Saturday, November 13, 2004

Teaching Theology as Science, It’s the Law!


With a vote last month, the school board in rural south-central Pennsylvania community is believed to have become the first in the nation to mandate the teaching of "intelligent design," which holds that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by an unspecified higher power.

Intelligent design is but the latest in a series of bizarre notions promoted by Political Evangelicals. Traditionally, for an idea to be considered scientific it needed the support of a large body of peer reviewed research. There is no such body of research to support Intelligent Design. Yes, ID advocates have created some very nice looking web sites and published a number of books that sell like hot cakes at Christian book stores. But to date the movement's advocates have failed to produce a meaningful body of peer reviewed scientific work. When considered in this light we must conclude that ID is the lowest form of pseudoscience.

Lacking any scientific validity, Intelligent design advocates have decided to force their bizarre ideas into our society through legal means rather than the persuasiveness of sound scientific reasoning. As someone who attends an Evangelical church I can tell you that within the world of Political Evangelicalism, Intelligent Design is hot. It is also an absolute nonsense. The people who are promoting Intelligent Design believe they are right not because of the merits of their argument or because of an abundance of scientific evidence but because they believe God is on their side. With this mind set any tactic is acceptable when it comes to spreading ID. Since ID can't be introduced into school curriculums on its scientific merits ID proponents will use the force of law.

Barbara Forrest has written an excellent piece on who these people are and what their grand strategy is. ID advocates have a plan to force their ideas down our children's throats. The reeducation camps are open and ID is first on the curriculum list.

Here is a link to Talkorigins. If you want to learn about the current state of biological evolution, which is formidably sound, read the FAQ at Talkorigins. If you want to be frightened by appalling ignorance then read the Talkorigins feedback page to see how angry Political Evangelicals can become when confronted by solid data. The fight is now for the minds of our children.

How Much Trouble are We In?

This chart was created in Excel using data from the Economic Report of the President as Transmitted to Congress in 2003. This is President Bush's data. It's scary. One of the things that I have always found distressing when dealing with Political Evangelicals is that they never let objective facts get in the way of bad decision making. I can talk about "facts" and present "data" but what I usually hear in response is, "All I know is that he loves the Lord." I am glad the President Bush "Loves the Lord" because he is digging us a hole so deep that only God will be able to get us out of it.

Case in point-The above chart shows Federal Surpluses and Deficits going back to 1961 along with the ever growing national debt. Democratic administrations are in Blue and Republican Administrations are in Red. Notice something? The Democrats have this odd habit of balancing their budgets. President Carter did not balance his budget but he did dramatically cut the deficit left to him by President Ford. President Carter did this without raising taxes and while dramatically increasing defense spending. President Clinton not only balanced his budget, he ran the largest surplus in US history. If you are a Republican or a Political Evangelical you are probably saying all kinds of nasty things right now, things that I cannot write if I want to keep this blog. Go on, say bad words, get it out of your system. Done? Just remember this data came from President George W. Bush. I know this data is correct because President Bush "loves the Lord."

See the squiggly line going down? That's the money that the Federal Government is borrowing every single year to cover the amount of money it is spending in excess of the money it is taking in. See how it goes up under President Clinton? See how it goes down under President Bush? President Bush is borrowing money faster than a drunken frat boy in a Liquor Barn. About $400 billion and climbing for 2004. But President Bush does not drink because he "Loves the Lord." However, President Bush does want to make the tax cut permanent. How are we paying for these tax cuts? Remember the squiggly line?

There is another line on this chart, it is going up. The the line that is going up is the National Debt. This is like the balance that is accumulated on a credit card when you don't pay off your monthly balance. This line is moving up to the $8 trillion mark. Debt is T-bills. I have T-Bills, but mostly the Chinese and Japanese have T-Bills. China and Japan are like Visa or Mastercard. Are you comfortable with that?

President Bush wants to work this same magic on Social Security, God help us.
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Friday, November 12, 2004

Stickers for Science!

“Georgia's education chief tried to take the word "evolution" out of the state's science curriculum. Now a suburban Atlanta county is in federal court over textbook stickers that call evolution "a theory, not a fact."

Imagine, scientists in Georgia think this is going to give their schools a bad name. Go figure?

I understand these same people want to put stickers on all of our atomic bombs stating "Relativity (E=MC^2) is just a Theory.”

As the Red states go, so goes the nation.

More Words of Healing from our "Christian" Leaders

Not to be out done by Bob Jones III, Dr. Kennedy chimes in from Coral Ridge:

“Now that values voters have delivered for George Bush, he must deliver for their values,” said Dr. Kennedy, whose national television and radio programs reach an audience of three million weekly. “The defense of innocent unborn human life, the protection of marriage, and the nomination and confirmation of federal judges who will interpret the Constitution, not make law from the bench, must be first priorities, come January.”

