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A post-Republican libertarian/conservative & post-fundamentalist emergent Christian.
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Thank you for writing this. And as to your main point, which has been consistent in your writing for years, I have to agree: why does OKC need yet another church plant? I will say this in defense of the COTN: a significant number of protestant and evangelical churches emerged out of schisms. The COTN didn't; it emerged from an effort to unify 8 different holiness groups. It's hard to keep making the tent bigger. And the COTN continually has to deal with internal rebellions led by laity who want to push the denomination toward fundamentalism. As I follow current events I continually see social groups of all sizes, including national political parties, make decisions to move left or right, to include specific groups or support specific causes. But it always comes at a cost, which is excluding others. And now, it's become sport to openly mock those whom we exclude. If we can't handle this at a macro cultural level that is controlled by the best and brightest and most educated and most creative, there is probably little hope of ever seeing perfection with religious denominations or other smaller tribes. The COTN isn't without its flaws and superstitions and deeply ingrained bad habits. But at least at the leadership level it tries to keep conversations going. Maybe not as quickly or in the direction that some would like, but at least there is an honest effort by many to make progress.
Toggle Commented May 21, 2017 on You Keep Using That Word at the parish
There is quite a bit of truth in the idea that universities (particularly upper tier schools, and probably not smaller private schools that maintain strong ties to religious organizations) provide a liberal education that is overwhelmingly skewed to the left, rather than providing students with the opportunity to equally explore diverse schools of thought. You can watch any number of the YouTube videos of economist Milton Friedman taking questions from primarily university-aged audiences, and it is obvious that the questioners are very unfamiliar with economic and political thought that emphasizes individual liberty and free enterprise. Primary exposure to political and economic theory generally occurs at the university level (unless you are part of the 1% of kids who actually have a meaningful civics class in HS) so it is the responsibility of the school to provide diverse opinions on these subjects. However, universities generally do not provide first exposure to religious thought. That happens primarily in Sunday Schools, but their religious training is largely based on rules and consequences geared toward kids at a 6 to 10 year old level. It's easy to teach rules for being good and the consequences of disobeying God. It's a lot more difficult to teach concepts like theodicy or explore differences between Calvinist and Wesleyan-Armenian understanding of determinism and God's sovereign will - especially if SS teachers have been brought up in the same educational system, where they only have a child's grasp of their faith. If your faith is weak or insufficient, it's better to have a college professor test it rather than a real-life calamity. I've known people who walked away from their faith after it crumbled under the strain of dealing with unexpected, adverse circumstances. Santorum is wrong here; if you give up your faith because you can't explain/defend it, it isn't the fault of your college professor. It's the fault of your church's religious education program and your own lack of will to explore deeper answers to traditional problems (God's sovereignty, determinism, the existence of evil, etc). Ultimately though, whether the specific beliefs of LDS will figure into the campaign is up to the press. I don't recall any pointed questions about the more radical aspects of Cone's Black Liberation Theology (the cornerstone of Jeremiah Wright's teachings) being directed at Obama 4 years ago, and likewise I doubt we'll see anything about Kolob, temple garments, polytheism, or proxy baptism directed at Romney.
Wow ... nearly 1000 words and you completely failed to address the actual motivation behind Santorum's remark -- Barack Obama's claim at the recent National Prayer Breakfast that Luke 12:48 compels him to increase the tax rates paid by "the rich." If Santorum is wrong about Obama, then is Obama's claim "true theology"? Exegesis of Luke 12 supporting Obama's claim would be interesting to read.
Perry's campaign was effectively over after his string of poor debate performances. It's pretty doubtful that cheesy ads like this will make primary voters forget about those.
Hello, I am currently on vacation but I will be back to work, ready to answer inquiries and bid on jobs, beginning on Oct. 27, 2011. In the mean time, if you need to contact me you may phone me at 405-706-4927. Thank you, Michael Laprarie
"The Freedom Bible." Chuck Norris carries it.
