Saturday, June 28, 2008

Prayer Blog - 6/28/2008

Today DJW was married at the Central Baptist Church of Bearden. MLM officiated the ceremony. Pray God's blessing upon this union.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 6/27/2008

Associated Baptist Press
June 27, 2008 (8-66)

Analysis: Dobson confused at best about Obama speech, defenders say
Name connects East Texas church with Middle Eastern Christians
Opinion: America’s moral center says ‘no’ to torture

Analysis: Dobson confused at best about Obama speech, defenders say
By Robert Marus

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- James Dobson thinks that Barack Obama holds to a “fruitcake interpretation” of the Constitution’s religion clauses -- but Dobson’s own interpretation of a two-year-old Obama speech that occasioned the critique may be far fruitier.

That’s what Obama’s defenders are saying, backed up by some journalists and experts in religion and politics. Nonetheless, some on the Religious Right have leapt to Dobson’s defense.

In his June 24 radio program, the Focus on the Family founder harshly criticized Obama’s understanding of religion’s role in American politics as well as his understanding of the Bible.

“What [Obama is] trying to say here is unless everybody agrees, we have no right to fight for what we believe,” Dobson said on the broadcast, which reportedly garners millions of daily listeners on Christian radio. “And if I can’t get everyone to agree with me, it is undemocratic to try to pass legislation that I find offensive to the Scripture. That is a fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution!”

The Obama speech that Dobson used as the springboard for his criticism was delivered in June 2006 to a Washington conference of moderate and liberal Christian anti-poverty activists. In it, he addressed his view of the proper role of religion in influencing public policy.

But in the speech the Illinois senator, now the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, actually criticized liberals and secularists who try to divorce religious motivations and imagery from public policy.

“At times, we try to avoid the conversation about religion altogether, afraid to offend anyone. At worst, there are some who dismiss religion in the public square as inherently irrational or intolerant [and perpetuate] a caricature of religious Americans,” he said.

But, Obama noted, “the majority of great reformers in American history were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their ‘personal morality’ into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.”

Nonetheless, he cautioned religious conservatives who would try to argue for a policy simply on biblical grounds, without broadening their appeal to those who might not share their faith or interpretation of Scripture.

“Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values,” Obama said. “It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.”

That passage specifically provoked Dobson’s “fruitcake” comment. He said Obama was asserting an argument that would require Christians “to go to the lowest common denominator of morality” when advocating causes in the public square.

That attack is utterly off-base, said one Christian leader whose organization sponsored the conference at which Obama delivered the speech in question. “There’s certainly a misunderstanding, a misreading of what Barack said,” said Jim Wallis, head of the Call to Renewal/Sojourners organization. “If anything, he was defending the right of people of faith to bring their religious understandings into the public square; the question was, ‘how we do that?’”

A group of Christian pastors, led by Houston minister Kirbyjon Caldwell, has launched a site – – for other Christians to sign a statement denouncing Dobson’s attack. Caldwell, a United Methodist, has endorsed Obama, but has supported President Bush in the past.

Tom Minnery, Focus on the Family’s vice-president for public policy, appeared on the show with Dobson and echoed many of his criticisms. In a June 27 telephone interview, he said that the criticism was valid because Obama was trying to have it both ways in the speech.

“The speech has a very inconsistent message – he flip-flops back and forth; he says, ‘Of course we can bring religious speech into the debate,’ but then he says elsewhere in the speech that you have to define our arguments in universal terms,” Minnery said.

“When people do express beliefs in language accessible to all, many times the secular left discounts them -- for example, on the intelligent-design argument,” he continued, referencing attempts by many conservative Christians in recent years to influence the way evolution is taught. Intelligent-design theory teaches that some life forms are so naturally complex that they could not have evolved spontaneously without the help of some unseen architect or designer. Most mainstream scientists and educators counter that it is simply creationism in disguise.

But one expert journalist said Minnery and Dobson were distorting the candidate’s argument. “What Obama said was that in a pluralistic America, religious believers cannot reasonably expect to create majorities for their favorite policy prescriptions -- ‘moral principles’ in Dobson's terms -- unless they couch their arguments in terms that can be understood and appreciated by and persuasive to people other than believers,” wrote Don Wycliff, a Notre Dame University journalism professor, in a June 27 opinion piece for the Chicago Tribune. “There's nothing complicated about that -- unless your purpose is not to understand but to play politics.”

Wallis said Dobson’s argument has theocratic undertones.

“It assumes, underneath, that perhaps Dobson is kind of supporting a notion of Christian theocracy where, in fact, Christians – by just appealing to their revelation, their Bible – [that] their view has to prevail. And what I say is that those Christians don’t get to win just because they’re Christians.” He said. “So, you have to argue about the common good. That’s what Barack said, ant that’s why I also say that you have to frame your religious convictions in moral terms that are accessible to more people.”

But Minnery contended that that makes no sense in a country whose founding principles, he believes, are inextricably linked with Christianity.

“Let’s just think about something here: ‘Thou shalt not commit murder.’ That’s a very religious statement -- and that was affirmed in the Old Testament and reaffirmed in the New Testament. That’s the law of the land. Murder is illegal; should we get rid of the laws against murder because they originate in a religious document?” he asked.

Minnery noted that many of the nation’s monuments contain references to God as the source of law and human rights. “When Sen. Obama says that we have to make our case in universal language that is accessible by all by those who believe and those who don’t believe, I say that you can’t do that in this country -- especially when you’ve got so many of these statements carved in stone in the U.S. Capitol.”

Dobson and Minnery also expressed great offense at another passage of the speech in which Obama dismisses the idea that the nation’s laws can, in any substantial way, be based on a generic Christianity.

“Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation. At least not just [Christians]. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, and a Buddhist nation, and a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers,” Obama said. “And even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would it be James Dobson's, or Al Sharpton’s?”

On the program, Minnery said that Obama, in that passage, “diminished” both Christianity and Dobson.

“Well, I say, ‘Excuse me?’ Seventy-six percent of the people identify themselves as Christian. There are only six-tenths of 1 percent who are Muslim, seven-tenths of 1 percent who are Buddhist, four-tenths of 1 percent who are Hindu…. So he's diminishing the idea that people of Christian faith have anything to say. And then he begins to diminish you,” Minnery said.

Asked if he believes non-Christians are somehow less American than Christians, Minnery said, “Nobody’s saying that -- in fact, Christians are the first to believe that we operate under a civil government, not a Christian government, not a theocracy. But it’s a civil government, meaning all have an equal right to participate, and sometimes the charge comes from the left that Christians want to impose their government on all.”

But that’s not the case, Minnery said. “We want to have an equal access to the ballot box.”

On the show, Minnery and Dobson took particular umbrage at what they perceived as Obama’s equation of Dobson with Sharpton, the controversial Baptist minister and civil-rights leader.

“[H]e has compared you somehow as being on the right what Al Sharpton is on the left. Al Sharpton achieved his notoriety in the '80s and '90s by engaging in racial bigotry, and many people have called him a black racist,” Minnery said. “And he is somehow equating you with that and racial bigotry.”

Dobson seemed to think Obama had implied that he wanted to eject non-Christians from the country. “Obviously, that is offensive to me,” Dobson said. “I mean, who wants to expel people who are not Christians? Expel them from what? From the country? Deprive them of constitutional rights? Is that what he thinks I want to do? Why'd this man jump on me? I haven't said anything anywhere near that.”

But to one student of religion and politics, any fair reading of Obama’s speech shows that Dobson is taking offense at something that isn’t there. “I mean, was Obama launching any kind of ad hominem attack against Dobson? I really don’t think so,” said Laura Olson, a Clemson University political scientist and expert in the Religious Right. “In a way, Dobson could read the fact that Obama mentioned him as a compliment because he is the most obvious person right now to attach to that political movement.”

On the obvious level, Olson said, Dobson’s understanding of Obama’s comments represents two vastly different ways of looking at the world. “Obama’s interpretation of religion and the proper place of religion and the public square is fundamentally different than that of Dobson,” she said.

But, on a deeper level, Olson added, “what makes this interesting is, you know, why is Dobson … talking about it now? Why is he choosing to make this an issue?

“The way I’m interpreting this is that,….Dobson is, I’m sure, a little bit -- if a not a lot -- concerned.”

That’s because of the host of younger evangelical leaders who have begun to embrace a broader political agenda than the anti-abortion, anti-gay positions that have been the hallmarks of the Religious Right, Olson said.

