The World Wide (Religious) Web for Tuesday, June 21, 2011


“Why Liberal Religious Arguments Fail.” Over at Religion Dispatches, Peter Laarman reflects on what kinds of rhetoric are helping the pro-same-sex-marriage crowd, and concludes that religious argument is not one of them. Instead, personal testimonies are.

Every poll and every wise observer points out that gay-affirming folks have not been winning on account of superior arguments, whether arguments from the Bible or theology or science. They aren’t winning on account of their superior debating skills. They’re winning by being present and visible in faith communities: by coming out in ways that clergy and congregations can’t ignore. Gay people are winning because straight people who love and respect them are coming out right along with them.

The classic instance is the faithful older church woman—a devoted and beloved member of the community—who, at just the right moment in a congregational meeting, stands up and says, “Well, friends, I guess we can argue about all of this until the cows come home. All I know is that ________, my ________, is as dear a child of God as I will ever hope to be.” She then goes on to tell the story of she found out about ________, how they stayed close, and how her heart was changed. Bingo. Are we ready for the vote?

Those of us who oppose same-sex marriage need to pay attention to Laarman’s point. The momentum in the debate over homosexuality in general and same-sex marriage in particular seems to be shifting. This rhetorical strategy seems to be one reason why.

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Of course, the pro-same-sex-marriage crowd hasn’t given up on argument. For a taste of one such argument, which is becoming increasingly common, see “Bible condemns a lot, so why focus on homosexuality?” Expect to see more of this kind of argument in the coming days. Oh, and have a reply ready.

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“Offense and Criticism in the Marriage Debates” takes a meta-look at the attempt to shut down arguments against same-sex marriage under the banner of being offended by them.

The key realization is that offense operates within the realm of reason. When I am offended, I have not simply felt resentment, nor merely intuited a wrong; I have performed a cognitive act, namely, judging based on what seem to me to be good and understandable reasons for that act of judging. Whenever we make a judgment of fact (x is) or value (x ought to be), we commit ourselves to the truth and worth of our judgment. To do otherwise disqualifies us from reasonable discussion, as there would be no reason to be taken seriously if we did not claim that our judgment had worth.

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Maureen Dowd (predictably) mocks Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York for opposing same-sex marriage. George Weigel and Elizabeth Scalia are not amused. Meanwhile, Kathryn Jean Lopez notes the surprisingly positive coverage The Today Show gave Archbishop Dolan on a recent visit to Rome.

Successfully communicating Catholicism [or Christianity] is the same as it ever was: It’s about integrity. As Pope Benedict put it, “It must not be forgotten that believers’ style of life needs to be genuinely credible.” Even more eloquent than Archbishop Dolan’s words on The Today Show was the clear witness of his own humanity and faithful authenticity.

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“When Churches Play at Politics” helpfully explains why churches qua churches should steer clear of partisan politics:

The Hebrew Bible and the New Testament are not governing blueprints, ministers are not policy experts, and the church is not a place for political advocacy. It is a place to minister to souls, to heal wounds, and to dispense grace. So while ministers certainly have a First Amendment right to express their political views, they should realize that there are substantial costs when the faith to which they have declared their allegiance is seen, with some justification, as merely a tool of a specific political ideology or subordinate to a political party.

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God Wins is Mark Galli’s book-length response to Rob Bell’s Love Wins. Christianity Today excerpts chapter 1, which deals with two kinds of questions (and Bell’s book is full of questions). Here’s something good to keep in mind about questions:

…questions driven by faith and questions driven by self-justification can sound very similar. Sometimes they can be identical in their wording, but they are not identical in their motives. A question can be grounded in trust in God’s goodness—or it can be a demand for a sign. God is pleased with the former, but not so pleased with the latter.

You can read my own review of Love Wins here.

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“Tiger Dads vs. Sexualized Daughters.” Good stuff for dads trying to raise wholesome daughters in a highly sexualized culture.

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Apropos of the previous post: “Women Who Lost Virginity Early More Likely to Divorce.” Parental choices have consequences in the lives of their children.

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“Fathers: Key to Their Children’s Faith”:

In short, if a father does not go to church-no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions-only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular). One of the reasons suggested for this distinction is that children tend to take their cues about domestic life from Mom while their conceptions of the world outside come from Dad. If Dad takes faith in God seriously then the message to their children is that God should be taken seriously.

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“NBC apologizes for cutting ‘Under God’ from Pledge of Allegiance.” Actually, I think NBC left out the phrase, “one nation, under God.” Were they trying not to offend Southern sympathizers and atheists? Stupid, stupid, stupid! Although, to tell the truth, I was offended that NBC inserted a comment about the Masters in the middle of the pledge. Perhaps golf is the new religion that will unite our fractious nation…

The World Wide (Religious) Web for Tuesday, June 14, 2011


“The Politics of Being a Good Christian.”

