Sunday, January 30, 2011

"Resisting the Green Dragon" Is Now a Book!

Several months ago, the Cornwall Alliance released a DVD curriculum called Resisting the Green Dragon, which demonizes the environmental movement as supposedly anti-Christian. This month, the Cornwall Alliance has released a companion book for the DVD set entitled Resisting the Green Dragon: Dominion, Not Death. In the organization's January 19th newsletter (available at www[dot]cornwallalliance[dot]org/newsletter/issue/newsletter-january-19-2011/), the Cornwall Alliance describes the 309-page book, written by Dr. James A. Wanliss. Conservative Christian news site OneNewsNow posted an article on the book here.

Predictably, the book contains anti-environmentalism content that is similar to the DVD set, as evidenced from the chapter titles. One chapter, "The Church Complicit: How Environmentalism Has Penetrated the Church with Anti-Human and Anti-Christian Ideas," suggests that environmentalism is incompatible with Christian faith. Other chapter titles, such as "Created in the Image of God: Why Humans Are More Special to God than Other Creatures" and "Naked Ape: How Nature Is Not Divine, and Humans Are Spiritually Superior to All Other Creatures" presents an anthropocentric worldview that disdains animals as inferior creatures. Other chapters cast sustainability in a negative light and argue that environmentalism is supposedly detrimental to the poor.

One wonders if the author is familiar with Christian ecotheology and faith-based environmental initiatives, all of which demonstrate that Christianity and environmentalism can be compatible. Also, when the author claims that environmentalism is supposedly detrimental to the poor, one wonders if he is familiar with the environmental justice movement, which addresses the disproportionate ecological burdens (i.e., pollution) faced by poor communities and communities of color. I'm going to try to track down a copy of the book to read it for myself, but I am not optimistic about its content.

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The Cornwall Alliance's January 19th newsletter also comments on progressive commentators' disapproval of the DVD version of Resisting the Green Dragon, citing Right Wing Watch, Mother Jones, and the Huffington Post as examples. The newsletter complains that most of said commentators have relied on Right Wing Watch's version of the promotional video, rather than Cornwall Alliance's own 12-minute promo or the DVD curriculum itself. These voices, it claims, misrepresent Resisting the Green Dragon as promoting a humans-versus-nature worldview, when it actually wants to promote the idea that "human prosperity enables good environmental stewardship."

Below is a shorter promo for the DVD, which can give readers a sense of the curriculum's flavor. I invite readers to judge for themselves.

Good Reads: THE PURITY MYTH by Jessica Valenti

After infiltrating the Silver Ring Thing last week, I wanted to learn more about Christian purity culture and its ramifications. Jessica Valenti's 2010 book, The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women, discusses purity culture and its assumptions about sexuality.

The Purity Myth argues societal obsession with (female) virginity, abstinence-only education, and backlash against women's rights have placed unhealthy and unrealistic sexual expectations on women. By defining women's worth chiefly through their virginity, purity culture objectifies women by reducing them to their sexuality, while devaluing other traits such as honesty and compassion. The essence of virginity culture is that women cannot be trusted with their sexuality. Valenti urges readers to resist virginity culture and construct healthy, egalitarian visions of human sexuality.

Valenti demonstrates that virginity itself is a nebulous concept, with no universal medical definition. Virginity, rather, has been defined by male-dominated institutions as a way of ensuring the patrilineage of offspring and enforcing male ownership of women's bodies. The author observes that the virginity movement usually associated virginal purity with young, white, heterosexual women -- thereby deeming low-income women, women of color, etc. unfit to be placed on a pedestal. Even in this day and age, the virgin/whore dichotomy lives on.

Valenti explores various facets of the virginity movement, including abstinence-only education, abstinence pledges, and purity balls, many of which have a conservative Christian slant. Too often, the virginity movement promotes stereotypical gender roles, misinformation about sex, and outright antipathy toward feminism, all to the detriment of young women.

Troubling messages about female sexuality also pervade the surrounding culture. For example, Valenti devotes a chapter to commercial pornography, arguing that both pornography and the virginity movement depict female sexuality as passive and subservient. Another chapter on legislation discusses how right-wing laws restricting abortion, emergency contraception, and reproductive technologies reflect paternalistic views that women can't be trusted with their sexuality (and are frequently punitive toward sexually active women). The Purity Myth's chapter on sexual violence demonstrates how rape myths blame women who do not fit society's image of "pure". A chapter on masculinity discusses how stereotypical masculinity is entwined with fear and disdain for women, from television commercials to Religious Right rhetoric. Valenti argues that as long as men are disconnected from women, and taught to define their masculinity through the use and abuse of women's bodies, the purity myth will persist.

The last chapters of The Purity Myth offer a plan of action for transforming sexual attitudes in society. Valenti provides concrete strategies for challenging mainstream porn culture, critiquing media, promoting pro-woman legislation, and combating abstinence-only sex education. To boot, she offers readers a vision of a post-virginity world where women are trusted with their sexual and reproductive choices and right-wing voices no longer have a monopoly on the language of morality.

