Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Oklahoma City's Open Secret

Andrew Gumbel has written a story about alleged accomplices of Timothy McVeigh that got away.

Those who follow this story closely have long known that the Christian Identity compound known as Elohim City in eastern Oklahoma was linked in some way to the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

On "Biblical Morality"

A few weeks ago I heard my friend Rob Abiera explain why he organized "Gay-OKC." He told a large gathering of community activists that ten years ago he read an article in a Tulsa newspaper about a "Christian" group that wanted to elect candidates for public office that would institute the death penalty for sodomy. In their eyes, that was what "biblical morality" required.

Until that time, the gay community in Oklahoma City lived mostly in the closet. When Rob realized what "biblical morality" means to some "inerrantist" and "literalist" Christians, his sexual orientation and identity suddenly became an issue of life or death. That was when he began calling Oklahoma City homosexuals out of the closet and started organizing events that would make them visible to the rest of the community.

A few days ago (Feb. 14th) Max Blumenthal wrote a blog about Gary DeMar, Christian Reconstructionist founder of American Vision and long a rising star within the political Christian right, who was recently interviewed on American Family Radio. Blumenthal offers a quotation from DeMar's Ruler of the Nations: Biblical Principles for Government (Dominion Press, 1987):
The law that requires the death penalty for homosexual acts effectually drives the perversion of homosexuality back into the closet...The long term goal [is] the execution of abortionists and parents who hire them. If we argue that abortion is murder, then we must call for the death penalty.
The time is coming, and now is, when Christians are going to have to choose their friends on this issue.

Seventy years ago, good Christian men and women in Germany turned their backs on their homosexual and Jewish friends. In their worst nightmares they never dreamed what that choice would mean.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Real Live Preacher's Real Life Experience

Real Live Preacher posted a blog a few days back (This is How it Happened -- Feb. 23rd) about his real life experience wrestling with the most challenging ethical issue facing contemporary Christians.

Some Christians understand his struggle. Some don't. I do.

Kudos to RLP for perceiving "the wideness of God's mercy" and standing with his friends. Jesus also had some "heretical" (check the Greek root) friendships.

Wages Reduced for Workers Under Age 45

The Christian Science Monitor has published a story revealing that "America's Younger Workers are Losing Ground on Income." Here's a quote:
Thus, despite a boom in worker productivity, "what the typical family or typical worker has to show for it has been remarkably little," says Dean Baker, an economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington.

From 2001 to 2004 the median household income fell 8 percent for householders under age 35.

Paul Krugman has written an article that reveals that a college education adds little to the average income of younger workers. Here's a quote:
Highly educated workers have done better than those with less education, but a college degree has hardly been a ticket to big income gains. The 2006 Economic Report of the President tells us that the real earnings of college graduates actually fell more than 5 percent between 2000 and 2004. Over the longer stretch from 1975 to 2004 the average earnings of college graduates rose, but by less than 1 percent per year.

If these young workers weren't so busy working overtime or working two jobs to pay back their student loans and other debts, they would probably read articles like Krugman's and the one in the Christian Science Monitor and grow to resent being exploited.

Some day Americans, young and old, are going to wake-up and realize that conservative, trickle down, supply-side economics does not produce a rising tide that lifts all boats. Only the yachts have been given enough slack to be able to rise with the tide of productive labor, everything else has been moored to the bottom of the wharf.

On Southern Baptists Replacing Public Schools

Thanks to Ethics Daily for calling attention to an article in the Florida Baptist newspaper by Ed Gamble, head of the Southern Baptist Association of Christian Schools. Here are some quotes from the Ethics Daily story:

"What is needed," Gamble continued, "is a new 'public' school system, one that is open to the public but owned and operated by the Body of Christ."

Gamble asked readers to imagine "what if" the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant denomination, opened its largely empty church buildings during the week to start thousands of Christian schools to replace America's public-education system.

"Funding is not the problem, faith is," Gamble said. "Would God honor such a grand vision for making disciples by providing every needed resource? He will!"

"Ask God to give us America's children," Gamble said. "When Jesus owns the schools, He will own the culture and the hearts of the children!"

Bob Allen notes that Gamble was opposed to the SBC resolution last summer that called for Baptists to pull their children out of public schools. That resolution was not "mainstream," he said, "the language is inflammatory." Though his language is not "inflammatory," Gamble's proposal is not "mainstream" either.

Replacing America's public schools with a system of Southern Baptist indoctrination centers would only serve to advance the same cause that last summer's "Dominionist" resolution was attempting to accomplish -- the destruction of America's public school system. A goal that has been on the minds of some Baptists in the South since the day that public schools were integrated.

The purges that Southern Baptists have conducted at their seminaries, on the mission field, and throughout the Convention demonstrates that their intentions have nothing to do with education and everything to do with indoctrination.

Genuine Baptists change lives and transform culture by the proclamation of the gospel, not by indoctrinating children into "a biblical worldview." The SBC's organized attempts to impose that same "worldview" on the rest of American society by legislation and adjudication are not genuinely Baptist either.

Southern Baptists have lost confidence in the "foolishness of preaching" in regard to changing hearts and transforming lives. They think it must be supplemented by what they call a "Kingdom Education." Until Southern Baptists recover their confidence in the gospel and their respect for "soul liberty," they will continue to blame the public schools and the culture for the failures of their own scapegoat blaming preaching and coercive public witnessing.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Conscience of a Cartoonist

Doug Marlette is my favorite cartoonist. He's one of the most sensitive voices anywhere concerning the hounding of cartoonist's to near extinction. Few professions have ever been so vulnerable to criticism.

Here's a link to what Marlette has to say about the Danish cartoon crisis. He needs to be heard. With the article is one of Marlette's cartoons that subjected him to death threats. Below is an analysis of that cartoon that I sent to one of my friends with the Institute for Interfaith Dialog.

Be advised that Marlette has drawn at least one cartoon that could be considered offensive to Muslims. Here's a link to his website:

In his defense, I would note that his question "What would Mohammed Drive?" is a twist on an evangelical Christian campaign that asked "What would Jesus Drive?"

He has a picture of a Ryder Truck -- which is a twist on the Christian Identity bomber Timothy McVeigh who drove a Ryder Truck with a bomb in it to the Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

Inside the Ryder Truck is a nuclear missile -- which is what President Bush and evangelicals say is what the "war on terror" is supposed to prevent. The obvious, openly visible missile could be considered to be a subtle critique of Bush's fears about Saddam's hidden WMD -- where are they? Did he rent trucks and move them out of Iraq?

