Saturday, March 15, 2008

Separated at Birth?


While watching them perform on Thursday night, I could not help but notice that Meat Puppets' bass player and vocalist Cris Kirkwood presently resembles former Monkee Mickey Dolenz. I am thinking he would definitely hate the comparison!

(I apologize - it was difficult finding pictures of Kirkwood.)

View from 315A

The old adage be careful what you wish for seemed especially appropriate yesterday as Tennessee trailed South Carolina with 12 seconds remaining at the SEC Tournament in the Georgia Dome. The previous day I had been rooting for South Carolina to be Tennessee’s opponent and ,now, it appeared as though the Gamecocks might upset the Vols. Chris Lofton dashed their hopes with a 3-point shot with 11.4 seconds remaining, sealing an 89-87 win and validating our hotel reservations.

Tennessee had won their previous two meetings with USC by an average of 28.5 points, including a 33-point win in Knoxville just five days earlier. So when they were playing LSU, whom UT had only beaten by 2, the Gamecocks seemed like the softer opponent. LSU had also been playing well, compiling a 5-4 record since firing their coach on February 8. I was pleased with South Carolina 77-73 win.

South Carolina (14-18) played inspired basketball against UT, knowing their next loss would mean the last game for Coach Dave Odom, who announced his retirement in January. Devan Downey scored 26 and Zam Fredrick added 24 to lead the Gamecocks.

The Vols shot 73 percent in the second half to overcome 18 turnovers. The second half was tightly contested throughout with six ties and eight lead changes. Much like the Florida home game this year, Tyler Smith scored all 13 of his points in the second half. At one juncture, he scored eleven consecutive points. He also had 7 rebounds and 5 assists.

Tennessee had four players in double-figures. Wayne Chism led the team with 23 points and 7 rebounds.

For awhile, it seemed like the Volunteers’ woes in the conference tournament would continue. Despite his success, the win was Bruce Pearl’s first at the event. UT lost last year in the first round to sixth-seeded LSU, 76-67 in overtime. The previous year, South Carolina knocked off the eastern division champions, 79-71.

SMA and I stayed to cheer Arkansas to victory over Vanderbilt, as they vied to be Tennessee’s next opponent. Since our last loss was at Vanderbilt and since they were the only other nationally ranked opponent left in the field, we wanted them to lose. They did, 81-75. We can only hope our dream does not become another nightmare.

Random Game Notes:

  • Prior to the game, Tennessee was awarded the trophy representing its first outright SEC title in 41 years.
  • Tennessee is in the semifinals of the SEC tournament for the first time since 1991. The Vols have not won the championship since 1979.
  • Lofton’s game-winner was only his second three-pointer of the game on ten attempts.
  • Unfortunately, Zam Fredrick’s full first name is not Shazam, but rather Zambolist.
  • Most of Fredrick’s points came in the first half on open looks from behind the three-point arc when he was mismatched with a Tennessee post player.
  • Dave Odom finishes his career with a 406-278 record. He was 128-104 at South Carolina.
  • At the outset of the tournament, the All-SEC team was announced. Chris Lofton and Tyler Smith made the first team, while JaJuan Smith made the second. J.P. Prince was named the conference’s best sixth man and Bruce Pearl shared the coach of the year honors with Kentucky’s Billy Gillespie. (Seriously?) Finally, JaJuan Smith was Tennessee’s lone representative on the All-Defensive team.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Bible Trivia - 3/14/2008

Question: What was done to Joseph’s body when he died?

Answer: He was embalmed and placed in a coffin. (Genesis 50:26)

Comments: Though the Hebrew (’arown) is used over 200 times in the Old Testament, this is the only time the word is translated “coffin.” It is most often rendered “ark.”

Joseph’s embalming and burial are indicative of an Egyptian burial. His age of death, 110, is also Egyptian, as this was considered the perfect age for an Egyptian to die.

Word of the Day - 3/14/2008

Ubiquitous

Ubiquitous means existing or being everywhere, especially at the same time; omnipresent.

In Psalm 139, David speaks of God’s ubiquitous nature:

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me. (Psalm 139:7-10, NASB)


Some have said that the Book of Job is a midrash of Psalm 139. At times Job agrees with the sentiments of the Psalm; but more often than not he turns its meaning upside down. In Job 23, he uses the imagery of Psalm 139:7-12 to articulate his complaint. Rather than expressing God’s presence, Job uses the Psalm's format to describe the feeling of divine abandonment.

Behold, I go forward but He is not there,
And backward, but cannot perceive Him; W
hen He acts on the left, I cannot behold Him;
He turns on the right, I cannot see Him. (Job 23:8-9, NASB)

Even though God is presently inaccessible to him, Job still believes that one day God will vinidcate him!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

In Eckleburg’s Eyes - 3/14/2008

Thursday Night was spent with Couple Y at the Built to Spill (BTS) concert at the Bijou Theatre. Built to Spill is, in my estimation, the best band to ever hail from the state of Idaho. Admittedly, they are the only Idahoan band I know.

I considered taking Flat Stanley with me, but I determined that the concert was not age appropriate. So I left him locked in the car for hours. I will be a great parent one day.

Prior to the concert, we met MEV and her architect friends J and R at The Tomato Head. I had never met them but enjoyed their company immensely. I had not eaten at Tomato Head in some time but fortunately I was with regulars. I let MEV order for me and she selected the “Oh Boy.” It was delicious.

The highlight of the night came when Built to Spill lead singer Doug Martsch walked in the restaurant. While he was examining the restaurant’s art work, we spoke to him. He was very unassuming and cordial. He noted that this was his first time in Knoxville. I have seen BTS before - in Atlanta on September 25, 2001. The concert was held two weeks after 9/11 and Modest Mouse, one of the opening acts, had a video montage of planes crashing into buildings. It was too soon and rather disturbing.

Doug seemed very appreciative of our support. This photo is slightly deceptive. Doug was (a) not our waiter and (b) can really rock. Do not be fooled by his normal physique.

I must note that Tomato Head is LMM’s favorite Knoxville restaurant. LMM, I thought about you when I was there.

Having bought our seats on the first day they were available in December, we had third row seats. (In fact, my ears are still ringing as I type this.) We had an extra ticket and left it for SH at will call but she could not attend. It is for the best. The last time we left a will call ticket at the Bijou (for a Mr. Barney Rubble), we had great difficulties.

We arrived in time to hear the first opening act. They were comprised of some BTS members and another lead singer. Honestly, we were not too upset at our late arrival.

The next performance was from another veteran act, The Meat Puppets. Perhaps their biggest claim to fame was having served as guest musicians during Nirvana’s legendary November 1993 MTV Unplugged performance in New York. Nirvana covered three Meat Puppets songs on that program. The Meat Puppets began touring again after a four-year hiatus in 2006.

They were awesome! They even covered "Tennessee Stud." Cris Kirkwood’s frenetic guitar playing energized the crowd. He noted that he and his brother Curt had not played Knoxville since 1982. A fan chimed in that the duo had returned in 1991 and Cris accused the man of being on drugs. Whether that was to refute his present claim or an acknowledgment of a 1991 memory was left for the listeners to decide.

At 10:21, BTS finally hit the stage. The crowd rose and stood throughout their entire set. BTS was billed as plugging their most recent album after a five-year gap, You in Reverse. It was released on April 11, 2006. While they did perform songs from that album, they also played three new songs and a cover. After each song, Doug (decked in a Kurt Vonnegut shirt) said simply, "Thanks." They were excellent as always.

The Bijou is an interesting venue for a hard rock show. The audience is encouraged to remain at least by their seats during a performance which is not conducive to a rock show. Before the night was over, the aisles were lined with "dancing" fans. I even blasted out my rendition of BTS' "Big Dipper" along with Doug and the rest of the crowd.

Afterwards, we were slated to celebrate MWD’s 21st birthday with she and her boyfriend B at the Downtown Grill and Brewery. By the grace of God, this was cancelled at we did not return to our vehicle until after midnight. With an early drive to Atlanta awaiting me the next morning, I was relieved. Happy Birthday anyway, MDW!

This also allowed me to go home and pack. That was probably a good thing.

March 13th is a popular birthday. (What does that say about June 13th?) Thursday also marked the birthdays of church acquaintances MEH and JAJS. Also it was JECL’s 30th birthday. She was one of my best friends at West High School. As I used to tell you in high school, “13 and Bye.”

Associated Baptist Press - 3/13/2008

Associated Baptist Press
March 13, 2008 (8-28)

IN THIS ISSUE:
Is Religious Right dead or part of new center?
Will Baptists be counted among those in the ‘evangelical center’?
Bangladesh church leader wins BWA human rights award
Musings on a new Southern Baptist declaration on climate change

Is Religious Right dead or part of new center?
By Robert Marus

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- Reports the Religious Right’s demise have been greatly exaggerated, according to Tony Perkins and Harry Jackson.

But Jim Wallis, Samuel Rodriguez, David Gushee and other leaders and authors argue that the Religious Right, while not dead, is certainly suffering from a failure to thrive.

