Moral Contradictions

Friday, April 28, 2006

An unintended harvest

I've been following the Wade Burleson/International Mission Board of the Southen Baptist Convention with a curious interest. I shake my head at what's happening as the SBC continues to eat their own. Folks who cheered the persecution of moderates in the last 25 years are now having second thoughts as they realize the monster can turn on them.

First and foremost, I would recommend reading Mr. Burleson's post. I don't totally agree with everything, but I'm intrigued by his present struggle.

One of the comments by 'anonymous' struck me. Irregardless of where one falls on the ideological/theological spectrum, for at least myself I was troubled how the means justified the ends during the conservative takeover of the SBC. They were mean means. So many un-Christian acts were taken against good people, for what? To purify the SBC and make it more Christian. Contradiction? Heck yeah. Of the moral kind? You bet.

I've had folks come here and try to justify the actions taken by the leaders of the SBC during those heady days, but there could have been a more Christian way to acheive the fundamentalists' intentions.

You reap what you sow, and currently the SBC is harvesting bitter irony, as seen with the above-mentioned comment:

Wade,

Please hear me when I say I think you are seeking the Kingdom in a gracious manner. As a lifelong SB and an IMB M, I desire to see us get past these issues that are such a distraction and rob emotional energy from the MAIN TASK of our force worldwide.

However, consider the implications of what you are saying. If this sort of political manuevering that alienates Kingdom workers is not appropriate today, was it appropriate during the "conservative takeover/resurgence"?

If it was, then you are implying the end justified the means. So by the same ethical standard, those currently in power cannot be blamed for trying to maintain what they perceive as a righteous cause. Expect to reap what was sowed.

If the methodologies employed to take and maintain control were not appropriate from the late 70s to the the present, then a whole lot of repenting needs to take place and apologies made to a lot of faithful missionaries, pastors, denominational workers, etc. and their affected families. Then a new foundation needs to be laid, if that is possible.

I just don't see how we can approve of the ways things were done (or if not approve, accept as necessary) and then expect everyone to suddenly change their posture because all the "important" issues have been "fixed." It won't happen because somebody will always have another "important" issue that needs "fixing." And if the appropriate way to "fix" it in the past was by "takeover" or "control" then that will still be their modus operandi.

At the SBC seminary I attended, some of what was taught about the Bible concerned me as not portraying the Bible as fully God-inspired and trustworthy. Yet I believe it is worldy, and not Godly, wisdom that would suggest a "takeover" mentality to fix things. No one is redeemed when there is a crusade against them. Instead, redemption can occur when individuals are encouraged and influenced one by one.

Yes, it takes a lot longer to turn a ship around by dealing with crew members one by one than making all "walk the plank" and then getting a new crew. But in God's economy of people and His purposes, I believe there will be more passengers safely transported to the destined shore.

My prayers are with you, our IMB leadership and the BoT.

IMB M


The more things change the more they stay the same.

Yet another great question...

To add to my collection of thought-provoking questions (which currently exists in singular form at present with: Who has the right to determine our theology?) comes a question from Jim Evans in a great article titled "Believing or Not Believing the Bible": (h/t to Dr. Mike Kear at The Emmaus Theory)

Does the Bible only have authority for us when it is saying what we want it to say?

The reality is that the so-called "struggles for the Bible" are actually struggles for intrepretation of the Bible - do we read it reverently and objectively and try to honestly live out what it says, or do we approach it with a cavalier attitude and cultural agenda and cherry-pick parts that we like?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Duplicity and hypocrisy at its finest

We all know the definition of hypocrisy. At best what happened today was dishonest - at worst, pure hypocrisy.

With this whole gas prices mess, it's fascinating to watch our elected officials panic. Since gas prices affect us all, more attention is brought to their practices. Other issues that affect us and that I blog about don't always garner the same media coverage, thus watching politicians scurry around is quite revealing.

Watching them, I'm getting the sense that they're not looking for real answers - instead, they're trying to discover the best way to placate their constituents with symbolic overtures that seem sacrificial, yet cannot be construed as real answers to real problems.

I don't know much about the Senator from Oregon, Ron Wyden, but I have to admire the passion he exhibited during his filibuster on the Senate floor.

