Wednesday, June 27, 2012

First Black President: The Fred Luter Era

By Rashad Grove
R3 Contributor

Revolutionary intellectual and feminist scholar Angela Davis once said, “Diversity means absolutely nothing if those who are “diverse” do nothing except to cause the machinery of the current system to run exactly the same way or even more effectively.” In lieu of the recent historical nomination of the Rev. Fred Luter as the first African-American president of the largest protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, this analysis has the potential to play out in our current religious sphere. While the SBC sees this event as coming full circle from the theological underpinnings of its racist historicity and discriminatory religiosity, others characterize this as a desperate attempt to court Black evangelicals, to colorize its extremely white membership, and to utilize Fred Luter as simply a pawn in the their game of “denominational ventriloquism.” Michael Eric Dyson captures the essence of this perspective. He says, “The problem with most theology is that there can be a black mouth moving but white ideological beliefs speaking.” The materialization of Fred Luter’s leadership of the SBC and the effectual results of his term remains to be seen but the polarization of his assent into the sacred and hallowed orbit that is the SBC is already in perpetual motion.

For a concise understanding of where the SBC is in this particular moment, it is imperative for an elucidation of where the SBC has come from. In 1845, members at a regional convention being held in Augusta, Georgia created the SBC, following a split from northern Baptists over the issue of slavery and appropriate roles for slaveholders in the church. Those who were opposed to the enslavers of African-Americans as missionaries created the Northern Baptist Convention which would later on become the American Baptist Churches USA. After the American Civil War, another split occurred: most black Baptists in the South separated from white churches to set up independent congregations, regional associations, and state and national conventions, such as the National Baptist Convention, the largest second largest Black Baptist denomination. Rod Mccullom says in his article The Southern Baptists' 1st Black President is More of the Same? “The denomination only officially denounced racism and apologized for "the role that slavery played in the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention” ... in 1995. One hundred and 50 years after its founding—and after promoting segregation for much of its existence. It comes as no surprise the group has pulled a "Michael Steele” —electing a Black man to lead their overwhelmingly White and social conservative denomination.” Out of this contextualization a proactive question emerges. Is Rev.Fred Luter the SBC’s “Great Black Hope”?

The omnipresent reality is that we should only expect whatever we inspect. When considering Fred Luter’s presidency of the SBC, it’s safe to promote the assumption that a new radicality will not be on the agenda of the SBC under Luter’s tenure. Luter has climbed up the “rough side of the mountain” in the life of the SBC and he is theologically and sociologically conservative to the core of his existence. As president of the SBC he wouldn’t set guidelines for individual churches (Baptist polity is Congregational in its ecclesiastical government) but he will be the face of the positional stances of the SBC in theological praxis and sociological engagement. The leadership he will provide will ultimately hang its hat on the Baptist Faith and Message which is the doctrinal motif that SBC established. So if you see pigment of Fred Luter and believe that he will depart from the presuppositions of the SBC, you are casually expecting without critically inspecting.

According to the Baptist Faith and Message, strict adherence to biblical fundamentalism, inerrancy, and infallibility, the prohibition of women as ordained clergy, and the affirmation of the sacrament of marriage as solely between a man and women will be the pillars that will inform, influence, and impact the leadership proclivities and the sociological matrix of Fred Luter. By all accounts Fred Luter seems to be a good man. It’s almost oxymoronic but sometimes good just isn’t good enough. I am always challenged and haunted by the colloquialism that, “Injustice prevails when good men do nothing about it.” Only the benefit of time will give us a genuine account of Fred Luter and this historic occasion

Is “evangelical” a white word?

Molly Worthen’s NYT essay on the social cleavage between white and black evangelicals is a statement of the obvious and a work of art.

Worthen teaches history at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and her writing reflects a deep understanding of evangelicals black and white.

The term “evangelical”, in its common usage, refers exclusively to white folks. This may be the best explanation for a curious fact: only 35% of Americans in a recent Barna poll correctly identified Barack Obama’s religious faith as Christian. Ask African-Americans about Obama’s religion and I suspect over 95% would get it right. So I can’t help but wonder about the results from Caucasian respondents. My guess is that fewer than 25% of white people know that Obama is a Christian.

If we use political affiliation as a rough proxy for race (which, tragically, it is) the figures are interesting. 52% of Democrats know that Obama is a Christian (African-American respondents likely skewed this figure upward); but only 29% of Independents and 24% of Republicans believe that Obama is a Christian (with 18% believing he is a Muslim).
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Why Is There So Much God in America's Politics?

His silence about his faith notwithstanding, Mitt Romney will become the first Mormon to win a major-party presidential nomination. That could put more attention on his religion than any candidate has faced since John Kennedy in 1960, especially as Romney tries to attract skeptical evangelical voters. Meanwhile, President Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage and the ongoing social issues surrounding the war on women are bound to intensify criticism from the religious right and the crucial faction of conservative Latino voters.

But religion has profoundly influenced presidential politics since the days of George Washington. As Michael I. Meyerson argues in his new book, “Endowed by Our Creator: The Birth of Religious Freedom in America,” a scholarly account of how the framers of the Constitution viewed the role of religion in government, the current campaign has a lot in common with some of the country’s first electoral bouts. Then as now, Meyerson says, the debates were portrayed as a clash between a godless candidate who wanted a secular country and a true defender who was willing to restore the morals of a Christian nation. He says that the study of the formation of the American government can help us understand the reasons behind the growing partisan divide and help bridge the conflicting religious opinions of both political parties.
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New Book Talks of Romney's Faith, 'Stunning Influence' of 'Mormon Machine'

After tackling the faiths of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, conservative Evangelical writer Stephen Mansfield has moved on to a new subject: Mormonism.