“Dobson obviously has inserted himself into politics in recent times -- endorsing [President] Bush the last time -- so what’ he’s doing now, I think, you know is a continuation of that and perhaps kind of a defensive move to suggest to his listeners, ‘Hey, I bet there’s some of you out there in my listening public who might be attracted to Sen. Obama, who might be swayed by his rhetoric which is, at minimum, a lot better than the religious rhetoric that we’ve seen from a Democratic candidate in a long time.’”

Wallis said that was exactly what Dobson was trying to do. “This speech is two years old, it got lots of publicity at the time, and I can’t imagine that Dobson didn’t hear about it at the time, because it got a lot of attention,” he said. “So, all I can conclude is that really the issue here is indeed political -- that James Dobson and other members of the Religious Right are really threatened by the changing agenda of evangelicals.”

However, Dobson has also been critical of Arizona Sen. John McCain, Obama’s Republican rival. Minnery said that the speech had only come to his attention in recent weeks due to Focus on the Family staffers. On the program, Dobson said video clips of Obama’s speech have “gone viral” in Christian circles on the Internet.

“So little is known about Sen. Barack Obama that every public speech like this of his is significant simply because we have not heard many of his speeches like this prior to the presidential campaign,” Minnery said in the interview.

Asked about the assessment that the incident shows Dobson is worried that his influence over the Religious Right -- and politics as a whole -- is slipping away, Minnery said that didn’t matter.

“Whether he is a leader or not is up to God.” He said. “God has directed this ministry for many years. And we don’t decide those things.”


Name connects East Texas church with Middle Eastern Christians
By Carrie Joynton

PALESTINE, Texas (ABP) -- For the members of First Baptist Church in Palestine, Texas, sharing names with a Middle Eastern territory has led to a connection with Christians on the West Bank.

It began a few years ago. Pastor Jay Abernathy said a BBC news team taking a Sunday detour from President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, gave him the idea to capitalize on the shared name.

“We invited [the BBC team] to our church that Sunday while they were out at the president’s ranch,” Abernathy said. The team asked him if the people in Palestine, Texas, ever associated themselves with Middle Eastern Palestinians. Abernathy said he had never really thought about the name connection.

“That was kind of a catalyst,” Breck Quarles, chairman of the church’s missions committee, said of the BBC visit.

In 2005, a church member alerted Abernathy and Quarles that a Palestinian minister was traveling in Texas and wanted to know if he could speak at their church. After a brief meeting, church leaders at First Baptist agreed.

Munir Kakish told the other Palestinians about needs among his ministries overseas. He lived eight years in an orphanage in Ramallah, located ten miles north of Jerusalem on the West Bank, following his father’s death. After traveling to the United States for college in 1967, he returned to the Holy Land and began ministry there with his wife, Sharon, in 1978.

Kakish now serves as pastor for two Palestinian churches -- one in Ramallah, the other in Ramla -- and as founder and director of Home of New Life, a boys’ home in Ramallah.

The Texas church showed Kakish overwhelming support.

“We brought in that morning several thousand dollars to get kids enrolled in school. It was a confirmation from us that the church was behind what they were doing,” Quarles said.

Quarles and Abernathy visited the West Bank in May 2006. Upon their return, the Texas church confirmed a mutually supportive relationship with Christians in Palestine “in a number of different areas … with commitments to pray,” Quarles said.

Despite small numbers and a low budget, First Baptist in Palestine consistently finds resources to support Palestinian Christian ministries through donations and regular visits.

“I’m kind of amazed at how much gets done with a church this size. We don’t really have any money. God gets it done,” Abernathy said. “We’re just kind of your average Baptist church in Texas.”

In May, Abernathy and church member Steve Jenkins traveled to the West Bank with a team from Buckner International -- a Texas Baptist benevolent agency -- to explore possibilities of working with at-risk children there. Representatives from First Baptist in Palestine have returned overseas three times since the first visit in May 2006.

First Baptist member Linda Love said the experience changed her life.

“It was such an incredible eye-opener,” Love said.

Love ventured to the West Bank in 2007 with Quarles and fellow church member Cameron Cline. Interacting with Palestinian Christians gave her “a new perspective on life,” Love said. Instead of the often-negative stereotypes of Palestinians, Love said she encountered a people “so delightful and so generous.”

“It just gave me a totally different picture,” she said.

Increasing awareness and understanding among American evangelicals of the Palestinian Christian community motivates Abernathy to spread the word about ministry activity in the Middle East.

“A lot of folks just aren’t really aware of how many Arab evangelical Christians are out there,” Abernathy noted. “We met a very vibrant group of evangelical Baptist Christians [in the Middle East], but they felt kind of forgotten.”

“They need our prayers. They need our support. We serve the same Lord; we serve the same Savior,” Quarles said.

As an unexpected result of their partnership with Christians in Palestine, First Baptist in Palestine has attracted the attention of Arab exchange students in local Texas schools.

“There’s a number of exchange students -- all of them Muslim -- who feel totally comfortable coming to First Baptist. They come because they’re either staying at a church member’s home, or they get invited at school,” Quarles said. “They’ll stay, and they feel at home. They sense something there.”

The exchange of culture and Christian fellowship between these two otherwise-foreign communities has forged a bond that shapes their members’ lives and worldviews. It’s an opportunity sent by God, Quarles said.

“I’m just amazed that God opened up the door for us to do that. I’m blessed to go to a church that is open to what God’s doing, and is willing to take a step of faith.”

For Love, that “step of faith” has given her a greater vision of the world and its people.

“I think one of the main things is that we are to treat all people equally and fairly, as the Lord would. That’s an awakening for anyone,” Love said. “God calls us to seek the spirit, seek the soul of every person.”


-- Carrie Joynton is a communications intern for the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Opinion: America’s moral center says ‘no’ to torture
By David Gushee

(ABP) – An unprecedented bipartisan coalition of religious, political, and military leaders recently released a document expressing our shared rejection of torture and prisoner mistreatment by -- or in the name of -- the United States.

The signatories include former secretaries of state George Shultz, Madeleine Albright and Warren Christopher, former defense secretaries Harold Brown, William Perry, and William Cohen, four former members of the Defense Department’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, and dozens of other flag officers of the U.S. armed forces, along with former senators Sam Nunn, John Glenn, and others. Religious leaders include top Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, mainline Protestant and evangelical leaders.

I have also signed the document.

Our “Declaration of Principles for a Presidential Executive Order on Prisoner Treatment, Torture and Cruelty” affirms six key principles that we believe must govern U.S. policy on prisoner treatment, and asks President Bush to issue an executive order based on them. The principles are the Golden Rule, a single national standard, the rule of law, the duty to protect, checks and balances, and clarity and accountability.

-- The Golden Rule principle affirms that our nation will not use any methods of interrogation that we would not find acceptable if used against Americans.

-- The one national standard principle means that all U.S. personnel and agencies will apply the same standards for interrogation, with no exceptions for the CIA or any other agency. Currently, the best expression of a reasonably humane standard is found in the U.S. Army Field Manual, which explicitly bans a number of cruel interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding.

-- Adherence to the rule of law requires that the United States will acknowledge all prisoners to our courts and the Red Cross, rejects any use of secret prisons or the mysterious disappearance of prisoners, and requires fully adequate judicial processes for detainees to prove their innocence.

-- The duty to protect means a reaffirmation not just of our own rejection of torture, but of our responsibility to protect people in our custody from being tortured by other countries after transfer from our government.

-- The principle of checks and balances reaffirms the legitimate role of the legislative and judicial branches of the federal government in understanding, reviewing, and -- in some cases -- setting detention policies.

-- Finally, the emphasis on clarity and accountability means that all U.S. personnel involved in relating to prisoners must operate with total clarity as to the legal rules under which they do so and with full understanding that all who violate those rules will be held accountable, regardless of rank or position.

The over 50 evangelical leaders who signed this declaration of principles along with 150 other national leaders represent many of our country’s leading Christian institutions. They are academics, denominational leaders, pastors, writers, activists, evangelists and missionaries. In obedience to Christ, they give each day to the work of loving God and loving neighbor as they have been commanded in Scripture. They are theologically orthodox and most are not particularly politically inclined, though undoubtedly they represent Republicans and Democrats and independents.

None of us who have become involved in this fight expected or wanted to have to engage the issue of prisoner treatment and torture in the war on terror.

But when we discovered to our horror that our nation had slipped into policies permitting torture and cruelty in our name, and related policies that involved the systematic mistreatment of prisoners and denial of their basic human rights, we had to respond. My own group, Evangelicals for Human Rights, began offering such a response in the summer of 2006 and we have been working to help evangelicals bear a clear Christian witness on this issue since that time. Participation in the development of this declaration of principles represents a high-water mark for our efforts, which will continue until policies that reflect the six principles of this document have become the policies of the United States.

