2/29/08

Royce’s “Doctrine of Life” in an Age of Fundamentalism and Materialism

This paper is from the website of Dr. Michael Eldgridge, at University of North Carolina-Charlotte. Professor Eldridge does not recall the author of the paper, so we cannot properly attribute the document. It is, however, well-footnoted. It 'resonates' with what I recall of Royce's "Problems with Christianity".

For more on Josiah Royce, see:

Josiah Royce (Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy).

Royce’s “Doctrine of Life” in an Age of Fundamentalism and Materialism

Abstract

Royce contends that the early Christian communities discovered a Doctrine of Life, larger than any historical form of Christianity, a doctrine that can serve the universal needs of the human race. Individuals in isolation feel lost and in need of salvation, which they find in a beloved community animated by a spirit larger than the individuals who compose the community. The Christian communities founded by St. Paul are prototypes of saving communities that may exist apart from the historical and theological particulars of the first century. Religious fundamentalism, mistaking the historical for the essential, stands incompatible with this Doctrine, as does materialism, which limits consciousness to the physiology of individual humans. This paper interprets Royce’s ideas as an antidote for the inadequacies of both sides of the current culture wars between religion and irreligion.

Note: We have identified the author of the article and are awaiting his permission before reposting the full article. More as it develops...

A Fowlerian Shindig

From Jeanne Fenter, over in Fowler:

Fowler High School English II Students cordially invite you to attend :

"Remembering The Great Depression"

Presented by Fowler High School English II Students

March 6, 2008
7:00 pm
Fowler Elementary All Purpose Room

I hope you can join us for this special production based on the collaboration between Fowler High School English II students with the Fowler Historical Museum & Society. Members of the community were interviewed for their experiences and contributed photographs, newspapers and other artifacts for this event.

“The DVD made by the Fowler students inspired all of us at the Preserve America Youth Summit in Denver . They presented the Great Depression so cleverly, pulling their audience into the story using the format of an evening news cast. They framed the story in the context of local news, national weather and the Olympic Games in Germany . I can’t wait to see what this group produces next!”

Judy Walden

Denver , Colorado

The Final Four

No...not basketball. Politics. Here it is:

We are down to the final four.

We've got a bass playing preacher from Arkansas ,

A side-switching senior citizen from Arizona ,

An Illinois senator who hasn't had one bill passed in Congress but he wants to surrender to terror and run,

And Monica Lewinski's boyfriend's wife.

"If Bloomberg ran..."

From Rich Galen's "Mullings: An American Cybercolumn":

On the Bloomberg news wire this afternoon:

“New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg ended months of speculation that he might become a candidate for U.S. president, saying he would use his influence to push for nonpartisan solutions to the nation's problems.”

The next-to-last graf of that piece by reporters Joseph Galante and Henry Goldman read:
“Bloomberg, the billionaire founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, has the capacity to self- finance a presidential campaign.”

Mike Bloomberg didn’t become a billionaire by getting into deals which were guaranteed to fail. And a Presidential run by Bloomberg was absolutely guaranteed to crash.

Put aside, for a moment, a bunch of people around Bloomberg reprising the Peter Boyle role in the 1972 movie, “The Candidate” – looking for a candidate so they can make some money.

If I were advising Mayor Bloomberg I would ask those people to get map of the United States. I would ask them to get a big magic marker. On the map I would ask them to indicate the number of electoral votes available in each state. Then I would ask them to bring it into Mayor’s conference room, unroll it, and place it on the table.

Then, with Mayor Mike Bloomberg looking on, I would ask them to show me the states we could win which would add up to the 270 electoral votes necessary to ensure that Mayor Bloomberg would be elected President Bloomberg.

No further questions, your Honor. Your witness.

The assuming Bloomberg actually won some electoral votes the best he could hope to do would be to throw the election for President into the House of Representatives.

Dear Mr. Mullings:
I’m kind of new at this. How would that work, anyway?
Signed,
Sen. Barak Obama

Yes, well, the first thing we would want to do is to go to the rule book. In this case the U.S. Constitution. Specifically the Twelfth Amendment which tells us, that if no candidate has a majority of electoral votes when the ballots are counted by the President of the US Senate:

… then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President.

But wait! There’s more!

The Amendment goes on to describe how the votes in the House will be counted (Read this part. It is a great bar bet. You will never pay for another beer in your whole life):

But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote …

California, with its 53 Members of Congress gets exactly the same number of votes as Wyoming – One.

According to a 1999 analysis by the Library of Congress, the Senate votes for Vice President (each Senator gets one vote, an absolute majority – 51 – needed to elect) but the House votes by State (26 States needed).

The District of Columbia, which has three electoral votes, does not get to vote for either the President or Vice President.

This means it is possible for one political party to control the House but not have the votes to elect the President.

How? Because it is quite possible for the Democrats to have a majority of the Congressional Districts, but not control a majority of the State delegations.

As it happens (by my, probably inaccurate, count) the Democrats do control 26 State delegations. Republicans control 21 delegations, four are tied with an even number of Republicans and Democrats.

Having looked all this up, I have changed my mind.

I DO want Mike Bloomberg to run and I want him to win enough electoral votes to throw the whole thing to the House and Senate, if only to have California, New York and Texas howl with outrage as their delegations are given the same weight as Delaware, Wyoming and Alaska in the process.

