Tuesday, January 30, 2007

"Stranger in a strange land"

GetReligion reports on a story in the Denver Post:
....Mike Jones, the former prostitute whose allegations about having sex and taking drugs with Haggard broke wide on the eve of the 2006 elections, went to worship on Sunday. Although Jones didn't notify the media in advance, he did tell church leadership he might be there. Eric Gorski of the Denver Post had the story:
As soon as the visitor from Denver walked through the church doors Sunday morning, heads turned. Word spread quickly: He was here.

Just about every person who offered him a handshake said the same thing: Welcome, thank you and God bless.
....associate pastor Rob Brendle ... explain[ed] why he thinks the church was so receptive to Jones — who had been invited to attend more than a few times:
Brendle characterized Jones’ presence as a reminder of both grief and God’s faithfulness. “I told Mike, ‘I don’t want to impose my religious beliefs on you, but I believe God used you to correct us, and I appreciate that,”’ Brendle said. ....
Source: Stranger in a strange land » GetReligion

Films


Christianity Today lists the "10 Most Redeeming Films of 2006."

Link to The 10 Most Redeeming Films of 2006

Monday, January 29, 2007

Mixing religion and politics

A study of campaign appearances in religious venues during the 2004 Presidential race reveals a rather different picture than the stereotype. By Sean Everton in Books & Culture:
.... To track where the candidates visited from March 3, 2004 (the day when John Kerry effectively wrapped up the Democratic nomination) through November 2, 2004 (the day of the 2004 Presidential election) I gathered data from numerous sources. ....

.... Less than 2 percent of the combined campaign appearances of all four candidates occurred at houses of worship, and less than 5 percent could be interpreted as faith-related in any way. .... Senators Kerry and Edwards visited and spoke at far more churches than did President Bush and Vice-President Cheney. The former appeared and spoke at nineteen churches while the latter spoke at only one. ....

...George Bush met with religious leaders, addressed faith-based conventions and conferences, and even spoke at a church-related university. However, so did John Kerry and John Edwards. ... while Bush and Cheney made 18 non-church faith-based campaign appearances, Kerry and Edwards made twenty-five.

Source: Whose Faith-Based Initiative? - Books & Culture

"Was Israel a Mistake?"

Books and Culture publishes a review of three books about the existence of the State of Israel, one good and two that are not, including former President Carter's, and an apparently very bad effort from the usually reliable publisher, InterVarsity Press.

Was Israel a Mistake? - Books & Culture

Slavery today

Christianity Today notes that a new film about a campaign to destroy an evil in the British Empire will be used to call attention to that same evil today:
The upcoming film Amazing Grace, coming to theaters Feb. 23, has inspired "The Amazing Change," a campaign that uses the movie, based on the life of Christian and abolitionist William Wilberforce, to stir people to speak out against modern-day slavery.
Source: http://www.christianitytoday.com/movies/news/blog-070129.html

Friday, January 26, 2007

The lessons of history

Germans, because of their past, seem particularly aware of the danger of devaluing human life.
Germans have learned some lessons from their traumatic history. They have looked on in horror as the Dutch have legalized and normalized euthanasia.

Most Germans also do not like research on humans at any stage. Dr. Mengele haunts their nightmares.

Kath.net reports:
  • "More than half (56.3 percent) of the citizens of the Federal Republic wants science to concentrate exclusively on research with adult stem cells. Two thirds (66.5 percent) think it 'just' that in Germany that 'no human embryos can be produced and destroyed for research purposes.'"
  • Women were much more opposed than men were to research that harmed human embryos. Young people were also heavily pro-life.
I give the Germans only a B+ because they still allow abortion, although under far more restrictions than the United States (the US has essentially none).

"I want to know..."

Albert Mohler responds to a question about whether Presidential candidates should express their personal religious beliefs:
Inevitably, our worldviews will show and our deepest beliefs will become evident. We are not compartmentalized selves, and our most fundamental beliefs - especially about God - will determine our decisions and policy proposals. I want to know how candidates for high office will incorporate their deepest beliefs and principles in their public leadership....

... As human beings, we cannot easily compartmentalize ourselves, placing our most fundamental beliefs about God, morality, and truth in one compartment and our political and public beliefs in another. We are not made that way.

In my view, candidates should be as forthright and direct about their personal religious views as about any other question. Those who make too much of these beliefs risk appearing as a candidate for national preacher. Those who make too little of their beliefs risk appearing insincere and evasive. Those who seek to exploit their beliefs will do themselves political harm.

.... I want to know how a political candidate makes decisions, weighs priorities, and gains strength in crisis.

We are not electing a national preacher, rabbi, imam, or priest, but we are electing a human being. As much as possible, I want to know what that human being believes at the deepest levels and how those beliefs form character, perspective, and political decisions.
Source: newsweek.washingtonpost.com: We Are Not Compartmentalized Selves

The "Breeches" Bible

The evangelical outpost notes a location where individual pages of a famous early English Bible can be purchased:
In the year 1560 a group of English scholars who had fled to Geneva during the reign of Queen Mary I ("Bloody Mary"), set about the task of translating the Bible. This version, known at the Geneva Bible or "Breeches" because of the peculiar choice in rendering of Genesis 3:7 ["Then the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked, and they sewed fig tree leaves together, and made themselves breeches."], quickly became one of the most popular translations of the era. Brought to America on the Mayflower, this version was found in almost every Puritan household. It was the Bible read by William Shakespeare, John Donne, and John Bunyan.
Copies of the 1560-1665 editions are rare, but GenevaBiblePages.com makes it possible to own individual pages of these historic texts. The pages are available framed, mounted, or preserved in a transparent acid-free archival sleeve. ...
It looks like a nice gift. In order to mollify those who are horrified at the idea of such a book being destroyed for commerce, the vender explains where these pages originated. They also offer pages from early printings of the King James Version.

Source: the evangelical outpost: In Review: Geneva Bible Pages

Thursday, January 25, 2007

"The new intolerance"

Christianity Today:
You can ... tell that atheism is in trouble because it is becoming increasingly intolerant. In the past, atheists (or secular humanists or freethinkers) were often condescendingly tolerant of their less-enlightened fellow citizens. While they disdained religion, they treated their religious neighbors as good-hearted, if misguided.

But now key activists are urging a less civil approach. At a recent forum sponsored by the Science Network at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, the tone of intolerance reached such a peak that anthropologist Melvin J. Konner commented: "The viewpoints have run the gamut from A to B. Should we bash religion with a crowbar or only with a baseball bat?"

This newly aggressive mood (Dawkins calls religious education "brainwashing" and "child abuse") is in danger of undermining civil society.