Both sides may be right.

Perkins and Jackson, both prominent Religious Right leaders, hosted a March 12 Washington discussion on their new book, Personal Faith, Public Policy. In the text, they argue that the movement known as the Religious Right is not dead or dying but is actually expanding – despite recent media stories noting that a new generation of evangelicals is increasingly weary of the culture-war rhetoric that is the movement’s hallmark.

“I feel amazingly well; I don’t feel like I’m cracking up or I’m dying,” Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told reporters. “These headlines, like the paper that they’re written on, are recycled.”

Perkins and Jackson -- a Washington-area pastor and key African-American supporter of President Bush in his successful 2000 and 2004 election campaigns -- note in the book that the “liberal media” has at least twice in the past pronounced the Religious Right dead. The first was in 1989 after the death of the Moral Majority. The second was in the late 1990s after Congress failed in its impeachment efforts and the Christian Coalition’s influence began to wane.

Jackson said the fact that many younger evangelical leaders seem as concerned with global poverty and the environment as with abortion rights or sexuality shows that the Religious Right is simply evolving. “Our movement is not dead; it’s maturing,” he claimed.

But Wallis and other Christian leaders say that, inasmuch as a broad evangelical political movement exists and is maturing, it is maturing beyond the causes and structures of the Religious Right.

“I am not one of those who say the Religious Right is dead or gone,” Wallis, head of the Sojourners/Call to Renewal anti-poverty movement, said during the discussion. “What I have said is what has felt like a monologue is over, and a dialogue has begun.”

Wallis said the mainstream media is finally beginning to realize that not all self-described evangelicals are socially or economically conservative, white or obsessed with legalized abortion, gay rights and government endorsements of Christianity.

“I am pro-life as well. The question is, how does a consistent life-ethic apply; how deep and wide does it go?” he said. “To me, it includes the 33,000 children who will die today as a consequence of poverty and disease.”

Jackson and Perkins, in their book and in the discussion, acknowledged that the Religious Right has, in some cases, been too closely identified with the Republican Party -- and that both may have suffered a loss of confidence from evangelicals, as evidenced by the number who voted for Democrats in the 2006 mid-term congressional elections.

“I think we saw in 2006 there was some hesitancy to challenge the Republicans in their long train of scandals that derailed their majority,” Perkins said. “I know that I was criticized for speaking out against some of the Republicans, for instance, [disgraced Florida congressman] Mark Foley, because there was concern that if we spoke out against them we would lose our majority.”

Some questioners noted that the Republican Party, in turn, was poised to nominate a presidential candidate -- Arizona Sen. John McCain -- who has had a contentious relationship with the Religious Right.

But Perkins said conservative Christians are still exerting influence in the party.

“I think the fact that we have a McCain candidacy shows that evangelicals are strong and it’s not a Rudy Giuliani candidacy,” he claimed, noting the collapse of the moderate former New York mayor’s GOP campaign. “Clearly, the Big Apple values were seen as being totally inappropriate to the core of the Republican Party.”

The fact that Jackson and Perkins have written their book is itself vindication of the idea that evangelical politics is changing, said David Gushee, a Mercer University professor (and Associated Baptist Press columnist) who has written a new book hailing the emergence of what he calls the “evangelical center.”

At a separate March 11 panel discussion on Gushee’s book, The Future of Faith in American Politics, Gushee said Jackson and Perkins are offering a “reformist vision” of the conservative evangelical political movement that seems to have a lot in common with what leaders like Wallis and others are saying.

“It looks like the evangelical center is indeed arriving and that many are converging toward that center,” Gushee said.

Rich Cizik, chief public-policy officer for the National Association of Evangelicals, said the emergence of new evangelical politics will change the “us-versus-them” tone with which many conservative Christians have addressed those who disagree.

“It’s moving, you see, from a zero-sum-game politics where someone else has to lose for us to win, to a common-good vision of politics,” he said.

Cizik should know. He has drawn repeated fire from the Religious Right’s old-guard leaders for his outspokenness and willingness not to toe the traditional conservative line on issues such as global warming and torture.

“In transactional politics you exchange goods, services, votes or whatever in return. And the evangelicals were in effect saying to the leaders of the Religious Right, ‘We’ll give you our support’” in voting for a party that seemed to embrace the values they found important, Cizik said. But more moderate and liberal Christians, as well as non-Christians, fought back.

But, he continued, “Transformational politics is very, very different.”

The Religious Right might not be changing its tone altogether, though. For example, Perkins’ book assails those who support gay rights or strong church state-separation as “anti-Christian” and contends that media and political elites continue to harbor anti-Christian biases.

Nonetheless, the fact that Perkins would even invite Wallis to appear on the same panel with him may itself be the sign of new cooperation with groups his movement has often vilified.

“We do have some common ground with Jim Wallis and others that approach some of the same issues, but we approach them different,” Perkins admitted at the March 12 event.

“This is an example of a new dialogue,” Wallis said.

-30-

-- This story is the third in a series about an emerging evangelical center.

Will Baptists be counted among those in the ‘evangelical center’?
By Greg Warner

(ABP) -- If an “evangelical center” emerges from the current shake-up in American politics, will moderate Baptists be part of it?

It depends on how comfortable moderate Baptists are with being considered “evangelicals” in the first place.

Moderate and progressive Baptists certainly share many beliefs and public-policy goals with the non-fundamentalist evangelicals making their presence felt on the public scene for the first time in three decades.

But Baptists aren’t technically evangelicals at all, most historians say. They come from a different theological and denominational lineage.

However, some theologians counter, if you look simply at what Baptists believe and how they practice their faith, they look very much like evangelicals.

That debate might make for interesting table conversation when moderate or progressive Baptists get together with kin from other denominational traditions. But then there’s that whole Religious Right thing. Its inflexible political agenda and conservative theology have turned off centrist Baptists and saddled evangelical centrists with a negative public image.

“Fundamentalists have hijacked the term ‘evangelical,’” lamented Baptist theologian Roger Olson, a Northern evangelical who moved to the Southern Baptist-dominated South a few years ago to teach.

A professor of theology at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Olson is more familiar with traditional evangelicalism than are the moderate Baptists with whom he associates in Waco, Texas.

Olson and others who embrace the “evangelical” label are trying hard to rehabilitate the definition to include non-fundamentalists. His latest book, How to Be Evangelical Without Being Conservative, is one attempt.

“If you define evangelicalism as core doctrinal beliefs, there’s no reason why Baptists would not be evangelicals,” agreed ethicist David Gushee, a Southern Baptist moderate who moves easily in the broader evangelical world. Baptists and evangelicals share beliefs in “the inspired Word of God, the importance of personal experience, living out their faith in every area of life, and the obligation to share their faith,” he said.

“Most moderate, former-SBC Christians are evangelical Christians, and most are evangelical centrists,” added Gushee, a professor of ethics at Mercer University and a columnist for Associated Baptist Press. His recent book, The Future of Faith in American Politics, tracks the resurgence of the evangelical center as a significant political force.

Unlike Gushee, Olson prefers a definition of evangelicals based not on common doctrine but common Christian practices, which he describes as a “Jesus-centered piety.”

Seen in that light, Olson said, moderates in the South “are not as different as they think” from Northern evangelicals, who are far outnumbered in the North by Catholics, mainline Christians and those of other faiths.

Most historians date the evangelical movement to the early-and-mid-20th- century United States, when evangelicals offered an alternative to both mainline Protestant liberalism and reactionary fundamentalism. Baptists in America, who generally were not part of that struggle, grew out of European Anabaptist and British Baptist roots in the 16th century.

But Gushee contends the evangelical movement also has roots in an earlier era. “If you trace it back to the Protestant renewal movements all the way back to Luther, then I think Baptists are very much evangelicals,” he said.

“I have worked alongside evangelical Methodists, evangelical Pentecostals,” Gushee said. “They are brothers and sisters. There are distinctives about being Baptist, but there is also commonality with other Bible-believing Christians.”

But Gushee and Olson concede many moderate Baptists don’t want to be linked to evangelicals today because of the group’s perceived negative image. In recent decades, the popular definition of “evangelical” has become more akin to “social conservative” -- particularly on the hot-button issues of abortion and gay rights.

Historian Bill Leonard, an expert on Baptist origins, said Baptists’ discomfort with evangelicalism predates the Religious Right.

“Moderate Baptists certainly have affinity with classic evangelicalism, but they have also been concerned about several aspects of the movement,” said Leonard, dean of the Wake Forest University Divinity School in North Carolina.

He also cited the movement’s penchant for a rationalistic approach to theology and its mostly regional appeal: “Some said evangelicalism was a ‘Northern phenomenon.’”

Likewise, moderates’ theological debates with Southern Baptist conservatives “often soured moderate Baptists toward identifying with any movement that seemed too doctrinaire,” Leonard said in an e-mail interview.

“On the other hand, there are indeed many moderate Baptists who are unashamedly evangelical in their approach to doctrine, faith and ethics, insisting that evangelicalism is the overarching movement that will unite Baptists around categories distinct from the old moderate-conservative debates that were present in the Southern Baptist Convention.”

