Southern Religion

Early farewell to the north polar ice cap

News for Chuck “global cooling” Colson: Arctic ice could disappear completely by 2013. If he and Richard Land can walk on water by then, they can hike together across the north polar ice cap that may not exist.


March 6, 2009 Posted by | environment, Politics, Religion | , | Comments Off on Early farewell to the north polar ice cap

Solidarity: A shared view and sense of common responsibility for one another

Religious groups agree that fixing economy is the top priority.

Pew Forum found that religious groups agree -- fixing the economy is our top priority.

Faith in Public Life points out that the Vatican this week celebrated a resurgent American spirit of mutual concern and support.

The official Vatican newspaper is reported to have said:

After a decade of exaltation of individual enrichment, today the USA, struck by the economic crisis, is witnessing instead the pressing resurgence of the values of solidarity.

Solidarity, explains the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

… is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say, to the good of all and each individual, because we are all really responsible for all.

The Pew survey found that we agree about what to work on first. The Vatican suggests that we also know how — an approach which resonates with the American tradition of mutual support in times of crisis, a tradition that permits us to achieve shared objectives that would otherwise be beyond any nation.

March 6, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Solidarity: A shared view and sense of common responsibility for one another

Southern Baptist Convention vs. Catholic record-keeping about and punishment of clerical sexual predators

Unintentionally, Christa Brown points out how unfair it is of us to allude to Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) clerics as Batholics. Unfair to Catholicism.

As required by canon law, the Catholic Church keeps meticulous records on its clergy. In part because the Catholic Church has dealt with sexual predation by the clergy for hundreds of years, the records are inclusive of such matters.

Whereas the SBC neither keeps such records nor requires that any be kept, as she explains:

Usually, they not only allow the accused ministers to continue in ministry, but they don’t even keep any records about victims’ accusations. It is as though it never happened.

It is as though Baptist leaders believe “no records” means “no abuse.”

It certainly means no action, whereas the modern Catholic abuse and scandal appear to have arisen in part from a departure from early church practice, which required action against clerical predators. For in the early church, there was no tolerance for it, as Brendan Kiley explains:

The first official decree on the subject was written at the Council of Elvira, held around A.D. 305 near Granada, Spain. The precise history is complicated, but the council is traditionally believed to have set down 81 rules for behavior, the 71st of which is: “Those who sexually abuse boys may not commune even when death approaches.” It was the harshest one-strike policy: If you’re caught abusing a child, you are not only laicized, but permanently excommunicated—damned for all time.”

The SBC simply accepts no responsibility for dealing with such transgressions by Southern Baptist clergy. It embraces and defends a hands-off policy which permits clerical predators to move from church to church, unimpeded by denominational record keeping, accumulating victims as they go.

March 6, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Churches, History, Law | | 3 Comments

Wilbur Award to Newsweek’s ‘Our Mutual Joy’

Our Mutual Joy Newsweek cover

Excoriated at publication time by fundamentalists and other theological conservatives, Newsweek’s article about gay marriage, Our Mutual Joy, won the 2009 Religion Communicators Council Wilbur Award for outstanding work in the secular media by a magazine.

Adelle M. Banks of the Religion News Service wrote:

“Wilbur judges noted that, while people of faith and Religion Communicators Council members disagree widely on the subject of gay marriage, Miller’s article is a fine example of the purpose of the Wilbur Awards, which is to recognize `excellence in the presentation of religious issues, themes and values,”’ the organization stated in its Tuesday (March 3) announcement of award winners.

According to Newsweek, while some readers sent messages of “heartfelt” support, many others disagreed with what Miller calls the “religious case for gay marriage.” The article generated more than 100,000 e-mail responses and over 2,000,000 page views on Newsweek’s web site.

Read the award-winning Newsweek story, Our Mutual Joy, here.

Central to the enraged response by fundamentalists is the following paragraph and all of the support Miller marshals on behalf of its argument:

As a religious institution, marriage offers something else: a commitment of both partners before God to love, honor and cherish each other—in sickness and in health, for richer and poorer—in accordance with God’s will. In a religious marriage, two people promise to take care of each other, profoundly, the way they believe God cares for them. Biblical literalists will disagree, but the Bible is a living document, powerful for more than 2,000 years because its truths speak to us even as we change through history. In that light, Scripture gives us no good reason why gays and lesbians should not be (civilly and religiously) married—and a number of excellent reasons why they should.

Yes, “Biblical literalists” disagreed, and are no doubt disenchanted to see the article honored today.


Terry Mattingly at GetReligion was also displeased. At the time of original publication, M.Z. Hemingway there pointed out the piece’s flaws in accuracy and journalistic balance. For example:

[Miller] never once speaks with an actual opponent of same-sex marriage. She never once speaks with someone who knows anything about the Biblical model of marriage as understood for thousands of years. This piece is disgusting, unfair and unworthy of a high school graduate. It is the opposite of thought-provoking. It’s a post-frontal lobotomy exegesis of scripture. This is journalism? This is how people are supposed to cover the news, today?

She actually uses Miss Manners to defend liturgical changes in marital rites. I mean, really. This is a serious topic. We have had the majority populace of three dozen states now vote to define marriage as a heterosexual union. I know the news industry is suffering but perhaps one reporter could go actually research what these people think.

Instead we learn nothing about the principled opposition to same-sex marriage and instead get blasphemy and some of the most cliched reading of Scripture to appear in print. Thanks, Newsweek. Thanks a bunch.

