Southern Religion

Southern Baptist Sharron Angle (& others)

Southern Baptist Sharron Angle misjudged the electorate in Nevada, and lost.

Amanda Marcotte makes a coherent argument that Angle’s Mama Grizzly racism is to some conservatives an unbearable contradiction of her femininity. A deal breaker:

This contradiction exposed why it’s so critical to the fundamentalist worldview that women stay at home and abandon ambition. In this world, women are supposed to be the light, the caretakers, the homemakers, those who smooth feathers and wipe brows. Aggression, meanness, ambition, and even lustiness are considered more masculine traits, even by the public at large. As Dave Weigel reports, the Republicans are beginning to feel that Sharron Angle, at least, spent too much time in the public eye. The longer the public stares at a Mama Grizzly, the more painful the contradiction between her ideals of femininity and her actual behavior.

Mark Silk makes the only slightly related argument that Angle and Christine O’Donnell would have done better if neither had been so much the culture warrior:

I would submit that Angle and O’Donnell lost not because of radical Tea Partyism but because they smelled too much of the unwanted social conservatism of yesteryear.

Who represents that social conservatism better, or better underlines the clarity of other analysts, than Angle’s fellow Southern Baptist, SBC ethics czar Richard Land? His post-election analysis was first an echo of aging rightist Richard Viguerie (one more chance for the Republicans). Then, almost as though we held national referenda in this country, Land asserted a rejection of “Obamacare,” a repudiation of judicial decisions with which he disagrees, a rejection of same-sex marriage and so on.

More about which, later.

November 5, 2010 Posted by | Politics, Religion, SBC, Women | , , , , | Comments Off on Southern Baptist Sharron Angle (& others)

Religious Right + SBC Fundamentalists = flight of millennials from the church?

Oklahoma’s Bruce Prescott ponders the conjunction of dates. The millennials, “who were born after 1980 and came of age around the millennium,” certainly grew up amid the ardent voices of the Southern Baptist Convention’s fundamentalists and the others of the Religious Right. As Prescott observes:

The fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention began in 1979. The rise of the Religious Right in America dates from the same year.

Certainly Prescott is not the first to see “a link between in-your-face religion in the public square and declining interest in organized religion among young people.”

While not focused precisely on the issue Prescott addresses, Michael Gerson, senior research fellow in the Center on Faith & International Affairs at the Institute for Global Engagement, made a show of discovering the relationship for himself late last year.

Somewhat similarly, Tullian Tchividjian, grandson of Billy Graham, responded to the shift in public attitudes away from right-wing political zeal and turned Ft. Lauderdale’s Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church away from its hyper-political, right-wing activist heritage.

Of course he had to fight off an attempt by the old hands to remove him from the pulpit there.

In the necessity of that fight is one answer to Prescott’s closing question: Will those who helped bring the alienation about “ever realize“?

Apparently not.

February 26, 2010 Posted by | Politics, Religion | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Religious Right + SBC Fundamentalists = flight of millennials from the church?

All is lost in the ‘War on Seasons’ Greetings’

U.S. Republicans did no better than British Tories in the war on “Seasons’ Greetings.”

The Tories surrendered and the Republican National Committee deserted under fire to “this blessed time.” Truly. Enlarge the image at right, and weep.

What’s a mumbling old culture warrior to do when his natural allies run and hide?

[H/T: Political Carnival]

December 29, 2009 Posted by | Satire | , , | Comments Off on All is lost in the ‘War on Seasons’ Greetings’

‘Anonymous’ musical interlude

Found while lurking at an Anonymous forum:

November 30, 2009 Posted by | Churches, Cultural | , , | 4 Comments

Remember the culture wars (they aren’t over)

Frederick Clarkson cogently argues that the so-called Culture Wars not only aren’t over, they’ve been institutionalized. He calls the culture war:

It is a one sided war of aggression against the civil rights advances of women and minorities and the rights of individual conscience that we generally discuss under the rubric of religious pluralism and of separation of church and state. For these political aggressors, war is not merely a metaphor or the equivalent of a sports analogy. It is far more profound and stems from the conflict of “world view,” usually described as a “Biblical World view” against everything else. It is explicitly understood by its proponents as a religious war and waged accordingly on multiple fronts, mostly in terms we have come to define as “cultural.” How the conflict plays out takes on political dimensions and sometimes physical conflict. This war is theocratic in nature, and seeks to roll back decades, and depending on the faction, centuries of democratic advances.

