Articles related to Jim Evans, Sabbath, Rest


Reflecting on Your Past as You Prioritize Your Future
Reflecting on Your Past as You Prioritize Your Future

By: James Gordon
The clock and calendar are little different from the scrape marks on the prisoner's wall - recording time's passing. With a new year only days away, it's a time to reflect on your days passed and prioritize your days to come.

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When We Need to Reinterpret the Rules
When We Need to Reinterpret the Rules

By: Terrell Carter
Some Christians adopt a strict adherence to understanding and applying God's law in only one way. As a result, they miss out on what God wants to accomplish in their midst.

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5 Ways You Can Avoid On-The-Job Burnout
5 Ways You Can Avoid On-The-Job Burnout

By: Stacy Sergent
Our society encourages and praises workaholism, but working too much and neglecting our own needs inevitably leads to burnout. Here are five ways you can care for yourself on the job.

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Labor Day: Thinking About Work from Christian Perspective
Labor Day: Thinking About Work from Christian Perspective

By: Bill Tillman
Labor Day. Little is said about it from biblical, theological and ethical perspectives. This allows the culture to shape our attitudes on work and money. It's time for churches and ministers to add their voices.

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Catholic Bishops Call Attention to Work, Family Issues
Catholic Bishops Call Attention to Work, Family Issues

By: EthicsDaily Staff
Calling attention to widespread poverty facing middle and rural America, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a Labor Day letter focused on the challenges facing U.S. workers and families.

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10 Suggestions to Ensure You Vacation Well
10 Suggestions to Ensure You Vacation Well

By: Renée Embree
How do you handle vacation? When was the last time you took one? Play and vacation look different for all of us, but we need it. It's good and holy. Here are 10 suggestions to vacation well.

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Why You Treat 'Rest' Like a Four-Letter Word
Why You Treat 'Rest' Like a Four-Letter Word

By: Matt Sapp
Many of us have no trouble seeing our work as something that we do to honor God. But we forget that rest is something we do to honor God, too. So take a break. And don't feel guilty about it.

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Sabbaticals Prepare Pastors for New Season to Bloom
Sabbaticals Prepare Pastors for New Season to Bloom

By: Michael Helms
Gardeners understand that giving the land time to rest every few years is good for the garden. Similarly, a sabbatical prepares a pastor for a new season of ministry ahead.

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Our Workaholic Busyness Keeps Us from Sabbath
Our Workaholic Busyness Keeps Us from Sabbath

By: Guy Sayles
Many of us acquiesce to the fearful lie that our worth is inseparably bound up with our work. It's an insidious form of bondage that keeps us from the command and invitation to observe the Sabbath.

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How You Can Stop Being 'Scrooge with a Stopwatch'
How You Can Stop Being 'Scrooge with a Stopwatch'

By: Guy Sayles
Many of us have a troubled relationship with time. Sabbath, however, invites us to another way of inhabiting time, allowing us to rest in the profound awareness that our worth comes from our identity as God's children.

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How Evangelicals Abandoned Organized Labor
How Evangelicals Abandoned Organized Labor

By: Heath W. Carter
These are the worst times for organized labor, represented by only 7 percent of private sector workers. But you'd be hard-pressed to find evangelicals making this an election-year issue. That wasn't always the case.

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Labor, Wages Often Overlooked as Sermon Topics
Labor, Wages Often Overlooked as Sermon Topics

By: Zach Dawes
Working conditions, treatment of employees and balancing labor with rest are poignant topics as Labor Day nears. The Bible says much about labor and wages, but they're often overlooked sermon topics.

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Discovering God's Purpose in Purposelessness
Discovering God's Purpose in Purposelessness

By: Stephen Holmes
Where is God's purpose when we watch sports or enjoy vacation? There is no need to connect vacation with purpose; trusting in God, we can dare to take time and space to relax, to rest, to enjoy.

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Observing Anew the Fragility of Creation
Observing Anew the Fragility of Creation

By: Molly T. Marshall
We cannot claim to be persons of faith if we are not concerned about the impact of our patterns of living upon future generations and the kind of ecology they will inherit.

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Brueggemann: Churches Should Be Source of Greater Honesty
Brueggemann: Churches Should Be Source of Greater Honesty
By: Sarah Stone
In an illusionary world that operates by euphemisms, the church should be the place where honesty is practiced, theologian Walter Brueggemann said at Catalyst Live in England.
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Why Every Christian Needs a Little Reverie
Why Every Christian Needs a Little Reverie
By: James Gordon
Reverie allows you to be lost in your own thoughts, to take time to rest the mind and slow the body. It's an important part of our Christian walk, but we're often too busy to bother with it.
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How to Reset the Margins of Your Life
How to Reset the Margins of Your Life

By: Michael Helms
Like the pages of books, your life needs margins. Without them, you overextend yourself. Building margins into your life is a matter of choice and discipline, regardless of how much or how little you have.

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5 Lessons Learned from Taking a Tech Sabbath
5 Lessons Learned from Taking a Tech Sabbath
By: Elizabeth Evans Hagan
Do you check your social media apps first thing when you wake and last thing when you go to bed? You may need a tech Sabbath. Here are 5 lessons learned from being unplugged.
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Come to Me
So this is not advice that Jesus offers us, it is news... good news. When life is burdened, for whatever reason, Jesus encourages us to walk with him. The yoke he offers is not a single yoke but a double one. When we accept it, we cannot walk our own way, but must go in the direction he determines. We need to understand that.
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Does Standing Up for Convictions Enhance Your Witness?
Does Standing Up for Convictions Enhance Your Witness?
By: Leroy Seat
It's great to stand up for your convictions. But it also depends on what those convictions are and whether standing up for them enhances or detracts from your Christian witness.
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Invitation to Rest
The question therefore, is not whether we will find rest by ridding ourselves of all yokes. The question is which yoke we will take up, the yoke of Jesus or the yoke of something else. The truth of the matter is, if we do not live for Jesus, we will live for something else. We will either serve Christ, or we will serve some other master. As Bob Dylan once sang, “You’re gonna have to serve somebody.” Therefore, the question is: Will we submit ourselves to the heavy yokes of human approval, of material gain, of social status, of self-righteous pride? Or will we find rest by submitting ourselves to the gentle yoke of Christ?
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Spiritual, Physical Dangers Await You When You Hurry
Spiritual, Physical Dangers Await You When You Hurry
By: Ron Rolheiser
We may not hoard money, but we do hoard experience. We constantly hurry what we're doing in order to to be available to do something else. Hurry, however, is an obstacle to spiritual growth.
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3 Ways for Clergy to Manage Their Communications
3 Ways for Clergy to Manage Their Communications
By: Edward Bolen
In our 24/7 world's unlimited opportunities to stay connected and share information, clergy must learn how to manage the growing challenge to network with their congregations and beyond.
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Loosening the Bow
Rest and worship one day a week will make a profound difference in the living of this great faith we have received through Christ. A warm and endearing Jewish blessing is to remind one another on the Sabbath: Shabbat shalom! Sabbath peace! Shabbat shalom!
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Will Your Church Connect with Sunday Workers?
Will Your Church Connect with Sunday Workers?

There's one factor that pulls some millennials away from church. Many, including millennials, work on Sundays. Does your church have a be-the-church mindset or go-to-church mindset?

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Isn't It Time You Took a Digital Sabbath?
Isn't It Time You Took a Digital Sabbath?
We're accessible any time thanks to today's technology. The down side is we can't disconnect mentally and emotionally when we need to. That's why you need a digital Sabbath.
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Great Themes of the Bible: Sabbath
Don’t look at the Sabbath as another rule that we all have to keep or else God is going to be mad at us. Think of it as one of God’s great, wonderful gifts to us.
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Why You Can't Live in the Good Old Days
Why You Can't Live in the Good Old Days
We often yearn for the way things used to be, but those days never existed. As one teacher reminded, the world always changes and is always the same. What matters is how we respond.
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Think Twice When You Find Buttons in Your Offering Plate
Think Twice When You Find Buttons in Your Offering Plate
Buttons in the offering plate? Surely, they have no value. We're quick to judge what has value. Why, for example, is the small-church pastor any less successful than the mega-church pastor?
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Help the Poor? Many Christians Prefer to Blame Them
Help the Poor? Many Christians Prefer to Blame Them
The myth that the poor get what they deserve has been around since Jesus' day. While too many Christians accept the myth, one group is taking steps to help poor women.
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Celebrate Independence Day - for Christians
Celebrate Independence Day - for Christians

As we near the Fourth of July, how do Christians celebrate their true independence day? It begins by working for God's will on Earth, which means a place of shared abundance.

