Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Just In: Five U.S. Presidential Candidates Discuss Their Views of Israel

As reported here, the Jerusalem Post has published the responses of 5 U.S. presidential hopefuls to questions about how they view U.S.-Israeli relations. All champion Israel, and only a few mention the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.  We need to press candidates more on what they would do to restart this process and bring about a just two-state peace in Israel-Palestine –as well as their overall views on Middle East peace.  Candidates who blindly support Israel in everything should not be rewarded with votes.  Hat tip to Melissa Rogers for this item.

May 25, 2007 Posted by | foreign policy, Israel, Israel-Palestine, just peacemaking, U.S. politics | 3 Comments

Iraq War Funding: How They Voted

Well, as expected, the “compromise” (i.e., blank check) bill funding the Iraq war through September passed both the House and the Senate.  In the House, the vote was 280 for and 142 against with 11 abstaining or not voting for other reasons.  140 Democrats voted against this bill (including, surprisingly, Speaker Pelosi (D-CA); surprisingly, because just the previous day she seemed to indicate she would go along with this “compromise”). The 2 Republicans who voted against this debacle were Rep. John Duncan (R-TN) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), a Libertarian-leaning longshot presidential candidate–the only Republican presidential candidate to oppose this war.  I am proud to say that my freshman Congressman John Yarmuth (D-KY) voted against the bill, as, of course, did Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH), longshot presidential candidate who is a near pacifist and proposes a U.S. Department of Peace.  But that leaves 86 Democrats in the House who sided with the Republicans in supporting the continued funding of the war, including Rep. Ben Chandler (D-KY), all of whom are up for election in ’08.  Peace groups and progressive caucuses are already making plans to field primary challenges to every one of those traitors.

In the Senate, the vote was 80 in favor, 14 opposed, and 6 not voting.  Of the U.S. Democratic Presidential candidates in the Senate, Senators Barack Obama (D-IL), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), and Christopher Dodd (D-CT) voted noSenator Joseph Biden (D-DE) voted to keep funding the war–and this ought to end his campaign immediately, and lead to a challenge for his senate seat.  John Edwards (D-NC) is no longer a serving senator, and Bill Richardson (D-NM) is governor of New Mexico, so they could not vote on the measure, but both spoke out strongly against it.  Edwards is organizing peace protests this weekend (politically risky on Memorial Day, the U.S. holiday which honors those who died in military service) with signs saying to support the troops by bringing them home.  Richardson is continuing a petition drive to convince Congress to rescind authorization of the war.

If you are a U.S. citizen, find out how your Representative voted here and how your senators voted here.  Then, let them know how you feel about that.  It’s long past time that these yahoos remember that they work for us–and we can bring their tenure to an end!

UPDATE:  Of the 80 senators who voted for this monstrosity, here are the ones up for re-election in ’08:

Alabama: Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL).

Alaska: Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK).

Arizona: Both Republican senators voted for the war funding. Neither is up for re-election in ’08, but Sen. McCain (R-AZ) is running for U.S. president as the most hawkish of a very hawkish GOP lineup. He should be denied the presidency and turned out of the Senate when he is up for re-election in ’10. Politicians count on citizens having short memories–prove them wrong.

Arkansas: Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR).

Colorado: Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO) is retiring in ’08.  As Daniel Schweissing remarked in the comments section, Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO), a usually progressive Rep. is campaigning to replace Allard in ’08, but voted for this war funding.  Colorado voters should express their displeasure with Udall and, if he continues down this path, mount a pro-peace challenger for the Democratic primary.  This will be an open seat, so there is no reason to give it to a “lesser of evils.”

Delaware: Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE). Should lose both his presidential bid and his re-election to the senate.

Georgia: Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA).

Idaho: Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID)

Illinois: Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL)

Iowa: Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA).  This is sad since Harkin is one of the best friends that Labor and the poor have in the U.S. Senate.

Kansas: Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS).  Presidential hopeful Sen. Sam Brownback (D-KS) is not up for senate re-election until ’10, but he wisely refrained from voting.  This keeps him from alienating his base by voting against the war, but, he cynically hopes, will allow him to appeal to enough independents to win in a general election.  I don’t think so.

