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Southern Religion

Obama, Romero and the politics of liberation

Michelle Gonzalez Maldonado wrote:

Obama’s visit to the tomb [of Oscar Romero] is being described as “extraordinary” by the Central American press, describing Romero as a Salvadoran martyr who was killed by the military. Roberto D’Aubuisson, the military officer who is suspected to have ordered Romero’s assassination, was trained in the United States and was permitted to observe US Special forces in action. D’Aubuisson is also the founder of ARENAS, the conservative political party that governed the country until 2009.

. . .

I see Obama’s visit as symbolic of a shift in US attitudes toward Central America. Gone I hope is the era of intervention and manipulation. The Central America of today is different from the one that saw Romero’s blood shed while saying mass. Some would argue that the crisis of gangs and drugs that is engulfing this region is leading to a crisis that will eclipse the civil wars of the 1980s and 1990s. And yet in spite of the growing violence, figures like Romero give us hope.

March 25, 2011 Posted by | Catholic, Obama, Politics | , , , , , | Comments Off

‘Hare-brained game of pretending’ to believe Obama is a Muslim

Campbell University Divinity School professor Tony Cartledge writes of President Obama’s visit to Indonesia:

Unfortunately, since Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population, Obama-haters have used the event to play up their hare-brained game of pretending to believe the president is a secret Muslim (this article cites a number of examples). I never cease to be amazed that so many people are so gullible that they believe believe some of the hogwash they read or hear: a recent Pew Research Center poll reported that 18 percent of Americans believe President Obama — who self-identifies as a Christian and who reiterated his Christian faith while speaking in Indonesia — is a secret follower of Islam. That’s up from 11 percent in March 2009.

Why confuse a mean-spirited conspiracy theory with something as illuminating as facts and a man’s word?

Good grief.

November 13, 2010 Posted by | Obama | , , , | 1 Comment

President Obama talks about his faith

Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times wrote of President Obama’s discussion of his Christianity on Tuesday in Albuquerque:

“I’m a Christian by choice,” the president said. “My family, frankly, they weren’t folks who went to church every week. My mother was one of the most spiritual people I knew but she didn’t raise me in the church, so I came to my Christian faith later in life and it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead. Being my brothers and sisters’ keeper, treating others as they would treat me, and I think also understanding that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings, that we’re sinful and we’re flawed and we make mistakes and we achieve salvation through the grace of God.”

September 29, 2010 Posted by | Obama, Politics, Religion | , , | Comments Off

Holy Week American Christian terrorists (militia)

The Holy Week arrest of the nine Hutaree Christians, for plotting to kill police officers and related crimes [.pdf], dismays evangelical author Brian McLaren. He wrote:

This is the week we recall that Jesus was willing to be killed, but not to kill … to be tortured, but not to torture. This is the week he told Peter to put away his sword, saying, “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). This is the week he contrasted his kingdom in this world with the kingdoms of this world by their opposite responses to the violence question (John 18:36 ff). (The prepositions in and not of are important.) Many of us believe that Jesus embodies the image of a nonviolent God, an image intended to transcend and correct violent images.

Even Juan Cole sees their behavior as of one piece with the bizarre view that Obama is the Anti-Christ. A flawed Harris Poll last week found that 14% of Americans believe President Obama “may be the anti-Christ” And one quarter of Republicans hold that view.

The Christian Science Monitor reports:

There is “no question” the catalyst was President Obama’s election, says Heidi Beirich, the [Southern Poverty Law Center’s] director of research. A similar upswing took place after President Clinton’s election in 1993. Militias and the antigovernment groups that spawn them often become more active when the federal government turns more liberal.

“A major shift to the left certainly helped” in both cases, Ms. Beirich says.

The economic meltdown and the growth of minorities such as Latinos are also a factor, she adds.

The Irregular Times makes a valiant attempt to make sense of Hutaree views and values mishmash. They are explicitly Christians. They seem to have given a twist to millennial expectation of the end times and they clearly see God as expecting them and other believers to use deadly violence on unbelievers. And practice of their theology resulted in being charged, TalkingPointsMemo reports, “with seditious conspiracy, attempted use of weapons of mass destruction, teaching the use of explosive materials, and possessing a firearm during a crime of violence.”