Silly Greg. The Republican Christians in Texas are the only true Christians. The rest are just heretics (well maybe with the exception of the Pentecostals and Amish) so they don't count. I'm shocked, shocked that you don't know this. :-)
"...key phrases (inerrant Bible, decision for Christ) that ought to be deeply steeped in meaning are in fact empty signifiers, thereby causing Evangelicaldom to shape itself around empty ideals that contain the verbal simulacra of Christianity but none of the genuine practice." Makes perfect sense to me. I see American Fundagelicalism suffering from two serious flaws. First, it is an ideology of fear ("if you question any of these truths you could 'lose your way' and your soul will burn in Hell for eternity) and second, it works well enough to keep the 7 to 9-figure budgets of super mega churches and television ministries funded. How ironic is it that money and power (instilled by fear) -- two of the basic evils that a relationship with God and the community of believers should purge from our lives -- are the things that most deeply control the 'true remnant' fundagelicals? I must say though I am a little disappointed in the author's use of the Bush "quote" as a proof. The original quote has Bush telling a Palestinian leader that God commanded him to go after terrorists in Afghanistan, and then to go after Saddam ... and then to give the Palestinians their own state! Not surprisingly, this final part of the quote is always omitted, because it pretty much erases its credibility. A good discussion here: Otherwise this book looks very good, I am putting it on my Amazon wish list today.
I found it interesting that the latest Koran burning stunt by this church went by completely unreported by our domestic news media. You know these clowns must have sent out press releases, yet this time nobody came to the party. In fact, the first time most of us read about the event was (as you said) in conjunction with the reporting on the riots in Afghanistan. Which begs the question, how DID those Afghans find out about the Koran burning? For them to have someone dedicated to a 24/7 watch of that kooky little congregation, in case anything useful for provoking a riot should turn up, would seem to indicate that they are just as crazy, if not crazier, than Rev. Jones. As far as the "evangelical" label goes, well that's easy. If you're a non-mainline Protestant and you pitch your tent south of the Mason-Dixon line, you're an "evangelical." (PS the Renfield reference was funny. But it has to be Dwight Frye.)
A minor correction Greg, Fox News is mostly hot blondes. Try actually watching the network some time. As for Colton Burpo, well the world always needs more Marjoe Gortners, doesn't it?
Greg, I'll agree with you that Ehrman is good. He definitely has a talent for taking standard, even canonical subject matter that has been taught and debated in academic circles for the better part of a century and introducing it as "radical" and "controversial" to the Christian lay audience whose understanding of Bible history and theology never advanced beyond the margin notes of the Scofield Reference Bible. I'll have to pick this one up and give it a read. But trust me, I won't be inspired to share it with any fundamentalists; Henri Nouwen is enough of a mind-blower for them.
Good article, Greg. "It matters not what god Beck references, so long as that god hates the 'current regime's agenda.' The god these people worship is the god that providentially guarantees their ideological purity, which is to say, is a reflection of what they already believe." That is a universal truth about the intersection of religion and politics, true today just as it was during the last administration. How often did we hear liberals invoke charity, compassion, and tolerance as marks of "true" Christianity, in order to imply that George W. Bush was not a "true" Christian by virtue of his use of military force in Iraq? Liberal Christians were particularly persistent, and they seemed especially energized in their efforts because of Bush's self-identification as a Christian. Right now, the current administration seems to be led by a Chief Executive who has invested his entire life in re-imagining our government as a benevolent "god" who provides everything for us. He has concentrated his efforts on policies designed specifically to bring about this end. Unfortunately, the state would have to acquire almost unlimited power in order to accomplish such a grand scheme. Beck and other conservatives view this as an abomination of the founding principles outlined in the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." If these rights are indeed divine and unalienable, then the state does not have the right to grant or revoke them, even if it believes what it is doing is for the "common good." And so the question is, which god should we worship, and by extension, trust with our lives and our emotional well-being? The state and its associated Empire? (I'm thinking Bruggemann here) Or our Creator? (I should probably add "ourselves" as an option, since there are undoubtedly many who fear the power of the state/empire, yet have no interest in putting faith in a spiritual being.) It is indeed interesting to watch one set of politicians use the Bible to prop up statism in the name of compassion and social justice, and another set of politicians use the Bible to defend freedom and individual liberty.
