Thursday, December 30, 2010


There's a spot in Indiana, where the leafy Maple grows
It's the dear and glorious parkside, where the Elkhart River flows
'Tis a spot we love most dearly, 'Tis a spot we'll cherish long
After youth and strength have faded, and this world has heard our song

Goshen College, Ever Singing
To our motto we'll be true
Honor to our Master bringing
Alma Mater, we love you

Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

We recently received the Fall/Winter Issue of the Goshen College Bulletin, and one of the features was excerpted portions of a conversation between Goshen College President Jim Brenneman and Shane Claiborne, one of the leaders in the new monasticism, Christian communities dedicated to hospitality, communal living, serving the poor and living the Gospel.  The conversation centered on the College's decision to play the National Anthem prior to sporting events.  Some of you no doubt recollect the controversy surrounding this decision, and the national attention that it brought to the college. e.g. the New York Times piece, a blurb on MSNBC and other media, and alumni responses, such as Goshen College Gets [Civil] Religion.

It was really nice to read a thoughtful presentation of the Anabaptist/Mennonite perspective and vision for the unique witness of an historic peace church in America today - unfortunately it came from Shane and not Jim.  I will readily admit that I do not know all of the subtle and not-so-subtle forces that weighed on the President's decision, but the public statements seem quite gratuitous.  Appealing to "welcoming" and "hospitality" appear disingenuous.  Compare the lyrics of the Alma Mater and the National Anthem, and tell me which conveys the message of an institution of higher learning committed to the understanding of the Gospel in the Mennonite tradition?  Which affirms Culture for Service?  Which offers Honor to the Master and which offers honor to a nationalistic symbol?

There are those who have voiced enthusiastic approval for the President's decision, there are those who are indifferent, and there are those who do not support the decision.  If indeed, this action is done in the name of welcoming, what other actions might the college want to consider?  No pork or beef in deference to those who consider such to be unclean/unholy?  No meat or animal products to satisfy the vegan?  No Christian symbols so as not to offend the atheists, Muslims, and Jewish folks?  No zippers to honor the Amish?

Of course I am being a bit overly cynical, but I do have to give consideration to the adage "Follow the money."  There obviously was pressure coming from somewhere - many of the locals have long pressured the college to fly the US flag on campus, and no doubt railed against the fact that the Anthem was not a part of the sporting event tradition at GC.  What is not obvious to me is what has been gained by making this decision.  It would appear that the good will generated primarily among non-Anabaptist folks is equaled by the disappointment of those of us who have respected and supported the college's tradition of not conflating Anabaptist Christianity with the myth of America, the Christian Nation.

I fondly remember the days when the hysteria of each Maple Leaf basketball game would completely subside as the crowd all stood to sing the GC Alma Mater.  I could not find any video of this unique tradition and public witness, but here is a video with the Alma Mater being sung in the background.  Voice your opinion in the poll at the very bottom of the blog page.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Continuing the series on folks who I believe have a very distorted understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus, today's spotlight will shine on Dr. Albert Mohler.  Quoting from his own dot-com site:

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary-the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.  Dr. Mohler has been recognized by such influential publications as Time and Christianity Today as a leader among American evangelicals. In fact, called him the “reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the U.S”.  Called “an articulate voice for conservative Christianity at large” by The Chicago Tribune, Dr. Mohler’s mission is to address contemporary issues from a consistent and explicit Christian worldview.

I can honestly say that I did not know Al from Adam [excepting that Al has a navel] until he began to quarrel with the folks at BioLogos, asserting that their acceptance of an old earth and evolution made them heretics.  My take is that if indeed he is "the reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the U.S." then that movement is doomed.  Rather that writing a critique of Al's thinking, I am going to post an article that reflects my thoughts, and is stated in a much more eloquent way than I could have mustered.
The Slactkivist writing on Mohler, Seller of Defective Maps:
Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, believes that the Bible is a book of lies. The test of a Christian, Mohler argues, is if they remain loyal to those lies -- choosing them rather than the truth no matter how clear and irrefutable that truth may be, no matter how hard reality beats us over the head with its undeniable actuality.

That's madness -- the very definition of madness, but it is what Al Mohler insists it means to be a real, true Christian. Don't take my word for it, read what Mohler says himself and see if there is any other possible way to interpret his argument. Read this -- "No Pass from Theological Responsibility: The BioLogos Conundrum" -- and marvel at his absolute insistence that what he believes are the lies of the Bible must be embraced as lies. The Bible is falsifiable and has been proven false, he says. And anyone who says otherwise isn't a real Christian, he says, just a vainglorious intellectual poser. Mohler is upset with the devout Christians in the sciences who have joined together in the BioLogos Forum. These Christian scholars claim to believe in both the Bible and in science, and they insist that belief in both can be reconciled.

Al Mohler disagrees. Science and the Bible, Mohler insists, contradict one another. He insists on even more than that. Science, he argues, disproves the Bible -- or, more specifically, it disproves Al Mohler's preferred interpretation of the Bible. Faced with the choice between proven scientific fact and the hermeneutic opinions of Al Mohler, he argues, Christians have no choice but to reject science and cling, instead, to what he says the Bible says. What Mohler characterizes as "theological responsibility," in other words, is really just an epistemological claim first articulated by the great American philosopher Groucho Marx: "Who are you going to believe? Me? Or your lying eyes?"

Mohler's quarrel with BioLogos is not that they have chosen science over the Bible, but that they have chosen to read the Bible in a way that does not recognize Al Mohler as its sole authoritative interpreter -- a choice that he finds intolerable. Disparaging the scriptures does not offend him -- he disparages them himself by insisting that the Bible is a falsifiable text that has been falsified by science. What offends him is the affront to his own authority as the arbiter of what he insists must be accepted as the only possible, inerrant approach to reading the text.

This choice to regard the Bible as reconcilable with reality as revealed by the world around us (i.e., science) constitutes a rejection of the Mohler Method -- a threat to his personal authority and livelihood. So he fights back by asserting that anyone who makes such a choice must be motivated by moral defect. The scientists of BioLogos, Mohler says, can only be disagreeing with him out of fear of "intellectual embarrassment." And then, having attributed to them this sin of prideful intellectual vanity, he pridefully chastises them for it.

Let us attempt a charitable explanation for Mohler's accusation of intellectual vanity as the only possible motive for his detractors. Is it possible that he is sincere? I find that extremely unlikely. I cannot believe that this is the only possibility Mohler can imagine, even though he claims it is the only possibility he will allow.

Surely it must have occurred to him that it is possible some others might prefer reality to unreality, might prefer truth to falsehood, for reasons other than intellectual vanity and a fear of "embarrassment." Surely he is not so far gone as to be incapable of understanding that others might prefer the truth because it is true. Surely he can see that others might -- out of devotion to the very same Bible he claims to defend -- disagree in good faith with his insistence that it is a text both falsifiable and falsified. Surely he can understand that his fundamental assertion that the Bible must be read as a book of lies might strike other Christians as a blasphemous affront to the Word of God.

And if any of that has occurred to him, even peripherally, then his pretense that such possibilities are not possible and that intellectual vanity is the only possible explanation cannot be believed. His attacks and accusations against the Christians of BioLogos cannot be regarded as sincere, only as a nasty piece of work. And yes, I think Al Mohler is himself a nasty piece of work. But I do admire his commitment. Well, admire isn't quite the right word -- let's say I'm impressed by it.

Consider what it took for Mohler to launch this latest screed against science and against those who do not share his belief that it is intrinsically irreconcilable with Christian faith. He typed it on a keyboard. A plastic keyboard. "Reject evolution" he typed. Sixteen keystrokes, 16 tangible encounters with the petroleum byproducts beneath his fingers. A physical encounter with 12 plastic keys, with 12 solid reminders of the reality of the very thing he is rejecting and denying. Those keys were made from petroleum that was sought and found by scientists who understood the truth of the natural world -- of reality as it undeniably is. Those scientists studied how petroleum was formed over geologic time and they applied that science to identify where such formations were likeliest to occur. And there they were. It worked. It worked because it is true. T-r-u-e. Click click click click -- four little plastic reminders that the world is far, far older than the hermeneutic theories Al Mohler imposes on the Bible can accept.