Kentucky: Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the Senate Minority Leader who kept Democrats from winning enough Republican support for an earlier version of this bill, with a timetable for withdrawal, to override a presidential veto.  It’s long past time to “Ditch Mitch.”

Louisiana: Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA). Her terrible handling of the Katrina aftermath was probably already going to lead to a primary challenge. This should ensure one.

Maine: Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).

Michigan: Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) has been a longtime opponent of this war, but he caved to vote for this–influenced by the GOP talking point of “not depriving money needed by the troops.”

Minnesota: Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN), already facing a strong chance of being defeated in ’08, abstained from voting on this bill.

Mississippi: Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS)

Montana: Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)

Nebraska: Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NB)

New Hampshire: Sen. John Sununu (R-NH)

New Jersey: Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)

New Mexico: Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM)

North Carolina: Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC).

Ohio: Both senators voted for this and neither is up for reelection in ’08, but Ohio voters should really give an earful to freshman Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who was specifically elected on an anti-war ticket!

Oklahoma: Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK).  Voters should should send thank-yous to Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), one of only 3 Republican Senators to vote against this terrible bill, even though he is not up for re-election until ’10.

Oregon: Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR).

Rhode Island: Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI).

South Carolina: Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC).

Tennessee: Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN)

Texas: Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)

Virginia: Sen. John Warner (R-VA). Virginia voters should also send angry messages to freshman Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) who was elected to end the war, not to continue funding it.

West Virginia: Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV).

Tomorrow, back to some theological reflection.

May 25, 2007 Posted by | Iraq | 11 Comments

Keith Olbermann on the Democratic “Compromise”

Keith Olbermann tells it like it is here. See the video or read the transcript.  He gives the Democratic leadership, Bush, and the Democratic candidates for president hell about continuing the funding of the Iraq war.  He rightly calls on the Democratic candidates who are serving senators (or Representatives in the case of Kucinich) to vote against this, to publicly denounce it, and to work to unseat Pelosi and Reid if they continue down this path. Today, I called Sens. Obama (D-IL), Clinton (D-NY), Biden (D-NJ), Dodd (D-CT), & Rep. Kucinich (D-OH) and urged that. I know Kucinich will do the right thing. I know that Edwards, no longer in the senate, and Richardson, as Gov. of New Mexico, cannot take direct action. I called them and urged denouncement of this deal.  We need to hold these candidates accountable–along with the Congress.

Every member of the House of Reps. has to run in ’08. We can mount primary challenges to each one of them who votes for this continued war funding. Given the nature of incumbency in U.S. politics, we won’t win each of those challenges–maybe not even the majority of them. But every warmonger we throw out for a true progressive and true peacemaker will be a victory. It’s time for every political party to know the power of the peace movement–and know that ignoring us may lead to early retirement.

May 24, 2007 Posted by | Iraq, U.S. politics | 1 Comment

The Practice of Theology, 1

I began these reflections with the definition of theology given by the late James Wm. McClendon, Jr. (1924-2000), “the discovery, understanding or interpretation, and transformation of the convictions of a convictional community, including the discovery and critical revision of their relation to one another and to whatever else there is.”  The particular convictional community we Christians are concerned with, of course, is the Christian Church, the universal Body of Christ, the People of God.  The convictions we are dealing with, unlike some whose convictions are about “girls, guns, and gold,” (to use a traditional and sexist motto from the Old West), are convictions about the Triune God, about Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ of God, about the Holy Spirit, about creation, humanity, sin, and salvation, about discipleship, and the hope of new/re-newed heavens and earth.

