Sunday, April 30, 2006

Redating the Canaanite Dynasty in Egypt

Bloomberg is reporting that a new research into the radiocarbon dating of archaeological materials from Crete, Greece and Turkey will reset timelines for the ancient middle east. The Santorini volcanic eruption is being redated to 1600-1627 B.C. instead of 1500 B.C. Here's a quote:

The new timeline places a number of events before about 1600 B.C., including the formation and high point of the New Palace period on Crete, the Shaft Grave period on the Greek mainland, and the Middle to late Cypriot period on Cyprus, the scientists said. The New Palace era, when Crete dominated Aegean trade and culture, stretched across more than 250 years, they wrote.

The chronology also shows those eras are contemporary with Egypt when it was controlled by a Canaanite dynasty with links to the Levant, not the earlier New Kingdom Dynasty, they said.
I wonder if redating the Canaanite era in Egypt will result in a redating of the traditional time of the Exodus. Or, are the historical timelines of Crete, Greece and Turkey just being revised to correctly align with an already accurate timeline for Egypt? I'll watch for further information and post updates.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

On Thwarting the Crony Fairy

Thanks to Rozius for posting Paul Krugman's essay on the work the Crony Fairy did at FEMA. Here's a quote:

The U.S. government is being stalked by an invisible bandit, the Crony Fairy, who visits key agencies by dead of night, snatches away qualified people and replaces them with unqualified political appointees. There's no way to catch or stop the Crony Fairy, so our only hope is to change the agencies' names. That way she might get confused, and leave our government able to function.

That, at least, is how I interpret the report on responses to Hurricane Katrina that was just released by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
Here's Krugman's conclusion:

So let's skip the name change for FEMA, O.K.? The United States will regain effective government if and when it gets a president who cares more about serving the nation than about rewarding his friends and scoring political points. That's at least a thousand days away. Meanwhile, don't count on FEMA, or on any other government agency, to do its job.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Close the Faith-Based Offices

The head of President Bush's faith-based office recently resigned. The national office of The Interfaith Alliance has called for closing the faith-based office. The national organization of Americans United has joined them.

The head of Oklahoma's faith-based office recently resigned. The leadership of the Oklahoma organization of The Interfaith Alliance wants to influence the selection of the next director of the office. Some leaders of the Oklahoma chapter of Americans United are willing to join them.

What's the difference? Politics. The nation has a president who is a republican. Oklahoma has a governor who is a democrat.

Party politics has nothing to do with my commitment to the First Amendment. I will stand firm for the principle of separation of church and state.

I say, close the faith-based offices. Both of them.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Uninsured Health Care Crisis Expands

MSNBC is reporting that 41% of middle income Americans went without health insurance last year.

Unbelievably, I talk frequently to people who think that concerns about average Americans being unable to afford health insurance are overblown.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

BCE Director Issues Call for Truth-Telling

As the Southern Baptist Convention prepares to deal with yet another resolution advising Baptists to pull their children out of public schools, Robert Parham, the Director of the Baptist Center for Ethics, has published an op-ed advising that the "SBC Needs to Let their Yes be Yes and No be No on Public Schools."

SBC leaders have been trying to conceal the radically theocratic nature of many of their thoughts and beliefs for more than two decades. I agree with Parham. It's time for SBC leaders to start telling the truth about their widespread disdain for public education.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Podcast: Nathan Brown

Here's a link to a podcast of Poet Nathan Brown reading his poem "Verb Play" from his recently published book Suffer the Little Voices. Click on the graphic of a "play button" on the recorder logo to hear the podcast.

Here's a link to the blog where you can find the text to Nathan's poem.

Is the U.S. Calibrating Nuclear Weaponry?

Truthout has posted a story from the Salt Lake Tribune about a test blast being planned for June in Nevada.

This certainly seems to be the kind of testing that would be done to calibrate the payload for a tactical nuclear weapon.

It's probably more of what the President calls "wild speculation" to wonder whether this has anything to do with Iran.

Meanwhile, an eighth retired U.S. General has called for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's resignation.

I don't suppose that any of this is related.

