Showing posts from January, 2007

What Kind of Valentine's Day are you Celebrating?

Valentines Day is on the horizon, and yes I got a present for Cheryl. I'm ahead of schedule for a change, but this time I knew what she wanted.

Richard Beck over at Experimental Theology compares our celebrations of Valentines Day to Freud's "Stages of Psychosocial Development." He points to the differences between our elementary school and high school celebrations -- with one being the "latency stage" and the other the "genital stage." In the elementary school years valentines don't have sexual content -- they're about friendship and inclusion -- Philia. But by high school it's all about boyfriends, girlfriends, romance and eros! Beck want's to push for a return to the Elementary School definition as Valentines Day has, he believes become too genitalized!

Interesting idea.

Benny Hinn -- Let the Bodies Hit the Floor

I know that I preach tolerance, civility, and forbearance, but I found this Benny Hinn parody video only too funny. So, I share it with my friends, thanks to John over at SoMA Review, which is where I discovered it.

Secularist Rebuffs of Atheist Activists!

Even as Andrew Sullivan and Sam Harris carry on their debate at Beliefnet, David Heim of the Christian Century reports that not everyone within the secularist realm are happy with Richard Dawkins and his friends.

Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist, dismisses arguments for God’s existence as “infantile” and “vacuous,” and he regards faith an evolutionary accident–“a misfiring of something useful”—that has caused more harm than good. He thinks atheism is the sign of a healthy mind. His book, which has been on the bestseller list for months, apparently taps into some widespread interest in expunging religion.But Dawkins is severely pummeled for his views in the Atlantic, where novelist Marilynne Robinson skewers him for being stuck in Victorian-era science and for having a naïve confidence in evolutionary progress.

In the New York Review of Books H. Allen Orr, a biologist at the University of Rochester, notes that Dawkins never “squarely faces” Jewish or Christian theology and that his arg…

Best Reads in Contemporary Theology

Patrik Hagman over at God in a Shrinking Universeset up a Best Contemporary Theology Meme and invited submissions and voting. Apparently 50 of us voted and here are the results:

1. John D. Zizioulas, Being as Communion (1985) 21 votes
2. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theodramatik (completed 1983) 17 votes
3. George A Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine (1984) 16 votes
4. John Milbank, Theology and Social Theory (1990) 13 votes
5. Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation (1996) 12 votes
6. John Paul II, Theology of the Body (1979-1984) 11 votes
7. Stanley Hauerwas, The Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer on Christian Ethics (1983) 10 votes
7. Wolfhart Pannenberg, Systematic Theology (1988-93) 10 votes
9. Jürgen Moltmann, The Spirit of Life. A Universal Affirmation. (1991) 9 votes
10. Elizabeth Johnson, She Who Is (1992) 8 votes
10. T. F. Torrance, The Trinitarian Faith (1985) 8 votes
12. Gustavo Gutierrez, We Drink From Our Own Wells (1984) 7 vote…

Taking America for Jesus

I remember back to my teen years, back when I was a bit more conservative, and my pastor often talked about taking Klamath Falls for Jesus. In part that was a call to evangelism, and yet I also remember a political tone to the message as well. This was the mid-70s, bicentennial years, when Campus Crusade was doing its "I Found it" campaign and the popular Christian cantata was "If My People."

Thirty years hence, my attitudes have changed some. I just caught the tail end of Tim Russert's interview with Republican Presidential hopeful -- Mike Huckabee of Arkansas. Huckabee had said in the past that Christians need to take America back for Christ. I expect that he meant that in two ways -- evangelistically and politically. He told Russert that he wouldn't say it the same way today, but he affirmed that his faith influences his politics.

Ethics Daily provides an interesting account of Huckabee's views. The former governor, who like a former P…

Political-Religious Bilingualism

Living in Southern California, as I do, bilingualism is a big thing (or at least it's a political thing). With a growing Hispanic population, plus significant Asian immigration, knowing more than one language helps -- which makes me a dinosaur.

