What’s New in the Neighborhood

October 4, 2006, 4:47 pm | Posted by

A regular feature here at Faith Public Life, here’s what’s happening around the neighborhood thus far this week.

Chuck Currie posts on a bunch of bloggers from Chicago Theological Seminary. Be sure to drop by their blogs and welcome them to the neighborhood.

Chicago Theoligical Seminary student Faithfully Liberal posts on the Foley scandel and Bob Woodward’s book: State of Denial.

At Progressive Christian, Geoffrey, provides more on the Foley fall out.

Sickened by the scandel? Spirit Blog posts a mediation called the Prosecutor.

Now, bring your sense of history over to Islamicate. He writes: “The October 2006 issue of Vanity Fair contains two important articles, which are worth reading: Empire Falls, by Niall Ferguson, and Under Egypt’s Volcano, by Scott Anderson.

In Empire Falls, Fergusson uses historian Edward Gibbon’s theories on the decline and fall of Rome to make an interesting, if not convincing, case for the same state of conditions currently in play in the West. Gibbon’s blamed Rome’s decline on external military overreach, internal corruption, social decadence, religious transformation, and barbarian invasion. Fergusson counters with the War on Terror, the cult of personality, superficiality, reality TV, cultural decline, immigration, and the rise of political Islam.”

Save yourselves from this corrupt generation writes: I Understand Opposing Abortion, but . . .. . . opposing contraception in general is going too far. Rethinking traditional religion, Johnny writes about Amish abuse. For Yom Kippur, Velvateen Rabbi writes about Philo and how Jews like to eat.

And Xpatriated Texan wonders if he is still living in America.

Definitely in AmericaJspot has a great Air America clip about the connection between religious communities and worker’s rights.

A skeptical AmericanMainstream Baptist wonders about the new moderate Christian Coalition.

And finally, Bruce over at Talk to Action provides a bit o’ “truthiness” humor about the Family Research Council.

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AUDIO: Faith Leaders Respond to Foley Scandal

October 3, 2006, 3:48 pm | Posted by

The abuse and cover-up scandal of Rep. Foley has shown once again that leaders of the Religious Right are out of step with the values of mainstream Americans. While Tony Perkins rationalizes the cover-up of Rep. Foley’s predatory behavior by saying members of Congress and their staffs were simply “fearful of acting because they would be seen as homophobic or gay bashing,” (see a similar explanation here from the “pro-family” Arlington Group) faith leaders around the country are speaking the truth that Perkins’ partisan loyalties prevent him from saying. Protecting vulnerable children can never be subordinated to the quest for political power. A group of diverse faith leaders made this points strongly in a letter to House leaders. African American Ministers in Action and the African American Ministers Leadership Council issues a joint statement pointing out that the scandal reveals the hypocrisy of politicians and religious leaders who claim to have a monopoly on ‘values.’

Click on the photos below for audio responses to the Foley scandal and cover-up from expert faith leaders around the country.

Rev. Butler Rev. Jennifer Butler is the Executive Director of Faith in Public Life

“The failure of Congressional leadership to take swift action in response to Mark Foley’s behavior exemplifies placing personal power and greed above moral behavior.”

Rev. Darby Rev. Joseph Darby is Senior Pastor at Morris Brown AME Church, Charleston, SC

“The Foley incident and the resultant fallout should be a cautionary tale for those who take a narrow view of faith and morality, with exclusionary moral absolutes which do not allow for what those of the Christian tradition call ‘grace.’ Those on the so-called “religious right” have been vocal, judgmental and mean spirited on issues of gender and have drawn a strict “us versus them” line in the sand.”

Rev. Haffner Rev. Debra Haffner is the Director of the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, & Healing

“How ironic that Rep. Foley was chair of the Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children and that the bill he championed in July concentrated on registering treated sex offenders rather than the prevention methods we know keep children safe from abuse.”

Sr. Campbell Sr. Simone Campbell is National Coordinator of NETWORK: A Catholic Social Justice Lobby

What the Foley cover-up brings to mind is that the use of power to protect self-interest is inevitably corrupting….Congress must face its sins to come to redemption as an institution.

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AUDIO: Dobson tells Ingraham about the Demoralization of the Religious Right

October 3, 2006, 12:29 pm | Posted by

Focus on the Family’s James Dobson last night told Laura Ingraham about the frustration coming from the Religious Right base. He’s still on the GOP bandwagon, but clearly thinks there are significant chunks of his faith community who are leaving him behind…

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This week over 4000 places of worship will show films about climate change

October 2, 2006, 4:17 pm | Posted by

According to PRNewswire:

The event, called “Spotlight on Global Warming” is being organized by Interfaith Power & Light a nationwide movement to engage people of faith in the urgency to address global warming.

“Global warming is harming God’s creation: first the poor of the world and eventually all of us and all life,” said the Reverend Sally G. Bingham, founder of IPL and an Episcopal priest at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, CA.

Over 4000 congregations – Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu – will show An Inconvenient Truth, HBO’s Too Hot Not to Handle and the independent documentary Lighten Up.

