Phil Robertson: Making the Church of Christ Proud

Phil Robertson: Making the Church of Christ proudPhil Robertson: making the Church of Christ proud.

So let me get this straight (no pun intended):

One Church of Christ University, Pepperdine, has one of their law school professors, Richard Peterson, become the poster child of the “Yes on 8” campaign to ban same-sex marriage, and then after the school tries to claim they don’t take sides on political issues, watches their law school Dean, Ken Starr, lead the legal appeal after Prop 8 was struck down by the courts…

and now…

Phil Robertson, who attends the White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ in West Monroe, LA, and whose son, Willie, attended another Church of Christ University, Harding, makes graphic comments condemning gays in God’s name.

Can we honestly say we did NOT see this coming???

Sneak Peek of “Bible Secrets Revealed” on History, beginning Nov 13, 2013

Dr. Bart Erhman (UNC, Chapel Hill) appears on

Dr. Bart Erhman (UNC, Chapel Hill) appears on “Bible Secrets Revealed” airing on History beginning Nov 11, 2013.

You can sneak a peek at the first teaser/trailer of “Bible Secrets Revealed” on the History web site.

Drs. Bart Ehrman, Candida Moss, Francesca Stavrakopoulou, and Reza Aslan are shown inviting viewers to come and watch.

The series begins airing on Nov 13, 2013 at 10/9c. The series airs every Wednesday for the next six weeks.

I can also reveal a list of some of those scholars who will be appearing in the series. This partial list (in alpha order) includes:

Reza Aslan (University of California, Riverside)
Gary Burge (Wheaton College)
Robert R. Cargill (University of Iowa)
Bart Ehrman (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)
Lori Anne Ferrell (Claremont Graduate University)
Israel Finkelstein (Tel Aviv University)
William Fulco (Loyola Marymount University)
Jeffrey C. Geoghegan (Boston College)
Bryan Givens (Pepperdine University)
Mark Goodacre (Duke University)
Bradley Hale (Azusa Pacific University)
James Hoffmeier (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)
Amir Hussain (Loyola Marymount University)
Alvin Kass (NYPD)
Chris Keith (St. Mary’s University College)
Peter Lanfer (University of California, Los Angeles)
Jodi Magness (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)
Dale Martin (Yale University)
Candida Moss (University of Notre Dame)
Bob Mullins (Azusa Pacific University)
Elaine Pagels (Princeton University)
Yuval Peleg (Israel Antiquities Authority)
Pnina Shor (Israel Antiquities Authority)
Jordan Smith (University of Iowa)
Daniel L. Smith-Christopher (Loyola Marymount University)
Francesca Stavrakopoulou (University of Exeter, UK)
James Tabor (University of North Carolina, Charlotte)
David Wolpe (Sinai Temple, Los Angeles)
Jennifer Wright-Knust (Boston University)

I invite those of all faith traditions, sects, and denominations, as well as atheists, agnostics, secular humanists to watch the series, as History presents a scholarly look at the difficult texts and traditions within the Bible.

New History Channel Documentary “Bible Secrets Revealed” Begins Airing November 11

History logoI’m pleased to announce that a new documentary series will begin airing on History beginning Monday, November 11, 2013 at 10:00pm / 9:00 Central.

The series is entitled, Bible Secrets Revealed, and is produced by Prometheus Entertainment for the History channel.

The titles of the six episodes and their schedule of appearance are as follows:

“Lost in Translation” – November 11, 2013
“The Promised Land” – November 18, 2013
“The Forbidden Scriptures” – November 25, 2013
“The Real Jesus” – December 2, 2013
“Mysterious Prophecies” – December 16, 2013
“Sex and the Bible” – December 23, 2013

The documentary features dozens of the world’s top biblical scholars, religious studies scholars, archaeologists, and historians, who offer different points of view while addressing some of the more difficult readings in the biblical and extra-biblical texts.

