Thursday, June 30, 2005

Keggers for Christ?

In its weekly "Sheeps and Goats" column, the San Diego Reader, an edgy Southern California lifestyles magazine, reviews houses of worship in the San Diego area. Last week The Resolved, a new church plant in Pacific Beach, was reviewed.

The review begins: . . .

"Beer is one of our core values. We enjoy it and like to drink it. Drinking is part of our culture and a great way to spend time with others," said Pastor Justin Bragg of The Resolved church. "The American church has perpetuated this separatist movement that we shouldn't mix with nonbelievers. We want to go where people are. We don't expect people to come to us. In [Pacific Beach], people are at the bars, parties, and drinking beer, so this is where we go." The Resolved church plans to have a Theology on Tap night for people to meet over a few pitchers of beer to talk about God. "We definitely hold to scripture, so we don't get drunk when we go, but we believe we need to be in the world, not of the world," said Bragg. "It's messy and I know we will make errors along the way, but our confidence is in Christ, and we rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us."

Be sure to click the link and read the entire review, and then tell me if you think that Justin Bragg and his fellow pastor Duane Smets are truly emulating Jesus by hanging out where the sinners are (Matthew 9:11-13), or are they just a couple of well-meaning but misguided guys out for a good time?

Hat tip to Lynn Vincent at World Magazine Blog.
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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Legalizing Same-Sex Marriages in Canada

By Alexander Samuels

Despite opposition from conservatives and religious groups, Canada's House of Commons yesterday approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. The legislation known as C-38 passed by a margin of 158 to 133. The bill must next make it through the liberal-dominated Senate and is expected to do so. When the bill becomes law, Canada would become . . . the third nation to approve same-sex marriages following the examples of the Netherlands and Belgium.

An Agape Press article from last week reported that Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin was so in favor of this bill, he had vowed to keep Parliament in session until it could be passed.

In that same article, pro-family activist Brian Rushfeldt of the Canada Family Action Coalition pointed out that his research indicated that only about 3,000 homosexual couples, less than 0.05 percent of the total Canadian population, would even take advantage of the law. He told Agape Press, "Of course, they don't want those figures to come out publicly because it is so minute that people are going to [ask] 'Why did we go through all of this for that few Canadians?' There's something wrong with the system that allows that."

Rushfeldt believes that this type of extreme activism by the prime minister demonstrates that the citizens of Canada no longer live in a democracy. He said, "Even the suggestion that we extend Parliament to try and ram through a piece of legislation, such as the Marriage Amendment Act, is nothing short of socialist, dictatorship-style leadership—in fact, it's not leadership at all; it is dictatorship."

Previously, Canada had passed legislation that limits public discussion of homosexual behavior. Canadian law does not allow anyone to publicly speak against homosexual behavior even for religious reasons. In recent months, radio stations that had allowed pastors to speak out on these issues during broadcasts have been heavily fined.

One cannot help but wonder if the United States will eventually pass similar laws. If and when that day comes, will American Christians follow the examples of Peter and John (Acts 4:18-20) and continue to speak out against the homosexual lifestyle even if laws are passed forbidding it?

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Jewish Group to Fight Anti-Christian Bias

By Alexander Samuels

In an Agape Press article last week by Bill Fancher and Jenni Parker, we were informed that an organization called Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation (JAACD) has been created to confront . . . attacks against Christians in the courts, politics, the news media, Hollywood and the educational system. Don Feder, who is a Boston radio talk-show host, is president of the organization.

Feder told Agape Press that the JAACD was started "because a group of Jewish Americans—authors, scholars, columnists, radio talk-show hosts, people in the media and politics—decided that it was important for Jews as Jews to speak out against anti-Christian bias and discrimination." Feder pointed out at a press conference earlier this year that Christians in America "are under assault because of the values they embrace; but the morality of Christianity is also the morality of Judaism."

Feder said that he and fellow members of the JAACD—who include comedian Jackie Mason, radio talk-show host Michael Medved, syndicated columnist Mona Charen and best-selling author David Horowitz—decided to step forward because they believe "Christians are the last remaining obstacle to the moral deconstruction of America."

Feder is the author of A Jewish Conservative Looks at Pagan America and Who’s Afraid of the Religious Right?

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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Do Our Beliefs Need to Be on Public Display?

In response to the two rulings on Monday by the U.S. Supreme Court on the public display of the Ten Commandments, Cal Thomas, in his column today, poses a thought-provoking question for conservative Christians: . . .

While critics of these mostly anti-religious rulings are right in scolding the court for its misinterpretation of the Constitution, are such persons also in violation of the will of the very God they claim to represent? Why, in fact, do such people feel the need for public displays representing what they believe? Isn't this a kind of false security, similar to airport security screeners?

Religious activists fool themselves if they believe public displays of the Ten Commandments reflect a more moral and less corrupt nation. One needs only to watch television to discern the level of our depravity.

God dismissed the visible sacrifices of the ancient Israelites when those sacrifices became rituals. In their hearts and behavior, they worshipped false gods. Their actions did not match their doctrines. Do those advocating for more public displays of religion privately practice what they publicly preach? If they did, the influence of their proclaimed righteousness might reach all the way to the Supreme Court. Whether it did, or not, it would reach all the way to their God.

Should we as Christians be all that concerned about whether our beliefs are visibly represented in the public square? Does God really need the State to promote Him?
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Joel Osteen Apologizes for Larry King Appearance

In an open letter on his Web site, best-selling author and Texas preacher Joel Osteen has apologized for the way he conducted himself in an interview on CNN's "Larry King Live" on Monday, June 20. Osteen writes: . . .

It was never my desire or intention to leave any doubt as to what I believe and Whom I serve. I believe with all my heart that it is only through Christ that we have hope in eternal life. I regret and sincerely apologize that I was unclear on the very thing in which I have dedicated my life.

Jesus declared in John 14;
I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me. I believe that Jesus Christ alone is the only way to salvation. However, it wasn't until I had the opportunity to review the transcript of the interview that I realize I had not clearly stated that having a personal relationship with Jesus is the only way to heaven. It's about the individual's choice to follow Him.

I did not see the interview, but those who did told me that Osteen, whose book Your Best Life Now keeps flying off the shelf, offered some shaky theology peppered with a lot of "I don't knows" when questioned by King.

According to the transcript, when asked by King whether he was a "fire and brimstone" kind of guy, Osteen, who has no formal seminary training, said, "No. That's not me. It's never been me. I've always been an encourager at heart. . . . I don't have it in my heart to condemn people. I'm there to encourage them. I see myself more as a coach, as a motivator to help them experience the life God has for us. . . . I'm for everybody. You may not agree with me, but to me it's not my job to try to straighten everybody out. The Gospel [is] called the Good News. My message is a message of hope, that God's for you. You can live a good life no matter what's happened to you. And so I don't know. I know there is condemnation but I don't feel that's my place."

When King asked him whether people of other faiths who don't believe in Christ would go to heaven, Osteen replied, "You know, I'm very careful about saying who would and wouldn't go to heaven. I don't know. . . . Well, I don't know if I believe they're wrong. I believe here's what the Bible teaches and from the Christian faith this is what I believe." Later when asked about atheists going to heaven, he added, "I'm going to let God be the judge of who goes to heaven and hell. I just—again, I present the truth, and I say it every week. You know, I believe it's a relationship with Jesus. But you know what? I'm not going to go around telling everybody else if they don't want to believe that that's going to be their choice. God's got to look at your own heart. God's got to look at your heart, and only God knows that."

King later asked Osteen about abortion and same-sex marriages, to which Osteen replied, "You know what, Larry? I don't go there."

