Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Young People: Christianity Not Like Jesus

According to Barna Research, Christianity has a huge black eye.

Among non-Christian young people aged 16-29:

91% say Christianity is Anti-Gay
87% say Christianity is judgmental
85% say Christianity is hypocritical

And among Christians aged 16-29:

80% say Christianity is Anti-Gay
52% say Christianity is judgmental
47% say Christianity is hypocritical

And 25% of non-Christians perceive Christianity as unlike Jesus.

In response, Andy Stanley, son of Charles Stanley, dares to speak against a sacred cow among evangelical Christians.

Andy Stanley, senior pastor of North Point Ministries in Atlanta, suggested that churches should not focus solely on converting people, as has been the emphasis for generations.

"If we were able to rewrite the script for the reputation of Christianity, I think we would put the emphasis on developing relationships with non-believers, serving them, loving them, and making them feel accepted," he wrote.

"Only then would we earn the right to share the gospel."


To which some of us who are former campus ministers would say, "Duh!"

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Thou Shalt Kill ... in Church

From the New York Times comes a deadly story: some churches are so desperate to reach young people that they are holding Halo 3 parties.

Halo 3 is a wildly popular, and very bloody, video game in which the goal is to kill as many of your enemies as possible. Some churches seem convinced that they can reach young people for Jesus by sanctioning video game violence. So much for all the previous Christian resistance to violent video games.

The American Psychological Association, in a review of studies on the effects of violent video games, concluded that such games result in aggressive, hostile and violent behavior in young people. However, fundamentalist evangelicals ignored that finding in embracing the Left Behind video game, in which killing is glorified as the will of God in an apocalyptic world. So perhaps it is no surprise that some Christians, now hip on video violence, are turning sanctuaries into virtual killing fields, all for the glory of God.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Al Mohler the Cry Baby?

Chalk this one up in the category of strange but sweet. Al Mohler is whining that he and the other Southern Baptist Seminary presidents are being criticized by fellow Southern Baptists.

Here's the quote, as lifted from a September 19 story in Baptist Press:

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, speaking on behalf of the presidents of the SBC's various entities, noted to the Executive Committee that "there is an unprecedented level of attack upon some of our own leaders ... in the form of innuendo and smear and caricature and character assassination." Mohler also noted, "Two of our own have suffered in particular along these lines," referencing Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and his wife Dorothy.

Mohler stated that the SBC entity presidents have committed "that we will not ourselves tolerate personal attacks upon one of our colleagues," and Jerry Rankin, president of the International Mission Board, then led in a time of prayer for the Pattersons.


Mohler's fundamentalist comrades, especially Paige Patterson, spent two decades plus (1970s through the 1990s) slandering, smearing, employing character assassination, and telling outright and repeated lies about the former - non-fundamentalist - presidents of SBC seminaries, in a power play to gain control of the seminaries. Now that they have gained undisputed control of the reins of the seminaries, they are whining that some of their fellow conservative Southern Baptists (read: young SBC bloggers) are criticizing them ... and they are not going to take it!

Shakespeare, anyone?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Evangelicals: Children, Education and the Poor are Not Priorities

According to the latest survey from the Barna Group, evangelicals in America do not consider children, education and poor people as priorities ... while non-evangelical Americans consider these three issues as the most important issues facing America over the next decade.

The top priorities for evangelicals? The health of Christian churches, "upgrading the state of marriage and families," and improving spiritual conditions in America.

Jesus himself taught that his followers are to care for children and the poor. Are evangelicals too consumed with themselves to the point of being unable to see the needs of people around them? Are non-Christians in America more in tune with Jesus' worldview than are many Christians?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Faith and Money


Recently Colorado Christian University fired a professor for daring to question free enterprise. The school's president, Bill Armstrong, explained the firing by essentially declaring that Jesus teaches free enterprise, and therefore free enterprise is a foundational principle of the school.

Of course, a private school can do as they wish. But ironically, Colorado Christian's claim to be based on a biblical foundation references the following verse:

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - His good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2 (NIV)

For some odd reason, school administration does not seem to recognize that capitalism - merits notwithstanding - is one of those worldly "patterns" that Paul refers to.

