Also sometimes referred to as secular, modern, or humanistic. This is an umbrella term for Protestant denominations, or churches within denominations, that view the Bible as the witness of God rather than the word of God, to be interpreted in its historical context through critical analysis. Examples include some churches within Anglican/Episcopalian, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, and United Church of Christ. There are more than 2,000 Protestant denominations offering a wide range of beliefs from extremely liberal to mainline to ultra-conservative and those that include characteristics on both ends.
|•||Belief in Deity |
Trinity of the Father (God), the Son (Christ), and the Holy Spirit that comprises one God Almighty. Many believe God is incorporeal.
Beliefs vary from the literal to the symbolic belief in Jesus Christ as God's incarnation. Some believe we are all sons and daughters of God and that Christ was exemplary, but not God.
|•||Origin of Universe and Life |
The Bible's account is symbolic. God created and controls the processes that account for the universe and life (e.g. evolution), as continually revealed by modern science.
|•||After Death |
Goodness will somehow be rewarded and evil punished after death, but what is most important is how you show your faith and conduct your life on earth.
|•||Why Evil? |
Most do not believe that humanity inherited original sin from Adam and Eve or that Satan actually exists. Most believe that God is good and made people inherently good, but also with free will and imperfect nature, which leads some to immoral behavior.
Various beliefs: Some believe all will go to heaven, as God is loving and forgiving. Others believe salvation lies in doing good works and no harm to others, regardless of faith. Some believe baptism is important. Some believe the concept of salvation after death is symbolic or nonexistent.
|•||Undeserved Suffering |
Most Liberal Christians do not believe that Satan causes suffering. Some believe suffering is part of God's plan, will, or design, even if we don't immediately understand it. Some don't believe in any spiritual reasons for suffering, and most take a humanistic approach to helping those in need.
|•||Contemporary Issues |
Most churches teach that abortion is morally wrong, but many ultimately support a woman's right to choose, usually accompanied by policies to provide counseling on alternatives. Many are accepting of homosexuality and gay rights.
Saturday, August 07, 2004
Kerry: Lift limits on stem cell research
(CNN) -- Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry Saturday carried his "help is on the way" theme to those affected in some way by diseases and conditions that could be improved by stem cell research, pledging to lift a partial ban President Bush put on the research three years ago.
Bush issued an executive order on August 7, 2001, limiting federal funding to projects using existing lines of fetal stem cells, a position supported by his party's fundamentalist Christian and conservative faction.
"The is not the way we do things in America," Kerry said in the Democrats' weekly radio address. "Here in America we don't sacrifice science for ideology. We are a land of discovery, a place where innovators and optimists are free to dream and explore."
"We know that progress has always brought with it the worry that this time, we have gone too far," Kerry said. "Believe it or not, there was a time when some questioned the morality of heart transplants. Not too long ago, we heard the same kind of arguments against the biotechnology research that now saves stroke victims and those with leukemia."
Such work, Kerry said, is too important to risk for an ideological base and must be "a priority" in the nation's medical community.
"People of good will and good sense can resolve the ethical issues without stopping life-saving research," he added. "America has long led the world in great discoveries, always upholding the highest standards, with our breakthroughs and our beliefs always going hand-in-hand. And when it comes to stem cell research, we will demand no less."
Bush's decision came again to the forefront earlier this summer following the death of former President Ronald Reagan, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease for at least the last decade of his life, and at the Democratic National Convention when Reagan's son, Ronald Prescott Reagan, spoke in favor of lifting the ban.
The younger Reagan and his mother, Nancy Reagan, are staunch supporters of stem cell research, and each has appealed to President Bush to lift the ban.
A Kerry-Edwards administration, Kerry said, "would "stand up for science" and "say yes to knowledge, yes to discovery and yes to a new era of hope for all Americans."
"To those who pray each day for cures that are now beyond our reach," he said, "I want you to know that help is on the way."
"Above all," he said, "we must look to the future not with fear, but with the hope and the faith that advances in science will advance our highest ideals."
By Robert B. Reich
Issue Date: 07.01.04
It was recently reported that the Bush campaign had e-mailed members of the clergy, soliciting help in identifying "friendly" congregations that would do the campaign's bidding in their areas. When the e-mail came to light, legal experts warned that any religious organization that endorsed one candidate over another could lose its tax-exempt status. A few days later, House Republicans added a measure to a tax bill working its way through Congress called the "Safe Harbor for Churches" act, which would allow any religious organization to make as many as three "unintentional" political endorsements in a calendar year without jeopardizing its tax-exempt status.
When questioned about all of this, Steve Schmidt, a spokesman for the Bush campaign, said, "The campaign wants people of faith to participate in the political process." Clearly, the Bushies want more than this. Because any exemption from paying taxes has the same economic value to its recipient as a direct subsidy from the government, the Bush campaign wants religious groups to enter the political fray -- with costs offset by the federal government. The reason, of course, is that the ground troops of the Bush campaign are America's religious right -- mostly right-wing evangelical Protestant churches, but also right-wing Southern Baptists, anti-abortion Catholics, and even a smattering of extreme pro-Israeli and anti-Arab Jews. For George W. Bush, firing up the troops means firing up "friendly" right-wing congregations.
The Constitution of the United States prohibits the federal government from enacting laws that promote or establish any religion. That's because the Framers understood the importance of keeping a strict separation between church and state. History has amply demonstrated how established religions undermine democracy. Citizens holding different beliefs from the majority, or no beliefs at all, are often disadvantaged, marginalized, or even ostracized. Government support tends to corrupt even an established religion whose leaders seek official favors in return for religious decrees and indulgences, and who do the government's bidding in return for state benefits.
In the United States, religious groups are exempted from paying taxes not because they are religious (that would violate the Constitution's establishment clause) but because they are nonprofit institutions, and, like all nonprofits, are barred from explicitly taking sides in a campaign. To enlist congregations in campaign activities is not at all like enabling individual "people of faith" to participate in politics; it's utilizing the privileged organizational capacity of religious institutions -- which should be barred from politics -- for expressly political purposes.
There is a larger pattern here. In its eagerness to promote the teaching of creationism in public schools, encourage school prayer, support anti-sodomy statutes, ban abortions, bar gay marriage, limit the use of stem cells, reduce access to contraceptives, and advance the idea of America as a "Christian nation," the Bush administration has done more to politicize religion than any administration in recent American history. It has already blurred the distinction between what is preached from the pulpits and what are the official policies of the United States government, to the detriment of both. Right-wing fundamentalists -- including not a few high-level Bush-administration officials -- charge us secularists with being "moral relativists" who would give equal weight to any moral precept. In so doing, they confuse politics with private morality. For religious zealots, there is no distinction between the two realms. And that is precisely the problem.
The great conflict of the 21st century may be between the West and terrorism. But terrorism is a tactic, not a belief. The underlying battle will be between modern civilization and anti-modernist fanatics; between those who believe in the primacy of the individual and those who believe that human beings owe blind allegiance to a higher authority; between those who give priority to life in this world and those who believe that human life is no more than preparation for an existence beyond life; between those who believe that truth is revealed solely through scripture and religious dogma, and those who rely primarily on science, reason, and logic. Terrorism will disrupt and destroy lives. But terrorism is not the only danger we face.Copyright © 2004 by The American Prospect, Inc. Preferred Citation: Robert B. Reich, "The Last Word", The American Prospect, Inside the Crack-Up, July 2004
From Juliusblog There are few things that are quite evident from the chart:
- Whenever his ratings dip, there's a new terror alert.