On the use of the word "sinners," he said, "I don't use it. I never thought about it. But I probably don't. But most people already know what they're doing wrong. When I get them to church I want to tell them that you can change. There can be a difference in your life. So I don't go down the road of condemning."

Hopefully, if his letter of apology is any indication, Joel Osteen has thought hard about the confusing message he's sending to the thousands of people in his congregation and the many thousands more who watch him on TV and read his books.

Albert Mohler summed the situation up well in a post on his blog a few days ago:
Mr. Osteen's statement is encouraging on several fronts. First, it is encouraging to know that the constituency of Joel Osteen Ministries was so upset about the interview. Second, Mr. Osteen's statement includes a clear and unambiguous affirmation of the exclusivity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Third, the timeliness of the statement underlines the importance of the issues at stake. Fourth, Mr. Osteen's apology is free from the evasions typical of the pseudo-apologies so often issued to the public. He did not say that "statements were made," but instead acknowledged that he had failed to communicate Gospel truth. The humility and honesty of the statement serve to fortify its authenticity.

This is a reminder to all of us who appear in the media. Statements made to an audience of millions are difficult to retract and are often impossible to correct. When Mr. Osteen writes, "I hope that you accept my deepest apology and see it in your heart to extend to me grace and forgiveness," the only proper response is to extend the very forgiveness for which he asks -- and with equal humility. Other concerns can wait for another day.

Hat tip to News! For Christians.
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Tom Cruise: Scientology and Christianity

By Alexander Samuels

Recently, Matt Lauer, host of NBC's "Today," went one-on-one with actor Tom Cruise. During the course of part one of the interview last Friday, Lauer remarked that Cruise's fiancee, Katie Holmes, had indicated that she was willing to . . . embrace Cruise's belief in Scientology. Lauer then asked, "At this stage in your life, could you be with someone who doesn't have an interest [in Scientology]?"

Cruise replied, "You know, Scientology is something that you don't understand. It's like, you could be a Christian and be a Scientologist, okay. Scientology is something—"

Lauer interrupted, "So, it doesn't replace religion."

Cruise answered, "It is a religion. Because it's dealing with the spirit. You are a spiritual being. It gives you tools you can use to apply to your life."

But can you really be a Christian and a Scientologist at the same time? I looked through several Christian apologetic resources and found that it is not possible to believe in both disciplines. Mr. Cruise needs to get his facts straight.

Please allow me to share with you just a few tidbits of information on this subject I found in an article by John Weldon from the Christian Research Institute:

God—Scientology teaches that there are a multitude of Thetans who, collectively with all life, could be said to comprise the Supreme Being. This contradicts Christianity, which teaches there is only one sovereign and perfect Creator God from all eternity—without beginning or end.

Man—Scientology teaches that man is an immortal spirit like the Atman in Hinduism. As in Hinduism, man may be considered a deity of sorts (Thetan) who has forgotten he is divine. The Bible rejects the idea that man is an ignorant god. Man is a creation of God, made in God's image.

Salvation—Scientology teaches that we must progress from personal ignorance and bondage to matter into enlightenment and freedom from the body and universe. At an ultimate cost of tens of thousands of dollars, one is saved by knowledge (Scientology beliefs) through good works (Scientology auditing and practice) to arrive at the highest state of "Operating Thetan." The Bible teaches that salvation is a free gift. One is redeemed from sin on the principle of grace, simply through faith in Christ's atonement.

Death—Scientology teaches reincarnation. Death may be beneficial if the spirit is released from the prison of a body. Christianity teaches that death is a one-time event. Death leads to eternal heaven or eternal hell.

The points above suggest only a few of the differences between Scientology and Christianity I have run across. In his interview with Matt Lauer, Tom Cruise was simply repeating what all Scientologists have been taught to say when trying to encourage people's interest in their "religion." The truth, however, is that Scientology and Christianity are very different and cannot be simultaneously held as beliefs.
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Monday, June 27, 2005

Bill Clinton and Billy Graham

As most of you are aware, former President Bill Clinton joined Billy Graham on stage Saturday night in New York during what was likely Graham's final American crusade. When I saw pictures of them splashed up on my AOL welcome screen yesterday, I was somewhat surprised. Not because of any negative feelings I may have about the former president but because of something I read last week.

On Thursday, the Associated Press reported: . . .

In a sign of the elder Graham's continued influence, Franklin Graham said many public figures have asked to appear with the preacher on the crusade stage this weekend. However, Franklin Graham said he rejected their requests, because he wanted the focus to stay on the Gospel. He declined to say who had asked.

I wonder why an exception was made for Bill Clinton.
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Thursday, June 23, 2005

Billy Graham's Last American Crusade

Friday night in New York City, Billy Graham will begin what is being billed as his last crusade in America. The 86-year-old evangelist, who has been in failing health in recent years, will preach each of the next three nights in a park near Shea Stadium in Queens. Seating will be available for 70,000 people, with accommodations being made for an overflow crowd.

According to an Associated Press article carried by Agape Press, the chairman of the New York crusade believes the timing couldn't be better for Rev. Graham to speak in the city: . . .

Rev. A.R. Bernard told reporters that New York is in the midst of a "religious transformation" like some "of the great revivals of the past." Bernard, who pastors the 20,000-member Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, says his church and other local evangelical, Pentecostal and charismatic churches have grown dramatically in recent years. He expects this weekend's crusade to advance what he sees as a movement of God.

Once he does step down from the ministry, Rev. Graham's successor in the pulpit will be his son Franklin, founder of his own ministry organization, Samaritan's Purse. In another AP article, the younger Graham shared how this weekend's event might affect him:
Franklin Graham, 54, who took over leadership of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association about five years ago, said he was too busy handling last-minute details of the crusade to mull its importance. Tens of thousands of people are expected to turn out each day at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park - many drawn by a final chance to see the man known as America's pastor.

But the younger Graham anticipates his mood will change Sunday, when his father makes his trademark appeal for people to come forward and accept Christ, likely for the last time before a mass audience.

"Sitting on the platform, at the invitation, with the people in front, I think maybe that's when it's going to sink in on me and hit me," Franklin Graham said in an interview Thursday with The Associated Press. "I think it will be a very reflective moment Sunday for me."

Should his father need him to, Franklin Graham is ready to step in this weekend and preach in his stead. However, the younger Graham is not anticipating that happening, as he told AP:
. . . Franklin Graham said speaking before a crowd energizes his ailing father.

"He was born for this," Franklin Graham said. "When he stands at that pulpit, God created him and I think made him for such a moment. When he's standing at the pulpit, I'm not worried one bit."

I'll be praying for Rev. Graham this weekend and for all the lives he will touch as he preaches God's Holy Word.
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The PCUSA's New Wineskins Initiative

As many mainline Christian denominations continue to stray into liberal areas of theology, there are some dedicated conservative factions within these denominations trying to stem the tide. One such group from within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is known as the . . . New Wineskins Initiative, which held a convention last week in Edina, Minnesota, that drew delegates from 85 PCUSA congregations. According to an Associated Press article today, those at the convention "endorsed platforms that laid out essential doctrines and 'ethical imperatives,' including the Bible as infallible, salvation through Jesus Christ alone, the necessity of world evangelism and rejection of gay sex and abortion."

The leaders of the New Wineskins hope that its conservative beliefs and restructuring plan will be adopted by the denomination as a whole at next year's national assembly. However, they readily admit that the possibility of a denominational split does exist.

