Dr. Anthony Bradley, a research fellow at the Acton Institute and PowerBlog contributor, was on NPR’s News & Notes blogger roundtable to discuss the controversy over the New Yorker‘s latest magazine cover. He also discusses news about a mostly black neighborhood that didn’t have running water for almost fifty years and a racially charged comic book that was recently pulled from the shelves.
Yesterday I was a guest on “The Jesse Lee Peterson Radio Show,” a production of BOND (Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny), to discuss the presidential election and the faith-based initiative, with a special focus on the proposals laid out by Democratic candidate Barack Obama. A streamlined version of the interview is available for download.
After the July 1 speech in Zanesville, Ohio, where Obama called his plan for a new Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships “a critical part” of his executive plans, he continued to campaign on this issue, saying that “faith-based” social service would be “a moral center” of his potential administration.
One of the groups that has faced the dilemma of phasing out faith after taking government money is the Silver Ring Thing, a Christian ministry dedicated to “offering a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as the best way to live a sexually pure life.” In 2006, the ACLU settled a lawsuit with the government over federal grants to the Silver Ring Thing (SRT), on the condition that appropriate safeguards would be implemented to separate out faith elements from programs that received federal dollars.
The success of groups like SRT have made in connecting human sexuality to spiritual and emotional life makes secularists cringe, who judge that the Religious Right “has warped our sexual politics and forced even the most hardened secular humanists to sing from the Christian hymnal.” You can be sure that secularists won’t hesitate to use government funds to undermine the integrity of groups that see faith-based messages like chastity being the biblical standard.
In the course of the interview I refer to a paper produced by the Acton Institute about the service areas that faith-based initiatives tend to focus on, “Faith Makes a Difference: A Study of the Influence of Faith in Human Service Programs.” I also borrow (with attribution) Joe Knippenberg’s witticism, referring to the Obama plan as the “faith-erased” initiative.
I also discuss what I have called “the fungibility phenomenon” and the way in which the White House office sets the tone for the rest of the country. But the coup de grâce of my argument, I think, comes when I liken the faith-based initiative to the sin of simony.
Simony is commonly defined as “a deliberate intention of buying or selling for a temporal price such things as are spiritual of annexed unto spirituals.” Think about this a moment. If what the government’s faith-based initiative boils down to is the appropriation of the vigor and vitality of a uniquely spiritual ministry by means of offering federal money so that this ministry can be controlled and absorbed by the temporal power, that sounds very much like a form of simony to me.
Here’s part of the story of Simon Magus from Acts 8: “When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, ‘Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.’” Peter answered: ‘May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money!’”
Weigh in on what you think ought to be done with the faith-based initiative in our blog poll question on the right side of the page, and share your thoughts in the comment section below.
And, honestly, I can’t say it enough. Visit the Samaritan Guide and find a charity that needs your support and give it to them.
Barack Obama recently announced that he wishes to expand President Bush’s program of public funding for religious charities. In his latest piece for National Review Online Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president of the Acton Institute, warns us of some of the dangers of federal funding for faith-based charities.
Rev. Sirico writes:
The lesson of this long history is that if you want to do religiously motivated work in the United States, it is best to do it on your own dime. This is what American culture expects, a belief rooted very deeply in our history and current practice. I believe that this practice is best for the health of religion and the health of the state. We all benefit by keeping religion separate from the public sector so that it can better grow, flourish, and transform society.
The fact that Obama intends to expand government funding (and control) to religious charities should not be surprising, however, because it falls in line with his philosophy on the role of government. In his article, Rev. Sirico elaborates on this:
In some ways, we shouldn’t be surprised that Obama is warm to this idea. It is part of his intellectual apparatus and part of the party he will represent in the election. He believes in government and all its pomps, and never misses a chance to say that something good should be subsidized by the public sector. This accords with his philosophy.
Here’s a round-up of early reaction (to be updated as appropriate) to Obama’s speech about his proposed future for the faith-based initiative under his administration.