It is also worth note that portions of the documentary were filmed on site during the 2013 season of archaeological excavation at Tel Azekah.

Please tune in to this documentary, which seeks to address difficult biblical scriptures and teachings in a responsible, academic, yet entertaining manner. The series is certain to be compelling as much for its scholarship as for its examination of secrets buried deep within the biblical texts, that have often traditionally been known only to scholars.

Westboro Baptist Church to Protest 3 Churches in Malibu…but NOT Pepperdine, Church of Christ

Westboro Baptist Church will picket Malibu, CA, but is NOT picketing Christian Pepperdine University, nor the Church of Christ that meets on its campus.

Westboro Baptist Church will picket Malibu, CA, but is NOT picketing Christian Pepperdine University, nor the Church of Christ that meets on its campus.

I have been embarrassed on a few separate occasions to be associated with Pepperdine University, where I received my Master of Divinity.

But I have never been as embarrassed, nay, as ashamed as I was when I learned that Westboro Baptist Church, the überfundamentalist, homophobic, inbred family hate group church in Topeka, Kansas, notorious for picketing the funerals of fallen US soldiers while carrying signs that read “God hates fags”, is picketing three, count them, THREE different churches in Malibu this weekend, but NOT Pepperdine University and NOT the University Church of Christ that meets on its campus!

How humiliating must it be for anyone associated with Pepperdine when Westboro Baptist comes to picket in Malibu, and neither Pepperdine, nor the Church of Christ on campus warrant picketing.

How socially irrelevant and theologically impotent must you be in a community when Westboro Baptist comes to town and chooses to picket 3 other churches.

Then again, this shouldn’t surprise us: A Pepperdine Law School faculty member, Richard Peterson, was the poster child for the “Yes on Prop 8” campaign, which sought to ban same-sex marriage in California. After an understandable public outcry against the school, Pepperdine’s President, Andy Benton, issued a number of press statements attempting to convince the public and the Pepperdine community that it was officially “neutral” on the issue of same-sex marriage. He stated:

“As a matter of established policy, the university does not take positions on partisan political issues, including ballot initiatives.”

But no sooner had he issued this statement, than Pepperdine’s Law School Dean, Ken Starr, agreed to argue on behalf of the Yes on 8 campaign to overturn and nullify those same-sex marriage that were performed legally between the time the court struck down Prop 8 and its announcement of a stay on same-sex marriages until the courts come to a conclusion on the matter.

Thus, it should be no surprise that Westboro Baptist isn’t going to picket Pepperdine or the University Church of Christ: they agree about same-sex marriage and gays!!

This isn’t difficult math: Pepperdine has become the banner institution in Los Angeles for the suppression of the rights of LGTBQ individuals, and this must please Westboro Baptist to no end!

In fact, Pepperdine still won’t allow LGBTQ students to have a club on campus. Pepperdine’s Dean of Students, Mark Davis, said the following:

“Pepperdine seeks to be faithful to this teaching because we believe it is God’s will…and therefore we cannot endorse another view or take a neutral position on sexual morality…we do not believe it is possible for a LGBT student organization to maintain a neutral position.”

What a tremendously sad commentary on Pepperdine and the Church of Christ in Malibu when Westboro Baptist comes to town and says, “Nah, they’re cool.”

A trusted mentor once told me, “You must live so that the right people praise you, and the right people curse you.”  I put it this way:

“We should always seek to live our lives in such a manner that Westboro Baptist Church would rush to picket our funeral.”

And yet, Westboro Baptist Church is coming to the small, seaside town of Malibu, and according to it’s “picketing schedule“, will be picketing Malibu Presbyterian ChurchWaveside Church, and Our Lady of Malibu Catholic Church, before heading to Santa Monica High School and the Academy Awards to picket the “Hollywood elite.”

But I’ll ask again: What does it say about the conservative Christian Pepperdine University that WESTBORO BAPTIST CHURCH looks at them and says, “Nah, they’re cool.”

How culturally inert does a university have to be to not get protested by Westboro Baptist?