Presenting the Sensible Center

John Meacham, managing editor of Newsweek Magazine, gave some sound advice in his keynote address at the installation of John Lilley as President of Baylor University. Here's an excerpt from Ken Camp's report of the speech:

Voices of moderation must make themselves heard, or they will be drowned out by the clamor of extremists, Meacham warned. "Extremes make the journey more perilous, and ours is, sadly, an age of extremism," he said, adding that moderates have a sacred duty to present the "sensible center" in public discourse.

Humility and a sense of history offer Americans a way to find peace in the midst of culture wars, Meacham said, stressing religion can be a force for unity rather than division in the world.

"Reverence for one's own tradition is not incompatible with respect for the traditions of anyone else," he said.

The "American gospel" -- the good news about the United States -- is that "religion shapes the nation without strangling it, and life is best lived when Athens and Jerusalem are not at war, but in alliance," he said, adding religion and ethical secularism have been steadfast allies in many human advances.

America?s founders created a landmark of statecraft by creating a system that checked the rise of extremism and protected personal religious liberty, Meacham said. "Dedicated Christians should be among the fiercest defenders of liberty of mind and heart."

Faithful Christians who present their views in the public square should make their arguments on the basis of reason and not revelation alone, he asserted. People of faith should humbly recognize their interpretation of God?s revelation is not infallible and they see "through a glass darkly," as the Apostle Paul said.

"We live in twilight and in hope more than in clarity and certainty. This is why the gift of reason is so essential," Meacham said. "Light can neither enter into nor emanate from a closed mind."
I hope Baylor or Newsweek will publish Meacham's speech in its' entirety. It sounds like a speech worthy of wide circulation.

Here's a link where you can download streaming video of the inauguration.

Monday, April 24, 2006

U.S. a Radical Republic?

Yesterday's Baltimore Sun published an op-ed by Lawrence Wilkerson, former Secretary of State Colin Powell's former chief of staff, with an ominous title: "Is the U.S. Becoming a Radical Republic?" His answer is shocking. Here's a quote:

As Alexis de Tocqueville once said: "America is great because she is good. If America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."

In January 2001, with the inauguration of George W. Bush as president, America set on a path to cease being good; America became a revolutionary nation, a radical republic. If our country continues on this path, it will cease to be great - as happened to all great powers before it, without exception.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Oklahoma Faith Based Director Resigns

An article in yesterday's The Oklahoman revealed that Brad Yarborough, first Director of Oklahoma's Faith-based office has resigned.

Throughout his interview he was still trying to respond to criticisms that the Oklahoma Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Oklahoma Interfaith Alliance had raised.

Here's a link to the Oklahoma AU Newsletter when the office was opened. Here's a link to our last article about the office.

A spokeman for Governor Henry indicated that the Faith Based Office will remain open. I strongly suggest that that decision be reconsidered.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

John Dean on Dangerous Presidents

John Dean, former counsel to President Nixon, has written a disturbing essay on "If Past is Prologues, George Bush is Becoming an Increasingly Dangerous President." Here's a quote:

If there is no "October Surprise," I would be shocked. And if it is not a high-risk undertaking, it would be a first. Without such a gambit, and the public always falls for them, Bush is going to lose control of Congress. Should that happen, his presidency will have effectively ended, and he will spend the last two years of it defending all the mistakes he has made during the first six, and covering up the errors of his ways.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Baptist Pastoral Letter Affirms Public Schools

The Baptist Center for Ethics has issued a Pastoral Letter Affirming Public Schools. It has been signed by scores of Baptist pastors and moderate Baptist denominational leaders. Here's a quote from an article about the letter in today's Ethics Daily:

The Baptist leaders decry anti-public school statements that identify public schools as "the enemies of God," that label the nation's school system as "a dark and decaying government school system" and that claim public schools are converting Christian children "to an anti-Christian worldview" and "urge a halt to the demonization of public schools."

"We believe Baptists should recommit themselves to public education, not as a means toward converting school children, but because it is the right thing to do," the letter says. "We believe public school children are God's children who deserve the nurture of a good society, the prospect for a good education and the equal opportunity for a good life."

