Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Strong Beginning for New Baptist Covenant

Bill Underwood, President of Mercer University, opened the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant by quoting Dr. Martin Luther King's August 28, 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech. From the steps of the Lincoln Memorial King proclaimed,
"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood."
Underwood noted that on this historic occasion, King's words were truly being fulfilled among Baptists. On the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners were sitting down together at a celebration of our brotherhood.

Then Dr. William Shaw, President of the National Baptist Convention, delivered a rousing sermon about peace and justice. The most memorable moment of the sermon came when Shaw questioned whether, at times, claims for morality could become tools of injustice. The comment came as he was recounting the story of the woman who was taken in adultery and brought to Jesus. Here's a two minute podcast of his comments.

Former President Jimmy Carter closed the first night's meeting with a call for Baptists to set aside differences and unite around sharing the gospel with all the world.

Another Sad Day for Southern Baptists

Wade Burleson, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Oklahoma, has resigned as a trustee of the SBC's International Mission Board. He apologized to the board for publicly expressing conscientious differences that he has had with their actions, but the board refused to accept his apology.

Thousands of Baptists have appreciated Burleson's principled stands against certain unconscionable actions of the IMB's trustee board. We are sorry to see him resign.

By nature, fundamentalism brooks no dissent. The clear intent of the board's action is to arrest any questioning of their dictates and to terrorize any potential dissenters.

I am glad to learn that Burleson will continue his blogging.

I hope he will consider letting someone nominate him for the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention.

It is time for Southern Baptists to elect someone committed to conscientiously following the guidance of the Holy Spirit, rather than walking lockstep with the aging fundamentalist oligarchs who have ruled over the SBC since 1979.

Live from Atlanta

A group of us from Oklahoma have arrived in Atlanta for the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant. I'll be blogging about events at the Celebration for the next three days.

Here are some news reports on the day that the Celebration opens:

Baylor Lariat

Christianity Today

Ashville Citizen-Times

Christian Science Monitor

Macon Telegraph

Waco Herald Tribune

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Christian Nationalist Altar Call

Evangelical Christians have long been familiar with altar calls at the end of worship services. Typically the altar call focuses on leading prospective converts in a prayer for their salvation and then encouraging them to walk the aisle to make their profession of faith in Christ public.

Rick Scarborough has innovated a new approach to the traditional altar call. He spends a couple minutes leading prospective converts in prayer for their souls and then tells converts to privately inform their pastors about their decision -- after the meeting. Scarborough's altar call is for Christians to repent of their apathy toward politics and then to walk the aisle to make a public commitment to register to vote, get involved in politics to "take back" America for Christ, and support efforts to takeover school boards, city councils, and state houses.

Hear it for yourself. Here's a link to a seven minute podcast of the Christian Nationalist altar call that Scarborough gave at First Baptist Church in Moore, Oklahoma on January 27, 2008.

About half of the more than 1500 people in the room responded to his altar call. More would have responded, but the aisles were full.

Monday, January 28, 2008

On the Symbolism of Christian Nationalism

Oblivious to the symbolic similarity between Stars and Stripes backdrops in American churches and the Swastika draped sanctuaries of 1930's Deutsche Christians, First Baptist Church of Moore, Oklahoma hosted a political revival meeting last night.

I went to see Rick Scarborough of Vision America in action. So did more than 1500 other people. Twelve central Oklahoma churches sponsored the rally. Most of them Southern Baptist.

Pray for Rick and Southern Baptists. They obviously don't realize that their patriotism has become idolatrous. Anyone with eyes to see can observe that the flag has displaced the cross in their ministries.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Podcast: Interview with Ben Cole

Dr. Bruce Prescott's 1-27-08 "Religious Talk" radio interview (29.7 MB MP3) with Ben Cole, Associate Pastor of Great Commission Discipleship at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Oklahoma. Ben is a key leader among the young Southern Baptist bloggers who are making waves within the SBC. We talk about SBC bloggers, about their role in the election of Frank Page as President of the SBC, about their meeting with Jimmy Carter last April, about the New Baptist Covenant, and about the nomination of Al Mohler to be President of the SBC.

New Baptist Covenant in the News

The religion sections of newspapers around the country are publishing stories about the coming Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant. Here are some links:

Atlanta Journal Constitution

Augusta Chronicle

Columbus Ledger Inquirer

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

News & Observer

New York Times

Washington Post

Winston-Salem Journal

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

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Old Neo-Cons Never Die, Nor Do They Fade Away

Seven years ago I didn't know what a neo-conservative was. Now I know that they never die and neither will they fade away. They have brought the world to the brink of disaster and like energizer bunnies the neo-cons keep going and going and going.

Jim Lobe, one of the most astute analysts of the neo-cons, just published an essay entitled "Neo-Cons Shaken, But Not Deterred" with insights from Jacob Heilbrunn's new book, They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons'. Here's a quote:

Indeed, it is characteristic of neo-conservatives to depict virtually every foreign policy challenge — from the Sandinista government in Nicaragua 25 years ago to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — to U.S. (or Israeli) hegemony as a potentially cataclysmic replay of the 1930s. The neo-conservatives, according to Heilbrunn, 'have shaped a romantic narrative for themselves in which they are the new Churchills staring down the forces of evil.'

Fear that Saddam Hussein intended a 'second holocaust' against Israel served as one of the main motivations for the neo-conservative promotion of war with Iraq, according to Heilbrunn. 'As Jews, they (and their Catholic conservative allies) were haunted by the memory that the allies had not stopped the Holocaust — and they strongly believed that it was America's obligation to act preemptively to avert another one.'
Lobe's essay should be read in conjunction with yesterday's report that "Wolfowitz Appointed Chairman of Arms Control Advisory Panel."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

AU Cautions Southern Baptists about Partisan Politicking

Americans United has sent a letter to SBC President Frank Page cautioning him about using Baptist Press, a denominational news agency, to oppose the presidential candidacy of Rudy Guiliani. Here's a quote:

"Since you are the top official of the Southern Baptist Convention and Baptist Press is the denomination’s official news agency," wrote Lynn, "Southern Baptists and other readers could easily get the impression that you are using the denomination's tax-exempt resources to oppose Giuliani's candidacy…. [W]e encourage you to review the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code and to refrain from activities that might endanger the tax-exempt status of the Southern Baptist Convention."

