Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Klingenschmitt Prays For Death Of Americans United Leader, Barry Lynn

Spiritual Warfare: Ex-Chaplain Prays For Death Of AU’s Lynn | The Wall of Separation

This is beyond bizarre. The ex-chaplain was the darling of the Religious Right for a while but the guy is off his rocker. Now the former Navy chaplain gets upset because AU calls attention to his website where he gives the impression he is still on active duty. Oh, no. The guy was court martialed for not following orders & is violating the law by depicting himself as an active chaplain. Here is the blog post by Rob Boston that got Klingenschmitt's thong in a bunch.

Evidently Klingenschmitt decided to show his version of the Love of Jesus by praying for the death, destruction, loss of income & calamity on the descendants of AU leader Barry Lynn.

“Almighty God, today we pray imprecatory prayers from Psalm 109 against the enemies of religious liberty, including Barry Lynn and Mikey Weinstein, who recently issued a press release attacking me personally,” prays Klingenschmitt on his Web site. “God, do not remain silent, for wicked men surround me and tell lies about me. We bless them, but they curse us. Therefore, find them guilty, not me. Let their days be few, and replace them with godly people. Plunder their fields and seize their assets. Cut off their descendants. And remember their sins. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
When will people realize this sort of stuff is what gives my faith a bad name? Praying for the death of people is what terrorists do.

These are the sort of things we could get if the Religious Right implements its version of faith into the legal code --- except it might not stop at just praying for the death of dissenters. I am reminded of history when similar things happened.

Wasn't the Spanish Inquisition a Faith Based Initiative?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Florida Senate approves religious license plates

Florida Senate approves religious license plates - St. Petersburg Times

FLA lawmakers must think they really can snub their nose at the Constitution --- & judges' orders, too. It is not enough that the schools try to force 3rd graders into singing a political song that endorses theocracy (see prior blog post) but now the state is considering 2 different license plates that are overtly religious.

The first design SB 642 mandates is the issuance of a plate depicting the crucified head of Jesus
complete with a crown of thorns. It also mandates a second plate featuring a large cross, a stained-glass church window and the words “I Believe," much like the one South Carolina had mandated but was struck down by the court.

How anyone can see this act by the state of FLA is not endorsing a Most Favored Faith is beyond me. The tag is required by the state & must be paid for as a tax on that vehicle. Specifically, the tag depicts one religious faith & no others. This slippery slope will open the door for a Gov't mandated tax to be displayed as a religious statement. Gov't should not be in the business of facilitating any religious speech. If a private individual wants to place a religious emblem on their car, fine. Great. Wonderful. But it should never be with a required Gov't tag that facilitates religious speech.

Why do people feel the need to get tax money to assist them in advancing their religion? Nowhere in the New Testament does it record Jesus asking for public tax money to help spread the Kingdom message; Paul never said the church should seek to use Caesar's Sword; no other NT author said we should resort to the civil authority to do God's work. None. But Pharisees did resort to Caesar's Sword to carry out it's rules, e.g, crucifixion. Hmmmm.

Here is the full AU press release.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

FLA School Just Can't Stop Forcing Religion Onto Kids

St. Johns County, FLA, there is Webster Elementary School. I'm sure it is a good school with a good administration & dedicated faculty. I'm willing to bet the folks there are top notch.

But that is not enough. There is no excuse for what the school has allowed to happen with a 3rd grade assembly scheduled to take place shortly.

Last week a Federal judge issued an injunction that barred the school from
compelling students to sing a decidedly religious song in order to participate in the upcoming assembly. The students were told they had to sing Diamond Rio's In God We Still Trust (see the YouTube video at the end of this post.) The students were told if they did not sing the song, they would not be allowed to participate in the program at all. After reading over the lyrics, the judge wisely saw that the song was as close as it gets to an establishment, told the school that it crossed the line & that the parents would very likely win the lawsuit:

The challenged song is not a sacred example of a choral music used to instruct students in music theory and appreciation. It is a modern, American county music song overtly espousing a specific religious viewpoint and attacking of those who do not share in the same belief. Additionally, the song degrades the doctrine of governmental separation and neutrality towards the promotion of religious ideologies.
And the judge was 100% right. The song is not just a little religious: it is ideological, both politically & religiously, & is dead wrong in its political assertions. Here is a snippet of the lyrics (click here for the entire song's lyrics):

You place your hand on His Bible, when you swear to tell the Truth
His name is on our greatest Monuments, and all our money too,
And when we Pledge allegiance, there's no doubt where we stand,
There is no separation, we're one Nation under Him.
Now there are those among us, who want to push Him out,
And erase His name from everything, this country's all about,
From the Schoolhouse to the Courthouse, they're Silencing His Word,
Now it's time for all Believers, to make our Voices heard.
I don't see how anyone can say that song is not an endorsement, totally inappropriate in a public school & certainly not a song that children should be forced to sing or be punished for not singing it.

So the judge ordered the injunction even though the school had already pulled it from the assembly performance. (Click here for the article in the St. Augustine Record.)

That should have been the end of it, right? Oh, no! Not when there is a Righteous Cause! Those folks at Webster Elementary School just can't stand it that the law won't allow their religious views to be forced on students. Nope. So what do these Extremists do,
hmmm? Five days after the judge spanked them, the school retaliates against those students by selecting another sectarian song: Chatter With the Angels.

This is where the school plays innocent but can
legitimately have its motives questioned. The song Chatter With the Angels is an old African-American spiritual. It is in an approved textbook & has been on the approved teaching list for 20 years. So why did the school suddenly decide Chatter With the Angels was going to be performed? Is there anyone that honestly believes the school is behaving uprightly in this? Sure. Uh hu. And I've got a date with Jessica Simpson tonight. Here is the updated article in the St. Augustine Record.

What is it with these people? This is the kind of stuff the
Islamo-Fascists do, not what we do in America.

Friday, April 24, 2009

State of GA Tries to Backdoor Taxpayer Funding of Religious Schools

While this shouldn't come as a surprise, it still boggles the mind.

GA has a long history of trampling on civil liberties. When it comes to melding religion & politics, the state of GA never fails to disappoint. Whether it is a Bible in the High School Class; a Ten Commandments on
gov't property; or the moment of silence to force little Johnny & Susie to pray whether they want to or not, GA is hard to beat in the coercion category.

Now, GA ha taken a cue from Arizona & has produced a similar school voucher bill that would, in effect, allow taxpayer money to go to religious schools. The AZ program was just struck down
by the circuit court three days ago so here's hoping the Governor of GA will have the Good Sense to not sign this bill --- yeah, right. Fat chance.

