Saturday, March 12, 2005

He is trusted in all My house; you, on the other hand, are not

Tart-tongued harpy, in her blog, The Disenchanted Forest, uses the Supreme Court battle over the placement of the 10 Commandments in public buildings to make a comparison between Moses and our current leaders.

In Keeping Accounts, Gilah Langner addresses the lack of trust in leadership by the average person and how a leader (in this case, Moses) can and should address the
concerns of his people. The applicability to modern society is obvious as never
in this country's history has there been a greater need for our leadership to be
open, honest and earn the trust of our citizens.

The current President of this country, George W. Bush, sets aside his relationship with G-d in a way significantly different than previous Presidents. While Bush, many Republican politicians (Santorum, Frist, et. al.) and the leadership of "religious right"
set themselves up a prophets of G-d, many of us (religious and not) see G-d being used as a tool by these leaders.

It's interesting that Supreme Court arguments over the Ten Commandments took place in the midst of the part of the Torah cycle we're reading Exodus. As Langner points out, the 10 commandments takes up mere verses where construction of the tabernacle takes up chapters. In today's society, we have leadership that chooses to focus on maintaining a public showing of religion with an argument that government that doesn't openly support religion is one that is hostile to it (there is no room for neutrality in their world) while ignoring the larger obligation to actually serve their constituents. Moses chose a very different approach. Aware of the scrutiny and concern (legitimate for leadership in general, if not for him in particular), he made a full and public accounting.

The entire post on her blog is well-worth reading


Friday, March 11, 2005

Kos on the American Taliban

Markos of DailyKos writes about an interesting comparison:

Once upon a time, it was easy for the American Right to smear its opponents on the left -- they could simply equate them with the nation's communist enemies. It didn't matter that the American "left" (Democrats) had more in common with the Right than international communism, the smear was useful.

Now, however, our international enemy -- Islamic radicalism -- is actually the polar opposite of what liberals stand for -- their actions on women rights are deplorable, they insist on theocracy, they loooveee torture and the death penalty, they demand to control the culture (TV, movies, music), they rail against rampant sexuality, they seek to spread their ideology via force, and they have a well-defined black-and-white sense of truth.

Remind you of a certain American party?

That's why hysterical assertions by the wingers that liberals hate America and want the terrorists to win are so absurd. As absurd as it would've been to claim that Reagan wanted the Communists to win the Cold War. The Taliban/Al Qaida/Hezbollah/Jihadists of the world are the exact embodiment of evil in the liberal mind. They are everything we are against, and against everything we are for.
In fact, they are exactly what we see in the Republican Party as the GOP continues to consolidate power -- creeping theocracy, moralizing, us versus them, embrace of torture, the need to constantly declare jihad on someone, hysterics over football-game nipples, control over "decency" on the airwaves, lyrics censorship, hostility to women freedoms, curtaling of civil liberties, and so on.

So it's pretty obvious -- we don't love terrorists. We don't want them to win. For them to win would be to realize our greatest fears. The muslim terrorist is truly the anti-liberal. Like matter and anti-matter.
Republicans, on the other hand, hate the terrorists because they're Muslim. But aside from that, they've got far more in common than they'll ever admit to themselves.

And it's high time we started to make that connection more forcefully.


Peace Churches Concerned About 'Back Door' Draft Among Poor, Minorities

-- "A coalition of historic 'peace churches' says they were told that the Pentagon does not plan to reinstate a military draft, but they remain concerned about a 'back door draft' that targets the poor and minorities.

Leaders of a dozen Mennonite, Quaker and Brethren churches that shun military service held a two-day meeting (March 4-5) outside Chicago to plan for 'alternative service' programs for conscientious objectors should a draft be reinstated. "


The Law of Unintended Consequences

Christianity Today reports that missionaries abroad are "pinched" as the US dollar declines against foreign currency:
Missionaries in Europe, parts of Africa, and the Middle East are spending their dollars faster than ever. As the dollar declines relative to foreign currencies, many overseas missionaries are finding their buck doesn't go so far as it used to. Many have had to cut back on spending or even return to the U.S. to fundraise. Mission agencies are also finding they need to spend more money to maintain their overseas operations.

"The decline in the dollar is affecting our international development programs, in some cases quite dramatically," says David van Vuuren, vice president of international operations at World Relief.

Missionaries are "finding out that to have [what used to be] $60,000 buying power is costing them $80,000," LeRoy says. Missionaries have to make difficult choices when they find they don't have enough money to stay in a country. "We try to get them to be in contact with their donor churches to see if they can increase the amount of money that they're giving. In some cases, if it cannot be done by telephone or email or letter writing, they have to return home." Sometimes, one member of the family will return to raise money, while the rest stay in the field.

Though the most significant decline affects Europe, the dollar has fallen against other currencies as well, says World Relief's van Vuuren. "In Mozambique—a country that has its economy linked almost directly to the South African rand currency—operations funded by our US dollars are caught in a pincer of the declining buying power internationally of the U.S. dollar and the appreciating South African rand."

The dollar is declining for many reasons, but prominent among them is the Bush administration's deficit spending. As currency traders lose confidence in our government's ability to pay back the loans it receives through Treasury bills, they move their investments into other currencies. It'll be interesting to see if conservative evangelicals connect the dots on this one.

On another note, it's interesting to see that evangelical denominations have the same missionary issues as the former mainline churches. The dollar falls on the just and the unjust, we guess.


Thursday, March 10, 2005

Something to think about

"It's like saying Ann Coulter lives in New York City, thus [New York City] produces right-wing lunatics."

The rest of the debate (with Peter Beinart) is a write-off. Why does anyone bother taking this blonde whackjob seriously?


Obscure radio story

From an insider radio journal:
A group of organizations have asked the FCC for a complete freeze of all low power FM applications because they "have discovered evidence of a massive trafficking scheme" involving translator licenses to religious oraganizations. Included in the group asking for the freeze on granting licenses are the Prometheus Radio Project of Philadelphia, United Church Of Christ, National Federation Of Community Broadcasters, Future Of Music Coalition, Free Press, and National Lawyers Guild, among others.

In the filing, the groups accuse three individuals -- Clarke Parrish, Earl Williamson and Dana Atkin -- of using "two dummy corporations" to apply for over 4,000 translator licenses and then using loopholes to sell the licenses to religious broadcasters who, in turn, pipe in satellite programming, which is an obvious contradiction to the spirit of localism behind the granting of LPFM licenses.

The UCC is behind this because of a long-standing commitment to public ownership of the airwaves. More recently, in 1999 and 2000, it encouraged community groups to develop low-power radio as a form of alternative broadcasting, only to see the FCC kill the pilot program with a thousand pinpricks after corporate giants weighed in with their fears of competition. Not surprisingly, they feel a bit burned, especially in light of these developments.

