Friday, December 19, 2008

Bible Trivia - 12/19/2008

Question: In what city did Jesus attend a wedding?

Answer: Cana. (John 2:1)

Comments: The only wedding Jesus attends in Scripture is a wedding in Cana, also attended by his mother, Mary. There, at her request, he performed his first miracle, turning water into wine.

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; (John 2:1, NASB)

Note: This embroidery of the Wedding at Cana was created by Chinese contemporary Christian artist He Qi.

Word of the Day - 12/19/2008


Frangible means easily broken; breakable.

Nebuchadnezzar had a dream, which Daniel interpreted, of a statute with frangible feet.

"As the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of pottery, so some of the kingdom will be strong and part of it will be brittle." (Daniel 2:42, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 12/19/2008

I had a great Thursday spent with family and friends.

On Thursday morning, I went with DLNV to Walgreens. We were there shopping for the Community Tectonics’ Christmas party which was held later in the day. We were to procure two white elephant gifts. I was taken as I was deemed an expert on all things tacky. Thanks.

More importantly, we bought mom a holiday headband to wear to the event. I took photos and showed them to her so she could pick which one she liked best. These were our options: a Santa hat, a snowman, and reindeer ears:

Which would you have selected? All of them had pieces which lit up. We went with the last option as it was the most visible. Gaging from the response at the party, we chose well.

I then spent much of the morning at Fellowship Evangelical Free Church catching up with my seminary friend JCN. It had been too long since we conversed and I thoroughly enjoyed it though I took up too much of his time. His wife is expecting their second child, a baby girl due in May. JCN also told me of his biggest mistake in ministry to date. He held a contest to pick a t-shirt for a ministry which was rigged online. When your biggest mistake in ministry is a t-shirt competition, you are a great minister.

After our glad reunion I met JTH at church before eating at Soccer Taco. It had been a long time since I had eaten there and the food was as good as I remembered though I do not eat near as much these days. Our waiter continually referred to us as “my friends”. I liked this though I was a little disappointed he did not say “mi amigos”.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 12/18/2008

Associated Baptist Press
December 18, 2008 · (08-126)

David Wilkinson, Executive Director
Robert Marus, Acting Managing Editor/Washington Bureau Chief
Bob Allen, Senior Writer

In this issue
Christian leaders call for easing travel restrictions to Cuba (407 words)
Survey says most Americans believe in multiple paths to salvation (538 words)
Southwestern Seminary cuts budget (422 words)

Christian leaders call for easing travel restrictions to Cuba
By Bob Allen

NEW YORK (ABP) -- Christian leaders on Dec. 18 called on President-elect Barack Obama to ease travel restrictions to Cuba they say hinder religious work.

Denominational and ecumenical leaders from a variety of faith groups said restrictions imposed in 2005 have made it harder for religious bodies to send religious delegations or support church partners in Cuba. Religious institutions now are eligible for only limited travel licenses, and some have been unable to obtain even those.

The group went a step further, urging the president-elect to lift the ban on travel to Cuba for all Americans, ending a 46-year-old trade embargo and restoring full diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba.

"For decades the U.S. policy toward Cuba has had unfortunate consequences for the Cuban people, while denying important freedoms to Americans," the letter said. "It has failed significantly in its stated objective to precipitate change in the Cuban government."

The faith leaders said hostility between governments has also disrupted historical bonds between churches in the U.S. and Cuba, at a time when Cuban churches are growing rapidly and need support from their Christian counterparts in the U.S.

"We are convinced that it is time to change the ineffective and counter-productive U.S. policy toward Cuba," the letter said. "We urgently request you to change the Cuba policy of the United States in ways that will assist the churches in their work and benefit all Americans."

Baptists signing the letter included Stan Hastey, minister for mission and ecumenism for the Alliance of Baptists; Roy Medley, general secretary of American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A.; and Tyrone Pitts, general secretary of the Progressive National Baptist Convention. The PNBC's ecumenical officer, Brenda Girton-Mitchell, signed the letter, along with Jose Norat-Rodriguez, area director of Iberoamerica and the Caribbean for American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A.

Other signers included John McCullough of Church World Service, Michael Kinnamon of the National Council of Churches and leaders from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Church of the Brethren, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Mennonite Central Committee, Presbyterian Church (USA), Reformed Church in America, United Methodist Church and United Church of Christ.

One signer, John Thomas, general minister and president of the United Church of Christ, introduced Obama last summer at the UCC's General Synod in Hartford, Conn. At the time Obama was a member of a UCC-affiliated church in Chicago, but he later resigned his membership during the Jeremiah Wright controversy.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Survey says most Americans believe in multiple paths to salvation
By Bob Allen

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- A majority of American Christians believe that at least some non-Christian faiths can lead to eternal life, says a new survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Even among evangelicals, a branch of Protestant Christianity identified with the idea that an individual must be "born again" into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ in order to be saved, nearly as many Christians said many religions can lead to eternal life (47 percent) as those who believe theirs is the one true faith (49 percent).

The survey, released Dec. 18, followed up an earlier poll that found that seven Americans in 10 believe many religions can lead to salvation while less than one quarter say their faith is the only one that is true. Critics of that study questioned those findings, suggesting that for many Christians, "other religion" might have meant a different Christian denomination instead of a non-Christian faith.

The new study asks those who say many religions can lead to eternal life questions about specific faiths. Sixty-nine percent said Judaism can lead to eternal life, compared to 52 percent for Islam, 53 percent for Hinduism, 42 percent for atheists and 56 percent for people with no religious faith.

"Responses to these questions show that most American Christians are not thinking only of other Christian denominations when they say many religions provide a path to eternal life," the study found. "To the contrary, among those who say many religions provide a path to eternal life, strong majorities believe that both Christian and non-Christian faiths can lead to eternal life."

While white evangelicals are more exclusive in their beliefs about salvation than the general public, nearly two-thirds said it is possible for a Jewish person to go to heaven (64 percent) and a third said the same about Muslims (35 percent) and Hindus (33 percent). One in four evangelicals said atheists could attain eternal life (26 percent) and a third (35 percent) said it is possible for people with no religious faith.

Catholics (84 percent) and white mainline Protestants (82 percent) are most likely to say that many religions can lead to salvation. White evangelicals and black Protestants, meanwhile, have grown more strict on the question. Last year 37 percent of white evangelicals said theirs is the only true faith. This year that percentage rose 12 points to 49 percent.

Evangelicals who attend church at least once a week are twice as likely as those who attend less frequently to say their faith is the only path to heaven -- 60 percent to 30 percent.

About one third of Americans say one's beliefs determine who achieves eternal life, while an equal number say it depends on one's actions. A tenth of the population say it is a combination of belief and action. The rest say something else determines salvation, they don't believe in eternal life or they don't know.

Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary said the findings suggest "a virtual collapse of evangelical theology" that he blamed on superficial preaching in church pulpits.

The survey is based on results of telephone interviews of 2,905 adults conducted in July and August. The margin of error is plus or minus 2 percent.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Southwestern Seminary cuts budget
By Ken Camp

FORT WORTH, Texas (ABP) -- Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has announced plans to cut its budget by about 10 percent -- a reduction between $3.5 million and $4 million -- in an effort to "protect the institution from future financial crisis."

Casualties of the budget cuts include the seminary's childcare center, its study program in England and most overseas travel. More cutbacks are anticipated.

Southwestern is the second of six SBC seminaries to announce budget shortfalls. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., predicted staff cuts and a tuition increase to offset a projected $3.2 million budget shortfall.

