The BR editor did pretend injured innocence by blaming mainstream media for “distortion,” yet it did nothing to inform its readers about the principal sources of the outrage (Chick-fil-A’s ties to anti-gay groups).
We recommend the full account here.
Pope Benedict XVI announced he is establishing a pontifical council for new evangelization to find ways “to re-propose the perennial truth of the Gospel” in regions where secularism is smothering church practice.
. . .
“I have decided to create a new organism, in the form of a pontifical council, with the principal task of promoting a renewed evangelization in the countries where the first proclamation of faith has already resounded and where there are churches of ancient foundation present, but which are living through a progressive secularization of society and a kind of ‘eclipse of the sense of God,’” he said.
No church planting required, reversing secularization is only in part of matter of reversing or at least slowing the decline in church membership and attendance in countries like Austria, Belgium and Germany. Yet as Philip Jenkins recently pointed out in The Christian Century, it is a battle with many fronts, including replenishing the depleting ranks of the priesthood:
Particularly in Western Europe, Catholic countries have been becoming steadily more secular for at least a generation, quite independent of any claims of priestly deviance. In no sense is European religion dying — just witness the continuing popularity of pilgrimage and other popular devotions — but loyalty to the institutional church has weakened disastrously. Rates of mass attendance have declined steeply, as have the numbers of those admitting even notional adherence to the church. Today, fewer than half of French people claim a Catholic identity. The number of priestly vocations has been in free fall since the 1960s, leaving many seminaries perhaps a quarter as full as they were in the time of Pope John XXIII.
Failure of atavistic movements like the SBC’s GCR and the pope’s pontifical council for new evangelization is probably foreordained by the degree to which the secularization they attack is embedded in the cultures to which they speak. Again, as Jenkins observes regarding secularization and the Roman Catholic Church:
One gauge of transformed Catholic attitudes has been the sharp drop in fertility rates and family size. Since the 1970s women increasingly pursued careers and higher education, and the use of contraception spread rapidly, despite stern church disapproval. Fertility rates plummeted, such that Spain and Italy today have among the lowest fertility rates in the world, far below the level needed for population replacement. Catholic Germany stands about the same level. German sociologist Ulrich Beck notes wryly that in Western Europe today, the closer a woman lives to the pope, the fewer children she has. Ireland’s fertility rate today is less than half what it was in 1970.
There is no reason a couple with few or no children should not be fervently pious. But the trend away from large families reflects broader social changes. A society in which women have more economic autonomy is less likely to accept traditional church teachings on moral and sexual issues. The resulting conflicts have steadily pushed back the scope of church involvement in public life. Abortion became legal in Italy in 1978 and in Spain in 1985. The Irish church suffered a historic defeat in 1997 when a referendum narrowly allowed the possibility of divorce. Today, across Catholic Europe, same-sex marriage is the main moral battlefield—with Spain in the vanguard of radical secularism and sexual liberation. The Catholic Church struggles to present its views to a society suspicious of institutional and traditional authority of any kind and quite accustomed to ideas of gender equality, sexual freedom and sexual difference.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) gave Civility Project founder Mark DeMoss back to himself as an “ego-driven” donor, motivated by “Fear,”"Reactionary” sentiments, tchotchkes and lurid cartoon characterizations of the Obama administration.
A Southern Baptist whose public relations firm was founded in 1991 “to serve Christian organizations and causes,” and who is a top Republican donor, DeMoss, was caught between his party and the civility he has persistently advocated.
As will others who share his views, DeMoss responded to Politico’s report of the RNC fundraising appeal by backing away.
Politico reports that DeMoss said in a letter:
“I’m afraid the presentation is representative of a culture and mindset within the Republican National Committee,” DeMoss, a past member of the RNC’s “Eagle” program for top donors who gave the party $15,000 in 2008, wrote in the letter to Steele, which he shared with POLITICO. (DeMoss hasn’t given this cycle.) “Consequently, I will no longer contribute to any fundraising entity of our Party—but will contribute only to individual candidates I choose to support . . . The sort of behavior displayed in Boca Grande only contributes to the widespread cynicism of politics in general and our Party in particular. It is, in my opinion, indefensible and destructive.”.
In a “This Week” exclusive interview, McConnell told guest anchor Matthew Dowd that he “can’t imagine why anybody would have thought that was helpful.” McConnell wouldn’t say if someone at the RNC should be held accountable for the presentation. “I don’t run the RNC. That’s up to them. But I don’t like it, and I don’t know anybody who does,” the Minority Leader said.
For many of us in the pew, whom appeals to fear are intended to manipulate, it is however not simply a matter of “like” or dislike. It is a matter or right and wrong. As DeMoss indicated, such strategies are ethically “indenfensible and destructive.”
