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Monday, December 19, 2011

“Redistribution of Wealth” and other ideas from Pope Benedict

I have written at this site and elsewhere about the controversial document released by the Vatican on the world economic crisis. It is interesting in that light to see that Pope Benedict’s theme for his annual World Day of Peace Message is “Educating Young People in Justice and Peace”, that he chose to have the document released by the same Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace that released the earlier document, and that in this message the Pope emphasizes the necessity of a “redistribution of wealth.” From my perspective, these were the key passages from Pope Benedict’s World Day of Peace Message with regards to the economic crisis.

The concerns expressed in recent times by many young people around the world demonstrate that they desire to look to the future with solid hope. At the present time, they are experiencing apprehension about many things: they want to receive an education which prepares them more fully to deal with the real world, they see how difficult it is to form a family and to find stable employment; they wonder if they can really contribute to political, cultural and economic life in order to build a society with a more human and fraternal face. It is important that this unease and its underlying idealism receive due attention at every level of society…

We are living in a world where families, and life itself, are constantly threatened and not infrequently fragmented. Working conditions which are often incompatible with family responsibilities, worries about the future, the frenetic pace of life, the need to move frequently to ensure an adequate livelihood, to say nothing of mere survival – all this makes it hard to ensure that children receive one of the most precious of treasures: the presence of their parents…

Let them [political leaders] be committed to reuniting families separated by the need to earn a living…

In order to be true peacemakers, we must educate ourselves in compassion, solidarity, working together, fraternity, in being active within the community and concerned to raise awareness about national and international issues and the importance of seeking adequate mechanisms for the redistribution of wealth, the promotion of growth, cooperation for development and conflict resolution…

Realize that you yourselves are an example and an inspiration to adults, even more so to the extent that you seek to overcome injustice and corruption and strive to build a better future.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

What Are You So Worked Up About?

I have been away from this blog for weeks, partly due to a lack of writing in general because of many other commitments. But I have also been absent from this site because of other blogging opportunities. This writing has introduced significant new parts of the narrative I have been writing here about the Religious Right, Samuel Rodriguez and the radicalization of the evangelical center. To people that have followed my thought only through my facebook feeds and tweets it may seem as if I have developed a more strident, urgent voice out of nowhere. I hope that reading these lengthier pieces I have done at other outlets will give justification for the new tone of urgency, for I do feel that we are living through a crossroads moment in the confusing but critical intersection of evangelicalism, Pentecostalism and the Religious Right.

A lengthy piece that seeks to be Demonstrating Samuel Rodriguez's Green Hypocrisy

In light of Samuel Rodriguez's continued and increasing role in major evangelical mainstream einstitutions I ask Is THIS the New Evangelical Center? (See below for my response to a reader's question about this article).

I explain the significance of Rodriguez becoming a central component of a new media/publicity initiative of Christianity Today emphasizing evangelical identity and civility. Christianity Today Doubles Down on Samuel Rodriguez

I engage with Bishop Harry Jackson's embrace of Herman Cain in a Review/application of Miroslav Volf's A Public Faith.

My piece on the evangelical center was at the religiously pluralistic site Talk to Action and it elicited this response from a reader:
When has this not been the evangelical center? A pastor fleecing his flock is at least the second oldest profession. Gotta admire his technique though. Very smooth. And I love the way they wrap things up within 10 minutes of getting the checks. Get the money, hit the door. That's the way. 

I responded with this:

I have to say that I have been around gatherings of evangelicals for over 40 years, and I distinguish evangelical from Pentecostal, and I have never in my life seen anyone with a major role in evangelicalism such as the one Rodriguez enjoys via his leadership in the 3 institutions I referred to, who has practiced this kind of prosperity gospel, this kind of "apostolic" reordering of the basis of church/congregational authority and who has then claimed that these beliefs are fully consistent with the evangelical movement. Evangelicalism as defined and self-understood by the folks at the three institutions I refer to has a meaning dating back to the 1940s and centered around Billy Graham's rejection of fundamentalism. This evangelicalism has always had an ambiguous relationship to the Pentecostalism that is generally seen as having emerged in the early 1900s out of the Azusa Street Revivials. The idea that a major Pentecostal figure, and particularly one who is a recognized and open leader of the new form of "apostolic" Pentecostalism and who preaches this kind of prosperity gospel, would be given such a prominent place in the evangelicalism I have described is a major story. It is all the more important given the fact that Rodriguez is also part of a Religious Right outreach to aposotolic  groups and minority groups that so many in the mainstream and religious media have viewed for over a year as some minor, fringe phenomena. The fact that this phenomena is so not fringe that a leading voice of it is also a leading voice in major evangelical institutions that are anything but fringe is vital to our understanding of how significant apostles and Religious Right culture warriors are to the mainstream of evangelicalism. This may be old news to you, but it is anything but the accepted wisdom in media coverage. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Cain, Bork, Thomas, Hill--a Plea for Civility!!

Max Lindeman has a good post over at Patheos' Catholic portal about Herman Cain and the concerted effort by some in the conservative media to present media attention to charges of Cain's sexual harassment as "high-tech lynching", ala Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill. This brought to mind a post I did a while back at my old blog site on "the borking of Barack Obama". In that post, which I have reposted below, I try to point out that in order for there to be a common good, people of good will need to be able to recognize errors and distortions by people on "their side", no matter how politically inconvenient it might seem. I repost that blog here in the (vain?) attempt to promote responsible speech on both sides of the aisle. Yes, Cain deserves fairness, but so do the woman who are involved in this sad story. Maybe a bit of historical perspective will help.

