Showing posts from November, 2006

Religion and the Democatic Party

When it comes to religion and politics, we usually think of the Republicans. Until very recently they had cornered the market on God-talk. The pundits, talking heads, the mega-church pastors, they all talked up religion. David Barton, the Christian America guru, becomes an advisor to the Republican Party, while Newt, Tom, even George Allen pledge their loyalties to church and state.

Democrats, on the other hand, being godless (according to that godly woman Ann Coulter), ran as far and as quickly from religion as possible. Values voters and those who attend church regularly, they're Republicans. But these are interesting values that are endorsed by such partisans -- lower taxes, strong military, fences along the southern border, abortion (anti-) and homosexuality (anti-). Then along comes Barak Obama, who with grace and charisma, seems able to combine faith and politics with authenticity! And here we are, both parties wanting to talk religion and politics (I must add that our own co…

Out of Exile

The hymn writer Will Thompson wrote these familiar words:

Softly and Tenderly Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me; patient and loving, he's waiting and watching, watching for you and for me. Come home, come home, ye who are weary, come home; earnestly tenderly, Jesus is calling -- calling, "O Sinner, come home!" I've been in church all my life, and so it would be difficult to describe my own faith journey in terms of exile. But, that may not be completely true. My journey has had its fits and starts and it has taken me in more than one direction. But where is home? As a pastor I've discovered that more than a few people are living in exile. They're original starting point no longer provides a safe haven for faith. They're adrift, looking for fellow travelers. I've been taken by the phrases used by Diana Butler Bass -- nomad/spiritual tourist and pilgrim. There is a longing in our hearts for a place called home, but how do we get there? I'…

More on Homosexuality in Church and Culture

I'm posting the link to a piece I've written that was just published in the on-line journal SoMA. It has similarities to the earlier piece in the Lompoc Record, but takes it in a different direction. I would welcome your thoughts and comments as we further the conversation.

The War on Christmas

With Black Friday behind us and something called cyber-Monday today, the Christmas season is officially underway. Soon we'll like hear the complaints of those who believe they're being persecuted because Walmart greeters say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." If only we Americans knew what real persecution is! I'd just as soon not find out.

But word is out that in one Colorado community, a homeowners group is fining Lisa Jensen for her use of a wreath shaped like a peace symbol. Apparently some of her neighbors don't like the political bent of the wreath -- pro-peace and anti-war -- while others deem the peace sign to be Satanic. Yes, here we have it, the latest issue to wrack our nation, Christmas wreaths can be protested for their anti-war or Satanic sentiments!

Diana Butler Bass in her post on the "God's Politics" blog offers a needed corrective to this hogwash. Take a look!

What is it about homosexuality?

With homosexuality remaining such a hot topic in religious circles -- and with all the hullabaloo around Ted Haggard -- I decided to give my take in my Sunday column for the Lompoc Record. The column, which carries the name "Faith in the Public Square" appears each Sunday on the Record's op-ed page.

My own thinking has evolved considerably over the years, and as you'll see from the essay, part of that evolution in thinking is personal -- my brother is gay. This is truly a difficult issue to deal with, but I don't think we can continue on much longer with the "don't ask, don't tell" methodology. But, it will be a long and difficult conversation! So, let's get going on it.

An Instinct to Pray

Reading the LA Times often offers fodder for my posts, and today was no different. Connie Kang offered a piece entitled "Prayer: A Human Imperative that Crosses Religious Lines." The article is based on interviews with several religious leaders from Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Muslim traditions. I'm not sure its the best article ever on this subject, and it sticks with western traditions, but what intrigued me was the quote from Rabbi Elliot Dorf who said that while our prayers might not always come out of a fully developed theology, "the instinct to pray is universal and natural to all."

The instinct to pray, isn't that an interesting idea? It seems in line with Augustine's idea, which is quoted here, that our souls do not find rest until they rest in God. What is prayer? Is it simply an evolutionary adaptation, or does it speak of something divinely implanted in us? I choose the latter for myself!

Putting the C Back into the YMCA

The YMCA or Young Men's Christian Association has morphed over the years into more of a fitness/recreational club than a vehicle of Christian outreach. Born in the mid 1800s as an ecumenical outreach it was the original sponsor of Dwight L. Moody's revivalistic ministry. I'm sure Moody would be surprised at what the Y has become.

