Moral Contradictions

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Torturing ourselves over torture

As a Christian I have a hard time reconciling myself against those in camps such as Gitmo. Yes they want to kill us, yes they want to kill innocents... yet, Jesus commanded us to turn the other cheek - to love our enemy.

Being trained in history and reading all sorts of war novels growing up, I was always impressed with the level of respect Americans treated their enemies. Sure there have been lapses, but all in all, our soldiers and citizens took pride in treating our enemies well. Even though we knew that the enemy would not reciprocate, we did not use that fact as a basis for mistreatment or even torture.

That's the America I grew up with - the one I love and respect. All men are created equal. To those who wished us harm, we were fair and just. My faith commands us to love and pray for our enemy. Combine the two, and you can see why torture doesn't sit well with me.

Consider this example: As kids, we sometimes would get in trouble because we followed the crowd. A peer would do something wrong, we would participate, and then get in trouble. The excuse that our peer was doing it didn't fly. Whether or not their parent punished them was of no concern. That action was wrong and we have a moral code independent of being compromised by others.

I'm saddened by Christians who justify the use of torture with the excuse of "they want to kill us" or "look at what they do to their prisoners". How we treat prisoners should be independent of how others treat us. We have a higher moral code. We're better than that. Our history in war proves that. We're Americans.

So when John McCain speaks up about torture, many listen. He knows a few things about that. When he speaks up against our use of torture, I listen even more. Via ChargingRINO, here's Bob Schieffer of "Face the Nation" take on McCain:

"Finally today, I don't always agree with him, but when John McCain talks about prisoners of war and torture I do pay attention. As someone who was tortured for five years in a North Vietnamese prison, he just knows a little more about torture than the rest of us. So when John McCain told me the other day that he would not want to be the next American taken prisoner in Iraq, I listened. McCain, along with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, is sponsoring legislation to outlaw, quote 'cruel, inhumane and degrading' treatment of all prisoners held by the United States. Incredibly, the administration is trying to kill this legislation, claiming it would hamper the fight against terrorism or some such.

Here is my question: Does this mean we endorse torture? Of course not. But what will the other side make of these words? John McCain has no more sympathy for the terrorists than I do. He is worried about our soldiers. He knows that if the enemy believes we are torturing their people, they will be more likely to torture our people.

John McCain has never been a favorite of this adminstration but they should pay attention to him on this one. He was learning about torture while some of them were still in graduate school. The gallant young men and women we are asking to fight this war are already paying a terrible price. Let's not make it more dangerous for them. Listen to John McCain."

Just as the hostages in Iran made us mad in 1979, why do we guffaw when we say the mistreatment and torture of prisoners at Gitmo increases terrorism? It's a natural human response.

There is a time of war, but is there a time for torture? Since Jesus was killed by torture, I'm thinking no.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Sin is sin is sin is sin

Many fixate on the obvious as sins: murder, stealing, lying, abortion, homosexuality... you get the idea.

How many believe greed is a sin? Many of you have already red the column in Baptist Press by Erich Bridges "Invasion of the Residential SUV's". I personally have witnessed huge houses going up in booming suburbs such as my hometown... I've pulled up to gas pumps where the previous SUV just drank $50 of gas. As I sit here with my wife in my small 600 square foot ghetto-ish apartment on this rough side of Richmond, preparing to move to our cute yet modest house a few miles away... as my wife and I drive our awesome gas mileage and maintainence free Honda Civics... as my wife and I prefer to have money go into savings as opposed to throwing it away on rent or a huge mortgage... I marvel at the folks who must be up to their ears in debt.

For the most part we all have debt... but I can't imagine the stress of maintaining a lifestyle where if life throws one curveball, everything starts to unravel. I once worked with a man who lost his job, which led to him losing his house, then his car... and he was barely holding on to a seedy hotel room.

I want to know that my wife and I have an emergency savings fund, retirement, and college savings for our (future) children. I want the lack of stress in case one of us can't work for a while and our income temporarily drops. I want to feel like I can give a modest amount of money every now and then to a cause I feel is important.

I want to be a good steward of the blessings God has given to my family. I do not want to be motivated by the love of money. I do not want to live in a huge house with huge SUV's and a big screen TV and feel like "I've made it". Instead, I want to be motivated by peace of mind to free myself to work on other causes as an expression of my faith.

Does this make me un-American? All snark aside, whether it does or not is irrelevant... as long as I'm apart of God's Kingdom.

The current and on-going theme

Bruce over at Mainstream Baptist has been on a tear... he has a hard-hitting post which explores why the "values" President venomously opposes efforts to end Abu-Ghirab and Gitmo-like torture.

Is stopping terrorism important? Yes. Is using harsh methods to get information important? Yes. Is stripping inmates naked and then posing them in sexual positions important? No. There is a line. We as Americans used to pride ourselves on treating the enemy well, despite knowing that our enemy would never reciprocate. We were Americans... we were above that.

Why aren't the prominent preachers of our era standing up to the Adminstration and its extreme policies such as torture? I think that's a fair question that deserves to a straight answer. Only then will we find out if the preacher's true motive is "Kingdom Advancement" or personal and political advancement.

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and man. (Matthew 6:24)

Which is it? President Bush or God?

As Bruce concludes:

Some day a lot of currently prominent preachers will be asking, "Lord, when did we see you naked and abused and in prison and didn't do anything to minister to you? Didn't we perform miracles getting-out-the-votes to get "strict constuctionist" judges in your name?" And they will surely hear, "Inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it unto me." Matthew 25:31-46

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Family values - the real danger

I'm kind of troubled by the Newport News, VA woman leaving her 4 year old on the side of the DC beltway and then hitting him with the car as he tried to climb back in. To read that he told a motorist "My mommy left me" is heart-wrenching. We've had several people arrested for either putting their children in the trunk or leaving them in a hot car. A 13 year-old boy was found dead in Richmond and his mom has been under Social Services investigation since March. What compels these people to do such horrid and wretched things?

Stories like these remind me that if and when that day of nirvana for staunch anti-abortion and anti-homosexual people comes, the "family values" that has justified these movements will still remain a problem.

Nathan, are you saying your pro-sodomite and pro-abortion?

That's not what I'm saying. Abortion is terrible... homosexuality... there has to be some grey area where that lifestyle isn't fully accepted yet isn't condemned, because I believe both aren't Biblically based.

Nathan, then what are you saying? (you must be a flaming liberal and hell-bound)

Rising home costs, longer commutes, wage growth barely keeping up with inflation, rising gas prices, millions of children lacking health insurance... those are all family-value issues. I wonder if the above-mentioned tragedies could have had a different ending if some of the daily stress was lessened? Perhaps these mothers lived in too small of a dwelling, struggled to find babysitters because they worked long hours, they're still making the same they did 5 years ago, gas and rent has gone up, and they can't take the kids or themselves to the doctor when they get sick. Maybe that assumption is a stretch, but I'm sure many experience at least part of those stresses on a daily basis. We need to address these problems, and Christians need to take the lead.

Am I a liberal? No. I am a pragmatist, which escapes definitions in today's heated political world. Am I liberal in regards to theology? Only if not speaking for God, admitting to not knowing all the answers and solutions, and loving "sinners" like Jesus did is considered liberal.

Abortion and homophobia dominate our theo-political discourse at every other issue's expense. When people think of the intersection of Christianity and politics, they immediately see and hear the Falwell's, Robertson's, and Mohler's lashing out along those two themes. When the "anti's" reach their goal, we'll still have the same problems affecting family values that we do today. What will happen then?

For instance, I challenge the most adamant pro-lifers to be the first ones to sign up to be foster parents if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Or volunteer at adoption agencies or counseling centers. Only then will we find out if they are sincere in actually solving a problem or just seeking a better night of sleep.

Nathan, you're talking in hypothetical terms, but the reality is that these are important issues we need to address.

Here's some more reality: I grew up in suburban DC. I always knew we had a smaller house than my friends, but that's because my mom made a conscious decision to stay home while other mom's went back to work. I didn't realize how good I had it that my dad had a federal job (with very nice benefits) only a half hour away to the east while many kids had parents who worked over an hour away in north DC. I didn't know what it was like to have my parents come home at 6:30 and then I would have to go to bed only a little while later. I didn't have to wake up at the crack of dawn to go to day-care. I attended an excellent school system and a doctor was available to me whenever I was sick. My mom was at home when I left for school and when I came back. My dad came home at 4:30 every day. We always had food on the table. I believe I'm all the better for it, yet situations like these, especially in larger cities and suburbs along the East Coast, are becoming more and more rare.

