Saturday, December 31, 2005

Worst Christian Mouth of the Year

It is time for the 1st annual "Worst Christian Mouth of the Year" award to (dis)honor the Christian who most hurt the cause with their dumb statements. The 2005 winner is (drum-roll please): Pat Robertson, who earned this with his unfortunate Chavez, Dover, and other remarks.





Hopefully, Robertson will resolve in 2006 to either think before he speaks or just keep his mouth shut.

Runner-ups:
2. Jerry Falwell
3. All those who said Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment
4. Fred Phelps
5. Russell Moore

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Moving Beyond Protests!

The opening of the movie "Brokeback Mountain" seemed very quiet. It turns out that many Christians have decided to try other tactics besides protesting and boycotting. New Cultural Approach for Conservative Christians: Reviews, Not Protests - New York Times Stuart Shepard, managing editor of Focus on the Family's daily e-mail news updates, explained:

"We're not going to go out and protest it because it would probably play into the marketing plans of the producers. ... They'd say, the Christian right is opposed to this movie, so you really, really, really want to see it."

"We learned from 'Last Temptation of Christ' that if it wasn't for the protest, the film wouldn't be remembered today. ... Our expectation is 'Brokeback Mountain' won't do as well in the heartland, but protest would bump that up."


It is good to see some wisdom here! Sometimes the best response is to remain quiet and let it pass.

Need to Ralph?

In case anyone still views Ralph Reed as a great Christian politician—despite his close connections to the Jack Abramoff scandal—here is a story about the "shockingly saucy" and "downright ribald" weekly column written by his spokesperson. Thou Shalt What?? Ralph Reed's Flack Writes a Little Blue in a Red State

Air Rage?

Last week mega-church pastor Joel Osteen and his family were asked to leave a plane after his wife got into a disagreement with a flight attendant. Wife of Joel Osteen Asked to Leave Plane - Yahoo! News

In another article, one passenger stated, "She was just abusive. ... She was just like one of those divas."

Church spokesman Don Iloff called the incident "minor." However, it is a pretty bad witness to be removed from a plane when one is traveling for Christmas! When people know you are a Christian, you must always be careful what you do and say.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Hate Mail

Here is an email that was sent to Brian Flemming, an atheist that produced the film "The God Who Wasn't There." Viewer mail. The person wrote Flemming:

"You've definitely got some nerve. I'd love to take a knife, gut you fools, and scream with joy as your insides spill out in front of you. You are attempting to ignite a holy war in which some day I, and others like me, may have the pleasure of taking action like the above mentioned. However, GOD teaches us not to seek vengeance, but to pray for those like you all. I'll get comfort in knowing that the punishment GOD will bring to you will be 1000 times worse than anything I can inflict. The best part is that you WILL suffer for eternity for these sins that you're completely ignorant about. The Wrath of GOD will show no mercy. For your sake, I hope the truth is revealed to you before the knife connects with your flesh. Merry CHRISTMAS!!!"


What is wrong with this person?! Is this the love of Jesus? Is this the spirit of Christmas? Is this the way to lead someone to God? Flemming is wrong in saying that God does not exist, but I think it seems obvious that God does not dwell in this person. After all, we are reminded in 1 John 4:7-8: "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."

This sick person who claims to be a Christian hatefully delights in the coming judgment of another instead of doing everything they can to lead Flemming to God's love. The person who wrote this email may be surprised when they have to account for these words before God someday. If we want to lead people to the love of Jesus—and I hope we do—then we must love them, not condemn and threaten them.


Thanks to the Jesus' General blog for pointing this out.

Dover Perjury Charges?

Here is a brief item at Ethics Daily about how a federal prosecutor is investigating whether or not to charge anyone with perjury in the Dover intelligent design trial. The judge wrote in his decision that proponents of intelligent design had lied. Sadly these Christians not only are in potential legal trouble, but they have hurt the image of Christ. Moral of the story: For God's Sake, Tell the Truth!!!

On Blogs

Here is an excellent post by Ben Witherington on blogging. He writes that they "can be a wonderful form of having a dialogue or discussion on something that matters, though too often they are used just to vent."

He then lists 10 good rules for Christian blogging that everyone should check out. He ends by arguing, "We need more civility out there in blog land. Shock jocks on the radio or TV are no models of Christian discourse. Find other people to emulate."

I hope we can have excellent dialogue here, so let's follow his wise advice.

More of Moore

Here is a brief item from Ethics Daily about how Roy Moore's wife sent out a fundraising appeal to make Moore a "spokesperson for Christian Conservatism."

The email, sent just before Christmas, said that Christmas was the right time to begin this campaign "to return morality to our country and God to our public square" because Moore was opposed by those who support same-sex marriage and abortion, and want to "remove Christ from Christmas."

Yep, that's the Christmas spirit! Jesus came so we could raise money for political campaigns (wait, didn’t Jesus come to build the Kingdom of God, not man?). I hope and pray that every Christian in Alabama will vote against Moore so that he will not be considered a spokesperson for Christians—or Christ—any longer!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

12 Days of Sacrilege—Day 12!

The real problem with Christmas is not that some people say "Holiday" instead, but that it has become so commercialized. So for 12 days I will show an example each day of the "Christian" trinkets you can waste your money on.

On the 12th day of Christmas you could show who is your "true love" by buying a Jesus ashtray that proclaims "Jesus Hates It When You Smoke." It is $12.00 and includes a sticker on the bottom that states, "use of this product may be hazardous to your health and/or eternal soul."




Thanks to Word&Way for pointing this item out.

Friday, December 23, 2005

12 Days of Sacrilege—Day 11

The real problem with Christmas is not that some people say "Holiday" instead, but that it has become so commercialized. So for 12 days I will show an example each day of the "Christian" trinkets you can waste your money on.

On the 11th day of Christmas you could show who is your "true love" by buying a Jesus air freshener (because no one can clean your air like Jesus!).


Thanks to Word&Way for pointing this item out.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Intelligent Design Lies!

What bothers me most about the Dover situation is not the judge's recent decision but that it appears that the pro-Intelligent Design board members lied under oath. So much for "reclaiming" this nation for God! It is sad that now Christians are being portrayed as liars and getting bad press. No matter how strongly we believe in a cause, we must tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. What these Dover Christians did was neither Christ-like nor intelligent.

The Christianity Today Weblog offered some good commentary on the issue:

"It is not terribly difficult to use the sins of a few to tar the intentions of the many. Nor is it difficult to criticize Darwinists for taking advantage of the opportunity. What is more difficult is to recognize that so many of us are tempted to 'forget' inconvenient facts, to retell events in a more positive light, to take shortcuts for the benefit of what we think is the greater good. When it comes down to it, though, which do you think God cares more about? That those who act in his name got a school district to call Darwinian evolution a theory, or that the entire world now considers them perjurers?"


Right on! When we act like hypocrites it hurts our image, our cause, and ultimately God. Hopefully these Dover Christians will evolve enough to realize they must be much more careful in what they say so that they will stop shooting themselves in the foot.

12 Days of Sacrilege—Day 10

The real problem with Christmas is not that some people say "Holiday" instead, but that it has become so commercialized. So for 12 days I will show an example each day of the "Christian" trinkets you can waste your money on.

On the 10th day of Christmas you could show who is your "true love" by buying a patriotic crucifix for only $1.95 for 4 dozen. In case you are not inspired, remember that Bill Buckingham, who led the Dover school board to add Intelligent Design to the curriculum, wore a red, white, and blue crucifix pin on his lapel (and it obviously was a good luck charm for him, right?).


Christmas and the Love of God

Here is a great piece by Tony Campolo over at Beliefnet.com about how Christmas shows the power of God's love and "shatters the image of a harsh God." Here are a couple of highlights:

"Christmas shatters any idea that God is some kind of vengeful tyrant bent on smiting any who fail to live up to His expectations. The image of a harsh, punishing deity is contradicted when we discover that our God was incarnated in a baby in Bethlehem’s manger."

"From Bethlehem to Calvary, we learn that God is not a condemning God, but a friend to sinners. In Scripture we read, 'There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.' This Christmas, be thankful for the God who comes to us in weakness because He loves; a God who annihilates any belief that He is a harsh and vindictive deity. His coming to us in Jesus is all the proof we need that in His love He wills peace on earth and good will for us all."


Amen!

The Real War

Here is a good piece from the National Review Online entitled "The Real War on Christmas." It reminds us that American Christians have no idea what real persecution is like. The article outlines the trials Christians in other countries go through, including some places where there really are attempts to stop Christmas.