The Borking of Barack Obama

In 1987 President Reagan nominated Robert Bork to the Supreme Court. The reaction to that pick was so unique and so extreme that a new verb entered the English language—Borking. To this day a true political junky will use that word as shorthand for over the top rhetoric, character assassination and no holds barred political discourse. While the resistance to the pick succeeded in stopping Bork’s nomination it also stained the body politic. Any fair telling of the story acknowledges that the way Judge Bork was treated set a precedent for future Supreme Court nominations that has damaged the common good. I say this as someone who generally leans Left on national politics. To this day I am uncomfortable thinking about Ted Kennedy because I so associate him with his vicious attacks on Bork. I believe that my party, the Democratic Party, hurt not only itself but the good of our country by unleashing a new type of political attack on judicial nominees.

I raise this story now because I feel that the shoe is on the other foot. Now it is the Republican Party that has so demonized and diminished President Obama that they have made genuine compromise with him something to be feared within their party. And yet I still hear Republicans try to claim that the way Obama has been treated is just politics as usual, just the kind of cute rhetoric that all politicians use. They would like to go on as if the last 30 months of verbal assaults against the president has no bearing on their party’s ability to reach a meaningful compromise on the debt crisis. They sound like Democrats in the 1980s trying to live with themselves after the crushing of Robert Bork. They so want to believe that their consciences are clear that they ignore the obvious. After creating a picture of Obama as a socialist, Muslim, terrorist pal, unnatural citizen they would have us believe that this rhetoric has no connection to their unwillingness to compromise in the debt ceiling negotiations. Why can’t they just face the reality that they upped the anty, they pushed the envelope, they went beyond the norm, and now they are living with the consequences.

Here is what I would like to hear, just once, from a Christian conservative Republican—“We went too far. In our zeal to defeat Obama we delegitimized him to a large chunk of our base. We should not have done this. We did to him what Democrats did to Bork. We were wrong and if we are going to work for the common good we have to acknowledge that.”

If I could just hear something like that, instead of what always sounds like minimizing or justifying or excusing away or trying to make moral equivalence, it would be nice, it would be Christian. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

TheCall Detroit and the Muslim Community’s Samuel Rodriguez Problem

Over a month ago I wrote a letter to Samuel Rodriguez that I can only assume will never be answered. In that letter I proposed to him the perfect way to clear up any confusion about the “resignation” from Oak Initiative that I had reported him having made: he could clearly and unequivocally condemn the Oak Initiative’s ongoing demonization of Muslims in connection with their cosponsorship of CallDetroit. I posed this to Rodriguez because Ricky Joyner, the president of the Oak Initiative, was on the record saying that Samuel resigned from Oak not because of disagreement with the Oak Initiative but in order to spend more time editing the Spanish language edition of Charisma magazine. Besides Ricky’s statement, further evidence of Samuel’s ongoing support of the Oak Initiative’s goals was demonstrated by these four facts:
1. The other sponsor with Oak Initiative of CallDetroit, Lou Engle’s organization TheCall, remained a sponsor of Rodriguez’s NHCLC organization.
2. All of Samuel’s videos in support of Oak Initiative remained up at a variety of Ricky Joyner’s sites.
3.  The Oak Initiative’s most well-known board member, Cindy Jacobs, remained a part of Rodriguez’s NHCLC leadership team.
4. Video and audio evidence of Samuel’s own participation in Muslim bigotry had emerged.

Since I sent that letter giving those reasons for why I doubted the sincerity of Samuel’s resignation, as well as the sincerity of his pledge to me that he had nothing to do with the New Apostolic Reformation, more reasons have emerged:
1. Samuel’s brazen participation in Cindy Jacobs’ New Apostolic Reformation internet event “Reformation Day”.  At this event, which featured in addition to Rodriguez and lead NAR apostle Jacobs, C. Peter Wagner himself and Wagner’s right hand man Chuck Pierce, Rodriguez went so far as to call Cindy Jacobs affectionately “Mama Cindy” and embrace the unique theology of the event embodied at its announcement page: "We really believe that recent weather reports of hurricanes, tsunamis, and earthquakes are signs that the earth is groaning for the revelation of the sons of God."
2. Samuel’s failure to heed the call of Faith and Public Life to publicly denounce the anti-Muslim agenda of the Oak Initiative.
3. Samuel’s refusal to speak out about the CallDetroit’s commitment to Oak Initiative and its agenda of anti-Muslim bigotry.

The third point in particular is urgent. With CallDetroit’s 11-11-11 event less than a week away the sizable Muslim community of Detroit is reacting with understandable alarm to those aspects of the rally that have specifically demonized and provoked their community. As was all too predictable, CallDetroit and the Oak Initiative are now trying to deny the all-too-public record of their anti-Muslim bigotry and agenda and portray the Muslim community as paranoid. Into this swamp of lies and extremism, one would expect that if Samuel Rodriguez really meant what he said to me about his opposition to anti-Muslim extremism being the reason for his resignation from the Oak Initiative, then he would seize this moment to explain to the Detroit area media and religious communities that Muslims have every reason to be offended by the Oak Initiative’s agenda in general and its participation in the CallDetroit specifically. But instead of hearing Rodriguez’s clear voice of solidarity with the Muslim community in the face of CallDetroit’s lies and misinformation, we see Rodriguez’s website highlighting its partnership with TheCall and linking NHCLC members to CallDetroit registration.  