There's no doubt that Marlette's cartoon does lend itself to perpetuating the image of Mohammad as a terrorist. On that score, I criticize him and disapprove of this particular caricature.

When Jerry Falwell called Mohammed a Terrorist, I placed an advertisement in the Norman Transcript challenging him. Here's a link to that advertisement:

Marlette, however, is not like Falwell. He is not trying to paint a one-sided caricature of Islam and Mohammed. He is also caricaturizing America and Christianity.

The cartoon is a very astute critique of America and Christianity. We have our own homegrown extremists who call themselves Christians. We already have nuclear missiles. We have as much to fear from extremist Christians aquiring WMD as we have to fear about extremist Muslims acquiring WMD. Nothing represented in the cartoon about Mohammed in not also true about American Christianity.

The ambiguity of the cartoon is what makes Marlette so effective. He offers a critique of both sides of the controversy.

Unfortunately, sometimes the sublties of what he is doing are not readily apparent to either side.

Krugman on the Ports and Terrorism

Truthout has posted a Paul Krugman essay on Osama, Saddam and the Ports.

Basically, he says "What goes around, comes around."

Friday, February 24, 2006

Bill Bright and the Rise of the Religious Right

One of the key leaders of the Religious Right is often overlooked. Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade, had a larger role than a lot of people realize.

In 1974 and 1975 Bill Bright convened a series of secret meetings with 20-25 key Christian Right leaders. They formed Third Century Publishers to publish books and study guides to link their political agenda with conservative Christianity. They needed a tax-exempt foundation to receive donations to help them with the for-profit Third Century Publishers. Bright with the help of Richard DeVoss, president of Amway Corp., and Art DeMoss, board chairman of National Liberty Insurance Co., took over the financially troubled Christian Freedom Foundation to solicit funds for their publishing company. They hired Ed McAteer to run it. DeMoss later publicly stated that the purpose of CFF was to elect Christian conservatives to Congress in 1976:

"The vision is to rebuild the foundations of the Republic as it was when first founded--a 'Christian Republic.' We must return to the faith of our fathers." [John Saloma, Ominous Politics: The New Consevative Labrynth(pp. 53-54).

McAteer, a Baptist layman at Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis where Adrian Rogers was pastor, later founded the Religious Roundtable (1979). As the Religious Roundtable was getting organized, Bill Bright, along with evangelist Billy Graham, called a meeting in Dallas with ten or twelve influential conservative leaders. Among them were Adrian Rogers, Charles Stanley, Jimmy Draper, Pat Robertson, Rex Humbard, Clayton Bell (Billy Graham's brother-in-law), and James Robison.

Here's James Robison's account of the meeting as recorded in William Martin's With God on our Side, (pp. 206-07):

"Billy Graham said, 'I believe God has shown me that unless we have a change in America, we have a thousand days as a free nation . . . three years.' Bill Bright said, 'I know. . . . I do not believe we'll survive more than three years as a free nation. It's that serious.' And Pat Robertson said, 'I believe the same thing.' Charles Stanley was standing there and I can just remember so well, he put his hand down on the table with resolve and said, 'I'll give my life to stop this. I'll give everything I've got to turn this country.' And I said, 'Me too. I'll die to turn this country. Whatever it takes. We can't lose the country.' And each man around the room said, 'we're going to get involved.' Except Rex Humbard. He said, 'I'm uncomfortable politically. I really am very uncomfortable.' And Dr. Graham said, 'I cannot publicly be involved. I can only pray. I've been burned so badly with the public relationships I've had. I can't afford it, but I care so much.'"

Shortly after that meeting, Charles Stanley fulfilled the pledge he made at the gathering by inviting scores of Georgia preachers to meet at his church for a "Campaign Training Conference" where Paul Weyrich, the key organizer of the political right, told them how to get their congregations involved without jeopardizing their churches' tax exemption. Weyrich has fond memories of the meeting. He said,

"I had [newspaper columnist] Bob Novak with me and he was absolutely in a state of shock. It was at that moment, he told me, that he decided Carter was going to lose, because minister after minister stood up and said, 'I was part of Carter's team in 1976. I delivered my congregation for Carter. I urged them to vote for Carter because I thought he was a moral individual. I found out otherwise, and I'm angry.' This was months before the election, and Novak said, 'I decided at that point that Jimmy Carter's goose was cooked because I saw the intensity of those people.' That was really an extraordinary moment. At one point, something was said about baptism, and Paige Patterson, who is now very big in the Southern Baptist Church, and some of his buddies lifted me up, physically, and started to carry me backwards to dunk me in the baptismal well there in the church. It was a humorous moment, and all the guys in the audience were cheering. But it was all done in good fun. It was a remarkable day, really."

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Scarborough's Vision for America

On May 8, 2005 Rick Scarborough was profiled on the front page of the Washington Post.  He had just organized a conference in Washington D.C. on "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith" which launched the movement against the filibuster in congress and inspired three  "Justice Sundays."  Tom DeLay called Scarborough "one of my closest friends."  He was also credited with organizing a network of 2000 "Patriot Pastors" that led evangelicals to the polls in 2004.  He's still working his network of "Patriot Pastors" to get the vote out for the elections this year.

Who is Rick Scarborough?

He's a Dominionist Southern Baptist minister who first emerged as a leader of young pastors who supported the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention.

In May 1989, when moderate, mainstream Baptists organized a last ditch effort to stop the fundamentalist takeover of the SBC, he organized a conference of young pastors to elect fundamentalists.  That effort was successful.

In September 1989 he organized a fundamentalist pastor's conference to precede the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) meeting -- a tactic that assisted fundamentalists in taking control over the SBC.  That effort was a failure.  Texas Baptists defeated the fundamentalist's candidate and changed their meeting schedule to make it difficult for fundamentalists to hold pre-convention rallies.

In 1990 he became pastor of the First Baptist Church in Pearland, Texas.  From that pulpit, with help from the fundamentalist leaders of the SBC that he helped elect, he continued to work to takeover the Texas Baptist state Convention.  His 1996 book Enough is Enough begins with two full page letters of endorsement.  One by Paige Patterson, then the President of Southeastern Baptist Seminary in North Carolina, the other by Jimmy Draper, then President of the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board in Tennessee.  The book was mailed to the pastors of all the churches in the Baptist General Convention of Texas.  That same year he ran against moderate incumbent Charles Wade for the presidency of the BGCT and lost by a 2-1 margin.

While in Pearland he moved from denominational politics to secular politics.  He helped elect members of his congregation to the city council and school board, and encouraged church members to fill top local government jobs -- including city manager and chief of police.  He also worked out a sweetheart deal with the city on the purchase of land for his church to relocate.  

