Thursday, November 10, 2011

Judge Amanda Williams is Having a Bad Day

Finally. It is finally her day to have to answer for her actions. I'm betting she is not going to like it when all the rocks are pulled up for everyone to see the Gestapo tactics she has used to run roughshod over Glynn and Camden Counties for a long, long time. (See my prior blog post and the comments. I should also say that I received several emails from people recalling similar stories to what Ira Glass had reported in his This American Life spot.)

Here is the link to the AP story.

Whether it goes to a full hearing or not, I don't know. She may settle. I'm hoping she doesn't settle because the people whom she has terrified for two decades deserve to have it all laid bare; they deserve some vindication with her public embarrassment.

Judge Amanda Williams could also face criminal charges if it is found she did indeed make false statements concerning the investigation (link to The Republic).

If you want to read the actual charges against her, check out this link.

Lady Justice can be really nasty when she is pushed over the line. Judge Williams has been pushing a long time and Lady Justice is finally pushing back.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

2012 Presidential Qualification Question

Politics sorely disgusts me. That used to not be the case as I enjoyed the sparring, discussion and learning. Now, not so much. The reason is that discussion and learning have taken a back seat to the campaign of character assassination and presenting half truth (or sometimes, not even truth at all).

Of course, we've seen all this before. It is nothing new. Still, it is "new" to me in the sense that I really believed some of the people I personally knew were above that. They weren't.

So I'm a bit jaded. Ok. Very jaded.

There is an interesting read by Bruce Gourley in the Baptist Studies Bulletin, Oct. 2011 concerning the current kerfuffle over Mitt Romney and his Mormon faith. It is a good analysis.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"Time for Outrage" by Stephane Hessel

Stephane Hessel is a hero --- a French Resistance leader in WW 2. And no he has written a book, Time for Outrage, and has managed to tick off a lot of people. Why? Because he has sold 2 million copies in France and his book is now in 30 languages and is just now released in the US. (Actually, it is a pamplet but here is the Amazon Link.)

Hessel, at age 94, is still fighting and encouraging others to do the same. The difference is that instead of fighting against the Nazi Regime, Hessel is calling for fighters to rise up against injustice. Of course, injustice is a broad term and is often quite arbitrary.

Some injustice is easy to spot: racism; bigotry; and crime. Or is it? What about corporations that legally (though not ethically) take land from average citizens? What about governments that use the taxpayer to fund legal actions against everyday citizens who stand up to fight against corruption? What about protesters who stand up for the least among us, while corporations and politicians ignore the plight of the weak and powerless regarding health care? What about parents who stand up against the educational system that promotes mediocrity while ignoring the needs of the handicapped or gifted? What about citizens who stand up for the right of minority faiths when the majority taxpayer wants his religion to get preferential treatment by the government?

Sadly, those sort of injustices are seen as political actions by the left instead of what they really are --- injustices on the weakest citizens by the power, influence and money of the majority. What should be a call for justice is marginalized by the political majority.

Jesus was treated no differently. Why should we be surprised today when it happens again?

This inspires met. (NPR Link.)

"If you want to be a real human being — a real woman, a real man — you cannot tolerate things which put you to indignation, to outrage," he says. "You must stand up. I always say to people, 'Look around; look at what makes you unhappy, what makes you furious, and then engage yourself in some action.'"

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Jefferson, the Anti-Christ and Supporter of the Separation of Church & State

It is almost absurd for the modern American to think of Thomas Jefferson with contempt or scorn, but in the early days of the Republic, Jefferson was not liked very well by the religious establishment. The reason, simply put, is that Jefferson had adopted that crazy, radical, out-there notion that America needed the complete separation of church & state. He came to this conclusion from both a secular point of view as an Enlightenment thinker, but also was greatly influenced by the Virginia Baptists who adopted the separation of church and state as a theological construct.

Naturally, this position ran afoul of the established churches since they would be losing their semi-official power structures (and in some case, the official position of power). Thus began the labeling of Jefferson as the Anti-Christ by most religious leaders of that day, who made the claim that America would collapse because it didn't recognize God in its founding document or make Christianity its official religion.

But the Baptists found Jefferson to be a friend in their call for the separation of church and state (Link). Now granted, Jefferson wouldn't have made a good Baptist in this theology but the Baptists did support Jefferson and even delivered a Big Cheese to him to show their appreciation.

All of this reminds me of today where it seems that the very people who are trying to protect the religious liberty of everyone often becomes the target of those wanting the majority faith to get a favored status. No different today than it was in Jefferson's world. Same players. Same issues. Different dates on the calendar.

As the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty puts it (Link):  The same Constitution that refuses to privilege any religion, protects all religions. As a result, we are a nation of Christians sociologically because we are not a Christian nation constitutionally.

Keep that wall.

Monday, September 26, 2011

ALA Criminals Say Amen or Serve Time

Bay Minette, AL, has instituted a new policy for criminals with misdomeanor convictions to serve their time either in jail or in church. News Link

What were they thinking?

Silly me. Obviously they thought a Little Bit 'O Jesus would do these people some good. So instead of relying on the private religious groups their opportunity to minister, the city has decided to help the Holy Spirit out by using the tax payer's Sword of Justice, and require prisoners to choose their sentence.

So church is now a punishment?

