Thursday, March 31, 2005

Law & Mercy
We have an interesting study in contrasts here. On one hand, we have Congress and the President violating the Constitution in order to preserve a single life. We have a respected religious authority calling the removal of Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube “nothing more than state-sanctioned murder.” ...

...On the other hand, we have a US soldier in Iraq making the determination that another severely damaged life wasn’t worth preserving. Let’s compare the extreme and unconstitutional (by definition, illegal) lengths the “culture of life” types have gone to over Terri Schiavo to the following tidbit...

...he killing of this wounded Iraqi human being is being treated as equivalent to shooting a wounded dog in order to “put him out of his misery.”...

U.N.: Iraq kids suffer from malnutrition
GENEVA (AP) — Almost twice as many Iraqi children are suffering from malnutrition since the U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein, a U.N. monitor said Monday.

4% of Iraqis under age 5 went hungry in the months after Saddam's ouster in April 2003, and the rate nearly doubled to 7.7% last year, said Jean Ziegler, the U.N. Human Rights Commission's special expert on the right to food.

The situation is "a result of the war led by coalition forces," he said....

In the Name of Politics

...Christian activists, eager to take credit for recent electoral successes, would not be likely to concede that Republican adoption of their political agenda is merely the natural convergence of conservative religious and political values. Correctly, they would see a causal relationship between the activism of the churches and the responsiveness of Republican politicians. In turn, pragmatic Republicans would agree that motivating Christian conservatives has contributed to their successes....

...The problem is not with people or churches that are politically active. It is with a party that has gone so far in adopting a sectarian agenda that it has become the political extension of a religious movement.

When government becomes the means of carrying out a religious program, it raises obvious questions under the First Amendment. But even in the absence of constitutional issues, a political party should resist identification with a religious movement. While religions are free to advocate for their own sectarian causes, the work of government and those who engage in it is to hold together as one people a very diverse country. At its best, religion can be a uniting influence, but in practice, nothing is more divisive. For politicians to advance the cause of one religious group is often to oppose the cause of another....

...During the 18 years I served in the Senate, Republicans often disagreed with each other. But there was much that held us together. We believed in limited government, in keeping light the burden of taxation and regulation. We encouraged the private sector, so that a free economy might thrive. We believed that judges should interpret the law, not legislate. We were internationalists who supported an engaged foreign policy, a strong national defense and free trade. These were principles shared by virtually all Republicans.

But in recent times, we Republicans have allowed this shared agenda to become secondary to the agenda of Christian conservatives. As a senator, I worried every day about the size of the federal deficit. I did not spend a single minute worrying about the effect of gays on the institution of marriage. Today it seems to be the other way around.

The historic principles of the Republican Party offer America its best hope for a prosperous and secure future. Our current fixation on a religious agenda has turned us in the wrong direction. It is time for Republicans to rediscover our roots.

John C. Danforth, a former United States senator from Missouri, resigned in January as United States ambassador to the United Nations. He is an Episcopal minister.

Panel: Agencies 'Dead Wrong' on Iraq WMDs
WASHINGTON (AP) -- In a scathing report, a presidential commission said Thursday that America's spy agencies were "dead wrong" in most of their judgments about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction before the war and that the United States knows "disturbingly little" about the threats posed by many of the nation's most dangerous adversaries....

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

General approved extreme interrogation methods
The highest-ranking US general in Iraq authorised the use of interrogation techniques that included sleep manipulation, stress positions and the use of dogs to "exploit Arab fears" of them, it emerged today.

A memo signed by Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez authorised 29 interrogation techniques, including 12 that exceeded limits in the army's own field manual and four that it admitted risked falling foul of international law, the Geneva conventions or accepted standards on the humane treatment of prisoners.

The memo, dated September 14 2003, also stated that the Iraq interrogation policy was modelled on the one used at Guantánamo Bay "but modified for applicability to a theater [sic] of war in which the Geneva conventions apply".

On Friday, a US court ordered the papers' release under the American Freedom of Information Act, following a request by the American Civil Liberties Union.

"The memo clearly establishes that Gen Sanchez authorised unlawful interrogation techniques for use in Iraq, and, in particular, these techniques violate the Geneva conventions and the army's own field manual governing interrogations," ACLU lawyer Amrit Singh said in a statement. "He and other high-ranking officials who bear responsibility for the widespread abuse of detainees must be held accountable." ...

So you'd like to... kill a dude

Death threats rattling pols
TAMPA - As Terri Schiavo weakens and legal remedies peter out, tension here is intensifying.

Some activists are making ugly threats, making up "Wanted" posters for lawmakers and handing out the home addresses of judges who rejected legal appeals to keep Schiavo alive.

"I am afraid," said state Sen. Frederica Wilson (D-Miami), who has received numerous death threats by phone and mail because she voted against a measure to reinsert Schiavo's feeding tube. "We're talking about the sanctity of life, and [they're] threatening my life."

The nine Republican lawmakers who voted against the measure showed up on anonymous "Wanted" posters that appeared in the state capitol in Tallahassee. State Sen. Nancy Argenziano said one of the "un-Christian" voice mails she's received wished stomach cancer on her.

Guards have been posted outside the politicians' offices.

Police won't discuss their security measures, but Michael Schiavo and Judge George Greer, who has consistently upheld Schiavo's requests to end his wife's life, are under around-the-clock protection and staying out of sight. Both have been the targets of a flood of fury, branding them corrupt and abusive murderers who are flouting God....

WASHINGTON, March 28 - The parents of Terri Schiavo have authorized a conservative direct-mailing firm to sell a list of their financial supporters, making it likely that thousands of strangers moved by her plight will receive a steady stream of solicitations from anti-abortion and conservative groups.

"These compassionate pro-lifers donated toward Bob Schindler's legal battle to keep Terri's estranged husband from removing the feeding tube from Terri," says a description of the list on the Web site of the firm, Response Unlimited, which is asking $150 a month for 6,000 names and $500 a month for 4,000 e-mail addresses of people who responded last month to an e-mail plea from Ms. Schiavo's father. "These individuals are passionate about the way they value human life, adamantly oppose euthanasia and are pro-life in every sense of the word!"

Privacy experts said the sale of the list was legal and even predictable, if ghoulish....

The other Iraq war
There is another war going on today in Iraq about which little is heard. It is a war against Christianity. Christians in Iraq are a comparatively small, windling minority: fewer than 800,000, merely 3 percent out of a population of 26 million.

Though Iraqi Christians are a minuscule minority, they suffering unrelenting Muslim persecution. The Iraqi Christian population, once was more than 15 percent, decreases daily due to emigration to safety in Western countries. Muslim persecution in Iraq of Christians was highlighted in January when Archbishop Basil Georges Casmoussa in Mosul was kidnapped. Cooler Muslim heads must have prevailed because he was released the next day.

Iraqi Christians have historically played an important role in the country. Tariq Aziz, 69, now in coalition custody, and once a familiar face on Western TV, is a Chaldean Catholic. During Saddam's dictatorship, he was Iraqi foreign minister and later deputy prime minister and at one time was even targeted in an assassination attempt by Iranian Islamic terrorists.

It is a paradox that during the Saddam Hussein dictatorship, Iraqi Christians "enjoyed considerable religious freedom," according to Nimrod Raphaeli, senior analyst with the Middle East Media Research Institute. Successors to the dictator Abdul Karim Qassem, assassinated in 1963, employed Christian women, who all spoke excellent English, as I then noted. They were practicing Chaldean Catholics under guidance of a Belgian priest who conducted his office without let or hindrance.

All that has changed. Last August, five churches in Baghdad and four in Mosul were hit in a single day's attacks that killed 12 people. In October, five churches in Baghdad were hit on the first day of the Muslim month of Ramadan. In November, eight people were killed in two church bombings. It is considered justifiable homicide to kill a Muslim convert to Christianity. ...

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Christian Soldier
PINELLAS PARK, Fla., March 28 - The legal battle over the life of Terri Schiavo may have ended, but a thick, fervent crowd remains in the makeshift encampment outside the Woodside Hospice House here....

..."No, we're not going to go home," said Bill Tierney, a young daughter at his side. "Terri is not dead until she's dead."...

...Mr. Tierney, a former military intelligence officer in Iraq who works as a translator and investigator for private companies, cried as he talked about watching the Schiavo spectacle on television and feeling the utter need to be at the hospice.

Like many of the protesters, Mr. Tierney said he had experienced proof in his own life that God is real. He held out his left hand showing the traces of scars from injuries he suffered in a gas explosion in 1987....

...The greatest frustration was evident in rank and file intelligence and law enforcement officers. After explaining his various psychological tactics to the audience, interrogator Bill Tierney (a private contractor working with the Army) said, ''I tried to be nuanced and culturally aware. But the suspects didn't break.''

Suddenly Tierney's temper rose. ''They did not break!'' he shouted. ''I'm here to win. I'm here so our civilization beats theirs! Now what are you willing to do to win?'' he asked, pointing to a woman in the front row. ''You are the interrogators, you are the ones who have to get the information from the Iraqis. What do you do? That word 'torture'. You immediately think, 'That's not me.' But are we litigating this war or fighting it?''

Some listeners murmured in assent; others sat in rapt attention. In all the recent debates about the Bush administration's stance on torture, this voice, the voice of the interrogators themselves, has been almost entirely absent.

