Invoking the threat of "religious fundamentalists abroad" and tacitly comparing them to religious conservatives in the United States, Newsweek's Lisa Miller advises President-elect Obama to ditch the practice of having clergy offer prayers at the presidential inauguration:
Our new president might use his Inauguration then to showcase the values that have made this country great: pluralism, moderation—and the separation of church and state. Though not as politically expedient, the better choice might be to pray in private.
Miller wrote her article for the January 19 print edition in light of a lawsuit "filed by the atheist gadfly Michael Newdow." While she noted that "[e]ven some of Newdow's ideological allies are steering clear," Miller went no further in exploring whether it may be Newdow who is showcasing a modern value that threatens the country's greatness: the filing of spurious lawsuits.
Instead, Miller sought to show that historians are uncertain just how traditional the role of religious faith plays in presidential inaugurals. Indeed, as far as Miller is concerned, the convention is all too recent and worse, a musty relic of the Cold War (emphases mine):
Perhaps the New York Times is just predestined not to get religion.
Taking on Calvinistic preacher Mark Driscoll's brand of Reformed theology, writer Molly Worthen -- herself a graduate of a formerly Puritan university -- gave readers of the New York Times magazine a skewed picture of what exactly the evangelical pastor's theology teaches about sin and redemption.
In her January 6 article, "Who Would Jesus Smack Down," Worthen -- who studied American religious history at Yale University-- portrayed the founding pastor of Seattle's Mars Hill Church as an edgy hipster "cussing" pastor who chagrins religious conservatives and liberals alike, all while confounding evangelicals with his Calvinistic take on biblical theology.
While there is a grain of truth to the characterization of Driscoll* having critics to his left and right, Worthen betrays her ignorance about Calvinism, starting in the third paragraph of her article (emphasis mine):
USA Today's religion reporter Cathy Lynn Grossman apparently has little use for Christian ministers who believe the Bible's teachings on sexual ethics.
Apparently already annoyed with evangelical pastor Rick Warren's stance on California's Proposition 8, Grossman took the California preacher to task for a letter offering use of his Saddleback Church to conservative Anglicans who have left the liberal Episcopal Church USA but were deprived of their church parish property due to a recent California court ruling (emphasis mine):
After sticking a fork in the eye of gay rights advocates by actively supporting Proposition 8 -- which overturned the legalization of gay marriage in California -- Warren compounded their outrage by equating gay marriage with incest in an interview with Beliefnet.
A group that "celebrate[s] the inherent goodness of adolescent sexuality" and calls for clergy to "speak out against... coercive parental notification and consent for reproductive health services" has just released a study that concludes by calling on American theological seminaries to go over the birds and bees with their students.
Yet in reporting on the study by the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing, Chicago Tribune's Manya Brachear failed to label the group as liberal or to find conservative theologians to dispute its arguments. [Click here for our archive on Brachear]
The conservative movement lost a great intellectual voice on Thursday. The Reverend Richard John Neuhaus died due to complications from cancer at the age of 72. Neuhaus, a Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of New York, was a well-known pro-life advocate, and founded First Things in 1990, a periodical focused on advancing “a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society.”
...[We] have lost one of America's leading public intellectuals, a man of profound wisdom and learning, and a great champion for the unborn. It was Father Neuhaus, along with his dear, long-time friend George Weigel and just a handful of others like Michael Novak, who not only championed the pro-life cause for so many years, but who gave the rest of us both the grounding and the vocabulary to speak on this issue.
The weekend edition of Good Morning America found a fellow that decided to try and live for one year "like Jesus would" but what host Bill Weir found keenly interesting is that this guy voted for Barack Obama because he felt that living like Jesus compelled him to do so. Weir also wondered if the Jesus emulator had to "forgive" his Christian community for any reaction they might have had over the fact that he voted for Barack.
Former pastor Ed Dobson of Grand Rapids, Michigan appeared on the weekend edition of GMA to briefly discuss his year of living like Jesus in a segment called "What Would Jesus Do?" Dobson talked about how hard it was to walk in Christ's path and was shaken by having to forgive and bless the terrorists in Iraq that took the life via a roadside bomb of a soldier friend of his son.
But, Dobson's vote for Barack Obama was an issue that GMA host Bill Weir was very interested in.
