A New Kind Of Christian

Maybe not.

 

From Facebook

From Facebook

While I do not subscribe to the implication in the foregoing meme that Christianity is inherently anti-social, my own observation is that Christianity is not an inoculation against shameful conduct. I am reminded of this on the order of once a week.

Last week, leaders of the church planting network Acts 29 removed [pastor Mark] Driscoll and his churches from the group he helped found and asked that he “step down from ministry for an extended time and seek help.”

Driscoll has been an influential but edgy pastor within conservative evangelical circles for several years. His Mars Hill Church attracts some 14,000 people at 15 locations across five states. He has been provocative, occasionally profane and has faced allegations of plagiarism and inflating book sales.

I have to admit. As keen as I presume to be on these matters, Mark Driscoll has been completely off my radar until now:

Mark A. Driscoll (born October 11, 1970) is an evangelical Christian pastor and author, and current preaching pastor of Mars Hill Church, a megachurch in Seattle, Washington. In 1996, Driscoll co-founded Mars Hill Church, which as of 2014 has grown to 14,000 members in five states and fifteen locations. He also founded The Resurgence, a theological cooperative, and co-founded several other parachurch organizations: Churches Helping Churches, the church planting Acts 29 Network, and The Gospel Coalition. He has written for the “Faith and Values” section of the Seattle TimesOnFaith, and the Fox News website. Driscoll has also authored a number of popular Christian books. Described as “hip yet hard-line”, he is known for promoting “culturally relevant” yet theologically conservative Christianity. He favors “vintage” aesthetics and a “down to earth”, yet at times “aggressive” preaching style.

In 2011, Preaching magazine named Driscoll one of the 25 most influential [English-speaking] pastors of the past 25 years. His influence is polarizing; he is described in a profile by Salon as being the center of a cult of personality, and using controversy to increase his visibility. The New York Times Magazine called him “one of the most admired—and reviled—figures among evangelicals nationwide.” Controversy has often surrounded his complementarian view of gender roles, Calvinist theology, perceived misogyny, plagiarism accusations and culture of fear that allegedly supports his ministerial authority.

[Some links deleted]

I note here that Mark Driscoll has taken lessons from the Bible, particularly with regard to “research:”

Let no one else’s work evade your eyes,
Remember why the good Lord made your eyes,
So don’t shade your eyes,
But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize –

The Patheos.com blog hosts a post by Warren Throckmorton that provides some analysis of Driscoll’s phrase lifting. In two of his books, The Radical Reformission: Reaching Out Without Selling Out and Confessions of a Reformission Rev: Hard Lessons from an Emerging Missional Church, Driscoll outlines his approach to ministry. Throckmorton comments on Driscoll’s lack of originality:

Driscoll’s formula has been cited by other church planters and authors since then. However, according to a former close colleague, Ron Wheeler, Driscoll lifted those concepts from work Wheeler did while developing the first Acts29 Network church plant in Mt. Vernon, WA — The Gathering. Wheeler was in the room when the Acts29 Network was organized and spent much time with Driscoll in the early days of Mars Hill Church. From Wheeler, I obtained the following page taken from an   in-house church document. See especially the bottom of the page where the relationship between church, culture and the Gospel are outlined.

In addition to preaching the good news (gospel) Driscoll has talents of business promotion that are to be appreciated:

According to an online story posted March 5 and a follow-up story on Christianitytoday.com, Mars Hill contracted with ResultSource Inc. (RSI) to create a campaign to get Real Marriage onto the New York Times bestseller list. Mars Hill, not the publisher, reportedly paid $210,000 in the deal, which the L.A. Times reported on March 6 as an example of how authors can game bestsellers lists.

The book appeared at #1 on the Times Advice, How-To list for Jan. 22, 2012. It did not appear on the list at all for the week before or the week after. It also did not appear on anyPublishers Weekly bestseller lists.

It is not only his business practices that disturb fellow Christians. I was trying to find out what some of the other fuss was about and came across this:

We live in a completely pussified nation.

We could get every man, real man as opposed to pussified James Dobson knock-off crying Promise Keeping homoerotic worship loving mama’s boy sensitive emasculated neutered exact male replica evangellyfish, and have a conference in a phone booth. It all began with Adam, the first of the pussified nation, who kept his mouth shut and watched everything fall headlong down the slippery slide of hell/feminism when he shut his mouth and listened to his wife who thought Satan was a good theologian when he should have lead her and exercised his delegated authority as king of the planet. As a result, he was cursed for listening to his wife and every man since has been his pussified sit quietly by and watch a nation of men be raised by bitter penis envying burned feministed single mothers who make sure that Johnny grows up to be a very nice woman who sits down to pee.

This was posted by “William Wallace II,” apparently a pseudonym for Mark Driscoll. Of course, William Wallace was one of the 13th century leaders for Scottish independence, also featured in the motion picture Braveheart with staunch Catholic Mel Gibson in the title role. If you are seeing a connection between the Wallace pseudonym and Mark Driscoll’s Calvinist leanings, then you are getting dangerously close to the truth.

Conservative Christians are not noted for promoting sexual equality, but Driscoll’s remarks proved over the top even for this church teetering on the brink of cult hood. How far down the road was Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church from Jonestown we may never learn.

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Benefits of Religion

The One, the True, the Pure

The One, the True, the Pure

People who know me I am sure think I’m often too harsh in my criticism of religion. They tell me all the benefits—lead a moral life, share wealth with the less fortunate, live in comfort for all eternity. What’s not to like?

I like to point out that I can lead a morel life and share my wealth with the less fortunate without the benefit of religion. Regarding the opportunity to live in comfort for all eternity, please get real.

