Friday, June 29, 2007

Memorable Quote

Here's one of the most memorable quotes from the rally. U.S. Representative Chet Edwards asked,

"Is there any material gift we could bequeath to our heirs that would be more valuable than insuring their freedom to worship God in their own way?"

Podcast: Speeches from the Baptist Unity Rally for Religious Liberty

Here's a link to a podcast (14 MB mp3) of the speeches by U.S. Rep. Robert Scott of Virginia and U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards of Texas to the "Baptist Unity Rally for Religious Liberty" sponsored by the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty at the Fountain Plaza of the Upper Senate Park in Washington, D.C. on the morning of June 29, 2007.

Pictured at the podium is Hollyn Hollman of the BJC. Rep. Scott and Rep. Edwards are in the center of the picture.

Is the Stained Glass Ceiling for Women About to Lift?

Ethics Daily is reporting that a new survey by Baptist Women in Ministry indicates that CBF churches are more open to women pastors than previously believed. Here's a quote:

A second annual State of Women in Baptist Life, unveiled Thursday at the CBF General Assembly in Washington, found that 95 percent of CBF laypersons responding to the survey said they would be open to calling a woman to their church as pastor. One in five said they would prefer a woman, compared to 17 percent who would prefer a man.

Yet only about 6 percent of CBF churches are led by a woman.

"That disparity is the story, we think, of what's going on with the marginalization of women," Campbell-Reed said. "Not that pastor is the only important ministry role, but it's a barometer that gives us a measure of the full inclusion of women."

The responses seemed to confirm the widely held perception that progressive and moderate Baptists support women in ministry in theory, the study said, but women have advanced only marginally in the profession of ministry in Baptist life.

"The attitudes about women in ministry were overwhelmingly positive," said the other co-author, Pamela Durso. "The support is high, but the practical reality is low."

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Reagan Official Calls for Cheney's Impeachment

Bruce Fein, Associate Deputy Attorney General in the Reagan Administration, has written an editorial calling for Vice President Cheney's impeachment. After reciting a long list of high crimes and misdemeanors, Fein concludes:

Section 3 of the 25th Amendment provides a method for the president to yield his office to the vice president, when "he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office." There is no other constitutional provision for transferring presidential powers to the vice president.

Yet without making a written transmittal to Congress, President Bush has ceded vast domains of his powers to Vice President Cheney by mutual understanding that circumvents the 25th Amendment. This constitutional provision assures that the public and Congress know who is exercising the powers of the presidency and who should be held responsible for successes or failures. The Bush-Cheney dispensation blurs political accountability by continually hiding the real decision-maker under presidential skirts. The Washington Post has thoroughly documented the vice president's dominance in a four-part series running this week. It is quite a read.

In the end, President Bush regularly is unable to explain or defend the policies of his own administration, and that is because the heavy intellectual labor has been performed in the office of the vice president. Cheney is impeachable for his overweening power and his sneering contempt of the Constitution and the rule of law.

Blog Against Theocracy

There will be a "Blog Against Theocracy" blogswarm from July 1-4. A blogswarm is a coordinated effort in which a group of bloggers agree to post on the same topic at the same time. The theme of this 4th of July blogswarm is "the separation of church and state is patriotic."

Blog Against Theocracy!

Don't miss this opportunity to join people across the country in speaking out for the separation of church and state. If you have a blog, please join the swarm. If you don’t have a blog but want to participate, visit blogs that are part of the swarm and post your comments. Also, whether a blog writer, blog reader, or both, if you know of blogs that should be part of this, please help spread the word.

Whatever role you wish to play, more information about the Blog Against Theocracy can be found at this link.

The commemoration of our nation's independence is the perfect time to celebrate and reflect upon the religious freedom we have.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Tony Campolo Has Spoken (updated)

Tony Campolo, sociologist and President of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, spoke on the topic, "The Minister and Politics: Prophetic or Partisan?"

Here's a link to a podcast -- a five minute excerpt (5 MB mp3) -- from Tony Campolo's speech.

Greg Boyd Has Spoken (updated)

Greg Boyd, pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, MN and author of the Myth of Christian America, spoke on "The Minister as Pastor and Prophet of the Trans-political Kingdom."

Here's a quote:

"The criteria for politics -- especially in a pluralistic democracy -- is a common decency that promotes the common good. If it promotes the common good, all decent people, whether they are people of faith or not, will agree with it. There is no need to promote an specifically Christian ethic."

Melissa Rogers Has Spoken (updated)

Melissa Rogers, Visiting Professor of Religion and Public Policy aty Wake Forest University, spoke on the topic of "The Minister as a Prophet on Church and State issues.

She prefaced her remarks with this statement:

"It is one thing for Christians to work to promote the common good and for our government to work to promote the common good. It is another thing to call on the government to endorse sacred symbols and scriptures."

Melissa gave three suggestions to ministers when teaching and preaching about the relation of church and state.

1) Recognize that it is the job of the individual and the community to spread faith, not the government.

2) Expect Christians to tell the truth -- including when they are talking about church and state issues.

3) Churches must ask what is happening in our country to human rights, including rights of conscience, under the "war on terror."

She adamantly insisted that Baptists should not be for a private faith or for a quiet faith, but for a fiercely independent faith.

