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The Religious Right

The perils of public piety

by Berry Craig
[1-16-12]

We'll have to wait until next year to find out if a Tim Tebow Super Bowl win will inspire some evangelical Christians to torch Muslim houses of worship and make other mischief in the name of the Prince of Peace.

Tebow, a hero – and martyr – to a multitude of Christian conservatives, quarterbacked the Denver Broncos to a 45-10 playoff loss to the New England Patriots Saturday night.

To be sure, Tebow and the Broncos had beaten the Pittsburgh Steelers in the "Mile High Miracle" to advance to the game against the Patriots. But Tebow also grabbed headlines all season for frequently kneeling in prayer on the football field. Somebody dubbed it "tebowing."

Christian conservatives love it. But a lot of people, including this lifelong Kentuckian whose Presbyterian roots go back to Scotland of old, are uncomfortable with ostentatious public piety, which, after all, gets bad press in the Good Book. In Matthew 6:5, Christ admonishes: "And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are; for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and at the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward."

Karl Barth, the famous Protestant theologian, warns, "Faith is never identical with piety."

Anyway, a Jewish cleric recently raised conservative Christian hackles when he wrote, perhaps satirically, that if the Broncos lugged home the Super Bowl trophy, some of the wackier evangelicals might “do insane things.” Rabbi Joshua Hammerman suggested the mayhem could include "burning mosques, bashing gays and indiscriminately banishing immigrants.”

Hammerman subsequently apologized.

TV satirist Bill Maher hasn't said he is sorry for dropping the "f-bomb" on Tebow after the rookie signal caller tossed his fourth interception in a lopsided Christmas Eve loss to the Buffalo Bills. Maher, an avowed atheist, said Jesus "f---ed" Tebow "bad."

Maher unintentionally put another star in Tebow's crown. His blasphemy made Tebow a martyr for The Lord among conservative Christians, who seem to relish "persecution" from the "liberal media elite."

That "elite" aside, Christian conservatives have it better in the USA than in any other nation in Christendom. In no other Western country is conservative evangelical Christianity stronger and more influential than in the USA.

Virtually the whole Republican Party has embraced or pays lip service to the Christian Right's anti-abortion, anti-evolution, global warming-denying, homophobic, nativist, God-said-it-I-believe-it-that-settles-it agenda. (A multitude of Democrats in my part of the country pander to conservative Christian "values voters," too.)

You wouldn't believe any of that the way Christians conservatives complain. You'd think a neo-Nero was running the country.

Nero, the homicidal maniac who enjoyed torturing and murdering Christians while he ran the Roman Empire, was dubbed the first anti-Christ by the Catholic Church. Some of the loopier Protestant Fundamentalists claim President Obama is the new anti-Christ.

Anyway, neither Hammerman nor Maher deny Tebow's right to "tebow." Nor do they question the sincerity of his religious or political views. Tebow, who is, or was, a registered Republican, teamed up with his mother and the tea party-tilting, GOP-friendly Focus on the Family to make an anti-abortion commercial for the 2010 Super Bowl when he was a super-star quarterback at the University of Florida.

But public piety naturally invites skepticism from many people of many faiths and skewering from iconoclasts. May it always be so.


The author:  Berry Craig is an associate professor of history at Paducah, Ky., Community College and a freelance writer.  He and his wife, Melinda, have been active supporters of the Witherspoon Society, and now Voices for Justice, for more than a decade.


Got comments?
Just send a note with your own thoughts
and we'll be happy to share it here.

The Faith-Based Militia: When is Terrorism ‘Christian’?
[4-10-10]

Reflecting on the recent arrest of members of the Michigan-based Hutaree Militia for allegedly plotting the murder of one or more police officers as an expression of their Christian beliefs, Frederick Clarkson sees a need to consider the wider subject of “faith-based terrorism.” He mentions the conviction in 2003 of serial anti-abortion terrorist Clayton Waagner, who had sent envelopes of white powder purporting to be anthrax to some 550 reproductive rights groups and clinics. More recently we have seen reports of the trial and conviction of Scott Roeder for the murder of Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider in Wichita, Kansas.

Clarkson notes that relating Christian religious faith to what we call “terrorism” is offensive to many, but is suggesting that we need to pay careful attention to the links between what is claimed is Christian faith and violent, terroristic action. And he reminds us that often this linkage appears in relation to struggles over abortion.

It may be helpful to keep this in mind for the coming debates at our 219th General Assembly, as we deal once again with the question of abortion and women’s right to choose. It would be helpful if the Assembly could provide some guidelines and language for members of the PC(USA), and the Washington office, so that the links between ideological absolutism and armed intimidation and violence can be seen more clearly.    Click here for Clarkson’s essay >>

Frederick Clarkson, whose writing about politics and religion has appeared in magazines and newspapers from Mother Jones, Conscience and Church & State, to The Village Voice and The Christian Science Monitor for 25 years. He is the editor of Dispatches from the Religious Left: The Future of Faith and Politics in America (Ig Publishing 2008), and co-founder of the group blog, Talk to Action.

Christian Right leaders issue declaration, promising to defend purity of the faith against everybody else
[11-23-09]

The New York Times reported on Friday, November 20:

Citing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s call to civil disobedience, 145 evangelical, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian leaders have signed a declaration saying they will not cooperate with laws that they say could be used to compel their institutions to participate in abortions, or to bless or in any way recognize same-sex couples.

“We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence,” it says.

The manifesto, ... released on Friday at the National Press Club in Washington, is an effort to rejuvenate the political alliance of conservative Catholics and evangelicals that dominated the religious debate during the administration of President George W. Bush. The signers include nine Roman Catholic archbishops and the primate of the Orthodox Church in America.

They want to signal to the Obama administration and to Congress that they are still a formidable force that will not compromise on abortion, stem-cell research or gay marriage. They hope to influence current debates over health care reform, the same-sex marriage bill in Washington, D.C., and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The rest of the Times’ report >>

Commentary and analysis:

The Declaration promises “resistance” against anything that doesn’t fit the Religion of the Christian Right

Gene TeSelle, recently “retired” as Issues Analyst of the Witherspoon Society, offers a thoughtful discussion of the Declaration, notes that the document focuses on three of the usual Christian Right concerns: “(1) abortion and stem cell research, (2) any form of marriage other than a union of husband and wife, and (3) any government limitations on "conscience clauses," which allow individuals and religious institutions to refuse to participate in anything related to abortion or same-sex unions.”

He notes that these groups are claiming the right to carry their absolute religious claims into the public political sphere, threatening to engage in civil disobedience if their demands are not met.

For TeSelle’s full essay >>

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ethics Daily:

Christian Right Issues New Declaration — Same Old Agenda, Same Nazi Analogies

Robert Parham writes for excellent website Ethics Daily, that the authors of this statement sound the familiar themes of the Christian Right but tries to place their stance in the distinguish tradition of Martin Luther King, Jr’s campaign for civil rights, and the abolition of slavery. their own concerns, though, are the usual: ending women’s right to control their own bodies, condemning LGBT relationships, and defending the “right of conscience” for Christians to assert their own absolutist beliefs.

They view with alarm the present climate of the nation, portraying themselves as standing against the coercive powers of Caesar. And their focus on certain narrowly defined issues, he says, misses the whole core of Jesus’ teachings:

“Yet again, the Christian Right bypassed the Nazareth Manifesto, Sermon on the Mount, the Great Commandment and the Great Judgment passage. While they did cite Jesus from John 10:10 and Matthew 22:21, they made Jesus a secondary moral guide to their political agenda of criticizing President Obama and shrinking the Bible's moral vision.”   His full essay >>

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And from the Rev. John Shuck, blogger at Shuck & Jive:

Ostentatiously called the Manhattan Declaration, it is yet another attempt to by the superstitious right wing to fight at windmills. Fundamentalists of various sects including a few Presbyterian notables [including Carmen Fowler and Parker Williamson of The Presbyterian Layman] have endorsed it.

What are they endorsing? What is this courageous Satan-smiting witness to the glory of the Triune God? What are those things that Jesus talked about most and cared about most? What are the key challenges we are facing in our nation and around our world?

I think you know.

These faithful heroes who "care about the future of the Christian witness in the public discourse of our nation" are standing firm, bearing the standard, cupping the grail of holiness, and bravely waving their lances at the gravest threat we have yet to address...

Gays getting marriage licenses.

Oh, and uppity women who insist on making their own informed decisions regarding their own reproduction.

And they call what they are doing protecting religious freedom.

... Meanwhile other actual challenges to our nation's welfare like healthcare, the increasing gap between the wealthy and the poor, militarism, and energy and ecology, are still there.   For Shuck's full comment >>

Observations on the “Manhattan Declaration”

The Declaration promises “resistance” against anything that doesn’t fit the Religion of the Christian Right

by Gene TeSelle, former Witherspoon Issues Analyst
[11-23-09]

A group of religious conservatives, characterizing themselves as "Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical," issued the "Manhattan Declaration" on November 20, 2009, stating their opposition to (1) abortion and stem cell research, (2) any form of marriage other than a union of husband and wife, and (3) any government limitations on "conscience clauses," which allow individuals and religious institutions to refuse to participate in anything related to abortion or same-sex unions.

