by Dr. Bruce Prescott
Southern Baptists Still Bashing Public Schools (9-30-04)
Ethics Daily is reporting that at least ten Southern Baptist state conventions will be considering resolutions encouraging Baptists to pull their children out of public schools. This is an issue that will not go away, despite the maneuverings of the politically astute SBC leaders who would prefer to keep their goals secret.
Decades ago Fundamentalist Baptists derided our Baptist Seminaries and started their own Bible schools. After they placed their Bible school graduates in a lot of little churches, they organized a takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention. Once they took control of the Convention, they fired tenured professors and replaced them with puppets who would parrot their pronouncements. Indoctrination replaced education.
A similar strategy by Fundamentalists to take over school boards and control public schools has been going on around the country for a quarter-century. Problematic is the decentralized nature of our public school systems. In places, Fundamentalists have been successful in gaining control of the schools. In places, they have failed. In places, their initial successes were reversed as a backlash rose against them.
Now, many Fundamentalists have decided that the public schools must be destroyed. They believe that will happen if enough evangelical Christians can be convinced to put their kids in private schools and/or home schools. They know that public schools have already been starved of the resources they need to do a good job. By reducing the number of students in public schools, and thereby further reducing funding for public schools which receive allocations based on the number of students they serve, they expect our public school systems to rapidly disintegrate and implode.
They intend to replace the public school system with their own private, religious schools and/or home schools -- financed by publicly funded vouchers. Once again, indoctrination will replace education.
Legislating Religious Values (9-29-04)
Baptist Press quotes Richard Land, head of a Southern Baptist political action committee, as saying that Christians "have a right and an obligation to bring our religious convictions to bear on public policy issues." He added, "That's not called a violation of church and state. That's called religious freedom. It's called freedom of speech."
When will Land wake up? People of no faith and people of all faiths -- not just Christians -- have an equal right and and obligation to bring their convictions to bear on public policy issues. Religious freedom and freedom of speech are rights that all citizens of our society share equally. These rights exist because the First Amendment created some "sacred ground" where, by force of law, we do not permit others to force their religious convictions on us and where we are not allowed to force our religious convictions on others. That is what separation of church and state means.
Our first responsibility as citizens of a pluralistic democracy is to assure that the laws governing our society are just, equitable and that they preserve religious liberty for all. Then, by persuasion -- not by force of law -- in an ongoing, open public forum, the people all religions and of no religion are free to promote their competing visions of the common good.
Mainstream Baptists still believe that salvation comes by persuasion, i.e. the "foolishness of preaching." We think we can be salt and light by sharing the gospel in the open forum and respectful dialogue created by the common ground of religious liberty for all.
Southern Baptists are giving up on persuasion and are now trying to save society by legislation. They think they can be salt and light by voting for politicians who will force their values on a nation with increasingly diverse values.
Nuclear Fundamentalists (9-27-04)
Bob Stephenson has been talking about the radioactive fallout from Fundamentalism for a couple years. Little did he know how true his description could prove to be.
The Palm Beach Post is quoting Jerry Falwell as saying that evangelical Christians are now in control of the Republican Party. Since Republicans control the White House and are an eyelash away from controlling both houses of congress, that means evangelical Christians could soon be firmly in control of those commanding our nation's arsenal.
Grace Halsell, in her book Forcing God's Hand and Gershom Gorenberg, in his book The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount, document the way Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and other fundamentalist evangelical Christians have been working to assure that American foreign policy conforms to their dispensational premillenial interpretations of the Bible. Soon little will be left to deter them from triggering the nuclear Armageddon that they think will usher in Christ's second coming.
Superconferences and Circuses (9-24-04)
Thanks to Robert Cunningham for sending me the link to Jerry Falwell's Superconference on Politics and the Pulpit. Had he not sent me the link, I might have entirely missed out on "The Greatest Show on Earth!"
The Ringling Brothers have nothing to match Jerry Falwell. He's got Rick Warren juggling the new political purpose driving his life! Don't miss Ed Young, Sr. with an encore performance of his sending lionhearted followers to jump through the flaming hoops of secular politics! Be sure to see sons Jonathan Falwell and Ed Young, Jr. emerge to carry the torch for yet another generation of right-wing clowns and political hacks. This truly is "The Greatest Show on Earth" -- complete with hundreds of trained elephants marching-in-line while politicians hold their tails with trunks of faith-based cash.
Mute Churches? (9-23-04)
Kudos to the Christian Science Monitor for their story "Does US law mute voices of churches?" It is the most insightful article I've read outside the writings of church/state watchdog organizations.