Today's young generation, on the other hand, seem to realize the fallacy of placing one's faith in the accumulation of money and things. A nationwide survey of college students conducted by the Associated Press and MTV, reveals that youths care more about family and religion than sex and materialism. In what may be surprising to many Americans, "almost no one replied 'money' when young people were asked what makes them happy." Instead, young people pointed primarily to relationships with family and friends as their source of happiness. Religion also ranked high as a source of happiness.

Perhaps Bill Armstrong should listen to his students. They just might be able to teach him a thing or two about not conforming to our materialistic - and worldly - culture.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Separating Marriage from Government

It is now old news (from a 2000 Barna survey) that conservative Christians have higher divorce rates than any other religious groups, atheists and agnostics. And it is also old news that Baptists have higher divorce rates than any other established denomination.

While Southern Baptists continue to deny their high divorce rates, Ron Barrier, Spokesperson for American Atheists, declared of the Barna survey: "These findings confirm what I have been saying these last five years. Since Atheist ethics are of a higher caliber than religious morals, it stands to reason that our families would be dedicated more to each other than to some invisible monitor in the sky. With Atheism, women and men are equally responsible for a healthy marriage. There is no room in Atheist ethics for the type of 'submissive' nonsense preached by Baptists and other Christian and/or Jewish groups. Atheists reject, and rightly so, the primitive patriarchal attitudes so prevalent in many religions with respect to marriage."

Fast forward seven years, to the present. Baptist Press, the promotion arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, is now publishing about one story a day that deals with the topic of marriage. Southern Baptist leaders, in short, seem to be infatuated with their own "sins," condemning others for what their own are extremely guilty of. Or perhaps they are trying to be disingenuous, hopeful that their rhetoric will blind the world to the sins of Baptists.

Yet there is another dimension to the Southern Baptist marriage propaganda, as Southern Baptist leaders routinely seek to use government money and muscle to force others to do that of which their own are the worst offenders. For Southern Baptist leaders to claim that they are the champions and guardians of traditional marriage is like a fox claiming to be the champion and guardian of the hen house. But at least the fox doesn't solicit tax dollars to cover his dirty deeds.

John Fife, a retired Presbyterian minister from Tucson, Arizona, suggests that the time has come to separate marriage from government by recognizing only civil unions, and leaving marriage to the church:

So how do we begin to clean up this marriage mess?

How about going back to a basic American value and tradition - the separation of church and state?

The state should confine its interest to the legal registration of couples in civil unions. Those couples would then avail themselves of all the legal rights and responsibilities that a registered civil union would provide.

The state could legislate certain qualifications for civil unions that are in the state's interest (no polygamy), but could not define marriage for the church and could not discriminate against any groups.

Marriage would become solely a matter of faith and the traditions of diverse religious communions.

Marriage vows would be restored to sacred vows before "God and these witnesses" within a community of faith interpreting its own sacred texts.


It seems that Fife is thinking more like a Baptist than many Baptists today.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Interpretations of the Baptist History Celebration

The diversity among the Baptists gathered here at First Baptist Church Charleston is telling, resulting in different accounts of just what is going on here. Yet I continue to sense a definite Calvinistic bent, followed by fundamentalist and Landmarkist influences, to the overall program. Tom Nettles further confirmed this observation last night, interpreting the Philadelphia Confession as the vehicle for spreading the 1689 Second London Confession in American Baptist life of the 19th century both North and South, opposing the heresy of Arminianism. In fact, all three Southern Baptists participating in the plenary sessions are from the Calvinistic Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (two other Southern Baptists, breakout speakers, are not Calvinists, that I am aware of). In addition, the absence of Free Will Baptists at this gathering also is noteworthy.

Indeed, it is odd to see Primitive and Landmark publications (including the Trail of Blood) for sale alongside Judson Press. On the other hand, having the smaller Baptist groups represented here is refreshing. The gathering together of historians from across the theological spectrum of Baptists in North America, in and of itself, makes this meeting worthwhile. Should there be another meeting such as this, Free Will Baptists should be invited, and women historians need to be on the program (none are speaking here in the plenary sessions, and only two, that I am aware, are speaking in breakouts).

Few are blogging about this event, but their observations are noteworthy:

Tony Cartledge notes the disproportionately large number of Primitive Baptists at this meeting.

