Christianity MemeBe sure to include proper citation information.
PO Box 150715
Austin, TX 78715-0715
Finding God in GoldThese ministries are in the business of manufacturing memes. The new memes work together with the Christianity Meme to deepen people's faith. Never mind that the memes are based on falsehoods and that promoting falsehoods is immoral.
Transformed teeth are creating spiritual fervor in revivalists
ORANGEVALE, Calif.--In the heart of the Sacramento Valley, where 49ers flocked to mine a mother lode of riches 150 years ago, Christian believers are proclaiming a new and godly gold rush: The Holy Spirit, they claim, is miraculously transforming porcelain crowns and silver fillings into gold.
Never mind that they can't seem to prove it. Disregard the dental records that contradict some of their claims. The reports of divine dentistry have taken on a life of their own and they have rapidly spread on the Internet and evangelical media, stirring up a frenzy of excitement through revival churches worldwide.
Believers are hailing transformed teeth, the appearance of gold dust and a host of other claimed miracles as proof of a powerful "move of God," bringing renewal to Christian churches at the start of the millennium. Ministries stressing the the miraculous have taken off among the estimated 500 million charismatic and Pentecostal believers worldwide who make up Christianity's fastest growing segment.
In Orangevale, at the Family Christian Center, Pastor Rich Oliver draws back his lip and displays a glittering gold crown he says God gave him in March. Actually, dental records show his previous dentist put the crown in on April 29, 1991. When confronted with those records, Oliver says "I'd have to say I was absolutely wrong... (but) none of it distracts from the fact that I know God is a healer."
Nonetheless, Oliver touts his congregation's "gold rush" on the Internet and lines up church members to witness about how God changed their teeth--and lives.
Family Christian Center is the locus of an expanding California Revival Network that, in the past two years, has attracted nearly 100 churches as members. Co-pastors Rich and Lindy Oliver started the network after switching to a revival focus in 1996; now, among other things, they run a school to teach people how to minister in miracles.
Stirring controversyThe expanding use of miracle ministries, however, is also drawing fire. To Hank Hanegraaff, president of the Christian Research Institute in Rancho Santa Margarita, the gold teeth reports point out an alarming evangelical trend of turning to supernatural phenomena to overcome religious ennui and build congregations.
"There is a paradigm shift within the evangelical world from an age of clear teaching of the word of God to an age of esoteric experience," said Hanegraaff, who attacked the practices in his 1997 book, "Counterfeit Revival." "We are not in the middle of a great awakening; we are in the middle of a great apostasy."
He said Christians need to "get back to the basics" of service to the poor and needy, rather than dwell in exotica that open the faith to skepticism and ridicule.
Indeed, the gold-teeth reports have already drawn the attention of Michael Shermer, president of the Skeptics Society, who dismisses them as a "classic urban legend" and raises the pugnacious question: "Of all the things going on--cancer, war, disease--God is busy changing fillings? That's the best he can do?"
Looking for mysteryBut even some of the most established churches believe in miracles. The Roman Catholic Church, for instance, has investigated thousands with a well-established verification process in cases of candidates for sainthood.
The church deems some claims to be worthy of credence. But officials dismiss as delusions many others--such as reports a few years ago of the face of Jesus in a San Diego billboard ad for spaghetti.
"It's just natural to find people trying to ascribe more meaning to an event than it really has," said Father Gregory Coiro, spokesman for the Los Angeles Archdiocese. "I think it's all wrapped up in people's desire to be in touch with something of mystery."
Such rationalization doesn't particularly interest believers like Jan Rosenberg, however. Her dentist won't confirm her claims of God-given gold crowns, but to her, it hardly matters. What it does is show how belief in the miracle has renewed and comforted her.
"God was saying to me: 'I want you to know I'm real. I love you'" she said.
February 2, 2000. Austin American-Statesman. Page A5. By John Rivera, Baltimore Sun.
Episcopal leadership angered by consecration of two priestsCould it simply be that the "crisis of faith" is really a crisis of the church's religious dogma, which is unable to keep pace with the liberal (and more scientifically based) views of Americans regarding homosexuality? Could it be that more successful strains of the Christianity Meme are luring away potential Episcopalians? Regardless, this is an example of integrity maintenance by the Christianity Meme.
