Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Flu is not Fun

Really not fun.

Today I am supposed to be in Atlanta at the New Baptist Covenant but that ain't happening. Instead, I am contemplating my existence somewhere between this world & the next, the bedroom & . . . & . . . somewhere else. It looks like another dimension. Not sure what it is. Remember the TV show Quantum Leap? I feel kinda like Sam Beckett after he leaps into a new place. No clue where or how or who. I do know I'm here, I just don't know where the heck "here" is right now.

I know my head is pounding.

Really not fun.

I did manage to call Cedric Harmon from Americans United & tell him that I wasn't going to be there. I think I was supposed to call Stephen Fox, too, but I can't find his number. I had it. I put it somewhere for safe keeping. Now . . . my mind is not working too well. I know I had it somewhere. I was hoping to have a meal with Dr. Prescott from Oklahoma's Mainstream Baptist. And then there was the meeting with a few from Baptist Life that I was looking forward to attending. (Forgive my not putting in the links but frankly I don't give a rip.)

It says here in my calendar I was to see some of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship folks. And I had planned to stop by the American Baptist Convention booth & talk in person with those I've converesed with online. I have a few seminary friends who ended up in the North American Baptist Conference (a good group) & I was so hoping to see them.

My eyes feel like sandpaper is running across 'em.

Really not fun.

I think it's the flu. My wife says it is just a cold. I know better. Its the flu at least. Maybe even the Plague. I haven't felt this poorly since a certain girl tore my heart out & stomped on it about 30 years ago. (But I'm all over that now.)

My throat is killing me.

Really not fun.

So I am missing one of the most historic meetings ever for Baptists. Why? Because one of your kids gave my kid The Bug. And my kid brought it home. Then that bug got in my air at my house & invaded my nostrils & attacked my immune system.

I'm highly ticked off.

Really not fun.

So whomever it was that allowed their kid to go to school & infect my kid so in turn could infect me . . . a pox on you!

I guess that means Baptists will endure without me. Hopefully, none of those folks will hire any Methodists to enforce a contract on my life. Of course, that would end my misery.

Did I mention I feel like crap?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

We Used to be Thinkers

One of the things that continues to attract me to the Baptist fundamentals is the fact that our tradition is one of earnest contemplation. We are a people of the Book. We don't take anyone's word for it. We want to see it, read it, hear it & examine it for ourselves. Challenge us to think & we will. We are Bereans.

Or rather we were.

Thomas Helwys turned to the Scripture to thumb his nose at the king. As Fisher Humphries said:

Concerning these three issues–believer’s baptism, sectarianism, and religious freedom–the first Baptists were in conflict with groups outside themselves, so that we might say that their theology was apologetic in character, and much of their energy in the seventeenth century was devoted to defending these three ideas.

My fear is something has happened to us. We no longer search the Scripture to challenge our faith but we blindly accept a Catholic view whereby a few leaders tell us what to believe & what the Scripture says based on Tradition.

Have we examined what the leaders are saying? Have we at least compared their words to the totality of the text? Are we searching what they said 25 years ago to hold them to a consistent ethic? Are we letting our political views determine what the Bible says instead of the other way around? When these religious leaders all seem to be playing the same political game, don't we have an obligation to make sure we are not being played for their political purposes?

If it comes out of a Christian bookstore, it must be true.

So we buy their books. Write letters they tell us to write. Make the phone calls. Send them money to be used for the Vital Issue of the Week. And wear a Christian T-shirt while listening to a Christian music CD as we give our money to the Christian leader with our check that has a bold-lettered Bible verse.

Instead of accepting the challenge to see if what we are being told is true, we just follow along. It is easier, after all. No one questions since the leader takes the heat --- all challenges of Satan, mind you, because he is God's man just standing for the truth. Oh, really? How do we know? Have we bothered to verify it?

So the leader counts on us blindly following along. Never questioning. Never checking it out for ourselves. But ever sending the money, doing what we're told & delivering the voting bloc.

When God is on your side, it is easy to justify any action.

In the eyes of the leaders it is fine to manipulate. God is on their side. In order to win for Jesus, we have to play with the same rules the Secularists do; if we don't, we'll lose. God's Way is too important to let the Humanists win. At all costs God must win. Since He gave all for us, we are justified in doing it all for Him.

So they lie a bit, e.g., David Barton & his "Christian Nation" garbage. They fudge on Scripture somewhat, e.g., "the Bible teaches us to use our vote to bring about a Godly Nation." They twist the facts a great deal. e.g., "the public schools are out to steal the minds of your kids & make them secularists." They manipulate us at all times, e.g., "if you don't vote according to these 'values' you're not obeying God." Then they really turn on the guilt trip, e.g., "God is weeping over our nation turning its back on Him & only your action to get God back in the schools & evolution out will please Him."

