Thursday, February 28, 2013

Stress, Health and African American Women: A Black History Month Notation

February is African-American History Month, an annual observance for remembrance of important people and events in the history of the African diaspora. This observance is the most visible legacy of the son of former slaves and scholar Carter G. Woodson who held a Masters Degree from University of Chicago and a Ph.D from Harvard University one hundred years ago in 1912. He pioneered defining a category of history related to ethnic culture and race.
African American women, stress and health: According to solid research, historically African American women are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of race-related stress, given their socially constructed identities as African Americans and as women. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that racial discrimination is a chronic stressor that can negatively impact the cardiovascular health of African Americans through pathogenic processes associated with serious negative reactive changes in blood pressure and heart rate. 2 African American women report more frequent encounters with everyday unfair treatment than Caucasian women. African American women who live in the city report a greater number of acute life events as stressors (divorce, marriage, job loss, etc) than Caucasian women. It's no surprise that socioeconomic status, everyday experiences with unfair treatment and acute life events each make a significant contribution to differences in women's health status.3
Read the rest here

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

To Be Young, Godless, and Black

*Apologies to Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin.  Hope my African-American readers out there don’t go into apoplexy.
Back in late 2011, I wrote a post titled, “A Conversation Long Overdue” which spoke about African-American Atheists.  This was sparked by a November 27, 2011 New York Timesdiscussing this group of people.  I wrote:
It’s interesting that at this time in history with fundagelical x-tians trying to grab power in Washington, cracks in the Black church’s facade (the Eddie Long scandal for example), the decline of organized religion in the West, the rise of “Higher Criticism” of the Bible with archaeological evidence refuting Scripture, and the advent of the Internet and social media, Black Atheists and Freethinkers are coming out into the light and making their voices heard.
However, as many Black Atheists and Freethinkers state, they’re still “a minority within a minority”.  It’s still a challenge to come out with their beliefs (or lack thereof) due to the possibility of being ostracized by the community.  Also, many have close friends and family that are Theists (churchfolk for the rest of us) they’re afraid of hurting with such news.
Another challenge is that Fundagelical X-tianity has a such a strong grip on the Black community that any irreligious thought is anathema.  I liken it to the Catholic Church’s hold on Medieval Europe (without the Inquisition). Many Blacks put the church central in their lives and have a blind devotion to it.  For many Blacks, the church is also the only place where they can find validity in a society that still has yet to fully validate them-despite the fact that early Blacks were brought to the church via slavery and were subjected to hand-picked (and misquoted) Bible verses designed to subjugate and mollify them, many Blacks still find that validity.
Read the rest here 

Prosperity Gospel and Foreclosure

A headline caught my eye this morning: "Indiana's Largest Megachurch Faces New Foreclosure Proceedings." It made me think of Steve Munsey, an Indiana prosperity preacher I watched in a Decatur, Georgia television studio in 2007, pleading for audience members and viewers to give their money to the Trinity Broadcasting Network.
As it turns out, the story is about Munsey's church, Family Christian Center, which claims to have a weekly attendance of 15,000, making it one of the largest churches in the country. According to an investigation by the, a paper covering northwestern Indiana, the judge presiding over the foreclosure proceedings told attorneys in court, "When I saw some of the expenditures being made in this church when there was a mortgage not being paid, I was astounded." NWITimes reports that even as the church owed close to $100,000 a month in mortgage payments (not to mention mortgage payments on condos the church claimed to use for visiting clergy, and other unspecified bills in excess of half a million dollars), Munsey and his wife Melodye raked in "$2.9 million in total compensation from 2008 through 2011 from organizations connected to Family Christian Center, IRS records show." In all, "The church annually spent $3.5 million in leadership compensation and had a $900,000 budget for travel and meals, a $500,000 housing allowance and $500,000 for jet fuel and other expenditures, according to the transcript. In 2010, the church paid $1 million for property in Illinois, the transcript states." There's more: an IRS investigation and tax liens, for starters. You can read the whole investigative story, for which Munsey declined to be interviewed, here
Count me as not astounded—well, not surprised, anyway. This is an old story in the prosperity gospel world. Lavish spending, compensation through a web of for-profit and non-profit entities connected with a church—these are only some of the factors that provoked a Senate Finance Committee investigation, launched by Sen. Chuck Grassley, in 2007. The investigation took more than three years but ultimately produced nothing in terms of government oversight. Instead, after pressure from the religious right, the Committee opted for "self-reform" within churches. How has that worked out? 
Read the rest here

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Will (white) Evangelicals Veer Left? Who Cares?