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Have Southern Baptists Entered Witness Protection?
Have Southern Baptists Entered Witness Protection?
"Baptist" used to mean freedom, tolerance and autonomy. Now it means bigotry and partisan politics. And that's why so many Southern Baptist churches need to change their names.
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Dads Aren't Perfect but We're Grateful for Them
Dads Aren't Perfect but We're Grateful for Them
There are no perfect fathers. Some are more skilled than others, but all are flawed in some way. But this Father's Day, we remember that many of them taught us how to live.
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When the Broken-Hearted People Agree
When the Broken-Hearted People Agree
The tortured learn to keep silent in order to avoid the pain of the powers over them. Will we facilitate the silence or will we be ministers of grace to help the tortured find their voice?
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End-Time Doomsayers Make Islam Their New Anti-Christ
End-Time Doomsayers Make Islam Their New Anti-Christ
Some religious groups have a propensity for identifying their opponents with ultimate evil. And now, with the help of end-time doomsayers, Islam is the new agent of Armageddon.
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Faith's Slow Retreat into Irrelevance
Faith's Slow Retreat into Irrelevance
When we allow faith to be redefined as scientific truth or political ideology, we subordinate it to these other realities. To continue down this path is to march our faith toward irrelevance.
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A Lesson in Encouragement from the Fishing Hole
A Lesson in Encouragement from the Fishing Hole
Many people are trying to figure out how to live in a meaningful manner. They crave depth, purpose and faith. Can you bait the hook with some encouragement?
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The Danger of Unquestioned Religious Devotion
The Danger of Unquestioned Religious Devotion
Unquestioned religious devotion takes its toll in many ways. Sadly, people throughout history have never done so much wrong as they have done in the name of religious conviction.
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Being Thankful for Impact of an Opinionated Woman
Being Thankful for Impact of an Opinionated Woman
If something didn't work the way it should, Ethel would find out why and fix it. She was a formidable woman with strong opinions about everything. And you know what? She was right.
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How Good Teachers Inspire Our Better Angels
How Good Teachers Inspire Our Better Angels
The children in our public schools come from every imaginable and unimaginable situation, but never underestimate the power of a good teacher to make a difference in their lives.
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Norquist's No-Tax Ideology Is Foolishness
Norquist's No-Tax Ideology Is Foolishness
Grover Norquist taps public resentment of taxes without a hint of his underlying opposition to Social Security, public education and all that makes middle-class prosperity possible.
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The Resurrection: Something to Prove or Experience?
The Resurrection: Something to Prove or Experience?
The four Gospels and Paul's accounts of Jesus' resurrection don't agree with each other. What do we do about that? We can try to reconcile it, reject it or experience it.
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How Evangelicalism Has Watered Down the Gospel
How Evangelicalism Has Watered Down the Gospel
The throngs cheered as Jesus entered Jerusalem. But he soon disappointed them by not validating their nationalistic dreams, supporting their claims of exclusivity or endorsing their political exceptionalism.
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Why God Wants You to Give It a Rest
Why God Wants You to Give It a Rest
We serve a God who loves us enough to make rest a commandment. So what are you waiting for? Turn off your cell, log off your laptop, take out your ear buds, turn off your TV – and rest.
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The Predictions That Harold Camping Missed
The Predictions That Harold Camping Missed
Folks like Harold Camping may view the Bible as a cosmic crystal ball, but the true predictive power of Scripture is its foretelling of the consequences of human behavior.
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When Faith, Government Intersect for Common Good
When Faith, Government Intersect for Common Good
Our Constitution certainly mandates a separation of church and state – even if it doesn't use that language. However, no mandate separates faith from public life.
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Alabama Faith Leaders Urge Anti-Immigration Law's Repeal
Alabama Faith Leaders Urge Anti-Immigration Law's Repeal
Religious leaders in Alabama are urging state lawmakers to make the noble and honorable action of repealing the state's anti-immigration law, one of the harshest in the nation.
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Those Who Break Boundaries Give Us Courage
Those Who Break Boundaries Give Us Courage
Something innate in the human spirit drives us to reach beyond our boundaries. John Glenn broke one of those boundaries 50 years ago when he orbited the Earth.
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How Not to Attract Excellent Teachers
How Not to Attract Excellent Teachers
Calling it a biblical principle, an Alabama senator opposes raising teachers' salaries because it will attract people who are not called. But guess who voted for a raise for state lawmakers?
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Bonhoeffer – A Faith That Stood Against Darkness
Bonhoeffer – A Faith That Stood Against Darkness
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who urged German Christians to stand against Nazi tyranny and violence, joined in a plot to assassinate Hitler – one of the more problematic elements of his life.
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Church-State Separation: The Line's Easy to See
Church-State Separation: The Line's Easy to See
The line between responsible Christian citizenship and political partisanship isn't hard to define. People of faith need to bring their beliefs to bear on all matters of public life without violating church-state separation.
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Harsh Political Partisanship Feeds off Division
Harsh Political Partisanship Feeds off Division
Not long after President Obama concluded his State of the Union address, critics were denouncing him. Today's politics thrives off a hard-edged division that won't allow compromise.
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Why Presidential Hopefuls Must Feign Religious Piety
Why Presidential Hopefuls Must Feign Religious Piety
The presidential race is shaping up as an old-time religious revival. Sadly, many people of faith are willing to settle for token recognition while real issues, such as poverty and racism, are ignored.
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For God So Loved Not Just You, But the World
For God So Loved Not Just You, But the World
Much of what passes for Christianity these days either has been thoroughly politicized or deeply privatized. God's interested in more than our spiritual journey; there's a world of needy people out there.
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Mixing Politics and Religion = Weakened Faith
Mixing Politics and Religion = Weakened Faith
Wanting to have their faith affirmed by political leaders, many Christians are content to redefine what it means to be Christian in overt political terms.
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What Has to Change for Your Resolutions to Succeed
What Has to Change for Your Resolutions to Succeed
We should resolve to do better in all areas of our lives. But when we fail to grow and learn from past experiences, we will make the same mistakes over and over again.
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This Christmas, Do You Know Where Jesus Is?
This Christmas, Do You Know Where Jesus Is?
The one who entered the world in weakness and vulnerability came to reveal a way of life that has the power to transform everything. But do Christians know where Jesus is?
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Where the War of Christmas is Really Lost
Where the War of Christmas is Really Lost
'Tis the season for certain faith ministries to declare that Christmas is under a full-scale assault, but the true war on Christmas isn't being lost because a store clerk wishes you a happy holiday.
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Does God Pick the Winners in Football Games?
Does God Pick the Winners in Football Games?
God cares deeply about every facet of our existence, but does he care about our golf score as much as he cares about children's welfare? Does he care which side wins a football game?
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What Black-Friday Bargains Will Cost Your Family
What Black-Friday Bargains Will Cost Your Family
Sure, you could spend a relaxing holiday with your family, but you'd miss out on a great deal on flat-screen TVs. That's the siren call of conspicuous consumerism on Black Friday.
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Rabbis Distribute Special Shabbat Guidelines for Hurricane
NEW YORK (RNS) Observant Jews are permitted to sidestep traditional Sabbath rules on electronics and listen to the radio as Hurricane Irene bears down.
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"The Conscience of Alabama" Calls Out Injustice
For nearly 40 years, Wayne Flynt has confronted the racism and accompanying poverty in Alabama with a courageous and informed passion. Yet he remains an unassuming and soulful individual.
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Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Harper Lee
Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Harper Lee
Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird" profoundly challenged racism's empty mythology. Today, insecure majorities still view anyone different, including Hispanics and Muslims, as a threat.
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As Economy Declines, Who Ultimately Pays the Price?
As Economy Declines, Who Ultimately Pays the Price?
The economy continues to decline. Financial benefits shift to the wealthy. Charitable dollars continue to plummet. And those suffering the most will be the ones about whom Jesus was most concerned.
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An Interview with God:
An Interview with God: "Who Said I Endorsed Them?"
Granting a rare and brief "interview," God discusses politicians who say they're suited for office because they have a special relationship with God. Does the Almighty endorse?
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Why Should Anyone Work for the Common Good?
Why Should Anyone Work for the Common Good?
Why work for the common good? Why not just watch out for you and yours? A commitment to the common good recognizes that the community as a whole benefits from services that help everyone.
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When God Expects Us to Answer Our Prayers
When God Expects Us to Answer Our Prayers
As politicians call for prayer to end droughts and disasters, we should remember we have a role to play in the answers. If we've caused problems, such as altering weather patterns, we should fix them.
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Pennsylvania Debates Whether Thou Shalt not Hunt on the Sabbath
HARRISBURG, Pa. (RNS) Two of the most influential forces in conservative lobbying are poised to go head-to-head this fall over this difficult issue.
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Battling Over the Meaning of the Bible's Words
Battling Over the Meaning of the Bible's Words
As language continues to evolve and as biblical scholars help us better understand the meaning of ancient words, Bible translations need to be updated. This presents a problem for those who adhere to inerrancy.
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Is America Ready for a Mormon President?
Is America Ready for a Mormon President?
With its strong emphasis on family and the church's vigorous mission activity, the Church of Latter-Day Saints is one of the fastest-growing religions in the world. But is America ready for a Mormon president?
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Why Our Founders Favored Church-State Separation
Why Our Founders Favored Church-State Separation
The genius of our Founding Fathers is that they knew that religion, however positive and wholesome it can be, also serves as a divisive force for those who disagree with particular tenets of faith.
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Why Jesus Rejects the Eye-For-Eye Mentality
Why Jesus Rejects the Eye-For-Eye Mentality
Violence is a vicious cycle. We have fought for so long against each other that warfare has become our natural state. But Jesus' call to nonviolent resistance to evil shows us the path to genuine humanity.
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Forgotten Past: Religious Minority to Oppressive Majority
Forgotten Past: Religious Minority to Oppressive Majority
As some Christians celebrate Alabama’s adoption of the harshest anti-immigration law in the nation, it’s clear they have forgotten their own roots as an oppressed religious minority.
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Two Kinds of Faith – Disembodied and Embodied
Two Kinds of Faith – Disembodied and Embodied
Faith can be classified into two major categories. Disembodied faith allows us to promote faith without really getting involved with people. Embodied faith is fleshed out and part of a community.
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The Greatest Lesson I Learned From My Dad
The Greatest Lesson I Learned From My Dad
Our parents are our first teachers, and their lessons are embedded deep in our souls. Of my dad's many lessons, I am particularly grateful that he taught me people are important.
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When Religious Values, Common Good Coincide
When Religious Values, Common Good Coincide
Catholic bishops recently took Speaker of the House John Boehner to task, claiming his congressional actions didn't uphold Catholic teachings. At what point do religious concerns become issues of the common good for society?
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Power of Community Can Address Hunger, Poverty
Power of Community Can Address Hunger, Poverty
When natural disasters strike, communities are quick to help their neighbors. That's humanity at its best. What will it take for us to respond to the "slow-motion" tragedies of hunger, lack of health care and loneliness?
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End-Of-World 'Prophets' Profit From Peoples' Fears
End-Of-World 'Prophets' Profit From Peoples' Fears
A radio evangelist predicted the world will end on Saturday. While end-time marketers have been making money by feeding off people’s fears for a long time, there’s another perspective.
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Does God Send Natural Disasters When Angered?
Does God Send Natural Disasters When Angered?
We ascribe to God a terrible anger that lashes out from time to time in the form of natural disasters. God is angered by our sinfulness, and a price must be paid. But another portrait of God is found in the Bible.
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What Jesus Really Wants Us To Pray For
What Jesus Really Wants Us To Pray For
Jesus taught us to pray so things here on earth will work like they do in heaven. What's not working? Three wars, for starters. Add poverty, hunger and an economic system that rewards the rich and punishes the poor.
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Resurrection: More Than Just Life After Death
Resurrection: More Than Just Life After Death
By raising Jesus from the dead, God defeated death and secured for all who have faith the gift of eternal life. And, unfortunately, that's where it stops for many Christians.
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As Self-Appointed Media Watchdog, AFA Goes On Attack
As Self-Appointed Media Watchdog, AFA Goes On Attack
The American Family Association, self-appointed watchdog of all things moral in the media, decrees what can and can't be watched. In their latest campaign, they give a tacit blessing to verbal abuse and other assaults.
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The
The "Christ-Haunted" Music of Kate Campbell
Although the Christian music industry won't have her, Kate Campbell's music, as reflected in songs like "Bear It Away," brings a prophetic insight into social issues.
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Why We Need Less Charity, More Justice
Why We Need Less Charity, More Justice
We need more than charity if we want to make a meaningful difference to address poverty. When we work for justice, we can address the larger issues of taxation and education that keep poverty alive.
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Where Santorum Falls Short on Church-State Separation
Where Santorum Falls Short on Church-State Separation
Rick Santorum, who is likely to seek the GOP nod for president, said fellow Catholic John F. Kennedy did "great damage" with his "radical" support for the separation of church and state. Kennedy gets it; Santorum doesn't.
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Group Claims Environmentalists Belong to
Group Claims Environmentalists Belong to "Cult"
Efforts to save the environment and curb global warming are the result of "a cult" that worships the creation rather than God. That's the bizarre claim of a DVD series cosponsored by the Cornwall Alliance.
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Three Reasons Why One Pastor Advocates for Poor
Three Reasons Why One Pastor Advocates for Poor
God has a bias toward the poor. With the cards of social resources stacked against the weak and the vulnerable, God tries to balance the scales by being on the side of the most vulnerable – the biblical widow and orphan.
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What Would Jesus Cut From Federal Budget?
What Would Jesus Cut From Federal Budget?
The current conservative resurgence of anti-government spending is focused on monies that are intended for the poorest and most vulnerable of our society. Is this what Jesus would cut?
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How the United States Can Find Its Voice Again
How the United States Can Find Its Voice Again
Two extended wars and an unregulated banking system have just about brought the United States to its knees. Not a bad place to be if you happen to be a person of faith, but a tough place if you're part of a people of pride.
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Love Your Enemy? What Was Jesus Thinking?
Love Your Enemy? What Was Jesus Thinking?
As the Sermon on the Mount reveals, Jesus understood how to undermine oppressive power. So how do we apply Jesus' teachings in the U.S. when we more closely resemble the oppressor than the oppressed?
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Why Christians Shouldn't Flee From Public Schools
Why Christians Shouldn't Flee From Public Schools
Some segments of the Christian community believe public schools are waging war on their faith. Instead of fleeing, Christians should work with others to provide every child access to the best education possible.
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Imitate Christ? Let's Not Get Carried Away
Imitate Christ? Let's Not Get Carried Away
Some people, even Christians, don't want to imitate Christ. To do so would mean following his radical ethic of love, his call to nonviolence and his message about sharing with the poor and practicing forgiveness.
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Do Not Disturb: Ensuring Your Minister is Rested
Do Not Disturb: Ensuring Your Minister is Rested
Our frantic lifestyle often leads to exhaustion. It's not unusual to see sleepy members in a church service. And healthy churches recognize that their ministers need time for renewal and recharging.
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How to Fulfill the Greatest Commandment
How to Fulfill the Greatest Commandment
The bold ethical challenge to love God and neighbor is reduced to a lowest common denominator of personal piety in many faith communities. But the biblical expectation laid on people of faith is to seek a just community.
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Political Right's Perverted Liturgy: No Taxes
Political Right's Perverted Liturgy: No Taxes
Schools may falter, the elderly and ill may suffer and our children may be trapped in poverty, but none of that seems to sway the political right from its single-minded mantra of no taxes.
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Faith-Based Programs – No Magical Cure
Faith-Based Programs – No Magical Cure
Supporters of faith-based programs would argue that religious groups are better suited than the government to deliver social services. But faith is not a magical social ointment; it is a way of living in relationship with God.
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Social Gospel Squares with Jesus' Teachings
Social Gospel Squares with Jesus' Teachings
Is the gospel purely personal, having only to do with individual salvation and life after death? Or is there a social component to the gospel? Does Jesus' message say anything about economics and politics?
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Hopes – Not Resolutions – For the New Year
Hopes – Not Resolutions – For the New Year
Many of us make resolutions for the chance to make things better than they were. In addition to our personal resolutions, let's commit ourselves to a few hopes for our nation and our world in the new year.
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Christmas Prayer Confesses Our Love of Violence
Christmas Prayer Confesses Our Love of Violence
The birth of Jesus represents the supreme effort on God's part to reshape our flawed humanity back into his own image. If we would only accept as true the things Jesus had to say to us, what a different world this might be.
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Why 'E Pluribus Unum' Is a Better National Motto
Why 'E Pluribus Unum' Is a Better National Motto