Asked about Abu Ghraib, Tierney said that for an interrogator, ''sadism is always right over the hill. You have to admit it. Don't fool yourself - there is a part of you that will say, 'This is fun.'''...

Is No One Accountable?
The Bush administration is desperately trying to keep the full story from emerging. But there is no longer any doubt that prisoners seized by the U.S. in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere have been killed, tortured, sexually humiliated and otherwise grotesquely abused.

These atrocities have been carried out in an atmosphere in which administration officials have routinely behaved as though they were above the law, and thus accountable to no one. People have been rounded up, stripped, shackled, beaten, incarcerated and in some cases killed, without being offered even the semblance of due process. No charges. No lawyers. No appeals.

Arkan Mohammed Ali is a 26-year-old Iraqi who was detained by the U.S. military for nearly a year at various locations, including the infamous Abu Ghraib prison. According to a lawsuit filed against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Mr. Ali was at times beaten into unconsciousness during interrogations. He was stabbed, shocked with an electrical device, urinated on and kept locked - hooded and naked - in a wooden, coffinlike box. He said he was told by his captors that soldiers could kill detainees with impunity.

(This was not a boast from the blue. On Saturday, for example, The Times reported that the Army would not prosecute 17 American soldiers implicated in the deaths of three prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.)

Mr. Ali's story is depressingly similar to other accounts pouring in from detainees, human rights groups, intelligence sources and U.S. government investigators. If you pay close attention to what is already known about the sadistic and barbaric treatment of prisoners by the U.S., you can begin to wonder how far we've come from the Middle Ages....

Monday, March 28, 2005

Young Marines polish kids, teens
Most days, Elizabeth Capawana is busy with things you might expect for a 15-year-old. The Osborne High School sophomore goes to class, socializes with friends, rides horses and plays the French horn.

Two Saturdays a month, she takes on another persona: drill instructor.

Wearing camouflage uniform and black utility boots, she barks orders to dozens of other kids as they push their way through physical fitness tests and marching drills at the Naval Air Station base in Marietta.

Staff Sgt. Capawana is a Young Marine, one of about 10,000 in 291 units across the country. Elizabeth is in the Gen. Raymond G. Davis Metro Atlanta unit, one of two Young Marines groups in Georgia. The other is in Albany.

Little known to the general public, Young Marines accept members at age 8, and have seen their ranks swell the past decade.

Supporters say the group's emphasis on academic achievement, physical development and a drug-free lifestyle is good for children.

Critics say the organization also operates as a recruiting tool for the all-volunteer military, taking kids who are too young and encouraging them to join the U.S. Marine Corps when they grow up.

"Programs such as the Young Marines are successful because they give youth a sense of belonging and a higher purpose in life, yet I think parents need to ask themselves what that purpose is," said Marietta's Debbie Clark, a member of Veterans for Peace, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the abolishment of war.

"The primary function of the military is to be a killing machine, and it needs to attract future combatants."

Elizabeth's mother, Penny Capawana, disagrees.

"They're not like little kids in cammies playing war," she said. "It teaches them discipline, respect for the country, independence and accountability."...

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Pentagon Will Not Try 17 G.I.'s Implicated in Prisoners' Deaths
WASHINGTON, March 25 - Despite recommendations by Army investigators, commanders have decided not to prosecute 17 American soldiers implicated in the deaths of three prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004, according to a new accounting released Friday by the Army.

Investigators had recommended that all 17 soldiers be charged in the cases, according to the accounting by the Army Criminal Investigation Command. The charges included murder, conspiracy and negligent homicide. While none of the 17 will face any prosecution, one received a letter of reprimand and another was discharged after the investigations....

Army Probe Finds Abuse at Base Near Mosul
Army Investigation Finds Systematic Abuse, Possible Torture of Iraqi Prisoners at Jail Near Mosul

WASHINGTON Mar 26, 2005 — Newly released government documents say the abuse of prisoners in Iraq by U.S. forces was more widespread than previously reported.

An officer found that detainees "were being systematically and intentionally mistreated" at a holding facility near Mosul in December 2003. The 311th Military Intelligence Battalion of the Army's 101st Airborne Division ran the lockup.

Records previously released by the Army have detailed abuses at Abu Ghraib and other sites in Iraq as well as at sites in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The documents released Friday were the first to reveal abuses at the jail in Mosul and are among the few to allege torture directly.

"There is evidence that suggests the 311th MI personnel and/or translators engaged in physical torture of the detainees," a memo from the investigator said. The January 2004 report said the prisoners' rights under the Geneva Conventions were violated....

Friday, March 25, 2005

One Nation Under Bush
At a campaign rally, Republicans recite the "Bush Pledge."

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.—"I want you to stand, raise your right hands," and recite "the Bush Pledge," said Florida state Sen. Ken Pruitt. The assembled mass of about 2,000 in this Treasure Coast town about an hour north of West Palm Beach dutifully rose, arms aloft, and repeated after Pruitt: "I care about freedom and liberty. I care about my family. I care about my country. Because I care, I promise to work hard to re-elect, re-elect George W. Bush as president of the United States."

I know the Bush-Cheney campaign occasionally requires the people who attend its events to sign loyalty oaths, but this was the first time I have ever seen an audience actually stand and utter one. Maybe they've replaced the written oath with a verbal one. ...

Conservatives Invoke Case in Fund-Raising Campaigns
Videotape of Terri Schiavo blinking at her parents has inspired donations from people around the country to the foundation set up to help pay for the family's legal battle. But many other groups are soliciting donations in her name as well, some for a much broader agenda.

"Help Save Terri Schiavo's Life!" says the Web site of the Traditional Values Coalition, a Christian conservative group best known for its campaigns against gay rights. Next to a link to the Web site of her parents' foundation is a pitch to "become an active supporter of the Traditional Values Coalition by pledging a monthly gift."

"What this issue has done is it has galvanized people the way nothing could have done in an off-election year," said Rev. Lou Sheldon, the founder of the group, acknowledging that the case of Ms. Schiavo, a severely brain-damaged Florida woman, had moved many to open up their checkbooks. "That is what I see as the blessing that dear Terri's life is offering to the conservative Christian movement in America." ...

Doubts Surface On Iraq Raid Toll
BAGHDAD, March 24 -- New details about an intense battle between insurgents and Iraqi police commandos supported by U.S. forces cast doubt Thursday on Iraqi government claims that 85 rebels were killed at what was described as a clandestine training camp.

Accounts of the fighting continued to indicate that a major battle involving dozens of insurgents occurred Tuesday on the eastern shore of Tharthar Lake, which is about 50 miles northwest of Baghdad. However, two U.S. military officials said Thursday that no bodies were found by American troops who arrived at the scene after the fighting. A spokesman for the Iraqi Interior Ministry, meanwhile, said he presumed the announced death toll was accurate, but he played down the scope of the fighting.

"I wouldn't call it a major incident," said the spokesman, Sabah Kadhim. ...

Thursday, March 24, 2005

How Family's Cause Reached the Halls of Congress

...On Friday, as the leaders of both chambers scrambled to try to stop the removal of Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube, Mr. DeLay, a Texas Republican, turned his attention to social conservatives gathered at a Washington hotel and described what he viewed as the intertwined struggle to save Ms. Schiavo, expand the conservative movement and defend himself against accusations of ethical lapses.

"One thing that God has brought to us is Terri Schiavo, to help elevate the visibility of what is going on in America," Mr. DeLay told a conference organized by the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group. A recording of the event was provided by the advocacy organization Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

"This is exactly the issue that is going on in America, of attacks against the conservative movement, against me and against many others," Mr. DeLay said.

Mr. DeLay complained that "the other side" had figured out how "to defeat the conservative movement," by waging personal attacks, linking with liberal organizations and persuading the national news media to report the story. He charged that "the whole syndicate" was "a huge nationwide concerted effort to destroy everything we believe in." ...

Tom DeLay Uncensored
You got a taste yesterday in the New York Times. Think Progress brings you the uncensored version DeLay’s speech to the Family Research Council on Friday....

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Baptist Leader Suggests Youth Ministers Be Men
While official teaching of the Southern Baptist Convention is that women ought not lead churches as senior pastors, at least one seminary president says his preference would be that youth ministries also be male-led.

Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, offered 17 “iconoclastic principles of youth ministry” Tuesday in Baptist Press, a follow-up to a similar column on church planting.

Among them: “Call a man as your minister to youth or your pastor in charge of youth ministry. If possible, have an associate who is a woman. If money is in short supply, have the youth minister find a woman who will volunteer to serve in this capacity.”

Patterson said it is “imperative that the youth minister be both a minister and a man’s man whom the young men will respect.”

Also vital, he said, is “that the associate be a woman who is godly, pure of heart and a model of what biblical womanhood is all about.”...

...While Southern Baptist seminaries continue to enroll large numbers of women, nowadays they typically steer them toward traditional roles, such as pastor’s wives or to minister to other women. New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary was the first Southern Baptist school to offer formal, specialized theological education in the area of women’s ministry....