By Arlene Sanchez-Walsh
R3 Contributor
Post was first published at Re-Generacion 

There has been continued interest in the political behavior of evangelicals over the past few weeks. This discussion assumes that everyone who carries that mantle is white, and conservative, and that they read blogs about themselves, you would not know that there are any other demographic groups that comprise American evangelicalism other than whites if you cared to read the prognostications–and increasingly–I don’t care. Simultaneously, a discussion on the politics of Latino/a evangelicals and Pentecostals seems to have drawn some interest on the internet. Two things are off base about these two discussions. 
First, the discussion, held at the blog called Immanent Frame, about whether white evangelicals are marching towards liberalism–has, (aside from a brief comment I left on the blog, sorry I just had to say something!),  failed to discuss the fact that evangelicalism in U.S. is multicultural–therefore to discuss what is up with white evangelicals, as if it is the dominant discussion that we all ought to be having is just strange. One of the things I do, as a matter of record as an academic and as one of a small number of Latina Pentecostal scholars of religion in the academy is I try not to engage those conversations because I refuse to keep the narrative of evangelical meaning white alive–it is time for that narrative to die–and I am trying to do what I can to exhaust whatever oxygen is left in that storyline-but like Hollywood, some storylines refuse to die. Considering one of this past elections’ major themes–that the demographic future of the U.S. is diverse–and for Latinos/as at least, they are more Democratic than their parents, I am surprised that so many scholars, religion journalists, and interested parties are still looking at evangelicalism–as if it was ever white–clearly any look at the history of the black church, of the native American church makes such narratives useless–except that for some reason, they have not been rendered obsolete.
Which brings me to the next problem whenever I read or hear about the endless handicapping of Latino evangelical political behavior–can anyone turn them to the Religious Right? Is there any hope for that? Or are Latino/a evangelicals a diverse group as well?  I am amazed at the monolithic nature of the questions as much as I am amused by the continued insistence that any one group or person represents us? Despite the rather dubious claims of self-appointed religious leaders like Samuel Rodriguez, whose claims of representing 40,000 Latino/a evangelical churches would be true–if someone could direct me to the 800 Latino churches I missed on my way through South Dakota? Mark Silk, in his particularly adept piece around election time last November pretty much debunked those numbers and the even more dubious claim Rodriguez makes of being politically neutral. 
 A glance at the NHCLC website and Rodriguez’ own speaking engagements signals to anyone who follows Religious Right politics that Rev. Rodriguez is anything but neutral. I tend to view claims of neutrality and objectivity with suspicion because we all have perspectives we bring to everything we do, we don’t do anything without some overt or subtle desire to maintain power (thank you Michel Foucault). So no, I don’t think any one speaks for all Latino/a evangelicals–and I am pretty sure most of the people I have met in my travels and church visits are very glad that I do not proclaim myself as their spokesperson. I also don’t believe any one person or movement can gather us all like sheep and lead us to any one political party. That idea presumes a monolithic political ideology and a monolithic religious faith among a population as diverse as Latinos/as.
When it comes to politics, I do not behave like a white evangelical, and I don’t resonate with what I would term traditionalist Latino/a evangelicals. This demographic tends to be first generation or immigrant, animated by literalist readings of the Bible, and more apt to be motivated by social issues. Neither am I a moderate, who are 2nd or 3rd generation Latinos/as who seek a more gradualist approach–not completely buying the whole culture war rhetoric of the Religious Right, but unwilling to break completely with those influences in their churches. I suppose I am a Reformer, as I have written in Jesus in the Hispanic Community (Westminster 2010). I find myself more comfortable with progressives–Pentecostal or otherwise, that is my spiritual and political home. I find my home outside of the confines of denominations who do not respond to progressive calls for action, and outside the confines of churches that do not reflect the multicultural reality of the global church–not to mention my own multicultural family.
Reformers increasingly find their faith compartmentalized because they don’t see their political, social and cultural lives reflected in their churches–therefore they make use of parachurch organizations and loose networks of like minded brethren to make sense of their whole selves–not just a faith that is often divorced from their political lives. There are a lot of us–I don’t speak for them aside from telling you that we exist, I only speak for myself here when I say that I find the slavish devotion to Religious Right politics among my evangelical brethren unnecessary and offering only the most superficial solutions to the anxiety of what many evangelicals must be feeling today. Playing on anxiety will not make this false attachment to a golden age fallacy a reality–and as for my traditionalist Latino/a brethren–a bit of self-reflection may be good. As much as I understand the desire to see one’s faith as the prism through which all good in society should be reflected–it is simply impossible to fashion a society like that unless you are willing to coerce, incarcerate, and police a society as diverse, as tolerant, and as devoted to the securing of comfort and profit as this one–lo siento! It ain’t gonna happen.
So, perhaps the next time I am asked to write something on Latino/a religion and politics, I’ll do it, maybe I’ll accept those invites to blog, to comment, and I’ll tell my conservative hermanos/as that I think as long as we can be civil–hey, can I by you a cerveza? we will be okay-we share a historical memory and we should consider that before pledging allegiance to the political fortunes of parties and politicians who have not had our best interests in mind-but were and are willing to exploit our faith lives for the temporal security offered by feckless opportunism.

