Showing posts from May, 2007

Sam Brownback's Confusion -- on matters scientific

Sam Brownback, erstwhile candidate for the GOP nomination for President, has offered in the NY Times a clarification of his hand raising at a recent debate. When asked who did not believe in evolution, Sam was one of three to raise his hand. Now we're told why. First he makes clear that this is a serious issue that needs to be taken seriously (to which I nod in agreement). He notes that the idea of creation is too often limited to a 6-day/24 hr. format, and to many this is true -- and apparently he's not a Young Earther. He makes an important statement about the relationship of faith and reason: The heart of the issue is that we cannot drive a wedge between faith and reason. I believe wholeheartedly that there cannot be any contradiction between the two. The scientific method, based on reason, seeks to discover truths about the nature of the created order and how it operates, whereas faith deals with spiritual truths. The truths of science and faith are complementary: they deal w…

Barack Obama's Faith -- Sightings

Much has been made of Barak Obama's faith professions and his church affiliation. Robert Franklin offers a most insightful statement as to where this derives from! I think you'll find this interesting and helpful. Sightings 5/31/07 Obama's Faith: A Civil and Social Gospel-- Robert M. Franklin One by one Senator Barack Obama is passing the necessary tests for national leadership. Probing questions have been raised about his experience, race, early education, parents, voting record, statesmanship, and more. He has answered those questions with poise and respect. But when attention turns to Senator Obama's faith, I get worried. As Martin Marty noted in a recent column ("Keeping the Faith at Trinity United Church of Christ," April 2, 2007), some media hounds have focused on Obama's home church of choice. Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago's south side is one of the nation's most progressive African American mega-churches. Led for thirty-f…

The Literal Word of God?

According to the polls I mentioned earlier many Americans believe that the Bible is the "literal word of God." As I pointed out, we are, apparently, according to Stephen Prothero, a nation of biblical illiterates. So when we hear that people affirm this, what do they mean? Do they mean? God dictated the very words of the Bible -- if so, in which language did this happen? God superintended the transmission of the words of the Bible. God opened the hearts and minds of the writers so they understood these words to be a revelation of God. I would assume that if this was the literal word of God then God must have dictated them, but even very few conservatives believe that. And as for language the Christian Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) was written in Hebrew (though parts may have been originally penned in other languages such as Aramaic; the New Testament was written in Greek and when it quotes the OT it generally references the Septuagint, which is a Greek translation of the Hebrew …

Archaeology and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

As a historian, I'm kind of old fashioned. When I do my historical work I try to be objective and not force history to do political or even religious bidding. Of course it helps to be a historian of a movement (the Nonjurors) with whom I have no real sympathies.
I found an op-ed piece this morning in the LA Times to be most interesting. Walter Reich, the author of the piece entitled "King Herod's Return" is a professor of international affairs, ethics and human behavior at George Washington University, a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and a former director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (that's a lot of titles). He writes in the context of the recent discovery of King Herod the Great's apparent tomb. As Reich notes, nobody really likes King Herod, a Roman puppet king who did however build some nice buildings, but this like any discovery in the region has political overtones.
He notes the propensity on both sides t…

Biblically Illiteracy and Affirmation of Biblical Authority

Americans are a funny lot. According to the polls, the latest ones reported in the Washington Times suggest that the vast majority of Americans believe that the Bible is either literally true or at least divinely inspired. 75% of Americans, suggests the latest Gallup poll. This belief system has political and social consequences -- so says Gallup's Frank Newport: A literal-belief structure, Mr. Newport said, has influenced a number of public issues, including teaching evolution in public schools, same-sex relationships, the role of a husband and a wife in marriage, observance of a day of rest, the idea of men-only clergy and even "seemingly unrelated topics" such as immigration.And the Barna survey suggests: Seventy-eight percent of Republicans and 69 percent of Democrats say the Bible is "totally accurate in all of its teachings," according to a survey of 1,006 adults conducted in January by the Barna Group, a marketing firm. And a Pew Survey says (I feel like I&…