Wallis Has Spoken (updated)

Jim Wallis, Executive Director of Sojourners, spoke on "The Minister as a Prophet of Social Justice."

Wallis gave seven rules of engagement between Christians and politics.

1) God hates injustice.
2) The Kingdom of God is a new order.
3) The Church is an alternative community.
4) The Kingdom of God changes the world by addressing the specifics of injustice.
5) The church is the conscience of the state -- holding it accountable for social justice and restraining its violence.
6) The church should take a global perspective. The Kingdom of God doesn't commend nationalism.
7) Seek the common good of societies.

Live from the Grand Hyatt

I'm blogging live at "The Minister and Politics: How to be Political Without Being Partisan" Conference sponsored by Christian Ethics Today at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Washington, D.C.

First speaker on the program will be Jim Wallis, Executive Director of Sojourners. He will be followed by Melissa Rogers, Visiting professor of Religion and Public Policy at Wake Forest University. She will be followed by Greg Boyd, Pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. Clean-up speaker will be Tony Campolo, Sociologist and President of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

On Torturing Americans

Harpers Magazine has published an illuminating note about how authorization for torture by this administration began with a decision to use every possible means to extract information from an American citizen. Here's a quote:

In other words, torture didn't start in Gitmo or among some grunts in the field and then spread. In fact perhaps the very first victim was a young American citizen, and the decision was reached right at the pinnacle of power and then hammered down on people out in the field who reacted with disbelief upon hearing the instructions given.

Trust Conservatives?

The Religion News Service is reporting that polls show that trust in organized religion is at an all-time low. ABP is reporting that evangelicals are caught in the middle of an identity crisis within Christianity.

Is there any coincidence that this is also the highpoint of the fundamentalist-conservative ascendancy in denominational politics and the apex of the secular political power of the Religious Right?

Monday, June 25, 2007

On the Politics of Conscience

Presidential candidate Barak Obama gave a speech about "A Politics of Conscience" yesterday to the General Synod of the United Church of Christ.

I like seeing conscience related to politics. It resonates with both the theological and political genius of early Baptists like Roger Williams. It is a theme on which I frequently speak (look here, here, here and here for examples).

Some of Obama's words do demonstrate a sensitivity to the principle of separation of church and state:

So let's rededicate ourselves to a new kind of politics -- a politics of conscience. Let's come together -- Protestant and Catholic, Muslim and Hindu and Jew, believer and non-believer alike. We're not going to agree on everything, but we can disagree without being disagreeable. We can affirm our faith without endangering the separation of church and state, as long as we understand that when we're in the public square, we have to speak in universal terms that everyone can understand. And if we can do that -- if we can embrace a common destiny -- then I believe we'll not just help bring about a more hopeful day in America, we'll not just be caring for our own souls, we'll be doing God's work here on Earth.
I'll reserve judgment on whether Obama's political actions match his rhetoric.

Judging from the report in the New York Times, the secular news media only perceives a new union of left-wing religion and politics, and UCC pastors like Chuck Currie who sign-on to publicly campaign for him can only lend credence to their perceptions.

Friday, June 22, 2007

On Democrats with Thin Skin

Democrats recently held a "Take Back America" conference. The organizers of the conference were so impressed with journalist Max Blumenthal's video about the 2007 Conservative Political Action Conference that they asked him to create a film about their conference.

He did, but they didn't like the video he made about their conference. So, they refused to let it be viewed.

I liked both of Max's videos. Here's a link to his video on the "Take Back America Conference."

It looks to me like Democrats are taking themselves way too seriously.

On the Political Imbalance of Talk Radio

Think Progress has posted a report on "The Right Wing Domination of Talk Radio and How to End It." Here's a quote from their press release:

--In the spring of 2007, of the 257 news/talk stations owned by the top five commercial station owners, 91 percent of the total weekday talk radio programming was conservative, and only 9 percent was progressive.
Here's a link to the entire report.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Philosophy with a Sense of Humor

Thomas Cathcart & Daniel Klein have published a primer on philosophy that will appeal to even the most philosophically disinclined. "Plato and a Platypus Walk into a bar . . ." is philosophy with a sense of humor. Really. The book's subtitle is "Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes."

The book is a delightful read. It is certain to introduce many intellectually reticent young people to the joys of critical thought and reflection. I suspect that it is destined to become a classic text.

There's a joke on every page. Sometimes two or three jokes on a page and every one of them illustrative of a philosophic insight. There's just enough discussion of philosophers and their beliefs to tease the reader into searching beyond the text for a fuller understanding.

Here's an example of a joke that reveals through humor the philosophic limitations of "inductive arguments from analogy" as predominant in the reasonings of advocates of "Intelligent Design:"

Three engineering students are discussing what sort of God must have designed the human body. The first says, "God must be a mechanical engineer. Look at all the joints."

The second says, "I think God must be an electrical engineer. The nervous system has thousands of electrical connections."

The third says, "Actually, God is a civil engineer. Who else would run a toxic waste pipeline through a recreational area?"

Will Right-Wing Politics Save America?

Rick Scarborough, a Southern Baptists of Texas leader, is launching a "Seventy Weeks to Save America" Crusade on July 4th.