John Dominic Crossan, best known for his work on Jesus (and membership in the Jesus Seminar) writes cogently in an On Faith piece about the need for religiously inclined politicians to be bilingual in a different way. To privatize religion is not only impossible, but when tried simply makes faith insular. But how do we express and live faith in a way that's appropriate in the public square -- something I'm very interested in -- and his suggestion is this bilingualism.

In order, however, to enter the public square and argue for their political vision in that open venue, they must translate their traditional religious language into communal public discourse. For example, if they were Christian and asking “WWJD?,” their religious reading…

My News -- Book Manuscript Accepted

I thought I'd share a bit of good news. I submitted to CSS Press a collection of sermons on the Seven Last Words of Christ entitled Cries from the Cross. I've received word they'd like to publish it. So, next Spring the book (it's short) will be available. Don't put your order in yet, but I thought I'd share my good news.

Politics and Climate Change

Today word comes that a survey produced by the Union of Concerned Scientists demonstrates that the current administration, which has dragged its feet on climate initiatives, had pressured government scientists to tone down or not talk about climate change/global warming etc.

Jobs, economics, etc. are important considerations, but politics shouldn't steer science. It is for the same reason that religion shouldn't steer science. Scientists need to be free to speak their mind, and the politicians have to decide what to do with the information. We are called to be stewards of resources and always remember that we're not the last generation on earth.

What's Judeo-Christian about America?

We often hear in the rhetoric of the Religious Right an appeal to the Judeo-Christian heritage of our nation. But what does that mean? Since few Jews use the language, but is instead a largely Christian slogan, it's probably not a word of inclusion -- as if Jews and Christians should dominate American political and cultural life. Instead, it's a word that appeals to the alleged biblical foundations of the nation -- that is the nation's roots look to things like the Ten Commandments as a guide to public life, etc. It's a phrase bandied about by such folks as Virgil Goode in his reaction to Keith Ellison and by others who want to "protect" American values.

Randy Balmer has a nice definition of the "Judeo-Christian Tradition" in the appendix of Thy Kingdom Come (p. 194-95). He warns us to check our wallets when we hear the word used because someone's trying to pull something over on us. He notes it's original usage --OED, 1899 -- use i…

Saudi Oil and Muslim Extremism

When we in the west think of Islam we have two pictures -- Saudi and Iranian versions. One is Sunni and the other Shiite. But Islam is or at least was diverse in practice. The hijab and the burqa are cultural adaptations. Whereas distance made it possible for distinct Islamic cultures to emerge, especially in places like India, Indonesia, and Africa, Saudi/Persian Gulf oil money has done two things -- it has recruited heavily in both India and in Africa for workers, who when they return often bring home religious ideas along with money. It has also allowed the Saudi's especially to fund the building of mosques and schools that are very much in the Wahabist/Arabist tradition.

This morning's LA Times story -- "Austere Version of Islam Finding a Home in India" -- about the effect of this Saudi/Wahabist influence on Kerala in India is fascinating and eye-opening. India's Muslim face is being transformed, and it is becoming much more uniform. When you …

San Joaquin Diocese Contemplates Schism?

Just a month ago, maybe less, we heard about the decision of two prominent Virginia parishes of the Episcopal Church to leave the this communion. Now the San Joaquin, California diocese, led by Bishop John-David Schofield, is considering leaving in mass and align with another episcopal jurisdiction, either in South America or Africa.

An interesting article by Louis Sahagun appears today in the LA Times. It is really distressing news. Although I've not been an Episcopalian since the mid 1970s, when I began my youthful journey in search of my own faith, my mother remains a devoted Episcopalian and my own historical work centers on the Anglican tradition (17th/18th centuries). The diocese is composed of about 47 congregations, not all of similar mind. But at least a majority is of this mindset, and not surprisingly since the current bishop has been there nearly 20 years and likely his predecessor was conservative. The San Joaquin Valley (The Big Valley for those who rememb…

Stem Cell Debate: Life in the Balance

Faith in the Public Square
Lompoc Record
Published -- January 28, 2007

Scientific and technological advances over the last century, especially those in the medical and bio-technology fields, have been a blessing. Life expectancy is reaching once unimaginable levels, and diseases that were once killers are now simply nuisances that can usually be prevented or at least controlled with medication. But, sometimes these advancements outstrip our ability to reflect ethically on their ramifications and consequences. As the Nazis proved, just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.