Marv Knox gave himself to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s Republican presidential aspirations in a well-phrased column which is flawed only by failures of documentation, overlooked facts and broken logic.
Knox is editor of the Texas Baptist Standard, whose Web presence is probably the most commanding among the state Southern Baptist newspapers and chief strategist of a four-publication [1, 2, 3, 4] online partnership.
Knox framed Huckabee’s issue as the “tension between Christian compassion and the duties of citizenship.” Yet Knox began by speaking directly to former Southern Baptist pastor Huckabee’s motivations in granting clemency to Maurice Clemmons, who as a result, Knox writes, “was free to walk into a Lakewood, Wash., coffee shop and murder four police officers.”
It’s a vacant example, robbed of force by Huckabee himself. On Dec. 1, before Knox’s piece was published on Dec. 5, Huckabee wrote about the Clemmons matter for Human Events, saying:
Religion had nothing to do with the commutation. It’s been erroneously expressed that my own personal faith or the claims of faith of the inmate factored into my decision. That is simply not true and nothing in the record even suggests it.
The overarching record of Huckabee’s 1,033 (or 1,058 if you prefer the Arkansas Secretary of State’s number) clemencies is itself a muddled mess of inconsistencies and so does nothing for Knox’s argument. They are variously:
- Without useful explanation because none is apparent and Huckabee refuses to explain. In one case Huckabee is reported to have laughed aloud at a request for explanation.
- Fraught with contradictory, factually inaccurate accounts, like those Huckabee gave in the case of Arkansas rapist and murderer Wayne Dumond.
- Capricious: Huckabee pushed through a pardon for Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards’ 1975 reckless driving conviction 31 years after the fact on the apparent basis of Richards’ guitar playing skill.
- Fundamentally irrational albeit recommended by a fellow pastor. That was the case with Huckabee’s offer of clemency to Glen Green, “a madman who beat an 18-year-old woman with Chinese martial-arts sticks, raped her as she barely clung to life, ran over her with his car, then dumped her in the bayou … .” And Huckabee abandoned that one amid a firestorm of public pressure.
- Apparently driven by the recommendations of family and/or personal acquaintances as in the case of “Samuel W. Taylor, convicted on a drug charge. A prosecutor said the man had told him Taylor’s sister had gone to school with Huckabee.”
- Well-deserved, as Jeralyn wrote, “particularly for drug offenders serving excessive sentences. A Governor’s use of clemency and pardon power is a good thing.”
Although Huckabee has busily tried to excuse himself and shift blame to others for variously motivated Arkansas gubernatorial decisions which resulted in rape and murder. While Carter appears to have been without similar blemishes on his record governor of Georgia, has been effective if controversial in diplomacy, won a Nobel Peace Prize for work after leaving the presidency and has at times been frank in accepting blame. Most recently, Carter issued an apology (Al Het) for any harm done the Israelis by his words or deeds. Thus Knox’s is an apples to asteroids comparison. Strained.
Knox takes flight from that illogic, demolishing, resurrecting and abandoning a straw man argument that some people of faith should not permitted to hold “specific offices.” He refutes unnamed, undocumented “extremists” and asserts without proof the views of “most citizens.” Knox finally concludes that the role of faith in public policy decision-making will be a key issue in the next presidential election, and Baptists have much to offer.
They do, as Carter continues to demonstrate.
He was one of many. Some with catastrophic consequences. Maurice Clemmons, named a “person of interest” in the murder of four police officers in Washington state coffeehouse Sunday morning, was granted clemency from what amounted to a life sentence by then Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in 2000. He was subsequently paroled.
The blame-shifting takeaway is:
He was recommended for and received a commutation of his original sentence from 1990, this commutation made him parole eligible and he was then paroled by the parole board once they determined he met the conditions at that time. He was arrested later for parole violation and taken back to prison to serve his full term, but prosecutors dropped the charges that would have held him. It appears that he has continued to have a string of criminal and psychotic behavior but was not kept incarcerated by either state.
Huckabee’s refusal to accept responsibility for the consequences of his own actions, and blame-shifting, are old news to prosecutors who were present during his era of Arkansas gubernatorial pardons. Literally. Garrick Feldman of the Arkansas Leader wrote in June of 2004:
Until now, Huckabee has refused to comment on his controversial policy of making violent prisoners eligible for parole– they include murderers, armed robbers and rapists, who often return to a life of crime after they’re freed – but in a statement to The Leader this week, he lashed out at prosecutors for not doing more to keep prisoners behind bars – to which Pulaski County Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley had this response: “That’s a load of baloney.”
“I’m offended as a prosecutor and as a citizen. He can blame the prosecutors, but ultimately he’s the man responsible,” Jegley says. “He’s the only one who can sign on the dotted line.
“All he has to do is look in the mirror and say, ‘I let (convicted rapist) Wayne DuMond go free who then killed at least once and probably twice.’”