You can certainly try to sort through their Web site yourself.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, whose expertise in this field is well-recognized, reported this month:

The SPLC documented a 244 percent increase in the number of active Patriot groups in 2009. Their numbers grew from 149 groups in 2008 to 512 groups in 2009, an astonishing addition of 363 new groups in a single year. Militias – the paramilitary arm of the Patriot movement – were a major part of the increase, growing from 42 militias in 2008 to 127 in 2009.

. . .

“This extraordinary growth is a cause for grave concern,” said Intelligence Report editor Mark Potok. “The people associated with the Patriot movement during its 1990s heyday produced an enormous amount of violence, most dramatically the Oklahoma City bombing that left 168 people dead.”

Do the Covenant for Civility and the Democratic effort to ink a civility pledge with the Republicans seem at least a little more urgent, now?

March 30, 2010 Posted by | Obama, Politics, Religion | , | 4 Comments

CHA president’s pro-life view of health reform

Sr. Carol Keehan, DC, Catholic Health Association president, addresses health reform concerns, not just for Catholics but also for anyone who is pro-life:

March 19, 2010 Posted by | children, Health, Medical Care, Obama, Religion | , , | Comments Off

Richard Land misfires on HCR (again)

His Nazi libels and “death panels” prevarications failed to stop health reform, so Southern Baptist Convention ethics czar Richard Land found other ways to mislead.

In the key passage of an email begging Southern Baptists for telephone opposition, he said:

“If this bill passes, it will mean federal funding of abortion, a nearly half-trillion-dollar cut to Medicare, heavy taxes on individuals and businesses, higher premiums, and strong government control that will inevitably lead to a decline in patient care,” Land said.

Taking his points in order …

  1. “None” is the amount of “federal funding for abortion” found in an expert assessment by Washington and Lee law professor Timothy Stoltzfus Jost, whom Mark Silk describes as “an ardent pro-lifer who’s an expert on abortion and health care.”
  2. Senior scare is what FactCheck.org calls the alleged “half trillion dollar cut to medicare.” Pulitzer Prize winning PolitiFact.com is no more complimentary.
  3. “Backward” is how he got it in predicting “heavy taxes.” Obama’s plan “cuts government spending.”
  4. “Strong government control” like that imposed by the Republican-spawned Massachusetts plan — RomneyCare, “implemented by former Republican Gov. Mitt Romney?”
  5. “Decline in patient care” = more scare words and the opposite is what helped inspired Catholic Health Association President Sr. Carol Keehan, DC to say “it is time for health reform.” As Jost explains, the Senate bill provides more care for those who need it worst. Not less.

Srsly, Brother Land.

March 15, 2010 Posted by | Health, Law, Obama, Politics, SBC | , , | 2 Comments

Catholic Health Association president says it is time for health reform

“The time is now for health reform,” Sr. Carol Keehan, DC wrote in Catholic Health World:

As I watched our president present his plan to pass the health reform legislation, it was clear this is an historic opportunity to make great improvements in the lives of so many Americans. Is it perfect? No. Does it cover everyone? No. But is it a major first step? Yes.

The insurance reforms will make the lives of millions more secure, and their coverage more affordable. The reforms will eventually make affordable health insurance available to 31 million of the 47 million Americans currently without coverage.

CHA has a major concern on life issues. We said there could not be any federal funding for abortions and there had to be strong funding for maternity care, especially for vulnerable women. The bill now being considered allows people buying insurance through an exchange to use federal dollars in the form of tax credits and their own dollars to buy a policy that covers their health care. If they choose a policy with abortion coverage, then they must write a separate personal check for the cost of that coverage.

[H/T: CommonWeal]

March 14, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, Health, Obama, Religion | , | 1 Comment

Diverse new group ‘tending to president’s soul’

In March 2009, the New York Times highlighted five “evangelical pastors” — all men — from whom President Obama gained spiritual insight. A year later, Religion News Service profiles seven people, including two women, that it says might be called the president’s “spiritual cabinet.”

The RNS piece by Daniel Burke says the new names are “relatively unfamiliar,” although they’re well known to those who follow the administration and it’s efforts to reach out to religious groups.