- Every terror alert is followed by a slight uptick of Bush approval ratings.
- Whenever there are many unfavorable headlines, there's another alert or announcement (distraction effect).
- As we approach the 2004 elections, the number and frequency of terror alerts keeps growing, to the point that they collapse in the graphic. At the same time, Bush ratings are lower than ever.
Update: for the record, we are not claiming that all these alerts are politically motivated. We are sure a considerable amount of these alerts were legit and caused by real and immediate information of potential threats. What is important to note is that many of these "immediate" terror alerts were later on discredited (in some cases they used old data, in other cases the announcements were less immediate and less urgent that we were lead to believe, as the press reported.) Those are the cases that could be interpreted as politically motivated, especially when they seemed to coincide with political news and events unfavorable to the administration.
Palestinian Christians, the forgotten faithful, belong to the Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant communities. Their language is Arabic; they are considered forgotten because most Christians in the West are unaware of their existence.
In the universal church, Palestinian Christians are unique due to their centuries of history and attachment to the land of Jesus Christ's birth, death, and resurrection. Some of these
Christians can trace their family lineage to the early days of the church; they are the direct descendants of those who first followed Jesus.
Living under Israeli occupation, seeing their homes and lands confiscated, having schools repeatedly closed, blocked from traveling even for health or religious purposes, and with increasingly limited employment opportunities, thousands of Christians have emigrated to other countries.
In 1948, Christians comprised about 18 percent of the population of the Holy Land; today they are less than 2 percent. The population decline in Jerusalem has been even more dramatic. In 1922, Christians numbered 51 percent of the population in Jerusalem; in 1978, 10 percent; and in 1990, only 4 percent of the population was Christian. The Christians who remain deserve recognition of their struggle to gain freedom and peace in the land called holy. Pilgrims from the West who meet and pray with Holy Land Christians realize that they have individually and collectively shared deeply in the way of the cross.
Poor George Bush who was a C- student at Harvard Business School and admits that he never reads newspapers obviously never understood the faith of his Episcopalian parents nor does he understand the faith of the United Methodist Church, the church in which he now claims membership.
George is a fundamentalist who believes in the heresy of a literal Israel as opposed to a spiritual Israel which is a basic tenant of Mainline Christianity as well Catholicism and those of the Orthodox faith.
Dr. Barbara Rossing of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago describes the situation this way: "Many Americans interpret God's action in the world through pre-millennialism, as evidenced in the popular Left Behind series (nine novels, a web site, two movies, a board game). Sales of so-called "prophecy" books have surged since September 11, 2001. Their understanding of Revelation is consumed with the ‘rapture' -- the belief that God will snatch true Christians up into heaven before the disastrous events of Revelation's seven-year tribulations are visited on the earth. This belief unfortunately is connected to unquestioning political support and military aid for Israel, arguing that the Jewish Temple must be rebuilt in order for Christ to return and usher in the end-times." This belief results in a peculiar understanding of the very nature of the state of Israel and its relation to the fulfillment of a covenant with God and the second coming of Jesus. Rossing writes, "No Lutheran or mainline Christian doctrine endorses such an escapist theology of the rapture or such Middle East policies, yet this view of the end-times has virtually taken over American Christian views of the book of Revelation."
A Palestinian Christian family mourns
over the body of a civilian woman shot by
Israeli soldiers on October 21, 2001.
Palestinian women mourn during the
funeral procession of Rania Kharoufeh in
Santa Maria Greek Orthodox church in the
West Bank town of Beit Jalla, Sunday Oct.
21, 2001. Kharoufeh, 23, a Palestinian
Christian was killed by an Israeli tank
shell. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
A nun attends a gathering of Christians
and Muslims in the Nativity Church in
protest against the ongoing violence in
the West Bank town of Bethlehem, October
23, 2001. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan
A Palestinian Christian mourner faints
in Santa Maria Greek Orthodox church
during the funeral procession of Rania
Kharoufeh. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Christian Orthodox priests and relatives
gather around the coffin of Johnny
Thaljieh, 19, a Palestinian Christian
shot and killed in Manger Square by an
Israeli sniper. At the Vatican, Pope John
Paul II expressed sorrow over the killing
of Thaljieh near the Church of Nativity,
built on what is traditionally believed
to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ. (AP
Suzanne Thaljieh, the mother of Johnny
Thaljieh, grieves over her slain son in
their house in the West Bank town of
Bethlehem. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Relatives mourn around the coffin of
Johnny Thaljieh, 19, a Palestinian
Christian shot and killed in Manger
Square in the West Bank town of
Bethlehem, during his funeral procession
in the Church of Nativity, Sunday Oct.
21, 2001. (AP Photo/Laurent Rebours
Suzanne Thaljieh, left, the mother of
Johnny Thaljieh, 19, grieves with
relatives over her slain son in the
Church of the Nativity in the West Bank
town of Bethlehem, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2001.
Johnny Thaljieh, a Palestinian Christian,
was shot and killed by Israeli snipers in
Manger Square of the West Bank town of
Bethlehem. (AP Photo/Laurent Rebours)
Christian Orthodox priests and pilgrims
gather around the coffin of Mousa George,
20, a Palestinian Christian shot and
killed by Israeli troops, during his
funeral procession in Santa Maria Greek
Orthodox church Saturday, Oct. 20, 2001.
(AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis
A Palestinian refugee woman sifts
through the remains of her home in the
Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem, October
The wife of Palestinian civilian Salama
al Dibs, shot through the head in his
home, faints at a hospital in Bethlehem
on October 25, 2001 in Bethlehem. From
the morgue to the refugee camp, talk from
Israeli leaders about restoring law and
order seems absurd to Palestinians living
with the Jewish state's tanks on their
streets. REUTERS/Magnus Johansson
A Palestinian boy tries to make his way
past rubble, a result of Israeli
deliberate destruction of Bethlehem. (AP
The Paradise Hotel on Nativity Road in
Bethlehem burns as a Palestinian fire
engine stands by. REUTERS/Magnus
Johansson. REUTERS/Magnus Johansson
A Palestinian woman goes through the
remains of her house destroyed by Israeli
fire, October 27, 2001. REUTERS/Magnus
A Palestinian looks down from the
balcony of his family home riddled with
heavy machine gun fire from an Israeli
tank positioned outside the Paradise
hotel on Nativity Road in Bethlehem
Monday Oct. 29, 2001. The biblical town
of Bethlehem, traditionally believed to
be the birthplace of Jesus, has suffered
multi-million dollar damage in Israel's
army aggression, which ended late Sunday
night. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)
A Palestinian boy jumps over the rubble
of a grocery shop destroyed by Israeli
army bulldozers on the main road that
leads to the Church of Nativity in
Bethlehem, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2001.(AP
A Palestinian woman cries in her living
room, shot up by heavy machine gunfire
from Israeli troops opposite the Paradise
Hotel in Bethlehem, October 28, 2001.