Jegley says the governor ignores the will of the people when he reduces a life sentence without parole that was handed down by a jury.
“He has obviously disregarded the jury’s decision. It’s a crying shame that a sitting governor would be so insensitive to victims’ right and disregard the system,” says Jegley, who points to several clemency cases where felons went free and then committed more crimes.
In addition, Jegley, Saline County Prosecuting Attorney Robert Herzfeld and others have accused Huckabee of violating the state Constitution when he commutes sentences without explanation. The Constitution requires the governor to give reasons why he grants clemency to criminals.
“He doesn’t do it,” insists Herzfeld, who recently had a clemency overturned because Huckabee did not explain why he commuted a murderer’s life sentence.
Here is Huckabee’s response to critics:
“Have Robert Herzfeld, Larry Jegley and the other prosecuting attorneys prosecuted every crime to the full extent the law allows? In other words, have they in every case pursued the maximum penalties? Did they ever plea bargain? How often? What’s the percentage of cases in which they’ve accepted less than the maximum penalties allowed by law?
“This is the day I’ve been dreading for a long time,” Jegley said to the Seattle Times this Sunday, when told Clemmons was a suspect in the quadruple murder.
Huckabee issued more commutations and pardons than all of the six neighboring states combined. He apparently gave little real consideration to his actions, or so one might generously infer from his decision to pardon the likes of Glen Green. Garrick Feldman of the Arkansas Leader wrote:
But if he read the confession and still considers Green deserving of parole, he’s certainly unfit to hold office. Who would free a madman who beat an 18-year-old woman with Chinese martial-arts sticks, raped her as she barely clung to life, ran over her with his car, then dumped her in the bayou, her hand reaching up, as if begging for mercy?
Such lack of care is perhaps not a quality reasonable people seek in a president.
Clemmons was part of a pattern of negligence: Court papers reveal a propensity for violence that was apparently not considered at parole time.
Huckabee blistered for passing the buck by Joel Connelly of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Ronnie Floyd, chairman of the task force, answered 12 questions after he spoke at the Illinois Baptist Pastors’ Conference, according to a report in Baptist Press.
Kevin Kerr, president of the Illinois Baptist State Association, asked the first question, according to the report. He wanted to know about the Cooperative Program commitment of churches represented on the task force which average less than 6 percent.
Floyd first deflected the question by saying that he didn’t appoint the task force, but was just asked to chair it. Then he repeated SBC president Johnny Hunt’s preferred answer to questions about CP commitment: “We don’t spend percentages, we spend dollars.”
Floyd then talked of how his church, First Baptist Church of Springdale, Ark., is increasing its gifts to the Cooperative Program 44 percent. That sounds good until you realize that the increase will still leave the church giving about 3 percent of its $14.8 million in undesignated offerings to CP.
Even more revealing is Floyd’s comment later about his belief that a lack of biblical stewardship is one of the underlying problems in the SBC.
“God tells individuals to tithe and honor Him with the first tenth and with offerings, but studies show the average evangelical gives 2.4 percent to all charities. How are we going to change the world with the Gospel when 98 cents of every dollar given stays in the churches and 98 cents of every dollar earned stays in the pocket of the member?”
So Floyd first asks Southern Baptists to ignore the low percentage his church gives to the Cooperative Program, then complains about the low percentage people give in general. Although we spect that the billions of dollars represented by the 2.4 percent evangelicals give to charities spends just like the money Floyd’s church sends to the SBC.
With reasoning like Floyd’s, one can expect the Great Commission desurgence to continue.
Southern Baptist Convention disdain for women and lack of concern for children thundered through Georgia this week. Outspoken Oklahoma pastor Wade Burleson wrote:
During the November 11, 2009 business session of the Georgia Baptist Convention, messengers to the Southern Baptist state convention dismissed FBC Decatur, Georgia from fellowship for the church’s calling of Julie Russell-Pennington as Senior Pastor in 2007. The SBC will not establish a data base to track ministerial child abusers out of fear of “violating local church autonomy,” but when it comes to a church calling a woman to preach the gospel, church autonomy is slain at the feet of conventional conformity.
Newt Gingrich is on a spiritual journey back to power in the Republican Party and perhaps a run for president.
Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank writes about Gingrich’s conversion Catholicism, noting that it “says much about the transformation of the Republican Party that even Newt Gingrich is now carrying the cross.” Milbank says that even though Gingrich has never been close to the religion right, former speaker “is calculating that everything will get easier for him politically as a religious conservative.”
“But as his presidential aspirations swelled in recent years, Gingrich took the road to Damascus. He went on James Dobson‘s radio show to talk about his adultery. He spoke at Jerry Falwell‘s Liberty University. He appeared on GodTV. He converted to Catholicism. He wrote a book, “Rediscovering God in America,” and produced two related films. He’s at work on a documentary about Pope John Paul II‘s role in defeating communism.”