On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Lots o’ Links: To the Bloomberg New Service story about Mayor Bloomberg’s decision not to run; a link to the IMDB website on “The Candidate”, and a link to that Congressional Research Service analysis which I commend to you because … why should you have a life when I don’t?

Also a Mullfoto which is a guy thing, and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

-- END --

2/28/08

A 'prevalent philosophy'?

One of the marks of a good editorial commentary is that such a scribbling will often generate more questions than it answers. In his commentary of February 28, Pastor Beecham accomplishes that very well. Beecham makes some very good points...to a point. That point is when he starts talking about "Darwinism".

Beecham notes that "more people have been 'eliminated' in the twentieth century alone...", ascribing such eliminations to those who ascribe to Darwinistic theory, than those killed in all the religious wars combined in all of the previous centuries. That's an interesting statement, and I'd like to know the academic source for it. Rivers of blood have flowed in God's name, or in Jesus' name, or in Allah's name, or in Ba'al's name, or in some Aztec god's name, or whatever. Can we count non-Judaic gods in our religious slaughters? Righteous slaughter is one of humankind's greatest preoccupations. It would seem that we would want to give full credit where credit is due. And, having lived in Europe for some time, I was often struck by the fact that one could hardly take a step without laying foot on a patch of ground that had been soaked in blood in God's name at one time or another. But in any case, I'm not sure that essentially saying that "religious nutjobs have not butchered as many people as political nutjobs" makes the killings in God's name any more acceptable. Maybe it does. I dunno.

I am presuming that Beecham is speaking primarily of social Darwinism rather than evolutionary Darwinism, though he seems to mix both of these. That is not surprising as many pastors, especially those who might be associated with American Christian Fundamentalism (as opposed to Pauline fundamentalism), like to use "Darwinism" dislogistically and as proof that creationism and Biblical literalism are The One True Way. Good theological argument can be made that such is not the case, but we have neither the space nor enough ink to do that justice at this point. Perhaps the rest of the pastors might be inclined to develop this further on a weekly basis?

But the most interesting comments by Beecham involve his linkage of "Darwinism", to which he attributes the belief that "When you no longer contribute to society, you are deemed to have no value", to our government and our educational system as "the prevalent philosophy" therein. Beecham errs in this statement, in several ways. First, that belief is not an attribute of "Darwinism", social or otherwise, at least in the human milieu. Rather, it is a core attribute of "eugenics". "Eugenics" stems from "Darwinism", but not as a component of the latter. Nope. "Eugenics" arises because in a civilized society Darwin's 'natural selection' and 'survival of the fittest (which is not a Darwinism but is from Herbert Spencer) no longer apply and the weak, the sick, the helpless, the inept, and the simply too-stupid-to-otherwise-survive are nurtured and protected by society. The best example of applied eugenics in this country may be found in the US Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell, in which that paragon of both Christian and judicial values, Oliver Wendell Holmes, wrote the majority opinion. An excerpt:

"We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes."

Wow. Let's sterilize everyone on welfare. Think of the money we'd save. Fortunately, Buck v. Bell was overturned de facto if not de jure by Skinner v. Oklahoma a few years later, though it took some decades for it to soak into the "Christian" governments of the several states. Another interesting point is that all this was going on during the great Holiness and revival movements of the early-to-mid twentieth century.

In the closing paragraphs of his commentary, Beecham contradicts his statement regarding that "prevalent philosphy" by citing the 90 year old Alzheimer's patient in the nursing home or the mentally retarded child. Does our society not give worth to these people? It must, else we would simply place them out on the prairie and let the coyotes have them. It must, else why do we have nursing homes at all? Do we not expend millions, billions, for palliative care for terminally ill patients each year? Why would we do that if we did not value them? Do "we" not comprise "society"? As for government, what would happen if the police or the Department of Public Health started selecting people for euthanization? Would our society allow that?

Where does that leave us with abortion? Well, actually, I tend to agree with much of the Church Universal's position on abortion, but neither rabidly nor unequivocally. I would suggest to those who are so rabidly unequivocal about abortion that they might display a more righteous position not by castigating those who disagree with them, not by picketing Planned Parenthood; not by taking the Chamber of Commerce to task for renting space to Planned Parenthood, but by offering good homes to those million-and-a-half children, give or take a few, who are otherwise flushed down the drains each year. When the anti-abortion pastors are ready to expend their energies on that, perhaps they will be taken more seriously.

2/26/08

Relevant, with a side bashing of Fundamentalism

Relevant magazine has been out for about five years now. Some of our pastors might want to consider taking out a subscription. Of course, they won't, because it's full of that 'emerging church' stuff, and they would rather continue watching their congregations shrink while they stick with methods that were toast forty years ago.

Here is the Relevant website:

Relevant

Here is the latest issue. You can get a look at the inside pages by clicking on Rob Bell's picture; that section is hot-linked to a flash production that will let you flip through the pages:

Current issue

Meanwhile, Americans are leaving the established denominations in droves, and either dropping out completely, or going over to megachurches like Bell's:

Americans switching faiths, dropping out

Bell is very good. He has written:

Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith

Sex God: Exploring the Endless Connections Between Sexuality And Spirituality

Jesus Wants to Save Christians: A Manifesto for the Church in Exile

and coming soon:

The Gods Aren't Angry

Unlike many of his fellow megachurch pastors, Bell does not come across as Tony Robbins in a preacher suit. Those guys are the so-called 'prosperity preachers', the ones whose underlying message is..."go forth, ye saved sinners, and make mo' munny so you can tithe more to me...I need a new Mercedes to spread the Word!" Those guys do well because they appeal to the materialistic capitalist within us all. We recently watched one of Bell's videos, entitled "Trees". Gossman-Steeves used it in her discussion group. It sat well particularly with the teens, as well as adults who are fed up with the standard preachery. Bell is well worth a read.