Thirty years ago whenever a Baptist organized a campaign to preach in Baptist churches, he was preaching to save souls. That was before Fundamentalists organized political campaigns to "save" their denomination and "Southern" culture. Scarborough was a leader among the young pastors who set aside the revivalist tradition of preaching to revive and save souls and took up preaching to mobilize resentment against the imaginary "liberals" who were supposed to be teaching in Southern Baptist seminaries. Within a decade, he and other Fundamentalists had taken over the Southern Baptist Convention, began purging it of moderates and centrists, and turned their attention to secular politics.

Fundamentalist preachers of resentment like Scarborough have been a force to be reckoned with in secular politics for thirty years. They are filled with fear and fight and they are masters at communicating and conveying their emotions to others.

Preachers of resentment were most effective when they focused all their attention on those they deemed enemies within their denomination and country. Those enemies have a different mindset. They face the future with few apprehensions and they avoid fights unless they are boxed into a corner.

Right-wing crusaders began to lose their effectiveness when they started leading cheers for a pre-emptive war against an external enemy, turned a blind eye to the use of torture, and offered justifications for the suspension of civil and human rights. Then the ground underlying the moral claims of their "right-to-life" and "culture of life" slogans was exposed as mere rhetoric.

Meanwhile, the sentiment of those who passively yielded before the onslaughts of right-wing religion and politics has changed. Now they are apprehensive about the future and they have been boxed into a corner.

The next seventy weeks may well prove to be a struggle for the very soul of America. Neither right-wing nor left-wing politics, however, is going to save us.

Whatever became of old-fashioned gospel preaching? The kind that preached for repentance and focused on saving souls instead of cultures?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Kaylor on Bobby Welch's Toxic Metaphors

Brian Kaylor has written an essay filled with astute insights about the metaphors that Bobby Welch, former President of the SBC, uses to describe his faith and witness. Here's the conclusion from Kaylor's "Doggone Metaphors:"

The use of such violent metaphors to describe the act of sharing the love of Jesus is inappropriate. It drives away people who might otherwise be open to hearing about God.

It is time for Christians to put aside metaphors of hunting dogs, elephant hunts and bloody wars. We need to instead emphasize the love of Jesus and express our sincere concern for all people. We also need to offer open dialogue and a loving invitation.

And above all, we need to get rid of those doggone toxic metaphors.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

On America's "Criminal" Foreign Policy Toward Palestinians

In a scathing denunciation of the Bush administration's foreign policy toward Palestine, former President Carter labelled it "criminal" at an NGO conference on Human Rights in Dublin. Here's a quote:

Carter, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who was addressing a human rights conference in Ireland, also said the Bush administration's refusal to accept Hamas' 2006 election victory was "criminal."

Carter said Hamas, besides winning a fair and democratic mandate that should have entitled it to lead the Palestinian government, had proven itself to be far more organized in its political and military showdowns with Abbas' moderate Fatah movement.
The Islamic world has clearly exposed the foreign policy of the most powerful "Christian nation" in the world as nothing more than the law of the jungle -- "might make right." America preaches democracy, but we practice "social darwinism."

In the eyes of the non-Christian world, nothing could discredit both democracy and Christianity more than an American President who launches pre-emptive wars under false pretenses, authorizes the secret rendition and torture of prisoners, and then lectures the world about the virtues of both faith and democracy. And nothing could discredit the Church more than the fact that this President can still boast that his most loyal support comes from the ranks of the most publicly fervent and vocal proponents of the Christian faith.

I realize that most American Christians could care less what the world's non-Christians think. We are too busy shopping to support the President's "war on terror" and we are much too pious to actually tell unbelievers "Go to Hell!"

We don't need to -- our actions speak louder than any words. Non-Christians get the message. I'm sure God does too.

I'm also sure that God knows perfectly well who will deserve damnation.

On PBS and Christian Nationalist Propaganda

Thanks to Bob Allen at Ethics Daily for providing additional background information about the film produced by Christian Reconstructionists that PBS has agreed to distribute. Here's a quote:

A press release on the PBS Web site describes the wall of church/state separation as a "metaphor deeply embedded in the American consciousness."

"But what would surprise most Americans is the discovery that this is not what the Founding Fathers intended when they established the nation and wrote the Constitution and Bill of Rights," the press release continues. "In fact, they had a radically different interpretation of the role of religion in state and federal governments."
Brick by brick, the wall separating church and state is being dismantled. When this is over, we will be retracing the steps of the brave new world of the 1650's.

Monday, June 18, 2007

On Politics and Justice

The LA Times has published a story about the effect that this administration's unapologetic politicization of justice has had in courtrooms around the country. Here's a quote:

The controversy has drained morale from U.S. attorney offices around the country. And now, legal experts and former Justice Department officials say, it is casting a shadow over the integrity of the department and its corps of career prosecutors in court.

There has long been a presumption that, because they represented the Justice Department, prosecutors had no political agenda and their word could be trusted. But some legal experts say the controversy threatens to undermine their credibility.

"It provides defendants an opportunity to make an argument that would not have been made two years ago," said Daniel J. French, a former U.S. attorney in Albany, N.Y. "It has a tremendously corrosive effect."

