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Tilting at Windmills

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November 22, 2008

THIS WEEK IN GOD.... If you weren't around last week, I have brought back "This Week in God" as a regular Saturday feature. The weekly piece highlights some of the news from the world of religion, most notably instances in which faith intersected with politics and/or public policy. TWIG was on hiatus during the height of the election season, but by popular demand, it's back.

First up from the God Machine, one of the nation's more notorious religious colleges is owning up, at least on the surface, to its embarrassing history.

Bob Jones University is apologizing for racist policies that included a one-time ban on interracial dating and its unwillingness to admit black students until 1971.

In a statement posted Thursday on its Web site, the fundamentalist Christian school founded in 1927 in northwestern South Carolina says its rules on race were shaped by culture instead of the Bible. [...]

"BJU's history has been chiefly characterized by striving to achieve those goals; but like any human institution, we have failures as well. For almost two centuries American Christianity, including BJU in its early stages, was characterized by the segregationist ethos of American culture. Consequently, for far too long, we allowed institutional policies regarding race to be shaped more directly by that ethos than by the principles and precepts of the Scriptures. We conformed to the culture rather than provide a clear Christian counterpoint to it.

"In so doing, we failed to accurately represent the Lord and to fulfill the commandment to love others as ourselves. For these failures we are profoundly sorry. Though no known antagonism toward minorities or expressions of racism on a personal level have ever been tolerated on our campus, we allowed institutional policies to remain in place that were racially hurtful."

It's a start. Also from the God Machine this week:

* AP: "The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of the state's 'In God We Trust' license plate Monday, rejecting a claim that people who buy the plates should have to pay a $15 administrative fee charged for other specialty plates. In its 12-page ruling, the appeals court found that state lawmakers acted correctly in creating a license plate classification system that exempts people who buy the 'In God We Trust' plate from paying the administrative fee."

* The Living Word Christian Center, a Minnesota megachurch, went to court recently so it wouldn't have to disclose the compensation taken by its founder and pastor, James "Mac" Hammond, to the IRS. This week, a U.S. district magistrate judge's recommendation sided with the church. (thanks to Zeitgeist for the tip)

* The German government announced that is no longer trying to ban Scientology, but added that German intelligence agencies would continue to monitor the group. The announcement ends a decade-long investigation.

Steve Benen 10:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (30)

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"...rejecting a claim that people who buy the plates should have to pay a $15 administrative fee charged for other specialty plates."

Wow, "In god we trust, all others pay cash," is now the law.

Posted by: npr on November 22, 2008 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

Wow. A right-wing Christianist dominionist evangelical Biblical-literalist group has actually admitted that culture changes how the Bible is interpreted. Wow. Next thing you know, they will admit that times have changed, and we don't actually need to stone to death people wearing a linen/wool blend suit, eating lobster, or falling in love (or lust) with members of the same gender.

Well, two out of three ain't bad, right?

(((Billy))) The Atheist

Posted by: (((Billy))) The Atheist on November 22, 2008 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

I think BJU was motivated by political, not cultural, change.

Posted by: rege on November 22, 2008 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

Michele Bachmann had a controversial speech at the Living Word center during the 2006 election campaign.

Posted by: VOR on November 22, 2008 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

I think Rege is right. I suspect we'll be seeing a lot of organizations "getting religion" on race now that we have a black president.

Posted by: Dale on November 22, 2008 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

I really missed TWIG for the past several months. I'm delighted that it's back.

Whatever the motivation of BJU in making their apology for past racism, I was impressed by it. It goes further than any such apology I have ever read or heard.

Credit where credit is due.

I think that Living Word may have won a Pyrrhic victory. Now the IRS will audit the living poop out of the pastor. Mac, have your checkbook handy.

Posted by: OkieFromMuskogee on November 22, 2008 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

"BJU".

I've long thought that since Bob Jones U rejects the idea of premarital sex - read: sexual intercourse - that the "BJU" probably stands for "blow job university".

Seems oral sex and anal sex don't "count" when you're talking about premarital sex.

Posted by: phoebes in santa fe on November 22, 2008 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

"For almost two centuries American Christianity ... was characterized by the segregationist ethos of American culture." Bullshit. For almost 2 centuries, American Christianity was almost the sole force supporting racial equality and universal brotherhood. Except for some cracker-ass cults...

Posted by: M. Peachbush (new handle to come) on November 22, 2008 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

Phoebes - we must share the same brain. As I read the post, my first thought was "BJU"?? Seriously?? I don't even think you could make an Animal House-like movie and call it "BJU".

Great to see TWIG back Steve!

