Friday, March 13, 2009

Word of the Day - 3/13/2009


To impute is to attribute or ascribe.

King Herod the Great imputed Jesus' miracles to be the work of a resurrected John the Baptist. (Matthew 14:2; Mark 6:14)

and said to his servants, " This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him." (Matthew 14:2, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 3/13/2009

News & Notes from Wednesday-Thursday, March 11th-12th, 2009

-On Wednesday night, WAM and I went to the Regal Pinnacle 18 in Turkey Creek for the 7 PM showing of Watchmen. WAM wanted to see the film on their “IMAX” screen. We did not view the film in true IMAX but we did see it on the largest screen imaginable. For our $13.25 per ticket we also had a concession attendant on hand throughout the film.

-The film, based on a popular 1980s graphic novel, opened on March 6th but this was the first night I could see it. WAM sacrificed and waited to watch the film with me. We caught up before the movie began. As opposed to the usual film ads, posters from Watchmen were flashed on the screen while the film’s diverse soundtrack played. For WAM’s typical brilliance during this portion of the evening, check out the WAM Quote of the Day.

-We both enjoyed the movie very much though I will be the first to admit it is not for everyone. If you cannot handle watching violence, do not view this film. It depicts an alternate universe which shares history with ours until 1940. It diverges at that point with America winning the Vietnam War and Richard Nixon repealing term limits. Nixon is serving his fifth term when the movie takes place, in 1985.

-After the movie, WAM and I headed to Applebees. We spent the better part of the night discussing where the movie deviated from its source material, of which WAM is well acquainted. I learned that Nena’s song “99 Luftballoons”, which is featured in the soundtrack, is a Cold War era protest song about toy balloons triggering an apocalyptic overreaction by the military. Other than WAM, who knew?

-AFH was our waitress. She gave us warning that she will no longer be serving on Thursdays as she will soon begin as eight-week Bible study. WAM said it best (as he usually does), “You’ll have to settle for inferior service on Thursdays.”

-In other news, on June 14th I will be preaching the “Classic Service” at the Central Baptist Church of Bearden. Mike Chesney (CMC) and Jim Heizer (JLH) are now running that service in the wake of ADF’s retirement which is effective March 29th. Anyone who wishes to come is welcome.

-Finally, Wednesday marked DBN’s 30th birthday. Happy birthday, Mongo!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Associated Baptist Press - 3/12/2009

Associated Baptist Press
March 12, 2009 · (09-37)

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

In this issue
Christian comic, former SNL star labels Obama a communist (779 words)
Freeman: For women, proper question not 'ordination' but 'calling' (725 words)
Opinion: The future of American Christianity (834 words)

Christian comic, former SNL star, labels Obama a communist
By Bob Allen (779 words)

NEW YORK (ABP) -- Former "Saturday Night Live" cast member and conservative Christian comedienne Victoria Jackson said in a Fox News interview March 9 that President Obama is a communist and that what America needs is the Bible.

"My motivation is gone, because [Obama] will punish me if I'm successful," said the 49-year-old entertainer, best known for playing ditzy blonde characters on the hit NBC comedy show from 1986 to 1992, to interviewer Sean Hannity. "That's how you start communism, is just take -- Cuba! Obama wants to be Castro."

Jackson said she would like to see Hannity run the country, along with conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the failed GOP vice-presidential nominee.

Jackson, a vocal evangelical Christian who has appeared on the Christian Broadcasting Network's "700 Club" and who spoke at a major Southern Baptist gathering in 2004, said she wasn't interested in politics before the last election. Last year, she supported the GOP presidential nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain, and opposed one of her former "SNL" colleagues, Al Franken, who ran as a Democrat for one of Minnesota's two Senate seats.

"Well, I've never been involved in politics, 'cause it's just 'neh neh neh, neh neh neh,' but all of a sudden it was, it was: 'Oh, Hillary Clinton is a socialist, she wants to socialize medicine. Well, I'll have to vote against her.' And then all of a sudden a communist appears! Out of nowhere! And that's when I started to get involved."

At that point Jackson said she did research and found that "black liberation theology, his church, is Marxist, and his professors are Marxist."

"He says, 'Redistribute the wealth,'" she said.

It isn't the first time Jackson has called Obama a communist. Last year on another Fox News program, "The O'Reilly Factor," she said she was supporting McCain because she thought Obama was a communist.

"My husband said; 'Don't use that word. Say 'radical' or 'Marxist.' But you know, Karl Marx wrote the book The Communist Manifesto, so I don't see why people are afraid to say the word 'communist.'"

She said her research included reading George Orwell's book 1984 -- twice -- and said seeing Obama's picture on the cover of every magazine in an airport bookstore reminded her of "Castro, or the guy in China."

"I think we've already started sliding into socialism," she said. "The liberals are controlling all the TV channels. I mean the only one telling the truth is yours. This is the only one we watch."

Jackson explained in a recent "700 Club" interview why she began speaking out.

"The last couple of months I've been involved in giving political speeches, because I passionately have Christian values that I'm afraid I might lose," she said. "So I started speaking out, and people are now asking me to give political speeches." She then blurted out: "Yeah Sarah Palin!"

"I'm so proud of Sarah Palin," she said. "I was praying, 'God please help our country return to -- I have all our founding fathers' speeches of how they loved Jesus and God."

She said David Barton's Wallbuilders website, for example, "proves our country was founded -- hello! -- on Christianity."

"I was praying, 'God please let us retain our freedom to have Christian radio and not be persecuted like Christians are in other countries. Please God help this election.' And all of a sudden Sarah Palin dropped out of the sky. I'm like, 'You're kidding me! A Christian?' It was a miracle."

Jackson grew up in a conservative Christian home and dropped out of college to head for Hollywood. Eventually she received a theater degree at Palm Beach Atlantic University, a Southern Baptist school in Florida.

In 2004 she spoke at an "Elevate" conference sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board. The event aimed to help college students and young professionals merge faith with daily life.

As time ran out on her most recent Fox interview, Jackson pulled out her Bible and held it aloft. "This is what our country needs, the Bible," she said. "I didn't get time to get to that."

In a March 11 post about Jackson's appearance on the left-leaning blog Crooks and Liars, David Neiwert termed Jackson's ranting "idiocy."

"Back when she was a cast member of 'Saturday Night Live,' I didn't find Victoria Jackson particularly funny. I thought her ditzy-blonde routine was too over the top and demeaning; nobody could really be that idiotic, I thought. Later, I came to realize that it wasn't just a routine," Neiwert wrote.

He concluded, "Is this is the face of the new conservatism? The average, Fox-watching, Limbaugh-loving American? If so: Wow."

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press. Robert Marus, ABP's managing editor and Washington bureau chief, contributed to this story.

Freeman: For women, proper question not 'ordination' but 'calling'
By Steve DeVane (725 words)

MOUNT OLIVE, N.C. (ABP) -- Asking whether women should be ordained to the ministry is the wrong question, according to Baptist professor Curtis Freeman.

"The question is, 'Who is being gifted in the church?'" said Freeman, research professor of theology and director of the Baptist House of Studies at Duke Divinity School. "Where are those gifts being displayed?"

Freeman was guest lecturer for the Vivian B. Harrison Memorial Lecture at Mount Olive College in Mount Olive, N.C., March 10. His lecture focused on women's voices in the church. He also preached during the Free Will Baptist school's chapel service that day.

Freeman said ordination doesn't give one the gift of preaching. Ordination is instead the church recognizing that gift, he said.
"The point is, the church doesn't really call people into ministry," he said. Instead, "We help people discern God's call on their life."

The lectures included an overview of four 17th-century Baptist women who wrote about their experiences. They were among nine Baptists and about 300 total prophetesses in England between 1640 and 1660, Freeman said.

The four Baptist women wrote at least 748 pages of material -- much of it in pamphlets, which were cheaply reproduced and available to a wide audience.

"The pamphlet was like the 17th-century Internet," Freeman said.
Historical records indicate that the women influenced early English General and Particular Baptists, according to Freeman.

"Through their writings they surely attained an even wider audience," he said. "Yet there was also a tension between the prophetic voices of these women, the gathered churches and the wider society that eventually refused to swallow their prophetic pill."

Freeman said that revolutionary forces in England at the time had destabilized governmental power and other forces that "long had kept women in their place."

"The social spaces that opened up enabled women not just to think freely but to speak their minds freely," he said. "Yet, as the Baptist movement became organized and institutionalized, many of the more egalitarian expressions of the early days dissipated."

These and other women who spoke out were on the fringes of the early Baptist churches, Freeman said.

"Maybe these women standing on the edge see something those of us at the center of the church can't see," he said.

Freeman said women have found a space to share their voices during other periods of social upheaval, such as the American Revolution, the settling of the Western frontier and the social upheaval of the 1960s and '70s. He asked if churches could find a way to create such a space without waiting for the wider culture to create it.

Freeman used the story of the first woman ordained by a Southern Baptist church to suggest three essential elements of discernment used by the church. Addie Davis was ordained by Watts Street Baptist Church in Durham, N.C. on Aug. 9, 1964.

The church was "committed to the practice of calling out the called," Freeman said. Such a call includes both inward discernment and outward confirmation, he said.

