Saturday, January 01, 2005

A Line in the Sand

As home schooling parents, my wife and I receive many different catalogs to assist us in the education of our children. But one catalog called "A Line in the Sand" we recently received from the Vision Forum Inc. in Texas not only wanted to sell us products, it also attempted to indoctrinate us into their world view.

And what an interesting world view the Vision Forum catalog is trying to sell. Women should stay home and have babies. Men should defend to the death their faith and families from the threat of modernity. The most godly people in America were the Puritans during the Salem witch trial period.

Why is it important to understand groups like this? Because the people who see the world in the same way as Vision Forum are the people drawing that line in the sand farther and farther to the right and aim to drag the rest of the country there with them.

The cover photo shows a blond boy of about 12 standing in front of an old door. In his right hand is a sword that he has drawn a line in front of him with as he stands guard in front of the mission entrance. His left hand holds up a parchment with the large script "The Biblical Family Now and Forever." With his riding boots and pants, a red sash above his scabbard and Confederate gray jacket, he appears to be ready to defend the church from all that threaten it.

Of course, an armed guard at the door also keeps people out. And I'm not sure that's what God intends for us to do.

But I could be wrong about this group. Let's go past the cover and see.

Doug Phillips, the president and founder of Vision Forum Inc., has a two-page column explaining his view of "The Biblical Family Now and Forever!" Link to his blog here.

He starts off the catalog with scripture:
"Praise ye the LORD. Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in his commandments. His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed...He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD. His heart is established , he shall not be afraid, until he see his desire upon his enemies... The wicked shall see it, and be grieved; he shall gnash with his teeth, and melt away." (Psalm 112:1-2,7-8,10)

Not exactly "Love thy neighbor," nor particularly welcoming with the teeth gnashing and all, but what's with all of the ellipses?
What did he leave out?
"1 Praise ye the LORD. Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in his commandments.
2 His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed.
3 Wealth and riches shall be in his house: and his righteousness endureth for ever.
(Hmm. Maybe Phillips didn't want to remind the reader that he's running a business and he's trying to make a buck or two off them. That's the American way. Let's go on.)
4 Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: he is gracious and full of compassion and righteous.
5 A good man showed favor and lendeth: he will guide his affairs with discretion.
6 Surely he shall not be moved for ever: the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance.

7 He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD.
8 His heart is established , he shall not be afraid, until he see his desire upon his enemies.
9 He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor: his righteousness endureth for ever; his horn shall be exalted with honor:
10 The wicked shall see it, and be grieved; he shall gnash with his teeth, and melt away."
(Psalm 112:1-10)

Wow! That's some interesting stuff covered by those ellipses.

Phillips emphasizes the lines about fear the Lord, evil tidings, the wicked, teeth gnashing, but doesn't include the lines about being gracious, compassionate, righteous, giving to the poor on purpose.

Let's go over that again (because I want to make a point about something Phillips does repeatedly throughout the catalog). The upright have enemies that will grieve and melt away. Nothing about the upright showing compassion.

It is almost as if Phillips is promoting a world view that we are surrounded by enemies and should be afraid.

Maybe I'm making too much of his cherry picking of scripture. After all, it's just the first part of a two-page column of a 87-page mail-order catalog. What comes next?

"It was patterned before time began by an eternal Father who loved His eternal Son. It was birthed on the Sixth Day as the very pinnacle of Creation. It was chosen as the vehicle for globe-transforming dominion, covenant faithfulness, and the incarnation of the Savior of the world. It is modeled in the life of the Church through the spiritual brothers, sisters, fathers, and mothers who are the very body of Christ. It is pictured and perfected in all its beauty at the culmination of time through a divine wedding feast. In its purest expressions, it is a society of love declared in the last verses of the Old Testament to be inextricably linked to revival and national peace. From Genesis to Revelation, it is proven to be the flesh and blood organization through which men first learn love, law and the meaning of life. It shapes the destiny of children, the character of leaders and the future of civilizations. Its definition is immutable, transcendent and non-negotiable.
"It is the biblical family - now and forever!"

