Category: Religion

Kavanaugh Needs to be Asked Searching Questions

Judge Brett Kavanaugh makes a big deal of his commitment to his Catholic faith. He is deeply involved in Church affairs. His children attend a Catholic school and he coaches their basketball teams. All religions, especially Catholicism, say their doctrines and beliefs outweigh all other considerations. This background suggests he would let his religion sway his opinions. He should be quizzed aggressively on this matter.

So far as I have been able to discover, Kavanaugh has not uttered one word of rebuke about Trump’s trampling on God’s Commandments daily with his congenital lying, nor has the Judge spoken about Trump’s adultery or his racism and other words and deeds that totally disregard Jesus’Golden Rule.

Yet, we seem to know Kavanaugh’s position on abortion. Why don’t we know his position on Trump’s immorality and violation of the 10 Commandments?

Kavanaugh, in short, comes across as a cafeteria Christian, one who picks and chooses from the Bible those parts he likes, declares that to be the True Faith, and disregards the rest. That’s practicing hypocrisy, not Christianity. We do not need a hypocrite on the Supreme Court for 30 or 40 years, believing that any decision he makes is the right one, because he attends Mass every Sunday. That attitude leads supposed Christians to support slavery, segregation, the Holocaust, and the mass sex abuse of children in the Catholic Church.

We do not need that mentality on the Supreme Court.

Kavanaugh should announce that, if approved, he will recuse himself from any case that’s comes before the Court involving Trump’s words and deeds.

As a self-proclaimed devout Catholic deeply involved in the affairs of the church, he should also be asked about his position on the child sex abuse problem in the Catholic Church. What are his public statements on the matter? What has he done to eliminate the abuse?

Needed: A Fresh Look at the Kavanaugh Nomination

The Catholic Church has been roiled by another chapter in its sex abuse problem. A Pennsylvania grand jury this month issued a sweeping report saying that more than 300 Catholic priests across the state sexually abused children over seven decades, protected by a hierarchy of church leaders who covered it up.

The investigation, one of the broadest inquiries into church sex abuse in U.S. history, identified 1,000 children who were victims, but reported that there probably are thousands more.

The revelations have sparked more commentary on what the Church should do about its sex abuse crisis, including this one in the Washington Post:

Catholic bishops and priests, I need to know how you’ll fix the church you broke

The grand jury findings come a few weeks before Senate hearings are to get underway on the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. In its comment on the Post article, IndieDems explored this dimension.

Downes has written a hard-charging analysis of the Catholic Church’s horrifying inability to rein in it horrific sex abuse problem. He asks the core question: what are Catholics to do? But another question faces all Americans and the U.S. Senate: what are we to do about Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court?

Judge Kavanaugh comes to us as a devoted, practicing Catholic. The Church is a central part of his life. His daughters attend a Catholic school, where he coaches their basketball team. The reason a Republican president nominated Kavanaugh and Republicans cheer his nomination is because of his ant-abortion stand. He is expected to cast a vote someday to overturn Roe vs. Wade. His life in the bosom of the Catholic Church no doubt shaped and molded his outlook. All well and good.

And the very first question he needs to be asked at his Senate hearing derives from that very fact of his Catholic background: “Judge Kavanaugh, what have you done to bring the Catholic predators to justice and to finally rid the Church of the stain of sex abuse of children?”

The sex abuse problem has existed pretty well for Kavanaugh’s whole life. The same Catholic Church that is militant in its opposition to abortion has turned a blind eye to its massive sex abuse problem. In what way has this shaped and molded Kavanaugh and will influence his decisions as Supreme Court Justice? Has it made him more tolerant of criminals, even vicious sex fiends? Is he a real Christian, or just a hypocrite like the predator priests and the other prelates that tolerated them?

Senators, don’t just heap praise on Kavanaugh for being a religious person. Probe the dark side of that experience.

The Rising Tide of Racism, Fueled by Trump and His Republicans

The Washington Post and the New York Times on Sunday published articles that deliver an alarming message about the extent of racist bigotry in America that is being inflamed by Trump and his Republicans. These are not, mind you, editorials or op-ed commentaries. The WP article provides extensive, direct quotes of Southern Baptists speaking racist jargon. The one in the NYT is the first-hand account by a mother of the racism her black child experiences while being raised in a Red Republican state.

Reading them will send shills up the spine of any decent American. Here is the IndieDems analysis of the WP article.

As a native born Southerner who grew up in the Bible belt during the years of the Civil Rights struggles, this article hit me like a ton of bricks. Not because I was surprised at the outlook of these Southern Baptists, but because it revealed the absolute worst case scenario of trends I have recognized for some time.

Beginning about one year ago, I summed my thoughts up this way: “It’s as if Donald Trump and his Republicans have erased the last 60 years of race relations and taken us back to the time when you could lynch a black man on Saturday and attend church on Sunday morning and be assured your immortal souls was assured eternal salvation.”

What this article tells me is: Southern Baptists have not retrogressed. They never went beyond that mentality to begin with.

Ms. McCrummen is dead-on in saying Christian pastors in the South either defended segregation or remained silent. She would have provided more insight if she had reminded her readers that the Southern Baptist Convention was founded explicitly to defend the perpetuation of slavery as an institution ordained by God and Jesus.

