Wednesday, December 06, 2006
The SBC now polices who can pray and how. The message: "You can't talk to God unless we say you can, and then only if we approve your words and thoughts." Until recent years, Baptists would have considered this to be a violation of the priesthood of all believers. Yet this is just one more recent decree by Southern Baptist leaders who view themselves as God's bodyguards.
"You don't believe in inerrancy? God's not interested in seeing you."
"So you speak in tongues in private? Go babble somewhere else, God's not available."
Fortunately, at least some Southern Baptist pastors are standing up to this nonsense.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Indeed, if we followed biblical law, our churches would be empty on Sunday mornings. After all, how many Baptists do you know who have never 1) eaten catfish or shrimp, or 2) sassed their parents? Leviticus 11 says that eating catfish and shrimp is an abomination unto God, while Exodus 21 demands the death penalty for those who sass their parents. Yet we allow these worst of biblical sinners to not only participate in our worship services, but teach our Sunday School classes and preach from our pulpits! (The audacity of it all!)
Sinning, it seems, is in the eye of the beholder. We allow our kind of sinners into our churches, but prevent those dastardly "other" sinners from coming anywhere near us.
But, heh, why dwell on such self-righteous inconsistency? Forget about it. Just take your family out to one of those evil, sinful, hell-hole restaurants ... the local Catfish House or Seafood Joint.
After all, that's where our kind of sinners go to for a good time.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
The startling revelation came on Tuesday, October 24, 2006. The previous day James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family and widely-recognized leader of the Religious Right, welcomed Ann Coulter, author of Godless: The Church of Liberalism, on his radio show. Dobson, self-proclaimed and self-important champion of “family values,” recently made news by dismissing the Republican Party’s child sex predator scandal by declaring that the charges were the result of a prank played by teenage pages. Coulter, in the meantime, has emerged as a favorite of the Religious Right for slamming and slandering Democrats in Godless, her latest book. Dobson in turn welcomed her as a hero on his radio show, after which the two quickly launched into a shared favorite pastime: gloating in self-righteousness while swapping lies about “liberal Democrats.”
For two days, Dobson and Coulter had a good time kicking the stuffing out of liberal, godless Democrats while blaming them for every known evil under the sun. In the midst of the gloat-fest, the subject turned to liberals’ concerns over how to treat one’s enemies, including the detainees at
“You have heard it said,” Jesus said to his followers in the Gospel of Matthew, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Nonsense, according to Coulter and Dobson. Only morons would love their enemies … liberal morons, at that.
Yet Coulter and Dobson are right in at least one regard: Jesus’ commandment to love one’s enemies is indeed “a liberal idea that will not die.”
Coulter and Dobson, mockingly dismissive of Jesus’ teachings, apparently despise Jesus for being a godless liberal who believes in showing kindness to one’s enemies. Of course, the Religious Right of Jesus’ day knew all to well that Jesus was a godless liberal, and it was reason enough for them to have Jesus executed.
But Jesus did not really die when the religious fundamentalists of his day had him nailed to a cross. Neither did his liberal teachings, which live on to this day, to the chagrin of the modern Religious Right.
Thomas Jefferson, one of
Monday, October 23, 2006
Now, for the first time, I note at least one religious conservative pundit is publicly considering just such a move in time for the 2008 presidential election.
Bonnie Alba from Renew America, after vowing never to vote Democrat and dismissing the current Republican Party as also too liberal, has this to say:
"Republicans and Democrats, you have two years to get your act together. Do the job you've been hired to do, confront the very real problems of our time and honor your oath of office. In two years, I will decide with my vote whether you have fulfilled your commitment and earned your pay. There is a third party waiting for me, just in case."
A week earlier, an editorial in Tennessee's Chattanoogan had advocated for a religiously-based third political party.
Will other theocon pundits jump on Alba'a bandwagon? Even now, are Religious Right leaders such as James Dobson and Jerry Falwell quietly discussing the formation of a third party?
The theocons are, after all, in a tight spot. The nationalistic ambitions of the Religious Right are the hot topic of conversation in the Current Affairs section at local bookstores, and their theocratic designs have been broadcast to the general public even as the presumptive Party of God, in addition to being a wasteland in terms of ethics and integrity, has been exposed as a long-time safe harbor for homosexuals and a child predator. In short, the efforts of Christian conservatives to hijack the Republican Party, despite certain gains (such as the recent Supreme Court nominees) and a lot of public rhetoric from the Bush administration, have failed miserably.
