Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Non-Gotchya on Mike Huckabee

Some in the press think that they have caught Mike Huckabee in a lie. He said he had a degree in theology, and it turns out he only had a degree in religion. Well, I have a degree in religion too... and that is a degree in theology. As a Protestant, I was an avid reader of American (Protestant) Church history... particularly the period of the 19th Century. When you read a lot of books from this period, one thing that strikes you is that Protestant terminology has evolved over time. For example, time was when if you spoke of a "professor of religion", you were not talking about a college instructor who taught world religious studies courses, but you were a professing Christian. A famous book from the 19th century by noted Christian evangelist Charles Finney, was entitled "Lectures on Revivals of Religion" -- and he was not speaking of revivals of just any religion, but was using the word "religion" as a synonym for "Christian Faith". Another phrase which you still hear occasionally is that someone has "got religion", which means they have made a commitment to Christ.

When I was attending Southern Nazarene University, I was a Religion Major in the Religion Department, and I received a B.A. in Religion. Not long after I graduated, they changed the name of that Department and it is now "The School of Theology and Ministry", and were I graduating today, I would be awarded a B.A. in Theology.

It has been my experience that telling people you have a degree in Religion only results in them coming to false conclusions about the nature of that degree, and so I have generally just told people that I have a degree in theology, because as a matter of fact, that is what I have, and that term is less prone to misinterpretation... which is why my Alma Mater changed the name of that degree. A rose by any other name is still a rose. A theological degree by any other name is still a theological degree.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Huckabee was right: Mormons do teach that Jesus Christ and Satan are brothers

New campaign debate: Is Satan Jesus' brother?
Mormon church weighs in on Huckabee suggestion

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has prompted angry denunciations of religious bigotry by rival Mitt Romney as well as an official retort from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for speculating in a New York Times Magazine interview this weekend that Mormons believe Jesus and Satan were brothers.

Stirred by the debate, the Associated Press sought clarification from Kim Farah, a spokeswoman from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

She said the question is usually raised by those who wish to smear the Mormon faith, but she evaded a direct answer to the question: "We believe, as other Christians believe and as Paul wrote, that God is the father of all. That means that all beings were created by God and are his spirit children. Christ, on the other hand, was the only begotten in the flesh and we worship him as the son of God and the savior of mankind. Satan is the exact opposite of who Christ is and what he stands for."

More to the point, the official website of the LDS church explicitly makes the sibling connection between Jesus and Lucifer a matter of official Mormon doctrine.

"On first hearing, the doctrine that Lucifer and our Lord, Jesus Christ, are brothers may seem surprising to some – especially to those unacquainted with latter-day revelations," says the statement. "But both the scriptures and the prophets affirm that Jesus Christ and Lucifer are indeed offspring of our Heavenly Father and, therefore, spirit brothers. Jesus Christ was with the Father from the beginning. Lucifer, too, was an angel "who was in authority in the presence of God," a "son of the morning." (See Isa. 14:12; D&C 76:25–27.) Both Jesus and Lucifer were strong leaders with great knowledge and influence. But as the Firstborn of the Father, Jesus was Lucifer's older brother. (See Col. 1:15; D&C 93:21.)"

But Romney interprets the question from Huckabee – rhetorical or not – to be a display of religious bigotry.

"But I think attacking someone's religion is really going too far," he said on NBC's "Today" show. "It's just not the American way, and I think people will reject that."

The exchange is setting up tonight's GOP presidential debate, the final showdown before the Iowa caucuses, as a potentially fiery denouement in the first major contest of the 2008 primary campaign.

Will the Satan card be played?

Are theological questions fair game?

Huckabee, a Baptist minister and former Arkansas governor, has surged in public opinion polls and is now ahead of Romney in polls in Iowa, which holds its caucus Jan. 3.

He made the comment before Romney gave a major speech last week trying to dispel fears about his church, particularly among conservative Christians, an important voting bloc. Romney said he believes Jesus Christ is the son of God and savior of mankind, and that his White House would not be controlled by his church.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Fall Pastoral Retreat of the Western American Diocese in Los Angeles Concludes

The Transfiguration Cathedral in Los Angeles

You can read what I was up to last month in Los Angeles last month by clicking here.

You can see photos by clicking here.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Romney's problem with Evangelicals

Mitt Romney's primary problem (no pun intended) with conservative Evangelicals is not so much a question of his being a Mormon... though that doesn't help him much either, since Mormons are considered to be a religious cult by Evangelicals (and with good reason). However, I think given a choice between Rudy Giuliani, they would pick a good Mormon in a heartbeat. But Romney's biggest problem is that on the issues that matter to conservative Evangelicals... he has not been a good Mormon. He has supported abortion and gays in the military... he has changed his mind... so he says, but inconsistency on these issues is the primary reason why Huckabee is quickly becoming the candidate for those who see these moral issues as the biggest issues when selecting a candidate.

And aside from that, Huckabee has a sense of humor:

Obsession - Radical Islams War Against the West

This is a great video, that everyone should see. It is scary how political correctness is killing us. Maybe this video will help wake America up, before it is too late.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Trail of TIERS continues

Food stamp applications piling up under state's new system

AUSTIN — Texas is dealing with a backlog of applications for welfare programs, including food stamps, because not enough workers know how to process cases in the state's new social services computer system, officials said.

More than 14 percent of food stamp applications were processed late in October, the most recent month with available statistics. The number of applications processed on time that month was the lowest since January.

"There is very clearly a TIERS workload issue," said Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the Health and Human Services Commission. "We're trying to staff up. We do think that with additional staff ... we'll get through this hump."