Regarding the first two, let’s take sharing the wealth:

Robert Gibson Tilton (born June 7, 1946) is an American televangelist who achieved notoriety in the 1980s and early 1990s through his infomercial-styled religious television program Success-N-Life, which at its peak in 1991 aired in all 235 American TV markets (daily in the majority of them), brought in nearly $80 million per year, and was described as “the fastest growing television ministry in America.” However, within two years after ABC’s Primetime Live aired an expose into Tilton’s fundraising practices, which started a series of investigations into the ministry, Tilton’s program was no longer being broadcast.

[Some links deleted]

It would seem that religion is neither a necessary nor sufficient premise for sharing wealth.

How about leading a moral life?

Freedom from Homosexuality: No Longer Living the Lie Paperback – July 1, 2006

In this life-changing book, Bishop Duane Youngblood shares insights and truth to help anyone struggling with perversions find a place of forgiveness and deliverance in God. Through his honesty about his own life and the enemy’s plan against him, many have already been delivered from perverse sins.

As you read through the pages of this book, you may find yourself in his story as well as find your way to freedom. Freedom from Homosexuality takes us from the set up against a small child, to the deliverance of the man. If you are a man or woman, a church leader or member, this book will help you process the mind of God about your life and the way you can live for Him.

This book is detailed and explosive against the enemy. Bishop Youngblood is very candid and open as God uses Him to expose the plan of the enemy against so many sitting in the pews in church today. You will never be the same as you read the pages of liberty as this man of God shares from his heart.

Once you have read the book, get in the fight to rescue others from the perverse spirits that seek to control the life of believers. As you read be encouraged, be empowered and be set free.

OK, so that’s one benefit of religion. Religion teaches you how to live a life without the curse of homosexuality (and presumably other perverse character disorders). It might be that Bishop Youngblood is the answer to all of those doubting the value of religious faith:

Pastor And Author of Book ‘Freedom from Homosexuality’ Arrested For Molesting Teenage Boy

A Pittsburgh pastor has been accused of sexuality assaulting a teeneger. Duane Youngblood with the “Higher Call World Outreach Church” in Homestead was charged Saturday with corrupting a minor. Youngblood is also the author of a book, Freedom from Homosexuality: No Longer Living the Lie.

Oh, no. Can’t be that bad:

In 2006 Youngblood was accused of molesting a 15-year-old boy whom he was also counseling.

He was subsequently sentenced to one year of intermediate punishment and seven years’ probation. Youngblood is a registered sex offender.

Wonkette pointed to his twitter timeline. One of his last tweets read, “Do it for Jesus this time!”

From Wonkett: Youngblood's last tweets

From Wonkett: Youngblood’s last tweets

Wow! There’s a lot that I would do for Jesus. But just what is it Jesus (or Bishop Youngblood) wants me to do?

Wackos on the Left

It’s no doubt. I have a lot of fun with wackos in the news, and it’s doubly fun when these wackos also happen to be conservatives. Which is typically all the time. In the interest of fair play (I can’t imagine why) I hunted around for some wackos on the left.

Found one!

SpielbergKillsTricatops

Take a look at this:

Jay Branscomb posted a photo of Steven Spielberg, on the set of Jurassic Park, sitting in front of a Triceratops on his Facebook page on July 6.

Of course, the liberal triceratops poop hit the fan.

Isn’t triceratops an endangered species? If it’s not, then it ought to be. The nerve of a multi-millionaire like Spielberg (a liberal one at that) exercising his wealth to take down this lovely (?) animal. And, as we all know from seeing the movie, it’s absolutely harmless because it’s a herbivore. Just like a rhinoceros. It even has herbivore horns to show how harmless it is.

Or was.

First of all, let’s discuss the endangered species triceratops. If any species is endangered it has to be triceratops. They went extinct about 65 million years ago. And that’s the crux of the matter.

You see, all these liberal tree huggers are complaining about the killing of an animal that does not exist and has not in any human lifetime. That puts these tree huggers on the same ark with right wing conservatives who believe dinosaurs and humans coexisted starting about 6000 years ago with the formation of the universe, exactly as described in the Bible.

But wait. There’s something wrong with this picture. First of all, why aren’t conservatives complaining about the killing of an endangered species, even it is already extinct? Aren’t conservatives supposed to be conservative, wanting to preserve things the way they are? Why aren’t conservatives joining ranks with the tree huggers and marching in protest of the killing of endangered rhinoceroses, or the loss of habitat for the spotted owl? Maybe that’s another story.

But wait again. Maybe there are some conservatives raising a fuss over Spielberg’s trophy hunt, bogus or not? We can’t tell.

Wait once more. There is small doubt that these complainers are just joining in on the joke. I mean, what tree hugger does not watch Nova on TV and already knows about the great extinction event 65 million years ago?

‘I don’t care who he is, he should not have shot that animal,’ wrote Vincent Smith.

A number of other commenters also apparently fail to realize that the triceratops has been extinct for 66 million years ago and that Spielberg, one of the most famous movie makers of all time, is sitting beside a mechanical prop from a movie which has grossed more than $1 billion and won three Academy Awards.

To date, Branscomb’s post has received over 9,000 likes, been shared more than 30,000 times and attracted more than 5,000 comments.

Suffice to say, as the post has become more popular, more and more people have joined in leaving humorous comments and memes using the image.

Finally wait. Terminally stupid or not, these people complaining are faces in the crowd. They are not members of Congress or people running for office of President of the United States or running for any office. The Son of Wacko series on this blog has so far only featured people in politics. And they have all been conservatives.

