Thursday, October 25, 2012

Turkey's Role in the War in Syria

Turkey's Role in the War in Syria from Bruce Prescott on Vimeo.

Mustafa Akyol, a prominent Turkish journalist and author of Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty, talks about "The War in Syria: Turkey's Role" at the University of Oklahoma on October 22, 2012.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

On "Vagina-gate" and Southern Baptists

Jerry Faught, formerly professor of Religion at Oklahoma Baptist University -- now Associate Professor of Religion and Wiley College, has an outstanding essay on the Religion Dispatches website on "vagina-gate" and how women are treated in the Southern Baptist Convention. Here's a quote:
The leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention are, across the board, hidebound fundamentalists who try to pass themselves off as conservatives. Unlike genuine conservatives however, fundamentalists hold to specific dogmas and then seek to impose these beliefs on others, especially persons who are members of the same church or denomination.

In any debate, they claim to be on God’s side of the argument—authentic dialogue with fundamentalists is not possible. Fundamentalists do not want to discuss issues honestly they are out to evangelize. You either come around to their way of thinking or they will gladly place you outside the boundaries of orthodoxy. Since their own theological positions are not subject to question the marginalization of others who are in disagreement is not only necessary but is a Christian duty.
Thanks, Dr. Faught for your astute observations. Read the full essay to see what Dr. Faught has to say about vaginas.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Opportunities for Democracy in the Middle East

Mustafa Akyol on Opportunities for Democracy in the Middle East from Bruce Prescott on Vimeo.

Mustafa Akyol, author of the book Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty, speaks about "Opportunities for Democracy and Liberties in the Middle East" at First Presbyterian Church in Norman, Oklahoma on October 21, 2012.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thomas Helwys and Religious Liberty

Thomas Helwys, the 17th century founder of the first Baptist church in England, had firsthand experience with religious bigotry. Unwilling to compromise sincerely held religious convictions that differed from the prevailing law and social sentiment of his native England, he emigrated to Holland. This experience taught him the value of liberty of conscience.

Helwys, a lawyer, wrote one of the first treatises on religious liberty and then returned to England to publish it and face the King. He sent King James a copy of his book with a handwritten note that said,

“Mens religion to God, is betwixt God and themselves; the king shall not answer for it; neither may the King be judg betwene God and man. Let them be heretickes, Turks, Jewes, or whatsoever, it apperteynes not to the earthly power to punish them in the least measure.”
In two sentences, Helwys summarized bedrock Baptist beliefs about the kind of relationship God wants with human beings. God desires a direct and personal relationship with us. Christ alone mediates between the heavenly Father and mankind. God alone is judge over the hearts and souls of men and women.

Helwys’ appeal was for liberty of conscience for all persons -- not for himself alone and not limited to those who shared similar convictions. He knew from personal experience that people conscientiously concerned about their own spiritual welfare and eternal destiny could hold widely divergent religious convictions. Implicitly, he called for everyone, high and low, to acknowledge that each individual bears responsibility for prayerfully examining their own heart and their own relationship to God. Explicitly, he called for everyone, high and low, to respect each person’s God-given liberty to either turn toward their Savior or else continue turning away from their Creator.

Unfortunately, many Baptists affirm Helwys’ convictions but fail to practice what he preached. Many Baptists denounce foreign governments for restricting the work of Christian missionaries in one breath and then, in the next breath, demand that our own government place restrictions on the life and work of persons of minority faiths. Not only do they give mere lip service to Christ’s command that we love our neighbors and even our enemies, but they also violate the most basic and elementary requirements of the golden rule. Such hypocrisy serves to destroy the integrity of our Christian witness and to undermine the credibility of the gospel in the eyes of unbelievers.

The best remedy for the fear of the “other” that leads to prejudice and bigotry is sincere interfaith dialogue. Those who conscientiously develop face-to-face relationships with persons of other faiths normally develop a healthy respect for the liberty of other consciences. Respectfully engaging in mutual dialogue about religious convictions also serves as a catalyst toward deeper comprehension and a stronger commitment to God.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Fundamentalists Taking Over the GOP

Fundamentalist Christians took over the Missouri Synod Luthern Church in the 1970's and took over the Southern Baptist Convention in the 1980's. Those takeovers were viewed as battles over the Bible and a literalist interpretation of it.

