March Gladness Now Underway; Go Vote for Me!

Because it is my first tournament, I am happy with my 8th seed. However, I think I got a bad pairing going up against Focus on the Family fave Whit.
March Gladness
Of what madness do I speak?

March Gladness!

The one and only Matthew Pierce describes it as “The Christian Culture Tournament” and yours truly is in the big dance. However, if I am going to keep on dancing, I need my supporters and readers (two separate groups judging from the comment section) to go help me rally against that poser Whit. (Scroll down to Region Three and look for the irascible bulldog.)
Even though I know it is rigged by illegal voting, I am starting my comeback with this buzzer beater.
Go Irascible Bulldogs!

Robert Morris: President Trump Talks to James Robison Two or Three Times Per Week

Gateway Church Apostolic elder James Robison has long been known as a Christian right mover and shaker. A persistent story I hear is that Ben Carson would only endorse Donald Trump if Trump first spoke to Robison. Even if untrue, the story highlights the reputation Robison has in Christian right political circles.
Gateway Church’s founding pastor Robert Morris added to that mystique earlier today by telling his congregation that Robison and Donald Trump talk “two or three times a week.” Morris said Robison has Trump’s “private cell phone” which he uses regularly. Watch:

Transcript

I really do want you to get the book, it’s one of the most amazing books I’ve every read, and has conversations of him speaking with people you know, well-known people, Muhammad Ali, President Reagan.
And if you don’t know, I talked last week about serving on the Advisory Council.
James, though, speaks with our President probably two or three times a week, and has his private cell number, and he picks it up even when he’s in a meeting. You know, ‘I’m meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, James, can I call you back?’ But–
So, I’m very very grateful for James Robison and for his influence.

I wonder what Robison does with his influence. I suppose this is intoxicating to those ministers who have Trump’s number, but with Trump routinely peddling falsehoods, ignoring Russian attacks on the Ukraine, and waging war on the press, I can’t see much evidence of Christian influence.

Phoenix University of Theology and the Federal Definition of a Diploma Mill

In December of 2016, I discovered that one of Donald Trump’s evangelical champions Lance Wallnau claimed a doctorate from Phoenix University of Theology. While uncertain at the time, I wondered if the school met the federal definition of a diploma mill. To find out for sure, I wrote the president of the school, Karen Drake, with some questions about their methods. Late last week, Drake replied. Here are her answers:

WT: I am very curious about your educational model. Are all of your credits given through life experience equivalence?
Drake: Many times when a student candidate with 20 or more years in full time ministry applies, we are able to assess the total amount of credit requirements through their lifelong learning experiences.
WT: Do you have faculty and classes that students must take and pass?
Drake: Our Graduates become our Professors, their books, material and teaching are used when students require additional credit hours to fulfill their desired degree program.
WT: If you offer classes, could you kindly point me to a list of programs that students must take in order to receive a degree.
Drake: Each degree program with Phoenix University of Theology International is tailored specifically for the education goals of the student and takes into consideration prior learning and experience; therefore, there are no set class requirements.
WT: Also, when students submit their life experiences, how do you check to make sure they have actually done what they say they’ve done.
Drake: The majority of our students come through referral from Alumnus who have known and worked with them in ministry for many years. Also, Every student candidate is required to submit a number of professional references and contact sources for prior learning and work experiences.

Even though Drake said the references are submitted, she didn’t say anyone at PUT actually follows up on all of them.
Drake also sent along a document which provides more details. You can get a custom tailored doctorate for only $5845. But make sure you want to do it, because you get no refund on the entire degree if you change your mind after 30 days.
PUT Cost for degrees
Now let’s examine the federal definition of a diploma mill:

‘‘(20) DIPLOMA MILL.—The term ‘diploma mill’ means an entity that—
‘‘(A)(i) offers, for a fee, degrees, diplomas, or certificates, that may be used to represent to the general public that the individual possessing such a degree, diploma, or certificate has completed a program of postsecondary education or training; and ‘‘(ii) requires such individual to complete little or no education or coursework to obtain such degree, diploma, or certificate; and
‘‘(B) lacks accreditation by an accrediting agency or association that is recognized as an accrediting agency or association of institutions of higher education (as such term is defined in section 102) by— ‘‘(i) the Secretary pursuant to subpart 2 of part H of title IV; or ‘‘(ii) a Federal agency, State government, or other organization or association that recognizes accrediting agencies or associations.

The criteria in (A) above are met. PUT charges a fee for a degree which is used to represent to the public that the degree is earned via the completion of a program. However, as spelled out in (A)(ii), the student completes little or no coursework and there are no set class requirements.
The criteria in (B) are also met. PUT is not accredited by any organization recognized by the Secretary of Education or any state or federal agency.
It is clear to me that the Phoenix University of Theology meets the federal definition of a diploma mill. Some of the biggest names in contemporary Christendom (e.g., Lance Wallnau, Jerry Boykin, David Barton, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, Kenneth Copeland, Darrell Scott) brag about doctoral degrees they didn’t earn.
 