CT columnist David Aikman recently sounded a warning in a commentary for the Trinity Forum. Sam Harris, he noted, not only advocates a shift from viewing religion as harmless to treating it as dangerous, but he also wants to suppress religion. Aikman evoked images of Mao's China and Stalin's Russia as the future of America - if liberals ever abandon true liberalism. ....

Christians have long disdained what Eagleton calls the "mealy-mouthed liberalism which believes that one has to respect other people's silly or obnoxious ideas just because they are other people's." But we have also understood it to be a safeguard in civil society. Despite its vapid quality, such liberalism has been a blessing. The antitheistic rhetoric that erodes the ethos of respect is a clear and present danger. ....
[more]
Source: The New Intolerance | Christianity Today

The BJC issue - a Baptist solution

The issue confronting the denomination is whether to remain affiliated with the Baptist Joint Committee. Some of us disagree with the approach taken by the BJC, others to their positions on issues. Other Seventh Day Baptists consider their work to be an integral part of the Baptist commitment to religious liberty. The disagreement is fundamental. There is an approach that would permit each side to be true to its principles - and that approach is provided by the BJC. The BJC makes it possible for individuals to support their work.

One of the fourteen bodies represented on the BJC Board is the Religious Liberty Council. From the Baptist Joint Committee website:
Religious Liberty Council

The Religious Liberty Council of the Baptist Joint Committee is an association of individuals that works to provide education about and advocacy for religious freedom and the separation of church and state and to ensure adequate funding for the BJC. ...

RLC members receive:

  • Report from the Capital, the monthly newsletter of the Baptist Joint Committee;
  • RLC Action Alerts, informing you when issues arise that warrant grassroots action;
  • Invitations to workshops and conferences.
All donors to the Baptist Joint Committee automatically qualify for membership in the Religious Liberty Council.
If the denomination withdrew from the Baptist Joint Committee, those of us who object to aspects of its work would no longer be implicated in them. Those who wish to support the work of the BJC could become members of the Religious Liberty Council. This solution would seem consistent with Baptist liberty - no-one would be forced to submit to a majority position. To support, or not support, the BJC would be an individual decision.

Source: Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty

Christianity in the secular university

This approach to teaching about Christianity can do no harm beyond that which is already being done on the post-Christian secular university campus. It could do a lot of good, since a college student isn't simply a vessel into which professors pour their "wisdom." A bright student will consider critically what he is taught, and reading from the Christian tradition could be enlightening. C.S. Lewis once observed that the careful atheist should be very selective about what he reads.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C.— During the first week of the spring semester at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), teaching assistant Chad Seales asked students in an afternoon class what they knew about Jerry Falwell. After a brief pause, a young woman near the front of the classroom spoke up: "He's the guy that thought the Teletubbies were gay."

Other students in Seales' "Evangelical Traditions in America" class knew that Falwell was also the founder of the Moral Majority and Liberty University. By the end of the semester, they should know more about a slew of other American evangelicals. Seales told the class they would learn that not all evangelicals are alike: "They are actually diverse, and their beliefs and practices are many."

A serious look at evangelicalism could be helpful on a campus with a bookstore that prominently displays A Field Guide to Evangelicals and Their Habitat, a spoof manual that crassly lampoons evangelical beliefs and practices. Secular universities often don't have a reputation for taking Christianity seriously, but sociology professor Christian Smith hopes to change that at UNC with a new minor called "Christianity and Culture."

The minor recognizes Christianity's contributions across the cultural spectrum, packaging together courses the university has long offered. Students may choose from classes like Early Christian Art, English Literature of the Middle Ages, History of the Reformation, and Introduction to New Testament Literature. The program is neither "devotional nor antagonistic" toward Christianity, according to Smith. ....

Smith's desire to develop the minor sprang from his discovery that many evangelical teenagers know little about Christianity. ...

In the summer of 2003, Smith and 16 other researchers traveled to 45 states to conduct in-depth interviews with some 267 teenagers involved in the study. What Smith found shocked him: The majority of teenagers who identified themselves as evangelicals were "incredibly inarticulate" about their religious beliefs. "They were well-trained in the dangers of drunk driving and STDs," he said, but they fumbled on basic questions about Christianity.

Smith came back to Chapel Hill wanting to give students a way to systematically take courses that would fill in gaps about Christianity's impact on history and culture. He found an intriguing ally in Peter Kaufman, a religious studies professor who has taught at UNC since 1978. ....

Kaufman grew up Jewish and is loosely affiliated with the Unitarian Church, but he is a vigorous defender of evangelicals: "They are among my brightest students." ....


But while evangelicals "know their Bible better than me," Kaufman says they often have a weak grasp on history: "I want to help them build a bridge from their head to their heart." When Smith asked Kaufman to help craft the Christianity and Culture minor, he was eager. ....

As students filed out of Seales' "Evangelical Traditions in America" class, Drew Andrews, a junior from Dalton, Ga., said he signed up for the minor for its academic value. Andrews, an evangelical Christian ... says he knows the content of some classes will clash with his Christian beliefs but says he can handle it: "I'll filter it through what I know the Bible says.... I'm not going to let it affect my beliefs." [more]
Source: World Magazine: Classroom Christianity

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The February, 2007 Sabbath Recorder is Online

The February, 2007, Sabbath Recorder is available online here. Many of the articles recount the experiences of churches that have growing ministries in and beyond their communities. SDB Executive Secretary Rob Appel's column expresses his interest in the "New Baptist Covenant."

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Evangelical?

At the Seventh Day Baptist website we are described as "evangelical Baptists." An article in USA Today suggests that the term "Evangelical" has both lost its descriptive power and carries too many negative connotations. Excerpts:
Who's an evangelical? Until last year the answer seemed clear: Evangelical was the label of choice of Christians with conservative views on politics, economics and Biblical morality.

Now the word may be losing its moorings, sliding toward the same linguistic demise that "fundamentalist" met decades ago because it has been misunderstood, misappropriated and maligned.

"Save the E-Word," was the headline on a fall editorial in Christianity Today, the 50-year-old magazine founded by Billy Graham. It quoted opinion polls in England and the USA showing "the tide has gone out" on the term, increasingly seen as negative and extremist. "When I travel, I call myself a 'creedal Christian' now," says Francis Beckwith, president of the Evangelical Theological Society and a professor at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. ....

Although 38% of Americans call themselves evangelical, only 9% actually agree with key evangelical beliefs, says research firm the Barna Group. In a surveys of 4,014 adults nationwide, conducted over four months in 2006, "one out of every four self-identified evangelicals has not even accepted Christ as their savior," says George Barna.

