Friday, March 30, 2007

GAO Warns Threat of Peak Oil is Looming

Truthout is reporting that the Government Accountability Office is warning that Peak Oil is a "Looming Threat to U.S. Oil Supply." Here's a quote from Matt Simmons, a leading expert on world oil stocks:

Matt Simmons is the president and founder of Simmons and Company International, one of the largest investment banks serving the oil industry. Simmons's company has invested billions of dollars in oil-related technology and played a major role in the development of new technologies over the past thirty years. He says the industry "doesn't have any new technology coming on line," adding that "the idea new oil extraction technology can save us is a complete fallacy." Simmons thinks that world oil production may have peaked in 2005 and said "the odds of us not peaking in the next five years are zero." Simmons called the work of Congressmen Udall and Bartlett "a heroic effort to awaken our country to this threat to the survival of our economy."

Rising Above Racial Divisions

The New Baptist Covenant that is bringing Baptists together for a celebration of unity in Atlanta on Jan. 30-Feb 1, 2008 is one of the most exciting developments in Baptist life in the last 160 years.

Bridges are being built to rise above the divisions between races that have plagued Baptists in this country.

This is a development that surely would have pleased T. B. Maston -- the most influential ethicist among Southern Baptists through the civil rights era. In his book Real Life in Christ Maston wrote about how a common Baptist faith could help to overcome racial divisions. Here's an excerpt from pages 47-49:

A few years ago when the segregation pattern was still in force in the Deep South, Brother Clem, a Yugoslav Baptist pastor, visited the United States. He himself told of an experience he had when traveling by bus from Alabama to North Carolina. When he got on the bus, all the seats toward the front were taken. He took a seat by a Negro woman near the rear of the bus. He sat reading his paper but shortly he heard a buzzing that got louder. A young white man came over, took him by the tie, and practically lifting him out of his seat, said, "What do you mean sitting by this nigger?"

The bus driver pulled to the side of the road and asked everyone to be seated. He came back to where Brother Clem was. He told the folks on the bus that Brother Clem did not know the customs of our society. He explained that Brother Clem shared with him as he got on the bus that he was a Baptist pastor from Yugoslavia.

When the bus driver mentioned that Clem was a Baptist, the old Negro lady by whom he had been seated, with a smile that creased her wrinkled face, reached out her hand and said, "The Lord bless you brother. I am a Baptist too." He said that a young black man with his teeth shining and a smile upon his face stepped from the back seat of the bus and reached out his hand saying, "Thank the Lord, I am a Baptist too." Then the young white man who had practically lifted him out of his seat came with his face as white as his shirt and said, "I apologize to you. Will you forgive me? I am a Baptist too."

Brother Clem said the bus driver turned to him and asked, "What do you suggest that we do now?" Clem's reply was, "I would like for us to sing one of my favorite hymns," to which the bus driver replied, "You start and we'll join you."

Brother Clem started and others joined him in singing:

Amazing Grace! how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

Clem said, "We went down the highway a singing congregation."

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Storm Clouds Gathering over America

A recently released Pew Research Center Report on Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes: 1987-2007 (122 page .pdf) proclaims in full caps "POLITICAL LANDSCAPE MORE FAVORABLE TO DEMOCRATS" and Salon Magazine is running a story about "How Bush helped the GOP commit suicide".

Meanwhile, Pat Robertson is raising the specter of a religious takeover of the U.S. government, Rick Scarborough is organizing "Patriot Pastors," and a former Navy Seal with deep ties to the Dominionist Right has used his half-billion dollar inheritance to build "the world's most powerful mercenary army."

Dark clouds are gathering over the political landscape of this country.

Those who think the Religious Right will go away peacefully into the night if they are soundly defeated at the ballot box need to consider the possibility that an extremely powerful mercenary army could be called upon at moment's notice to restore America to the "original vision" that Robertson, Scarborough and Blackwater founder Erik Prince sincerely believe to be valid.

If you think this possibility is remote, you need to read Jeremy Scahill's book "Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army" with this characteristic of Dominionist thought in mind:

Some Reconstructionists realize that, sooner or later, there is bound to be a backlash against the kind of society that they intend to create. Many seem to be biding their time until public sentiment turns decisively against the kind of reforms they are seeking. When that happens, I believe that some, if given the opportunity, will be willing to take up arms and wage another civil war. Some of their literature indicates that they believe that such actions can be morally and theologically justified if they follow a lesser magistrate (like the Governor of a state) who claims to be following biblical law while refusing to submit to a rule of law that is imposed by a secular constitutional authority. This kind of crisis could easily be precipitated by the Governor of state, like Alabama, refusing to execute a Court order to remove a ten commandments monument from state government property.

U.S. Declining in Technology

BBC is reporting that "U.S. 'No Longer Technology King'".

This administration's war against science is having results.

The U.S. now ranks seventh in the world in technology innovation.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

On Public Schools Teaching the Bible

Time Magazine has published a story entitled "The Case for Teaching the Bible" that describes a course in Bible literacy being taught in New Braunsfels, Texas.

A case can be made for the value of public school courses on the Bible as literature. After 9/11 a stronger case can be made for courses that teach students about contemporary religions. Charles Haynes and the First Amendment Center have been at the forefront of efforts to see that it is done in a way that passes constitutional muster. Here's a link to a speech I once gave about his book From Battleground to Common Ground: Teaching About Religion in Public Schools.

I predict that the enthusiasm of conservative evangelicals for public school classes like this will wane as soon as secularists, free-thinkers, non-Christians, and liberal Christians begin to teach these courses and begin to inject their religious beliefs into discussions about the Bible. When evangelicals realize that they cannot control who teaches these courses in public schools, they will begin to reverse their position on this issue.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Pay the War Debt Now

I'm no fan of Joe Lieberman, but he is proposing legislation to pay for the war in Iraq that makes sense -- a war tax.

It is immoral and unconscionable for this administration to pile up debt for it's misguided war and then hand the bill to my children and grandchildren.

A war tax is a fitting way for those of us who are not in Iraq to share in the sacrifices that are being required of our troops and their families.

At the moment, as a retired general quoted by the Christain Science Monitor said,"Marines are at war, America is at the mall."

The least we could do is pay the war debt now.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Richard Land -- Court Priest for a War Denomination

Kudos to Ethics Daily and Robert Parham for their unflinching stand against the cheerleading for the Iraq war by SBC leaders. In an essay about Richard Land's recent defence of Iraq war, Robert Parham says:

Richard has consistently misstated the rules of just war," Parham said. "Either he doesn't understand the rules or he misuses them because he is more politically loyal to President Bush than morally faithful to the biblical call for the prophetic voice."

"Having demanded a wedding ring from the Republican Party, Richard is now so wed to the president's failed war than he is a court priest for a pro-war denomination."
Parham's essay has already prompted one Baptist pastor to call for Land's resignation. Here's a quote from Mitch Randall's latest blog:

And to respond to Land's assertion that peace is an out-of-date idea, I call for his removal by Southern Baptists. Even though I no longer count myself a Southern Baptist, as a Baptist, I am horrified by his adamant support for war. I know faithful Christians within the SBC and they are not of the same ilk as Mr. Land. While many SBC messengers are more theologically conservative than me, I cannot understand how they can allow a fellow Baptist to continue his blind support of a policy that was built upon lies and deceit. When a person of ethics allows themselves to be persuaded by party loyalty over sound argumentation and the truth, then he or she must be forced out. In the words of Robert Parham, editor of Ethics Daily, with Mr. Land at the helm the SBC has become a "pro-war denomination".
Randall is not the only Baptist pastor who is "horrified" by Land's adamant support for the Iraq war, but he is one of the few who has said so publicly.

When are the "conservative" Baptist pastors going to find their voice on this issue?

Teachers Pushing for More Civics Education

There is huge void of civics education in public school classrooms. Now some teachers are pushing to get it back in the curriculum.

Unfortunately, the most effective civics education over the past quarter century has been done in politically active fundamentalist churches.

