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Faith | jonmower.com

Faith

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David French

french.jpgA few weeks back Lisa noticed that one of the articles summarized in the current issue of The Week was written by David French. We knew a David French at Lipscomb, so she googled him and he's the same one. The column highlighted in The Week was in the National Review online discussing a recent survey of college faculty and titled "Bias Against Evangelicals on Campus? You Don't Say!." An excerpt:

For some time, the leftist academic establishment has responded to literally hundreds of stories about the violation of the fundamental rights of religious students with the argument that those stories are mere "anecdotes" and are not evidence of a wider problem. In recent years, however, the systematic studies have come pouring in, including studies showing dramatic political disparities in the classroom, dramatic drop-offs of faith practice during the college years, and now we see concrete evidence of sheer bigotry.
Our nation's colleges and universities have a religion problem, and faithful students and professors are paying the price.

Turns out that David is a frequent contributer to the "phi beta cons" blog ("THE RIGHT TAKES ON HIGHER ED") on the National Review (an archive of his posts from the last 30 days is here). He appeared on The O'Reilly Factor back in May with a UCLA student who was embroiled in a controversy with Planned Parenthood (French writes about the controversy here). Last year he quit his job with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, took a new job with Alliance Defense Fund, and joined the army reserve (he writes about it in the National Review here).

David's wife is Nancy French of "A Red State of Mind" fame.

David and Nancy are involved in the Romney campaign and the Tennesseans for Mitt and Evangelicals for Mitt web sites.

It's been interesting to see what one of our college acquaintances has been up to on the national stage. I was curious to see if he's on Wikipedia, but not yet.

Presidential Forum on Faith, Values & Poverty

Jim Wallis of Sojourners organized the above-titled forum that was shown on CNN last night featuring Edwards, Obama, and Clinton answering questions about their faith and its relation to their presidential aspirations.

David Kuo's take on the forum is here and on the Dems and faith in general is here.

Andrew Sullivan's take is here.

One of the more memorable moments for me was when Edwards, like most of the rest of us, couldn't bring himself to confess a specific sin.

On the positive side, it was good that Edwards said this:

O'BRIEN: If you think something is morally wrong, though, you morally disagree with it, as president of the United States, don't you have a duty to go with your moral belief?

EDWARDS: No, I think that, first of all, my faith, my belief in Christ plays an enormous role in the way I view the world. But I think I also understand the distinction between my job as president of the United States, my responsibility to be respectful of and to embrace all faith beliefs in this country because we have many faith beliefs in America. And for that matter we have many faith beliefs in the world. And I think one of the problems that we've gotten into is some identification of the president of the United States with a particular faith belief as opposed to showing great respect for all faith beliefs.

...as opposed to the "inject faith into policy" from Hillary and the "biblical injunction" for policy from Obama. I think I know what they meant (in Edwards words, their "...belief in Christ plays an enormous role in the way [they] view the world", but I like Edward's acknowledgment that there can be a big down side of the president wearing his faith on his sleeve and allowing it to shape policy rather than the constitution and the law and personal freedom and what's best for the country as a whole.

The transcript is here.

Here are the clips from YouTube (with poor quality audio that is out of sync with the video):







God, Head Ball Coach

You thought football coaches decide who plays what position? Daniel Sepulveda, a punter drafted in the fourth round by the Steelers, thinks otherwise:

"I guess the first couple of years that I was the punter at Baylor, and started to realize and recognize that that's all I was going to be doing. I tried to sneak my way onto some special teams throughout my career and was able to do that at times. I really did enjoy it, but finally did settle in to where I knew that punter was the position that God would have me to be at."

King James

Garrison Keillor reminds us that May 2, 1611, was the date that the King James Bible was first published. I was surprised to learn the following from Keillor:

The translators also deliberately used old-fashioned language. At the time they were working on the Bible, words like "thou" and "sayeth" had already gone out of fashion. Some scholars believe that the translators wanted to give the sense that the language in the Bible came from long ago and far away.

I'd be curious to learn what percentage of Christians still rely on the KJV. It must be a dwindling number. Growing up, only the KJV and ASV were accepted at my church. I remember when it was announced that the NKJV and NASB were also acceptable. The NIV was never acceptable. It probably isn't still.

