America's new economic creed:
To those who have been given much, more will be added.Thanks to the Center for American Progress for the chart.
Those who have done without will do with less.
The Waltons and other super-rich Arkansans have for some time assailed the state's public schools and encouraged the formation of more charter schools. They're cheered on by the state's largest newspaper, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, whose publisher, Walter Hussman, is another antagonist of public schools and teachers' unions. The Walton Family Foundation also has a senior officer, Naccaman Williams, in a place where he regularly influences school policy in Arkansas as chairman of the state Board of Education. He has said he sees no conflict in acting on school-choice matters the board considers.
There now exists, according to a United States Air Force Academy cadet who recently wrote to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF; www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org), an “underground” group of over one hundred Academy cadets who, in order to maintain good standing among their USAF Academy peers and superiors, are actually pretending to be fundamentalist Christians. They leave Bibles, Christian literature, and Christian music CDs lying around their rooms; they attend fundamentalist Christian Bible studies; they feign devoutness at the Academy’s weekly “Special Programs in Religious Education” (SPIRE) programs. They do whatever they have to do to play the role of the “right kind” of Christian cadets, in constant fear of being “outed.”In the long run, the activities of the aggressively evangelistic Christians who have been in charge of the Airforce Academy will do nothing but undermine genuine faith. Real faith is not the product of a coercive and oppressive atmosphere.
In our tradition we find both the personal and communal elements of biblical faith; we find a believer’s church that preserves a place for unfettered individual conscience.
As historians of the Baptist story, we pledge anew our commitment to the vibrant Baptist witness of freedom that is responsive to the authoritative Scriptures and under the Lordship of Christ. We pledge anew our commitment to the relevance of Baptist identity for the twenty-first century.
RAZ: David Stockman, let me ask you about the idea of making the Bush tax cuts permanent. Some economic analysts have said that if you do that, that by the year 2020, the government wouldn't have enough money to spend on anything except for Medicare, Social Security and defense if it's lucky. Do you think that sounds about right?
Mr. STOCKMAN: Yes, I do. We couldn't afford the Bush tax cuts when they were put in in 2001, 2003. Now, we're - eight years later, we're trillions in additional debt later, we're two unfinanced wars later, we're a trillion dollars of stimulus spending later, 800 billion of TARP, so it's pretty obvious if we couldn't afford them back then, in no way, shape or form can we even dream about affording them now.
RAZ: Do you think President Obama is being honest with the voters?
Mr. STOCKMAN: No, I don't think he is at all. I think when he said no taxes on the middle-class or on anyone below 250,000, he was being totally disingenuous. That's most of the people in the country. Sure, there...
RAZ: You're saying he has to raise their taxes as well?
Mr. STOCKMAN: Sure, absolutely. He should tell them, we're going to raise all your taxes because that's the only way we can support all these programs that I want to keep. He's for, you know, everything we have in the budget today, and a lot of it is meritorious and a lot of isn't. This president who ran on the ticket that I, you know, change you can believe in. I'm going to tell you -tell it to you like it is, can possible take that no tax pledge and then support all of this spending and all of this stimulus, just doesn't add up.
RAZ: Are you worried?
Mr. STOCKMAN: Yes, I'm very worried about it because I thought it would never come to this. When I was in the White House in the Budget Office in the early '80s, we had the deficit breakout, 100 billion or 200 billion. Admittedly, the economy was smaller then, but it was still four or 5 percent of GDP.
Here we are today with a deficit that's 10 percent of GDP and it doesn't look like there's any prospect that it's going to decline at any time soon or any willingness to even acknowledge the problem and address it. The idea that the economy is weak, and so we have to wait two or three years, is just an excuse.
The economy is weak because of our irresponsible fiscal and monetary policies over the last 10, 20 or even 30 years. And it's going to keep getting weaker unless we face up to the problem. So, yes, it's the chicken and egg. If we cut spending and raise taxes, it may slow down the economy even more, but that's unfortunately the choice that we face.
Dan: . . . Let me ask first, you said you had some sympathies with that post-liberal project. Do you tend toward that Hauerwas and Yoder stream of alternative witness within the church?