Here is a quote from the Americans United email I received yesterday:

Among several changes, HB 100 would allow families to receive a credit for as much as 75% of their tax liability for donating to an organization that gives scholarships for private education. During the current economic downturn, Georgia cannot afford to lose any more money on this voucher scheme. There are plenty of good uses for taxpayer dollars, but HB 100 would simply funnel more money to families who wish to send their children to private or religious schools

Wow. That sounds very similar to the AZ program. Here is a brief quote from Religion Clause on the AZ program:

... the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ... went on to conclude that plaintiffs' allegations state a claim that Arizona's program as applied violates the Establishment Clause. Arizona grants a tax credit of up to $500 to individuals who contribute funds to nonprofit "school tuition organizations." STO's in turn award private school scholarships to children. In practice, 85% of contributed funds are available only for scholarships to religious schools ... The court wrote at length distinguishing Arizona's plan from the school voucher program upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Zelman case. Here, while taxpayers have a choice of which STO's they will support, parents' choices are constrained by taxpayers' decisions of which STO's to fund. The state has delegated discretion to taxpayers that is used to create incentives for parents to send their children to religious schools.
Again, I doubt that Governor Sonny Perdue will do the right thing on this one. Never has on anything like it in the past.

Click here for an automated email that tells Governor Perdue to veto HB 100.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Alliance Defense Fund Caught Lying Again

Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty - TN School Officials Accused of Censoring Posters Defend Actions [UPDATED]

Believers should never lie. Never. It is one of the Big Ten. Thou shalt not bear false witness is how the King Jim says it in Exodus 20:16. I checked several other translations just to verify. Yep. They all say the same thing: lying is a Big Time No-No.

The Alliance Defense Fund should know that lying is not a good thing ... after all, ADF was founded in 1994 by over 30 different ministries, including such prominent guys as James Dobson (founder, Focus on the Family), the late D. James Kennedy (founder, Coral Ridge Ministries), the late Marlin Maddoux (president, International Christian Media), & even Donald Wildmon (founder, American Family Association).

So when the Alliance Defense Fund tells a whopper, they should be called on it.

Here's the story.

Back in 2006 the Alliance Defense Fund defended the Wilson County Schools (TN) against a lawsuit. The lawsuit was brought against the schools with several claims, but the biggie was that a group called "Praying Parents" meets in the school cafeteria during school hours & drops off fliers in classrooms to let children know the group has prayed for them. The Praying Parents group is featured on the school's website. The suit also says that the school observed "National Day of Prayer" by holding a student poster competition and handing out "I prayed" stickers to students.

Since then, several other items were added to the suit & the towns people were not too happy with the anonymous parents who filed the suit. Of course, the ACLU was accused of all sorts of things when it brought the suit on behalf of the parent.

Then came May 2008 when the case was settled.

What is interesting is that the Alliance Defense Fund made the astonishing claim in their press release that the school/ADF had won & the parents/ACLU had lost. Here's the ADF press release ... it sure looks to me like the ADF is claiming victory & that the parents/ACLU had lost. Isn't that the way it looks to you? The ADF headline reads: ACLU fails to silence religious expression in Wilson County schools. Looks to me like they are claiming the ACLU lost, doesn't it?

Well, there is just one, wee-little problem. The Alliance Defense Fund is lying. That's right. telling the story with the Serpent Tongue.

Here's the actual quote from the ruling found at this link (page 58-59). . Let's see if it looks like the ADF/school won, or if the parents/ACLU won ...

The Does have proved by a preponderance of the evidence that they suffered a constitutional violation and they will suffer a continuing irreparable injury if they are not able to enroll their children in Lakeview because Lakeview is not complying with First Amendment religious freedoms. The Does do not have an adequate remedy at law because a damages award will not alleviate the burdens faced by the Does.

Accordingly, the Court will grant the Does limited permanent injunctive relief.


As explained in this opinion, certain practices at Lakeview Elementary School during the 2005-2006 school year did not have a secular purpose and were allowed or pursued to tacitly approve the activities of the Praying Parents, which had the primary effect of endorsing or promoting their Christian beliefs and programs at the school. In addition, the Praying Parents practices and programs at the school caused the Lakeview administrators and teachers to become
excessively entangled with religion in violation of the Establishment Clause. Therefore, for all of the reasons stated in this opinion the Court finds in favor of the Does and against all Defendants except the Board itself. The Does are entitled to a limited permanent injunction which will be set forth in a separate Order. The Intervenor-Defendants have not presented a justiciable controversy concerning whether their First Amendment rights have been violated by the Defendants.

An appropriate Order shall be entered.

But notice, please, how the Alliance Defense Fund twists the words & misrepresents the facts to bear false witness. Here's the first sentence of the ADF press release ... NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A court order issued Thursday fell short of granting the American Civil Liberties Union what it was seeking in its lawsuit against the Wilson County School System, according to attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund.

Carefully crafted, isn't it? Notice it doesn't say the ACLU won but that the ACLU didn't get what it was seeking. Now that is true, as the judge ruled one point as unintentional & another point was not a violation. Out of 6 points, the judge agreed with 5 of the 6. Looks like a win, but not everything the ACLU was seeking. Still, the ADF lied.

Notice paragraph two: ... “This is a win for religious freedom and, if not a total loss for the ACLU, certainly a hollow, shallow victory. The court acknowledged that Christians cannot be discriminated against for their beliefs and that personal prayer, mentions of God, and Christmas references are constitutionally appropriate in school,” said ADF Senior Counsel Nate Kellum. “The ACLU hoped to wipe out every reference to God but walked away with a take-nothing judgment. ADF and its clients were successful in repelling the ACLU’s attacks.”

Hmmm. A total loss for the ACLU? When the court order ruled for the parents in 5 of the 6 points? Nor is it true the ACLU was trying to remove God. Nope. Just the violations of the Constitution where the school gave special treatment to one faith. And notice how the press release said the court said Christians cannot be discriminated against. Well, yeah, but that is not really what the judge ruled nor what the case was about ... just a little misrepresentation on the ADF's part. But they did say "shallow victory" for the ACLU --- a serious twisting of words, wouldn't you say?

Then comes the Biggie:

The court order Thursday refused to grant the ACLU’s request to stop each of the following at Wilson County schools:

· The playing of a song with a religious reference in honor of a three-year-old cancer victim

· “See You at the Pole” student prayer event

· National Day of Prayer observances

· Meetings on campus by the group Praying Parents

· Christmas and Thanksgiving observances with religious references

“All of these things will remain constitutionally permissible at the school,” Kellum said. “The order specifically states that these types of activities may continue.”