Embryonic stem cell research is one of those issues that's been caught up in these kinds of debates. While the vast majority of Americans support embryonic stem-cell research, a vocal opposition has been raising ethical and moral questions that have stymied efforts to fund research at the federal level. In 2006, when President Bush issued his first presidential veto and turned back a bipartisan bi…

SBC Rejects Psychology

In recent weeks I've been writing about the relationship between faith and science, largely in relation to the upcoming observance of Evolution Sunday (February 12). I've been doing this in large part out of concern for the consequences of a rejection or marginalization of science in the Christian community if we embrace either Intelligent Design or Scientific Creationism. Issues like the environment and stem-cell research have been effected, but now it's psychology and pastoral counseling.

In an article by David Winfrey published in the most recent but not yet posted online Christian Century we learn that Southern Baptist Seminary, is revamping its counseling program and replacing psychology and pastoral counseling with "Biblical Counseling." Biblical Counseling, my psychology professor said back years ago is neither biblical nor counseling -- and is the brainchild of Jay Adams. Ironically the field of "pastoral counseling" was born at Southern Baptist …

Barack Obama's Early Political Abilities

This morning's LA Times offers an interesting portrait of Barack Obama's entry into political life as President of the Harvard Law Review, of which he was the first African American to hold the position. This article describes an editorial board more riven with political chicanery than the U.S. Congress, and yet Obama was chosen by his peers, both Conservative and Liberal because of his distinct ability to listen to both sides -- even though then like now he was a liberal.

A telling quote comes from David Goldberg, the person whom he finally bested, to take the position:

"He was not a conventional politician," said Goldberg, now a civil rights lawyer in New York. "He was thoughtful, and he listens. People came to appreciate that."

Such a politician -- whether him or not -- is what our nation, riven with polarizing political strife needs at this time.

Check Out the CopperHouse Current

Woodlake Books in Canada has launched an e-mail newsletter that seeks to connect Christians who are on the "emerging Christian way." If you've heard of Brian McLaren and Emergent Christianity, this is similar but different. The best way to describe this viewpoint is to suggest you read Marcus Borg's The Heart of Christianity. This newsletter is called the CopperHouse Current and I think you might find it of interest. Now, I will say that this issue that just came this evening answers a question I had sent in concerning how the Emerging Way connected with the Emergent Christians -- Borg and McLaren. Tim Scorer, editor of the newsletter pointed out that when he had attended a seminar this past summer in Portland that featured Borg and McLaren, Borg said he didn't find anything to disagree with in McLaren's presentation -- so there you have it. Well, and Tim made nice comments about this blog as well

Having received this letter from Bob Cornwall with a link to hi…

Thy Kingdom Come - a Review

Randall Balmer. Thy Kingdom Come: An Evangelical's Lament, How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America. New York: Basic Books, 2006. xxx + 242 pp.

What does it mean to be an evangelical today? That is a difficult question to answer, but it is a question with an important political side to it. Where a century ago Fundamentalists and religious conservatives stood on the margins while socially progressive Mainline Protestants took center stage, over the last three decades the conservative religious movement has taken center stage, crowning as president first Ronald Reagan and then George W. Bush. But, has this ascendancy been good for the evangelical movement or the nation as a whole? Randy Balmer, a Columbia University religious history professor and chronicler of the Evangelical movement says absolutely not. His book, Thy Kingdom Come is a pointedly written rejoinder to those who would claim the nation for Jesus through politics.

I must mention…

I got kicked off the jury

After a maddening 3 day wait, I finally got called to the box to serve as an alternate. But, I didn't last long. I was kicked off by the defense. I think it was more that I was a pastor and this was a DUI case than the fact that I'm friends (though not extremely close friends) with a judge and a public defender. That is, however, the farthest into the court room I've gotten (in any official capacity).