In a highly unusual challenge to church leadership, two foreign Anglican leaders, who believe the Episcopal Church has strayed from its biblical roots, have consecrated two American priests as bishops to minister to conservative church members.
The move, fueled by a dispute over the acceptance of homosexuality and the ordination of women, was angrily denounced by the Episcopal Church's presiding bishop.
The Archbishop of Canterbury also criticized the consecrations.
On Saturday, the archbishops of the provinces of Rwanda and of Southeast Asia consecrated the Ref. Charles H. Murphy III, of South Carolina, and the Rev. John H. Rodgers Jr., of Pennsylvania, in a ceremony attended by four other bishops in Singapore.
The archbishops took the action, they said, to reverse what they called a 30-year decline in the membership of the 2.5 million-member Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion.
The 30 percent drop in the membership, the archbishops say, reflects a crisis of faith in the American church and a straying from its biblical foundations.
The dispute reflects a widening split in the Anglican Communion over the issue of homosexuality.
The division was highlighted during the August 1998 Lambeth Conference, a worldwide meeting held every decade, which adopted a strong condemnation of homosexuality.
Although the resolution is not binding, it carries moral weight.
January 14, 2000. Austin American-Statesman. Page B1 & B9. By Megan K. Stack, Associated Press.
Virgin's image seen in ice cream stainMiracles and divine intervention can be found everywhere by those so brainwashed.
Houston, [Texas] -- They've come from far and wide, clutching their rosaries and their cameras, jostling to peer through the afternoon heat at an improbable shrine.
Adoring visitors have dropped wilting roses, a forest of supermarket candles and crude crosses on the cement bed of a southwest Houston apartment complex.
In the midst of it all, they say, the Virgin of Guadalupe reveals herself to the faithful. In an amorphous stain of melted ice cream, ecstatic believers swear they can discern the form of the beloved Mexican idol.
Gloria Castro made her way to the front of the crowd, crossed herself, and burst into tears.
"She knows that we need her," said the 47-year-old Houston resident in Spanish. "I had to see her, I had to pray to her."
The apparition has drawn between 500 and 800 onlookers from as far away as Miami, Seattle, and Canada, [apartment manager] Cervantes said. Some stay at the shrine all night absorbed in meditation.
"... The quickly disintegrating ice cream is being protected by a glass pane and duct tape."
December 26, 1999. Austin American-Statesman. Page A1. By Scott S. Greenberger, American-Statesman Capitol Staff.
Putting faith in their futuresThis program is part of Bush's "compassionate conservatism". While the program has some merits, it violates the separation of church and state. Were it not for the power of the Christianity Meme, elected officials would not promote programs and laws that violate the constitution of the United States--a document they were elected to uphold, not tear down.
With nod from Bush, state and religion join forces for jobs
Brenham, [Texas] -- "You are a might man of valor, Andre King!"
King's been called a dishwasher, a fry cook and a drug dealer. "Man of valor" is a new one.
King, 25, is in a classroom at the First Assembly of God Church listening to former missionary Marcus Lawhon talk about Jesus Christ and the workplace. It is Week 2 of a 12-week course designed to transform Brenham's welfare recipients and perennially underemployed into reliable, God-fearing workers who can command more than the minimum wage.
Lawhon pulls the "mighty man of valor" line from the Bible, the only required text for the course. He tells King and the six other students that faith will enable them to overcome the abusive bosses and that God has plotted a career path for each of them. They are beginning to believe it.
Religion, specifically Christianity, permeates nearly every aspect of the Jobs Partnership of Washington County--and the state of Texas helps pay for it. The program's successes--its organizers say about four-fifths of its graduates have found jobs--bolster Republican presidential front-runner George W. Bush's contention that faith can transform lives in ways that government can't.
But the Brenham program also raises questions about government support of religion, which the First Amendment prohibits. And even as Bush says taxpayer money should not pay for proselytizing, the program seems to conflict with state rules that prohibit the practice.
The Department of Human Services kicks in $8,000 of the program's $20,000 annual budget, paying the bulk of the salary the Rev. George Nelson earns for running it. The agency's contract with the program state that "no state expenditures can have as their objective the funding of sectarian worship, instruction, or proselytization." Several times during the 12 weeks, a state worker stops by unannounced to make sure instructors are following the rules.
