Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday Photo

Our dog, Poco, poses next to a fire hydrant (though it took a little while to get her to do this). I then made the photo black-and-white except for the red, which really makes the fire hydrant stand out.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Who is a Christian?

Who is a Christian? What is the definition of that word? Well, James Dobson apparently has an odd definition. On his radio program he recently said this about potential presidential candidate Fred Thompson:
Everyone knows he's conservative and has come out strongly for the things that the pro-family movement stands for. ... [But] I don't think he's a Christian; at least that's my impression.
Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Thompson, responded:
Thompson is indeed a Christian. ... He was baptized into the Church of Christ.
Focus on the Family spokesman Gary Schneeberger then explained:
[Dobson] has never known Thompson to be a committed Christian--someone who talks openly about his faith. ... We use that word--Christian--to refer to people who are evangelical Christians.
Other than the problem that Dobson spent another broadcast of his radio program talking about possible presidential candidates, there is a very troubling issue here. Dobson makes one of two mistakes: either Dobson wrongly judged Thompson and arrogantly declared judgment on Thompson's soul, or Dobson has a really poor definition of the word "Christian." According to his spokesman's statement, it must the latter problem. Yet, the word "Christian" is much broader in its scope than the word "evangelical." Even if one believes that all Christians should be evangelicals, that does not mean that they are. Being a Christian deals with one's relationship to God, while being an evangelical deals with one's commitment to sharing that relationship with other people.

This is an excellent reminder for all of us to be very careful with the words we use. We must make sure that we define and use them accurately in a way that clearly communicates our intended message. And we must be careful not to be inaccurate or overly exclusive in our definitions, especially with such an important word as "Christian."

Lesson in Logic

Christianity Today's Weblog offered a much needed lesson in logic to the Institute on Religion and Democracy. The IRD had attacked Richard Cizik of the National Association Evangelical (see my previous posts on this issue here, here, and here). The IRD claimed that Cizik was leading the NAE to become focused on issues of lesser importance. As "proof," they noted that the subjects on which the media recently covered the NAE:
By far the leading issue linked to the NAE was the environment and global warming, with 37 percent of the non-Haggard-scandal mentions. ... If this Nexis search is any indication, the NAE certainly has not been caught up in the 'hot button' culture wars issues. Only three percent of the NAE media mentions related to its opposition to same-sex marriage, and less than one percent involved opposition to abortion.
CT then offered this great reminder to the IRD:
Uh, or is it possible that there's a phenomenon known as pack journalism, wherein reporters tend to quote each others' sources, follow up on each others' stories, and feed the same narrative? And it's also possible, as George Gerbner postulated, that mass media coverage cultivates attitudes about people that do not correspond to reality. That media outlets keep covering Cizik's environmental views means that reporters find those views interesting. It doesn't mean that Cizik talks about the environment 37 percent of the time. And that reporters seldom quote Cizik on same-sex marriage and abortion may simply mean that they have others in their Rolodexes that they prefer to call on those subjects.
An excellent point! This is a great reminder about making sure one thinks through an argument before making it. The IRD--and many other Christians--often display very poor logic. It is time for us to serve the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, body, and mind!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Say Again

Sometimes people say something that just makes me stop, scratch my head, and try to figure out why in the world they said it or what in the world they meant. Richard Land recently made one such statement. Land, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, was talking about potential candidates for president when he said this about why some candidates may not be acceptable to Southern Baptists:
Three is one marriage too many for them.
Huh? Why is three marriages only one too many and not two too many? Maybe he is trying to keep the door open for McCain, who has been married twice while Giuliani and Gingrich have been married three times. Regardless, it does not seem to represent traditional Christian ethics (which is the area in which Land is supposed to lead Southern Baptists).

Perhaps a better and more Christlike perspective on this issue was expressed by Rhonda Kelley, a professor of women's ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. She said:
I'm looking for a willingness to say, 'Hey look, I blew it. I am so sorry' ... Being willing to admit fault is a mark of maturity in a leader.
It is time for moral consistency mixed with Christlike love, not the partisanship or odd standards of Land.