President Obama drew criticism for saying "E Pluribus Unum" rather than "In God We Trust" is the national motto. While Congress OK'd "In God We Trust" as a knee-jerk reaction to McCarthyism, Obama knows his history.
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When Joy is Hard to Find During Christmas
When Joy is Hard to Find During Christmas
The losses we carry seem heavier for some reason when the Christmas lights go up and the music begins. Without denying our sadness, we can choose to give the joy of the moment its proper place.
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Why the Christmas Season is Like Lucy the Camel
Why the Christmas Season is Like Lucy the Camel
During Christmas we sing about peace on earth and deliver food and clothing to the poor. All that changes after the holiday. The meaning of Christmas is a lot like Lucy the Camel – trotted out a few days every year for show.
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Why Retail Stores Are Where We Really Worship
Why Retail Stores Are Where We Really Worship
Why all the hullabaloo when retail store employees proclaim "Happy Holidays" to shoppers? Pressuring retail outlets to say "Merry Christmas" does nothing to advance the meaning of Christmas.
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How Do We Live Out God's Will on Earth?
How Do We Live Out God's Will on Earth?
When we pray for God's will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven, how in heaven's name can we ever know what that would look like? The question of what God wants has an answer in the writings of the prophet Micah.
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When Christians Favor Retribution Over Forgiveness
When Christians Favor Retribution Over Forgiveness
Most Americans feel the need for more forgiveness in their lives yet many of them believe some behaviors can't be forgiven. Perhaps we can't experience forgiveness because we won't grant it to others.
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Blessed Are The Poor? Jesus Can't Be Serious
Blessed Are The Poor? Jesus Can't Be Serious
Some believe the needs of the poor are draining away our meager resources and that people are poor because of bad choices or sinful lives. So why does Jesus tell us that the poor are blessed?
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In Middle East, Religion Has Added to the Conflict
In Middle East, Religion Has Added to the Conflict
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a political issue and should be worked out using political and diplomatic resources, not theological debate. Religion, in this case, has contributed more to the problem rather than the solution.
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Why Young Adults Reject Conservative Christianity
Why Young Adults Reject Conservative Christianity
Two political science experts warned that young people are rejecting conservative Christianity – and in big numbers. Many have been turned away by the politics of anti-homosexuality.
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The Real Tragedy of State-Sanctioned Gambling
The Real Tragedy of State-Sanctioned Gambling
Those who oppose gambling as a moral concern need to help legislators have the backbone necessary to reform our tax system and raise adequate taxes for schools and other services.
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Tax Exemption – Not a Right But a Privilege
Tax Exemption – Not a Right But a Privilege
An Oklahoma pastor intentionally broke the law by endorsing a candidate for governor from the pulpit. Nothing prohibits churches from endorsing candidates – as long as they are willing to give up their tax-exempt privilege.
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Understanding the Lost Politics of Jesus
Understanding the Lost Politics of Jesus
One of the great losses to Christianity over the past few decades is an adequate understanding of Jesus' politics. Jesus wanted his followers to have an identity based on the values of God's kingdom rather than Caesar's empire.
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Candidate's Bogus Claim: Hitler Favored Church-State Separation
Candidate's Bogus Claim: Hitler Favored Church-State Separation
A GOP candidate for the U.S. House claimed Hitler was the inventor, or at least the champion, of separating church and state, but it's not true. Hitler sought to nationalize the Christian church.
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Religious Freedom in U.S. is For Everyone, Not Some
Religious Freedom in U.S. is For Everyone, Not Some
Angry protests over an Islamic center near Ground Zero. A Florida pastor threatens to burn the Quran. If we don't guarantee religious freedom for all, we betray the genius that lies behind the U.S. Constitution.
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Obama Rumors? Beck as Moses? Catching Up After Time Off
Obama Rumors? Beck as Moses? Catching Up After Time Off
During 13 weeks of sabbatical, it was hard not to write about a provocative news story or someone in religious life doing something bizarre. Now, with the R&R over, several things really need to be addressed.
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Christian Women Prefer Sunday Services to Shopping, Study Says
(RNS) Protestant and Catholic women in the United States have grown unhappier since stores have stayed open on Sunday.
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Lord’s Supper Meditation: On Waiting Til Tomorrow
The most important question is not whether Jesus would go to church, but how would he be treated if he did? By you and me?
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Resting Easy
So, my friends, Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Doing so might save your career. More importantly, it will save your soul.
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Even Columnists Need to Take a Sabbath
Even Columnists Need to Take a Sabbath
The Sabbath is a time of rest and reflection. It's a chance to connect with God and a time to reflect on what it means to be a human being in this world God has made.
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 Part 2: Carter's Steady Pursuit of Peace, Justice
Part 2: Carter's Steady Pursuit of Peace, Justice
After leaving the White House, President Jimmy Carter decided to put his faith and his political visibility to work in the cause of justice, promoting democracy in places no one dreamed democracy was even possible.
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Part 1: Jimmy Carter Melded Religion, Politics
Part 1: Jimmy Carter Melded Religion, Politics
Jimmy Carter made being "born again" a campaign issue in 1976, vowing that his faith would help him govern. In the aftermath of Watergate, the American people were looking for someone they could trust.
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Enforcing Commandments as Law of Land
Enforcing Commandments as Law of Land
Sarah Palin says the law in America should be based on the Ten Commandments. While some parts of the Law of Moses are the law of the land, enforcing the others are going to be tricky.
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Muslim Stories About Obama, Seminary Leader
Muslim Stories About Obama, Seminary Leader
Some people believe that President Obama is a secret Muslim no matter how much evidence exists about his faith in Christ. Meanwhile, Liberty University's president appears to have exaggerated his Muslim roots.
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National Day of Prayer: Facts and Fiction
National Day of Prayer: Facts and Fiction
As the National Day of Prayer approaches this Thursday, let's correct a few distortions. President Obama, for example, is not trying to cancel the day. That's a rumor rooted in the nonsense that he's not a Christian.
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Obeying God's Word – When It Suits Them
Obeying God's Word – When It Suits Them
When Baptist leaders explain how they can justify banning women preachers, they often shrug and say that's what God's word says. By selectively embracing the Bible literally, they are impeding God's working in our world.
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Faith and Science: Not an Either/Or Choice
Faith and Science: Not an Either/Or Choice
Can the Bible be read seriously without being read literally? The unnecessary conflict between faith and science is wreaking havoc on both faith and science.
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Defeating Racism at the Spiritual Level
Defeating Racism at the Spiritual Level
While racial discrimination is no longer legal, we've got a long way to go. As a spiritual disorder, racism is so deeply rooted in us that nothing short of a conversion experience can change a person's mind and heart.
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Fewer Ministers Plan to Serve in Churches
Fewer Ministers Plan to Serve in Churches
Churches in America may be facing a dramatic shortage of ministers in the coming years. Less than a third of students now attending seminary intend to minister to congregations.
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Why We Still Choose Barabbas Today
Why We Still Choose Barabbas Today
The Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, made a show each year at the Passover of releasing one prisoner as a goodwill gesture. One year, he had two candidates: Barabbas and Jesus. Even today, we make the wrong choice.
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Hijacking Faith to Fit Science, Politics
Hijacking Faith to Fit Science, Politics
Redefining faith as scientific truth or political ideology subordinates faith to these other realities. Out of a desire to have faith validated and affirmed by wider culture, some are allowing their beliefs to be hijacked.
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Socialism? No, It's Being Good Neighbors
Socialism? No, It's Being Good Neighbors
It's time and past time to lay aside our paranoia about government and figure out how we are going to care for the poor, the sick and weak in our midst. That's not socialism; it's neighborly-ism.
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When Church and State Should Interact
When Church and State Should Interact
Separating church from state does not mean our public life should be void of faith. Since the days of the biblical prophets, the voice of faith has called for justice and peace in our common existence.
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Opposing Gambling for Wrong Reason
Opposing Gambling for Wrong Reason
Alabama's governor is on a crusade against gambling, but is it for the right reason? Do Christians oppose gambling because they want to control bad behavior or because it preys on the poor?
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 This Old House: A Constitution-Reform Parable
This Old House: A Constitution-Reform Parable
Once, there was a village called Alabama. Its villagers learned that the house that protected their children, the elderly and the poor was old and needed repair. Read what happens in this modern-day parable.
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New Constitution Overdue for Alabama
New Constitution Overdue for Alabama
Once again, political leaders in Alabama have introduced bills to give the state's citizens a voice in rewriting the constitution. Similar efforts have failed in the past, even though it's past time for a new constitution.
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Left Turn: Some Evangelicals Shun Rigid Ideology
Left Turn: Some Evangelicals Shun Rigid Ideology
Are some evangelicals moving away from the political and theological right wing? The New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good seeks to be above ideology rather than subservient to it.
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 If You're Going to Preach, Be Like Buster
If You're Going to Preach, Be Like Buster
My grandfather had a certain contempt for preachers. When he learned I was going to become one, he begged me to reconsider. And when he realized I was determined, his advice was simple: Be like Buster.
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Where Is God When We Suffer?
Where Is God When We Suffer?
If God's all powerful, why wouldn't he stop suffering? If he's good, why would he allow it? As we view the devastating images from Haiti, these questions have no satisfying answer, but we must still ask.
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Renewing Ourselves So We Can Help Others
Renewing Ourselves So We Can Help Others
It's easy to become overwhelmed by the sufferings of others. But in order to restore ourselves, we must give ourselves permission to take a break from direct care for others' needs.
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Who is Pat Robertson Hearing? GOD or GOP?
Who is Pat Robertson Hearing? GOD or GOP?
Every year, Pat Robertson proclaims what God has told him will happen in the coming year. But Robertson's batting average isn't good. Maybe that's because instead of listening to GOD, he's more in tune with the GOP.
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Alabama Nonprofit Advocates for Poor
Alabama Nonprofit Advocates for Poor
What does it mean to do justice? Ask a nonprofit group like Alabama Arise. Its annual list of issues affecting the state's poor, coupled with strategies to address them, is a reflection on how to do justice.
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Seasonal Charity: A Doorway to Biblical Justice
Seasonal Charity: A Doorway to Biblical Justice
Poverty won't yield to charity alone. There aren't enough soup kitchens and shelters in the whole country to begin to make a dent in America's poverty. To make a difference, we need a commitment to justice.
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What Would Make Jesus Happy on His Birthday?
What Would Make Jesus Happy on His Birthday?
When Jesus looks at the earth at the time of year when many of us celebrate his birth, is he dismayed by the materialism and self-righteousness he sees? Maybe his thoughts would be something like this.
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Christmas Hymn Reminds Us Separation Won't Last
Christmas Hymn Reminds Us Separation Won't Last
Sobering words from a joyful Christmas hymn remind us of the divisions that have separated us since The Fall. Imagine if we were able to eliminate all the artificial distinctions that divide us.
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Just War Theory: A Time for Careful Evaluation
Just War Theory: A Time for Careful Evaluation
Just war theory goes back to the fourth-century theologian Augustine and was developed to help leaders carefully evaluate the circumstances before going to war. Are the wars we wage based on a just cause?
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Doesn't Add Up: Calculating Exactly How Many Are Saved
Doesn't Add Up: Calculating Exactly How Many Are Saved
A Kentucky Baptist official recently said that 2,587,995 Kentuckians "are lost without Christ." Can we really calculate the precise number of "lost" people? Or is this more evangelical arrogance?
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Advent is Most Satisfying Way to Celebrate Jesus' Birth
Advent is Most Satisfying Way to Celebrate Jesus' Birth
Many churches will mark the beginning of Advent on Sunday, a month-long reflection on the meaning of Jesus' birth. It's far more significant than simply encouraging retail outlets to say "Merry Christmas."
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Judge Hits the Brakes on Christian License Plates
Judge Hits the Brakes on Christian License Plates
A judge rules that South Carolina's plan to allow license plates that promoted Christianity was unconstitutional. It was the right call. After all, Jesus didn't say they shall know you by your advertising.
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The Price of Greed: Desire for More Consumes Us
The Price of Greed: Desire for More Consumes Us
We were told in the 1980s that greed is good. However, greed makes us less human. In the anxious quest for more and more stuff, we become like the commodities we consume.
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Sharing God's Concern for Poor Means Fairer Taxes
Sharing God's Concern for Poor Means Fairer Taxes
Many people of faith are acutely aware of God's stance toward the poor. However, our expressions of charity alone will not suffice. We must change the very structures that overtax the poor.
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The Dream Continues: More Work Needed to End Racism
The Dream Continues: More Work Needed to End Racism
Racial discrimination and segregation are no longer legal, but Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream of seeing a nation united rather than divided by race has not made as much progress. It's a spiritual problem.
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America Founded as Christian Nation? Author Busts Myth
America Founded as Christian Nation? Author Busts Myth
While Dan Brown's new novel may not be as controversial as "The da Vinci Code," the author seems determined to annihilate the myth that America was founded as a Christian nation. He may be doing us a favor.
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Bible Too Liberal? Conservative Bible Project Will Fix It
Bible Too Liberal? Conservative Bible Project Will Fix It
The Conservative Bible Project believes modern translations of the Bible, and even some textual matters, are tainted with a liberal bias. Their plan is to rewrite the Bible so it reflects a more conservative viewpoint.
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Dearly Departed: The Separation of Church and Jesus
Dearly Departed: The Separation of Church and Jesus
Minorities in church. Rushing to war. Alleviating poverty. For some Christians, certain areas of life are simply too important to run the risk of Jesus meddling with them.
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Can't We Steal a Little Money to Pay for Health Care?
Can't We Steal a Little Money to Pay for Health Care?
I have written a few columns suggesting that health-care reform is a moral imperative. One reader said I was promoting the idea of the government stealing our money. Let's think about that.
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Sound of Silence: Can We Truly Escape Technology?
Sound of Silence: Can We Truly Escape Technology?
Nothing equals the spiritual value of an intentional silent retreat. Can we find a place where we can escape phone calls, emails, texts, voice messages and Internet service?
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When Calamity Strikes: Is God Our Punisher or Healer?
When Calamity Strikes: Is God Our Punisher or Healer?
Some ministers are quick to see God's judgment in calamity, but they work from an incomplete picture of God. As a result, they teach too many people to live under God's scorn rather than his grace.
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Strategic Time Off Can Boost Your Productivity
Strategic Time Off Can Boost Your Productivity
Many people spin their wheels only to feel drained while actually accomplishing little. Productive people use their time wisely. It's not about doing more things, but doing more of the right things.
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Stance Against Health Care Resurrects Religious Right
Stance Against Health Care Resurrects Religious Right
The Religious Right was in tatters last year, but health-care reform has given these religious naysayers, posing as spokespersons for Jesus, something new to which they can say "no."
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The Last Word: Controlling Translations of the Bible
The Last Word: Controlling Translations of the Bible
The New International Version Bible is set for an update, and a translation battle is brewing. Whoever controls the words used in a translation controls how we are able to think about theological issues.
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Who Needs Police? Law Says People Must Trust God
Who Needs Police? Law Says People Must Trust God
A judge rightly struck down a Kentucky law that said its citizens could only be safe unless they believed in God. Why do people write into law what can only be embraced by faith?
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Who's Going To Be the Anti-Christ Today?
Who's Going To Be the Anti-Christ Today?
In the '70s, author Hal Lindsey pegged the Soviet Union as the agent of the anti-Christ. But the Soviet Union fell, and Christian doomsayers eventually made Islam their new anti-Christ.
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What's Really Motivating Angry Town-Hall Mobs?
What's Really Motivating Angry Town-Hall Mobs?
Members of Congress holding town hall meetings on health care reform are being shouted down by angry mobs of constituents. Pure paranoia? Not really. It's displaced racism.
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Clergy Letter Project: Science, Bible Can Co-Exist
Clergy Letter Project: Science, Bible Can Co-Exist
The Clergy Letter Project began when a biologist and several clergy wrote a statement affirming the teaching of evolution. Nearly 12,000 Christian clergy have now signed the letter.
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Diverse Faith Groups Rally for Health Care
Diverse Faith Groups Rally for Health Care
While the clock is ticking on President Obama's health care reform plan, a strong push in support of reform is coming from a diverse coalition of faith communities.
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Hate Crimes Bill Won't Restrict Sermons
Hate Crimes Bill Won't Restrict Sermons
A pending hate crimes bill is causing some Christian conservatives to fret, but there's no reason to fear that preachers' right to speak freely will be restricted.
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Defining Words' Meaning is Path to Control
Defining Words' Meaning is Path to Control
Humpty Dumpty's smarter than we think. To win control, you need to be the one to define what words mean – even if you have to take them out of context.
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Baptists: Muslims Part of Extended Family
Baptists: Muslims Part of Extended Family
Baptists should approach Muslims with compassion and friendship. The first step in showing genuine love for another person is to accept them as they are.
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 Independence Day: When Poverty Loosened Grip on Family
Independence Day: When Poverty Loosened Grip on Family

