Andrew Sullivan covers some of the debate going on between Daniel Dennett and Lord Winston. The debate topic is: “Is Religion a Threat to Rationality and Science?” Read the rest of this entry »

Obama’s church

March 14, 2008

A lot of controversy, bubbling here and there, over Barack Obama’s church has been brewing in the media. Comments by pastor Jeremiah Wright and other troubling aspects from Trinity United Church of  Christ has put the church under a far amount of scrutiny. I want to look for a second at what the church says about itself via its website, and evaluate under the auspices of a New Testament theology. Read the rest of this entry »

Tears for Obama

March 9, 2008

Josh Harris has a deeply affecting blog on his five year old son, Barack Obama, and the most important social issue of our generation.

My five-year-old son, Joshua Quinn, has been following the presidential election with his dad. To him it’s another sport alongside football and NASCAR. Someone wins. Someone loses. He can understand that.

He has seen various candidates on TV and he’s been drawn to Barack Obama. Is it any wonder? Even for a young boy Obama’s words and demeanor are magnetic. But one day I mentioned the fact that Mr. Obama is pro-choice. Joshua Quinn had only recently been informed about the sad reality of abortion. When he learned that Mr. Obama supported abortion, he burst into tears. He was heart-broken.

Read the rest of this entry »

There are very few bloggers on the internet that I respect more than Brian LePort. Always thoughtful, never caustic and many times right, Brian’s blog is required reading for anyone interested in some serious theologically cultural thinking. But I think he misses a few things in his recent post dealing with the nature of violence.

Let me first of all I say that I agree with Brian’s main thesis: Violence does beget violence. It’s pretty obvious: Just visit a group of 5 year olds to understand how contagious pushing and shoving can be. Christ taught this principle starting from the inside: That sin within the heart is the source of visible sin, or “violence.”

Where I disagree with Brian is in his line of thinking that seeks to apply these principle to republican government. This paragraph suffices:

On the other hand, whether the words of Jesus concerning the response to violence being “turn the other cheek” are pragmatic, or transferable to all cases of received violence, though debatable, must at least be recognized as a warning to those who believe that violence can somehow stop violence. It cannot.

When 9/11 took place we realized how terrible violence is. Our response? More violence in Afghanistan and Iraq (and now we talk about going further into Pakistan or into Iran). While almost three thousand people died on 9/11, over four thousand coalition soldiers have died in Iraq alone (almost four thousand of those being Americans) and we have lost an addition eight hundred (rounded off) in Afghanistan. The Iraqi death total has almost reached thirty-nine thousand (13x’s that of 9/11!).

Admittedly, the numbers are staggering. But I think his implication is off a bit.

Read the rest of this entry »

Theo-idiocy

February 26, 2008

Please, please folks: Get over yourselves. American theocracy is not going to happen. Ever.  It’s a term of no content and mostly political implication. And it’s used by everyone, not just the fear-mongering Left.  Please, an Obama theocracy?

I implore you: Let this word fall into exclusively seminarian usage. It’s not going to be Barack Obama’s secret agenda, and it’s not going to be the final accomplishment of a militant religious right. Theocracy never has and never will happen.

Quote of the day

February 20, 2008

Brian LePort warns against “messianic politics,” and hits the nail right on the head:

 “This can become most dangerous when, for example, a Christian who supports Huckabee, or Obama, or whoever, begins to justify all the actions and stances of his or her candidate of choice. This is why we have had so many Evangelicals–people who follow the religion of a person who died on a Roman cross without putting up a fight–supporting the war in Iraq. It is felt that to preserve anti-Roe politics for instance, we must then also support war because, well, it is give one-take one. Once you’ve been invited to sit in the Big (White) House it is hard to criticize the host.”

A God Who Is Good

February 2, 2008

Fearfully Human answers the question, “Is God good? How do you know?”

 I’ve met the people who most have reason to believe God is not good; the poorest of the poor in places you’d swear God was absent. The poor in Haiti call Him “Bondieu” from two french words – Good, God – they do not reference God without referencing His goodness. It stuns me everytime I think about it, that the ones I would use as evidence against the goodness of God would testify against me, that He is good.