My observations -- this was a misdemeanor DUI case -- is that jury selection is often tedious and time consuming. The attorneys can kick off more people than you think -- 10 each -- and they play something akin to a chess match. You think they're done and then they start knocking people off. The goal of course is to mold a jury that one thinks will help one's own side and that's what they're supposed to do.

I've been in other jury selection processes (2 other time) and both went much faster. Part of this is the result of the manner of the judge. …

What's an Evangelical? The growing questions

What does it mean to be an evangelical? That's a question that's been on people's minds for really a long time, and the definitions have changed and the borders have expanded and retracted several times (remember the Don Dayton--George Marsden debates a couple decades back). At times evangelical/Evangelical is a party affiliation at others it's a self-chosen descriptor. I've posted before that I have an evangelical pedigree of sorts -- being that I'm a graduate of Fuller Seminary --- but when you use the word evangelical and Fuller in the same breath, you still have to do some defining of terms. Fuller today is much different than it was in the 1950s, when it looked probably a lot more like Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, only more conservative. I'm not sure if Fuller wasn't more liberal in the 1980s when I went there than it is today (Jack Rogers was one of my favorite profs back then), but I can't be sure (politically the faculty remains soci…

Barbara Boxer and CAIR

It has been reported that Barbara Boxer and the Council on Arab-Islamic Relations have met and ironed out differences, though the award that was rescinded will not be returned to Basim Elkarra, executive director of the Sacramento office, and Boxer says the concerns remain.

In the Washington Post account this statement from CAIR is provided:

"We have addressed the issues related to this unfortunate and unnecessary incident, and have agreed with Senator Boxer that we should all move forward to build a nation in which people of all faiths work together to promote respect and tolerance," CAIR said in a statement.

Though this is ended for now, from the reports I've read there are still issues hanging on. They've basically agreed to move forward. All of this reminds us we have so much father to go to resolve differences and build bridges that overcome distrust.

Blogging Jury Duty

I was going to share my jury pool adventures today, but I must go back one more time tomorrow and jump in the pool. We've been at it a day and a half, but the jury isn't quite finished. I'm not in the box and hopefully they'll settle on things before I have to go up to the "inner sanctum."

But that's why I've been a bit quieter today.

Consider the possibility -- there might be some things even science can't discern!

Andrew Sullivan, Time Magazine columnist and blogger (Daily Dish) is having that ongoing debate with Sam Harris about the rationality of belief. Now, I'm biased because Mr. Sullivan is representing us theists in this debate. But from my following of the debate, I can't help but feel that Sullivan is getting the upper hand. Though he's not a theologian, he shows considerable theological acumen.

In this debate, Sullivan shows that Harris' intolerance of religion is undermined by his own statements about the possibility that there is more to reality than what science can prove. It may be only a sliver, but there's room for the possibility of faith -- of metaphysics.

If he considers the possibility then there is room for other forms of truth seeking besides science ---

My point here is to say that once you have conceded the possibility of a truth that is not reducible to empirical proof, you have allowed for the validity of religious faith as a form of legitimate truth-se…

Muslims on TV -- from Sightings

Since TV forms much of our attitudes and understandings, and helps create and sustain our stereotypes, the portrayal of Arabs and Muslims on TV will prove influential. This week's edition of Sightings, written by Amir Hussain of Loyola Marymount University, published as an e-mail letter from the Martin Marty Center, offers a helpful look at this problem.

Sightings 1/25/07
Muslims on Television-- Amir Hussain

Last November, over 10,000 scholars of religion from across North America and around the world gathered in Washington, D.C., for the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature. A keynote speaker was to have been European Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan, but his visa was denied by the U.S. government, as it had been in 2004, when he was appointed as a professor at the University of Notre Dame. The important study of Muslim communities, however, was featured in the Religion and Media workshop, where global representations of Islam we…

Response to Barbara Boxer's Snub of CAIR

Recently Barbara Boxer (D-CA) rescinded an award given to the Sacramento director of the Council of Arab-Islamic Relations. Now an open letter is being circulated by Progressive Christians Uniting that calls for Senator Boxer to return the award and apologize to CAIR.