Welcome Arlene Sanchez-Walsh To R3

Arlene M. Sánchez-Walsh is associate professor of Church History & Latino/a Church Studies at Azusa Pacific University. This year she is visiting professor of Pentecostal Studies at Perkins School of Theology-SMU. Her first book, Latino Pentecostal Identity: Evangelical Faith, Self, and Society won the Hispanic Theological Initiative's Book Award in 2005.  She has authored over a dozen articles and book chapters on the subject of Latino/a Pentecostalism, and has served as a media expert for outlets such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, On Being with Krista Tippett, and served as an expert on Latino/a religious history for the PBS series, "Religion in America." Sánchez Walsh's current projects include a textbook on Pentecostalism in America, and a monograph on Latino/s and the prosperity gospel.  Her current research is on race, ethnicity, and American Pentecostalism. She blogs at

Arlene's Posts:
1. Will (white) Evangelicals Veer Left? Who Cares?

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Call to Reduce Gun Violence


Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons (and daughters) of God.
- Matthew 5:9

The 219th General Assembly (2010) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) adopted the resolution, Gun Violence, Gospel Values: Mobilizing in Response to God’s Call, in exercise of its responsibility to help the whole church address matters of “social righteousness.” The resolution calls both the Church to support and the federal government to establish laws that will prevent and reduce gun violence. The PC(USA) recognizes the seriousness of gun violence in the United States, where more than 30,000 lives are lost each year due to firearms.  We call on all people to conscience to make earnest strides to challenge the pervasive culture of violence that permeates our social fabric.

During this Lenten Season we are joining other faith groups in prayerful engagement and direct action to reduce our culture of violence and to bring peace to our homes, streets, and public venues. Our role as Christians is to be peacemakers. Peace is more than the absence of conflict.  Peace requires our active participation in the work to serve the common good. Making peace often stirs controversy, because it requires engaging in faithful witness on behalf of Jesus Christ, despite the resulting discomfort. Peace exposes human frailty and sin in order to make repentance possible. Jesus affirms that his presence and teachings in the world will create division among those who are closest to him (Matthew 10:34). Therefore, the gospel is a double edged sword that evokes unrest while creating a platform for peaceful reconciliation.

As we journey together through this period of spiritual discipline and contemplation, while also experiencing gun-related grief and trauma in our communities and nation, let us remember that New Life awaits us on Easter morning. 

This petition, calling for common-sense federal measures to reduce gun violence, is one small piece of a larger strategy to address the culture of violence that pervades our nation.  We will deliver this petition to Congress during Eastertide.  Sign it now!

As you move through your Lenten discipline, make this petition – signing it, circulating it, inviting your friends and congregation-members to sign it – one of your personal commitments.  In addition, try these other action steps toward raising awareness and reducing violence and poverty in our nation.

  1. Pray for our President and the United States Congress as they struggle with the issue of gun violence.
  2. Encourage your Pastor(s) to preach sermons, teach bible studies, and become involved in the efforts to change our culture of violence and to eradicate gun violence in your local community.
  3. Host a screening of TRIGGER: The Ripple Effects of Gun Violence, the PC(USA) documentary on eradicating gun violence. Hold congregational and community discussions in your house of worship.
  4. Participate in a Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath Weekend, March 15-17. 
  5. Write and/or call your Congresspersons and the President each week during Lent stating your support for federal legislation to reduce gun violence. (See the requested actions outlined in the petition). To find contact information for your Members, click here.
  6. Read the gun violence policy of the PC(USA) - Gun Violence and Gospel Values: Mobilizing In Response to God’s Call
  7. Register and make plans to attend Compassion, Peace and Justice Training Day (CPJ) and Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD) in Washington, DC, April 5-8, 2013 (attend both events in one weekend) to receive training in how to become an advocate for justice issues.

As members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and people of faith and conscience, we believe that God desires health and wholeness for all of God’s children – not cycles of despair, poverty, and violence.

We therefore believe that we have a responsibility to reduce such injustice in our midst, wherever we see it.  We therefore call upon the United States Senate and House of Representatives to approve federal legislation that will --

Reinstate the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 – banning all assault weapons and high capacity magazines. Assault weapons are weapons of war and have no place in the hands common citizens. Most mass shootings in this nation involve such weapons.

Require universal background checks when purchasing any firearm. Many states do not require background checks, making it simple to acquire a gun for persons with criminal records, persons who do not know how to handle a gun, or persons who suffer from mental illness. Guns only belong in the hands of those who know how to handle them with correct intention.

Make gun trafficking a federal crime. Currently, gun trafficking is prosecuted under a statute that prohibits selling guns without a federal license. This crime carries the same punishment as trafficking chicken or livestock.

Please forward this petition to friends, church members, organizations and/or other persons and institutions.

Post cards are available for large groups and/or congregations who desire to collect many signatures at once (such as church coffee hour).  Please contact our office to request petition post cards. 

The Politics of Religion

This past weekend was the 12th annual Florida State University Graduate Student Symposium (#fsugss on Twitter). Dr. Aaron Hughes from the University of Rochester was this year’s keynote speaker, and this year’s conference theme was the “Politics of Religion.” There were many great panels that took place over the weekend, and the presented papers covered all sorts of topics in the field. I’ll focus my reflections here on discussions of theory issues in our field; so, if theory isn’t your bag, this post may not be for you. However, as Dr. Hughes told us Friday evening, it doesn’t matter what tradition or area you focus in, if you study religion, you should be aware of the debates in theory and method.