So yes, I can understand why Westboro Baptist, while putting together a list of churches, schools, and organizations to protest, might look at Pepperdine University and the University Church of Christ that meets on its campus and say, “Nah, let’s not protest them. They’re with us on this issue.”

In the mean time, Pepperdine has invited Rick Warren, who recently announced that he regrets supporting the California ban on on same-sex marriage, to host a ministry pre-conference just prior to its annual Bible Lectures.

So for Pepperdine, Rick Warren is an invited guest, and Westboro Baptist doesn’t see any need to picket them.

I am equal parts saddened and appalled by this, but in the end, I am really just sad for my friends back at Pepperdine.

I would shake my head, but what good would it do? All I can do is shine a light on a place that not even Westboro Baptist Church finds worthy enough to picket.

lest we forget: what happens to steve moore and to pepperdine now that amanda knox has been acquitted?

Steve Moore, Amanda Knox, and Pepperdine University

Steve Moore was fired from his job as Deputy Director of Public Safety at Pepperdine University shortly after publicly suggesting that Amanda Knox might not be guilty of murder. Knox’s conviction was overturned on appeal. Pepperdine owns property and has an overseas study-abroad program in Florence, Italy. Moore sued Pepperdine for wrongful termination. Pepperdine settled the case out of court.

Now that Amanda Knox’s murder conviction in Italy has been overturned, the fallout from Amanda Knox’s acquittal has begun. And because of the peculiar actions of Pepperdine University in 2010, the case affects some of us here at home, specifically with regard to issues of free speech, intellectual freedom, and social justice.

Let us ask the question: what happens to Pepperdine now that Amanda Knox has been acquitted?

Pepperdine, which was recently ranked as the 5th “Douchiest school” in America by GQ, actually fired their own Deputy Director of Public Safety, former FBI agent Steve Moore, after he appeared on CBS News’ The Early Show and suggested that Amanda Knox might not be guilty of murder. Pepperdine administrators took him aside quietly and asked him not to comment any further on the matter, as they wanted to keep Pepperdine’s name out of the story in Italy. Pepperdine owns property and has an overseas study-abroad program in Florence, Italy, and may not have wanted one of its own speaking out against Italian officials.

Not long after Moore refused to be quiet about Knox’s innocence, Pepperdine fired him. Of course, Pepperdine claims they cannot comment because it is a “personnel issue,” and “wholeheartedly disagrees” with any characterization that Moore’s termination came about for any reason other than various job performance-related issues (and certainly not out of retaliation for not obeying orders to stop speaking out on behalf of a woman who was, in fact, not guilty of murder).

The question now remains: what happens to Pepperdine for firing an employee who was right?

Moore sued Pepperdine for wrongful termination, and after trying a few legal maneuvers to avoid going to trial, Pepperdine financially settled with Moore for wrongfully terminating him when all he was trying to do was stand for justice. So at the simplest level, the answer is that Pepperdine had to pay a financial penalty for wrongfully terminating an employee.

This is Pepperdine’s (and certainly many other organizations’) tried and true modus operandi: pressure someone into silence or departure on one issue by threatening them with another issue. While Pepperdine’s Director of Public Information, Jerry Derloshon, “disagrees wholeheartedly with Moore’s characterization of his dismissal,” Vice President and General Counsel Gary Hanson wrote in an e-mail regarding Moore’s termination, “We will of course respond appropriately to the lawsuit that Mr. Moore has filed.” Apparently that “appropriate response” included paying Moore a large amount of cash out of court for wrongfully terminating him without having to admit it.