"It's not about women in ministry," he said. "It's first about this principle of calling."

The second conviction of the Watts Street church was what Freeman called "openness to more light from the word." For many the issue of women in ministry is settled, one way or the other. But others remain searching and open.

"It's a sense that our understanding is growing," he said.

Freeman said Watts Street was also committed to stand together with others under the rule of Christ. An ordination council from the local association examined Davis.

"Because a local congregation stands under the immediate rule of Christ, it has the power to call its own ministers, celebrate the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper, and administer the keys of church discipline," he said. "Yet no congregation is independent. It is interdependent with those who 'walk by the same rule.'"

Freeman said this is a "hard word," since all Baptists don't agree.
"Sometimes I'd like it to be me and Jesus, but in the end I don't think that's the way it is," he said.

The challenge of standing together will take patience and humility, Freeman said.

"It is the vector of the Baptist vision that suggests that we find our way together," he said. "Ultimately, it is not a matter of gender or ordination, but of spiritual discernment."

Steve DeVane is managing editor of the North Carolina Baptist Biblical Recorder.

Opinion: The future of American Christianity
By David Gushee(834 words)

(ABP) -- Trinity College's American Religious Identification Survey was released March 9. Its headline finding, as summarized by USA Today: "Faith is shifting, drifting or vanishing outright." The news that "almost all denominations are losing ground" is sobering indeed. It helps to clarify that recent budget cuts in Baptist life and elsewhere are not just about our current Great Economic Meltdown, but instead dovetail with a broader fade of organized American Christianity.

First, let's consider some of the most important numbers, in case you missed them. Since 1990:

--The percentage of Americans who self-identify as Christians has dropped by 11 percent, over half a percentage point per year.

--The percentage who claim no religion has nearly doubled, from 8 percent to 15 percent. The "Don't Know/Refused" group also more than doubled, from 2.3 percent to 5.2 percent.

--Self-identified Baptists have dropped from 19.3 percent to 15.8 percent of the population.

--Mainline Protestants have dropped from 18.7 percent of the population to only 12.9 percent; Methodists went from 8 percent to 5 percent. At that rate, the mainline will die within 40 years.

--The percentage who identify as Wiccans or other new religious movements has increased from 0.8 percent to 1.2 percent, a small but rapidly growing number. Adherents of Eastern religions have also doubled numerically, as has the Muslim population.

--The percentage of Catholics has dropped only slightly, from 26.2 percent to 25.1 percent.

--Those who identify as "followers of Jesus" or some other kind of generic Christian represent 14.2 percent of the population, down a bit from 14.8 percent in 1990 but still representing 32 million people.

We are a nation still populated by a majority of self-identified Christians -- nearly 75 percent claim some relation to Christian faith. But the numbers are dropping quickly; if trends continue, Christians will constitute 64 percent of the population in 2026, and barely half in 2044. The shortfall will be made up primarily by what statisticians of religion are starting to call the "Nones," pure secularists who claim no religious affiliation.

In terms of the culture-war battles that have wracked the nation for a generation, unless wise new leadership emerges in both the Christian and the secularist communities, vicious battles will continue over all manner of symbolic and substantive issues -- from monuments on courthouse grounds to abortion, gay rights and the use of religion in the armed forces. It also seems likely that the volleys between aggressive atheists like Richard Dawkins and those seeking to counter them will only intensify.

There will continue to be sharp regional differences, as secularist numbers spike in the West and Northeast (Vermont led the nation with a 34 percent None population) and grow more slowly in the Bible Belt. Increasingly, secularists and their children and grandchildren will have no exposure to the Bible and Christian traditions, and therefore little interest in or understanding of the residual cultural overlay of religiosity still apparent in our national life.

What does all of this mean for Christian mission and our witness in culture and politics?

I think we will witness (are already witnessing) a winnowing process in which weak, ineffective, or maladaptive churches and religious organizations are simply going to die. Congregations will close, parachurch organizations and schools will shut down, and entire denominations will fold or merge with others. Creative efforts will be required everywhere to forestall this fate.

It is likely that surviving denominations, including the Baptist bodies, will have to consolidate their operations. It is hard to imagine there being six surviving Southern Baptist Convention seminaries a generation from now, or over a dozen Cooperative Baptist Fellowship-related seminaries and divinity schools. It could be (ironically enough) a Darwinian moment, as only the strongest and most adaptive survive.

Many congregations and parachurch groups will drop denominational labels in order to ensure their greatest chance of success and not be damaged by denominational-brand baggage. This will continue to deeply challenge the ongoing significance of, for example, Baptist identity.

Christian colleges will have to decide how serious they are about their faith identification. Those that deliver excellent education in a context of robust spiritual vitality will do better than those that provide only one of the above -- or neither. The weakest of these colleges will also merge or die.

Christians who bring faith-based moral convictions into the public square will win less and less. Some will respond by just shouting more loudly, thus turning more people away from Christ. Others will shift to a paradigm of faithful witness rather than cultural victory.

Broad-based coalitions across religious and ideological lines will be a necessity.

The era in which cultural Christianity delivered bodies and dollars to churches and sustained thousands of often marginally effective Christian organizations is ending. The era in which Christians could afford to spend their time and money fighting with each other in the pews or the annual conventions or the newspapers is ending.

We will either deliver to people vital, meaningful, life-changing, Christ-following Christianity, or we will die of our own irrelevance.

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

Prayer Blog - 3/12/2009

Tomorrow, I have another meeting with RWB at the Central Baptist Church of Bearden. The meeting was scheduled today for 1:30 PM tomorrow. As always, please keep the encounter in your prayers.

Word of the Day - 3/12/2009


Malar means of or pertaining to the cheek or zygomatic bone.

The prophet Micaiah's malar region was struck by Zedekiah when Micaiah opposed the interpretation of his fellow prophets. (I Kings 22:24; II Chronicles 18:23)

Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah came near and struck Micaiah on the cheek and said, "How did the Spirit of the LORD pass from me to speak to you?" (I Kings 22:24, NASB)

Micaiah was vindicated when his prophecy came true.

Note: This miniature of Zedekiah striking Micaiah was created by the Master of Otto van Moerdrecht around 1430.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Associated Baptist Press - 3/11/2009

Associated Baptist Press
March 11, 2009 · (09-36)

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

In this issue
Wedgwood pastor to preach Sunday at grieving Illinois church (788 words)
Police investigate money missing from Missouri Baptist nursing school (294 words)
Martial-arts seminar at Baptist school leads kung-fu master to Christ (794 words)
CBF field personnel direct training center, minister to villagers in Belize (770 words)

Wedgwood pastor to preach Sunday at grieving Illinois church
By Bob Allen (788 words)

MARYVILLE, Ill. (ABP) -- One week after its senior pastor was shot and killed while delivering a sermon, an Illinois church will welcome as its guest preacher March 15 one of the few pastors with a similar experience.

The website of First Baptist Church in Maryville, Ill., said the church plans to hold its normal Sunday schedule that day. It will feature Al Meredith, pastor of Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, preaching at all three worship services.

Nearly 10 years ago a disturbed gunman walked into an evening youth rally at Wedgwood, fired more than 100 rounds from two handguns and exploded a pipe bomb. The attack killed seven and wounded seven others before the gunman took his own life.

Though Meredith was not present when the attack occurred on Sept. 15, 1999, he is one of only a few pastors with first-hand experience in coping with the aftermath of something like what happened to the Maryville congregation.

Police say Terry Sedlacek, 27, of nearby Troy, Ill., gunned down Fred Winters, a married father of two who led First Baptist Church as pastor for nearly 22 years, before stabbing himself in the throat and wounding two church members who tried to subdue him. Sedlacek faces charges of first-degree murder and aggravated battery.

In the years since the Wedgwood shooting, Meredith has spoken publicly about the impact the attack had on the Southern Baptist flock that is affiliated with both the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

An article on the Wedgwood website said the biggest question the church had to answer was the unanswerable, "Where was God when all this happened?"

Out of that struggle came a new understanding of what it means to say, "God is sovereign."

"He was there during the shootings," the article says. "He comforts us today as we grieve and as we continue to recover. Through trials he brings understanding; he strengthens our faith when there can be no understanding."

In a 2004 story in the Baptist Standard, Meredith said he had heard of other churches that fell apart after a tragedy. At conferences about dealing with trauma and grief, Meredith learned that people often start breaking down about six months after a tragedy. He responded with a six-part series of sermons about how characters in the Bible handled depression.

Meredith said the church also offered a safe place where people could discuss their doubts and anger with God openly and honestly.

"It's a healthy sign that you believe in God's sovereignty enough to be angry with him when things work out irrationally or tragically," Meredith said. "That's a rational response. And God can handle our anger."

At a 2004 conference on crime victims, Meredith said that because of the attack he was able to share the message of hope in Jesus Christ when he offered the invocation at the Cotton Bowl in 2000.

Meredith said the congregation experienced a deeper sense of God's presence in worship after the tragedy, and as news of the congregation's positive outlook spread, visitors started attending from out of town.

Attendance grew about 50 percent in the five years after the shooting, and the church sent out 120 members to launch a mission congregation in 2004.