He is confronted with such reminders at every keystroke, yet he types on, attacking BioLogos for "leveling their guns ... at young earth creationism." And here, perhaps, he pauses to re-read what he has written, glancing at the LCD monitor of his computer, his face lit by a glow made possible only by rare earth elements formed aeons ago in the death throes of ancient stars, long before our solar system was born more than 4 billion years ago. And in the glow of that light he re-reads his defense of "young earth creationism" and, pleased with what he has written, he forges on.

That's commitment. I can't admire such commitment, but I am impressed by it. Such intense commitment in the face of constant refutation might be admirable if it were the genuine dedication of a theologian, however misguided, but what we're seeing here is something else -- the determination of a salesman. Al Mohler is selling something. He's selling maps. He sells a lot of maps -- makes a very nice living off of the business.
But his maps are defective. They're unreliable. They do not correspond to the terrain. A map that does not correspond to the terrain as it actually is does not help travelers get where they need to go. It gets them lost or stuck instead.

Mohler freely admits that the maps he is selling cannot be reconciled with the actual terrain. That's the whole point of the essay linked above. The map and the terrain contradict each other, he argues, but it is the Christian's duty to remain loyal to the map regardless. Mohler likes to pretend that the map in this case is the Bible and that the terrain is the natural world as revealed through science. He likes to pretend that what he's arguing is for Christians to pledge allegiance to the Bible even when what science tells us about the world defies what the Bible teaches. But that's not really what he's arguing. For Mohler the map-seller, the Bible is the terrain. What he's selling is a map for reading the Bible that cannot be reconciled with the text as it is. And what he's arguing is that Christians must swear their loyalty to his map, even when it deviates from the terrain of the Bible itself -- that they must prefer his interpretive scheme to any other even when it is contradicted by the text, or by science, or by your lying eyes, or by all of the above.

I'm not buying it.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Just in case you need some help in planning for the coming year, just google psychic predicitions 2011 and you will find a wealth of information!!  Here are a few of my favorites:


-President Obama will find a way to get the American people on his side and regain the heights of his early approval ratings. This will be short lived though due to the disclosure of a tumultuous affair inside White House doors.

-The economy will rebound, the stock market will rise, and Americans will gain more jobs that were previously outsourced from India as corporations can no longer ignore cries for better customer service.

-Vladimir Putin is the anti-Christ and will destroy much of the west by using Muslims.

-Mabus [who is not the anti-Christ and is either Obama or Mubarak] will die and terrible things will happen.

-If Israel attacks Iran, WWIII will start; if it does not, it will be destroyed.

-Sarah Palin will get divorced.

-Michele Obama will have another baby.


- the end of the Catholic church will come in 2011 or 2012.

-Novemeber 11, or 11-11-11 will see the Two Witnesses of Revelation 11:11 raised from the dead.

Natural Disasters

-The largest earthquake in 100 years will rock the American Northwest.

-The city of Toronto will be overrun by bats

-A hurricane will strike the American East Coast in late August. Large damage, but small death toll.

-There will be a lot of rain this year

-UFO sightings will continue to increase tenfold and world governments will begin to acknowledge the existence of extra-terrestrial life.


-Tom Cruise will win the best actor Oscar.

-Tom Cruise will be caught with another woman and end his marriage to Katie Holmes.

-It will be revealed that Michael Jackson's death was a hoax. The singer will do a comeback tour to pay for the cost of his funeral.

- George Clooney will get married.

- The Playboy mansion will burn down.

It would be great if you would share some of your 2011 predictions in the Comments Section.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


I never have had the time, inclination or stomach to watch an entire Osteen broadcast. Sometimes I would watch a bit of the music if they had someone decent, but I would always surf on whenever Victoria would come out for the warm-up to the main event. But, a few days ago I willed myself through an entire show - holy moley, me oh my, I have never heard so much bad Christian theology presented in such a short period of time. There was the usual rhapsodizing about the prosperity gospel, about "breakthrough" being right around the corner, and about a lot of things that Jesus never mentioned or if he did speak on the subject, it was diametric to what the Osteen's are spreading.

Then there was the main event [maybe they should cut back on the lights so that Joel can open his eyes a bit more]. The message was about The Hedge of Protection that G_d provides for every sincere, bible-believing, fervently praying follower of Joel, er, Jesus. If you are such a person, no harm and nothing bad can ever happen to you - but with the quick kicker that is not emphasized "without G_d's permission." The stories went on and on about how this person was spared, how that person escaped sure death, how prayers kept folks safe, and truly my heart ached for all of those good people out there who have been as faithful as the Osteen crew if not more so, who have suffered tragic losses, endured gruesome circumstances and have died terrible deaths. Of course, I guess that was with G_d's permission. Reminds me of a quote by Douglas Menuez:

"G_d has a plan for you, and it might turn out to be nasty and brief. Best to savor the tequila slowly with your compadre and continue the conversation."

My suggestion to the Osteens and the tens of thousands who pack their building and buy their tripe - spend a little more time thinking about the Sermon on the Mount and the expectations in Matthew 25 rather than looking for the big payday. Rather than praying for prosperity, they should consider this prayer:

I asked God for strength that I might achieve,

I was made weak that I might humbly obey.

I asked God for health that I might do greater things,

I was given infirmity that I might do better things.

I asked God for riches that I might be happy,

I was given poverty that I might be wise.

I asked for power that I might have the praise of men,

I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things that I might enjoy life,

I was given life that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing that I asked for – but everything that I had hoped for.

And despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.

I am among all men most richly blessed.

Friday, December 24, 2010


Political Cartoonist for the Boulder Daily Camera

I very much enjoy his work [you may also see him in your newspaper] and his work in cartoons and other venues can be seen by clicking on his name above or here.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


A while back, I wrote about how Boulder fared in a variety of national rankings.  Here are a couple more interesting tidbits:

America's Most High-Tech Cities - Number 3 [Tech America Foundation]
America's Safest Cities - Top 20  [#17] - Mid-Sized Cities [Farmers Insurance Group]

San Jose/Silicon Valley has 33 percent of the workforce in high tech; Huntsville, Alabama has 23 percent and Boulder has 22 percent.  Durham, NC and Palm Bay/Melbourne, Florida round out the top five.

I could not find any rankings for mid-sized cities for craft breweries, but Boulder has to be right up there.  There are some great local craft brewers, but we are quite partial to Upslope and Avery .  Both have tap rooms [we just visited Upslope this afternoon], and if you get to Boulder and you enjoy fine beer, hit both of these places!!!  We have also visited the Twisted Pine tap room, but alas, the beer was nearly room temperature. 

Another ranking recently came out - Boulder was Number 2 for Best College Towns by Parents and Colleges, second to Austin.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Ah, there are reasons they call this place Planet Boulder.  The Daily Camera [linked on the Blog and Website list] ran a story on Medical Intuitives - Where Mind Meets Body.  The subheading is Despite lack of scientific proof, 'medical intuitives' thrive in Boulder County.  And, I do believe that lack of scientific proof is a bit of an understatement.  Here is a portion regarding one of the medical intuitive practitioners: 

Directed by "Divine Source," she worked on James [disfigured legs] every three to four days.  By connecting with God's energy, using a distant healing technique, she says she left her physical body [in California] and entered James's 2-year-old body in Colorado.  There, following God's lead, she says that she shifted his defective gene into a healthy one, and "witnessed" the realignment of his deformed legs.