It is unfortunate that we live at a time when a growing xenophobia is enveloping our nation. That there is a strong extremist element within parts of the Arab and Islamic world is not to be denied, but if we're going to end the violence it will take people of good will, and CAIR has been a good partner, as is demonstrated in the letter of support below:

Please Reject Islamophobia and Restore the Good Name of CAIR(Council on American Islamic Relations)

Dear Sen. Boxer:

As interfaith leaders and concerned citizens, we are alarmed that you hastily rescinded the appropriate recognition your office had given to Basim Elkarra, who represents the Council on American Islamic Relations in Sacramento.

You took this action rashly af…

The Problem with Christian Schools

Though my collegiate and graduate education (with exception of 2 quarters of grad study at the U. of Oregon) was in a Christian environment, I'm a believer in public education. Though my wife teaches at a Catholic school, our son has spent his entire educational career in public school and is not the worse for wear because of it. At a time when our public schools in Santa Barbara are dealing with declining enrollment (it costs too much to live here) there comes word of a new Christian high school (supported in part I hear by supermodel Kathy Ireland). In the article from the local paper it was said that one of the benefits was that boys and girls wouldn't be showing any public display of affection and "both sides" of evolution would be taught.

Now if you believe that Christian high schoolers don't show a bit of pda then you've never been a youth minister or been a counselor at a Christian camp. There's a reason why counselors have to beat the bushes at nig…

Stale Rhetoric of Abortion Debate

Monday was the 34th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. It is a decision that legalized abortion and launched a three plus decade war of words (and sometimes more). At times the rhetoric is vicious and demeaning, and occasionally it ends up becoming violent. Abortion has become an important political wedge issue that divides churches and partisan politics. But in the end, what has all of this accomplished.

Diana Butler Bass suggests that the church has failed mightily in its attempts to get a handle of the issue. In a God's Politics post she turns to Stanley Hauerwas, who puts a kind of pox on both your houses response to the abortion debate.

To commemorate the day, I decided to re-read some Stanley Hauerwas (Duke Divinity School ethicist) essays on abortion. After spending Monday morning with Stanley, it is difficult to fault the Post for not carrying a story about Roe vs. Wade. As Hauerwas noted in 1981, "Essays of the morality of abortion, whether they be anti or…

A message from Barack Obama

With last night's Presidential State of the Union address in the books, now it's time to hear the responses. I didn't watch the speech, but caught clips of both it and the Webb response, and from what I can tell President Bush has hardly any support on Iraq, but has some room to work on domestic issues with the Democrats -- especially immigration and energy policy. Barack Obama sends out an email message from his exploratory committee this morning offering some points of clarity and possible bi-partisan action. So, I'm just sharing it with you:

Dear Friend,

If nothing else, the last election proved that politics-by-slogan and poll-tested sound bites aren't going to cut it with the American people anymore, and that's why the real test of leadership is not what the President said to Congress last night, but how he works with Congress in the months to come to find real solutions to America's problems.

The good news is that in the halls of Congress and acros…

Religious Leaders Condemn Obama Smear Campaign

This is an open letter posted today at the National Council of Churches website condemning the recent attempt to smear Barack Obama -- suggesting he was educated at a Wahabist Madrassa in Indonesia, and that therefore he is possibly an Islamist in disguise. CNN has already shown that this is all a fabrication, but it's important that we in the religious community state clearly that such attempts to smear candidates is out of bounds! The issue is not whether Obama is or has been a Muslim (he isn't, nor has he been), but how religion is being used as political dirty trick! So, I add my amen to this letter.

January 23, 2007
An Open Letter to the Religious Community:

Many of you have seen hateful emails, blog postings and reports circulating on the Internet and in the media about Senator Barack Obama and his religious upbringing. These outrageous charges began as reports of his potential candidacy for President emerged and, as has become a shameful custom of modern politics, it…

Discerning a Theology of Sexuality

I teach a Bible study that carries the title: "Reading the Bible Responsibly." We've been at it for quite a while and we finally made it to Hebrew Poetry. As part of that discussion, we decided to spend two sessions on the Song of Songs/Song of Solomon. Tonight is the second session. If there was a book of the Bible that would get the Bible banned from America's libraries, it would be this one. No other book in the Bible is so overtly sexual, which may be, likely is, the reason why the church has historically allegorized it. Even Protestants, who have been loathe to use allegory, have made grand use of it.

