"Like all great satire, the book is cerebral, irreverent and hilarious, while also edifying" Publisher's Weekly
"This book is hilarious... [Lanham] didn't skimp on his research. The book provides a telling overview of the religious right's leadership, the beliefs they espouse, and just how incredibly absurd and hypocritical they are." The Campaign to Defend the Constitution
Editor's Pick: "From the author of The Hipster Handbook comes this irreverent navigation of all things Evangelical. Learn enough slang to fit in at a church picnic or why SpongeBob SquarePants is an agent of the Devil" Chicago Sun-Times
"This guy has written quite a funny book." Alan Colmes, Fox News
"A funny book with some funny cartoons on everyone from Rick Warren as the evangelical Jimmy Buffett to a guide for Christian haircuts that is hilarious... I was chuckling until I saw that I am the postscript" Mark Driscoll, pastor of the largest megachurch in Washington State
"Every good little liberal will have this book on order as a stocking stuffer come Jesus' birthday." Time Out
"A handbook for coping with bible thumpers.... When considering the power and influence evangelical Christians wield in this country, you have to laugh to keep from crying. Robert Lanham... understands this well and offers much needed, totally biased comic relief." Village Voice
"Not only is this an important book, it's a funny book." Marc Maron, Air America Radio
"Author Robert Lanham is an observer... but with his latest, The Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right, Lanham's keen eye has hit perhaps his most entertaining target." Metro Paper
"It’s hard to remember a more pointed and scathing attack… Lanham launches a focused, sustained barrage on the Pat Robertsons and James Dobsons of the world… He’s done his homework. The book is thoroughly researched and packed with quotes and analysis of the famous and not-so-famous leaders of the evangelical right… the research is truly impressive. " The Reader
"An utterly biased, humorous one-stop guide to the major evangelical players." Details
"Check out Robert Lanham's (author of the fabled Hipster Handbook and former Bible Belt resident) Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right. It's funny because it's true." Elizabeth Spiers, founding Editor of Gawker
"Like the Daily Show or The Colbert Report, it's humor reveals the basic truth. Which is to say that the "sinners" of the world may be closer to Jesus and the divine than those who use God's name for personal enrichment, power building, and political gain." Buzzflash
"The book does for religion what Jon Stewart does for politics." CanWest News Service
"Informative, laugh-out-loud funny and horrifying at times, check out this snide, leftie-geared guide to the major evangelical players... Robert Lanham has a writing style that resembles... McSweeney's, and the irony-stacked humor of TV programs such as "The Daily Show" Style Weekly, Richmond VA
"Hilarious... go out and buy this book now." Sam Seder, The Majority Report
"This book should lay at the lifeless feet of your corpse as a silent, yet
powerful and all encompassing explanation as to why you took your own life."
David Cross, Arrested Development
The Easter season unveiling of an anatomically correct chocolate sculpture of Jesus Christ, dubbed "My Sweet Lord" by its creator, has infuriated Catholics preparing to observe some of their holiest days of the year.
The 6-foot sculpture by Cosimo Cavallaro was to debut Monday evening, four days before Christians mark the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday. The final day of the exhibit at the Lab Gallery inside Manhattan's Roger Smith Hotel was planned for Easter Sunday.
"This is one of the worst assaults on Christian sensibilities ever," said Bill Donohue, head of the Catholic League, a watchdog group. "It's not just the ugliness of the portrayal, but the timing _ to choose Holy Week is astounding."
The gallery's creative director, Matt Semler, said the Lab and the hotel were overrun with angry telephone calls and e-mails. The gallery was considering its options, he said.
"We're obviously surprised by the overwhelming response and offense people have taken," said Semler, adding that the Holy Week timing was a coincidence.
The artwork was created from more than 200 pounds of milk chocolate, and it features Christ with his arms outstretched. The Cavallaro creation does not include a loincloth.
A publicist for the gallery said the artist was not available for comment.
Cavallaro, who was raised in Canada and Italy, is best known for his quirky work with food as art: Past efforts include repainting a Manhattan hotel room in melted mozzarella, spraying 5 tons of pepper jack cheese on a Wyoming home and festooning a four-poster bed with 312 pounds of processed ham.
As senator turned actor Fred Thompson considers a presidential run, his Christian credentials are being questioned by Dr. James Dobson, a major voice among Christian conservative voters. Republican strategist Rich Galen saw this as a positive thing.
"If I'm advising Fred Thompson, which I'm not, I'd say 'Good news! We're big enough that someone like Dobson has to pay attention to us,' " he said. In an interview with "U.S. News & World Report," Dobson said, "I don't think he's a Christian."
A Thompson spokesman quickly contested Dobson's statement, saying "Thompson is indeed a Christian. He was baptized into the Church of Christ."
But a declaration of Thompson's religion will not be enough for Dobson, who is viewed as being widely influential with evangelical Christians, a key Republican voting bloc.
"We were pleased to learn from his spokesperson that Sen. Thompson professes to be a believer," said Nima Reza, a Dobson spokeswoman. "Thompson hasn't clearly communicated his religious faith, and many evangelical Christians might find this a barrier to supporting him."
Why did that come up now, even before Thompson, a star of NBC's "Law and Order" and a former GOP Tennessee senator, has committed to running for president? Dobson has shown so far he's not a believer in any of the front-running Republican candidates. He gave Mitt Romney a lukewarm review and said he couldn't support Sen. John McCain or frontrunner Rudy Giuliani. It signals a split among evangelicals.
"They're looking for someone to head off Rudy Giuliani. Some evangelicals want Thompson to be that person. But others want Newt Gingrich," said Dr. Charles Dunn of Regent University.
Dobson recently had Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House, on his radio show, where the former house speaker admitted an extramarital affair.
"I asked you if the rumors were true that you were in an affair with a woman, obviously, who wasn't your wife at the same time that Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky were having their escapade?" Dobson asked.
"Well, the fact is the honest answer is yes," Gingrich said.
