Sunday, September 28, 2008

Visualizing the Bible

All 1189 chapters of the Bible as a bar graph with the length of each bar proportional to the number of verses in the chapter. Above this, arcs represent 63,779 cross references between chapters; different colors denote varying distances between connected chapters. Created by Chris Harrison of Carnegie Mellon University and Christoph Römhild of North Elbian Evangelical Lutheran Church.

The image received honorable mention in the 2008 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge. The winning images were published by New Scientist Magazine.

Friday, September 26, 2008

John Imbler Interview

Podcast (28MB MP3) of Dr. Bruce Prescott's 9-21-08 "Religious Talk" radio interview with Dr. John Imbler, Executive Vice President and Associate Professor of Christianity and Disciples Studies at Phillips Theological Seminary. We talk about ecumenism, about the faculty and history of Phillips Seminary, about the opening of an extension of the seminary at the United Ministry Center in Norman, and about recent developments in the way men and women are being prepared for ministry.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Nathan Brown: Not Exactly Job

Podcast (25MB MP3) of Dr. Bruce Prescott's 9-14-08 "Religious Talk" radio interview with poet Nathan Brown. We talk about his recent book of poetry "Not Exactly Job"

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Lou Dobbs Over-the-Line

Lou Dobbs' rant about Treasury Secretary Paulson yesterday was way over-the-line. He did more than challenge Paulson's policies and proposals, he attacked him personally with some of the most condescending and insulting language I have heard from a host on CNN. Here's a transcript of Dobb's rant:

DOBBS: Well this Treasury secretary is the same buffoon who said a week ago there wasn't a problem, two weeks ago wasn't a problem, three weeks ago and really we don't care what he wants. He is nothing more than an empty suit parading around as the leader of this administration's economic team.

So Mr. Paulson, get over yourself. Either we straighten out the corruption and the excess on Wall Street and indeed in every aspect of this economy or we're going to have continuing, continuing crises, so get over your bad self, Henry Paulson.

You're hardly a genius and you're in no position to even utter a word as to what you would prefer. Shut up, get on with the job and listen to the people for a change. You have no -- absolutely no right to a view on this at all in my opinion. Thank you very much, Kitty. Kitty Pilgrim.

Well it's the subject of our poll tonight. As you might guess, Secretary Paulson I find to be an incompetent jerk. But we would like to get your opinion. Should Wall Street executives who oversaw the biggest market meltdown in American history be paid a dime of taxpayer-funded bonus money? Yes or no? Cast your votes at We'll have the results here later in the broadcast.

And yes, I said Henry Paulson, Treasury secretary, is absolutely an incompetent in a parading preening popinjay right now in the midst of crisis, not a lot of help.
I am not a fan of Henry Paulson. I am not a fan of the Bush administration. I am not a fan of Wall Street and I am certainly no fan of Wall Street executives, but everyone who holds office in this country deserves a modicum of respect.

I happen to agree with the point that Dobbs was raising. The compensation of Wall Street executives certainly needs to be reduced if the federal government steps in to bail out the finance industry.

Dobbs could have made his point without the name calling and the insulting personal attacks. We need to clean up more than the sleaze and greed on Wall Street. We also need to clean up the sleazy demagoguery in the mainstream media.

Friday, September 19, 2008

On McCain's Economic Prescription

Listening to John McCain's speech about the economic crisis this morning was difficult for me. I recall that McCain trusts Phil Gramm for economic advice more than anyone else.

Gramm was the co-chair of McCain's re-election campaign until he resigned just two months ago for the distraction he caused McCain's campaign when he said that the U.S. is only in a "mental recession" and "we have become sort of a nation of whiners."

Gramm was my congressman when I attended seminary. When he first ran he was a Democrat, but his economic philosophy was more palatable to Republicans and he changed parties.

More than anyone else in Congress, Gramm was the force behind the deregulation of the finance industry that led us into our current financial mess. He got plenty of help from his wife, Wendy, who sat on the board of Enron.

McCain's solution to the economic crisis is to fire the head of the Security and Exchange Commission and prosecute Wall Street executives for doing what Phil Gramm's legislation authorized them to do. Without saying so explicitly, McCain indicated he would also undo the effects of Gramm's legislation.

I wonder whether McCain realizes that Phil Gramm's policies -- policies that he supported -- are at the root of our current economic crisis?

I not sure McCain gets it yet.

America's Three Wise Men?