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Demographics Catching Up to Southern Baptists

Ethics Daily has an insightful article about the decline in baptisms reported by the Southern Baptist Convention. The article quotes sociologist Robert Wuthnow:

Robert Wuthnow, a professor of sociology of religion at Princeton University, says it may be that demographics are catching up with the SBC and the denomination could be facing a long-term decline in membership and loss of public influence similar to other moderate and liberal Protestant churches.

Southern Baptists' membership core--white and middle class--is aging, he says, and migration patterns are pulling two directions, taking churchgoers out of the Bible belt while people from less religiously inclined regions move into the South.
I doubt that many Southern Baptist preachers will pay attention to Wuthnow. Demographics don't preach. That's why Convention President Bobby Welch offers a different analysis:

In his remarks to the SBC Executive Committee, Welch surmised that disasters like Hurricane Katrina and church fires in Alabama and controversy among convention leaders might be distractions to reaching the 1 million baptism goal.

"We must somehow become proficient enough in the spiritual war-fighting that we are not overwhelmed by struggles," Welch said. "Can you not fight with a scratch on your nose? Can you not lose a piece of your ear and keep going? Can you not take a flesh wound and stand up straight? Must you always lay down and whine when the least difficulty comes along?"
This kind of simplistic theology that blames every ill and ailment on struggles with Satan is killing the Southern Baptist Convention.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Voice of Children Suffering

There are a lot of untold stories of the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention. Many of those stories are about the dark nights of the soul that fundamentalism imposed on the children of the moderate and liberal leaders who were being purged from the denomination. Growing up as the child of a minister is tough enough. Growing up as the child of a minister enduring decades of public vilification, lies, slander and ridicule by fellow ministers and lay leaders is an experience of a different order.

Nathan Brown, a poet, is one of those children. He was a teenager when pulpit pounding preachers and pompous lay people of professed piety pilloried his father, Dr. Lavonn Brown, then pastor of the First Baptist Church of Norman. In their eyes, only a demon from the pit of hell would believe that God could approve of the ordination of women. They minced no words in saying so, whether in public or in private.

Nathan doesn't mince words either. He does give a lot more thought in choosing his words and he exercises more creativity and imagination in expressing them. Nathan's doctoral dissertation was recently published in two volumes. Ashes over the Southwest is a collection of poetry about his experiences in Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico. Suffer the Little Voices collects poetry expressing Nathan's spiritual pilgrimage. This poetry rises from the heart of a child of God deeply wounded by injustices perpetrated by God's people. In places, it yields some very profound insights.

With permission to post by the author, here's my favorite poem from Suffering the Little Voices:

Verb Play

When I'm forced to spend time around zealous minister types, I keep hearing the necessity of reaching out to the "unchurched." The obvious implication being: we need to "church" the "unchurched."

Now, this particular verbish usage of the word "unchurch" does not appear in my fairly large dictionary. What I do see is the transitive verb that means excommunicate. This definition is clearer to me. And it helps me organize my response:

Dear friends, our deepest need is not to "church" the "unchurched," but to "dechurch" the "enchurched" -- that is to say, the excessively "churched."
God Save Me from Your Followers

has ceased to be a humorous bumper sticker. It is now a genuine fear for many of the "unchurched" to which you refer.

And as we look for solutions, a good place to start would be to "depolitic" "enchurched" leaders. But, in the end, [and while we're in the practice of verbing up nouns] nothing -- and I reiterate -- nothing supercedes the desperate need for Christians to "reJesus" the church.
Nathan Brown nub@ou.edu


Here's a link to a podcast of Nathan Brown reading this poem.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

IMB Missionaries Refuse to Resign, Face Dismissal

Kudos to Wyman and Michelle Dobbs for refusing to buckle under pressure to resign from their service at the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. The Dobbs' formerly served at a church in Sallisaw, Oklahoma.

They are being pressured to resign for starting a church in Guinea that IMB officials say is not "Baptist" enough to meet their standards.

Mainstream Baptists have been saying for 25 years that the fundamentalist leadership of the SBC has been taking their crusade for doctrinal purity too far. This won't be the last example, it's just the latest.

