Saturday, February 7, 2009

Bible Trivia - 2/7/2009

Question: What was the site of Jesus' discourse on the end of the age?

Answer: Olivet or Mt. of Olives. (Matthew 24:3)

Commentary: Named for its location, the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25) is the final of five speeches which serve as the foundation for The Gospel of Matthew. The address is given shortly before the Passion. Given its subject matter, it is also known as “The Little Apocalypse”.

As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"

Versions of the Olivet Discourse also appear in Mark 13 and Luke 21.

Note: This photograph of the Mount of Olives comes from BiblePlaces.Com.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Associated Baptist Press - 2/6/2009

Associated Baptist Press
February 6, 2009 · (09-17)

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

In this issue
Christian social entrepreneurs measure success by different yardstick (865 words)
Human trafficking is all too real, filmmaker discovers (680 words)
Environmental damage hurts children and elderly most (341 words)
Predatory gambling preys on weakness for profit, activist insists (414 words)


Christian social entrepreneurs measure success by a different yardstick
By Ken Camp (865 words)

HONG KONG (ABP) -- A growing number of Christian businesspeople -- who see entrepreneurial ventures as missional opportunities -- believe doing good and doing well don't have to be mutually exclusive.

These Christian social entrepreneurs are committed to using their business skills to organize, create, manage and monetize a venture to improve society in a holistic way -- doing what they call "kingdom work."

"A motivating factor for me was that I was involved in bringing together a team in the United Kingdom to create a campaign to address the demand side of human trafficking called 'The Truth Isn't Sexy,'" said Shannon Hopkins, co-founder of Sweet Notions, a business in England that sells used fashion accessories donated by individuals and stores around the world.

"We were very successful impacting both government and the culture. But finding seed money for innovative new ventures is very hard. So, that is the kind of work Sweet Notions wants to support -- seed money primarily for new work that can be leveraged to bring big change."

About 10 years ago, Hopkins served on the team that helped start Soul Café, a postmodern Christian community in Kerrville, Texas. Later, she worked in student ministry at Schreiner University in Kerrville and as a consultant with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Hopkins and business partner Jessica Stricker launched Sweet Notions last year out of a "desire to see both personal and community transformation," she said.

"Our faith has been a motivating factor in starting Sweet Notions. But along with faith, there is actually a recognition that social enterprise offers a unique opportunity for kingdom work today," Hopkins said.

"We are measuring our impact on a quadruple bottom line -- measuring our success not only through the economic capital we create, but also measuring the environmental, social and spiritual capital that is generated through Sweet Notions."

For Sam Say, a Baptist layman in Hong Kong, the starting point in launching a social-venture enterprise was asking how to "capture kingdom dollars for kingdom purposes." In his case, the answer was simple. Christians buy coffee. His plan focused on developing a way they could buy a product they already planned to purchase from a provider who could help poor farmers in his native Laos improve their lives.

Less than two years ago, he launched Bolaven Farms -- an organic coffee farm that markets its product to churches and individuals in the United States who subscribe to the service. Subscribers receive two half-pound bags every month.

The farm is located on 410 acres of fertile land on the Bolaven Plateau of southern Laos, bordered by mountain streams on the north and southwest. About 100 acres are devoted to grasses and legumes to restore nitrogen to the soil and provide fodder for livestock. The remainder is devoted to coffee growing.

Bolaven-grown coffee beans are hand-sorted to ensure quality before they are roasted, packaged and shipped.

Bolaven Farms is "a for-profit business with the mandate to act justly, to love kindness and to walk humbly with God," Say explained.

He also has created a companion non-profit organization -- Just Grounds -- that relates directly to churches and recruits short-term missions volunteers and prayer partners.

"We want people not just to buy our coffee but to adopt Laos and to commit to praying that God will do amazing things there," he said.

Say hopes Just Grounds can directly benefit sustainable community development through loans, village school construction, scholarships, mobile clinics and water purification projects.

About 110 people -- 80 adults and their children -- participate in Bolaven Farms' resident program that allows landless families to work on a demonstration farm for two years. Graduates of the program can qualify for matching loans to establish their own small-scale family farms.

A non-resident program at Bolaven Farms offers short-term training for farmers who already work their own land but need to learn additional skills to maximize crop production in a sustainable way.

Christian social entrepreneurs who launch legitimate businesses with missional objectives are qualitatively different than missionaries who use business as a "cover" to enter countries closed to traditional missions outreach, said Bill Tinsley, leader of WorldconneX, the missions network launched by the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

"In recent years, Christian missionaries attempted to enter closed countries posing as legitimate businesses while, in fact, having no business expertise or interest. This has proven to be unfortunate in most cases and counterproductive to the gospel. Honesty and integrity cannot be discarded, even when the ends seem to justify the means by giving Christians a foothold in a hostile country," Tinsley wrote in Finding God's Vision: Missions and the New Realities.

In contrast, many countries "offer an open door" to Christians who have entrepreneurial ability and genuine skills to create successful businesses that benefit society, he noted.

"This may be the most revolutionary missions development in the 21st century," Tinsley wrote. "Professional, fully funded missionaries are still needed and will still be sent by existing denominational and parachurch mission boards and agencies. They might even add to their numbers. But the missions impact of entrepreneurial Christians who capitalize on the global economy and the new realities could be exponential by comparison."

Ken Camp is managing editor of the Texas Baptist Standard.


Human trafficking is all too real, filmmaker discovers
By John Hall (680 words)

AUSTIN, Texas (ABP) -- A few years ago, Justin Dillon read an article in the New York Times Magazine that detailed the story of young Indian girls who were searching for a better life in the United States but ended up in prostitution. Along the way, they were robbed, sold into slavery, beaten and repeatedly raped.

The atrocities were unfathomable to Dillon, a San Francisco musician. Like other horrifying events such as the genocide in Darfur and the Holocaust, he had no mental framework through which he could comprehend what was taking place via something called "human trafficking." More than 12 million people were affected by it -- a number so large he found it unimaginable.

Until he met one of the people affected by it.

Shortly after reading the article, Dillon and his band played a small town near the Black Sea. The crowds were raucous and energetic, treating Dillon and his bandmates like they were the Beatles. After the show, he met one of his new fans, a teenage girl who believed she had paid someone to make travel arrangements for her to go to the United States.

But her story didn't add up. She believed she was going to America for a more comfortable lifestyle -- working in a fast-food restaurant. Remembering the Times article, Dillon dug deeper, asking the girl to show him the paperwork for her travel arrangements.

She had none. Dillon sat her down and explained to her that she was being swindled and most likely would become a victim of human trafficking. He told her that she likely would be sold, beaten and raped, never living the life she thought she was a plane ride from.

The toughest part wasn't explaining what most likely was this girl's fate, Dillon said. It was watching her decide to take the chance anyway.

"They're blinded by their desire for something better," he said during a session of the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission's annual meeting in Austin.

Shaken by his first contact with human trafficking, Dillon was determined to do something. He gathered a few of his musician friends and started putting together a concert to fight human trafficking, but couldn't get everyone together for one date.

Eventually the project morphed from a concert to a documentary that would take him across the country and overseas. Last year Call and Release, a musical film about human trafficking, was released in an effort to raise awareness about the issue. He has been touring with the movie ever since, including a showing during the CLC conference.

Human trafficking is a global issue, but is particularly important in Texas, where 20 percent of U.S. human trafficking occurs, according to Texas state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio). The I-10 corridor has been designated as the busiest human-trafficking passage in the nation.

About 80 percent of human-trafficking victims are female, and roughly 50 percent of victims are children. Traffickers work in organized underground syndicates, moving women from location to location on at least a monthly basis.

Victims run the gamut of ethnicities and are in a variety of jobs, but many of them end up in sexually oriented businesses, said Texas Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas). Because of that, Anchia helped craft legislation that helped Dallas law- enforcement officers crack down on exotic dancing clubs and massage parlors, uncovering groups of girls who had been trafficked.

Anchia and Van de Putte are attempting to round out legislation mandating training for law-enforcement officers to recognize and stop human trafficking. They're also working on systems to track human trafficking and allow a way to hold traffickers accountable in civil court.

"Our fight to end human trafficking will be long and arduous," Van de Putte said.

Eric Nichols, a deputy state attorney general, said that fight will require the help of the public and public organizations such as churches. Texans serve as the eyes and ears for law enforcement officials, he said.

"This is an issue where your organization and your churches, if you have the enthusiasm, can make a difference," he said.

John Hall is news director for the Baptist General Convention of Texas.