Whispers obtained a preview copy of Mansfield's "The Mormonizing of America," out June 26, which refers to powerful Mormons like Glenn Beck, Harry Reid and yes, Mitt Romney, as part of the "Mormon Machine."

Mansfield spends much of the book explaining why Mormons have achieved the "stunning level of influence" they have today. In many ways, he writes, Mormons' success in adulthood is tied to the two-year mission expected of them when they are young.

"The lonely, difficult, even dangerous experience has fashioned some of the most successful leaders," he writes.

One of those leaders: GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
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Tea Party Activists Are Just Evangelicals in Colonial Disguise

In a recent article written in Charisma, a popular magazine targeting Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians, Christian Broadcasting Network correspondent David Brody asserts that the Tea Party Movement may very well be sparking a new Great Awakening in America. Brody points out that while the Tea Party started with a message that was focused more on economic issues and put social issues in the back seat, conservative Christians have been joining the movement in large numbers and strengthening its impact on the nation. This resulted in the birth of the "teavangelical" conservative Christians that are part of the Tea Party or agree with its agenda.

Teavangelicals are moving around the country with a message calling for the nation to return to Judeo-Christian principles and promoting the adoption of economic plans that would ensure a deficit-free future. The article cites remarks from Tea Party Congressman and former Republican Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann: "Well, I absolutely am a Teavangelical because I believe that we are taxed enough already. Government shouldn't spend more money than what it takes in. We should follow the Constitution. And I'm a believer in Jesus Christ, so I think that makes me a Teavangelical." The article points out that at least half of the Tea Party is comprised of conservative Christians. Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) was asked why the Tea Party is attracting so many conservative evangelicals. He responded, "I really think a lot of the motivation behind these Tea Party crowds is a spiritual component. I think it's very akin to the Great Awakening before the American Revolution."

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Red State Religion: An Interview with Robert Wuthnow

Red State Religion: Faith and Politics in America’s Heartland
by Robert Wuthnow
Princeton University Press, 2012

Robert Wuthnow is the Gerhard R. Andlinger ’52 Professor of Sociology and the Director of the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University. He also serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of Religion & Politics. A prolific scholar, Wuthnow has written extensively on religion, culture, and civil society. From global Christianity to religious diversity, from small town America to fear of terrorism, Wuthnow’s research interests span the gamut.

His latest book, Red State Religion: Faith and Politics in America’s Heartland, comes but a year after his previous book, Remaking the Heartland: Middle America since the 1950s, and somewhat picks up where the latter left off. Kansas, as Wuthnow describes it, has historically been a bastion of small-town America, home to proud families dedicated to fiscal conservatism, smaller government, and their local church. Having voted Republican more consistently than almost any other state in the country, Kansas is “red state America par excellence,” as well as “a leading player in national controversies about religion and politics.” One might think of the state’s push for Prohibition in the nineteenth century, its schools that are battlegrounds for creationism and intelligent design, its public opposition to Roe v. Wade, or the murder of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller on the steps of his Wichita church in 2009.
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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Welcome Our Newest Contributor: Reggie A. White

Minister Reggie White is from Detroit, Michigan and is completing his studies in the Master of Divinity program at Howard University School of Divinity. He was licensed to minister the gospel by Rev. Dr. Charles G. Adams in 2009. He is currently an educator at Maya Angelou Public Charter School in Washington, DC, where he teaches Science and Mathematics. This year, Min. White began teaching a business course which unites inner city students with an array of professionals from metro- DC. The aim of the program is to teach the students to develop thriving businesses through solid accounting, production and marketing strategies. A community-based servant, Min. White has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, The Family Crisis Center battered women's shelter in Prince Georges County, and the Greater Washington Urban League. Recently, Minister White has been tapped by Interfaith Youth for Climate Justice to serve as a religious mentor. He will explain religious teachings from sacred texts and share how they are connecting the Christian faith with the environment to achieve social justice. Concerning these and other accomplishments, Minister White submits that the challenge of servant-leadership is not to win acclaim or to gain honor, but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God. Micah 6:8. Follow him on Twitter @writeupstairs


Reggie's Articles:
1. The Informed Voter and the Beloved Community

Rhetoric Race and Religion Institute

In its ongoing efforts to examine the intersections between rhetoric, race, and religion, Memphis Theological Seminary along with the Dr. James L. Netters Professorship, will offer its first Rhetoric Race and Religion Institute from May 21-June 29. Below are the classes and dates for the Institute. All classes are one-week intensives from 9am-5pm Monday-Friday). For more information, please email Dr. Andre E. Johnson at ajohnson@memphisseminary.edu


Rhetoric of Race (May 28-June 1, 2012)
Dr. Andre E. Johnson                                            
In this course, by examination of theological and other religious texts, we will explore how people use language to construct race. We will place attention to the rhetorical nuisances that make up the body of “race work” along with an analysis of the meanings associated with racial categories, constructions and assumptions.



