Moral Contradictions

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Baptist Heritage

Tonight I finally took advantage of one of the perks offered to me through my wife being a student at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond (BTSR). I'm auditing Dr. Cecil Sherman's Baptist Heritage class which meets once a week for two hours.

This is the first class I've started in two years since my senior year of college. I'm a bit rusty, but excited at the prospect of learning who we Baptists are and where we originate from someone who made a bit of history himself. Just studying some of the ideas resulting from the Reformation tonight made me scratch my head at some of the teachings today by those who call themselves Baptist.

At the very least I'll post an entry shortly after class as reflection of my thoughts. As more classes go by and I chew on the material longer, the more of what I learned and what I've been challenged with will make its way here.

The point that stuck out the most tonight is something that the Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners stresses: why spend so much time on items such as Armageddon (mentioned once in the Bible) or the Virgin Birth (mentioned 2-3 times) at the expense of focusing on forgiveness, love, or grace, all of which are mentioned countless times? Sure many folks are passionate about the former issues, but shouldn't we respect the Bible enough to not ignore repeated calls for the latter?

Meandering back into the academic world tonight reminded me of the age-old truism: If the professors repeats something, write it down - if he mentions it three or more times, highlight it. Doesn't it make sense to give more attention to commands in the Bible mentioned more than just a handful of times?

Monday, January 30, 2006

Yet another question...

...that I'd love to have an answer to.

Am I wrong, or does it seem it's the same people who scream at illegal workers from Mexico for taking "our" jobs who in the same breath silently (and in some cases vocally) approve of outsourcing jobs to the Far East?

I'm sure that can't be a blanket assertion at all, but I'm interested to know what the crossover rate is. When electronics are dirt cheap and Wal-Mart is Mecca for so many (I admit it, our grocery bill is quite nice because my wife loves Wal-Mart) because of the cheap prices, that seems to be labelled as "smart business" and "the market at work", even though thousands of Americans lost their jobs to make that possible. But when companies hire immigrants to lower business costs, they're now job-stealers?

I probably haven't explained myself very well, as I just flipped by CNN's Lou Dobbs report where I saw the question "New Orleans closed to US workers?" as the title of a report about contractors having to compete against businesses that provide cheap labor via hiring immigrants.

The answer probably lies in the realm of direct affection: in other words, I don't care about this issue unless I lost my job because Dell moved its call center or I can't get bids because that company hires immigrants who are willing to work for less.

So many of our country's issues have similar root causes - too many times folks engage in different scenarios that result from these problems. In our country and in our church, often times we find ourselves talking past one another, only to learn after honest discourse that we have more in common than originally assumed.

Those that let politics corrupt their faith and principles for the sake of a power grab are the ones who miss the point and ruin it for all of us.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

One, two, three - sigh.

Found an article entitled: Democrats and Republicans Both Adept at Ignoring Facts, Study Finds
over at LiveScience. Although this probably isn't news to anyone besides those live in a Peter Griffin-esque lifestyle, it's worth examining.

"We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning," said Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory University. "What we saw instead was a network of emotion circuits lighting up, including circuits hypothesized to be involved in regulating emotion, and circuits known to be involved in resolving conflicts."

The test subjects on both sides of the political aisle reached totally biased conclusions by ignoring information that could not rationally be discounted, Westen and his colleagues say.

Then, with their minds made up, brain activity ceased in the areas that deal with negative emotions such as disgust. But activity spiked in the circuits involved in reward, a response similar to what addicts experience when they get a fix, Westen explained.

The study points to a total lack of reason in political decision-making.

"None of the circuits involved in conscious reasoning were particularly engaged," Westen said. "Essentially, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it, with the elimination of negative emotional states and activation of positive ones."

At least there's an explanation for this disease. I absolutely chafe when I come into contact with a partisan, and I will not vote for someone of either party who actively ignore rational counter-arguments. This is also why many partisans despise the so-called wishy-washness of moderates as they view us as not having any principles to stand upon.