In the article, AP religion writer Richard Ostling reports:

The Rev. David Henderson of West Lafayette, Ind., moderator of New Wineskins, sees three possibilities for the church's future:

-A thoroughly reformed denomination such as New Wineskins proposes;

-New Wineskins congregations find it necessary to leave the denomination;

-The denomination holds together, but congregations affiliate with like-minded networks within it, such as New Wineskins and liberal groups.

New Wineskins isn't schismatic, Henderson told Edina delegates, "because the schism has already happened," meaning liberals and conservatives are thoroughly divided.

The Rev. Jerry Van Marter, who covered the meeting for the church's news service, said it was "the most overt consideration of a split in the denomination that we have yet seen." Some participants are ready to leave now, he said, while others want dramatic change "but hold out very little hope for that happening."

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Cal Thomas: Advice for Christian Conservatives

Cal Thomas, in his column this week, offers some sound and sobering advice for Christian conservatives concerning our role in contemporary American politics and society. Taking a cue from former Senator and U.N. Ambassador John Danforth's recent New York Times op-ed column (free registration required), Thomas writes, "Christians are limited in what government can do for them and for an earthly agenda."

Thomas goes on to remind us that as Christians we would have . . . greater moral power and influence in society if we would get our own houses in order before preaching to others about their shortcomings. For example, he points out Barna studies that show Christian conservatives are divorcing at the same rate as non-believers, and that children of Christian conservatives are having just as much pre-marital sex as non-Christian children. "Isn't that the principle behind Jesus' story about noticing a speck in the other fellow's eye, while ignoring the beam in one's own eye?" Thomas notes.

Thomas sums up his advice with this:

The primary objective for the Christian should be to seek and to point others toward Jesus, not to political parties and agendas.

The social ills confronting us have not produced our collective indifference to a moral code. They reflect that indifference. Fixing social ills does not begin in the halls of Congress or Supreme Court, but in individual human hearts.

Government can't go there. God can. But if God's servants prefer government to God, or seek to attach God to political parties and earthly agendas, they are doomed to futility.

Hat tip to News! For Christians.
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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Secularists Fearing Theocracy

Ed Veith, posting this morning over at World Magazine Blog, makes an interesting point concerning the growing but irrational fear secularists have about Christian conservatives trying to impose a theocracy on our country. Veith writes . . . "What gains have Christians made that leads secularists to think a theocracy is imminent? That Christians are crusading against abortion and homosexuality, though with hardly any success? A few decades ago, when abortion was against the law and homosexuality was assumed by all sides to be immoral, was that a theocracy?"

In another post earlier today, Veith shares an example of "atheist activism," a movement filmmaker Brian Flemming hopes will counter religious influence in American politics. Flemming, a "Christian fundamentalist turned atheist," tells Newsweek, "I think that the United States is heading in the direction of theocracy. The problem is that we let religious people say stunningly false things and we consider it rude to question those beliefs. But we should be shunning those people." To do his part for the movement and to spread his version of the truth, Flemming has released a film titled The God Who Wasn't There, which makes the case that Jesus Christ never existed. Would Brian think it rude of us Christians to question his stunningly false assertion in his film? Or should we just shun him?

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Guantanamo's No Gulag

Despite what Amnesty International and Sen. Dick Durbin have said, the prison at Guantanamo Bay is not a "gulag of our time." At least not according to someone who should know: Pavel Litvinov, a dissident who was once imprisoned by the former Soviet Union for his beliefs. In an article from Saturday's Washington Post, Litvinov shares: . . .

By any standard, Guantanamo and similar American-run prisons elsewhere do not resemble, in their conditions of detention or their scale, the concentration camp system that was at the core of a totalitarian communist system.

For example, incidents of desecration of the Koran in Guantanamo by U.S. personnel have been widely reported. But those Korans were surely not brought to Guantanamo by the prisoners themselves from Afghanistan. They were supplied by the U.S. administration -- in spite of the obvious fact that most of the prisoners misguidedly found in the Koran the inspiration for their violent hatred of the United States.

By contrast, Russian author Andrei Sinyavsky, who was sentenced in 1966 to seven years' forced labor for his writing, was approached one evening soon after his arrival in a labor camp by a prisoner who quietly asked Sinyavsky whether he wanted to listen to a recital of the biblical account of the apocalypse. (Possession of a Bible was strictly prohibited in the gulag.) The man took Sinyavsky to the furnace room, where a group of people were squatting in the dark recesses. In the light of the furnace flame, one of the men got up and started to recite the biblical passages by heart. When he stopped, the stoker, an old man, said: "And now you, Fyodor, continue." Fyodor got up and recited from the next chapter. The whole text of the Bible was distributed among these prisoners, ordinary Russians who were spending 10 to 25 years in the gulag for their religious beliefs. They knew the texts by heart and met regularly to repeat them so that they would not forget.

Hat tip to Ed Veith at World Magazine Blog.
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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Which Theologian Are You?

Have you ever wondered whether your beliefs are more in line with John Calvin, Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, Augustine, Anselm or some other great theologian? Or is the doctrine you adhere to a mixture of the teachings of some or all of the above? To find out . . . take this quiz at QuizFarm.com. And then let Carolina Christian Conservative know which theologian you are. I'm apparently an Anselm.

Hat tip to Joanna Veith at World Magazine Blog.

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Hollywood's Hypocrisy

In their column yesterday over at Accuracy in Media, Cliff Kincaid and Sherrie Gossett examine the media and Hollywood's reaction to the courtship of actors Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, especially Holmes announcement that she's converting from Catholicism to her fiance's "religion," Scientology.

Kincaid and Gossett report: . . .

. . . the Los Angeles Times noted a bit of hypocrisy in the reaction of Hollywood to this development: "Although Hollywood reacted in panic last year to Mel Gibson's evangelical zeal tied to the release of 'The Passion of the Christ,' it has generally responded to Cruise's Scientology fervor with determinedly closed-lipped tolerance."

It's much more than tolerance. Converting to Scientology is considered fashionable. But if Mel Gibson were dating a young lady and it was announced that she was leaving her established religion or church to convert to his brand of conservative Catholicism, you could anticipate a wave of revulsion and horror.

Hat tip to Townhall.com.
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Pope Pulls No Punches

By Alexander Samuels

According to an article from the Associated Press, portions of a new book by Pope Benedict XVI (The Europe of Benedict: In the Crisis of Cultures, written while he was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) were made available to reporters yesterday. In the book, Pope Benedict shows no reluctance in expressing his opinion of . . . modern Europe, writing "Europe has developed a culture which, in a way never before known to humanity, excludes God from public conscience, either by being denied or by judging his existence to be uncertain and thus belonging to subjective choices, something irrelevant for public life."

This sounds like he could be talking about the good ole U. S. of A.

Regarding abortion, Pope Benedict denies the existence of a "little homicide" and reminds us that when we lose respect for life we also lose our own identity. He writes, "Accepting that the rights of the weakest can be violated, means that you accept also that the right of force prevails over the force of rights."

I'm not a Catholic, but I must tip my hat to the pope on this one.

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Monday, June 20, 2005

Bishop Spong Bullies Kentucky Priest

In his role as an associate for adult Christian education at St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church in Harrods Creek, Kentucky, the Rev. J.D. Brown once cautioned a reading group at his church to not overemphasize the work of controversial authors such as . . . John Shelby Spong and Elaine Pagels. He recommended in a letter that they balance the reading of those works with those written by authors who favor the traditional creeds of faith.

Rev. Brown's letter eventually ended up in the hands of retired Episcopal Bishop Spong, who went on to use its contents to attack the priest and his church in his latest book, The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible's Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love.