In 1994, after a member of his congregation, Republican Steve Stockman, defeated long tenured Democratic Representative Jack Brooks for his seat in Congress, Scarborough credited political action by his church with helping Stockman win the election.  Unfortunately for his church, he bragged about it publicly in an article that he wrote for Jerry Falwell's Liberty Journal.  The IRS investigated his church and they nearly lost their tax exemption.  At one time pressures were so great at his church that he resigned, but Jerry Falwell wrote a letter to the church asking them to rescind his resignation and the church did.  

In 2002 Scarborough resigned the pastorate and began working full time for Vision America - a political organizing ministry he founded with the help of Jerry Falwell.  I've heard reports from credible sources that he preaches revivals with altar calls to register to vote.

He often promotes rallies around the country for Judge Roy Moore's 10 commandments monument.  The rally he organized in Dallas on April 3, 2004 was reported to have had 5000 participants.

We've not heard the last from Scarborough.  He's one of the best bellwether's I know for the designs and machinations of the Dominionist wing of the Southern Baptist Convention

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

On Francis Schaeffer's Christian Manifesto

Francis Schaeffer is widely credited with being the most influential person in leading evangelical Christians to oppose abortion. Many, however, are unaware of how instrumental he was in moving evangelical Christians toward political action and in motivating some Christian Reconstructionists toward civil disobedience (sometimes violent).

Here's some of the pertinent documentation from Francis Schaeffer's call for political action in his A Christian Manifesto. In a chapter on "The Limits of Civil Disobedience," Schaeffer sets forth the Scottish theocratic revolutionaries John Knox and Samuel Rutherford as his models. He quotes Jasper Ridley's appraisal of Knox's thought, "The theory of the justification of revolution is Knox's special contribution to theological and political thought." Then Schaeffer writes (emphasis mine),
"Whereas Reformers such as Martin Luther and John Calvin had reserved the right to rebellion to the civil rulers alone, Knox went further. He maintained that the common people had the right and duty to disobedience and rebellion if state officials ruled contrary to the Bible. To do otherwise would be rebellion against God." (p.97)
Schaeffer credits Knox's "theory of the justification of revolution" with planting the seeds that were later nurtured by men like Samuel Rutherford who wrote Lex Rex. Here's Schaeffer's analysis of Rutherford's thought (emphasis mine):
Rutherford argued that Romans 13 indicates that all power is from God and that government is ordained and instituted by God. The state, however, is to be administered according to the principles of God's Law. Acts of the state which contradict God's Law were illegitimate and acts of tyranny. Tyranny was defined as ruling without the sanction of God. (p. 100)
Then Schaeffer itemizes several of the arguments that Rutherford used to establish the right and duty to resist an "unlawful government" and leads to that chapter's exciting conclusion (emphasis mine):
Rutherford offered suggestions concerning illegitimate acts of the state. A ruler, he wrote, should not be deposed merely because he commits a single breach of the compact he has with the people. Only when the magistrate acts in such a way that the governing structure of a country is being destroyed - that is, when he is attacking the fundamental structure of society - is he to be relieved of his power and authority.

That is exactly what we are facing today. The whole structure of our society is being attacked and destroyed. It is being given an entirely opposite base which gives exactly the opposite results. The reversal is much more total and destructive than that which Rutherford or any of the Reformers faced in their day. (p.101-2)
These words were not written in the twenty-first century as our country is led by men who launch pre-emptive wars, suspend the constitution, engage in domestic spying, detain people without benefit of trial, violate the Geneva Conventions and justify torturing prisoners. These words were written in the early 1980's, as Ronald Reagan was beginning his Presidency.

The next chapter in Schaeffer's book is entitled, "The Use of Civil Disobedience" and in it he discusses the use of force. He writes (emphasis mine):
When discussing force it is important to keep an axiom in mind: always before protest or force is used, we must work for reconstruction. In other words, we should attempt to correct and rebuild society before we advocate tearing it down or disrupting it. (p. 106)
Then Schaeffer goes on to describe a situation in which there may be no other effective protest than civil disobedience (Italics are Schaeffer's):
The problem in relation to a state public school system is not just an abstract possibility. As I write, a case of undue entanglement and interference is in the courts in a situation that corresponds exactly to Samuel Rutherford's concept of the proper procedure for a corporate body to resist.

The state of Arkansas has passed a law allowing creation to be taught in the public schools. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is trying to have this law revoked, saying it violates the separation of church and state.

Here is a clear case fitting Rutherford's criteria. The State of Arkansas has passed a law. The courts are being used by the ACLU to try to nullify a state law which has the support of the original meaning of the First Amendment. The ACLU is arguing its case based on a certain concept of the separation of church and state. But it must be stressed that this concept is entirely new and novel from the viewpoint of the original intent of the First Amendment and the total intent of the Founding Fathers. This new separation concept is a product of the recent humanist dominance in the United States and is being used in this case to destroy the power of a properly elected state legislature's "sovereign" ruling.

The ACLU is acting as the arm of the humanist consensus to force its view on the majority of the Arkansas state officials.

If there was ever a clearer example of the lower "magistrates" being treated with tyranny, it would be hard to find. And this would be a time, if the appeal courts finally rule tyrannically, for the state government to protest and refuse to submit. This fits Rutherford's proper procedures exactly. (pp. 109-110)
Schaeffer's next chapter is entitled, "The Use of Force." It begins with these words,
There does come a time when force, even physical force, is appropriate. The Christian is not to take the law into his own hands and become a law unto himself. But when all avenues of flight and protest have closed, force in the defensive posture is appropriate. (p. 117)
Schaeffer goes on to encourage Christians to get involved politically and exercise political force. He contends that he is "in no way talking about any kind of theocracy." (p. 120) He adds,
We must not confuse the kingdom of God with our country. To say it another way: "We should not wrap Christianity in our national flag."

None of this, however, changes the fact that the United States was founded upon a Christian consensus, nor that we today should bring Judeo-Christian principles into play in regard to government. But that is very different from a theocracy in name or in fact. (p. 121)
Schaeffer is not fully in the Christian Reconstructionist camp. Neither does he seem completely to be a "Christian Nationalist." Rather, he appears to be advocating the establishment of a majoritarian religion in each state. Doing so, however, requires "strict constructionist", "state's rights" interpretations of the Constitution that ignore the influence of the 14th amendment on our jurisprudence since the civil war.