Today's Washington Post has published an article about the three key leaders guiding our country and the world through the current economic crisis. A crisis that some say may dwarf the Great Depression. Here is some basic information about America's three wise men:

Paulson, 62, is an investment banker who rose through the ranks of Goldman Sachs to lead the firm. A lanky former Dartmouth College offensive tackle and an intense workaholic, he said he agreed in 2006 to become the Bush administration's third Treasury secretary to prepare the government for a possible market crisis.

Bernanke, 54 and calm of demeanor, is one of the foremost scholars of financial crises, especially the Great Depression. Before being named Fed chairman in 2006, the largest organization he had run was Princeton University's economics department.

Geithner, 47, was a career staff member at the Treasury Department when Lawrence Summers, then a Treasury undersecretary, plucked him from obscurity in the early 1990s. He became a key member of the group that guided the Clinton administration's response to the international financial crises in the 1990s and has been honing his knowledge of Wall Street since taking over the New York Fed in 2003.
The key thing to note is that both Paulson and Bernanke took their jobs in 2006 with full knowledge that they would be dealing with the current economic crisis. It didn't come as a surprise to them or to many other people in this country.

Few in positions of leadership or in the mainstream media would listen to warnings about the housing bubble that the Bush administration created to prop up the economy while we went to war in Iraq. If you weren't afraid of listening to "liberal" voices on the internet (-- the only place they could find a voice), you could find repeated warnings that this would be the result of neo-conservative policies.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Source of Uncle Sam's Deficit

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has published a report about "How Projected Surpluses Became Deficits." The chart above puts the information in a nutshell.

I really didn't get much from the Bush tax cuts. I think it was something like $60 a year. I'd gladly give it back with interest if it would help stabilize the economy of our country.

I wonder how many people in the upper income percentiles would do the same?

Are Crows Smarter than Apes?

Can crows think?

Are they smarter than apes?

Research at the University of Auckland in New Zealand seems to indicate so. Here's a link.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Palin Blessed by Kenyan Witchhunter

The Times Online has posted a report about a Kenyan evangelist that Sarah Palin says blessed her and played a crucial role in her decision to become the Governor of Alaska.

Apparently, the evangelist is also literally a witchhunter. Here's a quote:

According to the Christian Science Monitor, six months of fervent prayer and research identified the source of the witchcraft as a local woman called Mama Jane, who ran a "divination" centre called the Emmanuel Clinic.

Her alleged involvement in fortune-telling and the fact that she lived near the site of a number of fatal car accidents led Pastor Muthee to publicly declare her a witch responsible for the town's ills, and order her to offer her up her soul for salvation or leave Kiambu.

Says the Monitor, "Muthee held a crusade that 'brought about 200 people to Christ'." They set up round-the-clock prayer intercession in the basement of a grocery store and eventually, says the pastor "the demonic influence – the 'principality' over Kiambu – was broken", and Mama Jane fled the town.

DNA Analysis Reveals "Positive" Selection

Recent genetic research has found evidence of "positive" evolutionary selection in 544 genes.

Discussions of evidence for evolution being disclosed by DNA analysis is either shallow or absent from the writings of the proponents of creation science and intelligent design. For those of us who believe that God guided the processes of evolution to accomplish his creative purposes, the current research provides much food for thought.

Here's a quote:
The largest group of positively selected genes in primates involved sensory inputs -- including perceptions of taste, color and pain. "The conventional wisdom is that we should see major changes in the brain-related genes," Siepel noted. "We didn't find a signal for that, but did find inputs to the central nervous system." Perhaps, the researchers speculated, changes in sensory input drove changes in the brain.

The study supports the idea that positive selection is important in evolution, Siepel said. Theorists have argued over the relative importance of positive selection versus "neutral drift," where random changes simply happen with no positive or negative result. He noted that positive selection was found mainly in genes that are not expressed in as many tissues as others. "Genes with more specialized purposes may have more freedom for adaptation," he explained.

The researchers also found evidence that many changes seem to have occurred in spurts over short periods of time. For example, they found genes that were not under selection in lower mammals, then came under selection in primates, then were lost in humans. Whether evolution has been continuous or episodic has also been a subject of much debate among biologists.


Santana's concert in Oklahoma City last night was unforgettable.

The Oklahoman has an article and pictures.

Kylene and I, along with our son Will and our daughter-in-law Monica, will have lifelong memories of a thoroughly delightful evening.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Palin Wanted to Ban Baptist Minister's Book

Howard Bess, an American Baptist minister, wrote one of the books that Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin wanted to ban from the library in Wasilla, Alaska. Bess authored the book entitled "Pastor, I am Gay" about his experiences counselling homosexuals.

