by Dr. Bruce Prescott
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Accused of Being Soft on Terrorism
AFP News is
that Terry Anderson, who was held hostage for seven years by Muslim
extremists in Lebannon, has been accused of being soft on terrorism by
his opponent for a seat in the Ohio State Senate.
There was a time
when attacks like this would have been condemned by people in both
major political parties. Today it is routine for people in both
parties to turn a blind eye when their parties' candidates cross the
Civility will not
return to our public discourse until partisans will no longer condone
such outrageous tactics by the politicians of their own party.
When the end can justify any means, anarchy reigns.
Crossing the Line
Americans United has asked the IRS to investigate partisan
political activities on behalf of John Kerry at churches in
Pennsylvania and Ohio.
The IRS is already
investigating the NAACP for partisan political statements made at
its annual convention last July.
Is the IRS
Jerry Falwell and Southwestern Seminary for partisan political
activities in a chapel service last August?
Speaking of Faith
Thanks to Robert
Cunningham for sending me the link to the
of Faith radio program.
Here's a link to a
The Legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer that looks very interesting.
Here's a link to a
The Power of Fundamentalism that also looks interesting.
advocates Holy War (8-25-04)
David Currie of Texas Baptists Committed
for calling my attention to the debate between Jerry Falwell and
Jessie Jackson that was on CNN's Late Edition Sunday night.
Here's a link to the
transcript of that program
(You'll have to scroll down to nearly the bottom of the page to get
the dialogue between Falwell and Jackson). Here's an excerpt
from that transcript:
JACKSON: Let's stop the killing and
choose peace. Let's choose negotiation over confrontation.
FALWELL: Well, I'm for that too. But
you've got to kill the terrorists before the killing stops.
And I'm for the president to chase
them all over the world. If it takes
10 years, blow them all away in the name of the Lord.
JACKSON: That does not sound
Biblical to me. And that sounds ridiculous.
I suspect Jackson
was so shocked by Falwell's rhetoric that he conflated what sounds
"biblical" with what sounds "Christian." There is a lot of "holy
war" rhetoric in the Old Testament. In the New Testament such
rhetoric, and the actions incited by it, are unwaveringly denounced
and rejected by Jesus.
Even taking into
account Falwell's penchant for rhetorical exaggeration, Falwell's
statement reveals a mindset more comfortable with "Dominionist"
thought than with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
CNN is an
international stage. Falwell's statements are being translated
and broadcast to people around the world. Falwell's is one of
the most prominent faces of Christianity being broadcast to the
non-Christian world. Now that Fundamentalists like Falwell have
hijacked our faith and turned the "good news" about God's love and
grace into an explicit threat to "blow them all away in the name of
the Lord," why would any unbeliever care to know Jesus?
Now, more than
any other time in American history, it is time for faithful Christians
to join those of us who are
Confessing Christ in a World of Violence.
The Myth of
Christian America (10-22-04)
Robert Cunningham for calling my attention to the
story on BeliefNet
about the Republican National Committee (RNC) hiring David Barton as a
political consultant. Barton has long been proclaiming that the
United States is a "Christian Nation" (i.e. a theocracy) and that
separation of church and state is a "myth."
have reviewed and debunked Barton's fallacious claims. My
favorite is Mark Whitten's
The Myth of Christian America.
It's a shame
that no one at the RNC bothers to read anything but Religious Right
propaganda. If they took the time to look, they could discover a
lot of valuable information about Barton on the internet.
Americans United has several articles exposing Barton's errors in back
issues of their
Church & State Magazine.
And, here's a link to their brochure about "Is
America a Christian Nation?"
good advice for the RNC. Don't waste money hiring political
consultants on church/state issues who can't pass this
basic online test. Unless, of
course, one of the goals of the RNC is to rescind the First Amendment
and create a Christian Theocracy. If that's the objective, then
Barton's your man.