More on Phoenix University of Theology:
Where in the World is Phoenix University of Theology?

Some Myths Refuse to Die: AFA and Ben Franklin's Prayer Request at the Constitutional Convention

The myth of a prayer meeting at the Constitutional Convention just refuses to die.
Earlier this week, the American Family Association’s Reason and Company show opined favorably on Melania Trump’s reading of the Lord’s Prayer. In the process, Abraham Hamilton III said starting at 40 seconds in that Franklin’s effort “led to a three day prayer meeting at the Constitutional Convention.” He added, “So we have a long history of recognizing the God of the Bible in our country.” Watch
[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/205085355[/vimeo]
No. Franklin made a motion to have daily prayers but the Convention never acted on it and daily prayers were not held. In fact, Franklin later recorded that only three or four delegates thought prayers were needed. Even if Franklin’s request had been acted on favorably, it doesn’t follow that the delegates all prayed to the God of the Bible. Among the delegates, there was significant disagreement about God and the Bible. Some hardly believed, some scoffed at the Bible’s miracles while accepting the moral teachings of Jesus and still others were more orthodox.
For a detailed account of the Franklin proposal and how it grew to be an oft-repeated myth, see this article by Louis Sirico on the website of the Association of Legal Writing Directors. The last paragraph of his article is a fitting end to this post:

With respect to Franklin’s proposal, advocates have invoked it both as a solvent for specific disputes and as support for a general accommodationist policy. Until the middle of the nineteenth century, the incompleteness of the historical record led many to accept the false history that Franklin had rescued the Constitutional Convention from collapse. Since then, although some writers have clung to that story, legitimate historians have endorsed an accurate story that most respected advocates have accepted and used to fashion their arguments. True history, then, has prevailed over false history. But false history continues to linger. In any event, the Franklin proposal demonstrates how history can prove a powerful force in effective advocacy. Whether accurate or mystical, stories of the past will continue to shape the present and the future.

In the case of the AFA and many religious right organization who use David Barton’s history, “false history continues to linger.”

 

Trump's Hiring Freeze Leads to Loss of Day Care for Military Families

Perhaps this is an oversight that will be corrected or perhaps Trump doesn’t mean what he said about taking care of our service members. We shall see.


Tweet and retweet this information. Perhaps Trump will correct this consequence of his executive order. If he doesn’t, then it will fly in the face of his pledges to take better care of military personnel.
For more information about this action, see this article at Military.com.

Doug Coe, Spiritual Leader of the Fellowship Foundation, Died Today

Late this afternoon, the family of Doug Coe shared with friends and associates that Doug Coe died today at the age of 88.

Dear friends and associates,
Because of how much you mean to our family, we wanted you to be among the first to be informed that Doug Coe, 88, passed today, Feb 21, 2017 at 4:20pm from complications following a heart attack and stroke. Despite our personal sadness, we have joy in knowing that he is now with Jesus and at peace. All for which he gave his life and tirelessly revealed to so many makes complete sense to him now. He is with family and friends who have gone on before, perhaps saying, “See, I told you…”

Coe was for many years the spiritual leader of the Fellowship Foundation, a non-profit organization that is best known for organizing and hosting the National Prayer Breakfast. Every president since Eisenhower has spoken at the event.
According to Coe’s and his family’s wishes, there will be a small memorial service.

Doug begged us not to make his passing about him, but rather continuously showed us how to make it about Jesus. We realize that our grief is more for us than him, so we will do a small memorial service only to say goodbye. He didn’t want a big affair. His wish was that this family of friends around the world would each gather with one or two in their small group in their own location at their next regularly scheduled time, and continue the prayer from Luke 10:2 that was his life focus.
Everywhere the Lord would allow him to go, Doug would pray to the Lord of the harvest “to raise up laborers, for the harvest is ready, but the laborers are few.” Continuing that prayer would be the highest tribute you could give to Doug, and we know you will be together with us in spirit as we bid him farewell in this earthly life until we are reunited with him one day in heaven for eternity.

Instead of flowers, the family suggests gifts “to the Doug Coe Memorial Fund. Checks may be made out to The International Foundation (memo: Account 501-000) and sent to The International Foundation, PO Box 23813, Washington DC, 20026.”

Doug Coe with me in 2010

I met and interviewed Coe at the 2010 National Prayer Breakfast. The interview was later published in Christianity Today as one of only a handful of interviews Coe granted to writers throughout his career. He was a behind the scenes kind of person who cultivated relationships with world leaders and helped spread the prayer breakfast concept around the globe.
My connection to the Prayer Breakfast came as a consequence of my opposition to the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009. Ugandan members of the prayer breakfast movement had offered the bill much to the eventual consternation of the American members. I was allowed to interview Coe in part to record his opposition to the Ugandan bill in person.
Doug wrote to me after my open heart surgery in 2012 to let me know he prayed for me. I will always remember his personal warmth and genuine desire to make his life about following Jesus.
I feel sure that Doug will rest in peace.
UPDATE:
Christianity Today has a write up about Doug.
A. Larry Ross has been designated to handle any media questions. See also his detailed bio about Doug.
 

