Wednesday, April 30, 2008
It is great to see that we finally have some national unity on energy policy. Unfortunately, the unifying idea is so ridiculous, so unworthy of the people aspiring to lead our nation, it takes your breath away. Hillary Clinton has decided to line up with John McCain in pushing to suspend the federal excise tax on gasoline, 18.4 cents a gallon, for this summer’s travel season. This is not an energy policy. This is money laundering: we borrow money from China and ship it to Saudi Arabia and take a little cut for ourselves as it goes through our gas tanks. What a way to build our country.
When the summer is over, we will have increased our debt to China, increased our transfer of wealth to Saudi Arabia and increased our contribution to global warming for our kids to inherit.
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.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
But while Wright is a theologian, a teacher and a pastor, he is ultimately a performer. In front of a cheering crowd of supporters that included a whistling Cornel
West, he gave into temptation and lustily went after his critics. As soon as the questions began, Wright transformed into a defiant, derisive figure, snapping one-liners at the unfortunate moderator tasked with reading the questions and stepping back with a grin on his face after each one, clearly enjoying himself.
The combative pose that Wright chose to strike is perhaps most damaging not to Obama's candidacy — although the candidate will surely endure yet another round of scrutiny regarding his relationship to the minister and his positions on Wright's views — but to Wright's own message. Because he is right when he says that most Americans don't understand the black church and that their resulting confusion and fear contributes to a racial divide.
His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate and I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church. They certainly don't portray accurately my values and beliefs. And if Reverend Wright thinks that that's political posturing, as he put it, then he doesn't know me very well. And based on his remarks yesterday, well, I may not know him as well as I thought either.
The reality of the African American church, of course, is as diverse as the African American community. I grew up in the Methodist church with pastors -- often active on the front lines of the civil rights movement -- whose sermons were rarely exciting enough to elicit more than a muttered "Amen." They were excitement itself, however, compared with the dry lectures delivered by the priest at the Catholic church around the corner. And what I heard every Sunday was nothing at all like the Bible-thumping, hellfire-and-damnation perorations that filled my Baptist friends with the Holy Ghost -- and even less like the spellbinding, singsong, jump-and-shout sermonizing that raised the roofs of Pentecostal sanctuaries across town.
Wright claims to represent all these traditions and more, but he does not. He also claims universality for the political aspect of his ministry. It is true that the black church, writ large, has been an instrument of social and political change. But most black churches are far less political than Wright's -- and many concern themselves exclusively with salvation.
I point all this out not to say that one tradition is better than another; as Wright said, different doesn't mean deficient. But what Wright did was to try to frame the issue in such a way that to question him or anything he has ever said was to question the long, storied tradition of African American religion.
Historically and theologically, he was inflating his importance in a pride-goeth-before-the-fall kind of way. Politically, by surfacing now, he was throwing Barack Obama under the bus.
Sadly, it's time for Obama to return the favor.
Monday, April 28, 2008
Over the last several days, I watched Rev. Jeremiah Wright in discussions of faith, theology, history, and culture on television. The three-plus hours I devoted to PBS and CNN amounted to some of the most sophisticated and thoughtful programming on American culture and racial issues that any news station has offered in recent years. And, for those who really listened to Rev. Wright, he moved from being a political liability in the current presidential campaign to demonstrating why he is one of the nation's most compelling spokespersons of the African-American community and of progressive Christianity.
-- 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; "Ministering Angels" (I'll elaborate) in the Wall Street Journal; "Ranks of Southern Baptists Are Still Growing Thinner" and "Gay Bishop Plans His Civil Union Rite" in the New York Times.
Leftover stories about the recent papal visit indicate signs of Catholic life, but insider trend-watchers discount much of the attention to celebrity coverage, and offer their own versions of the obituaries for the late Pope John Paul II after European visits: "He filled the streets. He did not fill the pews." Let's watch mass attendance for a year in America.
Most important is to observe cultural shifts: "Seekers" stay isolated in "spirituality;" the impulse to make commitments wanes, and sacrifices for life in community appeal less than in earlier cultural turns; denominations lose some of their attractive hold, while suggesed replacements for them—networks of independent and often competitive congregations-on-their-own, mega or mini—do not play quite the role that parishes in denominations did. The future of loyalty and participation is uncertain.
Lischer's piece in the Wall Street Journal can be found at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120909500298144313.html
Martin E. Marty's biography, current projects, upcoming events, publications, and contact information can be found at www.illuminos.com.