More lies. The ACLU didn't ask the bullet points be stopped, only that the violations be halted. For example, the statement about the song with a religious reference. The ADF left out the facts here. It was a religious song that a parent had written & performed & sent to be given to a sick student. The class asked the teacher play the CD though she had not previewed it & didn't know its content. The teacher never played the song again. The court said it was a one time thing & was unintentional, thus no foul. But that is a far cry from the ADF's claim, isn't it?

The "See You at the Pole" & "National Day of Prayer." The ACLU did NOT ask these be stopped regardless of the lie of the ADF. Read the ruling for yourself. The suit was that the school no longer officially endorse the programs with poster contests & teacher/admin sponsorship. Far different than the ADF Big Fib, ain't it?

The Praying Parents were ordered to no longer be at school during the school day & to stop intermingling with kids without parental permission. The ACLU never asked Praying Parents be banned from the school, only be there before or after the school day. Another ADF lie.

The Nativity & religious references =were= allowed to stay as they should. The parents had claimed the Nativity Scene & sample prayer the Puritans might have prayed was endorsement of religion. The court said the sample prayer was not a prayer at all but an educational drama & the Nativity was small part of a larger school play (less than 1/3 of the play). Thus, these were =secular= & not religious at all. Again, the ADF lied.

Anyway, that's the long & short of it. I don't get why a group that claims to stand for Truth will just blatantly lie --- unless it is for power or money. Could it be?

I would STRONGLY suggest comparing the ADF press release to the ACLU press release & see which one is telling the accurate account of the court's ruling.

Now I will grant that on the current issue, the school, I think, missed it. It looks to me like they were overreacting. Then again, if they made a policy expressly to comply with the court order ... well, we'll see how that one works out.

But in the mean time, the lying by the ADF bothers me. The ADF is still claiming the ACLU lost the suit against the school. Wrong. Here is the newspaper article on the current issue. Strange: the article says the ACLU won & the judge ruled against the school.

Less than a year after a federal judge ruled that the school district had illegally promoted religion, the board faces a new lawsuit.
The lawsuit is the latest chapter in a dispute over religion at Lakeview Elementary. In 2006, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee sued the Wilson County school board for inappropriately promoting religion.

At issue was a group known as the Praying Parents, which met on campus and handed out notes telling students they’d been prayed for.

U.S. District Judge Robert L. Echols found the school board had given Praying Parents preferential treatment, and ordered the board to pay $171,000 for the plaintiff’s legal fees.

How is the whole world can realize the ACLU won but the ADF say it ain't so?

Who is lying here? Let's see: the judge said the ACLU won. The newspaper says the ACLU won. The school had to pay the legal fees. So I wonder who is lying here? Could it be, the Alliance Defense Fund just doesn't know it lost the case?

Seems the only people in the whole world that believe the ACLU lost & the Alliance Defense Fund won, is the Alliance Defense Fund. Tell a lie long enough & people will believe anything.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bible in Public School

Another blog I have found most useful is by Religion Clause by Howard Friedman, a law professor at the University of Toledo. He collects news bits about church/state issues & gives a quick overview each day. Good stuff.

What he posted today was just an incredible find: Historian Discusses Early School Bible Reading Case. Wow. This is an hour long discussion on the The Cincinnati Bible War Case of 1873.

Never heard of it? Nor had I but this had a real impact on how we perceive the relationship between faith & our public schools today.

A video of the full presentation is online. The Court's press release on the Forum summarizes the history:
Amid the increasing diversity and pluralism of the post-Civil War era, the Cincinnati public schools were faced with a growing Catholic population unhappy that their children were instructed with the protestant version of the Bible. The school board’s solution to remove all bibles from the classroom erupted into a raging national controversy over the relationship between religion and government. In 1873, the Ohio Supreme Court put an end to the Cincinnati Bible War, upholding the board’s decision to end Bible reading in its schools.

Get a load of this legal argument to remove Bible readings from the public schools. Now remember, this was in 1873, but I swear it sounds like arguments made today:

Counsel say that to withdraw all religious instruction from the schools would be to put them under the control of "infidel sects." This is by no means so. To teach the doctrines of infidelity, and thereby teach that Christianity is false, is one thing; and to give no instructions on the subject is quite another thing. The only fair and impartial method, where serious objection is made, is to let each sect give its own instructions, elsewhere than in the state schools, where of necessity all are to meet; and to put disputed doctrines of religion among other subjects of instruction, for there are many others, which can more conveniently, satisfactorily, and safely be taught elsewhere.

I plan on delving into this one on the weekend. Here is the LEXIS link to full opinion.

Republicans And Religion

The Republicans And Religion: Should The GOP Stop Being God’s Own Party? | The Wall of Separation

Americans United (AU) has a great blog & I generally read it each day. Here is a good post by Sandhya Bathija. Really good post. The idea that America has a political party for a particular religious group is appalling.

Having lived in South Carolina for a few years, I don't like the good name of the state being sullied by any politician using faith as a vote pandering tool. While no one is surprised when a politician does it, it should be a three alarm fire when we see the rhetoric go to this level. The thought of a religious party running the US --- I shudder to think of the danger lurking, e.g., Iran, Afghanistan, Colonial America.

Let's hope that cooler heads prevail & people like Steve Schmidt can actually make progress in the GOP.

If you put public policy issues to a religious test, you risk becoming a religious party,” he said. “And in a free country a political party cannot be viable in the long-term if it is seen as a sectarian party.
Well said, Steve. Well said.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Religious Symbols Covered Up at Georgetown. Conspiracy in Open.

Jesus Missing From Obama's Georgetown Speech | NBC Washington

This has got to be one of the most outlandish conspiracy ideas I have seen in a long, long time.

President Obama spoke at Georgetown University. The White House requested the standard backdrop of a dark blue drape with lots of American flags. We've all seen that before. Nothing major.

But some folks just can't help but find something to gripe about. This time they are complaining because that backdrop covered up some religious iconography --- a cross &
IHS. The sinister plot they say exists is that Obama is trying to cover up Jesus; get rid of Christ. The other things they say are even worse.

Some say Georgetown itself should be ashamed for allowing this to happen.

Honest, I wonder what rock some people came out from under.

First, this was a backdrop & is standard for presidential speeches.

Second, the Georgetown press release covered this already:

Julie Bataille from the university's press office e-mailed me that the White House had asked that all university signage and symbols behind the stage in Gaston Hall be covered.

"The White House wanted a simple backdrop of flags and pipe and drape for the speech, consistent with what they've done for other policy speeches," she wrote. "Frankly, the pipe and drape wasn't high enough by itself to fully cover the IHS and cross above the GU seal and it seemed most respectful to have them covered so as not to be seen out of context."

Note the reason for the iconography to be covered: the pipe & drape were not high enough. Nothing sinister there.