My attempt at fairness and balance has been completely unhinged by some basic facts. Drat the facts anyway. That’s the way life is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Son of Wacko

From The Daily Beast

From The Daily Beast

Yesterday I was foolish enough to post an item titled “Son of Wacko.” As though there had been a previous “Wacko.” Actually there had not. there had only been “Wacko comes to Washington.” And that was news?:

One thing you can say about Washington, here the truth is a sometime thing. And sometimes not even then. The Daily Beast story is intriguing. Let me analyze a few passages:

In between speakers, some attendees walked around wielding signs and some prayed—with their arms stretched toward the sky. Others clutched rosary beads. Actual priests (and a few rabbis) circled, holding religious texts and offering wisdom to passersby.

See what I mean. However, “Son of Wacko” was actually about Oklahoma:

Readers, I may have made an important discovery. I have, as certainly all of us have, been pounding my head in an effort to figure out where all this wacko in Texas politics is coming from. Sunshine and saddle soap, readers! I may have found the answer. It’s leaking down from Oklahoma.

Anyhow…

That led to a dialog on Facebook about seats of wacko, and Steve pointed out “Southern California is full of wackos also.”

Of course. What was I thinking. I spent some time in SoCal, as it is called, and I saw for myself. Actually, I knew before I went what to expect. What better place to source a story on wacko than one of this country’s great fountain heads of wacko.

I wondered just how long it would take me to find a wacko story from SoCal. So I set my egg timer. I don’t have an actual egg timer, but I mentally estimated it would take me just a few seconds. Through the miracle that is Google I had a story inside a minute. Where do I begin?

During the TSA controversy, [Republican member of the California State Assembly, Timothy Michael “Tim”] Donnelly told the news media that he had no previous criminal history, and reporters were unable to find a criminal record. However, the Sacramento [Bee] discovered a news article in The Ann Arbor News listed a conviction for “larceny in a building” in 1985, with a sentence of three years probation and a fine. Donnelly claimed he was treated as a juvenile, though an adult in 1985, and never convicted. Donnelly told the Sacramento Bee “I got drunk with my buddy, and we left his Sony Walkman in the hallway, and somebody took it. So we started looking for somebody who might have it, and we wound up breaking into somebody else’s room and stealing a stereo from them. Tim Donnelly says past larceny case was college ‘prank’]”, Sacramento Bee, March 26, 2014

Michigan Penal Code Section describes 750.360 “larceny in a house” as a felony offense.

[Edits noted]

Tim Donnelly represents the 33rd District of the California Assembly:

The district, one of the largest in California, encompasses a wide expanse of the High Desert, stretching from the eastern fringes of Los Angeles metropolitan area to the Nevada and Arizona borders. The district’s population is mostly concentrated in the southwest, with scattered settlements elsewhere.

This is a SoCal wacko and not one of those Haight-Ashbury wackos. The Orange County Weekly was also enlightening:

ORIGINAL POST, MAY 7, 7:32 A.M.: Tim Donnelly, the Tea Party favorite for governor of California, apparently noticed that his primary election opponent, Irvine’s Neel Kashkari, picked up endorsements from such nationally known “moderate” Republicans as Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush and Pete Wilson. It might explain why Donnelly, a member of the state Assembly out of Hesperia, is now playing the “Sharia” card.

Donnelly posted on Facebook Monday:

BREAKING: Neel Kashkari supported the United States submitting to the Islamic, Shariah banking code in 2008 when he ran TARP.Shariah is “the seditious religio-political-legal code authoritative Islam seeks to impose worldwide under a global theocracy.”

This revelation is spreading fast, as people like Anita Gunn refer to Mr. Kashkari’s support of Shariah an “October Surprise.”

I’m not going to call Tim Donnelly paranoid, I’m not going to call him absent minded, and I’m not saying he is disrespectful of the law. However, a combination of all three says something about the person at the base of these:

Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, was stopped by the Transportation Security Administration about 7:45 a.m. at the Ontario International Airport, airport police said in a written statement.

He had four rounds in the Colt .45, and another magazine carrying five rounds in the carry-on bag, TSA spokesman Nico Melendez said.

“He said he forgot it was in his bag,” Melendez said.

The 45-year-old was in Terminal Four when he was flagged. The TSA contacted airport police.

“I apologize for the regrettable error that I made this morning,” Donnelly said later.

The lawmaker said he carried the gun for protection.

This may not be “wacko,” and this may not be “son of wacko.” But it borders on “friend of wacko.” Readers, this is SoCal, and this is just the start.

Son of Wacko

OklahomaSallyKern

Wacko alert! Wacko alert!

Readers, I may have made an important discovery. I have, as certainly all of us have, been pounding my head in an effort to figure out where all this wacko in Texas politics is coming from. Sunshine and saddle soap, readers! I may have found the answer. It’s leaking down from Oklahoma.

No, this is not about Oklahoma Senator Sally Kern. Also I am not doubling down on Timothy Ray Murray. Recall a few days ago I highlighted the Oklahoma politician and had the temerity to label him “The Manchurian Candidate.” Cute, what? Like in the movie of the same name. In that I remarked:

There be loonies, and then there be loonies. It’s a matter of degree, a matter for which the American public can be thankful.

Of course, Oklahoma is not the singular source of wacko. I have also noted that great American well spring, Washington, D.C. I reposted some stuff by Olivia Nuzzi that appeared in The Daily Beast:

Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and a lady who said she sees angels swooping down into the Supreme Court joined the pro-tradition throngs at the annual March for Marriage.

Steps from our nation’s Capitol, I was approached by Morton, a youthful-looking 68-year-old Virginia native with artificially blond hair and a fistful of fliers that read, “Gay Greed” and “Gay Sex Leads to Adult Diapers.”