Grills will smoke and fireworks will pop as Americans celebrate Independence Day this weekend. Ten years ago, a poor family from Mexico celebrated a different kind of independence day.

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America as Melting Pot? We're Really More of a Tossed Salad
America as Melting Pot? We're Really More of a Tossed Salad
America has been described as a melting pot, a place where people from diverse backgrounds merge into one. However, we are often more like a tossed salad, with unique pieces of cultural heritage clearly visible and intact.
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 Would a Baptist Church by Any Other Name Smell as Sweet?
Would a Baptist Church by Any Other Name Smell as Sweet?
Some churches have removed Baptist from their names, but others seek to reclaim the meaning of the name. Many principles of historical Baptist theology and polity offer a solid basis for citizenship in a free and diverse society.
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Pastor and Former SBC Vice Pres Prays for President's Death
Pastor and Former SBC Vice Pres Prays for President's Death
Wiley Drake, former second vice president of the SBC, let it be known that he was praying for President Obama to die. Is praying for someone's death consistent with the values and truth that Jesus embodied in his life and ministry?
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Absolute Religious Rhetoric Leads to Violent Behavior
Absolute Religious Rhetoric Leads to Violent Behavior
It's tempting to dismiss the murder of Dr. George Tiller as the behavior of a deranged person, but the highly charged religious rhetoric that informs much of the pro-life movement will not allow for that explanation alone.
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A Bible for America Reveals Spiritual Arrogance and Ignorance
A Bible for America Reveals Spiritual Arrogance and Ignorance
"The American Patriot's Bible" places Scripture alongside American history. Millions of Christians, however, aren't Americans. It is arrogant to think America commands some unique position in relation to the Christian message.
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Top 10 Reasons Not to Display the Ten Commandments
Top 10 Reasons Not to Display the Ten Commandments
Officials in White County, Georgia, placed the Ten Commandments on display in their courthouse with other historical documents. Here are 10 reasons why government displays of the Ten Commandments are a bad idea.
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All Too Often, We're Eager to Accept Bogus Info at Face Value
All Too Often, We're Eager to Accept Bogus Info at Face Value
What causes so many otherwise intelligent folk to ardently embrace and believe disinformation? Perhaps it's because these little nuggets of lunacy serve as proof that their view of the world is absolutely right.
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Evangelicals' Support of Torture Reveals Double Failure
Evangelicals' Support of Torture Reveals Double Failure
Nearly 62 percent of white evangelical Christians believe that torturing suspected terrorists is often or sometimes justified, marking the failure of two great traditions that at one time were the foundation of American society.
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Christians Have No Reason to Fear Public Education
Christians Have No Reason to Fear Public Education
Many parents, especially Christians, are convinced that public schools are waging war on their values. While some have turned to home schooling, a case can be made for Christians to keep their children in public schools.
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McCain's Strategist: GOP Should Support Gay Marriage
McCain's Strategist: GOP Should Support Gay Marriage
The Republican strategist who ran John McCain's presidential campaign says supporting gay marriage fits with the party's belief in personal responsibility. How Christian conservatives will react is far from clear.
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Finding a Church is Never Easy, Especially if You're President
Finding a Church is Never Easy, Especially if You're President
Searching for a church home is a big decision. It's even tougher when the entire nation's watching you. No matter what church the First Family joins, for some it will be the wrong choice. Maybe we should let them worship in peace.
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God's Comeback: Editors Claim Rise in Faith Will Help Economy
God's Comeback: Editors Claim Rise in Faith Will Help Economy
Fewer Americans claiming to be Christian may reflect a move away from church politics and denominationalism. Despite the downward trend, two economists say a return to faith is near and will be good for business.
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Palm Sunday's Lesson: Jesus Doesn't Fit Our Mold
Palm Sunday's Lesson: Jesus Doesn't Fit Our Mold
At the time of Jesus, Israel had been the pawn of one great kingdom or another for nearly 600 years. Those who hailed Jesus' arrival into Jerusalem with cloaks and tree branches hoped for a great king to set them free.
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Alabama Voters May Have Their Say on Rewriting Constitution
Alabama Voters May Have Their Say on Rewriting Constitution
Alabama politicians have dodged the opportunity to allow Alabama voters to decide whether or not to hold a constitutional convention. This year may be different.
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Diversity Reigns Among So-Called Liberal Clergy
Diversity Reigns Among So-Called Liberal Clergy
Categorizing people by means of narrow labels is just another way of not having to think deeply about them.
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We Lost the Ideal of Collective Responsibility
We Lost the Ideal of Collective Responsibility
So long as we persist in holding on to the idea that government is some sort of alien power, is in fact our adversary, we will live as a nation divided against itself.
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Baptists Bet Casinos, not Taxes, Are Moral Issue
Baptists Bet Casinos, not Taxes, Are Moral Issue
Religious groups are more than eager to love their neighbors when it comes to regulating personal behavior. But when it comes time to take on the big issues of social and economic injustice, conservative Christians begin to sound more like a certain character in one of Jesus' parables.
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 Al Mohler Stokes Division with Comments on Evolution
Al Mohler Stokes Division with Comments on Evolution
This past week marked the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin. All across the country there were celebrations and denunciations—not by the same people, of course.
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Office of Faith-Based Initiatives Should Disappear
Office of Faith-Based Initiatives Should Disappear
For my part the office could simply go away. If we want to spend money to help people, then create the Office of Helping People in America, and then go do it. The work is not going to be any more effective if it is done under the auspices of a church or any less effective because it is being done by secular professionals.
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Baptists in Search of Unity
Baptists in Search of Unity
It is an ambitious and even audacious idea. But it is a hopeful one. For too long we have skirted the edges of disaster existing as "us and them." It's time, not just for Baptists, but for everyone, to find a way just to be us.
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God As Athletic Director
God As Athletic Director
The theology at work here goes something like this: When you win God is with you, but when you lose, you are on your own. Of course, it doesn't always work out so well for winners.
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See Neighbor As Kin or Nothing Will Change
Morale alone will not fix what is broken in our country. But without some sense of common purpose, some level of hope, some willingness to embrace our neighbor as our kin, nothing is going to change anyway.
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Want to Be Biblical? Approve Prayers at Inaugurations
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Inauguration Reminds Us of What Prayer Is, Isn’t
Prayer is not ceremonial. Prayers offered at public events like football games, graduations and presidential inaugurations are mere ceremony. They are prelude to something else that is the main event. If Jesus is right and prayer is actually a conversation we can have with God, then we have no business reducing it down to the level of a starter pistol at a foot race.
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Faith Makeup of Congress Reflects That of Country
That diversity will be on full display as the 111th Congress convenes and begins its work. According to recent analysis by Congressional Quarterly and the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the new Congress' religious diversity is significantly representative of the diversity that exists in the country as a whole.
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Honk If You Love Jesus
Late last month a federal judge issued a temporary order against the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles for issuing a faith-based car tag with the words "I Believe" featured prominently. The judge is of the opinion that the tag unconstitutionally promotes Christianity. The state attorney general disagrees, and so Jesus will have yet another day in court.
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Hopes and Prayers for the New Year
I am praying and hoping that we find a way to get our troops out of Iraq. I know I already said that, but we really need to get our folks home.
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A Christmas Prayer
The birth of Jesus represents the supreme effort on your part to re-shape our flawed humanity back into your own image. If we would only accept as true the things Jesus had to say to us, what a different world this might be.
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The Impulse to Silence Dissent
Silencing dissent is just about the most un-American, and un-Christian, thing imaginable. Our Constitution was written by a host of rowdy and intelligent dissenters. And nearly every hero of our faith started off as a dissenter.
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I Was Just Quoting Jesus
I recently wrote a column suggesting that as Christians we could do a better job finding ways to collectively provide assistance to the least of these among us. The responses were swift and angry. I was accused of distorting the Bible in order to advance a liberal socialist agenda. I thought I was just quoting Jesus.
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Analyzing the Religious Vote
Religion has played a pivotal role in every election in this country since 1976. That remains true for our most recent presidential race as well. Even though the U.S. Constitution does not allow a religious test for public office, religious voters put the full force of their faith to work in deciding who would get their vote.
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Seasonal Mood Swings
Why only at the apex of our material pursuits do we suddenly notice our struggling neighbors? Could it be that our temporary bouts of charity are really efforts to atone for a life of meaningless consumption?
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Don't Perpetuate Economic Injustice
How can it be possible that so many people who claim allegiance to Jesus can be so complacent about the plight of the poor? How can they ignore what Jesus said about loving our neighbor?
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The Audacity of Hope
Something of an awakening occurred among many of the faithful. It's almost as if scales fell from their eyes and they saw that they were not really being represented by conservative politicians so much as they were being pandered to by them.
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Halloween As Prelude to Christmas Demise
Halloween serves as a warning to those Christians who would gladly give over the particulars of their faith into the hands of culture.
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Be the Answer to Your Prayer
What is the real purpose of a National Day of Prayer? I have often been puzzled by efforts to get large numbers of people praying about something. Is the assumption being made that God only responds to a critical mass of people praying. That until a certain number is reached, God will not act?
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Church Tax Exemption Isn't a Right
This past Sunday 33 pastors from all across the country deliberately broke the law. Prompted by the Alliance Defense Fund, a socially conservative legal consortium based in Arizona, these pastors stood in their pulpits and endorsed political candidates.
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Who Would Jesus Torture?
Would Jesus condone torture if it yielded information that might prevent a terrorist attack? Anyone who has studied the life and teachings of Jesus closely, really thought about the red-letter parts of the New Testament, would answer, no.
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Jesus for President
What would happen if Jesus came to 21st century America, performed a couple of low-key miracles just to get folks talking, then announced he was running for president of the United States?
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Weather Politics, Weather Theology
Sometime around the middle of August, James Dobson's Focus on the Family released a video urging Christians to pray for rain. Not rain to end the drought in the Southeast and other places, but rain to drown out a political message. The video encouraged Christians to pray for rain during Barak Obama's acceptance speech at Invesco Field in Denver on the last night of the Democratic National Convention.
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Diversity and Particularity
We live as a people in the midst of great diversity. We are diverse in age and gender and race and religion, especially religion. Even among Christians there is great variety. When we factor in the many other religious expressions in America, we are as one scholar put it "awash in a sea of faith." And that doesn't even take into account the many people who have no faith at all.
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Christian Leaders as Power Brokers
It sounds like the beginning of a corny joke: Two Christian guys walk into a Baptist church and tell the pastor they want him to help one of them become president of the United States.
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Enter the Antichrist
Mark Twain once wrote, "I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man's reasoning powers are not above the monkey's."
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Back to School
As summer slowly grinds to a steamy close, children and young people around the country are gearing up to go back to school. For most of them that means public school.
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Ready, Set, Pray
For years now the Fredericksburg, Va., city council has started their monthly meetings with prayer. Working through a pre-established rotation, each council member takes a turn seeking guidance from a higher power for the council to do its work.
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Ready, Set, Pray
For years now the Fredericksburg, Va., city council has started their monthly meetings with prayer. Working through a pre-established rotation, each council member takes a turn seeking guidance from a higher power for the council to do its work.
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History, Faith and Politics
The decades between 1970 and 2020 will eventually be seen as one of the most significant periods of our history, especially in regard to the interplay between politics and religion. And the 2008 presidential campaign may well serve as an object lesson for the whole period.
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The Future of Faith-Based Initiatives
It is probably too early to speculate how history will rate George W. Bush's tenure as president. There will obviously be many words written about Sept. 11, the war in Iraq, tax cuts for the rich, the polarization of the country along partisan lines, the disputed 2000 election, and so on. The most problematic piece for me will be his legacy with the faith community.
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How America Lost Its Soul
It was a noble experiment; risky but worth the risk. Human beings have inalienable rights, Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence. A declaration of human rights.
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A New Name For Alabama's Education System
I want to propose a new name for Alabama's education system--one that more accurately portrays the true status of public education in our state. I propose we call our public schools "the Lazarus system."
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The Evidence of Things Not Seen
In March of this year, 11-year-old Kara Neumann of Weston, Wis., died as the result of a diabetic condition known as ketoacidosis. This condition is normally treatable with injections of insulin. When properly treated it is rarely fatal. But Kara's parents did not seek medical treatment for their daughter. Instead, they prayed.
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Religious Politics as Spectacle
In our last episode of religion and politics on the campaign trail we left Sen. John McCain rejecting the endorsement of John Hagee. McCain found out that Hagee thought the Jews brought the Holocaust on themselves, because they would not leave Europe and move to Israel.
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McCain's Faithful Second Team
I am beginning to feel a little sorry for Sen. John McCain. He's done everything he is supposed to do. He beat out a large contingent of Republican presidential hopefuls fairly early allowing him to occupy the enviable position of presumptive Republican nominee for president for three months now. He's been scurrying about trying to rally the party behind him and all the other things the presumptive nominee does leading up to the Republican National Convention in September.
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Where is God in the Storm?
Somewhere a preacher is preaching. He shakes his fist at the ceiling as he describes the wrath of God. That wrath has come, he tells his attentive congregation, on the crest of a terrible storm. God has shown his power and his might by smashing a wall of wind and water into villages in the troubled country of Myanmar.
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The Fragmenting Christian Right
It appears that the Religious Right is coming undone. Having played a dominant role in national politics since the 1980s, it now appears that the key players will be sidelined during the upcoming presidential campaign. It also appears that some among the conservative Christian movement think the partisanship of the past decades have hurt the cause of Christianity overall.
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Render Unto the IRS
Kenyn Cureton is vice president for church ministries for the Family Research Council. The FRC is a right-wing religious organization that lobbies for the usual litany of right wing religious concerns-anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, prayer in schools and so on.
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Liberation Theology a Significant Theological Movement
The Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Sen. Barack Obama's former minister, continues to be a factor in the ongoing presidential campaign. His recent media blitz has put his theology and social views on the front burner. I find it interesting to hear his views characterized as representative of Black Liberation Theology.
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Struggling in Silence
Do you know which professional group in the United States experiences the highest rate of suicide? According to the most recent edition of Newsweek magazine, the highest rate of suicide in our country, higher than among any other professional group, occurs among doctors.
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Fundamentalists on the Left and Right
Chris Hedges has lived an interesting life so far. He is a graduate of Harvard divinity school and once considered a career in the ministry. He eventually ended up in journalism where he served for two decades as a foreign correspondent for The New York Times, The Dallas Morning News and National Public Radio. In 2002 he shared the Pulitzer Prize with a team of writers for coverage of global terrorism.
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The Cost of War
There have been a lot of numbers thrown about recently regarding the cost of the war in Iraq. The estimates now suggest the war will run through trillions of dollars.
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Faith and Doubt
The Alabama Shakespeare Festival is currently offering an exceptional production of Tom Dudzick's humorous play, "Over the Tavern." The story line is about a Catholic family in the 1950s that literally lives over a tavern. The characters, Chester and Ellen, are struggling to raise their four children, including two teenagers, a son who has down syndrome and a son who doesn't want to be Catholic.
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Hate and the Pulpit
I know it's not new, I guess I am just more aware of it. But it does seem to be more prevalent. I am talking about anger and hate filled language spoken from American pulpits.
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Why I Believe in the Resurrection
Sunday Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection is viewed by believers just about everywhere as the foundation of Christianity. They assert that by raising Jesus from the dead God has defeated death and secured for all who have faith the gift of eternal life.
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Name Calling in the Name of Jesus
I've been following an interesting back and forth between two prominent American religious figures. The individuals involved are Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and Randall Balmer, an Episcopal priest and professor of American religious history at Columbia University.
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Extreme Religious Endorsements
Sen. Barack Obama recently received an endorsement from a controversial religious leader who promotes hate toward certain groups. Ironically, Sen. John McCain was endorsed by another religious leader who also promotes hate toward certain groups.
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Faith in America: Believers on Pilgrimage
The Los Angeles Times recently featured a new study from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The results offer a snapshot of faith in America--although "home movie," might be a more accurate description of the report. People of faith in America are on the move--it's like a pilgrimage.
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A New Voice for the Faithful
The expression, "there at the beginning," took on special meaning for me this past week. I was witness to the birth of a new movement in Alabama, a movement which has the potential to redefine the way faith communities confront social concerns in our state. The movement has a name: the Alabama Faith Council.
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Al Gore the Prophet
From time to time throughout this long presidential campaign, I have heard several people say they wish Al Gore would get into the race. I am not one of them. I don't want the former vice president to run for president, because it would distract him from the important work he is doing in the cause of the environment. The consequences of that campaign have truly global significance.
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Reflections on a New Baptist Covenant
I was privileged this past week to participate in a truly historic event. Baptist groups from all across North America, even from around the world, gathered in Atlanta for a three-day show of Christian unity. The event, dubbed a New Baptist Covenant, brought together white Baptists, African-American Baptists, Hispanic Baptists, Asian Baptists and others. We all joined hands and lifted our voices praising God. And we prayed, prayed for a return to traditional Baptist principles.
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Living With Our Fallibility
It has been a pesky problem from the very beginning. Adam, who walked with God in the cool of the garden, could not follow one simple proscription. Abraham, called by God to be the progenitor of a great nation, lied about Sarah being his wife to save his own hide. Moses, chosen from among all the people of the world to receive God's law, could not follow simple instructions like hitting the rock once instead of twice. And let's not forget about King David. In a single stroke, David managed to mangle four of the Ten Commandments.
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Living With Our Fallibility
It has been a pesky problem from the very beginning. Adam, who walked with God in the cool of the garden, could not follow one simple proscription. Abraham, called by God to be the progenitor of a great nation, lied about Sarah being his wife to save his own hide. Moses, chosen from among all the people of the world to receive God's law, could not follow simple instructions like hitting the rock once instead of twice. And let's not forget about King David. In a single stroke, David managed to mangle four of the Ten Commandments.
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Life Lessons From Father to Son
After 31 years as a parent you would think I would have some sense of competence about the task. Well, I don't. If anything, as time goes along, I feel more perplexed than ever.
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In Memory Of Martin Luther King