The Rhetoric(s) of the Black Church: Sex Religion and HIV/AIDS (June 4-8, 2012)
Dr. Christopher House

In this course, we will engage in rhetorical investigations, discoveries, analyses, evaluations, and critiques of representative samples of religious rhetorics from Christian (Protestant) religious leaders of African descent as we seek to identify and understand the rhetorical strategies, underpinnings and justifications of pastoral communication surrounding the HIV/AIDS crisis that disproportionally affects people of color.


Using Media in Ministry (June 25-29, 2012)
Dr. Sean Connable

For many churches, the desire to meet the needs of contemporary, mediated society grows ever more important. Mediation, and its products, however, are not without their inherent problems. This course focuses upon exploring the rhetoric and effects of mediated society, and the philosophical and theological implications that rhetoric has on the faith. Television, the internet, social media and technology has opened us up to a world of infinite choice... how does the church live within this world when it still promotes one choice as an absolute? What are the implications of coexistence? What are the potential pitfalls?

The #TrayvonMartin Reader



The tragic killing of Trayvon Martin has sparked world wide interest. We here at Rhetoric Race and Religion thought we would collect some of the editorials and essays associated with this tragedy. We ask that if you come across some articles please share them with us on our Facebook page. Enjoy.
35. Trayvon Martin, my son, and the Black Male Code
36. TRAYVON MARTIN: The 9 Most Striking Cartoons about the Florida shooting tragedy
37. What Does Trayvon Martin and Sanford, Fla. Say About Our Nation Today?
38. What Does Real Justice For Trayvon Martin Look Like?
39. For Martin’s Case, a Long Route to National Attention
40. “See Something, Say Something”: The Case of Trayvon Martin
41. Trayvon Martin's Death Sparks A Familiar, Fraught Conversation About Race And The Police
42. The Trayvon Martin Tragedy
43. More on Trayvon
44. Black Manhood and the Racist Imagination
45. Trayvon Martin and the Right's Race Problem
46. Trayvon Martin, White America and the Return of Dred Scott
47. In Slain Teenager’s Case, a Long Route to National Attention
48. Justice For Trayvon Martin: Where Are Our White Faith Leaders?
49. Taking Stock of the Trayvon Martin Case
50. The Trayvon Martin Tragedies
51. Trayvon Martin's Death Hits Hip-Hop Community Hard
52. How Trayvon Martin Became a Missing White Girl
53. Hoodies and Hijabs: The Untold Tragedy of the Muslim Trayvon Martin
54. Trayvon Martin: Doing justice, having faith in social media
55. An Evangelical Voice for Trayvon
56. Q & A: John Piper on Racism, Reconciliation, and Theology after Trayvon Martin's Death
57. The Sad Case Of Trayvon Martin
58. Trayvon Martin: License to Kill
59. Liz Trotta: Black Anchors Covering Trayvon Martin ‘Can Only Hurt Their Credibility’ With Personal Stories
60. Trayvon Martin and Race: A Sober Assessment
61. Trayvon Martin and the implicit prejudice of faith
62. Trayvon Martin, America's Black President, & (Racial) Politics
63. Trayvon Martin, Hoodies, and the Power of Images
64. In Trayvon Martin rant, Pat Buchanan misses the truth
65. In Trayvon Martin Case, Media Need to Examine Their Own Role
66. Trayvon Martin's Death Cries Out For A Reexamination of Race in America
67. Trayvon Martin was a Good Boy
68. Honor Trayvon Martin's Death: Declare War on Racism
69. Ethnicity doesn’t matter in Trayvon Martin case
70. Beyond Trayvon: The Murder of Trayvon Benjamin Martin
71. Trayvon Martin and Race: A Sober Assessment
72. Trayvon Martin Coverage Highlights Race/Religion Link in GOP Primaries
73. Fear of a Black Planet
74. The Dropout Nation Podcast: Save Our Trayvons Through School Reform
75. Trayvon Martin Should Open Our Eyes: White Privilege and Racial Profiling
76. Shelby Steele: The Exploitation of Trayvon Martin
77. The Message We’re Missing in the Trayvon Martin Coverage
78. Poll: Trayvon Martin case divides US by race, age, wealth, and politics
79. I Am Not Travyon Martin
80. We are all Trayvon Martin
81. Trayvon Martin and the Muted Voice of the Mainline Church
82. Trayvon Martin and America's Long, Horrific History of Vigilante Justice
83. On Trayvon Martin, Perceived Identities, and Zombie Imaginaries
84. Playing the Violence Card
85. Bowie mom petitions for justice for Trayvon Martin
86. Trayvon Martin & Conservative Talking Points
87. The Harsh Realities of Being Black in America
88. Shaima Al-Awadi – Beyond Hoodies and Hijabs
89. Trayvon and America’s Damascus Road
90. George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin, and Me
91. Justice and Trayvon Martin: Where Were White Liberals?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

What's at Stake? Race and Evangelical Naming

by Edward Blum
R3 Contributor

By drawing attention to the Time list of "influential" evangelicals and John Turner's essay, I'm not trying to say that evangelical scholarship is racist. I'm also not trying to say that African Americans should want to be identified as "evangelical" or necessarily included in that camp. I'm also not saying that we all need to have "additive" history where we merely add a person of color or a woman to make our stories better (would adding women to Kevin Schultz's book improve it? I'm not so sure).

