July 31, 2006

Mel Gibson Reveals His Anti-Semitism Once Again

The Passion of the ChristThe primary criticism received by Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ was that it was anti-Semitic. I cannot say whether I agree with this criticism or not since I did not see the film. I've never been a particular fan of the torture porn genre, and I usually try to skip them. Nevertheless, the film and Gibson himself were embraced by many evangelical fundamentalist Christians. Now it appears that Gibson may have revealed his true feelings about Jews even more clearly than he did in his film.

During a recent DUI arrest, Gibson apparently became belligerent and made anti-Semitic statements to the police arresting him. It doesn't sound like most Jewish leaders are buying his post-incident apology either. I can't help wondering if this incident will make Gibson more or less popular among his many Christian fans. If I had to guess, I'd say it probably won't make much of a difference to most of them.

July 30, 2006

Could the Religious Right Evolve?

Back in June, the San Francisco Chronicle ran an interesting story about possible changes within the Christian right. The article focuses on the Southern Baptist Convention's election of Rev. Frank Page as their new president. According to the article, Page's election may be evidence of a shift in the organization away from "the angry, right-wing, politicized preacher who has been a stock figure in American life for more than two decades."

Might this mean that the American public is growing tired of what the Christian right has become (i.e., an ultra-conservative force of intolerance and hatred)? The article states that the political agenda of the Christian right is expanding to include attention to poverty, AIDS, the environment, and other important social issues on which many of us would agree deserve increased attention. For more evidence of movement away from right-wing values, see this article in the New York Times.

I hope such trends do actually emerge among fundamentalist Christian groups. However, I'm sure you'll understand it if I remain somewhat skeptical about this for now. According to Robert Parham, executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics, "One election neither makes a positive trend, nor unmakes the essence of fundamentalism." Although he's right, meaningful change must start somewhere. Let's hope that we are seeing the beginning of a real change.

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July 29, 2006

Christian Intolerance of Other Christians

A relatively new co-worker who moved here from outside the bible belt recently told me that he's Catholic. The context of this disclosure was a conversation about adjusting to life in the South and how I didn't think I'd ever do so. He said that he was warned before moving that the Baptist-dominated South is not particularly fond of Catholics. During the year that he's been here, he's found this to be fairly accurate.

He did not share tales of persecution or anything so dramatic. His tale described a culture of intolerance built on an extremely simplistic sort of Christianity. After initially being as shocked as I initially was that "What church do you go to?" passes as a greeting among strangers here, he described the surprised and disappointed look he sees when he identifies himself as Catholic. He was very aware of an all-or-none sort of thought process among the Southern Baptists - either you are one of us, or you are the enemy.

He recognizes that he is fortunate not to have children. Other Catholic and Jewish co-workers with children have provided me with many tales of cruelty inflicted on their kids by the local Christian children (e.g., forced prayer circles, threats of hell, attempted exorcisms, etc.). When one is taught religiously-based hatred and intolerance from birth, the consequences should not be surprising.

As often as I've experienced this sort of thing, I couldn't help being at least a little surprised that they would treat a fellow Christian this way. After all, he certainly considers himself to be Christian. This religious intolerance is woven into the cultural fabric around here. Identifying oneself as the right kind of Christian offers instant social acceptance; failing to do so brings everything from social rejection to outright condemnation.

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July 28, 2006

Top 10 Religious Right Groups

Here are some interesting data posted at AlterNet on the top 10 religious right groups. When you examine this list, especially the budgets of these organizations, it is hard not to conclude that they have considerable support among Christians. What used to be fringe groups have become much more popular among believers and increasingly influential in politics.

If moderate Christians will not denounce these groups, many atheists will conclude that their silence reflects at least some degree of agreement. Do the leaders of these groups speak for you? If not, you cannot afford to remain silent. The unwillingness of moderate believers to oppose these organizations is part of the rationale for Sam Harris' attack on moderate believers as well as extremists. There were parts of Harris' book with which I disagreed, but this was not one of them.

