Moral Contradictions

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Woo!!

Today I received word that I am now fully accepted into the M.Div. program at BTSR. I was originally accepted for non-degree status, thus allowing me time to gather my full application this fall to be submitted before the spring semester. I would still be able to take classes for credit, but because of timing, I didn't want to rush references and the church recommendation. (I originally didn't think I would be able to start seminary until next year until after Kristen started, but praise God I was able to start this year).

As a non-degree student, I wouldn't be able to register until after everyone else did, severely limiting my choices for classes. Upon learning that, the admissions folks were great and gave me a window to get my full application in quickly, and I cannot thank them enough.

I even received a merit scholarship, which is awesome and really helps out.

I'm so excited... orientation is Tuesday. Though the past couple weeks were stressful in trying to get paperwork in, it's all done and I can now be focused on just being a student. Woo!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Biblical questions

In pre-reformation years, lay Catholics were not allowed to read the Bible for themselves did not have very many opportunities to hold the Catholic Church accountable (thanks Sophrosyne!). The printing press revolutionized the world, and quickly after Martin Luther starting asking his questions, his writings formed the most popular books.

One result of Rome controlling the interpretation of the Bible was the allowance of secret and unbiblical practices to flourish without question. If you questioned the Church, you were questioning God. Stake burnings were a powerful silencing tool.

In Southern Baptist life, why have blogs come under fire from leadership? It's simple - no, it really is. In a convention that prides itself on democracy, blogs have allowed those outside of power an effective tool to pose questions and disseminate opinions amongst the laity.

Proof of this incredible effect can be see by the election of Dr. Frank Page as President in June of this year. Inconsistencies were noted, the "party" line was questioned, and business-as-usual received a violent wake-up call. Bloggers can now quickly coalesce together to shine light in previously dark corners, showing all the world what they find.

Are blogs like the modern printing press? That can definitely be debated, yet the view here acknowledges similar results and reactions. The "dissenters" become emboldened and more organized, while the establishment are afraid and condemn the technology. These are generalizations, as there are those within the institution that blog, and there are bloggers who disagree with the folks who helped elect Dr. Page.

What happens from here within the SBC is unknown, except for what is known: self-appointed watchdogs versus a resisting establishment always creates fireworks. Adding faith and southern culture will make it all the more interesting.

How do moderate Baptist bloggers, such as myself, respond? Personally I act as an interested spectator. I try to refrain from commenting as it's not my struggle.

One thing to remember is that moderate bloggers do not share the same stimuli for starting blogs and organizing online. The SBC bloggers share a common desire for accountability - what do (or can) moderate bloggers unite around?

As tempting as it is to bash "the other side", we cannot identify ourselves by what we are against but what we are for. Watching the SBC bloggers has taught me that we actually share quite a bit in common, but the differences we do have are definitely stark.

Eliminating poverty is one idea that has been proposed. What else? Part of Moral Contradictions' focus is to identify the logical inconsistencies arising when faith intersects politics - there's plenty of room for more on that subject.

Next week I start school and this blog will change. I'm working on a project to help increase moderate Baptists' presence on the web. The Mainstream Baptists group blog has been started and seems to be off to a great start.

What now for you?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Deja vu, Bob Jones style

Oy... Senator McCain, I am not enjoying watching you sell out your principles for a Presidential run. First dropping campaign-finance... then Liberty, which I barely stomached, and then Bob Jones?

Say it isn't so.

Al Mohler has spoken...

...so it must be so.

Dr. Mohler, I disagree with how you frame the issue of women ministers as being Biblically clear. I'm glad you seem to have all the answers and are not willing to a discussion of interpretation. It's good to have leaders who know exactly what God is thinking - it just makes our faith that much easier.

However, I have never received a straight explanation about how to deal with slavery in comparison to how women ministers are dealt. The Bible is clear in that it is acceptable, and your denomination used that argument for years to justify slavery in this God-kissed nation - yet it is now culturally unacceptable. How does the clear teaching of slavery jive with the clear teaching against women ministers?

Additionally, I am not clear on what the meaning of this statement:

And the fact is that men bear shame for leaving that vacuum into which many women have stepped. And there is blame among those who now will defend what I believe is biblically defenseless.