The sheer ignorance and blindness that the Baptists now repeat in defending Trump as an instrument of God is bad enough. Their hypocrisy about their own supposedly bedrock approach to the Bible is even worse. Every word they speak to give legitimacy to their defense of Trump requires massive amounts of interpretation of the Bible—contravening their professed belief that the Bible must be read as the literal truth. Where is there any passage in the Bible that says mortal human beings can sacrifice the 10 Commandments on the altar of banning abortion?  What words spoken or written by Trump reflect “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”?

In December 2017 and last month I posted on my blog letters I had sent to the SBC and other clerics. Read them here and here.

Letter to Christian Clerics – December 2017
Tom Barksdale, proprietor
1025 Rose Creek Dr.
Suite 620 – PMB 223
Woodstock, GA 30189

“You don’t save Christianity by betraying its message.” – -David Brooks, dean of conservative columnists, New York Times, 12/7/17

Dr. Russell Moore

The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention
901 Commerce Street, Suite 550,
Nashville, TN 37203-3696

Dear Dr. Moore,

I am writing to ask your opinion of recent acts that I consider a travesty against the Christian faith committed by President Donald Trump and some who defend him in the name of Christ. Recent Tweets and public statements by President Donald Trump have, by any rational, objective analysis, crossed the line into expressions of outright racism and bigotry. He is also reliably reported to have, in private, distanced himself from expressions of remorse and apologies he was forced to make in response to public outrage over some of his previously expressed lies and hateful words.

I am writing because I believe that the silence of our major Christian denominations and churches in the face of Trump’s travesties constitutes a betrayal of the Christian message.

Trump on November 29 retweeted a series of inflammatory Islamophobic videos originally posted by a British far-right activist known for his extreme anti-Islamic views. The videos purportedly showed violence being committed by Muslims. The commentary on one of the videos, claiming it sowed a Muslim attacking a Dutch citizen, was patently false. It had already been proven the attacker was a Dutch citizen. The accuracy and circumstances of the other two videos are unknown. In short, the videos’ flagrant Islamophobias is unquestioned.

On November 27, Trump during White House ceremony to honor Navajo veterans of World War II resurfaced his derogatory reference to Senator Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas,” without explicitly using her name. His words: “Although we have a representative in Congress who, they say, was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas.” The use of the racial slur was widely condemned, including by Russell Begaye, the president of the Navajo Nation, who called the president’s mention of Pocahontas “derogatory” and “disrespectful to Indian nations.”

Trump’s previous nadir in his expressing an explicitly racist outlook occurred in August in his response to neo-fascist demonstrations held in Charlottesville, VA. Trump public played down the racist and anti-Semitic views of the white supremacists who held a proto-Nazi torch light parade that included chants of “Jews will not replace us.” He drew an apparent moral equivalency between neo-Nazi marchers and anti-racist protesters, declaring that there were “fine people” on both sides, and he blamed the news media instead for stoking racial divisions.

Trump’s remarks were roundly condemned, even by many Republican leaders and, reportedly, in private by members of his Administration. American Jews reacted strongly: “Four coalitions of rabbis, hailing from different strains of American Judaism, publicly spurned Mr. Trump, denouncing him in unusually pointed language, and pre-emptively announcing that they would not participate in any conference call before the Jewish holidays…” (See “Rabbis Protest Trump’s Comments by Boycotting Conference Call”)

It is the above explicitly racist comments by Trump which sparked this letter. But in the background are the plethora of words Trump has spoken in the two and one-half years since he has announced his candidacy for president that prove him to be, undeniably, a serial liar, racist, bigot, misogynist, nativist, demagogue, xenophobe, and bully. For almost a year, Trump and the Republican Party have waged a war against America’s basic moral and democratic values and against common human decency. The few Republican leaders who have dissented have paid by having their political careers ended.

The Republicans’ descent into a moral sewer has reached its current nadir (although most likely not its last) with their endorsement of sex predator Roy Moore for United States Senator. I cite below one of the Republicans for whom this goes too far. My own response is: if you support this despicable cretin, may God have mercy on your immortal soul.

Even more chilling is the defense offered by many average Americans for sticking with Trump despite his in-your-face trampling of the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule. Yes, they say, I know all about what Trump is doing. “I just don’t care. He speaks for me.” According to a recent poll, 72 percent of evangelicals now say that “an elected official who commits an immoral act in their personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life,..”

Conservative and Christian Voices Condemn Trump & Trumpists

(All words in red or bold face are “emphasis added”)

Lest I somehow be accused of bias, let me quote from some of Trump’s conservative and evangelical critics, who have already made the case against him much more eloquently and forcefully than anything I could add.

David Brooks, dean of America’s traditional conservative columnists, recently delivered a forceful indictment that is riveting in its recognition that Trump’s assault on America’s basic moral and democratic values is an assault on Christianity itself:

  • “…First, (Trump) asked the Republican Party to swallow the idea of a narcissistic sexual harasser and a routine liar as its party leader. Then he asked the party to accept his comprehensive ignorance and his politics of racial division. Now he asks the party to give up its reputation for fiscal conservatism. At the same time he asks the party to become the party of Roy Moore, the party of bigotry, alleged sexual harassment and child assault.”
  • “…Trump…is defined by shamelessness, and so there is no bottom. And apparently there is no end to what regular Republicans are willing to give him.”
  • “You don’t help your cause by wrapping your arms around an alleged sexual predator and a patriarchic bigot. You don’t help your cause by putting the pursuit of power above character, by worshiping at the feet of some loutish man or another, by claiming the ends justify any means. You don’t successfully rationalize your own tawdriness by claiming your opponents are satanic.”
  • “You don’t save Christianity by betraying its message.”
  • “ ‘What shall it profit a man,” Jesus asked, “ ‘if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?’ The current Republican Party seems to not understand that question…The rot afflicting the G.O.P. is comprehensive — moral, intellectual, political and reputational.”