What we see, in other words, is that Samuel Rodriguez has not followed through on his commitment to oppose anti-Muslim extremism and remains what he was the day I first confronted him: a man who wraps himself in the language of religious tolerance at one moment and the language of religious intolerance at another. Those who continue to elevate this man are complicit in his hypocrisy and are likely to join the inevitable conservative Christian backlash against Detroit’s Muslims for viewing the Oak Initiative exactly the way the religiously tolerant version of Samuel Rodriguez once did himself.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Harry Jackson I have Come to Know

It is interesting to see Bishop Harry Jackson slamming President Obama's religious heritage in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. The Harry Jackson I know ought to spend a bit more time getting his own house in order. Here are three of the more telling stories running on Bishop Jackson's views about the environment, money and Christian civility.

Harry's attacks on the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN) and other groups supporting environmental regulation:


Harry's characterization of progressive evangelicals like Jim Wallis' views of money as "doctrine of devils":


CNN report featuring Jackson and his views on preaching about money:


EEN's response to attacks like Jackson's:


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Responding to Bacevich's "History, Hope and Iphones"

The August 12, 2011 issue of Commonweal magazine had as its cover story an extraordinary meditation by my mentor at Boston University, Andrew Bacevich. As much as anything he has written, "Selling Our Souls: Of Idolatry and Iphones" shows Bacevich to be profoundly troubled by the direction of American culture. In fact, his final paragraph leaves no doubt about what he thinks is the state of the modern world:

"Either humankind’s quest for freedom in the here and now, achieved through human effort and ingenuity, represents the ultimate heresy and offense against God—in which case we invite his continuing punishment. Or belief in God’s existence represents the ultimate illusion—in which case the chaos humanity has inflicted on itself as it careens from one dynamo to the next may be merely a foretaste of what is to come."

When I read the article I wondered what the reaction to its bleak tone would be. It didn’t take long to find out. In a subsequent issue Commonweal published an eloquent reply to Bacevich written Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York and an associate professor of theology at Boston College. In addition, Commonweal included a lengthy, candid reply by Bacevich to Imbelli. It is precisely the kind of thoughtful exchange we need more of and in the hope of advancing the conversation still further, I posted the following reflection at Commonweal’s website tonight:

I consider myself fortunate beyond words to have been mentored by Andrew Bacevich when I was a part-time graduate student at Boston University from 1999-2002. The masters I received in international relations was an honor, but the highest honor of my time there was working as Dr. Bacevich’s graduate assistant while he was working on his landmark book American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of American Power. I believe that book, and others by him since, are necessary and urgent correctives to American culture. His 2008 book The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism is as genuinely prophetic and insightful a book as has been written in the post Cold War world. Though written before the financial crisis of August 2008, it remains the best explanation for that crisis and the resulting political and economic convulsions that have come in its wake.

Having said all of that, I must agree with what I see as the genuine thrust of Robert Imbelli and ask Dr. Bacevich to consider whether or not his prophetic voice in laying bear American idolatry and America’s all too visible embrace of power at the expense of principle has limited his sense of what God is doing in the global Christian community. In other words, I affirm Bacevich’s insight into the judgment that American culture may be said to be under by God, but I am concerned that he is confusing that judgment with the whole of God’s actions in this time. When he says that Christianity “survives in the so-called West…[only] on the margins, having long since been supplanted by more alluring forces” he is right, but when he equates that with evidence that “the Christian enterprise has failed” I fear he falls into the same American-centric attitude that he so regularly exposes in others.

The Holy Spirit is at work in the Church, a Church far wider and deeper than the cultural calamity that is the American Catholic Church. As he continues to cry out as a voice in the wilderness of America, I hope Dr. Bacevich will see that the Christianity he longs to see here is coming alive in places around the world. I think for instance of the extraordinary witness of Ryan Boyette and the Nuba Mountain Christians in Sudan, whose story Nicholas Kristof so eloquently told in the New York Times last Sunday and continues to tell at his blog. In these people and countless others around the global South we see not  “a path of accommodation and compromise”, but rather the life of a Church that is always “ever young” and coming alive to a “new evangelization”. Its leading edge is not in the so-called West, but where it is flourishing and finding cultural and institutional expression it is anything but a Christianity that “has become largely ornamental”. For those who have eyes to see, stories like Ryan’s are the Church as sacrament, the Church in whom “the crucified and risen Savior has won the victory and led death itself captive.” We can not let the corruption and cowardice of American Christianity blind us to that enduring truth.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Why are the Vatican and Elizabeth Warren Blaming the Banks? Ask Gramm and Schumer

Just a couple weeks ago I posted this quote from Elizabeth Warren on my facebook page: "The people on Wall Street broke this country, and they did it one lousy mortgage at a time. It happened more than three years ago, and there has been no real accountability, and there has been no real effort to fix it.” I was challenged by a friend who claimed that the banking system should not be singled out for the economic collapse. I explained that I agreed there were multiple causes, but that part of the reason I appreciate Warren’s language is that the bank’s role in this has been downplayed, and in fact the bank’s have managed to right their ship with massive taxpayer funding and are now back making enormous profit. In light of all that, I support Warren’s focus on the banks.