Former U.S. senator George Mitchell said
the numbers of people killed in the
latest escalation of Israeli-Palestinian
violence were "shockingly high" and urged
the international community to take
urgent steps to persuade the two sides to
return to peace talks. REUTERS/Desmond
Palestinians clear up a commercial area
in Bethlehem where Israeli soldiers
destroyed about 20 shop for no apparent
reason. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan
Palestinians wander in shock and
disbelief amid the rubble of their home
destroyed by Israeli troops, October 28,
2001. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan
A Palestinian girl looks from her house,
hit by heavy machine gunfire from Israeli
troops, October 28, 2001. The Lord was
looking out for this girl, who luckily
was not hurt as a result of the
indiscriminate shooting of Israeli
soldiers. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan
A Palestinian woman looks from her
house, hit by heavy machine gunfire from
Israeli troops, October 28, 2001. Even
thought the casualty rate was "shockingly
high", as Senator George Mitchell put it,
the Bethlehem resident are thankful for
the Lord's blessing for those were not
killed. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan
A Palestinian woman attends an Arab
Orthodox Christian service in Jerusalem's
Holy Sepulchre Church, October 28, 2001.
The sermon of the mass focused on prayers
for the victims of the Israeli re
occupation of Bethlehem and surrounding
towns. REUTERS/Natalie Behring
A Palestinian holding the remnants of a
propelled grenade fired by an Israeli
tank looks through a hole in his house
after it was attacked. REUTERS/Suhaib
An Israeli sniper, standing in the
middle of the street and obviuosly not
under attack, uses high powered M16
machine guns for maximum killing power.
A general view shows the destruction on
the main street at the entrance of the
West Bank town of Bethlehem after a
night-long raid by Israeli troops
shelling, shooting heavy machine guns and
bulldozing over 20 shops early October
25, 2001. (Desmond Boylan/Reuters)
Picture shows destroyed stores on the
main street at the entrance of the West
Bank town of Bethlehem after a night-long
raid by Israeli troops shelling, shooting
heavy machine guns and bulldozing over 20
shops early October 25, 2001.
Oude Abu Jazari, a 6-year-old
Palestinian boy lies in hospital. Oude Au
Jazari luckily shot only in the right leg
while he was playing with friends outside
his home. (AP Photo/Murad Sezer)
A Palestinian woman looks into her
living room that was shelled and
bulldozed by Israeli troops in on the
outskirts of Bethlehem on October 24,
2001. (Desmond Boylan/Reuters)
A woman lights a candle in the Church of
the Nativity during a gathering to pray
for those killed during the Israeli
occupation of Palestinian towns in the
West Bank on October 28, 2001. (Desmond
A Palestinian boy stands among the
remains of a shop shelled and bulldozed
by Israeli troops in Bethlehem, October
24, 2001. Since then at least 57
Palestinians and one Israeli, mostly
civilians, have been killed.
A Palestinian woman looks at the charred
remains of wedding photographs in a
damaged house in the West Bank town of
Bethlehem, October 30, 2001. The house is
one of many damaged by Israeli fire
during a 10-day occupation of the town.
An Israeli soldier terrorizing young
children. Unknown location. (Nati
A Palestinian woman gestures as she
shows the charred remains of her home in
the West Bank town of Bethlehem, October
30, 2001. The house is one of many
damaged by Israeli fire during a 10-day
occupation of the town. Israel completed
its withdrawal of troops from Bethlehem
on Monday, but continued to defy U.S.
calls for a full and immediate withdrawal
from all the Palestinian areas.
An Israeli soldier stops a Palestinian
Red Crescent ambulance at an Israeli army
checkpoint to keep it from helping the
wounded. Unknown location.
Pope John Paul II's envoy to the Holy
Land Archbishop Pietro Sambi, right, and
Ali Sadaih, an official of the Waqf, the
Islamic trust in charge of Muslim holy
places stand hand-in-hand during a short
prayer at St. Catherine church in the
biblical West Bank town of Bethlehem,
Tuesday Oct. 23, 2001. Dozens of
clergymen from the major Christian
denominations in the Holy Land led a
peace march of 6,000 Palestinians from an
Israeli military checkpoint to the Church
of the Nativity in Bethlehem. (AP
A Palestinian boy is carried after being
injured when Israeli tank shells were
fired on the Al Aza refugee camp in
Bethlehem, October 23, 2001. As of
October 23, Israeli soldiers killed 25
civilians, including children.
Friday, August 06, 2004
By Michael Kranish, Globe Staff | August 6, 2004
WASHINGTON -- A week after Senator John F. Kerry heralded his wartime experience by surrounding himself at the Democratic convention with his Vietnam ''Band of Brothers," a separate group of veterans has launched a television ad campaign and a book that questions the basis for some of Kerry's combat medals.
But yesterday, a key figure in the anti-Kerry campaign, Kerry's former commanding officer, backed off one of the key contentions. Lieutenant Commander George Elliott said in an interview that he had made a ''terrible mistake" in signing an affidavit that suggests Kerry did not deserve the Silver Star -- one of the main allegations in the book. The affidavit was given to The Boston Globe by the anti-Kerry group to justify assertions in their ad and book.
Elliott is quoted as saying that Kerry ''lied about what occurred in Vietnam . . . for example, in connection with his Silver Star, I was never informed that he had simply shot a wounded, fleeing Viet Cong in the back."
The statement refers to an episode in which Kerry killed a Viet Cong soldier who had been carrying a rocket launcher, part of a chain of events that formed the basis of his Silver Star. Over time, some Kerry critics have questioned whether the soldier posed a danger to Kerry's crew. Crew members have said Kerry's actions saved their lives.
Yesterday, reached at his home, Elliott said he regretted signing the affidavit and said he still thinks Kerry deserved the Silver Star.
''I still don't think he shot the guy in the back," Elliott said. ''It was a terrible mistake probably for me to sign the affidavit with those words. I'm the one in trouble here."
Elliott said he was no under personal or political pressure to sign the statement, but he did feel ''time pressure" from those involved in the book. ''That's no excuse," Elliott said. ''I knew it was wrong . . . In a hurry I signed it and faxed it back. That was a mistake."
The affidavit also contradicted earlier statements by Elliott, who came to Boston during Kerry's 1996 Senate campaign to defend Kerry on similar charges, saying that Kerry acted properly and deserved the Silver Star.
The book, ''Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry," is to be published next week. Yesterday it reached number one on the bestseller list on Amazon.com, based on advance orders, in part because of publicity about it on the Drudge Report.
The book seeks to undermine one of the central claims of Kerry's campaign -- that his Vietnam War heroism would make him a good commander in chief.
While the Regnery Publishing yesterday declined to release an advance copy of the book, Drudge's website quotes it as saying, ''Elliott indicates that a Silver Star recommendation would not have been made by him had he been aware of the actual facts."
Meanwhile, a television advertising campaign began yesterday featuring many of the anti-Kerry veterans who are quoted in the book, including Elliott. In the ad, Elliott says, ''John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam."
Asked to supply evidence to support that statement, the anti-Kerry group provided a copy of Elliott's affidavit. Elliott said the same affidavit had been used in the production of the book.
It is unclear whether the work contains further justification for the assertion, beyond Elliott's statement.
Kerry won the Silver Star for his action on Feb. 28, 1969, in which he shot a Viet Cong soldier who had been carrying a rocket launcher and running toward a hut. All of Kerry's crewmates who participated and are still living said in interviews last year that the action was necessary and appropriate, and it was Elliott who recommended Kerry for the Silver Star.
