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News for Sociology of Religion--Tue Mar 11 06:42:36 EST 1997

  • CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS MARCH ONWARD—AND WAYWARD
    If there was any reason to believe the Christian Coalition and its allies on the religious right had converted the 105th Congress, it was erased last week, when almost one-third of the House voted  (*)

  • FOR BOSNIAN SERB REPUBLIC, ECONOMIC FUTURE APPEARS BLEAK
    LUKAVICA, Bosnia-Herzegovina—The collection of warehouses that make up a sprawling factory less than a mile from the Bosnian capital stand as a bleak harbinger of the Bosnian Serbs' future. (New York Times) (*)

  • EVANGELICAL SEES PROBLEMS—AND HOPE
    God certainly is not dead, but the wave of spirituality sweeping America has to be looked at critically. At least that's the view of Carl F.H. Henry, a gentlemanly  (*)

  • RELIGIOUS GROUPS PRESSURE BUSINESS ON CHINESE RIGHTS
    A small group of Catholic shareholders of The Boeing Co. revealed last week that they filed a stockholder resolution pressuring the aerospace giant to adopt a human rights code for its  (*)



    CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS MARCH ONWARD—AND WAYWARD

    By MARY LEONARD

    c.1997 The Boston Globe

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    If there was any reason to believe the Christian Coalition andits allies on the religious right had converted the 105th Congress,it was erased last week, when almost one-third of the House votedagainst the Ten Commandments.

    The measure—a nonbinding resolution endorsing the right of anAlabama judge to hang a reproduction of Moses's ancient stonetablets on his courtroom wall—barely got the required two-thirdsmajority. Indeed, 125 House members showed no fear of recriminationfrom the Christian right when they stood for a strict separation ofchurch and state and against the biblical word of God.

    These are not the best and brightest days for conservativeChristian groups. Forget their activism, which has energized theGOP at the grass roots: The religious right, and particularly the1.7 million-member Christian Coalition, now is being blamed byRepublican centrists for a moral sanctimony and ideologicalstridency that is scaring voters, especially women.

    Inside the movement there is ferment, too, as Christian soldierswage a holy war over political agenda, over pragmatism vs. idealismand, most fundamentally, over the role of government in religiouslife.

    There are even early signs that some evangelical Christians areready to turn their back on what they view as hopelessly corruptWashington and instead focus their efforts on a community level;some predict they will take their cause to the streets. What iscertain is that, for the moment, the religious right is engaged inserious soul-searching and struggling to regain its earliermomentum.

    ^@``When you are not very visible, when the other side doesn'tfocus, you can be very powerful,'' said Representative BarneyFrank, the Newton Democrat, of conservative Christians'considerable political success in recent years. ``The more visibleyou become, the more people can rally against you, so it's a mixedblessing. That's what has happened here. The Christian right hasclearly lost its clout.''

    Certainly the religious right, a term some conservativeChristians use to describe themselves, is experiencing conflictfrom within; what appears to be a monolith from the outside is,internally, a clash of egos, issues, and ideologies too pure tocompromise. In spite of that, the Christian right has succeeded inmaking its moral voice essential to the nation's contemporarypolitical conversation. It has shaped the rhetoric of Republicansand Democrats alike and influenced passionate debates overabortion, parents' rights and homosexuality.

    It raised its voice again last week when Ralph Reed, executivedirector of the Christian Coalition, vented his frustration withthe GOP for ignoring his conservative agenda, saying congressionalleaders were guilty ``of timidity, of retreat and of muddle-headedmoderation.'' The 105th Congress has done little, it's true, andone thing it did do—approve aid for international family planning_ enraged religious conservatives because it imposed norestrictions on using the money for abortions.

    Indeed, the only issue where the Christian right can expectswift, positive legislative action is on banning so-calledpartial-birth abortions; last year Congress passed the ban, a highpriority for social conservatives, but failed to overridePresident's Clinton's veto.

    But the blame for inaction is not the GOP leadership's alone. Ona signature issue for religious conservatives—a constitutionalamendment to protect religious expression—the schism is so wideand the good will so absent that action on voluntary school prayeris almost surely doomed in this Congress and perhaps for a verylong time.