Another Southern Baptist agency suffering financial woes, the Woman's Missionary Union auxiliary, implemented cost-cutting measures including a four-week unpaid furlough for each employee in order to trim its budget by $1.4 million.

"The administration is doing the best it can to find ways to cut spending that do not involve the release of existing faculty or the students employed by the school," Southwestern Seminary's president, Paige Patterson, said in a Dec. 16 news release.

Southwestern is suspending for at least 18 months the work of its Naylor Children's Center, a laboratory school under the direction of the school of educational ministries that provides care and instruction for preschool age children from six weeks to age 5. The center posts a deficit annually, according to the seminary's new release.

Parents reportedly received about two weeks' notice that the childcare center would be closing.

The seminary has also suspended its Oxford study program and all traveling scholar overseas on-site study trips, except for travel directly related to a missionary training program in the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions.

"We anticipate that other cutbacks in the budget will be necessary to ensure that Southwestern maintains its debt-free operational position and to be certain that revenues cover expenditures," Patterson said.

"This is a most regrettable circumstance and not of our own making, but as stewards before God, we are all responsible for handling matters with as much compassion and justice as we possibly can. The goal in the end is to have a strong seminary when the present financial crisis eases."

The news release noted that the cutbacks were being made in accord with recommendations by the seminary's board of trustees.

The seminary's operating budget draws on four streams of income -- endowment, tuition and fees, charitable gifts and funds from the Cooperative Program unified budget. Southwestern's total budget for 2008-2009, adopted at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in June, is just under $37 million.

Ken Camp is managing editor of the Texas Baptist Standard.


The story "WMU budget cuts include worker furlough" in our Dec. 16 issue contained an error in the eighth paragraph.

The corrected paragraph should read as follows:
Assets held in a WMU Foundation established in 1995 recently surpassed $20 million, but most of those funds are earmarked for scholarships or other designated causes.

Prayer Blog - 12/18/2008, #2

Tomorrow, JTH's father, CEH (aka "Homer"), consults another physician regarding his chronic pain. Despite numerous visits, his condition has yet to be properly diagnosed. Please keep Homer in your prayers.

Prayer Blog - 12/18/2008

This morning, my paternal grandfather, WCV Jr., collapsed while eating breakfast at a Hardee's. He was taken to a nearby emergency room where tests were conducted. Initial reports indicated that there was no serious damage though the cause of the spell is unknown. Please keep his health in your prayers.

Bible Trivia - 12/18/2008

Question: In the Beattitudes, who does Jesus say will inherit the earth?

Answer: The meek. (Matthew 5:5).

Comments: At the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes nine statements known as the Beattitudes, from Latin beatus, meaning "blessed" or "happy". In thes statements Jesus names situations in which a person is blessed. They are couner-intuitive. In the third Beattituide, found only in Matthew, Jesus claims that the world is gained through meekness rather than self-assertion.

“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5, NASB)

In response to this famous verse, American humorist Kin Hubbard (1868-1930) jested, “It's going to be fun to watch and see how long the meek can keep the earth once they inherit it.”

Word of the Day - 12/18/2008


A laird is a landed proprietor.

Jesus told a parable about a laird who planted a vineyard and sent servants to procure his produce only to have one after the other murdered. (Matthew 21:33-46)

"Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who PLANTED A VINEYARD AND PUT A WALL AROUND IT AND DUG A WINE PRESS IN IT, AND BUILT A TOWER, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. (Matthew 21:33, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 12/18/2008

I spent Wednesday night with JTH and ALK. We got an extremely late start. After work, JTH picked up ALK and then drove to his house to change clothes. If you know JTH, you realize how long this process took. We planned to go eat and naturally, Applebees was suggested. It was considered until ALK reminded us of the fiasco that we endured the last time we ate at Applebees on a Wednesday a.k.a. Kid’s Night. (See this post for details.) Since we have been complaining about it since said date, ALK did not want a repeat. Frankly, neither did we.

After briefly visiting with JTH’s mother, I drove us to O’Charley’s. I contemplated ordering the Chicken Parmesan Pasta until our waiter confessed that he hated it. I respected his honesty and went with a safe choice, the Club Sandwich. It was a good choice though I could have taken longer to make my decision. ALK took minutes to decide. This was my view for those many minutes. She eventually decided on the Classic Chicken Caesar Salad. I must also note that though ALK left more than half of her meal in the bowl, she requested extra bread. Bart, there are people starving out there!

Afterwards, we shopped at Target where ALK and I attempted to select another musical to torture JTH with. I became inexplicably tired so we decided to visit De La Rosa at Carmike Movies Seven and go to MoFoS after hours. De La Rosa actually referred to himself as De La Rosa during the conversation. This was awesome as this indicates that he is accepting the moniker we gave him.

After visiting with De La Rosa, we went to MoFoS as JTH had received a tip that a project that had taken him four hours to complete the night before had become undone. He had already decided the night before that this would be his last project at the store. He described his new work ethic as follows: “Movie 4 Sale: where the bare minimum is the maximum!” His work having been undone by the manager sent JTH further into a tizzy.

In updates on two terrible MoFoS purchases, thankfully JBT decided not to purchase the copies of Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountain Christmas in bulk as had been previously planned. Unfortunately, the bulk VHS purchase made by CTH before his dismissal could not be rescinded. Not only are there hundreds of copies of the same movies (on VHS no less), but they are all damaged with post-it notes describing the specific defectiveness of each tape. You will note that this box is filled with tapes of *NSYNC. The only thing in more demand than *NSYNC is VHS tapes. I anticipate many experiments ahead for JTH and TK.

Speaking of which, the duo did perform another experiment with their two favorite items, a baseball bat and VHS tapes. TK hit an aisle of VHS tapes to see how many the bat could penetrate simultaneously. While the first one shattered, the second VHS tape was merely dented. I have contested their research. I contend that WAM can demolish more tapes with a single swing. With ease.

The big news on Wednesday was that I received an e-mail from JRH informing me that there had been a problem with my application to UT’s PhD program. Initially, I misinterpreted the e-mail and felt that I would have to complete the entire process again. Frankly, I panicked. I then learned that the faculty could not review my application until my status was officially changed from non-degree student to application seeking student. You may recall that I had to change the status to enroll in classes because the university was behind in reviewing my file in the first place. So I was instructed to contact the Office of Graduate and International Admissions to change this status that affected nothing in the file. Now, you might think that I would simply call and say change this one word. No. This is UT. I had to fill out a Change of Program form, drive it to campus, and hand deliver it to Denise Sears. Theoretically, the Educational Psychology & Counseling Department staff can now look at my file. Keep this ongoing process in your prayers.

Finally, my dad has dropped his Facebook account. He was annoyed by the useless status updates. More annoying to him was that he kept getting friend requests. Yes, my dad dropped Facebook because he had too many friend requests. That's my Dad.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 12/17/2008

Associated Baptist Press
December 17, 2008 · (08-125)

David Wilkinson, Executive Director
Robert Marus, Acting Managing Editor/Washington Bureau Chief
Bob Allen, Senior Writer

In this issue
Evangelical leaders seek broad moral agenda in Cizik replacement (304 words)
Rick Warren to give invocation at Obama inauguration (327 words)
Pastor calls for 'un-blending' of secular, sacred Christmas traditions (959 words)
Time ranks SBC rejection of sex-offender database as 'under-reported' story (506 words)
Mike Huckabee says American Christians 'persecuted' (450 words)
Guest opinion: Infested with elves, indebted to the New York Times (809 words)

Evangelical leaders seek broad moral agenda in Cizik replacement
By Bob Allen

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- Fifty-nine evangelical leaders signed a letter requesting that whoever is chosen to replace ousted lobbyist Richard Cizik at the National Association of Evangelicals carry on Cizik's commitment to a moral agenda broader than opposition to homosexuality and abortion.

