Friday, March 31, 2006
A few years ago some studies suggested that prayer had beneficial effects. At that time I was asked to review the literature and speak to an association of nurses in Oklahoma about it.
Here's a link to that speech.
Ed Schmeltekopf died a couple days ago. He served as Associate Executive Director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas for nearly two decades.
Ed was probably the most helpful and selfless denominational executive that I have ever known. While I served on the Executive Board of the BGCT, I took a number of controversial positions and made a few motions and resolutions that made others uneasy. Ed was always quick to encourage conscientious dialogue and discussion, whether he agreed with the position taken or not, and he frequently offered historical information and suggestions that served to strengthen the positions that were being discussed.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Gene Puckett, a member of the Mainstream Baptist Hall of Fame, has long been a model of courageous journalism. Kudos to him and his wife for their concern to help women get an education that will equip them for the work of ministry.
Retired General Paul Eaton has called for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's resignation. This is what the General formerly in charge of Ft. Benning and recently in charge of training the Iraqi military had to say:
"He has shown himself incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically, and is far more than anyone responsible for what has happened to our important mission in Iraq," wrote Eaton, who now lives in Fox Island, Wash.
He added: "Mr. Rumsfeld must step down."
I think the simplest solution is to mandate that every time an evangelical military chaplain insists on praying in Jesus name at an event where attendance is mandatory, that that chaplain be required to attend an event where a chaplain from a minority faith prays in the name of another god.
It would be interesting to hear what these same chaplains have to say after they've been ordered to listen to a few Wiccan prayers.
Marty thinks the word "theocracy" invokes an extreme and "often demonic" aura of "the other." Yet he notes that some of those so labeled "might savor and favor" the designation.
It's hard to discern whether Marty is either agreeing or disagreeing with Rudin and Phillips. Here's a quote from Marty's essay:
Advice to myself, after reading Phillips's counsel: 1) Don't assign to people a label and a position they don't exactly hold; 2) Don't lump all people called "conservative" or "born again" into the mix of the theocracy-minded; 3) Don't label anyone "theocrat" who does not bear most of the marks of the theocrat; 4) Thus remember that, for people of faith on left or right, to try to influence foreign or domestic policy is not by itself a mark of theocracy--not by any means; 5) Do urge fellow citizens to be Madisonian (Federalist Papers X and LI), to work for the republic, against favor or privilege or establishment for particular religions (e.g., "Christianity" or "the biblical worldview"); 6) If you must blame, blame fairly, including the Republicans-not-on-the-right or Democrats-wherever-they-are for leaving a moral vacuum that exploiters can invade and exploit; 7) Make the point that theocracies have always corrupted communities of faith that favor them, noting that such polities are bad for religion; 8) Read and profit from Rudin and especially Phillips as they make their cases; 9) Be ready to link up with others, to see if at this late date the republic can be invigorated and survive; 10) Arrange with people you can trust to help you live with new strategies and old hopes, as you try to find a means of sleeping peacefully after you've read this unsettling script--and then awaken, for thought and action.
The only thing that Marty's essay makes clear is that the word "theocracy," makes him uncomfortable.
A lot of people have begun using the word "Dominionism" to describe the theology that undergirds the modern thrust toward theocracy in America. I don't think it carries the connotations that make people like Martin Marty ill-at-ease.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
"Certainly religious persecution existed in our history, but to claim that these examples amount to religious persecution disrespects the experiences of people who have been jailed and died because of their faith," said K. Hollyn Hollman, general counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.
The advertisements have proven so provoking that ABC has refused to air their advertisements.
While Fundamentalist Christians are broadcasting their brand of Christianity around the clock on both television and radio, liberal Christians can't even get 30 second advertisements broadcast. Whose message is really being silenced?
Monday, March 27, 2006
I'll be away from my computer and probably will not be blogging again until Wednesday.
I may have an essay published on the Ethics Daily website tomorrow (Tuesday). If not that day, then one day this week. I entitled the essay, "America's Late Great Public Schools." I don't know what they will call it.