This is a development worth watching.


Another starting point...

for the conversation on homosexuality and Christian faith:
The Reading is from Matthew 20:1-16

The Lord said this parable, "The kingdom of
heaven is like a householder who went out
early in the morning to hire laborers for his
vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers
for a denarius a day, he sent them into his
vineyard. And going out about the third hour
he saw others standing idle in the
marketplace; and to them he said, 'You go
into the vineyard too, and whatever is right
I will give you.' So they went. Going out
again about the sixth hour and the ninth
hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh
hour he went out and found others standing;
and he said to them, 'Why do you stand here
idle all day?' They said to him, 'Because no
one has hired us.' He said to them, 'You go
into the vineyard too.' And when evening
came, the owner of the vineyard said to his
steward, 'Call the laborers and pay them
their wages, beginning with the last, up to
the first.' And when those hired about the
eleventh hour came, each of them received a
denarius. Now when the first came, they
thought they would receive more; but each of
them also received a denarius. And on
receiving it they grumbled at the
householder, saying, 'These last worked only
one hour, and you have made them equal to us
who have borne the burden of the day and the
scorching heat.' But he replied to one of
them, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did
you not agree with me for a denarius? Take
what belongs to you, and go; I choose to give
to this last as I give to you. Am I not
allowed to do what I choose with what belongs
to me? Or is your eye evil because I am good?
' So the last will be first, and the first
last. For many are called, but few are

This is a story about God's sovereign grace, given out to whom God pleases for reasons that seem at best unfathomable and at worse perverse. Who are we to throw an evil eye because God is good?



Former Sen. Miller tells Liberty students to hold on to religion

The Democrat who fired up Republicans as the keynote speaker during their national convention told Liberty University students Wednesday it was his change in religion, not politics, that had impacted his life the most.


But in a nearly half-hour speech at Liberty he told students it was his change from a "Sunday-morning Christian" to what he called a more spiritual life that had really changed his life.

In February 2003 Miller's son, Matt, lost sight in both eyes due to complications from diabetes. At the same time, Matt's wife became so ill she spent 77 days in intensive care.

"Our whole world came crashing in," said Miller, 73, who told students he then turned to his long-neglected faith to help him cope. "This experience with my family drove me to my knees."

A series of operations helped restore some of Matt's vision.

"Matt was blind and now he can see, and Zell was blind and now he can see much more clearly that ever before," Miller said. "The Sunday-morning Christian is no more."


The Rev. Jerry Falwell sat behind Miller during his address. It was one of the few times Liberty's chancellor has been out of the house since being released from the hospital last week after suffering pneumonia.

"The world is glad to have him back," Miller said of Falwell's recovery.

Well, it's an explanation, anyway.


They get, as well

Church Will Pay Fine Rather Than Obey Law


Living Wage

Think Progress has this in an e-mail:
Over 80% of Americans support a raise in the minimum wage, and only 6% oppose it. Its purchasing power has fallen every year since 1997, and it is worth less today than it has been worth in all but two of the last 48 years.

And yet, yesterday the Senate rejected two proposals to raise the minimum wage (which is a ghastly $5.15 an hour and has not been raised since 1996). By this point an increase is so overdue it hardly seems worth fighting over raising wages a dollar - which is why some people have turned to working for a living wage.

And Deuteronomy tells us: "You shall not withhold the wages of poor and needy labourers, whether other Israelites or aliens who reside in your land in one of your towns. You shall pay them their wages daily before sunset, because they are poor and their livelihood depends on them; otherwise they might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt."


Wednesday, March 09, 2005

They've noticed

The UCC Blogads are starting to get noticed.

Early reviews aren't so hot.


Christ didn't exactly get raves on opening night, either.


More headlines we couldn't resist

UCC's Fine Sweets and Some Dessert Discoveries, from the Manila Bulletin.

No cookies listed, sadly.


Two things

Two unusual things. It's not often that I think something from Albert Mohler deserves a serious, intellectual response. And this will more than likely be the only time I ever say that Mohler is more insightful than Martin Peretz, the publisher of The New Republic.

Oh, where to begin? Well, Peretz published this rant on what he perceives as the intellectual tiredness of liberalism. Among other things, he castigates liberals for having no vision, particularly not one supported by intellectual heavyweights like Reinhold Niebuhr. Where are the books? Peretz wants to know:
It is liberalism that is now bookless and dying. The most penetrating thinker of the old liberalism, the Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, is virtually unknown in the circles within which he once spoke and listened, perhaps because he held a gloomy view of human nature. However gripping his illuminations, however much they may have been validated by history, liberals have no patience for such pessimism. So who has replaced Niebuhr, the once-commanding tribune to both town and gown? It's as if no one even tries to fill the vacuum. Here and there, of course, a university personage appears to assert a small didactic point and proves it with a vast and intricate academic apparatus. In any case, it is the apparatus that is designed to persuade, not the idea.

Mohler picks up on this critique (pardon the repetitions here):
The liberalism of the Roosevelts bears little resemblance to the ideological radicalism of today's political left. Peretz's hero is the Protestant
theologian Reinhold R. Niebuhr, whose frank recognition of the structural realities of human sinfulness shaped liberalism's view of both human nature and the political prospect. Now, Peretz laments that Niebuhr "is virtually unknown in the circles within which he once spoke and listened." Peretz wonders if Niebuhr's understanding of sin is the essential problem. "However gripping his illuminations, however much they may have been validated by history, liberals have no patience for such pessimism," Peretz explains.

As he sees it, this dismissal of Niebuhr and the classical liberal legacy would be bad enough. Nevertheless, no one has come along to fill the vacuum left by Niebuhr's absence. "Ask yourself: Who is a truly influential liberal mind in our culture? Whose ideas challenge and whose ideals inspire? Whose books and articles are read and passed around? There's no one, really. What's left is the laundry list: the catalog of programs (some dubious, some not) that Republicans aren't funding, and the blogs, with their daily panic dose about how the Bush administration is ruining the country."


Peretz ends his article by eulogizing liberalism as a movement that once offered ideas of transformational power that now is "peddling one disaster scenario after another." In the end, Peretz offers hope that liberalism can be "liberated from many of its own illusions and delusions." Time will tell.


Furthermore, the worldview of classical liberalism--precisely that worldview understood and defended by intellectuals like Reinhold Niebuhr--understood the necessity of respect for social institutions like marriage and family. The hostility of the political left to such "bourgeois" notions owes more to the radical left of European and American intellectual life than to the reasoned political discourse of the classical liberals.


