On Faith


Faith:

PRRI 2014 survey mapTwo weeks ahead of the Super Bowl, half of American sports fans say they believe God or a supernatural force is at play in the games they watch, according to a new survey.

That percentage includes Americans who pray for God to help their team (26 percent), think their team has been cursed (25 percent) or more generally believe God is involved in determining who wins on the court or in the field (19 percent). Overall, half of Americans fall into one of these groups, according to the survey Public Religion Research Institute released Tuesday.

“As Americans tune in to the Super Bowl this year, fully half of fans — as many as 70 million Americans — believe there may be a twelfth man on the field influencing the outcome,” Public Religion Research Institute CEO Robert Jones said in a statement. “Significant numbers of American sports fans believe in invoking assistance from God on behalf of their favorite team, or believe the divine may be playing out its own purpose in the game.”

Football fans were the most likely to pray for their own teams to win, with 33 percent saying they ask God to intervene in games, compared to 21 percent of fans of other sports. They were also more likely to think their teams were cursed (31 percent compared to 18 percent) and to take part in rituals before or during games (25 percent to compared to 18 percent).

(Kaleem)

It is time to actually stop and think about this, for minute. No, no, don’t pray about it. Think.

Continue reading

On Advocacy and Avoidance: Fetus Stuffing Edition


“What if the umbilical cord was reattached and the baby stuffed back into the womb, would it cease to be a person?”

—Attributed as “Anonymous”

There is a backstory here.

Continue reading

Graham Cracked?


Lindsey Graham is looking out for the ladies.

The editorial comment, the punch line, is actually the important part. No, really:

If memory serves, Republicans went into the 2012 elections working on restricting contraception; cutting off Planned Parenthood; requiring medically-unnecessary ultrasounds; fighting equal-pay laws; and making some deeply unfortunate comments about rape. Graham and his allies apparently believe Republicans can go into the 2014 elections saying, “We learned a valuable lesson losing the last round of elections, so we’ve decided to do more of the same.”

Indeed, this will be all the more pronounced when GOP lawmakers have no other legislative accomplishments about which they can boast. I can hear the speeches now, “Sure, we failed to pass any meaningful bills, but don’t worry – when we weren’t shutting down the governing, we spent some time on culture-war legislation we knew in advance wouldn’t pass.”

(Benen)

Sure, it’s a bit sarcastic, and definitely bears a partisan tang, but that can all fall away in the sense that this really is a possibility as we look ahead to the 2014 midterm.

Continue reading

For the rights of organs everywhere ….


    “When a physician removes a child from a woman, that is the largest organ in a body.”

    Mary Sue McClurkin

Alabama Republican Party logoCan we skip the litany and just note that 2012 was a strikingly bad year for conservatives in the War of the Lady Parts? It’s a depressing review, to be certain. Unfortunately, 2013 is off to a bad start for the social conservatives, who are apparently quite happy to continue the trend of refusing to make any sense.

A big hint dropped last month when a two year-old court filing emerged in which a Catholic hospital turned the Church’s longstanding fetal personhood argument upside down, giving the impression that money is more important than life. The Church hierarchy has since reiterated its life-at-conception stance, and repudiated the filing, but the damage is done.

This month the personhood argument takes another hit from the anti-abortion crowd as the Alabama legislature works to pass a new TRAP law aimed at making pregnancy termination services more difficult to provide and receive. Arguing in support of HB 57, state Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin (R-Pelham) explained:

“When a physician removes a child from a woman, that is the largest organ in a body,” McClurkin said in an interview Thursday. “That’s a big thing. That’s a big surgery. You don’t have any other organs in your body that are bigger than that.”

Continue reading

Those annoying details


At first it seems like a simple notion: If you root against Tim Tebow because he openly expresses his faith, raise your hand.

Tim Campbell, January 12, 2012 (detail)Cartoonist Tim Campbell raises the issue in an editorial cartoon, that he might demonize—quite literally—those who would criticize the Almighty Tebow; the frame includes what appears to be Satan raising his hand.

Yet such questions are not so simple.