However, if I wished to live in my hometown and start a family, we would be relegated to an apartment and my wife would have to take on a full-time job. The small house I grew up in was bought for a little over $100,000 14 years ago and now could fetch at least 3 times that. We don't even need to talk about the price of two and three story houses in that area. We simply cannot have the Christian-oriented lifestyle we want and own a home there. I consider that a family values problem as more people move to that area and other similar areas throughout the country.

All in all, I challenge those who strictly define the issues affecting family values as only abortion and homosexuality to step up to the plate when they realize their goals. I pray that should they not achieve their aims, instead of simply becoming emboldened, they will awake and become concerned with issues that affect their daily life and family quality.

Are family issues important? Yes. But they are more complicated and complex... and unfortunately don't always fit onto a bumper sticker or campaign slogan.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The government can solve some problems...

The Religious Right Watch blog, I must say, is excellent. A recent entry titled Steve Noble: rising star of Christian Right, gives a summary of a profile article of this rising star.

The last bit of the articles says something I've heard many times:

But Noble, like many evangelicals, is not too worried about causes such as poverty. He thinks the problem can be addressed if the two parties, Republican and Democratic, become better stewards of national resources. Like many evangelicals, he says traditional family values take precedence over everything else.

"Society won't crumble based on tax policy or housing policy or even welfare policy," he said. "These aren't foundational issues. It's what you do with life, what you do with your family. You destroy those, and you destroy society."

That's great, but what's wrong with working on both? Why rely on the government to do God's work? Why identify with the political party that houses the "Free Market/hands off" ideology? If the government isn't to touch the free market and the overall goal is to limit the size of government, why throw this responsibility on its back?

Additionally, isn't that belief just an excuse for ignoring our true call in favor of exclusively focusing on family issues? Jesus didn't call our government... He called us.

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger andyou invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me...

Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'"
(Matthew 25:35-36, 41-43)

I don't mean to belittle family issues, but Christians send a nasty signal to non-believers when we purposely ignore poverty in light of persecuting homosexuals to further family values. If we want to truly change society, we must pick up the entire cross and demonstrate our love instead of projecting intolerance and ignoring social problems.

We cannot selectively pick and choose the parts of Scripture that happen to line up with our own personal beliefs.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Mohler whacks his ax for more liberal attacks

Jesus Politics links to a Baptist Press article "Book examines conservative resurgence, demise of liberal churches".

First of all, the article proves that the Baptist Press is simply a tool of the Southern Baptist Convention's propaganda machine.

But Nathan, you're just attacking the SBC yet again... so typical of you... pfft.

I wouldn't go after the SBC if it didn't give me so much material. The article pre-supposes to review the book "Exodus: Why Americans are Fleeing Liberal Churches for Conservative Christianity", but merely quotes Richard Land and Al Mohler over and over while the author Daniel Shifflet, is barely able to poke his head through. The article claims Shifflet "crisscrossed America interviewing both conservatives and liberals to find the reasons behind what is happening within American Christianity". Unfortunately the writer of the article did not do the same.

It's the Al and Dick show. No alternative view... none. Journalism has surrendered.

But Nathan, our society's morality is declining... you at least can agree to that?

Yes, but we need to have an open discourse to come up with solutions, instead of presenting just one opinion as the One True Way.

I came across another instance which made me say "Whaaa?". As I continued to read a huge red flag sprung because I remembered several articles reporting baptisms were down in the SBC. Why? According to the linked article, it could be because people are flocking to the non-denominational mega churches, could be because families are having less children, could be for reasons my two sisters-in-law left with one Catholic and the other Pentecostal... could be anything. Yet... they're still down, not up.

The red flag flew because simple logic is missing: If your denomination has less than positive numbers, how can you strut around and wag fingers at other churches with a similar problem? Instead of honestly focusing on what's really happening, Land and Mohler just trumpet their way as the only way, all facts ignored. Instead of seeking common Christian bonds to help work towards solutions... instead of agreeing to disagree in some areas in light of our Lord and Savior, Land and Mohler decided to take the low road of divisiveness and say "sucks to be you!".

Nathan, I think you're reading this article all wrong.


Great! I hope I am. I'd love for someone to rebut the arrogance, willful ignorance of facts, unbalanced presentation, and lack of journalism basics.

Ostensibly none of the above-mentioned reasons entered Al Mohler's mind for why other churches are declining. General Mohler is too preoccupied with sex to sort out logic or self-examine his own denomination's problems. The article mentions sex six times and each instance is attributed to him. Perhaps declining births or defections to non-denominational churches may explain the SBC's numbers, but not the "liberal churches"! It's the sex. All about the sex.

Then, in more proof that the article is simply a tool, the only other issues mentioned are homosexuality and abortion. "We're better than you, and the world will be a better place once people stop fornicating and having abortions" is how I read the article. Why all this sexual focus? Why can't the church focus on other issues as well? I passed a homeless person on the interstate today... I'm sure he cares about the latest update on John Robert's nomination to the Supreme Court. Really.

This article and its quotes reeks of arrogance. Absolute arrogance. Personally, you may disagree with me, but I don't believe arrogance should come anywhere near our faith. Ever. This whole "we're right/you're wrong" has got to stop. I'm guilty of it. I'm not perfect... When I started this blog angerness rose within me as I typed out entries, but now a spirit of love for our Church and a sense of sadness has crept in. We as a united church have so much potential, but I'm saddened because besting each other, power struggles, and our seemingly single focus on all things sexual are what non-believers think we're all about. How can we project the love of Christ in this type of atmosphere?

Well Nathan, at the end of the day, these are still the most important issues and I stand by the SBC's representation of liberal churches.

At the end of the day, Jesus is going to ask how we advanced His Kingdom, and when that day comes, I don't think the use of politics or arrogance will be welcomed.

Stereotyping all churches other than yours as "liberal" and sex-obsessed and then gloating about it is utterly shameful and goes against everything I was brought up to believe. Perhaps the unfriendly spirit and arrogant tone of articles such as this one is the reason why SBC baptisms are down.

Double standard?

Bob over at Commonwealth Commonsense has this question regarding Virginia and national politics:

Isn't it odd that Tim Kaine gets criticized by the right wing for saying he opposes abortion but will uphold the law, while John Roberts, who the right is certain is against abortion, can get away with saying that he would uphold Roe v. Wade?

One of the many reasons why Governor Mark Warner's name is being floated for the 2008 Presidential election is because he stayed away from hot social topics. Instead, he worked on solutions that affect Virginian's daily.

Again, can we stop stereotyping and glorifying abortion above all and start working on real problems too? Yes abortion is horrible and we need to regulate its practice and provide alternatives, but the staunchly pro-choicers and pro-lifers are bent on railroading meaningful solutions to other issues to get their way.

Life isn't about one single issue... neither is politics.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Hypocrisy Watch

I first blogged on this a couple of months ago. Via Daily Kos, Representative Don Sherwood (R-Pa) admits having a 5 year affair with a Maryland woman, yet denies abusing her.

I'm amused at the folks who hold the GOP up as saints while viewing all Democrats as anti-family, anti-Christian, or even anti-American. One thing I've learned while growing up is that a politician is still a politician, no matter what party they represent.

Do you think if the Ten Commandments were hung in the House of Representatives (I'm not sure if they are already are) they would have prevented his unbecoming behavior?

Apparently he thinks hanging them in courthouses will have some effect, because he voted for that particular measure, as well as one to protect marriage from "the gays".

Call it hypocrisy, call it a moral contradiction, call it whatever you want, yet we all must agree that it stinks.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Christianity's Greatest Enemy is From Within

A few last things about Eric Rudolph via Jesus Politics.

1. From Deacon Tim: The dangerous mix of martyrdom and murder that motivated Rudolph is the “Christian” flipside to the “Islamic” suicide bombers that murder people everyday in their war against the Great Satan, America. But Eric Rudolph no more proves that Christianity is itself a religion of hate than the London Tube bombings prove the same about Islam. The problem lies not in religion itself, but in the twisting of religion into its sinister twin: the belief that one is right and must kill “infidels” or “apostates” whose beliefs differ from one’s own.

You don't hear an uprising from the Christian community against his actions. Via Juan Cole:

Thomas Friedman will not write an op-ed for the New York Times about what is wrong with white southern Christian males that they keep producing these terrorists. He will also not ask why Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson are not denouncing Eric Rudolph every day at the top of their lungs.