Stingy Mega-Church Giving Model Crippling SBC

Ethics Daily has posted an outstanding story recounting the influence of the example of Cooperative Program giving set forth by the leaders of the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Today SBC leaders are trying to promote an example of Cooperative Program giving that was being practiced by the moderate leaders who were deemed too "liberal" to be trusted as leaders of the SBC.

Moderates were indeed "liberal" in their giving to support the missionaries, agencies and institutions of the Southern Baptist Convention. Many still give "liberally" -- but their money now goes to support the work of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, not the SBC.

The Fundamentalist mega-church preachers who took over the Southern Baptist Convention have never stepped up and assumed the financial stewardship reponsibilities that their positions of leadership required of them.

Twenty-five years later, as they are dying and passing off the scene, it looks like they never will.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Top Thinker Calls Neoconservativism a Failure

Francis Fukuyama, a leading neo-conservative thinker, has labelled the ideology a failure.

Neo-conservatism is the philosophy of top foreign policy strategists in this administration.

Southern Baptists on the Council for National Policy

I've been busy doing some research for a workshop on "Who's Who in the Religious Right" that I will be leading at the National Mainstream Convocation in Richmond, VA later this week.

A little closer look at the roster of people who have been members of the Council for National Policy disclosed more Southern Baptists than I had previously realized. Here's a brief description of the Council for National Policy and a list of the Southern Baptists who have been members:

In 1981 Tim LaHaye left the pastorate and founded the secretive Council for National Policy (CNP) -- an exclusive conservative Christian lobbying group that meets three times a year. It brings influential conservative Christian leaders together behind closed doors with America's most powerful conservative politicians, journalists, lawyers, and industrialists to strategize about politics and public policy. Start-up funds came from Cullen Davis and Nelson Bunker Hunt. Membership is by invitation only and annual dues are several thousand dollars. Guests attend meetings only with the unanimous approval of the executive committee. The membership list is a Who's Who of the Religious Right and of the politicians pushing their agenda. Southern Baptists who are members include Paul Pressler, who was president of their Executive Committee 1988-90 and in 1994; Paul Pressler IV (his son), Paige Patterson, Ed McAteer (Religious Roundtable), James Robison, Jay Strack, Jerry Falwell, and Rick Scarborough (Vision America), Coy Privette (served as a trustee at Southeastern Seminary), Alan Sears (President and CEO of the Alliance Defense Fund, served as a member of Executive Board of SBC), Ann Frazier (from North Carolina, served as a NAMB Trustee), Robbie Hughes (from Mississippi, served as member of SBC Public Affairs Committee) Andrew Lester (layman at FBC OKC), Lawson Ridgeway (deacon at FBC Dallas), Dal Shealy (1998 President/CEO Fellowship of Christian Athletes, deacon FBC Kansas City, MO, served on the board of trustees Carson-Newman College), Jim R. Smith (deacon at Second Baptist Houston, served as board member and executive committee member at Houston Baptist University), Steve Stockman (former U.S. Congressman, member FBC Houston).

On Practices Prosecutable as Torture

The Washington Post reports that the Senior Lawyer at Pentagon Broke Ranks on Detainees.

Conscientious people don't give up their careers lightly. They give them up when they are asked to do something that would keep them from being able to look at themselves in a mirror.

Those who can approve torture and still look at themselves in a mirror have no conscience.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Politicians Asking for Church Directories, Again

Saturday's Wahington Post carried a story about the GOP in North Carolina asking for church directories.

Republicans are not alone in asking for church directories. A couple years ago I heard a Democrat running for the state legislature in Oklahoma ask for church directories. When people complained, he insisted that he could not compete unless he could communicate as effectively as his opponent.

That the North Carolina GOP itself, and not an individual politician, is asking for church directories may be a sign of looming power struggles within the GOP. In the past, Republican politicians were content to let right-wing preachers communicate the GOP's message to their parishoners. Now they want to communicate it themselves.

Since the supreme court has been stacked, perhaps Republican politicians are beginning to worry about the rest of the theocratic and Dominionist agenda being pushed by the preachers that they have been courting for three decades.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

On Faith-Based Funding

Legislation is being offered at the state capital in Oklahoma that would opnely begin distributing state money to faith-based organizations. In the past, the office of faith-based initiatives has contended that all the money distributed to such organizations was federal money.

Oklahoma has fairly strong prohibitions against distributing government money to religious groups in its state constitution. Here's what it says (with emphasis added),

Section II-5: Public Money or Property -- Use for Sectarian Purposes.

"No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such."

Legislation now being considered would give money to the Oklahoma Office of Faith-based Initiatives to distribute to faith-groups that will work with Prison Fellowship to rehabilitate criminals. The legislation is also supposed to hold recipients of the funding accountable for demonstrating successful results.

We've heard about programs like this before. In fact, Americans United has just sued the State of Iowa for distributing government funds to Prison Fellowship for a prison-wing that it operates at a prison in Davenport, Iowa. That program boasted successful results. Critics contend that the results were skewed to give it the appearance of success when, in reality, recidivism by all participants within its program were worse than for a control group.

Here's an essay I wrote about the case a few months ago. Here's a link to an article about that describes the allegorical nature of Prison Fellowship's defense of their uniquely "Christian" influence on the Iowa inmates. Here's a link to a blog that has a lot of links to information about other problems with faith-based funding. The picture posted above, which is worth much more than a thousand words, was borrowed from that blog.

(Thanks to Robert Cunningham for calling my attention to these last two links)

Friday, February 17, 2006

Both SBC Mission Boards Under Fire

Just as leadership at the Southern Baptist Convention's Internation Mission Board has agreed to withdraw its request that the Convention remove blogging Trustee Wade Burleson from its board, the North American Mission Board is being roundly criticised by the editor of a fundamentalist dominated state newspaper.

Open criticism of the Southern Baptist Convention agencies and its leadership has been rare for since two editors of Baptist Press were terminated in the late 1980's.

It looks like the iron-fisted takeover leaders are either losing some control or are relaxing their grip on power in the Convention.

Kudos to Wade Burleson for successfully facing the IMB leadership down.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

A National Disgrace

Reuters is reporting that the UN has issued a report that condemns the U.S. for torturing prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and calls on us to close the prison.

Close the prison.

This is a national disgrace.

The country I lived in six years ago would not condone such activities.

The country I live in today bears little resemblance to the country that was founded on the recognition of the "inalienable rights" of humanity.

Toward a Dialogue of Civilizations

Kudos to the National Council of Churches in calling for a "Dialogue of Civilizations."

We've heard enough from people in the current administration and throughout the world who are interested in fueling a "Clash of Civilizations."