If only all issues were addressed with that type of passion rather than enough interest to ensure re-election, maybe we can stop making that joke that the opposite of "pro"gress is "Con"gress.

What a pipe-dream I live in.

McCarthy good? Lincoln and King bad?

The more and more I study the beliefs of Christians who can be labeled the "Religious Right", the more convinced I become that cultural conservatism, rather than the Bible, is their motivation.

Don Wilkey over at Ethics Daily lists quite a few instances in Christian education where prejudices, racism, and chauvinism are being taught to children. Among a few beliefs expressed by leaders and publishers:

- taking offense of a picture of a woman carrying a briefcase - that promotes anti-family values.

- Martin Luther King was a fraud.

- "the 'most marked development in modern Texas' is 'the growth of church schools.'"

- 1954 Brown v. Board was falsely decided.

- Senator McCarthy was a good American vindicated by secret Soviet documents.

- Jimmy Carter "claimed to be a believer".

- there's no middle ground between choosing to believe evolution and God.

- women must "be fruitful and multiply as often as possible".

- Lincoln was a tariff traitor who hated blacks.

- The real glory days of America existed in the Antebellum South.


Folks, there's a reason why the Constitution doesn't mention God. Sectarian struggle was fresh in the minds of our Founding Fathers. They watched states and kingdoms torn asunder by religious wars. The quickest way to rally people to your cause is to enlist God on your side. Not to speak for them, but I can imagine that our original leaders didn't want the lives lost and the hard work they put into founding our nation to be turn into a dividing tool.

State-based religious coercion is anti-American. Baptists were on the losing end of that stick in colonial times as they were jailed and killed for their radical beliefs. All they wanted to do was worship God in their own manner, yet the state didn't agree. We must make sure history doesn't repeat itself and we start persecuting those that don't agree with us in a similar manner.

We must also recognize the true forces behind these calls for Christians to pull their children out of public schools. It's not that they're being taught information deemed "too liberal"... it's that it doesn't include enough racisim or prejudice. They're being taught true history, to respect our country's values, and to respect others, whether they agree with you or not. Sure there could be some changes and I'm sure there are excesses, but by and large, these are the folks that aren't anywhere close to the mainstream of Americans, not to mention Christians.

An interesting story that Dr. Cecil Sherman tells is when he asked the late Adrian Rogers if he believes the Bible is inerrant, what does he believe on slavery?

"Slavery is a much-aligned institution - if we had slavery we wouldn't have this welfare mess."

Culture conservatives who use God as justification, or Christians? You decide.

Health insurance crisis

This is a moral issue that needs addressing (MSNBC via Mainstream Baptist):

“The jump in uninsured among those with modest incomes is alarming, particularly at a time when our economy has been improving,” said Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis, who helped write the study.

“If we don’t act soon to expand coverage to the uninsured, the health of the U.S. population, the productivity of our workforce, and our economy are at risk.”

...

“For an uninsured person who is unlucky enough to get sick, it is easy to see how quickly they can fall into a downward spiral of debt, forgone care, and poorer health,” Collins said in a statement.


The entire country suffers because of this fact. The economy suffers, as well as individuals. What more is needed to convince people that we need to address the problem? Props to Massachusetts for doing something, but that's only one state.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Illusion versus reality

When I say "Wake up America", I have a reason:

America may still think of itself as the land of opportunity, but the chances of living a rags-to-riches life are a lot lower than elsewhere in the world, according to a new study published on Wednesday.

The likelihood that a child born into a poor family will make it into the top five percent is just one percent...

....

He also found the United States had one of the lowest levels of inter-generational mobility in the wealthy world, on a par with Britain but way behind most of Europe.

....

Recent studies have highlighted growing income inequality in the United States, but Americans remain highly optimistic about the odds for economic improvement in their own lifetime.

A survey for the New York Times last year found that 80 percent of those polled believed that it was possible to start out poor, work hard and become rich, compared with less than 60 percent back in 1983.

This contradiction, implying that while people think they are going to make it, the reality is very different, has been seized by critics of President Bush to pound the White House over tax cuts they say favor the rich.