Another good one that will pop up on Relevant is Brian McLaren, who wrote:

Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope

The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth that Could Change Everything

A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I Am a Missional, Evangelical, Post/Protestant, Liberal/Conservative, Mystical/Poetic, Biblical, Charismatic/Contemplative, Fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Green, Incarnational, Depressed-yet-Hopeful, Emergent, Unfinished CHRISTIAN

A Search for What Is Real: Finding Faith

Finding Faith: A Search for What Makes Sense

and the first one of his works that I read:

A New Kind of Christian: A Tale of Two Friends on a Spiritual Journey ...after the first chapter of which I sat there thinking...shoot...I could have written this; it's exactly about me. It describes perfectly why I walked away from the church, and why I would not set foot in pretty much most churches today, other than to serve as Gossman-Steeves' heathen photographer and general factotum. It also describes why I found a church that I like. Or why I like the church that I found.

But McLaren is another of those 'emerging church' types, a concept scoffed at by our more traditional pastors. Take a look at these two, for starters, and you will see why Americans, though we remain highly spiritual, are fleeing the Church in droves.

Awhile back, when I was still on speaking terms, more or less, with the Ministerial Association, before they got their panties in a wedgie over some heathen actually telling one of them he was full of crap, I was sitting across from one of our pastors at lunch. This guy is no longer here. No loss. He was talking about how his congregation was shrinking. He said, "I don't understand it. I guess the members are just getting old and can't make it to church any more." And he shrugged it off. Well. If you had paid attention to his snappy little signs outside the church, you'd understand why no new members were forthcoming. And his attitude left a great deal to be desired. He had his old way of putting out the message. That few were listening seemingly failed to register. He and other pastors seem to think that method and message are the same thing. They are not. The message is unchanging. But people today do not react to fire and brimstone threats; they do not believe that God blames everyone from conception to death for the guilt of Original Sin; they do not believe that God intended humankind to live in that 'state of perpetual depravity' that preachers like to rant on about in one form or another.

We can thank Fundamentalists for all that. Even the Wesleyan churches, with their much more positive outlook about humankind's relationship with God, have been corrupted by Fundamentalism.

Fundamentalism is poisoning the church. Look at it. It is a doctrine of hatefulness with a thin veneer of so-called 'Christianity'. The sooner some of our pastors recognize that and clean it out of their churches, the better off will be the Church Universal. Christian Fundamentalism is as poisonous as is Muslim Fundamentalism. Remove that secular Rule of Law, and it wouldn't take long for Christian Fundamentalists to become as murderous as their Islamic brethren.

Jesus wept.

The modern USMC

Some might find a few of the captions to be...offensive. If so, please try those cute motivational posters over at Barnes and Noble.





General Matthis was skunked by the far left for this and other quotes, particularly that "..You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. Actually it's quite fun to fight them, you know. It's a hell of a hoot. It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right up there with you. I like brawling .."

Here is an article about Matthis that is worth a read:

Breaking the warrior code

2/15/08

Hillary and the superdelegates

An American Cyber-Column
Rich Galen
Friday February 15, 2008

# In the Democratic Party there are 796 "Super Delegates." These are men and women who are delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Denver by virtue of their position, not because they were elected in primary or chosen in a party caucus.

# Officially, within the Democratic National Committee rules they are known as "Party Leaders and Elected Officials" (PLEOs) but Super Delegates stuck. PLEOs did not.

# Mullpal Lanny Davis has reminded us that Super Delegates were never intended to be pledged to one candidate, but were the insiders who could undo a bad decision by those pesky voters in primaries and caucuses.

# Yesterday, Mr. Davis (with whom I have appeared as a sparring partner many times over the past decade) pointed out that in an earlier age Democratic Party insiders chose as the Party's nominee Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Adlai Stevenson, and John F. Kennedy.

# As we pointed out here on Wednesday, Barack Obama - following Tuesday's "Potomac Primary" has assumed the lead in the actual delegate count.

# The way the delegates are awarded in these Democratic primaries, unless one candidate gets 80% of the votes the awards tend to be 54% to 46% one way or the other.

# Thus, according to CNN's count, Barak Obama has 1,096 elected delegates (of the 2,025 needed) while Hillary Clinton has 977 - 119 fewer and that ratio isn't likely to change much.

# While Super Delegates have no requirement to support any candidate prior to the opening of the Convention, CNN reports Obama has the pledged support of 157 and Clinton has 234 closing the gap between them to only 42 delegates.

# As there are 796 Super Delegates and only 391 have pledged to support one of the candidates, that leaves 405 Super Delegates sitting around waiting for offers.

# So long as Hillary Clinton stays inside of 405 delegates, the Supers can turn the tide.

# But, they won't just swoop onto the floor and wrest the nomination away from Obama because that would cause a riot in Denver. Here's what they will do:

You may remember that Michigan and Florida were stripped of their delegates because they ignored the DNC dictum that thou shalt not have a primary election earlier than February 5.