While not about the Religious Right per se, The Purity Myth offers profound insights into how many right-wing Christians understand sexuality. The model of sexuality critiqued in the book is precisely the model found in many Christian abstinence-only curricula and virginity pledges -- one that conflates virginity with morality, condemns sexual expression outside of marriage as impure, promotes sexist gender roles, and erases LGBT sexuality. For critics of the the Religious Right, as well as anyone in favor of a healthy and just sexual ethic, The Purity Myth is a must-read.

For additional commentary on The Purity Myth, visit the following links.

Jezebel: The Purity Myth's Jessica Valenti Talks Virginity, Weddings & Miss California

Marie Claire: Jessica Valenti Debunks the Purity Myth

The Book Lady's Blog: The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti

Spine Creases: Review: The Purity Myth

Brazen Beauties: The Purity Myth: More Than Just a Silver Ring Thing?

Friday, January 28, 2011

News Tidbits

MSNBC: 13 percent of biology teachers back creationism

Commentary Tidbits

The Dassler Diaries: The Truth About Abortion

Nicholas Kristof at the New York Times: Tussling Over Jesus

National Center for Science Education: Antievolution legislation in Oklahoma

(Hat tip to A Feather Adrift for the last article)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

LGBT Advocate David Kato Murdered in Uganda (UPDATED)

On Wednesday, January 28th, Ugandan LGBT advocate David Kato was beaten to death in his home in the Mukono district outside of Kampala. Kato, advocacy officer for Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), was one of several LGBT people targeted by the Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone (no relation to the American entertainment magazine) under a headline that read "Hang Them." According to the Irish Times, Kato's murder comes just weeks after his successful court case against the tabloid.

Kato had been a vocal opponent of a proposed anti-gay bill in Uganda that has stoked controversy around the globe. The bill, authored by Ugandan MP David Bahati, would make homosexual activity punishable by life imprisonment, mandating the death penalty for repeat offenders.

The bill was introduced months after an anti-gay conference in Kampala in March 2009, featuring Scott Lively, Don Schmierer of Exodus International, and "ex-gay" counselor Caleb Brundidge. According to the New York Times, Schmierer claimed that he had nothing to do with Kato's killing and lamented that he is being "bludgeoned" by opponents. Evangelical preacher Lou Engle has also received criticism for promoting anti-gay attitudes in Uganda, as depicted in the documentary Missionaries of Hate.

Human Rights Watch has urged Ugandan authorities to conduct a prompt and impartial investigation of Kato's murder, beseeching the Ugandan government to protect LGBT citizens from violence. Amnesty International is also calling on authorities to ensure a "credible investigation" of the killing. The Advocate reports that President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have condemned the murder, emphasizing the importance of human rights for LGBT persons.

Kato's murder serves as a reminder of the tragic consequences of homophobia. The international community must condemn homophobic violence and take to task those who promote homophobic attitudes.

UPDATE #1: Reuters is reporting that a scuffle broke out at David Kato's funeral in Mukono after the pastor conducting the service made anti-gay comments. (Hat tip to Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters.)

UPDATE #2: The Advocate is reporting that a suspect has been arrested in relation to Kato's murder.

UPDATE #3: Mariana van Zeller, the Vanguard correspondent who reported on Uganda in Missionaries of Hate, issued a statement about the murder of David Kato.

For additional news and commentary, visit the following links.

BBC News: Obituary: Uganda gay activist David Kato

Box Turtle Bulletin: Ugandan LGBT Advocate Murdered; Had Been Named by "Hang Them" Tabloid

Truth Wins Out: Ugandan Gay Activist Murdered in Cold Blood

Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters: Did Scott Lively's Homophobic "Nuclear Bomb" Cause a Death in Uganda

RH Reality Check: Prominent Human Rights Advocate Murdered in Uganda

Religion Dispatches: Recounting (Again) the Role of American Religious Activists in Uganda Anti-Gay Violence

Religion Dispatches: Ugandan Gay Rights Activist Murdered, U.S. Evangelicals Must Take Responsibility

Politics Plus: Supply-Side Jesus Has Death Panels Too!

2011 March for Life in Washington D.C. -- Part II

(To return to Part I, click here. To watch the March for Life rally on C-SPAN, click here.)

Brother Paul O'Donnell introduced Bobby Schindler, brother of the late Terri Schiavo. Schindler claimed that euthanasia was taking place in the U.S. and tried to link abortion with euthanasia.