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Seymour Hersch on General Taguba's Report

Seymour Hersch has written a revealing essay about how the General who investigated the torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib prison became a casualty of the neo-conservative war machine that is running our country. Here is Taguba's conclusion:

"They always shoot the messenger," Taguba told me. "To be accused of being overzealous and disloyal -- that cuts deep into me. I was being ostracized for doing what I was asked to do."

Taguba went on, "There was no doubt in my mind that this stuff" -- the explicit images -- "was gravitating upward. It was standard operating procedure to assume that this had to go higher. The President had to be aware of this." He said that Rumsfeld, his senior aides, and the high-ranking generals and admirals who stood with him as he misrepresented what he knew about Abu Ghraib had failed the nation.

"From the moment a soldier enlists, we inculcate loyalty, duty, honor, integrity, and selfless service," Taguba said. "And yet when we get to the senior-officer level we forget those values. I know that my peers in the Army will be mad at me for speaking out, but the fact is that we violated the laws of land warfare in Abu Ghraib. We violated the tenets of the Geneva Convention. We violated our own principles and we violated the core of our military values. The stress of combat is not an excuse, and I believe, even today, that those civilian and military leaders responsible should be held accountable."
This administration's debasement of the public trust and its criminal contempt for even the most basic human rights and decency, as revealed in this article, ought to prompt righteous indignation in every American. That it doesn't, demonstrates the depths of degradation into which America has fallen under this administration. Degradation either cheered or condoned by jingoistic right-wing Christians and neo-conservative ideologues alike.

Nothing discredits the gospel in the eyes of an unbelieving world more than the docility of evangelical Christians in the face of such demonstrably depraved leadership.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Moyers on Libby, Begging for a Pardon

Bill Moyers has delivered a telling essay about the ironies of neo-conservative concern for the fate of Scooter Libby in comparison to their callousness toward the fate of American troops fighting in Iraq. Here's an excerpt:

It is well known that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby—once Vice President Cheney's most trusted adviser—has been sentenced to 30 months in jail for perjury. Lying. Not a white lie, mind you. A killer lie.

Scooter Libby deliberately poured poison into the drinking water of democracy by lying to federal investigators, for the purpose of obstructing justice. Attempting to trash critics of the war, Libby and his pals in high places—including his boss Dick Cheney—outed a covert CIA agent. Libby then lied to cover their tracks. To throw investigators off the trail, he kicked sand in the eyes of truth. "Libby lied about nearly everything that mattered," wrote the chief prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.

The jury agreed and found him guilty on four felony counts. Judge Reggie B. Walton—a no-nonsense, lock-em-up-and-throw-away-the-key type, appointed to the bench by none other than George W. Bush—called the evidence "overwhelming" and threw the book at Libby.

You would have thought their man had been ordered to Guantanamo, so intense was the reaction from his cheerleaders. They flooded the judge's chambers with letters of support for their comrade and took to the airwaves in a campaign to "free Scooter." Vice President Cheney issued a statement praising Libby as "a man...of personal integrity"—without even a hint of irony about their collusion to browbeat the CIA into mangling intelligence about Iraq in order to justify the invasion.

. . .

One Beltway insider reports that the entire community is grieving—"weighted down by the sheer, glaring unfairness" of Libby's sentence. And there's the rub. None seem the least weighted down by the sheer, glaring unfairness of sentencing soldiers to repeated and longer tours of duty in a war induced by deception.

Friday, June 15, 2007

What Does the Rift Between Conservatives and Fundamentalists in the SBC Mean?

The Tennessean has published a series of essays that describe the significance of the current rift between SBC Conservatives and Fundamentalists.

The editor of the Tennessean views the rift as being between older Conservatives and younger Moderates. He can be forgiven for making that mistake. For decades the divisions in the SBC were between moderates and conservatives, but the moderates left and formed the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. The moderates who remain in the SBC don't go to SBC Conventions any more. They've dropped out of denominational life and are focusing their attention on their isolated, except in Texas and Virginia, local churches.

The rift is between younger conservatives who lack the mean spiritedness that characterizes fundamentalist Christianity and older fundamentalists. The younger conservatives supported the fundamentalists while they ruthlessly terminated moderate denominational executives, professors, and missionaries but now, as they are being placed in positions of power and groomed for greater responsibilities, they are trying to strike a moderate pose. Either that, or they developed a conscience somewhere along the way and are now having second thoughts about the methods and tactics that brought the fundamentalists to power.

Robert Parham views the rift as a struggle between an "old-guard of fundamentalists" and an emerging "new-wave of fundamentalists." I'm not ready to concede that the "new-wave" has the mean-spiritedness of fundamentalism in them. They are certainly conservatives and not moderates, but some of them do seem to have an "irenic spirit."

Kevin Shrum views the rift as the second phase of a reformation. That he can view this phase as a movement toward "a post-modern future" is but another example of how ill-defined "post-modernism" has become. Post-modernity refers to a world in which authority is fragmented and knowledge is a commodity. The takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention is a movement toward unitary authority and dogmatic knowledge. It has more affinity with the Counter-Reformation of the Spanish Inquisition than with either the Radical Reformation or with English Separatism.

Roger Williams and Women's Liberation

In 1636, when Roger Williams founded Providence Plantations (now Rhode Island) he created the first purely civil state formed by social contract. It granted religious liberty to every inhabitant, guaranteed that no one "should be molested for his conscience," and ascribed power to the magistrate "only in civil things."