Walter: Yup, yup, I'm very much influenced by that. What I learned from Doug Hall...a Canadian Reformed theologian. What he said was that the Hauerwas line calls you to withdraw from society. And Doug said that for Reformed people, withdrawal from society is correct, but it's a first move and the second move that Hauerwas does not make, is to move back into society with transformative energy. So disengagement and re-engagement, and I think it's right for our Reformed tradition.
Dan: Right. It's absolutely fascinating how—just to do the intellectual history for a moment—how that comes out of that kind of Swiss and lower German reformation, and not Lutheranism. But it persists and it comes through the Evangelical and Reformed Church, among other places—and the Congregationalists pick up on it in their own way.
It's funny to me, because I think Hauerwas would resist that idea of withdrawing from society very much. He'd say, "No, no, we're not withdrawing, we're engaging in a different way."
Walter: But insofar as he appeals to the Mennonite tradition of Yoder, it is to some extent a withdrawal: we don't participate in the political process. I understand, you maintain another kind of presence, but yeah.
How do you think Williams’ would respond to the current assertion made by some religious conservatives that the United States is a “Christian” country?
He thought that the ideology of “Christian nation” was the worst kind of idolatry. and denied the idea on the spot, suggesting that there are no Christian nations, only Christian people, bound to Christ by repentance and faith, not by nationality. He rejected the idea that the state should privilege any single religious voice. At the same time, he was an unabashed sectarian, fighting over theological fine points with anyone who came along including the Quakers. He did not hesitate to disagree with those whose religious views differed from his own, but he was willing for them to be his neighbors.
Williams is known for coining the term “soul liberty.” How does this concept inform the formation of the First Amendment?
I’d prefer to speak of liberty of conscience that, from Williams’ perspective begins with the idea of uncoerced faith. Williams is no secularist. He was a person of faith, highly sectarian faith, that put great emphasis on the sovereignty of God as the center of the universe. Williams and other sectarians of his time—especially Baptists—believed that the church is to be composed of believers only—those who can claim an experience of grace in their hearts. Efforts to thwart divine activity in drawing people to faith—to usurp the work of the Spirit by enforcing certain faith perspectives—were human creations that were unacceptable. God alone is judge of conscience, and therefore neither state nor established church can (in terms of salvation) judge the conscience of the heretic (the people they think believe the wrong things) or the atheist (the people who believe nothing at all).
Conscience should be free under God to act on its own without state sanctions. Such secular sanctions destroyed or undermined faith, rather than enhance it. Williams anticipates religious pluralism on the basis of uncoerced faith, not secularism, years before John Locke’s more secular approach to such questions.
We affirm the freedom and right of every Christian to interpret and apply scripture under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. We affirm the freedom and responsibility of every person to relate directly to God without the imposition of creed, the control of clergy or the interference of government.The proposed revision of these documents deletes the emphasis on the individual and on liberty of conscience. These are replaced with an emphasis on the priority and authority of the community:
3. We confess that the Christian faith is best understood and experienced within the community of God’s people who are called to be priests to one another.and diminish church autonomy?
4. We confess that under the Lordship of Christ each congregation is free and responsible to discern the mind of Christ and to order its common life accordingly.Article five could present a threat to the continued autonomy of the congregation if the church chooses to surrender its autonomy as it seeks unity with others:
5. We confess that through the Holy Spirit we experience interdependence with other believers and congregations who follow Christ, and we seek the unity of the church for which he prayed.Autonomous churches are free to use their autonomy to surrender their autonomy.
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday that the Bush administration had assured him that the United States would be willing to absorb some 100,000 Palestinian refugees immediately as American citizens, should Israel reach a permanent settlement with the Palestinian Authority.You've got to give the Bush administration credit for offering a helpful suggestion in regard to the problem of resettling the Palestinian refugees. However, if the Obama administration makes the same offer I am fairly certain that the GOP will disown the idea.
The former premier told a Geneva Initiative conference in Tel Aviv that during negotiations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2008 he had offered a solution to the refugee problem that would have been in line with the Arab League peace plan and promised that any measures would be the result of a coordinated agreement.
