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, July 12, 2008
From The Sunday Times
July 13, 2008
President George W Bush: US officials acknowledge that no American president can afford to remain idle if Israel is threatened
Uzi Mahnaimi in Washington
President George W Bush has told the Israeli government that he may be prepared to approve a future military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities if negotiations with Tehran break down, according to a senior Pentagon official.
Despite the opposition of his own generals and widespread scepticism that America is ready to risk the military, political and economic consequences of an airborne strike on Iran, the president has given an “amber light” to an Israeli plan to attack Iran’s main nuclear sites with long-range bombing sorties, the official told The Sunday Times.
“Amber means get on with your preparations, stand by for immediate attack and tell us when you’re ready,” the official said. But the Israelis have also been told that they can expect no help from American forces and will not be able to use US military bases in Iraq for logistical support.
Nor is it certain that Bush’s amber light would ever turn to green without irrefutable evidence of lethal Iranian hostility. Tehran’s test launches of medium-range ballistic missiles last week were seen in Washington as provocative and poorly judged, but both the Pentagon and the CIA concluded that they did not represent an immediate threat of attack against Israeli or US targets.
“It’s really all down to the Israelis,” the Pentagon official added. “This administration will not attack Iran. This has already been decided. But the president is really preoccupied with the nuclear threat against Israel and I know he doesn’t believe that anything but force will deter Iran.”
The official added that Israel had not so far presented Bush with a convincing military proposal. “If there is no solid plan, the amber will never turn to green,” he said.
There was also resistance inside the Pentagon from officers concerned about Iranian retaliation. “The uniform people are opposed to the attack plans, mainly because they think it will endanger our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan,” the source said.
Complicating the calculations in both Washington and Tel Aviv is the prospect of an incoming Democratic president who has already made it clear that he prefers negotiation to the use of force.
Senator Barack Obama’s previous opposition to the war in Iraq, and his apparent doubts about the urgency of the Iranian threat, have intensified pressure on the Israeli hawks to act before November’s US presidential election. “If I were an Israeli I wouldn’t wait,” the Pentagon official added.
The latest round of regional tension was sparked by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which fired nine long and medium-range missiles in war game manoeuvres in the Gulf last Wednesday.
Iran’s state-run media reported that one of them was a modified Shahab-3 ballistic missile, which has a claimed range of 1,250 miles and could theoretically deliver a one-ton nuclear warhead over Israeli cities. Tel Aviv is about 650 miles from western Iran. General Hossein Salami, a senior Revolutionary Guard commander, boasted that “our hands are always on the trigger and our missiles are ready for launch”.
Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, said she saw the launches as “evidence that the missile threat is not an imaginary one”, although the impact of the Iranian stunt was diminished on Thursday when it became clear that a photograph purporting to show the missiles being launched had been faked.
The one thing that all sides agree on is that any strike by either Iran or Israel would trigger a catastrophic round of retaliation that would rock global oil markets, send the price of petrol soaring and wreck the progress of the US military effort in Iraq.
Abdalla Salem El-Badri, secretary-general of Opec, the oil producers’ consortium, said last week that a military conflict involving Iran would see an “unlimited” rise in prices because any loss of Iranian production — or constriction of shipments through the Strait of Hormuz — could not be replaced. Iran is Opec’s second-largest producer after Saudi Arabia.
Equally worrying for Bush would be the impact on the US mission in Iraq, which after years of turmoil has seen gains from the military “surge” of the past few months, and on American operations in the wider region. A senior Iranian official said yesterday that Iran would destroy Israel and 32 American military bases in the Middle East in response to any attack.
Yet US officials acknowledge that no American president can afford to remain idle if Israel is threatened. How genuine the Iranian threat is was the subject of intense debate last week, with some analysts arguing that Iran might have a useable nuclear weapon by next spring and others convinced that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is engaged in a dangerous game of bluffing — mainly to impress a domestic Iranian audience that is struggling with economic setbacks and beginning to question his leadership.
Among the sceptics is Kenneth Katzman, a former CIA analyst and author of a book on the Revolutionary Guard. “I don’t subscribe to the view that Iran is in a position to inflict devastating damage on anyone,” said Katzman, who is best known for warning shortly before 9/11 that terrorists were planning to attack America.