Why do they feel shame? Is it because women are willing, heck, maybe even called, to do what men have traditionally done? Do they feel shame for feeling inadequate in comparison to a little ole' woman? I wonder how many folks felt shame when little Miss Lottie Moon upped and left for China. Surely that was a man's job, now wasn't it?

Furthermore, the last quote of the article intrigues me:

The big issue for us all is to humbly come under the full accountability to the word of God. That's no easy task. But we better be very, very careful how we read and how we teach the word of God, so that we're not bringing our prejudices to the word, but are having our minds corrected by the word.

I'm glad to know that you strive to be a humble servant of God - it's such a relief to know that I can access your personal website from Southern Seminary's homepage and from there find all of your writings, commentaries, and even media photos. Our faith needs more humble folks like you along with their well-lit headshot. To God be all the Glory!

With reports of men standing up and walking out of meetings whenever women speak, or preaching professors teaching "women preaching are like dogs trying to stand up - they can do it, just not well" - I'm heartened to know that prejudice or shame isn't a factor at all.

Dr. Mohler, you ever wonder if your observation about very few moderate churches with women pastors could be because of proclamations such as these? It's amazing how many Methodist women ministers were former Baptists.

I see why the moniker Pope Mohler can be applied. It really is much easier now that you've declared your interpretation of the Bible as the only clear option - it's just so hard to figure out what the Holy Spirit says to us individually. I'm sure many Southern Baptists are thankful to have such a humble guard of their theology and interpretation of the Bible.

Heck, praise God for the Holman Christian Standard Bible - if you weren't able to control the interpretation of God's Holy Word, I don't know what would happen! Congregants may fall into heresy, or worse, a Martin Luther may rise up and birth a whole new movement of Separatists! Oh no!

//Sorry if I come across as sarcastic - My wife is currently in the interview process as youth minister at another church, so I really didn't need to read this today. I really don't buy into the whole humble bit, and I've really tried to look for examples of it, but between him and Paige Patterson (only the second link off Southwestern's page), I'm having a difficult time.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

"Let's bomb some people"

I was reading an article about how children of GOP leaders are embarrassing their parents, and came across this quote:

AS the leader of the Republican party in the US Senate and a possible presidential candidate, Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee has a reputation for sober rectitude. The same cannot be said of his son Jonathan, a Vanderbilt University student who recently appeared on the internet wearing six cans of beer strapped to his belt.

Nor has Jonathan’s brother Bryan done much to help his father’s attempts to strike a reasonable note about US involvement in Iraq. “I was born an American by God’s amazing grace,” wrote Bryan Frist in an online profile. “Let’s bomb some people.”

....

Roll Call, the Washington insiders’ newspaper published on Capitol Hill, recently reported that Jonathan Frist’s Facebook entry declared him a member of the “Jonathan Frist appreciation for ‘Waking Up White People’ Group”. It also mentioned a group where there were “No Jews allowed. Just kidding. No seriously”.


So.... these people are the folks courting the Christian vote? You see why I'm uncomfortable whole-heartedly joining that camp?

I'm all for Christians in politics, but I'm talking about true Christianity - not some perverted mix of nationalism, racism, egotism, and jingoism, along with a dose of Bible-thumping.

Count me out.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Racism - not just for politics

A small Baptist church in Saltillo, MS, voted out a bi-racial 12-year old boy two-weeks after he accepted Christ because of fears he would invite "his people" to church.

Rev. John Stevens, to his credit, resigned after the vote by the small Baptist Missionary Alliance-affiliated church. He estimated over 80 percent of the church was against black membership.

Rev. Stevens recognizes that Christ died for everyone, and that He associated and especially loved those that were cast out.

A church Kristen and I are intimately familiar with denied hiring a youth minister six years ago because his wife was black. How often does this happen, yet doesn't make the news?

With examples of this, Senator George "macaca" Allen, Senator Conrad Burns, and Tramm "blacks can't swim" Hudson, is there any doubt that racism is alive and well? True gains have been made with time and new generations, but just because something is under the surface doesn't mean it's gone.

(Via Crooks and Liars)

Friday, August 25, 2006

D. James Kennedy - wow.

I've heard this man speak, and I just don't get his draw. He comes across as the type of grandfather that you cannot imagine ever being a kid once - he was just born that way.