Wonder how these people would feel if a mosque chose to be one of the preferred organizations on the list?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Taking a Trip

I've always enjoyed going places. Why, I even get excited driving 10 miles down the road to Hiram, GA, a town that now has my favorite Mexican restaurant in all the world, Jalapeno Joe's. (Their Chicken Soup must be one of the dishes served in heaven. I'm certain of it.) There isn't much else in Hiram and the traffic is something Stephen King would like but that is not the point of this post.

I'm going on a vacation tomorrow. So I thought I would suggest a blog I found for some of you that enjoy some really good writting that makes you think. Now I mean really think. And have your ideas challenged.

Experimental Theology by Richard Beck.

Check it out.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Christian Nationalists and David Barton

I am puzzled, frustrated, amused, bumfuzzled and very confused right now. Someone please help me here.

I've a few friends who are educated, articulate and by all accounts are not the kind of people to need Tin Foil Hats, but something is just not working. They don't believe in UFOs or Big Foot or Swamp Creatures, though they will readily admit there are things for which we still don't have all the answers. However, when it comes to history, I don't know what is going on with them. These people have the idea that the United States was founded as a Christian Nation, with Christian Values and the Founders were all Christian-Right Republicans just like exists today.

And don't EVER cross them. It is like stepping on a yellow jackets nest.

One my friends recently posted on a social network the spurious quote by Patrick Henry as follows: (Wiki Link)

There is an insidious campaign of false propaganda being waged today, to the effect that our country is not a Christian country but a religious one—that it was not founded on Christianity but on freedom of religion. It cannot be emphasized too clearly and too often that this nation was founded, not by "religionists", but by Christians—not on religion, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason, peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here. 

The quote is not true as Henry never said it. The quote comes from pseudo-historian David Barton who took the quote from a 1956 piece about Henry, placed quotation marks around it, and proclaimed it was from the lips of Henry in a 1765 speech. Then Barton gets caught and instead of admitting he made a mistake, he starts the "academic verses legal" citation nonsense and simply says the quote is unconfirmed. Barton doesn't say it was an error he made, nor does he make a retraction. Instead, he labels the untrue statement as unconfirmed. Frankly, Barton is playing fast and loose with the truth and he knows it.

Such reckless words then get into the hands of people who don't know any better, and suddenly they think Barton is giving them an accurate history lesson. In turn, there are many well-meaning people who believe some very wrong things about our nation and its beginnings.

So when I pointed out that Patrick Henry never said such a statement, my faith and character were questioned. Go figure.

Truth. It should be what we strive for. When history is twisted to fit a political objective, we all lose.

By the way, David Barton should be ashamed.

Monday, September 12, 2011

2 KY Counties Have to Borrow Money After Losing 10 Commandments Fight

There are some things that are a No Brainer and yet when it happens, I'm still in awe of the crazy things people do. Take for example the leaders of McCreary and Pulaski Counties in Kentucky. Please. Take them.

For eleven years the leaders of those two counties have been waging an obviously ill-advised campaign to display the Ten Commandments in their respective court houses. Eleven years. All the way to the US Supreme Court. They lost. (See link.)

Now they had to pay the legal fees of the plaintiff. Problem is they don't have the money to do so and they are going to have to borrow that money. Both counties are planning on asking national Christian religious organizations to chip in to help pay their legal bills.

A few observations. First, this really is a No Brainer. How these leaders thought they could get one religion's Scripture posted in what is supposed to be a hall of justice based on our national laws it beyond me. This has been tried many times before and it just won't fly.

Second, fair is fair. How would the good people of those counties feel if the leaders were to erect a Muslim monument with quotations from the Koran? If Christians can do this, other groups only need to win at the ballot box and they can do it too. Thus the reason the First Amendment prohibits such things. Again, No Brainer.

Thirdly, these leaders were elected to represent all the people of their counties, not just one religious group, a group that --- remarkably --- is the religious majority. Doesn't anyone find it even the least suspect that they would go to the mat fighting for the religion of the majority? I certainly don't. Let's call it what it is: vote pandering. These politicians did it because it gets them votes. If the majority were another religious group, we would having this same problem with their Scriptures, though the Christian minority would then be pitching a fit over their Christian tax dollars going to support such heresy. 

Lastly, I do believe the attorneys that urged these counties on in their fight need to be fired. Seriously. These attorneys knew it was a losing case --- or they should have known. They were either incompetent or negligent in their duties.

The icing on the cake is that despite the loss, Pulaski County just can't stand it and had to get one more jab at minorities and their dislike of the Constitution. In the place where the 10 Commandments were formerly displayed, there is a frame announcing the display had been removed by court order. Tacky. Very tacky.

Most of all, very rude.

And un-American.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sriracha: The Ultimate Sauce

I am not a food expert, though I know what I like and what I don't like. And I will at least try new foods. That only started about 10 years ago I began trying new foods on a lark. Amazingly, I realized I like many foods I had originally discounted, like Mexican style chicken soup. Other foods, I was forced to admit, were better when prepared differently, e.g, a steak is better medium rare than medium. Much better. To die for better.

And one day earlier this year I was listening to the radio and there was a radio report on Sriracha. Until then I had never heard of it, much less tasted it. Being that I do enjoy hot and spicy foods, I pulled into my local Kroger and immediately bought a bottle.

One bottle. With that crazy rooster emblazoned on it. Rooster Sauce is the appropriate name based on the bottle.

Based on the taste? Heavenly.

Now, I'm not going to admit that I am a Sriracha junkie and attend Rooster Sauce Anonymous Meetings, but the lunch group with whom I dine three days a week all have to get their weekly fix too.

