Monday, November 27, 2006


As Baghdad braces for more violence, pockets of Sunnis and Shiites plan the slaughter of each other while others risk death to protect their neighbors and friends.

Almighty God
Hear the cries of Rachel weeping for her children because they are no more.

O LORD as blood runs the rivers of Baghdad; violence shakes Gaza; murderous rape dominates Sudan; and civil unrest threatens around the globe; bring to the table of nations leaders committed to and capable of peacemaking.

As the father through whom all families and generations find their origin--bring peacemakers to the dinner tables of the world, inoculating those who imbibe from hate filled hearts, vitriolic tongues, and violent hands.

Quench the passion for the revenge by the exercise of justice.

Make us into a people in whom love overpowers hatred and hope overwhelms despair.

Friday, November 24, 2006


Once in the early 90s I heard Ralph Reed explain to the National Press Club that the Christian Right did not have a narrow agenda--the press only covered gay rights and abortion. In his recent dialogue with Jim Wallis he calls the narrow agenda observation a "straw man."

The claim that religious conservatives focus on one or two issues or somehow believe that other issues lack a moral component is a straw man. Conservative people of faith have worked on a broad agenda, including anti-poverty measures and minority home ownership. Nearly 2 million minority families have purchased their first home under President Bush's home ownership initiative.

Yet, again and again, in spite of Ralph Reed's assertion and perhaps his vision, his legacy is political posturing on two issues: abortion and gay rights. The Straw Man of the Year Award may go to The Christian Coaltion, receiving the resignation of their newest leader, even before his term began,

President-elect of Christian Coalition resigns
Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. - The Reverend elected to take over as president of the Christian Coalition of America said he will not assume the role because of differences in philosophy.

The Rev. Joel Hunter, of Longwood's Northland, A Church Distributed, said Wednesday that the national group would not let him expand the organization's agenda beyond opposing abortion and gay marriage.

This is the latest setback for the group founded in 1989 by religious broadcaster the Rev. Pat Robertson. Four states - Georgia, Alabama, Iowa and Ohio - have decided to split from the group over concerns it's changing direction on issues like the minimum wage, the environment and Internet law instead of core issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.

Hunter, who was scheduled to take over the socially conservative political group Jan. 1, said he had hoped to focus on issues such as poverty and the environment.

"These are issues that Jesus would want us to care about," Hunter said.

He resigned Tuesday during an organization board meeting. Hunter said he was not asked to leave.

"They pretty much said, 'These issues are fine, but they're not our issues, that's not our base,'" Hunter said.

A cousin to this straw man--the Bush admininstration's faith based initiatives.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


He came to church last Sunday. On the way he apologized that he had not had a haircut for a while. His white hair made him look older than his 57 years. His forgetfulness, brought on by a stroke, embarrassed him. As we sat in church, he took his jacket off. During one part of the service, he picked his jacket up and folded it. As he did, his finger rubbed over a hole the size of a pencil eraser. He startled just a little, folded over the hole, and grasped his jacket tightly.

He never put it back on.

During the song service, a tear rolled down his cheek as the congregation sang in rounds “Love One Another.” He came back again this week.

It was colder, but he didn’t wear a jacket.

O Lord, we long to be more like Christ. May those who suffer from illness or poverty never feel ashamed when in the presence of the Body.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


Gone to churches everyone?

My favorite Malibu librarian, James Wiser, posted this article from The Hotline, a blog of the National Journal Group, an organization committed to providing non-partisan publications and services.

November 16, 2006
Putnam Wants To Know: Where Were The Rednecks?

“White rednecks” who “didn’t show up to vote for us” partly cost GOPers their cong. majorities, Rep. Adam Putnam (R-FL) told fellow Republicans today. And Putnam, seeking the post of GOP conference chair, chided ex-Chair J.C. Watts (R-OK) for ruining the conference’s ability to serve its members.

Three Republicans in the room independently confirmed to the Hotline the substance and context of Putnam’s remarks. But Putnam’s chief of staff insists that the remarks were taken out of context.

Examining the 2006 midterms, Putnam blamed the GOP defeat on “the independent vote, the women vote, the suburban vote.” He said that “heck, even the white rednecks who go to church on Sunday didn't come out to vote for us.”

Putnam’s chief of staff, John Hambel, said his boss has used the word “redneck” only in the context of sharing polling data from last week’s elections. Hambel said Putnam was listing off different constituencies and ended with saying: “Heck, we even had rednecks who go to church who didn't come out to vote.”

...Putnam, the current chair of the Republican Policy Committee, is the House’s second-youngest member and an Episcopalian.

According to the Almanac of American Politics, Putnam represents a district that’s mostly urban and 72% white. His voting record is reliably conservative. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Southern Democratic budget hawks like Phil Gramm casually referred to themselves as the “Redneck Caucus.”

Though some Southerners take “redneck” as term of endearment, it is not a word that Republicans generally use to describe part of their base.

Church going=rednecks? Ouch.

The Pew Research Center gave the centrists credit for the Democrats win, and unlike Putnam, concluded the church-goers were pretty much faithful. The Pew Research group, by the way, did not refer to religious conservatives as rednecks.