In an article from VirtueOnline carried by Religion Journal, Rev. Brown describes his reaction when he read the passage from Spong's book:

"When I read it, I was stunned. Bishop Spong maligned a community of faith he has never visited and accused me, someone with whom he's never even spoken, of violating the freedom of speech of my parishioners. He referred to my priestly oath to uphold the doctrine of the church espoused in the creeds as 'breathtaking in its naiveté,' and characterized me as quote: 'the holy man from the office of the heavenly sheriff.'

"I was really intrigued", Brown said, "that Bishop Spong speaks so dismissively of such respected authors -- but carefully leaves their names out of his piece because it would weaken his argument. In much the same way he was eager to take shots at my actions, referring to my letter, but was careful to do so without sharing any of its content or context. It's typical of the revisionism he is known for."

"It's also somewhat ironic" Brown added, "that Bishop Spong chides me for being lax about guarding the freedom of speech, when I spent 25 years in the uniform of this country defending the bishop's right to be wrong."

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The United Church of . . . ?

Next month at its General Synod meeting in Atlanta, the United Church of Christ is scheduled to vote on a resolution that would make it mandatory for its clergy to accept the divinity of Jesus Christ. It's amazing to me that any Christian denomination would find it necessary to have to put this issue up for a vote.

Mary Rettig of Agape Press reports: . . .

Liberals in the church contend the issue is too judgmental, while fundamentalists say the church needs its foundation. Pastor Albert Kovacs of the Hungarian Reformed Church in Woodbridge, New Jersey, says he doubts the measure will pass, given the liberal nature of the leadership. "So many of them probably don't believe in Jesus Christ as Lord," the pastor remarks, "and certainly [many] are looking for a new type of church modeled after their image of the Church rather than Christ's image of the Church." Kovacs says if the denomination does not accept Christ as Lord, then there is no Commander -- and no commandment to go and reach lost people. He says the UCC will become just another social agency that has good will, but no good news to share with the world.

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Saturday, June 18, 2005

Thoughts on Father's Day Eve

On his blog today, radio talk show host and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler posts links to several articles concerning the current state of fatherhood in our society (including an interview with Brad Wilcox, who was the subject of an earlier post today by Alexander Samuels). Mohler writes: . . .

We seem to be living at a moment when fatherhood, having been sidelined, marginalized, and depreciated for at least three decades, is back as a calling among many younger Christian men. That's the good news. The bad news is that so much ground has already been lost.

Hat tip to News! for Christians.

While we are on the subject of Father's Day, I'd like to highly recommend to dads of young daughters a little book that has made a big difference in how I relate to my 9-year-old. It's She Calls Me Daddy, by Robert Wolgemuth. As the book's subtitle says, it offers "Seven Things Every Man Needs to Know About Building a Complete Daughter," and from a Christian perspective. And if your daughter is heading into her teen years, it will help you to lay down a good set of ground rules when it comes to dating. (So watch out all you future suitors of my little girl!)


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Michael Medved on Turning Right

World Magazine Editor Marvin Olasky interviews radio talk show host and film critic Michael Medved. The author of Right Turns explains to Olasky how he went from being a radical 1960s leftist to someone committed to conservative politics and Orthodox Judaism: . . .

I learned that conservative ideas—both politically and religiously—produced better results in the real world than their leftist alternatives. Personally, as I began to experiment with elements of traditional Judaism like Sabbath observance and daily prayer, I felt my life reliably enriched.

After a few years, the benefits of observing The Law became so obvious that I reached the conclusion that these eternal rules originated with no merely human author. In political terms, I saw corresponding good results from conservative ideas under Reagan, after watching the horribly destructive, nightmarish impact of liberal programs under LBJ and Carter.

By the time I became active in the Republican Party in the mid-1980s, it was obvious that religiosity and conservatism worked well in improving daily life and uplifting the country; secularism and leftism, on the other hand, produced bitterness and frustration.

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Christians Persecuted in Saudi Arabia

By Alexander Samuels

According to Jeff King, director of the Interfaith Christian Concern, who was quoted in an article this week from Agape Press, the Islamic government of Saudi Arabia has undertaken one of the worse purges of Christians, Bibles and religious materials in recent memory. Reports indicate that Christians in Saudi Arabia have been . . . arrested, tortured and jailed for just being in possession of a Bible. The Saudi government, by the way, is denying that this crackdown on Christians is going on.

In the United States, however, it is not unusual, for instance, to see an established mosque or one under construction in many cities here. Here, Muslims are free to buy, sell or give away Islamic religious materials as they please. Am I the only one who sees a problem with this double-standard?

Not too many years ago, U.S. military troops were welcomed in Saudi Arabia to hold back an Iraqi invasion. As long as we served their purpose, everything was OK. Now that they don't need our military, they want us out, and Christianity, as well. Why should we continue to support Saudi Arabia financially and otherwise when they have proven time and time again that they are no friends to human rights, other religions or the United States? The Saudi princes are simply using their money and religion to hold power and appease the radical Islamic factions who believe that persons of other faiths must repent and turn to Allah or die. The persecution of Christians in Saudi Arabia will continue as long as we have leaders in the United States who refuse to stand up to the Saudis and say, "No more!"

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Christian Fathers and Husbands

By Alexander Samuels

W. Bradford Wilcox, a sociologist at the University of Virginia and author of Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands, has become an expert on the effect Christianity has on men and how these men compare with those of another faith or those who have no faith at all. (See a speech he recently gave on behalf of The Heritage Foundation.)

According to the research Wilcox has studied, Christian men are much more . . . attentive to their families than husbands without faith. In a recent column, the Heritage Foundation's Rebecca Hagelin, author of Home Invasion, wrote:

Professor Wilcox . . . has taken a cool-headed look at the data -- and found that it makes a strong case for religion as a positive force for families. Indeed, religion is a primary predictor of how men approach the world, fatherhood, household labor and marriage -- more than education, location or other factors. (Note: Although his work focuses on Protestants, Wilcox says similar patterns exist for traditional Catholics and Orthodox Jews.)

In an article last year published in USA Today about evangelical Protestant fathers, Wilcox said, "[Religion] domesticates men in ways that make them more retentive to the ideals and aspirations of their wives and children." The National Organization of Women, however, as Hagelin reports, has criticized Christian male-dominated organizations such as Promise Keepers. NOW believes these organizations are a "front" for activities that violate the rights of women, lesbians and gays.

Wilcox has found that men who attend church on a regular basis with their family are not only more involved with their families, but are also more affectionate and less likely to become violent. The only interesting downside I could find in his research was that religious males tend to be less likely to do housework.

In his book, Wilcox also focuses on the family as being the most important institution in society and maintains that family members have responsibilities to one another. He also concludes that males should be the primary breadwinners in their families.

Give us here at Carolina Christian Conservative some feedback on this: Do you think religious males make better husbands and fathers than non-religious men? Do you think men should be the primary breadwinners in the family? Do you think men's organizations such as Promise Keepers, which is holding forth at the Greensboro Coliseum this weekend, just do more to suppress the rights of women?

And Happy Father's Day to all you dads out there.


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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Shift to Conservative Churches

Albert Mohler, host of his own daily radio show and president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, recently reviewed David Shiflett's new book, Exodus: Why Americans Are Fleeing Liberal Churches for Conservative Christianity. Mohler points out how Shiflett, an author and a reporter who has written for publications such as The Washington Post, The Weekly Standard, National Review and The Wall Street Journal, uses his journalistic skills to dig into the story as to why conservative Christian denominations are growing while liberal church membership is down: . . .

