Daily Archives: September 9th, 2011

Religious Right Complains About Lack of Clergy at 9/11 Ceremony

By AUSCS on Aug 30, 2011

By Rob Boston

The 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks is approaching, and for some reason, Religious Right groups have decided to manufacture a new “culture war” controversy over a commemorative event that will take place in New York City.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has decided that the focus of the day should be on the families who lost loved ones during the attacks. He hasn’t invited any clergy to speak at the event. Instead, family members will read short passages that are meaningful for them. President Barack Obama, President George W. Bush and some other political leaders will also make brief remarks, but Bloomberg has made it clear that political speeches are not welcome.

Bloomberg’s decision to have no official clergy presence at the event doesn’t mean there will be no religious activity during the ceremony. In fact, there will be six moments of silence, during which attendees can pray, mediate or reflect as dictated by their individual consciences. A spokesperson for the mayor has also stated that some of the readings by family members will undoubtedly be spiritual in nature.

Because the focus will be on 9/11 families, clergy aren’t the only ones who won’t be taking part in the event. 9/11 first responders will also not be on the stage, and some of them are unhappy about that.

But again, that doesn’t mean these groups won’t be recognized. There will be many commemorative events in New York and other cities in and around Sept. 11, 2011. The New York Police Department, for example, has planned an event for Sept. 8 that will include prayers. In addition, an interfaith service to honor first responders is scheduled for Sept. 6.

Yesterday, during an appearance on the web-based FoxNewsLive.com, I debated this issue with Ken Klukowski of the Family Research Council. (A portion of the debate can be seen here.) Klukowski opined that Bloomberg’s actions are some sort of affront to religion and an example of radical secularists attempting to purge religion from public life. I reminded him that on Sept. 11, millions of Americans will be praying (if they so choose) even if no clergy are part of a government-sponsored service.

Nevertheless, the Religious Right keeps piling on. Klukowski’s FRC is sponsoring a petition to demand that Bloomberg reverse course. So is TV preacher Pat Robertson’s American Center for Law and Justice. American Family Association blogger Bryan Fischer asserts, with absolutely no evidence, that Bloomberg barred all clergy because he doesn’t want to deal with Muslim clerics. (That’s OK with Fischer – he says such prayers should be limited to Christians and Jews anyway.)

It seems unfathomable to the Religious Right that perhaps Bloomberg is telling the truth and that he’d rather focus the remembrance on the families who lost their loved ones during that tragic day. It seems a fitting tribute to me.

This is just another example of Religious Right groups whipping up hysteria over a manufactured controversy. I expect them to do this when they’re blasting Obama or trying to raise money and get in the media with phony claims of a “war on Christmas” or whatever. But it’s offensive to pull cheap stunts like this over the national trauma that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001.

Have these people no shame?

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God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters

Amazon.com:

Keenly observed and meticulously reported, “God’s Profits” examines the unholy alliance between a new breed of corrupt televangelists and the Republican Party, which is eagerly courting “values voters” in the nation’s largest megachurches.Author Sarah Posner exposes the activities of Kenneth Copeland, John Hagee, Rod Parsley, T.D. Jakes, and other politically connected, skillfully marketed, and increasingly influential religious leaders. Preaching the “prosperity gospel”???the notion that faith and tithing alone can ensure financial security???both in their churches and over the airwaves, these charismatic leaders scam the gullible even as they enjoy unprecedented access to top Bush Administration officials. Admired by Republican strategists for their antigovernment ideology and authoritarian leadership styles, these televangelists work together to maximize profits; protect themselves legally; influence elections, judicial nominations, and promote their pro-war, apocalyptic ideas.

