Morning Report, April 20th: Francis Chan, the Artistry of God, Sarah Palin's Email, Unconstitutional Prayer, Mad Minutemen, and Two Views of Government Distrust

Morning Report, April 20th: Francis Chan, the Artistry of God, Sarah Palin's Email, Unconstitutional Prayer, Mad Minutemen, and Two Views of Government Distrust April 20, 2010

Christian and secular news and commentary that one Christian found important or entertaining this morning:

1.  CHAN CAN BOOK.  The well known pastor and author, Francis Chan, announced to his congregation in Simi Valley that he would be leaving.  What for?  To take up ministry in a major urban environment.  The movement of evangelicals into the cities continues.  Hear Francis explain his decision.

2.  THE ARTISTRY OF GOD.  Marvin Olasky at World Magazine has an interesting conversation with Makoto Fujimura on the arts as a venue for philosophical and theological conversation.

3.  WHAT NO ONE ELSE NOTICED.  Does the National Day of Prayer violate the Constitution?  The Founding Fathers clearly did not think so.  “The tradition of designating an official day of prayer actually began with the Continental Congress in 1775, followed by President George Washington issuing a National Day of Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1789. Ever since, American presidents have made similar proclamations and “appeals to the Almighty.” Historically, all 50 governors also have issued proclamations in honor of the National Day of Prayer.”

Yet a federal district judge in Wisconsin has just realized what no one before her has, including the Founding Fathers who began the practice — that the National Day of Prayer actually violates the Constitution and the intent of the Fathers.  The legal reasoning seems specious to me, based on an overly broad reading of the Establishment Clause, but at this point I’m so weary of the entanglement of religion and politics that I wouldn’t mind removing this from the government sphere and merely making it a church activity.  James Dobson seems quite reasonable on this point: “Dobson said the National Day of Prayer would happen anyway—with or without government recognition.”

5.  THE LOSS OF LOGIC.  I don’t find posts like this one, from Rob Dreher, quite fair.  Yes, the Pope encouraged that an investigation into abuse and a decision regarding defrocking be deliberate and meticulous.  This does not mean that he left the priest in a position to harm children (he admonished the man’s bishop to exercise “paternal care,” which means to keep him out of trouble).  In other words, what the Pope “delayed” (really: encouraged a deliberate process on) was a defrocking, not a removal of a priest from a position where he could harm children.

Is it automatically the case that a priest accused of molestation should be defrocked?  What about a priest who confesses molestation?  Does the severity or the frequency of the molestation have anything to do with this decision?  Is there ever justification for putting a priest, say, in a monastery for five years of penance and therapy, and then returning the priest to some active role without contact with children?  The Roman church is reticent to defrock priests, at least in part, because it believes that it is the role of the church to redeem sinners and transform lives.  The church is meant to minister not only to the flock but also to the priests.

I’m not saying that a priest who rapes a child should remain a priest.  Of course I’m not saying that.  I’m just saying there is nuance here that is being trodden underfoot in the rush to condemn the Pope.  In more marginal cases, I can understand why options other than defrocking would be considered.  I can even understand wanting to keep a priest within the ambit of the church so that he can be truly and thoroughly reformed.  Obviously that doesn’t always work out, but is the prison system more successful?  There are difficult questions here concerning the relationship between canon law and secular law, the self-policing of the church and the law enforcement of the nation.  This complexity is being lost in the passions of the moment.

6.  ABORTION’S DESENSITIZATION.  A terrible story of a twin who was identified, in the womb, as suffering from Down’s Syndrome.  The mother decided to abort the child, but the doctor aborted the healthy twin instead.  After she learned of this, the mother decided (again) to abort the Down’s child.  So, now, neither of the unborn children is alive.

7.  HE’S GOT YOUR MAIL.  Do you remember when Sarah Palin’s email address was hacked and its (unremarkable) contents were shared with the world in the midst of the 2008 election?  The college student who broke into her account is finally going to trial.

8.  GOLD IN SACKS.  The timing of the SEC charges against Goldman Sachs raise the question of political leveraging by lawsuit.  Yet it *does* seem that Goldman has been involved in dishonest practices that need to be stopped.  I’m prepared to be wrong on this one, but I actually find myself agreeing with Paul Krugman: “the financial industry has become a racket — a game in which a handful of people are lavishly paid to mislead and exploit consumers and investors. And if we don’t lower the boom on these practices, the racket will just go on.”

9.  UNPATRIOTIC DISSENT.  I tend to agree that the Tea Partiers have reasonable concerns that are worth heeding — and I find it absurd when people like Joe Klein aver that Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin are committing “sedition” or tacitly giving permission for violence against the state by using language like “un-American” and “regime.”  Ridiculous.  If there is cause for concern, it’s not with the Tea Party folks, who are fairly mainstream.  It’s with the militias, and with Minutemen like these.

I don’t like Alabama Minuteman Mike Vanderboegh: ‘In an interview, Vanderboegh said he considers armed resistance justified only “when they send people to our doors and kill us.” But he suggested that an arrest at the hand of federal government is tantamount to a death sentence and that he would fight back in such a case. Specifically, he outlined a scenario in which people who refuse to buy health insurance under the new health reform law would be subject to arrest and that such confrontations could turn violent. “If I know I’m not going to get a fair trial in federal court … I at least have the right to an unfair gunfight,” Vanderboegh said.’

This certainly deserves to be condemned.

10.  EDUCATIONAL TOOL.  The quickest way to develop a proper Chinese accent: a migraine.

11.  GO TEAM.  The science of home field advantage.

12.  On our now-historical levels of distrust in government: Jonathan Chait for the Left, and Paul Mirengoff for the Right.

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