Meredith said post-traumatic stress syndrome is "real," and it can return in waves years later, but Wedgwood Baptist Church was committed to moving on.

"Don't ask us when we'll get over it," he said. "We'll never get over it. We'll get through it."

Services at First Baptist Church of Maryville are scheduled at 8:15, 9:30 and 10:55 a.m. on Sundays. Meanwhile, the church is arranging for overflow parking and shuttle services from neighboring churches for the memorial service for Winters, scheduled for March 13.

The church website said the building is getting swamped with flowers and plants, and requested that, in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to a trust fund being set up for Winters' two daughters.

Information on how to give is available from the website and a Facebook page set up for prayer for the church and Winters' family. As of midday March 11, more than 10,000 members had joined the group.

Prayer services for First Baptist Church were scheduled Wednesday night, March 11, at United Methodist, Catholic, Disciples of Christ, Lutheran and Assembly of God churches in Maryville, coordinated by the town's ministerial alliance.

Dan Crawford, a member of Wedgwood Baptist Church and former professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote a book about the Wedgwood tragedy in 2000. Titled A Night of Tragedy, a Dawning of Light, the book is no longer in print but is accessible as an Adobe Acrobat PDF file on the Wedgwood website.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Police investigate money missing from Missouri Baptist nursing school
By Bob Allen (294 words)

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (ABP) -- Police in Springfield, Mo., are investigating the suspected embezzlement of more than $500,000 from a nursing school operated jointly by a Baptist university and a Catholic hospital.

The Springfield News-Leader reported March 11 that St. John's College of Nursing and Health Sciences told police about the missing money on March 5. The college is operated in partnership between St John's Mercy Health System and Southwest Baptist University, a four-year school with 2,500 undergraduate and graduate students in nearby Bolivar, Mo.

The paper quoted a spokesperson of the nursing school who said one employee had been fired and the matter turned over to police. The article quoted an officer who said an arrest had been made, but the suspect's name was being withheld until charges are filed.

A television station said the same suspect is also being investigated for theft from a public-school Parent Teacher Organization in the Springfield suburb of Republic, Mo.

The Southwest Baptist University website describes the St John's College of Nursing and Health Sciences as "a unique venture between two faith-based institutions" that "offers programs in nursing that reflect its strong Judeo-Christian heritage."

The college offers both associate and bachelor's degrees in nursing, drawing on the legacy of two historic faith-based institutions.

Southwest Baptist University was founded in 1878 and is affiliated with the Missouri Baptist Convention. St. John's Health System was founded in Springfield, Mo., in 1891 by the Sisters of Mercy as a Catholic institution. The St. John's School of Nursing began in 1905.

Representatives of the university and hospital began working in the mid-1980s to combine their efforts to meet nursing needs in the local and regional communities. The nursing school began partnering with Southwest Baptist University to offer professional nursing degrees in 1996.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Martial-arts seminar at Baptist school leads kung-fu master to Christ
By Crystal Kieloch (794 words)

BLUEFIELD, Va. (ABP) -- Taiwanese kung-fu master Liu Chang probably didn't think a routine seminar he led at Virginia Baptist-affiliated Bluefield College would lead to him converting to Christianity. But that's just what happened.

Liu, a widely-respected karate expert, was one of two visiting instructors at a martial-arts seminar hosted by Doug Minnix, Bluefield's assistant professor of exercise and sport science and faculty advisor for the school's Karate Club. Liu was joined by Kimo Wall, an American karate expert who conducts seminars around the world.

"Master Liu is no typical kung-fu master," Minnix said. "He is a 12th-generation direct descendant of the White Crane system."

The White Crane system is a southern Chinese martial art widely practiced around the world. It is characterized by deep-rooted stances, intricate hand techniques and fighting mostly at close range. There are different levels of the White Crane system; the Feeding Crane level, at which Liu excels, is the most combative.

"[Liu's] technique reminds me of the legendary methods that are only read about and no longer to be found," said Minnix. "How such a remarkable individual ended up on tour with Kimo Wall and in the small town of Bluefield, I believe was orchestrated by God."

Before making his own profession of Christian faith, Minnix, who was a student at Bluefield College in the late 1980s, practiced the principles of Zen Buddhism and traveled to China to research the particular style of karate to which he was devoted.

But, "In the midst of a culture dominated by Zen, I had a God moment," Minnix recalled about his trip to China. "While walking down the streets, a young man witnessed to me about Jesus and handed me a gospel tract. This seed stayed in my heart and would remain, yet undeveloped, until I returned to Bluefield College."

Kung Fu master Liu Chang (center) offers a demonstration during a Bluefield College martial arts seminar. (PHOTO/Bluefield College)

Scott Bryan, who chairs Bluefield's exercise and sports science department, mentored Minnix during his days as a student at Bluefield and shared more about Christianity with him. During his senior year, Minnix answered the call of Christ and subsequently gave up his study of martial arts.

"But, in my devotional time, I kept running across Scriptures that seemed to run harmoniously with karate principles," Minnix said. "It was during that time that God gave me a vision for a martial-arts ministry."

That same karate ministry, which involves Scripture memorization and Bible study, is what brought Liu and Wall to Bluefield last summer. Wall, a former Zen Buddhist who also converted to Christianity and who is a longtime sensei (a Japanese title used to address teachers in martial arts) to Minnix, brought Liu to Bluefield to present the Feeding Crane system to karate students from the college and community.

But, the karate students were not the only individuals to leave the martial-arts seminar changed by the experience. During an after-hours dinner, Liu shared the details of a series of events that led him to find both lost relatives and martial-arts techniques. The circumstances, he believes, were magic, because they were too well orchestrated to be coincidence. Wall boldly responded, "Not magic, but a miracle, the power of God."

Later during the seminar, Liu received word from Taiwan that his home had been damaged by a typhoon. Concerned about his family, Liu found encouragement from people within the college and local church community. They offered Liu support and prayer. Sensing God's direction in the entire experience, Minnix gave Liu a Chinese/English Bible.

"Following some encouragement by Kimo sensei, I finally presented Mr. Liu with the gospel," Minnix said. "He opened the book, and with tears in his eyes and a humble disposition, said, 'All my life I hear about this book, but today [is] the first day I see it.'"

Minnix shared later that he, along with Wall, were amazed at how a man of such stature, position and power could be so quickly touched by God.

Minnix recalled, "He said to me, 'Now you first time from now on study Feeding Crane; now I first time from now on study the book.' I can't explain how I felt that night. God truly intervened and crossed cultural lines to connect us in a very special way."

Liu would end his trip to Bluefield with a visit to Minnix's church, and said afterward, "This is [the] first time I go to church. I feel very special power [that I have] not felt before."

Liu communicated later with Minnix and others his desire to learn more about Jesus. He also said his Bluefield experience is one he plans to share with students all over the world.

"I will never forget Bluefield," Liu said. "Bluefield is [the] place where I first talk to God. I go home and tell people here, and they cannot believe. 'You talk to God?' Amazed."

Crystal Kieloch writes for Bluefield College.

CBF field personnel direct training center, minister to villagers in Belize
By Laurie Entrekin (770 words)

ATLANTA (ABP) -- Recently appointed as Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel in Belize, North Carolina natives Eric and Julie Maas serve as the directors of the Western Region Baptist Training Center. Started in the 1980s by Baptist missionaries, the 10-acre-camp hosts working mission teams, biblical training for pastors and other religious or educational retreats and conferences.

Their journey to Belize began two years ago, when the Maases were considering full-time missions work overseas. Linda Jones, missions coordinator for CBF of North Carolina visited their church and spoke with Eric, a native of Greenville, N.C., about ministry needs in the Central American country.

"She planted the initial seed," said Julie, a native of Raleigh, N.C. "We were in the process of discerning where God want[ed] us to be. We thought it was Nicaragua." Julie jokingly credits a pair of bumper stickers for jump-starting their journey to Belize. She visited her local library and saw a car in the parking lot covered with bumper stickers.

"The top left sticker said 'Belize' and the bottom right sticker, on the tailgate, said 'The answer.' Those were the only two I saw," she said.
Prayer, networking and other "subtle hints" led the Maases to decide on Belize by June 2007. By July 2008, after selling their home and nearly all their belongings, the couple moved there with their 5-year-old daughter and now 18-month old son.

The Maases have made a two-year commitment to direct the Baptist training center.

"We see it as a career move," Julie said. "If God calls us to stay in Belize or move somewhere else, we are surrendered to God's will."
Managing the day-to-day operations of the center, scheduling and assisting with group visits and caring for their own children's needs are the primary activities of the Maases' ministry.

With a background in construction management, Eric has spent considerable time doing needed repairs and maintenance to the buildings. Julie, a registered nurse, said that as they are beginning "to get the camp down pat" and starting to know their neighbors better, they are spending more time addressing the villagers' needs, both physical and spiritual.

The Baptist center is located in the middle of the small village of Camelote amid great poverty.

"Villagers are just trying to make it day in and day out, pay their bills, and get their children off to school," said Julie. "We are the eyeballs on the ground, and pretty much wherever we look, there is something that needs to be renovated or torn down, and challenges that each family faces."

Last October, when a devastating flood with a hurricane-like impact struck Belize, causing millions of dollars in damage to crops and homes, Eric was able to deliver a large box of food and a flashlight to a pregnant woman and her family who were stranded in a remote village.

"When the detailed logistics of 'how to' were unknown and seemed impossible, especially in the dark, God delivered a boat to cross that river when we didn't know if there would be one," Julie said. "The food was enough to feed the family until the water receded."

The Maases have not only ministered in the villages, but also opened the doors of their home -- the camp -- to the villagers, through informal playgroups with their children as well as organized activities. As Eric and Julie work to build relationships, they seek to put Mother Teresa's words into practice, doing "small things with great love."

"One thing God has led me to do is start a prayer group with the women in the village," said Julie. "I love to pray -- that's my passion."
For the last several months, nine to 13 women have met weekly at the center for an hour and a half for discussion and prayer time.

"We talk about the concept of prayer," said Julie. "I want to empower them with the power of prayer -- not offer money or medicine. I want them to know that God is right there with them; they don't have to leave their home or get an education to reach out to God, draw close to him, and learn who he is and his love for his people. My prayer and desire is to empower the women, with God's help, to truly have a relationship with Christ that will cause a positive ripple effect to those around them."

The Western Region Baptist Training Center operates year-round. Mission teams that have stayed at the center have led vacation Bible schools, completed construction projects, conducted evangelistic outreach, assisted schools and churches with various needs and held medical clinics.

Laurie Entrekin writes for CBF Communications.

WAM Quote of the Day - 3/11/2009

Tonight, WAM and I watched Watchmen on the “IMAX” screen at the Regal Pinnacle 18. In this picture, WAM is picking up our tickets from Fandango. Shortly after arriving we caught up. I recounted all of the teaching and preaching I have done of late. When pressed, I admitted that I had not gotten paid. WAM then asked if I had at least gotten paid for my gas. Again, I confessed I had not. WAM then analyzed,

“You paid expense is very important.”

Before this conversation I thought I was merely working for free. Now, I realize that I am actually so hard up that I pay people to hear me talk. Thanks, WAM.

Word of the Day - 3/11/2009


Perfervid means very fervent; extremely ardent; impassioned.

After being abusively rejected by the Jews in Corinth, Paul makes a perfervid speech in which he announces his intent to go to the Gentiles.

But when they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them, "Your blood be on your own heads! I am clean From now on I will go to the Gentiles." (Acts 18:6, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 3/11/2009, Part 3

News & Notes from Tuesday, March 10th, 2009, Part 2

-I spent Tuesday night with JTH and JBT. It did not start out this way. I had planned on making a brief stop by MoFoS to see JTH and then calling it a night. When I arrived, JTH and I headed to his house so that he could pick up documents to file his taxes online at the store. (He uses the store’s internet as he has no computer in his home.) While at JTH’s house, we could not help but notice that his neighbors were grilling out. This made me want a hamburger. We remembered that JBT needed a delivery to the Halls store so we asked if we could make the delivery and eat at the Bel-Air Grill. (JTH is the only person I have ever met who does not like Litton’s hamburgers.) JBT agreed but decided to go with us. So we headed out for Halls. (Note: JDK manned the store throughout. We were not entirely irresponsible. Just mostly irresponsible.)

-JBT wanted to drive to show off his new 2008 Nissan Titan. Though it is difficult to tell from this photo, the truck is midnight blue. It is massive. JBT has owned the vehicle so short a time that he has yet to fill it up with gas. According to his calculations, the V8 is averaging 13.2 miles per gallon. Yikes!

-After eating at the Bel-Air Grill, we headed to the Halls store to make the delivery that was ostensibly the reason for our trip. JTH and I officially met Barbara, an employee who has recently been re-hired by JBT. It appears that the Halls store is getting prepared for a major staff overhaul. We spent minutes in the store and stayed after the 10 PM closing time. Believe it or not, it was primarily JTH shopping and not me. So much for my brief stop by MoFoS.

-Despite doing virtually no work, JTH was on the clock throughout the night!

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 3/11/2009, Part 2

News & Notes from Tuesday, March 10th, 2009, Part 1

-On Tuesday morning, CBP allowed me to lecture her class at Carson-Newman College for the third consecutive semester. On this day, I would be teaching her Intro to the New Testament courses on Paul and the book of Romans.

-The class used the Fifth Edition of Stephen L. HarrisThe New Testament: A Student's Introduction as the text. I had an hour to teach the vast amount of material. It was not my finest hour as a teacher and my lack of experience showed as I struggled pace the class.

-The first class met at 8 AM which gave me the rare opportunity to see a sunrise. (Notice that the street light is still on in this photo.) My poor performance in the early class was exceeded only by the abysmal response of the students. There were only eight students present. Of the eight, two slept during part or all of the lecture and one left prematurely! I take credit for putting only one student to sleep as the other was asleep before I opened my mouth. I repeatedly used the word “uh” which I cannot ever remember doing. On the plus side, I did not say “basically”... (see the March 13th, 2008 edition of “In Eckleburg’s Eyes” for details.)

-I could not help but notice birds chirping outside. They sounded strikingly like crickets to me. Thankfully, two nursing students were attentive and attempted to help their drowning lecturer.

-In between classes I got to talk with CBP and HBT and meet Christine Jones, the Assistant Professor of Religion. I really enjoyed this. HBT asked how I would teach the difficult Romans 9-11 passage. I said all I would say was that it was “really hard”. He appreciated this.

-At 10:30, I taught a much larger class who were far more receptive to me and my questions. The first class only had one student who had previously heard me, while the second had roughly half a dozen. This probably helped a lot. I was not good in the second class but I was far better than the first.

-I then drove back to Knoxville to volunteer at the Hope Resource Center. My 2 PM appointment was very easy and even showed up early. I needed this as I was drained.

-Finally, on Tuesday afternoon, I was visited by my uncle RLN who let me know that my cousin HLN was accepted to Goucher College, her first choice. This is great news. Now, please start praying for funding.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 3/11/2009, Part 1

News & Notes from Monday, March 9th, 2009

-On Monday night, JTH, MPW, and I went to Bearden High School to watch the Bearden Bulldogs play the Morristown East Hurricanes at 7 PM. The stakes were raised for this game and not just due to the $6 ticket price. It was a sectional (substate) game, meaning the winner would advance to Murfreesboro for the state tournament while the loser’s season would end. Win or lose, this would be Bearden’s last game in Knoxville.

-We sat at midcourt in the front row. The seats were not as choice as you might think. We were positioned next to Bearden’s student section. Our view was partially obstructed throughout the game. JTH attended because two of our former pupils from daycare, Ronrico White and Will Winton, play for Bearden. MPW went because he loves good basketball. I went for both reasons. MPW did wear the opposing teams colors but not because his grandfather attended the school. (I know that’s what you were thinking.) It was just a coincidence. The game was an event. We saw too many people from church to list them.

-Prior to the game, Bearden coach Mark Blevins was honored for his 400th win at the school, accumulated during the Bulldogs’ romp through the district tournament. Bearden athletic director Scott Witt presented him with a plaque. In fifteen years at Bearden, his record (after the game) stands at 404-109. That’s 26.9 wins a year! Blevins took over as Bearden coach for Cary Daniels in my sophomore year of high school.

-Bearden’s victory was never in doubt. Had the teams been evenly matched athletically (and they were not), Morristown East would have been dominated as they had no player taller than 6'4". Bearden’s guards exceeded that height. This also does not factor in Bearden’s depth. Morristown East never led but hung on for one quarter. Bearden only led the Hurricanes by four entering the second quarter (13-9). The Bulldogs’ pressure defense held MEHS scoreless for a 5:28 stretch of the second period. This contributed to a 23-2 run that pushed the Bulldogs to a 36-14 halftime lead and all but ended the Hurricanes hopes.

-Morristown East’s strategy was to play physical. This seemed to motivate Bearden all the more. Sophomore guard Ty Greene drew four offensive fouls alone during the game. I don’t know if I have ever seen that before.

-After three quarters the score was 65-23 and when Blevins finally pulled his first two units with 5:05 left in the game, the score was 70-23. The Bearden first wave more than tripled Morristown East and amassed a 47-point lead. The mercy rule was incorporated (meaning the clock did not stop in the final period) and Bearden won 76-34. It was the most lopsided substate victory I have ever witnessed.

-In my biased opinion, the two most impressive plays of the game were a rebound and a dunk. When Ronrico White grabbed a rebound high above the rim in the second half, it drew thunderous applause. When a rebound draws cheers, it is impressive. The dunk came when Nathan Parker grabbed a rebound and dunked over a defender in one motion. The referees called over the back but the kid more or less vaulted his defender.

-JTH and I were very proud of Ronrico (pictured, shooting a free throw). He played great. He and senior Blake Jenkins, both sons of former Tennessee basketball players, led the team with 13 points apiece.

-Morristown East is not a bad team either. They finished their season with a 25-9 record. Bearden, now 35-2, set a school record for wins. It is Blevins’ fourth team in fifteen years to advance to the state tournament. Bearden did not lose to an in-state opponent all season and has gone two straight years without losing to a local (Knox County) school. (Note: In this picture Ronrico White is mugging for the camera while a teammate is interviewed.)