But department officials themselves don't agree on how much religion is too much. Becky Corkran, the worker who does the spot inspections, says instructors "aren't allowed to coerce anyone to believe a certain way, or to try to change their beliefs"--in other words, they can't proselytize.
Department attorney Margaret Roll, however, says the key is how the state money is being used.
"They can proselytize all they want. We are just not going to pay for them to do that," Roll said. "We are funding a job-training program with certain elements that we want in there. If they want to include other elements, we're not going to stop them."
In the state's view, the Brenham group is following the terms of its contract--even though Nelson gets state dollars to oversee the whole program, not just the non-religious parts of it. And instructors readily acknowledge they are trying to change students' beliefs. Only Jesus, they say, can transform their lives.
Setback for school vouchersThe "voucher gimmick" is being promoted by True Christians as a means to make sure their own children are infected by the Christianity Meme. A secondary agenda is to bring on the failure of the public school system so that it can be blamed on its secular nature, paving the way for religious indoctrination of all students.
Judge rules Ohio plan violates separation of church, state
A federal judge ruled Monday that a program giving thousands of Cleveland children taxpayer financed vouchers to attend parochial schools violates the Constitution's separation of church and state.
The closely watched case, which concerns of the most contentious issues in education, has been the subject of debate in the presidential campaign and is widely expected to be reviewed by the Supreme Court.
Judge Solomon Oliver of Federal District Court in Cleveland wrote that the voucher program, enacted by the Ohio Legislature in 1995, "has the effect of advancing religion through government sponsored religious indoctrination."
Noting that nearly all the students receiving vouchers attend parochial schools, he added, "A program that is so skewed toward religion necessarily results in indoctrination attributable to the government and provides financial incentives to attend religious schools."
The case was filed by a coalition of civil liberties groups and teachers unions, which contended that the vouchers violated the First Amendment's prohibition on government establishment of religion and presented a major threat to the public school system.
"Taxpayer dollars should be put where they belong, and not used to subsidize someone's religion," said Carol Shields, president of People for the American Way, a Washington group that was among those supporting the plaintiffs. "The country would be wise to support proven education reforms, such as smaller classes, and not this voucher gimmick."
December 11, 1999. Austin American-Statesman. Page A1. By Susan Ferriss, American-Statesman International Staff.
Controversy surrounds Mexico's patron saintToo bad for the Catholic church that that letter leaked out to the news media. If it weren't for that, they could have quietly silenced this quest for the truth. Here we see the very heart of the myth that helped the Christianity Meme infect millions of native Americans during the Spanish conquests. By usurping an already important religious site. The Catholic church is not interested in the truth. In fact, they may be acting to suppress it in promotion of the the myth. The myth may have even been carefully engineered so many years ago by the same church. If the Catholic church were fulfilling it's moral responsibility, it would close the basilica and tell those who come there to stop believing in fairy tales. The article did not say how much money the Virgin of Guadalupe Basilica raised for the Catholic church each year, mostly from poor Mexican peasants.
Priests' move to stop canonization of Juan Diego angers believers
MEXICO CITY--It is one of Mexico's most fundamental, beloved stories.
In 1531, during the Spanish Conquest, a brown-skinned, Aztec-speaking Virgin Mary is said to have appeared before an Indian peasant named Juan Diego. The Virgin, who became known as Guadalupe, asked Diego to build a church on the site where she appeared. To prove her miraculous apparition, she left an imprint of herself on Diego's cloak for him to show to Spanish priests.
For centuries, this story has nurtured Mexican's devout faith in the Catholic Church as well as Mexican and Mexican American pride in their indigenous heritage. But just as Mexicans prepared to celebrate the apparition of their patron saint 468 years ago this Sunday, they were stunned to learn some of their own priests doubt that a miracle ever occurred.
The three Mexican priests--all of whom have worked at the Virgin's basilica here--wrote a letter to the Vatican in September objecting to an effort to make Juan Diego a saint. They say that so far no requisite proof has been produced to confirm that the Indian ever lived.
The dispute has thrown canonization for Diego, which would elevate him to sainthood, into question and is testing the strength of faith in Mexico, the second largest Catholic country in the world and a nation vital to the Vatican's influence in this hemisphere.
"We never said anything about this to the people before, and we never intended to hurt anyone," said Carlos Warnholtz, who ministers at the Virgin of the Guadalupe Basilica and signed the confidential letter, which was leaked to a reporter in Rome.
