Moderate Baptists Chide Walmart

Ethics Daily has published a report that "Baptist Leaders Call Walmart to Higher Standard." Moderate Baptists, all of them.

Southern Baptists, on the other hand, have a history of defending plantation economics.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

On Being Oblivious to Politics

David Michael Green, Professor of Political Science at Hofstra University, has written an essay that ought to be required reading for everyone under thirty-five (Green also addressed his essay to those over thirty-five, but I'm afraid most of them still prefer watching Fox News and the 700 Club to surfing the internet). Green's essay is entitled, "It's your life: An Open Letter to Young (and Less Young) Americans." Here's a quote:

Within the broad constraints dictated by nature, humans choose their own destinies, and they do so through the mechanism of politics.

No one can be blamed for sometimes seeing politics as a slimy affair (though it is occasionally quite noble). But everyone should be blamed for ignoring politics and assuming that their lives and society's welfare will be unaffected. Obliviousness is no excuse.

The ancient Greeks had a name for the totally private person, the person uninvolved in the politics of their time. We use the word a bit differently now, but perhaps we should reconsider. Arguably, the Greeks had it right when they described someone who stood by and watched politics happen to them as an "idiot".

It's your life. Will you stand by while others screw it up?

Reproducing Southern Baptists

Ethics Daily has posted a couple stories about the new imperative among Southern Baptists to reproduce. Bob Allen has a story about how "Under-Population Worries Southern Baptist Leader" Al Mohler. Miguel De La Torre has an article about how this "'Full-Quiver' Theology Appeals to Race".

Jesus commanded Christians to "make disciples," not "make babies." The kingdom of God does not grow by biological reproduction, it grows by spiritual reproduction.

The Genesis command for mankind to "be fruitful and multiply" has been amply fulfilled. Cities the world over are teaming with evidence of that. In a world that is struggling to find, produce, equitably distribute, and preserve the resources necessary to sustain life, the responsible thing for Christians to do is to have fewer children than they had before modern forms of birth control became available.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

BJC on Respecting Religious Diversity During Holidays

Brent Walker, Executive Director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty, has some sound words on the need for respect for religious diversity during the Holiday season. Here's a quote:

Then why are these culture warriors bound to start a brouhaha in the midst of the love, joy, peace and hope of Advent?

It's part of a concerted effort to affirm the mythical "Christian nation" status of the United States. (By the way, the Puritans and many other religious people well into the 19th century refused to celebrate Christmas because they thought it was unchristian and not supported by Scripture). So, in the words of the title of the Beatles song, "I, Me, Mine," it's all about ME and the brash assertion of MY supposed right to impose my religion on others. Moreover, and I hope it is not a too jaded thought, these bombastic diatribes about a war on Christmas attract publicity and make for good fund raising. (Truth be known, the Christmas spirit is threatened more by runaway commercialism -- beginning just after Halloween! -- than by any supposed cultural hostility to a holiday that more than 90 percent of our citizens celebrate.)

On Truthless Art

I discovered a remarkable contrast to the superlative artistry of Harold Pinter. The Woodstock Guild of Artists has been accused of abdicating the field of political image making:

It is to note that is this case, the artists abdicated. Universally.

No czar or commissar told them to, no corporate sponsor paid them to, nobody from Homeland Security came around and hinted that they would be taking names, no influential critic said the age of relevance is dead, no greedy gallery owner said I can't sell anything with a political or social theme.

It is to suggest that this is symptomatic of "art" in general.

It is content to leave political image making to Karl Rove and Osama bin Laden. To leave social statements to Target and Toyota -- yes, "consume, consume, consume" to the neglect of anything else, is a social statement.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Baptist Joint Committee Starts "Blog From The Capital"

Kudos to The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty for starting a daily Blog From the Capital.

This will be another link on my daily reading list.

White House Linked to Moyers Ouster

According to an essay posted on the CBS news website, White House aide Karl Rove was directly linked to the PBS fiasco that led to Bill Moyers resignation. Here's a quote:

An investigation by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's inspector general, Kenneth Konz, found that its former chair, Kenneth Tomlinson, consistently violated its statutory provisions and the Director's Code of Ethics. Thanks to Konz, we now know that Tomlinson was receiving advice and possibly instructions directly from the top -- (acting President) Karl Rove.