(Perhaps these comments fit better with Part 1, but the thread on that post ended ten days ago, and I decided not to open it up again.) Good series Greg, and interestingly I am reading it after a lengthy discussion with a cousin who is immersed in the whole "Concerned Nazarenes" lunacy, and after viewing an "important" DVD on "Socialism" given to me by a another friend who is concerned that I am "drifting away from the truth." Right now I'm trying to figure out how to tell her nicely that her DVD (produced by James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries) was one of the better propaganda efforts I've seen in recent months, but really little more. For me, intellectual stimulation requires a little more than an hour long compilation of film clips of Stalin and Castro interspersed with interviews from all the contributing editors of World Net Daily. I agree with you completely that there has been a serious drought of critical thinking within the American fundamentalist/evangelical culture. Looking in from the outside as I do now, I am frustrated by the amount of scare literature and propaganda that passes for "education" within the f/e community. And if you challenge its merits, you are a "liberal" who is "drifting away from the truth." I don't entangle myself in debates over this stuff because right now I just don't have the will to do it. I'm also wise enough to know that it is difficult (not to mention offensive) to begin to unwind someone's entire worldview -- which is what you have to do if you begin challenging fundamentalist tenants of faith, because it's all connected: God's omni-power and omni-knowledge; "God's will" and foreknowledge; "inerrant" narratives, revelations, and visions given to the writers of scripture directly by God; the unfolding of time as a pre-ordained series of events that MUST happen because God is omniscient and the Bible is "inerrant" etc. If you introduce contrary ideas like open theism or Christus Victor, which break one of those ideological pillars, then the entire structure is compromised. Fundamentalists simply are unwilling (and probably unable) to let that happen. I've discovered it's easier to be a friend than a Pharisee. I'll leave that to the Concerned Nazarenes.
Greg, A few more comments, and then I'm ready to put this discussion to bed. I assume you are referring to the John Lewis/Emmanuel Cleaver incident that occurred back in March. There is a plethora of readily available video footage of that incident, and none of it corroborates the specific allegations of the "n-word" being shouted fifteen times, nor does it prove that John Lewis was deliberately spat upon. What the videos show is the Congressional Black Caucus slowly wending their way through a hostile crowd of protesters who opposed the Health Care bill. Why they deliberately chose to provoke the crowd in this manner is uncertain. Amid shouts and yelling, Lewis turned to confront one of the crowd members with a pointed finger. After a few seconds of yelling, Lewis apparently wiped some spittle from his face and continued into the building. I'm willing to give the CBC the benefit of the doubt and concede that they probably thought they heard something. But again, the actual video evidence of the event does not corroborate its sensationalism in the news media and on left-wing blogs, especially the specific "fifteen times" allegation. The Washington Post even admitted that the initial reporting of the story was sloppy: And that's really about it, for serious racist incidents associated with Tea Parties. Aside from that, there was one (black) man who carried a rifle to a Tea Party rally. One, out of over 1 million attendees at various Tea Party events across the nation for the last year and a half. And at most a few dozen questionable signs, again out of a nationwide aggregation of over 1 million attendees. Sorry, but the numbers just don't add up to any sort of "movement" within Tea Parties or conservatism. Statistically they would just be noise. I think we should leave them at that. I also think you are mistaken in your belief that conservatives just quietly went along with everything Bush did, particularly with respect to government spending. Beginning about midway through his first term, and peaking during the bailout binge at the end of 2008, fiscal conservatives were increasingly critical of Bush's big government approach. They supported his tax rate cuts, and very little else. Do a little Googling and see the anger directed at Bush by fiscal conservatives during the Medicare Part D expansion. Browse's archives for the end of 2008 and take note of all the conservative opposition to TARP, the Fannie/Freddie bailouts, the AIG bailout, and the auto company bailouts. But why were there no Tea Parties during the Bush years, if so many conservatives were unhappy with Bush? The honest answer is deceptively simple -- we had fat pocketbooks. We complained, but it wasn't a big deal because our stock portfolios were skyrocketing, credit was easy and cheap, and the Federal deficit