In a letter to NAE President Leith Anderson dated Dec. 16, the evangelical leaders expressed gratitude for Cizik's "broad Christian moral agenda that has helped define American Evangelicals' public witness."

Cizik resigned Dec. 10 as the NAE's vice president for governmental affairs after saying in a radio interview his view on gay marriage was shifting and he now supports civil unions for same-sex couples.

Anderson said that statement "did not appropriately represent the values and convictions of NAE and our constituents."

The letter from evangelical leaders acknowledged the NAE's right to choose its own spokesperson, yet urged that Cizik's replacement support "a broad Christian moral agenda" including not only the family and right to life but also human rights, peace and the environment.

Baptist signers included David Gushee, president of Evangelicals for Human Rights; Jonathan Merritt, spokesperson for the Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative; Carey Newman, director of Baylor University Press; and Glenn Stassen, a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary.

Another evangelical leader, Jim Wallis of Sojourners, said the Religious Right is already using Cizik's departure in attempt to steer the organization toward a narrower social agenda.

"I personally trust Leith Anderson's and the NAE Executive Committee's commitment to the wider evangelical agenda beyond just abortion and gay marriage, but also feel deeply saddened by these events," Wallis said in a statement.

Wallis urged NAE leadership "to stay on the path they have chosen and resist the efforts of those who would again seek to narrow the evangelical agenda in unbiblical ways and make it again subservient to a conservative political agenda."

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Rick Warren to give invocation at Obama inauguration
By Bob Allen

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- Rick Warren, founder of the Southern Baptist Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., will give the invocation at Barack Obama's Jan. 20 presidential inauguration.

In August Warren invited both then-candidate Obama and his Republican opponent John McCain to his California mega-church for a high-profile Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency. Obama landed in hot water when he tried to brush off a question from Warren about abortion by saying determining when a baby gets human rights is "above my pay grade."

Afterward Warren said he thought Obama should have been more specific in his answer.

"He should either say, 'No scientifically, I do not believe it's a human being until X' or whatever it is or to say, 'Yes, I believe it is a human being at X point,' whether it's conception or anything else," Warren said in a BeliefNet interview. "But to just say 'I don't know' on the most divisive issue in America is not a clear enough answer for me."

CBN's David Brody said including Warren in the inauguration "makes a whole lot of sense."

"Even though Warren and Obama disagree on the life issue, they do see eye to eye on many social justice issues," Brody said. "This move is also classic Obama because it is a signal to religious conservatives that he's willing to bring in both sides to the faith discussion in this country. Obama has never shied away from that."

In 2006 Warren, author of the best-selling Purpose Driven Life, drew criticism from fellow religious conservatives for inviting the Illinois senator to Saddleback Church for a conference on fighting HIV/AIDS.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, released the program Wednesday. Warren will be joined by luminaries including singer Aretha Franklin and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

Delivering the benediction is Joseph E. Lowery, co-founder with Martin Luther King of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and considered the dean of the civil rights movement.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Pastor calls for 'un-blending'of secular, sacred Christmas traditions
By Bob Allen

LEAWOOD, Kan. (ABP) -- A Baptist pastor thinks he has a solution to the dilemma about whether it's more appropriate to say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" in secular settings like department stores.

Mike McKinney submits that tensions that flare between Christians and secularists this time of year aren't about "taking Christ out of Christmas," as some religious observers believe, but rather because Christians have allowed their holiday to become too secularized by blending the celebration of Christ's birth with non-religious symbols like Santa Claus.

McKinney, pastor of Leawood Baptist Church in suburban Kansas City, is calling for a "reformation" of Christmas by separating secular and sacred aspects of the holiday.

McKinney says Christians and non-Christians alike would benefit from recognizing they are in fact celebrating two different holidays -- one a religious commemoration of Christ's birth and the other a winter festival marked by hustle and bustle with secular roots.

McKinney wrote the booklet titled Fixing Christmas for Everyone: A Plea for the Reformation of the Christmas Season proposing an un-blending of the "winter holiday" and "birth of Christ" traditions.

"It is simply not right to sing 'Silent Night' and 'Jingle Bells' as if they belong to the same holiday," McKinney says. "It is not right to honor the birth of Christ the Lord and to celebrate the arrival of Santa Claus the jolly old elf within the context of the same holiday."

McKinney says there is nothing wrong with singing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" or "Frosty the Snowman" in December -- in fact he enjoys much about the season -- but they simply don't have anything do to with Jesus Christ.

He says he is alarmed at how comfortable that both Christians and non-Christians have become with how Christmas is observed in America.

"Lots of folks are comfortable with blending Jesus with Santa, the Nativity with the North Pole, Angels with Elves, and Shepherds with Reindeer," McKinney says. "I am not!"

He says the mingling of secular and sacred is behind the conflict that arises every year over holiday greetings in the marketplace. The word "Christmas" is technically a religious title associated with the Christian faith, he reasons, so non-Christians can rightfully ask what winter shopping has to do with Christianity.

McKinney says for centuries Christians have commemorated the birth of Jesus Christ in their homes and churches with traditions, carols and Bible stories. Until fairly recently, he says, many Christians began their holiday on Christmas Day and followed it with 12 days of festivities ending with Epiphany on Jan. 6.

Many of the images now associated with the Christmas season didn't come along until the last century. The story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer appeared as part of a Christmas promotion in 1939 by Montgomery Ward and became even more popular when Gene Autry released it in song in 1949. Frosty the Snowman joined the Christmas lexicon in a song written and performed in 1950. A 1957 book by Dr. Seuss How the Grinch Stole Christmas introduced another character now affixed to the holiday.

McKinney says Christmas in the United States has evolved into a highly secularized and commercialized winter festival supporting various stories, traditions, characters and activities. Christians have adapted to the trend by ending instead of beginning their Christmas on Dec. 25.

In fact, he says, the phrase "Merry Christmas" no longer carries religious connotations in the public marketplace, but rather refers to a massive winter holiday season celebrated by people of all kinds.

"We truthfully have two separate and distinct holidays," he writes. "We should admit it and do something about it!"

McKinney says Christians and non-Christians together could "reform" the Christmas season by "slight modifications in our thinking and practices." He says doing so would benefit everyone, and no one has to lose anything.

"I suggest we separate the 'Winter Christmas' traditions from the 'Christian Christmas' traditions," he suggests. "I believe the two traditions can be 'unblended' without harming either. They can exist side-by-side in ways that can affirm both."

McKinney says people of all faiths would benefit from a clear distinction between a non-religious winter holiday and a highly religious Christian Christmas. He proposes the term "Christmas" be used only by Christians in a religious sense, while the secular celebration be renamed a "Winter Holiday."

The Winter Holiday would continue to begin many weeks before Dec. 25, enjoy the non-religious elements now associated with Christmas and end with post-Christmas sales on Dec. 26.

The Christian Christmas would follow preparation through Advent, begin Christmas Day, and continue into the New Year.

McKinney says Christians could choose to observe one or both holidays, while many non-Christians would be relieved to have the issue of Christ removed from a secular holiday.

McKinney said in an email he first went public with the idea two years ago, but didn't prepare the booklet until this year.

Last year he went on a radio talk show popular in Kansas City and talked with listeners both pro and con for two hours. He was recently interviewed for an upcoming article in the Kansas City Star.

McKinney said he has received emails from clergy supporting his idea since it received mention two weeks ago in a newspaper columnist's blog.