Environmental damage hurts children and elderly most
By Ken Camp (341 words)

AUSTIN, Texas (ABP) -- Environmental degradation presents the greatest danger to the most vulnerable people --particularly children and the elderly, a Houston pediatrician recently told the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission's annual conference.

Scientists have reached consensus about the reality of global warming, and children especially will bear the brunt of its effects, said Susan Pacheco, a faculty member of the pediatrics department at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston.

Pacheco, who treats children who suffers from allergies and immune-deficiency disorders at the school's clinic, noted children are more vulnerable than the general population to heat stress, air pollution, water-borne diseases and extreme weather events.

Heat-related deaths take a particularly heavy toll on the elderly population, while children especially suffer ill effects from air pollution, she said.

"Children are more susceptible to harm from ozone air pollution," she said, due in part to the time they spend outdoors and in part because of their increased breathing rate relative to their body size.

"Asthma is the most common chronic disease among children," she said, adding that airborne irritants linked to vehicle traffic and other pollutants increase the risk. Also, as the overall global temperature has increased, it has resulted in a dramatic increase in pollen production, she explained.

Global warming already has begun to present greater risk to population centers in coastal areas, which tend to have a high percentage of the poor, the elderly and the very young, she said.

"The intensity of hurricanes is going to increase significantly. That's a no-brainer," Pacheco said. "It is primarily due to the increase in sea temperatures."

That, in turn, presents greater risk of flooding and resultant diseases that are water-borne or spread by insects.

As a resident of a coastal city, Pacheco noted she and her family have learned how to secure their home against the elements and cope with the inconvenience of occasional power outages. But for the chronically poor in developing countries, those options are not available, she observed.

"We are people in a privileged position," she said.

Ken Camp is managing editor of the Texas Baptist Standard.


Predatory gambling preys on weakness for profit, activist insists
By Ken Camp (414 words)

AUSTIN, Texas (ABP) -- Public revulsion over recent abuses in the financial sector could give new impetus to efforts to outlaw the most pernicious forms of gambling, an anti-gambling activist recently told the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission's annual conference.

"The state lottery is government's version of sub-prime lending," said Les Bernal, executive director of StopPredatoryGambling.org.
If the general public recognized the realities surrounding state-run lotteries and casino gambling, people would view them in the same light as predatory lenders, he insisted.

"We need to change the public perception. We're talking about predatory gambling -- using gambling to prey on human weakness for profit," Bernal said.

Instant-win scratch-off lottery tickets and casino gambling differ from small-stakes social gambling in several respects, he observed -- the speed of the games and the "buzz" people get; the amount of money people lose; and the predatory marketing that is used to promote them.

The Federal Trade Commission exempts state lotteries from the same standards to which other advertisers must comply, he noted.

"We should ask why, during severe economic times, is the government trying to convince citizens to spend large sums of money on virtually worthless tickets instead of encouraging savings," Bernal said.

But unfortunately, the ads work, he added.

"One out of five Americans thinks the best way to achieve long-term financial security is to play the lottery," he said.

Lotteries could not even come close to breaking even if they relied on sales to casual buyers, he added. Five percent of the ticket buyers account for more than half of all ticket sales.

Instant-win lottery tickets trigger the same brain chemistry as the bells and whistles of a casino slot machine, said Rob Kohler, who worked 12 years with the Texas Lottery Commission before he joined the anti-gambling movement.

"It's instant gratification -- the same appeal for scratch-off lottery tickets and for slot machines," he said.

In recent decades, state-run lotteries have helped transform the United States from a nation of small savers into a national of small wasters, said David Blankenhorn, founding president of the Institute for American Values.

"Lotteries take direct and intentional aim at the thrift ethic," he said.

Blankenhorn believes government could help reverse that trend by "repurposing the lottery." He envisions using the existing lottery infrastructure to encourage savings.

"Every time a person went to buy a lottery ticket, they also would have a chance to buy a savings ticket," he said. "And the slogan could be, 'Every ticket wins.'"

Ken Camp is managing editor of the Texas Baptist Standard.

Word of the Day - 2/6/2009

Nictitate

To nictitate is to wink.

In no Biblical narrative is a character said to have nictitated. All four biblical references to nictitation occur in the Wisdom Literaure (Psalms 35:19; Proverbs 6:13, 10:10, 16:30).

He who winks his eyes does so to devise perverse things;
He who compresses his lips brings evil to pass. (Proverbs 16:30, NASB)

Note: This photo is of a nictitaing George Reeves (1914-1959) in "The Adventures of Superman".

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 2/6/2009, Part 3

News & Notes from Thursday, February 5th, 2009

-On Tuesday morning, my 9 am and 10 am appointments showed up at Hope Resource Center (HRC). That is eight in a row for those of you keeping score at home. The sessions went fairly well. I think society is digressing to docetism (a separation of body and spirit) which accounts for so many clients at HRC. Personally, I believe that every action reflects spirituality.

-I did get a recommendation: view UFC color commentator Joe Rogan’s thoughts on the legalization of marijuana. Note: This endorsement was definitely from a client.

-As I typically work Tuesdays, I was unacquainted with the Thursday staff and enjoyed meeting them. Among them was Ann Pruitt (MACP), from my church. In fact, I taught my first Sunday School class with MACP in 1992. (I was 14, teaching second grade.) I learned we had another connection as well. She was baptized at First Baptist Church in Newport (my home church) in 1948.

-I then headed to my church to take MLM out for his birthday (the previous day). While there, I got another recommendation. GWS and I had a long conversation (I love GWS and always talk his head off) in which he endorsed Gary Thomas’ book The Beautiful Fight: Surrendering to the Transforming Presence of God Every Day of Your Life. I always respect GWS’s recommendations and I suspect I will probably get more out of this book than the Joe Rogan materials. Call it a hunch.

-JTH, CMU, and I then took MLM to the Silver Spoon Café for lunch. Despite my love of the place, he actually picked the restaurant. I ordered the “Hearty Pot Roast”. It was good, as is to be expected with any item that has “hearty” in its name.

-MLM had a good birthday. Due to Knox County Schools being closed, most church functions were cancelled as well. This allowed MLM to eat with his wife. He also went out and bought a djembe, for $50 less than he anticipated no less. It is a cross between a bongo and timpani. The always selfless MLM bought the drum to be used at his home, his wife’s school, and the church.

-The majority of lunch was spent discussing economic, political, and religious issues. JTH was thrilled.


-On Thursday night, I stopped by MoFoS for the final hour of JTH’s shift. He had grown weary of his task (repricing PlayStation 3 games) so I volunteered to help. While there, I once again encountered the most indecisive man on the planet. Just how indecisive is he, you ask? JTH called him so! And it was not a case of the pot calling the kettle black either. The customer and I were there the final hour of the store’s operation and the man had been there over an hour already. He asked me about every Blu-Ray title we had. He had already asked JTH and JDK their opinions, as well as some random customers who had the misfortune of passing him. This is not the first time this has happened either. He positions himself by the counter and alternates between viewing the backs of the cases relentlessly and playing with his BlackBerry (which JTH calls a “blueberry”.) When Barry Schwartz wrote The Paradox of Choice, he had this guy in mind.

-He is also clearly one of the most oblivious customers as well. This was neither the only shot I took of him nor did I conceal my efforts either.

-After the shift, JTH and I ate at Applebees where Amy was our waitress. This is a photo of JTH’s quesadillas (his favorite item). You will note the countless toothpicks imbedded in JTH’s dish. The manager recognized the order and decided to rib JTH. Further proof we eat there way too much.

-AFH had finished her shift when we arrived but came and sat with us for awhile. In six days she regained all of her lost weight from her 21 day fast. She tends to take things to extremes. I resemble that comment.

-Finally, congratulations to Pat Summitt on her 1000th victory.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 2/6/2009, Part 2

News & Notes from Wednesday, February 4th, 2009, Part 2

-On Wednesday night, a group of my friends met at MPW’s condo to watch the Tennessee basketball team play at Arkansas on television.

-KL, KJW, MPW, and I ate tacos and refried beans for dinner. Well, KJW actually just ate the cheese. We left the toppings on the table and she ate a plate full of cheese before we realized she had it. We had KJW on this night at it was KLTW and RAW’s third anniversary. They celebrated at Carrabba’s Italian Grill.

-While the meal was being prepared, KJW played with candy canes (MPW’s condo is still decorated for Christmas) and watched television. She has yet to figure out that candy canes are composed of candy. You must remember, they have her mother’s name so she associates “candy” differently than most children.

-My favorite part of her television viewing came when she called me over and told me she wanted what was on an advertisement for Christmas. The product? Smooth Away hair removal! I clarified. I asked her if she wanted the shoes the model in the commercial was wearing or the cream. She insisted she wanted the cream. If I thought there was anyway she would remember it, I would buy her the cream just to amuse myself.

