Showing posts from 2008

What Obama's Victory Means To My Son

I am the father of a three and a half year old African-American child (who already notices race). I am afraid that words do not even begin to express how important Barak Obama's victory will be to my child. The first President that my son will know will be an African American. That is huge. He will know that he can really aspire to anything.

Obama Headquarters Tonight, Election Eve

Godless in North Carolina?

Cross-posted at Episcopal Cafe today:

The Campaign for Senate in North Carolina is close, and Senator Dole has decided to win the race by making false allegations about her opponent's alleged atheism. Here is the ad that Dole has been running:

The response by Kay Hagen, an elder at a local Presbyterian Church where she teaches Sunday school was quick, and effective:

At least one analyst, J.P. Green, thinks that Dole just lost the election by resorting to this tactic:

It appears that Sen. Liddy Dole (R-NC) has lost either her marbles or control of her campaign. Dole has unleashed a ridiculously bombastic ad that tries to slime her opponent, Kay Hagan as "Godless." Hagan has put in time as both a Sunday school teacher and church elder in a Greensboro Presbyterian church her family has attended for more than a century.

. . .

It's a huge blunder. No doubt Dole hopes to fire up her evangelical base for the home stretch. But Dole's absurd allegations are easily rebutted…

Freakonomics Takes on Gay Marriage

Noted economist Justin Wolfers (who does very interesting workonthe economics of happiness) has a moving essay on gay marriage at Freakonomics:

It wasn’t meant to be political.

In fact, Saturday night, while beautiful, was pretty conventional: two of my dear friends from graduate school were getting married. They are fellow economists who have spent 18 years together; they have supported each other through their careers, each has followed the other to different cities, and they provide each other with support in their personal lives.

The only difference is that Jed and Eric are both men.
In many respects, their wedding followed the script I’ve celebrated as my other graduate school buddies have married. Friends and family were assembled, and the lucky couple were excited and busy hosts, making sure that all the details were in place.

But there were differences. The timing of their wedding had little to do with the progress of their relationship. It is pretty unusual for a couple to wait…

Obama Supported on Christian Radio

David Brody is reporting that an independent expenditure group, Matthew 25, will be running a series of pro-Obama ads on Christian radio:

If you listen to Christian radio, get ready to hear Barack Obama talking about his Christian journey. And it's coming to a red state near you.

The Matthew 25 Network political action committee is coming out with new pro-Obama radio ads that highlight his Christianity. One of them is called, “Source of Hope.” You can listen to it here.

There will be two other radio ads as well on Christian radio including one from the pro-life conservative legal scholar Douglas Kmiec who defends Obama’s position on abortion. Listen to that one here. These radio ads will be on Christian music stations in the following states: Michigan, Colorado, Ohio, Missouri, Indiana, Virginia and North Carolina. Did you notice how many red states are in there?

Read it all here.

Jesus Attack Ad

What if Jesus ran for President? Here is the attack ad we would face.

Hat tip to Zack at Revolution in Jesus.

Obama 08/Micah 6:8

This is from Zach at JesusLand, who thinks it is the best campaign bumper sticker he has ever seen.

Micah 6:8 (NIV):
"He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

Read it all here.


I have given this some thought and have decided that theis bumper sticker, while funny, is also dangerous. I am pleased to see that Obama is getting support from the faithful--and for the right reasons--but such a direct linkage of faith with a particular politician should be as disturbing when done by the left as it is when done by the right. We should be praying that we are doing God's will--not proudly announcing to the world that a particular political position is what God wants. Theocracy by the left is as dangerous as theocracy by the right.

Obama Friendlier to Religion?

David Brody of the Christian Broadcast network notes the recent Faith in Public Life poll showing that voters view Obama as friendlier to faith than McCain, and then offers his own observations about why this may actually be true:

Imagine if I told you four years ago that voters felt John Kerry was friendlier to religion than George Bush? You would say that is crazy and you’d be right. But in 2008, a new poll published by Faith in Public Life shows that voters actually think Barack Obama , a Democrat, is slightly more friendlier to religion than John McCain. Read some of the findings below:

Forty-nine percent of Americans say Obama is friendly to religion, while 45% say McCain is friendly to religion. More than seven-in-ten (71%) say it is important for public officials to be comfortable talking about religious values.