In his elegant little book, "Finally Comes the Poet," Walter Brueggemann writes that the task of the preacher is to be "a voice that shatters settled reality and evokes new possibilities." If he is right about that, then no preacher in the last century has been more effective than Martin Luther King, Jr. His words helped shatter the settled reality of segregation. He also gave voice to the possibility of what he called the "beloved community."
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Al Mohler for President--of the SBC
Amidst the intense campaigning for the presidency of the United States, there is a smaller yet significant campaign of another type taking shape--the campaign for president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
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One Nation, Indivisible?
Over the holidays my wife and I enjoyed watching the movie classic "The Bells of St. Mary's." It's not really a Christmas movie, but it has all the themes of faith and grace that we celebrate during the season, and the story has a nice holiday feel to it.
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New Year Hopes and Wishes
I don't do New Year's resolutions anymore. However, I do have a few New Year's hopes and wishes.
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Seasonal Charity and Biblical Justice
The holiday season from Thanksgiving to Christmas is the most intensely charitable time of the whole year. Church and civic groups gather clothes, food, and toys for needy families. Volunteers make their way to homeless shelters and soup kitchens. Busy shoppers dutifully drop their change into Salvation Army buckets.
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Who Is Jesus?
As we make our way to Christmas Day when millions of Christians worldwide celebrate the birth of Jesus, perhaps it's worth asking, "Who is Jesus?"
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Is Violence Among Humans Inevitable?
This Christmas season has been tragically scarred by a series of senseless violent acts. Shopping malls and churches are the latest venues for troubled individuals to take out their frustrations on the innocent.
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A Parable of Christmas for Our Time
I have been trying to come up with a parable for the Christmas season. I wanted to write a story that would capture the mood of this strange religious time we live in. But before I could even get my imagination cranked, reality came along with something much better than any thing I might dream up.
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The Link Between Politics and Religion
Nearly every week someone complains that my column is not about "faith matters." The accusation is that I write more about politics than faith and should therefore call the column "political matters."
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In Search Of Christmas
Now that Thanksgiving is over it's time to begin preparing for Christmas in earnest. Unfortunately with the arrival of the season also comes the accompanying lunacy. I refer of course to the annual battle to save Christmas. The decision by many retailers to use the inclusive language of "Happy Holidays," rather than "Merry Christmas," has become the latest battleground for conservative Christians' war on culture.
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Torture and the Appearance of Evil
Perception is reality. It's not the only reality, but it is real to the one perceiving it. Perceptions can change, but until they do, what someone perceives as being real is real--to them.
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A Crisis of Faith
Since the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan, conservative evangelicals have served as a formidable political force. Comprising over one the third of the electorate, evangelicals voting in concert have faithfully delivered numerous victories to conservative candidates.
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A Crisis of Faith
Since the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan, conservative evangelicals have served as a formidable political force. Comprising over one the third of the electorate, evangelicals voting in concert have faithfully delivered numerous victories to conservative candidates.
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It Starts When You're Always Afraid
Fear is a great motivator. Nothing gets folks moving like a good jolt to the adrenal system. Marketing gurus understand this very well. That's why so much of what we are offered for consumption, from mouthwash to politics, is wrapped in fear.
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A Place for Jesus in the Church?
A Web-based group calling themselves TopVerse.com recently conducted a survey asking Christians to identify their favorite verses. The reason for the survey was to speed up an online search feature offered at the site.
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Separation of Church, Government Good for Both
One of the most frustrating things I encounter as a minister is the realization that many if not most Christian people do not appreciate the idea of a separation of church and government. In fact, not only do they not appreciate the idea, many vehemently oppose the notion. Which is terribly troubling because separation is a good thing--for the church and the government.
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Reaching Young People At All Costs?
Having served as a pastor now for over 30 years, I have seen every sort of outreach gimmick you can imagine. Churches have been willing to do almost anything to get people into church, especially young people.
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A War For Oil
From the very beginning of the war in Iraq, faith leaders, and others, have raised concerns that the conflict did not meet the criteria for a "just war." Just-war theory has been taking shape for centuries. In its present form there are a minimum of five conditions to be met in order for an armed conflict to be considered "just."
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Is Atheism On The Increase?
According to a recent article in the "Washington Post," atheism is on the rise in America. Margaret Downey, president of the Atheist Alliance International, reports that her organization's membership has doubled in the last year. She also reports that the Alliance's annual convention already has a 500-person waiting list.
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The Role of Religion in Politics
I was privileged recently to participate in a project sponsored by the Baptist Center for Ethics. The BCE folks pulled together six ministers and four politicians, along with some other interested parties, and encouraged them to talk about "the rightful role of religion in politics." The result is a 36-minute DVD entitled "Golden Rule Politics."
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Praying For The Lottery
This past week the multi-state MegaMillions lottery reached $330 million. On Saturday morning, there were four winners. One of them, Elwood "Bunky" Bartlett of Nottingham, Md., believes his good fortune was the result of prayer.
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When We Pray For Our Enemies, What Do We Say?
One of the most difficult things Jesus ever said was "love your enemies." And he didn't stop there. Jesus also said "pray for those who persecute you," and then you will be like God. So it would appear that Jesus wants us to pray for our enemies because that is what God does.
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Christianity and Capitalism
The only history we have of earliest Christianity is found in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. Written by the same person who wrote the Gospel of Luke, the book of Acts opens with Jesus' ascension and concludes with Paul's arrival in Rome. The book ends up being mostly about Paul, but several chapters are devoted to the first followers and their life in Jerusalem.
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The Virtue of Tolerance
Simple toleration of someone or some idea is not the ideal expressed in our founding documents. In America we don't promote tolerance among religions; we practice "religious freedom."
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Fear and Trembling Among the Faithful
I've never met Brent Beasley, senior pastor at Second Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn., but I have become a huge fan. In a recent column at Ethicsdaily.com, Beasley asks the question, "Why are Christians so prone to fear?"
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Praying For Rain
Alabama, along with several other places in the country, is suffering through one of the worst droughts in decades. Agribusiness, whether it takes the form of cattle or produce, is dependent on water. And agribusiness is big business in Alabama.
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The Offense of Fantasy
With seven bestsellers in the series, and five blockbuster movies, like it or not, Harry Potter is here to stay. And there are those who are not happy about that. Many Christian parents and church leaders fear that Harry's popularity promotes witchcraft and paganism among young people.
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What Would Jesus Do?
The language of my faith is replete with appeals for believers to "be faithful to Jesus." Other words include "faithful follower," "loyal disciple" and "let Jesus be Lord of your life."
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Who Would Jesus Stone?
A tragedy of biblical proportions occurred in Iran this past week, according to an Associated Press report. A man convicted of adultery was stoned to death in a village in the northern part of the country.A tragedy of biblical proportions occurred in Iran this past week, according to an Associated Press report. A man convicted of adultery was stoned to death in a village in the northern part of the country.
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From Faith Comes Certainty
A thoughtful piece on President Bush's present state of mind caught my attention this past week. Written by Peter Baker, a staff writer at the Washington Post, the title asserts "a president besieged and isolated, yet at ease."
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Born on the Fourth of July
This coming week we celebrate the 231st anniversary of the founding of our nation. All across our land there will be fireworks and parades commemorating our successful fight to free ourselves from British rule. And it is absolutely fitting and proper that we should remember our national story. I just wish we remembered it better, and more of it.
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A Political Shift for Southern Baptists?
For the past three decades Southern Baptists have been, for the most part, faithful political conservatives. Like other believers on the religious right, culture-war issues have made them reliable supporters of the Republican Party. This party loyalty has been especially evident during the annual Southern Baptist Convention. Visits and calls from sitting presidents have become routine. President Bush beamed in this year via satellite.
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Has America Become an Empire?
Has America become an Empire? With the demise of the old Soviet Union, America certainly exists as the only remaining super power in the world. And that is a unique place to be, uncharted waters in many ways. For nearly our entire history we have either been underdogs who bravely faced up to super powers, or were one among others. Now, we stand alone.
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Apology for Slavery Just a Step
The decision by the Alabama Legislature to pass a resolution apologizing for our state's role in slavery has provoked mixed responses. Some hail it as a step forward in healing a wound from our troubled past. Others see the move as too little to late. Still others want to know why we are apologizing for something someone else did wrong.
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Jurassic Park Meets Noah's Ark
A new museum in Petersburg, Ky., is attempting to bring together faith and science in an interesting way. Calling their endeavor "Creation Museum," promoters hope to use the museum to celebrate God as creator--which is a good thing.
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The Gift Of Memory
We were fortunate some years back to be in Washington D.C. when the United States Holocaust Museum opened. We stood in line for hours to get tickets, and hours more to get in. Hundreds and hundreds of people were there to see and remember.
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Jerry Falwell's Legacy--A Politicized Faith
The death of Jerry Falwell marks a significant milestone in one of the most interesting periods in American Christian history. Falwell was the result of a particular social and religious evolution that greatly impacted faith in America. He also lived long enough to actually contribute to that evolution.
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What Preachers Will or Won't Say
A new book by a Baptist minister is sure to stir debate among Christians of every stripe. According to Oliver "Buzz" Thomas, author of the book, there are "10 things your minister wants to tell you, but can't because he needs his job." By the way, that's the title.
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Fear, Arrogance and Ignorance
There is a wonderful scene in the movie "Bull Durham" in which a seasoned catcher is trying to mature an impetuous though talented young pitcher. The catcher says, "You've got to play this game with fear and arrogance." Trying to deliberately yank the chain of his mentor the pitcher replies, "Right, fear and ignorance."
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In Violence We Trust
The tragic shooting at Virginia Tech has left us numb. It is difficult to understand how such a horrific event could take place with no apparent meaning behind it.
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An Emerging Christianity
Christians may believe that they are participants in a "faith once delivered to the saints," but the shape of that faith has varied greatly through the centuries. From the stately and ornate forms of Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism, to the humble and plain worship of the Amish, Jesus is followed and revered in a myriad of ways. In fact, so great is the diversity of forms within Christianity, it may be more appropriate to refer to them in the plural--Christianities.
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The Bible, Science and Homosexuality
For some time now a contentious battle over homosexuality has raged in our country. The war has been fought primarily on three fronts: religion, politics, and science. Religion and politics are by far the most volatile, and the most destructive. Some of the language used by segments of the faith community to wage their part of the war comes very close to dehumanizing gays and lesbians.
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Let the People Decide
The minister who mentored me used to say, "Jim, don't be afraid to trust the people."
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The Moral Dilemma of Homelessness
It is a familiar scene. You are walking along a busy sidewalk when suddenly a shabbily dressed man or woman approaches and asks for any loose change. What do you do? We have all been told that any money we give goes for drugs or alcohol. We are also told that giving them money only encourages their begging behaviors ensuring they will never seek honest work.
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Resurrection in the Present Tense
The first time I met Carl he was dying of cancer. At least, that's what everyone told me.
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The Sermon on the Mount, American Style
The Sermon on the Mount is regarded by most Christians as the heart of Jesus' teaching. Unfortunately, what Jesus has to say there has not been overwhelmingly embraced by much of the Christian community in America. Perhaps it is time to update the sermon so that it is more in line with American culture. Maybe something like this:
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The Values Of The Values Voter
A new Associated Press-Ipsos poll is yielding important information that will likely have great significance for the so-called "values voter," and those organizations that promote values voting.
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Putting God In A Box
Just when you thought it was safe to go out and enjoy a religious holiday again, two filmmakers come along claiming to have found the tomb of Jesus. This latest effort at Christian-baiting may not rise to the level of the annual battle over saying "Merry Christmas," but that won't keep the moviemakers or Christian advocacy groups that will rise to defend the faith from making a lot of money from it.
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A Faithful Response to the War
Here's what we know. First, our reasons for going to war in Iraq were almost entirely based on fabrications and fantasies. There were no weapons of mass destruction, there was no connection between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attacks, and there was no threat of Iraq acquiring nuclear weapons.
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A Pound And A Half of Flesh
In Alabama, if you are convicted of a felony and sent to prison, not only do you lose your freedom for the duration of your sentence, but you also lose your citizenship--even after you have served your term. In Alabama, and a few other states, even after you have served your term and are released from prison, you still can't vote.
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The Cult of Celebrity
The way the old joke goes, eventually everyone gets 15 minutes of fame. For Anna Nicole Smith, she got a bit more than 15 minutes, though some of it has followed her to the grave.
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Science, Faith and Politics
From Africa comes a story of an interesting convergence of science, faith and politics. The national museum in Kenya is planning to display what is known as Turkana Boy--the skeletal remains of a young male who lived during the Pleistocene age--roughly 1.6 million years ago. It is hailed by scientists as one of the world's most famous and important fossil discoveries. Turkana Boy represents the most complete skeleton of a prehistoric human ever found.
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Onward Christian Warmongers
A faith-based group calling itself "Christians Reviving America's Values," or CRAVE, is concerned about the way the war in Iraq is being fought. As a Christian group we might think they are alarmed by the level of violence. Or maybe they are worried about the use of weaponry that unintentionally, yet inevitably injures and kills civilians. Or maybe, in the spirit of many Christian leaders over the centuries, they believe that war itself represents a failure of Christian ideals.
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Building a Big Baptist Tent
The word "Baptist," and especially Southern Baptist, is for many a synonym for Republican politics. Many Baptist leaders such as Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, have enjoyed unparalleled access to the White House and the ear of the president. They have played a key role in setting the conservative political agenda, and have been instrumental in keeping Republicans in power.
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Peace Or Trouble Maker?
Since leaving office in 1981, Jimmy Carter has been by far our most active former president. His efforts through the Carter Center to help fledgling democracies, and his support of poverty initiatives and other humanitarian concerns helped him win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.
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In Memory Of Martin Luther King
In his elegant little book, "Finally Comes the Poet," Walter Brueggemann writes that the task of the preacher is to be "a voice that shatters settled reality and evokes new possibilities."
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The Power of a Pardon
The recent death of Gerald R. Ford, the 38th president of the United States, has given us an opportunity to reflect on his presidency and on the circumstances that brought him to office in the first place.
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Hopes And Prayers For The New Year
The New Year has become a time for us to gather up our hopes and prayers for the coming year and express them in resolutions. The idea of "New" seems to lay out the prospect for something different, something better. I confess to being a resolution maker.
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Christmas in the South
Christmas in the South is unlike Christmas anywhere else in America. While obviously there are many common factors that show up in Christmas festivities nationwide, there are features of a southern Christmas celebration which are truly unique.
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The Spirituality of Congress
We may enjoy some level of separation of church and state in this country, but there hardly exists anywhere a separation of faith from public office. There is spiritual vitality in virtually every branch of government. From President Bush's heart-warming Methodism, all the way to the disciplined Catholicism of Justices Alito, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas and Roberts, faith and government are linked arm in arm.
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How Many Christians Does It Take To Make A Coalition?
In July of this year, the Christian Coalition of America elected Florida megachurch pastor Joel C. Hunter to serve as the group's new president. He was slated to take over the job from Roberta Combs who will continue to serve as chair of the Coalition's board of directors. Hunter's appointment was made public in October and he was to begin serving in January.
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Bacon Eaters And Greedy Gossips
North Carolina Baptists, meeting in their annual convention a few weeks ago, changed the way they determine membership for churches in their convention. In addition to things like believing in God, Jesus and the Bible, North Carolina Baptists also added a statement about homosexuality. Any church that affirms a homosexual lifestyle cannot be a member of the convention. And if already a member, the convention has the right to expel an offending church.
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A Modest Christmas Proposal
With Thanksgiving Day behind us, we now enter the Christmas season at full gallop. Of course, Christmas has been peeking out here and there since Halloween, but now it's official. It's all here--the shopping, the lights, the traffic, the music and the controversy. Controversy? Yes, sadly it's true.
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An Open Letter to the Governor of Alabama
Dear Gov. Riley: Congratulations on your re-election. Your 58 percent margin is the largest since 1982, when Alabama governor races started being competitive. For my part, I'm glad you won. You have demonstrated understanding about the needs of the poor in our state and have taken significant steps to address their needs.
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Scientists Come Out Swinging and Praying
One of the bad things about war is that it is almost impossible to wage one without demonizing the opposition. This is true in actual wars where people get killed, and it's true in wars of words where people just get insulted.
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Unnecessary Divisions in the Body of Christ
With mid-term elections just a day away, every political action group in America is working full throttle to get out the vote for their candidate, party and favorite issue. Not least among these politically active are members of the Christian community--from the left and the right.
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The Last Temptation of the Church
A new book out claims the Bush administration has used its unique and highly visible connections to conservative evangelicals merely for political gain.
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Communities of Faith Must Speak
We have reached a critical and increasingly tragic crossroads in the war with Iraq. We know now that there was no real justification for launching the war in the first place. Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction, as apparently many people in the government and the military knew before hand. And there was no connection between Iraq and the Sept. 11 attacks.
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Murder in a One-Room School House
Nothing captures America's sense of longing for a simpler time quite like the idea of a one-room school house. That is at least part of the reason why the horror that took place this past week at an Amish school in Pennsylvania was so devastating. The murder of children is reason enough for grief and anger. But for the assault to take place in a setting seen by many as the embodiment of a time of innocence now past, creates in us an acute sense of loss.
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The Do's And Don'ts Of Church Politics
With midterm elections just around the corner, political activity is rumbling towards a resounding crescendo. Included among this political chorale are voices from various elements of the faith community. The political hymn singing of faith groups has become one of the mainstays of the political season.
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Marks Of An Authentic Church
Jesus said that we would be known by our love. Lately though, we people of faith, Christians in particular, are better known for our politics.
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Can Baptists Save The World?
Is it possible that Southern Baptists could be the key to saving the world? E. O. Wilson seems to think so. Wilson, in case you don't know, is an Alabama native and former Southern Baptist layman. He is now one of foremost experts in the field of entomology. He is also the creator of his own sub-discipline in biological research known as sociobiology. And apparently he believes Southern Baptists can help save the world.
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The Lasting Effects of September 11