And yet word comes that a change is underway, at least in some parts of the country. In a Column One commentary in today's LA Times, Jenny Jarvie tells us about an effort underway to put that C back in the YMCA. Now whether that will mean that an effort will be made to put the M back in as well remains to be seen.

Apparently this is quite controversial. Some members of the Y are wondering where all this Christian music, Bible Study, and walls covered in Scripture verses is coming from. They'd signed up for a gym membership and look what's happening. Now the LA area director insists that such changes aren't in the works in LA, but thi…

New Kinds of Christians

The buzz word these days in religious circles is the "Emergent Church," a religious movement often linked to Brian McLaren. McLaren is probably the best known proponent, but not the only major spokesperson. There seems to be another movement, with a similar name, that is linked to people like Marcus Borg. This other movement is sometimes referred to as the "Emerging Christian Way." In many ways these two movements are very different, and yet they have similarities.

Since I just finished reading McLaren'sA New Kind of Christian(Jossey-Bass, 2001), I want to make some comments about it and the movement that it speaks for. But before I do that I want to insert this quote from a promo for the book: The Emerging Christian Way: Thoughts, Stories, and Wisdom for a faith of Transformation (Copperhouse Books, 2006). I've not yet read this book, but I think it's worth mentioning in connection with the Emergent tradition.

This emerging movement or paradigm - which i…

Happy Thanksgiving

Today is a day for giving thanks, and so I'll take this opportunity to do so:

I give thanks for:

My family -- Cheryl, my wife, Brett, our son
My church -- First Christian Church of Lompoc --you have been a blessing to me and to my family
My home away from home -- Thanks to the Dentons for letting me reside with them when in Lompoc each week
Living in a nation of freedom
Good health
Beautiful place to live
Good friendsAs I give thanks I offer up a prayer of George Herbert (1593-1633):

Thou that hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more, a grateful heart
See how thy beggar works on thee
By art.

Wherefore I cry, and cry again;
And in no quiet canst thou be,
Till I a thankful heart obtain
Of thee:

Not thankful, when it pleaseth me:
As if thy blessings had spare days:
But such a heart, whose pulse may be
Thy Praise.

The Complete Book of Christian Prayer
Continuum, 1995
Pg. 213

Aren't Women Liberated Yet?

Many years ago, during my seminary career at Fuller, I took a class called Women and Men in Ministry. Roberta Hestenes was the teacher. Before seminary my views of women in ministry were really unformed -- I grew up Episcopalian but had moved on to Foursquare in high school. Foursquare as you might now was founded by a woman. I really hadn't thought about it much, but during seminary I began to encounter gifted and called women, some who came from restrictive traditions. I had a close friend who was attending LIFE Bible College. And while Foursquare ordained women, there seemed to be limits on what she could do. It's unlikely Aimee would be allowed to be President now! But Roberta's class helped me clarify ideas and beliefs and I became an advocate for women in ministry. I also studied with Scott Bartchy and affirmed his principle of mutual submission.

Just a few days ago I stumbled into an interesting conversation at the evangelically inclined blog of Scot McKnight, Jesus …

Richard Dawkins' Latest Venture

This morning in reading through some blog posts elsewhere, I came across a piece from Ekklesia on Richard Dawkins' latest venture -- to flood schools with anti-religious literature. The post quotes from several secular scientists who make clear that Dawkins' views, and those of Sam Harris, are rather simplistic and ultimately damage the cause of science.

Being more theologian than scientist (that is an understatement if ever there be one), I too find the arguments overly simplistic. Dawkins conveniently ignores theologians/philosophers such as Tillich, Hartshorne, and the philosopher/mathematician Whitehead, or contemporary theologians such as Welker and Moltmann, just for instances! He does take shots at John Polkinghorne, but my sense is that this is from a distance. Polkinghorne is a highly regard physicist and trained theologian -- bringing together something that Dawkins can't.

There is a middle ground between the militant secularism of Dawkins and the obscuranti…

Bibles in Public Schools -- Can We? Should We?