The first case to test Williams' new principle of civil government came in the spring of 1638 when Joshua Verin was disenfranchised at a town meeting "for restraining of liberty of conscience." Williams and others had organized the first Baptist church in America. Attendance at its services was entirely voluntary. Joshua Verin didn't care to attend the settlement's church services. His wife did. She exercised her liberty to attend a preaching service without his permission and, according to town records, "He hath trodden her underfoot tyrannically and brutally . . . with his furious blows she went in danger of her life."

When the settlement disenfranchised Verin, he returned to the Massachusetts Bay Colony and took his wife with him. William Arnold, one of Verin's defenders, is reported to have said "when he consented to that order [liberty of conscience] he never intended that it should extend to the breach of any ordinance of God, such as the subjection of wives to their husbands."

James Ernst, one of Williams' biographers, summarized the significance of this incident saying,

The Verin trial marked a struggle of new-born liberty with ancient law, involving a delicate problem of domestic life. This new liberty gave women an independent status and the right to leave the house without the consent of her husband. She was no longer his chattel, nor subject to his religious conscience. Verin objected to such liberty, and took his wife back to the Bay theocracy where they kept women in their place. Arnold, Winthrop [Governor of the Bay Colony], and others made religious rights a matter of age, sex, and social standing. Providence was the first civil government to recognize feminine rights as a natural and civil right and as a state policy.
James Ernst, Roger Williams: New England Firebrand (New York: Macmillan Co., 1932), pp. 193-94.

One of the things that the Celebration of the New Baptist Covenant hopes to do is to restore pride in this kind of rich heritage in which Baptists were advocates for religious liberty, liberty of conscience and equal rights.

This entry is cross-posted from the New Baptist Covenant weblog.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Cure for Sagging Pants

A Louisiana mayor has resorted to drastic measures to put an end to young people wearing sagging pants. Too drastic, in my opinion. He's made it a criminal offense.

I am convinced that there's no need to resort to such overdrawn measures. All you need to do to cure the sagging pants syndrome is to put a basketball in the hands of every kid with low riding pants and put them on a basketball court.

I discovered this cure when I was pastor of Easthaven Baptist Church in Houston, Texas. For seven years on Wednesday evenings, after prayer meeting, I opened the church's gym up to all the young people in the neighborhood around the church. There were a lot of kids who would come to play basketball who wouldn't come for any other reason.

The first few times the gym was open, nearly all of the African-American males and some of the Hispanic males wore their lowest riding pants. It was quite colorful. Every guy was wearing boxers of a different color and/or flashy print.

I made sure that the boys with the lowest pants got on the court first. With two half-court games going at the same time, I could keep twenty of those colorful behinds busy at the same time.

I let them play for five minutes, then I let the teams that were ahead play against each other on one end of the court, rotated the losing teams to the bench, and put fresh teams against each other at the other end of the court. Every five minutes we rotated teams again with the winning teams remaining on the court. We did that for 60 minutes -- 90 minutes whenever I had more than 40 kids -- with only a 5 minute mini-sermon at half-time for a break.

After the second week, I rarely had a player wearing low riding pants.

It's just plain hard to play basketball with the waist of your pants half-way down to your knees.

Thankful for Public Schools

Mitch Randall has written an essay challenging those who attack our public schools and thanking the public school educators that contributed to his education. Here's a quote:

Public educators are good people. I have had the privilege of being educated by many wonderful individuals within public schools. Also, I have established and maintained very meaningful relationships with teachers and administrators throughout my life. Some of my best friends are very solid Christian men and women that are great witnesses to the throngs of students they encounter each year. They choose to be a witness through their actions, instead of causing distrust by casting hallow allegations. Through their kindness and love for their students, they profess a kind of witness that makes a real difference for the kingdom.

Finally, I would like to offer my own resolution. I resolve that public educators are still the most professional and caring people in the world. The positive influence that many educators make on their students goes far beyond our imagination. The foundations they lay at an early age provide strength for many years to come. I further resolve that because of their unfettered dedication and tireless commitment, I have benefited from their influence. Therefore, we all own them our gratitude.

I, for one, instead of attacking you, would like to thank you. Thank you for all that you do and all that you are. I am deeply appreciative that I was educated in public schools.
It's not difficult to pinpoint when the attack on public schools began in earnest. It came with integration. Home schooling and private schooling among Protestants was nil before public schools were integrated.

Those doubting the racist roots of this movement should examine the textbooks that are being used in homeschools and private religious schools. Here's a review of a popular American history text used in homeschools and private religious schools.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Burleson & Cole Face Down Fundamentalists at the SBC

Wade Burleson and Ben Cole succeeded in getting their motion to instruct SBC agency trustees to stop narrowing the parameters of Southern Baptists beyond the BF&M 2000. Messengers approved their motion by 58% of the vote.

Quotes from Bill Harrell and Malcolm Yarnell give indication of the likely response of Fundamentalist leaders to the convention's decision:

But the Rev. Bill Harrell, chairman of the SBC executive committee, countered that the Baptist Faith and Message "has always been our guide," and trustees will "still be able to answer the questions about whether to hire somebody or not."

"I don't think it will have a lot of significance, and I really don't think it is going to change much," he said.