"We are all at risk because there is deadly prejudice growing in our nation. Just like the countless number of unborn children that are being killed every day, those with profound brain injuries, the elderly and the chronically sick are also being deliberately killed right now as we speak. Every single one of us need to understand that the same people and the same organizations that are behind the abortion agenda are also responsible for untold number of persons being killed by euthanasia in our nation every single day. We need to fight against euthanasia with the same determination as we do to protect the unborn child."
Next, Father John Kowalczyk of the Orthodox Church of America introduced His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah. Metropolitan Jonah told the audience that they were living in a time of "moral decay" and "decadence," which he attributed to "licentiousness of sexual morality," euthanasia, and abortion. Condemning abortion as an aspect of this "culture of death" and a supposed source of self-hatred and guilt for women, Metropolitan Jonah claimed that Christians provide the means to transform the culture through their message of repentance and forgiveness. Christians, he insisted, must find a means of sharing this message in a "culture that is intoxicated with its own pleasure."

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

2011 March for Life in Washington D.C. -- Part I

On Monday, January 24th, I traveled to Washington D.C. to observe the annual March for Life, a event that draws anti-abortion advocates from across the country. The 2011 event featured a rally at 4th Street and Madison Drive, followed by a march in the vicinity of the Capitol building. The March for Life coincides with the 38th anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. Abortion has long been a cause of the Religious Right in this country, and the signs and rhetoric I observed at the rally reflected the conservative Christian flavor of the anti-abortion movement.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Commentary Tidbits

News Tidbits

WDBJ 7: Ten Commandments Goes Back Up in Giles County Schools

Minnesota Independent: At Christian Book-Signing, Pawlenty Says He's "Seriously Considering" 2012 Bid

Beliefnet: Court Says Religious Knowledge Test Improper in Asylum Case

Politico: DeMint Joins CPAC Boycott

(Hat tip to Godless Girl for the last article)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Silver Ring Thing, Part II

(Click here to return to Part I)

The central piece of the parents seminar at Silver Ring Thing was a prerecorded video by Silver Ring Thing founder Denny Pattyn. Pattyn reminded parents that they play an important role in teaching sexual values to their children. He lamented the fact that many parents don't talk to their children about sex due to embarrassment, a lack of time, or discomfort over their own sexual histories. Pattyn outlined four goals for parents whose children were adopting abstinence pledges: (1) pray for their children about the decision, (2) become a believer in the abstinence movement, (3) get equipped to support their children's abstinence decision, and (4) become advocates themselves in promoting abstinence among teens.

No argument here, I thought. Parents talking to their children about responsible sexuality and supporting their decision to abstain sounded reasonable. Unfortunately, the video soon took an abrasive turn.

Pattyn lambasted what most people would label comprehensive sex education, claiming that schools want to teach sex education to 4 and 5-year-olds and were telling teens that wearing a condom every time makes sex perfectly safe. He seethed over the way that society is supposedly pushing parental values aside in favor of "children's rights," thereby eroding parental authority. Abortion without parental notification was one example of how parents' authority was being eroded, he claimed. His caricature of comprehensive sex education, combined with his emphasis on parental authority, said volumes about his worldview. 

Silver Ring Thing, Part I

Silver Ring Thing bus
Back in December, I reviewed the documentary Daddy I Do, which featured segments on a Christian abstinence ministry called Silver Ring Thing. On Friday night, I had the opportunity to attend a Silver Ring Thing event at Christ Wesleyan Church in Milton, PA, which taught me a great deal about evangelical Christian purity culture. The Milton event was part of Silver Ring Thing's High Stakes Tour, a youth-oriented stage performance featuring comedy skits, music, videos, and personal testimonies. The goal of Silver Ring Thing is to encourage teenagers to vow abstinence until marriage and wear a silver ring to remind them of their virginity pledge to God. Sex outside of marriage is depicted as negative and destructive, whereas sex within heterosexual marriage is seen as the only valid expression of one's sexuality.

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To provide some background, Silver Ring Thing has seen its share of controversy. In 2005, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a suit against the federal government, arguing that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services violated the constitution by giving federal funds to Silver Ring Thing, a religious program. The following year, the ACLU agreed to a settlement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on the matter.

The efficacy (or lack thereof) of abstinence pledges such as Silver Ring Thing has also generated controversy. Advocates for abstinence programs such as Silver Ring Thing argue that virginity pledges protect young people from pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and early sexual debut, but research does not always corroborate these claims. On one hand, a 2004 article in the Journal of Adolescent Health suggests that abstinence pledges reduce the likelihood that adolescents will engage in sexual activity. However, in a 2009 article from Pediatrics, Dr. Janet Rosenbaum found that young people who took abstinence pledges did not differ from nonpledgers in terms of premarital sex, age of sexual debut, lifetime sexual partners, or STD infections. To boot, she found that abstinence pledgers were less likely to protect themselves from pregnancy and disease while engaging in premarital sex. Similarly, a 2004 article from the Journal of Adolescent Health found that STD rates did not differ significantly between abstinence pledgers and nonpledgers. Additionally, a 2003 article in Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health found that teenagers who took virginity pledges were less likely to use contraception consistently in sexual encounters. In short, evidence suggests that abstinence pledges do not necessarily help young people delay sexual activity or avoid STDs, and might actually be linked to riskier sexual behaviors, such as inconsistent contraception use.