-We were eventually joined (at various points) by WAM, JTH and ALK, and KLTW and RAW. WAM arrived first coming from his nephew’s fourth birthday party. He is well. WAM has bought another new phone. He also shelled out for one ring tone: “The Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme)” from Stars Wars. I was not surprised. For WAM’s (un)usual insights, check out the WAM Quote of the Day.

-JTH and ALK arrived next, after having eaten at Shono’s Japanese Grill. They had not seen each other in awhile as ALK has been suffering from infections. (See the February 3rd Prayer Blog for details.) She was heavily medicated on this night. Little did she know that her relationship with JTH reached a new milestone. When one of our group introduces a significant other to WAM, the relationship has reached a new level of intimacy.

-KJW ate continuously and was wired throughout the night, but her energy always elevates greatly around JTH, whom she loves dearly.

-We did watch the game. Tennessee garnered a crucial SEC road win, 74-72 as Bobby Maze hit the game winning runner with 5.4 seconds remaining. Two of the streakiest teams in basketball traded runs throughout the game and the Vols eventually came out on top. The game was telecast by Raycom Sports. They did their usual mediocre job, with a crawler running across the bottom of the screen through much of the game, concealing the score.

-Finally, in addition to Wednesday representing the blog’s birthday and KLTW and RAW’s anniversary, it was also MLM’s birthday. Happy birthday, Mark!

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 2/6/2009, Part 1

News & Notes from Wednesday, February 4th, 2009, Part 1

-On Wednesday, I ate lunch at Gatti’s with JTH and SRM. We came close to fulfilling one of SRM’s childhood dreams - staying at Gatti’s from lunch until supper. Knox County Schools was once again inexplicably closed, so JTH had the afternoon off and we used it to catch up with SRM.

-Since we were at the restaurant for a great length of time, SRM developed a series of progressive stages a Gatti’s customer endures: gluttony, followed by the urge to vomit, and the urge to nap. When we left, SRM had yet to determine the fourth stage. I will break that story if and when I get it.

-You will note the “Mr.” has been dropped from the company’s name, “Mr. Gatti’s”, despite the aged signs in front of the store still displaying the title. I hope that there has not been a radical feminist infiltration of the pizza industry. Will Papa John be emasculated as well? Mama John’s and worse yet John’s just don’t have the same ring. (Note: I am a classical feminist and proud of it.)

-JTH had coupons for $2 off the buffet for each of us to redeem. They all expired on December 31st but the cashier did not check the date. Is it unethical that we did not draw her attention to the date? As an aside, as part of the restaurant’s 31st birthday, most customers receive $1 off anyway. I believe they call that “justification”...

-SRM has secured a job and is in his last days off before it starts. (See this January 11th Prayer Blog for details.) He will be working for church member MDDM at Management Solutions LLC in Oak Ridge. He had also received another offer that would have had him doing similar work as he had been doing at ImagePoint but he opted for the change. Though he did not admit it, I suspect he wished to be closer to his aunt’s house in Oak Ridge.

-While I do not discount God’s grace in the matter, I think it is quite a testament to SRM that he got two job offers in such a short period of time in such an awful job market.

-Since we all worked as the male “teachers” at a daycare, it was fitting that we saw one of our former kids, Devin. He is now tall and sports dreadlocks. Devin hardly resembles the kid that used to mirror Carlton from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I resisted the urge to ask the kid to do the Carlton dance.

-Since we had not had quality time with SRM in awhile, we chatted and watched ESPN’s SportsCenter. Twice. Here are some highlights from our discussion and a glimpse into the world according to Scott:

-In response to our’s church’s laughable “nationwide searches” (in which they inevitably hire someone in house), SRM informed, “I want to see a Nation of Domination search and I want to see Farooq hired.” (Read: Brilliant WWE reference.)

-In regards to replacing ALF, the minister to senior members who will soon be retiring: “Buy them a Wii.”

-When we worked at the daycare, it was always an inside joke that SRM wrote Nelly’s songs (“I’m from the Lou and I’m proud”!). SRM admitted that the demise of his rap writing career (and rap in general) coincided with Nelly’s fall. This extended to a discussion of the limitless possibility for Beyoncé songs, because in SRM’s expert opinion all she does is repeat a single word over and over. I would agree that her material needs an “Upgrade”.

-SRM recently read an article on snowboarder Shaun White while waiting to be drug tested for his new job. (Note: He should be okay). SRM was quite impressed. Noting his good business sense ,he speculated that White's wealth could be on par with Scrooge McDuck.

-Soon after this discussion, we saw one of the worst interviews in SportsCenter history with White. It was not the interviewee’s fault. SRM concluded the interviewer might as well have asked. “If you were a hot dog would you eat yourself?” Among her questions was asking White how he could top Kobe Bryant’s 61-point performance at Madison Square Garden on February 2nd. This question was ridiculous. Why would he even be thinking about competing with Kobe? SRM was downright offended: “How do you compare that? Gold medals and 61 points because you don’t pass the ball!” He then proceeded to say the Lakers would be better off not sending the other four guys down the court on offense. Not surprisingly, SRM feels LeBron James is the best player in basketball.

-While on the topic of horrible ESPN commentary, I noted that I planned to research Skip Bayless’ sexuality. SRM replied, “What if it comes up as none.” There probably is no interest on either side.

-SRM has lost a lot of hope in Tennessee football and did not have high hopes for national signing day. He did think that it was funny that Tennessee announced Eric Berry at the Florida basketball game to get a response. There was no other reason to present him. I had not looked at that way.

-SRM asserted that Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton and Michael Phelps were the same person or at least on the same level. I was uncertain. I did know that the comparison was unfavorable to both men. I approved. (Has there ever been a more incriminating photo of a celebrity? Phelps gets way too much credit for not denying anything.)

-Finally, SRM’s favorite commercial from the Super Bowl was a Doritos’ commercial. It can be seen here.

-As always, it was great to see SRM.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Associated Baptist Press - 2/5/2009

Associated Baptist Press
February 5, 2009 · (09-16)

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

In this issue
Obama rearranges faith-based office; vows t maintain church-state wall (1,203 words)
Parents to be reunited with kids kidnapped in seminary days (1,023 words)
Opinion: The habit of excess (682 words)


Obama rearranges faith-based office; vows to maintain church-state wall
By Robert Marus (1,203 words)

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- President Obama announced a revamped version of his predecessor's office on faith-based charities Feb. 5, restructuring it with a broad advisory council and vowing to pay close attention to church-state concerns.

"The goal of this office will not be to favor one religious group over another -- or even religious groups over secular groups. It will simply be to work on behalf of those organizations that want to work on behalf of our communities, and to do so without blurring the line that our founders wisely drew between church and state," Obama said, in announcing the overhaul during his remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.

He later signed an executive order creating the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnerships and the President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Community Partnerships.

Nonetheless, some supporters of strong church-state separation expressed frustration that Obama did not immediately undo Bush administration policies that allowed religious discrimination in hiring for jobs funded through the program.

"During the campaign, President Obama made clear that religious organizations that receive federal money should not discriminate. We strongly support that principle, but it's disappointing that today President Obama has missed an opportunity to put it into practice immediately," said a statement from People For the American Way President Kathryn Kolbert. "It's not about left or right: it's about upholding the Constitution. If churches accept federal funds, it's deeply inappropriate for them to discriminate on the basis of religion in their hiring."

According to some news reports Feb. 5, Obama will separately order the Justice Department to study the policy behind the Bush executive order, as well as other thorny church-state questions raised by the faith-based enterprise. Requests to the White House for the details of such an order were not returned by press time for this story.

In a July campaign speech, Obama promised that he would not allow religious discrimination under the program. But he has not elaborated on the promise since.

Some strong church-state separationist groups had hoped Obama would undo the office altogether. Under President Bush it became very controversial, with repeated accusations that Bush was politicizing the faith-based efort.

The office was formed in 2001 as one of the centerpieces of Bush's domestic policy. He repeatedly attempted to expand the government's ability to fund social services through churches and other pervasively religious charities.

Bush's legislative attempts to push the initiative largely failed, but he nonetheless achieved many of his goals through administrative means, such as executive orders and revising policies on the agency level. The faith-based effort spreads across scores of federal departments, offices and programs.

Bush officials insisted that public funds distributed through the program would not go to fund proselytizing, worship or other clearly religious content. But church-state watchdogs said it would be difficult for agencies whose ministries were entwined with religious content to separate out the secular content suitable for government funds. And it would be difficult for the government agencies providing the grants to monitor such programs without entangling itself in the churches' affairs.