An Evangelical Inclusivism -- John Stackhouse's Defense

The Evangelical in me (remember I'm a graduate of Fuller Seminary) believes that there is something cosmically decisive about the person of Jesus -- that is -- Jesus is the one through whom God has reconciled the world to God's self (2 Cor. 5). At the same time there's another part of me that has long believed -- perhaps as far back as my time at Fuller -- that it is simply inappropriate to believe that God would require confession of faith in Jesus as the sole means of salvation -- indeed, that without such a confession one would spend eternity in hell. I must confess it was while an M.Div. student that I abandoned the idea of hell for an anhilationist view. I've moved on toward a more universalist view since then. Well, this morning -- via The Fire and the Rose -- I came across a piece by John Stackhouse of Regent College (not to be confused with Pat Robertson's Regent University). This Regent is in British Columbia, Canada. In this article which appears …

Memorial Day -- Arlington West

On a beach here in Santa Barbara is a memorial to those who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's called Arlington West. My friend and fellow Pastor, Roy Donkin posted this picture along with his own reflections on the day -- as a pacifist. You will find his thoughts worth considering on this Memorial Day as we remember the nearly 4000 Americans who have died in these two countries.

Two Adams -- Death and Life

I have had a visitor to these pages raise a question about metaphorical interpretations of Adam. The context is Paul’s claim that Jesus is the second Adam (1 Cor. 15:22ff). If Jesus is the second Adam doesn’t there have to be a first Adam – one historic personage relating to another. My answer is no, the first Adam is symbol/metaphor relating to the connection we as humans have with each other and with God. We are all one in Adam – that is, we all share a common humanity. If we take Genesis 3 as our guide then, this passage of Genesis assumes that humanity as a whole is out of relationship with God. In other words, we have chosen to go it alone. Jesus is the second Adam who restores that relationship with God. Jesus is the one who walks with God and overturns our alienation. Ireneaus’s doctrine of recapitulation fits in here. Bernard Anderson writes: "In Jesus Christ, then, God has resored the human pattern intended at the original creation. He is the 'adam, of whom Adam was …

A Prayer For Memorial Day

I post this prayer from Chalice Worship to serve as my prayer for the day and to call others to prayer in memory of those who have fallen:

Memories are joyful and painful, by we cannot live without them. Let us pray that we may never forget.
For leaders who send young men and women to war, that their judgments may be sound and their motives be pure, we pray.
For soldiers who lay down their lives for others, that the love which inspires their sacrifice be fulfilled in the love of Christ, we pray.
For soldiers who have been maimed or brutalized by war, that our love for them may make their scars less hurtful and make their brutality yield to the tenderness of returning love, we pray.
For those who have been left behind, that they may live on the strength of the love that they knew, we pray.
For those who suffer most from war, that the homeless, the orphaned, the hungry, and the innocent may help us turn from warlike ways to pursue the potential of peace, we pray.
God of Peace, help us never to forget that …

Oh My, it's time for the Creation Museum to Open

Yes, boys and girls, the day has come when we get to see and hear the truth about the creation of the earth. We get to see how Adam and Eve lived with dinosaurs, how T Rex used his big teeth to open those nasty coconuts he liked to eat -- you know before he became a carnivore!
Pharyngula, a science blog has gathered a wide variety of news reports and blog postings from around the globe that deal with this "event." Of course as pastor, all of this is kind of embarrassing, so embarrassing that you have to laugh, at least a little. Of course, one way to respond to all of this is point to the alternative -- which is the Evolution Sunday group, which can be accessed here. The reality is this, Ken Ham and his friends not only do bad science, but they're extremely poor biblical exegetes, forcing texts to say things they simply don't say. So, not only scientists say no, theologians and pastors do as well!

The Enabler! Bush and Al Qaeda

Since this is Memorial Day weekend, we do stop to remember those who have died, especially the more than 3000 young men and women who have died in Iraq fighting an at best mismanaged war and at worse, well I don't even want to say it.

