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

Campaign ’08 Lessons on Religion and Politics

Melissa Rogers summarizes what the U.S. presidential campaign has taught us so far about religion and politics in the U.S. today.  She lists 6 major lessons, some of them very painfully learned. Click to her site and discuss.

Myself, I hope that one major lesson that pastors learn is refuse to endorse political candidates. I hope the media learns that membership in a church does NOT equal agreement with all a pastor’s views and that attempts to cull through sermons for “gotcha” material on a candidate (unless that candidate has actively sought an endorsement) hurts the church and other members. I hope candidates learn that, although seeking the support of people of faith because one shares many of their moral views and wants to try to forge public policies that reflect those moral concerns (while also respecting church-state separation and our pluralistic society) is perfectly legitimate, one should not actively seek out personal endorsements of particular faith leaders.

Here are some other things Melissa didn’t mention that we have learned if we didn’t already know them:

One can smear a candidate by spreading the false rumor that he is a “secret Muslim.” To the detriment of U.S. citizens of Islamic faith, and to the detriment of our foreign relations with Muslim-majority nations, it has become painfully obvious that the public widely equates “Muslim” with “terrorist,” and that at least one political party (and a campaign in another?) is prepared to exploit that fear and ignorance rather than work to correct it.

The (white) media have zero grasp of liberation theologies, especially Black Liberation Theology, and most have little or no grasp of the dynamics of a black church.

Although members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) share many moral values in common with conservative evangelicals and conservative Catholics, the majority of those evangelicals and Catholics who vote Republican still think of Mormonism as a cult and will not vote for a Mormon for president.

Despite the fact that both major Democratic Party candidates showed up at Messiah College in PA for a Faith and Compassion forum hosted by CNN (which was very intelligent and informative, much so than the Democratic “debate” a few days later), and the GOP candidate boycotted it, a plurality of white evangelicals still seem poised to vote for GOP candidate as “more Christian.” (I don’t understand this, but I didn’t understand the evangelical abandonment in 1980 of a Southern Baptist Sunday School teacher who tried to let his faith influence public policy on many issues for a divorced Hollywood actor who drank like a fish, almost never attended church, and whose knowledge of Christianity seemed limited to reading Hal Lindsey!)

June 2, 2008 Posted by | church-state separation, U.S. politics | 5 Comments

Blogs That Make My Day

I’m not sure I deserve it, Gentle Readers, but I have been given a blog award.  Pastor Bob Cornwall has listed me as one of 5 “Blogs That Make My Day.”  Now, I am to choose 5 and give reasons.

In no particular order, here they are:

Faith and Theology, the personal blog of Australian theologian Ben Myers, is the best theology blog on the web, period.  That would be true even if I didn’t share much of the Barthian perspective Myers holds. It would be true for the links and guest posts alone.  Ben’s connection of theology and literature and the arts are also real treats.  Since I am not currently either on a church staff, nor teaching theology and theological ethics, this blog keeps me from feeling too far out of the loop. It’s also fun. Thanks Ben, since I know it must be quite a bit of work to keep up the high standards you show.

Chrisendom, the personal blog of Chris Tilling, is a mixture of biblical studies (especially NT), contemporary theology, and offbeat humor from an Englishman living in Germany.  Tilling is a formerly VERY conservative evangelical who has moved to a center-left view–more conservative on historical matters in Scripture, and more liberationist in theological perspective.  I love his humor. I almost always find Chris to be uplifting–and that is a rare treat among blogs.

Big Daddy Weave, Aaron Weaver’s blog, is a great blog about Baptist-related matters in the U.S. (for the U.K., I look to Sean the Baptist and for Central America and the Carribbean, I check out Doing Theology From the Carribbean–I don’t have great blog insights into Baptist scenes elsewhere, yet). It’s also good on church-state matters and politics by a younger, white, centrist Baptist from Georgia, living in Texas. Since he is recovering from a car crash, Aaron could also use your prayers.

Melissa Rogers has the best blog about church-state matters and the intersection of religion and politics in the U.S. scene that is available.  Melissa is an attorney who used to work for the Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty, the church-state watchdog group of 9 Baptist denominations in the U.S. She is now Visiting Professor of Religion and Public Policy at the Divinity School of Wake Forest University and the Founder and Director of WFU’s Center for Religion and Public Affairs. Many of Melissa’s posts are just news updates, themselves absolutely invaluable, but her commentaries are not to be missed, either.

Finally, I read daily A Paynehollow Visit, the personal blog of my good friend, Dan Trabue. Dan is a fellow member with me of Jeff Street Baptist Community at Liberty. Like me, he is married to a preacher woman (once there, you never go back!) and draws his faith largely from the Anabaptist strand of Baptist tradition. Dan got me into blogging. He challenges me constantly to simplify my lifestyle. His very musical and artistic family keep me from being so linear in my thinking.  He is also the MOST patient person I’ve ever met in dialogue with those who don’t just disagree, but seem to hate his guts!