“They’re not born with it, you know,” Morton offered, unprompted. “If anybody opens the back door unnaturally from outside, you end up having open-door syndrome. You can’t close the door. Anal sex harms [gays]. It reduces their life by, on average, 25 years—anal or oral sex.” Asked if such sex could harm women the same way it harms gay men, Morton thought for a moment. “Uh, it also has an impact—a strong impact. I’m not certain the exact statistics there.”

Few (actually nobody) were surprised that this kind of stuff goes on in Washington. But Oklahoma?

My previously-stated opinion is that Oklahoma has been going out of its way to make Texas politics look respectable. A wayward errand it turns out. Nonetheless, that does not hold back these worthy Sooners. They just keep plugging along:

Scott Esk, a Republican Tea Party candidate in Oklahoma, got into a debate on Facebook last summer in which he advocated killing homosexuals.

I think we would be totally in the right to do it,” Esk wrote in comments uncovered by Oklahoma journalist Rob Morris. “That goes against some parts of libertarianism, I realize, and I’m largely libertarian, but ignoring as a nation things that are worthy of death is very remiss.”

When pressed, Esk added: “I never said I would author legislation to put homosexuals to death, but I didn’t have a problem with it.”

Esk is running for the state’s House of Representatives. The primary is scheduled for June 24.

June 24 primary? That train has already left the station. Let’s see how the vote came out.

In June 2014, Esk gained national media attention when comments he made on Facebook in July 2013 were posted on Moore-based website Moore Monthly. Esk quoted several verses of scripture in response to a discussion about Pope Francis’s views on homosexuality. When Esk was asked if he would support the execution of homosexuals by stoning, he reportedly replied, “I think we would be totally in the right to do it. That goes against some parts of libertarianism, I realize, and I’m largely libertarian, but ignoring as a nation things that are worthy of death is very remiss.” Esk later clarified his position in a phone interview, saying “What I will tell you right now is that was done in the Old Testament under a law that came directly from God, and in that time it was totally just. I have no plans to reinstitute that in Oklahoma law; I do have very huge moral misgivings about those kinds of sins, and I think that those kinds of sins will not do our country any good and certainly doesn’t do anything to preserve the family.”

Esk was soundly defeated in the Oklahoma Primary elections on June 24, 2014 with just 5% of the vote.

[Some links removed]

Dag nab it. Just when life was beginning to get interesting again. Where’s all this sanity coming from? Oklahoma? Get out of here.

(Full disclosure: Although I have lived most of my life within about a hundred miles of the Oklahoma border, I have not set foot in the state since 1957.)

But wait just a moment. We are passing over the very essence of the story. We have politicians who pound the bible and wear their religious convictions on their sleeves like party arm bands. But seldom do we see a politician who is prepared to go the full monty. I mean politicians will tell you that human contraception is sinful and goes against God’s order to go forth and multiply. But it’s likely they are saying this just to get your vote. They are what are known in the circles as CINO; Christians in name only. Hardly a one of these political Christians is willing to put his first born son on an altar and slit his throat with a knife. Or even to stand by while somebody else does so. Just as there are things that not even a lawyer will do, these pseudo Christians have their limits.

Which is why (defeated) candidate Scott Esk of Oklahoma is such a fresh breeze in this otherwise bleak political landscape. I promise you, fellow Christians, there will come a time when you wish you had not been so scornful of this true believer.

And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

The Sword of the Lord

From Google Images

From Google Images

That didn’t take long, although, the stew was some time brewing:

In 1999, the Town of Greece, New York (“the Town”), began starting its Town Board meetings with a moment of prayer. The Town developed an informal practice of inviting clergy to give the opening prayer, and those clergy who accepted were given the “Chaplain of the Month” award. In 2008, Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens started complaining about the practice because they felt it aligned the town with Christianity. Over the next year, the Town invited four non-Christian prayer-givers, but in January 2009, all prayer-givers were again Christian. Galloway and Stephens sued in the Western District of New York, claiming that the practice violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Town. On appeal, the Second Circuit reversed, concluding that a reasonable person could believe that the practice affiliated the Town with Christianity. The Town petitioned for a writ of certiorari, which the Supreme Court granted to determine the constitutionality of legislative prayer practices. This case will address the boundaries of the freedom of religion and the meaning of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Court’s decision could effectively end long-standing governmental practices that contain religious connotations.

On 5 May this year the Supreme Court settled the matter:

In a 5-4 decision in favor of Marsh the judgement (sic) of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit was reversed because the question before the court was answered with no. The majority opinion authored by Justice Kennedy stated: “The town of Greece does not violate the First Amendment by opening its meetings with prayer that comports with our tradition and does not coerce participation by nonadherents.” The court concluded that the town’s practice of opening its town board meetings with a prayer offered by members of the clergy does not violate the Establishment Clause when the practice is consistent with the tradition long followed by Congress and state legislatures, the town does not discriminate against minority faiths in determining who may offer a prayer, and the prayer does not coerce participation with non-adherents. [Links removed]

Here is a summary from the Supreme Court.

Translated, this decision allows the practice of opening meetings with Christian only prayers, so long as attendees are not required to participate, and people of other faiths do not complain too loudly. The typical argument in cases like this is that Christians make up the vast majority of the community, and Christian prayers just represent the sentiments of that majority.

The Unites States government is the people, and the majority will always have the power to prevail on public issues. The purpose of the First Amendment is to protect minorities by curbing the power of the majority. That’s a rather restrictive interpretation. My more expansive interpretation is that invoking Christian prayers amounts to Christian proselytizing at public expense.