The Bush administration had offered this American contribution to the refugee problem as part of what would be a framework of international compensation, he said.
So what would Williams do about the current conflict over building a Muslim community center and mosque near the World Trade Center? More than likely he would welcome the arrival of yet another venue where, after listening carefully to his opponents, he would be afforded the opportunity to persuasively preach his form of religion to anyone who didn’t get it right (that is, everyone but him). He would be less likely to think of the nearby crime scene as a beachhead for Islam, than as a place where—yet again in the name of a higher “good”—humans were willing to shed the blood of their fellows. He would have remembered all the bloodshed in the name of Christ during his lifetime and shaken his head at the impotence of force when it comes to changing the human heart. In short he would have made the case that religious freedom of expression and practice are more important than trying to avoid offending the feelings of his fellow citizens. He would have carried a sign in front of the mosque:
I will die for the freedom of these Muslim citizens to build their church here, and I will work my whole life to engage and persuade them that Christianity is the only true path to salvation.
Kenneth W. Starr, former dean of law at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., is famous for championing conservative causes, like during his role as special prosecutor in the Clinton/Lewinsky investigations. In March 2009, representing Protect Marriage, a Christian conservative nonprofit, Starr argued the validity of Proposition 8 before the California Supreme Court.
BW left several messages for Starr at his office at Pepperdine, but neither calls nor e-mails were returned.
Starr is a long-time board member of Advocates International Inc., a group of conservative nonprofit Christian lawyers whose vision is to create "a worldwide fellowship of advocates bearing witness of Jesus Christ through the legal profession." AI links Christian lawyers across the globe, placing special emphasis on Africa.
Starr's associations as Pepperdine's dean of law includes one with the Ugandan Christian University, which is owned by the Church of Uganda. Although Archbishop Orombi is the "chancellor," the man who ran the show was Vice Chancellor, Rev. Prof. Stephen Noll, who after 10 years retired in August and returned home to Pittsburgh.
UCU is proud of its relationship with Starr. "Renowned American lawyer, Kenneth Starr, has praised the context in which Uganda Christian University provides education, saying it offers complete guidance for human behavior," states a UCU story.
Pepperdine's fall 2009 issue of Law Magazine reported that during Starr's last trip to Uganda, "Together with members of the Ugandan judiciary, Dean Starr signed a memorandum of understanding, a document that made official Pepperdine's clerkship program with the Ugandan judiciary. Starr committed Pepperdine would work collaboratively with the Ugandan judiciary to develop academic and legal reform measures."
Many are troubled by the mix of Starr's ideology and his power and influence within the Uganda judiciary, AI's Ugandan Christian Lawyers Fellowship and the students and educators at UCU he rubs elbows with.
Starr left Pepperdine in June to become president of Baylor University, the largest Baptist educational institution in the world.
Take the notion that children have specific learning styles, that some are “visual learners” and others are auditory; some are “left-brain” students, others “right-brain.” In a recent review of the relevant research, published in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a team of psychologists found almost zero support for such ideas. “The contrast between the enormous popularity of the learning-styles approach within education and the lack of credible evidence for its utility is, in our opinion, striking and disturbing,” the researchers concluded.
A simple examples demonstrates how differently religious exercise is treated in the United States than elsewhere. Consider a young Muslim woman who is attending public school. Can she choose whether to wear the head scarf that some Muslims believe their religion requires? In Iran she has no choice. She must wear the head scarf; indeed, women must be dressed according to conservative Islamic teachings whenever they appear in public. She also has no choice in France. Pursuant to a 2004 law, public school students cannot wear any apparel that conspicuously shows their religious affiliation. Jewish students cannot wear skullcaps, Christian students cannot wear large crosses, and Muslim students cannot wear head scarves. The law was clearly aimed at the growing number of Muslim women who had begun wearing head scarves to school. In the United States, the student has a choice. The government cannot make her wear a head scarf or forbid it. In reality, many students in American public schools choose to wear visible religious apparel, and many other do not. This result, strongly favored by liberals, moderates, and conservatives across the country, symbolizes the role of religion and religious freedom in the United States today.