Sunday, August 31, 2008

Evangelicals Conflicted About Palin

Desmoinesdem at Daily Kos has scoured the "mommy blogs" written by Christian conservatives and has found considerable uneasiness about casting a vote for Sarah Palin as Vice President.

The main concern is that it will send a mixed message that undermines their understanding of family values. They like her political positions, especially on abortion, but are concerned that the prominence of her position would undermine their witness concerning subordinate roles for women and their conviction that mothers should remain in the home and nurture their husbands and children.

Ironically, James Dobson, Richard Land and other vocal advocates for "family values" are also the most enthusiastic supporters of Sarah Palin.

Land's support for Palin is fairly strong evidence that the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention -- a takeover that was fueled by conservative opposition to both the equal rights amendment and the acceptance of women in the ministry -- was more about politics than theology. Among contemporary Southern Baptist fundamentalists, theology always takes a back seat to secular politics.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Southern Baptists Selling Off Assets

The Fort Worth Star Telegram is reporting that Southern Baptists have sold the broadcast facilities of its former Radio and Television Commission.

After the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Radio and Television Commission was turned over to the North American Mission Board (NAMB). As chronicled in Mary Kinney Branson's Spending God's Money: Extravagance and Misuse in the Name of Ministry, NAMB was so badly mismanaged that trustees eventually relieved its fundamentalist president of his duties.

The North American Mission Board is not the only agency of the Southern Baptist Convention to sell off assets. The International Mission Board has been selling off valuable assets all over the world.

The Southern Baptist Convention has been imploding both financially and in membership ever since the fundamentalist takeover. It's death is progressing so slowly that few people realize how hollow this body has become.

One who is not surprised is Dallas Morning News reporter Christine Wicker whose book The Fall of the Evangelical Nation thoroughly documents the numerical decline of this denomination.

On Sarah Palin's Qualifications

Richard Land has endorsed Sarah Palin for Vice President:

Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission: "Governor Palin is a vice-presidential selection which shows that John McCain at the age of 72 today is still able to think outside the box. Governor Palin will delight the Republican base. She is pro-life. It appears that Senator Obama played it safe in picking Senator Biden and Senator McCain made the bold and unconventional choice in picking Governor Palin."
I find it ironic that Land was so quick to endorse the nomination of Sarah Palin for Vice President of the United States.

In Richard Land's eyes, Sarah Palin is fully qualified to be a heart-beat away from having the authority to lead the most powerful nation in the history of the world. Powerful enough to incinerate our entire planet with nuclear weaponry at a moment's notice.

In Richard Land's eyes, however, neither Sarah Palin nor any other woman will ever be qualified to have the authority to lead even the smallest Southern Baptist church.

How long will it be before Southern Baptist churches stop discriminating against women? Their secular politics leaves much to be desired, but it is still more Christian than their ecclesiology.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Vernon Nominated for BGCT Associate Executive Director

The Baptist Standard is reporting the Steve Vernon, pastor of First Baptist Church of Levelland and past president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, is being nominated to be an Associate Executive Director of the Convention.

Kudos to the search committee for this wise and prudent nomination.

Militant Theocrats Rallying

The Southern Poverty Law Center's latest Intelligence Report has published a story about some militant theocrats enlisting in what they call "Joel's Army" and "'Arming' For Armageddon."

Members of the group have been influenced by the racist Christian Identity movement that scapegoats blacks and hispanics as an outlet for a long simmering rage over the unrelenting decline of economic conditions in rural America.

Here's a quote from the SPLC's report:

Those sounding the alarm about Joel's Army are not secular foes of the Christian Right, few of whom are even aware of the movement or how widespread it's become in the past decade. Instead, Joel's Army critics are mostly conservative Christians, either neo-Pentecostals who left the movement in disgust or evangelical Christians who fear that Joel's Army preachers are stealing their flocks, even sending spies to infiltrate their own congregations and sway their young people to heresy. And they say the movement is becoming frightening.

"The pitch and intensity of the military rhetoric of this branch of the global Dominionist movement has substantially increased since the beginning of 2008," writes The Discernment Research Group, a Christian watchdog group that tracks what they call heresies or cults within Christianity. "One can only wonder how long before this transforms into real warfare with actual warriors."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Thieves in High Places

The Economic Policy Institute has published information revealing the extent to which middle class working families have lost economic ground since the turn of the millenium.