Few people understand the determination of the Religious Right to exert influence on this election. Many indicators point to a legislative "October Surprise" that will suddenly make it legal for churches to endorse political candidates and political parties.
Here's the scenario I expect to unfold. Fundamentalist churches will fill everyone's newspapers, mailboxes, and airwaves with explicit endorsements of right-wing candidates. Mainline churches will steer clear of anything that could be perceived as politicizing their churches -- thereby allowing the Fundamentalists to define the so-called "Christian" position. Several African-American churches will make some widely publicized endorsements of left-wing candidates -- thereby providing the right with an opportunity to give the impression that churches on both sides of the political divide are equally guilty of endorsing parties and candidates. Church/State watchdog organizations will denounce the new law and file suit challenging it's constitutionality -- of course, any ruling by the courts will come too late for this election.
After the election is over, the media will suddenly discover that U.S. taxpayers -- rightwing, leftwing and those in the middle -- all subsidized the political activities of the religious right. That will occur when donors to the political activities of right-wing churches receive big tax exemptions, and donors to the activities of African-American churches receive little tax exemptions, while donors to all other political causes are deprived of tax exemptions altogether.
A religious time-bomb is being lit. People are already getting fed up with the manipulations of the Religious Right. More than just right-wing Christianity and the African-American church is being discredited -- the credibility of the gospel itself is being undermined. In the eyes of the world, Christianity is being identified with the lies, distortions and manipulations of one of the most ruthless forms of power politics that the world has ever seen.
Meanwhile, pious mainstream Christians sit idly by in their comfortable pews.
Homeland Depot (9-22-04)
Does your private religious school need some sprucing up? How about some money for capital improvements to beef up security?
All you need to do is a find someone from the Middle East to take a video of your school and then submit an application for a Homeland Security Grant. If it's an election year and politicians are trying to woo voters from your demographic group, you are certain to qualify to receive tens of thousands of U.S. taxpayer dollars. Isn't that amazing? Click here and read in the Baltimore Sun how some Jewish groups have tapped into this amazing money machine.
On the other hand, if your faith happens to be that of a small minority with little financial or political influence, you might as well be spitting into the wind. Of course the new Homeland Depot won't tell you that minority faiths need not apply. That would make it obvious that certain faiths are being endorsed and that the First Amendment of the Constitution is being violated.
Valuing Women in Ministry (9-22-04)
It is good to see WMU leaders defending the gifts and calling of women in ministry. Southern Baptist sexism and male supremacism has become a blight on the cause of Christ around the world.
Defining Homophobic (9-21-04)
If you were looking for a definitive illustration of homophobia it would be hard to find an example better than Jimmy Swaggert provided on Canadian Television. According to a transcript of the program, Swaggart said:
Fundamentalist preachers have always been guilty of hyperbole, but after the murder of Matthew Shepherd, any hyperbole on this issue is inexcusable.
Why is the Fundamentalist mind so prone to violent rhetoric on this issue?
Business as Usual (9-20-04)
The New York Times is reporting that the first criminal trial related to the collapse of Enron began today. It has taken nearly four years to begin pressing charges against a handful of mid-level executives.
Thousands of people lost their jobs, their pensions and their health benefits because of their misplaced trust in the executives at Enron. Among them was Bill Peterson. Bill's wife, Cathy, was my secretary when I pastored in Houston. Bill worked for Enron and was assured by CEO Ken Lay that the company was strong and that his retirement funds were safe shortly before the company filed for bankruptcy. Then, after insider executives sold their stock and created golden parachutes for themselves, Bill was stripped of his health benefits at the very moment that he was undergoing expensive, chemotherapy treatments for cancer.
There was no golden parachute for Bill. He had neither the time nor energy or money to defend himself against the creditors who demanded immediate remedy as automobile notes and mortgages payments began falling into arrears. Before his untimely death, Bill and his wife were stripped of every material possession that they had labored for decades to acquire.
Today, Cathy is working to pass "the Peterson law," a law that would assure that no one will lose their health benefits for at least six months after a company files for bankruptcy. So far her efforts have been falling on deaf ears. (Click here to order a copy of Cathy's book Flashlight Walking. For more information about Bill and Cathy click here.)
Meanwhile, it's business as usual at American corporations. The Associated Press reported this afternoon that Fannie Mae "manipulated earning to facilitate bigger bonuses to executives."
What's Wrong with the Christian Right (9-17-04)
Kudos to Jan G. Linn for writing the book What's Wrong with the Christian Right. Linn is a "liberal" Christian who wants "non-Christians to know that the Christian Right does not represent what we believe, does not reflect the heart and soul of the Christianity we find in the Bible, and does not speak for us on matters of public policy." Here's my favorite quote from the book:
Linn makes it clear that a lot of Christians have had enough of the
Christian Right's Biblical abuse, of their Christianizing America, of
their venomous attacks, of their baptizing partisan politics, of their
blind nationalism, of their hypocrisy, of their historical
revisionism, of their persecution complex, and of their focusing on
the wrong issues. A chapter is devoted to each of those topics.