Access the discussion board at:https://cforum.uchicago.edu/viewforum.php?f=1
Sunday, April 27, 2008
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 to the report in the Detroit paper, he was greeted with a standing ovation -- and "thundering applause." That response should serve as an important reminder that Jeremiah Wright is not a marginal figure, but very much in the center of the African American community. Attempts to marginalize him, essentially marginalize great numbers of African Americans in this country. He speaks for those who see themselves as voiceless. But as he makes clear in his speech to the NAACP, he's not running for political office. He simply is attempting to speak prophetically. And as Jesus pointed out, we have a tendency to reject the words of our prophets. From the report in the paper, he contrasted white and black marching bands -- as to their style -- and then pointed to the differences between black and white churches. He pointed out that they are simply different. One is not normal and the other abnormal. I think that is an important point to make. We have a tendency to use our own experience as the starting point to determine normalcy. What is different must then be abnormal. The truth is that there is more than one style of normal!Another thing to point out -- Michigan's Democratic Governor, Jennifer Granholm also addressed the gathering. She didn't stay away because of his presence. I think that should say something!
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Donors are not the only ones who have made the leap. Gabriel Guerra-Mondragón served as an ambassador to Chile during Bill Clinton's presidency, considered himself a close friend of Sen. Clinton, and became a "Hill-raiser" by bringing in about $500,000 for her presidential bid.
But he had a fitful few weeks as the battle between Clinton and Obama turned increasingly negative. Last week, he decided he had seen enough.
"We're just bleeding each other out," Guerra-Mondragón said when asked why he had decided to join Obama's finance committee. "Looking at it as coldly as I can, I just don't see how Senator Clinton can overcome Senator Obama with delegates and popular votes. I want this fight to be over -- the quicker, the better."
Friday, April 25, 2008
Despite Bush’s collapse, McCain has continued to run competitively in general election polls against both Obama and Clinton. Yet Bush’s epic descent leaves McCain juggling unpalatable options.
In this environment, embracing Bush—even as gingerly as McCain did in his first Bloomberg answer—is like hugging an anchor. “Anybody who could say that first statement, given the mood people are in now,” says Democratic pollster Guy Molyneux, “almost undermines his credibility in saying anything else about the economy.”
But rejecting Bush, as McCain did in his second Bloomberg response, is dangerous, too. That’s partly because it risks further depressing the Republican base. More fundamentally, because McCain, like Bush, has built his economic plan around big tax cuts, portraying Bush’s approach as a failure risks invalidating McCain’s own agenda.
McCain is trying to separate himself from Bush by promising less spending. But the larger message is convergence: McCain has pledged not only to extend the Bush tax cuts but to expand them with about $300 billion annually in further reductions, mostly for corporations. What’s the case for doubling down with more tax cuts if McCain concedes that the Bush strategy hasn’t benefited average families? That admission, as one senior GOP strategist says, “would seem to repudiate much of what you stand for, because you still don’t have a clear demarcation between McCain economics and Bush economics.”
By Aaron Krager
I posed a quick question in that regard to a couple of different faith leaders and received two very well thought-out responses from Faith in Public Life Executive Director Jennifer Butler and from United Church of Christ President Rev. John Thomas.
And their responses:
Governor Huckabee is a different type of conservative religious leader. He may be a bridge between the old guard and new guard. The old guard was led by Pat Robertson, James Dobson and Tony Perkins. The new guard is lead by Joel Hunter, David Gushee and Rick Warren. The emerging evangelical center, including this younger generation of evangelicals and those coming up behind them, opposes torture. They represent the future of American evangelicalism. Look for instance at this new organization, Evangelicals for Human Rights. In the coming year we will see evangelicals as well other people of faith holding Huckabee and the presidential candidates accountable on this issue—there can be no compromise. (See here for video of Dr. Gushee asking Obama about torture)
Rev. Thomas -
While Governor Huckabee represents a conservative point of view, often at odds with my own, he has demonstrated a refreshing commitment to engaging his Biblical faith with a broad array of issues, not limiting himself to a narrow “moral values” agenda. I have particularly appreciated his sensitivity to issues of poverty and the strong Biblical mandates to address poverty in our world. Although I don’t know his personal views on the current debates regarding torture, I would anticipate that he would approach this issue as he does others, namely, through his Biblical interpretive lens. In my mind, it would be hard to take the Bible seriously and find any justification for condoning torture. Were Governor Huckabee to articulate a strong Biblical case against torture, it would be enormously helpful as a means of gathering broad support from Christians across the theological and political spectrum for a ban on the use of torture.
