Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "No time to celebrate," Dec. 1, 2001

Hurrah for Franklin Graham
After NBC on Nov. 16 broadcast a comment Franklin Graham had made about Islam, it seemed as if fire trucks, ambulances, and HazMat vehicles had to cordon off a religion-politics intersection in flames. The overreaction displays once again the theological illiteracy that plagues much of American journalism. NBC quoted Mr. Graham as having said at a speaking engagement, "We're not attacking Islam but Islam has attacked us. The God of Islam is not the same God. He's not the son of God of the Christian or Judeo-Christian faith. It's a different God, and I believe it is a very evil and wicked religion." NBC gave Mr. Graham the chance to retract those words and was shocked, shocked that he did not. The Associated Press was also shocked, reporting that "Franklin Graham's views run counter to those expressed on Sept. 17 by President Bush, who called Islam 'a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world.'" AP, stating that Mr. Graham's view "also stands in contrast to the message delivered by his father," quoted Billy Graham's statement at the Sept. 14 National Cathedral: "We come together today to affirm our conviction that God cares for us, whatever our ethnic, religious, or political background may be." But why are those three views-those of the younger Graham, President Bush, and the older Graham-incompatible? A religion can be evil while still bringing comfort to those who believe in it. And of course God cares for all His creatures. He doesn't save everyone, but He gives oxygen and rain to everyone, and He has made the gospel available in all the world, using the preaching of the Grahams and others to do so. Franklin Graham was accurate when he said that Muslims have a very different sense of God than Christians have. (See WORLD's Oct. 27 special issue.) Anyone who believes in Christ should be willing to say that Islam is wrong in its conception of who God is. But Islam becomes theologically evil when its leaders do not give those they control the liberty to explore for themselves the truth about God. The enslavement of blacks in America before the Civil War was evil. The theological enslavement of Muslims is evil. Some say that calling Islam evil will fan anti-Muslim sentiment in America. Pastors should work against that not by fudging on theological distinctives but by stressing that most Muslims make good neighbors and by showing how Christians and Muslims can work together in battles against abortion and other social ills. Others make the valid point that the leader of a prominent international evangelical organization at this time should not provide fuel for radical Islamists who hope to fan the flames of anti-Christian hatred throughout the Muslim world. And yet, let's ask some questions about the current condition of American Protestantism. Are we more likely to hear pop! or pap from many pulpits? Don't books that document the state of our discourse have titles like No Place for Truth? Don't many ministers today talk more sociology than theology? Don't many seem more like politicians than preachers? And isn't it vital that Muslims, and all of us, receive not sweet talk but tough love? Sure, we need more examination of Islamic nuances, and particularly the difference between the murderous Wahhabi sect and Muslim tradition. But Franklin Graham was doing what a minister should do. Instead of acting as a Mr. Smoothaway, he was willing to say that Christianity is true and Islam is not. Maybe his particular choice of words was imprudent, but a minister's job is to be a truth-teller, and Franklin Graham was bold and courageous at a time when those commodities seem in short supply. -Marvin Olasky Good, bad, and ugly: Potter movie shatters box-office records
Wild about Harry
Wizards on broomsticks are more popular than dinosaurs in theme parks-a lot more popular. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone grossed $93.5 million in its first weekend (Nov. 16 to 18), shattering the previous box-office record of $72.1 million set by The Lost World: Jurassic Park. The $93.5 million figure is especially impressive considering that many of the tickets were sold at children's discounts and Potter's opening weekend was not over a holiday. The movie closely tracks J.K. Rowling's bestselling novel, with an orphaned Harry suffering under his tyrannical aunt and uncle until he learns that he is a wizard-a famous one, in fact, because of an encounter when he was an infant with the evil wizard Voldemort. He heads off to Hogwarts, a school for wizards, becomes the star of the school, and, with two newfound friends, battles Voldemort over a stone that gives eternal life. As WORLD's review of Ms. Rowling's Potter novels pointed out ("More clay than Potter," Oct. 30, 1999), the Potter story contains a little good (friends making brave sacrifices for each other), a lot of bad (a smiling face on witchcraft, and a world without solid and steadfast rules where nothing is as it appears), and some ugly (Voldemort, as well as scenes that will terrify young children). The Potter movie is the same, but also a little like the way some soldiers describe war: slow, boring, and punctuated by brief frightening moments. Meanwhile, a better children's movie, Monsters, Inc., is also doing well, though nowhere near the scorching pace set by Potter. Through its first 17 days, the animated Disney tale had taken in $156.7 million, including $23 million during the weekend of Nov. 18, to finish a (distant) second to Potter at the box office. ETS votes to reject open theology
Open and shut
Members of the Evangelical Theological Society at their annual meeting last month in Colorado Springs grappled with the issue of "open theism"-the belief that God doesn't necessarily know all that will happen until individuals decide on a specific course of action. It is a doctrine that is spreading in some evangelical circles, and its chief promoter is pastor-author Greg Boyd, a Baptist General Conference pastor in St. Paul, Minn. He was at the ETS meeting to defend his position. Many ETS members contend that open theism lies outside the boundaries of evangelical faith and that it is time to begin defining those boundaries. They approved a resolution from the ETS executive committee: "We believe the Bible clearly teaches that God has complete, accurate, and infallible knowledge of all events past, present, and future, including all future decisions and actions of free moral agents...." The vote was 253 for and 66 against, with 41 abstentions. Several participants said the action could be the first step to excluding open theists from ETS membership. Airport security: Good enough for government work?
