Golden Rule Pledge on Facebook

The Golden Rule Pledge group on Facebook is slated to be archived soon as Facebook makes changes to how groups work.
In response, I created a GRP Fan Page on Facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/goldenrulepledge
Please click the link and click the Like button while there. I hope you will also invite your Facebook friends to join. This is an effort primarily involving evangelicals at present but I appreciate the support of any like-minded people who join constructively.

The Golden Rule Pledge (click link for updated website) promotes civility and the application of the Golden Rule in schools among Christian youth, especially in relations with GLBT students and teachers.

Suicide victim endured anti-gay bullying

This time in Buffalo, NY.

Parents carry on anti-bullying message: wivb.com

Jamey Rodemeyer’s parents believe years of bullying drove their son to suicide. The Williamsville North freshman took his life Sunday, he was only 14 years old.
Jamey Rodemeyer posted a message online hoping that others would be inspired by his struggle with bullying. A part of the message reads, “That’s all you have to do. Just love yourself and you’re set. And I promise you, it’ll get better.” 
Soon after coming home from a family camping trip, Jamey was found dead Sunday. His parents say he was always under pressure because of struggles with his sexuality.
Jamey’s mother Tracy Rodemeyer said, “So he hung around with the girls a lot, so then the teasing started happening like ‘Oh you’re such a girl or you’re gay or whatever and that bothered him for many years.”

For religious conservatives reading this: Isn’t it past time to become part of the solution? Criticizing anti-bullying programs on ideological grounds doesn’t help kids or your ideology.
More on the situation:

Death catches attention across nation: wivb.com

Rick Perry Invited Speaker for One Nation Under God House Parties

The next big evangelical event designed to bring America back to God. Speakers: Rick Perry (invited but not confirmed), David Barton, Bob McEwen, James Dobson, and Newt Gingrich. Roll the video promo:

We’ve lost sight of our great heritage as a nation founded on Biblical truth, and the consequences are dire: schools are failing, the divorce rate is climbing, and our society is rife with scandal and corruption. It’s time to reclaim our Biblical heritage and bring God back to the center of American life. Where do we start?

This will be accomplished via house parties where a DVD will be shown, apparently including the speakers above.
The group United in Purpose is putting this on. The partners of UIP are here.

Were Unitarians Evangelical?

David Barton told Liberty University students in their September 9 chapel that Unitarians were at one time “a very evangelical Christian denomination.” In his effort to define what he called modernism, he said this about the Unitarians the late 18th and early 19th century:

And the example of that is what happens when you look at Universalist Unitarians; certainly not a denomination that conforms to biblical truth in any way but as it turns out, we have a number of Founding Fathers  who were Unitarians. So we say, oh wait, there’s no way the Founding Fathers could have been Christians; they were Unitarians. Well, unless you know what a Unitarian was in 1784 and what happened to Unitarians in 1819 and 1838 and unless you recognize they used to be a very evangelical Christian denomination, we look at what they are today and say the Founding Fathers were Unitarians, and say, there’s no way they were Christians. That’s modernism; that’s not accurate; that’s not true.

Barton is correct that one cannot judge Unitarians then by the beliefs of Unitarian Universalists now. I don’t know if any serious historian does that, but if so, it would be misleading. However, Mr. Barton did not stop with that claim. He added that Unitarianism during the Founding era was a “very evangelical Christian denomination.”
Researching this claim, I came across a well-written post by Jon Rowe. Rowe describes himself as “a libertarian lawyer and college professor” who writes on issues relating politics and religion. In 2007, Rowe provided a nice outline of the unitarian thought among the Founders. Here are some snippets:

The term “unitarian” has to be qualified because it is associated with a particular Church of which only John Adams (and his son) were members. And even with Adams’ Church, though it preached unitarianism as of 1750, it didn’t officially become “Unitarian” until the 19th Century. Jefferson, Madison, and Washington were all theological unitarians who were formally members of the Anglican/Episcopal Church, which held to a Trinitarian creed. Besides theological unitarianism, these Founders also believed in theological universalism, syncretism, rationalism. So if we want a common term to describe the religious beliefs of the 5 key founders — the first four presidents and Ben Franklin — “proto-unitarian” might do, as well as some others, for instance “theistic rationalism.”