Southern Baptist Pastor Steve Weaver takes exception to Leonard and Brackney. A Calvinist, Weaver otherwise is excited about the Celebration meeting.

Perhaps others will weigh in after the Celebration concludes

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Ghosts Past and Present

The First Baptist Church of Charleston, founded in 1682, is the oldest Baptist church in the South. Next door to the church lives an 18th century ghost; so says the historical plaque. On the other side of the ghost resides the pastor of First Baptist, a rather young man. This morning, Ann Judson, or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof, appeared in the midst of the morning gathering of the Baptist History Celebration. The past and present, the dead and the living, dwell together in harmony here in historic Charleston as we are surrounded by history.

Bill Leonard, now speaking, joked that the widely diverse group of Baptist historians presently gathered at FBC Charleston are able to come together because "we only talk about dead people, and they are not a threat to us." Speaking on the topic of "Understanding Our Global Witness," Leonard unequivocally declared that the late 18th century / early 19th century missions movement led Baptist Calvinists to "change their theology." And although some modern day Calvinist Baptists uphold Andrew Fuller as a staunch Calvinist, Leonard argues that Fuller and "Fullerism" opposed and presented a sharp challenge to traditional Calvinism.

I suspect that if a question and answer time were allowed following Leonard's remarks, his views of certain dead Baptists would be challenged by some in attendance this morning. Perhaps dead Baptists can be a threat to Baptists today, after all. But for now we all sit in harmony in downtown Charleston. Nonetheless, at the end of this day, Calvinist historian Tom Nettles will have today's last word. So the future has been predetermined - by someone.

Diverse Baptist Historians Gather in Charleston

I am sitting in the box pews of the sanctuary of First Baptist Church, Charleston, South Carolina, surrounded by Southern Baptists, Cooperative Baptists, American Baptists, African-American Baptists, Independent Fundamentalist Baptists, Landmark Baptists, Canadian Baptists, and probably others that I've not yet identified. The Baptist History Celebration, as it is called, is one of the more ideologically diverse gatherings of North American Baptists I've witnessed, although the annual gatherings of the Baptist History and Heritage Society witnesses similar diversity.

The occasion of this meeting is the 300th anniversary of the Philadelphia Baptist Association, America's first Baptist association. And the meeting is not free of ideological slant. Gary Long, srict Calvinist and the publisher of Particular Baptist Press, led the way in putting together this event. The Calvinist/Reformed slant shows: last night the three-day conference opened with a profile paper on John Gill, renowned hypercalvinist British Baptist (although last night Gill, rather than hypercalvinist, was somewhat touchy-feely, full of humility and piety). The remainder of early Baptists highlighted last night were also Reformed, although well-known Baptist historian Bill Brackney, the featured speaker, clearly noted that tremendous diversity existed among 17th and 18th century Baptists (read: not all, by any stretch, were Calvinists).

The Calvinist slant notwithstanding, the roster of speakers (in addition to Brackney) includes such noted Baptist historians as Bill Leonard, Edwin Gaustad and Tom Nettles. Independent and Landmark Baptists are also represented.

Last year, when describing what this meeting would be like, Gary Long, visibly excited, told me that "Baptists may not be able to agree on anything else, but we can agree on our history." I found that a rather odd statement, as our differences in Baptist life have much to do with competing interpretations (and emphases) of our history. But perhaps he meant that Baptist historians can at least agree that our denominational history is important.

Finally, this Charleston gathering marks the beginning of Baptists Today's foray into blogging. Tony Cartledge, recently retired as editor of the North Carolina Biblical Recorder and now writing for Baptists Today, headlines the new Baptists Today Blogs, offering his initial take on the Baptist History Celebration.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Does the Religious Majority Rule?

USA TODAY's Monday religion column features an editorial on the manner in which local religious majorities in towns across America, including Southern Baptists in the South, are intimidating those who adhere to minority religious views in their communities.

Historically, Baptists, as a persecuted religious minority in colonial America, were the greatest champions of religious minorities in our nation, reflecting their commitment to the life Jesus lived in championing the poor and oppressed, and Jesus' teaching of faith as voluntary, not coerced.