It's good.

Very good.

I'll leave it to everyone to do their own web search about it, but here is just one article I found today that addresses much of my sentiments.

Did I mention that I do dearly love Sriracha?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Vacation is Over

I took some much needed, though unannounced, time off from blogging. My reasons were both personal and professional, but mainly I just needed to step back and read what others were saying for a while. Now, I do believe it is time to begin blogging again.

I've noticed there is far too much negativity out there and our political climate is not helping.

I've also noticed there is a dearth of real education about the history of our nation, particularly when it involves the founding of the nation. There is such danger in the pop-history that says we were founded as a "Christian Nation" (so totally not true) or that there was an intentional effort to insert "Judeo-Christian Values" into our system of government (again, a total and complete falsehood).

The normal today is a dangerous repeat of history, e.g., when in difficult economic times there will be the scapegoating of a class or race of people; the tendency to make laws that are reactionary to those outside influences that are different than the cultural majority; the tendency to make government stronger and more intrusive under the guise of supporting individual liberty; a stronger sense of self-righteousness that always blames others for the system that keeps the others marginalized; and a proliferation of media that seeks to enrage instead of inform.

There is a danger we face today. We've seen it before. Do we have the will to face it again?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

GA Judge Finally Allows Muslim Man to Wear Head Covering in Court Room

We've heard this scenario before: a judge tells someone of a "different faith," i.e., different than the majority and the judge, that the person cannot enter the courtroom while wearing a required religious head covering. What a silly and bigoted thing to do.

GA already went through this in 2009 when another judge (who needs a tin foil hat instead of a robe) barred a woman from wearing her hijab in the courtroom. That lead to the policy that specifically said religious head gear is allowed.

But there is always that one judge ... that one outlier ... that one person who somehow thinks the rules don't apply and he can just violate the Constitution because he wants to ...

So is the case of Judge James Chafin of Henry County, GA. Judge Chafin had refused Troy "Tariq" Montgomery entrance into the courtroom to answer a traffic ticket. The offense? A kufi. A religious cap.

I'm not sure when Judge James Chafin went to law school, but I can say with 100% certainty the First Amendment was the same then as it is in 2011. And I am positive that Judge James Chafin knew of the policy that came down in 2009 (everyone in the state knew of it; it was every TV news show, the newspaper and every radio talk show in the nation.)

So why would Judge James Chafin refuse a Muslim entrance into his courtroom? Well, let's see. I could say it was bigotry toward Muslims. I could say a bit of racism (Montgomery is black). Or I could say he wanted to covert Montgomery to a different religion. Or maybe it was to embarrass the guy.

Who knows?

Whatever the reason, Judge James Chafin has now reversed himself and will allow the guy into the courtroom after "doing his own research" and determined the kufi is indeed a religious symbol.


Wouldn't it have been better if Judge James Chafin would have just let the guy have his religious views, followed the Constitution and the policy set down in 2009?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Rudolf "Rudi" Vrba

I recently had the chance to catch the PBS special Escape from Auschwitz concerning the story of Rudi Vrba and Alfred Wetzler. What these two men did was heroic in itself, but the drive they had to tell the world the story of the concentration camps is nothing short of amazing. These two men deserve an prominent place in history for their escape and subsequently saving the lives of untold numbers of Jews with the Vrba-Wetzler Report.

Thank you, Mr. Vrba and Mr. Wetzler.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Five myths about church and state in America

One of the neat things about being interested in church-state issues as I am, is that there is never a time when something interesting doesn't come up. And there is rarely a time when I can't blog about it and get more than a goodly number of people ticked off --- good people on all 15 sides of the issue; good people that are normally rational, kind and intelligent, until it comes to matters of faith and politics, that is.

When I found Don Byrd's (Baptist Joint Committee) mention of this Washington Post editorial from David Sehat, assistant history professor at Georgia State University, I knew it was going to be a barn burner with a title of Five myths about church and state in America. I mean, come on! That's like pouring gasoline on a fire and asking for another gallon of gas just for fun.

The article is right on, though I doubt seriously if the Religious Right will be fond of it.

The best part is the comment section, but it is not for the faint of heart.

Good job David Sehat!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

VA is Going to Allow Guns in Churches

While churches in GA are still (thankfully) a Gun-Free Zone, the Commonwealth of VA is going in the direction of serious paranoia and is going to allow parishioners to pack heat while worshiping the Prince of Peace. Of course, that also means other religious groups will be able to do the same, like Muslims in their mosques, for example.

Churches may ban weapons like any other private property owner, a good option for sensible people in rational congregations.

What would Jesus do? I don't think he would arm himself since the Bible never mentions he carried a weapon.

We all know the real reason this is even being discussed: the Religious Right has confused conservative politics with religious dogma, and the Good News is no longer abut the peace of Jesus. Instead, it is now an  excuse to use the pulpit to postulate a political message of God, Guns and American Glory.

Jesus is the All American Boy, and he has no problem with guns. II Opinions 4:12.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

End of Life Care: Will Politicians Finally Act Humanely?

We value life. We work hard to make it better. We sing songs about. Write about it. We even kill each other over the way we think others should live theirs. (I know that last sentence is crazy but war is crazy, is it not?)

But I have yet to figure out why we have not come to the humane conclusion that end of life care should be done with the dignity of the person in mind.

Well, maybe I have figured that out: it's a political tool and no politician will let that sort of issue go by without getting some leverage from it.