The church’s primary instruction in these moral and doctrinal convictions we might call “primary theology” (unless some reader has a better term).  This is what we find in hymns, confessions of faith (e.g., the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds), church covenants, catechisms, sermons, evangelistic presentations of the gospel, Sunday School lessons, liturgies, etc.  More formal or “academic” theology is a secondary practice of the Church–but just as necessary for that.  In this practice, theologians investigate these primary theological (i.e., moral and doctrinal) teachings–“discovering, and interpreting” the convictions of the Church (or a part of it, e.g., Orthodoxy in post-Communist Ukraine, Pentecostalism in South America, post-apartheid Reformed faith in South Africa, etc.).  But the (secondary/academic) theologian has a normative task, too.  S/he tests these convictions in their current form:  are they faithful? adequate? biblical?  The theologian’s task, as McClendon puts it, is to hold up a mirror to the community in which the community recognizes itself not just as it is, but as it should be, must strive to be, in order to be what God is calling it to be.

We see the practical nature of theology:  Rooted in basic Christian practices (worship, prayer–both individual and corporate, preaching, evangelism, the saints’ mutual service, hospitality to strangers and enemies, etc.), theology is also to serve those practices.  A biblical example may be in order:  When the apostle Paul writes to the church gathered at Corinth, they are celebrating the Lord’s Supper (Eucharist, Holy Communion) with a full agape meal–but the rich are gorging themselves and the working poor, arriving later, are going hungry.  Paul leads them to see that their practice of the Supper is distorted, not just morally, but doctrinally–in so mistreating the poor, the Corinthian Christians “failed to discern the Body of Christ” not just in the meal but gathered in Corinth.  Their distorted liturgical practice was wrong morally and doctrinally–revealing flaws in the Corinthian Christians’ eucharistic doctrine, ecclesiology, soteriology, and even Christology.  Paul’s instruction in liturgical reform (from now on, skip the full agape meal, eat at home, do nothing to dishonor the poor made in God’s image–who are also your sisters and brothers for whom Christ died) is also doctrinal correction. In terms of our definition, this is the transformation of the community’s convictions, displayed in their practice.

Next: More on convictions; branches of theology

May 24, 2007 Posted by | liturgy, theology | 5 Comments

Pelosi and Reid Fold Like Spineless Jellyfish

Whatever else one thinks about the Republican Party, at least the GOP usually sticks to its “principles.” Most of the Democratic leadership, however, is completely spineless. Case in point:  Betraying the voters that put them in power to stop the war in Iraq, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) have just announced support for a “compromise” bill funding the Iraq War.  Even the kept and tame U.S. media are calling this a complete capitulation to Bush:  the newly proposed bill has no timeline for withdrawal, only “suggestions” for benchmarks, and the only consequences for missing these benchmarks is cutting off reconstruction money, while the war funding continues! This is everything Bush asked for and it funds the war to the tune of a billion per week.

I called my Congressman and urged him to vote against this stupid bill no matter what Pelosi says. Then I emailed Pelosi and Reid and told them what I thought of this idiocy–I was not profane, but I was blunt. They need to hear straight talk from citizens and be reminded that they work for us and we put them in charge to END the war, not keep funding it.  For crying out loud: the rant used to be that the Democrats are completely poll-driven, but now they can’t even seem to read polls: 3/4 of the U.S. wants the troops home by the end of the year, but Bush is already responding to this “compromise” by promising to double troop size in Iraq(from where??) by Christmas!! 

The strategy was simple but effective: Keep sending Bush funding bills that you knew he’d veto. By the end of June, he’d have to start pulling back troops without more money. Don’t send him a funding bill that he can sign and continue the War!

If you are a U.S. citizen, I urge you to call and email Congress and tell them NOT to vote for this war.  Then, if you are a registered Democrat, go to Democrats.com sign this pledge not to vote for any candidate in ’08 who voted to keep funding the war!  Democrats.com, along with major peace groups, is launching a campaign to put real anti-war challengers in every ’08 primary campaign where an incumbent Democrat voted to keep funding the war.  I hope some progressive Republicans (there must still be some left) will launch a similar campaign.  It’s time to remind BOTH major parties that peace voters cannot be ignored. 

May 23, 2007 Posted by | foreign policy, Iran, Iraq, U.S. politics | 7 Comments

Huckabee Withdraws–From the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant.