-The smell of popcorn in the gym had made us hungry all night, so we hit Kingston Pike in search of food. We set out to try something none of us had ever eaten before. We stopped at Josephine’s Old World II Pizzeria and Restaurant (pictured, located at 10943 Kingston Pike). Despite its hours of operation indicating it was open, the doors were locked and no one appeared to be inside. Now craving pizza, we drove a few miles down the road and ate at Little Joe’s Pizza’s in Farragut. En route, JTH regaled us with a history of American grocery stores. Evidently he had done a report on them in high school and is a fountain of information on the subject. Of all things to be an expert on...

-Everyone in the restaurant was either a friend or family of our waitress. Her toddler, Cody, received a boisterous response when he walked through the door. Unfortunately, this scared the poor child profusely. While at the restaurant, we were briefly visited by RAW, who needed the keys to my truck. KLTW and KJW remained in the car as the child was sleeping. It was for the best. I would not have wanted to give Cody an inferiority complex...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Associated Baptist Press - 3/10/2009

Associated Baptist Press
March 10, 2009 · (09-35)

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

In this issue
Bill to permit guns in churches revived in wake of pastor's shooting (570 words)
Baptist pastor accused of setting fire to church (298 words)
Therapeutic robot takes center stage for residents of retirement community (636 words)
Opinion: Leaving Alabama (960 words)

Bill to permit guns in churches revived in wake of pastor's shooting
By Bob Allen (570 words)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (ABP) -- An Arkansas lawmaker says she will reintroduce a bill to allow concealed weapons in churches after a deadly Illinois church shooting March 8.

State Rep. Beverly Pyle (R-Cedarville) originally introduced a measure Jan. 29 to remove "any church or other house of worship" from a list of places where people licensed to carry concealed weapons are prohibited from bringing their guns.

The bill passed the Arkansas House of Representatives on a 57-42 vote Feb. 11 but then died on a voice vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee Feb. 25.

After a gunman entered First Baptist Church in Maryville, Ill., and killed Pastor Fred Winters with a gunshot to the heart, Pyle told Little Rock CBS affiliate KTHV Channel 11 she was making changes to the bill and planned to take it back to the committee hoping for more votes.

"I have received numerous e-mails and phone calls concerning this wanting me to bring this back, none against it," Pyle told the TV station March 9.

The station talked to one Arkansas legislator -- Sen. Hank Wilkins (D-Pine Bluff) -- who indicated he might change his vote from "no" to "yes."

"In light of the shooting yesterday I think there will be a number of legislators who will want to reconsider this," said Wilkins, who is also a United Methodist pastor.

Police said the suspect in the shooting, 27-year-old Terry Joe Sedlacek, was armed with enough ammunition to kill as many as 30 people and had planned the attack to the point of writing "death day" on is planning calendar for March 8.

His weapon jammed after four shots, however, before he pulled a knife and wounded himself and two church members trying to subdue him.

Dave Travis, managing director of the Leadership Network, told the Associated Press that most megachurches have coordinated security plans and undercover guards, but smaller congregations are often more vulnerable.

Jeffrey Hawkins, executive director of the Christian Security Network, said 75 percent of churches have no security plan, making them a "soft target" for attack. He said security isn't only about preventing things from happening, but having a plan for dealing with catastrophic events after they occur.

First Baptist Church of Maryville said on its website that all activities at the church are canceled for the week following the attack, and that grief counselors are available if anyone needs to talk or have someone pray with them.

Visitation for Winters, 45, is scheduled from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. March 12 at the church. The funeral service is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. March 13, also at the church. Graveside services are private.

The church is accepting gifts both to a Winters Family Memorial Fund and to the church building fund.

"In this day, where uncertainty seems to abound creating an environment in which people are vulnerable in doing things they might not do otherwise, one thing is certain, we, as human beings need a foundation upon which we can live our lives," said a statement on the website. "We at First Baptist Maryville, along with other Christian believers, share this conviction: that foundation is God's Word. In the pages of the Book we call the Bible, we find the pathway for peace, hope, and a quality of living life despite what circumstances we find ourselves in.

"To those who believe in the power of prayer, we covet your prayers right now."

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Baptist pastor accused of setting fire to church
By Bob Allen (298 words)

BELTON, S.C. (ABP) -- A Southern Baptist pastor in South Carolina is facing arson charges after allegedly setting fire to his own church building March 8.

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division announced March 9 the arrest of Christopher Daniels, 41, of Belton, S.C., on a charge of second-degree arson. A press release said Daniels "willfully and maliciously" set fire to Blue Ridge Baptist Church in Belton.

On March 9 the Greenville News reported the church's pastor discovered a fire while unlocking the building for Sunday worship.

The next day the paper quoted Anderson County Fire Chief Billy Gibson as saying officials found evidence early on that the fire was intentionally set. After further investigation, they concluded that Daniels was the suspect.

Roger Orman, associate executive director of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, said the congregation -- until recently known as Triangle Baptist Church -- is on a roster of churches that cooperate with the state convention. A searchable database of Southern Baptist churches says the congregation was formed in 1900 and has 107 members.

The local newspaper said about half of the congregation's active membership -- about 25 members, mostly elderly women -- stopped attending after a series of attacks by vandals who spray-painted what appeared to be gang symbols on walls of the sanctuary.

In January the Anderson, S.C., Independent-Mail quoted Daniels as saying the church was vandalized about five times within a two-month period.

If convicted Daniels could receive up to 25 years in prison. He was held on $25,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in court April 24.

Daniels reportedly became a Southern Baptist pastor about a year ago, and Triangle Baptist Church was his first preaching job.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Therapeutic robot takes center stage for residents of retirement community
By Holly Raidabaugh (636 words)

RICHMOND, Va. (ABP) - There's a new resident at Lakewood Manor, one of Virginia Baptist Homes' retirement communities. Paro is by far the furriest member of the Lakewood community and he takes his meals through a battery charger, not in the dining facility. Paro is an interactive robotic baby Harp seal, designed to provide therapeutic benefits to residents of retirement communities.

Also known as mental-commitment robots, therapeutic robots are developed to elicit emotional attachment from humans, according to the creator's website. Three types of effects are sought: psychological, such as relaxation and motivation; physiological, such as improvement in vital signs; and social, such as encouraging communication between residents and caregivers.

Lakewood is one of three retirement communities in the country to include Paro in its care team. The robot's inventor, Takanori Shibata, senior research scientist of Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, has been working with health organizations in Europe and Japan since 2005, but is just now making his debut in the United States.

Paro's effects are closely related to pet therapy. "Many studies show that interaction with animals is useful for people to relax, relieve mental stress and exercise for physical rehabilitation," says the Paro website.

But why a baby Harp seal -- an animal native to the northernmost Atlantic Ocean and unfamiliar to most Virginians?

Paro's inventor explains that robots can be divided into four categories, according to the way they look: humanoid robots; robots designed to look like animals, such as dogs or cats, familiar to virtually all people; robots that approximate uncommon or non-familiar animals, such as seals, penguins or whales; or robots that are not designed to look particularly like any actual living creature.

Robots that look like humans or familiar animals raise expectations that the robot will function much like its real look-alike -- expectations that are invariably disappointed when the differences become clear. Users often lose interest in interacting with those robots. New characters or artificial animals will attract the interest of some people but not others -- and it's not easy to determine what kind of person will find interaction with that kind of robot appealing.

Robots that look like non-familiar animals, however, typically attract widespread and long-lasting interest. While most people have never owned a seal or penguin as a pet, they do know something about them.

"Pet-therapy programs help to increase relaxation, motivation, vital signs, socialization, and laughter and to decrease stress, depression, and loneliness in residents who participate in these programs," said Susan Weirich, Lakewood's certified therapeutic recreational specialist.

"It is very exciting for Lakewood to have the opportunity to enhance the quality of our residents' lives through the use of Paro. What a great tool for increased health in our residents' lives on a daily basis!"

Paro has five kinds of sensors -- tactile, light, audio, temperature and posture -- with which it can perceive people and its environment. With the light sensor, Paro can recognize light and dark. The robot "feels" when it is stroked or struck thanks to the tactile sensor, and the posture sensor determines when it is being held. With its audio sensor, Paro recognizes the direction of a voice, as well as words such as its name, greetings and praise. Paro can learn to behave in a way that the user prefers, and respond to its new name. For example, if it is stroked each time it is held, Paro will remember the previous action and try to repeat an action that will elicit stroking. If Paro is hit, it remembers the action that prompted the blow and tries not to repeat it.

By interaction with people, Paro responds as if it is alive, moving head and legs, making sounds, and reflecting the preferred behavior. Paro also imitates the voice of a real baby Harp seal.

Holly Raidabaugh is director of marketing for Lakewood Manor.

Opinion: Leaving Alabama
By Jim Somerville (960 words)

(ABP) -- I was born on March 14, 1959, in Selma, Alabama. My mother tells me I was the most difficult of all her babies to deliver, and that while she was waiting for me to make up my mind about being born she walked the hallways of that hospital, saying the 23rd Psalm over and over: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." My father was the new pastor of the Presbyterian church in Hayneville, Ala., 35 miles away, and recently he told me the story of his own labor there, and of his eventual delivery.

