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Warning: Civil religious symbols robbed of evangelical force

Regarding the Supreme Court decision about the Sunrise Rock Cross in the Mojave Preserve memorial to those killed in World War I, University of Missouri professor of law and religious liberty expert Carl H. Esbeck cautioned:

I’m not a big fan of religious symbols on government property. I believe there is a detriment because it dilutes the real purpose of the symbol. They’ve taken a symbol of the church and turned it into civil religion. This can be bad for evangelicals because when people look at a nativity scene or a Roman cross, we want people to think of the God of the Bible. If these too become simply civil religion to Americans, it makes the task of evangelism harder for Christians.

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April 30, 2010 Posted by | Law, Religion | , | Comments Off on Warning: Civil religious symbols robbed of evangelical force

Aloha civil unions

Hawaii House of Representatives has approved civil unions and the measure goes to Republican Gov. Linda Lingle for her signature. The Honolulu Advertiser reports:

She has not said whether she would sign or veto the bill. Lingle has 45 days to decide. If she vetoes the bill, the House and Senate can come back in a one-day override session in July.

[H/T: Keori]

April 30, 2010 Posted by | Law, Politics | , | Comments Off on Aloha civil unions

Faith healing and mind stealing

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was the window Uffe Schjødt used to peer into the brains of 20 Pentecostalists and 20 non-believers listening to 18 different recorded prayers.

Andy Coghlan of New Scientist writes:

The volunteers were told that six of the prayers were read by a non-Christian, six by an ordinary Christian and six by a healer. In fact, all were read by ordinary Christians.

Among the devout, parts of the brain which play important roles in vigilance and skepticism tended to be markedly less active when they were listening to prayers by someone identified as [but who was not] a Christian with healing powers.

Asked about the speakers, Pentacostalists verified the fMRI findings by giving their highest rankings to speakers identified as Christians with healing powers [note the graph at right]. Thus suggesting, as Schjødt observed, that Pentacostalists effectively handed themselves over to those merely identified as Christian healers.

Schjoedt is not suggesting, and it is unreasonable to apply this and related research to suggest, that the apparent phenomenon is somehow confined to people of faith:

These observations point to an important mechanism of authority that may facilitate charismatic influence, a mechanism which is likely to be present in other interpersonal interactions as well.

Simply that we imperil ourselves and others when we allow our protective vigilance and skepticism to be turned off.

April 29, 2010 Posted by | Religion, Science | , , | Comments Off on Faith healing and mind stealing

Noah’s Ark refound again

Chester Duggit, “retired panel beater from Castle Bromwich,” rocked the archeological community on its heels with the discovery of Noah’s Ark at Langley Hill [aerial view]:

Duggit informed us that he’d found a load of old rotting wood on Langley Hill, which when strategically placed, appear to form the outline of Noah’s Ark, complete with animal cages, water feeders, a broken tropical fish tank, and a rusty supermarket trolley, which Duggit assumes was used by Noah to ferry supplies of animal feed from a local Tesco store to the Ark.

When we pointed out that Langley Hill is a long way from Mount Ararat, Duggit explained that Noah was probably an economic refugee, who set sail in the Ark in search of agency work at the nearby BSA motorcycle factory.

Langley Hill is of course in England [read the entire spoof].

More seriously and similarly credible, an evangelical Christian Hong Kong filmmaker and Turkish scientists say, ABC News reports, that they have found Noah’s Ark encased in ice on Mount Ararat.

April 28, 2010 Posted by | Satire | | 2 Comments

Silsby faces trial: Haiti drops charges the other nine Baptists: Updated

Southern Baptist Laura Silsby faces up to three years in Haitian prison if convicted of the remaining charge of “organization of irregular trips” under a 1980 statute. That charge was brought to bear against her in mid-March.

Other charges against her and all charges against the remaining nine Baptists have been dropped by Judge Bernard Saint-Vil, according to the Associated Press.

According to MSNBC, Judge Saint-Vil concluded that Silsby “knew she had no right to take the 33 children out of earthquake-ravaged Haiti” and she deceived the other nine by telling them she had the documents required to take the children out of Haiti.

The initial charges resulted from their attempt to take 33 children out of Haiti after the Jan. 12 earthquake. Silsby faces trial as a result of evidence of a Jan. 26 attempt by her to bus child earthquake survivors to the Dominican Republic.

As we reported earlier, Silsby was warned repeatedly prior to the arrests that her plan was illegal and would be regarded as child trafficking.

The Haitian law under which Silsby is charged restricts travel out of Haiti and was signed in 1980 by then-dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier. It carries a penalty of 3-6 years.

April 27, 2010 Posted by | Religion, SBC | , | 2 Comments

Brainquake rather than Boobquake?

Brainquake is a Facebook call for Islamic women to use a demonstration of their intellectual firepower to fight the oppression visited upon them by oppressive Iranian clerics.

Brainquake creators Negar Mottahedeh and Golbarg Bashi wrote:

Let’s create a “Brainquake” and show off our resumes, CVs, honors, prizes, accomplishments (photo evidence) because the Hojatoleslam and the Islamic Republic of Iran are afraid of women’s abilities to push for change, to thrive despite gender apartheid (Did you know that over 64% of students studying at universities in Iran are women?) Let’s honor the accomplishments of Iranian women by showing off our abilities, our creativity, our ingenuity, and our smarts on our blogs, on Wikipedia, on Twitter, on Youtube, on Flickr and all over Facebook. Remember to use hashtag #brainquake on Twitter.

