nothing moderate about the fundamentalist, apocalyptic, Christian-right ideology of Pastor Hagee

July 30, 2008


I highly recommend the article Going Undercover at Mad Pastor Hagee’s Christians United for Israel Summit” by Ali Gharib published on on July 26.

Why undercover? Because in an effort to control the message the press was kept out of the conference.

There was nothing moderate about the fundamentalist, apocalyptic, Christian-right ideology of the attendants and speakers at the CUFI conference.

 “For us,” Hagee said, “there are only two ways to live: The Bible way and the wrong way. Christians United for Israel is a Bible-based organization now, tomorrow and forever, without apology to anyone for anything.”



Hallman and Morales debate, tune in Sat 6:45 pm Eastern

June 26, 2008

A first debate of the two candidates for president of the UUA happens (and is webcast live!) Saturday evening at 6:45-8p.m. Eastern time. Many congregations feature it live as it’s more fun to watch it together and stick around for a discussion. Plan to attend!

The stream is at 

and the full UUA webcast schedule is here:

Both candidates have websites with a campaign blog (screenshots and links above)

(At present Laurel’s blog is RSS syndicated and automatically picked up by, Peter’s not yet due to a tech issue).

This should get interesting! 

Unlike the US presidential race with its artificial ‘issues’ and general horse race character the UUA’s candidates are focussing on real issues that will decide the future of our movement.

Blogs can be a good forum to exchange views and arguments on that front provided that people behave in a civil manner. One blogger raised flags about possible hijacking of threads by partisan commenters, spam-like flooding with posts and such. Let’s not overreact to something that hasn’t even occurred yet. A discussion over the goals and qualifications of the new president is necessary and should not be artificially censored by overeager blogiquette.

Regardless of whom you’ll eventually favor, it’ll provide deep insights into this religious movement and the hurdles it faces.

The election is a year away but the sooner we start the discussion over goals and priorities the better. Read up on Laurel’s and Peter’s positions and their track records!

The worst that can happen is that the candidates’ positions morph indistinguishably into each other – then we’d be left with no real choice 🙂

Deranged but effective: how megachurches make visitors come back (while UUs make them leave)

June 26, 2008


I just read (and highly recommend) the book by Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi: The Great Derangement (May 2008). It addresses the 9/11 conspiracy crowd, the appallingly corrupt workings of the Congress and Senate, and the phenomenal success of lunatic right wing fundamentalism. For that third topic he went undercover for months and joined a hugely successful if ideologically evil Texas megachurch. (See the linked excerpt article below: “Jesus made me puke”. The provocative title refers to being made to spew out ‘demons’ into a barf bag during a ‘healing service’.)


What fills the pews in those 5000 seat arenas? (according to Matt Taibbi) 

1) People are (as sociologists can prove) lonely and disconnected on an unprecedented scale. (I failed to dig out the statistics that I recently saw, their measure or indicator was how many persons someone had other than spouses or parents in whom they could trust to discuss deep emotional issues. Please respond if you can identify the study.)

2) People are hurt. Financially, emotionally, they suffer from evil jobs, endless commutes, they have little life outside their consuming drudgery. Addiction also figures prominently, as do abuse and bad relationships.

These churches are effective, Taibbi writes, not because of their often ludicrous ideologies but because they offer real support in those areas of affliction. (Whether they support is effective is another question, but at least they offer support, and starting to address a problem is always a step in the right direction).

They are also good at retaining folks because they form small groups inside their larger settings (sometimes called ‘tribes’) where people get connected through bible study etc with a regular subset of the same few people. It combines the pleasure of being part of a large group or movement (I call it the ‘stadium effect’) with the joy of really getting to know well a few people who embark on the same journey.

What can UUs learn here?

If a church wants to grow it must first make a visitor feel welcome as a person and then have a mechanism where s/he gets involved and makes lasting acquaintances. My minister, Peter Morales, explained recently that in his experience (both here at JUC and in congregations he’s visited nationwide) almost all visitors have already thoroughly checked out a church online (read sermons, been to etc) before they step through the door.

So their question is (says Peter): Are these my people? and not: Do they believe what I believe? 

If they are not actively welcomed and made to feel that, yes, there might well develop a deeper connection, they won’t return.

Many congregations apparently fail to make visitors return. Peter Morales thinks it’s not because of intentional snobbery but rather because our culture of welcoming is underdeveloped, too timid, or simply unreflected.

In a recent campaign event he said about the art of welcoming people: “You don’t have to do it perfectly, and we don’t do it perfectly, and the churches that grow like crazy don’t do it perfectly but they pay attention and they care. The first thing is to get people to care and then to pay attention.”

Since this post now has half turned into a campaign pitch I might as well give a direct link – to both candidates!

Don’t miss the candidate forum webcast this Saturday: 6:45 – 8:00 p.m Eastern time (it takes days until it’s available archived, you have to tune in live or you’ll miss it)

4059 UUA Presidential Candidates’ Forum with Rev. Dr. Laurel Hallman and Rev. Peter Morales, Candidates:

The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion at the Twilight of the American Empire

Note: Our church, JUC, gets small Amazon referral fees when purchases are made through a JUC link. I suggest you look into that for your own congregation. People are slow to pick it up but I spend loads on Amazon and simply bookmarked JUCs referral button and use it religiously