A pre- and post-realignment genetic analysis would have provided some scientific information.  Read the full story here. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010




The election of Barack Obama in 2008 as the nation's first African American president suggests that the Christian Right -- at least as defined and shaped by leaders like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, D. James Kennedy, Paul Weyrich and James Dobson -- was falling into disarray.  Contributing to that disarray were the deaths of Falwell and Kennedy, both in 2007, coupled with the often bizarre statements of Pat Robertson that made both him and the Christian Right something of a laughing stock in the larger public square.

Seeds of the American Crisis

It seems clear, however, that following Obama's election, the Christian Right still exerts power by supporting and merging with other explicitly Christian organizations like Values Voters USA or with less explicitly Christian organizations like the Tea Party.  People like Sarah Palin, a devout fundamentalist Christian, and Glenn Beck, a Mormon, now give the marching orders to the great army of the faithful that would still identify with the concerns of the Christian Right.

It may seem strange to many that Glenn Beck would emerge as a leader of the Christian Right since, after all, he belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a tradition many conservative Christians view as a non-Christian cult.  But at his "Restoring Honor" rally on August 27, Beck preached to a crowd dominated by conservative Christians, and his message was the traditional, standard fare for the Religious Right: America can survive and prosper only if it returns to God and to traditional religion. As Beck put it, Americans must go to "God's boot camp."  Including a rendition of the honored Christian hymn, "Amazing Grace," the rally both began and ended with prayer. Most agreed it was "like a big revival," and few if any of the conservative Christians who participated questioned Beck's right to provide leadership for this new incarnation of the Christian Right.

If the leadership of the Christian Right is in transition, however, many of the strategies remain firmly in place. And in its attempt to shape the soul of the nation, the most important strategy on which the Christian Right has relied -- and continues to rely -- is falsehood and misrepresentation.

The seeds of the current American crisis, as I indicated earlier in this essay, lie in the fact that the Christian Right has convinced so many Americans of the truth of the falsehoods it proclaims. For when the possibility exists that the religious "glue" that provides a nation with its deepest meaning is defined by misrepresentations and falsehoods, that nation is clearly in crisis. And that is the state of the Union today.  By using terms like "misrepresentations" and "falsehoods," my intent is not to accuse either the leaders or the rank and file or the Christian Right of blatantly lying, for there can be no doubt that most in that movement firmly believe the messages they preach. But the fact that they believe them does not make them true.  Nor is it my intent to attack Christian people. After all, I am a Christian as well.  But I do wish to hold the Christian Right accountable for its falsehoods and misrepresentations. For at two important levels, the message of the Christian Right is clearly deceptive: the way it portrays the Christian faith and the way it portrays the nation. And that is the truth that a nation in crisis must hear.

The Meaning of the Christian Faith

Paul Raushenbush, religion editor of the Huffington Post, helps us understand how the Christian Right so badly misreads the meaning of the Christian faith in an article that contrasted the most recent census data on poverty in the United States, released on Sept. 15, with the concerns that drove the Values Voter Summit that began just two days later. "According to data released ... from the Census Bureau," Raushenbush wrote, "one in seven Americans are living in poverty. This means that in 2009 a staggering 43.6 million people live in the degradation of food, health care and housing insecurity." Then, Raushenbush made the telling point:

With a startling lack of self awareness, the Values Voter Summit began their conference two days after the census report on poverty levels was released. However, poverty is not what concerns these "Values Voters." According to their website, their values instruct them to: "Protect Marriage • Champion Life • Strengthen the Military • Limit Government • Control Spending • Defend Our Freedoms."

Raushenbush pointed out that Jesus' values "don't include strengthening the military." Nor do they include limiting government, controlling government spending or defending our freedoms. Instead, as Raushenbush correctly notes, there is nothing that dominates Jesus teaching more than justice for the poor, a concern embodied in Jesus' vision of "the kingdom of God."  Time and again, Jesus hammered that vision home. Indeed, that phrase -- "kingdom of God" -- appears in the New Testament more than 100 times, and in almost every instance, the context deals with clothing the naked, feeding the hungry and caring for people impoverished by the self-indulgent policies of the empires and nations of this earth.

In his book, God's Politics, Jim Wallis tells about an experiment he and some seminary friends performed on the Bible. With a pair of scissors, they literally cut from the Bible the several thousand verses that side with the poor and demand that God's followers extend justice to people who suffer from want, hunger and other forms of economic oppression. What was left was a mere fragment, only a shadow of the full biblical text.  But those are precisely the points that the Values Voters -- and indeed, the entire Christian Right -- fail to understand. And so, even though those voters claim they wish to inject the values of Christianity into American politics, the most prominent social value in the biblical text, concern for the poor, is essentially off their radar screen.

For that reason, the "Christian America" vision pushed by the Christian Right stands in stark contrast with the biblical vision of the kingdom of God, a point I elaborate at length in my book, Christian America and the Kingdom of God.  If we were to graph the concern for social justice -- or the lack thereof -- on the part of the major movements that have sought to Christianize the United States over the course of American history, the graph would reveal a steady trend downward.  The Second Great Awakening understood and embraced the biblical demand for social justice.

The Fundamentalist Movement ignored that demand.

The Christian Right, in its first incarnation, rejected that demand in practice.  And the Christian Right in its most recent incarnation has rejected that demand both in practice and in theory.  Thus, Glenn Beck claimed on March 11 that the terms "social justice" and "economic justice" are code words for Naziism and Communism. He therefore advised the faithful to "run as fast as you can" if you find those terms "on your church website," and "if you have a priest that is pushing social justice, go find another parish."

Here we find exhibit "A" of the kinds of falsehoods and misrepresentations that have become standard fare for the Christian Right.  But the faithful believe those falsehoods nonetheless, something underscored by the fact that the faithful showed up by the thousands for Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally.  They showed up, not to hear a sermon on social justice, but to hear a sermon on why America should embrace a god who is indifferent to social justice. But by biblical standards, that would be no god at all.  They showed up, even though Beck cynically held his rally on ground hallowed by Martin Luther King's March on Washington in 1963, a rally that focused squarely on the need for social justice in America, and by King's speech on social justice that moved the heart of a nation.  They showed up, even though Beck promoted his rally with the cynical claim that he and his followers would "reclaim the civil rights movement" because "we are on the right side of history. We are on the side of individual freedoms and liberties and damn it, we will reclaim the civil rights moment. We will take that movement, because we were the people that did it in the first place!"  Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Leonard Pitts called this pronouncement "worse than nonsensical, worse than mendacious, worse than shameless. It is obscene. It is theft of legacy. It is robbery of martyr's graves."

Beck essentially laid hands on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., a legacy that had everything to do with social justice for the poor, and eviscerated that legacy of any concern, any consideration and any compassion for the poor at all.  And that is the worst kind of falsehood, since it is the kind of falsehood that perpetuates hunger, nakedness and homelessness among the poor, even though it cloaks itself in the guise of the Christian faith.  Beck's is the kind of falsehood that prompted the ancient Hebrew prophet Isaiah (5:20) to render this judgment on people whose values were very much like Beck's: "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter."

But there is more, for Beck's is the kind of falsehood that is robbing this nation of its historic sense of meaning.  It is the kind of falsehood that is dissolving the mortar that has bound this nation together for more than 200 years.  It is the kind of falsehood that is killing the nation's soul.  And for all those reasons, it is a falsehood that must be named and exposed for what it is.

The Meaning of America

Not only does the Christian Right misrepresent the meaning of the Christian faith, it also misrepresents the meaning of America.

It does this when it falsely claims that the American Founders intended to create a Christian nation.

It does this when it rejects the fact that religious pluralism was central to the Founders' vision.

It does this when it falsely claims that the doctrine of separation of church and state is a fabrication designed by latter-day secularists to obscure the Founders' real intent of creating a Christian nation.