I'll interrupt Phillips briefly to point out, since he places such an emphasis on family, that he has a lovely photo of the "Vision Forum Family in San Antonio, Texas." All the men and boys in khaki pants and blue jackets. Ms. Carnacki pointed out the women, all save one, have jumpers. One woman has a skirt going about mid-calf -- maybe she didn't get the memo. The 44 of them in the photo also are very, very white. There's a reason I'm pointing this out which I'll explain later.

"Every generation has its defining challenge. Ours is the systematic annihilation of the biblical family. It is during this deceptively peaceful yet culture-transforming epoch of history that God has placed us. This is our watch.

"We stand on the threshold of the single most destructive social event in the history of the West. Much has happened over the last two millennia, but it was not until our generation that women have been asked to strap on machine guns and die in combat, that parents en masse have rejected the fruit of the womb, that the majority of women have left the home as their primary mission field, and that the mass execution of the unborn has received legal sanction. And it was not until our watch, our moment in history, that men have sought to redefine marriage to include the most perverse of human behavior. All this on our watch! How will we respond?

"Think back for just a moment to your own childhood. Think back to an America that was, an America already in the throes of radical changes, but an America in which the people of this land still retained a moral conscience. Can you remember the days when moral perversions were not mentioned in public (let alone glorified on national television)? Do you remember? I do.

"And those memories are not so distant. You need only look into the eyes of those precious little ones given to you by God whose innocence and purity have been entrusted to you. I do this every day - with all seven of my children. It puts a fire in my belly. It daily reminds me that there is nothing I would not be prepared to do for my Lord, if only to preserve a future in which these little ones will not be offended. I am reminded that teaching my children the way of Christ "is not a vain thing; because it is [my] life" (Deut. 32:47) and that parents can state, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth" (III John 4).

"In defense of the biblical family, we today join faithful Christians across this great land by choosing sides in a fight. Like William Barret Travis before the Alamo defenders at the defining moment in Texas history, our sword is drawn and we call upon parents, pastors, and leaders - civil and ecclesiastical - to choose sides in the defining issue of our generation and fight to the death.

"Be not ye afraid of them: remember the LORD . . . and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses. (Neh. 4:14)

"We will never surrender. Nor will we lack the proper weapons of our warfare. The Lord has predetermined both the means and the ends of this battle. This is a battle to be fought in the homes of families, in the local churches, and in the very gates of the land; but it is a battle that is primarily fought in the hearts of men as Christians do what Christians are supposed to do best - make the life of Christ extremely attractive as we evidence the sweet aroma of Jesus by thinking, looking, and acting very different from the world.

"We win every time a father turns his heart to a son. We win every time our daughters reject feminism for femininity. We win every time children rise up and call their mothers blessed. We win every time a local church embraces a vision for family-integrated worship. We win every time a grandfather embraces his patriarchal vision to bless his grandchildren. We win every time a candidate for public office speaks truth regardless of the consequences. We win every time a Christian filmmaker prefers the path of Christ to the sanction of Hollywood. We win through obedience. We win through faithfulness. We win by leading our households in a multi-generational vision of victory...."

(Look! Ellipses. If you're worried I'm leaving out the good stuff, full link here.)

"The products in the 2005 edition of the Vision Forum Family Catalog have been carefully selected to share our passion for the Christ-centered biblical family. Each reflects the commitment of others who have drawn a line in the sand and who will fight to the death in defense of Christ's truth."

Then he goes into a list of products available inside. Be afraid. Defend the family under attack. Buy our products.

"This is our watch. Let's serve the Lord with such vigor that Christian children yet to be born will someday look back and say: this was our finest hour!

"Victory or death! The biblical family - now and forever!" emphasis mine

Wow! Lock and load after a speech like that. My family is under attack and I've got to defend it from everything modern!