No words minced there.

March 6, 2009 Posted by | Cultural, Religion | Comments Off on Wilbur Award to Newsweek’s ‘Our Mutual Joy’

As the economy turns …

Ilford High Road Baptist Church of London's answer to the Atheist Bus ads and commentary on our collective economic predicament.

Ilford High Road Baptist Church's answer to the Atheist Bus ads and commentary on our collective economic predicament.

March 6, 2009 Posted by | Cultural, The Arts | Comments Off on As the economy turns …

Do the apologies to Limbaugh and others so publicly tendered of late have ethical value?

Seriously? United Methodist Church ethicist Kenneth Carder of Duke University Divinity School in Durham, N.C., said Thursday:

When apologies are deeply rooted in confession, contrition, a recognition of the damage that one has done and one’s implication in the hurt of others– in the context of genuine repentance and confession with a goal of restoration of integrity, restoration of relationships and restitution for damage done, then apologies have depth.


That doesn’t sound like a Republican functionary after a visit to I’m Sorry Rush, or whatever non-satiric equivalent Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele visited after speaking dismissively of conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh last week.

Republican political apologies were just part of a recent blizzard of recent, high-profile apologies.

Those included “Yankees superstar Alex Rodriguez, who apologized for using steroids; Olympic gold-medalist swimmer Michael Phelps, who apologized for smoking marijuana; The New York Post, which apologized for but defended a cartoon with racist images; and former U.S. Senator Tom Daschle, who apologized for not paying taxes that he owed.”

Carder told Linda Green of the United Methodist News Service that the church has “contributed” to the “superficiality” which is the distinguishing characteristic of most of those public apologies.

For at the heart of the Christian community is the practice of confession, assurance of forgiveness and reconciliation. A tradition that has been less well-practiced of late, Carder said. Prayers of confession have been eliminated from many worship services. That example has broader social consequences:

But, when we, as a church, no longer practice confession, forgiveness and accountability, we should not be surprised if the broader culture substitutes for genuine confession a political spin or superficial healing of wounds.

There are, then, three general requirements to meet if one is to make a sincere apology. Genuine apology requires an understanding of the harm done, a commitment to personal change so that one does not inflict that kind of harm again, and some kind of restitution, Methodist ethicists explained.

“A false apology is usually accompanied by bogus or insincere guilt, which is often confused with appropriate shame,” said Theodore Dalrymple, a physician and author of “Our Culture, What’s Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses.” The understanding, commitment to personal change and any but superficial restitution are absent.

Clearly, the week was marked by a rush of false apologies and their well-earned ridicule. We are rich in bad examples.

March 6, 2009 Posted by | Cultural, Politics, Religion | , , , , , | Comments Off on Do the apologies to Limbaugh and others so publicly tendered of late have ethical value?

Nostalgia: Our “duck and cover” turtle (1950)

“Duck and Cover” survival of a nuclear attack was the improbable goal of this sweet cinema and many others. It was shown in public school classrooms in the sweeter, kinder, gentler, stress-free 1950s when atomic annihilation was offered as a constant companion:

March 6, 2009 Posted by | Cultural, History, Politics, The Arts | , , | Comments Off on Nostalgia: Our “duck and cover” turtle (1950)

No place for creationism/intelligent design at Vatican conference on evolution

Organizers said they want an intellectually rigorous conference on science, theology and philosophy to mark the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s “The Origin of Species.”

As a result, there is no place for intelligent design in the five-day conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University. The Rev. Marc Leclerc, the conference director and a professor of philosophy of nature at the Gregorian explained:

We think that it’s not a scientific perspective, nor a theological or philosophical one. This makes a dialogue very difficult, maybe impossible.

The Discovery Institute complains mightily that it was shut out because the gathering is funded by the John Templeton Foundation. Although it was by all accounts a no-strings-attached grant.

But protest, contention and litigation are commonplaces of intelligent design advocacy in this country. Not, one might infer, the ingredients of constructive, multi-way dialog (even putting aside the philosophy/theology of the notion).

March 6, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Cultural, Religion, Science | Comments Off on No place for creationism/intelligent design at Vatican conference on evolution

The (British) Church and homosexuality

An Acceptable Sacrifice? is both a book about homosexuality and the church and the question answered by Anglican Church of South Africa Archbishop Desmond Tutu in its forward. He writes:

The answer is simple: No. It is not acceptable for us to discriminate against our brothers and sisters on the basis of sexual orientation, just as it was not acceptable for discrimination to exist on the basis of skin colour under Apartheid. We cannot pick and choose where justice is concerned.

The book is a collection of nine essays written by Cambridge University scholars. Not one of the nine seems likely to please pastors typically associated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

For example, London Times reviewer John Habgood (formerly the Church of England’s Archbishop of York) writes of homosexuality and the Bible:

The apparently decisive text, Leviticus 18:22, “You must not lie with a man as with a woman: that is an abomination”, is a prime example of how such failure, together with the assumption that actions always carry the same meaning, can lead unwary readers in the wrong direction. What in our day might seem to be an unequivocal reference to homosexuality, did not originally refer to a kind of sexuality at all. When Leviticus was written, the real offence in the idea of “a man lying with a man” was that it entailed a violation of male superiority. It was seen as shameful for a man to be treated as a substitute woman. In short, it was more about gender relationships than sexual orientation.

You may read the rest of the review here.

March 6, 2009 Posted by | Book Review, Churches | , , | Comments Off on The (British) Church and homosexuality