Friday, April 30, 2010

Stiglitz on the Moral Crisis in the Banking Industry

Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize winning economist and professor at Columbia University, discussed the moral crisis in the banking industry in his recently released book Freefall.

After Tuesday's Congressional hearings on Goldman Sachs, Stiglitz words are apt:
The investment bankers would like us to believe that they were deceived by those that sold the mortgages to them. But they were not. They encourgaged the mortgate originators to go into the risky subprime market because it was only through the ample supply of mortgages and the transformation of the risky assets into new products that they earned the fees and generated the returns that, through leverage, made them look like financial wizards. If they were deceived, it was because they didn't want to know. . . .

But far harder to forgive is the moral depravity -- the financial sector's exploitation of poor and even middle-class Americans. . . . But instead of asking why the regulators didn't stop this, we should have asked what happened to the moral compunctions of those engaging in these practices.

. . .

No matter how you look at it, our banks and our bankers, both before and during the crisis, did not live up to the moral standards that we should hope for, especially in their exploitation of ordinary borrowers. The subprime mortgages are just another example of a long litany of abusive practices in a variety of venues, which include student loans, pay day loans, rent-a-centers, and credit and debit cards.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ronald Reagan on Socialized Medicine (Medicare)

If Jesus Deconstructed the Church

John Caputo, Professor of Humanities at Syracuse University and author of What Would Jesus Deconstruct?, offers a succinct paragraph providing the perspective of his book:
Not only is the Christian Right's bumper-sticker Jesus a cheerleader for lowering the taxes of the wealthy, but their Jesus is also a militarist. If we ask, "What would Jesus Deconstruct?" about many Christian churches, my own guess is that he would not know where to start -- with their militarism and imperialism or with their greed and indifference to the poor. The closest thing they represent to anything Jesus encountered in his own lifetime was called "Rome." He simply would not recognize himself. But you can count on it, if he reappeared in their midst protesting the war in Iraq, he would be spotted and denounced as a left-wing radical, a deconstructor, who has come back, uninvited, to make trouble for the church, and then subjected to a vicious smear campaign by wealthy right-wing "Christians."
Caputo's book was published in 2007, well before the Tea Party movement became a distinct phenomenon, yet he wrote a couple paragraphs wittily shredding the ideology of Christian libertarianism that pervades much of the Christian Right:
I may be forgiven (I depend a lot on that Christian virture) if I have concluded that the private-charity argument is a cynical cover for greed, which has a way of working things out so that I get to keep as much money as I can for myself and let the poorest of the poor go to the devil. . . . The more Jesus-inspired thing to do today, in my opinion, is to translate the gospel's commitment to the poor into an effective public policy that would actually implement an evangelical imperative, to come to the aid of the weakest and most defenseless people in society, above all the children. On this point, it is not (only) the government that has its hands in my pockets, but Jesus, and rightly so. If Jesus ever said, "My money is mine, I worked hard for it and I want to keep it for myself and there are other things that I would rather spend it on than those Samaritans," we have lost the manuscript. For "Samaritans," read poor and black! One can say this is not a white-and-black issue, but the plausibility of that claim is right up (or down) there with a six-thousand-year-old world.

Indeed, I would imagine that if the New Testament is our literal guide, then the standard tax rate for Christians should be set at 100 percent. The early Christians lived in common and distributed to one another according to their needs; in fact, one of the first disputes to break out in the church was whether this distribution was truly equal (Acts 6:1). I am still looking for the text that supports the idea that "Christians" means people who should be free to accumulate as much wealth for themselves that they possibly can under the law while letting the needs of the poor be met painlessly by "charity" -- by people of means who will voluntarily give of their overflow -- so that they do not have to share any more of their wealth than is unavoidable.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

On Rendering to Caesar

Robert Parham has posted an excellent essay about the morality of taxation. He describes this as "the forbidden topic in churches."

Ironically, his article about the need for preachers to become prophetic on the issue of sharing financial responsibility for the common good comes on the same day that the Supreme Court has decided that it is fine for the government to give away land for the erection of Christian symbols.

No doubt, more preachers will proclaim their approval of the government endorsing the majoritarian faith, than will preach about the need for each Christian to bear a fair share of the burden of taxation.

When queried about taxes, Jesus clearly advised Christians to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's (Mark 12:17). The function of Caesar (government) is to secure peace, justice and an opportunity for every citizen to make a contribution to society while living with dignity. When government exists only for the benefit of the wealthy, justice is denied and God is not pleased (Amos 2:6-8; Luke 12:15-21; Matthew 8:34-37).

