Say You Want A Christian Nation?: Let's Try This One
Rob Boston printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Mar 02, 2015 at 12:59:19 PM EST
Last week an article began circulating on social media claiming that 57 percent of Republicans in a recent poll said they believe Christianity should be the country's official religion.

I didn't want to believe this at first. I figured it must be an internet poll, or one that relied on a confusing question.

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Are The Fundamentalists Winning?
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Feb 27, 2015 at 08:58:03 PM EST
We missed Evolution Weekend, which was held February 13-15 this year.  

This worthwhile effort, which began the same year as Talk to Action, seeks to promote "serious discussion and reflection on the relationship between religion and science. An ongoing goal has been to elevate the quality of the discussion on this critical topic, and to show that religion and science are not adversaries. Rather, they look at the natural world from quite different perspectives and ask, and answer, different questions."  But even as many religious and scientific leaders see religion and science exactly this way, many of the cultural and political conflicts that involve the Christian Right, depend on amping up exactly this larger conflict.

If Harry Emerson Fosdick were to give his famous 1922 sermon "Shall the Fundamentalists Win?" today, the style might be different, but the content might be surprisingly similar. It was given at a time when the clash of a science-driven modernism and religion was perhaps at its height. Some of those kinds of battles continue today on everything from matters of creationism to climate science.

Much has changed and much has not changed since 1922, as a reading of Fosdick's historic sermon will show. How and why that is, is worth considering.   Excerpts below:

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American Family Association's `Bigotry Map' Charts `Anti-Christian' Organizations in the US
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Feb 27, 2015 at 10:53:28 AM EST
By recently unveiling what it is calling a "Bigotry Map," which exposes "Anti-Christian Bigotry in America," the American Family Association apparently got tired of being monitored, tracked, and vilified, and decided to turn the tables on "anti-Christian bigots" in the United States.

On its website (http://www.afa.net/bigotrymap), the newly developed interactive map is marked by symbols identifying "groups and organizations that openly display bigotry toward the Christian faith." You can do a state-by-state search to discover which of these groups might reside in your neck of the woods.

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Stock Fraud by Religious War Kid Vid Execs
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Feb 26, 2015 at 09:59:53 PM EST
The video game Left Behind: Eternal Forces, which generated more news than it did sales in the past decade, was recently back in the news.

A federal court found in favor of the Securities Exchange Commission in its litigation with executives of Left Behind Games -- the company, best known for a controversial video game based on the Left Behind series of novels by Christian Right leader Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. The SEC said that the execs engaged in stock fraud to prop up their financially struggling company.  The SEC fined company founder Troy Lyndon and CEO Ronald Zaucha millions of dollars each and permanently banned from trading in penny stocks.

(1 comment, 712 words in story)
The Rev. Franklin Graham: An American Scold
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Feb 26, 2015 at 10:38:38 AM EST
Make no mistake about it, the Rev. Franklin Graham, the son of the Rev. Billy Graham, is trying to brand himself as a gutsy let-it-all-hang-out twenty-first century religious leader. Whether asked or not, he's more than willing to inject himself into any conversation; be it over the use of a chapel at Duke University by Muslims, transgendered bathrooms in Charlotte, North Carolina, the so-called persecution of U.S. Christians by secularists, or the persistent failures of President Barack Obama. Despite Graham's public persona of being a humorless man lacking any trace of wit, he nevertheless has positioned himself as a man with access to multiple platforms, from which he can pop off about whatever, whenever, and to whoever will listen.

No shrinking violet, Graham, president of Samaritans' Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, has blazing gums, will travel.

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Mario Cuomo's Memorable Lesson on Challenging the Political Authority of the Church
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Feb 21, 2015 at 10:45:00 PM EST
It is never too late to remember.

Here is a reposting of a column I did following the death of former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo.  (I wrote a bit about it here, but it turned out I had more to say. And I probably still do.)

This is about Cuomo's historic speech at Notre Dame in which he directly and courageously challenged the Bishops of his time. Great stuff here. It is right up there with John F. Kennedy's 1960 campaign speech on how to be true to both one's faith and separation of church and state.  The big issues don't change all that much. Just the people and the details.