What I am saying is that when it comes to "evangelicalism" and race, we cannot divorce the work that race did. My first book was based on a simple and perhaps naive graduate student question: when Dwight Moody set the North ablaze with the revivals of 1876 and 1877, why didn't he have anything to say about racial justice in the South? Why didn't Marsden or Noll or hardly else bring up that these were years of terrible racial and sectional strife? (Noll is the great example of a scholar who has grown so richly over time and now takes race quite seriously; but he did not in Scandal!) That led me to an unbelievable discord of rhetoric versus reality in post-Civil War evangelicalism that showed how folks like Moody subtly created a white supremacist morality that undermined the gains and spirit of radical Reconstruction. But this "evangelical" history rarely gets told.
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Call for Submissions: Religion and Politics

Given the undeniable impact of political affairs upon religious matters and of religion upon such political matters as elections, marriage equality, reproductive rights, war, healthcare determinations, ethnic violence, economic rights—to name but a few of many—we at the JIRD believe it is time to dedicate a special issue to the topic of Religion and Politics. We ask that you share with us your critical reflections for our eleventh issue, due to be released in the late fall of 2012. Among the countless possible avenues for exploration, we have provided a few to prompt your thinking:
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Gay, Black, and Quaker: History Catches Up with Bayard Rustin

by Stephen Angell and Leigh Eason

Recent weeks have seen history-making collaborations among leaders of the African American and LGBT equality movements. In May, the national board of the NAACP endorsed marriage equality for same-sex couples, shortly after President Obama did the same. This month, LGBT leaders joined the NAACP and others in New York City to call for an end to the police department’s “stop and frisk” policy, which has targeted mostly African Americans and Latinos.

“In the last four years, with the increase in hate crimes across the country, with states attempting to encode discrimination into their state laws and constitutions,” NAACP President Ben Jealous told the Times, “it’s become clear that, just as Bayard Rustin admonished us all, that we would either stand together or die apart.”

That comment certainly led many readers to ask, “as who admonished us?” Bayard Rustin’s pivotal role as advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and as organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech) should have assured his place in American social and political history.

But Rustin has long been denied his proper place—largely because he was an openly gay man.
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Why are evangelicals supporting immigration reform?

by Lisa Miller

Americans believe there’s too much religion talk in the public sphere, and these days, it’s especially easy to be cynical. Scratch the surface of any passionately held faith-based position between April and November of an election year, and find a political agenda. That’s because issues like gay marriage and religious liberty motivate voters in the right and left base who might otherwise be lackadaisical or unmoved by their choice of candidates. Too often politically motivated religious leaders say “souls” when they really mean “votes.

What is one to make, then, of the “Evangelical Statement of Principles for Immigration Reform,” a document signed last week by 150 prominent evangelical Christian leaders from across the conservative-liberal spectrum?
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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Evangelicals and health care for the poor

During the 1990s, I worked for a parachurch nonprofit called Evangelicals for Social Action. We tried to get American evangelicals to share with and to advocate for the poor and the powerless.

As you may guess, that wasn’t easy. Our message was often met with suspicion or even with outright hostility. Some people and some churches could almost grasp the value of “social action” to meet the needs of the needy, but only if it were explicitly a tool for subsequent evangelism — “Soap, Soup and Salvation” or “rice-bowl” Christianity. Others just objected to the idea entirely as a worldly distraction from the calling to evangelize.

I had what I thought then was a terrific response to such suspicions and objections. “Your church is already doing all this,” I would say. “You’re just doing it overseas, but not here at home.”

This was true. Most evangelical churches are committed to supporting missionaries. That support is less zealously consuming than it was 150 years ago at the height of the missionary movement, but it remains a core aspect of evangelical identity. Many evangelical churches have a bulletin board in the lobby or in a Sunday school classroom featuring a big map of the world with pushpins, string and prayer-card family photos of all the missionaries supported by the donations and prayers of the congregation. It’s a big deal.
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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Southern Baptists elect denomination's first African-American president

Four years after America elected its first African-American president, America's largest Protestant religious body elected its own.

In an unusual display of unanimity, more than 7,800 delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting stood and affirmed the election of Rev. Fred Luter of New Orleans as the 57th SBC president.

"To God be the glory," said a tearful Luter, a lifelong resident of New Orleans who was the only nominee for the position. "God bless you. I love you."

Luter's election came on June 19, also known as Juneteenth, a day that has become the symbolic anniversary of the freeing of the slaves. The Southern Baptist Convention was formed in 1845 by men who defended slavery as biblical.

"Many leaders are convinced this nomination is happening now by the providence of God and by divine appointment," said Dr. David Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church in New Orleans.
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President Obama and Marriage Equality: A Reader

I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don't Ask Don't Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I've just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.-President Barack Obama, Interview with ABC News Robin Roberts


On May 9, 2012, President Barack Obama became the first president in American history to personally affirm that same sex couples should be allowed to get married. Many celebrated the president's evolution as a continuation of the Civil Rights movement, while others lamented his decision, claiming that it went against God and God's word. We here at Rhetoric Race and Religion thought we would collect editorial that speak to this historic moment. If you have one that we missed, we invite you to share it with us on our Facebook page or on Twitter @rhetoricracerel 








