Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
DALLAS â Mike Huckabee, the bass-playing Baptist preacher and former governor of Arkansas, dropped out of the race for the Republican presidential nomination on Tuesday night and endorsed Senator John McCain as the partyâs candidate in November.
Though Mr. Huckabee has known for some time that he could not win the nomination, he had pledged to stay in the race until Mr. McCain accumulated the 1,191 delegates he needed to cinch the candidacy, remaining as one of two Republican challengers to Mr. McCain; the other is Representative Ron Paul of Texas, who is still in the race.
His wife, Janet, standing by his side, Mr. Huckabee spoke shortly after the polls closed, addressing a bank of television cameras and a crowd of about 150 supporters, including families, ministers and a few people who wandered in from a business convention down the hall.
âLadies and gentlemen,â he said, âI called Senator McCain a few moments ago. It looks pretty apparent tonight that he will, in fact, achieve 1,191 delegates to become the Republican nominee for our party.
âI extended to him not only my congratulations, but my commitment to him and to the party to do everything possible to unite our party, but more importantly to unite our country, so that we can be the best nation we can be,â he said.
He praised Mr. McCain as an honorable man who ran an honorable campaign. But he also said he was proud of his own campaign, which started out with little attention and few resources and ended with some attention though still bare-bones â just 30 aides, he said â and still underfinanced.
Quoting from the Apostle Paul, Mr. Huckabee said: âWeâve kept the faith. And that for me has been the most important goal of all. Iâd rather lose an election than lose the principles that got me into politics in the first place.â
Huckabee took a cue from that “Saturday Night Live” appearance in ceding the floor. Evangelicals now will have to decide between a Republican nominee they’re not thrilled about, though one who is a social conservative in many ways, and either a liberal Christian who is accused of being a Muslim or a Methodist believed to be the Antichrist.
An online poll today at ChristianityToday.com showed 31 percent of the 1,900 participants supporting Huckabee while McCain and Obama each received 26 percent support and Hillary Clinton got 8 percent. The real question, though, is who will she vote for?
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March 4, 2008 | 3:59 pm
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
A Christianity Today editorial now online takes up a phenomenon that could dog Hillary Clinton if she survives as the Democratic nominee—an increasingly unlikely event unless things turn around tonight. The issue is one I’ve mentioned here before: Despite the findings of a recent Zogby poll, evangelicals love to hate Hillary.
Her public persona, a brand of East Coast liberalism with roots in ‘60s radical politics, strikes many Americans as uppity and unapproachable. Open talk about her personal faith in recent years strikes some as politically convenient. And Clinton’s consistently pro-choice stance on abortion clashes with most evangelicals’ deeply held belief that life begins in the womb and should be protected at great cost.
But then come more baseless blows to the former first lady. No small amount of jokes and hate-marketing attests to how far the “Hate Hillary” demographic stretches: T-shirts, bumper stickers, voodoo dolls, and “No Way in Hellary” BBQ aprons are now among the items you can purchase to advertise your anti-Hillary stance. On the nonprofit side, scads of websites dish on Hillary’s supposed crookery, while bloggers invent new derogatory nicknames, such as Hitlery and Hilldabeast. We seem to simply enjoy hating Hillary. ...
Perhaps Hillary-bashing says more about the political climate Americans have created than it does about Clinton herself. The current President? “Village Idiot.” The one before him? “Slick Willy.” And on it goes. Instead of researching a candidate’s voting record or listening to position statements on pressing issues, it’s easier to mark someone ENEMY and begin the verbal whacking. There’s admittedly something comforting about this: It helps make sense of the world and creates a feeling of mutuality among those with whom we share dislike. The factions created around enemies may even bear a far-off resemblance to true community.
Better than bashing
Evangelicals, knowing that turning candidates into verbal punching bags will never create real community, are called to talk about political figures in ways starkly different from the pundits and hate-marketers.