Scholars are not of one mind, which isn't surprising, about what's intended here. But unless we wish to continue using the allegorical method of interpretation, which I don't think is necessary here, then we're faced with the overt sexual content. The text looks quite secular. No mention of God, no mention of religious rituals. On that score it holds…

The Truth on Barack Obama's Schooling

CNN did some investigative reporting -- something apparently neither Insight Magazine nor Fox News is interested in -- and checked out the school attended by Barack Obama in Indonesia. It was and is what he has claimed it was a public school that was composed primarily of Muslim students, something one would expect from a public school in a predominantly Muslim Country.

I hope people will stop believing these crank stories and understand that the source of them is a cabal of people who don't understand what it means to be American!

A Call to Civility

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes in the London Times online a call for a return to civility, noting that the word civil is the root of another important word -- civilization. We have become a most impolite (polite comes from the word polity -- governance), and the fate of civilization is wrapped up in the way we view each other.

Interestingly he points out that historically places like Venice, London, and the Netherlands, back in the 18th century, were places that put an emphasis on business and were also places that emphasized tolerance. Apparently the market is a strong motivation against war.

I too have become greatly concerned about the lack of civility. It is a main cause of polarization in our own political culture. If you speak kindly of the one you disagree with, you're some kind of wimp.

In his closing paragraphs Rabbi Sacks writes:

Why has it happened? Because we have lost a shared moral code. Because we no longer respect authority. Because national identities have e…

Have You Ever Thought About Killing Someone?

Egad, what a thought! But apparently we all do this, we have homicidal fantasies, and the majority of these fantasies are sexually related. That is the proposal made by psychologist/professor of experimental psychology at Abilene Christian University in Texas (not Kansas), Dr. Richard Beck. Beck reports that this idea was broached by Dr. David Buss, author of The Murderer Next Door. I find Beck's forthright statements all the more interesting since ACU is a university related to the Churches of Christ.

This connection, which may have, likely has evolutionary connections, raises important questions about who we are as human beings, and the way the church deals with such things.

He makes 4 conclusions:

1. Generally, when we speak of "hate" in the church, we tend think of issues like racism. But the most common forms of hate center on sexual issues. This connection is rarely made in church.

2. This connection of hate and sex needs to be made explicit if spiritual intervention…

What is Religion Good For?

If you listen to Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris and friends, religion isn't good for much. It's rather dangerous, and they have a point, because historically and currently, religion appears to be playing a pretty negative/divisive role in our nation and around the world. Islamic extremists are easy pickings today -- with Osama Bin Laden and Muqtadr al Sadr in the news, but their not alone. We Christians can't feel too superior!

Brian McLaren, over at the God's Politics Blog, offers I think a very helpful response -- a call to humility and service.

He writes:
Last time I checked, three of the top 10 "religious" books were in praise of atheism and against religion in all its forms. In these times of snarky religious cold wars in some quarters and hot religious violence in others, I'm not surprised. Those of us who see religion in a different light – who see religion as a powerful motivation to care for the widow and orphan, to seek justice and peace, to love o…

Hillary and Barack -- the similarities and the differences

It's now pretty official, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, are in the race for the presidency. When Hillary announced, she said she was in this to win. Of course, everyone, even Dennis Kucinich, has to say that, but she has the gravitas to do it.

Obama and Clinton are both epoch making candidates. If elected, Obama would be the first African-American President. If elected, Clinton would be the first woman President. Either would be historic and would shatter those glass ceilings that have kept the presidency in the hands of white males for the entirety of the nation's history. When you think about it, isn't it strange that Muslim countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh have had women leaders, but we haven't? But the time is coming, whether this election or the next, but in the coming years this will shatter.