This is a great reminder that we need to quit complaining so much because we have great religious freedoms in this nation. If we really were being persecuted then the average American Christian's faith would probably be a little deeper. As the author reminds us:

"Christmas is a time of great suffering for these communities. But as these persecuted Christians commemorate the birth of Jesus from their jail cells, within their house churches, or silently in their hearts, it is also a time of joy. For them, truly, the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight."

Sound of Silence

Bruce Prescott over at the Mainstream Baptist blog has made a very astute observation—Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, has been notably silent over President Bush's admission that he misled the American people. This is the case despite the fact that Land was extremely vocal during the Clinton scandal.

This silence seems to match previous criticisms by Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics that some religious leaders are becoming merely "court prophets."

Striving to uphold Truth and ethics must trump all political affiliations. If we really wish to be considered credible prophets we must challenge all political leaders who stray—even if we support their politics. To do otherwise is to sell our souls and ministries for earthly political kingdoms.

If our Christian leaders do not stand up equally to all leaders, regardless of political affiliations, then they are no better than the court prophets of old. If they become that then they hurt the credibility of the Kingdom—and thus the King—that they are supposed to pledge allegiance to. We would be better served with court jesters than court prophets because at least the former will put a smile on our face!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

12 Days of Sacrilege—Day 9

The real problem with Christmas is not that some people say "Holiday" instead, but that it has become so commercialized. So for 12 days I will show an example each day of the "Christian" trinkets you can waste your money on.

On the 9th day of Christmas you could show who is your "true love" by buying a nativity timer for only $9.99 (now you can count down the seconds until your deviled eggs are ready!).




Thanks to the Ship of Fools for pointing this item out.

A Nazi Happy Holiday?

Concerned Women for America (CWFA) spokesperson Robert Knight has compared those who say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas” to the Nazis. DefCon Blog Knight said:

"You know, when the Nazis moved into Austria in 1936 they immediately removed Christmas from the schools, you can read about it in Maria Trapp’s… Maria Trapp wrote the story of the Trapp singers; it’s in The Sound of Music. And she said that she sent her kids to school every day after the Nazis took over and they came home and said ‘Mama, we can’t say the word Christmas anymore, it’s now winter holiday.’ I think that ought to disturb people that we’re moving towards that kind of attitude in this country.”


I sent an email to CWFA encouraging them to apologize. Here it is:

As a Baptist minister I was appalled to read Robert Knight’s comments comparing those who say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” with the Nazis.

First, such a comparison is completely inappropriate! The Holocaust that resulted in ethnic genocide that killed 10 million people, and World War II led to the deaths of over 50 million people. No matter how much you disagree with a nonviolent person, they have not done anything even remotely close to the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime. Such Hitler or Nazi rhetoric is completely out-of-line, inaccurate, and un-Christ-like. As Bruce H. DeBoskey of the Anti-Defamation League argued in the Denver Post of March 4, 2005: “More and more often, political debate in our country is colored by references to Nazis, to Hitler or to the Holocaust. Holocaust analogies are becoming so common that they have lost their meaning. It’s not simply that the references are offensive—although they are, indeed. It’s important to remember who the Nazis really were. …Out of respect for those who perished, and mindful of the importance of keeping Holocaust terms meaningful to accurately describe a painful history whose lessons remain pertinent today, let’s save those terms to describe the people who earned them—the real Nazis of the Third Reich—and let’s remember their true association with hatred, genocide and evil.”

Second, this whole debate is distracting us from the real meaning of the season. Why do you care what stores say? The message of Christ is not found at a store; you can't buy salvation or true joy. No matter what stores may say my faith is exactly the same because it is based on scripture and my personal relationship with Jesus and not on what people say.

In light of these concerns, I urge Mr. Knight and CWFA to publicly apologize for the remarks.

Merry Christmas!
Brian Kaylor

Even More Lies About the Christmas "War"

Here is a detailed list of several false or misleading claims made to "prove" that there is a "war" on Christmas. Americans United: The Religious Right's Phony 'War on Christmas'

Is this how we should "save" Christmas? By lying?! Jesus told us He is the Truth, so who are these people really worshipping this Christmas?


Thanks to the Dark Christianity blog for pointing this one out.

Holiday Semantics

Here is a pretty good column from the Baptist Press entitled Living above the semantics of the season. Here are a couple highlights:

"I have even heard a handful of pastors go so far as to say recently that this battle over what to call the season is nothing less than religious persecution. The debate is no doubt heated, but 'religious persecution'? Our Christian brothers Polycarp and Bonhoeffer might consider such an assessment somewhat overstated."

"Has the world stolen Christmas from us Christians or have we handed much of it over to them? American Christians are often guilty of joining the secular society that rushes headlong into the month dedicated mostly to the observance of materialism, commercialism, sentimentality and gluttony."

"Sadly, too many of us are more focused on the presents under the tree than we are on the baby in the manger."

"In the United States, we should certainly be free to exercise our faith, but we must not be offended when the world doesn’t act the way we often wish they would."


Amen!

Love One Another?

Here is an excellent post by the Jesus was a Liberal blog that is a collection of quotations from various religious leaders exposing hate. These are exactly the types of comments that the title of this blog is aimed at.

Stumbling Blocks

Here is a great column by Father Jake over at the Christian Alliance for Progress Blog entitled, "When Christians Become the Stumbling Block." Here are a couple of highlights:

"Mahatma Gandhi once said, 'I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.' How many people share this sentiment today? I suspect the number might be many more than we could ever imagine."

"Their image of what it means to be a Christian has been learned primarily from the media. What are those images? Primarily the televangelists, including Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Jim Baker and Jimmy Swaggert. Is it any wonder that many of these folks consider Christianity to be a joke?"

"I have met quite a few rude, obnoxious, and abusive persons who claim a right to their ugly behavior because they are 'fighting for God.'"


Amen! Hopefully we can help more Christians move from being stumbling blocks to being building blocks.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

12 Days of Sacrilege—Day 8

The real problem with Christmas is not that some people say "Holiday" instead, but that it has become so commercialized. So for 12 days I will show an example each day of the "Christian" trinkets you can waste your money on.

On the 8th day of Christmas you could show who is your "true love" by buying a mood cross necklace, originally $24.99. When you touch it an image of Jesus being crucified appears on the cross (must we keep crucifying Him over and over?!—I mean by making this kind of junk, not by touching the mood cross).




Thanks to the Ship of Fools for pointing this item out.

Higher Priorities?

Here is an excellent column over at Ethics Daily by Michael Helms reminding us that there are more important things to focus on than what stores or people may call this season. Here are a couple highlights:

"America is the most ethnically and religiously diverse nation on the planet. While Christmas Day will always be Christmas Day for Christians--and the real significance of this day for us is found in the manger of Bethlehem--we should seek to understand and respect those whose religious faith differs from our own."

"This isn't to suggest that we ought to remove every vestige of the sacred nature of the season for the benefit of those who do not worship as we do. Quite the contrary, as individual Christians, we should take every opportunity to emphasize the true meaning of this season. We need to extend the message of Christmas among nonbelievers and to those who need to be shown the love of Jesus and come to understand the spirit of Christmas through our actions and our greetings."

"Since when has saying 'Merry Christmas' to people changed their lives anyway? Lives are changed by loving people as Jesus commanded. Lives are changed by carrying Christmas to people via the Christ Child."

"Is our faith so shallow that we are afraid that Christmas is in danger because department store workers are told to wish people 'Holiday Greetings' instead of a 'Merry Christmas?'"

"Since when did we give this sacred season to the retailers anyway?"

"Christians shouldn't worry about the efforts of others to kill Christmas if we allow Christ to live within us and through us; if we seek to spread the love of Christ to others; if we do our job and witness about our Lord while respecting the beliefs of others."


Amen!

People Don't Care

Here is a good piece over at Ethics Daily about how most people do not really care whether people say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays." While most people prefer "Christmas," 45% say it "doesn't matter" and another 12% want less public religious rhetoric.

Maybe we Christians should start talking about things people really care about, because it would be sad that if in fighting for Christmas we drove people away from Christ.

Monday, December 19, 2005

12 Days of Sacrilege—Day 7

The real problem with Christmas is not that some people say "Holiday" instead, but that it has become so commercialized. So for 12 days I will show an example each day of the "Christian" trinkets you can waste your money on.

On the 7th day of Christmas you could show who is your "true love" by buying playing cards shaped like crosses (perfect for that little Roman soldier in your family, because nothing worships Jesus like some good old gambling cards).


Thanks to the Ship of Fools for pointing this item out.