Today the Washington Post has published a story about the "Battle for the Soul" of the GOP that has been enjoined by fundamentalist Christians in the U.S. Senate race in Missouri. Southern Baptist ministers in Missouri are at the forefront of the campaign to re-elect Todd Akin. Organizers of this battle are making it clear that this is but an early volley in a battle they envision for the entire Republican Party:

"People are drawn to Akin’s cause because they see it as the opening battle for the soul of the Republican Party," said strategist David Lane, who has spent months in the state organizing pastors to fight for Akin, at times bucking the wishes of GOP leaders in Washington. Akin’s campaign, Lane said, represents the fight against establishment politicians, their consultants and "a morally flawed approach to politics."

David Lane has been described as a "mysterious, behind-the-scenes evangelical kingmaker" from California, funded primarily by the American Family Association, who worked tirelessly for Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign in 2008 and who secured the financing for "The Response" Prayer Rally that launched Rick Perry's ill-fated presidential campaign in 2012.

Republicans around the country can frequently be heard lamenting the religious extremism that has become common in the party. Their complaints sound much like the laments of moderate Baptists during the takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention.

We all know how that ended.

Prepare to turn out the lights. The party will soon be over.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Lawrence Ware on the Attempt to Repeal Affirmative Action in Oklahoma

Lawrence Ware on the attempt to repeal Affirmative Action in Oklahoma from Bruce Prescott on Vimeo.

Lawrence Ware, Professor and Lecturer in Philosophy at Oklahoma State University, gives reasons why Oklahomans should vote no on State Question 759 in November. Ware was speaking at a forum held at the Oklahoma City Campus of Langston University on September 20, 2012.

Robin Meyers on the Attempt to Repeal Affirmative Action in Oklahoma

Robin Meyers on the attempt to repeal Affirmative Action in Oklahoma from Bruce Prescott on Vimeo.

Dr. Robin Meyers, Senior Pastor at Mayflower Congregational Church in Oklahoma City, gives reasons why Oklahomans should vote no on State Question 759 in November. Meyers was moderating a forum held at the Oklahoma City Campus of Langston University on September 20, 2012.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Percentage of Income Oklahomans Pay for Taxes

The Oklahoma Policy Institute has posted information about how much Oklahomans are paying in taxes as a percentage of their income.

It is clear that in Oklahoma those who have much have made sure that they don't have to give much as a percentage of their income. A lot of politicians who profess to be Christians have helped them avoid paying their fair share in taxes.

Jesus made it clear that God expects more of us: "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." (Luke 12:48)

Oklahoma Baptist University's War Against Science

Oklahoma's Southern Baptists have been at war with science since the beginning of the fundamentalist takeover of the SBC in 1979. Literal interpretations of the Bible have always been at odds with scientific truth and methodology.

The fundamentalist's intentional disdain for science was bound to have an effect on the educational institutions that they took over.

Until recently, the fundamentalists who control Oklahoma Baptist University have been hiring professors who teach a widely publicized but unsubstantiated pseudo-scientific theory knows as "Intelligent Design." This theory and its advocates suffered a major setback from the U.S. District Court's decision in the Kitzmiller vs. The Dover Area School District (2005).

Had the trustees and administration at OBU studied the Kitzmiller decision, they could have learned a lot about genuine science and the legitimate use of the scientific method from the conservative judge who rendered that decision. Instead, they decided to retreat to a pre-scientific worldview and start hiring professors who teach that the universe is a mere 6,000 years old.

Yesterday OBU installed Dr. Ishwaran Mudliar as the Dickinson Chair of Religion. Dr. Mudliar appears to be an unabashed young earth creationist. He wrote a guest article on "The Creationist worldview according to the Bible" for the Baptist Messenger last May. In it he offered a straightforward literal interpretation of Genesis: "the holy Bible declares that the eternal God created the universe out of nothing in six days, and rested on the seventh day (Gen. 1:1-2:3; Ex. 20:8-11)." At the end of the article he recommends a book that advocates young earth creationism.

Oklahoma's fundamentalists are probably delighted with this new addition to the faculty at OBU, but the school's academic reputation is sure to suffer.

Parents would be advised to send their children to a school where people believe in a God who is not so small and where minds are encouraged to expand.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Dr. James Carse on Poetry and Religion

Dr. James Carse on Poetry and Religion from Bruce Prescott on Vimeo.

Dr. James Carse, author of the books "Finite and Infinite Games" and "The Religious Case Against Belief" lectured at the University of Oklahoma on September 25, 2012. During the Question and Answer session Dr. Tom Boyd asked Dr. Carse to describe what he meant by his use of the word "poiesis."