E.J. Dionne writes a great article this morning that compares Hillary and Barack. There are many similarities -- especially in policy and even in re…

Women teaching Men -- heretical idea? Just ask the SBC

Another controversy emerges from within the Southern Baptist Convention, a group that is the largest of Protestant denominations, and which has taken, as most know, a severe rightward turn in the last quarter century. A further example of this is the decision of the President of the seminary to terminate a popular female Hebrew teacher -- ostensibly because she didn't have tenure, which she wasn't given, because the school wants those qualified to be pastors to teach pastors, and as we know the SBC now prohibits women from serving as pastors. So, now this largest of Baptist seminaries will be pure -- it will be a male domain. Aren't we getting progressive over there.

The chair of the board of trustees denies this is an example of gender discrimination. Why, because it's a religious agency, and religious agencies are free to do as they like. Well, legally he may be right, but morally this is still gender discrimination. These are his words as reported in Ethics …

Interim Ministry in the News

Having served as an interim pastor -- which turned into a transitional ministry -- anyway, I was interested in an article in today's LA Times about interim ministry.

Interim ministry has become an important part of a congregation's transition from one pastor to the next. In fact, as the article shows, it h as become a very specialized ministry. I didn't have the training, so I don't qualify as the specialist type, but many are and they provide an important benefit to the church, especially churches that have gone through times of trouble.

Good article in an unexpected place!

What is Emerging Christianity?

When one speaks of Christianity it's important to remember that this isn't a monolithic movement. Besides there being Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant, from there there are many further subdivisions and further subdivisions. Just think, there are dozens of varieties of Baptists, alone.

I've posted earlier about my readings of Brian McLaren, one of the central figures in the Emergent movement, but as Scot McKnight of North Park Theological Seminary, a self-described but critically engaged emerging Christian, offers an interesting synopsis of the movement on Christianity Today's blogsite.

I'll just put up the five streams that he believes flow into the Emerging lake:

1. Prophetic
2. Postmodern
3. Praxis oriented (worship, orthopraxy, missional)
4. Post-Evangelical (their not caught up in a specific theology)
5. Political (that is, they tend to vote overwhelmingly Democrat, because they feel that the Dems put more emphasis on things like poverty and the environment…

Audacity of Hope -- one columnist's recommendation

Mary Schmichwrites in the Chicago Tribune today that reading BarackObama'sAudacity of Hopeis worth the effort, even if you're not an Obama groupie. These two short paragraphs state why you might want to read the book:

There are other politicians equally worthy of running for president. There's not, however, another one who has so precisely and readably laid out the workings of his mind and a vision of this country.

Obama has staked his success on the belief that many of us are looking for a different way of talking about politics and policy, about life. He writes the way he believes we'd like to talk.
I'm just beginning to read the book, but I'd agree, it would be worth the read, especially if you have questions about his person and conviction. If we say we want transparent leaders, here's one for you.

Taking Scripture Seriously -- Andrew Sullivan's response to Sam Harris

Andrew Sullivan is having an interesting Beliefnet "debate" focused on religious moderation. It's Harris' view that religious moderates are being disingenuous about their professions of faith, because by not taking the text with strict literalness they don't take it seriously. Sullivan offers a very reasoned and straightforward response that undermines Harris' rationalist positions, and shows them to be in what my mind is a straw man.

As for the charge of not taking the text seriously, Sullivan writes:

Blogger, please. In many ways, the source of much of today's religious moderation is taking scripture more seriously than the fundamentalists. Take the Catholic scholar Garry Wills. Read his marvelous recent monographs on Jesus and Paul and you will see a rational believer poring through the mounds of new historical scholarship to get closer and closer to who Jesus really was, and what Paul was truly trying to express. For me, the deconstruction of a cru…

Congress marks religious firsts

Published January 21, 2006
Faith in the Public Square
Lompoc Record

When Congress reconvened Jan. 4, it witnessed several American religious firsts, including the seating of two Buddhists and a Muslim as congressional representatives. In 1972, 51 senators and 43 percent of the House hailed from three Protestant denominations, but that's changing, especially with the most religiously diverse Congress in history. What this means is that we're witnessing the realization of America's promise as a land of freedom for people of every religious background.