But I digress. Via Crooks and Liars is a blog that notes how Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries changed the description of the documentary with the thesis that the Holocaust wouldn't have happened if Darwin hadn't come along.

The old and new one:

The one-hour program features Ann Coulter, author of Godless; Richard Weikart, author of From Darwin to Hitler; Lee Strobel, author of The Case for a Creator; Jonathan Wells, author of Icons of Evolution; Phillip Johnson, author of Darwin on Trial; Michael Behe, author of Darwin's Black Box; Ian Taylor, author of In the Minds of Men, and Francis Collins, Director of the Human Genome Project.This 60 minute special featuring Richard Weikart, author of From Darwin to Hitler, Lee Strobel, author of The Case for a Creator; Jonathan Wells, author of Icons of Evolution; Phillip Johnson, author of Darwin on Trial; Michael Behe, author of Darwin's Black Box, and Ian Taylor, author of In the Minds of Men will show why evolution is a bad idea that should be discarded into the dustbin of history.


Advancing your cause by cheapening the Holocaust, using shoddy research, promoting and then hiding Ann Coulter, and tricking scientists who want nothing with your program... Dr. Kennedy, you should be ashamed.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Woo boy

I apologize for the lack of posts - The past two weeks have been quite busy as I'm trying to finish some projects before school starts after Labor Day. One project will be previewed here in the near future and I think it'll be quite cool.

I also am wrapping up the website for Hillcrest and helping Tabernacle re-write the code for their existing one.

Thus I haven't had time to poke around through too many news agencies or read articles or books that trigger soap-boxes.

Once school starts though, who knows what this will turn into.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Darwin, Hitler, and self-delusion

Via Raw Story I came across an article about a video from D. James Kennedy's group that essentially blames Hitler on Darwin. I've heard this before, but the historian (and common sense) tells me that there's a bit more to Hitler's evil than that.

The quote that stood out was this:

This show basically is about the social effects of Darwinism, and shows this idea, which is scientifically bankrupt, has probably been responsible for more bloodshed than anything else in the history of humanity.

Hey, Mr. Producer guy - you may wanna read about the Crusades, Inquisition, Salem Witch Trials, and generally all the wars started because of religious differences. You use the word "probably" - the reason you can't be sure of that (other than the fact your theory is just that, a theory) is because the main competitor for most bloodshed in history is religion.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Dear Baptist Press, what world do you live in?

To the editors and reporters of Baptist Press quoted in the Ethics Daily article titled "CBF Cries Foul Over Baptist Press Reporting", I'd like to ask a question:

When you call CBF's complaint a "straw-man argument" because Greg Tomlin "actively sought input from the CBF", how can you honestly say that? Mr. Tomlin, you called several SBC professors, and fair reporting seems to require you to call several CBF professors, right? Instead, you only called CBF headquarters and trumpted that fact at the beginning of each article for self-validation.

Will Hall, you allege that if CBF has been misunderstood it's because "t has never desired to help Southern Baptists understand its positions." Really? You honestly believe that the CBF hasn't engaged the SBC, even despite these types of shameful and unchristian attacks? Maybe you should read the page "Truth About CBF".

Mr. Tomlin, you question CBF's reporting of membership churches, yet your Convention seems to get a lot of mileage of always claiming to be the largest Protestant denomination with over 16 million members. Why did the Convention reject calls to accurately count members, which by some estimates would cut the total by two-thirds? Doesn't that action undercut your authority to criticize the CBF's method for counting?

Criticism can be good and can be constructive. Through this blog, criticism also involves self-inspection - that whole "eye-plank" thing. Maybe the SBC should focus on its own problems and leave folks that identify with the CBF alone.

I don't say this to be mean, but I need to be fair, since there's a deficit of that virtue in those articles: Does the lack of solid journalism arise from deficient reporting skills, an agenda of distraction from SBC problems, or the inability to simply process logic and fairness?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

CBF Response

Rev. Gil pointed out that the CBF responded to the dishonest and un-Christian attacks launched by Greg Tomlin of Baptist Press, the official news agency of the Southern Baptist Convention.

I won't re-hash my grievances of the shoddy journalism skills, circuitous logic, and simply off-the-wall conclusions, but I was most surprised by the math: There are 1.1 students in seminary for every CBF-related church, while only 1 student for every 4 SBC churches attends seminary.