Seriously, the book covers nearly all have paintings depicting scenes of people in the 18th and 19th centuries. The compact disc on page 7 of "Biblical Womanhood Victorious, the Role of Women in the Local Church" has cover art of Pilgrim women walking on a snow-covered path apparently to church escorted by their watchful, musket bearing men folk. A toy covered wagon on Page 77 shows two buckskin clad boys escorting two young girls inside the wagons and peeking out from behind the canvas. (My oldest daughter's reaction: "That doesn't look like very much fun.") "Family Man, Family Leader," on page 6 shows a man and woman, both in Victorian garb, looking at a map spread across a table. "The Right Stuff: How to Evaluate a Suitor," available on two compact discs, shows a bucolic wedding scene from mid 18th century.

In addition to books on parenting, home schooling and history, there's also a section on books about the federal judiciary and federal government.

The review for "How to Dethrone the Imperial Judiciary" by Edwin Viera includes this: "Incredibly, some of these men - professing Christians - demand that judges must be obeyed, even when they offer rulings which provide for the vivisection of little babies, or seek to redefine that which only God can define - the institution of marriage. In his new book, Dr. Edwin Viera explains how issues like abortion and homosexual marriages can be resolved immediately, without special constitutional amendments, if we simply avail ourselves of the measures given to us by our Founding Fathers to hold lawless judges accountable for their behavior."

I guess not enough people have bought Viera's book to find out how to dethrone those judges.

In his "Christian Controversies in American History" series, there's this:
"Pilgrims vs. Indians: Racial Genocide or Biblical Dominion in Colonial New England?"

"Recently 'America's Hometown' erected new monuments near Plymouth Rock referring to the Pilgrims as genocidal murderers. In truth, the Pilgrims provided the most godly view of Christian-Indian relations seen in American history."

"Christians vs. Deists: The Truth about the Faith of America's Founding Fathers."
Joe Morecraft sets us straight on those who refer to the Founding Fathers as Deists.

"Yankees vs. Rebels: Understanding the True Causes of the American Civil War"

"Slavery? States rights? Economic pressures? What were the true causes of the War Between the States? How was it possible for so man 'great men', many of who me were Christians, to disagree so fundamentally on the defining war of American history? For years, Christian students have been befuddled by the nonsense spouted by secular commentators. Into the historical fray steps historian Bill Potter with a scholarly Christian response."

Now back to the issue of race. I mentioned that the 44 people in the photograph of the Vision Forum Family were all white. Of the more than 500 images of people in the 85-page catalog, counting photos of CD covers, and book covers, and models of clothes and toys and lecturers, one shows an Asian-American boy. And there's one photograph of an African-American boy. Guess where his photograph is? If you guessed the very back page, you're correct.


Brief Note on Competition

I want to weigh in very quickly on something Ezra of Pandagon picked up on the other day. Right-wing bloggers have been charging that the left has been slow to react to, if not altogether silent on, the Boxing Day tsunami. The implication, of course, is that those darned bleeding heart liberals don't really care when it's not to their partisan advantage.

I've seen this myself. Apparently, Chuck Currie has also noticed that the Religious Right isn't exactly breaking any records in their on-line appeals.

The charge that progressives don't care about this tragedy is transparent and stupid and a cheap shot.

But that's not what concerns me, at least not directly. I'm all for competition--even if it's not very friendly--that results in greater good being done. For example: Japan upping the ante on the US to the tune of $150 million more in aid. That's the kind of bidding war we need to see happening, and perhaps that's exactly what United Nations emergency relief coordinator Jan Egeland had in mind when he called out the developed nations on their "stingy" aid. There's even some biblical precedent to the idea: see Romans, for example, on the rivalry between Jews and Gentiles.

But this kind of oneupsmanship? Pfah. It accomplishes nothing. Better that everyone should put out a sign declaring how much they've raised for disaster relief, and let that be the measuring stick, instead of "words written on the subject" or "number of posts". Then at least they'd have something meaningful to boast about.

I think I'll let Paul have the last word on the subject. This is from Galatians 6:3-5:
...If those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor's work, will become a cause for pride. For all must carry their own loads.


Need We Say More?


