Southern Religion

Resurgent acceptance of homosexuality

Homosexuals were not vilified before the 1870s because they had not been identified as “other,” Cody Sanders writes for the Associated Baptist Press. Specifically, he argues:

French historian Michel Foucault reveals that the advent of conceptualizing the “homosexual” as a particular type of person with a specific “lifestyle” didn’t occur until the 1870s in medical discourse (History of Sexuality, Vol. 1). What’s more, one of the earliest known uses of the word “homosexual” in American English showed up in a medical paper in 1892 (the term “heterosexual” made its debut around this same time). Certainly, same-sex sexual acts have been commonplace from time immemorial — but before the end of the 19th century, anyone could conceivably engage in same-sex sexual acts. It was only with the advent of “homosexuality” as a medical descriptor, that a specific type or kind of person was thought to engage in these sexual acts. What is significant about Everett’s anachronism is that, while in 1850 Texas Baptists may not have tolerated men having sex with men, they certainly didn’t deem “the homosexual lifestyle” abnormal or sinful. In 1850, same-sex sex acts may have been deemed “sinful” — but no church held what [Executive Director Randel Everett of the Baptist General Convention of Texas] views as an unwavering “theological position” on homosexuality.

Everett was referring to the case of Royal Lane Baptist Church, which precipitated a standard Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) homosexuality crisis when its diaconate voted to say on its Web site:

Royal Lane Baptist Church is an inclusive, multi-generational congregation joined in Christian community. We are a vibrant mosaic of varied racial identities, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and denominational backgrounds.

Will Wilkinson finds in his analysis of World Values Survey data that attitudes in the industrialized world are going Royal Lane’s way as people come to accept homosexuality as something people are, rather than a sinful decision they make.

Where Wilkinson’s data shows the U.S. shifting back toward treating homosexuality as wrong, the latest Public Policy Institute of California poll comes to an opposite conclusion.

Despite the Catholic/Mormon investment in Proposition 8, a majority of Californians now favor same-sex marriage:

Among all Californians, residents are more likely to favor (50%) than oppose (45%) same-sex marriage for the first time in the PPIC Statewide Surveys. Support among all adults has never surpassed 45 percent since the question was first asked in January 2000. There are clear partisan divisions: majorities of Democrats (64%) and independents (55%) are in favor, and most Republicans (67%) are opposed.

There is much more consensus on the issue of gays and lesbians in the military. In the wake of Obama’s announcement that he would like to repeal the federal “don’t ask, don’t’ tell” policy passed in 1993, 75 percent of Californians say that gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve openly in the military.

Does the data imply a sort of Great Commission Resurgence for churches driven out of the SBC?

March 30, 2010 Posted by | SBC | , , , | 1 Comment

New top leadership required for the Legionaries of Christ

Legionaries of Christ

Removal of top Legionaries of Christ leadership is necessary and likely to attend actions following the apostolic visitation, Sandro Magister wrote in L’Espresso yesterday. It seems likely that “Vatican authorities will put the Legion under the command of an external commissioner endowed with full powers” over the organization, and findings suggest that the leadership must be replaced if renewal is to occur. For example:

According to some of the testimonies given to the apostolic visitors in recent months, some in this group knew about the founder’s double life, about the carnal acts he performed with many of his seminarians over the span of decades, about his lovers, his children, his drug use. But in spite of that, a fortress was built around Maciel in defense of his virtues, devotion to him was fostered among his followers, all of them unaware of the truth, his talents were emphasized, even among the upper hierarchy of the Church. This exaltation of the figure of the founder was so effective that even today it inspires the sense of belonging to the Legion among many of its priests and religious.

The cohesion of the leadership group, originating from its decades-long connection with Maciel, endures today in the bond that binds and subordinates everyone to Corcuera, and even more to [Luís Garza Medina, vicar general and director of the organization’s Italian province].

As a result, there are questions regarding whether to treat as “trustworthy” the “distancing of the Legion’s leaders from their founder, and in particular from the “sudden revelation” – or so they say – of his misdeeds?”