Can you hear in that definition the sound of Richard Land’s unapologetically counterfactual “Obama policies are the end of civilization” argument/screed in Louisiana?

October 15, 2009 Posted by | Cultural, Religion | | Comments Off on Remember the culture wars (they aren’t over)

CounterFactual Kelly Boggs [Addendum]

“President Obama recently expressed his concern over mercenary medical professionals,” editor Kelly Boggs wrote in a Sept. 3 Louisiana Baptist Message editorial.

Boggs’ logic moved quickly to judgment of the presidents July 22 news conference:

The President offered no evidence to support his claim that dollar-drunk docs are performing all manner of unnecessary medical procedures. There were no statistics supporting his claim that patients are mere prey for money-grubbing physicians; not even an anecdote was offered.

Thus Boggs implied that no such statistics and anecdotes were readily available.

Before implying that the president was misleading us, Boggs had a journalistic obligation to look for statistics and anecdotes. Failure to do so is, among professional journalists, a form of disregard for the truth.

Looking just a little would have showed Boggs that his argument was not exactly right.

The Congressional Budget office estimates 16% of the Gross Domestic Product — about $700 billion a year — “goes to healthcare spending that can’t be shown to improve health outcomes.”

One readily discovered anecdote is Consumer Reports’ account of Ron Spurgeon’s unnecessary cardiac bypass surgery at Redding Medical Center in northern California. Spurgeon “and 344 others sued the hospital and eight cardiologists and surgeons for performing unnecessary procedures. The defendants ultimately paid $442 million to settle the suit.”

Neither the CBO numberss nor the availability of anecdotes should surprise anyone.

The problem to which Obama alluded is so commonplace that CBS had on June 10 ran a consumer-information feature warning that as many as 40% of all medical procedures are unnecessary and explaining how consumers can protect themselves.

But Boggs was in a hurry. The reality or lack thereof of greedy doctors wasn’t his primary concern. Abortion was. Having castigated Obama for lack of statistics and anecdotes, Boggs wrote:

But let’s assume for the sake of argument the president is correct and mercenary medicine is indeed out of control in America. The one area he needs to set his sights on cleaning up first is those physicians who perform abortions.

Boggs argues that “85 to 90 percent, and more, of all abortions are carried out as a result of convenience” and fuel “a lucrative industry.” Apparently to illustrate how lucrative, he wrote:

Planned Parenthood, America’s largest abortion provider, rakes in more than a billion dollars every year. And while PP is the largest peddler of elective abortions, it is by no means the only one. Needless to say, there is a lot of money available to greedy doctors willing to perform an unnecessary medical procedure.

Not exactly.

It is true Planned Parenthood is a nonprofit corporation with a total budget of about $1 billion a year.

Yet as Wikipedia makes clear, Planned Parenthood’s budget isn’t the result of “raking in” abortion profits:

In 2007, contraception constituted 36% of total services, STI/STD testing and treatment constituted 31%, cancer testing and screening constituted 17%; other women’s health services, including pregnancy, prenatal, midlife, and infertility were 11%, and approximately 3% of total services involved surgical and medical abortions.
. . .
Planned Parenthood receives about a third of its money in government grants and contracts ($349.6 million in FY 2008). In the 2007–08 Annual Report, clinic income totaled $374.7 million and miscellaneous operating revenues $68.9 million. Planned Parenthood is also heavily sponsored by private individuals, with over 700,000 active individual contributors [.pdf] Large donors such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation contribute a substantial part of the organization’s budget.

