Year in review: Top ten stories of 2008

As in year’s past, I have enjoyed reviewing the posts from the year and coming up with the top ten stories.
1. Cancelation of the American Psychiatric Association symposium – Amidst threat of protests, the APA pressed to halt a scheduled symposium dedicated to sexual identity therapy and religious affiliation. Whipped up by a factually inaccurate article in the Gay City News, gay activists persuaded the APA leadership to pressure symposium organizers to pull the program. Gay City News later ran a correction.
2. The other APA, the American Psychological Association, released a task force report on abortion and mental health consequences. Basing their conclusions on only one study, the APA surprised no one by claiming abortion had no more adverse impact on mental health than carrying a child to delivery. I revealed here that the APA had secretly formed this task force after a series of research reports in late 2005 found links between abortion and adverse mental health consequences for some women. New research confirms that concern is warranted.
3. Golden Rule Pledge – In the wake of Sally Kern saying homosexuality was a greater threat to the nation than terrorism, I initiated the Golden Rule Pledge which took place surrounding the Day of Silence and the Day of Truth. Many conservative groups were calling for Christian students to stay home. This did not strike me as an effective faith-centered response. The Golden Rule Pledge generated some controversy as well as approval by a small group of evangelicals (e.g., Bob Stith) and gay leaders (e.g., Eliza Byard). Some students taking part in the various events were positively impacted by their experience.
4. Exodus considers new direction for ministry – At a leadership training workshop early in 2008, Wendy Gritter proposed a new paradigm for sexual identity ministry. Her presentation was provocative in the sense that it generated much discussion and consideration, especially among readers here. It remains to be seen if Exodus will continue to move away from a change/reparative therapy focus to a fidelity/congruence ministry focus.
5. New research clarifies sexual orienatation causal factors – A twin study and a study of brain symmetry, both from Sweden and a large U.S. study shed some light on causal factors in sexual orientation.
6. Letter to the American Counseling Association requesting clarification of its policies concerning counseling same-sex attracted evangelicals. Co-signed by over 600 counselors (many of whom were referred by the American Association of Christian Counselors), I wrote a letter to the ACA requesting clarification regarding how counselors should work with evangelicals who do not wish to affirm homosexual behavior. The current policy is confusing and gives no guidance in such cases. Then President Brian Canfield replied affirming the clients self-determination in such cases. He referred the matter back to the ACA ethics committee. To date, that committee has not responded.
7. Paul Cameron’s work resurfaces and then is refuted – Insure.com resurrected Paul Cameron’s work in an article on their website about gay lifespans. The article was later altered to reflect more on HIV/AIDS than on homosexual orientation. Later this year, Morten Frisch produced a study which directly addressed Cameron’s methods.
8. Mankind Project unravels – This year I posted often regarding the Mankind Project and New Warriors Training Adventure. Recently, I reported that MKP is in some financial and organizational disarray.
9. Debunking of false claims about Sarah Palin’s record on support for social programs – I had lots of fun tracking down several false claims made about Sarah Palin during the election. Her opponents willfully distorted her real record to paint her as a hypocrite. I learned much more about Alaska’s state budget than I ever wanted to know but found that most claims of program cuts were actually raises in funding which not quite as much as the agencies requested. However, overall funding for such programs increased.
10. During the stretch run of the election, I became quite interested in various aspects of the race. As noted above, I spent some time examining claims surround Sarah Palin’s record. I also did a series on President-elect Obama’s record on housing, including an interview with one of Barack Obama’s former constituents.
I know, I know, number 10 is an understatement. (Exhibit A)
Happy New Year!

Should we be culture warriors? Thoughts on church and state

Sally Kern, with help from my friend and colleague at Grove City College, T. David Gordon provides today’s open forum discussion.
Mrs. Kern is in the news today about a speech she gave in Norman, OK about her entrance into government and her role as a “culture warrior.” She says:

“I started praying about whether or not the Lord wanted me to run,” Kern said. “And the more I prayed, the more I felt He did.”
Kern said she expected to “run, lose and just be a much better government teacher.”
“But lo and behold I won,” she said. “And so here I am, and I’m not the typical legislator. The Lord showed me right off the bat that I’m not supposed to be. As a matter of fact, my Lord made it very clear to me that I am a cultural warrior. And you know I tried to say ‘no’ to that, too, ’cause that’s pretty hard. But, anyway, that’s where I am.”

