Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Double Your Gift to BJC this Week

The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty has a matching gift offer for those who donate this week.

BJC, a watchdog over First Amendment liberties, provides the best bang-for-your-buck of any non-profit in Washington, D.C.

Please make a contribution at the link above.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Geisler Sticks with Caner

Norman Geisler has issued a statement in response to Wade Burleson's request that he retract his defense of Ergun Caner. 

His defense of Ergun Caner is as blind to the evidence as is his defense of biblical inerrancy.

Burleson may be surprised.  I'm not.

Monday, June 21, 2010

On Eli's Book

Robert Parham, at EthicsDaily, has posted a review of the movie "The Book of of Eli" starring Denzel Washington.  Parham contends that the movie "speaks profoundly to the battle for the Bible in contemporary America."  Evidence for that interpretation is abundant in the film and Parham cites the relevant material before offering his own profound analysis:
For my money, the movie is not really about post-apocalyptic America. The movie is about the Bible in America today.

I've seen this script played out over the past 30 years. Some Christians are so busy carrying their Bibles and doing their daily devotional reading that they bypass the Golden Rule. Some denominations are so obsessed with protecting the Bible that they've forgotten to live the message.

Some politicians of faith know the Bible is a weapon, sharper than a two-edged sword, that can control culture. And some secularists want to ban the Bible and to burn every copy, blaming the Bible for every wrong from the Iraq war to violence against women.
In my mind, the most interesting line in the movie is when Eli reflects:
"All these years, I've been carrying it and reading it every day. I got so caught up with keeping it safe, I forgot to live by what I learned from it ... Do for others more than what you do for yourself."
That is the moment when it becomes apparent that Eli has consciously grown from his experience with Solara. Before Solara entered his life, he was singlemindedly devoted to his book and his mission in life. He was moved by the injustice in the world but remained a bystander. When Solara was attacked, he changed from being a bystander to become a rescuer. Only then, from the moment that he began to apply what he learned from the book and live by it, did he become vulnerable to injury by others.

Eli's quotation of the Golden Rule is arresting. There's no doubt that he could have quoted the verse precisely, instead he offers an interpretation. His interpretation of the Golden Rule makes it more than the principle of symmetrical justice that is common to most faiths and moral philosophies. Eli infuses the Golden Rule with the extravagant self-giving benevolence of the sermon on the mount and the sacrificial love of the gospels. The demand goes beyond doing unto others as you would have them do to you, in Eli's eyes the demand is asymmetrical -- do more for others than you would do for yourself.

That is when the kind of holy book Eli has been reading becomes fully certain.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Straight Talk about Deficit Hawks

Paul Krugman, Nobel laureate economist,  offers some straight talk about deficit hawks in an Op-Ed entitled, "That 30's Feeling:"
In America, many self-described deficit hawks are hypocrites, pure and simple: They’re eager to slash benefits for those in need, but their concerns about red ink vanish when it comes to tax breaks for the wealthy. Thus, Senator Ben Nelson, who sanctimoniously declared that we can’t afford $77 billion in aid to the unemployed, was instrumental in passing the first Bush tax cut, which cost a cool $1.3 trillion.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

How Albert Mohler Became the Baptist Pope


How Al Mohler became the Baptist Pope from Bruce Prescott on Vimeo.

When Albert Mohler, Jr. speaks, Southern Baptists listen. Besides serving as President of Southern Seminary since 1993, he has been a key architect of both of the fundamental changes in Southern Baptist life in the last decade -- the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message revision and the 2010 Great Commission Resurgence.

Mohler has certainly left his mark on Southern Baptists. How did he become "the Baptist pope?"

This five minute video provides excerpts from interviews with faculty and staff at Southern Seminary shortly after he became President of the seminary.

Note: The date for the clip of Mohler at the beginning of the video should read 1995 instead of 1993.

Why Youth Ministries are in Decline

The National Marriage Project has released a report entitled "Life Without Children: The Social Retreat from Children and How it is Changing America" This graph from page 20 of the report highlights the demographic shift that has taken place since 1960.