    In a remarkable development last week, the National Associationof Evangelicals, the country's largest evangelical Christian group,defied the orthodoxy of the Christian right and refused to endorsethe school-prayer amendment that is expected to be introduced soonby Representative Ernest Istook, an Oklahoma Republican. Istook'sbest efforts—he visited the group's convention in Orlando armedwith a letter of support from Speaker Newt Gingrich , and pleadedwith the evangelical pastors to back him—failed. We went homeempty-handed.

    ``According to my faith, there is no way I can love my neighborand support majoritarian legislation that requires Jewish kids torecite Christian prayers,'' said Forest Montgomery, counsel to theevangelicals' association. ``It is wrong, legally andtheologically.''

    At issue is whether Istook's amendment gives the government toomuch power to promote and control religion; it not only permitsstudents to lead prayers at school but also allows public officialsto acknowledge religion, such as permitting a display of the TenCommandments or a Christmas creche in the community. The risk,conservative critics say, is that the acknowledged, majorityreligion could discriminate against other faiths, abridging thefree-exercise clause of the First Amendment.

    ``The Istook amendment has sex appeal, and for those with asoundbite mentality, a roll-call vote on God sounds great,'' saidSteven McFarland, who heads the Christian Legal Society, a35-year-old association of conservative Christian lawyers inWashington. ``But do we really want to let government choose afavorite religion? When Caesar gets into the business of doinganything for religion, it prostitutes the faith, it co-opts thechurch. No thank you.''

    McFarland predicts ``it's going to get ugly'' if theEvangelicals and Southern Baptists square off against Istook andthe Christian Coalition and other religious right groups that arefinanced from the grass roots, where the school-prayer amendment isstill very popular. And liberals in Congress surely will watch withsome delight when ``the right hand doesn't know what the far-righthand is doing,'' Frank said.

    The Christian Coalition says it will fight for school prayer,but in fact its focus is on something new and quite untraditional:the Samaritan project, a social-action outreach program into innercities, with the idea of linking fundamental congregations withblack churches while simultaneously prodding government to provideprivate or parochial school vouchers and tax credits for charitablegiving and volunteerism.

    On one level, the Samaritan project is consistent some Christianconservatives' growing unease with government-only solutions tosocial problems. At the same time, it could help transfer federalfunds to churches, religious schools and charities—a transferthat Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for theSeparation of Church and State, says is clever butunconstitutional.

    On another level, the Samaritan project is a response to recentattacks from GOP moderates who say the Christian Coalition—whichclaimed credit for electing Jim Nicholson, the new Republican Partychairman—is out of the mainstream and wrecking the party with itsmoral authority.

    ``There's a big effort by the Christian Coalition to moderateits agenda and rhetoric because extremism doesn't win arguments orbroaden the coalition,'' said Clyde Wilcox, a government professorat Georgetown University and author of several books on theChristian Coalition. ``The problem is, when you try to stay in theGOP tent, you're going to disconnect from the issue-oriented grassroots.''

    It's already happening. Gary Bauer, who heads the conservativeFamily Research Council, says that the conventional wisdom, whichholds that Republicans win on economic, not social issues, isbackward and must be rejected. ``We lost in November because wecame across as a party of accountants instead of a party thatcares,'' Bauer said.

    Bauer said he will push relentlessly for a values-orientedagenda in Congress that includes a human-life amendment, schoolprayer, tuition vouchers, limits on AIDs and arts funding, andlegislation providing parents more control over schools. Those whodon't go along with him—Republicans as well as Democrats—willbe targeted for defeat by Bauer's new political action committee.``We're not going to turn down the volume,'' he said. ``To lower itwould be to make it imperceptible.''

    Paul Weyrich, who champions the religious right in Washingtonand on a conservative TV network, says the powerful ChristianCoalition's ``cozying up to the pusillanimous Republicanleadership'' had has a very negative impact on other conservativegrass-roots groups that want action but fear compromise. It's ledWeyrich to consider starting a third party.