CBF Response

Rev. Gil pointed out that the CBF responded to the dishonest and un-Christian attacks launched by Greg Tomlin of Baptist Press, the official news agency of the Southern Baptist Convention.

I won't re-hash my grievances of the shoddy journalism skills, circuitous logic, and simply off-the-wall conclusions, but I was most surprised by the math: There are 1.1 students in seminary for every CBF-related church, while only 1 student for every 4 SBC churches attends seminary.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Sabbath, or lack thereof

Martin E. Marty over at ChristianPost.com wrote a column exploring the church's decline in American Christian schedules.

Kristen and I both grew up in households where our family calendar revolved around the church's calendar. Yes school and soccer practice and other activities were there too, but ultimately church was the most important.

Even now, I look forward to Sundays and Wednesdays. I remember how excited I was on Thursday afternoons when we had children's choir practice. When Christmas and Easter musical presentations were kicking into high gear there were weeks where I was at church six out of seven days.

I defined myself primarily as a Christian and member of Ferry Farm Baptist Church. Yes I also defined myself as an 8th grader, soccer player, and friend, but I was taught and came to appreciate that church was priority numero uno.

From the column:

Such change hits others. A half-century ago, most conservative Protestants fought for blue laws and against store-openings on Sunday, while decrying Christians' almost idolatrous indulgence in sports. Today preachers cut their sermons short so they can beat their members to seats at the afternoon pro football game. In some places these changes have led to decline of church attendance, while in others it has changed the character of allegiance.

...

I thought of T. S. Eliot's obituary to UK church life. These were "decent godless people: Their only monuments the asphalt roads and a thousand lost golf balls." Are Americans joining them?


I pray not - and I pray I can help reverse the tide in whatever way.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Leave us alone and get your facts straight

Big Daddy Weave beat me to it, but I echo his questions and add some more. Why did Gregory Tomlin of Baptist Press (the official news agency of the Southern Baptist Convention) feel the need to publish not one, but two hack "articles" bashing the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and its seminaries? On the same day? What's the reasoning?

To me, any time the SBC needs a pick-me-up, the CBF seems to serve as a great whipping boy. I admire CBF spokesman Ben McDade for declining comment. I however, take exception to the lack of journalism skills, attitude, and arrogance exuding through these "articles".

Each "article" has its logical inconsistencies, yet taken together, the intellectual dishonesty is magnified even more.

Tomlin's two "articles" charge that:
  • The CBF has failed in carving out a “unique niche among the religious bodies in the South”. No proof is given, and the article's logic later debunks this statement.

  • Amid accusations that SBC schools are no longer “Baptist”, CBF schools are not Baptist because of their various ecumenical relationships.

  • Students at SBC seminaries receive a broad perspective of views, unlike CBF schools.

  • Indoctrination is a good thing, only if re-defined by SBC seminary professors.

  • SBC schools have more students, and thus are inherently better.

  • The way CBF counts churches is dishonest and thus the stated number of 1,800-2,000 churches is too high.

He bases those charges on the logic that:
  • Bigger is better, even if it really isn't bigger.

  • Fair reporting is calling seminary professors at the SBC schools, and then only calling the CBF headquarters for comment, instead of their counterparts at CBF schools.

  • The SBC is right, and within its narrow parameters and male-dominant professors, allows more perspective than CBF schools with professors of both genders and ecumenical relationships.

  • Indoctrination is really not indoctrination, thus charges against indoctrinating in SBC schools prove that CBF schools don't teach doctrine.

  • Criticizing the CBF's counting philosophy is fair game, yet the SBC rejected membership counting integrity in June in regards to the number of baptisms, etc.

  • Comparing SBC and CBF schools overall, the SBC comes out ahead with five times as many students. Missing is the fact that the SBC has 24 times the amount of churches, yet feels the need to attack the CBF's reporting method, thus increasing that disparity even more.

  • Further, comparing the ratio of students compared to respective churches, the CBF comes out ahead with over 1 student from every church versus 1 student from every 4 SBC churches. Yet, Mr. Tomlin hopes you don't do the math and accept the shoddy logic given by him and his sources.