...Other recommendations by Patterson, whose article appeared also in Southwestern News magazine, include:

“Make men out of the boys and women out of the girls. You may protest here that this goal is the natural end. Unfortunately, our society today is bent on trying to feminize boys and create as many masculine traits as possible in girls. This distortion leads not only to serious misinformation about gender but also to other disasters. Teaching boys the responsibilities that men must assume and teaching girls that true beauty before God is the ‘attitude of a gentle and quiet spirit’ will immeasurably bless their lives, their homes and their churches.”

Patterson said youth ministers should lead young people to ask about and follow God’s will for their lives.

“If the youth minister and the pastor of the church are positive examples of godly men, the young people will respond quickly, and many of them affirmatively, to the possibility that God may want some of them to serve as pastors, missionaries or other Christian vocational leaders,” he wrote. ...

Groundhog Surfaces for Sunlight
...One of the side-effects of the 2004 election revealed by this despicable exploitative schmaltzfest is that the media has to tippytoe around making any disparaging remarks about religious fervor and its pathologies. Compare how little ink and airtime is given to the fact that the accused BTK serial killer is a prominent member of his church (and a registered Republican) to all the inspirational uplift being wrung out of the Atlanta hostage case, with CNN devoting a whole kabob to The Purpose-Driven Life. The positive side of religious faith is hailed to the rafters while the sadism and mastery over others seething in the negative side is now considered impolite to mention, as is the willful, retarded ignorance of those who cling to their Bibles and reject reason and science. "It is true that the rules of civil discourse demand that Reason wears a veil when she ventures out in public," writes Sam Harris in The End of Faith. "But the rules of discourse must change." Especially when the alternative is a sordid circus like we have now with those prayer vigils and cro-magnon conservatives in Florida....

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Republicans Respond to Evangelicals on Schiavo
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Christian evangelicals, a key component in President Bush (news - web sites)'s Republican Party, believe the case of brain-damaged Florida woman Terri Schiavo may help inject new life into their long campaign against abortion.

"The right-to-life issue has been with us for over 30 years but never has it dominated the news headlines day after day as it is doing now," said Louis Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition (news - web sites).

"This case has generated a kind of inspirational activism. It is giving revival and renewal to millions of people who feel strongly about the culture of life and the protection of life," he said.

Republican leaders and President Bush had little choice other than to respond to Christian evangelical demands on the Schiavo case or risk alienating a crucial part of their political base, political analysts said.

"Bush and the Republicans can't do all that much on many of the things the religious right cares about. They can't end abortion rights and they can only ban gay marriage so many times," said American University political scientist David Lublin, who has studied the evangelical community.

"Here's a way they can tell their supporters, 'Look, we're acting on your agenda,"' Lublin said....

... Writing in the Wall Street Journal last Friday, conservative columnist and former White House speechwriter Peggy Noonan set out the stakes for Republicans.

"The Republican Party controls the Senate, the House and the White House. The Republicans are in charge. They have the power. If they can't save this woman's life, they will face a reckoning from a sizable portion of their own base. And they will of course deserve it," Noonan wrote. ...

The Pentagon Unleashes a Holy Warrior
A Christian extremist in a high Defense post can only set back the U.S. approach to the Muslim world.

In June of 2002, Jerry Boykin stepped to the pulpit at the First Baptist Church of Broken Arrow, Okla., and described a set of photographs he had taken of Mogadishu, Somalia, from an Army helicopter in 1993.

The photographs were taken shortly after the disastrous "Blackhawk Down" mission had resulted in the death of 18 Americans. When Boykin came home and had them developed, he said, he noticed a strange dark mark over the city. He had an imagery interpreter trained by the military look at the mark. "This is not a blemish on your photograph," the interpreter told him, "This is real."

"Ladies and gentleman, this is your enemy," Boykin said to the congregation as he flashed his pictures on a screen. "It is the principalities of darkness It is a demonic presence in that city that God revealed to me as the enemy."

That's an unusual message for a high-ranking U.S. military official to deliver. But Boykin does it frequently.

This June, for instance, at the pulpit of the Good Shepherd Community Church in Sandy, Ore., he displayed slides of Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and North Korea's Kim Jung Il. "Why do they hate us?" Boykin asked. "The answer to that is because we're a Christian nation We are hated because we are a nation of believers."

Our "spiritual enemy," Boykin continued, "will only be defeated if we come against them in the name of Jesus."

Who is Jerry Boykin? He is Army Lt. General William G. "Jerry" Boykin. The day before Boykin appeared at the pulpit in Oregon, the Pentagon announced that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had nominated the general for a third star and named him to a new position as deputy undersecretary of Defense for intelligence.

In this newly created position, Boykin is not just another Pentagon apparatchik or bureaucratic warrior. He has been charged with reinvigorating Rumsfeld's "High Value Target Plan" to track down Bin Laden, Hussein, Mullah Omar and other leaders in the terrorism world.

But Gen. Boykin's appointment to a high position in the administration is a frightening blunder at a time when there is widespread acknowledgment that the position of the United States in the Islamic world has never been worse.

A monthlong journalistic investigation of Boykin reveals a 30-year veteran whose classified resum� reads like a history of special operations and counter-terrorism. From the failed Iranian hostage rescue attempt in 1980 to invasions in Grenada and Panama, to the hunt for drug lord Pablo Escobar in Colombia, to Somalia and various locales in the Middle East, Boykin has been there. He also was an advisor to Atty. Gen. Janet Reno during Waco.

He has risen in the ranks, starting out as one of the first Delta Force commandos and going on to head the top-secret Joint Special Operations Command. He has served in the Central Intelligence Agency and, most recently, he commanded Army Special Forces before being brought into the Rumsfeld leadership team.

But Boykin is also an intolerant extremist who has spoken openly about how his belief in Christianity has trumped Muslims and other non-Christians in battle.

He has described himself as a warrior in the kingdom of God and invited others to join with him in fighting for the United States through repentance, prayer and the exercise of faith in God.

He has praised the leadership of President Bush, whom he extolled as "a man who prays in the Oval Office." "George Bush was not elected by a majority of the voters in the United States," Boykin told an Oregon congregation. "He was appointed by God."...

... General Casts War in Religious Terms
The top soldier assigned to track down Bin Laden and Hussein is an evangelical Christian who speaks publicly of 'the army of God.'

WASHINGTON � The Pentagon has assigned the task of tracking down and eliminating Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and other high-profile targets to an Army general who sees the war on terrorism as a clash between Judeo-Christian values and Satan.

Lt. Gen. William G. "Jerry" Boykin, the new deputy undersecretary of Defense for intelligence, is a much-decorated and twice-wounded veteran of covert military operations. From the bloody 1993 clash with Muslim warlords in Somalia chronicled in "Black Hawk Down" and the hunt for Colombian drug czar Pablo Escobar to the ill-fated attempt to rescue American hostages in Iran in 1980, Boykin was in the thick of things.

Yet the former commander and 13-year veteran of the Army's top-secret Delta Force is also an outspoken evangelical Christian who appeared in dress uniform and polished jump boots before a religious group in Oregon in June to declare that radical Islamists hated the United States "because we're a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christian ... and the enemy is a guy named Satan."

Discussing the battle against a Muslim warlord in Somalia, Boykin told another audience, "I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol."

"We in the army of God, in the house of God, kingdom of God have been raised for such a time as this," Boykin said last year.

On at least one occasion, in Sandy, Ore., in June, Boykin said of President Bush: "He's in the White House because God put him there."...

What's worse? The exploitation of tragedy in the Terri Schiavo case, or the exploitation of triumph in the previous big media human interest story, Ashley Smith? (In case you somehow missed it, Smith was the young woman who managed to pacify and then escape serial murderer Brian Nichols in Atlanta, ultimately leading to his peaceful surrender)....

...But now The New Republic's Lee Siegel has broken the general taboo against publicly uttering what I heard many people privately saying at the height of the Smith furor: the media, and especially CNN, bought into the religious interpretation of Smith's courageous acts with an almost evangelical avidity. As you probably know, the part of the story that's led it to be described as some sort of theodicy (an illustration of the divine purpose in apparent evil) is the fact that Smith read Nichols a passage from The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren's evangelical self-help bestseller. She also discussed her own difficult life with Nichols, and cooked him pancakes with "real butter," but it's the Warren book that's getting the credit, almost as much as Smith's own level-headedness....

...But the idea that Smith was simply the Handmaiden of the Lord--the instrument for Nichols' redemption, and for the ever-more-efficient disseminatinon of the Therapeutic Gospel according to Rick Warren--is a story line that's gaining a surprising amount of currency, even in mainstream media sources (I can only imagine what conservative Christian media are doing with it)....

...Those Christians who are rushing to take sectarian credit for Ashley Smith's courage are committing a whole host of spiritually dangerous and ethically questionable acts, among them the breezy dismissal of Brian Nichols' victims as collateral damage in the divine plan to get more readers for Reverend Rick. They need to get away from the cameras, and the cameras need to get away from this story, for good.

GOP memo says issue offers political rewards
WASHINGTON — Republican leaders believe their attention to the Terri Schiavo issue could pay dividends with Christian conservatives whose support they covet in the 2006 midterm elections, according to a GOP memo intended to be seen only by senators.

The one-page memo, distributed to Republican senators by party leaders, called the debate over Schiavo legislation "a great political issue" that would appeal to the party's base, or core, supporters. The memo singled out Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who is up for re-election next year.