    ``What I hear from the grass roots is that the powder-puffRepublican Party that social conservatives elected won't stand foranything, won't fight for anything, won't rock the boat and onlywants to be pleasant and make friends with Democrats,'' Wey-richsaid. ``The party is traumatized, and Gingrich has evaporated fromsight.''

    For the Christian right, which sees moral decay across thenation, Washington is particularly rotten. Corwin Smidt, aprofessor of political science at Calvin College, said the lack ofa moral government is beginning to drive some evangelicalChristians away from political institutions altogether and couldlead them to something more unconventional, such as protests oreven guerrilla activity.

    ``I think we've reached a fork in the road, when evangelicalssay we tried politics, it's not the answer, let's put our resourcesinto something spiritual outside the system,'' he said.

    In fact, some of the most interesting experiments indialog-building between secular and religious groups are going onin communities far from Washington. In Texas and California, forexample, ``common ground'' projects are searching for ways toaccommodate varying viewpoints on issues like religious liberty,character education and parental rights.

    ``In some places, it's finally sinking in that nobody is goingto win these culture wars, so let's learn to live together,'' saidCharles Haynes, who directs several common ground projects from theFirst Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University.

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    FOR BOSNIAN SERB REPUBLIC, ECONOMIC FUTURE APPEARS BLEAK

    By CHRIS HEDGES=

    c.1997 N.Y. Times News Service=

    LUKAVICA, Bosnia-Herzegovina—The collection of warehouses thatmake up a sprawling factory less than a mile from the Bosniancapital stand as a bleak harbinger of the Bosnian Serbs' future.

    The Famos factory, once owned by the Yugoslav government,employed 3,500 people making truck and bus engines and car partsbefore the Bosnian war began five years ago.

    At the end of the war in 1995, this factory was seen by theBosnian Serbs as the prize that would help regenerate theireconomy. It was to be the industrial centerpiece around which theywould build a new Serb-controlled capital skirting the edges of theexisting Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, which is under the control ofthe Muslim-led Bosnian government.

    The factory had been in the Sarajevo suburb of Ilidza, but its2,000 machines were dismantled and moved to Lukavica last year, toan area controlled by the Bosnian Serbs. The move took place beforeIlidza was turned over to the government as part of the peaceagreement reached in late 1995 in Dayton, Ohio.

    Under the agreement, Bosnia was to include two distinctpolitical entities—one controlled by a coalition of Muslims andCroats and the other by Serbs, their self-styled Republic of Srpska_ with a national structure to coordinate the two.

    But the Bosnian Serb entity has refused to honor many of theDayton terms. As a result, it has been cut off from internationalaid and remains isolated. The steady political and economic declineof Srpska, along with the refusal to honor the Dayton agreement,has left many Western diplomats warning that the enclave will posean easy, and increasingly tempting target, to the Bosnian Muslimarmy once NATO peacekeepers depart next year, although such anattack would trigger another war.

    The failure of the Famos factory, owned by the Bosnian Serbleadership, is one of the most visible symbols of the loomingbreakdown of its political entity. In the last year, the factoryhas produced only 20 engines and 50 clutches, which were sold tothe state-run bus company in neighboring Yugoslavia. The BosnianSerbs have been unable to sign any contracts with foreign firms orto lure outside investment.

    The rest of the Bosnian Serb structure is faring no better. Itsmilitary, is still largely run by General Ratko Mladic, who hasbeen indicted by the U.N. commission at The Hague for war crimes,although he was publicly removed from his position last year.

    But the Bosnian Serb army, no longer financed by Yugoslavia, hasdwindled from 40,000 to about 12,000 soldiers. Thousands ofdemobilized soldiers are unable to support themselves, and much ofthe military's equipment is rusting from lack of maintenance andspare parts.

    Although Radovan Karadzic, the former leader who also has beenindicted for war crimes, was forced to resign under internationalpressure, he still wields enormous influence. And the currentpolitical leadership is openly feuding.

