Saturday, December 29, 2007

China Bans Reincarnation

There are some things that are just so outlandish that it defies reason to even mention it. I remember when I was joking around with this one young lady about how the Russians were going to launch a manned space craft & land on the sun to do experiments. She, rightly so, quickly responded that they couldn't do that because they would burn up. Hook. Line. Sinker. All I had to do was give the punch line: "They're going at night." That's funny, right there, I don't care who you are.

Somehow this girl's synapses managed to do the impossible. She looked at me, square in the eye & said in a most defiant attitude, "Well, you didn't tell me they were going at night & they would be landing on the side with no heat."

I stood there with my mouth open, unable to even utter a word. So did the other 10 folks standing there. Amazing.

In come the Chinese. 2007. And they have banned reincarnation. That's right. It is now illegal in China for Tibetan Buddhist monks to reincarnate without the permission of the Chinese gov't.

According to the news report, there are strict guidelines about a reappearing Buddha, though the penalty is not mentioned. The article pointed out that it effectively gives the Chinese gov't the legal authority to name the next Dalai Lama.

The law is further explained in China Daily (e.g., propaganda that doesn't pretend to make sense) that the law is to aid religious freedom. Get this quote:

"The rule is bound to have significant impact on standardizing governance on living Buddha reincarnation, protecting people's religious freedom, maintaining the normal order of Tibetan Buddhism and the building of a harmonious society."

Sounds like Double Speak to me . . . or like the "justification" on resolutions telling bloggers to hush because it is hurting our evangelism efforts. Again: do whuuut? Like dissenting blogs of SBCers are being read by the unchurched. Yeah, right.

And the Russians are going to land on the Dark Side of the Sun for exploration.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

When dissent is silenced

One of the most cherished rights we Americans have is the right to voice our opinions on any topic without fear of gov't reprisal. That doesn't happen most anywhere else. Even in England, there are Soapbox Sundays where you can say whatever you want in the public parks --- except anything against the Queen. (Not sure if that is the correct terminology but that is what the guide told us in 2005 when we were in London.)

In America, we can even say our President is a low-down, lying, good-for-nothing, coward --- & then claim those are his good traits. No fear of gov't coming down on us.

Until recently.

Baptists have always been the same way. We treasured dissent & valued the debate because it made us into what we are now. Baptists have evolved greatly in the last 400 years & we are, what we are, because of the dissent of years gone by. We changed. We adjusted. We amended. We evolved.

This is not to say that we changed overnight. Nor is it to say the dissent & the evolution wasn't painful. It was. We fight a lot. Always have. But we agree to put our discussions in the public view because it means a transparency & an opportunity for everyone to come to their own conclusions. You know, priesthood of the believer. We Baptists don't decide our doctrinal distinctives in a back room meeting with a few elites. We don't come to a vote on what we believe & then demand everyone agree with it or leave. Instead, we reach a consensus & invite even those who disagree to continue to cooperate on matters of missions & education.

Until recently.

I'm deeply concerned that what we are seeing today is an entrenchment of the "You're either with us or you're against us." The kind that says, "You're not a Christian nor a patriot if you disagree with us."

And what bothers me the most is that it is on a national & a denominational scale.

When I was college, I had several professors make a rather bold statement. They said the US was more in danger of becoming Fascist than Communistic. They claimed that Fascism uses faith & patriotism to consolidate power. I was young & told them they had lost their mind.

Now, I look around & realize how right they were.

The national scene is almost to the same level of the Red Scare. Don't question any gov't policy because it is "un-American." Disagreement is not patriotic.

On the Baptist level, any dissent is decried as "hurting our evangelism efforts" or "causing trouble in the fellowship." Some honest disagreements on non-essentials have resulted in brothers & sisters being labeled "un-Christian." Even worse, some political disagreements are causing some believers to be called "heretics" if they don't tow the official line of the Baptist leaders.

I now see why we Baptists placed a priority on the idea of soul freedom. It is a foundational principle. I also understand why our Founding Fathers placed such a premium on the ability to dissent, so much so that it is enshrined in the 1st Amendment.

Dissent is a treasure. It is what makes us examine ourselves & our beliefs. It forces us to pour over the Scripture to make sure we can account for the totality of the text. And it is the Word that changes us. Without dissent, we may never have to examine ourselves.

We may disagree. We may fight. We may begin new churches or new denominations. But what we may never do is stifle anyone's right to speak, question or disagree. Once we create rules, laws or policies that effectively tell people to be quite, we are indeed taking that 1st step of Fascism.

When we meld faith & politics, both become unbearable.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Has the SBC Ethics Committee Endorsed a Presidential Candidate?

