Southern Religion

Hass hurting, and unhushed by the Haggard/New Life * money

Gently clarifying the nature of payments made by New Life Church to a young church volunteer who had a problem with fallen fundamentalist star Ted Haggard, the New York Times writes:

DENVER — The New Life Church, a nationally known evangelical institution that fired its founding pastor, Ted Haggard, in 2006 over accusations that he had had sex with a male prostitute, made payments starting in 2007 to a young male church member who had a relationship with Mr. Haggard before the dismissal, the church’s pastor told worshipers on Sunday.

The payments — part of a confidential legal settlement in 2007 that included money for counseling and college expenses — came from insurance money, not donations from members, the senior pastor of New Life, Brady Boyd, said in his sermon at the church in Colorado Springs.

Mr. Boyd said in an interview on Monday that the payments, and what has now amounted to second body blow of scandal, were kept quiet for two years partly because of legal constraints, and partly because of ministerial confidentiality rules, since the man had sought out church authorities for counseling about the affair. Mr. Boyd declined to identify the young man, but said he is now in his 20s and was over 18 at the time of the relationship. Mr. Haggard is now 52.

Mr. Boyd said he had decided to break the silence because the young man called a few weeks ago and said he was thinking of going public himself.

Grant Haas, now 25, sees matters differently:

Silence and abuse do seem to have robbed the victim of his church family.

Thus far we have heard no evidence that the church provided the emotional support and reassurance a victim requires to fully recover.


Christa Brown of Stop Baptist Predators writes: “Haggard scandal isn’t about gay sex,” it’s about the abuse of pastoral power.

January 27, 2009 Posted by | Religion | , , , , , | Comments Off on Hass hurting, and unhushed by the Haggard/New Life * money

Action on Human trafficking is a Clinton priority

Jim Wallis brings to our attention Hillary Clinton’s answer to a confirmation hearing question from Barbara Boxer:

As Secretary of State I view these issues (human trafficking) as central to our foreign policy, not as adjunct or auxiliary or in any way lesser from all of the other issues that we have to confront. I too have followed the stories: this is not culture, this is not custom, this is criminal … I’ve also read closely Nick Kristof’s articles over the last many months on the young women he’s both rescued from prostitution and met who have been enslaved, tortured in every way: physically, emotionally, morally and I take very seriously the function of the State Department to lead the U.S. Government through the Office on Human Trafficking to do all that we can to end this modern form of slavery. We have sex slavery. We have wage slavery and it is primarily a slavery of girls and women.

Domestic policy must then be made to match foreign policy, and in domestic policy, the U.S. is no leader. Sweden is, as Ambassador Swanee Hunt and Lina Sidrys observed:

After years of parliamentary debate, in 1999 Swedes passed the Sex Purchase Law, which criminalized buying and decriminalized selling sex. This placed the emphasis on the buyers, while allowing women to seek help without being fined or deported. In five years, the number of prostituted women in Sweden dropped 40%. Today, the government estimates that less than 400 women are trafficked into the country, while in neighboring Finland it’s 17,000.

In rough economic terms, as a matter of domestic policy the Swiss attacked demand, rather than supply.

It works. Paired with a foreign policy focus like the one Secretary of State Clinton can be expected to pursue, it should work very well indeed.

January 27, 2009 Posted by | Crime | Comments Off on Action on Human trafficking is a Clinton priority

RIP John Updike

John Updike focused on the spiritual as well as the carnal.

The Boston Globe said:

. . . Religion figures throughout Mr. Updike’s writing (fiction as well as essays). References abound to such religious philosophers as Kierkegaard, Paul Tillich, and Karl Barth. The protagonists of his novels “A Month of Sundays” (1975), “Roger’s Version” (1986), and “The Witches of Eastwick” (1984) are, respectively, a minister, a religious historian, and the Devil (memorably played in the movie adaptation by Jack Nicholson.

Raised a Lutheran, Mr. Updike became a Congregationalist after moving to Massachusetts and later an Episcopalian.

The Revealer properly slapped the New York Times for using the occasion of the obituary to curiously describe Updike’s most famous character, Rabbit Angstrom: “a believer in God even as he bedded women other than his wife.”

Updike was a man who struggled through his art, and certainly Rabbit, with the issues which besiege us all, and our world is better for that.

January 27, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

UN President skips Holocaust Memorial after Jewish leaders threaten walkout

Facing a possible walkout by Jewish leaders, General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto skipped U.N. Holocaust Memorial this morning. According to Harretz:

D’Escoto, who has repeatedly made virulently anti-Israel statements, was to be the event’s host by virtue of his official position and was scheduled give the opening speech.

Last year, the General Assembly president likened Israel’s actions in the West Bank and Gaza to “the apartheid of an earlier era,” and tried to ban Israel’s envoy to the UN from speaking at a ceremony to mark 60 years since the institution adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

AJC Executive Director David A. Harris told Haaretz that d’Escoto had chosen not to attend the event because he knew “he did not belong” there. Harris said D’Escoto also mostly likely understood that “his presence would have insulted the event because of his vicious attacks on Israel.