Giving the Devil his due, invoking Jewish prayers would be Jewish proselytizing, and invoking Muslim prayers would amount to Islamic proselytizing. All at public expense. I am sure this is something we said 222 years ago we would not do. What has it all come to? I’m glad you asked:

Rowlett City Council invocations summoning prayer and debate

By 

STAFF WRITER

Published: April 10, 2013 10:44 PM

ROWLETT — A three-year disagreement over prayer at Rowlett City Council meetings is quickly broadening The council’s practice of starting meetings with an invocation has drawn dozens of public speakers, a vigil and enhanced police presence to the Rowlett Municipal Building since March. The Freedom From Religion Foundation and Metroplex Atheists have become involved, each sending letters to city leaders in the last six months.

That was over a year ago, before the Court handed down the Greece decision. At the time Mayor Todd Gottel stated:

“In 2010, we told them we were going to review our policy. We did,” Gottel said. “We wanted to make sure our policy was fair and equitable. It is.” Gottel has long posted positive Facebook comments about Sunday services at First Baptist Church Rowlett. His beliefs were well-known when he inherited the mayor’s seat to wide popular acclaim in April 2011 and has twice since run unopposed. “This is a council invocation, and as long as I’m mayor and I’m sitting there, I’m going to pray,” he said. “As long as the Supreme Court tells us it’s OK, we’re going to pray.”

This story from The Dallas Morning News also reported: “Gottel said that the city and council makeup is mostly Christian but that the policy does not discriminate. Licensed clergy from any legitimate church in the city are welcome to lead the invocation, he said.”

Aye, there’s the rub. The key phrase is “any legitimate church in the city.” Another key word is “licensed.” The government issues licenses to clergy? And the people who determine what is a legitimate church are…? And if the city is solidly Catholic then prayers will be Catholic only? If there are no Jewish temples, then there will be no Jewish prayers? And where is the First Amendment in all of this? The Supreme Court?

Americans Against the Tea Party has posted a contemporary news item:

On behalf of the group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter giving city leaders ten business days to respond to a request to add two Rowlett members to its list of people who can give council meeting invocations. “Specifically, we ask that you ensure that nonbelievers are given equal opportunity to deliver invocations at council meetings,” Sam Grover, an attorney for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, wrote to the City of Rowlett. However, city Attorney David Berman said on Tuesday that Rowlett will likely not respond to the letter requesting equal treatment for nonbelievers. “As long as I’m mayor, we are going to pray,” Mayor Todd Gottel said Wednesday.

On the last day of June this year the Supreme Court added a new chapter to the rights staked out by the First Amendment. In a 5-4 decision along political lines the Court ruled that the religious preferences of employers take precedence over national law, particularly in regards to items that must be covered in legislatively-mandated insurance plans. This trend in court decisions promises to shift religious influence in society away from individuals and more toward seats of political and financial power.

And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

The Sword of the Lord

godbible

I notice this kind of thing can happen only in America.

Not exactly.

It can also happen in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, some parts of Iraq, and a few other places. What is it? Allow me to explain.

People who know me are aware that I find the practice of opening meetings with appeals to imaginary entities tiresome and sometimes irritating. One governmental institution apparently noticed my plight and has taken action to alleviate my distress. They did this by eliminating some of the sources of my concern. Here’s how they did it:

The Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors in Virgina [No, Virginia, not Virgina] has landed themselves in hot water recently when they recently prohibited prayer invoking “neo-pagan, polytheistic, pre-Christian deities” that don’t fall under the purview of “the Judeo-Christian tradition.”

The limitation was set into place after denying the request that a Wiccan’s invocation be added to the list of prayers.  They denied it based on the above stipulations; that is, the invocation is neo-pagan, polytheistic, pre-Christian and outside this mythical “Judeo-Christian” mystery religion.

I’m here to tell you, dear readers, this is a huge load off my mind. The next time I attend a meeting of the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors I will not be in dread of having to sit through a silly Wiccan, Buddhist, Shinto, FSM monologue. All I will have to prepare for is sitting through a tiresome Judeo-Christian-Muslim monologue. Wait. Maybe not even a Muslim monologue. I need to verify that.

Sarah Jones, writing in the Americans United blog came away with the impression that prayer at board meetings will be much restricted:

Just days after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its verdict in Town of Greece v. Galloway, legalizing legislative prayer before meetings of local government, one county supervisor in Virginia had an inspiration: Henceforth, prayer should be all Christian, all the time.

“The freedom of religion doesn’t mean that every religion has to be heard,” Roanoke County Supervisor Al Bedrosian told the Roanoke Times. “If we allow everything…where do you draw the line?”

Bedrosian went on to opine that Christian prayers should dominate because the country, in his view, was founded on that faith.

“I think America, pretty much from the Founding Fathers on, I think we have to say more or less that we’re a Christian nation with Christian ideology,” he stated. “If we’re a Christian nation, we need to move toward our Christian heritage.”

Other supervisors were quick to point out that they don’t agree with Bedrosian and said a change in official policy was unlikely. But his confusion is indicative of the fallout from the May 5 ruling in Greece, a decision that continues to reverberate around the nation.

If this is true there is much joy. It means the next time I attend the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors meeting I will neither have to prepare myself to endure silly Jewish and Muslim prayers. Just the silly Christian prayers. You have no idea how relieved that I am at this news.

Jones elaborated further on the Greece case:

The Greece case, sponsored by Americans United, challenged a New York community’s practice of opening its meetings with mostly Christian prayers. Town officials insisted they had an open-door policy for prayer, but that most of the supplications just happened to be Christian.

AU, representing two local plaintiffs, Susan Galloway and Linda Steph­ens, filed suit against the town’s prayer policy. Although AU prevailed at the appeals court level, the Supreme Court reversed that decision, ruling 5-4 in favor of the town.