Professor Hughes’s keynote address was entitled “The Politics of Theory and Method.” In it, he explained how the study of religion, discussions of  theory, and various scholarly methodologies are political. It was a great keynote and could be a looooong blog post in and of itself, so I’ll focus on just a few things. The embedded politics in theories of religion and theoretical approaches to the study of religion was one thread of his keynote that struck a chord with me. In 1903, the Association of Biblical Instructors in American Colleges and Secondary Schools was founded, an organization that changed its name to National Association of Biblical Instructors (NABI) in 1922. Most, if not all, members of NABI were not only Bible instructors, but also Protestants committed to the text’s theological value and saw sharing that value as part of their task. In brief, religion could be celebrated in the classroom. This is the organization that would become the American Academy of Religion.

Read the rest here

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Ella Baker and the Limits of Charismatic Masculinity

In perhaps one of the most important biographies of a civil rights leader published, Professor Barbara Ransby has conveyed the epic life and struggle of a woman whose sheer skill, leadership, and ability to mobilize the marginalized and dispossessed to full participation in their fight for human dignity is almost unprecedented in American history. In her book, Ella Baker & The Black Freedom Movement, Professor Ransby documents the life of Ella Baker, a black woman born to a middle-class family in North Carolina in 1903 who, after witnessing the staunch spiritually based dedication of her mother to serving the poor in the South, transforms into a sheer force of will that worked with all the major civil rights organizations of her time, and helped mobilize to create two of the most crucial to the Civil Rights Movement: The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
Before we continue to heap a single praise or Hosanna to men like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Wyatt T. Walker, Stokely Carmichael, Malcolm X, Paul Robeson, Thurgood Marshall, W.E.B. Du Bois, or any of these other gentlemen we idolize as embodiments of masculine heroism, we should know about one woman, of many, who had more wisdom, courage, and vision then almost all of them: Ms. Ella Baker.
Read the rest here

Sophie's Table: A Conversation with Our Brothers

Friday, February 22, 2013

Tax Season. Tis’ The Season of Abuse, Exploitation and Neglect in the Black Community

R3 Contributor

Typically people think of a new year as a time of new beginnings, new opportunities and a time for trying out new resolutions.  The one thing I have come to realize is the start of a new year is the beginning of tax season.  While some are dreading gathering documents, preparing their tax returns and possibly having to write a check there are others who have a completely different view of this time of year.
Think about it, how many tax commercials have you heard in the last week?  You hear these commercials on radio stations that are targeted toward black listeners.
Have you heard commercials where you can get an instant refund up to $9,999?  Have you seen a commercial where you can bring your W-2 to this car dealership and they will get you in a new car and get your taxes filed for you?  I am sure you have seen an endless amount of new tax preparation offices with ridiculous names that usually seem to have the word money in them pop up all over the place.  I have even seen one in a gas station.  Really?  But these new “businesses” do not appear everywhere, only in the black or other minority communities. 

As I drove past a tax preparation office in a black neighborhood it was extremely crowded.  The office was full of black customers waiting to have their taxes filed.  It is tax season.  This is when many low-income black people will receive a relatively large tax refund.  Since this seems to be common knowledge it appears that this is the best time to take advantage of them and make some easy money.  There are promises of large instant refunds made and many times kept.  Thus, many in our community do not know they are being abused and exploited in great numbers.

How many in our community do not know that this large “instant refund” is actually a loan with fees attached that will reduce the amount they are entitled to receive.  We do not know that we can probably get their taxes prepared for free based upon our income.  We do not know that many of the people preparing their returns have no real understanding of tax laws, the returns or sometimes even basic math they are simply relying on the computer system to ask them questions.  We do not understand that we cannot really afford the car we just spent our entire refund to purchase because there will also be maintenance, license and insurance costs. We do not know.   As a result, there are billions of dollars being made every year off of this ignorance and our community is suffering tremendously.

However, we cannot place all the blame on opportunist coming into our communities from the outside we are also hurting each other.  You probably have seen the humorous picture posted on Facebook about men getting with women they do not see any other time of the year but tax season.  While we may joke and laugh this is a very real situation.  I personally have seen men who only have time for women during tax season.   The even more hurting fact is many times this is the mother of their children.  Thus, like the outside exploiter they are using and exploiting our women for monetary gain and usually to the detriment of our children.  The fact that there are men who will do this and women who will accept it speaks volumes about our community. 

It is easy to point to the abuse and exploitation that is occurring in our communities because we can usually point the finger at someone else.  What we are not discussing is the neglect that falls in our own lap.   It is evident that there is a serious breakdown in our family, education and community structures.  However, there is also a breakdown in our church.