The Best of the Worst

We truly live in a global society these days. This blog was mentioned in the April 2007 issue of Youthwork, a British Christian magazine for youth workers. The article, entitled "The best of the worst," looks at some of the categories of worst things that one can find online. The list includes "worst jobs in science," "museum of bad album covers," and "a list of the worst countries for Christians to live in." Then comes this part of the article:
We could also mention Worst Case Scenarios, where problems of real-life survival, involving failing parachutes or sinking cars or hostile alligators, can launch discussions about surviving as a Christian at school; or Worst of the Web, where the most dreadful websites in the world are lovingly preserved - but instead let's spotlight For God's Sake Shut Up!, a Christian blog which devotes itself to an annual hunt for 'The Worst Christian Mouth of the Year'.

The idea will probably be more useful to you than the blog itself, which is pretty American (which of your fifteen-year-olds has ever heard of Tom DeLay?). The blog owner explains, 'Sadly, Christians often do a poor job of communicating... Sometimes I want to just say to those Christians: "For God's sake, shut up!" I don't mean that profanely. When Christians say dumb things it damages unbelievers' perceptions of our Lord and Saviour'.

Who would your kids shut up if they could? Which are the most embarrassing Christians in Britain today? And what do we do when our faith is being sadly misrepresented? (Just for the record, my personal hit-list would include Harold Bishop from Neighbours, Dot Cotton, and Ashley, that unbelievable awful vicar on Emmerdale...)
Apparently, when one googles "worst" and "Christian" one of my posts is the fourth item. The author of this article is correct that my perspective is quite American (we American Christians are not very good at paying attention to the rest of the global Christian community). But I am glad they were inspired to consider the basic argument I have been trying to make. All Christians need to seriously consider the potential consequences of our words so that we will not drive people away.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Paying for Lying

The Associated Baptist Press has an article that makes it quite obvious why lying is a bad decision, even apart from the moral issues involved. It reports that Procter & Gamble won a more than $19 million judgment in a lawsuit against Amway. What got Amway in trouble was spreading a false claim that Procter & Gamble donated money to the Church of Satan. This should be a reminder to all of us that our false statements have consequences, and that we must work very hard to make sure that what we are saying is accurate.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Friday Photo

Here is a shot I took of a Wal-Mart store that was being torn down. I like the paradox of having the pictures of the smiling boys in the midst of the destruction.

What's the Word?

My latest column went out today in the BGCM E-Message, the free monthly email newsletter of the Baptist General Convention of Missouri. The piece is entitled 'What's the Word?" In it I argue that the words we use offer insights into our priorities. Thus, I examine the words of the BGCM staffers to demonstrate that the BGCM First Priority is serving churches! Here are a couple of excerpts:
As Confucius explained, "Words are the voice of the heart." What we often talk about is that which is important to us, and that we ignore is that which we likely do not think much about.

... On the old television show Pee-wee's Playhouse, there was a regular bit called the "Secret Word." The characters would be told a word and then whenever someone said that word, everyone would scream. If someone decided to scream every time BGCM First Priority Team Leaders said "church" or "churches," there would be a lot of screaming going on!

... While the secret word was usually accidentally mentioned on the TV show, when the words "church" and "churches" are used by the BGCM it is not accidental or secret. The BGCM's First Priority is serving churches! It is who we are and what we talk about.
So remember, the words you use are important!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Abandoning "Polity"

Jim Naughton, Canon for Communications and Advancement for Episcopal Diocese of Washington, has a post at the Daily Episcopalian that really has me thinking. He has this to say about the word "polity":
Don't use the word. Ever. It is tantamount to wearing a sign around your neck that says: ... "I enjoy using words the average person doesn't understand."
I must admit that I often use the word "polity" when talking about conflicts in Baptist life. I use it because I feel it accurately describes the situation, but I do usually have to explain what the word means so it clearly is not communicating as well as I would hope. Naughton's point, therefore, is very well taken because we must make sure we are getting our point across with the words we use.

However, I do not like the word that Naughton suggests should be used instead: "governance." While that might work for Episcopalians, it is not a good word for Baptists because the word carries connotations that suggest hierarchy and a top-down organizational structure. In fact, many of the problems in Baptist life have been because some have attempted to operate this way instead of the historic Baptist way of bottom-up with the churches in charge.

