You are browsing the archive for Religion.

by Peterr

I’m Really, Really Tired of Certain Preachers

2:05 pm in Guns, Religion by Peterr

MiKe Huckabee - Caricature

MiKe Huckabee - Caricature

After my post earlier today, I discovered that one more thing needed to be said. Instead of updating the earlier post, or putting it into the comments there, it deserves a new post all its own. Those uninterested in theology can skip this post and go on to something else.

That one more thing? Theologically speaking, Mike Huckabee is off his rocker.

On Fox News yesterday, he offered this gem of pastoral wisdom and insight (h/t TPM for the video):

We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage? Because we’ve made it a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability — that we’re not just going to have be accountable to the police if they catch us, but one day we stand before, you know, a holy God in judgment. If we don’t believe that, then we don’t fear that.

Let me see if I’m following this right . . . If only we’d had more prayer in school, this wouldn’t have happened? If only teachers would preach fire and brimstone, this wouldn’t have happened? If schools make God scary enough, then people would be too frightened to kill one another?

<head meets pulpit>

If this is what certain preachers are saying, God help the church.

Folks, right here you see the Big Difference between the fundamentalist politically conservative churches like Huckabee’s and the more mainstream churches like mine. Huckabee preaches of a threatening God who inspires by fear and threats — behave, or else! I and my more moderate to liberal colleagues, on the other hand, preach of a God who looks to inspire humanity by offering forgiveness and love.

Perhaps the Reverend Governor’s Bible is missing Luke 22 and the story of Jesus’ arrest:

While [Jesus] was still speaking [to his disciples], suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?’ When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, ‘Lord, should we strike with the sword?’ Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple police, and the elders who had come for him, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs as if I were a bandit? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness!’

What? No smiting of Judas? No calling down thunder and lightning on the temple police and the priests? Where’s the accountability? Where’s the concern for responsibility? What kind of wimpy, squishy, feel-good Jesus is this, that says “put away your damn weapons” to his followers and his foes alike?

I’ll tell you what kind: my kind. He’s certainly not Mike Huckabee’s.

And it pisses me off when people confuse his God with mine.
Read the rest of this entry →

by Peterr

Doug Kmiec, the Leona Helmsley of Ambassadors, Resigns

4:24 pm in Foreign Policy, Religion by Peterr

Last week, the US Department of State released an Inspector General’s report on the US Embassy in Malta [pdf], headed up by Ambassador Douglas Kmiec. Kmiec is an outspoken Republican (head of the Office of Legal Counsel under Reagan) and a conservative Roman Catholic, who bucked both the GOP and many in his church to support Obama in his presidential race against John McCain.

At CNN, religion editor Dan Gilgoff led his story about the IG report like this:

The U.S. ambassador to Malta has upset the State Department by devoting so much time to writing and speaking about faith-related issues, according to a report from the department’s inspector general released last week.

Today, Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter broke the news that Kmiec has submitted his resignation, to be effective on August 15th — the Roman Catholic Feast of the Assumption and also a date that will allow Kmiec to remain in Malta until the construction of a new embassy is complete and the move to new quarters is finished.

NCR has both Kmiec’s letter to Obama last Wednesday [pdf], responding to the IG report and also offering his resignation, and his letter to Secretary of State Clinton [pdf] dated today, offering a fuller defense of himself. In both letters, Kmiec describes the problem as revolving around his writings and the amount of time spent on them. In the letter to Obama, he leads by saying the IG report

expressed dissatisfaction with the extent of the time during my service that I’ve devoted to promoting what I know you believe in most strongly — namely, personal faith and a greater mutual understanding of the faiths of others as the way toward greater mutual respect.

To Clinton, he pointed to the same issue, complaining that “The OIG failed to read any of my writing or see its highly positive effect on our bilateral relations,” as if that were the entire issue under discussion.

That may be how Kmiec wants to spin the debate, but that’s not what a reading of the actual OIG report [pdf] reflects. Here’s what the IG said right up front about the three areas to be inspected (p. ii):

- Policy Implementation: whether policy goals and objectives are being effectively achieved; whether U.S. interests are being accurately and effectively represented; and whether all elements of an office or mission are being adequately coordinated.
- Resource Management: whether resources are being used and managed with maximum efficiency, effectiveness, and economy and whether financial transactions and accounts are properly conducted, maintained, and reported.
- Management Controls: whether the administration of activities and operations meets the requirements of applicable laws and regulations; whether internal management controls have been instituted to ensure quality of performance and reduce the likelihood of mismanagement; whether instance of fraud, waste, or abuse exist; and whether adequate steps for detection, correction, and prevention have been taken.

Read the rest of this entry →

by Peterr

Suggestions for Dealing with Reluctant Preachers in the Prop 8 Trial

9:18 pm in Uncategorized by Peterr

I’ve been watching the back and forth in the liveblog threads about the reluctance of various folks to testify (scroll to the end), and the court filings of two pastors were brought to my attention.