I thought of that exchange when I read this portion of the Vatican’s new statement on the global financial crisis that I blogged about last night:

In recent decades, it was the banks that extended credit, which generated money, which in turn sought a further expansion of credit. In this way, the economic system was driven towards an inflationary spiral that inevitably encountered a limit in the risk that credit institutions could accept. They faced the ultimate danger of bankruptcy, with negative consequences for the entire economic and financial system…A liberalist approach, unsympathetic towards public intervention in the markets, chose to allow an important international financial institution to fall into bankruptcy, on the assumption that this would contain the crisis and its effects. Unfortunately, this spawned a widespread lack of confidence and a sudden change in attitudes. Various public interventions of enormous scope (more than 20% of gross national product) were urgently requested in order to stem the negative effects that could have overwhelmed the entire international financial system.
The consequences for the real economy, what with grave difficulties in some sectors – first of all, construction – and wide distribution of unfavourable forecasts, have generated a negative trend in production and international trade with very serious repercussions for employment as well as other effects that have probably not yet had their full impact. The costs are extremely onerous for millions in the developed countries, but also and above all for billions in the developing ones.

The Vatican’s analysis, rooted in over a century of Catholic Social Teaching, was released by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace at a press conference given by the Council’s President, Cardinal Peter Turkson, and its Secretary Bishop Mario Toso.

Before people dismiss Warren and Cardinal Turkson as simplistic, consider the way in which two of America’s leading politicians over the last 20 years, one a Republican and one a Democrat, have operated with regards to banks and the broader financial sector.

First the Republican, former Senator Phil Gramm of Texas:

Back in 1950 in Columbus, Ga., a young nurse working double shifts to support her three children and disabled husband managed to buy a modest bungalow on a street called Dogwood Avenue.

Phil Gramm, the former United States senator, often told that story of how his mother acquired his childhood home. Considered something of a risk, she took out a mortgage with relatively high interest rates that he likened to today’s subprime loans.
A fierce opponent of government intervention in the marketplace, Mr. Gramm, a Republican from Texas, recalled the episode during a 2001 Senate debate over a measure to curb predatory lending. What some view as exploitive, he argued, others see as a gift.
“Some people look at subprime lending and see evil. I look at subprime lending and I see the American dream in action,” he said. “My mother lived it as a result of a finance company making a mortgage loan that a bank would not make.”
On Capitol Hill, Mr. Gramm became the most effective proponent of deregulation in a generation, by dint of his expertise (a Ph.D in economics), free-market ideology, perch on the Senate banking committee and force of personality (a writer in Texas once called him “a snapping turtle”). And in one remarkable stretch from 1999 to 2001, he pushed laws and promoted policies that he says unshackled businesses from needless restraints but his critics charge significantly contributed to the financial crisis that has rattled the nation.

Second, Senator Charles Schumer, New York:

As New York’s senior senator, Schumer has represented lower Manhattan, the Mount Olympus of the nation’s finance sector, since 1999, and has had a say in every major piece of legislation affecting the industry over the past decade, say Senate sources.
Contributions from securities and investment firms to the DSCC nearly tripled during Schumer’s tenure as chairman.
Securities and investment firms gave $5.7 million to the DSCC when it was headed by former Sen. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.) in the 2004 election cycle.
These firms gave nearly $15 million last cycle under Schumer’s watch. In 2007 and 2008, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Fortress Investment Group and Citigroup ranked among the DSCC’s top 20 donors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Three of those firms, Goldman, JPMorgan and Citigroup, have accepted TARP funds. (From The Hill.)

Over the course of his career, Schumer has raised half a million dollars from Goldman Sachs – and nearly as much from Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase. Between 1989 and 2010, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, Schumer took in nearly $9 million from the entire securities and investment industry, a haul that helped him become one of the most powerful politicians in America, a deep-pocketed kingmaker with unrivalled connections among the wealthiest players on Wall Street.
The seeming contradiction between Schumer’s public posture and his closed-door fundraising efforts had gone little-noticed by the general public before the financial crisis. But when the securities and investment industry was thrust into chaos – and the spotlight – in 2008, Schumer’s Wall Street ties suddenly became a political liability.
After all, Schumer’s biggest donors were the very folks who President Obama would later, in response to public anger, deem “fat cat bankers.” In the years leading up to the crisis, Schumer had been pushed hard to deregulate the financial industry; as the New York Times documented in the wake of the crisis, he had repeatedly protected the industry from oversight and helped companies avoid billions of dollars in taxes and fees. Schumer didn’t turn his back on his allies. He was one of the major drivers behind passage of the $700 billion bank bailout approved by Congress in the midst of the crisis. The bailout, which spawned the conservative Tea Party movement and was hugely unpopular with the left, was a literal lifesaver for the financial services industry. (CBS News story)
The powerful interests that Warren and the Vatican rail against are reflected in the senatorial careers of Gramm and Schumer. The picture of the Senate under a cozy bipartisan agreement to favor the financial sector is confirmed by one of the few Senators honest enough to confront it, Jim Webb the Virginia Democrat.
Webb has pushed for a onetime windfall profits tax on Wall Street's record bonuses..."I couldn't even get a vote," Webb says. "And it wasn't because of the Republicans. I mean they obviously weren't going to vote for it. But I got so much froth from Democrats saying that any vote like that was going to screw up fundraising. People look up say, what's the difference between these two parties? Neither of them is really going to take on Wall Street. If they don't have the guts to take them on, and they've got all these other programs that exclude me, well to hell with them. I'm going to vote for the other people who can at least satisfy me on other issues, like abortion. Screw you guys. I understand that mindset." (Real Clear Politics)