How you see "evangelical" depends on where you stand, says the Rev. Mark Coppenger, founding pastor of the Evanston (Ill.) Baptist Church and former spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention.

Coppenger still calls himself evangelical "to distinguish myself from the more liberal mainline Christian groups." But, he adds, "I'm more inclined to call myself a 'Christian,' 'Bible believer,' 'Baptist,' or 'Southern Baptist.'
Source: Evangelical: Can the 'E-word' be saved? - USATODAY.com

Is it human?

Yesterday was the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Abortion was a political controversy before "Roe" removed it from the normal give and take of politics and made it a Constitutional right - thus depriving state lawmakers of the ability to give any legal protection to humans before they are born. Public opinion, however, has been shifting against abortion - even in liberal communities like mine. It took many years for the struggle to abolish slavery to succeed. This fight, like that one, will eventually succeed and the time will come, God willing, when those who argued for "choice" will be viewed in the same light as those who once justified slavery.

For those who have bothered to think seriously about the issue there are two fundamental questions. First, at what point does a "human being" exist? And, second, do all innocent [non-criminal] human beings deserve to have their lives legally protected? The first issue is addressed in an exchange at NRO that can be found here.

One participant argues that a human embryo deserves no more protection than stem cells - using pictures to make his point - contending, essentially, that if they look alike, they are alike - neither of them "human."

The response to that argument concludes:
An embryo and a stem cell are not the same thing, any more than an adult human and a liver or stomach is the same thing. The embryo, like the adult, is a self-integrating whole, a complete member of the species at a certain developmental stage. The stem cell, like the liver, is merely a part. The human embryo, fetus, infant, child, adolescent, and adult differ not as to what they intrinsically are - they are human beings - but in respect of their age, size, stage of development, and condition of dependency.

Once that biological truth is firmly in view, one can then shift to the key ethical question: Do human beings possess inherent and equal dignity? Or does the dignity of a human being depend upon or vary with his or her age, size, stage of development, or condition of dependency? Our view, which we have defended in various writings, is that the dignity of human beings is inherent and that all of us, as members of the human family, are created equal.
Source: Letters on Embryo on National Review Online

Monday, January 22, 2007

"I wept bitterly..."

Russell D. Moore writes about the growing use of cremation by Christians - and his discomfort with it:
I knew my grandfather's funeral wouldn't be elaborate or expensive. He was a big-hearted Baptist, generous with his grandchildren but spending little on himself. This was a man who refused the "luxury" of air-conditioning in south Mississippi, a place where most people consider air-conditioning a necessity.

He left instructions that he didn't want anyone spending money on a casket, embalming fluid, or an elaborate funeral. He wanted to be cremated, the cheapest way possible to dispose of his earthly remains. No one asked my opinion on this, but I wept bitterly at the thought of this great man being reduced to ashes in the twinkling of an eye.

I could understand my grandfather's request. He was a practical man who wanted to save money for his family. And the financial racket of cushioned caskets, catered "celebration services," and steel-vaulted graves is a scandal, to be sure. What I couldn't understand was how few of my fellow Christians joined in my horror at the thought of a Christian man's cremation. ....

But if someone had asked any previous generation of Christians or of pagans if cremation were a Christian act, the answer would have seemed obvious to them, whether they were believers or infidels: Christians bury their dead.... [more]

Source: Touchstone Archives: Grave Signs

"What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world ..."

From the January/February issue of Touchstone magazine:
"Liberals are more likely to get political cues in church than conservatives," although "not too many of them can be found in church," notes David Campbell, a Notre Dame political scientist working for the Spiritual Capital Research Program, speaking to Religion Watch. Conservative congregations were far less political than often thought, he said.
However surprising it may be to those who never enter a church, that fact will hardly shock conservative Christians. The subject matter that preoccupies them in church is far more important than the political controversies of the moment.

Touchstone, January/February, 2007, p. 67

More on the "New Baptist Covenant"

World Magazine comments on the "New Baptist Covenant" referred to in the post below about President Carter:
Ex-presidents Carter and Clinton are trying to organize "moderate" Baptists into a new coalition to counter the conservative Southern Baptist convention. Seriously. These opponents of Christian political activism, these politicians who invoke the separation of church and state, are trying to start what would be, in effect, a denomination. Read this from the Washington Post. Excerpts from the article:
The new coalition, which is Carter's brainchild, would give moderate Baptists a stronger collective voice and could provide Democrats with greater entree into the Baptist community....

Carter and Clinton were raised as Southern Baptists but have expressed dismay over the SBC's increasingly conservative bent since traditionalists defeated modernists in a struggle for control of the denomination in the 1970s and '80s. The leadership battle, which raged over issues such as biblical inerrancy, temperance, homosexuality, abortion and women's role in the church, culminated in 2000 with revisions to the "Baptist Faith and Message" that barred women from serving as pastors and called for wives to "submit graciously" to the leadership of their husbands.

Carter stopped calling himself a Southern Baptist that year. Clinton attended a Methodist church during his years in the White House.

On Jan. 9 at the Carter Center in Atlanta, the two ex-presidents brought together the heads of 40 Baptist denominations and organizations to launch a year-long organizing effort that they hope will climax with the celebration of a "New Baptist Covenant" in early 2008.

Source: Clinton & Carter as ecclesiastical founders

Sunday, January 21, 2007

"Evangelicals and the Mother of God"

In the current issue of First Things, Timothy George, a Southern Baptist and dean of Beeson Divinity School argues that:
It is time for evangelicals to recover a fully biblical appreciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her role in the history of salvation - and to do so precisely as evangelicals. [the article]
The subject will provoke an almost Pavlovian anti-Catholic reaction among many conservative Evangelicals, but deserves a sober and thoughtful response.

Source: FIRST THINGS: A Journal of Religion, Culture, and Public Life

Saturday, January 20, 2007

When theocracy really threatened?

In his column in the current World Magazine [subscription required], Marvin Olasky includes the quotations below by an American President and then challenges his readers to identify which President it was.
"No greater thing could come to our land today than a revival of the spirit of religion. . . . I doubt if there is any problem - social, political, or economic - that would not melt away before the fire of such a spiritual awakening."

"We guard ourselves against all evils - spiritual as well as material - which may beset us. We guard against the forces of anti-Christian aggression, which may attack us from without, and the forces of ignorance and fear which may corrupt us from within."

"Today the whole world is divided between human slavery and human freedom - between pagan brutality and the Christian ideal."
Ronald Reagan? George W. Bush? No, - it was FDR. That's incredibly frightening - the New Deal was led by a "Christianist," "theocratic," "Restorationist"! It's a miracle that we survived with our religious liberties intact?