Michael Gerson, former GW Bush speechwriter & a Washington Post columnist, after his exhaustive review of Russiagate:

  • “In all of this, there is a spectacular accumulation of lies. Lies on disclosure forms. Lies at confirmation hearings. Lies on Twitter. Lies in the White House briefing room. Lies to the FBI. Self-protective lies by the attorney general. Blocking and tackling lies by Vice President Pence.”
  • “This is, with a few exceptions, a group of people for whom truth, political honor, ethics and integrity mean nothing.”
  • “We are witnessing what happens when right-wing politics becomes untethered from morality and religion.”
  • “What does public life look like without the constraining internal force of character — without the firm ethical commitments often (though not exclusively) rooted in faith?
    • It looks like a presidential campaign unable to determine right from wrong and loyalty from disloyalty.
    • It looks like an administration engaged in a daily assault on truth and convinced that might makes right.
    • It looks like the residual scum left from retreating political principle — the worship of money, power and self-promoted fame. The Trumpian trinity.”


Gerson returned to the fray after Trump’s vociferous denunciation of NFL players who kneeled during opening ceremonies of football games to protest the mistreatment of African-Americans, under the headline America has a racial demagogue for a president:

“(Trump’s) ignorance is matched by malice. Trump must know that rallying his white base against young African American protesters is feeding racial tension and providing permission for bigotry. He is essentially accusing these athletes of disloyalty, just as he accused Mexicans of being rapists and Muslims of being threats. This is a pattern and habit of division by race, ethnicity and religion.”

Jim Wallis, president and founder of Sojourners, wrote on November 17:

  • “President Trump is an ultimate and consummate worshiper of money, sex and power. American Christians have not really reckoned with the climate he has created in our country and the spiritual obligation we have to repair it. As a result, the soul of our nation and the integrity of the Christian faith are at risk.
  • “…Trump’s boastful treatment of women — including bragging in a video about grabbing their genitals — and his serial infidelity and adultery are clear evidence of his idolatrous worship of sex.
  • Alabama evangelicals expressing support for Senate candidate Roy Moore “may be the most damning testimony as to the politicized moral hypocrisy of white evangelicals…”
  • “Week after week, Trump reveals that his leadership is always and only about himself; not the people, the country or even his party — and certainly not about godliness.”

Kurt Bardella, a Republican and former spokesperson for Breitbart, the white supremacist group once led by Steve Bannon, announced on December 8, 2017 that he was quitting the Republican Party and joining the Democratic Party, after Trump traveled to Pensacola, FL., to deliver a rousing speech endorsing sex predator Roy Moore for U.S. Senator from Alabama.   In a scathing op-ed in USA Today, Bardella said:

  • “This is not a party I want to be associated with anymore”
  • He accused Trump and Bannon of “ignoring legitimate issues about race relations in America, environmental policy, gun reform and equality to instead pander to a lunatic fringe that subscribes to an ideology of hate and fear.”
  • “This is a party that constantly buries its head in the sand on climate change, racial profiling, guns, LGBTQ equality, income inequality, food insecurity, paid family leave and the treatment of women.”
  • “The embrace of Moore by the Republican Party’s top ‘leadership’ is all the proof you need to know that this is a party that no longer stands for anything.”

Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center who served in the previous three Republican administrations, wrote in the New York Times on December 9, 2017: Why I Can No Longer Call Myself an Evangelical Republican.

  • “I’ve been a part of both (the Republican Party and evangelicalism) for my entire adult life. These days, though, in many important ways they are having harmful effects on our society.”
  • “Yet the support being given by many Republicans and white evangelicals to President Trump and now to Mr. Moore have caused me to rethink my identification with both groups.”
  • “I consider Mr. Trump’s Republican Party to be a threat to conservatism, and I have concluded that the term evangelical…has been so distorted that it is now undermining the Christian witness.”
  • “Where exactly is the bottom? And at what point do you pull back from associating yourself with a political party and a religious term you once took pride in but that are now doing harm to the things you treasure?”

Mr. Wehner goes on to quote three of his evangelical colleagues who say they will no longer use the term because, in the words of one, “the term is now so stained as to ruin my ability to be what evangelicalism was supposed to be.” He also quotes Bill Boyce, the head of the Princeton Evangelical Fellowship, a campus ministry for more than 80 years, explaining why the group changed its name to the Princeton Christian Fellowship. “We’re interested in being people who are defined by our faith and by our faith commitments and not by any sort of political agenda.”

William S. Brewbaker wrote from Tuscaloosa, AL on November 15: “As an evangelical Christian, an Alabamian and a Republican, I’m ashamed of Roy Moore and upset that so many people are determined to defend him against sexual assault allegations, no matter what. I’m even more bothered, however, by what Mr. Moore’s popularity says about the sorry state of evangelical Christianity.”

