Sunday, January 1, 2017

Theologies of Change: Wittenberg Door 2.0

I have a question. Several questions. Actually, I'm not entirely sure what the exact question is but I do know the direction of what I'm seeing.

First, I submit this link that says maybe our traditional idea of God's Sovereignty is outdated, if not flat out wrong. In particular, perhaps God is not in control of everything that happens.

God is Not in Control

Second, here is an article about Bart Campolo (son of THAT Campolo) who now no longer identifies as Christian.

Bart Campolo No Longer Believes

Here's what I'm thinking: Is it possible that we have been wrong on God's Sovereignty in the same way we were wrong on so many other issues? In situations such as slavery, evolution, the earth revolving around the sun / being round, or countless other things, we damaged ourselves greatly in reaching people because they viewed our ideas as backward and uneducated. Is that a necessary roadblock to keep throwing out there? If we adopt a theology that says God is not always in control of everything but is completely Sovereign in Love, does that damage the definition of God? Or take Campolo, for example: he had trouble believing in the idea of hell and eternal damnation, so he adopted a Universalism of sorts a long time ago.   The idea of an eternal hell, created by a loving God, for the eternal punishment of people who didn't believe, is all sorts of problematic for everyone's senses. Is that another area where we need to re-examine what exactly it is we believe?

The point here is that in this era where we have (hopefully) a better sense of thinking through all this stuff, oftentimes our theology creates more moral problems than it resolves. I can certainly see many inconsistencies in our theology that unbelievers are pointing out as reasons to reject the faith outright ... and many of those inconsistencies are not ethically defensible on our part. Many positions can be resolved by simply changing our interpretation of some texts, and that would make us be more consistent morally/ethically in our presentation. Perhaps it is that inconsistency that people are seeing, what Bart Campolo recognized, and that is =a= reason (not just =the= reason) some reject the Message.

I'm not in any way saying we should change our theology to fit the "world." I'm not suggesting we soften our positions. I'm saying that perhaps we need another nail on the church door at Wittenberg. The post-modernity doesn't reach everywhere at the same time but it is coming whether we like it or not. Maybe it's time we address legitimate questions about our theology. Are we being resolved in our commitment to truth, or are we being bull-headedly stubborn in refusing to recognize our own inconsistencies?

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Pharisees in GA

So very, very sad. GEORGIA IS BEING GOVERNED BY DEMETRIUS THE SILVERSMITH The US constitution guarantees that no faith will get a Most Favored Status from government, even if it is our own. We Baptists were the persecuted minority at the nation's founding and it is we that were told the Word of God was against us and our beliefs were not scriptural. It was the Established Churches that claimed they rightly interpreted the text and should be given special favor over the heretical Baptists. Our nation and stae are not governed by the Bible or any religious text but by the US Constitution. As far as I can tell, no church has been shuttered; no one has been denied access to a house of worship of any faith, even our own; and all public businesses have to be held to the same public accommodation laws that may not refuse service to anyone for any reason, =unless= they are LGBT, a non-protected class in our state. No pastor has ever been forced to marry anyone with whom he/she didn't want to; and no church has ever been forced to host a ceremony it didn't want to host. Now that is not the same for =BUSINESSES= since all =BUSINESSES= are held to the same standard of law.

GA is not governed by the Bible, or more aptly one narrow interpretation of a select few passages. We are a nation of laws that protect everyone and makes sure everyone is treated the same in the public arena. If we don't make sure other interpretations of faith are protected in the public arena, then one day another religious group can force THEIR religious interpretation onto us in the business arena ... you know, kinda back to where we Baptists started in England, Boston, Virginia, etc., when we were refused service in businesses, or buying/renting property, or getting services from state employees, and the government sanctioned that discrimination because the majority faith said we were not true Christians.

An analogy of Demetrius is not the proper one in this case. Maybe it should have been the Pharisee standing outside the party Jesus was, saying: "Why does Jesus even associate with those sinners?"