The final item Naughton offers on this point also got me thinking. He writes:
but what's really needed is a phrase that explains why "polity" is theology. A challenge to our polity is a challenge to "the way we discern and respond to the will of God"
This is a good point that I had not really considered. In fact, I have often said the problems in Baptist life are about "polity" so as to dispel the myth that it is about theology. I still think there is an important point to be made there (to dispel the false accusations of "liberal" theology made by some). However, it seems that there is an important point to make here: by trying to change our "polity," some Baptists are the ones that are really changing our theology. Naughton is right--we need a new word. I do not like "governance" and I am starting to dislike "polity." But is there a better option?

Evangelical Pope?

Last night on The Colbert Report, comedian Stephen Colbert addressed the recent attack on the National Association of Evangelicals by some evangelicals (see my earlier comments on this issue here and here). The best part of the clip comes when he suggests, with his typical tongue-in-cheek style, that evangelicals need to unite on all issues and authoritatively silence dissenting opinions. He then begins to show what that would look like. Check it out.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Book Review

The first review of my book (For God's Sake, Shut Up!: Lessons for Christians on How to Speak Effectively and When to Remain Silent) is out in this week's issue of the Word & Way, which is the newspaper for Missouri Baptists. The piece is not online, so you will have to get the newspaper to read the whole thing (and if you are a Missouri Baptist and not getting the Word & Way, then you need to fix that problem). The piece is by Ken Satterfield and is entitled "A time to speak up, a time to shut up." Ken does a great job of highlighting the key points of the book and explaining why Christians should be concerned about learning to communicate more effectively.

Ken starts out by telling about a recent encounter he had with a street preacher. He writes that it was not an effective way to reach people with the message and then mentions that a similar encounter is what inspired me to write the book. Click here to read the introduction of the book where I tell the story about the street preacher that made me first think about telling someone, "For God's Sake, Shut Up!" I have found it interesting how that story seems to have resonated with people. Already I have had a couple of other people tell me about an encounter they have had with a street preacher.

Here are a few highlights from Ken's piece:

Kaylor ... uses this book to remind Christians that the way in which we communicate has the potential to harm the cause of Christ, regardless of how correct a position might be.

... Certainly, he has a wealth of contemporary examples--both good and bad--that bolster his positions.

... The book's style is conversational, with parenthetical asides thrown in generously, much like sitting next to someone during a lecture who regularly contributes their own two cents' worth.

... We have a responsibility to communicate effectively in every way. The Bible is full of passages related to practicing wise speech while avoiding secondary issues and stupid arguments.

Will Kaylor's book change Christian discourse? It cannot happen until each of us value the worth of fellow Christians and the salvation of non-believers above issues, earthly politics, clever sound bites, bumper sticker mentality and winning at all costs.
Thanks Ken for the kind words! I hope others find this book worthwhile because I sincerely hope that it will in fact change Christian discourse for the better.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Tortured Theology

Ethics Daily ran my latest column today, which is entitled "Tortured Theology." It criticizes comments made by a few Christian leaders supporting torture. Here are a few excerpts:

For it is not the theologically healthy that condone the torture of those created in God's image, but those with tortured and perverted theology.

... For as the Inquisition proved, nothing helps people discover the love of Jesus quite like torture!

... We already have a clear and simple biblical guide: treat others as you have them treat yourself. Anything less than that is wrong and clearly violates Christian ethics.

... Torturing people is wrong no matter who they are or what information we think they may possess. Jesus did not tell us to love one another unless the other person is a suspected terrorist.

... Perhaps the next edition of the SBC's Holman Christian Standard Bible will offer a new take on Jesus' teaching in Matthew 5:44: "Torture your enemies and kill those who persecute you." Then the passage could finally be tortured enough to match their tortured theology.
Hopefully, Christians will speak up for what is right!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Face of the New Christendom

The face of Christianity is literally changing as Christians in the Southern Hemisphere are rapidly growing in number. This is not a new finding, but I was recently reminded of this and its importance while discussing issues of how Southern Baptists relate to the global community. It started with Marty Duren putting up a fun post at his blog, SBC Outpost. His post dealt with the news that former megachurch pastor Bobby Welch has been selected to represent the SBC as it tries to (re)build relations with other Baptists worldwide. The position is the result of the SBC's withdrawal from the Baptist World Alliance a few years ago.