In an interview for a seven-part biographical series that appeared in the Globe last year, Kerry said: ''I don't have a second's question" about killing the Viet Cong. ''He was running away with a live B-40, and, I thought, poised to turn around and fire it."
Asked whether that meant that he had shot the guerrilla in the back, Kerry said, ''No, absolutely not," adding that the enemy had been running to a hut for cover, where he could have destroyed Kerry's boat and killed the crew.
The forthcoming book is coauthored by Jerome R. Corsi and John O'Neill, a former Vietnam naval officer who in 1971 debated Kerry on the Dick Cavett show, challenging Kerry's assertion that US atrocities had been widespread in Vietnam. O'Neill met with then-President Richard M. Nixon for an hour before debating Kerry, and his efforts were encouraged by Nixon's aides.
O'Neill could not be reached for comment yesterday. President Bush's campaign denied working with O'Neill on the book or with the producers of the television advertisement.
Meanwhile, Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, urged Bush yesterday to disassociate himself from what he called a ''dishonest and dishonorable" attack. In response, the White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, said, ''We have not and we will not question Senator Kerry's service in Vietnam."
The Associated Press reported yesterday that Houston home-builder Bob J. Perry, a major Republican donor, gave at least $100,000 to the organization sponsoring the ad, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.
The Kerry campaign spokesman, Michael Meehan, said none of those in the ad had served on a boat with Kerry. ''Some of these men defended John Kerry's honor on his military record in 1996 and so they were either lying then or lying now," Meehan said. ''Either way, it is gutter politics."
The book also raises questions about the action of March 13, 1969, for which Kerry was awarded a Bronze Star and his third Purple Heart, according to an advance chapter of the book.
The anti-Kerry group provided three affidavits from veterans on nearby boats questioning aspects of the award.
On that day, Kerry rescued James Rassmann, who went overboard as a result of an explosion. Rassmann appeared by Kerry's side during the Iowa caucus campaign and at last week's Democratic National Convention, telling the story of how Kerry pulled him out of the water while his boat was under fire.
As in the case of the Silver Star, it was Elliott who recommended Kerry for the Bronze Star. According to the recommendation signed by Elliott, a mine exploded under a boat accompanying Kerry's craft.
''Almost simultaneously, another mine detonated close aboard [Kerry's] PCF-94, knocking First Lieutenant Rassman [sic] into the water and wounding Lt. JG Kerry in the right arm."
Elliott then described how Kerry ''managed to pull Lt. Rassman aboard despite the painful wound in his right arm." Elliott concluded that Kerry had been ''calm, professional, and highly courageous in the face of enemy fire."
Elliott, in the interview yesterday, said that based on the affidavits of the veterans on other boats, he now thinks his assessment about the Bronze Star and third Purple Heart may have been based on poor information.
In one affidavit, for example, Van O'Dell, who said he had been in a boat near Kerry on that day, declared that Kerry had ''lied" about what happened on that day and said that Rassmann was not under enemy fire when Kerry pulled him aboard.
Elliott, asked about the contradiction between his recommendation and his new questioning of Kerry's third Purple Heart, responded, ''It makes me look kind of silly, to be perfectly honest."
But he said: ''I simply have no reason for these guys to be lying, and if they are lying in concert, it is one hell of a conspiracy. So, on the basis of all of the information that has come out, I have chosen to believe the other men. I absolutely do not know first hand."
Naval documents said that Kerry ''received shrapnel wounds in left buttocks and contusions on right forearm when a mine detonated close to PCF 94 while engaged in operations on river. Condition and prognosis excellent. Result of hostile action."
Rassmann, reached by telephone yesterday, said he has never had any question that Kerry deserved the Purple Heart. He said there were two separate events: One was earlier in the day, when he and Kerry blew up a rice cache, and the explosion caused some of the rice to hit Kerry, and perhaps some weapon fragments as well. The second involved a mine explosion as Kerry and Rassmann were on patrol. The explosion, Rassmann said, knocked him overboard and threw Kerry against the pilot house, injuring his arm.
Rassmann said that he has always believed that Kerry got the third Purple Heart solely for the injury to his arm as a result of the explosion in the water.
''If he got fragments in the buttocks due to the mine, that is new information to me," Rassmann said.
''I would say there is confusion. Maybe they did lump it together. It was my understanding he got it for the wound being thrown across the pilot house."
Either way, Rassmann said, Kerry deserved the third Purple Heart because such awards are given for injuries incurred in combat, and Kerry's arm injury qualified. He also stood by his recollection that he was under fire when rescued by Kerry.
Those questioning Kerry's medals, Rassmann said, are ''angry about John speaking out against the [Vietnam] war."
Ann E. Hafften is a freelance communication specialist in Weatherford, Texas; she serves as coordinator for Middle East networks for the ELCA's Division for Global Mission
 The ubiquitous "rapture" story, elaborate end-times constructs, and fervent, unquestioning support for the state of Israel are now firmly embedded in U.S. Christian culture. Among these touchstones of pre-millennialism, a new "Christian Zionism" has found its way into the congregations of the ELCA. It is doubtful that many ELCA pastors teach or preach the tenets of pre-millennialism. The question is whether or not these leaders are willing to challenge the implications of a popular belief that has no place in Lutheran doctrine, because there is too much at stake to take it lightly anymore.
 The Rev. Munib Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jerusalem, has gone so far as to urge western Lutherans to consider the new Christian Zionism to be "heresy," in an effort "to alert all Christians everywhere to its dangers and false teachings." 1
 Support among Christians for Israel as a safe homeland for the Jews is one thing, a form of Zionism that involves participation in a Jewish political movement leading to the establishment of the nation state of Israel.
 "Christian Zionism" as manifested in the programming of the Christian Broadcasting Network and the Trinity Broadcasting Network is another thing altogether. It is a movement with serious political and economic leverage that advocates Israel as a nation that reaches from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River or even the Euphrates; the transfer of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza to other Arab states; the destruction of the mosques in the Old City of Jerusalem and the rebuilding of a Jewish temple there. When the Christian Coalition of America met in October 2002 the conference began with a videotaped benediction direct from the Oval office. Some of the most influential Republicans in Congress at that time addressed the group, including - not once, but twice - Tom DeLay, arguably one of the most powerful people on Capitol Hill. The web site of the International Christian Zionist Center puts forth the most recent theme to emerge, and one that participants have raised in every ELCA setting where I have been the speaker lately: "There never was a Palestine."
 Lutheran scholars and pastors may once have grimaced at fundamentalist biblical interpretations or scoffed at the more inventive readings of Revelation, but it just isn't funny anymore.
 In Bishop Younan's experience, Christian Zionism is anti-justice, anti-peace, and anti-reconciliation. It calls for the transfer of Palestinians out of the land of their homes. "Christian Zionism is the enemy of peace in the Middle East," Younan wrote. It is imported into the Middle East and is not limited to one or more church bodies, but its adherents can be found in every church body, he said. The Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek called pre-millenialism a "heresy" and Christian Zionism a "menace" when he spoke at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas on Nov. 7, 2002. Ateek is director of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, Jerusalem. He said the implications of Christian Zionism are "life or death to people in Palestine on a day-to-day basis."
 Apocalyptic lore has been present in U.S. religious communities since the Hal Lindsey's Late Great Planet Earth was published in 1970. In recent years the Left Behind fiction series has captured the imaginations and bookshelves of countless US Christians - Lutherans among them. A show of hands in any group of ELCA pastors will indicate the startling presence of the Left Behind phenomenon in their congregations, a tribute to the success of this $8 million franchise.
