Monday, December 19, 2005

Yes, Virginia! There are Worthwhile "Progressive" Christian Blogs!

Okay, I have mentioned several times that I frequent "Progressive" Christian blogsites. I do so to find common ground, question what I believe and help me to understand why I believe what I believe. I learned long ago that an excellent tool of learning is debate. It forces me to examine my heart, question my beliefs, challenges my faith and challenges me to read other viewpoints which I would probably not read or hear about if I did not read and comment on "Progressive" Christian blogsites.

I have learned that, just as in any endeavor which includes the human element, that there are honest people and intellectually dishonest people. I would like to believe that all Christian bloggers are truth seekers, that all Christian bloggers are out to learn and discover the truth of all matters, whether in the spiritual or political realm. What I have found is that not every blogger of the Christian faith is as interested in spiritual matters as they are in promoting their own progressive politics. These are people who will twist the scripture to either say or not say what they would have it say or not say to support their agendas, and I am sure that happens both among "Progressive" and "Conservative" Christians. For those bloggers I have little respect.

Now, I am not going to identify bloggers which I have little respect for, even at those bloggers sites there are commentators who are quite worthwhile. What I would prefer to do is recommend some favorites, and hopefully in the future I will be able to recommend more. For the time being:

Brandon, at a badchristian blog, is a lot of fun and while some "Conservative" Christians may not like some of the language used there, I had the advantage of taking my time and not jumping to any conclusions about the people there. Sure, the nature of the beast is that I was called a smug jackass at one point, but that's all water under the bridge, and hopefully I'll be called a smug jackass again someday, it's those little things that spice up one's life, don't cha think? Anyway, for the most part, the people there are highly intelligent and it is very worthwhile to consider their viewpoints. If we expect to understand and communicate with people, our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, sometimes we are expected to listen, and sometime we might find ourselves actually losing an "argument," but isn't that what truth is about, accepting it, sometimes being able to embrace the fact that we were wrong and allowing ourselves to learn? As Christians I believe that we should have teachable hearts. The only requirement for me is that I must feel someone is worthy of my respect. I believe Brandon is worthy of my respect. I may not always agree with him but he is certainly intelligent and honest, at least that has been my experience so far. So, kudos to Brandon for challenging Christians and making us think...ooooh, that gives me a headache, but I do so enjoy it for a while, till the pain gets too bad. :)

The other blog I would recommend is From the Salmon, the blog owner there is Zalm, he is a friend of Brandon's. Zalm seems to be very docile and calm, of course that's not to say he will not stand up for what he believes. I like him very much because he has displayed a willingness to admit human error when necessary. Zalm seems to be a very humble and gentle spirit. Both Brandon and Zalm are funny, whimsical and their topics, in my opinion, are very unconventional and interesting.

Check them out if you have not. Chances are if you are visiting my blog you found it through one of their comment sections and you know all about them, you are blessed.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

On Jim Wallis, Progressive Christians and Hypocrisy at the Other End of the Political Spectrum

December 14, 2005, 115 religious activists were arrested in Washington for their protest of budget cuts to social programs in the U.S. The arrest was necessary because they refused to clear an entrance to a Congressional office building. The ring leader of these protests was none other than the darling leader of the religious left: Jim Wallis. In an effort to ride the tide of Wallis' movement to appeal for Christian votes for Democratic Representatives in the future, Representative Barbara Lee, D-California, is quoted as saying ""When you look at all denominations, you see a real commitment to address the needs of the poor, and here we have a budget that does just the opposite," in an article posted by the Detroit Free Press: 115 arrested in budget plan protest.

The problem with this gathering to protest "cuts" in social programs is that it is disingenuous and over-stated. The so called cuts will not cut anyone's social benefits, what it will do is slow the rate of funding increases for social programs. So, what aim does this protest really hope to gain? It hopes to usher in a media blitz to sell to America that Democrats are the party which cares about the poor and wishes to give them aid and comfort while Conservatives want to take food out of the mouths of the poor. Get it? Progressive Democrat Christians = good, Conservative Republican Christians = bad.

It is certainly not news that there is a concerted effort among Progressive Christians to promote the Democratic Party as the true compassionate Christian party, the party which cares about the poor, the diseased, the, to coin a phrase of a recent blog commentator I was debating recently, "last, the lost and the least." This past October 13-15 Values, vision and the via media conference promoted a Path to Action National Conference, I quote them here:

"Who speaks for "Christian Values" in America today? Does the Religious Right speak for all Christians or is there a progressive perspective on Christian Values that has been sadly lacking in the public discourse?

Since November 2004, progressive Christians across the country have been mobilizing to respond to those questions—organizing to claim their tradition, to work as a united front for social justice, and to publicly disavow the fringe radicals who have attempted to co-opt the name of the church in America.