A Good and
Faithful Servant (10-21-04)
ethicist Henlee Barnette died yesterday. Thanks to
Daily for posting a
picture of Barnette
with Martin Luther King. It is good to see those two modern day
Baptist prophets side-by-side. Neither of them were greatly
appreciated by the communities in which they were raised.
In the early
1960's, King and others found it necessary to leave the
National Baptist Convention
and start the
Progressive National Baptist Convention
when the former community objected to his efforts on behalf of civil
rights for African-Americans.
In the late
1970's, Barnette was
hounded into retirement
by an administration appeasing those who would take over the Southern Baptist Convention. Today,
SBC Fundamentalists insist that their takeover had nothing to do with
their earlier reactions to efforts of white moderates like Barnette on
behalf of civil rights. Though they have made some recent
apologies for their history of racism, "methinks," to quote
Shakespeare's Hamlet, they "doth protest too much." Many who are familiar
with Baptist life through both the civil rights era and the decade of
the takeover, find it hard not to view the takeover as, in some sense,
the Fundamentalist's way of settling of old scores.
Communitarian Descries Biblical Illiteracy
David Lyle Jeffrey, has
sparked a debate with a speech that blamed "anarchic,
postmodern advocacy -- or radical subjectivism" for a decline in
Sadly, too many of
our Baptist educators still appear to reside in the rut of rational
apologetics. Their solution to the postmodern legitimacy crisis
is to elevate "communal freedom" at the expense of "individual
freedom" and advocate "reciprocal accountability" while undermining
Any theologian worth
his salt knows that the relation of an individual to a community and
the relationship between freedom and responsibility is
not an either/or issue. These are
dialectical or "dialogical"
weight must be given to one of the poles of the dialectic while
maintaining tension with the other pole. Historically,
Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, and most
other Christian denominations have given weight to the pole of
communal freedom and reciprocal accountability. Traditionally,
Baptists have given weight to the pole of individual freedom and
Divine responsibility. At bottom, that is the significance of
the Baptist doctrine of "Soul
competency under God."
Some at Baylor, like
the current leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention, seem to be
prepad to surrender this Baptist distinctive, mimic other
denominations, and give weight to the pole of communal freedom and
reciprocal accountability. That will assure that Baptists
speak with a communally approved voice but it will also silence
To grasp the
significance of the loss of prophetic voices, you need only look at
the "anarchic, radical subjectivists" in Baptist history whose
influence these communitarians wish to replace. Three of their
favorite whipping boys are
Mullins -- none of whom could be called biblical illiterates or
accused of encouraging biblical illiteracy.
Jefferson Do? (10-19-04)
Thanks to Carlos
Stouffer of the Jesus
Politics weblog for calling my attention to Robert Kuttner's
Would Jefferson Do?"
Kuttner speaks with
the assurance of someone who has actually read some of the
from the time of our nation's founding -- and not just the books that
are listed at the beginning of his essay. He's definitely on
target when he writes about the Baptist legacy favoring church/state
separation. Here's a quote from his essay:
denominations have themselves been strict separationists -- out of
regard for religion. Jefferson's
secular republic was the fruit of a tactical alliance between
freethinking Deists like himself and evangelical denominations like
the Baptists. Evangelicals held that
the individual Christians communicated directly with the divine, with
no intermediation by a priest, much less by the state.
More practically, they feared that if
the United States were a Christian republic, majority denominations
such as Anglicans and Calvinists would gain effective control at their
expense. Most Baptists remained strict
separationists for 200 years. Not
until the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan threw himself at fundamentalists
of various faiths, did the Baptists switch camps.
It's a shame that so
few Baptists are aware of the
separationist legacy that Kuttner describes so succinctly.
to Military Pagan
challenge to Katherine
Yurika's report about Dominionists, Gen.