No reporter will interview frightened Iraqis about their fears at hearing that there are 138,000 armed Christians in their country belonging to the same faith as the bomber, Rudolph, some of them from his stomping grounds of Florida and North Carolina.

Daniel Pipes will not write a column for the New York Post suggesting that white southern Christians be put in internment camps until it can be determined why they keep producing terrorists and antisemites.

George W. Bush will not issue a statement that "Christianity is a religion of peace and we will not allow the Eric Rudolphs to hijack it for their murderous purposes."

Frank Gaffney will not write a column for the Washington Post castigating the Republican Party for appeasement in surrendering to the terrorist threats of radical Christians, by now opposing reproductive rights.

Max Boot will not point out that if the United States could only keep the Philippines in the early twentieth century by killing 400,000 Filipinos, than that was what needed to be done, and if the US can only beat back radical Christians by killing 400,000 of them, then that may just be necessary.

Pat Buchanan will not write a column blasting King George III for having promoted the illegal immigration into the American south of criminal elements, whose maladjusted descendants are still making trouble.

2. Eric Rudolph's statements/manifesto (Christian Alliance for Progress blog). The scary thing? A certain comment left by "hermance":

Rudolph is a good man; he had the right idea. You must fight violence (murdering innocent babies) with violence. Diplomacy is folly now.

The OT says that those who kill deserve to be killed. Thus, Rudolph and attempted murder of lunatic abortion doctors.

I can kind of understand the logic, but the next comment by "Dave" takes that logic to its... er... logical end:

So what you're saying is: killing is so wrong, that you're gonna kill someone for it? Hmmm...

Well, don't forget to include Eric himself on the "deserve to be killed" list. And you too, if you follow in his footsteps. And then someone will have to kill whoever kills you, of course, and then someone will have to kill that person, and so on until no one is left on earth.

And this sounds like a good policy to you?


My head and heart hurts.

Update: I may have been duped with sarcasm, which surprises me because I'm usually pretty good at catching (and using) it myself. I followed the link to hermance's blog and questioned the veracity of the comment, but even still... I hope and pray people like that don't exist.

Heatwave

I want to see how anyone can not sympathize with these folks: Relentless Heat in Phoenix Kills 18 (most of them homeless).

It's currently 109 degress today, with 110 yesterday and 111 Tuesday.

A little more insight into me...

Reverend Ref has an excellent description of himself with which I readily understand. I'm like George in Seinfeld... I always come up with a good response too late.

But one of my many flaws is that I am not a good debator -- I don't think that quickly. So instead of immediately engaging classmates about our differences, I was forced to take time and consider both positions carefully. This did two things: first, it made me a better listener; and second, it caused me to entertain the possibility that I might be wrong. And if I were wrong, was it then true that my roots were being ripped out, or was I being pruned?

I finally came to the conclusion that my roots consisted of the following: Jesus Christ is the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior, I am a sinner in need of redemption, God is way bigger than I can imagine and won't be confined to my limitations. That's it. Everything else is branches that come and go and change over time.


Growing up I was always told I'm a good listener... I attribute that compliment as a testament to my not knowing what to say. I remember sitting in 12th grade AP Government and the teacher went around the room asking for our opinions on some forgotten issue. I replied that I didn't have an opinion yet as I felt like I truly didn't understand the situation and didn't have all the facts. They cajoled me into saying something, making me feel inferior, but I feel like my opinions, though late in coming, have factual merit. I also don't set my self-esteem within those opinions because I know that because they're opinions, plenty of people will disagree with me and I need to listen.

I'm not perfect because regrettably I've jumped out on a few limbs I wish I hadn't, but all in all, I continue to learn from others and my mistakes.

Ultimately, this blog serves as my "brain dumping"... if I get linked, that's great, but it's not my goal.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Yet another plea

Must the entire political discourse of our nation include abortion politics? Everything has a Roe v. Wade component. The Supreme Court nomination, ambassadorships, everything. The Right isn't the only culprit... just as much as they want to knock the 1973 ruling down, the Left is willing to fight to the death for its defense.

Seriously, can we just pass a law that says no political official may say the word abortion for one year? Within that year concrete problems will be worked on and solved.

I do not wish to belittle abortion as I absolutely hate the practice. The libertarian streak in me asks what right does the government have to intervene while the Christian part is disgusted.

What will happen if conservatives get their way and abortion is completely outlawed and homosexuals are openly persecuted or even jailed? What kind of country will that be? Sure, millions will continue to live without healthcare, overall wages struggle to keep up with inflation, the middle-class is smaller than ever before, and our soldiers continue to die for a war that has over 30 justifications... but dang-it, abortion and homosexuality has been stopped!

As a lover of history, I look back to Prohibition and its raging success. Not agreeing with a practice is one thing, but you can never completely have it stopped. I muse that the fight for these issues is simply to put conservatives' minds at ease that because the law says no, people will stop. If that day comes, they'll sleep easy while progressives will continue fighting for the everyday issues that affect everyone within the political spectrum.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

A couple of escapes, and a thought

Saturday night my wife and I went to a Richmond Braves game with my parents and her mom. While there my dad and I got to talk politics... he's a conservative who's mellowed somewhat, and my "coming-of-age" in politics seems to have helped influence that. Or it could be that I'm just full of myself and once I got older I was able to fully understand and appreciate his views.

As I sit here with sun-burned feet from a long day in Virginia Beach, I throw out my dad's theory concerning the Southern Baptist Convention:

He points to the 1976 Convention where they voted to evangelize the entire world by 2000. He believes that Satan took that opportunity to create the strife within the SBC and force moderates and conservatives to split and lose focus on God and the Great Commission.

Slightly related, while stuck in traffic before the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel today, I thought back to a comment that mischaracterized my description of why the CBF left the SBC. At least to me, the intent behind that comment was to portray the CBF as a group that just couldn't get their way and split. That's pretty true, but it seemed to carry a negative tone. All that to say, if I'm reading it right (I'm probably not), what would be said about the Conservatives leaving the Virginia and Texas conventions?

I'm of the simple belief that God's central weapon (the SBC and others like D. James Kennedy seem to relate to warrior terms) is love - not politics. I'm also of the simple belief that God is huge and that we humans cannot fully fathom His Majesty and Greatness within our pea-sized brains. I also believe that in the end, we are all equal before God - pastors, deacons, missionaries, laity, "bushmen" as Pat Roberts termed 'lesser people' in his latest book... we're all equal. Though pastors have some sway over their congregation, in the end, it's only a millioneth of a percent higher than everyone else compared to God. Thus I cringe when someone trys to say "this is the way and the only way" when they're not referring to the only way to get to Heaven is through following and believing in Jesus.

Ultimately, over 15-20 years were lost to politics. Sure good was done admist the turmoil, but every facet of the SBC was touched by power politics, which Jesus stayed away from (that whole "least of these/servant" talk). As the SBC continues to isolate itself from the rest of the Baptist world and arrogantly claim its interpretation of the Bible as the only way, what will happen to groups like the CBF and others who are struggling to find their identity? Will politics stay out as folks try to continue focusing on traditional Baptist principles and furthering God's Kingdom? Or will the SBC and other groups continue shooting shots across the bow at each other and further fall farther away from our common and great God?

I pray for all Baptists - that we can re-focus on historical Baptist principles, cease condemning each other for theological differences, no matter how great or small, stop speaking for God, and fellowship together all as Christians... and let God sort the goats and sheep in the end.

And you can find that in the Bible.

Monday, July 18, 2005

A contradiction within a contradiction

Unrepentant Rudolph Gets Life Sentence (Yahoo! News)

Oy... A victim of his attack said that "the full responsibility for this would have been the death sentence." I understand her anguish, but I can't wrap my mind the morality of wanting the death of someone who killed so that he may end death.

Vicious Cycle (noun): This case.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Bad news...

I didn't get a chance to tape the Coral Ridge Hour this weekend... I only have rabbit ears with my television and I wasn't here both times the show came on to record or watch the program. I'm going to try to arrange it so I can tape the show at someone else's house... we'll see.

On a different note, earlier today I was listening to Richmond, VA's 1140am WRVA , our fair city's right-wing talk radio... wow. There was an advertisement for some show and they played a snippet from a caller. He said something in favor of reparations for slavery. This could possibly be a very touchy subject in the former capital of the Confederacy, a Monument Avenue full of CSA generals, and minorities make up the majority of the population, at least within city limits, where I am.

