Response to Dr. James Dobson, who blames Sandy Hook school massacre on gays, abortion

Dr. James Dobson (right) with Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum.

Dr. James Dobson (right) with Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum.

For all of you who once respected him, we’ve unfortunately come to witness Dr. James Dobson devolve over the past several years into nothing more than a right wing fundamentalist.

Dobson recently said the following on his morning program, Family Talk, regarding the Sandy Hook massacre:

“I mean millions of people have decided that God doesn’t exist, or he’s irrelevant to me and we have killed fifty-four million babies and the institution of marriage is right on the verge of a complete redefinition.  Believe me, that is going to have consequences too.

And a lot of these things are happening around us, and somebody is going to get mad at me for saying what I am about to say right now, but I am going to give you my honest opinion: I think we have turned our back on the Scripture and on God Almighty and I think he has allowed judgment to fall upon us.  I think that’s what’s going on.” (audio here)

Dear Mr. Dobson,

Please stop. Just stop. Please stop telling us what you think God thinks (which, not coincidentally, happens to be precisely what the Evangelical GOP talking points tell you to think). In fact, please contact Pat Robertson and come to some agreement to retire together, because you’ve both absolutely lost your minds!

There are plenty of quality, good-hearted, kind, loving, and yes, faithful teachers in our public schools, and they give their entire lives to and for their kids (as we’ve recently seen at Sandy Hook Elementary). Why insult them by failing to acknowledge their efforts? Why judge them just because the government won’t let you force non-Christian elementary school kids to pray to Jesus (otherwise known as that maddening drum you refer to as “School Prayer” that you incessantly beat)?

Are you so blind to the thousands of good and loving teachers in our public schools – many of whom are devout Christians! – that you’d say “we’ve” (and therefore, “they’ve“) “turned their backs on God” just because the guy you voted for lost the Presidency?

Will you REALLY blame gays and abortion for the Newtown shootings? Is your God so small, so weak, and so readily obliging that he is somehow forced to abide by US domestic policy? Is your God so childishly petulant that he throws a fit in the form of a schoolhouse slaughter when he’s not honored enough? Not praised enough?

Enough! Retire already. But whatever you do, please stop talking nonsense.

Or, here’s a thought: focus on your own damn family, and stop criticizing mine, you theologically impotent, thoughtless hack.

Sincerely,

Robert R. Cargill

Focus on your OWN damn family.

social justice in action: egyptian muslims form human shields for egyptian coptic christians

Muslims form a human shield around various Coptic churches during Coptic Christmas eve mass services around the country and at candle light vigils held outside, offering their bodies and their lives as protection while Coptic Christians worship inside.

Muslims form a human shield around various Coptic churches during Coptic Christmas eve mass services throughout Egypt and at candle light vigils held outside, offering their bodies and their lives as protection while Coptic Christians worshiped inside.

Rarely in modern times do we witness acts of solidarity and social justice that are truly life threatening. I am honored to say that I am proud of the Egyptian Muslims who protested the terrible militant attacks against Coptic Christians at the Saints Church in Alexandria, Egypt on New Years day. But it was the way in which they protested that was both impressive and self-sacrificial.

A mass of Egyptian Muslims formed human shields around various Coptic churches during Coptic Christmas eve mass services throughout Egypt and at candle light vigils held outside. They offered their bodies and risked their lives as protection against militant Muslim terrorists while Coptic Christians worshiped inside. It was an act of solidarity with their Christian Egyptian neighbors that spanned their different religions and got to the heart of both faiths: love of neighbor as social justice towards all.

Among those shields were movie stars Adel Imam and Yousra, popular preacher Amr Khaled, the two sons of President Hosni Mubarak, and thousands of citizens who have said they consider the attack one on Egypt as a whole.

“This is not about us and them,” said Dalia Mustafa, a student who attended mass at Virgin Mary Church on Maraashly. “We are one. This was an attack on Egypt as a whole, and I am standing with the Copts because the only way things will change in this country is if we come together.”

Egyptian Muslims literally offered their lives for their Coptic Christians brothers and sisters. They spoke with their bodies, uniting as one in Egypt against terrorism and religious intolerance.

Very, very well done. There is indeed hope for humanity if we can only see the inner light in every human being, as these advocates did today.

