Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Secular State

Theocracy advocate, the late R. J. Rushdoony, is the poster child for the Theocray movement in America. His own son has recently written that the state can become a "tool of the dragon". The admittance by Rushdoony Jr. is an acknowledgement that the state is not the divine incarnation of the faith. When the Sha of Iran's wife argued for the rights of women in the nation, she had proposed a secular state. She did not get her wish and the future brought with it religious suppression of women's rights.
The current American President has the unfortunate task of explaining constantly to the nation that our government was founded with religious freedom and neutrality toward religious faiths. Being Black, he appears to have drawn the wrath of many in my area suggesting he is seeking to denounce our Christian heritage or worse, establish a Muslim state.
From Rick Scarborough's famous naval chaplain to First Baptist Houston's guest speaker Judge Roy Moore, the argument is being made that the ABC's apply to our country now. That is, "Anything But Christian". Recent local court rulings like the Santa Fe School District prayer case incite the fears that government is seeking to ban believers from the public square.
Author Walter Capps called school prayers the cultic celebration of civil rituals. To some, their sacred official state religion is being banished to the underground. "Secular" has come to mean degenerate of infidel. The Pentagon's decision to cancel Franklin Graham, (a decision backed by Baptist's only added fuel to the fire that persecution is coming for believers in the country.
Francis Schaeffer and R. J. Rushdoony proclaimed that neutrality was not a valid option. You were either gathering for, or scattering against as an institution. Part of the recent problem is the dwindling of the evangelical church. The evangelical church has been on the decline while prosperity gospel, positive thinking movements and experiential groups have taken over in strength of numbers. The result, like that of The Family movement, tends to focus on social and political power in contrast to personal conversion.
The traditional evangelical church never got excited about meeting with the Methodists and United Church of Christ to host a national day of prayer. Sharing the communion cup with such was officially discouraged. One of he neglected tenets of the Southern Baptist statement of faith is the idea of closed communion. Many of its own churches have moved away from such and the trend continues. The other neglected belief system is separation of church and state. The reason why Richard Land, unofficial spokesman of the Southern Baptist Convention, claims to have more in common with the Pope than with Jimmy Carter is a case in point. Joining forces to cross over doctrinal lines to unite together to fight the coming secular state is more important than what one holds as truth.
I just received a slick ad in the form of a magazine with the title, Pastors Beware. The ad is an attempt to get you to attend their church financial tax and law conference. The sarcastic warning says. "Protect yourself from a prison ministry". The Church Management & Tax Conference of Chattanooga, Tennessee has come upon a timely scare tactic to increase attendance at their $139 seminars.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Top Ten Reasons Why Ken Starr Sould Not Be President of Baylor

1. In John 7, there is a familiar story of lawyers who drug a Jewish girl caught in adultery into the public square. The lawyers did not care about he law, justice or faith, it was merely a political ploy to destroy somebody. James Harris used to say the act committed by the Pharisees was worse than the act committed by the woman in the heat of passion. Which character(s) in this story represent the new head of a Baptist school?
2. Ken Starr spend over $52 million to prosecute a President and it proved to be a failure as experts warned the nation this impeachment would never happen. Not exactly good stewardship.
3. Some Biblical commentators believe the Pharisees in John's story were involved in the same thing the woman was and that was what Jesus wrote in the sand. During
Starr's legal maneuvering, the leading opposing political party had a long list of people doing the exact same thing as the President. While the House leader was leading the charge for impeachment, he was having an affair with a staff member.
4. Starr ain't a Baptist.
5. Baylor often uses euphemistic language to pass something along to its supporters. A few years ago I received a letter stating the university had decided to discontinue its "unclothed anatomical figurine drawing class". Most of us didn't know what they were talking about in East Texas. If they had told us they were closing he nude modeling co-ed class we would have understood. The spin is that Starr is a Democrat!
6. Since the Baylor basketball player, who was poor and drove a new SUV, capped a few rounds into fellow team member, Baylor has held the spotlight quite often for embarrassing reasons. Not to mention a huge debt, harming the church/state tradition, and firing administrators.
7. Starr went against President Bush's wishes and pushed for a pro-choice Supreme Court nominee. Texas Baptists are not pro-choice.
8. I assume leaders of institutions ought to draw folks together, not splinter them further apart.
9. You cannot trust the regents at Baylor with the rocky recent history.
10. In just about every truck stop in Texas there is a sarcastic bumper sticker. It reads, "remember the golden rule, those who have the gold make the rules". This choice appears to be like the famous movie line, "show me the money".

