News that there is a person possibly with Ebola undergoing treatment in Oregon should not be reason for panic or great concern. Using best public health practices, the Obama Administration and Center for Disease Control and prevention has put into place policies to protect the health of Americans. No one is at risk of Ebola unless you come into contact with body fluids of an infection person. We are all at greater risk of the flu (get a flu shot). Oregonians should offer compassion to the person now under care, we should offer our thoughts and prayers, and we should do the same for those providing treatment. Health care workers deserve every ounce of respect. During this last week of the election campaign it would be a tragic mistake for any politician to use this issue as an attempt to divide Oregonians. Our attention should be focused most on efforts to stop Ebola in Africa where there has been untold human suffering. Faith leaders have been in direct contact with federal officials as this international crisis has unfolded. Fear should not define our reaction.
- Rev. Chuck Currie
Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church protested my seminary and one of my congregations. Today I pray for him as he passes from this life to the arms of a loving and forgiving God. People ask: does Phelps belong in Hell? He has already lived there for many years. Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies and Phelps was an enemy of our faith. God is not vengeful but grace filled. Ironically, Phelps’ protests showed the world how discrimination and hate towards gays and lesbians was anything but Christian. Today we do not rejoice in Phelps’ passing – or the pain of his family - but instead offer prayers that in death he will know the love of God that surpasses all human understanding. May this be a time of healing for all those hurt by Fred Phelps’ and Westboro Baptist Church.
There’s no question about it: I love Portland. It’s been true since moving here as a boy. My life, in fact, has been dedicated to making our community a better place. Portland’s rejection this week of fluoridation is far from cause for divorce but it does feed into the lover’s quarrel that is part of my relationship with this special place.
The fact is that fluoridation would have helped protect kids by increasing dental health. The Clean Water Campaign, fueled by Tea Party money and some odd doctors (like the one who asserts HIV doesn’t cause AIDS), scared the city into believing that fluoride causes cancer and was bad for the environment. In my 26 years of advocacy and ministry in Portland, I’ve rarely – if ever – seen a campaign distort and lie as often.
The fear based campaign waged by Clean Water Portland was upsetting enough but the often heard statement by those who identify as progressives that putting fluoride in the water violated their personal choice to take fluoride was perhaps more upsetting. Portland has never been about “me!” but about “us!” Not so this week. The common good lost out to a growing libertarianism that in this case put the needs of children last when they should have gone first. That children should come first is a beadrock principle of my faith.
Still, this is hardly the first time I’ve been disappointed in the city I love. We don’t do enough to fight poverty – and North Portland and East Portland are too often ignored, like these parts of our city just don’t count. Inequity flourishes here and if you are a person of color your chances to succeed diminish greatly. We launch plans to end homelessness every few years only to watch homelessness grow.
We say “Keep Portland Weird” because this is a unique community that has produced a special culture a little bit different than much of America and we can laugh at ourselves when watching Portlandia because there are times we’re absurd in funny, yet harmless, ways.
But at the pot-fueled Clean Water Portland victory party, where reporters say the air was thick with marijuana from smoking activists protesting adding fluoride to the water supply because fluoride was harmful (the irony is worth noting), the city crossed a line from absurd to sad.
Say what you will about Clean Water Portland: Them folks got some pungent medical herb. #fluoride— Aaron Mesh (@AaronMesh) May 22, 2013
In the end, we still have a dental crisis. Portland children will still suffer. Nothing changed this week – our dental crisis didn’t get worse but it could have gotten better but fears and lies and, yes, personal self-interest won over the common good.
Still, Portland is better than this. When confronted with difficult questions over taxes, schools, health care, LGBTQ equality and the environment we normally make the moral choice, even if it costs us more in taxes and upsets family, friends and neighbors. We normally put the common good first when given the opportunity.
I don’t fault the 60% of Portlanders who voted against fluoride. Most people don’t pay close attention to these elections and if I heard the city wanted to add chemicals to the water that caused cancer the natural reaction, it seems, would be to vote no. Those behind Clean Water Portland, however, - the activists and their financial supporterss, including the Tea Party and their allies – knew better and did great damage to Portland by waging a divisive campaign that hurt Portland’s children. Don’t be surprised to see this coalition reform to try and to reshape Portland in their conservative / libertarian image that is fueled by a distrust for government, other institutions (including institutions of higher learning) and, of course, science.
That coalition in no ways represents 60% of Portland. One lost election doesn’t mean progressive Portland is lost. What it does show is that our work to improve Portland just got more difficult. Outside Tea Party groups are willing to foot the bill to take on what our city has generally held most dear.
Fluoride supporters were wrong not to engage the public in an open and transparent process from the start on this issue, instead of trying to move this through the Portland City Council quickly (a move I endorsed). The backlash is similar to when the Multnomah County passed an ordinance to allow gay marriage without a public process (a move I also endorsed), only to see voters outlaw gay marriage statewide in response. Government works best when it is transparent. We ought to learn this lesson. Back room politics don’t work in Portland.
Progressives also need to find a way to fight lies in ways that don’t just win campaigns but also strengthen the community. As a minister, you might think this would be a skill I would have. But plenty of times I reacted to the lies told in this campaign with more anger than light and that is just as damaging. Lies shouldn’t be tolerated. They should be called out. But we can all find better ways to engage in the public square.
For me, I love this city too much to give up on it. I want my kids and the children in my churches to have access to the best public schools and to public health programs that help them thrive. After all these years, after all these battles, my deep belief is that 90%+ of Portlanders want the same even if we cannot always agree on the ways to get there. Good people can come to different conclusions on difficult issues. Until Portland becomes the city it ought to be, I’ll continue my lover’s quarrel and will happily work with people of integrity – people who value truth – even when they disagree with my views. After all, I’ve been proven wrong before and changed my views when confronted with good arguments based on reason and fact. Democracy works that way when it is truthful and fair.