Would Good Morning America invite as a guest a liberal who'd never voted for a Democrat but who after a year spent trying to live like Jesus decided to vote for McCain? I doubt it. But when an evangelical who'd never voted for a Democrat spent such a year and decided to vote for Obama, GMA devoted a segment to his story
Rev. Ed Dobson is the evangelical in question, and let me begin by saying that he seems a sincere and thoughtful person. A graduate of Bob Jones University and a member of the Moral Majority's founding board, Dobson was the pastor of Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, MI until retiring in 2005 to battle Lou Gehrig's disease. He is currently a member of the administration of Cornerstone University. Dobson explained that he was inspired by A. J. Jacobs's book, The Year of Living Biblically, in which the author describes his experiences spending a year trying to obey all biblical rules.
GMA weekend co-anchor Bill Weir interviewed Dobson, and the discussion eventually turned to politics.
National Public Radio's Morning Edition celebrated the end of 2008 on New Year’s Eve with black commentator (and Huffington Post contributor) John Ridley listing the top "non-troversies" of 2008, which he defined as "what seemed monumental then, in retrospect has all the significance of a Dennis Kucinich stump speech." Ridley’s top "non-troversy" was Reverend Wright’s sermon clips about America deserving 9/11 and the U.S. government inventing AIDS. Ridley claimed he was only saying what the Robertsons and Falwells did:
And the number non-troversy of 2008? Are you ready for this? How dare Jeremiah Wright say the bigoted, hurtful things in the privacy of a black church that men of God like Pat Robertson, John Hagee, and the late Jerry Falwell said in public? Barack Obama denounces Wright, comes across as a rational black man, then delivers a historic speech on race in America and ends up in the White House. I mean, the whole thing worked out so well, I have a feeling that somewhere Wright and Obama are secretly sharing a cigar, swapping one of those terrorist fist jabs Fox News warned us about, and saying to each other, ‘We got 'em, baby. We got 'em.’
What do Bill Maher slamming Pope Benedict XVI as the criminal head of a pedophilia ring, Washington Post's Sally Quinn defending anti-American Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and Ted Turner founder prophesying environmental apocalypse have in common?
They are just three of the most outrageous quotes from the mainstream media in 2008 and were featured on the December 23 "O'Reilly Factor" in a segment with MRC's Director of Media Analysis Tim Graham.
You can view the segment in the embedded video at right.
Dusting off its occasional "This Week's Words" series, the religion section for the December 27 Washington Post chose a Christmas sermon that sounds, at least to conservative Christian ears, more like the Gospel according to Stuart Smalley --I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and gosh darn it, God likes me -- than anything by Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. The sermon series has previously served to highlight liberal messages from the capital region's pulpits.
However quick we are to see the moral deficiencies in others, God annoyingly seems to see the good in every soul.
This Christmas, we adore the Holy Child who came to Earth in a cold and drafty stable. As we look into the manger scene, if we look closely enough, we'll see something even more amazing: the love of God born in us.
Charlie Brown first asked in 1965, "Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?" Judging by the Christmas songs featured on the morning network shows during the 2008 Christmas season, his question is still relevant 43 years later.
Researchers at the Culture and Media Institute analyzed the songs artists performed during appearances on ABC’s "Good Morning America," NBC’s "Today," and CBS’ "The Early Show" between October 31 and Dec. 16 and found that only six out of the 22 Christmas songs performed on the morning shows had religious themes.
Performers on ABC failed to highlight religious carols but did offer viewers a dose of liberal politics disguised as Christmas cheer. Melissa Etheridge ("A New Thought for Christmas") sang her original song "Christmas in America" on the Dec. 16 broadcast while wearing a Barack Obama campaign symbol on her guitar strap. Lyrics of the song include:
When during its first half-hour this Christmas morning "Today" moved to a conversation between Matt Lauer and Pastor Rick Warren, I braced myself. Don't tell me, I thought, they're going to get into the invitation Pres.-elect Obama extended him to give the invocation at the Inauguration, and the reaction of some gay-rights groups. Well, surprise! They didn't: not in word or implication. Warren appeared strictly in his role as pastor, and the conversation focused exclusively on the meaning of the day.
The video clip is of the portion of the conversation in which Warren describes the origin and practice of a Warren family tradition of holding a birthday party for Jesus on Christmas Day.
This is really delicious, and should cheer up the grinchiest of Grinches and the scroogiest of Scrooges:
Rumors that Santa Claus may be the latest and most high-profile victim of the worldwide credit crisis sent world stock markets roiling and children's hopes plummeting today as Wall Street analysts warned that Santa's entire production and distribution network could collapse by the end of the day without an infusion of several trillion dollars from the federal government.
Marvelously, the good folks at National Lampoon have already created an hysterical video of Santa asking Congress for bailout funds (embedded below the fold).