Dobson has not endorsed any candidates. He told "U.S. News & World Report" that he thinks Gingrich is the "brightest guy out there" and "the most articulate politician on the scene today."
A day before bidding was to end on the auction of the massage table gay rent boy Mike Jones used for his trysts with evangelist Ted Haggard eBay pulled the plug.
Jones put the purple table up for auction with the money raised to go to Project Angel Heart, a charity that provides meals to people living with HIV/AIDS.
The eBay ad described it as the massage table "where it all happened".
Haggard resigned last year as president of the National Association of Evangelicals after Jones went public, alleging Haggard paid him over a three-year period for sex and sometimes took methamphetamine during the encounters.
Haggard then was fired as pastor of the 14,000-member New Life Church. He publicly admitted in November to unspecified "sexual immorality." (story)
Haggard, who had been president of the evangelical association since 2003, participated in conference calls with White House staffers and lobbied Congress last year on Supreme Court nominees.
His church was involved in fighting for a constitutional amendment in Colorado to ban same-sex marriage. It was because of the amendment that Jones came forward.
Interest in buying the massage table was high. Bidding started at $400 and reached $1,275 when eBbay removed it from its Web site.
A spokesperson for the online auction site said the sale violated eBay's fundraising policy.
But Jones believes pressure from evangelical groups led to its removal.
So-called "ex-gay" ministry Compassion without Compromise urged its supporters to complain to eBay and called the auction "reprehensible".
"If you contacted eBay to express your concerns or register a complaint, please contact them again for doing the right thing," read a message on the Compassion without Compromise site.
EBay denies public pressure led to the auction's removal.
“It’s just sad,” Jones told the Colorado Springs Gazette. “I wasn’t going to make any money off of it. It was for a good cause. Who it hurts is Angel Heart. It doesn’t hurt me.”
While Haggard is trying to put his past behind him, Jones is writing a tell-all book about his encounters with the pastor.
Monica Goodling, the Department of Justice official who said Monday that she'll invoke the Fifth Amendment rather than talk to lawmakers, is a frequent figure in department e-mails released so far as part of the congressional investigation into the firings and hirings of U.S. attorneys.
Goodling, 33, is a 1995 graduate Messiah College in Grantham, Pa., an institution that describes itself as "committed to embracing an evangelical spirit."
She received her law degree at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va. Regent, founded by Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson, says its mission is "to produce Christian leaders who will make a difference, who will change the world."
E-mails show that Goodling was involved in planning the dismissals and in later efforts to limit the negative reaction. As the Justice Department's liaison to the White House, she could shed light on the extent of White House involvement in the dismissals.
Goodling took a leading role in making sure that Tim Griffin, a protege of presidential adviser Karl Rove, replaced H.E. "Bud" Cummins as the U.S. attorney in Arkansas. Documents released to Congress include communications between Goodling and Scott Jennings, Rove's deputy.
In an Aug. 18, 2006, e-mail to Kyle Sampson, then Gonzales' chief of staff, Goodling warned of potential political problems with Griffin's appointment and underscored White House interest in getting it done.
"We have a senator prob, so while wh is intent on nominating, scott thinks we may have a confirmation issue," Goodling wrote.
At Jennings' request, documents show, Goodling agreed to meet last summer with two Republican activists from New Mexico who felt that U.S. Attorney David Iglesias wasn't doing enough to pursue allegations of voter fraud by Democrats. Iglesias believes the issue was a key factor in his firing.
In a June 20 e-mail, Jennings asked Goodling to arrange a Justice Department meeting for New Mexico Republican Mickey Barnett, who came to Washington with Paul Rogers, another GOP activist.
"It is sensitive - perhaps you should do it," Jennings suggested.
"Happy to do so," Goodling replied. A copy of her daily planner, which was provided to congressional investigators, shows that she met with the two the next day.
Goodling also appears to have been influential in preventing the ouster of U.S. Attorney Gretchen Shappert in western North Carolina. When Shappert's name appeared on a list of targeted prosecutors in September 2006, Goodling recommended that she be left alone.
"There are plenty of others there to start with," Goodling wrote, "and I don't think she merits being included in that group at this time."
A Southern Baptist ethicist and ardent supporter of the war in Iraq said on public television it would be immoral for the United States to withdraw troops too soon.
"Just war has as one its important principles proportionality, and what are the costs of staying and what are the costs of going," Richard Land, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission said on PBS' "Religion & Ethics Newsweekly."
"I think it's very important for us to take into consideration at every step the Iraqis who have believed in us, the Iraqis who have cooperated with us, the Iraqis who have fought side by side with us," Land said. "Twelve Iraqi soldiers have died for every American solider that has died in this war. And we cannot have a repeat of the disgraceful exit we had from Viet Nam, where we left our friends behind and to a terrible fate."
Land, one of three ethicists interviewed on the program, acknowledged that Iraqis "are ambivalent about our presence there."
"A lot of them understand that things could get really bad if we leave, that there could be a bloodbath," he said. "In fact I think there's a danger of a regional war between the Sunnis and the Shia, with people coming in from the outside...."
"That's the administration's argument," host Bob Abernethy interjected.
"Well I think it's a very real concern," Land responded. "I think we need clearly to be working toward reducing our footprint and increasing the Iraqis' footprint in their own country as quickly as is feasible."
Part of just-war theory, Land said, is, "Will the good gained outweigh the damage caused?'" READ IT ALL
Thousands of Christians prayed for peace at an anti-war service Friday night at the Washington National Cathedral, kicking off a weekend of protests around the country to mark the fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq.
Afterward, participants marched with battery-operated faux candles through snow and wind toward the White House, where police began arresting protesters shortly before midnight. Protest guidelines require demonstrators to continue moving while on the White House sidewalk.
"We gave them three warnings, and they broke the guidelines," said Lt. Scott Fear. "There's an area on the White House sidewalk where you have to keep moving."
About 100 people crossed the street from Lafayette Park _ where thousands of protesters were gathered _ to demonstrate on the White House sidewalk late Friday. Police began cuffing them and putting them on buses to be taken for processing.