    Last month, citing ``security concerns,'' Biljana Plavsic, theBosnian Serbs' largely ceremonial president, refused to travel fromher office in the northwestern city of Banja Luka to Pale, thewartime Serb stronghold near Sarajevo, to meet with AssistantSecretary of State John Kornblum and other Bosnian Serb leaders.

    The areas of Bosnia controlled by the Serbs have frequent poweroutages, the hospitals lack medicine and schools are often withoutbooks.

    There has also been a huge exodus, to Yugoslavia and neighboringEuropean nations, especially by the young, professionals andskilled labor. Like Famos, most factories sit nearly idle. Theunemployment rate is 90 percent. Of the 800,000 Bosnian Serbs,300,000 were displaced from their homes by the war.

    The implications of a collapse of the Bosnian Serb entity areenormous. Under the Dayton agreement, tens of thousands of Muslimsdisplaced from their homes by the Serbs have a right to returnhome. In fact, the Serbs have allowed none to go back.

    NATO strategists say that the Bosnian government increasinglysees the Serb zone as an easy military objective. These commanderssay that if the peacekeeping forces withdraw it will be difficultto hold the Muslim-led government back.

    ``At least this war would probably be swift,'' said a seniorWestern diplomat. ``And frankly there would be little sympathy forthe Bosnian Serbs given their role in the war, their refusal tocooperate with the joint government institutions and their refusalto let displaced people go home. War, in fact, might be the bestsolution.''

    But that presupposes that Yugoslavia would not intervene, as itdid in the last war.

    The despair and malaise that now infect the areas of Bosniacontrolled by the Serbs is palpable in nearly every forlorn, shabbyvillage. On a recent day, Milena Jevric, nearly toothless andclutching a plastic container filled with her daily soup ration,walked in shoes several sizes too large up a muddy road in thevillage of Brezovice, about 20 miles northeast of Pale.

    A widow, she owned a small shop in a suburb of Sarajevo beforeit was turned over to the Muslim-led government last year. Everyoneon her street fled, fearful of Muslim reprisals, and she followed.

    Mrs. Jevric now lives with her brother in the basement of anunfinished structure. She sleeps on a dirt floor and has no stove,heat or running water.

    ``As a girl I lived like this, after the Second World War—andas an old woman I live like this again,'' she said. ``We have nomore savings. We are destitute. Most of the young people areleaving. The country is dying. I just struggle to eat.''

    The Bosnian Serb leadership in Pale, in a move to establish alink with Yugoslavia, signed an agreement with the government inBelgrade that included a promise of military cooperation.

    The agreement, which Muslim leaders and Western diplomats saidviolated the Dayton peace agreement, also spelled out cooperationin areas such as foreign trade, border traffic, citizenship andcustoms.

    But while the economic cooperation outlined in the agreement ismostly smoke and mirrors, especially given the dismal state of theeconomy in Yugoslavia, it is a huge blow for the joint Bosniangovernment.

    It defiantly resurrects the apparent effort by PresidentSlobodan Milosevic to integrate the Bosnian Serb enclave intoYugoslavia, which triggered the Bosnian war in the spring of 1992.

    The Bosnian Serb leadership, however, defends the agreement.

    ``We have bonded ourselves to Belgrade with this agreement,''said Momcilo Krajisnik, the Bosnian Serb member of the tripartitepresidency. ``We are Serbs and we will never be ruled by theMuslims.''

    The continued presence of hard-liners, such as Karadzic and hisclose ally Krajisnik, in the centers of power bode ill for any realcooperation with the Bosnian Muslims and Croats.

    The resolve of the Bosnian Serbs' to keep the ethnic exclusivityof their enclave, where tens of thousands of Muslims died in themost brutal ethnic cleansing campaigns of the war, was driven homelast Sunday. A Serb mob of about 150 people burned 11 prefabricatedhomes belonging to Muslims trying to resettle their old village inSerb-held territory.

    ``Most of my friends have left the Republic of Srpska,'' saidBojan Brckalo, 19, as he sat with two friends recently in a Palecoffee shop. ``But this does not mean that those of us who remainwill allow the Muslims to seize our state. If the Muslims try toenter we will fight. This is Serb land.''<

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    EVANGELICAL SEES PROBLEMS—AND HOPE

    c.1997 Fort Worth Star-Telegram=

    God certainly is not dead, but the wave of spirituality sweepingAmerica has to be looked at critically.