The news of Welch's appointment was disappointing considering that he spent tons of money during his last position with the SBC (when as its president he went on a 50 state bus tour with a fancy personalized bus). And though I don't think the final baptism numbers are in, it seems to be a good guess that he failed in his plan to encourage more baptisms. But now he will again get to travel around (this time the world and not the U.S.) with expenses paid by missions money. What makes this even more tragic is that the new position is not even really needed. The best representative for Baptist missions, fellowship, and cooperation is the BWA. Sadly, the withdrawal from the BWA was simply about the fact that the SBC wanted control (which could have never happened because the BWA is a global body). Since the SBC could not have complete control they decided to take their marbles and play alone.

As a result, the SBC has chosen Welch to help them build a new network of global relationships. While I applaud his focus on evangelism, I do not think he will be a good representative to the world community. His book (You The Warrior Leader: Applying Military Strategy For Victorious Spiritual Warfare) will likely not go over well with many people around the world. It is a violent and pro-America account that downplays the lives of those from other countries. Hopefully this book has not been translated and sent around the globe. With such an ethnocentric book I do not think Welch is the best ambassador to the world. Also, I wonder how his hard-line approach to alcohol will go over with some of our European Baptist brothers and sisters (see his over-the-top column in SBC Life last year).

All of this becomes particularly interesting because the BWA has nominated Jamaican pastor, theologian, author, media manager, and educator Neville Callam to be its new leader. This is a choice that shows they are planning for the future since the face of Christianity is literally shifting away from being Caucasians. This choice seems much wiser and future-focused than that of Welch. The Baptist General Convention of Missouri became a member of the BWA last year, and so I am glad that my representative in the global community will be Callam and not Welch. I hope that more U.S. Christians will begin to think about the future of Christianity and what we can do to improve global relations. We cannot be isolationists and we must be careful to always put our faith ahead of national pride. So which of these do you think should be the face of global Christian leadership?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Blogger Cartoon

This Frank & Ernest cartoon was emailed to me the other day. I joked with the individual that they must be trying to send me a gentle hint (which they denied). However, I do think it raises a legitimate issue for many bloggers. The goal of this site is to improve Christian communication so that we may become more effective in sharing the love of Jesus. This does mean I criticize people, but I also highlight some positive items. However, there are many bloggers who seem to only exist to criticize (and not in a necessarily constructive way). I hope this cartoon reminds us all to be careful not to fall into that mode. I address how we can find this delicate balance of offering needed criticisms without being overly critical in my new my book, For God's Sake, Shut Up!: Lessons for Christians on How to Speak Effectively and When to Remain Silent.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Friday Photo

There have been a lot of fireworks disrupting Baptist life these days, often involving attempts to kick people out or to control ministries. That got me thinking about the one time I saw actual fireworks go off at a Baptist convention meeting. These literal fireworks brought excitement and smiles to those present (quite different from the reaction to the metaphorical fireworks going on today).

Following the evening session of the annual meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Missouri a couple of years ago, fireworks went off in the distance. The meeting was being held at Windermere Baptist Conference Center and the fireworks were a test run for the 4th of July show to come a few months later. Unlike some of the stuff going on in other areas of Baptist life today, the BGCM and Windermere are actually focused on ministry and so are bringing excitement and smiles to others.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Satan Hates Life

LifeChurch.tv, an interactive church, has started a new campaign called SatanHatesLife.com. Along with the website, there are billboards that are a play on the "God billboards" from a few years back. While those were black with a statement supposedly from God in white letters, these have a red background and have a message claimed to be from Satan. Check out the site because there are four more designs. I have not seen one of the billboards, but learned about this clever campaign from ChurchMarketingSucks.com (which argues that this marketing is actually good). Hopefully this campaign will catch some people's attention and get them interested to check out the church and its message.