Today, far too many Baptists, now a majority and convinced their views should be privileged and favored by the government, have devoted themselves to "defending" their own "rights" and forcing their faith and morals on those who disagree with them. They are so busy fighting for privilege and favor and forcing their beliefs on others that they have forgotten that the Bible teaches, and our Baptist heritage bears clear witness, that as followers of Christ we are not to demand our own rights, but rather to champion the rights of others.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Al Mohler on Re-Engineering Babies

Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has crossed a threshold of nuclear proportions: the unwavering belief, among fundamentalists, that homosexuality is solely a choice. By indicating his belief, in his blog entry of May 2, that science may be right about biology playing a role in gayness, he has been blasted out of his presidential bunker by his fellow fundamentalists, a fact he laments, with a good deal of indignation and no small amount of defensive posturing, in his blog entry of today.

Accused of saying that babies could be born gay, Mohler denied he made the statement. Accused of advocating genetic engineering, Mohler declared, "I am adamantly opposed to genetic therapies of such a sort." Blaming the "secular" media for making such false accusations, Mohler scolds fellow Christians for believing the media without reading what he actually said.

Seemingly bitter, Mohler retorted: "I am even more frustrated with many conservative Christians who read the secular headlines without even bothering to read my article. They jumped to conclusions that I do not hold and castigated me for advocating things I have opposed all my life. I have received a great deal of hate mail from those identifying themselves as homosexuals outraged that I believe homosexual acts to be unconditionally sinful. But I also received mail that can only be described as hateful from those who identified themselves as Christians -- people who clearly had never read my article and simply jumped to conclusions or accepted misrepresentations."

But let's go back to the March 2 Al Mohler, who said:

"We must fight against the idea of aborting fetuses or human embryos identified as homosexual in orientation. If a biological basis is found, and if a prenatal test is then developed, and if a successful treatment to reverse the sexual orientation to heterosexual is ever developed, we would support its use as we should unapologetically support the use of any appropriate means to avoid sexual temptation and the inevitable effects of sin."

The March 2 Al Mohler listed only "aborting fetuses and human embryos" as off limits (or not "appropriate") when it comes to combating homosexuality in the womb, but was clearly open to other treatments that would "reverse the [biological] sexual orientation [of the fetus] to heterosexual." In short, the March 2 Al Mohler did endorse the future use of biological treatments for re-engineering babies. Can a biological "treatment" of a human fetus to reverse homosexual orientation be anything other than manipulating the genetic makeup, that is, genetic engineering?

As Mohler notes, "Soon, genetic treatments may allow for changing the [genetic] profile [of a fetus]. Welcome to the world of designer babies. If that happens, how many parents -- even among those who consider themselves most liberal -- would choose a gay child? How many parents, armed with this diagnosis, would use the patch and change the orientation?"

The only clear criticism that the March 2 Al Mohler offered of Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis [PDG] was that some liberals might use the information to choose abortion.

"The human genetic structure, along with every other aspect of creation, shows the pernicious effects of the Fall and of God's judgment," the Al Mohler of March 2 stated. Back then, he openly expressed support of changing the biological makeup of a fetus, at least if the fetus were pre-disposed to be homosexual. But today, Al Mohler declares: "I was said to advocate genetic therapies. I never said that, and I resolutely oppose such proposals. I would not advocate the use of genetic therapies to create heterosexual babies -- or any other therapy of this type."

Just call him "Backtracking Al." Two weeks ago he clearly embraced the possibility of manipulating human biology to change the sexual orientation of a fetus. But today he is horrified at the very idea!

Yet it may be too late, for by merely acknowledging the possibility that homosexuality may be based at least partially on biological composition, Mohler may be devoured and cast aside by his former allies, for in the world of fundamentalism, only the ideological purists survive.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Responding to Christian Nationalism

Tomorrow (Friday, March 9) at the spring meeting of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia, I am leading a seminar entitled "Responding to Christian Nationalism." The emphasis is on effectively communicating with persons who are Christian nationalists (whether consciously or not). There are some serious barriers between those who hold to the "America as a Christian nation" myth and those of us who yet believe, as did our Baptist forefathers, in the Separation of Church and State. If you have any insight into how to begin breaking down these barriers, I'd like to hear from you (whether today, Friday or later).

Below is part of my outline for the seminar. This section specifically addresses the question of what happened between the 1950s and today to give rise to the myth of America as a Christian Nation?