I cannot discern however, what Mrs. Kern believes government should do. On one hand, she talks about preserving the founders reliance on “one true religion” and on the other she indicates that

“Government cannot force people to change, and yet we see that’s what government is doing,” she said. “Every time government passes another law, they are taking away some of our freedoms.”

I do agree that government cannot force people to change, but I am unclear how government is making people change. If homosexuals pursuing the democratic process to elect legislators and pass laws is more threatening than terrorism, then what would winning the culture war against homosexuality look like? I have a clearer picture in my mind about winning over a foreign aggressor would look like. But if homosexuals are using the democratic process (elections, laws, courts) to pursue their interests, then how will the Christian culture warriors win? What will victory look like?
I fear that many colleagues on the religious right want the coercive power of the state to enforce a particular view of morality, one that comports with their understanding of Christianity. I might like others to believe like me but I surely think it is futile to seek the state to bring it about. Closer to the therapy world, where I usually labor, I do not believe that counselors should use the coercive power of the counseling relationship to attempt to inculcate religious fruit. We can provide information but the results are not in our hands.
On this point, last school year, Religion prof at GCC, T. David Gordon presented a paper titled, “Religious Arguments for Separating Church and State” at our annual Center for Vision and Values conference. I was edified by this presentation and link to it here. A couple of excerpts gives the tone and direction of the paper:

In the so-called “culture wars” of the late twentieth century, one commonly hears allegations that the separation of church and state reflects and promotes a “secularist” agenda. It is certainly true that most secularists (such as Paul Kurtz, in the 1973 Humanist Manifesto II) wish to separate church and state. However, many religious individuals and societies favor such separation also; therefore it is misleading to refer to separation of church and state as a secular or secularist idea. The purpose of this brief survey is to list some of the religious arguments that have been presented in favor of separation, so that religious people may consider those arguments as “friendly” to their faith-commitments, rather than hostile to them.

and regarding individual liberty:

For Protestant Christianity, the doctrine of the conscience plays a very important role.
Unlike the Baltimore Catechism of the Catholic Church, where conscience normally appears only in sections dealing with Penance or Confession, some Protestant confessions have an entire chapter devoted to it, such as the Westminster Confession’s chapter on “Christian Liberty and Liberty of Conscience.” Within this understanding, an action or belief is only morally approved when it is a sincere act, an act that accords with conscientious faith. The conscience is thus “free” from false authority to serve God, the true Authority. Any professed faith or outwardly religious act that is merely done to avoid civil penalties is not an act of any true moral worth. When the beliefs and practices of the church are prescribed by the State with its coercive powers, this does not promote true religion, but hypocrisy. For many Protestants, therefore, one of the best ways to preserve true liberty of the individual conscience is to leave that conscience entirely free, in religious matters, from considerations of civil consequences.

Some laws which coerce moral behavior are needed to protect us all from each other. I am very glad when going to my car at night at the mall that the threat of punishment from the state might prevent some would be attackers from carrying out the desires of their evil hearts. However, as T. David states so well, some (many, which ones?) matters of personal liberty should be off limits from the state.
With that background, I will turn it over to the forum. I encourage you to read Dr. Gordon’s well-crafted paper. What is the proper role of a Christian in governance? How are legislators to govern in a plural society? Given that Christians were so involved in the founding of the nation, why did they create such protections for pluralism of belief, including the ability to believe nothing and pursue happiness via that worldview? How do we best advance the mission of the church? In which vision of governance is personal and religious liberty best achieved?

Kern packs a hot lunch

Why would you need a gun in your legislative office?
Oh, now I get it…

OKLAHOMA CITY – Outspoken state Rep. Sally Kern was turned back by security Wednesday morning when she arrived at the Capitol carrying a pistol in her purse.
Kern, R-Oklahoma City, was nearly as surprised as security when a camera spotted the small handgun when her purse rolled through the camera-equipped conveyer.
The lawmaker, who has a permit to carry a concealed weapon, said she routinely removes it before entering the Capitol, but just forgot this time.
Kern said she asked security if she “could put the gun up.” She returned to her vehicle, left the weapon there, and returned to the Capitol for a meeting.
The lawmaker was not arrested.
Department of Public Safety spokesman Chris West said, “We tell security to use their heads,” and assess this kind of situation before taking action.