These demographics explain some of the ongoing decline in numbers in many local church youth ministries. The recent concentration of youth into churches designed to attract 13-30 year olds also helps explain the decline of youth ministries in some established churches designed to serve an intergenerational membership.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Over the Oil Spill



Back story for the video at Climate Progress.

Caravaggio's Bones


Recent DNA research has identified the bones of the Renaissance artist Caravaggio.  The bones were in a church in Tuscany.

Caravaggio was my father's favorite artist.



Caravaggio's first masterpiece, The Card Sharps, circa 1594.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hotze and Huckabee to be Honored as "Heroes of Faith"

Mike Huckabee portrays himself as a moderate evangelical, but those who know him best know that he is firmly connected to the Christian Reconstructionist Right.  That truth is highlighted again today by a Right Wing Watch blog that calls attention to a Dominionist gala sponsored by Rick Scarborough's Vision America that will be honoring Huckabee and Steven Hotze as "Heroes of Faith."

For those unfamiliar with Scarborough, here are some links:
Dominionist Altar Call

For those unfamiliar with Hotze, here are links to some videos that introduce his theology and political tactics.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Podcast: Chris Rodda Interview

Podcast ( 27MB Mp3) of Dr. Bruce Prescott's 6-13-10 "Religious Talk" radio interview with Chris Rodda, senior research associate for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and author of "Liars for Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternative Version of American History." We talk about the lies that David Barton tells about the "Bible of the Revolution" and about John Adams writing that the Holy Ghost must administer the government.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Road Not Travelled

Ethics Daily has posted an essay by Wendell Griffin about the environment disaster taking place in the Gulf of Mexico. He speaks a truth that most Americans are still reluctant to hear:

All of this should point the nation back to its rejection of President Carter's effort to redirect the way we use energy and the sources for our energy. Carter was defeated in 1980 by Reagan, whose distrust of governmental regulation helped chart the course for U.S. energy over the past 30 years. Dead birds and fish increase and more land, water and people are threatened with each passing day because of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Yet the oil industry remains unwilling to admit its environmental arrogance and incompetence and is still somewhat unchecked by governmental lawmakers and regulators. This is the "small government" reality Americans chose with Reagan in 1980, along with Reagan's affable invitation that we embrace what we should now realize was free enterprise idolatry.

American energy policy, one result of that idolatry, now has tar balls washing ashore along the beaches of the Gulf Coast. The families of killed and wounded workers on the Deepwater Horizon platform struggle with tragedies that will never be undone. We face years -- if not decades -- during which the waters of the Gulf will be unsafe for fish, water fowl and humans. In the words of the Hebrew prophet Jeremiah, "the harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved."

Thursday, June 10, 2010

What was at Stake in the Takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention?

What was at Stake in the Takeover of the SBC? from Bruce Prescott on Vimeo.

This six minute video gives excerpts from interviews Bill Moyers did with Daniel Vestal and Paul Pressler in the mid-1980's. He asks each of them "What is at stake" in the takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention.

For Vestal the stakes were entirely spiritual, pertaining to relationships within the denomination and how the breakdown would affect the mission and witness of Southern Baptists.

For Pressler the stakes are primarily political, pertaining to the influence that the denomination would exert on the moral (meaning legal) and political life of the nation.

Moyers probes Pressler's relationship to the Council for National Policy (CNP). Pressler is reluctant to discuss it, but admits he a member of the board of directors.

Pressler was elected President of the CNP in 1989 -- the year the takeover of the SBC was complete. Jerry Falwell, Ed McAteer, Paige Patterson, and Rick Scarborough along with R. J. Rushdoony and a host of other Religious Right leaders have all been members of this very exclusive club.

The CNP is the primary organization by which a coterie of Religious Right leaders exert influence on secular politics. A good introduction to their work can be found in the 2004 New York Times article, "Club of the Most Powerful Gathers in Strictest Privacy." A more thorough treatment will be found in Russ Bellant's "The Coors Connection: How Coors Family Philanthropy Undermines Democratic Pluralism."


Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Christian Reconstructionism in a Video Nutshell


Christian Reconstructionism in a Nutshell from Bruce Prescott on Vimeo.
Audio-Visuals are worth more than thousands of words. This six minute video gives excerpts from a mid-1980's Bill Moyers interview of Rousas John Rushdoony.

Rushdoony was the founder of the Christian Reconstructionist movement that has been exerting a profound influence on U.S. politics through its adherents within the Religious Right.

Here's a link for those who would like plain words.

Note: I am placing video within a large black frame as a technique for creating a video quote format analagous to the indented block quotations that are common within print media.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Why Southern Baptist Churches are in Decline


Why Baptist Churches are Declining from Bruce Prescott on Vimeo.
Until 1979 all Baptists used the word "revival" to refer to the power of the Holy Spirit to transform hearts and change lives. Change began within an individual and spread from one person to another. Revival was a spiritual movement, not a political movement.

In 1979 Fundamentalists began twisting the meaning of the word "revival" and used it to talk about the power of a social movement to change the culture. Today, even the revivalist altar call has become a tool of politics.

This emphasis on politics and cultural salvation diverted attention from sharing the gospel of personal salvation. It led to the end of more than 100 years of uninterrupted growth among Southern Baptists and marks the real beginning of the decline of the denomination.

Jerry Falwell started the Moral Majority in 1979. That same year, Fundamentalists with similar secular political ambitions in the Southern Baptist Convention, began a takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention. Falwell was not a Southern Baptist at that time -- he was the leading figure in the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement.

In 1989, when the Fundamentalist takeover of the SBC was complete, Falwell disbanded the Moral Majority and became a Southern Baptist. Today, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC, led by Richard Land, does the political work that the Moral Majority began.

The video provides brief quotations from Jerry Falwell and Ed Dobson. Dobson, who served as Vice President of Falwell's Moral Majority, eventually repudiated Falwell's political gospel in his book "Blinded by Might: Can the Religious Right Save America?"

Note: I am placing video within a large black frame as a technique for creating a video quote format analagous to the indented block quotations that are common within print media.

Time to Nuke the Oil Well



Matthew Simmons, a prominent oil industry consultant, says the only way to stop oil leaking from BP's well in the Gulf is to use a small nuclear weapon. Simmons, author of Twilight in the Desert, is a highly credible source.

Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy

Monday, June 07, 2010

On the Illusion of Certainty

Former Supreme Court Justice David Souter gave the commencement address at Harvard a week ago. He identifies a desire for "certainty and control" as underlying the "fair reading model" of constitutional interpretation now prevailing at the U.S. Supreme Court:
I have to believe that something deeper is involved, and that behind most dreams of a simpler Constitution there lies a basic human hunger for the certainty and control that the fair reading model seems to promise. And who has not felt that same hunger? Is there any one of us who has not lived through moments, or years, of longing for a world without ambiguity, and for the stability of something unchangeable in human institutions? I don’t forget my own longings for certainty, which heartily resisted the pronouncement of Justice Holmes, that certainty generally is illusion and repose is not our destiny.

But I have come to understand that he was right, and by the same token I understand that I differ from the critics I’ve described not merely in seeing the patent wisdom of the Brown decision, or in espousing the rule excluding unlawfully seized evidence, or in understanding the scope of habeas corpus. Where I suspect we differ most fundamentally is in my belief that in an indeterminate world I cannot control, it is still possible to live fully in the trust that a way will be found leading through the uncertain future. And to me, the future of the Constitution as the Framers wrote it can be staked only upon that same trust. If we cannot share every intellectual assumption that formed the minds of those who framed the charter, we can still address the constitutional uncertainties the way they must have envisioned, by relying on reason, by respecting all the words the Framers wrote, by facing facts, and by seeking to understand their meaning for living people.
Those familiar with contemporary discussions of biblical hermeneutics could well make note of remarkable parallels between Souter's description of the simplistic "fair reading model" of constitutional interpretation and the standard theological critique of the desire for "certainty and control" underlying fundamentalistic "literal" interpretations of scripture.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Dominionist Resolution Against Government Schools

Dominionist Resolution Against Government Schools from Bruce Prescott on Vimeo.