If conservatives rebounded into intellectual vitality and political influence in the Reagan revolution, perhaps a new liberal standard bearer will appear on the horizon. That would be an interesting prospect, but conservatives should welcome a genuine debate with classical liberals over issues ranging across the political divide and the spectrum of ideological conflict. One of the greatest signs of sickness in our current political culture is that conservatives have virtually no one with whom to engage in a lively and substantial political conversation. The left has simply splintered into so many forms of ideological radicalism, that political discourse has become all but impossible.

There's a lot going on here, and neither Peretz's nor Mohler's positions should be dismissed out of hand. The Mahablog has a good overall response to Peretz, so I'll limit myself to the Niebuhr argument.

Both Peretz and Mohler get it wrong when they say that Niebuhr had a "gloomy view of human nature." Niebuhr appreciated human potential, but he also appreciated the human capacity to screw things up. We just said it in last Sunday's "Word for the Week": Niebuhr thought that our nature was neither good nor bad, but conflicted. The conflict at our core derived from twin pulls: the need to do right for the individual and the need to do right for what is greater than the individual. Furthermore, Niebuhr framed this not in terms of personal morality, but social ethics, which is to say in how power was used in society. The "illusions and delusions" that Peretz mentions are endemic to anyone who would exercise power; no person or group of people is capable of surmounting the overestimation of our abilities. Hence the need for grace.

It is a shame that Niebuhr's work isn't as influential as it might be these days. However, that has more to do with an intellectual underappreciation of religious thought on both the left and the right than with his view of human nature.

More important, it has to do with the overall state of political discourse today. As the Mahablog points out above, there hasn't been any truly new political thought in going on thirty years--again from the right or the left. What there has been is an awful lot of naked power plays, particularly in the current administration. As much as a Harvard professor like Peretz would wish it were otherwise, the liberal answer to the situation is not a new and better vision of what our society could be. It's to fight like hell to make sure that someone other than the far right wing has a say in determining the future course of that society. If Peretz bothered to read the blogs more carefully, he'd come to understand what Niebuhr understood: that great ideas don't always arise from careful consideration in a professor's study. More often than not, they begin in the hasty, imperfect dialectic of immediate action. You do something, you talk about why you did it that way, and you try to refine your tactics for the next time around. Eventually somebody refines it and writes it down. That's political philosophy.

As for a professional quasi-fascist like Mohler: Niebuhr's faith was not in institutions or received forms of authority. It was in God, in God's grace, in walking humbly, and having a good laugh at human imperfection. He would have been the first to look at Mohler's cant about "political conversation" and dismiss it for what it was: another arrogant and self-deluded attempt to inscribe political power as an ultimate good.



Somebody's crazy. I ain't saying who:
"Did al-Qaida plot 'cultural destabilization'?
Actor Russell Crowe says Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terror network wanted to kidnap him as part of a 'cultural destabilization plot,' according to an Australian magazine. In the March edition of Australia's GQ magazine, Crowe says FBI agents told him of the threat in 2001, in the months before he won a best actor Oscar for his role as Maximus in 'Gladiator.' 'That was the first (time) I'd ever heard the phrase 'al-Qaida,'' Crowe said. 'It was about - and here's another little touch of irony - taking iconographic Americans out of the picture as sort of a cultural destabilization plot.' "


Disney pursues Christian market

Disney's gearing up to promote The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe through Christian groups:

Disney executives have organised private meetings with several church groups in the US to emphasise the themes of Christian redemption and sacrifice contained in the film, which will open in December with an all-star cast.

They have also hired a public relations company to market the film directly to Christian groups to ensure that the powerful evangelical movement is happy with the content.


[H]arnessing the support of Christian groups is regarded by Hollywood as an important means of securing box-office success.

The Passion of the Christ has taken more than $US600 million at the box office since its release last year, principally because of the large number of Christians who went to see the film. Similarly, the animated adventure The Polar Express, which received poor reviews, became a hit after producers emphasised its Christian credentials.

In an effort to ensure the Narnia film reaches a similar audience, Disney has hired Motive Marketing, a public relations company that specialises in reaching out to faith groups and was widely credited with the success of The Passion of the Christ.

If we're not mistaken, this is a co-production with reclusive billionaire and "family values" activist Philip Anschutz's Walden Media.

On the other hand, the Narnia books were some of our favorites growing up, so we'll suspend judgment until we actually see the flick.



We've added a number of new links to our blogroll:
  • Cephasworld is run by a religious broadcasting executive in Atlanta. No, not that kind of broadcasting.

  • Dr. Laniac has a search engine of progressive blogs, growing out of the "Stop Gonzalez" movement earlier this year.

  • About Politics looks at doings in Pennsylvania and around the world.

  • That's Another Fine Mess is a mix of political and cultural commentary, including pastordan's take on the Bible. Don't miss the pic of George W. as Stan Laurel!

  • Worldwide Webers is the house blog of a large and progressive family. It's everything from plans for the family reunion to political commentary.

It's all good stuff. Go.

Oh, and for the fastidious among you: faithforward gets a cut of the profits of each of these sites. Hah!


GISS Ad Update

It should be pretty obvious that we've added the God Is Still Speaking blogad over on the left-hand column of this page. We're happy to do so, since pastordan is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ.

If you'd like to put the ad up on your site, head on over to for the code. Make sure if you do to send an e-mail back to the folks at the Accesible Airwaves project to let them know you've done so.

And you don't even have to be UCC. After all, who doesn't appreciate God's extravagant welcome?


Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The New Apostasy

Funny, someone was just asking me about this:
More and more people are trading religious affiliation for secularism, but it's not necessarily because they're losing their faith, a sociology professor told an audience Monday at the University of Wisconsin- Parkside.


Apostasy is a decline in traditional beliefs; disaffiliation is a turning away from organized religion. According to the surveys, Thompson said, the fastest growing religion in America is "none."

The people who have turned against organized religion are more likely to be geographically mobile, Roman Catholics, mainline Protestants, Democrats, male, white, fairly liberal, well-educated and urban dwellers, Thomas said.

The phenomenon also is occurring among some middle-class blacks, particularly black Methodists. Their demographics mirror those of their white counterparts.

Rather, it's because traditional, organized religion is not meeting their needs, Wayne Thompson said.

'Quite a few people are dropping out of traditional religion and considering other secular views,' said Thompson, who teaches sociology at Carthage College. 'Religion has competition. There are a variety of experiences that influence them.'"