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July 25, 2006

Opening a Dialogue Between Atheists and Christians

I was recently contacted by Steve from HarvestBoston, a Christian blog. Far from condemning me to hell, he expressed interest in a Christian-atheist dialogue. Steve asked if I would be willing to write something that he could share with his readers in which I explained my belief that many Christians were Christian in name only, failing to act in a manner consistent with the teachings attributed to Jesus. He thought it would be beneficial to his Christian readers. I agreed, and you can read his post here. I encourage you to visit and share your perspective with his readers as well as contributing to the comments here.

This experience confirms a few things I have long suspected. First, atheists and "real" Christians (i.e., those who attempt to follow the core themes contained in the words attributed to Jesus) have quite a bit in common. Of course, we disagree on the god question, but our similarities should not be overlooked. You see, Steve agrees that too many Christians fail to follow the teachings attributed to Jesus. He too perceives this as a problem.

Second, productive dialogue between atheists and Christians is possible. We cannot rightly expect every Christian to condemn us, and Christians should be able to expect some measure of civility from us. I am not saying that we should water down our critique of religion; I am saying that considering all Christians as "the enemy" is counterproductive.

Third, I am gradually coming to believe that, at least for me, religion and politics are inseparable. By this, I mean that any critique of religion that is broader than the usual philosophical arguments against it invariably turns to politics. The claim that religious belief is destructive in the modern world brings us to foreign policy. The suggestion that many Christians have abandoned a central theme of their bible, namely how the poor are to be treated, brings us to domestic programs. The issues about which we atheists are deeply concerned are nearly always political (e.g., abortion, church-state separation, stem cell policies, etc.).

Atheists and Christians can (and should) work together toward many important political goals. Our motivation for improving our world may differ, but our goals are often similar.

Postscript: Don't worry, I'm not going crazy here like a certain other (raving) atheist.

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July 23, 2006

An Open Letter to Christians

Jesus is So Cool
Jesus is So Cool (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Dear Christian,

As an atheist (i.e., one who does not share your belief in gods), I will not pretend to have a comprehensive grasp of your beliefs and how they guide your actions. I find the concept of the Christian god to be logically incoherent, and I worry that your embrace of faith opens the door to the denigration of reason. I fear that a future of religion will be a future of continued intolerance and conflict. I could say more about the reasons for my lack of belief, but that is not the purpose of this letter.

I am writing to express my confusion over how many Christians seem to act contrary to the words attributed to Jesus in the Bible. Christian extremists such as Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, and Pat Robertson preach intolerance and hatred. And sadly, they are not alone. I cannot reconcile their message with what Jesus is reported to have said. But the problem goes way beyond these extremists. The policies of the Bush administration and many in Congress who were elected largely by pandering to conservative Christian voters cannot be reconciled with the core themes present in the words of Jesus (e.g., concern for the poor, contempt for those who amass material wealth while neglecting the less fortunate, social justice). Jesus had far more to say about how the poor should be treated than he did on subjects like abortion or same-sex marriage.

COG #45 at Beware of the Dogma

Carnival of the Godless #45 is up at Beware of the Dogma. Looks like another good one. It seems like recent COGs have been much larger than they used to be, and the quality also seems to be improving. Thanks to Beware of the Dogma not only for hosting this one but also for reminding some of us who needed reminding to contribute.

July 22, 2006

Stem Cells, Iraq, and the "Culture of Life"

I try to watch The Daily Show whenever I can, but I'm almost always a day or two behind when I get around to watching it. On a recent show in which they were talking about Bush's stem cell research, I thought a great point was made. Stewart put the stem cell veto in the context of Bush's "culture of life" nonsense. They showed a clip of Bush saying, "Every person counts, every being matters" and followed it with a 2005 clip of Bush telling reporters that around 30,000 Iraqis had been killed so far. You can see the clip, Stem Cell Veto, here.

