Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Paige Patterson's Crusade

I haven't blogged in a while. I've just been so busy with other matters that I didn't have time to keep up with my blog. However, this event covered by Tony Cartledge is just too good to ignore. The title is "Warriors for Jesus." See Tony's blog here:

This speaks for itself. I'll just add this: (1) Dr. Patterson is probably in need of a good retirement plan. (2) Dr. Patterson could probably use some therapy. (3) I have never been so embarrassed to be a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theology Seminary. I may just take my diploma off my wall!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Laptop Use in the College Classroom

There are some courses in the university where laptops are essential items for students in the class. My class is not one of them. Generally, my classes are lecture-oriented with a measure of discussion. If I need to refer to something on the internet, I use my laptop to connect and then flash the material on the screen at the front of the room with the boxlight projector.

I never really cared about laptop use until about 3 years ago. I started noticing that my students were not paying attention as well with their laptops open and that I was having to compete with Instant Messenger, Facebook, email, and a host of other distractions. One of our other religion classes also had a minor incident of a student visiting a website that was a bit offensive to his fellow students.

At this point I decided to implement a policy (stated in my syllabus) that forbids use of electronic devices in my classes. This includes cell phones, mp3 players, iPods (amazing that I had a student once listening to her iPod while I was lecturing!). Of course, I do allow for laptops and recording devices if a student has a special need for its use.

This article in the Chronicle of Higher Education caught my attention today. It seems to confirm what I have suspected for some time now; that students make better grades if they leave the laptops closed and pay attention to the lecture.

Students Stop Surfing After Being Shown How In-Class Laptop Use Lowers Test Scores
Professors increasingly frustrated by students who use laptops for non-class activities—like updating their Facebook pages—may be heartened by news from the University of Colorado at Boulder. A professor there has found that educating students about the negative effect that frivolous laptop use has on their performance reduces class time spent going walkabout on the Web.

Diane Sieber, an associate professor, teaches writing and ethics to engineering undergraduates. She told the Boulder Daily Camera newspaper that last semester, she identified 17 students in one of her classes who were using laptops most frequently. After the first test, she told them that they did 11 percent worse, on average, than their peers who did not have their faces in their computers as much.

Lo and behold, the number of laptop-nosed students dropped to a half dozen, and the test scores of those who stopped using their computers during class went up.
Ms. Sieber says she also tries to tell students about the effects their behavior has on others in the class. Students “ask their classmates, ‘Please don’t watch movies on your computer, because if I’m behind you I can’t focus,’” she told the newspaper.

As the number of wireless-enabled classrooms increases—at Boulder it has gone from about 15 percent to about 85 percent in the last several years, according to the report—the laptop-related challenges facing the people up at the front of the room has gone up as well. Several law-school professors, The Chronicle has reported, have banned laptops from their classrooms. Laptop-free zones have been ordered by law-school instructors at Florida International, Georgetown, and Harvard Universities, and the Universities of Michigan and Wisconsin.

But other instructors find bans hard to enforce, and also find that Web access can enrich classroom discussions. A recent survey of 29,000 students at 85 law schools supports this notion. It may be that treating students as grown-ups and letting them see for themselves what helps and what hurts them in class, as Ms. Sieber has done, results in students who make smart decisions. —Josh Fischman


Monday, March 16, 2009

What is Their "Fair Share?"

The Republicans (the party of choice for rich C.E.O.s) has been complaining about President Obama's plan to roll back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to the levels that they were during the Clinton administration. This will be a change of 35% to 39.5%. Some wackos have even being calling President Obama a "Socialist."

Oh really?

Get this. At the end of Ronald Reagan's first term in office do you know what the tax rate was for the wealthiest Americans? 50%

Do you know that under Richard Nixon the tax rate for wealthy America was 70%?

Under Dwight D. Eisenhower the rate was 91%.

Above is a chart prepared by to show a comparison between what President Obama is trying to do and the tax rates that existed since the Great Depression.

With the latest news of AIG bonuses being paid out with taxpayer money, it is time for all Americans to stand up and say "enough!"

It is time for the wealthiest 1% of American society, as well as the large corporations to pay their fair share back to society.