In times like these, faithful Christians will work for peace. Crusaders will stoke the embers of war.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

On Dreisbach's Jefferson

I read Daniel Dreisbach's Thomas Jefferson and the Wall of Separation between Church and State over the last few days. The book is a storehouse of information related to Jefferson's metaphor in his letter to Danbury Baptists about the first amendment "building a wall of separation between church and state." The author, however, has little regard for the metaphor as a principle of jurisprudence and he demonstrates an eagerness to offer strained interpretations of the material to discredit the principle.

A prime example of this straining is found in his explanations of Jefferson's opposition to Thanksgiving day proclamations. As President, Jefferson refused to designate days for public fasting, thanksgiving, and prayer as had his predecessors in office, Washington and Adams. Jefferson initially understood his letter to the Danbury Baptists to be an opportunity to publicly explain his opposition to governments prescribing acts of religious piety. Language to that effect was prominent in the first draft of the letter to Danbury Baptists.

On the recommendation of his Attorney General, Levi Lincoln, Jefferson removed a sentence that identified proclamations of fasts and thanksgivings with the practices of "the Executive of another nation as the legal head of the church," i.e. by the despised English King George III. Lincoln advised him that performances of religious devotion were "venerable" practices both in his own Republican party and in the opposition Federalist party. Jefferson removed that sentence for political reasons -- not because he had a change of heart.

Dreisbach does his best to make it appear that Jefferson's opinion about governments issuing proclamations for "performances of devotion" was ambiguous. He cites proclamations that Jefferson signed while governor of Virginia as proof that Jefferson approved the mandating of religious exercises by state magistrates. Proclamations and Notices that Jefferson signed while Virginia was under English rule (1774), however, hardly serves as credible evidence for what Jefferson believed proper for the governing of states in a new nation. Proclamations that he signed as Virginia's Governor after independence (1779), but before the legislature had enacted his Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom (submitted in 1779, enacted in 1785), are equally suspect.

In reality, after the Constitution and First Amendment were passed (1789), Jefferson's first draft of his letter to Danbury Baptists (1802) is the best evidence we have of Jefferson's deepest convictions about the proper relation between religion and government. He believed the First Amendment prohibited the President and Congress from any action that would establish religion and its practices. He hoped his letter would "sow useful truths & principles among the people, which might germinate and become rooted among their political tenents."

If Dreisbach were merely insisting that Jefferson was an advocate for states rights and that he understood the Constitution to apply only to the federal government and not to the states, he would merely be restating an undisputed truth. Dreisbach is suggesting more. He's trying to leave the impression that Jefferson advocated for the establishment of religion by the states -- which he most certainly did not. On the contrary, he was planting seeds that he hoped would encourage disestablishment of all the colonial establishments of churches. By 1833 his seeds had born fruit and all of the states had disestablished their churches.

To understand Jefferson's deepest convictions about separation of church and state, all you have to do is look at the legislation he authored for Virginia after the war for independence. It was a Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom -- not for establishing a state church. That bill along with his authoring the Declaration of Independence and the founding of Virginia College comprise the legacy for which he was most proud and wanted to be remembered.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

On the Rise of the Christocrats

Buzzflash has posted an interview with Rabbi James Rudin, author of The Baptizing of America: The Religious Right's Plans for the Rest of Us. Rudin uses the term "Christocrats" to distinguish evangelicals who believe in church/state separation from Dominionists and Christian Nationalists. Here's quote:

I use the concept of "deed, not the creed." Millions of our fellow American citizens are theologically conservative Christians. But they're not all actively seeking laws passed specifically on issues of church and state.

We can judge people by their deeds. The Christocrats' deeds are really an attack on public schools, on libraries, and the media. They attack the existing structures and then try to have them replaced with Christocratic libraries, Christocratic public schools or academies, or Christocratic media. It's kind of a shadow library, shadow schools, shadow everything. That's the strategy - to destroy the existing structure, or discredit it, and then try to replace it - using federal, state or local public money to support their schools or their unique libraries. They've also tried to create a parallel media system of television, radio, magazines, newspapers, which reflect their point of view.

After 200 years of American history, it is an attempt to make this into, not just a country where 82% of the population say they're Christians, but instead to make America into a Christian nation in terms of its laws.

Increasingly as I walk the halls of the state capitols in Texas and Oklahoma and at the nation's capitol in Washington, D.C., I find discerning Christians shaking their heads in disbelief at the legislation that is being introduced and passed by the "Christocrats" that are in control of those legislative bodies.

On Piety in Politics

Thanks to Robert Cunningham for sending me the link to Robert Flynn's blog about "The Most Famous Christian of the 20th Century."

Flynn has a whole list of quotations from the most famous Christian politician of the 20th Century. Here are a couple things that stood out to me:
His blending of church and state: "National Socialism neither opposes the Church nor is it anti-religious, but on the contrary it stands on the ground of a real Christianity? For their interests cannot fail to coincide with ours alike in our fight against the symptoms of degeneracy in the world of today, in our fight against a Bolshevist culture, against atheistic movement, against criminality, and in our struggle for a consciousness of a community in our national life?These are Christian principles!" (August 1934)

His God-given mission to cleanse Germany of evil as personified by the Jews, liberals, homosexuals, labor leaders, homeless people, immigrants from inferior cultures, and the weak and sick. "Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord." And, "We want to fill our culture again with the Christian spirit. We want to burn out all the recent immoral developments in literature, in the theater, and in the press -- in short, we want to burn out the poison of immorality which has entered into our whole life and culture as a result of liberal excess." (March 1936)

Monday, February 13, 2006

Whither Employment?

John Paul Roberts, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan Administration and former Associate Editor of the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, explains why recent college graduates are having such a difficult time finding a job.
Over the past five years the US economy experienced a net job loss in goods producing activities. The entire job growth was in service-providing activities--primarily credit intermediation, health care and social assistance, waiters, waitresses and bartenders, and state and local government.

US manufacturing lost 2.9 million jobs, almost 17% of the manufacturing work force. The wipeout is across the board. Not a single manufacturing payroll classification created a single new job.

The declines in some manufacturing sectors have more in common with a country undergoing saturation bombing during war than with a super-economy that is "the envy of the world." Communications equipment lost 43% of its workforce. Semiconductors and electronic components lost 37% of its workforce. The workforce in computers and electronic products declined 30%. Electrical equipment and appliances lost 25% of its employees. The workforce in motor vehicles and parts declined 12%. Furniture and related products lost 17% of its jobs. Apparel manufacturers lost almost half of the work force. Employment in textile mills declined 43%. Paper and paper products lost one-fifth of its jobs. The work force in plastics and rubber products declined by 15%. Even manufacturers of beverages and tobacco products experienced a 7% shrinkage in jobs.