The Republican "culture of life" is used to oppose stem cell research and abortion. It is rarely applied to capital punishment and never to war. They claim that they don't apply it to the death penalty because these people are not innocent in the way that fetuses are innocent. I suppose they'd make the same argument about Iraqi combatants. Of course, the civilians are unfortunate accidents. This seems like an awfully selective culture of life, doesn't it?

There are 3 possible positions that can be held: (1) all human life is worth preserving; (2) no human life is worth preserving; and (3) some human life is worth preserving and some is not. Obviously, #3 is the position that the administration takes. This allows them to oppose abortion as "murder" while promoting preemptive war. Comedians and liberal critics are fond of pointing out that the Republican Party ceases to care about someone the day they are born. The problem is that their rhetoric is designed to make it seem like they are taking #1. With their "holier than thou" attitude, the Christian Right claims #1 while accusing the rest of us of #3.

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July 21, 2006

Abortion and the Democratic Party Platform

I'll probably take a little heat for this one, but here goes: I think it may be a mistake for the Democratic Party to remain inflexibly pro-choice on abortion. Don't get me wrong - I support a woman's right to choose, and I'd like abortion to remain legal. But like most Americans, I'd also like abortion occur with less frequency than it currently occurs.

Although the Republican Party has an official anti-choice position on abortion, they tolerate dissent within their ranks on this issue. In other words, the party recognizes and even supports some prominent pro-choice Republicans. In contrast, the Democratic Party seems to be using abortion as a litmus test to determine who they will recognize and support. Thus, we don't see prominent anti-choice Democrats. This is unfortunate because it leaves many Americans in the position of voting against their economic self-interest in order to oppose abortion.

I am not suggesting that the Democratic Party remove abortion from its platform or officially change its position; I am simply suggesting that they be more flexible in allowing anti-choice Democrats a home in the party. This would give voters who preferred the rest of the Democratic platform some options and would seriously erode support for the Republicans.

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July 20, 2006

Defining Christianity

In a recent post, I raised questions about the meaning of Christianity and the apparent hypocrisy of many self-proclaimed Christians. Austin Cline, from About.com Agnosticism/Atheism, questioned some of the definitional issues I raised and made some good thought-provoking points. I started a response as a comment, but it started to get way to long to be appropriate there. In this post, I consider one of Austin's points in more detail.

Austin stated, "First, it's an error to think that there has to be some basic, essentialist definition of what it means to be a Christian. Essentialist definitions are popular, especially when it comes to religion, but they often do as much (or more) to mislead as they do to inform. It is thus an error, I believe, to say that being a 'Christian' should be defined by following Jesus' teachings about compassion to the poor."

For any concept to have meaning, we must be able to define it. Otherwise, the concept ceases to have any linguistic value as an aid to communication. The question at hand is how the concept "Christian" is to be defined. As Austin correctly points out here, it is not possible to define Christian by a single essential feature. This was never my claim. It would be absurd to argue that a complex concept (e.g., Christian, love, truth, etc.) could be defined by a single essential feature. There is an essence to "Christian," but it is a multifaceted essence which includes a set of features.

For starters, a Christian is a theist (i.e., one who believes in a supernatural god). Beyond this, a Christian believes that this god has certain properties. In addition, a Christian believes that Jesus was a real person who actually lived at a particular time in history, who died in a particular manner, who returned, who was divine, etc. In other words, to rightly be called "Christian" someone must accept the core doctrines of Christianity. While there may be disagreement among Christians on how many additional parts of the doctrine should be considered core (e.g., some will argue for biblical inerrancy, and others will not), all will agree that certain essential aspects must be included.

The core issue raised in my original post concerned the boundaries of the definition and whether it is reasonable to exclude the bulk of Jesus' message from inclusion. In other words, if X does not accept most of what Jesus allegedly said in the Christian bible, can X be considered a Christian? This is a question of belief. If X does not believe in the message of Jesus, can X still be a Christian? A more difficult question is that of action. If X does not attempt to live as Jesus supposedly taught, can X be considered a Christian? In other words, is belief sufficient or just necessary?