"This is an important moral issue, and the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important issue," said the memo, reported by ABC News and later given to The Washington Post. "This is a great political issue, because Senator Nelson of Florida has already refused to become a co-sponsor and this is a tough issue for Democrats."...

"laughter is carbonated holiness"
Writer Anne Lamott dips into a rich well of faith to quench fires great and small

... Lamott's writing on faith touches a nerve among those "who've given up on God and church because of how far away God seems in this modern world," says Lamott. She also sees herself as an antidote to religious conservatives. "I try to carry this candle around for regular people about Christ and counter the dogma of the Christian right. I speak about the simple, accepting love of Jesus," she says. "That's what I have to offer."

Theologically, Lamott admits, she's not especially articulate. "I'm saying that spiritually this might be helpful, if you have a minute," she says. Readers, she adds, "are struggling with their old painful relationship with God, and they're asking a lot of questions about faith." Lamott believes she's helping the spiritually disenfranchised "find their way back into the fold."

If that's so, she's doing it in a distinctly unorthodox way. In "Plan B's" first essay, titled "Ham of God," for instance, Lamott prays for help in dealing with the George Bush presidency and the war in Iraq, both of which she opposes. God's response is to let her win a ham at a supermarket.

She's not exactly happy about the ham - which she rarely eats - but in the parking lot outside the supermarket, she runs into a desperately needy friend who loves ham, and Lamott gives it to her.

It's not exactly loaves and fishes, but it works in today's world....

The Schiavo Case and the Islamization of the Republican Party
The cynical use by the US Republican Party of the Terri Schiavo case repeats, whether deliberately or accidentally, the tactics of Muslim fundamentalists and theocrats in places like Egypt and Pakistan. These tactics involve a disturbing tendency to make private, intimate decisions matters of public interest and then to bring the courts and the legislature to bear on them. President George W. Bush and Republican congressional leaders like Tom Delay have taken us one step closer to theocracy on the Muslim Brotherhood model.

The Muslim fundamentalists use a provision of Islamic law called "bringing to account" (hisba). As Al-Ahram weekly notes, "Hisba signifies a case filed by an individual on behalf of society when the plaintiff feels that great harm has been done to religion." Hisba is a medieval idea that had all be lapsed when the fundamentalists brought it back in the 1970s and 1980s....

...One of the most objectionable features of this fundamentalist tactic is that persons without standing can interfere in private affairs. Perfect strangers can file a case about your marriage, because they represent themselves as defending a public interest (the upholding of religion and morality).

Terri Schiavo's husband is her legal guardian. Her parents have not succeeded in challenging this status of his. As long as he is the guardian, the decision on removing the feeding tubes is between him and their physicians. Her parents have not succeeded in having this responsibility moved from him to them. Even under legislation George W. Bush signed in 1999 while governor of Texas, the spouse and the physician can make this decision. (The bill Bush signed in Texas actually made ability to pay a consideration in the decision!)

In passing a special law to allow the case to be kicked to a Federal judge after the state courts had all ruled in favor of the husband, Congress probably shot itself in the foot once again. The law is not a respecter of persons, so the Federal judge will likely rule as the state ones did.

But the most frightening thing about the entire affair is that public figures like congressmen inserted themselves into the case in order to uphold religious strictures. The lawyer arguing against the husband let the cat out of the bag, as reported by the NYT: ' The lawyer, David Gibbs, also said Ms. Schiavo's religious beliefs as a Roman Catholic were being infringed because Pope John Paul II has deemed it unacceptable for Catholics to refuse food and water. "We are now in a position where a court has ordered her to disobey her church and even jeopardize her eternal soul," Mr. Gibbs said. '

In other words, the United States Congress acted in part on behalf of the Roman Catholic church. Both of these public bodies interfered in the private affairs of the Schiavos, just as the fundamentalist Egyptian, Nabih El-Wahsh, tried to interfere in the marriage of Nawal El Saadawi.

Like many of his fundamentalist counterparts in the Middle East, Tom Delay is rather cynically using this issue to divert attention from his own corruption. Like the Muslim fundamentalist manipulators of Hisba, Delay represents himself as acting on behalf of a higher cause. He said of the case over the weekend, ' "This is not a political issue. This is life and death," '

Republican Hisba will have the same effect in the United States that it does in the Middle East. It will reduce the rights of the individual in favor of the rights of religious and political elites to control individuals. Ayatollah Delay isn't different from his counterparts in Iran.

Monday, March 21, 2005

The man has his priorities
It's been interesting to see just how much time the president spends away from work and on vacation, but Bush's personal priorities are even more revealing when one considers what it takes for him to cut a vacation short.

In August 2001, for example, Bush received an intelligence briefing that told him, "Bin Laden Determined To Strike in US." In response, the president took the entire month off, never even meeting with his CIA director...

...Bush could have signed the Schiavo legislation in Texas, but preferred to cut his vacation short and make the dramatic trip back to the White House just for this occasion.

To recap, Osama bin Laden, Israel, war, and devastation? Vacation on. The religious right wants action on a woman who has been in vegetative state for 15 years? Vacation off. The man has his priorities.

DeLay, Frist, Bush Dramatically Out of Touch
...New polling numbers on the Schiavo case have been released by ABC News. Here are some highlights:

- 70% of Americans say it is inappropriate for Congress to involve itself in the Schiavo case.

- 67% of Americans “think the elected officials trying to keep Schiavo alive are doing so more for political advantage than out of concern for her or for the principles involved.” (Just 19% believe the elected officials are acting out of concern for her or their principles.)

- 58% of Republicans, 61% of independents and 63% of Democrats oppose federal government intervention in the case.

- 50% of evangelicals oppose federal government intervention in the case, just 44% approve of the intervention.

- 63% of Catholics and a plurality of evangelicals believe Schiavo’s feeding tube should be removed....

Feeding tube could be reconnected today
WASHINGTON - Lawyers entered a Florida courthouse with a lawsuit in hand as nurses stood ready at Terri Schiavo's bedside early today after Congress approved and President Bush swiftly signed a bill that could prolong her life....

...But those Democrats opposed to the bill said it was the Republicans who were exploiting the issue for their political benefit.

The Washington Post published a memo it said had been circulated to GOP senators. ''This is an important moral issue and the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important,'' the memo reportedly said.

It appeared to target Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida's top Democrat, saying, ``This is a great political issue because Senator Nelson of Florida has already refused to become a cosponsor and this is a tough issue for Democrats.''

Democrats said the memo revealed their opponents' real motivation.

''We're making a medical decision about which we know nothing,'' said Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass. ``We should not be making decisions because we're trying to please someone politically.''

Congressional Republicans sought to distance themselves from the memo and denied any political motivation....

A Threat Greater Than Terrorism
Delusion has settled over America. Washington cannot tell fact from fantasy. Neither can sycophantic media nor nothink economists.

The Bush administration is the first government in history to initiate a war based entirely on fantasy--fantasy about nonexistent "weapons of mass destruction," fantasy about nonexistent "terrorist links," fantasy about "liberating" a people from their culture, fantasy about a "cakewalk" invasion, fantasy about America's omnipotence.

Reality has yet to penetrate the Oval Office or America's "red state" consciousness. The gratuitous invasion of Iraq, the torture and the war crimes have made America despised the world over. Our once formidable alliances are shattered.

The Muslim world, which perceives America as Israel's enabler of Palestine's oppression, has uniformly turned against us.

$300 billion--red ink to the last cent--has been wasted in a pointless war and occupation that has emboldened Islamic revolutionaries, who will be more successful than the US in changing the face of the Middle East.

Bush's invasion of Iraq has proved the limits of America's "hegemonic" military power: Eight heavily armored high tech US divisions are tied down by a few thousand lightly armed insurgents who control most of the roads and many towns and cities.

Any Iraqi collaborator with the US occupation who is foolish enough to leave the heavily fortified "Green Zone" is shot down or blown up in the streets.

Such an outcome is proclaimed a "success" by the White House, Republican politicians and a cheerleading media.

The reality is that an ignorant and blundering Bush administration has created a Shi'ite crescent from Iran to Lebanon that is revolutionizing the Middle East. The reality will not penetrate the Bush administration. Reality contradicts Bush fantasy and is "against us." Facts that don't support Bush fantasy are "liberal" and "anti-American." Truth is dismissed as anti-Bush propaganda.

It is America that has undergone regime change. The Bush administration constitutes a Jacobin revolution. Its fanatics have declared world war on political diversity. The first victim of Bush's "war on terror" is the Bill of Rights. In its place we have an incipient police state....

Local radio host arrested for child porn
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Agents with the FBI's Violent Crimes Task Force arrested a Christian radio station personality as part of a child pornography investigation....

Guantanamo abuse 'videotaped'
VIDEO footage of the treatment of prisoners by the US military at Guantanamo Bay would reveal many cases of substantial abuse as "explosive as anything from Abu Ghraib", a lawyer said today.

Adelaide lawyer Stephen Kenny, who represented Australian David Hicks during the early part of his detention at the military prison in Cuba, told a law conference today 500 hours of videotape of prisoners at the US base existed.

Hicks, 29, from Adelaide, has been in American custody awaiting trial since being captured in Afghanistan in 2001 and accused of having links to terror group al-Qaeda. He is charged with conspiracy to commit war crimes, attempted murder and aiding the enemy.

