Cronyism at OCU?

Ohio Christian University (formerly known as Circleville Bible College) is a place that is strangely close to my heart. After all, the Church of Christ in Christian Union (CCCU) is the denomination of my childhood. I remember going to summer events for children and having the time of my life. Though I am of a different ideological persuasion now, I still respect the clergy and parishioners of the CCCU and their commitment, to borrow a phrase from their own lexicon, “to living a life of holiness”. However, the increasing fundamentalism that is being promoted by the university represents a significant challenge to the credibility of the school. As said before, the university’s government department is now the host of a radio show that presents Islamophobia, global warming denial, young earth creationism*, and so on as necessary aspects of a biblical worldview.

Dave Garrison, the head of the government department and host of the radio show, also advocates a platform of fiscal conservatism. In fact, he has his own fiscal plan for the United States. President Mark Smith regularly appears on the news to back Republican candidates and he played a pivotal role in backing Mitt Romney in Ohio.

One would think that since the school is an ultra-evangelical university and that fiscal conservatism is the official ideology of the government department, OCU would listen their own advise and not be receiving public money of any kind. However, just last week, an investigation by Carol Biliczky of the Akron Beacon Journal has revealed that OCU actually receives hundreds of thousands of dollars directly from the state of Ohio in the form of post-secondary subsidies for highschool students.  Furthermore, they received a federal grant for 2.5 million. How are they able to secure this money? Biliczky says:

Mark Smith with Ohio Supreme Court Justice Sharon Kennedy

“C. Todd Jones, the paid lobbyist for Ohio Christian University and about 50 other private colleges in Ohio, not only sits on the school board with Smith [the president of     OCU] but chairs the committee that is deciding the gifted guidelines. He has actively     lobbied the legislature and governor’s office on PSEO law that would benefit the colleges at the same time he is running board meetings on the topic.”

So in summary, the same university that backs republican candidates and claims that Obamacare is “worse than slavery”, accepts millions of dollars of public money. Talk about a sense of “entitlement”. As my more libertarian friends would say, this is just plain old cronyism.

*OCU is listed by the young earth creationist organization Answers in Genesis as a “Creation College”, colleges that promote creation “science”. This short list of schools includes Bob Jones University, the infamous university that did not allow black students until 1971, was officially opposed to inter-racial dating until 2000 and did not apologize for blatant racism until 2008.  For OCU to be compared to BJU ought to be an embarrassment for anyone part of the CCCU.

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Notes on African-American History in Lancaster, Ohio

Back in middle school, I volunteered with the Fairfield County Historical Society. They were working on a project on African-American history in the area. They gave us all (the volunteers) a series of handouts that put some light on the role the black community has played in Lancaster. The other day, I came across them. Below are some things that caught my eye. If you want further references, please e-mail me.

  • Starting in 1924, blacks could only swim at Miller pool on Saturday nights.
  • During the 1950’s and early 1960’s Mary Burnham, associated with the YMCA, was instrumental in providing activities for black youth by permitting them to use Y facilities when it was available.
  • Before desegregation, South Elementary School had split sessions. White students would go to class in the morning and black students would use the same facilities in the afternoon.
  • To protest the Civil Rights movement, the Ku Klux Klan held a wedding at Rising Park, on top of Mount Pleasant.
  • At least nine Lancasterians were present at Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” Speech
  • Sometime between 1924 and 1929, with the help of Father Mario, the Catholic Church helped bring the NAACP to Lancaster and held a panel discussion at the Elk lodge.
  • A NAACP chapter wasn’t started in Fairfield County until 1965 with the help of Grant Groggin. Groggin, after removing burnt crosses from the top of Mount Pleasant, was threatened by the Ku Klux Klan. Groggin was also monitored by the FBI via wiretaps.
  • Many blacks left Lancaster after returning from the war in Vietnam, finding nothing to return to.

The churches pray for peace in Ukraine

Originally published at http://wagingnonviolence.org/2014/02/churches-pray-peace-ukraine/

News of the protests in Ukraine has spread across the world, especially because the street conflicts have escalated to the point of violence. Some protesters are fighting with makeshift weapons and throwing fire bombs, while the police have responded with lethal violence that has left at least four protesters dead. The administration is in turmoil: In late January, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his cabinet resigned, while President Viktor Yanukovych declared sick leave. Former President Leonid Kravchuk is now warning that the country is now on the brink of civil war.

While mainstream media has extensively covered the street violence, political turmoil and the rising presence of fascist parties, these outlets have largely ignored — or misunderstood — the significant role being played by religious institutions in Ukraine.

Most commentary on the role of clergy has been superficial, largely due to ignorance of the complicated politics of the Orthodox Church. There are actually three different Orthodox Churches in Ukraine: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate. The former two churches split from the Moscow Patriarchate over the clash between Ukrainian nationalism and Russian imperialism, and the Moscow branch is largely seen as a conservative backer for Russia. Given that the conflict in Kiev was sparked by Yanukovych’s turn away from the European Union towards Russia, the churches and their relationship to the protests could be expected to continue to split along these geopolitical lines.

However, all three churches have been working to deescalate the violence in Ukraine. Many protesters are seeking refuge at St. Michael’s Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral. Roman Tsado, 25, told Reuters, “They [the clergy] gave us tea to warm us up, told us to keep our spirits strong and told us not to fight evil with evil.” Priests have also been praying in the deadly “grey zones” between the riot police lines and the protesters in defiance of the government’s recent ban on prayer services at protests. The AFPreports that there are at least two tents on the square, which are “used as places of worship, where protesters pray, go for confession and even have their children christened.”

Even members of the Moscow Patriarchate have become involved. In a widely circulated photograph, two monks wearing clerical garb are standing and praying for peace in front of a large line of riot police. The power of this photo, which was largely lost on international media, is that these priests are actually from Kiev Caves Monastery, which is under the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate.