The greatest shift in candidate preference between 2004 and 2008 has occurred among voters who attend religious services once or twice a month, moving from 49% support for…

Stephen Waldman on Abortion Reduction

I have argued several times on this blog that it is time for politicians on both sides of the abortion debate to get serious about abortion reduction. (You can find all of these posts collected here. Steve Waldman of Beliefnet has a very interesting essay that argues that a serious effort to reduce abortion would likely do more than efforts to overrule Roe v. Wade:

Some Democrats are now making an unusual argument about abortion: that a Democratic administration might actually reduce abortions more than a Republican administration.On the surface, this seems preposterous. Republicans oppose abortion rights, Democrats support them. How could it possibly be that a Democratic approach would reduce abortion more?

. . . When Democrats refer to an "abortion reduction strategy" they mostly mean efforts that keep abortion legal but help prevent pregnancy through family planning and/or making it easier for women who do get pregnant to carry the baby to term. (A few examples: Matthew 25 …

The Twelve Tribes of Politics

Steve Waldman of and University of Akron's John Green offer their latest "12 Tribes" analysis of politics, which focuses on the political beliefs of twelve different categories of religious belief and practice:

Moral issues are dramatically less important this year than in previous years – even among the most religiously observant voters, according to the 2008
edition of the Twelve Tribes of American Politics.

Just 13% listed social issues first, half the number who did in the summer of 2004. 61% listed the economy first compared to 32% in 2004.

The Twelve Tribes were introduced in 2004 as a collaboration between Beliefnet and John Green of the Bliss Institute at University of Akron, based on the National Surveys of Religion and Politics. The premise: most political reporting acted as if there were two groups – the Religious Right and Everyone Else. So we crafted a new set of groupings, inspired by the twelve tribes of Biblical Israel, but formed
around similari…

Abortion Rate Continues to Decline

The Guttmacher Institute released their annual study on abortion rates. I think the most stunning fact is that abortion rates are almost at the level they were in 1974 when Roe v. Wade was decided. good news in my view. There is also a host of other demographic information for anyone serious about abortion reduction. Here is the Washington Post report:

In the first comprehensive analysis since 1974 of demographic characteristics of women who have abortions, researchers found that the overall drop in the abortion rate has been marked by a dramatic shift, declining more among white women and teenagers than among black and Hispanic and older women.

"There's been a real change in the picture of women who get abortions," said Rachel Jones, a senior research associate at the Guttmacher Institute, a private nonprofit reproductive health research organization considered to be one of the most authoritative sources on abortion trends. "This is the first time anyone has loo…

A Liberal Woman's Take on Sarah Palin

Some on the left seem so keen on victory in November that they come close (well, ahem, real close) to suggesting that that Sarah Palin should stay home and raise her kids. My decidedly liberal (well, in most ways) wife has a different view. She is an ardent Obama/Biden supporter, but thinks that the candidacy of Sarah Palin has much to celebrate. Here are her thoughts as expressed in an email blast that she sent to her friends around the country:

I think we should be grateful to Sarah Palin. Really.

These are things I think changed when Sarah Palin became the darling of the Republican Right:
1. It's OK for a woman to be politically ambitious. Before this, women were condemned by the Right for such ambition. Sarah Palin is the poster child for political ambition, and the Right just eats it up.
2. It's OK for a woman to be tough. Before this, a tough woman was perceived as not feminine enough -- not enough of a woman. Sarah Palin has shown that a woman can be tough and f…

September 11th: Remembering Friends

On Memorial Day last year, I posted my own memorial for four men and women I called friends and colleagues who died serving this country. Three were solders. One was a civilian. All died serving this country. As I said in that post, "Sadly, most Americans have lost touch with the military. Joining the Army, Marines, Navy or Air Force is something that others do. As a result, a day like Memorial Day is too abstract--we vaguely (and briefly) recall the brave men and women who died while serving this country, but don't remember anyone in particular."

As I did last year, for my memorial for September 11th, I would like to remember two friends who died in the September 11th attack on the Pentagon.

Lieutenant General Timothy J. Maude was the highest ranking officer to die in the September 11th attack of the Pentagon. I knew him as a friend and client. We had lunch together virtually everyday in the Pentagon's General Officer's mess. He was serving as the the Army's …

Climate Change: New Evidence for the Hockey Stick

The so-called "hockey stick" chart--which shows a rapid rise in global temperature is a mainstay in arguments that humans are causing climate change--a center of attacks by climate change denialists. A new study offers a revised chart that conforms the hockey stick chart. Climat Feedback explains the development:

The contentious ‘hockey stick’ climate change graph has again been upheld as broadly accurate, doubtless to the rage of climate denialists/sceptics/whatevers.

A team led by Michael Mann of Penn State University has looked at a whole range of proxies for surface temperatures over the last 2,000 years in an attempt to counter criticism of the graph, which showed a long ‘handle’ and a sharp upturn (the blade).
Their findings? As the Christian Science Monitor puts it: “It still looks a lot like the much-battered, but still rink-ready stick of 1998. Today the handle reaches further back and it’s a bit more gnarly. But the blade at the business end tells the same story.

