28 October 2007

"When You Mix Religion and Politics..."

Fascinating story in the New York Times's Week in Review this weekend on the demise on the evangelical love affair with the Republican Party.

'The Evangelical Crackup" focuses on Wichita, Kansas, and the changing of the guard in the religious establishment there. Many of the ministers who led Kansas' backward political battles (closing a local abortion clinic and leading a statewide campaign against gay marriage) have either retired or been sacked by their congregations.

Those taking their place are younger, more moderate pastors who preach a holistic Christianity that focuses more on good deeds toward one's community and environment than on bad ideas. Consider this quote from Todd Walker, 42, who pastors the 7,000 member Westlink Christian Church:
“I don’t believe the problem of abortion will be solved by overturning Roe v. Wade. It won’t. To me, it is a Gospel issue.”
Walker's predecessor, Gene Carlson, who was a leader in the Rightist anti-abortion protests of the 80s and 90s, summed it up best, I thought: "When you mix religion and politics, all you get is politics."

I especially loved one nugget that David D. Kirkpatrick found. Considering how Wichita was ruled by right-wing Christian ministers for over a decade, the leader of the recent anti-lottery campaign turned out to be none other than the liberal minister of the First United Methodist Church! Well, the shoe is on the other foot, then, isn't it?

Clearly the blame for the popping of the Fundamentalist Bubble is the quasi-Fundamentalist Empty Suit elected to the White House in 2000 and 2004. Despite years of pandering, Bush's approval rating among evangelicals has fallen to 45% from 90% at the time of the 2004 election. (For the rest of the country, his approval rating is half of that.)

Questions remain, though. Will this affect the 2008 election with more-moderate evangelicals turning to Democrats? Is this "crack-up" due to the true demise of an unwieldy religio-political alliance or to the disheartening lack of quality among Republican candidates?

I remember one thing the late Molly Ivins said at a lecture I attended: "I've learned to never bet on politics." Of course after she said this, she went on to tell how unlikely it was that her close friend and Texas Governor would ever lose an election to a slavering incompetent like George W. Bush!

26 October 2007

Thoughts on James

A few months ago I blogged about the trouble I was having with a belief in Satan. (Who speaks Latin here? Would that be an adiablist?)

I found some backing for this view as I was reading the Book of James. This is James 1.13-15:
Don't let anyone under pressure to give in to evil say, "God is trying to trip me up." God is impervious to evil, and puts evil in no one's way. The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood and becomes a real killer. (The Message translation)
As I said in my earlier post, I consider myself to be the root of evil in my life. I have a natural bent toward a number of sins. When I am tempted to lust or tell a lie, that comes from inside me, not from Satan. When I take Jesus' body and blood at Communion, I pray that He will conquer the sin inside me--not the Satan somewhere, wherever he is.

Yes, James is writing to those who claim "God made me do it" instead of The Devil--perhaps a nascent group of predestinites/Calvinists. But I think the logic holds up.

19 October 2007

Check out my school web site

I've been taking a learn-as-you-go course on Dreamweaver (a web design software). I'm lucky to have a number of web sites to try the stuff out on. My favorite is my teaching web site.

I'm really proud of this thing. If you cruise on over, you'll see movie-style banners on the home page and the English 1 Honors page. On the German I page, you'll see links to photos of our recent history project: "Crusading mit Barbarossa."

I worked especially hard this week on a 'paperless' research project for my English 1 Honors class. Students had to research social classes in the 19th century. I set up an HTML form for them to enter their answers. Then I installed a 'SEND' button. When they were done with the research, they clicked the button, and their research was immediately sent to my Inbox.

Now that's cool! Hopefully those of you who knew my teaching abilities way back in the 20th Century, will be impressed by the modern changes.

12 October 2007

I'd Like to Thank the Nobel Committee

Since I won't ever get a Nobel Prize (unless they start a category called "Teaching Homer to High Schoolers"), I have to focus my excitement to the prize awarded today to a fellow Tennessean I have long admired: Al Gore.

Therefore, I would like to thank the Nobel Committee for choosing an American. For good and for evil, my country is a leading force in the world today, and I am grateful when Americans can be recognized for the good generated on behalf of other around the world. Gore joins political leaders like Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Jimmy Carter, along with cabinet members like Cordell Hull and George C. Marshall as recipients of this most esteemed of awards.

It is also as a Tennessean that I thank the committee. Gore is the 2nd Tennessean to win this prize--considering that my state is not among the most populated, I think that's pretty good. Cordell Hull, who made his home in Clay County, not 40 miles away from Gore's home in Carthage, won the Peace Prize in 1945 for his efforts in the founding of the United Nations.

Despite the common sense and clear science behind Gore's campaign to educate the world about mankind's impact climate change, he has certainly overcome great obstacles to do so. His own country has been misled into an abyss where contempt for fact and analysis is considered a political advantage. While no scientific studies have contradicted Gore's claims, he has weathered (pardon the pun) a string of personal attacks and hyperbole, designed to divert his American audience from his central message.

Frankly, if it had been easy, I guess he wouldn't have won the Nobel Prize. So maybe that's a good thing after all.