Here's a brief excerpt from an article about "The pastor who clashed with Palin" by David Talbot in Salon Magazine:
"She scares me," said Bess. "She's Jerry Falwell with a pretty face.

"At this point, people in this country don't grasp what this person is all about. The key to understanding Sarah Palin is understanding her radical theology."

Bess -- a fit-looking, 80-year-old man in a gray University of Illinois sweatshirt and blue jeans – spoke with me over coffee at the Vagabond Blues, a cafe in Palmer with a stunning view of the nearby snow-capped Chugach Mountains. The retired minister moved to the Mat-Su Valley with his wife, Darlene, in 1987, after his outspoken defense of gay rights at Baptist churches in the Santa Barbara, Calif., area and Anchorage landed him in trouble with church officials. In the Mat-Su Valley, Bess plunged into community activism, helping launch an assortment of projects, from an arts council to a shelter for the mentally disabled.

Inevitably, his work brought him into conflict with Palin and other highly politicized Christian fundamentalists in the valley. "Things got very intense around here in the '90s -- the culture war was very hot here," Bess said. "The evangelicals were trying to take over the valley. They took over the school board, the community hospital board, even the local electric utility. And Sarah Palin was in the direct center of all these culture battles, along with the churches she belonged to."

Country First?

One American political party has adopted "country first" as a campaign slogan. That same party is the party of political preference for the bulk of the evangelical community in our nation. I have been waiting for the significance of that statement to dawn on someone in the conservative evangelical community, but to date they seem to be blissfully unaware of the idolatrous overtones of their politics.

Christians are warned not to divide their loyalties. We put "God first" or else God is not God in our lives. Nothing in scripture authorizes God's people to equate their loyalty to God with loyalty to their nation. There is much that forbids it. Jesus commands us to be singlemindedly devoted to God and his kingdom (Matt. 6:24-34). His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36).

Christians should not even put "country second." Discipleship requires that we share the same priorities as our Lord. If God so loved "the world" that he sent his only Son to die for it, and the Son was obedient unto death, then the good of the world as a whole deserves more concern from his disciples than the good of any single nation. At best, then, country only comes in third.

That's not a message that most American evangelicals have ears to hear. They don't have ears because they have no desire to pay attention to the genuine demands of discipleship. The thought of self-conscious self-sacrifice for the benefit of strangers is completely foreign to them. They're looking for cheap grace. They only have ears for those who will tell them what they want to hear and who ask them to make sacrifices only for what is near and dear.

It would be hard for me to conceive of a more damning indictment of American evangelicalism if it weren't for the research that indicates how widely evangelicals defend the government's use of torture as an investigative technique.

Hats off to David Gushee, Bill Underwood and Mercer University for their prophetic witness against torture last week.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Science Professor Suggests Discussing Creationism as 'Worldview'

Professor Michael Reiss, the Director of Education for the Royal Society in the U.K. suggests that science teachers should be prepared to discuss creationism as a "worldview." Here's a quote:

Professor Reiss added: "Some of my comments about the teaching of creationism have been misinterpreted as suggesting that creationism should be taught in science classes. Creationism has no scientific basis.

"However, when young people ask questions about creationism in science classes, teachers need to be able to explain to them why evolution and the Big Bang are scientific theories but they should also take the time to explain how science works and why creationism has no scientific basis.

"I have referred to science teachers discussing creationism as a 'worldview;' this is not the same as lending it any scientific credibility."
I think Professor Reiss is naive to think that fundamentalists will be satisfied for science teachers to discuss creationism as merely a "worldview." They expect their beliefs to be treated as a scientific worldview. That is precisely what Reiss denies.

In my mind, discussions of "worldviews" are best reserved for philosophy classes, comparative religion classes, sociology classes and literature classes. Science classes in primary schools should restrict themselves to teaching basic scientific theory and method.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Good Day to Be Living In Oklahoma

Today is certainly a good day to be living in Oklahoma.

As I drove to work today the newscaster reported that the far edge of Hurricane Ike was washing up where my daughter lives in Gulf Port, Mississippi.

Minutes ago I learned Hurricane Ike has turned toward Houston and that the neighborhood where we lived in Friendswood (zip code 77546) is under a mandatory evacuation order. And worse, the Houston Chronicle has posted maps that indicate my old house will be under water if a force 3 hurricane arrives on Ike's current trajectory.