I think I found why Tomlin felt led to write his attack "articles". Yes the CBF is small, yes it is not perfect, and yes I wish it was bigger. However, the CBF seems to be sending proportionally more into ministry than the SBC. The CBF and other groups like the Alliance and Mainstream aren't going away. The SBC may have quantity, but the quality part is lacking, as the CBF seems to be just a bit more efficient, if you will.

Mr. Tomlin, as I've found on this blog, launching propaganda missiles at each other is useless and merely hurts the Body of Christ. You could've done much better than that.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Surprises

I'd like to thank everyone for their encouragement with everything in regards to seminary and whatnot. I just realized that I need to get my bookbag prepped, along with notebooks and pens and whatnot, plus all the books.

Please pray for us as we are in the middle of much transition. I'm starting school, Kristen's leaving one church and starting an internship, and work is kicking into high gear. Just this week Kristen got a phone call with a potentially neat, yet unexpected, ministry opportunity on top of everything else going on.

My personality dictates that everything needs to be planned out so I can be prepared. Since meeting Kristen I've learned that isn't always the case, and to put my trust in the Lord. For the past couple weeks I've had some worries about financial needs, yet this week I received a raise and the new opportunity for Kristen, if she takes it, will definitely take care of us.

Before, I would've been very worried, whereas this time I was able to allow God to grant me a peace that everything's going to be okay. He's had our back in the past, and He'll continue to have it now and in the future.

God's awesome.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

It's official


I received notification in the mail today that my application for non-degree study at the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond has been accepted. I also received my first summer assignment, so it just got "real". Woo!

Update: Non-degree means I can take up to 10 classes for credit - the real difference is that I still need to secure a church recommendation and references, and I had a time crunch this semester. I'll be fully admitted for Spring, but it's really semantics at this point as I continue with the paperwork. The biggest hurdle is cleared.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

1 in 60,000 Bible Study

Before Kristen and I went to serve at the church of which we are now leaving, we attended the Tabernacle Baptist Church for a few Sundays. It was hard for me to leave as I felt like we were on the verge of being able to step up and get involved. Throughout the past year we would randomly lament "I wish we could go to Tabernacle" as we struggled in an unhealthly church.

The pastor is Kristen's former youth minister and the church held the line during 'white flight' and remained in its downtown location. It came to the brink of death only to resurrect and rediscover its purpose and mission. We fell in love with the church as the worship is intentional, the people are loving, and the church does not shy from its mission obligations to the community. Sterling described the church as "weird", and it is, only because it is unique. A rich heritage combined with incredible potential in an area many suburban churches wouldn't touch fits where Kristen and I are.

Last night we attended the weekly Young Adults Bible Study for the first time, led by the pastor. Wow. I have not been in the same room of peers who were on fire for Christ in a long time. Many churches seem to struggle with how to reach out to young adults, but Tabernacle is willing to figure out how.

It was refreshing to be challenged, to be renewed, to partake in honest discussion, and to learn. Ironically, Kristen and I unknowingly discussed the topic some on our way there. Sterling led us on a journey to help us question the balance of time spent in our comfort zone with like-minded believers versus spending time among those outside the church. We've been craving for accountability and fellowship among folks our age.

I really don't have words for how much I felt like I was at home. Here I was in this church that I only attended for a few Sundays, yet I feel so attached to it.

God has many surprises though, and we got a call just two hours before we left for Bible study from the church I grew up in. I can't say too much other than we have yet another decision to pray about which may steer us temporarily away from Tabernacle yet again.

After Bible study, we chatted with two other couples and the pastor. One couple that's our age just moved here from Alabama and the husband will start at BTSR this fall. The other couple is just a bit older and the husband started at BTSR last year.

Throughout the course of conversation, Sterling asked everyone in the room how long they had been married. We threw out "a year and a half" and another couple said "Oh yeah? Us to. When did you all get married?". We replied December 18, 2004 and everyone's face lit up. All three couples were married on the same day. I don't think I'll ever forget that.

We asked "What are the chances of that happening?" and I figured out that it's roughly 1 in 60,000. I think. But still, how crazy is that?

Guess you had to be there...

Please pray for us as we continue to transition. Please pray for us as we run closer to an increasingly busy year. Please pray for us as we have some tough decisions to make.