"Christian Index" Editor and Facts

It is no secret I am not too happy with the GA Baptist Convention nor its editor, Gerald Harris. I was a frequent poster on the GA Baptist Convention Facebook page for a few years, usually pointing out when they used Alt Right and fake news sites as source material; decrying the politicization of the Convention; warning of a creeping acceptance of fascist political thinking; criticizing the Pharisaical attitude of faith that has become acceptable; wildly yelling about the anti-science stance at our Baptist colleges; etc. I guess they finally got tired of me being a gadfly and banned me, something I'm very proud to wear as a badge of honor.

On Monday, 19 December, 2016, the Electoral College was set to vote to validate the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency.  Not to disappoint, Gerald Harris gives his normal editorial makes one of those really, really, REALLY ignorant statements that is such an embarrassment to every GA Baptist. Here is the quote:

Many staunch Clinton supporters want the Republican electors to break precedent and refuse to vote for Donald Trump, denying him the required majority. Some celebrities vainly hope Republican Electors would even dare to cast their vote for Hillary Clinton. 
However, if the electors were to do as some of the Hollywood elite demand, they would be violating the Twelfth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which says “they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President.” (emphasis is mine)

 Perhaps Gerald Harris would do well to call upon a history professor or a Constitutional law professor and get input before making such a naive claim.


Monday, December 12, 2016

It Can't Happen Here ... Did It?

I realize that the source I'm using for this is considered "liberal" by current political majority. I get that. Nonetheless, that doesn't invalidate the point being made. Thom Hartman is spot on.

The Ghost of Vice President Wallace Warns: "It Can Happen Here"

Fascism has been growing in America for a long time, and it finally achieved its winning of the political structures. Seeking to return to the days of the Robber Barrons, where the top few dominate the economic, political, societal, and cultural structures, they have won. By playing on the the fear of the demographic shifts, the US population has been manipulated. Fake news has given validation to their suspicions and ignorance. Patriotism is no longer a support of one's national values, but of blind allegiance to anything the nation does no matter how unfair (or evil) it may be. Faith is now synonymous with being a "good American," and that faith is only of a certain stripe and looks more like a political action committee than a religious organization.

We got played.

Fascism is now in power. The US went to war to stop it 80 years ago and we've now duly elected it's descendants. God help us.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Todd Starnes, the ACLU, and the Right Thing to Do

Knightstown, Indiana, Endorses Christianity

It is not surprise to anyone that I believe Todd Starnes is one of the most ignorant people on the planet. The fact that he has teamed up with Truett McConnell College, a GA Baptist college, is frightening.

Starnes is continuously fanning the flames of a "War on Christians" and misrepresents history. Just use any search engine and you will be aghast at the twisting, contorting, and out-and-out lying about history and current events. Let's face it, the guy manipulates people with false facts for political gain. Goebbels would be so proud.

But this one is so basic that I'm amazed he hasn't been booed off the air with this one. The city of Knightstown, IN, has a lighted cross a top a Christmas tree. Not a star where it could be argued is merely symbolic of the Holiday Season. No. This is a cross, the emblem of one religion.

Dear Mr. Starnes: would you be OK if this were a star and crescent?

Very simple. If it is wrong for a city to do this for one religion, it is then wrong for all religions.

Madison's Remonstrance was very clear on how they intended to address situations like this.

Todd Starnes, you are what the founders warned us against.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving Eve Job Description