=======================================

What Happened Between the 1960s and Today?

A. Events From 1950s to early 1970s

1. Race

a. Desegregation: Brown vs. Board of Education (1954)

b. Civil Rights Act (1964)

2. Religion (Pluralism) – Immigration Act (1965) – more immigrants, less whites

3. Sex – youth rebellion, rock and roll

4. National Defeat – Vietnam

B. Establishment Feelings (race relations, religion, morality, military)

1. Loss of control

2. Disillusionment

3. National Embarrassment

4. Threat to traditional family structures

C. Interpretation by the Establishment

1. Society and culture as immoral (sex)

2. Growth of false religions (pluralism)

3. America the Weak

4. Family life and structure under attack

5. Overall culprit: “liberalism”

D. Responses

1. Politics - Founding of Religious Right / Moral Majority (Bob Jones Univ, 1975)

2. Education – Lack of school prayer (1962, Engel vs. Vitale) blamed; private white religious schools founded; public education attacked

3. Theology – Fundamentalism

4. Culture – Anti-sex morality (anti-abortion, anti-homosexuality, abstinence)

5. Family – return to the 1950s as a role model for family (segregation; male bread winner; wife as home maker), which in turn is framed as a reflection of Puritan Colonial New England

6. Overall ideology - conservative politics/religion embraced as godly, liberalism in all forms branded as evil

7. Collective Response - recasting of history via the myth of America as a Christian nation

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

ENVIRONMENTALISM AND BAPTISTS

The Christian Life Commission of the Baptist General Convention of Texas has stepped forward to call Creation Care "A Christian Responsibility." The specific agenda is opposition to the construction of more coal-burning plants in the state of Texas, but the CLC is espousing a cautious approach. In response, the Associated Press reports on Baptists slowly becoming green.

And today I was informed that First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon is addressing the issue of Creation Care head-on.

If you know of other Baptist churches directly addressing environmentalism (or Creation Care), I'd like to know. At this juncture, it is a cutting edge issue even among moderate Baptists.

Friday, January 26, 2007

WHY DO SOME ELITES DESPISE THE POOR?

I continue to be amazed at the moneyed elites who despise the poor and evidence their spite by arguing that raising the federal minimum wage hurts poor people more than helps them. A Friday, January 26 editorial in the Wall Street Journal (print edition, page A11) argued raising the minimum wage will make the poor poorer. How? Because a 40% increase in the minimum wage (from $5.15 to $7.25) "raises the costs of fast foods and other goods," and a handful of the poor may find themselves without a job.

Did anyone hear these elites warning about the harmful consequences to the poor over the past ten years as fast food and goods prices rose without a corresponding rise in the federal minimum wage? Have any of these anti-poor elites, in recent years, lamented the number of poor people losing jobs over rising prices? Or were they more concerned with fattening their own pocketbooks while making certain the poorest citizens in our country remained poor? If the price of foods and goods is going to rise anyway, would it not be better to recognize that the poorest in our society need to make enough wages to keep up with inflation? And does anyone (even the most elite of the moneyed elite?) want to make an argument that fast food and goods prices will rise 40% over the next few years if the minimum wage is raised?

If this country is left in the hands of the moneyed elites, prices will continue to rise while the rich fatten their pocketbooks and make certain the poor get poorer.

So much for the American dream.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

FUNDAMENTALISTS ERODE GEOLOGY WHILE DISRESPECTING BIBLE

"In order to avoid offending religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under [the Bush administration's] orders to suspend its belief in geology." Thus declared Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, as quoted in Christian Century.

The effect of this anti-geology Bush edict is that employees at Grand Canyon National Park are not permitted to discuss the age of the canyon.

Of course, the Hebrew wording of the Genesis creation accounts (which most fundamentalists insist is a literal six, 24 hour day event) does NOT mandate a literal six day creation. In fact, in the original Hebrew, the wording clearly indicates that creation was an act of God over a very long period of time. Some Bible inerrantists have enough confidence in the Bible to admit as much, but many do not. Which means, ironically, that biblical fundamentalists are trying to force science to conform to something the Bible does not actually teach in the first place. Furthermore, only since the 17th century has the belief in a literal six-day creation become popular among Christians, and not until the 1870s and 1880s was "creationism" born.