With that in mind, I want to point your attention to this piece by Andrew Sullivan at the Daily Dish. It's about Bush's recklessness and his inability to recognize that the reason why Al Qaeda is as much a threat today, and why Iraq is the center piece in his War on Terror, is that his own policies have led us to this point.
So, ponder this and consider whether GW has engaged in anything that seems impeachable:
Just to anger up the blood some more, it's now clear, thanks to the latest Congressional report, that this president was warned starkly about the dangers of "a surge of political Islam and increased funding for terrorist groups" as a result of an invasion of Iraq. He was told that Iraq was "largely bereft of the social…

Out of the Many, One

Faith in the Public Square Lompoc Record May 27, 2007 Before “In God we Trust” became our national motto, America's defining mission statement was “E Pluribus Unum” (Out of the Many, One). I trust in God, but I prefer our original national motto because it defines our national purpose and reminds us that we're a nation diverse in ethnicity, languages, cultures, and religious identities. That we can be one people in the midst of such diversity is a bold idea that must not be taken lightly.
The question is: How shall we live together, peacefully and productively, as one people in the midst of all this diversity? Answers to this question generally fall into two categories that can be best understood by way of analogy: Melting pot and salad bowl.
The melting pot image has long been popular - through assimilation our various identities melt away to create something generically American - but a more realistic analogy might be the salad bowl. The melting pot ideal may have worked in earl…

Self-fulfilling Prophecies -- Bush and Iraq

It seems that national security analysts were prescient -- much of what is happening today was predicted by analysts well before Bush launched an ill conceived and unnecessary war in Iraq. The now declassified report is summarized in an LA Times article. We still don't know who knew what when, but apparently GW knew then that his invasion would likely be used by Al Qaeda and that bringing democracy to Iraq would be long and laborious -- and yet even with this information they didn't plan. So, here we are in the middle of another Vietnam -- something that the administration said wouldn't happen. No time tables, just a call to trust ol' GW. Here's a good reason why we shouldn't!!! How long? Well, by September even the GOP might be jumping ship and asking for an exit plan.

Pentecost -- A Birthday Bash

Tomorrow is Pentecost Sunday and the church around the world will celebrate the coming of the Spirit upon the gathered followers of Jesus, giving birth to the church. My sermon for tomorrow is posted at my sermon blog Words of Welcome.

Connie Kang has a nice article on Pentecost -- interviewing a couple of Fuller professors, including one of my own, Mel Robeck. It's interesting that Mel, who is Pentecostal, points out that by and large Pentecostals don't follow the Christian calendar and so don't make any special observance of the day.

I like this comment from Eddie Gibbs, also of Fuller, as to why some others aren't really comfortable with this idea of Pentecost:

"Segments of Protestantism, particularly traditional Protestantism, are very nervous about rushing, mighty winds and flames of fire. Because fire and wind make for unstoppable combination."

Be that as it may, we need a regular outpouring of the Spirit, for just that reason!!!

The Truth on Iraq

A few days ago, GW got his money -- at least through September. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton voted no and of course their patriotism and commitment to the troops have been called into question.

Here is Barack Obama's response, especially to John McCain. I'll let him speak for himself.

Gary Dorrien on Niebuhr, Social Ethics, and Iraq

Peter Steinfels interviews Gary Dorrien, author of an immensely import trilogy on American Religious Liberalism (I've read the first two volumes, and need to get the third), for the NY Times. Dorrien is asked to reflect on American Religious Social Ethics, the place of Reinhold Niebuhr, and the present situation of American foreign policy. I find this piece especially enlightening as a response to our current dilemma in Iraq -- Did you read the Muqtada al-Sadr is back preaching? Q. You have been speaking against the war in Iraq since before it was launched. But what should the U.S. be doing about terrorism, and what is our moral responsibility regarding Iraq? A. We had a precious moment after 9/11. Not since the end of World War II was there such a possibility to move toward a community of nations. If the U.S. had sent NATO and American forces after Al Qaeda and rebuilt Afghanistan while creating new networks of collective security against terrorism, we could be in a very different…

Ten Reasons Why Baseball is God's Game -- Kim Fabricius

If I were to convert to another religion, it would be the church of baseball. From my earliest days it has been the game I've watched. I played it as a kid, even though I wasn't any good. My first team, the Purple Sox of Mt. Shasta lost every game we played. In fact no game was ever even close. But the good news, we had brand new uniforms!

Well this morning I received an invitation to a baseball game this summer from my friend the Rev. Dr. Brett Younger, a Baptist preacher of note. There was only one problem the game would take place right as I should be in the seats listening to my General Minister preach. My first inclination was to turn down the invitation, and then I was informed that the seats were right behind home plate -- front row. Ah the choice was getting difficult and then I gave in. How could I do otherwise?

