Southern Religion

Health Care for ‘…the least of these…’

Southern Baptist pastor Wade Burleson posts a thorough, well-researched letter “from a Christian man named ‘Chuck Brown.'”

He calls out to Christian Biblical heritage, writing:

Ultimately, health care reform is not about whether you are a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Constitutionalist, or whatever else. It is not about whether you are conservative, liberal, independent, or apolitical. It is not about whether you despise Barack Obama or like Barack Obama. Health care reform is about “…the least of these…” among us and our ability to make some changes that will help them.

Read the entire letter here.


August 19, 2009 Posted by | Health, Law, Politics, Religion | , , | Comments Off on Health Care for ‘…the least of these…’

Huckabee and the fate of the Palestinians

The Jerusalem Post called Mike Huckabee’s rejection of a two-state Israel/Palestine solution as a challenge to “the policies of both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama.”

Harvard’s Stephen M. Walt wrote in Foreign Policy:

Given that current demographic trends suggest that Arabs will be a majority in the lands currently controlled by Israel in the not-too-distant future, Huckabee is either endorsing ethnic cleansing or calling for the permanent denial of democratic rights to the Arab residents of the Occupied Territories, which is a form of apartheid. Either way, he is no friend of Israel, and the policies he’s endorsing will do great damage to US interests throughout the region.

Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution offered demographic detail:

At current estimates, there are 2.3 million Arabs living in the occupied West Bank and 1.4 million Arabs in the Gaza Strip, in addition to 1.5 million Arabs living within Israel’s internationally recognized boundaries. In fact, there are probably more Arabs living in the “Jewish homeland” than there are Jews. To achieve the single-state, Jewish-state solution proposed by Huckabee, one of two things must happen. The Palestinians would have to either go or stay.

Go, or stay?

Huckabee’s hosts have a preference, it seems. Huckabee was was the guest of the Jewish Reclamation Project of Ateret Cohanim, a Zionist group.

Bob Allen of Ethics Daily wrote in an article published today:

Former presidential candidate and possible vice presidential nominee Mike Huckabee visited Israel as a guest of a right-wing Zionist group that is buying up property to move Jews into Jerusalem’s Muslim Quarter in hopes of replacing the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque with a reconstruction of Solomon’s Temple and ushering in the Messianic Age.

Although Richard Silverstein goes deeper in his probing of Huckabee’s hosts.

Huckabee’s stance is no surprise. A Southern Baptist Minister is to be expected to base his foreign policy views on his faith.

Huckabee is quite conservative. His views brought him and his hosts together and lead him toward the kinds of solutions which concern Walt and others. Views about which simple humanity may have reasonable concerns.

With no reference to Huckabee, Tony Cartledge wrote Monday in a blog based on Alex Awad’s book, Palestinian Memories: The Story of a Palestinian Mother and Her People:

I have a lot of sympathy for Israel and the Israelis — don’t get me wrong. But I also have a great deal of sympathy for the Palestinians who continue to be displaced and dominated in ways that are wrong in the sight of God and man. The West has perpetrated unspeakable crimes against the Jews through the years — but trying to balance the scales on the backs of the Palestinians just adds one great crime to another.

August 19, 2009 Posted by | History, Israel, Obama, Politics | , , | Comments Off on Huckabee and the fate of the Palestinians

Martin E. Marty on ‘Creation Care’

The Luther seal

American Lutheran religious scholar Martin E. Marty writes about Evangelicals and the Environment:

This week I stumbled upon a little book which prompts a Sighting of one way some evangelicals are dealing with the environmental crisis and the future. It’s Lindy Scott, ed., Christians, the Care of Creation, and Global Climate Change (Pickwick), based on a conference at Illinois’ Wheaton College, often called the flagship evangelical liberal arts college-one of several flagships. The only “known” contributors are Wheaton President A. Duane Litfin and super-scientist and up-front evangelical, ex-Oxonian Sir John Houghton, who spoke and wrote on “Big Science, Big God.” The rest of the essays, reports, and proposals are from students and graduates of Wheaton and its kin and kind.

One of the essayists therein is student Ben Lowe, who copes with the issue of evangelicals shying away from environmental concerns. Marty relates some evangelical environmental hangups and hints at Lowe’s answers:

  1. The environment isn’t really in crisis.” Lowe lists seven patent “degradations” of the climate, and agrees with Calvin De Witt that “the common agent…is human action.”
  2. “Everything’s going to burn up anyway.” This is the word of the “Eschatology determines ethics” apocalypticists, whom he counters effectively.
  3. “Fear of paganism, nature worship and panentheism.” This case is a bit blurry, and demands more careful examination than he gives it, but his report is accurate.
  4. “Higher priorities: save souls, not whales.” This is the oldest standard evangelical put-down; Lowe and others in the book really take that one on, and down.