Rev. Chuck Currie
Portland faith leaders are standing up for 26-151 and Healthy Kids Healthy Portland because "one of our core principles is that the blessings of our community should be felt by all, not just a few." Fluoridation of our water will help our kids and entire city. The numbers have gotten slightly better but we still face a true crisis. Read the arguments in support of 26-151 at
Let us keep their families and colleagues in our prayers as we seek new ways to reach for the stars. Part of the human experience is to explore and it is vitally important that we develop new international efforts to visit Mars and to learn more about the creation of the cosmos. Today, however, it is right to pause in memory of these American heroes. Those of us who lived that day will never forget their sacrifice.
Barack Obama campaigned on the promise not to play politics with science (something his predecessor was often accused of).
But now it appears that this White House, according to the bi-partisan National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling that the president created to investigate the spill, "blocked government scientists from warning the American public of the potential environmental disaster caused by BP's broken well in the Gulf of Mexico."
The Washington Post reports:
A commission set up by President Obama to scrutinize the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has released preliminary reports that say the administration created the impression that it was "either not fully competent" or "not fully candid with the American people about the scope of the problem."
The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling released four "working papers" Wednesday that said the administration's response was marked by confusion about the spill rate, slowing the federal effort immediately after the oil exploration well blew out April 20.
The commission staff's preliminary papers also said that Obama's Office of Management and Budget later delayed a report by government scientists that would have included a "worst-case" estimate of the rate of the spill, weeks before the government revised its own official estimates upward.
The reports delivered a harsh assessment of the administration's later contention that most of the spill was "gone." They point to comments by Carol M. Browner, Obama's climate and energy czar, who in a television interview mischaracterized a report as saying that three-quarters of the spill had disappeared.
Anyone found to have been involved in misleading the American public in the matter, including Carol Browner, must be removed from their position immediately.
As someone who has defended the president's response to the BP spill, I am appalled at the findings of the commission. However, I assume that this will be corrected and moving forward mistakes like this will not be made.
Compassion and Choices (a group I support) re-tweeted this tweet today (from their executive director):
BCoombsLee Good reason to ask ur doc to reveal religious views. http://smtp01.kaiserhealthnews.org/t/13476/421929/13051/0/
Here's the basic point of the article linked to:
"A doctor's own religious practice can become quite relevant to patient care, especially when end-of-life issues come into play. A new study finds that doctors who are not religious are more likely to take steps to help end a very sick patient's life, and to discuss these kinds of decisions, than doctors who are very religious. The study, published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, surveyed more than 8,500 doctors in the United Kingdom across a wide range of specialties such as neurology, palliative care, and general practice" (Landau, 8/26)
But does this mean that I need to inquire about my doctor's religious beliefs?
I've never bothered to ask my primary care physician about this topic but I have talked with my endocrinologist. The difference between my interactions with these two professionals is relational. Because I had a pheochromocytoma several years back I've spent a lot of time with my endocrinologist. We've had many more opportunities to talk and know each other.
In the end, it isn't the religion or the politics of a physician that matters to me (the best primary care physician I ever had was a conservative Republican who worked for Vice-President Dan Quayle before leaving politics for medicine). What I'm concerned with are values and understandings of medical ethics. Religion may or may not inform that understanding. Isn't that the conversation we should be having with our doctors?
President Barack Obama is scheduled on Monday to lift the federal ban on embryonic stem cell research. The ban was imposed by President Bush and enjoyed support from the Religious Right but embryonic stem cell research has been supported by the United Church of Christ, Episcopal Church (USA), the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. Scientific leaders have long argued that such research has the potential to cure "diabetes, spinal cord paralysis, heart disease, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, cancer, MS [multiple sclerosis], Lou Gehrig's disease" and any number of other conditions. The General Synod of the United Church of Christ endorsed federal funding of embryonic stem cell research in 2001 saying that “Jesus set an example, by his ministry of healing and caring for the sick and disabled, challenging us to follow his example by supporting the healing and caring ministry in our own day.” President Obama is to be applauded for undertaking this action. The president’s position is entirely consistent with Christian ethics.
Over 1,000 congregations across the United States are taking part in Evolution Sunday - promoting the idea that faith and science ARE compatible.
Use the below link to download the podcast of my sermon for your iPod or personal computer:
(click with the RIGHT mouse button on the hyperlink and choose “Save Target As” and save to your desktop or other folder – once downloaded click on the file to listen).
Related Link: UCC Religion and Science Are Not Mutually Exclusive
More this week on the campaign by the Bush Administration to suppress important public health information. The Washington Post reports:
A surgeon general's report in 2006 that called on Americans to help tackle global health problems has been kept from the public by a Bush political appointee without any background or expertise in medicine or public health, chiefly because the report did not promote the administration's policy accomplishments, according to current and former public health officials.
The report described the link between poverty and poor health, urged the U.S. government to help combat widespread diseases as a key aim of its foreign policy, and called on corporations to help improve health conditions in the countries where they operate. A copy of the report was obtained by The Washington Post.
Three people directly involved in its preparation said its publication was blocked by William R. Steiger, a specialist in education and a scholar of Latin American history whose family has long ties to President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Since 2001, Steiger has run the Office of Global Health Affairs in the Department of Health and Human Services.
Richard H. Carmona, who commissioned the "Call to Action on Global Health" while serving as surgeon general from 2002 to 2006, recently cited its suppression as an example of the Bush administration's frequent efforts during his tenure to give scientific documents a political twist.
As each day passes the more I believe that those in power in the executive branch today care little or nothing for the general welfare of the people of the world. Withholding public health information for purely political reasons isn't just gross - it is immoral.
Related Post: Bush, Bush, Bush: Say It Three Times Fast
We've heard for years now how President Bush's White House has tried to suppress important scientific information on issues from the environment to health care. Now one former top Bush official is talking. The New York Times reports:
WASHINGTON, July 10 — Former Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona told a Congressional panel Tuesday that top Bush administration officials repeatedly tried to weaken or suppress important public health reports because of political considerations.