  • It is wrong to attack one’s critics…as “the forces of evil” and attribute their questions about serious allegations to “a spiritual battle.”
  • It is wrong to excuse one’s own moral failings while rushing to judgment over the sins of others…We are to love and forgive our enemies, as God has loved and forgiven us.
  • Brewbaker took issue with some evangelicals for “arrogantly identifying the success of a given party or political movement with the advancement of the Kingdom of God.”

Numerous other conservative voices recognized long ago what a threat Trump is to traditional conservative and Christian principles: George Will, Charles Krauthammer, William Kristol, Jennifer Rubin, to name a few. For a selective sample of these critics, see our blog page “Trump’s Conservative Critics Expose the Rot in the Republican Party.”

More Trump Lies in Arrogant Violation of God’s Commandment

The Washington Post reported on November 14 that Trump had made 1,628 false or misleading claims in the 298 days of his presidency. The number included claims he had made numerous times. As of November 14, Trump in the previous 35 days had averaged an astonishing nine claims a day. (See also: When it comes to lying, Trump is in a class by himself; “Donald Trump is constantly lying”; “Trump’s lies: the definitive list”)

The Republicans’ Arrogant Trashing of Jesus’ Golden Rule

Please explain to me, Dr. Moore, where Southern Baptists find one iota of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” in a President who:

  • –Bragged about sexually assaulting women and called them bimbos
  • –Hired sex predator Roger Ailes as a chief adviser, after Ailes was forced out of Fox News
  • -Demeaned John McCain’s military service
  • –Mocked a physically handicapped person
  • –Impugned the integrity of a respected federal judge on the basis of his ethnic origin
  • –Belittled the mother of a martyred American-Muslim soldier
  • –Talks about Muslims the way Hitler talked about Jews
  • –Incited his followers to violence.
  • –Praises the thug Putin.
  • –Appointed an alt-right white nationalist extremist as his Presidential Counselor
  • –Advocated punitive measures against American citizens on the basis of their religion.
  • –Used profanity in public
  • –Accused Ted Cruz’s father of involvement in JFK’s assassination
  • –Refuses to pay the bills due small businesses who worked for him.
  • –Bilked innocent people of their money in a scam involving a phony university

Reverend Frank Graham on Trump

Despite all the above, Reverend Franklin Graham said in early December, 2017, that no president in his lifetime had taken such a “strong, outspoken stand for the Christian faith” than President Trump. After Trump’s election last year, Graham stated that Trump defeated Hillary by the “hand of God.”  

My Questions to the SBC, Dr. Moore

When did the Southern Baptist Convention decide to throw overboard God’s Ten Commandments and Jesus’ Golden Rule? (Which you have done by remaining silent in the face of Trump and the Republicans wholesale defiance of both.)

When did America’s major religious denominations decide that the Bible’s words about abortion and homosexuality had completely replaced the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule as edicts to live by?

When did putative Christians decide that “I don’t care” about Trump’s immoral acts is an acceptable response to explain their continued support for Trump?  Does God really accept this as a reason to live in defiance of His Commandments and the Golden Rule? Do you?

If you choose to defend your refusal to denounce Donald Trump and the Republican Party, please include specific words that refute or take issue with the specific words published by the Trump critics cited above, especially those printed in red.

In regard to the bullet points in the sub-section, “The Republicans’ Arrogant Trashing of Jesus’ Golden Rule”: please tell me how you talk to the children in your congregation and to your own children and grandchildren about having as a role model a President who has spoken those words.

Do you believe, Dr. Moore, that the opinions of the religious voices (including yours, if it applies) that support Trump are worth more than the dissenting voices of Peter Wehner, William S. Brewbaker (and other evangelicals), Kurt Bardella, Michael Gerson, David Brooks, George Will, Charles Krauthammer, William Kristol, and Jennifer Rubin?

Here is my statement about Franklin Graham: “I believe that Reverend Frank Graham’s declaration that Trump has taken a stronger, more outspoken stand for the Christian faith than any other President in his lifetime is, itself, an act of blasphemy and a travesty of Jesus’ message.”

  • My question, Dr. Moore: Do you agree or disagree with my statement?

But above all, Dr. Moore, please tell us how Southern Baptist clergy talk to the children in their flock—or to their own children and grandchildren—about having as a role model a President who approves of calling his own daughter a piece of ass?

I am sending you this message prior to its posting on my blog in order to give you a chance to consider it and respond. If you wish to reply in advance of its posting, please send me a copy as an attachment to an email. I will publish it verbatim. Or, you can wait until it is posted on my blog, and click the blog’s COMMENT to post your reply directly.

Tom Barksdale


  • Dr. Johnny Hunt
  • First Baptist Church of Woodstock
  • 11905 Highway 92
  • Woodstock, GA 30188
  • Dr. Michael Lewis
  • Roswell Street Baptist Church
  • 774 Roswell Street, Marietta, GA 30060
  • Office of the General Assembly
  • ATTN: J. Herbert Nelson, II
    Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
    100 Witherspoon Street
    Louisville, KY  40202-1396
  • Presiding Bishop Michael Curry
  • The Episcopal Church
  • 815 Second Ave
  • New York, NY 10017

Nice Guy Kavanaugh: Reminds Me of the Ol’ Southern Segs

The Washington Post today published an op-ed written by a mother whose daughters attend the same Catholic school as Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee:  “I don’t know Kavanaugh the judge. But Kavanaugh the carpool dad is one great guy.”  The article gushingly praises Kavanaugh in his non-official role as a girl’s basketball coach, car pool dad, and all around good guy. 