At about the time I started elementary school in the early 1960s the Supreme Court put an end to devotional Bible reading in public schools. Now, I went to school in California and Oregon and I don't think such things had been present for decades if at all. The question that has arisen lately concerns whether the Bible can or should be taught in public schools, and if it can, what should be the methodology of its teaching. The arguments for teaching the Bible vary from its place as a means of supporting America's moral fabric -- but that doesn't cut it in my mind. A better reason for teaching the Bible is because of the important role it plays in Western history and literary traditions. Then the rub comes -- how do we teach it? For many Christians and probably some Jews, the Bible is a literal history book and should be taught as such. That becomes problematic for those of us who believe in a more critical approach.

Several states have taken steps to support the teaching o…

Abortion -- is there a third way?

Abortion is one of those issues that is ultimately a lose-lose proposition morally and politically. The culture wars divide between pro-life and pro-choice leaves most Americans somewhere in a murky middle. The problem with the debate as it now stands is that too often forgets the people involved. Abortion is a response to a difficult situation. No one sets out in life to have an abortion, abortions happen because life has taken a difficult turn.

I've known teen age girls who have carried a child to term and offered it up for adoption. But doing this interrupts life and makes the future difficult. I've known teen age girls who have gotten pregnant and married as a teen. It's difficult, but with a lot parental/community support it can succeed -- but more often than not doesn't. I know of a case of a young woman who got pregnant while a student at a Christian college. I learned years later that before she ever started showing her parents arranged for her to have an aborti…

From Resentment to Power -- Christian Right politics

I came across a piece by Martin Marty entitled "Watch your Religion-Politics Language," reflecting on the recent elections. In this commentary he speaks first of all of the need to distinguish between the "New Christian Right" and Evangelicalism. Often used synonymously, they overlap at points but Evangelical has a much broader connotation. Marty being a a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church has been heard to point this out.

In this column Marty makes the point that in its beginnings, the Christian Right was motivated by a "politics of resentment" and in time moved to a "politics of will-to-power," but with the resentment still present. You do still hear this in much of what you hear from pundits and pulpits. Being that Christmas (Winter Holiday) is at hand, we're likely to hear that resentment clearly. Here is his comment:

My take: The Christian Right took shape in the 1980s with the motives of the "politics of resentment," it…

Vengeance is Mine?

I know that I'm a bit late in posting on the film "V for Vendetta," but I just watched it last night on DVD. Since I'm not a big graphic novel kind of guy, I'm not as familiar with this movie or the book on which it's based, but I did find it intriguing, if also overly violent.

The movie definitely raises the question of vengeance. This is an issue that simply won't go away and in some ways dominates our news, and has done so for the past five years. But it always seems that this tit-for-tat nature of vengeance creates cycles of violence that never end. There is a strong theme running through the movie about the power of vengeance. It's a theme that also runs through the Batman Movies.

There is another theme that runs through the movie, in fact, in the end it's the driving force of the film. That theme is fear, and the ability of authoritarian governments to rule through fear. The Bush administration has effectively dominated the political scene sin…

Religion, Politics, and the IRS -- And George Regas

With the 2006 elections in our rear view mirror and potential presidential candidates eyeing the nod to run in 2008, the question everyone wants to ask is -- how much is too much religion? Well, maybe not everyone is interested in this question, but many of us are interested.

This morning's LA Times reprints an extended portion of a sermon preached on the eve of the 2004 election by the Rev. George Regas, former rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena. The sermon got All Saints into trouble with the IRS, when Regas, serving as guest preacher, compared the two presidential candidates to Jesus. Though Regas doesn't explicitly endorse either candidate, and though he recognizes that each is a devout Christian, in challenging the President's rationale for the war, he does raise questions about President Bush's fitness to be president -- but never explicitly.

The excerpt presents a strong anti-war statement. Consider this statement:

Sen. Kerry and President Bush…

My Bookstore allows bloggers the opportunity to set up little online bookstores. If you look to the sidebar under links, you'll find my little bookstore. I've placed a few books in there so far, and hope to add more. It's a way of suggesting books and offering one possible portal to purchase some good books. Oh, and I threw in my own study of high church Anglican ecclesiology just for fun. Happy reading.

American Idolatry

A week ago I posted on David Barton's misrepresentation of America's religious history. The Christian Century article that caught my eye can now be viewed online. It's very much worth looking at and reflecting on.

This myth about America's evangelical heritage has been regularly debunked, not just by secularists, but by Evangelical scholars as well. Mark Noll and Nathan Hatch have written careful treatises, and among the best historians of America's religious history are Edwin Gaustad and Martin Marty. To them, we should go, not to Dave Barton.