Returning to the statements in my original post, I asserted that the words attributed to Jesus in the bible offer a fairly consistent message about how the poor among us should be treated and about the value to which we place on material possessions. I further asserted that to be a Christian, it seems reasonable to expect that one must accept (i.e., believe) this message and attempt to live in a manner consistent with this message. I am not claiming that this is the essence of Christianity, only that it is a part of that essence.

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July 19, 2006

Action Alert: Tell Bush to Sign Stem Cell Bill

This important action alert comes from DefCon:

H.R. 810, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, just passed the Senate and is heading to President Bush. To appease the religious right, he has vowed to veto it. Follow this link to e-mail him and urge him to support the bill. If he hears from enough supporters of stem cell research, he may rethink his decision.

For more information on this topic, see Pharyngula.

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July 18, 2006

Few "Christians" Appear to Be Christians

English: Resurrection of Christ
Resurrection of Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What does it mean to be a Christian? Is telling people you are a Christian sufficient? Is believing in church dogma regarding Jesus sufficient? Can one be a Christian without attempting to follow what Jesus allegedly taught? Nobody is expecting perfection, but doesn't one at least need to try?

We atheists are fond of criticizing the Christian bible. We highlight the contradictions, the irrational superstitions, and the numerous examples of intolerance and cruelty. And yet, many of us agree with much of what Jesus supposedly taught. One of the most often repeated messages throughout the bible was that a society can be judged based on how it treats its poor. I agree with this. The bible is filled with calls to look out for the least fortunate among us. I agree with this too.

When I listen to those in the U.S. who speak the loudest about their Christianity (i.e., the Christian right), I see little compassion for the poor. Unless I am severely mistaken about what it means to be Christian, this seems to be blatant hypocrisy. When George W. Bush, a self-proclaimed Christian, institutes tax cuts for the wealthy while cutting programs to aid the poor, I don't see the teachings attributed to Jesus. When he chooses preemptive war and the steep cost that comes with it over domestic programs to improve education, health care, etc., this seems to be a serious departure from what are supposed to be the central messages of Christianity.

In my local paper, an article recently appeared about Mississippi's "castle doctrine." This is a new law which states that I am permitted to use lethal force to defend my home, automobile, or business. If I shoot someone who I perceive to be threatening my home, car, or business, this law says that I "shall be presumed to have reasonable feared imminent death or great bodily harm" and that I have "no duty to retreat" before using lethal force. In other words, this law allows deadly force as a first resort, even in public places such as a city street or parking lot. Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Kansas, and Oklahoma have similar laws.

The people who are the most vocal in their support for this law overwhelmingly identify themselves as Christian. And yet, if their bible was clear about anything, it was that we should not be overly attached to things. Wasn't Jesus supposed to have said something about turning the other cheek?

I see at least two possibilities here and suspect that there are many more. First, among those who call themselves Christians, most are hypocrites. If this is the case, I wonder why we so rarely hear from those in the minority when it comes to defining what it means to be a Christian and exposing the hypocrites in their midst. Shouldn't we expect to hear at least as much from these Christians as we do from atheists? Don't they have even more of an interest in defending Christianity than we do? The second possibility is that being a Christian has little to do with following the alleged teachings of Jesus. Perhaps it is little more than a label one uses to identify oneself as a member of the tribe and reap the benefits that come with membership (i.e., Christian privilege). In this case, it seems to be a hollow claim with little to do with morality.

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July 16, 2006

Introducing Kent Hovind: One Nutty Creationist

After receiving a tip from an Atheist Revolution reader, Bob3732, I decided to post some of the information he sent me about Kent Hovind. I thank him for this tip.

Who is Kent Hovind, and why should you care? Mr. Hovind is an evangelist from Pensacola, FL, who is an outspoken creationist and owner of Dinosaur Adventure Land, "where dinosaurs and the Bible meet." He and his wife were recently arrested on multiple federal charges (e.g., failure to pay $473,818 in employee-related taxes, threatening investigators, etc.). Mr. Hovind claims that he does not understand the charges against him. You see, he believes he is working for god and therefore owes nothing to the U.S. government.