They pledge, furthermore, that "no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence," and they explicitly raise the possibility of civil disobedience, stating that they "will not comply with any edict" or "bend to any rule" that violates their principles.

In backing up this stance they quote several passages of Scripture and mention the "civil rights crusades of the 1950s and 60s," specifically citing the "Letter from Birmingham Jail" of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. More broadly they give examples from Christian history, including opposition to slavery, championship of "child laborers chained to machines," challenges to the divine claims of kings, and advocacy of "the rule of law and balance of government powers" that made modern democracy possible.

In response, the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United, said that the aim of this coalition of religious conservatives is not to protect religious freedom but to impose religious doctrines upon all U.S. citizens by government decree. He called it a politicization of faith and said that "it would be a disaster if government started favoring one religious perspective over others."

Recently the House version of the health care reform bill was revised at the behest of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to limit reproductive choice. And at the state and national levels religious leaders have often led the attack upon same-sex marriage.

"Conscience clauses" have been used to challenge laws guaranteeing reproductive rights or adoptions by same-sex couples, or to make their administration chaotic and unworkable.

Let me start by giving the signers their due. Many social and political advances have been inspired by Christianity. But let's also look more closely at the signers' claim to be successors of all that is good in the Western tradition.

The West is indeed unique in the way it differentiates between church and state, and this tradition owes much to the popes, who during the early middle ages resisted the authority of the emperors in Constantinople during several major doctrinal controversies. Having declared the independence of the church, they then asserted it against rulers in Europe as well. But differentiation did not mean "separation" of church and state, either for Catholics or for Protestants.

Eventually the wars of religion in the sixteenth and seventeenth century convinced people that religion simply caused too much trouble when it was made a factor in public life. So they began to acknowledge religious pluralism and eventually religious freedom. This usually happened against the advice of church leaders, and it was originally championed by people who were condemned as "latitudinarians" or just plain unbelievers. In Virginia there was a pragmatic but ultimately constructive alliance between Baptists and Presbyterians, who happened not to be the established church, and rationalists like Jefferson and Madison.

The same mixed picture applies to slavery. The Bible seems to legitimate it. Many people assumed that one could trade one's freedom for one's life. It was in opposition to majority opinion that Bartolomé de las Casas and others began speaking about "inalienable rights." The abolition of slavery was indeed championed by Wilberforce and other British evangelicals. But the Quakers and some of the Enlightenment figures were ahead of them. Once again there is a mixed record, suggesting that progress comes through interaction among diverse perspectives, not through deduction from a single doctrinal base.

While they allude to the civil rights movement, some of the signers of the Declaration are clearly aligned with social and political movements that opposed civil rights five decades ago, changed from Southern Democratic to Republican in order to keep the traditional relations of power, and today continue to champion "right to work" laws and other means of maintaining economic inequality.

It is gratifying to hear the Manhattan Declaration mention "child laborers chained to machines," but the signers and their allies have not been in the forefront of those who criticize the many contemporary versions of the same thing, at home and throughout the world — child labor, hazardous working conditions, constant pressure on workers to grant more concessions — or seek ways to regulate and monitor what happens in the workplace. At least some of the signers have been vocal in championing free trade, NAFTA, and the World Trade Organization, and in criticizing the Accra declaration of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, which condemned the reigning "neoliberal economics" on grounds of faith as well as justice. 

The Declaration, then, is helpful in reminding us of the relevance of religion to political life. But it is highly selective, emphasizing some issues as non-negotiable in the political as well as the religious realm, while ignoring many others. And it is aligned with a conservative political agenda.

The signers might disagree with Barry Lynn's assertion that they are trying to impose "one religious perspective" upon the people of the U.S. They are careful to base their positions not only on the Bible but on "natural human reason" and "the very nature of the human person." On these grounds they argue, as the Catholic Church has done since the middle ages, that their position is morally binding upon all persons everywhere.

The problem is that there are also disagreements about the "nature of the human person" and about the responsibilities of practical reason in responding to a range of issues concerning life and death, sexual orientation, and the role of the state in regulating external actions while guaranteeing freedom for debate and disagreement.

Notions of natural law and inalienable rights have made a crucial contribution to our life together. But any survey of these notions will indicate that they have changed through the centuries, mostly by taking more groups and more activities under their protection. Not only have they changed. Claims can conflict. And as medical and scientific knowledge increase, they pose new dilemmas. Legislatures and courts find themselves confronted by all these conflicting claims and all these dilemmas.

This is the setting in which "culture wars" flourish. The problem, as James Davison Hunter points out, is that there are competing moral visions; those who disagree are put outside the bounds of legitimacy, and there is an urge to "force political solutions." Such actions are defended, of course, with the argument that religion is an "absolute commitment," exempt from the normal rules of political behavior and even claiming to define those rules.

The West has learned, through bitter experience, that many different factions can claim the right to carry their "absolute commitments" into the public sphere. As a result it has chosen to keep those claims out of the public sphere and develop the rules and institutions of the "secular state," even as it acknowledges the relevance of religious commitments to politics and to all issues of human good.

Religious Right's ugly "Prayer for Obama" has been disappeared!?    [11-20-09]

Yesterday we reported on the use of Psalm 109:8 ("Let his days be few; and another take his place.") on bumper stickers and T-shirts being hawked by right-wing, and very religious, web sites.  Lots of people were paying attention, apparently.  And this morning, Lo, those ugly prayers are all gone, at least from the two sites to which we linked yesterday.  There's lots of other nasty stuff, but the "Prayer for Obama" seems to have been withdrawn.

There must be profound implications in all this, but we're not sure what they are just yet.

Radical-Right Christians pray for Obama’s days to be few

And we think radical Islam is the only problem?
[11-19-09]

This comes to us from Bill Peach, of Franklin, Tennessee, who describes himself as a politician, preacher, and philosopher, and author.

One of my friends called to my attention the bumper-sticker that reads, "Prayer for Obama – Psalms 109:8." Click here for some examples >>  His email was prefaced with the suggestion, "it was funny." I have since learned that the message is for sale on T-shirts, Teddy bears, refrigerator magnets, buttons, and other trinkets of trivia. Some examples >>  The verse reads, "Let his days be few; and another take his place."

We have repeatedly appealed to and called upon the Muslim community to decry the conduct of radical Islam. The time has come for us to call upon the Christian community to decry the radicalism of its political fringe, lest we replicate in the name of God, the violence which we rightfully condemn. The verse which follows (Psalms 109:9) reads, "Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow." I fear for our nation and our democracy, but I fear more greatly for our morality and our spirituality.

Bill Peach, November 17, 2009
 

Psalms 109:8: An Ugly Prayer for President Obama

Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, writing on BeliefNet, offers this comment: “The issue is not the scripture quoted or the name by which God is called by those doing the praying. The issue is invoking the God in whom any of us believe, to act as executioner of those with whom we disagree.” The rest of his comment >>

Other leaders support Richard Cizik in his resignation from National Association of Evangelicals
[12-19-08]

We recently reported on the resignation of Richard Cizik, long-time leader in the growing and broadening public witness of the evangelical community, because he is apparently not willing to back down on his increasingly open attitude toward committed same-sex relationships.

Now over 50 evangelical leaders, many of them influential in the NAE, have joined in supporting his leadership in moving the NAE toward “a broad, wholegospel agenda [which] is reflected in the NAE's official policy statement, For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility, which he helped write and implement. Its principles of protecting religious liberty, nurturing families, the sanctity of life, justice and compassion for the least of these, human rights, seeking peace, and protecting God's creation must remain an enduring contribution to the Evangelical public witness in America.”

The full text of the letter >>

Also ...

Progressive evangelical Sojourners leader Jim Wallis praises Cizik as a “pioneer for New Evangelicals”

See Wallis’ blog >>

Richard Cizik resigns from the National Association of Evangelicals

Longtime lobbyist and media spokesman recently said 'I'm shifting' on gay unions.   [12-13-08]

Richard Cizik resigned Wednesday night as vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) during a week of growing uproar over his comments that he is shifting his views on same-sex unions.

The report from Christianity Today >>

Progressive Presbyterians are big lost apes?
[10-16-08]

The Rev. Jerry Andrews of the conservative Presbyterian Coalition says liberal “Goliaths” in the Presbyterian Church are leading the church astray.

Presbyterian News Service provides a fairly long report, which begins:

Newport Beach, CA — Liberalism is a “Goliath” in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) that has led the denomination down a path to a “faith in which it cannot live faithfully,” said the Rev. Jerry Andrews, co-moderator of the conservative Presbyterian Coalition, an umbrella group for more than a dozen “renewal” organizations in the denomination.

Along these “false paths,” liberals have lost their way and their ability to lead, the suburban Chicago pastor told more than 220 participants meeting here at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church for the Coalition’s Gathering XI.

“[Liberalism] has been the Goliath in our life. I think the Goliath has fallen,” he said.

In his “State of the Denomination” address on Oct. 13, the first day of the three-day event, Andrews told the group that “the progressives had great success in taking over the institutions of the church, our own church at least two generations ago . . . even if it never fully convinced the church, you and me, of its presumptions.”

Now we are in engaged in an exercise to see “how far the corpse will walk,” said Andrews, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Glen Ellyn, IL.