Undeterred by reality, Boggs charges on to his central point:

So, if President Obama is really serious about reforming health care by reducing the number of medically unnecessary procedures he will certainly call for the end of elective abortions, right?

That’s the first in a series of rhetorical questions with which Boggs hectors his readers. It’s rhetorical because Obama’s pro-choice views are well-known.

Boggs’ questions do bring us to his concluding erroneous argument — that health reform will use government funds to pay for abortion. His proof is an Aug. 5 news story:

In fact, the Associated Press recently reported, “Health care legislation before Congress would allow a new government-sponsored insurance plan to cover abortions…”

The ellipses are his, BTW, and the AP story is not exactly the final word .

On August 7 examined the same issue. It did so by way of evaluating a claim by Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) that “The Democrat-backed health care reform plan “will require (Americans) to subsidize abortion with their hard-earned tax dollars.”

After exploring the matter in detail, PolitiFact concluded that “things could change as the health reform package works its way through Congress, but for now, we don’t see anything to support Boehner’s claim that taxpayers would subsidize abortions. And so we rule his statement False.”

Also not exactly right is Boggs’ conclusion that “If the president has his way, not only will medically unnecessary, elective abortion on demand continue unabated in America, it will be underwritten by the government and will likely only increase.”

Obama’s campaign commitment was to abortion reduction, an issue covered in detail by in a Sept. 14 Associated Baptist Press article by David Gushee, Joel Hunter and Ronald Sider.

The three wrote in rebuttal to a Baptist Press article, which they argue misportrayed the recently introduced Preventing Unintended Pregnancies, Reducing the Need for Abortion, and Supporting Parents Act (H.R. 3312, referred to as the Ryan-DeLauro Bill).

Gushee, Hunter and Sider aren’t counterfactual. They don’t hector their readers with rhetorical questions. They do conclude:

Common-ground efforts to reduce abortion by addressing the circumstances that lead to it are consistent with the conviction that all life — the unborn, pregnant women, infants and children — is sacred. Honest dialogue about this innovative approach is imperative for those of us who aspire to protect life in concrete ways.

Plainly misrepresenting the content of the Ryan-DeLauro bill, and asserting in defiance of logic and evidence that it will increase rather than reduce abortion, does nothing to protect life. In fact, it does the opposite.

Likewise abortion reduction is President Obama’s clearly stated goal. Not exactly what Boggs says in his closing summary.

Addendum: Another anecdote

CounterFactual Boggs was so distressed at President Obama’s failure to offer anecdotes at his July 22 news conference that we’re adding another to the one already provided.

Adam Linker writes of a “physician who visited the emergency room when he came down with shingles. The doc, who teaches at Stony Brook University, got caught in a maze of over testing and ran up an unnecessary $9,000 bill.” The physician’s tale of expensive, time and money wasting, medically unproductive woe concludes:

One thing’s for sure: I’ve lost the smugness and condescension I often felt when listening to others’ stories about being trapped by the system and manipulated into excessively complex and specialized medical situations. Unlike most of my patients, I actually knew what my diagnosis was and what to do about it, but I learned how difficult it is to remain objective when you’re feeling very sick. Maybe I should have been more assertive. Instead, I wound up as a poster boy for excessive medicine. I understand now how all those people could have been so gullible, so easily manipulated by the system. Now that I’m one of them, that is.

Boggs and others may read Linker’s entire post here.

September 20, 2009 Posted by | Health, Religion, SBC | , , , | 3 Comments

A prayer unanswered

The Washington Post’s “On Faith” panel of 19 writers discusse the “State of our Disunion” while lamenting how Rick Warren’s Inauguration Day prayer is far from being answered.

Warren prayed that Americans would “have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches, and civility in our attitudes, even when we differ.”

Instead, note the Post’s Sally Quinn and Jon Meacham, “clarity, responsibility, humility and civility seem to have given way to self-righteousness, anger, resentment, and what columnist Kathleen Parker calls ‘a political era of uninhibited belligerence’ that is finding expression in sermons, at town hall meetings, on radio talk shows, even on the floor of Congress — especially when we differ.”