If the theocons are to remain true to their nationalistic, moralistic faith and principles, they are left with only one alternative to save face and prove their commitment to the principles they publicly proclaim: abandon the tainted and corrupt Republican Party and form their own political party.
Friday, October 13, 2006
This week Clousing was court-martialed and sentenced to 11 months in prison for going AWOL, for once he became convinced of the anti-Christian nature of the Iraq War, he refused to return to the battlefield.
You can read his story in the New York Times, but you probably won't hear about it from your local Republican megachurch or conservative Christian organizations ... just like you won't hear Jesus' admonitions that his followers should be peacemakers rather than warmongers.
Monday, October 09, 2006
In fact, the New York Times reports that religion in America, especially of the evangelical stripe, in recent decades has gained more and more government privileges at the burden of American taxpayers. Not only that, but increasingly churches and other religious institutions are not only hungry for taxpayer dollars and insistent on government privileges, but, ironically, are enclaves in which employees have few rights and in which individuals are often treated in anything other than a Christian manner.
The last two stories are the first two in a series of four in a New York Time's special entitled, "In God's Name," an expose on how religious organizations, including a large percentage of Baptist churches, increasingly press for, and receive, special privileges and favoritism from an accommodating government.
As Randall Balmer noted, "Where have all the Baptists gone?"
Friday, October 06, 2006
In the intervening seven days, five Amish girls were killed in a horrible schoolroom shooting, dozens of American servicepersons died in Iraq and Afghanistan, hundreds of Iraqis died in sectarian violence, and yet more evidence surfaced that the Iraq War is a disaster and utter failure, contrary to President George W. Bush's insistent denials.
But the one story receiving the lopsided bulk of attention is the Republican Sex Scandal involving the homosexual Foley and accusations that he is a child sex predator. Foley is no longer even the centerpiece. The obvious cover-up is the main course upon which the media is dining. And the one question on everyone's mind is, "Will House Speaker Denny Hastert, who apparently knew of Foley's inappropriate contact with the page months or even years ago, be forced to resign?" Even Republicans are acknowledging that this latest scandal may well be the final straw that gets them kicked out of majority positions in both the House and Senate this November.
Why is the Foley scandal turning out to be the greatest of many scandals in the past three years within the Bush administration and Republican Senate and House? Greater than the presidential layer of lies that led us into a disastrous war in Iraq and continue to this day. Greater than the Abramoff corruption scandal in which numerous felonies were committed and numeorus Bush administration figures have been forced to resign. Greater than Tom DeLay's ties to Abramoff and the other federal crimes committed by the Texan.
The answer is a three-letter, dirty word: sex.
The Republican Party, led around by the nose by the Religious Right since the 1980s, shaped by the so-called "moral" (read anti-abortion, anti-homosexual and anti-sex in general) agenda of the Religious Right, has suddenly been revealed as anything but moral.
Homosexuality. Child sex predation. Cover-up at the highest levels of the Republican Party.
In short, the unthinkable political doomsday scenario suddenly happened. Republicans overnight became everything and more that the Religious Right has spent over two decades trying with all their might to pin on the "liberal" Democratic Party.
It doesn't matter that the Republican Party under the current administration had become the party of warmongering, legions of lies, unswerving supporters of the rich over the poor, systemic polluters of our fragile environment, and of a President who cursed the Constitution as nothing more than a "G...D... piece of paper" and devoted his presidency to violating it.
What matters is sex. It's what the Republicans used against Bill Clinton with a hatred that was unparalleled in American politics. Now it has become the downfall of the Republican Party. And this time it is about much more than consensual oral sex between two adults.
And how is James Dobson, the spokesperson of the Religious Right, handling this scandal involving homosexuality and child predation and political cover-up at the highest levels of the Republican Party? Dobson is pooh-poohing the whole thing as a "joke" and a "prank" by some wayward pages.
That's right. A prank. A joke. Nothing more.
And what about Baptist Press, the SBC Public Relations arm that is loyal to a fault to the Republican Party and is quick to point out sexual immorality in American culture and among "liberals," especially homosexuality?