HT: JW

new mythology-based fantasy themepark coming to kentucky

Ark Encounter

Ark Encounter

A new myth-based fantasy theme park is coming to Kentucky. The park, which will be called Ark Encounter, promises to expose visitors to myths and fantasies that will rival those of Disneyland. The park’s main attraction will be a 500-foot long reproduction of the Bible’s Noah’s Ark. The park will also feature an ancient walled city (perhaps bringing to mind Jericho), a petting zoo, live animal shows featuring giraffes and elephants, and a full scale reproduction of the biblical Tower of Babel (as the park developers envision it).

The park has attracted some controversy, however, as some have argued that because it is a religiously-themed park, it should not qualify for state tax breaks and incentives, such as the Enterprise Initiative Act Tax Refund Program for which Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has stated the park has applied. Governor Beshear argues there is nothing “remotely unconstitutional” about the proposal. He said the law does not allow the state to discriminate against a for-profit business based upon the product or subject matter of its products. The Governor compared the Ark park to NASCAR, arguing that not everyone loves NASCAR, but that did not stop him from authorizing tax incentives to help the Kentucky Speedway hold a Sprint Cup race next year.

The developers are cleverly attempting to avoid the church-state argument by establishing the Ark park as a for-profit business. Unlike many other faith-based organizations, establishing a for-profit business means the group will forfeit tax exempt status in the long term in exchange for job-creating tax breaks up front. Essentially, the Ark park is gaming the system to get its tax breaks at the beginning. The Ark Encounter website specifically notes that “the tax incentives do not go to non-profit AiG, but to the for-profit Ark Encounter LLC.”

But there should be no doubt that the Ark Encounter is a faith-based enterprise. Not only is the park centered on Biblical stories, but the park will be managed by fundamentalist Christian Creationist group Answers in Genesis, which also runs a Creation Museum park in Petersburg, Kentucky. The Answers in Genesis jobs website specifically states that in order to be eligible for employment at AiG or the Creation Museum:

“All job applicants need to supply a written statement of their testimony, a statement of what they believe regarding creation and a statement that they have read and can support the AiG statement of faith.”

As a taxpayer incentivized, for-profit business in Kentucky, the Ark Encounter will not be allowed to discriminate against employees on the basis of testimonies and declarations of faith as Answers in Genesis openly does at the Creation Museum. Only time will tell if the park will “unfortunately” be “forced” to convert to a not-for-profit, faith-based organization after it deals with the inevitable first volleys of discrimination lawsuits. (If it does, will it refund the tax incentives to the state?)

However, if the park’s developers and management are able to avoid employee religion-based discrimination pitfalls, it will most likely be successful in building the park. It will be interesting to observe whether the park declares its purpose as one of attempting to convince visitors of particular faith claims, or if they stick to the mission statements of other theme parks which center around simple entertainment and filing children’s heads with fantastic tales like those Disney productions that would never be physically possible in a world governed by science and physics.

And while Governor Beshear repeatedly touts the benefits of the park – investing $150 million to create jobs in Kentucky, bringing tourism to Kentucky, creating 900 full- and part-time jobs, an estimated annual impact of over $200 million on the state’s economy, and attracting 1.6 million visitors in its first year – I wonder if he’ll go the distance and compare this for-profit theme park to other mythological fantasy parks like Disneyland, Disney World, and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. As long as the Governor and the park’s developers are on record as stating that this park makes no faith claims about religious truth, and is instead only another fantasy-based theme park like Disneyland, there should be no quarrel.

update on bruce waltke’s departure from reformed theological seminary

Bruce Waltkethe society of biblical literature’s website has posted a letter from dr. bruce waltke explaining his departure from reformed theological seminary in oviedo, fl. scott jaschik of inside higher ed ran a story last week that i blogged here.

in the letter, waltke apologizes to rts president robert (ric) c. cannada, jr. for ‘unwittingly involving’ them in a discussion about the issue of evolution and creation in genesis 1-3. why dr. waltke would want to exclude a seminary from a discussion about genesis 1-3 is beyond me, but i’m sure he has his reasons.

dr. waltke goes on to say in the letter that it was, in fact, he who resigned from rts, but did not elaborate on the circumstances, although waltke did acknowledge that he has received letters from many condemning rts president cannada for his action. dr. waltke goes on to state that he finds, ‘no fault with the rts administration; in fact, i think they did the right thing.’ (i discuss in a comment on my former post how many confessional schools get around having to ‘fire’ professors who don’t say what the school wants by not offering tenure to full-time faculty.)

dr. waltke then goes on to rattle off a list of things he would have edited about the video of his lecture on issues of evolution and creation that was posted on the biologos foundation’s website. these include:

  • altering the title to say why the church should accept creation by process of evolution (instead of must)

ok, fine.