But before we get there, Kansas City.com's TV Barn published Alex R. Dahl's satirical piece moments ago:
In 2005, I sensed that journalists in general prefer to call this time of the year in commerce that of “holiday shopping” instead of “Christmas shopping,” but that when it came to people losing their jobs, they preferred to describe layoffs as relating to “Christmas.” My instincts have been proven correct during the past three years.
So did anything change in 2008?
Not that much, but slightly in the secular direction. Here are the overall results of various relevant Google News searches for the past four years (searches have been done three times each year -- just before Thanksgiving, about weeks later, and shortly before Christmas Day; this years Parts 1 and 2 are here and here, respectively; image courtesy of commenter "siouxcityranch" at Dr. BLT's Blog n Roll Studio):
Rev. Jeremiah Wright was a voice crying in the wilderness that the mainstream media and middle class America weren't quite ready for and megachurch pastor Rick Warren is an ignorant evangelical rube who isn't totally without hope, given his awareness of AIDS and other favored liberal causes.
An astonishing thing happened in Baghdad on Saturday: Christians, apparently for the first time in the city's history, publicly celebrated Christmas.
CNN's Jill Dougherty published an article about this extraordinary event at the network's website Sunday which included a video of her interviewing Iraqis of varied religious beliefs at the scene.
However, from what I can tell, this extremely charming report has not been aired yet by CNN television, nor has it gotten much coverage by other outlets here in America (video embedded below the fold, photo courtesy AFP via British Telegraph):
Tomaso noted that Fr. Ron Elliott describes himself as "very pro-life" but that after reviewing the books in question "he didn't find anything objectionable" and will hence return the books to the shelves "in February or March" as Elliott noted, "after the dust kind of settles."
At that point Tomaso couldn't refuse the impulse to add an editorial quip:
As NewsBuster Dan Gainor has noted, Playboy Mexico thought it could make some pesos by peddling an issue with a scantily-clad Virgin Mary on the cover—just in time for Christmas. Today's Los Angeles Times contains an editorial denouncing the tasteless stunt. All well and good. But it set me to wondering. Did the LAT protest similar outrages against religous symbols when they appeared in the US?
The infamous "Piss Christ" comes to mind. Even more on point is the portrait of the Virgin Mary, surrounded by lacquered elephant dung and cutouts from pornographic magazines, that the Brooklyn Museum found worthy of display.
Even in death, the New York Times often can’t really be generous to conservatives. The paper’s obituary for Paul Weyrich, penned by Bruce Weber, identified the deceased as conservative or referenced conservatism 17 times (once in a nice quote from James Dobson). That doesn’t count the headline "Paul Weyrich, 66, A Conservative Strategist, Dies." What really stands out are the two ultra-conservative tags:
A writer, a lobbyist and an organizer on behalf of conservative causes and especially social conservatism, Mr. Weyrich (pronounced WY-rick) was one of the far right’s most unbending ideologues. He was widely credited with coining the phrase "moral majority" as a rallying label for social conservatives. It became the name of the religion-based political organization that was led by the Rev. Jerry Falwell.
A deacon in the ultra-conservative Melkite Greek Catholic Church, Mr. Weyrich openly fused his faith and his politics.
Surely no one would view Rev. Jeremiah Wright as closer to the centerpoint of American politics than Pastor Rick Warren, right? Wrong. Here's Chris Matthews on this evening's Hardball.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: It seems like Barack Obama, as much as seems to inspire people, including me, has a problem with pastors. I don't know what it is. You get him hooked up with a pastor, whether it's Jeremiah Wright, or it's this guy Rick Warren. One's on the left, one's on the far right. Both are causing him trouble.
So Wright's merely "left," while Warren's "far-right." Do we really need to prove the obvious: that Warren is vastly more mainstream than Wright? It hardly seems worth the effort, but let's consider a few factoids:
In his December 19 blog post, "You too can be a spiritual dilettante," Get Religion contributor Douglas LeBlanc shared his bemusement with self-admitted atheist Sally Quinn's helpful suggestions to Newsweek/Washington Post's "On Faith" readers about interfaith dialogue. LeBlanc noted that Quinn gave her readers this assignment:
Try a new faith (or non-faith) for one day. That exploration can include attending a different place of worship or an event hosted by another faith tradition, discussing faith with someone whose views differ from your own, or inviting someone of a different faith to experience yours.
Then come back to the site and tell us about your experience. What did you learn? What surprised you? What bothered you? What would you like to know more about? How did you experience with another faith impact your understanding of or appreciation for that faith or for your own? Take a picture and share that too.