...there are few signs that the Republican base deserted the party. Christian conservatives, and conservatives generally, voted as Republican as they did in '02. Nor did white evangelical Protestants defect to the Democrats in any substantial number, as a number of post-election news stories have suggested. True, somewhat fewer white evangelical Protestants voted for Republican Congressional candidates than in 2004, when Bush was at the top of the ticket, but white evangelical protestant backing of G.O.P. candidates was just as great in 2006 as it was four years ago, when the Republicans won the popular vote by a sizable margin.

The real religion story of this election is that the least religious Americans -- voters who attend church rarely or never -- made the biggest difference to the outcome of the election. This group gave Democrats an even greater share of their vote -- 67%, up from 55% in 2002.

The Republican Party didn’t lose the support of religious conservatives. So, I think church going folks should take a bit of offense. They did show up and got called rednecks anyway.

Since the independents may decide the next one, it will be very interesting to see what the Repbublicans will use to keep the Christian conservatives in their camp. It will be hard to forget Jerry Falwell saying that Christians had to vote for George Bush and support the Republican Party while they served up Guiliani and Scwharzenegger at the convention. There will be a lot more of that fare to come.

Looks like John Kerry isn’t the only politician out there making condescending remarks.

I wonder if George Bush will call on Putnam to eat his words?

Monday, November 13, 2006


Picture taken at Memphis Harding Academy last fall when Harold Ford, Jr., came to speak.

Dear Congressman Ford:

The number one reason for my writing you today is to repeat my plea for you to use your influence to encourage a dramatic, UN led response to the situation in Darfur. The killings there besmirch us all. As Nicolas Kristof so aptly wrote this weekend,
“After more than three years of such brutality, it seems incredibly inadequate for the international community simply to hand out bandages when old women are roasted in their huts and young men have their eyes gouged out. What we need isn’t more bandages, but the will to stand up to genocide.”

Secondarily, I wanted to write my response to your concession speech.

Last year your presence at Harding Academy, your demeanor, your focus on each student’s questions, and your serious and articulate response captured the student body’s attention.

I believe that your presence in the school gave these students a chance to see you, as you are, not as a caricature created by political opposition. In a classroom poll, on Election Day, you won by large margin.

Your concession speech left many of them speechless. Your quotation from Ephesians reflecting the reality of the battle faced today-not a battle of flesh and blood, but one against authorities, rulers, principalities and powers of darkness got their attention. Such talk kindles a spirit in children of deep faith and biblical training.

I have observed, over the years, tapping into the sensitivity of the devout, from segrationists of the 50s and 60s to David Gerson’s rhetoric in Bush’s speeches, can be like darkness disguising itself as an angel of light.

I encourage my government students to understand themselves as the objects of political consultants. I tell my students about how Christianity Today in 2000 described the day that George W. Bush decided to run for president. CT reported that within hours of his decision Bush called Ralph Reed to ask how he could capture the evangelical vote.

Obviously, Bush captured that vote. Figures released by Pew Research after last week’s election show evangelicals solidly in the Republican camp. This was no surprise to me based on my experience in Georgia. For ten years, I lived in Newt Gingrich’s district and taught near the neighborhoods of John Linder, Bob Barr, and Ralph Reed. Along with Saxby Chambliss, all of these were guest speakers at our school. I experienced first hand the influence of the Republican Party and the religious fervor with which it was embraced.

I see tremendous darkness in this loyalty in the face of the Bush administration’s willingness to justify torture, dissemble on the nature of the Iraq war, inflame backlash against immigration, and make a pretense compassionate conservatism as public policy.

So why am I writing to you? Because of your concession speech.

Because I listened to Paul Begala and James Carville’s book on Democratic strategy and know that religious folks are the object of political consultants.

Because we need leaders who will establish social justice, peace, and an orderly society in which evildoers are restrained by a just, merciful legal system. We need leaders like Daniel and Joseph—like Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr., -- whose faith shaped their leadership and justice guided their policies.

Because you asked people to pray.

Here’s my prayer:

I pray for you to find a clear, unequivocal voice on controversial social issues that fall into areas of deep religious reflection.

Because I believe passionately that poverty, healthcare, immigration, prisons, and peace are moral issues, I pray for you to be a prophetic voice on these issues. I pray for the formulation of public policies that will address these issues effectively.

Though these prayers actually invite danger, it seems better to wage life as a God-fearing, justice driven, peacemaking leader than to settle for less.

I pray you can be strong, resilient, and forgiving in the ugliness of the fray.

I pray for the days ahead to be productive and high profile.

I believe, as you stated, there is a pitched battle not of flesh and blood, but one against authorities, rulers, principalities and powers of darkness. I don’t believe that one party or another intrinsically holds the key to this, but a civil authority exercising power justly, matters. From Darfur, to Baghdad, to Memphis, violence and exploitation must be and replaced by peace and justice.

I am glad that you took the time to come to Harding Academy last year. It was a pleasure to meet you and to introduce you. Although I won't be introducing you as Senator Ford his year, I expect that this, or another auspicious title, to be yours in the future.

With best regards,

Beverly Choate Dowdy

Other articles by Bev on politics and religion:
"When Red and Blue Meet in the Pew" published in New Wineskins magazine.

Bush-An Example to the World?

Rush Limbaugh and Silent Saints

Prayers without Borders

Injustice Anywhere

Don't DeLay, Morality is on its Way

Single Issue Senselessness