Everyone who signed this document did so for their own reasons. But the evangelical signatories probably all share in common this basic cluster of motivations: We have all committed our lives to be faithful followers of Christ; he comes first, and we must do what he wants us to do. We have all come to believe that a follower of the Jesus who came as an expression of God’s great love for humanity cannot endorse or accept the torture or cruel treatment of any human being. Torture, like terrorism itself, is a grotesque violation of everything Jesus represents and that we have committed to be about in the world.

I personally believe that the statement -- and the nature and quality of the signatories from so many sectors of American society -- marks a decisive moral rejection of torture from what might be called the moral center of American culture. It is, of course, deeply encouraging that people whose lives have been devoted to protecting our nation’s security and advancing our interests in military and government service also agree that torture and cruelty do not make our nation safer or stronger. Together, then, we are saying that we must recover our moral bearings as a nation and reject policies that have both degraded us morally and harmed our national interest.

Fear, anger, and grief after 9/11 sent us off-course. But now our nation is recovering its moral compass once again.

To learn more about how the United States descended into torture and how we can get past it, come to our conference on “Religious Faith, Torture, and Our National Soul” at Mercer University September 11th and 12th. Information is available at


-- David Gushee is distinguished university professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University.

Bible Trivia - 6/27/2008

Question: Which book in the Bible has the longest word in it?

Answer: Isaiah. (Isaiah 8:3)

Comments: At eighteen letters, the longest word in the Bible is Maher-shalal-hash-baz. It is actually the name God gives to Isaiah's second (referenced) son. The name means "swift is the booty", "speedy is the prey" or something similar. The name is a reference to the impending plunder of Samaria and Damascus by the king of Assyria.

So I approached the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. Then the LORD said to me, "Name him Maher-shalal-hash-baz;" (Isaiah 8:3, NASB)

Note: This illustration of Isaiah is from the Parc Abbey Bible, 1148.

Word of the Day - 6/27/2008


Bifid means separated or cleft into two equal parts or lobes.

In the Levitical laws, animals with bifid hooves and that were ruminants (chewed the cud) were designated as “clean”. This meant that they were edible.

“Whatever divides a hoof, thus making split hoofs, and chews the cud, among the animals, that you may eat.” (Leviticus 11:3, NASB)

Deuteronomy 14:4-5 lists several animals that apply: the ox, the sheep, the goat, the deer (pictured), the gazelle, the roe deer, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope and the mountain sheep.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 6/27/2008

Thursday was another great day that I got to spend with my friends.

On Thursday morning at 9 am, my Bible Study met at church. It had been a long time since we had met. In fact, among other things we debriefed on the movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed which we had seen on June 9th, seventeen days prior. The discussion was very good, though I honestly had forgotten a great deal about the film.

The present plan is to watch The Bucket List next Wednesday (July 2nd), in conjunction with CMU’s birthday and then review the film the following week. Anyone is welcome to attend. MLM is the only member of our group who has already seen the feature.

After class, I met SMA for lunch at McAlister’s Deli. He chose the restaurant due to its proximity to West Town Mall where he needed to run two errands.

First we went to Victoria Secret Pink. You read that correctly. It was my first time in the store. Hopefully it will mark my last. It seems WRK tore an item of clothing purchased from this store and SMA wanted to replace it. This was easier said than done.

Despite being a large store, we could find only one sales representative and she was busy with a long line at the register. When we finally did receive “help”, we quickly learned that the employees knew about as much as we did, which was nothing. They checked in the back to see if the item was new and had been put on the floor early. After much discussion, it was concluded that the item was out of stock. So we bought a substitute and left with this bag, which would become significant.

Our next stop was at Dillard’s as SMA needed new shoes and had twice found shoes he liked there. Though we were not entirely sure, we quickly learned that Dillard’s does still exist. The process of obtaining the shoes proved problematic as he had to try on the new shoes without his socks. It seems WRK had painted his right big toe (and only this toe) with magenta nail polish. So, we, two men, talked to a salesman carrying a lingerie bag, with a painted toenail. I am sure we made a great impression. These are the Sperry Top-Siders SMA bought. He would not allow me to take a photo of his painted toe so this is the next best thing.

I had to return home and allow the termite inspector from Orkin in the house. It turns out I knew him. He was Kent Fugate (KBF) who often refereed basketball games at my church in years past. His son-in-law RDA was an old teammate. RDA now works at Enterprise while being a part-time youth minister as Callahan Road Baptist Church. The church has plans of hiring him full-time. Though KBF misses sitting with his daughter at Parkway Baptist Church on Sundays, he is very proud of his son-in-law. RDA now is also the father of two sons.

The other good news is that the house does not have termites.

My Thursday night concluded as many had during the week - with MPW at Bearden High School for the Rocky Top Basketball League. This is the only Thursday night the league plays (the only three-game week) as they have condensed the season into three weeks. Having had quite a bit of basketball already this week, we opted to attend only the 7:30 game between teams sponsored by Ray’s ESG and Toyota of Knoxville. We picked a great game to watch. My thoughts are posted under a “View from 315A.”

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Prayer Blog - 6/26/2008, #2

CBP called tonight and is graciously allowing me to guest lecture her class at Carson-Newman College again this fall. Please keep this opportunity in your prayers.

Prayer Blog - 6/26/2008

PMS, son of BPS and CSS, had an emergency apendectomy last night (June 25th) in Nashville. Please pray for a speedy recovery.

View from 315A, #2

Not unexpectedly, none of Tennesses three seniors were drafted in tonight’s NBA draft.

Anthony Randolph (LSU, 14th to Golden State) and Marreese Speights (Florida, 16th to Philadelphia) were the only SEC players taken in the first round.

View from 315A

MPW and I went to Bearden High School for the fifth night of the Rocky Top Basketball League on Thursday. This is the only Thursday night the league plays all summer and many fans forgot that games were in session. It was nice to have leg room.

Having comsumed quite a bit of basketball already this week, we opted to attend only the 7:30 game. We picked a good game. Ray’s ESG defeated Toyota of Knoxville 114-112. The game went down to the wire. Trailing by one and with only seconds remaining, Jared Stevens missed two free throw attempts. Scotty Hopson responded by hitting one of two foul shots to give Rashard Lee a good look at the buzzer, but in a rare moment on this night, his shot was off. My notes:

  • The matchup between Brian Williams and Wayne Chism was a draw, with each cancelling the other out.
  • Rashard Lee hit six three-pointers in the first half and after five minutes had outscored the Ray’s team.
  • Tony White Jr was great in the clutch, as usual.
  • Scotty Hopson actually smiled while guarding Wayne Chism. Though physically demonstrative, his face is usually deadpan throughout.
  • Ray’s coach was out of town on business and it actually affected the game. At one point, they had guard Alex Oliver guarding Wayne Chism (with both Hopson and Williams out) and once the two bigger men reentered the game, Hopson guarded Chism and Williams guarded Lee, creating detrimental mismatches.
  • The biggest absence was that of Steven Pearl, and on picture night no less. I would like to think somewhere in the world he was flopping drawing charges on nonexistent offenders.
  • The announcer actually made a funny comment announcing Carlton Hill as “Barack Obama”. They do look alike. He then eliminated the humor by referring to the comparison constantly and laughing excessively at his own joke.
  • The fact that he has worn thin was evidenced by none of his call and responses receiving any attention Even announcing his own mother’s presence drew crickets.

WAM Quote of the Day - 6/26/2008

WAM attended Bible Study today with a group at church. I was noting my hypocrisy as I, a single person, am giving premarital counseling. WAM reassured me:

“It’s not hypocritical. It’s just naïve. You haven’t had a chance to contradict your advice yet.”

WAM’s support always makes me feel...different.

Bible Trivia - 6/26/2008

Question: What is the shortest chapter in the Bible?

Answer: Psalm 117.

Comments: Psalm 117, a psalm of praise, is the shortest chapter in the Bible. it is comprised of only two verses. It is the last in a series of eleven psalms (107 - 117) which constitute a whole. (Psalms 135-145 is another group of 11). The Hebrew text contains only 15 words.

Praise the LORD, all nations;
Laud Him, all peoples!
For His lovingkindness is great toward us,
And the truth of the LORD is everlasting.
Praise the LORD! (Psalm 117, NASB)

In his book on the Psalms, The Treasury of David, Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) writes of this psalm, "This Psalm, which is very little in its letter, is exceedingly large in its spirit; for, bursting beyond all bounds of race or nationality, it calls upon all mankind to praise the name of the Lord."

