Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Dealing with Fundamentalis, FYI quote

From the new web site integating Faith and Politics, Street Prophets,
March 29, 2006.

. . . Because what is problemmatic is not that conservative evangelicals often come at things from a very different perspective than the majority - we all have ways of reconstituting reality - but that their beliefs are so closely tied to the needs and desires of their community. To put it another way: you can argue against creationism on scientific grounds until you're blue in the face. It won't get you anywhere. Creationism - intelligent design, whatever - is about representing and defending a group of people, not an abstract concept. And until you get at what it is that group of people wants or needs, the controversy will continue. It's interest-group politics, not philosophical discourse.

That poses a political dilemma: how do you accomodate a sizable minority that's demonstrated a profound lack of interest in making a deal?

Look, I honestly believe that we are getting very close to a major political realignment in this country. It might not happen in 2006, but maybe in 2008, we will see the beginnings of a generation-long Democratic majority. And my hunch is that because security hawks have been thoroughly discredited and big business types tarnished with charges of corruption, the real drive of the opposition to that majority will come from these same conservative evangelicals. They're patient, and committed, and they feel like their backs are up against the wall. What do they have to lose?

Somehow or another, progressives are going to have to learn how to deal with ideological Christianity. You can call them "spoiled brats" if you like - it certainly seems apt, at least for the politicized leaders - but there are just too many of them to ignore. That doesn't mean, on the other hand, that progressives should "try to become more like them," or even spend too much time doing outreach to them. It may never be possible to bring them into a Democratic coalition.

But sooner or later, progressives will have to figure out what ideological Christians want - which is not always what they say they want - and deal with it.

Not give it to them.

Not deny it to them.

Deal with it. Without a game plan for addressing this ideology, a progressive majority is not sustainable over the long run, in my opinion. That means we'd better start thinking beyond these people . . .

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Is the Bible the Inerrant Word of God?

How wrong is the view that every word is the "breath of God" for us now, without any further understanding of the human, literary and historical element of the Bible? We could take at least seven topics to demonstrate that believing in the Bible text led to teaching maintained for many hundreds of years that we now consider wrong.

We will take one example of the teaching of Scripture and how our views change, and indeed how they must change. This example illustrates an important Catholic principle, first written about by Cardinal Newman, i.e., the development of doctrine. (There are many examples that demonstrate how viewing the Bible as inerrant and infallible has warped the Christian faith for both leaders and laity.)

Let's begin with slavery and how we view it today. (This discussion is taken from John T. Noonan, Federal Judge, distinguished Catholic scholar, several books, former Notre Dame Law Faculty. You will notice some legal training in his writing. It is found in Initiative Report, Catholic Common Ground Initiative, June 2005, vol 9: #2, p. 4.) He begins with a question.

Question. Is it morally lawful for one human being to hold another human being as a slave--as a piece of property, a chattel deprived of the right to determine his own vocation, to choose his own dwelling, to select his own food, to provide for his own children, and even to have his own name; but, rather, required to obey the orders of an owner who can make each of these decisions binding on this human piece of property, an owner who can mortgage him, lease him, transmit him by will or inheritance, and sell him to anyone the owner chooses?

Modem Catholics, modern Christians, most modern people would answer this absurd question, "No, it is not morally lawful." A Catholic theologian would add, "Such conduct was condemned in 1965 by the Second Vatican council/ Pope John Paul has termed such conduct intrinsically evil Because it is intrinsically evil it cannot be engaged in as morally lawful conduct by any person.

That answer was not the answer given by Hebrew Scripture, which announced the right of the Hebrews to enslave the occupants of the Promised Land. It was not the answer given by S1. Paul who told slaves to obey their masters. It was not the answer given by the popes, who owned slaves, bought slaves, and transferred them as papal property. It was not the answer of S1. Thomas Aquinas, who taught that by nature human beings were free, but that human slavery was a useful addition to the natural law. It was not the answer given by a series of fifteenth century popes who authorized Portuguese conquerors to enslave Africans and Spanish conquerors to enslave Indians. It was not the answer given by Rome to the missionaries who evangelized Asia and who were instructed that the slavery they encountered was morally acceptable. Search high and low in Denzinger, that authoritative collection of magisterial teachings, no Catholic theologian looking before 1965 could have discovered in this teaching that slaveholding, as such, was a sin, that it was indeed intrinsically evil.

Christian authority, Christian peoples for nineteen hundred years believed slavery, based on biblical teaching to be acceptable. Churches actually owned slaves. Bishop Carroll, pioneer Catholic bishop in this country owned slaves. The entire Christian community has changed its view, on a number of issues, even those dealing with sexual mores.

For these changes to have happened, we had to be free to criticize what the Bible said, to understand it differently for our times. Scholars and theologians had to be free to correct the fallible but mistaken teaching based on the Bible. (I can take another seven subjects to illustrate the narrowness of Inerrancy.)