In this excerpt, Independent Fundamental Baptist minister Aubrey Vaughn, the pastor of the church where Steven Hotze's GOP takeover video was filmed, shows how to put planks in your party's political platform by offering resolutions that will be forwarded to the state GOP convention meeting. Vaughn, under the pseudonym Ray Jones, offers a resolution is against government run schools.

Years after this video was produced, Rev. Aubrey Vaughn was among those arrested trying to prevent the removal of Judge Roy Moore's Ten Commandments monument from the Supreme Courthouse in Alabama.

How to Takeover Your Political Party

How to Takeover a Political Party from Bruce Prescott on Vimeo.

This is an excerpt from a video that Christian Reconstructionist political boss Steven Hotze distributed to Religious Right activists in Houston in 1990. It demonstrates how to get your friends elected to represent your precinct at the county, state or regional political level.

There's nothing wrong with what Hotze does in this video. In fact, it is politically shrewd. He knows that few Americans participate in politics beyond casting ballots in elections. He is training people on how to get involved and exert political influence at the most basic grassroots level. The same tactics can be used by any group committed to bringing about change through the political process.

His activists tookover GOP precinct meetings in 1990 and have been in control of the Republican Party in Harris County, Texas ever since. For the past twenty years they have been working to usher in a Dominionist form of government.

How to Takeover Your Political Precinct

How to Takeover a Political Precinct from Bruce Prescott on Vimeo.

This is an excerpt from a video that Christian Reconstructionist political boss Steven Hotze distributed to Religious Right activists in Houston in 1990. It demonstrates how to get yourself elected chairperson of your precinct. Here's a link to some of his written instructions for what to do when you have taken over your precinct.

There's nothing wrong with what Hotze does in this video. In fact, it is politically shrewd. He knows that few Americans participate in politics beyond casting ballots in elections. He is training people on how to get involved and exert political influence at the most basic grassroots level. The same tactics can be used by any group committed to bringing about change through the political process.

His activists tookover GOP precinct meetings in 1990 and have been in control of the Republican Party in Harris County, Texas ever since. For the past twenty years they have been working to usher in a Dominionist form of government.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Reconstructionist Pep Talk

Steven Hotze's Christian Reconstructionism from Bruce Prescott on Vimeo.

This is the first six minutes of a 35 minute video that Steven Hotze sent me in 1990. The video was mailed to Houston area evangelical political activists and ministers to instruct them on how to takeover GOP precinct meetings.

Along with the video came instructions on how to run the meeting if you succeeded in getting yourself elected to be the chairperson of the precinct. Other materials listed proposed resolutions that could be passed on to help form the party's platform -- among them are resolutions about "the sovereignty of the church" and "the legitimate function of civil government" and on "non-state schools."

His attempt to takeover GOP precincts in the third largest city in America succeeded. In 1990, he became the unelected political boss of the Republican Party in Houston. In 1992, Hotze's followers stripped the elected chair of the party of her responsibilites and gave them to Hotze -- leaving her only with a title.

During the time he exercised "dominion" over Houston, Texas, he was very successful in defeating moderate candidates in Republican primaries. He was also successful in getting ultra-conservative right wing candidates elected to public offices -- particularly in the judiciary.

A few years ago, Hotze was arrested for DWI and lost some of his influence.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Podcast: June Carbone Interview


Podcast (27MB MP3) of Dr. Bruce Prescott's 5-30-10 "Religious Talk" radio interview with June Carbone, Edward A. Smith/Missouri Chair of Law, the Constitution and Society at the University of Missouri at Kansas City. We talk about her new book, "Red Families v. Blue Families: Legal Polarization and the Creation of Culture" co-authored by Naomi Cahn.