From the Back Cover:

* GOD’S PROFITS is is a fascinating and important investigation into the sordid nexus between religious zealotry and run-amok capitalism. Sarah Posner has given us a vivid account of a new generation of spiritual hucksters whose venality is nearly matched by their political influence. The story she tells is appalling, but the way she tells it is enormously compelling. — Michelle Goldberg —* Sarah Posner has produced the definitive expose of America’s leading “prosperity gospel” preachers. With direct access to the Bush White House and Republican lawmakers, these televangelists have injected their Armageddon-based agenda into U.S. foreign policy. Posner’s book should serve as a stark warning to anyone tempted to dismiss the John Hagees and Rod Parsleys of the world as benign loons. — Max Blumenthal —

* Sarah Posner’s reporting on the religious right is dogged, informed, and ceaselessly illuminating. She never condescends to rank-and-file believers; at the same time, she never excuses their leaders’ hypocrisies or fundamental misunderstanding of, and threat to, our constitutional republic. — Michael Tomasky —

* Sarah Posner introduces us to the stars of a new evangelical movement who have declared welfare Satanic, poverty a religious curse, and redistribution of wealth “contrary to the word of God.” GOD’S PROFITS serves as an urgent warning about their toxic and corrupting effect on American politics. — Esther Kaplan —

* GOD’S PROFITS is an astounding tale of religious hucksterism–and its role in politics–as big and crass as the ostentatious empires of the Word of Faith movement itself. It features a cast of charlatans, demagogues, con men, and the pols and presidents who pander to them. It is also a window on the rise of the Bush family dynasty and details how John Hagee, Rod Parsley, and their ilk treat faith as a cheap political commodity on its behalf. — Frederick Clarkson —

About the Author:

Joe Conason is the national correspondent for the “New York Observer,” where he writes a political column that is distrubuted by the United Features Syndicate. He is also a contributing editor for “Talk” magazine and a contributer to Salon.com. His writing has appeared in” The Nation, Harper’s, The New Yorker, “and many other publications.
Gene Lyons won the National Magazine Award in 1980. He has written extensively for “Newsweek, Harper’s The Nation, The New Review of Books, Texas Monthly, Entertainment Weekly,” and many other magazines. His books include “The Higher Illiteracy” (University of Arkansas, 1988), “Widow’s Web” (Simon & Schuster, 1993), and “Fools for Scanda”l (Franklin Square, 1996). He writes a political column for the “Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.”

Obama outlines right-wing program in “jobs” speech

The speech to Congress underscored the unwillingness and inability of the US financial aristocracy and its two parties to implement a single meaningful measure to aid the 25 million Americans unable to find full time work.

By Bill Van Auken
9 September 2011

“The speech delivered by President Barack Obama to a joint session of Congress Thursday night was billed as the presentation of a new government initiative to confront the worst unemployment crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Instead, it underscored yet again the unwillingness and inability of the US financial elite and its two major parties to implement a single meaningful measure to aid the 25 million Americans who are unable to find full time work.”

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Atheists: Gov’t Spending Millions in Tax Money to Covert Soldiers to Christianity

By American Atheists on Sep 4, 2011

By Justin Griffin

Chris Rodda wrote an extensive exposé on the amount of your taxpayer money being spent on converting soldiers and their children to Christianity.

Your money

— The Soldier Fitness Tracker that includes the mandatory Spiritual Fitness testing and the equally mandatory remedial training. $125,000,000

— The Spiritual Fitness Center at Fort Hood, Texas (many more to come!) – Often described as a ‘mega church’, the building even has religious stained glass windows. They are stocked with video games, phone cards, and other incentives. Packaged with a religious message. This is in addition to the numerous chapels on every post. $30,000,000

— Spiritual Fitness concert series at Fort Lee and Fort Eustis – Invariably evangelical Christian messages and performers. You’re on notice for a future Rock Beyond Belief event, by the way. $678,470 (performer fees only)

— Strong Bonds and other Spiritual Fitness Retreats – These are marriage counseling seminars held at luxurious vacation spots. Notoriously stuffed to the brim with evangelical messages. There are ‘sue-proof’ teaching materials that are often offered up as a defense, but it’s a shallow ruse. When I went to one I literally counted 57 instances where I was offended by the overt religiosity (“The family that prays together stays together…” “Bless this lunch break, oh heavenly father” etc…) *$30,000,000  (*Annually) 