But must Pepperdine also pay another price, say, to their credibility? Can a private Christian institution continue to pay mere lip service to issues of free speech and social justice when they immediately and consistently surrender both when they threaten Pepperdine’s private interests? Not only did a Pepperdine professor became the poster child for the “Yes on Prop 8” campaign to ban same-sex marriage in California, but then, after numerous attempts at damage control by Pepperdine to claim that the university does not pick sides on ballot initiatives (note they didn’t denounce Prop 8 as civilly unjust, just that they “don’t pick sides”), the Dean of the Pepperdine Law School joined and ultimately led Prop 8’s legal team to appeal a California court’s decision to overturn it. Apparently social justice is a worthy cause at Pepperdine until the donor base (or internet campaigns) say otherwise.

Will Pepperdine’s U.S. News and World Report rankings continue to wallow in the second tier of universities because, in addition to insisting that all research and tenure decisions be subject not only to the University Tenure Committee, but also to a “Religious Standards Committee” (which may or may not be comprised of members with advanced degrees in religious studies), the school also limits the intellectual freedoms of their faculty members by making a public example of non-tenured staff members who will not follow Pepperdine’s “suggestions”?

Will Pepperdine answer questions about why they fired a man for speaking out on behalf of a woman who has been found to be not guilty?

And how much longer will Pepperdine students, faculty, and staff stand idly by and hold the coats of the administration as it continues to cave in on issues of civil rights, freedom of speech, and social justice?

A portion of Pepperdine’s Mission Statement reads: “Pepperdine affirms … that truth, having nothing to fear from investigation, should be pursued relentlessly in every discipline.” Apparently Pepperdine relentlessly pursues truth as long as it is in their financial and religiously ideological interests to do so.

So, please allow a brief letter from a concerned alum:

Dear Pepperdine,

Please publicly apologize to Steve Moore.

Thank you,

Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D.
Seaver Grad Alum, Class of 2000


More:

September 2, 2010 – ABC News – Amanda Knox is Innocent of Brutal Murder, Retired FBI Agent Claims

September 30, 2010 – CBS News – Amanda Knox Exclusive: Former FBI Agent Fired by School for Speaking Out on Knox Case

September 30, 2010 – Pepperdine Graphic – Casting doubt on Italian murder conviction got him fired Moore says

October 30, 2010, Pepperdine Graphic – Moore files lawsuit over termination

July 12, 2011 – Injustice in Perugia – Steve Moore Vindicated in Lawsuit With Pepperdine University

July 25, 2011 – Pepperdine Graphic – Moore reflects on newest findings in Amanda Knox trial

Ocober 3, 2011 – MSNBC – Amanda Knox Murder Conviction Overturned

on the virtues of doubt

question markI was invited by my friend Jason Boyett to write a piece on doubt for his blog, O Me of Little Faith. I wrote an essay entitled, “On the Virtue of Doubt: A Brief Autobiography of the Skeptic in the Sanctuary,” in which I discuss the influence that doubt, skepticism, and science have had in my life and career. I recount portions of my personal story moving from my Christian upbringing in central California to life as a scholar embracing science, evolution, and the critical method, and rejecting literalistic interpretations of the Bible. I describe my struggles with issues of faith and what I’ve learned from it all.

Please give it a read.

israeli-palestinian peace process during the first decade of the 2000s: an assessment

the following is the text of comments i made as a part of a march 10, 2010 panel discussion at pepeprdine university on the israel-palestine peace process during the first decade of the 2000s. the symposium was sponsored by the middle eastern peace and awareness (mepa) student group at pepperdine. other panelists included pepperdine faculty members david simonowitz, visiting assistant professor of middle eastern studies, and milton shatzer,  assistant dean of teaching and director of the center for teaching excellence, and loyola marymount’s najwa al-qattan.


Middle East Peace in the First Decade of the 2000s
March 10, 2010

My thanks to MEPA and the organizing panel for the invitation to speak to you tonight.

I am actually an archaeologist digging and researching in Israel, the Golan Heights, and the West Bank. We work with and rent from Israeli Jews, Palestinian Arabs, Muslim, Druze, Christians, agnostics, and even good ol’ American Pepperdiners—everyone. And we did so happily and successfully. We respect and learn the languages and cultures of all of these peoples and I and my archaeological colleagues demonstrate how foreigners, namely we Americans, can work with and invest in the people of Israel and Palestine peacefully.