They did and Hillary won both.

The Clintons will arrange for their Super Delegates to reach down to the elected delegates who are members of the Rules and/or Credentials Committees over whom they have some control (if you are a sitting Democratic US Senator or Governor and you call an elected delegate from your state, that elected delegate will take your call).

The Super Delegates will instruct the elected delegates on those committees to seat delegations from Florida and Michigan proportionate to the votes Obama and Clinton received.

# I guarantee you that the proportions will be just enough to give the nomination to Hillary.

# And

1. The Clintons will be able to claim they had nothing to do with it.

2. The Supers will be able to claim they were just doing their jobs by not disenfranchising voters in two crucial states.

3. Just as you read, it is so complex that no one will be able to explain it in the required 12 seconds on television.

# Sending Lanny Davis out yesterday to begin the process of inoculating Democrats against Super Delegate skulduggery is only the first step. Between now and August there will be a constant drumbeat that Michigan and Florida cannot be shut out and the Clintonistas will be working the phones to be certain everyone knows their role.

# Or else.

# On the GOP side, Mitt Romney's endorsement of John McCain (and the release of his delegates who are not bound under state law) will push McCain toward the 1,000 delegate number. On the Republican side 1,191 is the magic number to reach a majority.

# Mike Huckabee, by refusing to leave the race, thus goes from running a quixotic and marginally heroic campaign against McCain, to being a laughing-stock or worse, a disloyal Republican.

2/14/08

Lamar snow goose festival

Contact Information:

Jeanne Fenter , Chairperson, Regional Heritage Task Force, 719-826-2060 or
Lamar Chamber of Commerce, (719) 336-4379
Linda Groat, Colorado Division of Wildlife, (719)336-8806


A Midwinter Getaway for Birders and History Buffs
Sixth Annual High Plains Snow Goose Festival

The City of Lamar , the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) and Southeast Colorado Regional Heritage Taskforce will co-host the sixth annual “High Plains Snow Goose Festival,” the weekend of February 22-24. This is “nature with a twist of heritage tourism”. The festival is a chance to see snow geese and other wildlife in Southeast Colorado , plus enjoy the rich heritage of the region. In addition to thousands of migrating snow geese, there are many other bird species to view including a large number of eagles that winter in southeast Colorado .

Snow geese are considered the most abundant goose in the world. Thousands of the large, white birds move through eastern Colorado during their spring migration so wildlife enthusiasts have set aside a weekend to honor these stately birds.

The weekend features a wide variety of indoor and outdoor activities. Highlights include guided nature viewing tours, as well as, opportunities to explore the region’s museums, Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site, Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, John Martin Reservoir State Park , Dinosaur Exhibit, Canyons and Dust Bowl/WPA architecture. In previous years, bird enthusiasts have been able to watch thousands of snow geese land and take-off as they come and go between feeding grounds and roosting sites.

Other activities include nature hikes, a photography workshop, a craft fair, lectures and tours that showcase local history, birthplace of Colorado, and sites of national historic significance, banquet and highlighting the evening, featured speaker Mary Taylor Young. Young has brought Colorado landscapes to life with her vivid portrayals, at times touching or humorous but always compelling, of the wild creatures and native communities that define the West. Her nine books, hundreds of articles, signs and exhibits in parks and visitor centers, countless brochures, and Words On Birds column in the Rocky Mountain News, have helped people of all ages increase their knowledge and understanding of wildlife and enlist their commitment to preserve our priceless natural heritage.

Wildlife biologists estimate there are least six million lesser snow geese in North America that are divided into four distinct populations. The lesser snow geese that bird watchers will see at the High Plains Snow Goose Festival are part of the Western Central Flyway population. The flock winters in southeastern Colorado , Kansas , New Mexico , the Texas panhandle and northern Mexico . In late spring, the birds form enormous flocks before they head back to their summer nesting grounds in the Canadian Arctic.

In the arctic, snow geese graze on grass and-sedges that grow on the tundra. While migrating through the prairies of North America , they will also feed on leftover grain in the fields.

Festival participants are urged to dress appropriately to ensure their comfort on the on the outdoor tours. Organizers suggest bringing a camera, binoculars, bird identification book, sunglasses, layered clothing, a hat and raingear.

The event has a variety of indoor sessions for those who might not want to brave the weather on the outdoor wildlife viewing tours.

Participants can pre-registration at the High Plains Snowgoose Festival web site at:

High Plains Snowgoose Festival.

To inquire about festival activities, please call (719) 336-4379.

Immoral acts

The Religion of Perpetual Outrage (no...not the Christian Right...now we're talking about Islam) is at it again:

“The Valentine’s Day celebration is not our culture as it usually relates closely to immoral acts where, during the celebration, young couples tend to hug and even kiss each other. This is an immoral act, right?” Bukittinggi Deputy Mayor Ismet Amzis told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

That's just a tidbit of what is going on as all over the world, Muslims snap their shower caps over the immorality of Valentine's Day.

For more, see:

Fight sharia: Celebrate Valentine’s Day; Update: Burn, baby, burn

Interestingly enough, Ron Paul has received the blessings of Islam via The Muslim Observer. TMO is based in Michigan, but has outlets all over the country as well as internationally. It's good to know that Muslims appreciate a good conservative candidate.

