Southern Religion

Obama dodges the creche bullet

Get Religion has a press-critical take on the issue Susan Brooks Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite addressed:

The symbolic importance of the creche decision.

In our War on Christmas nation, the Christian president has to include the key Christian symbol in everyone’s White House at Christmas. Or pay a very large political bill.

December 8, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion | , , , , | Comments Off on Obama dodges the creche bullet

Susan Jacoby waxes practical about the White House creche

Susan Jacoby is the token secularist at the Washington Post/Newsweek feature On Faith. Regarding whether President Obama “should display a crèche or a menorah or any strictly religious symbols during the holidays in the White House,” she writes:

Who cares? With 40 million Americans having trouble putting food on the table and 10 percent out of work, there are more important things to worry about than whether the president, following the tradition of his predecessors, is disregarding the separation of church and state by displaying a creche in the White House. For the record, the White house should not have a creche, a menorah, or any other specifically religious symbol on its grounds. But it’s not high on my indignation list. If that makes me a lukewarm atheist, so be it. This annual battle over Christmas is becoming as tiresome as that awful, ubiquitous ditty, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year….” If I had to choose between getting rid of that headache-inducing song and getting rid of the White House manger, I’d choose to ban the song.

Of course J. Brent Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, disagrees with Jacoby about the religious symbols and also argues that the president is free to do whatever he chooses.

He didn’t take a stand on the song.

Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, former president of Chicago Theological Seminary, reminds us that the presidential decisions about symbols are in fact nontrivial.

Robert Paraham of the Baptist Center for Ethics gets to the fundamental issue for Christians. It isn’t the choice of White House decorations:

We love little baby Jesus, as NASCAR champion Ricky Bobby, in the movie “Talladega Nights,” reminds us. We adore Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes, wise men bearing gifts, shepherds searching, angels singing. We love baby Jesus because he makes no moral claims on us. Instead, we get to project our hopes for the impossible possibility–that all things will be made right.

Yet the biblical story moves quickly from the manger to the man who makes moral claims on people of faith.

The Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount calls Christians to be peacemakers, challenging those who want more war in Afghanistan. The Jesus of “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and God what is God’s” challenges Christians to do the hard work of moral discernment in a pluralistic country and drop plans for an American theocracy. The Jesus of “love your neighbor” confronts lawmakers to rethink their commitment to the corporate greed of the health insurance industry and ideologues to abandon their social Darwinism. The Jesus of the Golden Rule calls into question Wall Street’s deceitfulness and unmerited bonuses.

Lest anyone misunderstand, the debate is hypothetical. Christmas decorations at the White House include a crèche in the East Room.

With that in mind, please read all of the replies here.

December 8, 2009 Posted by | Religion | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Terry pressures the bishops

The P.T. Barnum of the pro-life movement is putting on his new “Deaf at the Cathedral” road show for a succession of U.S. Catholic bishops.

His goal is to persuade as many as possible to withhold communion from Catholic officeholders who insufficiently anti-abortion.

Randall Terry is a Catholic convert whom the American Papist called “a bit persona non grata” after Terry set up Archbishop Burke.

This time, the group dubbed Insurrecta Nex and founded by Terry will travel to 13 Cathedrals in 9 states to hold demonstrations asking Catholic Bishops:

Your Excellency, if any Catholic US Senator from your state, or member of the United States House of Representatives from your diocese votes to fund the murder of children by abortion in any ‘health care reform’ bill, will they be denied Communion?

He is making his usual aggressive case. He says:

Will Catholic Bishops truly defend babies — not with mere lip service, but with true valor — and hold pro-death Catholic Congressmen accountable? Or will they turn a deaf ear to the cries of innocent blood, the pleas of the faithful, and the canons of the Catholic Church that obligate them to withhold communion from Catholic politicians who promote the murder of babies by abortion?

Demonstrating against bishops in an attmpt to use the parishioners they serve to pressure them into actions they have either already taken (communion denial is typically private) or decided not to take.

Maybe not the best idea Terry has ever had. Bishops, who don’t necessarily take well to theatrically delivered pressure, whether from one another, the public or the press. Are you sure about this, Randall?

December 8, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Politics | , , , , | Comments Off on Terry pressures the bishops

Conservative & liberal voices raised together against anti-gay Ugandan law

Candace Chellew-Hodge puts to sleep the view that Christian leaders signing the statement [.pdf] are just lefties. She writes of the signers:

The first to jump out at me was Ronald Sider from Evangelicals for Social Action. Sider was also a signer of the Manhattan Declaration that clearly spells out its opposition to marriage equality for gays and lesbians here in the states, along with promising civil disobedience to laws allowing such marriages and actively fighting against abortion rights and the curbing of (their) religious freedoms. While Sider may want to prevent gays and lesbians from marrying, at least he has the decency to honor the sanctity of all life, including gays and lesbians. Other conservative signers include Sam Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Council. Rodriguez also signed the Manhattan Declaration and was a supporter of California’s Proposition 8 to overturn marriage equality in that state, and has been called the “Karl Rove of Hispanic evangelical strategy.” Another notable signer is Mercer University professor and author David Gushee, who has refused to sign the Manhattan Declaration.