The fact that monks from the Moscow Patriarchate — who are typically more conservative than ordinary clergy — have taken steps to reduce violence is significant. The Moscow Patriarchate is seen by many to be the ally of Putin. Yet, the violence in Ukraine has reached such a level that even the so-called “spiritual backers” of the government are calling for it to end. In a joint-Orthodox statement condemning the violence, representatives from both the Moscow Patriarchate and the Independent Ukrainian church calls on clergy to resist the violence and for Ukraine politicians “to find a peaceful way out of the social crisis.”

Why I’m VERY Disappointed With OCU

This was first published late fall 2013 on Facebook. Expect to see more on this issue in the future.

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I try to keep up central Ohio politics and especially with the “Christian” Right. I normally isolate my comments on this to just personal conversations, but I feel like I have to write a short article about this because this is right in my backyard and at a university that I have many friends at. Earlier this year, Ohio Christian University’s Business & Government Department launched a new talk show called Faith and Liberty. The host is the current chair of Government and Business Department Dave Garrison, a former republican candidate for congress from Texas. As one might expect, the show has a conservative orientation. Their very own website invites people to bring back “conservative principles to our federal government. We must once again restore America’s prosperity and the American Dream.” But by conservative, Garrison means the delusions of the far-right crack-pots.

Though the show has only been aired weekly since the beginning of the year, it has somehow managed to round up quite a lengthy list of guests who are far-right pundits. Some guests are perfectly legitimate since their opinion actually carries some weight and they have considerable experience working in politics. For example, Newt Gringrich was a former presidential candidate and Grover Norquist has considerable sway within fiscally conservative and anti-tax circles. However, that vast majority can be labelled as representatives of the far-right in the United States and OCU should be utterly ashamed to allow their university be used as a platform to spread their rhetoric. Who are these guests? Lets list off a few:

1) Robert Spencer

Spencer’s life mission is to promote hatred of Muslims. In fact, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League regards his organization Stop the Islamization of America as a hate group because he is one of the men behind the conspiracy theories about the Muslim Brotherhood taking over the US from within. Furthermore, his writings helped inspire right-wing mass shooter Anders Behring Breivik.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2018976/Norway-shooting-Anders-Behring-Breivik-inspired-Robert-Spencer-Unabomber.html

http://www.splcenter.org/get%20informed/intelligence%20files/profiles/Robert%20Spencer

http://archive.adl.org/NR/exeres/823F2236-E96A-461E-B182-D350F31186A7,0B1623CA-D5A4-465D-A369-DF6E8679CD9E,frameless.htm

2) Christopher C. Horner

Of this list, Horner, a senior fellow of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, is probably the least important person. However, his message of global warming denialism is something that OCU as a school should steer clear of. It’s based on pseudoscience and has no place within a Christian institution.

http://mediamatters.org/blog/2012/11/28/meet-the-climate-denial-machine/191545

3) Dr. Jason Lisle

Lisle is the director of research at the Institute for Creation Research and is an associate at Answers in Genesis. Both of these organizations promote young earth creationism as an essential tenant of the Christian faith. These organizations have consistently presented falsehood after falsehood in favor of “creation science” and AiG Creation Museum and their upcoming Ark Experience theme park is a disgrace.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1xUiuZvUuw

4) David Barton

Barton is a self-proclaimed historian who promotes Christian nationalism and revisionist interpretations of US history. He presents himself as an expert on US history, but he only has a B.A. in Religious Education from Oral Roberts University. He is infamous of pulling quotes from thin air to make a case for Christian nationalist readings of the Founding Fathers. In fact, his book The Jefferson Lies was so bad the publisher withdrew the book.

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/16/and-the-worst-book-of-history-is/?_r=0

http://www.worldmag.com/2012/08/lost_confidence

5) Jay Richards

Mr. Richards is a proponent of Intelligent Design and free-market capitalism as a universal cure-for-all. He uses the curious case of Haiti as an example of a country brought down by over-regulation. I guess that whole slavery and colonialism thing had nothing to do with it. He has worked as a fellow at right-wing think tanks such as the Acton Institute, The Heritage Foundation, The American Enterprise Institute, and the Discovery Institute (the organization behind the Wedge Document). Within my own denomination, Richards caused a controversy by being a keynote speaker at St. Vladimir’s Seminary for a conference on poverty.

http://www.redeggreview.org/editorial-lord-acton-and-st-vladimir/

http://www.redeggreview.org/jay-richards-at-st-vladimirs/

6) Joel C. Rosenberg

Rosenberg is a well-known right-wing author. Rush Limbaugh loves his books! Typically, they are about biblical “prophesies” that justify hawkish policies in the Middle East by the US government and he calls for strikes on Iran.

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/09/syria-joel-rosenberg-damascus-countdown-magog

So since when has Ohio Christian University been a hub for climate change denialism, creation “science”, islamophobia, and Christian nationalism? Not only does this lower the institution’s academic credibility, it replaces the gospel with right-wing fanaticism. All I can really say is that I am VERY disappointed in OCU right now.

Humanity from A Distance

"Cynics sometimes insinuate that you can love 
people only if you don't know them too well; 
that a too intimate contact with the foibles and 
idiosyncrasies of men will tempt one to be a 
misanthrope. I have not found it so. I save my- 
self from cynicism by knowing individuals, and 
knowing them intimately. If I viewed humanity 
only from some distant and high perspective I 
could not save myself from misanthropy. I think 
the reason is simply that people are not as de- 
cent in their larger relationship as in their more 
intimate contacts." -Reinhold Niebuhr, Leaves From the Notebook of a Tamed Cynic