Thursday, December 30, 2004

Tsunami and Theodicy

Listen, when over 100,000 people die in a single cataclysmic event, it's only natural to ask the question: where is God in all of this? And once you become more familiar with the details of the tsunami that swept the basin of the northern Indian Ocean, you start to ask more questions. Why would a good God allow somewhere between 30 and 50,000 children to perish--on Christmas Day? Why would that same God visit such death and destruction on some areas of the world least equipped to deal with it? If God did not allow this to happen, does that therefore mean that he (or she) was powerless to prevent it? What does it all mean?

These are all classic questions of theodicy, the defense or explanation of God's work in the face of tragedy or evil. It is a very difficult subject. No answer seems sufficient, especially when applied to something of this magnitude.

Before we get to my own attempt to answer these questions, let me supply you with a few that plainly do not work. For example, here's what Hal Lindsey, author of The Late, Great Planet Earth had to say:

Jesus indicates that all the natural disasters will begin to increase in frequency and intensity in concert with each other shortly before His return. And it is as these "birth pains" begin to take place that believers in Jesus are to know that their deliverance is near.

I believe we are at that time in history. As Jesus promised, He will come and deliver His own out of the worst that is to come. That is our hope. And God has never failed to keep His promises.

It sounds good at first: hey, we're just about to see the second coming! God will save his own! But if you stop to think about it, it's an awful message. First of all, it's monstrous to think that God would deal out such death and destruction as a signal of good yet to come. As the guy who found this quote commented: "if we're really lucky, we might just make it to the Rapture without being horribly killed by a sign that our deliverance is near."

Even worse, that answer cheapens the deaths of tens of thousands of people by making them a sign of our salvation. Are we to believe that God kills mostly brown-skinned, mostly non-Christian babies so that we can know that heaven is near? As my source says, wouldn't it just be easier to try the star over Bethlehem again?

Nor is it ours to predict when the end-times are upon us. In fact, that's an arrogant abuse of the passages upon which such predictions are built. The point is that we will not be able to mistake the end of the world when it comes, and that when it does come, we will know for certain that God is still in control. Despite what anyone might tell you, I don't think we're there yet, and to say that we are only takes the focus off where it ought to be: the suffering of the people affected by this terrible natural disaster.

Then there are the people who believe that these things are judgments visited upon us for our sins. Jerry Falwell and Pat Buchanan famously opined that 9/11 was repayment for the depravity of American culture, and some Hindu commentators are saying the same thing about the tsunami and India.

Utter nonsense. Utter insulting nonsense. If God repays sins by killing 50,000 children, then I want no part of him. I will deny with my last breath that the God I know and worship could be responsible for such bloodthirstiness.

Those two perspectives are easily disposed of, but some others are more difficult to do away with. Look, for example, at our reading from Jeremiah:

With weeping they shall come,
and with consolations I will lead them back.
I will let them walk by brooks of water,
in a straight path in which they shall not stumble...
Hear the word of the Lord, O nations,
and declare it in the coastlands far away;
say, "He who scattered Israel will gather him,
and will keep him as a shepherd [keeps] a flock."
Like some other passages of the Old Testament, this excerpt seems to come right up to the edge of saying that God gives us pain, suffering and death so that we might know God's comfort in the midst of them. Now, you and I might find that pretty offensive, but it is in fact a fairly biblical point of view. You find it in Isaiah, in Lamentations, and in Job, among other places. It's a perspective that Biblical writers at least struggled with, if they didn't actually endorse it.

Our lesson from Ephesians presents another, similar angle:

In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.
This doesn't say exactly that God causes bad things to happen so that we can praise him for saving us from those things. It's more like saying that the world is going to hell in a handbasket, but God knows how to pluck out a few special people before it gets there. And naturally, that's reflected in the praise that "we," the special people, ought to give to God.

Again, that sounds good at first. God knows how to take care of his own. Great. But then you start to push a little deeper: does God take care of his own by killing off a bunch of other people? It's no less disturbing than Hal Lindsey's idea that a cataclysm such as this is a signal that the end of the world is coming.

So let's be clear: an event like this does not mean that the end-times have arrived. Nor does it mean that we are somehow special people because we were spared, or that God spared us for the purpose of comforting us in our grief and horror. It means none of that.