Responding to that need "Values, Vision and the Via Media" was born. On October 13-15 at the National Cathedral in Washington DC this groundbreaking conference will reclaim the values debate from the Religious Right, exploring how Anglicans have historically made ethical decisions and take action in our Christian tradition."

Isn't it special that it took the re-election of George W. Bush in November 2004 to unite Progressive Christians to "take action?" Isn't it interesting that the Democratic Party suspects that Christians in America were the deciding factor in Bush's re-election, a suspicion which is debatable, and all of a sudden they are motivated to reach out to the Christian community to display how much they care about the values of Christians in America?

The Republican party certainly is a political animal as much as the Democratic party, and to be honest, I have even been considering changing my registration to one of an Independent rather than a Republican because I have difficulty in identifying with the politicized status quo of either party in the two party system in power in the federal government, but, I will have to give them this, though certainly by no means perfect, as none of us are, it is the Republican party which has championed moral values, ethical purity and responsibility in our Nation. Did Karl Rove covet the Christian vote in 2004? Certainly, he did! Karl Rove was able to work toward profiting from the Christian vote in 2004 because the Republican party was already the party identified as having moral values, ethical purity and responsibility, all that was needed of Rove was to promote the fact that that is, and has been the case. Democrats, on the other hand, have not been considered to be the moral, ethical and responsible party which best identifies with the Christian mission in recent years for a reason. Now, because they perceive the Christian vote is costing them elections, we are to believe that they care about Christian values? That they are moral, that they have family values, that they are not involved in as many ethical disputes as Republicans, that the party of Bill Clinton is the party of responsibility!?

Oh please!

So, what can we learn about the leader of this new Progressive Christian movement, Jim Wallis?
  • He is the editor of Sojourners magazine
  • An anti-war activist who berated American soldiers in Vietnam while never uttering a word of condemnation over the exterminations of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge.
  • Supporter of Nicaragua to the point of calling Americans who supported the Contras "terrorist sympathizers"
  • Founder of Call to Renewal in 1995 whose mission statement claims ""We do not promote any particular ideological method or partisan agenda," but which clearly espouses the political views of the left
  • A registered Democrat

According to David Horowitz's discoverthenetwork website, in a profile of Jim Wallis, found here:

"Just a month before the 2004 Presidential election, Wallis embraced a rabid partisanship that in form and content was indistinguishable from the venomous harangues delivered daily by the more animated Democratic Party loyalists. In an October 2004 anti-Bush diatribe for Sojourners called "The Religious Right Era is Over," Wallis (after making his obligatory point that "God is not a Republican, nor a Democrat") proceeded to make the case that religious believers should be deeply uncomfortable about voting for President Bush....Wallis further held that if Christian voters considered the war from a theological perspective, they would find it—and, by extension, the President who chose to wage it—unjust....

...This eagerness to enlist religion in the cause of bashing the Bush administration made Wallis a much sought-after interviewee in the days preceding the election....

...Democratic strategists and politicians turned to him as the man who could sell the Democratic Party to the coveted religious demographic. In January 2005, at the beginning of the Congressional session, Senate Democrats invited Wallis to address them in a private discussion. Meanwhile, some fifteen Democratic members of the House made Wallis the guest of honor at a breakfast confab whose subject, according to The New York Times, was devising ways to instill support for the Democratic Party into the hearts of the religious faithful. James Manley, a spokesman for the Senate Minority Leader, Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada, acknowledged that Wallis was actively working with the Democratic political leadership to lure religious voters into the party's fold. "He can help us communicate with the rising number of evangelicals in the country, which is right now a Republican constituency, but which Wallis argues could easily become part of the Democratic constituency as well," Manley told the Times." (emphasis mine)

So, since I have spent a good amount of my time in the last recent months having discussions with Progressive bloggers and the commentators at their blogs, some of whom I hold in deep respect, I spent some time this morning searching those blogs to examine the thoughts of Progressive Christians regarding Jim Wallis. None of them seem to view him as a political hack or a partisan tool of the Democratic party. They seem to believe that this past Communist sympathizer and anti-war activist is simply promoting God's true work, failing to see the political activism that lies behind his words. What they hate about the Republican party, their perception that the party has sold itself to the Christian community and has gained more confidence among the Christian community in America because of some political activism selling it as such, when actually it was more of an natural occurrence which the Republican party utilized, is what they champion in the personage and mission of Jim Wallis. Will they wake up to the fact they are being duped by a man who has been a political activist, anti-war, anti-freedom, anti-capitalism, American troop demonizer, partisan hack since the 60's who has recently repackaged himself, or tried to, as a loving, non-partisan Christian who merely seeks to do what Jesus would do, or will they continue to buy his rhetoric?