I used to have the opinion that life was so sacred, so valuable, so wonderful, that we could do nothing less than everything to keep a life going. I used to believe that since life was God-given, we should make sure life lasts as long as it can for everyone - in every circumstance - until God takes the person by the biological death of the body. After all, God alone gives life and God alone takes life.

Notice, please, I said I used to be of that opinion. Now I believe that life is so sacred, so valuable, so wonderful and God-given, that we should consider the damage we are doing to the value we claim to be protecting.

As I have gotten older, I've watched the families of parishioners and clients go through the awful, heart-wrenching tragedy of their loved ones withering away. Maybe it was the slow, painful death of a cancer. Or the debilitating  effects of Parkinson's. Then there are the diseases like dementia and Alzheimer's, where the person dies long before the body does.

What those sort of diseases do to the patient is, in many cases, not as dreadful as what it does to the family that has to watch the death process go on for, sometimes, decades.

I am not advocating we begin the slippery slope of not treating diseases because of the ultimate end. Nor will I advocate a cost-benefit analysis to determine the value of a life. What I do think we need to do is an honest discussion about the real issues around end of life care.

Real issues. Not faux-ethics. Not political brownie points disguised as the moral high ground. Not philosophical sniper attacks pretending to be concerned "for the value of life."

Let's get real and talk about the actual value of a person's life: when a person is no longer able to care for herself, or is so debilitated or diagnosed that what they believe is her value of life is not worth the financial, emotional or physical costs to herself or her family, why do we not allow a dignified means for the end of life care? As long as the person has/can make such an informed decision, why not allow the gentle and humane passing instead of medically allowing the agony for everyone involved?

I would even see a system in place where a medical team (not a single physician) can attest to a threshold of whatever stipulations we want to add, and have the patient/family petition the court to allow the dignified passing.

What I don't like to see is the system we have now that drains everyone of their finances, emotions and common sense. We treat animals more humanely than we treat people regarding end of life care.

It's time we recognized that God gave us the means and the wherewithal to do a gracious thing possible for a fellow human being at the very time that person may need it the most.

Monday, April 4, 2011

I So Remember "Field of Dreams"

One of my favorite movies of all times is Field of Dreams. There is something about the dream that really is in each of us ... ah, well, never mind about the analyzing stuff. It was just a great movie.

I was having dinner last evening and one of those music channels on Comcast was playing in the sitting area. Even though I couldn't see the screen, I heard the music. I heard a couple of notes and I immediately recognized the piece as The Place Where Dreams Come True by James Horner. I mentioned the piece though no one believed me and then, Lo! Someone checked. Yeppers. That is indeed what was playing. Even though I had not watched that movie in at least 10 years, the music was still there in my mind ... reminding me ... of the way I felt as I watched it all those years ago.

Remarkable it is that a sound or a smell or a touch can remind us of things long ago. The imprint of things not thought of, but not forgotten; the sudden sense of re-living a moment; the fondness of something so simple.

I so remember ...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Travesty of Justice: Judge Amanda Williams, Glynn County, GA

The legal system is set up to protect the American citizenry and governing principles. Sometimes that means criminals are incarcerated. Sometimes it means innocent people are incarcerated, too, because, sadly, we do make mistakes. But our basic value is liberty. We prize liberty so much that we are willing to let 10 guilty go free just to make sure a single innocent person is not deprived of freedom. We do everything we can --- putting all sorts of stumbling blocks in the way of the state's prosecution --- just to make sure innocent people are not unintentionally mistreated.

And we should always do that. Our legal system is about fairness first and foremost. Punishment is always secondary and is never to be given with a heavy hand, lest the very system designed to protect us becomes foreboding. When the public loses confidence in the basic fairness of our legal system, the ideals of liberty are mocked.

I listened tonight to an episode of This American Life on my local NPR station. The piece featured Judge Amanda Williams, the director of the Drug Court in Glynn and Camden Counties in GA. The segment was titled Very Tough Love, but it should have been named The Most Unfair Court in the Nation.

I could type my thoughts on this judge and the tyrannical means by which she runs her court. I could say how grossly unfair she treats the people who come before her. I could even say how I believe she is unfit to serve on the bench. But I won't. (If you want to read what others are saying about this judge, try this link.)

I am asking you to listen to the story. It takes a while, but listen to it. And then I am asking you to do something about it. I am asking you to please send an email to the Office of National Drug Policy asking them to please investigate this judge who is unfit to be on any bench. Also, please send a letter or fax to the GA Judicial Qualifications Commission (they don't accept email, apparently). Here is the contact information and a sample mock up.

Judicial Qualifications Commission
P.O. Box 191
Madison, GA 30650
Phone: (706) 343-5891
Fax: (706) 342-4593

To Whom It May Concern: 

I wanted to bring up a concern that I was recently nade aware of by Ira Glass from This American Life. He gave an in-depth account with strong reporting about a particular Drug Court in Glynn and Camden Counties of Georgia. I am very concerned about the job that the Judge Amanda Williams is doing. The information presented in the news story about the manner in which Judge Amanda Williams is conducting herself is frightening. I live in metro Atlanta so I am not one of her constituents but I feel strongly that something should be done. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bryan Fischer of American Family Association Says Only Christians Have Rights

Sometimes people say things they didn't mean to say. I do that all the time. So I try to clarify and make my point more clear. It's part of the human condition to make mistakes with the tongue.