As both Bruce Prescott and Melissa Rogers have noted, the Florida Baptist Witness is reporting that former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR), an ordained Southern Baptist minister and a candidate for the Republican nomination for U.S. president in ’08, has noisily withdrawn his participation in the upcoming Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant. This event, largely organized by former U.S. Pres. Jimmy Carter (D), arguably the most famous Baptist layperson in the U.S., is to bring long-divided groups of Baptists together in common work for the Rule of God. Huckabee had been scheduled to be one of the speakers. I am not a fan of Huckabee’s politics and oppose his presidential ambitions, but I had thought that he was personally a good guy and I was pointing to his participation in this event as a good sign.

 Now, Huckabee has withdrawn and his reasons are quite disturbing.  1) He claims to have withdrawn because Jimmy Carter, in an interview, claimed that George W. Bush’s foreign policy was the worst of any president in U.S. history, including Nixon’s.  Why is this a reason for withdrawing from an event that isn’t about politics, much less about Bush? Carter has been known for his blunt speech for decades, including about members of his own party (e.g., Ted Kennedy, the late Tip O’Neill).  If Huckabee only wants to meet with Baptists who admire the current president, then he’s going to have a hard time meeting anyone outside the Southern Baptist Convention. One would be hard pressed, for example, to find many African-American Baptists who are big Bush fans. Does Huckabee never want to meet with these sisters and brothers?  If loyalty to a political party is a “test of Christian fellowship,” then the only word to describe the phenomenon is “idolatry.” I have worshipped in congregations that had elected officials from across the political spectrum (not to mention the rest of us who aren’t in elected office). Has Huckabee never done this?  Is this some new version of the twisted “homogeneity” principle used by some church growth theorists–in direct contradiction to the New Testament’s message of reconciliation between various classes, races, language groups, both genders, etc.??

2) Huckabee’s other reason for withdrawing from the Covenant event is even more disturbing. He claims that he cannot appear on the same program as Marian Wright Edelman, founder and head of the Childrens’ Defense Fund, the foremost, independent, grassroots advocacy agency for the wellbeing of children.  Huckabee claims that Edelman’s presence as a speaker is “evidence of the extreme liberalism” of the event. Huh?  This is confusing on several levels.

A. As Bruce Prescott asks, since when is trying to seek justice and wellbeing of children either “liberal” or “conservative?” Does this mean that Huckabee’s much vaunted pro-life credentials stop when children are born? For crying out loud, even G.W. Bush adopted (I’ll not say “stole”) the CDF’s “Leave No Child Behind” slogan when he created his “No Child Left Behind” education law (which leaves MANY children behind, but that’s a different issue).  Isn’t it a BASIC principle of biblical faith, which surely any ordained minister must know, that children (along with widows and other vulnerable people) are a test of a just and caring community?  Did Huckabee somehow miss all that the Bible says about protecting children?  Why would he put down Edelman’s work–work which has led to 3 nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize??

B.  Suppose, for a second, that Edelman is a “liberal” in either politics (which would not be surprising since she was a Civil Rights activist in college before becoming one of the first African-American women to graduate from Yale Law School) or theology. (How would he know anything about her theology? She hasn’t written on it and I doubt Huckabee shows up at Edelman’s church much.)  Isn’t the very purpose of this meeting for Baptists to cross dividing boundaries of race, region, history, culture, worship-style, and YES, divisions of political and theological conviction in order to find common ground as sisters and brothers in the Lord? Did Huckabee imagine that only “conservatives” (however he defines the term) would be at a meeting designed to get past such divisions??

Bruce Prescott speculates that Huckabee’s real reason for withdrawing as a speaker and participant is because the leadership of the SBC (which opposes the meeting) has pressured him to do so.  That may be it. Or it may be that some campaign guru has told him that he cannot afford to be seen with the likes of Carter and Edelman if he wants any shot at the G.O.P. nomination. Both are pretty sorry excuses, in my view.

Will other Republican politicians who had planned to come to the Covenant, such as Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC), and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), now back out, too? Will the conservative SBC Bloggers who met with Carter and planned to come, now retreat?  Will either denominational or national politics trump the “ties that bind” sisters and brothers in Christ?  It’s happened before, but I know it breaks God’s heart every time.