“The Revolutionary Guards have always underperformed militarily,” he said. “Their equipment is quite inaccurate if not outright inoperable. Those missile launches were more like putting up a ‘beware of the dog’ sign. They want everyone to think that if you mess with them, you will get bitten.”
A former adviser to Rice noted that Ahmadinejad’s confrontational attitude had earned him powerful enemies among Iran’s religious leadership. Professor Shai Feldman, director of Middle East studies at Brandeis University, said the Iranian government was getting “clobbered” because of global economic strains. “His [Ahmadinejad's] failed policies have made Iran more vulnerable to sanctions and people close to the mullahs have decided he’s a liability,” he said.
In Israel, Ehud Olmert, the prime minister, has his own domestic problems with a corruption scandal that threatens to unseat him and the media have been rife with speculation that he might order an attack on Iran to distract attention from his difficulties. According to one of his closest friends, Olmert recently warned him that “in three months’ time it will be a different Middle East”.
Yet even the most hawkish officials acknowledge that Israel would face what would arguably be the most challenging military mission of its 60-year existence.
“No one here is talking about more than delaying the [nuclear] programme,” said the Pentagon source. He added that Israel would need to set back the Iranians by at least five years for an attack to be considered a success.
Even that may be beyond Israel’s competence if it has to act alone. Obvious targets would include Iran’s Isfahan plant, where uranium ore is converted into gas, the Natanz complex where this gas is used to enrich uranium in centrifuges and the plutonium-producing Arak heavy water plant. But Iran is known to have scattered other elements of its nuclear programme in underground facilities around the country. Neither US nor Israeli intelligence is certain that it knows where everything is.
“Maybe the Israelis could start off the attack and have us finish it off,” Katzman added. “And maybe that has been their intention all along. But in terms of the long-term military campaign that would be needed to permanently suppress Iran’s nuclear programme, only the US is perceived as having that capability right now.”
Additional reporting: Tony Allen-Mills in New York
Thursday, July 10, 2008
A special meeting about Dallas County traffic tickets turned tense and bizarre this afternoon.
County commissioners were discussing problems with the central collections office that is used to process traffic ticket payments and handle other paperwork normally done by the JP Courts.
Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield, who is white, said it seemed that central collections "has become a black hole" because paperwork reportedly has become lost in the office.
Commissioner John Wiley Price, who is clored, interrupted him with a loud "Excuse me!" He then corrected his colleague, saying the office has become a "white hole."
That prompted Judge Thomas Jones, who is colored, to demand an apology from Mayfield for his racially insensitive analogy.
Mayfield shot back that it was a figure of speech and a science term.
Judge Jones should be very glad that the central collections office has not become a white hole, a theoretical object that ejects matter from beyond its event horizon, rather than sucking it in. It wouldn't be fun for Dallas to find itself so near a quasar.
Anyone wanting to know a good deal about black holes should read the excellent new book, The Black Hole War, by Leonard Susskind, which has just been released. I'm in the middle of it, and the book's a fascinating tour of modern physics written for the layman. It's just been marvelous so far.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Monday, Aug. 25, 1952
"I cannot listen endlessly to your talk of Jewish rites," said Judge Josef Mulzer, onetime Nazi, in the Bavarian State Court. The man before the court last April, under indictment for fraud and embezzlement, was Philipp Auerbach, f ormer head of the Jewish restitution office in Bavaria. The defense was protesting the court's decision to begin Auerbach's trial at Passover. It was like that throughout, a trial that stirred old enmities and tense feelings in Germany. It was the first big trial of a Jew before a German court since the war.
After the Nazis seized his father's business in 1934, Auerbach had fled the country, but in 1940 the Vichy French turned him over to the Gestapo. Auerbach was sent from one concentration camp to another, finally to Buchenwald. His school knowledge of chemistry saved him from the gas chambers: he became the prison pest exterminator. The prisoners called him Herr Doktor. He survived, but the Nazis killed 21 of his relatives.
After the war he began working among the survivors of Naziism. When Bavaria, under U.S. pressure, passed a law to indemnify these survivors, Auerbach was appointed to distribute the funds. All went well until the Germans became suspicious of how Auerbach was spending the money. Methodically, they went to work collecting evidence, finally nailed him with a 102-page indictment which charged him with extortion, swearing to false affidavits, and the unauthorized use of the title Herr Doktor, but chiefly with having paid out to Jews 3,000,000 marks in false claims. Named with him was Aaron Ohrenstein, chief rabbi of Bavaria.