But sometimes people say things so outlandish, so ridiculous, so moon-bat that it defies logic. Such is the case with Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association who said --- in summary --- that only Christians have rights in America and all other religions are only allowed by the good graces of the Christian majority.

That is so ignorant that I have a difficult time knowing where to begin. To say the Founding Fathers only granted religious liberty to Christians is, well, crazy. First, the only recognized Christians at the time of the Bill of Rights were Anglicans, Congregationalists and Catholics, and all three fought against the other two claiming superior relationship to God. And none of those three groups thought Methodists, Presbyterians or Baptists were Christian. In fact, all the Big Three in the Colonies considered everyone else as unchristian, as unregenerate, and as heathen as any Muslim. And Fischer and the American Family Association are trying to say only Christians were allowed liberty by the Founding Fathers? Is he willing to say that means only Anglicans, Congregationalists and Catholics are afforded liberty today? Lo! I'm willing to wager that means most members of American Family Association don't have the official American recognition of being Christian. Hmmmm. Quite a problem with that interpretation, Mr. Fischer.

Second, any reasonable person knows that Fischer's position is something we should just ignore: it is that of a theocratic fruit cake. Problem is that his argument is being sold by many in the Religious Right as a means of money and political power. Unfortunately, these leaders are not educating their flocks about the history of our nation. Instead they are twisting the history and the Bible to suit their own needs. They are manipulating the sheep.

Here is the link to the Americans United blog by Joseph Conn that goes into more detail about the claims of Fischer. It is quite a read.

Let's hope the reasoned and educated people can overcome the bigotry and ignorance of Fischer and American Family Association.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Victoria Jackson and "Glee"

Last week I wondered why the Religious Right had not taken shots at Glee. With gay teens, racey outfits, suggestive subplots, the Rocky Horror episode, we all knew it was a matter of time.

The gay male kiss did it. It wasn't a peck on the lips either: it was a real kiss. It was the kind of kiss that says there is much more going to be happening between the two characters.

Glee fans have anticipated this for months. Most of the audience I talked to said nothing about it other than It's about time the characters got together. The fact that this sort of Real Kiss raised the bar for same sex relationships on TV never even came up in the conversation.

It says we've come a long way since Ellen said I'm gay on national TV during prime time, or since Murphy Brown's audacity to have a baby out of wedlock. The backlash from the Religious Right over those two events was reminiscent of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. This Glee event is even further from the first interracial kiss of Captain Kirk and Lt. Uhura on Star Trek, an episode that I remember as a kid had the church in a'buzz with talks of scandal, boycott, protests, Congressional letter writing campaigns, and prayer retreats.

And it is a long, long, long way from the public swearing on Gone With the Wind with the famous line, Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn. My Great-Grandmother swore that was the single event that sealed our nation's fate to be eternally assigned to Perdition. It was all down hill from there, according to Nellie Brown. (By the way, she was a fine lady and could swing a hickory switch better than anyone, and I am an expert of the receiving end of the hickory switch.)

Back to the gay kiss on Glee ...

Victoria Jackson is, I'm sure, a fine person. I have no doubt her convictions on matters of faith are genuine. But I have a problem with homophobia hiding behind the Bible as justification for discrimination, hurtful words, and silly behavior.

See makes the rest of the Christian Community look bad. In fact, too many Christians make the rest of us look bad. Unfortunately, those are the ones that jump out there and say and do silly things.

I'll post the video for you to watch. No commentary on the theology of what she is saying (or lack thereof) on my part is necessary. The point I want to make is that the Bible should never be used as a tool to bully, harass, harm, discriminate against, or marginalize anyone. Let God do handle the "sinners" (however He defines them) and let us be about the business of showing some kindness every now and then. That would be a refreshing change, I think.

Monday, March 21, 2011

High School Sports and the Budget Axe

It's as if the only work out being done in some school systems today is the budget axe. Sadly, it is the kids who get cut out of the picture.

I taught high school for seven years --- rather, I should say, I handled high school discipline for seven years. Seriously. In School Suspension. It is not a position many aspire to do, but I loved it. Truth is, if it weren't for the awful politics of a school system and the low pay, I would have loved to have retired from what I consider a noble and worthwhile post. My job in the school system deserved hazardous duty pay some days; other days, I couldn't believe they paid me to do the job. Helping kids on the margin --- those who get into trouble --- means being (often literally) a lifesaver.

Many kids need a parent, a teacher or someone to just tell them No. Honestly, that word is unheard by many students before high school. Others need that one-on-one help for a short while they can't get in the classroom. A lot of teenagers are just teenagers and do teenager stuff. These kids --- the majority of kids --- need a gentle (or tough) reminder that they have to / can / must get it together. They can do it with just a little by someone.

For a good number of students, it is an athletic coach that fills that void. For others, it is the art or music teacher. A few need the language instructor. Then there are the marginal 5% that need that tough disciplinarian.

Unfortunately when schools have to make deep cuts, it is art, music, drama or language. These "soft" disciplines are viewed as secondary to the hard sciences of math and science. The cry is to increase the requirements for math and science; implied in that is less focus / requirements in the areas that make society work for all of us.

The not so subtle message is that the things of beauty, culture, emotion, meaning are not needed. Watch out, for tomorrow it is the Humanities that will be cut next. American culture --- even humankind culture --- will be the lesser for that.

But none of that is the real reason for this post. It is the sports programs that get the axe now. After all, do we need to teach students to play when the rest of the world is passing us math scores?

