Monday, June 29, 2009

Beware America's Right-Wing Mullahs

Frank Schaeffer, son of the late Francis Schaeffer, has posted an essay about the theocratic aspirations of the American Religious Right. In explicit terms, from an insider's perspective, he describes what our country would be like if our American Mullah's got their way:

Many evangelical leaders deny holding Reconstructionist beliefs but Beverly and Tim LaHaye (of Concerned Women for Americaand the "Left Behind" novels that glorify religious violence), Donald Wildmon (American Family Association) and the late D. James Kennedy (Coral Ridge Ministries) -- served alongside Rushdoony on the secretive Coalition for Revival, a group formed in 1981 to "reclaim America for Christ." I went to the early meetings. I first met Tim LaHaye at one such meeting. And what Dobson, Falwell et al were pushing, and what the "tea parties" and Fox News are all about today, is one or another version of the Rushdoony/theocracy version of the Iranian mullahs American-style.

When there are tens of thousands of Americans sitting in evangelical churches every Sunday wherein President Obama is vilified as an "abortionist," a "Communist," a "secret Muslim," and even as "the Antichrist," when the former vice president accuses our President of what amounts to treason, all because President Obama won't allow the torture of prisoners in an American version of holy war, all because he has decided it is wise to build bridges of respect to Muslim countries, we've left recognizable political territory and entered the realm of violence-inciting hate and delusion of the kind Iran's "supreme leader" indulges in.

Picture the harshest Old Testament laws applied at home and the harshest neoconservative military policy abroad and that would be America if the Republicans had everything they wanted. We'd be in three wars now instead of two -- Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran. It would be open season on domestic surveillance. Torture would be legal. Habeas Corpus would be a thing of the past. Women would be in prison for having had abortions. Gay men and women would be hounded and if they were murdered there would be leaders saying they had it coming. The CIA and FBI would be operating inside the USA to crush dissent. Blackwater (and other companies like it) would be taking over more and more military duties and operating internationally as a mercenary death squad.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Iran Follows U.S. Precedent

For more than five years the world has heard reports that the United States was torturing suspected terrorists to get false confessions about WMD's, or links to Al Queda, or plots to attack U.S. interests. Most Americans shrugged. Men on the street in Oklahoma have been heard to say, "The government needed to use a firm hand to deal with these people. We have a right to protect our way of life."

Today we are hearing reports that the current regime in Iran is torturing reformists to get confessions that would falsely implicate the U.S. and other western nations in a plot to overthrow the Iranian government. I suspect someone in Tehran is saying, "The government needs to use a firm hand to deal with these people. We have a right to protect our way of life."

Torture appears to have become the standard operating procedure by which those in power deal with anyone they deem threatening. The U.S. has set a rather ignominious precedent for the world. I fear that, sooner or later, Americans themselves will be bearing the brunt of it.

Old, White & In Decline

According to Reuters, "Southern Baptists (and Republicans): old, white and in decline."

You'll be surprised who they source for their information.

Days of the Dollar Standard Numbered

BBC is reporting that the world's greatest creditor nation (China) is forcefully contending that the world should no longer use the currency of one of the world's greatest debtor nations (the U.S.) as its reserve currency.

China wants to replace the dollar.

Right now this is just talk. Whenever it actually happens, the Great Depression will look like a picnic in the park.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Broadway Baptist Insufficiently Homophobic

Yesterday, messangers at the Southern Baptist Convention expelled Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas from the SBC. There was no debate. The vote took about thirty seconds.

Boradway's offense? Publishing a church directory with pictures of the congregation socializing with gay people. Apparently, the membership of Broadway Baptist is insufficiently homophobic for Southern Baptists.

Imagine what the SBC would do with Jesus if he had published a directory with pictures of his disciples socializing with prostitutes and publicans!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Haskell County Appeals Ten Commandments Decision

A panel of three George W. Bush appointees unanimously agreed that the Ten Commandments monument on the courthouse lawn in Stigler, Oklahoma is unconstitutional. It would be hard to assemble a more conservative group of jurists.