Does God Hate Shrimp?

Fred Phelps says "God Hates Fags." He quotes Leviticus to prove it.

Now there is a website that says "God Hates Shrimp." It quotes Leviticus and Deuteronomy to prove it.

Is every word of the Bible literally true? Does God hate shrimp? Did God change his mind? Or, have "the liberals" just changed men's minds about what God meant?

You make the call.

I'm going to eat some shrimp today.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Selling their Soul for Faith-Based Dollars

Advocates for freely distributing federal dollars to faith-based organizations have oft contended that it is the faith component of their work that makes their ministry effective. They said removing overt expressions of faith from their work in order to qualify for federal funding would strip them of their identity and effectiveness.

In response to such arguments, the Bush Administration greased the skids for faith-based organizations to get preferential treatment in getting federal money. Among the recipients was the Northwest Marriage Institute (NMI) in the State of Washington.

When NMI began receiving federal dollars it billed itself as a "Bible-based" counseling ministry and the organization's founder, Dr. Bob Whiddon, declared that he "used the Bible as his counselling manual" because "if it is not founded on the Bible it will not work."

Americans United challenged the use of federal dollars for such overtly religious indoctrination in court. The Alliance Defence Fund defended NMI in court.

Before appearing in court, NMI dropped the "religious component" from its website and curriculum materials. The new curriculum even included the following notice:

Because this project is made possible because of federal grant funds, there will be no religious content included in written materials or workshop presentations. Any questions or discussions regarding religious aspects of marriage must be addressed in a separate place or at a separate time than the scheduled workshop sessions. Please respect [this] arrangement.
Federal District Court Judge Franklin Burgess dropped the case against NMI with the following explanation:

According to the deposition testimony of Dr. Whiddon beginning in April 2005 and culminating in the formal change of its mission statement in October 2006, The Marriage Institute shifted its mission from providing Bible-based marriage workshops and counseling to providing marriage workshops without religious references. This change was prompted by a desire to qualify for operational funding from the federal government.
Joe Conn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State commented on this "pyrrhic victory" saying:
Burgess dismissed the AU lawsuit, while reaffirming fundamental principles of church-state law. Public funds, he ruled, cannot pay for indoctrination in religion! And that, of course, is what Americans United was seeking all along. The Constitution has been honored.

But isn't it odd that the ADF and the FRC –- two militantly evangelical Christian organizations -– see the outcome as a victory? Is denying Christ in exchange for Caesar’s coin now an objective of the ADF? Is tossing the Bible in the trash can to cash in on federal funds a good thing in Tony Perkins' view? Who was it who said, "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" (Hint: check Matthew 16:26.)

Friday, March 23, 2007

Southern Baptists, Reconstructionists and Education

Those who still doubt there are links between Southern Baptists and theocratic Christian Reconstructionists should look inside the front cover of the December 2004 issue of the Chalcedon Report. There the chief publishing house for Reconstructionist thought, Chalcedon, announces that it has published Bruce Shortt's book, The Harsh Truth About Public Schools. Bruce Shortt, along with T.C. Pinckney, leads the movement against public schools within the Southern Baptist Convention.

Pinckney, who led SBC Fundamentalists to leave the moderately controlled Baptist state convention in Virginia, wrote a forward to Shortt's book. Paul Pressler and Paige Patterson, who organized the Fundamentalist takeover of the SBC, endorsed Shortt's book.

We've read this script before. First they attack the schools, then they organize a movement to take them over, and then they take them over. They did that in the Southern Baptist Convention.

Now they are taking on the public schools. When they are done, we will have a system of religious schools and home schools, paid-for at public expense, that will dutifully indoctrinate children in theocratic ways.

The first stage of their campaign is passing resolutions at Convention meetings encouraging the parents of school children to investigate the homosexual agenda at the public school. Any school that teaches tolerance of homosexuals will soon be under attack.

For all those school teachers who are fed-up with the bureaucracy in public schools, you are going to love working for these autocrats.

For all those moderate realists and pragmatists who think this scenario is a little far-fetched, all but a few Baptists thought the same thing about the SBC twenty-five years ago.

Ethics Daily is leading the opposition to Reconstructionist and Southern Baptist attempts to undermine the American system of common education. It is also a good place to keep up with the efforts of Reconstructionist Southern Baptists on this issue.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The SBC and the CNP

If anyone has doubts that an organization exists that coordinates strategic objectives for Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) takeover leaders, Christian Reconstructionists, Dominionists and other Religious Right leaders, they ought to do some research on the Council for National Policy (CNP).

John Sugg talks about the CNP a little in his article on A Nation Under God in the Dec. 2005 issue of Mother Jones magazine (The printed copy also has a sidebar on the CNP entitled "The Fountainhead" on page 50)

The first time I heard about the CNP was when I watched a documentary by Bill Moyers entitled The Battle for the Bible that was about the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention. In the broadcast Moyers asked Paul Pressler, architect of the takeover of the SBC, about his involvement in the CNP. Pressler did not want to talk about it. Moyers pressed him about it.

[To hear a 6.12 minute podcast (mp3) of Bill Moyers trying to get Paul Pressler to talk to him about his involvement in the Council for National Policy (along with Falwell, Robertson, North, Rushdoony and others), click here and wait for it to download.]

A good resource for further research on the CNP is a little known book by Russ Bellent called The Coors Connection. Bellent himself says little about Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler, but he provides early lists of CNP members. His lists reveal the prominence that Pressler had within the group. As though he were being rewarded for a job well-done, Pressler was elected President of the organization in 1989 -- the year the takeover of the SBC was complete.

Online lists of CNP membership can be found here. Here's some history of the CNP and its relation to SBC takeover leaders:

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).

A further word about Rick Scarborough. Scarborough was formerly pastor in Pearland, Texas and once was the Fundamentalist's approved candidate for President of the Baptist General Convention of Texas (soundly defeated by Mainstream Baptists in Texas). He organized his church for political action and put church members in key political positions in the city of Pearland. He and his church were also credited in Jerry Falwell's Liberty Journal with helping elect Steve Stockman to Congress. For the last three years, he has been working for Vision America preaching "revivals" around the country in Southern Baptist churches, mustering votes for "Christian values," promoting ten commandments rally's for Judge Roy Moore, and organizing "Patriot Pastors" to get involved in political takeover movements.

Tomorrow, I'll write about Reconstructionism, Southern Baptists and Education

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

On Reconstructionism and Dominionism

After listening to Gary North's interview with Paul Pressler, I was interested in learning about Gary North. I quickly learned that he was the son-in-law of Rousas John Rushdoony who was the founder of a movement called Christian Reconstructionism.

The name Rushdoony was familiar to me, but the movement was unknown. Rushdoony was frequently quoted by Francis Schaeffer. Schaeffer and Rushdoony were both students of Cornelius Van Til. Van Til was a Presbyterian scholar of Christian apologetics.

Apologetics is a term that is used to describe how Christians defend the credibility of their faith to each other and to non-believers. Cornelius Van Til developed an apologetic method known as presuppositionalism. It is based on the presupposition that the Bible is inerrant and infallible and that it reveals God's absolute truth for every area of reality.

While I attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, I learned a little about Van Til and read nearly every book that Francis Schaeffer published. Schaeffer's books were texts in the philosophy and apologetics classes of many conservative members of the faculty. His contribution to apologetics was a, then, new emphasis on the influence of Christianity on culture. He often cited Rushdoony as an authority on the influence of biblical law on modern law.

After graduating from seminary and entering the pastorate, I decided to investigate the thought of R. J. Rushdoony and his son-in-law Gary North. I quickly discovered that the worldview reflected in Rushdoony's writings is virtually identical with that of Francis Schaeffer. Even their tone in voicing their piety is similar. Most people who read Schaeffer will find numerous resonances in the writings of Rushdoony.