Auerbach denied everything, except having used the title Herr Doktor. for which, since his concentration-camp days, he admitted a certain fondness. Last week the court (three out of the five judges were former Nazis) found against Avie:"bach and Ohrenstein. sentenced Auerbach to 30 months in jail and $643 in fines, Ohrenstein to one year and $2,380 in fines. Auerbach, his arm in a sling, sick with diabetes contracted during his concentration-camp days, politely thanked the court, complimented the chief judge for the fairness of the trial, though he was somewhat critical of the "terror verdict." and went back to the drab little clinic where he had been held during the trial's four months. He wrote to his wife saying that he could not endure the shame of conviction. That evening he chewed up a handful of sleeping tablets and quietly died.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Did that happen?
We're now being told that the Religious Right is becoming a kinder, gentler political force.
Is that happening?
In fact, core supporters of the Religious Right are moving only one direction -- farther out. And that is exactly where they want to take the country.
Last week, I told you about a sermon given by Bruce Ware, a professor of Christian theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He used the Bible to back up his notion that God means for women to be submissive to men and that men because of their sinful nature beat women who because of their sinful nature aren't submissive enough.
Now I want to tell you about some of the other ideas coming out of this seminary, which has become a primary mouthpiece for the most fundamentalist positions of the Southern Baptist Convention. This is the seminary that defended the use of torture in the fight against terrorism. It is also the seminary that is bringing us a new theology featuring what Kansas City Baptist minister Keith Herron calls a religious sexual obsession that links the Bible with "the ickiest viewpoints about sex and procreation and pleasure."
This new teaching is being called "the full quiver theology" and is based on Psalm 127: 3-5 which reads: "Children are a heritage of the Lord, the fruit of the womb, a reward. As arrows in a soldier's hand, so are the sons of the young. Blessed is the man who has filled his quiver with them." So the more children, a couple has, the better.
But fundamentalists never stop with what's good. They always address both sides of the question. Obedient insiders get God's blessing. The disobedient get God's condemnation.
According to the seminary's president, Albert Mohler, couples who choose childlessness are guilty of "rebellion against parenthood [that] represents nothing less than an absolute revolt against God's design." God will decide whether to open or close the womb. Using birth control is an act against God's will. The truly Christian couple will allow God to decide whether each act of sex will result in procreation and sex will be returned to its proper place in a Christian's life.
And the Christian woman? She'll submit, of course.
Couples who delay marriage until they are older are also guilty of disobedience under this new theology.
When President Mohler explained the teaching some years ago to the Chicago Tribune, he explained that under-population was a pressing concern.
"We are barely replenishing ourselves," he said. "That is going to cause huge social problems in the future."
That led Miguel De La Torre, professor of social ethics at Denver's Iliff School of Theology, to wonder exactly whom Mohler meant by "we." The world's population is expected to grow to 9 billion by 2050. The United States' population is expected to grow to 400 million by 2040.
No under-population there.
But wait. There is one U.S. population that's declining. White people.
If present trends continue Euro-Americans will cease being the majority race in the United States by about 2050. Over the next half century, America will become a predominately non-white nation.
"Hence, the religious call for 'full-quiver' theology is white-supremacy code language advocating for the increase of white babies," writes De La Torre.
"Mohler's call, whether he realizes it or not, is a race-based warning. It is a call for white fecundity, lest America becomes overrun with "colored" children, which would only lead, as Mohler puts it, to 'huge social problems in the future.' "
Oh, yes. And one more point, for decades Southern Baptists have loudly declared that their fundamentalism is the "right" Christianity and pointed as proof to their own growth while mainline denominations were declining. But the Southern Baptist Convention's growth rate has been shrinking since the 1950s, according to new statistics.
It has now fallen enough that the Southern Baptist Convention is recording membership losses.
One reason? Birth rates among Southern Baptists are declining.
President Mohler and Professor Ware back up their contentions with plenty of Bible verses. For some people, that means they are teaching the truth.
But other evangelicals say their interpretations are as wacky as using the Bible to defend slavery, segregation, white supremacy, oppression of the poor and unjust wars.