The strength of our country is not in establishing one religion as dominant over all others but in our diversity. After all, our national motto is "E pluribus unum," which means, "From many, one" which expresses the true nature of our great nation.
Those interested in a file from which to make a "E Pluribus Unum" poster (pdf) will find one at this link. The Oklahoma Chapter of Americans United designed the poster and had some produced to distribute to public schools in Oklahoma. If you would like a printed poster, send me an e-mail and I'll respond to it later in the week.
Sunday, March 26, 2006
I'm leaving because Louisiana College is going in a dramatically different direction from what it has in my 40 years here, from what I believe it has always done. From my point of view, the simplest way to put it is, it is moving from education to indoctrination.
Howell describes how the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message is being imposed on the faculty:
Basically you have a situation in which -- no one has said yet you must be Baptist, but what they say is you must teach in accordance with and not contrary to what's called the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. And then beyond that, there is a definition that is coming out in the new faculty handbook that is what I suppose they mean by Christian. In other words, I discovered that, as far as I can tell, is believing in the Lord Jesus Christ as savior is not sufficient. That's basically my point of view, and I've always considered myself Christian. But apparently it's not sufficiently Christian, or maybe not the right kind of Christian, or maybe not even Christian at all.
The trend throughout the Southern Baptist Convention has been to move toward what the advocates of it call a truly conservative position. The opponents of it I suppose use the term fundamentalist. From the point of view of the conservatives/fundamentalists, whatever they are, the denominations, particularly the denominational schools, have been infected with liberalism. And so they see it as their duty to root out liberalism and instead put in place a system in which the people who teach and what is taught are in accordance with what has become a Baptist creed.
For many, many years, Baptists have said historically they are non-creedal people. My grandfather, who was by vocation a Baptist preacher, basically had a sermon -- and I've still got the notes -- called "No pope, no creed" in which he talked about how proud he was that the Baptists did not have a pope, that they never imposed a creed. Well, they've got a creed. Very specifically, we are told at Louisiana College that we must live up to this creed.
What's more, we've employed a vice president for integration of faith and learning whose job it is, according to the faculty handbook, essentially to interpret that creed in case there's doubt, I suppose, as to whether or not something is in accordance with it. He's at least supposed to give advice on it.
Saturday, March 25, 2006
Civil liberties are sure to be safe in these hands.
Friday, March 24, 2006
Fundamentalist news reports say the North American Mission Board has failed to meet expectations since it was formed in 1997.
A SBC seminary professor says the Baptist Faith is "under assault" from within and says "Hyper-Calvinism . . . is becoming a real problem in the Southern Baptist Convention."
The last time there was so much turmoil in the SBC, moderates were being pushed out of the convention. The moderates are gone. Fundamentalists are fighting with each other.
Now the game is to see who can claim to be most "conservative." They never have been much interested in being Christ-like. That would be too "liberal."
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Burleson has agreed to stop being a watch dog and become a lap dog for the IMB. He will no longer bark about the hazardous actions and decisions of the Board on his blog. Now he'll just wag his tail and chase sticks for his IMB masters.
Why bother thinking for yourself? Why bother blogging? Why bother being as loyal as a dog at all? Why not just become a rubber stamp?
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
The vote counts showed that in the West Texas county of Winkler he lost the vote by a 100% margin after he had previously won by the county 74% in 2002 and by 65% in 2004.
Inevitably, the voting irregularities that have plagued the last two national elections have begun to effect local primary elections.
Now, perhaps we will see something done to make sure that vote counts can be verified.
We are witnessing a marked turn of events for a nation whose DNA contains the inherent promise of an equal opportunity at "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." We were not supposed to be a country where the winners take all. The great progressive struggles in our history were waged to make sure ordinary citizens, and not just the rich, share in the benefits of a free society. Today, however, the majority of Americans may support such broad social goals as affordable medical coverage for all, decent wages for working people, safe working conditions, a good education for every child, and clean air and water, but there's no government "of, by, and for the people" to deliver on those aspirations. America is no longer working for all Americans.If you'd like to hear Moyers say it himself, here's a link to a podcast.