The administration, Dr. Carmona said, would not allow him to speak or issue reports about stem cells, emergency contraception, sex education, or prison, mental and global health issues. Top officials delayed for years and tried to “water down” a landmark report on secondhand smoke, he said. Released last year, the report concluded that even brief exposure to cigarette smoke could cause immediate harm.
Dr. Carmona said he was ordered to mention President Bush three times on every page of his speeches. He also said he was asked to make speeches to support Republican political candidates and to attend political briefings.
This White House has governed for 6 years as if the health and safety of the American people is secondary to the well-being and profit margin of their largest contributors. Their behavior is deeply immoral. Their disregard for scientific truth in favor of political expediency is sickening.
Update: Check out this quote from The Washington Post's coverage:
"Anything that doesn't fit into the political appointees' ideological, theological or political agenda is often ignored, marginalized or simply buried," he (Carmona) said. "The problem with this approach is that in public health, as in a democracy, there is nothing worse than ignoring science or marginalizing the voice of science for reasons driven by changing political winds."
Amen to that.
For far too long, strident voices, in the name of Christianity, have been claiming that people must choose between religion and modern science. More than 10,000 Christian clergy have already signed The Clergy Letter demonstrating that this is a false dichotomy. Now, on the 198th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, many of these leaders will bring this message to their congregations through sermons and/or discussion groups. Together, participating religious leaders will be making the statement that religion and science are not adversaries.
I'm one of the signers of The Clergy Letter, which can be found here.
The United Church of Christ has a long history of supporting scientific discovery. Theories such as evolution help us to better understand the power of creation and in doing so bring us closer to God.
Those that oppose teaching evolution in our public schools do harm to our children and curtail our ability as the people of God to more fully understand the biological make-up of humanity.
Click here for a list of other churches participating in Evolution Sunday.
For all those of us Pacific Northwesterners who like to make fun of the way they do things in Kansas there is this news to consider:
This week in Federal Way schools, it got a lot more inconvenient to show one of the top-grossing documentaries in U.S. history, the global-warming alert "An Inconvenient Truth."
After a parent who supports the teaching of creationism and opposes sex education complained about the film, the Federal Way School Board on Tuesday placed what it labeled a moratorium on showing the film. The movie consists largely of a computer presentation by former Vice President Al Gore recounting scientists' findings.
"Condoms don't belong in school, and neither does Al Gore. He's not a schoolteacher," said Frosty Hardison, a parent of seven who also said that he believes the Earth is 14,000 years old. "The information that's being presented is a very cockeyed view of what the truth is. ... The Bible says that in the end times everything will burn up, but that perspective isn't in the DVD."
Federal Way is located near Seattle.
The school district will now only allow the film to be shown if an “alternative” point of view is also shown to students.
So while the schools take into account the views of the crazies the world burns.
I’ve got very little patience for those who so misuse Scripture in moments like this. Children are hurt by such thinking and God’s call to us to act responsibly for the protection of Creation is deeply harmed. That is one reason that I have joined over 10,000 other clergy is signing this Open Letter Concerning Religion and Science:
Within the community of Christian believers there are areas of dispute and disagreement, including the proper way to interpret Holy Scripture. While virtually all Christians take the Bible seriously and hold it to be authoritative in matters of faith and practice, the overwhelming majority do not read the Bible literally, as they would a science textbook. Many of the beloved stories found in the Bible – the Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark – convey timeless truths about God, human beings, and the proper relationship between Creator and creation expressed in the only form capable of transmitting these truths from generation to generation. Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts.
We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris. We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.
I hope that churches in Federal Way fight the school board and overturn this decision.
Extremists in the Religious Right are doing everything in their power these days to kick real science of out schools to be replaced with various forms of conservative theologies. Many if not most Christians reject such efforts outright and support the teaching of evolution, for example, and oppose the teaching of creationism or so-called intelligent design.
The National Council of Churches USA has published a short but informative brochure on the teaching of evolution in our public schools and I commend this as a resource for you to pass on to educators, parents and students in your congregations. It refutes the opponents of science on our classrooms and explains why and how science and religion can and should coexist.
My fundamental respect for diversity normally ends whenever the "Church" of Scientology is brought up. First, it is not a church - at least not in my book. Those involved with Scientology have over the years worked to develop a more mainstream image. But I still maintain that their methods and views are dangerous. No where is that more obvious than their work to discredit the work of both mental health professionals and the mental health-related medications that have brought relief to millions suffering from mental illness.
Check out this latest example of their work from The Arizona Republic:
A group affiliated with the Church of Scientology has forged close ties with several influential members of the Arizona Legislature as part of a nationwide battle against the mental-health industry.
The Citizens Commission on Human Rights has courted key lawmakers with trips to glitzy Scientologist events in Hollywood. And, observers say, it has been the force behind more than two dozen bills in Arizona in recent years, including measures to restrict prescriptions of Ritalin and mood-altering drugs.
One of the measures pushed by the group is likely to be approved by the state Senate on Monday.
Senate Bill 1477, the psychotropic-drug bill that received preliminary approval this week, would add more state oversight of clinical trials involving tranquilizers and other drugs that affect the mind at state-funded institutions. Supporters say they do not believe people are always informed of the possible side effects of drugs like Prozac and Ritalin.
Opponents counter that the bill is unnecessary because of strict federal oversight of research programs and warn that it is part of a larger campaign by the religious sect to discredit the field of psychiatry.
"They don't believe there is such a thing as mental illness," said Sen. Robert Cannell, the Legislature's only medical doctor. "They have such an influence on the Legislature it is scary."
Air America's State of Belief program brought this issue in Arizona to my attention.
Most people in the United States remember the bizarre rants from Scientologist Tom Cruise attacking women seeking medical treatment for post-partum depression.