That's when LeBlanc turned on the snark, lambasting Quinn as out of touch with religious Americans who most certainly are politely engaged in theological conversations with friends, family and neighbors on a regular basis (emphasis mine):
Rick Warren had a surprisingly candid response to Ann Curry's question as to whether he would change his views on homosexuality if it were established that people are born gay. The pastor of the Saddleback Church, explaining why such a finding wouldn't cause him to change his position, observed that he is inclined to want to have sex with every beautiful woman he sees, but that that doesn't make it right.
Curry interviewed Warren for a Dateline segment that will be aired tonight on NBC. As noteworthy as Warren's candor was Curry's ostentatious display of righteous liberal anger, captured in the screengrab, while asking Warren whether he is homophobic.
On Thursday’s The View, co-host Joy Behar expressed her displeasure at President-Elect Barack Obama’s choice of Rick Warren for the invocation at his inauguration: “I don’t think it’s appropriate. It’s like putting, you know, Cheney in charge of gun control. It’s wrong....it’s just wrong.”
The topic of Obama choosing Warren came up during the regular opening “Hot Topics” segment of the ABC daytime program. Whoopi Goldberg, who moderated the segment, introduced the controversy behind this choice: “...[A] lot of folks are opposed to this gentleman: gay -- because he opposes gay marriage, he’s anti-abortion -- he’s got a lot of different stances. There’s a lot of people saying he’s a bad choice.”
Elisabeth Hasselbeck was the first co-host to come to Warren’s defense: “I think he’s a great choice. He held the forum -- remember when he did the forum between McCain and Obama during the election? He sat them down and had the faith forum, which I found was great during our times right now. And I think that he’ll -- I think he’ll do a great job. He’s got an incredible following, he’s a strong speaker.”
The baby Jesus is missing from many nativity scenes, and ABC’s “Good Morning America” makes fun of a church’s decision to install a GPS on their tiny savior. On Dec. 14, “Good Morning America” featured a story about churches fighting back against thieves who steal the baby Jesus from outdoor nativity scenes. Instead of seriously underscoring a pattern of crime, the network sent out a reporter to pilfer a wise man, and test the satellite tracking system, all while playing “spy” themed music.
When GMA anchors, Kate Snow and Bill Weir teased the upcoming story, they couldn’t contain their giggles. “We can't even say it without laughing,” said Snow. “But they're using GPS to track them down.” she quipped. “Baby Jesus LoJack,” snickered Weir.
You would think even Playboy magazine had limits. It doesn't.
The famous skin magazine found a way to attack Christians and push porn at the same time. The magazine's Mexican copy featured "a model wearing nothing but a white cloth over her head and breasts," according to Reuters Life. "The magazine, which hit newsstands on December 1 as ceremonies began leading to Friday's pilgrimage to the Mexico City shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe," the article continued.
On the cover: "We Love You, Maria" in Spanish. The company printed 100,000 copies of this outlandish Christmastime cover. Another picture inside the magazine apparently features her standing in front of stained glass - just in case you missed the offensive comparison.
The outcry was appropriately swift. Even Playboy can admit something goes too far - afterward.
Washington, D.C., local JoEllen Murphy has received a steady stream of media exposure for her Biblical message to counter the controversial "Why believe in a god?" ads seen on metro-area busses.
On Monday, December 15, D.C.-area Metro busses will sport a pro-God advertisement that is a direct response to a $40,000 atheistic ad campaign sponsored by the American Humanist Association. Those ads read, "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness' sake."
This news item led me to ask the question posed in the headline:
(Reuters) - Newsweek magazine is planning staff cuts as part of a major editorial makeover likely to result in a slimmer publication, the Wall Street Journal said, citing people close to the magazine.
The cuts are expected to be outlined in two companywide meetings on Thursday, and will come from an extension of voluntary redundancies offered in the spring, when Newsweek shed 111 jobs, the paper said.
Update (11:37 a.m. EST): Miller is now on the radio program. She insists she had a radio show scheduling conflict. Ingraham apologized for saying she chickened out.
Update (11:26 a.m. EST): Miller backed out of appearing even solo with Ingraham. Mohler is now talking with Ingraham.
A few minutes from now Newsweek's Lisa Miller will appear on the Laura Ingraham radio program to defend her recent article that insists the Bible can reasonably be interpreted to defend same-sex marriage. Shortly after she goes toe-to-toe with Ingraham, the radio host will feature Baptist theologian Albert Mohler who will offer a full-fledged rebuttal. Apparently she refused to go on the show at the same time as Mohler.