I believe that the Jesus I am told of in the narratives of the Bible points to a God who is not only good but present, who understands our pain, the darkness against which we kick, and His promises were not of a magic wand, but of a one-day-coming Kingdom that will right the wrong and quench the darkness, and that He would walk with us through the pain until then. I believe His birth, as God in the flesh, dignifies my physical existence, His life gives meaning to mine, His death paid a ransom for my soul, and His resurrection gave me hope for beyond the grave. I have nothing any empiricist would call proof – just faith. There’s something in the gospels that has a powerful ring of deepest truth – like it matches up with my deepest longings, reflects back to me with great accuracy not only who God must be, but how different He is from me. If I were writing the Bible I’d have made God more like me, the fact that it calls me to be something so much more has the stamp of divinity on it. I don’t even know that that makes sense, but it’s the best way I can express it.

The entire post is definitely worth the read.

One other thought I would add is that, if God is really not good, it seems very odd that humanity would go through thousands of years of religious searching and always assume that God was good. To borrow from C.S. Lewis, the idea that people would attribute such a painful existence to a beautiful, loving Creator is troubling, since, as Professor Lewis put it, “People are fools, perhaps, but hardly such fools as that.” Something therefore points deeper, into a human suspicion (that finds itself surfacing even in the most unlikely of places) that really all the pain and suffering was not how the world was meant to be, and there is Someone who plans (or perhaps already has in a way) to redeem it.

A brief but well written interview with the Democratic presidential hopeful from Christianity Today. The magazine asks some good questions, including one on abortion that reveals the glaring weaknesses of the pro-choice position.

I don’t know anybody who is pro-abortion. I think it’s very important to start with that premise. I think people recognize what a wrenching, difficult issue it is. I do think that those who diminish the moral elements of the decision aren’t expressing the full reality of it. But what I believe is that women do not make these decisions casually, and that they struggle with it fervently with their pastors, with their spouses, with their doctors.

That’s the thing. Abortion might be a more wrenching and difficult decision, had not enthusiastically pro-choice legislators like Obama made it so convenient and easy to attain one. Obama has voted against parental notification, even for out of state abortions. If abortion should be considered with the graveness and maturity Obama’s words suggest, then why do his actions exclude the thoughts of the parents from the decision making process?

The pro-choice worldview is one of extremist feminism and blatant selfishness. Can such a worldview be not only unopposed, but aggressively endorsed, by one who professes themselves to be a believer in Christ? To hope that Christians overlook an aggressively favorable record towards abortion is a little more, methinks, than audacious hope.

The blogosphere is blowing the secualrist gasket over H.R. 888, entitled (get ready) “Affirming the rich spiritual and religious history of our Nation’s founding and subsequent history and expressing support for designation of the first week in May as `American Religious History Week’ for the appreciation of and education on America’s history of religious faith.” Put simply, Congressman Randy Forbes would like Congress to set aside the first week in May as a religious history week.

And boy, are the hornets not happy about that.

Reading through this “piece of”… legislation is a roller coaster ride through distorted history, religious fanaticism and more than anything else (as Hedges suggests) a warning shot across the bow that the religious ultra-right has now cut loose from their political handlers. We now see a Republican party that essentially looks like this:

A tiny minority of moderate Republicans, or “Eisenhower” Republicans…

A majority of Corporate Republicans, firmly entrenched in Corporate America’s vest pocket

(and now, breaking away) a growing, virulent minority of Righteous Republicans who are making up a third branch (for the time being) of the Republican party…

Cute. But this is simply fearmongering and nothing else.

For one thing, the author asserts the legislation “distorts history.” Uhm, mind to tell us where? If you are going to accuse someone of lying, the most common form of doing so is to present the truth which contrasts to their lies. It’s nowhere in this article. We are supposed to believe that history MUST be distorted H.R. 888, because The Nation (surely such an objective source is proof alone) tells us that it is. That is as irresponsible, ignorant, and shoddy thinking as you can possibly get.

