Southern Religion

Welcome to the past 2010: Dobson starts radio show

Declining to pass the crown of Christian Right leadership to Sarah Palin, James Dobson is launching a new radio show, announced on his Facebook page (You aren’t the only one there, Sarah).

Unsurprisingly, it is to be called, says the Associated Press, James Dobson on the Family.

Not yet on the air (coming in March).

Back to the future: He’s pumping for money to pay the anticipated bills. Christianity Today writes:

Dobson asks for donations as he estimates operating costs to be at $2 million. “We are in a moral decline of shocking dimensions,” Dobson writes. “I have asked myself how I can sit and watch the world go by without trying to help if I can.”


January 1, 2010 Posted by | Politics | , , | Comments Off on Welcome to the past 2010: Dobson starts radio show

Counterfactual overstatement = ‘the evil one’

Mainstream Baptist dissects Manhattan Declaration’s overstatement and distortion. They are not echoes of righteousness, he explains:

In my mind, there’s something about Jesus’ injunction to “let your yea be yea, and your nay be nay” (Matt. 5:37) that is applicable beyond oath-taking situations and confirms the truth that “anything beyond these is of the evil one.” Christians have no business embellishing the truth and twisting it for political purposes and that is what the Manhattan Declaration does from beginning to end.

All driven by the desperation of a Christian Right which feels power slipping through its fingers like sand.

November 25, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion | , , , , , | Comments Off on Counterfactual overstatement = ‘the evil one’

Bishops defend the Catholic Camapign for Human Development

Archbishops John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and Charles J. Chaput of Denver. responded to the far-right hammering of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), for which collections are being made this weekend.

Chaput, one of the investigators of the Legion of Christ, was reported by the Catholic News Agency to have said of blog attacks: “People shouldn’t believe everything they read or be upset with the kind of intensity that I’ve seen, because I think that intensity leads to blindness.”

According to CNS, Nienstedt explained that the Campaign aims to “break the cycle of poverty” for 40 million people in the U.S. by funding local “self-help, anti-poverty” organizations. Many of these are not under the auspices of the Church, but agree to follow guidelines which prevent them from violating Catholic teachings, the archbishop explained. And had “immediately cut off” violators.

November 22, 2009 Posted by | Catholic | , , | Comments Off on Bishops defend the Catholic Camapign for Human Development

Has Palin written a parable?

Going Rogue may not be quite as much a work of fiction as Left Behind but Dan Gilgoff seems to think they’re aimed at the same general audience.

November 19, 2009 Posted by | Book Review | , , , | Comments Off on Has Palin written a parable?

Religious Right will draw blood tomorrow


Sarah Palin, queen of oogedy-boogedy, recorded a Va. robocall, mostly about herself. She also endorsed the New York 23rd District Conservative Party candidate, turning that race on it’s head.

In April conservative columnist Kathleen Parker was mulling the obituary of the Religious Right – the oogedy-boogedy branch of the Republican Party. And tomorrow, very much alive, they’re likely to romp here and there.

Progressive Sara Posner writes:

From Virginia to New York to Maine, the religious right is playing a key in tomorrow’s off-year elections. The reports of its death were greatly exaggerated.

. . .

Every other election cycle or so, the religious right makes noises that it might have to form a third party of its own. Although the likelihood of success for Christianist third party is nil, this “values voters” grandstanding is not an empty threat. It moves GOP candidates, particularly in the primaries, to the right. They can’t win without the Christian right money or ground troops.

She then conducts a tour of races in which the Religious Right has imposed its will, most notably in NY-23 where, win or lose, Sarah Palin & Co. ejected a Republican moderate and put a Conservative Party candidate in the lead.

They’re not the same, but the search for a redeeming new name isn’t on the minds of the prevailing Religious Right leaders tonight. That doesn’t mean they’re really back in electoral charge, however. It means they aren’t dead.

Did someone seriously think they would be dead? They have long made their political living by manipulating a target audience they know well and they are, of course, still good at it.

November 3, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion | , , , , | 2 Comments

Christian Right reassertion [fail]

Christian Right spokesmen, several Southern Baptist Convention leaders and a few others sent an open letter Tuesday calling for actions against Iran which mirror the recommendations of Republicans published in the Washington Post. Both called for trade sanctions to discourage Iran from further nuclear arms development.

Both sets of recommendations were timed to coincide with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s arrival in New York for a Sept. 23 address to the United Nations and a meeting with leaders of Group of 20 leading industrial nations, which are to meet for Thursday and Friday in Pittsburgh. And neither made substantial new policy recommendation.

In their news release about the letter, the group said:

In a remarkable ecumenical and bipartisan display of unity, Christian leaders representing over 28 million evangelicals, Roman Catholics, and other Christians have sent a letter to Congress today and other key world leaders calling for urgent action to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The letter urges a total arms embargo and a cut off of exports of refined petroleum products, including gasoline, as a firm yet peaceful measure against the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.