It's hard to believe America's second most influential politician (just behind Dick Cheney), while being investigated for possibly illegally leaking the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame, cared enough about PBS's prime-time programming to plot the overthrow of Bill Moyers. But the e-mail traffic appears to bear it out.

This administration's unprecedented attacks on our nation's free press have more in common with the tactics of totalitarian dictatorships than with the responses expected from the leaders of a democracy.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Bill Gates Worried about a Bankrupt U.S.

A coule days ago,Bill Gates, Sr., father of the Bill Gates of Microsoft fame, gave a speech in which he quoted Wall Street tycoon Pete Peterson who says he is worried about a "pending U.S. bankruptcy."

I'm worried too. Reports like yesterday's AP article on "U.S. Foreign Money Addiction Means Trouble" are becoming routine.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Alabama's Ayatollah

John Sugg, has a very revealing article on his website that asks of Roy Moore "Is he the 'Ayatollah of Alabama'?" Here's a quote:
Should Moore win the gubernatorial race, there will be considerable clamor for him to seek the GOP's 2008 presidential nomination. He flirted with a 2004 presidential run on the ticket of the Constitution Party. That outfit was founded by those in the unabashedly theocratic Christian Reconstruction movement, which thunders that the prescription for America's ills is embracing Old Testament laws: mass executions of gays, blasphemers and other sinners; and reserving participation in government for the "faithful."

Friday, December 09, 2005

Student Newspaper at UC Davis Quotes Blog

The Daily Student Newspaper of the University of California, Davis -- The California Aggie -- included a quote from my 12/2/05 blog in their article on "Jerry Falwell launches 'Friend or Foe' Christmas Campaign."

Tis the Season for Religious Bullies

Controversy has arisen over the annual "Christmas" parade in Norman, Oklahoma changing its name to "Holiday" parade. An article entitled, "Christmas or Holiday" appeared in the Norman Transcript Wednesday.

Here's a letter that I wrote to the editor of the Norman Transcript:

Tis the Season for Religious Bullies

Christmas once was associated with the "Prince of Peace," but some religious bullies are turning the season into an annual offensive in their culture war.

Last year, the committee organizing Norman's annual December parade changed the name from "Christmas Parade" to "Holiday Parade." The committee, comprised entirely of practicing Christians, says they did so in a benevolent and generous attempt "to embrace community members of all faiths."

Some members of the community and at least one State Representative have publicly expressed their disapproval of the name change. While doing so, they have maligned the good intentions of the parade committee and falsely accused "secular progressives" of trying to "sanitize" things.

I think it is well past time for Christians to begin exercising some spiritual discernment and start reflecting on the message that they are sending to people in this community who do not share their faith. Non-Christians are not second-class citizens in the city of Norman.

The spirit being expressed by the religious bullies in our community is one of dominance, belligerence, and superiority. Such a spirit has nothing to do with the Spirit of Christ. The Spirit of Christ is one that serves others, promotes peace, and elevates others to a position of love and friendship.

Speaking the Truth at the Peak of Artistry

Thanks to Common Dreams for posting Harold Pinter's Nobel Lecture. It is a truly remarkable speech. Here's a quote:

A writer's life is a highly vulnerable, almost naked activity. We don't have to weep about that. The writer makes his choice and is stuck with it. But it is true to say that you are open to all the winds, some of them icy indeed. You are out on your own, out on a limb. You find no shelter, no protection - unless you lie - in which case of course you have constructed your own protection and, it could be argued, become a politician.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Falwell's Schoolmate Writes Blog

Jerry Sloan, a former schoolmate of Jerry Falwell, has posted an interesting blog at the Talk to Action website. Here's a quote:

I am happy to be, as far as I know, the only person to have proven Jerry Falwell a liar in two courts and before four judges.

Somehow I completely missed this incident when it happened.

Religious Leaders Discuss Trade Policy with Condolezza Rice

Ethics Daily is reporting that Daniel Vestal, Coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, was among the religious leaders who met with U.S. Secretary of State Condolezza Rice to discuss the impact of U.S. foreign trade policy on third world nations.

Conspicuously absent was anyone representing the Southern Baptist Convention.