”The …

Time for Decency: What They Said

If you are are tempted to make political use of the pregnancy of Sarah Palin's daughter's pregnancy, please heed these words.

First, from Hilzoy:

It's easy, in the midst of a political campaign, to forget that the people involved are, after all, people. Some of them -- Sarah Palin, for instance -- place themselves under a media spotlight of their own free will. Others -- her daughter, for instance -- wind up there through no fault of their own. Imagine yourself in her position: there you are, seventeen years old, pregnant, unmarried. Maybe you understand what happened and why; and maybe your parents and friends do as well. But zillions of bloggers and reporters and pundits are about to make the most personal details of your life into a political issue, and they don't understand it at all. And yet, despite that, they are about to use you and your unborn child to score points on one another, without any regard whatsoever for you and your actual situation.

I want no part of …

Can Democrats Get Votes From the Faithful

The obvious answer to the heaqdline is, of course, yes. After all, I am an active member of a church, worship there weekly, and I am an enthusiastic Obama/Biden supporter. The real question is whether Obama/Biden can win the votes of socially conservative religious voters (both Catholics and Evangelicals). The New Yorker has a very interesting analysis:

The most effective Democratic religious outreach has been performed by the Democrat to whom it comes most naturally, Obama. Almost as soon as he joined the Senate, Obama became a prized booking on the speech circuit, where he proved to be fluent in what Jesse Jackson once called “faith talk.” Obama spoke forthrightly about his Christian beliefs and about his conversion experience (“Kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side in Chicago, I felt I heard God’s spirit beckoning me”), in a way that was hardly customary for Democratic politicians. In casting Republicans as the dangerous God Party, Democrats had turned themselves into the …

Genetic Diversity in Europe

Well. I am back from a tough month at work followed by a week's vacation. In searching the web today, I found Ed Young's fascinating account about how European genes mirror European geography:

Within a drop of blood, you can find all the information you need to reasonably guess where a person came from, without ever having to look at their face, name or passport. Small variations in our DNA are enough for the task. They can be used to pinpoint someone's place of origin to a remarkable degree of accuracy, often to within a few hundred kilometres.

The new discovery comes from a team of Swiss and American researchers led by John Novembre at UCLA, who wanted to understand how the human genome varies on a continental scale. To that end, they looked at the genomes of over 1.300 people sampled from almost three dozen countries across Europe. The sample was originally collected by GlaxoSmithKline to hunt out genetic variations that influence the effectiveness of drugs and their sid…

Catholics, Evangelicals and Abortion

Ed Kilgore has a fascinating essay at Beliefnet about the fact that Evangelicals are foar more pro-Life than Catholics:

There are variable measurements of this phenomenon, but no real doubt about the basics. A September 2007 Pew survey showed white evangelical Protestants agreeing that abortion should be illegal in all or most cases by a 65-31 magin; Catholics favored keeping abortion legal in all or most cases by a 51-44 margin (with no appreciable difference between Hispanic and non-Hispanic Catholics). On a related issue that helps measure the intensity of anti-abortion views, the same poll showed white evangelicals opposing embryonic stem cell research by 57-31, while white non-Hispanic Catholics favored it by 59-32.

Moreover, the evangelical-Catholic gap on abortion looks likely to increase in the future. An April 2004 Pew survey providing generational breakdowns showed that white evangelicals under 35 favored abortion restrictions by more than a two-to-one margin (71% among tho…

Political Interlude: The State of the Race

Charles Franklin consistently offers great analysis on politics and polling and this chart is a great example. It compares polling in this year's presidential race to the last two races. It shows that Obama is in better shape now than Kerry and Gore were at this point in the race. But it also shows the extreme volatility in all presidential races inthe final months that means that this race really is too close to call. Democrats who want Obama to be elected presidnet can't be complacant: they need to work hard for the victory.

Here is some analysis by Franklin:

But what about the future? The dynamics of the next 92 days are all important for where we stand on November 4. Since we can't foresee those 92 days yet, let's see what happened during the same time in 2000 and 2004. That gives us a better idea how much change we might anticipate in the next three months.

In 2004, Kerry slowly built a 2 point lead by this time, and held a small lead through much of the summer.…

Its the Creation Stupid

Nick Reeves, executive director of the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, has this post on the Guardian's "Comment is Free" blog that argues that religious leaders need to take an interest in environmental issus:

Profiling the award-winning environmental campaign work of Archbishop Bartholomew of Constantinople, spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians, Riazat Butt asks if religion can help prevent eco-catastrophe (The pope of hope, June 18). After all, as the archbishop told Butt: "Religious people were indifferent, or even hostile, to science. Scientists and ecologists could see little relationship between their world and the world of faith."