The last 25 years has seen the introduction and implementation of Reaganomics. The American people have been sold the idea that they will benefit by tax breaks and incentives to corporations through the money trickling down to them.

That theory seems sound - as a pseudo-businessman, I appreciate that logic. However, the reality is that CEO pay has accelerated from a 10:1 ratio versus workers in 1980 to 430:1 now. I don't know how you cannot say that the rich are getting a lot richer, and the lower classes are getting the left-overs. That money was supposed to trickle down - not stay at the top. How much more time has to go by before folks stop writing this off as a mere coincidence?

Enron, WorldCom, and Global Crossing woke some Americans up 5 years ago, but corporate greed and negligence has since taken a back seat to war. Lately it seems that Lee Raymond's $0.4 billion dollar retirement package timed with high gas prices is causing a re-awakening. However, I'm pessimistic, given the above article, that this outrage will morph into a force that will tackle the larger issue.

I don't want wealth redistribution - I want good stewardship. I want modesty to replace greed. I want the systematic weakening of the middle class to end as well as the accompanying propaganda created for distraction purposes. I want corporations to stop opening post office boxes in the Bahamas to avoid domestic taxes. I want trickle-down economics to actually trickle-down. Does that make me a liberal?

I want folks to view this as the moral issue that it is. I want someone to take a stand and denounce these practices as un-American and more importantly as un-Christian. I want folks to realize their reality and stop making excuses or defending unethical and immoral behavior.

As long as the likes of Falwell, Robertson, Dobson, and the SBC dominate the moral issues on the airwaves, Americans will continue to vote their fears and not their pocketbooks.

We need a William Jennings Bryan, circa 1896.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Some deep questions exist...

...that are of a moral nature and cannot simply be excused by market economics.

Twice a week I make a 76 mile one-way commute from my home in Mechanicsville, Virginia, to Quantico. I'm on the road for an hour and 15 minutes as I live close to the interstate. I work another 2 days, at least the equivalent, at home. I'm very blessed to have this type of job (and blessed to have a wife that gave me XM radio for Christmas).

However, a 77 mile commute from Luray, Virginia, in the middle of the Shenandoah Valley, to George Mason University in Fairax is insane. 90 minutes one way on a good day. 3 hours on a bad day. Every day. To make half the wage required to live in the vicinity. At least the school is trying to help as much as it can.

No, I don't know the answers as to how to rectify these types of situations. However, I view the health of these types of workers as a family values issue. I view the time spent away from family as a moral issue. I think this type of issue effects families in a way that the controversial topics the Religious Right hammer at never will.

Somehow, someway, moral discourse in this country must acknowledge and grapple with these daily and not-ideal situations.

Will it be easy? No.
Can this problem be rectified? I'm not sure.
Can we at least try and do better? You bet.

We can't operate this country in a business as usual manner. We must recognize that this is a problem and discuss why this situation exists and make smart decisions to at least prevent it from worsening and at best providing pragmatic solutions.

Monday, April 24, 2006

So what's more important?


Banning homosexuality so we can sleep better at night, or helping ease tension in families by stopping ridiculous trends explained in the following article:

"Twenty-six years ago, CEOs received an average of $10 for every $1 earned by a U.S. worker".... now "CEOs at larger U.S. corporations on average earn $430 for every $1 earned by the average U.S. worker."

I understand that CEO's have enormous responsibility and I do believe they should be compensated justly, but what's just about the retirement package of Exxon's Lee Raymond, especially in light of the current situation?

Don't you think Jesus would have something to say about this? Oh yeah, he did.

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. (Mark 10:25)


Remember a time when the wife worked out of the house by choice, rather than necessity? If the wages situation was a bit more fairer in the country, do you think that would build stronger marriages and families?

Yet so many buy the snake oil that homosexuals are going to ruin their marriage and family life as we know it.

Wake up folks.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

They must have called our church...

...cuz we have some folks that don't understand what church is about.

The Associated Baptist Press reports that "less than 20 percent of American adults believe participation in a congregation is critical to spiritual growth..." and "while 72 percent of Americans claim they have personally committed themselves to Jesus Christ, less than 50 percent attend religious services on a weekly basis."