I like either of those terms. Either way you cut it, however, the Founders in question were not evangelicals, nor was Unitarianism “a very evangelical Christian denomination.” Speaking about key Founders, Rowe writes:

The most common sense explanation for why Washington didn’t commune was that he disbelieved in what it represented: Christ’s Atonement. And logic also dictates if one doesn’t believe in the Atonement, one also doesn’t believe in the Trinity and Incarnation. And one need not be a “strict Deist” to disbelieve in the Trinity, Incarnation, and Atonement. Indeed, the other key Founders — Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, and Madison — following Joseph Priestly believed in this system of “pro-unitarianism” that denied the Trinity, Incarnation, and Atonement, yet still believed in an active personal God, prayer, the legitimacy of some revelation, and often presented itself under the label of “Christianity,” not “Deism.”

Barton, in his speech to the Liberty students identified Jared Sparks as a contemporary who testified to Washington’s Christianity. But guess what? Sparks was a Unitarian. At that time, one could be a Unitarian and considered a Christian, especially by other Unitarians. However, Unitarians were not orthodox and by any definition of evangelicalism, can’t be considered evangelical. Rowe explains further:

So it was not just the “strict Deists” in the Trinitarian Churches who refused to commune, but also the “unitarians” some of who, like Marshall could be quite “biblical,” believing in the “Christian Revelation,” others like Jefferson, Franklin, and Adams, rationalists who elevated reason over revelation. And because this “unitarianism” often presented itself under the auspices of “Christianity,” key contemporaneous testimony that Washington and other Founders were “Christians” is not inconsistent with the notion that they were such “proto-unitarians.” Indeed, John Marshall himself was one such testifier of Washington’s Christianity as was Jared Sparks. And both were “unitarians” who disbelieved in the Trinity, Incarnation, and Atonement, but still understood themselves to be “Christians.” In all likelihood, so was George Washington.

I urge you to read the entire post and check out Rowe’s blog.

David Barton: Did Early Presidents Sign Documents "In the Year of Our Lord Christ?"

On September 9, David Barton spoke to students at Liberty University during their chapel service. Last week I addressed several claims Barton made during the first five minutes of his talk. Today, I want to follow up with more detail about Barton’s claim that Thomas Jefferson and other early Presidents signed official presidential documents with the closing “In the year of our Lord Christ.” Barton points to this phrase as evidence that the early Presidents “had Jesus Christ in the center of what they did.”
Earlier this year, I demonstrated that a document on the Wallbuilders website dated 1807 and signed by Thomas Jefferson is a passport, also called a sea letter, needed by ships at the time to indicate that they were no threat to friend or foe as a combat ship. The wording of the sea letter signed by Jefferson was required by a treaty with Holland. Sea letters were in common use, so much so that Congress authorized the printing of a form for this use with the treaty language preprinted. The language specified in the treaty with Holland included the phrase, “In the year of our Lord Christ” and only required the person completing the form to include information about the ship, the cargo, the destination and the correct date.
This was a perfunctory duty of the President at the time, causing John Adams to lament to his wife Abigail in a letter that his fate was to sign “Thousands of sea letters, Mediterranean passes, and commissions and patents to sign; no company — no society.”
Thomas Jefferson was once asked about the proper use of a sea letter by Secretary of Treasury Albert Gallatin. In his January 26, 1805 reply, it is clear that the document is not something he or the Congress developed, saying

The question arising on Mr. Simons’ letter of January 10th is whether sea-letters shall be given to the vessels of citizens neither born nor residing in the United States. Sea-letters are the creatures of treaties. No act of the ordinary legislature requires them. The only treaties now existing with us, and calling for them, are those with Holland, Spain, Prussia, and France. In the two former we have stipulated that when the other party shall be at war, the vessels belonging to our people shall be furnished with sea-letters; in the two latter that the vessels of the neutral party shall be so furnished. France being now at war, the sea-letter is made necessary for our vessels; and consequently it is our duty to furnish them.  (my emphasis)

If you search through the Annals of Congress (1774-1875), you will find 8 citations with the exact phrase, “in the year of our Lord Christ.” All of them are used in a treaty (Holland, Morocco, Japan). The exact form for the sea letter is specified as required by the treaty with Holland. Here is the text from Annals:

The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States, Volume 2
Form of the Passport to be given to Ships or Vessels, conformable to the Thirtieth Article of this Treaty.*

[Note *: * MSS. Dep. of State.]
February 6, 1778.
To all who shall see these presents, greeting:
Be it known that leave and permission are hereby given to A. B., master and commander of the ship or vessel called –, of the (city, town, etc.), of –, burden –, tons or thereabouts, lying at present in the port or haven of –, bound for –, and laden with –, to depart and proceed with his said ship (or vessel) on the said voyage; such ship (or vessel) having been visited and the said master and commander having made oath before the proper officer that the said ship (or vessel) belongs to one (or more) of the subjects, people, or inhabitants of –, and to him (or them) only.
In witness whereof we have subscribed our names to these presents and affixed the seal of our arms thereto, and caused the same to be countersigned by –, at –, this –day of –, in the year of our Lord Christ –.