Creation Care has a growing following among Southern Baptists too.

March 5, 2009 Posted by | Churches, environment, Religion, Science | , , , | Comments Off on Martin E. Marty on ‘Creation Care’

Fundamental considerations

In Ethics Daily Baptist pastor Jim Evans wrote of Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.:

Mohler would likely argue that it’s impossible to believe in Jesus without first believing in the Bible. The problem here is the simple fact that for the first 1,000 years of the history of the church, the Bible was hardly available to believers. Jesus was experienced in preaching, in fellowship and in the ordinances of the church. It’s only been since the invention of moveable type that the printed word became the primary source of revelation.

Is Evans not saying that American Fundamentalism and Inerrancy are too new, historically, to support some species of sweeping claims? His entire piece is here.

February 20, 2009 Posted by | Religion | , , , | Comments Off on Fundamental considerations

How many Baptist minister sexual predators? How many victims?

How many? Christa Brown at Stop Baptist Predators answers:

Most people who sexually abuse kids have multiple victims, often dozens. But again, let’s calculate this on the conservative side. Even if you count only the currently active 3,030 Southern Baptist pedophile ministers, and even if you only count 3 victims for each of them, that’s still 9,090 kids who will be molested and raped by Baptist ministers.

Where is the tracking database that would do so much to fence clerical predators away from Baptist young people? Nowhere. Failure to create it is one Time Magazine’s top underreported stories of 2008.

Read Brown’s entire post.

January 13, 2009 Posted by | Crime, Religion | , , , , , | Comments Off on How many Baptist minister sexual predators? How many victims?

Rick Warren: Anvil of reconciliation


Our first black president-elect, whose campaign was fraught with both false and real issues of religion, has created for his inauguration a faith collage of the culture wars which have racked the nation for four decades.

Together, the voices he has chosen to pray and preach compose the elements of needed and otherwise unlikely dialog toward reconciliation.

Those voices are gay Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson, Southern Baptist megachurch pastor Rick Warren, black United Methodist minister Dr. Joseph E. Lowery and Christian Church president Rev. Sharon Watkins.

Now that the table is set, it is clear that Warren’s inclusion created both dramatic contradictions and through them an opportunity for greater reconciliation.

Warren, then will be through his presence and in his two-minute prayer the anvil upon which is forged that reconciliation.

Read it all.

January 13, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Rick Warren: Anvil of reconciliation

Rick Warren: Domestic violence != divorce

Right Wing Watch is being a little unfair to Rick Warren.

Their criticism is based on an Associated Baptist Press story which says:

In audio clips on his Saddleback Church website, the Purpose Driven Life author says the Bible condones divorce for only two reasons — adultery and abandonment.

“I wish there were a third in Scripture, having been involved as a pastor with situations of abuse,” Warren said. “There is something in me that wishes there were a Bible verse that says, ‘If they abuse you in this-and-such kind of way, then you have a right to leave them.'”

That means in essence that Warren runs a doctrinaire conservative Southern Baptist church (the woods are full of them around here). And he’s almost inevitably the kind of pastor Mary Gruben wrote about in the Abilene, Texas, newspaper:

I was married to a violent and abusive man. When I talked to my pastor about the physical abuse, he asked me if I was “willing to give my life for my husband.” When I could no longer follow that kind of warped thinking, I got a divorce. I began to realize that the God I know and serve loved my children and me more than that. After the divorce, I was told I should have tried harder and prayed harder.

She’s an inerrantist, according to well-known, Oklahoma Southern Baptist pastor Wade Burleson, and nonetheless goes on to say:

Our Southern Baptist system sets women and children up to be abused. The “prominent” Southern Baptist thinkers have no idea the jeopardy their view places women and children in. They have given husbands carte blanche to do what they want to. It also gives the impression that the men are perfect and the women are flawed. It is a closed system when it comes to the woman’s place at home and in ministry.

Her view is the exception among Southern Baptists, as she makes clear.

Whereas Saddleback Church pastor Warren’s is commonplace in his denomination.

So let’s be fair.

Gruben is right — it’s a doctrine which puts women and children in danger. And should in the name of simple humanity be abandoned.

But not a view about which to affect outraged surprise when Warren’s church uses Web-delivered audio files to teach it.

January 9, 2009 Posted by | Religion | , , , , , | 2 Comments

IMB trustees refused money-saving reform

Enid, Okla., Southern Baptist Pastor Wade Burleson argues that the International Mission Board (IMB) system of trustee oversight is unnecessarily expensive in structure and process.

Frink summarizes:

The 89 IMB Trustees who are ultimately responsible for the statistics serve, Burleson reports, eight-year terms rich in expense-paid travel whose “costs are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.”