Not a peep.
But what else can the Religious Right do? They've been in bed with the Republican Party for so long that even the revelation of homosexuality and child predation between their sheets cannot dislodge them, for if they throw back the covers, their own moral nakedness will be known to all the world. So their only option is denial. After all, it's worked (somewhat) for Bush these past three years in regards to the Iraq war.
Party's over, folks.
Political Armageddon has arrived, exploding between the legs of the Religious Right. It's not a pretty sight, but justice is sometimes ugly.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Walter Russell Mead is the author of an interesting article in the current edition of Foreign Affairs journal.
I stumbled across the article yesterday while in Barnes & Noble, and read it in hard copy. The website link above contains the entire article (it is long), prefaced with the following very brief summary:
"Religion has always been a major force in U.S. politics, but the recent surge in the number and the power of evangelicals is recasting the country's political scene -- with dramatic implications for foreign policy. This should not be cause for panic: evangelicals are passionately devoted to justice and improving the world, and eager to reach out across sectarian lines."
I suggest you read the article yourself if you have any interest in Christian nationalism in America. I do have a few quibbles with some of Mead's basic assumptions, however.
For one thing, he downplays fundamentalism and broadens evangelicalism well past the borders of fundamentalism. Regarding Baptists, he shows little comprehension that the Southern Baptist Convention has become fundamentalist, not merely evangelical. In quoting Frank Page (p. 37 in the print copy) as saying (following his surprising election to the presidency of the SBC) "I believe the Word of God, I'm just not mad about it" as a way to prove the non-fundamentalist nature of the SBC, he placed the quote in the wrong context of Page referring to independent fundamentalists outside the SBC, when Page instead was backhanding the fundamentalist leadership of his own convention.
Secondly, while he correctly brands Jerry Falwell as a fundamentalist, he makes no mention that Jerry Falwell is not only a Southern Baptist, but was a leader (though an outsider) in the takeover of the SBC, the dominant speaker of the fundamentalist-controlled SBC pastor's conferences during the Takeover years, became the ultimate insider in the process, and remains a top-billed speaker at SBC events to this day (particularly opening convocations at SBC seminaries) whose frequent-over-the-top statements are never condemned by SBC leaders. In short, Mead fails to realize that Jerry Falwell, of all Southern Baptists today, is arguably the one individual that is most representative of the ideology of the current SBC (Mohler could be, if he were not a strict Calvinist; Land pretends to speak for all Southern Baptists, but simply acts out of his own hubris; Patterson would like to be the top representative, but ultimately has too many rough edges - even Falwell admits Patterson is more right-wing than he, which is really scary). Land, by the way, according to Mead, is not a fundamentalist.
Finally, listening to Mead alone, one would never pick up on the theocratic aspirations of folks like James Dobson, Rick Scarborough and D. James Kennedy.
So ultimately, I would say, Mead underestimates (and underdefines) fundamentalists. One might also argue with his other labels of "liberal" and "evangelical" Christians, but that is another discussion.
I do highly recommend the article.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
The Fundamentalist Takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention was never really about the Bible, liberalism or God's will, despite the Takeover group's attempt to make it so. It was all about one central theme: control. The Bible, liberalism and God's will flowed out of the central theme of control: controlling the Bible, defeating "liberalism" and mandating God's will for God. And in taking over the SBC, the fundamentalists in the past 27 years have led the denomination into unprecedented decline, disgrace and scandal (other than the 19th century support of slavery).
So what comes next? A battle among "conservatives" for continued control of the machinery of a still-large but rapidly declining denominational institution. Now firmly entrenched in their unpromised land flowing with vinegar and bitterness, "conservatives" have turned upon one another as many of us have long predicted. The two sides will soon be accusing the other of not believing the Bible. The youngsters (having claimed the biblical character of Joshua as their own) supporting the Takeover geezers are already labeling Wade Burleson and his young followers as liberals; the accused "liberals" deny the label and are hurling back charges of legalism.