Secondly, just because this is a worthless piece of legislation does not signal the onlsaught of the Christian Theocracy. It’s a nice piece of dreaming for aggressive secularists, but alas, it has been tried before.

Here’s a piece of news for the truly concerned: If the American Theocracy could not happen in 1783, where numerous states ratified the Constitution while having official churches, it cannot happen today. Theocracy in this nation is (fortunately) an impossibility. The concept’s only use to the modern world is in talking points for each side to use in calling each other fascists. Real theocracy would require much more than 21st century America could ever give.

I’m not sure which all this talk of theocracy is more indicative of: Theological ignorance, political daydreaming, or blatant dishonesty. Then again, maybe it’s born of all three.

Evangelicals At the Polls

January 21, 2008

A very thoughtful post on the evangelical vote in this year’s election was recently published on the site I write for, The Political Inquirer. Brian LePort brings some observations on the Christian right’s current condition and effect on the general elections.

The editorial team for Christianity Today magazine (”What We Really Want“, January, 2008) are announcing that evangelicals “will not be on the sidelines this election” further stating “One President’s policies, one difficult war, one season of foreclosures–or whatever is supposed to discourage us–is not going to make us throw up our hands in despair.” And as Iowa showed, evangelicals are not defeated in the political arena just yet.

But what does this actually mean? What are “Evangelicals” post George W. Bush? It can be kind of confusing as the internal paradox of this article shows when it gives the following qualifications, which basically sum up the article:

1. Evangelicals are not a “block” of voters that can be swooped up as a whole by saying this or that key phrase.

2. Evangelicals may have assisted President George W. Bush’s election, but it should not be assumed that this means a given presidential candidate can be a lock just because he/she tickles the ears of Evangelicals. Evangelicals didn’t put Pat Robertson in office, hence, it takes more than religious talk.

3. On the other hand, Evangelicals do represent core values: namely, “freedom of religion and conscience; protection for families and children; protection of all human life; compassion and justice for poor people; global human rights; the pursuit of peace and restraint of violence; and biblically based creation care.”

These are some good insights. I especially note the disregard for conventional wisdom found in point #2. Any evangelical worth the term should know and apply the fact that religion has become a useful calling card in American politics, and the politicans know it better than anyone else. My recent string of posts documenting this fact I think lays it out as plainly as can be laid. Anyone, excepting no one, can use religion to gain political capitol in today’s America. If you combine the different factors of theological ignorance, political hypertension and overall lack of biblical discernment, you end up with a people who, while devoutly religious and doggedly traditional, have no real reason to accept one “Christian” candidate and not another.

I’ll make it explicit: I do not believe a Bible-believing Christian (there are no other kinds) can consider himself “pro-choice.” The debate over whether or not a fetus is human life is over, if it ever really were a debate to begin with. The modern abortion discussion has moved beyond Roe vs. Wade; we are now clearly faced with the dualistic nature of moral elitism and moral sanity. Abortion is either murder and wrong, or it is either murder and not wrong. The first point is solved; The second point reflects only the sad pervasion of ethical selfishness that defines the modern Western generation.

Can a Christian be “pro-choice?” Well, to be pro-choice requires some things: It requires believing that human beings possess rights, not obliged to God or even fellow man, that entitle them to do what they will to achieve their own comfort, to the detriment of their own children if need be. This is a fundamental anti-God worldview. It is the worldview that sees no fall, no sin, and certainly no need of redemption in Christ. The pro-choice position is antithetical to any self-claiming “Christian” worldview.

The fact that Christians can be Christians and yet strict constructionists does not mean they cease to be either. In my opinion, to given honest, biblical, and reasoned thoughts to these issues yields no other result. There ARE common values Evangelicals can rally around, even if they are divided on which candidate will best help the economy. As long as any degree of moral clarity or biblical knowledge exists, “moral values” will continue to impact, and rightly so, many a voter’s ballot.