The article rang my bell as a native Southerner.  Here is my response.

Ms. O’Brien has pushed my button dead-on. As native Southerner, during the Civil Rights struggles I lived in a culture of flagrant Christian hypocrisy. The headlines blared with reports of the brutal murder of civil rights workers, frequent bombings of blacks’ homes and churches, police dogs and fire hoses used against peaceful demonstrators, adults spitting in the faces of black children desegregating a school, police brutally clubbing demonstrators on a bridge in Selma, and the assassination of Martin Luther King.

Underlying all this was the institution of segregation. “Good” Southerners would declare their commitment to “segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever”—while declaring they had nothing to do with all that violence stuff.

And Christian churches during all this? They either declared that God and Jesus endorsed segregation, or they remained on the sidelines in blissful silence. You could lynch a black person on Saturday and be assured in church on Sunday that your immortal soul was headed for eternal salvation. It produced the “other than that” argument. “My friend Bubba is a rabid racist who believes we should ship the ‘N’ words back to Africa, but other than that, he’s a damn fine fellow. Why, he has always shown me the greatest kindness.”

In her accolade for Kavanaugh, O’Brien has delivered a pluperfect “other than that” argument. Sure, Kavanaugh wants to deny heath care to Americans with preexisting conditions, deny women the control of their bodies, always rules in favor of special interests, shows he’s a puppet of Big Business by having a powerful D.C. lobbyist as his “Sherpa” during the confirmation process, and he seems indifferent to the suffering of the kidnapped migrant children.

But other than that, Kavanaugh is a damn fine fellow who coaches my daughters’ basketball team and is a wonderful car pool dad.

Do you understand why I’m reaching for my barth bag?

A little elaboration: my comment on another commenter’s comment:

And don’t forget the “nice” Southern Baptists who championed slavery and segregation, the slaveowner who would help take care of a sick white neighbor while tying his slaves to a fence post and lashing them with a bullwhip, the ever so noble and full-of-integrity Southern Senators who used their power to maintain segregation for 100 years, and the “nice” car pool dads who would use billy clubs on a bridge in Selma to beat peaceful demonstrators nearly to their deaths.

Not to mention the “nice” car pool dad Nazis.

Judge Kavanaugh does, in fact, represent a particular class of human beings. And Ms. O’Brien, a particular class of their enablers.


Letter to Rev. Bryant Wright, Chief Pastor, Johnson Ferry Baptist Church

June 20, 2018
Tom Barksdale, proprietor
1025 Rose Creek Dr. – Suite 620
Woodstock, GA 30189

Gut-wrenching’ recording captures sounds of crying children separated from parents at the border

 Senior Pastor Bryant Wright
Johnson Ferry Baptist Church
955 Johnson Ferry Rd.
Marietta, GA 30068 

Dear Chief Pastor Wright,

In December, I sent you and several other leading American religious leaders a letter pointing out the growing chorus of religious and conservative voices speaking out in alarm about the danger to Christianity posed by a passive attitude toward the immorality, corruption, and sordidness of the Trump Administration. I highlighted the words of leading conservative spokesman David Brooks: “You can’t save Christianity by betraying its message.”

I asked for comments. Your only response was an email with a link to one of your sermons about how the second coming of Christ was the only solution to all our problems.

Since December, Trump’s words and deeds, and even those of some Christian leaders, have exponentially magnified the threat to American Christianity posed by “Christians” who either actively support Trump or remain silent in the face of his assault on the basic values of Jesus Christ, of democracy, and of common human decency.

An even more appalling and direct attack on Christian principles has emerged in recent days by the Trump Administration’s separation of children from parents accused of illegally crossing the U.S. border and the inhumane mass incarceration of the children in detention camps.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions compounded the anti-Christian inhumanity by citing the same Bible passages once used to defend slavery to defend separating immigrant families. As a native Southerner, his words were like a blow to my solar plexus. I have been saying for some time that the Trumpists’ racism, sexism, and xenophobia made it seem as if the last 60 years had disappeared and we were back to the time when you could lynch a black person on Saturday and attend church on Sunday and be reassured that your soul was guaranteed eternal salvation.

Or murder civil rights workers, spit in the face of black school children desegregating a school, bomb a black church, or beat senseless peaceful demonstrators on a bridge in Selma—and still be a good Christian, according to your Baptist pastor.

Sessions’ words sparked a revolting feeling of déjà vu all over again, of a return to the worst days of the Civil Rights struggle.

I have been heartened, therefore, by the actions and resolutions taken at the recent annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas. In particular, I saw the resolution on immigration as denoting a decisive separation of the SBC from the policies of Trump and the Republicans. My positive view has been reinforced by the media’s conclusion that the SBC has taken a significantly new tack.

