June 9-10, 2007, weekend
June 12, 2007

June 11, 2007

MORE ON MEDIA COVERAGE OF FAITH

I've always liked Terry Mattingly's commentaries on religious matters. Click here for his take on the recent report from Media Matters that said the press gives way too much emphasis to conservative religious voices. I wrote about that study recently here on the blog.

* * *

THE WISDOM OF FAREED ZAKARIA

I think Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek magazine (pictured here) is among the best and brightest international commentators around.

ZakariaThis native of India has impressed me over and over again since the 9/11 terrorist attacks with his insight, his clarity of thought and his fresh thinking.

In the issue of Newsweek I received last week, he has done it again. Click here to read his cover piece, an analysis of how America can regain its confidence. It's long but well worth the time.

In his writing, Zakaria shows evidence that he pays close attention to the religious realities of the world. In the piece to which I've linked you, he makes a point similar to one I tried to make in my column this past Saturday, which is that traditional Islam is not the enemy. Rather, the people against whom we must defend ourselves are the radical, violent, murderous Islamists. Not drawing a distinction between the two groups is, in my view, silly and, worse, prejudicial and completely unhelpful.

Zakaria puts it this way: "We are repeating one of the central errors of the early cold war -- putting together all our potential adversaries rather than dividing them." Later he writes this about Muslims in America: "If leaders begin insinuating that the entire Muslim population be viewed with suspicion, that will change the community's relationship to the United States." Precisely. And for the worse.

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.

Comments

Ron

"Later he writes this about Muslims in America: "If leaders begin insinuating that the entire Muslim population be viewed with suspicion, that will change the community's relationship to the United States." Precisely. And for the worse."

I don't know anyone who has said that American Muslims in general are a problem. Of course, American Muslims bear little similarity to Muslims in the Middle East. Some people try to quote American Muslims to show how Islam is really no different than Christianity. In actuality, this is merely a ploy to convince Americans that all Muslim around the world, except for a few radical, violent murderous Islamists, believe and behave the same way as American Muslims do. Unfortunately, they don't.

Dolores Lear

In the K.C. Star today, it says we are now arming the Sunnis in Iraq. How many countries around the world have we armed in the past? Now the Shites and Sunnis. Will it help them fight the terrorist, or the each other and the USA? Has having weapons ever really brought Peace to the Planet?
Is arming the planet, a Christian country's goal, or should it have been Equality and Peace?
Have we been blindsided just as all powerful countries in the past, with materialism instead of Brother/Sister Equality?
If all the resources used for war was used to help people, instead of arming them, what would happen to all Life on Earth?
What will happen when the whole planet is armed? Or is it already?

What is wrong with following Jesus, and turn the other cheek? Too wimpy?
Why did the Father of Life on Earth tell the new Colony of Humans how they were to live on Earth? 'Thou shalt not kill? Too wimpy?
What was the Original purpose of starting Human Life on Earth? To be Caretakers or Killers?
What event caused the Equal Birth Caretakers to become Unequal Birth Killers?

If we do not have the answer to Original Sin, with our nuclear bombs all over the land and sea of Earth, and our nuclear waste and pollution, we will blow up Earth with our bully Lifestyle of Hate of our Brothers/Sisters of Life.
What for? For God? For the Killer God? So far we are doing a bang-up job.
Surely we are not Killing all Life on Earth for the Peace God, that started Life on Earth.

Eternal Life is for the Physical Living, not the Physical Dead.

Ron

"What is wrong with following Jesus, and turn the other cheek? Too wimpy?"

Delores, the USA is a secular government. There are millions of American atheists, agnostics and mainline Protestants who don't give a rip about what Jesus would do. They deserve to be protected by our government, just as we all do. If the US government turned the other cheek, this country adversaries through the last two centuries would have taken over by now.

Individuals can turn the other cheek, if they so desire. It only affects their own life. The government has an obligation to protect its citizens against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Sometimes that means killing them.

Dolores Lear

Ron.
What are Christians doing in a government that arms the world and kills?

Who will stop the Killing of our Planet, if not the Jesus Christians?

Is our allegiance to our Country, more powerful that it is to Jesus and God? Most countries of the world have Christians. When are they going to stand up for God and Jesus? After Death in Heaven?

Dolores Lear

How does killing our Brothers/Sisters show we Love Jesus? Jesus was supposed to bring Peace to this world, not to Life? after Death.

