Last week two parishioners of the New Life Community Church in LeClaire, Iowa, 80-year old Helen Talbot and 73-year old Clarice Mizer, filed harassment complaints against their pastor, Rev. Tim Groves, who “hounded them” in phone calls and visits over their support for John Kerry. Groves, who caught media attention last month for erecting an anti-abortion sign so graphic that police had to place warnings along the roadway, said that the parishioners had violated church policy by taking their complaints to the police rather than trying to resolve them in-house, and sent them letters informing them that they were under church discipline and their voting rights had been suspended. To Mizer, Groves wrote, “‘You are being officially notified that you are in violation of God’s Word in handling conflict within the church, according to Matthew 18.’” LeClaire Police Chief Jim Pfeiffer has now issued a second warning to Groves to stay away from Talbot and Mizer, and said the next complaint would bring an arrest. “‘You get our attention with children and the elderly and when there’s a problem there, we’re onto it like four coats of paint.’” Groves is also being monitored by state Assemblies of God church leaders who are troubled by letters Groves has sent to church members detailing a meeting with the devil.
From Prophetic to Prosaic
Last June, the National Association of Evangelicals’ draft of new political guidelines for Christian civic engagement was rumored to be groundbreaking document that foretold a radicalevangelical shift to the left. A closer reading of the draft made this interpretation seem far-fetched: the old culture war issues would still trump the more “progressive” Christian concerns lauded by the press. J. Shawn Landres, of Religion and Society, takes the examination a step farther, breaking down the differences between the draft version and the document finally released this October. In his scrupulous evaluation of the language changes, additions and deletions, Landres finds that what could have been seen as “prophetic” or bold about the draft document — especially regarding the NAE’s economic platform — has been made “prosaic,” tamed into standard rhetoric, by the time the guidelines were finally released. Required reading for the “defining moral values” debate.
One for the Alliance Defense Fund?
Robert Joos, a Missouri man who leads a small group of followers in the Sacerdotal Church of David, was jailed on a felony charge after his third arrest for driving without a license. Joos claims his religion forbids him to carry a license, and, in an earlier (denied) appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court, Joos wrote “‘As a Christian Israelite and a Nazarite, I am a servant of God and can have no covenant with the heathen government.’”
How does religion fare in the age of empire? Historian William Marina (writing, it should be noted, for The Independent Institute: a self-described “non-partisan” policy organization that’s described by its critics as a Microsoft-funded right-wing think tank), reminds Blue-Staters flustered by the “blind faith” of Bush’s fundamentalist followers that empires are always “ages of religious ignorance.” “What is less understood is that all of the great empires in history have been characterized by a decline of reason and an increase in super-naturalist faith, combined with a belief in the empire with the emperor holding God’s ‘mandate’ on earth. There are only three ultimate sources upon which derivative values such as ‘equality’ can be based: supernatural law, natural law and statist, positive law. Empires tend to combine all of the three so that the emperor’s legitimacy flows from God, nature, and his position as head of State.” In possibly related news…an upsurge of media interest in Shinto‘s nationalistic past, and the resuscitation of this Bush anecdote.
From Nextbook’s Steven Vider: “‘I wanna bless their socks off,’ says Ann Marie Doverspike, the persistently perky born-again California mom who moved in with the Eglys, ‘Jews with horses’ in rural Maryland, on Fox’s Trading Spouses last night. I gave up on reality TV threeSurvivors ago, but when the teaser announced, ‘Faith will be tested,’ I made sure to clear my schedule to see whether the Doverspikes — ‘a 50s family living in the new millennium’ — imposed their moral values on the helpless Eglys. It promised to put a personal face on the growing (but not universal) Jewish apprehension over the Christian right. Expecting the worst of the country and the show, I tuned in to see the face of the enemy…”
The Department of Defense has dropped its sponsorship of Boy Scout programs in the settlement of a lawsuit brought by the Illinois ACLU, which claimed the funding was unconstitutional because the Boy Scouts excluded people who wouldn’t swear an oath to God. Said Charles Peters, a lawyer assisting the ACLU, “‘It is critical that the Pentagon send this very clear signal to its units across the globe to insure that government officials are not engaged in religious discrimination in their official capacity.’” The settlement will only affect 422 Scouting programs, most of which are based on military bases, out of about 120,000 nationwide.
Official Notification of God’s Word
CW Says: “Communist” an Interfaith Insult
Cardinal George Pell, who is also the Archbishop of Sydney, offended Australian Mufti, Keysar Trad, last month with comments comparing Islam to communism. Pell had remarked in a speech that secular democracies tended to cause the revival of intolerant religions, due to “the emptiness within” alienated and embittered citizens who seek order and justice, and that Islam could prove itself the 21st century equivalent of Communism in attracting lost souls. Trad responded that Muslims were quite full of God already, and nothing like the godless Communists.
Creating Critical Thought
Grantsburg, Wisconsin School Board President, David Ahlquist, is once again involved in controversy after approving the teaching of “theories other than evolution” in public schools. Opponents say this will pave the way for teaching creationism, while the school board claims the other theories (similar to Intelligent Design) are supported by scientific data and that teaching them will foster critical thought in students. Ahlquist, who is also a Baptist pastor, has previously caused debate by participating in a heavily biblical school Christmas pageant and by promoting middle school Bible study.