Showing posts from April, 2008

Telling the Truth about the Gas Tax

John and Hillary want to give you a couple of dollars -- if the gas companies don't take it back first.

Here's Obama's ad that tells some truth about the situation!

Gas Tax Holidays and Energy Policies

John and Hillary are in agreement on one thing -- we should give Americans a break this summer from the gas tax. As I said earlier, I think that this is a really stupid idea. The point of the gas tax, besides paying for roads and bridges, is to spur us toward changing our energy usage. Hillary goes to a gas station in an F-250 truck and says, wow, look how expensive gas is. Remember that the last time Hillary drove to the pump was probably 1992. Yeah, its expensive, which is why I drive a Ford Focus and not an F-250 truck. Obama has taken some grief for his position, but really it's the only responsible one. I realize that many progressives don't like Tom Friedman, but I do. I may not always agree with him, but he understands the world we live in and often makes very important comments. On energy he's been preaching for some time the need to raise gas taxes and use them to support development of alternative energy sources -- like solar and wind. Today he calls th…

Lois Capps Endorses Obama

Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-CA), my congressional representative, has announced her support for Barack Obama today. Obama won Santa Barbara County and her congressional district by a sizable margin back on Super Tuesday. Here is her announcement as published by KEYT-- TV in Santa Barbara. ****** Breaking News - Capps Endorses Obama
Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-23rd District) has announced she is endorsing Senator Barack Obama for President.Earlier this week Capps told KEY News as a Super Delegate to the Democratic convention she was going to wait until the voters made their decision in the primary elections. In a statement just released, Capps said,"Today, I am announcing my endorsement of Barack Obama for President. "This wasn't an easy decision for me. Democrats were blessed this year with many talented and capable candidates, and I believe both Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama would make fine presidents. But Sen. Obama's proven judgment, his hopeful vision for America, a…

Who is Really Out of Touch? Gas Tax Shenanigans

First it was John McCain and then it was Hillary Clinton. Both called for a gas tax moratorium for the summer. The Federal Gas tax is at about 18 cents per gallon. The moment I heard it, I said that's really a stupid idea. What is that going to accomplish. We have a spiraling federal debt and we're at war. Tax cut ideas during election campaigns are in most cases pure pandering. It's like the hardware store commercial that says they'll pay the sales tax. Great -- That's a 7.875 discount. If you gave me a 10% discount or so, wouldn't that be the same thing. It's just a bite of sleight of hand. Well guess what, one of the Presidential candidates came out against that tax cut -- you guessed it, Barack Obama. He pointed out that this moratorium would rob money from the Highway fund that fixes roads and bridges. And for what? 25 to 30 dollars over the course of a summer. The rise in gas prices doesn't have anything to do with the gas tax. It has to do with th…

A New America

This is an unofficial Obama YouTube video produced by Obama backer Sal Laroche.


Obama's Running Mate

From the Daily Dish --

Here is a fired up 82 year-old woman in North Carolina who's backing Obama. He invites her to be his running mate. Great video

Jeremiah Wright's legacy

We have to face it, for the next few days or so, Jeremiah Wright will be the topic of conversation. People will be asking about Obama's relationship to him and what influence Wright has had on him. Everything that Obama has said or done prior to this election cycle suggests that Wright helped lead him to faith in Jesus Christ and that Wright taught him that following Jesus meant serving others. He came to faith, by his own admission, because he discovered that it was the church that was making the difference on the South side of Chicago, churches like Trinity UCC. But Obama is of a different generation than Wright. He also has a different story. He went to Trinity to discover that side of him that is Black and it is from within that community that his political career was born. What Obama didn't take from Wright was the anger of the earlier civil right's struggle. It is interesting that in his own response to questions about Wright's embrace of James Cone and …

Barack Obama's Response to the Wright Affair

One of the hardest things for anyone to do is sever a relationship. When the issue with Jeremiah Wright first broke, Barack Obama delivered a wonderful speech on race and the need to overcome our divisions. In that speech, Obama distanced himself from Wright's words but not from his long time pastor and friend. Despite that address, and Wright's absence, the sniping remained. Over the weekend, as we've been discussing, Jeremiah Wright stepped forward to defend himself. That is understandable, and as I've posted before, I had hoped that this would help clarify things. There is, of course, always the difficulty of translating one's theological convictions for others, and Wright has had difficulty helping a largely white audience understand Black theology and liberation theology. It sounded to many as being separatist and even hateful. It's not designed to be either, but is instead a call to action on behalf of justice. But ultimately we are in the midst …