Sally Kern on morning talk show, Flashpoint

On Easter morning, Sally Kern faced off with Cathedral of Hope pastor, Dr. Scott Jones for a spirited debate regarding her comments on terrorism and homosexuality. The show is Flashpoint on KFOR-TV. The video with Kern and is the first two segments with an analysis by their hosts in the third. I cannot embed it here but provide the link to the Flashpoint page.

She asserts scientific evidence proving her views but provides none. I have asked her via email for this evidence and asked those who I assume have her ear for it as well with no response.

Sally Kern: What should she do?

Sally Kern is an Oklahoma state representative who recently found herself a YouTube star thanks to gay advocacy group the Victory Fund. Mrs. Kern, a second term lawmaker from Oklahoma City and Baptist pastor’s wife, was secretly taped giving a rambling speech to her Republican colleagues regarding threats to conservatives in local political races. Her comments, now viewed over 1 million times on YouTube have ignited a firestorm of controversy and opposition, particularly among homosexual rights groups. Perhaps most quoted has been this passage

Matter of fact, studies show no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted more than, you know, a few decades. So it’s the death knell for this country. I honestly think it’s the biggest threat even, that our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam, which I think is a big threat, okay.

Predictably, a firestorm of controversy has enveloped Rep. Kern. She has been defiant and resolute in response. Several days after the YouTube video hit the cyberstreet, Kern was interviewed by a supportive Matt Barber of the Concerned Women for America, where she again stated, “homosexuality, in my opinion, is a bigger threat to this nation than terrorism.”

All of this reminded me of survey findings reported in the recent book, UnChristian, reviewed recently by fellow Crosswalk blogger, Regis Nicoll. Here is Regis’ take on what UnChristian has to say about homosexuality:

In survey after survey, Kinnaman found that the homosexuality issue, more than any other has shaped public perceptions about Christians. “Hostility toward gays–not just opposition to homosexual politics and behaviors but disdain for gay individuals–has become virtually synonymous with the Christian faith,” Kinnaman writes.

Whether or not that’s a fair association, it reflects how we come across to others. When our criticism of homosexual behavior is out of proportion to our concern over heterosexual divorce and promiscuity in the church, it smacks of hypocrisy. Add to that, a perceived air of moral superiority, and you’ve got the picture of the “unChristian.” Again, while these impressions may not accurately represent Christianity, they do affect how the Christian message is received.

Seems to me, Sally Kern’s comments, refusal to see the offense they cause, and the stance of her defenders put an exclamation point on the findings of UnChristian. What makes her comments all the more jarring is that she represents a district in Oklahoma City, scene of the Murrah Federal Building destroyed by domestic terrorist, Timothy McVeigh.

While it is tempting to opine further, I would like to hear from readers on this one. What should Rep. Kern do? Should she stick to her guns, basing her views on her faith? Or should she retract this comparison and engage in dialogue with those who are offended? Or something else?

Follow up on Tucker’s letter to Rep. Sally Kern

Because I was moved by the letter I described here, I have been seeking to verify the authorship (between grading papers, of course).

It is thus far a frustrating pursuit. I can’t find full names of Tucker or his Aunt Elizabeth. In response to the interest in the Tucker letter, someone posting as Elizabeth left this message on March 14, on the KWTV – News 9 forum:

Alex wrote: Hi Elizabeth, I hoping that you follow this forum and will check on this. I’m trying to contact you (and Tucker) in the hopes of getting permission to print his letter in other forums. If you do read this, would you please get in touch with the following site, http://www.pamshouseblend.com/showDiary.do… .

Thanks.

I don’t check here often but was told of the interest Tucker’s letter has caused. I want to say first that I did not make that post saying Tucker was reading the letter on the Ellen Degeneris show. I don’t know who did that.

Tucker is not seeking national acclaim, he simply wants Sally Kern to know that she is very insensitive to real victims of terrorism and how her words have resulted in the abuse of gay students.

I did gain Tucker’s permission to print his letter and sent copies of it to various media outlets and everyone may do so.

The sole purpose though is for Kern to see the letter and I am quite sure that has happened by now. But she has not responded to Tucker’s emails or made any comment about it at all.