Boykin and SBC President Bobby Welch has generated some heated
discussion. Here's a comment I received from one of my readers:
Steph made material misrepresentations about Yurica’s article. First,
Yurica is a careful researcher; she makes no assumptions nor
conclusions. The article has 163 footnotes. What is reported about
Boykin are his links to the Southern Baptist Convention, and Bobby
Welch, the SBC president. Boykin enters again over his role in Abu
Ghraib. The connections between Boykin and Christian dominionism are
totally ignored by Steph. She asserts that the essay claims the “SBC
is ruling the Chaplains Corps or the Department of Defense.” That is
completely false. No where does the Yurica essay assert or imply such
a thing. She states the report “focuses on high profile and wealthy
Christian leaders that General Boykin consorts with from time to
time.” That is another totally false statement. I recommend Yurica's
companion article: "The
Despoiling of America." For an honest review
of the Yurica essay
read this blog.
Steph responded by adding
links to her sources on her weblog.
Axis of Logic website has given a big vote
of confidence for Yurika. They posted
a version of Yurika's story on their
Sets Record Straight
Steph of the Military
Pagan Network for setting the record straight about some inaccurate
inferences and exaggerated concerns about the military and their
chaplains in Katherine Yurika's article about Dominionists "Infiltrating
begin to exercise some influence in the military, it is probably safe
to conclude that neo-pagans like Steph would be among the first to be
Kerry Crosses the
Both The Interfaith
Alliance and Americans United for Separation of Church and State have
taken Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry to task for
crossing the line separating church and state.
Two days ago,
The Interfaith Alliance
called on ,Kerry to stop politicizing religion. They cited
concerns for the sanctity of houses of worship and the need to
preserve the integrity of religion.
Americans United announced
that it has asked the IRS to investigate partisan political activities
on behalf of Kerry at an African American congregation in Florida.
As I have had to
explain to a variety of liberal and progressive ministers over the
past few weeks, the IRS laws prohibiting churches from engaging in
partisan political activities do not place unnecessary restrictions on
free speech. Ministers are always free to speak about issues --
but not endorse candidates and parties -- from the pulpit and in the
Ministers who insist
that they need to endorse candidates and parties from the pulpit
should also be prepared to operate under the same rules that apply to
every other partisan political organization. That would require
that they give up the federal tax exemption for contributions to their
organization. Contributions to partisan political organizations
are not deductible from federal income taxes. Otherwise, some
partisans would be subsidized by taxpayers in their poltical
activities while others were not.
Baptists' 'Kingdom Warriors'
Kudos to Katherine
Yurika of the Yurika
Report for documenting some of the connections between SBC
President Bobby Welch, Gen. Boykin and other Dominionists in the U.S.
Military. She provides some of the most extensive documentation
that I have seen in print (Be advised that the article on "Infiltrating
the U.S. Military" is forty pages long when printed).
Yurika is a
journalist who has extensively reviewed tapes and transcripts of
interviews on Pat Robertson's 700 club and has written for
Her definition of "Dominionism"
is broader than the precise theological definition of "Christian
Reconstructionism," but it serves well as a signal of the strength of
the undercurrent of Reconstructionist thought that is flowing through
Yurika is very good
at unmasking subtle cues and signals in the language used by
Dominionists. At times, I feel she reads more into a quotation
than is warranted. On occassions, however, further research has
borne her observations out.
Kudos to Fisher Humphreys and Philip Wise for
their new book
Unlike the admittedly perspectival advocacy that you'll read on the
Southern Baptist Convention's website and on this website, Humphreys
and Wise do a very good job of presenting a fair case for both sides
of the theological controversy between Fundamentalists and Moderates.
To get an idea how they approach the subject, here's a link to the
table of contents.
I must admit that, while reading the
book, there were times that I was among those that Walter Shurden
described as thinking the book "cut Fundamentalism too much slack."
I'm also certain that many Fundamentalists will think the book cuts
moderates too much slack.
Few scholars have the ability to explain
theology with the clarity, precision and concision of Fisher Humphreys
and Philip Wise. This book should be on everybody's reading
list. And while you're at it, every Baptist ought to put Fisher
The Way We Were
on their reading list as well.
Quest for a Christian America
for posting Jim Evans' essay on "The
Quest for a Christian America."
Evans' essay deserves wide distribution. It is an insightful and
succinct summary of Fundamentalism's infidelity to the gospel and its
corruption of the mission of the church. I particularly liked
In the not so distant past,
evangelicals led by the likes of Dwight Moody and Billy Graham
believed the best way to convert America to Christianity was by
means of persuasive preaching. They
believed that if the church was faithful to its mission a “great
awakening” would eventually sweep the nation like a mighty rushing
wind, transforming people and institutions as it blew.
A bit utopian, for sure, but at
least faithful to the faith.
Healing and transformation are
possible when we properly observe the principles and practices of
our faith. But forcing those
principles into practice by rule of law does not work.
Faithfulness cannot be legislated.
The effort to legislate religious
beliefs only serves to corrupt our faith practices and empty them of
their power and significance. This
is no utopian dream—it is a political and religious nightmare.
On Prophets and
This afternoon I received an
education in the advanced art of soothsaying. I read a story
about how the legendary feuding Hatfields and McCoys finally
decided to stop fighting. All it took to end the feud was for
someone to admit that "the pig" that an early McCoy let run
through an early Hatfield's field "really didn't matter that
Wouldn't it be wonderful if that
example could inspire everyone to end the petty bickering that
Just imagine what would have happened
in King David's court if he had a soothsayer armed with such an
example. Can you hear the Prophet Nathan finishing his sad parable
about a rich man stealing a poor man's only lamb? Then, King David
pronounces judgment only to be indicted by Nathan's "Thou art the
man!" Uh oh! Unsightly
confrontation! Better call in the
He'll make everything right again with his magic formula, "the
lamb really doesn't matter that much!"
Think how a soothsayer could have
calmed Dietrich Bonhoeffer. A soothsayer could have proved the
German Christians right to believe Bonhoeffer was wrong in taking
alarm at what was happening under Hitler's regime. All he really
needed was for someone to say, "the Jews really don't matter that
Imagine how a soothsayer could
resolve the current divisions in Southern Baptist life. A soothsayer
could prove that
Baptist bystanders are right to ignore the violence that the
Fundamentalists are doing in the name of their faith. All the
victims need is for someone to say, "Your reputations, your
callings, your careers, and your families really don't matter that
Actually, as any soothsayer can
sense without thinking, that is exactly what Baptist bystanders
have been saying by their actions all along.
Leland's Legacy Remembered
If ever there was a time when our
nation needed to hear more about the Baptist legacy of church-state
separation, now is the time. And, John Leland is the
figure upholding that legacy during the days of the American
To get a taste of how pertinent his
thinking remains, Conn cites a valuable quote from Leland that I
missed in my own research:
Guard against those men who make a
great noise about religion in choosing representatives.
. . It is electioneering intrigue. If they knew the nature
and worth of religion, they would not debauch it to such shameful
purposes. If pure religion is the
criterion to [decide upon] candidates, those who make a noise about
it must be rejected; for their wrangle about it proves that they are
void of it. Let honesty, talents and
quick dispatch characterize the men of your choice.
think I've stumbled onto our government's solution to the looming
bankruptcy of the Social Security system. In an article on
The Fed Works on Where to Send Your
I discovered this interesting
Many baby boomers won't be able
to afford to retire in the United States because their 401(k)s
were wiped out in the dot-com bust, meaning they'll be working
as long as they can and finally retiring overseas, where their
Social Security checks will stretch farther.
The U.S. Treasury, which has been
migrating benefits recipients to direct deposit anyway, wants to
extend that service to what it expects to be plenty of retirees
living in Mexico or Belize or Bulgaria, saving itself about $100
million a year. It also expects costs to mushroom, starting in
2008, under pressure from the 77
million retiring boomers.
Here's one more good reason to start mastering the
Ethics Daily for posting the latest
story about Pat Robertson threatening President Bush in regard to
his policies toward Israel.
You would think that as many times as they have had to revise
their own books and charts about the path to the millenium, that
dispensationalists would be more cautious in giving advice to
those who shape our foreign policy.