Monday, January 18, 2010

Macho Ministers

Recent revelations reveal Southern Baptist Seminaries ratcheting up the agenda to produce a higher testosterone level amidst its clergy. Heading the way is Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, and Southern Seminary in Louisville is not far behind.
In 2003 the president of Southwestern led a rally at an Arkansas church in which he presented the number one problem men face in America. That problem was gun ownership. Seminary head Paige Patterson was at one time president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Patterson said boys need three things: a dog, a gun, and a dad. More than just any dog, he said they needed a big one to be proud of. Paige's counsel about this grave problem of boys not being taken hunting sets a standard few of his fellow Texans could pay for with the cost of hunting leases in the Lone Star State.
The failure to follow through with such a program might lead to "girlie men types" the governor of California warned about. Even though the governor of California posed nude for pictures in a homosexual magazine, he evidently fired enough weapons in action movies to qualify his manhood.
Patterson claimed there was a war against boys. He wanted to set the record straight at his seminary to provide adequate leadership. Author Martin Marty wrote about these things in the Christian Century magazine. Southwestern now has a 23-hour degree on homemaking for women. This was the school that released a woman seminary professor because she was teaching men. Patterson was afraid some gender roles might get confused. Marty noted that Jesus once fixed a meal for His disciples and Paul was a tent maker using a needle and thread. Marty implied the whole macho thing was kind of silly as it played out in the Dallas Morning News.
Southern Seminary's Bruce Ware claims that women would not have to worry about abuse if they were more obedient to their husbands. Ware might conceive that slapping a few of the wives around to keep them in place might be what is needed in our society today.
Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler is a member of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Mohler has stated that white female Christians need to be more fertile and the pill was one of the greatest evils in Western civilization.
Evidently testosterone oozes from the aura of pastor Mark Driscoll of Seattle. Driscoll claims he is so manly that several women have sought to seduce him and so he has to be careful at all times. In Houston, Driscoll lamented the wimpy pulpiteers of this generation. He placed the blame on the lack of church attendance in America at the foot of sissy-type preachers. He said, "The problem with our churches today is that the lead pastor is some sissy boy who wears cardigan sweaters, has the Carpenters dialed in on his iPod, gets his hair cut at a salon instead of a barber shop and hasn't been to an Ultimate Fighting Match, works out on an elliptical machine instead of going to isolated regions like Rocky IV in order to harvest lumber with his teeth, and generally swishes around like Jack from Three's Company whenever Mr. Roper was around."
Driscoll invited some of the pastors in the crowd to come to punch him out. When no one took up the offer, he hit himself a few times to prove his manhood. I wondered if Driscoll knows that Rocky IV is fiction? Driscoll is the kind of minister who would start his nose hairs on fire with a Bic lighter to light his cigarette.
His profanity and offer to engage in fisticuffs reminds me of Houston's own R. B. Thieme. This Dallas seminary graduate sent out tapes around the nation and had a huge following. Thieme wore a military uniform while he preached. The foyer in his church was graced with photos of military figures who were war heroes. Thieme often swore at critics and to those who challenged him he offered to take them on in the parking lot. Thieme decried long haired men as sissies.
John Eldredge has written a best seller about manhood called WILD AT HEART. He believes church life in America has made girlie men out of the culture. Thus men have been justified to retreat to porn for their affection. Eldredge believes what women want from men is to be fought for. He said God created them for battle and Jesus wants them to be warriors.
Short hair, big guns, big dogs, a hunting lease, and slapping the ol' lady around a little, are now apparently requirements for a ministerial license in the South. A theological education is not one.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Pastor Wants New Jesus for the Church