The radio host had many different arguments against slavery reparations and I may have agreed with some, if not most. The come-back? "Your forefathers worked for free for over 200 years, and you want to get paid?" The ad then ended and the station another played.

Wow.

Note, some additional info about where I live. A statue of President Lincoln was proposed and promptly protested. Once installed it was protested again, albeit smaller numbers. My wife and I had a contract on a house within a school district in Hanover County where the middle school and mascot are named the Stonewall-Jackson Rebels and the high school is the Lee-Davis Confederates. That contract fell through and we will live in a different district with local names, but neighbors down the street fly the Rebel battle flag in the front and back of their house.

The Civil War is daily fought and re-fought, political correctness, sensitivity, and true knowledge of the past be damned.

I've heard the notion that Richmond is about 15 years behind everyone else... Maybe we haven't progressed as far as I originally thought.

We can all learn something from this...

John W. Fountain wrote a column in today's Washington Post titled "No Place for Me - I Still Love God, But I've Lost Faith in the Black Church".

He touches on themes of an unfocused church, ego driven pastors, and the disconnect resulting from token spirituality presented within fundraisers and quasi-fashion shows.

The article is a must-read for all Christians who love and grew up within their respective churches yet feel the pain of disillusionment from discovering its deficiencies. I for one grew up within the Southern Baptist Convention and over-time became pained at the hurtful and needless politics of power exhibited at the expense of the true calling of Jesus. Witnessing too much anger and bitterness challenged me to examine what I believed and how to proceed. Part of that process is typing out this blog.

We all need to re-examine our own hearts and pray for the collective Church. We must pray that politics of power, of hate, of division, of exclusion, of diversion, and of money must not be placed as idols in front of Jesus' teachings. We must not argue about the difference between the word "inerrant" and "true" and condemn each other for not accepting each other's exact theology. We must not concern ourselves of each other's sins and focus on each other's failings.

We are called to purer and higher mission. That mission's over-riding theme is love. To be true Christians, we must act within the bounds of love, which cannot exist within the love of money or power. The desire for perfection and purification is a worthy goal; however, none of us is without blame and we must interact and fellowship with each other in love, not condemnation.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Pharisee Watch

I really like Religious Right Watch, a most excellent blog, especially after this post: The least Jesus asks is not what the Religious Right asks.

I agree with sum-up: What is the Christian morality behind a system designed to limit an individual's ability to fulfill Jesus' mandates? I'll tell you: a misguided one more obedient to the societal conservatism and scapegoating at the heart of Religious Right political movement than to the words of Jesus of Nazareth.

Like I've tried to say many times... so many Christians seem to just miss the point. In the tradition I grew up in, I think so many people focus on the "Southern" rather than the "Baptist".

Friday, July 15, 2005

Heart-wrenching contradictions

Up until now I had the utmost respect for Bethany Christian Services, (their site is overloaded right now...) a Christian based adoption program. I know people who volunteer and another couple who serve as foster parents for newborns while they are prepared for adoption. The folks do a worthy job for a worthy goal. However, Bruce over at Mainstream Baptist points out a troubling fact. The agency does not accept applications from Catholics.

Read that again. Make sure you read the original article.

Then read this: In Mississippi the agency receives money from the "Choose Life" license plate revenue.

Then think about this: The very same Catholics who may have bought these plates to give money to this agency cannot adopt through the agency.

Why? According to Bethany, they do not agree with their Statement of Faith.

Folks, don't you think this is a little bit much? Wasn't Christ inclusive? Since when have elements of Christianity feel like they the right to turn inward and pick and choose who and what they deal with? For a group that has the word "Christian" in its title, who are they to determine who is Christian and who isn't? Aren't Catholics Christians as well? Wasn't Catholicism THE CHURCH for 1500 years? How many Catholics are there in this country? Just because someone doesn't agree with you theologically doesn't mean they aren't Christians or they aren't "worthy" enough to pursue common fellowship.

Since when have "Statement of Faiths" risen above the Bible in determining who is a "Christian"?

As Bruce says: "This is another good example of why it is wrong to grant faith-based organizations receiving government money an exemption from civil rights laws."

I really want to respect this organization because I have seen the good things they do first-hand. However, I cannot get myself around a policy that strikes me as arrogant and exclusive... those two elements don't belong in Christianity.

Update: Since their website is slow and even Google's cache is slow when grabbing their site, I finally got their Statement of Faith to load. I re-hosted it on my server, so read away.

Update 2: Okay, I admit a couple of things in the Statement of Faith really bother me, especially in light of the agency's total discrimination of Catholics.

1. This statement, near the end, especially gets to me: I believe that the Christian Church, as the community of believers, has an obligation to protect, preserve, and enhance life as fully as possible for each person, born and unborn, from the beginning to the end of life.

So are Catholics not part of the Christian Church?

2. At the very end: I, along with all followers of Christ, believe and wait expectantly for the triumphant return of Jesus Christ our King.

So... Catholics aren't part of the Christian Church and aren't followers of Christ?

I really want someone to counteract me, because I really hope I'm wrong.

Update 3: Use this link from Google News to keep track of who reports this story. So far the Washington Post picked it up, among others.

Faith is not a partisan issue

I wish I didn't have to write this blog, but I must. I'm certainly never out of material.

Justice Sunday II is coming up August 14th... I truly believe that the more certain persons of faith (especially the organizer, deceiver and racist Tony Perkins) continue to engage in partisan politics, the more isolated they will become and eventually the plan will backfire. Even now many Christians are saying "enough is enough" - this isn't how we believe we should exercise our faith.

Meanwhile, God is either laughing at these efforts... or most likely crying.

A must read

Commercialization of our faith? Play ball. Of Baseball, Bibles, and Bobble-head Jesus.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Jay Sekulow hates America

Okay, that might be a bit strong, yet an email to his services makes it seem that way. (Jay Sekulow is pictured standing to the right of Randall Terry, lover of intolerance and advocate of killing abortion doctors).

Titled "Encourage President Bush: Consensus means Compromise!" Sekulow, Chief Counsel at Pat Robertson's American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ), has some harsh words for the upcoming Supreme Court nomination.

Here's the email:

It is the moment we have been waiting for - the most significant crossroads in Supreme Court history.

With the resignation of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor - President Bush has an historic opportunity to leave a lasting legacy on the Supreme Court of the United States ...

... and on your rights and freedoms as guaranteed by our United States Constitution.

And it is for moments like this that the ACLJ exists ... to help you make your voice heard - opposing the views of left-wing organizations like the ACLU and People For the American Way. To protect men and women of faith in America. To present your views in a manner that will have a lasting impact for you and your family.

So today, we invite you to join us in our nationwide campaign to encourage President Bush as he makes this most important decision in the days to come ... and to ask him to stand his ground ... by signing our Petition to the President for NO CONSENSUS.

He has promised a strong, conservative candidate.

One who values life, liberty, and freedom.

One who will not legislate from the bench to suit his or her own politically or personally-motivated agenda.

One who will respect and uphold our Constitution as written.

And that is what we expect him to deliver.

Our President must stand strong against the political maneuvering of activist groups like People For the American Way, the ACLU, and other organizations. He must reject the call for a "consensus" candidate.

(On its face, the idea of consulting various members of Congress to find an appointment whom all will agree on before the final vote sounds like the "American ideal" ... however, our Constitution gives the President authority to choose whomever he thinks will best fill the position. Congress is then entitled to vote "yes" or "no.")

In this case, "consensus" would mean compromise.

And we cannot stand for that!... [the email finishes with a plea to sign a petition].

(bold emphasis mine)


Folks, we can debate all we want to about our Founding Father's intent, but one thing is clear: The Constitution was born out of compromise. Without both sides giving up something dear, progress is halted and all sides lose. I am amazed that the ACLJ had the gall to send something like this even after President Bush's rebuke to special interests gearing up for a fight.

Folks like the ACLJ believe their time has come, other folks be damned. Groups on the left and right believe that they and only they are right and are not willing to have a dialogue or even consider forming a consensus with others, no matter how much else they may have in common.

I'm particulary intrigued by the continued call for "One who will not legislate from the bench to suit his or her own politically or personally-motivated agenda." Does that just mean they won't pursue an agenda with which they agree? If the nominee has an agenda of "Reclaiming America" will the ACLJ condemn him or her?

Furthermore, I am a "man of faith" but the ACLJ does not represent me. I know I'm not alone in this group. How dare they pervert the entire title of "men and women of faith" to further their non-compromising, un-forgiving, and un-American agenda.