My respect for Mike Huckabee as a person of faith and integrity (whatever our differences in theology or politics), just plummeted to the basement.

May 22, 2007 Posted by | Baptists, scandal, sin | 10 Comments

Proof That Conservative U.S. Christians Were Once Smarter Than Currently

Chris Tilling has a great quote from B. B. Warfield on evolution:

“I do not think that there is any general statement in the Bible or any part of the account of creation, either as given in Genesis 1 and 2 or elsewhere alluded to, that need be opposed to evolution.” 

Now, let us remember that Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (1851-1921) was a Presbyterian theologian who taught at the “Old” Princeton Theological Seminary and is considered a hero by almost all Protestant fundamentalists and many conservative evangelicals, especially in the U.S.  Warfield was the first to defend the doctrine of “biblical inerrancy” in its modern formulation.  That’s right, THE early champion of inerrancy saw no problem with Darwinian evolutionary biology.  Other early conservative evangelical defenders of evolutionary theory included Charles Hodge (1797-1878), who was Warfield’s teacher, Scottish theologian James Orr (1844-1913), Baptist giant Augustus Hopkins Strong (1836-1921), and even R.A. Torrey, one of the editors of The Fundamentals.  See more of Darwin’s Forgotten Defenders among conservative Christians in the book of the same name. 

If more evangelicals had paid attention to these early leaders on this matter, the ridiculous pseudo-scientific movement of “Intelligent Design” would have been as unnecessary as it is wrongheaded.  (Full disclosure: I live in a state, Kentucky, that has just built a monument to ignorance known as a “Creationism Museum.”  I may die of embarrassment.)

May 21, 2007 Posted by | science & faith, theology | 13 Comments

What is Theology?

Different definitions of theology lead to different methods/approaches of “doing theology.”  I propose the definition given by the late Baptist theologian of the “[b]aptist Vision,” i.e., the constitutive vision of the Believers’ Churches, James Wm. McClendon, Jr. (1924-2000).  Theology, McClendon said, is “the discovery, understanding or interpretation, and transformation of the convictions of a convictional community, including the discovery and critical revision of their relation to one another and to whatever else there is.”  He intended this definition to be broad enough to encompass the theologies of other world religions and of philosophical substitutes for religion, such as Marxism, socio-biology, etc.  If the “convictional community” in question is the Christian Church, then theology is the discovery, understanding or interpretation, and transformation of the convictions of the Christian Church, including the discovery and critical revision of disciples’ relation(s) to one another, to the Triune GOD, and to the rest of Creation.” (My adaptation.)

Certain things follow from such a definition:  i. Theology is pluralistic; done in different, even rival, camps.  There is struggle in theology–the struggle for truth. This sometimes involves struggle against the perceived errors of others.  Because Christ prayed that the Church would enjoy the same unity that he enjoys with the Father, striving for ecumenical reconciliation in the fractured Church is mandatory.  But all the ecumenical good will in the world cannot disguise the fact that theologians (and churches) disagree and that some of these disagreements are sharp and deep. Another way to say this is that theology is contextual  –related to differing church traditions (e.g., Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant, “baptist,” etc.), differing eras, differing cultural contexts. 

ii. Theology is narrative based, construing the lived experience of the convictional community by means of Scripture.  There are, of course, different readings of Scripture:  A 12th C. Franciscan “take” on the biblical narrative differs from a 17th C. Jesuit take on the same narrative–but they are both much closer than either is to the “take” of a 16th C. Dutch Mennonite, of 19th C. antebellum African-American Christians in the U.S. South, of a WWI-era Pentecostal, of a Peruvian “base community” in the 1970s, of a Reformed “take” in South Africa during the “Boer War” resistance to British rule, of an African Christian response to both the British and Afrikaaner readings, etc. 