On Opposing the Slaughter of Innocents (9-15-04)
Kudos to the office of the Anti-Defamation League in Israel for opposing a letter from some Rabbi's calling for the Israeli army to increase military force against the Palestinians even when this force endangered innocent Palestinian civilians. Ethics Daily reports that Israel's office of the ADL wrote, "we mourn along with the majority of Israelis the injury and loss of any and al innocent civilians during the course of battle, regardless of national identity or religion."
The loss of innocent life on both sides of this conflict is enormous. It is extremely important for principled voices, on both sides of the conflict, to be raised against escalating the violence.
Next we need to hear from a Palestinian organization that clearly and consistently articulates opposition to taking the lives of innocent Israeli civilians.
Then, as Brian Klee writes for New London Connecticut's The Day, it would be good for both sides to learn how to separate religion from politics.
Goodbye Liberty of Conscience (9-14-04)
Thanks to Bruce Gourley for sending me a link to The Raw Story editorial by Michael C. Sherrin entitled "Goodbye Secularism: A crusade for church-state marriage." Sherrin correctly describes a number of threats to church-state separation and highlights the theocractic agenda of the Texas Republican Party Platform.
All I would add is that marrying church and state dispatches more than just secularism, it denies liberty of conscience to people of other faiths and no faith. In effect, it makes second-class citizens of everyone who refuses to acknowledge the established religion.
Some people will do anything to place themselves in a privileged position. It's a shame that the "Evangelicals" who are spearheading this union will not be content with exercising dominion in the "hereafter." Instead, they are determined to make life in the "here and now" hell-on-earth for those who reject their faith.
A "Faultless" Constitution? (9-10-04)
The August 23rd issue of the Southern Baptist Texan, the Fundamentalist newspaper in Texas, has printed a letter demanding that "Congress must stop judges from abusing law." The letter contends that "our American forefathers called upon the mind and will of God" to draft the "divinely-inspired document" that is "the faultless Constitution." Martin contends that most of the 27 amendments to the constitution "have been mistakes."
It is certainly surprising to see such a glowing description of the constitution writing process and its result. Floyd T. Martin's assessment of the constitution is certainly different from that of Timothy Dwight, grandson of Jonathan Edwards, who lived at the time the constitution was written. At the outbreak of the war of 1812, Dwight told students in Yale College chapel:
For further discussion and documentation about how colonial Christians were opposed to what they called a "Godless Constitution," see "The Godless Constitution: The Case Against Religious Correctness" by Isaac Kramnick and R. Laurence Moore. The quote above from Timothy Dwight is documented on pages 105-6.
Strike Three for the "Partial-Birth Abortion Ban" (9-9-04)
Baptist Press has reported Richard Land's response to the third federal judge who struck down the "partial-birth abortion" ban because it lacked an exception for the mother's health:
“What about a health exception for the unborn child?” asked Richard Land, president of the
Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “There is, and always has been, an exception involving the life of the mother."
It is disingenuous for Land to use Roe v. Wade decision as assurance that the life of a fetus will not be valued more than the life of the mother. Such disingenuousness is nothing new to the Fundamentalists who have taken over the SBC. They have always been less than forthright and honest about the beliefs of Foy Valentine and Mainstream Baptists on the subject of abortion.
Mainstream Baptists, like most Americans, are not pro-abortion. Most of us trust both doctors and mothers to conscientiously weigh all the consequences for the life and health of both the "fetus and the mother when such decisions must be made. Before Fundamentalists took control of the convention, Southern Baptists were on record as opposing abortion except for cases of rape, incest, when the life and health of the mother are in danger, and in cases of severe physical deformity of the fetus such as anencephaly. Now Southern Baptists refuse to recognize any exceptional circumstance that might require a tragic choice.
Portents of Things to Come (9-8-04)
The current issue of the Baptist Standard has a story titled, "Anglos no longer a majority in Texas." The 2003 census figures show that Texas is now only 49.5 percent white and declining. Minority ethnicities now comprise 50.5 percent of the population.
Nothing could make it clearer that the Fundamentalist resurgence that is waging a "culture war" to restore "Southern culture" is ultimately doomed to fail. The takeover of the SBC and the current political muscle of the Southern based Religious Right is the last hurrah of the old South.
The Fundamentalists who lead the SBC have never had more than token regard for minorities. Nothing reveals the status they assign to Hispanics, soon to become our nation's next majoritarian group, more than the responsibilities they assigned to the North American Mission Board (NAMB). NAMB works with the U.S. and Canada. Mexico, also in North America, is assigned to the International Mission Board.
Evangelical Voters not Monolithic (9-7-04)
Thanks to Baptists Today for posting a story from the International Herald Tribune about "A hidden swing vote: Don't be so sure about evangelicals." The article states that:
The only thing I would add is that the pluralism of evangelicals holds for people in both political parties. Most Republicans are not as theocratic as many of the preachers and politicians who are wielding influence in the party.
The only caution that I would add is that I don't think white evangelicals are as class conscious as the interpreters of the data seem to imply.
On Being Free to
Agree or Free to Leave
Statements like this
should make anyone familiar with the takeover of the Southern Baptist
Convention nervous. Burleson and his Fundamentalist cronies weren't
satisfied with simple statements "acknowledging the authority of God
and the Bible as the authoritative word of God" in the SBC.
People who did that, but refused to
sign a creed agreeing to their interpretations of the Bible, were
terminated from long-tenured positions as missionaries and educators.
For the past
twenty-five years, whenever Mainstream Baptists have charged
Fundamentalists with denying us freedom of conscience, they tell us
that no one is depriving us of our freedom -- we are free to agree
with them, or we are free to leave our denomination.
Subliminal Crosses? (9-3-04)
Ethics Daily has posted a story about people taking offense at the cross they saw on the GOP lecturn. While I am disturbed that both parties seem to be wrapping their crosses with the American flag this y
ear, subliminal crosses on lecturns rank low on my list of concerns.
A lot of churches have lecturns in the form of a cross. At the church I pastored in Houston, there was nothing subliminal about the change from a bulwark-like pulpit to a cross-like lecturn. Most of the congregation preferred the lecturn to the pulpit because it looked like a cross.
If a political party is determined to send a signal that it is the "Christian" party, I prefer that they do it with subliminal messages. It's the blatant and brazen statements being made by politicians in both parties that I find offensive.
SBC Takeover Leaders and the CNP (9-1-04)
If anyone has any doubt that an organization exists that coordinates the activities of Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) takeover leaders, Christian Reconstructionists, and other Radical Religious Right leaders, they ought to do some research on the Council for National Policy (CNP).
The New York Times an a story on the CNP last Saturday entitled, "Club of the Most Powerful Gathers in Strictest Privacy." A few months ago, ABC News did a story on a "Vast, Right-Wing Cabal." These stories give some valuable information about the organization, but, as is usual in stories by the secular media, they focus on the most easily recognizable personalities and overlook some people that many Baptists would find interesting. Most interesting was the Baptist CNP member that Bill Moyers tried to question on camera, Paul Pressler, who refused to answer his questions and walked out of the interview(See the video "God and Politics: The Battle for the Bible")
A good resource for research on the CNP is a little known book by Russ Bellent called The Coors Connection. Bellent himself says little about Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler, but he provides early lists of CNP members. His lists reveal the prominence that Pressler had within the group. As though he were being rewarded for a job well-done, Pressler was elected President of the organization in 1989 -- the year the takeover of the SBC was complete.
Online lists of CNP membership can be found here and here. Besides Pressler and Patterson, other Southern Baptist CNP members include Jerry Falwell, Ed McAteer and Rick Scarborough (if anyone recognizes a Southern Baptist listed that I have missed, please let me know). Scarborough was formerly pastor in Pearland, Texas and once was the Fundamentalist's approved candidate for President of the Baptist General Convention of Texas (soundly defeated by Mainstream Baptists in Texas). He is now working for Vision America preaching "revivals" around the country in Southern Baptist churches, mustering votes for "Christian values," promoting ten commandments rally's for Judge Roy Moore, and organizing speaking events for Jerry Falwell.
Another influential member of the CNP whose profile with the public is low was R. J. Rushdoony, the founder of the Christian Reconstructionism (See Moyer's Video "God and Politics: On Earth as it is in Heaven;" see also "Prophets of a Biblical America" in the April 12, 1989 issue of the Wall Street Journal and "Democracy as Heresy" in the February 20, 1987 issue of Christianity Today).
The CNP is one of the places where the former editor of the Daily Oklahoman came into contact with Rushdoony. The influence that Reconstructionism's founder wielded is evident from the prominence given to the editor's eulogy of Rushdoony when he died. It appeared in the first column of the editorial page of the Daily Oklahoman. Rushdoony's son-in-law, Gary North, whose radio interview with Paul Pressler first revealed the Fundamentalist's scheme to takeover the SBC, is also a member of the CNP.
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