More Christmas "War" Lies

It turns out that the claims that a Dodgeville, Wisconsin school changed the words of "Silent Night" in an attempt to take Christ out of Christmas were not accurate. War on Christmas Fraud Exposed: The Silent Night "Rewrite" That Wasn't

They were actually performing a play with the changed lyrics, but the play has other traditional Christmas songs in it and has been performed by many churches. If one cannot build a case without misrepresenting the facts, then one should keep their mouth shut.


Thanks to the Dark Christianity blog for catching this story.

Mocking the Christmas Spirit

Here's a good column by Caroline Arnold entitled, Christmas Spirit Mocked by World of War, Torture. Here are a couple of highlights:

"I used to think that Christmas was a time when we examined our lives and tried to make them more just, merciful, loving, and neighborly, a time to renew our commitment to peace on earth, and a time to strive, as the prophet Micah teaches, to 'Do justice, seek mercy, and walk humbly with your God.' This year I am bewildered and incredulous at the perversion of Christmas by George W. Bush. Although he 'takes responsibility' for a war he admits was unjustified, there is no evidence that he is trying to ‘do justice, seek mercy, or walk humbly’ with his God or the world. I’d sooner believe in Santa and Rudolph than in Bush as a Christian."

"In addition to our Bush’s pursuit of war and defense of torture, the White House is celebrating Christmas with 'All Things Bright and Beautiful,' while for millions of children living in fear, want and pain, having anything Bright and Beautiful is less believable than Santa and red-nosed Rudolph."


See, there are more important things to fight for this Christmas season! We can say "Merry Christmas" all we want, but if our actions do not match it then they are just hollow words. We need to worship Jesus this Christmas not just with our words but with our deeds. As Arnold put it:

"For God’s sake, it’s Christmas. Torture, ‘extreme rendition’ and war are wrong, immoral, unjust, and cruel – not just illegal. How can we celebrate a Christian vision of Peace, Love, and Mercy by preparing to do 'anything that is legal' against terrorists or suspected terrorists or by spending more billions of the world’s wealth on more war?"


Thanks to the Jesus Politics blog for pointing out this column.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

12 Days of Sacrilege—Day 6

The real problem with Christmas is not that some people say "Holiday" instead, but that it has become so commercialized. So for 12 days I will show an example each day of the "Christian" trinkets you can waste your money on.

On the 6th day of Christmas you could show who is your "true love" by buying a "His Essence" candle, which is supposed to smell like Jesus will when He returns. Drawing from Psalm 45:8 the makers claim the "scent of his garments will be of myrrh, aloe and cassia." They apparently took this verse quite literally in making their candles (though how will you know that Jesus has returned if you can't smell Him over your candle?). It is $18.95.


Saturday, December 17, 2005

12 Days of Sacrilege—Day 5

The real problem with Christmas is not that some people say "Holiday" instead, but that it has become so commercialized. So for 12 days I will show an example each day of the "Christian" trinkets you can waste your money on.

On the 5th day of Christmas you could show who is your "true love" by buying a Jesus Talking Doll with over 4 minutes of audio sayings (you didn't know Jesus originally taught in English, did you?). It is normally $29.99.




Thanks to blogs4God for pointing this item out.

Friday, December 16, 2005

'Twas The Fight Over Christmas

If you are looking for a little Christmas "war" humor, here is my latest piece over at Ethics Daily. It is a parody of the classic Christmas poem, with a lesson about what Christmas is really all about.

12 Days of Sacrilege—Day 4

The real problem with Christmas is not that some people say "Holiday" instead, but that it has become so commercialized. So for 12 days I will show an example each day of the "Christian" trinkets you can waste your money on.

On the 4th day of Christmas you could show who is your "true love" by buying a Jesus iPod cover (then you can have a GodPod!). It is $15.99.



Thanks to blogs4God for pointing this item out.

What's the Opposite of Progress?

Congress, which has now joined battle over Christmas. Dark Christianity - Congress enters the War on Christmas
The House approved (401-22) a resolution "to protect the symbols and traditions of Christmas."

One congressman asked for symbols of Hanukah to be added to the bill, but the sponsor refused (so whose faith is really under attack—it seems that there is a holiday war but it is Christians who are waging it against Hanukkah). However, a couple of legislators did actually offer some words of wisdom:

Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY): "There are people around who need an enemy at all times to try to separate us one from the other as Americans in order to advance their own agenda. ... To tell the truth, it is slightly offensive to see people trying to create a war and claiming they are attacked just so that they go on the offense instead of the defense. This is a prefabricated issue that has no merit. Nobody is attacking the symbols of Christmas. Are you objecting to our wanting to be included because the symbols of your religion are more important than the symbols of anybody else's religion in America? Or is it because you think that the symbols of your religion are more official?"

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA): "Madam Speaker, this resolution purports to protect the symbols of Christmas, but what really needs to be protected are not the symbols of Christmas, but rather the spirit of Christmas. The spirit of Christmas demands generosity and goodwill towards others. Instead of legislation that respects the spirit of Christmas, Congress in just these past few weeks has passed a budget that includes mean-spirited attacks on the least of us. For those who are hungry, we are cutting food stamps. For those who are sick, we are cutting Medicaid. For those who are in prison, we are imposing senseless mandatory minimums. For others we are ignoring increases in heating costs and cutting student loans. At the same time we are cutting those programs to help the least of us, we are cutting taxes for the wealthiest in society. Madam Speaker, we ought to express our passion for Christmas through deeds, not words; and we should not be distracted from our responsibility to uphold the spirit of Christmas as we consider the effects our actions on the Federal budget will have on the least of us during this holiday season. For these reasons I oppose this resolution."

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY): "For someone who does not celebrate Christmas, the question looms: Why? Why not say to someone who wants to make this inclusive that, indeed, we are going to make it inclusive? The symbols of Chanukah are not valuable? Sure, they are, I think. The symbols of Kwanzaa are not valuable to some? Sure, they are. I cannot imagine why the gentlewoman who is the sponsor of this, who says that she speaks from a sense of inclusion, would not want to include those. Are those not worthy of being protected? What is the message that is being sent?"


Amen!

"Mishandling the Bible"

New Testament scholar and Asbury Theological Seminary professor Ben Witherington has a great post about churches closing on Christmas and attempting to defend the action with the Bible. Ben Witherington: Church Closings-- Damage Control by Mishandling the Bible He argues:

"It is unfortunate that the Bible sometimes gets used to shore up an inappropriate decision by a church, but sadly we now have this in the case of the mega-church which has now handed out a 'Biblical' rationale for closing on Christmas to its parishioners."


He then goes through and tears apart the usage of a passage in Colossians, a book on which he just wrote a commentary, to justify closing on Christmas. It is great to see this type of public, logical, and biblical dialogue. We need to spend more time talking about what Scripture really means and not just (mis)using it to justify our current pet cause.

Fighting the Good Fight?

The Associated Baptist Press has a great article on the Christmas "war": Is the 'war on Christmas' worth fighting against?. It quotes several people about the "war." Here are the thoughts of a couple.

Charles Haynes, First Amendment scholar at the Washington-based Freedom Forum, argued, "I think that they are -- many of these examples -- are distractions from the real issues; I think they are red herrings. Or red and green herrings."

He added: "The examples about Wal-Mart not using 'Merry Christmas' in its ads, Lowe's putting up signs that say 'holiday trees' … they're reacting to a kind of political correctness on the left, if you will, that has made us all more sensitive to our religious diversity. ... But this religious correctness from the other side is equally ridiculous, you know -- somehow telling people by saying 'happy holidays' they're anti-Christian."

He also argued, "We're not talking about the religious Christmas here. That's one of the strangest things about this; we have people saying they are religious people … defending the secularization of Christmas. ... And they're not saying they want stores to really focus on Jesus this year, [they're] saying, 'No, we just want stores to continue to exploit the Christian faith and use the birth of Jesus to sell things …. One of the oddities of this whole debate is that here you have these folks defending the commercialization of Christmas. It's like defending the Easter Bunny -- that it's anti-Christian if you don't have the Easter Bunny. ... You'd think they'd be jumping up and down and saying, 'Great! You can have your Easter Bunny and your darn tree and let us keep Jesus!' But no!"

Brent Walker, executive director of the Washington-based Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, stated, "There's nothing wrong with calling it what it is: a Christmas tree. And it is perfectly appropriate to extend a specific holiday greeting such as my Jewish friends do when they wish me a 'Merry Christmas,' and I return a 'Happy Hanukkah,'" he said in a recent commentary on the subject. But often it's quite appropriate to wish another 'happy holidays' or 'season's greetings.' It's just a matter of good manners and common courtesy. If I am talking to a person whose religious affiliation I do not know, I will employ the more general greeting. And the same goes for merchants who have advertised goods to Americans of many religious traditions who may or may not celebrate Christmas."