How Chaplains, Soldiers Keep Faith During War

An article of the same title by Eve Conant in Newsweek describes how war tests the faith of chaplains and regular soldiers in Iraq. A few excerpts:

Countless soldiers—not just chaplains—have struggled with how to reconcile a God of love with a God who allows the terror of conflict. For centuries theologians and philosophers have grappled with ideas of "just war": thou shalt not kill, but under certain conditions—to prevent wider bloodshed and suffering—slaughter by armies is acceptable.

Many American soldiers in Iraq wear crosses; some carry a pocket-size, camouflage New Testament with an index that lists topics such as Fear, Loneliness and Duty. U.S. troops have conducted baptisms in the Tigris. They often huddle in prayer before they go on patrol. Not everyone is comfortable with this. About 80 percent of soldiers polled in a 2006 Military Times survey said they felt free to practice their religion within the military. But the same poll found that 36 percent of troops found themselves at official gatherings at least once a month that were supposed to be secular but started with a prayer.

Many chaplains think that war strengthens their belief and the spirituality of the troops they serve. "It is the trials of life that ultimately help us to grow in our faith," says Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) Trent Davis, who was deployed to Iraq in 2005. He recalls one soldier who wasn't much of a believer at home but decided to read a Psalm each day while deployed. The day the soldier started in his vehicle across the Iraqi sands was the day he read from Psalm 23: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. "After that his faith grew much deeper," says Davis.

Many soldiers suffer spiritual doubts in war, but the stresses can be especially acute for chaplains. By ministering to men and women who are struggling to keep faith, many are forced to confront their own doubt again and again.

Chaplains are unarmed, but they go where the troops go. They help in any way they can.

The article focuses on a particular chaplain, Roger Benimoff, and how his experience took him to the brink of unbelief. I can't imagine what war is like, how damagiig it is to the psyche. If you've got some time, read through the discussion about Christians and non-violence on Scott Freeman's blog. I'd like to have the same conversation sometime with folks at my church. A large fraction of the men, particularly from the older generation, spent time in the military. I think it would be really interesting to discuss just war theory and the principle of non-violence and military service with them.

The Presidency's Mormon Moment

In a op-ed piece with the same title in today's NY Times, Kenneth Woodward argues that Mitt Romney, rather than pretending to be an evangelical Christian, should address the distinctive nature of his Mormon faith to prevent the American public's general ignorance about Mormonism producing a distrust of him as a presidential candidate.

Highlighting some of the unique Mormon teachings, Woodward writes:

...the very different meanings Mormon doctrine attaches to words it shares with historic Christianity.

For example, Mormons speak of God, but they refer to a being who was once a man of "flesh and bone," like us. They speak of salvation, but to them that means admittance to a "celestial kingdom" where a worthy couple can eventually become "gods" themselves. The Heavenly Father of whom they speak is married to a Heavenly Mother. And when they emphasize the importance of the family, they may be referring to their belief that marriage in a Mormon temple binds families together for all eternity.

Dobson on Thompson

I've been down on Dobson for a while now (link), but his latest comments judging whether Fred Thompson is a real Christian or not seem to be a new low. I know many people look to Dobson as a leader among Christian evangelicals, but to me his credibility is gone. From an article by Dan Gilgoff in US News and World Report:

Focus on the Family founder James Dobson appeared to throw cold water on a possible presidential bid by former Sen. Fred Thompson while praising former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is also weighing a presidential run, in a phone interview Tuesday.

"Everyone knows he's conservative and has come out strongly for the things that the pro-family movement stands for," Dobson said of Thompson. "[But] I don't think he's a Christian; at least that's my impression," Dobson added, saying that such an impression would make it difficult for Thompson to connect with the Republican Party's conservative Christian base and win the GOP nomination.

Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Thompson, took issue with Dobson's characterization of the former Tennessee senator. "Thompson is indeed a Christian," he said. "He was baptized into the Church of Christ."