I am not against teen abstinence per se. I personally believe that teens should wait until reaching adulthood before engaging in sex, for reasons of maturity and responsibility. Having said that, I do not agree with the way that some abstinence programs frame sex as damaging, dangerous, and restricted to heterosexual marriage. Teens need to understand the risks of pregnancy, STDs, and unhealthy relationships, but they also need to know how to protect themselves from such banes for when they do become sexually active. Also, teens need to know what healthy sexuality looks like so that they can forge healthy sexual relationships as adults -- a task for which abstinence ministries such as Silver Ring Thing do not adequately prepare them, in my opinion.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Governor Bentley and Religious Inclusion

On Monday, January 17th, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley delivered a speech at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The governor's controversial lines during his speech have attracted a great deal of media attention this week.

Bentley's comments ignited a firestorm surrounding religious intolerance. The Hindu American Foundation condemned Bentley's remarks, and the Anti-Defamation League asked the governor to apologize, according to Beliefnet. In a publicized letter to Gov. Bentley, Rabbi Jonathan Miller of Temple Emanu-El wrote that the governor's comments troubled him and left him feeling disenfranchized. Rabbi Miller reminded the governor that Jews too are citizens of Alabama and urged him not to allow religion to divide them. An article at USA Today quoted C. Welton Gaddy, president of the national Interfaith Alliance, as saying that Bentley's comments raised serious concerns for those devoted to religious freedom. American Atheists president David Silverman was quoted in the Los Angeles Times criticizing Bentley's comments, reminding readers that the U.S. has a secular government. Later in the same article, Ashfaq Taufique, president of the Birmingham Islamic Society, was dismayed, arguing that Bentley seemed to be saying that non-Christians would have to accept his brand of Christianity in order to be seen as equals.

As public dismay mounted, Gov. Bentley later apologized -- sort of -- by insisting that it was never his intention to offend or disenfranchise anyone, and that as governor, he has sworn to protect freedom of religion. The Anti-Defamation League was encouraged by the apology.

In my opinion, Gov. Bentley was out of line, and he should have known better. Essentially, the Alabama governor used a public speech to proselytize, which was inappropriate and insensitive to non-Christians in the audience. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is an opportunity to reflect on our common humanity, not to ostracize entire groups because of their religious beliefs. To openly ostracize large swaths of the population is divisive, ignoring the fact that diversity (religious or otherwise) has made America what it is.

Public officials are accountable to all their constituents, regardless of race, class, sex, age, or religion. I hope public outcry has reminded Gov. Bentley that he is accountable to all Alabamans, regardless of their faith.

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

The Wall of Separation: Out Of Line In Alabama: New Governor Takes On Preaching Role

Mother Jones: Gov. Bentley's Christian Brotherhood

Fire Dog Lake: Christian Compassion, Republican Style

Friendly Atheist: Atheists Not Welcome in Alabama Governor's Family

Dispatches from the Culture Wars: Alabama Gov. Misses MLK's Point

Thursday, January 20, 2011

News Tidbits

New York Times: Conservative Group Amplifies Voice of Protestant Orthodoxy

Miami Herald: New DCF chief's résumé mirrors Gov. Rick Scott's

Minnesota Independent: Minnesota Catholics unveil legislative agenda: Ban on gay marriage, help for the poor

News One: Santorum: Obama Should Oppose Abortion Because He Is Black

Seattle Pi: Bill would make 'crisis pregnancy centers' disclose anti-abortion agendas

Ms. Magazine: Women's Groups Object to Building of Catholic Hospital 

CNN: Banned in Britain: Pastor Terry Jones

Colorado Springs Gazette: Colorado Springs diocese starts 12-step program for gays

1250 WTMA: Activist Vows Graphic Anti-Abortion Ads During Super Bowl

The Guardian: Gay couple wins discrimination case against Christian hoteliers

Salon: Governor: Only Christians are my brothers

Broward Palm Beach New Times: Tea Party Leader Ran "Gay Bashing" Campaign In Connecticut

WRBL News 3: House of Mercy: No Practicing Gays Allowed

Pink Paper: Religion is no excuse for snubbing gay marriage, says Canadian government

Edge Boston: UK Christian ’Ex-Gay’ Therapist May Lose License

Edge Boston: Anti-Marriage Group Lobbying Hard in Rhode Island 

Edge Boston: Smithsonian’s Chief Defends Removal of Video from Gay Exhibit

Commentary Tidbits

The Raw Story: Anti-abortion crusader’s run against Obama a Super Bowl ad ploy

Killing the Buddha: Whose College?