 Dr. Barbara Rossing of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago describes the situation this way: "Many Americans interpret God's action in the world through pre-millennialism, as evidenced in the popular Left Behind series (nine novels, a web site, two movies, a board game). Sales of so-called "prophecy" books have surged since September 11, 2001. Their understanding of Revelation is consumed with the ‘rapture' -- the belief that God will snatch true Christians up into heaven before the disastrous events of Revelation's seven-year tribulations are visited on the earth. This belief unfortunately is connected to unquestioning political support and military aid for Israel, arguing that the Jewish Temple must be rebuilt in order for Christ to return and usher in the end-times." This belief results in a peculiar understanding of the very nature of the state of Israel and its relation to the fulfillment of a covenant with God and the second coming of Jesus. Rossing writes, "No Lutheran or mainline Christian doctrine endorses such an escapist theology of the rapture or such Middle East policies, yet this view of the end-times has virtually taken over American Christian views of the book of Revelation." 2
 So where are our people getting this stuff? In addition to the "Left Behind" products, there's television, especially cable TV. The enormously popular televangelists Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Benny Hinn broadcast this biblical interpretation over religious cable channels every day. The ideas of Jack Van Impe and Kenneth Copeland, receive generous play on Christian TV.
 My guide to this pre-millennial TV world was Robert O. Smith 3, a student at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, who traveled to Israel and Palestine with a Lutheran group in November 2002. They sought to encourage justice by living among Palestinians and helping with the olive harvest. Smith was raised amid fundamentalism in Oklahoma. When I spoke to him, Smith said, "People are suffering and dying because of this way of reading the Bible."
"`I'm very familiar with the view that we're all moving toward this goal of bringing Christ back, but I simply don't read the scriptures in that way,' Smith said. `I don't equate the modern state of Israel that has been established with the Israel spoken about in scripture.'
"Smith said Lutherans must take careful stock of complicity for atrocities against Jews through history.
"`But the other side to the establishment of the Jewish state is the victimization of the indigenous population of Palestinians,' he said" [St. Paul Pioneer Press, Nov. 18, 2002]
 Our history calls Lutherans to a particular sensitivity in their relations with the Jewish people. In discussing the problems of pre-millennial Christian Zionism, it is crucial that we not endanger authentic Lutheran/Jewish dialogue. The ELCA Department for Ecumenical Affairs
 Mindful of our history and informed by our dialogue, we should not fear to speak honestly about Israel. At an event for journalists in April 2002, Benny Avni of Kol Israel Radio said that criticism of Israel or U.S./Israeli policy should not ever be misunderstood as anti-Semitism.4 With some care, the same principle can work in our congregations.
 "They don't love the real Jewish people," the (Israeli) author Gershom Gorenberg told the CBS programme "60 Minutes." "They love us as characters in their story, in their play, and that's not who we are. If you listen to the drama that they are describing, essentially it's a five-act play in which the Jews disappear in the fourth act."
 A member of an ELCA congregation in Texas wrote to me recently to ask my opinion of a news story from the Christian Broadcasting Network's web site:
"...Israeli Ambassador Zalmon Shoval stated: The whole land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River is ours ... historically, morally, and by virtue of international law. We do not see ourselves as "occupiers;" of anyone else's country; there never having been a Palestinian or other sovereign state in what is now usually referred to as "the territories." Nor, is it illegal for Jewish people to live anywhere in the area. These are not Arab lands, the way the press routinely defines them.'"
She concluded, "My husband and I, both, would like to know if the ELCA is not in support of Israel. The Bible says that God blesses those who bless Israel."
 I responded that the ambassador's point of view represents the present administration in Israel, but certainly not all Israelis. Many citizens of Israel who seek peace with security for their country consider the area established after 1948 to be the extent of the Israel, as does the United Nations. I explained that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jerusalem has asked us to help in communicating their story and to encourage ELCA members to pray for them and for the peace process. And I tried to clarify for this earnest Lutheran our church's support for Israel. While seeking peace with justice for Palestinians, our ELCA has always continued in support of peace and security for Israel.
 My hope is that ELCA pastors and leaders will make good use of our strong Lutheran theology to help our members understand these issues, to guide them beyond the cartoon stories provided by pre-millennial Christian Zionism. In a letter to President Bush in October 2001, former presiding bishop George Anderson vouched for the ELCA's affirmation of Israel's "right to exist peacefully within recognized and secure borders and its call upon the international community to recognize the same right for the Palestinian people." Bishop Anderson also described the violence which torments the region, "The cycle of violence includes the violence inherent in decades of occupation: imprisonment without trial, demolition of homes, torture, intimidation, destruction of thousands upon thousands of olive trees and other crops, confiscation of land and the building of settlements in disputed areas, economic strangulation, and so on. Addressing the root causes of the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is in the best interest of both parties." 5
 My hope is that we will not shrink from addressing in our congregations the peril facing Palestinians in the new Christian Zionist movement.
At the Sabeel6 Conference in 1998, Dr. Stephen Sizer7 said:
"At its simplest, Christian Zionism has been defined as 'Christian support for Zionism.' Central to Christian Zionism is the belief in the abiding relevance of the promise God made to Abraham in Genesis 12:3, 'I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.' "
But Sizer also quoted Louis Hamada's (author of Understanding the Arab World) definition:
The term Zionism refers to a political Jewish movement for the establishment of a national homeland in Palestine for the Jews that have been dispersed.
On the other hand, a Christian Zionist is a person who is more interested in helping God fulfill His prophetic plan through the physical and political Israel, rather than helping Him fulfill His evangelistic plan through the Body of Christ.
1. Bishop Munib Younan's newsletter can be found at the web site of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jerusalem
The text of his point on Christian Zionism is as follows:
Bishop Younan Declares Christian Zionism to be a Heresy
Recently Bishop Younan was interviewed by a Danish newspaper. He was asked for his opinion of Christian Zionism and the bishop said, "I hereby declare that Christian Zionism is not only a sick theology but it is a heresy, right along with Arianism and Nestorianism and others. I believe it is time we named this misinterpretation of Christ and the gospel for what it is."
First of all, the bishop states, Christian Zionism promotes Christ not as the Savior but as a military general, readying his forces for a huge battle, Armageddon. "The true Christ is the Christ of the cross and the open tomb, bringing hope, peace, reconciliation and new life. This is the Christ in whom I believe."
Secondly, Christian Zionists pretend to be philosemitic, to love the Jewish people, but in the long run they are actually anti-Semitic in their teachings. The Jewish people are simply characters in the Christian Zionist heresy and in the so-called final battle; two-thirds of the Jewish people will be destroyed because they do not believe in Christ, while the other one-third will be converted to Christ. As Palestinian Christians we cannot accept such a heresy that loses sight of the core Gospel of Christ which is love for everyone, not only the Christians, without discrimination.
Thirdly, Christian Zionism is anti-justice, anti-peace, anti-reconciliation. Bishop Younan states that the teachings are racist, calling for the transfer of Palestinians out of this land. "Christian Zionism is the enemy of peace in the Middle East."
Christian Zionism is imported into the Middle East and is not limited to one or more church bodies, but its adherents can be found in every church body. Declaring Christian Zionism to be a heresy, Bishop Younan states, is intended to alert all Christians everywhere to its dangers and false teachings.