I wonder how many folks who claim to be a Christian yet don't attend church feel like they've met their spiritual obligation by voting "the right way"?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Slowness

Things have really picked up at work - we've doubled internet orders in the past 3 months and have financially doubled in the last year. All of this is a good thing as it ensures we have food on the table, but my boss and I can't do it by ourselves anymore. Thus, we hiring... bum bum bum!! - a third person.

Today we had three interviews scheduled, yet only one showed. Who doesn't show up for an interview? Obviously someone who doesn't want a job.

So yeah, we have some more interviews next week, and then I have to spend time to train the person. When I'm not working I'm trying to read up on some Baptist Heritage stuff to compliment my class... weeee!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Some good news and bad news

Here is something that addresses a moral issue: Massachusetts governor signs health-care measure.

I haven't read the criticism, but at least someone is trying.

Meanwhile, here's a contradiction: Exxon Chairman Gets $400 Million Retirement Package Amid Soaring Gas Prices.

For more on how CEO pay versus worker's compensation, visit the AFL-CIO page that tracks such trends.

Under the current system, which is lacking a pay-for-performance initiative, I wish I could be a CEO. I would be bad as one, but it doesn't really seem to matter.

Meanwhile, I spent $28 to fill up my little Honda Civic Saturday. I remember filling up my first Civic back in '99 - $14 a tank was expensive. How much longer will this country tolerate this mess?

Probably long enough for all of the President's friends to enrich themselves and leave the country in a financial squalor while committing our military personnel's lives to less-than-justified wars.

Cynical? Yeah, but I haven't seen evidence not to be.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Greensboro could be rough...

...Unfortunately some things don't change - Baptists fight. I truly do not revel in Christians fighting with one another. The disunity of the Church is deeply troubling, as the small differences overshadow our larger commonalities. We're so quick to divide yet so suspicious of cooperation.

One of my passions is studying history - if we don't understand where we come from, we're bound to make similar mistakes.

From Wade Burleson and all the controversies at the International Mission Board, it looks like the Southern Baptist Convention is having to reap what it has sowed. The folks who discovered how to take over the convention are now digging in their heels to prevent it from happening again.

From SBC Outpost:

Do not be deceived, the SBC is resting between two visions: the past and the future, legalism and freedom, monument and movement, staidness and creativity, bureauracracy and restructure, law and Spirit, oligarchy and grass roots. As I have been saying since January, Greensboro '06 is Houston '79 is the future of the SBC. Be there and bring your full slate of messengers. This is not the year for just "getting away from it all"--there is more purpose and importance attached. Apathy, this year, is capitulation to the status quo.


My raw instincts - my "natural" self - tells me I should roll my eyes and laugh while saying "turnabout is fair play". I'll be honest, it's very tempting. I've written some things here of which I'm not proud.

Whatever happens there won't be good for any Baptist or Christian, not just those who identify with the Southern Church.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Two must reads...

The montly Baptist Studies Bulletin, produced by the Center for Baptist Studies at Mercer University, is a must-read. April's edition includes many great articles, and I'll introduce two that really got me thinking (I need to stop printing it off and reading before bed, I'm wiped!).

Both writers are regular contributors. I greatly respect their wisdom and insight - they put words to the random stuff that floats around in my head and heart.

Charles E. Poole writes:

We still care about the people Jesus cared about: the blind, the deaf, the sick, the sad, the poor. But if you’re going to make an impact in today’s world, you’ve got to do business. So we, the church that is only in the world to follow Jesus, branched out. As a result, we do more. And it shows. It shows in our facilities, programs and budgets. Our church budgets set aside more for landscaping than for work with the blind. We spend more on insurance than on ministries with the deaf. We have bigger line-items for facility maintenance than for aiding the disabled. We invest more in enlarging buildings than in relieving poverty.


Read more for the entire column and its context.

Bruce Gourley, who I think I may somehow be related to (my grandmother was a Gourley), as always delivers a great piece in his monthly "In Response To:". This month he debunks the supposed War on Christians and exposes it as self-serving and demeaning against those Christians who are and were truly under attack.

If there were a real war on Christians by the establishment, it might look something like this: beatings, whippings, jailings, charges of child abuse, having one’s children taken away, refusal to recognize marriages, stonings, bombings, shootings, being dragged from the pulpit, or perhaps even being urinated on while preaching from the pulpit.