Partisans stand for principles which they have convinced themselves of being true. Moderates stand for principles based on pragmatism - the knowledge that there are more than two sides of an issue, and compromise is generally in the best interests of most than all-out total victory by D's and R's.

To broaden the scope, I also resist debating folks who believe they are sent by God to convince me with their superior (and God-given) intellect that I'm wrong and they are right. I hold certain beliefs and certain opinions - some I hold to steadfastly, others I'm willing to reconsider. Yet, no matter where I stand on an issue, I do my best to respect another's opinion. I will not consider changing my mind if the other is not willing to do the same.

Our country, our Church, and our lives would be much healthier if folks laid everything out on the table and debated in an honest and respectful way. Just ask a certain President George Washington about his feelings on political parties, or a certain Savior about the unity of the Body of Christ. It's those few who possess enough ego and arrogance to ruin constructive discourse for everyone.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Who's next?

Via The Emmaus Theory is an article summarizing the latest Southern Baptist Convention's controversy here, titled "Southern Baptists now fighting each other". I find that partially funny because of the use of "now". Southern Baptists wouldn't be Southern Baptists if they didn't fight.

Wade Burleson, the subject of the SBC's latest ire, states:

"The Southern Baptist leadership is so ideologically driven that it's almost impossible for them not to continually draw lines and narrow the boundaries," he said. "In the early stages, this was publicly evident with the moderates and liberals. Now, when the convention meets annually in June, you wonder who they're going to throw out this year. There's always somebody."

That's one of the problems I have with the whole "conservative resurgence", or more properly the "fundamentalist takeover": the ends justified the means. The means were overtly political, vicious, un-Christlike, and rooted from the desire of power. Once you open that can of worms, where do you stop? When you disrespect the Baptist tradition of local church autonomy in favor of stricter uniformity, when do you declare everyone uniform? That "can" is open and widely accepted with the convention for use - what's to stop it from being used again?

It looks like the monster is eating its own.

//Look, I don't rejoice in this at all - we as Christians all suffer when we turn on each other.

As part of my wife's duties at church, she reads Scripture each service. Today's Scripture was from James 3. I was charged with running sound for both services, so I read the entire book during the second service's sermon (hey, I had already heard it!). That's a "cut the crap get to the point" book if I've ever seen one. Some parts that really stuck out to me were:

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger doesn not bring about the righteous life that God desires. (James 1:19-20). Wow, I struggle with that.

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. (James 3:1) Yeah, this is one of the many verses that changed my approach to this blog.

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. (James 4:1-2).

The entire book is incredible, and I admit I had not read it in a long while because so often I flip past it - because it's only 3 pages or so in my Bible.

In the near past a church I am familiar with went through a rough patch. Feelings were hurt, a handful left - the problem was brewing for awhile and needed to be dealt with, but it came to an abrupt and surprising conclusion that caused even more pain. Most times these things happen, the affected church rises out for the better.

However, it was said "We're all diminished because of it". I agree - the more we fight in the church, the less influence we have on those who are still on the outside. For that matter, we have less energy, less enthusiasm, and our witness is diminished. Who wants to become a part of that kind of church? Who sees the back-stabbing, power plays, and viciousness that has happened and is happening in the SBC and says "I want to belong with them"? I just have a hard time believing God would say "this is my church, with which I am pleased", and we all need to strive to achieve that heavenly pat on the head.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Did I watch this on South Park?

Okay, I'm a dork - I was lying in bed, about to turn out the light, when I opened my cell phone to check my email. I then went to CNN to catch up on the latest headlines in a desperate attempt to avoid sleep for a few more minutes. The following caught my eye and forced me out of bed...

The title of the article is "Death row elder needed 2 injections". That piqued my interest because I still haven't completely hashed out my feelings about the state taking people's lives. Seventy-six year old Clarence Ray Allen was finally executed Tuesday after years and years on death row - 23 to be exact. Even though he required to be helped out of his wheelchair onto the gurney, a second potassium shot was needed to stop his heart. However, this quote blew me away:

Having suffered a heart attack back in September, Allen had asked prison authorities to let him die if he went into cardiac arrest before his execution, a request prison officials said they would not honor.

