Jun 26, 2005

For the love of God.

Billy Graham's faith mission nears close

By Julia Duin
Published June 26, 2005

NEW YORK CITY -- The curious and the committed arrived by the thousands last night, the second day of New York's three-day Billy Graham crusade, to hear the 86-year-old evangelist preach one of his last sermons to the world.

The event, in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, drew about 80,000 people, more than the revised official estimate of 60,000 for Friday night.

New York's top Democratic leaders, former President Bill Clinton, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles E. Schumer, and New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a Republican, appeared on the platform with Mr. Graham.

"I told [Mr. Clinton] he should be an evangelist," Mr. Graham joked. "He has all the gifts, and he could leave his wife to run the country."

Mr. Clinton informed the crowd he had attended several Graham crusades, starting 46 years ago.

"I want to tell you what an honor it is to be here as a person of faith with a man I love," he said.

The crowd gave the Clintons a stronger ovation than they did for Mr. Graham, who, because of Parkinson's disease and other ailments, is closing down his evangelistic career this year. Last night, his speech was barely 15 minutes long.

The evangelist geared the evening to young people, intertwining mentions of the rock group U2, St. Augustine and MTV. U2's lead vocalist, Bono, visited him and his wife at their Montreat, N.C., home, he said, and composed a song for Ruth Graham.

"In his song, he said we are 'estranged by sin and bones,' " he said. Young people are sidetracked by many distractions, he added, including loneliness and sex.

"Yes, there is pleasure in sex," he said. "Sex is given to us. There is no harm in sex as long as it's according to the Word of God, but you will not find answers in sex."

High-voltage performances from the South African rock 'n' roll group Tree63, hip-hop vocalist Nicole C. Mullin and the pop group Jars of Clay also were geared toward the young.

Mr. Graham's eldest son, Franklin Graham, now president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, told the crowd of his wayward teenage days.

"I didn't want God in my life," he said. "I wanted to party. I wanted to have fun. I wanted to enjoy life. I wanted to experience it to the fullest."

He was 22, he said, "when I asked Jesus Christ to come into my life. I went to church, but being religious is not going to save you." Gesturing with a thin, black Bible in one hand, he added, "If you're not sure where you're going to spend eternity, be sure tonight."

The thousands seated and standing in several overflow areas ringing the stage appeared to be from every ethnic and racial group imaginable. Rice University sociologist Bill Martin, Billy Graham's official biographer, said this weekend appeared to be Mr. Graham's "most diverse, polyglot gathering ever."

Event organizers have presented the three-day revival as a last chance to hear in person a man who has preached to more people in live audiences (210 million in 185 countries) than anyone else in history. Event organizers said they counted 2,249 "faith commitments" Friday night.

"We're here to hear one of God's generals close out 60-plus years of ministry," the Rev. A.R. Bernard, local crusade chairman, told thousands of listeners. "What better place than New York?"

"It's truly an honor for our city to host this historic gathering," Mr. Bloomberg said. "Every nation on Earth is truly represented on the sidewalks of New York City, and they are also represented here on this lawn tonight."

Steven Curtis Chapman, one of the musicians picked to lead the worship Friday night, exhorted the throng to look ahead instead of to the past: "There's a lot of talk about tonight being the end of an incredible era," he said, "but God's doing amazing new things."

Still, the event had the trappings of a last great hurrah, which Mr. Graham referred to Friday night when he talked about a photograph for which he had just posed with about two dozen grandchildren. Mr. Graham's second-eldest daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, said about 70 members of the Graham family, including spouses, had come to New York for the event.

"We are quite a mob," she said. "We just wanted to be here to support him."

A variety of other groups were drawn to the event, many of them passing out literature advertising various Christian ministries. Several groups of anti-Graham demonstrators -- mostly Christian groups that disagree with his ecumenical stances -- posted picket signs near the park entrance, which prompted shouting matches with others.

"That's not right," observed Greg Parker, who identified himself as a Jewish resident of Huntington, Long Island, who had come out of curiosity. "Billy Graham is a man of peace."

For the love of God?

Bill, Hillary Clinton Use Billy Graham to Gain Political Ground

Some disappointed that Graham too friendly with the morally bankrupt

National Clergy Council president Rev. Rob Schenck (pronounced SHANK) walked out on his role model Billy Graham after the evangelist surrendered his microphone to Bill Clinton on the third night of his New York City crusade, then gave a veiled endorsement to Senator Hillary Clinton who was sitting nearby on stage.

According to the Associated Press, when Bill Clinton joined him on stage, Graham "quipping that the former president should become an evangelist and allow 'his wife to run the country.'"

Rev. Schenck has considered Billy Graham his role model for over 25 years. That's why the Capitol Hill minister traveled from Washington, DC, to New York City this weekend to witness what may be the ailing evangelist's last crusade. But after he saw the Clintons exploit the aging Graham, he couldn't bear to stay and hear him preach.