Just Thinking

The opposite of faith is living in constant fear of something that might happen. The faithless crowd drove us to an unjust pre-emptive war. The faithless crowd spend us into oblivion trying to protect us from every act of violence that could ever possibly occur.

The faithless crowd leave people to fend for themselves in the real dangers of gang violence and other ills of inner cities, but instead go after bogey men that they cannot see. The leaders of this country have spent a lifetime trying to remove themselves from the dangerous parts of this country, but they find that they cannot do the same with the world, and they're willing to spend everyone else's money, even money that belongs to all future generations, to feel safe again.

These faithless, trembling fear and hate mongers to try to infect everyone else with extreme forms of fear and hate. If they had to live in the dangerous parts of any city in this country, they would have all died of heart attacks by now.

Just Thinking

The affluent of this country deserve no more safety than they can offer the children in the war zones of our cities, especially since they're intent on spending future generation's money to pay for their safety. The leaders of this country are the most irresponsible, detestable, greedy, faithless, gutless people this country has ever produced.

Dolores Lear

Body Birth Humans depend on Materialistic Competition to exist, when God says, Share Equally with your Brothers/Sisters of Life.

We have had 6,000 years of seeing how Capitalism has over come the meek. Jesus taught Commonism, or Equal Sharing, and not to own anything, but Fallen Man has their Genetics too mixed up, to understand that Equal Sharing of the resources of a Planet will bring Peace and Prosperity to All. How many wants can we have, when with High Tech and Sharing, all our needs are met?

Then the Equal Sharing on a Spaceship can become the Equal Sharing on a Planet, and with High Tech 'regeneration' Humans can Live Forever in Physical Body Life After Birth. Can anyone realize a Planet with all Haves and no Havenots? This is what the Heaven of religion is all about. Eternal Physical Life.

When the religious teachings of all will be Alive at the Judgement Day, it will be in Physical Bodies, not Spirit Bodies. What are Spirit Bodies? Is that the type of bodies that are in the religious heaven?

Patricia

"Of course, American Muslims bear little similarity to Muslims in the Middle East."

I'm curious, Ron. How much time have you spent with Muslims in the Middle East? If the answer is "None.", then where do you get your information on how very different all those Muslims are?

Rich B

I lived with a moderately religious Muslim family in Morocco for nine months in '95-'96. I saw the same range of religiosity among them as I see among Americans. Most of them prayed on occasion and went to the neighborhood mosque on big holidays. They all fasted for Ramadan.

They had a cousin who was a "missionary" in Finland. He was no jihadist, who reminded me of a Mormon--I disagreed with him about most things, but he did not appear dangerous.

Another cousin was a bit more on the radical side, but was more of a "traditionalist" than a "jihadist."

One of the aunts would affirm in front of the kids that I am ok because I believe in God, pray, and go to church. The kids would say, "You are my brother--I'm just Muslim and you are Christian."

I haven't seen them since, and I would like to see how they view their faith and foreigners since 9/11.

The most dangerous, angry Muslim I met was a convert, a Brit of Caribbean descent. I never met a "bad" Moroccan.

Patricia

I disagree with Mattingly as to conservative dominance being some sort of media manufactured phenomenon or simply a fascination with the bizarre and outrageous.

The fact is that conservative Christians have made their values the centerpiece of their politics. They work hard to get into the news with their issues. Falwell is a great example. He made outrageous statements that he knew the news would have to pick up and report. Conservative Christians put a lot of effort into "playing" the news.

There were articles during the weekend on Brownback's belief that abortion cannot be justified by rape. These were probably generated by speeches and releases from Brownback, himself, in order to get back on the map as a presidential candidate. Likewise, for the past few days, conservative airwaves have been buzzing about Giuliani's response on abortion during the Republican debates. Because of the controversial nature of the remarks, it has to garner more coverage in the media.

I think that truth is that conservative Christianity has a media agenda and pursues it in a much more aggressive and organized way, when compared to progressive Christians.

Patricia

This is such an interesting article. It's merely the idea that Europe would be the new frontier for missionaries.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/10/AR2007061001267.html

Ron

It is interesting that liberal, mainlinie Protestant leaders are not seen much in the media. One reason may be that they really don't have a lot to say that's indistinguisable from secular humanists, atheists, and non-religious folks, so it's not that useful to journalists. For example, if you try to get a mainline denominational leader to give you a good quote or interview on schools banning the word "Christ" or any variation thereof, the mainliners would have a hard time disagreeing with banning the word Christ. They believe it should be banned. This makes for boring TV and news articles. The only thing that might make it interesting if the mainline leaders went on to explain that they no longer believe Jesus is divine and that anyone who believes in the myths, fables, metaphors and outright errors in the Bible, are nuts. Of course, they usually won't go that far in the gneral media. After all, if members of their congregations or denominations saw it, they might be outraged. Then again, if those folks are still members of mainline denominations, maybe they wouldn't be outraged. They've been going to church for years now, listening to book reports and social justice speeches for so long, they probably don't believe much of the Bible is true, either.