Fear said 222 people had been arrested by Saturday morning. The first 100 were charged with disobeying a lawful order, and the others with crossing a police line. All of them were fined $100.
The windows of the executive mansion were dark, as the president was away for the weekend at Camp David in Maryland.
John Pattison, 29, said he and his wife flew in from Portland, Ore., to attend his first anti-war rally. He said his opposition to the war had developed over time.
"Quite literally on the night that shock and awe commenced, my friend and I toasted the military might of the United States," Pattison said. "We were quite proud and thought we were doing the right thing."
He said the way the war had progressed and U.S. foreign policy since then had forced him to question his beliefs.
"A lot of the rhetoric that we hear coming from Christians has been dominated by the religious right and has been strong advocacy for the war," Pattison said. "That's just not the way I read my Gospel."
The ecumenical coalition that organized the event, Christian Peace Witness for Iraq, distributed 3,200 tickets for the service in the cathedral, with two smaller churches hosting overflow crowds. The cathedral appeared to be packed, although sleet and snow prevented some from attending.
"This war, from a Christian point of view, is morally wrong _ and was from the beginning," the Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners/Call to Renewal, one of the event's sponsors, said toward the end of the service to cheers and applause. "This war is ... an offense against God."
In his speech, the Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, senior pastor at Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church, lashed out at Congress for being "too morally inept to intervene" to stop the war, but even more harshly against President Bush.
"Mr. Bush, my Christian brother, we do need a surge in troops. We need a surge in the nonviolent army of the Lord," he said. "We need a surge in conscience and a surge in activism and a surge in truth-telling."
Celeste Zappala of Philadelphia recounted how she learned of the death of her son, Sgt. Sherwood Baker, who served in the National Guard. When a uniformed man came to her door asking if she was Baker's mother, she said yes.
"'Yes,' and then I fell to the ground and somewhere outside of myself I heard someone screaming and screaming," she said.
The Friday night events mark the beginning of what is planned as a weekend of protests ahead of Tuesday's anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion, which began on March 20, 2003.
On Saturday morning, a coalition of protest groups has a permit for up to 30,000 people to march from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial across the Potomac River to the Pentagon. Smaller demonstrations are planned in cities across the country.
The bodies at this Saturday night gathering are sculpted, the locks of hair full and wavy, the faces made for the covers of magazines.
Such physical perfection is a South Beach staple, on its sun-kissed shoreline and in its velvet-roped dance clubs. But these young men and women are not here to find a weekend hookup or to imbibe a $15 drink. They're here for God.
Since its 1984 founding in New York, Models for Christ has sought to bring faith to fashion - spirituality to an industry that puts a premium on sex appeal. The non-denominational organization has since expanded to 19 other major fashion centers, including Los Angeles, London, Paris, Milan and Tokyo - and hundreds participate.
"This work can lead anyone away from the Lord," said Jeremiah Johnson, a former model who heads the group's Miami Beach chapter. "But it doesn't have to."
About a dozen people - not just models but also photographers and agents and others in the industry - gather in a circle of maroon chairs in the simple worship space of Calvary Chapel Miami Beach. They sing hymns, read from bright blue paperback Bibles and share their struggles of remaining Christian in the fashion business.
Most come dressed casually in jeans and T-shirts. They are as young as 17, and hail from all parts of the country during the peak season for modeling work. They bow their heads in prayer.
Many talk about their boundaries - refusing to do overtly sexual advertisements, or those for alcohol and cigarettes. They also talk about resisting a professional culture they feel often encourages rampant partying and sex.
"There's a lot of pressure to do the alcohol ad or get in your underwear or do whatever publication you don't want to do. But we don't need to bow down in order to be blessed in what we do," said Roman Watson, a 29-year-old model who has done work for Ralph Lauren, Nike and Macy's. "I want to encourage everyone to be a Christian first and a model second."
Watson said models are often afraid to reveal their moral boundaries on shoots, for fear that it could end their careers. But he urged those gathered at Models for Christ to follow their hearts and they would ultimately be rewarded with work.
"We can be fearful of a client ... but we should be fearful of the King of Kings," he said. "God is able to bless you. He's got more connections than the entire world."
Jeff and Laura Calenberg were both models when they founded Models for Christ with a small group of participants. Jeff Calenberg said he wanted to not only provide a place for Christians in the industry to gather, but also provide an example for those not living a necessarily spiritual life.
"The business has a lot of darkness in it," said Calenberg, now a fashion photographer. "And as a believer in Christ, we are seeking to maintain the light within us as well as shine toward others."
Calenberg said there are countless stories of people who have been transformed by the group and led away from lives of substance abuse and promiscuity.
"We've seen some people's lives change totally," he said.
At the recent Models for Christ meeting, Heather Funk, a 34-year-old fashion photographer based in Miami, told her own story of club-hopping, and drug and alcohol abuse. She tried to change her life numerous times - she even remembers showing up at church on a Sunday morning smelling of vodka. But she said she was surrounded by others who made it very easy to slip back into her partying life.
Funk eventually did become a Christian. She doesn't credit Models for Christ with her conversion, but she said it has been valuable because it allows her to gather with others from similar lifestyles who are trying to follow God.
"The fashion industry, there's so many extremes in it. The models are extremely beautiful, extremely skinny, make tons of money," she said. "It may seem an unlikely place to find God, but really it's not."
Is Your Baby Gay? What If You Could Know? What If You Could Do Something About It?
What if you could know that your unborn baby boy is likely to be sexually attracted to other boys? Beyond that, what if hormonal treatments could change the baby's orientation to heterosexual? Would you do it? Some scientists believe that such developments are just around the corner....
If a biological basis is found, and if a prenatal test is then developed, and if a successful treatment to reverse the sexual orientation to heterosexual is ever developed, we would support its use as we should unapologetically support the use of any appropriate means to avoid sexual temptation and the inevitable effects of sin. READ IT ALL
• 10% believe Joan of Arc was the wife of Noah from the Book of Genesis.
