Thursday, April 24, 2008

Southern Baptist Convention Growing Smaller

An interesting article over at the Christian Post asserts that, for the first time, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States is in decline.

Actually, the article cites many statistics about the Southern Baptist Convention--some numbers pointing upward (attendance at services, construction of new churches), others pointing downward (baptisms, church membership). Yet the net conclusion is that the SBC is no longer growing and may, in fact, be declining.

"Many have predicted that membership (an inflated statistic anyway) would soon begin to decline, but the statement, 'Southern Baptists are a declining denomination' was not 'officially' accurate.

"Until today," [LifeWay president Thom S. Rainer] said in his blog on Wednesday.

Incidentally, the current membership of the SBC is a staggering 16,266,920.

Hat tip: Christian Post

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Do Ask, Do Tell

Over at Box Turtle Bulletin, Timothy Kincaid has written an interesting post about the types of people the U.S. military will employ. Five years into a war with no foreseeable end in sight, the U.S. armed services are suffering low enlistment rates. To boost the sagging numbers, the Pentagon has relaxed some of its recruitment policies and begun allowing hundreds of convicted felons to enlist.

Timothy remarks at the strange paradox that convicted felons are considered fit for duty while gay people with no criminal records are not. Moreover, the Pentagon is actively discharging trained, capable gay Americans from the service.

So you can't be gay and serve, but you can have committed a whole slew of bad things and serve--a disturbing list of nasties including
  • manslaughter
  • kidnapping or abduction
  • rape, sexual assault, criminal sexual assault, incest or other sexual crimes
  • indecent acts or liberties with a child
  • terrorist threats including bomb threats
You can find the complete list of convictions that are acceptable for military service (and the number of convicted felons in each category who are presently serving in each branch of the military) online here, courtesy of the House Oversight Committee. It's a stunning list!

I should point out that, according to the House Oversight report, the Air Force stands alone as the one branch of the military that continues to reject felons from service.

Hat tip: Box Turtle Bulletin

Bizarre Church Sign

Check out the sign in front of Jonesville Church of God in Jonesville, South Carolina. Pastor Roger Byrd came up with the sign's message, and his congregation apparently voted unanimously to put it up. Pastor Bryd's stunning rationale is as follows.
Pastor Byrd says the sign is not meant to be racial or political but rather to make people think. "His name is so close to Osama, I have a feeling he might be Islamic therefore he doesn't recognize Christ," Pastor Byrd said.
This is so crazy it's hilarious.

Hat tip: Right-Wing Watch

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ridiculously Cool Anti-Evolution Video

Gotta check out this amazingly well-done video Beware the Believers by a pro-Intelligent Design group. The video is basically creates a big "straw man" argument about evolution. I disagree with the "straw man" argument profoundly (in fact, I tend to trust Big Science more than I do Big Religion on almost every conceivable topic), but the music and the dancing and the rhymes in the video are simply too entertaining and too catchy to pass up.

Enjoy :-)

A few notes on the faces that appear in the video. Obviously, the lead rapper is biologist Richard Dawkins ("Dick Dawk, Ph.D."). Also included are the faces of naturalist Charles Darwin, author Christopher Hitchens, anthropologist Eugenie Scott, biologist Paul "PZ" Myers, author Sam Harris, and tycoon Andrew Carnegie.
Dick to the Dawk to the Ph.D., he's smarter than you; he's got a science degree
Dick to the Dawk to the Ph.D., he's still smarter than you; he's studied biology
Wow, so catchy!

Fun aside: I, Joe Moderate, am on the cusp of of completing a "science" Ph.D. myself! I'm so thrilled that the years of graduate school are coming to a close. I've got 100 pages of my dissertation written, and tomorrow my advisor and I will wrangle through the details of the outline for the last chapter. Woo-hoo! The end is so close I can almost hear the new lyrics...
Joe to the Mod to the Ph.D., he's finally done; he's got a science degree!
Joe to the Mod to the Ph.D., no more grad school for him; he studied 'lectricity
Hat tip: Dispatches from the Culture Wars

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

(un)Happy Tax Day!

Hat tip: Daryl Cagle's Professional Cartoonists Index

Obama's Pastor on Gay Rights

Rev. Jeremiah Wright, retired pastor of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ of which Barack Obama is a member, is now infamous for some raw comments about the racial situation in the U.S. However, he has also said some remarkably open-minded and progressive comments about gay rights in the U.S.
I refuse to limit my God, to lock God into my cultural understandings because culture is fickle. And culture is often wrong. Culture was wrong about slavery. Culture was wrong about women. Culture was wrong about Africans and Indians, and culture was wrong about Christ. I have been the pariah among many of my clergy colleagues who somehow see me as defective or not quite saved because I won’t join them in their homophobic gay bashing and misquoting of scripture.
hat tip: Washington Blade

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Pat Robertson: "Islam is not a religion"

Apparently it is a “political system bent on world domination."
The religion masks a worldwide attempt to exercise power and to subjugate the world to their way of thinking. They want a Caliphate, as they had once before; they want all people to be subjected to Sharia [law] and live under their rules and their domination.
Wait a minute. It strikes me as incredible ironic, if not downright hypocritical, to hear Pat Robertson decrying another group's attempt to institute theocracy. After all, isn't this exactly what he himself has been attempting to do with the Religious Right in the U.S.?

hat tip: Right-Wing Watch

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

New Video: Sodom and Gommorah

Check out this YouTube trailer for an indy Christian film titled "Sodom and Gommorah."

I think the subject matter of this film is really interesting. What does a married couple do when it is discovered that they do not share the same orientation?

While I'm sure I disagree with the religious convictions of the filmmakers, I'm okay with some of the heavy religious content. After all, religious overtones are often present for the many American families that find themselves in such situations (e.g. the Haggard family).

Unfortunately, it appears this film may not address this question very thoughtfully. The acting and dialog seem campy and unbelievable. Daughter calling father a "queer"? Improbable, and an odd choice of language given the religious argument that dad's not actually gay. Father and son wrestling over dad's gay affair? Weird, unlikely, and has odd homoerotic subtexts.

I dunno. I'd love to see a film that explores these issues thoughtfully. This doesn't seem to be such a film, though.

But there's even more to this.

Apparently there is a YouTube "channel" set up for this film, containing a message from Alan Chambers which makes blanket assertions about the LGBT community. Frustrating. *sigh* More "noise".

I like how this (gay) video blogger discusses the film and its propaganda.

Hat tip: Peterson Toscano

Monday, April 7, 2008

It's All Because the Gays are Getting Married

Ridiculous story out of Bellevue, Ohio:
Police said an Ohio man has been arrested for allegedly having sex with a picnic table.

Police arrested Arthur Price Jr. after an anonymous tipster dropped off three DVDs that reportedly showed Price in the act.

According to NBC Toledo, Ohio, affiliate WNWO-TV, the videos show Price tilting the metal round picnic table on its side and then laying up against it to have sexual intercourse with the table. Afterward, he can then be seen cleaning the table and the deck.

I was tipped off about this story by Ed Brayton over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars. Ed points out perhaps the most bizarre part of the story:
During questioning, he reportedly admitted to having sex with the table. Police said he also admitted to bringing the table inside his home for sex.
Outrageous. Well, we all know why crazy stuff like this is happening:

hat tip: Dispatches from the Culture Wars