He said that when he was considering a call to that church he asked the committee chairman what the civil-rights situation was in Hayneville. Since the Supreme Court's 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision that outlawed segregation in public schools, resistance to integration had been strong in the South, and sometimes violent. The chairman said, "Well, you're a good old South Carolina boy, aren't you? You know what it's like." And it's true. My father had grown up in South Carolina. He probably knew exactly what it was like. But he came anyway.

He hadn't been there very long when a member of the church invited him to say the opening prayer at the next meeting of the White Citizens' Council. "What is the White Citizens' Council for, exactly?" my father asked. "Could I look over a copy of the constitution and bylaws before I give you my answer?" And the man looked at my dad as if he were crazy, or maybe a communist, and said, "Well you know what it's for: it's to keep niggers in their place!"

Although I don't think their constitution and bylaws read that way, that is what the White Citizens' Council was for. According to one of my better sources, the WCC was a white-supremacist organization that flourished in the United States between the mid-'50s and the mid-'70s. "With about 15,000 members, mostly in the South, the group was well known for its opposition to racial integration," Wikipedia says. Its issues involved the so-called "protection" of "European-American" heritage from those of other ethnicities. If my dad had only had Wikipedia he would have known all that.

But, in answer to the man's reply, Dad said he didn't think that was his role in the community. He said he thought his role was to share the gospel with anyone who would receive it, black or white, and to make no distinction between the two. "And that," my father said, "was when he looked at me as if he really did have a rattlesnake loose in his house."

It was not long after I was born that the leaders of Dad's church sat down with him to discuss the policies of racial integration being promoted by the denomination. According to some Presbyterians, at least, black people ought to be welcome in the church just like white people. The elders of the church in Hayneville talked about that for a long time and finally decided that black people -- "negroes," as they called them in polite company -- were welcome to visit the church but not welcome to join it. And then they looked at my dad to see what he thought.

He must have been about 30 years old at the time -- a young man, sitting in that room with all his elders, trying to be respectful. But finally he said, "This church doesn't belong to us. It belongs to Jesus Christ. And I don't think he would keep anyone from joining because of their skin color." And the man who had chaired the search committee looked at my dad and said, "Son, I don't know what kind of religion they taught you in seminary, but we've only got one kind of religion here, and it's that good old Southern religion."

Soon word began to get around that the new pastor of the Presbyterian church in Hayneville was a "nigger-lovin'" preacher. Church attendance began to fall off. Women would stare at my mother in the grocery store. And then one morning while she was fixing breakfast, she noticed a string of cars passing by the house, slowing down at the front yard and then speeding up again. One of our neighbors called to ask if we were all right and Mom said, "Yes, why wouldn't we be?"

"Didn't you know?" said the woman. "Why, the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross in front of your house last night!"

Mom hung up the phone and got my father out of bed. He put on his bathrobe and slippers and walked across the front lawn to a patch of burned grass. My mother watched him poke a pile of ashes with the toe of one slipper, and when he came back in, she said, "Well?"
And he answered, almost disappointed: "Sure was a little one."

But, after that, the threats began to get more serious, until my father finally decided he needed to get his family out of there. So, he loaded up his wife and three little boys in a 1953 Ford Fairlane, strapped a dog house on top with our dog, Lady, and her five puppies inside, nailed a piece of plywood over the opening, and then, under cover of darkness, pulled out of the parsonage driveway and headed up the road toward southwestern Virginia, where he would try to continue his ministry under happier, friendlier circumstances.

Things were happier there, and friendlier, too. But -- even though I was just a toddler when we left Alabama -- those stories, and my father's courageous example, have shaped my views on race relations ever since. How about you? Who shaped your views on this issue?

-- James Green Somerville is pastor of the First Baptist Church of Richmond, Va. This column was adapted from a March 7 entry on his blog, Jimsblog.

Word of the Day - 3/10/2009


Puissance means power, might, or force.

In Romans, Paul asserts that the gospel has the puissance of salvation for everyone who believes.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16, NASB)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Associated Baptist Press - 3/9/2009

Associated Baptist Press
March 9, 2009 · (09-34)

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

In this issue
Pastor gunned down in pulpit (737 words)
Obama ends Bush restrictions on embryonic stem-cell study (759 words)
Baptists getting older, study says (509 words)
Baptist seminary honors Glenn Hinson for half century of teaching (920 words)
Longtime Baptist professor: Pastors must integrate science, faith (688 words)
Opinion: Whither -- or wither -- conservatism (1,169 words)

Pastor gunned down in pulpit
By Bob Allen (737 words)

MARYVILLE, Ill. (ABP) -- A past president of the Illinois Baptist State Association died March 8 when a gunman walked into his church and shot him down during an early-morning worship service. Fred Winters, 45, pastor of First Baptist Church of Maryville, Ill., died from a single gunshot wound to the chest.

The following day prosecutors charged Terry Sedlacek, 27, with first-degree murder and aggravated battery. Police did not comment on a motive, but a newspaper report last year said Sedlacek is mentally ill.

Police say Sedlacek fired a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol four times before it jammed, then pulled out a four-inch knife and began injuring himself.

Several male church members subdued him, and two received non-life-threatening cuts that sent them to a local hospital.

About 150 people were attending the 8:15 a.m. service, one of three worship services the 1,400-member church holds each weekend.

Sedlacek was held without bond and hospitalized for the wounds. Last August he was subject of a St. Louis Post-Dispatch story about how Lyme disease caused him to be mentally ill.

Police said Sedlacek entered the 1,000-seat sanctuary in suburban St. Louis and walked toward the pulpit while Winters delivered a sermon on finding happiness at work. He exchanged words with the pastor before revealing the gun and shooting. It was unclear as of press time March 9 if the two men knew each other, and a First Baptist staff member who saw the man briefly said he did not recognize him.

Winters, who had been senior pastor of First Baptist Church since 1987, presided over the Illinois Baptist State Association meeting in 2007, its 100th anniversary year. Nate Adams, executive director of the state affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention, released a statement.

"Our great God is not surprised by this, or anything," Adams said. "That he allows evil and free will to have their way in tragedies like this is a mystery in many ways. But we know we can trust him no matter what, and draw close to him in any circumstances. Let's draw closer to him and to one another during this terrible tragedy, and renew our faith and obedience to his purposes for however many days we have remaining to serve him."

Winters reportedly deflected the first shot with his Bible, sending a spray of paper into the air that worshipers thought was confetti and part of a skit.

Mark Jones, the congregation's worship minister, told reporters gathered outside the church building that Maryville First Baptist sometimes used dramatic elements in worship, and the attack caught everyone off guard. He said the quick response by church members probably saved other lives.

Jones said in an interview on local TV station KMOV he had no idea about the shooter's motives, but the church will carry on.

"Things will come our way in life, but what we need to tell the people is our foundation is the rock, which is Jesus Christ, and the Bible tells us about the life that we can have in him," he said. "We can go through challenging times. We can go through storms. And if we have that faith and the trust that will help us to have that internal peace."

Jones said the church would probably consider added security after the shooting, but "we think this is a one-time situation."

"We have seen attacks in our country," he said. "People cannot stop living their lives. People cannot be paralyzed with fear. We're going to continue to live our lives and we're going to live with a greater intentionality and purpose," he said.

"I know that our senior pastor would definitely want the church to continue to pursue with passion and intentionality exactly what has been pursued these last 20 years," Jones said.

Winters is survived by his wife of 21 years, Cindy, and two children.

Nearly 1,000 people gathered for a prayer service for Winters the evening of March 8 at Metro Community Church in nearby Edwardsville, Ill.

A 1985 graduate of Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo., Winters earned a master's degree in systematic theology and church history from Wheaton Graduate School in Wheaton, Ill., a master of divinity from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., and a doctor of ministry degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He was an adjunct professor at Midwestern Seminary, according to the church website.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Obama ends Bush restrictions on embryonic stem-cell study
By Robert Marus (759 words)

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- With a March 9 executive order, President Obama made official what many scientists had long anticipated -- and many religious conservatives had long feared -- lifting his predecessor's effective ban on federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research.

"[I]n recent years, when it comes to stem-cell research, rather than furthering discovery, our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values," Obama said, in a statement accompanying his executive order. "In this case, I believe the two are not inconsistent. As a person of faith, I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering. I believe we have been given the capacity and will to pursue this research -- and the humanity and conscience to do so responsibly."

He had been widely expected to reverse a policy, first instituted by President Bush 7 1/2 years ago, that severely limited the kinds of embryonic stem-cell "lines" available for federally funded research. But Obama went further, with a memorandum accompanying the executive order, that asked officials in his administration to institute policies to ensure that political pressure will not come to bear in the government's future decisions about science policies.

Scientists have studied embryonic stem cells for more than a decade because of their potential to become any one of more than 200 types of tissues in the human body. The research, scientists say, has the potential to produce treatments and even cures for a wide array of injuries and degenerative conditions that are disabling and even fatal.