The full report >>

Presbyterian Outlook has also posted a report on this event, beginning:

“Our team lost this Assembly. Badly. But the Coalition has already reloaded,” said Presbyterian Coalition Co-Moderator Jerry Andrews in his presentation, “The State of the Denomination,” at the 11th annual Presbyterian Coalition gathering Oct. 13 in Newport Beach, Calif.

“The progressives have had great success in taking over the church,” Andrews explained, “but like all false paths they too have lost their way.”

Three words— post-modern, post-denominational, and post-Christian — describe the denomination in the aftermath of the General Assembly, he added.

For the full Outlook report >>

“Let's face reality. Schism is here,” says Lay Committee CEO.    [8-4-08]

Stephen G. Brown, an elder at First Presbyterian Church of Haines City, Florida, is chairman of the Board of Directors and chief executive officer of the Presbyterian Lay Committee. He has just published on the Layman website one of the clearest and most detailed guides for separation we have yet seen from the Presbyterian Right.

After listing what he regards as the offenses committed by the 218th General Assembly, he makes very specific suggestions for action, including:

 * Form close alliances with other like-minded churches in your presbytery. ...

 * Support the renewal groups by sending letters of encouragement, and giving financial support and your time.

 * Don't send any per capita or mission funds to the GA, your presbytery or the synod, unless you are 100% sure of how the money will be spent. ...

 * Have legal counsel experienced in church property disputes review your property documents. Contact the Presbyterian Lay Committee office if you need a lawyer referral. ...

He concludes: “Only through prayer and a united effort will there be peace in this denomination. Presbyterians have divided many times before and sometimes it has happened in a respectful and civil way. Let's pray for another peaceful process.”

This statement appears under the headline “Peace will follow unity.” But in fact, it seems that for Mr. Brown, peace will come to the PC(USA) only when the Presbyterian Right is allowed to split ... on its own terms.

The full Layman article >>

Lay Committee issues “a call to arms”
[7-10-08]

Reacting to the recent General Assembly, the Presbyterian Layman has published a statement by their Board of Directors, titled “A call to arms.”

After listing some of the Assembly actions which they say “violate the faith and life of Biblical Christianity,” they then “urge the sessions of faithful congregations to take the following actions: 

•          Form alliances with like-minded churches in your presbytery. There is strength in numbers. A call to arms is a call to unite. 

•          Restrict all mission and per capita gifts to ministries that are trusted by your congregation, and do not send undesignated money in any form to denominational entities, boards or agencies. 

•          Be prepared to defend the property rights of your congregation against claims of ownership by the PCUSA.”

The full statement >>

We note that none of these actions is new on the part of the Lay Committee, though their rhetoric seems to be a bit more bellicose than usual.

The Religious Right — from anti-integration to anti-abortion
[7-10-08]

Randall Balmer’s 2006 book, Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America, offers an interesting view of how the Religious Right only slowly coalesced around opposition to women’s right to choose, over a decade after the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. They constructed an “abortion myth,” he argues, to convince the American people that they had been united in opposing abortion all along. In fact, many evangelicals either ignored the Supreme Court action, or supported it, until the 1980s.

He writes: 

The abortion myth serves as a convenient fiction because it suggests noble and altruistic motives behind the formation of the Religious Right. But it is highly disingenuous and renders absurd the argument of the leaders of Religious Right that, in defending the rights of the unborn, they are the "new abolitionists." The Religious Right arose as a political movement for the purpose, effectively, of defending racial discrimination at Bob Jones University and at other segregated schools. Whereas evangelical abolitionists of the nineteenth century sought freedom for African Americans, the Religious Right of the late twentieth century organized to perpetuate racial discrimination. (Pp. 16-17)

This book is online on Google Books

Click on Chapter 1 to read the material mentioned here.

More on ...

The Great Evangelical Decline — maybe?
[6-9-08]

On June 6, we posted a brief reflection on recent comments by Christine Wicker, author of The Fall of the Evangelical Nation: The Surprising Crisis Inside the Church, who claims that “Evangelical faith has been dropping since 1900, when 42 percent of the U.S. claimed that distinction. Every year, Religious Right evangelicals, such as those who lead the Southern Baptists, are a smaller proportion of the country.”

We invited comments, and received some suggestive thoughts from the Rev. Michael Ryan Walker, who is serving as the Theologian in Residence at Highland Park Presbyterian Church in Dallas, TX. Formerly the Executive Director of Presbyterians For Renewal, he is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in History of Doctrine at Princeton Theological Seminary.

He writes:

Doug,

I enjoyed your piece reflecting on Wicker's book on the Religious Right. Most of all, I appreciated your open-ended question about whether or not those in the "more progressive religious groups" should consider ways of creative collaboration with evangelicals for the sake of church renewal.

One important thing that might help more progressive folks to think this through would be to think in categories other than those of the so-called "culture war." It is true that the battle lines in the church often reflect the battle lines in the culture, but that ought not be the case, for the church ought to do more than unselfconsciously reflect the patterns of the culture in which we find ourselves. Thankfully, we don't just have to think wishfully about this, because there are a great many "evangelicals" in the PC(USA), including myself, who would recoil at the thought of being labeled as part of the "Religious Right."

Yes, I help lead the effort to maintain church standards that I think are important, including the standards for sexual conduct of ordained church officers. I'm sure some conservatives share my position because they are "conservatives" in the cultural sense -- they may long for a yesteryear that never really existed, or be motivated by fear and a sense of alienation. But I think I have a healthy sense of what's worth fighting for not due to personal anxiety but rather due to careful consideration of the church's witness in the world down through the centuries and continuing through today, including how the church has understood its mission through the lenses of Scripture. For me, Scripture, tradition and life in contemporary community lead me to support some positions within the church that the Religious Right would like to have govern the whole nation.

What distinguishes evangelicals in the PC(USA), on our better days, is our theological center. Those who share evangelical theology are often all across the map when it comes to secular politics. The church has never made our understanding of the role of the secular government, for instance, a dogma to be believed by all, and for good reason. So we can differ on those issues.

Do you think the "more progressive religious groups" are united by a common theology or by a common position in the culture war and secular politics, which bleeds over into their involvement in related matters in the church? I'm sure it's a mixed bag.

In any case, evangelicals in the PC(USA) tend to be motivated by theology, believing that it can't be reduced to politics. One way to consider collaboration with evangelicals might be to think through whether or not we share some theological commitments that would benefit church renewal, commitments that lead to passion for things not defined by the culture war, things that might, at the same time, be central to church renewal.

A couple years ago I attempted to articulate, in brief, what I mean by the term "evangelical." Click here for that post >>

All the best,

Michael
 

If you have thoughts in response to Michael Walker,
or to Christine Wicker,
please send a note,
to be shared here.


And another thought:

The numbers may be accurate

A little confirmation of Wicker’s claim of “decline” just turned up in the form of a Washington Post report that “the number of people baptized in Southern Baptist churches fell for the third straight year last year to the lowest level in 20 years, and membership in the nation's largest Protestant denomination decreased by close to 40,000 to 16.27 million last year. Leaders of the convention say the numbers could represent a turning point for the organization.” The annual Southern Baptist Convention opens tomorrow in Indianapolis.

More on ...

The Great Evangelical Decline — maybe?

On June 6, we posted a brief reflection on recent comments by Christine Wicker, author of The Fall of the Evangelical Nation: The Surprising Crisis Inside the Church, who claims that “Evangelical faith has been dropping since 1900, when 42 percent of the U.S. claimed that distinction. Every year, Religious Right evangelicals, such as those who lead the Southern Baptists, are a smaller proportion of the country.”

We invited comments, and received some suggestive thoughts from Michael Walker, who is serving as the Theologian in Residence at Highland Park Presbyterian Church in Dallas, TX. Formerly the Executive Director of Presbyterians For Renewal, he is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in History of Doctrine at Princeton Theological Seminary.

He writes:


    Doug,


    I enjoyed your piece reflecting on Wicker's book on the Religious Right. Most of all, I appreciated your open-ended question about whether or not those in the "more progressive religious groups" should consider ways of creative collaboration with evangelicals for the sake of church renewal.


    One important thing that might help more progressive folks to think this through would be to think in categories other than those of the so-called "culture war." It is true that the battle lines in the church often reflect the battle lines in the culture, but that ought not be the case, for the church ought to do more than unselfconsciously reflect the patterns of the culture in which we find ourselves. Thankfully, we don't just have to think wishfully about this, because there are a great many "evangelicals" in the PC(USA), including myself, who would recoil at the thought of being labeled as part of the "Religious Right."


    Yes, I help lead the effort to maintain church standards that I think are important, including the standards for sexual conduct of ordained church officers. I'm sure some conservatives share my position because they are "conservatives" in the cultural sense -- they may long for a yesteryear that never really existed, or be motivated by fear and a sense of alienation. But I think I have a healthy sense of what's worth fighting for not due to personal anxiety but rather due to careful consideration of the church's witness in the world down through the centuries and continuing through today, including how the church has understood its mission through the lenses of Scripture. For me, Scripture, tradition and life in contemporary community lead me to support some positions within the church that the Religious Right would like to have govern the whole nation.


    What distinguishes evangelicals in the PC(USA), on our better days, is our theological center. Those who share evangelical theology are often all across the map when it comes to secular politics. The church has never made our understanding of the role of the secular government, for instance, a dogma to be believed by all, and for good reason. So we can differ on those issues.