I’d call that very good news – American congregations finding common ground for the common good. And the members get a free film. That’s progress.

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Is the IRS really paying attention to “all” saints?

September 28, 2006, 6:40 pm | Posted by

“The IRS Works in Mysterious Ways” opines the Los Angeles Times on the federal investigation into the subtext of a sermon preached at the Pasadena, CA, All Saints Episcopal Church.

The sermon, “What If Jesus Debated Senator Kerry and President Bush“, was delivered by the Rev. George F. Regas two days before the ’04 election. Now the IRS has annouced that it will investigate to see if the church violated its tax status.

But the issue is more complicated. In fact, recently US Representative Adam Schiff wrote a letter to the IRS and the Secretary of the Treasury in which he expresses serious concern over the fact that the IRS said that they would drop the case if All Saints admits that it did wrong. That part of the case is espeically chilling for those familiar with the logic of 17th century convictions and the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Many in the blogopshere – on the left and right – wonder: is the IRS being even-handed?

Conservative Riddleblog announces:

“While I don’t agree with this church on virtually anything–it is far-left both theologically and politically speaking–good on them for standing up to the IRS and for refusing to turn over documents, sermons, newsletters, etc, as demanded! . . . God will deal with this church’s rejection of orthodox theology and the gospel in his own time and way. But what they preach is none of Uncle Sam’s business.”

Irenic Thoughts says,“The sermon was critical of both candidates for their views on war and poverty yet the IRS noted the statements against the President as politicking on behalf of John Kerry.

Below a commentor wrote:

. . .”I remember the reputation of the old Episcopal Church as one with old families with old money sipping single malt Scotch and bridge clubs. There was even a joke about using the wrong fork at dinner and going you know where since it was a sin to to be an Episcopalian and not know proper etiquette. Now I look at the church and I’m proud. TEC has really become a church that wants to build the Kingdom of God right here, right now. We stand up and say war is wrong, social injustice is a sin, discrimination is clearly against the teachings of the Gospel, Etc…I’d be proud to be a member of All Saints.”

Socially conservative Thoughts and News writes: I and most Evangelical Christians would not agree with them doctrinally on many issues. . .such as acceptance of homosexual lifestyles. . . but the [ IRS investigation of All Saints] affects both equally, as well as those who attend synagogues, mosques and other religious worship centers.”

On the question of equality, the Los Angeles Daily News notes, “In Los Angeles alone, 39 churches, synagogues and Buddhist temples were identified by political candidates as contributing more than $15,000 to their election campaigns since 1998, according to city Ethics Commission records. . While the federal tax agency has taken on All Saints, some say it may be overlooking others’ political donations as well as whether churches are using federal funds solely for intended social programs. . .the Rev. Ed Bacon of All Saints notes his church has never violated federal law by contributing to a political candidate.”

Here’s the rector’s sermon: The IRS Goes to Church. And here’s a recent Los Angeles Times article and a NPR story on the situation.

Julie writing on her blog, Truth, Justice and the American Way points out: “The summons even requests utility bills to establish costs associated with hosting Regas’ speech . . .from the very beginning of our constitutional republic, America’s pastors and ministers have courageously engaged the culture. We must not allow the IRS, or any other government agency, to now trample this heritage.

Over at Street Prophets, Pastor Dan writes:

“Apparently, they’re trying to shake loose evidence that All Saints has been supporting partisan candidates. The request for utility bills matches a similar demand for ‘overhead expenses,’ which the church takes to be a reference to staff salaries. That seems like nitpicking to me, especially since Regas didn’t endorse or oppose any candidates in his sermon. But I don’t know the first thing about the IRS’ calculus.”

Always helpful, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life provides a Guide on Internal Revenue Code Restrictions on the Political Activity of Religious Organizations.

In light of All Saints, Talk to Action explores the problems surrounding the IRS and church policking.

ReligioNews blog notes: “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, ‘The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state.’ It would be mighty hard to be the conscience of the country if clergy could not speak about the country’s rights and wrongs.”

Smells like Snapper writes: “When I heard the most recent report on NPR this morning, I had to scramble to find my blood pressure medication before I blew a cardiovascular gasket. . .All Saints’ is one of my favorite haunts. I really love the place–who wouldn’t love a rector from Mississippi making it big in LA?”

Hollywood pastor Ryan Bell posts photos from the Sep 22, press conference in which the church leaders announced that they would resist the IRS and go to court.

And finally, a former member of All Saints, the Rev. Anne Howard writes in the Beatitudes Society newsletter:

“I first learned about courageous preaching as a member of Regas’ church back in the 1970s. It was his preaching that caused me to leave my job as a newspaper reporter and come to work at All Saints as the Director of the Interfaith Center to Reverse the Arms Race. It was his preaching that helped me connect that anti-nuclear work with faith, and eventually led me to seminary. And it is the legacy of his preaching that has stayed with me through my years as a parish priest, prodding me to speak the truth when I might otherwise stay silent. . . .”

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