When adjusted for inflation, median salaries have fallen by $2,000, while the average output per hour has increased by 18%. And these figures don't include the skyrocketing inflation numbers for 2008. When 2008 is added on, the line on the chart will look like it has fallen off a cliff.

If trickle down economics makes any sense (and I'm not sure that it does), it only makes sense when the people in charge are honest and conscientious. When crooks and thieves are in charge, the working classes get robbed.

Revamping This Weblog

It's obvious that I've reformatted this weblog and have given it a different look and feel. I'm also going to make some additions to the content that I put on it.

I've decided to add a little organization to assure a more consistent flow of reflective content. I'll continue to post the usual notes and comments on the news and current events of the day. Items of interest to Baptists will be a constant staple. In addition, I'm going to schedule days to write brief notes on research that I've done and am doing on the following issues:

On Mondays, I'll try to post blogs on political philosophy and/or ethical issues. Ethical issues have always been of interest to me, but had no interest in political philosophy until after 9-11. Trying to decipher the ideology prompting this administration to use that tragedy to revoke the most basic civil and human rights, to launch an never-ending "war against terror," and to initiate an unprovoked war to acquire control over Iraqi oil has forced me, almost against my will, to begin studying political philosophy. As time and schedule permit, I'll share bits and pieces of what I've learned and am learning about the philosophy and practice of politics on Mondays.

On Tuesdays, I'll try to post blogs on the philosophy and theology of love. This has been the chief theological interest of my entire life. My doctoral dissertation is on the "symbolism of love." After slogging through the slippery, sometimes slimy world of political thought and ideology on Mondays, I'm going to need to spend a day focused on the highest and most universal values.

On Wednesdays, I'll try to post blogs on religious liberty. More than anything else, the Baptist heritage regarding "soul liberty," "liberty of conscience" and religious liberty is what makes me proud to distinguish myself from the traditions of other Christians and unashamed to be a Baptist. I am ashamed of how poorly most contemporary Baptists understand and uphold this component of our tradition.

On Thursdays, I'll try to post blogs about the meaning and significance of conscience. My interest in conscience began twelve years ago when Dr. Curtis Freeman, (then professor at Houston Baptist University, now at Duke University) was trying to convince me to sign the "Baptist Manifesto." I came to the conclusion that Freeman and the other signers of that Manifesto had a defective understanding of conscience. Off and on, I've been studying the literature about conscience ever since. I'll be sharing bits and pieces of what I've discovered in this research.

On Fridays, I'll try to post brief blogs about philosophical theology and/or hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is the science of interpretation. It began with the desire to more completely understand scriptures. Many contemporary philosophers have come to realize that processes of interpretation play a key role in every area of human understanding. I'll share brief insights that may be of value to ministers and teachers from these often technical discussions.

As has always been the case, my blogging is done as time and schedule permit.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Suggestions for Mary Fallin's GOP Convention Speech

In Oklahoma the big news today is that Oklahoma Republican U.S. Representative Mary Fallin will be speaking during primetime one hour before John McCain at the Republican National Convention next week.

Her job is to talk about how the people of Oklahoma responded to the bombing of the A. P. Murrah Federal Building by domestic terrorists.

On February 11, 2003, a month before our unprovoked invasion of Iraq, I delivered a speech on the floor of the Oklahoma State House of Representatives that touched on the very topic that Fallin is supposed to address. Here's an excerpt from that speech:

Our material wealth can be forfeited and regained, but the spiritual wealth of our civil liberties and personal freedoms are not so easily exchanged. We must especially beware that any liberty we suspend for fear of terrorists could easily be forfeited for generations to come. The freedoms we enjoy in our democratic society are worth whatever dangers we will face, whatever risks we must take, and whatever sacrifices we choose to make. America must not retreat from two and a quarter centuries of hard won civil liberties. Never before have we settled for being the land of the safe and the home of the secure. We’ve always had the courage to strive to be the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Instead of the frightful overreaction we have witnessed since September 11th, our nation would do better if it would respond to terrorism the way the people of Oklahoma responded to the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building. That bomb did not prompt us to surrender our civil rights or to infringe on the rights of others. Unlike our federal government:

We did not suspend the constitution.