A series of lawsuits -- including a 2007 one that ruled a government-funded Christian program for inmates in an Iowa prison unconstitutional -- raised questions about the ability of government officials to ensure constitutional standards in such programs.

Moreover, critics noted, religious organizations that provided primarily secular services -- such as Catholic Charities or Head Start programs -- had always been eligible to receive government funds through many social-service programs. They simply had to play by the same rules as secular grantees.

Leaders of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, which has been a stalwart opponent of government funding for churches, welcomed Obama's approach,but urged him to avoid what they viewed as Bush's mistakes.

"Partnerships between government and faith-based organizations are a given," said BJC Executive Director Brent Walker. "However, the rules of cooperation must be carefully crafted to protect religious liberty. I urge the president to ban religious hiring discrimination in government-funded programs. The BJC will continue to press for it."

Other religious groups and leaders from across the spectrum praised Obama's approach -- and particularly the scope of the office and the creation of the advisory council.

Obama's order "has moved faith and community outreach in a new direction that represents an improvement over what we saw during the Bush administration," said Welton Gaddy, executive director of the Interfaith Alliance and pastor for preaching and worship at Northminster Baptist Church in Monroe, La.

Faith in Public Life, a centrist group, released a statement saying Obama's creation of an advisory council for the project that is both religiously and ideologically diverse "captures a new moment in American faith and politics. Just as people of faith are transcending traditional categories of left and right, so is the President's Council."

The council includes executives of secular and religious charities, mainline Protestants, evangelicals, Catholics, Muslims and Jews. It also has members who strongly supported Bush's approach to faith-based funding and those who strongly criticized it.

The enterprise's scope also is much broader than that of Bush's faith-based office, which focused only on government funding for charities. The executive order creating the office and council noted that it would help Obama find ways to reduce poverty, address teenage pregnancy, reduce the abortion rate, "support fathers who stand by their families," and "work with the National Security Council to foster interfaith dialogue with leaders and scholars around the world."

There are at least four Baptists among the 15 announced members of the panel, which will ultimately have as many as 25 members. Frank Page, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Taylors, S.C. and the immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention is one. The panel also includes Melissa Rogers, a professor at Wake Forest Divinity School and former general counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee. Rogers has long been a critic of government efforts to fund pervasively religious charities. Her church -- Columbia Baptist in Falls Church, Va. -- is affiliated with both the SBC and the moderate Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

The two other Baptist members of the council are from African-American Baptist backgrounds: William Shaw, president of the National Baptist Convention USA and a BJC board member; and Otis Moss, who recently retired as pastor of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland.

Page, reached by telephone Feb. 5, said he anticipated that some of his conservative brethren in the SBC would criticize him for agreeing to serve on a body appointed by a president they dislike. But, he added, he was impressed so far by Obama's approach to the issue and by assurances from the president and White House officials that the council would be a true advisory body in terms of formulating policy

"I want to be a voice in the process, and I think that's why I took it. If I'm going to make a difference, I think I need a place at the table," he said.

"I think that anyone who knows me knows that I'll be true to a relatively conservative, biblically based viewpoint," Page added. "I let them know that, and if at some time that my voice is nothing more than just a token conservative voice, I'll resign."


Parents to be reunited with kids kidnapped in seminary days
By Bob Allen (1,023 words)

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (ABP) -- A decades-old kidnapping case came to an end Feb. 2 with the arrest of a 72-year-old man accused of abducting two grandchildren left in his care while his daughter and son-in-law headed off for seminary in the late 1980s.

Police in San Jose, Calif., arrested Marvin Maple on charges he and his wife, Sandra Maple, kidnapped the two siblings during a family dispute that began when Mark Baskin decided to further his education at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

In an episode of the "Unsolved Mysteries" television show in the 1990s, Mark and Debbie Baskin said they expected money to be tight until they could find jobs, and Debbie's parents offered to take the two older children -- ages 8 and 7 -- into their home in Murfreesboro, Tenn., for the summer, while they headed off to Kentucky with their youngest child, who was 5.

Getting settled took longer than expected, and the children remained with their grandparents until Christmas. During a visit Debbie Baskin had a falling out with her mother and said she wanted to take her children back. The relationship continued to sour to the point that when visiting their children the Baskins were no longer welcome in the Maple home and stayed in a motel.

Following a visit in April 1988, the Maples petitioned for custody of the two children, claiming Bobby had been molested by both of his parents during their last visit. After a court hearing, at which Debbie Baskin claimed both of her parents perjured themselves, a judge gave the grandparents temporary custody pending a police investigation and psychiatric evaluation of both couples.

As allegations by the Maples grew more bizarre -- including that their daughter and son-in-law were part of a satanic cult that practiced animal sacrifices and sexual rituals -- detectives concluded there was no evidence of abuse and recommended the children be returned to their parents.

Before a court order to that effect could be issued, however, the Maples and the two children disappeared. Kidnapping warrants were issued March 13, 1989, and a March 29 court order granted custody to the Baskins, six weeks after the children disappeared.

According to media reports, Mark and Debbie Baskin took time off from teaching jobs in Montgomery County, Georgia, to head for California to be reunited with their two oldest children, whom they have not seen for nearly 20 years. Mark Baskin reportedly recently became pastor of Normantown Baptist Church in Vidalia, Ga., where the couple lives. Attempts to reach the Baskins were unsuccessful.

The Baskins, who left seminary after the ordeal and started selling insurance, told the Murfreesboro Post the couple knew they could either grow apart and get divorced or become closer, and they chose to stay together for the sake of their remaining son.

Later they took in a foster son when he was five weeks old, and adopted him at age 1. Now 16, Paul described discovery of his sister and brother as " awesome," while his brother Michael, 25, was delighted but worried.

Mark and Debbie Baskin also don't know what to expect when they are reunited with Christi, who is now 28, and Bobby, 27. Apparently neither child ever tried to contact their parents, but the Baskins don't know what their grandparents have said about them over the years.

Bobby Baskin, who now goes by the name Jonathan Bunting, is married and may have children. "I've been wondering for quite a while I might be a grandparent and not know it," Mark Baskin told the Murfreesboro Post.

Christie, who goes by the name of Jenny Bunting, reportedly has a nursing degree and works in nursing administration. She is single and lives with her grandfather.

Investigators don't know how Maple, who has been using an alias of John Bunting, faked identities for the children, who were homeschooled and sent to college. The children's grandmother is thought to have died a couple of years ago, but detectives from Tennessee planned to check that out while in California for extradition hearings.

Maple, who is being held on a fugitive warrant, reportedly was informed of his extradition rights Feb. 4. A hearing was scheduled Feb. 5 for Maples to either waive extradition or fight being returned to Tennessee to face kidnapping charges.

Given the opportunity, Mark Baskin said he would tell his children he loves them and doesn't blame them for what happened. He has said he doesn't hate his in-laws, but he fears them.

"Anybody who is crazy enough to do this to their own daughter is crazy enough to do almost anything," he said on Unsolved Mysteries.

Sightings of Maples and the children have been reported a few times over the years, but what finally led to his arrest was anger over how the media portrayed him. After reading about the case in the Jan. 12 issue of the San Diego Union-Tribune, Maples allegedly talked about it, and someone was concerned enough to call the police.

An investigating detective thanked the women for reporting their suspicions. "If they had minded their own business, this wouldn't be happening right now," said Capt. Preble Acton, who investigated the case in the 1990s for the Rutherford County Sheriff's Department in Tennessee.

The Baskins also thanked The Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which has been periodically sending out documents about Christie and Bobby for the last 20 years.

Cold case detective Lt. Bill Sharp said in a radio interview that the Baskins "could really use your prayers."

"It's hard to imagine what's going through their heart right now," Sharp said. Their children were stolen from them, officially left the town 19 years, 11 months and one day before Marvin Maple was arrested in San Jose last night -- almost 20 years ago."

Sharp, the father of two children, said he cannot imagine what it has been like for the Baskins not knowing what happened to their children and missing events like first dates and prom dances.

"You can't move on and get on with your life when you have two vacant and void spots in your heart," Sharp said.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.


Opinion: The habit of excess
By David Gushee (682 words)

(ABP) -- Contemporary ethicists have retrieved an ancient insight by emphasizing the central role of habit in morality. After centuries of moral theories that focused on identifying rational moral principles that ought to govern human decision making, today's ethicists have remembered the Greek philosophical insight that we are creatures of habit. We are what we do; and most days what we do is driven by habits rather than by conscious choice.