was actually falling each year, even with the increased spending. Then the stock market crashed, and the government poured billions into bailouts for "too big to fail" businesses when ordinary people had lost 50% or more of their life savings. Then there was Obama's $787 billion "Stimulus" bill -- all of which was deficit spending. Then unemployment looked like it would hit 10% and the government was taking control of two more TBTF companies, GM and Chrysler. Then there was talk of tax hikes for everyone to pay for it all. And there was "The Chart:" In other words, 2009 was a once-in-a-lifetime convergence of bad fortune for average Americans, and Barack Obama, who is currently presiding over a federal deficit four times the size of the largest deficit incurred by Bush, suddenly found himself in the crosshairs of an angry populace. Critics can rightly argue that Bush put the key in the ignition of the Federal bailout/deficit machine and started the engine. But Barack Obama threw the transmission into "Drive" and mashed the gas pedal all the way to the floor. Obama is certainly a victim of some circumstances beyond his control. But a growing number of people are angry with him, and with the Democrats, and with government in general, for using the recession as an excuse for a power grab of unprecedented size and scope, and to justify a truly dumbfounding deficit spending spree, when reining in the cost of government and ensuring economic stability should have been their number one priority. Nothing makes voters more angry than seeing their leaders living like kings and spending like sailors, after bad times have cost them both their savings and their income. That's why there are Tea Parties, and that's why the movement started in 2009.
Greg, I see we have a lot to disagree on. :-) Couple of things. First, I would suggest reading Popular Mechanics' excellent "Debunking the Myths of Hurricane Katrina," which unequivocally states, "...the response to Hurricane Katrina was by far the largest--and fastest-rescue effort in U.S. history, with nearly 100,000 emergency personnel arriving on the scene within three days of the storm's landfall." If you're going to insist that we "stop using talking points" then please stop perpetuating the BUSH DID N-O-T-H-I-N-G WHILE PEOPLE WERE DYING!!!!! falsehoods. Second, these debates keep coming back to racism. Why is that? If it's not because liberals think conservatism's primary objective is a subtle defense of institutional racism, then I'd like to hear a better explanation. Today, playing the race card is the quickest way to stifle honest debate. Think about it -- "George Bush was 'slow' in responding to Katrina. Must be because he hates black people. Bush is a racist." Or, "Well, you Republicans never bothered to complain about 'X' before Barack Obama became President. I bet you just hate black people. You must be a racist." Or, "You're upset over illegal immigration? No, you just hate Mexicans. You're a racist." Conversation over. I pointed out a serious flaw in the way the press analyzes Tea Parties, vs. the way they analyze leftist protest movements, which is that virtually all of the major recent rallies in support of big leftist causes (anti-war, environmentalism, anti-corporatism, etc.) have been pretty much whites-only events, yet there has been nary a peep from the press about possible racism in these movements. Left wing protests have also been chock-full of violent rhetoric, vandalism, violent confrontations with police, repeated calls for the execution/assassination of President Bush, and vivid imagery comparing Bush to Hitler or illustrating his (usually violent) death. The press generally dismissed all of this as nothing more than a group of Americans who had good reason to be angry, simply exercising their right to free speech. By contrast, Tea Party protests are usually polite, non-violent, and with the exception of a handful of isolated altercations by fringe members, they have been generally free from the kind of violent, extremist imagery that consistently characterized anti-war protests via chants, signs, t-shirts, effigies, etc. Yet according to the press, the Tea Parties pose some huge shadowy danger, fomenting violence and anarchy and racism. Really, this is the most idiotic double standard I think I have ever seen. Why has the press and the progressive establishment been so embracing toward violent leftist protests, but so wary and suspicious of Tea Party protests? If you have a good explanation, I'd like to hear it. Finally, for the record I've never been a fan of Glenn Beck. He is entertaining (although I find him equally funny and annoying) but like Rush Limbaugh he is dangerously ignorant about a lot of things. (I remember once, Rush referred to the old proverb give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime as a teaching of Christ from somewhere in the Gospels. Unbelievable.) I would stop short of calling Beck a liar though, because I'm not convinced that he deliberately makes statements that he knows are false.