At a global environment conference in London last year, my professional institution, the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, brought together representatives of all the major faiths. There was one matter on which they all agreed: the need to collaborate for acti…

Doug Chaplin on Scripture and Homosexuality III

In his wonderful series on homosexuality in the Bible, Father Doug Chaplin reaches the critical reference to Romans 1:18-32. I really urge you to read the whole post--it has many themes that are well worth thinking about. But here are some highlights to whet your appetite:

I think Romans is written to a very specific situation in Rome, where there are significant divisions between Jew and Gentile Christians. I think Paul both wants to secure a welcome for himself as a character some saw as divisive, and to encourage them to mend the breach. In the opening chapters he is keen to get both sides to agree that in fact all, Gentile and Jew alike, have sinned. He first expounds a common view of Gentile sinfulness from a Jewish perspective, then a typical Gentile criticism of Jewish hypocrisy. Both of these are examples of a rhetorical device – speech-in-character (prosopopeia). They serve to get heads nodding in agreement first on one side, then on the other, until both have been led togethe…

Bishop Kirk Smith on Lambeth

My bishop, Kirk Smith of Arizona, offers some encouraging words about Lambeth:

I was amazed about how well this morning's session went. You may be reading in the press about how fragmented we are. But this is due to the fact that a few hot heads are are quick to cozy up to any reporter they can find. There are two or three American bishops here who would like nothing better than to see the Conference fail. The truth is that there is an (dare I say it?) almost miraculous cooperative and respectful spirit at work here. This morning for example, there was no mention of punishing the Americans. The word "accountability" was not even mentioned. Instead, we talked a lot about the example of a marriage covenant which is based not on punishment but on a spirit of the parties "loving each other no matter what." It was pointed out that the current proposed Covenant with all its provisions for kicking people out of the Communion sounds more like a pre-nuptial agreement tha…

Doug Chaplin on Scripture and Homosexuality II

Doug Chaplin has continued his exploration of the Scriptures and Homosexuality. His latest post discusses 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and 1 Timothy 1:8-11, both of which seem to include "sodomites" in a list of sins. Here are highlights from Doug's excellent analysis:

Here are 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and 1 Timothy 1:8-11 from the NRSV.

Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it legitimately. This means understanding that the law is laid down not for the innocent but for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their father or mother, for murderers, fornicators, sodomites, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me. (1 Timothy 1:8-11)

Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, …

Tobias Haller on Universalism and Relativism

Tobais Haller has another great post oday about universalism and relativism:

Two of the most common accusations directed these days at The Episcopal Church is that it tends towards a relativistic ethic and a universalist view of salvation. I'm concerned to clarify these terms a bit, for they seem rather vague. I tend, myself, towards absolute moral standards tempered by an ethic based on certain biblical principles elaborated by Jesus and Paul. And I hope for universal salvation, but hope is not belief.

That being said, some further clarity is warranted. As to what moral relativism might look like, would this qualify: "I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean." (Romans 14:14 )? I would call that "subjective" — and I suppose one might see subjectivism as a subset of relativism.

But I also think that the actors, situation, intent, and so forth have to figure in any moral or ethica…

More on Obama's Faith Outreach

David Brody of the Christain Broadcast Network has an interesting post today about Obama's faith outreach. He notes that Obama discussed it with members of Congress yesterday:

The Brody File has learned that the Obama campaign met with over 30 House members and senior staff this morning to strategize on Obama's faith outreach strategy this fall.

A meeting participant tells The Brody File it was a "high level strategy session" that focused on how to stress Barack Obama's family values and how to respond to faith based attacks from his religious conservative critics on the right. The off-the-record briefing was led by Obama's religious outreach team and when the meeting was over, House members and senior staff in the room agreed to host values forums in their district and talk publicly about Obama's family values in their surrogate work. The meeting focused quite a bit on Catholic outreach. According to one member in the room, the mood was very positive and …

Bishop Alan Wilson on the Bible

One of the "blogging Bishops" at Lambeth, Bishop Alan Wilson of Buckingham, has a great post today about what Anglicans think about the authority of the Bible:

I have not met anyone here of whom it would be true to say simply that they do not believe in the Authority of Scripture. How we believe in what kind of authority are other questions. Here are some indications of the ways a group of us form five continents, in Indaba, saw our distinctively Anglican use of the Bible. How are we, as Anglicans, “formed by Scrpture?”