Election Watch 2008: TMO Endorsement of Ron Paul

Agritourism conference

The Southeast Colorado Regional Heritage Taskforce is pleased to team up with Colorado State University Extension and the Colorado Department of Agriculture, Markets Division to present this Agritourism conference, see attachment containing details and registration information.

Please forward to anyone you think would be interested.


Jeanne Fenter, Chairperson
Southeast Colorado Regional Heritage Taskforce
719-826-2060


What: Agritourism Conference

When: March 10, 2008

Where: Otero Junior College (OJC)

Student Center

1802 Colorado Ave.

La Junta , CO 81050

Cost: $25.00

Please RSVP by March 4, 2008 to:

Wendy White, Colorado Department of

Agriculture, Markets Division

Ph. (303) 239-4119

Fax (303) 239-4125

wendy.white@ag.state.co.us

2/13/08

Twisted knickers

We understand that the ministerial association is in a bit of an uproar over recent opinion pieces. The way we hear it, they feel they have been 'attacked'.

Isn't it odd that the pastors feel they can write whatever they wish, yet when someone writes an opposing viewpoint, or questions the pastoral expositions, they feel they have been 'attacked'?

Isn't it odder yet that people who rely on the protections and freedoms of the First Amendment feel that others exercising that same freedom constitutes an 'attack'?

Isn't it really odd that pastors would be so quick to take offense, when no offense exists, save, apparently, the exercise of free speech?

Our pastors can resort to sarcasm, hyperbole, and contempt for other belief systems, yet take umbrage over perceived insult when the leg is in the other knicker. Is that how knickers become twisted?

Or is it that they believe so deeply that they are so right, and everyone else is wrong? The Christian religion is broken up into hundreds of denominations, sects, even cults, all because they cannot agree on much of anything. How can you tell who is right? Especially if you cannot question? It seems to me that our pastorate is frightened by people who think and question. Is that how it is?

I sometimes wonder, when the churchmen take offense, what would happen if we did not have that First Amendment? The Christian Right rails against our Godless government...yet if it were not for that government offering protection to one and all, would we see Christians burning other Christians at the stake..oh...at 3rd and Colorado? Say on alternate Sundays?

We watched "Elizabeth" a few weeks ago, about Queen Elizabeth I, and how she rose to power. The movie opens with Christians being burned at the stake by other Christians. They even pour oil on the firewood as the victims cannot be sent to Hell quickly enough. I think it was Protestants burning Catholics. It doesn't matter, for a few scenes later the power had shifted and it was the other side being burned at the stake. Has anything really changed since then, other than the protection of our "Godless government"?

Why are Christians so thin-skinned? It seems to me that this is an indication of a shallow faith. If your faith cannot stand being questioned, then how deep can that faith be? What does this say to those who are unchurched?

I think perhaps American Christians have had it too easy. They become incensed when an opposing viewpoint is published. Suppose, having expressed their pastoral viewpoint, a rifle barrel were jammed down their collective throats. Would they be as quick to take offense? Would they become willing martyrs? Or would they be a little less intransigent and a little more compassionate and caring toward others who differ somewhat in opinion?

What of this:

"Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake."

What happens to faith when it is the Christian leadership doing the reviling? What example does that set for the unchurched? For new Christians struggling to understand?

The Census Bureau reports that there were 20,311 souls in Otero County in 2000. I don't think there are anywhere near that many in the churches. After watching our pastorate in action, I can understand why that is.

Might I suggest that the pastors would serve Christ, their congregations, and the unchurched souls more effectively by following some of Christ's teachings a little more closely themselves?

2/12/08

ON DEADLINE: Chickens come home to roost

By RON FOURNIER, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - For years, Bill and Hillary Clinton treated the Democratic National Committee and party activists as extensions of their White House ambitions, pawns in a game of success and survival. She may pay a high price for their selfishness soon.

Top Democrats, including some inside Hillary Clinton's campaign, say many party leaders — the so-called superdelegates — won't hesitate to ditch the former New York senator for Barack Obama if her political problems persist. Their loyalty to the first couple is built on shaky ground.

"If (Barack) Obama continues to win .... the whole raison d'etre for her campaign falls apart and we'll see people running from her campaign like rats on a ship," said Democratic strategist Jim Duffy, who is not aligned with either campaign.

The rats started looking for clear waters when Obama won Iowa, narrowly lost New Hampshire and trounced Clinton in South Carolina before holding his own in last week's Super Tuesday contests. He won primaries in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia on Tuesday to extend his consecutive win streak to eight.

Obama has won 23 of 35 contests, earning the majority of delegates awarded on the basis of election results. The remaining 796 delegates are elected officials and party leaders whose votes are not tied to state primaries or caucuses; thus, they are dubbed "superdelegates."

And they are not all super fans of the Clintons.

Some are labor leaders still angry that Bill Clinton championed the North American Free Trade Agreement as part of his centrist agenda.

Some are social activists who lobbied unsuccessfully to get him to veto welfare reform legislation, a talking point for his 1996 re-election campaign.

Some served in Congress when the Clintons dismissed their advice on health care reform in 1993. Some called her a bully at the time.

Some are DNC members who saw the party committee weakened under the Clintons and watched President Bush use the White House to build up the Republican National Committee.