Second, Obama was speaking as the President. What he says, where he says it is important. He is speaking on behalf of the entire nation. The iconography around him says something too. When he speaks, he is representing all Americans. The iconography should have been covered, just like it should have been covered if he speaks at an Islamic Center, a Buddhist Temple, or a Baptist Center. The President cannot give the impression that there is an official, Most Favored Faith. If the school won't comply to be mindful of all other faiths/Americans when the President speaks, then the President shouldn't speak at the school. In Iran, there are Islamic symbols all around when their president speaks. We don't do that in America --- Fascists want that but we don't do that.

Third, the whole thing is blown out of proportion. It is a conspiracy theory looking for something to hang onto. It is just dislike for the guy because there is nothing to the claim. As one attendee to the speech said:

I was there. Clearly to the right and left of Obama's head you could read: "Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam inque Hominum Salutem." This Jesuit saying translates to "for the greater glory of God and the salvation of humanity." If Obama hates Christians, why wasn't that covered up? Or what about the 25 other IHS's in the room, or the 20 crosses in the room? Hmmmm. Maybe it's because they weren't on top of his head!!!!!! The people making a big deal out of this would rather spin their phony outrage than actually live out Christ's message of love, hope and charity. Had they not covered the gilded IHS over his head, these same people would be railing about an Obama messianic complex! Let's get real people.
Don't these people have an Art Bell show to listen to or something?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Academic Integrity

The reality is that high school science class is about science, not religious ideas. It is painfully obvious that the plan is to get extremist folk on the committees so creationism can be taught alongside -- & then replace --- evolution in the science class. Short changing students by manipulating the educational system is wrong on many, many levels.

The Supreme Court ruled on this years ago in Edwards v. Aguillard that no faith's creation doctrine may be taught in schools. The Dover Decision affirmed that "Intelligent Design" was creationism in another package. No tax payer money should be used to teach anyone's religious doctrine. That was even decided before the Bill of Rights with the VA Religious Freedom Bill, that outlawed any taxpayer money to support the teaching of religious indoctrination.

Here is the full Nova presentation of the Dover Decision. Fascinating.

Public school is not the place for religious education. If someone wants a religious education, then let the religious institutions handle that. If government teaches one religious doctrine, they can teach another tomorrow, one we may not like.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Debate Over Theocracy

When I hear that tired old claim that our forefathers came to America seeking religious freedom, I want to scream: Do you have any idea how wrong that is? Never mind that the overwhelming number of people who came to the New World did so for money, fame, glory or power --- that has been well established in the history books --- but to make such a claim is to belie even a cursory knowledge of our nation's heritage.

It is true that a small number of people came to escape religious persecution. That is a true statement & supported by the history. Not a problem. But it is
not true that the they all came for religious liberty. Some did. A small number did. Not very many. Our Thanksgiving idea of the Puritans sitting around the table with the Indians with all sorts of prayers of thanksgiving they had founded a land with religious liberty is completely false. Again, a small number came to escape religious persecution but they did not come to establish religious liberty.

The ugly truth of history is that these people came to the New World & established religious liberty for themselves only. They set up the same theocratic system from which they had escaped in England. The only difference is that in the New World, they were the top dogs & they made the theocratic rules. The rules were the same as they had left, save the group making the decisions.

This sort of system was perfectly natural for them. The theology of the day supported a King that was ordained by God, an ordination that was decided by war or money or the Pope --- whichever manner God chose to beat up the most people to get His way.

So when the Puritans came to the New World, they had the idea that they were loyal to the King of England & the Congregationalist Church would be the official state church in the New World. Again, same system, different land.

It is there that most people have a void in their history. They either romanticize their version of history to make the current theology acceptable, e.g., that we were founded as a Christian Nation & the religious leaders need to have some power to help govern. Else they simply ignore parts of history to make it fit with their agenda. Either way the result is the same. Sneaky little devils.

We Baptists used to be the defenders of religious liberty. Something happened in the 1980s: politics. We got played by some religious leaders & other Godslingers who began twisting history & our votes to secure power. In the process, we sacrificed our identity on the altar of Power & Greed.

Just to show it use to not always be that way, here is an excellent piece in the January '08 Baptist Studies Bulletin. James Byrd discusses one of the early debates between the Puritans who came here to "Found a Christian Nation" as some have claimed, & the 1st Baptists who said the Puritans were just as much tyrants as what they left in England.

The debate sounds awfully similar to today: somehow God is found to give directions on everything from tax policy to health care to foreign aid, all of the ideas that just so happen to line up with the Republican platform. Imagine that.

Here's a quote:

When the debate came, the intimate connections between Puritan and Baptist identity came into sharp focus. Since the Baptists could not accept infant baptism, they withdrew from the churches to worship among other likeminded individuals. In so doing, Goold and others believed they were just being good Puritans. After all, the Puritan movement began, as the name indicates, as an attempt by some to “purify” the Church of England of is unbiblical practices. When the Puritans left England for America in the 1600s, they did so not to reject the Church but to reform it by demonstrating how a church based on biblical practices would look. Now the situation was reversed. As Goold said to the Puritans, just as “you did withdraw from the corruption” in the Church of England, in a similar way “we witness against your corruption” (67). These Baptists, in true Puritan spirit, felt obligated to inform their Puritan brethren that their “Bible Commonwealths” were not so biblical after all. Though Puritans claimed to be faithful to scripture in all of life, they still baptized infants even though the New Testament said nothing about infant baptism. Far from it – John baptized only adults, and Baptist debater John Trumble pointed out that Jesus instructed his apostles to teach “the doctrine of Christ” before baptizing anyone (62). Baptism followed instruction and spiritual experience, not the other way around.

The Baptists in the debate spoke a lot about the relationship between spirituality and liberty. In contrast, the Puritans countered with claims for authority, especially need for the church to discipline unruly members who challenged the established [majority] church and its ministers.

Susan Boyle & A Life Worth Living

When I first saw this video of Susan Boyle, I thought it was a joke. Had to be. A voice like that couldn't possibly have been hidden from the world all these years. This must be a lip sync piece. But, no. It is no joke. And the world has been in the dark for nearly 48 years. Don't believe me? Just watch the Yahoo video.

After watching the video for about the 15th time, I caught the irony of the frumpy lady who by all appearances couldn't carry a tune in a bucket, & the s
ong she was giving to the world. The first glimpse into her heart & soul was extraordinary when compared to the ever present scowl of a world which can be so very, very cruel.

She looks nothing like a singer: no one in the audience thought she was either. Until she belted out the first line of a song about life: wow. Good God Almighty.

The song certainly gets the heart tugs, but considering what Boyle has had dealt to her in life, the song was both appropriate, ironic, hopeful & --- yes, finally --- something that shows there is some good in this world.