"Americans are vacating progressive pews and flocking to churches that offer more traditional versions of Christianity," Shiflett asserts. This author is not subtle, and he gets right to the point: "Most people go to church to get something they cannot get elsewhere. This consuming public--people who already believe, or who are attempting to believe, who want their children to believe--go to church to learn about the mysterious Truth on which the Christian religion is built. They want the Good News, not the minister's political views or intellectual coaching. The latter creates sprawling vacancies in the pews. Indeed, those empty pews can be considered the earthly reward for abandoning heaven, traditionally understood."

The numbers are telling, as Mohler reveals:
Citing a study published in 2000 by the Glenmary Research Center, Shiflett reports that the Presbyterian Church USA declined by 11.6 percent over the previous decade, while the United Methodist Church lost "only" 6.7 percent and the Episcopal Church lost 5.3 percent. The United Church of Christ was abandoned by 14.8 percent of its members, while the American Baptist Churches USA were reduced by 5.7 percent.

On the other side of the theological divide, most conservative denominations are growing. The conservative Presbyterian Church in America [PCA] grew 42.4 percent in the same decade that the more liberal Presbyterian denomination lost 11.6 percent of its members. Other conservative denominations experiencing significant growth included the Christian Missionary Alliance (21.8 percent), the Evangelical Free Church (57.2 percent), the Assemblies of God (18.5 percent), and the Southern Baptist Convention (five percent).

As Mohler notes, Shiflett doesn't rely on these figures alone. He crossed America collecting personal narratives from both liberal and conservative Christians that confirm the Glenmary study. In one such interview, a former student at a liberal seminary who left school after he felt that he was the only one there who believed in God told Shiflett, "Mainline Protestantism will reach a certain point where it will appeal only to Wiccans, vegetarians, sandal-wearers, and people who play the recorder. No one will feel at home there if they believe in God."

Hat tip to Chuck Colson's BreakPoint via Townhall.com.


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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

A Work of James Montgomery Boice

By Alexander Samuels

I would like to briefly introduce you to James Montgomery Boice's book Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? It is a very interesting read and is essential in helping us to understand how important Christian doctrines can impact the world today.

In his book, Boice makes a point of detailing how six modern cultural attitudes have been absorbed into the church. I will list them below in abbreviated form: . . .

1. Secularism. We have created mega-churches designed as theatres with stages on which upscale, challenging talks are presented and dramas acted out, and our music mimics the godless music of the world.
2. Humanism. We have fostered "felt need" preaching in which the audience is instructed how to overcome failure, raise nice families, be happy and enjoy terrific sex—but not how to get right with an offended God.
3. Relativism. Since our contemporaries no longer believe in absolute truth, we no longer share truth anymore. We share our feelings and opinions of what Christianity means to me or has done for me.
4. Materialism. Church growth advocates hold seminars in which preachers are taught to think of the masses as their market and the Gospel as something that needs to be attractively packaged to sell.
5. Pragmatism. We have made "if it works" the only criterion for truth. Testimonies to business success, marriages turned around and feeling happy are supposed to prove the truth of Christianity.
6. Mindlessness. Christianity is turned into entertainment that serves to amuse us for the moment like the game Trivial Pursuit.

The careful insights of this book reveal a Christian church that has become worldly in order to make the world feel at home. Christians need to start thinking about and rediscovering the truth of the Bible: "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2).

Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? is an intelligent and excellent book for the Christian who is committed to living his faith. I hope you will pick up a copy and read it soon.



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Saturday, June 11, 2005

Two Christian Perspectives on Yoga

For the past couple of months, two contributors to Christianity Today have offered contrasting views on the practice of yoga and whether Christians should indulge in this activity rooted in Hindu traditions.

It all started with an article titled "The Truth About Yoga" by Holly Vicente Robaina in the March/April 2005 issue of Christianity Today's sister publication Today's Christian Woman. Robaina's article focused on . . . a yoga alternative called PraiseMoves developed by Laurette Willis, a Christian who had been heavily influenced by New Age practices since childhood.

Robaina wrote:

The goal of all yoga, Laurette explains, is to obtain oneness with the universe. That's also known as the process of enlightenment, or union with Brahman (Hinduism's highest god). The word "yoga" means "union" or "to yoke."

"Yoga wants to get students to the point of complete numbness in their minds. God, on the other hand, wants you to be transformed by the renewing of your mind through his Word," Laurette says.

Before she became a Christian, Laurette used subliminal tapes to train her mind to empty itself. These tapes are often used in yoga classes, she says. She also taught yoga classes and instructed her students in astral projection, or "stepping outside" of the body, which Laurette says poses a serious spiritual danger.

"If there's nothing in your mind, you're open to all kinds of deception. After coming to Christ, I wondered who—or what—came into my body when I 'stepped out.' While I don't believe Christians can become possessed, I do believe we can become oppressed by demonic spirits of fear, depression, lust, false religion, etc. These are all things designed to draw us away from Jesus Christ."

But what about
hatha yoga, the less overtly spiritual form of yoga taught at most gyms? Even in this format, Laurette says there are commonly used words and poses antithetical to God's Word. For example, the word "namaste," often said at the close of yoga classes, means, "I bow to the god within you." The sound "om," chanted in many yoga classes, is meant to bring students into a trance so they can join with the universal mind. And the "salute to the sun" posture, used at the beginning of most classes, pays homage to the Hindu sun god. Laurette believes it's impossible to extract Hindu spiritualism from yoga—and she's gotten a bit of confirmation on this from an unlikely source:

"I received an e-mail from a staff member of the Classical Yoga Hindu Academy in New Jersey. The staff member wrote, 'Yes, all of yoga is Hinduism. Everyone should be aware of this fact.' This staff member included that she didn't appreciate my 'running down the great Hindu/Yogic religion,'" Laurette says.

In mid-May, in response to Robaina's article, Agnieszka Tennant countered with "Yes to Yoga" on the Christianity Today Web site. Tennant, who wrote that she is "mostly" evangelical in her beliefs, said that she was embarrassed for her faith when she read a negative critique of Robaina's article posted on the ultra-Liberal Huffington Post blog.

Tennant offered:
. . . it bothers me that people like Willis demonize a healthful exercise regimen, and engage in fear mongering (or is it fear marketing?) among evangelicals. The stereotype of evangelicals they reinforce I'd rather live without. We can leave the spreading of wrong-headed stereotypes about evangelicals to the more experienced bashers—some columnists at The New York Times, for example.

To dispel the stereotype at hand, let me witness that yoga has never had any negative influence on me, and it doesn't trigger any harmful religious impulses. Just the opposite is true. The three hours a week I spend doing yoga not only make me more flexible, tone my muscles, and relax me. They also draw me closer to Christ. They are my bodily-kinetic prayer.

Need I say that it was Alpha and Omega who first thought of and then created the common graces of oxygen, stretching, flexibility, breathing, and soothing music?

My natural response to any deep-breathing exercises is an emotionally felt love of God. Soon after I take off my socks and do a couple of poses, spontaneous prayers soar to Christ. Give me five minutes of yoga, and my mind immediately goes to the metaphor of God's spirit being as omnipresent and as necessary as the air.

In the same way that measured breathing is essential to yoga, the Spirit—which in both biblical Greek and Hebrew also means breath—is indispensable to my soul. Breathe in. Breathe out. Holy Spirit in. Anything that's not from God out. Come Holy Spirit. Renew my mind. In. Out. Thank. You. As I twist my body into places it hadn't been before, I can't help but pray this. Why fix what ain't broke?

Last week on the magazine's Web site, Robaina came back with a response. In "Take a Pass on Yoga", Robaina explained her own battles with the influences of New Ageism, and she admitted that Tennant has every right to practice yoga and is probably strong enough to overcome any of its negative influences. However, Robaina wondered how a Christian practicing yoga might influence weaker sisters and brothers in Christ:
Agnieszka references 1 Corinthians 8 in her article to illustrate how yoga might not cause a strong Christian to stumble. But she doesn't mention the last part of the passage, where Paul goes on to say:

"Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol's temple, won't he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ" (verses 9-12).