Shortly after 9/11 the Church of Scientology tried to seek out people in crisis by claiming to offer mental health services. "The public needs to understand that the Scientologists are using this tragedy to recruit new members," Michael M. Faenza, President and CEO of National Mental Health Association, said at the time. "They are not providing mental health assistance."
Their actions have been despicable over the years.
After Cruise's high profile comments the American Psychiatric Association (APA), NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill), and the National Mental Health Association (NMHA) released a joint statement that read in part:
FACT: Over the past five years, the nation has more than doubled its investment in the study of the human brain and behavior, leading to a vastly expanded understanding of postpartum depression, bipolar disorder and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Much of this research has been conducted by the National Institutes of Health and the nation's leading academic institutions.
FACT: Safe and effective treatments are available and may include talk therapy, medication or a combination of the two. Rigorous, published, peer-reviewed research clearly demonstrates that treatment works.
FACT: Medications can be an important and even life-saving part of a comprehensive and individualized treatment plan. As in other areas of medicine, medications are a safe and effective way to improve the quality of life for millions of Americans who have mental health concerns.
FACT: Mental health is a critical ingredient of overall health. It is unfortunate that in the face of this remarkable scientific and clinical progress that a small number of individuals and groups persist in questioning its legitimacy.
Keep on the look out for efforts in your local communities (not to mention in DC) that attack mental health treatment. You can bet there is a good chance that Scientologists will be behind any such effort. We know that in Arizona they are buying the politicians. Let's do everything we can to expose and stop them before they damage more lives.
I've mentioned before that I'm taking part in the Faith Forum on Genetics sponsored by Pacific University, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, and the National Institutes for Health. The project is designed to help faith communities grapple with the theological / ethical questions that surround new genetic technologies.
One of the most difficult questions you'll encounter in this field of study is the question of disability. Is it ethical, for example, to terminate a pregnancy because genetic testing shows that once born the fetus might develop alcoholism or some debilitating disease at a later stage of life?
PBS's Religion and Ethics Newsweekly covers a related topic this week on their program. Host Bob Abernethy says:
We have a special report today on a wrenching ethical dilemma that has emerged from new medical technologies. Doctors can now detect early in a pregnancy if a fetus has Down Syndrome. The condition usually results in physical disabilities and some degree of mental retardation. Armed with that information, expectant parents face the decision of whether to terminate the pregnancy.
My wife and I decided not to have our twins genetically tested. That was a personal decision and we were fortunate that they were born without any problems. I'm comfortable leaving decisions such as these up to the potential parent / parents involved.
But I also take seriously this statement from the National Council of Churches USA that was included in their recent report Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: A Policy On Human Biotechnologies:
The promise and danger of biotechnology is perhaps nowhere more obvious than the ways it affects people with disabilities and their families. There is no one "disability" perspective on the use of biotechnology, for people with disabilities and their families are first of all people, with different values, theologies, and understandings about the purpose of life and God's call to care for one another. The use of tools and processes declared to be neutral and value free, and designed to relieve suffering, holds great promise when they can support the lives of people with disabilities or alleviate unnecessary pain or suffering. But biotechnology becomes profoundly disquieting to many with disabilities when disabling conditions or predictions are equated with life long suffering, imperfection, or disease. When those personal and social values are combined with the power of technology to prevent the birth of a child with a disability or defect, the possibility of a new eugenics fueled by social values, market forces, and personal choice, rather than official policy, becomes quite real.
Our reflection causes us to challenge the assumptions that everything needs to be "fixed" or "improved" and that we know how best to do this; and that just because something can be done does not mean it ought to be done. Science cannot save us from finitude.
Click here to read and / or watch the PBS story.
Where would you draw the line?
Pacific University's Institute for Ethics and Social Policy has launched a very interesting program in concert with the National Institutes for Health (NIH) and Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon (EMO) called the "Faith Forum On Genetics."
"Community seminars" representing American Baptists, the Community of Christ, the Disciples of Christ, Episcopalians, Lutherans (ELCA), Roman Catholics, Quakers, Unitarian Universalists, the United Church of Christ, and United Methodists are meeting over a period of three months to discuss from their own faith perspective the issues raised by genetic science. All the participants met together for an orientation and will be brought back together at the conclusion of the program to share their discussions with the larger ecumenical group. I'm a member of the cluster from Portland's First Congregational United Church of Christ.
Dr. Marc Marenco, director of the institute and a professor of philosophy at Pacific, writes that there are four objectives for the program:
1. A measurable increase in knowledge about genetic science.
2. A measurable increase in knowledge of the complexity of the ethical, theological and policy questions raised by genetic science.
3. Communication of the results of the work done by the different faith groups to policy makers.
4. Development of a flexible, always-up-to-date, adult education program for use in churches throughout the country.
The orientation put together by Pacific included presentations by The Rev. Dr. Audrey Chapman, director of the science and human rights program of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Dr. Michael Banner, director of the genomics policy and research forum and professor of philosophy at the University of Edinburgh (Scotland). Pacific has also provided participants with a notebook offering scientific background information and essays on different theological perspectives on genetic science.
The issues raised by this field of study are important for a range of reasons. More people gain access to this science every day (genetic testing, stem cell research, etc) and are grappling with the theological questions raised by such advances in medicine.
This past fall the National Council of Churches USA issued a draft policy statement related to this issue called Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: A Policy on Human Biotechnologies. The statement will be debated at the 2006 NCC General Assembly this fall. I wrote a review of the statement for a seminary course (a review that will provide readers with one Christian perspective on these complex issues). It is available here for download. NCC is soliciting feedback on their statement.
Unfortunately, discussions around this topic are highly politicized. The sponsors of this effort are providing an invaluable service by fostering discussion of a sometimes difficult topic in an atmosphere respectful and tolerant of different opinions.