The discomfort was also present on the other side of the fence, he said.

“Many traditional evangelicals, especially north of Baltimore, have been hesitant to include Baptists in the South in the evangelical camp, in part because [the Southern Baptists] seemed less interested in classical theology and more concerned about popular, pietistic religion, and in part because [the Northern evangelicals] did not fully understand the ethos of Southern Protestantism and its culture.”

On that point, Olson agreed.

“Minnesota and Texas are totally different,” he said. Even when they share many opinions and beliefs, evangelicals North and South “just don’t understand each other.”

“The takeover of the SBC is so unique, people in the North just shake their heads,” he said. “Until I got here I couldn't even comprehend that.”

“The great tragedy,” Gushee added about the SBC, “is a great denomination came under control of a party that required leadership to be aligned with the evangelical right.”

Gushee recently left a teaching position at Union University, a conservative Baptist school in Tennessee closely tied to the SBC, and found a more tolerant academic climate at Mercer University in Georgia.

He said the welcome he has received is “the same spirit that welcomed me” when he left Catholicism as a teenager and ventured into a Baptist church. He said he is hopeful that one day “that natural diversity is allowed to surface again” among Southern Baptists.

He said he sees some “stirrings” indicating that is possible, but he added, “I'm just glad my future doesn't depend on it.”

-30-

-- This story is the second in a series about an emerging evangelical center.

Bangladesh church leader wins BWA human rights award
By ABP Staff

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- Dennis Dilip Datta has been named the 2008 recipient of the Baptist World Alliance Denton and Janice Lotz Human Rights Award.

Datta, a Baptist leader from the Muslim-majority country of Bangladesh, won the award for his advocacy for Bangladesh independence, the restoration of democracy there, and the establishment of religious freedom in his country, a press release from BWA said.

As founding general secretary and current president of the National Christian Fellowship of Bangladesh, which takes special interest in human rights causes, Datta is the spokesman for churches to the government of Bangladesh and has worked against laws to control church ministries.

He has written several books on human rights and religious freedom, including Strength to Endure and Government Decision: Churches Reaction.

The former president and general secretary of the Bangladesh Baptist Fellowship served on the BWA’s General Council and was a member of the Commission on Freedom and Justice and the Communications Committee.

Datta will receive the annual human rights award, named after former BWA General Secretary Denton Lotz and his wife Janice, during the General Council meeting this July in Prague.

The 2007 recipients were Joao and Nora Matwawana from Angola, who played a pivotal role in peace efforts in Burundi, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Angola.

-30-

Musings on a new Southern Baptist declaration on climate change

By David Gushee

The question before all Christians at all times is whether we will follow Jesus by seeking wholeheartedly to do God’s will.

Too often in American Christian/evangelical/Baptist life we have allowed ourselves to displace our loyalty to Jesus Christ and replace unflinching obedience to his will with other loyalties and priorities. We have been loyal to our political party, our denomination or intra-denominational party, our ideology, our self-interest, our nation, our “side.” Too often the wounds we have suffered in our wretched internecine conflicts have damaged our ability to see a Christian brother or sister across the party/ideology/nation/denomination barricade. Loyalty to our side comes first; anger over past wounds still prevails. And so we lose the ability to love our (alienated Christian) neighbor as ourselves.

This week a group of significant Southern Baptist leaders released a theological statement on the environment. Their statement (which I had no involvement with) says the following, in my distillation:

-- Faithful Christians are obligated to respond to the pressing moral demands and duties of the age in which they live.

-- Environmental and climate change issues are among those pressing moral challenges today.

-- The current stance of the Southern Baptist Convention on such issues has been too timid and cautious and may hurt the denomination’s moral witness.

-- Christians must care for creation as an aspect of obedience to God’s will. When we fail to do so, we violate God’s will and offer a poor witness to the world.

-- While there is not unanimity in the scientific community about the cause or severity of climate change, there is broad- and intense-enough scientific concern about this issue that prudence and moral responsibility require that we address the problem now.

-- Christians must care about environmental and climate issues because of our love for God, God’s Word, and our neighbors.

-- It is now time for human beings at all levels of human community to act, beginning with voluntary efforts and extending to serious consideration of government policy options.

To all of these propositions I can only say yes.

More could have been said. The statement could have embraced mainstream climate science more unequivocally. It could have named the projected problems caused by climate change more concretely. It could have been more specific in naming policy measures that are worth supporting and offering such support. I prefer the Evangelical Climate Initiative of 2006 for all of these reasons.

But the statement also could not exist. The presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Union University, Palm Beach Atlantic University, California Baptist University, Southwest Baptist University, and the Kentucky Baptist Convention (among others) could have chosen to hide behind denominational loyalty and personal self-interest and decided not to say a word about this controversial issue. They could have decided that a declaration in which they confess a shortcoming in the current denominational stance would be too controversial. They would not be answering angry emails today if they had chosen to remain silent. Doing nothing is always so much safer.

Instead, they decided to practice the teachings of Jesus. Christians do things like this -- studying Scripture, praying in terms of Scripture, testing behavior by Scripture, confessing wrongdoing in light of Scripture -- then venture ahead in an effort to follow Christ more truly.

For those who are attacking this statement out of loyalty to a summertime SBC resolution or loyalty to “the convention,” I urge you to respect the conscientious effort of your brothers and sisters in Christ to follow Jesus and obey Scripture, and I remind you that Jesus is the only Lord before whom we must bow.

For those who are attacking this statement as too little and too late, I urge you to consider this proposal: Followers of Jesus should respond to brothers and sisters who are venturing onto the right path not by slapping them around but by welcoming them on the journey and offering a helping hand.

-30-

Separated at Birth?


The character of Leroy Brown (David Mann) in Tyler Perry’s stage play Meet the Browns eerily resembles 1990's professional wrestler Mo (Bobby Horne) from the tag team Men on a Mission (MOM). The film version of Meet the Browns will open in theaters on march 21. MOM held the WWF (now WWE) tag team championship for two days in 1994. Mann is on the left and Horne on the right.

Bible Trivia - 3/13/2008

Question: How many children did God give to Job to replace his lost children?

Answer: 10 (Job 42:13)

Comments: At both the outset and conclusion of the Book of Job, the title character has ten children - seven sons and three daughters. (Seven sons and three daughters was the ancient Hebrew equivalent of the contemporary American’s 2.4 kids.)

The significance of this fact is that at the book’s conclusion, Job does not have twice as many children as he started with. A comparison of Job’s holdings before (Job 1:3) and after his trial (Job 42:12), will show that all of his possessions are doubled at the end of the book. His number of children remain the same. Children are irreplaceable. No amount of children would have replaced the ones he lost. The text subtly acknowledges this.

Word of the Day - 3/13/2008

Straiten

To straiten means to put into difficulties, esp. financial ones

In Jesus’ most famous parable, a severe famine straitens the Prodical Son while he frolics in a distant country. (Luke 15:14)

In Eckleburg’s Eyes - 3/13/2008

On Wednesday morning, CBP and I met at Bruegger’s to debrief regarding my teaching performance at Carson-Newman on February 28th. I had never eaten there before though evidently it has been open since December 15, 2006. (My obliviousness is not overly surprising.) The bakery is in the same shopping center as the Knoxville staple, Long's Drug Store. Its set-up rivals Subway and Pita Pit, with an emphasis on bagels. I enjoyed it.

CBP was basically complimentary, as usual. Her one criticism was basically that I overused the word “basically.” Basically, this happens to be one of her pet peeves as she has basically found that it is the new pause word for society, replacing the ever popular “uh...”. I had never noticed that I used this word. Basically, I am telling you this so that you can hold me accountable to have a more diverse vocabulary and basically not use the word “basically” so much.

The good news is that she asked me back next semester.

While there she also gave me a Flat Stanley. Flat Stanley was originally a children’s book, written by Jeff Brown in 1964. In the story, Stanley Lambchop is flattened when a bulletin board falls him. Flattened, he finds he can be mailed to his friends. The book was adapted into a project by Dale Hubert, a third grade teacher in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1995. It is meant to facilitate letter-writing by school children as they document what Flat Stanley has done with them.

My Flat Stanley is the property of Joseph Sloan, a kindergartner at Statesville (NC) Montessouri School. I may take Stanley to the SEC tournament this weekend. So long as I do not have to buy him a ticket.

On Wednesday night, I ate with my dad at the Silver Spoon Café as my mother was attending the Anne Murray concert at the Tennessee Theatre. I was not invited. Perhaps they assumed I would not want to go. If so, they would have been correct. DLNV, you may not always want to go to the party, but it’s always nice to be asked.

While at the restaurant, I got to see KGG! She was out with her friend ZW. She is well and will be in Destin for Spring Break next week. I apologize for the lightning in the picture. The restaurant’s lights dimmed at 8 to set a romantic mood. Dad and I really appreciated it too.

Yesterday was also BC’s birthday. Happy birthday!