Word of the Day - 6/26/2008


Detrition is the act of wearing away by rubbing.

Paul instructed the Corinthians to focus on the fact that he and his fellow workers' souls were being renewed despite the fact that their bodies were undergoing detrition.

"Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day." (II Corinthians 4:16, NASB)

Note: This statue of the apostle Paul comes from the St. Isaac Cathedral in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 6/26/2008

As usual, I had a full but fun Wednesday.

SMA and I went to Fountain City for lunch at Litton’s Market and Restaurant. We had very little wait, but did get to put a name on the blackboard. We used “Shango” (as in Papa) as we always name our party after a retired professional wrestler.

Litton’s is one of Knoxville’s best restaurants. Open since 1946, Litton’s has the best hamburger in Knoxville (or anywhere else I have ever been for that matter.) It is where Todd Blackledge filmed his “Taste of the Town” segment during last season’s Tennessee-Georgia football game on ESPN. Like Blackledge, SMA always eats the Thunder Road cheeseburger. I prefer the hamburger myself.

The only news from the restaurant is that they have new menus and will be closed for vacation from June 30th to July 10th.

We ate late because his bar exam course went exceedingly long. A professor from UT's law school distributed a 43-page outline and spoke endlessly regarding LLCs. The day was not all lost as SMA drew an impressive Batman cowl and a fat man with a bow tie during the course of the lecture.

On Wednesday night I went to the fourth night of the Rocky Top Basketball League at Bearden High School with MPW and his father ROW. My review is posted under a “View from 315A”.

After the second game, I left to join JTH and Mr. X to watch the romantic comedy Definitely Maybe. We had a choice of four new releases and we selected this one in part due to it mirroring JTH’s decisiveness or lack thereof.

The film traces Will Hayes’ journey into fatherhood as told to his daughter Maya (Abigail Breslin). The viewer has three choices as to who is Maya’s potential father, none of which is genetically realistic. Would I recommend the film? Definitely not. It is not horrible but it is not one of my favorites.

I did especially like the following dialogue:

Will (Reynolds): “You’re a mess. You could do anything, anything, and you work in a bookstore. At least I tried; I went out there and tried. As a friend, maybe you should get some help, some life rehab."
April (Isla Fisher): "Life Rehab?"
Will: "I don’t even know if they do that, but if they do I think you could be a prime candidate.”

If anyone knows where to get some “Life Rehab” count me in.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 6/25/2008

Associated Baptist Press
June 25, 2008 (8-65)

Most evangelicals, Baptists tolerant, even universalist, survey suggests
Young CBFers, responding to Sherman, call for end to bitter anti-SBC rhetoric
Love and Marriage: Church, state uneasy bedfellows in recognizing legal marriages
Love & Marriage: Couples counting down to wedding consider program time well-spent
Love & Marriage: What happens when cohabitating couples want to join the church?
Defending minorities very Baptist, Wright-Riggins tells BJC banquet
Richmond seminary names Israel Galindo as dean
OBU trustees name social science school for longtime supporter

Most evangelicals, Baptists tolerant, even universalist, survey suggests
By Robert Marus

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- A massive survey of Americans’ religious views shows that Baptists, like the overall population, generally are socially tolerant of other faiths.

It also suggests that most Americans and most Baptists are, effectively, universalists.

The latest results are the second set of findings released from the United States Religious Landscape Survey, released June 23 by the Washington-based Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The survey showed large majorities of Americans favor the statement “Many religions can lead to eternal life.” Fewer agreed that: “My religion is the one, true faith leading to eternal life.”

Tolerance reigned across all major faith categories, including large majorities of Catholics, mainline Protestants, evangelicals, Southern Baptists, African-American Baptists, and members of congregations affiliated with the American Baptist Churches USA.

Smaller majorities of Americans and Baptists favored the assertion, “There is more than one true way to interpret the teachings of my religion.”

“Although many Americans are highly religious, we found they are not particularly dogmatic about their approach to faith,” said John Green, the Pew Forum’s senior fellow in religion and politics. “We believe that this non-dogmatic approach to faith is consistent with the great diversity of American religion, which this report describes in great detail.”

On the “one true faith” question, 70 percent of all Americans affiliated with religious traditions said there were multiple routes to eternal life. Among all Protestants, the figure was only slightly lower -- at 66 percent.

Those who identified as members of evangelical churches were slightly more evenly divided on the question – with 57 percent affirming multiple faiths’ access to heaven and 36 percent insisting that their faith was the only true one.

But respondents who identified themselves as Southern Baptists were more reflective of the general population’s views on the subject: 61 percent said many religions could lead to a positive hereafter, while 33 percent said their faith was the only route to salvation.

American Baptists were slightly more universalist, with 73 percent affirming the multiple-routes-to-heaven assertion and 22 percent favoring a more exclusivist view.

But some religion reporters quibbled with the survey’s framing of the universalism question -- which didn’t define what the questioners meant by “faith” or “eternal life.”

“I am being a bit picky here, but I suspect that if you asked a lot of people that Pew Forum question today, they would think of the great world religions. But many Christians would think more narrowly than that,” wrote veteran religion reporter Terry Mattingly in a June 24 posting on, a blog that analyzes the secular media’s coverage of religion. “’What is your religion?’ ‘I’m a Baptist, a Nazarene, an Episcopalian, a Catholic.’ ‘Can people outside of your religion be saved?’ ‘Of course.’”

“This is not the same thing, for many, as saying that they believe that salvation is found outside faith in Jesus Christ.”

The survey results were the second set of data from a groundbreaking survey, conducted last year. It interviewed more than 35,000 Americans about their religious affiliations and views on religious and social questions. The first set was released earlier this year.


Young CBFers, responding to Sherman, call for end to bitter anti-SBC rhetoric
By Vicki Brown

ATLANTA (ABP) -- In response to controversial comments at the recent Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly, a group of younger CBF supporters has called for an end to “old rhetoric” and for renewed attention to the world’s needs.

Seven leaders issued an open letter June 24 to Cecil Sherman, one of CBF’s founders and its first coordinator, over comments he made at the June 19-20 meeting in Memphis, Tenn.

During the June 19 morning business session, Sherman made remarks after accepting author copies of his new book, By My Own Reckoning, a personal recounting of the CBF’s history. In asking listeners to use the lessons of the past to help chart the future, he made a reference to the Holocaust.

“Every once in a while, I meet someone of the younger generation who says, ‘Don't talk about that anymore,’” Sherman said. “Why don't you tell a Jew not to talk about the Holocaust anymore? You need to remember the events that called us into being and be guided by them as you wisely chart your future.”

Sherman was among moderate Baptists who fought the fundamentalists’ takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention beginning nearly 30 years ago. He has often been the target of intense criticism by conservatives.

While acknowledging Sherman’s leadership and contribution to the CBF movement, the open letter’s seven signers called his reference to the Holocaust “misguided.”

“…[Y]ou juxtaposed our relatively small amount of pain -- where no one was injured or killed -- to the 6 million killed in the Holocaust. In our opinion and the opinions of many others, your analogy was misguided,” the letter said.

David Burroughs, president of Passport Inc., CBF’s partner for youth and children’s camps and conferences, was among the seven signers. “We all have high respect for Cecil Sherman…but there are some of us who are ready to lay that [the pain of the SBC takeover] down and move forward,” he said by phone June 25. “We felt the need to say that out loud.”

Burroughs noted that younger leaders within the CBF movement do not wish to discount the organization’s history, but believe in “using the lessons of the past.”

“We do want to remember the past…. There are plenty of forums, including Baptist history [courses] at the seminaries and breakout sessions at the General Assembly,” he said. The 45-and-under leaders “want to give proper respect for the past, but don’t want to be defined by it.”

The problem with repeated references to the past, Burroughs added, is that CBF’s critics can use them against the entity. “When we keep referencing the past … it just gives fuel for some people’s fire. [They can say], ‘They keep defining themselves by what they did.’”

Younger CBFers, Burroughs continued. “are not defined by what happened and have grown tired of hearing about it.”

In the letter, the leaders called for a focus on the future.

“Of course, remembering what happened [in the past] will help us avoid repeating mistakes. But we will no longer wish for this conversation to have center stage -- nor be the focus of who we are and what we do,” they wrote.

“Young Baptist leaders are ready to embrace new opportunities for ministry and discipleship. Remembering the past but not dwelling on it, many Baptists are excited and enthusiastic about ministering with the most neglected people around the world….”

They invited Sherman and, by implication, other leaders from that era to “lay down the pain of the past and join us as we focus on a future, bright with possibility.”