No, this is not a recount of crimes against Christians in some communist country, nor is it a listing of events from the U.S.-established Islamic theocracies in present-day Iraq and Afghanistan. Rather, it is a summary of court records of 1760s and 1770s colonial Virginia, describing atrocities committed against Baptists by the theocratic “Christian” government. That’s right; a “Christian” government making war against Christians. Why? Because the radical, liberal Baptists refused to obey the laws of the theocracy, and dared to call for full religious liberty for everyone and complete separation of church and state.


I definitely need to investigate my home-state's Baptist heritage more.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Even more good news...

...after learning about Jimmy Carter's effort, I'm heartened to see even more bodies of Christians reaching across ecumenical lines to further God's Kingdom. I'm also glad to see folks take a stand that does not pervert our common faith merely for political power.

Four years in the making, a new group designed to be the broadest ecumenical coalition in American history was officially formed March 31.

Thirty-four denominational and parachurch groups, representing a broad spectrum of American Christianity, constituted Christian Churches Together during a closed-door session of the group’s leaders near Atlanta.

The group is intended to facilitate cooperation across the broadest possible spectrum of Christian traditions -- including Catholics, mainline Protestants, white evangelicals, African-American Protestants and Orthodox Christians.

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and other Baptist groups are participating, but the Southern Baptist Convention -- the largest Baptist group -- is not.

........

The group’s goal, according to its mission statement, is “to enable churches and Christian organizations to grow closer together in Christ in order to strengthen our Christian witness in the world.” (Associated Baptist Press)


Go them.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The IMB unbiblical?

The Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board has once again proved that it works to preserve itself and the SBC's obsession of doctrinal purity instead of following the Great Commission.

Jesus had a little something to say about the danger of this kind of legalistic thinking:

You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. (Mark 13:9-10)

Folks, Jesus commanded us to go throughout the world and preach the good news and baptize those who believe. He didn't say that the word "Baptist" had to be on the church door outside. He didn't say that you couldn't work with other denominations in achieving a goal.

The missionary couple in the above article are operating in a country where very few missionaries live. The country is 99.9% Muslim and they're working on one church plant out of six in a population of 2.5 million. To casual observers, like myself, it seems like what has happened there is a miracle by itself.

Yet, what appears to fulfill Jesus' Commission isn't good enough for the Southern Baptist Convention.

I have some shocking news - not all Southern Baptists are going to heaven, and not everyone in heaven will be Southern Baptist.

UPDATE: Just some further thinking on this: I truly believe this is another example of Southern Baptists reaping what they sowed. They were in love with the structure of the convention and the power that it came to enjoy, despite its original purpose of supporting local churches. They became enamored with the possibility of taking a local church/bottom-up organization and flipping it on its head to impose strict conservative doctrinal purity from the top-down. They found a way to make the Convention a Church, and those that stuck around are now having to deal with these situations, as they were inevitable.

Their interpretation of the Bible continually narrows while their power continually strengthens, and now they are eating their own - all of the sake of uniformity.

UPDATE 2: Further underscoring the irony of all this comes from a comment at sbc outpost:

It seems that the problem is that our agencies can be taken over by small groups piecemeal. They can then bide their time and build up political influence through appointments and by taking over one committee or section of an agency at a time. In time, they influence the whole thing, and we have an oligarchy controlling the whole convention....Eventually, even if it is slow, these things have a way of working through the entire body, kind of like yeast working through the dough...


Gee whiz! In much the same way conservatives took over the SBC, it can be taken over by another group! Wow, how could be?!?

The more things change, the more things stay the same...

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Cooperative and agreeing Baptists?

I didn't think it could happen! However, it looks like it could, thanks to the initiative of former President Jimmy Carter.

By placing arrogance and uniformity aside, we as Baptists... as Christians, can do so much good in the name of God. So much energy is focused on dividing our brethren - all for the advancement of a particular and often-times controversial agenda.

The idea of a convention formed to help serve the local church, instead of itself. The power of cooperating local Baptist churches, I pray, can prove to be an effective instrument for God's Kingdom.