As you may know, Subway’s latest marketing campaign features the ten-year anniversary of Jared Fogle’s weight loss. They are using the time honored tradition of before and after photos. Am I the only one who think Subway’s Jared looked more likeable fat? Maybe it’s the fact that he is wearing a Colts (Marshall Faulk) t-shirt. Then again, this is digitally erased on television and he still looks more affable to me. Anyone?

By the way, who asked Jared for an autograph?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Prayer Blog - 3/12/2008

I will be sending out my resume and a sample sermon this week in hopes of obtaining a job. Please pray that, if it be God’s will, one of the churches will show some interest. If none do, pray that God provide a church for me.

Most of this list came after meeting with JWT at the Knox County Association of Baptists. The rest came from ads in the February 20th issue of the Baptist and Reflector. Some I am painfully unqualified for, but I thought it could not hurt to send a resume.

Here is the list:

Asterisk (*) denotes a bi-vocational position.

Bible Trivia - 3/12/2008

Question: Of which son of Noah was Abraham a descendant?

Answer: Shem. (Genesis 11:10-26)

Comments: Abraham descended from Noah’s son Shem. Based upon the genealogical records of Genesis 11, it is possible that the two even met. Though Shem precedes Abraham by nine generations and several hundred years, Shem outlives him!.

In fact, rabbis identify Shem as the esoteric Melchizedek of Genesis 14. This is an apology against the Book of Hebrews which uses the priesthood of Melchizedek to usurp the superiority of the Aaronic priesthood. In equating Melchizedek with Shem, the rabbis attempt to reassert the precedence (and as such superiority) of the Aaronic priesthood.

The correlation is first made by R. Ishmael, a contemporary of R. Akiba; (ca. 110-135 CE), transmitted by R. Zechariah (probably 4th cent.) (b. Nedarim 32b).

Word of the Day - 3/12/2008

Demulcent

Demulcent means soothing or mollifying, as a medicinal substance.

Before David became king, was a subject of King Saul. In fact, when an "evil spirit from God came to Saul," Saul summoned David as his harp had a demulcent of effect. (I Samuel 16:23)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 3/12/2008

I spent Tuesday night with RAW and his family, knowing that my travel plans the next two weeks will keep me from them.

I arrived and briefly got to see PWC, RSC, and PEW. An exhausted KJW, RAW and I watched "SpongeBob SquarePants" on television. That show must be on all day as whenever I am there, it is on. (Yes, RAW and KJW are sharing a plush Winnie the Pooh as a pillow.)

Her gift on this day was a foam basketball. She seemed to like it. It is as much for me as her. I can now pelt her in the head guilt free. (Is it wrong that I enjoy that so much?) Plus, when she retaliates, this ball is much softer than a golf ball. It is well worth the 88¢ I paid for it.


After she was well rested, we took KJW to MoFoS to see JTH and generally reek havoc on the store. We always give her free reign. If any other guardian allowed a child to do this, I would resent them. It appears my hypocrisy knows no bounds. As this picture indicates, there were consequences to her rambunctiousness.

KJW eventually got the better of things. She knocked over a display cut out of Homer Simpson. She snuck in betwen shelves where no adult could reach her. Most importantly, she also took her revenge on JTH as she discovered that pulling the strings on his hoodie resulted in choking him.

In other KJW news, her favorite new word is “sucks.” I take great pride in the fact that though she spends a lot of time around guys, it was her mother who inadvertently taught her this word. KLTW used the descriptor while on the phone and KJW quickly picked it up. Children have a knack for picking up the thing you least want them to. It’s like a gift. I cannot wait to hear about her Nana's reaction when her cute little granddaughter says this word clear as day.

We stayed at MoFoS until closing and then returned to RAW’s house. JTH joined us after he had found his copy of Happy Campers that we had hidden in ths store. We arrived at the same time as KLTW. She actually had a patient yesterday whose real name was Mr. Dildoman. Evidently he pronounces it dil-dom-man. I would too.

The highlight of the night was KJW leading the entire group in a dance session. It was so fun mimicking her moves. The dance ended when we all fell down to “ashes, ashes, we all fall down.” It was good, dorky fun. I just hope nobody saw through the window.

Yesterday marked DBN’s birthday so we called and all talked to him. He returns to Knoxville on March 24th. He will be living in Fox Lake apartment complex and selling landline phone for AT&T. The job is a term job, but fortunately the term is three years. Happy Birthday, Mongo!

The only negative yesterday came with a startling self discovery. I was watching a segment on E! Television. (No, I do not know why.) It noted that the most probable person described in Alanis Morisette’s 1995 hit “You Ought to Know” is shockingly Dave Coulier who played Joey Gladstone on "Full House." They dated after meeting at a hockey game in 1992. She was only 16!

More stupefying than this was the revelation that I am Joey in RAW’s family scheme. MPW is the good looking biological uncle and I am the perpetually single comedic counterpart! I told this to RAW and he protested greatly, but not to appease me. In that analogy he was Bob Saget and he was having none of that! So I cut it out. Quit it. Er...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 3/11/2008

Associated Baptist Press
March 11, 2008 (8-27)

IN THIS ISSUE:
Leaders’ statement on climate change suggests Southern Baptist divide
Evangelical turnout for Democrats in Ohio shows diversity, experts say
Broadway Baptist votes to retain pastor amid gay controversy
Ethicist describes recipe for global warming skepticism
More than 4,800 people accept Christ in Caracas outreach effort
Opinion: Unity in the church at the expense of truth

Leaders’ statement on climate change suggests Southern Baptist divide
By Robert Marus

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- A group of prominent Southern Baptists -- including the denomination’s president -- released what some are calling a mild statement on climate change and environmental stewardship March 10.

But the names of several prominent denominational leaders are conspicuously absent from the statement, and the head of the Southern Baptist Convention agency charged with public-policy engagement has pointedly distanced himself from it.

The apparent divide may reflect changing ideological and generational views in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.

SBC president Frank Page, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Danny Akin and other prominent pastors and agency heads released “A Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative” March 10. The statement laments the fact that the denomination’s previous engagement with environmental stewardship has been “too timid, failing to produce a unified moral voice.”

It continues, “Our cautious response to these issues in the face of mounting evidence may be seen by the world as uncaring, reckless and ill-informed. We can do better.”

The declaration also says that Christians have a responsibility to protect the environment. It says that, while there remain legitimate disagreements among scientists and Christian thinkers about whether climate change is caused by human activity, Southern Baptists nonetheless have the responsibility to embrace principles of “creation care” and take “prudent” actions to protect God’s creation.

“[E]ven in the absence of perfect knowledge or unanimity, we have to make informed decisions about the future,” the statement says. “This will mean we have to take a position of prudence based partly on science that is inevitably changing. We do not believe unanimity is necessary for prudent action.

“Though the claims of science are neither infallible nor unanimous, they are substantial and cannot be dismissed out-of-hand on either scientific or theological grounds.”

While the scientific community has come to an overwhelming consensus in the past decade that human activity contributes to global climate change, a vocal minority has claimed the global-warming scare is a hoax.

Many scientists and environmental activists dismiss the argument, noting that many of the studies mounted to disprove global warming were funded by organizations linked closely with the oil industry.

But some pro-business political conservatives have taken up the doubters’ arguments nonetheless. Southern Baptists who question the reality of human-induced warming won a victory during the SBC’s annual meeting this year, when they weakened an already-tepid resolution on global warming before the convention’s messengers approved it.

They removed provisions from the resolution that would have encouraged “government funding to find definitive answers on the issue of human-induced global warming that are based on empirical facts and are free of ideology and partisanship” and “economically responsible government initiatives” to develop energy alternatives to oil.

The resolution as passed mentioned many pieces of evidence cited by global-warming doubters and urged Southern Baptists to be cautious in advocating the subject of climate change.

Richard Land, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, noted the resolution in a March 12 letter about why he did not sign the new statement.

“Southern Baptist public policy advocacy is most effective when it is supported by the broadest possible consensus among Southern Baptists,” Land said.

He noted that his agency’s role is “to express the consensus of Southern Baptists on public policy matters when they have reached such consensus. If the ERLC asserted Southern Baptists were in a different place on an issue than they actually were, we would lose the trust of Southern Baptists, and we would rapidly lose our credibility in Washington as well.”

Therefore, Land said, “it would be misleading and unethical of the ERLC to promote a position at variance with the convention’s expressly stated positions.”

Land also disagreed with the declaration’s assertion that the denomination had been “too timid” in dealing with environmental issues.

But in a March 10 conference call announcing the environmental initiative, its backers claimed it did not conflict with the 2007 SBC resolution.

“It’s not contrary to that statement; it simply builds on it,” said Southeastern Seminary’s Akin. “It has, I would say, a greater sense of urgency. I see it … building upon what Southern Baptists have said in previous statements and position papers.”

Both Akin and Jonathan Merritt -- a seminary student who is the spokesperson for the initiative and son of former SBC president James Merritt, who also signed the statement -- said the document incorporated several suggestions from Land’s ERLC staff.

The organizers took pains to say that, while the document calls Southern Baptists to engage further on the issues, they aren’t making any specific policy recommendations.