Mr Kenny said the full story of abuse at Guantanamo Bay would not be told until the tapes were released, but they could be as damaging as the images of Iraqi prisoners being abused by US soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison.

"I believe that these videos, if they are ever released, will be as explosive as anything from Abu Ghraib," Mr Kenny told the LawAsia Downunder conference....

Bush’s Napoleon Complex
What the French experience in Spain could teach us about Iraq

No two wars are ever the same any more than you can step on the same banana peel twice. That said, Napoleon’s invasion and occupation of Spain, from 1808 to 1814—the war that gave us the word “guerrilla” and was immortalized in Goya’s “Third of May,” the war that drained France’s army, smashed Napoleon’s reputation for invincibility, and left Spain thrashing like a broken-backed snake for decades—has striking similarities to our invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Both wars started under the influence of similar delusions. Napoleon thought that the Spanish would roll over and play dead as so many other European states had; he thought marching to Madrid and placing his brother Joseph on the throne would complete the subjugation of Spain. We pretty much thought the same: crushing Saddam’s army would be easy; we would then install a pro-American government (Ahmad the Thief) and have most of our Army home by fall.

The invasions went well, as expected, but in each case a tiresome guerrilla war broke out. The French eventually lost over a quarter of a million men in “the Spanish ulcer,” as Napoleon called it, while Iraq has tied down half of the Army and is costing us more than $75 billion a year. What went wrong? As it turns out, Boney and Bush made some of the same mistakes.

Despite his tremendous organizational skills, Napoleon never managed to establish authority in Spain. He smashed the Bourbon state without ever being able to replace it with his own. We’ve done the same in Iraq. We have been much more systematic about it, sacking the Iraqi army and banning most of the top layer of Ba’athist civil servants from government employment. The French made their mistakes rather casually: “Who wouldn’t want to have my big brother as king?” Napoleon seems to have thought. On the other hand, our administration seems to have tried to fail, going out of its way to alienate and radicalize the entire Iraqi ruling class.

Like the French, we’ve managed not to have much of a side in Iraq: few Iraqis seem eager to wage war in our interest. Some of them are against us, while for the most part the others just watch as if it’s not their fight. We hear a lot about how Iraqi National Guard units need more training. The true problem is that they’re short on motivation. The insurgents manage to fight without years of professional training. The French too had some Spanish troops, who usually deserted at the first opportunity. They didn’t make up fantasies about a training deficiency to explain it.

Both Spain and Iraq had notoriously inefficient armies, and that must have made the idea of invasion seem more plausible. The Spanish were certainly weaker and easier to beat (in conventional battles) than the Prussians or Austrians, while the Iraqis—some of the worst soldiers the world has ever seen—have been known to surrender to a film crew in an unarmed helicopter back in 1991. Compared to them, the Italians of World War II were unkillable demons of battle.

The odd thing is that the same qualities that make an army fight well—strong central control, discipline, and a grassroots inclination to co-operate and obey orders—also allow it to surrender completely, rather like a CEO and his dominatrix. According to historian John Tone in The Fatal Knot, the French in Napoleon’s time found the “Germans and Austrians, conditioned by militarism and centralization, unable or unwilling to act without the permission of their superiors.” We’ve seen it too, more recently: the Germans fought all too well in World War II but once defeated were quiet as mice under Allied occupation. The Japanese went further in that direction: willing, even eager, to die for the Emperor, more fanatical than any other army in history, they were utterly peaceful after surrender. Of course, Donald Rumsfeld seems to think that those post-World War II occupations were plagued by guerrilla resistance—but then, he also thinks that Iraq is a lot like colonial America: you know, prosperous, bourgeois, literate, British, Protestant, used to self-government and rule of law. Most likely he’s from some other dimension. If only we could get him to say his name backwards. ...

U.S. Misled Allies About Nuclear Export
North Korea Sent Material To Pakistan, Not to Libya

In an effort to increase pressure on North Korea, the Bush administration told its Asian allies in briefings earlier this year that Pyongyang had exported nuclear material to Libya. That was a significant new charge, the first allegation that North Korea was helping to create a new nuclear weapons state.

But that is not what U.S. intelligence reported, according to two officials with detailed knowledge of the transaction. North Korea, according to the intelligence, had supplied uranium hexafluoride -- which can be enriched to weapons-grade uranium -- to Pakistan. It was Pakistan, a key U.S. ally with its own nuclear arsenal, that sold the material to Libya. The U.S. government had no evidence, the officials said, that North Korea knew of the second transaction.

Pakistan's role as both the buyer and the seller was concealed to cover up the part played by Washington's partner in the hunt for al Qaeda leaders, according to the officials, who discussed the issue on the condition of anonymity. In addition, a North Korea-Pakistan transfer would not have been news to the U.S. allies, which have known of such transfers for years and viewed them as a business matter between sovereign states.

The Bush administration's approach, intended to isolate North Korea, instead left allies increasingly doubtful as they began to learn that the briefings omitted essential details about the transaction, U.S. officials and foreign diplomats said in interviews. ...

A Closer Look at the Attempted Coup
The extreme conservatives, specifically the American Anglican Council, are not pleased with the recent Covenant Statement issued by the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church. Keep in mind that this statement was written by David Anderson, one of those exposed by name by Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold as lurking in the shadows when the Archbishops met in Ireland.

What some folks don't seem to understand is that NOTHING will ever appease the AAC, or the Network (same group, different name). They want a split. That's been their goal from the beginning. The plan has been to get themselves recognized as an "alternative Anglican province" in North America, get the Episcopal Church kicked out of the Anglican Communion, and then claim ownership of all assets previously held by TEC (with Bob Duncan as the new Archbishop, of course).

One would think that the article in the Washington Post over a year ago; Plan to Supplant Episcopal Church USA Is Revealed, regarding the leaked Chapman letter would have been enough to wake up most Episcopalians to what was going on. Here's just a small piece of that document;...

Blair was told US 'Fixed' case for war
03/20/05 "SMH" - - The head of Britain's foreign intelligence agency told the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, that the case for war in Iraq was being "fixed" by Washington to suit US policy, a BBC documentary will claim today.

Richard Dearlove, head of MI6, briefed Blair and a group of ministers on the United States' determination to launch the invasion nine months before hostilities began in March 2003, the Sunday Times reported, citing the BBC program, which is due to be aired later in the day.

After attending a briefing in Washington, he told the meeting that war was "inevitable", according to the newspaper.

"The facts and intelligence" were being "fixed round the policy" by US President George Bush's administration, Dearlove said....

The Democracy Lie
...Ironically, most democratization in the region has been pursued without reference to the United States. Some Middle Eastern regimes began experimenting with parliamentary elections years ago. For example, Jordan began holding elections in 1989, and Yemen held its third round of such elections in 2003. Morocco and Bahrain had elections in 2002. All of those elections were more transparent than, and superior as democratic processes to, the Jan. 30 elections in Iraq. They all had flaws, of course. The monarch or ruler typically places restraints on popular sovereignty. The prime minister is not elected by Parliament, but rather appointed by the ruler. Some of these parliaments may evolve in a more democratic direction over time, but if they do it will be for local reasons, not because of anything that has happened in Baghdad.

The Bush administration could genuinely push for the peaceful democratization of the region by simply showing some gumption and stepping in to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. There are, undeniably, large numbers of middle- and working-class people in the Middle East who seek more popular participation in government. Arab intellectuals are, however, often coded as mere American and Israeli puppets when they dare speak against authoritarian practices.

As it is, the Bush administration is widely seen in the region as hypocritical, backing Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and of the Golan Heights (the latter belonging to Syria) while pressuring Syria about its troops in Lebanon, into which Kissinger had invited Damascus years ago. Bush would be on stronger ground as a champion of liberty if he helped liberate the Palestinians from military occupation and creeping Israeli colonization, and if he brokered the return of the Golan Heights and Shebaa Farms to Damascus in return for peace between Syria and Israel. The end of Israeli occupation of the territory of neighbors would deprive the radical Shiite party in Lebanon, Hezbollah, of its ability to mobilize Lebanese youth against this injustice. Without decisive action on the Arab-Israeli front, Bush risks having his democratization rhetoric viewed as a mere stalking horse for neoimperial domination.

Bush's invasion of Iraq has left the center and north of the country in a state of long-term guerrilla war. It has also opened Iraq to a form of parliamentary politics dominated by Muslim fundamentalists. This combination has little appeal elsewhere in the region. The Middle East may open up politically, and no doubt Bush will try to claim credit for any steps in that direction. But in Jordan, Yemen, Lebanon and elsewhere, such steps much predated Bush, and these publics will be struggling for their rights long after he is out of office. They may well see his major legacy not as democratization but as studied inattention to military occupation in Palestine and the Golan, and the retrenchment in civil liberties authorized to the Yemeni, Tunisian and other governments in the name of fighting terrorism.

Couple Sells Candles That Smell Like Jesus
Product Flying Off Shelves

A South Dakota couple makes and markets candles they say smell like Jesus.

You can find candles with just about every fragrance imaginable, from blueberry to ocean mist to hot apple pie.

Now there's a candle that lets you experience the scent of Jesus, and they've been selling out by the case.

"We see it as a ministry, " says Bob Tosterud, who together with his wife came up with the idea for the candle.

Light up the candle called "His Essence" and its makers say you'll experience the fragrance of Christ....