Rushdoony, however, was less reserved than Schaeffer in talking about a perceived clash between Christianity and democracy. Before he published his Christian Manifesto (1982), you could tell that Schaeffer was no friend of church-state separation, but he did not write explicitly about Christians influencing government by concerted political action. In my opinion, the unexpressed intention of Schaeffer's Christian Manifesto was to rally Evangelical Christians to the Reconstructionist cause.

To understand the Reconstructionist movement, you have to know something about the thought and writings of R. J. Rushdoony. His magnum opus, published in 1973, is an 800 page tome patterned after Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. Rushdoony entitled his work The Institutes of Biblical Law.

On page 294, Rushdoony gives an indication why he believes that the American system of pluralistic democracy is heresy. He wrote, "In the name of toleration, the believer is asked to associate on a common level of total acceptance with the atheist, the pervert, the criminal, and the adherents of other religions."

[To hear a 3.14 minute podcast (mp3) of Bill Moyers introducing Rushdoony and talking to him about biblical law as a blueprint for civil society, click here and give it time to download]

If Rushdoony and his disciples have their way, democracy will be abolished and a Christian theocracy will be established. A theocracy based on biblical law along the lines of John Cotton's Massachusetts Bay Colony. Rushdoony wrote, "The only true order is founded on Biblical Law. All law is religious in nature, and every non-Biblical law-order represents an anti-Christian religion." (p. 113) He also made it clear that he expects that force will be necessary to impose such order, "Every law-order is in a state of war against the enemies of that order, and all law is a form of warfare." (p. 93)

[To hear a 1.10 minute podcast (mp3) of Bill Moyers talking to Rushdoony about the heresy of democracy, click here and give it time to download]

At its root, Reconstructionism is a militant Biblicism. In many ways, it is a revival of the holy war theology of the Hebrew Bible under the guise of Christianity. The chief difference being that Reconstructionists believe they have a mandate to claim more than the land of Palestine, they believe they are commanded to conquer the entire world and exercise "dominion" over all its peoples.

To a man, Reconstructionists believe that Biblical prophecies assure them that they will ultimately be victorious in the war they are waging to remake society. The chief thing that divides Reconstructionists are the methods they employ to change the culture and society. R. J. Rushdoony thought change would come as the gospel spread and lives were transformed. This would necessarily be gradual and could conceivably take centuries to accomplish. Gary North, on the other hand, thinks change can come rapidly by taking over the institutions of civil government in a manner similar to the way Fundamentalists took over of the Southern Baptist Convention. Their differences over tactics led to conflict between Rushdoony and North.

[To hear a 4 minute podcast (mp3 file) of Bill Moyers discussing North's tactics and questioning Rushdoony about them, click here and wait for it to download.]

Despite their differences over the tactics and strategy, all Reconstructionists are committed to making the laws of Ancient Israel the law of the land in the U.S. They believe the Mosaic law is God's blueprint for all societies. Transported to the context of twenty-first century America, they see themselves as "Christian Libertarians."

Stripped to its barest essentials, here is their dream for America. Their ultimate goal is to make the U.S. Constitution conform to a strict, literal interpretation of Biblical law. To do that involves a series of legal and social reforms that will move society toward that goal. Here is their blueprint: 1) Make the ten commandments the law of the land, 2) Strengthen patriarchically ordered families, 3) Close public schools - make parents totally responsible for the education of their children, 4) Reduce the role of government to the defense of property rights, 5) Require "tithes" to ecclesiastical agencies to provide welfare services, 6) Close prisons -- reinstitute slavery as a form of punishment and require capital punishment for all of ancient Israel's capital offenses -- including apostacy, blasphemy, incorrigibility in children, murder, rape, Sabbath breaking, sodomy, and witchcraft.

[To hear a 6.18 minute podcast (mp3 file) of Rushdoony explaining to Bill Moyers the rationale for applying the death penalty to adulterers, homosexuals and incorrigible children, click here and wait until it downloads.]

With the exception of the call to close prisons, significant steps toward the kind of reforms that Reconstructionists envision have already been made in our society. What they have been able to accomplish has been done by their allying themselves with the Republican party and other conservative Christians and working through the political process. By doing so, they have been able to exert extensive influence over the whole evangelical movement.

I use the term Dominionism to describe the broader movement, heavily influenced by Reconstructionist ideas, that is working from within the political system to takeover the institutions of government and create a theocratic republic. That is being accomplished by 1) declaring the United States to be a "Christian Nation," 2) electing conservative "Christian" candidates who are legislating biblical morality and law, and 3) electing and/or appointing "strict constructionist" judges who will rule in accord with biblical law.

[To hear a 6.12 minute podcast (mp3) of Bill Moyers trying to get Paul Pressler to talk to him about his involvement in the Council for National Policy (along with Falwell, Robertson, North, Rushdoony and others), click here and wait for it to download.]

[To hear a 4.41 minute podcast of Bill Moyers talking to Joseph Morecraft about the expected effects of a political alliance that he forged between Charismatics and Reconstructionists, click here and wait for it to download.]

The chief thing that distinguishes Reconstructionists from most of the conservative evangelicals in the Dominionist movement is that they are not ultimately pessimistic about the possibility of men ushering in the millennial reign of Christ. Most conservative Christians are pre-millenialists. They think Jesus has to return to usher in the kingdom of God on earth. Reconstructionists, on the other hand, are post-millenialists. They think Jesus expects them to usher in the kingdom of God before he returns and some of them expect to do it by force -- by force of law and/or by force of arms.

Most of the people in the anti-abortion terrorist underground -- the people who bomb abortion clinics and shoot abortion providers -- are Reconstructionists who grew impatient with the slow pace of reform through involvement in the political process. They have already taken the law into their own hands.

Some Reconstructionists realize that, sooner or later, there is bound to be a backlash against the kind of society that they intend to create. Many seem to be biding their time until public sentiment turns decisively against the kind of reforms they are seeking. When that happens, I believe that some, if given the opportunity, will be willing to take up arms and wage another civil war. Some of their literature indicates that they believe that such actions can be morally and theologically justified if they follow a lesser magistrate (like the Governor of a state) who claims to be following biblical law while refusing to submit to a rule of law that is imposed by a secular constitutional authority. This kind of crisis could easily be precipitated by the Governor of state, like Alabama, refusing to execute a Court order to remove a ten commandments monument from state government property.

[Incidently, Aubrey Vaughn, the pastor whose church and congregants participated in the making of the Reconstructionist GOP takeover video, was arrested at the courthouse in Alabama for trying to obstruct the removal of Roy Moore's ten commandments monument. To hear a 4.6 minute podcast of Vaughn, identifying himself as Ray Jones, offering a resolution against government schools in the Hotze video, click here and wait for it to download.]

NOTE: The audio excerpts of Moyers with Rushdoony and Moorecraft are from Bill Moyer's 1989 documentary God and Politics:  On Earth as it is in Heaven. The audio excerpt of Moyers with Pressler is from Bill Moyer's 1989 documentary God and Politics:  The Battle for the Bible.

Tomorrow, I'll write about SBC Takeover Leaders and the Council for National Policy

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Paul Pressler's Contribution to Reconstructionism

My introduction to Christian Reconstructionism came in 1986, when Reconstructionist leader Gary North interviewed Paul Pressler for one of his "Fireside Chats." At the time, North's name was foreign to me, but Pressler's was familiar. Paul Pressler was the architect of the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention.

[To hear a 3.45 minute podcast (mp3 file) of North and Pressler discussing Pressler's background and experience , click here and give it time to download]

Before North interviewed Pressler, SBC fundamentalists had long denied that their movement was an organized political effort to take over the Convention. Such denials were no longer possible once Pressler had spoken publicly about the success of their strategy.