9. Obama’s case for gay marriage shows that invoking faith isn’t just for conservatives anymore

10. Thank You, President Obama

11. On Marriage, African Americans Aren't a Monolithic Voting Bloc

12. Faith in Memphis panel responds to Obama’s support for same-sex marriage

13. Obama Marriage Evolution Over

14. On gay marriage, Obama plays politics — badly

15. Barack Obama: The First Gay President

16. African American And Latino Clergy On Obama's Gay Marriage Support

17. Obama Gay Marriage Support Politically Calculated

18. The Courage Of President Barack H. Obama

19. Black Baptist leader rebukes Obama

20. Michael Eric Dyson: Obama’s Gay Marriage Support Forced Us To ‘All Come Out Of Closets’

21. Obama's 'Cynicism' on Gay Marriage

22. Is Obama Making Black Men Soft?

23. Moss to African-American Clergy: Don’t Abandon Obama Over Same-Sex Marriage

24. Obama’s Gay Marriage Support Shocks Black Church

25. Obama, gay marriage & the black church vote

26. Black Pastor Tells CNN His Church Won’t Support Obama, ‘Plan To Stay Home’

27. Same Sex Marriage: If Not Now, When? If Not America's First African American President, Who?

28. Media Courts Black Clergy on Gay Marriage

29. Pastors Disappointed by Obama's Shift on Marriage

30. The Failure of Obama’s Faith Strategy Revealed

31. Obama’s Case for Gay Marriage Shows That Invoking Faith Isn’t Just for Conservatives Anymore

32. On gay marriage, is Obama ‘imposing his religion’?

33. Obama, Jamal Bryant and the Politics of Selective Outrage

34. Righting rhetoric surrounding institution of marriage

35. Obama's No-Risk Drive-By On Gay Marriage

36. Gay marriage and President Obama

37. Obama, the Black Church and Gay Marriage: Things the President Might Want to Know

38. Joel Hunter Responds to Obama's Gay Marriage Endorsement

39. Will Gay Marriage Threaten Black Support for Obama?

40. I heard you Mr. President, and "Hear" is What I have to SAY!!!

41. Charles Krauthammer: Obama boxed in by gay marriage

42. How Obama Changed Gay-Marriage Beliefs in North Carolina

43. The Black Church's Conundrum: What Would Jesus Do?

44. Black Pastors Say Gay Marriage Hijacks Civil Rights Movement

45. Marriage equality, Christianity and Obama

46. Black Ministers Follow Obama

47. The Black Church, Obama, & Gay Marriage

48. Obama, the Black Church and Gay Marriage: Things the President Might Want to Know 

49.On Obama, homosexuality, the Apostles and the Gentiles


50. Black Community Poised to Follow Obama’s Leadership on Gay Rights

51. Blacks, Gays And The Church: A Complex Relationship

52. Why The New ‘Obama Gay Marriage Support Is A Wash’ Meme Is Wrong

53. Obama and Gay Marriage: A Lesson for All Progressives and the Obama Campaign

54. Obama's effect on gay 'rites'

55. Did Obama change the nation’s mind on gay marriage?

56. Bishop: Obama Gay Marriage Views Create ‘Adulterous Relationship’ With Blacks

57. Farrakhan Criticizes Obama on Gay Marriage

58. What Obama has done for gay marriage

59. 'Heart-Broken' Black Pastors Want to Meet Obama Over Gay Marriage

60. Interpreting Gay Marriage Poll Results: Do the Bumps and Wiggles Mean Anything?

61. When leaders actually lead

62. Obama, Gay Rights and the Abrahamic Law of Politics

63. Why Blacks Evolved So 'Quickly' on Gay Marriage

64. Obama’s Confederate Marriage Policy

The politics of the church and the humanity of God

by Stanley Hauerwas

I am a Christian. I am even a Christian theologian. I observe in my memoir Hannah's Child, that you do not need to be a theologian to be a Christian, but I probably did. Being a Christian has not and does not come naturally or easy for me. I take that to be a good thing because I am sure that to be a Christian requires training that lasts a lifetime.

I am more than ready to acknowledge that some may find that being a Christian comes more "naturally," but that can present its own difficulties. Just as an athlete with natural gifts may fail to develop the fundamental skills necessary to play their sport after their talent fades, so people naturally disposed to faith may fail to develop the skills necessary to sustain them for a lifetime.

By "training" I mean something very basic, such as acquiring habits of speech necessary for prayer. The acquisition of such habits is crucial for the formation of our bodies if we are to acquire the virtues necessary to live life as a Christian. For I take it to be crucial that Christians must live in a manner that their lives are unintelligible if the God we worship in Jesus Christ does not exist.
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The Ungodly Constitution: How the Founders Ensured America Would Not Be a Christian Nation

When I was growing up in the fifties and sixties, almost no one in politics or everyday life went around proclaiming, “I am a Christian.” If indeed you were a Christian—that is, someone who considers Jesus Christ the Messiah—you identified yourself as a Lutheran, a Methodist, a Baptist, a Catholic, and so on in excelsis in order to let others know where you stood in the vast American religious landscape.

Calling oneself a Christian today, by contrast, has a special, politicized meaning. For most people in public life, this self-identification suggests a particular form of conservative Christianity, a brand of religion that seeks not only to proselytize but to impose its values on others through the machinery of the state. The huge exception to this rule is President Barack Obama, who has been forced by the birther-paranoids to advertise his credentials as a Christian in order to refute the lie that he is a “secret Muslim.”
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Where is Mitt Romney’s Faith?

Mitt Romney is coy about his running mate. He’ll only speak about the topic in the broadest terms. His staff won’t talk about it at all. To be fair, they don’t know much about the subject. It’s something very personal to Romney.

I am talking about his religion.