Why not torture terrorists?
As an indignant reader (one of many) wrote to me after last week's column on the cruel abuse of some US detainees, ''The terrorists . . . would cut your heart out and stuff it into the throat they would proudly slash open." So why not torture detainees, if it will produce the information we need?

Here's why:

First, because torture, as noted, is unambiguously illegal -- illegal under a covenant the United States ratified, illegal under federal law, and illegal under protocols of civilization dating back to the Magna Carta.

Second, because torture is notoriously unreliable. Many people will say anything to make the pain stop, while some will refuse to yield no matter what is done to them. Yes, sometimes torture produces vital information. But it can also produce false leads and desperate fictions. In the ticking-bomb case, bad information is every bit as deadly as no information.

Third, because torture is never limited to just the guilty. The case for razors and electric shock rests on the premise that the prisoner is a knowledgeable terrorist like Mohammed or Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. But most of the inmates in military prisons are nothing of the kind. Commanders in Guantanamo acknowledge that hundreds of their prisoners pose no danger and have no useful information. How much of the hideous abuse reported to date involved men who were guilty only of being in the wrong place at the wrong time?

And fourth, because torture is a dangerously slippery slope. Electric shocks and beatings are justified if they can prevent another 9/11? But what if the shocks and beating don't produce the needed information? Is it OK to break a finger? To cut off a hand? To save 3,000 lives, can a terrorist's eyes be gouged out? How about gouging out his son's eyes? Or raping his daughter in his presence? If that's what it will take to make him talk, to defuse the ticking bomb, isn't it worth it?

No. Torture is never worth it. Some things we don't do, not because they never work, not because they aren't ''deserved," but because our very right to call ourselves decent human beings depends in part on our not doing them. Torture is in that category. We can win our war against the barbarians without becoming barbaric in the process.

Where's the outrage on torture?
...Then there is the government's use of ''extraordinary rendition," a euphemism for sending terror suspects to be interrogated by other countries -- including some where respect for human rights is nonexistent and interrogation can involve beatings, electric shock, and other torture. The CIA says it always gets an assurance in advance that a prisoner will be treated humanely. But of what value are such assurances when they come from places like Syria and Saudi Arabia?

Of course the United States must hunt down terrorists and find out what they know. Better intelligence means more lives saved, more atrocities prevented, and a more likely victory in the war against radical Islamist fascism. Those are crucial ends, and they justify tough means. But they don't justify means that betray core American values. Interrogation techniques that flirt with torture -- to say nothing of those that end in death -- cross the moral line that separates us from the enemy we are trying to defeat.

The Bush administration and the military insist that any abuse of detainees is a violation of policy and that abusers are being punished. If so, why does it refuse to allow a genuinely independent commission to investigate without fear or favor? Why do Republican leaders on Capitol Hill refuse to launch a proper congressional investigation? And why do my fellow conservatives -- those who support the war for all the right reasons -- continue to keep silent about a scandal that should have them up in arms?

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Wellington Boone, editorial board member of Promise Keepers magazine New Man: “I want to boldly affirm Uncle Tom. The black community must stop criticizing Uncle Tom. He is a role model.”

Pastors: Join Vision America As A Patriot Pastor Here!

Friday, March 18, 2005

Is Biblical Counseling Biblical?
It should come as no surprise that Southern Seminary has announced that the pastoral care and counseling curriculum formed under the direction of Wayne Oates should now be replaced by model known as “biblical” counseling. The reductionistic logic of biblical fundamentalism would lead one to consider this to be a conclusive outcome.

But predictable or not, the announcement still arrives as a shock to the system. While it seems a likely possibility the leaders who control the denomination would want the seminary’s approach to pastoral care to reflect their beliefs, the chilling insult to the legacy of one of Southern Baptists’ great thinkers is startling.

Wayne Oates was a profound Baptist practitioner of the healing arts. One can measure his influence by the deep respect he had from his peers outside the Baptist family. He was a giant of his time who influenced the shape and direction of the entire field of study. He was certainly the best known among many Baptist theologians in helping define the ministry of healing that pastors, chaplains and pastoral counselors may have in the practice of ministry.

Just what is “biblical counseling?” It is a loosely held view that the Bible alone provides guidance for the myriad of concerns persons in pain may present to the counselor (one of the many roles pastors may be called upon to play in ministry).

Biblical counseling may take many forms depending solely upon the theological beliefs of the pastor. At its heart it reduces both the person in pain and the God who loves them in this condition to something less than who and what they are.

It reduces human pain to sin. It reduces Christian belief to a set of rules that must be followed. Break the rules and one will suffer. It implies the Bible has a definitive plan for life for every person. It also implies that it is the job of the counselor to advise the person in pain about that plan in prescriptive fashion.

The biblical counseling model has no place for the healing power of one who truly listens beyond the words to the sources of pain that plague the human heart. In short, biblical counseling is motivated by the desire to direct and control. It is shaped by the person in pain doing what the counselor says regardless of whether it is appropriate or even healing....

...What does the biblical counselor say to the one suffering from the depths of acute depression? How does the pastoral counselor help the person in pain who contemplates thoughts of suicide?

How does the pastor hear the anger that would lead to self-harm or the harm of others? How does the minister care for the one suffering from psychotic delusions? What is said to the one suffering from Bi-Polar Disorder?

What does the biblical counselor derive from the Bible other than platitudes and advice? Does every mental ailment or pain of the soul reduce down to sin? If not sin, then what? Biblical reductionism violates the oath that the healer will at the very least, “do no harm.”...

Questions Are Left by C.I.A. Chief on the Use of Torture
WASHINGTON, March 17 - Porter J. Goss, the director of central intelligence, said Thursday that he could not assure Congress that the Central Intelligence Agency's methods of interrogating terrorism suspects since Sept. 11, 2001, had been permissible under federal laws prohibiting torture.

Under sharp questioning at a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mr. Goss sought to reassure lawmakers that all interrogations "at this time" were legal and that no methods now in use constituted torture. But he declined, when asked, to make the same broad assertions about practices used over the last few years.

"At this time, there are no 'techniques,' if I could say, that are being employed that are in any way against the law or would meet - would be considered torture or anything like that," Mr. Goss said in response to one question.

When he was asked several minutes later whether he could say the same about techniques employed by the agency since the campaign against Al Qaeda expanded in the aftermath of the 2001 attacks in the United States, he said, "I am not able to tell you that." ...

CIA, White House Defend Transfers of Terror Suspects
The CIA and the White House yesterday defended the practice of secretly transferring suspected terrorists to other countries, including some with poor human rights records, and reiterated that proper safeguards exist to ensure detainees are not tortured.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan would not answer repeated questions about whether President Bush was aware of -- or believed or discounted -- assertions made recently by freed detainees that they were tortured by other governments after they were transferred abroad by the CIA. But he said the United States has "an obligation not to render people to countries if we believe they're going to be tortured."

It is illegal under U.S. and international law to send someone to a country where torture is likely. To abide by the law, the CIA obtains a verbal assurance of humane treatment from the intelligence service of another country before it transfers suspected terrorists, a practice called rendition. Many intelligence and counterterrorism experts, however, say such assurances are ineffective and virtually impossible to monitor. ...

Thursday, March 17, 2005

For evangelicals, a bid to 'reclaim America'
...For more than 900 other Christians from across the US, the draw at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church last month was a national conference aimed at "reclaiming America for Christ." The monument stood as a potent symbol of their hopes for changing the course of the nation.

"We have God-sized problems in our country, and only God can solve them," Richard Land, a prominent leader of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), told the group.

Their mission is not simply to save souls. The goal is to mobilize evangelical Christians for political action to return society to what they call "the biblical worldview of the Founding Fathers." Some speak of "restoring a Christian nation." Others shy from that phrase, but agree that the Bible calls them not only to evangelize, but also to transform the culture.

In material given to conference attendees, the Rev. D. James Kennedy, Coral Ridge pastor wrote: "As the vice-regents of God, we are to bring His truth and His will to bear on every sphere of our world and our society. We are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government ... our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors - in short, over every aspect and institution of human society."

This is the 10th conference to spread this "cultural mandate" among Christians, and although the church's pastor couldn't speak due to illness, others presented the message intended to rouse the conservative faithful, eager to capitalize on gains won during the November election.

This melding of religion and politics, Christianity and patriotism, makes many uneasy, particularly those on the other side of the so-called culture war, who see a threat to the healthy discourse of a pluralistic society....

...Christianity and patriotism are interwoven throughout the gathering, from Christian and American flags marched into the sanctuary, to red, white, and blue banners festooning the church complex, to a rousing "patriotic concert." Several speakers emphasize the idea that America's founders were largely Christian and that their intent was to establish a biblically based nation. (No mention is made of other influences on the Founding Fathers, such as Englightenment thinkers or issues of freedom of conscience.)

David Barton, a leading advocate for emphasizing Christianity in US history, deftly selects quotes from letters and historical documents to link major historical figures such as George Washington to a Christian vision, and to suggest that the courts and scholars in the last century have deliberately undermined the original intent of the Founding Fathers.

Critics, including historians and the Baptist Joint Committee, challenge the accuracy of some of Mr. Barton's work, including what he calls "the myth of separation of church and state."