I'm perplexed.

On one hand, the SBC Ethic's Committee Chair, Richard Land, told the Texas Baptist Convention that he won't endorse candidates. His exact words were, "I don’t. I won’t.” Instead, he said he wanted a well-informed electorate.

Sounds good. But how has it been playing out? After a bit of a review, it looks like Land has endorsed Fred Thompson. Let's consider the following from Rob Boston on his Americans United blog:

* In April, Land told The Hill, a Washington, D.C., newspaper, “Fred Thompson reminds me of a Southern-fried Reagan. To see Fred work a crowd must be what it was like to watch Rembrandt paint.” Land went on to say that he would not support former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani or Newt Gingrich, partly over their marital histories. He excused Thompson’s divorce, saying the circumstances matter and noting that Thompson’s first marriage was an amicable split that ended years ago.

* Not long after that, the Politico newspaper reported that Land introduced Thompson during a meeting of the secretive Council for National Policy in Virginia. Thompson went on to deliver a speech critical of church-state separation.

* Land rushed to Thompson’s defense after James Dobson of Focus on the Family criticized the former senator’s stand on the Federal Marriage Amendment and his failure to attend church regularly. Land told David Brody, a reporter and blogger at TV preacher Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, “I’ve received phone calls and e-mails from Southern Baptists about Sen. Thompson. They are all furious at Dr. Dobson. They just feel that, first of all, there was a mischaracterizing of his positions. Do I wish that he supported the marriage protection amendment? Of course I do. To say that he is for 50 different views of marriage in 50 different states is a gross mischaracterization of his position. Secondly, do I wish that he attended church every Sunday? As a Baptist pastor, of course I do. But does that make him a person of unbelief? That’s harsh and unwarranted.”

* On July 12, 2007, Land told Brody, “My assessment is that at this moment in time it is Fred Thompson’s race to lose. It may be a convergence of the right man, in the right place and at the right time. I have never seen anything like this grassroots swell for Thompson. I’m not speaking for Southern Baptists but I do believe I have my hand on the pulse of Southern Baptists and I think I know where the consensus is.” Brody later wrote of Land’s “fascination with Thompson.”

* Land told the far-right evangelical magazine World that Thompson will win because he offers “red meat” to socially conservative evangelicals.

* A pro-Thompson Web site, Blogs for Fred Thompson, notes at least two examples of Land pushing Thompson on right-wing radio shows.

Do your own Google Search using the names "Fred Thompson" & "Richard Land." Draw your own conclusions as to whether or not Land endorses any candidate.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas Grinch

Yeah, I'm a Grinch. I admit it. And as soon as the tree/decorations/Taj Mahal decor comes down, I'll stop fuming --- until next Labor Day when Christmas starts all over again.

1. I can't stand having schedules imposed on me. I should be merry now? Not later? Not next week? Has to be right now? How about now?

2. I want everything to stay open all the time: like Vegas.

3. I remember when I was poor and how Christmas ground me down. "Honey, what can we charge with the maxed-out Shell card we got through borderline fraud? You think your mother would like the gift of 30 weight? Can we charge lottery tickets? Oh, look, honey, peach-scented candles at the Citgo are 3 for a dollar!"

4. The awful music. "Have yourseeeeelf aaaaa merry little Christmaaaaaaa--" BANG! There's your merry little Christmas you mooing, moaning, vowel-extending hambone. And I got one for you, too, Little Drummer Boy. Rum pum pum BANG! Hey, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Venison. BANG!

5. It's an entire season (money version) designed to rip us all off; buying things for people we don't like; with money we don't have; & making us feel guilty if didn't give away our future retirement checks.

6. It's an entire season (family version) centering on "being together." Oh, boy. What fun. Like I enjoy hearing Uncle Billy's story 40 years ago when he shot the poor neighbor kid who only wanted to borrow (i.e., steal) his new pellet rifle. Or the story about Aunt Shirley who didn't listen to the adults, ate too fast, got some food caught in her throat, & nearly died. Inspiring stories, I tell ya!

7. It's an awful lot of kid time. Plus, you have to be nice to them. And then you finally do lose it, and start chasing them around the house brandishing an empty Scotch bottle and screaming: "Dang it! If you kids don't give me some peace I'm gonna give all your presents to poor people!" Well, not really "yelling." But I do yell at the dog --- & I would like to give its toys away. I'd like to give the dog away too, but no one would take a fat beagle that sleeps all day.

What? That's just my family?

8. Watching the news reports about the crowded malls. Here's my news flash: Dollar General & the Citgo gas station have everything I need, at better prices, & I can be done with it all in an hour. After season sales are even better.