Steve McSwain at Huffington Post: As a Fundamentalist Christian, This I Was Taught to Believe

Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters: Former Navy chaplain claims that homosexuality can be cured through 'exorcisms'

365 Gay: Ministers are unhappy with signs

Lez Get Real: Bill Donohue: A “Good” Catholic, Terrible Christian

Truth Wins Out: Pastor’s Wife at Faithful Word Baptist Excuses Domestic Abuse

Right Wing Watch: Religious Right Now Attacks Episcopal Church for Protecting the Environment

Right Wing Watch: Pawlenty to Meet with Anti-Gay Iowa Group

Mother Jones: Abortion Causes Cancer (and Other Pro-Life Myths)

Talk to Action: Air Force Academy Taps "Member of Lord's Army" to Speak at National Prayer Luncheon

Religion Dispatches: Pastor Declares "Civil War" After Supreme Court Rejects DC Gay Marriage Case

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

In the Wake of Religious Freedom Day

The conservative Christian website OneNewsNow reported today that the Alliance Defense Fund and the Gateways to Better Education (GTBE) are collaborating on a project called the "National Free to Speak Campaign." This follows Religious Freedom Day, which was celebrated this year on January 16th.

The GTBE website encourages visitors to celebrate Religious Freedom Day by requesting that the Alliance Defense Fund send a personalized six-page letter on religious liberties to school officials of one's choice. It also encourages readers to place Free to Speak pamphlets in the foyer of their churches and inside bulletins (see below). The Free to Speak pamphlet reminds students and teachers that they can pray, read their Bibles, and talk about faith in public school, as well as express faith in their classwork, school events, and graduation ceremonies.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

News Tidbits

Pennlive: Parents, Central Dauphin School District challenge street preacher in court

MassLive: Police arrest manager of Holy Grounds Coffee House -- operated by anti-gay pastor Scott Lively -- as unregistered sex offender

Washington Post: Tennessee county sued over Ten Commandments plaque

The Tennessean: Vanderbilt alters application after abortion clause protest

CNN: Leading evangelical halts effort to increase political civility

Winston-Salem Journal: Brown: Cut off AIDS funding

NPR: Decline In Abortions Appears Stalled, But Protests Rise

Providence Journal: NOM launches ad campaign in Rhode Island

Womens eNews: Anti-Abortion State Legislators Rise in Power

Commentary Tidbits

Talk to Action: Dog Whistle for Prayer Warriors - Palin as Victim of Blood Libel, Part I and Part II

Truth Wins Out: Gearing Up To Stop Genocide In Uganda and Spotlighting The Family

Right Wing Watch: AFA Blog: It's Not Genocide If God Tells You To Do It

Right Wing Watch: MassResistance Loses It Over Profile of Lively

Media Matters: Conservative Media Attack Native American Blessing At AZ Memorial Service

Media Matters: Does CNN Condone Erickson's Tirades Against Nonbelievers?

Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters: Religious right nonsense coming to South Carolina

RH Reality Check: Sing Out for Abortion Rights

Salon: Why won't anyone sign Glenn Beck's self-serving violence pledge?

The Whore of All the Earth: Book Review: Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know -- And Doesn't

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Homophobia and Stonewall Now!

UPDATE: The Stonewall Now! website is no longer up.

At the website for Lou Engle's TheCall ministry, a menu called "A Million Voices" lists various projects that TheCall supports: Justice House of Prayer, the Luke 18 Project, Bound4Life, 818 The Sign, and so forth. I noticed a new ministry that I'd never heard of before -- Stonewall Now! -- and by the title alone, I suspected that it had something to do with LGBT issues. I was right.

Stonewall Now!, a ministry based in Grandview, MO, describes itself as a prayer movement calling for repentance over homosexuality. Its threefold action plan -- repentance, release, and resistance -- calls Christians to repent for "broken marriages, moral compromise, and cowardly tolerance of iniquity" so that they can spiritually combat homosexuality in society. The website sports photos of solemn teens and young adults with "HOLY" written on their foreheads, suggesting that Stonewall Now! may be a youth-oriented ministry.

The Repentance section of the website tells believers that they have sinned, and that the starting point for  erecting "walls of intercession that restrain demonic agendas and the humanistic ideologies set to destroy the moral fiber of our society" must be personal repentance. By framing the LGBT movement as demonic, the website precludes any meaningful dialogue with the LGBT movement or adoption of inclusive attitudes toward LGBT people.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Adopt a Liberal

Liberty Counsel, a right-wing litigation and policy organization, featured a project on their website that made me chuckle. While wandering around the Liberty Counsel website, I saw a hyperlink for something called "Adopt a Liberal." Immediately, I imagined a charity commercial imploring viewers to help poor left-wingers.

Down-and-out liberals like these have to drive over ten miles in their hybrids each day just to find trees to hug. After toiling all day, destroying  marriage and socializing health care, all they'll have to eat tonight are vegetables from their rooftop gardens.