This is the high season of speculation about Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick (Rubio’s not being vetted!), but the other issue they keep locked up in Romney’s Boston headquarters is far more likely to affect his presidency than who his No. 2 will be. It’s obvious why Romney wants to control the coverage of both issues. He wants to announce his vice presidential pick on his terms for maximum political benefit. With his religion, he wants to control the conversation to limit the political downside.
Read the rest here

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Celebrating Religious Freedom

by Ebony Utley
R3 Contributor

Juneteenth is a holiday that commemorates June 19, 1865, the date the last slaves found out that they were emancipated in Galveston, Texas. Even though President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, word did not travel to Texas for two and a half more years. Sometimes called Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, African Americans across the country observe Juneteenth as a holiday that represents freedom from oppression. But oppression takes many forms and many Americans still aren’t free.

The Root published blogs about prisons and modern day slavery as examples of continued oppression. In addition to these physical and emotional forms of oppression, we should also acknowledge how the religious oppression that occurred during slavery still permeates many communities today.
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Monday, June 18, 2012

Welcome Our Contributor: Darlene Kelley

Darlene R. Kelley is nearing completion of her Master of Divinity at North Park Theological Seminary. She also holds a Master of Arts in Educational Ministries and Certificate in Urban Ministries from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. Her primary areas of interest are diversity and inclusion, spirituality and sexuality - specifically supporting members of the LGBT community, and advocacy for the marginalized. Additionally, Darlene supports individuals and groups through pastoral care and is overjoyed when people are captivated by the unconditional love of God and discover how God fits into every area of life. Follow her on Twitter @Darlene_Kelley or connect with her here - www.darlenekelley.wordpress.com/


Darlene's Contributions:




Sunday, June 17, 2012

Freedom of religion is safe

Is religious freedom suddenly under attack in America? That's what the nation's Roman Catholic bishops and some non-Catholic allies would have you believe. But reports of the demise of this fundamental liberty are greatly exaggerated.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has designated June 21 to July 4 as a "fortnight for freedom." During those two weeks, the church will trumpet its already well-known opposition to an Obama administration regulation that private health insurance plans include contraception services. The rule applies not to churches but to colleges, hospitals and charities that serve and employ non-Catholics. Even so, the bishops insist that it undermines their church's religious mission to serve the larger community without compromising its beliefs.

The bishops are free to argue, including in court, that the contraceptive mandate is a violation of the church's rights under the 1st Amendment and a 1993 federal law known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. (This page disagrees.) But some of the church's rhetoric has been shrill and simplistic. One bishop compared Obama to Hitler and Stalin, who, "at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services and healthcare."
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Americans’ Religious Values

The latest Pew Research Center American Values study finds that the United States continues to be a highly religious nation. Two-thirds of the public (67%) agrees with each of a series of three religious statements, affirming that prayer is an important part of their daily life, that “we will all be called before God at the Judgment Day” and that they never doubt the existence of God. When the first values study was conducted in 1987, a virtually identical number (68%) agreed with all three of these statements.

But partisan gaps in religious values have arisen over the past 25 years. In 1987, for example, 91% of Republicans said they never doubt the existence of God, as did 88% of Democrats and 86% of independents. Today, 92% of Republicans continue to say they never doubt God’s existence, but the numbers of Democrats and independents saying this have fallen (to 77% among Democrats and 76% among independents).

Read the study here

Friday, June 15, 2012

“If They Only Knew What I Thought”: The Sad Cycle of Evangelical Biblical Scholarship

I wish I had kept a list.

I’ve had far too many conversations over the last few years with trained, experienced, and practicing biblical scholars, young, middle aged, and near retirement, working in Evangelical institutions, trying to follow Jesus and use their brains and training to help students navigate the challenging world of biblical interpretation.

And they are dying inside.

Just two weeks ago I had the latest in my list of long conversations with a well-known, published, respected biblical scholar, who is under inhuman stress trying to negotiate the line between institutional expectations and academic integrity. His gifts are being squandered. He is questioning his vocation. His family is suffering. He does not know where to turn.

I wish this were an isolated incident, but it’s not.

I wish these stories could be told, but without the names attached, they are worthless. I wish I had kept a list, but even if I had, it wouldn’t have done anyone much good. I couldn’t have used it. Good people would lose their jobs.

I’m getting tired of hearing the same old story again and again. This is madness.

Folks, we have a real problem on our hands, and everyone has to bear some responsibility. Here’s the familiar scenario. The “best and brightest” students in Evangelical seminaries work hard and are encouraged and aided by their professors to pursue doctoral work. Many wind up going to some of the best research universities in the world.

This is a feather in everyone’s cap, and often they are hired back by their Evangelical school or elsewhere in the Evangelical system.
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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

America and the Evangelization of Culture

Until sometime in the early 1960s nearly all Catholics in the United States would probably have agreed that it was the mission of the Church to convert the country to the true Faith, even if many would not have proclaimed it with the clarity and zeal of Archbishop John Hughes of New York, who had said in an 1850 sermon: “Everyone should know that we have for our mission to convert the world – including the inhabitants of the United States, – the people of the cities, and the people of the country, the officers of the navy and the marines, commanders of the army, the Legislatures, the Senate, the Cabinet, the President, and all.”[i] And of course there were efforts to bring about that conversion, such as door-to-door campaigns for convert-making or regular advertisements in secular magazines of Catholic literature by the Knights of Columbus. But I suggest that there was something fundamental that was lacking in all these efforts to convert the country, good and necessary though they were. This is the question of what exactly it was that needed conversion.

