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Southern Religion

Baptist bloggers passionately object to the question: Was Jesus was a racist?

Miguel De La Torre ignited a Southern Baptist blog firestorm Monday with an iconoclastic reading of Matthew 15:21-28. That passage has Jesus responding to a Canaanite woman’s plea that He heal her child. In the key phrase Jesus says:

I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. It is not good to take the bread of the children and throw it to the dogs.

Jesus’ comparison of the woman of color to “dogs” strikes De La Torre and many before him [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 . . . ] as an arguably racist remark.

His conclusion in the Associated Baptist Press (ABP) opinion piece, not a new one to the world of progressive Christianity, strikes the fundamentalist bloggers as saying that Jesus committed a sin: racism. Yet Jesus is God incarnate, argues J. Thomas White of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Perfect. Sinless. Some therefore suggest that De La Torre is heretical when he writes:

To deny this woman a healing and call her a dog reveals the racism his culture taught him. But Jesus, unlike so many within the dominant social structure of today, was willing to hear the words of this woman of color, and learn from her.

Passions run high. They call the piecetripe,” “heretical trash” and so on. Some swear off the ABP for presuming to publish a “false teaching.” They wonder at the competence of the ABP editors and want the piece deleted. Only a couple gently defended open debate.

Quietly reasoned explanation of the text, the sort of explanation which might be heard by skeptics and others whom our angry ministers would regard as unsaved, was rare.

Should we wonder whether there is a relationship between this occasional Baptist blogger preference for heated expostulation and the report in this year’s National Council of Churches’ Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches that Southern Baptists are declining in number?

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February 25, 2009 Posted by | Cultural, Religion | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ash Wednesday

We recommend Ash Wednesday from explorefaith.org via Street Prophets:

Ash Wednesday by Carl Spitzweg: the end of Carnival.

"Ash Wednesday" by Carl Spitzweg: the end of Carnival.

Ashes remind us, with a shock, that we are God’s creation, made for God, and not the other way around.

Ashes remind us of the brevity of the gift of life, and the grace of eternal life in the heart of God.

Ashes remind us that we are born to live, really live, before we die.

Ashes remind us of a resolve to a Lent, and a lifetime, of a more authentic relationship with Jesus the Christ. For reasons like these it does not occur to us that we participate in a “strange” custom of ashes and dust. To the contrary. With hearts full of awe, we seek gold and God in the dust.

February 25, 2009 Posted by | Religion | | Comments Off on Ash Wednesday

Appeal filed in child’s death of parents’ Tennessee faith healin

Jessica Crank of Loudon County, Tenn., died of bone cancer at 15 after her mother and “spiritual father” substituted prayer for medical care, very much like 11-year-old Kara Neumann’s Wausau, Wis., parents.

An emergency appeal has been filed on behalf of Jessica’s “spiritual father,” Ariel Ben Sherman. who alleges that the governing law is legally flawed and should be struck down. It doesn’t tell parents when to stop praying over children who have been variously expressing their agony (Jessica had a 17-pound tumor), and call the doctor.

Or as one of Sherman’s attorneys, Gregory P. Isaacs, explains:

Tennessee’s Child Abuse and Neglect statutes are unconstitutionally overbroad and vague in that they fail to identify and provide fair notice of the point at which a person’s reliance on his or her religious beliefs for spiritual treatment becomes criminal conduct, if ever.

Tennessee’s 1994 “faith healing” law does appear to be intended to permit parents to substitute prayer for medical care. If somehow Sherman’s attorneys prevail in their appeal, that does not end the case.

Jamie Satterfield of the Knoxville News writes:

Loudon County authorities have alleged that even if the faith-healing loophole were valid, it only applies to practitioners of a “recognized church or religious denomination.” Sherman has been accused of being a cult leader whose Universal Life Church was cover for a commune with no ties to any legitimate religion.

The underlying principle here is long-established and well-understood. As explained by Caroline Fraser, author of “Suffering Children
and the
Christian Science Church
“:

The 1944 U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Prince v. Massachusetts, which concerned a Jehovah’s Witness convicted of violating state child labor laws after insisting that her religious beliefs required her child to distribute Witness literature at night, that “the right to practice religion freely does not include liberty to expose the community or child to communicable disease, or the latter to ill health or death… Parents may be free to become martyrs themselves. But it does not follow they are free, in identical circumstances, to make martyrs of their children.

February 25, 2009 Posted by | Law, Religion | Comments Off on Appeal filed in child’s death of parents’ Tennessee faith healin