December 8, 2009 Posted by | Crime, Politics, Religion | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Conservative & liberal voices raised together against anti-gay Ugandan law

Puddle-wonderful, partial GC Resurgence report coming in February, maybe

Breathlessly optimistic Great Commission Resurgence task force chairman Ronnie Floyd said after the group’s Nov. 30-Dec. 1 meeting in Atlanta:

“We made great, enormous progress today,” Floyd told Baptist Press after adjourning the meeting. “We’re wrestling; we’re going through it. But the group has been great. Yesterday and today we ended with tremendous oneness, tremendous togetherness.”

. . .

Task force members engaged in “a lot of open dialogue” during their meeting, Floyd said.
“It was lively but never in the wrong spirit, by any means,” Floyd said. “It’s all about passion. There’s passion about touching this nation. We want to reach North America for Christ; we want to see the world come to Christ. We believe God has given us the commission – to our churches – and our convention’s role is to come alongside our churches to help them fulfill the Great Commission that was given to the churches. We want to see our convention serve our churches in a greater capacity, to help them do the commission Jesus has given them.”

The issues before the task force are serious but not a matter of “good versus bad,” Floyd added.

A substantial report, presumably one as rich in bafflegab as Floyd’s interview, is to be presented to the Feb. 22-23 Executive Committee meeting in Nashville. Maybe. Perhaps. Well, Floyd said that “Our goal would be to get what I would call the body of the report — the things that would require cooperation and understanding of why we are doing what we want to do and this is what we want to do and how do we get there.”

Thus it was written in the South Carolina Baptist Courier.

Oh, goody gumdrops?

December 8, 2009 Posted by | Religion, SBC | , , | Comments Off on Puddle-wonderful, partial GC Resurgence report coming in February, maybe

U.S. Christian leaders against Uganda’s “Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2009”

U.S. Christian leaders — who may not agree on same-sex lifestyle issues — have spoken out in a statement issued today against a law under consideration in Uganda that would make some homosexual behavior punishable by death. While diverse in political philosophy, they came together over “Jesus’ commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves.”

Their statement [.pdf] says:

Our Christian faith recognizes violence, harassment and unjust treatment of any human being as a betrayal of Jesus’ commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. As followers of the teachings of Christ, we must express profound dismay at a bill currently before the Parliament in Uganda. The “Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2009” would enforce lifetime prison sentences and in some cases the death penalty for homosexual behavior, as well as punish citizens for not reporting their gay and lesbian neighbors to the authorities.

As Americans, some may wonder why we are raising our voices to oppose a measure proposed in a nation so far away from home. We do so to bear witness to our Christian values, and to express our condemnation of an injustice in which groups and leaders within the American Christian community are being implicated. We appeal to all Christian leaders in our own country to speak out against this unjust legislation.

In our efforts to imitate the Good Samaritan, we stand in solidarity with those Ugandans beaten and left abandoned by the side of the road because of hatred, bigotry and fear. Especially during this holy season of Advent, when the global Christian community prepares in hope for the light of Christ to break through the darkness, we pray that they are comforted by God’s love.

Regardless of the diverse theological views of our religious traditions regarding the morality of homosexuality, in our churches, communities and families, we seek to embrace our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters as God’s children worthy of respect and love. Yet we are painfully aware that in our country gays and lesbians still face hostility and violence. We recognize that such treatment degrades the human family, threatens the common good and defies the teachings of our Lord — wherever it occurs.

Signatories include such centrist evangelical activists as David Gushee of Mercer University,and those from a range of other faith traditions such as Adam Tice, the Associate Pastor of Hyattsville Mennonite Church. They range from Jim Wallis of Sojourners (on the left) to the Rev. Samuel Rodriguezof the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (on the right) and include Melissa Rogers of Wake Forest University Divinity School’s Center for Religion and Public Affairs, and others [.pdf] .

The joint statement was organized by Faith in Public Life and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. It follows the Dec. 4 statement by Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori which said in part that “efforts to criminalize homosexual behavior are incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

[H/T: Divine Diva]

December 8, 2009 Posted by | Law, Politics, Religion, Uncategorized | , | 1 Comment