McKinney said Leawood Baptist Church, which is affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, is learning to think of Dec. 25 as the beginning of the Twelve days of Christmas.

The church brings out decorations on Christmas Eve and leaves them up through Epiphany. Many small groups and Sunday school classes have their Christmas parties after Dec. 25.

"We strive to think of Dec. 25 as the beginning of our sacred holiday and with the idea of spiritual renewal carrying the spirit of Christmas (Christ) into the New Year," McKinney said.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Time ranks SBC rejection of sex-offender database as 'under-reported' story
By Bob Allen

NEW YORK (ABP) -- Time Magazine ranked the Southern Baptist Convention's refusal to establish a database of clergy sex offenders one of the most under-reported news stories in 2008.

A ranking of under-reported stories in Time's "Top 10 Everything of 2008" special feature placed the story at No. 6, behind a mix-up that accidentally sent U.S. nuclear-warhead fuses to Taiwan, the Congolese civil war, violence in Sri Lanka, and new guidelines for insurance coverage for mental health and regulation of food from animals that are genetically altered.

"Facing calls to curb child sex abuse within its churches, in June the Southern Baptist Convention -- the largest U.S. religious body after the Catholic Church -- urged local hiring committees to conduct federal background checks but rejected a proposal to create a central database of staff and clergy who have been either convicted of or indicted on charges of molesting minors," the magazine noted.

"The SBC decided against such a database in part because its principle of local autonomy means it cannot compel individual churches to report any information. And while the headlines regarding churches and pedophilia remain largely focused on Catholic parishes, the lack of hierarchical structure and systematized record-keeping in most Protestant churches makes it harder not only for church leaders to impose standards, but for interested parties to track allegations of abuse."

Christa Brown, Baptist outreach leader for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, agreed the story was under-reported.
"It's such an extremely important story," she said. "The largest Protestant denomination in the land -- a denomination that claims 16.2 million members -- refused to even attempt to implement the sorts of proactive measures for routing out predators that other major faith groups have."

Brown, a survivor of clergy sex abuse, worked two years to draw attention to the problem of unreported sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches before seeing denominational leaders recommend against her suggestion of a national database.

Last month Brown and SNAP National Director David Clohessy wrote SBC President Johnny Hunt asking for a meeting about establishing a system to report abusive clergy.

"As president of the Southern Baptist Convention, you now have the opportunity to show genuine leadership on the issue of clergy sex abuse and cover-ups," the letter said. "This may be one of the greatest leadership challenges in the history of Southern Baptists."

The SNAP leaders said Southern Baptists' local-church autonomy makes it all-the-more imperative that congregations have enough information to make responsible decisions about whom they call as ministers.

"The only way people in the pews will find out about clergy child molesters is if victims feel safe in reporting them," they said. "And victims are never going to feel safe if they have to report abuse by going to the church of the accused minister."

"Telling clergy victims to 'go to the church' is like telling them to go to the den of the wolf who savaged them," the letter said. "It is cruel to the victim and unproductive toward the end of protecting others."

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Mike Huckabee says American Christians 'persecuted'

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (ABP) -- Former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee says it is culturally acceptable in America to persecute Christians.

In an interview with the Florida Baptist Witness, the former Arkansas governor cited foot baths provided for Muslims at the University of Michigan as evidence that accommodations are made for people of "every faith except Christians."

"It's perfectly legitimate in our culture today to engage in outright persecution against Christians with seemingly no social penalty for doing it, whether it's tearing a cross out of a lady's hand in California who happened to support Proposition 8 or the denigration of Christian values by not allowing even the traditional Christmas carols to be sung at a school," Huckabee said.... "[W]e shouldn't have special rules for everybody but Christians and then those rules are pushed and we become the persecuted."

Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister and past president of the Arkansas State Baptist Convention, preached at a Florida church while on tour promoting his new book, Do the Right Thing: Inside the Movement That's Bringing Common Sense Back to America. He also has his own show on Fox News.

The former dark-horse presidential contender said he hasn't decided whether he will run again in 2012. He gave Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin high marks, calling her "a wonderful person" with a "bright future in the Republican Party."

Huckabee said Barack Obama won the presidency in part because he swayed some conservative voters. "The large, simple answer is that Republicans did not close the deal and make a case, because they had not lived up to the advertising of balancing budgets, standing against corruption, being champions for the family and for life as they have been in the past," Huckabee said. "Obama was able to convince people that he was a centrist."

Huckabee said many people told him they supported him but voted for another candidate in the primary because they did not believe he could win the general election.

"Christians should never involve themselves in politics based on the process," he said. "It ought to be the principles, and what this last election revealed was that there were many people who had fallen into the trap of worshipping at the altar of process instead of adhering to the idea of godly principles."

"What I hope is that Southern Baptists in particular and evangelicals in general will recognize that if they are not the voice for life and traditional marriage, then don't expect the secularists to take up the cause," Huckabee said. "If we don't adhere to what we believe to be our biblical and eternal principles, then we have no reason to complain when we lose those principles in the public marketplace."

Guest opinion: Infested with elves, indebted to the New York Times
By Colleen Burroughs

I'm not sure when it began or which year my children started coming home asking for an elf. It turns out there is a way to write Santa and request one of his helpers to come spend the holiday with your family. On Christmas Eve your personal elf returns home to the North Pole with a promise to come back the following season.

The elves are epidemic at school. You can't drop a kid off or pick one up without an elf or two along for the ride. They each come with names and different rankings within the kingdom of Santa's workshop. There are worker elves and shelf elves. Everyone chit chats in carpool about what adventure his or her elf had been up to the night before.

It seems to me that Christmas time is right when Santa would need his elves the most, and don't parents have enough to do without a "helper" that rummages through the pantry opening all things related to sugar or toilet papers a room while the kids are at school?

Still, the subject of an exchange student from the North Pole has come up annually, and we finally caved. We know the innocence of youth doesn't last long, and all-too-soon our twins will be teenagers, completely uninterested in childhood mystery and wonder.

Our kids wrote Santa a specific request for a "nice elf." Her name is Larissa. She stays home and sleeps the day away -- or she gathers up the baby Jesus from all the nativities around the house and tries to feed them candy when we aren't looking. My kids love this about Larissa. She's sneaky.

Still, as my family sleeps snug in their beds at four o'clock in the morning, I am wide awake. I read an article the other day that won't let me sleep.

Half a world away in Zimbabwe there is a father who has just lost five of his children within a 48-hour period. The kids were playing in the streets one day, began throwing up at midnight and within two days they were dead. Just like that.

How is it that my children's world is infested with elves and theirs is infected with an epidemic of cholera? And what in the world can I do to bridge the gap of extreme poverty fueled, in Zimbabwe's case, by a corrupt leader?

In a Dec. 11 New York Times article, Celia W. Dugger wrote: "The outbreak is yet more evidence that Zimbabwe's most fundamental public services -- including water and sanitation, public schools and hospitals -- are shutting down, much like the organs of a severely dehydrated cholera victim."

With untreated national water systems, under-serviced sanitation and neglected sewers --coupled with an official inflation rate of 231 percent -- Zimbabwe's people are dying.

Children are showing up to school today hoping against hope that their long unpaid teachers will return again. The teachers can't afford the bus fare, much less the luxury of working for free. These children are losing any future possibility of pulling themselves out of the hole of poverty, should they actually survive into adulthood.

Just like my children, each of the children in Zimbabwe has a name. The father in the article came home to an unusually silent welcome and found that Prisca, Sammy, Shantel, Clopas and Aisha had died. Playing one day, gone the next.