Well, the answer is a resounding Yes! We need sports more than ever.

The truth is that increasing the required math or science courses to graduate is not helping the kid who simply is not a wired to think in that area. I'm not saying we don't teach basic cell biology or leave out the Pythagorean Theorem, but we can't afford to abandon art, drama, music, language or history either, for it is those subjects that give us the glue for our society. Very few kids will ever need to solve quadratic equations when they are 32 years old for a job application, but every student will one day be voting and making decisions how our government will relate to the rest of the world.

Some students --- make that MOST students --- need those subjects and sports to even have a reason to get through high school. And let's not forget that high school sports, namely football, is a huge money maker for the schools. Cutting the very thing that gives pride to a community, adds money to the budget and gives a good number of kids a chance and a reason to go to college is not good management. If a CEO were judged based on how many BOEs are reacting to budget cuts, the CEO would be an ex-CEO in a matter of weeks.

Frank Deford has a wonderful article on the subject of budget cuts and high school sports. If only the people in charge of our kids' education knew how to analyze the cost of the social impact instead of just the cost on a budget sheet.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Why are Christians are so ...

First, let me say that I am totally, completely and unabashedly stealing / borrowing this post from Richard Beck and  his blog,  Experiential Theology. No one can ever say I'm not 100% honest in every way and in all my dealings. Let's not have a blog post destroy that for which I have worked so hard to keep.

Second, this post is both disturbing and sad. It is sad because it is and it disturbing because it shows the declining scale we have fostered as our faith became the majority in the American marketplace of ideas.

Phil Vaughn made a great point in his sermon Gracenomics: Extending Grace.   I will copy Beck for the rest ...

The most powerful part of the sermon comes when Phil asks us to type into Google the phrase "Why are Christians so..." Due to Google's autocomplete function the most popular querys starting with this tag immediately pop up.

And guess what? The results are depressing. Here is one screen capture:

Feel free to try it yourself. 

Phil then goes on to compare these results with the Google autocomplete for "Why are Buddhists so..." The top autocomplete for this tag is: "Why are so Buddhists so happy." Quite a contrast between Buddhists and Christians.

The provocative question the sermon leaves us with is this: What would it take for Christians to get the Google autocomplete to become the following:

Why are Christians so loving?

Monday, February 28, 2011

Debate in OK: Resolved, the United States Constitution neither established nor advocates for a Christian nation.

I always enjoy intellectual discussion and good debate. But on this topic, there is no real debate. Anyone who honestly believes the US was founded as a Christian Nation has zero understanding of the history, the Founders, the political underpinnings or even a modicum of Biblical theology.

Oh, sure, there are some who want to impose their views on others if others won't willingly acquiesce --- and impose their views on the Bible also --- but for the most part I think it is more of a question of a wilfull ignorance.

And then there is the Rev. Steve Kern, husband of OK state representative Sally Kern. Yes, THAT Sally Kern.

If you want to see and hear what bad history and bad theology look like, the Rev. Steve Kern is Exhibit A.

The OK chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State held a debate between Rev. Kern and Dr. Bruce Prescott, executive director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists. Rev. Kern took the position that the US was founded as a Christian Nation and Dr. Prescott took the position that the US was founded as a secular nation with religious liberty for all faiths and even those of no faith.

You can watch the video of the debate here.

Good job, Dr. Prescott!

For a more detailed information about this event, check out the blog for Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Christina Aguilera and the Star Spangled Banner

So she messed up the words of the national anthem. Twice. She left out a line and blew another. But doing at the Super Bowl puts it waaaaay out there - a stage almost as big as anything the local town gossip can muster.

Here is just one of 322,177 articles about it.

And we're all over her case? 95% of all Americans can't sing the song either.

The flap is too much about nothing, but it does show, once again, that America needs a new national anthem. One that is easier to sing and makes want to sing it and feel it.

It's time for America to seriously consider a new national anthem.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Polk County Florida School Board and Prayer

School board adds prayer disclaimer

The Polk County Florida School Board was threatened with a lawsuit from the Freedom From Religion Foundation because the board had been opening its meeting with prayers. So the board decided the best thing to do was to move the invocation to precede the meeting's official start, and give the following disclaimer:

Voluntary invocation may be offered before the opening of the School Board meeting by a private citizen. The views or beliefs expressed in the invocation have not been reviewed nor approved by the School Board, and the Board is not allowed, by law, to endorse the religious beliefs or views of this, or any other speaker.

A few things here. First, I think the board did the right thing when they decided to avoid litigation. Courts are costly. And there is a very good chance the school board will lose. Paying money over an opportunity to pray in public - at an official government meeting - is just silly. School boards are about education, not displays of personal piety.

Second, I don't understand why the board would have prayer at an official meeting anyway. What purpose does it serve? Really? The only purpose it does have is to show the majority religion that their elected people are following the religion of the most number of voters. In other words, it is vote pandering, plain and simple.

Thirdly, why can't the school board members pray privately before they come to the meeting? Why must they make a public display of it? Oh, wait. I already discussed that above. Vote pandering. Now I remember why they would want to pray in public instead of in private.

Fourth, I do find some serious problems - theologically - with the whole idea of praying for the purpose of being seen. Jesus was quite harsh with the Pharisees who did that, saying they only prayed in public to be seen in public. Wait. I did it again. We already discussed that above to Vote pandering. I've got to remember that we've already talked about that.