Now it appears that Mr. Hovind is hoping to move his operation to Mississippi. As if we in Mississippi didn't already have enough to do in order to overcome our reputation as a bastion for racism, Christian extremism, and several other forms of redneck idiocy! To get an idea of what Hovind's group stands for, read this. Who knows, he just might be coming to your area next: Hovind's itinerary.

Bob3732 had a good idea for those of us in Mississippi. He suggested we write letters to the editors of our state newspapers informing the public what Hovind is really about. I realize that there are a great many people around here who would probably welcome Hovind with open arms if all they knew about was his creationism. However, I can't imagine there will be much support for his tax evasion and other crimes. I think many Mississippians will realize that the publicity this sort of thing could generate is not going to be a good way to attract businesses to the state.

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July 15, 2006

Atheist Revolution Feed Updated

I've been having some issues with atom/RSS feeds on this site, so I decided to shift everything to FeedBurner. If you are a feed subscriber, you may want to update the feed address to:


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UK Churches Push for School Worship

According to the BBC News, schools in England are under increasing pressure from Christian church leaders to push religion during school. It is becoming increasingly clear that a core element of Christianity involves pushing one's beliefs on others. Of course, things in England are a bit different in that they do not have a secular Constitution.

In this case, what it at stake is the right of the church to indoctrinate youth in during school. This is a legal right. "By law, schools must hold daily acts of worship - broadly Christian-based." The British Humanist Association is opposing efforts to enforce this law, but their opposition doesn't seem to target the law itself.

I suppose this might be a good time for those of us in America to reflect on the value of our Constitution. Sure, there are efforts under way to dismantle much of it, but having it makes these efforts more difficult than they would otherwise be.

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July 14, 2006

Bombing Abortion Clinics


It seems like we don't hear as much about bombing attacks on abortion clinics now as we did a few years ago. It is tempting to conclude that this is a thing of the past and people have come to their senses. Unfortunately, this article suggests that this is far from the truth.

Attacks on abortion doctors are probably the most common type of Christian terrorism within America. Most mainstream Christians are quick to dismiss those who carry out such attacks as fanatics who do not represent their religion. And yet, those who perpetrate such acts tend to be Christians motivated, at least in part, by their religious beliefs.

July 13, 2006

Slayer Slashes Religious Right

I've been a fan of Slayer since the mid-80s. Their last album, God Hates Us All, was great. It looks like the next one, Christ Illusion, is an all out assault on Christianity. I'm looking forward to it.

Here's the cover.

July 10, 2006

Good Deeds and Christianity

In every religious discussion I've had with a Christian, one point inevitably comes up. I've encountered a few variants, but the basic point is this: "By criticizing religion and focusing on all the atrocities committed in the name of Christianity, you are forgetting about all the good deeds for which Christianity is responsible. You are throwing the baby out with the bath water. Christianity has been responsible for some awful things, but we must not forget the many positive outcomes."

If we examine this common argument more closely by plugging in some specifics, the point becomes clearer. A favorite example of progressive Christians is Martin Luther King Jr. In God's Politics : Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It, Jim Wallis writes, "But the answer to bad theology is not secularism; it is good theology. It is not always wrong to invoke the name of God and the claims of religion in the public life of a nation, as some secularists say. Where would we be without the moral prophecy of Martin Luther King Jr., who held his Bible in one hand and his Constitution in the other as he preached, holding us to our best values? Can anyone deny the prophetic leadership of Archbishop Desmond Tutu in South Africa and Oscar Romero in El Salvador?"

Implicit in this argument is the suggestion that these leaders (King, Tutu, and Romero) did what they did because of their faith. Maybe their faith was a contributing factor, but does this mean that without their faith, they would not have bothered? This seems unfair to the characters of these leaders, giving religion perhaps too much credit while overlooking their qualities.