    Do you think the "more progressive religious groups" are united by a common theology or by a common position in the culture war and secular politics, which bleeds over into their involvement in related matters in the church? I'm sure it's a mixed bag.


    In any case, evangelicals in the PC(USA) tend to be motivated by theology, believing that it can't be reduced to politics. One way to consider collaboration with evangelicals might be to think through whether or not we share some theological commitments that would benefit church renewal, commitments that lead to passion for things not defined by the culture war, things that might, at the same time, be central to church renewal.


    A couple years ago I attempted to articulate, in brief, what I mean by the term "evangelical." Here's that post:


    http://www.michaelryanwalker.com/2005/03/13/evangelical-and-reformed/


    All the best,


    Michael



The numbers may be accurate


A little confirmation of Walker’s claim of “decline” just turned up in the form of a Washington Post report that “the number of people baptized in Southern Baptist churches fell for the third straight year last year to the lowest level in 20 years, and membership in the nation's largest Protestant denomination decreased by close to 40,000 to 16.27 million last year. Leaders of the convention say the numbers could represent a turning point for the organization.” The annual Southern Baptist Convention opens tomorrow in Indianapolis.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/07/AR2008060701821.html




 

The Great Evangelical Decline — maybe?

And if there is one, what does it mean?

Here’s a view of the Religious Right you haven’t seen here: 

Evangelical faith has been dropping since 1900, when 42 percent of the U.S. claimed that distinction. Every year, Religious Right evangelicals, such as those who lead the Southern Baptists, are a smaller proportion of the country. Every year, their core values are violated more flagrantly by the media, scientific discovery and mainstream behavior. Every election, politicians promise to serve them and then don't because evangelicals lack the power to make them.

What all this means is that we were duped.

All the hype proclaiming an evangelical resurgence was merely that - hype, a furious shout from a faith losing its grip, manipulation by a relatively small group of dedicated, focused, political power-seekers.

Christine Wicker, formerly religion reporter for the Dallas Morning News, has recently published a book which explores what she sees as the precipitous decline of evangelical churches, especially since the 1950s – a trend which has been ignored as the American people have been convinced they saw growing power on the Religious Right.

A mild word of warning: Her book, The Fall of the Evangelical Nation: The Surprising Crisis Inside the Church, is dismissed by the reviewer for Publishers Weekly as “a tendentious, confused book about the alleged demise of conservative evangelicalism.” I have not seen the book, but she has published a brief version of it on The Huffington Post. And it makes me think.

In this article Wicker points to “just three of the many reasons” for the decline:

First, the Alcoholics Anonymous movement, started by devout Christians, offers a view of repentance and new life that asks people to trust themselves to whatever they understand as God, and to “repent” by asking forgiveness of the people they have hurt. “There was no doctrine, no institution, no demand for monetary support.” So AA opened the way to renewal of life without the absolutisms of the evangelical churches.

Second, in an increasingly pluralistic society, it has become more difficult for evangelicals to draw a sharp line between themselves and the unsaved rest of humanity. It’s hard to make such clear judgments today, she says, when “ ‘the other’ is likely to be your son-in-law or grandchild.”

And third, she blames (or credits) “The Pill. Nothing in history has changed human relations as much as that little white pill.” Our awareness of sexuality and of our humanity in general have been changed profoundly. The evangelical churches have steadfastly insisted on sexual abstinence outside of marriage, but that puts them increasingly out of touch with their own members, as well as the broader population and its culture, as our understand of sin has changed.

“And,” she goes on, “God – or our understanding of what God is, which is all we actually have – changes, too. Human understandings are remolded so that faith can remain vital and effective during new times.”

Is this, then, the end of evangelical religion? Well, Wicker admits that revivals have happened before, and one may happen again. But it’s no sure thing. She says, “Evangelical faith is failing in so many other ways that a growing number of Christians believe a New Reformation is needed.”
 

Now, what does this mean for people who may not be a part of the evangelical movement, in general or within the Presbyterian Church? This is not a matter for smugness; after all, the more mainline and liberal churches have been declining in numbers and wealth and influence for decades.

But it does raise important questions for those of us in the more progressive religious groups.

First, have we engaged too strenuously in “viewing with alarm” what we have seen as the growing threat posed to American freedoms and pluralism (and lots of other things too) by what we have seen as the growing power of the “Religious Right”?

And second, have we offered any alternatives to people who are increasingly unsatisfied with the beliefs and ways of life that have been set forth so compellingly – because with such absolute assurance – by the evangelical churches?

And third (not last, because there are many more questions!), are we called, perhaps, to join with our sisters and brothers on the Right, in seeking a “New Reformation” for all of our communities of faith together?

Read Wicker's article >>

So what do you think?
What are your thoughts about "the decline of the religious right"?
And how might progressives be responding to it?
Just send a note,
to be shared here.

Going Behind Closed Doors in Christian Right Households      [4-17-08]

Don’t get too excited; this is not as titillating as it might sound!

Jeremy Adam Smith has written in Public Eye magazine about the realities of family life among members of the Religious Right. George Lakoff in his book Moral Politics noted that "Models of idealized family structure lie metaphorically at the heart of our politics. ... Our beliefs about the family exert a powerful influence over our beliefs about what kind of society we should build."

For the Religious Right and conservative political leaders who appeal to them, the family is clearly a major focus. Smith says the family for them is “a major arena of political struggle and a showcase for the world they want to live in.”  He continues: 

But recent research into the daily lives of evangelicals also reveals the degree to which their ideal is vulnerable to social and economic forces that all American parents must confront. ... Even as Christian Right leaders are "talking Right," as University of Virginia sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox puts it, some of the evangelicals who form the base of their movement are "walking Left" and embracing a more moderate way of political and family life. This creates a fissure in the Christian Right that no manifesto can close.

As one example of the various ways the realities of family life and attitudes differ from the views proclaimed by Religious Right leaders, he says:

But for all its gains in the political realm – which have captured most of the outraged attention of the political Left – the Christian Right continues to lose the culture war. According to Gallup polls, in 1982, only 34 percent of Americans "believed that homosexuality was an acceptable alternative lifestyle." Last year, 61 percent of those polled by People for the American Way supported at least civil unions for gays. Families are more egalitarian than ever, with more and more men participating in housework and childcare, and with more and more mothers working.

Read a shortened version of the article on AlterNet >>

RENEWAL OR RUIN?
The Institute on Religion and Democracy's attack on the United Methodist Church
     [3-27-08]

Video on the Institute on Religion and Democracy is now available free online – with a full transcript

Click here for the video online, with full transcript – at no cost.

Since its beginning in 1982, the Institute on Religion and Democracy has continuously undermined the United Methodist Church and other mainline Protestant denominations by attacking the character of church leaders.

This film – 25 minutes long – attempts to shine light on the divisive tactics used by the IRD .

As the IRD has been largely successful in setting the agenda for the destruction of the church's social witness in key areas, this film intends to expose the true intent of their efforts to "renew" the church.

Since the Presbyterian branch of IRD, Presbyterian Action, seems to work in ways similar to those used by their Methodist wing, this makes interesting/enlightening/disturbing viewing – but helpful.

You’ll find it all here >>

Comments from the producer of the film >>

For more commentary on the IRD, see John Shuck’s blogspot, shuckandjive

Celebrity worship is a threat to evangelicalism
[12-14-07]

The celebrity worship prevalent in evangelicalism poses great risk to the soul, says columnist William McKenzie, and it can lead a movement off track.

He begins:

If you spend any time within evangelicalism, you hear people speak in reverential tones about the pastor at this church, the seminar led by this speaker or the book by this author. It's easy to feel as if you need to hear that speaker, attend that church or read that writer to establish your credentials as a believer.

 

He sees this focus on persons as a real threat to the integrity of the evangelical churches, and bases his argument on a recent book by Frank Schaeffer entitled Crazy for God. The book details the story of his father, Francis Schaeffer, who “ran L'Abri Fellowship in Switzerland, where he attempted to give an evangelical response to the day's counterculturalism.” Francis Schaeffer was one of the pioneers of modern evangelicalism, and himself became “a worshipped figure,” and that, argues Frank Schaeffer, led to the “evangelical icon worship” that grew up around such leaders as Pat Robertson, James Dobson, James Robison and Jerry Falwell. And these charismatic leaders, he goes on, were the shepherds “led the sheep directly into the Republican Party.”

McKenzie agrees with Frank Schaeffer when he says: "Big-time American Christianity is incompatible with the Gospel. It is part of the entertainment business. No matter what you think you are doing, you are really just another celebrity in a celebrity-obsessed culture." 

The full article, in the Dallas Morning News >>

Why speak out against the Institute on Religion and Democracy?     [12-11-07]

Steven D. Martin , who recently produced a short, critical film about IRD with the title, Renewal or Ruin?, has posted the first in a series of very personal statements about the reasons for his concern about IRD.

He opens:

I begin with an apology. I am one of those people who stays in the background, consuming the pearls that appear on this site, but rarely contributing. I've decided that it is time for me to jump into the game. I will, God willing, contribute regularly to Talk To Action about a subject that I'd rather not talk about, but must.

I tend to want to stay in a state of blissful ignorance: that's why when people started sounding alarm bells some years ago about the Institute on Religion and Democracy, I didn't pay much attention. Something so sinister either must be either an illusion conjured up by alarmists, or must operate on such a high level as to not affect me as I work in the trenches of pastoral ministry. My denial changed at Annual Conference in June of 2006.