Walker and others have suggested that Falwell's 'Friend or Foe' campaign is simply an effort to increase fund-raising efforts.


It would be nice if Christians would quit fighting so hard on this issue and start focusing on just worshipping Jesus this Christmas season. We are sending the wrong message with this "war." The reason for the season is not shopping but Jesus!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

12 Days of Sacrilege—Day 3

The real problem with Christmas is not that some people say "Holiday" instead, but that it has become so commercialized. So for 12 days I will show an example each day of the "Christian" trinkets you can waste your money on.

On the 3rd day of Christmas you could show who is your "true love" by buying a sports Jesus statuette for $19.95.



Both the basketball and soccer ones have Jesus keeping the ball away from the kids ("suffer the little children?"). The football one has a kid trying to tackle Jesus (that's going to cause some trouble on Judgment Day!). Only the baseball one actually has Jesus teaching instead of competing against the kids (but even then I wouldn't buy it!).


Thanks to blogs4God for pointing this item out.

More Christmas War Humor

Here's a hilarious piece about what a real "war" on Christmas would look like, from The Onion: Activist Judge Cancels Christmas


Thanks to the Moral Contradictions blog for pointing out this one.

Christmas History Lesson

Here is a short but important history lesson about Christmas from the Holier Than Thou: When the Christian Right Goes Wrong blog.

It reminds us that the Puritans ignored Christmas, that it was illegal in the colony of Massachusetts to celebrate it, and it was not even considered a holy day until the mid-1800s. So much for the claims of those fighting to "save" Christmas that those "taking Christ out of Christmas" are going against our nation's history!

Reproducing Racism?

Ethics Daily has reported on comments about Al Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theology Seminary, saying it was a sin for married couples to not have children. Welcome to Ethics Daily.com! In addition to the ridiculousness of the comments, some are suggesting that new comments by him carry a hint of racism.

The white Mohler worried about demographic shifts since racial minorities have higher rates of childbirth: "We are barely replenishing ourselves. ... That is going to cause huge social problems in the future."

He also stated: "The tragic reality is that citizens of Europe and North America are now failing even to replace themselves in terms of children. We will soon face the phenomenon of an aging population with fewer young people to drive the economy and to support the entire social structure"

Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics said Mohler's use of "we" and "ourselves" is a "pronoun problem."

In another Ethics Daily column, Miguel De La Torre also took on Mohler's comments. Welcome to Ethics Daily.com! He argues:

"The U.S. population is also growing, from about 280 million in 2000, to a projected 310 million in 2010, to a little under 400 million by 2040. If these scientifically projected increases are reliable, then we must ask: Why is Mohler concerned about under-population? Under-population for whom? In other words, who is the 'we' that is barely replenishing itself?"

"Hence, the religious call for 'full-quiver' theology is white-supremacy code language advocating for the increase of white babies. Mohler's call, whether he realizes it or not, is a race-based warning. It is a call for white fecundity, lest America becomes overrun with 'colored' children, which would only lead, as Mohler puts it, to 'huge social problems in the future.' Regardless of the racist overtures of Mohler's call for productive white sex, children, regardless of their color or ethnicity, can indeed be a joyous product of sex. Still, we cannot lose sight that the ultimate goal of sex is fulfillment, not having children."


As one who has studied some racist communication, I agree that Mohler's language could have dangerous implications and is similar to those you will hear from white-supremacist groups. Though I do not think that Mohler is racist, he does need to be much more careful about what he says.

Scrooges?

Yesterday Reverend Jim Wallis of Sojourners and others were arrested while protesting budget cuts at the U.S Capital. Welcome to Ethics Daily.com! Wallis said:

"There is a Christmas scandal in this nation ... but it has nothing to do with shopping malls saying 'Happy holidays' instead of 'Merry Christmas. The Christmas scandal is the immoral budget coming out of this Congress."

It is good to see at least some religious leaders spending this Christmas season fighting for the poor, which is probably what Jesus would care more about than what stores say.


However, some religious leaders do not seem to understand. A Religious Protest Largely From the Left

Paul Hetrick, a spokesman for Focus on the Family, stated: "It's not a question of the poor not being important or that meeting their needs is not important. ... But whether or not a baby is killed in the seventh or eighth month of pregnancy, that is less important than help for the poor? We would respectfully disagree with that."

Wallis is also pro-life and is not arguing that we should not work on that issue as well. The question here is why can't we do both? One can be against abortion and for the poor. Hetrick claims they believe the poor are important, but by doing nothing they communicate a completely different message. Talk is cheap; give us some action!

And Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, said, "There is a [biblical] mandate to take care of the poor. There is no dispute of that fact. ... But it does not say government should do it. That's a shifting of responsibility."

This type of argument is fine except clearly the Church is not doing a very good job. Since we are not doing it shouldn't somebody?


Thankfully, Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics challenged the logic of Perkins:

"When Tony Perkins claims, as he did in today's Washington Post, that the biblical mandate to care for the poor does not apply to the government, he makes an artificial division and a false assertion about the Bible. He would do well to read the Bible before he misstates the Bible in support of a political budget that cuts anti-poverty programs and rewards the rich. A moral budget prioritizes care for the poor over the enriching of the rich."


Hopefully Christians overall will be seen as caring for the poor through words and deeds. If we abandon "the least of these," not only we will have to answer to God, but we will have almost no hope of then being able to share with them the love of Jesus.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Christmas War Humor

If you missed The Daily Show last night, then you need to check out the hilarious piece they did on the Christmas wars. It is the video labeled "Jesus Christ!" Comedy Central - Shows - The Daily Show - Videos - Most Recent

12 Days of Sacrilege—Day 2

The real problem with Christmas is not that some people say "Holiday" instead, but that it has become so commercialized. So for 12 days I will show an example each day of the "Christian" trinkets you can waste your money on.

On the 2nd day of Christmas you could show who is your "true love" by buying "Wash Away Your Sins Bubble Bath." It costs $11.95 for a 12 oz bottle.


Thanks to blogs4God for pointing this item out.

Peace is a Verb!

Here's a post from over at the Jesus was a Liberal blog that offers some good thoughts about peace:

"It takes a lot of courage to peace. We need a whole new lexicon of active verbs meaning to peace. We have an extensive vocabulary for making war but all our uses of words associated with peace are almost universally intransitive and passive."

"Unfortunately, we wage war as Christian soldiers. We even sing about being Christian soldiers. When's the last time you heard a rousing rendition of Onward Christian Peacemakers sojourning as to peace? We wage war against crime, poverty, sin and each other."

"Peace is active, not passive. Peace is the way to peace. We do not obtain peace either through war or by waging war on war. We peace when we love deeply, fully, and holistically."


This Christmas let's celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace!

Christmas War Lies

Media Matters has documented several false claims by Bill O'Reilly about the supposed "war" on Christmas. He falsely claimed that the U.S. Postal Service was no longer offering "spiritual" postal stamps. Yet they are still offering the "Madonna and Child" stamp—I have some. He also falsely claimed that a school district in Texas "told students they couldn't wear red and green because they were Christmas colors." Finally, they note that O'Reilly falsely claimed that a town in Michigan "opposes red and green clothing on anyone."

It seems that there is not a very strong case to argue that there is a "war" on Christmas when much of the claims turn out to be false (shouldn't lying be considered against the Christmas—and Christian—spirit?).

Un-Silent Night

Here's an odd column from the Baptist Press. FIRST-PERSON: A noisy world - (BP) The columnist argues:

"Slow down. Look beyond the noise. Find a quiet place and consider the Christ Child, the Prince of Peace. Give Him room in your heart and celebration. Spend less and love more. Let our complaining of busyness and fatigue fade, and lift our voices in praise to the newborn King. Come down long enough to sing 'Silent Night' and experience its peace and comfort. You will be glad you did."

That is his main point, and it is a good one. However, in the column he also supports the fight to make stores say "Christmas" and not "Holidays." He writes:

"Merchants have forever secularized and commercialized the grandest of celebrations. Now they seek to totally abandon and, with an in-your-face approach, strip every hint that this is a sacred and holy time. Christianity continues to slide into obscurity in our culture. Despite our big buildings, big budgets and megachurches, the culture becomes increasingly secular. Even secularists can’t acknowledge Christmas without affirming the reality of CHRISTmas. So they stop speaking the word. But from the founding of this nation, Christmas has been a time of celebrating the Christ Child. America, founded by Christ-honoring leaders, has always acknowledged the holy day of Christmas. Yes, I can hear the ACLU and other liberals complaining that we should not propagate religion -- but acknowledging is not propagating."