UCC Blog Ads

If you look over at the left side of the main page on Daily Kos, you'll see a web ad for my own denomination, the United Church of Christ, for their "God Is Still Speaking" campaign. The infamous "bouncer" ad rejected by NBC and CBS in December was part of this campaign, and the denomination is working to launch round two.

They explain a bit of the strategy in this press release from the national offices:

Hailing weblogs as the "next great revolution in journalism," the United Church of Christ today (March 8) released its network-rejected "bouncer ad" on nearly 50 of the most widely-read blogs.

The UCC's blogads will run for two weeks on a mix of liberal, moderate and conservative sites, including many of the most prominent political, cultural and religious blogs - such as Eschaton, Power Line , Talking Points Memo, Andrew Sullivan, DailyKos and This Modern World, among dozens of others.


Church leaders made the decision to purchase blog ad space after the major broadcast networks rejected a second request in March to allow the ad to run, Chase said. A similar rejection occurred in December 2004 when the ad campaign was launched.


The web-based advertisements are part of an overall $1 million advertising strategy by the church in March, during the remaining weeks of Lent - just before Easter. In addition to blogads, the church is utilizing cable television, radio and print publications.

"Knowing little of blogs six months ago, we increasingly recognize that these folks are informational trend setters," Chase said. "If this ad campaign goes as planned, we'll consider shifting even more to blogs and away from traditional media the next go around."

The blog's emergence, Chase said, can be equated to the invention of the printing press, the development of radio and television, or the availability of 24-hour cable news stations.

"It's a great investment of our advertising dollars," he said.

In December 2004, the earliest reports of the networks' reject of the ad were written by bloggers, Chase pointed out.

"Because of the attention that bloggers gave to the UCC's story, the networks no longer could hide their censorship of an intentionally-welcoming, progressive religious message," Chase said. "It's something we're seeing happen more and more - the most credible, engaging news reports are coming from bloggers."

In January, when the UCC issued an invitation of "unequivocal welcome" to SpongeBob SquarePants, the popular cartoon character criticized by James Dobson's Focus on the Family and other conservative groups for promoting tolerance, the UCC was again the subject of blog fodder.

At the time, Paul Waldman on the blog wrote, "The United Church of Christ is fast emerging as the coolest denomination around - not only are they delivering a message of love and welcoming, but they actually have a sense of humor, something that, with all due respect, is not usually in evidence among those of strong faith."

The UCC's five-year advertising campaign, said Chase, attempts to drive home, in dramatic fashion, the feelings of alienation experienced by many non-churchgoers who say they have felt excluded or unwelcomed by institutional churches for a variety of reasons.

Above and beyond the obvious point--that blogs continue to grow in size and importance--there are several things worth noting.

  1. This is part and parcel of the UCC's attempt to counteract the exclusionary tone of much of modern Christianity. We are quickly becoming something of a "netroots" church.

  2. Kos, I hope you're giving them a good rate.

  3. I'll brag a bit--I made this suggestion to the national offices back in December. I'm not claiming credit, though. It's really an obvious call, particularly for the UCC, whose leadership has some very talented PR and advertising people on staff.

  4. I'm also a bit miffed, because they rolled out this ad without offering it to the smaller UCC blogs (yes, we're out there, and yes, they know we are). I've put in a request to run the ad over at faithforward. We'll see what comes of it.


Lieberman: Gonzales "not..out of the mainstream"

from grannyhelen

Just got this constituent email from Joe Lieberman, and thought I'd share with the group. It provides his justification for the vote to confirm Alberto Gonzales.

My emphasis added, of course:

Thank you for contacting me regarding President Bush's nomination of Alberto Gonzales to the position of U.S. Attorney General.

As you know, President Bush nominated his White House Counsel, Judge Alberto Gonzales, to the post. On February 3, 2004, the Senate voted to confirm Judge Gonzales. For more detailed information on that vote, please consult my web site at and click on the "THOMAS" icon at the bottom of the home page. THOMAS is a public site provided by the Library of Congress for the purpose of, among other things, conducting research on pending legislative issues and tracking presidential nominations.

Prior to his appointment as presidential counsel, Judge Gonzales served on the Texas Supreme Court from 1999-2001. He was Texas Secretary of State from December 1997 to December 1999 and was then Governor Bush's General Counsel. He taught at the University of Houston Law Center and practiced law privately before serving on Governor Bush's staff.

I understand your concerns about Judge Gonzales' nomination, particularly about his involvement in formulating the legal positions underlying the Administration's policies in the war on terror. After considering views like the ones you expressed, reviewing the record of Judge Gonzales' confirmation proceedings, meeting with Judge Gonzales, and thinking long and hard about the nomination, I decided to vote to confirm him, largely because I believe that, although Senators have a constitutional obligation to advise and consent on nominees and should not serve as a rubber stamp on the President's choices, they nonetheless should apply a broadly deferential standard when reviewing the President's choices for his Cabinet. When I applied that standard to Judge Gonzales, I concluded that, regardless of whether I would have chosen him for the position myself, he did not fall so far out of the mainstream or have other factors in his record to justify denying the President his choice for the post. I gave a more lengthy discussion of my thoughts on this nomination during comments I delivered on the Senate floor. To read the full text of my statement, please click on the following link,

My Senate web site is designed to be an on-line office that provides access to constituent services, Connecticut-specific information, and an abundance of information about what I am working on in the Senate on behalf of Connecticut and the nation. I am pleased to let you know that I have launched an email news update service through my web site. You can sign up for that service by visiting and clicking on the "Subscribe Email News Updates" button at the bottom of the home page. I hope these are informative and useful.

Thank you again for letting me know your views and concerns.  Please contact me if you have any additional questions or comments about our work in Congress.


Joseph I. Lieberman

Is it just me, or does Lieberman have a very unusual understanding of what is "mainstream" in a United States Attorney General? I would have thought that revising not just our policies on torture, but the very definition of the word itself would constitute being just a tad "out of the mainstream".

This mentality is just one more reason why, as a resident of the true, blue state of Connecticut, I would LOVE to see a Democratic alternative to Senator Lieberman in 2006.

Just to compare and contrast, here's what the Senior Senator from Connecticut, Chris Dodd, had to say about the Gonzales vote (Senator Dodd voted against confirming Gonzales):

Thank you for contacting me regarding White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales's nomination to succeed John Ashcroft as Attorney General. I appreciate the benefit of your views.

I opposed Mr. Gonzales' nomination. I have long held the view that a President of either party is to be accorded a measure of deference in nominating members of the executive branch, who serve temporary rather than lifetime tenures. Consequently, the question I must ask is not whether I would select a nominee, but whether he or she is competent to perform the duties of the office to which he or she is nominated. During the quarter of a century I have served in this body, I have supported almost all Cabinet appointees of both Democratic and Republican Presidents. However, I have, on rare occasions opposed a Cabinet nominee.