That “distancing” occurred by way of a statement on the Legion’s Web site in which they took the extraordinary step of disowning their founder.

At the same time, the embedded leadership is taking steps to ensure its survival of the Pope’s installment of an external commissioner.

Magister explains:

Freed from the annoyance of the visitors, and not yet subjected to the command of the commissioner, during this interim period which they are hoping will last for “several months” they are doing everything they can to consolidate their power and win the support of the majority of the 800 priests of the Legion, and of the other religious and lay members.

Maneuvering, reform and restoration? We will see.

March 30, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, Cults | , , | 1 Comment

Replace Pope Benedict XVI with whom?

It falls to Tom Flynn (the executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism, for crying out loud) to raise the obvious question:

Sex abuse by Roman Catholic priests has emerged as a worldwide (or at least, First World-wide) phenomenon. It’s no longer an American issue, nor an Irish issue. The fact that scandal has erupted in Europe and that the former Cardinal Ratzinger may have been involved in under-responding to it simply means that the problem is global, and within the church all lines of responsibility lead ultimately to the papal throne. Should Pope Benedict XVI be held responsible? Yes. Should he be investigated? Yes? Should he resign? Hold on, let’s wait fo the investigation! But there’s a bigger question here. If investigation reveals that Cardinal Ratzinger participated in covering up abuse in Europe, and if the pope resigns — who could replace him? Across the world, a minority among Catholic priests apparently engages in sex abuse. Church hierarchs have pretty consistently responded by keeping it quiet, reassigning problem priests, sending them off for therapy but then sending them back to parishes. So if Pope Benedict needs to be replaced, where will Rome find a cardinal whom everyone can be certain has never played a role in mishandling an allegation of abuse?

Of course the other On Faith responders have differing views.

But where, indeed?

March 30, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, children, Pope Benedict XVI | , , | Comments Off on Replace Pope Benedict XVI with whom?

Baptist self-delusion about pastor/priest sexual predation

Ethicist David Gushee in an otherwise admirable column gets it exactly wrong when he writes:

Where Catholic and Protestant sexual misconduct tends to differ relates to the Catholic requirement that the priesthood be held only by men vowed to celibacy. Certainly there are Protestant ministers who abuse children. But more often Protestant ministers fall prey to heterosexual misconduct, as when married male ministers have affairs with women in their congregations. This violates chastity (not celibacy), and is still a form of clergy sexual abuse because it involves the abuse of clergy power.

Christa Brown at StopBaptistPredators politely corrects him, writing in part:

We’ve seen a whole slew of Baptist clergy abuse cases that involved married ministers. If priestly celibacy were the catalyst for child predation, then how should we explain the fact that so many molestation cases involve married men?

Basically, it’s impossible to explain because the assumption that underlies it is wrong. As Penn State religious studies professor Philip Jenkins said: “No evidence indicates that Catholic or celibate clergy are more (or less) involved than their non-celibate counterparts. Some of the worst cases of persistent serial abuse by clergy have involved Baptist or Pentecostal ministers, rather than Catholic priests.” (Jenkins, 2003)

There is simply no comparative data to support David Gushee’s suggestion that, for Protestants, the problem has more to do with married ministers who “have affairs,” while for Catholics, the problem has more to do with priests who abuse kids. To the contrary, the data that exists — two decades’ worth of insurance data gathered by the Associated Press in 2007 — suggests exactly the opposite. It suggests that Baptists likely have every bit as big a problem as Catholics with clergy who sexually abuse kids.

March 30, 2010 Posted by | SBC | , | Comments Off on Baptist self-delusion about pastor/priest sexual predation

Missouri joins opponents to the Southern Baptist Convention GCR proposals

Posted by SteveDeVane at 7:31 AM

Another Southern Baptist state convention executive opposes the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force’s progress report recommendations.

David Tolliver, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention, told staff members that the organization would be “devastated” if the report’s proposals were adopted.

The task force released the progress report in February, but continues to work. It plans to release its final report in May, with a vote expected at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in June.

The Georgia Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee asked the task force to reconsider one part of the report. Others, including the editor of a state Baptist paper, have also questioned the proposal.