Most people think that a policy designed to avoid Armageddon would
be a wiser course than one that self-consciously sets the stage
for it. But not Robertson and Falwell and other
dispensationalists. They are intent on
Forcing God's Hand.
Theocratic U.S. House Majority Leader
Tom DeLay has now been
rebuked by the House Ethics Committee
for the third time in six days.
Melanie Sloan, executive director of
Citizens for Responsibility and
Ethics in Washington,
notes that the committee has admonished DeLay for three separate
incidents -- in addition to the admonishment issued against him a
few years ago. That's a total of four strikes against DeLay by the
House Ethics Committee. Sloan said this "clearly shows that he
believes himself to be above the law."
Like most theocrats and many culture
warriors, DeLay is convinced that "the end justifies the means."
Southern Baptists have been cursed
with leaders like this for a quarter century. Now they are leading
Thanks to the
Texas Freedom Network (TFN) for
sending me the link to Cary Clack's article on "For
Whom Would Jesus Vote? God Only Knows"
More people have
presumed certainty about how Jesus would vote this year, than at any
other time of which I am aware. Unfortunately, devout Democrats
and righteous Republicans believe that Jesus supports their candidate
with equal certainty and passion. In Southern Baptist circles it
is getting very hard to find preachers who speak with any sense of
humility on political issues.
That's why I find
these words from Clack so apropos:
I've never been given a copy of
the Jesus Voting Guide with the list of candidates Christ has
While I'm impressed with the
certainty of people who speak for Jesus and who possess no doubt as
to how he would act, or vote, in specific situations, I often wonder
how certain Jesus is that he's being properly represented by these
I'm guessing that, come Judgment
Day, the questions Jesus will ask people will be, "Did you love your
neighbor as you love yourself?" or "Did you do unto others as you
would have them do unto you?"
I don't think it's going to be,
"Who did you vote for in the 2004 presidential election?"
Roy Moore Suffers
Supreme Snub (10-05-04)
that the Supreme Court has denied former Judge Roy Moore's appeal.
He was appealing his ouster from the bench for refusing to remove his
ten commandments monument from the courthouse in Alabama.
Frankly, Moore did
not have grounds for appeal. He knows that the rule of law
requires that everyone -- even Judges -- obey court orders.
We haven't heard the
last from Roy Moore. Now he will be able to tour the country
with his 2 1/2 ton monument without distraction.
understanding of the First Amendment of the Constitution is polar
opposite from my own. He thinks the Constitution establishes the
"Judeo-Christian" religion. I'm convinced that the First
Amendment means exactly what it says, "Congress shall pass no law
respecting an establishment of religion."
Moore and I do agree
on one thing. Both of us see through the smokescreen that the
Supreme Court is using to ignore the implications of keeping the
phrase "under God" in the pledge of allegiance and using "In God We
Trust" as our national motto.
For both Moore and
myself, the word "God" means something. It refers to a real
Divinity. The Supreme Court, however, contends that the word
"God" does not mean anything when it is used in our civic life.
According to the Supreme Court, in American civic life the word "God"
does not refer to a real Divinity because the word has "lost through
rote repetition any significant religious content." (See Justice
Brennan's concurring opinion in
Lynch v. Donnelly,
465 U.S. 668 1984)
Instead, "God" is more like a mascot that we trot out to make us feel
good about ourselves and our nation.
For the Supreme
Court, civic references to "God" are examples of "ceremonial deism"
and, therefore, do not violate the First Amendment's prohibition
against establishing a religion. Roy Moore contends that the
word "God" invokes a real Deity that our nation ought to acknowledge
constitutionally and establish as our national sovereign. For
Moore and many others in the Religious Right, democracy is, at best,
defined theocratically -- not pluralistically. For them, people
of no faith and people of other faiths are second-class citizens with
fewer rights and privileges than those who acknowledge the
Like Moore, I
believe that the word "God" invokes a real Deity, but I don't believe
God is interested in being acknowledged by Constitutions. The
Father that Jesus revealed is interested in voluntary personal
relationships with real persons, not coercive monarchical relations
with the constructs of nation-states. To treat God as a national
"mascot" and strip his name of "meaning" is blasphemous. It
directly transgresses the command to "not take the name of the Lord
thy God in vain." (Exodus 20:7)
I don't believe American democracy has ever been defined "theocratically."