Deep in the Heart of Texas

Texas Governor Rick Perry has been attacked a lot the last couple of months for trying to save the lives of young women who might die from a completely preventable form of cancer. Now the Texas House has voted to rescind his HPV vaccine order, and it did so with more than the amount needed to override a veto. It will still have to pass the Texas Senate, but it seems that some conservative Christians have succeeded in killing not only the vaccine order but also some young women. For more thoughts on this issue, check out my column at Ethics Daily from last month. How ironic that "compassionate conservatism" does not seem to exist in the state of the President who ran on that theme.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Hanging Up

The Dove Foundation, an organization attempting to clean up Hollywood with family values, apparently has upset a lot of people because of its phone calls. The group recently settled with the state of Missouri after being sued for violating the no call list. Their calls have led to hundreds of complaints. Here are a few of the comments from those called:

"they call repeatedly and will not stop calling despite repeated requests"

"Received a callfor 'Janet' my wife who passed away 10/18/04. I was hurt as it dredged up memories of happier days"

"No information given but called at 7:48 a.m.; thanks for waking me up jerk!"

"I hope I was rude enough to stop her from calling back."

"Daily calling, does not leave message, just hangs up."

"Maybe its time for a class action lawsuit?"

"I hate them"
There are lots of others, and some of them use quite choice words. How ironic that an organization that is supposed to be cleaning up Hollywood is dirtying up the phone lines. This Christian-supported group is driving people away from their message because of their tactics. People really need to think before speaking or acting--especially if you are a Christian. We must work hard not to drive people away from our message because of our unthoughtfulness.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Hello Pot, I'm Kettle!

There is an old saying about "the pot calling the kettle 'black,'" which is used to critique ironic and even hypocritical criticisms. Focus on the Family seems to need to be reminded of this. They recently attacked the National Association of Evangelicals for not getting rid of its vice-president who has spoken out saying that global warming is a real problem (see my previous posts on the issue here and here). Tom Minnery, senior vice president of government and public policy at Focus on the Family Action, stated (apparently with a straight face):

I guess I was disappointed more with the fact that NAE seems to me moving more away from the gospel of Jesus Christ and more toward the gospel of political activism.
That is quite an ironic statement considering how incredibily political Dr. James Dobson has become in recent years. In a column last October for Ethics Daily, I pointed out the growing political activism of Dobson. In it, I also quoted from the book Blinded by Might by conservative Christians Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson (no apparent relation to James). They argue that Dobson should "Focus on the Family, Not on Politics," which is a clever way of putting a great point. They argue that such partisan involvement was distracting from the great ministry of Dobson and FotF. Yet, now FotF leaders attack the NAE for focusing too much on politics, even though the NAE is focusing on issues while Dobson is marrying himself to a specific party.

The point here is that all Christian organizations need to focus on faith and ministry, not politics. At the same time, that does not mean Christians should not take a stand on important issues. And by this I mean on issues in addition to abortion and homosexuality. What we must avoid is aligning ourselves so closely to one political party that we lose our prophetic voice. I address the issues of politics and faith in my new my book, For God's Sake, Shut Up!: Lessons for Christians on How to Speak Effectively and When to Remain Silent. In it I critique Dobson but also explain my respect for much of his ministry work. I truly hope that Christians will regain their focus!

Monday, March 12, 2007

NAE Stays Cool

A few day ago, I critiqued a letter sent out by several prominent Christians attacking Richard Cizik, vice president of government relations for the National Association of Evangelicals. The letter had several problems with it. As it turns out, the letter had very little impact as the NAE did not even address it at their recent board meeting. Instead, they reaffirmed an earlier position paper entitled "For the Health of the Nations," which endorsed environmental creation care as an important responsibility for evangelicals.

This action by the NAE board proved a couple additional problems with the attacks against Cizik. The letter (which was signed by James Dobson, Don Wildmon, Tony Perkins, Rick Scarborough, Gary Bauer, Harry Jackson, Dick Bott, and others) claimed that Cizik "regularly speaks without authorization for the entire organization and puts forward his own political opinions." I pointed out in the previous critique of this letter that the signers are not even members of the NAE. Now it should be obvious they were wrong about the claim that Cizik did not represent the NAE on this issue.

Another important and related issue is that at the recent meeting the NAE board endorsed a statement on torture and terrorism. What makes this action interesting is that the Institute on Religion and Democracy also issued a call urging the NAE board to respond to Cizik's support of climate care. They even erroneously claimed that "of the most pressing issue that will be discussed at this meeting will be NAE's Vice President's Richard Cizik and his 'Creation Care' statements." Oops! They sure got that one wrong. However, the IRD statement also attacked Cizik for signing a petition condemning torture and for working with other evangelicals to end genocide in Darfur. What an awful man he must be to be against torture and genocide! Actually, how can the IRD claim to be a Christian organization and not be against torture and genocide? Thankfully, the NAE board took a stand against torture.