There is no question that Mr. Gonzales has demonstrated considerable intellectual ability and a commitment to public service. However, in my view, he has not demonstrated to the Senate that he will discharge the duties of the office of the Attorney General, specifically that he will enforce the Constitution and laws of the United States and uphold the values upon which those laws are based.

We live in a nation founded on the principle of human freedom and dignity, a nation dedicated to the proposition that all are equal and no one is above the law. Contrary to these principles, Mr. Gonzales has, unfortunately, endorsed the position that torture may be permissible and he has suggested that the President, acting as Commander in Chief, has the right to act in violation of the laws and treaties prohibiting torture and may authorize subordinates to do the same. Our Constitution, the Geneva Convention, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Convention against Torture, and the Army Field Manual all clearly prohibit the use of torture. Unfortunately, Mr. Gonzales has stood against the overwhelming and unequivocal weight of precedent and principle and has instead stood on the side of policies that are in direct conflict with the laws, treaties, and military practices that have long guided our Nation and its citizenry. In January 2002, Mr. Gonzales wrote a memorandum to the President regarding the applicability of the Geneva Conventions to the conflict in Afghanistan arguing that the war on terror presents a "new paradigm [that] renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners", a position that was strenuously opposed by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell. Then, in an August 2002 memorandum regarding standards of conduct of interrogations, Mr. Gonzales argues that criminal prohibition against torture "does not apply to the President's detention and interrogation of enemy combatants pursuant to its Commander in Chief authority. Under this reasoning, executive officials can escape prosecution for torture if "they were carrying out the President's Commander in Chief powers". Finally, at his confirmation hearing, Mr. Gonzales, when asked if he agreed with Attorney General Ashcroft's statement that he does not believe in torture because it doesn't produce anything of value, the nominee replied "I don't have a way of reaching a conclusion on that."

I find it troubling that Mr. Gonzales cannot reach a conclusion on the illegality or immorality of torture. His statement raises troubling questions about other cherished moral and legal principles that he might open to similar legal evisceration and repeal. I could not in good conscience give my vote to Mr. Gonzales to be Attorney General, the chief law enforcer of our country, when I know how important the rule of law is to this country, its history, and our reputation.

Thank you again for contacting me. If you would like to stay in touch with me on this and other issues of importance, please visit my web site at and subscribe to my online newsletter, the Dodd Digest. Please do not hesitate to contact me again if I can help you in any way.


United States Senator


FBIs Update

Two articles across the wires on faith-based initiatives. The first is from the Las Vegas Business Press, which we're assuming is not exactly a radical journal:
many faith-based groups already receive federal funding for their social programs. We know it's not impossible to develop a set of rules that will allow the faithful to carry out their social mission without contravening the First Amendment. The obvious compromise would be to allow a waiver for a few charities as a pilot program to see how this would work in practice.

Veterans of the program are now suggesting, though, that both sides prefer to pander to their core constituencies rather than actually make the program work. Republicans love to be able to blame Democrats for being anti-religious and Democrats love to be able to say that Republicans are fostering religious discrimination.

Both parties could improve their image if they compromised on a pilot program to test the reality of faith-based initiatives but it looks as if they much prefer to continue a partisan feud that is increasingly resembling the Hatfields and the McCoys.

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that AmeriCorps may continue financing programs that place volunteers in Catholic schools, overturning a lower court ruling that said such funding unconstitutionally crosses the line between church and state.

The American Jewish Congress had complained that instructors who teach secular subjects at religious schools under the AmeriCorps program may also teach religious subjects.

How long will faith-based pork last after Bush leaves office? Probably depends on how much of the government is left after outsourcing.


Marcavage, again

Agape Press, the American Family Association's answer to Pravda is reporting that Michael Marcavage, leader of Repent America is suing Temple University for trying to have him committed to a psych ward after a demonstration in 1999:
"The AFA Law Center spokesman feels the university must be held accountable for the actions it took against its student for simply speaking out against a school-sponsored theatrical production. The legal expert points out that, in some sense, Marcavage thought the incident marked something of a turning point.

'And obviously, we've seen the ratcheting up of hostility against Christians and Christianity,' Crampton notes, 'as most recently seen in the Philadelphia 11 matter, where [the Christian defendants were] charged with hate crimes simply for trying to share the gospel.'

In fact, the AFA attorney adds, 'It is a terrible, oppressive environment out there, and university campuses are among the worst places for Christians.' He says the Law Center intends to seek damages for Marcavage's ordeal."

That's funny. I'm a Christian, and I don't feel oppressed.


Monday, March 07, 2005

It takes a nation of millions (or a desert)

to hold us back:

SpongeBobs Upstage Focus on the Family Day at the Capitol

Link via AMERICABlog.


'A shiver down the spine'

Bill Moyers is frightenly perceptive:

There are times when what we journalists see and intend to write about dispassionately sends a shiver down the spine, shaking us from our neutrality. This has been happening to me frequently of late as one story after another drives home the fact that the delusional is no longer marginal but has come in from the fringe to influence the seats of power. We are witnessing today a coupling of ideology and theology that threatens our ability to meet the growing ecological crisis. Theology asserts propositions that need not be proven true, while ideologues hold stoutly to a world view despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality. The combination can make it impossible for a democracy to fashion real-world solutions to otherwise intractable challenges.

DHinMI also covers it on DailyKos.



It begins...

Fallout from inter-Anglican feuds:
Worldwide divisions over homosexuality in the Anglican Church burst open in Kansas on Sunday, as the Episcopal diocese announced a separation with a large Overland Park church.

The Rev. Dean Wolfe, Episcopal bishop of eastern Kansas, said that Christ Church Episcopal at 91st Street and Nall Avenue had agreed in principal to sever ties with the diocese and the national Episcopal Church.

A letter outlining the split was read at Episcopal churches throughout the Kansas side of the metropolitan area and posted on the diocese's Web site,

Christ Church's parishioners are scheduled to vote next month on the separation agreement. If the agreement is approved, it would become the first church to separate from the Kansas diocese. It is the largest Episcopal parish in the area, with about 2,200 members.

Expect to hear more of this kind of thing over the next couple of years.


Religious Rights Unit

A long and disturbing article from the LATimes examines a new group within the Department of Justice: the "Religious Rights Unit."

The Salvation Army was accused in a lawsuit of imposing a new religious litmus test on employees hired with millions of dollars in public funds.

When employees complained that they were being required to embrace Jesus Christ to keep their jobs, the Justice Department's civil rights division took the side of the Salvation Army.