Fifth, the Constitution is very clear that government shouldn't even give a hint of a Most Favored Faith, not anything that even respects an establishment of religion. One would think a school board would want to follow what we teach the students about one of our core values. So why would a school board violate the Constitution unless it is to ... wait. There it is again. Vote pandering. Guess those votes are more important than following our Constitution. Wonder if there are other parts the school board thinks can be ignored? Maybe the part about women getting the right to vote - will the school board just ignore that and start teaching the kids that women should be barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen?

Sixth, is it a good idea to do prayers at a school board meeting, knowing that one day another religion may become the majority religion in the area? How would the current people of the community feel that in a few years a large Muslim population came to the county, and then there are prayers to Allah before each meeting? If we allow one religious prayer ...

Lastly, I will say the board came to compromise that at least works. It is silly, but it does work. Since it is before the official meeting (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) the prayer is not official and this avoids the Constitutional question. The disclaimer is a nice touch, but it is all for show to keep the legal eagles happy: everyone knows it is still an unofficial official prayer.

Which is exactly why the school board did it this way. By moving the prayer to the unofficial slot before the actual meeting, the prayer still gets prayed; the religious majority gets to think the elected leaders are keeping the majority's version of God in the schools; and the elected leaders get to unofficially tell the constituents to vote for them again because they kept prayer at the meeting and those Godless heathens away from the official business.

Wait. That's just more vote pandering.

Does anyone see a pattern here?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Vouchers for Private School

Sometimes the most outlandish ideas get past otherwise intelligent people. While I'm being generous concerning the intellectual capacities of some of our elected leaders, I have to wonder if how any rational human being cannot understand that tax money to fund religious education is a bad idea.

It's very simple: if we can fund Christian education today, we may one day have to fund Muslim education tomorrow. Or Hindu. Or Buddhist. Or Sikh. Or the Worship of the Big Oak Tree Out Back.

Taking money away from the public education ends up hurting the poorest students and in turn hurts all of society. Taking money to fund religious instruction is a violation of the very soul of the American conscience. Our foundational liberty is a free conscience, a free people, a free nation. Religious education is the right of the parents but not on the public's dime.

Here is a link from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State that lists 10 Reasons to Oppose Vouchers.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

GA Churches are Still Gun Free

Believe it or not, but a "Gun Advocacy Group" (AKA Some Serious Nut Jobs) challenged the State of GA's ban on firearms in any house of worship. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution the group called GeorgiaCarry, along with (not joking here) a Baptist church and the church's pastor, said the restriction infringed on their free exercise of religion, their ability to conduct worship services, as well as their right to self defense under the 2nd Amendment.

The judge said they were wrong.

Thank God.

Can you imagine being in a church (where emotions are already running on high octane) and people there are 100% certain of God's Will, and they get into a fight over the budget? I've seen fist fights over the Evangelism budget. I've known of churches where the police had to be called to intervene over an argument about Vacation Bible School refreshments. And these people want to have members carrying weapons in the building?

Somehow I don't think the Prince of Peace would be happy with his disciples arming themselves as if they were about to kill someone. The Sword of the Lord doesn't come in a 9mm.

What was that Jesus told Peter about putting away the sword? And what was that verse about seeking peace and beating swords in plowshares? Hmmm.

Here is the link to the legal ramblings of

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

About Those Ten Commandment Displays ...

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.

Example of the Day - The School Board in Giles County VA

For the last 10 years, a copy of the Ten Commandments has been displayed beside a copy of the US Constitution in the district's five schools. These were no small displays, either. These were 4 foot tall monsters. Huge. Impressive. Dominating. Forceful. These carried a message with size alone..

In December 2010, there was a complaint by the Freedom from Religion Foundation along with an opinion by the school board's attorney that the display were unConstitutional. Duh. Really. Double Duh. So the Ten Commandments were replaced with the Declaration of Independence.

The AP reports that eight parents and pastors, supported by a fighting-mad mob of Christian soldiers, marched on the January 2011 meeting and insisted the schools had a moral obligation to reinforce God's teachings. 

The next day, the Ten Commandment displays were back in the schools.

Now let's see ... how about if we change the story a bit ... after removing the Half Moon and Crescent, along with many verses of the Koran that teaches Allah should be praised in all the student's lives, eight parents and Imams, supported by a fighting-mad mob of Islamic soldiers, marched on the January 2011 meeting and insisted the schools had a moral obligation to reinforce Allah's teachings. 

What, pray tell, is the difference? Hint: None. If we don't insist the government show no favoritism to our own faith, we lose the moral right to speak out against another faith that gets the government's Most Favored Status.

Doesn't anyone actually read the Constitution any more or believe that the Golden Rule is more than something we talk about on Sunday mornings between 11AM and noon? 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hawaii Realizes They are about Governing and not Prayer

Hawaii Senate ends daily chamber prayers

I am always leery of politicians anyway, but when politicians start talking about matters of faith, I start sweating. It is never good when politicians start playing on people's emotions. The end result is manipulation of the faithful and an endangerment to the liberties of all.

Hawaii has done something that has totally amazed me - the right thing.

In the summer of 2010, a citizen of Hawaii complained about the legislature there opening its sessions with overt prayer, prayers that often directly mentioned Jesus.

Now understand that I am all for prayer. I pray. I like people to pray. I think God likes prayer. But when politicians want to make prayer into a political football, someone needs to throw the Challenge Flag.