Friday, August 04, 2006

The clear teachings of Scripture

I fully subscribe to the fact that I am fallible. I also subscribe to the fact that there are teachings in the Bible that are very clear, while others are not so clear.

I'm also a fan of consistency - I have not been to seminary yet (my application is in!), but all in all, one standard applied to a certain issue should be able to be applied to another issue.

When I read the columns by Dr. Frank Page and Dr. Albert Mohler regarding their changes in beliefs regarding women in ministry, something did not sit well with me.

Today, in Ethics Daily, Daniel Burke gave me the words that expressed my reservation:

I do not doubt that Mohler and Page are earnest in their convictions about women in ministry. But I take issue with their attribution of this stance to what Mohler refers to as "the clear teachings of Scripture." I don't know whether Page would use this language, but he has signaled clear support for the language of the Baptist Faith and Message statement that essentially forces this single interpretation (proscribing women in certain ministry roles) upon all cooperating Southern Baptists.

If indeed this is such a clear teaching of Scripture, how is it that two bright, sincere seminary students diligently considering the matter failed to see it? How could one of them have spent long months researching and analyzing and thinking through the issues, then write a dissertation with such a different conclusion from what he now holds to be the truth?


If it wasn't so clear before, why is it now? Furthermore, why not extend grace to others who believe it is unclear, instead of codifying into a creed and using it as a standard of cooperation? Doing so seems to remove Biblical teachings in favor of unconscious cultural discrimination and masculine insecurity.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Equipping the saints

One of the struggles I've witnessed and engaged with over the last year is figuring out how to raise up laity leadership. There's a dual dynamic at play: 1. the pastor/staff have to want to raise leadership and 2. the laity must want to serve. The staff then helps the laity discern how best to apply their gifts, and together discover God's will for their church and their lives.

If the laity want to serve but the options are limited, they will either force the staff into action or get frustrated and pull out. They can only tread water for so long. If the laity do not want to serve but the staff desires ministry and discipleship growth, the staff will get frustrated and pull out because they do not have adequate help. To some extent, the staff can only accomplish what the congregation is willing to do.

I've witnessed both dynamics this year, and frustration abounds on both sides.

A quote from a comment over at Marty Duren's blog spurred me to write this (though I don't agree with the thrust of the comment, it's still insightful):

Furthermore, our congregations are duped into the notion that their service in the Kingdom is accomplished by vote-casting and maintenance of the organization rather than through ministry.


We shouldn't come to church because of a guilt-trip or because it's 'what we do'. We shouldn't come to sing the familiar hymns simply to fulfill nostaligic needs - we should come to church to serve and worship God, and in turn, be fed with spiritual nourishment and equip us to share the Gospel to a broken and hurting world.

If the staff does not require more than 'pew-warming' as opposed to ministry, and the congregation buys into it, our churches are headed in the wrong direction. Following Christ is not easy, and there's more to it than just showing up on Sunday.

The predictableness of this

I just wrote a post that touched on this, but Dr. Bruce Prescott over at Mainstream Baptist points out an article in the Jerusalem Post with an interesting quote:

[Israeli] Defense officials told the Post last week that they were receiving indications from the US that America would be interested in seeing Israel attack Syria.


Does this shock me? Yes. Does it surprise me? No.

That's the next step towards us having an all-out war with Iran. Iran will get indignant and want to get directly involved... we'll defend Israel... Iraq gets buried in the news... and voila...

Will it happen? I don't have the willpower to consider it.

Wait - I thought the Middle East was supposed to be stable by now? Oh yeah, and all those folks that were labeled anti-American and pro-terrorist before the Iraq War... didn't they kind of see this coming?

I'm overwhelmed

Robert Parham over at Ethics Daily correctly notes that the general Baptist blogosphere has been relatively silent regarding the action between Israel and Hezbollah. Near the end of the article he hits upon a point that largely explains why I haven't said too much.

I'm overwhelmed.

I'm overwhelmed by the constant rhetoric of the Bush Administration, I'm overwhelmed by the rhetoric of Israel and those that support them, and I'm overwhelmed by the overall dynamics of the Middle East. I'm also overwhelmed at how the Administration presses on no matter what - even if that means going against the majority of Americans.