I've had this same job for -- oh, I dunno -- 30 years. It's a very simple job but I've discovered it's vitally important if I'm to live the remainder of the holiday season.
1. Keep the glasses full. Usually it is my wide and daughter cooking and doing all sorts of other things in the house, but for me the Prime Directive is to keep those glasses full. There may be another 2 or 3 or 10 people show up on T-Day Eve for God knows whatever reason, but if I do this job right, the rest of my job description is much easier to accomplish and I will get rave reviews.
2. Run to the grocery store for whatever items left off the list. I may make 2 or 3 runs to Publix over a 3 hour period but I will have to go. Never mind what I have to get wasn't on the list the first (or second or third) time:
I'm still the Dumb Arse and should have known better.
3. Wash dirty dishes. It keeps the clutter and tempers at a minimum, and those dishes will be used several times over the cooking portion of the evening. The dishwasher and my hand washing will be a priority.
4. Make sure those glasses stay full. If you want to live, Ryan, keep those glasses full.
5. Wash clothes. You would be surprised how many dishcloths, towels, pants, shirts, more dishcloths, etc., get soiled. Wash 'em. Dry 'em. Return to kitchen. Repeat.
6. Answer questions. "Do you think I can substitute skim milk for whole?" "Could I use margarine instead of butter?" "Would 1 1/2 cups of sugar be enough?" "Should I add more salt?" I was Google before Al Gore invented the internet and still am.
7. Take a cussing. If it isn't right, I take the cussing. If it doesn't taste right, my fault. If it falls, I failed. If it needs more seasoning, I didn't issue the All Points Bulletin. If I do job #1 well enough and keep those glasses full, I can mitigate this from impacting my performance review.
8. Keep the music on. Although not officially listed as part of my job function, I've found the "Soft Rock Hits from the 70s" or "Sounds of the Seasons" will calm a lot of nerves and minimize the cussing.
9. Keep the glasses full. It's worth repeating.
10. Make sure the finished dishes are promptly covered/sealed and put in the fridge. If the main fridge is full (always is after just 10 minutes of an oven on 350 degrees), I must maintain operation and oversee transport of completed dishes to Fridge #2, the Beer Fridge, or establish a confiscation procedure of a neighbor's unused portion of their fridge. Very important. Food. Stored. Ready for use the next day.
11. Keep note of the time when something enters the oven. Never fails: a dish goes in but someone forgets the time when the oven door closed. My task is to make a mental note and recall the answer when I hear, "When did I put this in?" or "How long was this supposed to cook?" My ability to keep the time stamp will save the day.
Tonight: Glasses full at all times and I get an "Outstanding" regardless of the other appraisal failures. The cussings weren't as severe either.
My resume is expanding.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Lament This November, 2016

Fear. Loss. Mourning. Bulls of Bashan all around, snarling. 
Knowledge is covered and afraid to even whisper. Worry. Concern for my neighbor trampled by the Pharisee.
No longer even my brother's keeper but my weaker brother's master, if he cannot defend nor speak. 
The cheated laborer cries out only to be told the owner who withheld wages is now the ruler; stolen wages become pocket change for the rich. 
Time and name are the only things left for the forgotten when even dignity is taken. 
Careful, beautiful and good plans destroyed by vandals.
They know not what they do.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Police Shootings -- At and By

I remember taking Public Policy and Social Change while in college. It discussed past instances very similar to what is currently happening, e.g., the Magna Carta; the Reformation; the Enlightenment; the French and American Revolutions; Abolition; US Civil War; Women's Suffrage; Prohibition; McCarthyism; the Peace Movement of the 60s; Civil Rights Movement; Hitler's Rise to Power. All of these have very specific examples of a set of characteristics that can be directly shown to also exist in the current situation of the Black Lives Matter / Police Shootings / Minority Unrest. And I do mean EXACTLY the same characteristics. Anyone who has ever studied Marxist economic theory (or any economic theory for that matter .. Adam Smith even noted it), or Hagel's Theory (Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis), or Liberation Theology understands that public policy (and specifically economic realities) are derived from the social justices / injustices that are real because that is how they are perceived by a group. It is a very complex picture we are in, just like all the other examples were complex and multi-faceted and the roots go back generations, yes, even centuries. And truth be told, everyone has a bit of the truth but not all of it. This is where the social scientist, the historian, the economist, the policy maker, and everyone else needs to realize what is happening. This cannot be boiled down to simple sound bites or political spin to a certain viewpoint. Blaming this on the Black Lives Matter movement, or the poor, or the police, or any single Boogy Man is, well, ignorant. I'm not trying to stick up for Obama but he is exactly right on this and his education is definitely showing, contrasted to Lord knows what some others are saying.