We did not send the police out to round-up, lock-up or expel all the foreigners and immigrants in town.

We did not hold suspects indefinitely without access to the courts or to counsel.

We did not tape conversations between suspects and their lawyers.

We did not suspend the laws requiring probable cause for wiretaps or search warrants.

We did not expand the role of the military in domestic law enforcement.

We did not torture suspects to obtain information, nor did we allow surrogates to torture suspects for information.

We did not create a military tribunal to try and execute suspects without applying the Constitution or state and federal laws.

We did not endorse assassination as an alternative to capture.

We did not create a private foundation to issue ID cards to all citizens.

We did not create a network of free-lance spies to report anything that might be considered suspicious.

We did not create a massive computer system to keep tabs on every aspect of our citizen’s daily lives.

And, we did not use the bombing as an excuse to suspend the first, second, and fourth amendments and then attack militias or invade white supremacist compounds to make them disarm.

What we did was to rescue survivors, clean-up the wreckage, rebuild our city and bring the criminals to justice. The bombing of the Murrah Federal Building did not destroy the freedom-loving, risk-taking, self-sacrificing spirit of the people of Oklahoma. Neither should the criminal acts of a few terrorists destroy the freedom-loving, risk-taking, self-sacrificing spirit of our nation.
I won't be holding my breath to see if Mary Fallin uses any of my lines.

Monday, August 25, 2008

"Soul Talk" Radio Interview

I was interviewed by Chuck Freeman a couple weeks ago for his "Soul Talk" radio program that is broadcast on KOOP 97.1 FM radio in Austin, Texas. Chuck is Minister of Spiritual Life at the Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Church in Austin, Texas and co-founder of the Austin Chapter of the Network of Spiritual Progressives.

Here's a link to his podcast of our August 8, 2008 interview.

What is Cheney Up to Now?

The Houston Chronicle is reporting that Vice President Cheney is heading a diplomatic mission to the war zone in Georgia.

The office of the Secretary of State generally has responsibility for diplomatic missions of this sort, but anyone familiar with the dynamics of the current administration knows that Condolezza Rice is not as committed as Dick Cheney is to either renewing the cold war or instigating another world war.

Lynn Raps Dems for Orchestrating Faith Meeting

Barry Lynn is taking Democrats to task for orchestrating an interfaith gathering at the Democratic Convention center in Denver. He says it was "so highly promoted that it had the whiff of pandering."

There's no denying the fact that Democrats have been falling all over themselves this year to demonstrate that they are friendly to people of faith -- people of all faiths. That is one way that Democrats can distinguish themselves from Republicans who have a sizeable constituency that refuses to accept placing a Mormon on their ticket.

I am as uncomfortable as Barry is about the prominence of religion in the electoral process. Martin Marty hits the nail on the head when he says both parties are "Using God Politically."

All that the interfaith gathering in Denver demonstrates is that religious people from all faiths and people on both sides of the political aisle are willing and eager to let their faith become a tool in the hands of politicians.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Searching for a Green Ending to the Energy Crisis

In the current issue of Economist Magazine, Joseph J. Romm offers a smorgasbord of low-carbon energy technology as a solution to both global warming and the energy crisis. Here's his recipe:

* Concentrated solar thermal electric: 1,600 gigawatts peak power
* Nuclear: 700 new gigawatt-sized plants (plus 300 replacement plants)
* Coal: 800 gigawatt-sized plants with all the carbon captured and permanently sequestered
* Solar photovoltaics: 3,000 gigawatts peak power
* Efficient buildings: savings totalling 5 million gigawatt-hours
* Efficient industry: savings totalling 5 million gigawatt-hours, including co-generation and heat recovery
* Wind power: 1 million large wind turbines (2 megawatts peak power)
* Vehicle efficiency: all cars 60 miles per US gallon
* Wind for vehicles: 2,000 gigawatts wind, with most cars plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles or pure electric vehicles
* Cellulosic biofuels: using up to one-sixth of the world’s cropland
* Forestry: end all tropical deforestation

Thursday, August 21, 2008

On Religion as Public Utility

There have been a lot of insightful analyses to Rick Warren's forum for Presidential candidates at Saddleback Church last week. Aaron Weaver at the Big Daddy Weave blog provides links to many of the best responses by Baptists.

