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Faith | jonmower.com

Faith

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Giuliani Shifts Abortion Speech Gently to Right

From an article of the same title by Ray Rivera in the NY Times:

As he prepares for a possible run for president - a road that goes deep into the heart of conservative America - Rudolph W. Giuliani takes with him a belief in abortion rights that many think could derail his bid to capture the Republican nomination.

But in recent weeks, as he has courted voters in South Carolina and talked to conservative media outlets, Mr. Giuliani has highlighted a different element of his thinking on the abortion debate. He has talked about how he would appoint "strict constructionist" judges to the Supreme Court - what abortion rights advocates say is code among conservatives for those who seek to overturn or limit Roe v. Wade, the 1973 court ruling declaring a constitutional right to abortion.

The effect has been to distance himself from a position favoring abortion rights that he espoused when he ran for mayor of New York City, where most voters favor abortion rights.

"I hate it," he said of abortion in a recent interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News. "I think abortion is something that, as a personal matter, I would advise somebody against. However, I believe in a woman's right to choose. I think you have to ultimately not put a woman in jail for that."

Those who have followed Mr. Giuliani's career say he is unlikely to undergo a radical shift in his views in the manner of Mitt Romney, a Republican rival and former Massachusetts governor who advocated abortion rights until about two years ago.

Fred Siegel, author of "Prince of the City: Giuliani, New York and the Genius of American Life," said Mr. Giuliani would likely be careful to avoid anything perceived as a flip-flop on the issue.

"Part of his appeal is that he doesn't bend in the wind," he said.

But Richard Land, head of the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, said Mr. Giuliani's position was even more offensive than that of someone who believes abortion is morally acceptable.

"To say I think it's morally wrong, but I think it's a woman's choice is like saying I'm opposed to segregation but it ought to be left up to the store owner to decide," Mr. Land said. "That's a preference, not a conviction."

Andrew Sullivan has a different take on Giuliani, that he isn't shifting to satisfy the party base but that he is taking the reasonable view that such divisive issues should be decided on a state level.

Mitt Romney seems to be becoming the posterchild for someone whose convictions are shaped by his politics and not the other way around...a flip-flopper. Kathleen Parker had a recent column emphasizing that what is sometimes characterized as flip-flopping is really changing ones mind based on careful study and contemplation, that kind of thing that a leader should be prepared to do. We have plenty examples lately the inability to admit mistakes or adjust course early enough leads to bad situations getting even worse.

So that's the rub...as we evaluate our leaders and potential leaders, we have to suss out (h/t for vocab expansion: Scott Freeman) whether they are stubbornly determined and unwilling to deviate from a path we happen to support even when common sense says otherwise or are they willing to change their mind sometimes in a direction different from ours or are they simply a flip-flopper that happens to currently speaking words we like at the current moment...and which of those types of people we prefer to have running our country.

Kingdom of Heaven

200px-KoHposter.jpgTonight we watched Kingdom of Heaven (2005,R) (ScreenIt! Review). From the Wikipedia entry:

The story deals with the Crusades of the 12th century, and involves...a village blacksmith who goes on to aid the city of Jerusalem in its defense against the great Islamic leader Saladin, who battles to reclaim the city from the Christians. The script is loosely based on the life of Balian of Ibelin. Professor Hamid Dabashi of Columbia University was the film's chief academic consultant.

So much violence. So much battling of God's enemies. So many cries of "God wills it." From both sides. I give it 3 out of 5.

Coincidentally (before I started watching Kingdom of Heaven, I didn't realize that it was all about war between Christians and Muslims), today I also watched the Fox News special Radical Islam: Terror in Its Own Words (on the recommendation of a relative). I thought it was instructive in emphasizing the danger, in giving more full attention to what we usually only hear in brief soundbites...the chants of "death to America", the way children raised to be martyrs. Much emphasis was made that the special was addressing radical Islam, not its moderate relative, but that moderate Islam is too reticent in condemning the radical fringe. I guess these are all points that have some validity.

This violent, radical Islam is not something that human society should tolerate. But the coincidence of watching these two things today reminded me again of the obvious parallels between then and now. A battle between a Christian king and a Muslim general from Tikrit. The infamous reference by king George to crusades. The spiritual significance tied to death as a crusader...to death as a Muslim martyr. It's tempting to think that we have progressed so far since then but that they are still stuck in such a primitive place, but many of us still think of what we've been doing lately as going to war in God's name, with his blessing. I was brought back to the feeling of how important it is that we not sink to the level of these murderous extremists...not to torture, not to trust in nor embrace violence. Not to allow our enemies to draw us away from the things that are so noble and wonderful about our country.