“We readily acknowledge that, at this particular moment, we don’t think it would be prudent for us to step out in terms of policy statements, to be specific,” Akin said.

Nonetheless, the press call with organizers featured an appearance by Sen. John Warner (R-Va.). Warner and his colleague, Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman (I) are co-sponsors of the first major greenhouse-gas-reduction bill to make it to the Senate floor. In December, when the bill passed the Senate Environment Committee, Warner was the only Republican on the panel to vote for it.

“I took on this challenge of global warming thinking that I’d like to achieve one more piece of legislation before I retire,” Warner told reporters. “I think it’s in the interest of my children and my grandchildren that I’m a trustee of our environment -- a steward of our environment, as are you.”

The SBC’s news arm, Baptist Press, led its March 10 issue with a story headlined, “Seminary student’s climate-change project is not SBC’s.” It quoted Land extensively and noted that “the so-called ‘Southern Baptist’ statement is not an initiative of” the denomination. However, it acknowledged that its supporters include “a number of high-profile Southern Baptist leaders.”

Besides Page, Akin and Merritt, other signers included Jack Graham, a former SBC president and pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas; Ronnie Floyd, a former SBC presidential candidate and pastor of the First Baptist Church of Springdale, Ark.; David Dockery, president of Union University; Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University; Anthony Jordan, executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma; and Ken Hemphill, former president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and current professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

One prominent signatory’s name was removed from the initiative statement between the time it was released March 10 and the afternoon of March 11. The name of Malcolm Yarnell, a professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, disappeared from the initiative’s website, www.baptistcreationcare.org.

Yarnell’s boss, Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson, is one of the most glaring omissions from the names of supporters. Patterson is one of the architects of the successful effort by theological and political conservatives to take control of the SBC’s governing structures from moderates during the 1980s.

David Gushee, a Mercer University professor and Associated Baptist Press columnist who has advocated for Southern Baptist attention to climate-change issues, said March 11 that the apparent divide over the statement indicates larger faults within the SBC.

“If you know the Southern Baptist landscape at all and you look at the names of who signed and who didn’t sign, this may be the first public revelation of real differences in the currently existing Southern Baptist Convention leadership between center-right leaders and more hard-right people,” he said. “I see this as a center-right statement, and it was just a little bit too far, a little bit too much, for those who would be more right, hard right.”

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Evangelical turnout for Democrats in Ohio shows diversity, experts say
By Hannah Elliott

NEW YORK (ABP) -- Polls showing that 43 percent of white evangelical voters who participated in Ohio’s recent primary election voted for Democrats are further evidence that mainstream media are missing a key story, according to a group of pundits.

Figures from the March 4 contest also showed that no single candidate -- from either party -- won a majority of white evangelicals’ support.

The poll was another in a series commissioned by organizations critical of the media consortium that has sponsored the most widely-reported statistics from the primary elections and caucuses. The consortium -- comprised of the Associated Press and the major broadcast and cable news networks -- have asked only Republican voters if they consider themselves “born-again or evangelical Christians.”

That oversight, said Christian leaders in a March 10 conference call with reporters, is leading media to miss “something big afoot” for the 2008 election.

Jim Wallis, author of The Great Awakening and president of the Christian anti-poverty group Sojourners, said evidence pointing to a significant change in white evangelical voting patterns has remained the same throughout primary contests nationwide.

“My question for the media really is: How much data does it take to change old media scripts?” he asked. “Because this data is consistent; it will shape the outcome of the election. And I just wonder when the media script is going to change. I mean, the data is now clear all around the country. There has been a dramatic sea change in the evangelical agenda.”

Wallis, whose group was one of the sponsors of the poll, said the apparent shift of white evangelical voters away from the Religious Right reflects a “wider and deeper” agenda than evangelicals seemed to embrace in 2004. Poverty, climate change and war are joining abortion and sexuality as core evangelical issues, he said.

Indeed, the survey found that 42 percent of white evangelical voters said job security and the economy were the most important issues to them. Only 14 percent said abortion and same-sex marriage were paramount.

Economics eclipsed the traditional hot-button issues even among white evangelicals who voted in the Republican primary, with 29 percent citing jobs and the economy as their lead issues and 23 percent citing abortion and gay marriage.

Rich Nathan, pastor of the Vineyard Church of Columbus, Ohio, said he has seen a similarly growing diversity of voting patterns among his flock over the last eight years.

With 12,000 members, Nathan’s congregation is Ohio’s second largest. And while sexuality and sanctity of unborn life are certainly important to his members, he said, they’re not definitive anymore.

“At our church, we run a free medical clinic, a free legal clinic, job-training programs, after-school programs, and dozens and dozens of services for immigrants, and all of that is volunteer-based. And as people are engaged with people who have needs, that also impacts their political perspectives,” he said. “That’s changing the people in the church.”

Church attendees overall may not be as monolithic as previously supposed, the poll suggests. In Ohio, 59 percent of voters who said they attended church at least weekly voted in the Democratic primary.

Past primaries seemed to show the same results. The Feb. 5 “Super Tuesday” primary in Missouri saw 53 percent of total voters reportedly attending church weekly. Democrats got 47 percent of those voters. Meanwhile, in Tennessee’s Super Tuesday contest, 61 percent of voters reported attending church at least once a week. Fifty-four percent of those voted in the Republican primary, while 46 percent voted in the Democratic race.

Shaun Casey, a visiting fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, said the shift is accelerating because evangelicals have lost their previously held illusions that Republicans would end abortion and ban gay marriage. That, in effect, has “loosened them up” to realize a “growing moral horizon,” he said.

“This poll indicates a real political and theological restlessness among evangelicals,” said Casey, who is an ethics professor at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington. “It’s too early to tell where they’ll end up, but we may have seen the high water mark for evangelical voting.”

The poll included results from 400 Republican voters and 400 Democratic voters, with an over-sample of 200 Democratic and 200 Republican white evangelical voters. The left-leaning groups Center for American Progress and Faith in Public Life also sponsored the survey.

Wallis and others cautioned Democrats that just because the shift away from the Religious Right means a broader evangelical agenda, it doesn’t mean that most evangelicals will automatically join the Democratic Party. And it certainly doesn’t mean abortion and gay marriage aren’t important any more.

Evangelicals will respond “to a candidate who speaks the moral language of politics,” he said.

“I think my own view is if Democrats make a woman’s right to choose the only language they use in this election campaign, they will not speak to this concern” about abortion, Wallis said.

But, he added, “If abortion reduction is a primary plank … if Democrats speak to this with some substance, they will win many of those votes.”

The bottom line, each of the experts said, is that white evangelicals are realizing that no party’s platform will ever square completely with the gospel. That, they added, is a healthier, more limited view of the capabilities of political involvement. It also makes presidential politics less predictable than in recent years.

“Half the evangelical electorate is in play,” Wallis reiterated. “Now where it comes down is not clear, but it is in play. It’s real. I’m telling you, I’m on the road every single day. It’s very real.”

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Broadway Baptist votes to retain pastor amid gay controversy
By Robert Marus

FORT WORTH, Texas (ABP) -- A prominent Texas Baptist congregation embroiled in a highly public controversy over homosexuality and other issues chose March 9 to keep its pastor.

Members of Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, voted 499-237 against firing Brett Younger. He has served as the church’s senior minister for nearly seven years.

“The vote means that two-thirds of the congregation wants to continue to be a church that goes beyond what's expected of a church,” Younger said, in an e-mailed response to a request for comment. “Broadway is an amazing congregation that’s willing to deal with difficult issues. The church will keep challenging its members to think and serve."

The decision to retain Younger came weeks after a group of disgruntled Broadway members submitted a petition attempting to force a vote to declare the church’s pulpit vacant. The congregation’s deacons initially recommended a three-month period during which the church would hire a consultant to rejoin the opposing factions. But in late February, Younger asked church leaders to schedule the vote on his fate.

It was the second controversial vote at Broadway in as many weeks. On Feb. 24, the congregation approved a compromise to end controversy over whether gay couples in the church should be pictured alongside other families in a new church directory. Some members objected to having those photos included, saying that would move from simply welcoming gay couples -- which Broadway has done quietly for years -- to actively affirming their homosexuality.

But the gay couples and their supporters opposed removing the photos from the directory. The compromise will feature neither family nor individual photos but instead picture every active member in candid and group photos.

The controversy made its way to the blogs of Broadway members and other interested Baptists and then appeared in both the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Dallas Morning News. Associated Baptist Press, gay news organizations and other national news outlets then picked up on the controversy.

It soon ballooned into a dispute over Younger’s overall leadership.

The anti-Younger group, calling itself Friends for the Future of Broadway, said the handling of the directory and other issues proved that Younger’s leadership was divisive and that he had led the church away from its “historical moderate Baptist theological heritage.” They cited other recent disputes, including one over a ministry to the homeless and Younger’s invitation of controversial theologian Marcus Borg to speak at Broadway.

A larger group signed a counter-petition supporting Younger’s leadership and calling for continued dialogue over sexuality and other divisive issues within the congregation.