— Williamsburg Christian Retreat Center – hosting Spiritual Fitness retreats $120,000

— Peninsula Baptist Association’s Eastover Retreat Center – hosting Spiritual Fitness retreats $75,000

— American Baptist Church Conf. Center – hosting Spiritual Fitness retreats $53,000

— Quail Ministries – Christian music and comedy during Strong Bonds marriage counseling retreats. Like those awful variety-show acts you sit through during a cheesy school assembly. $84,000

— “Serving Christ Through Baseball” program – entertainment during Strong Bonds marriage counseling retreats. Title says it all… or not. I’m still scratching my head on that one. $80,000

— Military Community Youth Ministries – evangelism targeted at children (even stalking them on their way to the school bus) $12,346,333

— Cadence International – aimed at converting children to Christ, as well as citizens of foreign countries in the nations that they operate in. $2,671,603 

Keep in mind that it is entirely outside of the scope of the Chaplaincy and the DoD’s other religious support to convert new people to a particular faith. They are certainly expected to tend to their ‘flock’, but not to grow it.

Is it evangelism? (yes)

Sometimes outsiders may not understand the smokescreen from terms like “Spiritual Fitness”. Some people might not recognize the evangelical creep from a cursory glance. Even a (very) small number of atheists have written to tell me that they had no problem with the questions on the Spiritual Fitness test.

They buy the claim that “Spiritual Fitness = Team Spirit” Or they claim to have no problem being “Spiritual Atheists” (focusing on the beauty of the universe, music, art, etc…) These justifications fail hard when faced with the reality of the situation we foxhole atheists face. These rationalizations are not consistent with the over-the-top “get right with god so you don’t kill yourself” message that was intended all along.

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BOOK: “The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church,”

Amazon.com:

Review: ‘Boyd’s intervention into the discussion is welcome. He is bold,… passionate, and discerning, while still attempting to be charitable. Boyd doesn’t pull punches, denouncing the nationalistic ‘idolatry’ of American evangelicalism, which often fuses the cross and the flag. Boyd also calls without apology for a renewed Christian commitment to nonviolence, citing the Anabaptist refrains of John Howard Yoder, Stanley Hauerwas, and Lee Camp. But Boyd’s claims can’t be dismissed as mere ranting of a Christian leftist. Rather, one senses that his are the expressions of a pastor’s broken heart which, every once in a while, bubbles over into a kind of restrained, low-boil anger.’ — Christianity Today

From the Back Cover: The Path through Politics Is Not the Road to God When the kingdom of God is manifested, it will wear the face of Jesus Christ. And that, says author Gregory Boyd, has never been true of any earthly government or power. Through close examination of Scripture and lessons drawn from history, Dr. Boyd argues that evangelical Christians who align themselves too closely with political causes or declare that they want to bring America back to God are actually doing harm both to the body of Christ and society in general. Boyd shows how Jesus taught us to seek a power-under kingdom, where greatness is measured by sacrifice and service. There are no sides or enemies because we are meant to embrace and accept everyone. In The Myth of a Christian Nation, Dr. Boyd challenges readers to return to the true love of Calvary and the message of the cross setting the “power-over” politics of worldly government aside.

The Lost Years, Jesus Christ as a Teenager

By Pastor John Piper on Apr 7, 2009

Luke 2:41-52

Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom; and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the company, they went a day’s journey, and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances; and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions; and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when they saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.” And he said to them, “How is it that you sought me? Did you now know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying which he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and grew in favor with God and man.

This is the only story in the gospels about Jesus between his infancy and his public ministry as a man. Some have argued that the story is a legend created by the early church to fill in some of the gaps in their knowledge of Jesus’ life. What shall we say to this claim?

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NATO-backed Libyan regime persecutes black Africans

The persecution and killing of black immigrants and Libyans is a devastating refutation of all those who claimed that imperialist war could bring democracy to Libya. They bear full political responsibility for the war’s cost in destroyed or ruined lives.