"At no point are we not going to value the sanctity of life," said prison spokesman Vernell Crittendon. "We would resuscitate him," then execute him.

Whoa. I still cannot wrap my round around that quote. To my logic, which is fair game for criticism, that concludes that executing him - rather than letting him die - naturally respects the sanctity of life. Read the quote out loud. Again. The more I read it, the more confused I become.

So... what's the point of execution? Is it justice, as so many death penalty proponents claim, or is it simply state-sponsored revenge? If it was purely justice, death comes no matter what. If he dies from a heart attack, he's gone, he's off the street, he can't order any more hits from his jail cell. Gone. Poof. Accounting to God. Dead. Using extensive human and monetary resources to bring someone back to life only to kill them a short while later makes. no. sense. The pro-death penalty crowd lost some points with me in this case.

Think back 50 or 100 years ago - in both the Schiavo case and this case, Ms. Schiavo would have died after her condition, and had Mr. Ray gone into cardiac arrest at any point before Tuesday he would've died, yet according to today's society, these scenarios wouldn't respect the sanctity of life? In the stereotypical world, isn't it those elitist Volvo-loving liberals the ones that want to implement a cradle to the grave socialist system? Or with today's hot button social issues always being brought up for personal political gain, do today's conservatives only concern themselves with just the cradle and the grave?

I am finding it harder and harder to cleave to any one particular side on many of these issues because I keep finding inherent inconsistencies with both sides. I have friends that read me as a Republican and others that swear I'm a Democrat. Whether you believe me or not, my voting record has been all over the spectrum. Sometimes I feel like my only choices are Giant Douche and Turd Sandwich (bonus points if you laughed at that). All I know is I'm going to go get my will straightened out very, very soon, because when I die, I don't want it to be by the state's terms.

Back to bed - if I can sleep.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Righteously cast out?

Tickets are going fast for the spectacle of watching Ralph Reed's star fall. The former leader of the Christian Coalition and executive director of the College Republicans finds himself the center of a Washington Post article detailing his rise toward running for lt. governor of Georgia and how the Jack Abramoff inquiry couldn't come at worse time.

This quote sums up his problems in the eyes of Georgia voters:

"Ralph Reed? He's a politician," said David Loudenflager, a Republican who retired after working 32 years for the Arrow Shirt Company. "He was involved with Jack Abramoff and the Indians and all those."

Loudenflager does not like the Democratic Party -- "they give away everything" -- but he puts no stock in the Christian Coalition: "All these people running around telling you how good they are, and how right they are. You better be careful and hold on to your wallet."

According to the article, though, any democrat would be beat him by at 3 points - in a red state. Primary is July 18 - it's going to be a long six months for him.

Update: Via Jesus Politics, an article in the World Magazine titled "House of Cards" details how Abramoff used his evangelical connections for personal gain. Whether or not Ralph Reed and others were aware of what was going on or not, this whole scandal is emblematic of the acute problems and conflicts of interest when religion and politics are so intermixed.

What have I said throughout the life of this blog? Politics corrupts - and those who fancy themselves as our Christian leaders do not understand when you mix the authority of God with the underworld of politics, you are playing with fire.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Just tired...

Via Mainstream Baptist through Streak's Blog, which I need to start reading by the way, comes some great quotes:

Very few things make me respect the conservative church more than things like Justice Sunday III. I am just tired of them. Tired of the constant lament that Christianity is under attack when it isn't.


Tired of people who can organize a public outing to support Alito but can't seem to speak out on torture, poverty, Tom Delay, or Pat Robertson.

Yup, count me as one who is tired of the fluff, the excuses, the power struggles, the transparencies, the hypocrisy, the arrogance, and lack of focus on what Christianity really means. I'm tired of feeling like my faith is attacked - by other Christians.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Pat Robertson's base...

...Yeah, I figure I'll waste my breath coming out and condemning every controversial quote from Pat Robertson's mouth, because he doesn't care. Why? He actually has the guts to say what, unfortunately, a lot of people believe.