Upset because some top church official have ordered the three to repent, Warnholtz said the dissident priests embrace the "tender, beautiful and very Indian story" of the Virgin's appearance. But without proof of Juan Diego's existence they regard the encounter as a symbolic legend that helped convert Mexico's Indians, who--not coincidentally--worshiped the Aztec mother goddess Tonanztin on the same hill where the Virgin appeared to Juan Diego.
At Mexico City's massive Virgin of Guadalupe Basilica, where as many as 6 million are expected to pour in from all parts of Mexico for Sunday's fiesta, pilgrims were disturbed by the priests' questioning but unshaken in their faith.
Pope John Paul II last visited Mexico in January and repeatedly expressed veneration for the dark-skinned Virgin of Guadalupe, announcing that she should be a symbol for evangelization throughout the Americas. The pope beatified Diego in 1990, a step that must be taken before a candidate can be considered for sainthood.
Top church officials here, who reportedly hope to see Diego canonized next year, were swift and harsh in their condemnation of the dissident priests' opinions.
Warnholtz said his doubts were heightened when he saw the image of the Virgin on Juan Diego's cloak [a relic kept high up in the basilica] up close in 1980.
"People say it's supernatural. But I've seen it, and it is a painting, he said. "We agree, though, that it is mystical because it remains so well preserved."
Methodist minister is defrocked for officiating at gay marriageAs gays and lesbians gain more acceptance in our society, the evolutionary path taken by the Christianity Meme of vilifying homosexuals comes under more and more question. Though it is rarely explicitly said, churches cannot condone homosexual relationships because they do not produce children to be readily indoctrinated by Christianity.
GRAND ISLAND, Nebraska--A United Methodist pastor who set off controversy three years ago by holding a lesbian wedding was defrocked Wednesday for officiating at a marriage of two men.
The case against Rev. Jimmy Creech was the second test of a United Methodist ban on homosexual marriage. A jury of 13 Nebraska minister imposed the penalty after unanimously convicting Creech of violating church law.
A defiant Creech, 55, predicted after the verdict that it would "widen the wound of the soul" of the 9.5-million-member church.
"The church will use its power--legal power, spiritual power and financial power--to enforce bigotry. It is a sad day. It is a scandalous day for the United Methodist Church.
Acting as his own attorney, Creech had refused to enter a plea, saying that would legitimize the church law he was accused of violating, and he pronounced the trial "corrupted, contaminated.... illicit." He implored the jury during the 90-minute trial to refuse to reach a verdict.
November 18, 1999. Austin American-Statesman. Page A1. by Gustav Niebuhr, The New York Times.
Bishops get wider role in Catholic universitiesThis is an excellent example of integrity maintenance by the Christianity Meme.
Document requires theology professors to gain church mandate
WASHINGTON--The nation's Catholic bishops voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to require theology professors at Catholic colleges and universities to obtain certification from their bishops declaring that what they teach is "authentic Catholic doctrine."
Although supporters of the document said they believed it would not be unnecessarily intrusive, it appears likely to generate tension at many Catholic universities, which enroll about 670,000 students. Indeed, Archbishop Rembert Weakland said that the document, if implemented, would be "a pastoral disaster for the church."
Bishop John McCarthy of the Diocese of Austin did not attend the conference and could not be reached for comment. But he had expressed concern about the potential legal liabilities that bishops could face. If bishops technically "approve" theologians, the the dioceses potentially could be held civilly liable for the actions of the theologians.
In its broadest sense, the document, titled "Ex Corde Ecclesiae" (a Latin phrase meaning "From the Heart of the Church"), represents the bishop's response to the secularizing forces at American Catholic universities, which some conservative critics say have moved away from their original mission.
November 16, 1999. Austin American-Statesman. Page A1. by Kim Sue Lia Perkes, American-Statesman Staff.
High court to rule on ballgame prayersThe Christianity Meme would like to make itself part of any school event. Young people are particularly impressionable, so the Christianity Meme finds them highly desirable as targets for infection.
U.S. justices will hear Texas case on football invocations
The firestorm over school prayer at football games, which draws passionate debate in Texas and pits parents against one another, will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The justices decided Monday they will hear the Santa Fe, Texas, Independent School District's appeal on whether to allow students to lead invocations at high school football games. The court will hear arguments in April and render its decision in the summer.