Words of Praise for Al Gore

Rick Jacobs, a progressive political activist in California, has written an interesting essay about "Why Al Gore is not President." He views Al Gore as a truth-teller. Truth-tellers upset the status quo. Here's a quote:

When I think of the qualities of a president and try to relate those qualities to anyone alive, I always return to Al. But we know why he didn't run. The day he'd have heeded the call to serve as president, he'd have been brought down. Rather than lauding a leader, the pundits and his "friends" would have asked about his shoe color or his speech patterns. Who needs it? While I think Al Gore would be one of the best presidents in modern history -- a combination of JFK and FDR at a time when we need both -- the political system in this country, ruled as it is by a punditocracy and consultantocracy, would have been threatened by someone who owes them nothing. They'd have spent night and day sharpening their knives to keep him out.

Unfortunately, this campaign shows just how silly things have gotten. Former President Clinton has made himself into a midget by serving not as statesman, but as attack dog. And while I like Senator Obama's message of hope, I want to know what's really inside, what he really believes at core and how he'll transform that upbeat message into action in one of the most complex and daunting times in our history. John Edwards has a consistent message that resonates, but unfortunately, not in the media.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Tariq Ramadan Appeals Visa Refusal

AFP is reporting that Muslim Scholar Tariq Ramadan is appealing the Bush Administration's decision to refuse him a visa to teach at Notre Dame University.

Ramadan has been barred from entering the U.S. for three years. The shifting reasons for refusing him a visa are extraordinarily lame.

Immigration as a Family Value

Christianity Today has posted a story about the movement of Hispanic voters from the Republican party to the Democratic party. The issue of immigration has become a "Continental Divide" -- a divide that separates families. Here's a quote:

According to the Rev. Luis Cortés Jr., president of Esperanza USA in Philadelphia, Hispanic pastors are "distraught" because after strongly supporting Republicans on family issues, immigration is causing them to rethink their support. "Immigration is a family values issue," Cortés said.

White evangelicals and Hispanic evangelicals are deeply split on the issue. While white evangelicals have polled higher than the general population in considering immigrants a burden to society, for instance, nearly 60 percent of Hispanic evangelicals believe immigrants strengthen society.

"A divide is an understatement," Rodriguez said of white and Hispanic evangelicals' differing views. "The term is schism."

A Call for Pre-Emptive Nuclear Strike Capability

The UK Guardian is reporting that four international military leaders have issued a manifesto calling for reforming Nato to permit nuclear pre-emptive strikes whenever the need is perceived.

The article didn't say so, but I'm sure the generals would appreciate it if Richard Land and other militant Christians would revise the Sermon on the Mount to read, "If you believe someone might slap you, slap them on both their cheeks first."

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Will Clinton Stay on Message?

The Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant is a week away and, for the first time, I am starting to have an uneasy feeling about what Bill Clinton will say at the meeting.

I attended the press conference last April when Carter and Clinton announced the Celebration to the public. At that meeting, I heard Clinton openly speak about his faith and left convinced that his profession of faith in Christ is genuine, that his grasp of Baptist pinciples is profound, and that his commitment to separation of church and state is sincere. If Clinton speaks at the Celebration the way that he spoke during that press conference, then my uneasiness about the speech he will give at the Celebration will prove unfounded.

Last April, however, no one suspected that an African-American would be the chief rival standing between Bill Clinton's wife and the presidency. Then, no one suspected that the African-American community would be severly divided about who they would support for president. T. DeWitt Smith, President of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, joked at the press conference that his son was impressed that his father would be meeting "the first African-American President." The possibility that Clinton would be tempted to veer away from a message about faith to make a statement in support of Hillary's candidacy seemed remote.

Now we know that the stakes for the February 5th Democratic primaries are enormous. Now we know that Bill's role in Hillary's campaign has been to "lash out" against Obama and that his message is targeted towards African-Americans and young people.

There are going to be a lot of African-Americans and young people at the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant. The temptation for Bill to deliver a political message, instead of a spiritual message, will be great.

It may be too great a temptation.

I pray that it isn't.

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

AU Asks IRS to Investigate Church Endorsement of Obama

Americans United has asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate whether the Las Vegas Pentecostal Church of God Christ violated tax laws by endorsing Barak Obama's candidacy for President. Here's a quote:

Obama spoke during services at the Pentecostal Temple Church of God in Christ in Las Vegas on Jan. 13 in what the Las Vegas Review-Journal described as a "surprise appearance." Before the Illinois senator arrived, Pastor Leon Smith told the congregation, "The more he (Obama) speaks, the more he wins my confidence, and ... if the polls were open today, I would cast my vote for this senator."

Smith added, "If you can't support your own, you’re never going to get anywhere.... I want to see this man in office."

Americans United said churches are tax-exempt and may not engage in partisan politics.

"The pastor clearly stated that Obama should be elected, and he did so from the pulpit during Sunday services," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "It's impossible to see this as anything but an endorsement."
Churches that want to hold political rallies and endorse political candidates are free to do so if they are willing to forfeit their tax exempt status. Tax exemption is a privilege. Churches that engage in politics must play by the same rules as every other organization that engages in politics. Contributions to political action committees are not tax exempt.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Best Analysis of Huckabee's Candidacy

Sarah Posner's January 16 FundamentaList offers the best analysis of the grassroots networking that has made Mike Huckabee the rising star of the GOP. Here's a quote:

The ground troops in Huckabee's populist march have been cultivated in mega-churches, through televangelism, and through a mass-marketed, consumer-style religion. These soldiers in "Huck's army" consume the dominionist message, believe that they need to evangelize the country and the world, and believe that they are doing God’s work through their vote. Through a panoply of mediums -- church, television, magazines, conferences, the Web, and even movies -- they are activated on a daily basis to political action. Networks tying pastors to political activism propel the process; when Huckabee spoke at John Hagee's church in December, for example, he reached about 10,000 people, was promised an airing of the sermon on television, and potentially reached Hagee's network of thousands of pastors, and their own followings of thousands.