"I was stunned and appalled," said Schenck, who left the Flushing Meadows Park as Graham was still complimenting the Clintons.

"This was a deliberate, cunning, purely political move by the Clintons to divide the Evangelical vote and assure Hillary of a victory in '08," said Schenck, a minister with the Evangelical Church Alliance and a missionary to elected officials.

Schenck is a longtime admirer of Billy Graham. But when the soon to retire evangelist announced to NBC's Katie Couric in a recent interview that he is a life-long Democrat, it took a few points away from that admiration.

Mr. Schenck has met Dr. Graham personally and has attended his schools of evangelism and conferences for itinerant evangelists.

"I'm disappointed that my role model of 25 years retained his membership in a party that promotes the expansion of abortion and homosexual marriage," said Mr. Schenck, who will attend Graham's last crusade this weekend. "Whoever replaces him will need to hold unequivocal stands on these two paramount moral issues."

-- The Dakota Voice

Jun 25, 2005

Following in W's footsteps.

Young Republicans support Iraq war, but not all are willing to join the fight

Knight Ridder Newspapers

NEW YORK - Young Republicans gathered here for their party's national convention are united in applauding the war in Iraq, supporting the U.S. troops there and calling the U.S. mission a noble cause.

But there's no such unanimity when they're asked a more personal question: Would you be willing to put on the uniform and go to fight in Iraq?

In more than a dozen interviews, Republicans in their teens and 20s offered a range of answers. Some have friends in the military in Iraq and are considering enlisting; others said they can better support the war by working politically in the United States; and still others said they think the military doesn't need them because the U.S. presence in Iraq is sufficient.

"Frankly, I want to be a politician. I'd like to survive to see that," said Vivian Lee, 17, a war supporter visiting the convention from Los Angeles,

Lee said she supports the war but would volunteer only if the United States faced a dire troop shortage or "if there's another Sept. 11."

"As long as there's a steady stream of volunteers, I don't see why I necessarily should volunteer," said Lee, who has a cousin deployed in the Middle East.

In an election season overwhelmed by memories of the Vietnam War, the U.S. military's newest war ranks supreme among the worries confronting much of Generation Y'ers. Iraq is their war.

"If there was a need presented, I would go," said Chris Cusmano, a 21-year-old member of the College Republicans organization from Rocky Point, N.Y. But he said he hasn't really considered volunteering.

At age 16, Chase Carpenter has.

"It's always in the back of my mind - to enlist," Carpenter, a self-described moderate Republican visiting Manhattan this week from Santa Monica, Calif., said Wednesday on the convention floor. He said he's torn over whether he'd join the military if he were 18.

Others said they could contribute on the home front.

"I physically probably couldn't do a whole lot" in Iraq, said Tiffanee Hokel, 18, of Webster City, Iowa, who called the war a moral imperative. She knows people posted in Iraq, but she didn't flinch when asked why she wouldn't go.

"I think I could do more here," Hokel said, adding that she's focusing on political action that supports the war and the troops.

"We don't have to be there physically to fight it," she said.

Similarly, 20-year-old Jeff Shafer, a University of Pennsylvania student, said vital work needs to be done in the United States. There are Republican policies to maintain and protect and an economy to sustain, Shafer said.

Then there's Paula Villescaz, a 15-year-old from Carmichael, Calif. who supports Bush and was all ears Wednesday afternoon at the GOP's Youth Convention in Madison Square Garden. She doesn't support the war, but she supports the troops and thinks the United States "needs to stay the course" now that it's immersed.

If Iraq is still a U.S. issue when she's 18, Villescaz added, she'll give serious thought to volunteering.

"I'm in college right now, but who knows?" said Matthew Vail, a 25-year-old from Huntsville, Ala., who works with Students for Bush. He said he might consider enlisting after he finishes his degree at the University of North Carolina, but not until then.

"The bug may get me after college," he said.

Jun 23, 2005

Jesus is a bleeding heart revolutionary.

Not a bleeding heart liberal, and not a heart of stone conservative.

Jesus was not a liberal.

But he wasn't (isn't) a conservative, either. A considerable part of his earthly ministry was to point out the hypocrisy of both the liberals' accommodation of the culture (the Sadducees) and the conservatives' (the Pharisees) hypocritical insistence that the Law be maintained... at least in public, and as it applied for others.

The Episcopal Church (which was just pitched out of the worldwide Anglican Communion for all practical intents and purposes) clearly exhibits the danger these two groups can do to the Church. The liberal Episcopalians don't seem to stand for anything except niceness, and they hate people who aren't "nice". Throw out most of the teaching about how we are to live our lives, but be nice.

The conservatives take what's left, and turn it into an orgy of mammon. I remember as a teenager in a very conservative Episcopal church the plans that were made to lock the doors to the church on a Sunday morning because there were rumors that some blacks were going to try and break up our all-white God party. It's sobering to realize that as Jesus/God hung on that cross, he could see what we were doing in his name.

Jun 22, 2005

On the Dean's List.