The best analysis I've seen is by church historian Martin Marty who faults Warren, McCain and Obama for "Using God Politically." Here's a quote:

William Lee Miller a half century ago noted that the American founders, friendly to religion as they were, found ways to draw a line of distinction between religion and the civil authority but still found religion useful. Just as there are "water works" and other utilities, religion (and God) became utilities, noted Miller. They would support morality. Fine. But in the world of party politics it is almost impossible to talk about candidates' inner spiritual life without putting them in the place where they give answers that will help them build support or lose it.

When a Jimmy Carter said that as a Baptist he believed in "soul liberty" and held views about human rights that could complicate foreign policy, we were alerted and took that into consideration when voting. Voters knew what they were getting in policy, not in matters of the heart. Ronald Reagan did the same with other policy issues. But if or when either of them or their successors had or has to show how much they love Jesus and how fervently they call upon God, they are asked to step over a line, and they do. Religion is then a "public utility," something which confuses public policy and does authentic religion no favor

No, it is not violating the separation of church and state to ask and answer "soul" questions, and yes, you cannot keep faith and politics apart. But "faith" as it affects policy is one (admittedly tricky) thing; faith as faith cannot be enlarged upon in the public forum without coming close to exploiting religion and making God part of campaign slogans.

On the Dangers of Religious Radio

Ethics Daily is reporting that a Pew Forum Survey reveals that "Listeners of Religious Radio are Below Average in Knowledge of Current Events." Here's an eye-opening quote:

People who view "fake" news shows like "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" are better informed than readers of "real" news programs like "O-Reilly Factor" and "Lou Dobbs Tonight." The highest knowledge of current events was found among readers of The New Yorker and The Atlantic (48 percent), NPR (44 percent), MSNBC's "Hardball" (43 percent), and "Hannity & Colmes" at 42 percent.
Unfortunately, a lot of religious people are too lazy to either think for themselves or stay abreast of current events. They trust their preacher or some radio or TV preacher to do their thinking for them.

That kind of trust is always misplaced -- no matter who they let do their thinking for them.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Garland Tapped for Interim at Baylor

The Waco Tribune is reporting that David Garland, Dean of Truett Seminary, has been appointed Interim President of Baylor University.

Congratulations to Board President Howard Batson and the other Regents for this wise and prudent choice. Garland would make an outstanding choice for a permanent appointment as President of the University.

Suspected Nazi War Criminal to be Extradited

Newspapers around the world are reporting that suspected Nazi war criminal, Charles Zentai, has lost his battle to avoid extradition from Australia. He will be repatriated to Hungary to face charges that in 1944 he beat 18 year old Peter Balazs to death for refusing to wear a Jewish yellow star.

Zentai, like Nazi war criminals before him and mindless patriots of every nation today, will most certainly defend himself on grounds that he was only following orders.

Hannah Arendt provided a chilling analysis of the kind of evil that is perpetrated by "nobodies" in her book on Responsibility and Judgment:

The trouble with the Nazi criminals was precisely that they renounced voluntarily all personal qualities, as if nobody were left to be either punished or forgiven. They protested time and again that they had never done anything out of their own initiative, that they had no intentions whatsoever, good or bad, and that they only obeyed orders.

To put it another way: the greatest evil perpetrated is the evil committed by nobodies, that is, by human beings who refuse to be persons. Within the conceptual framework of these considerations we could say that wrongdoers who refuse to think by themselves what they are doing and who also refuse in retrospect to think about it, that is, go back and remember what they did (which is teshuvah or repentance), have actually failed to constitute themselves into somebodies. By stubbornly remaining nobodies they prove themselves unfit for intercourse with others who, good, bad, or indifferent, are at the very least persons.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Barry Lynn and Jay Sekulow Debate the Saddleback Forum

Beliefnet is hosting a "Blog-a-log" between Barry Lynn and Jay Sekulow about the recent forum for presidential candidates at Saddleback Church.