I have previously given my take on the Greece decision. I quoted this in my post:

A divided Supreme Court ruled Monday that legislative bodies such as city councils can begin their meetings with prayer, even if it plainly favors a specific religion.

The court ruled 5 to 4 that Christian prayers said before meetings of an Upstate New York town council did not violate the constitutional prohibition against government establishment of religion; the justices cited history and tradition.

“Ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this Nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond the authority of government,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the court’s conservative majority.

The ruling reflected a Supreme Court that has become more lenient on how government may accommodate religion in civic life without crossing the line into an endorsement of a particular faith. All nine justices endorsed the concept of legislative prayer, with the four dissenters agreeing that the public forum “need not become a religion-free zone,” in the words of Justice Elena Kagan.

You know what I always say, “If this be voodoo, let’s make the most of it.” Apparently some are prepared to do just that.

And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

Just Like Old Times

For longer than I care to reveal (OK, over 50 years) I have been distressed by the actions of the creationists. Until about 1989 I just let the matter slide. Starting that year I began to take action. I started reading their books and attending their meetings and their lectures. Through it all ran a common theme: Creationists wanted “creation science” taught in the public schools. Else they wanted Darwinian evolution not to be taught. Else they wanted a disclaimer attached that modern biological science is “just a theory” and that students should doubt it. Else they wanted schools to “teach the controversy.” They wanted pupils to know that the biological evolution is a controversial topic. And it is. The creationists have made it so by raising counter (and false) arguments.

To the creationists various fields of science are controversial. Nuclear physics is controversial. This science provides evidence that contradicts the Bible on the age of the Earth. Modern cosmology is controversial. Modern cosmology provides natural explanations that contradict the Bible, and cosmology got a rough ride in the Kansas public school system several years ago:

This standards document was before the State Board of Education for three months awaiting approval.  However, one state board member put forward an alternative proposal that had completely bypassed any process of review or public comment.  It was largely ghost-written by members of a local creation science organization. This document eliminated any mention of evolution and also removed reference to any unifying scientific theories.  It rather put the focus on “technological science,” and dismissed “theoretical science” as unproven speculation with little practical application.  Fully half the members of the State Board of Education (an elected body under no other political, educational, or legislative body) favored this proposal over the document developed by the education committee, resulting in an immediate deadlock.

In the last turn of events, 3 members of the Board rewrote the standards to produce a “compromise” document.  While not including the more objectionable parts of the alternate proposal, it still eliminated the theory of evolution as a model for understanding the history and diversity of life.  Furthermore it does not mention cosmology (Big Bang) or the Age of the Earth. It also includes errors of fact and misrepresentations of scientific methodology and content.  This version passed the Board on August 12th by a 6 to 4 vote.  The original standards document written and unanimously endorsed by the appointed committee was not even brought to a vote.  This decision was made in opposition to the recommendations of virtually every scientific and educational body in the state.  The Governor of Kansas and all of the presidents of the regents institutions (state universities) appealed to the Board to reject the alternate document.   The academic and educational communities are very irritated by the current situation.

By now you’re getting the idea. When science contradicts personal belief, science is going to have to give a little.

A school director in Pennsylvania is demanding that an environmental science textbook used in high schools be supplemented with a pamphlet about the “true science” of global warming.

Saucon Valley School Director and Tea Party Republican Bryan Eichfeld claimed “there’s a lot of clear propaganda…based on bad science” in the chapter, the point of which “is to teach our students to fear the future and to hate our modern industrial economy.”

He urged his fellow school directors to reject the textbook.

Or maybe a lot.

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has long been an advocate for teaching evolution in public schools and conversely for keeping ideologically-driven matter out. Starting a few years ago they realized that the science behind global warming is going to require similar attention:

In recent years, most state-level legislative attacks on evolution have taken the form of “academic freedom” bills, which permit — but do not require — teachers and students to introduce creationist material into science classes. Because these bills are permissive rather than prescriptive, they may have a better chance of surviving judicial scrutiny than has past anti evolution legislation.

There are two main strains of “academic freedom” bills. The first mandates that teachers be able to discuss “the full range of scientific views regarding biological and chemical evolution,” and offers students “protection for subscribing to a particular position on views regarding biological or chemical evolution.” Bills of this strain typically also include unsubstantiated claims of widespread persecution of teachers and students who criticize evolution. The Discovery Institute’s “Model Academic Freedom Statute on Evolution” is of this form.

The second strain does not purport to be concerned with student rights, and cites the need to help students develop “critical thinking skills” on “controversial issues.” To this end, it permits teachers to discuss “the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories.” The listed “theories” often cover several topics of concern to the religious right: primarily evolution and abiogenesis, but also global warming, human cloning and stem cell research. One example of this strain is 2008’s Louisiana Science Education Act.

Eichfeld stated his case and his demands in a letter, which says in part:

Paul Saunders, a local expert on the deceptions of global warming alarmists, has prepared a 10+ page analysis of the most egregious portions of the book. A quick example of the deceptiveness of the text, from page 344 – “some of the findings of the IPCC state that since the third report in 2001, the average global surface temperature increased by 0.75° C”. What is not stated is they picked 2001 because it was a particularly cold year of surface temperatures compared to 1998 and 2002. If they used the trend of global temperatures from 1998 to 2013, then the temperature increase would be trivial and far below the temperature increase predictions of the 1988 computer climate models that were used to scare the Congress and the public. This type of statistical deception is scientifically dishonest, Eichfield believes, that the only reason that such deceptive techniques are used, is to scare our students to fear the future and to hate our modern industrial economy.