9. Reruns. Just when I really need them, my TV friends go away. In their place we get Christmas Specials that were crap thirty years ago too. We all know that Charlie Brown ended up an urban-outdoorsman (e.g., homeless) 15 years ago after the break-up of his disastrous marriage to Lucy, which was followed by a decade-long descent into depression and oxycontin addiction. So making us watch him with his little Christmas tree is just cruel.

10. And of course, shopping. Long, long ago I proposed a simple solution to my friends and family: everyone writes everyone else a check for $25 bucks. It all evens out: no winners; no losers. The whole thing is over in five minutes and we're not all stuck buying a bunch of useless crap no one wants, or receiving a bunch of useless crap ourselves. Over time we would reduce the size of the checks, finally eliminating them altogether and contenting ourselves with a simple "Merry Christmas." This, over time would be reduced to, "Yo!" and our long national nightmare would be over.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Dallas Nativity, Part Whatever

I had a call from a good friend today who told me that this blog was too "sterile" on relating the events of the Nativity &, as a result, it needs to be more detailed to explain the matter. Then another gentleman accosted me today with a rather vengeful attitude thinking again this whole matter of "taking down the Nativity" is my fault.

I will repeat again: I did NOT file a personal complaint against the city. I did NOT file a lawsuit to take down the nativity. I do NOT want the nativity removed.

How more clearly can I say it?

One particular individual raised the question as to legality of the city owning a nativity display & placing it in such a way that gives the impression the Mayor's church was getting a special favor. If you have ever met this lady, you would understand why she would not be the first choice to speak to the city about the issue. She is a Yankee. Really, she is a nice lady but it would best be left to a more moderate interaction for our Southern senses of grace. I still call her a dear friend.

The issue is very simple: tax payer money purchasing a religious display & placing it in a distinct location that gives the impression there is a Most Favored Religion & Church. That is the issue. Nothing more. She never once asked that it be taken down. No one locally has asked that the display be taken down. The whole idea of "removing the display" is patently false.

Now let's stop right here: everyone has the right to protest & have an action of government reviewed by the legal process. Everyone. No one is exempt from the legal process. Right or wrong, everyone has that right.

The local chapter of Americans United does not involve itself in protests or lawsuits or that kind of stuff. We educate & discuss ways to improve things, not destroy or divide. We meet & discuss issues regarding faith of many traditions & in all parts of the world. We discuss how education is handling new problems with increased numbers of religious minority students. We discuss how Catholic students here in Paulding County are regularly accosted & told they will "burn in hell for praying to Mary." Those are the issues.

Because the local chapter believes the issue may be legitimate, the entire chapter agreed unanimously that it needs to be addressed. The chapter agreed that right or wrong, the appearance is that tax payer money was endorsing one particular faith. It was decided that since I have an office in town, I would be the logical one to mediate on behalf of the chapter & this lady in particular. Repeat: mediate. Be the peace maker. Try to solve this issue so it didn't become a nightmare.

The city manager is, I believe, a good & honest man. He was most gracious. After explaining the issue, he didn't seem to want to work something out. I offered to buy the nativity to make it completely legal & remove any & all questions about the display. He said he would look into the matter & get back with me.

No names were mentioned, & for good reason. People were afraid that honest disagreement will result in an actual persecution, especially on religious matters. From what has happened to me, I think they are right.

After a week of no response, the chapter agreed as a whole that the matter needs to be referred on to Washington where a more "legalized" reason could be sent to handle this matter quietly. Again, at no time did anyone ever say they wanted the display to be removed, but to get it privatized to resolve the issue. No one locally ever even hinted that it should be removed. The criticism of the city's action was forwarded on to Washington by me, not as a personal complaint, but as a chapter forwarding a question that was raised & to hopefully mediate on behalf of everyone.

Note this again: this is NOT a personal complaint. This is a legitimate questioning of tax payer money that purchased religious emblems, & displayed them in such a way that gave the appearance of a Most Favored Faith. This was NOT my complaint. It was a question the entire chapter agreed should be addressed & clarified. At no time did it ever get mentioned that the display should come down. Other phone calls & emails to AU were made by local people questioning this display & in support of privatizing the nativity, but AU would not give me those names citing privacy concerns.

A few days latter I received the email & fax that was sent to the city of Dallas. Basically, the letter said that the city was on very shaky legal grounds for purchasing the display with tax payer money.

As I leave the office one afternoon (which one, I can't remember: it is all kinda running together now), I saw the WSB TV news van in front of the creche. I stopped & asked what was it about. The reporter explained that someone had called in about the nativity & he asked if I knew anything about it. After going over the details, he asked if I wanted to go on camera. Obviously, that would not be a good idea, so I declined. (Not to mention my mom had gum surgery that day & my dad's cancer is really causing him some discomfort: I had already promised to handle supper for them that night & wouldn't back out.)