You can help. For just a dollar a day, you can make sure liberals around the world have enough progressive bumper stickers, organic fair trade coffee, and tofu. Lefties are counting on your support.
Actually, the real project was completely different. When I clicked on the link, I arrived at lc[dot]org/media/9980/adopt_a_liberal.htm and learned that "Adopt a Liberal" is a Liberty Counsel prayer initiative intended to change the hearts of "misguided" liberal lawmakers and commentators. Quoting 1 Timothy 2:1-3, which implores believers to pray for kings and those in authority, the project chooses supporters to pray that selected liberals adopt "a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence." These prayers are intended to change the minds of left-wing targets, who will supposedly accept God if conservative Christians pray fervently enough. "Adopt a Liberal" playing cards were even sold at one time to encourage prayers for left-wing leaders.

Liberty Counsel's list of prayer-worthy liberals include President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Rep. Barney Frank, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, Americans United executive director Barry Lynn, Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, and "the unknown liberal" (any liberal a believer feels is in need of prayer). The website's descriptions of these figures reveal that Liberty Counsel disapproves of their support for LGBT rights, abortion, church-state separation, and other issues.

The "Adopt a Liberal" logo features a man's hand in a red, white, and blue sleeve clutching another man's wrist. The clutching hand looks as if it's catching or rescuing the other man, or it might be seizing the man's wrist by force. Either way, the logo came across as patronizing.

Like other Religious Right organizations, the Liberty Counsel is operating under the assumption that conservative Christianity is the only valid expression of the Christian faith. The "Adopt a Liberal" project assumes that liberal values, such as support for LGBT rights and reproductive rights, are not only unacceptable, but incompatible with faith. As of January 2011, the liberals listed on their website have yet to ecstatically embrace right-wing Christianity, so it seems that all those prayers haven't had their desired effect yet.

For additional commentary on "Adopt a Liberal," visit these links.

Joe.My.God: Liberty Counsel: Adopt a Liberal!

Alan Colmes' Liberaland: The Liberty Counsel's "Adopt a Liberal" Program

Birmingham Blues: Liberty Counsel Rolls Out "Adopt a Liberal" Program

Anti-Choice Groups Gear up for January 24th (UPDATED)

As the 38th anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision approaches, several Religious Right groups are gearing up for anti-abortion activism on January 24th. While the listing below is by no means exhaustive, it should give readers a sense of what large Religious Right groups have planned for the day.

First, anti-abortion advocates will take part in the "March for Life", an annual rally and march in Washington D.C. on January 24th. Representative Michelle Bachman (R-MN) is due to give the keynote address at the Rose Dinner that evening, in line with her anti-choice views.

Second, Family Research Council will host "ProLifeCon," a live webcast conference on the morning of January 24th. Speakers will include Jill Stanek, Lila Rose of LiveAction, David Bereit of 40 Days for Life, and other prominent anti-choice advocates.

Third, Concerned Women for America will be hosting its own webcast entitled "No Tax Funding for Abortion Act" on the morning of January 24th. The webcast, which will focus on permanent legislation prohibiting the use of federal funds for abortion, will feature several anti-abortion politicians, including Representatives Joe Pitts (R-PA), Michelle Bachmann (R-MN), and Pete Olson (R-TX).

But why should anti-choice groups be the only ones coming together for the anniversary of Roe v. Wade? Pro-choice people can also show their support for reproductive rights and the organizations that support women's right to choose. Events (including parties, theater performances, and dinners) will be taking place all over the country in the coming weeks, including Washington D.C., Santa Barbara, San Fransisco, New York, and Portland. Contact your local Planned Parenthood or NARAL branch to learn about anniversary events in your area.

UPDATE #1: The pro-choice Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice will be holding a vigil to commemorate Roe v. Wade on Monday, January 24th at 3:30 p.m. in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington D.C.

UPDATE #2: Words of Choice has a list of even more pro-choice events across the U.S. Check out the link to find out about events in your region.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Public Discourse and the Arizona Shooting

It's been an intense few days since the tragic shooting in Tuscon that killed federal judge John Roll, severely injured Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and left several others dead or wounded. The country is in mourning, and the alleged shooter, Jared Loughner, has since been charged with several felony counts. Public debate has erupted over the role of right-wing rhetoric in inciting Loughner to violence, and while the debate is not a Religious Right issue per se, I want to discuss it here because of its importance.

One point of contention has been the role of violent right-wing rhetoric in Loughner's decision to go on a rampage. Sheriff Clarence Dupnik is not alone in his calls to tone down violent political rhetoric in this country. Several progressive commentators have argued as well that aggressive right-wing rhetoric has create a political climate that incites unstable people to violence.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Commentary Tidbits

Mother Jones: Does Bachmann Believe Congress Should be Run by Christians?

Prairie Nymph: Bible Study Surprise

Right Wing Watch: Heritage Foundation and Media Research Center Join CPAC Boycott

Truth Wins Out: My Nightmare Experience at Teen Challenge

Religion Dispatches: What Does Anti-Christian Even Mean?