In "Blessed Assurance: A History of Evangelicalism in America," religious historian Randall Balmer of Columbia University writes that a "contrived mythology about America's Christian origins" has been a factor in the reentry of evangelicals into political life, helping sustain the conservative swing in American politics. Barton and others say they are recapturing truths hidden behind a secularist version of history, while critics say they are producing revisionist history that cherry-picks facts and ignores historical evidence.

But Barton is clearly a favorite speaker, with a theme buttressing the identity and purpose of those eager to reform the country. And there's plenty for them to do. Coral Ridge's Center for Reclaiming America is building a grass-roots alliance around five issues: the sanctity of life, religious liberty, pornography, the "homosexual agenda," and creation vs. evolution.

The Center aims to increase its 500,000-strong "e-mail army" to 1 million, and to encourage Christians to run for office. It has plans for 12 regional offices and activists in all 435 US House districts. And a new lobbying arm in Washington will target judicial nominations and the battle over marriage.

"If they don't vote our way, we'll change their view one way or another," executive director Gary Cass tells the group. As a California pastor, Dr. Cass spearheaded efforts to close abortion clinics and recruit Christians to seek positions on local school boards. "We're going to take back what we lost in the last half of the 20th century," he adds.

"Taking back" is a major theme - taking back the schools, the media, the courts.

It's time to "take back the portals of power," and particularly those of commerce, because "commerce controls all the gates - to government, the courts, and so on," says businessman Michael Pink in a workshop. Recounting his own business success based on in-depth Bible study, Mr. Pink says he's now urging wealthy Christian businessmen to start using their earnings to purchase such prizes as ABC and NBC....

Many Iraqis Losing Hope That Politics Will Yield Real Change
BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 16 - Haithm Ali, a wiry blacksmith, was welding an iron gate in his shop in Sadr City, the vast Shiite slum in northeastern Baghdad, when he was asked for his thoughts about the country's new national assembly. Mr. Ali's face broke into a bitter smile.

"I don't expect any government to be formed," he said, his welding glasses pushed up over his forehead. "And they won't find any solutions to the situation we find ourselves in."

Nothing like a scientific poll is possible yet in Iraq. But as the national assembly's first brief meeting came and went, broadcast into thousands of Iraqi homes on television, a sampling of street opinion in two Iraqi cities found a widespread dismay and even anger that the elections have not yet translated into a new government. ...

Truth Is, Bush's Propaganda Hurts the U.S.
When I was growing up in Mexico, we subscribed to the local Chihuahua newspaper and a Mexico City paper whose arrival around lunchtime was a much-anticipated treat — it had a far better sports section. My exposure to U.S. news in that pre-Internet, pre-satellite-TV era was intermittent, mostly by way of the El Paso Times and Time magazine.

If my worldview had been entirely shaped by media, I would have believed that one of the two countries separated by the Rio Grande was a mess, a total basket case, and the other a prosperous democracy envied around the world. But I would have gotten it backward.

It was Mexico's TV and newspapers, tightly controlled by the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, that trumpeted the wonders of the nation's democracy, economic progress and social cohesion. Candor seemed to seep only into those treasured sports pages.

American media, by contrast, were brimming with woe. You would have thought it was only a matter of days before the U.S. would disintegrate.

Two decades later, it's troubling to see Washington emulating the PRI's media strategy, and it's especially troubling to those of us who have lived in other countries and always admired the distinctive candor of public discourse in this country. ...

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Charles Spurgeon on Christian War Fever
We know all too well about Christian war fever – that sickening blind worship of the state that elevates George W. Bush to Messiah status and seeks to justify his immoral, unscriptural, unconstitutional war in Iraq by incessantly repeating the mantras "obey the powers that be" and "God is a God of war." But who is Charles Spurgeon and why should we care what he said about war?

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834–1892) was an English Baptist minister who served as pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London from 1861 until his death. But Spurgeon was no ordinary minister. He was a pastor, a preacher, a teacher, an author, an editor, and the overseer of a pastor’s college, a Christian literature society, and an orphanage. He is still widely revered today among Baptists (and others as well) as one of the greatest Baptist ministers in history....

...Spurgeon on Imperialism in the Name of Christianity

Imperialism is bad enough, but it is even worse when it is done in the name of Christianity. Unlike Christian pragmatists today who think that U.S. wars and interventions will be a boon to Christianity, Spurgeon was not deceived:
The church, we affirm, can neither be preserved nor can its interests be promoted by human armies. We have all thought otherwise in our time, and have foolishly said when a fresh territory was annexed to our empire, "Ah! what a providence that England has annexed Oude," – or taken to itself some other territory – "Now a door is opened for the Gospel. A Christian power will necessarily encourage Christianity, and seeing that a Christian power is at the head of the Government, it will be likely that the natives will be induced to search into the authenticity of our revelation, and so great results will follow. Who can tell but that, at the point of the British bayonet, the Gospel will be carried, and that, by the edge of the true sword of valiant men, Christ’s Gospel will be proclaimed?" I have said so myself; and now I know I am a fool for my pains, and that Christ’s church hath been also miserably befooled; for this I will assert, and prove too, that the progress of the arms of a Christian nation is not the progress of Christianity, and that the spread of our empire, so far from being advantageous to the Gospel, I will hold, and this day proclaim, hath been hostile to it.

But I have another string to my bow, I believe that the help of Government would have been far worse than its opposition, I do regret that the [East India] Company sometimes discourages missionary enterprise; but I believe that, had they encouraged it, it would have been far worse still, for their encouragement would have been the greatest hindrance we could receive. If I had to-morrow to go to India to preach the Gospel, I should pray to God, if such a thing could be, that he would give me a black face and make me like a Hindoo; for otherwise I should feel that when I preached I should be regarded as one of the lords – one of the oppressors it may sometime be added – and I should not expect my congregation to listen to me as a man speaking to men, a brother to brother, a Christian full of love, but they would hear me, and only cavil at me, because even my white face would give me some appearance of superiority. Why in England, our missionaries and our clergymen have assumed a kind of superiority and dignity over the people; they have called themselves clergy, and the people laity; and the result has been that they have weakened their influence. I have thought it right to come amongst my fellow men, and be a man amongst men, just one of themselves, their equal and their friend; and they have rallied around me, and not refused to love me. And I should not expect to be successful in preaching the gospel, unless I might stand and feel that I am a brother, bone of their bone, and flesh of their flesh. If I cannot stand before them thus, I cannot get at their hearts. Send me, then, to India as one of the dominant ruling race, and you give me a work I cannot accomplish when you tell me to evangelise its inhabitants. In that day when John Williams fell in Erromanga, ye wept, but it was a more hopeful day for Erromanga than the day when our missionaries in India first landed there. I had rather go to preach to the greatest savages that live, than I would go to preach in the place that is under British rule. Not for the fault of Britain, but simply because I, as a Briton, would be looked upon as one of the superiors, one of the lords, and that would take away much of my power to do good.

Now, will you just cast your eye upon the wide world? Did you ever hear of a nation under British rule being converted to God? Mr. Moffat and our great friend Dr. Livingstone have been laboring in Africa with great success, and many have been converted. Did you ever hear of Kaffir tribes protected by England, ever being converted? It is only a people that have been left to themselves, and preached to by men as men, that have been brought to God. For my part, I conceive, that when an enterprise begins in martyrdom, it is none the less likely to succeed, but when conquerors begin to preach the gospel to those they have conquered, it will not succeed, God will teach us that it is not by might All swords that have ever flashed from scabbards have not aided Christ a single grain. Mahommedans’ religion might be sustained by scimitars, but Christians’ religion must be sustained by love. The great crime of war can never promote the religion of peace. The battle, and the garment rolled in blood, are not a fitting prelude to "peace on earth, goodwill to men." And I do firmly hold, that the slaughter of men, that bayonets, and swords, and guns, have never yet been, and never can be, promoters of the gospel. The gospel will proceed without them, but never through them. "Not by might." Now don’t be fooled again, if you hear of the English conquering in China, don’t go down on your knees and thank God for it, and say it’s such a heavenly thing for the spread of the gospel – it just is not. Experience teaches you that, and if you look upon the map you will find I have stated only the truth, that where our arms have been victorious, the gospel has been hindered rather than not; so that where South Sea Islanders have bowed their knees and cast their idols to the bats, British Hindoos have kept their idols, and where Bechuanas and Bushmen have turned unto the Lord, British Affairs have not been converted, not perhaps because they were British, but because the very fact of the missionary being a Briton, put him above them, and weakened their influence. Hush thy trump, O war; put away thy gaudy trappings and thy bloodstained drapery, if thou thinkest that the cannon with the cross upon it is really sanctified, and if thou imaginest that thy banner hath become holy, thou dreamest of a lie. God wanteth not thee to help his cause. "It is not by armies, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord" ("Independence of Christianity," August 31, 1857, Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens)...

...Charles Spurgeon was not alone, for as I have pointed out elsewhere, Baptist ministers in America during the nineteenth century held the same opinions about Christianity and war. Christian agitation or apology for war is an aberration from the principles of Christianity, the folly of which is exceeded only by its appalling misuse of Scripture.

Modern conservative, fundamentalist, and evangelical Christians, all of whom might claim him as one of their own, have much to learn from Spurgeon, not only for his example of an uncompromising and successful Christian minister, but also for his consistent opposition to war and Christian war fever.