How did this happen? By design. For a quarter of a century now a ferocious campaign has been conducted to dismantle the political institutions, the legal and statutory canons, and the intellectual, cultural, and religious frameworks that sustained America's social contract. The corporate, political, and religious right converged in a movement that for a long time only they understood because they are its advocates, its architects, and its beneficiaries.
Their economic strategy was to cut workforces and wages, scour the globe for even cheaper labor, and relieve investors of any responsibility for the cost of society. On the weekend before President Bush's second inauguration, The New York Times described how his first round of tax cuts had already brought our tax code closer to a system under which income on wealth would not be taxed at all and public expenditures would be raised exclusively from salaries and wages.
Their political strategy was to neutralize the independent media, create their own propaganda machine with a partisan press, and flood their coffers with rivers of money from those who stand to benefit from the transfer of public resources to elite control. Along the way they would burden the nation with structural deficits that will last until our children's children are ready to retire, systematically stripping government of its capacity, over time, to do little more than wage war and reward privilege.
Their religious strategy was to fuse ideology and theology into a worldview freed of the impurities of compromise, claim for America the status of God's favored among nations (and therefore beyond political critique or challenge), and demonize their opponents as ungodly and immoral.
Berkowtiz quotes from a blog I posted while I was gathering information to present at the workshop on "Who's Who in the Religious Right" for the Mainstream Baptist Convocation last month.
Those on the left are reluctant to identify anyone that might speak prophetically. Experience has taught them to be suspicious of anyone who presumes to speak for God.
Those in the mainstream or middle believe that, on occassions, God speaks prophetically through one of his servants. At times the prophet speaks in the tones of unyielding morality, but more often the prophet gives voice to an unrelenting demand for justice.
On occassions the voice of the prophetic speaks both in the tones of unyielding morality and the unrelenting demand for justice. Today is one of those days. Today, Ethics Daily has published an essay by Miguel de la Torre in which he speaks out against the Southern Baptist academics who have offered justifications for the use of torture. Here's a little of what De la Torre says:
When this past January the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (along with three of his professors) defended the use of torture, they represented the antithesis of Jesus' mission found in John 10:10, to "give life and give it abundantly."
To be satanic is to exchange the glory of God for the pride of humans. Religious leaders serve the forces of darkness when they justify death, destruction, torture and thievery with high-sounding words like democracy, liberty and patriotism.
Like the false prophets of old, who prostrated themselves before kings and tickled their ear with flattery so as to carve out for themselves a sphere of power and influence, today's leaders of the Religious Right have traded serving the Prince of Peace for the emperor of war.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Monday, March 20, 2006
Unfortunately, it has become a calling that is also requiring a vow of poverty.
Teachers are undoubtedly the most poorly paid professionals in American society.
Saturday, March 18, 2006
It is about time that moderate Baptist preachers start paying attention to the quality of leadership that is being elected to serve at their state legislatures.
If more moderate Baptist preachers and laymen paid attention to the agendas being pushed at their state legislatures, we'd be reading a lot more stories like this one.
Friday, March 17, 2006
"If they would hear and follow Jesus' teachings, then they would halt their anti-Islamic diatribes," Parham said. "The Sermon on the Mount is crystal clear about peacemaking, loving enemies, doing good to others, striving after God?s kingdom and practicing discernment. Regrettably, fundamentalist Christians ignore the Sermon on the Mount, because it is not a manual for war-making, which is at the heart of Christian crusades."
Jesus said that peacemakers are blessed. Unfortunately, this generation has been cursed by having religious warmongers with international megaphones who insist on turning up the volume and vitriol of rhetoric that demonizes all Muslims indiscriminately. There is nothing Christ-like about Graham and Robertson's rhetoric toward Muslims.
They are putting stumbling blocks in the way of generations of Muslims who have yet to hear the gospel as "good news" and not as hate speech. Jesus said it would be better for Pat and Franklin to put millstones around their necks and jump into the sea.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
President Bush, however, has determined that this principle no longer operates in America. He has turned the principle on its head. For President Bush the rule is "Do unto others, before they do whatever you think they are going to do, and call it self-defense."