Finding One's Calling in Ministry

I finally took a look at Richard Lischer's Wall Street Journalarticle mentioned yesterday in Martin Marty's Sightings article. Lischer, who teaches preaching at Duke Divinity School, writes of the present situation for pastors in America. With 50% of church goers being ministered to by 10% of the clergy -- in mega churches -- the rest of us, who are ministering with the other 50%, are finding it more and more difficult to find positions in churches large enough to pay a full time salary. I'm fortunate that my new position will afford me a full time salary, but many, especially rural congregations are having to rely more and more on part time/bi-vocational pastors. This fact, as Lischer notes, can be demoralizing. Yet, people continue to answer the call. In the article he points to the Lilly funded program providing money for clergy sabbaticals -- a resource that enables clergy to find that rest and resourcement to empower ministry. The future of ministry in America …

Obama Speaks Out on Wright Affair

Yesterday I wrote in support of Jeremiah Wright. I did so as one pastor in support of another. I stand by what I said, but the more I have thought about what was said and how it was said, I must say it was not a good show. The Moyer's interview was great. The NAACP speech was fine. Yesterday, a pastor went into a place a pastor should not go -- a gathering of press. He handled the questions poorly and it has hit Barack Obama. Obama, who did not throw his pastor under the bus, when asked to do so, now finds himself having to distance himself further from his pastor and really from his church. It is unfortunate that this has happend, and if Obama's campaign implodes because of this, America will be the loser. I feel that Obama is a candidate for this time in history. He offers us an opportunity to get beyond partisanship and embrace the future. He's not wrapped up in the fights of yesteryear -- whether Vietnam or even the 1990s. With his back against the wall, h…

Jeff Bingaman endorses Obama

I've not been keeping up with the super-delegate endorsements, but Barack Obama has scored another big one -- Sen. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico. Mountain West states like New Mexico and Colorado will be important battle grounds in the Fall. That Obama has already scored the support of Governor Bill Richardson and Senator Jeff Bingaman is important. Add these to recent endorsers -- Brad Henry, Governor of Oklahoma and former Clinton fund raiser and Ambassador to Chile Gabriel Guerra-Mondragon. Yes Hillary has gotten some as well, but Obama continues to cut into her lead.

More on Jeremiah Wright

Just a little surfing of comments on Jeremiah Wright's appearance at the National Press Club confirmed my suspicions that this wouldn't be a very good venue. Being that he's not a politician, he probably didn't know when to take a pass on a question. As a prophetic preacher, he hears the question and offers the answer. I think too that the press still can't understand the religious dynamic, and so even when nuanced Wright's statements pass them by -- and in search of soundbites that will fit their articles, they listen for the "statement" that has the most political impact. But if his remarks are tied to Barack Obama, let us remember that Obama didn't have any control over his former pastor nor did he ask Wright to speak at this forum. In any case, I think that Diana Butler Bass has some fruitful words to say on this topic in a post at God's Politics. Diana writes: Over the last several days, I watched Rev. Jeremiah Wright in discussions…

Speaking Up for Jeremiah Wright

I will confess to being a Barack Obama supporter, but that's not the reason why I feel it necessary to speak up for Jeremiah Wright. I''m not averse to criticizing a fellow pastor, when I deem it necessary (consider my criticism's of Rod Parsley and Ted Haggard on this blog). I'm not averse to saying that some of what Jeremiah Wright has said, I find deeply problematic -- especially his statements about the government's role in spreading HIV into the Black community.
I know that the Obama campaign isn't all that happy that Jeremiah Wright is speaking up at this time, I think in the long run it will be helpful. As long as the Sean Hannity's of the world are allowed to demonize Jeremiah Wright and then try to link him to Obama, the issue won't go away. The important thing, therefore, is to let us see the real Jeremiah Wright. Let us come to know the man who has pastored Trinity UCC for more than 35 years, who grew it from 87 people to more than 5,000,…

Decline -- Sightings

One could label Martin Marty's piece -- "Religion is the News." He points to a number of recent articles in major papers that deal with religion -- from declining numbers within the Southern Baptist Convention to the Pope's recent visit. He doesn't even talk about the reappearance of Jeremiah Wright -- which will likely dominate the news for a few days. Take a look -- and do some further looking for religion in the news.