Malcolm Yarnell, a professor at Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth, called the motion confusing and unclear. Yarnell said he interpreted the vote as a vindication of the Baptist Faith and Message as setting the minimal standard for Baptist beliefs, and rejected the argument that it will restrict trustees of Baptist groups from laying down additional rules.

He said most people walking out of the hall after Tuesday's vote were "good conservative pastors" who thought they were affirming the Baptist Faith and Message and reaffirming trustees' discretion in setting standards for hiring people.

"Ultimately, what you've got here is mass confusion," Yarnell said. "I think we have this year to try to discuss this theologically to try to clarify how we're going to respond to this."
Burleson has already responded to the "mass confusion" charge on his latest blog.

Frank Page on Endorsing Political Candidates

Reuters has published a story about "Baptists to Stay in the Political Arena" with a quote from SBC President Frank Page that appears to give qualified support for churches endorsing political candidates. Page is quoted as having said:

He took issue with those who said that evangelicals should back out of politics.

"I disagree with that. I do believe evangelicals need to continue to be involved in the political sphere primarily in speaking to issues rather than endorsing political candidates, though sometimes that is going to happen," he said.
Page is right about evangelicals having a place in the political process. He's also right about the need for evangelicals to speak about issues. He's dead wrong, however, if he thinks that it is legal for tax-exempt churches to endorse political candidates "sometimes."

There is a way for your church to legally endorse political candidates.

Give up your tax exempt status and compete on an equal basis with all the other political organizations in America. If you want donations to your church to qualify as charitable contributions, then abide by the law.

It's that simple.

International Bonhoeffer Conference Planned

The Bonhoefferian Blog has announced a call for papers for an International Conference on Bonhoeffer that will be held in Prague in July 2008.

The theme of the Congress will be: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Theology in Today’s World. A Way between Fundamentalism and Secularism?

Hat tip to Robert Cunningham for calling my attention to this.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

What About Opus Dei?

Ethics Daily posted a story about the acquittal of five persons who were accused of being involved in the murder of Robert Calvi aka "God's Banker." The article mentions mafia connections and other organizations that may have had an interest in securing Calvi's death. The article does not mention Calvi's links to "Opus Dei," but it should.

Since several members of the U.S. Supreme Court also have links to this secretive Catholic organization, it wouldn't hurt for every American to learn something about "Opus Dei."

Forget about what you've read in works of fiction like The Davinci Code. I suggest Robert Hutchison's Their Kingdom Come: Inside the Secret World of Opus Dei.

Monday, June 11, 2007

While USA Today Sleeps

Tom Krattenmaker, a member of USA Today's board of contributors, has written an essay that asks if we are "A Pious Nation?" and then describes the impiety that characterizes our nation. Here's his conclusion:

And on goes the pointless argument about whether America is a "Christian nation." Whether this country is Christian depends entirely on how we define the terms, of course. Our Constitution: secular. Our history and culture: religious.

And what do we mean by "religious"? If we're talking about rhetoric, volume and public display, it has been a very religious time indeed. If we mean behavior that creates peace, extends compassion to the less fortunate and reaches out to strangers outside our borders, we have a way to go. If we are a Christian nation, shouldn't we more consistently behave like one?
Though I agree with much of what Krattenmaker writes, his assertion about the pointlessness of arguments over Christian nationalism begs the question. The issue is whether our Constitution should be viewed as a secular document.

The Religious Right has created an entire industry to sanctify their version of the Constitution's "original intention" and to promote the myth that the founding fathers intended for it to privilege the Christian religion above all others.

If Krattenmaker needs evidence of their success, he need look no farther than this lament that Barry Lynn wrote when he learned that PBS will be distributing a film about "The Wall of Separation" that was produced by Christian Reconstructionists.

Wake up USA Today! While you were sleeping, theocrats were busy redefining your Constitution.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Podcast: Thelma Chambers Young Interview

Dr. Bruce Prescott's 6-10-07 "Religious Talk" radio interview with Dr. Thelma Chambers Young, Vice President of the North American Baptist Women's Union and Vice President-at-large of the National Council of Churches. We talk about the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant and about the recent Delegation to the Middle East that Dr. Young led for the NCC.

This entry is cross-posted from the New Baptist Covenant weblog.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Europeans Discuss Baptist Identity and Ecclesiology

Thanks to Robert Cunningham for calling my attention to a blog by Sean the Baptist that provides links to papers from a recent conference on "Baptist Identity and Ecclesiology" at Elstal Baptist Seminary in Germany.

Here's a link to a report from the conference.

Here's a link to a statement that emerged from the conference.

I'll comment about the statement and the papers after I've had time to read them.

Friday, June 08, 2007

The Perils of Unaccountable Mercenary Armies

AlterNet has posted a story about the atrocious actions taken by Blackwater to avoid giving an account to the families of contractors who were killed in Fallujah in March 2004. Their title, "Blackwater Heavies Sue Families of Slain Employees for $10 Million in Brutal Attempt to Supress Their Story" succinctly summarizes the report. Here's a quote:

Blackwater quickly adapted its battlefield tactics to the courtroom. It initially hired Fred F. Fielding, who is currently counsel to the President of the United States. It then hired Joseph E. Schmitz as its in-house counsel, who was formerly the Inspector General at the Pentagon. More recently, Blackwater employed Kenneth Starr, famed prosecutor in the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal, to oppose the families. To add additional muscle, Blackwater hired Cofer Black, who was the Director of the CIA Counter- Terrorist Center.