As in most prayer cases, the issue is convoluted.
Presidential hopeful Gov. George W. Bush and Attorney General John Cornyn, along with attorney generals of nine states, have written the Supreme Court in support of prayer at football games.
In February, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals appeared to ban the practice, prompting sharp reaction.
The Leander school board adopted a resolution Oct. 21 expressing disapproval of the ban on student-led, student-initiated prayer before games. Leander is one of more than 20 school districts statewide, and the first in Central Texas, to adopt such a resolution
District officials have said the decision to allow prayer should be left up to the individual districts.
The football game prayer dispute came out of a 1995 lawsuit filed against the Santa Fe school district by two anonymous families--one Catholic and the other Mormon--with children in the school district. The families, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, cited a list of incidents they said added up to administrators promoting Christianity.
The last time the court addressed the topic of prayer in schools, in 1992, the justices ruled 5-4 that faculty-organized, clergy-led prayer at graduation was unconstitutional. The majority opinion was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, who emphasized that when school officials arrange the prayers, students may feel coerced into particular beliefs, particularly at a graduation event that is important for students to attend.
Since then, some lower courts have allowed student-organized prayer at ceremonies, but there has been no clear guidance from the high court.
November 14, 1999. Austin American-Statesman. Page A2. by David Crary, Associated Press.
An issue for God and CountryThis article destroys the myth that religion is a necessary component of a strong marriage. It also points out that hard and fast rules and fairy tale expectations do not make the best ingredients for a lasting relationship, yet these are the ingredients they're getting from religion.
In religious South, with high divorce rates, states join churches in search for answers.
OKLAHOMA CITY [Oklahoma]--In a back room a the First Church of the Nazarene, eight couples--young and engaged--rise beside their metal chairs, lift their right hands, and repeat their weekly pledge.
"I will never get divorced."
The tone is stout, almost soldierly. Aptly so, because their marriage preparation class in northwest Oklahoma City takes place along the front lines of the battle against pervasive divorce.
Aside from the quickie-divorce mecca of Nevada, no region of the United states has a higher divorce rate than the Bible Belt. Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama and Oklahoma round out the top five in the frequency of divorce. In a country where nearly half of all marriage break up, the divorce rates in these conservative states are roughly 50 percent above the national average.
No state has been more embarrassed by the divorce problem--or more willing to confront it--than Oklahoma. The state's civic leaders, so often outspoken in promoting family values, see the irony in these statistics but find no easy explanations.
Those studying the issue also suggest religion plays a role, though the opinions differ on exactly how.
David Popenoe, co-director for the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University, notes that some of the lowest divorce rates are in the northeastern states with relatively high household incomes and large numbers of Roman Catholics, whose church doesn't recognize divorce.
Bible Belt states, in contrast, are dominated by Protestant denominations that proclaim that the sanctity of marriage but generally do not want to estrange churchgoers who do divorce.
Some Oklahomans suggest that the very nature of Bible Belt fundamentalism by contribute to marriage problems, by offering guidelines that might not be useful for a troubled couple.
Fundamentalist churchgoers are often exposed to "fairy-tale conceptions of marriage," said the Rev. Robin Meyers, a Congregational minister in Oklahoma City. He describes himself as one of the few liberal clergymen in the nation's most conservative state.
"They have that whole dogma of 'This is right, this is wrong' and nothing in between," Meyers said. "They don't have the mental dexterity to make the adjustments to a less-than-perfect marriage."
Partly because of Oklahoma's conservative religious values, relatively few young couples there live together before marriage.
"There is very strong pressure: If you're going to have an intimate relationship, it has got to me in marriage," said Stuart Beasley, president of the Oklahoma Psychological Association. "It doesn't give you a whole lot of options."
One option is early marriage, Beasley said, "and the younger they are, the less likely they'll make a success of it."
Some conservative churches teach that the husband is the spiritual head of the family, with the wife in a supportive role.
The national Southern Baptist Church amended its declaration of beliefs last year to assert that a wife should "submit graciously to the servant leadership of her husband."
"It's a very narrow view of what marriage is," Beasley said. "It puts a lot of women in a moral crisis."
November 9, 1999. Austin American-Statesman. Page A7. by Kim Sue Lia Perkes, American-Statesman Staff.