- Rev. Richard Cizik of the NAE (HT): “Mr. Obama’s position that religious organizations would not be able to consider religion in their hiring for such programs would constitute a deal-breaker for many evangelicals, said several evangelical leaders, who represent a political constituency Mr. Obama has been trying to court. ‘For those of who us who believe in protecting the integrity of our religious institutions, this is a fundamental right,’ said Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals. ‘He’s rolling back the Bush protections. That’s extremely disappointing.’”
- Stanley Carlton-Thies of CPJ (HT): “Sen. Obama’s speech sketches the new approach he hopes to introduce. The speech does not make clear the radical restriction he intends to impose on faith-based organizations that receive federal funding.”
- Joe Knippenberg at No Left Turns: “He doesn’t say much that he hasn’t at least hinted at before, nor much of anything that would jar the ears of the most hardened secularist Democrat. ‘Faith-based’–I’d say, faith-erased–groups are welcome partners with government as long as they’re virtually indistinguishable from the bureaucrats they’re assisting.”
- Douglas L. Coopman, Calvin College professor of political science: “Sen. Obama’s version of faith-based initiatives creates a great first impression. But the closer one looks at its details and the senator’s defense of it, the more disrespectful toward faith and naive about old approaches it appears.”
- Byron York at NRO’s The Corner: “I remember an NR cruise several years back in which Father Robert Sirico, of the Acton Institute in Michigan, expressed reservations about Bush’s faith-based program. As I recall, he wasn’t upset about anything specific that Bush was doing; he just didn’t look forward to an entirely different set of policies being given a faith-based gloss in a Democratic administration…”
And speaking of the long view of the issue, check out this piece by WORLD’s Joel Belz from 2001 as a valuable backgrounder (HT), “Go for the vouchers.” See also, “Hazards of Public-Private Partnerships.”
“Why does Acton run this charities rating program?
Acton works with religious leaders and other shapers of the moral consensus, who are involved in charitable work. However, they are often unaware of the pitfalls of accepting government funding or of supporting government social welfare programs. They may also lack reliable information about effective charities. Acton Institute began the Samaritan Award and Guide to help connect the good intentions of these opinion leaders with charities that implement the principles illustrated in the parable of the Good Samaritan.”
A few of you may have noticed that we’ve added a small polling widget on the right side-bar of this blog. This, of course, is all highly “un-scientific” and doesn’t really mean much, but can provide some interesting results. The current poll asks who you would prefer as the Democratic candidate for the general elections in November – Omaba or Clinton. The results, so far, show Clinton ahead of Obama by about 58% to 42%. This is in contraction with the nationwide polls right now.
I’m curious to know a little bit more. Why would you prefer the one over the other?
- Are you a Republican and think that the candidate you chose would lose the General Election to McCain?
- Are you a Republican and think that if a Democrat is going to be elected, you would prefer the one over the other?
- Are you a Democrat and favor the one candidate over the other?
- Are you a Democrat and just think the one has a better chance of winning a General Election over the other?
Acton Research Fellow Anthony Bradley was featured on The Glenn Beck Program on Headline News Network to discuss black liberation theology with host Glenn Beck on Wednesday night. If you didn’t catch his appearance, you can watch it right here on the PowerBlog. And for more on the topic with Anthony Bradley and Rev. Robert A. Sirico, check out the most recent edition of Radio Free Acton – Obama and Religion, Part I.
Presidential front-runners and Senators John McCain and Barack Obama are lacking environmental leadership by failing to pay for offsets to cover their campaign carbon emissions. An article in the Washington Times titled, Green Crusades Lot of Talk, by Stephen Dinan, notes John McCain and Barack Obama aren’t leading by example. “Though both campaigns say they practice energy conservation, Mr. Obama offsets only some of his airplane flight emissions, while Mr. McCain doesn’t cover even that,” says Dinan.
It looks as if carbon offsets for the campaigns are more of a public relations ploy, rather than a serious commitment to running green campaigns. In his article Dinan declares:
Even some campaigns that started with the best of intentions fell short in execution, stopping payments when their cash flow tightened.