    At least that's the view of Carl F.H. Henry, a gentlemanlyevangelical who impressed me when I first met him more than adecade ago.

    We met again last week when he spoke at Southwestern BaptistTheological Seminary, and at age 84, he's still a major force inthe religious world.

    Anerica's new-found interest in spirituality, I thought, shouldplease Henry. For decades he has said that secularism has too tighta hold on the nation. We have taken God out of the universities andhave failed to teach moral absolutes, he says.

    Henry, who is considered one of the leading evangelical scholarsof the 20th century, said the new spiritual wave may only be skindeep.

    ``A spiritual veneer is sweeping over America, but much of thiseffusion is doctrinally indefinite and religiously confusing,'' hesaid in an interview.

    Books on spiritual and religious subjects are often bestsellers,and polls show that nine out of 10 Americans believe in God andpray. But the popular spirituality books often downplay theologyand substitute psychology, he said.

    ``These trends can unwittingly prepare our generation for areactionary era of melancholy and pessimism,'' he said. ``The newmillennium may be an age of spiritual repression and fear.''

    Much of the God talk is just that—talk, he said.

    ``We don't see much rebellion against the worldly things thatoccupy us,'' said Henry, and the nation is still gripped by crime,violence and materialism.

    When I first met Henry in 1982, I was on leave of absence fromthe Fort Worth Star-Telegram, taking part in a RockefellerFoundation-sponsored religious studies program at the University ofNorth Carolina at Chapel Hill.

    He spoke to one of my classes and, despite a busy schedule,granted me an interview that contributed heavily to a researchpaper I presented on secular humanism.

    Some of his many achievements include joining with Billy Grahamin founding Christianity Today. Henry was editor from 1956 to 1968.

    He has written 40 books, including ``Remaking the Modern Mind,''``Aspects of Christian Social Ethics,'' ``A Plea for EvangelicalDemonstration'' and the six-volume ``God, Revelation andAuthority.''

    He has been a noted professor at Fuller Seminary and NorthernBaptist Theological Seminary.

    That's enough to impress anybody.

    Also extraordinary is the fact that Henry, despite strongevangelical conservative views, has been able to command therespect of those at both ends of the theological spectrum,including many moderates and liberals.

    Some of that is due to the insightful, intellectual way thatHenry has presented his traditional evangelical viewpoint.

    ``That hasn't been a deliberate goal on my part,'' Henry saidlast week. ``I do try to express my convictions as strongly aspossible. But I do it with love and appreciation for those who maydiffer from my point of view.''

    Despite his reservations about the wave of spirituality sweepingthe United States, Henry sees some hopeful signs.

    Internationally, Christianity is flourishing in many places,including South Korea, Nigeria and Kenya, he said. Evangelicalmovements, such as the Promise Keepers men's movement and the BillyGraham crusades, are still having a big impact.

    ``The American scene is not without spiritually encouragingsigns,'' he said. ``The potentiality is there for a massivespiritual power and impact.''

    And he hopes for the best.

    ``I think there is a hunger in the heart of men that can besuppressed but ultimately will not be denied,'' he said.

    (Jim Jones is religion editor for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.Visit the Star-Telegram's online services on the World Wide Web:www.startext.net; www.arlington.net; and www.netarrant.net)

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    RELIGIOUS GROUPS PRESSURE BUSINESS ON CHINESE RIGHTS

    By IMBERT MATTHEE

    c.1997 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    A small group of Catholic shareholders of The Boeing Co.revealed last week that they filed a stockholder resolutionpressuring the aerospace giant to adopt a human rights code for itsoperations in China.

    The resolution, which calls on Boeing to adopt nine human rightsprinciples ranging from a boycott of goods made by forced labor inChina and Tibet to the promotion of association and assembly amongits factory workers in Xian, is unlikely to pass at the company'sannual shareholders meeting in Seattle on April 28.