Source: WORLD Magazine | Weekly News, Christian Views

Friday, January 19, 2007

"Blogging the Bible"

At contentions, David Gelernter suggests that if a person is reading the Bible for the first time, it might not be a bad idea to take advantage of the scholarship in the field.
In an ongoing, multi-part series called Blogging the Bible on Slate, David Plotz offers comments on his first reading of large parts of the Hebrew Bible. At his best he is superb. He is selling innocence and a new viewpoint - two commodities you might have believed the world was fresh out of when it comes to the Bible, the mightiest text of all, most famous and most exhaustively-studied book known to man. Yet, amazingly, it is all new to Plotz, and his loss is our gain: we experience his fascination, excitement, and occasional joy alongside him as he discovers the narrative genius and moral profundity of the good book.

But to reach these peaks of fine writing Plotz's readers must slog through the usual nonsense about the alleged contradictions and cruelties of the Hebrew Bible, written with as much vigorous outrage as if these observations had just occurred to mankind yesterday afternoon. Worse is Plotz's passivity: repeatedly he writes (frankly and openly) that "I don't know" or "I wonder" - but virtually never cracks a book or calls in an expert to find out. He waits for the answer to come to him, in the form of emails from readers. His commentary suggests a whole new way to do research: if you want to learn about topic X, write an essay about it and your readers will teach you.

This lack of curiosity may be deliberate. In his introduction to the series, Plotz tells us that his aim is to "find out what happens when an ignorant person actually reads the book on which his religion is based." Undeniably this approach has its moments. When David sings his lament on the death of Saul and Jonathan, Plotz doesn't recognize this most famous elegy in the history of the world. Yet he does recognize its greatness (all on his own, not because anyone tipped him off); and he is unfailingly honest about his ignorance. "David sings a gorgeous lament about the deaths [of Saul and son]. (Hey, language mavens! This song is the source of the phrase: ' How the mighty are fallen.')"

But innocence can be overdone - to the point where you question the author's competence as a literate reader. In the middle of his discussion of Leviticus 19, which Plotz calls the "most glorious chapter of the Bible" (a lovely phrase), we read: "'Love your fellow as yourself' - Ever wonder where Jesus got 'Love thy neighbor'? Not anymore." The most famous sentence in the Hebrew Bible is news to Plotz. What does a man know if he doesn't know this? Not that Plotz is alone in his ignorance- but ignorance this dramatic makes a peculiar basis for offering yourself as a commentator....

It might be fairest to say in the end that Plotz’s sins are the sins of his era and medium, but his virtues are his own. He is sometimes rambling and shallow — but Internet prose encourages shallow rambles. He is ignorant of religion and the Bible, but so are most educated people nowadays.....
[more]
Source: contentions » archive

"How come nobody's shouting theocrat?"

Jonah Goldberg at NRO asks whether this has inspired anyone to worry about theocracy? It does seem to involve Christians in an explicit call for political action. Or is this sort of thing only suspect when it helps conservatives?
A number of prominent scientists - including the well-known James Hansen, Judy Curry, Paul Epstein, and Rita Colwell - have joined with the National Association of Evangelicals to advocate for political action on climate change. They released a statement (PDF) yesterday which stated:
We believe that the protection of life on Earth is a profound moral imperative. It addresses without discrimination the interests of all humanity as well as the value of the non-human world. It requires a new moral awakening to a compelling demand, clearly articulated in Scripture and supported by science, that we must steward the natural world in order to preserve for ourselves and future generations a beautiful, rich, and healthful environment. For many of us, this is a religious obligation, rooted in our sense of gratitude for Creation and reverence for its Creator.
Of course Christians do need to work out how faith should inform political action. The question is whether they are right or not - not whether they have the right to speak. The danger arises when the church becomes captive to a secular political agenda, or, alternatively, advances its own without knowing what it's talking about - and this statement may fit one or both of those descriptions.

Source: - Prometheus: Kudos for Explicit Political Advocacy Archives

"I will never lie to you."

Perhaps the most prominent Baptist layman in the United States is former President Jimmy Carter.

Recently he has been much in the news because of the controversial nature of his new book, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid, and the convening [with another Baptist laymen, former President Bill Clinton] of a meeting of American Baptist leaders [Seventh Day Baptists were represented - note the high forehead immediately behind the Presidents]. The meeting is a step in the direction of a new alliance of Baptists, at least partially intended to counter the influence of the "religious right." It might be asked, why, if the problem is an excessive entanglement in politics, politicians seem to be at the center of the new effort? And why, in particular, these politicians?

President Carter has been a hero to many Evangelicals - particularly Baptists - because his religious commitments have always been public and unapologetic. But anyone who continues to admire him needs to contend with this article. It starts at the beginning of his political career:
In 1976, when Carter tossed his hat into the ring for the presidential nomination, the Democratic party was still deeply riven by the long, bitter debate over the war in Vietnam. Carter's response was to soar above these divisions, downplaying both ideology and issues. Instead, he put himself forward as a man of piety and character who would restore a high tone to government in the aftermath of Watergate and related scandals. Before the rise of politically-oriented televangelists, Jimmy Carter made his personal experience as a "born again" Christian into a key tenet of his platform. "I can give you a government that's honest and that's filled with love, competence, and compassion," he pledged.

When the scramble for the Democratic nomination began, Carter was widely seen as a long shot. But by the time the primary season was half over, he had left the other, better-known Democratic contenders in the dust. That he was able to compete with them at all - that is, to raise money and enlist volunteers - owed to the national exposure he had received for his inaugural address as governor of Georgia in 1971. At that time, with much of the South still clinging to Jim Crow and resisting the nation's new civil-rights laws, Carter had boldly declared that "the time for segregation is over."

Yet the path that led him to that dramatic moment was a tortuous one, known to few outside of Georgia, and it shed light on the man who five years later would be promising voters across the country: "I will never lie to you."[much more]
Source: Commentary Online - Our Worst Ex-President

1/26 More on Carter's "integrity."

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Ancient forms

The reviewer of Gothic Arches, Latin Crosses: Anti-Catholicism and American Church Designs, describes how ancient forms became a part of American Protestant architecture:
Protestant appropriation of Roman Catholic forms occurred in an America rife with Protestant anti-Catholic bigotry. When Catholic Europeans began immigrating in large numbers in the 1840s, the charge was reiterated that they were superstitious, dangerous, and inassimilable. It is only against this background that one can appreciate the irony of not only the Episcopal Church but the Methodist, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, and even Baptist churches adopting the forms and usages of an otherwise abominated popery. What motivated them to borrow so from their idolatrous neighbors?