Fortunately as I perused my blog role, I received confirmation that I'd made the right decision. Yes, Kim Fabricius has given ten propositions on why Baseba…

Dick Hamm --- Ex. Dir. CCT in the USA

In today's Disciples e-newsletter comes word that probably shouldn't be too surprising -- a Disciple --- this time not Michael Kinnamon, but Dick Hamm, our former General Minister, has been named the first executive director of Christian Churches Together. This is a bit of pride of course, but Disciples have always been at the forefront of ecumenical endeavors, from the Federal Council of Churches to Christian Churches Uniting in Christ.

Here's the announcement:


May 18, 2007

Christian Churches Together in the USA (CCT) announces the appointment of the Rev. Dr Richard L. Hamm to the position of Executive Administrator. Following a national search, the Steering Committee, meeting in Chicago on May 15-16, took the unanimous decision to appoint Hamm to CCT’s first full time staff position.
Welcoming the appointment, the Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, Ecumenical Officer for the Orthodox Church in America and one of five CCT Presidents, noted that it was his conviction t…

Pursuit of Happyness

The Declaration of Independence holds out a promise for the nation it seeks to charter: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness . . ." This promise of happiness forms the philosophical basis, if you will, of the Will Smith film The Pursuit of Happyness. It gets quoted regularly throughout the film.
It wasn't until last night that I watched it on DVD, but it was worth the wait. The premise of the film is tell the true story of Chris Gardner, an African-American high school graduate with a young son who overcomes great odds to achieve financial success. It's a kind of a Horatio Alger, from the bootstraps kind of story, but it is an impressive one, nonetheless. I've not read the book upon which its based and I've not checked the facts behind the movie, but even if it exaggerates at all the diffic…

Can't Have that - -Women Preachers

I read with just a bit of amusement this piece from Ethics Daily, detailing why a Syracuse New York radio station -- the Mars Hill Network -- won't accept advertisements for a local revival -- because a woman -- Paula White -- will be preaching.

I want to say to the nine-member board that made this decision: Do you not know that a woman pioneered religious broadcasting. Yes Aimee Semple McPherson was among the first evangelists to use radio, and KFSG was among the first, if not the first, religious radio stations. Now I can't give a recommendation for Paula, but guys, get a grip! Besides, she's better looking than most preachers I know! -- Male ones I mean. I know that sounds sexist, and probably is, but those of you who know me, know that I'm not sexist. But . . . well.

The Complicated Issues of Israel/Palestine

I think most Mainline Protestants are conflicted about the whole Israel/Palestine issue. Unlike our Fundamentalist friends, we don't see Israel as the center piece in a global war that will usher in Jesus' glorious return (we're not dispensationalpremillennialists), nor do we believe Jews will end up in hell if they don't convert. And yet we feel sympathy for the Palestinian people (but not the Intifada or the continued violence). We want to see a non-violent solution that will allow Jew, Christian, Muslim, and Druse to dwell together in peace. Personally, I think the only way this will happen is with a two-state solution -- but such a state probably will never be completely stable. This morning I came upon a piece by James Besser in the Baltimore Jewish Times. It raises the dilemma of the Jewish community to know who their friends or foes are. This piece paints (at least in my reading) Mainline Protestants as unreliable friends, more concerned about supporting the &qu…

Flinstones Science Museum -- Due to Open

When I was a child, I loved the Flintstones -- and not the live action version, but the original animated version. Fred and Barney and friends -- all of those dinos and mammoths wandering around with the cavemen and cave women.
Well, since I grew out of my scientific creationist ways I've always thought of young earth creationism, which must somehow incorporate the dinosaurs and all in a time line that's around 6000 years, as Flintstones science. Well, with the opening this weekend of the Answers in Genesis sponsored Creationist museum that tries to do just that, the LA Times editorial writer made the same connection that I did.
And so: The museum, a 60,000-square-foot menace to 21st century scientific advancement, is the handiwork of Answers in Genesis, a leader in the "young Earth" movement. Young Earthers believe the world is about 6,000 years old, as opposed to the 4.5 billion years estimated by the world's credible scientific community. This would be risible i…