Not everyone, unfortunately, is happy about this change. The election of a Muslim from Minnesota, Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), to Congress made news, which might not be unexpected considering that America is at war in two Muslim countries. Some Americans feel this event in our history bodes ill for the nation. When Ellison announced that he would use the Koran to take his oath of office, the reaction was swift and negative. Now, sacred…

The Obama andClinton Responses to Smear Campaign

Spokespersons for both the Obama and Clinton campaigns have responded to this "story" about Obama's past. David Axelrod of Obama's staff calls it a fabrication and Clinton's staff respond that they had nothing to do with what is an attempt to smear both Obama and Clinton.

And to think we're so early in the political season, just think what might be coming down the pipeline.

It takes either insanity or courage to run for President!

Reminder on Religious Tests

With all the controversy swirling around first Keith Ellison, then Mitt Romney, and now Barack Obama, it's important to remind ourselves, that there is no religious test required for public office. Our Constitution is a secular document that protects religious rights for every person, whether Protestant, Muslim, Catholic, Hindu, Agnostic, spiritual but not religious, and even Atheist. As Mark Toulouse reminds us in God in Publicthe framers had it in their power to "make the Constitution an explicitly Christian document, or, at least one that barred non-Christians from holding office." But they didn't. Yes, a number of states did just this, and some established churches, but in the end it's the Federal Constitution that sets the direction for the nation. (Mark Toulouse, God in Public, WJK, 2006, p. 7).

The key point in all of this discussion is clause 3 of Article 6 of the Constitution, which states:

"No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification …

Fox News Joins the Smear Campaign

Word now comes and video evidence from Think Progress that Fox News is picking up on this Insight Magazine article that seeks to tar Barack Obama with a secret Muslim identity. Not surprising considering the Fox "unfair and unbalanced" perspective, but this really is despicable.

Obama has been quite forthcoming about his background, his time spent in Indonesia, and even in Muslim schools, but that does not make one a Muslim, and besides, he has made clear his conversion to Christianity. As a Christian I find all of this quite baffling. If you believe in conversion why question a conversion? Unless it's politically motivated or you have clear evidence otherwise.

So now we've got a smear going on against Mitt Romney, who supposedly is under the thumb of a sinister Mormon prophet and Obama who is really a secret Muslim.

My, My, how advanced we are as a society

The Complexity of Faith

What is your religious position? Are you Christian or not? If a Christian, what kind of Christian? The founding generation of my denomination asserted that they were simply Christians, no more, no less. They looked to the Bible, and especially the New Testament, for their answers and left it to the person to find the truth.

A nice piece in the Chicago Sun Times shares Barak Obama's attempt to place himself? Is he an evangelical, the interviewer asks -- he answer's I'm not sure. I know how he feels.

Here is his response -- he who is being accused of not being a Christian, but really a Wahabist Muslim instead:

Surrounded by members of the editorial board, editors, our publisher, and a couple of his own aides, this was Obama's answer:

"Gosh, I'm not sure if labels are helpful here because the definition of an evangelical is so loose and subject to so many different interpretations. I came to Christianity through the black church tradition where the line between evang…

The Smear Begins

Melissa Rogers alerts us to a story in the Right Wing online journal Insight, which has ties to the National Review and Washington Times, that seeks to again smear Barak Obama as a Muslim incognito. This article which suggests that the information comes from Hillary Clinton's office, apparently seeks to smear her as well. As some would say, the Swift Boating begins.

Through the use of innuendo, and other means, the charge is that Obama who spent about 4 years of his childhood in Indonesia and attended a predominantly Muslim school, was really educated in a Saudi sponsored Wahabist Madrases. Now I don't know if the Saudi's were sponsoring Madrases back then in Indonesia, but this "wolf in sheep's clothing" is really despicable.

Barak Obama has been an active member of Trinity UCC in Chicago and is quite explicit about his Christian faith, but that being said, even if at one time he was a Muslim or that he harbors fondness for Islam is really beside the point. We…