Unlike our Christmas elf, these children will not be coming back to play again. Nor will their father hear them laugh like I will hear my children laugh this morning, running downstairs to find where Larissa has hidden baby Jesus swiped from the manger.

Today my children will head out the door to school where a teacher will be waiting to teach them to read, just like I did just over three decades ago as a missionary kid in Zimbabwe. The water in their drinking fountain will be clean and there will be toilets that flush.

There are plenty of places on the planet where the government is not being destroyed by men like Robert Mugabe. Global water poverty means that 2.5 billion people lack access to clean drinking water or safe sanitation. The harsh reality is that every 15 seconds a child dies somewhere around the globe because a preventable waterborne disease drains them of fluid.

All I know for sure is that if I'm willing to justify investing in wonder and mystery for my own children this Christmas, surely the very least I can do is stop and offer clean water to someone else's.

Here are ways to give water:
-- Water for Hope: A Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Initiative: Providing Safe Water in Jesus' Name.
-- Sponsor a child through World Vision.
-- Donate a gift through WaterAid.
-- Give water for Christmas by donating to Watering Malawi, a project of Passport, Inc.

Colleen Burroughs is executive vice president Passport, Inc., a national non-profit student ministry.

Bible Trivia - 12/17/2008

Question: What was the name of the man whose ear was cut off in Gethsemane?

Answer: Malchus. (John 18:10)

Comments: At Jesus' arrest, one of his disciples dismembered one of the arresting servant's ears. Though the story is recounted in all four canonical gospels (Matthew 26:51; Mark 14:47; Luke 22:49-51; John 18:10-11), the servant and the disciple (Peter) are named only in John. Luke is the only gospel that adds that Jesus restored the ear. (Luke 22:51)

Simon Peter then, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's slave, and cut off his right ear; and the slave's name was Malchus. (John 18:10, NASB)

Malchus is one of only two people healed by Jesus named in Scripture. The other is Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46).

Note: This depiction of the Capture of Christ was created by Veit Stoss (1445-1533). It presently resides in St. Mary's Basilica in Kraków, Poland.

Word of the Day - 12/17/2008


Veridical means truthful; veracious.

Proverbs asserts the immortality of veridical lips.

Truthful lips will be established forever, But a lying tongue is only for a moment. (Proverbs 12:19, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 12/17/2008

On Tuesday night, I attended a gathering at RAW’s house. We talked, ate pizza, and watched the Tennessee basketball game. In attendance were WAM, KLTW, KJW, MPW, RAW and RAW’s father ROW.

The night began at Food City where KLTW and KJW were getting snacks for the gathering. KJW was wearing her bathrobe and slippers at the grocery store. The Hugh Hefner look works for KJW.

After arriving at RAW’s house. RAW’s family took its annual Christmas photo in front of their tree. RAW got dressed from the waist up and KJW got into her Christmas dress. This is one of the problems with being so small: she cannot be shot from just the waist up. There would be three wardrobe changes on this night, five if you count the two diaper changes. At one point the kid sold me out. Un-prodded, she requested, “I want Chan to change my diaper.” I have trained her better than that!

I picked up our meal from Pizza Hut. In this photo you will notice that WAM is eating off of a platter as opposed to the festive plates the rest of is used! KLTW was pleased as the platter seldom gets used. KJW was required to eat a vegetable medley before sampling the pizza. This led WAM to ask, “Speaking of carrots, have you ever known anyone whose skin tone has changed?”

WAM also educated me on the internet practice of Rickrolling. Rickrolling is an internet prank which gets unsuspecting viewers for the music video of Rick Astley's 1987 song “Never Gonna Give You Up”. For further insight from WAM, check out the WAM Quote of the Day.

After much socializing, we watched the Vols play on ESPN. They scored an impressive 80-68 win over nationally ranked Marquette as part of the SEC/Big East Invitational. The game was played in Nashville. Despite hometown Vanderbilt playing in the opening game, Tennessee fans dominated the stands.

It was good to watch the game with MPW. We had not gotten to watch the past several games together. We also got some interesting commentary from the crew who do not usually watch the games. Near the game’s conclusion, WAM noted, “The French (Marquette) are starting to foul more.”

KLTW was focused on Wayne Chism, and not just because he played phenomenally (26 points and 11 rebounds). She could not comprehend how his headband stayed on his head. We noted that it seldom does stay on his head. Perhaps the durability of the headband accounted for his monster night... Other KLTW comments included noting how pretty Tennessee uniforms always look and how Marquette was not hustling because they rolled the ball down the court towards the conclusion of the contest. (Yes, we corrected her.)

In an equally irrelevant observation, Steven Pearl checked into the game with 4:08 left in the first half but did not attempt to take a charge.

The most significant event of the night occurred during halftime. KJW beckoned her mother repeatedly despite the fact that she was supposed to be asleep. It was well past her bedtime and for the first time ever I was given the task of coaxing KJW back to sleep. I had been trusted with little, performed well, and now my responsibilities had increased. (See Matthew 25:21) To call this new responsibility abject failure would be kind.

I walked into her room and she immediately stopped crying and gave me a huge grin. I let myself believe that she was thrilled to see me. KJW was smiling the smile of a con man who has stumbled upon an easy mark. I walked her around the room and when I returned her to her crib the crying began. I did what any grown man would do - I got her mommy. As KLTW summarized, “She sensed weakness in you.” As her mother had her, I asked, “Do you think your Uncle Chan was a pushover tonight?” Without hesitation, the child replied, “Yeah.”

Her daddy eventually got her back in bed.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 12/16/2008

Associated Baptist Press
December 16, 2008 · (08-124)

David Wilkinson, Executive Director
Robert Marus, Acting Managing Editor/Washington Bureau Chief
Bob Allen, Senior Writer

In this issue
Southern Seminary facing budget shortfall (297 words)
Supreme Court orders new review of detainee religious-rights case (387 words)
WMU budget cuts include worker furlough (372 words)
Baptist peace activist lobbied to end El Salvador's civil war (572 words)
Guest Opinion: Spending God's money (695 words)

Southern Seminary facing budget shortfall
By Bob Allen

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (ABP) -- The head of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is predicting layoffs and tuition increases to manage a $3 million budget shortfall.

President Al Mohler said in a Dec. 15 letter to the seminary community that cost-saving measures -- including a hiring freeze on non-essential positions and reduced travel -- have already trimmed the Southern Baptist Convention school's budget by $1.7 million.

That leaves a projected $800,000 to $1.5 million in further reductions projected over the next several months. Mohler said that would likely mean a reduction in the seminary's workforce and increasing tuition to boost revenue.

Mohler pledged "to do our very best to limit tuition increases" as a way to keep theological education affordable to as many ministers as possible.

Mohler attributed the shortfall to significant losses in the value of the seminary's endowed funds. He also said the school projects annual gift levels this year to be lower than usual and has been advised by denominational leaders to expect economic forces to eventually show up in reduced giving through the SBC.

Prior to the shortfall, Southern Seminary's 2008-2009 budget was $36,947,000. Just less than 40 percent of the school's income comes from tuition and fees. Nine percent is drawn from endowment revenue and 27 percent from the SBC's unified budget, called the Cooperative Program.

Mohler said work will continue on a 14,000 square-foot Welcome Pavilion under construction at the front entrance to the seminary's campus; it is designed to house admissions and the campus-security office. He also said other capital projects that are already funded and under contract will go forward, but all future building projects are on hold.

He said the current nation's economic challenge will likely be measured not in months but instead over the next two to five years.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Supreme Court orders new review of detainee religious-rights case
By Robert Marus

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- The Supreme Court has instructed a lower court to review its decision that terrorism detainees lack religious rights under United States law.