While the loudest political voices this election season will keep only a loose rein on their tongues, evangelicals do well to ponder the Bible’s insights into the mysterious yet profound connection between a person’s heart and mouth: “The things that come out of the mouth,” says Jesus, “come from the heart.” Which is why Paul says, “Now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips” (Col. 3:8). Biblical psychology assumes not only that the words of our mouths reveal the state of our hearts, but that words have power to shape the heartâfor better or worse.
March 4, 2008 | 9:26 am
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
Barack Obama’s campaign office is no doubt still worried about the whisper campaign against him. Over the weekend, they sent me an e-mail with links to a number of short videos from Obama’s meeting with the Cleveland Jewish community that they had posted on YouTube.
In the above video, Obama says that Israel must remain a Jewish state. There are also short videos about the responsibilities of Palestinians, about Israel’s right to defend itself against its neighbors, on opposing negotiations with Hamas, on relations between blacks and Jews, on his difference of opinion with Brzezinski and on President Bush’s foreign policy.
March 3, 2008 | 12:26 pm
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
When the LA Times put a story today about the Internet assault on Scientology in the Calendar section, was the paper settling the half-century-old debate about the sincerity of Scientology as a religion or just filling a weak entertainment section?
The day before ExScientologyKids.com launched, another inflammatory allegation about the church began to circulate virulently online. “L. Ron Hubbard Plagiarized Scientology,” read a headline at the popular Internet culture blog BoingBoing. The post linked to images of a translated 1934 German book called “Scientologie,” which critics say contains similar themes to Hubbard’s Scientology, which he codified in 1952, according to a church website.
These were just the latest in a series of Scientology-related stories to burn across the Internet like grass fires in recent weeks, testing the church’s well-established ability to tightly control its public image. The largest thorn in the church’s side has been a group called Anonymous, a diffuse online coalition of skeptics, hackers and activists, many of them young and Web-savvy. The high-wattage movement has inspired former Scientologists to come forward and has repeatedly trained an Internet spotlight on any story or rumor that portrays Scientology in unflattering terms.
No corner of the Web, it appears, is safe for Scientology. Blogger and lawyer Scott Pilutik recently posted a story noting that Scientology was yanking down EBay auctions for used e-meters, the device the church uses for spiritual counseling. EBay allows brand owners—Louis Vuitton or Rolex, say—to remove items they believe infringe on their trademark or patent rights. Basically, fakes. But, Pilutik said, the used e-meters being taken down were genuine. Reselling them was no different than putting a for-sale sign on your old Chevy.
“What’s actually going on here,” he wrote, is that the church is “knowingly alleging intellectual property violations that clearly don’t exist.” Within a day Pilutik’s blog had gotten over 45,000 visitors—so much traffic that his site crashed completely.
Facing a steady stream of negative publicity and a growing number of critical voices, Scientology has found itself on the defensive.
The church has referred to Anonymous as a group of “cyber-terrorists” and, in a statement, said the group’s aims were “reminiscent of Al Qaeda spreading anti-American hatred and calling for U.S. destruction.”
“These people are posing extremely serious death threats to our people,” said church spokeswoman Karin Pouw in a phone interview. “We are talking about religious hatred and bigotry.”
Scientology has certainly been under assault lately, from that revealing piece in Rolling Stone to Germany’s efforts to ban it and the war launched against it last month in Hollywood. But Pouw, I think, is reaching when she calls this “religious hatred and bigotry.” This is criticism, something all religions have had to face. And most haven’t resorted to frivolous lawsuits to silence their detractors.
March 3, 2008 | 11:05 am
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
There have been many stories about Christians coming up in Hollywood, not simply making it in the entertainment biz but convincing studios they need Christians. The marketing of “The Da Vinci Code” and he taming of “The Golden Compass” are poignant examples.
