I’m offline much of the week, traveling for business and pleasure. Here are a few unrelated items to fill part of the gap until I get back:
- So the Pew Forum published a report on religious knowledge in the United States, and there was much discussion. The Immanent Frame got a bunch of people who are scholars in the field of the study of religion (primarily religion as a social phenomenon; there’s arguably at most one theologian in the bunch, and no pastors or other religious professionals) to comment on the report and (mostly) what it signifies [link]. There are some insightful comments and predictions here, but this sort of thing causes me to wonder if postmodernism is an inevitable result of modernism, or whether modernism itself is fundamentally incoherent.
- Author Sara Zarr recommends a writing workshop and talks about what it means to be a Christian author but not a “Christian author” [link], in much the same way e.g. David Bazan is (was?) a Christian-not-Christian-rock singer. I really have no idea what it means to be a Christian in the arts community but not involved in “Christian art,” and my field of study isn’t even on the radar of most religious professionals, so I can’t relate to or identify with what Zarr occasionally describes as being her experience, but her comments give me pause for thought.
- James White celebrates Reformation Day on The Dividing Line [link]. As someone who is not Reformed I tend to be put off by the unreflective self-congratulation that happens once a year in Reformed circles, and most of this episode is exactly that. It’s just plain dry and dull and awful. In the last ten minutes, however, White talks about the historical elements that were in place (printing, nationalism, etc. He doesn’t mention capitalism.) at the time of the Renaissance and made conditions right for the birth and survival of the Reformation. Fascinating and fact-filled if a bit overwrought; it’s hard to find a better example of “good James White” and “bad James White” side by side. He doesn’t deal with the obvious question of why all the ingredients of the Reformation would be merely of historical interest and not the Reformation itself.
- A long debate on the premise “Resolved: that Islam is a religion of peace” [link]. I don’t really know anything about Islam, but I think I learned more in this hour-plus than I could learn from many hours of listening to oh say Ergun Caner. The fundamental question in the debate boils down to this: Which is more appropriate: to judge a religion by its teachings, or by the behavior of its adherents? By the best of each or the worst of each? Also, Martin Luther makes a surprise appearance as a foil for an argument from one side; I won’t say which one.
- Marvin Olasky resigns his position as provost at The King’s College after Dinesh D’Souza’s appointment as president [link]. Are there really no Protestant evangelicals of sufficient stature to hold high-profile at this Protestant evangelical school?
That’s it. Please enjoy with my humble blessing. It’s not much: there are better Linkathons elsewhere.
Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy [link] put in an appearance on Issues Etc. [mp3] back in August pushing his article at The Weekly Standard [link] titled “George Soros’s Evangelicals,” an expose on how money from atheist Soros ended up in the pockets of left-leaning Evangelicals Richard Cizik (former National Association of Evangelicals head) and Jim Wallis (of Sojourners fame):
[Cizik] has created a left-leaning New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good. Initially after his NAE departure Cizik was affiliated with Ted Turner’s United Nations Foundation. Then he became a fellow at George Soros’s Open Society Institute, concurrent to his creating the new liberal evangelical group.
Tooley doesn’t say how much money Cizik got from these affiliations. He gives more detail about Wallis:
Until recently, the Open Society Institute’s website openly listed its grants to [Sojourners]: $200,000 grant in 2004, $25,000 in 2006, and $100,000 in 2007.
This would be about $108,000 on average against an annual budget that in 2009 was $5.5 million [link], so we can call this 2-3% of primary revenue. It’s a substantial amount of money (roughly half the size of their 2009 budget shortfall), but small enough that I have to wonder why a billionaire like Soros would bother.
The Wallis section of the article is just a summary of an article by Marvin Olasky [link]. Olasky, because of his Dominionist leanings and his history with the Fieldstead Institute [link], is someone I look out for as being a sign of trouble. His appearance in this little discussion makes it seem like not much more than partisans doing what partisans do.
Regardless, it brings up the unpleasant question of dirty money: money that comes from an unpleasant or even evil source, but that if it comes with no strings attached spends just as well as any other money and is hard to turn down. I’ve already mentioned the taint of Moon money in the Falwell camp; it’s left Falwell open to charges that Moon bought influence in the ministry, or being in league with a cultist, or something-I’m-not-sure-what. Christopher Hitchens made a big deal of Mother Teresa taking money from the Duvaliers and Charles Keating [link]; I really have no idea who cares about that. But people who turn down dirty money are rare, so far as we know. I can only find one church on record that turned down lottery winnings: First Baptist Orange Park, 2008 [link].
I don’t know where the line is here; it’s clearly the influence the money may buy we worry about rather than the money, most of the time. After all, we can see what the money does, but it’s harder to see the strings, unless the recipient makes some gesture or gives a quid pro quo, like a board membership or a building name. And frankly sometimes it’s hard to tell dirty money from clean; not every legitimate businessman gets rich by giving his customers the best deal.