Here's how the Telegraph describes her past:

Boyle is 47, unemployed, perpetually single and lives alone with her cat, Pebbles, in Bathgate, West Lothian – a town apparently dubbed "a dump" by Britain's Got Talent judge Piers Morgan. Boyle's sunny (if gauche) demeanour masks a sad life: the youngest of nine, she was deprived of oxygen at birth, which led to learning difficulties and, as a result, a childhood marred by bullying. Forty years later, it was her mother – whom she lived with and cared for – who wanted her to audition for the ITV talent show. But she died in 2007, leaving Boyle suffering from depression and anxiety.

Remarkable. For all the things that have happened
to her & she still has that upbeat, quirky, almost too-good-to-be-true disposition. Humble is how I saw her; gifted is how I heard her; blessed is how I felt to have witnessed her sing & know her story.

The good news is that she will most certainly have a record deal in the very near future, according to the Telegraph article. But she first has to hit the US circuit & that means Oprah & Larry King (Guardian article).

It is telling to see the number of hits YouTube has for the various videos of Boyle. I suspect those numbers have to do not only with her voice, but the utter amazement we have when we see a story like this --- it is like telling life to stick it, something we all wish we could do at one time or another.

Susan Boyle got her chance late --- almost 48 years of late. But when she got the chance, she made a grand entrance onto Life's Stage. And there, before all the world, she gave us something to enjoy.

Yahoo is Da Bomb

Since around 1994 I had been using Excite as my internet portal & my webmail. It was clean, easy to to use & worked well. I had customized my Excite page for the content I liked & was happy with the My Little Internet World.

Then Excite changed their email to worst, most God-awful, horrendous system I have ever encountered. MyWay is an affiliate of Excite & has the same terrible email program. No, I am not exaggerating. I can't begin to describe how terrible it is.

Evidently, I am not alone in cursing Blue Tie, the software group who designed Excite's new email program.

Trust me when I say this: you would be wasting your time with Excite or MyWay as a webmail provider.

So I began my quest to find another webmail service with an internet portal I could customize. Searching. Agonizing. Weighing options. Comparing features. You would have thought I was planning a 90 day odyssey. I discussed all the pros/cons of the myriad of choices with my 100s of friends --- actually only my kids since they are the only ones nerdy like me to actually be concerned over webmail features, & the fact I don't have 100s of friends means I am using hyperbole. Yeah. I'm in need of a life, I think. Any who ...

I found Yahoo. That ol' standby. But it is not some silly relic. It rocks.

The portal is customizable for the content I want, complete with RSS feeds of the blogs & sites that I want to know when there is new content: just make a new tab for
Blogs I Follow & I am good to go.. The email is not complicated. The calendar & notepad functions are super. Clean. Neat. Easy to use. And now that there is the @ymail & @rocketmail, one has a good chance of getting the desired webmail name.

The Yahoo Toolbar makes it easy to keep my calendar, notepad, webmail & bookmarks just a click away.

Yahoo is da bomb.

Excite & MyWay had a good thing going but they shot themselves in the foot. I still use my old Excite address as a throw away address --- seems appropriate for all the trouble Excite caused me when they kept bouncing my emails.

I don't know if Yahoo will be able to continue as a business or not. That is always a question in today's marketplace. What I do know is that I am impressed with Yahoo & feel confident someone will take on the Yahoo brand even if the company doesn't continue, making my future email address secure.

To answer the two questions I get all the time: 1) Why don't you use Google's Gmail? & 2) Why don't you use Hotmail?

Easy answers: 1) Google is taking over the world & I like the underdog; & 2) Hotmail is Microsoft & they need to be told to
stick it every once in a while. I just see Google & Microsoft as two faces of the same Borg.

Yahoo is da bomb. And my world is happy again.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

TX Governor Talking Sedition?

I saw the headline & thought it just had to be more hype than substance. It read ...

Texas Politics: Perry says Texas can leave the union if it wants to.

Then I read the article. I listened to the audio. Yep. He said it.

It is, in a word, sedition.

If a politician wants to play to the populist masses for votes & sympathy, fine. Let him shout rhetoric & any other crap all he wants. He can call for the Congress to reform social security or make changes to Medicare all day long. A politician could even say that the US is taxing more & spending more without showing the ratios of taxation to GDP & all that as much as he or she wants. Rhetoric, gets votes.

But saying a state can secede from the Union ... that is sedition.

Here is the definition per Wiki: Sedition is a term of law which refers to covert conduct, such as speech and organization, that is deemed by the legal authority as tending toward insurrection against the established order. Sedition often includes subversion of a constitution and incitement of discontent (or resistance) to lawful authority. Sedition may include any commotion, though not aimed at direct and open violence against the laws.

That is what is sounds like Perry said to me.

We've already had this discussion one time & it got so heated that we fought a war over it. One can argue all the Constitutional ideas & States' Sovereignty until the Cowboys come home, but the Civil War solved the question about secession. It can't be done. That is the law. It is the way it is. The victor writes the rules & the North won the war. Question settled.

I also wonder if Gov. Perry has a clue about what he is talking about. TX was admitted to the Union with the ability to break up into five states, but it was not admitted with the ability to secede. When TX was readmitted to the Union, it had to ratify the 13th & 14th amendments that both outlawed slavery & gave all citizens due process protection of the US Constitution. That means TX had to agree to the Union of States & the equal protection of every person & state per the US Constitution. The Civil War answered the question if any state could secede & the answer is no. Then there is that little court case, Texas v White, where the Supreme Court case decided in 1869 that Texas cannot secede.

Perry made this seditious statement at one of his states' Tea Parties. Oh, brother. I watched a little of the coverage on the news. I see white people. I see a lot of religious signs. I hear a lot of anti-Obama sound bites.

Well, get over it, folks. The fact is a black man is in the White House, gay people continue to exist, the public schools don’t espouse fundamentalism & the Democrats won the November 2008 elections by a landslide. Holding these Tea Parties is a political stunt that plays on the emotions of people who simply don't have an understanding of how economics works, & just enough understanding of history to repeat the same Fascist horrors.

Yes, what I see in these Tea Parties is nothing more than race baiting & calls for another Confederacy, though cleaned up a bit to make it palatable to conservatives --- the extremists know exactly what they are doing with these Tea Parties & what they are calling for.

It has begun. Watch out. There will be more calls for the Nullification Theory & secession based on "unfair" taxation policy. We can & should debate the merits of taxation & spending. But coloring the discussion with seditious rhetoric does no one any good & poisons the well of consensus.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Must One Believe Jesus is the Son of God to Follow Him?

Easter is one of the Big Two High Days in the Christian calendar. It is like the Super Bowl, the Stanly Cup & the World Series all rolled into one. It is a Big Deal. It is on Easter we celebrate the Son of God rising from the dead. Pretty simple idea but a really big deal since it is the cornerstone of our belief.