"This is Our City" launches

Hard to find a more encouraging sign of Christian media/community engaging productively with culture than the new "This is Our City" website and project. Under the leadership of Andy Crouch, this work represents Christianity Today's strongest step yet into the wonderful, wacky, dynamic, multicultural, ecumenical world of urban culture. I see it as a perfect compliment to CT's Books & Culture and hope that it does for the profile of urban ministry what Books & Culture has done for Christian academic engagement. Together these two projects show the culture-shaping/engaging/loving vision of CT's editor-in-chief David Neff.

The vision of this new project is summarized at the website like this:

A new generation of Christians believes God calls them to seek shalom in their cities. These Christians are using their gifts and energies in all sectors of public life—commerce, government, technology, the arts, media, and education—to bring systemic renewal to the cultural "upstream" and to bless their neighbors in the process. No longer on the sidelines of influence, emboldened by the belief that Jesus loves cities, they model a distinctly evangelical civic engagement for the 21st century.
This Is Our City, a multiyear project of Christianity Today, seeks to spotlight in reporting, essays, and documentary video how these Christians are responding to their cities' particular challenges with excellence, biblical faith, and hope. The six cities we are profiling differ dramatically from one another in size, economic climate, ethnic and racial composition, and in their history of Christian presence, leadership or abdication, at crucial moments. But they all have stories worth telling. Wherever we live, we can learn something from these cities about faithfulness to our own place.

This is precisely the kind of evangelical engagement with urban life that all of us, whether evangelical or not, should hope to see and stands in sharp contrast to the disturbing vision outlined in the Call Detroit. Where NAR-style dominionism seeks to carry for a vision for urban life explicitly modeled after the Renaissance hating style of the infamous Girolamo Savonarola, ring-leader of the infamous Florentine “Bonfire of the Vanities”, This is Our City explicitly endorses the "common good" and profiles people engaging respectuflly and faithfully in the pluralistic world that defines modern cities like Portland, Oregon. I hope you will check out this great new project and follow it as their coverage expands from Portland and Richmond to Detroit, New York City and more

Tony Jones on C. Peter Wagner

Glad to see the Christian leader Tony Jones' blog has a post up about C. Peter Wagner. It is really striking to me how Jones places Wagner's practice of mapping "territorial spirits" all the way back to the 1980s. Given that Wagner left Fuller in 2001, that means that there was over a decade in which one of the leading evangelical seminaries in the world had as one of its lead professors (arguably its most well-known at that time) a man who was pushing what I view as one of the three key novelties of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). The more you consider stories like this the more difficult it becomes to condemn those of us who are concerned that NAR beliefs and practices are impacting the mainstream of evangelicalism.

"Wagner was a professor at Fuller when I was a student there.  I never took a class from him, as I am highly dubious of his brand of Christianity, but many of my peers did.  Wagner’s classes were rife with healings (usually leg-lengthenings) and maps showing the “territorial demons” that had carved up Los Angeles County for their dominions.  He played audio tapes in his class that he had recorded during exorcisms." (emphasis in the original)

The comment section on Jones' post is also very interesting to read. One writer defends Wagner saying "I think if you had a personal conversation with Peter Wagner you might find him to be a nice, gentle and warmhearted guy, who also has an intellectual side to his personality.We don’t have to agree with all of his theology, especially his politics, but we love the 'multiple streams' and perspectives that characterize the Body of Christ." In response, the researcher Bruce Wilson replies "The point, for me at least, concerns not Peter Wagner as a personality but, rather, Wagner’s ideas...I grew up in a Christian tradition which emphasized that the message of Jesus, and the way to follow him, was to work for peace. C. Peter Wagner’s sense of Christianity is very, very, different. He seems to view the church at war–both with entire geographic regions (and the people therein, it would seem) and with whole world religious traditions. There is nothing wrong with evangelizing. But there is a difference, I would submit, between evangelizing and the eradication of all competing belief systems."

These are the kinds of exchanges and discussions we need to have if we are going to really come to grips with this key question: Is Wagner's NAR something Christians should view as "just another stream" or is it something to be resisted as a dangerous trend for both the church and state?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Vatican's Radical Economic Proposal

The Vatican’s major statement on the global economy is creating great discussion and disagreement. Here is some of what I am reading about it.

In a piece aptly titled "Holy See vs. Laissez Faire", Michael Sean Winters says:

there is no denying that the document’s economic vision is somewhere to the left of the most vigorously leftie politicians in this country. Can you imagine the cries of tyranny that would emanate from the Tea Party crowd if it were President Obama, rather than Pope Benedict XVI, who was calling for an international organization with oversight powers over the financial sector?...Kudos to Cardinal Turkson and the Holy Father for calling the world’s attention to the barbarism in our midst and pointing us towards a different set of values than those that govern Wall Street and insisting on the proposition that human reason can through instruments of public governance be brought to bear on the economy.