Baptist urged to battle sexual abuse by clergyPower corrupts, doesn't it? Sex isn't the only area where holy power is likely to be misused. Consider the fact that church donations and expenditures are rarely reported to the donors. Is your tithe doing any good?
One leader says churches have been ignoring the problem
El Paso [Texas]--Southern Baptist churches in Texas must stop hiding sexual abuse by clergy and provide outreach to victims, the social-action arm of the Baptist General Convention of Texas said Monday.
Strickland, head of the Christian Life Commission, made his remarks during the annual state Baptist convention that ends today. The commission's report, presented to the more than 2,000 convention messengers, or delegates, said, "There is increasing evidence that clergy sexual abuse is a significant problem among Baptist ministers."
The Christian Life Commission is asking ministers to sign "A Covenant of Clergy Sexual Ethics" that says the minister will refrain from sex outside marriage, unwanted or inappropriate physical contact, overt and covert seductive speech and gestures, and the use of pornography.
"Will this solve the problem?" Strickland asked. "No, but it's a first step.
November 9,1999. Austin American-Statesman. Page A1. by Kim Sue Lia Perkes, American-Statesman Staff.
Vite may widen split for Baptist assemblies.We may be witnessing the separation of two sects--essentially an evolutionary split between two once singular meme "species".
Texas could reject Southern group's wife subservience clause
El Paso [Texas]--The 2.7 million-member Baptist General Convention of Texas plans to vote this morning on an item that would make it clear it does not believe that women are subservient to men.
The more than 2,000 messengers, or delegates, will cast ballots whether to reaffirm the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message, the group's basic statement of faith that does not contain a controversial amendment passed last year by the Southern Baptist Convention.
The 15.7 million-member Southern Baptist Convention's action in 1998 added that wives must submit to their husbands, the fist time the statement of faith was altered in 35 years.
If Texas Baptists affirm the message, it will be another in a long list of differences that have crated a chasm between them and the national body.
November 8,1999. Austin American-Statesman. Page A3. By Uli Schmetzer, The Chicago Tribune
Pope ignores protests, calls for more convertsAs head Catholic, the pope's job is to spread the Christianity Meme. Isn't it surprising how blatant he is about it? He has basically said that he wants to destroy the cultures of South Asia the same way Christianity has destroyed the indigenous cultures of Europe and the Americas. Indians are right to be upset. The pope has essentially declared war on their culture.
Pontiff urges followers to remake continent for Christ
NEW DELHI--Pope John Paul II, weak in the body but strong in spirit left India on Monday after a defiant 62-hour pilgrimage during which he affirmed people's rights to change their religion and snubbed Hindu fundamentalists demonstrating for an end to Christian conversions.
"I come among you as a pilgrim of peace," John Paul said at an interfaith meeting on Saturday night, seated beside a Hindu priest. "My presence among is a sign that the Catholic Church wants to enter a dialogue with the religions of the world."
In the dusk of his two-decade-long papacy, the pope made no concessions or conciliatory gestures to those Indians and Hindus who feel that Western civilization has weakened their culture.
Instead, he launched a crusade for more Christian converts in Asia on the vary day Hindus celebrated Diwali, their main annual festival marking the triumph of light over darkness, a time for hospitality, food, and fireworks.
The 79-year-old pontiff told them to go forth and conquer the continent for Christ just as the church had done in Europe during the first millennium and the Americas in the second.
November 7, 1999. Austin American-Statesman. Page A5. By Pamela Constable, Washington Post
Despite Hindu protests, pope calls for conversionIt seems that the Hindus are on to the game. See above.
Indian government plays down round of demonstrations set off by pontiff's visit.
NEW DELHI, India--Pope John Paul II, undeterred by a drumbeat of protests from ultra-Hindu activists here, Saturday night called on priests to heed the Christina "call to conversion" and work to "penetrate the hearts of Asian peoples," even in countries that are scarred by religious conflict.
"Let no one fear the church!" he said, addressing an assembly of regional bishops during the first day of his controversial weekend visit to India. He declared that the right to "freedom of belief and worship" must be respected across South Asia, and that it is God's "command to preach the Gospel" to all nations.
His words defied radical Hindu groups that have protested his visit, calling for a halt to what they call forced conversions by Christian missionaries and demanding that the pope apologize for historical abuses by the church.