I ask, how do these words and actions serve to further God's will and win people to the Lord?

What did Jesus teach about love?

Whatever it was, it has apparently been lost on Russell D. Moore, Dean of Theology and Senior Vice President for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He wrote an essay titled "Why I'm Raising Violent 4 Year-Olds". (Thanks to Mainstream Baptist and Howie Luvzus for alerting me to this essay.)

I am not seeking to raise sons who are violent in the amoral, pagan sense of contemporary teenagers playing "Grand Theft Auto" video games or carjacking motorists. I want them to be more violent than that.


The Holy Scriptures are "blessedly violent bedtime stories they hear every day." But be rest assured that "I am not seeking to raise sons who are violent in the amoral, pagan sense of contemporary teenagers playing 'Grand Theft Auto' video games or carjacking motorists. I want them to be more violent than that."

When my wife and I have kids, I hope to teach them that being a Christian isn't easy and that baptism is just the beginning. I really don't wish to proclaim to all the world that I'm teaching them to be violent in the Crusade-like sense.

His justification is several verses in Revelations which refers to the cosmic battle that will be fought out by the "warrior-king". Not being entirely sure this theology will win converts (but rather lose some) I'll stick with following the example Jesus set on this earth and let Him fight the cosmic battles.

Combine this with the fact that the Library of Congress is including the Baptist Press war coverage in its permanent archive, no wonder some folks call the Southern Baptist Convention the "War Denomination".

As a further note, is there any wonder that non-denominational churches are growing?

Update: Beppe commented at Mainstream Baptist and posed this question: What if a Muslim Imam wrote this? What if he wrote that he was raising his 4 year olds to be violent because of the type of world we live in? How many folks from Russell Moore's side would condemn the "violent nature" of Islam?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Mayflower Compact and the Constitution

I was just randomly clicking other links of blogs I like to read, and I came across Jim Huff's John Lockean blog. Having studied John Locke a fair bit, I wanted to see what exactly the title meant. The current entry is dated March 18, 2005, but is still applicable. (I apologize for any misspellings or grammar mistakes... it's way too late.)

Jim explains the notion of principles and how many politicians claim to be a "person of principle". He then analyzes the principles of separation of church and state, freedom of religion, and freedom of conscience in light of the fact that those exact words are not found in the Constitution. Many folks hold them dear, but they are not spelled out in those exact terms.

He seizes on the underlying principle of the passage "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Then he critiques the underlying principle behind Oklahoma House of Representatives HB 2015, a bill to allow posting of the Ten Commandments in public schools and government buildings. Supporting lawmakers used the Mayflower Compact "Glory of God principle" to justify its passage.

My eyes perked after reading this because D. James Kennedy's sermon this weekend on the Coral Ridge Hour appears to be built around the Mayflower Compact and the "Founding Father's intent". I am intrigued as to exactly what he will say, but I have an idea of his theme.

With a degree in history, Jim Huff beautifully explains my deep-seated skepticism of using this document to justify the Founding Father's intent in writing the Constitution.

Never mind the fact that the Mayflower Compact applied only to the 41 male signers of the document and their families. There was no view that the Compact applied to the Jamestown Colony established in 1607. There was no anticipation that the colonies would separate from the King of England one hundred and fifty-six years in the future in 1776. The Mayflower signers had no notion of the future United States Constitution ratified in 1789, one hundred and sixty-nine years in the future.


We must remember that the nation as we know it and the foundation of all our laws was not laid until 1789. The Declaration of Independence separated us from the United Kingdom but did not establish a country. The Articles of Confederation kept all of the states sovereign, (for eight years England refused to send a minister because it suggested that if it sent one, it would have to send 13) and America was more a name than anything else.

On both sides of this debate, I disagree with injecting our beliefs into our interpretation of the "Founding Fathers intent". Yes we have the writings of many of the Founders, but in this regard we must only read those present at the Constitutional Convention. Furthermore we simply do not have all the Founder's remarks and thoughts on what they wrote. For either side it is so simple to grasp hold of one or two quotes by just one Founder and claim victory.

We must also discard the "Ten Commandments principle" attributed to James Madison as he simply did not say or write that the "future of American civilization had been staked not upon civil government, but upon the capability of Americans to ‘govern ourselves… according to the Ten Commandments". That quote is false and simply discredits those who bring it to the table.

All that withstanding, the "strict constructionists" of the Constitution can be very selective about what they read literally and what they add to the document. The not-so-strict constructionists must be careful in balancing the underlying principle with the actual wording. Both sides can easily find themselves on shaky ground.

Thus, we must be careful in regards to the Constitution. For all intents and purposes, it is the "Bible" of our country. In courts of law and houses of law-making, that one document is above them all. One can bring up all the quotes they want, all other revered documents of our country, Bible verses, and influences from the contempory philosophy, but in the end as my pastor says "let's look to see what the text says".

South Carolina's at it again

A Christian group that believes President Bush has been too soft on abortion and homosexuality hopes to move like-minded believers to up-state South Carolina. The name: Christian Exodus. The purpose: Concentrate enough like-minded people in one place to influence first local politics and then state politics. An option: Secession.

Yes, you read that correctly. Secession. Only if it's not "ugly and bloody, nobody wants that."

They boast 500 members, but only a couple of families have actually moved. The group will hold a conference in Greenville, SC in mid-October.

The Rev. Tony Romo, pastor of South Point Baptist Church in Pelzer, said his church will hold a "leadership meeting" for Christian Exodus on Oct. 16.

"Some people think it's some kind of whacked-out religious invasion. It's not that at all," he said.

"These folks who are moving in, they're not really coming here to take over. They're coming to augment what's here."


Leola Robinson, a member of the Greenville County school board, agrees. She noted that like-minded folks have already moved to the area, just not part of a formal organization.

But history shows it can be dangerous when people organize under the banner of religion to try to impose their political will, she said.

"We're not some backwater town that can be influenced and manipulated to achieve some goal that perhaps even the promoters don't fully understand," she said.

The article quotes the Rev. Tony Beam, director of the Christian Worldview Center at North Greenville College and a radio show host as saying that "Christian conservatives should work within their own communities."

"We still have the ability to effect change by bringing pressure to bear on representatives in Washington," he said. "It's just that we're not vigilant in getting that accomplished, and that's why we're frustrated."

I read that as "we should stay where we are, but... I don't necessarily disagree with this group's action."

Well, for what's worth, Afghanistan's former leaders and Iran's government could give the group some pointers.

As the Real Live Preacher says, when the state and church become enmeshed, it is bad for both of them.


Update: I checked out their website, (I won't link from here, it's in the article)... wow, the graphic and irony of the banner hurts my head.

Beliefs of original Baptists

  • Freedom of the local congregation to mind its own affairs
  • Freedom of individuals to interpret Scripture
  • Importance of believer's baptism and the freedom of the individual to choose that baptism
  • Freedom of and the need for the churches of Jesus Christ to live from voluntary support of their members
  • Freedom from coerced uniformity in worship practices
  • Freedom of the churches to acknowledge Christ as the sole "King" of the church, rather than being bound by creed or clergy or civil government.

    The above beliefs are from the original Baptists. Folks died for these beliefs, with the first being Thomas Helwys. They (should) define those who call themselves Baptist today.

    Some observations: The word "freedom" is frequently used to describe their origination. As Baptists were born from the Separatists family in response to the state-controlled and uniform Anglican church, we as Baptists must question the installation of uniformity within our denominations. We must truly respect individuals' right to intrepret Scripture and respect local churches to handle their own affairs. Additionally, we must not elevate the office of pastor so high that these original beliefs are endangered.

    I'll expound more upon these points at a later time. I just got excited when I found the exact reasons I call myself a traditional Baptist instead of the Southern Baptist label I embraced up until recently.
  • Monday, July 11, 2005

    The biggest threat to family values

    Is it homosexuality? Is it low-divorce rate/gay marriage Massachusetts? Is it terrorism? Is it Hillary Clinton?

    No. It's lack of affordable housing... for the middle class.

    Note, not the lower class. The middle class. Some folks can make upwards of $60,000 a year or more and still feel poor.

    How's the American Dream supposed to be played out in an apartment? My wife and I cannot afford to buy a house in my hometown of Fredericksburg, VA... or for that matter, 20 miles away is too expensive. And we're not poor by any stretch.

    How do we allow families to make agonizing choices such as "Do we spend half our income on housing at the price of savings and vacation?... Or do we move an hour out of town and force working parents to spend more time away from family just to survive?"