I ran across this article from The Ooze by Tim Timmons. Interesting idea that says one does not have to believe that Jesus is the Son of God to follow him. In fact, Timmons even says it is a myth that one must do that in order to be a follower.

When I first read the title, I nearly blew a gasket. My Baptist roots just about had me wanting to perform a Pentecostal healing service, complete with an open palm to the forehead. Actually it was an innate desire for the open palm & less healing service, but that is something I'm dealing with.

Then I read the article. I noticed how carefully Timmons chose his words. And I noticed how not so carefully most of the people who left comments didn't read the article.

Timmons position is that there are three stages of following Jesus:

  1. Jesus is followed because He is so flawless and attractive—unimpeachable. This is the moral follower who sees in Jesus an exemplary life & desires to emulate that.
  2. Then as you follow this attractive Jesus, you will begin to embrace His lifestyle, teachings and principles and find them to be very practical and meaningful for your life. Moving past the morality of behavior, one enters into the ethic of the internal attitude. Much harder to do as it moves past the legalist mindset.
  3. Finally, as you continue to follow this Jesus and find His teachings meaningful, you will at some point discover your Creator-God. You will experience transformation of your heart and your mind and see Jesus as the Son of God.

I found it an interesting argument, since it is quite clear from the text that were indeed many who followed Jesus at various times who never believed he was the Son of God. But let's be clear as to what Timmons
is not saying: he is not saying those who don't believe Jesus is the Son of God have had that transformation where they are New Creatures. Not at all. Timmons carefully said that many follow Jesus but never come to the realization of Who he really is. There is a morality they follow: there is an ethic they may even claim. However, it is not until they come to realize the miracle of the Incarnation, ultimately proven by the resurrection, do they enter that unique relationship of being Co-Heirs with Christ.

Maybe one of the reasons the church is lack luster in its efforts is that we have failed in emulating Jesus in the task of fishing for men. Jesus was constantly teaching, explaining, interacting with, & just generally
living among all men. He cast a wide net & worked with all regardless of their level of faith. Too often the church refuses people on Stage 1 or Stage 2 by pressing them to come immediately to Stage 3. Timmons points out that maybe Stage 3 takes more time for some than it does others. When Jesus called James & John, it had been at least a year of their listening to him, learning of him, growing to like him, before he called them to be disciples.

The lesson here is this: Stage 3 of Faith --- salvific faith --- may take time & we need to begin cultivating that growth in order to make genuine faith come to fruition. Instead of stopping these Stage 1 & Stage 2 followers from their journey, the church needs to embrace them where they are & assist them on their discipleship journey. This doesn't mean we make them church leaders or even welcome them as members of the church. It does mean we need to welcome them as learners of Christ. It means we welcome them as part of the community of faith, albeit on the fringe. It means we tenderly encourage them; gently rebuke them; & conscientiously warn them lest apostasy be their lot.

Maybe the church should learn of Jesus again. His method of discipleship turned the world upside down, after all.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Kids in Church

I am going to bring up the subject. Yes, I know it will mean some people want to kill me while others will want to nominate me for sainthood, if Baptists had such a thing. I don't care. I'm going to bring it up anyway.

Kids do not belong in the sanctuary during worship service and no kid should be allowed to vote on church matters until she is 18.

Let's tackle the disruptive kids first. Literally, let's tackle them. I have actually witnessed unruly kids running around the sanctuary during the worship time. No, they weren't being cute. They were being disruptive. When a kid is disruptive, she should not be in the sanctuary. There is a reason why we have a nursery & a children's area: People are trying to focus on God & hear what is going on & having a screaming/talking/whiny kid makes that impossible. It is rude. No kids in the church during worship. Period.

Now the voting thing. In many traditions, namely Baptist & other more congregational forms, all church members are allowed a vote, even children. Yet, children simply mimic their parents & do what their parents say, e.g., coercion. If a kid votes differently than his parents, it would not be good at home for that kid.

While I know of a few churches that do restrict members under the age of 18 from voting, those are few & far between.

It means a large family in a small church could "run things" by nature of an overly-active birthrate. Won't even have to be spiritual: just do a lot of begatting & you could get a church named after you.

So why do we allow kids a vote? We don't allow kids to vote in secular elections until they are 18. In many traditions, namely Baptist & other more congregational forms, all church members are allowed a vote, even children. Yet, children simply mimic their parents & do what their parents say, e.g., coercion. If a kid votes differently than his parents, it would not be good at home for that kid.

And let's not even go there about the whole "spiritual maturity" thing. Get real. Just because an 10 year has been baptized & may even excel in spiritual matters doesn't mean they can comprehend a vote on a budget. Yes, they are "members" of the body of Christ, but there is a huge difference in understanding the Gospel & understanding the contract for a land purchase, or an employment contract for the new pastor. What about the Standard Operating Procedures in the Operations Manual? Somehow I think the Membership Agreement for Conflict Resolution

But what do the overwhelming majority of church Constitutions say? Any baptized member can vote. (Side note: what about diminished mental capacity?)

It means a large family in a small church could "run things" by nature of an overly-active birthrate. Won't even have to be spiritual: just do a lot of begatting & you could get a church named after you.

Think about it: a family of mom, dad & 4 kids equal the same vote as 3 couples whose kids have moved on. Is that fair? And what if that one family decides they don't like the pastor for some reason. That is a huge voting block, is it not? I have seen way too many churches begin their death descent all because one or two families garnered all their kids to vote as a unit to do something that was not a good move.

Let's say Joe & Sally have it together, are growing in faith, etc. Then the Bubba & Jezebel Family with Heathen 1, Heathen 2, Heathen 3 & Heathen 4, all with no spiritual depth, care nothing for the good of the fellowship, want things to remain exactly as they were in 1950 . . . that's 6 votes against 2.

All it takes is one or two families that are not on the Good Side & the entire church can be in ruin for years.

That is why it is best, IMHO, to not allow kids to vote at all: the worst that can happen is the adult vote is on equal footing. Let's face it: letting kids vote is to guarantee the vote is skewed to the larger families, whether they are spiritual or not.

Just do an observation poll next time there is a vote: how many kids vote differently than their parents

Where in the NT did the church vote anyway, other than in Acts 6 voting for those who would do the visiting (deacons)? Now that's another subject for another post.

All this raises another question: if they are mature enough to decide to be a Christian, are the mature enough for voting? Just askin'. Maybe we need to re-visit our ideas about childhood evangelism.

I'm just sayin'.

The End of America?