As I listened to North's interview of Pressler, I began to worry about the goals and intentions of the person who suggested that Pressler's strategy to takeover the SBC could be a model for how "conservatives" could take over other organizations. Here's how North put it:

It's my opinion that, while the focus of the fight was theological, that the techniques that Pressler and his associates adopted can be used to capture other kinds of organizations. I don't think that this approach that they used, that he will describe, is limited strictly to churches. I think similar tactics can be used in other kinds of organizations. But, the key is -- the laity or your average supporter of the organization has got to share your viewpoints. Conservatives are very inefficient at being able to capture any kind of organization. I can see no way, or almost no way, that the conservatives could expect to go out and capture an institution where the support -- the financial support would be coming from people who don't like conservative ideas. But, if we can find those institutions that are financially supported by people who are in essential agreement with us about the way the world works, . . . that it is still possible to go in and take the institutional power away from our opponents who have very quietly and very successfully gained the seats of power in those organizations -- despite the fact that the money and the support is coming from people who share our views.
[To hear a 2.17 minute podcast (mp3 file) of North's introduction to his interview with Pressler, click here and give it time to download]

Throughout the interview, North drew parallels between the actions of SBC takeover leaders and the actions of the political "New Right" and he commented on relationships between the leaders of the two movements. Pressler was clearly uncomfortable about his highlighting the connections between SBC denominational politics and secular politics. Here's an excerpt from their discussion:

Pressler: We did not enter this in a vacuum. It was something that tried to paper over the problems in the past. And there was rumbling tide of discontent, but a frustration on the part of the majority element in the Convention because they had no direction for rectifying the problems towards which their frustrations was developed.

North:Now in that respect, you see, this is really, when you think about it, a microcosm of the whole country.

Pressler: Oh, agreed. Entirely.

North: Only it's not a theological issue, at least not visibly so. Generally, people in the hinterlands don't like what's going on in Washington and haven't for years, but there is . . . the discontent has not yet been able to be translated into policy changes and institutional alterations to make that discontent flower.

Pressler: Exactly.

North: So, you're coming into this fight . . . again, almost exactly at the time that the . . . the so-called "New Right" . . . the technicians of Paul Weyrich and other men who are masters of mobilization and getting ideas translated into policy and policy into votes on the floor of the Senate or the House -- these men at the very same time were mobilizing for the Ronald Reagan candidacy.

Pressler: Yes, and, you see, that they were completely unrelated. And we . . .

North: Institutionally unrelated. (Interrupted by phone ringing.)

North again: I understand, of course, that . . . yes, it's two different institutional fights, but . . . people . . . there is a . . . there are periods in history when across the board people's minds change.

Pressler: That's right, but the thing that I want to be very careful to point out is we have been accused of being an agency of the "New Right" political movement.

North: Yes, I understand that.

Pressler: We have no connection with it whatsoever, but there are similarities. What we did was spiritually motivated, theologically motivated and a concern for the theological well-being of not only our denomination but those to whom we should be witnessing. The parallels are there, but the accusation that all we are is part of the political "New Right" is not a valid observation.

North: No, and in fact, in my estimation, in fact, it's almost the other way, because the new right as such was virtually derailed by the election of Reagan.

Pressler: Yes.

North: The money fell off. The institutions began going in the red. The success of Reagan politically was probably premature with respect to the goals of the "New Right."

Pressler: Yes.

North: Whereas, on the other hand, in direct contrast to this, your organization and your fight seems to have escalated at precisely the point that the "New Right" got what it wanted and began to decline, in terms, at least, of the money raised and the number of people who were turned out to vote.

[To hear a 4.12 minute podcast (mp3 file) of the dialogue between North and Pressler about the "New Right," click here and give it time to download]

When the interview began to get bogged down by the details of how the fundamentalists were able to put their own men in control of all the institutions of the SBC, North identified the key ingredient of their successful strategy -- leadership with the patience and persistence to pursue a long term project. Here's another excerpt:

North: Now, Adrian Rogers comes in in general sympathy with your efforts.

Pressler: Complete sympathy.

North: OK . . . now . . . let's get on to the real nitty-gritty. What did Adrian Rogers do to tell you that the beginning of the war was now coming in your direction. . . at least a major shift . . . what did he do?

Pressler: Adrian appointed a absolutely superb Committee on Committees and a absolutely superb Resolutions Committee and the other appointments he made were very good, but those were the two crucial committees.

North: Where did he know . . . did . . . he had to have known who to appoint. He's no idiot. Obviously he has some idea . . . somebody's done his homework in the thing. Now let's . . . people aren't naive who are listening to tapes, besides its semi-ancient history. I mean the thing is going . . . the revolution was.

Pressler: Well, Adrian had a reservoir of friends from which to draw recommendations.

North: How did he have that? I mean, I know he's a popular preacher, but all the guys who had been elected for years had had that? Is he really the first solid, consistent, "I understand the fight" type of guy who had gone in?

Pressler: He's the first one that probably made his appointment from a viewpoint of, "How can I effectuate change by these appointments?"

North: All right. That to me is the key! It's not that he was conservative. It's not that he was a Bible believer. But he saw the nature of a struggle.

Pressler: Yes.

North: . . . of an institutional struggle. And he said, "I'm going to be the first guy to start out in a long term project."

Pressler: Exactly.

North: Now that's what's different!

Pressler: That's what's different. And for the first time we had a direction of the conservative movement that would accomplish things working within the system without tearing the system up.

North: ;All right, and that's also significant, because you didn't want a split at that point.
[To hear a 1.49 minute podcast (mp3 file) of North talking to Pressler about having a long term perspective, click here and wait for it to download]

Significantly, when Pressler describes the effects that the new fundamentalist appointees had on the SBC Resolutions Committee, they were all about the secular politics that he was so uncomfortable talking about just minutes before. Here's how he put it:

Pressler: And then we had a Resolutions Committee that was conservative for the first time. And we passed the first pro-life resolution -- strongly pro-life resolution -- ever passed by the Southern Baptist Convention. And we passed an anti-ERA resolution which just infuriated the liberals because they had been utilizing the powers of the Southern Baptist Convention both for the abortion movement and for ERA. And so here we clipped their wings by opposing both at the National Convention.
[To hear a 3.44 minute podcast (mp3 file) in which Pressler makes the above quote, click here and give it time to download. Note this file also contains the next quote]

North follows up with an observation about his sitting on the platform next to Adrian Rogers at the National Briefing Conference in Dallas in 1980 when Bailey Smith made his infamous "God does not hear the prayer of a Jew" statement. He said,

North: To reinforce your point on the politics issue, that was a "New Right" . . . "New Christian Right" operation . . . there is just no question about that meeting. But, Bailey said afterwards to the press, he said, "I'm here because Adrian Rogers invited me here and I am really not interested in the political-ideological fight that's going on." And so again, he was there, but his point was not to be in politics.
[To hear a 3.44 minute podcast (mp3 file) in which North describes the 1980 National Briefing Conference, click here and give it time to download. Note this file is identical to the one under the previous quote by Paul Pressler.]

Despite the denials, listening to that interview confirmed my suspicion that the goal of influencing secular politics was one of the primary motives for the fundamentalist takeover of the SBC. I decided that I needed to learn more about Gary North, the principles that he stood for, and the kind of changes he was interested in seeing effected. Particularly since Pressler's last words in North's interview were, "I appreciate all that you are doing and the privilege to stand for the same basic principles."

[To hear a 1.44 minute podcast (mp3 file) of the conclusion of North's interview with Pressler, click here and give it time to download.]

Tomorrow, I'll discuss what I learned about Gary North's theology and politics.

Monday, March 19, 2007

A Reconstructionist Takeover Video

In February 1990 I received an unsolicited video in the mail. The video came from a Dr. Stephen Hotze and was entitled "Restoring America: How You Can Impact Civil Government." Filmed at a church in my neighborhood, I recognized the actors as the pastor and congregants of an Independent Fundamental Baptist church (the Jerry Falwell kind). The video was a guide on how to 1) take over a Republican Party precinct meeting, 2) elect "Christian" delegates to the GOP District meeting, and 3) put planks supporting the theocratic agenda of Christian Reconstructionism into the party platform.