Does it mean anything, then? Can we say anything about God in the face of such a tragedy?

I think we can: "the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth."

The good news of Jesus Christ is that in his birth, God came to stand with us as one of us. That is to say, God became as vulnerable as we are: the inexplicable logic of love that motivates the universe became a human being, saw what we saw, felt what we felt, experienced what we experienced. In becoming flesh, he forged with us a new and everlasting covenant: that he would be with us forever, and that we would never be abandoned by the God who loved us.

So where is God in all of this? With us. Through the grace of Jesus Christ, the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, God holds the arm of a limp baby and wails in grief with us; God searches frantically through the pictures of the missing with us; God buries the dead in mass graves with us; God sorts through the twisted wreckage with us; God sits stunned at the loss of friends, family, property and livelihood; God recoils in horror and stunned disbelief, bewildered by an event that the mind simply cannot comprehend. God does not sit up there disconnected and immune to our suffering; God is down here in the midst of it, saying: where are you?

Where are you? Amen.


Today is the day of "Nia" in the celebration of Kwanzaa. Nia means "purpose," and purpose, we are told, "encourages us to look within ourselves and to set personal goals that are beneficial to the community."

Amen and amen.



Today's RNR is a bit limited, partly of necessity (pastor's got a sermon to write, hospital visit, a wedding rehearsal tonight), and partly because there's not much going on at the moment.

Certainly, most of the news pales in comparison to the ongoing Tsunami story.

As many people have already noted, it's difficult to keep up with the ever-rising numbers. Speak from the Heart was reporting at dinnertime last night that the total number of dead could top 100,000. This morning's WaPo says it's already over 116,000. Unbelievable.

There's an entire blog dedicated to coordinating information and links to relief funds: If that's not enough information for you, you can also consult the NYT or the Network for Good. That last one isn't strictly a relief agency, but rather a clearinghouse for non-profit donations. You may want to bookmark it for future reference.

For pure ease, however, you really can't beat, which allows you to make a PayPal contribution directed to a list of charities. Go. Go now.

Bene diction provides a fascinating link to the "IRIS Seismic Monitor," which images earth movements in near-real time.

pastordan will be attempting the "why question" in his sermon this week. But other folks have their own ideas:

Jesus indicates that all the natural disasters will begin to increase in frequency and intensity in concert with each other shortly before His return. And it is as these "birth pains" begin to take place that believers in Jesus are to know that their deliverance is near.

I believe we are at that time in history. As Jesus promised, He will come and deliver His own out of the worst that is to come. That is our hope. And God has never failed to keep His promises.

To which Batholomew adds a dead-on comment: "Yes - if we're really lucky, we might just make it to the Rapture without being horribly killed by a sign that our deliverance is near."

See here for another idiotic example. Ass.


Bad Men Watch

Bartholomew also has an interesting post on Christian Reconstructionism and business principles. Did you know that the Trinity provides a solid business model? We didn't.

Pam's House Blend has two items of interest: Cal Thomas thinks der Gropinator might be a DNC mole in the Republican party, and the President of the Church of Latter-Day Saints believes gays and lesbians "have a problem." Don't miss the gut-wrenching stories on "reparative therapy" and its consequences.

The LATimes reports on a school dispute in Cupertino involving a Christian teacher suing the school district for its alleged discrimination against him for his religious beliefs. More accurately, the story is on what's happened around the school since the story was picked up by national media. RNR's Lancaster Sunday News buddy, the proudly reality-based columnist Gil Smart, writes here about a similar situation in our corner of Pennsyltucky.

Last but not least, an evangelical pro-life group is organizing a prayer service for Pres. Bush's inauguration. Anybody know if the Clergy Leadership Network is organizing something similar?


This 'n' That

A worrisome trend: the Detroit Free-Press reports that teens seem to be less into the whole Sex & Drugs & Rock 'n' Roll thing of late, and Canadian Television says they're going to church more often. Between this and a rise in seminary enrollments, we're in danger of producing a nation of goody-two-shoes. Thank goodness there's still folks like this to keep us scared. Imagine! Abstinence programs should reach out to kids who aren't likely to get married! What will those crazy liberals think of next?