NAMB President Resigns

Years ago the Baptist General Convention of Texas appointed a committee to study what was going on at Southern Baptist mission agencies. They reported that the North American Mission Board (NAMB) was being grossly mismanaged. Texas Baptists decided they had better assume more responsibility for their own mission work.

Yesterday the fundamentalist takeover head of NAMB finally resigned. He left under a cloud of allegations about mismanagement.

How long will it take SBC fundamentalists to wake-up to the incorrect statistics, fudged numbers, and other signs of ineptitude at other SBC institutions and agencies? If they paid attention to BGCT study committee reports they would be able to identify a lot more problems.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Making Sure No Public Schools are Left

Associate Press is reporting that schools are "gaming the system" to meet "No Child Left Behind" requirements.

Revelations like this are nothing new. It was widely known and reported that the schools in Texas were "gaming the system" when Bush proposed the legislation and brought former Secretary of Education Rod Paige from Houston to Washington to run the program.

"No Child Left Behind" has nothing to do with quality education for all children. It has everything to do with making sure that there are no public schools left when this President leaves office. "No Child Left Behind" was designed to make it appear that every public school in America is failing. The solution will be a system of vouchers to fund private and religious schools. Those schools will not be subject to the same "No Child Left Behind" standards.

You'll know that politicians are serious about quality education for all children when they insist that every school receiving public funds must meet the same standards. Until then, they are just regulating public schools out of existence and creating yet another way to transfer funds from the public treasury into the coffers of the Religious Right.

Mismanagement at NAMB Revealed

Bob Reccord, President of the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board, is being asked to resign under threat of termination.

Here's a quote from Greg Warner's ABP story:
Reccord took the brunt of a scathing report issued by NAMB trustees March 23, which faulted the missions leader for poor management, autocratic decision-making, extravagant spending on failed ministry projects, apparent conflicts of interest in no-bid contracts for a friend, and creating a "culture of fear" that prevented staffers from questioning the abuses.
If autocratic decision-making and creating a "culture of fear" are reasons for dismissal, then all SBC executives should resign. These have been characteristics of the entire fundamentalist takeover movement.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Retired Colonel Says Bush Already at War with Iran

Retired Colonel Sam Gardner says he thinks military operations in Iran have already begun. Here's a link to his interview on CNN.

If this talk is just "wild speculation," now we know who is doing the speculating and why.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Waiters as a Test of Character

Yesterday USA Today published an insightful story about "CEO's say how you treat a waiter can predict a lot about character." Here's a quote:

"Watch out for people who have a situational value system, who can turn the charm on and off depending on the status of the person they are interacting with," Swanson writes. "Be especially wary of those who are rude to people perceived to be in subordinate roles."

The Waiter Rule also applies to the way people treat hotel maids, mailroom clerks, bellmen and security guards.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Shurden Discusses Carters' Meeting of Baptist Leaders



Walter Shurden's "I Believe" column in this month's Baptist Studies Bulletin discusses the recent meeting of Baptist leaders that was sponsored by former U. S. President Jimmy Carter. Here's a quote:

Having no interest at all in creating a super Baptist convention, the individuals at the Carter Center nonetheless recognized the need for a new unified Baptist voice on issues that bind rather than on differences that blind. What binds? Matthew 25 binds! Jesus' call for action on behalf of the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the prisoner binds. As one of the leaders said of Matthew 25, "This is the sharing of the gospel!" What binds? A personal and public witness to the gospel binds. What binds? The historic Baptist passion for religious liberty and respect for religious diversity binds.
Shurden also makes available the North American Baptist Covenant that the Baptist leaders signed Monday, April 10, 2006.

The Real War Against Christians

Kudos to Bruce Gourley for his essay responding to the "War Against Christians" in the April 2006 issue of the Baptist Studies Bulletin. He clearly identifies the source of the attack on American Christianity:

Tragically, Scarborough and DeLay's brand of grossly misguided theology is echoed by the leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention and preached from many pulpits in America today. Even more tragically, underneath their chicken-little rhetoric lies a real war against Christianity in America.