Peter Symonds, 9 September 2011,

The widespread racist persecution of immigrant African workers and black Libyans by forces opposed to Libyan ruler Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is a damning indictment of Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) and its Western backers.

The US and its European allies launched their neo-colonial war against the Gaddafi regime on the pretext of protecting civilians and have hailed their new client regime as the beginning of a new era of democracy in Libya. Mass racist reprisals in NTC-held areas are yet another devastating exposure of these tattered lies. As well as killing and maiming civilians through its relentless bombing, NATO bears responsibility for the arbitrary arrest, physical abuse or extra-judicial killings of thousands of black Africans by its NTC proxies.

US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called for an end to the systematic detention of black Africans accused of fighting as Gaddafi’s mercenaries. HRW regional director Sarah Leah Whitson stated: “It’s a dangerous time to be dark-skinned in Tripoli. The NTC should stop arresting African migrants and black Libyans unless it has concrete evidence of criminal activity. It should also take concrete steps to protect them from violence and abuse.”

,…,

The US and the European powers, who had collaborated closely with Gaddafi over the previous decade, turned on their former ally to seize critical oil resources and establish the NTC as a proxy regime—serving as a bulwark against the revolutionary uprisings against US-backed dictatorships in Egypt and other countries of the Middle East.

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Bachmann Hurricane: Just One Example of 2012 Republican Candidates’ Dangerous Religious Rhetoric

By Maggie Astor | August 29, 2011 3:30 PM EDT

Gov. Rick Perry called on Texans to pray for an end to the worst drought in the state’s history. A few months later, he held a prayer rally to ask Jesus for guidance and forgiveness for President Obama’s political sins. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann said last year that God would curse the United States if it stopped supporting Israel. And on Monday, she claimed that Hurricane Irene was a sign from God that the U.S. should cut spending.

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Virginia imposes stricter regulations on abortion providers

By Nikolai Barrickman and Naomi Spencer, 8 September 2011

A new Virginia law requires women’s health clinics to comply with far stricter regulations. The change will effectively limit women’s access to abortions and other gynecological care.

The new requirements were enacted August 27 by the state legislature and signed into law by Republican Governor Robert McDonnell. The rules are a product of an item included in the Virginia budget bill passed earlier this year which reclassified abortion clinics as hospital facilities. The law will go before the Virginia Board of Health for a final vote on September 15.

Highlighting the anti-democratic nature of the change, the law was passed using a fast-track “emergency” process which allows bills to bypass required public notice and comment periods traditionally allowed in cases where such legislation is being considered.

The change will impose onerous new regulations on abortion providers, such as a requirement to maintain hallways at least 5 feet wide. Rooms in which the procedures are to take place must be at least 250 feet in size. Clinics must allow for an additional 50 feet of janitorial space per room. Providers must also have separate scrub rooms and spaces provided for patients in case of overnight stays.

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Republican presidential debate highlights further shift to the right

By Patrick Martin
9 September 2011

The Republican presidential debate in California Wednesday night marked a further shift to the right of the entire US political establishment. For the first time in modern US history, a major capitalist politician openly advocated the destruction of Social Security, the principal retirement program for tens of millions of elderly Americans.

Excerpt:

One incident late in the debate cast a chilling light over both the Republican candidates and the audience that had gathered in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, a Los Angeles suburb, to hear them.

Brian Williams asked, “Governor Perry, a question about Texas. Your state has executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times. Have you…”

At this point, the question was interrupted by a spontaneous ovation from the audience for the blood on Perry’s hands. The Texas governor, in office five years longer than George W. Bush, has long since surpassed Bush in ordering executions.

Williams was clearly taken aback by this response, but continued to ask the question, “Have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent?” Perry blithely rejected any such concern, declaring himself completely impervious to any doubts. Perhaps that is why he singled out only one action of Barack Obama for praise: the US military raid that assassinated Osama bin Laden.

Williams then asked, “What do you make of that dynamic that just happened here, the mention of the execution of 234 people drew applause?” Perry embraced his audience’s applause for state-sanctioned killing, declaring, “I think Americans understand justice.”

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