Not only is he wrong about America always celebrating Christmas (the Puritans were against it, and it was not a federal holiday until late in the 1800's), but he also completely misses the point. He claims that he wants us all to slow down and enjoy a silent night, but then praises the thing that is keeping this Christmas season from being silent. Ironically, he justifies his support to fight stores in exactly the same language I would use to urge Christian that there are more important things to worry about:

"Today, our noisy and self-absorbed culture continues to ignore the significance of the Christmas event. In fact, we are very close not only to ignoring the central figure of Christmas but also abandoning the very idea of Christmas itself. ... Bethlehem was not the only place a noisy people ignored the meaning and significance of Christmas. Our culture does the same. But the most important question is not for the culture, but for the Christian. Will we become so caught up in our going, giving and celebrating that we forget the real meaning of Christmas?"

Fighting for Christmas misses the point of Christmas! Fighting stores over what they say buys into the commercialization of Christmas rather than opposing it. Arguing over what to put on store banners distracts us from the real meaning of the season. So yes, let's have a silent night this Christmas (maybe even more than one night). But that means we must stop fighting stores and complaining about what they call the day (after all, I would much rather stores call it a "Happy Holidays Sale" than a "Worship Jesus by buying an X-box 360 sale").

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Polluted Christmas

At least one prominent religious leader seems more concerned with the materialism of Christmas than with whether stores say "Christmas" and not "Holidays." My Way News Pope Benedict XVI declared:

"In today's consumer society, this time of the year unfortunately suffers from a sort of commercial 'pollution' that threatens to alter its real spirit."

Amen! Instead of fighting what stores say, maybe we should worry more about what they sell (but of course, if we campaign against materialism then it would be harder to get people to send in their money—which is really what the "Friend of Foe" campaign is all about).

To Ban or Not to Ban

Fiji is considering banning "evangelist" Benny Hinn from entering the country, as they had recently done with Sun Myung Moon. However, the Assembly of Christian Churches of Fiji is urging that Hinn not be banned. Don't ban Hinn call - Fiji Times Online

I guess the Assembly does not realize how lucky they are that Hinn would not be allowed in their country. Christianity in America would be much better off with out him (I guess if they really want him maybe we can get them to keep him!).

12 Days of Sacrilege—Day 1

The real problem with Christmas is not that some people say "Holiday" instead, but that it has become so commercialized. So starting today through Christmas Eve, I will show an example each day of the "Christian" trinkets you can waste your money on.

On the 1st day of Christmas you could show who is your "true love" by buying a Bobblehead Jesus with the caption "Buddy Jesus" (Now I guess Jesus really can be your co-pilot!). It is $12.95.


Or for $14.95 you can get the Football Jesus Bobblehead, who of course wears jersey #1 (perfect for the guy who thinks that Sunday is called the Sabbath because NFL games are on that day).


Thanks to blogs4God for pointing these items out.

The Next Culture War?

Here's a hilarious post from over at the Street Prophets blog: Street Prophets: Help Put the Cross Back in Crossing. With tongue firmly in cheek, it suggests that we need to fight those who have taken "the cross out of crossing."


It continues: "It is clear the devil worshipping, atheist, liberals are behind this effort. We all know that the left lacks any new ideas, so they have simply repeated themselves by replacing everything Christian with the letter X, as if they are symbolically x-ing out all religion. ... They are evil twins: Xmas and Xing, and we must fight back."


If Falwell's "Friend or Foe" campaign doesn't raise enough money for him, he might just start this fight next (after all, he long ago became a parody of himself). Posted by Picasa

Evangelism or Entertainment?

I have received another message from campus "preacher" Jed Smock. For background on this, check out For God's Sake Shut Up!: Campus Epidemic and For God's Sake Shut Up!: Mr. Smock Responds. Or, check out his website: www.brojed.org.

Here is his new email:


Mr. Kaylor,

I am back in Columbia now. Are you interested in further discussion over a cup of coffee? Or did my response satisfy your concerns?.

I may not have addressed your ethical questions.
Don't you think that there are different ethics for different forums from the sermon, lecture, after dinner speech to comedy routine, etc.?

I see that Richard Pryor is being hailed on my AOL Headline News as "More than just a dirty mouth; he made comedy more human." Was was Pryor 's routine "merely entertainment," or did he convey significant ideas to his generation?

I see "Speaker's Circle" as more on the lines of Hyde Park, where heckling of speakers is acceptable. Different rules apply in such venues, than venues you might study in the classroom. Heckling and even acts of violence have become a problem to conservative speakers on college campuses across the country, who are speaking by invitation. How does a speaker ethically respond to hecklers?

What about the ethics of the TV talk show venue? I have been a guest on a number of national TV formats over the years where I have been told by the producers not to be polite, and instructed to be aggressive in interrupting others on the program. Has television degraded ethical communication?

Aren't there different rules applicable as we communicate friendship evangelism, than when we preach publicly in the open-air to the masses as Jesus and the Apostles did?

Jed Smock

"Blog From The Capital"

The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty has a blog now: Blog from the Capital.

Check them out! I'm sure this will be another outlet for them to spread their messages about religious liberty and separation of church and state that are desperately needed in our nation right now.


Thanks to Bruce Prescott at the Mainstream Baptist blog for pointing this out.

Christmas Hymns

Here's an interesting piece from Ethics Daily reminding us about the words of Christmas hymns that speak of bringing peace and justice. Welcome to Ethics Daily.com! This column is a good reminder that we need to actually pay attention to the words we sing, and not just mindlessly repeat the words we have sung every year.

Monday, December 12, 2005

What the H@#%!

Here's perhaps the most perverted and misguided comment in the entire debate over "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays." A church in Florida (Without Walls International Church) has declared, "To Hell with the word Holiday; put Christ back into Christmas! The saying is found on the church's homepage, which then takes you to a link to support boycotts of stores saying "Happy Holidays." Additionally, here is a banner the church put up with the message and guiding people to their church's website.


Is this why Jesus came to earth?! So we can cuss at people and boycotts stores. Maybe if this church spent this time and money trying to tell people about the love of Jesus then everyone would celebrate the real meaning of Christmas (I think Jesus would actually boycott an unloving and misguided church such as this—as well as other “white-washed tombs”).

Thanks to the Dark Christianity blog for catching this one. Posted by Picasa

Christmas Peace?

Here's a good column at Ethics Daily by Jim Evans, entitled "Waiting for the Promised Peace." Welcome to Ethics Daily.com! Here are a couple of highlights:

"Despite the ongoing and pointless controversy over 'Merry Christmas' versus 'Happy Holidays,' the air is filled with the noise of Christians giving voice to the joy and excitement of the Christian season."

"One of the central themes of Christmas is often omitted in our various greetings. Stop and think about it for a moment. When was the last time you heard someone say to you during the Christmas season 'Peace be with you.'"

"So maybe that's it—there is a wound in us that makes it too painful to say 'Peace be with you.' We are still bruised from terrorist attacks on New York and Washington four years ago and bruised even more by a brutal war in Iraq. In our present moment, saying peace be with you just doesn't make much sense. We settle for 'merry' and 'happy,' because it hurts too much to speak of peace when there is no peace."


Or, maybe too many Christians are fighting to "save" Christmas that they are destroying any chance of having a peaceful Christmas. So let's stop this war and start worshipping the Prince of Peace. As Evans ended his column: "Peace be with you."

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The "Ayatollah of Alabama"

Here is an excellent piece by John Sugg about Roy Moore. JohnSugg.com: JUDGMENT DAY FOR JUDGE ROY MOORE Here are a couple of highlights that should alarm voters in Alabama and beyond:

"Should Moore win the gubernatorial race, there will be considerable clamor for him to seek the GOP's 2008 presidential nomination. He flirted with a 2004 presidential run on the ticket of the Constitution Party. That outfit was founded by those in the unabashedly theocratic Christian Reconstruction movement, which thunders that the prescription for America's ills is embracing Old Testament laws: mass executions of gays, blasphemers and other sinners; and reserving participation in government for the 'faithful.'"

"Moore sees politics in no-shades-of-gray terms. He portrays himself as God's champion. A martyred saint to the faithful who want to stamp their religion on government, and a devilish threat to the secular, he's indisputably a force."

"I'm also thinking of Rosa Parks and how Moore has compared himself to Martin Luther King Jr. - while at the same time winking at the South's neo-confederates. Last year, Moore opposed a referendum that would have struck unenforceable segregationist language from the Alabama constitution. Voters rejected the measure by a slim 1,850 majority, a victory for Moore and a clear signal to the many unrepentant segregationists in the Heart of Dixie."