Scarborough and DeLay are heroes of today's Religious Right, an organization whose real values are privilege, greed, worldly power and deceit -- the very things that the Bible teaches are opposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Thus there is a traitorous war against Christianity in America today, waged by the Religious Right, a group who bears the name "Christian" but lives in opposition to that which Jesus taught and embodied: humility, servanthood, love for one's enemies, integrity, honesty, and truth.

On "Choke Point" Church Discipline

The March 27 issue of the Southern Baptist Texan (SBT) has a revealing editorial about church discipline. It's publication coincides with the United Church of Christ's advertisements about people being ejected from church pews. The UCC affirms an "extravagant welcome" and their ads say, "God does not reject people.  Neither do we."

The Southern Baptist editor asks, "How would a pastor initiate a discipline (not rejection) program?" and identifies the "choke point" that will help churches recover unity and joy.

Gary Ledbetter, the editor of the Southern Baptist Texan, uses a graphic image to describe the way to unify the church through discipline:
Practically though, there is a choke point through which all members must pass. It is also the point at which we make meaningful church discipline possible. Further, any possibility that the church will be unified is decided at this same time--the receiving of new church members.
The need for church discipline, in Ledbetter's mind, arises from differences in the way other Christians interpret scripture.  He says,
If Southern Baptists believe we are conducting our church life according to our best understanding of biblical truth, it is a problem for us to casually mix in new members whose understanding of biblical truth is greatly less or different than our own.
Ledbetter's essay reveals a sleight difference in the way that Southern Baptists view the church and the way that the UCC advertisements have been charicaturizing some churches.  In the UCC ads people are turned away at the door or ejected from their pews.  Ledbetter would simply apply a choke hold on the people who want to join his church and only admit those who readily agree to submit to his interpretations of scripture.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Fourth General Demands Rumsfeld's Resignation

Recently retired General John Batiste, who commanded the Germany-based 1st Infantry Division in Iraq a year ago, has called for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to resign.

How many generals have to retire and speak out before the White House listens?

IMB Conducting Another Purge

As Jimmy Carter works to bring Baptists together, the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention is working to purge itself of more missionaries.

This purge is to cleanse the IMB of missionaries who dare to work with non-Southern Baptists when planting churches.

The IMB has already purged itself of all missionaries who had the integrity to refuse to sign the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Jimmy Carter Calls Baptists Together

Former President Jimmy Carter recently called a meeting of key Baptist leaders together to organize a convocation that could explore unifying the Baptist witness in North America. Conspicuously absent was any representation from the Southern Baptist Convention.

A convocation is being planned for 2007. Authentic Baptists are rising to reclaim their identity as a community of faith from the fundamentalists that have taken over the Southern Baptist Convention.

Southern Baptists have become "Christian nationalists" and theocrats who are increasingly viewed an appendage of the GOP. They have defamed the name of Baptists and have destroyed the credibility of the Baptist witness by becoming the chief apologists for pre-emptive warfare and imperial evangelism.

Authentic Baptists will emphasize our "obligations as Christians to promote peace with justice, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, care for the sick and marginalized, welcome the strangers among us, and promote religious liberty and respect for religious diversity."

Ray McGovern Explains Leak Revelation

Ray McGovern, a retired 27 year veteran of the CIA, explains the implications of Lewis Libby's revelation that his leak was approved by Cheney in an essay entitled "Blowing Cheney's Cover." Here's a quote:

Congressman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., wrote a blistering letter to President Bush before the attack on Iraq, claiming that he had been deceived into voting for war on the basis of forged documents. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, refused to ask the FBI to investigate who was responsible.

Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald, however, has an independent bent -- plus the authority to look these aspects of the litany of leaks. I'll be he has a good idea of who orchestrated the forgery. Indeed, I will not be surprised if the operation is eventually be traced back to the office of the vice president.

Hail to the Jammer in Chief

Phone records are showing that an illegal phone jamming operation to keep democratic voters in New Hampshire away from the polls in 2002 was connected to the White House.