The most striking article appeared in The Atlantic: “Southern Baptists Call Off the Culture War: America’s largest Protestant group moves to cut ties with the Republican Party and re-engage with mainstream culture.”

Even more heartening, Rev. Wright, were your retweets of the positive coverage of the results of the SBC convention, and your tweet expressing thanks to Franklin Graham for criticizing the separation policy and urging people to “contact your members of Congress and call on them to stop this abuse against families.” I hope you continue to raise your voice against this despicable mistreatment and traumatizing of children.

One paragraph in the Atlantic article struck me in a very personal way: “(Southern Baptists) appear to recognize that tethering themselves to Donald Trump—a thrice-married man who has bragged about committing adultery, lies with impunity, allegedly paid hush money to a porn star with whom he had an affair, and says he has never asked God for forgiveness—places the moral credibility of the Southern Baptist Convention at risk.”  My goodness. Almost as if the author is plagiarizing words from my letter to you!

But there is no room for complacency. Many evangelicals—probably including some of your flock—are willing to continue to support a policy explicitly contrary to the teachings of Jesus. Read: Why many white evangelicals are not protesting family separations on the U.S. border. I hope you are dedicated to setting such people straight, with as much fervor as they display in opposing abortion.

The Growing anti-Trump Chorus

You should be encouraged that other Christians have begun speaking out against the mistreatment of innocent children.

  • On June 14, the Migrants and Refugees Section at the Vatican tweeted a verse of Deuteronomy: “The Bible teaches that God ‘loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt’ (Deuteronomy 10:18-19).” Pope Francis
  • “At a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on June 13, the nation’s Catholic leaders strongly condemned the administration’s immigration policies as immoral, with one bishop going so far as to suggest that Catholics who help carry out the Justice Department’s policies are violating their faith and perhaps should be denied Communion.”
  • On June 20, Pope Francis announced his support for the Bishops’ statement, putting himself on the record as opposing the Trump administration’s policy.
  • On June 19, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and 12 other Republican Senators sent a letter to US Attorney General Jeff Sessions calling for a halt to the practice of separating families at the border.
  • Four-star general warns Trump’s family separation policy echoes Nazis
  • And now, former First Lady Laura Bush has taken the unusual step of writing an op-ed column for the Washington Post, adding her voice to those denouncing this cruel and inhumane policy: “I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.”

Read More: Conservative Religious Leaders Are Denouncing Trump Immigration Policies

Trump’s Continuing Sins: His Contempt for the 10 Commandments

Trump continues to live in virtual daily defiance of God’s Commandment not to bear false witness. According to the Washington Post’s documented inventory, as of June 1 Trump made 3,251 false or misleading claims in 495 days. See also:

Trump’s lies about the Russia probe devolve into absurdityTrump keeps incriminating himself with nonstop lies

Trump, of course, has a history of not only engaging in adultery, but publicizing it and bragging about it.

The Stormy Daniels affair has highlighted Trump’s sins. He lied to the American people, claiming the affair never happened, and reversed himself only when the evidence became overwhelming. He also lied publicly about not knowing about his lawyer’s payoff to Daniels to keep her quiet, and then had his new spokesman announce the truth that he had recompensed his lawyer for making the payment.

What a mind-numbing display of hypocrisy so-called Christians display when they turn a blind eye to Trump’s ever-present contempt for God’s laws while waving in our faces those words in the Bible that supposedly ban abortion and gay rights.

The Mormon Church took Christian hypocrisy to new heights recently by severing its ties to the Boy Scouts in an apparent response to the Scouts’ decision to include openly gay troop leaders—while remaining mute on the gross immorality and God-defying antics of Donald Trump. See my blog Break with Boy Scouts Takes Mormons to New Heights of Hypocrisy

The criminality, corruption, and malfeasance of the Trump Administration has expanded since my December letter.

  • Former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was charged and pleaded guiltyin December 2017 to making false statements to the FBI.
  • Special Prosecutor Mueller has charged three other former Trump campaign officials with criminal conduct. This month, June 2018, additional charges were brought against one of them as well as one of his associates
  • An attorney associated with Trump pleaded guilty to lying to FBI investigators and was sentenced to 30 days in prison.
  • Environmental Protection Agency Chief Scott Pruitt has been revealed as a one-man band of pure, in-your-face corruption. See “A Running List of Scott Pruitt’s Corrupt Acts.” As of early June, there were at least a dozen ongoing investigations related to Pruitt by EPA’s Office of Inspector General, the Government Accountability Office, and congressional oversight committees. Read more.

Further reading:

The Known Facts about the Crime and Malfeasance in Trumpgate

The State of New York this week opened a new front in dealing with Trump’s corruption: N.Y. files suit against Trump, alleging his charity engaged in ‘illegal conduct’.

Trump’s Wanton Defiance of Jesus’ Golden Rule

You will recall, Pastor Wright, that these latest examples of moral decadence are a continuation of the acts Trump committed in the past, for which he has never apologized and for which you and other Christian leaders have never held him accountable. Trump’s more telling words and deeds are listed in the section of my original latter titled “The Republicans’ arrogant trashing of Jesus’ Golden Rule.”