North Carolina Moderates May Leave State Convention

Moderate, mainstream Baptists in North Carolina seem to be giving up on working with the Fundamentalists who control the Baptist Convention in that state.

ABP has published a story about N.C. moderates ponder alternatives to support colleges, agencies."

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A Nation Where Non-Christians Know Their Place

Thanks to Michelle Goldberg, author of the essay "How the Secular Humanist Grinch Didn't Steal Christmas" in Salon Magazine for her blog today on "Anti-Semitism and the Christian Warriors" at Talk to Action. These paragraphs reminded me why colonial Baptists and most Baptists through history, until 1979, insisted on having full religious liberty and not merely toleration:

On November 17th, as the invaluable website Media Matters documented, Fox News anchor Gibson, author of "The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought," appeared on Christian radio host Janet Parshall's show. (Parshall, incidentally, is the host of the hagiographic documentary "George W. Bush: Faith in the White House" and, under Bush, has been an American delegate to the United Nations). People who follow the "wrong religion," said Gibson, "We know who they're going to have to answer to." But in the meantime, he said, "[A]s long as they're civil and behave, we tolerate the presence of other religions around us without causing trouble, and I think most Americans are fine with that tradition."

In fact, this sounds more like dhimmi tradition than the American one, in which Jews and Christians in Muslim countries were allowed to practice their religion as long as they submitted to their Islamic rulers and recognized their subservient status. That's the version of tolerance many on the Christian right seem to be espousing lately. Non-Christians don't have to convert, they just have to know their place.

Rediscovering the Real America

Ethics Daily has posted an essay by former President Jimmy Carter entitled "This isn't the Real America."

This essay is a good introduction to some of what Carter says in his new book, "Our Endangered Values."

I highly recommend this book. Scores of people recommended it to me because it speaks about the fundamentalism of those who are running our government and the takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention. Now that I have read the book myself, I can say that it does a good job of introducing non-Baptists to the facts of the SBC takeover and the influence of fundamentalism, particularly dispensational premillenialism, on our foreign policy.

The book's strength, however, is that it explains in the simplest terms that the current administration is caught in a web of lies and misrepresentations, that the war in Iraq is "unjust," that the intelligence that led us to war was "fixed," that our government is guilty of violating the Geneva Conventions by employing torture (sometimes to the point of the death of detainees) gathering information, that our foreign policy in regard to North Korea, Syria and Iran is on a path that leads to greater conflict and war rather than to peace, and that civil rights guaranteed American citizens since the founding of our country are in danger of being permanently relinquished. And, there's a lot more than this in Jimmy Carter's new book.

Simply put, "Our Endangered Values" is essential reading for modern Americans.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

On Secret Gulags

AlterNet has published a revealing article by Amy Goodman on "Torture and Secrecy Scandal Intensifies."

I can only stomach revelations like these in small doses. Unfortunately, revolting slop like this is becoming a staple in the American diet.

On Opposing Insensitivity

Ethics Daily has posted the opening monologue from last Sunday's Religious Talk radio program on its website.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Church and State in Nazi Germany

Since the forums Mainstream Baptists held last week on "Theologians Under Hitler," I've been interested in the relations between church and state in Nazi Germany. Here's a quote that I found in one of the many books on my bookshelf that I have not previously had time to read:

The former Socialist Weimar Republic had no religious interest, and stood for a separation of State and Church. . . .

The new National Socialist State gave up this indifferent neutrality towards the Church. . . . they believe it impossible . . . to leave religious education and influence entirely to the individual conscience, as was done in America, where experience shows that full individual religious liberty leads to such an estrangement between religion and culture that millions of children and adolescents have no longer the slightest knowledge of the elementary facts of Christian life and history, and where the State suffers from the lack of the moral influence in the education of its citizens. The National Socialist ideology recognizes the cultural value of religion, and appreciates the moral influence of the Christian Church as a means for uplifting the moral level of, and for unifying conflicting tendencies within, the nation.

Hitler himself has declared repeatedly that he believes in the religious and moral values of a 'positive Christianity,' and that he is 'willing to protect the two great Christian confessions in their rights, to prevent any interference in their doctrine, and to re-establish harmony between their duties and the claims and conceptions of the State.' Heinrich Himmler, the Reichsfuhrer of the elite of the National Socialist Party, in an address to the German peasants, quoted a kind of catechism for the members of his organization, according to which the question: 'Do you believe in a God?' has to be answered: 'Yes, I believe, and judge that a man who does not, is self-conceited, stupid, suffers from megalomania, and is not fit for us.' Minister Kerrl even goes so far as to say that a religious faith is the foundation of the State.