In a raucous demonstration here Friday that coincided with his arrival, a coalition of Hindu groups criticized the pontiff, calling him "a pimp" for Christianity and comparing Christian conversions of Hindus to rape.
November 1, 1999. Austin American-Statesman. Page A1. By Charles Trueheart, Washington Post.
Marin Luther's schism narrowsPerhaps a more apt title for this item would be "Christianity Meme kills hundreds of thousands--survivors remain ignorant as to the cause." From this news item alone, it makes sense to think of the Christianity Meme as a disease, complete with a measurable mortality rate.
Catholics and Lutherans sign accord to settle dispute that led to the Reformation
AUGSBURG, Germany -- Four hundred eighty-one years ago Sunday, the blunt-speaking monk Martin Luther nailed his legendary attack on Catholic Church practices to a church door in Germany, an act of conscience that triggered the Protestant Reformation, the wrenching division of western Christianity, and more than a century of religious wars that killed hundreds of thousands.
"There are no winners and losers," Augsburg Bishop Viktor Josef Dammertz said. "We are Christians of different backgrounds, but we are all on the same path--seeking the truth of God."
Fall, Vol. 5, No. 2, 1999. People for the American Way News. Pages 1 & 4.
For the Right, Littleton's Tragedy Became a 'Window of Opportunity'The Religious Right poses a very real threat to our civil liberties in the U. S.. Their use of the Christianity Meme as a means of gaining political power is truly frightening.
When Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold gunned down 12 students and a teacher in their Colorado high school in April, the nation was appalled, desperate to understand the causes. But while the rest of us were reeling with grief, the right wing quickly figured out the source of the massacre: liberals and the First Amendment.
For Religious Right advocates who are already in the habit of fiercely attacking public schools, Littleton was simply too tempting an opportunity to resist. On their TV shows, in paid radio ads, and in their direct mail, Religious Right leaders announced that if religion--i.e., Christianity-- had not been "kicked out of the classroom" by secular liberals, teenagers would not be killing each other.
The Right's proxies in Congress echoed this message, unleashing a withering barrage of legislation aimed squarely at constitutional liberties--some of it simply fatuous, but much of it profoundly ill conceived. When the dust finally cleared, the House of Representatives, often voting in the dead of the night with little debate, had approved several intrusions into religious liberty and free expression.
Anything but Gun ControlThe action unfolded ruing debate over a large juvenile justice bill. The house passed amendments allowing states to post the Ten Commandments on government property, including schools; allowing churches to receive public funds for social services; requiring Internet filters on all computers in schools or libraries that receive federal discounts; and permitting prayers, Scripture readings and religious symbols when schools hold memorial services.
And for good measure, the House passed an amendment stating that people who sued a school over such church-state issues could not win back their attorneys' fees, even if they won.
As we go to press, the House-Senate conference has not yet produced a compromise bill. But the fact that right-wing law-makers were able to exploit the post-Littleton climate to push several intensely controversial and unconstitutional measures through the House of Representatives is a testament to the abiding power of political opportunism--and the potency of the Religious Right in Congress.
Politicizing the CommandmentsPerhaps the most blatantly unconstitutional provision was offered by Robert Aderhold of Alabama. His "Ten Commandments Defense Act" doesn't just allow states to display the Decalogue in schools, courthouses and other public buildings. It authorizes anyone to "express their religious faith" on state property--which could allow teachers, principals and drill sergeants to lead their charges in prayer. The bill attempts to do by statue much of what Rep. Ernest Istook sought to do last year with his failed constitutional amendment permitting captive-audience school prayer. The House passed it, 248-180.
But Congress wasn't finished yet. In July, the House took up a resolution by Idaho ideologue Helen Chenoweth. Her text instructed all government leaders to urge Americans to observe a day of "solemn prayer, fasting, and humiliation before God," and described prayer as "everyone's necessary duty." For a nation that is already among the most religious on earth, it was an odd notion.
Chenoweth managed to humiliate the entire Congress, which gave her a majority vote but not the two-thirds that such measures require. Like much of the Littleton-inspired legislation that preceded it, she used the language of good intentions and children's welfare to conceal her true purpose: currying favor with political organizations. ...
Isn't it ironic, however, that posting the Ten Commandments is sold as deterring mass murder when the alleged author of those laws did so himself. Are the students meant to follow the Ten Commandments or emulate the author?