Jesus was equally clear about rendering unto God the things that are God's. He preached against ostentatious, in-your-face public demonstrations of religiosity (Matthew 6:1-6). He proclaimed that the Kingdom of God does not come with observation, it is inward and personal (Luke 20:21). Since Christ's kingdom is not of this world, the religious right's fight to save Christian culture by securing Caesar's blessing for the symbols of majoritarian faith is pointless (John 18:36).

By diverting attention away from a genuine call to discipleship, America's Christian culture warriors have only succeeded in alienating many who might otherwise be receptive to the gospel.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

On the Goldman Sachs Hearings

PBS has been live blogging about the Congressional subcommittee hearing into the derivative investments (CDO's) that Goldman Sachs sold before the mortgage meltdown that produced our Great Recession. Before taking a recess, Senator Carl Levin called attention to two charts that revealed the extent to which Goldman Sachs was betting that the CDO's they were selling to their customers were worthless. Reproduced below are the two charts. The first chart reveals how Goldman Sachs reduced its own exposure to mortgage based securities. The second chart reveals how, at times, they bypassed internal limits in order to bet nearly half of the assets of the company on the certainty that the CDO's they were selling were worthless. Click on each image to view a larger image.

Predictably, none of those who sold these derivatives believes that they did anything wrong or that Goldman Sachs bears any responsibility for the near collapse of our financial system.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Imagine the Reaction to a Black Tea Party

Ethics Daily has posted an outstanding essay by Chuck Warnock entitled "When Tea Partiers Come to Church." Warnock points out that tea partiers "tend to be Republican, white, male, married, and older than 45" and have attitudes that reveal "a subtle undertone of racism."

What if the angry faces at tea parties were black instead of white? How would the talking heads on the radio and Fox news react? What would Southern Baptists say? How would moderate Baptists react?

Sara and Brian Brandsmeier have posted an essay by Tim Wise on their Ephphatha Poetry weblog that offers a suggestion. Wise, the author of Between Barak and a Hard Place, writes:
Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters -- the black protesters -- spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government? Would these protester -- these black protesters with guns -- be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic? What if they were Arab-Americans? Because, after all, that's what happened recently when white gun enthusiasts descended upon the nation's capital, arms in hand, and verbally announced their readiness to make war on the country's political leaders if the need arose.
Wise has a lot more to say. Follow this link to read the rest.

All I have to add is that this little exercise in sympathetic imagination should not be difficult for anyone who has ever seriously attempted to live by the golden rule.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

On the Gospel According to Worldviews

David K. Naugle's book Worldview: The History of a Concept has proven to be very influential among apologetically oriented evangelicals since it was first published in 2002. Naugle chairs the philosophy department at Dallas Baptist University. James Sire, author of the popular apologetic The Universe Next Door, wrote another book entitled Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept to revise his definition of worldview and incorporate insights from Naugle's work.

I confess at the outset that I have little stomach for the kind of Calvinist and rationalist apologetics that Naugle finds so exhilarating. I much prefer Merold Westphal's approach to Christian philosophy. Westphal is distinguished professor of philosophy at Fordham University. Westphal's comprehension of contemporary philosophy and theology is deeper and his critique of modern and post-modern thought is more insightful than that of any other Evangelical Christian that I have read. Nevertheless, Naugle's book deserves a thoughtful reading -- if for no other reason than to observe the strides that some Baptists have made toward philosophical respectability.

The book is aptly named. Focused narrowly on how various thinkers have used the term "worldview" and related concepts throughout history, Naugle provides a useful guide to some of the nuances in the thought of influential philosophers and theologians.

Among the thinkers examined are James Orr, Gordon Clark, Carl Henry, Abraham Kuyper, Herman Dooyeweerd, and Francis Schaeffer as representatives of Protestant Evangelical worldviews. The thoughts of Lawrence Cunningham and Pope John Paul II are presented as typifying a Roman Catholic worldview and Naugle culls for an example of an Orthodox worldview in the thought of Alexander Schmemann. The unequal weight given to Protestant Christianity and to Calvinist expressions within Protestantism reveals Naugle's own theological preferences.