Some are senators who had to defend Clinton for lying to the country about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Some are allies of former Vice President Al Gore who still believe the Lewinsky scandal cost him the presidency in 2000.

Some are House members (or former House members) who still blame Clinton for Republicans seizing control of the House in 1994.

Some are donors who paid for the Clintons' campaigns and his presidential library.

Some are folks who owe the Clintons a favor but still feel betrayed or taken for granted. Could that be why Bill Richardson, a former U.N. secretary and energy secretary in the Clinton administration, refused to endorse her even after an angry call from the former president? "What," Bill Clinton reportedly asked Richardson, "isn't two Cabinet posts enough?"

And some just want something new. They appreciate the fact that Clinton was a successful president and his wife was an able partner, but they never loved the couple as much as they feared them.

Never count the Clintons out. They are brilliant politicians who defied conventional wisdom countless times in Arkansas and Washington. But time is running out.

Two senior Clinton advisers, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the race candidly, said the campaign feels the New York senator needs to quickly change the dynamic by forcing Obama into a poor debate performance, going negative or encouraging the media to attack Obama. They're grasping at straws, but the advisers said they can't see any other way that her campaign will be sustainable after losing 10 in a row.

Clinton strategists are famous for poor-mouthing their own campaign in order to lower expectations, but these advisers have never played such games. They're legitimate, and legitimately worried.

The fear inside the Clinton camp is that Obama will win Hawaii and Wisconsin next week and head into the March 4 contests for Ohio and Texas with a 10-race winning streak. Her poll numbers will drop in Texas and Ohio, Clinton aides fear, and party leaders will start hankering for an end to the fight.

Clinton should find little comfort in the fact that she has secured 242 superdelegates to Obama's 160.

"I would make the assumption that the ... superdelegates she has now are the Clintons' loyal base. A superdelegate who is uncommitted today is clearly going to wait and see how this plays out. She's at her zenith now," Duffy said. "Whatever political capital or IOUs that exist, she's already collected."

Few Democrats want to cross the Clintons when they're on top. But how many are willing to stand by them when they're down?

2/6/08

An Inclusivist Counterpoint

Pastor Skorick takes an Exclusivist view in his devotional of Jan. 31. Given his other writings, this is not surprising. I disagree with him, which should also come as no surprise to anyone. I tend toward Inclusivism, which, according to Professor Diane Leclerc, is closest to Wesleyan theology. This is probably why I seem to be more at home in Wesleyan-based churches, despite some aggravating legalistic tendencies that detract from Wesley's views. Leclerc is a professor of Historical Theology and Homiletics at Northwest Nazarene University.

Exclusivism is the position that other religions have no value, and are directly opposed to Christianity. I find this to be an incredibly arrogant, as well as ignorant, position. It is the easiest position for so-called "Christians" to take, because it requires little thinking, and it seems diametrically opposed to the "...I give you a new commandment..." of Jesus.

Pluralism is the position that all religions are of equal value, and that Christianity is but one of many ways to God. It is this with which Pastor Skorick seems to take issue, and I would tend to agree with him, but the anger and contempt that shows through in Skorick's writings put him too far into the Exclusivist camp for my tastes.

Inclusivism is the position that Christ is the source of salvation, but it does not require that the person being saved understand or know that it is Christ saving him. Or her. The Scriptural basis for this is found in Romans chapters 1 and 2. It is more subtlely emphasized, or perhaps underscored might be a better word, in Hebrews chapter 8 and 9, where the old covenant is described as obsolete. What we are looking at with Romans is that doctrine of prevenient grace that says God will judge depending on the light one has received. According to Professor Leclerc, who is joined in her view by many other Christian pastors, this also affirms that the Holy Spirit is at work in other religions. Leclerc shows that she is a master of the understatement when she says, "...[this is] something that evangelicals sometimes have a hard time affirming...".

John Wesley was an Anglican priest who founded the Methodist movement. Wesley was considerably influenced by, among other things, the Eastern Orthodox church fathers. In those churches, the view of the Fall of Man is held somewhat differently than in the Western churches. Many Western churches are full of woe and guilt. They view man as inherently corrupt and sinful. This seems at odds with God's creation of Man in his own image, which actually means spiritual image rather than physical image as the literalists would have us believe. It is almost as though the Western churches thrive on misery. The Eastern churches, however, tend to view the Fall as more along the lines of Adam and Eve carrying on as wilfully misbehaving and disobedient children, inherently good yet suffering some kind of temporary spiritual derangement, exasperating their Creator no end. Wesleyan theology is exemplified in "A Plain Account of Christian Perfection," which may be found here:

A Plain Account of Christian Perfection

and which offers a far more constructive and positive view of what is possible in one's relationship with God than one might find in a more Calvinistic environment.

We see this amplified in a more modern sense in Philip Yancey's book, "The Jesus I Never Knew", wherein Yancey states:

"People who looked to Jesus as their political savior were constantly befuddled by his choice of companions. He became known as a friend to tax collectors, a group clearly identified with the foreign exploiters, not the exploited....though he spoke of the dangers of money and violence, he showed love and compassion toward a rich young ruler and a Roman centurion...anyone, even a half-breed with five husbands or a thief dying on the cross, was welcome to join his kingdom.The person was more important than any label or category."