The U.N. General Assembly set Jan. 27 was set as International Holocaust Rememberance Day in 2005. It is to honor the victims of the Nazi era and is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp. The associated U.N. resolution rejects denial of the Holocaust, and condemns discrimination and violence based on religion or ethnicity.

Professor Gabriela Shalev, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, said in her speech to the assembly:

To remain silent and indifferent to the horrors of the Holocaust is probably the greatest sin of all, let alone denying it. We have a responsibility to act against the forces of anti-Semitism, bigotry and racism in any form.”


Seeking to damp the firestorm, Pope Benedict XVI expressed full and indisputable solidarity.

January 27, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion | , , , , , | Comments Off on UN President skips Holocaust Memorial after Jewish leaders threaten walkout

Oh ‘geez,’ another holy mischief of a sermon contest

The Canadian “holy mischief” magazine geez wants your entries in the Daringly Awkward Sermon Contest.

The Daringly Awkward Sermon Contest

Seminary graduates will have no divine or other advantage in pursuing one of the three $400 prizes. Think of this as a theologian’s version of The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, which makes wretched writing a hilarious art. This is satire amid which you may find a touch of heresy.

Consider for yourself some acid bits of Leslie Barnwell’s winning entry in last year’s Sermons you’d never hear in church contest:

When I was here last, you sat for me for a couple of hours. I drew and you talked. So I now know that you are close to my age, you’ve spent some serious time in a mental institution (bipolar disorder), and you’ve been let loose on your own since the facilities closed down. I know you live in a fourth-rate hotel room and can’t get, let alone keep, a job. You have practically no money and rarely get your medication right. You’ve been violent several times and have lost rights to various resources in the community, including a couple of churches, and have been in and out of jail.

Lately I’ve been getting this magazine called Geez and they had this off-the-wall-not-in-the-sanctuary sermon contest which is fairly bizarre in the first place. I thought, what would I write? To whom would I direct my words? To you? Well, I figure I’ve got nothing to say to you, Navita. Zero. Not for your enlightenment anyhow. What do you need to hear from me? That Jesus saves? That God has a wonderful plan for your life? Do you even need to know that a literal view of the Bible is a modern invention? How about a rehash of the Ten Commandments? Or maybe you need some clarity on how the message of holy scriptures jibes with the current eco-crisis. Sort of falling flat? I thought so.

It’s only $30 to enter (details here). That includes the price of a subscription, which you may event want.

Almost the Onion knelt for prayer, geez won ten Canadian Church Press prizes last year. You can taste their earnest irreverence by perusing their online previews. They’ve also launched (wait for it) … a blog.

They characterize the entire enterprise as “Adbusters for people of faith.”

Works for us.

January 27, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Comments Off on Oh ‘geez,’ another holy mischief of a sermon contest

Reprieve for Larry Swearingen, whom four pathologists say is innocent

An execution-eve reprieve was granted Larry Swearingen by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans on Monday [01/26/2009], giving his lawyers time to present evidence that he did not commit the 1998 Texas murder.

Swearingen faced lethal injection Tuesday in Texas for the death of Melissa Trotter. Yet four forensic pathologists agree that he could not have committed the murder, because he was in jail when it occurred.

Harris County Medical Examiner Dr. Joye Carter is one of the four.

In the words of the court:


At trial, Dr. Carter testified that Trotter’s body had been left in the forest for approximately twenty-five days, which was consistent with the State’s theory that Swearingen murdered Trotter on December 8, 1998, and left he body in the forest. In her affidavit, Dr. Carter does not address the correctness of her original testimony based on decomposition and fungal growth, but states that if she had been provided certain additional data, she would have testified that the findings of her autopsy “are consistent with a date of exposure in the Sam Houston National Forest within fourteen days of discovery, and incompatible with exposure for a longer period of time.”

Those results indicate that Swearingen was in jail on outstanding traffic warrants when the 19-year-old’s body was left in the forest south of Huntsville, Texas. Specifically, he was in jail when the body was discovered on Jan. 2, 1999, and had been in jail since Dec. 11, 1998. Even using Dr. Carter’s maximum of 14 days, the body was placed two days after Swearingen was jailed.

Thus the court goes on to say, “… that but for the alleged constitutional error of the State sponsoring the false testimony of Dr. Carter, no reasonable juror could find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.” (The full decision is here [.pdf]).

Texas state courts had refused to hear the issue:

Instead, the court dismissed Swearingen’s petition for violating state laws that limit death row inmates to one petition for a writ of habeas corpus unless lawyers uncover information that was not available when the first appeal was filed.

Swearingen’s attorneys now return to federal court to seek a new trial or release from prison.

January 27, 2009 Posted by | Crime | , , , , , | Comments Off on Reprieve for Larry Swearingen, whom four pathologists say is innocent