Defending the right of an employer using public funds to discriminate is one of the more provocative steps taken by a little-known arm of the civil rights division and its special counsel for religious discrimination.

The Justice Department's religious-rights unit, established three years ago, has launched a quiet but ambitious effort aimed at rectifying what the Bush administration views as years of illegal discrimination against religious groups and their followers.

It's almost as sinister as it looks. A couple of the cases the unit has taken on involve overreaction on the part of school districts. But:
Judging from the cases and investigations the religious unit has launched, the new mission of the Justice Department is overwhelmingly focused on protecting the rights of religious organizations.

Eric Treene, the religious-discrimination special counsel, is the former litigation director of a nonprofit group, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The group has been active in suing schools and local governments on behalf of religious groups.

Treene, one of four special counsels in the civil rights division, has no staff and shares a secretary with two other Justice Department lawyers. But a former senior Justice official describes him as widely influential, bird-dogging cases he thinks the department should throw its weight behind and reaching out to religious groups for bias cases he believes the department should investigate.

The Becket Fund is a conservative organization whose aim is "protecting the free expression of all religious traditions." In practice, that means bromides like this:
Human beings have an inborn thirst for the transcendent. We may not know who, or even if, God is, but we have a natural desire to find out. We are also social animals, eager to form families, gather in clans, display our arts, commemorate the great events of life, and discuss what laws and leaders should govern our communities. What we find in our search for truth unavoidably (and appropriately) informs those social activities.

In short, because the religious impulse and the social impulse are natural to human beings, religious expression is natural to human culture. But courts and bureaucrats often rule that religion belongs entirely in private and so should be purged from public life.

The Becket Fund fights to assure free religious expression in public spaces and public debate. We defend religious ministers who face government sanctions for what they preach from the pulpit, as in Rigdon v. Perry. We sue the government when it singles out religious viewpoints for exclusion from a public forum, as in Tong v. Chicago Park District.

But we defend the government when it’s sued for sponsoring a religiously diverse holiday display, as in ACLU-NJ v. Schundler. And every December, we award the Ebenezer Award -- our lowest honor -- to those responsible for the most ridiculous affront to the Christmas and Hanukkah holidays.

The Becket Fund has also defended a Catholic school being sued by a teacher dismissed for signing a reproductive rights statement.

To be fair, it has also represented a Muslim man who sued the Wisconsin Department of Corrections for unfair restraint on his practices.

Still, to find a Becket Fund alumni running this unit continues a pattern with the Bush administration: the most partisan activists are given control of areas of the government where they are supposed to regulate even-handedly for the broad public good.

That's why the details of the Salvation Army case are particularly bothersome. According to the LATimes:
The Salvation Army case is the boldest initiative in the Justice Department's recent emphasis on religious rights. And the stakes go well beyond the old-line Christian charitable organization.

The department's position in the case — that religious groups should be able to hire or fire people based on their religious views, even when administering publicly funded programs — is a cornerstone of President Bush (news - web sites)'s faith-based initiative. The initiative is channeling hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to churches and other religious groups to deliver social services.


In New York, the Salvation Army apparently had long operated without such entanglements, despite a history steeped in religious tradition. The international organization has provided social services to New Yorkers for decades. Its current contracts total about $50 million from the city and state of New York to provide foster care, HIV (news - web sites) counseling and other services.

In 2003, according to a lawsuit filed by more than a dozen workers in its Social Services for Children division, the Salvation Army began requiring employees to divulge information about their faiths, including the churches they attended and their ministers.

They were also called on to embrace a new mission statement — included in job postings and job descriptions — that declared the top goal of the social welfare operation is "to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in his name without discrimination." The previous mission statement was "to empower each person who enters our doors to live with dignity and hope," and contained no religious references.

Protections against discriminatory employment practices were excised from the employee handbook, and an effort was made to compile a list of homosexual employees, according to the suit.

Nor is this initiative by the Salvation Army aimed at some vague horde of "Godless heathens." It's aimed at anyone who does not toe the SA party line:
The longtime executive director of the social services program, a Lutheran minister, was ousted after voicing objections to the plans, according to the employee complaint.

Ultimately, 18 current and former employees of the social services operation, a number of them in supervisory positions, filed a lawsuit in federal court in New York. Many of them say they are religiously active, but think an important line has been crossed.

"We are not all a bunch of atheists or secular humanists," said one of the plaintiffs, Mary Jane Dessables, who is an elder at her Presbyterian church. But "we are all united in our dismay."

The bottom line:
The Salvation Army has moved to dismiss the case, saying that as a private, nonprofit religious organization it is exempt from antidiscrimination laws. New York officials, also defendants in the suit, say they are not legally responsible for the organization's actions.

The Justice Department weighed in last August, calling the employee suit an affront to "the federal statutory and constitutional rights of religious employers to define their character and maintain their religious integrity." The department said the discrimination claims were "irrelevant."

How can you spin this as anything other than narrow partisanship aimed at rewarding select groups of political friends? It's been apparent for some time that the Bush administration is hellbent on dividing the electorate; it's becoming increasingly clear that they mean to do the same to the church.

Even more chilling, it's becoming apparent that their corporatist economic philosophy and their blindly sectarian philosophy are interacting in new and strange ways. "An affront to the rights of employers?" I can't even come up with a response that doesn't sound ridiculous. These folks almost parody themselves.

This is not about religious integrity. It's cronyism, pure and simple. It's disgusting, and it has no place in Christian practice.

(A disclaimer: while many UCC congregations [and the regional and national offices] have non-discrimination policies, churches are given broad latitude in hiring. I'll defend that standard--but because, and only because, churches do not accept federal money.)


UCC debuts feature-length documentary on transgender minister

Stealing a whole post fromChuck Currie. Hope he doesn't mind.
The United Church of Christ has just produced a documentary that is sure to offer hope in the GLBT community and consternation among some conservatives. United Church News reports:

The intentionally-inclusive United Church of Christ is not only the first mainline Christian denomination to ordain an openly transgender minister, but the 1.3-million-member church has produced a feature-length documentary film to tell the remarkable story of one transgender minister’s journey of faith.

"Call Me Malcolm," co-produced by the UCC and Filmworks, Inc., debuted at the Riverside (Calif.) International Film Festival on Feb. 26 and will have its second premiere at the Cleveland International Film Festival, March 14-15. Several events are planned in association with the viewing in Cleveland, where the UCC’s national offices are located.

The 90-minute film tells the story of the Rev. Malcolm E. Himschoot, then a UCC seminary student, who poignantly explores his struggles with faith, love and gender identity.