The most valuable sections of the book trace the history of the "worldview" concept through the thought of Kant, Hegel, Dilthey, Nietzche, Husserl, Jaspers, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Polanyi, Kuhn, Freud, Jung, Mannheim, Berger and Luckmann, Marx and Engels, Kearney and Redfield. While descriptive and narrowly focused on their use of the "worldview" concept, Naugle's summaries of each thinker's thought generally provides a more accurate explanation of their insights and ideas than can be found in most works by evangelical Christian apologists.

Naugle's own theological and philosophical reflections on "worldview" evidence a greater breadth of understanding and more humility than those of most evangelical Christian apologists. His enthusiasm for the spirituality of the "worldview" concept, however, clearly demonstrates one of the chief dangers of a rationalist apologetic method. By the time he concludes his book he is talking about "encounters" with a Christian worldview in terms that have traditionally been reserved to describe a personal encounter with Christ:
No wonder that many Christians, especially students that I have known, testify to the difference that an encounter with a biblical worldview has made in their lives. . . . In short, these individuals have undergone a significant, spiritual transformation through their encounter with a biblical worldview involving the revitalization of their hearts and the formation of a new kind of Christian mind. (pp. 343-44)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

On Fundamentalists Taking Over City Hall

Jerry Falwell Jr. has recently been in the news for his underhanded ways of making waves at city hall in Lynchburg, Va. He may well be taking pages out of Rick Scarborough’s playbook in Pearland, Texas.

Scarborough was successful in taking over City Hall while he was a pastor in Pearland and he left a legacy that casts an ugly shadow over Christ and his church. Sam Davis, a member of the Pearland community, has posted a blog entitled I remember Rick at the Pearland Progressive weblog.

Here's a short excerpt from Davis's blog that summarizes Rick's underhanded dealings with Pearland City Manger Paul Grohman who was a member of Scarborough's church:
The most damning and potentially costly allegation is the sweetheart deal Grohman got for his church on their parcel of land on Pearland Parkway. City official Ed Hirsch was present when Grohman told Rick Scarborough that if his church bought the land where their current church stands, the city would buy back right of way for the new Pearland Parkway extension. According to Hirsch, the extension was not publicly known at that time. The church bought the land and promptly sold the right of way back to the city for $121,787. "It is our understanding that after the Church acquired the property, plans for the roadway were changed specifically so that the Church would have frontage on both sides of Pearland Parkway."

Could the Church have afforded the 48 acres of prime commercial property without the sweetheart deal? I doubt it. Just remember that every year you pay more taxes because this land is essentially out of the city and county tax base.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Voucher Bill Before Oklahoma Legislature

House Bill 3393 is under consideration today at the Oklahoma State Capitol. The bill would use vouchers to strip rights from parents and students with disabilities.

Here is an analysis of the bill from Dena Sher, State Legislative Counsel for Americans United:

Students and Parents Using Vouchers Lose All Protections under IDEA (HB 3393)

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), students with disabilities are entitled to a free and appropriate public education that meets each student’s specific educational needs and is provided in the least restrictive environment possible. To accomplish this, IDEA requires that public schools provide these students an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that sets out the special education and support services that each student will need. Parents must be included in the IEP development team and the IEP must be reviewed and updated as needed. If schools do not uphold their responsibilities under IDEA, parents and students can enforce their rights in court.

Importantly, IDEA already allows for students with disabilities to attend private school when doing so is necessary to satisfy a student’s IEP. When this happens, students and parents continue to have all the rights under IDEA that students in public schools have.

However, under this bill, parents who choose to use a voucher to send their child to private school would waive all their rights and their children’s rights under IDEA. Despite advice from the U.S. Department of Education to the contrary, there is no requirement in this bill that parents and students attending private schools with vouchers be notified that they would waive their rights under IDEA. And though the bill says that students are eligible to use taxpayer vouchers only if they have had an IEP developed, there is not even a requirement that schools accepting these taxpayer vouchers must provide services prescribed in each voucher student’s IEP. Furthermore, there is no right to enforce the IEP, nor is there any mechanism to update and revise IEPs as required under IDEA. Finally, the bill is misleading, because even though parents would clearly lose all rights provided to them under IDEA, Section 3 of the bill declares the state could fulfill its duties under IDEA with these vouchers.