The Word of God is a person, not a text. In Islam, for example, the Qu’ran is a privileged untransalteable text. For Christians Scrupture has authority as it is interprteed and applied, not as a simple absolute. We are very resistant to idolatry; idolatry of the book, idolatry of reason, idolatry of tradition. All three are resources for the Spirit, not totems or weapons against other children of God. We need to interpret the Scriptures through the icon of Chr…

Martin Marty on Catholic Change

Martin Marty has a "Sightings" column on the ordination of women. The post focuses less on the merits of the ordination of women than on the argument that Cathoic doctrine is unchangeable:

Whether Catholics should change and begin ordination of women is their business, not mine, at least not here and today, though outcomes of Catholic debates do have huge "public religion" consequences. I can only testify to the manifest blessings so many churches, like my own (ELCA), have received during the past half-century from the ministry of women-ordained. My business instead picks up on Egan's closing paragraph, where he argues against Sr. Butler's reversion to and repetition of the claim that Rome does not change. He orthodoxly celebrates the constancy of teachings from Rome. But: "New questions arise, and new horizons open, cultures themselves are transformed, and the fund of human knowledge changes." His article has no room to provide chapter and verse …

Theo Hobson on Lambeth

I found these comments by Theo Hobson on the Lambeth Conference quite interesting:

Of course it makes perfect sense to avoid resolutions and just talk. This is what should have happened 10 years ago. Instead, the Lambeth Conference passed the divisive resolution condemning homosexuality. It had been on the fence on sexuality, and it fell off. Can it get back on, and resume its drift to a liberal position? Can it move away from its official discriminatory policy, and affirm the right of each province to make its own rules on sexuality? Is this what most bishops want? It's hard to say.

I arrived at the conference with a rough typology of Anglican opinion in mind. The basic division of evangelical and liberal can be sub-divided: there are evangelicals who accept Williams' leadership, and those who don't. Those who don't, of course, have mostly stayed away. And there are liberals who fully support Williams' approach, and those who worry that it's a sell-out. So both …

Ruth Marcus on Candy Bombers

This is a name-droppers dream: my law school friend Ruth Marcus (now an opinion writer at the Washington Post) has a column tdoay about Candy Bombers, a book written by my friend Andrei Cherny. (Really, they are both my friends--you can check out my Facebook page for proof. Grin).

In any event, Ruth's op-ed and Andrei's book are both worth reading. Here are some highlights from Ruth's column:

The city is in dire straits -- its economy shattered, its citizens desperately hungry. Random violence is rising, electricity is sporadic. Three years after the invasion, hope for a brief occupation has faded. The mission is to build democracy from the ruins of dictatorship, but sober analysts question whether a flaw in the national character makes freedom unattainable.

This is not Baghdad 2008 but Berlin 1948, which makes the reunified German capital a particularly fitting venue for Barack Obama's speech tomorrow. The lush Tiergarten where Obama will speak was then a wasteland …

Are Solutions to Climate Change Feasible?

The debate on climate change has seemed to have shifted from whether there is a problem (the overwhelming consensus--except in the Republican caucuses in Congress)--is that there is a problem), to how best to address the problem. do we lower carbon emissions? Or invest instead in dealing with the change?

A study out of Minnesota suggest that reducing climate change is feasible:

The research team, which will release the new study July 22, modeled emissions for Minnesota and found that it is possible to reduce emissions by 30 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050 and possibly exceed those numbers if a combination of strategies are implemented, including reducing fuel consumption, increasing fuel efficiencies and fuel carbon content and by using new methods for designing communities. However, the researchers point out that the methods could be applied nationally. In fact, history shows that when one state or city implements environmental policy changes, the nation often follows.

The emiss…

Ignoring the Atheist Vote?

Francis Wilkinson has an interesting post at the New York Times noting that while neither McCain nor Obama are making any efforts to gain the atheist vote, this was not true of past campaigns:

White evangelical and born-again Christians account for nearly one fourth of the electorate — a prize understandably worth fighting over. However, what we won’t see, yet again, this year is either candidate acknowledge — let alone pander to — the 16 percent of Americans categorized by the Pew Forum on Religion and Society as atheist, agnostic or free-range “nothing in particular.” It seems American politicians scarcely think twice about sidling up to the religious fringe — Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama each has had the odd preacher in the attic. But, fearing the wrath of the righteous, they’d rather be struck by lightning than show a glimmer of respect for nonbelievers.

Their forebears on the campaign trail were not all so skittish. At the end of the 19th century, Robert Ingersoll was the most notoriou…