Still, the elected officials of Haskell County Oklahoma have decided to appeal that decision. They are asking for an "en banc" hearing in which all twelve of the judges at the Ten Circuit Court of Appeals render a verdict.

The facts in this case are compellingly against Haskell County. Sooner or later, the people in that county are going to have to ackowledge that their attempt to have their local government endorse the majoritarian faith of their community violates the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Podcast: Timothy Eaton Interview

Podcast (27MB Mp3) of Dr. Bruce Prescott's 6-21-09 "Religious Talk" radio interview with Dr. Timothy Eaton, President of Hillsdale Free Will Baptist College in Moore, Oklahoma. We talk about the history of Free Will Baptists, about Hillsdale College, and about the New Baptist Covenant Regional meeting (NBCMW) that will be held in Norman, Oklahoma on August 6-7. Dr. Eaton will be a panelist discussing the documentary film "Beneath the Skin: Baptists and Racism" at the NBCMW meeting.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

On the Beginning of an End for an Islamic Theocracy

Fareed Zakaria, in an interview on CNN, reveals the significance of current events in Iran:

Fareed Zakaria: One of the first things that strikes me is we are watching the fall of Islamic theocracy.

CNN: Do you mean you think the regime will fall?

Zakaria: No, I don't mean the Iranian regime will fall soon. It may -- I certainly hope it will -- but repressive regimes can stick around for a long time. I mean that this is the end of the ideology that lay at the basis of the Iranian regime.

The regime's founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, laid out his special interpretation of political Islam in a series of lectures in 1970. In this interpretation of Shia Islam, Islamic jurists had divinely ordained powers to rule as guardians of the society, supreme arbiters not only on matters of morality but politics as well. When Khomeini established the Islamic Republic of Iran, this idea was at its heart. Last week, that ideology suffered a fatal wound.

CNN: How so?

Zakaria: When the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declared the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a "divine assessment," he was indicating it was divinely sanctioned. But no one bought it. He was forced to accept the need for an inquiry into the election. The Guardian Council, Iran's supreme constitutional body, met with the candidates and promised to investigate and perhaps recount some votes. Khamenei has subsequently hardened his position but that is now irrelevant. Something very important has been laid bare in Iran today --- legitimacy does not flow from divine authority but from popular support.
Zakaria insists repeatedly that the current regime could hold power a lot longer, but ultimately, the Islamic theocracy In Iran no longer holds power legitimately.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Baptists Call for Clean Energy

Robert Parham, Executive Director of the Baptist Center for Ethics, wrote a letter to congress supporting the "American Clean Energy Act." More than 140 Baptist leaders from the across the country have signed the letter. Three Olahomans signed the letters that Parham sent to U.S. Representatives and Senators -- Larry Stevens, George Young and yours truly.

If Oklahoma Baptists carefully read the report about climate change (200 page .pdf) that was just released by the Obama administration, a groundswell of additional support should be forthcoming. Here's a quote from the news coverage about the government's report that supports Parham's contention that climate change will have its most dramatic impact upon the poorest among us:

Future generations could face potential food shortages because of declining wheat and corn yields in the breadbasket of the mid-west, increased outbreaks of food poisoning and the spread of epidemic diseases.
The extreme urgency of the need to pass this legislation is being emphasized by the authors of the government report on climate change:

"The most important thing in this report is that the impacts of climate change are not something your children might theoretically see 50 years from now," said Tony Janetos, one of the study's authors and a director of the Joint Global Change Research Institute at the University of Maryland.

"The thing that concerns me the most is that we have a whole host of impacts that we now observe in the natural world that are occurring sooner and more rapidly and that appear to be larger than we might have expected 10 years ago. If anything we might have underestimated the rate and the impact of changes in the climate system."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

On Token Diversity at the Southern Baptist Convention

Robert Parham has posted an essay comparing the programs for this year's national conventions of American Baptists, Southern Baptists and Cooperative Baptists. American Baptists and Cooperative Baptists have demonstrable support for ethnic and gender diversity in their programs.