The black church has long been where members of the community had to come together for survival and to provide and receive wholistic care.  Historically, the church is where people not only formed their faith and received spiritual care; this is also where people learned about voting and the economic impact of the black community.  It seems that the church did not completely depend on the school systems and world to educate their people then and it should not now. 

Since the lack of information is causing so much trouble in the community the church has a responsibility to help the community by providing this information.  I understand that there are some churches that are offering some financial freedom courses.  There are also some who offer tax return preparation, but this is not enough.  We must do more.  We need more churches working to eradicate this issue in our community.  There are members of our congregations who are well informed, educated and capable of helping those who are not.  Why are we not asking for our congregations to help?  Our communities need us and we are not providing what they need.   

We must break the tax season cycle of abusing and exploiting our community.  We can no longer offer them tax preparation and do not provide them with information on budgeting or savings.  We need to educate the members of our community about financial freedom, but we also need to make sure that they truly understand the financial decisions they make.  We cannot just say do not go to the gas station to get your taxes prepared.  We need to give them information to help them make better decisions on where and with whom they do business.  Make sure they know the necessary questions to ask of those who seek to do business with them.  We cannot just say do not give him your entire check.  We need to empower them to have more understanding of their true self worth.  We must remove the ignorance and replace it with information.  This type of education is not provided in the high school or even college for most.  Therefore, if the church is truly seeking to help the community and make a change in the community it should be a vehicle that brings the community that information.

Just imagine if a coalition of churches offered well publicized classes open to the community that provided them with helpful information like this.  What would our communities look like if instead of people spending their entire refund in one weekend shopping buy their children the latest pair of Air Jordan tennis shoes they saved it for a down payment on a house?  What would happen if more people could get their taxes prepared at the local church instead of the let us get all your money tax preparation places that clutter our community? What would happen to our communities if instead of just saying we are here to help the community we actually did? 

Now I am not that naïve to think that the church educating the black community on finances will solve our problems.  I recognize that we have many other problems to contend with in our churches and our community.  Nonetheless, I do truly believe that informing our community could bring about some change.  If nothing else it could eliminate some of the exploitation in our community. 

That’s my two cents.  Spend it where you like.

Our Contributor: Kamilah Hall Sharp

Kamilah Hall Sharp is currently a student at Memphis Theological Seminary seeking a Masters of Divinity.  She received a B.S. in Business Economics from Florida A&M University, B.A. in Organizational Management from Bethel University and a J.D. from Indiana University School of Law-Bloomington.  She recently left her job after working in the legal field for over eleven years to attend seminary full time.   Kamilah is happily married to her husband Nakia and they have one daughter Anaya who keeps her busy.  You can follow her on Twitter @kamilahmh

Kamiliah's Contributions:
1. Tax Season. Tis’ The Season of Abuse, Exploitation and Neglect in the Black Community

The Identity of African American Muslims

The Muslim American of African descent has a cultural and religious identity that has survived in spite of external and internal assaults.
Indeed, no other socio-ethno-religious minority in America has had its sense of ‘being’ so challenged.  The African American Muslim nonetheless managed to carve out an identity and culture that is unique and specific only to African American Muslims.
Truly the African American Muslim cultural distinctiveness is found through name choice and spellings, dress of men and women, artistic development, marriage rites and practices, politics and spirituality.  Even something as simple as ‘the bean pie’ is distinct and unique to the African American Muslim.
The influence of African American Muslims in the outer society is often seen in attempts at Islamic names in the Black community, music and spoken word with political and uplifting messages, Afro-centric clothing like kufi caps or turbans and even slang as inner city youths refer to their friends as their ‘sahaab’.
Read the rest here

White smoke, black pope? The odds against an ‘Obama moment’

Will the conclave electing a new pope next month have an “Obama moment” and pick someone from Africa or Latin America or Asia for the first time in modern history?
The public seems enamored of the idea of a non-European pope, and even many cardinals — whose votes are the only ones that count — are openly pushing the idea of a “pope of color” to follow Benedict XVI, a German theologian.
“I think in a way the church is always and has forever been ready for a non-European pope,” Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana told reporters after Benedict announced that he was resigning at the end of February.
The appeal of a non-European pope is understandable as it seems to reflect the hope that the church at the top of the pyramid would finally reflect the demographic reality of the faith on the ground, since the growing majority of Catholics live in the Southern Hemisphere.
Picking a pope from the Global South would also show that the church can embrace change — not necessarily by altering a particular doctrine but by changing the way it expresses and embodies the faith. In that sense, a pope from the developing world would be a symbol with real substance, much the way people saw Polish-born John Paul II in 1978, the first non-Italian pontiff in centuries and one who came from behind the Iron Curtain.
Read the rest here

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Tim Tebow Officially Puts Evangelical Right on the Sideline