 
I have found additional sea letters with the phrase “in the year of our Lord Christ” pre-printed. These are similar to the images signed by John Adams and James Madison which Barton presented at Liberty. Click this link to see an entire document with all four languages (Dutch, English, French and Spanish). Then see below for two closer views:

 

Adams, Madison and every other President signed these forms on behalf of countless vessels sailing into foreign waters. That Presidents signed their names to form letters with language required by treaty is simply not an indicator of some special recognition of Christ. Although the Americans were not antagonistic to including this diplomatic language in their treaties, they were not breaking new religious or political ground. As I noted in the prior post, other nations, including France and Holland, used this language long before the United States did as a new nation.
I suppose if you don’t take into account that the various treaties specified the exact language to be used, and you aren’t aware that Jefferson said sea letters are “the creatures of treaties,” then one might believe that Jefferson and early Presidents wanted to bring Christ into the important business of shipping passports.
I should add that I don’t claim to be a historian. Rather, I am taking the suggestion Mr. Barton made to Liberty University students. He told them in his speech not to take things for granted. He said go back to the original documents and explore the facts for yourself. Having done that, I disagree with Mr. Barton. In no reasonable use of the language can it be said that the early presidents signed presidential acts with the designation “in the year of our Lord Christ.”
For other posts examining similar claims, see this link.

William Penn founded the Quakers and other tall tales from David Barton

As the Gipper used to say, “there you go again…”
David Barton spoke at Liberty University on September 9 and said that William Penn founded the Quakers, the early Unitarians were an evangelical denomination and Thomas Jefferson signed presidential documents “In the Year of Our Lord Christ.” That was just for starters.
At about two minutes into his speech (click the link and look for Barton on Sept. 9; you can also hear it at iTunes here), Barton said

We have the same thing when you look at Quakers. You see Quakers were founded by William Penn in Pennsylvania. I’ll lay you odds there’s no chance that William Penn would be a Quaker today, even in the denomination he founded, he would not be a part of. We look at it the way it is today and say it must have been the way they were back then.
And the example of that is what happens when you look at Universalist Unitarians; certainly not a denomination that conforms to biblical truth in any way but as it turns out, we have a number of Founding Fathers  who were Unitarians. So we say, oh wait, there’s no way the Founding Fathers could have been Christians; they were Unitarians. Well, unless you know what a Unitarian was in 1784 and what happened to Unitarians in 1819 and 1838 and unless you recognize they used to be a very evangelical Christian denomination, we look at what they are today and say the Founding Fathers were Unitarians, and say, there’s no way they were Christians. That’s modernism; that’s not accurate; that’s not true.

First of all, George Fox founded the Quakers and Penn later joined the movement. Penn was born in 1644 and Fox founded the Religious Society of Friends around 1647. Penn founded Pennsylvania but not the Quakers. Given the teachings of the Quakers, I suspect Penn might indeed be a Quaker today.
I wrote about the Unitarians in a post about John Adams and the Trinity. According the Unitarian historian Holley Ulbrichs, author of The Fellowship Movement, and member of the Universalist Unitarian church, Unitarians never believed in the Trinity and thus could not be considered evangelical. Ulbrichs told me in an email:

In 1819 William Ellery Channing preached a famous sermon in Baltimore at the ordination of Rev. Jared Sparks. The title of his sermon was “Unitarian Christianity.”  That brought to a head an ongoing battle between the religious liberals and the religious conservatives in the Congregational Church, of which John Adams was a member, but on the liberal side.  The American Unitarian Conference, later Association, came into being in 1825, a year before his death (and Thomas Jefferson’s), but both of them were very sympathetic to the anti-Trinitarian views that were at the heart of the controversy.
Unitarians were never okay with the trinity. Hence the name. Most of them like Jesus, but as a prophet, a role model, a nonviolent revolutionary. Not God.

Congregationalists were traditional in their beliefs but the Unitarians split from them. Adams and Jefferson were members of other denominations but it is clear from their correspondence that they favored the Anti-Trinitarian view.
Then finally for this post, Barton again asserts that Thomas Jefferson signed presidential documents – “In the Year of Our Lord Christ” during his speech to the Liberty students. He showed on the overhead a small portion of a document which is apparently referred to on his website as “his presidential act of October 18, 1804.”
It is unfortunate that Barton does not show the entire document so we can see what kind of “presidential act” it was. If you look closely at the picture, you can see that the words “In the year of our Lord Christ” are pre-printed on the page and not in Jefferson’s handwriting.