I spoke with the Mayor again on Monday, 12/17/07, & tried to explain all this again. I don't think he is too enthused about it much. I even offered to buy the display, leave it there & remove all questions about the conflict, but he refused. After another attempt to extend my hand today, I get the feeling he is still upset.

Let me repeat this again: at no time did anyone locally ever ask the nativity be removed. It was a question regarding the use of tax payer money that really looks like it was used to favor one faith over all others. That is the issue. Nothing more.

Whether we agree on the question of Church and State is irrelevant: the lady has a legitimate right to ask it be reviewed. The chapter agrees it doesn't look good. It gives the appearance of impropriety. The chapter has the right to forward a legitimate complaint for review.

I have been amazed at how our attempts at mediation caused us all to be in the cross hairs. Teachers are afraid to mention they think spending tax money on this is wrong. Other Christians are now afraid to honestly discuss the role of government in their church because they are scared of the backlash. Non-Christians have said they are now more afraid than ever to admit they disagree with the government endorsing a religion because of how they might be perceived. One lady in Kroger was even loudly proclaimed a heretic & that she was going to burn in hell for disagreeing with the spending of tax money on religious displays.

Personally, I have been called a liar, a heathen, a heretic & even worse (won't print those things).

In America, we don't persecute people for believing differently or having differing opinion. Looks like we only say it but don't really believe it.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Roger Williams, You're Da Man

I remember Roger Williams from my seminary days, learning he was the first Baptist in America. Of course, he spoke out. Prayed on his own. Questioned the establishment. Did Bible studies without the Congregationalist Pastor present.

Naturally, he was kicked out of Boston for being "unchristian" & a heretic when he disagreed with the majority politics.

Then there was good ol' Thomas Helwys. It is never a good idea to write a treatise about how the Government shouldn't control the church or the conscience, and that religion should be a private matter not supported by the state. Helwys was a real Baptist: he signed his name to it & sent it to the King.

Naturally, he got his head chopped off for being "unchristian" & a heretic when he disagreed with the majority politics.

I have learned much over the last 72 hours, mainly that politics is a blood sport & those who participate in the sport will do anything to anyone to gain political advantage, even if it means destroying another's reputation. It may not be the same as chopping off a head, but character assassination is still murder.

In the last 3 days I've been called everything from a "Godless Heathen" to an "unchristian" heretic, to a "Commie Liberal" to the Most Hated Man in Paulding County.

I certainly understand, to some degree, how Roger Williams & Thomas Helwys felt.

I have been accused of wanting to take Christ out of Christmas; destroying Tradition; wanting to remove any emblem of Christ from our Nation; & even taking down Nativity Scenes.

Let's set the record straight: I do NOT want the nativity display taken down. I want it to remain. But trying to mediate in the role of a peace maker is not easy, even when there is a legitimate complaint. When tax payer money is used to decorate the area around the Mayor's church, there is a problem. It is wrong. It is unethical. It smacks of establishing an official church, the Mayor's church, & The Honorable Mayor gets to bestow his church with a Most Favored Status.

It is also clearly illegal and I don't believe it is going to stand.

Let it be known here & now: I offered to purchase the Nativity Display from the city of Dallas, GA, when I met with the city manager so as the display could remain. That would remove what I believe to be a legitimate complaint.

No response was given & after a week of the city's non-returned phone calls, I forwarded the complaint.

Honest disagreements about politics & the role of the government's relationship to the church are legitimate political questions. We don't, however, persecute for having an honest disagreement.

And we don't assassinate character because we do disagree.

Baptists have always valued dissent --- until recent history. Now I get the feeling that the majority-minded Christians no longer want anyone to disagree with them on any political or religious issue. The dissenter is told to "leave & go to some unchristian country."

Naturally, these people will later be kicked out of our nation for being "unChristian" & a heretic when they disagre with the majority politics.

Sometimes following the command of being a peace maker will mean the guns get aimed at peace maker too.