After reciting the standard mythology about America being a Christian nation, about the influence of Christianity on the reconstruction of the South after the civil war, and about the threat of modern secularism, here is what Hotze said on the video:

Biblically, the legitimate role of civil government is to provide justice based upon the absolute standards of God's law, to restrain wickedness, to punish evil doers, and to protect the life, liberty and property of law abiding citizens.

Christians have the responsibility to be actively involved in family, church and civil government arenas. There is no neutrality. Civil government will either reflect biblical Christianity or it will reflect anti-Christian positions.

You can make the difference. The upcoming primary elections will provide you with the opportunity not only to exercise your right to vote but also to attend precinct conventions which occur at your polling place after the polls close. The precinct convention is the most critical meeting for you to attend if you want to have an impact in the area of civil government.
[To hear an audio podcast (an mp3 file) of Hotze's 8 minute speech, click here and give it time to download.  To hear the audio from the entire 34 minute video, click here and give it time to download.]

I was not registered as a Republican, but I knew that a good friend of mine, a retired moderate Baptist preacher (Jack Selcraig, recently deceased), chaired the GOP precinct in my neighborhood. I called him and advised him about the organized attempt to takeover of his precinct.  He survived the challenge that year (they ousted him the next election cycle), but nearly all of the other Republican Party precinct leaders in Harris County lost their chairs.

Hotze's dominion over politics in Houston, Texas (the third largest city in the U.S.) began that year -- just in time to prepare for service as host of the 1992 GOP National Convention. His reign lasted for around a decade -- until he was arrested for D.W.I. and fell from the good graces of his Fundamentalist followers. The machine he created, however, still rules over the Harris County Republican party and his success inspired and emboldened theocrats to takeover GOP precincts all over the country.

Along with his video tape, Hotze sent a written agenda and instructions for how to conduct a precinct meeting. He also suggested resolutions for the party's platform. Today, nearly all the planks that Hotze suggested can be found in the current platform of the Texas Republican Party.

Meanwhile, most of the country club Republicans who provide the funds for this theocratic juggernaut still seem to be sipping their cocktails in ignorant bliss.

Dominionists are patient revolutionaries. They work through the system to gain control. Then they work from within the system to change the system. The changes they are making are incremental. They have little respect for democracy and none for pluralism. They mean business and they already hold many of the mechanisms of power around the country.

It is long past time for Americans who love democracy to acknowledge what is at stake and start facing the challenge that these patient theocratic revolutionaries represent. Facing this challenge means organizing at the grass roots level -- precinct by precinct -- the same way they did. Rhetoric and writing alone, no matter how passionate, is not going to defeat them. In the end, what matters most is the number of ballots that are cast to oppose them and whether the votes are accurately recorded.

Tomorrow I'll post an essay about the Southern Baptist judge who offered them advice on how to use the system and patiently gain control of the mechanisms of power that they need to effect change.

The SBC's Pro-Torture Ethicist

Nothing could reveal the moral bankruptcy of Southern Baptist ethics more than the rationale for torture offered by a professor of ethics at Southeastern Seminary.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

A Baptist Universe

Baptists bring believers into our congregations by an act of immersion.

Now science is revealing that the entire universe may be a liquid in which everything is immersed. New Scientist has published an article that reveals that some scientists are saying that "The Universe is a String Net Liquid." Here's a quote:

"Suddenly we realised, maybe the vacuum of our whole universe is a string-net liquid," says Wen. "It would provide a unified explanation of how both light and matter arise." So in their theory elementary particles are not the fundamental building blocks of matter. Instead, they emerge from the deeper structure of the non-empty vacuum of space-time.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Time Magazine Covers Mohler's Gay Baby Remarks

Time Magazine has published a story about Al Mohler's "Gay Baby" remarks in an essay entitled "An Evangelical Concession on Gays." Here's a quote:

"Evangelicals have generally been very nervous if not openly opposed to any kind of genetic manipulation, " (Richard) Mouw told TIME, "certainly against producing designer babies, where you have a choice of blue-eyed or green-eyed babies. Why in the world would we now want to advocate designer orientations?"
The article even has a quotation from yours truly:

Indeed, evangelicals have for years defined themselves in large part by their insistence that every word in the Bible is true — no matter how strongly science may suggest otherwise, according to Dr. Bruce Prescott, executive director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists and one of Mohler's sharpest critics. "I wrestle with Al Mohler all the time; he is one of the key leaders of the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention," Prescott said. "But I think this might be the first chink in any of these leaders' armor. At least it suggests that they are trying to reconcile science and scripture.... The first step is to realize science has something to say."
Meanwhile, Mohler has been busy trying to cover his tracks with his fundamentalist-conservative followers.

Southern Baptists Denying Global Warming

Ethics Daily has published an essay about the efforts of Baptist Press and fundamentalist leaders of the SBC to deride Al Gore and discount the reality of global warming.

When will Southern Baptists stop lining up like Lemmings to follow these lame brained leaders?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Why is Alberto Gonzalez Beyond the Law?

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez' record for acting beyond the limits of the law gets longer with each passing day. Yet, he continues to hold the confidence of the President.

Today the National Journal has revealed that President Bush personally put an end to a Department of Justice probe that was beginning to focus on Gonzalez's record in expanding the use of unconstitutional, warrantless domestic eavesdropping.

Mohler at Center of Gay-Baby Controversy

Associated Press is reporting that there is a "Furor over Baptist's Gay-Baby Article."

There has been heated discussion across the political and religious spectrum over a blog that Al Mohler wrote about the probability that parents will soon be able to learn whether their baby has a genetic predisposition toward homosexuality. Mohler says Christian parents will want to employ genetic engineering to assure that their children are predisposed toward heterosexuality.

Conservatives are outraged that Mohler would consider that homosexuality could be rooted in anything other than choice. In some eyes, that is a slippery slope that will lead to the discrediting of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy.

Liberals are outraged that Mohler is advocating the use of genetic engineering to determine gender identity. In some eyes, that is a slippery slope that will lead to the totalitarian breeding of genetically engineered superhumans.

I am ambivolent regarding Mohler's blog.

On the one hand, I am happy to see at least one leader of the fundamentalist SBC begin to take the medical evidence that has been long been mounting regarding the biological origins of homosexuality seriously. It does have implications for the doctrine of biblical inerrancy, but not for doctrines of biblical authority.

On the other hand, I think Mohler is correct about the probability that medical science could some day make it possible for parents to tinker with the genetics that influence the gender identity of their children. As with all applications of genetic engineering to humans, any tinkering with the code of life is fraught with moral and ethical dilemmas.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Hedges Issues Warning About Culture Warriors

Chris Hedges, author of American Fascists, has been following the reaction to "The Equality Ride." In an essay with a title reminiscent of a famous Martin Niemoller quotation, Hedges issues a warning about the influence that Christian Right "culture warriors" are wielding in American society. Here's a quote:

Should another catastrophic attack such as 9/11 occur, should we enter into a period of prolonged instability and fear, what will prevent these preachers from calling for the punishment, detention and quarantining of gays and lesbians, as well as abortionists and Muslims and other nonbelievers to safeguard the nation? What will staunch hate crimes and physical attacks against those deemed immoral by fearful and angry Christians, against those whom these preachers have condemned as responsible for the nation’s abandonment by God? How will the nation function rationally if homeland security depends on an elusive piety as it is interpreted by the Christian right? And most ominously, the fringe groups of the Christian right believe “Bible-believing Christians” have been mandated by God to carry out Christian terrorism, to murder doctors who perform abortions and godless Muslims. In a time of anxiety and chaos, of overwhelming fear and uncertainty, how many more will be prodded by this talk of terror and divine vengeance to join the ranks of these Christian extremists?
Lest readers think Hedges concerns are overblown, here's a link to an essay about a forthcoming meeting by "Christian Nationalist 'Minutemen'" by Chip Berlet of Political Research Associates.

Why is Seymour Hersh Being Ignored?

