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The Means and Ends of Adventist Media

By Alexander Carpenter

The Adventist blogosphere has raised some questions about the Danny and Linda Shelton divorce and Adventist Today's coverage.


Perpetual Student
points out, "Now I don't have the time or interest to figure out what really
happened, but I thought the letters provided a good example of some of
the pitfalls that a ministry can face if it is too tightly controlled
by a dominant personanility (sic)."


Ron Corson and the rest
writes: "It may be a shame that people search the
AToday site for information on the 3ABN situation but that is really
not the fault of AToday. To report on the situation is part of AToday's
purpose in reporting news of Adventist interest and it certainly does
not have lots of material on the subject."

But let's not mix posting emails with news reporting.
I worry that my friends at Adventist Today are letting the wrong kind
of interest drive their content. At the root, it seems, they are
mixing their means and ends.

Behind some the prurient discomfort over the Sheltons' personal lives lie serious objections to the content and management of 3ABN. 

But let's stop for a second. We must pull away
from the brink of employing personal relationships as substitute arguments for
raising essential questions about the people who represent our faith to the world.  It troubles me that some
religious folks have been at the forefront of personal attacks on
public figures (Bill Clinton/John McCain) - and we cannot allow dehumanizing titillation and argument by innuendo to leak into the
public discourse of our faith community.

I've interviewed Linda for
Spectrum
and investigated the multi-million
dollar waste and the bumbling right-wing coddling of 3ABN
. And yes, you can buy a wedding dress or a doll by Marie Osmond from 3ABN on Ebay.

But beyond the personal, Danny's email retort reveals a troubling morality - essentially saying
that he has many converts so shouldn't be criticized by folks with
less. That hint of "ends over means" justification should make his
accountant and 3ABN board sweat.


Ron
gets at that when he writes: "Just claiming that Danny Shelton is
spreading the gospel is not enough, Christian responsibility calls for
accountability as well."

When a person starts defending themselves by saying: "but look at all
the good I've done (Duke Cunningham/Pol Pot)," their moral jig is up.

I
believe, Mr. Shelton, that the Spanish Inquisition got even more
converts than you.
As an Adventist I want to see better content and leadership at one of
the largest cultural signifiers of Adventism; but we should make sure
that our own means stay high. Concerned Adventists need to drive smart
change at 3ABN, but we'll give our whole community a better media experience by staying off
"the he said/she said" road.

Controversies, great and small

By Bonnie DwyerAmong the books on my night stand calling out to be read is Nancey
Murphy’s Bodies and Souls or Spirited
Bodies
, so I was pleased to find commentary on it while web surfing.

Lynne Rudder Baker reviewed the book for Notre Dame’s Philosophy Reviews.

Baker does a nice summary of each of the chapters and then concludes
that Bodies and Souls is
“written in a comfortable conversational style and introduces many of the
controversies that confront Christians today.”

\n\n \n\nBonnie Dwyer\n\n \n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n",0]
);
D(["ce"]);

//--> So I am determined to begin reading Murphy tonight for myself.

There
seem to be so many controversies, of late. Zeroing in and gaining some
understanding would be a good thing. Not to mention the Forum Conference is
coming up in October. Nancey will be the speaker. This is a chance to get
acquainted ahead of time.

Why God is Winning

There exist lots of folks who opine on religion and public life.  There
are few who read and think critically enough to know what they are talking about. With a sharp theory on why God is winning, Dr. Timothy Shah shares some facts that get beyond the old memes about fundamentalism, religion and politics.

Dr. Shah holds an A.B. in government, magna cum laude, and a Ph.D. in political science,
both from Harvard University. His doctoral thesis on religion and the
origins of liberal political thought in early modern Europe was awarded
the prestigious Aaron Wildavsky Award for Best Dissertation in Religion
and Politics by the American Political Science Association in 2003.

He recently participated in a Q & A for the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

For much of the 20th century, social scientists and policymakers argued
that democratization and modernity would render religion insignificant
and irrelevant. They were wrong, says Timothy Shah, senior Pew Forum
fellow in religion and world affairs, who contends religion is booming
in many countries and democracy has given religious leaders a growing
political influence, spawning "prophetic political movements."

He points out: ". . .there does seem to be a worldwide trend across all major religious
groups, in which God-based and faith-based movements in general are
experiencing increasing confidence and influence vis-à-vis secular
movements and ideologies. In other words, it is not just Islam that is
resurgent or radicalizing, which is often what is claimed. Rather, what
is happening within Islam must be understood in the wider context of
what is happening within other religious communities. Only then will we
have a proper understanding of the causes and consequences of what is,
in fact, a global trend toward more politically influential religious
movements."

Learn more here.

Church Fires Teacher for Being Woman

New York TimesMonday, August 21, 2006

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (AP) -- The minister of a church that dismissed a
female Sunday School teacher after adopting what it called a literal
interpretation of the Bible says a woman can perform any job -- outside
of the church.

The First Baptist Church dismissed Mary Lambert on Aug. 9 with a
letter explaining that the church had adopted an interpretation that
prohibits women from teaching men. She had taught there for 54 years.

The letter quoted the first epistle to Timothy: ''I do not permit a
woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.''

The Rev. Timothy LaBouf, who also serves on the Watertown City
Council, issued a statement saying his stance against women teaching
men in Sunday school would not affect his decisions as a city leader in
Watertown, where all five members of the council are men but the city
manager who runs the city's day-to-day operations is a woman.

''I believe that a woman can perform any job and fulfill any
responsibility that she desires to'' outside of the church, LaBouf
wrote Saturday.

Mayor Jeffrey Graham, however, was bothered by the reasons given Lambert's dismissal.