It’s a simple concept – we should never torture and a strong coalition of faith leaders on both sides of the theological and political aisle can help end its practice.
Wallis, an evangelical Christian who also runs Sojourners, a social justice community, said these young adults "want their faith to make a difference. They're asking the question of vocation more than of career."This resonates with Underwood, who hopes to use his divinity school studies and political involvement as a vehicle for social change.
"The one thing that I do think that I'm called to do is to help bridge the gap between the moral voices coming from the church and the moral decisions being made by those running the government," Underwood said. "Faith can unite people across party lines."
That may help explain the strong following Sen. Barack Obama maintains with young faith-based voters of different denominations.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
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).
The question of flag pins came up in last week’s despicable ABC debate. The moderators, neither of whom was wearing a flag pin, addressed the question to Obama. Interestingly enough, Hillary wasn’t wearing one either. In fact, I’ve not seen a picture of her with one on her lapel. That maybe due to the fact that it would clash with that yellow suit she so often wears. But knowing that this won’t go away, I thought I’d find out if John McCain wears one – and apparently he doesn’t generally wear one either. So, really the only person for whom this is an issue is Barack Obama. Everyone else is a patriot, but for some reason he’s not.
And why is this an issue? Well, it has to do with an extended attempt to belittle his patriotism. It is part and parcel with the attempts to smear him as a covert Muslim extremist, a racist Black separatist, and friends with 1960s terrorists. Now, I don’t question the patriotism of either Hillary or John – both have served their country (McCain sacrificing several years of his life to imprisonment in Vietnam). So, let’s let Barack Obama’s words of allegiance and appreciation for his country stand on their own. He has made it very clear that he loves this country and that it’s that love of country (and a desire to make it better) that compels him to run for the nation’s highest office.
Flying flags on your car, wearing a flag bikini, or wearing a flag pin is not the symbol of one’s love of the country. Rather it’s the willingness to work to make this country a better place, one that is more democratic, more egalitarian, and more respectful. That is Obama’s cause.
Edward Humes. Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle forAmerica’s Soul. New York: Ecco, 2007. xix + 380. $25.95.
What we learn in this story is that there is a reason why so many Americans do not believe in evolution. Most of us have never even studied it in any depth. Conventional wisdom suggests that evolution won the day in 1925, but the truth is that across the nation anti-evolution laws remained on the books for decades afterward, especially in the South. Additionally, school boards not wanting to court controversy and text book companies wanting to sell the most books possible essentially conspired to eliminate evolution from science classes for the next half century. Evolution did not become an issue until the late 1950s, when America fearing that it would be left behind by the Soviets put science on the front burner and new science standards were developed that put evolution back into the national conversation. Thus, a new generation of activists was born who were left to believe that Darwin’s theories conspired to undermine America’s religious identity. And once again evolution went underground.
The plaintiffs on the other hand not only gained the support of the ACLU, but one of the region’s top legal firms, plus the support of some of the leading scientists in the country, including Kenneth Miller of Brown University. In the end the powerful testimony of the scientists, legal minds, philosophers of science overwhelmed the defense’s team. Michael Behe and other ID proponents withered under the critique, and the judge was left to decide that the science behind ID was sorely lacking. This debacle was compounded by a school board that essentially lied its way through the trial. The judge, a good Republican and George W. Bush appointee was left to decide without question for the plaintiffs. Once again the crossing of the religion-state divide was thwarted.
Rev. Dr. Robert Cornwall
Ponderings on a Faith
JourneyApril 17, 2007
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 presentation entitled, The African American Religious Experience; Theology & Practice, at a National Press Club breakfast on April
Dr. Wright will also talk about his pastorate, his development as a theologian and teacher, and the how the issues of social justice and global inequities have shaped his faith and his fight for those who are most marginalized in society. He will address the legacy and tradition of education in his family. And Dr. Wright will put into perspective theologically, historically and politically, his ministry and public service that has been so widely discussed in the media.
Dr. Wright will retire from Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago in June, where he served the 8,000-member congregation for 36 years. While at Trinity he developed nearly 100 active ministries/outreach programs and seven separate corporations that continue to serve the greater Chicago community. He is a sought after lecturer and teacher and speaks at some of the nation's most prestigious universities and seminaries.