 iii. Theology is rational.  Some (Schleiermacher, Barth) have called theology a “science,” and in the broadest sense of the term, this is true.  But because in English “science” is understood after the model of the natural sciences, McClendon suggests (and I agree) that it is less confusing to call theology a discipline that is to display the rationality appropriate to its metier, just as the disciplines of art, law, and medicine display their own particular rationalities. Thus, like these other cases, theology is a practice, a craft, that is rooted in the other practices (e.g., mission, evangelism, worship, communal prayer, preaching, hospitality to the poor and the stranger, life together in the Body, nonviolent service to the neighbor, nonviolent encounter/witness with the enemy,  etc.) of the Church.  The theologian must likewise be rooted in these practices, in a particular Christian community, even if s/he is employed by a secular or pluralist university.

  iv. This leads us to the fact that theology is self-involving.  Possibly in rare circumstances a Christian theologian could write a Muslim or Jewish or Buddhist theology (Hans Küng has attempted this regarding Judaism and Islam) or some non-Christian could undertake to write a Christian theology.  But these would be exceptions that prove the rule.  In convictional work, self-involvement is the rule, exceptions must be explained case-by-case.  (This is NOT to say that Christian theologians should not be in dialogue with non-Christian movements. The missionary nature of the Church means that, in each context, theologians will dialogue with major forces and thought-forms in their cultural context.  But the theologian does not attempt to adopt a “neutral” or “detached” observer frame. S/he is not an anthropologist.)

I. Is this a good way to understand theology? Why or why not?

II. What does the practice of theology look like when understood this way?

May 21, 2007 Posted by | theology | 20 Comments

Updates on Nonviolent Movement in Palestine

Sami Awad, Palestinian Baptist, notes that this week is the 59th anniversary of the Israeli occupation, an event Palestinians call “the catastrophe.” Sami, who leads the Holy Land Trust, has been coordinating nonviolent resistance events in commemoration of this tragedy. In general, while the world has been focused on the increasing violence between Hamas and Fatah in Gaza (along with cross-border violent exchanges between Hamas and the Israelis), the increase in nonviolent campaigns on the West Bank has been missed. In other news, Sami, notes that the Israeli military has destroyed another Palestinian orchard needed for survival. Replantings are planned in defiance.

Sami’s blog, Never Give Up: Trust in the Power of Nonviolence, is a good source of news about events in Palestine. As is the online Palestinian New Network which Holy Land Trust runs. Also, if you are looking for something to do with your church’s youth and/or young adults that isn’t just fun and games, consider Palestine Summer Encounter.  Crossposted from Mainstream Baptists, to which I am a semi-regular contributor.

May 20, 2007 Posted by | economic justice, human rights., Israel-Palestine, nonviolence, peacemaking | Comments Off on Updates on Nonviolent Movement in Palestine

Treasures From the Blogosphere

There are some excellent discussions going on in the blogosphere. Some people are blogging wisdom for the church that I wouldn’t want faithful readers of Levellers (all 3 of you) to miss.  So, I am going to link to some of the best ones I’ve seen lately.

1. Dan, a.k.a. “Poser or Prophet?”, who runs the excellent blog, “On Journeying with Those in Exile,” has done a fantastic series on “Christianity and Capitalism.” The discussion is also excellent.  I don’t agree with everything written (I DO like the language of human rights, for instance), but this is one of the best theological discussions on economics and why Christians must resist capitalism in our lives together I’ve read in some time. Dan states clearly many things that I have fumbled to say in these pages. I have been too busy to interact with Dan on his blog, but I have printed out everything for further reflection. It’s a 10 part series: I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X

2. Byron Smith, whose work I have highlighted before on Nothing New Under the Sun, has been blogging on “Would Jesus vote [g]reen?” I made the “g” lower-cased because Byron is asking about how our faith ought to impact on political decisions on the environment, not whether or not Jesus would endorse one of the Green parties, globally.  So far, Byron has also given 10 installments on this series. All are worth reading–soon. Byron has been dealing with our reactions to environmental awareness much like a “stages of death.” I know from reading his work for awhile now (and from the way he handled his cancer, currently in remission, praise God) that the series is too Christian to end simply in acceptance. I look forward to seeing the kind of wise actions and motivations that will flow from these profound reflections. I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X  Both Dan’s series of posts and Byron’s would make excellent starters for church reflections in, say, an adult Bible study group.