James Madison thought that the prohibition against religious tests to
hold public office (Article
VI of the U.S. Constitution) was
enough to guarantee religious liberty for everyone. Anyone who
has read his
Memorial and Remonstrance
knows that he never intended for people of no faith and people of
other faiths to be second class citizens of this country. Anyone
who has read the
Act for Establishing Religious Freedom
knows that Thomas Jefferson's mind was of one accord with Madison on
this matter. You don't even have to be aware of the
of advocacy for separation of church and state to know that from the
beginning the United States was conceived to be a "pluralistic"
democracy, not a theocracy.
Laundering Money in Oklahoma
is reporting that a political action committee has received
$100,000 from the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO).
The money is allegedly funding a media campaign against a referendum
Over the past
few weeks, BGCO has been collecting an offering from its 1700 churches
to fund a "Moral Issues Campaign." Few Baptists
realized that the money was
filling the coffers of a political action committee run by Republican
State Representative, Forrest Claunch. Claunch is a member of
First Southern Baptist Church in Del City, OK. (For a glimpse of
the role of First Southern Del City in the takeover of the SBC,
click here and
count how many prominent takeover leaders have ties to this church.)
Conventions are free to support or oppose legislation and referendums.
They place their tax exempt status in jeopardy when they endorse and/or
distribute funds to politicians and political parties. Donations
to political action committees are questionable.
For the record,
Mainstream Baptists do not advocate legalizing gambling. Neither
do we condone laundering donations to political action committees
through conventions or churches.
Religious Right gets desperate to convince mainstream Christians to
see things their way, they often pull out a bat and try to knock
people out of the Christian ballpark.
club is the "You can't be a Christian if you don't agree with me!"
stick. Jerry Falwell
is an MVP at swinging this bat.
Just last week
he said, "You cannot be a sincere,
committed born-again believer who takes the Bible seriously and vote
for a pro-choice, anti-family candidate."
that's not a home run, it is at least a triple. In the swing of
a single sentence he made a connection that questioned the sincerity
(first base), salvation (second base), and spiritual fidelity (third
base) of anyone who doesn't vote for candidates he approves.
Still, it frustrates
the Religious Right to see a runner standing on third base.
They've got to drive their point home. That's why they always
have a clean-up hitter on deck. The clean-up man swings the
"You've got to be a baby killer!" stick. This one often clears
mainstream Christians from the ballpark, but not because they are
convinced. They leave because they don't know how to respond to
people so insulting.
I've learned that
the only way to hold your own in a political game with Fundamentalists
is to turn the tables on them. That's why I always keep a quote
from C. Everrett Koop handy. C. Everrett Koop was the Surgeon
General in the Reagan Administration. He co-authored, with
Francis Schaeffer, the book and film series that educated most
evangelicals about abortion -- Whatever Became of the Human Race.
In Bill Martin's book,
With God on Our Side, Koop explains why he dropped out of the
If the pro-life
people in the late 1960's and the early 1970's had been willing to
compromise with the pro-choice people, we could have had an abortion
law that provided for abortion only for the life of the mother,
incest, rape, and defective child; that would have cut the
abortions down to three percent of what they are today. But they
had an all-or-nothing mentality. They wanted it all and they got
Note that the
exceptions Koop described coincide exactly with the exceptions that
Southern Baptists supported before the takeover of the SBC.
Since the takeover, Southern Baptists have shifted to the
The truth is, even
if the Fundamentalists were correct about all abortions being murder,
then Fundamentalist intransigence is responsible for 97% of the
murders and compromising moderates are guilty of 3%. None of us
will come out of this guiltless, but one percentage requires a lot
September 2004 Blogs