    For one, Boeing has attached a strong recommendation against theresolution, which soon will be sent out in a proxy statement toshareholders. In it, the company defends its sensitivity to humanrights in China and maintains that commercial engagement is stillthe best way to promote rising living standards on the mainland.

    Even Michael Crosby, the friar with the Capuchin Order inMilwaukee, Wis., who initiated the resolution and has a longhistory of pressuring U.S. corporations on human rights, said few,if any, external proposals facing opposition from corporatemanagers have ever been accepted.

    But hope that Boeing will adopt the code wasn't the only reasonCrosby and two other stockholder representatives with religiouslyinspired concerns filed the resolution. They said they wanted tomake a stand on China the way they took a stand on South Africa,where the apartheid regime finally buckled under the pressure ofinternal upheaval and international economic sanctions earlier inthe decade.

    ``If we don't raise our voice, no voice will be raised,'' Crosbysaid.

    China and South Africa are remarkably different. China isn't anation where a small, rich racial minority controls political powerat the cost of a majority population. And the world isn't unanimousabout isolating Beijing the way it was about Pretoria.

    Lured by the promise of a huge, rapidly emerging market, suchcompanies as Boeing make an argument echoed by many others,including most Western governments: Economic engagement has liftedmany ordinary Chinese out of poverty. The same cannot be said aboutblack South Africans under apartheid.

    But to many religious organizations, the moral issuessurrounding human rights are the same.

    So Crosby's move is perhaps more important for the biggerquestion it begs beyond the few minutes of attention it may get atthe Boeing shareholders meeting.

    How will other church groups, most of which have been silent onChina, respond to concerns among their congregants about Beijing'sstagnant, if not worsening, civil rights record?

    The question presents a serious dilemma for religiousorganizations, many of which are caught between their community'sconscience and their desire to have access to the world's mostpopulous nation for missionary, relief and development work.

    It comes at a time when growing numbers of Chinese are turningto Christianity to seek spiritual values in a country that hasturned its back on communist ideology. But it also comes at a timewhen Beijing is cracking down on political dissidents withreligious overtones, such as Buddhists in Tibet and Muslims inwestern China's Xinjiang province.

    ``I told Boeing that we (the company and the Catholics) arefacing the same problem because we both want to get our feet intoChina and we have both closed our eyes to the human rights issue,''Crosby said.

    ``The churches, however, did not lobby the government toseparate trade from human rights (as Boeing did),'' he said. ``Westill want to keep the Chinese leaders' feet to the fire.''

    But where there's fire, there's a danger of getting burned.

    ``A lot of the same sentiments that surrounded apartheid are nowemerging around China,'' said David Schilling, director of globalcorporate accountability for the Interfaith Center for CorporateResponsibility in New York.

    ``But groups with people in China may be reluctant to supportsuch a resolution (or similar moves critical of Beijing) and lookseriously at its impact on personnel,'' said Schilling, whoseorganization has yet to take a position on human rights in China.

    ``It's a very complicated issue,'' agreed Stephen Commins,geopolitical analyst with World Vision, the Federal Way-basedChristian relief organization that has 13 employees in China.

    ``If you speak up (about human rights) and get thrown out, haveyou done what you're supposed to do?'' Commins asked.

    World Vision, one of the few Christian relief agencies in China,has been successful there since the late 1980s precisely because ithas avoided proselytizing, said Thomas Chan, head of theorganization's China office in Hong Kong.

    Some religious relief groups said they balance their conflictinginterests in China by keeping a low profile and quietly supportinghuman rights activists with money and information. Privately, someof their officials said they support Crosby's work. Other groupsmaintain political neutrality and focus on what they call survivalrights, such as food, shelter, water and education.

    World Concern, a Seattle-based Protestant development agencythat started relief work in one of the poorest areas of Tibet lastyear, is a case in point.

    ``Many people in the United States ask us, `Why are youthere?''' communications director Christy Gardner said. ``But ourposition is engagement. You can't deal with other (civil) rightsuntil you've taken care of the basics.''

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