The habits of high-flyers in corporate America have come in for fierce criticism in recent days. The $700 billion bailout of the banking-and-finance sector has exposed to public view the habits of those who have lived at the peak of corporate power. Government money always comes with strings attached. In this case those strings have pulled open the curtains on numerous bad habits: huge executive compensation packages; massive golden parachutes for departing executives (many of whom are departing as failures); lavish spending on perks such as planes, office renovations, corporate retreats, and parties; and huge year-end bonuses often unrelated to corporate performance.

These habits have been deeply entrenched -- so entrenched that even after becoming recipients of massive infusions of public money in 2008, many of corporate America's titans have continued in such behaviors as if their companies were flush with cash. Old habits die hard, the saying goes, and this is surely true. But now the irresistible force of such habits has run into the immovable object of public outrage at a time of economic crisis.

It has seemed to this outside observer that the lavish habits found at the upper reaches of corporate America have been reinforced by the insularity of life at the top. Corporate boards seem to be populated by big-name, big-money titans of industry who are thoroughly accustomed to their own perks and have not hesitated to share them with those executives whom they purportedly supervise. If everyone has a corporate jet, if everyone spends millions on office renovations, if everyone flies to Tahoe for a weekend staff retreat, and if everyone makes about $10 million a year no matter how their company does, nothing seems odd about the particular culture of any particular company that does such things. The fact that service on a corporate board sometimes pays quite well in itself is a disincentive to blowing the whistle on the executives of that corporation.

Probably in no area other than money is habit more obviously central to behavior. People grow accustomed to the economic lifestyle which they inhabit. Those who have no disposable income grow accustomed to living accordingly; those who can blow $20,000 at the mall on a Thursday just because they feel like it grow accustomed to that lifestyle. I notice this in premarital counseling when I ask young couples to compare the economic habits they each grew up with. If Bill lived on food stamps and Mary in a gated community, their respective habits will pose a profound challenge to the success of their relationship.

Bad habits don't change by themselves. They don't change just because we hope they will. Normally they change only through concerted effort, most often reinforced by some kind of outside accountability -- thus Alcoholics Anonymous and every other habit-breaking/habit-formation group.

This week President Obama decided to impose a little accountability on corporate excess in the age of government bailouts. His proposals address most of the excesses that strike those outside the corporate bubble as most outrageous: executive compensation, exit packages, nonessential perks, and so on. His proposals cannot apply to those companies that do not receive government bailout money -- except, perhaps, in moral terms. Maybe some companies that are not on the government dole will voluntarily choose to reconsider policies of lavish excess. Wouldn't that be refreshing?

In the end, the government cannot make Americans develop a moral compass or care about something other than their own self-interest. It cannot police the ethics of every person and company. It can and must sometimes intervene, however, when the most grotesque bad habits of various actors in society end up negatively affecting the interests of the whole.

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

Prayer Blog - 2/5/2009

Tomorrow, ANDR is scheduled to have all four of her wisdom teeth removed. Please keep her and her doctors in your prayers.

Note: This diagram is not of ANDR's actual teeth or hands.

Separated at Birth?

While watching the Tennessee basketball on Wednesday night, JTH expressed that he thought Arkansas junior Michael Washington (left) resembled NBA player and actor Darius Miles. What do you think?

If nothing else, both are 6'9".

Word of the Day - 2/5/2009

Nonpareil

Nonpareil means having no equal; peerless.

At the outset of the book of Job, God appraises Job's character as nonpareil.

The LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil." (Job 1:8, NASB)

Note: This image is modern artist Marc Chagall (1887-1985)' s "Job Comforted".

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Associated Baptist Press - 2/4/2009

Associated Baptist Press
February 4, 2009 · (09-15)

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

In this issue
SCHIP passage to add 4 million children to insurance rolls (632 words)
Former Samford president Tom Corts dies (427 words)
Opinion: Freedom of the press a Baptist 'trophy' (734 words)


SCHIP passage to add 4 million children to insurance rolls
By Bob Allen (632 words)

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- On his 16th day in office, President Barack Obama signed a bill expanding the State Children's Health Insurance Program by $32 billion, providing coverage to an additional 4 million children in families with incomes too high to receive Medicaid but who cannot afford to buy health insurance.

"Today marks a tremendous victory," said Katie Paris of Faith in Public Life, one of a number of religious groups that worked more than two years for passage.

The House of Representatives voted 289-139 in favor of the bill Jan. 14 and signed off on minor changes by the Senate Feb. 4 by a vote of 290-135. The president signed the measure into law later in the day in the East Room of the White House.

"This is only the first step," Obama said at the signing ceremony. "As I see it, providing coverage for 11 million children is a down payment on my commitment to cover every single American."

President Bush twice vetoed measures in the last Congress to expand the program, saying it would move the nation toward socialized medicine. Due to run out March 31, SCHIP currently covers about 7 million children across the country.

A federal program authorized under Title XXI of the Social Security Act, SCHIP provides matching funds to states while giving broad guidelines for individual states to set their own standards for designing and administering the program.

The new guidelines provide coverage for children from birth until age 19, said Jocelyn Guyer, deputy executive director at the Georgetown Center for Children and Families. It also allows coverage of pregnant women.

Prior to voting 66-32 to reauthorize SCHIP Jan. 29, the Senate rejected an amendment that would have guaranteed that states have the right to extend coverage to children before they are born. That would have put into a law a pro-life regulation implemented by the Bush administration in 2002.

Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, called rejection of the amendment "tragic" and "yet one more example that America is sadly becoming an anti-child culture."

Land also criticized the legislation expanding SCHIP as "nothing less than creeping socialized medicine by stealth," according to Baptist Press.

Previous House and Senate votes on the measure have fallen largely along party lines, but religious groups like the PICO National Network, a faith-based coalition of 1,000 congregations spanning the political spectrum to press for healthcare for the nation's children, say it is not a partisan but rather a moral issue.

"I am very conservative," Roy Dixon, a bishop in the Church of God in Christ and life-long Republican told reporters in a conference call Jan. 4. "I have been that way all my life, but I believe that our children definitely need SCHIP, and I'm very glad that it has passed and will be signed today."

With passage of the federal bill, action now turns to the states. "It's a good day for kids," Guyer said. "More work to be done, but a very good day for kids."

Funding the increase in part is a 60-cent tax increase on cigarettes, to about $1 a pack. Supporters say the provision adds to health benefits, because if tobacco products are too expensive it might reduce the number of people who smoke, while opponents say it unfairly burdens smokers.

"Increasing the federal tobacco tax to fund SCHIP is a win-win proposal that will help children get the health care they need, while also acting as a deterrent to young smokers and potential smokers," the American Medical Association said in a statement. "Higher tobacco taxes result in lower smoking rates in the long run, which will generate long-term health care savings-as fewer smokers means fewer people with strokes, heart attacks, cancer and other smoking-related conditions."

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.


Former Samford president Tom Corts dies
By Bob Allen (427 words)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (ABP) -- Former Samford University President Tom Corts died unexpectedly Feb. 4 of an apparent heart attack.

Corts, 67, died after being taken by ambulance to Brookwood Medical Center in Birmingham, Ala., accompanied by his wife of 44 years, Marla.

Corts held the title of president emeritus at Samford, a Baptist-affiliated university in Birmingham, which he led from 1983 until his retirement in 2006. After that he served briefly as executive director of the International Association of Baptist Colleges and Universities.

He also served as interim chancellor of the Alabama College System in 2006 and 2007. He had recently returned home to Birmingham after serving the Bush administration as coordinator of basic education for all United States government assistance to the developing world, an appointment he accepted in 2007.

Corts' 23 years at Samford's helm were some of the brightest in the school's history. During his tenure Samford's endowment grew from $8 million to $258 million. Thirty new buildings were constructed on campus, and Corts signed and presented more than 17,000 diplomas at Samford.

"There is no way to measure the impact of Tom Corts' life and ministry on this university and the thousands of lives whom he touched," said a statement from Samford President Andrew Westmoreland, who succeeded Corts at Samford in June of 2006. "We have all lost a great friend."

Corts was born in Terre Haute, Ind., the fifth of seven children in his family. He grew up in Ashtabula, Ohio, and graduated from Georgetown College in Kentucky in 1963. He went on to earn a master's degree and doctorate from Indiana University.

He was president of Wingate College (now Wingate University) in North Carolina for nine years before becoming Samford's 18th president. An ordained minister, Corts originally aspired to a career in journalism.

He was a former president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, an accrediting agency for 11 states spanning from Virginia to Texas, and a founding director of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Corts also formerly chaired Alabama Citizens for Constitutional Reform. The public-interest group formed in 2000 to seek to replace the state's 1901 constitution, which critics say institutionalizes racial and economic inequalities from the days of segregation. Despite backing from many centrist and progressive religious leaders, the effort failed at the polls after strong opposition from the Religious Right and some business interests.