Burleson, a vocal former IMB trustee who has blogged about the Southern Baptist Convention agency for years, recently wrote that during his tenure:

The waste associated with such an archaic system of oversight caused me and a handful of other trustees to advocate the reduction of trustees meetings to two a year; the first would be in January and held in Richmond and the second would be in June in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention. I further argued that the “commissioning” service for each missionary should be held at missionary’s “home” church, and that the “selection” of qualified Southern Baptist applicants should be up to the professional missiologists at the IMB who are paid to interview, train, and support missionaries across the Convention.

The money-saving proposals got nowhere:

Trustees opposed to such a radical reduction in trustee meetings and numbers argued against it by spiritualizing, as is the Southern Baptist habit, by saying: “We have such a HUGE ministry at the IMB that we have to constantly meet to provide proper oversight.”

This from a board whose “key mission numbers are inflated and some are fabricated” as a result of the pressure of a long-standing SBC drive to reverse decline.

With their budget tight and tightening, making such logical changes toward greater efficiency of board operation seems like the least they could do.

January 7, 2009 Posted by | Religion | , , , , , | Comments Off on IMB trustees refused money-saving reform

Why did the IMB hide embezzlement?

Frink calls attention to a retired insurance broker’s assessment of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board’s embezzlement coverup:

So .. I was really shocked when I heard about the Gray Harvey case. Not only have I been active in churches for 45 years or so, in the SBC for 27+ years, but I spent 50 years in the Property & Casualty Insurance business, which is the line of business that covers stuff like employees stealing. So I know a bit about that.

For one thing, I doubt that the SBC insured employee theft. If they had, they would have been reimbursed for Mr. Harvey’s theft, and I figure the insurance company would either have collected from the malefactor, or prosecuted. I DON’T figure they’d have let it die a natural, peaceful death.

He makes his view of the IMB trustees who allowed the case to go unprosecuted and took the reported oath of silence quite clear when he says:

If I was somebody like Sam Walton, and this sort of shenanigans had gone on in MY company, I’d fire the lot of them.

We concur, although former IMB trustee Wade Burleson’s attempt to hold them to account earned him a drumbeat of anonymous criticism which implied that Burleson was egolistically damaging missionary efforts, until Burleson responded:

If you are the person who used to work for the board and worked with Gray Harvey, you may also be the person that two people told me was involved in the embezzlement.

Please email at and I will tell you if you are the one identified by two people, in writing, as an accomplice.

In His Grace


Fri Dec 05, 10:04:00 PM 2008


How tangled is the disastrously miswoven web?

December 7, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Comments Off on Why did the IMB hide embezzlement?

Calvinism: The latest Southern Baptist reason to fight

John Calvin

Southern Baptists, well known for their infighting, are going at it tooth and claw over Calvinism.

Calvinism is also called Reformed Theology. Calvinists believe that some of are elected by God to be saved, and others are not.

Those who aren’t Calvinists say this view reduces the drive for evangelism, which is a traditional Southern Baptist emphasis. Whereas Calvinists say evangelism is important, although it is God who saves people, not the efforts of evangelists.

Calvinism has been growing in influence within the SBC.

The president of the flagship seminary is a Calvinist and a 2007 survey reported that 30 percent of recent seminary graduates were Calvinists, while only 10 percent of then-practicing pastors held Calvinist views.

In 2006, two high-profile Southern Baptists met for what was first thought to be a debate, which matured into a dialogue about Calvinism within the Southern Baptist Convention.

One debater was Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky, and a Calvinist.

The other debater was Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas, who is not a Calvinist. Baptist Press, which is controlled by the Southern Baptist Convention, reported on the meeting, as did the independent Associated Baptist Press news service.

At the time, the two seminary presidents said they hoped they could be an example of how to discuss differences and remain friends.

Two years later, the discussion is getting less and less friendly.

The Founders Ministries, a group of Calvinists who maintain that the founders of the SBC were Calvinists, lists three recent examples of conflicts that are dividing the Southern Baptist Convention.

Wade Burleson, a Calvinist and a prominent blogger, cites those Founders Ministries examples when he warns that a line has been drawn in the sand and Calvinists are being targeted.

That line in the sand harkens back to a battle for control of the SBC waged from the late 1970s through much of the 1990s. The winners were those who called themselves conservatives, but who are known as fundamentalists by their adversaries. They defeated those who call themselves moderates, but who are called liberals by the conservatives.

When it became clear that conservatives were going to win, moderates predicted that conservatives would soon begin fighting among themselves, because of the nature of fundamentalism.

The battle over Calvinism means that prediction may be coming true.

December 2, 2008 Posted by | Religion | , , , , | 1 Comment