In addition to Burroughs, other signers included R. Scott Ford, CBF of Georgia associate coordinator for missions; Nikki Hardeman, CBF of Georgia associate coordinator for congregational life; Jeremy Lewis, manager of Together for Hope, CBF’s program to assist the 20 poorest counties in the United States; Brent McDougal, coordinator of Alabama CBF; Christina Whitehouse-Suggs, CBF of South Carolina associate coordinator for congregational life; and Mike Young, Tennessee CBF associate coordinator for missions.


Love and Marriage: Church, state uneasy bedfellows in recognizing legal marriages
By Robert Marus

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- In all of America’s brouhaha over whether legalizing same-sex marriage will sully the institution’s sanctity, very few Christians are asking one important question:

When -- and why -- did the government get into the sanctification business in the first place?

When the preacher, at the end of a marriage ceremony, says, “By the power vested in me by the state of (fill-in-the-blank), I pronounce you husband and wife,” is he or she acting as a minister of the gospel or a magistrate of the government -- or both?

And how does that happen in a society with a First Amendment designed to guarantee functional separation between religion and government?

Ultimately, one’s view of how closely the religious institution of marriage and its civil counterpart are -- or should be -- related may well influence one’s views about whether government has a good reason to limit legal recognition of marriage to heterosexual unions.

“Every five years, if I want to do weddings in Virginia … I have to [re-apply for a license and] swear or affirm that I will be an officer of the court, not as a lawyer -- which is OK -- but as a minister, so the Commonwealth of Virginia will recognize the ceremonies,” said Barry Lynn, who is an attorney, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and executive director of the Washington-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Having to make such an affirmation makes him cringe, Lynn said, because he believes doing so is evidence of an excessive entanglement between church and state in the area of marriage regulation. It isn’t paralleled anywhere else in American law.

“I do think many ministers resent becoming agents -- official agents -- of the state to perform marriages,” he said. “And so this coupling of the sacred and the civil occurred early in the United States and is widely the case today.”

Maggie Gallagher is a leading scholarly opponent of same-sex marriage. She said the government regulates such religious authorities’ ability to perform marriages because the state didn’t create marriage. Rather, legal authorities merely recognize and regulate an institution that already exists and is deeply rooted in the society’s history and traditions.

That’s why she believes it’s not easy to revise its definition to include, for instance, same-sex couples.

“It is a problem when the government appropriates to itself the power to unilaterally redefine marriage in a way that is not consistent with the will or the traditions of the people -- because the government alone cannot create a marriage tradition powerful enough to preserve and protect the government’s main interest in marriage: bringing together men and women to make and raise the next generation together,” Gallagher, president of the Virginia-based Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, said in an e-mail interview.

“Civil government has always been viewed as having a role in marriage, because the common good is so heavily at stake in its protection and preservation.”

Government is in the marriage business because encouraging the best environment for raising and protecting children is a benefit to society at large, Gallagher noted. That’s why the institution has special legal privileges and responsibilities attached to it that aren’t given to other intimate adult relationships.

“There’s a reason the government has always been involved in marriage, but not in baptism or my priest’s vow of celibacy,” Gallagher, who describes herself as an “orthodox Catholic,” said. “Marriage is not a sacrament that has only religious implications, like baptism.”

But, in a society with a Constitution that provides religious freedom for all, what is the secular justification for limiting marriage to heterosexual couples? Gallagher and her allies have argued that separating marriage completely from the idea that it encourages the best environment for natural procreation will inevitably have negative effects on the very reason government encourages marriage -- children’s welfare.

Gallagher pointed to a 2006 statement, signed by a broad group of legal scholars, called “Marriage and the Law: A Statement of Principles.” In discussing the tendency of same-sex marriage advocates to argue for marriage equality as a human right, the document warned that such a legal framework could have negative consequences for the future.

“To frame the same-gender-marriage issue as exclusively about gay and lesbian civil rights fails to take seriously the issues at stake. Many of us believe that same-sex marriage may offer important potential [social] goods, from increasing stability for children raised by parents in same-sex partnerships, to greater social attention toward the legitimate needs of gay and lesbian people,” it said.

“But we recognize that the question of whether and how altering the legal meaning of marriage from the union of male and female to a unisex union of any two persons will change the meaning of marriage itself is a critical question, which serious people must take seriously, and about which Americans of good will may and do disagree.”

But such disagreement -- exacerbated by conflicting religious definitions of marriage -- might be circumvented, Lynn suggested.

“I think we would eliminate some, but not all, of the cantankerous debate on same-sex marriage if we did what many of the nations in Europe do, which is to separate the civil aspects of marriage and the religious aspects,” Lynn said.

In many European countries, any wedding must involve a civil ceremony before a judge or registrar -- separate from any religious ceremony to solemnize or sanctify the civil act.

“I’ve talked to, over the years, some conservatives who … do think that is a respectable way to distinguish the sacred from the secular,” Lynn said.

But Gallagher contended the way that works, in practice, would infringe on Americans’ religious freedom.

“France and many others who follow that tradition have appropriated to government the sole power to create marriages. This is not our legal tradition at all. I’m not especially in favor of it,” she said.

“A real alternative would be for government to recognize and enforce religiously distinctive marriage contracts so long as they serve the government’s interest -- say, permanent ones for Catholics,” she continued. “But what people who talk about ‘separating marriage and state’ really propose to do is simply to refuse to recognize religious marriage contracts at all. This is not neutrality; it is a powerful intervention by the government into the lives of religious people.”

Lynn said he found that argument “bizarre,” from a church-state perspective.

“Everybody recognizes that you don’t have to have a religious marriage. State legislatures write out the rules of marriage, the rights and responsibilities of this civil institution,” he said.

“If people have to sign documents or register before an official, it in no way impugns the integrity of the religious promises that are made during a sectarian or religious ceremony. … The state, of course, has some right to set the rules for the responsibilities and rights of marriage. If that were done for some couples, in no way does it impinge on the rights of a church to explain marriage in its own way.”

But Gallagher said separating the two -- say, offering civil unions to gay and straight couples alike and then allowing churches to solemnize them as marriages if they so choose -- wouldn’t end debate.

“It doesn’t solve any of the really hard questions: Why is the government involved in intimate unions -- why can it separate out and define at all what private and personal adult relationships are worthy of special respect?” she said.

“If marriage -- even renamed ‘civil unions’ -- has any legal shape or consequences at all, the government still has to define the same question: Why only two people? Why can’t they be brother and sister? Is sexual fidelity implied? If so why? Why connect sex, residency, caretaking [and] financial responsibility in a package? Why not let people pick and choose?

“We don’t get out of that debate by saying, ‘This isn’t marriage; it’s something else.”


Love & Marriage: Couples counting down to wedding consider program time well-spent
By Carrie Joynton

LEWISVILLE, Texas (ABP) -- For many couples, it’s like the seconds before a new year’s exciting beginning. For a few, it’s more like the panic of watching a ticking bomb.

Newlywed Brooks Monroe insists counting down the days to his wedding by participating in one Texas church’s program was time well-spent.

Monroe and his then-fiancée Lauren had been dating six years when they enrolled in the Countdown to Marriage program at First Baptist Church of Lewisville, Texas.

“We’d both just started jobs, and I was kind of skeptical at first, but I’m so glad we went ahead and did it,” Monroe said.

“It was an awesome chance to invest in ourselves, and in our future, and in the future of our marriage. The topics were so applicable.”

Countdown to Marriage is a group premarital counseling program designed by Byron and Carla Weathersbee of Legacy Family Ministries in Waco, Texas. It prepares engaged couples for marriage through seven weeks of topical discussion of common marital issues.

The Weathersbees, both Baylor University alumni and members of Columbus Avenue Baptist Church in Waco, founded Legacy Family Ministries in 1995 after working in family ministry for 13 years.

Countdown to Marriage is an integral part of Legacy Family’s larger vision to strengthen families as the source of Christian development and ministry.

“What we’re trying to do is use the family institution as not only the greatest evangelism tool, but also the greatest discipleship tool,” Byron Weathersbee explained.

The program for engaged couples grew naturally out of ministering to families as a whole, Weathersbee said.

“We had folks who just needed premarital counseling, so we launched a class of five couples,” Weathersbee said. “We tried to find curriculum that would meet our needs and was interactive, that really got couples working through issues and talking.”

Over seven weeks, couples analyze each phrase of a traditional marriage vow to address relevant contemporary issues. For example, the phrase “for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer” brings up “money matters” -- the topic of week three in Countdown to Marriage.