One citizen complained. Thank God for that one citizen. No, that is not a play on words because somehow I don't think God is too happy with his Faithful and his Name being used as a means to garner votes for Corruptible Caesar.

So this one, lone, brave citizen complained to the only group with the intestinal fortitude to take on such a challenge: the ACLU. With the gauntlet being cast, the ACLU wrote a letter to Hawaii's state senate about the political prayer play. That's when Hawaii's attorney general agreed with the ACLU and I'm sure all hell is going to break loose in the other 49 states when they learn that one state is actually following the Constitution and keep the separation of church and state.

Of course the Alliance Defense Fund wants to argue that since the Hawaii Senate has always prayed, they should keep doing it. Yes. By all means let's keep doing what we've always done and just ignore the Constitution.

I don't know who that one person in Hawaii is, but she deserves a pat on the back. Thank you. Thank you for speaking up and making sure that even my faith is not given preferential treatment. If government can acknowledge my faith today, it can give that same nod to another religion tomorrow. We elect our leaders to govern the secular, not act as agents of God. We elect politicians, not pastors. We expect them to govern all people, not marginalize minority faiths.

Again,  thank you, whomever you are.

And to the other 49 states, you need to listen up.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Political Civility in a Climate of Anger

I heard when I was a kid that people never really grow up but for the most part they learn how to act in public. The more I see of politics, the less I believe that.

Actually, I'm pretty disgusted at the current political climate. Yes, I know the elections of the 18th and 19th century made our politics look like a spirited game of Candy Land, but we are more civilized now - or should be.

The rhetoric and vitriol hurled at political opponents is beyond poor taste; far past disagreement; well nigh dangerous.

One only has to look at the senseless shooting of Congresswoman Giffords. The lady was a Democrat in a largely Republican district. She was the "target" of the Tea Party's aim for defeat (she was also literally "targeted" by Sarah Palin's crosshair map). The worst part is that Gifford even warned of such irresponsible words and her office was attacked before.

I don't think anyone will lay the blame on Sarah Palin or anyone on the right for this senseless act of an unstable person. Cause, no. Didn't help, absolutely. In fact, I have not read anyone saying Sarah is the cause, though I'm sure someone out there has already said it, for political purposes, of course. However, I've seen much defensiveness by those on the Right trying to circle the wagons and deflect any criticism for Palin's actions (or anyone else on the Right for similar stuff).

It does no one any good to compare a rifle scope targeting districts and "reload" as a mantra, to that of a long bow target. Come on. The comparison is not even in the same ballpark. Get real.

To be fair, the Left has to stop it's rhetoric that does the same thing, has the same effect, and will eventually see the criticism turned to them. Let's not be hypocritical.

It's a problem when the political rhetoric applies imagry that is dangerous. After all, it doesn't take much to put a Crazy over the edge.

So the politicians say things to stir the emotionals of their base in order to garner support. Mike Castle (R-DE) in an exit interview said:  "We'll have our leadership stand up and they'll tell you how important it is to beat the hell out of the other side, to make them look bad," he said. "They are preaching adversity; they're preaching a pure ideology, if you will. For those of us in the middle, that becomes very difficult."

As Chet Edwards (D-TX) said in the same exit interview: "What I see in the press is a tendency of FOX News and MSNBC, or cable shows on television, and radio talk shows to want the outrageous to speak."

The media then takes that and, in order to get more money from advertisers by increasing their ratings, exploits it. People hear that imagery. It affects them. They begin to think, talk, eat, sleep and live that rhetoric that was intentionally put out there by the politician to get that emotional response, and by the media to get those ratings. The electorate - all in a frenzy - means more votes to the political party. And it means more money to the media as the people clamor for more because it is what they want to hear

We are in a time when rhetoric is no longer civil.

And it is dangerous.

It is time our politicians and the media took responsibility for their part in this climate of anger. Fear mongering that marginalizes the "other side" may be good politics, but it can be the very word that pushes the next person over the edge.

Then I think about the result of this sort of post - on a blog that really has nothing to do with influencing anyone. However, I've already seen the Need for Civility used as a baseball bat to club the other side, the political enemy. 

Even when talking about being civil, the politicians can't; the media plays it up; and the cycle starts all over again.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Civil War and Baptists

Bruce Gourley has published a new site with more information than imaginable dealing with Baptists and the Civil War. This is a must bookmark for any historian or researcher.

Or if you just have a few minutes to browse and learn a few tidbits, this is the site.

Also, his dissertation is due to be published Spring 2011 by Mercer Univerisity Press, entitled, Diverging Loyalties: Baptists in Middle Georgia During the American Civil War. 

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Manhattan Mosque

Park51 is the name of the mosque project being built near ground zero. Naturally it has garnered much opposition. Just do a Google search for Ground Zero Mosque and you'll see the vast number of anti-mosque news pieces and blog entries.

Of course, the argument is that the Muslims are proclaiming their victory by building a worship center at the site of their accomplishment (never mind there was a mosque there prior to 9/11 and it was destroyed in the attack).

I had this thought yesterday: For those who oppose a religious group re-opening their community center, do you also oppose Christian organizations opening churches in Iraq or Afghanistan? 

Let's be consistent. If we don't want the Muslims to build a community center at the site of their supposed "victory," why do we support building churches in those two nations we invaded and conquered?

Treat others the way you want to be treated. Somehow, I think Jesus' words shouldn't just apply to Sunday morning.