Robert Saul, a spokesman for the group opposing Younger, responded to a request for comment with a prepared statement. It said Friends for the Future of Broadway accepted the congregation’s decision.

“Our desire was for the congregation to be able to vote. Now the members have spoken,” he said. “We respect the will of the majority and pray for the congregation's healing, recovery and continued service to the community that befits a 125-year-old church.”

However, Saul added, as a result of the turmoil, about 300 members have already left or plan leave Broadway.

Younger, for his part, interpreted the vote positively. “The people at Broadway seemed to feel like a two-thirds vote was amazingly affirming,” he said.

Broadway, founded in 1882, has long been one of the most prominent churches in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and in so-called moderate Baptist life nationally. Among its previous pastors was Cecil Sherman, the founding coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. CBF’s current moderator, Harriet Harral, is a longtime Broadway member.

Generations of students, professors and administrators at nearby Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary have been active Broadway members.

While it has always differed in its theological approach and worship style from many Southern Baptist congregations, Broadway has since 1979 increasingly charted away from its historic denomination. That year, increasingly conservative leaders began taking over the Southern Baptist Convention’s governing structure.

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Ethicist describes recipe for global warming skepticism
By Ken Camp

SAN ANTONIO (ABP) -- Conservative Christians have turned a cold shoulder to concerns about global warming, but ethicist David Gushee says he knows why.

“Climate change is among the most heavily reported stories -- and in my view, one of the most significant human challenges -- of the 21st century,” said Gushee, a professor at Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology.

Gushee spoke March 3-4 at the Texas Christian Life Conference, in San Antonio. Attendees gathered to address a theme of “Faith, Science, and Ethics.”

Cultural, ideological and theological factors combine to make many evangelicals skeptical about global warming, Gushee added. He said the “die-hard anti-climate-change soup” follows a recipe of distain, distrust, mistrust, party loyalty, misunderstanding and a reluctance to “believe the unbelievable.”

It all begins with disdain for the environmental movement, he said. Some conservative evangelical Christians associate environmentalists with the 1960s counterculture and “flower power” hippies, he noted.

Others equate the environmental movement in general with “non-Christian or eclectic eco-spiritualities: “It’s Pocahontas talking to spirits in the trees.”

A distrust of mainstream science also plays a role, because the scientific method that produces evidence for global warming also runs contrary to the biblical literalism that teaches the Earth was created in six days less than 10,000 years ago, Gushee said.

“Some use climate change as a proxy for endless fighting of evolution battles,” Gushee said. And Christian talk-radio thrives on generating conflict, he noted.

Furthermore, many conservative evangelicals fail to understand the scientific peer-review process. They seize on a few the findings of a few dissenting scientists rather than the peer-reviewed findings of international scientific panels.

“Think of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as peer-review on steroids,” he said.

A mistrust of mainstream media also contributes to the reluctance of some to take action. Gushee characterized the attitude as “if it’s in the New York Times, it must not be true.”

Conservative niche news outlets and Christian talk-radio reinforce preconceived perceptions that do not challenge the conventional wisdom of political ideologues, he said.

“There’s a need for Christian exposure to diverse new sources,” he said. “The niching of the news has made it so that we never have to encounter an idea we don’t like.”

In recent years, environmentalism has been linked to the Democratic Party. Former Vice President Al Gore “has become a lightning rod” attracting people who are skeptical about global warming because they view the issue through a political lens, Gushee said.

But that could be changing. Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, has bucked the right wing of his own party by supporting legislation to reduce the level of greenhouse gasses.

“Whoever is elected president from among the remaining candidates, I believe we will have significant climate change legislation. And it’s about time,” Gushee said.

The belief in libertarian free-market economics as God’s will proves another challenge, since conservative Christians with a commitment to unfettered capitalism inherently are opposed to government intervention in the marketplace.

“Real or exaggerated worries about the economic effects of climate legislation,” particularly on the poor, also figure into the equation, Gushee said. Some evangelicals genuinely fear that efforts to reduce greenhouse gasses will cause a loss of jobs and negatively impact the poor.

A resurgence of an extreme form of Calvinism “cuts the nerve of acute human responsibility,” Gushee said. The belief that God ordains all things and therefore whatever occurs is destined as part of his plan leads to “the obscenity of complacency.”

Dominion theology finishes the mix of reasons why some adherents to the Religious Right overlook global warming as a legitimate concern.

A reading of Genesis that focuses on the idea of human dominion of creation -- the idea that God gave people free rein to exploit the earth for their own benefit -- needs to be reexamined, Gushee urged.

Rather than sipping the stew of die-hard climate-change skepticism, Gushee offered another entrée.

“A better path is to apply the best scientific resources in conversation with the best theological reflection to discern what it means to be disciples of Jesus Christ today,” he said.

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More than 4,800 people accept Christ in Caracas outreach effort
By Kaitlin Chapman

CARACAS, Venezuela (ABP) -- More than 1,150 Baptists from Venezuela and the United States shared the gospel roughly 10,000 times during a recent evangelism effort called Caracas Crusade 2008.

Jacobo García, director of missions and evangelism of the National Baptist Convention of Venezuela, said he felt “indescribable joy” in working at the event.

“God, in his grace, considered us a group that loves the faith [enough] to work in evangelism in the five zones that compose the capital region and to see several thousands of people coming to the feet of Christ,” Garcia said. “To him we give the glory.”

During the crusade, participants worked alongside Baptist churches within the five geographical zones of Caracas, with congregations hosting nightly services and teams of four doing door-to-door and other evangelism during the day. A team from Tennessee, for instance, held baseball clinics for children while church members shared the gospel with their parents.

A Texas team was assigned to help Iglesia Bautista Monte Carmelo in a part of the capital region called Guarenas-Guatire. Baldemar Borrego, president of the Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas, preached nightly at evangelism services there. Leaders from the Texas team said they shared the gospel with more than 300 people. Half of those came to believe in Jesus, they said.

Borrego said a particularly memorable event happened during the second week in Guarenas, when an alcoholic man entered the service.

“He prayed and accepted Christ,” Borrego said. “After that, he just started crying and couldn’t stop. He knew something had changed him.”

The team also preached at a public school that typically doesn’t allow Christians to speak to students. Lupe Rando, pastor of New Life Baptist Church in Vernon, Texas, spoke for five minutes and said 136 children received Christ as their personal savior.

Borrego also spoke during the annual assembly of the Venezuela Baptist Convention. He said “the people were very excited about this partnership with Texas.” They have committed to pray for every church in Texas because they want Texas to be reached with the gospel as well. Borrego challenged every Texas pastor to do the same for churches in Venezuela.

The convention emphasized follow-up of the new believers -- local churches started 53 new Bible study groups in order to disciple them.

Steve Seaberry, director of Texas Partnerships, said the Caracas Crusade was the perfect way to start a long-term partnership between the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Venezuela convention. Both groups are excited about the joint venture because Venezuelans are ready to receive the gospel, he said.

“The people are very open right now,” Seaberry said. “Times are difficult economically, which makes people open spiritually. We are very excited about what the future holds.”

García also said he realizes the importance of both conventions taking advantage of this opportunity.

“I believe with all my soul that God is giving us the honor of living in the best historic moment for presenting the gospel,” García said. “We do not know for how long this great door will be open.”

The Venezuelan convention is planning another evangelism event for April 24-27. It will work to start new Bible study groups and disciple those who accept Christ during the event.

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Opinion: Unity in the church at the expense of truth
By Beth Newman

In his speech at the recent New Baptist Covenant celebration, John Grisham urged his hearers to spend as much time ministering out in the streets as they do in the church. No doubt this is in many ways an admirable sentiment, although I do wonder how much time the average Baptist spends in the church to begin with.

What bothers me about Grisham’s comments is the implication – not so subtle – that the real business of the church is out there. By contrast, what goes on inside the church is at best ancillary to her real business.

Such attitudes are not confined to Baptists, of course. I spoke recently on the topic of hospitality at a Catholic college. In the dinner that followed my remarks, another guest said to me, “Well, really, all religions are about the same thing: caring for one another.”

Really? I’ll leave aside for the moment the question of what other religions are really about and focus on Christianity: Is caring for others what binds us together?

It ought to be obvious that words such as “love,” “care,” and even “service” are meaningless outside a complex structure of memory, language and action that makes sense of them.

You will recall, perhaps, the words of Tevye to his wife, Golde, in Fiddler on the Roof: “Do you love me?” She refuses to answer directly, but points instead to their life together and her part in that: “For twenty-five years I've washed your clothes/ Cooked your meals, cleaned your house/ Given you children, milked the cow/ After twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?”

“Love,” “care,” and “service” flourish in a particular kind of life together, one that, as Paul reminds in the familiar 13th chapter of First Corinthians, involves kindness, patience, lack of arrogance and joy in the truth.

But what is truth? Attempts to circumscribe “truth” often create hostility and division. As is well known, Paul reminds us at the end of the Corinthian chapter that now “we see in a mirror dimly.” Some have concluded from this passage that we each have only part of the truth and that we ought not “impose” our truth on others. The sentiment “doctrine divides but ethics unites” reflects the idea that we can all agree we ought to care for the poor or the elderly even if we disagree on dogma.