And I'll admit it—I loved yoga. Perhaps I'm even a strong enough Christian now to begin a yoga class again. But my decision to say no to yoga isn't just about me. Children are being exposed to yoga's spiritualism at school and in after-school programs. (I remember being taken through a guided meditation as a teen at a youth recreation program, though I had no idea what it was at the time.) And I've read many stories about doctors who encourage the elderly, depressed patients, the mentally ill, and terminal patients to practice yoga for its mental and spiritual benefits—as if there is no better comfort available in the world than yoga.

So even if I'm strong enough, how can I support a practice that seems to be targeting the young and the weak? I take 1 Corinthians 8:13 most seriously: "Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall."

What do you think? Should Christians practice yoga, or should they seek out a Christian-based alternative in order to not tempt themselves or their brothers and sisters in Christ?
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C3: Innovative or Compromising

Last Sunday, the Raleigh News & Observer ran a feature (free registration may be required to view) on a fast-growing church located southeast of Raleigh in Johnston County, North Carolina, near Clayton. Cleveland Community Church, or "C3," as it's more commonly called, has a relationship with the Southern Baptist Convention and is pastored by a graduate of Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. However, the 7-year-old, non-denominational church isn't anything like your typical Falwell-inspired Southern Baptist church, as the N&O's Yonat Shimron reports: . . .

Baptist in its roots, C3 works hard to draw in people who might otherwise spend their Sunday morning mowing the lawn or pushing a shopping cart at Home Depot. [Pastor Matt] Fry and his wife, Martha, try to dispel people's preconceived notions of church. They want them to feel comfortable physically, mentally and spiritually. The church's Web site encourages people to wear shorts, and the service, called a "celebration," presents a cheerful, hopeful Christianity with few strings attached.

Nearly each service includes familiar pop songs U2's "Pride (In the Name of Love)," Foreigner's "I Want to Know What Love Is" or Queen's "You're My Best Friend" meant to be heard in a new context. And Fry's sermons all touch on some emptiness in people's lives for which there can only be one answer: Jesus.

"The goal is not to be cutting edge," said Fry, 39, who has developed a late-night TV dress code black T-shirt, jacket and jeans with a microphone attached to his ear. "It's to be relevant. That's the value. Are we relevant to our culture?"

Despite its unconventional ways, C3, which is growing at a rate of 30 new members a month, states as one of its core beliefs in the Mission & Values section of its Web site, "We believe that the Bible is God's inspired word and is without error. While our theology is conservative, our methods are progressive."

Is Matt Fry and Cleveland Community Church on to something with their culturally relevant methods to reach people for Christ? Or have they crossed the line of being too much of the world and therefore compromising the message of the Gospels they are trying to convey?

Hat tip to the Christianity Today Weblog.
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Friday, June 10, 2005

Judge vs. ACLU

By Alexander Samuels

I would like to introduce you to District Judge Michael Caperton of London, Kentucky. He is a committed Christian who says his goal is "to help people and their families." The ACLU, however, is not . . . pleased with some of Judge Caperton's rulings. (See the Associated Press article "Judge Gives Offenders Option of Church" from May 31.)

Judge Caperton has been offering some drug and alcohol offenders options when it comes to their sentencing. They may choose to go to jail, attend rehab or start attending the worship services of their choice. The judge says this is not a church-state issue because the guilty parties have a choice of sentences. They decide.

The ACLU maintains that Judge Caperton has crossed the line of neutrality that the government must maintain toward religion. Let's look at this for a moment: From the article I read, it seems that the ACLU is not upset with the guilty offenders having a choice between jail time or attending rehab. The ACLU is upset because these offenders have a third option of attending a worship service of their choice: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Mormon, etc. It is obvious that they don't believe that Judge Caperton is being too soft on crime. They see this as being a constitutional issue in which religion (mostly Christianity and Judaism) is being encouraged by the judge's rulings.

The framers of our Constitution are rolling over in their graves. When our founding fathers wrote that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," they were addressing their concerns about a state-supported church such as is found in England. They were writing in the context of a Christian-dominated culture where the people did not want to see one Christian denomination given state support over another Christian denomination. This historic interpretation has been suppressed and redefined by those who wish to erase religion as a sphere of influence in our country.

My opinion: Judge Caperton, keep up your good work of helping people and their families. As for the anti-constitutional, anti-liberty, anti-religion ACLU—well, the Bible does say to pray for your enemies. Enough said.

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Thursday, June 09, 2005

Judith Christ of Nazareth

By Alexander Samuels

Don't like the current orthodox versions of the Bible? Why not write a new version to suit your own taste? At least that is what the Law & Business Institute of Washington, D.C., has done. There is now a version of the Bible on sale at your local bookstore titled . . . Judith Christ of Nazareth: The Gospels of the Bible Corrected to Reflect That Jesus Christ Was a Woman, Extracted From Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The new book also portrays God as feminine.

In a June 6 article from AgapePress, Jim Brown writes, "LBI's vice president, a man called Billie Shakespeare, describes this so-called 'corrected version' of the Bible as a valuable resource designed to make the scriptures accessible to a wider audience and 'to acknowledge the rise of women in society.'"

If you are disgusted with this as I am, don't forget that we live in the foggy age of relativism. Most people don't believe in absolute truth. So if you don't like the Bible as is, the theory goes, you just mark out what you don't care for, or add whatever makes you feel better about yourself. It doesn't matter that all the historic evidence says Jesus (not Judith) was a man or that the Bible never refers to God in the feminine gender.

Why hasn't Newsweek published an outraged article condemning this blasphemous desecration of Christianity's most holy book? I suppose that in today's American society, where Christianity is the only faith not held sacred, Newsweek and the rest of the mainstream media consider the Bible to be just another book on the shelf.

As Christians, when fundamental assaults are made on the true meaning of the Scriptures, if we remain silent, then we too are agreeing with a culture that wishes to make the Bible irrelevant. Yes, absolute truth is real. Rewriting the book will not change the Truth that God has spoken through the Bible. Refusing to preach and teach His whole Word of Truth because it might offend some members of the congregation is also just as much an assault upon the Bible as Billie Shakespeare's Judith Christ of Nazareth. Christian congregations should expect their pastors, teachers, elders and deacons to take a stand for the Truth in such matters.

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Ordinary, Daily Thoughts

I invite you read this essay by Andree Seu from this week's World Magazine. How many of these "ordinary, daily thoughts" have you . . . had lately? I confess that many of them ring true to me. Yes, we do need a Savior.
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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Should the Bible Be Taught in Public Schools?—Update

The World Magazine Blog has a post today by Kristin Chapman linking to a May 12 editorial from the Chicago Tribune that argues that schools are failing today's youth by not teaching the Bible as literature. (Chapman's post has attracted a fair number of comments from the blog's readers, as well.)

The Tribune editorial states: . . .

It's every person's decision whether to believe or practice what is taught in the Bible. But no one can deny its influence. Trying to understand American literature and history without some knowledge of the Bible is like trying to make sense of the ocean despite a complete ignorance of fish.

The editorial also echoes what Alexander Samuels wrote Saturday about the irrational fear teachers have in teaching the Bible as literature:
. . . many high schools don't offer courses or even units of courses about the Bible. Some teachers and administrators fear that any such instruction is constitutionally forbidden or that it would somehow be inappropriate. In fact, the Supreme Court has made it clear that public schools are free to teach about the Bible just as they would any other work of literature or history. The U.S. Education Department has issued guidelines stressing that religion is an appropriate subject for study.

