Archive for January 2006

So You Want to Pray in Private?

January 28, 2006

The Southern Baptists are beginning to look more and more like the Spanish Inquisition. The same spirit drives them–doctrinal purity. Doctrine as concocted by the leadership, of course.

This article came to me today. You can read it here:

“With liberals ousted, Southern Baptists fight each other”

The Rev. Wade Burleson, a Baptist leader from Oklahoma, says fellow conservatives who crusaded to only elect leaders who believe the Bible is literally true are carrying their campaign too far, targeting Southern Baptists who disagree with them on other issues.

now there’s a surprise!

“Conservatives who loved the battles of decades past have fallen victim to a crusading mentality of bloodthirst,” Burleson wrote. “Since all the liberals are gone, conservative crusaders are now killing fellow conservatives.”

I thought “bloodthirst” was extraordinarly apt. Indignant that they were described so accurately, he was voted off their Board of Trustees. What was the controversy about? Read on:

Burleson first rankled the board over an obscure policy change: Trustees of the International Mission Board voted in November to bar future missionaries from using a “private prayer language,” or speaking in tongues in private. Previously, missionaries were discouraged from speaking in tongues publicly, but their private prayer was not monitored.

The practice is common among Pentecostals, whose spirited brand of Christianity is spreading rapidly throughout countries where Southern Baptist missionaries work, and in the United States. Many conservative Protestants, however, reject the practice.

Still, Burleson opposed the ban on speaking in tongues privately. He viewed the move as a dangerous effort to vet conservatives for purity, and said so on his blog.

The Southern Baptist Convention assumes they have the right to control private prayer. They are so convinced they have that right, they blithely purge anyone who objects. Stalin would be envious.


Mother Jones and Reconstructionism

January 19, 2006

Mother Jones recently did a series of articles about the Religious Right and Christian Reconstructionism. You can find one of them here.

Here is an excerpt:

It could have been nothing more than a half-hour rebel yell—except that [former judge Roy] Moore is more than the latest prophet of the religious right. He stands a good chance of being the next governor of Alabama; he’s also arguably the single most significant politician to owe his ascendancy to Christian Reconstruction—an obscure but increasingly potent theology whose top exponents hold that Christian crusaders must conquer and convert the world, by the sword if necessary, before Jesus will return.

Moore has never declared himself a Reconstructionist. But he is a frequent orator at gatherings whose organizers are part of the movement. The primary theologians, activists, and websites of Reconstruction laud him as a hero. Moore’s lawyer in the Ten Commandments fight, Herb Titus, is a Reconstructionist, as are many of his most vocal supporters, including Gary DeMar, the organizer of the Restore America rally and the head of American Vision, one of the most prolific publishers of the movement.

Reconstruction is the spark plug behind much of the battle over religion in politics today. The movement’s founder, theologian Rousas John Rushdoony, claimed 20 million followers—a number that includes many who embrace the Reconstruction tenets without having joined any organization. Card-carrying Reconstructionists are few, but their influence is magnified by their leadership in Christian right crusades, from abortion to homeschooling.

Reconstructionists also exert significant clout through front organizations and coalitions with other religious fundamentalists; Baptists, Anglicans, and others have deep theological differences with the movement, but they have made common cause with its leaders in groups such as the National Coalition for Revival. Reconstruction has slowly absorbed, congregation by congregation, the conservative Presbyterian Church in America (not to be confused with the progressive Presbyterian Church [USA]) and has heavily influenced others, notably the Southern Baptists.

George W. Bush has called Reconstruction-influenced theoretician Marvin Olasky “compassionate conservatism’s leading thinker,” and Olasky served as one of the president’s key advisers on the creation of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Bush also invited Reconstructionist Jack Hayford, a key figure in the Promise Keepers men’s group, to give the benediction at his first inaugural. Deposed House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, though his office won’t comment on his religious views, governs with what he calls a “biblical worldview”—one of Reconstruction’s signature phrases. And, for conspiracy buffs, two heavy contributors to the Chalcedon Foundation—Reconstruction’s main think tank—are Howard Ahmanson and Nelson Bunker Hunt, both of whose families played key roles in financing electronic voting machine manufacturer Election Systems & Software. Ahmanson is also a major sponsor of ultraconservative politicians, including California state legislator and 2003 gubernatorial candidate Tom McClintock.