The Abortion War Abroad

Via Andrew Sullivan, from an interesting article of the same title by David Kuo on beliefnet:

This spring, Poland will decide whether to amend the constitution to ban the practice altogether.

In Paris last month, thousands marched to ban abortions outright.

And last year Italy placed import restrictions on RU-486, commonly known as "the morning after pill."

The difference, CBN reports, between Europe's abortion "wars" and US conflicts over abortion is motivation - European birth rates have been dropping and that has a lot of people - in government, in churches, in financial institutions - scared. Apparently, this growing move towards restricting abortion is an effort to address that problem.

Robert Randolph & The Family Band at HU

Personally, I think this is great (video via Mark Elrod)...Harding U. students shaking their booties on stage with Robert Randolph & The Family Band, in violation of the school's ban on dancing. It's ridiculous to have concerts like this (funk/soul) on campus but then expect no one to dance. Reminds me of when James Lashlee and I danced on stage with Sonic Youth at the Cannery in Nashville in 1990. Lipscomb new nothing about it. It was our first mosh pit experience too. Also David Yow, lead singer for the opening band The Jesus Lizard, dropped trow on stage as was his custom.

This is Why We are Laughed At

The Associated Press reports that Ted Haggard has emerged from three intensive weeks of counseling "completely heterosexual." Completely. Really, he really is.

Nuns flee debt

From the current issue of The Week magazine:

Volos, Greece

An entire convent of Greek Orthodox nuns has fled to another convent to avoid paying close to $1 million in debt from their failed knitting business. The 55 nuns splurged on purchases of industrial knitting machines and by attending foreign fashion shows to get ideas for patterns. The wool clothes they made were popular in Greece, but the business went under when a bank called in the loan. The nuns are now holed up in a convent in Volos, as the Holy Synod negotiates with the bank on their behalf.

No Altar, No Pews, Not Even a Roof, but Very Much a Church

From an article of the same title by Neela Banerjee in the NY Times:

While churches have long provided meals, occasional shelter and indoor worship services for the urban homeless, a small but growing number of congregations now recognize that many homeless people will not attend traditional services indoors. So these congregations now go outdoors to bring church to the homeless and anyone else who happens along.

"When you become homeless, you become very aware of how people treat you," said the Rev. Anne-Marie Jeffery, who runs Street Church. "It's hard to walk into a church, and it's even harder when you are homeless because you're worried about how you will be received, or if you smell bad. Some people never go inside at all, because they worry that they can lose all their stuff," as in shopping carts that must be left outside, "or be sent to a mental hospital or to jail."

Ms. Wyman, trying to introduce outdoor worship elsewhere as well, says she is working with churches and other groups, about half of them affiliated with the Episcopal Church, in 40 cities in the United States and abroad. Already some such worship is under way in cities including Asheville, N.C.; Atlanta; Cincinnati; Portland, Me.; and San Francisco.

The worship service lasts 15 to 20 minutes. People line up for Communion (expect grape juice, not wine) and then lunch on two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches each, along with chips, fruit and water. Office workers sometimes stop by. Street Church volunteers hand out bulletins as they would to congregants at a Sunday service, and stay afterward to eat and talk with whoever shows up.

I think this is a very good trend...churches venturing out to minister to the least of these rather than expecting them to come in.

Friends of God

This past weekend I watched Alexandra Pelosi's documentary "Friends of God" (wikipedia entry) on HBO. Though perhaps not openly ridiculing its subject, the film did seem to be a road-trip tour of the freakish elements of evangelical America with little or no reference to its mainstream. For what it is, it was enjoyable. Two segments stick out in my memory. First, the "Christian" professional wrestling. I had heard of this before, but its absurdity was crystal clear upon seeing it on film (which raises the question, shouldn't it have been just as obvious before? Yes, admittedly it should have). Secondly, at one point Ted Haggard (who has a prominent role in the film) is talking with a couple of his church members who brag that their wives, ahem, achieve full satisfaction every time they are intimate. Off camera, you hear the filmmaker say something like: "I've got to go to this church!" I give it four out of five.

Building a Memorial to a Son, One Child at a Time

Mike Cope points to a NY Times article of the same title that tells of the story of what some of his relatives are doing to help improve the lives of children around the world. This is something that's been on my mind a bunch lately. It's hard to imagine any better use of one's time and energy than giving mercy to a child.