Along with his widow, Corts is survived by two married daughters, a married son and six grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are pending.

He was a member of Brookwood Baptist Church in Birmingham.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.


Opinion: Freedom of the press a Baptist 'trophy'
By Doug Weaver (734 words)

(ABP) -- Religious freedom has long been considered the "trophy" of Baptists -- even if some Baptists of yesteryear weren't as radical as heroes like Roger Williams, John Clarke, Obadiah Holmes and John Leland -- and accounts of Baptists fighting for the separation of church and state fill the history books.

Contemporary observers are often shocked when they find Baptists -- of all people -- compromising religious liberty issues and church-state separation for government favoritism. Given the Baptist reputation for their advocacy of religious freedom, it is assumed that Baptists have swiftly announced their support for other First Amendment freedoms found in the Bill of Rights of the American Constitution.

Baptist giants of the early 20th century -- E. Y. Mullins and George W. Truett -- both voiced support for freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

Mullins, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said that these freedoms were "implied" in the fundamental freedom of religious liberty. Because Baptists believe in these freedoms for themselves, Mullins reasoned, they must affirm them equally for all people.

Truett, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, argued for a free press that would not be "censured by the Sultan, nor sizzled by some Czar." Truett anticipated later squeamishness about abuses in the print media, however. He implored newspaper editors to have integrity and take the moral high road of integrity when deciding what to publish.

Truett lamented that many a newspaper sifted "through the sewers and cesspools for matter with which to fill its columns .... It plunges its accursed beak into the putrescent carcasses of crime and virtue, and it parades it all before a waiting world."

Baptist contributions to the freedoms of speech and the press have especially come through the work of Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes. A lifelong Baptist and the first president of the Northern Baptist Convention upon its formation in 1907, Hughes was chief justice of the court for 11 years, from 1930 to 1941.

The Hughes Court advanced the parameters of freedom of the press and freedom of speech. In particular, Hughes helped incorporate both freedoms into the Fourteenth Amendment, so that First Amendment freedoms are protected from state interference.

The first significant press case to reach the Supreme Court was Near v. Minnesota (1931). It involved a Jay Near, who criticized government officials for doing nothing to stop corruption of the "bootlegging and racketeering" of "Jewish gangsters."

Minnesota legal authorities halted the publication of Near's Saturday Press, accusing him of violating a "Public Nuisance Law (1925)" which banned the publication of material that was "malicious, scandalous and defamatory."

The Hughes Court, however, prohibited censorship and found "prior restraint" -- a concept that referred to governmental activity that halted publications -- to be "presumptively unconstitutional" except for "exceptional cases."

Contemporaries of Hughes said that his Baptist commitment to individual conscience contributed to his legal insights and that he had shown a "greater fondness for the Bill of Rights than any chief justice this country ever had."

Southern Baptists confronted the issues of a free press during their "controversy" that raged during the 1980s. Was the denominational press a public-relations agency for the Southern Baptist Convention, or were the journalists free to report all the news in the spirit of a free press?

Most journalists argued for a free press -- and were accused of siding with the moderate faction of the convention fight for doing so. In particular, Paul Pressler, one of the architects of the SBC's fundamentalist takeover, vehemently complained about reporting by the SBC news agency Baptist Press and accused journalists of initiating interviews that criticized the "conservative resurgence." In 1990, with the fundamentalist victory complete, Al Shackleford and Dan Martin of Baptist Press were fired.

The concept of a free press was also tested severely at the Sunday School Board when agency trustees stopped the publication of their history -- in their minds skewed with liberal bias -- by seminary professor Leon McBeth.

During the 400th anniversary of the origins of the Baptist tradition, we will applaud our commitment to freedom. Let's be proud of the trophies, but not forget the reality of squeamishness and censorship.

If freedom of the press is implied in religious freedom, as E. Y. Mullins suggested, then we must be free to search and report the truth, as we understand it, and we must allow others to do the same.

Doug Weaver is associate professor of religion at Baylor University.

WAM Quote of the Day - 2/4/2009

Tonight, WAM joined a large group at MPW’s condo to watch the Tennessee basketball game. As MPW’s condo is still decorated for Christmas, references were made to Christmas iconography throughout the night. This led to the WAM Quote of the Day:

“When I was a kid, I was convinced those elves were Santa’s elite ninja forces who went ahead of him and gassed the houses.”

Honorable mention:

  • Advising KJW: “Keira, winners don’t do drugs. At least that’s what all the arcade machines told me.”
  • In regards to KLTW’s infant niece being very laid back and seldom crying: “They weren’t using a bong as a humidifier were they?”
  • “As late as 1995, it was legal to shoot Mormons on sight in Mississippi.” (A Mormon friend relayed this to WAM though I suspect that the friend was either incorporating hyperbole or just completely erroneous.)

Note: This image is “Kung Fu Santa.” It, and similar t-shirts can be bought off of CafePress from a seller known as “Bootsie Pop”. The shirt’s description is “Ninjas surround Kris Kringle as Kung Fu Fighting plays in the background”. I think I know what WAM is getting for Christmas this year.

Separated at Birth?

Last night at MoFoS, a group, including JTH (left), played Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. NHH’s friend GAV commented that “Johnny Napalm” (right), a character who represents the punk genre of music, looks very similar to JTH sans the liberty spikes. They certainly do cut the same silouette.

Site News - 2/4/2009

Today marks the one year anniversary of this blog. I would like to thank all of those who post on it (me), research the posts (me), and type and illustrate the posts (me). I would also like to thank all of who read the blog (that's pretty much me to).

Note: I used this SpongeBob SquarePants image in tribute to the real star of the blog, KJW.

Word of the Day - 2/4/2009

Akinetic

Akinetic means absence, loss, or impairment of the power of voluntary movement.

In a battle with the Amorites at Gibeon, Joshua prayed for an akinetic sun.

Then Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel,
"O sun, stand still at Gibeon,
And O moon in the valley of Aijalon."
So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped,
Until the nation avenged themselves of their enemies
Is it not written in the book of Jashar? And the sun stopped in the middle of the sky and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. (Joshua 10:12-13, NASB)

Joshua's prayers were answered and the Israelites used the strategic advantage to route their enemies.

Note: This rendering of Joshua 10 was done in pen, brown ink, and brown wash on beige paper by Raphael (1483-1520). It presently rest in the Louvre.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 2/4/2009, Part 2

News & Notes from Monday-Tuesday, February 2nd-3rd, 2009, Part 2

-On Tuesday night, JTH, JDM, and I ate supper at Applebees. Before heading to the restaurant, I picked JTH up at MoFoS. There was a large contingency hanging around the store, most of whom knew someone who worked there. As is often the case, the group was playing Guitar Hero when I arrived. (Have I mentioned that it is a very difficult job?) JTH was performing horribly and attributed it to his being forced to stand. He would not leave without one more game with a seat provided. He somewhat redeemed himself by scoring 88% on Italian Gothic metal band Lacuna Coil’s 2006 hit “Closer”. He felt better about himself anyway and that is all that really matters.

-At Applebees, AFH was our server. This was especially significant on this night. Not only did we meet her good friend Jessica (who usually works the day shift) but we recruited her to play on our yet to exist volleyball team (which was conceived of only earlier in the day). The main reason for our asking is that we really like her but the fact that she is 6'3" and athletic does not hurt either.

-AFH is doing well after completing her 21-day fast but has been experiencing inexplicable heartburn. Please keep this development in your prayers.

-When I returned JTH to his pickup truck, we quickly discovered that TJK had toilet papered JTH’s vehicle shut. When JTH tried to open the door of the truck, he realized that TJK had also poured water all over the door knowing that it would freeze quickly. JTH understood that reciprocation was necessary in such a situation. What would appease JTH? At the moment, he replied, “I’m thinking, paint his car...a big swastika...”

-Note: I apologize for the poor quality of this photo but I was not about to get out of the car in freezing temperatures just to get a picture.

-Finally, Tuesday marked my cousin HLN’s 18th birthday. Happy birthday, Pukester. I love you and hope to celebrate with you soon.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 2/4/2009, Part 1

News & Notes from Monday-Tuesday, February 2nd-3rd, 2009, Part 1

-I spent the majority of Monday at home learning things that may or may not ever be relevant to my life. I awoke to the sight of snow. Knox County Schools were let out early on Monday and closed on Tuesday but the roads were not bad. I left the house several times. In the process, I discovered a new activity that I enjoy. I like making abrupt stops with snow on the vehicle and having snow fly off at odd angles. (Note: This photo came from Knoxville News-Sentinel.)