That many fundamentalists disrespect and even abuse the Bible (even as they publicly claim to believe it) for their personal gain is nothing unusual. For President Bush to turn their disrespect of the Bible into public policy is inexcusable.

THE $3.9 MILLION MISSIONARY

We live in the era of seemingly countless $10 million-a-year athletes ($3 million for sub-par performers), entertainers and CEO's. Now you can add a new superstar to these lofty ranks: the $3.9 million missionary.

Who in the world would shell out $3.9 million to field a missionary ... in America? According to Mary Branson, former long-time editing director at the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, the NAMB took an operating budget of $126,000,000 and managed to fund a total of 32 full-time home missionaries. That's not a misprint: 32 full-time missionaries, one missionary for each $3.9 of NAMB operating budget.

OK, it is true that no given missionary pocketed $3.9 million ... but it is also true that former NAMB president Bob Reccord helped himself, and his friends, to many millions of dollars in lavish personal expenses and contracts while at the helm of the organization, according to Branson. And while Reccord was preening his image and living high on the hog, and lining the pockets of his buddies, he publicly boasted that NAMB fielded some 5000 missionaries even as the missions agency quietly supported only 32 full-time missionaries with the $126,000,000 that Southern Baptists contributed to NAMB. Oh, and Reccord made certain to use some of NAMB's budget to give handouts of a few hundred dollars a month to several hundred church planters and pastors in "pioneer" areas of the U.S. How generous. (At one point, I and my wife, although never receiving a dime from NAMB, were counted as two of the thousands of NAMB missionaries, with our names included in the organization's printed promotionals. But I digress; that is another story.)

Although Reccord is now gone, there are no indications that Southern Baptists are currently getting any more bang for their buck in terms of missionaries. Perhaps next summer at the SBC annual convention someone should make a motion that NAMB take its $126,000,000 pot and select 32 missionaries who also happen to be professional baseball players. The NAMB Home Run Missionaries might put on quite a show. For a small admission price, Southern Baptists could attend games at Missionary Park, scarfing Gospel Dogs while watching the Home team relief pitchers try to convert save opportunities.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

FORGIVING JESUS

Russ Moore, Dean of Theology of The Southern Baptist Theology Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, still hates former president Bill Clinton with a passion. It still amazes me that some individuals who consider themselves conservative Christians can hate Clinton so deeply for his sexual indiscretions, yet turn around and fawn over George W. Bush, a president who called the Constitution of the United States "nothing more than a G%^D(*$&$ piece of paper" and whose lies and deception have led to the deaths of more than 3000 American soldiers and 600,000 Iraqis.

The only explanation I can think of for such warped ethics is that to some conservatives, anyone who bears a hint of the label "liberal" is unforgivable, unless the sinner completely renounces his or her liberalism. Conversely, those who bear the label "conservative" are eminently forgivable, no matter how hateful, unethical, slanderous, deceitful and otherwise filth-fully sinful. Conservatives, without even acknowledging their sins, can easily be pardoned from their sins by simply claiming they believe in God. But when liberals say they believe in God, they are obviously lying. Thus, George W. Bush is a saint, and Bill Clinton is the worst sinner on the face of the earth.

Strange (and certainly unbiblical) though such a view of sin and sinner is, it does help explain fundamentalist aversions to Jesus. When Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and his fellow fundamentalists so crafted the 2000 edition of the Baptist Faith and Message to remove acknowledgment of Jesus being the "criterion" for interpreting scripture, they did so out of fear that some Baptists were daring to put their trust in the liberal Jesus.

That's right, the liberal Jesus. After all, he was quite the religious liberal in his day. Jesus, the one who enjoyed drinking wine and was even accused of being a drunkard. Jesus, the one who violated the religious laws and taught his disciples they could so likewise. Jesus, the one who was a friend to prostitutes and the other dregs of society. Jesus, the one who refused to execute a woman caught in the act of adultery, thus refusing to follow the law. Jesus, the one who taught that Christians have a social responsibility to the poor, the oppressed, the downtrodden, the marginalized. Jesus, the one who taught that shirking one's responsibility to providing for the poor, the oppressed, the downtrodden and the marginalized has a direct bearing on one's very salvation. Jesus, the one who taught experiential faith over propositional (that is, doctrinal) faith. Jesus, the one who had not a word to say about abortion and homosexuality, but spent much time expounding upon the evils of religious legalism (fundamentalism). Jesus, the liberal.