An American’s Opinion
From the Washington Post
Peter Daou‏Verified account @peterdaou 10h10 hours ago

TAKING INVENTORY OF “CHRISTIAN VALUES”: Back child molesters for the US Senate. Strip health coverage from sick children to enrich billionaires. Shrug at the slaughter of schoolchildren to appease the gun lobby. Steal immigrant babies and hold them hostage for political gain.
147 replies 2,521 retweets 4,029 likes

Trump’s daily tweets continue to remind us that “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is a concept totally remote to Donald Trump.

Christian Leaders’ Feckless Tolerance of Trump Continues

The Southern Baptist Convention’s Crisis of Morality

Let’s hope the new leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention can overcome the considerable shortcomings of its own. The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary on May 30 fired its long-time President, Paige Patterson, for allegedly lying about and mishandling complaints of student rape. Here is my write-up: Leader’s Disgrace Deals Heavy Blow to Southern Baptists.

Three men have accused Paul Pressler, Patterson’s closest ally in bringing about the “conservative revolution” in the SBC, of years of sexual molestation.  Also, according to the Baptist Press, Frank S. Page, the former president and chief executive of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, resigned in March from the top role in the SBC because of a “morally inappropriate” relationship.

There’s more.

My Questions
  • How can anyone who calls themselves a Christian support a President who exhibits utter contempt for God’s Commandment and Jesus’ Golden Rule?
  • What Bible passages establish that the 10 Commandments can be abandoned in order to support a President who appoints Supreme Court justices who will rule against abortion?
  • What practical steps do you and other Baptist pastors intend to take to implement the spirit of the resolutions adopted at the SBC meeting? What will you ask your congregation to do?
  • Have you preached a sermon denouncing the horrendous Republican policy of separating immigrant children from their parents? If not, why not?
  • (Original version) Have you thought of asking your congregation to sign a petition demanding that President Trump abandon the family separation policy? Laura Bush’s op-ed in the Washington Post on June 17, it seems to me, would be an excellent reference to start a draft.
  • (Revised version) Have you thought of asking your congregation to sign a petition demanding that President Trump immediately mobilize the resources to return all the kidnapped children to their parents?
  • Why can’t America’s religious denominations denounce Trump’s lies and adultery as strongly as they denounce abortion and/or gay rights?
  • Why do so many Christians focus so relentlessly—in some cases, almost exclusively—on things Jesus Christ never said anything about—like abortion and gay rights—while virtually ignoring Jesus’ core message, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”?
  • Why do we almost never hear Christian clergy citing Jesus’ strong denunciation of the rich? Much less preaching a sermon based on those words?

I look forward to your answers.
Tom Barksdale

Leader’s Disgrace Deals Heavy Blow to Southern Baptists

The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary on May 30 fired its long-time President, Paige Patterson, for allegedly lying about and mishandling complaints of student rape.  Patterson for decades has been one of the most powerful leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest American Protestant denomination and a giant force in American evangelicalism. Beginning in the 1970s, Patterson was the leading architect of the takeover of the SBC by hardline religious conservatives. The Washington Post’s description:

“The takeover, which lasted over a decade, was no holds barred, with Patterson keeping files on ideological opponents and cultivating spies in seminaries, according to historical accounts. A 1991 profile in D Magazine…said Patterson had been ‘likened to the Rev. Jim Jones and Joe McCarthy’ by his critics in the denomination. ‘He’s been reviled as a power-mad fundamentalist on a witch hunt for heretics.’ ” (See also Southern Baptist seminary drops bombshell: Why Paige Patterson was fired and Why Southern Baptists can’t shake their racist past)

Patterson’s conservatives left no doubt about their primary concern: they were disturbed by the rising tide of the feminist movement and increased debate about abortion.  Their chief goal was to keep women in their subordinate place and out of the pulpit. Patterson made the Biblical words calling on a wife to “submit to the servant leadership of her husband” the chief a chief element in Baptist theology.

“By the mid-1990s the seminaries and state conventions were largely purged of moderates and liberals. Many women who were studying to be pastors or who taught classes that included male students were forced out or left.”

But a darker side of Patterson’s stand emerged this year when recorded comments surfaced of his counseling abused women to remain with their husbands and making remarks seen as objectifying a teenage girl and criticizing the physical appearance of female seminary students.

Events became more ominous when a former student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary stated that in 2003, when Patterson headed the school, she had reported to him that she had been assaulted by a man she had been dating, and  Patterson encouraged her not to report the incident to the police and to forgive her alleged assailant.

A few days later, Southwestern trustees cited a second incident in 2015. A Southwestern female student had reported to Patterson that she had been raped, and police were called. But Patterson allegedly emailed campus security and “discussed meeting with the student alone so that he could break her down.”

The allegations prompted thousands of conservative women SBC members to petition for Patterson’s removal. Faced with the damning evidence, the Board of Trustees acted.

The Washington Post’s headline on the article detailing Patterson’s demise summed up the irony: “How women led to the dramatic rise and fall of Southern Baptist leader Paige Patterson.”

My initial response to the revelations about Patterson and his forced retirement was posted in a comment on one of the Washington Post stories:

“Does any half way intelligent human being fail to see the twisted, perverted thinking that underlies the outlook of Southern Baptist clerics? The only difference regarding Patterson is that his perversion became too obvious to ignore. He got caught red handed. The rest of them still fervently believe the crud about wives having to obey their husbands. In the 21st Century, Southern Baptists believe women are no better than chattel. To understand the rot that pervades the hearts and minds of Southern Baptist pastors, you need only to remember two things: 1. Their predecessors fervently believed that Jesus ordained slavery as a positive good. The Convention was founded to preach that gospel. 2. The next generation fervently believed that segregation was perfectly legitimate and helped maintain it for 100 years.