All it takes is for someone to actually examine history to know David Barton is lying through his teeth. Sells a lot of books though. Get's him a lot of publicity. Still a lie.

Anyone can see the claims of people like Al Mohler & his call for all Christian parents to abandon public schools is based on a fabricated premise.

When Paul wrote his letters, it was in response to something. It was a challenge. It was instruction. What we need Christians now to do more than ever is to start thinking again. Look at the evidence.

You'll be surprised how much you're being played. Paul commended the Bereans for examining the evidence. Today, we're content to wallow in our ignorance.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Chaps My Butt: On Snow Days, Get Off My Ice

I swear, I am going to slap the fire out of someone if I hear this one more time:

You Southerners don't know how to drive on ice.

Uh, like you do? The operative words are "drive" (something you Yankees need to learn to do without one hand on the horn & a finger in the air) & "ice" (something no one can drive on anyway, so don't give me that all High-&-Mighty crap).

In GA we don't waste the taxpayer dollars on snow plows & salt trucks because we rarely have need of them. And on those rare occassions, e.g. this weekend, when we do get snow or ice, it is a Southern Holiday. The tradition is that we close down everything, sit in our warm homes, drink hot-chocolate (kids & Baptists) or spirited beverages (everyone else) & spend time with our families.

Don't mess with our tradition.

You must not have read that section in the Southerner's Handbook you were given when you crossed the Mason-Dixon Line. If you didn't read it, get out your copy & give it another shot.

And if you don't like our tradition, get in your car & you make that atttempt to drive on ice. We rather enjoy watching your "superior skills" slipin'-&-slidin' all over the roads, before you go down the embankment & slam into other Yankees doing the same thing you're doing --- showing your arse. The TV cameras will love you for it.

BTW, snow is easy. Ice is another matter. Yankees can't drive on ice either. The only difference is that our Yankee Brethren spend tax dollars on those plows & trucks --- I suppose they need that sort of equipment. Our feeling is that if you're gonna spend money on tractors & big trucks, it had better be used for either: 1) growing a food crop; or 2) needs to be in a large arena in competition with similar vehicles.

So leave our Holidays alone. If you'll slow down a bit, stop talking so danged fast & listen a little, you may just find out that you enjoy what the South has to offer.

I feel much better getting that off my chest.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Are We Headed Toward Fascism?

Godwin's Law.

I remember the first time I read of Godwin's Law. It was so plain. So simple. So right. It was something I had known & thoughtfully processed in my own mind for a long time. Then it became a Law. No more a guess or idea of principle: it was now an indisputable Law: As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.

This is not to say whether or not the application is true, but that the probability of comparison increases proportionally with the length of the discussion.

This post will just save the length & breadth & go straight for the jugular: we have some Fascists amongst us.

I don't use the term lightly. However, I do apply it quite appropriately, in my mind. And the group to which it is applied is part of our own, though I don't think they realize the extent to which they have fallen.

Good intentions do not negate intentional actions.

Many on the Religious Right/Religious Conservative/Whatever-Term-You-Wanna-Use have been telling us that our nation has "lost its way" with regard to our history. These pseudo-historians, like David Barton, have this gripe against our culture saying that America's on a downward, moral spiral. This descent is caused by our neglect of God in our gov't & schools.

While I agree there is a hint of truth there, I take issue with the implication that it becomes the duty of the church to resort to civil means. The making of disciples is the duty of the church, not the function of the gov't.

This is nothing new. It's been done before. Chris Hedges tells of Dr. James Luther Adams' warning that the same line was used in Nazi Germany. The comparisons of modern America to pre-Nazi Germany by Dr. Adams are chilling.

Conservative Baptist scholar David P. Gushee gave a series of lectures in 2006 making the same observation:

It was this cultural despaira toxic brew of reaction against secularism, anger related to the loss of World War I, distress over cultural disorientation and confusion, fears about the future of Germany, hatred of the victorious powers and of those who supposedly stabbed Germany in the back, and of course the search for scapegoats (mainly the Jews)that motivated many Germans to adopt a reactionary, authoritarian, and nationalistic ethic that fueled their support for Hitler's rise to power. A broadly appealing narrative of national decline (or conspiratorial betrayal) was met by Hitlers narrative of national revenge leading to utopian unity in the Fuhrer-State. Conservative American evangelicals in recent decades have been deeply attracted to a parallel narrative of cultural despair. Normally the story begins with the rise of secularism in the 1960s, the abandonment of prayer in schools, and the Roe decision, all leading to an apocalyptic decline of American culture that must be arrested soon, before it is too late and God withdraws his blessing from America. While very few conservative evangelicals come into the vicinity of Hitler in hatefulness, elements similar to that kind of conservative-reactionary-nationalist narrative can be found in some Christian right-rhetoric: anger at those who are causing American moral decline, fear about the future, hatred of the secularists now preeminent in American life, and the search for scapegoats. The solution on offera return to a strong Christian America through determined political action--also has its parallels with the era under consideration.