The knowledge jobs that were supposed to take the place of lost manufacturing jobs in the globalized "new economy" never appeared. The information sector lost 17% of its jobs, with the telecommunications work force declining by 25%. Even wholesale and retail trade lost jobs. Despite massive new accounting burdens imposed by Sarbanes-Oxley, accounting and bookkeeping employment shrank by 4%. Computer systems design and related lost 9% of its jobs. Today there are 209,000 fewer managerial and supervisory jobs than 5 years ago.

In five years the US economy only created 70,000 jobs in architecture and engineering, many of which are clerical. Little wonder engineering enrollments are shrinking. There are no jobs for graduates. The talk about engineering shortages is absolute ignorance. There are several hundred thousand American engineers who are unemployed and have been for years. No student wants a degree that is nothing but a ticket to a soup line. Many engineers have written to me that they cannot even get Wal-Mart jobs because their education makes them over-qualified.

What Roberts says rings true at my house. Both of my children have graduated from college in the last five years. Neither of them found gainful employment easily. Neither of them are employed in the field for which they earned their degree.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Phil Strickland Promoted

Phil Strickland, Director of the Christian Life Commission for the Baptist General Convention of Texas, has passed away after a long battle with cancer.

Phil was a good friend to moderate, mainstream Baptists. He was a tireless champion for human rights, an articulate advocate for the hungry and the poor, a faithful mentor of historic Baptist principles, and a staunch supporter of church/state separation.

In Baptist life, few have been as influential and effective as he was in his advocacy for social justice. The Christian love that he demonstrated throughout his life leaves a long legacy.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

On the Air Force and Spiritual Rape

Roger Williams fled the persecutions of Anglican Archbishop William Laud and landed in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1631. Shortly after his arrival he was banished from the colony for telling the authorities that they "cannot without a spiritual rape force the consciences of all to one worship."

Williams made his way to Rhode Island where he founded the first Baptist church in America and obtained the first charter in the history of the world that secured "a free, full and absolute liberty of conscience" for all the citizens of his colony.

John Locke read Williams writings and found inspiration to write A Letter Concerning Toleration (1689). Williams insisted that there should be "a hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world." Locke contended that
"Whencesoever their authority (the clergy's) be sprung, since it is ecclesiastical, it ought to be confined within the bounds of the church, nor can it in any manner be extended to civil affairs, because the church itself is a thing absolutely separate and distinct from the commonwealth. The boundaries on both sides are fixed and immoveable."
Locke's letter exerted considerable influence on the thought of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and others who founded a new nation on the American continent.

Traces of the language on liberty of conscience from Williams' charter for Rhode Island can be found in Jefferson's Act for Establishing Religious Liberty (1779) and Jefferson's insistence that the First Amendment erected a "wall of separation between church and state" (1802) is an echo of Williams'"hedge or wall of separation" metaphor. In 1819 Madison commented on the First Amendment saying that
"The number, the industry, and the morality of the Priesthood, & the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of Church from the State."
It should be fairly clear to anyone genuinely interested in discovering the intentions of those who founded our Constitutional Republic that they meant to prohibit anyone, lay or clergy, from using government authority to bully people into faith and worship.

I doubt that Thomas Jefferson or James Madison would have any trouble deciding whether Air Force Brig. General Johnny Weida and others at the Air Force Academy have violated the Constitution and abused the powers of their offices by attempting to exert undue influence over the consciences of cadets under their authority. Roger Williams would surely accuse them of attempted "spiritual rape."

In August 2005 it looked like the Air Force might put an end to the spiritual abuse at the Academy. Lt. Gen. Robert A. Brady issued four pages of guidelines that appeared to be a step back toward the principle of separation of church and state. At that time, Rob Boston wrote an official blog for Americans United that said,

Americans United says the guidelines are not perfect. A section on the uses of "non-sectarian" prayer is vague, and the document spells out no sanctions for those who violate it. Still, AU welcomed the guidelines as an important step toward increasing religious tolerance in the military.
On February 9, 2006 the Air Force issued a single page revised guideline that is clearly a step away from separation of church and state. Obviously, the Religious Right's lawyers for the defense of spiritual rape and conscience abuse have been at work. As the latest Americans United Press Release notes:
In the first set of guidelines, the Air Force stressed that, "Chaplains are commissioned to provide ministry to those of their own faiths, to facilitate ministry to those of other faiths, and to provide care for all service members, including those who claim no religious faith."

The revised guidelines dated Feb. 6 contain no such language. Instead they declare that the Air Force "will respect the rights of chaplains to adhere to the tenets of their religious faiths and they will not be required to participate in religious activities, including public prayer, inconsistent with their faiths."

Lynn noted, "It is shocking that there is no similar provision for regular Air Force personnel who do not wish to participate in prayer or other religious activities."
If the Air Force's new interpretation of the First Amendment prevails, by 2031 America may once again be governed by the same system of theocratic law that banished Roger Williams from Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Friday, February 10, 2006

On Mean Cities

The National Coalition for the Homeless recently issued a report about American cities criminalizing homelessness. They rank cities around the country according to how harshly they treat the homeless.

Sarasota, Florida ranked as the meanest city in America in the way they treat the homeless. Lawrence, Kansas ranked second. Little Rock, Arkansas (last year's meanest city) is now America's third meanest city. Texas ranks as the meanest state in the union with four cities on the list -- Dallas ranked sixth, Houston seventh, San Antonio thirteenth, and Austin was fifteenth.

There are a lot of Baptists in all these cities. We need to start taking an interest in the homeless people in the cities in which we live. As the Apostle John wrote,

If any one has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3: 17-18

Click here for a link to the NCH's full report. Click here for narrative about the meanest cities. Click here for narrative about how the homeless are treated in cities in your area.

On Double Standards for Violence

Jonathan Hutson has posted a revealing article about the double standard for violence that has been condoned by some Christians. The "Christian Communications Network" (CCN) has condemned Muslims for violence over inflammatory cartoons of Mohammed and posted the cartoons on its website.

Hutson says CCN is run by a "Christian" Activist who previously served as "a publicist, apologist and funding conduit for the unapologetically pro-violence wing of the anti-abortion movement."