“‘Call Me Malcolm’ is part of the United Church of Christ’s effort to provide resources for churches and other organizations to explore and nurture God’s extravagant welcome that includes lesbian, gay bisexual and trangender persons,” said the Rev. Michael D. Schuenemeyer, the UCC’s minister for LGBT concerns.

Click here for the full story.

Christians have historically attempted to deny privilege of call to all but males. Even today women are excluded from ordained ministry in some denominations. The UCC – a far from perfect place – is right to always be looking for how we might better understand human sexuality and human potential for service in the name of God. Not all people in the UCC would be comfortable having a transgendered minister, but not all people were comfortable when the UCC’s forebears became the first Protestant denomination to ordain an African American in the United States back in 1785 or the first woman clergy person in 1853. We have a lot of “firsts” in our history that are faithful attempts to answer God’s call. Part of being faithful disciples is challenging societal norms that oppress rather than liberate.

If you want to read more on how difficult it is to be even a woman minister check out this article from the Union Democrat and read the life story of The Rev. Margaret Self, a UCC clergy person.


Religion kept US married to Vietman conflict?

Sorry, the typo's in the original headline. This is a fascinating theory, though I can't claim anywhere near the academic qualifications to evaluate it:
In the 1950s there were three prominent Asian leaders who were also Christians -- Taiwan's Chiang Kai-shek, South Korea's Syngman Rhee and South Vietnam's Ngo Dinh Diem. This excellent book tells the story of how the US became involved so deeply in supporting the last of these men.

But before looking at what it has to say about him, it's important to explain just what is Seth Jacobs' ruling theory.

Jacobs believes that religion played a far greater part in American involvement in Vietnam's affairs than has hitherto been realized. Asia was perceived by the policy-makers on Capitol Hill as an area about to be taken over by atheists, Communists receiving their orders from the godless citadel of Moscow.
This might be of merely academic interest were it not for the quite extraordinary parallels with the situation today. In 2005, we see once again a heavy American presence in a distant land with strong religious reasons given for that involvement. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld are all reported to hold apocalyptic views about the cosmic battle in which they are involved.

The Axis of Evil, heir to Reagan's Evil Empire, once again puts religion in the front line, and in addition a handful of bizarre books are again credited with lying behind the American administration's thinking.

Dunno about Cheney and Rumsfeld's apocalypticism, and the entire argument may be simply facile. I mean, religion isn't behind the war in Iraq, right?




An interesting piece on a Ten Commandments bill in Michigan. Apparently, the Republican legislature would like to use the issue as a wedge against Gov. Granholm.

Putting the Ten Commandments in the Capitol has been suggested every legislative session going back to at least 1999. The bills, however, have never made it out of committee.

Were they blocked by secularist, liberal Democrats? No. Republican leaders iced them.


Dems need to get right with Jesus--and Mohammed--and Buddha..

Some good bits from an otherwise pedestrian article on James Clyburn, from the Charlotte News-Observer. (Clyburn, if you don't recognize the name, is the Congressional Dem delegated responsibility for the "God Squad.")
In Clyburn's view, there are few things more Biblical than Democratic programs.

"What we are trying to say to Democratic officeholders is you just can't walk the walk," Clyburn said. "You need to talk the talk. You need to get people to understand your value system is part of your politics.

"When you fight for food stamps, you are fulfilling the fundamental Christian need to feed the hungry. When you fight for Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, you are taking care of widows and orphans.

"We have been losing the battle of language."
There are some indications that current Democratic officeholders are getting the message.

In a recent speech, Gov. Mike Easley mentioned that he is a regular churchgoer. And Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue, a likely candidate for governor in 2008, has been mentioning God so often that people say jokingly that she's gone to preaching.

And, of course, the politicians already know how to pass the plate.



From a prayer thread onDaily Kos:
"It helps, now and then, to step back
and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of
the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is another way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about:
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for God's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own. Amen."

Who says progressives can't be spiritual?

(Thanks to dKos poster it'ssimpleIFyouignorethecomplexity


Sunday, March 06, 2005


From Slacktivist, via Talking Donkeys:
"Moral bankruptcy (cont'd.)

Kevin Drum offers a rundown of the proposed Democratic amendments to the Senate version of the bankruptcy bill -- all of which got shot down by the Republican majority. They're things like improved disclosure of credit card fees, efforts to prevent seniors from losing their homes or to protect veterans from the most punitive measures of the bill.

None of these amendments would have lessened the bill's purported effect of preventing bankruptcy "abuse," so Kevin asks a pertinent question: "If stopping abuse were truly your primary goal, why would you vote against amendments like these?"

Jonathan Chait opts for the simplest, most obvious answer: because the bill has nothing to do with stopping bankruptcy "abuse" -- it's really just a means of helping the credit card banks to confiscate even more of the income and assets of their "customers." Here's Chait's summary of the bill, in an L.A. Times piece titled "When Democrats Join the Dark Side":

This is one of those abysmal pieces of legislation that exists only because businesses with a vested interest in it have lobbied hard for its passage and that would have no chance of success if more than a tiny fraction of the public were aware of its existence.

Bankruptcy filings have risen slightly in recent years. Credit card companies argue that it's because people are gaming the system, going on irresponsible spending binges and then using bankruptcy to stick their creditors with the bill.

The more likely explanation is that the rise in health insurance costs has driven more people into bankruptcy. A recent Harvard study found that half of Americans who declared bankruptcy did so because of illness or medical bills. Regardless of why you go bankrupt, though, the new bill would make it easier for creditors to seize your assets. Nice, huh?

This isn't to say there aren't abuses in the bankruptcy system. There are. The bill simply does nothing to stop them.

I would imagine that many Republicans don't like Chait's title. If you are a Republican, and you don't like people referring to your party as "the Dark Side" -- as in the evil side, as in the Bad Guys -- then your next step is simple: stop supporting evil legislation like this predatory bankruptcy bill. That's a lot easier than trying to defend whorish little favors for donors like this, especially when the effect of this bill will be real, serious harm and hardship for many Republican constituents.

Is "evil" too strong a word? Consider another failed amendment to the bill. The title of this AP report (via Dr. Alterman) puts it plainly: "Senate refuses to limit interest rates at 30%."

30 percent! That's not even a cap, that's a stratosphere. Yet supporters of this bill thought that was too restrictive for the credit card industry. Peter G. Gosselin has more details in another L.A. Times article:

Debate about the bill continued Thursday, with the Republican-controlled Senate refusing to limit consumer interest rates to 30 percent. The vote was a bipartisan 74 to 24 to kill a proposed amendment by Sen. Mark Dayton (D-Minn.). Senate passage of the bill is expected next week.