Matt Bai looked at Gingrich’s resurgence in New York Times Magazine.
Bai describes a Republican retreat for congressmen in Virginia earlier this year, where Gingrich was the keynote speaker. Gingrich told inspiring stories from history and sports and even lightheartedly referred to himself as Moses, saying he’d help the GOP cross the Red Sea again only if it stayed on the other side.
Bai notes that Gingrich has “gone to great lengths to placate Christian conservatives.”
“The family-values crowd has never completely embraced Newt, probably because he has been married three times, most recently to a former Hill staff member, Callista Bisek. In 2006, though, Gingrich wrote a book called “Rediscovering God in America” — part of a new canon of work he has done reaffirming the role of religion in public life.”
Gingrich told the conference attendees that the nation’s “first great challenge is spiritual.”
“This is a country in hunger for another Great Awakening, a wave of belief which has again and again swept this country and fundamentally changed us.”
Gingrich is positioning himself to ride that wave.
Catholic blogger Rocco Palmo greeted the remarks more favorably than many did former President Jimmy Carter’s declaration that President Barack Obama is besieged by racism. Note that other Catholic disagreement we found was civil in this important, widely overlooked moment in our long national debate over “racism” and its effects.
Black Catholic Bishop J. Terry Steib of the Diocese of Memphis reflected Saturday on the “subtle racism” which had resulted in “a relative dearth of black Catholic leadership” in 1984, when Black Catholic bishops issued their own pastoral letter: What We Have Seen and Heard [.pdf].
Keynote speaker at a symposium marking the silver jubilee of the landmark 1984 letter, he also said that despite a quarter of a century’s progress, that same racism recently caused a furor in Catholic circles over Notre Dame University’s award of an honorary degree to President Barack Obama. He told the audience at Philadelphia’s St. Raymond Church that other presidents have had disagreements with the positions of the Catholic Church in in war policies and capital punishment and the like, but have received honorary degrees without similar objection. That racism, he said, is doing the church ongoing harm.
Lou Baldwin of the Catholic Standard Times wrote:
It is the subtle racism that still exists which contributes to the lack of priestly vocations among young black men because “it leads to a mistrust of the Church among young black men and women,” he said. “Let’s acknowledge that.”
On the other hand, the African-American community “has contributed to some of the difficulties they are facing,” Bishop Steib said, quoting Obama on the collapse of the two-parent family in the black community and the failure of many black men to live up to responsibilities to their children.
The pastoral letter being celebrated dealt less with the effects of Catholic racism than with the special gifts, culture, and values shared African American Catholics bring to their church and their path in the faith.
Yet there was no possibility of omitting racism from the discussion while also being honest for racism an overarching characteristic of American life, not of denomination.
Speaking into the gale of uproar of Obama’s school speech black Southern Baptist pastor Dwight McKissic did not flinch from it either. Bob Allen of the Associated Baptist Press summarized McKissic’s view:
“Whenever a black man ascends to prominence and power, the political establishment tries to demonize that person,” McKissic said. He quoted the late Jerry Falwell, who in 1961 questioned “left-wing associations” of Martin Luther King. “They were accusing him of being a communist and a socialist like they accuse Barack Obama of being a communist and socialist.” … McKissic said many white preachers want God to judge America for abortion and gay marriage. McKissic said he feels strongly on both of those issues but believes that racism is also a sin, and God must judge America for that sin as well.
“If Baptist Republicans walk and talk like ‘birthers,’ does that make them racists?” asks Baptist ethicist Robert Parham today, and answers himself: “No. But as every Southern momma knows and warns her children, one is known by the company they keep.”
Parham, executive editor of EthicsDaily.com, details how Southern Baptist legislators have made themselves keystones of the ‘birther’ movement, most recently Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.). Franks flip flopped from his position a month ago to tell a Kingman, Ariz., townhall audience that he is considering a citizenship lawsuit against President Obama.
Southern Baptist ‘birther’ enthusiasts also include Buena Vista, Calif., pastor Wiley Drake, who has engaged in imprecatory prayer against President Barack Obama and who celebrated the murder of abortion provider George Tiller on May 31, 2009. Drake was the American Independent Party’s vice-presidential candidate in 2008.
The evidence says that it’s a made-up issue, sustained by fantasy, prejudice and political opportunism. For example, FactCheck.org has a conclusive review of the debate with several, high-resolution photographs of the original Obama birth certificate available for download [here's one of them]. Or you can review PolitiFact.com demolitions of each ‘birther’ assertion.
‘Birther’ discussion drifted into truly bizarre territory this week, and issues this detached from reality have a way of getting progressively worse.
Association with this matter promises to haunt and shame those who remain involved with it. Southern Baptist or not.