Another Shameful Navy Cover-Up
Six Americans dead and 34 wounded. What a terrible waste. I have a hard time understanding why a group of naval warriors gathered closely together out in the open, creating a super-juicy target for an Iraqi insurgent mortar team that’s been hammering Base Junction City ever since our troops first set up there.

“Always spread out, or one round will get you all,” was the First Commandment of Survival when I was a kid serving in Italy. The terrible tragedy that occurred in Iraq last May underscores the importance of this often-neglected rule.

Junction City sits right in the middle of Injun country – in Anbar province about 60 miles west of Baghdad, where the insurgents are serious fanatics and the fighting is fierce. A very bad place.

The word from many surviving Seabees of the gallant Reserve Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 14 that took these catastrophic casualties is that they were ordered to assemble in an open yard at their base for a pep talk from Rear Adm. Charles Kubic, who, according to a salty Navy commander, was making one of his monthly self-serving visits to Iraq from Norfolk, Va. “Kubic came to Iraq for the last two days of every month and the first two of the next to get tax breaks.”

The same source says: “Several officers argued with Kubic, saying it wasn’t smart to assemble the men. But they were rudely overrode.”

Family members of the dead reservists are furious that heads have not rolled. Their specific target is Kubic, whom they hold responsible for the loss of their loved ones even though he now denies giving the fatal order. Phone calls have been placed and letters written to lawmakers, and the bereaved keep getting promised swift action.

The surviving Seabees, a most patriotic group, love the U.S. Navy and almost to a man want to return to Iraq to finish the job. So they will only speak off-record. But they don’t have kind words for Kubic, since he ordered them to make his bed, bring ice-cold water to his quarters and generally act as his personal houseboys during his trips to Iraq. The admiral’s attitude didn’t go down well with these rugged reservist warrior-builders, the proud inheritors of a legendary tradition: “We're the Seabees of the Navy, we can build and we can fight; We’ll pave our way to victory and guard it day and night.”

The irony is that Kubic apparently fancies himself as a heroic warrior. In the first days of the invasion of Iraq, he was hunkered down in a bunker with his staff when a Scud missile whistled several thousand feet overhead – for which daring feat he was later awarded a Bronze Star for heroism under fire. ...

...That aside, here's the kicker: Numerous sailors have told me that Kubic “liberated” a fancy bar from Fallujah and shipped it back to the States on a USAF C-17. For sure, souvenirs are swell – but not when a mission-essential aircraft is dragooned to make an incompetent admiral’s day....

move over, Jenna Jameson
Several years ago I left a screening of “Black Hawk Down” with two male friends. One of them look around him as the other patrons left the theater. “All men,” he said. “It’s like a porn theater.” It’s true, and it’s significant. Whether it’s Jeff Gannon on, Rush Limbaugh calling the Abu Ghraib photos “good old American pornography,” or right-wingers joking about LynndieEngland, the pornogrification of war is endemic. Glorifying violence is no longer enough – now it’s being sexualized. It’s conservatism as sexual deviance. Welcome to the world of the sexcons.

The new pornographers are usually voyeurs in the world of war, not participants, and that aspect of the movement starts at the top. The President is not as overtly erotic in his celebration of war, but he certainly panders to the sexcons. Parading in flight gear on an aircraft carrier deck was a form of dress-up more suitable to sexual role-playing than it was to the behavior of a head of state who has been forced to order the deaths of others....

...When non-soldier Jeff Gannon wasn’t lobbing “softballs” (interesting word, that) to the President he dressed like a sexualized version of a soldier and called himself “Bulldog” and “usmcpt” while advertising prostitution services on the above-mentioned site,, and militaryescorts4m (for men). That suggests that there are not only hookers like Gannon working this market, but presumably johns too. Anybody care to speculate on who they might be?...

The Citizen or the Police
Or, Why I Am Not a Liberal.

...I am a “my sister” libertarian.

Nobody worth performing the Heimlich Maneuver on is going to tell the police they saw their sister smoking pot. Am I okay with my sister going to jail if she sells some pills or her favors? Do I think my sister or brother should be dragged into court if she drains her field or he hires too many people of the wrong color? No. So I have no business supporting a regime that subjects other people’s siblings to those things. Would I have to agree that if my sister drowned my niece, or my brother defrauded credit card companies or my mother burned down her building for the insurance, that they should be subject to arrest and imprisonment. Yes, I’m afraid. And a note to you smartypants readers: Not all of the examples in this item have been hypotheticals. So I really do mean it.

Which brings us back to guns - not the guns that citizens might or might not own, but the ones the State most definitely does. Behind every law is a weapon. That goes for all the nice regulatory laws too. Sure, it’s only “civil proceedings,” but try telling them to tie a tail and a string to their civil proceedings and run into a headwind and its the sherrifs and marshalls who come round to uphold “the majesty of the law.” Which ends up in the same place the criminal law does - jail or, if you take the armed fugitive route, death. “Contempt of Court” - dissing da judge - is the thing that judges will lock you up for indefinitely, and on their own say-so, and try checking and balancing that if you don’t like it. They don’t ask you to go politely, either. It’s sherrifs and marshalls time again. For the system to survive, resistance must prove futile. Even the most “innocuous” law has, potentially, the entire weight of the State and the State’s monopoly on the legitimate use of violence behind it. I can bitch about the Ravens’ stadium deal, but watch what happens if I keep my share in protest and get stubborn....

...This is the core problem with contemporary liberalism: liberals can be very good at noting the dangers of police power (though they used, present company excepted, to be a lot better at it); but the liberal program of strengthening the regulatory state amounts to turning more and more of life into police business. Here in Montgomery County, Maryland, we have a County Executive, Doug Duncan, whose enthusiasm for undercover operations seems boundless. Teen smoking? Undercover operations to catch insufficiently zealous store owners. Minority Hiring? Undercover operations to “catch” local businesses not hiring…undercover officers. When there was a brouhaha recently about dog barking I fully expected Doug Duncan to dress cops up in cat suits and troll for trouble. Waco started as a tax case. Show me a law and I’ll show you a district attorney who wants to be governor.

“I never saw any of them again,” Philip Marlowe says at the end of The Long Goodbye. “Except the police. No way has yet been found to say goodbye to them.”

But ways must be found to say, “Some other time.” Because that’s my sister you’re talking about.

To Anacreon in Heaven
... the tune to "The Star Spangled Banner" comes from the old British drinking song "To Anacreon in Heaven." I wonder how many people who sing it today know that the song they're belting out was originally a paean to a homosexual Greek poet best renowned for his love odes to young boys? ...

Reclaiming Christianity From the Christian Right
On the train ride back to Yale from Boston in the morning hours of Nov. 3, 2004, my best friend looked at me through eyes tearing with frustration and said, “Your people did this.” She turned her head to the aisle and spent our trip upset and without words.

I am a Christian. I also grew up in the American South. “My people”--both Christians and Southerners, according to my friend and many Yale students--are changing our nation with a conservative agenda....

...Some Christian students at Yale may feel especially conflicted about how and when to acknowledge their positions, because the public mood skeptically asks, “How can you still be a Christian and not be a radical conservative?”...

...Critics rarely acknowledge the many Christians who fight private battles against the upsurge of Christian conservatism and frequently find their integrity challenged. These tests have occurred at a frightening pace over the past two decades.

In one Southern community, the employment of a black woman to care for children in a church nursery set off an ideological rift between a pastor and a right-wing minority in a church congregation. That minority used this situation in a community struggling with racism to push forward the radical conservative agenda in which all persons must think alike and be alike in order to be accepted. The situation led to personal attacks and the dismissal of my uncle as pastor of this church in Georgia.

On an even more personal level, as the daughter of a minister whose opposition to new conservatism in the Southern Baptist Convention meant that he regularly confronted the use of racism in struggles for power, I experienced firsthand the threats and the conflicts of this ideological war--a war that eventually led to my father’s separation from his heritage.

In my view, this new political Christian right is seriously wrong, because its view of God is so narrow that few are included except its own.

We must better articulate the more moderate side of Christianity as it exists today in the South and Middle America in order to counteract the popular assumption that the entire region is sold on the radical Rightist principles.

The Christian Conservative movement has duped more mainstream and liberal Christians into silence, because we have been fearful about questions we cannot answer concerning the radicals who tout our faith but do not share our ideals.

However, we must now stand firm and be unafraid to say, “I profess a different Christianity from the Christianity professed by the Christian Right.” Otherwise, individuals our age who find it difficult to sometimes hold onto any faith will begin to lose faith in Faith itself, and our generation’s predicament will be what was my own: not knowing whose side the church is really on. Our faith must be converted to God and not conquered by man.

The point of Christianity is missed when people do not live out their convictions and when faith becomes a borrowed opinion, flaunted in the disguise of that which it dishonors. If a distinct, clear voice is not given to mainstream, moderate and liberal Christians, our generation risks an increased misconception of Christianity--a misconception that already exists in our backyard and will continue to take hold of world opinion.

Christians must refuse to allow the conception of Christianity to become a borrowed opinion--derived from a conviction based in bigotry, prejudice and ignorance--that dishonors the very thing it should represent.

Many Christians are careful when picking their battles, but this is one battle I believe must be fought by this generation of students, or else we risk a populace that forever doubts the representation of true Christian faith.