This viral marketing approach is what's rendering people like Focus on the Family's James Dobson, the Southern Baptist Convention's Richard Land, Family Research Council's Tony Perkins, and American Values' Gary Bauer -- all leaders of the influential Arlington Group that has failed to coalesce around a candidate -- largely irrelevant to Huckabee's remarkable success. And they are shell-shocked that the train has left the station without them. They are left standing on the platform, emasculated by Chuck Norris.

Siebel Edmonds, the FBI, and Stolen Nuclear Secrets

The Sunday Times has posted a follow-up story about the file on stolen nuclear secrets that CIA whistleblower Siebel Edmonds says the FBI is concealing. Here's a quote:

One of the documents relating to the case was marked 203A-WF-210023. Last week, however, the FBI responded to a freedom of information request for a file of exactly the same number by claiming that it did not exist. But The Sunday Times has obtained a document signed by an FBI official showing the existence of the file.

Edmonds believes the crucial file is being deliberately covered up by the FBI because its contents are explosive. She accuses the agency of an "outright lie".

"I can tell you that that file and the operations it refers to did exist from 1996 to February 2002. The file refers to the counterintelligence programme that the Department of Justice has declared to be a state secret to protect sensitive diplomatic relations," she said.
Common Dreams has posted an essay by Daniel Ellsberg lamenting the fact that the Mainstream Media in the U.S. has turned a blind eye to Sibel Edmonds' allegations.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Regarding Huckabee's Future

P.M. Carpenter, an editorialist at Buzz Flash, has some interesting comments on Mike Huckabee's campaign in South Carolina:

Mr. Huckabee might survive today's crucible, but what he encounters from there is a largely secular brick wall, and, paradoxically, it's Huckabee who made it stronger.

In his immoderate desperation to motivate his one and only base -- economic populism doesn't stir the hearts of many among the GOP faithful -- Mike simply went too far. He shivered the spines of the theocratically wary, and even spooked the holy fence-sitters.
Carpenter, however, is premature in counting Huckabee out of the race for the GOP nomination. I wish I thought the "secular brick wall" he talks about was as strong as he seems to think it. Instead, I see more bricks being knocked out of the wall separating church and state.

I just think that, with Democrats falling all over themselves to display their religiosity, Republicans like Huckabee are feeling free to speak more openly about the theocratic impulses of the planks they have long been putting in their party's platform.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Mohler Pushing Exit Strategy from Public Schools

Ethics Daily is reporting that Al Mohler has written a new book advocating that Christians pull their kids out of public schools. Mohler is President of Southern Seminary and is a nominee for President of the Southern Baptist Convention. Here's a quote from Ethics Daily:

As president of the denomination's mother seminary, Mohler is already the highest-profile Southern Baptist advocating a mass exodus from public schools and creation of a competing system of Christian and home schools.

"The strategy would also affirm the responsibility of churches to equip parents, support families and offer alternatives," he writes. "At the same time, this strategy must acknowledge that Christian churches, families and parents do not yet see the same realities, the same threats and the same challenges in every context. Sadly, this is almost certainly just a matter of time."

Mohler faults public education for undermining parental rights, promoting secular humanism and control by special interests. "Those who doubt the radical commitment of groups such as the National Education Association should simply look at the organization's public statements, policy positions and initiatives," he writes.

He says the state of public schools "has prompted some to reconsider the very idea of public education."

"Some now argue that Christian parents cannot send their children to public schools without committing the sin of handing their children over to a pagan and ungodly system," Mohler writes. "Fueled by a secularist agenda and influenced by an elite of radial educational bureaucrats and theorists, government schools now serve as engines for secularizing and radicalizing children."

Calvinism Dividing Southern Baptists

Christianity Today has published a story about how Calvinism is dividing Southern Baptists. Here's a quote:

sbc president Frank Page thinks Calvinism will increasingly become a source of contention.

"What we're seeing across the nation is that it's not being discussed enough," said the South Carolina pastor. "Candidates and churches are being put together, and it immediately becomes apparent they've got a serious issue of disagreement."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Brehm Corrects Huckabee on the SBC Family Statement

Justin Rood at ABC News has done some fact checking on Huckabee's interpretation of the Southern Baptist Convention's family statement and found it in error. Rood talked with Richard Land, Director of the SBC's political action arm and a member of the committee that drafted the statement. He also talked with Dr. Alan Brehm who lost his job at Southwestern Seminary when he insisted on an interpretion of the fifth chapter of Ephesians similar to the view Huckabee gave at a recent debate in South Carolina.

I blogged about this the night Huckabee made his statement. Rood is the only member of the media to contact me about my allegations and follow-up on the story.

Kudos to Justin Rood and ABC News. Even Associated Baptist Press, which should have comprehended the issues, dropped the ball on this one. Ethics Daily posted a story about my blog, but passed up an opportunity for follow-up with Alan Brehm.

Here's an excerpt from the ABC report quoting Alan Brehm:

Huckabee's explanation was "not what the statement said," Rev. Alan Brehm told ABC News. The only way Huckabee or anyone could sign the 1998 statement if they believed that husbands and wives should submit to each other, Brehm said, "would be to cross their fingers."

Brehm was a Southern Baptist theologan teaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1998, when the SBC adopted its new position on family and marriage. The school's leadership asked all instructors to sign a document saying they agreed with the new position, Brehm said. Believing the SBC's interpretation of the Bible was incorrect, Brehm refused to sign it.