Suffice to say I have a real and distinct problem looking at natural disasters or occurences and proclaiming it's God's punishment. What about tornadoes that strike the plains, and earthquakes that happen all over the world? What about folks who have strokes and heart attacks every day? I'm curious how one divines what is purely natural and what comes from God's angry fist. How does one go about getting that power? Maybe I have to start my own television station before I achieve Robertson's level of knowledge.

God help us.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Ralph Reed and Jack Abramoff...

I just want to remind y'all of the Ralph Reed and Jack Abramoff connections of which I blogged about just over six months ago...

Guys, we must question those who call themselves our Christian leaders. We have to hold them accountable, just as each of us need to be accountable. Personally from my experience, I'm afraid the combination of apathy and lack of accountability are eating our churches alive. We have to be wary about the wolves in sheep's clothing.


Um... yeah... not sure exactly what to say other than I pray this isn't true. We live in a rush to judgement society, and I believe the SBC is often the leader of that pack, but I want to wait until more details come out before I comment on this: Rev. Lonnie Latham, pastor of the South Tulsa Baptist Church and member of the SBC executive committee arrested for soliciting a male officer for oral sex. (CNN - KOTV)

Whether these allegations are true or not, (I really hope not) it's rather amazing to watch the most rabid anti-homosexual folks turning out to actually be in the closet. Fred Phelps comes to mind.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Uh... what?

Via Raw Story: Plans for Holy Land theme park on Galilee shore where Jesus fed the 5,000.

Guess who's leading this? Yes, that man of God just a couple hours down the road from who understands reverence, the sanctity of faith, and honestly and openly shares God's love with all of his children: Pat Robertson.

Mickey Mouse has several theme parks, why not Christ?

Why do so many Christians strive to attack and trivialize my faith?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Bob Marshall Watch...

Thanks to Bacon's Rebellion for pointing this out - Virginia Delegate Bob Marshall (R-Manassas) entered a bill into the General Assembly that prohibits single women from being artificially inseminated in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Prohibition on the provision of certain intervening medical technology to unmarried women. No individual licensed by a health regulatory board shall assist with or perform any intervening medical technology, whether in vivo or in vitro, for or on an unmarried woman that completely or partially replaces sexual intercourse as the means of conception, including, but not limited to, artificial insemination by donor, cryopreservation of gametes and embryos, invitro fertilization, embryo transfer, gamete intrafallopian tube transfer, and low tubal ovum transfer. (HB 187, LIS)

While I'm not sure exactly where I stand on the issue, I am of the belief that these kinds of bills and laws are frivilous, as there are more important issues with which the GA needs to handle. Additionally, no matter which side one stands on the moral fence on this issue, where in the Constitution does it say "the government can interfere with the definition of family"?

I've heard "what role does the state have in marriage?" out of the same mouths that say "we need to define and protect families" and "red light cameras invade our privacy". Folks, I know it seems like you're consistent, but you need to wake up and take an honest look at your beliefs.

These types of laws are inherently discriminatory as they target a select few people so the rest of us can sleep easier. "Whew - I feel better now knowing that no unmarried woman's going to get pregnant. Night John Boy". As the poster on the Rebellion's blog noted, as typical of these types of laws, they could have unintended consequences: What if a soldier leaves his sperm, gets killed, and his widow wants to get pregnant?

My point is that these laws, while I may either appreciate their spirit, are often mean-spirited, ill-conceived, poorly-written, and once enacted are used in a wider capacity than intended. I'm not going to lose sleep over this as rarely these types of bills are passed. Plus, former Del. Dick Black, Marshall's cohort, is just that: former.

Another bill from Del. Marshall which I don't quite understand is this:

HB 197: Marriage licenses. Requires the parties contemplating marriage to choose one of two types of marriage license: a license with grounds for divorce or a license without grounds for divorce. A license with grounds for divorce requires the parties to prove either adultery, a felony conviction, or cruelty to be granted a divorce. A license without grounds for divorce allows the parties to get a divorce based on any grounds including living separate and apart for the requisite time currently allowed under the law.