Tom Englehardt has written a thought-provoking essay about "The Seymour Hersh Mystery." He asks how it can be that the mainstream media and Congress keep ignoring reports of "Bloody Murder" by a Pulitizer prize winning journalist about the Bush administration. Here's a quote:

As far as I can tell, no one in the mainstream even blinked on the Iran-Contra angle or the possibility that a vast, secret Middle Eastern operation is being run, possibly illegally and based on stolen funds and Saudi money, out of the Vice President's office. You can certainly find a few pieces on, or reports about, "The Redirection" -- all focused only on the possible build-up to a war with Iran -- and the odd wire-service mention of it; but nothing major, nothing Earth-shaking or eye-popping; not, in fact, a single obvious editorial or op-ed piece in the mainstream; no journalistic questions publicly asked of the administration; no Congressional cries of horror; no calls anywhere for investigations or hearings on any of Hersh's revelations, not even an expression of fear somewhere that we might be seeing Iran-Contra, the sequel, in our own moment.

This, it seems to me, adds up to a remarkable non-response to claims that, if true, should gravely concern Congress, the media, and the nation.

E-mails Tie Prosecutor-Gate to the White House

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that e-mails turned over as evidence to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees reveal that the White House was involved in the plot to dismiss U.S. Attorneys for political reasons. Here's a quote:

Initially, Sampson and then-White House Counsel Harriet E. Miers mused about firing all 93 U.S. attorneys, wiping the slate clean and replacing them with new appointees at the start of Bush's second term. Such a broad gesture would have sprinkled political gratitude to operatives like Griffin of Arkansas, who had worked in the 2004 campaign, they thought.

But they soon backed off that idea as too disruptive. So they began making lists of individuals, and eventually settled on eight.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

NAE Opposes Torture

Better late than never.

The National Association of Evangelicals has belatedly decided to oppose the use of torture.

We'll see if this is as controversial with James Dobson, Don Wildmon, Tony Perkins and the host of other evangelical leaders who opposed the NAE taking a stand for environmental stewardship.

Monday, March 12, 2007

After Iraq

Rolling Stone Magazine gathered an all-star group of analysts and experts to discuss what we should expect once American forces relinquish control of Iraq. In an article entitled, "Beyond Quagmire" the experts paint a very bleak picture for the future. Here's a quote from the introductory paragraphs:

Those on the panel -- including diplomats, counterterror analysts and a former top military commander -- agree that President Bush's attempt to secure Baghdad will only succeed in dragging out the conflict, creating something far beyond any Vietnam-style "quagmire." The surge won't bring an end to the sectarian cleansing that has ravaged Iraq, as the newly empowered Shiite majority seeks to settle scores built up during centuries of oppressive rule by the Sunni minority. It will do nothing to defuse the powder keg that an independence-minded Kurdistan, in Iraq's northern provinces, poses to the governments of Turkey, Syria and Iran, which have long brutalized their own Kurdish separatists. And it will only worsen the global war on terror.

"Our invasion and occupation has created a cauldron that will continue to draw in the players in the Middle East for the foreseeable future," says Michael Scheuer, who led the CIA's hunt for Osama bin Laden. "By taking out Saddam, we have allowed the jihad to move 1,000 kilometers west, where it can project its power, its organizers, its theology into Turkey -- and from Turkey into Europe."

Land Responds to Balmer

A few days ago I wrote a blog about Randall Balmer's online debate with Richard Land. Balmer seemed to get the best of Land in that debate.

I recently discovered that Land carried on the debate offline by responding to Balmer on his personal weblog. In a blog entitled "Debunking Segregationist Academy Myth" Land said:

C'mon Randall. You're a better historian than that. You continue to perpetuate this inside-the-beltway urban myth that the religious right "organized a political movement effectively to defend racial segregation" as a result of Carter administration efforts to lift the tax-exempt status of private Christian academies. This one just doesn't pass the "smell test," Randall. Most people involved in the pro-life movement didn't and don't send their children to such academies. As I said earlier, I was a sergeant in the pro-life movement from the mid-70s onward and I attended no rallies to defend private schools. If such rallies had been held, few, if any, would have attended. Most Evangelicals I knew considered Bob Jones' segregationist policies to be abhorrent and embarrassing.
I think there is little doubt that Land and many other Evangelicals did consider Bob Jones' segregationist policies to be "abhorrent and embarrassing." Land, by his own admission, was only a "foot-soldier and non commissioned officer" or a "sergeant" in the Religious Right in the 1970's. He was not sitting inside Jerry Falwell's office when the Moral Majority was launched. Paul Weyrich co-founder of the Moral Majority, on the other hand, was sitting in Jerry Falwell's office encouraging him to lead a movement of evangelicals into secular politics. Here's what Weyrich said according to William Martin, author of With God and Our Side and the companion PBS documentary series by the same name:

Paul Weyrich emphatically asserted that, "what galvanized the Christian community was not abortion, school prayer, or the ERA. I am living witness to that because I was trying to get those people interested in those issues and I utterly failed. What changed their mind was Jimmy Carter's intervention against the Christian schools, trying to deny them tax-exempt status on the basis of so-called de facto segregation." Weyrich explained that while Christians were troubled about abortion, school prayer, and the ERA, they felt able to deal with those on a private basis. They could avoid having abortions, put their children in Christian schools, and run their families the way they wanted to, all without having to be concerned about public policy. But the IRS threat, "enraged the Christian community and they looked upon it as interference from government, and suddenly it dawned on them that they were not going to be able to be left alone to teach their children as they pleased. It was at that moment that conservatives made the linkage between their opposition to government interference and the interests of the evangelical movement, which now saw itself on the defensive and under attack by the government. That was what brought those people into the political process. It was not the other things." (With God on Our Side, p. 173)
Martin also received corroborative statements from leaders of the Christian School Action movement, later the National Christian Action Coalition, which was founded to fight the IRS at that time.

Anyone who has read Martin's book and viewed the companion video series will comprehend the feebleness of Land's attempt to defend the myth that opposition to abortion prompted evangelical activism in politics.

Plug-in Hybrid Getting 100 MPG

The San Francisco Gate is reporting that people who have converted their hybrid vehicles by adding batteries and the ability to recharge are getting 100 miles per gallon and more. Here's a quote:

"We took the hybrid car to its logical conclusion," Kramer says, by adding more batteries and the ability to recharge by plugging into a regular electrical socket at night, making the car a plug-in hybrid.

Compared with the Prius' fuel efficiency of 50 mpg, plug-in hybrids use half as much gasoline by running more on cleaner, cheaper, domestic electricity. If owners forget to plug in overnight, it's no big deal -- the car runs like a regular hybrid.

These trendsetters monkeyed with the car for more than their own benefit. They did it to make a point: If they could make a plug-in hybrid, the major car companies could, too. And should.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Can Microbes Determine Gender?

An article in the current issue of Discover Magazine suggests that some do. Here's a quote:

Stranger still, parasitologist Jaroslav Flegr of Charles University in Prague thinks T. gondii could also be skewing our sex ratios. When he looked at the clinical records of more than 1,800 babies born from 1996 to 2004, he noted a distinct trend: The normal sex ratio is 104 boys born for every 100 girls, but in women with high levels of antibodies against the parasite, the ratio was 260 boys for every 100 girls. Exactly how the parasite might be tipping the odds in favor of males isn't understood, but Flegr points out that it is known to suppress the immune system of its hosts, and because the maternal immune system sometimes attacks male fetuses in very early pregnancy, the parasite's ability to inhibit the immune response might protect future boys as well as itself.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Klouda Sues Patterson and Southwestern

Kudos to Ben Cole at the Baptist Blogger weblog for posting information about Sheri Klouda's lawsuit against Paige Patterson and Southwestern Seminary.

Klouda, the professor of Old Testament languages who was terminated because of her gender, is suing for breach of contract and fraud. Here's a link to the lawsuit.

While your in the neighborhood, take a look at the other blogs on Cole's weblog. He's been on a roll for the past couple weeks.