Sad when Christians devour their own when their own disagree on honest issues.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

City of Dallas, GA, to Spend A Lot of Taxpayer Money

Well, it looks like the city of Dallas, GA, is run by either some really shrewd politicians, or the most incompetent boobs known civilization. According to the news report (click here for the video), Dallas officials have decided to not take action on an American United for Separation of Church and State request to, hopefully, transfer from city to private ownership or remove a city-purchased nativity display that is, amazingly, set up to show off the landscaping around the Mayor's church. The mayor, Boyd Austin, smiled when he said the city council would take up the issue at the January council meeting. That means he either: 1) is completely incompetent and doesn't understand the legal costs to the taxpayer, nor the Constitution of the US; or 2) he is willingly allowing the tax payer to pay the legal costs of something he knows he won't win but will be able tell the voters how he stood up to the godless anti-Christs. Votes he'll get. IQ points are another matter. I am willing to bet the judge will be ruling against the city of Dallas rather quickly in this matter and the January council meeting will be deciding how to pay the legal bills. It just looks bad when tax payer money is spent to make the Mayor's church look good.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

UPDATE of Nativity Display in Dallas, GA

On Monday, December 3, 2007, the City of Dallas, GA, was officially notified with a by an email and fax (and subsequent letter) from the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, that the city owned creche that decorates the landscaping in front of the Mayor's church, was in violation of the Constitution of the United States.(See prior post 1 and prior post 2.) The city was given 3 days to respond. As of Friday, December 7, 2007, no word from the city or the AU as to any discussions. The creche is still on display (making the Mayor's church area look all pretty) and still owned by the city as far as I can tell since there is no mention of it on the city's website where public notices are given.

There was no mention of this at the Dallas City Council meeting on Monday evening.

More details when they come.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Small Town Dallas, GA

When I was a kid, the highlight of the season was the Downtown Dallas Parade, second only the Christmas Day, of course. Back then there would be a few hundred people marching down the street with the band leading the way. A few horses. A couple of pickup trucks with ribbons that we would call a "float." That was about it.

The 2007 Paulding Christmas Parade was held December 1, and that is the reason I've not posted in a few days: I'm still in recuperation mode. It is much bigger now than when I was a kid. Now there are thousands of people in the parade and another 15,000 or so spectators.

Still, it reminds me of what Mayberry's Parade would have looked like.

This will be my last year at organizing the parade. Just tired. It is not as much fun as it used to be and I can't afford to let clients suffer for an entire month (November) when all I work on is parade stuff. Yes, also a wee-bit tired of getting cussed at, fussed at, and called everything but a Christian. Never would I have dreamed people would get so worked up over an assigned parade position. Then again, I am Baptist so it really shouldn't surprise me at what people do get upset about.

At least we gave a record amount to Paulding Christmas for the needy kids and families this year: $5000. Going out with a bang.

Here's the link to see the 90 minute parade in only 30 minutes.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

How are Southern Baptists REALLY Doing?

We like numbers. We talk, preach, eat, drink, and sleep those numbers. Ask any church leader how things are going at the church and the first thing cited will be numbers: worship attendance; educational attendance; baptisms; giving.

If it can be measured, we Baptists have that statistic --- or a committee appointed to investigate it.

It's what we can't measure that seems to be giving us problems.

Just like the recent Willow Creek "Confession" that suggest more numbers doesn't mean more disciples, I submit that we Baptists need to make the same confession.

After World War II, we Baptists believed we had found the sweet spot of evangelism, discipleship and missions. We were growing. In every category of measurement, we were growing. And we revelled in it.

Then came the shocking realization that it was all a numbers game: we were growing not because of our efforts but instead the Baby Boomers had no choice except to go to church with their parents. In other words, the young couples in our churches were having that 2.3 children (on average) and our numbers were growing.

Well, duh.

By the time those children finished college, the shallow spiritual roots we shaped had no depth. Most of that generation stopped attending, and then their children now have no concept of church at all. What happens with the third generation?

All that leads me to a discussion topic from Art Rogers blog that says we Baptists are not doing too well. In fact, most of Christianity is not doing too well. What we've been doing in the past has actually caused =negative= responses among the non-churched. The primary positive response of our efforts have been among those already Christian.

If we're just stealing sheep from other denominations, are we really making disciples?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Bloggers Casting the SBC in a Bad Light?

I recently had two different people tell me they support the GA Baptist Resolution that condemns bloggers because it would stop the "hurt to our evangelism efforts to the unchurched." Since bloggers cast the SBC in a bad light, they said, the bloggers need to stop for the good of the missions' cause.

Yeah, right. That sounds pious but it is a load of hooey.

Ask =any= unchurched person what they have heard from blogging sites that have cast the SBC in a bad light. Anyone. Ask.

Then ask them if they have heard of the SBC resolution that says women are to be in submission to their husbands; that Baptists should boycott Disney for allowing a Gay Day; or firing professors because they happen to be afflicted with being female; or going beyond the text & calling even the drinking of any alcohol a sin; etc.