• 50% of high school seniors believe Sodom and Gomorrah were married. (They were actually just part of an early “sister cities” Chamber of Commerce program.)
• Only one in three Americans can name the four Gospels, while less than half can even name one of them.
• A majority couldn't identify the preacher of the "Sermon on the Mount." (Hint: The Bible says it was Jesus.)
Sam Harris: Moderate believers give cover to religious fanaticsand are every bit as delusional.
PETE STARK, a California Democrat, appears to be the first congressman in U.S. history to acknowledge that he doesn't believe in God. In a country in which 83% of the population thinks that the Bible is the literal or "inspired" word of the creator of the universe, this took political courage.
Of course, one can imagine that Cicero's handlers in the 1st century BC lost some sleep when he likened the traditional accounts of the Greco-Roman gods to the "dreams of madmen" and to the "insane mythology of Egypt."
Mythology is where all gods go to die, and it seems that Stark has secured a place in American history simply by admitting that a fresh grave should be dug for the God of Abrahamthe jealous, genocidal, priggish and self-contradictory tyrant of the Bible and the Koran. Stark is the first of our leaders to display a level of intellectual honesty befitting a consul of ancient Rome. Bravo.
The truth is, there is not a person on Earth who has a good reason to believe that Jesus rose from the dead or that Muhammad spoke to the angel Gabriel in a cave. And yet billions of people claim to be certain about such things. As a result, Iron Age ideas about everything high and lowsex, cosmology, gender equality, immortal souls, the end of the world, the validity of prophecy, etc.continue to divide our world and subvert our national discourse. Many of these ideas, by their very nature, hobble science, inflame human conflict and squander scarce resources.
Of course, no religion is monolithic. Within every faith one can see people arranged along a spectrum of belief. Picture concentric circles of diminishing reasonableness: At the center, one finds the truest of true believersthe Muslim jihadis, for instance, who not only support suicidal terrorism but who are the first to turn themselves into bombs; or the Dominionist Christians, who openly call for homosexuals and blasphemers to be put to death.
Outside this sphere of maniacs, one finds millions more who share their views but lack their zeal. Beyond them, one encounters pious multitudes who respect the beliefs of their more deranged brethren but who disagree with them on small points of doctrineof course the world is going to end in glory and Jesus will appear in the sky like a superhero, but we can't be sure it will happen in our lifetime.
Out further still, one meets religious moderates and liberals of diverse huespeople who remain supportive of the basic scheme that has balkanized our world into Christians, Muslims and Jews, but who are less willing to profess certainty about any article of faith. Is Jesus really the son of God? Will we all meet our grannies again in heaven? Moderates and liberals are none too sure.
Those on this spectrum view the people further toward the center as too rigid, dogmatic and hostile to doubt, and they generally view those outside as corrupted by sin, weak-willed or unchurched.
The problem is that wherever one stands on this continuum, one inadvertently shelters those who are more fanatical than oneself from criticism. Ordinary fundamentalist Christians, by maintaining that the Bible is the perfect word of God, inadvertently support the Dominionistsmen and women who, by the millions, are quietly working to turn our country into a totalitarian theocracy reminiscent of John Calvin's Geneva. Christian moderates, by their lingering attachment to the unique divinity of Jesus, protect the faith of fundamentalists from public scorn. Christian liberalswho aren't sure what they believe but just love the experience of going to church occasionallydeny the moderates a proper collision with scientific rationality. And in this way centuries have come and gone without an honest word being spoken about God in our society.
People of all faithsand noneregularly change their lives for the better, for good and bad reasons. And yet such transformations are regularly put forward as evidence in support of a specific religious creed. President Bush has cited his own sobriety as suggestive of the divinity of Jesus. No doubt Christians do get sober from time to timebut Hindus (polytheists) and atheists do as well. How, therefore, can any thinking person imagine that his experience of sobriety lends credence to the idea that a supreme being is watching over our world and that Jesus is his son?
There is no question that many people do good things in the name of their faithbut there are better reasons to help the poor, feed the hungry and defend the weak than the belief that an Imaginary Friend wants you to do it. Compassion is deeper than religion. As is ecstasy. It is time that we acknowledge that human beings can be profoundly ethicaland even spiritualwithout pretending to know things they do not know.
Let us hope that Stark's candor inspires others in our government to admit their doubts about God. Indeed, it is time we broke this spell en masse. Every one of the world's "great" religions utterly trivializes the immensity and beauty of the cosmos. Books like the Bible and the Koran get almost every significant fact about us and our world wrong. Every scientific domainfrom cosmology to psychology to economicshas superseded and surpassed the wisdom of Scripture.
Everything of value that people get from religion can be had more honestly, without presuming anything on insufficient evidence. The rest is self-deception, set to music.
A major U.S. association of evangelical Christians has condemned torture by the U.S. military and reaffirmed its commitment to environmental activism, positions that highlight broader splits in a movement associated with conservative causes.
"United States law and military doctrine has banned the resort to torture or cruel and degrading treatment. Tragically, documented cases of torture and inhumane and cruel behavior have occurred at various sites in the war on terror," the National Association of Evangelicals said in a statement.
"Current law opens procedural loopholes for more to continue," said the statement endorsed by the association's board of directors at its annual meeting in Eden, Minnesota, over the weekend. It was the first big NAE meeting since its former president Ted Haggard stepped down in November over a gay-sex scandal.
Evangelical Christians have been among the staunchest supporters of the U.S. war in Iraq and the broader war on terror and many rankle at criticism of the American military which they see as unpatriotic and even un-Christian.
But divisions have emerged among the 60 million U.S. evangelicals as prominent figures publicly embrace causes such as global warming that are usually associated with the left of America's political divide.
Evangelicals have tended to be more vocal on hot-button culture issues such as abortion and gay marriage -- issues which President George W. Bush's Republican Party has used to get its supporters to the ballot box.
The NAE, with 30 million members, is also socially conservative but it sees room on its Christian agenda for activism in other areas.