W's Legacy -- The Doctrine of Pre-emptive War

The Washington Post quotes Karl Rove as predicting that the "Bush Doctrine" of pre-emptive war will be George W. Bush's most enduring legacy. Here's a quote:

Rove rejected the suggestion that future presidents might be deterred from the Bush doctrine by the enduring violence and unintended consequences let loose by the invasion of Iraq. "Could be," he said. "But it has a logic of force and nature and reality that will cause people to examine it, adjust it, test it, resist it -- but ultimately embrace it."
Nothing could better demonstrate the fallacy of declaring the United States a Christian nation. Nor could there be better evidence of how thin the relationship is between this President and the Prince of Peace.

Krugman on the Department of Injustice

Paul Krugman has written a revealing essay about the scandal over the sacking of federal prosecutors who refused to use their office for partisan purposes. Here's a quote:

The bigger scandal, however, almost surely involves prosecutors still in office. The Gonzales Eight were fired because they wouldn’t go along with the Bush administration’s politicization of justice. But statistical evidence suggests that many other prosecutors decided to protect their jobs or further their careers by doing what the administration wanted them to do: harass Democrats while turning a blind eye to Republican malfeasance.

Donald Shields and John Cragan, two professors of communication, have compiled a database of investigations and/or indictments of candidates and elected officials by U.S. attorneys since the Bush administration came to power. Of the 375 cases they identified, 10 involved independents, 67 involved Republicans, and 298 involved Democrats. The main source of this partisan tilt was a huge disparity in investigations of local politicians, in which Democrats were seven times as likely as Republicans to face Justice Department scrutiny.

On Politics Infecting Justice

Tuesday's San Francisco Chronicle published on insightful Op-Ed by former U.S. Rep. Pete McCloskey about "When Politics Infects Justice." Here's a quote:

One of the younger members of the Judiciary Committee at the time (1973) was Conyers, a man Nixon had put on his notorious "Enemies List" for whatever punishment federal agencies such as the IRS might devise.

As a result of the Judiciary Committee's inquiries and the work of several dedicated U.S. attorneys, not only was Nixon forced from office, but his attorney general, John Mitchell, was indicted and sent to jail for his part in the Watergate coverup.

Now, 32 years later, another Republican attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, faces questioning by both the Senate and House Judiciary committees, on grounds that he has used his high office for political purposes to remove eight U.S. attorneys, several of whom had been involved in investigations of Republican congressmen, such as Randy "Duke" Cunningham of San Diego, Robert Ney of Ohio and John Doolittle of Rocklin (Placer County).

And who chairs the Judiciary Committee today? None other than Nixon's old enemy, John Conyers.

On Predatory Lending

Banks and lending agencies have been inching toward the business practices of the underworld for a number of years.

Today's USA Today has an article entitled, "When interest rates hit 32%, there ought to be a law." They are right. There ought to be a law.

In Oklahoma, payday lenders can legally charge up to 300% interest.

Some of these Armani suited loan sharks deserve jail time for preying on the poor and naive.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Land Denounces GOP Presidential Frontrunner

The fundamentalist Southern Baptist campaign to elect one of their own, Mike Huckabee, President of the United States has begun.

Richard Land, head of the SBC's non-profit political action committee, has begun some serious negative campaigning against the current GOP presidential frontrunner. Here's a quote from yesterday's Houston Chronicle:

Richard Land, head of public policy for the Southern Baptist Convention, told The Associated Press that evangelicals believe the former New York City mayor showed a lack of character during his divorce from second wife, television personality Donna Hanover.

"I mean, this is divorce on steroids," Land said. "To publicly humiliate your wife in that way, and your children. That's rough. I think that's going to be an awfully hard sell, even if he weren't pro-choice and pro-gun control."
The thrust of Land's criticisms are valid and serious. His rhetoric is caustic and without redemptive intent. Land represents the largest Protestant religious denomination in the country. He sounds like a campaign manager for an opposing candidate.

How can Richard Land serve as a public political handicapper, consultant and organizer while the SBC retains its non-profit status?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

One Small Step for Democracy

Scooter Libby has been convicted.

One small step for democracy, a giant leap toward the end of mankind's neoconservative nightmare.

Leading Baptist Layman Passes Away

John Baugh, long the leading layman among moderate Baptists, passed away yesterday. Ethics Daily and The Baptist Standard have stories about his death.

All Mainstream Baptists owe a lot to John Baugh. He was the driving force behind the grassroots movement of lay people who refused to stand by passively and consent to the hostile takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Eleven years ago, at his 80th birthday party, I heard reports about his legendary legacy for high standards, honesty and straight-dealing in his business practices from his friends and colleagues at Sysco Foods. In his business, he had a keen eye for weeding out the self-serving, self-aggrandizing, corner-cutters who sought to advance themselves at the expense of others. He built his business on his reputation for integrity and he was relentless in his commitment to maintaining personal integrity in every area of his life.

That is why the underhanded, double-dealing, dishonest methods and tactics that the Fundamentalists used to takeover the SBC disturbed him so much. He could never condone in his church or in his denomination the very vices that he worked so diligently to remove from his business.

Would that there were more men of his stature. He was a rare breed.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Paul Craig Roberts Laments a Lost America

Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan Administration has written an exceptionally strong lamentation over Americans have lost their country." Roberts does not mince words regarding the neo-conservative cabal that is running our country. It is a sobering read. Lest readers think he is some rabble-rousing liberal, I've put a brief bio of him below.

Paul Craig Roberts wrote the Kemp-Roth bill and was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is author or coauthor of eight books, including The Supply-Side Revolution (Harvard University Press). He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair in Political Economy, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He has contributed to numerous scholar journals and testified before Congress on 30 occasions. He has been awarded the U.S. Treasury's Meritorious Service Award and the French Legion of Honor. He was a reviewer for the Journal of Political Economy under editor Robert Mundell. He is the co-author of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. He is also coauthor with Karen Araujo of Chile: Dos Visiones -- La Era Allende-Pinochet (Santiago: Universidad Andres Bello, 2000).

Friday, March 02, 2007

Gaddy Debunks Myth that Religious Right is Dead

Welton Gaddy has posted a blog on the Talk to Action weblog about "Rumors of the Death of the Religious Right." Here's a quote:

Dear friends, look at the composition of local school boards, who controls state Republican parties, and what credentials most draw the public's attention in electoral campaigns. Listen to presidential candidates measuring their rhetoric to appeal to religious leaders like James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, and Gary Bauer. Pay attention to the narrow list of social-political issues that continues to be the litmus test for moral values. Study the money amassed by right wing think tanks. Quickly you will see on the Right new energy alongside the old stridency.

People who think the Religious Right is dead had better wake up. These people who see themselves on a mission from God are even smarter than they were in the past and now even more skilled in political strategy. They are not about to give up. To have progressive people celebrating the victory of the Religious Right's demise is to put our constituency right where the Religious Right wants us to be -- confident without cause and vulnerable to a surprise that will cause us to say again with regret, "We just didn't see it coming. We weren't ready for them!"

BWA Critic Accused of Plagarism

Associated Baptist Press is reporting that Paul Negrut, the leader of European Baptists opposition to the Baptist World Alliance, has been accused of plagarizing eight chapters of his book on ethics book -- word-for-word.

Paige Patterson, chair of the board for Negrut's Bible Institute, says the board "finds no evidence whatsoever of plagiarism." They say Negrut was providing "readings" for his students. Few books of readings, however, count two-thirds of a textbook without attribution to the origianl author as a "reading." No mention was made whether other "readings" were included in the book.

Zondervan Publishing House, holder of the copyright for the book that was allegedly plagiarized, is "investigating the situation."

Pickens on Peak Oil

Legendary oilman and corporate raider T. Boone Pickens says that the world's supply of oil has peaked.

Publisher Steve Forbes challenged Pickens' conclusion.

Since when do newspaper publishers know more about the oil business than oilmen?

The most reliable source for information about Saudi oil supplies is Matthew R. Simmons and his book "Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy."