Some are disgusted by the idea of Tebow’s greatness, since he’s not actually that good of a quarterback in the context of the NFL; despite his wins, he finished the regular season with a 72.9 rating, which works out to about twenty-eighth in the league, behind such luminaries as Tarvaris Jackson (79.2) of the Seattle Seahawks (7-9), and Colt McCoy (74.6) of the Cleveland Browns (4-12). Tebow’s success, such as it is, owes much to his fellow Denver Broncos (8-8).

And, certainly, there are some among those critics who would focus on the fact of Tebow’s faith alone.

But Tebow’s faith is a Christian faith, and one wonders as he “Te-bows”, much as one might wonder about other players sharing that Biblical faith, when and where Jesus comes into the picture.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminds:

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Then, of course, are the rumors that Tebow, in his autobiography published at the ripe old age of twenty-three, distorted the story of his gestation and birth for political reasons.

Which, in the end, makes Tebow’s faith seem more an advertising pitch to increase his monetary value in the American capitalist marketplace. And that might mean that the real devilish work is from those hands not raised in Campbell’s cartoon; the people who would celebrate Tebow’s blatant disregard for the words of Jesus Christ and willingness to deceive people in order to spread the Good News.

Faithless


I had a curious discussion the other day about church and state. In recent years, it seems a tendency to demand very narrow definitions has become more prevalent, with the result that you start wondering where people have been that they are unfamiliar with the common context of words and phrases. In this case, the discussion had to do with church and state, and the assertion that there is still some crossover taking place. A person of faith wondered what century an associate was living in, so I gave a twenty-first century example of the Bush administration appointing a woman named Pam Stenzel to a task force within the Department of Health and Human Services to promote and implement guidelines for an abstinence education program.

The thing is that abstinence education doesn’t work, and Stenzel knows it. According to Michelle Goldberg, Stenzel addressed the 2003 Reclaiming America for Christ conference, and told them a story about a man she met on an airplane, who asked about how well the program works:

At Reclaiming America for Christ, Stenzel told her audience about a conversation she’d had with a skeptical businessman on an airplane. The man had asked about abstinence education’s success rate, a question she regarded as risible.

“What he’s asking,” she said, “is ‘does it work?’ You know what? Doesn’t matter. ‘Cause guess what? My job is not to keep teenagers from having sex. The public school’s job should not be to keep teens from having sex.”

Then her voice rose and turned angry as she shouted, “Our job should be to tell kids the truth!” And I should say that up ’til then, I agreed with her. But here’s what she means by the truth:

“People of God,” she cried, “can I beg you to commit yourself to truth? Not what works, to truth! I don’t care if it works, because at the end of the day, I’m not answering to you. I’m answering to God.

“Let me tell you something, People of God, that is radical, and I can only say it here,” she said. “AIDS is not the enemy. HPV and a hysterectomy at twenty is not the enemy. An unplanned pregnancy is not the enemy. My child believing that they can shake their fist in the face of a holy God and sin without consequence, and my child spending eternity separated from God, is the enemy! I will not teach my child that they can sin safely!”

My associate asked what church that was promoting. The answer, obviously, is Christianity in general. But he wanted something more specific.

These aren’t the old days of the Maryland colony; indeed, if you look at the First Amendment and the judicial history thereof, everything pertains to religion as opposed to sects or denominations. The idea of one promoting specifically a Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, or other such agenda always comes back to the root faith: Christianity. It’s not simply about denominations, branches, or sects, but also—and perhaps fundamentally—the broader religious paradigm. One need not be a constitutional scholar to recognize this; the legal layman can certainly do something like examine judicial decisions and compile a list; Torcaso v. Watkins, for instance, pertained not to sects or even religions, but a question of theism and atheism—the state cannot compel a person to swear belief in God as a prerequisite for holding public office.

Questions of church and state in the twenty-first century have a slightly more subtle context, and this isn’t really anything new. In the twentieth century, we still fought over whether to adopt a faith-based definition (life begins at conception), faith-based “science” (creationism/intelligent design), faith-based civil rights (homosexuality), and so on. The Oregon Citizens’ Alliance and its decade-long crusade against gays wasn’t a sectarian issue, but rather a Christian-values issue.

Continue reading