When Brehm describes his position on marriage, it sounds remarkably close to Huckabee's explanation at last week's debate. The Bible advises "a mutual attitude of humility and respect for husband and wife," Brehm explained. But the SBC statement "said the husband is the head of the household."

Brehm said the school's leadership made clear the statement was not open to interpretation. Unwilling to sign a document claiming to believe something he didn't, Brehm resigned from the school. He is now a Presbyterian minister.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

On Respecting Religion in the Public Square

Faith in Public Life in conjunction with Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good has published a statement from Catholic, evangelical and mainline Protestant leaders calling for religious respect on the campaign trail. Here's an excerpt:

As citizens of many faiths united in efforts to reinvigorate religion's role in the public square, we are convinced that the greatest protection for that role is clear and unambiguous support for both religious expression and non-establishment of religion. Following Article VI of the U. S. Constitution and the First Amendment, we identify three basic principles.

  • No person should be expected to leave their faith at the door when operating in the public square. But it is inappropriate to use religious or doctrinal differences to marginalize or disparage candidates, by either comparison or assertion. No religious test may be applied to candidates for public office -- not by the law, not by candidates, not by campaigns.
  • Candidates for public office should welcome the contributions that religion brings to society. But just as government may not endorse or favor a religious faith, candidates for public office are obliged, in their official capacity, to acknowledge that no faith can lay exclusive claim to the moral values that enrich our public life.
  • Just as government policies must be in service to the nation and not to any religious faith, the same holds true for candidates' positions on policies. While it is appropriate for candidates to connect their faith to their policy positions, their positions on policy must respect all citizens regardless of religious belief.
Brent Walker of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty is one of the signers.

Associated Baptist Press on Huckabee

Rob Marus at Associated Baptist Press has published an insightful but incomplete story about the "political balancing act" that Huckabee has long performed when speaking to Baptists. ABP is an independent news agency whose primary audience is moderate Baptists.

It is a very good article with one glaring ommission. Marus fails to discuss the role that Rick Scarborough and Vision America are playing in Huckabee's Presidential campaign.

Scarborough, a key leader of then "young pastors" during the fundamentalist takeover of the SBC, is the chief political organizer among Baptists who are supporting Huckabee. He is greatly under the influence of Christian Reconstructionism. That's why many of the networks of pastors and the audiences of Christians that Huckabee addresses represent the extreme end of the evangelical spectrum.

Cracking Huckabee's Coded Language

The blogosphere and some of the mainstream news media are abuzz trying to decipher what Mike Huckabee meant at a campaign stop a couple days ago when he said,

"I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And that's what we need to do is amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than trying to change God's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family."
He's saying a lot more than the average evangelical realizes.

The average evangelical might assume that Huckabee is merely talking about a constitutional amendment to prohibit gay marriages. James Dobson and others have been advocating that for the past few years.

What the typical evangelical doesn't realize is that Huckabee's wording also sends a coded message to the storm troopers of the Religious Right -- the Christian Reconstructionists.

Most evangelicals believe in democracy. Christian Reconstructionists don't. Reconstructionists are militant biblicists. In their eyes, the law of Moses -- every jot and tittle of it -- is God's blueprint for every society, for all time. In their eyes, before the Pilgrims landed or John Winthrop ever set sail, God chose this nation to be "a city set on a hill" -- meaning a Christian Bible theocracy. They are determined to restore America to its Puritan roots -- by force of law and politics, or by force of arms, if necessary.

I'm not saying Mike Huckabee is a Christian Reconstructionist. Technically, he's not. Like Paul Pressler, who recently attended a Houston fundraiser for Huckabee's campaign at the home of Reconstructionist Steven Hotze, Huckabee is a pre-millenialist. Reconstructionists are post-millenialists.

No, I'm not saying Mike Huckabee is a Christian Reconstructionist. I am saying that he's sending coded signals to them. Signals that will convince Christian Reconstructionists that he's a man who could help them set up their theocracy.

Talk about making the Constitution conform to the Bible is like striking a match to the kindling for a fire. What it will consume is our pluralistic democracy.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Religion Putting U.S. Dominance in Science at Risk

The New York Times is reporting that the "U.S. Dominance in Science is at Risk." Religion seems to be playing a big role in America's decline in science. Here's a quote:

Many Americans remain ignorant about much of science, the board said; for example, many are unable to answer correctly when asked if the Earth moves around the Sun (it does). But they are not noticeably more ignorant than people in other developed countries except on two subjects: evolution and the Big Bang. Although these ideas are organizing principles underlying modern biology and physics, many Americans do not accept them.

"These differences probably indicate that many Americans hold religious beliefs that cause them to be skeptical of established scientific ideas," the report said, "even when they have some basic familiarity with those ideas."

Harold Bloom on the Decline of America

Harold Bloom, Professor of literature at Yale and renowned cultural critic, says we are witnessing "the fall of America." In an insightful interview with Swedish journalist Eva Sohlman, Bloom compares the war in Iraq to the war with Parthya that led to the decline of the Roman Empire. Here's his take on the role of the media in our national declension:

If the war in Iraq is the most palpable example of the decline of America under Bush’s reign, Bloom cites the U.S. media as another casualty.

"'Media-ocrity' is what I call it. It is awful what kind of media we have today. Nobody dared to stand up and criticize Bush when he unlawfully went to war on Iraq. It is depressing, and shows what direction this country has taken since he came to power - a power which did not rightfully belong to him. The media is not playing its role. The Bushites are bullies and for a long time nobody dared criticize them and just swallowed their propaganda and lies. People have become scared. In this kind of climate, nobody is interested in the critical voice. You ask about the role of the intellectual in America today and I have to say: What role? What intellectuals? There is no room for them in the simplified and dumbed down world of today’s media. We used to play a role, and there are still a few left, but we are a dying breed. Nobody seems to be interested in nuance anymore."

This is where the real danger lies, he says.