Many Christians desperately want to believe that religion/god is a necessary condition of good deeds. But a compassionate, ethical, motivated, and empowering individual is all these things with or without religion. A good person is a person who consistently performs benevolent acts. A bad person is one who consistently performs malevolent acts. Most of us are not entirely consistent and fall in the large gray area between these extremes. Even a cursory examination of history reveals that religion is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition of performing positive acts.

This is the point where they eyes of my Christian readers are lighting up. "Ah ha! I've got you now! You are trying to blame religion for the bad while saying that it has nothing to do with the good. You can't have it both ways." But I am not claiming that religion is a necessary or sufficient condition for performing negative acts either. Jerry Falwell would not be a better person without religion. Falwell, Robertson, and the like have repeatedly demonstrated that something is seriously wrong with them. They are going to be hateful, intolerant individuals with or without their religion. Larry Darby was a despicable figure when he was an atheist and remains so now that he has embraced Christianity.

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July 8, 2006

Letter to the Editor: You Don't Need Faith to be Atheist

This is a great letter to the editor from Florida's Sun-Sentinel. The author corrects a common Christian misunderstanding - that atheists also rely on faith to support their beliefs.

In addition to the points made by the author, I'd like to add that many atheists do not accept faith as a valid way of acquiring or verifying knowledge. Make no mistake - this tendency is not synonymous with atheism. Remember, atheism means nothing other than the lack of theistic belief. I could be an atheist and still have faith that my family was abducted by aliens or some equally absurd notion. However, this does not detract from my original point that many atheists do not accept faith as a valid way of knowing.

I am such an atheist who also rejects the proposition that faith is a valid way of knowing. I believe that knowledge is derived through the senses and evaluated through reason. My lack of belief in god is no different from my lack of belief in bigfoot, alien abductions, Tom Cruise's heterosexuality, etc. I see no evidence to support these beliefs.

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July 7, 2006

Sign AU's First Freedom First Petition

From Americans United for the Separation of Church and State:

I just signed the First Freedom First petition -- about the importance of safeguarding separation of church and state and protecting religious liberty. The founders of our nation believed that all Americans should have the right to worship according to their own beliefs, or not to worship at all. It was so important to them that they placed it in the first sentence of the Bill of Rights.

I believe that religion is a deeply personal matter and that Americans must be free to practice their religion without coercion. Simply put, there must be a separation of church and state.

I know that we agree about the importance of these issues, so I hope that you will ACT NOW, like I just did. Be a part of First Freedom First.

Sign the petition and encourage others to join you. Together, we will send a powerful and resounding message – safeguard the first freedom! Please visit the website below and join me in standing up for this fundamental American freedom.


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July 6, 2006

Church Spends $2.5 million on Christian Statue of Liberty

A church in Memphis, TN, erected a 72-foot-tall "Statue of Liberation" holding a cross. According to this report, the total cost of the statue was $2.5 million. "Instead of the inscription about giving the lady the tired and poor, there are Roman numerals for the Ten Commandments." (See this picture of the statue)

Christians are supposed to ask themselves, "What would Jesus do?" Would Jesus spend $2.5 million on a monument of Christian idiocy, or might he use it to help the poor?

The rationale provided by the church is simple: "Apostle Alton Williams -- the pastor of World Overcomers Outreach Ministries Church -- says people can't drive by the church without thinking of their relationship with God."

Was this the best way to spend this money? Was this even mildly consistent with the teachings attributed to Jesus?

July 4, 2006

Celebrating the 4th of July: A New Patriotism

Of the holidays that result in a day off of work, I must admit that the 4th of July has always been my least favorite. Once I outgrew the need to buy fireworks (around age 15), much of my enjoyment of the holiday evaporated. It has seemed that no matter where I live, the 4th means rednecks chanting "USA! USA!" while waving flags, drinking tasteless beer, and rallying against foreigners. Celebrating the American experiment or marveling in what makes America unique seem like afterthoughts.

