Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Les Downs Plays Mompou

Dr. Leslie Downs Plays Mompou from Bruce Prescott on Vimeo.

Dr. Leslie Downs plays selections from Federico Mompou at his piano recital at NorthHaven Church in Norman, Oklahoma on February 18, 2012. Featured are Cancion y danza No. 9, No. 11, and No. 14.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Opposing Oklahoma's Personhood Bill

I spoke at a rally at the Oklahoma state capitol today opposing the personhood legislation under consideration there.

I began by reminding members of the audience that one of the reasons Mainstream Baptists in Oklahoma had opposed the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message revision was that its clause asserting "life begins at conception" would put Southern Baptists on record as opposing in-vetro fertilization, stem cell research, and some forms of contraception including the use of birth control pills. In 2000, many Oklahoma Baptists thought that was far-fetched, but the current medical and legal debate is proving us correct.

Then I delivered the following prepared remarks:

I am here to voice opposition to SB1433 because it violates freedom of religion and liberty of conscience. Extending “all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of this state” to every human fertilized egg, embryo and fetus imposes one theological construct of personhood on all society by force of law. Imposing such a theological construct violates the First Amendment of our federal Constitution which prohibits passing laws establishing religion.

The theological construct in SB1433 is easily refuted by a straightforward, literal interpretation of the Hebrew Bible. The law of Moses says, "When men strive together, and hurt a woman with child, so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no harm follows, the one who hurt her shall be fined, according as the woman's husband shall lay upon him.” (Exodus 21:22 RSV)

In the law of Moses an unborn child is respected for its developing potential for personhood, but this potential did not make an unborn child a person with a legal and moral standing equal to that of the mother. If the mother was killed, the law stipulated “a life for a life.” Only a monetary fine was stipulated for the loss of an unborn child. The Hebrew respect for the unborn child’s developing potential was augmented by a rabbinic teaching that the fetus becomes a “nephesh” (soul, person) when the head emerges in the birthing process. (Sanhedrin 72b)

Under the influence of pre-Socratic Greek philosophy, some early Christians adopted a modified version of the Pythagorean belief that souls pre-existed in a disembodied state and were infused into a body at the moment of conception. Their view of the afterlife differed from the Pythagoreans in that they believed in the resurrection of the body rather than in reincarnation and the further transmigration of souls.

Theologians of the medieval church were influenced by a different Greek philosophy that staked a middle ground between the rabbinic tradition and that of the Pythagoreans. Augustine and Aquinas adopted Aristotle’s doctrine of “delayed ensoulment” and believed that a developing fetus received its soul somewhere between the 40th and 90th day of gestation. (See Augustine’s, On Exodus and Aquinas’ Commentary on Aristotle’s De Anima)

The modern Catholic doctrine that personal life begins at fertilization was prompted by the Roman Church’s opposition to contraception and family planning as well as by a concern to protect the sanctity of human life in the face of advances in modern science and technology. Their commitment to preserving the sanctity of life is highly commendable, but there is wide disagreement among Christians (even within the Roman Church) over the timing for when a fetus has developed sufficiently to begin actualizing its potential for personhood.

Protestants share the concern for the sanctity of human life, but historically, Protestants have not viewed fertilized human eggs and embryos to be persons. Most Protestant denominations have long been on record as considering matters of contraception, family planning and reproductive health to be matters of personal conscience. Among most Protestants, these matters are perceived to be too personal and too sensitive to be predetermined by either ecclesiastical or government decree. Wise and prudent decisions on these matters can only be made under private consultation with licensed physicians, with the counsel of family members, and under the spiritual guidance of the family’s own ministers and clergy persons.

The government has no business inserting itself into these personal matters. In doing so it is infringing on one of the most basic and inalienable of human rights – the right of fully conscious and sentient persons to make vital decisions – life and death decisions -- regarding their own life and their own health under the liberty of a conscience formed by their own religious beliefs and convictions.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Dominionists at Work in Oklahoma

It did not take long for the Dominionists elected to the State Legislature in Oklahoma to start working to put public money into the coffers at their churches. Oklahoma has strong article in its state constitution prohibiting the use of public funds for sectarian purposes:
Section II-5 of the Constitution of the State of Oklahoma:

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 the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such.
State Representatives Jason Nelson and Mike Reynolds, both of Oklahoma City, recently submitted House Joint Resolution (HJR) 1081 calling for a constitutional amendment to repeal Section II-5 of the Oklahoma Constitution.

It was referred to the House Rules Committee where most bills and resolutions go to die.

Today, the House Rules Committee gave it a DO PASS approval and referred it to the full House of Representatives.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Hillary Clinton Pressing for War with Iran

Consortium News has republished a year old essay by Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst, that exposed Hillary Clinton as a major impediment to resolving the crisis with Iran peacefully:
Yet, in her determination to come across as hard-line, Clinton has undercut promising initiatives that might have constrained Iran from having enough low-enriched uranium to even be tempted to build a nuclear arsenal.

In 2010, when – at the urging of President Obama – the leaders of Turkey and Brazil worked out an agreement with Iran, under which Iran agreed to ship about half of its low-enriched uranium (LEU) out of country, Clinton immediately rejected it in favor of more severe economic sanctions.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Brazilian President Luiz InĂ¡cio Lula da Silva were left wondering who exactly was in charge in Washington — Hillary and her pro-Israeli friends, or Obama.