This is a dialogue that is certain to generate a lot of debate.

End of the American Empire?

In September 2006, when the U.S. economy was booming, Dr. Nouriel Roubini, an economics professor at New York University, predicted an impending housing bust, credit crisis, oil shock and deep recession.

Then, he was ridiculed as a pessimist. Today, some consider him an economic "prophet."

In an recent interview with Stephen Mihm, Roubini warns people not to be deceived by those who think the crisis in our "sub-prime financial system" is coming to an end. Instead, he says we might be witnessing the end of the American empire:

But most important, in Roubini's opinion, is to realize that the problem is deeper than the housing crisis. "Reckless people have deluded themselves that this was a subprime crisis," he told me. "But we have problems with credit-card debt, student-loan debt, auto loans, commercial real estate loans, home-equity loans, corporate debt and loans that financed leveraged buyouts." All of these forms of debt, he argues, suffer from some or all of the same traits that first surfaced in the housing market: shoddy underwriting, securitization, negligence on the part of the credit-rating agencies and lax government oversight. "We have a subprime financial system," he said, "not a subprime mortgage market."

Roubini argues that most of the losses from this bad debt have yet to be written off, and the toll from bad commercial real estate loans alone may help send hundreds of local banks into the arms of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. "A good third of the regional banks won't make it," he predicted. In turn, these bailouts will add hundreds of billions of dollars to an already gargantuan federal debt, and someone, somewhere, is going to have to finance that debt, along with all the other debt accumulated by consumers and corporations. "Our biggest financiers are China, Russia and the gulf states," Roubini noted. "These are rivals, not allies."

The United States, Roubini went on, will likely muddle through the crisis but will emerge from it a different nation, with a different place in the world. "Once you run current-account deficits, you depend on the kindness of strangers," he said, pausing to let out a resigned sigh. "This might be the beginning of the end of the American empire."

Friday, August 15, 2008

Pistol Packing Teachers?

I thought I would never hear news that would top reports that a Baptist preacher's wife packs a pistol to protect herself from homosexuals, who she believes are worse than terrorists, as she goes to work as an Oklahoma State Representative. I was wrong.

Today, the Dallas Morning News is reporting that the trustees of a school district in Texas have approved a policy that will permit teachers and staff at their schools to carry concealed firearms to protect themselves from their students.

Every time I start to think that people in Oklahoma are carrying their conservative values to an extreme, people in Texas do something to make them look like centrists.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Florida Church Stands on Principle

Baptist churches around the country have been in the forefront of efforts to oppose public lotteries, gambling and gaming. The poorest, most desperate and destitute members of society are disproportionately tempted to squander their resources on a long-shot chance at reversing their fortunes. They've got little left to lose and they often salve their consciences by promising to give God a tithe of their winnings. As a result, thousands of children go hungry and do without because mom and/or dad wasted the families resources on lottery tickets, slot machines, and roulette tables.

Recently, one backsliding Baptist in Florida bought a lottery ticket and hit the jackpot. He won $6 million dollars and thought a tithe to his church could remove the stumbling block example he set for the children, young people and poor of his community.

Kudos to First Baptist Church of Orange Park, Florida for declining to accept the $600,000 tithe from his lottery winnings. Their stand on principle is worth more than the entire 6 million dollar lottery ticket.

Genuine Christianity teaches people to lay their treasures up in heaven, not on earth.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mukasey Perverting Justice

Jonathan Turley, Professor of Law at the George Washington University Law School, says U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey is "acting without principle" when he unilaterally decided not to prosecute anyone in the Bush administration for politicizing the hiring and firing practices for U.S. Attorneys.

Turley's language is too diplomatic. Mukasey is undermining the rule of law by perverting justice for political purposes. Never before have Americans tolerated one system of justice for Republicans and another system for Democrats.

Mukasey is merely the latest in a long line of Bush appointees who have placed this administration outside the rule of law.

Centuries ago a Hebrew prophet from the hills of Tekoa described the same kind of corrupt double-standard of justice that we see prevailing in our society. He said, "They hate him who reproves in the gate, and they abhor him who speaks the truth." (Amos 15:10) He warned his countrymen that they had better "establish justice in the gate" (Amos 15:15) or face divine judgment.