(Via Mainstream Baptist & Associated Baptist Press)

Monday, April 10, 2006

More Christ-like behavior from Tom DeLay

Tom DeLay has now demonstrated his faith yet again by teaching us and his supporters that "you reap what you sow". (The Carpetbagger Report via Crooks and Liars)

A few lobbyists who helped raise money for Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) — all of them outside the inner circle of the former Majority Leader — say they'd like the outgoing Congressman to offer them their money back. […]

His re-election kitty, probably worth upwards of $1 million, is widely expected to be shifted into a fund to pay his mounting legal bills. While these lobbyists didn't mind cutting checks to the Majority Leader, or even a member of the Appropriations Committee, they aren't so energized about spreading their generosity to DeLay's legal team because, well, what's in it for them?

"If I wanted to give to a legal fund, I would've done it directly," snarled one GOP lobbyist who refused to have his name attached to such callous-sounding sentiments, even if DeLay is leaving Congress.

Another lobbyist who gives to Members on both sides of the aisle said, "It's nauseating to think about" his campaign contribution going to fund DeLay's legal team. "I'm realistic about it. He wouldn't resign for no reason," this lobbyist said, noting that the timing of DeLay's departure came awfully close to the announcement of a plea agreement by his former aide Tony Rudy. "That all this money will go to the legal defense fund, it sickens me," he added. "I have to pay for that?"


What a guy!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

How has Tennesee angered God?



I wonder how Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell will explain the two waves of tornadoes, killing at least 36 in the past couple of weeks.

Beyond credibility...

...yet that isn't stopping the Administration planning for another war, this time we'll be fighting the N's instead of the Q's. Think things couldn't get scary enough?

Nuclear War
.

One former defense official said the military planning was premised on a belief that "a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government,"


Here's a quote for ya:

One Joe Blow American said that the military planning behind the Iraq War was based on false multi-layered premises, and with the President's approval ratings down the drain combined with daily revelations that he is accelerating his abuse of power, 2008 can't come fast enough.


Here's another quote that will come about 2 years after the start of this bombing campaign:

One former defense official, defending the Administration's premise that the bombing campaign would inspire a people's revolt yet which conversly rallied the country together, said that though two countries in the Middle East are now in chaos, to question the reasons behind going to war are counter-productive and simply "anti-American".

Just as Streak has said in so many ways, things would be a lot different if this President's last name rhymed with "Quinton". Don't even try to fool yourself.

Friday, April 07, 2006

The SBC and numbers...

Recently there has been some controversy around numbers and the SBC. Generally the conservative thinking has been that under moderate control the denomination would decline. On the flip side, conservatives believed that one of the results of their "resurgence" would be a resurging of the denomination.

Well, from what I read, the plan hasn't quite gone so smoothly, at least with the "resurgence". They've achieved the takeover and excised moderates out of cooperation (oops, I meant obeying), yet they're running out of scapegoats.

The flap over at the International Mission Board troubles me. Basically, it means that if a minority of the trustees disagreed with a policy yet were voted down, they couldn't publicly voice their dissension. I've seen Politburo meetings run in a more friendly fashion.

I was surfing around and took a turn into Southern Baptist blogs just to see what was shaking. Through Marty Duren's SBC Outpost, I stumbled over to a blog titled 12 Witnesses, written by Art Rogers.

He has an interesting post catching Paige Patterson, president of the seminary, using apples and oranges to help pad the numbers.

Intriguing indeed.

More about the Southern Catholics...er, Baptists I mean

I come from a school of thought where as a Christian, I was taught that I am not to be of this world. I am to be of our Lord and Savior.

However, the Great Commission commands us to go out into the world and the four corners of the earth. Thus, I believe that we are supposed to be in the world.

Jesus walked amongst those that society rejected. He sought out those with fragile faith and sought to challenge them and instruct them. He didn't hang out with his disciples all the time, nor did he hang out with the Pharisees discussing matters of theology. He walked, talked, and lived out his faith.

With all of that, I get a sense that by calling Southern Baptists to pull their children out of public schools, Pope Al Mohler and the like are seeking to build up walls and are moving away from being "in" the world.