  • deleting his title as a professor at rts since he was ‘speaking as an individual’

‘speaking as an individual’ makes no difference. each and every thing one says ‘as a professor’ is also said ‘as an individual.’ likewise, each thing a scholar says ‘as an individual’ reflects upon his or her university. i recall paul’s attempt at delineating between what he says and what the lord commands in 1 corinthians 7. methinks it’s safe to say that the early church always saw paul as a spokesperson for the lord, and included that which paul said ‘as an individual’ as authoritative as well.

and, may i ask, would ‘speaking as an individual’ have made a difference? would the rts administration have said, ‘he said the church should accept evolution??  oh, but he said it as an individual and not as an rts professor, despite the fact he works for us?  oh, ok then, that’s ok.’ i think not.

  • clarifying that he defines evolution as ‘theistic’ evolution as opposed to ‘naturalistic’ evolution.

i again must ask, is there a difference? if evolution is occurring (which it is) and we can’t prove or disprove the existence of god (which we can’t), what’s the difference? evolution is evolution. natural selection is natural selection. gravity is gravity. they all exist and take place whether one believes in them or not, whether one believes in god or not, and whether one believes god is responsible for them or not. what is at issue is the acceptance or denial of a six-day creation (literal or otherwise). i am guessing that many confessional institutions that place on their website a confession including language stating that the bible is “verbally inspired by almighty god and therefore without error” is not going to accept any explanation of creation as a process of evolution whatsoever, whether it be theistic, naturalistic, or otherwise.

  • surrounding himself with earlier advocates of theistic evolution

granted, this may have helped soften the impact. however, is that what dr. waltke wanted? to soften the impact of his message? i am not sure that waltke’s surrounding himself with ‘a cloud of theistic evolutionary witnesses’ would have appeased rts.

in all, i can understand dr. waltke’s desire to spare rts any further embarrassment. from what i am told, dr. waltke is a kind and congenial man. i certainly understand the notion of walking away and not burning bridges, despite the fact one has fundamental disagreements with what is being taught at a religious school. it is appropriate at times simply to walk away and speak kindly of one’s former school in a professional manner, even if it means not stating how one really feels.

that said, part of me wishes dr. waltke wouldn’t have let rts off the hook so easily. again, there may be underlying factors (financial or otherwise) that caused both parties to part ways amicably and speak favorably of one another. but once again we are left with yet another example of  an evangelical seminary teaching fundamentalist interpretations of the bible, where, when a faculty member dares speak against the confession (despite the fact that all evidence says that he is correct), said faculty member ends up conveniently ‘resigning.’ rts comes off once again as the bully winner, where those who dare speak against what they’ve preordained to be the truth will be (as they say in my hometown) ‘disappeared.’

still, it is my hope that dr. waltke finds another job at a place (perhaps knox?) with far less dogmatic views, where critical scholarship is valued and promoted, and where dr. waltke can continue his career. hiring dr. waltke will be a benefit for any school that wants to demonstrate its relevance to the modern world.

religion profesor bruce waltke dismissed from evangelical seminary for accepting evolution

Dr. Bruce K. Waltke

Dr. Bruce K. Waltke was dismissed from Reformed Theological Seminary for not adhering to biblical creation as the origin of humanity.

this is sad.

scott jaschik of inside higher ed ran a story today about harvard trained religion profesor, bruce k. waltke, who was recentely dismissed form his position at reformed theological seminary in oviedo, fl. interestingly, it was a video of dr. waltke posted on the biologos foundation‘s website that prompted his dismissal. and what heinous crime was dr. waltke filmed committing? a sex scandal? public drunkenness? a financial scandal? no. the video showed waltke doing what he does best: lecturing. to be precise, dr. waltke was lecturing about creation and evolution. specifically, waltke not only endorsed evolution, but said that evangelical christianity could be facing a crisis if it does not come to accept science, and specifically evolution, as a viable explanation for the existence of humanity. but apparently, certain school officials didn’t like what the highly respected professor was saying. and amazingly, the school’s officials, who were apparently policing the content of another organization’s website, decided that what waltke said was worthy of dismissal. (thus, it is not only students that must beware of university policing of facebook photos in an effort to discipline students for underage drinking, but apparently senior faculty must now also be cautious of expressing academic opinions that are not congruent with a school’s religious standards committee. i shake my head.)