Eichfeld believes that it is the school board’s obligation to provide our students with a balanced point of view. Science is not the study of a consensus of thought, it is the study of the actual data and the application of the scientific method. There is credible, rational scientific evidence challenging the man-made global warming alarmist claims and our students should be exposed to it.

The text in question is Environmental Science by Michael R. Heithaus, Karen Arms and Holt McDougal (Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, 2013). I do not have a copy of this book, so I cannot confirm what Eichfeld says about page 344. That given, an examination of history from meteorological stations and the Land-Ocean Temperature Index does not quite quite confirm Eichfeld’s assertion (“they picked 2001 because it was a particularly cold year”). If the authors had wanted to pick a particularly cold year they could have better gone to 2000, which seems to have been colder, or at least just as cold. What they would not do is use 1998, because, as the plot shows, 1998 exhibited a temperature spike. See the following:

From Google

From Google

What matters more and is easier to interpret are the averages, shown in the following:

From Google

From Google

This does not go all the way to 2013, when the book was published, but it does show the five-year average, and that is particularly telling. The 1998 peak is smoothed out, and the red line (five-year average) shows a monotonic increase following a dip about 1994. The black horizontal bar shows the period when the Pinatubo eruption cooled the atmosphere.

I have attempted to identify the “Paul Saunders” in question. The Lehigh Valley News elaborated on Saunders’ testimony:

Paul Saunders, a self-proclaimed “local expert of the deceptions of climate change alarmist,” was invited by Eichfeld to speak on the matter at Tuesday’s board meeting.
In a presentation of his 11-page report on the topic, Saunders said that the textbook’s assertion that carbon-dioxide emissions have driven global climate change over the centuries is mistaken.
He said the book confounds group consensus with scientific fact.
“The temperature is driving [carbon dioxide] emissions, not the other way around,” he said. “The Environmental Science textbook does not adhere to the scientific method. It delivers one-sided advocacy.”
The Bethlehem resident was allowed to present his findings in spite of not being a member of the school district, to the chagrin of some officials and local residents.

I did find this Paul J. Saunders, who posted the following in 2007:

 As the worlds leaders gather in New York this week to discuss climate change, youre going to hear a lot of well-intentioned talk about how to stop global warming. From the United Nations, Bill Clinton, and even the Bush administration, you’ll hear about how certain mechanisms cap-and-trade systems for greenhouse gas emissions, carbon taxes, and research and development plans for new energy technologies can fit into some sort of global emissions reduction agreement to stop climate change. Many of these ideas will be innovative and necessary; some of them will be poorly thought out. But one thing binds them together: They all come much too late.

For understandable reasons, environmental advocates don’t like to concede this point. Eager to force deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, many of them hype the consequences of climate change in some cases, well beyond what is supported by the factsto build political support. Their expensive policy preferences are attractive if they are able to convince voters that if they make economic sacrifices for the environment, they have a reasonable chance of halting, or at least considerably slowing, climate change. But this case is becoming harder, if not impossible, to make.

The Center For The National Interest provides the following profile of Paul J. Saunders:

PaulJSaundersCFTNI

Paul J. Saunders is Executive Director of the Center for the National Interest and a member of the Center’s Board of Directors.  He is the Center’s Chief Operating Officer and directs its U.S.-Russian Relations Program in addition to leading projects on other issues, including energy and climate change and U.S.- Japan relations.  He is also Associate Publisher of the foreign policy magazine The National Interest, published bi-monthly by the Center for the National Interest.

Mr. Saunders served in the Bush Administration from 2003 to 2005 as Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs. In that capacity, he worked on a broad range of transnational issues, in particular with respect to Russia, Ukraine, and the former Soviet Union, as well as Iraq, China and India.

Paul Saunders on Facebook is this Paul Saunders, who appears to live in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania:

From Paul Saunders' Facebook profile

From Paul Saunders’ Facebook profile

This is an excellent article debunking the claim that most scientists agree that global warming is a crisis. P.S. Dr. Roy Spencer is an award-winning former NASA scientist who with Dr. John Christy is the co-Father of global satellite temperature measurement. It is shameful that any organization uses the utterly corrupt surface temperature data anymore. Only global satellite data is meaningful and even it has problems.
The “link” in question is to this:

Opinion

The Myth of the Climate Change ‘97%’

What is the origin of the false belief—constantly repeated—that almost all scientists agree about global warming?

May 26, 2014 7:13 p.m. ET

Last week Secretary of State John Kerry warned graduating students at Boston College of the “crippling consequences” of climate change. “Ninety-seven percent of the world’s scientists,” he added, “tell us this is urgent.”

Where did Mr. Kerry get the 97% figure? Perhaps from his boss, President Obama, who tweeted on May 16 that “Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: #climate change is real, man-made and dangerous.” Or maybe from NASA, which posted (in more measured language) on its website, “Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities.”

Yet the assertion that 97% of scientists believe that climate change is a man-made, urgent problem is a fiction. The so-called consensus comes from a handful of surveys and abstract-counting exercises that have been contradicted by more reliable research.

This Paul Saunders, that Paul Saunders, it’s apparent neither one is a scientist.

The temperature is driving [carbon dioxide] emissions, not the other way around.

That’s a curious statement. Having studied the sciences of chemistry and physics for over 50 years I am at a loss to come up with any known science that supports that claim.

He said the book confounds group consensus with scientific fact.

Mr. Saunders, consensus is a basis of science. What is accepted in science is what is the consensus of scientists working in the field of study. The scientific consensus has been known in the past to be wrong, but it is still science.

The Environmental Science textbook does not adhere to the scientific method. It delivers one-sided advocacy.