"'With George Wallace, people said he just manipulated. Racism was just politics, it wasn't in his heart,' says Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, whose ultra-modern Montgomery headquarters is a 180-degree contrast, in architecture and mission, to Moore's nearby Foundation for Moral Law, housed in a historic bank building. 'With Moore, what he says does reflect his heart. We've never doubted his sincerity. I don't think his zeal should be questioned. He's a giant rock in an age of turmoil.'

"Cohen pauses, smiles and adds: 'Roy has earned the title of 'Ayatollah of Alabama.'"


God help us!

Thanks to Bruce Prescott at the Mainstream Baptist blog for pointing out this article.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Merry Christmas?

Greg Spring over at the Holier Than Thou: When the Christian Right Goes Wrong blog has posted a telling quotation from Jerry Falwell. He said about those who want "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas": "We’re kicking their butts and they’re unhappy."

Boy, that sounds like a Christ-like Christmas greeting doesn't it? Maybe instead of fighting to "save" Christmas he should start trying to celebrate Christmas by living and speaking with the love of Jesus (but of course, that would not raise very much money—and you can only serve one master).

Never Met Jesus

Here's a post from the DefCon Blog about a recent appearance on CNN by Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League and speaker at the "Just Us Sunday" rallies. If you have never seen him before, the man is usually quite scattered and crazy as a speaker.

During the interview he was denouncing President Bush and everyone else who says "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." He was then asked by the CNN reporter: "What if Jesus got this card? What would he do? Would he be angry about it? He’s be OK with it, wouldn’t he?"

Donahue responded: "Well, maybe he would, but I’ve never met him."

Well, that was obvious wasn't it! Maybe Donahue should spend less time giving speeches at Sunday night political rallies and start listening to sermons. Maybe he should spend less time giving interviews on TV and start reading the Bible. Then maybe he'll meet Jesus and see the error of his ways.

After Donahue’s answer, the reporter responded: “Well, you know what I mean. You follow his precepts. WWJD? He wouldn't be angry about this. He'd say, it's OK.” Donahue did not answer the question.

It is pretty sad when the CNN reporter understands the teachings of Jesus better than the religious leader!

An Open Letter to Jerry Falwell

Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, has written an open letter to Jerry Falwell about the supposed "war on Christmas." Americans United: An Open Letter to Jerry Falwell He seems to peg Falwell's motivations very well. Here are a couple of highlights:

"Here’s some news: There is no 'war on Christmas!'"

"I am deeply disappointed that you have chosen a time that Christians observe as a season of peace and good will and turned it into a time of religious divisiveness and community conflict. Your 'Friend or Foe' campaign may be great for fund-raising and publicity, but it has sown discord unnecessarily."

"I think we all know what’s really going on with your campaign. You want an America where there is no separation of church and state and where your rather narrow interpretation of Christianity is forced on everyone. If you can convince Americans that their cherished Christmas traditions are under fire, you think maybe they will join your nefarious crusade to tear down the protective church-state wall that guarantees our freedoms."

"Many people remember the outrageous comments you made after the 9/11 terrorist assaults, suggesting that America had it coming because of our (in your opinion) sinful ways. They also remember your dire warning that Tinky Winky, a kids’ TV character, was brainwashing our children into homosexuality! You can’t rehabilitate an image like that by trying to depict yourself as Father Christmas."

"Since I debated you about the Christmas issue on Fox News Channel’s 'O’Reilly Factor,' I have received 66 nasty e-mails, including two death threats. Observed one of my correspondents, 'Hope you die soon. Merry Christmas.' Jerry, this is the kind of interfaith and community hostility that you are stirring up, and I implore you to stop it now. You are polluting the public square with animosity and anger. And at Christmas, of all times!! Have you no decency?"


Amen!

Thanks to the Dark Christianity blog for pointing this one out.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Jerry Cornered by Jerry

Here's an interesting story by Jerry Sloan, a former classmate of Jerry Falwell, that shows Falwell getting caught in lies. Talk To Action | Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of a Crucial Win Over Jerry Falwell

Such behavior by Falwell is outrageous and un-Christ-like. And while this story is old, it is sadly not the only case.

"Love Homosexuals as Jesus Would"

The Baptist Press has run an article about a couple of speakers urging Christians to love homosexuals in a Christ-like way. Love homosexuals as Jesus would, ex-gays urge at conference - (BP) Here is a passage that especially caught my eye:

"Many Christians like to use the phrase 'hate the sin, love the sinner' to describe their attitude toward homosexuals, but again, communication completely breaks down, Thompson said. 'Christians consider homosexuality a behavior, but homosexuals consider it an identity,' he said. 'If gay and lesbian folks consider their orientation an identity, is it really possible to ‘hate the sin’ without also hating the sinner?' Thompson suggests that instead of looking at homosexuals through the world’s eyes, Christians need to look at the world through their eyes. 'This means that, when discussing the subject of homosexuality with people, we must use words that are inclusive, not divisive,' he explained, pointing out that while homosexuals use words like 'love' and 'relationship' to describe homosexual behavior, Christians use words like 'sin' and 'abomination.' 'We must put aside this kind of language if we want our ministries to be a safe place for students to talk openly about their sexuality,' he said."

We must be much more careful about the words we use so that we can begin to show love of Jesus to all people. I just hope people were listening because this is the area where Christians seem to most fail to "love they neighbor as thyself." For more thoughts, check out this article I wrote awhile back: Be It Resolved: Christians, McCarthyism, and Homosexuality

Happy Holidays?

In case you missed Saturday Night Live last weekend, they have finally put video of the opening skit on their website (it is the first item under "Videos"). NBC.com > Saturday Night Live

The skit, entitled "Happy Holidays from NBC," included a number of Christmas songs with edited words to remove all religious references. It is hilarious! This was much needed comic relief in the midst of some quite heated rhetoric about a supposed "war on Christmas."

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Losing Jesus?

Here's a good commentary from The Christian Century entitled, "Leaving Jesus behind." It offers a critique of Christians focusing on politics and thus losing Jesus. Here are a couple highlights:

"Evangelicals who belong to the religious right insist that Jesus is their Lord and Savior, yet many of them hardly ever talk about Jesus, at least not in public. They talk about politics—how to get their people elected to local, state and federal governments so as to advance their religious, moral and political causes. They pour their energy into political battles and have none left for Jesus. If you were to point this out to them, they'd vehemently disagree, telling you that they wage political wars for Jesus and in his name. But Jesus is no longer at the center of their attention. The struggle for power has taken his place. They are political warriors in religious garb, not followers of Jesus."

"There are many ways of leaving Jesus behind. Take the famous Left Behind series. Jesus is all over these books. But what kind of Jesus? ... He is there, but not as the Jesus who loves enemies and justifies the ungodly. That Jesus has been discarded for the Rider on the White Horse. Never mind that the whole New Testament is united in this crucial point: to follow Christ means to love enemies, not to eliminate them."

"The challenge for a religious right and a religious left that want to think of themselves as Christian is to show that Jesus matters more than politics. Only then will both be true leaven in the world of politics."


Amen!

Thanks to the Christian Alliance for Progress Blog for pointing this story out.

Taking on a "Bad Christian Argument"

Here's an interesting piece from Ethics Daily about a recent speech by Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Welcome to Ethics Daily.com! Mohler told students that the Bible does not teach that all drinking of alcohol is wrong—though he did warn them that it could get them expelled or destroy their ministry.

What I really appreciate is not so much his take on the subject but rather his willingness to critically examine poor arguments generally accepted by many Christians. He recalled a story he read in the fundamentalist newspaper Sword of the Lord (again, must we be so violent?!) that claimed Jesus turned water into non-fermented grape juice and not wine. Mohler said he was "troubled" by the article "because it just appeared to me to be an example of a really, really bad Christian argument."

Mohler wisely reminds us that even if we believe a behavior is wrong, we must make sure we support our belief with strong arguments. In particular we must be careful not to twist and misuse the Bible to support our opinion (what is really ironic here is that the same newspaper that made this absurd argument has also accused other Christians of not really believing the Bible—hello pot, my name is kettle). As Mohler explained, "I believe it is exegetically unsustainable. ... You simply cannot make the argument that the Bible binds the Christian conscience and all Christians of all times everywhere for a total abstinence position."

Mohler also pointed out that it is important for Christians to talk about these issues. He acknowledged that "There will be a lot of people who will be offended that we are even having (the conversation)." But he said that since it is causing some controversy in the church, then it must be addressed. He is absolutely correct.

Hopefully the students were paying attention so that the next generation of preachers will work hard to build strong arguments for what they believe, and be willing to talk about important issues that many would rather avoid and hope it goes away.