The 'Christian religion' has, therefore, in the opinion of the Party, a very definite and recognized place in the ideology of National Socialism. The State desires a close relation between culture and religion, but 'it cannot be a confessor, or decide in favour of one historical Church.' It is friendly in regard to religion, but neutral in regard to confessional distinctions. It protects and promotes Christianity as a whole, but grants full liberty to its members in regard to their confessional allegiance. The official definition of the State in Hitler's Mein Kampf, without mentioning religion, keeps itself open to the influences of higher spiritual and moral values; and other declarations invite the Churches to collaborate with the State for the full development of a free national culture.

Adolf Keller, Church and State on the European Continent (London: The Camelot Press, 1936), pp. 123-24.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Regarding the so-called "War Against Christmas"

Following is the opening monologue from my "Religious Talk" radio program this morning.

On this day thirty-three years ago, I was attending the police academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico preparing to become a police officer in that city. I was one of about 30 young men and women who were completing our last month of training before we would be commissioned. During that last month, the city of Albuquerque incorporated a lot of discussion and dialogue with the leaders of civic groups like the NAACP, the American Indian Movement, and La Raza.

I was part of the professionalization of law enforcement that was taking place through programs put in place by then president Richard Nixon to reduce tensions between civil rights groups and police departments after the riots and civil disturbances that followed the civil rights era and the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. Those tensions were still very much alive when I became a police officer. Less than a year before I entered the police academy, the city of Albuquerque had experienced a race riot in which police cars were overturned, businesses were burnt to the ground and the police station was surrounded by an angry rock throwing mob. There were very good reasons for the city of Albuquerque to be encouraging dialogue between police officers and the city's civil rights leaders.

Not surprisingly, some veteran police officers were assigned to attend the various sessions in which we were to dialogue with civil rights leaders. It did not take long to learn why some of the department's veterans needed sensitivity training. The first session involved a leader from the African American community who advised police recruits that it was not wise to address black males by calling them, "boy." He said such language is derogatory, demeaning, and disrespectful when addressed to African-American males because it harkens back to the way slave masters addressed slaves on the plantations in the South. That suggestion was followed by an extended two hour argument by two police veterans who insisted they saw no harm in calling black males who were younger than them "boys" and argued that they had a civil right to continue to address them in the way that they had always addressed them.

A month later, when I graduated from the police academy, I was assigned to serve in the squad of one of those veterans. I worked with him for the next two years. During that time, I learned that he faithfully attended the Baptist church in his neighborhood and that he had taught a young men's Sunday School class. He was a better police officer than his argument with civil rights leaders at the police academy that day would indicate. But, I could never understand why he refused to practice the golden rule with people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. He simply had a moral blind spot when it came to being sensitive to people of a different race.

I mention this because it has become obvious to me that many Christians in this country are displaying a moral blind spot when it comes to being sensitive to people of a different faith. Today it is no longer socially acceptable to be prejudice against Jews and African-Americans, but it is fine to spew out hatred of secular humanists, homosexuals, liberals, Muslims and people of other faiths. A lot of Christians are displaying the same bigoted, prejudice and insensitive attitude toward people of other religions that they used to express toward people of different races.

Worse than that is the campaign that many of these Christians are now waging to bully businesses, public schools and politicians into displaying the same insensitivity toward people of other faiths that they insist on exhibiting themselves. This morning, any business or public school or politician with the sensitivity to try to include people of other faiths in their greetings this holiday season is being declared a "foe" of Christianity. Anyone who says "happy holidays" or "season's greetings" instead of Merry Christmas can no longer be considered a "friend" of Christ according to Jerry Falwell and fundamentalist Christians. Target stores are being boycotted and the city of Boston has been ridiculed for lighting a "holiday tree."

Well, I have never been a "friend" of Jerry Falwell's and it has been a long time since fundamentalist Christians considered me friendly. If Jerry Falwell wants to divide people into "friends or foes" each Christmas, he's going to find me firmly on his list foes.