But, by far, my favorite story in this line was “The Jesus War,” a brilliant piece Peter J. Boyer wrote for The New Yorker. The article offered a revealing look at Mel Gibson’s faith and his “Passion of the Christ,” and because Beliefnet feels that Gibson is still the most influential Christian in Hollywood—“despite everything: a drunken-driving arrest, an anti-Semitic outburst, movies brimming with graphic violence”—I thought it would be worth revisiting this article. Here is a choice section that avoids the months-long brouhaha that helped “The Passion” gross more than $600 million worldwide.
When Gibson was in Rome shooting the film, he told an Italian interviewer that he had felt moved by God’s spirit to undertake the project. I asked him what he’d meant by that. How did he know that God wanted him to make âThe Passionâ?
âThere are signals,â he said. âYou get signals. Signs. âSignal graces,â they’re called. It’s like traffic lights. It’s as clear as a traffic light. Bing! I mean, it just grabs you and you know you have to listen to that and you have to follow it. Like last night, you know?â
He reminded me of an incident that had occurred the night before, as we were driving to Anaheim. Gibson was behind the wheel of his silver Lexus, negotiating the nightmarish traffic on the Santa Ana Freeway, when a car pulled in front of him and immediately hit the brakes. Gibson had seemed ready to unleash some invective, when he stopped and stared at the offending car’s license plate. âLook! Look at what it says!â The car’s license-plate holder bore the inscription âPsalm 91.â Gibson said that on that very morning, after he’d been vexed by the Los Angeles Times column, one of his associates had urged him to read the ninety-first Psalm, and that he’d been moved to tears by it. (âA thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. . . . For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.â)
âIt was weird,â Gibson said. âThose are signals, alright?â .
He then told me about something that had happened when he was building his church. He had wanted to fill the place with antique candlesticks and such, and he’d had a hard time finding them. He was in Philadelphia shooting a picture, and someone told him about a man who had a storehouse of old church items. Gibson called the man, and asked if he was willing to sell any of the stuff. The man, considering his celebrity customer, was reluctant. âNot if you’re gonna put it in a disco, or fornicate on it,â he said. Gibson talked to him for a while, and convinced him of the purity of his intent. They did business, and just before Gibson left the man pulled something out, and offered it to Gibson as a gift. It was a small, faded piece of cloth. âWhat is it?â he asked. The man told him that he had a special devotion to a nineteenth-century Augustinian nun, Anne Catherine Emmerich, and that the cloth was a piece of her habit.
As it happened, Emmerich had special meaning to Gibson as well. Emmerich was an impoverished Westphalian farm girl who had visions at an early age. She was so pious that when she joined a convent, at the age of twenty-eight, she was considered odd even there. Eventually, she began to experience ecstasies and develop stigmata. Her experiences attracted Church inquiries, state suspicions, and popular curiosity, and ultimately the attention of the poet Clemens Brentano, one of the founders of the German Romantic movement. Brentano made his way to Emmerich, who was ailing, and who told him that she had been awaiting ‘his arrival. He wrote down her visions, including detailed narratives from Christ’s Passion, and published them after her death, in 1824, in a book called âThe Dolorous Passion of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.â Six weeks after she died, Emmerichâs body was disinterred, and was said to show no decay. In Catholic theology, ecstasies are considered a rare gift from God, and Emmerich is proceeding toward beatification.
When Gibson returned to his faith, he acquired, from a nunnery that had closed down, a library of hundreds of books, many of them quite old. He says that when he was researching âThe Passionâ one evening he reached up for a book, and Brentano’s volume tumbled out of the shelf into his hands. He sat down to read it, and was flabbergasted by the vivid imagery of Emmerich’s visions. âAmazing images,â he said. âShe supplied me with stuff I never would have thought of.â The one image that is most noticeable in âThe Passionâ is a scene after Jesus’ scourging, when a grief-stricken Mary gets down on her knees to mop up his blood.