The Face Everyone Knows -- Lisa Gherardini Giocondo

German scholars have definitive proof that Lisa Gherardini, wife of Florantine businessman Francesco del Giocondo, was the subject of Leonardo's Mona Lisa. Here's a link to a report by Reuters.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

On the Supremacy of the Husband in the Southern Baptist Family

Glancing around the internet, I've seen a number of people denying that Southern Baptists teach the supremacy of the husband within the family. For these ill-informed nay-sayers, I have provided a link to articles in the April 1999 issue of SBC Life. SBC Life is an official publication of the Executive Board of the Southern Baptitst Convention.

These articles in the April 1999 issue of SBC Life appeared after I published the November 1998 issue of the Mainstream Messenger.

My response to the SBC Life articles appeared in the April 1999 issue of the Mainstream Messenger

The Baptist Press story about Huckabee affirming the SBC's marriage stance is a blatant attempt to mislead both Baptists and the American public. As Aaron Weaver points out on a Baptist Life Forum, Baptist Press adds an interpretative explanation to Huckabee's statement about husbands being submissive. They add "presumably meaning 'to Christ'" to his statement about husbands submitting. That's because the Southern Baptists who affirm the SBC's family statement do not believe that husbands should ever be submissive to their wives. Southern Baptist families are supposed to uphold a rigid chain-of-command. They believe husbands are rulers over their wives. In their view, Southern Baptist husbands should only be submissive to Christ.

For previous blogs I've written regarding Huckabee's endorsement of the SBC family statement, look here and here.

Here's a link to Ethics Daily's coverage of Huckabee's statement.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Thin Line Separating Us From War With Iran

Former CIA analyst, Ray McGovern, has posted an essay on Consortium News that discloses how thin the line is that separates us from war with Iran.

Thank God for the integrity of the Joint Chiefs of the U.S. military and the courage of key people within the CIA.

Here's a quote from McGovern:

It is my view that the only thing that has prevented Bush and Cheney from attacking Iran so far has been the strong opposition of the uniformed military, including the Joint Chiefs.

As the misadventure last Sunday in the Strait of Hormuz shows, our senior military officers need all the help they can get from intelligence officers more concerned with the truth than with “keeping lines open to the White House” and doing its bidding.

In addition, the intelligence oversight committees in Congress seem to be waking from their Rip Van Winkle-like slumber. It was Congress, after all, that ordered the controversial NIE on Iran/nuclear (and insisted it be publicized).

On Huckabee's Fundamentalist Preacher Tactics

Mainstream Baptists have been sounding a "hue and cry" about the duplicity of fundamentalist preachers for more than two decades. Fundamentalists know that their authoritarian beliefs are outside the mainstream. If they made their real beliefs clear and explicit, fewer of them would succeed in becoming pastors of our churches – much less the President of our nation. With unrelenting regularity I am contacted by members of churches who are deeply grieved to discover that the man their church called as pastor lied to them when their church was interviewing him for their position. They've learned the hard way that a rule of thumb for many fundamentalist Baptist ministers is to "Tell the people what they want to hear -- then do what you want when you get the position."

At a recent debate in Myrtle Beach, Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee disclosed an intimate familiarity with the fundamentalist Baptist minister's rule of thumb. He knows that the patriarchal and sexist family statement that the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) adopted in 1998 is well outside the mainstream -- even for Baptists.

Mainstream Baptists believe that husbands and wives relate as equals within the family. When the Bible talks about "submission" within the family it intends a "mutual submission" of give and take in the marital relation. That means that, at times, wives will submit to their husbands and, at other times, husbands will submit to their wives. Submissiveness depends upon the changing needs, circumstances and dynamics within the marriage.

The SBC's family statement calls for wives to be "graciously submissive" to their husbands. The authors of that statement explicitly denied that the marital relation is one of "mutual submission." In their view, the immutable dynamic and unchanging circumstance of the family is that the husband is its head "boss" or "ruler". Submission is one-sided. There is no admonition for husbands to be "submissive" to their wives -- graciously or otherwise -- in the SBC's family statement.

After the family statement was approved by the SBC in June 1998, there was a great "hue and cry" among Mainstream Baptists opposing its imposition on the faculty at SBC Seminaries. Reaction was so strong that in September 1998, I left my position as pastor of a church in Houston and accepted a full-time position as a leader among the Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists who opposed the "family" statement and other aspects of the fundamentalist takeover of the SBC.

Unfortunately, the battle over the family statement in the SBC was very brief. More than 100 prominent evangelical leaders -- including Mike Huckabee -- endorsed the SBC's family statement in a full-page newspaper advertisement. Shortly thereafter, seminary professors who refused to deny that the Bible taught "mutual submission" in marriage were terminated.

Fast forward ten years. Now Mike Huckabee is running for President of the United States. He is asked about his endorsement of the SBC's family statement. Before a national television audience he gives the impression that he is offering a vigorous defense of the SBC's family statement, but what interpretation of relations within the family is he giving? Is he giving the SBC's husband-as-ruler-of-the-family interpretation or is he giving the Mainstream Baptist "mutually submissive" relations interpretation? You make the call. Here's the complete transcript of this part of the 1-10-08 GOP debate in South Carolina:

CAMERON: Governor Huckabee, to change the subject a little bit and focus a moment on electability.

Back in 1998, you were one of about 100 people who affirmed, in a full-page ad in the "New York Times," the Southern Baptist Convention's declaration that, quote, "A wife us to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband."

Women voters in both parties harshly criticized that. Is that position politically viable in the general election of 2008, sir?

HUCKABEE: You know, it's interesting, everybody says religion is off limits, except we always can ask me the religious questions. So let me try to do my best to answer it.

And since -- if we're really going to have a religious service, I'd really feel more comfortable if I could pass the plates, because our campaign could use the money tonight, Carl.

We'll just go all the way.

First of all, if anybody knows my wife, I don't think they for one minute think that she's going to just sit by and let me do whatever I want to. That would be an absolute total misunderstanding of Janet Huckabee.