January 2003 Newsletter
BISHOP DR. MUNIB A. YOUNAN
2. Dr. Barbara Rossing's article, "The Rapture in Reverse: Reading Revelation So No One is `Left Behind'" appeared in Good Courage, resource and reflection publication of Holden Village, fall 2002
3. Robert O. Smith is editor of "The Concord" newspaper at Luther Seminary. More about his trip to Israel and Palestine can be found at the web site of the issue dedicated to "The Land:"
4. Radio journalist Benny Avni was a presenter at "Megaphones and Muffled Voices: What Constitutes Full and Fair Media Coverage of Israeli-Palestinian Issues?" April 2002, New York City. Information at the web site of the World Association for Christian Communication.
5. Bishop George Anderson's letter to President George W. Bush appears in the Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs policy overview for Middle East.
6. The web site for the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
7. Dr. Rev. Stephen Sizer is a Vicar at Christ Church, Virginia Water and an area Tutor at the School of Theology, Westminster College Oxford. His speech, "Christian Zionism: A British Perspective," was presented at the 3rd International Sabeel Conference, Bethlehem University, February 1998.
The ELCA Left Behind resources page
The Trinity Foundation monitors televangelists
February 19, 2003
JOURNAL OF LUTHERAN ETHICS
Copyright © 2001-2002 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
What About Iraq?
By PAUL KRUGMAN
A funny thing happened after the United States transferred sovereignty over Iraq. On the ground, things didn't change, except for the worse.
But as Matthew Yglesias of The American Prospect puts it, the cosmetic change in regime had the effect of "Afghanizing" the media coverage of Iraq.
He's referring to the way news coverage of Afghanistan dropped off sharply after the initial military defeat of the Taliban. A nation we had gone to war to liberate and had promised to secure and rebuild - a promise largely broken - once again became a small, faraway country of which we knew nothing.
Incredibly, the same thing happened to Iraq after June 28. Iraq stories moved to the inside pages of newspapers, and largely off TV screens. Many people got the impression that things had improved. Even journalists were taken in: a number of newspaper stories asserted that the rate of U.S. losses there fell after the handoff. (Actual figures: 42 American soldiers died in June, and 54 in July.)
The trouble with this shift of attention is that if we don't have a clear picture of what's actually happening in Iraq, we can't have a serious discussion of the options that remain for making the best of a very bad situation.
The military reality in Iraq is that there has been no letup in the insurgency, and large parts of the country seem to be effectively under the control of groups hostile to the U.S.-supported government.
In the spring, American forces won an impressive military victory against the Shiite forces of Moktada al-Sadr. But this victory hasn't curbed the movement; Mr. Sadr's forces, according to many reports, are the de facto government of Sadr City, a Baghdad slum with 2.5 million people, and seem to have strengthened their position in Najaf and other cities.
In Sunni areas, Falluja is enemy territory. Elsewhere in western Iraq, according to reports from Knight Ridder and The Los Angeles Times, U.S. forces have hunkered down, manning watch posts but not patrolling. In effect, this cedes control of the population to the insurgents. And everywhere, of course, the mortar attacks, bombings, kidnappings and assassinations go on.
Despite a two-month truce between Mr. Sadr and the United States military, heavy fighting broke out yesterday in Najaf, where a U.S. helicopter was shot down. There was also sporadic violence in Sadr City - where, according to reporters, American planes appeared to drop bombs - and in Basra.
Meanwhile, reconstruction has languished.
This summer, like last summer, there are severe shortages of electricity. Sewage is tainting the water supply, and typhoid and hepatitis are on the rise. Unemployment remains sky-high. Needless to say, all this undermines any chance for the new Iraqi government to gain wide support.
My point in describing all this bad news is not to be defeatist. It is to set some realistic context for the political debate.
One thing is clear: calls to "stay the course" are fatuous. The course we're on leads downhill. American soldiers keep winning battles, but we're losing the war: our military is under severe strain; we're creating more terrorists than we're killing; our reputation, including our moral authority, is damaged each month this goes on.
So am I saying we should cut and run? That's another loaded phrase. Nobody wants to see helicopters lifting the last Americans off the roofs of the Green Zone.
But we need to move quickly to end our position as "an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land," the fate that none other than former President George H. W. Bush correctly warned could be the result of an invasion of Iraq. And that means turning real power over to Iraqis.
Again and again since the early months after the fall of Baghdad - when Paul Bremer III canceled local elections in order to keep the seats warm for our favorite exiles - U.S. officials have passed up the chance to promote credible Iraqi leaders. And each time the remaining choices get worse.
Yet we're still doing it. Ayad Allawi is, probably, something of a thug. Still, it's in our interests that he succeed.
But when Mr. Allawi proposed an amnesty for insurgents - a move that was obviously calculated to show that he wasn't an American puppet - American officials, probably concerned about how it would look at home, stepped in to insist that insurgents who have killed Americans be excluded. Inevitably, this suggestion that American lives matter more than Iraqi lives led to an unraveling of the whole thing, so Mr. Allawi now looks like a puppet.
Should we cut and run? No. But we should get realistic, and look in earnest for an exit.
BY MARK BROWN SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST
There are 7.1 million registered voters in Illinois, nearly half of whom could probably pass for Republican in a pinch. But in the entire state of Illinois -- from Chicago to Cairo -- the Republican State Central Committee could not find one candidate willing and qualified to run for the United States Senate against Democrat Barack Obama.
So they flew one in from Maryland on Wednesday.
Is Obama that good or is the Illinois GOP that bad, you might be wondering.
A little of both, I guess, but probably more of the latter.
From the scandal that led to George Ryan's indictment to the one that ousted state party chairman Lee Daniels to the one that caused Jack Ryan to withdraw from the Senate race, Illinois Republicans can't seem to pull out of their nosedive.
Quiz questions welcome
"I think we're like alcoholics. We've finally hit bottom," a veteran GOP strategist told me late Wednesday after it became apparent the party was leaning toward Alan Keyes, who twice ran for president on the strength of his celebrity as a conservative talk show host, which of course made him an even bigger celebrity even though he didn't get many votes.
Keyes is an intelligent man, so we can assume he knows that the capital of Illinois is Springfield, though it will be interesting to learn whether he knows it's located in Sangamon County or if he is aware of the significance of the words "State and Madison." (I invite you here and now to start submitting questions for the Alan Keyes Welcome to Illinois Quiz.)
At the moment that I write this, the Republicans haven't quite pulled the trigger yet, but they've put the gun in their mouth and are working up their nerve.
Over at the Union League Club of Chicago, what's left of the moderate wing of the GOP is trying to talk them down, but the moderates aren't calling the shots these days, which maybe serves them right for contributing to the George Ryan fiasco.
I don't know why I'm being so dismissive of Keyes' candidacy. It can only be good for those in my profession. God only knows what a campaign with him will bring. He's no Ditka, but he could get there from here.
This is, after all, a man who can speak passionately and eloquently about why there should be no separation of church and state in America. After he gets done with saving marriage from the gays, there's no telling how far he could take this concept. Then there's the statements he's made about abolishing the income tax.
One thing I've always respected about conservatives is their intellectual consistency. If they say something, they usually mean it and stand by it, which helps you predict where they will be on an issue.