Kansas cuts evolution from class curriculumThis is a classic example of the Christianity Meme controlling the behavior of "True Christians" (creationists) in an attempt to infect the minds of United States school children through suppression of a rival meme (the theory of evolution). While most people with a scientific bent thing the whole debate is silly, the tenacity of the Christianity Meme should not be underestimated. It is fighting for its very survival.
Move is victory for creationists who have fought for similar action in other states
CHICAGO -- The Kansas Board of Education voted Wednesday to delete virtually any mention of evolution from the state's science curriculum, in one of the most far-reaching efforts by creationists in recent years to challenge the teaching of evolution in schools.
Kansas is the latest state to face a battle on evolution and creationism in recent years. Alabama, New Mexico and Nebraska have made changes that, to varying degrees, challenge the preeminence of evolution in the scientific curriculum. Other states, such as Texas, Ohio, Washington, New Hampshire, and Tennessee have considered--but ultimately defeated--similar bills, including some that would have require those who teach evolution to also present evidence contradicting it.
A the local levels, dozens of school boards across the country are trying to make similar changes.
More than a decade after the Supreme Court concluded states could not compel the teaching of creationism, creationists appear to be increasingly active, adopting a new strategy to get around the constitutional issues. Instead of trying to push creationism onto the curriculum, many creationists are trying to keep Darwin our of the classroom or ensure that if evolution is taught, it is presented as merely one, unproven theory.
See World of Dawkins for more on this topic.
August 11, 1999. Austin American-Statesman. Page A8.
Robertson: 'Take out' dictatorsThere are two points to be made from this news item. First, Pat Robertson is clearly more interested in selling Christianity than believing it himself. Second, doesn't Pat Robertson fit this definition? He's certainly a field marshal in a self-declared holy war. His organization promotes prayer in school and other anti-American beliefs. His organization has premoted "conversion therapy" (brainwashing) as a loving Christian response to homosexuality, which has doubtless caused more suicides than conversions. Hasn't he harmed innocent civilians and worked at destroying the infrastructure of the country? Maybe Pat Robertson should be less of a hypocrite and take himself out.
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- Christian Coalition President Pat Robertson said assassinating rogue world leaders would be more practical than the U. S. policy that bans such killings.
"Isn't it better to do something like that, to take out (Yugoslav President Slobodan) Milosevic, to take out (Iraqi President) Saddam Hussein, rather than to spend billions of dollars on a war that harms innocent civilians and destroys the infrastructure of a country?" Robertson said.
June 11, 1999. Austin American-Statesman. Knight Ridder Newspapers.
Christian Coalition loses tax status fightPat Robertson, president of the Christian Coalition, is using the Christianity Meme's influence over True Christians to feed his own lust for power. He's may be down, but he's not out. It's also far from the end of the influence of the Religious Right--politically organized True Christians.
Washington -- the Christian Coalition, a conservative religious group with great influence in the Republican Party, has lost a 10-year bid to win tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service, a reversal analysts say could weaken its political clout.
"If anything, the organization will come back in far more political arenas and have influence in areas that it has not been able to enage in before," Christian Coalition spokesman Mike Russell said.
"This is highly significant because it is a devastating blow to the credibility of the Christian Coalition when it tries to enlist churches in its campaigns," said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
13 groups call for boycott until Army rejects WiccaBarr and Weyrich are True Christians who will gladly toss aside American values (freedom of religion) to help promote the Christianity Meme by suppressing a rival meme (Wicca). Fortunately, the Army practice of religious tolerance has not changed.
A group of politically influential conservative religious organizations told Christians on Wednesday to boycott joining or re-enlisting in the U. S. Army until it bans witchcraft on posts.
"Until the Army withdraws all official support and approval from witchcraft, no Christian should enlist or re-enlisting in the Army, and Christian parents should not allow their children to join the Army," said Paul M. Weyrich, president of the Free Congress Association, one of the organizations calling for the boycott. "An Army that sponsors satanic rituals is unworthy of representing the United States of America."
Soon after the American-Statesman story [that originally reported on the Wicca group at Fort Hood], U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., called for banning Wicca from military installations.
Barr attempted, but failed, to attach an amendment dealing with the issue on to the U.S. Department of Defense budget. Barr has called the practice of witchcraft on bases "nonsense."