Not being the most stringent observer of Passover customs, my "getting ready for Passover" usually involves last minute shopping—picking up groceries for the seder meal, enough boxes of matzo to get my family through the week, a lot of wine, and a box or two of Tam Tams—small matzo crackers. Because this shopping is last minute, I would probably be disappointed but not surprised to go the well-stocked shelves at Wegmans and find these ubiquitous crackers missing. But this year, even those who shop well in advance may miss out on these mini matzos; Tam Tams, in existence since 1940, have become a rare commodity.
Nora Rubel is Assistant Professor of Religion and Classics at the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York.
This month, the Martin Marty Center's Religion and Culture Web Forum presents an essay by William Schweiker of the University of Chicago: "What Athens Has to Do with Jerusalem: Location and the Origin of Ethics." Commentary from Douglas Anderson (Loyola University), William Burrows (Orbis Books), Terry Clark (University of Chicago), Arthur E. Farnsley II (IUPUI), and Rev. Laura Sumner Truax (LaSalle Street Church, Chicago) will be posted on the forum's discussion board, where readers may also leave responses.
Access this month's forum at: http://marty-center.uchicago.edu/webforum/index.shtml.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
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 if I were a billionare
I'd like to say I'd become a philantripist and help the poor of the world. I think I'd do that, but first I'd relax a bit, then I'd go to England to visit, before finishing my book on Spiritual gifts.
4. 3 Bad Habits
1. Keep a messy desk at home and at work5. Five Places I've lived
3. Eat too much at the pizza buffet
1. Santa Barbara, CA
2. Manhattan, Kansas,
3. Rancho Cucamonga, CA,
4. Klamath Falls, Oregon,
5. Mount Shasta, CA
6. Five Jobs I've had in life:
3. Library Director
4. Ditch Rider,
7. Tagged OnesRoy Donkin
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 suggests that Obama might be the anti-Christ -- as prophesied in the Bible. And of course, he's supposedly a Muslim, and here's the kicker -- if you don't believe me, snopes.com proves it. The truth is otherwise, but how many people check out snopes. All you have to do is put that in and people assume it's true. These emails just keep getting passed on without much thought -- often by good Christians who would be horrified to learn that they're engaging not only in gossip but slander.
On the Obama as anti-Christ -- see here.
Let us deal with facts not fables, shall we not?
Monday, April 21, 2008
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’t like something at church, you need to initiate a coup and/or leave the church for a better option. Community doesn’t matter as much as getting what you want from church. Apparently challenging words and honesty about issues in America are cause enough to destroy or abandon community. Church splits, gossip, backstabbing, and church-hopping are all apparently what America expects and wants from church. I know this is a complicated issue for many churches, but why has the first priority become leaving or kicking people out instead of building community and engaging in dialogue?
Mr. Epstein: Well, Godless communism was a canard that was exploited, I mean, to divide Americans and it’s carried over again, because one of the things that I’ve seen is that with this sort of resurgence of popular expressions of atheism, there’s this conflict that has been stirred up between let’s say progressive humanists and atheists and progressive people of other faiths,
Christianity, Judaism, et cetera. Right, so that some atheist authors have done a lot to sort of say, you know, ‘If you are a progressive believer in God —’
Ms. Tippett: Right.
Mr. Epstein: ‘— you’re the enemy.’ But most nonreligious people are not anti-religious and this is a key. Most nonreligious people are not anti-religious. All we ask is that we be treated just like anyone else and that our views be taken just as seriously in society and in culture as anyone else
and in politics as well in that it’s when we feel that this is not the case, that we’re still living, in terms of the treatment of atheists in this country, the way that we were living back in the times of McCarthyism and, you know, McCarthy parading around and insulting Godless communists as a way of sort of rallying support to his cause. It’s that point at which we say, you know, many
of us are angry.
However, I want to keep the focus, though, on the positive fact that there are most likely around a billion nonreligious people in the world, depending on how you count, between 30 and 40 or 50 million nonreligious people in this country. And the statistic is probably one in five young people in America, 18- to 25-year-olds, one in five of them in America is nonreligious. And what we’re saying is that we want to build the best possible world for all human beings and that the only thing that can make this world a better place is human effort, human caring, compassion, creativity, and human reason.
People don’t realize that there’s an organization like the Secular Student Alliance, which puts together groups of humanist and secular and atheist and agnostic students around the country and sponsors and supports them in doing community service, you know, in doing all kinds of wonderful activities. And so
Ms. Tippett: Right.
Mr. Epstein: — these are some of the voices that I think we need to hear from now. You know, religion doesn’t poison everything, and not everyone who believes in God is some kind of deluded fool.