The whole context of that passage -- and, by the way, it really was spoken to believers, to Christian believers. I'm not the least bit ashamed of my faith or the doctrines of it. I don't try to impose that as a governor and I wouldn't impose it as a president.

But I certainly am going to practice it unashamedly, whether I'm a president or whether I'm not a president. But the point...

... the point, and it comes from a passage of scripture in the New Testament Book of Ephesians is that as wives submit themselves to the husbands, the husbands also submit themselves, and it's not a matter of one being somehow superior over the other. It's both mutually showing their affection and submission as unto the Lord.

So with all due respect, it has nothing to do with presidency. I just wanted to clear up that little doctrinal quirk there so that there's nobody who misunderstands that it's really about doing what a marriage ought to do and that's marriage is not a 50/50 deal, where each partner gives 50 percent.

Biblically, marriage is 100/100 deal. Each partner gives 100 percent of their devotion to the other and that's why marriage is an important institution, because it teaches us how to love.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Huckabee Lies About SBC Family Statement

I didn't see tonight's presidential debate, but if news reports are accurate, then Mike Huckabee deliberately lied about the interpretation of the SBC family statement at a debate in South Carolina this evening.

The SBC's family statement calls for a one-sided submission by the wife to the rule of her husband. Huckabee gave the impression that Southern Baptists believe in "mutual submission" between husbands and wives within the family. Here's a quote from the AP coverage of Huckabee's statement at tonight's debate:

In a 90-minute debate that touched on economic issues, foreign policy and immigration, Huckabee drew the loudest applause of the night from the audience when he was asked about having quoted a Biblical passage saying a wife "has to submit herself graciously" to her husband.

A Baptist preacher before entering politics, he said he was "not the least bit ashamed of my faith," but didn't impose it as governor and wouldn't as president. He said the citation is from Ephesians, and "the point is that as wives submit themselves to their husbands the husbands also submit themselves" to their wives.

"That's why marriage is an important institution, because it teaches us how to love," he concluded.
If Huckabee's interpretation had prevailed within the SBC, Alan Brehm and Dan and Barbara Kent would not have been forced from their positions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.

Huckabee can't have it both ways. He can't endorse the the 1998 family statement and the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message and then endorse the egalitarian interpretation of Ephesians 5 -- an interpretation that the family statement was written to deny.

The unconditional nature of the wife's subjugation was made clear in 1998 at the official press conference following the statement's adoption. Dorothy Patterson, wife of Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson and a member of the committee that drafted the family statement, said, "When it comes to submitting to my husband even when he is wrong, I just do it. He is accountable to God."

Click here and here for follow-ups to this blog.

Mainstream Baptists have been opposing the rigid, sexist, patriarchal SBC family statement since 1998. Check here for documentation:

November 1998 issue of the Mainstream Messenger -- entire issue on the SBC Family Statement.

For the SBC's response to Mainstream Baptists, see the articles in the April 1999 issue of SBC Life -- SBC Life is an official publication of the Southern Baptist Convention's executive Committee.

For my response to the April 1999 issue of SBC Life, see my Dead "Head" leads SBC Family in the April 1999 issue of the Mainstream Messenger.

Subjugating Women in the SBC

On the Present and Future of the Religious Right

Bill Berkowtiz has published an interview with conservative internet guru Rod Martin that provides a glimpse of the present and future of Religious Right organizing and politicking. Those who think we're seeing the beginning of the dissolution of the Radical Religious Right need to read this essay. Here's an excerpt:

RM: I am not generally pessimistic about 2008. In fact, it could be an astonishingly good year for us.

MT: How so?

RM: First, we could definitely win the Presidency. Whether with Hillary or Obama, Democrats are far from invulnerable this year. The war has utterly ceased to be a winning issue for them, Charlie Rangel's tax plan makes them a big fat target, and their own various baggage (Peter Paul and Norman Hsu leap to mind) only adds to this. It's possible, but it won't be easy.

But the White House is just the tip of the iceberg. Six months ago, people were talking about seven or eight Senate seats going Democrat. No one's talking that way now. Two or three is pretty likely, which would still be a smaller majority than the Republicans had two years ago, and which is pretty amazing given the lopsided number of seats we have to defend this year. Even more to the point, if a decent candidate can be found against Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, and especially if Huckabee ultimately runs against Mark Pryor in Arkansas, we might actually hold even. That would set up a retaking of the majority in 2010 similar to what we did in 2002.

And the House of Representatives is far better still. Right now, there are over 60 Democrat House members in districts George Bush carried in 2004, over 50 in seats he carried by over 55%. Do you think there might be some vulnerabilities there? We only need 16 pickups to take back the majority, in a year where the Democrats' freshmen -- virtually all of whom ran to the right of the Republicans they replaced -- are going to be saddled with a far-left Presidential nominee, the MoveOn agenda, and the Charlie Rangel tax plan.

Am I predicting we keep the White House, pick up the House of Representatives, and hold even in the Senate? Not exactly. But it's very possible. It's very doable.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Energy Department Predicts $3.50 a Gallon Gas This Spring

Rueters is reporting that the U.S. Energy Department predicts consumers will be paying more than $3.50 a gallon for gasoline this spring.

World oil supply can no longer keep up with demand.

Bring on the hybrids!

Pollsters Pidgeonholing Evangelicals

The Faith in Public Life weblog is taking political pollsters in New Hampshire to task for failing to ask Democrats if they were born-again Christians or Evangelicals. They only asked that question of the Republicans that they interviewed. Here's a quote:

Asking only Republicans about their religion shows that the media is still stuck on the outdated and false notion that evangelical Christians are the GOP's political property. No party can own any faith. Evangelicals have broadened their agenda to include care for the planet, the poor and the stranger, and as a result are increasingly independent politically. Exit polls need to abandon the hidebound frames of the culture war -- evangelicals already have.

Some People Refuse to Learn

Theocrat politicians have placed a 10 Commandments display in a Kentucky Courthouse again.