Susan Jacoby, whose entry has attracted about 400 comments, discusses how faith and hatred often co-exist. She says:

What we are seeing is the rage of a minority–we don’t know exactly how large, but we do know that it is almost entirely white and concentrated in the South and Southwest–at an African-American president who is considered not only wrong in his policies but illegitimate as the leader of our nation.

Jacoby also tells of a college student afraid to tell her parents she supports Obama for fear they’ll no longer pay her tuition and writes:

Many Americans spent a good deal of time last November patting themselves on the back for having elected an African-American president. What we are seeing now is the bitterness of an unreconciled minority that will never accept the legitimacy of that election.

Would it be that she were wrong but the full sweep of post-Civil War Southern history says she isn’t.

Still, we long for the day when Warren’s prayer is answered.

September 18, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion | , , , | Comments Off on A prayer unanswered

Baptist Press -> SBC=GOP

Baptist Press and Richard Land have this week branded the Southern Baptist Convention “Property of the GOP.”

Friday BP published a GOP position piece headline Rep.: Health care plan would lead to abortion increase, based upon undocumented, unproven assertions of Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J.

The BP story refers to “a new poll released Thursday” without revealing that it is a Public Opinion Strategies poll. Public Opinion Strategies is “a national Republican political and public affairs research firm with its roots in political campaigns.”

Bruce Prescott objects that “the article is part of an ongoing campaign against health care reform by the fundamentalist leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention. Central to that campaign was the delivery of more than a million signatures to congress opposing health-care reform. The petitions were delivered by Richard Land, head of the SBC’s wed-to-the-hip-of-the-GOP, tax exempt, political action arm.”

Prescott’s language is too little strident for our taste, and although we cannot defend the statistical assertions in that blog, the campaign he perceives does appear to be under way.

No surprise here, for the Religious Right of which Land is a well-recognized member has is well-understood as a creature of the Republican Party. Indeed, Bush-era White House visitor logs disclosed in response to a request from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington show that Religious Right leaders were frequently in and out. Of course. For as Mark Silk observes:

Their care and feeding has been important to Republican presidents since Reagan, and helps explain their domestication within the GOP.

Are Southern Baptists in general comfortable having the denominational voice raised in coordination with a campaign which included today’s 9/12 march, with all of its sponsoring groups? Some of those groups are remarkably secular and some are somewhat radical.

September 13, 2009 Posted by | Churches, Politics, SBC | , , , | Comments Off on Baptist Press -> SBC=GOP

Rifqa Bary: Family torn apart

Newsweek’s Arian Campo-Flores writes well about Rifqa Bary, the seventeen-year-old who fled from Ohio to Florida, saying she feared her Muslim father would put her to death for converting to Christianity.

Amid the warring accounts on this, one must wonder, why did the Bary family leave their home country for the U.S.?

Newsweek reports in the Sept. 9 story:

Mohamed and Aysha Bary left Sri Lanka in 2000 with their two kids, Rifqa and an older brother, and moved to New York (their third child, a boy, was born in the United States). The reason: concern about Rifqa’s well-being. As a child, she’d fallen on a toy airplane that pierced her right eye. Doctors in Sri Lanka wanted to remove the eye, prompting Mohamed to relocate the whole family so Rifqa could obtain better medical treatment. In the end, her eye was spared, though she can’t see out of it.

There are warring accounts. Does it matter that she’s being represented by John Stemberger, a conservative Christian attorney who was involved in the Terri Schiavo battle and wrote The Terri Schiavo Controversy – Facts, Myths and Christian Perspectives?

Note also that Newsweek goes on to say that the family moved again seeking the same things a great many of us have sought when we moved:

Then, in 2004, Mohamed moved the family again, this time to seek a better public education for the kids. He settled on the Columbus [Ohio] area, which had highly ranked schools. At New Albany High School, Rifqa excelled. She maintained a 3.5 grade-point average and became a member of the cheerleading squad. Mohamed “is so proud of his children,” says Gary Abbott, his closest friend in the U.S. (and a Christian). “He values them more than his own life.”