Patricia

"Then again, if those folks are still members of mainline denominations, maybe they wouldn't be outraged. They've been going to church for years now, listening to book reports and social justice speeches for so long, they probably don't believe much of the Bible is true, either."

So how many mainline churches have you visited in the past year, Ron? Sounds like a lot because you can generalize and characterize them and their members. If you haven't been visiting mainline churches, where do you get your information?

All members of Missouri Synod Lutheran churches are conservative bigots. I have never visited a MO Synod Lutheran church, but there is a member on the blog and they must all be like him.

SC in KC

Painting with too broad a brush is a hazard we must all avoid. This is especially true when we only have little bits and pieces of anecdotal "evidence" to base our assumptions on. I'm reminded of a quote from a few days ago, when we were discussing the "evils" of Freemasonry...

"If he's a Mason, I guess so. Lots of pagan worship and practices in the Masonic Lodge. If SC is a Mason, he knows this is true, but he can't tell us. Why do you think it's a secret?"

In answer to this question, let me first say that an applicant to the Blue Lodge is required to pronounce faith in "...the one true and living God...". This oath ensures that every member at least claims to adhere to a monotheistic faith that is inconsistent with "pagan worship and practices".

Secondly, there is no worship service involved in the Blue Lodge. It is a fraternal organization, not a church. The rituals observed, while secret in their details, are not nearly so mysterious and exciting as many would believe. Mainly, they are dramatic recreations of events surrounding the construction of the first Temple in Jerusalem, built by King Solomon, as described in Scripture and in Jewish histories.

Still, the theological themes expressed are not Jewish. Rather, men are encouraged to "build" their lives in the same manner that Solomon "built" his temple. The rituals involved are expressive of that main theme.

Jesus referred to tearing down the Temple and rebuilding it in three days. He was talking about the temple of His body. As all Christians are called to be temples of the Holy Spirit, it makes sense that we should all be built using such divinely inspired instructions as Solomon was given.

As to the secrecy of the Lodge, the concept of fidelity is extremely important. What man can succeed if he is unable to keep a confidence? So the very trait of the Lodge that has engendered the most distrust and controversy is the secret that we keep, merely for the sake of being able to keep a secret. The content of that secret is unimportant, but the loyalty and fidelity required to keep a secret are utmost.

Ron

Patricia, I can learn a lot about mainline Christian denominations from reading this blog. Is it your belief that there's very little actual difference between mainline, progressive denominations and fundamentalist and conservative denominations? Is it your belief that the leader of the Episcopal Church in the USA will have the same basic viewpoint as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson on religioius issues? Is it your belief that if you attended Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va. and the Church of the Resurrection in Overland Park, Kansas, that it would be difficult to tell them apart based on their religious teachings? I know that many mainline denominations and progessive church leaders use the same words as fundamentalist and conservative Christians in orde to blur these differences, but it's my belief that they don't mean the same things to both groups. For example, when a conservative Christian says that Jesus arose from the dead and sits at the right hand of God, from which He will come one day to judge both the living and dead, they believe this is a physicial event which will actually occur. Progressive church leaders believe this is a methaphor or a spiritual event that happens in our hearts or something, not in reality. When a conservative or fundamentalist Christian says that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, or that Jesus fed 5,000 people with a couple of fish and loves of bread, they believe this actually happened. Progressive church leaders believe its a nice little story to remind us to feed the poor. Progressives preach social justice; conservatives preach Jesus Christ crucified.

There really is a gigantic difference between what conservtive and fundamentalist Christians believe, teach and confess, and what is taught by progressive, mainline denominational church leaders. I don't really have to go to their churches one by one to know it.