The justices issued an order Dec. 15 reversing the January decision by the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals. The justices told the lower court to reconsider it in light of the high court's June ruling in Boumediene v. Bush, which found that detainees have some rights under the Constitution.

The ruling is a victory for supporters of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), one of the federal laws cited in the suit against U.S. officials filed by four former detainees held at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The decision also provides a vehicle for the incoming administration of President-elect Obama to weigh in on the legal status of detainees.

President Bush's administration has argued repeatedly that basic constitutional rights enjoyed by other civilians and prisoners of war do not apply to terrorism suspects. Obama has expressed a broader view of constitutional protections for so-called "enemy combatants" and other detainees in the U.S. struggle against terrorism.

The plaintiffs were British citizens detained by American forces in Afghanistan and then transported to the high-security U.S. prison for terrorism suspects. After two years, they were released from Guantanamo without being charged.

According to the men, U.S. officials repeatedly subjected them to religious harassment, including forcing them to shave their beards, interrupting their prayer services and desecrating the Quran, the Islamic holy book.

The Washington-based Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty -- which filed a brief in favor of the prisoners' RFRA claims -- welcomed the ruling.

"Individuals and faith communities from across the religious spectrum recognize that our country's commitment to religious freedom is one of its greatest attributes," BJC General Counsel Holly Hollman said, in a prepared statement. "RFRA is a limitation on governmental interference with religious practice. Its protections are intentionally broad and reflect the widely shared belief that religious freedom is paramount."

A broad group of religious organizations joined the BJC on the friend-of-the-court brief, including the National Association of Evangelicals, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the American Jewish Committee.

The case is Rasul et al. v. Myers et al, No. 08-235.

Robert Marus is acting managing editor and Washington bureau chief for Associated Baptist Press.

WMU budget cuts include worker furlough
By Bob Allen

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (ABP) -- Woman's Missionary Union has announced budget cutbacks affecting the nearly 100 employees of the Southern Baptist Convention women's auxiliary, founded in 1888.

After consulting with the WMU Executive Board's finance and personnel committees Dec. 8, WMU Executive Director Wanda Lee informed employees Dec. 10 of budget cuts totaling $1.4 million. To avoid layoffs, cuts were made across the board. They include placing each staff member on a four-week unpaid furlough between January and August of 2009.

Lee said preserving jobs and maintaining affordable healthcare were top priorities in the decisions, made necessary by an economic crisis some analysts expect to be the worst since the Great Depression.

"None of the positions that we have are expendable," Lee said. "We already have a lean staff and need all the staff members we have to accomplish the work we do."

Other streamlining measures include a hiring freeze on all vacant positions, a freeze on merit raises and reducing employer contributions to each employee's retirement plan until Sept. 30.

"These were very difficult decisions to make and difficult ones for our staff to hear, but all indications are that the economic picture for our nation will worsen in 2009 before it improves," Lee said.

The revised 2009 budget is $9.6 million. WMU receives no funds from the SBC's Cooperative Program unified budget. It also receives no allocations from two annual SBC mission offerings WMU promotes. The organization supports itself through sales of magazines and other products as well as investments.

Assets held in a WMU Foundation established in 1995 recently surpassed $1 million, but most of those funds are earmarked for scholarships or other designated causes.

Lee said the cuts were designed to avoid a worst-case economic scenario while putting WMU in a position to continue its mission of encouraging personal involvement in missions and minstry.

"While our nation is experiencing some of the most challenging economic times in our history, we recognize jobs are scarce and we are doing everything we can do to protect jobs and ensure the future of WMU," Lee said. "We are simply taking proactive measures to successfully navigate these uncertain days in our nation's challenging economic climate in the event that it doesn't recover quickly."

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Baptist peace activist lobbied to end El Salvador's civil war
By Bob Allen

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- A Baptist peacemaker who lobbied Congress to stop the United States' funding of one side in El Salvador's 1980-1992 civil war has died.

Amparo Lopez Palacios, 69, discovered only weeks before her Nov. 14 death that she was suffering from advanced lung cancer. She died peacefully at a Washington hospice surrounded by her husband and three children.

With her husband, Edgar, Palacios led the Permanent Commission of the National Debate for Peace in El Salvador. The non-governmental organization worked to stop fighting between the nation's right-wing military government and a coalition of left-wing groups called the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN).

The Palacios were forced to flee El Salvador in 1989 -- under U.N. troop protection -- and they moved to Washington. There, the activists lobbied Congress to end aid to a Salvadoran military responsible for the murders of tens of thousands of civilians through death squads that terrorized the countryside for a dozen years.

Some of the war's most infamous acts included the March 1980 assassination of Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was shot through the heart while celebrating mass two months after asking President Jimmy Carter to cease military aid to El Salvador. Later that year, forces allied with the government raped and murdered three American nuns and a laywoman.

As executive director of the Washington office of Debate for Peace, Amparo Palacios lobbied members of Congress to end the United States' role as a silent partner to El Salvador's military. U.S. aid finally ended after a Salvadoran National Guard death squad killed six Jesuit priests in 1989.

The Palacios were present at the United Nations General Assembly when El Salvador's warring factions signed a peace treaty in 1992.

Edgar Palacios is now associate pastor of Christian education at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington and a mission pastor for the Latino community. Calvary's senior pastor, Amy Butler, remembered Amparo Palacios as a "brave, courageous voice for justice," a "trusted friend" and the "funniest person at the party."

Palacios' untimely death "leaves a huge hole in the Baptist peacemaking community," according to a statement from the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America.

"Her lifelong work for peace rooted in justice took her from the war-torn streets of El Salvador to the halls of the U.S. Congress where she advocated tirelessly for policies that would support the safety and healing of the Salvadorian people," the group said. "Her deep personal gentleness belied the immense violence she had experienced throughout her life."

The BPFNA remembered Palacios as "a friend to all who struggled" and called her life "a lasting witness to all of us who would work for peace."

Miguel De La Torre, associate professor of social ethics at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, called her life "a cause for celebration."

"In the midst of satanic forces that devoured the lives of Salvadorians during the 1980s, she lived the gospel message," said De La Torre, an ordained Baptist minister. "Not only did she fearlessly stand against the thugs of El Salvador, but also the powers and principalities in D.C. who provided the resources to the forces of death."

"The life she lived is a testimony to the liberating good news," De La Torre said. "May she be an example to all of us."

Since 1996 Palacios had been a family support worker at the Family Place, a drop-in center that serves expectant parents and families with small children.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Guest opinion: Spending God's money
By Christa Brown

(ABP) -- The secrecy of Southern Baptist Convention officials about a financial scandal at their International Mission Board wasn't anything unusual. It's the sort of thing we've seen over and over again.

Southern Baptists need to begin seeing the pattern rather than merely viewing these things as isolated cases.

It's a very common pattern: Without accountability, power corrupts. Religious organizations are no exception.

The corruption manifests itself not only in the cover-up of financial wrongdoing, but also in the cover-up of clergy sex abuse. For both types of corruption, the root of the problem is a systemic lack of accountability.

That's the root that Southern Baptists desperately need to remedy. Here are a few more illustrations showing the SBC's lack of accountability in the financial context.

-- North American Mission Board: The president of the North American Mission Board, Bob Reccord, resigned after a state convention newspaper published an extensive investigative piece about financial mismanagement.