-My two weekly Tuesday engagements were postponed. I was asked to work at Hope Resource Center on Thursday instead of Tuesday. My Tuesday night class was cancelled, but not due to snow. My professor, RGB, had gone to a better place...namely Cocoa Beach to attend the 23rd Annual International Self-Directed Learning Symposium.

-On Tuesday, I met JTH and PCR at the Food Court in West Town Mall. As a mall employee, PCR seldom eats at the Food Court, but consented to meet us there as he had not seen either of us in some time. I ate at Sbarro, JTH at Frullati Café & Bakery, and PCR at Asian Chao.

-PCR is well. He was disappointed that PacSun, which he manages, missed their goals last month by only $500. This cost him a bonus. He does, however, expect a bonus for once again reducing shrink (the number of items missing from inventory). In his time at this store, he has reduced shrink from 1.8% to 0.67%. It is his major strength. While working in Pigeon Forge, he reduced shrink from a whopping 5% to 0.39%. In spite of these successes, he has been unable to motivate his employees to put the toilet paper in the company bathroom on its roller. I guess all leaders have their deficiencies.

-PCR’s wife ANDR did not get to make her January 21st doctor’s appointment and is still in pain. She was in “the manner of women” (as Genesis 31:35 describes the condition) making tests on that day impossible. She is also scheduled to have her wisdom teeth removed on Friday. Keep her in your prayers.

-PCR has a new phone. He bought the cheapest one available with the exception of some archaic 1¢ “Zack Morris” phones. Who was more adversely affected by the rise of the cell phone: Superman (who had no more phone booths to change in) or Paul E. Dangerously (whose weapon of choice shrunk to unuseable sizes)? (Note: I am fully aware of the nerdiness of these references and the improbability of anyone getting both.)

-PCR chided JTH regarding his beloved Steve Nash. In the second quarter of a game on January 25th, Atlanta Hawks’ star Josh Smith had an unbelievable one-handed monster dunk over Nash. To add insult to injury, Nash was called for a foul on the play. PCR commented, “Poor Steve Nash...God love him...’cause nobody else does...’cept Josh.” The dunk can be seen on YouTube here. In JTH’s defense, Nash’s Suns won the game, 104-99.

-Speaking of basketball, the three of us discussed the possibility of playing in a different church's basketball league this spring. Any suggestions? We also contemplated creating a volleyball team and playing in a league off of Watt Road. The problem is that the league is divided into an A league and a B league. The A league would require us to practice and even with preparation we would still lose the majority of our games. The B league is too noncompetitive, even for us. The possibility of wearing U.S. National Team jerseys and then performing horribly did amuse us greatly enough to consider joining the A league.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Associated Baptist Press - 2/3/2009

Associated Baptist Press
February 3, 2009 · (09-14)

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

In this issue
Appeals court sides with Missouri Baptist conference center (483 words)
First regional New Baptist Covenant event focuses on reconciliation (929 words)
Habitat for Humanity founder Millard Fuller dies (349 words)
David Tolliver named Missouri executive director (161 words)
Opinion: Confessions, appointees and tax codes (822 words)


Appeals court sides with Missouri Baptist conference center
By Vicki Brown (483 words)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (ABP) -- Windermere Baptist Conference Center acted within its legal rights when it changed its articles of incorporation, a Missouri appellate court ruled Feb. 3.

A three-judge panel of the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, unanimously upheld a lower court's March 4, 2008, ruling in a nearly seven-year legal battle the Missouri Baptist Convention has waged against five formerly affiliated agencies.

The Nov. 25 appeal hearing was the latest round in legal action the MBC took against Windermere, The Baptist Home, Missouri Baptist University, Word & Way and the Missouri Baptist Foundation in an effort to force the entities to rescind changes they had made in their corporate charters.

Word & Way, formerly the convention's official news journal, cooperates with Associated Baptist Press, the Texas Baptist Standard and Virginia Baptists' Religious Herald in the New Voice Media content-sharing partnership.

The Baptist Home, a Christian retirement community, changed its articles of incorporation in 2000 to elect its own trustees. The other four entities took similar actions in 2001. The convention filed suit challenging the changes on Aug. 13, 2002.

In an opinion filed Feb. 3, the appellate court upheld a lower-court ruling that the state convention is not a legal member of Windermere's corporation and no contract exists between the two organizations. State law requires that non-profit organizations state whether the corporation will have members, the justices said, and Windermere's articles of incorporation state clearly that it does not.

The panel rejected the Missouri Baptist Convention's contention that previously granting the group authority to elect trustees gave it de facto member status, saying convention messengers should have been aware of the no-member clause when they ratified Windermere's articles of incorporation and authorized the transfer of the camp's assets and liabilities in 2000.

The state convention filed separate action in 2006 to stop Windermere from selling any of its property pending resolution of the ownership dispute. A hearing in that case is scheduled Feb. 10.

"We are pleased with the unanimous opinion," said Jim Shoemake, Windermere's lead attorney. "The opinion clearly shows that Windermere was correct and justified in its actions, and, hopefully, this will greatly benefit Windermere in furthering its Christian endeavors."

"We hope Missouri Baptists will now be able to put this sad conflict behind us," Windermere CEO Dan Bench said in a statement. "We pray no additional money, energy or time will be wasted by further litigation efforts."

Comment from MBC leaders or attorneys was not available by press time for this story.

The MBC has 15 days in which to file a motion for the Court of Appeals to rehear the case. The convention also may ask the Missouri Supreme Court to review the appellate decision.

The convention's case against the other four entities has been on hold pending the outcome of the appeal in the Windermere case. No dates have yet been set for those hearings.


First regional New Baptist Covenant event focuses on reconciliation
By Greg Garrison (929 words)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (ABP) -- Former President Jimmy Carter went to a shrine of the Civil Rights Movement Jan. 31 to drive home a point about racial reconciliation among Baptists, stepping up into the pulpit of the Birmingham, Ala., church where four African-American girls died in a 1963 bombing.

The first of several planned regional New Baptist Covenant celebrations came, full of symbolism, in the city's Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. Besides being the site of the bombing, the church is famous for hosting many meetings where black Baptist leaders -- including Martin Luther King Jr. -- rallied thousands to risk their lives in the fight against segregation.

With a racially mixed crowd of about 1,200 people packing the sanctuary, filling the balcony and lining the walls, Carter preached against separation among Christians.

"There is no way for us to ignore Jesus' emphasis on the poor, the brokenhearted," Carter told the southeast regional meeting of the New Baptist Covenant. The gathering was the second phase in an movement that Carter helped found last year with an interracial, interdenominational convocation that drew an estimated 15,000 Baptists from a variety of denominations to Atlanta.

The meetings have emphasized racial reconciliation and cooperation on social-justice issues, especially among groups of black and white Baptists.

"I have found this evolution of the New Baptist Covenant to be the highlight of my religious life," Carter said.

The Baptist former president spoke at a worship service that was followed by smaller workshops on poverty and racism.

"It's not an accident that God led us to Birmingham and this institute," Carter said earlier during a

breakfast at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. He recalled a time when racial prejudice was rampant in Baptist churches, and theologians defended separate worship.

"The Baptist church was a stalwart defender of segregation," he said. "It was ingrained in our conscience."

Carter said he hoped the meeting would help churches work better together.

"I would like to see a complete breakdown in separation of people," Carter said.

In his message, Carter focused on ways to achieve Christian unity.

"To redefine or change the gospel is a constant temptation for us, either to dilute its message or its meaning, or to mandate human interpretation of specially chosen texts," Carter said.

He recalled growing up in rural Georgia, where his childhood playmates were mostly black. "My family was the only white family there; all my neighbors were African American, all my playmates," Carter said. "They were the ones I loved. They were the ones who loved me."

Of the five most influential people in his childhood besides his parents, only two were white, he said. Yet when it came to worship, he was told that togetherness was wrong.

"In those days distinguished scholars, biblical scholars, would come to our church and prove to us that it was improper in the eyes of God for people of two different races to worship together."

Carter said issues of biblical interpretation are still causing serious and debilitating problems and schism among Baptists and other denominations, such as the Episcopal Church, which he said "is about to come apart at the seams."

Carter said that abortion, homosexuality, women's role in ministry and other divisive issues should be put aside for a focus on the gospel message of unity in Christ.

"There's nothing wrong with believing in fundamentals," he said. "I'm a fundamentalist myself in many ways. The most important fundamental belief is the basic gospel message that we've already mentioned. We are saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ."