''If what's said in that letter reflects the councilman's views,
those are disturbing remarks in this day and age,'' Graham said.
''Maybe they wouldn't have been disturbing 500 years ago, but they are
now.''

Lambert has publicly criticized the decision, but the church did not
publicly address the matter until Saturday, a day after its board met.

In a statement, the board said other issues were behind Lambert's dismissal, but it did not say what they were.

Recent Adventism in the News

The Rev. Al Sharpton spoke out on behalf of a slain NYC Adventist girl.

GC President Jan Paulsen arrived in Africa, home to 40% of the 25-million worldwide Adventist community.* (Yes, those are official stats from ANN.) When quizzed about the growth of the Adventist
church in Cameroon, [Paulsen] replied, "I am never satisfied, but want the
church to be known as contributing to the betterment of the community.
I am not so much interested in numbers but in the quality of life that
Adventists bring to the community."
It is interesting to read the different news emphases between ANN and the Cameroon Tribune.

Representatives of the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church and the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) met in dialogue last week and plan to meet next year at Andrews University.

It really pays to keep the Sabbath, and have Mitch Tyner as your lawyer. We'll miss ya at the GC.

As if the Lake Region Conference didn't have enough problems, now two camp counselors have been charged with criminal sexual misconduct this week.

And finally, here are two more articles on the student beating in Uganda. Apparently it's not just a one time thing. Or as Ms Grace Kyomukama, a parent, told the Daily Monitor: . . .she was forced to change her son from Katikamu to
another school because of its habitual corporal punishments. Kyomukama said her son would show her scars from several beatings at school, every time he went home for holidays.President Paulsen heads to Uganda this week. Given his statement about education: "Education instills integrity, honesty, nobility and
can be one of the ways to fight corruption which is prevalent in many
countries. Education produces good moral, law-abiding citizens."
I hope that - while in Uganda - our GC President lets teachers, administrators, parents, students and the Ugandan public know that Adventism is incompatible with violent environments.

*The original sentence misused the term "member." See Monte Sahlin's comment.

Art: Summer 2006 Cover, "Redesigning Genesis" (Sneak Peek!)

By Sharon
Fujimoto-Johnson

 
Here's a sneak peek at the cover
of the brand new issue of Spectrum,
which will begin landing in subscribers' mailboxes at the end of next week.The cover artwork by artist Cliff Rusch is a visual
interpretation of a postmodern translation of Genesis. This work is part of a
book-length art project called "Redesigning Genesis." Rusch created this project around writer/musician Mike
Mennard
’s translation of Genesis. In
"Redesigning Genesis," Rusch’s intention was “to parallel the new-ness of this
translation by approaching design and visual form in non-traditional ways that
breathe new life into the original meaning of the text." Cliff Rusch is a professor of art and the art director of public relations at Pacific Union
College
.
More
artwork from "Redesigning Genesis" is presented in the brand new issue of
Spectrum, along with an array of fresh, thought-provoking articles. How do you like seeing an ancient text presented as modern art? Do you find it invigorating, unsettling, or challenging in some way? After you've had a chance to look at artwork in the new issue, let us know what you think.And if for some
reason you aren't already receiving the magazine, consider giving yourself a
subscription
.

I heard this sharp cartoonist at a policy panel.

Posted by Alexander Carpenter. Click to read.

Focus on the Swinging Family?

By Alexander CarpenterJames Dobson has gradually become more and more
involved in Republican party politics. And now it's official.

According to their communication folks
and today's Washington Post, Focus on the Family is the new Christian
Coalition:

"Conservative Christian radio host James C. Dobson's national
organization, Focus on the Family, said yesterday that it will work
with affiliated groups in eight battleground states to mobilize
evangelical voters in the November elections.

In targeting individual churches the way political organizers
traditionally pinpointed certain wards, Focus on the Family is filling
a void left by the near-collapse of the Christian Coalition and
stepping into an area where recent Republican Party efforts have
created resentment among evangelicals."Now standing in for the GOP, "Focus on the Swing-state Family" will mobilize voters in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, New
Jersey, Minnesota, Montana and Tennessee.

In light of this, I suggest that
Adventists retreat into just the metaphysical saving of souls and reminding people that Daniel predicts the past. De facto, while this might only support the Religious Right's status quo, de jure, we wouldn't seem political. And saying nothing
might just solve problems; because eventually someone will speak up
for the separation of church and state (did you catch the sign in the picture?); because the example of Jesus is not about God standing up for hard working men and peacemakers and mothers and children and calling out occupation-accommodating
religious leaders, but someone who just died and rose to rally the
disciples to oppose homos having monogamous sex.

I guess that there is always the Jehovah's Witnesses who also support the right-wing by not taking a stand for their beliefs. As folks learned in 1930s Germany (I was just at the Holocaust Museum last week), there is no such thing as non-political. To remain silent is to support the other side.

If anyone has any questions about the political position of the
Adventist church, see these official statements and papers on such
non-political issues such as Climate Change, Peace, AIDS, Assault
Weapons, and Gene Therapy
. Or as the General Conference says:As the church continues to grow and make an influence, its role in the society will require that its views and what it holds true becomes known. Such will continue be the demands of the society, and such will be the need to define Adventism's relevance, or present truth, to those who are asking questions and seeking answers to their dilemmas and problems.

If a pastor were to read one of these from the pulpit or integrate a paragraph into a sermon, he'd  increase the public voice of the church and encourage his congregants to think about their faithful role in their communities.

And while folks appreciate
being reminded that Jesus died (my sins, too), they also appreciate reflecting on his
life. Because saving souls just might mean more than just dunking them,
and the kingdom of God just might include caring about the common good for
each members' family, community, and country as well.

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