Teachers and students that are Christian, and more specifically Baptist, do not need to be cloistered behind the walls of a private school. They are what public education system needs. What better way to demonstrate the love of Jesus and what it means to follow him than by daily taking up his cross amongst your peers?

I believe the same idea lies behind how our churches are supposed to interact with society. Just as so many Christians believe the government should not be in charge of social programs, why do so many believe that the government should establish the morality of our society? The church needs re-examine its role.

When the church building is empty, it's just a building. The church consists of people - if the building burns, the church goes on. Us Christians must actively engage society through the institution that God gave us, rather than that of James Madison.

Another Tom DeLay/Messiah thought...

... I had this thought as I was falling asleep last night, and I just remembered it.

The only instance where Jesus engaged in physically disruptive behavior occured in the temple square where he drove out those who profited through deceit and corruption.

Tom DeLay's campaign physically disrupted a press conference as a "parting shot" as DeLay resigns amid allegations of deceit and corruption.

So wait... who is Tom DeLay like again?

The more things change...

...the more they stay the same, so sayeth Dr. Sherman on a weekly basis. He normally says this in regards to the Southern Baptist Convention as it continually ignores "Baptist" in favor of "Southern".

In an article published at Ethics Daily titled "A Baptist Parochial School System?", E. Glenn Hinson explains the reasoning behind the abandonment of our common Baptist heritage in the latest controversy regarding Southern Baptists and public schools:

It is not hard to understand why Southern Baptists would follow the lead of the Roman Catholic Church here. The Southern Baptist Convention is numerically so dominant in the southern region of the United States that Southern Baptists no longer think like Baptists.

In our beginnings the Baptist consciousness was a minority consciousness. In education that meant strong support for public schools which would prepare all citizens without discrimination for life in their context.

Baptists had experienced a lot of discrimination when the only schools were church-operated, and when they established their own, they tried to eliminate every trace of sectarianism. The charter of the first Baptist college, Rhode Island College, stipulated that neither trustees nor faculty nor students had to be Baptists.

How different the situation of Baptists in the American southland today! If it can get a hand into the public purse in support of its schools, the Southern Baptist Convention could succeed in establishing a parochial school system parallel to the Roman Catholic.


Compare that to what's happening at Belmont University in Tennessee, where the school and Baptist state convention are fighting for control of the Board of Trustees. At stake is the direction of the school and the future of academic freedom.

Another example is Stanley G. Lott's article in the March 2006 edition of the Baptist Studies Bulletin (if you're Baptist and you don't read this, you need to!) where he analyizes the decline of Baptist universities and compare those strained relationships with the respectful and successful agreements enjoyed by Methodist and Presbyterian school. He concludes:

Baptist institutions that otherwise are comparable to those listed above generally are not doing as well. Either they are being smothered by the fundamentalist movement, or they have conceded control to the fundamentalists. Because they do not understand and fear academic freedom, fundamentalists oppose and try to suppress it. Since academic freedom is the bedrock of academic excellence, the outcome of the fundamentalist effort is institutional mediocrity. Even though these schools receive only a fraction of their budgets from Baptists, fundamentalists demand complete control. Consequently, only a few of these institutions will escape these pressures and build a reputation for excellence.


The Southern Baptist Convention reminds me of what has happened to MTV. Work with me on this: How did MTV get its start? Just look at it's name: Music Television. All music all the time. Do you see music videos anymore? Maybe if you suffer from insomnia and happen to be awake between 3:35 am and 3:42 am you can gag at the latest noise from Christina Aguilera. You might catch 1/3 of a video in the credits of the Real World, if you're lucky.

MTV and the SBC are risking future success by forsaking their roots. For those who appreciate the heritage of Baptists, they have been continually disappointed. The fundamentalists made it sound like the moderates were holding the denomination back from success. Now that they're gone and with the SBC reporting not so hot numbers, maybe they need to re-evaluate where they want to go with where they've been.

Or not. But does anyone but me find it ironic that after struggling with the Catholic/Anglican church for religious freedom and then decrying the existence of Catholic parochial schools - all of a sudden Southern Baptists are looking to them as a model for church polity?

I guess Dr. Sherman's right again.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

If Tom DeLay is Jesus...

...He isn't setting a good example for his campaign.