"Dr. Ware needs to have his head examined. He and the others who share these views need therapy and should be banned from teaching the next generation of ministers who sit at their feet learning about God, about human pain and suffering," writes Rev. Herron.
"Warning signs should be posted at the entrance of the seminary: "Warning! Sexual Obsessions Abound Here ... Enter at Your Own Peril!"
Professor De La Torre writes, "It is the height of biblical naivete to impose modern concepts upon ancient texts." Women and children were considered property when the Bible was written.
When Job's cattle and sheep and goods were taken away, his children were also killed, De Le Torre points out. In the happy ending, God restored them all. The property was interchangeable. Cows dead. Children dead. No real difference. Just get some more.
That was a very different time.
Few commentators are going to be willing to call fundamentalist evangelicals' positions sexual obsessions. Few will be willing to call them racist.
So this could be the only place and the only time that you will see them labeled as such.
These positions, in fact, are unlikely to be broadly brandished as the campaign moves on. But Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is not a fringe institution. Albert Mohler and Bruce Ware are well respected and their words are heeded. Young people do sit at their feet, learning.
On the heels of two best-selling books, (Prep, The Man of My Dreams), young, Iowa-trained author Curtis Sittenfeld is about to release her most controversial book yet—a thinly veiled novel based on Laura Bush's life that is sure to send the White House into a fury. Published by Random House next fall, American Wife tells the story of Alice Blackwell, a quiet librarian whose husband Charlie becomes the bumbling president of the United States. It is, in short, a fictional examination of the life of the First Lady that mingles real facts and incidents with the author's imaginative, fanciful, sometimes sexually charged musings. The result is a masterful highbrow-lowbrow mash-up that satisfies as ass-kicking literary fiction and juicy gossip simultaneously.
On the gossip front, the novel doesn't disappoint. From discovering that her grandmother is a lesbian, killing her high school crush with her car at age 16 (this incident at least is based in fact—Laura Bush was involved in a fatal car accident at that age), having sex with his brother, getting an abortion, and descriptions of sex with the president, Alice's antics are sure to have tongues chattering from coast to coast. While we want to stress that American Wife is primarily a work of fiction, we know that there are those of you who can't wait until the book's September release to read a description of the George W. Bush character's penis. That and more follow:
"Alice" has sex with "Charlie"
"His butt was small in the way that I always forgot a lot of men's were; how could he possibly be an unscrupulous politician with such a cute little butt? Back in bed, he knelt on the mattress—I was lying flat, and he was above me—and perhaps it sounds crude to say that this is the moment I knew I could love him, when I saw his penis. With men in my past, the penis had seemed to me an odd creature, both comic and forlorn. But I felt a great devotion to Charlie when I first got a look at his, the ruddy-hued, upward-pointing shaft, its swollen veins and cap-like tip. All of it was so completely of him, and I felt how there was no part of his body I wouldn't want to touch, no way I wouldn't allow him to touch me."
"Charlie" goes down on "Alice"
"He bent his head to kiss my sternum, my navel and belly ... to open me up, and he brought his face in and was licking me, he was licking me firmly and repeatedly, and it seemed both difficult to believe (Charlie Blackwell's face burrowed between my legs?) and also entirely inevitable: beyond logic and language and decorum.... His cheeks between my thighs, his bobbing head, and his earnest assiduous lapping—very quickly, it was too much to bear, and I gasped and cried out. It was like tremors, and I felt my thighs clenching around his head, and when he came up a few seconds later and kissed my forehead, I said, 'I hope I didn't suffocate you,' and he said, 'I can't think of a better way to go.'
"Alice" discovers that her grandmother is a lesbian
"...I stepped instead into the living room, and just before I crossed the threshold, I heard my grandmother's laughter, and just after I heard her laughter, I saw her sitting on Dr. Wycomb's lap, kissing Dr. Wycomb on the lips.
"Dr. Wycomb was dressed in a burgundy silk bathrobe; my grandmother was wearing a beige bra and a beige half-slip trimmed with lace. She was facing Dr. Wycomb, and their mouths were open a little and their eyes were closed, and the kiss went on for several seconds and had not yet stopped when I backed out.... I had to leave the apartment; there was no alternative.
"[...] Approaching the nearer vase, I pushed aside the greens and then I vomited—hideously, pungently, gloriously—into the vase's depths."