"At this moment, the full promise of stem-cell research remains unknown, and it should not be overstated. But scientists believe these tiny cells may have the potential to help us understand, and possibly cure, some of our most devastating diseases and conditions," Obama said. "To regenerate a severed spinal cord and lift someone from a wheelchair. To spur insulin production and spare a child from a lifetime of needles. To treat Parkinson's, cancer, heart disease and others that affect millions of Americans and the people who love them."

However, such stem-cell research has proven highly controversial, because the embryos are destroyed in the process of harvesting the stem cells..

In addition, some scientists have proposed cloning human embryos from patients with certain diseases. Such cloning would prevent rejection of any new tissues or organs grown from the stem cells and used for those patients.

Religious conservatives -- and many non-religious bioethicists -- find both prospects ethically troubling. Conservatives, in particular, consider the destruction of five-day-old embryos as tantamount to abortion.

Supporters of the research -- and polls consistently show large majorities of the public and of professional biologists in favor of it -- counter that it is done on frozen embryos that would otherwise be discarded because they are by-products of fertility treatments.

Stem-cell-research opponents roundly criticized the Obama order, noting that recent advances in creating embryonic-like stem cells from adult tissue in ways that don't destroy embryos have shown the promise to render the moral quandaries over stem-cell research moot.

"Adult stem cells have been proven to treat every single disease the president mentioned in his speech today, from Parkinson's to diabetes, heart disease to spinal cord injuries," said a statement from the conservative Christian group Family Research Council. "The action by the president today will, in effect, allow scientists to create their own guidelines without proper moral restraints."

The group urged Congress to renew a federal law -- known as the Dickey-Wicker Amendment -- that bans federal funding for research that destroys or harms human embryos. President Clinton's administration interpreted the law to ban funding for the destruction of the embryos themselves, but not for funding of research on the resulting lines of stem cells.

Obama's separate memorandum instructed White House officials to "develop recommendations for presidential action designed to guarantee scientific integrity throughout the executive branch" on science-policy decisions.

President Bush's administration was regularly criticized by scientific groups for decisions in science-related areas -- such as stem-cell research, global warming, teenage sex education and HIV-prevention efforts -- that seemed influenced more by conservative political ideology than the latest research and the scientific community's consensus on those issues.

Obama said he issued the memorandum to make certain "that in this new administration, we base our public policies on the soundest science; that we appoint scientific advisors based on their credentials and experience, not their politics or ideology; and that we are open and honest with the American people about the science behind our decisions."

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

Baptists getting older, study says
By Bob Allen (509 words)

HARTFORD, Conn. (ABP) -- Baptists may be the grayest of any major religious group in America, according to a study released March 9 by Trinity College of connecticut.

The 2008 American Religious Identification Survey, the third set of data in a landmark study tracking changes in religious loyalties, reported 21 percent of the people who identify themselves as Baptists are 70 and older. That compares to 12 percent of the general population, 13 percent of Catholics, 14 percent of mainline Christians and 10 percent of Mormons who fall in that age range.

Forty percent of the national population is 50 or older, while 58 percent of Baptists fall into that age bracket.

Related to that, the percentage of Baptists who are widowed is 12 percent, twice the national average. One demographic in which Baptists have far less than their share is among never-marrid singles -- who make up 13 percent of Baptists, but a full 25 percent of the general population.

Baptists have gained members in the last 18 years, but comprise a smaller percentage of the population than they did when the study first compiled statistics. In 1990 there were 33.9 million Baptists, 19 percent of the population. In 2008 they numbered 36.1 million but declined to 15.8 percent of the population.

Baptists are still less educated than the general population and most denominations, but the percentage of Baptists who are college graduates increased from 11 percent in 1990 to 16 percent in 2008.

The survey defines "Baptist" in a broad sense, including Southern Baptist, American Baptist, Free Will, Missionary and African-American denominations.

In general the survey found that the American population self-identifies as predominantly Christian, but Christianity's share of the population is decreasing. Ten percent fewer Americans self-identified as Christians in 2008 (76 percent) than in 1990 (86 percent.)

The portion of the population claiming no religion grew from 8.2 percent in 1990 to 15 percent in 2008, a gain of almost 20 million adults. Researchers called the rise of the so-called "Nones" as "one of the most important trends on the American religious scene."

Seventy percent of Americans said they believe in a personal God, while 12 percent are either agnostic, atheist or unsure. A surprisingly high percentage, 12 percent, expressed belief in a deist or pagan view of a higher power, but not a personal God.

Researchers found views on religion changed more during the 1990s than since 2000, attributing that to large numbers of immigrants from Latin American countries who are overwhelmingly Christian and Catholic.

Baptists lost ground, meanwhile, both among Hispanics and Asians. Seven percent of Hispanics self-identified as Baptists in 1990, compared to 3 percent in 2008. Asians were 9 percent Baptist in 1990 but now make up 3 percent of Baptists. Asians were also the group most likely to profess no religion.

Researchers said the loss of religious identity could have long-lasting consequences for religious institutions. One sign of the lack of attachment of Americans to religion is that 27 percent do not expect a religious funeral at their death.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press

Baptist seminary honors Glenn Hinson for half century of teaching
By Bob Allen (920 words)

LEXINGTON, Ky.. (ABP) -- The Baptist Seminary of Kentucky honored one of its founding professors for 50 years of teaching by launching an endowed lecture series in his name March 6-7.

The free-standing Baptist school on the campus of the Disciples of Christ-related Lexington Theological Seminary established the E. Glenn Hinson Lecture Series to honor the life and work its senior professor of church history and spirituality. Future lectures will build on Hinson's legacy of study in spiritual formation, church history, ecumenism and Baptist history.

Baptist Seminary of Kentucky President Greg Earwood said knowledge of his field, experience in the classroom, passion about teaching and love for Christ and the church made Hinson a natural choice when the school set out to hire its first faculty members in 2001.

But Earwood said Hinson, a lighting rod for attacks from the right during the Southern Baptist Convention controversy in the 1970s and 1980s, feared he might hurt the seminary's reputation and attempts to raise money.

"Of course none of that has come to be," Earwood said. "Dr. Hinson has been a valuable representative of our seminary, faithful in his commitment to us, a blessing and encourager to me, and we are grateful."

Hinson's teaching career nearly ended as soon as it began. Near the end of his first year at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1959, Hinson noticed trouble hearing some of the questions of his students. That began decades of worsening deafness, which continued to dog him throughout his career.

Not much later, due to working 20 hours a day completing a dissertation while carrying a full teaching load, he wore down and also lost his voice.

"The loss of one vital faculty is difficult, but the loss of two in quick succession can be overwhelming," Hinson said. "I felt the floodwaters roll over me."

Supported by family, colleagues and friends, Hinson said he finally came to accept what the apostle Paul wrote in First Corinthians about his "thorn in the flesh," hearing a message from the Lord, "My grace is sufficient for you."

One of the things Hinson, 77, said he learned over 50 years of teaching is "that you have to play the hand you are dealt." That means teachers "should take account of your limitations."

"I wouldn't give you a nickel for deafness," he said, "but, let me say, I wouldn't take a million dollars for what I have learned because I have had to cope with this handicap."

Hinson said he probably would have been a better teacher with good hearing, but he benefited from improving hearing-aid technology that allowed him to continue his work. Once more at the point of being unable to function in a classroom, Hinson soon will have cochlear implants installed.

Hinson said a second lesson he learned while teaching came in 1960, when he took his first church-history class on a field trip to the Abbey of Gethsemane. Their host was Thomas Merton, a Trappist Catholic monk who wrote more than 60 books on spirituality. To Hinson's horror, one of his students asked why someone with Merton's intellect would waste his life in a monastery.

Hinson said that, rather than rebuking the student, Merton smiled and answered: "I am here because I believe in prayer. That is my vocation."

"You could have knocked me over with a feather," Hinson said. "I had never met anyone who believed in prayer enough to think of it as a vocation."

Hinson pondered Merton's words alongside the Protestant rubric, "God has no hands but our hands, no feet but our feet, no voice but our voice."

"If that is true," he concluded, "our world has to be in an awful mess."

Inspired by the encounter and subsequent trips to Gethsemane, Hinson introduced a course on Classics of Christian Devotion that quickly became one of the most popular classes on campus. It also began to influence a generation of Baptist church historians to integrate spirituality into their teaching about church history.

One of Hinson's former students, Loyd Allen, now a professor at McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta, said all 15 of the moderate Baptist seminaries, divinity schools and houses of studies started since the 1980s have an emphasis on spiritual formation. Each individual teaching those classes has some personal connection with Hinson.

"Glenn started a good work of spiritual formation among us, but it is far, far from over," Allen said." If we truly wanted to honor him, then what we would do is put our energy and our resources into seeing that his work of contemplation and action on spiritual formation for ministers and laity continues."

John Inscore Essick, recently named assistant professor of church history and Hinson's successor at the Kentucky seminary, introduced a panel of Hinson's former students responding to his remarks.

"Seminary professors are often, for better or for worse, like a stone dropped into a calm pool," Essick said. "Ripples, endless ripples, go out from that point."

"You," he said to Hinson, "have been like a very fine stone dropped into a very needy pool, and you have left many ripples as a result of that.

