Wednesday, December 28, 2005
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.
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
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.
Monday, December 26, 2005
...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
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 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)
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)
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)
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).
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.
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)
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)
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).
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)
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.
"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.
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
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
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.
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."
It sets the record straight about a lot of tall tales being told by the Religious Right and Fox News.
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
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."
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
I agree that these terms are preferable to "Pro-life" vs. "Pro-choice."
Sunday, December 18, 2005
"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
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
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.
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.
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
"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.
This is a step in the right direction. It is shameful that it had to overcome so much opposition from the White House.
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."
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
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?
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
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.)
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
This will be another link on my daily reading list.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
Conspicuously absent was anyone representing the Southern Baptist Convention.
ABP has published a story about N.C. moderates ponder alternatives to support colleges, agencies."
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
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.
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
Monday, December 05, 2005
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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?"