Moreover, private schools do not have to abide by the "least restrictive environment" requirements of IDEA. Thus, these schools could segregate students with disabilities from other students, which runs directly counter to the goals of IDEA and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

HB 3393 May Only Help Students from Wealthier Families

The amount of the voucher is likely not enough to cover tuition costs at many private schools that specialize in educating children with disabilities. The bill provides that the value of the voucher is only the per-pupil costs plus the additional costs of providing special education services for that student. Therefore, as has happened in Ohio, where private schools accepting taxpayer vouchers charge fees above the $20,000 voucher, Oklahoma’s families that are least well-off may be precluded from participating in this program.

Vouchers Cost, Rather than Save, Taxpayer Money

Vouchers for special education are very costly and in every program in states across the country, the costs have increased annually. Furthermore, having students leave public schools does not decrease education costs. Instead, taxpayer money that would ordinarily go to public schools now pays for vouchers, thus limiting the capacity of public schools to serve remaining students. A 1999 study of Cleveland’s voucher program showed that schools were unable to reduce administrative costs or eliminate teaching positions even when they lost voucher students, because the number of students using vouchers to attend private schools was negligible at each individual school. Thus, public schools lost state funding to pay for vouchers without being able to cut overall operating costs.

Vouchers Give Private Schools, Not Students and Parents, a Choice

This bill only requires that private schools not discriminate on the basis of "race, color, or national origin." This means that private voucher schools could still discriminate against a student based on criteria such as his or her sex, religion, economic background — and even disability. Thus taxpayer money will go to support discrimination. Also, students who live in rural areas may not have any private school options nearby.

HB 3393 Is Constitutionally Suspect

First, HB 3393 may violate Article V, section 57 of the Oklahoma Constitution, the Single-Subject Rule, which prohibits a statute from addressing more than one subject. This bill amends two distinct sections of Oklahoma’s statutes. It creates a self-directed care option for citizens with disabilities and amends the special education authorization. And it creates a brand new taxpayer-funded voucher program. These three distinct changes are likely not "germane, relative, and cognate to a readily apparent common theme and purpose" as required by the Constitution.

Second, under HB 3393, taxpayer money is sent directly to private schools -- including religious schools -- violating Article II, section 5 of the Oklahoma Consstitution. Most religious primary and secondary schools are part of the ministry of the sponsoring church. Because religious indoctrination is an important part of these ministries, the schools integrate religion throughout their curriculum and require all students to receive religious instruction and attend religious services. Thus, there is no way to prevent the publicly funded, backdoor vouchers from paying for these institutions' religious activities and education. The vouchers are unrestricted in their use and pay for all aspects of a religious education, including worship, proselytization, and religious items such as Bibles.

Yet, the Oklahoma Constitution has a provision, which courts have faithfully enforced, prohibiting taxpayer funds to be used to support religious schools: Article II, section 5 says,
No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such. (Emphasis added.)
Thus, for two reasons, HB 3393 is highly constitutionally suspect.

Please call your state legislators and ask them to vote against this legislation.

NOTE: Documentation for assertions made in this blog is available upon request.

Be Cautious with Public School Bible Classes

The Oklahoma State Senate will be considering HB 2321 which authorizes public schools to teach classes on the Bible. The Constitution does permit such classes when they are properly structured. The Bible has considerable significance in Western literature and art. Such classes can be valuable when taught in an academic, critical and historical manner. It cannot be taught in public schools in the devotional manner that is used in most Bible schools and Sunday School classes.

Unfortunately, Bible classes are often implemented in unconstitutional ways. Teachers are not constitutional scholars. They need training to make sure they do not end up violating the Constitution and thereby expose their school districts to litigation.

Here are some essential points to remember as prepared by Dena Sher, the State Legislative Counsel for Americans United for Separation of Church and State:

The Constitution requires that --
~ Courses must present the Bible in a secular, objective, and academic manner,
and not present the Bible as literal, religious truth.
~ Courses must not present a particular sectarian point of view.
~ Courses must expose students to critical perspectives on the Bible and a diversity of biblical interpretations.
~ Teachers must be selected in the same manner as all other teachers, based upon their academic qualifications, rather than their religious beliefs or nonbeliefs.
~ Teachers must not be selected by an outside committee that selects teachers based upon their religious beliefs.

In order to avoid costly lawsuits, the State must help teachers and school districts meet the challenge presented by teaching the Bible constitutionally --
~ The Board of Education should develop training materials that will instruct
districts and teacher about the constitutional requirements.
~ The State should require school districts to submit reports on who is teaching the classes, how many students enrolled, and the curriculum taught.