Everyonce and awhile I go through my e-mails and search the web for feedback regarding this site. Some of what people write is a little nutty. On the other hand, some of the e-mails are great and I learn a thing or two from people who write in. Here is a small selection of recent e-mails:
When 1 UCC church was vandalized, you condemned conservative evangelicals for being slow to the draw in condemning that act. Well, some angry liberal who hates Southern Baptists just torched 6 of their churches in Alabama. It's your turn. How long are you gonna wait to condemn it and how many words will you use? Are you gonna condemn every single liberal religious voice out there that hesitates the least bit? Let's see how consistent you are.
- February 3, 2006
Martin Luther King was almost entirely a media-created hero. Even the idealized King would be useless against a Bin Laden, a Hitler or just anybody who's determined to be violent.
- February 9, 2006
Hi there I saw that you were encouraging Email. I want to highlight one of the founders of Evolution a man named Earnest Haeckel. He can be quoted as saying "...where faith commences, science ends...". I think it is an important quote. I'm sure glad he said it. Earnest is credited with the theory of recapitulation, the idea that we all go through the evolutionary stages as embryos, "the fish stage" may ring a bell. Haeckel likely was a brilliant man who believed that we evolved. His works on the embryonic stages we go through have been in many books. Even today the idea is still contained in some science books. During his time, his contemporaries challenged the accuracy of the drawings were. We now just take pictures; photographs do not have any opinions and are much more objective. Embryologists of today have shown that his drawings we’re wrong, this has been known for a while now. Embyos do not look like each other, especially not as Earnest depicted them. As Earnest so eloquently put it, ..."where faith commences science ends." His faith, belief in evolution, guided his drawings, his drawings are not scientific. The photos are irrefutable. I'd be happy to send you a copy of the evidence against his work in the regard to recapitulation theory. As for the rest of his work I'm sure he believed in it too. It has taken 100 years until we could photograph the evidence and it still won’t go away. That is because Evolution is not a theory, it is a hypothesis that can be loosely supported when you throw out the evidence that doesn't fit and then, find a platform that can not be challenged like the public schools and the universities. May you consider the "cleverly invented stories" that have been told and examine them, but also consider the great Christian men and women today who are scientists and find much reason to question the last 100-150 years of evolutionary indoctrination?
- February 8, 2006
Republicans have cut college funding and doubled Army enlistment bonuses to ensure only the poorest will suffer the burden of arrogant Republican foreign policies.
- February 7, 2006
I just finished listening to the interview and it sounded great. Welton, myself and the entire staff really do appreciate your work and determination to make sure religion is used properly in American life. Jon Niven Deputy Press Secretary, The Interfaith Alliance
- February 7, 2006
Good to hear you are feeling better and great to see you back on your blog. I just recently read Bono's speech at the National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 2 and was wondering if you have read it yet. I know you are probably busy with your new appointment, settling in and playing with the twins. I thought I would send along the speech in case you haven't read it.
- February 5, 2006
The fact that Christians, believers in god could support abortion shows just how phony most Christians are, I guess if you're involved in a convoluted belief in an imaginary god you can justify anything. Christians worship a god that murders children....it's in the bible many times, so I guess that's ok,,,,,what a f-------- joke. Take your bible and throw it in the garbage, it's MADE UP NONSENSE, A FABRICATION OF ANCIENT STORIES MEANT TO SCARE PEOPLE INTO COMPLIANCE, HA HA HA HA ! A JOKE!
- January 28, 2005
Much to my dismay, my own congregation chose to leave the UCC this year. It was one of the oldest, largest, and most properous within the State of Illinois, and generally felt that the UCC had departed from the founding faith. Most members are conservative in religion or at least mainline and also in politics. From my travels, that appears to be the case in most UCC congregations. Within the leadership of the denomination, there seems to be less and less toleration for such positions. We really were a "community church" and mainline in orientation. The congregation continues to grow rapidly, and intolerance within the UCC was restraining it.
- December 27, 2005
I came across your site while looking for discussion on being a Christian and being pro-choice. I found this entry and its comments
particularly helpful. I'm from a fairly fundamentalist background, and I'm just now finding out that I can make my faith my own -- and not what someone tells me I should think/believe. I'm now starting to articulate where I stand, and the resources and discussion I've found through your site have been very helpful. Thanks so much! I'm bookmarking your site so I continue reading (and maybe participating in?) the discussions you generate.
- December 25, 2005
Im not sure why Archbishop Burke is the lightening rod, he is only holding fast to the unending teachings of the magisterium of our mother church. His stand is just what an archbishop is to do and I applaud him.
- December 23, 2005
Evangelical Christians - including best selling author Rick Warren - broke with the Republican Party this week by launching a campaign to stop global warming. The campaign includes a letter (reprinted below) calling for congressional and presidential action on global warming, a website, and also includes a television commercial to be aired later.
The campaign was launched after the National Association of Evangelicals caved under pressure from leading activists in the Religious Right and refused - as hoped - to release their own statement on global warming.
"James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family; Charles Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries; the Rev. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention; Richard Roberts, president of Oral Roberts University; Donald Wildmon, head the American Family Association; and the Rev. Louis Sheldon, head of the Traditional Values Coalition," were among those reported by MSNBC who signed a letter telling the National Association of Evangelicals not to release a statement.
The Republican Party-aligned Institute on Religion and Democracy also called on the National Association of Evangelicals not to question President Bush's policies.
However, many prominent evangelicals put their faith ahead of politics and did release a statement:
Climate Change: An Evangelical Call to Action
As American evangelical Christian leaders, we recognize both our opportunity and our responsibility to offer a biblically based moral witness that can help shape public policy in the most powerful nation on earth, and therefore contribute to the well-being of the entire world.1 Whether we will enter the public square and offer our witness there is no longer an open question. We are in that square, and we will not withdraw.
We are proud of the evangelical community's long-standing commitment to the sanctity of human life. But we also offer moral witness in many venues and on many issues. Sometimes the issues that we have taken on, such as sex trafficking, genocide in the Sudan, and the AIDS epidemic in Africa, have surprised outside observers. While individuals and organizations can be called to concentrate on certain issues, we are not a single-issue movement. We seek to be true to our calling as Christian leaders, and above all faithful to Jesus Christ our Lord. Our attention, therefore, goes to whatever issues our faith requires us to address.