That's why Keyes is getting off on a bad foot here, given the statement he made to Pat Buchanan on Fox News in March 2000 about suggestions he move to New York to run against Hillary Clinton.
"I deeply resent the destruction of federalism represented by Hillary Clinton's willingness to go into a state she doesn't even live in and pretend to represent people there, so I certainly wouldn't imitate it," Keyes said then.
I heard him try to reconcile that with his Wednesday arrival in Chicago, but frankly, I couldn't make much sense of it.
I guess the real answer is: That was then, this is now. So much for consistency.
The conservatives seem to think that by pitting Keyes against Obama they will expose the Democrat to be an extreme liberal. Obama is a liberal, very liberal, and under certain circumstances, he might have been beatable with an issue-based campaign.
But when people see him paired against Keyes, they will come to think of Obama as a moderate.
I wrote the other day that I didn't see any reason why Obama should even bother to debate Keyes, but that was shortsighted. Obama should never pass up an opportunity to let people hear from him.
Whoa! Bulletin! This just in!
The Republican State Central Committee has voted to make Keyes the nominee.
And what's that, you say? Did I hear that right?
He's going to think it over and get back to them in a few days.
You might have thought that five weeks after Jack Ryan pulled out of the race and with the election now just three months away, they would have chosen somebody who at least was willing to accept the nomination on the spot when it was offered.
Surely, he will. This must be one of those playing-hard-to-get-so-that-the-girl-will-kiss-you acts.
If not, where is the bottom of this hole?
Thursday, August 05, 2004
This is easily one of those you've-got-to-be-kidding-me kind of stories.
Yesterday, I noted the growing rumor that Jerry Falwell has been tapped to deliver the invocation at the Republican National Convention in New York. I simply couldn't believe it was even possible for the GOP to ask a polarizing, hate-filled TV preacher who blamed the 9/11 attacks on Americans to take on such a role.
But, apparently, this may be more than just a passing rumor.
Blogger John Aravosis heard from the Rev. Mel White, a long-time Falwell foe, who attended a service in which Falwell told his congregation that he would deliver the GOP's invocation. Aravosis added to the report this morning:
I interviewed a second source yesterday who confirmed that during the 11AM services at Jerry Falwell's Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, VA on Sunday, July 11, 2004, the crowd was told that Jerry Falwell will be delivering the opening invocation (prayer) at the upcoming Republican Convention in NYC. The source also confirmed that the crowd was told this would be a historic first, that there has never been a prayer opening the convention (hard to believe this fact is true).
So, either Falwell really has been asked to deliver the opening prayer or he's lying to his congregation. Both, at this point, seem equally plausible.
This strikes me as perhaps one of the dumbest possible moves the Republicans could make with their convention, so I can only hope it's true. I suppose it's possible that the GOP's far-right base was so irritated with the placement of moderates in key, prime-time speaking slots that Republican officials decided this would placate the party's lunatic fringe.
Still, Falwell is the kind of person the party should be keeping as far away from the convention as possible, not giving him a high-profile responsibility. If true, this can only be characterized as breathtaking in its stupidity.
Postscript: If you're wondering if I'm going to be obsessing over this for the next month or so, the answer is a definite "yes."
Wow, those Republicans sure are a positive, issue-oriented, forward-thinking bunch, aren't they? Members of the "optimistic" party have decided to turn this election season into a contest -- strictly among themselves -- to see who can coarsen political discourse in this country the most.
In recent months we've seen Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) compare voting for John Kerry to voting for Hitler and bin Laden, Bush Education Secretary Rod Paige call a group of school teachers a "terrorist organization," and Dick Cheney tell a respected U.S. Senator to go f--- himself. Somehow, these same characters have the chutzpah to call Dem rallies "hate fests," proving once again that irony is alive and well.
But now we have yet another example of a high-profile GOP leader taking the (very) low road. This time, it's Sen. Trent "segregation wasn't so bad" Lott.
U.S. Sen. Trent Lott today told an enthusiastic Neshoba County Fair crowd that Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry is "a French-speaking socialist from Boston, Massaschusetts, who is more liberal than Ted Kennedy."
This is what political discourse among experienced GOP officials has come to. Kerry is a "French-speaking socialist." The only thing more disturbing about Lott's attack is that it's considered fairly normal in Republican circles and hasn't generated any real attention.
I can't help but wonder about yet another double standard. If a Democratic senator were to call Bush a "barely-literate fascist," would conservatives and the mainstream media just yawn and dismiss it as politics-as-usual?
And just to add some context to Lott's comment, it's not as if he got caught up in a moment and just blurted it out accidentally.
It was a line that Lott said he'd been working on for a while, and it produced loud applause from hundreds of Mississippians gathered at Founders' Square, the centerpiece of the historic fair.
Great. Maybe the GOP can remind us all again about how the Dems are running a campaign based on "anger" and "bitterness," while the Republicans have embraced a positive message.
August 2, 2004
The Greatest Divide
Martin E. Marty
In the Austin, Texas, American-Statesman (July 25), Bill Bishop climaxed a series on "the great divide" between the two Americas this election year. Perhaps he expected to find that local congregations would be places where some give-and-take of theological and political debate could occur. Posit that the members are in some sort of agreement about creed and mission. They might use that basis to discuss war-and-peace, justice-and-mercy, wealth-and-poverty issues, as they are framed by the political parties this election season.
Not at all. Bishop could have called his article on the churches, "The Greatest Divide." There, least of all, do people evidence openness, humility, and readiness to hear viewpoints with which they might disagree, even when these are voiced by fellow-believers. To do our own framing, let me suggest an experiment for those who attend worship (non-attenders can easily get reports from experimenters). In the polite company of fellow-believers, on church premises, whisper words such as "Bush" or "Kerry," "Democrat" or "Republican." Thereupon, if you are not met with spite or spit, go on to the second part of the experiment: voice support for one party or candidate and reject the other. The custodian will clean up your broken glasses or other debris left over from the smashing that will follow.
I exaggerate a bit, but only a bit. More common than such brouhahas is the evidence of avoidance. In order to keep peace and quiet, members pass each other in the corridors or pass on to other topics than religion-and-politics.
So much for framing. Bill Bishop and his fellow-staffers went on to find a different situation. There are few such encounters for the simple reason that more and more congregants choose congregations that match their styles and ways of life, their secular tastes and commitments. A church building will not have a sign out front: "This is a Republican congregation" or vice versa. But when the Republicans go trolling for votes by asking for membership lists, or ask pastors for formal endorsements, they know exactly which congregations in any urban or town and country setting to approach. And Democrats, should they also go pushing the edges of I.R.S. regulations by asking tax-exempt churches to go partisan and support a candidate -- as some do especially in the case of African-American congregations -- they know better than to walk down the aisle of "the other kind" of church and bid. "Regardless of denomination," writes Bishop, "churches have attracted new members by appealing to cultural and political similarities." Churches have increasingly become astute marketers.
In one survey, we read, "Overwhelmingly, people said the people they met in church were extremely homogeneous with them politically." That being the case, there is less need for avoidance of the topics or bopping of "the other" than my earlier paragraphs pictured. Members of religious bodies can lean back and enjoy their own kind, protected from the voice of "the other" and, perhaps, from the word of judgment or mercy that they associate with the word of God.