Posted by: Homer on November 22, 2008 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

Any news from BYU? I know they're freakin' out. [I thought God was on our side!] ???

Posted by: pokeybob on November 22, 2008 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

A question rather than a comment: why would the Hammond's church have to disclose anything when Hammond's tax return should show how much and whence his income? Anyone?

Posted by: digitusmedius on November 22, 2008 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

"In so doing, we failed to accurately represent the Lord and to fulfill the commandment to love others as ourselves."

May I make a few suggestions for follow-up?

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on November 22, 2008 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

Frankly, I am getting pretty tired of the gratuitous bashing of God and Jesus on liberal political sites. While fundamentalists (of any religion) who try to enact religious doctrine through politics or the law deserve derision, the same can't be or shouldn't be said of people who simply are believers.

Atheists and non-Christians on liberal sites seem to go out of their way not to insult the tenets or leading figures of Judaism, Buddism, or Islam, but think nothing of calling Jesus, "Jeebus."

Steve, et al, it's fine that you aren't believers, but why go out of your way to insult people, particularly Christians, who are? Would it have been too difficult to call your column "This Week in Religion," since religion is the actual target of the column, not God?

I'm just asking for a little consideration. Religious beliefs are intensely personal, and insulting my religion feels like you are personally insulting me.

Posted by: Taritac on November 22, 2008 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

We can only hope In God We Trust goes to SCOTUS as a better test case than Newdow on the Pledge.

===

Taritac -- There is no god, and I am his prophet. That's my blog signature. There, I just insulted Islam.

And, the only good Buddha is a dead Buddha, because that's the only way you get total detachment.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on November 22, 2008 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

"Jesus Saves... at First National Bank."

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on November 22, 2008 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with peachbush:
"For almost two centuries American Christianity ... was characterized by the segregationist ethos of American culture." Bullshit. For almost 2 centuries, American Christianity was almost the sole force supporting racial equality and universal brotherhood. Except for some cracker-ass cults..." The abolitionist movement, driven by real Christians, dates back at least into the 18th century. These guys have been on the wrong side for a very, very long time but they won't ever admit it. It is _soo_ not that hard to read the Gospels, and their message is very, very clear. We are all brothers and sisters.

Posted by: jhill on November 22, 2008 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

It's long past time to start taxing churches. The taxpayer subsidizes their infrastructure, and to the extent that they bring in money above and beyond their legitimate business expenses, they should pay taxes on it.

Posted by: N.Wells on November 22, 2008 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

Taritac, has it ever occurred to you that while you have a bazillion places in this country where you can go and have like-minded *believers* surrounding and agreeing with you, for us who just don't buy that baloney, there's virtually none?

Don't like TWIG? Go to church, where on any given Sunday they feel free to insult the rest of us.

Posted by: MissMudd on November 22, 2008 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

The most interesting part of the Judge's ruling is this one:

The church argued that the request wasn't made by a "high-ranking official" as required by law, and the magistrate judge agreed.

Seems that the Obama Administration can request that a so-called "high-ranking official" from the IRS request the appropriate information to find out how much money the pastor has been siphoning from his 'followers'.

Posted by: bruno on November 22, 2008 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

MissMudd, we don't talk about politics at the churches I go to, which is how I like it, and *believers* don't spend a lot of time insulting non-believers in my experience. I don't have any problem with the purpose of the column, which from what I can see, is to point out the hypocrisy or intolerance of some churches or church leaders, particularly as it overlaps the political arena. Believers and non-believers both have interest in that.

I'm not trying to be negative or lecture anybody, and I am certainly not trying challenge your religious beliefs. I am just asking for a little compassion and understanding, the same compassion and understanding you would try to extend (I hope) to any human who says that you've hurt or insulted them.

Posted by: Taritac on November 22, 2008 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

What about that absurd mandate that one preacher put forth to "have sex"--not because you want to, not because it feels good--but because it's what the bible says so...that to be a good Christian is to be a willing sex partner...

While on the surface this seems "uncool" to question, I gotta say that that any sort of directive about our private lives coming from clergy is plain and simple WRONG--a clear violation of church and state.

Uh, not to mention a bit creepy...

I broached earlier this week some problems with this--such as those couples who simply are not in the mood...

The problem with this, beyond being creepy, it's a pastor acting as sex therapist and using the bible as rationalization for the same.

I personally have worked with many women who feel pressured to comply for this very reason--and sadly, I've worked with women who have been raped in marriage, yet they tend to blame themselves for the assault.

This sort of mish-mash blending of religion with the bedroom NEVER bodes well, IMO--whether it's pro sex or anti-sex.