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The Legacy of Francis Bellamy
wilkyjr printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Feb 19, 2015 at 11:41:53 AM EST
"We assemble here that we, too, may exalt the free school that embodies the American principles of universal enlightenment and equality; the most characteristic product of our four centuries of American life....One institution more than any other has wrought out the achievements of the past, and is today the most trusted for the future.  Our fathers in their wisdom knew that the foundations of liberty, fraternity and equality must be universal education.  The free school, therefore, was conceived as the cornerstone of the Republic.  Washington and Jefferson recognized that the education of citizens is not the prerogative of church or of other private interests; that while religious training belongs to the church, and while technical and higher culture may be given by private institutions-the training of citizens in the common knowledge and the common duties of citizenship belongs irrevocably to the state."  Francis Bellamy.
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Conservative Catholics and Evangelical Protestants Unite to Battle Same-Sex Marriage
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Feb 19, 2015 at 09:55:06 AM EST
A group of conservative Catholics and evangelical Protestants are gearing up for the culture war battle of the century. A new manifesto - to be revealed in the March edition of the conservative publication First Things -- is meant to set the tone for the upcoming decision on same-sex marriage by the U.S. Supreme Court, and perhaps the 2016 presidential election as well.

The document maintains that same-sex marriage is "a graver threat" to the social order than "easy acceptance of divorce" or "widespread cohabitation." "We must say, as clearly as possible, that same-sex unions, even when sanctioned by the state, are not marriages," the document stated. "Christians who wish to remain faithful to the Scriptures and Christian tradition cannot embrace this falsification of reality, irrespective of its status in law."

With temperate rhetoric tossed aside, and a new mean-spirited attack on the gay community being launched, language in the new document makes signees like the Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest Calif., and Robert George, professor at Princeton University and vice-chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedoms, sound like the second coming of the late Rev. Fred Phelps.

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A Christian QB + Fifty Shades of Grey = Condemnation by Christians
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Feb 18, 2015 at 09:34:02 AM EST
A guy walks into a movie theater in Seattle for an early showing of Fifty Shades of Grey. That may sound like an opening line of a joke, but not if you wearing Russell Wilson's cleats. The Seattle Seahawks quarterback, who has been celebrated by Christian organizations and Christian-based media for his outspoken religious beliefs, is now being unmercifully pummeled by many of his fellow Christians.

After seeing the movie, Wilson tweeted out:

Russell Wilson        
@DangeRussWilson
Thanks for the early showing of #50ShadesOfGrey late last night..
#EmeraldCity Great movie.

From this tweet, a firestorm erupteth.

(1 comment, 740 words in story)
The Inquisitional Urge Gets the Better of Bill Donohue (Again)
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sun Feb 15, 2015 at 08:23:07 PM EST
Bill Donohue is at it again. The Catholic League president went apoplectic over President Obama’s seemingly innocuous comments at the February 5th National Prayer Breakfast. Besides being upset with his remarks about the Crusades, Donohue went on another rant about the Inquisition: incredibly claiming, “the Catholic Church had almost nothing to do with it.” Since we’ve been down this road with Bill Donohue before, it seemed like a good time to republish this post from 2007. Some things never change. -- Frank Cocozzelli

"I just got back from the Auto de fe! Auto de fe? What's an auto de fe? It's what you oughtn't to do but you do anyway."

--"What a Day for an Auto de Fe, as sung by Mel Brooks in the Role of Torquemada, in the film, "History of the World, Part 1"

For those of us who write about the Catholic Right, the Catholic League's ever-bombastic Bill Donohue is the gift that keeps on giving, almost to the point of self-parody. But Bill, beware! Those who seek to justify one inquisition may themselves have to do their own auto de fe, albeit one that is both secular and far more humane in nature.