President Bush's doctrine of pre-emption is immoral, evil, and sub-Christian.
Asked if they would pursue a positive net value project if it meant missing the earnings-per-share estimate for the quarter, 59 percent of financial executives admit that they would kill the project.
Equally troubling, 78 percent of executives admit they would forego real value in order to meet their earnings targets.
In my experience, once senior managers become obsessed with short-term results, it's almost impossible to have a meaningful discussion about treating their workers as valued partners, or delivering real customer service, or pursuing an environmentally sustainable plan.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
There's good reason for Bush supporters and rock-ribbed Republicans to demand corrective action to prevent the anomalies that surely compromised the 2004 election: The risk that failure to curb the abuses will encourage the competition to resort to similar tactics. The last thing anyone wants is a cheater's arms race. Either you stop the cheating, or you encourage more of it.
"Never has the flow of information and ideas, of hard news and reasoned comment, been more important. The force of our democratic beliefs is a key weapon in the war against religious fanaticism and the terrorism it breeds."
. . .
Mr Murdoch has undergone a Damascene conversion, admitting he hugely underestimated the power of the web. He said last night: "It is a creative, destructive technology that is still in its infancy, yet breaking and remaking everything in its path. We are all on a journey, not just the privileged few, and technology will take us to a destination that is defined by the limits of our creativity, our confidence and our courage."
Unfortunately, notoriety does not pay legal bills. Someone needs to open an account where Heller can receive contributions to help pay the bills for his legal defense.
Ethics Daily has published a couple insightful articles regarding the latest developments in the battle to destroy America's public school system. Bob Allen has written an essay about a new "Christian book" that "says Public Schools Subvert Parental Rights." He goes on to describe recent challenges to public schools coming from every quarter of the political and religious right. Ed Hogan has written about his "Concerns about the 'Exodus' Movement." The "Exodus" movement is an organized effort to get Christians to remove their children from public schools.
Here's a quote from Hogan's article that talks about the politics of the issue:
Reason # 3 Politics. Steve Blow wrote a great article in the Dallas Morning News recently. He is a Christian op-ed writer who often brings a fresh perspective to issues.
In the article he quotes a home school text. In the text, a conservative is described as a person who holds on to and practices God's words and teachings. Liberals are defined as those who deny God's precepts and teachings.
That is a struggle for me for several reasons. Does that mean that my friends who vote for Democrats have "abandoned God?" Does is mean that my African-American church friends, who are biblically and ethically conservative, have denied their faith by overwhelmingly voting for "liberal" candidates?
Once a student sees something in a "text book" it carries new weight. It is no longer opinion; it is fact. It teaches our children to be intolerant of others who disagree with us politically.
One of the ramifications of extending freedom of religion to everyone is that we protect the right of parents to teach their children to be intolerant. We do not guarantee that we will give them tax dollars in the form of vouchers to subsidize the education of their children in their intolerance.
The right to a good public education that upholds the values of our country's constitution should be guaranteed to everyone. The constitution secures equal respect under the law for persons of all races, religions, and creeds.
If parents want to indoctrinate their children in values that are opposed to the constitution, they should continue to have to pay for it with their own money.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
For millennia the official story has been that the uprising was spontaneous. The Romans did not believe it. They razed the city.
Now, two millennia later, the truth is being uncovered. The ancient Jews created an elaborate system of underground tunnels and stocked them with large quantitites of provisions in preparation for a revolt.
Monday, March 13, 2006
The National Cemetery Administration has 38 permitted religious symbols for headstones and plaques but none for pagans or Wiccans. Officials said while they are currently processing requests from two denominations for the Wiccan pentacle, or five-pointed star in a circle, so far no decision has been made.
That has irked some Wiccan groups, who say the department has been dragging its feet for years on recognizing their religion.
. . .
At least five deceased Wiccan veterans are waiting for a decision, and in each case the family has opted to leave blank name markers rather than have the department retrofit the grave sites later.