How could this development in doctrine have occurred unless scholars and theologians were free to correct the fallible but mistaken teaching of the magisterium (official teaching)?

Adapted by Paschal Baute, July 20,2005
Copyrighted, 2005, Initiative Report, National Pastoral Life Center, , NY

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Praise the Lord and Pass the petition, CBOSS

Praise the Lord and Pass the Petition
By Ira Chernus

Tuesday 28 February 2006

If you are waiting for a religious left to emerge to offset the power of the religious right, it may already be in your own neighborhood at a local church or synagogue. I stumbled across a branch of the religious left quite by accident recently, in Texas of all places, though the folks I met would say I was guided to them by the Lord.

On a weekend in mid-February, nearly 200 Evangelical Lutherans from all over the country came to Fort Worth for the Congregation-Based Organizing Strategy Summit or CBOSS. They talked, planned, and prayed about community organizing. They shared stories about what they had already accomplished through faith and hard political work.

They had demanded action from public officials and corporate leaders in their communities, and they were proud of their victories. Among the local triumphs some of them claimed were: affordable housing for thousands of families; guaranteed access to health insurance for all children; treatment centers instead of prisons for criminals; a new community center where a meth house used to be; free day-care centers; water and sewer lines for 150,000 rural poor who had none before; laws requiring public contractors to pay a living wage; surveillance cameras in police cars - to watch the police themselves.

The list of victories went on and on. In every case devout Christians, often allied with secular activists, had put enough pressure on public officials to turn empty promises into real results. These Christians did it all because they felt called by the Lord to do His work, to create justice in the world - and because they've learned the rigorous, disciplined organizing techniques pioneered by Saul Alinsky, who created the Industrial Areas Foundation in the 1940s, and Ernesto Cortez, who then sparked Alinsky-style organizations from the barrios of Texas to the valleys of Los Angeles.

The Christians I met at CBOSS pray endlessly to Jesus, but their savior is no meek and mild turner of the other cheek. He is the Great Organizer. He agitates, builds political tension, and goes toe-to-toe with any authority who abuses power to oppress people. He is the model of a fighter for justice who won't ever quit until the wrongs of the world are righted.

See rest of article at

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

NEW WORLD DANGER: ISLAMISM, Theocracy vs Democracy, BBC

Writers issue cartoon row warning

Salman Rushdie is among a dozen writers to have put their names to a
statement in a French weekly paper warning against Islamic

The writers say the violence sparked by the publication of cartoons
satirising the Prophet Muhammad shows the need to fight for secular values
and freedom.

The statement is published in Charlie Hebdo, one of several European papers to reprint the caricatures.

The images, first published in Denmark, have angered Muslims across the

One showed the Prophet Muhammad, whose depiction is banned in Islam, as a
terrorist bomber.

Many newspapers defended their decision to reprint the cartoons on the
grounds of freedom of expression.

'Global threat'

Almost all of those who have signed the statement have experienced
difficulties with Islamic militancy first-hand, says the BBC's Caroline
Wyatt in Paris.

They include Dutch MP and filmmaker Ayaan Hirsi Ali and exiled Bangladeshi
writer Taslima Nasreen.

"After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a
new global threat: Islamism," the manifesto says.
"We, writers, journalists, intellectuals, call for resistance to religious
totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and
secular values for all."

The clashes over the cartoons "revealed the necessity of the struggle for
these universal values," the statement continues.

"It is not a clash of civilisations nor an antagonism of West and East that
we are witnessing, but a global struggle that confronts democrats and

The writers said they refused to accept that Muslim men and women "should be
deprived of their rights to equality, liberty or secularity in the name of
respect for culture or tradition".

They also said they would not give up their critical spirit out of fear of
being accused of Islamophobia.

"Islamism is a reactionary ideology which kills equality, freedom and
secularism wherever it is present," the writers added, saying it is nurtured
by fears and frustrations.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2006/03/01 16:46:10 GMT

Salman Rushdie - Indian-born British writer with fatwa issued ordering his
execution for The Satanic Verses
Ayaan Hirsi Ali - Somali-born Dutch MP
Taslima Nasreen - exiled Bangladeshi writer, with fatwa issued ordering her
Bernard-Henri Levy - French philosopher
Chahla Chafiq - Iranian writer exiled in France
Caroline Fourest - French writer
Irshad Manji - Ugandan refugee and writer living in Canada
Mehdi Mozaffari - Iranian academic exiled in Denmark
Maryam Namazie - Iranian writer living in Britain
Antoine Sfeir - director of French review examining Middle East
Ibn Warraq - US academic of Indian/Pakistani origin
Philippe Val - director of Charlie Hebdo