Obama's Real Faith

The controversy over Obama's alleged education in an Indonesian madrassa raged this week. CNN debunked the claim regarding a radical Islamic education (link), and Obama issued a press release yesterday directly addressing the issue (link):

To be clear, Senator Obama has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim, and is a committed Christian who attends the United Church of Christ in Chicago. Furthermore, the Indonesian school Obama attended in Jakarta is a public school that is not and never has been a Madrassa.

These malicious, irresponsible charges are precisely the kind of politics the American people have grown tired of, and that Senator Obama is trying to change by focusing on bringing people together to solve our common problems.

I almost chuckled when I read this bit from USA Religious News:

His name is Barak Hussein Obama. And he is running for President. He is courting evangelical Christians from the pulpit at Rick Warren's Saddleback church and by using public proclamations reported in the news media. Some Christians are saying he is a Democrat that evangelical Christians can support. Many have suggested that his Islamic and atheist upbringing combined with his social progressive membership in the United Church of Christ make him an outstanding presidential candidate. Others believe he may be a threat to the national security. Will the real Obama please stand up?

"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves."-- Matthew 7:15

and also this line:

The United Church of Christ is not to be confused with the cult " Church of Christ ."

It also has an interesting summary of what should disturb us about the UCC:

The United Church of Christ, however, supports homosexual marriage, abortion, environmental justice, globalism, the International Criminal Court, the Palestinian movement and believes that Israel is illegally occupying the covenant land.

I also came across an article titled "More on Obama the Liberal" from The Conservative Voice web site, which was founded by a fellow honored by the Jerry-Falwell-given nickname "young Jessie Helms", which concluded:

Note that Obama's biological father from Kenya was a terrorist-espousing Muslim. His mother is an avowed atheist. Obama spent two years as a youngster in a terrorist-oriented Muslim school. He spent two other years in a Catholic school.

Obama is a mixed up theological liberal espousing what liberals like to hear, couching it all the more in theologically liberal verbiage so as to fool naïve evangelicals and devout Catholics in particular.

Unlike the Obama school debacle, an editorial titled "Obama's Real Faith" from, of all places, the Investor's Business Daily, is actually interesting in my opinion. After pointing out the baseless nature of the current controversy, it discusses what it does consider disturbing:

Trouble is, Obama embraced more than Christ when he answered the altar call 20 years ago at the Trinity United Church of Christ in Southside Chicago. The 8,000-member church describes itself as "unashamedly black" and holds classes in "African-centered Bible study." He also pledged to honor something called the "Black Value System," which is a code of nonbiblical ethics written by blacks for blacks.

This is what should give American voters pause.

According to its Web site, Trinity puts the "black community" first. Black members are encouraged to pursue education and skills exclusively to advance their community, and allocate their money exclusively to support "black institutions" and black leaders.

In short, it preaches from the gospel of blackness and black power. There's little room for white Christians at Obama's church. It disavows the pursuit of "middleclassness" - code for whiteness - arguing that middleclassness is a conspiracy by white leaders to keep talented African-Americans "captives."

Obama, meanwhile, has been getting in touch with his African roots. He recently visited relatives in Kenya for the first time, and dropped the nickname Barry for the more African-sounding Barack.

"I believe in the power of the African-American religious tradition to spur social change," he recently asserted. He said his faith has also led him to question "the idolatry of the free market." This reflects Trinity church doctrine that no African-American can really rise to the top echelons of a "racist, competitive" white society on merit.

Obama, in turn, calls the dashiki-wearing minister of this militantly black church his "spiritual adviser" and mentor. The Rev. Jeremiah Wright said of Obama and his other congregants: "We are an African people, and remain true to our native land, the mother continent." He wants health care for all and more housing for the poor, and calls those who voted for President Bush (and his tax cuts) "stupid."

Do such beliefs translate into a political agenda tailored to African-Americans? Would Obama, despite his agreeably race-neutral and nonthreatening public persona, govern and petition on behalf of one group and not necessarily for the greater good of the country?

White House challengers such as Clinton think Obama's childhood brushes with Islam will make Americans nervous. But it's his adult conversion to black nationalism and socialism that makes this otherwise attractive minority candidate unfortunately so unattractive.

That is interesting. I wonder how accurate the characterization is. I also came across a recent Chicago Tribune profile of Jeremiah Wright titled "Pastor inspires 'audacity to hope'". It has a decidedly different take on Wright and the Trinity United Church of Christ. Even the IBD article describes a lot of positive activities but it does seem to have an overly-racial emphasis, one that wouldn't be acceptable if espoused by whites, for example.

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