Over the last several years many of us have engaged in study, reflection, and prayer related to the issue of climate change (often called "global warming"). For most of us, until recently this has not been treated as a pressing issue or major priority. Indeed, many of us have required considerable convincing before becoming persuaded that climate change is a real problem and that it ought to matter to us as Christians. But now we have seen and heard enough to offer the following moral argument related to the matter of human-induced climate change. We commend the four simple but urgent claims offered in this document to all who will listen, beginning with our brothers and sisters in the Christian community, and urge all to take the appropriate actions that follow from them.
Claim 1: Human-Induced Climate Change is Real
Since 1995 there has been general agreement among those in the scientific community most seriously engaged with this issue that climate change is happening and is being caused mainly by human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels. Evidence gathered since 1995 has only strengthened this conclusion.
Because all religious/moral claims about climate change are relevant only if climate change is real and is mainly human-induced, everything hinges on the scientific data. As evangelicals we have hesitated to speak on this issue until we could be more certain of the science of climate change, but the signatories now believe that the evidence demands action:
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world's most authoritative body of scientists and policy experts on the issue of global warming, has been studying this issue since the late 1980s. (From 19882002 the IPCC's assessment of the climate science was Chaired by Sir John Houghton, a devout evangelical Christian.) It has documented the steady rise in global temperatures over the last fifty years, projects that the average global temperature will continue to rise in the coming decades, and attributes "most of the warming" to human activities.
The U.S. National Academy of Sciences, as well as all other G8 country scientific Academies (Great Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Canada, Italy, and Russia), has concurred with these judgments.
In a 2004 report, and at the 2005 G8 summit, the Bush Administration has also acknowledged the reality of climate change and the likelihood that human activity is the cause of at least some of it.2
In the face of the breadth and depth of this scientific and governmental concern, only a small percentage of which is noted here, we are convinced that evangelicals must engage this issue without any further lingering over the basic reality of the problem or humanity's responsibility to address it.
Claim 2: The Consequences of Climate Change Will Be Significant, and Will Hit the Poor the Hardest
The earth's natural systems are resilient but not infinitely so, and human civilizations are remarkably dependent on ecological stability and well-being. It is easy to forget this until that stability and well-being are threatened.
Even small rises in global temperatures will have such likely impacts as: sea level rise; more frequent heat waves, droughts, and extreme weather events such as torrential rains and floods; increased tropical diseases in now-temperate regions; and hurricanes that are more intense. It could lead to significant reduction in agricultural output, especially in poor countries. Low-lying regions, indeed entire islands, could find themselves under water. (This is not to mention the various negative impacts climate change could have on God's other creatures.)
Each of these impacts increases the likelihood of refugees from flooding or famine, violent conflicts, and international instability, which could lead to more security threats to our nation.
Poor nations and poor individuals have fewer resources available to cope with major challenges and threats. The consequences of global warming will therefore hit the poor the hardest, in part because those areas likely to be significantly affected first are in the poorest regions of the world. Millions of people could die in this century because of climate change, most of them our poorest global neighbors.
Claim 3: Christian Moral Convictions Demand Our Response to the Climate Change Problem
While we cannot here review the full range of relevant biblical convictions related to care of the creation, we emphasize the following points:
Christians must care about climate change because we love God the Creator and Jesus our Lord, through whom and for whom the creation was made. This is God's world, and any damage that we do to God's world is an offense against God Himself (Gen. 1; Ps. 24; Col. 1:16).
Christians must care about climate change because we are called to love our neighbors, to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, and to protect and care for the least of these as though each was Jesus Christ himself (Mt. 22:34-40; Mt. 7:12; Mt. 25:31-46).
Christians, noting the fact that most of the climate change problem is human induced, are reminded that when God made humanity he commissioned us to exercise stewardship over the earth and its creatures. Climate change is the latest evidence of our failure to exercise proper stewardship, and constitutes a critical opportunity for us to do better (Gen. 1:26-28).
Love of God, love of neighbor, and the demands of stewardship are more than enough reason for evangelical Christians to respond to the climate change problem with moral passion and concrete action.
Claim 4: The need to act now is urgent. Governments, businesses, churches, and individuals all have a role to play in addressing climate changestarting now.
The basic task for all of the world's inhabitants is to find ways now to begin to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels that are the primary cause of human-induced climate change.
There are several reasons for urgency. First, deadly impacts are being experienced now. Second, the oceans only warm slowly, creating a lag in experiencing the consequences. Much of the climate change to which we are already committed will not be realized for several decades. The consequences of the pollution we create now will be visited upon our children and grandchildren. Third, as individuals and as a society we are making long-term decisions today that will determine how much carbon dioxide we will emit in the future, such as whether to purchase energy efficient vehicles and appliances that will last for 10-20 years, or whether to build more coal-burning power plants that last for 50 years rather than investing more in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
In the United States, the most important immediate step that can be taken at the federal level is to pass and implement national legislation requiring sufficient economy-wide reductions in carbon dioxide emissions through cost-effective, market-based mechanisms such as a cap-and-trade program. On June 22, 2005 the Senate passed the Domenici-Bingaman resolution affirming this approach, and a number of major energy companies now acknowledge that this method is best both for the environment and for business.
We commend the Senators who have taken this stand and encourage them to fulfill their pledge. We also applaud the steps taken by such companies as BP, Shell, General Electric, Cinergy, Duke Energy, and DuPont, all of which have moved ahead of the pace of government action through innovative measures implemented within their companies in the U.S. and around the world. In so doing they have offered timely leadership.