Atheist with an Attitude

My review of Sam Harris' "Letter to a Christian Nation" was posted on the Disciples World web site. I've commented on the book on several occasions, but this is a more formal piece. Disciples Worldis an independent journal, but its the primary voice of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). So check out the website and my review.

The Transforming Nature of the Cross

Atonement theology remains a sticking point in much theological debate. That may be because the cross stands at the center of Christian life. I guess it's true that we're the only religion with a mode of execution as its pre-eminent symbol. But what does this cross have to do with who we are as people of God?

Again I turn to the thoughts of James Thompson, for even when I'm not in agreement, I find him compelling. He writes:

The goal of Christ's death on the cross is not only to save sinners but to transform them and make them the living embodiment of the righteousness of God. Thus the cross is not only an event of the past but the event that continues to transform God's people. In his own suffering, Paul is the embodiment of the transforming effects of the cross. This transformation is not limited to Paul alone, however. The context indicates that "we" refers both to Paul and his converts, who together "become the righteousness of God." Only then…

More on Paul's Pastoral Theology

James Thompson's Pastoral Ministry according to Paul is full of insight on the contemporary practice of ministry. He defines pastoral ministry in terms of community formation, with a goal of the presentation before God at the end of days of a blameless church. It is a vision of Paul's theology that moves beyond justification to transformation.

For we who are pastors, Paul offers an alternative vision:

Paul's clear articulation of his pastoral ambition provides focus to the contemporary minister who struggles with a variety of expectations. His focus on community transformation is a welcome alternative to our own focus on meeting the individual needs of members of the congregation. Moreover, his call for a communal and countercultural ethic provides a missing dimension in the contemporary understanding of ministry. For Paul, all of the functions and skills of the minister fit within a pastoral theology of transformation. (p. 29).

Such a vision of ministry isn't geared to m…

A Defense of the Working Person

By way of Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish, I came across this op-ed posted in the Wall Street Journal by the newly elected Senator from Virginia, Jim Webb. Much debate has gone on about what the election returns mean. Who are these "moderate" Democrats? How will they fit? They're not hard left, that's true, but they seem to understand that there are certain economic issues that hit the average American hard. Stagnant income, rising health and energy costs, loss of pensions, etc. are driving the American angst. Abortion and gay marriage, Terry Schiavo and steroid use by baseball players (Go Barry!) are not on the top of the list of important issues in the minds of most. It's probably why Americans are so sceptical about what's happening in our midst.

Anyway, Webb speaks strongly to these issues, especially the growing chasm between the very rich and the rest of us.

Time to End the Cycle of Violence

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has long been a cycle of violence spun out of control. Every time one side or the other attacks, the other responds, leading to further attacks, which leads to further responses. Neither side seems willing to stop the cycle.

While I want to say that I completely recognize Israel's right to exist and it's right to defend itself, the Israeli's have to understand that "staying the course" hasn't and isn't bearing fruit. The only means of finding peace is to find a solution that satisfies at least some of the demands on both sides, though not all. The idea that we won't talk to our enemies -- a view that the US puts up in its dealings with Syria and Iran -- simply doesn't work. Mahmoud Abbas is willing to negotiate and his party has recognized Israel's right to exist, even if reluctantly, but he's hamstrung by intransigence on the part of Israel and Hamas. But something has got to be done for the sake of everyon…

Just Imagine -- No God, No Religion

Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins ask us to imagine a world without religion, a world without God, a world where reason reigns supreme. They point to Europe, where secularism has taken root. Though I kind of doubt that most Europeans are secularists because of a choice of reason over religion, but rather because they no longer find religion compelling, the question is whether religion is the root of all evil in the world.

John Lennon sang of a world without heaven, without religion, without nations and borders, a world where we simply live for today. In such a world there would be peace. There is something compelling about this vision, but does it work?

Imagine there's no HeavenIt's easy if you try No hell below us Above us only sky Imagine all the people Living for today Imagine there's no countries It isn't hard to do Nothing to kill or die for And no religion too Imagine all the people Living life in peace
The nations/countries that have sought to be completely secular/a…

God Isn't Dead Yet

I've been doing some posting on this issue of God's existence, largely in response to my reading of Sam Harris' Letter to a Christian Nation. I've yet to read Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion -- though I've skimmed it a couple of times at borders. I tried to order it on line at a couple of spots and it was out of stock. Last week I did read Dawkins' interchange with Francis Collins, the famed geneticist and evangelical Christian that is found in Time Magazine. I must say, I was disappointed with the way Collins presented his views, as Dawkins pretty much got the better of him.