In a follow-up phone conversation, Focus on the Family spokesman Gary Schneeberger stood by Dobson's claim. He said that, while Dobson didn't believe Thompson to be a member of a non-Christian faith, Dobson nevertheless "has never known Thompson to be a committed Christian—someone who talks openly about his faith."

Amazing Grace

200px-Amazinggraceposter.jpgLast night Lisa and I celebrated her birthday with dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings and a movie. We saw Amazing Grace (2007,PG) (ScreenIt! Review). We probably would have seen something else, but there seemed to be nothing else interesting showing. The Adam Sandler movie, maybe, but it seemed to be getting tepid reviews. So, we went to see Amazing Grace. It was good...an inspiring story of a long fight for the greater good that finally won out. I also couldn't help seeing parallels with today...talk of lives wasted in a war gone bad and a tendency to allow our principles of decency to be violated in war time (tolerating slavery then...tolerating torture now).

From the Wikipedia entry:

Amazing Grace is a 2007 film directed by Michael Apted about the campaign against the slave trade in 19th century Britain, led by famous abolitionist William Wilberforce, who was responsible for steering anti-slave trade legislation through the British parliament. The title is a reference to the hymn "Amazing Grace" and the film also recounts John Newton's writing of the hymn.

I give it 4 out of 5.

Evangelicals battle over agenda, environment

From an article of the same title in the LA Times by Stephanie Simon:

A struggle for control of the evangelical agenda intensified this week, with some leaders declaring that the focus has strayed too far from their signature battles against abortion and gay rights.

Those issues defined the evangelical movement for more than two decades — and cemented ties with the Republican Party. But in a caustic letter, leaders of the religious right warned that these "great moral issues of our time" were being displaced by a "divisive and dangerous" alignment with the left on global warming.

A new generation of pastors has expanded the definition of moral issues to include not only global warming, but an array of causes. Quoting Scripture and invoking Jesus, they're calling for citizenship for illegal immigrants, universal healthcare and caps on carbon emissions.

The public dispute began with the release of a letter signed by several men who helped transform the religious right into a political force, including Dobson, Don Wildmon of the American Family Assn. and Paul Weyrich of American Values.

The signatories — most of them activists, not theologians — expressed dismay that an evangelical emphasis on global warming was "contributing to growing confusion about the very term 'evangelical.' "

In religious terms, an evangelical is a Christian who has been born again, seeks a personal relationship with Christ, and considers the Bible the word of God, to be faithfully obeyed.

But Dobson and his fellow letter-writers suggested that evangelical should also signify "conservative views on politics, economics and biblical morality."

White evangelicals are more united against abortion than any other religious group, including Catholics, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. A 2005 poll found 15% in support of a total ban on abortion and 53% in favor of only narrow exceptions. By contrast, global warming is deemed a "very serious" problem by less than 30% of white evangelicals, according to a 2006 Pew Forum poll. Less than 40% accept the scientific consensus that human activity, such as burning coal for energy, is responsible for the Earth's rising temperatures.

When he preached recently at a conservative evangelical college, Wallis said, he was besieged by students furious at the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who recently described global warming as a satanic plot to divert Christians from more pressing moral issues, such as spreading the Gospel.

As a child Obama crossed a cultural divide in Indonesia

From an article of the same title by Paul Watson in the LA Times:

As a boy in Indonesia, Barack Obama crisscrossed the religious divide. At the local primary school, he prayed in thanks to a Catholic saint. In the neighborhood mosque, he bowed to Allah.

Having a personal background in both Christianity and Islam might seem useful for an aspiring U.S. president in an age when Islamic nations and radical groups are key national security and foreign policy issues. But a connection with Islam is untrod territory for presidential politics.

...Obama sometimes went to Friday prayers at the local mosque. "We prayed but not really seriously, just following actions done by older people in the mosque. But as kids, we loved to meet our friends and went to the mosque together and played," said Zulfin Adi, who describes himself as among Obama's closest childhood friends.

The campaign's national press secretary, Bill Burton, said Wednesday that the friends were recalling events "that are 40 years old and subject to four decades of other information." Obama's younger sister, Maya Soetoro, said in a statement released by the campaign that the family attended the mosque only "for big communal events," not every Friday.

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