Southern Baptists began with a patriarchal white supremecist approach to the gospel and the current convention remains true to its racist heritage. Only a solitary white woman, a lonely African-American male, and a single Hispanic male are listed as participating in the two-day program for a denomination of 16 million members.

At a moment when our nation is governed by its first African-American president, it would be hard to send a stronger signal that there is only token support for anything other than white male leadership within the Southern Baptist Convention.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

On Open Source Hydrogen Cars

BBC has posted a story about an "Open Source" hydrogen car which will be developed by a non-profit corporation.

"Open Source" is a term familiar in the world of the internet and computer software. It refers to software code that is open to anyone with the time, talent and interest in working to collaboratively develop and improve it.

The article claims the car gets 300 miles per gallon of hydrogen and can travel 200 miles before refueling.

Well Said, Greenwald

Glenn Greenwald at Salon has posted an astute blog post about the myopia of those who have been beating the drum to go to war with Iran:

Much of the same faction now claiming such concern for the welfare of The Iranian People are the same people who have long been advocating a military attack on Iran and the dropping of large numbers of bombs on their country -- actions which would result in the slaughter of many of those very same Iranian People. During the presidential campaign, John McCain infamously sang about Bomb, Bomb, Bomb-ing Iran. The Wall St. Journal published a war screed from Commentary's Norman Podhoretz entitled "The Case for Bombing Iran," and following that, Podhoretz said in an interview that he "hopes and prays" that the U.S. "bombs the Iranians." John Bolton and Joe Lieberman advocated the same bombing campaign, while Bill Kristol -- with typical prescience -- hopefully suggested that Bush might bomb Iran if Obama were elected. Rudy Giuliani actually said he would be open to a first-strike nuclear attack on Iran in order to stop their nuclear program.

Imagine how many of the people protesting this week would be dead if any of these bombing advocates had their way -- just as those who paraded around (and still parade around) under the banner of Liberating the Iraqi People caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of them, at least. Hopefully, one of the principal benefits of the turmoil in Iran is that it humanizes whoever the latest Enemy is. Advocating a so-called "attack on Iran" or "bombing Iran" in fact means slaughtering huge numbers of the very same people who are on the streets of Tehran inspiring so many -- obliterating their homes and workplaces, destroying their communities, shattering the infrastructure of their society and their lives. The same is true every time we start mulling the prospect of attacking and bombing another country as though it's some abstract decision in a video game.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Peak Oil Has Officially Arrived

For the first time ever, the proven reserves of the world's oil supply are officially admitted to be in decline. Michael T. Klare succinctly summarizes this sea change in the economy in the introduction to his essay, "Peak Oil is Real: The Era of Cheap Oil is Officially Over:"

Every summer, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the U.S. Department of Energy issues its International Energy Outlook (IEO) -- a jam-packed compendium of data and analysis on the evolving world energy equation. For those with the background to interpret its key statistical findings, the release of the IEO can provide a unique opportunity to gauge important shifts in global energy trends, much as reports of routine Communist Party functions in the party journal Pravda once provided America's Kremlin watchers with insights into changes in the Soviet Union's top leadership circle.

As it happens, the recent release of the 2009 IEO has provided energy watchers with a feast of significant revelations. By far the most significant disclosure: the IEO predicts a sharp drop in projected future world oil output (compared to previous expectations) and a corresponding increase in reliance on what are called "unconventional fuels" -- oil sands, ultra-deep oil, shale oil, and biofuels.