Tucker called McVeigh a Christian extremist in the letter. McVeigh may’ve or may’ve not beein into God, it depended on who asked him whenever. There are times he claims to be with the Christian identity movement and there are other times he claimed to be agnostic. The point in this is calling Islam dangerous is wrong. Most Muslims are peaceful. Most Christians are peaceful. I hear all the time that Muslims hate Jews…well so do the KKK, Aryans, and lots of other Christians too.

Sally Kern insensitively made remarks about gays being worse than terrorists in a city that next month will remember the 13th anniversary of a terrorist bombing in OKC. Kern came to Oklahoma a year after that bombing. The ones of us who were affected by that terror event are offended by her remarks.

Kern is a cold, cold woman. That stone hard heart certainly won’t get her anywhere close to Heaven.

The original post on the News9 forum provided the following context for the letter in a comment dated March 11, 2008                

Today my nephew attempted to deliver a letter to Sally Kern but was stopped by a highway patrol man. With his permission I am distributing the letter to all news stations and thought I would include it here.

Maybe we can all stand to learn a listen from this smart, loving, young man. He more than most has reason to hate. He lost his mother, my sister, in the Murrah Building bombing.

Elizabeth

My efforts to verify this letter have been unsuccessful. I spoke to representatives of three state based gay advocacy groups, none of whom had been able to verify the identity of the author. I then sought to investigate the claim of Elizabeth that on March 11th, “my nephew [Tucker] attempted to deliver a letter to Sally Kern but was stopped by a highway patrol man.”

To do so, I contacted Oklahoma Highway Patrol Information Officer, Trooper Betsy Randolph, who spoke with the Lieutenant on duty at Rep. Kern’s office on March 11. The officer was on duty inside Rep. Kerns office and said he did not stop anyone from delivering a letter to the Representative. According to Trooper Randolph, the office conducted business-as-usual that day with no one on duty remembering any effort by a young person to deliver a letter. The patrolman was there due to reports of threats but did not prevent anyone from delivering a letter. Furthermore, additional security was on the scene from March 10-12, but Trooper Randolph could find no evidence that would verify this story. “It sounds like a false story to me. We can find no evidence that anyone was prevented from giving Rep. Kerns a letter,” she stated.

I asked Trooper Randolph if a constituent might have prevented from entering the area surrounding Rep. Kern’s office and she said this would happen only if there was a disturbance. However, there is no record of this.

If this is a fictitious letter, that would be unfortunate, as the fraud would distract from the issues it raised. I do think the report from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol requires Elizabeth and Tucker to come forward if this letter is to be viewed as credible.

“Tucker letter” to Sally Kern ignites bloggers

Check out this letter ostensibly from a young man named Tucker to OK state Rep. Sally Kern . Rep. Kern recently has been the subject of much controversy over her statements to a Republican group where she said gays have shorter life spans, could be responsible for the demise of our society if homosexuality was accepted and are a worse threat to the nation than terrorism. I have refrained from getting into the whole thing but I do think Rep. Kern needs help with facts, tact and her sense of perspective. The terrorism remarks are especially offensive on so many levels, but were repeated on a taped program for the Concerned Women for America. I wrote her late last week with no response, which I suspect is a common experience for many who have written. Today, a large protest took place at the state capitol.

This story may continue to have legs for awhile, in part since Rep. Kerns has not moved away from her remarks and since her curious reasoning hits so close to home for those who have no connection to homosexuality but do to terrorism. I cannot help but think of the current book, unChristian and the clear finding that young people believe the conservative church is anti-gay. The Kern controversy provides an exclamation point to this finding.

In the midst of the protests and defensive rebuttals, the Tucker letter has emerged. The letter is making the rounds on the blogs but has not been verified as authentic. You wouldn’t know that by reading blogs however. You can also read the letter here at Citizen Crain, who also has what appears to be the most up-to-date information on the matter. My contribution today is this – according to Equality Florida PR rep, Brian Winfield, the letter still has not been verified, although he has been told that Ellen DeGeneres has been in touch with him to appear on her show.

Whether true or not, I am interested in the issues the letter raises. We can use this post to discuss the Kern controversy as a whole. I am interested to hear from a variety of perspective on this and I suspect some social conservatives will take exception to my critical stance.