Hypocritical double standards are not "Christian." Neither is violence. CCN needs to take the log out of its own eye before commenting on specks in the eyes of others.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Discrepancies in Gonzales Testimony Revealed

Buried in an article in today's Washington Post is information that indicates the testimony that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales gave the Senate Judiciary Committee conflicts with information given to the FISA court judges. Here's a quote:

Shortly after the warrantless eavesdropping program began, then-NSA Director Michael V. Hayden and Ashcroft made clear in private meetings that the president wanted to detect possible terrorist activity before another attack. They also made clear that, in such a broad hunt for suspicious patterns and activities, the government could never meet the FISA court's probable-cause requirement, government officials said.

So it confused the FISA court judges when, in their recent public defense of the program, Hayden and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales insisted that NSA analysts do not listen to calls unless they have a reasonable belief that someone with a known link to terrorism is on one end of the call. At a hearing Monday, Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the "reasonable belief" standard is merely the "probable cause" standard by another name.

It appears that the GOP members of the Senate Judiciary Committee had reasons for refusing to put Gonzales under oath. This administration is telling the gullible public one thing, and the FISA judges something else.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Drums Beating for War with Iran

Former CIA Analyst Ray McGovern has a revealing article published at Truthout titled, "Juggernaut Gathering Momentum, Headed for Iran."

As moderate Christians ask probing questions about the success of the war in Iraq and cross-examine its "just war" rationale, the administration appears to be preparing to shift attention from its failures in Iraq by launching a war with Iraq.

Government Intimidating Witnesses Against Torture

The Common Dreams newswire reports that seven members of a group called "Witness Against Torture" have been served papers by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) for attempting to visit prisoners at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay.

I suspect the OFAC is concerned that the group might have taken small amounts American currency to the Island of Cuba. What if they gave some to the prisoners at Guantanamo? Those prisoners were allegedly connected with Saddam Hussein's desire to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Since we launched our pre-emptive strike on Iraq, the whole world knows what happens to anyone who even think about wanting WMD's.

It's perfectly understandable why America can't let any of its currency fall into the wrong hands. We've had proof since the 1960's that Fidel Castro wanted to acquire WMD's and the missiles to deliver it.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Former President Carter Willing to Testify

Former President Jimmy Carter says this administration's domestic eavesdropping program is illegal. Here's a quote from an Associate Press story:

The former president said he would testify before the Judiciary Committee if asked.

"If my voice is important to point of the intent of the law that was passed when I was president, I know all about that because it was one of the most important decisions I had to make."

Monday, February 06, 2006

On Immunity from Perjury

The most important decision made at today's hearings at the Senate Judiciary Committee was that, in effect, the Attorney General of the United States is above the law and should be immunized from perjury as he testifies about the illegal wire tapping of American citizens that he authorized.

Here's a quote from the CNN report:

The hearing began with a sudden and sharp partisan dispute when Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter ruled that Gonzales did not have to be sworn in to testify. After Democrats strongly objected and demanded a roll-call vote, Republicans prevailed and the attorney general did not testify under oath.

If ordinary Americans have nothing to fear from the intrusions of privacy posed by NSA surveillance, why is Gonzales afraid to testify under oath?

If Gonzales was a Quaker, he could be excused from swearing an oath by giving a simple, legally binding affirmation to tell the truth. Quakers operate under the religious conviction that every word they speak must be truthful. Not just statements they make under oath.

Gonzales, however, is no Quaker. In all likelihood, he authorized the surveillance of law-abiding, truth-telling, peace-loving Quakers and now he wants an exemption from a legally binding requirement to tell the truth about it.

The deliberate mendacity of many of our legislators and the pre-meditated duplicity of key leaders in this administration is utterly contemptible.

Nothing is ever going to restore confidence in our government again until our leaders either become sincere Quakers themselves or are prepared to swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth when giving testimony.

On People Who Won't Take "No" for an Answer

CNEWS Canada has published a story about the debate within the Ford administration over government use of secret wiretaps.

In 1976, Cheney and Rumsfeld were arguing that they were needed.

In 1978, Congress thought it ended the debate by passing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Some people just won't take "No" for an answer.

Today, after the current administration has engaged in unauthorized wiretapping, the Attorney General will speak to the Senate Judiciary Committee about his rationale for claiming their legality.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Abramoff, Evangelicals, & Casino Money

The Nation Magazine has posted an interesting article by Max Blumenthal on "Abramoff's Evangelical Soldiers."

Blumenthal provides revealing information about how Abramoff used Ralph Reed:

Reed thus became Abramoff and Scanlon's liaison to the Christian right, enlisting his evangelical allies into a web of shadowy casino hustles for "chump change."

As Blumenthal documents, some of America's most prominent evangelicals became "chumps" for Reed and Abramoff.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Confirmation of the Downing Street Memo, and Worse

Editor & Publisher has posted information about news that is breaking in Britain that confirms revelations in the Downing Street Memo. The information also outlines plotting between President Bush and British Prime Minister Blair on how best to incite a war with Iraq.

Revelations like this are becoming so commonplace that Americans are beginning to yawn at evidence of illegal and corrupt practices in high places.

Sooner or later, -- undoubtedly when they finally realize that Jesus is not going rapture them from the great tribulations they are watching unfold -- a majority of the sleepwalkers in America are going to wake up to the reality that policies they have ignored or supported are making life a nightmare for generations to come.

Problems with Baptist Communitarianism

In their response to Bill Underwood, our Baptist communitarians wrote:

We believe with early Baptists and the mainstream Christian tradition that an individual's conscience is inviolable, but not infallible, and therefore we are always under the obligation to see to it that our consciences have been formed by the faithful practices of the church.

Their response begs the question: How do you decide what is accepted as "the faithful practices of the church?" By this criterion, it is hard to comprehend how a people who call themselves Baptists could exist. Baptists were born of a conscientious objection to the long tradition and "faithful practice" of baptising infants. For more than a millenium all of the "spiritual masters" of the church taught the practice.

The communitarians write:
While we reject the authoritarian subjugation of individual conscience, there is a sense in which we do believe in being subject to "spiritual masters" -- but not self-appointed ones.

That we "self-appointed" our "spiritual masters" is a charge that has been levelled against both Anabaptists and Baptists for centuries (Where did John Smyth get the authority to baptise those first English Baptists?). Except for communitarians and Southern Baptists since 1979, most Baptists have not been advocates for apostolic successions and church hierarchies.

The same quotations demonstrate the communitarian's hostility to liberty of conscience. First, they exaggerate the claims of conscience. I know of no Baptists who claim "infallibility" for their conscience. I know many Baptists who acknowledge the authority of conscience under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Second, they couple the pejorative "subjugation" with conscience when speaking about its authority. Most Baptists don't view the guidance of the Holy Spirit as "subjugation."