I don't care much for Howard Dean. Even when he's right, he's usually wrong. He left the Episcopal Church (right), he likes to promote bicycling (right), but he left the Episcopal Church (the Church of the Blessed Convenience) because they wouldn't allow a bike path to be built on their lakefront property (wrong).

Jun 21, 2005

What he said.

During his earthly ministry, Jesus spent a lot of time warning us about the "love of money" and criticizing the Religious Right of his day. He didn't cut the Secular Left any slack, either, but he wanted the people to understand the twin dangers of money and law.

The Pharisees of today are clearly the GOP, and they have made their god Mammon into an idol disguised as Yahweh. If the Sermon on the Mount were delivered in Congress today, it would be denounced as an "un-American and unpatriotic appeasement of terrorism". The Democrats are happily playing the part of the Sadducees to the Republicans Pharisees, so there's not much comfort to be found in that camp.

But why did Jesus single out the Pharisees and money for special warnings? The Pharisees greatest fault was their hypocrisy. They used the Law to point out (and punish) the faults and shortcomings of others, while touting their own "obedience". But of course, they weren't obedient. They only tried to make it appear as such. All the more reason to sanction public stonings and crucifixions, as that underscored their own "lawfulness", while distracting attention from their "unlawfulness".

The danger lies in their sincerely felt, but false, piety. The Pharisees had created a new god to take the place of Yahweh. This was clear to Jesus. It was also clear to Jesus that by wrapping oneself in the self-righteousness, the Law, and money, one could safely insulate themselves from the demands of Yahweh. The early Church exploded among the Gentiles because the Jews weren't convinced they needed Jesus. They had their reward. The radically good news of Jesus was the last thing the self-righteous Pharisees wanted to hear. The Gospel threatened their position, their power, and their wealth.

As it did then, the Religious Right stands against the Gospel of Jesus Christ; promoting a self-filtered "Law" that applies to the public sins of others, while conveniently ignoring our own "private" sins. The chief threat to the Gospel comes not from the Sadducees, those outside the Law, because they are the open mission field (well, most of them... I don't hold out much hope for Dr. Dean). The chief threat to the Good news of Christ comes from the Pharisees, those claiming to obey the Law.

By proclaiming the Law over Grace, they thus claim that they have no need for the Gospel. They then lay an unbearable burden upon others for whom they are unwilling to lift a finger, while engaging in a blatant and destructive "Christian" hypocrisy invisible only to themselves (see Dr. Ron Sider's, "The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience").

By the Religious Right's hypocrisy, many of those outside the Church who are in need of Jesus Christ are turned off from enquiring about him, while many of their own followers are deceived into thinking that their brand of Law-governed and "Mormonized" Christianity somehow is salvific. Self-satisfied as "Christians", they lead pious lives that are pristine on the outside, but full of all manner of filth and decay on the inside (greed, hatred, violence).

White-washed tombs.

Jun 9, 2005

More from the late Douglas Adams.

  • "Mozart tells us what it's like to be human, Beethoven tells us what it's like to be Beethoven and Bach tells us what it's like to be the universe."
  • "I wrote an ad for Apple Computer: 'Macintosh - We might not get everything right, but at least we knew the century was going to end.'"
  • "The Macintosh may only have 10% of the market, but it is clearly the top 10%."
  • "First we thought the PC was a calculator. Then we found out how to turn numbers into letters with ASCII — and we thought it was a typewriter. Then we discovered graphics, and we thought it was a television. With the World Wide Web, we've realized it's a brochure."
  • "I've come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies. Anything that is in the world when you're born is normal and ordinary and is just part of the way the world works. Anything that's invented between when you're fifteen and thirty five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things."
  • "A nerd is someone who uses a telephone to talk to other people about telephones."
  • "Technology is a word that describes something that doesn't work yet"
  • "The idea that Bill Gates has appeared like a knight in shining armour to lead all customers out of a mire of technological chaos neatly ignores the fact that it was he who, by peddling second-rate technology, led them into it in the first place."

He's right and VERY wrong, at the same time. I'm sorry his time ran out.

The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.

-- Douglas Adams

Jun 5, 2005

Kerrying on

Earlier in the day, Sen. Kerry met in a "town hall"-style meeting with about 75 seniors, where he assailed the recently passed Medicare prescription drug benefit, the GOP's tax cuts for wealthy Americans and the attempts to privatize Social Security.
He said to the largely supportive group, "The next time one of those conservative senators or congressmen comes to you and starts talking to you about American values, I want you to look him in the eye and say, what is the value that is represented in providing the wealthiest people in America with a great big tax cut at the expense of the poorest people in the country?"
"I went back and reread the New Testament the other day, and I've got news for you. Nowhere in the three-year ministry of Jesus Christ is there any suggestion at all that you ought to take from the poor and give to the rich and leave children at risk," he said to a loud round of applause.

-- STEVE URBON, Standard-Times (Conneticut) senior correspondent