Interpreting the Data on Muslims in America

The Pew Research Center released interesting numbers that I need to spend some time with. It's about Muslims in America. Apparently American Muslims are fairly happy, middle class, and moderate in their politics and cultural views. Only a small number of American Muslims support actions like suicide bombings, and those numbers are skewed by a larger percentage of younger Muslims that find it possible to justify such actions, but even there its only 25 %, which means 75% say no. And of course even this needs to be nuanced, for such actions are justified only in certain cases. I think I already spoke a bit about that. I appreciate the analysis given to the report by my friend Diana Butler Bass in her God's Politics posting today. She points out the contextual issue and the differences between polling numbers in Europe and those here in America. European Muslims are much less assimilated, much less happy, and more likely to support radical activities. The question is wh…

I'm Lost!

I admit it, I'm a Lost fan. I haven't a clue where this is going, but last night's finale, besides killing off some more others, Naomi the helicopter girl with the phone (by an increasingly unstable John Locke), and finally Charlie, who fulfills his apparent destiny by turning off the jammer, talking to Penelope, and drowning -- so that Claire and the Baby can go home!

So, where do we stand? We have three years to find out what happens. The night ends with the castaways in contact with their apparent saviors, while Ben suggests that they've made a big mistake that will lead to the death of all of them. But Jack, our hero, doesn't believe Ben (and why should he?) and makes the contact anyway -- and that's where we're left. Oh, by the way Hurley saves the day by ramming that old VW bus into the camp where Said, Jin, and the dentist are being held captive after Jin couldn't detonate the TNT!

But the most interesting part was the flash back of a beard…

Bendict's not quite apology

I think many of us were taken aback by Benedict XVI's comments about the spiritual benefits of the colonization of the America's. It showed little if any understanding of the context of the "evangelization" of the Americas, the absolute devastation of the indigenous population, and the complete disregard for the non-coercive nature of the gospel.

Well Benedict has clarified things a bit -- admitting that mistakes were made and that there was a dark side to the evangelization of the Americas. It's a start, but as with his earlier statements about Islam, show how much his eurocentric perspective colors his view of the world.

The LA Times runs a helpful article by Tracy Wilkinson this morning. According to the article Benedict said:
"It is not possible to forget the sufferings and injustices inflicted by the colonizers on the indigenous population, whose fundamental human rights were often trampled upon," the pope said. "Certainly, the memory of a…

America's Muslims -- A Mostly Moderate Group

Who are our Muslim neighbors? Most, if not all, the Muslims that I know personally are moderate, gracious, largely assimilated. Mostly their immigrants -- many are students. They don't always agree with the politics of America's leaders -- but who does? Well, maybe Laura Bush!! But, that's neither here nor there! Today in the LA Times, Rebecca Trounson offers an in depth look at a recently released Pew Foundation report that shows that most American Muslims are moderate, middle class, upwardly mobile, and are appalled by fanaticism and decry the use of such things as suicide bombings. The only warning sign is that younger Muslims are more likely than older ones to approve such things, and usually with regard to supporting efforts in opposition to occupation -- like of course Iraq and the Palestinian territories. Still, it's a small minority, even there. I take this as good news and perhaps this attitude found here can be influential elsewhere. At least there…

What's the Ex-Gay Movement?

The Christian Century has published an excellent review of two books that wrestle with this very question. Thanks to Jesus Politics for the link, by the way. Written by Amy Johnson Frykholm, the review focuses on Straight to Jesus: Sexual and Christian Conversions in the Ex-Gay Movement by Tanya Erzen (University of California Press, 293 pp., $19.95 paperback) and Be Not Deceived: The Sacred and Sexual Strugglesof Gay and Ex-Gay Christian Men
by Michelle Wolkomir (Rutgers University Press, 225 pp., $23.95). According to these books, even ex-gay folk admit that there is not "cure" and that fall and redemption will be a life long process. Interesting review of books dealing with an issue we'd probably rather not deal with!

Eboo Patel and Interfaith Work

Faithfully Liberal, a blog created by two young seminarians -- now graduated -- has posted a wonderful interview with Eboo Patel, a young Muslim who is committed to developing interfaith conversation and service.

