They’re Not Even Pretending Anymore

The American Family Association, which underwote and organized The Response rally in Houston earlier this month, has announced the formation of Champion the Vote. It’s described as “a friend of AFA, whose mission is to mobilize 5 million unregistered conservative Christians to register and vote according to the Biblical worldview in 2012.”

Which candidate do you suppose will benefit most from all these new registrants? Perhaps, say, the man who convened The Response and just days later announced his campaign for president? It almost feels trite to keep showing how Gov. Rick Perry and his staff misrepresented the aims of their prayer rally by repeatedly insisting that it was “apolitical,” especially when they are now explicitly using the event to his political advantage. But here you go.

What’s a “secular-left” cause?

Bill O’Reilly’s claim that media outlets describing Anders Breivik as a “Christian extremist” are attempting to discredit Christianity has been widely dissected. But a semi-unrelated remark of his in the same segment also caught my attention, and I thought it was worth noting. O’Reilly says:

… The second reason the liberal media is pushing the Christian angle is they don’t like Christians very much. Because we are too judgmental. Many Christians oppose abortion, gay marriage, and legalized narcotics — secular-left causes. The media understand the opposition is often based on religion, so they want to diminish Christianity, and highlighting so-called Christian-based terror is a way to do that. Continue Reading →

Herman Cain is Screwing Up Secularists

Another week, another attempt by presidential candidate Herman Cain to assure Republican primary voters that he is serious about addressing the specter of an Islamic revolution in America — a threat apparently germinating right under our noses.

His comments are absurd, repulsive, and clearly intended to stoke irrational animus. They are therefore harmful in and of themselves. But there is an indirect consequence worth identifying.

Mounting a coherent critique of fundamentalist Islam — especially its militant subsidiaries, but also the underlying premises on which fundamentalist Islam itself rests — is a very important endeavor, just as mounting coherent critiques of fundamentalist Christianity and fundamentalist Judaism are very important endeavors. Continue Reading →

On Birthright

Kiera Feldman told me the idea for her excellent journalistic foray into Birthright was conceived in January 2009, which, oddly, is also the month when I recall first being troubled by the social implications of a program that grants thousands of American Jews free trips to Israel on the basis of their ethnicity.

I was staying with a friend in Washington D.C. for Barack Obama’s inauguration, and one night a group of us got to talking about Israel’s invasion of the Gaza strip, which had just concluded. More than 900 civilians were killed in the bombardment. I decided to express an unfavorable opinion of the Israeli government’s actions, suggesting that Operation Cast Lead was a strategic and moral blunder.

A young woman who was party to the conversation became so incensed at my remarks that she began to cry. Did I understand the psychological toll that the constant threat of rocket attacks had taken on the children of Ashkelon? What gave me (as a non-Jew) the right, she asked with escalating strain in her voice, to tell Israel how it should go about protecting Israeli citizens? Did I have even the slightest appreciation for the Jewish people’s long history of suffering? How dare I do this? And then came the kicker: I must be an antisemite. Continue Reading →

Rev. McGuire’s Calling

As negotiations heat up in New York over legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage, a closer look at one of the major players in Albany…

Rev. Jason McGuire’s commitment, he told me, is simple: whenever there are legislators present in the State House, so too will be his witness. As it happens, this requires quite a bit of driving. The commute to Albany from his office in Western New York takes four hours, and on weekends he traverses every corner of the state to speak with faith groups about how they can help prevent the culture’s downward spiral into darkness. Between Monday and Friday, in the capitol, McGuire’s job is to hold prayer breakfasts, Bible studies, and other outreach events for lawmakers. “I use lobbying as a platform to take the gospel to the legislature,” he said.

Continue Reading →

A Visit to Family Radio

There is a Family Radio affiliate located in West Orange, New Jersey, wherein prophesies of Saturday’s impending rapture are transmitted to portions of the New York metropolitan area. Comcast customers can view Harold Camping’s daily Open Forum program on Channel 66. In the world of atomically-precise eschatological predictions, one must admit, the Family Radio people are unusually organized and savvy. This isn’t some rag-tag operation — billboards are plastered all over the place, most urban areas seem to have a crew of proselytizers, and their TV channel is only a few clicks away from Turner Classic Movies.

Continue Reading →

Redemption in Five Minutes

At a thoroughly typical suburban congregation yesterday, the Easter homily was notable only for its truncated length. The priest’s decision to limit his commentary to under five minutes, I deduced, was occasioned purely by logistical concerns: with the number of parishioners in attendance at approximately double the weekly average, twice as many people would be lining up to receive Communion, and a substantially extended Eucharist-distribution segment became necessary. Consequentially, the only way to get everyone out of there within the putatively allotted hour-plus-ten minute-grace-period is to shave time off regular liturgical functions, with the homily taking the brunt of the sacrifice.

“This is what it’s all about,” the priest told us of Easter’s significance in Christianity, without any inflection that would give credence to the proclamation. “We are all people of the Resurrection.” Spoken over an uninterrupted hum of toddlers squealing and people stomping up and down the stairs to the overflow balcony, I wondered how many present that morning were truly appreciative of the enormous message he relayed. That to rescue a fallen mankind, God had begotten a son 2,000 years ago, a son who was killed and resurrected and walked the Earth before ascending into heaven, where his reign is everlasting. Through him, so it goes, our sins can be forgiven. And this is the basis for the church in which we now sit. Continue Reading →

A necessary distinction on the King hearings

It’s perfectly understandable that many have impulsively dismissed the prospect of Congressional hearings on Muslim radicalization as just another manifestation of Republican xenophobia, and Peter King’s dodgy past certainly doesn’t help in the credibility department. But there’s an important distinction to be made here, one that I think is easily glossed over. Continue Reading →