Perhaps this: gay penguins. Damn that science, anyway! The research comes from Japan, which is suspiciously close to France in our books.

Here's two sinful penguins, looking ashamed after their "wedding" ceremony:

Probably from Massachusetts.

The NYT Sunday Magazine has an article on a new translation of the Pentateuch that's worthwhile just for this quote from the opening lines of Genesis:

"When God began to create heaven and earth, and the earth then was welter and waste and darkness over the deep and God's breath hovering over the waters, God said, 'Let there be light.' "



Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Theocracy and Democracy

Fredrick Clarkson has a great diary up on Kos. I'll have to leave it to him to identify the extent of the problem, but read this for a taste of the discussion:
You can't listen to Christian Right leaders, and more than a few GOP elected officials these days without hearing the phrase "America was founded as a Christian Nation." What about separation of church and state, you may ask? What about the establishment clause of the First Amendment? Well, the Christian Right has its own version of history, its own historians and its own colleges, universities and even law schools. So what about `em? There is a war on for control of America, its institutions and its history. This diary is about one element of the struggle.

A crucial part of the war for the future of America is the battle to define the past. It is in this past that we find key interpretations of the Constitution. It is also in this past that modern politicians, judges, and conservative evangelical religious leaders justify their contemporary actions and public policy views. The mythology of America as the once and future Christian Nation, is a powerfully animating factor for the Christian Right. The myth of Christian America is highly debatable. Well, let the debates begin.

Well worth the reading. (Full disclosure: he namechecks us down at the bottom of the diary. We're blushing...)


Check this out

From the Polling Report site:

And what do you see all the way down there at the bottom?

The serious explanation for this, I suppose, is that the US economy still hasn't bounced back from the Bush recession. That leads to some major worry, topped only by a couple of security issues.

It also suggests that a sizeable portion of the population feels the effects of our FUBAR health care system.

The administration's response so far? Why, "help the sick."


Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Today is Tuesday, December 28, 2004.  If you're interested in attending the "50th National Association of Temple Educators Conference" in New York, you'd better hurry:  it wraps up tomorrow.

Scroll down for today's news roundup; if you click on the titles, you can see them cross-posted on Daily Kos.


Tsunami Relief

Any number of agencies are reaching out to the countries suffering from last week's massive tsunami.  Here's a partial list, gleaned from a few different sites, including a diary by Renee in Ohio:

Plus many others, we're sure.

There's no easy answers to the questions of theodicy here--"where is God when something like this happens?" or "why would a good God allow something like this to happen?".  But we think Rabbi Harold Kushner has a decent start here.


Religion & Homosexuality

Something's up with the Anglicans in Brazil. Developing.

The Hate Amendment seems to be DOA for the moment, despite the best efforts of some Moral Majority types to cash in their political chits after W.'s win this fall. There are still flashpoints however, with the California Domestic Partners Act set to go into effect January 1st, and the Catholic Church in Spain contesting plans to legalize same-sex marriage in that country.

Beth Stroud is appealing her defrocking. It's brilliant strategy for two reasons: first, her grounds for appeal will (with any luck) force the United Methodist Church to put its practices up against its stated ideals. Second, the movie focussing on Stroud's congregation premieres tomorrow night. Timing the release of her decision gaurantees good coverage.


Looniest of the Loonies

That's the money quote in this LATimes article on the Concerned Women for America and their uncompromising ways. We didn't realize CWA's founder Beverly LaHaye was married to Tim LaHaye, co-author of the "Left Behind" series. And we wonder why some of our friends get into conspiracy theories...

Via the Revealer (via Religion & Society) comes this piece titled "I Am A Conservative Christian, And The Religious Right Scares Me, Too." That's the gist of the piece, and the author backs up his words.


Speaking Out

From the Gutless Pacifist a set of 95 Theses from a surprising source: a collection of Vineyard Fellowship house church pastors.

Why so suprising? Consider one of those theses:

Thus, the United States of America is not the Kingdom of God, nor did it ever have any special place -- as a nation -- in that Kingdom."