Did someone leave the steamroller on?

Why We Should All be Scared Today, and Fight Like Heck Tomorrow

This is from a letter written by Bob Jones III of Bob Jones University (the pounding heart of Christian Fundamentalism) to George W. Bush:

Don't equivocate. Put your agenda on the front burner and let it boil. You owe the liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise your Christ. Honor the Lord, and He will honor you.

Let the healing begin, not.

I'm scared, and more than a little fed up.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

"Why Don't People Love Us?" Part 2

Take a Presbyterian minister with rugged good looks and a soothing baritone voice, merge this John Birch society style rabid nationalism and you get Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. Coral Ridge is the home Dr. D. James Kennedy who heads Coral Ridge Ministries and television's breathtakingly well choreographed Coral Ridge Hour. With an annual budget estimated at roughly $40 million (1), Coral Ridge makes no pretence about who they are or what they are doing.

Unlike Dr. Dobson's Focus on the Family, Coral Ridge's Dr. Kennedy is up-front with his scary behavior and bizarre beliefs. On the other hand, it's all packaged so nicely with that "Franklin Day Planner American Colonial We are Safely in Control" image that even us cowering blue staters are left feeling strangely warm. Snap out of it!

What is Coral Ridge Ministries? Remember a certain 5,280 pound block of granite that was plunked down late one night in a certain Alabama Court House? Remember Alabama Chief Justice Moore, the self described "Ten Commandments judge?" Guess who paid the legal fees? Guess who filmed the late night installation of said monument for use in fund raising? Guess who staged the whole sorry affair in its never-ending effort to tear our nation apart?

Coral Ridge is a center in what is known as the Christian Reconstructionism. Christian Reconstructionism arose out of conservative Presbyterianism in the early 1970's. Followers believe "that every area dominated by sin must be 'reconstructed' in terms of the Bible."(2)

What will you find at Coral Ridge? See for yourself: A little digging (very little) yields these precious gems:

- The Center for Reclaiming America
- The Center for Christian Statesmanship
- Impact Newsletter

As for positive media portrayals, Dr. Kennedy, like Dr. Dobson, does his own media and blasts it out to Political Evangelicals through the internet, broadcast television and direct mail on a nation wide basis using the most sophisticated tools of database marketing. These people do not simply believe in God nor do they simply love their country. Dr. Kennedy and his followers believe that God has endowed them and only them with the ability to lead this nation. Blue staters need not apply.

A note to my Evangelical friends, while dictators and propagandists always paint themselves as heroic, history rarely does. While Coral Ridge's carefully crafted image of God and Country may make the hearts of Political Evangelicals swell with pride it fills the rest of the world with a sense of fear and dread similar to what was felt when hearing the phrase, "Germany for Germans."

Whether or not Evangelicals agree with Dr. Kennedy's theology, they need to realize that Coral Ridge is increasingly becoming the face of American Evangelicalism.

(1) Based on estimates of $24 million for Coral Ridge Ministries and $16 million for Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church (I will need to get a better source for this data).

(2) From Religious

"Why Don't People Love Us?" Part 1

Your man is in the White House, you own the House of Representatives and the Senate and you can almost smell dry cleaning fumes coming off the robes of the new Supreme Court Justices you are about to appoint. You now run the most powerful economic, political and military power in known human history. So, how do you feel? Christians feel persecuted. I am not talking about Christians living in the Sudan or Saudi Arabia or Iran, I'm talking about Christians right here in Red State Jesus Land. I have spoken with the people I go to Church with and Evangelical family members and they all feel very put upon. Why does the media portray us in such a bad light? I had a comment on the first posting I made to this blog lamenting how badly Christians come off in the media. There seems to be some genuine confusion. Maybe I can help clear this up.

In this posting, the first of a three part series, we will take a look at some Evangelical web sites. These sites are cutting edge, Red State, Jesus Land, Evangelical fare. Now, if you are an Evangelical this will seem like pretty mundane stuff. You know, images of life that are so obvious they go by unnoticed like green grass and pretty roses.

First on the menu is Focus on the Family. Focus on the Family is headed up by Dr. James Dobson and has an annual budget estimated at approximately $130 million (1). Focus is probably the most prominent and powerful unifying force in American Political Evangelicalism (2). These are just a bunch of nice people who love Jesus, love children and who want to help you find ways to make your family stronger:

Good stuff, games and videos for the kids, cool reading for teens and oodles of advice for mom and dad. Then you scroll down the left side and see under the innocuous heading of "Public Policy" and link to "Family News in Focus" (an ironic title to be sure) which leads to these happy headlines:

- Groups Issue Call to Action on Specter
- Gays Launch Post-Election Marriage Assault
- Liberal Clergy Say Don't Vote Your Values
- Evolution Sticker on Trial
- Kerry's Faith Still Questioned
- Catholics Question Kerry's Faith

Welcome to the world of Culture War. Nice. Even if you are a red state conservatives you may find yourself gagging just a little. Perhaps Dr. Dobson should focus on his own family. It's hard enough shielding my children from soft core porn on conservative friendly Fox Television (home of Fox News) without having to worry about my web surfing kiddies stumbling on "Focus on the Family" or "Dr. D's Den of Disinformation" as we call it.