    Homosexuality does not affect my family on a day-to-day basis. This issue does.

    10 bucks on which one has most Christians all worked up about...

    A Faith Statement

    Abortion sucks. I don't like it. Do I condemn those who lobby against it? Depends.

    Do I agree with murdering doctors in the name of God? No.

    Do I agree with elevating the issue along with homosexuality to make it seem like that's all Christians care about? No.

    Jesus didn't mention homosexuality or abortion, but I'll take a wild guess that they weren't unknown during that time.

    Jesus did mention poverty... a lot. He mentioned the down and out, the prostitutes, the hungry, the sick. He called fishermen and tax collectors to be His apostles. He commissioned Mary as the "first missionary" and told her to tell the apostles and others the Good News.

    Among the obvious reason why Sodom got torched is this rebuke to Jerusalem:

    47 You not only walked in their ways and copied their detestable practices, but in all your ways you soon became more depraved than they. 48 As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, your sister Sodom and her daughters never did what you and your daughters have done. 49 " 'Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen. [Ezekial 16:47-50... the whole passage deserves reading... heck, read the whole Bible! :)]


    Nathan, are you saying that we shouldn't focus on these issues, that we should just "tolerate" them? No. Are you saying I'm a bad Christian because I do? No. I am challenging you to open your eyes to the injustices carried out daily within our nation that have nothing to do with these two issues. How many children lack adequate health care because they can't afford it? How many parents work multiple jobs yet still can't get by?

    Nathan, are you suggesting that nothing's being done already to combat your "liberal concerns"? No.

    Yet, we must do more and do it within what Jesus calls us to do. We cannot just send money to Right-to-Life and then pat our backs saying that we've done our "Christian duty". Nor should we be attacking UCC churches because we may not agree with their theology.

    While we focus on these issues, we cannot ignore other problems that affect our society about which our Bible is very clear. For everyone, from the "inerrantist" fundamentalist to the "liberal" Christian, we cannot be selective about the Bible. Sure, we can disagree where there are grey areas (some will disagree about grey areas existing at all), but there is one question to ask:

    Homosexuality aside, from this verse, does America desire to be equated with Sodom? I've heard arrogant being thrown around, especially in regards to Iraq. My wife has been out of the country several times and as a group we've been charactized as overweight. As for unconcerned... we can no longer tolerate this amongst our Christian family.

    Saturday, July 09, 2005

    Soldiers before servants and critical mass

    Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs - he wants to please his commanding officer. 2 Timothy 2:3-4

    According to my NIV Bible's humble concordance, the above verse is one of only two verses in the entire Bible with the word "soldier". The other is 1 Corinthians 9:7.

    I looked this up after accidently tuning into the last 20 minutes of "The Coral Ridge Hour" on TBN. I watched the stern grandfather-like D. James Kennedy of the Coral Ridge Ministries finish a sermon. I noticed that within it he called Christians to be soldiers, but that thought went away until he hawked his book "Soldiers, Servants, & Sons" in a taped segment after he finished. Can anyone guess why that gut feeling in my heart (and stomach, but that could have been from the hamburger I ate at my church's picnic) was asking?

    Why is "soldier" before servant? When I die I want to hear "Well done good and faithful servant!" (Matthew 25:21), not "soldier". "Servant" seems more biblically important, as my concordance confirms and as Jesus lived and preached. He then said that America has strayed from its roots and that we must "rebuild our past". No wonder this guy is labeled as a Dominionist and Christian Reconstructionist.

    Dr. Richard Land

    Before I had time to chew on this, Kennedy launched into an introduction of Dr. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. He spoke for 10 minutes behind a pulpit that said "Reclaiming America for Christ", Dr. Kennedy's project.

    His arrogance wasn't far from the surface, as evidenced by how he began the talk by throwing out the fact that he did 678 interviews in 2004. There is a humble way to say this (but I can't think of exactly how) and there is an arrogant way... he picked arrogant. He began the crux of his sermon by stating that God needed to bless America and we as a country needed to bless Him. The camera cut to heads nodding.

    God-sized problems and land blessing

    "God doesn't negotiate or compromise... He has to do it God's way". I read this as "or as the way we interprete God's will" and as "how dare Congress compromise on issues important to us". Then he quoted 2 Chronicles 7:14 - "[I]f my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land". First and foremost, let it be known that personally I'm not a fan of just quoting one verse, as often the context is lost. One verse can be manipulated however one wants to understand and read it.

    Land used this verse as the theme for the sermon, focusing on the conditional "[I]f my people...turn from their wicked ways, then will I...heal their land" statement. He repeated that we must humble ourselves because only the God-sized problems of our country can be handled by God and His power alone. If we as Christians get right with God then He will bless our land.

    I think Dr. Land lied, for his actions and previous sayings seems like he thinks God needs to use the government to solve "God-sized problems". I definitely had a difficult time distinguishing how God must do it alone through people's hearts and how so many focus (especially him) on the government to further their version of God's will.

    Critical Mass (or "God's obsessed with numbers to!")

    Dr. Land then threw out a theory that I haven't heard before, but isn't surprising. He prefaced that he wishes all Americans would recognize and accept Jesus, but understands this won't happen. By that measure, he believes that once a certain percentage of Americans are right with God, "He will lean over from Heaven and pour blessings on believers" and non-believers alike. Later he referred to this belief as the "critical mass".

    One of the major criticisms I and many others have with the SBC is this fixation of numbers. How many baptisms? How many at VBS? How many in Sunday School? To them, success is directly proportional to numbers. That's how missionaries report back to the International Mission Board. How many churches did you start? Quantity over quality. Dr. Land again proves to be a faithful Southern Baptist. According to him, once a certain percentage of Americans accept Jesus, then and only then will God "lean over from Heaven" and heal our land.

    John Lennon and God meets a box

    "Imagine if God blessed America." He contends that then most children will grow up in intact homes devoid of domestic abuse and strife. "Abortion would be virtually unknown". The sanctity of life would be honored from conception up to death. "And Terri Schiavo wouldn't be murdered"... thunderous applause. The most I heard until he finished.

    Strangely enough, I didn't hear "and people won't go hungry, people would have adequate shelter, people won't continue to be sick because they don't have health insurance, people would be left alone regardless of life choices, gender, or skin color, people wouldn't be exploited by corporations and lose their pensions and rights, veterans wouldn't be unappreciated by the government and deal with an underfunded Veteran's Administration" among others.

    Box, meet God. God, meet box. I'm sure you'll get along here, God, while we work in Your name.

    The 1950s were the good ole days

    "Election results are consequences of change", not the cause of change. During the 2004 election "People from the Hudson to the border of California" rejected the 1960s (does Dr. Land reject civil rights?) and Kerry and voted for a "1950s kind of guy" who believes in "one wife and one church". Republicans didn't just win, but the pro-life and pro-family believers won. "Washingon will come along like a caboose" and then he makes a final appeal for personal change.

    Personally, this is what I believe our country needs... by and large we who call ourselves Christians need to re-focus on God and His will for us. We need to understand that not one person can ever understand all of God and what He has in store for our lives and our country. We then need to pray for our country's direction based on our personal understanding of His will (not the SBC's or anyone else's interpretation).

    Dr. Land's methods and focus dishonors the complete Majesty of God and hurts the reputation of all Christians who disagree with him by claiming to speak for them.

    It's Contradiction Time!

    However, the biggest contradiction I find with Dr. Land's sermon is that he says that changed personal hearts will turn the country around and Washington "will come along". Yet, he then works so hard to force DC to change. If the government is a "caboose" why is he trying to get the back of the train at the front?

    Furthermore, being a Christian means that we can disagree with Dr. Land's interpretation of the Bible and God's will. If God will change the government and society through individual's hearts, why write laws that force your interpetation of God's will on everyone? Am I the only one who sees the contradiction here? I disagree with him because I believe there is more God can do for this country besides ending abortion and domestic abuse. I don't agree with limiting God to advance your agenda. Claiming that God will speak for Himself and then putting words in His mouth to force your beliefs on all Christians and non-Christians alike doesn't play well in my book.

    Being a Christian doesn't mean speaking out of both sides of your mouth.

    Inevitable attack on judges while claiming to uphold democracy

    He claimed that this country is now ruled "by the judges" and "for the judges" who got rid of school prayer, 10 commandments, and determined "Under God" is unconstitutional. (I'll be posting an entry about my view of the Constitution's relationship with God later). He said that all of these decisions were made behind the "guise of Separation of Church and State" and was against our Founding Father's intention.