Go ahead & ask them & then let me know which casts the SBC in more of a bad light. I doubt if any unchurched person even knows about the discussion on the blogs, but I know for sure they are aware of the above.

I will have to ask again: based on the wording in the resolution, what =can= be discussed in blogs or anywhere else for that matter? And why didn't this standard apply when the Conservative Resurgence was trying to wrestle control from the Moderates 25 years ago?

This is a double standard & an excuse to use pious sounding words to shut down dissent. How else will the average Joe & Sue Baptist know about these issues if it isn't in blogs? The state paper is controlled by Yes Men. All the state & convention agencies are staffed by those that had better tow the line or be fired. The colleges & seminaries won't allow any dissent.

How are the issues to be discussed if the opposing viewpoint is not even allowed to be heard?

Really now: how many bloggers can be named by the average Baptist in the pew? 20? 15? 10?

Maybe that's too many. OK. 5 bloggers.

Wait. Let's say 3.

How about 1.

Be honest. Be ethical. Don't look 'em up. Google is not your friend in this case. Let's hear the names & the issues they've raised.

If it is such a serious problem & has caused such division & is hurting our efforts, there should be an easily recognized name for one or two, right? Otherwise, the resolution only has one other motive: stop dissent. Using the Bible as an excuse to bully discussion is still being a bully.

Roger Williams was kicked out of Boston for speaking out. So was Ann Hutcheson because she dared question the authority of the church leaders. I suppose some Baptist bloggers are in good historic company.

UPDATE to Dallas, GA, Nativity Display

After meeting with city officials, local citizens say no resolution has been reached over a city owned nativity display that is owned, erected and maintained by Dallas. The city maintains that since Christmas is a religious holiday, the religious display will remain, despite the fact the display singularly adorns the area of the Mayor's church.

The city's decision should play nicely into the hands of the local politicians, especially Glenn Richardson, the Speaker of the GA House who represents Dallas. It is widely known that Speaker Richardson is planning a gubernatorial run in 2010 when GA's "Praying Governor" Sonny Perdue completes his second term.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Small Town, GA, and Entanglement of Religion

Not much happens in Dallas, GA. There is an occasional break-in and a goodly number of speeders now that Hwy 278 is a four lane. Mostly minor accidents or the stray dog that needs apprehension. Not much else. One might say it is almost like Mayberry.

I like it.

But the City of Dallas, GA, has been a little naughty this year.

The City of Dallas purchased and maintains a lighted nativity scene placed on a small parcel across from the First Baptist Church (the parcel in which the city is in the process of purchasing for a park). There are no other displays surrounding the nativity display, secular or otherwise. (See similar display.) Local residents concerned about the propriety of such a First Amendment No-No say they plan on meeting with city officials later this week.

This should make for an interesting situation since the Speaker of the GA General Assembly represents tiny Dallas, GA. Representative Glenn Richardson has come under much criticism lately for his pandering to the Religious Right by supporting such bills as a Bible Elective in GA High Schools with the Bible being the primary textbook, and Ten Commandments legislation that allows the posting of the Decalogue in/on GA courthouses.

This may be strike three for Richardson since his home county doesn't display the 10 Commandments on its courthouse walls, nor do any of the 5 local high schools teach the elective Bible Class. In fact, the local board of education refused to even call for public comment on the matter.

More information to follow after local residents meet with city officials this week.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Don't get me started on Christmas

Don't get me started on Christmas. Bring the boxes up. Unpack the boxes. Untangle the lights (that takes a couple of hours). Plug 'em up. They don't work. Spend another hour trying the find the screwed up bulb. Give up trying to find it. Go to the store & start fussing because they don't have the same type of lights this year. Of course my wife wants the lights on the tree to all be the same so I spend $25 on new lights. Go home & one of the kids will step on the string, breaking some of the bulbs. Not enough replacements. Go back to the store & they don't have any replacement bulbs. Buy another string plus one string for spare. Go home & get the ladder out. Fuss again because my hands are turning blue in the cold. Plug 'em up. Blow a fuse. Can't find the flash light because the kids/wife have used it & didn't put it back. Get the power back on. Start putting up the millions of things wife has collected over the last 20 years. Watch her cry when she breaks a couple of 'em. Yells at me 'cause she is in a bad mood over taking so long & broken ornaments. Kids are starving. Run & get some fast food & spend another $20. Get home & finish the decorating. Put on the Christmas music & wife wants to take pictures for "memories." No film or batteries. Go back to the store for both. Store doesn't have either. End up buying 2 disposable cameras. Fume some more. Get home & everyone has eaten everything, including my dinner. Take enough pictures to compile a National Geographic pictorial for a year. Wife fusses at me for being grumpy --- spent the entire Christmas budget in one day, starving, & smoke coming out my ears. Dog & cats get in the tree. Tree falls over. More broken ornaments. Use bungee cords attached to the stair railing to secure the tree. Wife cries some more over more broken ornaments. I retreat to my desk to get away from the very tired but wound up kids. Wifey yells because I have to put up the now-empty boxes. I put up the boxes. Family sits around & admire the decorations. I'm still fuming. Take Pepto. Sleep on the couch.