And it does this when it falsely claims that even if the Founders might have intended to separate church and state, they did so chiefly for the good of the church, not for the good of the state.

The fact is, the Founders consistently directed their passion toward the common good, toward the public square and toward the welfare of all Americans, not toward the welfare of a special segment of the American public, even if that segment happened to be Christian and even if it happened to be the majority.  If one wants examples of the distortions I've mentioned here, one need look no further than the books produced by David Barton, the "historian" who serves the special interests of the Religious Right, especially his books, The Myth of Separation (1992) and Separation of Church and State: What the Founders Meant (2007).

If one doubts Barton's influence in the public square, consider that the Republican Party in Texas elected Barton its vice-chair in 1997. Then, in 2004, that same Party officially rejected church/state separation and affirmed in its platform that the United States is "a Christian nation."  A year later, Texas Governor Rick Perry praised Barton as "a truly national treasure" who "understands that America was founded on our Christian faith."  More recently, Barton was among the "experts" who advised the Texas Board of Education on how best to "Christianize" the history of the United States in the textbooks that are used to teach our children throughout this nation.

I understand that the root concern of the Christian Right is to remind Americans that belief in the Deity and a strong affirmation of religiously sustained morality were central to this nation during the Founding generation. In making that point, they could not be more on target.  But when the Christian Right seeks to translate the Founders' belief in God into exclusively Christian terms, when they claim that the Founders sought to create an exclusively Christian America, when they distort the meaning of the Christian faith and then, based on that distortion, seek to rewrite the history of the United States in Christian terms and to present those distortions to America's children, they have overstepped their bounds and waded into the murky waters of falsehood, misrepresentation and sometimes deliberate lies.

The Most Tragic Dimension of All

But the worst part of the legacy of the Christian Right is the way that movement has helped to shrivel the nation's soul.  Many years ago, Paul Tillich reminded us that any given religion is viable only to the extent that it breaks through its own particularities.  What Tillich meant, I am convinced, is that a religion serves the human family well only when its adherents place the welfare of people above the welfare of the religion itself -- a point routinely made by Jesus himself.  But when religious people place defense of the religion, its ideologies and its orthodoxies above service to people, that religion turns in upon itself and thereby risks losing its soul.

As we have seen in this four-part series of articles, that transformation stands at the heart of the history of the Christian Right, beginning with the birth of the Fundamentalist Movement in the early 20th century.  What makes that transformation doubly tragic is the fact that the Christian Right, by dominating the religious side of the nation's public square for a full quarter-century -- from 1980 to 2005 -- encouraged the nation to do what the Christian Right had already done: to turn in upon itself.  Tillich's famous comment that religion is the substance of culture while culture is the form of religion, sheds great light on this issue, for the Christian Right had become in many respects the substance of American culture by 2001.

Clearly, not all Americans adhered to the Christian Right, and many resisted that movement. But to the extent that the Christian Right, by 2001, dominated the nation's religious broadcasting, the nation's religious publishing, the nation's Christian population and even the American Congress, it is safe to conclude that the values embraced by the Christian Right had become in many respects the substance of American culture.

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that by 2001, the nation would respond to a crisis in exactly the way the Christian Right recommended. Through its preoccupation with enemies, both real and imagined, the nation turned in upon itself. And the more it turned in upon itself, the more it lost the authentic meaning of the American experiment.  In that way, the Christian Right helped diminish the nation's soul.  Since 2001, we have seen evidence of America's diminished soul on almost every hand.  We witnessed it, first, in the way this nation responded to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that virtually everyone views as hateful, reprehensible and wholly without justification.

Still and all, those attacks offered the United States an opportunity to do what America has always done best: to help create an entirely new world order by sowing seeds of friendship instead of seeds of hate; by building alliances and forging bonds of reconciliation; and by using its vast wealth to build schools, hire teachers and alleviate hunger, poverty, suffering and disease around the world.

But America, whose soul had been defined for some 25 years by the defensive posture of the Christian Right, did none of those things. Led by a president who had personally embraced the religious sensibilities of the Christian Right, America sought vengeance and retribution and went to war.  Now, almost 10 years after those horrendous attacks, the nation's tendency to turn in upon itself seems caught in a never-ending downward spiral. 

We witness that downward spiral in the nation's commitment to fighting wars that drain the national treasury.

We witness that downward spiral in the irrational fear and hatred of Hispanic immigrants here at home.

We witness that downward spiral in the growing national phobia regarding Muslims.

We witness that downward spiral when popular pundits seriously suggest, as Anne Coulter did, that the United States "should invade their countries [Muslim nations], kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity" -- a sentiment that, at least in some quarters, now grows in popularity.

More recently, we have witnessed that downward spiral in the frequent claims that President Obama is a Muslim or a racist who hates white people.

And we have witnessed that downward spiral when Americans have tarnished the President of the United States with labels "socialist," "Communist" and "Nazi" in response to his efforts to provide health care for the poorest of the poor.

To return once more to Robert Bellah's analysis immortalized in his important 1975 publication, The Broken Covenant, it is clear that America's "third time of crisis" began in the 1960s, a fact we noted in the first of this four-part series of articles.  But it is also clear that that "third time of crisis" is with us still, thanks in large part to the defensive and reactionary nature of the Christian Right.  This current crisis is at least as severe as any threat from Muslim terrorists. It is at least as severe as any threat from a flagging economy.

For this essentially religious crisis now threatens to dissolve the nation's spiritual core. And that is a threat this nation will ignore at its peril.

Monday, December 13, 2010


Over at the BioLogos Forum, where their mission is to dispel the supposed conflicts between science and Christian faith, there are many fine posts and articles about such issues, especially evolution.  However, most of the writings are quite scholarly and not particularly engaging for the non-specialists.  Thus, this post is a trial of less technical responses to some of the questions that come up in the faith-science discussions.  As such, there no doubt will be some things presented here that will make experts cringe - if you are one of those cringing experts, let me know how to make improvements :-)

Question - The creation story in Genesis speaks of six twenty-four hour days for all of creation, and many Christians believe that this is literally true.  By using the genealogies of the Old Testament, the young earth proponents deduce that the earth has existed for about 6000 years.  However, nearly all scientists, including Christian ones, believe that the universe is very, very old and that the earth is old and that humans have been around for a long time.  Why do they believe this, and if it is true, how are we to understand Genesis?

Well, this could take a while!!  However, let's look at the reasons why scientists accept that the universe, the earth and humans have existed for a very long time.  It should be understood that many different disciplines address the question - astronomy, chemistry, geology, anthropology and biology all contribute to our understanding.  So, let's first look at the age of the universe.

Astronomy and the Age of the Universe

The age of the universe is currently calculated to be approximately 13.73 billion years old.  That's 13,730,000,000 years.  To put that into a bit of perspective, think about the length of a second versus that of a year - there are about 31.5 million seconds in a year; 10 years = 315 million seconds; 100 years =  3.15 billion seconds, which means that 13.73 billion seconds is over 400 years.  Go ahead figure out how many years 13 billion minutes would be; 13 billion hours; 13 billion days.  Since politicians seem to throw around a billion dollars with ease, go here for a nice graphic of a billion and a trillion dollars.

For centuries, humans have looked to the night sky for answers.  Ancient star-gazers gave us the astrological signs and the mythology of constellations [personally I can only recognize the Big Dipper and the Southern Cross, and maybe Orion's belt].   The Bible makes several references to "signs in the heavens" and "star" appears 17 times in 15 verses of the NIV.  However, today we have very sophisticated instruments for observation and measurements of the cosmos.  One of the measurements that we can make is of the different wavelengths or energies of light of various stars and constellations.  Everything we observe in the heavens appears to be moving away from us, and thus the universe is "expanding." 

