American Family Association Touts Free Speech for Radio Hosts Except When Hosts Criticize the AFA

In a letter to the Southern Poverty Law Center yesterday, AFA attorney Patrick Vaughn said the American Family Association is a “free speech zone.”
In 2012, AFA Tim Wildmon took essentially the same stance regarding Fischer’s views while Fischer was serving as Director of Issues Analysis. Now, in the face of a firestorm of controversy involving the Republican National Committee, the AFA backs away from most of the outrageous things Fischer has said while he represented the AFA.
The AFA claims to be a free speech zone but not that long ago the AFA targeted Worldview Weekend host Brannon Howse because he criticized the AFA’s involvement in Rick Perry’s prayer meeting, The Response. The AFA issued an ultimatum to two other radio hosts who worked with Howse: Todd Friel and John Loeffler. Both hosts were told they had to break ties with Howse or lose their spot on the AFR network. Friel eventually stayed with the AFA while Loeffler decided not to acquiesce to the AFA’s demands.
Howse and his colleagues clearly were not a part of the AFA nor on their payroll. Fischer on the other hand remains an employee of the AFA. Free speech allows Bryan Fischer to spew positions which now the AFA says they repudiate. However, not that long ago, free speech did not allow Brannon Howse to criticize the AFA’s involvement in Rick Perry’s coming out party.

RNC Members Should Pay Their Own Way to Israel

Last night, Rachel Maddow exclusively reported that the American Family Association demoted Bryan Fischer. Instead of being Director of Issues Analysis, he will simply continue to host his Focal Point radio broadcast.
In 2012, AFA president Tim Wildmon told me via email that being a talk show host (e.g., Fischer) on the American Family Radio network was analogous to Bill O’Reilly’s show on Fox News. Wildmon felt no obligation to own Fischer’s outrageous comments in the same way that O’Reilly was able to say whatever he wanted without apology or explanation from Fox News. While O’Reilly has offended some people, he has never blamed the Holocaust on gays, or said native Americans did not deserve to keep their lands. In other words, Wildmon dodged the issue. His action last night confirms that he has been dodging all along; Wildmon said he demoted Fischer because of his statements about gays and the Holocaust. Those remarks occurred in 2011 when Bryan Fischer defended Scott Lively’s book The Pink Swastika.
Fischer’s demotion appears to stem from a trip to Israel hosted by the AFA for members of the Republican National Committee.  The association of the AFA and the RNC did not play well in an article by Debra Nussbaum Cohen published this week in the Haaretz newspaper. The title and subtitle summarize the tale:

U.S. NGO: Evangelical ‘hate group’ funding Republican National Committee trip to Israel

Evangelical political operative planned 9-day freebie trip for national committee members, on behalf of the conservative Christian AFA group which blasts Muslims, gays. SPLC rights group staffer: Our issue is not with the trip, but with the ‘heinous beliefs’ of those sponsoring it.

Since at least 2011, Fischer has promoted the notion that the First Amendment offers no protections for religions other than Christianity. Fischer’s misinterpretation of the First Amendment is what brought me into the David Barton/Christian nation controversy. Some of my first posts examining the false Christian nation claims were in response to Fischer’s comments. The AFA has promoted these views for years and demoting Fischer will not change much.
AFA’s spokesman regarding the Israel trip David Lane told Haaretz that “America was founded by Christians for the glory of God and the Christian faith.” This is not a true message, nor will this rhetoric help the GOP. The RNC partnering with the AFA sends all of the wrong messages to non-Christians and Christians such as myself who defend religious freedom for all and know that the First Amendment is for all citizens, of faith and no faith.
If the RNC is serious about addressing this serious mistake, they should return the funding from the AFA and pay their own way. Or don’t go. 

Rachel Maddow: Bryan Fischer Has Been Fired As Spokeman By the American Family Association

Rachel Maddow reported earlier this evening:
May be (should be) more fall out from the GOP’s collaboration with the AFA. Perhaps Bryan Fischer’s foot has been in his mouth just a few too many times.
The AFA hasn’t gotten rid of him completely; he is still considered a “talk show host” and his twitter account has him as the host of the Focal Point show.
Apparently, Tim Wildmon has had a change of heart about Bryan Fischer’s platform. In 2012, Wildmon declined to address Fischer’s comments about HIV and AIDS because Fischer’s talk show did not represent the AFA’s position. Despite the fact that Fischer has two hours to opine and the blog site was maintained by the AFA, Wildmon told me that he didn’t believe he needed to address Fischer’s statements.
More posts to come looking at the statements by David Lane on behalf of the AFA about the purpose of America being a Christian nation.
A little while ago, Fischer tweeted that he will be on the air tomorrow.

If the AFA ever wants to be a player again, they probably can’t stop with demoting Fischer. While it is speculation on my part, I have a hunch Wildmon was told to do something with Fischer by someone at the RNC. I have a hard time believing that Tim Wildmon saw the light unless he felt the heat. He has backed Fischer for years.
The AFA has removed other shows from their network for lesser crimes, such as criticizing the network.
Watch the entire segment which includes an interview with the reporter for Haaretz, Debra Nussbaum Cohen (Her article is here).