Schiavo Strikes Back

It looks like Michael Schiavo, the husband of the late Terri Schiavo, is planning to enter politics to defeat "the Bible-thumping politicians who used his comatose wife as a football." Salon.com News | Michael Schiavo joins the fray

Now I know the case is old and you may not want to hear about it anymore, but I think that the politicians have this coming. Politicians claiming to be Christians put Michael through hell. Without any evidence whatsoever (not that that usually stops people), many Christian leaders started accusing Schiavo’s husband of having beat or hurt her to cause her condition. That’s a classic—if you disagree with someone’s position, call them a wife-beater and a murderer (who cares if it isn’t true—we don’t care about the truth as Christians, just winning).

Michael is not a Christian and I believe now he will probably never be—because of the inaccurate, hateful, un-Christ-like, and plain stupid things Christians said about him (yep, that’s us good ‘ol American Christians). In their attempt to save a dead person, Christians have likely eternally killed her husband.

So I hope Michael is able to run out of office DeLay and Frist and all the others that (mis)used Terri much like they (mis)use Christianity (that is, of course, assuming these guys are not put in jail first—what good Christians they are!).


Thanks to the Dark Christianity blog for pointing this story out.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Christian Violence?

Here's a disturbing story about a University of Kansas professor who was beat up. He had previously created a controversy for planning to teach a course on creationism and intelligent design being a myth and for criticizing fundamentalist Christians in emails. Criminal Twist In Evolution Debate

While it is not known yet who attacked him, suggestions are that it may be a couple of Christians upset at his anti-intelligent design opinions. Hopefully, that is not really the case. But if it is, these men claiming to be Christians obviously need to get back to studying the Bible. Even if Jesus had not taught us to love our enemies, it would just be the wise thing to do (after all, don't expect the Kansas prof. to suddenly believe in "intelligent design" offered to him by such unintelligent thugs).

Christmas Wars

Here's a piece from Ethics Daily today by Bruce Prescott entitled, "The 'War' Against Christmas." Welcome to Ethics Daily.com! Here's a couple of highlights:

"It is time for thinking Christians to start discerning the spirits on issues like this. The spirit at work amongst Falwell and fundamentalist Christians is a spirit of dominance, belligerence and superiority."

"Most moderate, mainstream Christians are repelled by this spirit when it manifests itself in the church. Why some would find it attractive when it manifests itself in the life of our society is beyond my comprehension."

"The spirit of fundamentalism has nothing to do with the Spirit of Jesus. This Spirit of Christ is one that serves others, promotes peace, and elevates the lowly to a position of love and friendship."


Wouldn't it be nice to see Christians live out love and friendship during the Christmas season instead of belligerence and superiority? But that's probably too big an item for my Christmas wish-list.

Mixed Priorities?

Here's a good cartoon about a guy who suggests we follow the teachings of Jesus, reject the commercialization of Christmas, and not fight over saying "Christmas" instead of "Holidays." The response he receives is "How unAmerican is that?"

That seems to capture the problem. The very Christians fighting for saying "Christmas" seem to be more focused on political issues and power than actually worshipping Jesus (if Jerry Falwell had been around that first Christmas it would not have been a “Silent Night”).


 Posted by Picasa

Mr. Smock Responds

A few days ago I mentioned how troubled I am by street preachers on college campuses and included an email I had recently sent to one such "preacher" (For God's Sake Shut Up!: Campus Epidemic). He has now responded and I am working on a message to send back. I and am excited that he seems willing to dialogue. I don't expect to change him, but I sure hope to. Here is what he had to say:


Luke 16:18 "For the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light."

Confrontation is an effective tactic in getting ones message across. This has been demonstrated over and over in history, especially during the sixties. Who has the popular radio and TV programs? No Spin Zone, Hannity & Combs, Rush, Hardball, etc.

Students are the future leaders, love demands that they be confronted for their sins. Students tend to justify what God's law condemns (often claiming to be Christians). Of course, others flaunt God's law, who make no claim to religion.

The prophets of old, Jesus and the apostles were confrontational. Read the Gospels and the book of Acts. They did not merely confront religious leaders, because of their sect or position, but because they were hypocrites. Jesus would confront sin, wherever he might find it. He cursed whole cities; "Woe unto thee Chorazin...Bethsaida...(Matt. 11:21-24). He even at one point cursed the world: "Woe unto the world because of offenses (Matt 18:7)."

I am confronting UM for exchanging the Truth of Christianity for the lies of secularism, pluralism, multiculturalism, humanism, etc. Many stop, some choose to engage me, others just listen, hour after hour, day after day.

If Jesus or anyone else sees sin in my life, I hope that they would have enough love to confront me. Actually, few would recognize me as a religious leader, I hold no offical ecclesiatical position. I am simply a voice.


"The preaching of the Cross is to them that perish foolishness, but unto us that are saved it is the power of God (1 Cor 1)." No doubt, I am a byword, essentially entertainment to many, but others must take me seriously, or why would they get so angry.? Yes, I do turn most people off, but so did Jesus and his followers. They tried to kill Him more than once before they succeeded. His disciples were regularly mocked, ridiculed, spat upon, mobbed, and finally martyred.

The number of converts is not the measure of success for Christians, our measure is obedience to our calling. I lead hundreds to Christ daily on campus, few choose follow Him. One exception is my wife, who at the University of Florida has admitted that she initially listened to me just to be entertained, but eventually she became convinced, and now preaches the message she once mocked.


An ad hominem attack would be attacking the person instead of the argument. I always address arguments, the problem is that typically students do not present arguments, but merely emote or answer my points by saying, "That's B.S. or you are an a-- hole." Under those circumstances, I might attack their character.

Could you give me some examples of me "jumping to conclusions?"

Any system of thought has assumptions, I have two basic assumptions: There is a God and the Bible is His Word. In the light of these two assumptions, could you give me any specific examples where I have violated the laws of logic? Unlike many ministers, you will not hear me say, "That the Bible is true, because the Bible says it's true." That would be circular reasoning.


I would be happy to meet with you over a cup of coffee and we can discuss the issues that you have raised. If you can specifically show me where I am violating Biblical principles or being illogical I would be glad to make adjustments. How many hours have you actually listened to me teach on campus? Have you read my book, Who Will Rise Up? in which I address the very criticisms which you have shared? The book is available on my website at brojed.org., or I would be pleased to present you a complimentary copy.

Thank you for writing. I do hope that we can get together. Presently, I am ministering in TN, but should be home by midweek. Should you want to bring any of your students or colleagues along, that would be fine.

Jed Smock

The Lord's Name in Vain

Commentator Molly Ivins has written a provocative piece about the dangers of politicians claiming to speak for God: WorkingForChange-Impersonating the Lord. Here are a couple of excellent highlights:

"I think it's a big mistake for us to go around putting our own puny interpretations on stuff that happens and then claiming the Lord meant thus-and-such by it. It is my humble opinion that some folks should do a lot more listening to God and a lot less talking for Him."

"Some Christians seem to me inclined to lose track of love, compassion and mercy. I don't think I have any special brief to go around judging them, but when the stink of hypocrisy becomes so foul in the nostrils it makes you start to puke it becomes necessary to point out there is one more good reason to observe the separation of church and state: If God keeps hanging out with politicians, it's gonna hurt his reputation."


Amen! I just wish that Christians would recognize what is happening and be willing to take to task these politicians who use the Lord's name in vain.

Thanks to Bruce Prescott at the Mainstream Baptist blog for pointing this story out (Mainstream Baptist: On Political Corruption and Prayer Breakfasts).

The Power of Words

Here's a good piece by Albert Mohler about The Power of Words -- A Witness.

Words are indeed powerful, and that is why we must be careful how we use them—so that they will inspire and uplift rather than push away or beat down.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Rotten Export

It seems that Ralph Reed, one of the people most responsible for overly mixing politics and religion in America, is taking his campaign to the globe stage. The Globe and Mail: U.S. religious right enters electoral fray

Reed, who is under investigation for possible fundraising violations with lobbyist Jack Abramoff (which brings to mind the bumper sticker "The Religious Right is Neither"), recently spoke at a conservative Christian conference in Canada to encourage them to get out the vote. Maybe in a few years Canada can also have churches more focused on politics than sharing the love of Jesus, and religious leaders under investigation. Oh, Canada!

Evangelist Charged in Halloween Violence

A "Christian evangelist" in South Africa has been charged with assault for a Halloween night paintballing incident. Cape Argus - Paintball spree was anti-occult, says pastor

The man, also a "pro-gun campaigner" (that's a great combination—"Christian evangelist and pro-gun campaigner"—praise Jesus and pass the ammunition!), took his kids out for a night of drive-by paintball shootings at trick-or-treaters. He said he did so because he saw Halloween as an "occult holiday celebrating human sacrifice, witches and goblins" (though he appears to be the only one trying to actually sacrifice people that night).