The President of the United States summed up this point. When the issue has been examined from all sides there often comes a point when further argument is just silly:

In a speech at Georgetown University in Washington DC, Mr Obama said there were multiple solutions to the “very hard problem” of climate change but said he would not waste time debating those who denied it was happening at all.

“We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society,” he said. “Sticking your head in the sand might make you feel safer but it’s not going to protect you from the coming storm.”

I just now sent off a note to Bryan Eichfeld asking for additional information about the text book passage he mentioned. If I get a response I will provide an update.

UPDATE

Bryan responded quickly to my request for additional information. Here is a copy of the e-mail exchange:

Bryan Eichfeld
Today at 7:22 AM

To
John Blanton
Thank you for your interest, but due to copyright laws I would not be able to send this to you.

On Thu, Jun 26, 2014 at 1:51 AM, John Blanton <jf_blanton@yahoo.com> wrote:

Mr. Eichfeld,
I am attempting to follow up on the referenced text book review. In your discussion you mentioned the authors’ assertions on page 344. I do not have a copy of that book, but I am interested in the full presentation by the authors. I will be most grateful if you can send me an image of the page and any relevant material.
Best regards,
John Blanton
San Antonio, Texas
I have asked for Bryan Eichfeld’s additional comments, and I will post an update if he has anything further to tell. In the mean time I will try to get the context from page 344 of Experimental Science.

Kiss Me, Deadly

Image from Politicususa

Image from Politicususa

It’s the title of a novel by Mickie Spillane and also for a movie based on the book’s plot, but with a slightly altered title. When the publisher printed up the first 50,000 copies they left out the comma, and Spillane forced them to pulp the entire batch and reprint.

That said, here is The Rest of the Story:

Tuesday night Rep. James Lankford (R-OK) easily defeated former Oklahoma House Speaker TW Shannon in Oklahoma’s US Senate Republican primary. Lankford will move on to the general election this November and likely fill the seat which is being vacated by retiring Republican Senator Tom Coburn. Despite Shannon, the first African American speaker of Oklahoma’s House of Representatives, receiving endorsements from big names within the Tea Party leading up to the primary, Lankford cruised to victory, 57% to 34%.

Who exactly were these heavy hitters that campaigned for Shannon? Well, one kingmaker that came out for Shannon was none other than 2008 Republican Vice Presidential nominee and half-term Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin. The former mayor of Wasilla jumped on board the Shannon express in March. Back then, when she gave her endorsement, she wrote the normal Palin word salad about self-reliance, entrepreneurship and fighting government waste. She lauded Shannon’s conservative credentials and claimed that Lankford had the backing of “Beltway insiders.”

I have previously posted on The Kiss of Death:

It was summer of 2008, and I swear I was minding my own business. The news item on my computer screen said that John McCain had just picked Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. That’s the instant I knew.

It was game over. The next president of the United States was going to be Barack Obama. Thank you, Sarah.

I have mentioned before that Sarah Palin recently considered running for the presidential nomination and quickly sank out of sight, ignored roundly by Republicans who need to live in the real world. …

Some of you will say to me that Shannon was due to go down in flames anyhow and that Palin and Cruz just showed up to roast marshmallows in the fire. I say that where there’s fire there’s likely to be smoke. Not that it would ever happen, but on my death bed one thing I would dread to see would be a get well card from the former governor of Alaska.

What me worry?

godbible

As if Republicans did not already have enough problems:

  • Gun advocates acting crazy
  • Religious nut cases acting… like they always do
  • People signing up for insurance under the ACA
  • Yearly increasing evidence for anthropogenic global warming
  • Absolutely no evidence for Intelligent Design

Can’t get much worse than that. Right?

Sorry:

A big deal has been made about the Republican Party’s so-called Hispanic problem during recent U.S. election cycles. But there’s another group — largely white and male — that has also struggled to increase the number of Latinos in its ranks: America’s religiously unaffiliated. Until recently, that is.

The number of Hispanic American “nones” — those who say they have no particular religion or are atheist or agnostic — is growing at a clip that would make GOP operatives green with envy. According to the Pew Research Center’s 2013 National Survey of Latinos and Religion, 18 percent of Hispanics are not affiliated with any religion.

The Republican Party has for some time had a problem with “Latinos.” Latinos I define as people whose native language is not English but is Spanish or Portuguese. Also that would include people with Spanish (Portuguese) family names and just plain people from Central and South America. There are a few reasons:

  • Anti immigration policies
  • English-only advocacy
  • General xenophobia

One thing Republicans have going for them with Latinos is religion. Latinos (stereotype alert!) tend to be Catholic. The southern continents were first colonized by Spain, and if there is one thing the Spanish did was to proselytize with prejudice. By that I mean the Catholic friars gave their unwilling subjects two options, convert or die. Many did both. The result is a heavily Catholic society extending from the southern United States border to Terra del Fuego.

Uh, this is a Party that 54 years ago strongly objected to electing a Catholic president. But times have changed. Since the Republican Party became the Party of God about 30 years ago they have found the need to be more accommodating of religious denominations—so long as it is the religion of Jesus, God of Abraham at the very least. Welcome, welcome, Latinos, to the modern Republican Party.

Fade to black.

As more Latinos exempt themselves from religious influence they begin to look more like liberals—Democrats. What to do?

There’s not much Republicans can do. They are basically hosed if enough Latinos lose their religious foundation. The Party is not going to be able to attract Latinos by stumping to post the Ten Commandments in class rooms, requiring schools to “teach the controversy” (relating to biological evolution) and advocating government sponsored prayer.

Republicans can take some consolation. Absence of religion characterizes only one in five Hispanics now. That still gives the Party a shot at one more presidential election. After that Republicans may have to put English-only back in the closet for a few decades.

And may Jesus have mercy on their souls.