So here's the headline for you: For the first time, the well-respected Energy Information Administration appears to be joining with those experts who have long argued that the era of cheap and plentiful oil is drawing to a close. Almost as notable, when it comes to news, the 2009 report highlights Asia's insatiable demand for energy and suggests that China is moving ever closer to the point at which it will overtake the United States as the world's number one energy consumer. Clearly, a new era of cutthroat energy competition is upon us.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Leaderless Resistance in Action

CNN's coverage of the attack by a white supremecist at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. has repeatedly emphasized that the attacker was a "lone wolf" and that the FBI has infiltrated subversive groups to prevent any organized resistance. Such coverage gives Americans a false sense of security.

For more than 25 years racists and white supremecists have had a well known strategy to counteract the FBI's infiltration of their movement. In 1983 the Inter-Klan Newsletter first published Louis Beam's essay on "Leaderless Resistance." In various forms, it has been widely circulated among white nationalists ever since.

Louis Beam, who once was a member of the church I pastored in Houston at a time before my pastorate, devised a blueprint for an underground movement comprised of subversive individuals and/or cells that would be separate and independent from one another and would act on their own initiative without central leadership.

The link that ties Scott Roeder, who allegedly killed Dr. George Tiller, and James Von Brunn, who allegedly killed a guard at the Holocaust Museum, is their comprehension and implementation of Beam's strategy of "leaderless resistance." The strategy is the same, only the political goals are different.

The definitive source for gaining an understanding of the persistance and growth of white supremecism and white nationalism in the U.S. is Leonard Zeskind's new book, Blood and Politics (2009). This book will be essential reading throughout the time of the Obama administration and beyond.

Morris Chapman Encourages Public School Exodus

According to Ethics Daily, Morris Chapman, Executive Director of the Southern Baptist Convention, is promoting a plan to expand and extend a network of private Baptist grade schools and secondary schools throughout the South. He envisions at least one such private school in every Southern Baptist association in America. The vast majority of Southern Baptist associations are in the Southern states.

Robert Parham, Executive Director of the Baptist Center for Ethics, who has closely monitored anti-public school sentiment in the Southern Baptist Convention, observes:

Of course, abandoning public schools will in fact abandon the biblically mandated responsibility to care for all God's children—the poor, the immigrant, the special-needs children.

Abandoning public schools is really about retreating from the larger culture, from the public square, in order to "protect our own" from racial, religious, cultural and economic diversity. It's also about shielding children from science.

Nonetheless, Chapman's surprising move drew cheers from the extreme right, which has been calling for the exodus from public schools since 2004.

One of their leaders, Houston attorney Bruce Shortt, called Chapman's statement "the first step in the 'exit strategy.'"

"All Christians should note this sea-change in sentiment within the SBC," said Shortt. "The spiritual, moral and intellectual pathologies of the government school system are now obvious even to casual observers. Christian parents and pastors need to ask themselves just how much longer they intend to render our children to Caesar's spiritually dark, morally decaying and physically dangerous government schools."
At a time when Southern Baptist leaders are blaming the free-fall in baptisms on family planning, it appears that Baptists are shifting their strategy for church growth from evangelism to education.

After thirty years of fundamentalist dominion, the Southern Baptist Convention has become a by-word for the failure of theological hegemony and political activism as a means for sharing the gospel. Neither the affirmation of inerrancy, nor the purging of moderates from the convention, nor the alliance with a right-wing political movement, produced the growth that SBC fundamentalists promised.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Haskell County Ten Commandments Monument Ruled Unconstitutional

The Ten Circuit Court of Appeals has just ruled that the Ten Commandments monument on the courthouse lawn in Haskell County, Oklahoma is unconstitutional. Here's a summary:

We hold that under the unique circumstances presented here, the Establishment Clause was violated because the reasonable observer would rule the Monument as having the impermissible principal or primary effect of endorsing religion.
Here's a link to a newsletter I wrote based on information in an opinion I wrote challenging the monument. The Apellate Court has reversed and remanded the decision of the U.S. District Court in Eastern Oklahoma that ruled the monument constitutional.

Southern Baptists Cutting Missionaries

The Tennessean is reporting that Southern Baptists will cut the ranks of missionaries due to mission giving shortfalls.