Don't get me started on Christmas!!!!!!!!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Holiday Travel

Maybe I am getting to be a curmudgeon, but I am getting a chaffed over this.

Every holiday season, I see the same report on the news: "This is a major holiday & experts say this is one of the busiest travel times of the year."

Ok, first of all, who are these "experts" the media keeps talking about? I have never heard of any degree program from any college that offers study in "Holiday Travel Statistics." Where do they find these experts --- at the Tooth Fairy Institute?

Second, how many "major" holidays are there anyway? Let's see . . . Starting on January 1 . . . There's New Year's Day. Memorial Day. Can't forget Independence Day. Labor Day. Then there is the month long holiday period of Thanksgiving and Christmas, which, of course, spills over to next year's New Year's Day.

So the "minor" holidays don't count. Well, duh! "Minor" holidays don't give folks a long weekend --- apart from government workers, who even get to stay home on "Boss Passed Gas Day ." Ground Hog Day. Flag Day. Kiss a Baptist Day. No one gets the Ramada Inn Holiday Package for those "minor" holidays, so obviously no one is traveling. And of course everyone stays close to home on Super Bowl Sunday.

So that leaves those "major" holidays with the "busiest holiday travel times." Ding! Ding! Ding! If it is a "major" holiday where most businesses are closed, and many, many people take a few extra days to travel, it should come as no surprise that every "major" holiday will be one of the busiest travel times of the year.

Could someone please state the obvious to those "experts"???

Third, why does the media even cover the story anyway? They could record one holiday travel piece, tape a few scenes for various times of the year, & just dub in the video and the name of the holiday. I mean --- good gosh! --- it is the same report every, single time anyway! Why make it so difficult? Just show the seasonal clip & splash the following bullet points on the screen:

1) You'll get there eventually, so ease off the pedal.
2) Allow yourself plenty of time in case the fast food doesn't agree with you. Bathroom stops will cut into your travel time.
3) The kids drive your neighbors crazy too, so don't think you're the exception.
4) Yes, your spouse is gonna gripe. Always does. Get over it.
5) Smile at the extended family. Lots of alcohol makes Uncle Billy smile more. SBCers & especially those in FLA aren't allowed that luxury, even for medicinal purposes. That means leave off the NyQuil, too.
6) Don't drive after bullet point #5 until you've had 8 hours sleep.
7) There is always a sporting event on TV. Earphones will help drown out the noise of The Others.
8) Yes, you have to go back to work after the holiday is over.

This should be so, so simple.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Deja vu with a twist of lemon

It's Deja vu all over again, save this time the tables are turned.

Back in September, Al Mohler was whining that he and the other Southern Baptist Seminary presidents are being criticized by fellow Southern Baptists. The quote from the Baptist Press article has it this way:

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.

Well, yeah. Patterson wanted to add "Homemaking and Domestic" courses for the "Little Women" at SWBTS, while firing a wonderful prof name Dr. Klouda, who just happened to have been born --- gasp! --- a woman. I'd say that was reason to spank him a bit.

As for the rest of 'em, they have consolidated their power over all the seminaries, boards, colleges, etc., and they are whining that some of their fellow conservative Southern Baptists (e.g., young SBC bloggers who can't be ordered to hush) are criticizing them ... and they are not towing the line.

Oh, the irony of it all.

Now, the 2007 Resolution of the Year is for various conventions to take swipes at shutting down bloggers who disgree with The Others in control of the boards, the money, the power.

The problem here has nothing to do with blogging or with "personal attacks" but with the heavy handed tactics to stifle discussion. I was with the Conservative Resurgence and agreed there were some serious problems that needed to be corrected. I also saw the character assassination, misrepresentation and downright lies some of the current "leaders" used to destroy the good name of some good people, who simply had an honest disagreement on a minor doctrinal point. And I now see the Power Brokers want the SBC to become another Political Action Committee for the GOP, define the Creed we must profess, and tell everyone who disagrees that they are sinning against God.

Roger Williams, John Leland and Isaac Backus would be proud of those young SBC bloggers.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

GA Baptist Convention Has Done It Again: Stop Blogging . . . Or Else

First the good news: GA Baptists have just approved a record budget, added 62 new churches and missions & approved the distribution of money that used to go to Mercer University. Sadly, Mercer is no longer part of the GBC because of a separate fight, but that is another post.