How can we make this claim?  Let's start with something familiar.  Anyone who has stood and watched a passing ambulance, or locomotive, or car blasting its horn has noted that the pitch of the sound is higher as the source approaches you and then gets lower as the source passes you by.  Here is a short video of what is termed the Doppler Effect or Doppler Shift:

Cool, eh?  If you have a piano, go over and strike middle C.  No piano?  Use this:

Get sound effects & royalty free music at AudioMicro.

This note has a frequency of 261 cycles per second (cps); if you strike the middle A above middle C, you will hear a higher frequency of 440 cps; and as you might have thought, if you hit the A below middle C, you hear a lower frequency of 220 cps.  Thus higher pitches are more cps and lower pitches are less cps .  However, if the sound source is moving, there is a change in the "apparent" cps to you, the stationary observer, even though there is no real change in the cps of the source.

Here is an interesting analogy:  Suppose that you are a parent watching your child play at the beach. If the child stands still in the shallow water, you note that one wave reaches your child's position each second. However, suppose that the child decides to "rush out to meet" the waves. The child will encounter the waves more frequently as she rushes out toward the deeper water. Instead of one wave reaching her each second, she might meet two or three each second. Conversely, if the child "runs away from the waves" back into the shore, instead of one wave reaching her every second, a wave might only reach her once every 1.5 to 2 seconds. The child can change the "apparent frequency" of the oncoming waves through his motions. How much the frequency changes depends on the child's relative speed.

To impress [or perhaps depress] your relatives and friends, you can do a living-room demo of the Doppler Shift.  If you have a tuning fork, tie it securely to the end of a four-foot rope.  Strike the fork to illustrate the pitch of the fork.  Then, strike the fork and swing it around above your head and the folks will hear the increase and decrease in pitch as the fork moves toward them and then away from them.  If you are a bit concerned about swinging the tuning fork, just strike it and move it quickly toward and away from your captivated audience.  As another alternative, I like to use a piece of soft, flexible rubber tubing and the whistle from our small teapot.  Secure the whistle in the end of the tube and blow through the other end.  Then, as above, swing the whistle around your head and the folks will hear the pitch changes. 

Now - switching from sound to light.  The rainbow reminds of the multicolored nature of light.  And, as you may know, light also has characteristics of waves, and wave frequencies/energies correspond to color, like this:

And, the principles of the Doppler Shift also apply to light and to anything that has a wave as one of its characteristics.  Let's assume that you are stationary and a green light source is stationary - you see green.  But, if the light source is moving toward you, what color might you see?  Would there be a shift toward the blue or toward the red?  The "apparent color" would be of a higher energy/shorter wavelength, and would thus be blue-shifted.  If the green light source was moving away from you, the "apparent color" would be red-shifted.  Every energy source that we can measure "out there" in the universe is red-shifted, and thus everything is moving away from us.  Here is a "real" astronomer giving an explanation of this:

Here is another video, a bit longer and a bit more detailed, but definitely worth your time:

If you want to do an interesting visual for yourself, get a brightly colored balloon; blow it up about 1/3 of its maximum; use a black magic marker to make numerous dots on the balloon; circle one of the dots and call it our own Milky Way; now continue to blow up the balloon.  What is the relationship of the Milky Way to all of the other dots?  What is the relationship of every dot to every other dot?  As the balloon expands, every dot gets further and further away, and likewise, in our expanding universe, everything is moving further and further away from everything else.  You may also note that if you blow up the balloon at a constant rate, the dots move away from each other at a faster rate.  If you want to learn more details about how we measure distances to other places in our solar system and in the universe, read this.

Because of the known rate of the expanding universe, calculations can be made to trace backward in time to when everything in the universe was at one point - the "big bang" - and this is where the 13 billion year age of the universe comes from.  Probably the most important contributions to our understanding of all of this were made by Edwin Hubble and the spacecraft telescope that bears his name.  Here is a link to the amazing photographs from the Hubble telescope and below is an interesting summary of Hubble's work:

And here is a sneak preview of the successor to the Hubble Telescope - the James Webb Space Telescope:

Thus the heavens can declare the glory of God, and the heavens can also tell us a great deal about the history of our universe.  If we are to accept the findings of science regarding the age of the universe, then we must reexamine the literal interpretations of Genesis 1 and 2 and redefine how we read the texts.   A future post, hopefully by Pete Enns, Senior Fellow of Biblical Studies at BioLogos, will address these issues.

Saturday, December 11, 2010



O come, O come, Emmanuel
To free your captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Oh Israel
To you shall come Emmanuel

Veni, veni Emmanuel;
Captivum solve Israel,
Qui gemit in exilio,
Privatus Dei Filio.
Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
Nascetur pro te, Israel!

Thursday, December 09, 2010


I previously wrote about the trouble that some folks have distinguishing Swartzendruber from Schwartzentruber, but in California, specifically LA LA Land, some folks did not see any particular difference between Swartzendruber and Schwarzenneger.  I often would go along with their confusion and say that Arnold was my cousin.  I also made the joking comment that when the Governor came up for re-election, I should join the ticket as a candidate for Lieutenant Governor.  A colleague passed this along to Roy Rivenburg at the LA Times who wrote:

Pepperdine professor Doug Swartzendruber has offered to run for lieutenant governor if Schwarzenegger wins, just so Californians can vote for a Schwarzenegger-Swartzendruber ticket.

The idea never really caught on :-)

Monday, December 06, 2010


The Boulder Daily Camera story of CU's hiring of Jon Embree and Eric Bieniemy which appears below took me back to 1982 when I accepted a position as Associate Professor of Biology at CU's Colorado Springs Campus. On my last day at the University of Texas MD Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute, I wrapped up my experiments in the Department of Developmental Therapeutics, hung up my personalized monogrammed white lab coat and headed down to the awaiting limo.  My wife and I and our three young children were whisked to Hobby Airport where we were greeted by Jim Null, Dean of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Bob Catlett, Chairman of the Biology Department and Don Van Horn, Professor of Biology and search committee member.  We were soon airborne in the private jet, winging toward Colorado Springs.  We shared many thoughts of the future of the department and college, and the kids enjoyed all of the snacks and the views.  Since I was a graduate of the University of Colorado Health Science Center in Denver, it was like coming home.  Rather than landing at the municipal airport, the University had negotiated with the Air Force Academy to use their airstrip.  We were greeted at the USAFA by Chancellor Don Schwartz, Vice Chancellor Jack Sherman and Biology Professor Jim Mattoon and their wives.  The Vice Chancellor's office had planned an evening for the kids so that the rest of us could head downtown to the El Paso Club to meet with a gathering of the city's movers and shakers - Penrose, El Pomar and USOC folks, a couple of Regents, etc.  The fellows even had a moment to go to the men-only "back room" for a cigar and some cognac.  All of the details of my salary [the highest paid Associate Professor in the College], relocation incentives, laboratory set-up and housing allowance were announced, and then I said a few words about how awesome it was to be back in Colorado and how I was looking forward to helping build the reputation of the Colorado Springs campus.  We rejoined our children and spent a few days at the Broadmoor whilst we did some house-hunting. 

Now the more factual story of CU's hiring of Jon Embree and Eric Bieniemy, who together will make more in one year than I did total during my 20+ years at CU  :-)

Jon Embree and Eric Bieniemy came home Sunday night.

Colorado's new head football coach and offensive coordinator spent their afternoons coaching on the sidelines in two different NFL games in two separate cities -- Embree in a loss, Bieniemy in a win -- before jumping on a private jet with athletic director Mike Bohn and flying to Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in Broomfield where they arrived just after 9:30 p.m., on a partly cloudy, cold December evening.  They were greeted by CU President Bruce Benson and Chancellor Phil DiStefano and their wives with warm smiles and firm handshakes and a sense of hope for the future.