When we take that "...I am the way..." out of the surrounding Scriptural context, we take a big step toward reducing Christ's teachings to nothing more than self-serving and self-centered dogma. Many pastors are fond of doing that; taking Scripture out of context to serve their own ends rather than serving Christ's ends. It is easier to teach unquestioned dogma than it is to teach people to actually think. How many people have been driven from the Church by that? How many people see a glimmer of light, but are driven away by the self-centeredness of today's "Christian" teachings?

Previously I mentioned that Gandhi once said, "I could have been a Christian, but then I met one." Gandhi obviously was aware of Christ and his teachings and the "...I am the Way..." statement. So we could argue that Gandhi had "been shown the Light", and had no excuse for not accepting Christ in the Skorick-approved manner. But consider this: Christians can so corrupt Christ's message by their behavior that they can - and do - drive people from the Church Universal. That Light is dimmed by Christians behaving in Pharisaic manner. As for Gandhi, can anyone deny that he set a better example of Christian behavior than many, if not most Christians? I know a Buddhist monk, the abbot of one of the Theravada Buddhist temples here in the US, who sets a better example of Christian behavior than most Christians. He does not care to embrace Christianity as most practice it because, as he puts it, "...they are too full of anger; they hate in God's name, and they deny this to themselves." His attitude toward his fellow man illustrates that he has a better understanding of Christ's new commandment than many, if not most, church-going "Christians".

I suspect there are going to be some very disappointed "Christians" come their time to be judged by God.

Conservative woes

Rush Limbaugh was foaming at the mouth yesterday over John McCain. McCain, apparently, is not 'conservative' enough for Rush. Such is the case with almost all of the far righties. Ann Coulter sounded like she was ready to be committed yesterday. Of course, she sounds like that most of the time anyway, but yesterday, she was at fever pitch.

They don't get it.

Most Americans do not want religion mixed with politics. Huckabee, with his "change the Constitution to bring it into line with God's mandates", scares people. He scares me. He sounds like a latter day (as opposed to Latter Day) Nehemiah Scudder. I think that's exactly where we'd be headed with Huckabee in office, checks and balances notwithstanding.

Romney and the Christian Right exposed themselves for the political whores they are, when Jones the Third, after decades of bashing Mormons, came out and endorsed Romney, and Romney took it.

I like McCain. He has his faults, but he generally admits to them. He says, of his first marriage which ended in divorce, that it was all his fault. He's right. It was, at least from what is publicly known of it. He has a temper, but Cindy seems to have mellowed that. McCain's character was forged in his childhood by his Navy father. It was reinforced at Annapolis. It was tempered in Hỏa Lò prison, the infamous "Hanoi Hilton". McCain understands the cost of war. It is not an abstract concept to him. McCain understands discipline and toughness of spirit and character, yet he is not lily white. He is...human.

I can vote for McCain. Had Romney or Huckabee come out ahead, I would have voted for Obama before voting for either of those two. I would have voted for Clinton before voting for either of those two.

For more on McCain, I suggest:

"Faith of My Fathers"


2/4/08

Outrage: The New Christian Mindset?

In his recent editorial, Pastor Bolen misses the point. Given the article recently published in the Trib that stated that only 13% of Americans can read two editorials on the same subject and then compare them analytically, perhaps I should not be surprised.

The point is not that "Christians" should keep their mouths shut. Despite the many whines on the part of "Christians" that they are being forced to do so, the Christian Right especially is quite vocal. Usually, this has to do with outrage over returning this country to that mythical Christian government, outrage over taking God off our nickels, outrage over the banning of school and public prayer - a fallacy, by the way - such prayer hasn't been banned, it's just that the fundamentalists can't have it their way, so they're...outraged. It's outrage over something. Have you noticed that "Christians" spend a lot of time being outraged these days? Why the outrage? Didn't Christ himself warn his followers that they would be...challenged? Where is that outrage to be found in The Beatitudes, or the Sermon on the Mount, or anything else that Christ taught? With so much self-righteous outrage, there surely must be a Scriptural basis for it. Perhaps our Christian pastorate can pause for breath long enough to share it with us?

Pastor Bolen also pulls the rather neatly done but typical Fundamentalist trick of putting words in mouth, and then twisting them. In none of my scribblings have I ever written anything "anti-Christian". He also manages to get that almost subliminal "antichrist" in there. Perhaps Pastor Bolen should be be writing campaign ads for Ron Paul, who after his recent Muslim endorsement, could probably use a bit of obfuscatory editorializing. What I have written about is the very apparent conflict between the behaviors of many self-styled "Christians" in general and the Christian Right, the Christian Fundamentalists in particular, and the teachings and behaviors of Christ. I would suggest that if this issue did not exist, the church populations would not be declining. People are not stupid. They understand Christ's message. It resonates with most people. What does not resonate, and what drives them from the church or keeps them from it in the first place, is the rampant judgmentalism, that "neo-Phariseac" behavior we see in so many of those so-called "Christians".

Pastor Bolen correctly cites the Rhode Island covenant, but I ask, to what point? No one ever said that Roger Williams or any of his associates were not Christian. In that day and age they were unlikely to be much else. However, it was other Christians who drove Williams out of Massachussetts; it was the hateful persecution of Christians by other Christians that led to the formulation of that document; it all boils down to hateful intolerance by Christians toward other Christians. It is the centuries-long history of Christian hatred against other Christians, wielded in Christ's name, that drives separation of church and state in our foundational government documents. That is at the heart of the Christian Right's outrage. It has nothing to do with atheists or Wiccans or JW's or Mormons or any of the other lies the Christian Right tells not only us but themselves. "Christians" are their own worst enemies. The bloody history of Christiandom proves this.