The best summary I read of the Vatican document is in the International Business Times:

The report points to the world's financial markets and big banks as major causes of the "grave economic and financial crisis which the world is going through today." While the Vatican said the current state of affairs has been brought on by multiple factors over the years -- such as the structural weaknesses of political, economic and financial institutions and questionable ethics in a system that encourages utilitarianism and materialism -- it emphasized the role of banks, which the Church said endlessly extended credit until the economic system was driven "towards an inflationary spiral."

John Allen, a leading analyst in the English language on the Vatican, does a great job of placing the teaching within the language and perspective of the global south.

It's fitting that the Vatican official responsible for the document is an African, Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, because it articulates key elements of what almost might be called a "southern consensus." One way of sizing up the note's significance, therefore, is as an indication that the demographic transition long under way in Catholicism, with the center of gravity shifting from north to south, is being felt in Rome… to be specific, Southern bishops, priests, religious and laity often are:
                Skeptical of free-market capitalism and unregulated globalization;
                Wary about the global influence of the United States;
                Pro-United Nations and pro-global governance;
                In favor of a robust role for the state in the economy…
This is not the dying echo of warmed-over European socialism. For better or worse, it's the first ripple of a southern wave.

One of the most aggressive voices in the United States in favor of the Vatican’s document is the group Faith in Public Life.

An important document on financial reform released today by the Vatican's justice and peace office is a timely challenge to conservative political leaders eager to carve up the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law passed last year. For that matter, the 41-page document - "Toward Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority" - is far to the left of almost any politician in the United States (short of Sen. Bernie Sanders) and should also give pause to Democrats whose fundraising coffers spill over with contributions from a financial sector that has been allowed to run amok over the past three decades.
If deregulation and free-market fundamentalism have largely defined the American posture, the Vatican is challenging world financial and political leaders to rethink structural systems and the moral foundation of neoliberal economics. Showing that Vatican officials think in centuries but also read the morning headlines, it addresses "the speculative bubble in real estate," and calls for a "minimum, shared body of rules to manage the global financial market" - pointing to "rapid, uneven growth" that has arisen because of the "overall abrogation of controls on capital movements and the tendency to deregulate banking and financial activities."

A take down of the neoconservative George Weigel’s dismissive attitude towards the document and his attempt to blame the media for radicalizing the Vatican’s statement comes from Charles Lewis in the National Post in Canada.

So this document, or “note,” speaks for no one but a Pontifical Council issues it for the fun of it? How does that work?
And how in the world would anyone know that this document does not reflect a point of view of the Vatican of at least some people in the Vatican? How does Mr. Weigel know? It is not as if the note came with a warning that said: “Ignore The Contents of This Note. We’re From the Vatican But Not Really.”
Rather than question how the media reported on this, Mr. Weigel would do better to ask why any Vatican office, large or small, would issue such a document knowing full well the confusion it would cause.
For those who have not read it, here are a few excerpts:
               “This process must also involve the emerging and developing countries in defining the stages of a gradual adaptation of the existing instruments. In fact, one can see an emerging requirement for a body that will carry out the functions of a kind of ‘central world bank’ that regulates the flow and system of monetary exchanges similar to the national central banks.”
               “It is the task of today’s generation to recognize and consciously to accept these new world dynamics for the achievement of a universal common good. Of course, this transformation will be made at the cost of a gradual, balanced transfer of a part of each nation’s powers to a world Authority and to regional Authorities, but this is necessary at a time when the dynamism of human society and the economy and the progress of technology are transcending borders, which are in fact already very eroded in a globalized world.”
Then, remarkably, it makes the specific suggestions of taxing financial transactions and using public funds to recapitalize banks and making support “conditional on virtuous behaviours aimed at developing the real economy.”

New York Times and Washington Post both highlight the disagreement with the document by the Acton Institute. The Times:

Writing in the National Review, Samuel Gregg of the Acton Institute, which promotes free-market economic policies, said of the document: “It reflects rather conventional contemporary economic thinking. Unfortunately, given the uselessness of much present-day economics, that’s not likely to make it especially helpful.”

“What makes the (Council) think that ‘global’ leaders will succeed where so many national ones have failed” asked Kishore Jayabalan, director of the Acton Institute’s Rome office, and a former staff member at the Council. “It is a shame this document is based more on sentimental political hopes for world government than on actual experience and expertise of financial markets.”

Abortion and the Obama Supporter

I get regularly challenged on how I can be a Obama supporter and claim to be pro-life. Just recently I had a prominent pro-life writer tell me I was “totally insane” to be pro-life and support Obama. I have been meaning to write a thoughtful piece on abortion and the Obama supporter, but I have not been able to get it done. I do mention pro-life issues regularly in the blog, but I have not been able to write the kind of piece I think is needed. But I do want to suggest a few articles from LaVonne Neff on these issues. They are written in the general spirit and view that I have on these questions. I also want to commend a lengthy series of three pieces published in Commonweal under the title “Can We Talk About Abortion?” and highlight the group Democrats for Life.