At the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, it is hard not to ask "What is different now?" Other than the obvious changes brought about by increased airport security, daily "alert updates," and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, has anything really changed?

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On Jesus And Keeping The Rules
For over two weeks now, Elvira Arellano, has taken shelter in a United Methodist Church in Chicago. Arellano sought sanctuary in the church when she learned that Federal officials planned to deport her back to Mexico. She has lived illegally in the United States for over seven years.
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Christian Coalition: A Question Of Integrity
You can always tell when it's election time in Alabama. The red, white, and blue "vote for me" signs start popping up along the highways. Television ads with their mind numbing "I am more conservative than my opponent" mantra start hitting the airways. And the Christian Coalition mails out their candidate surveys.
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Staying On Message With Jesus
A group calling themselves Conservative Christians of Alabama was recently encouraged by their leader to "intimidate" the city council of Huntsville. That word, "intimidate," is the word they used.
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Left Behind Or Led Astray?
Let's define success. The Left Behind series, written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins has now sold over 60 million copies. There are 11 sequels to the original novel, and three prequels. The series has also spawned a children's series with nearly 40 different titles.
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The Right And Left Hand Of God
For some time now, groups like the Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family, the American Family Association, the Family Research Council, have served as a conduit for funneling a particular political agenda into the hearts and minds of many Christians.
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The Left Hand Of God
"The unholy alliance of the political Right and Religious Right threatens to destroy the America we love. It also threatens to generate a popular revulsion against God and religion by identifying them with militarism, ecological irresponsibility, fundamentalist antagonism to science and rational thought, and insensitivity to the needs of the poor and the powerless."
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The End Of Faith
Sam Harris, philosopher and doctoral student in the field of neuroscience, has written a devastating book about faith--devastating, that is, to faith.
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The Voice of Faith Necessary in Social Issues
Christian groups in America have a long history of political activism. The issues may change from one generation to the next, but the impulse to reform society seems a constant feature of faith.
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Faith Versus Science, The Latest Chapter
Ever since Copernicus proposed that the earth was not the center of the universe, people of faith have been at odds with people of science. Whether true or not, the story of Galileo challenging the church's official position that the earth was the center illustrates the conflict dramatically.
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Faith Versus Science, The Latest Chapter
Ever since Copernicus proposed that the earth was not the center of the universe, people of faith have been at odds with people of science. Whether true or not, the story of Galileo challenging the church's official position that the earth was the center illustrates the conflict dramatically.
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The View From The Sidelines
Years ago, priest and writer Henri Nouwen was serving as chaplain on a Dutch cruise ship making its way to Rotterdam. They were in a thick fog. Everyone was edgy and nervous as the ship crept along virtually blind in the water. The captain was pacing back and forth, anxiously trying to get through the fog without slamming into anything.
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Vote For Jesus
The primaries are now over and the main races are set for November. Marriage is also safe. With the Marriage Protection amendment to the Alabama state constitution, marriages in our state are now secure from the ravages of the so-called "gay agenda." We haven't figured out yet how to save marriage from what actually threatens marriage—I guess that will require yet another amendment in some future campaign.
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A Christ-Haunted Culture
Southern literary icon, Flannery O'Connor once said: "By and large, people in the South still conceive of humanity in theological terms. While the South is hardly Christ-centered, it is most certainly Christ-haunted."
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Forgive Us Our Debts

"The rich rule over the poor and the borrower is servant to the lender." Anyone who has ever been in debt has experienced the truth of this biblical proverb. And let's be honest with each other--debt is something we know about.