"It's awesome," Embree said, still standing on the tarmac after climbing out of the small, white jet with six windows on each side. "I wish we were playing next week."  Bohn and Embree left New York after Embree's final game as tight ends coach with the Washington Redskins. They flew with Embree's wife, Natalyn, and daughter, Hannah, and Dr. David Clough, chair of the school's search committee, to Minneapolis to pick up Bieniemy where he coached with the Minnesota Vikings against Buffalo. There were plenty of smiles on the plane during the final leg back to Boulder where both Embree and Bieniemy starred in college in the 1980s and cut their teeth as assistant coaches earlier in their careers. They will be introduced as the future of the program today at a 10 a.m. press conference on the suite level at Folsom Field.  Bohn was impressed enough with the two men to offer them the jobs and bring them back to Boulder, but after listening to them talk football and recruiting for two hours on the plane together, he was even more satisfied with the choice.

"Their football acumen is impressive," Bohn said.  Now the two coaches are charged with restoring a once proud program that has endured five consecutive losing seasons under former coach Dan Hawkins, who was fired last month.  Embree will meet with his players at the Dal Ward Center this morning before he is officially presented as the 24th coach in the program's history.

"It's a special moment," Embree said. "When I first started coaching, I wanted to come back and be the head coach here at Colorado. It's always been a special part of my family and my life. The opportunity now, along with my staff, to help restore the luster to this program is an exciting challenge."  Embree and Bieniemy both agreed to five-year contracts late Saturday night and the terms of those deals should be available today or as soon as they are approved by the Board of Regents. Embree's agent, Boulder-based Jack Mills, said Embree will not make as much as Hawkins was being paid. Hawkins was scheduled to make about $1.4 million in guaranteed compensation this year.  Bieniemy will be the highest paid assistant coach in CU history at approximately $500,000 a year, a source said. He also will receive a signing bonus.

"Very excited," Bieniemy said when asked how he felt about returning to his alma mater. "You think about a lot of the good times. Winning here as a player and winning here as a coach. I remember coming back here when we were at UCLA. It was probably the hardest thing I had ever done just walking on that field knowing I was going to be on the opposite sideline.

"I'm just excited about the challenge more than anything. It's going to be fun working with Embo. This is something we've dreamed about and talked about for a long time. Now it's become a reality and we've got to go out there and make it happen."  The only other confirmed member of the coaching staff is longtime linebackers coach Brian Cabral. Embree said he has a good idea of who will make up the rest of his staff, but he wants to talk to members of Hawkins' staff before he finalizes the coaching lineup.

"I'm hoping Wednesday, maybe Thursday to make formal announcements," he said.  Embree said asking Cabral, who has served as interim head coach over the past month, to stay on and continue coaching linebackers at CU, as he has done for 22 seasons, was a no-brainer.  "Brian showed what he was about in these last three games," Embree said. "Part of the deal is you've got to have a heart for this place. I think that helps breed success and to be able to help kids understand why you do things a certain way. I think it's just important to have someone like Brian Cabral as part of your staff. He's a tremendous coach."

Embree said he hopes to take the NCAA recruiting test that all coaches must pass before they are allowed to recruit off campus by Tuesday and hit the road in-state by midweek.  "There is a certain kid in-state that I want to go see at his house," Embree said. "I'm anxious. I've heard he is a very good player and had a very good season. I'd like to go see him and other in-state kids who are committed and the ones aren't. I want to go see them and see if they want to be a Buffalo."

Note:  My parody was submitted to both the Boulder Daily Camera and the CU Faculty and Staff Newsletter, and both declined to publish it - interesting.......

Thursday, December 02, 2010


Since I am a Hoosier, the game is obviously basketball.  And I am not talking about pro basketball [truly a perversion of the game] or even most of Division I basketball [where many of the players have unfounded dreams of playing in the NBA].  Rather, I am talking about the game where all 5 players work together as a team.  Occasionally this happens in the NBA, like when Carmelo gets tossed from a Nuggets game and the rest of the players actually have to work together if they hope to win.  It happens at the college level, a whole lot more in Division II and Division III where the players do not have their minds fixated on the pros but rather are playing for the love of the game.  It happens in high schools, again in places where the players are not focused on the next level but on winning at the HS level.  And it happens in the pick-up games where former high school and college players get together not to showcase their individual talents but rather to demonstrate their knowledge and skills of playing the game as a team.

Considering my current age and when I first remember playing b ball, I believe that I have been playing the game for over 55 years.  At New Paris Grade School [which was demolished to make way for apartments], the gym was a glorified chicken coop.  It had a nice sized wooden floor court with no room around the edges.  Right inside the main door was a huge coal/wood fired stove that would eventually heat the building, but in the wintertime, it was always frigid when you went out for first recess.  By noontime and afternoon recess, it was bearable.  Our fifth grade team won a county school tournament, with the celebration being able to have a cake during class time.  Our sixth grade team also won the tournament, and we got a little cocky.  We challenged the seveth graders to a game, and we won.  It went to our heads, and we challenged the eighth grade team - bad decision considering the developmental differences betweeen sixth grade boys and eighth grade boys - we got thumped.

On weekends during the winter, we were always looking for a place to play - sometimes it would be the upper level of the barn at Bobby Roth's farm where we had to sweep the hay off of the floor and play with gloves; sometimes it would be at the Goshen College gym where we had to sneak in because the gym was always locked up on Sundays; and sometimes it would be outdoors if the weather wasn't too bad.  In the summertime, the favored playing spot was Rogers Park in Goshen.  There were lights on the courts, so after a long day of work we would head to the park and play ball well into the night, often past midnight.  The A&W Root Beer stand and Bowers Drive-In stayed open late, so we could always get something to eat and drink after playing.

The New Paris High School Class of 1964 was a very talented group - from 5th grade through 12th grade, we probably didn't lose more than a dozen games.  We played in a cracker-box sized gym that was very reminiscent of the movie Hoosiers.  The seats came right down to the edge of the playing floor, and because there was screaming for most of the game, one's ears would ring for hours.  We won the county tourney twice, but seemed to not be able to make is past Elkhart's Blue Blazers in the sectional tourneys.  Of course, Elkhart High School had over 3000 in three grades, and our NPHS class had 44.  Our class also did well in band and chorus competitions, in 4H, and in most anything competitive.  Our class also sent an unprecedented percentage of graduates on to college.  Here's a pic from our 1964 Parisian yearbook and Goshen News:

The caption reads:  The 1963 New Paris Cubs were 21-3 for the best record in school history.  They also won the Elkhart County tourney.  In front, from left, are Fred Schrock, Lonnie Clem, head coach Jim Hettler, Phil Weybright, Keith Hummel, and Bob Lundy.  In back are manager Roger Hummel,  Stan Myers, Tom Mishler, Steve Hoffman, Dennis Caprarotta,  Doug Swartzendruber, manager Rich Kirkdorffer and assistant coach Terry Rickard.

During our sophmore year in high school, the varsity was 19 and 3 and our junior year we went 20 and 3.  So for the three years, we were 60 and 9.  I did not contribute a whole lot at the varsity level, although I did score 19 in one game.  The back row folks in the picture above were known as the "minute-men" because that is about how much we got to play in most games :-)

{To Be Continued}

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


The Boulder Community Hospital on East Arapahoe has a large banner hanging on the front of the main building stating simply "Love Heals."  I am not sure of their intent, but it takes me back to the 60's.  And "why" you might ask - check this out.

Jack Dalton [front], Chuck Blackwell, Carl Radle, Gary Montgomery, Rob Edwards

Colours -Atmosphere-

The Colours were a 1960's psychedelic pop rock band and the late Gary Montgomery was my brother-in-law.  Although Gary did not "read" music, he was an amazing singer, keyboard player and song-writer.  It's interesting that if you google Gary Montgomery Colours, there are many websites that discuss the music of the Colours, sites that offer the two albums, Love Heals and Atmosphere, produced by the group, and interestingly a site that discusses non-Colours recordings of Jack and Gary.