    Dr. Richard Land then closed and the program cut back to Dr. D. James Kennedy, who 100% agreed with him and then proclaimed that this is not the kind of America our founders intended.

    More shameless self-promotion in the name of God

    Kennedy then hawked his soon-to-be produced video and then begged for money because the cost of production is high. The video is titled "One Nation Under God" and seeks to prove that our nation's founders intended a "Christian Nation".

    Another segment trumpted the importance of the upcoming Supreme Court nomination... and next week's sermon focuses on the Founding Fathers and the Mayflower Compact. I may just have to tape this and regularly blog his program, if I have the stomach.

    El Fin

    Going back to the verse I quoted at the top, I included the second verse to apply a little more context. If we are indeed called to be a "good soldier of Christ Jesus" who is our "commanding officer", should we stay out of "civilian affairs"?

    Thursday, July 07, 2005

    A statement against coercion

    Via Ethics Daily, a quote from American Baptist Convention General-Secretary Roy Medley addressing their biennial meeting:

    Many of us became American Baptists because we saw in this family of faith a profound intertwining of biblical authority with the freedom to explore, examine, and even question. We can testify that coercion in matters of faith does not work, and that what American Baptists have in this twin emphasis is precious and life-giving. Baptist historian Bill Leonard has written that for Baptists, ‘the compelling ideal that informs identity theologically and pragmatically seems to be the belief that the people can be trusted to interpret Scripture aright, in the context of community and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.’ Other Baptists may have forgotten how precious this soul freedom is. American Baptists; don't you forget it.


    I was brought up to believe that a wide-range of beliefs could be found under the term "Baptist", but my Southern Baptist Convention did not agree.

    I was brought up so that I could interpret the Scriptures however the Holy Spirit led me under the traditional Baptist principles. The SBC prefers to hand down it's pre-approved interpretation and rejects those who dare to question.

    I was brought up to loathe the politics that can rip a church apart. The corruption of politics and dirty tricks used by the fundamentalists within the SBC to further their view sickened me.

    The coercion and intimidation of employees at the International Mission Board, Sunday School Board, seminaries, etc to accept the "correct" intrepetation of the Bible disgusts me.

    Some may call me a liberal, some may call me a moderate... I just call myself a traditionalist. I long for the days when the overriding issue was saving souls, building each other up, and applying Jesus's life and His love to our life.

    Is nothing sacred?

    Some politicians, especially on the right, are unabashedly quick to politicize human tragedies. Lately 9/11 has been treated in such a manner, much to the detriment of those who died and suffered the experience first-hand. Fox News' Brian Kilmeade and Stuart Varney also have no qualms about steering and spinning the tragedy away from what it is today... a tragedy.

    KILMEADE: And he [British Prime Minister Tony Blair] made the statement, clearly shaken, but clearly determined. This is his second address in the last hour. First to the people of London, and now at the G8 summit, where their topic Number 1 --believe it or not-- was global warming, the second was African aid. And that was the first time since 9-11 when they should know, and they do know now, that terrorism should be Number 1. But it's important for them all to be together. I think that works to our advantage, in the Western world's advantage, for people to experience something like this together, just 500 miles from where the attacks have happened.

    VARNEY: It puts the Number 1 issue right back on the front burner right at the point where all these world leaders are meeting. It takes global warming off the front burner. It takes African aid off the front burner. It sticks terrorism and the fight on the war on terror, right up front all over again.

    KILMEADE: Yeah.



    I agree terrorism needs to be a very high priority, but definitely not at the expense of African aid and addressing the environmental needs of our planet. To push this issue way to the top while ignoring the thousands, no millions, dying from AIDS and famine each year and claiming to fight for freedom in Iraq seems wholly contradictory. "We'll protect ourselves, we'll fight for a few people's freedom, but sorry, those issues are more important than you."

    I'm a bit slow...

    but I just wanted to say that my prayers are with the British as they deal with this tragedy.

    Wednesday, July 06, 2005

    "It's about God, not about us..."

    "...Even though we'll be celebrating our independence here, that's not true all over the world, and we need to be one with the universal church.''

    I grew up in a SBC church with a pastor that has now been there over 40 years. His presence has helped keep out the fundamentalist takeover from invading our close church family. In the past few years, I've noticed some changes, especially after the pastor's son joined the military. Every Memorial Day, Veteran's Day, and Independence Day the active-duty members march to the front with the flag and we say pledge of allegiance. Almost all of the hymns are patriotic and the special music revolves around the holiday's theme. (Even more telling, my family informed me this past Sunday someone sang the National Anthem accapella, and the general reaction was "Play Ball".)

    Something always unsettled me about the shift these past few years. I'm not sure where the balance needs to be. I recognize that if it were not for this country's First Amendment we may not even be allowed to publicly worship. I also believe that we need to thank God for our nation's founding and ask for His future guidance.

    I'm reminded of the missionary kids who grew up in Brazil and were shocked to find the American flag in US churches. The concept of including a national symbol inside God's house was foreign to them.

    Now that I attend a distinctly moderate church where my wife holds a staff position, I've experienced a toned-down service this past Sunday. Even with the relative difference between the two, I still am not sure where that line is.

    I do know that the church mentioned in this article is way over the line:

    First Baptist Church in Euless, Texas, prides itself on its fiercely patriotic approach to the Fourth of July.

    Last year, Marines rappelled into the sanctuary, church members in uniform stuck rifles and helmets into a Styrofoam grave site made by a Broadway set designer and indoor fireworks exploded over a packed house in back-to-back services.

    ''It's just a big patriotic, feel-good moment,'' said Robert Elkins, the church's music director.


    The line greys a bit with this example, yet I'm troubled with the funding mismatch:

    First Baptist in Euless, a member of the Southern Baptist Convention, spent more on its ''God and Country Day'' service last year than on Christmas or Easter. Located 20 miles from a military base and a Lockheed Martin plant in Fort Worth, the church uses Independence Day as a major outreach event, said Elkins.


    I happened to catch a little bit of Jerry Falwell's Old Time Gospel Hour patriotic show today, and wow... that was over the line. I'd never watched any of his stuff... after that, I wish I could continue making that statement.

    I do agree with Richard Pierard's sentiment that we're seeing more of these types of services because "it's become intensified because of the politicization of American Evangelism." He points to the 1950s where religion was first linked with patriotism in a response to "godless" communism. This is where you begin to see "Under God" added to the Pledge of Allegiance, "In God We Trust" added to coinage and whatnot. After the 1960s the groundwork for the "Conservative Resurgence" was laid (I contend it was a subvertive backlash against civil rights, especially with the Southern Baptist involvement, but I'll save that for another day) and under President Reagan's tutelage, fundamentalists established the groundwork for where we are today.

    So... all that and I still don't know how I feel about the inclusion of patriotism with worship. I know there's a line, but where exactly is it? Do we give regional exceptions to churches like the one mentioned above that sits near a military base? Do we really need Marines rappelling from the rafters? Are the priorities straight with the church that gives more funding to its God and Country Day than Easter and Christmas? I don't know.

    All I know is I can agree with the statement mentioned above... "It's about God, not about us."

    RESOLVED: We've missed the point

    From the 2005 SBC meeting:

    RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, June 21-22, 2005, call on the United States Senate to return to the constitutionally established principle and two-hundred-year-old practice of basing “advice and consent” decisions on a simple majority vote of the Senate; and be it further

    RESOLVED, That we call upon all future presidents to nominate strict constructionist judges who will interpret rather than make law; and be it further

    RESOLVED, That we call upon Southern Baptists and all members of the Body of Christ to provide their United States senators with verbal and written encouragement to stop the obstruction of judicial nominees; and be it finally

    RESOLVED, That we commend Tennessee Senator Bill Frist for courageously standing in the gap in his position as Senate majority leader, defending the appointment of fair and impartial judges to the federal bench and insisting upon their right to a vote of confirmation by the full Senate.

    As Ethics Daily points out as does this resolution, this stance is indistinguishable from that of the Republicans in Congress.

    I remember when the Disney resolution first came out about a decade ago. My father explained to me that the beauty of being Baptist was that an individual church didn't have to follow along one way or the other. He also pointed out that the downside to this was the media didn't always understand this nuance of the SBC and reported these items like they would a Catholic bishop making a decree for the whole church.