The interview discusses the Interfaith Core Youth project, which Patel directs, but it goes beyond that to discuss the importance of the conversation and the importance of young people being part of the conversation.
I found this passage especially intriguing:

The esteemed writer W.E.B. Du Bois wrote in his book, The Souls of Black Folk the problem of the 20th century will be the color line. While the problem of the color line has not been fully solved, I believe that the problem of the 21st century is the faith line. This line does not separate Muslims from Christians, or Jews from Hindus, but rather religious totalitarians from pluralists. A religious totalitarian is someone who seeks to suffocate those who are different from them. Their weapons range from suicide bombs to med…

The Eye of the Beholder -- Perceptions of Church Life

When we think about perception we often speak in terms of gender, ethnicity, or generations. And there are differences, obviously. And yet, when it comes to church life, there's another aspect to be considered. That is -- whether one is new or old (by old I mean long term member). Martha Grace Reese, in her recently released book -- Unbinding the Gospel(Chalice Press, 2007) -- provides a helpful reminder as to these differences/similarities. In her Mainline Evangelism Project survey Reese discovered that the key difference in perception relates to whether one has been raised in the church or not. If you grew up in the church, no matter how cool and young you are, don't assume you know what people outside the church are thinking or what they want! Early in your life, you absorbed Christian theology, behaviors, values, and understandings. These unconscious influences shape the way you think about life and what's real. If you want to know what nonchurch people think or what the…

GW to Congress -- Mind Your Own Business -- as I understand your business!

The Alberto Gonzalez affair is becoming almost soap operatic in its development. For the past few months we've been hearing how Gonzalez has politicized the Attorney General's office like no AG before him. First it was the questionable firings of US Attorneys and then testimony that Gonzalez, as WH counsel, had pressured then AG John Ashcroft to sign off on a legally questionable wire-tapping program (while the AG was in ICU).
Now GW had the luxury of having a hands off Congress for the first six years of office. Now that Congress is providing oversight and raising questions, he doesn't like it. So, in continuing his support of an AG that clearly is incompetent if not a political hack, he has suggested that Congress should go back to passing legislation and stop telling him what to do. I think that GW has forgotten that one of Congress' jobs is to provide oversight. So, they're minding their business, as the Constitution suggests!

Flags in Church -- Appropriate or not?

My church has an American flag, so did my church before that. In fact, flags in church are about as common as communion tables or Bibles. I must confess my own ambivalence about it. I'm not really comfortable with it, but I've not chosen to fight that battle. Today in the Ethic's Daily articles, comes one that raises this issue. Apparently a United Methodist leader has questioned it's place in a sanctuary, pointing out that such a placement seems to endorse America's political policies. But that the church has loyalties that go beyond nation. That's why I'm uncomfortable with their presence. Of course that politically conservative watchdog the IRD (Institute for Religion and Democracy) rails against this challenge to America's religious heritage. The UMC official, is of course, accused of being unpatriotic. The IRD's Mark Tooley charges Clayton Childers and others of us on the left of opposing "the United States Flag because they are co…

Presidential Elections and the Supreme Court

Just think if Al Gore had one in 2000 or John Kerry in 2004 -- think Alito and Roberts -- might not be on the Supreme Court. It was an issue raised in 2004, but got lost in the war hysteria. The same questions will be at issue in 2008 -- with at least John Paul Stevens at 87 nearing that point of retirement. David Souter might also be on the verge of retiring, as is Ruth Bader Ginsburg. That is three of the 4 reliably moderate/liberal justices. For a run down of the possibilities check out this column by Tom Goldstein at Scotusblog. It's always important to remember that Supreme Court Justices are part of the equation. And only 2 have been appointed by a Democratic President in the last 40 years! Yes, the last Democratic President to appoint Supreme Court Justices prior to Bill Clinton was LBJ!!!Thanks to Melissa Rogers for the heads up!

How Obama's Faith Guide's His Politics

I found this morning in my Faith in Public Life daily news email a piece by Anthony Robinson published in the Seattle Post Intelligencer that concerns his faith and his politics. It's an intriguing piece to put together with the recent statements made by Newt Gingrich, posted elsewhere on this blog. Newt seems quite sure of the problems and the solutions, and perhaps his calling to be be the means of that solution. Barack Obama offers a quite different perspective. Consider: From Niebuhr, Obama said, "I take away the compelling idea that there's serious evil in the world, and hardship and pain. And we should be humble and modest in our belief that we can eliminate these things. But we shouldn't use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction. I take away the sense that we have to make these efforts knowing they are hard and not swinging from naive idealism to bitter realism."