I detest the brand of patriotism which characterizes our imperialistic foreign policy. This is a hateful version of patriotism in that it celebrates the misery of others and clings to a mentality of blind narcissism. "We are better than everyone else. The rest of the world has nothing to teach us; they should grovel at our feet." This version of patriotism, much like religion, is a cancer on the human mind.

However, I have come to realize that a different sort of patriotism is possible, maybe even desirable. The real beauty of America is that it is a nation influenced by religion but founded on reason. The framers could have selected any system of government. Contrary to those clamoring for theocracy today, they deliberately kept gods out of the Constitution. Despite the religious beliefs possessed by some, they drafted a new government based on reason. The founders realized that the only way to protect religious freedom and to prevent religious discrimination was to keep religion out of politics. Jefferson's wall of separation between church and state was a reasoned solution to a difficult problem. It is a solution from which we have strayed, and it is time to return.

I celebrate America as the only nation with an explicitly secular Constitution. I believe that the U.S. has a critically important role in the world and much to offer other nations. I would like to see us become a true leader, one who leads by example rather than threat of punitive measures. At the same time, I recognize that we have much to learn from other countries and that continuing to shut them out is a terrible mistake. Many other nations excel in areas in which America struggles. To say that we have nothing to learn from them is the worst kind of arrogance.

On this July 4, 2006, I recognize that we are in dark times where the forces opposed to reason seem powerful. However, I remain optimistic that our democratic experiment is not yet over and that reason will triumph over superstition and fear. Happy birthday, America.

July 3, 2006

God's Own Party

The Seattle Times ran an article worth reading by Kevin Phillips, author of American Theocracy : The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century. Mr. Phillips makes the familiar claim that the Republican party has become the first religious party in America. "Today, a leading power such as the United States approaches theocracy when it meets the conditions currently on display: an elected leader who believes himself to speak for the Almighty, a ruling political party that represents religious true believers, the certainty of many Republican voters that government should be guided by religion and, on top of it all, a White House that adopts agendas seemingly animated by biblical worldviews."

I do believe that it is important to acknowledge that not all Christians support the march toward Christian theocracy. In fact, I suspect that most Christians are upset that the religious Right seems to have taken over both the GOP and American Christianity itself. They are starting to realize that the policies of the Bush administration bear little resemblance to the teachings they attribute to Jesus. Some, although nowhere near enough, are even starting to speak out. I hope it is not a case of being too little, too late.

July 1, 2006

Race, Prayer, and Police in Mississippi

A senior police officer of the Hamburg police ...
A senior police officer of the Hamburg police on assignment at Hamburg city hall, Germany. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In the small town in which I live here in Mississippi, we have a Black mayor who recently appointed a Black police chief. We are now in a situation where the mayor and city council are locked in conflict over the police chief. According to the council, the mayor is refusing to submit his appointment (the chief) for their approval because he fears they will not approve him. The council has been very critical of the chief's management style, which appears to be responsible for several officers quitting the police force. According to the mayor, he is not required to submit the chief for council approval at any particular time and has decided to wait until late in his term so they cannot remove him.

Tensions have been building for quite some time. The chief has alleged that the officers who have left (mostly White officers) did so because of race. A local Black pastor has gotten in on the act by alleging racism and attempting to organize citizens against the council. A well written article by one of the White officers who quit just appeared in the paper in which he explained that race was not the issue and that the chief's authoritarian management style was the deciding factor for him and many other officers.

On the front page of yesterday's paper, there was an article about how the pastors from several area churches (of which there is no shortage) are holding mass prayer sessions for members of their congregations to pray for the mayor and city council. Sigh. Evidently, this is supposed to help them reach an agreement over this mess. In a difficult situation, we do not need reason, negotiation, or compromise. We need prayer. We need Jesus.

You know what? This may actually work. Not because prayer does anything but because of the publicity prayer seems to receive around here. For some reason, pastors asking people to pray is instantly newsworthy and will get tons of coverage it might not otherwise receive. Media saturation may actually influence attitudes. So in this strange way, prayer might actually accomplish something.