The last one was challenged in court for promoting religion and had to be removed.

This time theocrats claim their display is for educational purposes. They think that will be enough to make the display pass constitutional muster. The religious purpose that it really serves was clearly indicated by one of the citizens interviewed on the news video about the display.

Huckabee Opposes Birthright Citizenship

The Washington Times is reporting that Mike Huckabee opposes the right to citizenship of some born in the U.S. Here's a quote:

Mike Huckabee wants to amend the Constitution to prevent children born in the U.S. to illegal aliens from automatically becoming American citizens, according to his top immigration surrogate — a radical step no other major presidential candidate has embraced.

Mr. Huckabee, who won last week's Republican Iowa caucuses, promised Minuteman Project founder James Gilchrist that he would force a test case to the Supreme Court to challenge birthright citizenship, and would push Congress to pass a 28th Amendment to the Constitution to remove any doubt.
Whatever became of the land where ALL persons are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Fox News Plants Actor in GOP Focus Groups

Fox News, the most trusted news source for most conservatives, has been caught planting an actor in focus groups providing televised feedback from Republican voters.

Here's a link to the story with video of the actor who was supposedly randomly selected for focus groups on both 1/6/08 and 9/5/07.

Popular Blog for Primary Watching

Since all eyes seem to be on New Hampshire today. Here's a link to what seems to be the most popular blog on the OU campus for watching what's happening in the primary: Talking Points Memo

Monday, January 07, 2008

Rutherford on Fundamentalists and Totalitarianism

In an interview with Jews on First, John Rutherford, president of the conservative Rutherford Institute, said "Fundamentalists go wrong when they join with government. You're going to get totalitarianism."

Rutherford has also changed his tune on the value of faith-based initiatives. Here's a quote:

Whitehead said he hadn't initially opposed the Bush administration's faith-based funding initiative, but then he learned that millions of dollars were going to programs run by Pat Robertson, "a zillionaire," instead of to programs supporting unwed mothers and others in need.

OU Forum Focuses on Need for Bipartisaniship (Updated)

The University of Oklahoma hosted a forum advocating bipartisanship in politics this morning. Seventeen centrist politicians from within the Democratic, Republican and Independent parties concurred that the political, economic, and social problems facing this country are at a critical juncture. They stressed the need for Americans to put an end to polarizing politics and to return to an emphasis on national unity for the common good.

One of the more memorable phrases was delivered by Senator William Cohen of Maine. Cohen chided Americans for maintaining government policies that borrow money from their children to spend on "creature comforts." He labelled it "economic child abuse."


The Norman Transcript's coverage of the event provided a more exact quotation of Cohen's statement:

"There is nothing for nothing any longer,” he said. "We can't continue borrowing from our children any longer … that's economic child abuse."

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Sibel Edmonds Reveals How Pakistan Got WMD's

Sibel Edmonds, formerly a translator for the CIA, has revealed to the Sunday Times information about how Pakistan acquired classified information necessary for constructing nuclear weapons. Here's a quote:

Her story shows just how much the West was infiltrated by foreign states seeking nuclear secrets. It illustrates how western government officials turned a blind eye to, or were even helping, countries such as Pakistan acquire bomb technology.

The wider nuclear network has been monitored for many years by a joint Anglo-American intelligence effort. But rather than shut it down, investigations by law enforcement bodies such as the FBI and Britain’s Revenue & Customs have been aborted to preserve diplomatic relations.
Larissa Alexandrovna, of Raw Story, has posted names of agents not identified in the Sunday Times article. If her sources are reliable, some very prominent neo-conservatives are going to be under scrutiny.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The "God Strategy" Wins in Iowa

I've heard comparisons between the 1960 and 2008 presidential campaigns several times today. Neither Huckabee nor Obama, however, hold a candle to Jack Kennedy in regard to the First Amendment. David Domke and Kevin Coe explain why in an essay at Common Dreams about both Obama and Huckabee's "God strategy." Here's a quote:

One thing is for sure: we're light years and a religious political revolution from John F. Kennedy's candidacy in 1960, when he famously declared that "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute" and "I believe in a president whose views on religion are his own private affair."

That was a winning message then. Today it would be a voice in the wilderness--on both sides of the partisan aisle.

BBC Showing Car Powered by Compressed Air

BBC News has posted video of a report about a car that runs on compressed air.

Here's a quote from a post at Raw Story:

The air car, also known as the Mini-CAT or City Cat, can be refueled in minutes from an air compressor at specially equipped gas stations and can go 200 km on a 1.5 euro fill-up -- roughly 125 miles for $3. The top speed will be almost 70 mph and the cost of the vehicle as low as $7000.

Hi-Five's for Huckabee in Iowa

Michael Luo and David Kirkpatrick of The New York Times provide the best coverage of Huckabee's primary win in Iowa. Here's a quote:

The same surveys showed extraordinary turnout among evangelicals, who represented some 60 percent of Republican caucusgoers. In years past, Republican Party leaders in Iowa put evangelical turnout at about 40 percent.

Mr. Romney’s advisers had been saying that if evangelical turnout rose to more than 50 percent, victory would be impossible for Mr. Romney, whose Mormon faith is regarded as heretical by many evangelicals. Mr. Romney’s past support for abortion rights also troubled many Christian conservatives.
The unanswered question is whether the 60 percent figure for evangelical caucusgoers represents increased activity among evangelicals or whether it reveals that non-evangelicals are abandoning the party.

My guess is that the Iowa GOP has lost support among non-evangelicals. News reports indicate that participation in the Democratic caucuses in Iowa nearly doubled from the last election.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

9/11 Commission "Obstructed"

The New York Times has posted an Op-Ed by the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Congressional Commission that investigated the demolition of the World Trade Center on 9/11. They contend that the CIA illegally "obstructed" their investigation. Here's a quote:

The commission's mandate was sweeping and it explicitly included the intelligence agencies. But the recent revelations that the C.I.A. destroyed videotaped interrogations of Qaeda operatives leads us to conclude that the agency failed to respond to our lawful requests for information about the 9/11 plot. Those who knew about those videotapes — and did not tell us about them — obstructed our investigation.
Does that mean that I can get a refund for the Commission's Report that I bought?