The Baptist Seminary of Kentucky began classes in 2002 with 14 students and held its first commencement with three graduates in 2005. To date the seminary has graduated 13 students. The school offers two master-of-divinity degrees, taught by three full-time and 15 adjunct faculty.

Before coming to the Kentucky seminary, Hinson taught at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond from 1992 until retiring in 1999.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Longtime Baptist professor: Pastors must integrate science, faith
By Bob Allen (688 words)

LEXINGTON, Ky. (ABP) -- For Christianity to remain relevant in a world influenced by modern science and technology, future ministers must help church members integrate faith and knowledge rather than view them as incompatible, a veteran seminary professor warned.

Glenn Hinson, senior professor of church history and spirituality at Baptist Seminary of Kentucky, told a crowd gathered March 6 to celebrate his 50 years of teaching that the issue of faith and science, "more than any other, divides Christians from one another today."

Since his backyard in Louisville, Ky., abuts the campus of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Hinson said he is "keenly aware that those who now run that institution have chosen to dismiss the world view given by science and to affirm more or less literally the one found in the Bible."

Hinson said Kurt Wise, who heads the seminary's Center for Theology and Science, has declared it impossible to both accept evolution and believe the Bible and teaches that the Earth cannot be more than 10,000 years old.

Interestingly, Hinson said, Wise's conclusion is shared by atheist author Richard Dawkins. Hinson said Dawkins also insists one cannot accept both the Bible and conclusions of modern science, but for him the proper place to stand is with science and against faith. Dawkins devoted three pages to Wise in his 2006 best-selling non-fiction book, The God Delusion.

Hinson also pointed out the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum is located in Kentucky. He said he is told many Southern Seminary students go there for "hands-on learning" about young-Earth creationism.

Hinson taught church history at Southern for 30 years before departing as the seminary shifted from being a moderate-to-progressive institution toward biblical literalism and fundamentalism in the 1990s. He said the seminary now offers a master's degree in biblical counseling.

"Implicit in that is the rejection of the painstaking effort Wayne Oates made to employ the best insights of modern psychology in pastoral care," Hinson said. Oates, who died in 1999, taught psychology of religion and pastoral at Southern Seminary from 1947 until 1974

Based on a conversation with a recent Southern Seminary graduate, Hinson said, "I gather that biblical science supplants insight from contemporary psychology, psychiatry, or psychotherapy."

Hinson said the graduate "seemed quite unaware that Wayne Oates saturated everything with an essentially biblical theology," noting that Oates studied the New Testament at the graduate-school level.

Hinson called the relationship between faith and science "a big issue" for theological education.

"Should we prepare ministers to equip people to live in a world that has not existed for a century, if ever?" he asked. "Should ministers stick to teaching the Bible and not assume a responsibility to help people to relate their faith to findings of science? This is the issue that stands behind the shibboleth that the Bible is inerrant and infallible on any issue it touches."

Hinson said letting such a view of Christianity prevail would result in "the reduction and deprivation of any meaning of this faith."

"If you open the Bible and read it, you will find it directs us and invites us to seek God in the world we live in and among the flawed people whom God brought into this world," Hinson said. He quoted former Southern Seminary President E.Y. Mullins, who commented during an earlier evolution controversy that the Bible "does not tell us how the heavens go; it tells us how to go to Heaven."

"We do not rely on the way primitive people spoke about their world to understand how we should speak about our world," Hinson said. "The Bible is a book of faith."

"We must not divide life into compartments: here's our religious life, yonder the life of everyday," Hinson said. "What distinguishes the preparation of ministers at this seminary [the Baptist Seminary of Kentucky] from the preparation of students at a fundamentalist seminary centers precisely on this issue."

Hinson said future ministers must be able to help church members understand the words of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit priest and philosopher who died in 1955: "Nothing here below is profane for those who know how to see."

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Opinion: Whither -- or wither -- conservatism?
By Benjamin Cole (1,169 words)

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- Last month, I joined more than 8,000 other conservatives from across the country for the annual gathering of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington. Throughout its three-day program, disempowered and occasionally distraught conservatives plotted endlessly an array of strategies to resurrect a party smarting from two cycles of election-day drubbings.

A line-up of aspiring party leaders was organized to fulfill a tall order: soothe the pain and fire up the faithful. In this regard, CPAC 2009 was equal parts analgesic and epinephrine.

The pain conservatives feel is acute, however, and the internal tensions are profound. The fusion of the 1970s and 80s whereby fiscal and social conservatives forged an alliance with economic and political libertarians is suffering the threat of fission in the age of Obama. Today, everybody is pointing fingers at the other guy, looking for a plausible scapegoat.

Fiscal conservatives blame social conservatives for debacles like the Terri Schiavo incident; social conservatives point out the fiscal irresponsibility of the Republican Congress that allowed the national debt to reach $10 trillion and the budget deficit to swell.

Compounding the electoral losses we Republicans have faced are the personal losses we have experienced. In the last six years, we have buried three of our greatest heroes: The president, Ronald Reagan; the philosopher, William F. Buckley; and the preacher, Jerry Falwell.

The loss of these influential conservatives has left a vacuum that could have been filled by George W. Bush had he not become political kryptonite thanks to a wild-eyed federal spending spree, a tanked economy, and a prolonged and expensive war. And while blaming Dubya helps salve the conscience of recklessly complicit congressional leaders, it does little to revive a party experiencing its lowest level of political power since the aftermath of Watergate and the election of Jimmy Carter.

So conservatives arrived at CPAC, so to speak, between Barack and a hard place.

If you listened to media reports after CPAC, you might be convinced that Rush Limbaugh's red-meat keynote was the apex of the event.. But for me, the highlights were the speeches given by men like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), a compelling leader of the next generation in Congress, whose "Roadmap for America's Future" offers real policy initiatives for entitlement and tax reform that empower Americans to direct their own lives with the kind of liberty that the Founders envisioned.

Or the speech by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who continues to generate ideas by the bushelful for reforming America's health-care system and addressing our energy crisis.

Or Indiana Rep. Mike Pence's sober counsel to conservatives "in the wilderness" of political power that no circumstance of electoral defeat should force them to jettison their first principles.

What I saw and heard were conservatives figuring out how we came so far from our basic commitments to strengthen families, eliminate waste, cut spending, defend liberty and unleash American industries and entrepreneurs to compete in a global marketplace.

Conservatives again were reminded that the movement is about principles, not personalities.

Sure, there are some incredible challenges ahead for conservatives and for the nation. Those who once stood for limiting the size of the federal government will have to deal with the bloated bureaucracies that have grown in the last eight years. Those who oppose unrestricted abortion rights will have to prepare themselves for the judicial confirmation battles ahead. Those who believe in the fundamental justice of capitalism will have to hold the line against calls for greater regulation and nationalization of financial markets.

Being in the minority, however, is not only about holding the line. It's about reforming and renewing your commitments. It's about articulating what conservatives are for as much as what we're against. With this in mind, I suggest a few commitments for conservatives.

First, we must recognize that the same guiding faith that causes us to speak out against injustices to the unborn should cause us to withhold our curses of fellow countrymen on the other side of the political aisle.

Second, we must be as fierce in our indictment of corporate corruption as we are in our defense of deregulated free markets. With the same breath we must steadfastly explain why our ideas offer a better future for all Americans, not just privileges for a fraction thereof.

Third, conservatives need to get back to basics and refuse liberals further opportunities to pin the label "obstructionist" on us. To be conservative does not mean total opposition to change or progress. What it does mean is adapting to new challenges without forsaking the tradition of one's fathers. It means that we look to the Constitution --as adopted and amended by the states -- as the fixed star in the constellation of our politics. Every legislative initiative, every policy proposal is judged by it. Conservatives in the Congress must remember that they too have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, and that interpreting the document is as much a responsibility of the legislative branch as it is of the judicial.

Fourth, conservatives must be guided by the prudence of prioritization. That is, we must discern which battles are worth fighting now and which ones can wait for later. When the economy is in a free-fall and success in Afghanistan is hanging by a thread, it's not time to be introducing constitutional amendments on flag burning or school prayer. Conservatives waste valuable time and resources by focusing their efforts on issues that don't pass the basic test of prudential prioritization. Pandering to one's base is not leadership in a time of national crisis.

Fifth, conservatives need to learn a new language of compassion. Regrettably, compassionate conservatism got a black eye in the past eight years. So much that sailed through Congress under President Bush's agenda of compassion has resulted in greater disparities in wealth and more intense political division. The concept of social justice is almost alien to conservatives, but the time is long past for us to cede liberals total claim to any area of public policy. The incidence of poverty, illiteracy and other social ills are major concerns in America, and they should be major concerns for conservatives. There is a reason that a community organizer ended up in the White House, and cracking jokes about President Obama's record of service in Chicago is not going to win the hearts and minds of the voters.

For the time being, Republicans exist in the land of the judges with no king in Israel and every man doing that which is right in his own eyes. Until the dust settles from 2008 and a unifying man or woman rises who has the personal character and political savvy to lead the disparate conservative tribes, Republicans are, as Rep. Pence said, "in the wilderness."

But like Israel of old, the wilderness is a good place to reacquaint yourselves with where you came from, remind yourselves where you're going, and figure out how to bring as many people with you as possible.

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