Southern Religion

Rediscovering Darwin with the help of the church

While MSNBC greets Darwin’s bicentenary with trivia, the Church of England has created the enlightening and equally entertaining On the origin of Darwin Web site.

At the very introduction we learn of the man himself:

What is extraordinary is that Darwin was surrounded by the influence of the Church his entire life. Having attended one of the best Church of England boarding schools in the country in Shrewsbury, he trained to be a clergyman in Cambridge; was inspired to follow his calling into science by another clergyman who lived and breathed botany; and married into a staunch Anglican family (see the section Darwin and the Church).

There is no room in this collection for creationist chicanery. Instead, there is sound perspective. In his essay “Good religion needs good science,” Rev Dr Malcolm Brown writes:

But whilst it is not difficult to see why evolutionary thinking was offensive at the time, on reflection it is not such an earth-shattering idea. Yes, Christians believe that God became incarnate as a human being in the person of Jesus and thereby demonstrated God’s especial love for humanity. But how can that special relationship be undermined just because we develop a different understanding of the processes by which humanity came to be? It is hard to avoid the thought that the reaction against Darwin was largely based on what we would now call the ‘yuk factor’ (an emotional not an intellectual response) when he proposed a lineage from apes to humans.

Taking some care to dispose of one of the misapplication of Darwin to brutal social theories, Brown further writes:

Natural selection, as a way of understanding physical evolutionary processes over thousands of years, makes sense. Translate that into a half-understood notion of ‘the survival of the fittest’ and imagine the processes working on a day-to-day basis, and evolution gets mixed up with a social theory in which the weak perish – the very opposite of the Christian vision in the Magnificat (Luke 1:46–55). This ‘Social Darwinism’, in which the strong flourish and losers go to the wall is, moreover, the complete converse of what Darwin himself believed about human relationships. From this social misapplication of Darwin’s theories has sprung insidious forms of racism and other forms of discrimination which are more horribly potent for having the appearance of scientific “truth” behind them.

This attempt to understand the science and its meaning without replacing it with arbitrary pseudotheories is valuable in itself and as a contrast with the endless attempts in this country to inject religious instruction into science classes.

February 11, 2009 Posted by | Religion, Science | , | Comments Off on Rediscovering Darwin with the help of the church

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship ‘oneness’ with accepted ‘differences’

Multi-part harmony without tulip wilting flame war or inquisitional debate enlightened the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina meeting in Greensboro, as told to us by Tony Cartledge. At the heart of it:

In pursuing the mission of God, Cooperative Baptists must recognize their need for one another, [CBFNC coordinator Larry] Hovis said, and “provide an authentic Baptist community where we can celebrate our oneness and respect our differences.”

Read it all here.

February 11, 2009 Posted by | Religion | , , | Comments Off on Cooperative Baptist Fellowship ‘oneness’ with accepted ‘differences’

Takedown of hyperventilating Southern Baptist blog warriors [Updated]

Erupting in answer to Oklahoma pastor Wade Burleson’s tulips inquisition blogs [1,2] was a Southern Baptist flame war, predictably rich in the words “liar” and “liberal.”

The Big Daddy Weave covers that fundamentalist-driven soap opera — flames, comments-closing, IP-address blocking and all.

At length he suggests:

Fundamentalists fighting is nothing new. But the fighting has reached a new level in the Southern Baptist blogosphere. All I know is that the old white guy-dominated Southern Baptist blogosphere can stir up more drama than a handful of teenage drama queens.

There is of course some rejoinder from those taken down. Read it all here.


Tom Ascol, executive director of Founders Ministries, has a reasoned review of the more scholarly voices in this debate at Reflections on the dust-up over Calvinism at SWBTS.

His conclusions are complex. They include a call for tolerance and for responsible civil debate in the inevitable future public discussions.

February 11, 2009 Posted by | Cultural, Religion | , , , , | 1 Comment

Dissatisfied religious feminists

Religious feminists are almost as unhappy the politically progressive theopolitical order as some Southern Baptist women are with their denomination’s doctrine of submission.

Frances Kissling — a visiting scholar at the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania and former president of Catholics for a Free Choicewrote on Tuesday:

Much is made by the theo-politicians of their work across ideological differences. But this has been achieved by excluding from their ranks those religious leaders who are progressive and outspoken on gender, sexuality, and religion. It is then easy to stand side by side with Rick Warren and Joel Hunter, for they actually agree with these conservatives on sexuality and reproduction and have only minor differences on LGBT issues. Center-left theo-politicians are silent on the meaning of sexual expression outside of heterosexual marriage; they have no interest in the theological construction of a new moral and ethical standard of relationship, justice, and friendship that governs sexuality. They are silent on the morality of LGBT sexuality, limiting their support to “civil rights.” They talk about women only as victims, never as moral agents. They take on the easy religious issues—poverty and peace. They do so either out of political expedience or because they actually agree with the religious right.

Either way, they hinder rather than help the justice-seeking project of progressive religious feminists. And that it not good for religion or justice.

As a corrective, Kissling and others would like to see more than “one identifiable advocate for women’s sexual and reproductive rights” appointed to President Obama’s Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships to counterbalance the “several anti-choice supporters.”

A wish that will be at least partly granted, we suspect.

February 11, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion | , , , , , | Comments Off on Dissatisfied religious feminists

Can Maciel-founded groups continue?

In a letter apologizing to the victims of Fr. Marcial Maciel and lamenting the leadership’s “disastrous response,” a Catholic ethics leader demanded an independent third-party investigation to weed “accomplices” out of the order.

Fr. Thomas Berg, Executive Director of the Westchester Institute for Ethics and the Human Person and author of the CNA column “With Good Reason,” addressed his Sunday letter to members of the Legion of Christ’s lay order Regnum Christi (RC).

His answer to the deepening crisis would keep the order intact despite revelations that Fr. Maciel was sexual abuser, who lied, led a double life and applied elements of cult leadership.

February 11, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Religion | 1 Comment

Faith-based initiative != discriminatory hiring

About those hotly debated hiring questions over the revamped White House Office on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Mark Silk writes:

If, in the usual democratic way, the federal government decides to fund certain programs for the general welfare; and if, because they share a commitment to those programs, certain religious institutions choose to act as secular agencies in carrying them out; then fine. But if they can foster their own purely religious goals via discriminatory hiring, then not so fine. Not only because the rest of us end up paying to support those goals. But also because our tax dollars will be out there tempting other religious institutions to change what they are.

Sounds right to us.

Addendum from J. Brent Walker is executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty

Both an ordained minister and a member of the Supreme Court Bar, Walker wrote:

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of, among other things, religion; but it grants an exemption to religious organizations, allowing them to favor adherents of their particular faith in hiring. While this exemption clearly applies when the religious organization is using the funds of the faithful, the administration should not allow religious organizations to use taxpayer funds to discriminate in hiring against a qualified person based on nothing more than religious beliefs.

Doing so would, as he said, be “an unfair advancement of religion that also turns back the clock on civil rights.”

The right and constitutional path for the Obama administration is clear.

February 11, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion | , , | Comments Off on Faith-based initiative != discriminatory hiring