The rest of his note >>

Is the evangelical camp breaking up?

[10-31-07]

David D. Kirkpatrick, a correspondent in the Washington bureau of The New York Times who covered the religious Right in the 2004 election campaign, provides a long, detailed survey of major changes going on now in the evangelical churches and their leadership.

He writes:

The extraordinary evangelical love affair with Bush has ended, for many, in heartbreak over the Iraq war and what they see as his meager domestic accomplishments. That disappointment, in turn, has sharpened latent divisions within the evangelical world — over the evangelical alliance with the Republican Party, among approaches to ministry and theology, and between the generations. ...

Meanwhile, a younger generation of evangelical pastors — including the widely emulated preachers Rick Warren and Bill Hybels — are pushing the movement and its theology in new directions. There are many related ways to characterize the split: a push to better this world as well as save eternal souls; a focus on the spiritual growth that follows conversion rather than the yes-or-no moment of salvation; a renewed attention to Jesus’ teachings about social justice as well as about personal or sexual morality. However conceived, though, the result is a new interest in public policies that address problems of peace, health and poverty — problems, unlike abortion and same-sex marriage, where left and right compete to present the best answers. ...

The full article >>

But someone else says:

"The evangelical movement's breakdown ain't so cute after all"

For a very skeptical response to this article, see a short comment by Susie Bright, who is described as "an author, editor, and journalist known for her original and pioneering work in sexual politics and erotic expression." She argues that the sexual hang-ups [I’m using nicer words] of evangelicals are still strong, and their disillusionment with Pres. Bush does not indicate a real change in their values.

Her comments >>

Maligning the faith of others for political profit
[7-24-07]

Jim Berkley, Director of Presbyterian Action at the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), has recently attacked the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice for not being "Christian" – though it intends to serve as an interfaith advocacy group.

Frederick Clarkson analyzes Berkley’s criticism and shows how Berkley distorts or ignores the established views of the PC(USA), since he wants to assert (contrary to the Presbyterian Church’s view) that all abortion is absolutely wrong.

Berkley’s blog, entitled "A Really Crass ‘Religious’ Coalition" >>

Clarkson’s critique >>

Frederick Clarkson is an independent journalist, author and lecturer who has done extensive research and writing about politics and religion – focusing on the Religious Right – for more than twenty years.


Thanks to Fred Clarkson and Jean Rodenbough for bringing this to our attention.

A visitor offers a criticism of Clarkson’s criticism of Berkley’s criticism of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice    [7-25-07]

Read our original report >>

Doug,

I just saw your post about Jim Berkley written by Frederick Clarkson. Since only those who agree with Clarkson are allowed to make comments on his site, it is good to have a site where one can send a letter. I think if I had seen Clarkson's article the title alone would have clued me to the fact that it wasn't a very good article. Jim Berkley is a man of integrity whether you agree with his faith positions or not. And they are faith positions not political positions.

I wonder if any have considered how Christians who believe abortion is the killing of babies really see the issues. It is one thing to have policies in the PCUSA which both affirm a women's right to choose abortion while still insisting it is more than a political issue since life is sacred and another to have various groups within the Church aligned with a group which actually promotes abortion. And the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice does promote abortion.

You do no one a service when you malign a brother in Christ for their position which they hold because of their faith in Christ. You may disagree with that position, with that brother, but say why don’t agree rather than using shoddy material by someone who neither knows Jim Berkley or his good character.

In Christ,

Viola Larson
Elder, Fremont Presbyterian Church
Sacramento, CA

Reflecting on the life and work of the Rev. Jerry Falwell
[5-17-07]

The Rev. Jerry Falwell, who died on May 15, was a significant and polarizing figure in American politics and religion during the last 30 years.

For many of us, his death is an occasion for reflecting on the rise of the Religious Right in the United States, and its current role in our society and our political life.

So here’s a survey of some of the commentaries on Jerry Falwell and his significance for us today.

We've included comments from

bulletJonathan Alter of Newsweek: "Don't believe the Falwell hype"
bulletBarry Lynn of Americans United
bulletSoulForce
bulletUS News and World Report:  "Falwell Launched the Modern Christian Right"
bullet"The Next Jerry Falwell," on EthicsDaily, a very good Southern Baptist website
bullet"What he really said," on Slate
bulletThe voice of "Southernist resentment," from Jonathan Justice

We welcome your comments, or suggestions of others that we might include.  Just send a note!

NAE rebuffs critics, affirming commitment to environmental concerns    [3-31-07]

The National Association of Evangelicals recently affirmed its stance on caring for the environment—indirectly rebuffing complaints that its vice president for governmental affairs, Richard Cizik, is too engaged in environmental issues—and endorsed a statement condemning torture.

Focus on the Family chair James Dobson and two dozen other evangelical leaders, had asked the NAE board to oust Cizik because of his "relentless campaign" against human-induced global warming. Other signers of the letter included Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council; Gary L. Bauer, onetime Republican presidential candidate and now head of Coalitions for America; and Paul Weyrich, a veteran political strategist.

The only NAE board member who opposed Cizik publicly was Jerald Walz, recently named vice president for operations of the Washington-based Institute on Religion and Democracy. The IRD customarily aims its critiques at the leaders of mainline Protestant denominations and the National Council of Churches. Presbyterians may well be aware that Presbyterian elder Alan Wisdom is another Vice President of the IRD and Director of Presbyterian Action for Faith and Freedom (formerly called Presbyterians for Democracy and Religious Freedom).


Witherspoon Issues Analyst Gene TeSelle offers these thoughts:

The two dozen conservatives had denounced the Rev. Richard Cizik, vice-president of the NAE, for his emphasis on "creation care," claiming that it confused the meaning of "evangelical" and weakened their emphasis on abortion and same-sex marriage.

As a number of evangelicals pointed out, the letter raises the question of who is trying to capture their movement. The conservatives claim that environmentalism is a liberal, even pagan cause. But by limiting the evangelical agenda to issues of abortion and sexual morality they may be making evangelicalism captive to a right-wing political agenda, identified in recent years with the Republican Party.

The board did not respond directly to the letter, but it reaffirmed its support for the 2004 Call to Civic Responsibility, which urged evangelical engagement on seven key issues, including religious freedom, the sanctity of life, justice for the poor, and environmental protection.

As a member of the PC(USA) group that is developing a "new Social Creed" for the 21st century on the model of the 1908 Social Creed, I am struck once again at the way concern about social, economic, and political justice unites mainstream Protestants, evangelicals, and Roman Catholics.

There are, to be sure, doctrinal and moral issues that divide these groups. But they are reading the same Bible, and if they listen they hear the message of the law and the prophets about justice to the poor, to sojourners, and to the oppressed. Even though the issues that divide us are important ones and cannot be ignored, we should rejoice at the many manifestations of unity as we seek to be obedient in the midst of the world of work, investment, and buying and selling.

It is worth noting, perhaps, that the one board member who spoke against a Christian concern for the environment and climate change is a top staff person of IRD, which seems consistent in defending narrowly defined corporate interests, even as many other evangelicals are broadening their vision of their mission.

For more reports, see The Christian Century and the Washington Post.

Religious Right's 'Liberty Sunday' is yet another vehicle for gay bashing, says Americans United    [10-12-06]

The Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council (FRC) is sponsoring the Oct. 15 event, which it describes as an examination of how the gay-rights movement allegedly threatens religious liberty. The gathering will take place at Tremont Temple Baptist Church in Boston and it will be simulcast to churches throughout the nation. (Ann Romney, wife of Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, has agreed to speak.)

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, noted that in September the FRC and allied groups held a "Values Voter Summit" in Washington that featured copious amounts of gay bashing and attacks on church-state separation. Lynn said he expects more of the same during "Liberty Sunday."

The full news release from Americans United >>

How Biblical is the Christian Right?   [5-8-06]

Margaret M. Mitchell, Professor of New Testament and Early Christian Literature at the University of Chicago, looks at the ways in which the Christian Right uses the Bible in arguing for its agenda. It’s not simply a matter of Biblical literalism, for they use a variety of approaches to scripture, just as did the early Christian scholars whom she studies.

Of the early scholars, she says:

Biblical interpretation ... was not just a neutral quest for the meaning of the text, but always an attempt to bring the text to the work at hand (catechetical, apologetic, pastoral, and theological). Early Christian biblical interpretation, from the get-go, was an agonistic endeavor (building arguments through appeals to some texts, read in certain ways, against others who read either the same texts differently and/or different texts).

And so it is today:

The Christian Right represents biblical interpretation in a conjunction of two selective circles: of what are the key issues in the political realm and what are the central passages in the biblical record. It represents an odd alignment of each. The canonical delineation is striking—a focus on the Old Testament, with special prominence given to Judges and 1 and 2 Chronicles, as well as to Genesis and Leviticus; and in the New Testament, to selected moralizing passages of the Pauline letters and Revelation. It is easy to see then what is missing: the prophets of Israel and the teachings of Jesus (the Gospels). Along with them go concern with social/political issues such as economic inequality, peace-making, love and forgiveness, and critique of religious hypocrisy (just to choose a few!).