The group is profoundly conservative, and lacks significant Democratic representation. As a result, terming itself “bipartisan” is an abuse of the term. Likewise, the group is more ideologically consistent than ecumenistic, as can be seen from the list of what Associated Baptist Press writer Bob Allen characterized as “lead signatories:”

Pat Robertson, president of the Christian Broadcasting Network; Charles Colson, chairman of Prison Fellowship Ministries; and Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention [SBC].

Just the usual Religious Right suspects.

SBC names on the letter ranged from convention president Johnny Hunt to one of the originators of the SBC commitment to conservatism:

… Paul Pressler, a retired judge from Texas and one of the architects of the “conservative resurgence” movement that gained control of the nation’s largest non-Catholic faith group in the 1980s.

The letter made strident predictions, dutifully quoted by Allen. For example:

“A nuclear-armed Iran is almost certain to initiate an arms race with other Middle Eastern and Arab nations who have reason to fear the religious, political and military ambitions of Iran’s extremist leaders,” the letter said. “As the world’s leading state sponsor of international terror, we must assume Iran will sell or give nuclear weapons to extremist groups that are declared and demonstrated enemies to America and her allies.”

Visits to other sources were required to learn of Obama administration policies. The Christian Science Monitor reported, for example, that Iran was reluctant to discuss its nuclear program and the Obama administration planned to force that discussion:

The US insists it will raise the topic during any talks. “This may not have been a topic that they wanted to be brought up but I can assure that it’s a topic that we’ll bring up,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters on Saturday.

Some UN officials regard as inflammatory and unjustified predictions like those in the Christian Right letter. For example, Newsweek reported:

In a private e-mail sent last week to nuclear experts and obtained by NEWSWEEK, Tariq Rauf, a senior official with the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency, wrote that the mainstream media are repeating mistakes from 2003, when they “carried unsubstantiated stories on Iraq and WMD—the same mistakes are being repeated re IAEA and Iran.” Rauf added that “the hype is likely originating from certain (known) sources.” The message does not specify the sources, but U.S. and European officials have previously accused Israel of exaggerating Iran’s nuclear progress.

Western intelligence agencies are sharing reports about Iranian efforts to acquire weapons-related technology but disagree about what they mean. Most officials doubt Tehran is pursuing nuclear technology entirely for benign purposes. Israel doubts it, too, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has signaled that his patience is limited. [U.N. Ambassador Susan] Rice said no one is giving up on diplomacy, adding, “We have other tools.” U.S. options could include stepping up sanctions …

What the Christian Right letter added to the debate, other than heat and an attempt to reassert the group’s political significance, is altogether unclear.

September 23, 2009 Posted by | Israel, Obama, Politics, Religion, SBC | , | Comments Off on Christian Right reassertion [fail]

Antonin Scalia’s trampling of James Madison [Addendum]

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told Hamodia: The Daily Newspaper of Torah Jewry in an interview:

When I first joined the Court, I needed to spend a lot of time researching what the original understanding was, since the lawyers would just quote the last Supreme Court case. There are now two for sure, thoroughgoing originalists on the Court, Clarence Thomas and myself. And I think the Court as a whole has become more receptive to originalism. I think – or perhaps I just hope – that American jurisprudence is moving away from an evolving Constitution to an enduring Constitution.

His concept of “originalism” is historically selective. His explanation elevates the transcient instructions of majorities of Congress to George Washington above the works of the framers, in particular James Madison. Through that slight of historic hand, Scalia rationalizes an essentially theocratic view of the Establishment Clause:

Whatever the Establishment Clause means, it certainly does not mean that government cannot accommodate religion, and indeed favor religion. My court has a series of opinions that say that the Constitution requires neutrality on the part of the government, not just between denominations, not just between Protestants, Jews and Catholics, but neutrality between religion and non-religion. I do not believe that. That is not the American tradition.

Scalia has abandoned the long abiding principle that the U.S. Constitution protects the right of citizens to pursue their own beliefs, mocking it with the assertion that such ideas are European in origin. In the course of his rationalization, he drifts off into a barely coherent story about how “‘G-d protects little children, drunkards and the United States of America.’ I think it may be true. And the reason may be because we honor Him as a nation. We invoke Him in our country, our Presidents invoke Him, my court open its sessions with “G-d save the United States.” Those things are not insignificant.”

Dr. Bruce Prescott looks directly at the narrow, restrictive nature of Scalia’s view:

Note how Protestants, Jews and Catholics are named and personalized in Scalia’s comments while the existence of non-religious persons can only be inferred from impersonal language. His comments appear to presume that non-religious persons have no rights of conscience.

Scalia’s historically selective approach tailors itself to the needs of the Religious Right only by carefully ignoring Madison’s Memorial and Remonstrance.