And yet, it doesn’t take us long to realize that ethics does not unite; there are all sorts of ethical issues, dilemmas and positions that create as much division as they do unity.

One solution to this dilemma has been to stress that “we must agree to disagree.”

The draw of this statement is that we do not want others to force their beliefs on us. And yet, in practice, “to agree to disagree” typically means that we’re going to table questions of truth, or relegate them to the private, non-public sphere.

A philosopher colleague of mine tells his students at the beginning of each semester: “We’re not going to agree to disagree. We’re just going to disagree.” He means by this that we’re going to keep the public conversation going because a truth is at stake.

At the First Council of Nicaea (325) the truth at stake in the life of the church had to do with how to understand the divinity of the Son. Was he similar to God (as Arian claimed) or fully divine (as Athanasius held)? Our late modern perspective might see this debate on one in which different dogmas divide. Why can’t Arian and Athanasius, both deeply pious men, come together to serve the poor and the needy in their midst? Yet to do so would have been to relinquish love in the “joy of truth.” Instead, the early church had this prolonged, and acrimonious debate.

It is quite common today to hear that earlier theological debates were really more political than anything else: Constantine’s convening the First Council of Nicaea (325) was primarily to unify the empire rather than to discern any theological truth. Unity had to do with power and control. No doubt such politics were involved. But the discernment that grew out of these debates cannot be reduced to Constantine’s machinations.

Disagreement can be a form of care. Conflict can be consistent with charity. The kind of love Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 13 is agape, love of the other that goes beyond expectation of return. Agape includes love of enemy; it rests on the assumption that we will have adversaries. It cannot therefore mean that such love is ultimately for the purpose of simply “getting along.”

You can’t have love without truth. The kind of love that Paul refers to is grounded in and made possible by a particular way of life. Such a way is centered on the faithful worship of God in Christ through the Spirit. Love and truth are not our possessions to be coercively defended but gifts to be received and graciously shared.

Our task as disciples on the way is not the creation of unity among Christians where none presently exists, nor it is to re-create a unity that has been lost. Rather, as Brian Daley, S.J., notes, it is “to allow the unity that already exists among us as God’s gift, and is hindered or clouded by our sinfulness and ‘slowness of heart’ (Luke 24:25), to become more fully evident in the way Christians look upon each other, articulate their faith, carry out their worship, and act in the world.”

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-- Beth Newman is professor of theology and ethics at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. bnewman@btsr.edu

A Veiled Tell: Nil Soli - 3/11/2008

Ella Enchanted (2004)


Last night JTH and I watched Ella Enchanted. The always enjoyable Anne Hathaway stars as the title character in this fairy tale. The premise is that a fairy godmother bestows the gift of obedience on baby Ella. She then must obey any command she receives. (We both noted how much more interesting the film would be if the character “Stiffler” from the American Pie series was in the film.)

If you remember the film’s genre, it is very enjoyable. It is a fairy tale and questions such as why someone does not just give Ella a command to negate her horrible requests or why Mandy (Minnie Driver) can suddenly reinstate her boyfriend’s humanity after years spent as a book should not be addressed.

We found the film as it was recommended for those who enjoy A Cinderella Story. (It is sad when you can do this under the assumption that I will already own whatever movie is recommended.) This movie preceded the Hilary Duff feature by three months in 2004. They are very similar, as each are derived from Cinderella (Cinder-Ella.). They both even have an African-American fairy godmother and a character who humorously gets botox treatments.

This movie, as a fairy tale, attempts to convey a moral - that of securing one’s own destiny. It also brings up the issue of stereotyping by having stock figures play against type, e.g. an elf who deplores singing, friendly ogres, etc. The elf is not particularly short either.

I especially liked a scene in which the male lead “Prince Char” (High Dancy) was topless. No, it is not what you think. It is just that he and Hathaway are both exceedingly pale actors and as a fellow pale person, I was pleased that they were used as leads. Hollywood has often neglected my ‘you’re so pale you could pass for a corpse’ look.

The movie also has some musical numbers. Hathaway provides her own vocals in the film, beginning with a rendition of Queen’s Somebody to Love.”

The supporting cast is also good, especially Cary Elwes (Westley from The Princess Bride) as the over-the-top villain, Sir Edgar. Jim Carter (not the president) is also loveable as Nisch the Ogre. Also noteworthy us that Heidi Klum plays a giant in the movie who marries a dwarf. So, there is more of Heidi than usual which cannot be all bad.

Overall, it was a fun movie. Temporary suspension of disbelief is the key.

Current IMDB rating: 6.4/10. Chanalysis: 6/10.

Bible Trivia - 3/11/2008

Question: To whom did Jesus say, “For the Son of Man is come to seek and save that which was lost”?

Answer: Zacchaeus. (Luke 19:10)

Comments: Biblical scholars have concluded that these words of Jesus to Zacchaeus is the key verse in the entire Gospel of Luke.

"For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." (Luke 19:10, NASB)

Word of the Day - 3/11/2008

Actuate

To actuate is to incite or move to action; impel; motivate.

Ahab is said to be the most wicked king in Israel’s history. I Kings tells us that this was in part because his wife, the notorious Jezebel, actuated him. (I Kings 21:25)

Surely there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of the LORD, because Jezebel his wife incited him. (I Kings 21:25, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 3/11/2008

Yesterday marked the first time my Bible Study moved from Thursdays to Mondays. When television programs have their time slot switched, they often struggle. My Bible Study was affected in the same manner. My attendance did not lag but my lesson on Luke 11:9-13 had an especially soporific effect on MLM. He assured me it was due to the chaotic weekend and the time change, but I am personally blaming my new time slot. It certainly could not be my teaching...


The church’s basketball league is on hiatus for a week as the gym is occupied with the annual Children’s Clothing Sale. Where are the church’s priorities? It opted to use the gymnasium to help children over allowing overaged men to behave like immature unsportsmanlike children. Well, at least that’s how I acted in the league anyway.

In the absence of the basketball league, JTH and I hung out. We got smoothies and then went to the Pita Pit. Unfortunately, the only local location is on campus, but I made the trip in spite of this fact. The place is almost a carbon copy of Subway, but with Pitas instead of sandwiches. I am pretty sure JTH loves the place just because their tip jars acknowledge that “Pita backwards is ‘a tip’.”

Then a minor miracle happened. We actually reserved a hotel room for our Charleston trip next week. We never plan that far in advance - a whole week. After our last improvised experience there which included two run-ins with the police, the skimpiest blankets in human history, learning that XTerras were not designed for sleep, hours securing a room in the middle of the night, etc. we may have actually learned our lesson for once.

We will be staying in a beachfront room at the Holiday Inn on Folly Beach. This is not to be confused with the Holliday Inn across the street. As my old professor Loyd Allen used to say, the extra L makes an L of a difference. In this case, it really does.

We then watched the movie Ella Enchanted. If you think that makes us look effeminate, the way we selected it was by viewing the recommendations on Amazon.com for A Cinderella Story! We both love us some Hilary Duff. This movie eerily parallels that one but is less entertaining. How could it be with no Duff? My review is posed under “A Veiled Tell: Nil Soli.”

In a futile attempt to regain my masculinity, I must note that Scarlett Johansson is for sale on eBay. Sort of. The auction is for charity and the winner gets to meet Scarlett and walk the red carpet en route to viewing her new movie He’s Just Not That Into You. The auction started with an opening bid of $.99. As of press time, there have been 161 bids and the price is up to $38,200. It is listed here. You know, my birthday is coming up and Scarlett would make a great gift...

As an aside, you know the winner of meeting Scarlett at the “meet and greet” will get less than a minute with her!

Is there anyway I can eliminate the “Insert” function from my computer? It occasionally is activated and I NEVER want it!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Bible Trivia - 3/10/2008, #2

Question: Who does the Bible stress did not even have the smell of smoke upon them? (Names required)

Answer: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. (Daniel 3:27)

Comments: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into a fiery furnace for their refusal to bow before a statue of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. The three friends emerged unscathed. The tidbit that their clothes did not even smell of smoke accentuates God’s protection over the trio.

In my experience, it is also proof that they did not spend the night shooting pool at a sports bar.

Bible Trivia - 3/10/2008

Question: Recite the sixth commandment.

Answer: Thou shalt not kill. (Exodus 20:13)

Comments: The Ten Commandments have been immortalized by the way the King James Version rendered them. The sixth commandment, “thou shall not kill” (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17), is better understood as “you shall not murder.”

Murder is still not the exact concept expressed by the Hebrew (ratsach), but murder is more accurate than “kill.” This is the first time this word is used in the Bible and the only time it is used in the first three books of the Bible. The Hebrew is actually translated “murder”more often than “kill” even in the KJV. Most modern translations reflect this by translating ratsach “murder", even the New King James Version (CEV, ESV, MSG, NASB, NIV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV).