Maybe it's time we started learning from history.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Bible Class in GA High Schools

Of all the bone-headed ideas the GA General Assembly has ever done, this law has to rank up at the top for King of Dumb & Vote Pandering.

As the Macon Telegraph is reporting, very few school systems are offering this "mandatory elective" in the public high schools.

The problems with this are Legion. Lawsuits await. The General Assembly went after the naive & played the "church vote" so they could say: "Look what we did! We got the Bible Class in our high schools!" The material hoped to supplement the class is from the Bible Literacy Project or the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, both of which are far, far from being historically accurate or fostering science education.

But that's how politics works. Fine. I can understand it at the state level, even if I don't like it.

When it comes to roost at the local level, I am even more disgusted.

I attended a Town Hall Meeting for the Paulding County Board of Education in Fall of 2006 & asked the then superintendent what the plans were for the 2007 year regarding this Mandatory Elective Bible Class. "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it."

Well, they didn't. They local BOE simply refused to act. No discussion. No public input. No record of what BOE members said. No recorded vote. It just didn't happen. I suppose we are to assume they decided to not offer the class.

Fine. I think that is a wise move. But I would like to know why the BOE never made a public announcement this was their decision.

My question is "why?" Why no public input? Why no public debate? Why no public record of how each BOE member voted? Why was the community not allowed to participate in one of the most hotly contested issues across the state in January 2006?

Is this a political move? Was this simply glossed over to not embarrass any locally elected state reps (e.g. Glen Richardson, Paulding County representative, the Speaker of the House & his run 2010 run for governor?), or our own BOE members?

Why? Surely the local community would like to know each BOE's member stand on such an issue that was the subject of such controversy in the General Assembly. Now that the local BOE has to make the decision, is it a political move that they don't want anyone to know how they came to their conclusion?

Politics is such s disgusting sport.

Friday, January 11, 2008

House Resolution 888

This is scary. Very scary. To think that we have people in Congress who believe a Revisionist History is terrifying. These are people that are supposed to be educated, but when they actually don't even bother to verify the historical accuracy of quotes in the Resolutions they put their name on, then we have a problem.

HR 888 originated with Congressman Randy Forbes (R-VA) & more than 30 others have signed on. I'd be ashamed if my Congressman signed their name to a Resolution that presents a Fake History. In fact, I am ashamed since my Congressman, Phil Gingrey, did put his name on it.

The Resolution is a soft-call for Christian Theocracy in the US. It tries to say that the US was founded as a "Christian Nation" & is filled with fabrications, misrepresentations & out-&-out lies.

There are so many that it is impossible to list them all, but others have done such a great job of refuting the Pseudo History. Check out these links.

Talk to Action, Bruce Wilson

Talk to Action, Chris Rodda


Repeat the lie long enough, loudly enough & with enough force, & people will believe it. Start 'em young: homeschoolers. Get it in the schools with stuff like Gateways to Education to teach that one, narrow version of Christianity, including stuff like Halloween leads to occult practices, etc.

When religion & state meld, both become unbearable.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Frankie Schaeffer

While Frankie is not nearly as famous as his dad, Francis Schaeffer, the tale he is telling is just as monumental. I don't think he is giving us any sour grapes --- hope that is not the case. But at the same time, I don't like the story I'm hearing either. If this is even remotely true, some of the core of our Pop Christianity is beginning to crumble. The wake of disillusionment is potentially very serious.

Below is from Rob Boston at his Americans United for Separation of Church & State blog. While I am a firm believer in the historic Baptist principle of church/state separation from both a Biblical & a practical level, this is the sort of stuff that, if true, gives credence to the complaint that churches are just after power & why we need to be more vigilant than ever to preserve the proper roles of gov't & His church.

How will we undo this damage done to us by our own? When folks like Schaeffer begin telling us that we have been lied to, manipulated, & all-around played by these Hucksters of the Word, it is time to start listening. My fear is there are some who are so blinded by the partisian politics of it all that they simply refuse to acknowledge the facts.

Frank Schaeffer shared his father’s opinions and, as an adult, worked alongside him. He had an insider’s view of the rise of the Religious Right. Father and son were there at the movement’s birth and worked with some of its biggest names.