Good As You: Chik-Fil-A’s WinShape Foundation: Now Partnering with NOM’s Ruth Institute

Media Matters: Beck: "Do I Believe Scientists? No. They've Lied To Us About Global Warming"

Rock Beyond Belief: Smoking Gun proves Mandatory Army Spiritual Fitness Test is Religious Test, Unconstitutional

Dispatches from the Culture Wars: Wingnuts Spin Mt. Soledad Cross Ruling

GLAAD: Tell CNN to Make a New Year's Resolution: Keep Away From the Anti-Gay Industry

Washington Post: Anderson Cooper's go-to guy re: end times? 'Growing Pains' alum Kirk Cameron

Huffington Post: Defending the 'Cult' of Environmentalism

News Tidbits

Lexington Herald-Leader: Tennessee, Kentucky have different approach to biblical parks

St. Louis Today: Military chaplains are faith mismatch for personnel they serve 

The Baltimore Sun: Clergy take lessons on demonic possession, exorcism

ABC News (Australia): Pope says sex education an 'attack on religious freedom'

Providence Journal: Catholic Bishop Tobin lashes out at Rhode Island leaders for pushing gay marriage

Los Angeles Times: Some right-wing groups to skip GOP event

Orlando Sentinel: Florida Bar asks state Supreme Court to discipline Orlando lawyer for conduct in Rifqa Bary case

The American Prospect: Republican Minority Opens Investigation of Prosperity Televangelists

Minnesota Independent: Rep. Gruenhagen brings controversial views to Health and Human Services Committee

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Motions Fly in Bishop Eddie Long Case Shift in mission for religious firebrand Scott Lively

Entertainment Weekly: Controversial Pastor Ted Haggard Lands TLC Reality Project

The Advocate: Arrested Birther Attended Rally with LaBarbera

Ms. Magazine: Boehner Announces Anti-Abortion Agenda

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Commentary: Arizona Shooting Edition

Politics Daily: Arizona Chief U.S. District Judge John M. Roll Killed in Tucson Attack

Daily Kos: Jared Lee Loughner "grammar" inspiration in videos?

Crooks and Liars: Tuscon Shooter Identified as Jared Lee Loughner

Fire Dog Lake: Chief Judge John Roll Dead in AZ Shooting, Received Death Threats Over 2009 Immigration Case

Think Progress: Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, 18 Others Shot At Event In Arizona; Judge, Child Among Dead

Talking Points Memo: Suspected Giffords Shooter Leaves Internet Trail

Huffington Post: Is Palin's "Crosshairs" Map Relevant? Giffords Thought So

Mother Jones: Jared Lee Loughner: Meet Rep. Giffords' Alleged Shooter

UPDATED: Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Shot; Federal Judge John Roll Killed

Reports are coming in that Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) was shot in the head, her aide was killed, and several other people were wounded outside of a grocery store in Tuscon, AZ. Giffords was hosting a meeting with constituents at the supermarket at the time. NBC News is just reporting that federal judge John M. Roll was murdered as well.

In March 2010, Rep. Gifford's Tuscon office was vandalized, although it is unclear if the vandalism was related to today's shooting in any way.

UPDATE #1: Also, Dr. Peter Rhee at University Medical Center in Tuscon stated during a press conference that Giffords had undergone brain surgery and is currently in critical condition. He also stated that a nine year-old girl was among the five dead from today's shooting.

UPDATE #2: The suspect in custody has been identified as 22 year-old Jared Lee Loughner. In a video he posted on YouTube in December 2010, Loughner makes rambling statements about literacy, currency, and dreaming that make little sense. However, at the 3:07 mark, he writes the following:

"The majority of citizens in the United States of America have never read the United States of America's Constitution. You don't have to accept the federalist laws. Nonetheless, read the United States of America's Constitution to apprehend all of the current treasonous laws."
At the 3:32 mark, Loughner adds the following:
". . . The government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar. No! I won't pay debt with a currency that's not backed by gold and silver! No! I won't trust in God!"
Given Laughner's refusal to acknowledge the authority of federal law and call for the U.S. to return to the gold standard, I seriously wonder if he has anything to do with the Sovereign Citizens movement. This has yet to be confirmed, however.

Read the Fall 2010 issue of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report for more information on the Sovereign Citizens movement. The Anti-Defamation League also published an article on this dangerous movement.

CNN: 6 Dead, 18 Injured in Shooting at Arizona Political Meeting; Suspect in Custody

BBC News: U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords Shot in Arizona

MSNBC: Congresswoman Giffords, Others Shot in Arizona

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Chik-Fil-A and the Art of Marriage

The LGBT blogosphere has been abuzz about Chik-Fil-A's role in a marriage workshop being sponsored by the right-wing Pennsylvania Family Institute. Chik-Fil-A is an openly Christian fast food franchise, and the Pennsylvania Family Institute is a conservative organization promoting "traditional" marriage and family. On January 3rd, Good As You reported that Chik-Fil-A and the Pennsylvania Family Institute were co-sponsoring an event called "The Art of Marriage" in Camp Hill and Reading, PA. Several progressive blogs and news websites weighed in, including, Lez Get Real, and the Advocate. The following day, Joe.My.God noted that the Pennsylvania Family Institute's website no longer listed Chik-Fil-A as a sponsor, although the fast food chain is still listed as a source of food for the event.