I shall be teaching a course on the History of Jerusalem at UCLA beginning at the end of this month. If you are interested in taking this course, fear not. Because I still love Pepperdine and remember dearly my time teaching here before moving to UCLA, I am making the course lectures available for free on iTunesU. Go to iTunes, go to UCLA, click on Jerusalem the Holy City, and watch or download for free.

~~~

The celebration of the Oslo Accords in 1993 raised the hopes of Israelis, Palestinians, and many around the world for a final resolution between Palestinians and Israel leading to a lasting peace in the Middle East. But while the turn of the millennium saw some opportunities for peace, the first decade of the 2000s will be remembered by most as a lost decade in the struggle for peace.

No sooner had Israel withdrawn from Southern Lebanon in 2000 under the leadership of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, some Arab groups, namely the Shi’a militant group Hizbullah, began to arm themselves for potential conflict, against the wishes of many Lebanese Christians, Muslims, and Druze, Palestinian Arabs and Christians, as well as most Israelis.

Simultaneously, Israel took advantage politically of the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York City and couched all armed resistance or attacks on Israel as terrorism, and rightly so. However, the U.S. was compromised politically with respect to the Israel-Palestine conflict because the U.S. could not rightly tell the Israelis not to respond to Palestinian armed conflict, while the U.S. was engaged in conflict with not one, but two entire countries-Afghanistan and Iraq-in response to the September 11th attacks. As long as the U.S. was on the attack against terrorists, Israel had political cover to attack what it believed to be Palestinian terrorists.

During this time of a war on terror, Israel continued to permit and build Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and in 2002 began the construction of a border wall between Israel and the West Bank in order to delineate between the two territories and did so using a rhetoric of preventing terrorist attacks in Israel launched from Palestinian territories. Some saw this as a positive step towards the permanent recognition of a Palestinian state on the part of Israel, but many Palestinians saw the wall as an attempted land grab and have disputed the location and route of this border wall. Others have decried the logistical limitations the wall creates for Palestinians attempting to get to work at jobs inside Israeli territory.

In 2004, Israel, responding to mounting pressure and repeated calls for disengagement from U.S., Palestinian, and International communities, announced a unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2004, which was enacted in 2005, against the protests of many Jewish settlers in Gaza. Just as it had in southern Lebanon in 2000, Israel withdrew all Jewish settlements and troops from the Gaza Strip and relocated, forcibly at times, its own people to new settlements within Israel.

Despite some expected disagreement, a two-state solution and a realization of a secure Israel existing side-by-side to a permanent Palestinian state was begging to take shape, granted on many of Israel’s terms. But while the average Palestinian and the typical Jewish Israeli welcomed these gestures toward peace, many leaders, both Israeli and Palestinian, who derive their power and position from discord between the two peoples, and who regularly sabotage peace and incite conflict by playing on old wounds and religious animosity in an effort continue the conflict, began to oppose the march toward peace. These representatives attain and maintain power from chaos.

Following the death of Palestinian National Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat in 2004, and accusations and revelations of widespread fraud on the part of Arafat’s Fatah administration, Palestinian militants stepped up their activity in an effort to stall a peace with Israel, which they felt had given away too much.

Tension escalated with the kidnap of two Israeli soldiers in Northern Israel, which led to Israeli retaliation and a full-blown war in July 2006, a war that I witnessed first hand from the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona. The Israeli-Hizbullah War brought widespread destruction to much of southern Lebanon and terrified Israeli civilians in the exchange of Hizbullah Katyusha and Qassam rockets and Israel’s devastating retaliation. The war ended with a United Nations-brokered ceasefire, which called for the disarmament of Hizbullah and the withdraw of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon.