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Parental Guidance And Matters Of Faith
In what is becoming the latest clash between fundamentalist Christianity and the rest of the world, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) recently assigned a PG rating to an explicitly Christian film. The movie, "Facing the Giants," is the story of a football team with a losing record that suddenly gets turned around and starts winning when the coach finds God.
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The Protection of Marriage
I am not usually given to making predictions about future events, but I feel fairly safe with this one: There will never be an amendment to the U.S. Constitution defining what marriage is supposed to look like.
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The Gift Of Memory
We were fortunate some years back to be in Washington D.C. when the United States Holocaust Museum opened. We stood in line for hours to get tickets, and hours more to get in. Hundreds and hundreds of people were there to see and remember.
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Fact, Fiction And Faith
With the movie version of Dan Brown's novel "The DaVinci Code" about to debut, all the anxiety that accompanied the book's success is back. Of course, we must account for the success, and the fact is, it's a pretty good mystery action story. But that is not all there is to it. Helping to fuel record sales and fuel the controversy is the book's unique plot. The story is carried along on the back of a particular interpretation of Christian history.
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The Ups And Downs Of Mothers' Day
This Sunday churches around the country will incorporate into their services of worship some sort of recognition of the role of motherhood. In fact, so powerful is the emotional pull of this holiday that even some congregations that closely follow the liturgy of the church year will be forced to at least offer a passing nod to the office of Mom.
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Misusing Jesus' Name
I am tempted to file a defamation of character lawsuit on behalf of Jesus. I wish Jesus would do it himself, but I know he won't. He would much prefer that we win people over to his viewpoint by preaching his word and following his example. And that's fine as far as it goes.
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Believing or Not Believing the Bible
We are in the midst of the Easter season. Christians everywhere continue to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. We have heard the Gospel stories about the crucifixion and the empty tomb and continue to hear with gladness words like, "Death has been swallowed up in victory."
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Faithful Support For Public Education
Public education has been under assault for some time now from segments of the Christian community. That's why it is all the more amazing to learn that a Baptist entity has decided that instead of attacking public schools and undermining the morale of teachers and administrators, why not affirm the work of those who teach our children, and ask God to bless their efforts.
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The Meaning of Easter
Listening to the many Easter sermons that will likely be preached this Sunday, a person might get the idea that the central question surrounding the resurrection of Jesus is whether or not it actually happened. Preachers across the land will dwell at length on the significance of the empty tomb and how its vacancy proves that Jesus was raised from the dead. The goal, of course, is to change the minds of those who doubt. For with doubt removed, faith will be born—at least that's the hope.
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Budgets and Taxes as Moral Issues
In his best-selling book "God's Politics," Jim Wallis argues that governmental budgets and tax policies are moral issues. The reason why? Because the way communities raise revenue, normally in the form of taxes, and how that money is spent in the form of programs and services, affect people's lives. That means budgets have moral consequences. The moral standard for Wallis, of course, is the biblical vision of economic justice.
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The Politics Of Jesus
Nearly every week I hear from readers with the complaint that I am writing politics under the guise of religious commentary. It's a fair observation though I am almost tempted to say, "Yeah, but the other guy started it!"
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The Children of Abraham
The ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine stands as one of the most difficult, and most deadly, political conundrums we face as the human community. At every corner peace is stymied by tightly held absolutes. Israel absolutely devoted to defending itself against all incursions—no matter what. Palestine absolutely determined to take back land they claim was stolen from them—at any cost. The clash of these absolutes has left both sides bloody.
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Is America Ready For A Mormon President?
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church, is America's own home grown religion. Founded in 1830 by Joseph Smith, the Mormon movement began by embracing all that was already present in the American religious experience via Christianity.
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Lent Is a Time for Restoring Authentic Faith
For millions of Christians this past week marked the beginning of our most Holy season--Easter. We start with Ash Wednesday, a day devoted to recalling God's embrace of our humanity. Many believers wear the mark of the cross, made with ash and oil, as a reminder of just how costly God's grace has been. We hear the words as the ash is applied, "Remember, you are dust."
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Going To The Whip
Laura Hildebrand, author of the award winning book about the legendary, Seabiscuit, has emerged as an outspoken critic of the riding crop or "whip," when used to enhance race horse performance.
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If It's Broken, Then Let's Really Fix It
Gov. Bob Riley deserves a lot of credit for trying to do something about Alabama's grossly unfair income tax structure. The fact that we begin assessing income tax on a family of four that earns as little as $4,600 is a tragedy. So the governor's desire to fix it is admirable. Unfortunately in fixing one thing there is danger he is going to break something else—public education.
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Who Would Burn a Church and Why
Once again churches are being burned in Alabama. Nine so far, but with great fear that there will be more. We've seen this before in the 1990's, rural churches, mostly African-American congregations, torched and left in ruins.
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Memories of a Great Soul
I was fortunate this past week to have been in a meeting with Gardner Taylor, pastor emeritus of Brooklyn's Concord Baptist Church. For nearly 50 years, this eloquent and wise minister guided a diverse congregation through some of the most tumultuous times our nation has endured.
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'The Left Hand Of God'
"The unholy alliance of the political Right and Religious Right threatens to destroy the America we love. It also threatens to generate a popular revulsion against God and religion by identifying them with militarism, ecological irresponsibility, fundamentalist antagonism to science and rational thought, and insensitivity to the needs of the poor and the powerless."
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If or When the Wall Comes Down
The confirmation of Judge Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court seems a virtual certainty. Even if Senate Democrats stage a filibuster, which at this point seems unlikely, they cannot ultimately stop the confirmation.
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Christians Are Not a Persecuted Minority
Nothing has become more tiresome in recent years than the incessant claim by many conservative Christians that they are being persecuted. Every time a church/state issue comes to the fore, a gaggle of Christian activists show up preening in front of television cameras and whining about the war on Christianity. It's a plot, they tell us, perpetrated by the ACLU and God-haters everywhere, to remove any sign of Christianity from culture.
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The Battle for the Bible
In the week before Christmas a federal appeals court delivered the folks of Mercer County, Ky., a dubious present. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a display of the Ten Commandments featured in the county courthouse since 2001 could remain—it did not violate the U.S. Constitution.
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Hope for the New Year
I have become fairly cynical about New Year's resolutions—at least as they pertain to me. Too many broken promises, too many false starts. Now instead of resolutions I make a New Year's wish list. Like, I wish I would exercise more, and so on.
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Happy Birthday Jesus
The scene takes place in heaven just at the conclusion of a surprise birthday celebration for Jesus. Several heavenly luminaries have just treated Jesus to cake and ice cream. As the party breaks up, Jesus and Gabriel are speaking to each other.
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The Hope Of Christmas
For years we have used the Advent wreath as a way of deepening our understanding of the meaning of Christmas. Each Sunday during the Advent season we pause, light a candle, and reflect on what Christmas really means.
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Waiting for the Promised Peace
Despite the ongoing and pointless controversy over "Merry Christmas" versus "Happy Holidays," the air is filled with the noise of Christians giving voice to the joy and excitement of the Christian season.
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Who Took Christ Out Of Christmas?
Now that Thanksgiving Day has passed, we face the single most commercialized event in our culture, even more than the Super Bowl. Christmas time is upon us. And when I say commercial, it is serious business. Many stores will see 20 to 30 percent of their annual sales take place in the next 30 days.
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Social Change and the Supreme Court
While it would not appear at first glance that there is a connection between legendary civil rights activist Rosa Parks and Samuel Alito, President Bush's nomination for the U.S. Supreme Court, I believe there is a connection, and an important one.
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To Be or Not to Be Tax Exempt
All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, Calif., is in hot water with the IRS. On Oct. 31, 2004—the Sunday before Election Day last year, the former rector of the church, Rev. George F. Regas, preached a vigorous anti-war sermon.
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Who Would Jesus Torture?
The issue of torture is very much on the mind of Congress, the Defense Department, and the White House these days. A $440 billion defense bill currently making its way through House of Representatives has an amendment attached written by Senator John McCain—someone who learned about torture while a prisoner of war during the Vietnam era.
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Holy Terror and Halloween
Halloween is here and as always there seems to be something for everyone. Kids get candy, big kids get beer and folks of all ages give expression to their alter egos by means of outrageous costumes.
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A Campaign of Faithfulness
The decision by former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore to enter the race to be Alabama's next governor ensures that the campaign will be filled with lots of God talk. Though Moore has stated the Ten Commandments will not be part of his campaign, it will be hard for him to keep that promise. After all, the only reason he has a platform from which to run for governor is the notoriety created by his public stand on the issue.
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Were You In Church Last Sunday?
Pollsters have been asking people about their church attendance for years now. Gallup polls, the Barna group, the Institute for Social Research all reach the same conclusion. About 42 percent of Americans attended worship somewhere in the last seven days.
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Virtues and Vices
The dictionary defines "virtue" as having to do with moral excellence, righteousness and goodness. I bring this up because William Bennett, America's self-appointed guru of virtue demonstrated on his radio show last week that he may need a virtue refresher course.
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House Action Blurs Line Between Church and State
The U.S. House of Representatives voted recently to allow religious social-service providers that receive federal money to discriminate in hiring on the basis of religion. At issue, of course, is current federal law that prohibits any discrimination in hiring. But when faith groups get into the mix, things get a little lumpy.
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What Was The Sin Of Sodom?
Wiley Bennett, pastor of Woodland Hill Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas, welcomed Katrina evacuees into his community with these words on the message sign in front of his church: "The Big Easy is the modern day Sodom and Gomorrah."
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The Bible and Public Education
Few issues have been more contentious than the debate surrounding prayer and Bible reading in public schools. When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1962 that teacher led prayer was unconstitutional, conservative Christians began to shout "God has been removed from the classroom," and "children should be allowed to pray." Never mind how puny this makes God seem, as long as there are algebra tests, there will be prayer in school.
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Twin Tragedies Reveal the Need for Community
We find ourselves wedged between twin tragedies this week. The wound of Katrina is still fresh and bleeding. Order is slowly beginning to appear out of the chaos, but painfully slow. The grisly business of counting up the dead is the most recent piece of the storm's destruction.
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Where is God in the Storm?
Somewhere a preacher is preaching. He shakes his fist at the ceiling as he describes the wrath of God. That wrath has come, he tells his attentive congregation, on the crest of a terrible storm named Katrina. God has shown his power and his might by smashing a wall of wind and water into cities along the Gulf Coast.
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The Politics of Evolution
President Bush announced recently that he believed "intelligent design" should be taught alongside evolution in public schools. With school districts in many parts of the country embroiled in legal battles relating to the teaching of evolution versus some form of creationism, the president's comments give new life to an already lively debate.
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The Quest for a Manlier Church
David Murrow, an award winning television producer and devoted Christian, is worried about men not coming to church. Not just any men—but real men.
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A Christian Nation
If America is a Christian nation, as many claim, what does that mean? How do we go about equating a particular religion to a particular political arrangement?
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Called To A Higher Standard
There is hypocrisy and then there is hypocrisy--and then there is this. Two conservative Christian groups are warning the U.S. Senate that Supreme Court Justice nominee John Roberts should not be subjected to any sort of religious litmus test.
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Jesus at the OK Corral
Pat Robertson, founder and host of the "700 Club," demonstrated this past week just how far right wing Christianity has drifted from the teachings of Jesus. During a recent telecast, Robertson said that he believes the United States should assassinate Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela.
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Trying To Find A Place For Jesus In The Church
Theological competition between Christian groups has been part of the faith landscape from the beginning. From Gentiles to apostolic authority, from Latin to Greek Bibles, Christians have always been able to find stuff to disagree about.
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Saying Yes and Saying No
The nation waited anxiously for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on a recent slate of cases involving public displays of the Ten Commandments. It was hoped that the court would finally render a decision that would put to rest, one way or the other, the controversy surrounding public displays of religious Scripture and symbols.
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Born On the Fourth of July
We were born as a nation on the fourth of July 229 years ago. We celebrate this beginning annually with fireworks and flag displays and a faithful re-telling of the story. We pay homage to our founders—to their vision and courage.
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Billy Graham's Final Crusade
Billy Graham may be preaching his final evangelistic campaign this weekend. If that is so, his career will conclude where it began. His first national crusade was held at Madison Square Garden in 1957.
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People of the Book
The Pentagon confirmed recently that for the past two and half years, military personnel assigned to the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba have on occasion defaced copies of the Quran—the Muslim holy book. The Pentagon identified more than a half-dozen cases in which guards ripped out pages or scribbled obscenities in the margins.
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People of the Book
The Pentagon confirmed recently that for the past two and half years, military personnel assigned to the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba have on occasion defaced copies of the Quran—the Muslim holy book. The Pentagon identified more than a half-dozen cases in which guards ripped out pages or scribbled obscenities in the margins.
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Ordinary Sinners
The debate surrounding homosexuality has become one of the most contentious and divisive in the history of the church. Not since the debate over Jesus' divinity in the fourth century, or the infallibility of the pope in the 16th century, or the issue of slavery in the 19th century has there been so much heat generated by a debate—and so little light.
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A Kind Word Turns Away Violence
No one dreamed it would end the way it did. When convicted rapist Brian Nichols was brought to the Fulton County Court House for a hearing this past March, he managed to snatch the side arm from a deputy sheriff and then brutally murder a superior court judge, a court reporter and another deputy sheriff.
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So Help Me God
In his new book, "So Help Me God," Judge Roy Moore makes the claim that he is bound by his oath as a public official, by the very words "so help me God," to acknowledge God as the foundation of our government.
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How Many Idealists Does It Take To Change The World?
How many idealists does it take to change the world? According to Bread for the World, it only takes one.
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A Church Torn Asunder
Unless you have lived through a church fight it's hard to understand just how painful they can be. The wounds inflicted in the course of a nasty faith feud can take years to heal.
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The Weird Things People Believe
I never cease to be amazed by the weird things people are willing to believe. For some time now I have kept two Web sites handy--Symantec.com and Snopes.com—just for the occasional reality check.
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Filibusters and Faith
This is a tough time to be a judge in America. Big names from the world of religion and politics claim that the judiciary is "out of control." These judicial reformers are working overtime to, in their words, give the courts back to the people. What they are really doing, however, is working to build a partisan court that will support their right-wing agenda.
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Challenges the Next Pope Will Face
The death of Pope John Paul II creates a huge vacuum not only in the Roman Catholic Church, but also in the wider world of moral discourse.
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Guess Who is Coming to Prayer Meeting
In a recent column I wrote about prayer at presidential inaugurations and suggested that if we must pray ceremonially, those prayers should reflect America's religious diversity. In other words, prayers at inaugurations should probably not end with "in the name that is above every name, Jesus."
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Praying In Jesus' Name
Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, senior minister of the Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, has offered the benediction at both of President Bush's inaugurations. After the 2001 prayer, Rev. Caldwell was sharply criticized for saying at the end of the prayer "in the name that is above every name, Jesus. Amen."
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An Easter Prayer
The resurrection of Jesus is for most Christians the defining moment in the Christian faith. Without the resurrection Jesus would have been just a hapless victim of tyranny. His message of love, forgiveness and hope would have been dumped along with his body. His words would have been long forgotten along with his name.
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Sheep in a World of Wolves
The faith tradition I love and have given the last 25 years of my life to serve is under assault. Wolves in sheep's clothing have slipped into the fold and are systematically shearing the faithful to the bone.
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Ten Reasons Not To Display the Ten Commandments
After avoiding the issue for about as long as possible, the Supreme Court will finally take on public displays of the Ten Commandments. The high court will review two cases this term, one involving a monument on the Texas Capitol grounds and the other a posting of the Ten Commandments in Kentucky courthouses. A decision should be rendered by the end of the term in late June.
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Creating a Culture of Life
During President Bush's address to the 2005 Washington March for Life last month, he praised the efforts of anti-abortion activists thanking them for "the civil way you have engaged one of America's most contentious issues."
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The Bible, Marriage and Politics
Alabama State Representative Alvin Holmes is offering $5,000 to anyone who can show him in the Bible where it states that marriage is only between a man and a woman. The offer comes in response to the state legislature's consideration of a ban on homosexual marriage.
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A Proper Public Faithfulness
In the past few years the identity of the religious right has crystallized around the issues of abortion and homosexual marriage. These two issues have made political activists out of many ordinary believers.
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Faith Is Not a Lonely Hunter
A reader chided me recently for promoting what he called a social gospel. It's a complaint I have heard before. The social gospel is the idea that the church should make social applications of the teaching of Jesus Christ.
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The Campaign for Jesus
Early signals seem to indicate that Judge Roy Moore will run for governor of Alabama. It is the political nightmare both parties in the state have been having since Judge Moore was forced to step down as Chief Justice of Alabama's Supreme Court for failing to obey a federal court order.
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The Power of the Majority
Next week President Bush will raise his hand and receive the oath of office. He will promise to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." Afterwards, as is the tradition, Mr. Bush will deliver an inaugural address.
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Evangelism and the Hope of a Better World
Let's assume for a moment that evangelicals are right when they say that Jesus is the full and final revelation of God and that having a personal relationship with Jesus is the only way to have eternal life. Let's also assume for a moment that evangelicals are also right about morality. They believe that the Bible reveals a code of moral conduct that covers everything from the meaning of marriage right down to the way we spend our free time.
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Finding God in a World Of Tragedy
In the midst of our Christmas and New Year's celebration, tragedy has struck. A massive earthquake, reportedly the fourth largest in recorded history, has devastated central Asia and portions of India. Tens of thousands are known dead. One report estimates that over a third of the dead are children.
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Far as the Curse is Found
My favorite Christmas hymn is "Joy to the World." Written by Isaac Watts in the 18th century, the music of this hymn is lively and triumphant. It captures well the celebratory spirit of the season.
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Wrapped in the Robes of Politics
My Uncle Will called me this week. He was very excited.
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'Tis The Season, For What?
This Christmas we may need to re-write one of our most familiar holiday songs. Instead of, "'Tis the season to be jolly," it may be necessary to sing "'Tis the season to be silly."
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Seasonal Mood Swings
Not once did I think about going to the mall at midnight on Thanksgiving Day—but there were many, many who did. And they didn't just go and leisurely shop. No, these were more like shopping storm troopers battering down the doors of their favorite stores.
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Hunting Down a Moral America
While deer hunting early one December morning with my uncle we kicked up a big buck in some thick brush. We raised our shotguns and fired at almost the same instant. As the buck went down my uncle began to shout, "I got him, I got him."
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God Save America
During a recent road trip a billboard caught my attention. The sign featured a billowing American flag as background with the words "God Save America" blazing across the red, white and blue.
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Saving Us From 'Saving Private Ryan'
Local ABC affiliates in at least eight states chose not to air the network broadcast of "Saving Private Ryan" during Veterans Day week.
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Mending the Breach
Voter turnout this past Tuesday reached record numbers. Clearly Americans have demonstrated a vigorous interest in the outcome of this presidential election. They may have been motivated by different issues, but voters were motivated. Campaign managers and candidates on all sides have actively promoted and exploited this motivation.
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The Ghost of Halloween's Future
Halloween is upon us. The holiday falls on a Sunday this year and since some folks are a bit squeamish about Halloween in the first place, many communities are observing the day on Saturday night. So, either Saturday or Sunday, depending on where you live, get ready for an army of children and young people dressed in costumes ranging from the cute to the bizarre.
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The Quest for A Christian America
As we enter the final weeks of the presidential campaign we can expect the "faith faction" to intensity their activities. The faith faction is an amalgam of conservative Christians, mostly evangelicals, who hold strong positions on a narrow range of social issue concerns. The list includes school vouchers, prayer in schools, public religious displays, taxes, and added just for this year's campaign, gay marriage.
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Should Convicted Felons Have Voting Rights?
On Election Day this year nearly 5 million Americans will be blocked from participating in the presidential election. The barrier will not be complicated voting machines or butterfly ballots. The barrier will be the law. At least 10 states prohibit convicted felons from voting--even after they have served their full sentence.
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Worthy of the Name Christian
It was disclosed recently that the Christian Coalition of Alabama has been taking money from Indian gambling interests to oppose gambling initiatives in Alabama. In a scheme worthy of Colombian drug lords, money was filtered through Washington lobbyists who in turn gave it to the consulting firm of Ralph Reed, former national leader of the Christian Coalition. From there the money found its way to the Alabama chapter of the Christian Coalition.
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In Search Of Healing, and Hope
This Saturday marks the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. We continue to mourn not only the tragic loss of life, but also the loss of innocence.
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A Faithful Response to the Problem of Poverty
According to a Census Bureau report released last week, nearly 36 million Americans now live in poverty. This figure represents over a 12 percent increase from 2003. In fact, the poverty rate has been growing at a rate over 12 percent for the past three years.
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Evangelicalism Should Wield Two-Edged Sword
Tony Campolo, professor and Christian preacher, believes evangelicalism has been hijacked. He makes his case in a provocative new book entitled Speaking My Mind. Campolo argues that evangelicals became captive to an alien agenda when they allowed outside influences, political and cultural, to shape their thought and guide their activities.
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The Religion of Politics
The election season is upon us. The red, white and blue streamers are out. The "vote for" whomever signs are up. There are songs of partisan loyalty in the air. The news networks are firing up their huge electronic map which will soon demonstrate with red states and blue states that we are as divided as we ever have been. A history professor I know predicts that the 2004 campaign will be the most bitter and most divisive in over 200 years.
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On Being Christian and American
Is it possible to be a Christian and not be an American? The question on the surface seems absurd. There are Christians in every corner of the world. And where there are not Christians there are Christian missionaries diligently preaching the gospel. It would seem self-evident that a person can be a Christian and a citizen of whatever country they happen to live in. After all, immigration does not normally accompany baptism.
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Does Religion Really Work?
Does religion really work? I'm using the word "work" in the most pragmatic sense. Is there a measurable way of proving that people of faith live longer, live better, have better marriages, are financially successful, have fewer problems with their children, are free from drugs and alcohol, and never lose their temper and hurt other people. Does it work?
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Managing Dissent
The Democratic National Convention in Boston last week was devoid of drama. The nominees were already decided, and there was no fierce floor fighting over the party platform. Everything was a done deal before the first red, white, or blue balloon was inflated.
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A New Bishop with an Old Idea for a New Day
The North Alabama Conference of United Methodists will soon have a new bishop in place. He is well known in Christian circles, especially among clergy. His views are innovative and yet in many ways traditional. You might say he's a new Bishop with an old idea for a new day.
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Holiday Inn Express Theology
In philosophy it's known as "misplaced authority." I prefer calling it "the Holiday Inn Express experience." You know the ads. Staying at a Holiday Inn Express is such a smart travel move that those who stay there are able to perform wonders outside their normal area of expertise.
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Fleecing the Flock
It may be that President Bush and his re-election campaign have finally found the limits of evangelical good will. The president's high-profile faith and open acknowledgement of Jesus as his favorite political philosopher has endeared him to evangelicals all across the country. His efforts to institute faith-based alternatives for social programs has also been warmly received among his evangelical following.
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The Death of Civility
The coarser side of American politics was on view recently as Vice President Cheney and Sen. Patrick Leahy engaged in a brief exchange on the floor of the U.S. Senate. During the heated discussion the vice president used an expletive that is most often excluded from polite conversation, as well as public debate.
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A Model For Christian And Jewish Relations
It has to be one of the most frustrating political and religious conundrums ever encountered. For centuries now relations between Jews and Christians have rocked back and forth, from bad to horrible. The horrible occurred during our darker moments when Christians labeled Jews "Christ-killers" and used that charge to justify violence against Jewish people.
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Fact, Fiction, and Faith
For months now Dan Brown's novel The DaVinci Code has topped the best-seller list. There are a couple of reasons. For one thing, it's a pretty good mystery action story. But that is not all that's going on. Helping to fuel record sales is the book's unique plot. The story is carried along on the back of a unique interpretation of Christian history.
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The Politics of Communion
Father Michael Sheridan, Bishop of Colorado, has raised the role of faith in politics to a new level of complexity. He announced recently that Catholics who vote for candidates who support issues such as abortion rights, stem-cell research, gay marriage and euthanasia should be barred from receiving Holy Communion.
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Southern Baptists Retreat From Bold Mission Thrust
As Southern Baptists gather in Indianapolis in a couple of weeks for their annual convention, one item of business will be a resolution which launches a full scale assault on public education.
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Room For Us All
This past week marked the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. In announcing the unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruling that effectively ended legalized racial segregation in our culture, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote: "We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."
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Stealing Jesus
Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion of the Christ" continues to set box office records. Hyped as one of the most powerful evangelistic tools ever made, a big chunk of Gibson's earnings are the direct result of church activity. Congregations across the country have bought thousands of tickets and literally bussed people to theaters to see the film.
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Becoming What We Hate
The images from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq this past week were shocking. Photos of Iraqi prisoners being subjected to humiliation and abuse in the presence of smiling American soldiers sent shock waves of anger and protest both in the Arab world, but also in the United States as well. We are supposed to be the good guys. We don't do things like this. We would be incensed if this sort of abuse were perpetrated against our own soldiers.
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The Ten Commandments Movement
Judge Roy Moore may no longer be front page news, but his strange political theology has spawned a movement that seems to be gaining headway every day. With the judge as the frequent headliner, leaders within the Christian Right are organizing Ten Commandment rallies all across the country. This is no trifling movement. A rally in Dallas recently drew more that 5,000 people.
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Theologian in Chief
As president, Mr. Bush commands the armed forces of the United States. His title in this function is "commander in chief." As a Christian, Mr. Bush says he takes his faith in Jesus seriously. However, the office of president does not confer any special status to believers. In other words, Mr. Bush is not "theologian in chief." Although it appears that may not be entirely clear to him.
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Why I Believe in the Resurrection
This Sunday Christians around the world will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. The Resurrection is viewed by believers just about everywhere as the foundation of Christianity. They assert that by raising Jesus from the dead God has defeated death and secured for all who have faith the gift of eternal life.
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Taking God's Name In Vain
After a tortuous legal journey, the United States Supreme Court has finally heard Elk Grove Unified School District versus Newdow--better known as the "under God" case. A decision is expected later this spring.
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Christians and Public Schools
A rough and rocky relationship has existed for some time now between segments of the Christian community and public schools. Growing partly out of integration, but also a clash with science, there are many believers who are convinced that public schools are waging war on their faith. The usual suspects are secular humanism, evolution and moral relativism--the triple threat!
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The Separation of Church and Jesus
Several years ago a friend of mine was working as a youth minister for a church that was exuberantly evangelistic. The pastor spoke eloquently and often about "winning the world for Christ." Unfortunately, the community around the church was "in transition." That's code for white families moving out and people of color moving in.
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The Seductive Power of the Super Church
Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," with its dramatic portrayal of Jesus' death and suffering, has dominated the box office for weeks. But it isn't the only religious art making the rounds.
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The Separation of Jesus From Life
Mel Gibson's new movie, "The Passion," is stirring considerable interest. Pre-release publicity has focused on concerns that the movie may spark an increase in anti-Semitism—especially in Europe. There, for centuries, Jews have been demonized as "Christ killers." Blaming the Jews exclusively for Jesus' death is not only bad history, but also bad theology. The New Testament makes it pretty clear that all of us share in the blame. In fact, that is where Gibson puts himself in the movie—as a Roman executioner.
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Children and Crime in American Culture
It was hardly a century ago that social activists launched a crusade to save children from the exploitation of industry. Children, some as young as 9 years old, were often forced to work 10 and 12 hour shifts in America's factories and foundries. Even in rural areas many children were expected to work along side adults bringing in the harvest.
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Super Bowl Obscenities
Janet Jackson's breast-baring stunt during this year's Super Bowl has outraged viewers, religious leaders, family groups and politicians.
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Undoing the New Deal
There is growing interest in President Bush's call for "faith based initiatives." The idea is to create partnerships between government and religious groups to help people in need. The idea is not entirely new. In 1996 when then President Bill Clinton signed the Welfare Reform Act, a "charitable choice" provision was included that made it possible for faith groups to compete for government grants to provide certain social services. The provision required that these religious groups form separate and secular non-profit entities to administer these services.
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The Faith-Based Initiative of Martin Luther King