Job security
President Bush last week signed legislation aimed at muscling up security at the nation's airports. The new law increases the use of air marshals and law enforcement officers, moves toward 100 percent baggage checks, and fortifies cockpit doors. But critics say provisions in the law that federalize airport security workers could backfire. Since 9/11, private contractors have come under intense scrutiny for hiring criminals, illegal aliens, and lax performers to work airport security checkpoints. And although terror-sensitive airlines may now have more incentive to fire crummy contractors, federalizing airport security personnel will "make it nearly impossible to remove airport security workers in the future for poor performance," said Heritage Foundation researcher D. Mark Wilson. Under the new legislation, all 28,000 baggage screeners now under private contract to airlines would during the next year become federal employees, and would remain so for at least three years. Supporters of the legislation say the move will restore public confidence in air travel, but the public might not be so confident if it knew the federal track record on handling poor performers. A Heritage Foundation analysis of U.S. Office of Personnel Management employee performance data from 1997 showed that of about 125,000 poorly performing federal workers, only about 3 percent were fired, and less than 0.1 percent were demoted. Meanwhile, 88 percent merited pay raises. Treasury rolls out patriot bonds
Bang for the buck
"Any bonds today?" The cry heard on the home front during World War II is coming back to America. The Treasury Department is changing the name of Series EE saving bonds to "Patriot Bonds," saying the money will help pay for the fight against terrorism. The bonds are scheduled to hit the market in mid-December, just in time to be a stocking stuffer this year. The government plans to sell Patriot Bonds in denominations ranging from $50 to $10,000; the rate in effect through April is 4.07 percent. "The public is unified in its desire to take decisive action and now will have the opportunity to contribute directly to help rebuild the broken and retaliate against terrorism," said U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), a sponsor of the war-bond legislation. War bonds date back to the Revolutionary War, and between 1941 and 1946, the government raised $50 billion through war bonds to fight the Japanese and Germans. This time, federal officials, who previously said Americans could best help their country by spending their dollars or giving them to charity, are vague about what the government will do with the money. Funds are "not earmarked for a specific purpose, [but] will contribute to the federal government's overall effort to fight the war on global terrorism," reports the Treasury Department. New transistor may revolutionize high-tech industries
Silicon's death valley?
Regardless of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, about 10 million of a newly invented nano-transmitter can do so. The invention, which the journal Science made public last month, could spawn a new generation of smaller, faster electronic devices-and make today's silicon obsolete. Transmitters are the basis of all computing. Computers crunch numbers by constantly turning these tiny switches on and off. Chip manufacturers make their product more and more powerful by cramming more transistors on a silicon wafer. The new nanotransmitter is less than a tenth the size of any other existing transistor. It is made from only one molecule of a special organic material containing carbon, hydrogen, and sulfur. The invention, developed by Bell Labs physicist Hendrik Schon and chemists Zhenan Bao and Hong Meng, still faces several years of testing but could revolutionize high-tech industries. The reason: While the production of silicon transistors requires expensive, highly sanitary clean rooms, scientists can make nanotransistors in an ordinary lab. This makes manufacturing easier and computers, cell phones, and gadgetry will eventually become much less expensive. ACLU takes on Jersey cops
Trolling for plaintiffs
A battle of billboards is raging on New Jersey highways between state troopers and the ACLU. First the lefty litigators posted a billboard recruiting plaintiffs for racial-profiling lawsuits. This incensed the troopers, who responded with a sign urging motorists to compliment helpful troopers. The ACLU billboard that went up in October pictures two minority men. It reads: "Stopped or searched by the New Jersey State Police? They admit to racial profiling. You might win money damages. Call the ACLU hotline." A union that represents noncommissioned officers decided to fight fire with fire. Near the ACLU billboard went a sign with an American flag on one side and a uniformed trooper on the other. "Have you ever been helped by a New Jersey State Trooper?" it reads. At the heart of the billboard battle is the ACLU's plan to sue the police over profiling charges. The group is already representing 16 plaintiffs in two lawsuits. New Jersey Attorney General John Farmer calls the ACLU billboard a desperate attempt to gain class-action status after one attempt failed: "It's a little unseemly to make it sound like a Reader's Digest sweepstakes when what you are talking about supposedly is the vindication of people's civil rights."

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