Perhaps what is most disturbing (this week anyway) is that taking total control of the United States has not satisfied the good Dr. Dobson. Focus on the Family is now lobbying for the removing of moderate Republican Senator Arlen Specter. Seems that Senator Specter, heir apparent to the Senate Judiciary committee chairmanship is pro-choice. Red State America its not even safe being for Republicans anymore. You know the revolution has turned bad when the coup members start shooting their own.

As for media portrayals, no amount of makeup can cover the black eye Focus on the family has given Christianity.

(1) Estimate taken from "Christianity Today."

(2) Hence forth we will be using the term Political Evangelicalism rather than simply Christian Evangelical or Conservative Christians. This change is language reflects the decidedly ambiguous nature of the American Evangelical movement. It is no longer clear whether the primary goal of American Evangelicalism is furthering the Kingdom or God or Furthering the agenda of the Republican National Committee; two decidedly different objectives.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

How the Rest of the World Sees Us

Oh come on, you know its just a matter of time.

Posted by Hello

But think of all of the advantages:
- Only one star on the flag (and on top of the Christmas tree for that matter)
- All of those pesky Democrats can actually go to Canada or rather Canada comes to them
- Its like one big reeducation camp only with hymns

Kinda makes you wish you had been "Left Behind"

Social Security - Avoiding Folly

The following question was submitted on Social Security:

"I am not up on this so I won't pretend to be. However, why does allocating some moneys into personal retirement destroy social security? It seems to me that all that is needed are some safety valves (e.g., HUGE penalties for--or flat out prohibitions of--making early withdrawals; limitation to investment in index funds, etc.). Taking money out of SS and letting individuals invest themselves only results, it seems to me, in the individuals reaping the consequences of their own actions. Those who invest wisely (e.g., S&P500 index, with a historic rate of over 10%) will probably kick SS in the pants. Those who do so poorly will be out of luck (hence the need for safety valves). But reallocating some of SS also means that less will be drawn from how does this result in the funds disappearing in 1/3 the time? Help me out here. "

I am not an expert either, but I'll take a crack at it. On the surface, the idea of creating individual retirement accounts with SS seems like a good one. After all, it is my money isn’t it? The problem is that SS does not accumulate money in your name like an IRA or 401K plan. When you pay SS taxes a large portion of what you pay goes directly to those receiving SS benefits. The rest is replaced with special treasure bonds. SS explains it this way on their web site:

"Presently, Social Security collects more in taxes than it pays in benefits. The excess is borrowed by the U.S. Treasury, which in turn issues special-issue Treasury bonds to Social Security. These bonds totaled $1.5 trillion at the beginning of 2004, and Social Security receives more than $80 billion annually in interest from them. However, Social Security is still basically a "pay-as-you-go" system as the $1.5 trillion is a small percent of benefit obligations."

An analogy (I am really not good with analogies) is a water tank that is being filled at the rate of 2 gallon per minute while an open faucet drains the tank at one gallon per minute. Net, we are filling the tank at one gallon per minute – this is the surplus. As the population ages it is like opening the faucet wider (or adding more faucets) until sometime around the year 2043 we find the tank drained. After 2043 we would need to close the faucet 27% (per worker) to stay even. Individual retirement accounts have the effect of reducing the inflow into the general fund while the amount being taken from the trust remains the same. While the outflow will be reduced somewhat in the future due to the use of SS individual retirement accounts, this will not occur until long after we have drained the fund - remember that the holders of these accounts won't be retiring for some time while we need to fund current retirees today. Rather than draining the fund in 38 years we will do in ½ to 1/3 the time. This means that the benefits will have to either be drastically reduced, taxes will need to go up or the Federal Government will need to start pumping funds into the system (remember they were taking funds out of the system).