The key to this selectivity is the wholesale adoption by the Christian Right of one strand of biblical thinking, apocalyptic.

The full essay >>

Episcopal Diocese of Washington takes the battle to its attackers on the Anglican right

Publishes "Following the Money: Donors and Activists on the Anglican Right"   [4-28-06]

When the General Convention of the Episcopal Church meets in Columbus, Ohio, in June, a small network of theologically conservative organizations will be on hand to warn deputies that they must repent of their liberal attitudes on homosexuality or face a possible schism. The groups represent a small minority of church members, but relationships with wealthy American donors and powerful African bishops have made them key players in the fight for the future of the Anglican Communion.    More >>

New IRD President is a Schismatic Presbyterian

by Frederick Clarkson    [3-20-06]

This article is posted here with the kind permission of its author.  You will find it, and many more resources on the Religious Right, on the website Talk to Action.

You can tell a great deal about an organization by its leader. That person is, after all, the person who was hired to carry out the agenda of the board of directors. That person is normally the principal spokesperson; the person who gives the speech; the person whom the reporter asks for even when he sometimes has to settle for someone else. And whenever an organization goes through a transition after the departure of a longtime leader, who the next leader is often signals the organization's direction.

Thus, the announcement of the new president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a Washington, DC-based organization with a 20 year history of seeking to undermine mainline Christian churches deemed "too liberal" – is a bellwether moment.    More >>

Abramoff's evangelical soldiers
[3-16-06]

Lobbyist Jack Abramoff has apparently worked closely with a number of leaders on the Religious Right, enlisting their anti-gambling rhetoric to oppose the establishment of casinos that would have infringed on the territory of his tribal clients. Focus on the Family founder James Dobson was one of the central figures, and others were Tony Perkins, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, and Ralph Reed. Gambling money went at least to Reed.

Three days after Abramoff's indictment Dobson declared, "If the nation's politicians don't fix this national disaster, then the oceans of gambling money with which Jack Abramoff tried to buy influence on Capitol Hill will only be the beginning of the corruption we'll see." He concluded with a denunciation of vice: "Gambling--all types of gambling--is driven by greed and subsists on greed."

Read The Nation’s article >>

Some evangelicals call for action against global warming, others refuse   [2-8-06]

Eighty-six evangelical Christian leaders have decided to back a major initiative to fight global warming, saying "millions of people could die in this century because of climate change, most of them our poorest global neighbors." But the National Association of Evangelicals has refused to take a stand, in spite of the urging of some of its members, and in spite of its declaration last year of an Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility.     The New York Times reports on the action against global warming >>

An "evangelical mutiny"?

Paul Waldman, a senior fellow at Media Matters for America, sees this as one example of a growing split among religious conservatives, particularly between those whose primary loyalty is to the Republican Party, and the others who are more concerned to be faithful to their own consciences and convictions. Finally, he suggests, progressive people of faith must help their evangelical sisters and brothers to see that "the Republican Party is playing you for a fool" – using them as a political base, with no real commitment to many of their values.     More >>

"Renewal Groups"? – Let’s get the name right
[2-1-06]

In a brief essay, John Dorhauer argues that "renewal groups" such as those that work through the Institute for Religion and Democracy [including "Presbyterian Action," of which the Rev. Jim Berkley is the Interim Director .] should be seen for what they really are: "... trained activists intent on the demise, the destabilization, and the destruction of Mainline Protestant Christianity. They use cleverly chosen wedge issues to divide otherwise united congregations and denominations. They produce, print, and circulate periodicals, pamphlets, and diatribes filled with innuendo and misinformation intended to inflame the passions of otherwise content congregants."   

Dorhauer continues:

This is not to argue that the church should be a monolith of convention and homogeneity. It should reflect the rich diversity of opinion and principle of which every human family and institution is composed, be those principles liberal or conservative, orthodox or reform. And always the church should invite the kind of dialogue and debate that honors all such voices. But that advocate for reasonable debate cannot be the creation of a `renewal group' that begins the dialogue with an accusation of heresy and apostasy; that trains activists and tacticians to destroy and destabilize the church; and that circulates material meant to defame, defraud, and defy.

It is imperative that we in Mainline Protestant churches know what we are up against. To call these organizations intent on our demise `Renewal Groups' is a gross mischaracterization of their true purpose.         The full essay >>

The view from the Right

Evangelicals offer thoughtful and subtle views on "the health of the nation"
[10-10-05]

Gene TeSelle introduces us to a statement entitled "For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility," which was adopted by the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals on October 7, 2004.

He also reviews a wide-ranging book, Toward an Evangelical Public Policy: Political Strategies for the Health of the Nation, edited by Ronald J. Sider and the late Diane Knippers. The two editors have been co-chairs of the National Association of Evangelicals' project "Toward an Evangelical Framework for Public Engagement."

WSLCD?
By Berry Craig

What Should Liberal Christians Do?

Berry Craig poses this question in light of what he sees as the growing power and assertiveness of Christian fundamentalists in today’s polarized political culture. "Most importantly," he says, "liberal Christians ought to make it clear they too are "Bible-Believing Christians."   [5-23-05]

NPR looks at the religious right   [5-17-05]

Frederick Clarkson, an observer of the religious right, will appear on NPR’s Fresh Air along with Christian Right leader D. James Kennedy

Dr. Clarkson, who was one of the team that produced A Moment To Decide in 2000 as part of his ongoing study of right-wing religious-political movements, sends this note:

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I will be a guest on National Public Radio show, Fresh Air with Terry Gross on Wednesday, May 18th.
http://www.npr.org/templates/rundowns/rundown.php?prgId=13

The first half of the show includes an interview with Christian Right leader D. James Kennedy, the head of Coral Ridge Ministries. The second half is an interview with me. The general themes are separation of church and state, Christian nationalism, and theocratic movements in the U.S. Kennedy was, in 1973, one of the leaders of the conservative schism that became the Presbyterian Church in America.

To find out where and when you can hear the program in your area, here is the station list and program schedule. Times vary. http://www.npr.org/wheretohear/?prgId=13

-- Fred

***********************
Frederick Clarkson
www.frederickclarkson.com

Bill Moyers: There is no tomorrow

Many friends have urged us to link to Bill Moyers' remarks upon receiving the Global Environmental Citizen Award from the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School. Arguing that evangelical Christians and their views now dominate the political scene in Washington, he warns that their expectations of the impending apocalypse (as expressed most widely in Timothy LaHaye's "Left Behind" series) lead to their passionate support of Israel as the best way to bring on the return of Christ. And these views also lead to a careless attitude toward the environment - since God will take care of it all anyway.

Moyers until recently hosted the weekly public affairs series "NOW with Bill Moyers" on PBS. This article is adapted from AlterNet, where it first appeared. It has now been published in a slightly edited version in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. It's good stuff, if you're looking for something more to be seriously concerned about.   [1-31-05]

Understanding the conservative evangelical vote

Following the 2004 presidential election, Dr. Arch Taylor wrote an essay exploring the main characteristics of American evangelical religion as it may have impacted the election.

Dr. Taylor offers a perspective which is both critical and sympathetic -- and can be helpful as many of us try to understand the changing American religious and political landscape.   [12-4-04]

'Evangelical Christianity has been hijacked,' says Tony Campolo   [12-3-04]

BeliefNet.com recently posted an interview with evangelical leader and author Tony Campolo, who says that "there's a difference between evangelical and being a part of the Religious Right." While he acknowledges that many evangelicals have joined the "Religious Right," he want s to "communicate loud and clear that ... that evangelical Christianity [has] been hijacked."

Jesus and Jihad   [7-19-04]

Are you dealing with folks who are turned on by the "Left Behind" series of evangelical end-time thrillers?

Nicholas Kristoff, one of the New York Times' most thoughtful columnists, took note recently of the latest volume in the hugely popular series. This installment, with the title "Glorious Appearing," tells the story of Jesus' return to Earth "to wipe all non-Christians from the planet. It's disconcerting to find ethnic cleansing celebrated as the height of piety."

He concludes: "People have the right to believe in a racist God, or a God who throws millions of nonevangelicals into hell. I don't think we should ban books that say that. But we should be embarrassed when our best-selling books gleefully celebrate religious intolerance and violence against infidels. That's not what America stands for, and I doubt that it's what God stands for."

You'll find the article on the Times' website, but if you have trouble getting to it there, try TruthOut.org.

Evangelical leaders seek new framework for political action   [6-21-04]

The National Association of Evangelicals is working on what could be a groundbreaking framework for political action.

While it is grounded in biblical morality and evangelical scholarship, the framework for public engagement strongly endorses social and economic justice and warns against close alignment with any political party. It affirms a religiously based commitment to government protections for the poor, the sick and disabled, including fair wages, healthcare, nutrition and education, and declares that Christians have a "sacred responsibility" to protect the environment.

But it also hews closely to a traditional evangelical emphasis on the importance of families, opposition to homosexual marriage and "social evils" such as alcohol, drugs, abortion and the use of human embryos for stem-cell research. It reaffirms a commitment to religious freedom at home and abroad.

Interestingly, Diane Knippers, president of the conservative Institute on Religion and Democracy and NAE board member, is co-chairwoman of the drafting committee.

Re-establishing religion?