And it's bizarre that this is a revelation. From LA Times
Cue the jokes about godless politicians and Bay Area liberals. Secular groups Monday applauded a public acknowledgment by Rep. Pete Stark that he does not believe in a supreme being, making the Fremont Democrat the first member of Congressand the highest-ranking elected official in the U.S.to publicly acknowledge not believing in God.
The American Humanist Assn. plans to take out an ad in the Washington Post today congratulating the congressman for his public stance and highlighting the contributions of other prominent secular humanists, such as writers Barbara Ehrenreich and Kurt Vonnegut and actress Julia Sweeney.
Fred Edwords, a spokesman for the group, said non-theistic Americans often faced discrimination for their views.
"So often throughout American history, people who are non-theistic or don't believe in a supreme being can't get elected to public office or, if they inform the public of their view, they don't get reelected," he said. "We're trying to increase the acceptance of non-theists as every bit as American as everybody else."
Stark's declaration came in response to a search by the Secular Coalition for America to find the most prominent nonbelieving politician.
The advocacy group, which according to its website calls for extending "religious tolerance … to people of all religions and to those without religious beliefs," offered a $1,000 prize to the person who could identify the "highest-level atheist, agnostic, humanist or any other kind of non-theist currently holding elected public office in the United States."
A member of American Atheists California nominated Stark.
Ron Millar, associate director of the Secular Coalition for America, said the group wanted to highlight how hard it was for politicians to take a public stance about not believing in God. He said members were "pleasantly surprised" with Stark's candor.
"We didn't think we'd have any member of Congress come forward," Millar said.
Stark, who has served in Congress since 1973 and chairs the health subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee, clarified his views in an e-mail statement.
"When the Secular Coalition asked me to complete a survey on my religious beliefs, I indicated I am a Unitarian who does not believe in a supreme being," Stark said. "Like our nation's founders, I strongly support the separation of church and state. I look forward to working with the Secular Coalition to stop the promotion of narrow religious beliefs in science, marriage contracts, the military and the provision of social services."
Unitarian Universalism describes itself as creedless, meaning that it has no underlying authoritative statement of religious belief. Some members believe in God; others do not.
A USA Today/Gallup poll last month found that 45% of respondents said they would vote for a "well qualified" presidential candidate who was an atheist. Ninety-five percent said they would vote for a Catholic candidate, 92% a Jewish candidate and 72% a Mormon candidate.
The post says the "table is about 10 years old with a few tears but totaly usable." Needless to say, if we were in the market for a massage table, tears aren't the bodily fluid we'd be worried about. Make your bid here.
A struggle for control of the evangelical agenda intensified this week, with some leaders declaring that the focus has strayed too far from their signature battles against abortion and gay rights.
Those issues defined the evangelical movement for more than two decades -- and cemented ties with the Republican Party. But in a caustic letter, leaders of the religious right warned that these "great moral issues of our time" were being displaced by a "divisive and dangerous" alignment with the left on global warming.
A new generation of pastors has expanded the definition of moral issues to include not only global warming, but an array of causes. Quoting Scripture and invoking Jesus, they're calling for citizenship for illegal immigrants, universal healthcare and caps on carbon emissions.
The best-known champion of such causes, the Rev. Jim Wallis, this week challenged conservative crusader James C. Dobson, the chairman of Focus on the Family, to a debate on evangelical priorities.
"Are the only really 'great moral issues' those concerning abortion, gay marriage and the teaching of sexual abstinence?" Wallis asked in his challenge. "How about the reality of 3 billion of God's children living on less than $2 per day? … What about pandemics like HIV/AIDS … [and] disastrous wars like Iraq?"
A Focus on the Family vice president, Tom Minnery, said he would be happy to take up that debate. Dobson himself, Minnery said, is busy writing a book on child rearing.
"Without question," Minnery said, "issues like the right to life for an unborn child concern evangelicals far more broadly."
The public dispute began with the release of a letter signed by several men who helped transform the religious right into a political force, including Dobson, Don Wildmon of the American Family Assn. and Paul Weyrich of American Values.
The signatories -- most of them activists, not theologians -- expressed dismay that an evangelical emphasis on global warming was "contributing to growing confusion about the very term 'evangelical.' "
In religious terms, an evangelical is a Christian who has been born again, seeks a personal relationship with Christ, and considers the Bible the word of God, to be faithfully obeyed.
But Dobson and his fellow letter-writers suggested that evangelical should also signify "conservative views on politics, economics and biblical morality."
The letter took particular aim at the Rev. Richard Cizik, a prominent evangelical lobbyist who has promoted environmental protection as a moral imperative. Citing the creation story in the Book of Genesis, he has called the fight against global warming a directive "straight from the word of God … no doubt about it."
The letter accused Cizik of "dividing and demoralizing" Christians by pushing this agenda and called on his employer, the National Assn. of Evangelicals, to silence him or to demand his resignation.
"This is, in some ways, a defining moment," said Randall Balmer, a professor of religion at Columbia University in New York. "It's the old guard trying to hold on."
The renewed debate on moral priorities came as the National Assn. of Evangelicals — which represents 45,000 churches and 30 million Christians — gathered for a board meeting Friday in Eden Prairie, Minn.
The board declined to censure or silence Cizik. Moreover, it appeared to embrace a broad view of the evangelical agenda, endorsing a sweeping human rights declaration.
The board also reaffirmed its support for a 2004 Call to Civic Responsibility that urged evangelical engagement on seven key issues, including religious freedom, the sanctity of life, justice for the poor, and environmental protection.
Those advocating a broader agenda insist that they're not trying to downplay — much less back away from — traditional evangelical positions on abortion and sexual morality.
White evangelicals are more united against abortion than any other religious group, including Catholics, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. A 2005 poll found 15% in support of a total ban on abortion and 53% in favor of only narrow exceptions. By contrast, global warming is deemed a "very serious" problem by less than 30% of white evangelicals, according to a 2006 Pew Forum poll. Less than 40% accept the scientific consensus that human activity, such as burning coal for energy, is responsible for the Earth's rising temperatures.