The sheer number of those neighbors gave them a kind of irresistibility....In 1853, the General Convention of the Congregationalist Church formally approved the use of crosses for their churches by arguing that "There is no good reason why every little chapel of the Mother of Harlots should be allowed to use what appeals so forcibly and so favorably to the simplest understanding, and we be forbidden the manifest advantage which its use would often give us."....

Second, the Gothic Revival took hold..... gables, pointed arches, and vaulted roofs became all the rage....

In the Gothic style Protestants saw an ideal not only of piety but of refinement, and they were determined to make it their own.
The pictures are of the Milton Seventh Day Baptist Church. The first, of the interior, was taken about 1968. The second is more recent. The church building went up at great financial sacrifice during the Great Depression after the previous structure burned one cold Wisconsin Sabbath morning. Obviously the congregation knew what they wanted their new church to look like.

Source: Cross-Purposes - Books & Culture

The authority of Scripture

In a Washington Post article about one of the Episcopal churches that voted to separate, the writer attempted to explain that one issue was about whether "there can be more than one way to interpret scripture." This inspired Cranach to write:
... is the issue really different ways of interpreting Scripture? How many ways can one interpret the Biblical command not to "lie with a man as with a woman," a formulation that is almost embarrassingly explicit? One can believe in this teaching. Or one can refuse to believe in this teaching. But how many ways can that really be "interpreted"? More importantly, if Jesus's resurrection is just a "story," rather than history, we are, as St. Paul says, without hope and Christianity is simply untrue and churches should just disband.
Source: Cranach -- The blog of Gene Edward Veith

Pride

At Between Two Worlds there is a link to this observation at Reformation21 about Christians engaged in self-promotion.
How do we attract others to what we have that is good without drawing attention to ourselves rather than to Christ? To describe ourselves in any sense as the greatest, the soundest, the most faithful or, most self-defeating of all, the most humble, is surely to rob ourselves of the very thing we should have in this world and culture: the prophetic voice, the voice of the cross, the voice that exposes the values of this world by bringing them into collision with those of God's world, the world of the kingdom that is not of this world. In promoting ourselves, we too often give up the spirit of Christ for the spirit of this age.

We can be Emergent and puff ourselves as the church's most trendy and influential thinkers; we can be Reformed and puff ourselves as the world's greatest and most eloquent preachers; we can be confessional and puff ourselves as the soundest and most theological church leaders around; but in doing so, indeed, in the very moment we do so, we can be sure of only one thing: we are not what we claim to be; rather, we are in fact the very opposite.
Source: Reformation21 » What is a prophetic voice?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

"God's omnipotence and Man's freedom"

Mark Dever has been reading the newly published, Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume 3. He found this comment about Calvinism:
I take it as a first principle that we must not interpret any one part of Scripture so that it contradicts other parts . . . . The real inter-relation between God's omnipotence and Man's freedom is something we can't find out. Looking at the Sheep & the Goats every man can be quite sure that every kind act he does will be accepted by Christ. Yet, equally, we all do feel sure that all the good in us comes from Grace. We have to leave it at that. I find the best plan is to take the Calvinist view of my own virtues and other people's vices; and the other view of my own vices and other peoples virtues. But tho' there is much to be puzzled about, there is nothing to be worried about. It is plain from Scripture that, in whatever sense the Pauline doctrine is true, it is not true in any sense which excludes its (apparent) opposite. You know what Luther said: 'Do you doubt if you are chosen? Then say your prayers and you may conclude that you are.'" (pp.354-355).
Source: Together for the Gospel

Diversity

GetReligion, which is a blog about reporters, their stories, and whether they "get religion" or are clueless about it, writes about an article in the Washington Post.
The story is about Danny Leydorf who attended a Christian school in Annapolis since he was in kindergarten. For college he selected the University of Maryland, a secular state school in an effort to “test his faith in a more diverse world.” This, as the article nicely outlines, is a growing trend among kids raised in Christian educational environments. For the last 30 years, kids coming out of Christian high schools were directed towards Christian colleges or the mission field and even today there remains hesitancy.

After reading the through the first five paragraphs of the article, one does not have to wonder why Christians are hesitating or are nervous:
“I feel like I exist to be interacting,” the lanky, towheaded 19-year-old said eagerly one day last summer, shortly after his graduation, “and part of that is just getting out there.”

So he’d deliberately picked a large, secular college: the University of Maryland. But the week before he was to leave, the wider world dealt him a blow.

“I hate evangelical Christians,” read the Facebook.com profile of his roommate-to-be, who had seemed so perfect on the phone. He loved politics and “The Simpsons,” like Leydorf, and they even had the same views about how to set up the room. Could it still work?
We later learn that Leydorf decided to ignore the Facebook comment, concluding that the unnamed roommate was using “evangelical” to describe people like “Jerry Falwell whom Leydorf considers intolerant.” (I guess it just depends on how you define “evangelical,” right?)

College kids are not exactly known for their discretion and this is true especially for freshmen. ...

But that doesn’t mean that the Post should simply ignore the irony that Leydorf, raised in a Christian school and is seeking to learn to live in “a more diverse world,” is facing the hate of the real world before he even steps on campus. Perhaps Leydorf’s roommate will learn a thing or two from his new Christian evangelical friend who seems as willing as anyone to embrace diverse environments.
Source: Get Religion - Hate in a story about embracing diversity

BJC Packet

Reviewing the packet sent out by the SDB Center on the BJC issue: arguments by both sides are represented, but there seems to be a certain quantitative disproportion. The pro-BJC side has considerably more space. Starting with the "Hot Button" Issues pages [which justify the BJC position in all but one instance], the pro-BJC position occupies sixteen pages, while those opposed to the BJC are given only seven [and that includes three taken from this blog - which would have been revised if their inclusion had been anticipated]. Three pages are neutral.

The attention to this blog is flattering. The only other advocate for disaffiliation musters a very strong case - but we're it, for that side. On the pro-BJC side there are three "opinions" from "SDB Members," a resolution from the BJC, our representative's testimony to his positive experience with the BJC, and the aforesaid "Hot Button" pages. That's better than two-to-one, but no doubt necessary given the strength of our arguments.

I'll have further comment on those arguments as I continue to review the document.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The end of abortion

Kathryn Jean Lopez believes that this technology will be the end of abortion:

Link: 4D imaging will be the end of abortion

"Creation or Evolution? Yes!"

The creation/evolution debate obsesses some and is a stumbling block for others. Many feel that questioning "Creationism" discredits the authority of Scripture. Every Christian affirms that God is Creator. The question of how He did it invariably arises when a non-Christian is testing the conviction of a Christian - or finding an excuse not to believe. A non-"Creationist" Christian explains how he reconciles science and faith:
Francis S. Collins, head of the Human Genome Project, reconciles his Christian faith with scientific theory, including evolution, in The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (Free Press, 2006). Stan Guthrie, CT's senior associate editor, interviewed Collins.
How does evolution fit with your Christian faith?