We have to dodge some monster tornadoes in Oklahoma, but they come and go fairly quickly and the damage rarely matches what a hurricane can do.

To my friends fleeing the storm in Houston, I've got a couple spare rooms and a couple sofa's that are free in Norman. All we've got up here is a little rain.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

On Turning Down Dialogue With Muslims

I got an e-mail this morning from a Muslim friend who was distraught to discover that every member of Oklahoma's Congressional delegation declined to accept his invitation to a dinner and dialogue with moderate Muslims.

My friend, Vahap Uysal, a professor at the University of Oklahoma, travelled to Washington, D.C. to personally extend invitations asking Congressional leaders to participate in an Iftar Dinner -- the sumptuous meal taken by Muslims to break their fast during their month of Ramadan. Muslims associated with the Turkish scholar Fetulah Gulen and the Institute of Interfaith Dialog have been hosting such dinner and dialog events for several years in cities around the United States.

Fetulah Gulen is a moderate Sufi Muslim who has devoted his life to promoting a peaceful "Dialogue of Civilizations" rather than the violent "Clash of Civilizations" that some in both Christian and Islamic societies believe to be inevitable as East and West come together in a global economy.

Since the attacks by Islamic extremists on 9-11, Fetulah Gulen has been at the forefront of the mainstream, moderate Muslim community that condemns committing violence in the name of God.

The Institute of Interfaith Dialog was organized to promote peace by fostering respectful dialogue between Christians and Muslims. The Institute sponsors Iftar dinners, conferences, and trips to Turkey -- where Eastern and Western civilizations meet -- to promote interfaith understanding. Their Iftar dinners and discussions bring people from a broader political range and from more diverse religious perspectives than any other events taking place in Oklahoma. These Muslims consistently take the initiative in helping to find common ground, in building bridges of understanding, and in fostering a climate conducive to the creation of peaceful, equitable and just relations between people of different civilizations.

I have been to several Iftar dinners, have attended several Institute conferences, and have travelled to Bosnia, Croatia, Romania and Turkey with associates of Fetulah Gulen. In every instance and on every occasion, I have found them to be humble and gracious hosts. While they respect people of all faiths and are tolerant of a widely divergent range of political perspectives, they are very quick to denounce any suggestion that violence in the name of God is tolerable or appropriate.

It is hard for me to understand why the elected representatives of the state of Oklahoma would turn a deaf ear to people who are so demonstrably committed to reducing the kind of misunderstandings that lead to conflict and violence.

Our representatives have a legal and moral obligation to work to secure peace and to preserve the kind of tranquility that makes civilized life possible. They also have a legal and moral responsibility to secure peace and preserve tranquility with as little force and violence as possible.

Unfortunately, they do not seem to be as conscientious as are these Muslims in fulfilling their duties and responsibilities.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Parham and Mohler Debate Online at Washington Post

The "On Belief" section of the Washington Post has posted opposing essays about the effect that Sarah Palin's VP nomination is having on Southern Baptist theology. Al Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Robert Parham, Executive Director of the Baptist Center for Ethics, square off over whether SBC fundamentalists are being honest and consistent in their presentations of the role of women in public life.

Mohler, in an essay entitled "Palin and Baptist Theology" says,

Our confession of faith does not speak to the appropriateness of women serving in political office. It does speak to the priority of motherhood and responsibilities in the home, but it does not specify any public role that is closed to women.
Parham, in an essay entitled "Palin and Baptist Revisionism" says,

Well, no, the confession of faith doesn't speak literally to women running for office. But when his wife served on the committee that wrote the family statement, neither she nor he spoke up for women working outside the home.

In fact, when I said in June 1998 that Southern Baptist fundamentalists "hope to make June Cleaver the biblical model for motherhood, despite numerous biblical references to women who worked outside the home," fundamentalists responded with the claim they were only being faithful to the Bible.
Southern Baptists have a long heritage of "only being faithful to the Bible" when the interpretations they are being faithful to reinforce their personal prejudices. Southern Baptists first distinguished themselves this way by defending the legitimacy of slavery.

Southern Baptists also have a long heritage of reversing their previous positions when it becomes politically expedient. It took them more than 140 years to repudiate their defense of slavery. Now they are repudiating their family statement within a decade. Progress is being made.

Isn't it a bit ironic that the woman they are elevating to national prominence comes from a Christian tradition that recognizes God's call of women to pastoral ministry?