I reminded Gibson, who carries the Emmerich relic in his pocket, that some of his critics have pointed out that Emmerich’s depiction of Jews is inflammatory, thereby imputing anti-Semitism to Gibson’s film. âWhy are they calling her a Nazi?â Gibson asked. âBecause modern secular Judaism wants to blame the Holocaust on the Catholic Church. And it’s a lie. And it’s revisionism. And they’ve been working on that one for a while.â
We talked of the nature of Gibson’s faith, and I asked him about an aspect of Vatican II which has not been much discussed in the debate over his film. One of the council’s most significant acts was its Decree on Ecumenism, which declared that all Christians, even those outside the Catholic Church, âhave the right to be called Christian; the children of the Catholic Church accept them as brothers.â This effectively overturned the Catholic notion that the only true course to salvation was through the Catholic Church.
I told Gibson that I am a Protestant, and asked whether his pre-Vatican II world view disqualified me from eternal salvation. He paused. âThere is no salvation for those outside the Church,â he said. âI believe it.â He explained, âPut it this way. My wife is a saint. She’s a much better person than I am. Honestly. She’s, like, Episcopalian, Church of England. She prays, she believes in God, she knows Jesus, she believes in that stuff. And it’s just not fair if she doesn’t make it, she’s better than I am. But that is a pronouncement from the chair. I go with it.â
With that, Gibson excused himself, and headed toward the galley of the plane, where an attendant had laid out supper. I glanced up at the video monitor at the front of the cabin, showing our progress on the journey to Washington. We were forty-five thousand feet over the high plains of Colorado, heading toward Kansas, according to the monitor, which displayed the name of the town shimmering faintly below us. It was a place called Last Chance.
The rest of Beliefnet’s Power Dozen can be found here. It includes Denzel, Tyler Perry, Martin Sheen, Philip Anschutz and ... Martha Williamson (?).
March 3, 2008 | 9:19 am
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
There’s been a bit of bond building between Muslim and Christian leaders during the past few months. But what Madison Trammel of Christianity Today finds more interesting is the question of whether they worship the same God.
and of more long-term importance, quite possiblyâis how Christians answer this question, which Crossway associate publisher Justin Taylor addressed today in a blog post worth reading. Taylor quotes the following from [Rick] Love, with whom he disagrees almost entirely:
Muslims already worship God as the One Living GodâCreator and Judge of the Universe. . . . I believe that Muslims worship the true God. . . . I believe that anyone who affirms monotheismâwhether Muslim, Jew, Sikh or Tribalâare worshiping the true God. How can it be otherwise, since there is only one God?
So do Muslims worship the same God as Christians, albeit imperfectly? CT senior editor Timothy George also tackled this questions in a 2002 article entitled âIs the God of Muhammad the Father of Jesus?â âApart from the Incarnation and the Trinity,â George writes in the concluding paragraphs, âit is possible to know that God is, but not who God is.â
Thatâs the key difference, Taylor writes, because worshiping the true God entails worshiping him as he truly is. The strength of Taylorâs post is his look at several key biblical passages, both Old and New Testament. As he points out, Jesus even said that Jewish religious leaders, monotheists to the core, were not of God and did not have God as their Father. Why? Because they refused to accept that he had come from God as Godâs very Sonâa rejection that continues to shape both Judaism and Islam.
Still, disentangling the monotheistic religions is a confusing task, one made more cloudy by on-the-ground realities like Arab Christiansâ use of Allah to speak of God. The three major monotheistic religions overlap, with Christianity claiming to supersede Judaism and Islam claiming to supersede both. Whatâs most needed for Christians, George concludes, is a winsome and missional approach that turns our significant theological differences into attractions to Christ.
âWe are wise to remember that sometimes the best way to address these issues is to move from theological abstraction to story,â George writes. âIsnât that what the Christian is about? God was in Christ, reaching out to us in love, accommodating himself to our condition, to save us. This is what we are about as ambassadors of Christ and his gospel: to go into the world, into the prisons, into the barrios and the ghettos and wherever it is that human beings exist in alienation and separation from God, and to tell them that the relational God is reaching out to us.â
I thought the great theologian George W. Bush settled this debate in October.