Via Crooks and Liars (how appropriate):

Lampson's Press release: "Tom DeLay's campaign sent out an email asking supporters to disrupt Nick Lampson's press conference this morning. At that event, a 69 year old woman says she was assaulted by one of the DeLay thugs who showed up to disrupt the event. The woman, Marsha Rovai, of Richmond has asked the Lampson campaign to help see if any of the televisions stations caught this incident on tape so she can consider filing an assault charge. Several of the women at the event complained that they were pushed and shoved by male DeLay supporters.

Email: "We would meet tomorrow morning at 9:45 am on the first floor of the parking garage attached to the Marriott. Please get folks to call our campaign office 281.XXX-XXXX and let us know they can do it-or e-mail Leonard Cash (in the cc field above) so that we can get some head count. Let's give Lampson a parting shot that wrecks his press conference."

The crazy part is that someone could probably find some random Biblical justification for this behavior. I'll pass on that Kool-Aid.

Why do I write this blog?

To post quotes like this:

Libby's testimony also puts the president and the vice president in the awkward position of authorizing leaks — a practice both men have long said they abhor, so much so that the administration has put in motion criminal investigations to hunt down leakers.

The most recent instance is the administration's launching of a probe into who disclosed to The New York Times the existence of the warrantless domestic surveillance program authorized by Bush shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks. (Source)

Apparently, leaking classified information that helps support a war that happens to lack in justification and ultimately advances political goals is okay... but leaking classified information about activities that jeopardize our civil liberties is not?

You can't have it both ways. Dr. Cecil Sherman made some good points in the last class about being pastor of a church that I believe apply for all leadership positions, including President of the United States. Those that you lead will forgive you if you come out and say "I messed up". Everyone moves on. Failure can be entirely beneficial in the long run. It's certainly not desirable, but a lot can be learned from it, and you garner respect by making the best of the situation.

However, Dr. Sherman warned about withholding information. He said that they'll forgive failure, but not lies. I would respect this President a lot more if he got off his cowboy horse every now and then and leveled with the American people. However, that move isn't in his political playbook, and I'm not holding my breath. As Americans, as voters, as people - we deserve honesty. Is that too much to ask?

If I recall correctly, wasn't the President all fired up about restoring some dignity to the office back in 2000?

Monday, April 03, 2006

Cautious exuberance

Tom DeLay's impending resignation should make me quite happy. Here's a man who perverts our common Christian faith to "hammer" his narrow conservative views through the "People's" House.

- His corrupt and dishonest tactics brought shame on our country's heritage and besmerched those unique values purchased by our soldier's blood and sacrifice.
- He exhibited sheer arrogance in his statements and his dealings.
- He shamelessly enriched his family and friends at taxpayer's expense.
- He championed a daring and unethical scheme to redraw his state's electoral lines - 4 years after the last census - merely for the benefit of his party and not the country.
- He compromised the integrity of his beliefs in his power-drunk quest to ram those beliefs, sullying the democratic practices that America stands on.

In effect, he has brought more harm to this country despite his best intentions.

The depressing part is I haven't even scratched the surface of his career in DC. Even more depressing is that he still has a cadre of Christians who buy into him being some sort of "Christian Statesmen". I still cannot reconcile the Bible's teachings with their beliefs, of which I feel derives from this world and are not wholly divinely inspired.

"I just felt like I didn't want to risk the seat and that I can do more on the outside of the House than I can on the inside right now." (CNN)

That to me reads "Have you seen how much power and influence K Street now has? Plus I'll make tons more money there than I ever did in Congress!".

He said he will change his legal residence to his condominium in Alexandria, Va., from his modest two-story home on a golf course here in the 22nd District of Texas. "I become ineligible to run for election if I'm not a resident of the state of Texas," he said, turning election law to his purposes for perhaps on last time. (Time)

That tells me "I'll still be able to take the Yellow Line in to DC!".

From a recent experience, I've learned that folks who view the world through power don't immediately give that worldview up once they leave a particular situation. My limited experience and old-fashioned gumption tells me that he'll seek out and find a place where he can still wheel and deal and advance his agenda.

I hope I'm wrong - I pray I'm wrong, but unfortunately I feel we haven't heard the last from The Hammer.