How long will it be until it is politically expedient for Southern Baptists to acknowledge that God calls a lot more women to be pastors than he calls to be politicians?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

What Mary Fallin Didn't Say

Oklahoma Representative Mary Fallin just spoke at the Republican National Convention this evening. She linked the 1995 bombing by domestic terrorists in Oklahoma City with the 2001 bombing by foreign terrorist in New York City. Her speech was followed by a video entitled World Stood Still that was designed to elicit visceral reactions among fearful Americans.

The video and Fallin’s speech were meant to drive home the message, made explicit by Fallin, that the most important task of government is to assure the safety and security of its citizens. She neglected to mention that securing that safety has involved surrendering many of our freedoms.

From a speech I gave in the House Chamber at the Oklahoma State Capitol a month before our nation launched an unprovoked war against Iraq, here's what Fallin could have said, but did not say:

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.

Since September 11, 2001 it has become commonplace to say that the world changed that day. Some things did change. Several thousand precious, unique and irreplaceable lives were lost and the lives of many more were irreparably harmed.

I must object, however, to assigning any significance to the evil that transpired that day. In my mind, the most important lesson to be learned from that day is to be found in the images of heroism and the examples of self-sacrifice demonstrated by the men and women of the New York City fire department and police department and others like them.

We need to learn from the people who left places where they were safe and secure and walked courageously into harm’s way to rescue the victims of a grave injustice. From them we learn that there are some things in life that are more important than safety and more valuable than security.

Only those who have learned that lesson have the capacity to truly calculate the price of freedom and security.

Still in a State of National Emergency

On August 28, 2008, President Bush served notice that he is preserving the right to suspend the Constitution and its protection of our civil liberties. Here's a paragraph from his extension of the state of national emergency that began seven years ago:
Because the terrorist threat continues, the national emergency declared on September 14, 2001, and the powers and authorities adopted to deal with that emergency, must continue in effect beyond September 14, 2008. Therefore, I am continuing in effect for an additional year the national emergency I declared on September 14, 2001, with respect to the terrorist threat.
So why do I feel like there is more to fear from Bush-Cheney than from terrorists?

Perhaps it is because I take seriously the warning in James Madison's Memorial and Remonstrance that declared, "It is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties."

Community Organizing Networks Respond to Palin

A network of community organizing agencies have responded to vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's statement that they lack "actual responsibilities" on the Faith in Public Life website.

Here's a quote from Bishop Roy Dixon, prelate of the Southern California 4th ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Church of God in Christ, member of the San Diego Organizing Project and former board chair of PICO National Network:
"As a life-long Republican, the comments I heard last night about community organizing crossed the line. It is one thing to question someone's experience, another to demean the work of millions of hard working Americans who take time to get involved in their communities. When people come together in my church hall to improve our community, they're building the Kingdom of God in San Diego. We see the fruits of community organizing in safer streets, new parks, and new affordable housing. It's the spirit of democracy for people to have a say and we need more of it."

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Palin Compares Herself to Truman

Sarah Palin's comparing herself to Harry Truman this evening gave me pause.

Harry Truman became President when an aging President died in office. Harry Truman is the only person in the history of the world to use nuclear weapons.

If Palin is trying to prove that, should circumstances elevate her to the office of chief executive, she's prepared to make use of nuclear weapons, she must not realize that any such analogy with Truman is impossible.

Truman dropped the bomb when no other country on the planet could respond in kind. Destruction was unilateral. That has not been possible for more than fifty years.

Today, using atomic weapons means you are prepared to participate in the mutually assured destruction of all human civilization.

The Roots of Religious Liberty: The Edict of Milan

A couple years ago I wrote an opinion for the District Court regarding the Ten Commandments monument on the courthouse lawn in Haskell County, Oklahoma. In that opinion, I discussed Roger Williams' position regarding religious liberty and believed, at that time, that his understanding of forced religion as "molestation" and his equating it with "soul rape" was uniquely his own.

Since that time, I have found no earlier thinker who has described forced religion as the rape of the soul, but I have found what may well be the first description of it as a "molestation." The rescript of Licinius, published in 313 A.D., documents the Edict of Milan formulated by Constantine and Licinius. Though they failed to abide by this edict, it is a remarkably enlightened statement and may well be the earliest legal document affirming religious liberty.