[Evolution] may seem to us like a slow, inefficient, and even random process, but to God - who's not limited by space or time - it all came together in the blink of an eye. And for us who have been given the gift of intelligence and the ability to appreciate the wonders of the natural world that he created, to have now learned about this evolutionary creative process is a source of awe and wonder. I find these discoveries are completely compatible with everything I know about God through the Scriptures.

If evolution is true, don't atheists have a point?

No. To simply rule out of order any questions that go beyond the natural world is a circular argument. This leaves out profoundly important spiritual questions, such as why we are here, if there is a God, and what happens after we die. Those are questions that science is not really designed to answer. You have to look in another place, using another kind of approach. And for me that's faith.
[more]
Source: Creation or Evolution? Yes! | Christianity Today

The Episcopal Church is in big trouble III

Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori gave an interview to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The entire interview can be found here. An excerpt:
ADG: I want to ask you about a couple of other things you've said in interviews. One of those was in the 10 questions in TIME magazine about the small box that people put God in. Could you elaborate a little bit on your take on "Jesus is the way, the truth and the life" [a paraphrase of John 14:16]?

KJS: I certainly don't disagree with that statement that Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. But the way it's used is as a truth serum, or a touchstone: If you cannot repeat this statement, then you're not a faithful Christian or person of faith. I think Jesus as way - that's certainly what it means to be on a spiritual journey. It means to be in search of relationship with God. We understand Jesus as truth in the sense of being the wholeness of human expression. What does it mean to be wholly and fully and completely a human being? Jesus as life, again, an example of abundant life. We understand him as bringer of abundant life but also as exemplar. What does it mean to be both fully human and fully divine? Here we have the evidence in human form. So I'm impatient with the narrow understanding, but certainly welcoming of the broader understanding.

ADG: What about the rest of that statement -

KJS: The small box?

ADG: Well, the rest of the verse, that no one comes to the Father except by the son.

KJS: Again in its narrow construction, it tends to eliminate other possibilities. In its broader construction, yes, human beings come to relationship with God largely through their experience of holiness in other human beings. Through seeing God at work in other people's lives. In that sense, yes, I will affirm that statement. But not in the narrow sense, that people can only come to relationship with God through consciously believing in Jesus.
Source: Bible Belt Blogger: Presiding Bishop

"The Episcopal Church is in big trouble I," "...II."

Monday, January 15, 2007

SDB Center - BJC packet


The packet of materials on the BJC issue sent out by the SDB Center can be found here as an Acrobat .pdf

Partisan politics and Christianity

From The Inklings. "Jack," of course, is C.S. Lewis. If our religious leaders who are inclined to dabble in politics would show the same self-restraint, it would save a good deal of embarrassment.
Shortly after the election of the new Conservative Government in 1951, Jack received a letter from the Prime Minister's (Winston Churchill) Secretary offering to recommend him for a C.B.E in the New Year Honour's List of 1952. Here is Jack's reply:
14 December 1951

I feel greatly obliged to the Prime Minister, and so far as my personal feelings are concerned this honour would be highly agreeable. There are always however knaves who say, and fools who believe, that my religious writings are all covert anti-Leftish propaganda, and my appearance in the Honours list would of course strengthen their hands. It is therefore better that I should not appear there. I am sure the Prime Minister will understand my reason, and that my gratitude is and will be none the less cordial.
Source: The Inklings: Jack's C.B.E.

"I have a dream..."


"When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the 'unalienable Rights' of 'Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.'"
Martin Luther King, August 28, 1963

Baptist identity: believer's baptism

In a post recommending a new book, Believer's Baptism, Alex Chediak comments:
This issue is of great contemporary importance, as some baptist churches in our day have sought to downplay baptist distinctives. Dr. Albert Mohler's article on theological "triage" is helpful. He distinguishes between first order issues (on which salvation hinges), second order issue (which should determine church or seminary affiliation), and third order issues (which would not prevent Christians from joining together in a covenant community). He characterizes the bodily resurrection of Christ as a first order issue, believers baptism and the ordination of women as a second order issue, and eschatology as a third order issue. Southern Seminary actually dedicated their entire Fall 2005 magazine to Baptist identity, and why it matters.
Source: Alex Chediak Blog: Believer's Baptism - Schreiner and Wright

In an article in that Southern Seminary magazine, Albert Mohler writes about Baptist distinctives:
The first of those principles was regenerate church membership. If there is any one defining mark of Baptists, it is the understanding that membership in the church comes by a personal profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The church is not merely a voluntary association of those who have been born to Christian parents — even Baptist parents — or of those who might have been moistened as infants. Rather, the church is an assembly of those who make a public profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and who then gather together in congregations under the covenant of Christ.

The second principle, a derivative of the first, was believer’s baptism, the conviction that baptism is to be administered only upon an individual’s profession of faith. Baptism is not only a symbol, but an act of obedience and entry into the covenant community of the church. To compromise believer’s baptism is therefore to paint a picture of the church that is much distorted.

The third principle was congregational church government. Baptists have made several and various attempts to define exactly what congregational church government should look like. At its root, however, congregationalism affirms that it is the covenanted community that must take responsibility for the ordering of the church, for the preaching of the Gospel and for everything else God has assigned to the church in this age. There is no sacerdotalism, no priestly class, no one who can be hired to do the ministry of the Gospel and no franchise to be granted. The church itself, the covenanted community of baptized believers, must take responsibility for the fulfillment of all Christ has commanded His people.

Much more could be added to Baptist ecclesiology, but these three principles are an irreducible minimum of Baptist identity....

"Casual sex is a con"

In a new book, The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On, Dawn Eden describes her own experience and the conclusions she has drawn from it:
I sacrificed what should have been the best years of my life for the black lie of free love. All the sex I ever had - and I had more than my fair share - far from bringing me the lasting relationship I sought, only made marriage a more distant prospect.

And I am not alone. Count me among the dissatisfied daughters of the sexual revolution, a new counterculture of women who are realising that casual sex is a con and are choosing to remain chaste instead. [more]
Dawn Eden has a blog called Dawn Patrol.

Source: Casual sex is a con: women just aren't like men - Sunday Times - Times Online

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Kevin Butler is right and I am wrong

In the materials sent to Seventh Day Baptist churches about SDB disaffiliation from the Baptist Joint Committee, one of the sections is written by Kevin Butler, editor of the Sabbath Recorder - and Seventh Day Baptist representative to the BJC. Kevin is a good friend, a person of absolute integrity, and a minister of the gospel. He and I disagree on this issue.