Anyway, yesterday, reading the LA Times Book Review Section, I came across two interesting reviews. The first written by Robert Lee Hotz of the LA Times highlights the books by Dawkins, Harris, and one by evolutionary biologist, E.O. Wilson. This latter book is entitled The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth (W.W. Norton, 160 pgs). Unlike Dawkins and Harris, Wilson, himself a H…

What's the Heart of Paul's Theology?

If you ask any Protestant about the centerpiece of Paul's theology, surely they will say: it is justification by grace through faith. By God's grace we've been offered forgiveness. It was a theological breakthrough that challenged the reigning Catholic orthodoxy of the 16th century that seemed to suggest that one gained salvation/forgiveness by way of merit -- if not your own merit, then perhaps by tapping into the merit of the saints.

With justification as the key to theology, the focus has long been placed upon the individual. But, even though
justification is the touchstone of Protestantism, is it the centerpiece of Pauline theology? A book, I just finished reading, says no it's not. In a most interesting study of Paul's pastoral theology written by Church of Christ (not UCC) biblical Scholar James W. Thompson, the suggestion is made that transformation of the community is the foundation of Pauline theology.

Thompson argues that Paul's is a pastoral theology, b…

Why Give Reverence to the Bible?

Ken left a comment on my earlier response to Sam Harris' best selling book, Letter to a Christian Nation.

Your very criticism about the book seem, at least to me, quite well addressed by Harris. You are probably among the minority of Christians who read the Bible with a "critical" eye. You are in effect a liberal Christian. But Sam makes the point that the fundamentalists are right -- you either believe the Bible is the word of God, or you don't. And if you don't, then why do you treat it with respect and reverence?

He asks me, if I don't follow the fundamentalists and believe the Bible to be "literally" true in all its parts, why bother give it respect and reverence. This is a question posed not just by Sam Harris or Ken, but by conservative Christians themselves.

First of all, I affirm Scripture to be Word of God, but with Karl Barth, I assume a three-fold nature of the Word of God, that includes the Bible but isn't limited to the Bible. Barth te…

Writing as a lifestyle

I've done a lot of writing in my life -- published lots of book reviews, articles, a couple of books (okay, one book was a revision of my dissertation -- a big seller). Now I'm the editor of a small clergy journal called Sharing the Practice. I've got a couple of blogs. My wife wonders, why I spend my time writing. I guess I can't help myself.

So the question is, am I writer or a dabbler? I ran across a most interesting piece by Scot McKnight of "Jesus Creed" about "Writing -- on the Side." McKnight suggests that one can't write on the side, it simply won't happen. If you want to write, you've got to write, regularly, like all the time. I guess I've got the fortune of not having a "full-time" job -- my pastorate is theoretically 3/4 time, but I guess most of what I do is related to it -- even my writing. So, I've come to grips with it being full-time -- except I do a lot of writing. Now, I maybe rambling at this point, b…

More on the Color Purple

Gary Dorrien's very fine history of liberal Protestantism in America makes the case that liberals, starting in the late 18th century, liberals sought to position themselves between secularists on one side and rigid traditionalists on the other -- today we might use the word fundamentalists of left and right. They were the third way, the middle road. Maybe that's what's in store for us -- The Purple Church movement! Purple states and purple churches.

Jim Wallis writing last night, before all the results were in, wrote of the end of the religious right's dominance on moral issues. Moderate Democrats who were able to articulate their faith and took sometimes conservative positions on issues like abortion -- Bob Casey -- did quite well.

Here are the lessons. When Democrats can run authentically as persons of faith, they can beat back the idolatrous claims of the Religious Right that God is only on their side. And when Democrats take a more morally sensible and centrist posit…

Good Bye Donald!

The first administration victim of yesterday's Republican demise is Donald Rumsfeld. This is long in coming and with Iraq being the focal point of the change of government, it's no surprise that he's on his way out. Maybe it came quicker than expected -- but with a replacement already named it seems that George was ready to do this.