Sunday, March 12, 2006
Here are a couple quotes from an essay entitled "Whistling Diebold" at Common Dreams:
Steve Heller, a Los Angeles-based actor whose day job is doing temporary office work, faces three felony charges, all of which are a stretch: felony access to computer data, commercial burglary and receiving stolen property.
If that's all you know, then you've missed the bigger story:
The documents Heller, the temp word processor, happened upon and subsequently printed out revealed a potential crime in progress. . . .
He gave the documents to election-reform advocates, who got them into the hands of the media and state officials. Because he did, data concerning Diebold's use of uncertified software, which was supposed to remain private, became public knowledge. "In one memo," the Los Angeles Weekly wrote, "the law firm warned Diebold, before the March primary, that its use of uncertified vote-counting software in Alameda County, starting in 2002, violated California election law and broke its $12.7 million contract."
And election-reform advocate Peter Soby wrote on Huffington Post: "So in a nutshell, Diebold was defrauding the state government and taxpayers of California, and disenfranchising the voters of California. And the documents prove it."
Friday, March 10, 2006
The Neo-conservatives who led the cheers for the war in Iraq are abandoning ship. British newspapers are collating quotes from prominent American neo-conservative "intellectuals" who are already admitting defeat.
The only question that remains is how long it will take for Fox News and this administration to admit what the world already knows.
I'm already fairly certain that the evangelicals who conjured up "just war" rationales and led cheers for this administration's pre-emptive war with Iraq will never admit their error. Richard Land has certainly found his place in history.
Meanwhile, whose son or daughter will be the last soldier to die for this administration's colossal mistake?
Thursday, March 09, 2006
[Marvin] Olasky presented several Senate-subpeonaed emails between Abramoff and Reed showing Focus on the Family's involvement in their schemes. Olasky then suggested in as subtle a fashion as possible that Dobson and co. should come forward with the full story: "We hope that Focus on the Family will join us in insisting that Mr. Reed stop dodging and start explaining why his emails to Jack Abramoff stated that he was negotiating with Focus. Our sense is that Dr. Dobson is telling the truth, and our logical conclusion is that someone else was not."
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Since the takeover of the SBC, Baptists have undergone a resurgence of Calvinism.
The article says, "Pelagianians, Arminians and Open Theists will not find a home in our Southern Baptist family."
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
While the country is recovering from a recession in 2001 with decent overall economic growth and a return of information technology business, there are three storm clouds on the horizon in the next year or two, he said. They are high oil prices, a $400 billion U.S. budget deficit, and record high levels of consumer spending and record low levels of consumer savings.
Kudos to Cole Stephenson and the other members of the OU Religious Studies Club for securing a "Reflection Room" where students of all faiths and no faith can go to pray and/or reflect.
The room creates a safe, proselytization free, debate free environment where students can find silence and a measure of solitude for personal prayer and reflection.
In the picture, Cole is standing next to a marble cistern inside the Hagia Sophia in Instanbul, Turkey.
Crosswalk has posted a news brief that says "There is a huge rift between Muslims and Christians in Turkey, preceded by centuries of violence, enmity and antagonism. 'Turks don't like Christians.'"
Having recently been on a trip to Turkey sponsored by the Institute for Interfaith Dialog, I can honestly say that I saw no signs of enmity between Christians and Muslims during my visit. In fact, the numerous and varied personal contacts I had with people around the country were all very cordial. Religious differences were openly discussed in an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust.
There are extremists in all faiths and all societies who foster hate and distrust of those who differ with them. To whatever degree that there is truth in the Crosswalk brief, it demonstrates how important it is for both Christians and Muslims to support the efforts of groups like the Institute for Interfaith Dialog to foster mutual understanding and respect.
The picture above, taken by Cole Stephenson, was taken while our group visited a worship center at Belek near Antalya, Turkey that was built by Turkish truck drivers. A Jewish Temple, Islamic Mosque, and Christian Chapel all share a common courtyard. Below are a few of the pictures that I took at Belek.