The NAE board seemed to ignore the attacks and allow cooler heads to prevail. Such actions should give hope to all evangelicals that we may be able to move beyond the narrow and polarizing agenda of a few judgmental Christians who desire to make everyone think like they do.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Friday Photo

Here is a shot from the balcony down on people below, which makes for somewhat of an interesting angle. It is kind of the bird's-eye view of the service (or perhaps even a heavenly angle). The photo is centered on two ministers from Guatemala who were sitting next to Gary Snowden (center pew on right), the Missions Mobilization Team Leader for the Baptist General Convention of Missouri. Gary has written a lot about the exciting partnership between the BGCM and Guatemalan Baptists (click here for his BGCM page that has links for his most recent columns).

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Not-So-Good Doc

On last night's broadcast of "The Colbert Report," comedian Stephen Colbert brilliantly and hilariously critiqued a Christian doctor who refuses to help patients who have tattoos or body piercings. He even refused to help a toddler because of the mother's appearance. How sad that a Christian doctor would act so differently than Jesus. Thankfully we have some like Colbert to point this out so well. By the way, last month I had a column at Ethics Daily about Colbert and his needed prophetic role. Watch the video because it is well worth it.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Getting Heated About Global Warming

Some Christian leaders have released a letter attacking Richard Cizik, vice president of government relations for the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). Signers include James Dobson, Don Wildmon, Tony Perkins, Rick Scarborough, Gary Bauer, Harry Jackson, and Dick Bott. The letter suggests that the NAE encourage Cizik to resign. What is his horrible offense? Believing that global warming is a problem. Regardless of what one thinks about the issue, there are some serious problems with the letter.

First, the letter acknowledges that the signers are not even members of the NAE. Yet, it claims that they "consider [the NAE] to be an important Christian institution in today's culture." If they really care about the organization, why not join it? Why attack from the outside instead of joining and working from within? They go on to claim that Cizik's beliefs are "a threat to the unity and integrity of the" NAE and "is dividing and demoralizing the NAE and its leaders." Actually, the "division" is coming from the outside.

Second, the harsh attack on the NAE VP is quite ironic (perhaps sad would be a better word) considering the quite tepid response that some of these same individuals gave after then-president of the NAE Ted Haggard was found to have bought drugs, paid a man for sex, and lied about it all. Yet, this letter contends that Cizik's work will "shift the emphasis away from the great moral issues of our time, notably the sanctity of human life, the integrity of marriage and the teaching of sexual abstinence and morality to our children." It would seem that Haggard was the one who actually undermined these "great moral issues" (though I am confused why poverty is not listed since Jesus spoke more about that than any of the others combined).

Third, the letter unethically twists Cizik's words to suggest that he is for "promoting abortion" and "infanticide in China and elsewhere." Such an attack is un-Christlike and seems to violate the commandment to not bear false witness against one's neighbor. What Cizik actually said was: "But population is a much more dangerous issue to touch. We need to confront population control and we can -- we're not Roman Catholics, after all, but it's too hot to handle now." What he clearly is referring to (and the Roman Catholic reference provides the obvious context) is birth control, not abortion or killing infants (because Catholics are not for those actions). The signers of this letter are smart enough to know better. Their unethical and un-Christlike attack here should be much more troubling to all Christians than any of Cizik's remarks about global warming.

Finally, the letter argues that global warming has not been proven because the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance says it has not been. It adds about the ISA's statement: "The list of those who signed the report is long and distinguished." The important fact they do not point out in this letter is that several of the signers and one of the writers of the ISA statement work for organizations that have received a lot of money from ExxonMobil, which is a connection I exposed in an Ethics Daily article last year. Perhaps such money influenced their opinion. If nothing else, we should look to someone else who does not have the appearance of a conflict.