Why anybody would believe that the current crop of medieval-minded misogynist yahoos are preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ escapes me.”

On re-reading it, I hesitated to post it on this blog, feeling that maybe it was a little extreme. But then I read more about the beliefs and practices of Patterson and his conservative Southern Baptists cohorts. And I got 21 thumbs-up on my “extreme” comment from other readers.  Big deal, huh? Well, the average number of approvals on any article is decidedly in single digits. And I would say that 5 is the usual highest. Twenty-one is earth shattering. And there were a much higher number of double-digit approvals for other commenters than are normal.

In short, the Patterson conservatives’ conquest of the Southern Baptist Convention has left it more isolated than ever from mainstream America. From the Post article:

  • Data released June 1 by the movement shows membership falling for the 11th straight year, to 15 million — down 1.3 million since 2006.
  • Baptisms — a core marker of the faith — were fewer in 2017 by 26 percent compared with a decade ago, according to an internal survey published by LifeWay Christian Resources, the research arm of the denomination.
  • Enrollment at Southwestern is down by almost half since Patterson arrived there.

Seems hypocrisy and a distortion of Jesus’ message can only get you so far.

The Word that Won the National Spelling Bee has Georgia Connection


Koinonia is a Winning Spelling Bee Word with Georgia Connections

You will also be galvanized by a book written a few years ago about the life of young Georgians who lived on the multi-racial Koinonia Farm and attended local schools during the era when racists were using violence to preserve segregation.

Idealism meets racism in south Georgia in ‘Class of ‘65’

IndieDems had recently referenced the book in the notification of a video watch party covering abuses at the immigration detention center  in nearby Lumpkin, GA.

The Neglected Role of Women in the Early Christian Church

If you do not read any other posts on IndieDems, see the link in this  one.

As pointed out in our post Southern Baptists Discover–Gasp!–Misogyny in Their Ranks, women and supporters of women’s rights are up in arms over remarks by  Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson in which he “described a young man’s lewd comments toward a teenage girl as ‘biblical,’ and said the proper response to abuse within marriage ‘depends on the level of abuse to some degree’.”

Commentator Gracy Olmstead has expanded the debate in a rewarding way with an excellent review of the role of women in the early Christian church. You want to read this article. It covers a part of history that is too much ignored and explodes the idea that Jesus Christ proscribed a secondary role for women or that early female Christian were meek and mild followers of their male counterparts.

Southern Baptists Discover–Gasp!–Misogyny in Their Ranks

On May 7, conservative columnist and  former GW Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson, a vociferous critic of Donald Trump and the phony “conservatives” who support him, wrote an article “Evangelicals are having their own #MeToo moment.” An excerpt:

Paige Patterson — head of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and icon of conservative Baptist belief — is being called out for a story he told in 2000. An abused woman had come to him for counseling. Patterson recommended prayer. Later, the woman returned with two black eyes. In Patterson’s telling: “She said, ‘I hope you’re happy.’ And I said, ‘Yes . . . I’m very happy,’ ” because the woman’s husband had heard her prayers and come to church the next day.

Gerson went on to point out a number of prominent Baptists had risen in criticism. [‘We are shocked’: Thousands of Southern Baptist women denounce leader’s ‘objectifying’ comments, advice to abused women]

Here is IndieDems comment:

My, my. Over 2000 years after Christ treated his female followers with dignity and respect, followed by the Apostle Paul (allegedly) telling women Jesus wanted them to keep quiet in church and to obey their husbands; followed by the Catholic Church’s declaring women unworthy to be priests, much less hold any higher rank; 18 months after evangelical females–and about 52 percent of all white women–voted for a serial adulterer who had admitted to sexually assaulting women, called women bimbos in his tweets, and approved of someone calling his daughter a “piece of a–“; after all this, Michael Gerson and Southern Baptist Women are shocked, shocked–again–to discover there is misogyny going on in their ranks.

Not because the womenhad an epiphany about the phony baloney balderdash they have been listening to, but because some Baptist preacher finally made a statement that even evangelicals couldn’t stomach.

Real life again presents an incident that, if presented in a Saturday Night Live skit, would have unleashed a torrent of criticism that SNL had gone too far in tarnishing the wonderful, God-fearing evangelical community, the sole preserver of the true faith and morals in our sinful society.

It’s all too rich for words. A piece of advice to Gerson and the female evangelicals: try to see the light and see Patterson, not as an aberration, but as the exemplar of evangelical preachers. Then do what other Americans are doing in droves: abandon organized religion for being the hollow, hypocritical shell it really is.

A Message for Johnny Isakson, David Perdue, Barry Loudermilk, and Karen Handel

Now, calm down and try to understand this. That does not mean abandoning the teachings of Jesus or the 10 Commandments. It just means abandoning the false prophets who’ve already abandoned both but disguised it with demagoguery about how all you need to do is oppose abortion and gay rights and you are guaranteed entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. That ain’t what Jesus was all about, my friends.