The point of course is this: As adults, men and women educate themselves and then they choose what when where and how and why or why not they partake.

It's sorta part of being a grown-up..don't ya think?

Posted by: What about that Preacher who prescribed Sex--Cool? Uh, think again on November 22, 2008 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

I'm just asking for a little consideration. Religious beliefs are intensely personal, and insulting my religion feels like you are personally insulting me.
Posted by: Taritac

When Christians stop calling atheists "evil" and "wicked," and take to heart God's admonition to "Judge not, lest ye be judged," I'll take your sanctimonious lectures seriously. Deal?

I didn't think so.

Posted by: Screamin' Demon, proud atheist since 1983 on November 22, 2008 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

From what I've seen of them, for BJU to admit that it is "a human institution" is pretty radical.

Posted by: in vino veritas on November 22, 2008 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

From what I've seen of them, for BJU to admit that it is "a human institution" is pretty radical.

Posted by: in vino veritas on November 22, 2008 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

"I am just asking for a little compassion and understanding..."

Taritac, I've seen you here regularly and as a fellow reader and human, I offer you compassion. But I don't extend that to your religion. In fact, I loathe religion and am about as intolerant as one can get. I would no sooner invite a religious freak into my home than I would an unmedicated lunatic. I also consider anyone who feels free to knock on my door to do the "witness" dance, fair game and usually try to reduce them to tears.

I've never once met a Christian in this country who was sensitive to me, or who wasn't offended that I am atheist. This is a fact about myself I rarely need to raise, unless I start getting the "are you saved" bullshit, which immediately sends me over the edge. Most people are polite in these circumstances. I am not.

Here's the sum of it: whenever I hear of a missionary being killed because he decided it would be a good idea to go into some war-torn locale to "save souls" I silently rejoice. Whenever some holier-than-thou minister gets smacked for scandal, I dance with glee. Frankly it takes all the human compassion I can muster not to bitchslap anyone with a bible. I'm particularly prone to spitting at Mormon boys on bikes. I also feel it is my mission in life to counter every "I'll pray for you", and "God bless you", with go a good "Go fuck yourself".

So no, I have no compassion for your religious beliefs. But as a human, I'd go to the ends of the earth to help if you called out.

Posted by: MissMudd on November 22, 2008 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

When Christians stop calling atheists "evil" and "wicked," and take to heart God's admonition to "Judge not, lest ye be judged," I'll take your sanctimonious lectures seriously.
I haven't lectured you, Screamin' Demon, and I certainly haven't called you "wicked" or "evil". I asked a favor.

MissMudd, I'm not even sure how to respond to someone who wishes death on missionaries.

In any case, I hope that someone heard me. It is difficult to participate in the common ground we do share-- taking down hypocrites, liars, and thieves who pass off intolerance as religion-- when being insulted.

Posted by: Taritac on November 22, 2008 at 9:48 PM | PERMALINK

We'll stop insulting you, Taritac, when people of faith stop insulting those that don't believe as you do. And why are you so sensitive and such a wimp about insults? Is your faith that unstable? Just thank your god that we don't have an Inquisition (remember those Christians?) administerd by non-believers. Butone can only hope.

Posted by: thatmichaelguy on November 22, 2008 at 11:15 PM | PERMALINK

I think that the most damning criticism against "believers," namely, the child abuse which is threatening them with eternal pain and torment unless they believe, or pretend to believe, utter foolishness, should be our focus, not the foolish beliefs of adults. Without this brainwashing, false belief would disappear in a generation since few would take seriously the obviously ludicrous unless indoctrinated at an impressionable age.

In this vein, I suggest that goings on such as those in Texas this week might have been included (albeit it might soon get repetitive, since similar stories seem to crop up on a nearly continuous basis):

The Texas State Board of Education is holding hearings right now on their science standards, and by all reports it is an embarrassment to the state....

Posted by: jhm on November 23, 2008 at 7:50 AM | PERMALINK

I would no sooner invite a religious freak into my home than I would an unmedicated lunatic.

As an unmedicated lunatic, I am deeply injured by your lack of sensitivity to my need to feel accepted by everyone. Why is there no compassion or tolerance for those who share your goal of discrediting those bastards, the religious freaks?

Posted by: RobW on November 23, 2008 at 6:56 PM | PERMALINK

"In so doing, we failed to accurately represent the Lord and to fulfill the commandment to love others as ourselves. For these failures we are profoundly sorry."

So where does BJ University stand on gay rights ?

Posted by: ScottW on November 24, 2008 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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