One need neither trust Right Wing Watch nor disdain The Jawa Report to see here a family torn apart.

By what?

Time in an Aug. 24 article saw A Florida Culture War Circus.

Perhaps. We feel we have, much more to learn, and will return to this.

September 10, 2009 Posted by | Churches, Cultural, Law, Religion | , | 1 Comment

Beyond partisanship: Pope Benedict XVI’s ‘Caritas in Veritate’

In the University of Chicago Divinity School column Sightings, Rick Elgendy argues that the wedge-politics of the culture wars have no support in Pope Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate:

Though frequently presumed to be the source of authority for those who would, say, deny communion to pro-choice politicians, Benedict here refuses to accept the ideological categories assumed in American politics: The same theological commitments that inform his convictions about the integrity of life demand a reimagining of prevailing social arrangements. Catholic and non-Catholic onlookers alike might hope that the encyclical will inspire political discourse that reexamines the standard binaries and turns to principled and civil conversation before partisan rancor (as Benedict himself did, by most reports, in his recent meeting with President Obama, in sharp contrast to how others dealt with the president’s Notre Dame commencement appearance).

Writing for Human Events, Ave Maria Law School’s Rev. Michael P. Orsi says no, Catholics must still be anti-abortion/pro-life at the expense of any health care reform legislation. He does so in an argument that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops violated fundamental principles by reasserting its longstanding position that “decent health care is not a privilege, but a basic human right and a requirement to protect the life and dignity of every person.”

Mark Silk responds, and quotes with telling effect from Caritas in Veritate:

Nowadays we are witnessing a grave inconsistency. On the one hand, appeals are made to alleged rights, arbitrary and non-essential in nature, accompanied by the demand that they be recognized and promoted by public structures, while, on the other hand, elementary and basic rights remain unacknowledged and are violated in much of the world[107]. A link has often been noted between claims to a “right to excess”, and even to transgression and vice, within affluent societies, and the lack of food, drinkable water, basic instruction and elementary health care in areas of the underdeveloped world and on the outskirts of large metropolitan centres. The link consists in this: individual rights, when detached from a framework of duties which grants them their full meaning, can run wild, leading to an escalation of demands which is effectively unlimited and indiscriminate. An overemphasis on rights leads to a disregard for duties. Duties set a limit on rights because they point to the anthropological and ethical framework of which rights are a part, in this way ensuring that they do not become license. Duties thereby reinforce rights and call for their defence and promotion as a task to be undertaken in the service of the common good. Otherwise, if the only basis of human rights is to be found in the deliberations of an assembly of citizens, those rights can be changed at any time, and so the duty to respect and pursue them fades from the common consciousness. Governments and international bodies can then lose sight of the objectivity and “inviolability” of rights. When this happens, the authentic development of peoples is endangered[108]. Such a way of thinking and acting compromises the authority of international bodies, especially in the eyes of those countries most in need of development. Indeed, the latter demand that the international community take up the duty of helping them to be “artisans of their own destiny”[109], that is, to take up duties of their own. The sharing of reciprocal duties is a more powerful incentive to action than the mere assertion of rights.

Catholic neoconservative George Weigel attempts to escape that passage by arguing that it should be disregarded as a compromise by Pope Benedict XVI “to maintain the peace within his curial household.”

A strange argument to make about this pope who has backed up not a step in the face of one firestorm after another.

Agree or not, to understand the meaning of Pope Benedict XVI, do better to take Silk’s approach:

Read that carefully. The pope is saying that an asserted (or legislated) “right to excess” is wrongly made equivalent to those things that are objectively and inviolably “elementary and basic rights”–such as “elementary health care.” His point is that the affluent have to recognize that they have a duty to take steps to guarantee that the rights of the needy are not violated.

August 30, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Health, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion | , , | Comments Off on Beyond partisanship: Pope Benedict XVI’s ‘Caritas in Veritate’