Oh, and by the way, the Obama budget cuts taxes for 95% of all Americans. That's how it should be. The wealthy ought to pay more than the middle class. It's not socialism. It's common sense!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Rush Limbaugh and the Religious Right

Robert Parham, Executive Director of the Baptist Center for Ethics has an excellent editorial on Rush Limbaugh and the Religious Right that appeared in the "Washington Post" today. I wanted to promote it through my blog today as well. He raises a good question: Why does the Religious Right embrace Rush Limbaugh so heartily when Limbaugh's life and thought are so obvioulsy contrary to basic Christian morality?

Here's the link:

Here's the article:

Robert Parham
Limbaugh's Unrighteous Hold on Christian Right

Rush Limbaugh told what he thought was a joke to a cheering crowd at the 2009 Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual gathering of conservative activists and politicians. In his rambling remarks televised on FOX News, Limbaugh said that when Larry King died, he went to heaven and was met at the gates by Saint Peter. King's one question was: "Is Rush Limbaugh here?"

"'No, he's got a lot of time yet, Mr. King,'" said Limbaugh, pretending to be Peter.

"So Saint Peter begins the tour," said Limbaugh. "Larry King sees the various places and it's beyond anything we can imagine in terms of beauty. Finally, he gets to the biggest room of all, with this giant throne. And over the throne is a flashing beautiful angelic neon sign that says, 'Rush Limbaugh.'"

The audience laughed.

Limbaugh said, "And Larry King looks at Saint Peter and says, 'I thought you said he wasn't here.' He said, 'He's not, he's not. This is God's room. He just thinks he's Rush Limbaugh,'" said Limbaugh.

The crowd erupted with laughter, applause and hoots. Conservatives thought it was hilarious that God would envy the rival deity named Rush Limbaugh. Not a boo, not a hiss, not a grumble was heard from the crowd.

While CPAC was a secular event, it was an event sponsored, supported and attended by Christian Right organizations and leaders. The CPAC program listed as co-sponsors: Concerned Women for America, Family Research Council and Liberty University's law school. Exhibitors included the Alliance Defense Fund, Liberty Council and Regent University's Robertson School of Government. Focus on the Family held a reception for former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum.

No doubt, a lot of conservative Christians were in the room. Days later, no Christian Right leader has objected to Limbaugh's claim to be bigger than God, a claim similar to what John Lennon said in 1966.

When Lennon said, "We're more popular than Jesus," Bible-belt Christians roared with anger. They burned Beatles records, banned Beatles songs on the radio and boycotted Beatles concerts. They tolerated no rival claims to the messiah. When Limbaugh uttered a parallel claim, those who see Christianity under attack offered no response. No cry of cultural hostility toward religion was heard. No demand for an apology boomed from pulpits. No boycott was launched.

Why is that?

Why is it that the Christian Right reacted with such reverence to a man who, through thinly disguised humor, disclosed his prideful self-perception and espoused a worldview that counters the biblical witness? Are they afraid of Limbaugh? Are they afraid of his followers who pack their pews?

What explains the fact that Limbaugh can speak untruthfully, and yet he goes unchallenged by conservative Christians? He certainly spoke untruthfully at CPAC when he said that conservatives did not see other people with contempt. Yet he exhibited contempt in his comments about Senators Harry Reid and John Kerry.

When Limbaugh asserted that President Obama "portrays America as a soup kitchen in some dark night," that he wants to destroy the United States and that he was fueling "class envy," his untruthfulness went unchallenged. Limbaugh claimed, "We don't hate anybody." Yet he proceeded to speak hatefully about Obama, defending his statement that he hoped Obama failed, which was hardly endearing speech.

If truth telling isn't a conservative value, what about unbridled greed? Is greed a Christian concern? Limbaugh defended greed. He defended the conspicuous consumption and the corporate mismanagement of Merrill Lynch's former CEO John Thain as a way to defend capitalism.

Limbaugh asserted the primacy of excessive individualism. Again and again, he preached a radical individualism--the rights of the individual are transcendent. Never did he advocate sacrifice for another or urge his audience to avoid the pursuit of one's rights for the well-being of others.

Limbaugh's agenda had no room for the parable of the Good Samaritan, perhaps no longer a valued Christian narrative. Is Rush Limbaugh's agenda in sync with the moral values and vision of conservative Christians?

Given the thunderous silence of Christian Right leaders about Limbaugh's worldview, one wonders if talk radio's man of excessive individualism and political extremism has replaced the biblical witness as a moral compass.