Sightings 4/28/08

-- Martin E. Marty

Papal trips, presidential campaigns, polygamist-raids, and other events that warrant billboard-sized headlines are easy enough to sight for Sightings, but they block out the vision of smaller-appearing events that, taken together, add up to portentous or promising trends. The portentous were most apparent this week, as headlines like these on Friday, April 25, drew notice: "In Financial Crisis, Seminary Stops Admitting Students" in the Chicago Tribune

Jeremiah Wright Speaks

It took a while, but Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the retiring pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ has begun speaking. The first instance was Friday's Bill Moyer's interview. I've only seen parts of it, but as I understand it he gave context and background to his statements. He made it clear that he speaks from within and to the church, and not as a politician. He explained his roots in the Black Theology of James Cone.
In this interview -- which I'm watching/listening to as I blog -- he explains with it means to be "Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian." He explains his theology and its roots as being an indigenous theology -- it is one that those who understand contemporary missions theory should understand. They come to church to be prepared to transform the world the live in -- not to escape the world but to be encouraged as one lives in the world. Good stuff!Then last night he addressed 10,000 people at the Detroit NAACP Dinner. According t…

Kite Runner -- Movie Review

Kite Runner isn't a blockbuster action film -- though there is plenty of action in the movie -- but it's a movie worth seeing. I've not read the book, so I can't say how closely the movie adheres to the book, or whether in this case it matters. In any case, I was able to view it last evening on DVD.
Kite Runner is the story of two boys growing up in Afghanistan on the eve of the Soviet invasion. Amir is a Pashtun boy and son of a fairly well to do Afghan. His mother died in childhood, and he feels as if his father blames him for this. His best friend is the son of a servant -- Hassan. While Amir has a tendency to duck any conflict, Hassan is willing to step in and do anything for his friend. Their friendship comes to an end after they win a kite flying contest and Hassan is beaten and raped by a group of older boys -- because unlike them he's Hazara. Amir breaks off the relationship because of his shame and guilt at not stepping in and rescuing his friend.
In time A…

Prognostications while following the money

I'm not given to predictions -- largely because I'm often wrong. I didn't think Hillary Clinton would run in the first place, and yet here she is, duking it out, hoping audaciously that somehow she's going to be the nominee, even though she's behind in delegates, votes, and money. But I think I can bet that the Super delegates won't overturn an Obama lead and give it to her. To do so would likely destroy the party. Indeed, if her plan is to so weaken Obama that he loses in November so she can run in 2012, she will also likely be mistaken. Her message at this point seems to be -- I alone can get white working class voters (he's been taking in about 35-40%, so you can't say he's not winning over some or that he can't win over others), the reverse side of this message is being heard in the African American community -- we don't count. That message would be disastrous in the fall. So, I don't think the super delegates are going in th…

McCain's Bush Problem

Much has been made of John McCain's recent rise in the polls, even as many Democrats wring their hands about a wounded Barack Obama being unable to compete with McCain. I think the first thing to point out here is that the November election is a long way off. Hillary has made things difficult and the GOP hit squads will go after him -- even if John McCain asks them not to.

What John McCain has to worry about is the chain that binds him to the most unpopular President in recent memory. Bush's negatives are worse than Richard Nixon's just before he resigned -- that' s not good. Although McCain will castigate the Bush Administration from time to time (as he did in New Orleans the other day), he has embraced the Bush war plan and the Bush economic policies.

Ron Brownstein writes of McCain's dilemma -- one that I think will hurt him in the long run.

Despite Bush’s collapse, McCain has continued to run competitively in general election polls against both Obama and Clinton…

Huckabee and Torture -- A Question from Aaron Krager

I post regularly at another blog --- Faithfully Liberal. This blog was started by a couple of Chicago Theological Seminary students who have since graduated. Aaron Krager, one of those two students, asked me some time back to write for the blog, which I've been doing. As a poltical activist and community organizer, Aaron has been asking difficult political questions, and has raised the issue of where Mike Huckabee's new Political Action Committee is going to move. Huckabee, who didn't win his party's nomination, has of late become a leading voice within the politcally conservative religous community -- one that is tied to the Republican Party. His voice is different, it seems from the more strident forms of yesterday, but where is he going? That is the question that Aaron has been asking. The issue that he'd like Huckabee to answer concerns torture. The current administration, though it often uses semantic dodges to stay clear of an endorsement of torture…

Young Voters and Faith Profession

There is a sea change taking place in America. It will take time for it to be felt, but young adults -- the "future" of the nation is looking in new directions. While the Gen-Xers which came of age during the Reagan era have tended in a more conservative direction, that is not true of the upcoming generation. Especially among young religious folk, there appears to be a broadening of the agenda. There is no one issue grabbing them. And issues like sexuality and race don't have the same cache with them. It's no wonder that Barack Obama is doing so well. Even though Hillary Clinton and John McCain have been able to gain a greater number of older voters -- and older folk do vote in greater numbers, they are not the future. A Generational shift is about to take place. If not in 2008, certainly by 2012 or 2016. Social justice is again part of the religious conversation -- not just among mainline liberals, but also among evangelicals (think of Jim Wallis of Sojourn…

Flag Pins and Patriotism

I’ve been meaning to speak to this much ballyhooed issue of wearing flag lapel pins. Apparently this accessory to one’s clothing is a sign of one’s patriotism. If you choose not to wear one, well there most be wrong with you.