Countdown to Marriage also includes the topics, “God’s purpose for marriage,” “roles and responsibilities,” “in-laws,” and “communication and conflict resolution.”

The program concludes with a weekend retreat.

During each seven-week session, all couples meet as a group once a week for instruction and feedback about the designated subject. Limited participation keeps groups small and conversational.

Monroe said he enjoyed the group interaction.

“We could all learn from each other’s struggles,” he said. “I think if it were smaller, we would have missed out on a lot -- but it wasn’t so big that you didn’t have a chance to contribute to the group.”

In addition to group meetings, couples are assigned weekly tasks -- some individual and some joint assignments. Activities like Bible study, focused conversation, romantic dates or prayer help couples process and apply lessons learned. Spending structured time working through weekly topics helps many couples prioritize their relationship in the midst of pre-wedding busyness.

“The time we spent preparing for the lessons, and the time we spent sitting down with the group, was the most valued and cherished part of the week,” Monroe recalled.

Associate Pastor Brian Dodridge at First Baptist Church in Lewisville, who helps lead Countdown sessions at his church, said he wished he had had the program when he was preparing for marriage.

“They’re all the conversations married couples ought to have, and often have 10 to 15 years into the marriage, but we’re introducing them on the front end,” Dodridge explained.

Though the program is scripturally founded and teaches a Christian worldview, non-Christians also enroll. Dodridge once had the privilege of giving one participant a Bible. Many couples pray or read Scripture together for the first time while in Countdown to Marriage.

Since the program provides thorough preparation for marriage, some non-Christians attend out of sheer practicality.

“The majority of folks look to get married in either a church or synagogue, and they look to the church for guidance and direction,” Weathersbee said.

“We’ve made it fun, we’ve made it interactive – it’s appealing to young couples who’re really desiring to know what they’re getting themselves into!”

The program at First Baptist Church in Lewisville also draws attendance from all over the Dallas-Fort Worth area. “The best thing is that a lot of the couples are not a part of our church,” Dodridge said.

Countdown to Marriage has now spread beyond the program’s base in Waco to several cities and churches in Texas and Oklahoma. A condensed version of the seven-week curriculum also is available as a weekend retreat to facilitate those who live far from a program site.

The Weathersbees hope to spread the program throughout Texas because of its effectiveness in preparing lasting marriages and possibilities for evangelism.

“We’ve taken about 900 couples through this course and the weekender course, in and around Waco. We do a pretty good job of tracking those couples, and our last count we’ve had less than four percent who’d gotten a divorce,” Weathersbee said.


Love & Marriage: What happens when cohabitating couples want to join the church?
By Vicki Brown

DALLAS (ABP) -- When the nice young couple presenting themselves for membership in your church is shacking up, how should the congregation respond?

Churches likely will face this and other tough questions as society’s definition of family continues to evolve.

“This isn’t the church our parents grew up in,” said Philip Washburn, pastor of Park Central Baptist Church in Dallas. “If we believe ‘come all who are weary and heavy-laden,’ we must love people, not turn them away. A lot of the couples [in non-traditional lifestyles] are couples who have grown up in the church.”

Washburn said he focuses on developing relationships first. Although no couple living together has yet sought to join Park Central, he is working with individuals in the community about the issue.

Michael Tutterow, senior pastor of Atlanta’s Wieuca Road Baptist Church, agreed churches must build relationships to help people first find faith and then to grow.

“We open our membership to anyone. … We start with where they are and help them,” Tutterow explained. “We take the stand of grace, something our entire staff shares.

“Trying to determine who’s at fault isn’t productive. We take the ‘now what’ approach: [Since] this has happened, now what?”

Wieuca Road concentrates on accepting individuals, regardless of the issues they face. “Acceptance is not the same thing as condoning. But if you provide the acceptance, there is room to grow,” Tutterow said. “If you point fingers, people are more likely to walk away.

“I would rather err on the side of acceptance. … People grow with grace. I’ve never seen anyone grow under legalism. … Why would people want to go to a church that adds more burdens?”

The church accepts unmarried couples and tries to get them into groups that model healthy relationships, Tutterow said.

Travis McIntosh, pastor of Beverly Park Baptist Church in Seattle, stressed that people must be made aware of biblical teaching and that some moral standards must be met before individuals are accepted for church membership.

When an unmarried, cohabitating couple who had been attending the church inquired about joining, McIntosh emphasized how glad the congregation was with their presence. However, they could not join unless they married or changed their living arrangements.

Although Park Central would love and nurture an unmarried couple, it’s likely the pair would not be able to join until they settled the cohabitation issue, Washburn explained.

“We can’t back down on who we are,” the pastor said. “But we’ve got to love them with the love that is Christ-based, not human-based.”

Unmarried couples who live together do not present the only challenge to churches. Divorce has been a growing part of American society for decades, and churches still struggle with the issues divorce creates.

Wieuca Road has relied on counseling to assist couples headed to separation and divorce. This fall the church will begin using DivorceCare, a recovery and support program that uses seminars and support groups.

McIntosh believes the church, particularly pastors, must be proactive, stepping in when they become aware of relationship problems.

“It’s the church’s responsibility to help the family stay together,” he said. “If the church lets them down in this area, how can it be trusted in other areas?”

What should churches do when husband and wife divorce and both want to remain members of the same church? People develop strong connections within their congregations, either through family ties or friendships, and often are reluctant to walk away from that support.

Usually, one spouse chooses to leave. But when both decide to stay, larger churches, such as Wieuca Road, have the advantage of size to mitigate possible tension between the former spouses.

A medium-sized or small church may have to intervene actively. Washburn said he generally works through the congregation’s deacons to be the buffer between the couple, particularly when former spouses are involved in the same ministries.

“A church needs more than just the pastor to work with the situation,” he said.

Tension can increase when both former spouses remain in a congregation, especially in a small church. McIntosh prefers that one finds another church home.

“I would let the spouse at fault know he should find another church,” he said.

Walter Coplen, a family counselor with Coplen, Wright and Associates in Columbia, Mo., said churches must focus on relationship building and sensitivity when ministering to non-traditional couples, single parents and their children. Don’t be afraid, he said, to ask people what they need and how the church can help.


Defending minorities very Baptist, Wright-Riggins tells BJC banquet
By Robert Marus

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (ABP) -- Baptists, of all people, should defend the rights of minorities against the majority, an American Baptist leader told supporters of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty June 20.

“To live with the minority experience is to live with the fear of being forgotten and excluded. It is the feeling of foreignness, of not belonging. It is to live in the reality of what Ralph Ellison called the ‘Invisible Man’ -- to be present, but not counted; speaking, but not being heard,” said Aidsand Wright-Riggins, executive director of the American Baptist Churches USA’s National Ministries. He spoke to about 425 guests at the annual luncheon meeting of the Religious Liberty Council, the BJC’s organization for individual donors. The luncheon was held during the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly in Memphis, Tenn.

Wright-Riggins said identification with the minority experience should be at the center of Baptist and Christian identity. “The road to somebody-ness is always about resolve and resistance. And Baptists, my brothers and sisters, have always pulled alongside those who were dedicated to resolve and resistance on the road to somebody-ness,” he noted.

“Baptists respect human nature and human dignity. Baptists fight for the rights of others to speak their own mind and live their own truths. … We believe in a free state -- but we also believe in a free church, where the god of the majority is never forced upon the consciences of the minority.”

Wright-Riggins, who is African-American, said the question of race had reared its familiar head in this presidential election for all Americans -- but it was hitting home for him especially.

He noted that his organization runs Judson Press, American Baptists’ publishing arm. Judson has published several books by Jeremiah Wright, the controversial former pastor to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, and Wright-Riggins said he has gotten letters he described as “vicious” and “vitriolic.”

They asked him to denounce Wright. But Wright-Riggins responded, “Let the church be Baptist and affirm the right of all of us to speak.”

He read a passage from Joshua 22 that detailed the experience of the ancient Israelite tribes that lived across the Jordan from the rest of their kinsmen -- and eventually became regarded as something less than true Israelites.

The other Israelites dismissed them, the passage says, telling them, “You have no part in God.” In defiance, the Reubenites, Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh built an altar to Yahweh in their territory to assert their Jewishness.

“In an attempt to affirm their own somebody-ness, somebody told them, ‘Let’s build an altar, to say that we count too….’ Isn’t it interesting how the Bible itself can be used as a tool -- as a divisive instrument and a ‘thingification’ tool?”