This seems to again suggest that we need to demilitarize the Christian faith.

Cutting Off Our Nose to Spite Our Face

The Catholic diocese of Phoenix has cancelled a Mass at a community center because the center recently held a Planned Parenthood event. East Valley Tribune Daily Arizona news for Chandler, Gilbert, Tempe, Mesa, Scottsdale

Is this really the best idea? The center had a Planned Parenthood event, so that means the people in the community do not deserve communion?! Shouldn't the church work harder to plan Masses and events there to reach the people because of the Planned Parenthood connection?

When Jesus saw sinners he did not say, "oh well I guess you don't deserve healing, love, or forgiveness." Instead, Jesus would be more motivated to go and reach out to them with love!

Onward (Literal) Christian Soldiers!

Here's a scary site that mixes religion and violence: Force Ministries It is disturbing to see pictures of men in fatigues with guns drawn right next to Bible verses and talk about evangelism.

Recently I took to task the war rhetoric of a Baptist minister (For God's Sake Shut Up!: Onward Christian Soldiers!) This comment seem relevant here as well:

"If you have not seen it yet, check out the movie The Kingdom of Heaven. It offers some insights into the problems of the crusade mentality, and should disturb you (especially when, as the hymn states, the soldiers march into war with the cross of Jesus going on before)."

I wish we could somehow overcome this violent and militaristic language in the Christian community (though I'm not surprised that this fundamentalist group would take the words of the hymn literally!).


Thanks to the Dark Christianity blog for pointing out this scary site.

Just Us Sunday III

The Family Research Council has finally posted some information about their third "Just Us Sunday" rally, which is to be held January 8 to "Proclaim Liberty Throughout the Land." Justice Sunday III

I guess those of us trying to separate the dangerous mixing of church and state have our work cut out for us; more to come on this as the date approaches.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Gospel According To Pat

Here is an excellent compilation of ridiculous comments made by Pat Robertson in recent years.
Meet the Religious Right - Fighting for Separation of Church and State - Campaign to Defend the Constitution

If it does not bother you that he is often used to represent Christians—and thus Christ—then please wake up!

Campus Epidemic

There is a nationwide epidemic of sorts on college campuses—street preachers. These individuals portray a hateful and distorted picture of God and likely drive many students away from the love of Jesus. Having seen one in action several times and read about many on other campuses, I am going to start dealing with them on this blog and elsewhere because I believe that, despite being mostly under the radar, their blasphemous portrayals of God are doing more damage than nearly anyone else.

One campus preacher recently wrote a guest column justifying himself in a student newspaper of the University of Missouri. He included his email and so I sent a response. Here is his column:
The Maneater - Students should debate at Speaker's Circle Here is my letter to him (I call him "Mr. Smock" instead of "Brother Jed" because I do not think he deserves the title):

Mr. Smock,

This is in response to your recent column in the University of Missouri’s The Maneater. I found some of your claims quite questionable, much as find much of your comments at speaker’s circle. My concerns come from my understanding as a Ph.D. student in communication (and instructor of the Introduction to Public Speaking course) and as a Baptist minister. Thus, I view you as not only ineffective and unethical as a communicator, but also as a preacher. Here are a few thoughts based on your column and speeches.

First, you call what you do “confrontational evangelism,” a term I find as being contrary to the love and “Good News” of Jesus (and based on your article it seems to me that you root your preaching more in the secular 1960s society than in the Bible—thus leaving you with a scary and unstable foundation for your ministry). Yes, you definitely are confrontational, but I do not see much evangelism. Please try the move loving (and biblical) approach of Jesus. After all, He showed love to the prostitutes, tax collectors, and other sinners. He only confronted the Pharisees and other religious leaders who were too judgmental (therefore I believe He would confront you and not the average MU student).

Next, you claim that you are a good example of how to get people’s attention as a public speaker. While it is true that you get people’s attention, you are not an effective speaker. Your over-the-top antics only work to undermine your credibility as a speaker and you are reduced to being merely entertainment. Thus, I have often used you in discussion in my intro classes as a great example of what not to do (and nearly all students agree). You are not effective because you are actually driving more people away from God than you are bringing toward God. Remember, as a preacher the goal should not be to put on a good show but to lead people to God.

Finally, you claim that more students need to know “the laws of logic” so that they can respond “rationally” and not “emotionally.” I found this comment quite ironic (as did most of my students) since you seem to suggest that you are logical and rational. If you took my intro class you would learn that you often violate “the laws of logic.” You use the logical fallacies of Ad hominem attack (attacking people), hasty generalization (jumping to conclusions without evidence), circular reasoning, and others nearly every time you speak. You, once again, are a great example of what not to do as a speaker—both in terms of ethics and logic.

As a minister I beg you to either drastically change your message and method (to follow that of Jesus) or shut up and not come back. Please consider this so that you will stop driving people away from God.

Respectfully,
Brian Kaylor

Friday, December 02, 2005

An Apology to Women

The archbishop of Wales recently apologized for how the church had "denigrated women and treated them as second-class citizens." BBC NEWS | UK | Wales | 'Church denigrated women' apology He said:

"Let me as an Archbishop admit that Christians throughout the ages have denigrated women and often used the Bible to do so - and let me apologise for that."

"Little wonder then that violence has been committed against them when you can back it up with religious justification."

"It has to be realized that the Bible was written in patriarchal times and that colours the way women were regarded."


He also said that everyone of faith needed to join in "making a difference" to stop this treatment. In light of that I would like to apologize to women on behalf of Baptists for Russell Moore!

Even More on Moore

It is good to see other Christians willing to challenge Russell Moore for his recent dumb comments. (For background see: For God's Sake Shut Up!: Moore Confusion.)

Tony Cartledge, editor of the Biblical Recorder, tackled the story on his blog. Biblical Recorder Editor's Journal || Baptist News He wrote:

"I read a lot of news and information relative to Baptist life. Much of it is disturbing, but it's rare for an article to gnaw so deeply that it disturbs my sleep."

"I was flabbergasted to read this statement. For 26 years as a pastor, much of my pre-marital counsel to prospective spouses involved the importance of developing good communications skills and learning to work things out together."

"But now I learn, according to Moore, that I was just a pagan feminist and didn't know it."

"By his own observation, however, the rank and file of evangelical men and women are not buying it: they continue to live as if marital negotiation, mutual submission, and consensus are good things. Good for them."

Robertson Lies Again

According to Media Matters, Pat Robertson has once again told a lie. Robertson falsely claims [Media Matters] Robertson recently repeated a claim he has made before that Reverend Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, has said that the Constitution prohibits fire departments from saving a church that is on fire.

Lynn has denied the charges. Even Focus on the Family noted in 2000 that the claim was false:

"It also should be said that despite Lynn's often-bombastic rhetoric, he's been on the receiving end of some pretty strong language himself, some of it unjustified. (One Christian conservative leader [presumably Robertson] has mistakenly suggested that Lynn would say a burning church shouldn't be able to call the fire department lest it violate the bounds of church-state separation.)"

Rick over at the Jesus was a Liberal blog (Jesus was a Liberal: Robertson tells a Whopper) put it well:

"Taken at their best, brother Pat's remarks are inflammatory and divisive. At their worst, they constitute an intentional lie."


Robertson made the false claim most recently when discussing the "war on Christmas." Maybe he should quit worrying about the supposed "war on Christmas" and stop waging his own war on fellow Christians!

Tim LaHaye and Anti-Semitism

Max Blumenthal has posted a disturbing comment made in an article on the website of Tim LaHaye, of the Left Behind books, at his blog (MAX BLUMENTHAL) and at the Talk To Action blog (Talk To Action | Did Tim LaHaye Just Call Israelis "Not-To-Be-Trusted Yids?")

The article on the official Left Behind website (www.leftbehindprophecy.com) attacks Israel for giving in to the Red Cross (Israel had been fighting for years to get the Star of David placed on the Red Cross emblems in Israel). In the article is this comment:

"All you are doing is proving them right in their long-held belief that you are illegitimate, land grabbing, not-to-be-trusted Yids."

"Yids" is an offensive slur against Jews—somewhat like the "n" word is for African-Americans. And this coming from a man who supposedly works to support Israel! It should be obvious that he does so for political reasons—based on his interpretation of prophesy—and not because he actually cares for the Jewish people (apparently LaHaye's love for all people has been "left behind" somewhere).