Numerous positive actions to prevent and mitigate climate change are being implemented across our society by state and local governments, churches, smaller businesses, and individuals. These commendable efforts focus on such matters as energy efficiency, the use of renewable energy, low CO2 emitting technologies, and the purchase of hybrid vehicles. These efforts can easily be shown to save money, save energy, reduce global warming pollution as well as air pollution that harm human health, and eventually pay for themselves. There is much more to be done, but these pioneers are already helping to show the way forward.
Finally, while we must reduce our global warming pollution to help mitigate the impacts of climate change, as a society and as individuals we must also help the poor adapt to the significant harm that global warming will cause.
We the undersigned pledge to act on the basis of the claims made in this document. We will not only teach the truths communicated here but also seek ways to implement the actions that follow from them. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, we urge all who read this declaration to join us in this effort.
1 Cf. "For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility," approved by National Association of Evangelicals, October 8, 2004.
2 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2001, Summary for Policymakers; http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/007.htm. (See also the main IPCC website, www.ipcc.ch.) For the confirmation of the IPCC's findings from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, see, Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions (2001); http://books.nap.edu/html/climatechange/summary.html. For the statement by the G8 Academies (plus those of Brazil, India, and China) see Joint Science Academies Statement: Global Response to Climate Change, (June 2005): http://nationalacademies.org/onpi/06072005.pdf. Another major international report that confirms the IPCC's conclusions comes from the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment. See their Impacts of a Warming Climate, Cambridge University Press, November 2004, p.2; http://amap.no/acia/. Another important statement is from the American Geophysical Union, "Human Impacts on Climate," December 2003, http://www.agu.org/sci_soc/policy/climate_change_position.html. For the Bush Administration's perspective, see Our Changing Planet: The U.S. Climate Change Science Program for Fiscal Years 2004 and 2005, p.47; http://www.usgcrp.gov/usgcrp/Library/ocp2004-5/default.htm. For the 2005 G8 statement, see http://www.number-10.gov.uk/output/Page7881.asp.
On 12 February 2006 hundreds of Christian churches from all portions of the country and a host of denominations will come together to discuss the compatibility of religion and science. For far too long, strident voices, in the name of Christianity, have been claiming that people must choose between religion and modern science. More than 10,000 Christian clergy have already signed The Clergy Letter demonstrating that this is a false dichotomy. Now, on the 197th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, many of these leaders will bring this message to their congregations through sermons and/or discussion groups. Together, participating religious leaders will be making the statement that religion and science are not adversaries. And, together, they will be elevating the quality of the national debate on this topic.Scientific discovery doesn’t take anything away from the miracle of creation.
An important victory for the Constitution was reached today by a federal judge who has ruled against teaching “Intelligent Design” as an alternative scientific theory to evolution in the public schools. The AP reports:
HARRISBURG, Pa. - "Intelligent design" is "a religious alternative masquerading as a scientific theory" and cannot be mentioned in biology classes in a Pennsylvania public school district, a federal judge said Tuesday, ruling in one of the biggest courtroom clashes on evolution since the 1925 Scopes trial.
Dover Area School Board members violated the Constitution when they ordered that its biology curriculum must include the notion that life on Earth was produced by an unidentified intelligent cause, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III said.
“We find that the secular purposes claimed by the Board amount to a pretext for the Board’s real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public school classroom,” he wrote in his 139-page opinion. “The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy,” Jones wrote, adding that several members repeatedly lied to cover their motives even while professing religious beliefs….
“We conclude that the religious nature of ID would be readily apparent to an objective observer, adult or child," Jones said.
This fall voters in Dover kicked out of office the school board members that had been pushing ‘Intelligent Design.”
Public schools should be teaching science and leave theological interpretations of the world to our churches and other religious bodies.
A big thank you to the voters and the courts for upholding the Constitution!
Related Post: “Intelligent Design Theory”
"Sen. Frist coming out in favor of the bill," she (US Rep. Diana DeGette) told the Denver Post, "helps pro-life Republicans understand this is reasonable.
"Since we passed the bill through the House in May, I've been approached, and I know everyone else here has, too, by hundreds of citizens," she said following Frist's floor statement announcing his support of her bill. "And I've gotten thousands of phone calls and e-mails. And people are very thankful that the House passed a bill that will give hope to so many millions of Americans."
The fuel for the momentum DeGette refers to, however, is false hope. Frist relied on it in his Friday statement on the floor of the Senate—offering no real evidence touting successful embryonic research.
"Cure today may be just a theory, a hope, a dream," he said. "But the promise is powerful enough that I believe this research deserves our increased energy and focus. Embryonic stem cell research must be supported."
Carrie Gordon Earll, Focus on the Family Action's senior analyst for bioethics, disagreed, noting that no cures have come from embryonic stem-cell research, even though hundreds of millions dollars have been spent. The true hope, she explained, comes from trials involving "adult" stem cells—those taken from such sources as umbilical cord blood.
"It's sad that advocates of destructive embryo research are misrepresenting the science to patients and their families," Earll explained.
And who is Carrie Gordon Earll? A doctor? A researcher?
I don't mind that someone with no scientific education has an opinion on stem cell research - and good people can come to different conclusions on these issues. The senior analyst for bioethics at Focus on the Family might even be qualified to make a good argument on the ethics of stem cell research (the area her degree relates to). But Focus on the Family should stick to making theological arguments and leave the science to people who actually know something about it.
Or does science just not matter at all to the religious right?
In this case, I’ll take Dr. Bill Frist’s advice (Harvard Medical School graduate and pro-life Republican senator).
Related Link: Harvard Stem Cell Institute
The president announced his support today for teaching Intelligent Design Theory in public schools. The “theory” claims that a supernatural force was behind creation. Knight Ridder Newspapers reports:
The National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science have both concluded that there's no scientific basis for intelligent design and oppose its inclusion in school science classes.
"The claim that equity demands balanced treatment of evolutionary theory and special creation in science classrooms reflects a misunderstanding of what science is and how it is conducted," the academy said in a 1999 assessment. "Creationism, intelligent design, and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life or of species are not science because they are not testable by the methods of science."