Mars Hill Church Letter: Maybe the Most Positive Spin I've Ever Seen

Rob Smith posted a donor thank you letter from Mars Hill Church he received recently. It has to be the most positive spin on the situation I have seen yet.
mars-hill-thanks-rob (1)
I gotta say that must have been a hard letter to write. There probably is no how-to course in how to this.
Read Rob Smith’s take on it; there are still many unanswered financial questions that were not addressed here.

Mike Huckabee and David Barton Coming to PA Pastor's Conference in March

Yesterday, the PA Pastors Network, a small group of far right pastors announced that Mike Huckabee will appear via video at a March 19 conference at Lancaster Bible College. Also appearing will be David Barton, and George Barna. The title of the conference (U-Turn: A Conversation with Pastors on Society, Culture, and Leadership) makes it sound like a stop on the promo tour for Barna’s and Barton’s new book (U-Turn).

Other confirmed speakers for PPN’s “U-Turn” conference include: author Steve Scheibner, Gary Dull of the American Pastors Network, Sandy Rios of the American Family Association and American Family Radio, Jeff Mateer of the Liberty Institute, Paul Blair of Reclaiming America for Christ, and Ralph Drollinger of Capitol Ministries, who will speak on PPN’s Ministers Together project, an initiative which brings together pastors and elected officials on a biblical rather than political basis.

Looks like big fun if you are a tea partier or Christian nation advocate. Sam Rohrer heads the PA pastors’ organization and is also working with David Barton on the initiative to make the Ukraine a biblically based nation.
Lancaster is about 5 hours from here; maybe I’ll go over and see what happens.
PA is home to numerous conservative Christian historians (Historians at GCC and Messiah College come to mind immediately and there are others). If Sam Rohrer wanted pastors to hear from Christian historians on the nation’s founding, he has a wealth of options.

HarperCollins Christian Published Kevin Malarkey's Second Book

Today, HarperCollins Christian Publishers released a marketing email for their heaven tourism book, Heaven Is for Real, in the face of the failure of Tyndale House’s book The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven. In short, HCC is standing behind the Colton and Todd Burpo’s story.
As it turns out, another one of HCC’s authors is Kevin Malarkey, the author of the now discredited The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven.
Marlarkey’s second book (with agent Matt Jacobson), titled Beautiful Defeat, is available now on the HCC website.
Alex Malarkey’s retraction undermined the credibility of the entire enterprise involving Kevin Malarkey and Matt Jacobson and so I wonder if the collapse of The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven presents any problems for HCC.

HarperCollins Christian Publishing Really Wants You to Know Their Heaven Story Is For Real

Publisher HarperCollins Christian want to make sure you believe their heaven story at same time Alex Malarkey has retracted his. In an email that was delivered today, HCC stands by the story in Heaven Is for Real.

     I stand by my story found in my book Heaven is for Real. – Colton Burpo            
The subject of heaven has been making headlines this month after teenager Alex Malarkey, who had claimed to have visited heaven when he was 6-years old and in a coma, and had a book based on his experience, revealed that he lied. In light of the recent press, Colton Burpo, the subject of the book-turned-movie Heaven is for Real (published by Thomas Nelson, owned by our same parent company), has come out with a statement that he stands by his story.  “I know there has been a lot of talk about the truth of other Heaven stories in the past few days,” says Burpo. “I just wanted to take a second and let everyone know that I stand by my story found in my book ‘Heaven is for Real,'” Burpo says.We’ve published the full excerpt of Colton’s statement for you today, and to read more of Colton’s story, we have a free download of the first few chapters of the newly revised and updated, Heaven Changes Everything: The Rest of Our StoryDownload this sampler today! What does the Bible say about Heaven? Jesus mentions Heaven about seventy times in the book of Matthew alone. It appears from the very first verse in Genesis- “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”- to the last reference found at the end of Revelation- “He showed me the great city… descending out of heaven from God” (Revelation 21:10 NKJV). In fact, there are Bible verses about heaven in fifty-four of the sixty-six books in the Bible. These Bible verses about Heaven are our only authoritative source of information about Heaven, and we can learn much from the Scriptures. The Bible says heaven is for real. We invite you to dive deeper into the topic of heaven by reading some of these recent FaithGateway blog posts and Bible studies: 
Bible Verses about Heaven: What the Scriptures Say 
Can We Be Sure We Are Going to Heaven? by Billy Graham
What Makes Heaven Heavenly? by Max Lucado
Bible Study: The Story of Heaven by Max Lucado and Randy Frazee

This went out in an email today to subscribers to the HarperCollins list.  A free download of portions of the book is available.

Free Download

Get an exclusive download from Heaven Changes Everything: The Rest of Our Story

Free Download
Claim your free download now!