of course, dr. waltke is absolutely correct. we evolved. the earth was not created in six days 6000 years ago. in fact, the bible’s redactors couldn’t even decide which of the two creation stories (gen 1-2:3 and gen 2:4b-25) to include, so it canonized both stories. this is freshman level biblical studies material. but because waltke teaches at a ‘confessional’ school, his academic opinions are subject to censure by the very white and very male school administrators, who may or may not have advanced degrees in science or biblical studies. (unlike the rest of the practical theology faculty, chancellor and ceo dr. robert “ric” c. cannada, jr. does not list his academic pedigree or a link to his c.v.)

in fact, the school is so tied to its understanding of the biblical text as ‘inerrant’ that it places a full confessional statement on its website, including this nugget:

All Scripture is self-attesting and, being truth, requires the human mind wholeheartedly to subject itself in all its activities to the authority of Scripture complete as the Word of God, standing written in the sixty-six books of the Holy Bible, all therein being verbally inspired by Almighty God and therefore without error.

the university has defended the dismissal with a very weak response. according to inside higher ed:

Michael Milton, president of the seminary’s Charlotte campus and interim president of its Orlando campus, where Waltke taught, confirmed that the scholar had lost his job over the video…

Milton said that the seminary allows “views to vary” about creation, describing the faculty members there as having “an eight-lane highway” on which to explore various routes to understanding. Giving an example, he said that some faculty members believe that the Hebrew word yom (day) should be seen in Genesis as a literal 24-hour day. Others believe that yom may be providing “a framework” for some period of time longer than a day. Both of those views, and various others, are allowed, Milton said.

so essentially, you can interpret the creation stories in genesis any way you’d like, as long as it involves god creating and doesn’t involve science or evolution. i am reminded of henry ford’s famous claim regarding his model t cars: ‘any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.’ essentially, at reformed theological seminary you can interpret creation any way you’d like, so long as it’s creation.

the article continues:

But while Milton insisted that this provides for “a diversity” of views, he acknowledged that others are not permitted. Darwinian views, and any suggestion that humans didn’t arrive on earth directly from being created by God (as opposed to having evolved from other forms of life), are not allowed, he said, and faculty members know this.

Asked if this limits academic freedom, Milton said: “We are a confessional seminary. I’m a professor myself, but I do not have a freedom that would go past the boundaries of the confession.

perhaps the most disgusting (or at least stomach turning) part of the article came in the school’s attempt at conciliation:

Given Waltke’s role and reputation, Milton said that his resignation wasn’t accepted on the spot. But after prayer on the question, Milton said, officials accepted the resignation.

you see, we didn’t really want to fire him, but after we prayed about it, we felt it best. essentially, god wanted it this way. this actually makes me angry, and i don’t get angry. let me just state for the record: when those in authority attempt to defer responsibility by claiming that they ‘prayed about it’ or claim that their decision is ‘god’s will,’ they betray their cowardice and their lack of leadership. if you’re going to fire someone for petty, sectarian, doctrinal reasons, fire him, and tell him so. tell him why you’re firing him. do not fire someone and then feign sincerity while claiming the decision is god’s responsibility and ‘god’s will’!!!!

in the end, waltke is correct. until christians wrest the faith away from evangelical fundamentalists and the power brokers at christian colleges and seminaries, christianity will continue to appear like a backwards faith that is completely incongruent with modern society. the sooner christians can come to an educated understanding of the biblical texts – not simply the recitation of memory verses and confessional creeds, but the true understanding of the text, its context, and its interpretation in the light of critical study – the better off the faith will be. the more the likes of glenn beck are looked to as the champions and representatives of the christian faith, the more the  church will hemorrhage parishioners. academics and biblical scholars must stand up. we must stop talking only to ourselves and must begin addressing the public directly via blogs, online lectures, and other digital media. for the sooner the public is disabused of the notion that in order to be a real christian, you must be an evangelical fundamentalist, the sooner they will demand that the schools they choose not teach nonsense, which is exactly what is going on at reformed theological seminary: nonsense.

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