So, I'm hopeful. I don't think we will and I don't think we should "cut and run," as others have pointed out -- "when you break it you must fix it." We broke it and we have to do something to fix it. Hopefully the new secretary designate, Robert Gates, will be better able to think outside the box and stop blaming the troops for mistakes made in the Pentagon.

So, the news is good! And perhaps we'll move beyond our zealous nationalism and begin taking a look at what Robert Jewett calls prophetic realism.

The Color Purple

No, I'm not talking about Oprah's breakout role! I'm talking about the United States of America. No longer are we red state/blue state -- we're a color purple. Arnold the Republican won big in Democratic-dominated California, while it seems that in Missouri, Montana, and Virginia, incumbent Republican senators fell to Democrats. So, what's the mood in the nation?

We want an end to the childish partisanship that's been going on for the past 12 years. We want responsive government. We want a government that will deal honestly with issues like Iraq. We want an end to the culture wars. Democrats won a number of formerly Republican districts -- the question is how well can they hold them. Many of the candidates, including John Tester and Jim Webb are not liberal Democrats. If the Democrats are to gain on last night they will have to govern at the center. In many ways this opens the door for Barak Obama. He's unsullied by an Iraq vote (wasn't i…

Barak Obama and the Conservative Soul

I'm not sure if Barak Obama is ready to be President -- but then as he himself said on radio the other night -- is any one really prepared. He's young, bright, charismatic, and knows how to talk about faith in a way that is both appealing and genuine. He's gentle and moderate in tone.

Andrew Sullivan, the gay Catholic Conservative, and author of the Conservative Soul -- a book I've yet to read -- speaks highly of Obama and the possibility that he is the one who might lead the moderate and faithful out of the wilderness into the Democratic Party. As the GOP more and more becomes dominated by a narrow -- Christianism is the word Sullivan likes to use -- where do the moderate and faithful go? Democrats until recently have been uncomfortable with faith talk, and yet Obama gives us an alternative.

Sullivan makes note of an interview with Obama that speaks of the importance of faith and also defines faith in less than absolutist terms. It's a statement worthy hearing and …

Election Day Has Arrived

Election Day is here and the votes are being cast. By the end of the evening, hopefully, we'll have some idea about what will happen over the next two years. Though George W. Bush isn't on the ballot, this election is and should be a referendum on him and his handling of Iraq. Though elections are based on local issues, unless there is a change in congress there will continue to be no accountability. To think that the President is heading into the final stretch of his presidency and he's used the veto pen only once, and that was to veto a popular bi-partisan stem cell research funding bill, is mind boggling.

At this point it's not about Democrat and Republican, it's about accountability and about forcing the current administration to pay attention to at least half if not more of the country. With gerrymandered districts, this makes things difficult, but the House is likely to fall. The Senate is more iffy, but it should be at least closer to 50-50.

With things…

Pastor Ted's Rehabilitation

I've run across an interesting account of the press conference that occurred yesterday published by the Rocky Mountain News concerning the response to Ted Haggard's future. Larry Stockstill, who apparently chairs the oversight committee, for Haggard, has given a number of pointers on Haggard's situation.

First, there is strong sentiment that Haggard hasn't told the whole truth and nothing but the truth yet. Therefore, there will be psychological tests, counseling, maybe even polygraphs. They'll check his computer and his finances. All of which is probably a good idea, in light of what's been revealed so far.According to Stockstill, Haggard says that despite long standing homosexual urges, he's not gay. Now this needs to be kept in mind as I come to the next point.Haggard's "rehabilitation and recovery" will be overseen by Jack Hayford of Church on the Way, Assemblies of God mega-church pastor Tommy Barnett, and Focus on the Family's James D…

Captain America, Crusades against Evil, and the 2006 Elections

Tomorrow we go to the polls. I expect we're in for many a surprise, but the future direction of the country could be determined in large part by what we do tomorrow. For the past 3 years, the current administration has been able to do pretty much what it wants around the world. Congress has proven to be pretty spineless in providing guidance and direction to the administration. The result has been a dangerous war pursued with extreme incompetence. The President has shown no willingness to make changes and continues to blame others for their failures. The problems lie at the tactical level, not strategic level. Let's hope that this changes tomorrow. For a strongly worded perspective on this check out Tom Friedman's views. Friedman has been a supporter of the war, but believes that the nation's ability to win has been compromised by incompetence and stubbornness.