After filing its suit against the dead men's estates, Blackwater demanded that its claim and the families' existing lawsuit be handled in a private arbitration. By suing the families in arbitration, Blackwater has attempted to move the examination of their wrongful conduct outside of the eye of the public and away from a jury. This comes at the same time when Congress is investigating Blackwater.

Over 300 contractors have been killed in Iraq with very little inquiry into their deaths. The families claim that Blackwater is attempting to cover up its incompetence, its cutting of corners in favor of higher profits, and its over billing to the government. Due to lack of accountability and oversight, Blackwater's private army has been able to obtain huge profits from the government, utilizing contacts established through Erik Prince's relationships with high-ranking government officials such as Cofer Black and Joseph Schmitz.

On the Rise of Outspoken Atheists

Nation Magazine has posted a story about "The New Atheists" that notes the rising popularity of books by outspoken atheists. Here's a quote:

These believers, along with those who think of themselves as "spiritual," as well as professed unbelievers, help to explain why according to the Pew study so many Americans--32 percent--want less religious influence on government. Twenty-four percent say that President Bush talks too much about his religious faith and prayer, and 28 percent deny that the United States is a Christian nation. Most dramatically, a whopping 49 percent believe that Christian conservatives have gone too far "in trying to impose their religious values on the country." This, then, is an unreported secret of American life: Considerable numbers of Americans, religious and secular, are becoming fed up with the in-your-face religion that has come to mark our society.
It was bound to happen. After years of quietly enduring vilification and being force-fed an annually increasing diet of nauseatingly assertive civil religion, a new breed of "in-your-face" atheists are rising up to confront the "in-your-face" Christians who have taken over the public square.

The public square has never been naked in America. The religious have never been excluded from public life in this country. The public square used to be an open forum in which to exchange opinions and search for common ground. Now it is becoming a battle ground.

Who still thinks that Americans are too "enlightened" to engage in real wars over religion?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Thank God for the Internet

Paul Reickhoff, Founder of the Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America, expressed his exasperation with the shallowness of the news coverage on CNN today in relation to the pending(?) invasion of Northern Iraq by Turkey.

Reickhoff was appalled to find discussions of "Teen, Sex, Prison" when conflict in the Middle East is about to expand exponentially.

I share his disgust. Thank God for the internet.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Why Celebrate?

Here are seven reasons why I think every Baptist should be making plans to attend the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant in Atlanta from Jan. 30-Feb. 1, 2008:

1) The celebration will publicly demonstrate that Baptists are overcoming a history of racism by uniting large numbers of racially and ethnically diverse people together in fellowship and worship.

2) The celebrants will proclaim the whole gospel by addressing all the spiritual, psychological, physiological, and material needs of human beings.

3) The celebration will renew our spirits by creating opportunities to share spiritual gifts and callings, to learn of the work that other Baptists are doing to advance God’s kingdom, and to network and unite with them in mission action.

4) The celebrants will raise a prophetic voice by addressing some of the most egregious social, institutional, economic and civil injustices of our communities, our nation and our world.

5) The celebration will rekindle pride in our Baptist legacy as champions for liberty of conscience and religion for all and as advocates for separation of church and state.

6) The celebration will reclaim our Baptist heritage as witnesses to a humble, personal, conscientious, non-hierarchical, non-creedal, non-dogmatic faith in Christ.

7) If the celebration accomplishes as much as half of the above, you can be sure that it will be a meeting of considerable historical significance.

Note: This entry is cross-posted from the New Baptist Covenant Weblog.

American Dream Dying

Pew Charitable Trusts recently released a report on "Economic Mobility: Is the American Dream Alive and Well?" that reveals that the average American male makes considerably less, when adjusted for inflation, than his father did at the same age thirty years ago.

The Financial Times reports that an MIT study has discovered that workers with undergraduate degrees are losing ground on earning power.

Bottom Line: unless things change, the next generation is going to have a lower standard of living than this one.

It used to be that parents wanted their kids to have it better than they did. This generation appears content to live well at their children's expense.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Announcing a New Baptist Covenant Weblog

Every day between now and Jan 30th I will be scouring the blogosphere and the web to see what people are saying about the New Baptist Covenant. Then, I'll be writing blogs about it on my unofficial weblog for the New Baptist Covenant.

Once a week, I will post a round-up of the news in the blogosphere. Blogs like this one On the SBC's Vendetta Against the New Baptist Covenant.

Mostly, I'll just be scouring the web to see what people are saying. Then I'll be making it easy for readers to view the broad range of opinions about the possibility that some Baptists could rise above their differences and work together to share the good news about God's love for all people.

I'll do that by linking to progressive bloggers like Future Bard who wrote a blog today about how the New Baptist Covenant is "Restoring Baptist Pride." I'll also be linking to fundamentalist bloggers like the SBC Ghost Recon who wrote a blog last week questioning "Goodwill Baptists?" I'll be looking for the full range of opinion about this historic event.