Word of the Day - 3/10/2008

Diaphanous

Diaphanous means very sheer and light, almost transparent or translucent.

In the Book of Revelation, the reader learns that the great street in the New Jerusalem is comprised of pure gold, making it almost diaphanous. (Revelation 21:21)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 3/10/2008

I had another outstanding weekend. This one was particularly great because in addition to my friends, I got to see the better part of my family.

My Friday afternoon was spent assisting KLTW with a paper for her psychology course. I think I may have worked on more papers since I graduated than I did in seminary. It is unfortunate that few of my skills are particularly marketable. Where was KJW during this? She was being sweet, watching cartoons on television, and engaging in other activities. (Note: You know you are cute when you still look adorable while picking your nose.)

We ordered lunch from Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches. KLTW had never eaten there and after having fliers repeatedly dropped in her mailbox, she decided to honor their persistence and give them a try. My second experience there mirrored my first. They are very fast, but their sandwiches pale in comparison to virtually any other deli. In regards to their “gourmet” claims, I will borrow a line from The Princess Bride: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Friday night was spent in downtown Knoxville with my parents and a lot of hip people. The area was especially crowded as it was First Friday. On the first Friday of each month, shops and art galleries in the area (Gay Street and Market Square) keep their doors open to the public until late in the evening, offering complimentary food (especially wine) and entertainment in hopes of building interest in this older region of Knoxville. On this night the gimmick evidently worked. We ate at Trio Café in Market Square before going to see my cousin dance at the Tennessee Theatre.

My youngest cousin, HLN (aka “Noodle” as there are three Hannahs in the company), is a member of the Tennessee Children’s Dance Ensemble. To say their performance is a dance recital is like saying the Super Bowl is a football game. They have toured the globe and are acknowledged as Tennessee’s official goodwill ambassadors. She and her older sister have been involved with the group for years.

With a large group graduating from last year’s squad(including her older sister), there are now only six veterans in the company. This meant my cousin starred in many of the performances. She even had two solos ("Heartland" and ""At the Limelight"). I am so proud of her. I was most pleased that she seemed happy.

My aunt and uncle placed an advertisement in the program that read, “Twice Blessed...Doubly Proud.” While I like the Christian language (have you ever heard a non-Christian use “blessed?”), I found it very amusing as they have four, not two, daughters. I suppose by comparison, my oldest two cousins were curses. I love them anyway.

My entire family showed up in droves for the event. I had not seen my cousin HANJ since I co-officiated her wedding in December. She and her husband live in Pensacola now so it was a special treat to see her. They still look picture perfect. DJ (aka “Lou”), has dropped 12 pounds as he just completed survival training for his job as an Air Force pilot. Pray that this is training he never needs.

My cousin, MLW, and I bonded, as usual, as we share the same lense through which to appreciate culture - professional wrestling. Whereas I saw a perfect spot for a heel turning clothesline in the dance “Heartland”, he noted that my cousin looked like she was about to drop an elbow in her photo in the program. This is part of the reason I refer to MLW and his family (who also graciously attended) as the “In-law Jackpot.”

The highlight of the show was a video detailing the rationale behind the dance “It Feels Like Pitch Black.” It was composed as a form of autism awareness and received a standing ovation. My feeling is that this is because it was the only dance people understood very well. I admire dance as an art, but when done in churches, I believe it should be accompanied by an explanation just like speaking in tongues (I Corinthians 14:13) as the average person (myself included) does not grasp its meaning. I cannot tell you how much impact this dance had just by knowing the basic concept. With proper explanation, dance is a great method of communication as well as art.

Afterwards, I rushed to meet my friends at Baileys Sports Grille. GAB, JTH, JBT, his lovely fiancé SB, and the new MoFoS employee and former CBCB member, L, gathered to shoot pool. I loved the people, but detested the locale. It is just too loud and smoky for my tastes. The evening was not a total loss as we saw our old friend JS (though we do not think she will remember it) and we did get to see a large contingency of pint-sized Hispanics nearly break into a fight at the adjacent pool table. One loud peacemaker intervened from amongst the group. The only word I understood was “loco.” I felt so proud of myself for translating without having even one Spanish class. Are you impressed?



Saturday morning I arrived at the church at 8 am to work with the Literature Ministry. The fact that it was snowing made the event indoors and delayed many of the participants, including LAC, the organizer. Fortunately, EAT had a key to the church to let us in. Unfortunately, he did not have the security code. MLM was able to intervene before there was any police involvement Having me work with distributing books is like putting the fox in charge of the hen house. On this day, I took home no freebies. This fact amazes even me.

My parents picked me up at 9 and we braved a small snowstorm to see my grandparents in Newport. My mother had been asked to attend a DAR meeting as she knew the guest speaker, BM. She is actually an inactive member of the group, having joined long ago to appease my grandmother. Through my fandom of “Gilmore Girls” I knew what the DAR was. What I did not know was that there is a masculine counterpart known as the Sons of the American Revolution and I am eligible for membership. The reason I care about this is so I can tell people I am involved with a group called SARs...

My father and I continued the process of interviewing of my grandparents regarding their history at their apartment and then at Cracker Barrel. It was enlightening. On this day, I learned that my grandmother had dated two boys in high school, one of which was my grandfather. The other was named Bruce Campbell. That is awesome!

While there, I took a picture of my grandmother. She told me she doesn’t like to smile because it looks like she has no teeth. That is probably because she doesn’t. I think she is still beautiful, like all redheads.

I returned to Knoxville and spent the evening with JTH. We shopped at Sam’s and ate with my parents at Silver Spoon. While eating, my mother chastised my language when I described MLM’s niece as “cute as hell.” I explained I meant this literally, as the devil always masquerades as something beautiful, like an angel of light (II Corinthians 11:14). My dad said he thought the explanation was “damn good.” Mom was pleased with both of us to say the least. For whatever reason (latent frustration?) I really do need to watch my language of late. Things to pray for...

At Sam’s, I showed great restraint (for the second time in one day!), only buying a massive container of strawberry pop tarts and a gift for RAW. Does anyone know why a lot of products do not make grape flavored items? There are no grape pop tarts, smoothies, etc. Why?!?!

We spent the evening at MPW’s condo with he and RAW and later (very briefly) KL to watch the Duke (#6)-UNC (#1) basketball game. JTH and I, the OCD boys, watched while alphabetizing MPW’s extensive CD and DVD collection. It does not bother me so much that we did it, but rather that we enjoyed it.

I presented RAW with his gift, a bulk box of Lego fun snacks. At 27, he still loves Lego’s (who doesn’t) and I felt I owed him. Earlier in the day, I bought his daughter a chirping chicken Palm Pet. It is a 3" chicken that makes chicken noises continually. She will love it! The fact that it will drive him insane is merely an added bonus.

Oh, UNC won the game, 76-68.



Sunday morning was spent as usual, at a church. The loss of an hour also meant the loss of many attendees. On this morning, I taught Genesis 29-31 to my parents’ Sunday School class. They are always very supportive. I really think I made an impact as I do not believe any in the class will allow two of their children to marry the same spouse. I am sure it is do to my brilliant exegesis of the Jacob-Leah-Rachel saga.

Afterwards, MPW and I then made our way to the friendly confines of 315A for the last time this season to watch the Vols play their final home game against South Carolina. We arrived early to watch the pre-game ceremony honoring the team’s three seniors. We were joined by JeML and JiL. Well, JiL anyway. JeML had his ticket but we were brining his wifehers. So, JeML left his wife standing out in the cold waiting on for twenty minutes so he could take pictures inside the stadium. Seriously. Neither of them seemed to have a problem with it, so I won’t either. I do think it is funny though.

Inspiration occurred on the way to the stadium resulting in MPW and I finding a new cause - to get Duke Crews to sing the national anthem before a game. We have noted that, with the exception of Jacqui Pearl, few of the pre-game singers have been good this season. (One poor girl added words to the song and as such length to the already excruciating performance.) There is precedence for both successfully petitioning to get an act at TBA and an active player singing the anthem. The Sons of Bruce petitioned for two years and received the chance to perform at a halftime this year. Walter McCarty sang the anthem while playing for Kentucky. So at the end of the season, we may begin an underground movement to get Duke some singing time. Why Duke Crews? Can you imagine any other player bringing the house down like Willard Vincent Crews? It would also be historic - has the anthem ever been sang in ebonics before? Finally a cause we can all really get behind!

The game was a blowout win for the Vols. My game thoughts are posted under a “View from 315A.” We even stayed for the post-game. We just did not want to leave knowing it would be so long before we would get a chance to be there again, and never again with Lofton and JaJuan. The three seniors were named co-players of the game and were interviewed in front of the crowd. Just as we got up to leave, Bruce Pearl began talking to the crowd. We were already leaving and had forced a lady with a baby to stand up so we could not change our course. We walked out on Bruce Pearl! I felt like I had interrupted a prayer a church.

After the game, I ate with Couple Y at Applebees. Yes, again. I had not eaten all day and was starving. They had a project to get to and I needed some rest so I called it a night. I want my hour back, Daylight Savings!