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Monday, June 06, 2005

Happy Anniversary . . .

. . . to Mrs. Carolina Christian Conservative. Thank you for putting up with me for 13 years. . . . I love you.
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One of the President's Men—Update

In his BreakPoint Commentary today, Chuck Colson sums up his thoughts on why he thinks it's wrong to consider Mark Felt a hero for what he did more than 30 years ago as "Deep Throat."

Colson writes: . . .

Today, I'm not concerned about how Mark Felt, or those of us involved in Watergate, or the press is judged by history. All of us have to be responsible for what we did ourselves. What I am concerned about is how, in the eyes of many people, Mark Felt's end justified his means.

I've watched some of the classroom discussions on TV, and, almost to a person, students say he did the right thing because his end was good. This is terribly wrong.

I know we live in an era of moral relativism—everybody chooses what is "right" for them. But this is a path to chaos and a lawless, ungovernable nation.

Let Mark Felt live his remaining years in peace, but please, don't make him a role model for our kids. The lasting legacy of this sad era in American life ought to be a sober reminder that the ends do not justify the means. Integrity means doing the right thing in every area of your life, and it's the real mark of a true hero.

Earlier in his commentary, Colson points out that, in hindsight, he should have tried to stop President Nixon, but Colson, at the time, felt the end (Nixon getting re-elected) justified the means (staging the Watergate break-ins). Colson writes, "What I now realize today, of course, is that we humans all have an infinite capacity for self-justification. Jeremiah was right: 'The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: Who can know it?' [Jeremiah 17:9]"

In his latest book, The Good Life, Colson writes about this period in his life and how it eventually led him to follow Christ.
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Saturday, June 04, 2005

The Beliefs of Bobby Bowden

As a Carolina Blue–blooded Tar Heel, I've never been much of a fan of Florida State and its head football coach Bobby Bowden. I wasn't pleased when his football-factory school was added to the Atlantic Coast Conference in the early 1990s, and I've had problems with the laissez-faire attitude he's exhibited toward the bad behavior of some of his star players. However, as a Christian, I am pleased with the stand Bowden has been taking toward . . . Christianity in the locker room.

As you may be aware, the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has been in some hot water lately because its campus environment, including its football program, has been deemed "too Christian" for a U.S. service academy. At a speaking engagement last month before the Southern Colorado Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Bowden came to the defense of Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry, who last year was told to remove a banner from the Falcons' locker room that offered the "Competitor's Creed," which said in part, "I am a Christian first and last . . . I am a member of Team Jesus Christ." (DeBerry, by the way, was, on several occasions, a rumored candidate for the UNC job.)

During his speech, Bowden reportedly said of DeBerry, "He's fighting a heck of a battle because he happens to be a Christian, and he wants his boys to be saved. I want my boys to be saved. We realize we have other religions with us. The coach has a responsibility to these boys to try to influence their spiritual life, their physical life and their academic life. . . . We know we're going to get challenged on it, but that's what we believe in. I ain't gonna back down."

You tell 'em Bobby.

Hat tip to Robert L. Cobb at News! For Christians, who has posted links on his site to articles both for and against the stance Bowden and DeBerry are taking. On his site, Cobb makes an excellent point: "No one seems to have any problem with the Ward Churchills of the world influencing students. Why can't Christian teachers have an influence?"

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The Simpsons: Religious or Sacrilegious?

As Christians, should we abhor, embrace or ignore a TV show like "The Simpsons"? Gene Edward Veith, in this week's World Magazine cover story, takes a Christian worldview look at this Fox cartoon, a cultural phenomenon that has endured for 15 years.

In the article, Veith writes: . . .

Mark Pinsky, in his book The Gospel According to the Simpsons: The Spiritual Life of the World's Most Animated Family (Westminster John Knox Press), points out that religion, which plays an important part in the lives of most Americans, is utterly invisible on most TV shows. But the Simpsons go to church, pray before meals, and talk about religion. At least one out of every three shows features a clear religious reference. Of those, one out of 10 is completely constructed around a religious theme. (For example, in "Homer v. Lisa and the Eighth Commandment," he has to learn that God does not approve of stealing cable TV. In "Homer the Heretic," he tries to start his own religion, until Flanders saves his life.)

Though the depiction of religion is mostly sympathetic, sometimes The Simpsons walks—or trips over—the line between comic insight and sacrilege. The Word of God is holy, but Simpsons characters spout garbled and made-up Bible verses from nonexistent books like "First Thessaleezians." One Halloween episode featured Fractured Fairy Tale–style spoofs of various Bible stories. The show's smart-aleck attitude is sometimes aimed at God, as when Bart says this meal-time prayer: "Dear God, we paid for all of this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing." The sacrilege is never justifiable, but the nature of comedy leads its creators to live dangerously.

I watched "The Simpsons" religiously (and taped every episode!) the first three or four years it was on the air. I then lost interest in it and haven't seen an episode since.

For those of you who do watch it, do you find it sacrilegious or do you think it offers, through satire, a positive moral message that actually promotes family values?
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Should the Bible Be Taught in Public Schools?

By Alexander Samuels

Should the Bible be taught in public schools? More specifically: Should the Bible be taught in public schools as literature?

We live in a time when more and more children are growing up . . . Biblically illiterate. In an excellent article titled "Bible Illiteracy in America," which was published in the May 23 issue of The Weekly Standard, David Gelernter, a senior fellow in Jewish Thought at the Shalem Center, Jerusalem, and a contributing editor to the magazine, explains why the Bible should be taught in school. He states, "Scripture begins with God creating the world, but there is something these verses don't tell you: The Bible has itself created worlds. Wherever you stand on the spectrum from devout to atheist, you must acknowledge that the Bible has been a creative force without parallel in history."

I will not attempt to summarize the article here, but I strongly suggest you click the link above and read it for yourself. However, if you find the 11-page article too long for your interests, then at least read Chuck Colson's June 1 and 2 BreakPoint Commentaries on Gelernter's work: "Eroding Foundations" and "The Next Great Awakening."

Both Gelernter and Colson are advocates of the Bible Literacy Project. This organization promotes the concept that Bible-as-literature electives should be offered in every high school. The Bible Literacy Project is developing resources to provide teachers with the information they will need to make this goal a reality.

The question, however, remains: Should the Bible be taught as literature in the public schools? The ACLU and liberal media have blanketed the public with so much propaganda and disinformation on this topic that most teachers are afraid they will lose their jobs if they even mention the Bible in historical context to their classes. This is, of course, just what the ACLU wants educators to believe—even though it is a lie.

Again, legal issues aside: Should the Bible be taught as literature in the public schools? Can the Scriptures be presented in a dispassionate, objective manner that will do the Bible justice in the arena of public education? I'm certain that the Bible cannot really be taught without passion. Somehow, to do so seems to lower it to the level of some lesser human author. Will public-school teachers of the Bible as literature teach with a passion that only the Holy Spirit can inspire? I worry about these classes being in the hands of bureaucrats who will make decisions about who teaches the Bible as literature. I also worry about who will decide if a teacher is being too passionate and may be influencing some young people to become Christians. Don't forget that a bureaucracy that has, philosophically, moved further and further away from Christian moral values during the last 100 years oversees our public schools.

What do you think? Should the Bible be taught as literature in our public schools? Does this do harm to the sacredness of God's Holy Word, or will even a dry presentation make a valuable contribution to the lives of many (this has happened before in history)? Do you think that Christians should get behind the Bible Literacy Project? We here at Carolina Christian Conservative would really like to know what you think. Please take a moment to let us and our readers know how you feel.