Of course it was America that was to be converted.[ii] And properly so. But it was perhaps not noticed by everyone that the term America can mean more than one thing. It is first of all a large body of land. That does not change. But what America is is much more complicated than merely the land or even the land and its inhabitants. This is clearly shown in that although in 1300 the land that would later become the United States certainly existed, and people dwelt on it, America did not yet exist. Nor did it exist 300 years later in 1600, although by this time European explorers and settlers were already present within the boundaries of the future United States. For these settlers were chiefly Spanish at that time, and the cultural tradition they represented would play no part in the formation of the future United States. The tradition that would contribute to the formation of America began with Jamestown in 1607 and Plymouth Colony in 1620. Although since the conclusion of the Revolution in 1783 the United States has never been without citizens of French or Spanish heritage, they contributed essentially nothing to the central cultural tradition of this country. They were few in numbers and generally living in places remote from the center. Had they been strong enough to attempt to influence the main currents of American thought and life, very quickly there would have arisen the sort of cultural and even religious strife which has often characterized countries of two strong competing traditions. America therefore from the beginning was a citadel of Protestant culture, mainly Anglo-Saxon, but definitely Protestant.
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How Your View of God Shapes Your View of the Economy

In recent decades, “big tent” conservatism has seemed on the brink of collapse, its poles buckling under competing constituencies with “values” voters in one corner pitted against fiscal conservatives in the other. Discussions among academics and media pundits suggest these are two distinct categories of Republicans—the former made up of mainly working-class white evangelicals and the latter historically comprised of higher-income whites. Republican politicians must seek the favor of both special interests, appealing not only to traditional social issues—gay marriage and abortion—but also to economic fare such as reducing government and lowering taxes.

This distinction is central to Thomas Frank’s engaging analysis of the popularity of conservatism in the American Midwest in his 2004 bestseller What’s the Matter with Kansas? Frank championed the narrative that working-class Americans vote against their economic interests, having been lured into the GOP tent largely with what he sees as insincere religious rhetoric. “The people at the top know what they have to do to stay there,” writes Frank, “and in a pinch they can easily overlook the sweaty piety of the new Republican masses, the social conservatives who raise their voices in praise of Jesus but cast their votes for Caesar.”

However compelling this dichotomy may be, it is a false one. As a researcher and social scientist, I have found that economic perspectives are indelibly tied to religious cosmologies. Voters need not choose between God and mammon. Instead, they tend to see their money, the market, and the economy as a reflection of their God.

This finding is a rarity in the annals of social science, where the division between economic and social interests is often reinforced. Pollsters and social scientists think in terms of variables, some measuring economic opinions and others indicating various forms of religiosity. These two are often correlated but their ongoing association is rarely tested directly. Though classical theorists such as Max Weber have famously demonstrated the constant interplay of economic and religious ideologies, contemporary social scientists seldom ask people directly about how their economic position informs their religion, or vice versa. In fact, we often assume that working-class evangelicals struggle to either prioritize their economic interests or remain committed to their religious ethics.
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Bible Study: On Homosexuality and the Bible

One of the problems with the same sex marriage "debate" is that many who "know" what the Bible teaches on homosexuality have never heard a sustained argument against the "traditional interpretation of scripture" in regards to marriage equality. We thought we would share this Bible Study by Matthew Vines because it articulates the other side of this debate. Enjoy.

Frontline Special: God in America











The Bible and Same-Sex Relationships: When Theologies Collide

by Crystal Lewis
R3 Contributor
From:Crystal St. Marie Lewis Blog

There were only 30 short minutes left in my Biblical Interpretation class when James, my fellow seminarian, began his presentation. It was his turn to summarize an assigned reading for our class. We had all been writing short essays and developing informal presentations using excerpts from Preaching God’s Transforming Justice: A Lectionary Commentary. James chose to develop a presentation based on the commentary designed for June 29– the day in Christian liturgy on which many churchgoers will celebrate a new feast: The Gifts of Sexuality and Gender.

James opened his presentation by reading directly from our liturgical manual:

“A gracious, liberating church will teach us to claim our right to a pleasurable and good eroticism… Contrary to many voices inside and outside the church, sex and desire are not necessarily dangerous, selfish, or self-indulgent. Rather, erotic power can be an indespensable spiritual resource for engaging joyfully in creating justice.” (Marvin M. Ellison, pg. 300)

The level of oxygen in the room decreased dramatically. We were all visibly uncomfortable. We knew that we were suddenly listening to a very candid endorsement for… well… Sex. And not just any old run-of-the-mill sex. Our liturgical manual was advocating for great sex. And this book was asking us to tell parishioners to go home and enjoy a little (or a lot) for themselves.

James continued, this time from page 301:

“[This week's] texts have chosen to aid us in thinking deeply about ‘gifts of sexuality and gender.’ Usually ‘gifts of human sexuality’ gets reduced to discussions about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning/queer peoples, but rarely about heterosexual people. Such discussions uncover the biases and beliefs that heterosexuality is the only ‘normal’ way to be in the world?… When women, whatever their expressions of sexuality, are not valued simply because they lack a penis? When men who are not considered ‘manly’ are labeled ‘gay’ as a perjorative term? When gay men and lesbian women are considered some alien life form because they are not heterosexual… [but] sexualities are complicated…” (Bridgeman)

James closed his book and explained that he was attracted to those two texts because issues of human sexuality and the Christian religion have impacted his family in a very personal way. His daughter, a lesbian, came out of the closet five years ago. He had been a minister in a Southern church for several years when she dropped her bombshell. She was ostracized by their congregation and has never stepped foot inside any church since then. After his daughter’s experience, the issue for James was no longer about theology. It mattered very little what the Bible said about “those gays,” because suddenly, one of “those gays” was close to him… Instantly, it was about his child; someone he had known her entire life, and someone who –in his view– deserved love and happiness more than anyone in the world.