The bill would mandate that the courses’ primary text would be a parallel translation Bible. These sorts of Bibles generally include translations that are predominantly used within more conservative Protestant traditions. This would violate the constitutional requirements that Bible courses be taught in a religiously neutral manner and that students learn a diversity of biblical interpretations. This bill has the obvious purpose and would have the effect of promoting one particular view of Christianity, which is unconstitutional under both the US Constitution and Sec. II-5 of the Oklahoma Constitution prohibiting the expenditure of public money to advance religion.

Authorizing comparative religion classes would be a sounder solution both educationally and constitutionally. Teaching one version of one religion’s Bible is likely to lead to unconstitutional indoctrination or favoritism of one religion over others in the classroom. Comparative religion classes, however, teach students important information about religion, but are less fraught with constitutional dangers.

When teaching students about various religions and views, teacher are less likely to teach certain religious beliefs as truth, while disparaging others, or proselytize certain religious beliefs.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Cecil Sherman Promoted

Cecil Sherman passed away today. He was my primary mentor in Christian ministry.

I would write something about Cecil, but most of what I would say I have already said when I introduced him as a guest on my radio program last summer. Here's a link to a podcast of that interview.

Here's a link to the news of his promotion to his heavenly reward.

There's no doubt in my mind that Dot and a cloud of other witnesses were eagerly waiting when the Lord issued Cecil's welcome summons, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."

Friday, April 16, 2010

Insurrectionists Widely Respected

USA Today has a story today about the return of militias. All week the newspapers and the internet has been filled with stories about the Oklahoma gubernatorial candidate who thinks the state needs its own militia to for citizens "to protect themselves from an overreaching federal government."

Everywhere I go I run into people shaking their heads in disbelief about these developments. Most of them think that a collective neurosis has settled on the minds of some people on the fringes of society. They are shocked and suprised when I tell them that many are just expressing sentiments that were fully articulated by such widely respected right-wing intellectuals as the late Francis Schaeffer and and the late Richard John Neuhaus.

In his 1982 Christian Manifesto Schaeffer cited the thinking of John Knox and Samuel Rutherford to provide criteria for Christians to follow when they feel they must resist governmental authority. He was concerned about a case then before the supreme court that would require such action:

"If there was ever a clearer example of the lower “magistrates” being treated with tyranny, it would be hard to find. And this would be a time, if the appeals courts finally rule tyrannically, for the state government to protest and refuse to submit. This fits Rutherford’s proper procedures exactly." (pp. 109-110)

"There comes a time when force, even physical force, is appropriate. The Christian is not to take the law into his own hands and become a law unto himself. But when all avenues of flight and protest have closed, force in the defensive posture is appropriate." (p. 117)
The "tyranny" Schaeffer was protesting was a ruling that the state of Arkansas could not mandate that creationism be taught in public schools. The supreme court did uphold that decision.

Richard John Neuhaus was equally concerned about "judicial tyranny" for a different reason. When the ninth circuit court of appeals affirmed a right for mentally competent persons who were terminally ill to choose to die by physician assisted suicide, Neuhaus wrote an editorial in the May 1996 issue of First Things Magazine saying:
"If the decision of the Ninth Circuit is declared the law of the land, our public life will move from widespread alienation and protest to open insurrection. No sensible person should welcome that prospect. But if it comes, the guilt will surely fall on judges who arrogated to themselves the political and moral authority that once belonged to the people of this democratic republic. History will show that, with that arrogation, the compact was broken, the consent of the governed was nullified, and this constitutional order was undone."
A crisis was averted by the Supreme Court's reversing the appellate court's decision, but the rhetoric of insurrection remained and continued to resonate with the readers of First Things Magazine. In November 1996, a special issue of First Things magazine entitled The End of Democracy? The Judicial Usurpation of Politics was published. According to Damon Linker, former editor of the magazine, the articles asserted that "a morally justified revolution on the part of the country’s most religious citizens might very well be around the corner." (The Theocons, p. 88)

Among those who have been impressed by Neuhaus and his work with First Things Magazine is Robert Sloan, former President of Baylor University and current President of Houston Baptist University.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Should the Government Be Issuing Calls for Prayer?

Today's Daily Oklahoman reports that the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control has issued a news release asking the religious community to pray last Wednesday for people battling prescription drug addiction.

In a press release entitled "Statewide evening of prayer encouraged," Oklahoma Bureau of Nacotics Director Darrell Weaver says, "The is (sic) a night which we must lace up our gloves and enter the spiritual ring to conduct battle with this formidable foe in pursuit of making a better tomorrow for our State.”