In other business, BJC supporters heard an update on the group’s capital campaign to establish a permanent building for the BJC, called the Center for Religious Liberty, on Capitol Hill. Reginald McDonough, the campaign chairman, said BJC has received commitments for about half of the $5 million goal. Of that, $2 million is already in the bank, allowing the organization to move ahead with picking out a property.

“The good news is: We’re halfway there.” McDonough said. “The challenge is: We’re halfway there.”

Religious Liberty Council supporters also re-elected their officers and approved four new board members to serve three-year terms.

Hal Bass, a professor at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark., and a member of First Baptist Church there, was re-elected co-chair, along with Cynthia Holmes, a St. Louis attorney and member of Overland Baptist Church. Henry Green, pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Annapolis, Md., was re-elected the group’s secretary.

Supporters affirmed the board appointments of Terri Phelps, a member of Highland Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky.; Joey Kennedy, a member of Southside Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala.; Mitch Randall, a member of NorthHaven Church in Norman, Okla.; and Beverly McNally, a member of Christ Congregation in Princeton, N.J.


Richmond seminary names Israel Galindo as dean
By ABP staff

RICHMOND, Va. (ABP) -- Trustees of Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond have elected Israel Galindo as the 19-year-old school’s new dean.

Galindo, a Christian education professor at the Virginia seminary, was elected June 17. He replaces Mike Harton, who has served as interim dean for the past two years.

Galindo also serves as the principal of a consulting firm. Born in Cuba and reared in New York, he joined the seminary staff in 1999 after several years as a local-church educator and principal for private schools.

He holds a doctorate in education from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

A popular seminar and workshop leader, Galindo has expertise in Bowen Family Systems theory as applied to parenting, congregational life and leadership development. He has written widely and has several books in print, including an Alban Institute bestseller, The Hidden Lives of Congregations.

As dean, he will lead faculty in curriculum development and evaluation, in instructional development, and will serve on the seminary’s administrative team.

“Dr. Galindo’s academic expertise and extensive experience in local congregational ministry will provide great dividends to BTSR and her students,” seminary President Ron Crawford said about the new dean. “He understands the challenges of the 21st century on local church ministry and will strengthen our efforts to prepare women and men for ministry around the world.”


OBU trustees name social science school for longtime supporter
By ABP staff

ARKADELPHIA, Ark. (ABP) -- In appreciation for “consistent and generous support” for Ouachita Baptist University, trustees named the Arkansas school’s social-science division for Buddy Sutton, a prominent Little Rock attorney.

Trustees voted June 12 to honor Sutton, a long-time Ouachita supporter and Arkansas Baptist lay leader. Adopting a resolution noting that Sutton “readily lent his name, reputation and influence to strengthen the standing of the university,” board members named the division the W.H. Sutton School of Social Sciences “with sincere appreciation for the life and service of their dear friend and colleague.”

Sutton, who served 10 years as chairman of Ouachita’s trustee board, is a former president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. He served in private practice for more than 45 years with the Little Rock law firm of Friday, Eldredge & Clark until his retirement in 2005. He is a longtime member of Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, where he has served for decades as a deacon and Sunday school teacher.

“Buddy is a rare individual who brings a blessing to whatever he touches and whatever he is part of,” Ouachita President Rex Horne said. Horne was Sutton’s pastor at Immanuel prior to his Ouachita post.

Horne said the trustees’ decision to link Sutton’s name with the School of Social Sciences will allow Ouachita “to continue to benefit from the influence and character Buddy has now and for generations to come.”

Hal Bass, dean of the Sutton School, enthusiastically affirmed the board’s decision.

“What we want to do in the social sciences is emphasize learning beyond the classroom; the world is our lab,” Bass, who also is the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s moderator-elect, explained. “The Sutton name will give us entrees for various settings beyond the classroom into the broader world.”

Sutton said he is deeply committed to Ouachita’s mission of providing students “a solid and excellent education in the Christian environment that is so important to family life and Christian life.”

The School of Social Sciences, which includes the departments of history, political science, psychology and sociology, “is a very important bridge to service in the Christian life,” he said.

In addition to honoring Sutton’s life and work, Horne said the school’s new name will “help strengthen a fine school in our university.” He is working with Sutton and Terry Peeples, Ouachita’s vice president for development, to enhance endowed scholarship funds for the school.


By ABP staff

There is an error in the 21st paragraph of the June 23 ABP story, "Modern slavery global scourge, speakers tell CBF supporters." Lauran Bethell was described as a "former American Baptist missionary." Please remove the word "former" from that sentence. She remains an ABC mission worker.

Also, please replace the word "now" in the 22nd paragraph with "also."


Prayer Blog - 6/25/2008, #3

WRK's mother returns from Charleston tomorrow for a biopsy at 2 pm. Though this does not appear serious, keep this test and its ramifications in your prayers.

Prayer Blog - 6/25/2008, #2

My uncle ECD has been diagnosed with diabetes. It will be treated with medication and as of now insulin shots have been deemed unnecessary.

He also has a high prostate count which is often an early indicator of cancer. He could not get an appointment with an urologist until mid-August.

Keep both of these conditions and his general health in your prayers.

Prayer Blog - 6/25/2008

My paternal grandfather WCV (Jr.) is suffering from agonizing back pain. He received a second shot recently that did not alleviate much of his pain. He will receive a third injection when it is safe to do so. The pain is so excruciating that he can no longer lift my grandmother’s walker in and out of their car, forcing her to walk with a far less effective cane. They have also been unable to clean their apartment. Please pray for healing and that they are able to function as normally as possible as soon as possible.

View from 315A

MPW, his father ROW, and I attended the fourth night of the Rocky Top Basketball League at Bearden High School. Though the crowd was still substantial, attendance was at its lowest of the four nights of the league thus far.

The first game of the night was a 108-60 blowout win from Ray’s ESG (2-2) over the News-Sentinel (1-3). My notes:

  • The News-Sentinel team had many no-shows. They began the game with only six players and were so shorthanded that 6'4" guard Keith Bauer (Roane State) tipped against 6'10" Brian Williams. He lost.
  • Five minutes into the game, Chattanooga’s 7'1" Jeremy Saffore and Dontay Hampton arrived. Saffore did no better defending Brian Williams than the guards.
  • Williams scored a game-high 20 points (on 10-of-14 shooting) against his heavily outmanned opponents. He also added ten rebounds.
  • Williams’ nicknames of “Big Baby” and “Da Neighborhood” seem to be sticking.
  • Damon Johnson arrived very late. A timeout was taken to insert him into the game with 6:47 left in the first half. His team already trailed 44-15 at that point. By halftime it was 56-23.
  • For the second consecutive game, Ron Slay did not play for the News-Sentinel squad.
  • Philip Jurick failed to show up for the second time in four games. He has scored only 12 points combined in the two games he has played.
  • In my opinion, Bobby Maze was the most impressive player on the court. His relentless defense, vocal leadership, and court management dominated the moments he was in. I would say that he “put it on for Tennessee” if I had any idea what that meant.
  • Scotty Hopson showed flashes of brilliance, having the three most exciting plays of the game - two blocks and a tomahawk windmill dunk 4:07 into the second half .
  • Everything Hopson does seems so effortless. His grace coupled with his deadpan facial expressions make him appear lazy.
  • You would think that the News-Sentinel, which has countless sportswriters paid to cover area basketball, could field a better team with “experts” involved.
  • As always the most important stat of the game was that Steven Pearl did not attempt to take a charge. I can only hope that the lax officiating in these games does not hurt one of the all-time greatest floppers.
  • His father, Bruce (pictured with freshman point guard Daniel West), did attend the game.

The next game saw Tyler Smith’s HT Group defeat Cameron Tatum’s First Tennessee squad, 96-94. My notes:

  • The HT Group remained undefeated. It was their third straight win by three or fewer points.
  • Michael Jenkins hit two free throws with 0.7 seconds to seal the win.
  • Jon Higgins kept his team close with great second half shooting but two critical turnovers in the game’s closing seconds lost the game. He led his team with 24 points.
  • Until this game, First Tennessee had been Cameron Tatum vs. The World but an injury derailed this pattern. Tatum was shaken after a dunk and eventually left the game. Evidently he suffered a strained groin. His team stayed close without him. Tatum scored all thirteen of his points in the first half before sitting out most of the second half.
  • Tatum’s hang time may be his best asset.
  • The usual suspects led the HT Group: Tyler Smith (23 points, pictured) and Courtney Pigram (31 points).

I left before the last game as it held little interest for me. What is Josh Tabb’s bigger indignity - being on the Richardson Construction Team or his present hair cut?

The best aspect of the night was that the sound system was down for the first half and the first 2:35 of the second half. The person who remedied this "problem" is now on “my list.”