Frederick Clarkson, author of Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy, writes in the Christian Science Monitor to describe how the Christian Right is rewriting history to claim that this the United States was founded as a "Christian nation," and that laws should be written to "restore" a mythical establishment of Christianity as the religion of the state.    [4-22-04]

Layman polls views on same-sex marriage and all that. So what do you think?   [4-20-04]

Oh my.  As of noon on Wednesday, April 21, the poll seems to have disappeared.  When your WebWeaver looked at the results about 24 hours ago, the votes seemed to be running about 2 to 1 for the Washington Office and same-sex marriage, and against a Federal Marriage Amendment.  We wonder where it all went.

Ahhh -- The Layman explains:  The Layman Online recently offered a series of poll questions on marriage in order to provide readers with an opportunity to share their thoughts on this issue. Unfortunately, some people abused this voting privilege and sought to affect the results by voting multiple times – forcing the cancellation of the polls. The Layman Online regrets the inconvenience to its readers.   [4-21-04, 5:00 pm]

The Layman is sponsoring a brief poll , asking opinions on same-sex marriage, the Federal Marriage Amendment, the Washington Office statement on that subject, and "who speaks for you" on such questions.

You may be interested to see what the results are - and to let your own voice be heard.

To see the current results, click on each of the "take the poll" links below; you can cast your vote if you haven't yet; if you have voted, you'll jump directly to the results chart.

Poll # 1: Who Speaks For You Take the poll

Poll # 2: Marriage and the Washington Office Take the poll

Poll # 3: The Federal Marriage Amendment. Take the poll

Poll # 4: Same-Sex Marriage. Take the poll

The Evangelical Roots of American Unilateralism: the Christian Right's influence and how to counter it   [4-5-04]

Duane Oldfield, associate professor of political science at Knox College and the author of The Right and the Righteous, has written a special report on the Christian right and the unilateralist foreign policy of the present administration.

Presbytery panel recommends withdrawing validation of Parker Williamson's ministry   [12-11-03]

Presbyterian News Service reports on the COM vote in the Presbytery of Western North Carolina, recommending that the Presbytery not validate the ministry of the Rev. Parker T. Williamson as chief executive officer of the Presbyterian Lay Committee and editor in chief of its publications.

This vote would not, as suggested by earlier reports in The Layman Online, strip Williamson of his ordination. It would place him on inactive status, and if his validation were not renewed in three years, would revoke his ordination.

"Evangelicals have become this century's witch burners"
[7-21-03]

The Guardian (in Britain) has an analysis of the role of evangelical's in the recent struggles in the Church of England over the appointment of Jeffrey John a gay priest as a bishop. Noting that "the word evangelical is now firmly linked in the public imagination with intolerance and bigotry," the author points to what a change this is from the origins of the evangelical movement in Britain, when it "had a reasonable claim to be the social conscience of the nation." It provide the motivation for the campaign to abolish slavery, for prison reform and the limitation of child labor.

Author of the article is the Rev. Dr. Giles Fraser, vicar of Putney and lecturer in philosophy at Wadham College, Oxford. He doesn't really explain how the shift has come about, except for pointing to its historical roots. His view of the future is not hopeful: accommodation to the evangelicals, he asserts, will be in vain, and many of them have already determined to separate.

This makes interesting reading for us Presbyterians in the USA.

Five pastors visit Louisville office, demanding the PC(USA) "repent"
[11-4-02]

Presbyterian News Service has reported that five Presbyterian pastors recently visited the Presbyterian national office in Louisville, to tape near the main entrance their "Call to Confession and Repentance," calling the church "irretrievably apostate under current management."

Their call for repentance, widely circulated, has so far garnered about 100 signatures.

Some Witherspoon members have urged us to comment on this action, and Witherspoon board member Barbara Kellam-Scott offers some thoughts.

NCC Board Repudiates Falwell's "60 Minutes" Comments on Islam

Responding to Jerry Falwell's widely quoted condemnation of Islam as a terrorist religion, the National Council of Churches has issued a statement which concludes by stating that "we ... affirm to our brothers and sisters in Islam that we condemn and repudiate Jerry Falwell's hateful and destructive statements delivered on CBS's "60 Minutes," October 6, 2002, and we call upon President George W. Bush to repudiate and condemn Falwell's remarks."   [10-9-02]

Equal Partners in Faith has also issued a statement condemning Jerry Falwell's claim that "Mohammad was a terrorist."    [10-9-02]
A call for "repentance" from the Right

The Witherspoon Society's executive committee has been fascinated by the statement published on PresbyWeb on October 2, 2002, in which five Presbyterian pastors have issued a "call to confession and repentance."  We have been especially interested in the suggestive placement of one comma in a crucial sentence as they "call all churches that wish to be part of the faithful remnant of the Presbyterian Church, USA, to: ... remain within the denomination while refusing to fund any work of the denomination, which is antithetical to the will of God."

[10-4-02]

A Confessing Church view of stewardship

[8-29-02]

James Tuckett, a.k.a. The Old Gray Dog, has posted on the Confessing Church website "seven principles of Christian financial stewardship taught in the New Testament." [Underlining is Mr. Tuckett's.]

You might find it interesting. Your WebWeaver notes just a few points:

1. Women may be pleased to discover that by citing the King James Version of all the NT passages, you're relieved of all stewardship obligations. This seems to be a matter for men only!

2. Principle 4 states: "Giving money to the Lord's work is a matter of personal choice." The explication of this principle implies that things like per capita payments are coercive, and therefore "legalistic and/or carnal."

3. In a "Special Message for the Congregations of the Confessing Church Movement," the Old Gray Dog advises their congregations to "Stop all undesignated giving. How can your stewardship be personal, purposeful, and thoughtful if you do not know where the money is going, how it will be spent, or what, specifically, it will be used for? This would include all denominational giving. (e.g., Special Offerings, "mission" giving, per capita)."

4. So how will a good Christian man know where to designate his bountiful offerings? Old Gray Dog recommends "The Outreach Foundation and the Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship." [Emphasis in the original.]

Religious left holds conference in Texas, focusing on "Fundamentalism's Threat to Democracy"

[8-29-02]

The Dallas Morning News reported recently on a one-day gathering of about 800 people for a conference of The Texas Freedom Network. The group was kicking off its Fundamentalism Education Project with "what often felt like a revival meeting for the Religious Left," on the theme of "Fundamentalism's Threat to Democracy." Karen Armstrong, whose book The Battle For God sets out a historical explanation for the rise of fundamentalism in Christianity, Judaism and Islam, was a main speaker at the event.

Well, Happy National Day of Prayer!  [5-2-02]

Today is indeed our official National Day of Prayer.

Here are three items that will tell you more.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has issued a press release detailing the background of the occasion, and the extent to which is has become the property of the Christian Right. The occasion is directed by the NDP Task Force, which is a private nonprofit group that is headed by Shirley Dobson, wife of Religious Right broadcaster James Dobson. It operates from the headquarters of Dobson's Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, Colo. The Task Force's events have reflected a fundamentalist Christian view of the world and advanced the claim that America is a Christian nation.

In Ventura County, CA, there will be two prayer gatherings - one exclusively evangelical Christian, the other interfaith.

A report from Dallas notes that most of the events are unabashedly Christian.

Anti-gay movement gains a new ally

[2-20-02]

The Army of God, a radical antiabortion group now under government scrutiny for their ties to antiabortion anthrax hoax letters, is branching out to spout new, violent rhetoric against gays.

Frederick Clarkson's report is published on Salon.com, where you can read the first part on their public web site. The rest of the article is on "Salon Premium," for which you must subscribe at $6 a month or $30 a year.

Clarkson notes that the Rev. Michael Bray, a "chaplain" of the Army of God, proclaimed "Let us give thanks," after sword-wielding officials in Saudi Arabia beheaded three gay men New Year's Day.

Should you not choose to pay for the Salon article, here are links to some of the Army of God pages that will give you a taste of what has aroused Clarkson's concern.

But be warned - it's ugly stuff.

http://www.armyofgod.com/MikeBray1.html

http://www.armyofgod.com/Leviticus.html

http://www.armyofgod.com/UnitedWay.html

The phenomenon of fundamentalism   [2-8-02]

The events of September 11 have made all of us aware of "fundamentalism" in a new way.  But just what is it, what are the roots from which it draws such strength, and how can we understand and respond to it?

Barbara Kellam-Scott reflects on these questions, out of an ongoing conversation on PresbyNet.

God, Enron and the Christian Right   [1-28-02]

Charles Henderson, Presbyterian minister and host of the Christianity page on about.com, today highlighted an essay commenting on a recent New York Times report. The recent Enron debacle has brought to light the fact that in 1997, as George W. Bush was beginning his campaign for the presidency, his top political aide, Karl Rowe, arranged for Enron to hire Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition.

Back to politics for Pat Robertson 

Evangelist Pat Robertson, having just removed himself from religious politics, is now working to support a House bill that would allow churches to support political candidates.  [1-8-02]

Sometime in 2000 we posted an essay by Gene TeSelle, responding to criticisms of A Moment to Decide by Jerry Andrews.  That essay somehow evaporated from this web site, as things sometimes do.  Someone asked us about it recently, and thanks to Gene TeSelle's diligence in filing things, it's back again!  [11-28-01]
The Presbyterian Coalition has announced the outlines of its strategy for defeating Amendment A.  [8-6-01]
Fred Clarkson describes continuing activities of the "Religious Right"    [7-25-01]

Researcher Fred Clarkson analyzes the continuing activities of the "Christian Right" in a new study, "The Culture Wars are Not Over: The Institutionalization of the Christian Right." He sees the relatively quiet role of conservative religious groups in the recent elections as balanced by their growing power in the administration. He looks also at growing efforts by conservatives to gain power in local governments and in the churches - including the PC(USA).