That judgment has been made by many upon Barack Obama. Obama generally doesn’t wear one – though when present one by a Gulf War Vet he gladly received it and put it on his jacket. He didn’t turn it down, didn’t put it in his pocket, he gladly accepted it as a gift from one who had served his nation.

But his general practice is not to wear one – in part apparently because he saw so many wearing flags and yet acting inappropriately – it’s kind of why I don’t put Jesus stickers on my car. But for some reason this decision is deemed unpatriotic and un-American. But if he’s unpatriotic, I guess the same is true for me as well – I’ve never worn a flag pin (if I were to wear a lapel pin I expect it would be a denominational symbol).

Monkey Girl -- Review

With the recent release of Ben Stein's Expelled -- and seeing that James McGrath has reposted his own review of Monkey Girl -- here is a reposting of my review from last year of Edward Humes' Monkey Girl. The book has now been released in a paperback edition (you can buy it here by clicking on the link!). This is a helpful look at the Dover, PA case that revealed to America some of the shenanigans that lay behind the attempts by Fundamentalists to slip creationism into the schools under the banner of Intelligent Design.


Edward Humes. Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle forAmerica’s Soul. New York: Ecco, 2007. xix + 380. $25.95.

In 1925 America was caught up in the frenzy that was the famed “Scope’s Monkey Trial.” In 2005 “Scopes Monkey Trial II” broke out in Dover, PA. In both cases the ACLU was involved, but the outcome was different. In 1925 Evolution lost in the courts, in 2005 it received its reprieve. The first trial mar…

Jeremiah Wright Speaks

Much has been made of Jeremiah Wright's statements, most of which are taken out of context, and which show little understanding of either the Black Church or Black Theology. For the most part, Wright has stayed out of the limelight since the controversy broke, one that has seemingly tarred Barack Obama and has brought into the open the racial divide in this country. That a significant number of White Democrats seem unable to pull the lever for a Black candidate is problematic. I know that this is being exploited and will be exploited, and if Jeremiah Wright can be demonized (as is happening) this helps that cause. It also sets back the advances in this country in this regard.
It will be interesting to see how this plays as Jeremiah Wright speaks to the National Press Club next Monday. Here is part of the announcement.
The Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., senior pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, will discuss the role of faith in the public square in a presenta…

The Case of the Missing Matzo -- Sightings

Being that we are in the midst of Passover, that preeminent Jewish celebration that forms the basis of the Christian celebration of the Lord's Supper/Eucharist, it is appropriate that we have an essay on this subject from Sightings. Reflecting on a lack of Tam Tam's, a mini-matzo cracker, Nora Rubel speaks to the importance of Passover in contemporary Judaism. And to my Jewish friends -- Have a Blessed Passover.

Sightings 4/24/08

The Case of the Missing Matzo
-- Nora Rubel

"Are you ready for Christmas?" This seasonal query used to be one of my mother's pet peeves. The idea that from the day after Thanksgiving—and sometimes as early as the day after Halloween—shops would be stocked with yuletide treasures. How long does it take these gentiles to get ready for a holiday, we mused. But really, anyone who frequents a supermarket in a town with any notable Jewish population is bound to notice a certain amount of re-shelving in mid-March, …

On to the Next Test

Am I disappointed about yesterday's primary results? Of course. I had hoped that the margin would be closer to six points. Ten points gave Hillary just enough room to crow and plot her next move. Will she ultimately prevail? Likely that will only happen should the Super Delegates decide to give her the nod. She made up some ground last night in delegates and votes, but at the end of the day Obama still leads in both categories by a sizable enough margin that Hillary will have to win out by significant margins. 55-45 isn't going to do it. Her only hope is that Obama implodes, and as nasty as the campaign has been he's not done that. He's had to use his financial resources to overcome her attacks and her built in advantages -- like the Pennsylvania political machine run by Governor Ed Rendell. Don't think that his efforts didn't match Obama's money -- it did and more. In two weeks -- an electoral eternity -- we will watch as Indiana and North Carol…

I've Been Tagged

On this very tense day, as I await the Pennsylvania Returns, Haitian Ministrieshas tagged me and invited me to play a little game. So, here goes:

The rules are:
1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
2. Each player answers the questions about himself or herself.
3. At the end of the post, the player then tags five people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

1. Ten years ago I was doing . . .

I was living in Manhattan, KS, having been dismissed from my position as theology prof at Manhattan Christian College, in the process of securing a new position -- which would be the pastorate of FCC, Santa Barbara.