Evidently, my crew is not the only one appalled by the commentating. The league commissioner is well aware and hoping for more subdued performances. This criticism is evidently not lost on the announcer either as he instructed, “If I’m doing a bad job commentating send all complaints to The site does exist, but there is nowhere to lodge a compliant. We may complain about that.

YouTube should give the announcer an endorsement deal and Charles Barkley should sue for character defamation due to his oft repeated impressions.

Note: Images were taken from “The View from the Hill” blog. Check out his accounts of the game here. He actually stayed for all three games.

Bible Trivia - 6/25/2008

Question: Which book contains the passage sometimes called the High Priestly Prayer?

Answer: John. (John 17)

Comments: The "High Priestly Prayer" refers to Jesus' prayer in John 17:1-26. It was first given this name by Reformation-era Lutheran priest David Chytraeus (1530-1600).

The comparison to Jesus as high priest predates Chytraeus considerably. 2nd century theologian Clement of Alexandria (150-211/216) also said that in this prayer Jesus acts as a high priest interceding on behalf of his people. (Leon Morris, Reflections on the Gospel of John (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988), vol. 4, pp. 565-566.)

Word of the Day - 6/25/2008


An ort is a scrap or morsel of food left at a meal.

After Jesus asserts the impropriety in giving the children's food to dogs, the Syrophoenician woman counters that even dogs eat the orts from their masters' tables. Jesus is so pleased by this response that he exorcizes her daughter, as per her request. (Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:25-30)

"Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." (Matthew 15:27, NASB)

Note: This painting is "Christ and the Canaanite Woman" by Sebastiano Ricci (1659-1734).

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 6/25/2008

On Tuesday night, KLTW and I conducted “Girly Movie Night.” KJW and RAW participated against their wishes.

KLTW and RAW provided the meal and I provided the movie - The Other Boleyn Girl. KLTW cooked steaks with a lot of help from RAW. (Note: RAW is still lamenting that he had to cook on Father’s Day.) We also had salad and fresh French fries. It was a great meal. KLTW always downplays her meals. I always need to remind her that they are free. (I compliment the taste as well.)

Though I had seen her on Sunday, KJW had passed three milestones since our last visit. On Monday she had her two-year check up with her pediatrician Dr. Rochester (JCR). She impressed him so much that he suggested that she have her IQ tested. Her parents thought this superfluous, but appreciated the compliment.

In the important news from the appointment, KJW’s head circumference is still in the upper 70th percentile, while her weight is in the bottom quarter. So of all the tiny babies, she has the big head. I am very proud. For the first time, JCR did not gripe too much about her weight, realizing that with her genetics, she is simply going to be thin. He did remind us not to skimp on her dessert portions and fatty foods. Poor kid.

On Monday (June 23rd), KJW also had her first haircut. The trim was performed at Kidz Fun Kutz. It is relatively new business, having opened on June 30th, 2007. Her do looks a lot like the twins that played Nicky and Alex (Blake and Dylan Tuomy-Wilhoit), Uncle Jesse’s kids on “Full House” in the later years. I am thrilled and amazed that I had to look up the actors names. It almost compensates for making the reference in the first place.

She actually loved the process. They sat her in a barber’s chair designed like a fire truck, gave her a sucker, and let her watch Dora The Explorer. She did not want to leave. And for the low price of $20 they gave her a package of the trim, a lock of her hair, a 4x6 picture, and a certificate to commemorate the event. The normal fee is seven dollars. KLTW was thrilled with the experience. RAW felt a little robbed. Was she not entitled to keep her own hair anyway?

Thirdly and finally, on Tuesday (June 24th), KJW had a photo shoot at Portrait Innovations. Her photographer, Nick L, enthusiastically ran around a room with different backgrounds while KJW played for twenty minutes. All 137 shots look natural. She only pouts in one and that is because she fell. He said she was the best two-year old he had ever worked with. While this falls short of the more accurate “best kid ever”, it still showed his sound judgment.

I will post some of the proofs when I receive them.

The movie was adequate. I will not complain too much about a film that features a personal dream team of Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman. None of the characters in the period piece were overly likable. In fact, there was no one in the film that I was especially hoping would not die. This does show what a great actress Natalie Portman is. She made herself unsympathetic.

KJW sat in her “pool” much of the film. She places her pink boa in a circle and calls it a pool.

In other news, KLTW plans to host a yard sale on Friday, June 27th. I think she should market her items as KJW used stuff. Given the planning or lack thereof to date, I will believe this will actually occur when I see it.

Finally, prior to watching the film, we watched the night’s obligatory dose of children’s programming. There was an advertisement for Bendaroos. Has some one just repackaged pipe cleaners?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Prayer Blog - 6/24/2008, #2

JTH's father CEH shot treatments proved ineffective in reducing his pain. Doctors have been unable to diagnose him and sending him to Duke University Medical Center has been suggested as a possibility. Please continue to keep his health in your prayers.

Prayer Blog - 6/24/2008

RAW’s maternal grandmother BJM has been diagnosed with CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia). It is the acute (more damaging) variety. It is a type of cancer typically found in elderly victims. It is likely that this illness or complications from it will result in her death. No time table has been given for the illness. One of the early symptoms is that her spleen is enlarged. Please keep she and her family in your prayers.

View from 315A

As many of you know, incoming Tennessee point guard Bobby Maze aka "B Maze" had a rap video before signing with Tennesee. Well, now he has posted a new rap video titled "Put On For Tennessee." You can check the video out here. It was dded to YouTube on June 20th.

In the "song", he predicts a championship and references many of his new teammates, his ubiquitous cousin, and his tattoos.

Here are the lyrics:

Huh? I put on.
I put on for Tennessee.
I'm here, the solution has arrived.
I put on I put on I put on for Tennessee (repeated)
Like this, I had to sweep em out, just like ugly.
Told em I'm put in on, yes I'm the Tennessee.
I ain't really playin, got the ball yeah pull the clipse.
You goin catch me throwin alley hoops to Tylie Smith.
You ain't got to worry, bout that, yeah on the ski.
Don't forget about the All-American Hopson.
B Maze, be amazed, this thing is not a game.
Who am I to blame?
Maryland, never change.
Yeah I'm on a mission, they got me on the c.
Same routine, in the gym, you know what I mean.
I can't forget about my man Prince.
Can't forget about my man Prince.
But now I'm bringin it back.
Yeah they catch me on the scene.
And they catch me on the site.
And I'm feelin alright.
Everybody say "why you got so many tatoos?"
Cause I guess there's its lot of things that I've been through.
Well you can't get me out of my rhythm.
At the five hollar at my man Wayne Chism.
And tell throw it down, I'm a put it on your block.
If you bring it to the rim, yeah Cameron block your shot.
I ain't playin, can't forget about my man Cam Tatum.
Yall better stop playin, yall some potatoes.
We gonna run the SEC, you don't want to play with me.
Got my cousin right here, what you tryin to do?
I've been working on my game, yeah kid got flow.
Left Oklahoma alone, did my thing in JUCO.
Player of the Year in the conference,
Look at my feet, nothing on but steady marchin.
You can see I put it on for Tennessee.
And I'm the only 10 that you see.
Can't forget, can't wait for the season.
Promise a championship, can't wait till the season.
For Tennessee, I put on for Tennessee, I put on. (repeated)
Yo, like this, like this hey.
They gonna need yo.
They better call a cab.
Defense better watch over with Josh Tabb.
Cause he gonna strap it up, and I'm a wrap it up.
And its gonna be like Shaq gots cappin up.
This is what we do.
If you talk trash, man we comin for you.
Right here, we have no fears.
There is no exceptions, I'm a Volunteer.
Why you mad at me, cause I got an orange and white?
But I don't think you want to start a fight, tonight.
I ain't playin cause this team is just the best.
And a shout out to the point guard Daniel West.
Cause he gonna rake you up, and he gonna shake you up.
And what he don't do I'm gonna make it up.
Cause this is what I do.
Yeah I'm talkin to you.
And everything I say, best believe, it is true.
Is yall mad at me?
Is yall crazy?
Can't forget about my man Big Baby.
From the NYC. That's New York City.
And yall mad at me better get your committee.
And little girl, I'm gonna rock your world.
Cause we gonna press, thanks to coach Pearl.
So you better watch out, you know what we about.
And about to lounge, like I'm chillin on the couch.
I am the resolution, am the solution.
And all you haters is just pollution.
Leave me alone. Leave me alone.
We coming for that championship....home.
For Tennessee, I put on for Tennessee, I put on. (repeated)