ACLU Derangement Syndrome

January 10, 2006

In a post found at Clayton Cramer’s Blog, Cramer has posted a critique of Richard Dawkins’s statement that religion is a virus and teaching it to children is a form of child abuse. Mr. Dawkins has many wonderful things to say. That’s not one of them. However, Mr. Cramer seems to be furious that Dawkins has an opinion on the subject. In the course of his diatribe he says this:

“Ah, that’s it! The ACLU will argue that children have a right to not be mentally abused by exposure to religion. This was, after all, the policy of the Soviet Union, which prohibited teaching religion to those under 18, and the ACLU’s founder was a defender of Soviet practices on civil liberties.”

The Volokh Conspiracy calls what Mr. Cramer did the “ACLU Derangement Syndrome.” A *very* nice way to describe it! It’s a syndrome where the victim cannot think rationally about a subject but becomes deranged at the mention of the irritant.

Mr. Cramer fails to mention that while Baldwin, ACLU’s founder, did write an essay defending Soviet practices in 1924, in 1939 he changed his mind and withdrew all support, becoming a severe critic of the Soviet Union. In fact he purged all communists from ACLU ranks.

In checking the facts for the above, I ran across several rabidly anti-ACLU websites that fail to reveal Baldwin’s change of heart. It seems the ACLU Derangement Syndrome is rather widespread.

Civil liberties are widely hated by the religious right and the right wing in general. Considering Bush’s open admission of breaking the law when he ordered wire taps on US citizens, that’s not a big surprise.

The fundamental problem with narrow, violent religion

January 1, 2006

As fundamentalism gets more strident and therefore more dangerous, I keep finding more and more articles talking about those very issues. I found this interesting article in the Baltimore Sun website. Here is an excerpt:
Fundamentalism stirs conflicts outside the fractious landscape of the Middle East, as well – a battle Sojourners founder the Rev. Jim Wallis details in God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It (HarperCollins, 316 pages). “Since when did promoting and pursuing a progressive social agenda with a concern for economic security, health care and educational opportunity mean you had to put faith in God aside?” queries Wallis, in response to Christian fundamentalists who refer to political progressives as “godless” and to secularists who refuse to factor faith into any social equation.


Armstrong’s thesis defines fundamentalism as a creative evolution of religion to cope with secular influence. This aspect of her book is fascinating and useful in understanding the why of fundamentalism, here and abroad. Nevertheless, she explains, fundamentalism ultimately fails because it precludes real-time change: Fundamentalists attempt to re-establish the spiritual underpinning of a society that no longer exists, a society long replaced by the modern world. The Taliban, for example, tried to return Afghanistan to the Dark Ages, but even in that remote region, the entire infrastructure of the country had to be dismantled to achieve this goal. The consequent suffering, particularly by women, was incalculable.

and this

Both confirmed secularist Harris and devoutly Christian Wallis come to a similar conclusion: Fundamentalism is far from a benign expression of faith. Whether it takes the form of a massive attack like Sept. 11 or “merely” the stoning to death of a Saudi woman for alleged adultery – or even the verbal assaults on mourners at the funeral of gay murder victim Matthew Shepard by fundamentalist preacher the Rev. Fred Phelps – fundamentalism can breed terror in those who do not accede to its demands, whether violence is perpetrated or not.

Fundamentalism demands that all civil liberties be destroyed. That’s why they hate the ACLU so much, even though they don’t mind using the ACLU when their own civil liberties are infringed. Fundamentalism also inevitably leads to violence and as American fundamentalists get more vehement and more shrill, American fundamentalist violence becomes more and more inevitable.