Where's a prophet like Amos today? Years ago, the airwaves are full of fire-breathing TV preachers predicting God's wrath on this nation because Clinton was undermining the rule of law by lying about his marital infidelity. Today, there's not a peep from them about the current systematic perversion of justice in America.

Ironically, I've decided that those TV preachers were right in their predictions about God pouring his wrath out on America. Only ancient Egypt experienced the wrath of God in a span of time shorter than the one Americans have endured under the plagues of the Bush administration. And only Pharoah had a harder heart and a stiffer neck than Bush-Cheney.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Shock Doctrine and the SBC

Joe Alain, pastor of Hebron Baptist Church in Denham Springs, Louisiana sent me a noteworthy comment regarding the use of "shock and awe" doctrines within the Southern Baptist Convention. Here's Alain's analysis:

I am about half through a book that I think you would find insightful and interesting. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2007) by Naomi Klein is a fascinating work. The basic premise of the book is that many economists in the Chicago School tradition of Milton Friedman have employed shock doctrine tactics around the world by bringing their particular brand of capitalism to countries in the midst of crisis. As countries and economies are reeling, policies are able to be enacted that under ordinary circumstances (i.e., by being honest with the people) would have never been tolerated. Stated another way, people in countries that are undergoing crises (real or imagined) are willing to give up their voice and personal rights to the so-called experts (enter Friedmanian economists) no matter what the costs.

"From Chile in 1973 to Iraq today, Klein shows how Friedman and his followers have repeatedly harnessed terrible shocks and violence to implement their radical policies" (book jacket). Joseph Stiglitz of the New York Times Book Review states, "Klein provides a rich description of the political machinations required to force unsavory economic policies on resisting countries and of the human toll. She paints a disturbing portrait of hubris, not only on the part of Friedman but also of those who adopted his doctrines, sometimes to pursue more corporatist objectives."

Come to think about it, many leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention have been using shock doctrine tactics for some time, creating imagined crises and enemies, then supposedly supplying the authoritative (doctrinally correct) magic fix. Usually the solution that is authoritatively mandated down from the top involves the rank and file church members ceding more cherished Baptist doctrines, such as the freedom to interpret Scripture, have a differing view on a non-essential doctrine, or vote on a matter of church polity. Unfortunately, most Southern Baptists are not aware just how much they have lost because they either never appreciated what they had or they themselves are still reeling from the "awe." Sadly, the average Southern Baptist member today has little knowledge of the fundamental and philosophical shifts that have been made in the SBC. Even as a pastor, busy working my parish, I did not realize until recently just how far things had gone. Something akin to Rip Van Winkle waking up after a twenty-year nap, I too have been awakened and dismayed.
I heartily agree with Alain. Fundamentalism has been as disastrous to Baptist life as Friedman's economics has been to capitalism.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Unity or Integrity?

A week ago, David Gushee wrote an essay bemoaning the absence of Southern Baptists from the Baptist World Alliance. He chided "a generation of wounded "exes" for "their public airing of the hurt and anger that resulted from the SBC controversy" and called on "wounded ex-Southern Baptists to renounce SBC bashing, and to seek the Spirit's power to forgive."

What David Gushee doesn't realize is that forgiving Southern Baptists for leaving the Baptist World Alliance is relatively easy for many of us. We are constantly praying "father forgive them, they know not what they do." We don't seek the Spirit's power to forgive them, we seek it to forgive the myopia of those, like Gushee, who insist that unity is more important to Baptists than moral integrity.

Southern Baptist churches are full of people who know that the fundamentalists controlling their Convention have treated God's servants unjustly, have infused secular politics within their churches, and have shattered world peace by championing unjust, preventive wars. Like Gushee, they think unity is more important than integrity. They are quick to forgive unrepentant offenders for injuries caused to others and tireless in their efforts to silence the outcry and protest of those who are injured. For nearly forty years now, their self-righteous piety has been like a glove protecting and concealing the brass-knuckled fist of the neighborhood bully who takes delight in beating senseless anyone who gets in his way.

Unity on Southern Baptist terms, and those are the only terms by which unity can be achieved, is the last thing that the world needs today. Southern Baptists have completely undermined the integrity of the Baptist witness in the eyes of the world.