“They are recalibrating America’s engagement with Muslims, revamping the White House faith-based office and tending to the president’s own soul,” Burke writes.

Three work in the Obama administration. Another is chaplain at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland.

USA Today religion writer Cathy Lynn Grossman provides a synopsis of the seven advisors.

– Joshua DuBois, a Pentecostal pastor, head of Obama’s Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, who sends daily devotionals to Obama’s Blackberry.

– Denis McDonough, a Catholic who serves as deputy national security adviser and chief of staff of the National Security Council. Burke says he’s “a crucial player in Obama’s quest to engage Muslims, find common cause with the Vatican, and restore the country’s moral authority.”

–Rashad Hussain, a White House lawyer and a hafiz (someone who has memorized the Quran) who Obama has named as his envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

– Melissa Rogers, chairman of the director of the Center for Religious and Public Affairs at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity. She chaired the faith-based office’s advisory board, which this week released 60 recommendations for revamping the office.

–Rev. Joel Hunter, head of an Orlando, Fla., megachurch pastor, who Burke says, is “pushing to broaden the evangelical agenda to include issues like poverty, immigration and the environment.

–The Rev. Sharon Watkins, president and general minister of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), who gave the homily at the post-inauguration National Prayer Service last year.

–Navy Lt. Carey Cash (whose great uncle was Johnny Cash), an Iraq was veteran and Southern Baptist pastor who has led the worship at Cap David’s Evergreen Chapel.

Grossman reports that the article was the product of three months of reporting. She provides details of an e-mail from RNS editor Kevin Eckstrom.

“It might also be worth mentioning that the list is by no means exhaustive — there were other names bandied about, and we followed up on all of them, but some of the claims couldn’t be confirmed through the reporting,” Eckstrom wrote. “We were most interested in the new or unknown faces, especially the people like McDonough who are shaping policy behind the scenes in quiet but important ways.”

The only person to make both the RNS and the New York Times list of Obama’s spiritual advisers is Hunter, pastor of Northland Church near Orlando, Fla. Hunter said little for the Times article and declined to comment for the RNS piece.

The Northland web site describes Hunter as “an internationally known spokesperson for ‘compassion issues’ outlined in Scripture: sanctity of life, creation care, justice, poverty, and marriage and the family.”

“A longtime bridge-builder who seeks common ground for the common good, Dr. Hunter approaches today’s issues in a biblical and balanced manner,” the web site says.

Christianity Today provided further detail of the men mentioned in the Times article, including a link to a 1999 article about how Jim Wallis became an “evangelical activist.” Another member of the group, Bishod T.D. Jakes, talked about his relationship with Obama during an appearance of CNN’s Larry King Live.

Jakes told King that presidents need faith.

“You know, the presidency is a very tough, tough job. And because our nation is primarily filled with people of various degrees of faith, I think that the American people, many are comforted when they feel it — so that the president has faith. The bad thing about it is that the president lives in such a fish tank that when you promote yourself as a person of faith, you’re scrutinized on every issue and evaluated not only by your political policies, but how does this line up with the tenets of your faith?”

The RNS article offers a glimpse into Obama’s faith even if he doesn’t promote it.

March 12, 2010 Posted by | Obama, Politics, Religion | , , | Comments Off

Whuddya know: The Obama administration didn’t abandon anyone

The unabandoned “Southern Baptist Ten in Haiti apparently owe some thanks to the Obama administration, especially often-maligned Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

Reg Brown, a Washington,D.C., attorney for detainee Jim Allen of Texas, said Allen’s team of lawyers is “cautiously optimistic” that their client would soon be released. “We believe the secretary of state has played a constructive role in that Secretary (Hillary) Clinton wants to bring the Americans home,” said Brown, who this week wrote to Clinton asking for her assistance.

Self-protective outcry from Southern Baptist Convention bigwigs, despite their role in causing the problem, may have been irrelevant to the proceedings themselves and, given the SBC’s longtime role as a Republican Party auxiliary, off the Obama administration’s radar.

February 11, 2010 Posted by | Obama, Politics, SBC | , , , , , | Comments Off

Saturday night graph: It’s still the economy …

[H/T Nate Silver]

November 22, 2009 Posted by | Economy, Obama, Politics | Comments Off

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