The Associated Press
Updated: 1:51 p.m. ET Aug. 5, 2004
WASHINGTON - Republican Sen. John McCain, a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, called an ad criticizing John Kerrys military service dishonest and dishonorable and urged the White House on Thursday to condemn it as well.
The White House declined.
It was the same kind of deal that was pulled on me, McCain said in an interview with The Associated Press, comparing the anti-Kerry ad to tactics in his bitter Republican primary fight with President Bush.
The 60-second ad features Vietnam veterans who accuse the Democratic presidential nominee of lying about his decorated Vietnam War record and betraying his fellow veterans by later opposing the conflict.
When the chips were down, you could not count on John Kerry, one of the veterans, Larry Thurlow, says in the ad. Thurlow didnt serve on Kerrys swiftboat, but says he witnessed the events that led to Kerry winning a Bronze Star and the last of his three Purple Hearts. Kerrys crewmates support the candidate and call him a hero.
The ad, scheduled to air in a few markets in Ohio, West Virginia and Wisconsin, was produced by Stevens, Reed, Curcio and Potham, the same team that produced McCains ads in 2000.
I wish they hadnt done it, McCain said of his former advisers. I dont know if they knew all the facts.
A call for condemnation
Asked if the White House knew about the ad or helped find financing for it, McCain said, I hope not, but I dont know. But I think the Bush campaign should specifically condemn the ad.
McCain, chairman of Bushs campaign in Arizona, later said the Bush campaign has denied any involvement and added, I cant believe the president would pull such a cheap stunt.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan declined to condemn the ad. He did denounce the proliferation of spending by independent groups, such as the anti-Kerry veterans organization, that are playing on both sides of the political fence.
The president thought he got rid of this unregulated soft money when he signed the bipartisan campaign finance reform into law, McClellan said. A chief sponsor of that bill, which Bush initially opposed, was McCain.
In 2000, Bushs supporters sponsored a rumor campaign against McCain in the South Carolina primary, helping Bush win the primary and the nomination. McCains supporters have never forgiven the Bush team.
McCain said thats all in the past to him, but hes speaking out against the anti-Kerry ad because it reopens all the old wounds of the Vietnam War, which I spent the last 35 years trying to heal.
'I deplore this kind of politics'
I deplore this kind of politics, McCain said. I think the ad is dishonest and dishonorable. As it is, none of these individuals served on the boat (Kerry) commanded. Many of his crew have testified to his courage under fire. I think John Kerry served honorably in Vietnam. I think George Bush served honorably in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War.
Retired Adm. Roy Hoffmann, head of the Swift Boat group, said they respected McCains right to express his opinion and we hope he extends to us the same respect and courtesy, particularly since we served with John Kerry, we knew him well and Sen. McCain did not.
McCain himself spent more than five years in a Vietnam prisoner of war camp. A bona fide war hero, McCain, like Kerry, used his war record as the foundation of his presidential campaign.
The Kerry campaign has denounced the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, saying none of the men in the ad served on the boat that Kerry commanded. Three veterans on Kerrys boat that day Jim Rassmann, who says Kerry saved his life, Gene Thorson and Del Sandusky, the driver on Kerrys boat, said the group was lying.
They say Kerry was injured, and Rassmann called the groups account pure fabrication.
Hoffmann said none of the 13 veterans in the commercial served on Kerrys boat but rather were in other swiftboats within 50 yards of Kerrys. The group claims that there was no gunfire on the day Kerry pulled Rassmann from a muddy river in the Mekong Delta and that Kerrys arm was not wounded, as he has claimed.
After less than two weeks on the job, the Democratic Party's first-ever director of religious outreach resigned Wednesday after her public positions came under fire, according to Religion News Service.
The Rev. Brenda Bartella Peterson said it was "no longer possible for me to do my job effectively" after the New York-based Catholic League issued three blistering news releases attacking her positions. The Catholic League blasted Peterson for a friend-of-the-court brief she signed with 31 other clergy members that supported removing "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance.
Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
- George Santayana
Address of Senator John F. Kennedy to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association
Rice Hotel, Houston, Texas
I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute--where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishoners for whom to vote--where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference--and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.
I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish--where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source--where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials--and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.
For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew--or a Quaker--or a Unitarian--or a Baptist. It was Virginia's harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson's statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victim- -but tomorrow it may be you--until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.
Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end--where all men and all churches are treated as equal--where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice--where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind--and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.
That is the kind of America in which I believe. And it represents the kind of Presidency in which I believe--a great office that must neither be humbled by making it the instrument of any one religious group nor tarnished by arbitrarily withholding its occupancy from the members of any one religious group. I believe in a President whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.
World Council of Churches - News Release Malaysian prime minister calls for concerted effort to initiate inter-faith dialogue
"Your mere presence in Malaysia is a powerful statement against the rhetoric of hate and distrust that is so prevalent in the world today," Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Bin Haji Ahmad Badawi today told over a hundred church representatives from all over the world gathered in Kuala Lumpur.
In the first-ever address by a Malaysian prime minister to a Christian gathering, Abdullah introduced himself to the World Council of Churches (WCC) Faith and Order plenary commission meeting as "a Muslim who wants to initiate a dialogue with his Christian friends". Abdullah stressed that such a Christian gathering "in a Muslim country" gave him "great hope that, together, we can fight the perception that religions are at war, and that civilizations are colliding".
Abdullah spoke openly about his view of religions in the world: "The lines of conflict today between religions and civilizations are evident," he said. The "dangerous but dominant view" that "this is a battle between good and evil" exists "on both sides of the divide," producing a situation where "there is less trust and goodwill between Islam and Christianity than there was a few years ago".
Regarding the Islamic world, Abdullah pointed out that many Muslims "feel that the war against terror is a war against Islam," and resent the "reluctance of the West to recognize and address root causes of terrorism" . But he also recognized that "Muslims are responsible for a number of the terrorist acts committed today," although he stressed that "they are in a minority" and are "misguided".
Given that global scenario, Abdullah told the commissioners that "what we need more than ever today is a concerted effort to initiate inter-faith dialogue". A "meaningful dialogue", based on "respect for each other's freedom of worship", should "set aside our religious differences" and address "the issues that affect all of us, whatever our faith: injustices in the global financial and trading system, the threat to the environment, poverty and disease," he stated.
Quoting both the Quran and the Bible, Abdullah stressed that "there are common values to our faiths: peace, friendship, cooperation". Through these "shared values", Christians and Muslims should address the world's problems, like "the Palestinian issue or the conflict in Iraq," as well as the "global concern" of a "globalization that benefits the rich and not the poor". "There are solutions," he said, but pointed out that sometimes they are not forthcoming "because we refuse to build an international consensus that can generate the political will for change".
Addressing the prime minister, the Council of Churches of Malaysia president, Bishop Tan Sri Datuk Dr Lim Cheng Ean, emphazised the need "to educate our people so that, through sincere and committed inter-religious dialogue, we are able to appreciate each other and learn to live in peace together".
In his turn, the moderator of the plenary commission on Faith and Order, Rev. Dr David Yemba, said that he had been struck by the "natural beauty" of Malaysia, the "rich cultural diversity" and "harmonious life of its people". He expressed his gratitude for the "hospitality of the churches and people of Kuala Lumpur," and presented the prime minister with an Arabic translation of the Bible.
The Faith and Order plenary commission is meeting in Kuala Lumpur from 28 July to 6 August, 2004.