Barton has a similar document dated 1807 on his website. As I noted in this post, the words “In the year of our Lord Christ” were required by treaty with Holland and pre-printed on a form which was used for sea letters (a kind of passport allowing safe passage) and not written by Jefferson. I can’t find any other reference to Jefferson actually signing documents in this manner. Please see this post for an extensive refutation of the claim about the 1807 document.
This is just within the first 5 minutes.
 

Pat Robertson says divorce ok if spouse has Alzheimer's

Wait, what?
As far as I can tell, Right Wing Watch had this story first. It is now getting around.
Watch as Pat Robertson recommends divorce to a man who asked about how to handle relationships given the fact that his wife has Alzheimer’s.

Robertson says:

I know it sounds cruel, but if he’s going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again, but make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, divorce is uncommon in such situations…which is a good thing, it seems to me.
Looking around, some Christian leaders condemned the remarks as noted by the Christian Post.
Might be time to hang up the microphone…

Anoka-Hennepin School District's Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy

Currently, the Anoka-Hennepin School District (AHSD) in MN is under fire in relationship to eight suicides in the district over the last two years. Critics say they have not done enough to prevent the anti-gay bullying and harassment that often precedes despair and depression for kids who are same-sex attracted and those who are perceived to be.
The AHSD added a page on GLBT issues to their website recently. The district neutrality policy is at the center of the controversy with some parents wanting to allow teachers to discuss sexual orientation and others wanting to keep the policy as is. For our consideration, here is the policy in full:

604.11
SEXUAL ORIENTATION CURRICULUM POLICY
It is the primary mission of the Anoka-Hennepin School District to effectively educate each of our students for success.  District policies shall comply with state and federal law as well as reflect community standards.  As set forth in the Equal Education Opportunity Policy, it is the School District’s policy to provide equal educational opportunity and to prohibit harassment of all students.  The Board is committed to providing a safe and respectful learning environment and to provide an education that respects the beliefs of all students and families.    
The School District employs a diverse and talented staff committed to serving students and families from diverse backgrounds.  The School District acknowledges that one aspect of that diversity regards sexual orientation.  Teaching about sexual orientation is not a part of the District adopted curriculum; rather, such matters are best addressed within individual family homes, churches, or community organizations.   Anoka-Hennepin staff, in the course of their professional duties, shall remain neutral on matters regarding sexual orientation including but not limited to student led discussions.  If and when staff address sexual orientation, it is important that staff do so in a respectful manner that is age-appropriate, factual, and pertinent to the relevant curriculum.  Staff are encouraged to take into consideration individual student needs and refer students to the appropriate social worker or licensed school counselor.
Anoka-Hennepin District No. 11
Coon Rapids, MN 55433
Adopted February 9, 2009

What does neutral mean in the context of this policy? Can teachers supply information about false and stereotypical claims?
If a student says, all Christians are haters; or unscientific. A teacher, no matter what his or her feelings about Christianity could point out the overgeneralization and ask, “What about Mother Teresa?” or “What about Francis Collins?” One could safely point to examples which address the error in logic without giving the impression that the school favors Christianity over other religions.
However, if a student says in class that gays are mentally ill, or choose their orientation or are all miserable people who should change in order to be happy (Parents Action League talking points), what could a teacher say in response? I think the ambiguity of the policy would make teachers worry that they are going to violate the policy just by responding factually.
It appears that the AHSD is making some strides to providing staff training as indicated by this staff training outline. However, if teachers are unable to correct fact errors or stereotypes directly, how will this training benefit students?
I have some of the sharpest readers around, so I am wondering what you think of the policy and what would you recommend to the AHSD?

Primer on Anoka-Hennepin Suicides Controversy

ON Tuesday, I linked to a NYT article about the controversy over teen suicides in the Anoka-Hennepin School District. In that post, I noted that a parents’ group in the Minnesota district — the Parent’s Action League — used books and articles from NARTH and Exodus to make the claim that gays can and should change their orientation. (I should have also noted the involvement of Mission America and the American College of Pediatricians as well since materials from both groups are used by the PAL.)
On point, today Andy Birkey has a summary of events relating to the eight suicides and the controversy in the community about how to handle sexual orientation in the schools. I recommend reading it as a place to start in understanding the situation there.

Are You Ready for Some Football? Not during revival…

Don’t get used to it because during the season of dominion, no one will be watching it. The Morning Star Ministries’ Rick Joyner ‘splains

Joyner says:

I’m not saying their going to cancel the NFL, but it could get to that.

If this gets out, the New Apostolic Reformation will be doomed in Western PA.