3. Melissa Rogers is always alert to the oddities of U.S. public life, for good, bad, or just weird.  In the bad category (my judgment), she notes that the National Association of State Boards of Education is about to elect a new president. The only problem is that Kenneth Willard of Kansas is running unopposed.  Willard is an opponent of the teaching of evolution in public schools. Sigh! No wonder the U.S. does so poorly in science.  One educator told me that evolutionary biology is so “controversial” in many parts of this nation that in many high schools it is simply omitted–in fact, evolutionary biology may be taught in fewer public schools, NOW, than in 1925 when the Scopes Trial exploded in Dayton, TN.  Suddenly, homeschooling doesn’t sound as bad as it usually does. At least, I can supplement with my children so that they learn this basic truth of modern science and can detect idiotic pseudo-religious junk disguised as science such as “intelligent design.” Shudder!

4. The world news has, of course, been full of the tragedy of a near civil war between Hamas and Fatah in the Gaza Strip (and now the latest Israeli military response which may shatter a fragile ceasefire). But all this may miss the rising nonviolent movement in the other Palestine, the West Bank.  Sami Awad tells of a nonviolent action in Southern Bethlehem to commemorate the 59th year of the Occupation, which Palestinians refer to as “The Catastrophe.” Sami Awad, btw, is a Palestinian Christian whose family is very influential in Palestinian Christian circles–and many are leaders in the nonviolent movement.  Do yourself a favor and make a habit of regularly reading Sami’s blog, Never Give Up.

5. Finally (for now), Baptists in North America are preparing for a major meeting in Atlanta in January of ’08 to celebrate a New Baptist Covenant which will seek to bring together Baptist denominations and conventions that have long been separated by race, ethnicity, politics, and theology, into new cooperative ventures.  The Southern Baptist Convention had denounced this meeting as some form of endorsement of Democratic politicians because former U.S. presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton (both Baptists and Democrats) were involved in the planning. But, as Bruce Prescott of Mainstream Baptists notes, this fear is unfounded. The only ’08 presidential candidate who is a Baptist is former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Republican, and he is planning to come to the meeting (which is not political). So will Republican Senators Grassley(IA) and Graham (SC). The meeting is to celebrate unity in Christ, not to score political points and most who will be there will not be politicians of any kind.  Aaron Weaver, who blogs as Big Daddy Weave, notes that even though the Southern Baptist Convention is OFFICIALLY boycotting this meeting, several prominent Southern Baptists will attend, including a new generation of SBC bloggers who, though sharing most of the conservative theology of the current SBC leadership, are trying to steer the convention to a more irenic, welcoming future–presumably so they quit driving out folks like me.  Though I remain concerned that some Baptist organizations are being overlooked (Alliance of Baptists–my denomination; Seventh-Day Baptists; Free Will Baptists; the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America) by the organizers, this meeting still has enormous potential for good. I am trying to make plans to be there: Scheduled speakers to date include some prominent African-American pastors (e.g., Charles Adams of Detroit), Marian Wright Edelman (founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, the most prominent child advocacy group in the U.S.), journalist Bill Moyers (who was also a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary!), Tony Campolo, Rev. Julie Pennington-Russell, pastor of Calvary BC in Waco, TX, and many more.  Baptists have historically “multiplied by dividing.” It’s no wonder many of our denominations do not participate in the ecumenical movement (mine does), since it is hard to work on reconciling with other parts of the Body of Christ, when we often can’t even break bread with each other! I hope this leads to some massive healing here in North America.

6. Update: Despite all attempts to convince him to continue, Kerry Walters, a.k.a. A Deacon by the Grace of God, is ending his blog, Subversive Christianity.  I suppose I’ll have to remove it, then, from Christian Peace Bloggers, alas.  But Kerry is ending as he began with 8 theses on the recovery of subversive Christianity.  Read them here.  You’ll be glad you did.

May 19, 2007 Posted by | blogs | 4 Comments