John Edwards, one of the earliest candidates to commit to offsets, paid $21,997 last year to Native Energy, a Vermont-based company, according to Federal Election Commission reports. His most recent payment was made July 11, six months before his campaign ended.
Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, another candidate who made an offsets pledge, recorded his last payment to Carbon Fund in September, more than two months before he dropped out of the race.
“I’m sure that a number of the candidates saw offsets as a good way to show leadership by example, but when confronted with the cold reality of a cash crunch, offsets are one of the first things to go,” said Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch.
He said offsets are probably well-intentioned, but are not an overall solution to climate change nor the best way to gauge a campaign’s commitment to addressing global warming.
According to Dinan, Senator Hillary Clinton spent $20,327 last year alone in carbon credits, making payments to Native Energy. Also, read the article to hear the explanations from the McCain and Obama campaigns.
Every Black democrat in America should read today’s column by Nathan McCall in the Atlanta-Journal Constitution titled “Clinton gets proxy to play race card.” Hilary and her supporter’s antics are now playing the race card against Obama. Why? Perhaps the Clinton’s didn’t expect a non-white person to be in contention against established power brokers. Democrats with black leadership is meant for rhetoric only many would say.
McCall reminds us that Hillary Clinton seems ultimately self-interested and will use blacks as a means of getting into office if necessary (just as her husband did). Of course, this is not new. Democrats have been pimping the black community for years now.
This explains why the Democrats refuse to address the black genocide in America through abortion. Nearly 90 percent of all abortion facilities are in or near minority communities and over 43 percent of all black pregnancies end in abortion– this is nothing less than a predatory removal of blacks from American society.
What’s even worse is that many blacks are willing to be reduced to being political pawns in the Clinton power surge.
Did Hilary Clinton recruit Bob Johnson, the billionaire former owner of Black Entertainment Television, to work in her “house” to do her bidding against Obama? Johnson made reference to Obama’s drug use while proffering the mythology about the Clinton’s deep commitment to black issues. What commitment? There is no evidence that the Clinton’s did anything for black people other than offering rhetoric and empty platitudes.
McCall reminds us that Johnson contributed little to black progress himself by creating a network to peddle misogynistic and denigrating images of black life as normal. Clinton’s enlisting a man who developed dehumanizing programs is even more evidence that black people are just a means to her political ends. John Edwards would never stoop to that level.
As McCall observes “having an African-American do her bidding on the racial front frees Hillary to stake out the moral high ground.” Black America’s beginning to see this more and more.
It gets worse. Bill Clinton’s reference to Obama’s vision as a “fairy tale” should be seen as nothing less than condescending. A fairy tale? Why does Bill think it ridiculous that a man like Obama could become president? What is it about Obama that stands out?
Clinton also referred to Obama as a “kid.” Or maybe Clinton should have just called him “boy” like the Jim Crow era ideologies would dictate. What do the Clinton’s really think of Obama? We’re learning America! It’s leaking out as the Clinton’s panic and recruit hoodwinked blacks into their house to do their bidding as McCall suggests. Why do the couple not feel that Obama is intelligent or mature enough to be president?
As McCall points out was Clinton “a kid” at 46 when he became President?
The Clinton’s have turned the democratic race into one about race. Their true views are leaking as they realize that their dream of ascending to presidency using blacks as a means may be collapsing because of a brown man.
Does the Clinton camp believe blacks to be stupid and not to catch their reductions of Obama in such a way that has nothing to do with the content of his character?
I am not an Obama supporter, by any means, but why black Democrats believe that Hilary Clinton actually cares about black issues exposes just how well the Clinton’s have bamboozled black America. McCall is right that the Clinton’s “aggressively racial maneuvers” may backfire on them on them in the end as their true views of blacks get exposed.
Iowa and New Hampshire represent less than 1.5% of the U.S. population, but the way many pundits talk, these two small states apparently possess some obscure Constitutional right to choose the short list of presidential candidates for the rest of us.