"It's a mistake to think that we're all becoming liberal Democrats. That's not true," Wallis said.
But he asserted that his followers — especially young people — no longer want the old guard of evangelicals to define their priorities.
When he preached recently at a conservative evangelical college, Wallis said, he was besieged by students furious at the Rev. Jerry Falwell, who recently described global warming as a satanic plot to divert Christians from more pressing moral issues, such as spreading the Gospel.
"James Dobson and the religious right are outside the evangelical mainstream. That's just a fact," Wallis said. "That doesn't mean they have no power…. But their monologue is over. Their control of the agenda is over."
He and others have sought to re-brand traditional slogans of the religious right, such as "pro-life," to encompass a range of programs, from working with AIDS victims in Africa to helping illegal immigrants achieve legal status so they can continue to live with their U.S.-born children.
The Rev. Jim Ball, president of the Evangelical Environmental Network, has worked global warming into his definition of pro-life; he argues reducing carbon emissions will cut back on air and water pollution and that in turn will improve the health of pregnant women and unborn generations.
"We're saying we can be pro-life and take care of global warming," Bal said. "There's a strong connection there."
Friday's board meeting advanced that view, but the debate is not over.
"The NAE is at a crossroads," board member Jerald Walz said.
"You won't find an evangelical who will say 'I'm for poverty.' Of course not," Walz said.
But when it comes to helping the poor, ideas vary; some prefer to work through private charity, while others want government intervention.
Since there's no consensus, Walz argued, "we ought to be reticent about speaking with force and clarity" on such issues.
Instead, he will keep pressing to focus the agenda on issues he considers "home runs" — namely, restrictions on abortion and bans on same-sex marriage.
Some on the board who share those views are already working on a second letter criticizing Cizik for his environmental activism.
Balmer, the religion professor, says he senses an unstoppable momentum for the new generation of social-justice evangelicals. But though he criticizes the traditionalists for "moral myopia," he's not willing to write them off yet.
Dobson and his allies still wield considerable clout; their radio shows, newsletters and e-mail alerts reach millions of conservative Christians.
"They're still very powerful," Balmer said. "And they're not giving up."
An unknown number of new George Washington dollar coins were mistakenly struck without their edge inscriptions, including "In God We Trust," and made it past inspectors and into circulation, the U.S. Mint said Wednesday. The properly struck dollar coins, bearing the likeness of George Washington, are inscribed along the edge with "In God We Trust," "E Pluribus Unum" and the year and mint mark. They went into circulation Feb. 15.
The mint struck 300 million of the coins, which are golden in color and slightly larger and thicker than a quarter.
About half were made in Philadelphia and the rest in Denver. So far the mint has only received reports of error coins coming from Philadelphia, mint spokeswoman Becky Bailey said.
Bailey said it was unknown how many coins didn't have the inscriptions. Ron Guth, president of Professional Coin Grading Service, one of the world's largest coin authentication companies, said he believes that at least 50,000 error coins were put in circulation.
"The first one sold for $600 before everyone knew how common they actually were," he said. "They're going for around $40 to $60 on eBay now, and they'll probably settle in the $50 range."
Production of the presidential dollar entails a "new, complex, high-volume manufacturing system" that the mint will adjust to eliminate any future defects, the mint said in a statement.
"We take this matter seriously. We also consider quality control a high priority. The agency is looking into the matter to determine a possible cause in the manufacturing process," the statement said.
The coin's design has already spurred e-mail conspiracy theories claiming that the religious motto was purposely omitted from the Washington dollars. That rumor may have started because the edge lettering cannot be seen in head-on photographs of the coins.
The Washington dollars are the first in a series of presidential coins slated to run until 2016. After Washington, the presidents to be honored on dollar coins this year will be John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
Bailey said the striking of the Adams coin, expected to roll out in mid-May, will proceed as planned.
"We are adjusting the manufacturing process to try to eliminate the problems," she said.
In his 2006 book "Jerusalem Countdown" that has sold over 1.1 million copies so far, Pastor John Hagee writes that Jews themselves are responsible for antisemitism, for their own persecution, and for the Holocaust itself :
"It was the disobedience and rebellion of the Jews, God's chosen people, to their covenantal responsibility to serve only the one true God, Jehovah, that gave rise to the opposition and persecution that they experienced beginning in Canaan and continuing to this very day....
How utterly repulsive, insulting, and heartbreaking to God for His chosen people to credit idols with bringing blessings He had showered upon the chosen people. Their own rebellion had birthed the seed of anti-Semitism that would arise and bring destruction to them for centuries to come.... it rises from the judgment of God uppon his rebellious chosen people." READ IT ALL
A Southern Baptist leader said Tuesday that evangelical voters might tolerate a divorced presidential candidate, but they have deep doubts about GOP hopeful Rudy Giuliani, who has been married three times.
Richard Land, head of public policy for the Southern Baptist Convention, told The Associated Press that evangelicals believe the former New York City mayor showed a lack of character during his divorce from his second wife, television personality Donna Hanover.
"I mean, this is divorce on steroids," Land said. "To publicly humiliate your wife in that way, and your children. That's rough. I think that's going to be an awfully hard sell, even if he weren't pro-choice and pro-gun control."
Giuliani married his longtime companion, Judith Nathan, in 2003. They had dated publicly while Giuliani was married to Hanover. His first marriage ended in an annulment. (Watch why Giuliani's son won't be campaigning for him Video)
A Giuliani staff member referred calls on Land's statement to Giuliani's exploratory committee, which did not have an immediate response Tuesday night.
Giuliani already has a challenge in winning over conservative voters who make up the GOP's base. Many of them view him with skepticism because his moderate views on social issues such as gays, guns and abortion are considered too liberal.
Land noted that Republican presidential candidate John McCain has been married twice, but said the Arizona senator has acknowledged his part in the failure of his first marriage.
"It's a molehill compared to Giuliani's mountain," Land said. "When you're a war hero [like McCain], you have less to prove on the character front."