LaVonne Neff:

Ryan Boyette and the New Sudans (UPDATE ON NEW BOMBING)

Ryan Boyette sent me word over the weekend that he was returning to Sudan. Today, I received this tragic email from him updating the situation on the ground at the refugee camp. Please share with others. Below this message is background information:

Update from Southern Kordofan, Sudan
November 10, 2011

On November 10, 2011 at 1:30pm a large UN Helicopter landed in Yida Refugee Camp in Unity State, South Sudan, to deliver food to the camp for the first time since the camp was started.  After unloading the food, The UN Helicopter took off at about 2:40pm and another UN personnel aircraft landed at the Yida Airstrip 5 minutes later.  Immediately at 2:55pm local time, the Sudan Armed Forces bombed the Yida refugee camp.  A single Antonov plane made two strafes on the refugee camp.  On the first strafe the plane dropped 2 large bombs that landed just on the northern outskirts of the camp.  On the second strafe the plane dropped an addition 2 bombs on the camp.  The last bomb landed in the middle of the camp school yard but did not explode.  The primary school was in session with over 300 students in the school yard.  If the bomb had exploded it would have killed and wounded many children.  No one was injured or killed by the bombings.

Ryan Boyette

 This blog will be updated as new stories appear. For now, here are the main aspects of the story.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Tabachnick Highlights Conservative Christian Opponents of NAR

Rachel Tabachnick has for good reason become known as the leading critic of the New Apostolic Reformation and her work with Bruce Wilson at Talk to Action has been regularly mentioned by those who appreciate and those who criticize her work. But she recently did something very important, and refreshingly humble, by highlighting the long work of conservative Christians who have been alarmed about NAR's beliefs and practices for years. Like her, I do not agree with the theological commitments of many or even any of these groups, but I want to highlight these groups as well for five reasons:

1) To make clear that way before Perry's Response made NAR and C. Peter Wagner political issues, NAR and C. Peter Wagner were theological issues.

2) To make clear that the attempts by some in the media to make concern over NAR a result of Tabachnick's supposed obsession with the group, rather than a legitimate concern rooted in careful analysis and theological concern, are belied by the fact that these conservative Christian groups have been concerned about NAR for reasons much different from Rachel's.

3) To encourage Christian readers of my blogs to explore the vast literature online about NAR's beliefs for themselves.

4) To challenge directly Wagner's recent prayer letter signaling out Talk to Action as the source of criticism of NAR and stating that they were tools of demonic powers. If she is serving the devil then all these Christian folk are too.

5) To demonstrate the depth of research and analysis that Rachel has engaged in to arrive at her judgments. As she comes under increasing scrutiny, people should know the work that she has put into her reporting.

With those fivethings in mind, here is what Rachel has posted so far about other sources of information about NAR. Neither she or I mean to endorse all these links, but rather want to make them more widely available for consideration.

Years before there were any articles about the New Apostolic Reformation on Talk2Action, numerous conservative Christian websites wrote about the movement and the growth of Dominionism in great detail.   In 2003, when I was beginning to learn about the movement, I followed some of these websites in order to understand their perspective on the movement and continue to read them. I have not used many of them for references in my work in the past, because I am approaching the NAR as a threat to separation of church and state and religious pluralism and not as a critic of the validity of their theology.  I am not recommending or providing verification for the material in the links that follow.  However, this is small sample of a body of media that negates the absurd claims that only liberal or secular writers are concerned about Dominionism, the NAR, and their unique brand of spiritual warfare and apostolic government...