Some conservatives so dislike the liberal Jesus that they deny him in this respect (hence, his demotion in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000), holding him at arm's length ... but at the same time trying to dress him up in fundamentalist clothes, because you can't claim to be a Christian and not publicly hold on (to at least a part of) Jesus.

What I want to know is this: when are these conservatives going to move beyond denying the liberal Jesus and instead forgive him for being other than they want him to be? Indeed, are they even capable of forgiving Jesus? If they can't extend forgiveness to Bill Clinton for being a liberal, how can they possibly forgive Jesus, the Son of God, for being a liberal?

Obviously, they can't.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

JUST WHAT IS RICHARD LAND SMOKING?

"I know I represent the views of overwhelming numbers of Southern Baptists." So said Richard Land today as he dismissed a meeting of moderate Baptists in Atlanta at which leaders of Baptist groups representing some 20 million Baptists were present.

What is Land's list of "Baptist views?" He has consistently insisted on a handful of necessary beliefs: pro-life (in Land's world, "pro-life" actually means "anti-abortion"), pro-Israel, non-gay marriage, pro-Bush and pro-Iraq War. That's it folks; that's what is required to be a Southern Baptist, according to Richard Land, head of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and self-appointed spokesperson for all Southern Baptists.

Never mind that prior to the 1960s, Southern Baptists did not pretend to take definitive stances on the first three of Land's defining issues. In fact, one would have been hard-pressed to find any Southern Baptist who was pro-Israel as Land defines it (Christian Zionism did not develop until the 1970s), most Baptists were not discussing abortion (and most that were discussing it were not entirely opposed), and gay marriage was a non-issue. And it is doubtful that any Southern Baptist prior to this decade would have voiced unwavering support for a president who repeatedly lied to start a war (and in order to continue the utter fiasco that the war has become) and considers the Constitution of the United States "nothing more than a *^&$%&$* piece of paper!"

In short, by Richard Land's definition, true Southern Baptists did not even exist until sometime after the 1960s!

But what of the present, an era in which Land and his fundamentalist cronies claim to be leading Southern Baptists around by the nose? In my current church, whose members financially support both the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Southern Baptist Convention, not a single one of the roughly 10 of 500 or so members who actually know who Richard Land is ... consider Land as representative of their views. As a matter of fact, very few Southern Baptists (outside of preachers) know who the man is, and although quite a few Southern Baptists might agree with the man on some of his views, few turn to Land for guidance on what to believe, and many would take offense that he pretends to speak on their behalf.

And in Baptist circles other than (some) Southern Baptists and other fundamentalist Baptists, Land's priestly pretensions are widely recognized as the shrill rantings of a blowhard.

So, Richard Land, just what are you smoking? It seems you are rather high on the fumes coming from the tailpipe of your own self-importance ... and inhaling deeply.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

WOULD JESUS THROW McDONALDS OUT OF THE TEMPLE?

As noted in a news story from Canada about their southern neighbors:

"The faith and family market has attracted the attention of some of America's largest corporations.

Coca Cola Co., Daimler Chrysler AG and McDonalds Corp. are among the giant U.S. corporations that have begun tapping into the Christian market, largely through the "mega-church" phenomenon sweeping largely through the southern states.

Coca-Cola and McDonalds have given away free samples at the 25,000-member New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga. Target Co. won praise from the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn for donating 2,000 backpacks to children in a low-income housing project.

GM's Chevrolet division has just sponsored evangelical singer Michael W. Smith's recent tour, while Chrysler ponied up for Patti La Belle's recent gospel tour that included her Dec. 2 concert at Jericho City of Praise in Maryland. GM also made donations to a cancer cause for parishioners at the Maryland church who test drove their cars."

The Republican Party has already conscripted much of the evangelical community, with mega-churches at the forefront, for political purposes. Now, in the wake of success on the political front come America's biggest corporations, seeking entrance into holy places. Altruism? Not a chance. It is all about $$$.

Would Jesus throw McDonalds out of the Temple?