At the time, Mary Kinney Branson was a marketing director for NAMB, and she's written a book that provides an insider's account of the extravagance and financial mismanagement there. Spending God's Money shows how a powerful religious organization goes wrong when it is unaccountable to the people who fund it and when its leaders lose touch with the higher purpose they purport to serve.

Branson provides details that implicate high Southern Baptist officials -- and those details are not flattering. For example, Reccord "had a $1 million fund he could use at his discretion, no questions asked and no receipts required."

Can you imagine any other organization that would allow an official to spend such sums with so little oversight?

When Reccord resigned, 41 Southern Baptist leaders signed a letter praising him and essentially whitewashing his "undisputed misuse of funds." One of those signers was Georgia pastor Johnny Hunt, who is now the SBC president.

-- Baptist Foundation of Arizona: The Baptist Foundation of Arizona was established with the pretense of serving Southern Baptist causes. During its history, it did indeed return about $1.3 million to Baptist causes. But it also "loaned" nearly $140 million to companies owned by three of the Foundation's directors. In doing so, the Baptist Foundation of Arizona cost thousands of investors their life savings to the tune of $570 million. It was called "the largest affinity fraud in history."

Also called "affinity scams," such frauds target investors who have a similar interest -- in this case, advancing "the Lord's work" through Southern Baptist churches.

Consider just one example: A Baptist Foundation of Arizona subsidiary called Arizona Southern Baptist New Church Ventures "had a stated purpose of financing new Southern Baptist churches in Arizona. Yet it raised most of its money by selling investment products to individuals and invested most of those funds in ... an allegedly phony company owned by one-time BFA director Jalma Hunsinger."

Many of the investors were elderly, and they learned of the investment "opportunity" through their church. They were promised high returns and that some of their money would be used to advance the Gospel. Brochures, distributed in Arizona churches, assured investors that their money "would be as safe as if kept in a bank."

"We were deceived," said a woman who invested $35,000 from her son's Navy death benefit with the Arizona foundation. She described the foundation's presentation in her church as being like "the moneychangers in the Temple," and she complained that Baptist officials were reluctant to discuss the scandal for fear that it "gives God a bad name."

-- Baptist General Convention of Texas: The "Valleygate" scandal showed the ugly side of the largest state-wide Baptist convention in the country. It involved $1.3 million in lost and mismanaged church-starting funds. According to the Texas Baptist Standard, "The investigative team faulted the BGCT Executive Board staff for poor oversight, uneven management, failure to abide by internal guidelines and misplaced trust."

Because the investigators' report indicated that some BGCT staff had "allowed the misuse to occur," it was determined that recovery of the funds would be difficult.

These are the sorts of disasters you get when an organization gives its leaders power without also insisting on accountability. Without accountability, power corrupts.

Christa Brown is Baptist director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. She runs the Stop Baptist Predators website. This column is adapted from her blog.

Prayer Blog - 12/16/2008

In an update from the December 10th Prayer Blog, my “aunt” PRL’s father has been diagnosed with lymphoma of the fourth vertebra. He is scheduled to be released from St. Mary’s Hospital tomorrow after a lengthy stay. Continue to keep the Lewis family in your prayers.

WAM Quote of the Day - 12/16/2008

On Tuesday night, WAM attended a party at RAW’s house. While there, the subject of RAW’s family getting a new pet was broached. WAM’s suggested that they purchase a hedgehog. He had evidently given it a great deal of consideration as he informed:

“Its been awhile since I checked but last time I did a female hedgehog was about $300.”

Naturally, WAM advised the family that they name the pet Sonic after the Sega video game character.

My input? I noted that KJW cries, begs for food, etc. What do they need a pet for?

Bible Trivia - 12/16/2008

Question: Who was renamed Jedidiah by Nathan?

Answer: Solomon. (II Samuel 12:24-25)

Comments: Solomon, the second son of David and Bathsheba, was given two names at his birth. In addition to the name he would make famous, Solomon (meaning "peaceful") is conferred the name "Jedidiah" by the Lord through the mediation of the prophet Nathan. (II Samuel 12:25-25) The name is of Hebrew origin and means "beloved of the Lord". Keith Bodner describes the name as "an obvious variant on the name David". ("Nathan: Prophet, Politician and Novelist?" Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, 2001) A number of scholars have suggested that Jedidiah took the throne name Solomon when he succeeded his father as king of Israel.

Both of the king's names are predictive of the character of his reign.

Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and went in to her and lay with her; and she gave birth to a son, and he named him Solomon. Now the LORD loved him and sent word through Nathan the prophet, and he named him Jedidiah for the LORD'S sake. (II Samuel 12:24-25)

"Solomon" obviously became the name by which the child was primarily known as the name Jedidiah appears in only this verse of the Bible.

Word of the Day - 12/16/2008


A proselyte is a person who has changed from one opinion, religious belief, sect, or the like, to another; convert.

Lydia of Thyatira is considered the first European Christian proselyte.

A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. (Acts 16:14, NASB)

Note: This quilt of Lydia was made by Maria Elkins for the "Biblical Women of Faith" exhibit. The purple is indicative of her occupation as "a seller of purple fabrics".

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 12/16/2008

On Monday night, I mooched another plate of pasta off of the Walker family at RAW’s house. Given the choice, KJW selected the rainbow rigatoni over the bow tie rigatoni. I am fairly certain her decision was based upon the fact that this option was presented last.

While dinner was being prepared, KJW and I played. We began with her favorite game, taking each other’s food orders. She wanted me to order hot dogs and French fries. After I took her suggestion, she realized that she had misplaced the items. When I did not receive my order, I asked her where my food was. She responded, “I put them...I cannot say...” It was priceless. She is so small she looks younger than she is but she speaks like someone much older. Later, after I declined a side dish of broccoli, she prodded me by giving me the food and saying, “yeah, it’s good.”

After countless turns at this game, we played basketball, hide and seek, and (at her suggestion) she “cleaned” her room with her toy vacuum cleaner. Cooking. Cleaning. I do my best to reenforce dated misogynist stereotypes whenever possible. (Note: I neither taught her nor suggested either game.)

Hide and seek is a new game for KJW. The only problem with this game is her strategy. With the entire house at her disposal she hides in the same place every time: under the crib. Eventually, I caught on...

Supper was great as always. My favorite story from the day naturally involved KJW. While at McDonald’s she got into a confrontation with another child. She responded by yelling, “Boy, don’t touch me! Get away from me!” Her daddy and I are hoping that this trend persists.

After supper, we all watched the majority of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on ABC Family. RAW and I had never seen the movie in its entirety. Come to think of it, we still haven’t. We all enjoyed the movie though KJW was worried the remainder of the night that her nose had turned blue.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Prayer Blog - 12/15/2008, #2

RBW and JCP, retired missionaries who attend my church, have learned that their son, Michael, of St. Cloud, Minnesota, has been diagnosed with liver cancer. He plans to visit Knoxville on Friday of this week (December 19th) to be with his parents and sister, Debbie. Please keep the Wyatt family in your prayers.

Prayer Blog - 12/15/2008

In an update to Saturday's prayer blog, ANDR and PCR met with a surgeon today at Parkwest Medical Center. The probable cause of her ill health appears to be appendicitis. Please keep the Ruth family and their doctors in your prayers during this time.

Church Sign - 12/15/2008

Church: Bethesda Christian Fellowship (1015 Cedar Ln; Knoxville, TN 37912)

Sign: “He who throws dirt loses ground”

Commentary: This clever proverb has a literal and idiomatic meaning. Its idiomatic meaning involves two colloquialisms: “throwing dirt” and “losing ground”. It states the futility of slandering one’s opponent in winning an argument. The Bible also instructs its readers not to speak out of bitterness or anger.