The issue over the invocations is not over the simple fact of the invocation taking place. As I pointed out at the council meeting. the Congress of these United States has been doing invocations for a long, long time. And, council has taken steps to insure that they do not appear to be pushing a particular religion or theology. The issue is not even over Pastor Bolen's calling upon "...the Name of the Christian God..." (I'll leave out the exclamation points; they prove nothing). I am not sure where he got that, since it is clear from my commentary that this is not at issue. What is at issue is Bolen's use of that venue to push his theologically-influenced views on abortion, which far exceeds the purpose of an invocation asking for divine guidance for council in their deliberations. I don't think Don Rizzuto is in any position to overturn Roe v. Wade, making the abortion issue moot in that venue. So what was the point of it? Pastor Bolen would have us believe it is a simple matter of preaching a message of Life, yet the anti-abortion movement is filled with hate and violence, even murder. Pastor Bolen and his comrades picket and protest Planned Parenthood...yet where is the local pool of "Christian" families that will take some of those millions of unwanted children? Does it exist? Does Pastor Bolen have that well in hand? If so, it seems a well-kept secret. If they are out there, then they truly deserve God's blessing, wouldn't we all agree? Or is Pastor Bolen smugly satisfied that it is sufficient to pray and posture, and then what of the million-and-a-half children a year we'd have in homes where they are not wanted? What about the millions of abused children we already have? What about here in La Junta? What is Pastor Bolen and his brethren doing about all that in the local community?

Anyone can preach at a council meeting, and anyone can picket Planned Parenthood and then go to church on Sunday feeling righteous. I would suggest that one might feel a lot more righteous, with much better reason, if one went to church with a few kids in tow who might otherwise have been flushed down the drain. Until then, if I want to hear Pastor Bolen preach on abortion, I know where to find him. Hopefully it won't be at city council meetings.

Excerpts from a note hanging in a co-worker's office:

When I say "I am a Christian"
I'm not shouting "I'm clean-livin'"
I'm whispering "I was lost,
but now I'm found and forgiven."

When I say "I am a Christian"
I'm not claiming to be perfect
My flaws are far too visible
But God believes I'm worth it.

How does The Bolen Missive reflect those sentiments?

Support for Obama...if...

In her Across the Fence of 4 Feb, Roni Sylvester strikes again. This time she says she'd vote for Barack Obama in a heartbeat IF he'd publically disavow socialism and any religion or entity that practices evil.

"Practices evil"?

What does that mean?

Barack attends the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. He claims to be a "Christian", though the Fundamentalists scoff at this, saying it is just a claim of convenience. They also take that Church to task as having a "black agenda". Of course it does. The congregation is almost entirely black. Your typical Fundie church is almost entirely white. But apparently they don't have 'agendas'. And pigs don't have bungholes.

So what is Sylvester talking about? Will she be happy if Obama disavows the Westboro Baptist Church? You can read all about that church at their website:

God Hates Fags

Is that what she means by an entity or religion that "practices evil"? I don't know. After all, it is a Baptist church, so they must be "Christians", and their message certainly fits in with the Fundamentalist bent.

Are the Clintons "evil"? After all, it was a couple of Hillary's campaign workers who were dismissed after it was discovered they were forwarding thousands of those "Obama is a Muslim bent on destroying the US from within" emails over which the Christian Right was in a Righteous Tizzy.

Does she want Obama to come out against Islam? Why? None of the Republican candidates have. Not even Ron Paul has been stupid enough to do that. In fact, in mid-January he received the endorsement of a Muslim newspaper, "The Muslim Observer" with a nation-wide readership:

“The Muslim community in Michigan has a unique opportunity to beat the pundits by voting as a block for Ron Paul as the Republican candidate”.

Election Watch 2008: TMO Endorsement of Ron Paul

So what does Sylvester mean?

The Republican side

From CNN:

"McCain has the backing of 44 percent of registered Republicans, while former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney received 29 percent, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee got 18 percent and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas won 6 percent."

Who says there is no God?

Romney has prostituted himself by accepting the endorsement of Bob Jones III, who heads up the fundamentalist Bob Jones University. BJU is well-known for describing Mormonism as a heretical cult, yet Romney, a Mormon, is perfectly willing to take that in order to get the endorsement of the Christian Right. Once again, we see there is little difference between politics and prostitution. One can only wonder what else Romney will do in order to win.

Huckabee, a Baptist preacher, has gone on the record as indicating he favors changing the Constitution to bring it into compliance with God's mandates. Here is what he said back on January 14:

"I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution," Huckabee told a Michigan audience on Monday. "But I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living god. And that's what we need to do -- to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view."

That ought to have the Fundamentalists running around with a classic collective woodie (in a manner of speaking).

Ron Paul has also been endorsed by fundamentalist preachers. As far as I am concerned, and it would appear that quite a few others feel the same way, the endorsement of a religious type is the kiss of death for a political candidate.

So now we see John McCain out in front on the Republican side. I am not entirely sure that I will vote for him, but at least we are well on the way to keeping religion out of the equation.

Thank you, Lord.