After the Hillary Clinton’s second place finish in the Iowa caucuses, several journalists—apparently stricken with Obama Fever—were writing her campaign obituary, never mind that she led national polls of likely Democratic voters and has enough campaign cash to buy Cuba.
On the Republican side, former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson finished a respectable third in Iowa, but when he faired poorly in the New Hampshire primary last week (a state where he did little campaigning), the media began drafting his obituary.
Thompson apparently didn’t get the memo. A recent Republican debate in South Carolina revealed a Fred Thompson many Republicans have been hoping for but hadn’t yet seen—Fred with fire in the belly. He spoke with clarity and authority on issues of national security, and he forcefully went after some of Mike Huckabee’s left-leaning domestic policies.
The question is, does it matter? Is it too late? Maybe there are so many voters with their fingers in the wind that Iowa and New Hampshire really do get to choose the short list for the rest of us.
The idea should offend those who make up the core of the Republican Party. Conservatives are supposed to bridle at the idea of having their choices dictated to them by beltway insiders or by a national media establishment intent on telling them what to think and do.
Republicans should be particularly suspicious of such winnowing efforts given the short list the media seems intent on assigning Republican voters. Mike Huckabee supported heaping helpings of big government and higher taxes as governor of Arkansas. Mitt Romney endorsed bigger government and higher taxes as governor of Massachusetts, has flip-flopped on abortion not once but twice, and more recently made protectionist, big government noises in an effort to appeal to Michigan voters. Rudy Giuliani (who, ironically, didn’t even contest Iowa or New Hampshire), is pro-abortion. And as Thomas Sowell has commented of John McCain, his “track record in the Senate is full of the betrayals of Republican supporters.”
Each of these four candidates has conservative elements to their agendas, and personal qualities that recommend them. But is it any wonder that the left-leaning national media seems eager to use the earliest contests to winnow a consistent conservative like Fred Thompson from the short list of Republican candidates, a conservative who is arguably the only true Reagan Republican in the bunch?
Thompson isn’t a perfect candidate. And I’m not endorsing him or any other candidate here. Each of them has strengths and weaknesses that Republican voters in each state should carefully assess. What Republican voters shouldn’t do is buy the media line that 1.5% of the American population gets to tell the other 98.5% of us who is and isn’t still in the race.
Senator and Presidential candidate Barack Obama has gained support from some Evangelical Christians. I recall some students and faculty at the Wesleyan Evangelical seminary that I attended supported Obama. Jim Wallis of Sojourners, when on the lecture circuit, constantly compares Obama with famed British Parliamentarian William Wilberforce.
This week, Obama spoke to a Planned Parenthood gathering where he reinforced his support for sexual education for kindergarteners. To be fair, Obama said the education should be age appropriate and that he “does not support teaching explicit sex education to children in kindergarten.”
However, let’s keep in mind the audience to whom Obama was speaking — Planned Parenthood. When I attended public school in the state of Hawaii, I was introduced to Planned Parenthood in my mandatory health class in 7th grade. Planned Parenthood tried to teach us how to use condoms with cucumbers and instructed the class about spermicidal jelly, dental dams, and other birth control devices and methods. I was 13 years old.
I remember taking a survey which Planned Parenthood brought to my class. The group wanted to gauge our sexual knowledge and experience. I remember wondering if I was abnormal because I had not experienced the depth of extensive sexual activity that Planned Parenthood was asking me about. I recall one of the questions was, “How many times are you laid in a week?”
This survey information was taken by Planned Parenthood workers and was never seen by students again. I also specifically recall one Planned Parenthood worker reminding the girls in the class that, if they became pregnant, they could tell or visit them before informing their parents.
The problem that arises from “age appropriate sexual education” is who decides what is appropriate? Is it parents, public school administrators, Senator Obama, or Planned Parenthood? When Planned Parenthood is involved, all of the concerns about social engineering and radical sexual agendas should be taken seriously.
[Ed. note: See also Acton's Jennifer Roback Morse, "Get the Government Out of Sex Ed."]