"assuming you grew up Baptist or Pentecostal" Nazarene too, Greg, and Church of Christ. Actually any denomination where laypeople where spoonfed their theology from the Scofield Reference Bible and Clarence Larkin charts. It seems to me that the common bond between evangelicals of various denominations is their belief in dispensationalism. The paths of virtually all the major "founding fathers" of the American evangelical movement (Scofield, Larkin, D.L. Moody, R.A. Torrey, etc.) merged through their shared belief in dispensationalism. Out of this convergence came the "fundamentalist" doctrine (R.A. Torrey edited the 12 volume set of Fundamentals that gave the movement its name) and these influential members eventually founded The Bible Institute of Los Angeles, Dallas Theological Seminary, and the Moody Bible Institute. So I would agree that by virtue of an almost uniform belief in a dispensationalist/fundamentalist doctrine similar to what is found in the Scofield Reference Bible, most evangelicals are indeed "fundamentalists." (By fundamentalism I am referring to what Greg described as "faith is important in their lives, responsible to evangelize, belief in Satan, [salvation by grace alone], sinless Jesus, infallible Bible, omni-, omni-, omni-") However, this begs an obvious question -- can you walk away from (or never believe in the first place) much of the fundamentalist doctrine and still be considered an evangelical? Of course I am talking about myself here. I walked away from a lot of fundamentalism years ago, yet as a Christian I still feel a very strong calling to share my faith through acts of compassion, fellowship, and justice. Maybe that isn't "evangelism" in the 20th century American sense, but it's how I believe I should practice my faith.
"The richest irony is that the plight of all the minority groups in the United States has improved as America has become less Christian. The secularization of government has actually advanced the cause of women, African Americans, and other minorities." I'm not sure how to reconcile that statement with the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's, which was led by an ordained Baptist minister and rallied on a regular basis from the pulpits of African-American churches.
Toggle Commented Jul 6, 2010 on The Battle for America? at the parish
Very good related piece in the Gazette, by the way. Wish they would feature more of your work.
"Eric (sic) Bonhoeffer" Maybe Beck had a temporary brain fart and confused Bonhoeffer's name with Eric Hoffer, the "Longshoreman Philosopher." Although extraordinarily brilliant, Hoffer was completely self-educated. He is also very popular among conservatives. I would imagine that Beck would identify strongly with Hoffer and would have read at least some of his writings. Greg, you need to understand that conservatives are simply having a lot of fun with Barack Obama right now, by playing the political game according to the same rules used by Democrats during the Bush Administration -- blame the President, personally, for everything. Of course there is little that Obama can personally do to "plug the hole"; likewise, there was little that Bush could personally do regarding Hurricane Katrina. In both situations, there was a chain of command in place for disaster preparedness and response, and both times we ended up with a giant FUBAR that the President had little power to fix. Yet Bush was directly blamed for everything that went wrong in New Orleans, and was accused of poor leadership because he did not immediately fly to the Gulf coast and personally direct the rescue/recovery effort. Conservatives are simply asking, why shouldn't we hold Obama to the same standard? This is part of the foolishness of politics, but it's just how the game is played. It's funny to hear people complain when their guy is the one getting piled on, yet when they are the ones doing the piling-on, no one wants to back off or go easy on the other guys. With respect to your comments about Tea Parties and racism, I'll extend to you a challenge that I have proposed to many of my liberal friends over the last year or so -- look at as many pictures of anti-war rallies or green/environmental/global warming rallies as you wish ( is a good place to start) and count the number of black people who are organizers/protesters/participants. "Token" would be a generous description of their numbers. Then explain to me why no one on the left ever characterized the anti-war movement as "racist." Here's the way