I found them amusing. Also a bit disingenuous.

I’m a pastor, not a lawyer, but I don’t see anything in those filings that would justify any motion based on first amendment "freedom of religion" claims, and several points that contradict it.

Pastor McPherson says he is "concerned about the precedent that this subpoena sets for all those who wish to speak out about their beliefs." Sorry, but that’s an assertion, not an argument. So he’s concerned? Big deal. He gives no legal basis for that concern, simply acknowledges its existence. He asserts that compelling public testimony about religious beliefs would stifle future public testimony about religious beliefs? Please. You’ve got to back that up with a lot more, if you want to court to agree to a broad claim like that.

Pastor Garlow is more subtle, but puts himself in a box, saying in essence "I preach publicly, and because of that, I got threats. Therefore, I shouldn’t be compelled to give additional public testimony about my beliefs, because I’ll get more threats." That’s not a First Amendment argument, and has nothing to do with religion at all. Guido the Bookkeeper could claim that forcing him to testify about Mugsy the Murderer would bring threats to him, and the judge would still say "you have to testify."

If Boies et al. can get Garlow and/or McPherson on the stand to testify more about these claims, it could get quite interesting. I can imagine David Boies asking a series of questions that might be very interesting indeed . . .

* * *

Q: First, I’d like a little background about your ministry in general. How long have you been a pastor?
A: (gives # years)

Q: Have you preached a lot of sermons in all that time?
A: Yes.

Q: Taught a lot of classes?
A: Yes.

Q: Welcomed a lot of visitors to your church?
A: Yes.

Q: Rejoiced at those who gave their lives to Christ as new believers?
A: Yes.

Q: Sounds like good ministry you’ve been doing. (pause) Let’s turn more specifically to the controversy at hand around same sex marriage. Your filing with the court says you have received threats. When did you get your first threat? If you don’t remember the exact date, that’s fine — I’m just trying to get a rough idea.
A: (gives date)

Q: Did you quit preaching and teaching and testifying at your church about your beliefs about marriage after you received that threat?
A: No.

Q: OK. (pause) Then you got a second threat — did you quit preaching and teaching and testifying about marriage at your church after that one?
A: No.

Q: Is it true that you continued to preach and teach and testify about marriage at your church up to the November election?
A: Yes.

Q: Despite all the threats?
A: Yes.

Q: Have you continued to preach and teach and testify at your church about marriage since the election?
A: Yes.

Q: Are your church services open to members only, or are they open to the public?
A: Open to the public.

Q: So it’s only when you are asked to testify here in court that this becomes a problem?
A: Yes.

[Boies hands the witness a Bible, with a tab marking Romans 13:1-5.]
Q: Would you please turn to the tab and read the marked verses from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans?

[DI jumps to his feet]
DI: OBJECTION! This is not relevant.
Boies: It goes to the understanding that the witness has of courts and the government and giving testimony.
Walker: Overruled. The witness may read.

A: "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience." [New International Version]

Q: (pauses to let the verse sink in) In your understanding of St. Paul, is Judge Walker one of the governing authorities of whom this letter speaks?
A: Uh, . . . yes.

Q: Turn to the second tab, please, at 1 Peter 3:14b-17. Could you please read the marked section?
A: "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil." [New International Version]

Q: (pauses again) Do you believe these two passages of scripture to be true?
A: Yes.

Q: Then, if the court holds no terror for those who do right, and if you are to always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you about your beliefs, why are you fighting the court’s request to offer your testimony?
A: It will be dangerous.

Q: I see. (pause) Was it dangerous for the prophet Nathan to publicly call King David to account for his adulterous affair with Bathsheba and his murder of Bathsheba’s husband to cover it up? [see 2 Samuel chapters 11 and 12]
A: Yes.

Q: (pause) But Nathan did it anyway, right?
A: Yes.

Q: (pause)Yes or no: Isn’t it true that you don’t want the court to hear about your preaching and teaching and testimony about marriage, and your efforts to protect it, because the court and all the world will hear EXACTLY what you believe?
A: No.

Q: Yes or no: Isn’t it true that you don’t want the court to hear about your preaching and teaching and testimony about marriage, and your efforts to protect it, because people might discover that your words about having "nothing but love for homosexuals and lesbians" ring hollow when laid next to other words you used and actions you took in your support for Proposition 8?
A: No.

Q: And yet you persist in asking this court to let you avoid testifying here today. No further questions.

* * *

Maybe that’s too preachy, but there’s nothing that will make a preacher squirm more than being skewered with scripture and held up to public shame.

The DIs could probably weaken some of this on cross, but re-direct could build it back up. If I were Boies, I’d take my time asking these questions, with plenty of thoughtful pauses and deliberate phrasing, because the longer these preachers sit on the stand and try to justify NOT giving public voice to their beliefs, the more nervous they will get.

And nervous preachers make mistakes.