2. 5 Things on Today's To Do List

1. Learn a new hymn for Sunday
2. Prepare Bible Study on James
3. Lead Bible study on James
4. Go through books and files in the office in preparation for move
5. Defend Barack Obama's honor on my blog.

3. Things I'd do…

The Whispers Continue

Hillary asks why Barack Obama can't close the deal and run her off into the sunset. One of the reasons has to do with race -- she has been able to play up her ethnicity and play on racist fears, which unfortunately are still with us. She doesn't have to try very hard at this. She doesn't have to be overtly racist. She just has to portray herself as the champion of white working folks.

But even more troublesome is the continued attempts to portray Obama as a Muslim. Here it's less a direct campaign tactic, though her surrogates have sowed seeds here and there. The Obama's a Muslim is similar to that long running Procter and Gamble story -- that the head of P&G went on the Donahue show and declared his allegiance to Satan. It's a story that's been passed on very years.

What is interesting is that this new "whisper campaign" benefits from the viral nature of emails. Just got one today. Maybe you've seen it, it's the one that sugge…

It's Silly Time

Back on the night I graduated from High School, we stayed up all night. Now, we were the good Christian kids, so we didn't do anything illegal. But we did stay up all night, and at about 3 or 4 in the morning, watching TV (this was back before there was 24 hour cable channels) the programming was not top notch, but we sat there laughing at what we were watching. We were laughing because we were too tired to have a clue about what was going on. Well, this Democratic campaign has gone on so long that we are definitely in silly time. Especially due to the bizarre decision to front load the primary season we've had this six week lull. And so the media, with nothing else to do, has managed to dissect everything said and done and given candidates plenty of room to "respond." So, Barack Obama is being criticized for saying John McCain would be an improvement on George Bush -- what's the big deal. I'm not a McCain supporter, and he has significant liabilities,…

Time to Vote

It's been a long time . . .. Since anyone voted in this very long nominating process. Six weeks of non-stop campaigning, and its not been pretty. Now, we're on the eve of the Pennsylvania Primary. Hillary Clinton has a narrow lead in a state that she once had a commanding lead. As with Ohio, where she tossed in that 3 AM ad, now at the last minute she throws in one that raises the specter of Osama Bin Laden. It is a classic ploy in a politics of fear. It is a ploy the Republicans used in 2004 to great effect, and Hillary, having learned the wrong lessons is invoking it.
And of course, by raising the name of Osama Bin Laden, she gets to feed those rampant rumors that Barack Obama is really a covert Muslim -- Osama Obama, as Rush and friends like to call him.
I hope the people of Pennsylvania will say no to this obviously desperate ploy. I can't vote tomorrow, but I encourage all Pennsylvania Democrats to say yes to Barack!

America, Race, and the Church

Julie Clawson has written a nice, tightly argued, piece for the e-letter Next Wave, in response to the ongoing controversy over Jeremiah Wright's comments. She helpfully picks up on the criticism of Barack Obama that he didn't leave the church. Julie suggests that its this attitude that's at the core of the problems with the church. If you don't agree with something, you either get a coup together to throw out the preacher, or you decide to leave. She asks the important question here about the nature of community, which in this case doesn't seem to matter. It would have been better -- Hillary says, among others -- if he'd raised a stink and stomped out.
But it’s the church issue that really got to me. Two thoughts kept surfacing in the things I read – the first being that Obama should have caused dissension and left his church community years ago. This assumption reveals the opinion of many Americans that this is how church should operate. If you don’…

An Atheist with whom We Might Talk

Last week I posted the following at Faithfully Liberal. It's a discussion of an interesting conversation heard on Krista Tippett's Speaking of Faith. A respondent to my post as originally p0sted raised an issue with my use of the word militant to describe the "New Atheist" movement. That word could be a bit too strong, but considering that George Marsden has described Protestant Fundamentalism as a militant version of evangelicalism, I think the word might be apt. I'm not suggesting here that Richard Dawkins is taking up arms against religion, but he seems to see himself in the midst of a war against the forces of religion, and at times the rhetoric is a kind of "take no prisoners" view.

An Atheist With Whom We Might Talk
By Pastor Bob Cornwall

We are very aware of the hard line, even militant atheist rants by Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris and others. They have made conversation between religious and nonreligious extremely difficult, because they won…