"Alice" has doggy-style sex with the brother of the boy she killed
"[H]e pushed me back against the mattress, straddled me, and leaned forward to roll his face between my breasts, pressing them against his cheeks and licking my nipples, his stubble rubbing not unpleasantly against my skin, and the more he grabbed and thrashed, the more the grabbing and thrashing seemed to stir rather than satisfy his desire. He pulled off my pants and underwear at the same time—I was wearing blue jeans, and he had to unbutton and unzip them first—and then I was naked except for my socks, which were white with lace trim. He tugged me upward and flipped me over, and when he said, 'No, you have to be on your knees,' it was the first time either of us had spoken in several minutes."
"Alice" gets an abortion
"'We'll go to Chicago, and we'll have it taken care of. Next week, likely. I need to make a few calls. You can do as you see fit, but I'd advise against saying anything to your parents. I just can't imagine what purpose it would serve.'
"I felt an impulse then to express incomprehension, except that I did comprehend. At night, when I listened to 'Lonesome Town,' I knew. She was right.
"'Isn't it—" I hesitated. "'Isn't it illegal?'
"'Certainly, and it happens all the time. You can't legislate human nature.'
"[...]My grandmother was not permitted in the operating room—when Dr. Wycomb appeared in the white coat. She squeezed my hand, and the warmth of her grip made me realize how cold I was. I wore a blue hospital gown, and when I lay on the operating table, the nurse had me set my feet in metal stirrups. 'The doctor wants to talk to you before we put you under,' the nurse said, and ten or twelve minutes had passed."
Monday, July 07, 2008
The tablet, which is similar in style to the Dead Sea Scrolls, is said to predict that a messiah would rise from the dead within three days.
The partially-deciphered Ancient Hebrew text had seemed to contain a vision of the apocalypse as told by the Angel Gabriel.
A fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls which set the word talking when they were discovered 60 years ago. The new text seems to imply the life and death of Jesus was predicted before his birth
But a leading scholar says it confirms his theory that some Jewish sects before Christ believed a messiah would save them - but not before he was killed and brought back to life after three days.
Israel Knohl, Professor of Biblical Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, says one line of the text tells the 'prince of princes' slain by the evil government, 'in three days you shall live'.
He suggests the story refers to the death of a Jewish prince called Simon who led a revolt against King Herod.
Daniel Boyarin, of the University of California at Berkeley, said that there was growing evidence suggesting that Jesus could be best understood through a close reading of the Jewish history of his day.
'Some Christians will find it shocking - a challenge to the uniqueness of their theology, while others will be comforted by the idea of it being a traditional part of Judaism,' he said.
But Christian scholars dispute any contention that the tablet, which is in a private collection, could dilute the significance of Jesus's resurrection.
Ben Witherington, of Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, said: 'This stone certainly does not demonstrate that the Gospel passion stories are created on the basis of this stone text.'
Frisky sun worshipers are flocking to have sex on the beach in Provincetown - but are sending horrified family vacationers packing, officals said.
Angry Cape Cod National Seashore officials said they are cracking down on public sex acts along the picturesque shoreline after the number of citations for public sex acts more than tripled, from an average of 40 to 132 last year.
“This is not what we’re interested in seeing,” said George Price, Superintendent of the National Seashore. “Over the last couple of years, public (sex) acts like this have been viewed by visitors.”
Price said officials are baffled as to why the vacation mecca has suddenly become a hotbed of public sex for randy exhibitionists.
“Laws and enforcement have not changed - it just seems to be something that some people decided we want to see,” Price said.
Complaints have included whale-watchers sailing past large groups of nude men, and families stumbling upon people engaged in sex acts on the pristine national shore that attracts tens of thousands of vacationers from throughout the world each year.
One complaint, issued in 2007, was from a New Jersey family walking in the dunes who encountered couples and a large group of men having “sex in the nude, including oral and anal sex right out in the open,” the Cape Cod Times reported last week.
“The majority is gay, but we’ve had issues with hetero sex as well. Families are upset and outraged,” Price said.
He added that many gay community members are also appalled about the recent surge in public sex, which is illegal under federal and state laws and can incur heavy fines.
“It’s really two issues, one is the nude sunbathing, which has been around since the ’70s and ’80s, and that issue is being addressed.
“But the issue that we’re talking about today is public sex: It’s a seashore problem and it’s a town problem,” he said.