Some think adoption of report recommendations would kill smaller state conventions. Numerous issues have been raised about various parts of the report. Some see the task force’s approach as a recipe for disaster.

Tolliver said the Missouri convention would lose $720,000 plus other cuts and called for a cost analysis of the GCR proposals. He said he agreed with three of the six components of the task force report but opposed the others.

Opposition is clearly growing as state convention by state convention implications are calculated.

March 30, 2010 Posted by | SBC | , | 1 Comment

Holy Week American Christian terrorists (militia)

The Holy Week arrest of the nine Hutaree Christians, for plotting to kill police officers and related crimes [.pdf], dismays evangelical author Brian McLaren. He wrote:

This is the week we recall that Jesus was willing to be killed, but not to kill … to be tortured, but not to torture. This is the week he told Peter to put away his sword, saying, “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). This is the week he contrasted his kingdom in this world with the kingdoms of this world by their opposite responses to the violence question (John 18:36 ff). (The prepositions in and not of are important.) Many of us believe that Jesus embodies the image of a nonviolent God, an image intended to transcend and correct violent images.

Even Juan Cole sees their behavior as of one piece with the bizarre view that Obama is the Anti-Christ. A flawed Harris Poll last week found that 14% of Americans believe President Obama “may be the anti-Christ” And one quarter of Republicans hold that view.

The Christian Science Monitor reports:

There is “no question” the catalyst was President Obama’s election, says Heidi Beirich, the [Southern Poverty Law Center’s] director of research. A similar upswing took place after President Clinton’s election in 1993. Militias and the antigovernment groups that spawn them often become more active when the federal government turns more liberal.

“A major shift to the left certainly helped” in both cases, Ms. Beirich says.

The economic meltdown and the growth of minorities such as Latinos are also a factor, she adds.

The Irregular Times makes a valiant attempt to make sense of Hutaree views and values mishmash. They are explicitly Christians. They seem to have given a twist to millennial expectation of the end times and they clearly see God as expecting them and other believers to use deadly violence on unbelievers. And practice of their theology resulted in being charged, TalkingPointsMemo reports, “with seditious conspiracy, attempted use of weapons of mass destruction, teaching the use of explosive materials, and possessing a firearm during a crime of violence.”

You can certainly try to sort through their Web site yourself.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, whose expertise in this field is well-recognized, reported this month:

The SPLC documented a 244 percent increase in the number of active Patriot groups in 2009. Their numbers grew from 149 groups in 2008 to 512 groups in 2009, an astonishing addition of 363 new groups in a single year. Militias – the paramilitary arm of the Patriot movement – were a major part of the increase, growing from 42 militias in 2008 to 127 in 2009.

. . .

“This extraordinary growth is a cause for grave concern,” said Intelligence Report editor Mark Potok. “The people associated with the Patriot movement during its 1990s heyday produced an enormous amount of violence, most dramatically the Oklahoma City bombing that left 168 people dead.”

Do the Covenant for Civility and the Democratic effort to ink a civility pledge with the Republicans seem at least a little more urgent, now?

March 30, 2010 Posted by | Obama, Politics, Religion | , | 4 Comments

Conservative intellectual honesty’s price: Continued

David Frum, who lost his job at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) after his “Waterlooanalysis, clarifies the report that he said AEI scholars were being muzzled if they agreed too much with Obamacare. Frum wrote:

Did AEI muzzle healthcare scholars? I fear that in reproducing in print a private conversation from some months ago, Bruce Bartlett made a transmission error. I did not report as fact that scholars were laboring under any restrictions. What I did say was that AEI was punching way below its weight in the healthcare debate. I wondered, not alleged, wondered, whether AEI scholars were constrained by fear of saying something that might get them into trouble. To repeat: this was something I asked many months ago in private conversation, not something I allege today in public debate.

Well and obliquely said.

Bruce Bartlett then issued his correction. With elaboration. Summary: There’s a compelling “circumstantial case” for the muzzling, and AEI has demeaned itself by letting Frum go.

March 30, 2010 Posted by | Health, Medical Care, SBC | , , | 1 Comment