Southern Religion

Acceptable ‘Pastor Rick’ steps forward

Acceptable “Pastor Rick spoke from the pulpit at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta today, and promised to reappear at President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration tomorrow in Washington, D.C.

In his keynote Martin Luther Kind Day address, Warren said, according to the Associated Press:

Tomorrow when I pray the invocation for my friend, Dr. King and a whole host of witnesses will be shouting. Martin Luther King was a mighty tool in the hand of God. But God isn’t through. Justice is a journey and we’re getting further and further along.

Controversial Rick Warren, whose views on homosexuality and the role of women in marriage and in the church brought protesters out today, seemed to be absent from the pulpit of the church where King preached from 1960 until he was assassinated in 1968.

Instead there was a man whose voice may have been very much like the one Gustavo Arellano prayed for in the Los Angeles Times opinion piece we wrote about today. For this was a Rick Warren who urged the crowd to follow King’s example of service and selflessness.

One with whom Obama can work, but who to play the role of a national unifying voice will have to make some changes back home at Saddleback Church.

Time will tell, don’t you think, whether the self-contradictory Rick Warrens the Boston Globe wrote about today will resolve into a man of sweeping compassion with whom the late Dr. King would in fact have been pleased to work.

January 19, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Acceptable ‘Pastor Rick’ steps forward

Why does the Southern Baptist Convention wait?

The Southern Baptist Convention was founded in support of slavery in 1845 and waited until 1995 to offer an oblique apology for “condoning and perpetuating individual and systemic racism.”

In his letter smuggled out of Birmingham jail, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. mourned of his fellow clergymen how, “too many have been more cautious than courageous.” He wrote of how he had watched “churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities.”

Christa Brown of Stop Baptist Predators says today in her memorial to Dr. King:

Much the same could now be said about Southern Baptist leaders’ lack of courage in stepping up to the plate to effectively address clergy sex abuse. Instead of taking action, they stand on the sideline, mouthing “pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities” about “autonomy” and “polity” … as if any of that could possibly be more important than protecting kids against clergy who molest and rape them.

If Southern Baptist leaders expect others to view them as champions of morality, then they need to start acting like champions and go to battle to clean up the mess in their own ranks.

Where are Southern Baptist leaders when standing up for those oppressed by their own clergy would mean actually doing something?

Where, in the face of very large numbers of active predators and as a result rapidly growing numbers of victims? Where are they, indeed?

January 19, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion | , , , | 3 Comments

Praying for Rick Warren

In “A prayer for Rick Warren”, Gustavo Arellano wrote:

Warren has the chance to redeem Orange County as a place not of avarice but of altruism, and to show that evangelical Christianity can come free of politicking and show genuine concern for all. I’m praying for you, Rick, to consider my words and help lead us to a better future, damn the differences.

Arellano’s Los Angeles Times opinion piece reaches that conclusion after documenting the evangelical Christian history of Orange County, Calif., and current role in American Christianity:

The county is second probably only to Colorado Springs as a nexus point of American Christianity.

It has four of the top 100 largest churches in the United States, according to Outreach magazine, including the largest non-English-language Christian church in the nation — Anaheim’s SaRang Community Church.

The world’s largest televangelical network, Trinity Broadcasting Network, broadcasts its founders, Paul and Jan Crouch, from their antebellum-esque studios in Costa Mesa.

Drivers on the 5 Freeway in Garden Grove can make out the gleaming tower of the Crystal Cathedral, where the Rev. Robert Schuller tapes his “Hour of Power,” the most-watched Christian television show on Earth. Dotted across the United States are churches belonging to the Calvary Chapel movement, based in Santa Ana.

Newport Beach billionaire Howard F. Ahmanson Jr. funds every flavor-of-the-month conservative Christian cause imaginable — recent efforts include the Yes on Proposition 8 campaign and the schism in the Episcopal Church over the ordination of a gay bishop.

And the current big boy on the block is Warren, head of Saddleback Church and whose book, “The Purpose Driven Life,” has sold millions of copies.

Warren’s two minutes on an epochal national stage are in fact an opportunity for a step down a new and better path. His remarks today in Atlanta at historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr. Martin Luther King was once the pastor, may telegraph his plans for tomorrow’s inaugural prayer.

Please read the entire piece here.

January 19, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion | , , , | 2 Comments

Bishop Robinson’s warm-up for Obama

Rev. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire, issued a series of prayerful challenges in his invocation for the inaugural concert at the Lincoln Memorial. They included:

Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

. . .

Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

. . .

It was good as a prayer and better as a rhetorical warmup for President-elect Barack Obama, whose remarks included:

What gives me that hope is what I see when I look out across this mall. For in these monuments are chiseled those unlikely stories that affirm our unyielding faith – a faith that anything is possible in America. Rising before us stands a memorial to a man who led a small band of farmers and shopkeepers in revolution against the army of an Empire, all for the sake of an idea. On the ground below is a tribute to a generation that withstood war and depression – men and women like my grandparents who toiled on bomber assembly lines and marched across Europe to free the world from tyranny’s grasp. Directly in front of us is a pool that still reflects the dream of a King, and the glory of a people who marched and bled so that their children might be judged by their character’s content. And behind me, watching over the union he saved, sits the man who in so many ways made this day possible.

And yet, as I stand here tonight, what gives me the greatest hope of all is not the stone and marble that surrounds us today, but what fills the spaces in between. It is you – Americans of every race and region and station who came here because you believe in what this country can be and because you want to help us get there.

It is the same thing that gave me hope from the day we began this campaign for the presidency nearly two years ago; a belief that if we could just recognize ourselves in one another and bring everyone together – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents; Latino, Asian, and Native American; black and white, gay and straight, disabled and not – then not only would we restore hope and opportunity in places that yearned for both, but maybe, just maybe, we might perfect our union in the process.

The call to come together as a nation and so prevail over towering difficulties, which cannot stop us if we put aside enough of our differences, could not be more clear.

January 19, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion | , , , , , , | 1 Comment