Saturday, May 28, 2005


The Death of Liberalism?

An interesting and intelligent analysis of the current state of liberalism in the United States appeared recently in The American Prospect ("The Death and Life of American Liberalism")

According to some (for instance, Sojourners' Jim Wallis, and his book God's Politics), a big question about whether there's any life left in liberalism rests on whether liberals will begin to respect -- and listen to -- people of faith. There are an awful lot of folks out in the hinterlands -- and most other lands as well -- who have "liberal" or progressive values (meaning they care deeply about poverty, racism, war, etc.) and are also have a deep faith.


Yep, Apparently Newsweek Was Right

Turns out the government -- which last week blasted Newsweek for its allegedly erroneous reporting about disrespect for the Quran at Guantanamo -- now admits that the magazine was essentially correct after all. Egg on your face, Mr. Rove? An apology, perhaps? Don't hold your breath.

E.J. Dionne has a helpful summary of the White House's embarrassing (indictable?) coverup in today's column ("Assault On the Media") -- or you can just read Wednesday's blog, below.

Thursday, May 26, 2005


Was Newsweek Right?

In all the furor over the Newsweek "Periscope" item allegedly that the Quran was desecrated by U.S. personnel at Gitmo (for a nice summary, visit The Daily Kos), one question fell by the wayside. Was the magazine right? Sure, the story was poorly sourced -- the mainstream media deserves to be reprimanded for all the "high placed sources," "unnamed government officials," and the like who leak desirable stories (desirable, that is, to the leakers -- not necessarily desirable at all to anyone looking for the "truth" of the matter).

The Red Cross -- in 2002 and 2003 -- warned about mistreatment of Islam's holy book ("Red Cross warned U.S. over Quran"), and as more and more prisoners are released from Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and other facilities, more testimony emerges about abuse of human rights up to and including torture. Given the photo evidence we saw over the past year of how U.S. soldiers and other officials treated human beings, why would we have so much trouble believing that guards would treat a book -- especially a book seen as sacred by their prisoners -- with blatant disrespect? Hate to say it, but Newsweek lost more credibility by backing off the story under White House (and right wing) pressure than it did by running the initial story itself.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


The ONE Campaign

Sebastian Mallaby's column in the Washington Post "High Profile Help for Africa") talks about celebrity involvement in support of efforts against global poverty -- in particular the "ONE" campaign. It's worth reading.

Don't know about the ONE campaign? You should. Here's the summary from the Web site of the ONE campaign:

The ONE Campaign is a new effort to rally Americans to fight the emergency of global AIDS and extreme poverty. Each ONE of us can make a difference. Together as ONE we can change the world. We can beat: AIDS * Starvation * Extreme poverty. ONE billion people live on less than ONE dollar a day. ONE by ONE, we can help them help themselves.


Viagra for Sex Offenders?

This one's hard to believe: States are (in some cases "were") actually paying for viagra for convicted sex offenders ("States May Deny Viagra to Sex Offenders"). As Dave Berry would say, I'm not making this up. Somebody -- plenty of somebodies, it seems -- forgot to take off their stupid hat on this one...


Robertson: Judges Worse than Terrorists

And then there's Pat Robertson, who told George Stephanopoulos recently that "activist" judges are more of a threat to our country than terrorists:

When ABC News' George Stephanopoulos asked him, "How can you say that these judges are a more serious threat than Islamic terrorists who slammed into the World Trade Center?" Robertson replied: "I think the gradual erosion of the consensus that's held our country together is probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings."

This from E.J. Dionne's column on the Senate filibuster compromise in the Washington Post this morning ("'Watch Those Guys'").

Monday, May 23, 2005


Christians and Political Power

The Calvin College story (see "Calvin College..." post, below) hints at the political potential of Christians who do not identify with the Right. As the Times article put it:

"The monologue of the religious right is over," Mr. Wallis said in an interview before Mr. Bush's appearance. "There is a progressive, moderate evangelical constituency that is huge." Others see the group as a far less powerful force, but they acknowledge that the Christian left cannot be a cheery development for Mr. Rove. "Were this movement to continue to grow, it could create some problems, probably not for President Bush but for future Republican candidates," said John C. Green, the director of the Ray Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron and an expert on the voting patterns of religious groups. In short, Mr. Green said, "Democrats have an opportunity to get some votes." (emphasis added)

Christians ought not to be just about getting "some votes" for one side or another (that's central to what's wrong with the Religious Right), but the ability to effect change on important social issues (poverty, race, war and peace, etc.) is a key part of living faithfully, engaged fully in the world.