Here is a sampling of the music of the Colours - the second clip is Love Heals with Gary singing the lead.

In 2008, a Love Heals - the Complete Recordings CD was released, and here are some on-line comments about the Colours, Jack and Gary:

Colours launched onto the scene in 1968 with a stunningly glorious psychedelic masterpiece of L.A studio wizardry. A super group before the name was coined, Colours was the brainchild of Gary Montgomery & Jack Dalton, two hard-working, former Motown songwriters who also penned songs for The Turtles, Nino & April and The Moon. This magical mystery tour-de-force of psychedelic Beatlesque pop also features the talents of Derek & The Dominos bassist Carl Radle.

This first-ever CD issue of their long-out-of-print albums (Colours and Atmosphere) is supplemented by long-lost 67 Dalton & Montgomery recordings cut just months before they formed Colours. 1969′s Atmosphere features former Beach Boy David Marks around the same time he was a member of The Moon another band with many connections to Colours.

The 16-page colour booklet also includes rare, unpublished photos and comprehensive liner notes that feature the participation of original band members.
A bunch of years ago, who would have told us, to Jack, Gary, you and me, that in 2010 we'd be here, in such a close, distant and anonymous media like this one, remembering and celebrating all these songs which have remained suspended in time and space. Yours and mine are stories that, at the moment, are not relevant. But this could be a good moment to enjoy a part of the one of Jack and Gary.

Together, during some years in their youth, they wrote songs of a surprising high level. Songs which were truly reflecting the musical evolution of the times, and which have in common a faultless good taste in their melodic construction and a strong evoking power. Many of them were recorded by themselves with their main project, the band Colours. Other ones were released by other artists, like The Turtles, Nino Tempo & April Stevens, The Committee, The Peppermint Trolley Company, Aorta, or The Moon.

This compilation could well be the complement of the fantastic Colours CD "Love Heals: The Complete Recordings", released by Now Sounds/Cherry Red in 2008, which contains the only two LPs recorded by the band of Jack and Gary ("Colours", 1968 and "Atmosphere", 1969). Here in our compilation we're gathering most part of their songs not included there, and which quite surely also deserve to be recovered and enjoyed.

It's fascinating to participate in the evolution of their music. From the northern soul-merseybeat of their first recordings for the mighty Motown, to the multicoloured and captivating pop of the times when they were starting to take off, and to the psychedelic flavours of their final stage.
Here are "The Best Three Songs From Atmosphere" - Gary is featured on the first cut Angie, the second cut When Will You Be Coming Home is a wonderful example of the harmonies of Gary and Jack, and the third cut Your High is very Beatle-esque.  Probably my most favorite Colours song is Smiling in Toronto, but I have not yet found an on-line audio or video of the tune.  You can get a sampling of all 28 Colours cuts on the 2008 CD at Amazon.  A very good friend of Gary's, Danny Moore, produced both Colours albums.

Gary and Kay Montgomery's daughter Anna Montgomery is also an accomplished musician, and after Gary's untimely passing in 2005 caused by heart disease, Anna produced a tribute album for her father.  Triple Seven is a posthumous collaboration between Gary and Anna, and it can be previewed here.  Gary was the third member of the Colours to pass away.  Carl Radle was considered one of the best bass players of the era, and played with a host of well-known artists and bands.  He died in 1980 in a fashion far too common for rock and rollers - from the effects of too much alcohol and drugs.  I understand that guitarist Robbie Edwards dropped out of the music scene, went to medical school and became a physician.  Danny Moore has provided more info about Robbie in the comments section - apparently he had a severe allergic reaction that caused heart failure.

It is most interesting that 40+ years after the Colours came and went, they are still a presence on the internet and have fans around the globe.

Sunday, November 28, 2010



Fundamentalisms, wherever they appear around the globe, typically emerge in response to crises that throw the world out of joint.  In the previous installment of this four-part series, we noted how a wide variety of cultural crises threw the world out of joint for conservative American Christians in the early 20th century and prompted the rise of the Fundamentalist Movement.

The Rise of the Christian Right

By the 1960s, the world was out of joint again, prompting the rise of the Christian Right.  During that period, the United States experienced another great wave of immigration. While many of these newer immigrants were Hispanic Catholics and Pentecostals, many others were foreign to any kind of Christian agenda whatsoever. They came from places like Thailand, Cambodia and South Vietnam; India, Pakistan and Nepal; and Lebanon, Iran and Egypt. And they brought their religions with them: Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and many other religious traditions largely alien to most Americans at that time.

While this new wave of immigration was not the immediate catalyst for the revival of American fundamentalism, it formed an important backdrop to that revival. At the very least, it spoke loudly to fundamentalists that the diversity they found so objectionable 50 years before had now come to their shores in ways they could never have imagined. And it alerted them to the fact that any hope they may have had for the renewal of Christian America was now at risk. If they intended to recreate the Christian nation their forebears from the 19th century had constructed, time was running out.

Against that backdrop, several factors threw the world out of joint in radical and disturbing ways: the War in Vietnam, the countercultural revolution that engulfed so many young Americans and the Civil Rights Movement.  It was not so much the Vietnam War as the massive and vehement rejection of that war that frightened conservative Americans since the anti-war movement rejected so much of the glue that had bound the nation together for so many years. Patriotism, Christianity and virtually all the foundations for traditional American culture were now under assault.

In that context, traditional morality also fell on hard times since the countercultural revolution morphed into a sexual revolution and a culture devoted to psychotropic drugs.  But in many ways, the most important seismic shock that threw the world out of joint for so many conservative Americans was the Civil Rights Movement. For a hundred years, Americans had lived in a nation segregated by race, and many whites, both North and South, found any attempt to change those racial patterns profoundly threatening.  These were the forces that prompted the rise of America's Christian Right.

What permitted the rise of that movement is the fact that fundamentalism had not gone away in 1925. Fundamentalists had simply retreated from the public square into their churches and there, in these underground silos, they nurtured their dreams of a Christian America.  No one understood this better than Jerry Falwell, pastor of one of those silos, the Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va. And in 1969, playing off language popularized by President Richard Nixon, Falwell pointed to a great "silent majority" of Americans who supported the war in Vietnam, who had deep reservations about Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement, and who rejected what they regarded as the growing countercultural radicalism of the Left.

And then in 1979, Falwell launched his "Moral Majority," the vanguard of the Christian Right.  The extent to which the Christian Right is unthinkable apart from the seismic shifts that jolted the American cultural landscape in the 1960s is obvious from Falwell's own response to Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement.

In 1958, four years after the Supreme Court handed down its landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, outlawing racial segregation in America's public schools, Falwell thundered from his Thomas Road Baptist Church pulpit, "If Chief Justice Warren and his associates had known God's word and had desired to do the Lord's will, I am quite confident that the 1954 decision would never have been made. ... The facilities should be separate. When God has drawn a line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line."  Later, he rejected the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as "civil wrongs," distributed FBI-generated propaganda defaming the character of Martin Luther King Jr., and attacked King as a Communist in a sermon he preached from the pulpit of his Thomas Road Baptist Church in 1964.

Then, in 1966, he side-stepped Brown v. Board of Education by establishing Lynchburg Christian Academy which the Lynchburg News described as "a private school for white students."   Falwell's school was one of literally thousands of segregationist academies established by white Christians in the American South to avoid compliance with federal law regarding racial integration. The vast reservoir of opposition to Brown v. Board of Education among those Christians helps us understand that the potential pool of support for the Christian Right was extraordinarily large and was only waiting for someone to sound the call to battle.