Brazil released a three-page letter that Obama had sent to Lula da Silva a month earlier in which Obama said the proposed uranium transfer “would build confidence and reduce regional tensions by substantially reducing Iran’s” stockpile of low-enriched uranium.

The contrast between Obama’s support for the initiative and the opposition from various hardliners (including Clinton) caused “some puzzlement,” one senior Brazilian official told the New York Times. After all, this official said, the supportive “letter came from the highest authority and was very clear.”

It was a particularly telling episode. Clinton basked in the applause of Israeli leaders and neocon pundits for blocking the uranium transfer and securing more restrictive U.N. sanctions on Iran – and since then Iran appears to have dug in its heals on additional negotiations over its nuclear program.

Secretary Clinton is almost as assiduous as Netanyahu in never missing a chance to paint the Iranians in the darkest colors – even if that ends up painting the entire region into a more dangerous corner.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ethics Daily Posts Report About Peace Rally

Ethics Daily has posted a report I wrote about the Peace Rally in Oklahoma City on February 2.

They also linked to my video of interviews of the peace activists at the rally.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Inside Job Movie Party

30 people attended the Inside Job movie party that I hosted this afternoon.

Faces are grim as the 2010 Academy Award winning documentary explains how both the American economy and our political system are still under the control of Wall Street, the finance industry and too-big-to-fail banks.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

How Religion in Politics Undermined Evangelism

An excerpt from Dr. David Campbell's guest lecture at the University of Oklahoma on February 7, 2012. Campbell is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Notre Dame University and co-author of the book American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us

Moderate and Progressive Baptists will note that the time when evangelicalism began to decline and the "nones" began to rise also coincides with the completion of the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention and the increasing union of the SBC with the GOP.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

NorthHaven Sermons: Community Faith

NorthHaven Sermons 02-05-2012 from Bruce Prescott on Vimeo.

Dr. Mitch Randall, pastor of NorthHaven Church in Norman, Oklahoma preaches a sermon entitled "Community Faith." His text is 2 Peter 1:9-2:3.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Oklahomans Rallying For Peace

Interviews of Oklahomans who are concerned about the drum beat preparing Americans for war against Iran. Calling themselves "Americans Against the Next War," the group held a rally for peace in Oklahoma City on February 2, 2012.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Is Iran the Next War?

After reviewing the debacle that led to war in Iraq (see previous blog), it's time to note the similarities between the media coverage preparing Americans for war with Iraq and the preparations currently underway for war with Iran.

I found Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst, to be the most credible independent source of information in the lead up to war with Iraq.

Today, McGovern is providing the most credible asessment of the current tensions with Iran. Here's some of his take on the recent "Worldwide Threat Assessment" before the Senate Intelligence Committee:

Watching top U.S. intelligence officials present the annual “Worldwide Threat Assessment” before the Senate Intelligence Committee, I found myself wondering if they would depart from the key (if politically delicate) consensus judgment that Iran is NOT working on a nuclear weapon.

In last year’s briefing, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper had stood firm on this key point, despite severe pressure to paint Iran in more pernicious terms. On Tuesday, I was relieved to see in Clapper’s testimony a reiteration of the conclusions of a formal National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of November 2007, issued unanimously by all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, including judgments like this:

“We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program; … Tehran’s decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005.”

Sadly, this judgment still comes as news to many of those Americans who are malnourished on the low-protein gruel of the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) – even though the NIE was immediately declassified in 2007 and has been in the public domain for more than four years.

Southern Baptists in Bush Years to Live in Infamy

Associated Baptist Press is reporting that Timothy Goeglin, former staffer at the White House Office of Public Liaison under Karl Rove during the Bush administration, has credited Southern Baptists with being influential “on questions of war and peace that were so central in the Bush years.”

It might be helpful for those Baptists who sat passively on the sidelines while militant fundamentalists took over the Southern Baptist Convention to have the implications of what Goeglin is saying spelled out for them.

Goeglin is talking about the support that Southern Baptists provided for the war that President George W. Bush launched in Iraq in 2003.

It is important to remember that Saddam Hussein and Iraq were not involved in the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on 9-11-2001.

The war with Iraq was a preventive war launched to rid that country of weapons of mass destruction.

In reality, Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction.

Before launching the war with Iraq, intelligence confirming that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction was squelched by the Bush administration. Credible sources were warning politicians, religious leaders and news media that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction.

As preparations were made for war, religious leaders around the world publicly proclaimed that “preventative war” cannot be justified by Christian just war doctrines. Statements were issued by the Vatican and Catholic Bishops, by the executive committee of the World Council of Churches, by the Bishop of Canterbury, and by American evangelicals such as Jim Wallis of Sojourners and Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics.

In the face of this widespread religious opposition, Richard Land, President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, penned an infamous letter offering a just war rationale for “preventive war” with Iraq and sent it to President Bush on October 3, 2002.

With the support of Southern Baptists and other American evangelicals, President Bush was emboldened to ignore the objections of the majority of the world’s Christian communities and launch the war with Iraq.

The full impact of the influence Southern Baptists wielded on the White House and world during the Bush years is still being tallied, but here are some of the preliminary figures:

Somewhere between 105,000 and 115,000 civilians died in the war in Iraq.

4,484 American soldiers died and more than 33,186 soldiers were wounded.

More than two trillion dollars and counting was added to the national debt.