It must have been an operation to protect national security.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Talequah Daily Press Editorial on the Mark

Kudos to the editorialist at the Talequah Daily Press who penned today's editorial. This small-town editorial (pop. 14,500-15,000) about the Valerie Plame leak is better than anything I've seen from big city editors.

Here's an excerpt:

Someone in this equation is destined to turn out stupid: The administration, for expecting the public to swallow this fish tale, or the public, for doing just that.

If the leaked information was declassified by the administration so Libby and others could hand it over to the media, then why didn't they just say so to begin with? Why did they lie and say they knew nothing about it? Or, is McClellan the liar in this case?

To buy any of this, the public will have to suffer not just from pathological stupidity, but also from terminal amnesia. We'll have to forget that Ms. Plame's name only became public after her husband, former diplomat Joseph Wilson, disclosed that he could find no evidence of weapons of destruction in Iraq. We'll also have to forget that several subsequent investigations have vindicated Wilson -- which means the "declassified information" was completely erroneous, or a complete fabrication.

Regardless of what the Bush people call it, the "intelligence" was propelled forward on zeal for vendetta and a war of predestination to topple Saddam Hussein. Someday the truth will out, as well it should. It's gotten an awful lot of people killed.

Hefner's Legacy

Robert Jensen and Gail Dines have published an insightful essay about "Hef's Big Influence." As playboy Hugh Hefner turns 80, theirs is the best appraisal of his influence that I have seen. Here's a quote:

Hugh Hefner turned 80 Sunday. America, say happy birthday to our most influential pimp.

Hefner, the legendary founder of Playboy magazine, a pimp? Yes, if we told the truth about Hefner's "contribution" to society, we would refer to him as a pimp, as someone who sells women to men for sex. While pornography has never been treated as prostitution by the law, it's fundamentally the same exchange. The fact that the sex is mediated through a magazine or movie doesn't change that, nor does the fact that women sometimes use pornography. The fundamentals remain: Men pay to use women for sexual pleasure.

Bush Speaks About Iran War Plans

President Bush has just labelled reports about his administration planning to strike Iran as "wild speculation."

The White House did acknowledge that Pentagon is conducting "normal military contingency planning" to deal with Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

While stressing that diplomacy is preferable, the President continues to defend his administration's strike-first policy against terrorists and other enemies.

Feeling relieved?

On Forcing Armageddon

On CNN yesterday Seymour Hersch said Bush is "Messianic" in his thinking about Iran.

He also said the military is about to break ranks over his plans to pre-emptively use nuclear weapons against Iran. Here's a quote:

And in the military -- you know, one thing about our military is they're very loyal to the president, but they're getting to the edge. They're getting to the edge with not only Rumsfeld but also with Cheney and the president.

A Third General Calls for Rumsfeld's Resignation

The New York Times has published a story about "Third Retired General Wants Rumsfeld Out." This time it is Lt. General Gregory Newbold, who was the military's top operations officer before the invasion of Iraq.

How many strikes will this Secretary of Defense get before he's out?

Premature Obituary

The Washington Post has published a story about "Christian Coalition Shrinks as Debt Grows." Here's a quote:

The Christian Coalition is still routinely included in meetings with White House officials and conservative leaders, and is still a household name. But financial problems and a long battle over its tax status have sapped its strength, allowing it to be eclipsed by other Christian groups, such as the Family Research Council and the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.
There's no doubt that the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission is at the peak of its political influence. The SBC itself has plateaued and is declining as a percentage of the population. The influence of the Family Research Council has been in decline since Gary Bauer left. The Christian Coalition still has the most influence and credibility with Charismatics, Pentecostals, and other evangelicals that emphasize ecstatic manifestations of spirituality.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

On Britney Spears' Childhood

My daughter, who is the same age as Britney Spears, called a couple days ago to tell me that she saw me on television.

Last year a film crew from VH1 interviewed me and asked questions about the beliefs of Southern Baptists. They filmed me answering their questions for four or five hours.

According to my daugher, I appear for about 1 minute somewhere in "Britney's Secret Childhood." I haven't seen the program yet.

