Southern Religion

Attacks on faith-based program reveal its flaws

No one should be surprised that President Obama’s faith-based initiatives are drawing fire from liberals and conservatives.

After all, it is known that the program failed to increase churches’ social services and some have advocated doing away with the program completely. Also, a broad coalition of organizations jointly said the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was meant to protect religious liberty not lead to discrimination.

So folks like Barry Lynn, head of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and former Southern Baptist Convention president Frank Page, still take issue with the program.

David Waters, who edits an online discussion about faith for the Post and Newsweek and blogs about religion, concludes that the faith-based initiative remains a “fundamentally flawed concept.”

“The federal government and U.S. religious groups serve two different masters. The government serves taxpayers, religious groups serve God. When it comes to distributing and overseeing the use of federal tax dollars, government overrules God.”

Churches and other faith-based groups that take government funding, should follow the rules, Waters said.

“If not, they can decide to help people the old-fashioned way — because God calls them to, not because government pays them to.”

Well said.

February 9, 2010 Posted by | Politics, Religion | , | Comments Off on Attacks on faith-based program reveal its flaws

Abusing Native American Religious Rites to Deadly Effect

James Arthur Ray ran high-end “Spiritual Warrior” retreats which desecreated Sioux sweat-lodge rituals. Until an Oct. 8, 2009, incident in Sedona, Arizona, which resulted in three deaths and 20 other hospitalizations. On Feb. 3, 2010, the Yavapai County Arizona Sheriff’s Dept. arrested Ray, charging him with three counts of manslaughter

Those three were simply the most recent deaths resulting from the “commodification” of American Indian cultural and religious practices, observed Judith Weisenfeld, Princeton University professor of religion and associate faculty in the Center for African American Studies.

Native Americans have not responded passively to the desecration of their traditions. The Lakota Nation has filed a lawsuit under the Sioux treaty of 1868.

Wikipedia says, in summary:

The Lakota Nation holds that James Arthur Ray and the Angel Valley Retreat Center have “violated the peace between the United States and the Lakota Nation” and have caused the “desecration of our Sacred Oinikiga (purification ceremony) by causing the death of Liz Neuman, Kirby Brown and James Shore”. As well, the Lakota claim that James Arthur Ray and the Angel Valley Retreat Center fraudulently impersonated Indians and must be held responsible for causing the deaths and injuries, and for evidence destruction through dismantling of the sweat lodge. The lawsuit seeks to have the treaty enforced and does not seek monetary compensation.

The Lakota have also published a “Declaration of War Against Exploiters of Lakota Spirituality,” which does a great deal to clarify the cultural/religious issues involved.

The tony, $9,000 a head retreats are regarded by Native Americans as altogether corrupt. There is, explains Chief Arvol Looking Horse, “19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe Bundle,” no for-pay Lakota/Dakota/Nakota Oyate spiritual rite [.pdf]:

When you do ceremony, you can not have money on your mind. We deal with the pure sincere energy to create healing that comes from everyone in that circle of ceremony. The heart and mind must be connected. When you involve money, it changes the energy of healing. The person wants to get what they paid for; the Spirit Grandfather will not be there, our way of life is now being exploited! You do more damage than good. No mention of monetary energy should exist in healing, not even with a can of love donations. When that energy exists, they will not even come.

The issues here are clearly more complex than “buyer beware,” although a visit to New Age Frauds & Plastic Shamans is a good place to begin is you are considering the purchase of such services.

Bottom line? That path is not for sale, either.

[H/T Judith Weisenfeld]

February 9, 2010 Posted by | Cultural | , , | 1 Comment

Using the attacker’s words to blame the victim

Abused by Baylor University when she had to courage to report being assaulted by “murdering ministerMatt Baker when he was a student there, Lora Wilson is still a target of reflexive abuse.

Blame the victim is a hideous American practice, not exclusively a Southern Baptist sin — one at which Christa Brown fired back when Lora Wilson was maligned with Baker’s words in a recent blog comment.

The smear continues in part because the Southern Baptist institutions which are at fault have failed to acknowledge their responsibility. Christa writes:

To this day, no Baylor official has made any public expression of remorse. No one at First Baptist of Waco, a church that had two reports of Baker’s abuse, has expressed any sorrow about letting the man move on without consequence. No one at the Baptist General Convention of Texas has offered any explanation for how someone with so many abuse and assault reports could move so easily through its affiliated churches and organizations. And no one in Baptistland has made even the feeblest of effort to reach out to the many more who were likely wounded by “murdering minister” Matt Baker — the many who are probably still silent.

February 9, 2010 Posted by | SBC | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Using the attacker’s words to blame the victim