While one cannot imagine the rise of the Christian Right apart from all the seismic jolts that shook the American cultural landscape in the 1960s, it was opposition to racial integration that finally galvanized that movement and prompted the formal emergence of the Christian Right in 1979.  Paul Weyrich, a Falwell ally, had tried for years to create a conservative, faith-based political movement with national cache. He had proposed numerous issues as potential rallying point -- abortion, school prayer and the Equal Rights Amendment, for example -- but had failed in every instance.  Weyrich later recalled that what prompted conservative Christians to coalesce into a national political force was their strong reaction against an attempt by the federal government to rescind the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University for its violations of Brown v. Board of Education. Falwell later complained, "In some states it's easier to open a massage parlor than to open a Christian school."

And so, in 1979, Falwell and his colleagues created the first visible expression of fundamentalism in America's public square since the Fundamentalist Movement retreated from public view in the aftermath of the Scopes-Monkey Trial in 1925. They called it the Moral Majority.  Within the next few years, other fundamentalist leaders created similar organizations. James Dobson, a well-known Christian psychologist and radio personality, launched his Family Research Council in 1981. And in 1989, Pat Robertson organized his Christian Coalition.

The Christian Right in Historical Context: Persuasion vs. Politics

Obviously, the Christian Right, at least at the time of its inception, resisted the core, seminal values that the Founders framed for this nation -- the values found in the conviction that "all men are created equal" and endowed with the "unalienable rights" of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."  And it resisted as well the defining spirit of its age -- a spirit that would move inexorably toward the expansion of freedom and equal rights for blacks, Hispanics, women, gays and all minorities within the borders of the United States.

Of course, at the time, no one knew that the spirit of the age was moving in that direction. At the time, the future of the nation seemed up for grabs. The religious "glue" that would define the nation for the third century of its existence and beyond was hotly contested ground in the 1960s and 70s. And that is precisely why Robert Bellah has called that period "America's third time of trial."  When we compare the Christian Right with the two other major attempts to Christianize the nation -- the Second Great Awakening of the early 19th century and the Fundamentalist Movement of the early 20th century -- the differences are stunning.

Obviously, the Christian Right stood shoulder to shoulder with the earlier Fundamentalist Movement -- and parted company with the Second Great Awakening -- with its lack of interest in social justice and its rejection of equal rights for African Americans.  But the Christian Right parted company with both the Second Great Awakening and the Fundamentalist Movement with one immensely far-reaching decision. If those two earlier movements had limited themselves to persuasion in their respective bids to shape the soul of the nation, the Christian Right combined persuasion with raw political power and sought to force its agenda on the nation by controlling the nation's political structures.  Because they were bent on controlling the nation, they clearly had no other choice, since their agenda stood so completely opposed to the religious "glue" that had bound the nation together for so many years -- the "glue" that had been forged in the partial agreement between the Founders and the Second Great Awakening.

Leaders of the Christian Right therefore pressured senators and representatives at every level of government for legislation favorable to prayer in America's public schools, for legislation that would ban abortion under all circumstances and for legislation that would substitute the Genesis account of creation for evolutionary science in public classrooms. At the same time, they sought to use the political process to undermine measures favorable to diversity and pluralism: the Equal Rights Amendment, gay rights and even the U.S.-Soviet SALT treaties.

Since the 1980s, they have sought to elect to office at the federal, state, and local levels candidates who would pass legislation in sync with their vision for a "Christian America." They therefore drew up "report cards" on both candidates and actual officeholders, grading them on their compliance with a host of measures they wished to see enacted into law. They then distributed those "report cards" through fundamentalist churches throughout the United States, thereby transforming their constituency into a significant power bloc in American politics.

By 2004, it became obvious that their efforts had been extraordinarily successful. By 2004, the Christian Right effectively controlled the Republican Party, the House of Representatives and the Senate. That fact became evident in the "report cards" -- technically called Congressional Scorecards -- issued by one Christian Right advocacy group, the Christian Coalition.  Those report cards graded members of the House on 13 issues and members of the Senate on six. Forty-two members of the Senate earned an A+, a 100 percent score on all six issues, and 163 members of the House earned an A-, a 90 percent score on all 13 issues on which they were graded. And the Christian Coalition gave 45 senators and 186 congressional members a rating of 80 percent or better.

But four years later, in 2008, the election of Barack Obama as the first African American president of the United States suggests that the Christian Right -- at least as defined and shaped by leaders like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James D. Kennedy, Paul Weyrich and James Dobson -- was falling into disarray.

In the final installment of this four-part series, we will ask how the Christian Right, in the midst of its disarray, emerged in new forms and structures during the presidency of Barack Obama, and how -- in those new forms and structures -- it continues to undermine Christian values on the one hand and American values on the other.

Monday, November 22, 2010


A colleague recently sent me a link to a YouTube video about education processes and paradigms, ADHD , and other interesting topics.  The video is one of a series produced by RSA, the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce.  This particular lecture is by Sir Ken Robinson, and the video that parallels the audio is quite engaging. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010


One of the reasons I have a hard accepting church doctrines, dogma, confessions and articles of faith is because such post-Jesus writings often come into conflict with what science tells us about the natural world.  Young earth creation [YEC] conflicting with cosmology, geology and biology comes to mind.  Thus it is most interesting to watch the interactions among Team Fundamentalist [Mohler], Team BioLogos [Giberson] and Team Atheist [Coyne].  Dr. R. Albert Mohler is President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and has been called the leading intellectual in the world of fundamental Christianity.  Dr. Karl Giberson is a Professor at Eastern Nazarene College, Vice President of the BioLogos Foundation and considered a leader among those attempting to integrate faith and science.  Dr Jerry Coyne is a professor of ecology and evolution at the Univesity of Chicago and an outspoken critic of all things religious.  In a series of blogs at the BioLogos website and at the Huffington Post, Giberson has attempted to demonstrate that there can be a middle ground between the Mohler's clearly erroneous belief in YEC and other biblically revealed scientific "truths" and the "science is  the only way to answer meaningful questions" mantra of Coyne.  Mohler's response to Giberson and BioLogos is that they are basically heretics from the standpoint of "traditional" Christian doctrine and dogma.  Apparently if one does not accept Al's interpretation of  Genesis 1 and 2, believe that Adam and Eve were two real people, accept that there was a world-wide flood, etc., then one cannot truly be a Christian.  And from the other side, Coyne says that it does not matter how one interprets the bible, it is all not amenable to scientific investigation and therefore is worthless.  Moreover, Coyne points out all of the egregious behaviors that have and are exhibited by those who claim to be Christians, particularly those of Mohler's ilk.

Poor Uncle Karl, as Jerry has taken to calling Giberson.  In trying to stake out the middle ground, Giberson has noted that he gets shot at from both directions.  Mohler says that Giberson is destroying the church and Coyne says that Giberson still clings to the nonsensical notion of a big-guy-in-the-sky.  He says the only difference between Al and Karl is degree, not kind.  Hence, both should be relegated to the intellectual hinterland where they may find the error in their logic and reason and perhaps ultimately see the truth as Jerry sees it.  I believe that Karl has a thick skin coated with Teflon - Team Fundamentalist charges him with undermining the Gospel of Christ and promoting beliefs that are incompatible with biblical Christianity whilst Team Atheist calls him a fucking moron.

So, what's wrong with this picture?  Most everything.  I believe that it is Mohler who is destroying the church rather than Giberson.  Any person who accepts what science has clearly demonstrated regarding the age of the universe, the age of the earth, and the age of hominids would naturally question any teachings of a leader who denies such evidence.  Mohler is effectively saying one must either choose to accept his way or the way of science.  Coyne says the same thing, and has recently made his mission very clear.  Although his website is entitled Why Evolution is True, he responded to one of Uncle Karl's blogs by saying that Team Atheism is much more important than Team Evolution.  Indeed, Karl and Jerry are both on team evolution, but are decidedly on opposing teams with it comes to faith.  Karl and Al are both on team faith [although Al has trouble accepting that] but are on opposing teams regarding evolution.