What does Frank Schaeffer think about the Religious Right these days? Let’s just say he’s not a fan. He refers to Robertson as “a lunatic” and says Dobson is “a power-crazed political manipulator cynically abusing his followers.” He calls the late Jerry Falwell an “unreconstructed bigot.”

Consider these choice quotes from Schaeffer’s recently published book, Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back:

* “What I slowly realized was that the religious-right leaders we were helping to gain power were not ‘conservatives’ at all, in the old sense of the world. They were anti-American religious revolutionaries.”

* “Pat Robertson…would have had a hard time finding work in any job where hearing voices is not a requirement.”

* “Dad could hardly have imagined how they would help facilitate the instantly corrupted power-crazy new generation of evangelical public figures like Ralph Reed, who took money from the casino industry while allegedly playing both sides against the middle in events related to the Abramoff Washington lobbyist scandal.”

* “Long before Ralph Reed and his ilk came on the scene, Dad got sick of ‘these idiots’ as he often called people like Dobson in private. They were ‘plastic,’ Dad said, and ‘power-hungry.’”

* “There were three kinds of evangelical leaders: The dumb or idealistic ones who really believed. The out-and-out charlatans. And the smart ones who still believed – sort of – but knew that the evangelical world was sh*t, but who couldn’t figure out any way to earn as good a living anywhere else.”

* “Dad seemed lost in a depressed daze. He had recently been saying privately that the evangelical world was more or less being led by lunatics, psychopaths, and extremists, and agreeing with me that if ‘our side’ ever won, America would be in deep trouble

Ouch. Opponents sometimes accuse Americans United of being too critical of the Religious Right, but these days it seems some of the most pointed barbs are coming from people like Schaeffer, Whitehead and syndicated columnist Cal Thomas. (Thomas, a former Moral Majority employee, coauthored Blinded by the Might: Why the Religious Right Can’t Save America in 2000.)

In a recent interview with Whitehead, Schaeffer discussed his break with the Religious Right, remarking, “I personally came to believe that a lot of the issues that were being latched onto by the Christian Right, whether it was the gay issue or abortion or other things, were actually being used for negative political purposes. They were used to structure a power base for people who then threw their weight around.”

He continues, “The other thing I began to understand is that in dismissing the whole culture as decadent, in dismissing the public school movement as godless, in talking about anybody who opposed them as evil, the Religious Right was only a mirror image of the New Left….What gets left out is a basic discussion about the United States and the reality of living here, the freedoms we enjoy and the benefits of a pluralistic culture where people are not crushing each other over beliefs.”
. . .

Sunday, January 6, 2008

BWA officials condemn violence against Christians in Indian state

Pray for our brothers & sisters in India & an end to senseless violence. "Peace on earth, goodwill toward men" should not just be a trite saying but something actually worked for.

Blessed are the peacemakers.

The Baptist World Alliance does good work.

Here's the article.

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (ABP) -- Baptists and other Christians in an overwhelmingly Hindu state in India fell victim to significant violence during the Christmas holiday, according to Baptist World Alliance officials.

Attacks began Dec. 23 in the state of Orissa, in northeastern India. That day, “50 to 70 Hindu radicals pulled out Pastor Junas Digal from a parked bus, paraded him on the road, all the way beating him with sticks and hands, and finally shaved his head to claim him a Hindu,” said Swarupananda Patra, general secretary of the All Orissa Baptist Churches Federation.

Patra also reported that on Christmas Eve, in the Christian-dominated town of Brahmanigaon, two Christians were shot and injured, many shops operated by Christians were destroyed, 20 churches were damaged, and three churches were razed.

A statement from the Evangelical Fellowship of India said Hindu militants attacked and set fire to at least 400 homes owned by Christians in the town, as well as six churches.

The attacks continued for several days in other parts of Orissa, leaving as many as 5,000 Christians homeless, according to Patra. He and other Christian leaders in the region accused a radical Hindu party, Vishwa Hindu Parishad or the World Hindu Council, of encouraging the attacks.

“Orissa is a place where a Baptist community of about 500,000 live, and most of them are in these areas where persecution is most intense,” wrote Bonny Resu, general secretary of the Asia Pacific Baptist Federation, in a Jan. 3 e-mail to his fellow BWA officials. “They are also among the poorest of the poor of India, which is why they are often voiceless.” Resu is a native of the nearby Indian state of Nagaland.

While Orissa has one of India’s largest Baptist communities, they comprise a small percentage of the state’s overall population of more than 30 million. The vast majority of Orissa residents are Hindu.

“If at all possible, a word of concern needs to be lodged at the international [level] to urge the government of India to do more to safeguard its religious minorities … who have become increasingly targeted and to ensure freedom of religion as enshrined in its constitution,” Resu wrote. “As the most populous democracy of the world, India owes it to the international community to show an example.”
. . .