What is interesting is that I will admit that the Republican party used every possible means to reach out to a Christian community which already supported them to get the vote out in 2004, but they did not recreate themselves in an effort to sell their party to the Christian community, that is strictly a Democratic trait. Will Progressive Christians condemn the selling of the Democratic party as the "Party of Faith" in the same way they have condemned, what they have perceived as, the Republican party selling itself as the "Party of Faith" in an effort to gather the Christian vote, or do they reserve that ire only for the Republican party? I hear much gnashing of teeth from the Christian left, and from the Christian right concerning statements made by Rev. Jerry Falwell, Rev. Pat Robertson and Dr. James Dobson. Perhaps in this new Progressive Christian movement it will take some time before they recognize they have sold out to Jim Wallis in the way early Christian righters sold out to Falwell, Robertson and Dobson. Maybe a few years from now they'll realize that everything they despised about the Christian right they have become at the other end of the political spectrum.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

An Open Letter to Mr. Fran Quigley of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union

Okay, I guess I'm going to have to blog about the subject of whether someone stole Christmas or not. For the record, I don't think anyone has stolen Christmas, even the Grinch was unsuccessful at doing that, for heaven's sake! But, in the discussion which took place at I am a Christian Too (IAACT), under the topic of War Against Christmas, Or Just Good Manners?, the subject of the ACLU came up. It seems that because liberals largely support the ACLU they were fairly in the dark about many actions which the ACLU has taken regarding law suits against small towns and cities across the Nation over Christian symbols.

This year many Christians from "the right" decided to make a "preemptive strike" against the ACLU rather than allow them their usual leisurely time to attack small towns and communities for individual displays of Christmas symbols, symbols which, in some people's opinions, actually have the insensitive signature of promoting the fact that Christmas is, after all, a Christian holiday and the actual meaning of it is that it is the time when Christians across the Nation, and world, celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

I visited the ACLU site, in an effort to find some of their old cases concerning law suits on these small towns and cities, but what I found was no documentation of this sort of thing. I believe the reason could be as simple as the fact that many of these small towns and cities did not fight the ACLU due to costly litigation fees and so, with the mere threat of an ACLU lawsuit, they caved in and removed any vestige of faith from their Christmas displays. I did find mention of the case in Alabama involving Judge Roy Moore but I believe only because it was such a high profile case. I did find an article, written by Fran Quigley and entitled American Civil Liberties Union : How The ACLU Didn't Steal Christmas. In this article, obviously intended to defend the ACLU and paint all those who claim they have "stolen Christmas," as what, I guess insensitive liars? Mr. Quigley makes this claim:

"Of course, there is no "Merry Christmas" lawsuit,....But the facts are not important to these groups, because their real message is this: By protecting the freedom of Muslims, Jews, and other non-Christians through preventing government entanglement with religion, the ACLU is somehow infringing on the rights of those with majority religious beliefs."

Yes, of course there is no "Merry Christmas" lawsuit, Mr. Quigley, what there has been, however, is a systematic suppression of the Christian faith and/or it's symbols while your organization has largely ignored symbols of other religions, such as the Muslim and Jewish faith's symbols, over a span of a great many years. In many cases the ACLU has not cared that other religions are represented but will single out Christian articles of faith for their lawsuits or threats of lawsuits. No one, I am aware of, has charged the ACLU with filing suit against anyone with the specific intent of keeping someone from wishing others a "Merry Christmas," what your organization has done, instead, is promote that climate and set the stage for all of America to question whether it is any longer politically correct to say anything about Christmas, while all other religions' free speech rights have largely been kept intact.

In my searching, I came across an interesting article written back in December of 2004, authored by John Leo, the editor for U.S. News and World Report, and a columnist, it was published on and can still be found by clicking on this link: :: Columns :: Christmas censors by John Leo, I used it as part of an argument I had made at IAACT, and also to a liberal in a private AOL group of which I am a member. I felt this article was particularly pertinent because it was written last year, before the "preemptive strike" of Christian Conservatives, this year, regarding whether it is politically correct to say Merry Christmas. In the article it points out that:

"The annual assault on Christmas comes in many forms. First, there is the barrage of litigation by the American Civil Liberties Union, which is reliably offended by almost any representation of Christianity in the public square. Small towns, facing the prospect of expensive litigation over religious displays on public property, often cave in simply out of fear. Part of the intimidation is that if the towns lose, they must pay the legal fees of the ACLU. But now religious-liberties legal groups provide attorneys to stand up to the ACLU. The Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund won in federal court last month in a suit filed by the ACLU against the city of Cranston, R.I. Cranston allows religious and secular displays of all kinds on the front lawn of City Hall.The ACLU argued that this was a church-state violation, but U.S. District Judge William Smith ruled that nothing in the evidence "reveals or even remotely supports an inference that a religious purpose was behind the creation of the limited public forum."" (emphasis mine)

and Mr. Leo's column adds:

"Some principals and teachers around the country even ban the word Christmas. In Rochester, Minn., two girls were reprimanded for saying "Merry Christmas" in a school skit. And though Christmas trees are considered secular when they are useful in warding off Nativity scenes, the word Christmas is often removed by panicky officials, thus producing multicultural trees, holiday trees, community trees, care trees, and giving trees. The White House still has a Christmas tree, but Congress has a Capitol Holiday Tree. Accommodating all traditions is a worthy goal. But a broad movement to erase the word Christmas is an extraordinary development in a culture that is more than 80 percent Christian. How much more of this is the public willing to tolerate? "

and Mr. Leo ends with this prophetic prediction:

" The South Orange/Maplewood, N.J., school district banned religious Christmas songs, even in instrumental versions. In Florida, an elementary school concert included songs about Hanukkah and Kwanzaa but offered not a single note of Christmas music. A recent winter parade in Denver looked very much like a Christmas event, except for one small thing: Every reference to Christmas was banned. Unless believers and religious-liberties groups begin to push back, the anti-Christmas trend will prevail in the public square." (emphasis mine).

You see, Mr. Quigley, while the ACLU may not be suing anyone over the use of the word Christmas, it has laid the ground-work for people across this Nation to be reluctant to use the word, so influential has been the ACLU's past work at purging our Nation from any vestige of Christianity in the public square that the American people often do not even understand that they have the right to be openly Christian and to speak about the birth of Christ on the days leading up to the one day of the year when Christians celebrate the birth of their Savior.

Whether that has been your organization's goal or not really doesn't matter, your organization's influence brought us to this day, this point, in which store owners and merchants across the country feel they must be more "sensitive" to that small minority portion of the population who do not profess Christianity. For you to chastise anyone in our Nation for exposing your contribution to the state of the country, in this regard, merely shows that you wait to attack anyone who would question the activities of the ACLU as though they are extremists because they question the effect your organization has had on society. You state:

"In truth, it is these website Christians who are taking the Christ out of the season. Nowhere in the Sermon on the Mount did Jesus Christ ask that we celebrate His birth with narrow-mindedness and intolerance, especially for those who are already marginalized and persecuted. Instead, the New Testament like the Torah and the Koran and countless other sacred texts commands us to love our neighbor, and to comfort the sick and the imprisoned. That's what the ACLU does. We live in a country filled with people who are sick and disabled, people who are imprisoned, and people who hunger and thirst for justice. "

Christians are not asking that we celebrate Christ's birth with narrow-mindedness and intolerance. All of the Christians I know and have spoken with about this issue, whether "Progressive" or "Conservative," "website" Christians or internet dummies, have no problem with the phrases "Season's Greetings" or "Happy Holidays" being used in conjunction with "Merry Christmas," nor do they have a problem with a Menorah display, Happy Hanukkahah wishes, or any other religious celebratory salutation or symbol, they simply do not understand why the climate of the United States of America has come to the point wherein store owners and merchants and public schools feel they must omit the fact that this is "Christmas," that "Christmas" is a federal holiday and make it so doggoned politically correct that every other minority religion is allowed their symbols and salutations EXCEPT Christians on what is, and has always been, a Christian holiday. Further, I must wonder how making certain that small cities, such as Republic, Missouri, remove a small Christian fish symbol from their city's seal has aided the sick, disabled and imprisoned? Whether you care to admit it or not, Mr. Quigley, the ACLU has had a huge influence on the climate of our Nation this Christmas season. Thankfully, Christians across the country have heeded the advice of Mr. Leo this year and are ready, now, to "push back."

You further state toward the end of your column:

" We agree with the U.S. Supreme Court's firm rulings that this freedom means that children who grow up in non-Christian homes should not be made to feel like outsiders in their own community's courthouse, legislature or public schoolhouse. "

If "children who grow up in non-Christian homes feel like outsiders" at Christmas time it is simply because they are not Christians. They are outsiders when it comes to Christianity, Mr. Quigley. There is only one way I know of to remedy that. These "children," if they do not accept Christ will also feel like an outsider on the day of judgment, when Christ pronounces, "depart from me, I never knew you." That is Christ's judgment, not mine, not "website" Christians, not "Progressive" or "Conservative" Christians. You may argue with the reality of a coming judgment, Mr. Quigley, and I cannot prove that this judgment is coming but I don't think an ACLU suit against the Son of God will have much effect on his choice of words on that day.

Seasons Greetings, Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas, to you, Mr. Quigley.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Christmas recommendation # 1

Okay, okay, I sorta balked the first time I heard "Yeeee Haaaaw" come out of the baby Jesus' mouth myself, but overall this is just a superb piece of Christmas redneck humor. Those who know me well know that I jest luv me sum good ole redneck humer so this here's fer all mah hillbilly frens own tha innernet!


If'n yew git oh-fended? Jest git ovur yersef! Litin up! Snap outta et!