He encouraged Baptists of different races to share worship experiences. "I hope in the future the barriers will be broken down," he said.

"Despite our inevitable human differences, under this simple but profound banner, we Christians can and must reach out to each other," Carter said. "Let us, Baptists and all other Christians, be bound together in unity."

Leaders representing a variety of mostly white or mostly black churches also took part in the event.

"The people of God are not going to be dragged kicking and screaming" into racial reconciliation, said Gary Furr, pastor of Vestavia Hills Baptist Church in suburban Birmingham and a co-chairman of the regional event. "We want to lead the way."

Furr said he and Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Pastor Arthur Price, the other co-chairman, had been working on strengthening relationships between their congregations.

"We don't know whether we have a meeting or a movement," said Jimmy Allen, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and co-organizer of the New Baptist Covenant. "What we're after is a movement."

By the afternoon plenary session, the attendance had thinned to half of those who listened to Carter in the morning.

Another featured speaker, Children's Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, urged churches to reach out to children who are not members of their congregations to stop the spiral of violence and poverty.

"Incarceration is becoming the new American apartheid," she said. "We're the world's leading jailer."

Edelman recalled the four girls killed in the 1963 bombing.

"Four young women gave their lives so that we might have freedom," she said.

She also noted the children who took part in marches against segregation in downtown Birmingham in 1963. "We owe the children of Birmingham, [who marched] in that park across the street, a great debt."

She urged the passage of legislation to extend health care to all children, including illegal immigrants. "We have children falling through the cracks," she said. "It's time for us to speak up for the sacredness of all children."

Greg Garrison is a staff writer for the Birmingham News.


Habitat for Humanity founder Millard Fuller dies
By Bob Allen (349 words)

AMERICUS, Ga. (ABP) -- Millard Fuller, a millionaire entrepreneur who gave away his fortune to create Habitat for Humanity International in 1976, died Feb. 3 after a brief illness.

Fuller, 74, led the worldwide house-building ministry with his wife, Linda, for 29 years before both were fired in January 2005 following several months of conflict with their board of directors. Afterward Fuller formed a new organization, the Fuller Center for Housing.

"Millard Fuller was a force of nature who turned a simple idea into an international organization that has helped more than 300,000 families move from deplorable housing into simple, decent homes they helped build and can afford to buy and live in," said Jonathan Reckford, Habitat's chief executive officer, said in a statement. "The entire Habitat family mourns the loss of our founder, a true giant in the affordable-housing movement."

Members of Fuller's family said they were "truly overwhelmed" with expressions of love and support for his work and urged people to honor his legacy by donating to the Fuller Center or volunteering with a local partner of either organization.

Visitation was scheduled Jan. 3 at First Presbyterian Church in Americus, Ga. Burial will be at Koinonia Farm, an interracial Christian farming community the Fullers joined in 1965.

Wealthy at age 29 as an entrepreneur and lawyer but with his marriage in a shambles, Fuller and his wife decided to begin anew, selling all they owned and giving it to the poor.

Under the tutelage of Koinonia founder Clarence Jordan, Fuller developed the idea of "partnership housing," building homes with rural neighbors too poor to afford conventional loans. Since then thousands of people have volunteered with Habitat, the most famous being former President Jimmy Carter.

"Millard Fuller was one of the most extraordinary people I have ever known," Carter said in a statement. "He used his remarkable gifts as an entrepreneur for the benefit of millions of needy people around the world by providing them with decent housing."

Fuller's Feb. 4 funeral is open to the public. The family plans a memorial service for later in the month.


David Tolliver named Missouri executive director
By Bill Webb (161 words)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (ABP) -- David Tolliver, who served as interim executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention for the past 22 months, has been has been named the new executive director.

The MBC Executive Board voted overwhelmingly to call Tolliver during a special called meeting on Feb. 3. Tolliver, 58, accepted the position to applause from board members, convention staff and visitors.

The newly elected leader had joined the state convention staff in 2005 as Cooperative Program specialist and an associate executive director to David Clippard, whom the board fired in 2007.

A pastor for nearly 20 years before coming to the MBC staff, Tolliver holds a bachelor's degree in business administration from Dallas Baptist University, and master of divinity and doctor of ministry degrees from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

He is a fourth-generation Missouri Baptist pastor. Tolliver and his wife, Myra, have been married for 36 years and have a daughter, Terra Jo; a son, Adam; and two grandchildren.

Bill Webb is editor of Word & Way.


Opinion: Confessions, appointees and tax codes
By Benjamin Cole (822 words)

(ABP) -- In her recent book, The Art of the Public Grovel, Susan Wise Bauer traces the influence of 19th-century evangelical confession upon modern political speech. From Bill Clinton's infamous intern scandal to the recent descent of superstar pastor Ted Haggard and numerous points in between, Bauer explores the way that acknowledgements of wrongdoing have adopted the language and emotion of evangelical piety as essential to the political survival of transgressing public figures.

While Bauer's treatment is concerned primarily with sins of the flesh, most of her observations hold true for sins less titillating to the body politic. Sins like those of former senator Trent Lott, who got "caught" paying tribute to the career to an aging South Carolina senator who once was an outspoken segregationist, or like two of President Obama's recent cabinet nominees of who failed to pay a portion of their income taxes.

Since the 111th Congress began, the confirmation of the president's nominees has been -- for the most part -- a tranquil sea of uninterrupted approval. Nevertheless, two of the men who would have been most responsible for implementing President Obama's domestic agenda -- Timothy Geithner at Treasury and Tom Daschle at Heath and Human Services -- hit troubled waters in the confirmation process.

The unpaid tax burden of the newly confirmed treasury secretary was relatively minimal. His sin was understandable. Before the Senate Finance Committee, Geithner acknowledged his "careless and avoidable mistakes," though he noted they were "unintentional." When the final reckoning of his tax burden was complete, Geithner paid the federal government a meager $50,000 and received confirmation by a vote of 60-34.

Then Feb. 2, Health and Human Services secretary nominee Tom Daschle released his own pious confession for failure to pay back taxes in excess of $140,000. It seems that the former senator didn't think it necessary to claim the benefit of a company-provided limousine or hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees.

In a multi-page mea culpa sent to the Senate Finance Committee, Daschle apologized for his "errors," and acknowledged the "deep and disappointing embarrassment" that his tax bungling had caused. Like Geithner before him, Daschle was careful to locate his sins under the rubric of "unintentional." Unlike Geithner, the pressures on Daschle to withdraw mounted. But by Feb. 3, Daschle had removed himself from consideration and became the first confirmation casualty of the Obama administration.

During my years as a Baptist pastor, I learned a few things about sin and the confession thereof. Whether walking a deacon through a heart-wrenching process of post-adultery marital reconciliation or chasing down teenage addicts of various and sundry controlled substances, I've been schooled in the subtle differences between sincere catharsis and half-hearted self-immolation. I've learned when public confession is necessary, and when it's not. I've also learned to distinguish between greater and lesser sins, between those requiring a lash on the back and those requiring a slap on the wrist.

It seems to me that neither Timothy Geithner nor Tom Daschle have committed sins sufficiently venial to justify much in the way of political penance. Rather, their sins have exposed a weakness in the law as much as the law-breakers.

At its most recent publication, Title 26 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations -- most commonly referred to as the tax code -- is 3,387 pages, or roughly three times longer than a large-print version of the King James Bible. It is complicated, convoluted, and utterly incomprehensible. And if a former United States senator and a member of the Federal Reserve Board are incapable of navigating its complexities and rendering unto Caesar his prescribed tribute, then the rest of us have little chance.

I don't think that either man's tax transgression is a grave indictment on his character. Sure, it's an embarrassment -- but who among us has not pulled out our hair, screamed and wailed come every April 15th? But for some reason -- in spite of endless frustration and perennial calls for simplification -- the tax code maintains its enshrined and lofty position among the guiding documents of American political life with an amendment threshold almost as foreboding as the Constitution itself.

I suppose that a little prodding around every American's tax records would result in a few unintentional mistakes. Ignorance of the law, as we all know, is no excuse for its violation. Neither does the multiplied company of fellow transgressors provide a defense. But ignorance of a cumbersome and complicated system of laws like the U.S. tax code should qualify for some special dispensation of forgiving grace.

The public inquisition of Secretary Geithner and would-be secretary Daschle for their tax sins is to be expected given the partisan climate of Washington politics. It seems to me, however, that once the country is through these woods, prudence demands a serious revision and reduction of a tax code that neither former members of Congress nor future members of the Cabinet can get right.

-- Benjamin Cole is a former Southern Baptist pastor who now works on public-policy issues in the nation's capital.