If you write a blog about the New Baptist Covenant, send me a link. I won't promise to post every link that I get, but I'll post as many of the thoughtful blogs -- from every perspective -- as I am able.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Kurds Are Odd Men Out in Iraq

Associated Press is reporting that Iraqi Kurds are being squeezed by Turkish troops who are amassing to invade Iraq from the North and by saboteurs who have bombed a bridge that could have served as a route for refugees to escape Southward toward Baghdad. This could be the prelude to genocide.

Northern Iraq, where the Kurds predominate, has been relatively peaceful. Iraqi Kurds have been America's strongest allies in Iraq. NATO ally Turkey, however, says that Kurdish extremists from Iraq have been launching terrorist strikes within the Kurdish region of Turkey.

My best guess is that when Turkey invades Northern Iraq, the last peaceful region in Iraq will explode in violence and bloodshed. U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has warned Turkey not to invade Northern Iraq, but I suspect that Turkey will ignore our warning and follow our example. The justification and precedent for invading countries that are suspected of harboring terrorists was set by President Bush.

When Turkey invades Northern Iraq, the U.S. will be forced to choose between two of our most loyal allies in the region -- the Kurdish Iraqis or the Turks. The Turks will win, hands down. The Kurds are the odd men out.

As a penalty, Turkey will be denied entry into the European Union. That loss will be miniscule in comparison to the profits they could reap from the oil fields they could control in Northern Iraq.

With the Kurds in the North out of the way, the civil war for control of the oil fields in Southern Iraq will be between the Sunni's and the Shia's. Iran is Shia and most of the people in Southern Iraq are Shia. Shia's dominate Iraq's newly elected democratic government. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and almost all of our allies in the region are Sunni.

The chess pieces are almost all in place for the President's war with Iran and, inevitably, with the double-crossed Iraqi Shia's and Kurds that we have been training and equipping to assume control of Iraq. Unfortunately, all the chess pieces in this deadly game bleed real blood.

Meanwhile, back in the U.S., Christian book publishers are printing an avalanche of apocalyptic books to put on the shelves in preparation for the 2008 elections.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Jerry Falwell's Legacy in Poland

Thanks to Robert Cunningham for calling my attention to an essay by Michelle Goldberg, author of the best seller Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, in the Guardian UK.

The essay has an arresting title -- "Jerry Falwell Lives . . . in Poland!" In it Michelle reveals that the Poles are now investigating whether teletubbies are gay.

Here's a quote:

Taken alone, this would be merely absurd, but it is symptomatic of something slightly more serious. Anxiety about the Teletubbies' orientation is far from the only religious right meme that's taking off globally. Over the last several years, the Christian right has become increasingly active on the international stage. Initiatives to introduce so-called intelligent design -- an intellectually tarted-up version of creationism -- have been launched in Germany and Holland, of all places.

Meanwhile, George Bush has put activists like Concerned Women for America's Janice Crouse and Christian radio host Janet Parshall on US delegations to UN conferences, and a number of Christian right NGOs have aquired consultative status at the United Nations, giving their messages a veneer of legitimacy.

Friday, June 01, 2007

On the Spread of Terrorism

Georgie Anne Geyer has written an alarming essay about "A Spreading Terrorism" that is published in today's Dallas Morning News. Here's a quote:

Two points grip you:

•The first is found in the words of French scholar Bernard Rougier, author of Everyday Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam Among Palestinians in Lebanon. "The main point is that these camps are no longer part of Palestinian society," he told The Washington Post . "They are only spaces -- now open to all of the influences running through the Muslim world."

•The second is that Iraq, where we were supposed to be "containing terrorism," is now clearly exporting insurgents to other regions -- to Lebanon, to Syria, to Gaza, to Bangladesh, to Kurdistan.
Unfortunately, the points that grip Geyer make no impression on President Bush. Here's his response to the same facts:

Friends of his from Texas were shocked recently to find him nearly wild-eyed, thumping himself on the chest three times while he repeated "I am the president!" He also made it clear he was setting Iraq up so his successor could not get out of "our country's destiny."

Ethics Daily Posts Online Curriculum for New Baptist Covenant

Ethics Daily has posted an online curriculum on the text of Luke 4:18-19 which is the theme for the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant in Atlanta Jan. 30-Feb. 1.

They have brought together an all-star cast of writers for the eight lessons for a study they call The Agenda: Eight Lessons from Luke 4.

--Carol Anne Janzen, lecturer in Christian Education at Acadia Divinity College in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

--William Epps, senior pastor of Second Baptist Church in Los Angeles and editor in chief of National Baptist Voice, magazine of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.

--Aidsand Wright-Riggins, executive director of National Ministries of American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A.,

--Daniel Carro, Latino ministries ambassador for the Baptist General Association of Virginia, and Dina Carro, a member of the Baptist World Alliance study and research committee.

--David Goatley, executive secretary-treasurer of the Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention.

--Gilberto Gutierrez, pastor of Iglesia Bautista in Horeb, Mexico, and president of the National Baptist Convention of Mexico.

--Don Sewell, liaison to worldwide Baptist bodies with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

--Heather Entrekin, senior pastor of Prairie Baptist Church in Prairie Village, Kan. (ABC/USA).
Thanks to Robert Parham and Ethics Daily for producing these materials. I look forward to reading them.