Many polls identify Giuliani as the front-runner in the Republican presidential primary, followed by McCain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Southern Baptists have been among the most vocal of conservative Christian groups in support of the Bush administration. But they and other evangelicals are struggling to find a consensus presidential candidate who embraces their stands against gay marriage and abortion.
Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards says Jesus would be appalled at how the United States has ignored the plight of the suffering, and that he believes children should have private time to pray at school.
Edwards, in an interview with the Web site Beliefnet.com, said Jesus would be most upset with the selfishness of Americans and the country's willingness to go to war "when it's not necessary."
"I think that Jesus would be disappointed in our ignoring the plight of those around us who are suffering and our focus on our own selfish short-term needs," Edwards told the site. "I think he would be appalled, actually."
Edwards also said he was against teacher-led prayers in public schools, but he added that "allowing time for children to pray for themselves, to themselves, I think is not only OK, I think it's a good thing."
In the interview, the former North Carolina senator discussed how he lost touch with his day-to-day faith during college, but that it "came roaring back" after the death of his 16-year-old son, Wade, in 1996.
Edwards has often cited religion as a part of his politics, frequently linking his efforts to fight poverty as a matter of morality.
Edwards was interviewed by David Kuo, a conservative Christian who served as deputy director of President Bush's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives until 2003. Kuo wrote a book, "Tempting Faith, An Inside Story of Political Seduction," that said Bush aides privately called conservative Christians "nuts," "ridiculous" and "goofy."
Edwards told Kuo he stood by a decision to keep two bloggers on his staff despite their provocative writings criticizing the Catholic Church. Edwards said he also found the writing offensive, but "decided to forgive them and stand by them, knowing there would be potential political consequences for that."
The bloggers later quit, saying they didn't want to be a liability to the campaign.
Leaders of several conservative Christian groups have sent a letter urging the National Association of Evangelicals to force its policy director in Washington to stop speaking out on global warming.
The conservative leaders say they are not convinced that global warming is human-induced or that human intervention can prevent it. And they accuse the director, the Rev. Richard Cizik, the association’s vice president for government affairs, of diverting the evangelical movement from what they deem more important issues, like abortion and homosexuality.
The letter underlines a struggle between established conservative Christian leaders, whose priority has long been sexual morality, and challengers who are pushing to expand the evangelical movement’s agenda to include issues like climate change and human rights.
“We have observed,” the letter says, “that Cizik and others are using the global warming controversy to shift the emphasis away from the great moral issues of our time.”
Those issues, the signers say, are a need to campaign against abortion and same-sex marriage and to promote “the teaching of sexual abstinence and morality to our children.”
The letter, dated Thursday, is signed by leaders like James C. Dobson, chairman of Focus on the Family; Gary L. Bauer, once a Republican presidential candidate and now president of Coalitions for America; Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council; and Paul Weyrich, a longtime political strategist who is chairman of American Values.
They acknowledge in the letter that none of their groups belong to the National Association of Evangelicals, a broad coalition that represents 30 million Christians in hundreds of denominations, organizations and academic institutions. But, they say, if Mr. Cizik “cannot be trusted to articulate the views of American evangelicals,” then he should be encouraged to resign.
Mr. Cizik (pronounced SIZE-ik) did not respond to requests for an interview yesterday, and the association’s chairman, L. Roy Taylor, was unavailable. But the Rev. Leith Anderson, president of the association, said, “We’re talking about somebody here who’s been in Washington for 25 years, has an amazing track record and is highly respected.”
“I’m behind him,” said Mr. Anderson, who was named president in November after the sudden resignation of the Rev. Ted Haggard, the Colorado pastor caught up in a scandal involving a gay prostitute.
Mr. Cizik, who is well known on Capitol Hill, has long served as one of the evangelical movement’s agenda-setters. He helped put foreign policy on the evangelical agenda in the late 1990s, focusing on the persecution of Christians in other countries.
He said in an interview last year that he experienced a profound “conversion” on the global warming issue in 2002 after listening to scientists at a retreat. Now an emblem for a new breed of evangelical environmentalists, he has been written about in Vanity Fair and Newsweek and has appeared in “The Great Warming,” a documentary on climate change.
Evangelicals have recently become a significant voice in the chorus on global warming. Last year more than 100 prominent pastors, theologians and college presidents signed an “Evangelical Climate Initiative” calling for action on the issue. Among the signers were several board members of the National Association of Evangelicals; Mr. Anderson, who has since been named its president; and W. Todd Bassett, who was then national commander of the Salvation Army and was appointed executive director of the association in January.
Mr. Haggard, then the president, and Mr. Cizik did not sign, after criticism from some of the same leaders who have now sent the letter about Mr. Cizik.
In interviews, some signers of this latest letter said they were wary of the global warming issue because they associated it with leftists, limits on free enterprise and population control, which they oppose.
“We’re saying what is being done here,” Mr. Perkins said, “is a concerted effort to shift the focus of evangelical Christians to these issues that draw warm and fuzzies from liberal crusaders.”
TheVanguard.org: A MoveOn.org for Evangelicals and Staunch Conservatives
Rod D. Martin, Founder and Chairman of TheVanguard.Org and co-author of Thank You President Bush. Martin just hired the author of "Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry" to assist him in evil.
The history of the modern U.S. conservative movement -- circa 1964 to the present -- is replete with its share of hucksters, snake oil salesman, rhetoricians, mudslingers, marketers and one-hit wonders. But it also has had more than its fair share of visionaries, opportunists (in the best sense of the word), motivated entrepreneurs, perhaps even revolutionaries. Rod Martin, the founder and head of a new organisation called TheVanguard.org, linking Silicon Valley entrepreneurship with ideological zeal, appears to consider himself a conservative revolutionary for the twenty-first century.
To carry the "revolution forward" -- a slogan featured on the group's website -- Martin, a Silicon Valley-seasoned entrepreneur and political activist, has launched TheVanguard.org.
Most of the pieces for a rejuvenated conservative movement were already in place by 1994, including a highly-functional infrastructure of right-wing foundations, think tanks, advocacy organisations, media outlets -- conservative talk radio and Christian television -- and an army of grassroots volunteers.