Dr. Robin Meyers has written a book published by Harper One titled SAVING JESUS FROM THE CHURCH. It is subtitled "How to Stop Worshiping Christ and Start Following Jesus." With a sub title that denies Christian dogma one is not surprised at what follows in the work. The author, himself a college professor, said he arrived at seminary with doubts and his work there only added to his doubts. pg. 223
Meyers abides by the ancient scoffers view and denies just about any tenet of the Christian faith. His denomination, the United Church of Christ, started out in the country as a legalistic Puritan sect. It evolved into a Universalism tradition and many observers state that UCC stands for something like "uncertain about Christ." Meyers is certainly uncertain. The most famous face given to this denomination lately is that of pastor Jeremiah Wright whose most famous member, now President, abandoned the preacher because of his ranting. Wright was certain of one thing, he loved anti-Semite and black supremacy advocate Louis Farrakhan. His church was so certain about Louis they honored him with an award for outstanding work. Louis was in Houston a few years back and stated publicly in a church we needed another Jesus because the first One was a failure. Meyers is pastor of a UCC church in Oklahoma City.
Robin Meyers writes that most of what Christians hold as doctrinal beliefs is not verified by scripture. He writes we should take out this "garbage" as he calls it, like the virgin birth, miracles, blood atonement, the bodily resurrection, the second coming etc. and wrap it up in a bag to be thrown away. He states that people would be Glad to see this garbage gone. pg. 33 The apostle Paul said that the resurrection was the essential part of the faith or else everything else was in vain. Paul wrote to Corinth that if there was no raising of Jesus from the dead the Christian faith was not worth it. Meyers has a way out to refute the teaching of Paul. Since they are in the Bible and it is not a reliable resource you don't have to take Paul seriously. The trinity, Easter, saving act of the cross and authority of the Bible are all suspect to a man who teaches potential ministers. Robin often quotes philosopher Frederic Nietzsche in the work to whom he seems to put more stock in that the apostle Paul.
Another person who has influenced the writer is Albert Schweitzer. Schweitzer is known as the author who advocated abandoning the idea of a Jesus who came to take away the sins of the world to merely down sizing Jesus to a mere man with good ideas. Schweitzer went around the world teaching we should follow the instructions of Jesus like the Sermon on the Mount to make the world a better place. Expecting Jesus to redeem us is not important in these circles. Meyers writes we should understand the misguided narratives of the Bible as stories that are political rather than historical. pg. 84 In doing such Meyers reduces the Christian faith to a movement much like the religious right does in seeking a kingdom of this world. Meyers has published works denouncing the religious right but wants to use the Christian faith like they do in turning it into a mere political movement. He stated many in his congregation have run for political office. Jesus taught that His kingdom was not in this world. To Meyers John 3; 16 does not mean being born again by the saving act of God as much as it means we Christians ought to be activists for gay marriage.
I recently read another author who had also written a book denouncing the religious right. The book is called AMERICAN FASCISTS. With such a harsh title you can tell where the author was going. The book's author, Chris Hedges, was raised in a home of a minister. His education and home led him away from the Christian faith. Doubter Hedges wrote that "God is inscrutable, mysterious and unknowable. We do not understand what life is about, what it means why we are here and what will happen to us after out brief sojourn on the planet ends." With works on the religious right written by people like Meyers and Hedges don't expect the people in the movement to take what they write seriously.
Meyers takes a stab at Joel Olsteen's church questioning the validity of a prosperity gospel organization calling itself the church. pg. 192 If Dr. Meyer's own church functions as a system with his beliefs it would not qualify by any traditional Christian definition as a church. Universalism has been around the world longer than Meyers. So has the Christian faith. I suggest both will continue as they are longer than Meyers.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Voting Values