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One of the President's Men

A lot has been blogged, broadcast and written this week about the revelation that former No. 2 FBI man Mark Felt was Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's "Deep Throat" source during the newpaper's Watergate coverage in the early 1970s. One person who has been vocal this week in his assessment of Felt and his actions more than 30 years ago is . . . Chuck Colson, who was one of the "President's Men" and is now chairman of Prison Fellowship Ministries. However, most of his comments have either been ignored, laughed off or discredited by those in the mainstream media.

These elitists in the mainstream media, after months and months of taking hits on their reputation, have used the Felt story as an opportunity to try to regain some credibility, vigorously patting themselves on the back all week for how they, the mighty press, once brought down a presidency. They have consistently portrayed Felt as a "hero," while casting a negative light on people like Colson, who are only trying to give a fair and honest reaction to what actually took place and the motives that surrounded what Felt did.

And Colson should know; he went to prison for doing pretty much the same thing that Felt did and got away with. Colson, who was a special counsel to President Richard Nixon (and was known as the White House "hatchet man"), leaked to the media a secret FBI report on psychiatrist Daniel Ellsberg, the man who had served up the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times. In 1974, Colson pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and served seven months in federal prison.

In a statement on the Prison Fellowship Web site, Colson wrote, "I can understand why Mark Felt believed he needed to address the wrongs going on in the Nixon administration. But even crediting Mark Felt with the most noble motives, I would question the course of action he chose. By the end of my tenure in the Nixon White House and through the Watergate debacle, I myself learned the hard way that the ends do not justify the means."

Colson, in an interview with Mindy Belz of World Magazine, said that unlike some other former Nixon aides who have come forth this week, he doesn't think Felt undermined the presidency, and added that it doesn't bother him that Felt's actions eventually landed him in prison. However, Colson does believe that Felt breached professional ethics by going to the press rather than following proper channels.

"The principle being taught today in a relativistic environment is getting young people to believe that this is a noble act that he did," Colson told Belz. "He could not have done the right thing. He broke his oath of office. He broke the law. He snuck off cloak-and-dagger style to convey privileged information."

In a Q&A with Stan Guthrie of Christianity Today, Colson pointed out the ends do not always justify the means. "Using illegal means to achieve a just objective can sometimes be ethically justified—the classic standard being somebody's drowning in a pond and there's a no-trespassing sign, but you violate the law and jump over the no-trespassing sign and go rescue the person. But Felt had legal means available to him. I know people say it was a paranoid era and he would have gotten transferred to Alaska, and as a whistleblower we'd have ruined him. That's nonsense, because all he had to do was try to see the President. If the President wouldn't see him, then he's totally within his rights to resign publicly and to say why. And if he did that, it probably would have ended the issue right there. And I dare say he would be a hero."

When asked what he thought would've happened had Felt taken that route, Colson told Guthrie, "I think it would have precipitated an immediate crisis. If the No. 2 guy in the FBI says, "There's wrongdoing out in the White House and they won't listen to me, I'm resigning," the President would clean house in a hurry, or the impeachment would have taken place within two weeks, instead of nine more months."

Regardless of how it all came down, Colson, who founded Prison Fellowship Ministries in 1976, is able to look back at Watergate as a life-changing experience.

He told Guthrie, "Watergate changed me in the sense that I realize that the power that you think is so awesome when you're in government is very shallow. It changed me in the sense that my life has been totally redirected because, being in the middle of the Watergate crisis, I came to Christ. I now have a passion for serving 'the least of these' in society. I see the world differently.

"In my new book, The Good Life, I write about how Watergate has changed my perspective. But also I talk about integrity being the ultimate quality that you're looking for. And integrity means embracing the truth. It means finding what is true and just and good and doing it. You'll never live the good life apart from the pursuit of truth. To be the second-ranking official in the FBI sneaking around at night looking for flower pots on ledges and marking in The New York Times to take super-classified FBI interview forms and give them to a reporter, that is not pursuit of truth. That's not a life of integrity."

Colson pointed out that he doesn't wish any ill will toward Felt and hopes that he can live out his remaining days in peace, adding that his coming forward was not motivated by anger.

"No, no," Colson told World Magazine's Belz. "I did what I did. I take responsibility for it. Whether he contributed is irrelevant. I am not angry, I am sad, for a country that would think this is a good thing. And I am sad for a man who is 91 years old and who will have to live out his days with this hanging over him."

Colson told Guthrie at Christianity Today, "I'm glad we got knocked down. Because of Watergate, I'm doing things that are much more meaningful in my life. I've been forgiven, for which I have much to be forgiven. But I'm just saying, 'Don't teach this example.' That's my passion. That's my greatest concern."

I admire Chuck Colson for his work and for "telling it like it is." We can all learn something from his example, and the mainstream media should offer him and his comments the respect and honor they deserve.

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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Denominational Dating Game

By Alexander Samuels

I was checking out some of the Web news sites on my computer recently when suddenly my eyes were captured by a Google Ad I had never seen before. The ad read, "Date Sexy Baptist Singles in Your City." Now even though I'm a happily married man . . . I just had to see what this was all about.

So I clicked on the link and was immediately welcomed to BaptistFriends.com ("Where Baptist singles feel at home!"). BaptistFriends.com declares that it is "The best dating site for Baptist [sic] in the world!" The site goes on to say, "Join BaptistFriends.com to begin the most wonderful online dating with millions of single Baptists in the world—where you can have both love from God and from us!" This was followed by instructions on signing up for the online service.

I think singles' ministers have something to worry about. Let's face the facts: Most singles involved in the singles' programs at churches are there for one reason and one reason only—to meet Mr. or Ms. Right. Most churches certainly cannot offer thousands and thousands of specimens to choose from. Can't you just see huge numbers of single people fleeing Methodist, Presbyterian and Catholic churches to join the Baptist singles in taking advantage of this amazing offer!

I am a Reformed Presbyterian and I believe that my denomination should quickly take advantage of this strategy since the Baptists have shown us the "light." Instead of Sunday school, we should set up a computer lab where the singles in our church can meet to go online and check out ReformedPresbyterianSingles.com. This could be similar to the setup at the church in Wales where they installed wireless Internet service in order to keep the congregation from becoming bored with the sermons. (See "Keeping the Congregation Connected" and "Keeping the Congregation Connected—Update.") After all, we don't want to bore our singles with Sunday school lessons and Christian activities when their primary goal is to find a spouse. We could lose members!

I apologize for sounding so cynical, but am I the only one who sees that teaching and preaching the Word of God is running a poor second or third in most of our churches? It is the Word of God that has held my marriage together during tough times. It is only the Word of God that can assist you in making a wise decision when choosing your mate. I really am absolutely for Christians dating and marrying other Christians. But first, please learn from your pastor or Christian teacher the wisdom of the Bible in order that you know what your Christian priorities should be.

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Keeping the Congregation Connected—Update

Thanks to Steve Beard at Thunderstruck, I was able to find a more detailed article from BBC News on the church in Wales that has begun offering wireless Internet access from its pews.

In this report, Rev. Keith Kimber of St. John's Church in Cardiff seems to be more interested in . . . making the church available during the work week as a sanctuary for people to escape from the noise of the city and be able to work online in peace and quiet. Rev. Kimber told BBC News, "This church has a strong commitment to be open for people in the city, and of course, if this will encourage more new people into the church, the project will have been a success." However, he apparently is not limiting use of the wireless service to just those times during the week, saying, "All we ask is that they respect the church environment and do not to use loud mobile ring tones or play music on their computers, especially when a service is in progress."
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