As I contemplate tomorrow's elections, I'm drawn to a book I've been reading. It's not exactly…

Pastor Ted and His Confession

From David Kuo's Beliefnet column comes a clip from Ted Haggard's final sermon, just days before all "hell" broke loose in Colorado Springs.

"Heavenly Father give us grace and mercy, help us this next week and a half as we go into national elections and Lord we pray for our country. Father we pray lies would be exposed and deception exposed. Father we pray that wisdom would come upon our electorate…”
Yes, the deception was exposed -- one he confessed yesterday in a letter read to his congregation. He had climbed to the pinnacles of power, but something deep within, something he repressed apparently his entire adult life, came back to haunt him. The question is, what wisdom will come to prevail upon the electorate. Will it be cynicism? Scepticism? More zealousness? My hope is that we will begin to come to grips with homosexuality in our society. It would be wonderful if Pastor Ted, at the end of his reflections, would come out and say.

You know, I've discovered …

Patriot Pastors and American Idolatry

This week Christianity Todayand Christian Centuryarrived in my mailbox carrying interesting and seemingly connected articles.

Christianity Today carried an article on Patriot Pastors -- a movement that includes Rod Parsley and Russell Johnson of Ohio and Rick Scarborough. These are pastors who believe in a Christian America and are ready and eager -- in the words of Rod Parsley, "lock and load" -- to take on the evil secular liberals who are intent on suppressing/oppressing good values oriented Christians. Theirs is a fairly narrow focus -- abortion and homosexuality, the twin evils of modern American life. For these partisan pastors, the wall of separation is a myth that needs to be exposed and eliminated so that Christians can do their thing! If not, then Christianity will likely be criminalized and suppressed. In Ohio, their hopes have been pinned to the gubernatorial candidacy of Kenneth Blackwell, the conservative Christian African-American state Secretary of State. At t…

Pastor Ted, American Politics, and Homosexuality

On the eve of the 2006 Mid-term election scandal has broken out once again. Just days after a botched joke by a very unfunny John Kerry had seemed to give the Democrats a black eye, word comes that one of the more politically powerful and connected members of the Evangelical community may have been involved in a homosexual relationship and possibly purchased (used?) Meth. Yesterday as I checked the various media outlets, most pundits weren't sure what to do with him. Ted lacks the name recognition of the usual suspects -- Pat, Jerry, and Jim (Dobson), and so no one seems to know what will happen next. The reality is that Haggard is in many ways a more moderate Religious Right Leader, but he's been part of a coterie of people that the Republican establishment have turned to in their efforts to maintain control of the White House and Congress.

As with Mark Foley, Haggard's fall from grace is another reminder of the dangers of keeping homosexuality underground. I've …

Stem Cell Battles

Rush Limbaugh called out Michael J. Fox for his campaigning for the Democratic senate candidate of Missouri. He apparently has half-heartedly apologized for suggesting that either Fox deliberately didn't take his medication or was acting. The issue is stem-cell research. President Bush vetoed a bill that had passed a Republican held House and Senate that would have funded stem cell research -- calling it a moral imperative to do so. Fox, who suffers from the horrible Parkinson's Disease is working to make sure that a veto proof congress is elected.

At this point we don't know what stem cells will do, but the science suggests that before long we'll be able to create cells that will be able to treat, maybe even cure debilitating diseases such as Parkinson's, and perhaps much more than that. The vast majority of Americans support the research, and yet there is significant opposition, much of it coming from within the religious community. This opposition is one pi…

Hurray for Purple Churches

Last night I took on the role of moderator of a candidates forum. My congregation partnered with the local Presbyterian church to host a forum for the local city council candidates. We wanted to do something different, something more civil and meaningful. Oh, there were some shots taken at the council as a whole, but by and large they handled themselves well. I never had to get up and tell a candidate to stop talking -- which was an amazing thing in and of itself.

I remain committed to the belief that churches/religious communities can be a positive force in public life. If, that is, we remain humble and not greedy for power. Once we start playing power politics we become less effective. If we seek political power we're liable to become pawns in the cynical power games of political operatives -- witness David Kuo's recent book on the Bush Faith-based initiative -- Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction (Free Press).

So, this morning as I checked out my e-mail I c…