Who will win Part II of the SBC fundamentalist controversy? Actually, that is the wrong question to ask. The SBC has already lost, and on a grand scale. The battle over the leftovers of the SBC will have no winners as this unpromised land is scorched and burned by the misplaced fervor of men who feign divine mandates for their personal prejudices and agendas.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Monday, September 18 the SBC powers used Baptist Press to level their full bore cannons at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship for daring to defend itself from previous Baptist Press charges that the way CBF counts churches violates local church autonomy. What is the substance of this broadside against CBF over the issue of church counting? That CBF uses the pretense of donations of as little as $1 from an individual church member to the CBF in order to count the unsuspecting church as a CBF church and thus inflate their membership stats. The evidence? The personal testimony of three fundamentalist Baptist pastors.
All I know about those three particular pastors is that they seem to be willing tools of the BP lie and deception machine. But I can testify firsthand that over the years I have supported CBF (contributing directly to CBF) while holding membership in several Southern Baptist churches which did not include CBF in the church budget. In each instance, CBF did not count that given church as a CBF church. On the other hand, I see no reason why CBF should not recognize individual gifts given through a local church (even if not via the church budget) in identifying CBF churches. In fact, the fundamentalist Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) utilizes this very practice in counting contributing churches, as do many other Christian organizations. Leave it to SBC leaders to find some pretense to condemn CBF for doing precisely the same thing that many of their own fundamentalist churches are doing. Yet the hypocrisy apparently goes much further: according to several Texas Baptists, the SBC counts among its member churches all BGCT congregations, regardless of whether the individual congregations contribute to the SBC or not, despite years of requests from some non-SBC local Baptist churches to the SBC to take them off SBC roles.
So just what is the real story behind this latest “we hate the despicable CBF” piece from SBC liars and spinmasters? Why do SBC leaders continue to feel compelled to lash out in anger at little ole’ CBF? Why are these fundamentalist Baptists infatuated and infuriated over how CBF functions in the first place?
Are SBC leaders really as insecure as their actions indicate? Does berating CBF allow a little bit of a distraction from their own growing choruses of lament over the historically-unprecedented decline of baptisms and evangelism within the SBC, not to mention the leadership scandals? As the failures of the SBC fundamentalist leadership mount, will CBF be the brunt of ever greater anger and rage?
It seems to me the SBC leadership is more desparate than ever in light of their escalating failures. Their misplaced berating of CBF is a weak attempt to mask the sound of their own implosion.
Saturday, September 09, 2006
Numerous observers of modern religious fundamentalist have noted the similarities between American Christian and Middle Eastern Muslim fundamentalists, many of whom strive for the establishment (America) and/or continuation of theocracies. Armageddonists in America have seemingly influenced the current Bush administration's Middle East policies, as pre-millennialists who believe a large-scale Middle East war will immediately precede the return of Christ. Some prominent Baptists are at the forefront of the Armageddonist movement. Now we learn that the Bush administration, prior to the invasion of Iraq, placed their faith in Iraqi informers known to have been compromised by Iranian intelligence. In effect, Iran apparently wanted the U.S. to invade Iraq, and the Bush administration blithely obliged.
Why did Iran ply the Bush administration with false information about Iraq in order to effect a U.S. invasion? Perhaps they realized that a U.S. presence next door would, by way of reaction, bolster theocracy in Iran. Perhaps they wanted to topple the secular Hussein regime and have it replaced with a friendly theocracy, and saw an opportunity to allow the U.S. to do the job for them. Perhaps they wanted to stretch thin U.S. foreign military commitments and endanger worldwide goodwill towards the U.S., thus opening the door for the uninpeded development of their nuclear program. Perhaps all of the above were factors (directly or indirectly) in Iran misleading the Bush administration and stoking the administration's Christian theocratic allies who want to force God to send Jesus back to earth to temporally judge and destroy their enemies.
And, of course, this is not to say that factors other than pre-millennial fervor were absent on the Bush side of the equation, such as George W. seeking to finish that which his father left undone and providing a boost to the oil industry of which the Bushes and Cheney were deeply imbedded.
Regardless of the precise reasons, the irony is that Iranian Muslim and American Christian theocrats colluded, directly or indirectly, in escalating the conflict in the Middle East, weakening America's military capabilities and tarnishing the U.S. image throughout the world ... ultimately in the name of God.
Followup: View a timeline of how theocracy is taking ahold in the former secular Iraq.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Read Baldwin's criticism of both Jerry Falwell and President Bush.