In an article at the Christian Post, Pennsylvania Family Institute president Michael Geer stated that Chik-Fil-A is not sponsoring "The Art of Marriage," insisting that local Chik-Fil-A restaurants were simply trying to be "good neighbors" by providing food for the event. (Hat tip to Towleroad.)

Now that the controversy surrounding Chik-Fil-A is calming down, I'd like to focus on "The Art of Marriage" itself. Since "The Art of Marriage" will be held in my neck of the woods, I plan to listen in and blog afterwards about the workshop's themes, barring any bad weather.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

News Tidbits

Commentary Tidbits

The National Center for Science Education: A teacher punished over evolution?
(Hat tip to Lauri Lebo at Religion Dispatches for the last link)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Manly Men, Domestic Women, and Granola-Eatin' Earth Worshippers

Julie Ingersoll recently penned a fun commentary for Religion Dispatches entitled "Promoting Patriarchy and Fighting Pantheism, plus Adventures to the Amazon and to Space (!)." Vision Forum Ministries advocates for traditional gender roles in line with the Christian Patriarchy Movement, and offers events and publications related to Christian homeschooling and child-rearing. Ingersoll critiques Vision Forum's Ten Lessons from 2010 and Ten Visions for 2011, which reflects the organizations patriarchal, anti-environmental values. Ten Lessons from 2010 and Ten Visions for 2011 is a year-in-review pamphlet that documents Vision Forum's 2010 projects while offering sneak peaks of projects to come in 2011. 

The pamphlet makes for interesting reading. Lesson #4 discusses the Father and Son Retreat of 2010, intended to prepare young men to "lead" as fathers and husbands. The pamphlet lambastes young men who are "loafers" and who "leech off their parents" instead of accepting the responsibilities of manhood. Their language associates responsible manhood with marriage and fatherhood, so I get the impression that men who postpone or forgo marriage and children are being stereotyped as lazy leeches. Vision Forum blames absentee fathers and broken homes for this supposed social ill, celebrating its annual Father and Son Retreat in Colorado as a setting where fathers and boys could cultivate "bold manhood" together.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Federal Investigation Delves Deeper into Tiller Assasination

Many of you remember the murder of Dr. George Tiller, a Wichita late-term abortion provider, in May 2009. His killer, Scott Roeder, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole for fifty years in April 2010. A new development in the Tiller murder investigation may determine whether or not Roeder acted alone or in collaboration with other anti-abortion extremists.

According to an article in the Kansas City Star, a federal investigation is focusing on a Bible study group that Roeder attended before the murder. One member, who asked not to be named, insisted that the Bible study group was not part of the extremist anti-abortion movement and that it had no involvement in any conspiracy. The investigation is ongoing.

The Kansas City Star article states that pro-choice advocates have been urging the Justice Department to investigate possible networks of anti-abortion extremists, especially those involved in violence against clinics and doctors. Justin Carl Moose, who was accused of posting bomb instructions and advocating anti-abortion violence on his Facebook page, was cited as one recent case of extremist anti-abortion networking. Moose claimed to belong to the Army of God, a Christian extremist group that has claimed responsibility for anti-abortion acts of terrorism in the U.S.

I think it is wise for federal agents to investigate Roeder's circle to determine if he collaborated with any other extremists. In a prescient article at Ms. Magazine, Amanda Robb discusses whether or not Roeder acted alone when he murdered George Tiller. Robb notes Roeder's involvement with radical Christian groups such as the Freemen militia and Operation Rescue, as well as anti-abortion extremists such as Rachelle "Shelley" Shannon and Michael Bray, indicating that he did not operate in an ideological vacuum.

Whether Roeder acted alone or participated in a collaborative conspiracy remains to be seen. However, his case is a reminder that extremists do not operate in vacuums, but receive encouragement and ideas from larger communities. If we want to effectively combat extremist violence, we must not only focus on violent individuals, but in the social and ideological networks that support them.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

OneThing 2010 in Kansas City, MO

The International House of Prayer (IHOP), a New Apostolic Reformation organization based in Kansas City, MO, held its annual OneThing celebration on December 28-31, 2010. This week-long celebration is geared toward young adults and features musical performances, ecstatic prayer, and preaching from IHOP leaders such as Mike Bickle, Stuart Greaves, and Lou Engle. MP3 downloads, videos, and notes from OneThing 2010 are available at the IHOP website.

One amateur video shows Mike Bickle preaching to a crowd of young attendees about Messianic Jews. (Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video.)

Another video, taken with an attendee's Android phone, captures an ecstatic prayer service in one of the conference's prayer rooms. (Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video.)

Many of OneThing 2010's talks revolved around ecstatic prayer, fasting, and spiritual discipline, but several speeches contained political content as well. The IHOP website made available several free MP3 downloads of conference sessions, which contained troubling but familiar messages.