At one point in his argument appears this passage:
In one blog I read against the BJC, the author stated that the group Americans United for the Separation of Church and State began in 1947 and shared office space with the BJC "until the last few years." Well, in the scheme of eternity, I guess that nearly six decades ago could be viewed as "the last few years." AU vacated the BJC office in 1948. We need to be careful with "facts."
As readers of "One Eternal Day" know, this is the blog he is quoting. I know Kevin wouldn't say anything he didn't believe to be true. And I certainly agree that we should be careful with facts. I also agree that sixty years ago isn't recent. So I re-checked. I have been unable to find the evidence for my assertion. Kevin is correct. I regret the error.

I would note, however, the accuracy of the account of the origins of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. From a tribute delivered by Kent Walker, current executive of the BJC:
Finally, Dawson[Note: then the BJC executive] was instrumental in founding Protestants and Other Americans United for the Separation of Church and State in 1947. POAU now, of course, is Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Dawson counted his role in forming POAU and serving as its first secretary one of his most important contributions to the defense of religious liberty. [...] According to Dawson, "POAU had not a penny on which to operate" and thus began in a single room in the offices of the Joint Committee. [emphasis added]
Source: Baptist Joint Committee


In 1947, Joseph Dawson, executive secretary of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, founded Protestants and Other Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.
Source: Washington Times
The organizations remain very close ideologically and in terms of personnel - and that is certainly more important than physical proximity. Among the BJC personalities who serve or have recently served on Americans United's governing board are James Dunn, Stan Hastey, Brent Walker and K. Hollyn Holman. As the previous post indicated, the BJC and Americans United are frequent allies, and have been ever since the BJC founded Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

BJC, politics and "faith-based" initiatives

The following was found after about thirty seconds of "Googling" "Baptist Joint Committee" and "Americans United." It is a pretty good indication of the types of alliances the BJC joins on Establishment clause issues [on "free exercise" issues, the list would less ideological, and more acceptable, at least to me]. The list includes most of those one would expect in an explicitly liberal political alliance in Washington. The story is from 2001, but the example isn't isolated - I would invite anyone to do a similar search. It has been suggested that calling attention to such alliances is "guilt by association." However, the association was voluntary and not invented by opponents of the BJC. Of course, agreement on one issue doesn't imply agreement on everything - but it does mean agreement on that issue, and, when it happens again and again, it is fair to draw an inference.
WASHINGTON - April 11 - A broad coalition of religious, education, labor, civil liberties and health advocacy groups today urged the U.S. House to reject a bill that directs tax aid to houses of worship to provide social services. Two dozen groups representing millions of Americans said the "charitable choice" provisions of the Watts-Hall "Community Solutions Act" (H.R. 7) must be rejected. The provisions, which reflect the Bush administration's "faith-based" initiative, allow religious groups to get government funds without the church-state safeguards that have been in effect in the past. In a letter to House members, the groups said, "'Charitable choice' is an unconstitutional and dangerous proposal that will harm religion, authorize government-funded discrimination, undermine the accountability of taxpayer dollars, foster litigation against state and local governments and violate the personal rights of Americans seeking help."

Among the groups signing the letter is Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the group spearheading opposition to the Bush initiative. "Opposition to Bush's faith-based fiasco is building steadily," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. "Until the plan is brought into line with the Constitution, Congress has a responsibility to reject it." In addition to American United, other groups signing the letter include: American Association of School Administrators, American Association of University Women, American Federation of Teachers, American Humanist Association, American Jewish Committee, Americans for Religious Liberty, Association of Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees, Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, Catholics for a Free Choice, Friends Committee on National Legislation (Quakers), Hadassah, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, National Association of Social Workers, National Council of Jewish Women, National Education Association, NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, OMB Watch, People for the American Way, Service Employees International Union, The Interfaith Alliance, Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Unitarian Universalist Association and Women of Reform Judaism. [emphasis added]
Source: Americans United for Separation of Church and State

The news release was posted on a "progressive" [read liberal] website by Americans United. The bill they were opposing back in those early days of the Bush administration, was co-sponsored by a Republican from Oklahoma and a Democrat from Ohio.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

There are no lost battles (because there are no won battles)

World Magazine Blog comments below on some recent Federal Court Establishment clause cases. The first case, involving the Veterans Administration, was decided, I'm proud to say, here in Madison, Wisconsin, where, I'm sorry to say, the Freedom from Religion Foundation is located. The second case is about the Mt. Soledad Cross - part of a World War II memorial.
Believing that "faith plays an important role in a person's sense of health and wellness," the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) incorporates religion into its patient care when it is deemed important to the patient. Freedom From Religion Foundation challenged the constitutionality of this use of religion in federal court, but a Wisconsin-based federal district court has dismissed the case.

Specifically, the lawsuit challenged VA's practices of: (1) giving patients a "spiritual assessment" which asks such questions as how often they attend church and how important religion is to their lives; (2) its integration of chaplains into patient care; and (3) its employment of alcohol treatment programs that incorporate religion. U.S. District Judge John Shabaz concluded that the use of religion for the purpose of helping to heal the sick legitimately relates to the VA's responsibilities and that because all of the challenged programs are voluntary they do not violate the Constitution. Freedom From says it will appeal the decision.
Source: Federal judge okay's VA's use of religion
The 9th Circuit appeals court yesterday ruled that a U.S. district court must vacate its order for the City of San Diego to remove the cross that is part of a war memorial atop Mt. Soledad in La Jolla, California. (You can read the ruling here.)

On May 3, 2006, Judge Gordon Thompson, Jr., moved to enforce an order he initially made in 1991, telling the city that the cross violated the state constitution's ban on government aid and preference for religion, and to remove it or face a fine of $5,000 per day. In August, Congress passed a bill allowing the federal government to take control of the land. That rendered Judge Thompson's order moot, since the land no longer fell under the authority of the California constitution, triggering the 9th Circuit's decision.

But the battle over the cross isn't over yet. Two lawsuits challenging the land transfer are moving through federal court with a potential trial scheduled for July.
Source: 9th Circuit: Vacate order to remove Soledad cross

Friday, January 12, 2007

"The politics of long joy"

In a new column at Books & Culture, Alan Jacobs, author of a recent biography of C.S. Lewis, The Narnian, uses Paradise Lost as way into discussing why "winning trophies," or what Milton calls "short joy" is far less important than obedience.
Near the middle of Milton's Paradise Lost, the archangel Raphael describes for Adam - who has not yet fallen, not yet disobeyed - the War in Heaven between Satan's rebellious angels and those who have remained faithful to God. Throughout this portion of the poem a major figure is a loyal angel named Abdiel. It is his task, or privilege, to cast the first blow against Satan himself: his "noble stroke" causes Satan to stagger backwards and fall to one knee, which terrifies and enrages the great rebel's followers. This happens as Abdiel expected; he's not afraid of Satan, and knows that even the king of the rebels cannot match his strength, since rebellion has already sapped some of the greatness and power of the one once known as Lucifer.