Here is an English translation of the Edict of Milan:
When we, Constantine Augustus and Licinius Augustus, had happily met together at Milan and considered all things which pertain to the advantage and security of the state, we thought that, among other things which seemed likely to profit men generally, we ought, in the first place, to set in order the conditions of the reverence paid to divinity by giving to Christians and all others full permission to follow whatever worship any man has chosen. Thereby whatever deity there is in heaven may be benevolent and propitious to us and to all placed under our authority. Therefore we ought, with sound counsel and right reason, to lay down this law, that we should in no way refuse to any man any legal right who has given up his mind either to the observance of Christianity or to that worship which he personally feels best suited to himself -- to the end that the Supreme Divinity, whose worship we freely follow, may continue in all things to grant us his accustomed favor and good will. Wherefore your excellency [addressed to the governors of the provinces] should know that it is our pleasure that all provisions whatsoever which have appeared in documents hitherto directed to your office regarding Christians and which appeared utterly improper and opposed to our clemency should be abolished, and that all who wish to worship as Christians may now freely and unconditionally do so without any annoyance or molestation. These things we thought it well to signify in the fullest manner to your attention, that you might know it well to signify in the fullest manner to your attention, that you might know that we have given free and absolute permission to the said Christians to practice their worship. And when you see that we have granted this to the said Christians, your excellency will understand that to others also a full and free permission for their own worship and observance is granted, for the tranquillity of the times, so that every man may have freedom in practice of whatever worship he has chosen. (Emphasis mine)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Lieberman Makes the Case for Why He Should Have Been the GOP VP Nominee

Watching the Republican National Convention this evening I felt Joe Lieberman gave the best speech of his life.

I didn't agree with half of what he said, but think Lieberman clearly won over many of the evangelical Christians who were opposed to his nomination.

Should McCain have to throw his current unvetted nominee under the bus, it will be much easier for him to put Lieberman in her place.

On Women Heading Countries but not Churches

Christianity Today is reporting that Richard Land is ecstatic about the nomination of Sarah Palin for Vice President. He's also eager to label as "asinine" any question about the logical consistency of his theology and politics. Here's a quote from his interview with Sarah Pulliam:
The enthusiasm gap has been closed considerably. Let me answer a question you haven't asked me. I had two secular reporters ask me, "Dr. Land, you as a Southern Baptist believe that women are not to be pastors of churches and women are not to be head of the home. Wouldn't it mean that if Sarah Palin were elected vice president, her husband would tell her what to do? And I said, "If you don't mind my saying so, that's an asinine question, but I'll answer it." Mrs. Thatcher said that her husband was head of her home and she ran the country. Queen Elizabeth said that Prince Phillip was head of the home and she was head of the country. If Mrs. Thatcher had been an American, I would've enthusiastically supported her for president of the United States.

The only restrictions we find in Scripture are, that for whatever reason women are not to be in charge of a marriage and women are not to be in charge of a church. That has nothing to do with governor, or senator or the House of Representatives, or president, or vice president.
It is fairly simple to discern when you've identified a weakness in Richard Land's thought. Just probe a little and wait for him to insult your intelligence or integrity. Land always bolsters his weakest arguments with ad hominem arguments.

Land's most egregious use of ad hominem argument to bolster a weak case was at the 2000 meeting Southern Baptist Convention when he flirted with the unpardonable sin by insinuating that those questioning the revision of the denomination's confession of faith were influenced by "demonic spirits." That revision inserted a prohibition against women serving as pastors of Southern Baptist churches.

To grasp how conflicted many evangelicals are about Palin's nomination, one needs only to read some of the weblogs by conservative mothers.

It's going to take incrementally more bluster and nearly perpetual filibuster from fundamentalists like Land both to contend that women can be the "head" of nations and to continue to deny that they can be "head" of families and churches. They will not be able to maintain a static "dead head" understanding of headship for the family and church while at the same time affirming a "living metaphoricity" of headship for the nation. Ultimately, one perspective or the other will prevail.

On Baptist-Muslim Dialogue

Kudos to Robert Parham for his recent speech at the Islamic Society of North America Convention.

Too many Baptists are fanning the flames of conflict between Christianity and Islam. Parham is prominent among those Baptists who are working for world peace by finding common ground and building bridges of understanding between Christians and Muslims.

I hope someone in the Islamic community will take up Parham's offer to post opinion columns, commentaries, and movie reviews from an Islamic perspective on the Ethics Daily website. Baptists and Muslims will always disagree about many religious beliefs, but we could both benefit from fully understanding our divergences and from acknowledging every possible convergence. We can uphold each other's right to liberty of conscience and conviction while respectfully disagreeing with one another on matters of faith and practice.

Pictured above is T Thomas, Coordinator of the Cooperating Baptist Fellowship of Oklahoma, speaking to a girl who introduced herself to us in Kutaya, Turkey.