Here is a fascinating documentary (a full 75 minutes) by best-selling author Naomi Wolf (The Beauty Myth) who believes that America is becoming a closed society --- & we are willingly going along under the guise of safety.

In her new book, The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot, Wolf makes the case that history not only repeats itself, but does so in patterns easily verified if one is willing to honestly examine the evidence. Wolf lays out the case that America is closing itself from liberty & replacing it with a not-so-subtle Fascism/totalitarianism. In order to see where we are headed, she says, we only need to read the history books & then compare them to the current newspaper.

No one thought it could happen in Italy or Germany. And not many admit it is coming here.

Here is an interview with Naomi Wolf in The Guardian.

"The tragedy of our day is the climate of fear in which we live and fear breeds repression. Too often, sinister threats to the Bill of Rights, to freedom of the mind are concealed under the patriotic cloak of anti-Communism. Today, it's the cloak of anti-terrorism." [Adlai] Stevenson also remarked, "It's far easier to fight for principles than to live up to them."

Adlai Stevenson as quoted by TV lawyer Alan Shore on Boston Legal in the courtroom scene "Stick It."

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Blog Against Theocracy Weekend

This is the annual Blog Against Theocracy Weekend. Bloggers from around the world take this opportunity to stand up and declare proudly that the State is to be completely neutral in matters of religion, & that all faiths or even no faith, is to be treated the same in the eyes of our government.

This is not anti-faith. Not in the least. For this follower of the Carpenter from Nazareth, I take great exception to that charge. In my life, Jesus is important. Following his teaching is never easy but it shouldn't be made even more difficult by adding political problems on top of it. If a government can endorse my faith today, it may endorse a different faith tomorrow.

The truth is that the New Testament never says Christ's followers should resort to the civil authority to accomplish spiritual ends. Never. Not once did Jesus or Paul or Peter nor anywhere in the New Testament are we told to use taxes to support our faith; work to get laws in place to help our Great Cause; or even depend on government to assist us in our mission work. Instead we utilize a more noble resource --- faith --- to change lives.

Once any religion uses the political structures to advance itself, faith is cheapened & the political structure is advanced over spiritual things. That is how Jesus gets left out of his own church.

We oppose taxes being used to support the office of Faith Based Initiatives, whereby the government takes tax money to advance one version of Christian faith over all others.

We oppose tax payer money supporting religious emblems on public property. Nativity displays should be on the church lawn & in private yards & have no place on courthouse grounds, any more than a tax collection window has a place in the church's sanctuary.

We oppose implementing religious teaching into the legal code to deny any American their right under the Constitution to chose their marriage partner regardless of gender.

We support the court rulings that keep prayer in schools a private & personal matter; that prohibit teaching religious dogma like Creationism as science; or that refuse government employees from using their position of influence & even duress to force students into praying or worship in order to participate in sports.

We support the continued effort to strengthen those court rulings that ensure the price of admission to a high school sporting event or graduation does not include the high cost of being forced to sit through a sermon.

We support the effort to protect all Americans from a legal system that would make Religious Liberty only available to those who have deep pockets to fight off government infringement. (
PERA eventually was defeated by just one Senate vote. It was that close. See AU Press Release.)

Fact is, we want all people, of all faiths or even no faith, to be treated the same by our government. Ours is a secular government. We are not a Christian Nation, a Jewish Nation, a Muslim Nation or any Faith Nation. We believe that if the politicians will stand and answer for us on Judgement Day, then let them decide all matters of faith for us. If those politicians cannot do that, then stay out of it completely.
Politicans should tend to matters of government & religious leaders should tend to matters of spiritual teaching.

Jesus is not the All American Boy. The Constitution is not the 23 chapter of Revelation. Our President is not the Pastor in Chief. Heaven will be filled with many non-American citizens. No one should be judged civilly for his religious opinions.

Here is a good link for some good blogs on the subject. Blog Against Theocracy

He is Risen. I believe that. I live that. But I don't want my government deciding on that as matter of policy since those
politicans will say whatever the majority wants tomorrow --- & it may not be Jesus they are wanting to put in the legal code tomorrow. We protect everyone so that we can have the same protection.

Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God's Law and Prophets and this is what you get. Being and Doing.
Jesus, Matthew 7:12, The Message.

When fascism comes to America, it will be draped in the flag and carrying a bible.
Sinclair Lewis, It Can't Happen Here, 1935.

The notion of a Christian commonwealth should be exploded forever. ... Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another. The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence, whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians.
John Leland, Colonial Virginia Baptist, "A Chronicle of His Time in Virginia," as cited in Forrest Church, The Separation of Church and State, 92 (2004).

The Religious Right is a reminder as to why we have the 1st Amendment --- people can't resist forcing their religious interpretations onto others if others won't willingly acquiesce.
That Baptist Ain't Right, 07/04/08.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Growing Out of the Religious Right

I have had to seriously re-evaluate my thinking over the last several years. It has not been a pleasant experience. Forced to consider new avenues of thought; a new fard of ideas; setting aside long-held structures that have shown themselves to be fallible & down-right wrong; all these have meant a new paradigm of core belief.

Not new revelation but definitely progressive, I think. While it shouldn't have taken me by surprise, it did shake me a bit.

When I turned 40, my world changed. Things I disliked became almost a craving --- bleu cheese dressing, for example. Things I used to tolerate were now a scourge to my palate, e.g., Southern Gospel Music. Note that I don't think Southern Gospel Music is the worst thing to ever happen to Baptist churches (unlike one seminary professor, of whom I still chuckle when I hear him in my mind railing the near-heresy in many of the lyrics). Not at all. Rather I simply don't enjoy the genre & think that it appealed to a now twilight generation, no longer relevant to the modern culture. Many Southern Gospel churches that used to be stalwarts are seriously declining, while the contemporary style churches are growing. If you compared the theme of the sermons, they would not be that divergent, but the mode of worship is very different.

My first inkling that something was amiss in my Darkened State was when I first agreed with one of my college professors that the Founding Fathers were more influenced by the Enlightenment than the Apostle Paul. No way anyone can read the Founding Fathers & believe the Bible was the most influential source in the our nation's founding --- unless one is intentionally misrepresenting history like David Barton. (Anyone who thinks that guy is in any way honest in his presentation of "history" either has a political agenda & truth doesn't matter, or really show their complete & utter ignorance of fact. Barton flat out lies.) For a Neo Con Republican Southern Baptist in GA to agree with his professor on this was anathema. I should have known I was being corrupted by all this education.

The Dark Side got dinged again while in seminary & I was studying early Baptist history. When I realized that the Puritans set up the same sort of discriminatory theocracy they had escaped in England, I made the mistake of asking the professor about this --- & I did it in class, in front of God & everybody. The professor nodded & said "Yes, that is exactly what they did & it is why we Baptists hold so dearly to the separation of church & state." You could have heard a pin drop in the class. The prof might as well have had horns, a tail & had a pitchfork in his hand --- that is how the class looked at him. But you should have seen the light bulb go off over my head. It began to click for me.