I see it. If you buy into the explanations offered by progressive intellectuals that conservatism is simply an attempt to preserve the racist power structures of colonialism, then by default everything that is identified as "conservative" must also be "racist." And any black person associated with a "conservative" cause will be a "token." Or an Uncle Tom, or a sellout, or a race traitor, etc. It's hard to believe that the majority of ordinary Americans who participate in Tea Parties are willing members of some shadowy conspiracy to preserve institutional racism. Most of them (like me) are concerned about a government that seems obsessed with power grabs, increasing regulatory power, and confiscatory taxation -- all of which are things that have been proven to cripple economic growth as well as curtail individual liberty. We believe that Americans will be worse off under this kind of government, not better off. But liberal intellectuals just can't seem to see past the "conservatism=white supremacy" metanarrative, so they work very hard to dig up anything remotely resembling bigotry or racism within the Tea Party movement. Right now the big "proof" seems to be numbers of blacks vs. whites at Tea Parties, yet as I mentioned earlier you'll find those same ratios at anti-war or pro-green/environmental rallies. Which brings me back to Glenn Beck. He may not have an Ivy League pedigree, but he's certainly right about one thing: if the intellectuals can be this bigoted and just flat-out wrong in their attempts to explain a grassroots movement for smaller government, what else have they totally misunderstood? Economics? Global Warming? Terrorism? These days, the more I hear someone insist that they have all the answers, the more I know they are completely full of crap.
Stephanie, I think this is the music you bought: At this point in his career Columbo was still relatively unknown. It was not unusual for publishers to offer songs to performers, then use the performers' name and likeness on the sheet music in order to sell more copies (sheet music sales were as important as record sales in those days). But performers rarely recorded all the songs that publishers used them to promote. It is possible that Columbo recorded this song while he was still with the Gus Arnheim band, but I do not have a complete Arnheim discography so I have no way to verify this. - Mike
Toggle Commented May 31, 2010 on Russ Columbo at The Virtual Victrola
Jazz is obviously a difficult music to quantify. Perhaps only classical is more difficult -- how do you pick the greatest performance of, say, Schubert's Unfinished Symphony, or for that matter how do you judge recordings that consist primarily of the same repertoire being recorded over and over again, note-for-note, only by different artists? Anyway, quantifying jazz is difficult to do with regard to overall record sales, since such a process would rank Norah Jones above Hank Jones, or virtually any other jazz piano player for that matter. Perhaps a better way to quantify jazz is through influence; that is, how many performances have remained within the realm of the music as standards, or how many classic solos have become essential influences for copying-learning-absorption by successive generations of musicians? Perhaps this is a better method, but your list makes judging by influence difficult since it is centered around "albums" instead of performances. Arguably the period where jazz had the greatest influence over pop music was 1925 - 1955, and nearly all of the jazz recorded during that time frame was recorded in the form of 78 rpm singles, not "albums." Only a handful (five or ten, perhaps?) of artists who were active before 1950 are represented on your list, yet their recordings -- Coleman Hawkins' "Body and Soul" (1939), Bix Beiderbecke and Frank Trumbauer's "Singin' the Blues" (1927), and Count Basie and Lester Young's "Lady Be Good" (1936) just to name a few -- were enormously influential to following generations of jazz musicians. Likewise, most of the essential recordings of Charlie Parker (Ko-Ko, Ornithology, Parker's Mood, Yardbird Suite, Cool Blues, Relaxin' At Camarillo, Donna Lee, etc.) were all conceived and issued as singles. As a previous commenter noted, the first half of your list is a good effort, and certainly anyone interested in jazz should own (or at least have heard) those albums. But without a way to include influential singles, it is woefully inadequate.
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