More than anything else, the world needs to hear that all Baptists are not like Southern Baptists. They need to know that all Baptists are not champions for a violent clash between Christian and Islamic civilizations. They need to know that all Baptists are not advocates for unjust, pre-emptive wars. They need to know that all Baptists do not condone torture and brutal interrogations. They need to know that all Baptists do not support secret renditions and indefinite imprisonment without opportunity for adjudication. They need to know that some Baptists put their loyalty to Christ and his Kingdom high above any patriotic allegiance to their flawed and fallible nations.

Today, there is no way to maintain moral integrity as a Baptist without distinguishing yourself from Southern Baptists. That may look like "SBC bashing" to some. To others, it looks like an apology to the world on behalf of Baptists and a call for all Christians to repent.

Friday, August 08, 2008

China Lights Olympic Flame in Style

The opening ceremony for the 2008 Olympic games was phenomenal.

China really lit the Olympic flame in style.

Hopefully, their style in politics will soon catch up to the creativity, grace and beauty of their pagentry.

PFAW's Take on Richard Land

Kyle at People for the American Way has posted an expose of some of Richard Land's most recent electioneering activity. Land is Director of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Here's a quote:
Land goes on to rule out potential VP’s like Joe Lieberman and Tom Ridge while praising Mike Hucakbee, Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, and Eric Cantor, and reiterating his attack that Barack Obama is the “most radically pro-abortion candidate to ever be nominated by a major party” and predicting that Obama will have no success in his efforts to “peel off a sizeable chunk of white evangelicals” because they have no intention of “surrendering their pro-life values.”

But still Land insists that not only is he not endorsing any candidate, he’s not even supporting one, while still making his preference clear to anyone who can connect the dots:
Why do Southern Baptists put up with someone who shades the truth as the head of their ethics agency? Why would people supposedly concerned with ultimate truth put up with anything but absolute honesty from any of their leaders.

What kind of witness is this?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

On Conscience and Dissent

Thanks to Robert Cunningham for calling my attention to Sean the Baptist's blog about Bill Leonard's presentation at IBTS last month.

Kudos to Sean for giving us a summary of the speech and discussion about this very important and timely topic. Here's a quote from Sean:

It was good lecture, lively and not too long, and it generated signficant discussion. The main concern expressed was whether Leonard's presentation emphasized the individual conscience to the detriment of the communal conscience and thereby inevitably generated schism. For those in the room of more catholic sensibilities there was some concern over the idea that Baptist identity was too closely identified with notions of individual freedom, not least because this leads to the downplaying of central ecclesiological ideas such as covenant etc. I was also acutely aware that Dr Leonard's take on all this is shaped by the context of current debates amongst Baptists in North America.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

On Summum Foetii

Kudos to Ethics Daily for calling attention to the extremes to which some opponents of abortion will go to hold their position.

On several occassions I have held discussions with men who refused to concede that abortion is permissible to save the life of the mother. For them, the defense of foetal life seems to be equated with their summum bonum.

So far, I've not held such a discussion with a woman.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Is Obama Harbinger of the AntiChrist?

Hal Lindsay, the premillenial dispensationalist fortune-teller who made his fortune telling people the world would end around 1988, thinks Obama is a harbinger of the AntiChrist. Here's a link.

If old dispensationalists won't die, I wish they would at least fade away.

Prayer Shawl Ministry at NorthHaven Makes News

NorthHaven Church in Norman, OK has begun a prayer shawl ministry that is featured in today's Norman Transcript.

Here's a link.

Was Atlantis Off the Coast of Ireland?

Researchers have discovered a three nautical mile strip off the coast of Ireland that the BBC describes as a "Prehistoric land under the sea." Here's a quote:
Deep below the sea, off the north coast of Northern Ireland, a dramatic geological mystery has been discovered.

Huge cliffs, vast basins and plateaus, a lake and even rivers have been found. But so far no-one is certain what caused them to end up like this deep under the sea.

The discovery was made when the seabed was being surveyed to update old Admiralty charts, drawn up in the mid-1800s.
Could this be the infamous lost city of Atlantis? Or, is it just a preview of what the west coast of California will look like after a major earthquake?