The following note has been referred to in other online publication but was sent out today from the publisher:

A Note from Colton Burpo
by Colton BurpoMeet Colton BurpoDear Friends,
I know there has been a lot of talk about the truth of other Heaven stories in the past few days. I just wanted to take a second and let everyone know that I stand by my story found in my book Heaven is for Real. I still remember my experience in Heaven. I want to keep telling people about my experience because it has given hope to so many people.
People may have their doubts about my story, but the thing is, I wasn’t coaxed into doing this.  I wanted to tell people about my experience. In fact, I started sharing my story with my friends and people in our town way before there was a book called Heaven is for Real.
I hope that my story continues to point people to Jesus.  

He really, really loves you.
I Believe in heaven

HarperCollins has discounted the books and even has a new edition available with “the rest of the story.”

Save 40% off Heaven Changes Everything: The Rest of Our Story for one week only!

Heaven Changes Everything by Todd and Sonja BurpoRegular Price: $15.99 Sale Price: $9.59
Buy Now
There’s so much more to the story.Todd and Sonja Burpo’s almost-four-year-old son Colton made an unforgettable trip to heaven and back during the darkest, most-stressed-out days of their lives. Times were tough, money was scarce and the bills, frustrations, and fears were piled high. The story of Colton’s visit to heaven changed their lives—and the book they wrote about it, Heaven Is for Real, gave new hope to millions of readers.In Heaven Changes Everything, the Burpos share details about their experience and about Colton’s visit to heaven that they weren’t able to include in the original story or in the Sony Pictures release of theHeaven Is for Real movie. Practical and inspiring, the short essays shed light on living with a miracle and the afterlife, each ending with a relevant scripture. Listen in as Todd, and for the first time ever Sonja, from her perspective as a mom, show you how believing heaven is for real helps us survive hardships here on earth, including the death of a loved one or the loss of a child through tragedy, miscarriage, or even abortion. 
This newly revised edition offers bonus material including:

  • New foreword
  • Never-before-seen family photos
  • Favorite scenes from the movie
  • Q&A section 

Come see how heaven can indeed touch earth and change everything.   
Learn more about 
Heaven Changes Everything: The Rest of the Story….

The marketing never ceases. At Heaven Is for Real Ministries, you can get the DVD signed by Todd and Colton Burpo.
For Real Yo.

President of Southern Baptist Convention Hosts David Barton at the Summit

This is a discouraging development; another indicator that evangelical ecclesiastical leaders are disconnected from the academics in their own tradition.

I hope actual historians at Southern Baptist Schools will take some time to alert Rev. Ronnie Floyd to the problem here.

I would think a person in his position would know the issues and realize that many historians who teach in Southern Baptist Convention schools have spoken out about the problems with Barton’s claims.

Last Friday, Barton plagiarized Eric Metaxas’ article on the fine-tuning of the universe.

Recently, I pointed out how evangelicals are aware of the problems with Barton’s claims but use him anyway.  The cover up continues.

A Southern Baptist prof discusses Barton’s work here.

Gateway Church Pastor Robert Morris: Jesus is God's Tithe and You Might Need to Downsize to Tithe

The man God asks ‘would that be all right with you?’ (according to Jack Hayford), Robert Morris, is teaching on tithing right now at Gateway Church. In the most important message of The Blessed Life series (his words), Morris says Jesus is God’s tithe and invites his congregation to sell stuff to give to the church.
First Jesus is God’s Tithe.

Jesus gets demoted in this teaching. Instead of Jesus being the “fullness of the Godhead bodily,” (Col. 2:9), He is God’s ten percent offering. A question I have is: To whom is God giving His tithe?
Near the end of the sermon, Morris tells his flock that they may need to sell some things to get things right.
“Maybe you need to make some lifestyle changes to do it, maybe you need to sell something to do it, or downsize to do it,” Morris pleads, “Bring it to the house of God.”
I don’t believe we are under the Old Testament law as Christians so I reject teaching on tithing as a legalistic commitment. Morris’ teaching elevates tithing to a requirement which triggers God’s hand. Tithe and you have the Blessed Life. According to Morris, tithing is so important that God used the atonement to teach that God wants your money.
I suspect it does cost a lot to keep up the Retreat Center at Possum Kingdom maintained by the Robert Morris Evangelistic Association.
RMEA 2013 Retreat Use

Are Mars Hill Church's Kids Ashamed of the Parent Church?

Last week, I noticed something about the independent churches “birthed” by Mars Hill Church (see directory). Most don’t mention their parent church on their website.
To me this seems odd since the Mars Hill Church website says this:
If I had given birth to 11 kids, and they didn’t talk about me, I might be a little hurt.
I did a Google search of the new church websites and found that only Mars Hill Albuquerque (now North Church), described the link to the Mars Hill legacy. One church — Ed Choi’s Rainier Valley Church — acknowledged that Choi had been a pastor at Mars Hill, but there was no explanation of the relationship between the two churches. Two of the church website searches returned mentions of Mars Hill (Resurrection Church and Cross and Crown) but when I went to the page, the reference to Mars Hill had been deleted. Mars Hill West Seattle archived Daivd Farichild’s sermons as being preached at Mars Hill West Seattle but did not give an explanation. The rest had no mention of Mars Hill.
The presentation on these websites make it seem like the churches just emerged without history. In fact, Mars Hill hasn’t dissolved as a corporation and these churches are waiting for more money from the mothership.