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John Dorhauer Recommended to Lead United Church of Christ
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Feb 13, 2015 at 11:24:35 PM EST
I am very pleased to report that John Dorhauer, who joined us early on at Talk to Action has been recommended by a national search committee to be the next General Minister and President of the million member United Church of Christ (UCC).  Dorhauer's candidacy must be confirmed first by the UCC Board of Directors by a two-thirds vote at its upcoming meeting March 19, then by 60 percent of the the delegates of the 30th General Synod, meeting in Cleveland June 26-30.

John contributed 71 front page posts over two years about efforts by rightwing groups to sew discord and division in his denomination. He also reported on how he and his colleagues sought to address the ongoing problem. His blogging became the basis of an essay in The Public Eye and for the influential book Steeplejacking: How the Christian Right is Hijacking Mainstream Religion, which was published in 2007.  

I contributed an introduction to Steeplejacking, which is reprinted below.  

(3 comments, 1012 words in story)
Fifty Shades of Grey Week in the USA: Ticket sales are booming and the Christian Right is boycotting
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Feb 12, 2015 at 10:43:54 AM EST
Welcome to Fifty Shades of Grey week in America. With the controversial movie - based on the mega-bestselling novel of E.L. James -- set for release on February 12 at 8 p.m., in time for Valentines Weekend, several Christian Right organizations are putting on one last burst of boycott. And Deborah Hamilton, of Hamilton Strategies, is knocking out press releases like Barry Bonds hitting home runs after using PEDs.

According to the Washington Posts Cecilia Kang, pre-release "ticket sales" for the R rated film are "booming - particularly in the South." Kang recently reported that the movie's ticket sales "accounted for 60 percent of all Fandango ticket sales this week and has become the highest-grossing R-rated movie in prerelease sales on the movie ticket Web site." The top ten states for pre-release sales are Mississippi, Arkansas, West Virginia, Kentucky, Alabama, Louisiana, North Dakota, South Carolina, Iowa and Tennessee. As of this writing (Monday, February 9) the trailer has been viewed more than 50 million times on YouTube.

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Terms, Definitions & Glossaries for Writing about the Religious Right
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Feb 10, 2015 at 10:43:41 PM EST
One of the challenges in writing about the Religious Right and what to do about it is the matter of terms and definitions. That's why from time-to-time I revise and update this post.

From the earliest days of Talk to Action, we have written about how unfair labels and terms of demonization are not only inaccurate and opposed to basic standards of scholarship and journalism; but conflict with the basic values of all people of good will. (They tend to be politically counterproductive as well.) The purpose of this post is not to go over all that again, but simply to highlight some useful resources on basic definitions and usage for those who are interested in trying to get it right.

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San Francisco's Archbishop's Twenty-First Century Culture War Crusade Is All About The Sex
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Feb 10, 2015 at 11:38:44 AM EST
During the one and only debate between Republican candidate Ronald Reagan and President Jimmy Carter in the presidential campaign of 1980, Carter went off on Reagan about his record on Medicare. With one superbly delivered line - "There you go again" - Reagan disarmed and deflated Carter, and pretty much won the debate; all the while forever etching a phrase into the political lexicon.

Instead of Reagan's "There you go again," one couldn't help but think "There they go again," while reading reports that the conservative Roman Catholic archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone, is demanding that his archdiocese's Catholic High School teachers adhere to Catholic doctrine in their professional and private lives. Across the Bay, Bishop Michael Barber, who plowed similar ground last year -- to great consternation amongst faculty, staff and parents -- issued a new contract with a little bit of kinder, gentler language.

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The Day We Won One for Jefferson
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Feb 09, 2015 at 08:50:27 PM EST
Thomas Jefferson wanted to be remembered for three things, which he had carved on his gravestone:

Here was buried
Thomas Jefferson
Author of the Declaration of American Independence
of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom
& Father of the University of Virginia

As it turned out, other than the Declaration, history has mostly focused on other aspects of Jefferson's life and career.  But this year, a number of us sought to breath fresh life into our remembrance of one of Jefferson's foundational contributions to the best of our aspirations as constitutional democracy:  religious freedom.

I recently wrote a column at LGBTQ Nation summarizing what happened when we seized the moribund Religious Freedom Day, and stood with Jefferson and his ally James Madison in the bright light of history.

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