It airs today at 2:00 CST on VH1. I'll be at the Second Sunday Poetry Reading listening to Nathan Brown reading from his new poetry books at that time. I'll have to catch it later.

Albert Reyes on Immigration Reform

Albert Reyes, President of the Baptist University of the Americas in San Antonio, has written a very helpful essay on "Toward a Biblically Informed Debate on U.S. Immigration Reform."

Here's an excerpt:

The core issue at the center of the immigration reform debate is justice. Where is our American sense of decency, the value of basic human rights, our love for children and families and fairness toward under-privileged newcomers?

Texas Baptists have been asking this question for several years. Messengers to the 2003 annual meeting of the Hispanic Convention of Texas, with over 1,200 congregations. and messengers to the 2003 annual meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, with over 5,700 congregations and over 2.5 million members, approved resolutions advocating compassionate ministry to the "alien" and the "stranger" in our midst, namely the undocumented and documented immigrant.

The Hispanic Immigration Task Force of the Baptist General Convention, formed in 2003, raised the issue of victimization and exploitation of undocumented immigrants, basic human needs and advocacy regarding pathways for citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Christians must ask the justice question: Is it right for the United States of America to continue to operate a dysfunctional border policy that criminalizes under-privileged and undocumented immigrants seeking to earn a living to provide basic subsistence to their family while allowing American businesses to employ these workers at lower wages?

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Administration Planning to Nuke Iran

AFP is reporting that "US Considers Use of Nuclear Weapons Against Iran."

Symour Hersch has published an essay about "The Iran Plans" in the New Yorker that says the administration is considering using nuclear bunker-busting bombs in Iran.

A lot of this administration's evangelical Christian supporters think the battle of Armageddon is upon us. They also think they are going to be miraculously raptured out of the world so they won't have to live with the fallout.

Before the wars this administration starts are finished, my best guess is that the idea of a "pre-tribulation" rapture will have fallen out of favor.

Friday, April 07, 2006

On Taxing "Biblical" Theme Parks

Some Christians will do anything to shirk their responsibility to pay taxes.

The St. Petersburg Times reports that a "Biblical" theme park in Orlando Florida is seeking a tax exemption due to its religious subject matter.

Some day there will be a backlash against the privileged status that some Christians think they have a right to enjoy.

Moyers on Politics Corrupted by Money

Bill Moyers has published an insightful essay on "A Culture of Corruption" that discusses the influence of money on politics. Here's a quote:

Look back at the bulk of legislation passed by Congress in the past decade: an energy bill that gives oil companies huge tax breaks at the same time that ExxonMobil has just posted $36.13 billion in profits and our gasoline and home heating bills are at an all-time high; a bankruptcy "reform" bill written by credit card companies to make it harder for poor debtors to escape the burdens of divorce or medical catastrophe; the deregulation of the banking, securities and insurance sectors, which brought on rampant corporate malfeasance and greed and the destruction of the retirement plans of millions of small investors; the deregulation of the telecommunications sector, which led to cable industry price-gouging and an undermining of news coverage; protection for rampant overpricing of pharmaceutical drugs; and the blocking of even the mildest attempt to prevent American corporations from dodging an estimated $50 billion in annual taxes by opening a P.O. box in an off-shore tax haven like the Cayman Islands.

In every case the results were produced by rivers of cash flowing to favored politicians from interests whose return on their investment put Wall Street equities to shame. This happens because our public representatives need huge sums to finance their campaigns, especially to pay for television advertising. The masters of the money game have taken advantage of that weakness in our democracy to turn our elections into auctions.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

SBC Explains Revised Membership Figures

Baptist Press has published a story explaining the revised membership figures for 2002 and 2003.

Libby Accuses Cheney and/or Bush of Authorizing Leaks

Lewis "Scooter" Libby, under indictment for leaking classified information that outed covert CIA operative Valerie Plame, has testified that he was authorized to release the information by Vice President Cheney who reportedly said President Bush authorized the leaks.

Another web of White House lies is coming unravelled.

Belmont University Trustees to be Challenged by Tennessee Baptist Convention

Belmont University wants to elect its own trustees. Leaders in the Tennessee Baptist Convention want to dismiss the current trustees and appoint new ones.