There's a lot more with which to quibble, but that should be enough for now. Also, I'm turning the comments section on again and I'll try to make time to respond to comments.

Baptist Communitarians Respond to Underwood

Associated Baptist Press has reported that the authors of the "Baptist Manifesto" have responded to criticisms of their theology made by Mercer President-elect Bill Underwood in a speech he gave a couple weeks ago.

I have long been on Underwood's side of this debate. Below is a re-post of a blog about the "Baptist Manifesto" that I first posted on 7/9/04. I'll respond to the current discussion in another blog. [Note: the version of the "Manifesto" that is online is a later modification of the version to which I was responding in 1996.]

My experience with the "Baptist Manifesto" dates back to the fall of 1996 when Dr. Freeman, then professor at Houston Baptist University, asked me if I would like to add my signature to the document. After a lively phone conversation in which I expressed my concerns about aspects of the Manifesto, I wrote Dr. Freeman a letter documenting those concerns. A few weeks later I was invited to attend a conference at Baylor University on the Manifesto. I attended the conference expecting to hear some thoughtful review and critique of the document, instead, literally all of the presentations were given by proponents of the document and little time was given to permit questions about it (Remember this as you read the statement in the Manifesto that says, "When all exercise their gifts and callings, when every voice is heard and weighed, when no one is silenced or privileged, the Spirit leads communities to read wisely and to practice faithfully the direction of the gospel.")

Weary of the task of criticism, I decided to offer some constructive alternatives. My first brief attempt was in a devotional entitled "The Baptist Distinctive of Personal Integrity" given at a meeting of the coordinating council of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. A little longer attempt was in a statement called "Reaffirming Baptist Identity" that was printed along with the Baptist Manifesto in the June 25, 1997 issue of Baptists Today.

The most thorough assessment of the Manifesto, of which I am aware, is a paper called "The Baptist Identity and the Baptist Manifesto" written by Dr. Walter Shurden.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Ask the NSA

Capitol Hill Blue has published a story revealing that "Key White House Records in Plame Probe Disappear."

It appears that incompetencies within government systems as well as errors in implementing procedures keep working together for the convenience of members of a secret cabal within this administration. This time, e-mails for a certain time in 2003 -- a time crucial to the investigation of the Plame leak -- were not archived.

This reminds me of a certain 18 minute gap on the tapes of the Nixon Whitehouse.

The solution, I think, is obvious. The National Security Agency must have records of all the e-mail and other communications that came and went from the White House at that time. The President admits to authorizing the agency to indiscriminately monitor and archive every domestic source of communications that contacted people overseas.

Outing a covert CIA operative is a crime that is tantamount to treason. It certainly is a matter of National Security which is the primary mission of the NSA. Perhaps the prosecutor investigating the outing of Valerie Plame and the lawyers for Scooter Libby's defense should send their subpoena's to the NSA.

On the Purity of Messages and Messengers

The debate over the casting of a gay actor in the movie "The End of the Spear" has spilled over to the pages of the New York Times.

The movie is based on the true story of five American missionaries who gave their lives in 1956 trying to witness to an indigenous tribe in Ecuador. When the movie was first released, Al Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, KY criticized movie makers for casting a gay actor in the lead role.

The New York Times quotes Jason Janz, Assistant Pastor of Red Rocks Baptist Church in Denver, as saying "we must realize that the Christian message and the messenger are intricately related." It also quotes film director Jim Hanlon as saying, "If we start measuring the sin of everyone in a movie, we would never be able to make a picture because none of us would be left."

I agree with Hanlon.

This entire controversy is based on a premise within certain evangelical circles that homosexuals do not enjoy equal rights in our society.

If anyone were to suggest that evangelical Christians should not be cast in acting roles portraying non-evangelical Christians, these same evangelical Christians would be screaming loud and long about how they were being attacked and denied their civil rights.

Blogger May Prevail Over IMB Trustees

In what could prove to be a stunning success for the blogosphere, Oklahoma blogger Wade Burleson may succeed in getting the trustees at the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board to rescind their recommendation that he be removed from their board.

Ethics Daily is reporting that Burleson had a meeting with the chair and vice chair of the board of trustees for the IMB and left predicting that their recommendation for his removal will be rescinded.

Removing a trustee from a board or agency of the SBC requires 75% of the votes at a meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. In the entire history of the SBC no trustee has ever been removed by action of the Convention on recommendation of a board of trustees.

If Burleson's prediction proves true, it indicates that principled dissent in the SBC remains possible so long as you can get yourself elected to a position on a board of trustees, write blogs, and threaten to organize a movement that might secure 25% of the votes at an SBC Convention.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Unanswered Questions About 9/11

An editorial in today's Miami Herald accuses the government and the American public of "Avoiding the Hard Questions" about 9/11.

On the internet, a lot of questions have been raised by scientific experts and other credible sources concerning the incredible discrepancies and inconsistencies in official accounts of what happened on 9/11/2001. In the mainstream media, however, very little has been said.

Today's editorial indicates that the log jam on this story may be about to break. The Miami Herald is one of the first mainstream media sources that I've seen accentuate the fact that three towers, not two, fell to the ground that day. Outside of New York City, I doubt that many people are aware of that fact.

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to wonder whether the official explanations for the implosion of a third steel framed buildng -- uncompromised by any direct collision by an airplane -- seem implausible.

As the Miami Herald notes, many of the unanswered questions about 9/11 are being raised by an organization called "Scholars for 9/11 Truth."

On Stifling Dissent

Common Dreams has posted Cindy Sheehan's version about what happened when she was arrest at the State of the Union address last night.

It's getting harder and harder to give any expression of dissent in the presence of this President.

Sooner or later, he's going to have to face his critics.

Podcast: Interview with Muhammed Cetin

Dr. Bruce Prescott's 1-29-06 "Religous Talk" radio interview with Muhammed Cetin, Visiting Scholar at the University of Houston and President of the Institute for Interfaith Dialog.

We talk about the work of the Institute for Interfaith Dialog, Muslim-Christian relations, and the trips to Turkey that he leads for IID.

The picture, taken on December 30, 2006, is of Muhammed Cetin standing on what is left of the floor of a Roman sauna at Perge, Turkey. He is explaining their heating system.

Marlette to Work with the Tulsa World

Doug Marlette, pulitizer prize winning cartoonist, creator of the Kudzu and Rev. Will B. Done comic strips, and author of the novel The Bridge, started teaching at the University of Oklahoma this spring. My son, a graduate student in professional writing at OU, is his Teaching Assistant.

Editor and Publisher has just announced that Marlette will become political cartoonist for the Tulsa World on Feb. 12th.