Mary Behr

Bill: I read the whole of Zakaria's article, long as it was. I have seen him on T.V. programs and been impressed by him. I also read your article which jibed with his. A lot to think about. Sorry you receive so many angry e mails railing against all of Islam. That does not seem useful in defending ourselves or solving our challenges. Zakarias contribution was most interesting. The reality is that there are a vast variety of religious expression, between and within denominations. A believer in God must take into consideration that we have to live in a world where there are these differences. God cannot be so powerless or uncaring of all his children to ignore that. There are common values in the human family. Can we SRART from there and do our best to live with love instead of hate and fear?

Dave Miller

Handicapped for time, let me just say, "Amen, Mary!"

And thank you.

:-)

Ron

Zakaria begins his article by claiming most Muslims are peacefull, law-abiding citizens who just want to live in harmony with others. Later in the article, he writes:

"Some 13 percent of U.S. Muslims believe that suicide bombings can be justified. Too high, for sure, but it compares with 35 percent for French Muslims, 57 percent for Jordanians and 69 percent for Nigerians."

Wow! This doesn't even count Syrians, Saudia Arabians, Iraq's and Iranians. The percentages in those countries may well be 80-95 percent.

I guess my earlier estimates that there are millions of Muslims who support Al-Queada and hope it wins its war against infidels (non-Muslims) was low. There must be billions of Muslims who support Al Queada and jihad against the USA and its allies.

Ron

"Sorry you receive so many angry e mails railing against all of Islam."

You're right, of course, Mary. All of Islam does not support jihad and death to infidels. It's probably only about 80-90 percent that support jihad.

Those people who write all Muslims fall into the jihadist category do need to be more careful to state clearly that probably around 5-10 percent of the Muslims in the world don't support jihad against non-Muslims.

I'm sure everyone feels better now that thoses who argue that ALL Muslims are jihadists have been proven wrong.

Just Thinking

Ron wrote: "There really is a gigantic difference between what conservtive and fundamentalist Christians believe, teach and confess, and what is taught by progressive, mainline denominational church leaders."

Let's see ... you wrote that your beliefs are formed completely by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, those who disagree with you must not have the Holy Spirit, right, Ron? I do interpret that correctly, don't I?

Ron wrote: "You're right, of course, Mary. All of Islam does not support jihad and death to infidels. It's probably only about 80-90 percent that support jihad."

And 93.572% of all conversative Christians were able to justify attacking a country and killing its citizens based on bogus excuses and whim, and to continue excusing such reprehensible behavior based on the delusion that the world just can't do without them. The remaining 6.428% of conservative Christians don't believe in Christian jihad, even at the risk of being accused of not having the Holy Spirit.

Patricia

I fear for your education, if what you know about other religions is learned exclusively from this blog, Ron. The bulk of daily bloggers are either not what one might deem progressive or not mainstream. I'm trying to remember if Episcopals, Methodists, non-Southern Baptists ever weigh in.

Bill is really charged with keeping his daily entries more middle-of-the-road and serving all religions. He rarely gets into Presbyterian or Calvinist doctrine. Additionally, there are no longer Islamic or Jewish bloggers. I fear they were sick of the intolerance offered here. Openmind only rarely presents the Buddhist view. No Hindus. No Mormons or Jehovahs Witnesses.

What exactly does taking the Bible literally mean to you? Assured entrance into Heaven? Are Mo Synoders more merciful, more truthful, less judgmental, and more giving? Surely you must have the greatest number of charity organizations and committed dollars, if you take the story of the fish and loaves literally. Would that be the case? Surely you must have less sinful people living in the world.

Or is it just the smugness of knowing that you are right and others are wrong?

Just Thinking

The fruit of the current crop of conservative Christians is a war that was based on bogus excuses and whim. The fruit of the current crop of conservative Christians is killing the civilian population of that country that we had no right to attack. The fruit of the current crop of conservative Christians is then cooking up lies to later justify the war, pretending that was their excuse all along. Liars and murderers all in the name of their Lord.

Matthew 7
15 "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23 Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

Just Thinking

Here's some more fruit of the current bunch of faithless liars and murders that call themselves conservative Christians:

"A federal appeals court ruled that the president may not declare civilians in this country “enemy combatants” and have the military hold them indefinitely."

Stephen Lewis

I am afraid that even splitting religions by liberal and conservative is an over-simplification. The largest Christian church in the USA are the Catholics, and they are split nearly down the middle between the right wing and the left wing. Observe their voting patterns in the last several elections. I am willing to bet many mainstream religions have the same dichotomy.
Also, before you see Muslims who hate as a unique situation, you might review the number of Irish American who actively supported the IRA over the last several centuries and who would have been willing to die to kick the British out.

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