President Bush announced last week a dramatic expansion of his "faith-based initiatives" plan. These initiatives, which have been the centerpiece of Mr. Bush's domestic social agenda, are aimed at channeling tax dollars to faith groups who provide certain social services. Speaking from the pulpit of the Union Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in New Orleans, the president tried to create a link between his initiatives idea and the work of Dr. Martin Luther King. The president said, "Dr. King understood that faith is a power greater than all others."

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Candidates Hit the Sawdust Trail
The 2004 presidential race is shaping up to be as much an old time religious revival as it is a political contest. Informed by consultants that 62 percent of American voters prefer candidates with religious convictions, Democratic presidential hopefuls are boning up on their pious platitudes. President Bush, of course, already has credibility on this issue with his open embrace of Christianity.
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Not a Time for Silencing Dissent
As a Christian and a Baptist, protest is my middle name—as in Protestant. We have as part of our spiritual DNA a history of dissenting against the majority opinion. In the 16th century we dissented against the hegemony of the Church in England insisting on the right to pursue our own path towards God. Quite a few of those dissenters were lost in the fires of persecution.
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Mad Cows and the Silence of the Lambs
There was a farmer once who got into trouble with his church. The incident took place in the days when farmers milked their own cows and delivered the milk to the dairy in big tin cans. Dairies back then had to be cautious not to buy contaminated milk. If a farmer wasn't careful, the cans would get tainted with manure and the whole batch would be thrown out. When this happened, dairy managers would paint a large red "X" on the contaminated can. This was a huge embarrassment to the farmer, not to mention the financial loss.
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Christmas Prayer
Lord, first of all, thank you for the careful and creative way in which you have designed this world. You have made this planet a marvelous place, filled with life and beauty. It is a privilege to recognize that we humans are a part of your amazing invention.
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It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like…What?
Something of a mini-Holy War is raging in Palm Beach, Fla. Two residents of the exclusive resort area are suing the city claiming their rights have been violated by city officials. The two plaintiffs are angry because the city, which allows Jewish Menorahs to be displayed in several public locations, will not allow a Christian Nativity scene to be set up in the same locations.
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How the Mighty Have Fallen, and May Fall
The visual images of Saddam Hussein after his capture contrast sharply with the carefully controlled images we had all seen prior to the war. Before the war, we saw Saddam amble regally among his people, larger than life, the very picture of power and control. Now the images are of a bearded and scruffy Saddam, a vagabond refugee, stripped of power and reduced to the status of mere mortal.
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A Thanksgiving Tradition
Her name was Irene, though we all called her Miss Irene. She was the oldest member of our church. She had survived all her friends, all of her sisters and brothers, two children, and finally her husband. His death really took something out of her.
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A Thanksgiving Tradition
Her name was Irene, though we all called her Miss Irene. She was the oldest member of our church. She had survived all her friends, all of her sisters and brothers, two children, and finally her husband. His death really took something out of her.
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Mistakes Of The Right, Mistakes Of The Left
A new organization has been formed to counter the activities of groups such as the Christian Coalition, the Family Research Council and the Traditional Values Coalition. Calling themselves the Clergy Leadership Network, this new group plans to promote an agenda that is "expressly religious and expressly partisan."
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Judged By The Judge
One thing you hardly ever hear is that Alabama Baptists are soft on Scripture. We get knocked around for a lot of things we do, but hardly ever our commitment to the Bible. Now, that has changed. As hard as it may be to believe, Judge Roy Moore has found it necessary to chastise Alabama Baptists for "inconsistent theology" in their stand on the Ten Commandments.
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Being in the Right Is Not Always Popular
Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor has the toughest job in America, says Jim Evans.
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Faith And The End Of The World
The blockbuster sci-fi thriller The Matrix reached its conclusion last week with the release of Matrix Revolutions, the third and final installment in the series. The films have generated considerable interest, not just because of the stunning visual effects, but also because of an ambitious spiritual content.
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If or When the Wall Comes Down
The struggle to maintain a proper wall of separation between church and state has reached a precarious crossroads. Today we must ask whether to use "if" or "when." It makes a difference.
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Celebrity Politicians Come Into Their Own
In a world where life sometimes imitates art, Arnold Schwarzenegger, an actor with no previous political experience or apparent political interest, is now governor-elect of California.
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The Violent Take It Away
Kate Campbell was in Birmingham recently. A country singer with a soulful voice and distinctly Baptist theology, Campbell was in town to lend support to the Perry County initiative known as "Sowing Seeds of Hope."
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The Way of NASCAR
According to a recent National Public Radio report, several Democratic presidential hopefuls are looking for ways to reach a previously untapped source of potential voters that has been identified in the world of stock car racing. They have dubbed this potential voter group "NASCAR Dads." This is not an insignificant group. NASCAR attracts over 75 million fans nationwide.
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Was Jesus A Marxist?
Alabama's Republican Governor, Bob Riley, recently led an unsuccessful effort to reform the state's regressive tax structure and raise needed funds for state services. He cast the struggle in moral terms arguing that Alabama's present tax arrangement unfairly burdens the poor. Many leaders from within the faith community joined in the effort.
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Is Christianity An Oppressed Minority?
Recently hundreds of Christians gathered on the steps of the state judicial building in Montgomery, Ala., to offer support to Judge Roy Moore and his 5,300-pound monument to the Ten Commandments. They were also there to protest a federal court order that had the monument removed.
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The Danger Of Unchecked Authority
Watching Judge Moore over the past few months has reminded me of the Christian philosopher Pascal. He wrote that humans "never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction." In other words, there is no one more dangerous than a person convinced they are right about God, and everyone else is wrong.
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The Sermon On The Mount: American Style
The Sermon on the Mount is regarded by most Christians as the heart of Jesus' teaching. Unfortunately, what Jesus has to say there has not been overwhelmingly embraced by much of the Christian community in America. Perhaps it is time to update the sermon so that it is more in line with American culture. Maybe something like this:
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Who Owns The Ten Commandments?
One of the more curious features of the Ten Commandment controversy is the discovery that Chief Justice Roy Moore has a copyright on the monument. The copyright symbol is not readily visible. You have to walk to the rear of the monument and look down on the base to find it, but it is there. There are three names chiseled into the granite beside the copyright symbol. They are: Richard Hahnemann, the sculptor who made the monument; Stephen Melchoir, Justice Moore's attorney; and of course Roy S. Moore.
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Tax reform and church-state separation
One of the most contentious political issues we face these days is trying to understand how we in the faith community can find legitimate and satisfying ways to publicly express our faith without crossing the line separating church from state. Recent events in Alabama offer a rare opportunity to see this struggle in a fresh light.
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Harry Potter As Teacher Of Christian Values
Well, he's back. Harry Potter, the wily young wizard featured in four best-selling novels and two hit movies, is back in a fifth novel, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The 870-page tome from author J. K. Rowling is poised to become the biggest seller in the series. So far Harry has sold over 200 million copies world wide.
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Captain America and the Crusade Against Evil
One of the most striking visual images in the recent war with Iraq was the spectacle of President Bush arriving in a fighter jet to greet the crew of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln.
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The Divine Right Of Kings
The western world was dominated for centuries by an idea known as "the divine right of kings." The idea that kings rule on earth as God's representatives comes from the Apostle Paul who wrote: "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God."
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'Awe' Wrong Word for Bombing Campaign
The deadly force that fell from the sky over Baghdad was entirely of this world. It was neither life-giving nor life-affirming. And however necessary the onslaught may have been, its effect was awful, not awe-inspiring.
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Choosing Barabbas Puts Someone on a Cross
We have found ourselves facing some crisis that forced us to choose either a Barabbas-like solution or the Jesus option. So far, we have not fared any better than that first Good Friday crowd. We keep choosing violence over peace, death over life, and hate over love.
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Former Reporter Runs Biblical Shell Game
What Drosnin offers is not Bible study, but superstition dressed as science. In the old days, it was known as selling "snake oil."
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Do Faiths Play a Trump Card of Science?
Science has given evangelical critics a powerful trump card for disputing Mormon faith claims.
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Forgive Us Our Debts
It seems particularly cruel to charge exorbitant fees to families and individuals already struggling financially. The Bible pronounces stern judgment on those who exploit the poor for profit. That same judgment falls on those who stand silent and let it happen.
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The Quest for a Christian America
Investing our hope in the symbols and practices of our faith is a good thing. Healing and transformation can and do follow their proper use. But they cannot be forced into service.
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Would Jesus Go to War?
The religious leaders who placed the ad acknowledge that Saddam Hussein is a cruel tyrant. But they also assert that "a war on the country he rules is not a just war."
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Evangelicals Turn Good News Into Bad
In what is clearly one of the most dramatic reversals in history, evangelicals have transformed the meaning of good news into bad news. The very word "evangel" rings in the ears of non-believers as some sort of curse. Evangel now means God has come to condemn us, not to save us.
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Whose God Are We Under?
During their annual convention in November, Alabama Baptists adopted a resolution affirming the words "under God" as part of the pledge of allegiance.
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Christian Coalition Predicts an Uprising
Cut off from our traditional sources of reflection, people of faith get confused about what is right and wrong. Trying to honor a piece of Scripture, we become unfaithful to the rest of it. Hardly knowing how we even got there, we find ourselves in blatant conflict with traditional Christian ethical behavior.
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Where Have All the Followers Gone?
Instead of ignoring these dissenters, or isolating them as irrelevant complainers, church leaders might do well to listen to them. It would not be the first time in the history of the church that a disgruntled minority was right and church officials wrong.
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The Search for Certainty
Authentic faith does not emerge because of facts or evidence. The journey of faith follows paths other than the ones taken by history and science. Or as Jesus put it to an early skeptic: "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe."
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No Law Prohibits Carter's Expression of Faith
Mr. Carter doesn't quote a whole bunch of Scripture when he makes a speech. But as you listen to his speeches, you get the feeling that Scripture has shaped and molded his thinking.
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The Trial That Should Never Have Been
It is unfortunate that determining the proper use of Scripture has been placed in the hands of the courts. In allowing this to happen, the faith community is guilty of a serious breach of trust. It is an indication of how far we have drifted from our proper purpose and authentic identity as a worshiping and praying community.
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Is Bigger Really Better?
In our culture there's not much demand for a God whose interests are for the poor and needy, or who sends rain on the just and the unjust. It's hard to market a God who calls for sacrificial service and for loving our neighbor and our enemy.
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Greed Results in Idolatry
Greed moves something else into God's place. Our stuff becomes the source of life. We live to get and have more and more things. And these things, we believe, add meaning to our lives.
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Churches Face Minister Shortage
It's strange that churches are finding their young and faithful leaving the church in order to fulfill their callings. It's enough to make us wonder if churches have been hammering one thing, while God wanted something else entirely.
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Jesus, Lost in the Marketplace
The problem is not where the Gospel goes, but what form it takes. Jesus certainly did take his message to the centers of economic influence. When he got there, however, he didn't open a booth.
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Politics in Sheep's Clothing
The idea of candidates stumping about from church to church, leaving worship with their pockets full of consecrated dollars, may turn out be the shell game of all time.
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The Concept of a Just War
Momentum seems to be building for a war with Iraq. The Bush Administration has been strategically leaking information for some time now. These leaks serve several purposes, one of which is to measure public opinion about the idea. Administration officials are anxious to know what questions a war with Iraq is likely to provoke.
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The Enduring Legacy of Sept. 11

In the days and weeks immediately following September 11, we had a chance to witness a sense of national unity, and even national community, not evident in this country in a long time. In the face of terrible pain and unbelievable loss, there was a flicker of hope. In our experience of oneness as a people, we found strength to believe we would survive and overcome.

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The View from the Sidelines
In The Wounded Healer, Henri Nouwen recalls a striking incident from several years ago. He was serving as chaplain on a Dutch cruise ship making its way to Rotterdam. They were in a thick fog. Everyone was edgy and nervous as the ship crept along virtually blind in the water.
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