In an astonishing turn of events, Tim Tebow has now cancelled his appearance at First Baptist Dallas; and in doing so he has officially placed the political religious right to the far margins of society.
Tebow's appearance was meant to be a pretty routine, if flashy event. First Baptist Church invited the football star, more famous for his prayerful pose than his forward passes, to be part of the lead up to the Easter Sunday reveal of their new church campus, which a press release calls "the largest church building project in modern history."
Tebow was scheduled to speak on Feb 28, at the 9:15 Sunday morning service. None of this seemed all that surprising. Tebow has spoken at many churches and Christian filled stadiums in the past years and First Baptist Dallas was surely thought of as just one more 'preaching' moment for the football player.
Just to be clear, First Baptist Dallas is not an outlier church. It is headed by Pastor Robert Jeffress, a very influential conservative Christian voice, who leads an 11,000 strong congregation connected to the Southern Baptist Convention. The theology and the constituency is squarely within the mainstream of contemporary right-wing Christian thought.
But what has changed is that the views of the right-wing Christians are now officially out of step with the growing majority of Americans -- including, apparently, Tim Tebow.
Read the rest here

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Call for Papers: 98th Annual ASALH Convention

At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington

October 2-6, 2013
Hyatt Riverfront - Jacksonville, Florida


The year 2013 marks two important anniversaries in the history of African Americans and the United States.On January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation set the United States on the path of ending slavery.A wartime measure issued by President Abraham Lincoln, the proclamation freed relatively few slaves, but it fueled the fire of the enslaved to strike for their freedom.In many respects, Lincoln’s declaration simply acknowledged the epidemic of black self-emancipation – spread by black freedom crusaders like Harriet Tubman – that already had commenced beyond his control.Those in bondage increasingly streamed into the camps of the Union Army, reclaiming and asserting self-determination.The result, abolitionist Fredrick Douglass predicted, was that the war for the Union became a war against slavery. The actions of both Lincoln and the slaves made clear that the Civil War was in deed, as well as in theory, a struggle between the forces of slavery and emancipation. The full-scale dismantlement of the “peculiar institution” of human bondage had begun.

In 1963, a century later, America once again stood at the crossroads. Nine years earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court had outlawed racial segregation in public schools, but the nation had not yet committed itself to equality of citizenship. Segregation and innumerable other forms of discrimination made second‐class citizenship the extra‐constitutional status of non‐whites.Another American president caught in the gale of racial change, John F. Kennedy, temporized over the legal and moral issue of his time.Like Lincoln before him, national concerns, and the growing momentum of black mass mobilization efforts, overrode his personal ambivalence toward demands for black civil rights.On August 28, 1963, hundreds of thousands of Americans, blacks and whites, Jews and gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, marched to the memorial of Abraham Lincoln, the author of the Emancipation Proclamation, in the continuing pursuit of equality of citizenship and self-determination. It was on this occasion that Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his celebrated “I Have a Dream” speech.Just as the Emancipation Proclamation had recognized the coming end of slavery, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom announced that the days of legal segregation in the United States were numbered.

Marking the sesquicentennial of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50^th  anniversary of the March on Washington, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History invites papers, panels, and roundtables on these and related topics of black emancipation, freedom, justice and equality, and the movements that have sought to achieve these goals.Submissions may focus on the historical periods tied to the 2013 theme, their precursors and successors, and other past and contemporary moments across the breadth of African American history.

Deadline for submission of proposals: Monday, April 15, 2013; Early Birds,* by March 15, 2013 (complete panels only).

Click on the following link to submit a panel or a paper to the 98th Annual Convention:

*Shawn Alexander, Academic Program Committee Co-Chair* <>

*Clarence Lang, Academic Program Committee Co-Chair* <>

When Perception Matters Most: David, Bathsheba, and Hearing the Victim's Story

by Crystal St. Marie Lewis
R3 Contributor

First published at Crystal St. Marie Lewis Blog

One of my classes is on the subject of human sexuality in scripture. This week, we were required to read the story of David and Bathsheba. We were also required to read two different commentaries of our own choosing. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, the famous story of David and Bathsheba opens like this:
Late one afternoon, after his midday rest, David got out of bed and was walking on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath. He sent someone to find out who she was, and he was told, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” (Uriah was away at battle.) Then David sent messengers to get her; and when she came to the palace, he slept with her. She had just completed the purification rites after having her menstrual period. Then she returned home. Later, when Bathsheba discovered that she was pregnant, she sent David a message, saying, “I’m pregnant.” (2 Samuel 11:2-5, NLT)
I chose to use the brief commentary inside my Life Application Study Bible (LASB) and my copy of The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (NISB). The LASB is a conservative publication that is mostly marketed to Evangelicals; the NISB is a far more liberal publication that is marketed to people who are interested in higher criticism.
I quickly noticed two different interpretations of the story: The NISB (the liberal study tool) says that David’s act was “rape.” Its editors consider Bathsheba a victim. However, the LASB depicts David as a fallen king, and brands Bathsheba an adulteress… See the following excerpt from The New Interpreter’s Study Bible:
David destroys the family of one of his most trusted warriors. In the past, he has been ruthless (8:2) but he was always concerned with public opinion (see notes on 4:1-12). Both are evident in this story of rape and murder…
…Having learned that the men of Bathsheba’s family are away and that she is defenseless, David sends people to bring her to him. She is not consulted [about her own choice in the matter]... Even if she is not physically forced to be David, she is nonetheless powerless against the king and the servants he has already used against her. (pg. 455, emphasis mine)
And now, see this excerpt from the Life Application Study Bible:
David put both Bathsheba and Joab in difficult situations. Bathsheba knew adultery was wrong, but to refuse a king’s request could mean punishment or death… We sometimes face situations with only two apparent choices, and both seem wrong. When that happens, we must not lose sight of what God wants. The answer may be to seek out more choices. By doing this, we are likely to find a choice that honors God. (pg. 521, emphasis mine)
Bathsheba’s Weakness and Mistake: She committed adultery
Lessons from Her Life: While we must live with the natural consequences of our sins, God’s forgiveness of sin is total. (Profile of Bathsheba, pg. 555)
I’ll be honest and say that when I read the conservative commentary, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Contrary to any of the dialogue in the story and contrary to the context, the editors interpret Bathsheba’s post-menstrual ritual bath as an act of seduction.
They don’t bother to consider that Bathsheba likely thought she was alone and unseen while bathing in the courtyard. After all, as James Freeman notes in Manners and Customs of the Bible, “the bath in which Bathsheba was washing was secluded from all ordinary observation”… The LASB’s editors also don’t consider that Bathsheba likely missed her husband and longed for him (after all, she grieved when he was killed later in the story). Finally, they don’t consider that she may have been terrified when David’s messengers came for her.
Instead, the LASB’s editors write that she “may have been rash in bathing where she may have been seen,” and that upon hearing the king’s request, she should have “sought another option” to avoid committing her sin. (What kind of “other option” could a woman– a piece of property with no status of her own– have presented to the most powerful and most ruthless human being in the land?)
As I’ve reflected on the David and Bathsheba story, I’ve thought about the attitudes that often surround sexual violence in our own society. There is still some belief that women who wear “sexy” clothing are “inviting” sexual assault, and that the solution to a rash of rapes is to  impose a “protective curfew” on law-abiding women. Like Bathsheba, women are expected to “choose another option”– another route to work, another outfit, or another shade of lipstick. We don’t hear as much chatter about the real issue. We don’t hear solutions that will address the behaviors of men whose inner demons have overcome them. We seek to fix the victim, and not the victimizer.
As I’ve explained in my paper about this topic, the conservative editors wander close to the real issue when they write that Bathsheba’s refusal “could mean punishment or death”… They touch lightly on power abuse, on coercion, and on the terrible status occupied by women in scripture… But then, the editors back away from the real issues and turn this very complicated matter into something black-and-white. In their effort to determine which “sins” were committed, they target the victim. The editors found a way to assign culpability to a woman who barely spoke at all in the story. It’s almost as if David stripped her of her power and dignity, and the editors stripped her of her right to have her story heard.
As John Shelby Spong wrote in Living In Sin, the LASB’s editors asked the wrong questions when it came to David and Bathsheba. They asked about sexual sin when they should’ve asked about power/powerlessness– and in so doing, they drew what I feel is the wrong conclusion.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Call for Submissions: Kissing in the Chapel, Praying in the Frat House: Wrestling with Faith and College

What is your story of wrestling with faith as a college student?
How has your faith changed as a result of your college education, personal relationships, or cultural experiences?
What, if anything, does spirituality and God have to do with college life?
We want to publish your true stories of faith and life in college! The book of collected essays will be arranged by topic areas. Essay topics may include:
  • faith, doubt, and struggles to believe
  • sex and sexuality
  • service learning
  • faith off campus
  • does God have a plan for me?
  • relationships with those of other faiths and no faith
While the book is intended particularly to resource Christian congregations and church-related colleges, stories from those of many faith traditions — or no faith tradition — are welcomed. In short: essays addressing any experience of faith and life in college will be considered for publication
Please submit a clean and polished Word file noting your full contact information to, by July 15, 2013. Authors of essays selected for inclusion in the collection will be notified by late summer.
Age Limit: Writers should be 18 to 30 years old.  Word Count: Aim for 6-14 pages, double-spaced.  Submission Process: This is an open submissions process.  Publisher: The book is under contract with Alban Publishing

Monday, February 18, 2013

Creation Myths: Founding Fathers

Do American Christians idolize their country? Do we worship the nation's founders more than our true Creator? Many in the United States look to the 'Christian nation' that once was, and decry our modern wandering ways. We long to return to the 'morals of our founders' two centuries ago. Some think that if we were only as pious as those who came before us, perhaps our country wouldn't be facing its current crises. 

But it turns out that the founding fathers were not at all what we would co-opt them to be. Jesus is absent from almost all important documents of our founding. He's not in the Declaration of Independence, not in the Constitution, not in the Federalist Papers, nor the Articles of the Confederation. Moreover, the second president of the United States, John Adams, states in the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli: "The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian Religion." While it's true that some founders believed in God, many were Deist and highly influenced by Enlightenment-era thought that espoused a powerful, but distant and uninvolved God (ie. no divine Son of God).