Meanwhile, Hamas shocked the world when it scored surprise victories in Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006. Hamas quickly drew international condemnation, and its administration was quickly placed under widespread international sanctions for its continued refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist in contradiction of the earlier Oslo accords, which Hamas did not recognize as legitimate. With Palestinians suffering, especially in the Gaza Strip, and with Jewish settlers no longer present in the West bank to blame, Palestine broke into a Civil War in December of 2006, with the Fatah military fighting armed Hamas factions. The Palestinian Civil War, called by many Palestinians the Wakseh, meaning “embarrassment” to Palestinians because of the self-inflicted, self-destructive damage, resulted in Hamas driving Fatah out of the Gaza, leaving Fatah in control of the West Bank, while Hamas exercised control in Gaza.

Unable to govern effectively in Gaza both because of an inept administration and due to crippling international sanctions because of their stance against peace with Israel, Hamas militants began to provoke a war with Israel by firing Qassam rockets from Gaza into Israel. Israel’s response was immediate and severe, with some calling it a grossly disproportionate exercise of retaliation. In a military response dubbed “Operation Cast Lead,” Israel responded in the winter of 2008-2009 with a devastating response to the Hamas hostilities. Many reports credit Israel’s crushing success to several Fatah and Egyptian informants, who actually wanted Israel to disable and destroy Hamas. Reports say that these Palestinian and Arab informants provided the Israeli military with the exact locations of Hamas rocket installations and smuggling tunnels. Israel soon declared a unilateral ceasefire in response to international calls for mercy against Palestinian civilians in Gaza, who were the unfortunate causalities of the Gaza War. However, Operation Cast Lead differed from previous armed conflicts in that the International Community did not decry Israel’s response to Hamas to the degree that was expected because of the international community’s disagreement with the provocative actions of Hamas. While many other countries did not like Israel’s military actions, they seemed at least somewhat justified on this particular occasion because of Hamas’ provocations.

With the recent election, again, of Likkud Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel changed directions and began brazenly to announce once again the building of new settlements in the West Bank. This policy of Jewish settlement reached an embarrassing new climax for the Israelis only yesterday [March 9, 2010] when the Israeli government announced the permitting and construction of 1,600 new housing units in the West Bank while U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was in Israel calling for a cessation of these very expansions. The Israeli government apologized for the timing of the announcement, but did not apologize for or rescind the decision to build new Jewish settlements in Palestinian East Jerusalem.

This is the legacy of the first decade of the 2000s: conflict. Some argue that this is a step backward in the march towards peace. Others-both Israelis and Palestinians-argue that the Palestinian civil unrest is a tragic, but necessary and inevitable part of the evolution of the Palestinian National Authority from an organization relying too heavily on violence, intimidation, and mob or gang-like rule, to a responsible government accountable to its people and seeking peace and prosperity for its people and with other nations. We may be witnessing a step backward away from peace, or, we may be witnessing the necessary growing pains of two nations-Israel and Palestine-toward a lasting peace of mature nations.

Or, perhaps, we may be seeing the end of the struggle for a forced, two-state solution, and we may be witnessing the beginnings of a much more natural three-state solution, which I support. A three-state solution would formally separate the West Bank from the Gaza Strip, isolating Hamas from Fatah, and freeing the Fatah-controlled West Bank to make a much desired peace with Israel. While some West Bank Palestinians may initially oppose a secession from Gaza out of solidarity for the Palestinian people as a whole, many Palestinians realize that the fracture has become so deep between Fatah-leaning West Bank residents who are looking to make peace with Israel and tomove forward and Hamas-leaning Gaza Strip residents looking to undo much of what has been done, many West Bank Palestinians are ready to cut their losses with both Gaza and Hamas, and make peace with Israel on their own, which would place tremendous pressure on Israel to stop their settlement program in East Jerusalem.

Only time will tell. Insha’Allah, there will be peace. Until then, we must work hard for peaceful, fair, and just solutions to both sides, and we must continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Thank you.


update:
looks like somebody was listening: “Palestinian Authority To Hold Elections Without Gaza” by Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (NPR)

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