The media is ablaze with the story of my recent local congressman known as Charlie (Good Times) Wilson. The history channel has run a story about the life of Charlie based on a book by George Grile a 60 minutes producer. Hollywood picked up the story and has produced a movie called Charlie Wilson's Secret War. The movie stars Tom Hanks as Wilson and Julie Roberts as the Houston mistress Joanne Herring. There is a scene from the saga in which Charlie is sitting clothed only with a glass of bourbon in a hot tub. (Depending on which account you take there was cocaine mentioned.) Wilson is sitting in the tub with a couple of playboy bunnies who are wearing nothing. Charlie is watching Dan Rather on a news broadcast. To lots of people in my region among the moral lapses mentioned here the most severe is watching Dan Rather!
After viewing Rather's report on Afghanistan he is convicted that he needs to use his position as a Congressman from Texas to help these freedom fighters. He uses his influence to double the secret support given to the people fighting the Soviet Union. Joanne Herring, a wealthy anti Communist leader learns about Charlie's efforts. She meets with Wilson and tells him he needs to keep up the effort. She encourages him to help the freedom fighters defeat the mightiest army in the world, destroy the Soviet Union and end the cold war. Charlie responds that he does not have time because he has Dairy Queens to worry about in Lufkin! Wilson takes up the cause and the rest is a history most of us did not know about. The war is secretive with the U.S. giving increasing aid to the fighters to the tune of almost $200,000,000 a year. Our government did not want to get directly connected with the freedom fighters for fear of engaging the Soviet Union in a world conflict. Thus Charlie conducted a secret war with the aid of a rogue CIA agent not officially recognized as conducting foreign policy.
Another interesting moral dilemma happens in Egypt when Wilson gets a belly dancing woman friend to dance before the Egyptian in charge of Soviet stashes of arms. This works and using Soviet weapons is done to further hide the American involvement in the war. Eventually President Reagan allows Charlie to get Stinger Missiles which the Afghans use against Soviet helicopters. This ends the war and the Soviets retreat defeated and as a result of the war their economic system is dealt a death blow.
During all this legendary story Wilson is almost derailed by an election. Word gets out about the cocaine use and Charlie becomes known as "Cocaine Charlie". Local loyal Democrats voted against Charlie in his election during this period and he almost lost his seat. He went to bed thinking that night he had lost his place in Congress. What saved the candidate was the black voter precinct in Lufkin. The black voters of this city had always been loyal to Charlie. You might make the case here that the black voters of Lufkin, Texas saved the world from Communism and ended the cold war. The point being that ethical possibilities abound regarding voting our "values". So called Christian conservatives could have messed up a secretive war that did not cost one drop of American blood. Wilson lamented the fact that we did not go and help the people of the region rebuild their schools and hospitals. Thus these peoples never knew who helped them which produced by our failures to help a Taliban, 9/11 and Iraq.
Foreign policy is a complicated issue and simply voting for the candidates who share our values regarding abortion and gays over simplifies the issue. The picture of Roosevelt and Churchill standing next to Stalin is an ethical case in point. Foreign policy is complex. Wilson claims that many of his friends who helped defeat the Soviets are now in the Taliban.
Being recently gravely ill my family sought out specialists to help me recover from the dangerous meningitis. They wanted doctors who had knowledge and training. I doubt they cared what these physicians believed about the Lord's supper or baptism.
Voting values is a complicated thing. John Kennedy, never known for his abstinence, probably saved the Southeastern United States by not invading Cuba. We now know they had missiles. That might be a moral value to consider along with some of the rest of our Christian issues.
One author said the reason why people liked Charlie Wilson was because he did the one thing politicians were not supposed to do. He told the truth.
Christians might consider some of these concerns as they go to the polls to voice their concerns this fall.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Church History's Recent Ironies