It seems significant that the service chose to release these materials in Ohio. Several Ohio churches and other religious organizations recently have been accused of intervening in the 2006 gubernatorial race in favor of Republican candidate Ken Blackwell by repeatedly featuring Blackwell at their events, among other things.
The IRS report concludes by recommending increased use of tax-exempt status revocation in appropriate future cases, believing an adequate foundation for such action is being laid.
Monday, March 06, 2006
Here's a link to a story about th 432 economists and social scientists who have signed a letter opposing the elimination of funding for the Survey of Income and Program Participation.
Saturday, March 04, 2006
It is a very good introduction to the history, methods and tactics of the Institute for Religion and Democracy.
Friday, March 03, 2006
This is a portent of things to come in other states.
Many of the evangelical Christians who are active in politics expect the new "strict constructionist" judges on the Supreme Court to reverse decisions that apply the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to the states. In their minds, each state has the right to establish a majority religion and treat persons of minority faith as though they were second class citizens.
Sooner or later, this issue will certainly be re-decided by the U.S. Supreme court.
Despots and tyrants often brook greater dissent than some of the new pastor-rulers in Southern Baptist Churches.
It's just a matter of time before all the churches that adopt the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message statement face some kind of crisis like this.
Documentation of any results achieved by the president's faith-based initiative, like the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, is missing in action. Other than using his bully pulpit to praise his "armies of compassion," and repeat suspect anecdotes, the president has yet to show that the taxpayers' money is well spent. Ordinarily government agencies that have handed out millions of dollars would have to report to Congress and the public about what we've gotten for the money.
Unverifiable and unfalsifiable assertions about the role of religion in social services are the foundation of the president's faith-based initiatives. If minority faiths ever got some of this money and should scientific studies ever be conducted that yield evidence that Scientologists, Buddhists, Christian Scientists, or Wiccans can provide treatment programs with results that are similar to or better than those devised by Christians, the foundations for the majoritarian faith might be shaken.
Liberals, as Michael Kazin put it, have morphed in the public imagination "from people who looked, dressed and sounded like Woody Guthrie to people who look, dress and sound like Woody Allen."
In a few years, however, I'm not sure we'll want to know the source of the vanilla smell in our shampoo and candles.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
"My resignation has everything to do with the evident direction of the convention. More and more, it is quite clear that our state convention is becoming a subsidiary of the Southern Baptist Convention. That is a path I choose not to take."
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Section II-5: Public Money or Property -- Use for Sectarian Purposes.The Oklahoma Office of Faith-Based Initiative has never been approved or authorized by the Oklahoma state legislature. It was set up by the executive fiat of former Governor Frank Keating. Prior to this legislation, the executive in charge of that office always justified the legality of his efforts by claiming that none of the funds he received in his office came from Oklahoma state taxpayers. All of his funding came from federal money.
"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."
The executive in charge of Oklahoma's faith-based office promoted his office by contending that he was assisting faith-based organizations in applying for and receiving federal funds. After five years, these efforts have proven singularly unsuccessful. What he has really succeeded in doing is helping to redistribute funding that had already been going to left-leaning non-profits and social service agencies to a handful of right-wing faith-based organizations.
Allen describes Rudin's explanation of the reasons for the ambivalence within the Jewish community toward the Christocratic Right:
America's Jewish community, Rudin says, is divided and ambivalent about the Christian right's support for Israel. Many Jews are uncomfortable with evangelicals' strong Christological basis for supporting Israel, and most are uncomfortable with active campaigns to convert Jews to Christianity.Rudin's book is well worth reading. He makes at least one mistake. He baptizes me a Presbyterian when he quotes one of my speeches. While the speech was delivered at a Presbyterian church, I've always been a Mainstream Baptist.
Some Jews eagerly accept evangelical support for Israel and look the other way at "the attempted imposition of a Christocratic agenda on the country," he writes. "For such Jews, Israel's survival and security trumps all other concerns."
"Other Jews remain aware of the evangelicals' domestic goals and expressing suspicions about working with that Christian community on any issue, even Israel."