But a little over a decade later, youngish conservatives are again restless. Embittered by defeat at the hands of the Democratic Party in November, which they attribute to the Republican leadership "selling conservatives out", these new activists are calling for a new conservative movement.
In a relatively short time, Martin has made a name for himself as an up-and-coming organiser out to create just that.
At present, there are several noteworthy things about TheVanguard.org: the origin of its name; its stated goal to both emulate and take on MoveOn.org; its mix of Silicon Valley pedigree and fundraising sources with veteran movement conservatives; its weaving of so-called traditional religious principles with secular conservatism; and its hiring of dedicated slash-and-burn right-wing ideologues.
The term "vanguard" -- derived from the Middle English "vantgard" short for "avant garde" -- is defined in "The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language" as "the foremost position in an army or fleet," "the... leading position in a trend or movement," and "those occupying such a position."
The term also has its roots firmly planted in Vladimir Ilyich Ulnayov (Lenin), the Russian revolutionary, who developed the idea of the Vanguard Party, and wrote about it in the 1902 pamphlet titled "What is to Be Done?" According to Wikipedia, "a vanguard party is a political party or grassroots organisation at the forefront of a mass action, movement, or revolution."
TheVanguard.org did not respond to an IPS request for an interview.
But in a recent interview with the conservative weekly Human Events, Martin paid tribute to, and took aim at, the highly successful liberal internet-based MoveOn,org.
"The left has been brilliant at leveraging technology," Martin said, "and so have we to a point: our bloggers and news sites are amazing, and the RNC's [Republican National Committee] get-out-the-vote software is unparalleled. But no one on our side has even begun to create anything like MoveOn. And after 2006, if we want to survive, much less build a long-term conservative majority, we better start, and fast."
In a letter to supporters posted at TheVanguard.org website, Martin pointed out that "the issue isn't just taking the fight to MoveOnà. [it] is also learning a lesson from MoveOn, by taking on -- and taking back -- our own party first. MoveOn has done a great job of making the Democrat Party live up to the ideology of its membership. That may or may not be a good idea from an election point-of-view. But it's certainly been rewarding for the people who give their hearts and souls to electing Democrats year after year."
Martin, who has both entrepreneurial -- he worked for the Internet commerce site PayPal -- and movement experience -- he is a member of the Federalist Society and the secretive Council on National Policy among other far right groups -- has reeled in "a top-drawer cast, including Silicon Valley heavy-hitters like Eric Jackson (a former PayPal colleague of Martin's, where he was head of marketing) and Gil Amelio (former CEO of two Fortune 500 companies, including Apple Computer), among others," Human Events reported.
In addition, longtime movement conservatives such as Grover Norquist, founder and head of American for Tax Reform, Stephen Moore, founder of Club for Growth (and current Wall Street Journal editorial board member), "compassionate conservatism" guru Marvin Olasky, and Ronald Reagan Doctrine-architect Jack Wheeler are all members of Vanguard's board of advisors.
While Martin may be the force behind TheVangaurd.org, two recent hires could easily become the group's most controversial figures. In late-January, TheVanguard.org hired Jerome Corsi, co-author with John O'Neill of the 2004 book "Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry," which seriously damaged the Kerry campaign that November, to become a senior political strategist.
The other new employee is Richard Poe, a longtime journalist and former employee of conservative provocateur/entrepreneur David Horowitz, who is the group's editorial and creative director. Poe recently co-authored, with Horowitz, "The Shadow Party: How George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Sixties Radicals Seized Control of the Democratic Party," a book that accuses liberals of using deception, lies, and Soros' dough to take over the country.
Poe has also been a close observer of Hillary Clinton, having penned "Hillary's Secret War," which according to the author, describes "how Hillary Clinton and the left's 'shadow government' have laboured to put her and her far-left agenda in the White House by controlling the still-uncensored flow of real news to Americans -- via the Internet."
Frederick Clarkson, the author of "Eternal Hostility", a primer on the theocratic right in the United States, and a longtime observer of U.S. right-wing politics, told IPS that, "TheVanguard.org epitomises the tactics of the far right of the contemporary Republican Party."
"The recent additon of Jerome Corsi -- a leader of the 'swiftboat veterans for truth' which ran a vicious smear campaign against Sen. John Kerry when he ran for president, as the 'senior political strategist' is a fair indication of how it plans to use the powerful tool of the internet and the blogosphere."
"It is also startling to me that one of TheVanguard's advisers is Jack Wheeler, best known as an unofficial liaison to groups seeking to overthrow governments opposed by the Reagan White House, notably in Nicaragua, Mozambique, Afghanistan and Angola," Clarkson said. "It is strange that a prominent advocate of armed insurgencies is such a public advisor to a domestic political group."
These days, TheVanguard.org reports that its site traffic is rising and blog buzz is building. Whether this will "Forward the Revolution" as Martin intends, remains to be seen.
My first interview with James Dobson was pretty much a fluke.
It was just after Election Day 2004, and the entire Washington press corps was scrambling to report the story of how white evangelicals had handed President George W. Bush a second term. My editor at U.S. News & World Report called me into his office on the morning after the election with an assignment to write about these newly branded “values voters.” I had forty-eight hours.
At the time, I was only marginally aware of Focus on the Family. I thought of it as a conservative Christian advocacy group, one of many such organizations. Still, it made sense for me to call and request an interview with its chief spokesman, James Dobson. KEEP READING
The Supreme Court hears arguments today in a case that could have a broad impact on whether the courthouse door remains open to ordinary Americans who believe that the government is undermining the separation of church and state.
The question before the court is whether a group seeking to preserve the separation of church and state can mount a First Amendment challenge to the Bush administration’s “faith based” initiatives. The arguments turn on a technical question of whether taxpayers have standing, or the right to initiate this kind of suit, but the real-world implications are serious. If the court rules that the group does not have standing, it will be much harder to stop government from giving unconstitutional aid to religion. READ IT ALL