Associated Baptist Press reports that the Executive Board of TBC has called a special meeting of the Convention on May 9th to deal with the issue.

Belmont Univesity is the latest in a long line of Baptist Colleges and Universities who have decided that they needed to sever ties with Fundamentalist dominated state conventions in order to maintain their academic credibility.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

On the SBC's Revised Membership Figures

Thanks to Bob Allen at Ethics Daily for calling attention to discrepancies in reported membership figures for the Southern Baptist Convention over the past few years.

Twenty-five years ago, after more than five decades of remarkable and unbroken growth, fundamentalists contended that moderates had to be removed from positions of leadership before they led the SBC into decline. Most moderates left in 1990. By 1998 the SBC was reporting its first decline in over seven decades. Fundamentalists responded by revising the Baptist Faith and Message and turning it into a binding creed. Then the fundamentalists fired whatever professors and missionaries that were left who would not sign their creed. They've run out of handy scapegoats and they are still declining.

If they can't keep the numbers straight on membership statistics, one might wonder about the accuracy of their financial reports.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

DeLay Quits

Former House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay, has announced his intention to resign from the U.S. House of Representatives.

DeLay, a theocrat from Houston, is likely to be remembered as being one of the most crooked and corrupt politicians in history.

He continues to enjoy the confidence of influential Southern Baptist "values voters" and other evangelical Christians around the country.

Just last week Rick Scarborough was quoted supporting DeLay:

Scarborough, the former pastor of the First Baptist Church in Pearland, is a long-time DeLay ally.

"This is a man, I believe, God has appointed ... to represent righteousness in government," Scarborough told the audience, which included Eagle Forum Founder Phyllis Schlafly, former ambassador Alan Keyes, and Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Another General Calls for Rumsfeld's Resignation

Another recently retired U.S. General is calling for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's resignation. This time it is former senior U.S. Military Commander Anthony Zinni who headed the U.S. Central Command from 1997-2000. Here's a quote:

There's a series of disastrous mistakes. We just heard the Secretary of State say these were tactical mistakes. These were not tactical mistakes. These were strategic mistakes, mistakes of policies made back here. Don't blame the troops. They've been magnificent. If anything saves us, it will be them.

A couple weeks ago retired Major General Paul Eaton called for Rumsfeld's resignation.

Democracy and Education

Kudos to Jim Holladay for his succinct essay on "Public Education a Cornerstone of American Democracy." Here's a quote:

For most of our history, Baptists have been ardent supporters of the goals and aims of Jefferson's universal education for all citizens and Mann's vision of the common school. That is not surprising, because our vision of the church and the Christian community is inherently democratic. We have known that truth can best be discerned when the community, in all its diversity, speaks to one another.

Beyond that, we have maintained that a "free church in a free society" is the best environment for persons to respond freely to the gospel. As ardently as we have championed freedom of conscience and local church autonomy, we have defended the democratic ideal by both pen and sword.

However, in recent years Baptist voices have arisen calling for the destruction of the "common" school and an end to the vision of educating persons to function in a democratic, diverse republic. One could legitimately question whether these Baptist voices believe in a :free church in a free state" or whether they believe in a controlled church in a controlled state.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

A Worthy Project for Any Community


Here's a link to a frontpage story about "Fighting for the Rights" in today's Norman Transcript.

The story talks about a group that is raising funds to put large bronze plaques of the Bill of Rights in prominent places in area high schools.

For those interested in making donations, checks can be made out to:

Americans United Oklahoma
P.O. Box 6371
Norman, OK 73070

Please put "Bill of Rights Project" on the memo line.

For additional information call Dr. Bruce Prescott at 405-329-2266.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Haunting Video

WARNING: View this video at your own risk.

Here's a link to a 22 minute video that discusses the use of explosives to bring down a third building (building 7) at the World Trade Center on 9-11.

I make no judgment regarding the value of the editorializing done by those who produced the video.

The video does serve to explain, in my mind, why the families of most of the victims of 9-11 were not satisfied with the Report of the Commission that investigated 9-11.