I'm also overwhelmed with the fact that this fighting seems to trump that of Iraq or about the developments regarding torture. I'm overwhelmed at how Iraq is now "old news". I'm also overwhelmed by how this got started in the first place. Saddam had one good thing going for us - he and his Sunni government kept Iran at bay and isolated. Now, gun-barrel democracy swept in a Shia majority in Iraq that likes Iran more than us, creating what is being called a "Shia Crescent" arcing through Syria and to Hezbollah. Iran was forced into a corner regarding its nuclear program and decided to play its newfound hand.

Thus, I'm overwhelmed at the predictableness of this, and I'm overwhelmed at how every major crisis the Bush Administration seems to touch (Iraq, Katrina, Lebanon) too many innocent civilians die.

Away from the war, I'm overwhelmed at arguments made against homosexual marriage that state the majority of Americans want it banned and calls for the following of democtratic measures, yet told that even though 70% of Americans support stem cell research, it shouldn't be legal.

I know this doesn't excuse my not writing about these issues, but really, who's listening? The Administration lives in its own theorized world where the term "consistent argument" has no meaning. Maybe I should be ashamed at feeling this beaten down, but I'm sick of our leaders disregarding the majority of Americans.

Mr. President, remember, 51% of Americans voted you in - why don't you listen to those instead of the 10-15% or whatever of "Religious Right" folks that made up your voting bloc?

Anyways, what are some things I have been following?

Torture: Bush, showing what a good Christian man he is, along with an American, decides to follow the Supreme Court rulings regarding prisoner rights. HA. He finds a way around it that works like this: "We know you’re guilty. We can’t tell you why, but there’s a guy, we can’t tell you who, who told us something. We can’t tell you what, but you’re guilty."

Guantanamo Bay Prison: President Bush, responding to international and domestic pressure, decides to close the infamous prison. HA. Halliburton (surprise surprise) built a 200 bed maximum security permanent prison. Interesting that I had to go to a international source for that one.

Perhaps that's the idea - overwhelm us and thus silence us, allowing unchecked control. The overwhelming part has worked, and the Bush Administration hates media that doesn't suck up to it (New York Times)... will they silence us? I pray not.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A growing trend?

Don Byrd over at the Baptist Joint Committee's Blog from the Capital wonders if the stories emerging about evangelical churches steering away from politics is a media phenomenon or an accurate barometer of backlash against the Religious Right.

He pointed me to an article about three pastors in Ohio who encourage members to pursue politics individually, but discourage using the pulpit as a party platform.

[Rich] Nathan, 50, pastor of the Vineyard since 1987, said, "We think the Gospel has political implications, but it’s not partisan. And we don’t think that either the Republicans or the Democrats have the sole possession of the implications of the Gospel."

...

"We never want to communicate to somebody that comes here that they’ve got to go through two conversions in order to come to Christ," he said. "We don’t want to have somebody believe that first I must be converted politically from wherever I’m coming from politically, in order to then come through that to Christ."

...

Leffel said he isn’t afraid to challenge church members who go too far.

"Sometimes, there’s the smirky kind of language used against the other side. And when I hear that, I feel constrained to say, ‘That doesn’t really have a place here.’

...

All three pastors say they agree with the "pro-life" and "pro-marriage" message of many politically involved churches. But they also see a mandate for other, broader issues that should be dealt with in the public square.

"I think it’s a mistake to have a political perspective that’s reduced to two issues: abortion and homosexuality," Nathan said.

"You know the Bible goes so far beyond those two issues. I think those are two very significant issues, but in terms of number of verses in the Bible or concerns that we find in the Sermon on the Mount, there’re just so many other concerns. And that also needs to shape the way that evangelicals engage politics."


These guys get it - politics are important, but A. the church is not an extension of a political party and B. the Bible speaks to more issues than homosexuality and abortion. In fact, the Bible speaks to issues in which we have to deal with in a direct way, not in abstract. Perhaps that's why so many issues like poverty, justice, etc get pushed to side?

We are to be more than Christians - we are to be followers of Christ. Following Christ means walking through his footsteps, only he wasn't on top of the mountain during his ministry. He was rejected, He lost a friend, He felt distant from God, and He was defamed and libeled.

Believing in Christ is easy - following Him is not.