Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Climate Change: How Evangelical and Catholic Leaders Differ

(originally published on EthicsDaily.com, May 17, 2011)

by Robert Parham
Executive Editor, EthicsDaily.com; and Executive Director, Baptist Center for Ethics

Texas has been burning. Memphis has flooded. Tuscaloosa has been cleaning up after a tornado with 190-mile-per-hour winds smashed through Alabama. Kentucky has been drying out from almost one foot more rain in April than normal. And evangelical preachers are in denial.

Well, at least one out of the five things listed above is normal: evangelical preachers being in denial. The other matters are outside what we encounter on a regular basis.

What is beyond denial is that the nation is experiencing extreme weather events.

Just a year ago, Nashville had 19 inches of rain in two days in what the Army Corps of Engineers called a 1,000-year flood. The next month Oklahoma City had "record-busting rainfall." Arkansas experienced an 8-inch downpour that killed 20 campers.

In 2011, an estimated 95 percent of Texas faces a drought that Associated Press categorized as "severe or worse," with one of the state's driest Aprils on record.

During the same month, the nation had 305 tornadoes in a four-day period that killed more than 300 people. For the entire month, 875 tornadoes whipped across the land.

The Mississippi River crested in Memphis less than a foot below the record mark set in 1937. The Mississippi River has now had its second 500-year flood in less than 20 years  1993 and 2011.View the NASA maps to see the extent of the flooding.

"April was a month of historic climate extremes across much of the United States, including: record-breaking precipitation that resulted in historic flooding; recurrent violent weather systems that broke records for tornado and severe weather outbreaks; and wildfire activity that scorched more than twice the area of any April this century," reported the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

What explains these extreme weather events? . . .

To read the entire article, click here.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Violence for violence plunges us in the dark

(originally published on the Web site of the Whittier Daily News, May 5, 2011)

by Becky Memmelaar
Pastor, First Friends Church, Whittier, California

"When the planes began to fall from the sky on Sept. 11, 2001, time stood still. My husband (a captain at Midway Airlines) and I (an international flight attendant) were enjoying our second cup of coffee.

"We were getting ready to go buy cupcakes to take to school for our son's birthday when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. We knew instantly that our lives would never again be the same.

"My husband's company folded the next day on Sept. 12, and the company that I worked for ended up filing for bankruptcy, cutting my pay and benefits.

"More important than money to us (and make no mistake, with four children, two in college and two still at home, money was important), was the radical change to our lifestyle.

"Prior to 9/11, walking into an airport, and onto an airplane had been no more nerve-wracking than walking into an office; I loved flying, loved traveling. Yet the day I returned to work, the day international travel resumed, my workplace was fraught with fear.

"Soldiers patrolled the airport with machine guns. It was months before I left home without fearing that I would never return. Please understand I had no respect, no admiration for Osama bin Laden.

"His plans to attack the U.S. directly and negatively impacted my life. It cost my family our livelihood, and it cost me my sense of security.

"It temporarily caused me to live a life based on fear. My faith in God kept me going; it kept all of us going.

"Sunday night, when the announcement was made that Osama bin Laden had been killed, it dredged up all of these feelings, all of these memories. Yet when I saw dancing in the streets of Washington, I also remembered dancing in the streets of other countries when our Twin Towers fell, and I was sickened.

"I realized that both were equally wrong. As a follower of Christ, I cannot celebrate retributive justice because it is an 'eye for an eye,' and Jesus called us to be more than that, to do more than that.

"As a former flight attendant, and wife of a pilot, I understand that life is not always black and white. I understand that feelings of distrust and hurt . . ."

To read the entire article, click here.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Christians Must Call for This War to End

(originally published on the God's Politics blog, May 6, 2011)

by Jim Wallis
Chief Executive Officer, Sojourners

"There is no more room or time for excuses. The war in Afghanistan — now the longest war in American history — no longer has any justification, and I am calling upon Christians, along with other people of good, moral sense, to lead the effort to finally end this war and bring our troops home. On moral, financial, and strategic grounds, the continuation of the war in Afghanistan cannot be justified. The completion of the largest and most expensive manhunt in history for Osama bin Laden must be a turning point to completely rethink our response to terrorism. The threats of terrorists are still real, but it is now clear that full-scale military action is not the most effective response.

"It was the campaign against bin Laden and al Qaeda that was always used to justify the war in Afghanistan. General David Petraeus has said there are about 100 al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan. We have more than 100,000 American troops and another 40,000 coalition soldiers in Afghanistan. That means 1,400 soldiers for each al Qaeda fighter. It costs about $1 million a year to deploy and support each American soldier — or more than $100 billion a year total. That breaks down to our country spending $1 billion per year, per al Qaeda fighter. Every deficit hawk in America should now oppose this war. The cost is simply too high, especially when compared with . . ."

To read the entire article, click here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Baptist Leaders Reflect Morally on Killing of Osama bin Laden

(from the Web site of Ethics Daily, May 2, 2011)

by EthicsDaily.com Staff

Before President Obama announced late Sunday evening that the United States had killed Osama bin Laden, a crowd gathered outside the White House chanting "USA! USA!" and singing "God Bless America."

As patriotic triumphalism swept the country, ordinary Americans shot off fireworks, political leaders issued victory statements and newspaper headlines announced pride in national success.

Bin Laden's death came eight years to the day that President George W. Bush declared the conclusion of major combat operations in Iraq. Bush made his announcement on a U.S. aircraft carrier under a banner that said, "Mission Accomplished."

The Iraq War then worsened, costing the lives of thousands of American and allied forces and injuring tens of thousands of combatants. The Iraqi civilian death toll exceeded 100,000, according to one source.

In a nine-minute statement from the East Room of the White House, Obama gave limited details about the killing of bin Laden in Pakistan.

The president said the nation must "reaffirm that the United States is not – and never will be – at war with Islam. I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims."

Aidsand Wright-Riggins, executive director of American Baptist Home Mission Societies, gave a statement to EthicsDaily.com about bin Laden's death.

"I too am tempted toward the triumphalism and patriotism," said Wright-Riggins. "I have to remind myself that payback, retribution and vengeance are not the same thing as biblical justice. Killing Osama bin Laden does not and will not break the inexorable cycle of violence in which the world is so enraged. Praying that God would deliver us from our enemies requires that we engage the enemy within ourselves as well – enemies like nationalism, narcissism, self righteousness and the like."

The American Baptist Churches-USA leader said: "Our eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth methodology will leave the whole world blind and toothless. God knows we must find a better way. If we must wave the flag . . ."

To read the entire article, click here.