In deftly summarizing Niebuhr's thought, Illinois's junior senator provides in…

Shining Knight to the Rescue?

The Washington Post has an article that lays out Newt Gingrich's recent commencement speech at Liberty U in the aftermath of Jerry Falwell's death. With none of the front runners grabbing the Religious Right's heartstrings, the question is, can the thrice married Newt be the chosen savior? Now I do believe in redemption, and perhaps Newt has changed, but is a many who tells his wife while she's in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery that he's leaving her for his mistress the kind of person the Religious Conservative is ready to back? He is definitely heating up the religious rhetoric and decrying the growing secularism of the nation. Now when you look at America, you might wonder what he's talking about. The government seems to be in the hands of the Right, so what's the problem? What do you think?

Claiming the Religious Right's Mantle

Was Jerry Falwell more politician than preacher? Time will decide, but it is the politician who seeks to play Elisha to Elijah. Newt Gingrich delivered his Liberty University commencement speech in such a way as to claim his place as the one who will lead the "Christianist" army forward. According to Robert Parham's Ethic's Daily commentary, Gingrich has offered a conflation of religion and nationalism as our hope for the future. Here is an insightful section worth pondering. But of course read the entire piece! With Falwell now passed from the scene, Gingrich wants America to believe the Moral Majority founder entrusted him to bear this witness, just as Falwell bore it before him.

By conflating the Bible and Declaration of Independence, the former House Speaker fashions a civil religion, which is an inauthentic religion, in the search for power. In Gingrich, the witness becomes the politician. The Christian God becomes national deity.
The Christian faith become…

The Ironies of Jerry Falwell -- Sightings

No one can better put Jerry Falwell into perspective than historian of American religion and observer of political and cultural trends than Martin Marty. And so we're treated to Marty's analysis of a man of contradictions, a man who was responsible for much of the rise of politically active Fundamentalism, and yet who leaves little evidence of thoughtful statements on matters of theology, spirituality, or even political life. So, here's Marty!
Sightings 5/21/07

Ironies of Falwell-- Martin E. Marty
Today's is the 369th M.E.M. Sightings (archived since 1999). At forty lines each, that means there have been 14,720 lines, only seven of which -- in a 2001 and a 2005 column -- were devoted to Jerry Falwell. Our calculators tell us this means he thus received 0.000475543 percent of our space. If he has been the Religious Right's number one televangelist, entrepreneur, university builder, and politico, accuse us not of overdoing comment on that Right. We resolved earl…

The Good Shepherd

Given recent postings here and broader conversations elsewhere about torture, secrecy, and even the CIA, I thought I would give a brief response to my viewing via DVD last night ofThe Good Shepherd, a movie directed by Robert De Niro and starring Matt Damon, along with Angelina Jolie, Alec Baldwin, and other well known actors.
It is a movie about the CIA and its birth. The story is fictional and yet seeks to present an accurate portrait of the Agency, it's birth, and it's purpose. This isn't the greatest spy movie ever as some of the PR suggests, but it is a movie that should be viewed. Unlike your typical James Bond romps (though there's plenty of sex) this movie is disturbing (and not because of the sex). It really focuses on what happens to a person who enters a secret world where even family is sacrificed for the good of the country. We see in the movie how the soul of a person is destroyed by the cloak and dagger realities of Agency life. This is brought home early…

Redefining the "Born Again" Stereotype

Faith in the Public Square
Lompoc Record
May 20, 2007

There are two kinds of Christians, those who are “born again” and those who aren't. “Born again” Christians can graphically recount their conversion story, are theologically conservative, and are likely members in good standing of the Republican Party. Everyone else falls into that second category of being “non-born again.” At least that's the stereotype.
Although stereotypes can be useful, they're also double-edged swords. They may contain a grain of truth, but they also distort the truth. While many people proudly wear the label “born again,” other Christians shy away from it because of its political and cultural connotations.
Despite the stereotypes and the expectations, it's too good a phrase to concede to one faction of the Christian community. It's like other words and phrases that are used in partisan fashion, such as evangelical, Catholic, progressive, conservative, or liberal. Using “born again” in a narrow,…