I was reading through Timothy Weber's LIVING IN THE SHADOW OF THE SECOND COMING, whenever I stumbled on a startling claim. Dr. Weber writes that the entire Premillennialism movement rests on the shoulders of John Darby, a historical statement made by many church historians. Darby, according to accounts, restored a movement that had almost vanished from the American church. Early in the U. S. a group of Millerites started making the same mistakes the New Testament church in Thessalonica made. The Millerites stopped planting crops, spent all their savings and prepared for the second coming of Christ into the world they expected to take place around 1830. When they were left without crops to harvest and little respect from their starving families in desperation, the movement proved a huge embarrassment for a teaching that claimed to know when the world would end.
Darby revived the movement after encountering Margaret Macdonald, a woman preacher who spoke in tongues and lived in Scotland. Darby might have gotten the idea from ecstatic utterances according to some sources.1 What we are finding here is the claim that the entire movement that today is known as Premillennialism is rooted in a charismatic woman preacher. I was speaking about this with Mainstream Baptist leader Bruce Prescott who said he has run across similar claims regarding the movement verified by historical accounts. What makes this interesting is the influence this movement has on the Southern Baptist Convention. Many historians claim one of the major issues that divided the Convention was the issue of eschatology. Some writers claim this was THE issue that unsettled the denomination and let to the conflict. Fundamentalists who took control of the convention were tied into Premillennialism. As a seminary student in the seventies I recall several students who had gotten into this arguing with professors who by and large did not adhere to this theory. The late Dr. William Hendricks lamented in a chapel service that students at the seminary had purchased more books by Hal Lindsey, the Premillennilists author than they had purchased Bibles!
The irony of the story is that this movement has been given credit for ousting the old leaders of the convention replacing them with Hal Lindsey followers. In Southern Baptist life today there are two wedge issues that trouble Fundamentalists. One is the fact that women are not supposed to preach. The other is that people who speak in tongues are mistaken. To consider the fact that Premillennialism is rooted in the basement of these two items would be a pill hard for the convention to swallow if they only knew. In other words, the Tim LaHaye followers and left behind crowd owe their beginnings to a founder they would not claim.
Weber also calls attention to the strange belief systems that are a part of the movement. One of them is anti Semitism. It was a source of embarrassment to some of the leaders of the movement. Many writers often held to strange theories about how the world would end and adhered to a book called the PROTOCOLS. The PROTOCOLS, an anti Semitic fabricated hate work, blames Jews for problems in the world. It was a source of apocalyptic enthusiasm to many leaders. Timothy Weber claims the movement has at its base the need for conspiracy theories. This fact leads the group to myths about Jews and their part in world problems. Weber quotes an early leader, "We learn from private sources, more than once, and worthy of respect, that the Jews in Germany are not being persecuted as a race, but that Communism organized by Russian Jews is being punished by Hitler."2 The myth of Jews being behind Communism was a leading public policy of the Third Reich.
Tim LaHaye's connections to groups like the John Birch Society helps to explain the infatuation with strange conspiracy theories about the end of times. Lindsey believed that Israel would sign a treaty with the Antichrist. This would lead to a world wide conflict in which there would be great bloodshed. Hal believed the Antichrist was alive during the seventies. Hal saw visions of spacecraft filled with demons. His dogma contributed to right wing frenzies during the era. Lindsey hinted the U. S. needed to use its nuclear might and was a government consultant on foreign policy. Hal blamed the Council on Foreign Relations as as source of secretive problems in America. The Council is the conspiracy theorist's jackpot much like the earlier PROTOCOLS.3
According to the Wittenburg Door website Lindsey has been married four times. That is equal to both Richard Roberts and Jon Hagee's total. The question as to whether or not Lindsey could predict how long his marriages would last in contrast to the world is subject to speculation. The parody on an old hymn has been used to scoff at Premillennialism's prophetic insights, it follows. "My hope is built on nothing less/Than Schofield's notes and Moody Press." Hagee's modern support of Israel's taking over of new land is a repeat of the movement's past.
One other irony is the modern Pentecostal movement that both Roberts and Hagee symbolize. Harvard's Harvey Cox studied the movement and documented the racial harmony found in mixed congregations around the nation. A fact noted by many racially mixed Pentecostal congregations in the land. Ground zero for the movement is found in Los Angeles at the Azusa Street Church led by black evangelist William Seymour who was the son of former slaves. The black preacher got his training from Charles Parham. Parham was a racist and Klan leader. He would not allow Seymour into this class room with whites to learn about speaking in tongues. Word was that William sat outside in the hallway and took notes on how to practice tongues. Reliable sources have it that Parham would have been disgusted that his movement would have led to the mixing of races in a church service.4
Parham started the movement with his influence on Seymour and holding a ten week revival in Houston, Texas. Charles also adhered to the racist British Israel movement. A little known teaching that believes Europe is made up of the lost tribes of Israel. Parham believed that Queen Victoria was a descendant of King David of the Bible. The followers believe that American whites are chosen people blessed by God since they descended from the seed of Abraham. Other ethnic groups are not so fortunate and cannot help their racial background. After all, God did not chose them.
Buried at the foot of the statue of Jesus of the Ozarks is Gerald L. K. Smith. Many readers will recall invitations to the moving spiritual experience a Christian might find at the Passion Play in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Smith started the play. Gerald was into white supremacy and ran for President under the platform of "we got to do something about the Jews". Smith was invited to preach a series of revival meetings at J. Frank Norris' First Baptist Church in Fort Worth. Norris never invited Smith back after he learned that Smith did not believe Jesus was a Jew.6 Jews, according to British Israel, were mixed races who just thought they were descendants of Abraham. But unlike white Anglo Saxons, they did not have the bloodline. The irony of women preachers, Pentecostals, Premillennialists and beliefs about Jews is an interesting forgotten part of the history of the American church.

1. Timothy Weber, LIVING IN THE SHADOW OF THE SECOND COMING, Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago, Ill. 1983, pg. 22.
2. Ibid. pgs. 189, 198.
3. Ibid. pgs. 217-221.
4. 2004/04/23
5. 12/1/076.
6. Barry Hankins, GOD'S RASCAL, Univ. Of Kentucky Press, Lexington, Kentucky, 1996, pg. 134,

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Killing of Gays as a Biblical Mandate

"Faith for All of Life" is the official publication of Chalcedon, the education agency for the Reconstruction movement. The latest issue (Nov. /Dec. 2007 pg. 2) carries an article from Mark Rushdoony, the son of the famous founder. Founder R. J. Rushdoony was highlighted in the issue reminding readers the movement must not move away from the doctrines of its originator. Quoting Mark on his father we read;
"I remember once when he commented on the horror with which his observation on INSTITUTES OF BIBLICAL LAW I that homosexuality was a moral abomination before God deserving of a death sentence was received. His critics always referred to this as what 'Rushdoony advocates' or what 'Rushdoony believes.' His comment was 'I was writing about what the Bible said. What did they expect me to write?'
Anyone who doubts the movement advocates killing abortion providers or gays hasn't been paying attention.