Southern Religion

Both extremes of the is-abortion-covered debate are wrong

Beliefnet’s Steve Waldman digs deep into the facts of this debate and returns agreeing with us:

To understand requires us to take a journey into the legislative weeds but here’s my bottom line: those who claim abortion clearly is covered and those who say it clearly isn’t are both wrong.

His conclusion, fully stated, is:

We often think of abortion as a black and white issue. But when it comes to the question of whether health care reform bills “cover” or provide “taxpayer support for” abortion, there are many shades of gray. As of now, neither side is entirely telling the truth about what the bills do; on some aspects, Obama and his allies have misled, on others pro-lifers have. More important, some of this does not involve matters of “fact” or “truth” or “lies” but rather subjective judgment calls, a land where ideologues don’t function well but legislators must.

The entire column deserves a careful reading here.

August 26, 2009 Posted by | Health, Medical Care, Politics, Religion | , , | 1 Comment

Early Christians created the first health-care system

Historian Gary Ferngren writes in his book Medicine and Health Care in Early Christianity:

Christians of the first five centuries held views regarding the use of medicine and the healing of disease that did not differ appreciably from those that were widely taken for granted in the Graeco-Roman world.

Those views underlie Christians’ development of “the world’s first health-care system,” writes Rob Moll in his Christianity Today review of the book. That was a reflection of the Christian belief that love of God requires love of fellow man and that is reflected in charity.

As a result of these theological beliefs, Christians developed a robust system for caring for the poor, the ill, widows and orphans, and other members of society in need of care. When the plague struck, this system provided an opportunity for churches to quickly expand and care for those outside the church.

Moll concludes:

The best way to provide care to everyone in the country may be up for debate. We may argue over whether to prefer new regulation of insurers and health care providers or a government-run plan. The need to provide care for the poor, however, was settled centuries ago.

Read the entire review here.

August 26, 2009 Posted by | Churches, History, Medical Care, Religion | , , , | Comments Off on Early Christians created the first health-care system

Lion of religious liberty passes

The nation lost a lion of religious liberty at the death of Senator Edward Kennedy. Don Byrd at the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty excerpted from Kennedy’s speech “at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University:”

The separation of church and state can sometimes be frustrating for women and men of religious faith. They may be tempted to misuse government in order to impose a value which they cannot persuade others to accept. But once we succumb to that temptation, we step onto a slippery slope where everyone’s freedom is at risk.Those who favor censorship should recall that one of the first books ever burned was the first English translation of the Bible…. Let us never forget: Today’s Moral Majority could become tomorrow’s persecuted minority.

There must be standards for the exercise of such leadership, so that the obligations of belief will not be debased into an opportunity for mere political advantage. But to take a stand at all when a question is both properly public and truly moral is to stand in a long and honored tradition. Many of the great evangelists of the 1800s were in the forefront of the abolitionist movement. In our own time, the Reverend William Sloane Coffin challenged the morality of the war in Vietnam. Pope John XXIII renewed the Gospel’s call to social justice. And Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who was the greatest prophet of this century, awakened our nation and its conscience to the evil of racial segregation.

President Kennedy, who said that “no religious body should seek to impose its will,” also urged religious leaders to state their views and give their commitment when the public debate involved ethical issues. In drawing the line between imposed will and essential witness, we keep church and state separate, and at the same time we recognize that the City of God should speak to the civic duties of men and women.

Nor can mean-spirited efforts to demonize Kennedy detract from a legislative record which transcends partisan boundaries.

As Deborah Weinstein of the Coalition on Human Needs wrote today:

Senator Kennedy understood the blessings of practical service in his own life and expanded opportunities like AmeriCorps for millions of others. His career was marked by a decades-long commitment to help those with the least political power — the poor, children, immigrants, and the uninsured were some of the many he championed. Looking back on his legislative achievements, his work for those least likely to command the assistance of expensive lobbyists is remarkable. In 1965, he sponsored legislation to drop immigration quotas that discriminated against non-white immigrants. In 1968, he shepherded legislation for bilingual education. In 1990, he co-sponsored the Ryan White CARE act to provide health care for HIV/AIDS patients. He was a champion of civil rights, women’s rights, for legislation to assist the poor, and for increases in the minimum wage.

Certainly he was a flawed man. The Washington Post in its editorial today noted:

When Mr. Kennedy first ran for the Senate from Massachusetts, he wasn’t even quite old enough to serve, and his record, which included an expulsion from Harvard University for cheating, was undistinguished. “The Cambridge intellectual establishment was aghast at his candidacy,” writes a John F. Kennedy biographer, Thomas Reeves. Many felt that the Kennedy family saw him as being in line to assume the presidency by right. But in 1969, the senator drove off a bridge at a place called Chappaquiddick in Massachusetts, and a young woman in the senator’s car, Mary Jo Kopechne, was drowned. The failure of the senator and others who were with him at Chappaquiddick to report the accident for hours afterward was a shocking act with long-lasting consequences for all involved. It did not end Mr. Kennedy’s presidential ambitions — he tried and failed to take the nomination from Jimmy Carter in 1980 — but it greatly reduced his chances of fulfilling them.

Enough. As Michelle Malkin writes:

Put aside your ideological differences for an appropriate moment and mark this passing with solemnity.

August 26, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Law, Medical Care, Politics, Religion | | Comments Off on Lion of religious liberty passes

Tarred by the ‘birther’ company we keep?

“If Baptist Republicans walk and talk like ‘birthers,’ does that make them racists?” asks Baptist ethicist Robert Parham today, and answers himself: “No. But as every Southern momma knows and warns her children, one is known by the company they keep.”

Parham, executive editor of, details how Southern Baptist legislators have made themselves keystones of the ‘birther’ movement, most recently Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.). Franks flip flopped from his position a month ago to tell a Kingman, Ariz., townhall audience that he is considering a citizenship lawsuit against President Obama.

Other Baptists Parham mentions are House Majority Leader Tom Delay, Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-Texas) and Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).

Southern Baptist ‘birther’ enthusiasts also include Buena Vista, Calif., pastor Wiley Drake, who has engaged in imprecatory prayer against President Barack Obama and who celebrated the murder of abortion provider George Tiller on May 31, 2009. Drake was the American Independent Party’s vice-presidential candidate in 2008.

The evidence says that it’s a made-up issue, sustained by fantasy, prejudice and political opportunism. For example, has a conclusive review of the debate with several, high-resolution photographs of the original Obama birth certificate available for download [here’s one of them]. Or you can review demolitions of each ‘birther’ assertion.

‘Birther’ discussion drifted into truly bizarre territory this week, and issues this detached from reality have a way of getting progressively worse.

Association with this matter promises to haunt and shame those who remain involved with it. Southern Baptist or not.

August 26, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion | , , , | Comments Off on Tarred by the ‘birther’ company we keep?