Again, I am not recommending, agreeing with, or verifying the material in the following links. It is not the mission of Talk2action.org to debate theology or to claim superiority of a specific belief system, as seen in some of the following links. Many of these are "discernment" or "apologetics" websites and some view beliefs not in line with their own as heretical. Some are fundamentalists or evangelicals who reject the Charismatic belief altogether, but others are from inside the Charismatic/Pentecostal sector and at least one is Charismatic Catholic.  
Some of these links are from organizations with significant followings and some are from individual writers. There are factual errors in some of these posts linked below. Some are written from a worldview in which the NAR is feared as the apostate church of the end times and even lumped together with "liberal" churches or as a plot of the Catholic church. However, the writers in the links below have monitored the NAR for years and document a long history of concern about the movement from a number of different conservative Christian perspectives.
PhotobucketThe posts on the NAR at www.deceptioninthechurch.com go back at least as far as 1998.  
The video at right is produced by Sandy Simpson and the Apologetics Coordination Team.  Read an overview at this website.
Assemblies of God
End Time Revival-Spirit-Led and Spirit-Controlled: A Response Paper to Resolution 16 (2000)
Lausanne Movement
Deliver Us From Evil Consultation Papers (2000)
Gaining Perspective on Territorial Spirits, by Scott Moreau
PhotobucketChristianity Today
Do Demons Have Zip Codes? (July 13, 1998)
Spiritual Mapping in the United States and Argentina, 1989 - 2005, by René Holvast (2009)
Based on Holvast's dissertation for the University of Utrecht, this is a "comprehensive historical-descriptive approach of both the movement and the concept, with special attention for theological and anthropological concepts."  
The Road to Holocaust: Unchecked the Dominion Theology movement among Christians could lead us - and Israel- to disaster
Hal Lindsey (1989)
Lindsey is a Dispensationalist and graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary.  He wrote in 1989 about the growth of Dominionism, including the introduction of Reconstructionism into Charismatic ministries by way of Gary North and David Chilton.
PhotobucketLet us Reason
This ministry has numerous posts on the NAR, including this on on the Manifest Sons of God theology found in Charismatic Dominionism.
Seek God
Numerous posts including this one on Manifest Sons of God theology.
Herescope has posts on Manifest Sons of God theology and numerous other issues concerning the NAR.
http://herescope.blogspot.com/2005/12/bill-hamon-and-manifested-s ons-of-god.html
Herescope 2002 post on "Geographical Heresies of the New Apostolic Reformation"
http://herescope.blogspot.com/2006/02/geographical-heresies-of-ne w-apostolic.html
Herescope post on Rick Perry's The Response
Discernment-Ministries, Inc.
Sarah Leslie
Orrel Steinkamp's work is posted on numerous websites. This website, View From the Bunker begins with this quote, "To Dominionists, Jesus' return to Earth is on hold, waiting for us to conquer it first."
Orrel Steinkamp in Critical Issues Commentary in 2001
Counterfeit Revival by Hank Hanegraaff, 1997
Christian Research Institute
"Joel's Army Marches On"
Critique of "Covering Theology"
Brannon Howse and Worldview Weekend
Howse has regularly featured post on the NAR over the last few months.
http://www.worldviewweekend.com/worldview-times/article.php?artic leid=7453  
Promotion for Brannon Howse audio,
Exposing Joel's Army Part One: One news headline recently declared, "Rick Perry bases call for national salvation on `Joel's army' Cult". The New Apostolic Reformation believes in the "Manifested Sons of God" also known as "Joel's Army" or "supermen" a "Superman race" a "new breed". This is the belief that members of the NAR will evolve into literally being Christ on earth, sinless, immortal, and able to raise the dead, Judge the church and nations and form a new government. This is nothing less than New Age, pagan spirituality. The NAR takes Joel 2 out of context to build their "Joel's Army" Gnosticism and yet Governor Perry of Texas is working with NAR members for his August 6, 2011 prayer rally and he is using Joel 2 as the justification for this rally. Why are Christian and pro-family leaders entering into a spiritual enterprise with false teachers that were rejected by the Assemblies of God 40 years ago for its cultish beliefs? Does Perry think his uniting with such paganism will make him more appealing to Christian voters?
Worldview Weekend post on what happened when they spoke to "New Religious Right" leaders about their work with the NAR.
http://www.worldviewweekend.com/worldview-times/article.php?artic leid=7615
Ernie Gruen, a charismatic pastor in Kansas City,  compiled a 233-page report on the Kansas City Prophets, which included Mike Bickle, Paul Cain, Bob Jones, and others.  The title of the report is "Documentation of the Aberrant Practices and Teachings of Kansas City Fellowship" and it initiated a huge controversy in 1990.
This is the accompanying January 20, 1990 audio of Gruen titled, "Do We Keep Smiling and Say Nothing?"
http://www.archive.org/details/DoWeKeepSmilingAndSayNothingErnieG ruenJan201990
Christian Research Journal on the controversy over the Kansas City Prophets
http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/cri/cri-jrnl/web/crj0044 a.html
Slaughter of the Sheep blog on "The Dominon Mandate"
http://slaughteringthesheep.wordpress.com/2011/10/07/the-dominion -mandate/
Charismatic Chaos, by John MacArthur (1993)
MacArthur described C. Peter Wagner and John Wimber's Third Wave in 1993
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0310575729/104-1908450-4011953?v =glance&n=283155&v=glance
Catholic Reason
A Charismatic Catholic critique of the New Apostolic Reformation
Doctrine of Demons, by Tricia Tillin
This is an extensive article in 12 segments about the New Apostolic pardigm and its roots in the Latter Rain Movement.  (Scroll down to "Latter Rain/Sonship & Dominion Teachings.")
Eastern Regional Watch
New Apostolic Reformation/Second Apostolic Age
Antipas Ministries
"The Superman Theology of the International Christian Embassy's Feast of Tabernacles"
The Berean Call
"Damnable Heresies Entering the Church," by Marsha West
A Review of C. Peter Wagner's Confronting the Powers, by John F. Hart, Moody Bible Institute, 1997
The Third Wave Worldview: A Biblical Critique
Direction Journal, Fall 2000 (Mennonite Brethren)http://www.directionjournal.org/article/?1055
In Plain Site
"Dominion Theology: The Stench and Foul Smell of Joel's Army"
http://www.inplainsite.org/html/dt3_new_apostolic_reformation.htm l
Pastoral Care Ministries
"Spiritual Mapping: A Misguided Focus on the Demonic," by Leanne Payne
http://www.leannepayne.org/articles/displayarticle.php?articleid= 1
Critical Issues Commentary
Roots and Fruits of the New Apostolic Reformation
Part 1A - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8GswRs6tKk&feature=related
Part 3C  - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBu4lmd2fEA&feature=related
Apostolic Reformation Part 1
Why Spiritual Warfare Does Not Deliver
The Shocking History of Spiritual Warfare
Overview of Frank Weston Sanford's similar spiritual warfare in the early 1900s