    Unfortunately, since then, I've seen and heard Richard Land, among others, using this misunderstanding and go on national media and pretty much speak for all Southern Baptists. Perhaps since then there's just more like-minded people installed in seminaries influencing new pastors and in-turn influencing more congregations with their religious and political beliefs. For those left in the SBC who don't agree with this statement, yet is reported by media that "this is what Southern Baptists believe", how do they grapple with that and still feel welcome?

    Furthermore, what place does this resolution have next to Jesus' commandments and His Great Commission?

    I expect a similar statement out of civic groups and other types of organizations, not from a group that represents churches. I know the SBC isn't the first and won't be the last church to say something like this, but I'm still appalled that a church would ignore Jesus' life and get involved with politics in such an overt manner. Not content to force their own interpretation of the Bible on the rest of us, we must endure their intrepretation of the Constitution and its use in national politics. Leave the politics to individual members organizing within their own preferred political party or organization and leave the church to fulfilling God's mission and will, I say.

    Jesus spent everyday of His ministry either reaching out to the down-and-out, teaching large groups about God and Scripture and who He was, and struggling against the politicians of that time. He fundamentally changed the world using this method... what happened to our faith that we abandoned His example for the ultimate corruption of politics?

    Tuesday, July 05, 2005

    I'm a contagious geek...

    My sister now has a blog: Inspired thoughts @ liberalchristianity.blogspot.com.

    The store was busy after the holiday and we were without internet (there's a very special warm place for Comcast after the Day of Reckoning), so I feel like I've missed a day. I would like to introduce another new blog I've added to the oh-so-fabled right column: The Emmaus Theory by Dr. Mike Kear. I look forward to going back and reading earlier posts and following his updates.

    Dr. Kear followed up on my post on Rushdoony and other Christian theocrats with more Pharisee Sayings. Scary stuff.

    If you really want the desire to stick your head in the sand, read some quotes Dr. Bruce Prescott found over at Mainstream Baptist:

    Charlie Meadows, a former talk radio host in Norman and current president of the influential Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee, boasted of being a theocrat saying,
    "I very much support a theocracy, but not an ecclesiastical theocracy," he said. I don't want all Baptists or all Assembly of God. What I would like are men and women of high moral character and integrity seeking to govern according to the principles of God."

    He added, "I don't think the founding fathers meant freedom of religion outside Christianity."

    Bill Graves, a former State Representative who recently had to relinquish his office due to term limits, said: "One thing I got from reading Rushdoony and Russell Kirk is that the state is a religious establishment."


    I'm still baffled by someone coming here and saying that Dominionism is a bunch of baloney.

    Monday, July 04, 2005

    Happy Independence Day

    First and foremost, the Declaration of Independence.

    When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.


    Let's read some quotes from Rev. Rousas J. Rushdoony, founder of Christian Reconstructionism:

    Supernatural Christianity and democracy are inevitably enemies. Democracy is the great love of the failures and cowards of life...


    His son-in-law:

    We must use the doctrine of religious liberty ... until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.


    More Rushdoony:

    In the name of toleration, the believer is asked to associate on a common level of total acceptance with the atheist, the pervert, the criminal, and the adherents of other religions.


    Rushdoony is now deceased, but his themes can be found throughout the proclamations and actions of many. Read this excellent 5-part series about some hardline fundamenatlists' dream of a Christian Nation.

    Will his extreme views come to fruition? Probably not, but his far-right views frame the debate and make the Falwells, Robertsons, and Kennedys "moderates" and more palatable.

    Sunday, July 03, 2005

    Fundie Watch: Ralph Reed

    Thanks to Mainstream Baptist, here's a great article titled "How the Mighty Have Fallen" about former Christian Coalition leader and current Georgia Lt. Governor hopeful Ralph Reed.

    For those of you who question the existence of a fundamentalist Christian takeover of our government, consider some quotes by Reed about how he accomplishes his political will:

    “I want to be invisible. I do guerrilla warfare. I paint my face and travel at night. You don't know it's over until you're in a body bag. You don't know until election night.”

    - He helped deliver South Carolina to George Bush instead of John McCain.

    - He served as Chairman of the Georgia GOP while Vietnam hero Senator Max Cleland was slandered as being in bed with Bin Laden and Hussein.

    - He's being asked to drop out of the Lt. Governor race "in order to avoid a grievous, majority-wrecking split in the [state’s] Republican Party".

    - Embattled Jack Abramoff secretly hired Reed to encourage moral indignation at the casino operated by the "dirt-poor Tigua tribe" in El Paso. Why? It competed with Abramoff's casinos in Louisiana and Mississippi.

    “As the Tigua campaign unfolded, Abramoff and Reed exchanged e-mails that paint an unvarnished picture of their work together."

    “‘I wish those moronic Tiguas were smarter in their political contributions,’ Abramoff wrote to Reed in a 2002 message that since has been widely circulated.”I'd love us to get our mitts on that moolah!! Oh well, stupid folks get wiped out."

    "’Got it,’ Reed replied."

    - He also took a pleasure trip with Abramoff to Scotland... yet Reed denied any knowledge that Abramoff wanted to reopen that casino after its closure.

    - He's received $4 million from Abramoff... yet didn't question where it came from. (For those who are slow like me... he acted on his moral beliefs to whip Texans against the casino to help line Abramoff's pockets... and then Abramoff turned around and gave him an enormous sum which undoubtedly came from gambling profits.)

    - He may have taken in as much as $300,000 in consulting fees from Enron before it's collapse. Karl Rove recommended him for the job.

    - Microsoft gave him a $20,000 monthly retainer... up until the company's refusal to support a gay-rights bill backfired.

    - For those who guffaw at the words "vast right-wing conspiracy", here's this nugget:

    According to the Seattle Weekly:

    Reed is “now caught up in the influence-peddling scandal in D.C., which includes accusations he worked in concert with two other top Republicans also once engaged by Microsoft. One of them, Jack Abramoff, lobbied for Microsoft in the late 1990s while a member of the Seattle law and lobbying firm Preston Gates Ellis -- the firm of Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates' father, William H. Gates II. Abramoff is under investigation for possibly bilking millions of dollars from former Indian tribal clients and improperly using his friendship with House Speaker Tom DeLay, who is facing ethics charges and is the subject of federal investigations. Abramoff's questioned activities include a suspected money-laundering scheme that involves both Reed and fellow Microsoft adviser and lobbying superstar Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform.

    Reed, Abramoff and Norquist “go way back,” the Seattle alternative newspaper reported.

    They met during the 1980s as leaders of the College Republicans. Norquist was Abramoff's campaign manager in a successful election as chair of the national campus organization. Later, Reed led the group. Abramoff, a self-described ultraconservative Orthodox Jew, and Norquist began ascending with the 1994 Republican revolution in Congress. They launched what was called the K Street Project to persuade lobbying firms to increase their Republican connections; Abramoff lived across the street from a Preston Gates partner, who quickly hired him. Norquist, a close ally of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, that year helped draw up the GOP's (ultimately voided) "Contract With America." Reed, meanwhile, became a Bush campaign official and private consultant after leaving the Christian Coalition in 1996...

    Norquist also worked with Abramoff to lobby for the sweatshop industry in the Northern Marianas, a Preston Gates Ellis client, according to a report in The New York Times last week. That work is a target of several investigations. Senate investigators also want to know about the roles of Reed and Norquist in an alleged 1999--2001 scheme by Abramoff to funnel Indian casino gambling money through Norquist's organization to pay for an anti-gambling campaign run by Reed in Alabama. According to Senate testimony and reports in The Boston Globe and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Norquist confirms he passed the money to Reed. Reed, who says gambling is a sin, thought the money came from tribal industries, he says, not casino operations. Reed and Abramoff have turned over some records to Senate probers while Norquist's documents had to be subpoenaed.

    I always had this question about the former head of the Christian Coalition... why run for political office, especially the Lt. Governor of Georgia?

    Reed was no doubt looking ahead to future electoral challenges when he decided to run for the lieutenant governor’s position. Marshall Wittmann, who worked with Reed at the Christian Coalition but now works for the Democratic Leadership Council, told the Associated Press that he thinks Reed wants to be president.

    "He knew he couldn't go from the Christian Coalition, so he became a political consultant, then Georgia GOP chairman, then coordinator for the Bush campaign. The next logical step is to win a political office. This is what's available, but it's clearly a stepping stone to higher office," Wittmann said.

    I'd be intrigued to see how his supporters defend him, especially after this article. Until then, Ralph Reed is charged with a Moral Contradiction.