As time went on I saw more things that didn't add up. The hypocrisy of the religious right high profile leaders, e.g., Swaggart & Bakker, didn't put a chink in my Conservative armor since they were Charismatic anyway. Then came Newt Gingrinch & his Contract with America, followed by news of his philanderings. Finally I thought we had mastered the political world with George W. Bush. But then came the increased spending to the highest deficit ever --- & the GOP didn't have the same uproar as when Democrats do the same thing --- followed by the erosion of Constitutional guarantees of privacy, speech & religious liberty. The Patriot Act replaces liberty principles with a Big Brother Safety Blanket. The Office of Faith Based Initiatives takes tax payer money & gives it to religious groups --- of a certain theological bent, I might add --- to proselytize under the facade of offering good deeds to the community. The use of Executive Orders to bypass the Constitutional system of law making became vogue. Privacy was replaced by safety precautions.

One day it dawned on me that my faith was being played as a political tool by people who wanted nothing but power.

My local state representative was shafting the people of GA with higher taxes, while claiming to give tax breaks & having an affair with an Atlanta Gas Light lobbyist.

I started listening to NPR & getting a whole different perspective on the news, information easily verified & that directly contradicts the populist rhetoric.

Then I started traveling & saw that in other parts of the world, there are better ways than the American system of doing things. The US of A is not automatically the best because we are America. There are other ideas that have more merit but we tend to be, well, arrogant.

Moving to a new way of thinking about faith, politics & just life in general has not been easy. It has, however, made me realize that it is better to be intellectually honest than to be a pawn for the power hungry.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Athletes Making a Spectacle of Thanking God

I've always been uncomfortable when an athlete scores a touch down or a goal or does something extraordinary & then bows in the end zone. Pointing toward heaven always makes me cringe, too.

It looks more like a spectacle than anything else.

Why do it? What is the point? Is it an act of worship? Thanksgiving? Is it giving God credit?

Let's stop & think about it for a moment. In order for one team to score a touch down, that means the other team's defense didn't do so well. Does that mean God blessed one team & not the other? If a pitcher strikes out the side to win the game, does that mean God didn't want the other team to win? If God gets credit for one team winning, then God has to get credit for the other team's loss as well.

The theology of it all bothers me. Why do players only give God credit when something good happens? What about when the player misses the shot at the buzzer? Doesn't God deserve the same credit for the missed shot? I'm sure the other team is praising God for the missed shot, right?

I think it is time we need to begin reminding the players exactly what they are doing when they invoke God in the celebrations. They are not-so-subtly saying
God is on their side & God didn't like the other team.

No matter how you cut it, that is what it comes to.

And it needs to stop. It is bad theology. It presents a God who favors winners, while saying the outcasts are not wanted by God. Somehow, I think Jesus would not be too pleased with that presentation of himself.

Honestly, I don't think God cares who wins sporting events. God is more concerned about the attitude of honesty in competition & fairness than in the final score. Sports --- in fact, all competition --- should be about becoming a better participant & human being than pummeling the other side & then thanking God for the strength to knock the fool out of someone.

God doesn't care who wins. And God doesn't wear those funny-looking,
over sized foam #1 fingers either ... except for when the Steelers win the Super Bowl. He does wear the foam #1 finger then because it just looks so cool.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

John Mellencamp & American Culture

I like NPR. I've started liking them more the last several years because the content is more real than commercial radio, the latter of which is more concerned with giving listeners the slant they want to hear to drive ad sales than giving listeners honesty in reporting.

Fresh Air is one of those programs that can grab your attention and the 03/31/09 edition was really good. It was an interview with John Mellencamp, a rock & roller that hit the Big Time music scene just as I was graduating high school in 1981. Loved his music. (See Wiki article for bio.)

Throughout the interview I was struck with just how far America has come since
Mellencamp was born. He was born with Spina bifida, a death sentence in 1951, where the babies were simply left alone until they died. No treatment. No attention. Just certain death. Mellencamp said that a young doctor in the hospital where he was born believed that barbaric practice had to change & that medicine had the obligation to try. That young doctor wouldn't accept the prevailing idea of the day & Mellencamp received the attempt to make things better. The surgery worked & society gained an artist, not to mention the advancements that would later give hope to all children born with Spina bifida.

Mellencamp was asked about the song Jack and Diane, a huge rock & roll hit. Amazingly, many of the lines in that song were taken from a previous song Mellencamp had written but had never followed through. In the original song, Jack was black & the song was raw with sex & this bi-racial couple. But in 1981, Mellencamp believed the song was too much, too over-the-top, & too taboo to get air play. So when he wrote Jack & Diane, he used a lot of the old lines but left out the bi-racial part of the story. The result was a hit record and an indictment of American culture.

In 1981, I was 18 & had it together. The world was my oyster & college was just a fun preparation to the job market. My generation was going to change the world. As I look back, I see we had more work to do on our attitudes before we would be able to work on the world.
Mellencamp was right: that song never would have made it had Jack been black. There was too much racism in my generation to have accepted that song --- still is, I'm sad to say.

Then I see my own kids & see that there is hope. Maybe I didn't change the world but I changed the part of it that will be make an impact over the next 50 years --- my kids. I know my kids have biases & prejudices like everyone does, but I also see them as more
tolerant than my peers ever were --- or even myself as a teenager.

Mellencamp's birth, America has changed. Changed a lot. We've done a lot, too. We have walked on the moon. We have made advances in science that in 1951 meant death; today, just a minor inconvenience. In 1951, blacks couldn't even vote in many parts of the nation. Today, America has elected an African-American to the highest office in the land. In 1951, a bi-racial couple might be met with violence. In 1981, it was still frowned upon. Today, people are seen as people & not as a color.

Still, there is much that needs to be done. We still have many that are stuck in that time warp of bigotry. They don't want to change or even try to change. That mindset is just as deadly as
Spina bifida in 1951. And like a courageous doctor that said we had to try, we need to try.

Eleven AM on Sunday mornings shouldn't be the most segregated hour of the week. We need to change that.

The way of politics that seek to divide our nation by race or economics or status or ideology --- we need to change that.

Putting old ideas in new
wine skins only bursts the skins & wastes good ideas. We need to change that.

There is hope. Changing a few words in a song gave
Mellencamp a hit record but that change has given me new hope that some day, some how, some of my attempt to make the world a better place will happen by the change I began in three kids my wife & I raised.

At least today, we've come far enough that we can have an honest conversation about it.