Giving to the Lottie Moon mission offering dropped by $9 million dollars in 2008. $29 million less than the goal that the International Mission Board set.

State Budgets Projected to Fall Short

James Kwak at the Baseline Scenario blog has posted charts projecting the shortfalls that state and local governments are facing and will face both with and without Obama's stimulus.

The chart above is the most optimistic projection. You'll have to go to his blog to see the pessimistic chart. Both projections make the future looks bleak for state and local governments.

Friday, June 05, 2009

On God and Guns at Church

Ken Pagano, pastor of New Bethel Church in Louisville, Kentucky, says "We're just trying to promote responsible gun ownership and gun safety." That's one of the stated reasons why he is encouraging church members to pack their pistols when they come to church to celebrate the 4th of July.

I've never carried my gun to church. Not even when I was a police officer and required to keep my gun with me at all times. I left it in my car when I went to church when I was a police officer.

In my mind, if there is one place to take the command to put up your sword (John 18:11) and turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:38-39) literally it is at church.

The Bible issues no command to promote gun ownership and gun safety. It has a lot to say about giving a faithful witness.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Deflation of Hourly Earnings Thru April 2009

The Economic Policy Institute recently published the above graph to demonstrate the degree to which the nominal hourly wage growth collapsed in the first quarter of 2009.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Roeder and the O'Reilly Defense

Rumors are spreading on the internet that defense attorneys for Scott Roeder, who is being charged with assassinating abortion doctor George Tiller, may defend him by saying he was brainwashed from watching Bill O'Reilly and listening to right wing talk radio hate speech.

I doubt that such a defense would be successful, but am inclined to agree that the people watching Fox News and listening to right wing talk radio are being brainwashed. It's not illegal to consent to this kind of brainwashing and it doesn't absolve the guilt of anyone who acts in an illegal fashion in response to the propaganda with which they fill their mind.

Monday, June 01, 2009

On the Profanity of Ten Commandments Monuments

I was interviewed this morning by Mick Cornett and Kent Meyers for a segment of their television program The Verdict that is scheduled to air for the first time on Oklahoma's Cox Cable Network on July 5th. The program was about the Ten Commandments monument that the state legislature recently authorized for installation at the Oklahoma state capitol.

The first question called for an opinion about such monuments. My response to that question took on a more personal and subjective character than usual when the other guest, who spoke before me, closed his remarks with an insinuation that no one who affirms the value of the ten commandments could oppose the erection of the monument.

Under the glare of the lights, in the eye of the camera, and in the heat of the moment, I cannot remember exactly what I said. Here's a close approximation that records what I think I said:

With every fiber of my being I am convicted that it (the monument) is profane. It takes a sacred oath and covenant and converts it into a symbol of profanity. To understand that, you have to understand what the Supreme Court has said about the Ten Commandments.

The Supreme Court ruled that the display of the Ten Commandments in Kentucky was unconstitutional because there it had a religious purpose and meaning. The court ruled that the display of the Ten Commandments in Texas was legal because there it had a secular meaning and purpose.

I believe that the Ten Commandments are a sacred oath and covenant between God and his people. The Supreme Court has no authority to interpret the scriptures and pass judgment on its meaning.

And worse, every one of these displays has the name of God chiseled on it saying "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain." Violating that command is precisely what the Supreme Court says makes monuments to the Ten Commandments legal. Taking the name of the Lord in vain means taking it lightly -- as though God's name and his person had no ultimate significance and religious meaning. That is why I am convicted that Ten Commandments monuments on public land are taking a sacred oath and covenant and turning it into a symbol of profanity.

6/3/09 Note: This program is scheduled to air on Cox Communications Channel 7 in Oklahoma City and on Cox Communications Channel 3 in Tulsa at the following times: at 9:00 AM on Sunday, July 5, at 9:30 AM on Monday, July 6, at 10:00 AM on Tuesday, July 7, and at 10:00 AM on Wednesday, July 8.