A Presbyterian has written to express his concern about the Layman's charge that the General Assembly was "apostate."  [7-17-01]
Conservative Institute on Religion and Democracy targets Presbyterian and other churches for "reform" as it seeks to gain power in governing bodies [3-24-01]
Jonathan Justice comments on a Layman editorial, disputing the notion that pastors should instruct their elder commissioners on how to vote at presbytery, and that any commissioner should feel compelled merely to "represent" his or her congregation.  [3-7-01]

Check out other comments by attorney Doug Nave and elder Marcia Casais, each offering their own concerns with the Layman's notion of voting "in lockstep," as Justice calls it. [3-8-01]

Barbara Kellam-Scott, a Presbyterian elder and moderator of Semper Reformanda, is a professional writer. Out of that experience she does a careful analysis of the Jan/Feb 2001 issue of The Presbyterian Layman. Asserting that information matters, she urges that we take seriously the "misinformation" that is so influential in our church. [3-3-01]
Ten African-American employees of the Christian Coalition have filed suit against the organization and Pat Robertson, charging glaring problems of racial discrimination.  One white employee charges that he has been fired for refusing to spy on the African-Americans. [3-6-01]
Promise Keepers plans 18 conferences in 2001

[published here on 1-16-01]

Promise Keepers has announced its schedule of 18 conferences in 2001, including six locations where they will hold major gatherings for the first time. The year's theme will be ''Turn the Tide: Living Out an Extreme Faith.''

Click here for more information.

The Presbyterian Forum offers an analysis of what's wrong with the PC(USA), and what they hope to change.

The Presbyterian Review, an on-line expression of the conservative Presbyterian Forum, is presenting an end-of-the-year review which is focusing on the Presbyterian Church as "the institution, not local congregations." Some themes are suggested here which may indicate issues that we will be hearing more about in the coming months.
Click here
for a little more analysis.
Click here
to go directly to the Presbyterian Review web site.

How do progressives look to some of our brothers and sisters on the right?

One writer says, "When we find within our body a cancerous tumor, that malignant mass must be excised to restore health."

Are there parallels between the conservative takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention and what is happening in the PC(USA)? Gene Teselle reflects on what we might learn from their experience. 
Board member tells Coalition to face the fact that divisions in PC(USA) are deep and lasting

But most evangelicals reject calls for leaving the denomination

from PNS, 11-7-00

Union Seminary symposium looks at the challenge to mainline Christianity
10-18-00
Recent book urges us to reconsider our stereotypes of evangelicals
7/17/00
Progressive groups seek to offer creative critiques of coming Promise Keepers events.
The journal called The Presbyterian Layman has long been a matter of concern to many Presbyterians, and to the General Assembly, because of reporting practices that sometimes appear to distort reality in the name of The Truth as it is affirmed by the Lay Committee.

Yet the Layman presents a wide variety of news that is found nowhere else, and many of us take it very seriously.

On this web site, we will offer space for those who may wish to provide what they see as corrections to the reporting or the interpretations given in the Layman.  It is not our intent, nor is it within our capabilities, to "prove" any particular story is right or wrong.  Rather we hope to provide space for other points of view and other accounts of "reality."

So ... for "The Layman Watch," here

 
The proliferation of web sites gives us a new opportunity to watch other groups (while they watch us) prepare for the coming General Assembly.

Click here to see some comments and links to some of the conservative groups' preparations.

 
Think Tank Prepares Study of Presbyterian Conservatives

On September 16 the Institute for Democracy Studies (IDS), a New York-based think tank, issued a press release summarizing a forthcoming study on the conservative movement in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

It should be no surprise that the study traces the career of J. Howard Pew of Sun Oil, a member of the right wing of the National Association of Manufacturers, which from the beginning of the New Deal was hostile toward its policies. Pew funded a series of right-wing ventures including the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and periodicals like Christian Economics, Christianity Today, and The Presbyterian Layman.

More broadly, the study looks at the self-proclaimed "renewal groups" in the PC(USA) and takes seriously their strategy of not leaving the church but trying to take it over. The five-year plan of the Presbyterian Coalition, the authors say, has been greatly enhanced by the emergence of the Presbyterian Forum, which has brought advanced techniques for managing political conventions to the annual General Assembly. Political operatives practiced in the management of political conventions know how to script an hour-by- hour scenario and bring about the desired outcome.

In recent years the Forum has set up "war rooms" on the edge of the General Assembly, featuring networked computers, copy machines, and a hospitality room. All developments in committees and on the floor of the Assembly are monitored; commissioners are instructed how to move nominations and draft minority reports; and strategies are planned down to specific motions and "talking points."

The operative most responsible for these strategic advances is a seasoned political professional named Clarke Reed, a veteran of conservative Republican politics since the 1964 Barry Goldwater campaign. He served as GOP party chair in Mississippi and in 1996 was the campaign finance chair for Governor Kirk Fordyce. Reed, along with Robert Dooling, created the Forum in 1997 in an apparent end-game strategy to take over the church.

The conservative movement has long denounced the mainline churches for their social witness positions on a host of issues, from civil rights to the status of women, economic justice, the environment, and nuclear disarmament. In the first draft of the Coalition's strategy paper, its "visioning team" called for the defunding or elimination of several Presbyterian agencies, including "the Congregational Ministries Division, the Presbyterian Health, Education and Welfare Association, the Advisory Committee on Social Witness [Policy] and the Women's Advocacy Committee." The Coalition has called for severe reduction of the national church structure and decentralization of its functions to presbyteries and congregations. While this proposed devolution uses populist rhetoric, its intention is to disempower the national organization, where mainstream trends continue to be evident.

The rightist coalition has focused on wedge issues like "radical feminism" or "the homosexual agenda" in the name of fidelity to Scripture and the Presbyterian confessions, denouncing them as "alien ideologies" and calling for "the theological and moral examination of church officers and the disciplining of flagrant violations of constitutional standards." They have clearly stated their intention to use church judicial structures to conduct purges of moderate and liberal elements from positions of leadership.

IDS president Alfred Ross said, "We believe that if the Right comes to power in the Presbyterian Church, as they have in the Southern Baptist Convention, this will accelerate the rise of religious intolerance in the U.S. Heresy trials and purges of pastors, seminary faculty and denominational staff will be waiting in the wings."

If the conservative strategy were to succeed in turning the PC(USA) into a religiously and politically conservative denomination, there would be significant consequences for public policy issues such as reproductive rights and separation of church and state. In addition, a conservative takeover would likely lead to a break with ecumenical bodies such as the National and World Councils of Churches and the realignment of the PC(USA) with conservative evangelical or reformed bodies.

The full report will be issued soon. In the meantime, the press release can be secured from the Institute for Democracy Studies, 177 E. 87th St. (#501), New York, NY 10128; (212) 423- 9237, fax 423-9352.  

For a critical review by church historian Gene TeSelle of Parker Williamson's right-wing interpretation of the Council of Nicea, click here.
Presbyterians for Renewal seeks prayers (and dollars!) for the "day of battle" -- the 2001 General Assembly

Using a long-standing tactic of the religious right, PFR is aiming to enlist 100,000 pastors and church members "in the pursuit of the peace, unity, and purity of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)" They're asking people to pledge $3000 to enable PFR to hire an additional staff person in preparation for the 2001 Assembly, "at which time ordination standards are most likely to be revisited."

Click here to read their full statement.
The conservative Presbyterian Coalition has very specific suggestions for checking out the orthodoxy of candidates for pastorates.

Click here for more information. 

It's not just a Presbyterian struggle --

Conservative Episcopalians consecrate their own kind of bishops in Singapore, to press for their kind of purity in the Episcopal Church in the U.S.

Click here for details.

 

IDS is on the Web at www.institutefordemocracy.org -- and their site is now up and running!

You can also see the full text of the general summary of their study so far: "Taking Aim: Conservatives' Bid for Power in the Presbyterian Church Entering Advanced Stage." And click here for their analysis of current judicial proceedings being brought by conservative groups: "The Trials of 1999: The Cutting Edge of Right-Wing Power in the Presbyterian Church"

To see some quick responses from the conservative Presbyterian Forum, click here. 

For commentary and evaluation by Gene TeSelle, click here.

01/16/12

 

Some blogs worth visiting

PVJ's Facebook page

Mitch Trigger, PVJ's Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!

You can post your own news and views, or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.

 

John Shuck’s new "Religion for Life" website

Long-time and stimulating blogger John Shuck, a Presbyterian minister currently serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tenn., writes about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and lightening up.

Click here for his blog posts.

Click here for podcasts of his radio program, which "explores the intersection of religion, social justice and public life."

 

John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

Theological and philosophical reflections on everything between summit to shore, including kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood -- by a progressive New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in Flushing, NY.

 

Voices of Sophia blog

Heather Reichgott, who has created this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:

After fifteen years of scholarship and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy, students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and thoughtful community.

 

Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!

 

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