This Just In: CPAC Rescinds Speaking Invitation to Milo Yiannopoulos, Publisher Pulls Book (UPDATED)

You knew this was coming:


After vocal reactions from a wide range of conservatives, CPAC rescinds the invitation.
For background on this matter, see posts from yesterday (here and here).
One wonders what took so long and what tipped the scale toward disinviting Yiannopoulos. Last night at 8:17pm, ACU chairman Matt Schlapp was still defending Milo as a speaker.


This was long after the video interviews had been widely available and distributed via Twitter.
UPDATE: Just in:

In 2011, Evangelicals Protested GOProud at CPAC. Now They Are Silent about Milo Yiannopoulos at CPAC

Ad protesting GOProud at CPAC in 2011
Ad protesting GOProud at CPAC in 2011

In 2011, social conservatives — mostly Christian groups — complained about the presence of GOProud, a gay conservative group, at CPAC. Many socially conservative groups pulled out.
Now, CPAC has scheduled Milo Yiannopoulos to speak. Yiannopoulos is a gay self-styled conservative who has spoken favorably of sex between young teens and adults. Thus far, (since Saturday), no major Christian or socially conservative group has come out against the speech, as far as I can determine.
Individual religious and social conservatives have spoken out. Reagan biographer Paul Kengor said the decision was “appalling.” He added, “If this is your idea of the new conservative movement, count me out.”
In my view, the issue isn’t Yiannopoulos’ sexual orientation. I supported GOProud’s involement at CPAC in 2011 and doubted that Ronald Reagan would have opposed it. My issue is Yiannopoulos’ defense of sexual relationships between teens below the age of consent and adults.  On that basis, CPAC should immediately rescind the invitation to speak.
If social and religious conservatives don’t come out against the planned speech by Yiannopoulos, then it will be one more sign that their voice has been stifled by support for the Trump/Bannon administration.

Pressure Mounts on CPAC to Cancel Milo Yiannopoulos' Speech

The annual conference of the Conservative Political Action Committee is coming up next week. However, controversy has already arrived in the form of Milo Yiannopoulos. His invitation to speak at the conference is not sitting well with critics. The criticism of the invitation became especially hot after two videos surfaced of Yiannopoulos defending young teen-adult sex (as young as 13 as recorded in the interview). I am not going to embed the videos but you can listen for yourself here and here (see also the video embedded at the tweet below and full interview here).
Some have called on other CPAC speakers to boycott the conference.


At least one Christian conservative is calling for conservatives to avoid the conference. Alan Noble, editor of Christ and Pop Culture tweeted:


Perennial CPAC attender, Ronald Reagan biographer and Grove City College colleague Paul Kengor told me the invitation is “appalling. William F. Buckley Jr. is rolling over in his grave.”
Kengor added that the keynote invitation is the “inevitable consequence of the Trump-Bannon attempted takeover of the conservative movement and GOP. Milo is a Bannon-Breitbart creation/superstar. For traditional-values conservatives who boarded the Trump train to defeat Hillary, well, it’s time to pay the piper.”
Kengor has a message for the American Conservative Union:

I beg this question of the American Conservative Union, Matt Schlapp, and its board members who I respect so much: Is Milo even a conservative? I realize it might seem uproariously fun to watch an outrageous, crude, militant homosexual tell leftists to go blank themselves, but is this really the poster-boy you want as the new model for young conservatives? The alt-right loves him. What would Ronald Reagan say about him as the CPAC keynoter? William F. Buckley Jr.? Russell Kirk?

He added, “If this is your idea of the new conservative movement, count me out.”
For his part, Yiannopoulos is claiming he was joking and did not refer to sex with minors. If one listens to the interview posted by the Reagan Battalion, it is hard to square his Facebook post with the interview where he defends young teen-adult sexual relations.

There Have Been Terror Attacks in Sweden — by Donald Trump's Supporters

On Saturday, Donald Trump claimed that something terrible happened in Sweden on Friday night.
[youtube]https://youtu.be/t0tSLV3GGQc[/youtube]
Problem: There was no terror attack in Sweden on Friday night. Social media mocked Trump for conjuring another false story (Last Night in Sweden).
Then today he tweeted that he saw that “news” on a Fox News program in which a guest claimed refugees are behind an increase in crime in Sweden (except that crime there is steady).


Sweden has taken in large numbers of refugees much to the consternation of far right neo-Nazis. In fact, a Swedish neo-Nazi group, the Nordic Resistance Movement has been responsible for carrying out acts of aggression in response to the influx of refugees. They also engaged in a victory rally for Donald Trump after he won the U.S. presidential election. So yes, there has been some acts of violence in Sweden, but at least some of them carried out by those who support our president.