Keeping this list to 5 was hard.  Other blogs that make my day include On the Homefront, the peace blog of Marty, a Baptist-turned-United Methodist in Texas whose son fought in the Iraq War. She is a tireless opponent of this and all wars, while also seeking REAL support for the returning troops and exposing the false patriotism of the Right.  Dr. Bruce Prescott’s personal blog, Mainstream Baptist, attempts to articulate a non-fundamentalist Baptist perspective in Oklahoma, to combat fundamentalism and both the religious and political right, but especially that portion of the Right which advocates some form of theocracy or near-theocracy.  Texas in Africa is the personal blog of a Ph.D. student in political science who teaches at the University of Texas in Austin and who is a U.S. expert on (and frequent visitor to) sub-Saharan Africa. She blogs on Baptists, Africa, human rights, football, politics and much else and has a great sense of humor.  I tend to miss some of her pop-culture references because of a generational gap, but I always find her blog fun and interesting and uplifting.  Thom Stark, a seminary student in the Stone-Campbell tradition (broadly baptist, but not Baptist) who is a pacifist in the Yoder-Hauerwas tradition with a strong interest in liberation theology, has the wonderful blog, Semper Reformanda, which reminds us that the work of reformation is never finished.  Earth as it is in Heaven is not updated often enough, but is a great theology and faith-based social criticism blog by my friend, Mike Broadway. Mike is a fellow pacifist and member of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America and he, a white Southerner from Texas, teaches theology and ethics at Shaw University Divinity School, a predominantly African-American institution. He and his family are members in a National Baptist (African-American) congregation.  The blog reflects his Anabaptist connections and his strong emphasis on racial justice and reconciliation.  For other great blogs, too many to name, see my blog roll.

For the 5 whom I have named as “Blogs That Make My Day,” here is your task:

1) Write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think and/or make your day.
2) Acknowledge the post of the award giver (Thanks very much, Bob!).
3) Tell the award winners that they have won by commenting on their blogs with the news!

June 2, 2008 Posted by | blogs | 5 Comments

Hillary Clinton Has NOT Won the Popular Vote

Sen. Clinton’s final, desperate, attempt to swing remaining superdelegates her way and secure the Democratic nomination involves the claim that she is the winner of the “popular vote” in the primary season.  Well, due to the huge turnout on the Democratic side of the primary season, she has won more votes than any presidential candidate in a general election–yes, she has won more than Bush did in his narrow victory over Kerry and his “victory” over Gore.  But her claim that she has won more votes than Obama in this season’s Democratic races involves fraudulent math: As reported here, Clinton’s “win” involves not only counting the vote in Florida (where all candidates pledged not to campaign) and Michigan (where she was the only candidate who disobeyed the DNC instructions to remove her name from the ballot), but also discounting all the states which held caucuses rather than primaries.  That’s 14 states holding legal elections she has to discount and 2 holding elections which broke the rules (in Florida’s case, but not Michigan’s, this was because the GOP dominated legislature forced the moving up of the primary, so I have more sympathy with FL Dems) which she must count in order to have “won the popular vote.” That’s a Soviet-style election math!

I doubt seriously that the superdelegates will fall for this specious argument (although some of the idiot mouthpieces on the media are), especially since Democratic leaders in both Michigan and Florida seem satisfied with the compromise worked out Saturday by the Rules Committee.  By the way, the Clinton campaign alienated that committee by making no attempt whatsoever to meet the Obama campaign halfway. Obama could have insisted on a 50-50 split in Michigan (which would make him even more uncatcheable now), but allowed the committee to give her the majority of delegates based on an exit polling formula.  He has played by the rules constantly and won anyway. 

His grassroots, outsider organizing is one part of the story. He also won over the majority of party insiders from the Clintons.  Let’s be clear: She started as practically crowned the nominee by the Party bosses and by the media for a full year.  She had most of the African-American vote until Iowa showed that Obama could win white votes. She still had nearly 50% of the black vote until racist remarks by Clinton surrogates near the time of the S.C. vote, after which the black vote became 90-10.  She has won more Latino votes, but not everywhere and in national polls, the majority of Latino votes are swinging behind Obama.  This race was Clinton’s to lose and she has lost it–and in such a way that her influence throughout the Party and nation is less than before February.

And Obama is STILL being magnamimous and reaching out to both her and her supporters as we move into the general election.

The campaign against McCain will be tough, but Obama has shown himself to be a very tough candidate. I think he has a very good chance at victory–both in the popular and electoral college votes (and, until we can abolish the un-democratic electoral college, we need both).  Obama said yesterday in South Dakota that he expects Sen. Clinton to be a very strong ally and assett in the general election.  I hope he is right.

June 2, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments