Thursday, November 27, 2014

News Tidbits

The Daily Beast: The Godfather of Right-Wing Radio

The Advocate: Right-Wing Group Targets Trans-Friendly Federal Nominee

Raw Story: Duggar family gives thanks for fetal personhood laws and GOP midterm wins

Reuters: Uganda plans to pass new version of anti-gay law by Christmas, says lawmaker

Commentary Tidbits

Danthropology: Freedom From Religion Foundation urges IRS to investigate Ark Encounter

Towleroad: Linda Harvey's New "Ex-Gay" Book Is the Perfect Christmas Gift for Your Child

Mediaite: Catholic Org Blames Comedy Central for Why Many Muslims ‘Hate’ Our Freedoms

The New Civil Rights Movement: Benham Brothers Defend 'America's Family,' The Duggars, From 'Those Who Hate Truth'

Voices from the Right Respond to Ferguson

On August 9th, Michael Brown, a young African American man, was shot to death by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, during an altercation in Ferguson, MO. As outrage over Brown's death mounted, Ferguson would become the focal point of a heated national discussion about race and police violence. The harsh response by local law enforcement to Ferguson demonstrators, including the arrest of journalists and the use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and LRAD, was condemned by human rights organizations

On the evening of November 24th, St. Louis County prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch announced that a grand jury declined to indict Darren Wilson. Local demonstrators protested the decision by blocking Interstate 44 and intersections in nearby Clayton, while other protests took place in cities across the U.S.. Despite pleas for peace by President Obama and Ferguson clergy, riots broke out in Ferguson, with images of looters and burning buildings dominating the news. Many Ferguson business owners found their businesses vandalized or destroyed the next day.

Observers from across the political spectrum have offered commentary on the grand jury's decision and the Ferguson riots, and the Religious Right is no exception. While some figures from the right have called for unity, others have used recent events to criticize the left and the media.

First, two voices from the Southern Baptist Convention have called for unity and justice following the grand jury decision. In a commentary piece entitled "Ferguson and the Path to Peace" SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission president Russell Moore laments that racial tensions still plague America. "The tension [in Ferguson] ought to remind us, as the church, that we are living in a time in which racial division is hardly behind us," he wrote. Moore calls for racial unity and recognition of all people as part of the Body of Christ.
"So what should we do? In the public arena, we ought to recognize that it is empirically true that African-American men are more likely, by virtually every measure, to be arrested, sentenced, executed, or murdered than their white peers. We cannot shrug that off with apathy. Working toward justice in this arena will mean consciences that are sensitive to the problem. But how can we get there when white people do not face the same experiences as do black people?

The answer for the Body of Christ starts with a robust doctrine of the church lived out in local congregations under the lordship of Christ. The reason white and black Americans often view things so differently is because white and black Americans often live and move in different places, with different cultural lenses. In the church, however, we belong to one another. We are part of one Body."
Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminar, acknowledged the existence of flawed systems in America and promoted a message of racial justice. In a transcript of a November 25th podcast, Mohler praised President Obama for urging restraint and calm following the grand jury announcement. Mohler seemed to take African American complaints of institutional racism seriously, urging Christians to demand accountability and justice from fallible institutions.
"...There are many people who are saying the system is broken. Well in one sense, Christians understand that every system is only as good as the human beings fragile frail and sometimes downright faulty involved in the process. There is no perfect system, not humanly speaking, because human beings are involved in it. And this means that some of the accusations and concerns coming from the African-American community have to be taken very seriously. Christians should be at the forefront of demanding that these concerns be thoroughly vetted, heard, and considered, because after all we do know that as important as these systems are, every system indeed breaks down at the very fallibility of human beings. It is no insult to the system, it is no insult to the society, to make very clear that we have to watch continually that we’re living up to our ideals – including the ideal of equal standing, equal justice, before the law."
Mohler also expressed disapproval of the Ferguson riots, writing that "the kind of reform, the kind of improvement in justice that is needed in our society cannot be brought about by flaunting that form of justice with the kind of injustice that was seen on the streets."
"The rule of law cannot be improved, nor corrected – much less reformed – by lawlessness. And the subversion of the rule of law on the streets of Missouri last night is a refutation of the claim that this is being done in the name of justice."
However, other Religious Right voices were quick to criticize Michael Brown, the left, and the media following the grand jury announcement. For example, the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer spoke approvingly of the grand jury's decision. In the November 25th edition of Focal Point, Fischer discussed the grand jury decision not to indict Wilson, speculating that Michael Brown was under demonic influence during his encounter with Wilson. (Hat tip to Right Wing Watch.)
"I think that at this point there was a demonic presence that was operating inside Michael Brown's body, activating him, energizing him, driving him forward in this homicidal rage. So when he says he looked like a demon, I think that's because he was looking into the eyes of a demon that was driving Michael Brown to do what he did."
Fischer described Brown's death as a "tragedy" and a "heartbreak" because of his "wasted potential", but added that he saw Brown as responsible for his own demise.
"Who is to blame here? Who's fault is this that this young life has been snuffed out? I think you look at the evidence, you have to say, well, I think we're going to have to expect Michael Brown to take full responsibility for his own death."
American Family Association news director Fred Jackson also weighed in on the grand jury decision. During the November 25th edition of Sandy Rios in the Morning, Jackson expressed disapproval of the Ferguson riots and denied that Wilson's actions were motivated by Brown's race. Jackson spoke several times about absolute truth and moral responsibility, arguing that truth is "under attack today" with regard to the public response to the Brown case. (Hat tip to Right Wing Watch.)
"Absolute truth is defined by scripture, the Bible, God’s word. That’s how it’s defined, and when you violate that, there are consequences. Now you may get away with it for a while, for a period, but God says there will be consequences ... When you do not have a dad figure around, there is not someone there in authority to demonstrate there are consequences to violating the rules. If you don’t have that presence in the family, you’re going to have problems."
In a November 25th commentary piece at the National Review, Dennis Prager called for "moral clarity" regarding racial tensions in the U.S.
"For decades now, we have been told that there is a black–white divide regarding how members of each race perceive racial matters in America. The problem with this belief that is that it renders moral judgment — of white police, of black crime and black incarceration rates, of white judges and jurors, and of black riots and protests — impossible ... Many blacks see racism almost everywhere — especially in arrest, conviction, and incarceration rates, and in white police interactions with blacks. On the other hand, whites (specifically, whites who are not on the left) think that white racism has largely been conquered, and therefore blacks’ disproportionately high arrest and conviction rates are the result of black behavior – particularly the high out-of-wedlock birth rate that has deprived the great majority of black children of fathers – not white racism."
Prager criticizes those who fail to condemn the Ferguson riots, as well as those who look at the Brown case through a racial lens. He calls current race attitudes "damaging", arguing that such attitudes ignore "objective truth and moral truth". Prager blasts liberals for supposedly treating truth and morality as subjective, writing that, "For every black and every white unwilling to condemn the protests over Michael Brown’s killing that took place before any relevant facts came out, their half-hearted condemnation of the riots notwithstanding, truth doesn’t matter."

In a November 24th column at Red State, Erick Erickson points to the Ferguson unrest and writes that "This is what happens when everything becomes political," adding that "Michael Brown’s death should not be political." He complains that many Americans cannot have honest conversations about the Brown case because of "too many agendas" at work. Many factions (especially the media) want to inflame tensions, Erickson argues, making it unlikely that issues surrounding race and the Brown case will be resolved any time soon.
"The sad truth is that too many young black men have been, for so long, told they are victims that they’ve started acting as if they are not responsible for their actions and that society is out to get them.

And you know what?

In a lot of cases, it is true. Society is out to get them. Instead of judging them individually, police and others judge young black men collectively. In a group? Probably up to no good, whether it is true or not.

Conservatives have a tendency to say young black men need to rise so far about the stereotyped behavior they cannot be blamed. Liberals say that is unfair. And the truth is that in some cases they could rise as close to the standard of Jesus as possible and some policeman somewhere still might pull them over.

If only we could all rely on our better angels. But I am a pessimist on this issue. Too many people on both sides have too much of an incentive to keep tensions going. It is a TV ratings bonanza for cable news and reality shows. Too many profit off it."
Erickson accepted the grand jury's decision not to indict Wilson. "The facts and witnesses show that Michael Brown was a thief. The facts and witnesses show Officer Wilson was doing his job," he wrote.

To watch key videos related to the grand jury decision, visit the following links.

CNN: Ferguson grand jury announcement

C-SPAN: President Obama on Ferguson Grand Jury Decision

Vice: Highlights from Live Coverage in Ferguson, Missouri

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Gordon Klingenschmitt Wins Colorado House Seat; Scott Lively Loses Election Bid

I have a substantial blog backlog right now, so it's taken me a while to post commentary on the November 4th election.  -- Ahab

The November 4th election earlier this month was sobering and full of unpleasant surprises. Republicans gained a majority of Senate seats, which disappointed those hoping for Congressional support for progressive legislation. Republican successes may have been due in part to support from their traditional base. According to exit poll data from NBC News, 78% of white evangelical/born again voters and 61% of other Protestants voted Republican in the House of Representative races.

Several strident members of the Religious Right ran for office in this year's election, including Gordon Klingenschmitt and  Scott Lively. Running as a Republican against Democrat Lois Fornander, Klingenschmitt won the District 15 seat in Colorado's House. According to the Colorado Gazette, he received nearly 70% of the vote.

Klingenschmitt, a former Navy chaplain, was reprimanded in a military court in 2006 for appearing in uniform at a political protest, according to the Washington Post. Currently, Klingenschmitt hosts the Pray in Jesus Name show, which he uses as a vehicle for anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ messages. Right Wing Watch has documented Klingenschmitt's shocking statements and actions, including his "exorcism" of a rape victim, his claim that President Obama is infested by demons, his support for homophobic discrimination, and his promotion of vicious anti-LGBTQ stereotypes. I fully expect him to continue his right-wing from his new seat in the Colorado House, which should worry the citizens of Colorado.

Klingenschmitt was genuinely shocked that observers would find his election victory horrifying. "Why would people hate a chaplain? I'm just a guy who believes the Bible. I love Jesus. I love people. I'm a man of faith and compassion," he said in a recent edition of Bible News Radio. Voters who cherish religious freedom in the face of "backlash against the name of Jesus" were responsible for his election victory, he insisted. (Hat tip to Right Wing Watch.)
"There is a backlash against the name of Jesus. People do not want God to rule their hearts, and a lot of people are offended when a chaplain or a man of faith gets elected to political office. But thank God, the voters in my district were very conservative and very open to religious freedom."
He told Bible News Radio that he received death threats from a gay activist, which is how his opponents allegedly act when their "agenda" is thwarted.
"I did report these death threats to the FBI, and today I got a letter from the FBI saying 'you have been entered in our system; we are still investigating; it looks [inaudible] that there was a crime, an actual crime committed against me when this gay activist called me up and literally told me he was going to slit my throat, and he started screaming 'I'll kill you!'. It makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up when you realize that these people are serious, and they have an agenda, and it's a political agenda, and if they don't win, then they want to carry out violence. In seven years of daily blogging, I have never once written that I hate anybody, never once written that I fear any person, and ye, those are the left-wing allegations that come against us. 'Oh, you're a bigot, you're a hater, you're too Christian, and you're homophobic.' Well, it's not homophobia when they really are threatening to kill you."
On the bright side, Scott Lively lost his bid for the Massachusetts governor seat. Lively, author of The Pink Swastika and a globetrotting opponent of LGBTQ equality, ran under "the miracle ticket", with platform goals such as "Restore respect for marriage and the natural family" and "Rebuild the inner-city family by restoring Fatherhood in the home". According to Edge Boston, Lively received 18,992 votes, and the fact that nearly 19,000 people thought that Lively would make an acceptable governor alarms me.

In a November 9th blog post, Lively blasted voters for supporting a "lesser evil", disgusted that Charlie Baker won the Massachusetts governor seat.
"In the times we live in, it has become commonplace for believers to substitute their own reasoning for the wisdom of God.  But there is nothing new under the sun.  This was the same in Elijah’s time.  So in this election we have seen Christian and pro-family voters across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, both Protestant and Catholic, deliberately cast their votes for Charlie Baker, a man whose hands drip with the blood of the innocent unborn babies and whose tongue rationalizes the promotion of sexual perversion to school-children.  They have chosen to support what they believe is the “lesser evil” rather than trust God and stand on His truth."
He praised the voters who "did not bow their knee to evil", applauding them for trusting God.
"We have a remnant of nearly 20,000 people who have proved by their vote that they trust God, not their own human reasoning, to heal our land.  We have a core of trustworthy men and women with whom to work to restore the commonwealth."

Lively concluded the commentary piece by mocking human rights organizations that have criticized him or taken legal action against him for his anti-LGBTQ activism.
"...I am being sued for “Crimes Against Humanity” by a Marxist law firm trying to take away my First Amendment rights and destroy me the way the LGBT bullies try to destroy anyone who gets in their way – from Anita Bryant in the 1970s to Phil Robertson in 2013.  It’s the classic Saul Alinsky strategy of malicious slander and character assassination.  And in the middle of the campaign the largest homosexual activist organization in the world, the so-called Human Rights Campaign piled on, naming me the Global LGBT Movement’s Public Enemy #1."

Outrageously, he claimed that his political efforts had crippled the "anti-Lively coalition" opposing him, and that the public now recognizes him as a "kind-hearted Christian".
I believe my faithfulness in stepping out into the political arena to preach the gospel has spiritually broken the back of the anti-Lively coalition and demolished its campaign of defamation.  The public has seen me in the debates and other venues and know I am a sincere and kind-hearted Christian man, whether or not they agree with my views.  They will never again believe the vicious LGBT lies trying to paint me as a genocidal monster.  The Lord has vindicated me in an entirely unique way.
Oooooookay then. Despite the disappointments of the November election, the fact that this guy failed to win the Massachusetts governor race brings me comfort.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Mother Jones: This Anti-Gay Candidate's Message Is Bigger in Moscow Than Massachusetts

Wonkette: Gordon Klingenschmitt To Slay All The (Literal) Demons In The Colorado House

Raw Story: Colorado elects Obama exorcist who wants to spank transgender children

Slate: Gays Harbor Demons and Wear Diapers. Meet the Craziest Anti-Gay Legislator in America.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

News Tidbits

Religion News Service: Evangelicals Split Over Obama's Immigration Action

Washington Post: Faith groups divided over God’s role in climate change, natural disasters

Christian Post: Christian University Stands by Decision to Keep Bill Cosby as Speaker at Benefit Dinner

The Advocate: 90,000-Plus and Counting: Petition to Cancel Duggars' Show Gains Momentum

Raw Story: Kirk Cameron is begging fans to help boost his movie’s putrid rating on Rotten Tomatoes

Edge Media Network: Ex-Gay Calls on HRC to Pay for Co-Founder's Conversion Therapy

Arkansas Online: Gay-marriage opponents rally at Capitol, pray at state's high court

Detroit Free Press: Archdiocese bans gay rights speaker from Detroit parish

Korea Times: Gay rights opponents block hearing in Seoul, South Korea

Commentary Tidbits

Salon: Glenn Beck’s Santa nightmare: Why his new Kris Kringle story will horrify you 

Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers: Ranger Suicide Prevention Becomes Christian Sermon

SPLC Hatewatch: Political Right Reacts With Fury to Obama Immigration Plan 

SPLC Intelligence Report: East of Eden

Religion Dispatches: Pope, Christian Conservatives Team Up to Promote Patriarchy

Think Progress: Vatican Humanum Conference Erases LGBT People With Trite Gender Norms

The Daily Beast: Is Pope Francis Backpedaling on Gays? 

Right Wing Watch: Texas Approves Textbooks With Moses As Honorary Founding Father

Huffington Post: Why Kidnapped For Christ Is The Most Faithful Film Of The Year

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Growing Protestant Presence in Latin America

Last week, Pew Research Center released a report on the evolution of religion in Central and South America. Religion in Latin America: Widespread Change in a Historically Catholic Region documents the decline of Catholicism and the rise of Protestantism, especially Pentecostal and Charismatic forms of Christianity, in 18 Latin American countries and Puerto Rico.

While most Latin American countries still have Catholic majorities, Protestant numbers are growing. While 84% of respondents report being raised Catholic, only 69% currently identify as Catholic. Additionally, while only 9% of respondents report being raised Protestant, 19% currently identify as Protestant.

In many Latin American countries, large percentages of Protestants identify as Pentecostal or attend a church that is part of a Pentecostal denomination, according to the Pew Forum. A significant percentage of Latin American Catholics also identify as charismatic, highlighting the growth of charismatic movements within Catholicism. Substantial numbers of Protestants and a minority of Catholics report that they have witnessed exorcisms or experienced "gifts of the Holy Spirit".

A troubling trend reported in the Pew Center's research was the widespread embrace of "prosperity theology", the belief that God will bestow wealth on believers. Large percentages of Latin American Protestants and Catholics reported believing that God will grant wealth and health to those who have faith.

In an interview with Pew Research Center's Fact Tank, Andrew Chestnut offered explanations for the growth of Pentecostal Protestantism in Latin America. Chestnut, a professor of religious studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, offered several reasons for the growth Pentecostal Christianity among Latin Americans, such as the appeal of healing ministries and prosperity theology, similarities between preachers and their congregants, and Pentecostalism's successful absorption of Latin American cultures.

These changing religious demographics could have wide-reaching effects if Religious Right organizations can command lasting loyalty from Latin American Protestants. As discussed in prior posts on Belize and Brazil, American Religious Right organizations such as the ACLJ, C-FAM, Alliance Defending Freedom, and so-called "ex-gay" ministries have sought to expand their influence in Latin America. Members of Brazil's Religious Right, like their Americans counterparts, have loudly opposed LGBTQ rights. Evangelical protestants are a political force to be reckoned with in Brazil, both as politicians and voters. Will the Religious Right continue to use the rise of Latin American Protestantism, and in particular Pentecostal and Charismatic denominations, to their advantage? Or can Latin America's believers take a different path?

News Tidbits

Raw Story: Disrupter of Muslim prayer at National Cathedral: God and Drudge sent me

Huffington Post: Thousands Sign Petition To Cancel TLC's 19 Kids And Counting Over Stars' Anti-LGBT Sentiments

Religion News Service: Mormons change rules to allow moms, divorced women to teach religion 

Kansas City Star: Legally married same-sex couples won’t be allowed to stay together at City Union Mission

Buzzfeed: This Lawyer Thinks LGBT People Are Trampling On The Rights of Christians

Christian Science Monitor: Why are Korean missionaries flocking to Kenya?

UGO News: Ugandan President Museveni: Do Not Wed Gay Couples In Our Churches