But what if the combat hadn't gone as expected? What if Satan had been unhurt by Abdiel's blow, or had himself wounded the faithful angel? In that case, says one Milton scholar, John Rumrich, "God would by rights have some explaining to do." What right would God have to send Abdiel into a struggle where he could be wounded or destroyed? To Rumrich's claim that most eminent of Miltonists, Stanley Fish, replies: Every right. God's actions are not subject to our judgment, because he's God - a point which, Fish often reminds us, modern literary critics seem unable to grasp. [more]

Sectarian bigotry

S.M. Hutchens at Touchstone Magazine's Mere Comments, writes about the Roman Catholic/Protestant divide in the context of growing up in an Evangelical church in a community with many Catholics:
The few Catholic fanatics I encountered, including the Marian ones, looked very much like Protestant fanatics I knew - just with different objects for their fanaticism. A lot of the Catholic nuts clustered around Mary just like the Protestant nuts (in my church, anyway) clustered around end-times prophecy - but a nut is a nut, wherever you find him. The Catholics who hated Protestants suffered from the same personality flaws as their Protestant counterparts. As far as earning their salvation by good works was concerned, I knew no official Catholic doctrine, but did notice that Catholic legalists and bean counters, who really thought they could, were the kind of people who you would expect to: either obsessive types or people who relied on their baptisms for salvation because they preferred this to walking with God. They were a lot like the Baptists who thought their souls were eternally secure because at some time in their lives a preacher got them whupped up enough to get saved. Neither of them seemed to be trusting in the God of the Bible, who clearly was not the kind of salvation machine they took him for.
It does seem that, increasingly, orthodox believers in all Christian denominations recognize the importance of their commonalities in the face of the tenuous and uncertain doctrinal commitments of the theological liberals in their traditions.

Source: Touchstone Magazine - Mere Comments: The Touchstone Evangelical

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The "Religious Left"

Seventh Day Baptists have long since withdrawn membership from the National Council of Churches. It's a good thing:
The National Council of Churches is becoming financially beholden to secular groups with liberal political leanings, according to a report by a religious watchdog organization.

The Institute on Religion and Democracy, a group formed by members of the NCC, says the group accepted the majority of its charitable donations last year from nonreligious organizations and has been pursuing an agenda that does not mesh with the majority of its church members, including support for abortion and homosexual "marriage."

"We found numerous common themes among the dozens of nonchurch entities from which the church council has recently sought or received funding," said John Lomperis, a research associate with IRD who co-wrote the group's report on the NCC.

"These groups have very little demonstrated interest in religion beyond recruiting faith communities to support their favored social and political causes."

Politically affiliated groups who donated to the NCC between 2004 and 2005 include the Sierra Club; the Ford Foundation, which advocated for "reproductive rights"; the United Nations Foundation, which is funded by billionaire media mogul and philanthropist Ted Turner; and the Connect US Network, which has ties to George Soros' Open Society Institute, Mr. Lomperis said.

Mr. Lomperis says the NCC also applied for a $100,000 grant from MoveOn.org, a liberal political-advocacy group that worked to defeat President Bush in the 2004 election, but has not yet received any grant money from the organization.

IRD Vice President Alan F.H. Wisdom says the problem lies not with the NCC accepting such money, but that the groups who are donating it do not reflect the views of the member churches. "The religious left simply does not have 45 million people in the pews on any given Sunday," he said. [links added]
At IRD - "Executive Summary of 'Strange Yokefellows"

At GetReligion - "Looking Beyond the Press Conference"

More at Get Religion 1/19 - Knight's Crusade

Wilberforce


Amazing Grace, the film about William Wilberforce, will be released to theaters next month. Alex Chediak advises us that:
John Piper's short biography on William Wilberforce is available January 29 as a softcover book and immediately as a free PDF.
Source: Alex Chediak Blog

Sinners and the Church

A good post at Intellectuelle about how the Church should deal with unrepentant sinners:
...Nigerian Anglican Bishop Peter Akinola, speaking on the separation occurring within the Episcopal Church:
The point here is not of separating from sinners . . . but objecting strongly to yielding to the . . . worldly spirit of a materialistic, secularist and self-centered age, which seeks to mould everyone into its own tainted image.

Our argument is that if homosexuals see themselves as deviants who have gone astray, the Christian spirit would plead for patience and prayers to make room for their repentance. When Scripture says something is wrong and some people say that it is right, such people make God a liar.
This upholding of orthodoxy, as Chuck Colson refers to it, applies to every sin imaginable, not just homosexuality or other outward sin. Anyone who would mold themselves or try to mold others to an image other than that of the repentant person redeemed in Christ, as explicated in the Bible, is a deviant. Ouch. Yet such a person cannot be merely "written off"; with patience and prayers may we make room for their repentance. To write a person off is to assume the role of judge.

However, to accept a person into church fellowship without addressing their sin is to compromise the message of salvation, as it is to allow the unrepentant person into church fellowship. I know this goes against the grain of a lot of church practice, but I think the key word here is unrepentant. ...
[more]

"Speaker Pelosi's daughter joins the Culture War"

From Mere Comments at Touchstone Magazine:
Alexandra Pelosi is a filmmaker, set to debut her newest documentary on evangelical Christianity on HBO January 25th. She is also the daughter of the first female Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. And she, halfway anyway, thinks conservative Christians are on the right side of the so-called "culture wars."

Pelosi, who previously made waves with her 2000 Bush campaign documentary "Journeys with George," describes herself, according to the New York Times, as a "lapsed Catholic who dislikes church." Nonetheless, the Times reports, she makes sure her new baby will be brought up in church so he will have "more than himself and capitalism to believe in."

According to the Times article, Pelosi fears that many evangelicals won't watch her documentary, simply because she's the Speaker's daughter. Nonetheless, she feels a strange pull toward some of the concerns of conservative Christians. "I believe in the culture war," Pelosi tells reporter Felicia R. Lee. "And you know what? If I have to take a side in the culture war, I'll take their side. Because if you give me the choice of Paris Hilton or Jesus, I'll take Jesus." ...
Source: Touchstone Magazine - Mere Comments: Speaker Pelosi's Daughter Joins the Culture War