Some scientists have declined to join the debate, fearing that amplifying the discussion only gives intelligent design more legitimacy.
As I’ve written before, proponents of the theory promote it as being a scientific theory when in reality it is simply creationism all dressed up. As a Christian, evolution doesn’t take anything away from my faith. I believe that God created life. Evolution is not at odds with that. But I don’t want my faith being taught in public schools as “the answer” and I certainly don’t want the pseudo-science in “intelligent design theory” being taught either.
Click here for more on Intelligent Design Theory.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist made a good and thoughtful decision today when he announced his support for federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.
Embryonic stem cell research is supported by many pro-life Republicans and by the United Church of Christ but is opposed by the Roman Catholic Church and by many of the most conservative evangelical groups.
A bi-partisan group in the US House of Representatives passed legislation this week to expand public funding for embryonic stem cell research. The president immediately threatened to veto the legislation. The religious right has declared that such research is in opposition to Christian values. But that pronouncement is not shared by all Christians. In fact, the United Church of Christ adopted a resolution in 2001 in favor of federal funding of embryonic stem cell research under the rational that “Jesus set an example, by his ministry of healing and caring for the sick and disabled, challenging us to follow his example by supporting the healing and caring ministry in our own day.”
Embryonic stem cell research has the potential to unlock cures for conditions like “diabetes, spinal cord paralysis, heart disease, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, cancer, MS [multiple sclerosis], Lou Gehrig's disease and other fatal, debilitating diseases," says Rep. Jim Ramstad, a Minnesota Republican.
No one is talking about growing embryonic stem cells simply for research. The legislation adopted by the House – which is in line with the ethical guidelines adopted by the UCC – “allows federally funded research on stem cell lines that were derived ethically from donated embryos determined to be in excess," says Republican Delaware congressman Mike Castle.
Christians can confidently and morally support embryonic stem cell research. We are called to support a healing and caring ministry in our own day and this research can help meet that goal.
Click here for additional information on the issues involved from the testimony of The Rev. Ronald Cole-Turner, a UCC minister, before the National Bioethics Advisory Committee. Another good essay dealing with the issues, this one from Dr. Betty Hoskins, is available on the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice web site.
Atlanta, Jan. 13 - A federal judge Thursday ordered a suburban Atlanta school system to remove stickers from its high school biology textbooks that call evolution "a theory, not a fact," saying the disclaimers are an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.
"By denigrating evolution, the school board appears to be endorsing the well-known prevailing alternative theory, creationism or variations thereof, even though the sticker does not specifically reference any alternative theories," U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper said.
Thank you, Judge Cooper.
It is amazing to think that in 2005 we are still arguing over the validity of evolution and even the appropriateness of teaching real science in the classroom.
The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, a United Church of Christ minister and head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, issued the following statement in favor of the ruling:
This is a great decision with national significance. These textbook disclaimers are part of a national campaign to undercut the teaching of evolution in public schools in accordance with fundamentalist Christian beliefs. Today' court decision will throw a major roadblock in the path of that crusade. Public schools may not be used to advance religious dogma, and the court has rightly upheld that principle.
You can read the decision here.
Related Post: "Intelligent Design Theory"
Religious conservatives have been touting “intelligent design theory” as an alternative to teaching evolution in the schools. What is the theory? In a nutshell: life was created by some sort of intelligence and not simply by a random process of evolution. Proponents of the theory promote it as being a scientific theory when in reality it is simply creationism all dressed up. As a Christian, evolution doesn’t take anything away from my faith. I believe that God created life. Evolution is not at odds with that. But I don’t want my faith being taught in public schools as “the answer” and I certainly don’t want the pseudo-science in “intelligent design theory” being taught either. That is what church is for. Pat Robertson and Albert Mohler disagree. Religious conservatives are demanding the theory be taught. Scientists claim there is no science to teach behind the theory. Where do we go from here? The courts, of course. “The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State filed a lawsuit challenging the Dover (Pennsylvania) Area School District's adoption of the theory of "intelligent design" -- which maintains that an "intelligent force" has directed the evolution of life on earth -- as part of its schools' science curriculum on the grounds that it is a violation of the separation of church and state,” reports Media Matters for America. Let’s hope the courts have the good sense to defend the Constitution.
The Nation has published an article this month by Robert Kennedy, Jr. criticizing the Bush Administration’s environmental and scientific record. Kennedy’s comments follow those of over 60 nationally known scientists – including several Nobel laureates – who accused the Bush Administration in February of distorting scientific data for political gain. Kennedy writes:
As Jesuit schoolboys studying world history we learned that Copernicus and Galileo self-censored for many decades their proofs that the earth revolved around the sun and that a less restrained heliocentrist, Giordano Bruno, was burned alive in 1600 for the crime of sound science. With the encouragement of our professor, Father Joyce, we marveled at the capacity of human leaders to corrupt noble institutions. Lust for power had caused the Catholic hierarchy to subvert the church's most central purpose--the search for existential truths.
Today, flat-earthers within the Bush Administration--aided by right-wing allies who have produced assorted hired guns and conservative think tanks to further their goals--are engaged in a campaign to suppress science that is arguably unmatched in the Western world since the Inquisition. Sometimes, rather than suppress good science, they simply order up their own. Meanwhile, the Bush White House is purging, censoring and blacklisting scientists and engineers whose work threatens the profits of the Administration's corporate paymasters or challenges the ideological underpinnings of their radical anti-environmental agenda. Indeed, so extreme is this campaign that more than sixty scientists, including Nobel laureates and medical experts, released a statement on February 18 that accuses the Bush Administration of deliberately distorting scientific fact "for partisan political ends."
The full story can be found in the online version of The Nation. Scientists – both Republicans and Democrats – charge that no administration before this has ever tried to manipulate scientific material for political reasons like these before. Thanks to my mother-in-law, Alice Smith, for sending the link.