Richard Land Debates Randall Balmer

Thanks to Stephen Fox for calling my attention to the Washington Post's online debate between Randall Balmer and Richard Land. Here's a link to the transcript of their debate about "Evangelicalism."

Apparently Richard Land has not read Balmer's book Thy Kingdom Come. Had he read it, he would not have been so foolish as to link the rise of the Religious Right with evangelical opposition to abortion. That's one of the myths that Balmer buries in his book. Here's Balmer's response to Land during their online debate:

C'mon, Richard, you're a better historian than that. The Religious Right did not coalesce as a political movement in response to the 1973 Roe decision. The catalyst was a lower-court decision, Green v. Connally, which upheld the attempt on the part of the Internal Revenue Service to rescind the tax-exempt status of institutions that engaged in racial discrimination. Bob Jones University of South Carolina stood in the crosshairs of that decision, and that is what motivated evangelical leaders to become politically active; abortion was cobbled into the political agenda in the late 1970s, in preparation for the 1980 presidential campaign, and not in direct response to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Despite the labored efforts of the leaders of the Religious Right to style themselves as the "new abolitionists" in order to draw a moral parallel with the 19th-century evangelical opponents of slavery, the Religious Right organized as a political movement effectively to defend racial segregation.
For documentation corroborating Balmer's assertion, get Balmer's book. If memory serves me right, additional corroboration will be found in William Martin's With God on Our Side and the companion PBS documentary series.

Information about Child Care in Your State

The National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies has a helpful website that provides statistics about the resources available for child care on a state by state basis.

Here's a link to the information for Oklahoma.

New Strategy on the Right

Kudos to Bill Berkowitz at IPS for calling attention to the work of Rod Martin and

His essay "Rights New Strategy Emulates the "Enemy" provides an early look at the new efforts of conservative secularists and Christian Reconstructionists to maintain control of the Republican Party. Of course, the secularists still give the appearance of piety and religiosity in order to placate and manipulate the "unwashed masses" within their party.

Baptist Democrats Do More Good Out-of-Office

Robert Parham has posted and interesting essay at Ethics Daily about "Baptist Democrats are 'Doers of the Word'." He compares the influence exerted by Baptist Democrats against the influence exerted by non-Baptist Republicans when they are out-of-office. Here's a quote:

Neither Ronald Reagan, George Bush nor Dan Quayle can be accused of being doers of the word, drum majors for justice, ambassadors of reconciliation, when they became former office holders.

Yes, Dan Quayle does a golf charity. George Herbert Walker Bush is involved with Bill Clinton in the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund. Ronald Reagan disclosed little record of caring about the public good after he left office.

Of course, none of these men had Baptist roots. Perhaps religious affiliation best explains why some faith-based politicians are doers of the word and others are not.

No one can dispute that Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Al Gore, all Baptist Democrats, have sterling records of post-office public service. It is likely that their specific faith tradition—with the centrality of the Bible and the primacy of mission action— explains their sense of moral obligation more than their partisan affiliation.

What makes Carter, Clinton and Gore different is that they are heirs of the best of the Baptist tradition that is morally encoded with a need to do love neighbor and to care for the least of those among us. It is part of what is learned in Sunday school Bible study, absorbed in worship services, picked up in the fellowship.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Is the U.S. Headed toward Bankruptcy?

U.S. Comptroller General David Walker told 60 Minutes that he is afraid Medicare with the prescription drug benefit is leading the country to bankruptcy. Here's a quote:

Walker shows Kroft long-term projections from the Government Accountability Office that assume the status quo continues, with the same levels of taxation, spending and economic growth. By the year 2040, Walker says, "If nothing changes, the federal government is not going to be able to do much more than pay interest on the mounting debt and some entitlement benefits. It won't have money left for anything else . . ."

Pentagon Whistleblower on Impending War with Iran

Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, who worked in the Office of the Secretary of Defense until a couple weeks ago, describes in an interview how intelligence was rigged to go to war with Iraq. Here's a quote:

That's a funny thing, and of course, here's how it worked. Once the Office of Special Plans was set up formally, now they were informally set up prior to the fall of 2002, but formally they became an office with office space and that whole bit. And the first act to follow that setup of the Office of Special Plans, we had a staff meeting, and our boss, Bill Ludy, who was the boss of Special Plans technically, not in reality but on paper. And he announced to us that from now on, action officers, staff officers such as myself and all my peers, at least in that office, and I presume this went all the way through the rest of policy, but we were told that when we needed to fill in data, putting it in papers that we would send up, doing our job, as we did our daily job, we were no longer to look at CIA and DIA intelligence, we were simply to call the Office of Special Plans and they would send down to us talking points, which we would incorporate verbatim no deletions, no additions, no modifications into every paper that we did. And of course, that was very unusual and all the action officers are looking at each other like, well that's interesting. We’re not to look at the intelligence any more, we're simply to go to this group of political appointees and they will provide to us word for word what we should say about Iraq, about WMD and about terrorism. And this is exactly what our orders were. And there were people [Laughs] a couple of people, and I have to say, I was not one of these people who said, "you know, I’m not gonna do that, I'm not gonna do that because there's something I don't like about it, it's incorrect in some way." And they experimented with sending up papers that did not follow those instructions, and those papers were 100 percent of the time returned back for correction. So we weren't allowed to put out anything except what Office of Special Plans was producing for us. And that was only partially based on intelligence, and partially based on a political agenda. So this is how they did it. And I'll tell you what, civil servants and military people, we follow orders, okay. And we buy into it. And we don't suspect that our leaders are nefarious, we don't suspect that. They, they quite frankly have to go a long way to prove to us that they are nefarious. That's how it worked, and I imagine it's working much the same way there in terms of Iran.


Common Dreams has posted a thought-provoking article by George Lakoff on "The Words None Dare Say: Nuclear War." Here's a quote:

The euphemisms used include "tactical," "small," "mini-," and "low yield" nuclear weapons. "Tactical" contrasts with "strategic"; it refers to tactics, relatively low-level choices made in carrying out an overall strategy, but which don't affect the grand strategy. But the use of any nuclear weapons at all would be anything but "tactical." It would be a major world event -- in Vladimir Putin's words, "lowering the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons," making the use of more powerful nuclear weapons more likely and setting off a new arms race. The use of the word "tactical" operates to lessen their importance, to distract from the fact that their very use would constitute a nuclear war.

What is "low yield"? Perhaps the "smallest" tactical nuclear weapon we have is the B61-11, which has a dial-a-yield feature: it can yield "only" 0.3 kilotons, but can be set to yield up to 170 kilotons. The power of the Hiroshima bomb was 15 kilotons. That is, a "small" bomb can yield more than 10 times the explosive power of the Hiroshima bomb. The B61-11 dropped from 40,000 feet would dig a hole 20 feet deep and then explode, send shock waves downward, leave a huge crater, and spread radiation widely. The idea that it would explode underground and be harmless to those above ground is false — and, anyway, an underground release of radiation would threaten ground water and aquifers for a long time and over wide distance.

To use words like "low yield" or "small" or "mini-" nuclear weapon is like speaking of being a little bit pregnant. Nuclear war is nuclear war! It crosses the moral line.

Parham Turns Up the Heat on Falwell Over Global Warming

In a story today Ethics Daily about "Falwell says Global Warming Tool of Satan" Robert Parham, Executive Director of the Baptist Center for Ethics, has made some accurate and heated comments about Jerry Falwell's views on global warming. Here's a quote:

A moderate Baptist ethicist commented that what gets Falwell in trouble "is not what he doesn't know, but what he knows that just isn't so."

"Falwell speaks with the certitude of a no-nothing buffoon," said Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics." His flat-earth theology is wrong. His misuse of the Bible for reactionary politics is wrong. His dichotomy between evangelism and environmentalism is wrong. His demonization of thoughtful pro-environment Christians is wrong."

"Like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell misspeaks every time he speaks," Parham said. "That must create another nightmare for Southern Baptists."