Friday, June 10, 2016

GA Baptists at it Again

So the Christian Index (the GA Baptist newspaper) has finally admitted it no longer believes in liberty. And editor Gerald Harris has finally said it publicly.

In front of God and everybody. Said it. Out loud.

I have a problem with the GA Baptist Convention. The problem has been a long time coming. It's like a long, hard, contentious break-up where two people just keep moving in opposite directions.

Wait. Not exactly. I've not really moved. My doctrinal positions are that of the historical Baptists, i.e, Priesthood the Believer, Soul Competency, and the Separation of Church and State. Sadly, GA Baptists no longer believe in those three foundational principles. They moved from those historical moorings with the Conservative Resurgence of the 1980s. And they moved away from me.

The GA Baptist Convention paid for part of my undergrad degree and the Southern Baptist Convention paid for nearly all of my graduate work. So I don't take this break-up lightly, but it is time to finally say thank you for the memories and the good times, but please, don't call me anymore.

I learned all about what makes Baptists different. I was proud that we were not only one of the underdogs of the European religious groups (everyone hated us there) but we were the underdog here in Colonial America, too. We were the heretics; the ungodly outcasts; the radicals; the liberals; the ones that would destroy everything good; the ones the Devil had beguiled. And not only were we the underdogs, we barked at the political Empires and every sectarian Overlord that demanded all other religious underdogs bow to the Crown and Pulpit. We fought for the Quakers and the Mennonites and whatever other small number faith getting thrashed in the public square. We took the public floggings; the loss of our lands; the mistreatment of our children; whatever else could be thrown at us.

Yet we stood for the complete, absolute and total Separation of Church and State at all times, for all religions, for all time. No religious idea of sect was to be giving a Most Favored Status by the government. It was our Baptist cry of Separation of Church and State (and some convincing of James Madison by John Leland under an old tree) that was the foundation of the first phrase of the first sentence of the first amendment that says government was not even to give even a hint of a Most Favored Faith.

That was us. That was the Radical Baptists. That was the idea that gave all faiths at all times complete liberty. That is what Thomas Jefferson told the Danbury Baptists what Congress had done with the First Amendment in terms Baptists understood.

Until now. Until Gerald Harris. Until the Christian Index decided that politics is thicker than doctrinal foundations. Until complete historical and theological ignorance masquerades as piety.

So when Gerald Harris says a mosque shouldn't be built because Muslims are not worthy of the same first amendment protections we Baptists fought for, I have ask: hypocrite much?  Why is religious liberty only good for some groups and not others?

I find it amusing Gerald Harris thinks he gets to decide who is worthy of protection and who isn't ... Gosh, that sounds just like the Anglicans and the other Establishment Churches of Colonial America when talking about Baptists.

Honestly though, Harris is just playing to the political base of the people of GA. He is saying politically what the majority wants to hear.

Hmmmm. Kinda like when Paul talked about those deceivers who just tickled the ears of people who to hear what they wanted to hear (2 TIM 4:3).

Sad, sad day for GA Baptists. Let's hope the rebuke by Don Byrd at the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty will cause Gerald Harris to open a history book ... or maybe his Bible. You know, treat others the way you want to be treated.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Trump and Fascism

One doesn't have to be a history major to recognize the similarities between Trump's rise to top of the Republican party, and the similar stories of Mussolini and Hitler. But if you are a history major, your head is probably exploding with the insanity that few recognize it --- or worse, even care.

The message, the manipulation, the fear mongering, the vagueness, the demonizing of minorities, even down to the promise of "greatness again" is a direct copy of the fascist playbook.

America has to do better than this.

Here is a great article that details this from Robert Kagan in the Washington Post