Another surprising source: the Nation looks at the confluence of opinion between the CIA, the Pentagon and United Nations on the destabilizing effects of global poverty. How often is that the right thing to do is also the practical thing? And how often is it that you get someone in the Bush administration to do it anyway?

Well, never, but at least the first half of the equation worked out in this case.

A less suprising declaration on "Confessing Christ in a World of Violence from Sojourners. It may not surprise you, but it's good nonetheless. (Thanks to talkingdonkeys for the link, and for including faithforward on their blogroll.)


The Persecution Industry

Crosswalk really needs to give it a rest. We're pretty sure that Jesus never meant Christians to build up the faith by running down holidays designed to teach children about their heritage.


Church & State

News about an Amishman, a Wiccan, and an Atheist, which sounds like the start to a bad joke: Ohio is considering a bill that would exempt the Amish from jury duty on the basis of their religious beliefs. (The Amish traditionally do not swear oaths, based on their reading of Matthew 5:33-37. They also shun participation in government to the extent they can.)

The Wiccan is suing a Community College for allegedly refusing to hire her based on her religion.

The Atheist has convinced the City of Chicago to change a recycling effort connected to chipping up old Christmas trees. It's a minor win for a pluralistic society, but nice to see anyway.


This 'n' That

Jesus' General has an Inauguration Day Schedule posted. Our favorite part of the day? "Sen. Bill Frist explains Social Security reform by dissecting a cat."

Bartholomew, in discussing something totally different, comes up with a choice quote from P.G. Wodehouse:

As British satirist, P.G. Wodehouse said [as quoted by Frank Schaeffer], "Whenever Christians, and evangelicals in particular, have attempted to `reach the world' through the media - TV, film, publishing and so on - the thinking public gets the firm idea that, like soup in a bad restaurant, Christians' brains are better left unstirred."

We had to laugh, being big supporters of the UCC's "God Is Still Speaking" ads and all.

Some "inhouse" tidbits: the AP talks to pastors about getting worked up before Christmas Eve services. We've been there, and we can tell you it is like just before a big game. Easter's pretty bad, too, though we're usually too exhausted to be jittery by then.

The Christian Post is reporting that seminary enrollments are up around the country, and not just in fundagelical seminaries, neither. Everybody's baffled. Oh well. More pastors, what the hell.

Last link, on a subject that has nothing to do with religion. We think. We hope. Anyway, the LATimes has this piece on the politics of "Whiskers Clubs."

You heard us.

Whiskers clubs.


Monday, December 27, 2004

The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy--on your radio!

From Fredrick Clarkson:
Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I taped an interview this past week, with the weekly radio show, Writer's Voice.

My interview will air on on Tuesday, December 28, WMUA 91.1 FM, 5:30 to 6:30 PM. WMUA is the radio station sponsored by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. (Past guests have included such authors as Patricia Lee Lewis, Martin Espada, Jim Hightower and Robert Reich.)

If you don't live in the WMUA broadcast area, it is possible to hear the show on streaming audio: You should probably test it before the programming in case you encounter technical difficulties. WMUA programming is broadcast via

You can find out more about the show here:

Our interview will be edited, so I am not sure what elements will finally be in there. Our discussion of my book Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy, included some of the challenges of writing about the Christian Right.

We also talked about the contemporary Christian Right, a bit about the history of theocracy in the original 13 colonies, and how the Constitution was intended to overturn the colonial theocracies; how I struggled with the Christian Right's assertion that America was founded as a Christian Nation; how I needed to find a comprehensive answer to that assertion, and why it was important to me that I did. We also talk a bit about the strengths and weaknesses of the Christian Right, what can be done to counter it, the politiccs of abortion, and the meanings of such things as religious bigotry, religious equality, citizenship, community, politics and government.

Its a lot of ground to cover, but I think it all hangs together coherently.

If you miss the show, and want to hear it, the show will be archived here:

Wishing you a Happy and Peaceful New Year,


Listen in, live or via the web. Fred's a good guy, and insightful too.