They were unimpressed by the satiric efforts of Jen McCreight’s Boobquake to counter the supernatural thinking of Iranian cleric Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, who said last week:

Many women who do not dress modestly … lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes

Those following McCreight’s call today are “testing” cleric’s assertion by dressing less modestly than usual. Satiric and scientifically slightly silly, Boobquake has inescapable sexuality implications. As Mottahedeh and Bashi responded:

Everyday women and young girls are forced to “show off cleavage” and more in order simply to be heard, to be seen, or to advance professionally. The web is already filled with images of naked women; the porn industry thrives online and many young girls are already vulnerable to predatory abuse. Violence against women and girls has a direct correlation to the sexualisation of women and girls. The extent of their sexualisation is evident in the hundreds of replies that pour into the “Boobquake” Facebook page where women write, apologetically: “I don’t have boobs, not fair” or “Hey, I only have a C cup… ” and “what about those of us who no longer have a cleavage? they sag too low.”

World-wide, the sexualisation of women and younger girls, as young as pre-schoolers is a genuine problem and as mothers, feminists, and young women ourselves we believe that it is time to move away from this “bare it all” mentality.

You may follow the Brainquake at @negarpontifiles, and you may join it by addressing a tweet to that account.

April 26, 2010 Posted by | Politics, Religion | , , , , , | Comments Off on Brainquake rather than Boobquake?

Tangled web tightens on Ergun Caner

A plan is in the works to call for the Southern Baptist Convention to distance itself from embattled seminary president Ergun Caner.

Caner, president of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, is under fire for discrepancies in his biographical information, including whether his Muslim background.

Without mentioning Caner, Wade Burleson wrote about similar issues faced by Mike Warnke, a Christian comedian whose claims about a Satanic background were disputed by the Christian magazine Cornerstone. Burleson concludes with a quote from a “wise man” who said, “A people unfamiliar with their own history are destined to repeat the mistakes of their fathers.”

Fred Butler is not so subtle. He comes right out and asks if Caner is “the Mike Warnke of this generation” and sees similarities.

Both Warnke and Caner are Christian celebrities, Butler notes. While Warnke passed himself off as an “expert” in Satanism, Caner is seen as an expert on Islam. And they were both popular as speakers.

But more disturbing, Butler says, is the way their actions reflect on Christ.

Gene Clyatt says the Caner situation is “like watching a train wreck.” He tells of plans for a resolution that would call for the SBC to disfellowship Caner and the seminary until he repents.

Clyatt posted a draft resolution in the comments section of his post, which he concludes by asking Caner to repent and resign.

Meanwhile, questions asked of Caner go unanswered.

April 23, 2010 Posted by | SBC | , , | 3 Comments

Oh no, Rubio! From outRichardLandish to uh-oh?

Promoted by SBC ethics czar Richard Land as a credible 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mario Rubio is under Internal Revenue Service investigation.

The Miami Herald reports that Rubio is one of three former Florida Republican Party credit card holders being scrutinized for their alleged use of party credit cards to pay personal expenses.

Whether a full-fledged criminal investigation is merited has not been decided, and Rubio adviser Todd Harris told the Miami Herland, “There is absolutely nothing to this.”

The principal effect, as Talking Points Memo suggests, is likely to be on the dynamics of Rubio’s fight with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist for the Republican senatorial nomination, without which Rubio becomes another Land loser.

April 22, 2010 Posted by | Politics, SBC | , , , , , | 4 Comments

A constructive delay for GCR

A state Baptist convention executive is proposing that action on the Southern Baptist Convention‘s Great Commission Resurgence be delayed for a year.

David Tolliver, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention, plans to ask messengers at the SBC annual meeting in June to receive the GCR Task Force report, but put off action until until 2011 so all SBC entities can do a “spiritual/financial impact study,” Baptist Press reported. The Missouri convention’s executive board unanimously passed a resolution favoring the delay.

Tolliver had earlier said the proposals in the task force’s preliminary report would devastate the Missiouri convention. That report has also been debated by others (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10).

The task force is scheduled to release its final report May 3.

It remains to be seen how GCR supporters will respond to the suggestion that action be put off for a year. They will fear another year of scrutiny could kill the effort, but must also realize that a nasty fight on the convention floor will make a GCR practically impossible, even if the proposals pass.

April 22, 2010 Posted by | Religion, SBC | , | 1 Comment

Charges, reports, upside-down leadership and belated promises

Brazilian Msgr. Luiz Marques Barbosa was detained Sunday after a congressional hearing provoked by television broadcast of a video which was secretly filmed in January, 2009, by a 21-year-old man who charges Barbosa had abused him since age 12.

In Chile, the Roman Catholic Church on Tuesday said 20 confirmed or alleged cases of child abuse by priests:

Monsignor Alejandro Goic, head of Chile’s bishops’ conference, said that in five of the cases sentences had been imposed, in another five trials were still under way, and in 10 others priests had been absolved or results were pending.

A Mexican citizen has filed suit against US cardinal Roger Mahony and Mexican cardinal Norberto Rivera for intentionally covering up a pattern of child sex abuse by former priest Nicolas Aguilar. AFP reports:

The case claims that Aguilar demonstrated a pattern of sexual abuse of minors that was known to Rivera, who nonetheless authorized his transfer to the Los Angeles Archdiocese in 1987. The suit alleges Rivera sent Mahony a letter detailing Aguilar’s “homosexual problems,” including information about alleged child sex abuse, but the Mexican priest was allowed to remain in his office.

Canon lawyer and a civil lawyer Thomas J. Paprocki, who the Associated Press reports once blamed the devil for sexual abuse lawsuits against the Roman Catholic Church and proposed shielding the church from legal damages, was appointed the new bishop of the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois.

Pope Benedict XVI, speaking in Rome at his weekly audience, promised “action” on abuse by priests.

April 21, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, Religion | , , , , | 1 Comment