Madison was, as Prescott observes, a framer of both the Constition and the Bill of Rights. Ignoring his Memorial and Remonstrance is a betrayal of legal scholarship and history to present-day partisanship.

In it Madison wrote [and Prescott quotes]:

If “all men are by nature equally free and independent,” all men are to be considered as entering into Society on equal conditions; as relinquishing no more, and therefore retaining no less, one than another, of their natural rights. Above all are they to be considered as retaining an “equal title to the free exercise of Religion according to the dictates of Conscience.” Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess and to observe the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us.

We knew the nation was in uncertain hands when the Supreme Court made an unelected George W. Bush president. Scalia makes it clear that under his leadership, basic freedoms are imperiled.


Twitter reminds us that Justice Scalia once famously cited Agent Jack Bauer — yes, the fictitious 24 character — to explain his belief that torture is necessary in time of crisis. Thanks also to John Hummel.

September 20, 2009 Posted by | Churches, Law, Politics, Religion | , , , | 1 Comment

British ‘tough love’ for their NHS & U.S. conservatives

The British have one message for their National Health Service, and another messaged for American conservatives in general and perhaps for the Christian Right drive to stop health reform in this country.

British journalist Claire Rayner writes for the Guardian about National Health Service problems:

There has been an absolutely astounding response to the report the Patients Association released yesterday, detailing examples of neglect of elderly and vulnerable patients. While I was as ever hopeful that the people who so bravely volunteered to take part in this work would feel it had been worthwhile, the response has been staggering. I was shocked and touched reading the stories of patients’ families who have suffered and it seems the rest of the country has been as well.

She outlined a plan of correction and then turned to the awful things being said in the U.S. about the NHS and how “they don’t want a similar system of their own:”

Much as I would like to respond to their ill-informed opinions with a crisp “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn what you think,” let me instead point out that any intelligent American Republican should be able to see clearly that the anger we are expressing shows just how good the NHS normally is. And exposing the fact that we have a few rotten apples (so rare in the US, according to the self-aggrandising politicians I have heard slagging off our system) and are determined to seek them out and deal with them shows how much we care about our vulnerable, frail, and helpless elders.
I have no doubt that eventually this uproar will lead to the finding and application of the necessary remedies and ensure that future care for them will be what it should be – that is, gentle, dignity-protecting and life-extending as far as possible. If the national anger we are hearing in this country, where we love and value our NHS, doesn’t prove to you that we don’t have so-called “death panels” nothing will.

British Journalist Frances Beckett writes:

Anton Chaitkin is just the latest rightwing American commentator to claim that Barack Obama’s healthcare proposals are Nazi. The history editor of the Executive Intelligence Review called them “a revival of Hitler’s euthanasia killing programme”.
. . .
That’s how much the extreme right and the vested interests like the pharmaceutical companies hate healthcare schemes that give security to the poor. Attlee and Bevan, fortified by a large parliamentary majority and strong public support as well as their own courage and political will, pressed on regardless. It instantly transformed the lives of millions of Britons – not just the poorest, but those on moderate fixed incomes too.

Marjorie Ellis Thompson in a column calling for conservative reform of the NHS, writes:

It is sad that the scaremongers appear to be winning the war of words in the US and that they have misrepresented the NHS, using both British patients and doctors who had thought they were appearing in a documentary, not an attack-dog ad.

The British are quite clear about having been misled by American conservatives into appearing in attack ads. The London Daily Mail reports:

Furious Kate Spall and Katie Brickell claim that their views on the NHS have been misrepresented by a free market campaign group opposed to Mr Obama’s reforms in a bid to discredit the UK system.
. . .
Ms Spall, whose mother died of kidney cancer while waiting for treatment in the UK, told The Times: “It has been a bit of a nightmare.
“It was a real test of my naivety. I am a very trusting person and for me it has been a big lesson. I feel like I was duped.”

British Conservative Party leader David Cameron is also quite clear about his support of the NHS. He rebuked a party member “who went on US television to attack the NHS, dismissing his views as ‘eccentric.’ ” In an email to the members of his own party, Cameron he wrote:

One of the wonderful things about living in this country is that the moment you’re injured or fall ill – no matter who you are, where you are from, or how much money you’ve got – you know that the NHS will look after you.

Yesterday the Religion News Service summarized the Christian Right argument against health reform:

Although an estimated 45 million Americans lack health insurance, federation backers said they support the current system. “There may be problems,” said Bishop Harry Jackson, pastor of Hope Christian Church in suburban Maryland and chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition, “but it is working.”

As opposed to a system more like the British system which, as British Conservative Party leader Cameron explained, covers everyone?

August 28, 2009 Posted by | Churches, Health, Politics, Religion | , , , | Comments Off on British ‘tough love’ for their NHS & U.S. conservatives