Read the rest here

George Washington's Christian (?) Faith

George Washington's birthday seems like an appropriate time to think about his religious beliefs and life, especially since the National Prayer Breakfast was held earlier this month, giving President Obama his fifth opportunity in that venue to assert his Christian identity. Gary S. Smith, of the Center for Vision and Values, has already written about the double-standard by which the faiths of both Washington and Obama are interpreted, and Smith, like other scholars, states that the exact nature of Washington's faith is unknowable and much less clear than Obama's.
Washington did believe in "Providence," that there was a divinity intervening in worldly affairs, and this divinity seemed to be on the side of the new republic. We know that Washington wrote many times of the value of Christianity as a guiding influence on the new republic's citizens; however, he was equally clear that the character-building nature of religious institutions was not exclusive to Christianity, extending at least to Judaism, if not to other religions. Washington was at least a cultural Christian, but we have no evidence that he was what we would call today a "born again" Christian.
If being a Christian means that one goes to a Christian Church fairly regularly, supports that church monetarily, believes in an Old Testament deity that acts in the world but whose relationship is far from personal, then Washington was a Christian. He was reared in the Church of England (later the Episcopal Church), attended services regularly, and there is no shortage of Washington's statements regarding the role of religion in civil life, in the destiny of America, and in the affairs of the world. But many of today's Christians would argue that a Christian is one who "accepts Jesus as a personal savior," and for that there is absolutely no evidence in Washington's life. In fact, there are few instances of Washington's having said the name "Jesus" in any of his public or private writings or speeches.
Read the rest here

From SNL: Djesus Uncrossed

We would really like to have your comments about this

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Call for Proposals: Critical Approaches to Hip-Hop and Religion

A definition of cipher (see is: 

  • One having no influence or value; a nonentity 
  •  A cryptographic system in which units of plain text are arbitrarily transposed or substituted according to a predetermined code; or the key to such a system. 

In hip-hop, the cipher is a locale where artists of various backgrounds, commitments, and training come together in a linguistic battle of wit and passion, where "aporetic flow" erupts into competing norms and continuous ad hominem assault. To "cipher" is to decipher the motivations, positionalities, concerns, and roadblocks that make up the discursive power arrangements of a community. It is to "play" a linguistic game of one-upmanship through deconstruction of your opponent and to embody and speak into existence the "possibility of the impossible" task of what might be of critical, productive discourse - scholarship. Click here for an example of a cipher in the hip-hop context. 

Thinking of the session as an academic cipher of various disciplinary examinations of the hip-hop cipher (i.e., "playing" with the two definitions of "cipher"), specific paper topics and research questions might include but are not limited to: 

  • The role of specialized, constructed lexicons and vocabularies in the production and maintenance of communities of discourse, including their sizes, shapes, concerns, and interests 
  • The cipher's "sacred" status in hip-hop culture and the privileging of discourse within the academic cipher as necessitating a rethinking over how we treat the impact of languages and vocabularies used to study hip-hop 
  • The "art" of ciphering as technology of the self. What new models and methods of critical engagement can be gleaned from the hip-hop cipher? How might interpreting the hip-hop cipher model the relationship between experience qua experience and experience as object of intellectual interest? 
  • Or alternatively, are there examples of cipher amongst hip-hop locales that call into question the characterization of cipher as "masculine" and oriented around confrontation? If so, what might various positions on cipher (e.g. cipher as battle, cipher as empathic community) contribute to critical approaches to hip hop? 
  • For a possible cosponsored session with the Religion and the Social Sciences Section, the meaning of methods - social scientific approaches to religion, theology, and hip-hop. The burgeoning field of religion, theology, and hip-hop has worked hard to expand the object(s) of inquiry beyond a sole focus on rap music. While this expansion has provided form, content, and structure for the making of religion and hip-hop scholarship, less attention has been given to the methodological tools necessary to provide a rigorous account of the ways in which these endeavors are taken up in hip-hop material culture. We seek papers from leading scholars working with various methodologies from fields such as sociology, anthropology, psychology, and cultural studies for the study of religion, theology, and hip-hop culture For a possible cosponsored session with the Study of Islam Section, Islam and hip-hop
This Group's purpose is to provide a space for interdisciplinary, sustained, scholarly reflection and intellectual advancements at the intersections of religion and hip-hop culture. We believe the Group will assist religious and theological studies to take more seriously hip-hop culture - while expanding the conversation of hip-hop culture beyond a thin analysis of rap music. To these ends, this Group is marked by an effort to offer critical reflection on the multiplicity of the cultural practices of hip-hop culture. We also see something of value in advancing the field of religious studies through attention to how hip-hop might inform these various disciplines and methods. Understood in this way, scholarly attention to hip-hop will not transform it into a passive object of the scholar's gaze - rather, through our attention to hip-hop, it also speaks back to the work of the AAR, offering tools by which to advance theory and method in the field. 

For more information contact: 
Christopher Driscoll 
Rice University 

Monica Miller 
Lewis and Clark College