Now the bad news: The voice of dissent is to be silenced by those who don't want open & honest discussion about basic philosophical differences.

The Associated Baptist Press article says:

Wayne Bray and William Harrell, pastors at Beulah Baptist Church in Douglasville, submitted an anti-blogging resolution, which said blogs are used by “certain people … for divisive and destructive rhetoric at the expense of peace among the brethren.”

The resolution states “the messengers of this convention oppose blogging when it is used to cause division and disharmony among the members of our Southern Baptist family…. All personal attacks should cease immediately … [we] call upon bloggers to cease the critical second-guessing of these elected leaders; and be it further resolved that all Georgia Baptists respectfully request and expect that individuals who disrupt the fellowship through blogging repent and immediately cease this activity and no longer cause disharmony for the advancement of their own personal opinions and agendas.”

So let's translate this, shall we:

"...for divisive and destructive rhetoric at the expense of peace among the brethren..." --- Don't say anything publicly that disagrees with the party line lest you meet the swift boot of a resolution.

"...the messengers of this convention oppose blogging when it is used to cause division and disharmony..." --- We don't want bloggers to talk about the abuses, the power grabs, the unethical politics, & the unChristian actions. Putting it out there in a blog allows the average Joe & Jane in the pew to know about it & they are the messengers with control of the purse strings.

"...All personal attacks should cease immediately..." --- Except ours, of course. No one should use their computers for communication with other Baptists because a movement may coalesce.

" upon bloggers to cease the critical second-guessing of these elected leaders..." --- We repeat: stop communicating & voicing an opinion different than ours. it further resolved that all Georgia Baptists respectfully request and expect that individuals who disrupt the fellowship through blogging repent and immediately cease this activity and no longer cause disharmony for the advancement of their own personal opinions and agendas." --- Do it our way or you're not in God's Will, & our way is God's Will. Questioning us is sin.

Heard those before, haven't we? The Inquisition. Theocratic Colonial America that Roger Williams fled; the kind Isaac Backus & John Leland argued against.

When Baptist voices are silenced, so is the meaning of Baptist. I resent my denomination becoming a de facto political action committee where any questioning is met with charges of being unpatriotic & unchristian.

Sad, sad day.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Only Teetotalers Allowed as FLA Baptist

Wow. Now FLA Baptists have excluded all people who drink at all or do not sign a pledge saying they won't drink. Of course, that pledge also says they agree with the SBC doctrinal statement.

Hmmmm. I have some questions.

Would Christ & all of the disciples be excluded from FLA Baptist Life?

Is there any Baptist that agrees with every provision of the Baptist Faith & Message? One of the basics of being Baptistic is that we hold no creed & allow for diversity after the fundamentals of the faith. Guess they don't do that in FLA.

Jesus drank wine. The disciples & apostles did too. So did Paul. Every Christian in history drank, including the Puritans that came over on the Mayflower. In fact, every Baptist church used real wine until Dr. Welch invented grape juice in 1879. Wonder if this pledge includes Nyquil & cough syrup?

What about the Christians in the rest of the world (outside the South) that see no problem with drinking but do condemn drunkenness. Are those people excluded from being Baptist?

Here's the link to the Associated Baptist Press article.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (ABP) -- Only teetotalers will be allowed to serve as trustees of the Florida Baptist Convention’s agencies and boards, as a result of a vote at the convention's annual meeting.

With no discussion and less than half a dozen opposing votes, messengers approved a bylaw revision that requires all nominees for the role of trustee to “agree to abstain from drinking alcoholic beverages and using any other recreational drugs.” The bylaw already requires nominees sign a pledge in support of the Southern Baptist Convention's doctrinal statement, which, like alcohol, has been an issue in other states recently.

The new measure was approved easily by the 1,258 messengers attended the annual convention meeting, held Nov. 12-13 in Daytona Beach.

The abstinence provision resulted from a pledge announced by John Sullivan, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, at the state’s 2006 annual meeting. Reacting to a prolonged debate at the 2006 SBC annual meeting over the use of beverage alcohol, Sullivan said he was “embarrassed” by the protracted discussion and wanted to clarify Florida Baptists’ position on the issue.

The bylaw amendment, which came as a recommendation from the convention's State Board of Missions, was added to an existing bylaw that stipulates nominees must have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, be a member of a church that contributes to the convention's budget, demonstrate good stewardship, and support the "Baptist Faith and Message." Persons nominated for leadership roles are required to sign a document stating their support of the statement.