Robert Parham is executive editor of and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Frank Schaeffer takes on the Republican Party

Franky Schaeffer's father and mother were "founders" of the Religious Right in America, along with Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Tim LaHaye, and James Dobson. Franky Schaeffer was right along side of them in the decades of the 70s -90s. As late as the 2000 presidential election he was still trying to get Republicans elected.

That was then. Now, he has completely turned his back on the Religious Right and the Republican Party. In 2007 he wrote a book called "Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, And Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of it Back."

In the link below, Schaeffer, now a blogger for the Huffington Post, slams the Republican Party and more particularly Rush Limbaugh. He takes them all to task for creating the mess the nation is in both economically and militarily and then having the audacity to hope that the president "fails" in his attempts to lead our nation out of the crisis. He calls Rush Limbaugh the new "Hanoi Jane" in American society.

Good for him! It is encouraging to see more and more Americans (especially former Republicans) standing up to oppose the failed economic and military policies that the last 8 years brought us! And all the Republican leadership can do is say that they hope the president fails! Will the "real" patriotic Americans please stand up?

Strong stuff! Read the post for yourself here:

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Al Mohler and the Nemesis of Liberal Theology

Yesterday, Robert Parham had a very good article on the financial problems that many seminaries and divinity schools find themselves in right now, particularly with our nation's economic crisis. You can find the article here:

Parham called attention to an earlier blog written by Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY in which Mohler essentially argued that the decline of mainline denominations and seminaries is due to the liberal theology embraced by such institutions. Here is the link to Mohler's blog:

Mohler echoes a familiar theme here. During the takeover of the SBC by the Fundamentalists, the mantra was always that the SBC was in danger of embracing liberal theology and if it did so, it would decline. Therefore, the Fundamentalists needed to "save" the SBC. Well, they saved it all right! Now, the SBC itself admits that it is in decline. See the story here:

Mohler wrote his blog in April, 2008. In December, 2008, Southern Seminary announced that it expected a budget shortfall of nearly 9%. Just a few weeks ago, Southern announced a layoff of 35 administrative staff positions.

Southern Seminary is not the only theological school in the SBC fold with financial problems. New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary is encountering a financial crisis of sorts in which the president has announced that he will take a 10% salary cut and require faculty members to follow with a 5% decrease. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, is cutting approximately $4 million from its budget and has closed the child care center on campus due to budget shortages.

Granted, the decline of the stock market and our nation's financial crisis have contributed to the crises that these schools are faced with. However, I believe that if I were the president of Southern Seminary, I'd write a blog retracting my earlier argument that the decline of mainline denominations and seminaries is due to an embrace of liberal theology. Perhaps there are other factors that need to be examined.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Bibb County Georgia Public Schools and the Inauguration

It seems that when President-elect Barack Obama is sworn in as president tomorrow, there will be some school children in Bibb County, Georgia who will not be allowed to see it. There have been enough parents complaining about teachers' plans to have the children watch the swearing-in ceremony and Obama's inauguration speech that the school system is going to provide alternative learning activities for those children whose parents object. The story listed below indicates that the parents were concerned that seeing a new president sworn in and giving his inaugural address to the nation is not and "educational activity."

My friend, Amy Morton, in Georgia first blogged about this. You can see her blog here:

Part of me is suspicious about this. Is the concern of the parents really that the activity is not "educational" enough? Or, is there perhaps a bit of racism in the background? I would like to think that this is not racially motivated. But this is Georgia after all. And racism is still alive all over the nation, but especially is it still rampant in the deep South.

But perhaps it is best to think better of these parents. So, the concern that viewing the inauguration of a new president is not and "educational" activity seems to me to be very wrong. Tomorrow's swearing in of Barack Obama is historic. On the steps of the nation's capital, built by slave labor, the first African-American president will be sworn in. It is as historic as watching Neil Armstrong take that "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" step in
1969. In fact, it represents a cultural shift of epic proportions in our nation's history. That may make it even bigger than Armstrong's leap.

So, I hope that those good citizens of Bibb County, Georgia who are objecting to this activity will reconsider and allow their children to witness this historic moment tomorrow.

Friday, January 09, 2009

The Dinosaur's Death

I've always been intrigued by the mystery of what happened to dinosaurs millions and millions of years ago. Did they become extinct as a result of some sudden cataclysm? Or, was their extinction a gradual process? I am not a scientist or the son of a scientist so I'll leave the speculation to my colleagues in the science department.