Calvin College Takes Bush to Task

President Bush's visit to Calvin College turned out to be not quite as photo-opish as Karl Rove had hoped ("Preaching to the Choir? Not This Time"). Students and faculty at the evangelical school in Michigan organized protests against Bush's foreign and domestic policies ("Your deeds, Mr. President - neglecting the needy to coddle the rich, desecrating the environment and misleading the country into war - do not exemplify the faith we live by" read a full-page ad in the Grand Rapids Press, signed by 800 students, facility, and alums).

But this protest didn't come out of nowhere. Jim Wallis, executive director of Sojourners, spoke at Calvin on May 12. During his visit, Wallis met with about 300 students concerned with the forthcoming Bush speech, and talked about possible responses.

The New York Times, in its coverage of the event, referred to Wallis as a "leader of the Christian left." For the Times, any religious person who isn't Religious Right must be "Religious Left." I guess we shouldn't expect the mainstream media to understand the difference, but the left-right political spectrum is misleading at best, downright wrong at worst, in understanding voices from the biblical center (which has nothing to do -- as Wallis puts it -- with the "mushy political middle").

Sunday, May 22, 2005


Laura Bush in the Middle East

Laura Bush, the Washington Post reports this morning, is on a mission to the Middle East "intended partly to help defuse anti-American sentiment in the region" ("Protesters Mob Laura Bush in Jerusalem," free regis. required). The "protesters" referred to in the headline came from the Israeli right and from the Muslim street.

Laudable as such trips are -- and such symbolic gestures are indeed important -- ultimately they'll be as futile as other Bush administration attempts to change the U.S. image abroad, particularly in the Muslim world. The estrangement comes not (only) from reports of desecration of the Quran, but from much deeper, long-standing principles and practices of U.S. foreign policy: the war against Iraq, U.S. military bases in Saudi Arabia, and -- probably most significant -- U.S. military and financial support for Israel (regardless of repeated Israeli abuses in the Occupied Territories, beginning with the occupation itself). Until these policies change -- which of course likely means until there's a new administration in Washington -- the anti-U.S. sentiment in the Middle East and elsewhere will not substantially improve ... regardless how many goodwill visits the First Lady makes.


What's Wrong with Evangelicals?

The New York Times this morning has an important piece on how "The growing power and influence of evangelical Christians is manifest everywhere these days, from the best-seller lists to the White House..." ("On a Christian Mission to the Top," part of its series on "how class influences destiny in America"). The emphasis is on evangelicals seeking "worldly success and cultural influence" -- aka power and wealth.

I'll be bold here: Success in Jesus' terms wasn't about power and wealth. Many evangelicals today -- those who proclaim and practice a religion that's much more American civil religion than it is authentic Christianity -- are living in a way that's antithetical to the gospel. They're not living a Christian life at all. In fact, much of what they preach and proclaim is nothing short of heresy. The gospel according to America has very little resemblance to a geniune biblical faith.

And yet here's the problem: Mainstream media still (often) refers to right-wing Christians without the adjective, as if they're the only "real" Christians. From the Washington Post a year or so ago (paraphrased): "Christian activists work to ban books from N. Va. libraries." Guess what? They were conservative Christian activists. The Post conveniently managed to leave out the label, thus tarring all the rest of us with the Right's propensity to book banning.



"Religious but not Right." For many of us, the Religious Right has about as much to do with religion as military intelligence has to do with ... well, you get the drift. Somehow, though, the mainstream media seems to think if you don't like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, or the other tele-blowhards, then you must be one of those "secular left" folks. Surprise! Some of us actually pray, go to church, and even think that God has a plan for our lives. (We sometimes have a bit of trouble recognizing it, but we're pretty sure all the T's are crossed and the I's dotted...)

Anyway, welcome. Argue, agree, throw your well-considered opinions around... that's what we're here for.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?