Details Emerging on U.S. Torture Policy

Jason Leopold at Truthout has posted a summary of information about the role that former CIA employee Mary O. McCarthy may have had in exposing this administration's authorization of torture. Here's a quote:

McCarthy was among a group of former intelligence officials who late last year signed a letter opposing the nomination of Attorney General Michael Mukasey on grounds he would not denounce waterboarding. She alleged that -- two years or so after she and Helgerson completed their report into the agency's interrogation practices -- CIA officials lied to members of Congress during an intelligence briefing when they said the agency did not violate treaties that bar, cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment of detainees during interrogations, according to a May 14, 2006, front-page story in The Washington Post.
The resigned complicity and tacit approval of these medieval interrogation techniques -- both by our national elected leaders and the American populace -- provides the clearest example of the moral declension of society.

Both God and history will surely note that our "values voters" lacked even the most basic commitment to human rights.

Mohler to be Nominated for SBC President

In an obvious attempt to reverse the influence of young pastors in the SBC, Robert Jefress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, will nominate Al Mohler to be president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Al Mohler, President of Southern Seminary, will step in to reverse the momentum that younger, more moderate pastors have had the past two years in electing the President of the Convention.

Influential in both secular and denominational politics, Paige Patterson deemed Mohler "the Baptist pope" at the 2000 meeting of the SBC as the creedal 2000 Baptist Faith and Message statement was brought before the Convention for approval. Mohler was the chief theological architect of the 2000 BF&M.

There's no doubt as to whether Mohler will be elected President of the SBC. This is a loud and clear statement for young SBC pastors to get back in line.

With the lone exception of Rudy Giuliani, I expect Mohler will also become the head cheerleader for whoever secures the GOP nomination for President of the U.S. Either way, Al Mohler is going to become the chief spokesperson for Southern Baptists during a pivotal year in national politics.

If Mike Huckabee secures the GOP nomination for the Presidency, this would be a good year to do an update of the film about Mohler and the Fundamentalist takeover of Southern Seminary. This might be the year that SBC Fundamentalists takeover the White House.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Prothero on Religious Literacy

Pew Forum has published a transcript of a conference of journalists talking to Stephen Prothero about his book "Religious Literacy: What Every American Should Know." Here's a quote from Prothero talking about the role of religion in politics:

How do you engage these people if they're making religious arguments without knowing something about religion yourself? Now, of course, you can say as people like [John] Rawls and [Richard] Rorty and other political philosophers have said, this is wrong. We shouldn't have a politics that so infused with religion. Europeans, apparently, get along perfectly without it. Why do we have to be different? This is a violation in some way of at least the spirit of the First Amendment if not the letter of the First Amendment.

And my response is, well, that's all well and good, but we have the country that we have and people are going to be talking about religion on television. Politicians are going to be invoking religious reasons for their public policy stances, and we, as citizens and as journalists and academics, should know something about religion so we can engage them, and also so we can - I think, in some cases - so we can flush out the demagogues who actually don't have a religious argument but have a kind of religious invocation where they're sort of invoking God or invoking religion without actually having a religious argument underneath that invocation. So that's the domestic side.

The international side, to me, is even more urgent. This is where we have a situation like Madeline Albright observed in her book, The Mighty and the Almighty a couple of years ago. When she was secretary of state under [President] Clinton, she had a couple dozen economic advisers she could call any time of the day or night when she wanted to figure out what was going on with the economy of some country, or the political situation.

But she had really no religion adviser; she didn't have anybody that she could call up and say explain to me this Sunni-Shiite thing, or what's going on in Afghanistan with religion, or in Kashmir do people really care about Hinduism and Islam there and is that operative? Or, what's going on with the civil war in Sri Lanka between Hindus and Buddhists? I thought Buddhists were nice to each other; I didn't think that they liked to kill people for religious reasons. She didn't have anybody for that purpose.

She also observed in the book that there's no requirement for ambassadors to countries that have substantial religious populations, that they know anything about that religion. There's neither a prerequisite nor a policy of having U.S. ambassadors to Middle Eastern countries, for example, have any training in Islam, have even one course in Islam, even know how to spell the word "Koran" or be able to know one salient difference between Sunnis and Shiites, or for the ambassador to India to know that India is a Hindu country, or to know anything about Hinduism whatsoever.

I think one thing we've learned in terms of the Iraq War is that it doesn't look, at least to me, like our government knew much at all about Islam before we went into Iraq, and we had a sense that we understood the situation by understanding it in terms of ethnicity, in terms of politics, in terms of the economy. But I don't think we understood it as a religious place, where religious reasons mattered, where people were, perhaps in many cases, primarily motivated by religion.

And so we weren't motivated as a government to figure out what we knew and what we didn't know, particularly, what we didn't know. I think that one thing that this project on religious literacy can do is to make people aware of the stuff that they don't know, particularly politicians and particularly when it comes to international affairs and foreign policy.
I just opened a social networking group on Shelfari for Mainstream Baptists to discuss books they are reading. If you would like to read and discuss Prothero's book, follow this link and join my group (P.S. You don't have to be a Baptist to join the group).

Hat Tip to Dr. Barbara Boyd of Oklahoma University for recommending Prothero's book to me.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Merry Multiverses

AFP is reporting that some scientists are convinced that parallel universes exist. Here's a quote:

"The idea of multiple universes is more than a fantastic invention -- it appears naturally within several scientific theories, and deserves to be taken seriously," said Aurelien Barrau, a French particle physicist at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), hardly a hotbed of flaky science.

"The multiverse is no longer a model, it is a consequence of our models," explained Barrau, who recently published an essay for CERN defending the concept.