So, what is the reason for this letter? Perhaps the answer is found in the letter itself. It states that "Cizik's disturbing views seem to be contributing to growing confusion about the very term, 'evangelical.'" It goes on to complain about problems with the term. Thus, it seems they are upset that people are starting to realize the incredible depth and breadth of the evangelical community. The signers may be upset that they are no longer the ones with sole power to represent evangelicals and define it however they want. Their reign as self-appointed spokespeople for evangelical Christians is being challenged and they do not like it. They must see Cizik as a significant challenge, because why else would they have taken so much time away from their "godly" work campaigning for Republicans?

Monday, March 05, 2007

Coulter Criticized

Controversial columnist Ann Coulter has been rightly criticized for her most recent inflammatory and hateful comments. This time even some conservatives have been wise enough to critique her. What does not make sense is why conservatives would even invite her to any events. Conservative Christians, in particular, should stand up against her hateful and un-Christlike rhetoric. Robert Parham of Ethics Daily has a good column today that makes this argument. Here are a few highlights:

Popular among Christian conservatives, Coulter was a featured speaker a James Dobson's Washington summit intended to mobilize conservative evangelical voters to defeat Democrats in the fall elections. The event was pitched as "a pro-family conference" for "politically active Christians."

... At the same time, church-attending Christians should question why Christian Right leaders showed their acceptance of her hate speech expressed through their silence.

How is it that politicians can recognize wrongful speech, while those who claim a commitment to the Bible can't?

The Christian Right appears once again to be more faithful to a political ideology than faithful to the biblical witness.
Amen! It is well past time for Christians to quit making Coulter a keynote speaker. By the way, I criticized Coulter (and James Dobson for having her on his show) in a column for Ethics Daily back in October. I also briefly critique her in my book, For God's Sake, Shut Up!: Lessons for Christians on How to Speak Effectively and When to Remain Silent, in the chapter on how Christians must avoid the temptation of putting politics ahead of religious priorities.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Friday Photo

Denton Lotz will be retiring this year as the General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance. Tomorrow, there is a celebration of his service. He has led the BWA through some difficult times, but has done a great job. This photo is from when he spoke at the annual meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Missouri in 2005. I like this shot because it symbolizes his message from that meeting--that Christians in America need to lose our blinders and broaden our perspective to view the global community of Christians. By the way, I took the photo when I saw him through a crack in the stage curtain.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

What About Ethics?

The Associated Baptist Press has an article about how a Romanian Baptist with strong ties to the Southern Baptist Convention has been accused of plagiarism. And it is not a sentence or two but eight whole chapters from his book that were word for word from another book! I have never heard of such a dramatic case of plagiarism. The accused, Paul Negrut, wrote the book for (I'm not making this up) a seminary course on Christian ethics!

What makes this case even more interesting is that Negrut was a frequent critic of the Baptist World Alliance back when the SBC withdrew from the organization (I am proud of the fact that the Baptist General Convention of Missouri has since joined the BWA, as have other Baptist groups). Additionally, SBC leader Paige Patterson (who is on the board of Negrut's schools) defended Negrut and claimed there was "no evidence whatsoever of plagiarism" (he apparently has an odd definition of plagiarism--maybe Negrut would have had to taken all 13 chapters in his book from someone else). Both Negrut and Patterson inaccurately accused the BWA of liberalism and poor theology. Considering these ethical problems, perhaps the two men should deal with the planks in their own eyes and quite worrying about supposed specks in the eyes of BWA leaders.

Considering Negrut's ethical problem, his past comments about the BWA are now quite ironic:

I look at what is happening and there is sadness in my heart that we have arrived at this point.

I would have expected the Baptist World Alliance to make a different turn in its history. For a number of years, various Baptist bodies in Europe have embarked on a more liberal theology and the Baptist witness in Europe has suffered a lot.

In Romania, we are straightforward.

We are not in this postmodern talking where words mean what I want them to mean. Words mean what they always meant.

[While in Missouri with the Missouri Baptist Convention] Being here for a whole week, the words were clearly embodied in deeds, in facts. I've been blessed to see it's a very conservative Baptist convention. Doctrinally, theologically, what the Missouri Baptists believe and preach is what the Romanian Baptists believe and preach.
Oops! Hopefully now Baptists will not give any credibility to Negrut's false attacks on the great work of the BWA.