While it is always a good idea for people to pray for those with drug addictions, is it a good idea for agents of the state -- particularly those representing law enforcement -- to be issuing the call?

Is Darrell Weaver merely using his position with the government to advertise his personal religiosity? Or, is he deliberately using the authority of his office to promote religion?

If Weaver was genuinely concerned for people with addictions, he would find a better way to involve the religious community than by issuing press releases.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Ethics Daily Video Makes Impression on Denzel Washington

In an interview about his faith for the March-April issue of Relevant Magazine academy award winning actor Denzel Washington spoke for a second time about the impression that an Ethics Daily video made on him.

Relevant Magazine is directed toward spiritually attuned and searching twenty-somethings.

The Ethics Daily video that made an impression on the actor is the "Different Books, Common Word: Baptists and Muslims" documentary that aired on ABC-TV affiliate stations in January and February. The video is available on DVD at this link.

This is the second unsolicited recommendation that Washington has given to this documentary. The first recommendation came on the "106 and park" Black Entertainment Television talk-show in January.

Monday, April 05, 2010

What Robert Sloan Wrought at Baylor University

William Brackney has an excellent essay at Ethics Daily summarizing the effects of Robert Sloan's term as president of Baylor University. Mainstream Baptists have been particularly concerned about the quarantining of Baptist Distinctives into Truett Seminary and what he did to undermine the mission of the J. M. Dawson Institute:

Gradually, Sloan transformed Baylor into a "leading evangelical university," the "Notre Dame of Protestantism." Within the Waco community, shock and awe characterized Baylor rank and file as the Texas Baptist types reeled over what was happening to cherished ideals like religious liberty and strict separationism, a critical scholarly approach to ideas, and a cooperative Free Church type of Christianity. Some faculty thought they had been invaded by "northern evangelicals," just like in the Civil War.

In contrast, new regents and new "distinguished" faculty savored the attention in Christianity Today and First Things and the recovery of something called the "great tradition of Christianity."

. . .

The reality was that the Sloan era at Baylor came crashing down. The once-unified faculty of more than 700 became badly divided department by department as Sloan loaded up the faculty with his sympathetic appointments. He especially targeted his own former department of religion by adding university and distinguished professors, who were directly accountable to the senior administration, and diminishing the long-earned distinction of graduate studies in favor of the new George W. Truett Seminary that he personally designed.

The president used the Institute of Faith and Learning to create a shadow evangelical faculty and program to bury Baylor's recent spiritual mediocrity. The internationally acclaimed J. M. Dawson Institute in Church State Studies was reduced to a department status with appointments that did not share the separationist orientation. Numerous key faculty either retired or left the university.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Podcast: NorthHaven Does Lenten Sketches

Podcast (59MB Mp3) of a special edition of the "Religous Talk" radio program presenting the choir at NorthHaven Church in Norman, Oklahoma singing Joseph M. Martin's Lenten Sketches. The choir is directed by Dr. Mark Lucas, assistant professor of choral music at the University of Oklahoma. Grace Pierson, an undergraduate student at OU, sings the solo at the beginning of the musical. Jun Jeon, an undergraduate student at OU, plays the violin at the end of the musical. Les Downs, a doctoral student at OU, plays the piano. Narration is by Dawson and Sandi Lasseter.

Friday, April 02, 2010

More Southern than Christian

Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, recently declared that he thought it was time for the Southern Baptist Convention to elect a black president.

He's right and he's wrong.

He's right about the need for the SBC to elect a black president. There are only brothers and sisters in Christ within the church. The leadership of the denomination should be a reflection of the kingdom of God.

He's wrong, however, about the timing of the election. It is past time. The SBC should have elected a black president long ago.

The chance that Southern Baptists will hear and heed McKissic's appeal is more than slim. Since 1979 Southern Baptists have been determined to remain more Southern than Christian.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Questions about the Federal Reserve's Legitimacy

Recent revelations about the bailout of Bear Stearns has prompted Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor, to raise serious questions about the limits of the Federal Reserve's authority. Here's a paragraph that summarizes Reich's concerns:
The Fed has a big problem. It acts in secret. That makes it an odd duck in a democracy. As long as it’s merely setting interest rates, its secrecy and political independence can be justified. But once it departs from that role and begins putting billions of dollars of taxpayer money at risk -- choosing winners and losers in the capitalist system -- its legitimacy is questionable.