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. (Ephesians 4:31, NASB)

See also Leviticus 19:17, I Timothy 3:11, James 4:11.

Bible Trivia - 12/15/2008

Question: What are mentioned for the first time in the Bible in Ezra 2:69?

Answer: Coins. (Ezra 2:69)

Comments: The use of coins as currency extends from the Biblical era to the presence. The first reference to coins in the Bible occurs in the book of Ezra. In this book, coins are used in reference to the Israelites supplying the treasury for the rebuilding of their fallen temple.

According to their ability they gave to the treasury for the work 61,000 gold drachmas and 5,000 silver minas and 100 priestly garments. (Ezra 2:69, NASB)

After much effort, by the conclusion of Ezra, the temple is completed and is dedicated with great solemnity. (Ezra 6:13-18)

Word of the Day - 12/15/2008


Acquisitive means tending or seeking to acquire and own, often greedily; eager to get wealth, possessions, etc.

The tenth commandment prohibits being acquisitive.

" You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor." (Exodus 20:17, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 12/15/2008, Part 3

On Sunday, JTH and I attended a worship service at Bearden United Methodist Church to support ALK, who was playing handbells. This was the second time we have done so as we also attended the October 19th service at the church. Amazingly, we were early for the event. Like good Baptists, we sat on the back row. I convinced ALK to wear her gloves throughout the service but could not get her to mime.

In this, their Christmas performance, the group played three songs: “Angels We Have Heard on High”, “Pat-A-Pan”, and “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”. As always, director Les Beaver and his crew put on a good show. Unfortunately the group’s awesome name, The Rings of the Lord, was not listed in the bulletin.

As when we last visited, I got to see my first and third grade teachers. On this day, we were surrounded by Wandas as a woman with the name sat beside us and in front of us. The latter was former County Commissioner Wanda Moody.

As an aside, is it customary in small churches that when prayer requests are asked for, that it disseminates into a group of people telling their birthdays? This seems to happen a lot in the churches I visit.

Afterwards, we were pressed for time as ALK had to babysit so we ate at a nearby Subway, theoretically to save time. A poor girl named Kayla was the only employee working and she was overwhelmed. We could have eaten just about anywhere equally fast. Kayla’s positive attitude amidst this pressure was remarkable. The time at Subway did give us time to engage in banter with our church friend EAT who was in line in front if us.

Afterwards, JTH and I frequented McKay’s. We were in the store forever (literally hours), amazingly not because of me. We ran into RAW and MPW who were killing time before a basketball game at church. We also ran into an old college friend named Matt Nichols. I had Matt share his testimony with the boys. Until 1998, he was one of the area’s leading drug dealers. He showed them a photo of himself with countless bills and an automatic weapon. God came into his life and he has made a complete turn around. Yes, I had a guy share his testimony on the spot. Matt did not seem to mind.

Later in the day, JTH and I visited our friend JJG, whom I used to babysit for years ago. We dropped off his and his sister’s Christmas gifts though she was away babysitting. Where were all of these parents going? JJG is well and enjoying college life and his involvement with Sigma Chi. He is enjoying it so much that it was a small miracle that we caught him on a rare visit home.

Most importantly, en route, since I was giving my first gift of the season, I put Hilary Duff’s Christmas album “Santa Claus Lane” into the CD player. It is not officially Christmas until I am listening to her rendition of “Last Christmas” on repeat. I must note that the entire CD is perhaps the worst Christmas album ever produced but it is worth listening to just to hear her whisper “Merry Christmas” on that track.

Finally, were Bart to participate in a minstrel show, would she be “Black Bart”?

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 12/15/2008, Part 2

On Saturday, I inadvertently attended a Christmas parade in Marvyille.

How does one inadvertently attend a parade? It started when I decided to shop at Maryville’s Goodwill. This branch has the best selection of books in the area with an entire room devoted to reading materials. I noticed people lining the sidewalks when I entered and realized something was amiss, but did not think much of it. When I left the store, I found I was trapped in the middle of a massive parade!

I learned that I was witnessing the Maryville/Alcoa Jaycees annual Christmas Parade, which began at 11 am. (Note: If you click on their web site, you will hear a midi version of the Backstreet Boys’”Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)”. Seriously.) This year's theme was titled “Your Christmas Story.” Though it is difficult to tell from my typically inept photography, there were indeed people dressed as Civil War soldiers participating.

Despite the delay, I did make it home in time to watch the Tennessee basketball team play at Temple. This proved unfortunate as Tennessee never led as the defending Atlantic 10 tournament champs defeated the Vols, 88-72. Temple’s star, Dionte Christmas (pictured) lit Tennessee up like a Christmas tree for 35 points including seven three-pointers. That’s all I have to say about that.

The day did get better. I spent the evening with my parents. We ate at Calhoun’s. I saw my father in a sweater vest for the first time ever. I hope to never see this sight again and in deference to him did not take any photos.

Calhoun’s continues its demise. The last time I ate there, I posted that they no longer serve twice baked potatoes or the Rocky Top potato skins. (See the November 18th “In Eckleburg’s Eyes” post for details.) Now, only certain meals are eligible for their complimentary bread. I cannot tell you how much I hate the economic crisis.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 12/15/2008, Part 1

I spent Friday night with JTH and TK at MoFoS.

We were seldom talking amongst ourselves as the regulars came out in full force. I had just missed Amy and Jeff from Applebees as well as JBT and his crew, who had left to celebrate SCB’s birthday at The Butcher Shop. Thankfully, one customer I did not miss was De La Rosa. This was his response to my request to get a photo of him with JTH and TK for posterity. Yes, he left the store. (He did have to get back to work.) When asked which of our trio he hated most, he was speechless. Some races are just too close to call.

De La Rosa entered the store at 6:47 pm. I may start documenting this like I do Steven Pearl’s attempts to take charges during Tennessee basketball games. Some notes are just to amuse myself.

We spent a great deal of the night talking with LC, the creator of Men in Black (MIB). He is a regular. (Read: understatement.) He began by noting how many people have died recently. Forrest J Ackerman (founder of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine), Beverly Garland (who played Fred MacMurray’s wife on the last three seasons of My Three Sons), Van Johnson, and Bettie Page are all recently deceased. Thankfully I was there as, other than Page, the staff had not heard of any of the others mentioned. I do not feel that this was a substantially high death toll of “celebrities”. I think people on this level of fame die all of the time. LC is just more aware than most.

The conversation then veered to LC’s experiences on the set of MIB. He has a cameo in the film though one has to know where to look to spot him. (Believe it or not, I have never seen either MIB movie, though, of course, I own both.) LC also noted how impressed he was that the film’s star, Tommy Lee Jones, asked permission to get a soda from the extra’s craft services stash. I always enjoy conversing with LC.

Believe it or not, there is a great art debate ongoing at MoFoS. As mentioned and pictured, a new employee has decorated the store by sketching holiday art on the windows. Prior to this decorating, EA had been given permission to decorate the back room of the store. Now, JBT is debating whether or not to let her as he insists that his employee is the better artist. Remember, EA is an art major at UT who is presently commissioned to paint a portrait of UT wide receiver E.J. Abrams-Ward. JBT’s criteria for his assessment is that EA outlines her art before painting. He does not feel this constitutes art. EA do not fret. By this rationale, Leonardo da Vinci was not an artist either!

So what are EA’s plans for the backroom? She has been planning a mural featuring a hairy chested CTH, a woman with a heart tattoo that reads “De La Rosa”, and LC pictured with an Asian woman. These are just some of the options that have been discussed. Would De la Rosa get it?