The following link is to a reform plan being promoted by the Brookings Institute which, like most things from Brookings, seems well thought out:

P.S. I will drop the heading "stupid pond" and replace it with "Folly" in honor of Tuchman's "March of Folly"

Monday, November 08, 2004

Getting Along - A Thoughtful Comment

I had at least two reasons for creating this blog, one was to let off a little of the steam that I accumulate from identifying with the political left while living with the Religious Right. The second was to stimulate some small amount of thoughtful discourse between these two worlds that now seem to be in full collision. With that in mind, "guerrilla dove" did generate yet another thoughtful comment:

"i will agree with frank on one issue: most of my friends who are liberal are contemptuous of the conservative right. we like to label them: quacks, hillbillies, uneducated, unenlightened troglodyte. i have yet to hear one of my friends actually listen to what they have to say. "gay marriage won't destroy the institution of marriage!" we scream and scream it, fists in our ears.

this approach isn't working. bush and kerry failed to get discourse going. they devolved into political platitudes: "he's a flip-flopper", "unfortunately, this president has failed you." they appealed to our basest instincts, our fear of those who think differently than we do, terrified of constructive debate. don't ask americans to articulate their fears clearly. just become the figurehead of those fears, and hope you have more fearful people behind you than they do. guess what, liberal folks? the way the issues are divided right now, they win."

I would encourage you to read the complete comment under the November 5, 2004 post "Getting Along".

Sunday, November 7 – Not a word at Church about the Election

You would think it never happened. The Evangelical-in-chief was restored to the throne on November 2 with the proud support of the Evangelical movement and no one at our church said a word about it (at least to me). Odd. Then again, I go to an Evangelical church in Southern California. I asked about the politics thing and the impression was that Churches in the Midwest and South (not south California) were probably whooping it up. Even so, I know that people in our church were overwhelmingly supportive of the President’s re-election. There were a few of us Kerry people as well. I suspect there were a few of us in every church spreading a little salt and light.

So, if we don’t talk about politics in church, and we rarely do, where does the support come from? Who rallies the troops? Well, if you watched the Sunday morning news shows you saw where it was coming from, Dr. James Dobson. Dobson was upset because Senator Specter, who is set to take over the Senate Judiciary committee made statements that sounded moderate and reasonable. This is unacceptable, at least to Dobson.

I had never heard of Dobson before being exposed to the Evangelical church. Dobson is the heartbeat of modern American Evangelicalism (they tell me Jesus is important but Dobson has a better web site). Dobson’s “Ministry” is called Focus on the Family and it is the movement’s rallying point and department of dis-information. If you want to understand who the religious right is you need to go to the source and check these folks out. You should make it a point to check up on them regularly.

Focus on the Family is not the only place that joins Evangelicalism with politics, there are others, but these guys are big. I don't think all Evangelicals like Dobson, but he has an enormous influence.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Ronald Reagan Did not Win the Cold War, at Least Not Single Handedly

Flush with victory, I noticed more editorials in today's newspaper about Reagan winning the cold war. With this in mind I submit the following:

While his most ardent supporters are clamoring to give President Reagan full credit for ending the cold war I would note, humbly, they do a disservice both to their cherished hero and millions of others who fought for decades to bring about an end to the threat of communist aggression.

In bestowing sole credit on Reagan for ending the cold war we do a disservice to President Truman who ordered the Berlin Airlift during his confrontation with the Soviets. We also ignore Truman’s and Eisenhower's stand against communism in Korea, as well as the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of American service men and women who served in that conflict. Kennedy stood firmly against the Soviets over missiles in Cuba. Johnson's escalation of the war in Vietnam, a painful memory for many in our nation, was none-the-less a stand against communist aggression. Nixon had the foresight and courage to establish relations with China creating a powerful eastern front against the Soviets in the cold war. President Carter imposed stiff economic sanctions against the Soviets while undertaking one of the largest defense buildups in peace-time US history. We also forget the legacy of George Bush Sr. who presided over the Soviet Union's final demise.

President Reagan's supportesr also detract from the courage of the Hungarian people who rose up against the Soviets in 1956 and threatened to remove their nation from the Warsaw pact; an action undertaken at enormous risk and at terrible cost. Also forgotten is the courage of the Czechoslovakians whose attempt to create "socialism with a human face" was brutally crushed in August of 1968 ending "Prague Spring." What of the founding of the Solidarity trade union in Gdansk, Poland in 1980 and the uprising of the East German people who toppled the Berlin Wall in 1989, an event prompted in large measure by a visit just days earlier by Mikhail Gorbachev? These bold acts of defiance each took their toll on the Soviet Empire.

Finally, we must remember the legacy of Mikhail Gorbachev who introduced glasnost ("openness") and perestroika ("restructuring"). It was Gorbachev who renounced the Brezhnev Doctrine and allowed those nations trapped behind the iron curtain to turn to democracy. Indeed, could President Reagan's dramatic results in arms reduction have been achieved so quickly without his partnership with Mikhail Gorbachev?

If President Reagan's place in cold war history seems large it is because he was standing on the shoulders of so many others who fought and seriously weakened the Soviet menace. As we rightfully honor President Reagan let us not forget everyone who fought and won the cold war. President Reagan, a man of self-deprecating humor and humble spirit, would have asked no less.