For some time now I have said to my Baptist history classes that the SBC is a dinosaur and it doesn't know it. We can now see that the SBC is truly in decline both in numbers as well as in giving. The SBC will never again be what it once was. Thank God!

The "Controversy" has taught many of us that God's tent is much, much bigger than Southern Baptists. The Baptist tent is bigger (Freewill Baptists, Primitive Baptists, Candadian Baptists, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Nationial Baptists, Hispanic Baptists, etc. etc.) But, beyond that, the Christian tent is larger than just Southern Baptists. I think it took the Controversy over the last 30 years to teach many Southern Baptists this valuable lesson. Sadly, however, there are still many, many Southern Baptists who just don't get it.

Robert Parham, director of the Baptist Center for Ethics, has a great editorial today on analyzing the slow death of the SBC. It is worth the read. Thanks Robert for a great piece! I include it below:

New Leadership and Theological Transformation Might Reverse SBC Decline

Robert Parham
Reversing the Southern Baptist Convention’s decline and loss of influence will demand new leadership and theological transformation, two very unlikely possibilities in the next decade. The SBC’s numerical slide and besmirched image took some 30 years to achieve and cannot be undone by a quick makeover.

After a decade-long internecine war, fundamentalists defeated the feckless moderates and took control in the early 1990s of SBC agencies and seminaries. Their successful campaign was built on two promises.

One promise was that the SBC would enter a golden age of growth when Southern Baptists read the Bible literally and had conservative positions on issues like women and abortion.

Fundamentalists believed the decline in mainline Protestantism resulted from liberalism, such as the critical study of the Bible and ordination of women. A conservative worldview was the best defense against decline.

If the first promise was theological, the second promise was organizational. Fundamentalists claimed that conservatives were neither hired at seminaries nor appeared on convention programs. They said they only wanted parity in positions.

Parity soon turned to purity, driving out those who were neither theological conservatives nor supporters of the Christian Right.

Without a counterbalancing force, fundamentalists quickly marched into an anti-everything posture. The SBC launched a boycott against Disney. It adopted a faith statement against women working outside the home. One seminary president made anti-Catholic statements on national TV, saying the Pope preached a false gospel. Leaders made anti-public school declarations, calling for an exodus of Christian students from public education. Others implied that the Democratic Party was against God.

Purity and negativity had dire consequences. Churches backed away from the SBC; even conservative churches dropped Baptist from their name. SBC-affiliated state conventions turned toward their own priorities. Fearing fundamentalist control, Baptist universities, such as Belmont University, sought autonomy. Attendance at the annual SBC meeting plummeted. Attempts to rally Southern Baptists to baptize more converts and to grow churches flopped. The promised golden age never happened.

Even if rank-and-file Southern Baptists had the power to hold accountable those who presided over the denominational fall, reversing the situation would require fundamental theological changes.

Positive growth requires that an authentic inclusivity must replace a rigid exclusivity for women in leadership. Civil ecumenical and meaningful interfaith engagement must supplant arrogant theological purity. A genuine commitment to non-partisanship must be swapped for the claim that God’s Only Party is the GOP.

Finally, reversing the decline would require Southern Baptists to redefine how they determine God’s favor. The current measurement of success is numerical growth, which the SBC does not have, meaning the denomination is out of favor with God, according to the body’s own definition.

A broader theological definition of faithfulness and cultural engagement would go a long way toward reversing decline, something that a new generation of leaders might advance.

Robert Parham is the executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.

Requested by the editorial page of the Tennessean, this column appeared on Tuesday, accompanying the newspaper’s own editorial about the decline of the Southern Baptist Convention and another column by Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research.

Copyright © 2002-2008

Saturday, January 03, 2009

A Century of the Gideons

As I write this I am sitting in the lobby of my hotel in New York City. I am attending the American Society of Church History winter meeting, which meets every year with the larger American Historical Association. I love NYC. But I also love being in the company of so many historians.

So, with history on my mind, I came across this story. The Gideons are one hundred years old. Here's the story:

The Gideons International is an organization of lay people devoted to distributing Bibles worldwide. I appreciate the fact that it is an effort of laity and not clergy. I have also enjoyed hearing the incredible stories told by Gideons of how the Bible has impacted the lives of those who have at times literally stumbled upon it in a hotel room. Even today, as I checked into my hotel and opened up the desk drawer, there was a Gideon Bible.

And so, here's a word of congratulations to the Gideons for their good work of distributing Bibles around the world for a hundred years.