The Legislature approved the Texas Integrated Eligibility Redesign System program in 1999 to replace a system implemented in the 1970s. It's supposed to improve access to state benefits by reducing operating and maintenance costs and improving the accuracy and timeliness of eligibility and benefit decisions.

Recent delays were most pronounced in the Central Texas region, the test region for the new system. A third of the more than 25,400 Austin-area food stamp applications in October were not processed within the 30 days required by the federal government.

Meanwhile, the state continues to add cases to TIERS. State Auditor John Keel released a report last month saying TIERS wasn't ready for more cases.

Katie Romich of the Texas State Employees Union said workers are frustrated.

"Every day, more and more cases are being put into TIERS ... without an infrastructure to deal with those cases," she said.

Demetria Johnson, an Austin mother of two, said she's still waiting for food stamps after applying to renew in June.

"I do get paid weekly, but it's still hard for me to buy groceries," she said. "I fall off on the other bills."

Goodman didn't know exactly how many people were waiting for welfare benefits.

She said the backlogs have been exacerbated by the addition in January of the Texas Women's Health Program, which provides gynecological exams and birth control to 70,000 low-income women.

The state is using TIERS to process applications for the program, and also for members of participants' households who are seeking food stamps, Medicaid or temporary family assistance.

"The thing that has been somewhat of a surprise is how many of those women and their families have applied for other services," Goodman said.

The addition of 50,000 foster care cases to TIERS also had an impact, Goodman said.

State Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, said that until TIERS is working smoothly, "we don't need to be integrating anything into it."

See also More from HHSC Employee.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Pat Buchanan Nails it again: Blow Back from Moscow

Blowback From Moscow
by Patrick J. Buchanan

Our next president will likely face a Russia led by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, determined to stand up to a West that Russians believe played them for fools when they sought to be friends.

Americans who think Putin has never been anything but a KGB thug will reject accusations of any U.S. role in causing the ruination of relations between us.

Yet the hubris of Bill Clinton and George Bush I, and the Russophobia of those they brought with them into power, has been a primary cause of the ruptured relationship. And the folly of what they did is evident today, as Putin's party, United Russia, rolls to triumph on a torrent of abuse and invective against the West.

Entering the campaign's final week, Putin, addressing a rally of 5,000, ripped the Other Russia coalition led by chess champion Gary Kasparov as poodles of the United States, "who sponge off foreign embassies ... and who count on the support of foreign resources and governments, and not of their own people."

"Those who oppose us," roared Putin, "don't want our plans to be completed. They have completely different tasks and a completely different view of Russia. They need a weak, sick state, a disoriented, divided society, so that behind its back they can get up to their dirty deeds and profit at your and my expense."

Putin is referring to the time of the "oligarchs" of the Yeltsin era, who looted Russia when its state assets were sold off at fire-sale prices.

Putin is also accusing his opponents of attempting to use the Western-devised tactics of mass street protests to bring down his government. "Now that they have learned some things from Western specialists and tried them in the neighboring republics, they are going to try them on our streets."

Putin is talking here about the "color-coded" revolutions that the U.S. and NATO embassies, the National Endowment for Democracy, and allied foundations and front groups engineered in Ukraine and Georgia. Governments tilting toward Moscow were dumped over and pro-Western regimes installed -- to bid for membership in NATO and the European Union.

Blowback is a term broadly used in espionage to describe the unintended consequences of covert operations. The revolution that brought the Ayatollah to power is said to be blowback for the U.S.-engineered coup to overthrow Mossadegh in 1953 and install the Shah.

The nationalism and anti-Americanism rife in Putin's Russia is blowback for our contemptuous disregard of Russian sensibilities and our arrogant intrusions into Russia's space. How did we lose a Russia that Ronald Reagan and Bush I had virtually converted into an ally?

We pushed NATO into Moscow's face, bringing six ex-Warsaw Pact nations and three ex-Soviet republics -- Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia -- into our Cold War alliance and plotted to bring in Ukraine and Georgia.

We financed a pipeline from Baku through Georgia to the Black Sea to cut Russia out of the Caspian oil trade. After getting Moscow's permission to use old Soviet bases in Central Asia to invade Afghanistan, we set about making the bases permanent. We pulled out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty over Moscow's objection, then announced plans to plant ABM radars in the Czech Republic and anti-missile missiles in Poland.

Putin has now responded in kind, and who can blame him?

As we tried to cut him out of the Azerbaijan oil with a Black Sea pipeline, he is slashing subsidies on Ukraine's oil and colluding with Germany on a Baltic Sea pipeline to cut Poland out of the oil trade with Western Europe.

As we moved our alliance and bases into his front and back yard, he has entered a quasi-alliance with China and four nations of Central Asia to expel U.S. military power from the region.

As we abandoned the ABM Treaty, the Duma, in November, voted 418 to 0 to suspend participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, which restricts the size of the Russian army west of the Urals.

If we recognize Kosovo as independent, at the expense of Serbia, Putin is now threatening to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the breakaway republics of Georgia and Transneistria, claimed by Moldova.

Where we backed the Orange Revolution in Ukraine and the Rose Revolution in Georgia, Russia backs its favorites in Kiev and supports street protests in Tbilisi against the pro-American regime of Mikhail Saakashvili, whom the United States now seems powerless to help.

It was not NATO that liberated Eastern Europe. Moscow did -- by pulling out the Red Army after half a century. Why, then, did we think moving NATO into Eastern Europe was a surer guarantee of their continued independence than the goodwill of Russia?
Many among our foreign policy elite now talk of a Second Cold War. John McCain wants Russia kicked out of the G-8.

But do we not have enough enemies already that we should add the largest nation on earth?