James stood up and walked to the front of the classroom to activate the overhead projector. He played a Youtube video of a child no older than five singing “Won’t Be No Homos In Heaven” to a cheering congregation. The video ended and James, my fellow seminarian from deep in the Bible Belt, asked emotionally: “What in the world are we doing, you guys? Is this love? Is this justice?”

Most of us were mortified by what we saw in the video. We openly voiced our frustration with the lack of acceptance for gays in Christian churches. And then another student spoke up:

“Listen, guys… I don’t want to be the one to take the more controversial side here, but I have to ask the all-important question… Is homosexuality a sin?”

Answers to his question echoed from various corners in the room… “No!” and “Yes!” … Lengthy historical arguments … Short, pithy dismissals. Suddenly, we were arguing. The tension in the room was nearly unbearable. Emotions were high. Some of us said too much. Others, too little.

I looked at the clock and discovered that James’ presentation had been going on for 40 minutes instead of a half hour. Class had technically ended– but no one was leaving the room. Our professor chimed in, hoping to stop the rapidly devolving discussion and restore peace to the group.

“Everyone,” he said, “let’s pray together…” We bowed our heads, overwhelmed… angry… frustrated… Calmly, my professor petitioned the Divine: “Holy Creator… Help us to remember that we are all a part of you… And help us to see you in every human being we meet.”

I realized we were praying again, and that prayer can be an avoidance tool, and that I felt complicit in what seemed like a cowardly cop-out.

What happens when we know the truth, but are too afraid to tell others what we’ve seen?

I didn’t want to pray anymore. I was tired of praying.

I wanted the professor to stand up and tell us what I’m sure he knew: That the word “homosexual” didn’t appear in the Bible until the year 1958… that the Book of Leviticus is speaking of temple prostitution… that the words in the New Testament which have been translated to read “homosexual” mostly stem from a Greek word with no English equivalent… that Bible printers intentionally sell weak translations to the public because they fear backlash from conservative fundamentalists…

I wanted my professor to just tell us that our generation is doing it again… I wanted him to tell the class that Christianity is doing to gays what it has done to women and various “otherly” groups for centuries… That we haven’t learned much from past Bible-centered mistakes like the Crusades, or the trial of Galileo, or slavery…

But instead, we prayed.

I wondered if a day would ever come when we’d stop praying and do something… when we’d get real about the limitations of the Bible… when love would overcome fear… Thinking about all of it made me angry. I walked home and fought back my tears. I also fought the urge to pray.

When the Church Fails Its Women: 7 Truths We Need to Tell About Creflo Dollar, Black Daughters and Violence

from the Crunk Feminist Collective

Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I walked out of church in the middle of service. I grew up in church; my stepfather of 15 years is a pastor; as recently as 2009, I led a ministry team at one of Atlanta’s Baptist megachurches. Thus, my choice to get up and walk out while the pastor was speaking defied every notion of decorum I have ever been taught.

But when he stood to express his unequivocal support for Atlanta megachurch pastor Creflo Dollar who was arrested late last week for committing simple battery and cruelty to a child on his fifteen year old daughter, I had to go.

I have struggled in recent years to reconcile my long-standing faith, to my relatively more recent feminist commitments. And it is precisely because of the Black Church’s continued willingness to advocate problematic, violent, hierarchical stances against women and gay people that I continue to struggle.
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Theological Cognitive Dissonance at Work

by Andre E. Johnson
R3 Editor

In response to a recent post I made on conservative evangelicals and Mormons, here is an example of the struggle that some conservative evangelicals are currently going through or what I call theological cognitive dissonance. The first clip is Pastor Robert Jeffries who at the Values Voter Summit this year declared the Mormonism is a cult. The second clip is Jeffries pledging his support for Mitt Romney. It is interesting to see how he rhetorical constructs reasons to support Romney which are totally at odds with his faith; a faith which as we see earlier, demands that he supports someone who is "Christian."






Tuesday, June 12, 2012

New guide advises Evangelicals on how to talk to Mormons

Richard Mouw never intended to start a riot within the Evangelical community by saying his fellow believers had "sinned against Mormonism." But that’s exactly what happened.

Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., had been meeting regularly with LDS scholars before he gave a seven-minute introduction of Ravi Zacharias, an Evangelical speaker who addressed a packed audience in the Mormon Tabernacle in November 2004.

"We’ve often seriously misrepresented the beliefs and practices of members of the LDS faith," Mouw said that Sunday night. "It’s a terrible thing to bear false witness."

The impact was immediate.

Some of Mouw’s colleagues and fellow believers were outraged. They accused him of selling out, of not standing for the Christian truth or adequately denouncing evil, of being duped.

Undeterred, Mouw continued this line of preaching to Evangelicals for the next seven years and maintained his regular conversations with Mormons. He has now expanded it into a just-released book, Talking with Mormons: An Invitation to Evangelicals.
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