All of the arguments that Falwell uses for his "Friend or Foe" Christmas campaign remind me of the arguments that those old police veterans used for continuing to call African-American males "boys." Those veterans said "political correctness" was depriving them of freedom of speech, they said the government was persecuting "white people" for their religious beliefs about the need for the segregation of the races, and they argued that their culture and their way of life was being "discriminated against."

If Falwell is looking for evidence that I am a "foe" of his brand of bullying Christianity, he need look no farther than an entry that I posted on my personal weblog this week.

It is time for thinking Christians to start discerning the spirits on issues like this. The spirit at work amongst Falwell and fundamentalist Christians is a spirit of dominance, belligerence, and superiority. Most moderate, mainstream Christians are repelled by this spirit when it manifests itself in the church. Why some would find it attractive when it manifests itself in the life of our society is beyond my comprehension. The spirit of fundamentalism has nothing to do with the Spirit of Jesus. This Spirit of Christ is one that serves others, promotes peace, and elevates the lowly to a position of love and friendship.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

On Political Corruption and Prayer Breakfasts

Molly Ivins essay about politicians "Impersonating the Lord" is a classic. Here's the conclusion:

So here we sit, watching a great, stinking skein of corruption being fished to the surface of Washington, while the town is simultaneously filled with a great babble about God, prayer and morality. Corruption trails head off in all directions -- lobbyists, wives, jobs, perverting intelligence, outing agents for petty revenge -- all this and a Prayer Breakfast every day.

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Greenspan Warns About Budget Deficit

Yesterday Alan Greenspan, outgoing Federal Reserve Chairman, has some dire predictions about the impact of the federal budget deficits on our economy.

I guess it is a little too late for him to retract his support for the tax cuts over the past five years that helped create the deficit.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Mainstream Baptists Sponsor Forum for Oklahoma Conference of Churches

Yesterday morning, Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists sponsored a forum for the Oklahoma Conference of Churches. The forum discussing the documentary "Theologians Under Hitler" was hosted by the Church of the Servant Methodist Church in Oklahoma City.

Moderating the forum was Dr. Robert Parham, Executive Director of the Baptist Center for Ethics who produced a study guide for the documentary. Participants, from left to right, were Rabbi Russell Fox of Emmanuel Synagogue in Oklahoma City, Rev. Tim Daerhamer of Resurrection Lutheran Church in Yukon, and Rev. T Thomas, Coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Oklahoma.

Last evening, Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists sponsored another forum at the Oklahoma City Public Library. Forum participants for that discussion of the documentary were, from left to right, Robert Parham, moderator, Cathy Pettijohn, Director of Holocaust Research Education for the Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City, Rev. Don Vaught, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches, and Rev. Tim Daerhamer.

Both conferences were well attended, highly informative, and generated much thoughtful dialogue and discussion.

Jerry Falwell's Select List of Christmas "Foes"

Across the nation, Jerry Falwell and his Liberty Counsel affiliate are currently waging a "Friend or Foe" Christmas campaign in their culture war to make America a "Christian Nation."

Essentially, except for President Bush and his wife, everyone who substitutes "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greetings" for "Merry Christmas" has been labelled a "foe" of Christianity.

Falwell has been getting a lot of press over this campaign. It is a shame that the press doesn't know to ask him why he has abandoned the faith of his Baptist ancestors.

Early Baptists were concerned with sharing the gospel, not with preserving the culture of renamed pagan symbols or the language that merchants use to greet their customers.

The idea that naming trees either "Christmas" or "Holiday" has anything to do with making disciples would have been as foreign to the early Baptists as it is to Jesus.

The Jesus of the Bible never saw a "Christmas" tree and he never commanded anyone to make merchants greet people with a "Merry Christmas."

This entry is cross-posted from the Talk to Action website.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Patriarchy and the SBC

Again, Bob Allen at Ethics Daily does an outstanding job of calling attention to the call for "biblical patriarchy" at Southern Seminary. Here's a link to his story "Southern Baptist Professor Touts "Biblical Patriarchy".

Do the insecure, sexist men running the SBC know anything about the "new creation?" When will they ever acquire enough personal "power" to have the self-confidence to relate to women in Christian love as "equals?"