New research suggests there are actually two God Gaps. For some Christians, being more religious makes them more conservative on social issues. For others, going to church, praying, and doing other religious activities actually makes them more liberal on social justice issues.

Interesting.

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“At debate, Republican candidates spar over Islam.” Personally, I’m with Abe Greenwald:

Bad showing all around on the Muslim question. There’s one right answer: I would hire any American I believed could do the best for my administration and my country–any race, religion, or creed. The meandering into crazy Sharialand and different types of Muslims will cost the GOP.

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“[Gov. Rick] Perry has not overburdened the collection plate.” I’ll say. In 2007, for example, Perry reported $1 million in income and gave a whopping $90 to his church. $90. I’m a put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is kind of Christian, and this report is going to make me discount a lot of Perry’s religious talk. Perhaps there’s more to the story. Maybe Perry gave gobs of cash to charities. If so, I’ll revise my opinion. But if not…

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Tom Gilson has a three-part series on the morality of Christian exclusivism: here and here. Christian exclusivism is the belief that “there is one God uniquely revealed in Jesus Christ, who is the one way, truth, and life for all people everywhere in all times. This means that other paths to God are excluded.” I’ll post Part 3 when it goes online.

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“A Mormon President: Are Souls at Stake?” David French says, “Those who believe that presidents impact our immortal souls have too great a view of politics and too small a view of God.

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“Targeting the World’s Worst Religious Persecutors.” Hard to argue with Doug Bandow’s take:

The freedom to believe, or not believe, in God and respond accordingly—as individuals, families, and communities—is precious.  Sadly, much of humankind is denied this most fundamental right.

While Washington cannot make the world free, Americans can reach out and help their oppressed brothers and sisters around the globe.  Persecution should be highlighted and denounced; victims of intolerance, hate, and violence should be comforted and supported.  Finally, if America is to remain free, Americans must tenaciously defend religious liberty at home.

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“El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron.” An online role-playing game of some sort. Based on…the Bible?

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“Call an Exorcist for Anthony Weiner?” In which Mark Judge somehow manages to bring together Ann Coulter, Anthony Weiner, and William Peter Blatty, author of The Exorcist.

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“From decline to decision”: In which Ed Stetzer ruminates on the declining membership of the Southern Baptist Convention. Money quote: “We don’t change until the pain of staying the same grows greater than the pain of change. May the truth break our hearts, drive us to our knees and compel us into the mission.”

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“Boards of Springfield schools vote for consolidation.” That would be Assemblies of God schools in Springfield, Missouri. It may not be big news in your neck of the ’hood, but it’s big news around here.

The World Wide (Religious) Web for Monday, June 13, 2011


“A Very Christian Atheist.” About George Orwell. I liked this quote from Orwell in particular:

…when one’s belly is empty, one’s only problem is an empty belly. It is when we have got away from drudgery and exploitation that we shall really start wondering about man’s destiny and the reason for his existence. One cannot have any worthwhile picture of the future unless one realises how much we have lost by the decay of Christianity.

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Breaking Up with God: I Didn’t Lose My Faith, I Left It.” I’m interested in these kinds of stories because my doctoral research is going to focus on deconversion narratives. This paragraph caught my eye:

That there is more to God than most of us have been taught in church. That faith is an imaginative, constructive, ethical enterprise. That theology matters. That the way we think about God has a real effect on the earth and on other human beings. That we are the ones we have been waiting for. In the book I write, “This is my faith: a fragile hope in what humanity might be able to do when we stop looking for someone else to save us,” and I think that sentence sums up what the book is about.

Didn’t we just live through a century with that “fragile hope.” How did it work out?

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“How saying a blessing changed my secular family’s meals.” Well, if you’re going to be thankful, you need to be thankful to someone, right?

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“Dalai Lama: ‘I Am a Marxist, But Not a Leninist.’” If you’re a Marxist and a Buddhist, does that make you a Barxist? Or a Muddhist? Inquiring minds…

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Is Christian exclusivism bad? Part 1 of what promises to be an interesting two-part series.

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David Koresh Superstar? Uh, no thank you!

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“Arkansas atheists sue over bus ads on God-free lifestyle.” Of course they did.

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“Animal rights philosopher Peter Singer expands on why he is backing away from his famous philosophy.” Well, the “preference utilitarianism” part, anyway.

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“Inerrancy, Not So Arrogant.” In which Collin Hansen discusses what Jesus and Sarah Palin do not have in common.

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“How Not to Grow a Healthy Church.”

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