Pop quiz: Name all the major religions, cultures and/or civilizations that have condoned the charging of 30 percent or greater interest on loans.

Give up? Me too. Yet here we have 74 U.S. senators disagreeing with, well, all of human history and embracing blatant, egregious usury. Is "evil" too strong a word? Here's a case study from Gosselin's article which, by the way, is titled "Credit Card Firms Won as Users Lost: They ... make money even on people who went bankrupt."

In Cleveland, a municipal court judge tossed out a case that Discover Bank brought against one of its cardholders after examining the woman's credit card bill.

According to court papers, Ruth M. Owens, a 53-year-old disabled woman, paid the company $3,492 over six years on a $1,963 debt only to find that late fees and finance charges had more than doubled the size of her remaining balance to $5,564. ...

Judge Robert Triozzi ruled that Owens didn't have to pay, saying she had "clearly been the victim of [Discover's] unreasonable, unconscionable and unjust business practices."

Now 74 senators have sided against Judge Triozzi. They want to make it easier for Discover and MBNA and all their ilk to continue these "unreasonable, unconscionable and unjust business practices." They want to make sure that these creditors will not only be able to collect $10,000 on a $1,963 loan, but also be able to repossess the disabled debtor's house.

Evil is not too strong a word."


Oh, for crying in the night...

What kind of Catholic is Rick Santorum? Apparently, not one who's heard of the Mother Church's long history of support for the working class:
This is as low as it goes, as the GOP fights to expand sub-minimum wage sweatshops across the country. Pennsylvania's Rick Santorum is leading the charge for a GOP bill that would ostensibly raise the minimum wage by $1.10 per hour, but in reality would cut wages for millions of American workers and expand unregulated sweatshops across the country. As this Economic Policy Institute analysis details, the bill is a trojan horse for assaulting workers rights.

Licensing Sweatshops: While a $1.10 per hour minimum wage increase by itself would help 1.8 million workers, Santorum includes a poison bill exempting any business with revenues of $1 million or less from regulation -- raising the exemption from the current $500,000 level.

The upshot: while 1.2 million workers could qualify for a minimum wage increase, another 6.8 million workers, who work in companies with revenues between $500,000 and $1,000,000 per year, would lose their current minimum wage protection.

And an even larger number of businesses, those with revenues under $7 million, would be exempt from fines under a range of other safety, health, pension and other labor laws. Essentially, the realm of unregulated sweatshops would be expanded and legalized under Santorum's bill. . . .

Banning State Minimum Wage Laws . . .

With Santorum's bill as law, you would end up with a situation where small and even medium size restaurants and other businesses with tipped employees would be exempt from the federal minimum wage, and state governments would be barred from requiring employers to pay actual wages to tipped workers. Essentially, those workers could be hired for zero dollars and told they had to live only off tips, however little those were.

. . . Killing Overtime: It gets worse-- the 40-hour work week would be abolished and companies would not have to pay overtime if they cut hours the next week.

(Thanks to Armando at Daily Kos for spotting this.)


More from the NYT

This time on faith-based pork and black pastors:
"Where did this come from?" said the Rev. Madison Shockley, pastor of the Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad, Calif., who with Calloway wrote an opinion article in the Los Angeles Times in response to the Black Contract with America. "It came from Bush and the Christian right, and the carrot is faith-based money."

And already, this is not a surprise:
White evangelicals are also participating in the discussion. Ministers like the Rev. Lou Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, an organization of 43,000 churches, are organizing black ministers in major cities around issues of sexuality.


Oh, no they didn't!

For once, the NYT runs a religion article that doesn't treat people of faith as some kind of space alien, and they make this kind of idiotic mistake:
In Wethersfield, the First Church of Christ voted last spring to leave the United Church of Christ, the statewide coalition of Congregational churches, over issues that included gay marriage.
Last spring congregants decided to vote on seceding from the United Church of Christ, created in 1957 from the merging of Congregational Churches and the Evangelical Reformed Church, over issues that included gay marriage.

Sigh. Once more for the record: the United Church of Christ was formed in 1957 from the merger of the Congregational Christian Church and the Evangelical and Reformed Church, two denominations, not coalitions. Despite what they may tell you in New England or New York, the UCC is not, and never has been, only Congregational churches.

< /rant >


Brothers and Sisters,

Lost in wonder, love, and thanksgiving, let us pray for all people, for all nations, and for our community:

  • I ask your prayers for this community, for all who serve it, for those who gather here, and for all progressives everywhere. Pray for the community.
    Let our love be genuine!

  • I ask your prayers for the good earth, that all people may respect its resources, preserve its future, and enjoy its fruits in their season. Pray for the soil and the sea.
    Let our love be genuine!

  • I ask your prayers for the leaders of the nations, that they may act deliberately and dispassionately, and for the good of all. Pray for those who govern.
    Let our love be genuine!

  • I ask your prayers for peace, that the peoples of the world may live in safety and without fear. Pray for peace.
    Let our love be genuine!

  • I ask your prayers for the wealthy, the free, and the healthy, that they may use their possessions to aid those in need. Pray for compassion among people.
    Let our love be genuine!

  • I ask your prayers for the sick, the sorrowing, and those who are alone, especially Kerry, who has ceased chemotherapy to face ovarian cancer and enjoy what time she may have with her young child.
    Let our love be genuine!

  • I ask your prayers for the departed, especially those who have died through violence, that they may find eternal rest.
    Let our love be genuine!

  • Source of life and love, hear these thoughts and prayers, and grant our requests. Strengthen us for the tasks you give us, and bring us at last to unending thanksgiving.

    (Adapted from Chalice Worship, from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)


    Paging Jesus' General...

    Christian School Pupil Suspended Because Mom Wouldn't Spank Him:
    SCHAUMBURG, Ill. (AP) - The mother of a six-year-old boy who attended Schamburg Christian School says authorities there have suspended him from first grade. The mother, Michelle Fallaw- Gabrielson, says the reason for the suspension was that she had refused to spank him.


    This is just what we needed

    Shooting Erupts in Beirut Christian Sector:

    BEIRUT, Lebanon - Gunfire erupted Saturday in Beirut's anti-Syrian Christian sector after pro-Syrian protesters arrived in the area, witnesses said.

    AP Photo

    Volleys of gunfire were heard shortly after a convoy of cars carrying pictures of Syrian President Bashar Assad, which had earlier demonstrated in Muslim south Beirut, headed later to the Christian sector of Ashrafieh, a center of anti-Syrian sentiment.


    Matthew 25:31-46

    31 ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” 37Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” 40And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” 41Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” 44Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” 45Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’