Hard Truths About the State of the American Church

1 Peter chapter 4 talks about a number of difficult topics. He talks about God chastising us as we would chastise our children. It talks about the church being persecuted by the world. This passage culminates with verse 17, which says “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God.”

These are placed here together by Peter because they are very much connected. If we look at this passage in a modern American context, the Church has sinned by failing to resists attacks against the Bible, the Church, and many other institutions that were established to allow us to be governed in a way that acknowledged the Creator as the source of our liberty and sustenance. Our failure has resulted in the need for God to chastise us. He is choosing to do this by raising up worldly men, like the rainbow jihad, to persecute the church. In this way he is judging the Church, but those persecutors better beware – verse 17 ends with a warning to those who are Gods instruments of chastisement.

The end of the story is almost exactly parallel to the story of the Babylonians in the judgment of Judah. Babylon was the instrument that was used to chastise Judah, but ultimately Babylon was destroyed as a punishment for their role in sinning against God’s chosen people.

Is there anything the Church can do to avoid being judged by God for the spiritual decline of America? Or is it already too late? Perhaps it is time for the Church to recommit to its own purification. Jesus told a parable about the wheat and the tares. He spoke of how the tares (non-believers in the Church) were coexisting with the wheat (true believers). Ultimately, the Lord will complete the work of the Church by throwing the tares on the fire at the time of harvest. However, the Church has a role in addressing the tares here on earth.

Church discipline is a tool that Jesus gave us to address those who make a profession of faith and join the body of Christ, but whose works are not consistent with someone who has given their life to Jesus. The Bible is clear (see Matthew 18:15-20) about the process and the purpose of church discipline. However, it is rare to see it practiced in the Church today. Within its own ranks the Church seems to have unwittingly adopted the permissive and tolerant ways that it has been quick to criticize in the world. We are afraid to offend a fellow church member, even if our actions are for his eternal benefit. We do not offer any deterrent for a brother not to stray from the narrow path, other than the natural God given consequences of his actions.

This lack of discernment has severely compromised the purity of the Church and made it difficult for the Church to set itself apart from worldly institutions. This lack of purity causes the world to ignore the Church when it rightly speaks out on moral issues on the basis that the Church is hypocritical. If we are to win back American culture, moral lines need to be drawn quickly and the Church needs to regain its credibility by staying true to those lines and making itself pure.

Advertisements

George Washington: Our Best Role Model

I have recently completed a highly acclaimed biography of George Washington called The Real George Washington.  My expectation when I began this biography was that the admiration that I had for Washington would be tarnished by the inevitable human imperfections that plague us all. The worshipful admiration I had as a school boy would make way for a grownup up respect laced with cynicism.

I am glad to tell the world that a deeper study of Washington only makes his character seem more ascendent than before and my admiration of him even more profound. Here we truly do have one of the greatest men that ever lived, not because he achieved a list of accomplishments that the world expects of great men, but because he had principles.  Not only did he have principles, but he lived them out. Not only did he live out his principles, but he did so with a knowledge of his own imperfections.

To the highly educated man of the 18th century, Washington’s education was unimpressive. Thomas Jefferson wrote “…his education was merely reading, writing and common arithmetic, to which he added surveying at a later day.” Washington himself was embarrassed by his lack of education. Additionally, Jefferson commented on Washington’s shortage of “invention or imagination” as well as inability to speak effectively in public situations.

How did a man of such evidently little political talent achieve the pinnacle of achievement? The answer is a word commonly used in our contemporary cultural language – VISION. In the same eulogy quoted above, Jefferson describes Washington’s mind as “great and powerful, without being of the very first order..” and “sure in its conclusion.” Patrick Henry marveled as his “solid judgment” and, most telling, James Madison once wrote that his mind was “capable of grand views.”  When taking these descriptions together, we get a picture of a man who was very capable of leading, but always as an arbiter of the ideas of other men.

george

This leadership ability was reflected in the fact that George Washington was usually one of the first men to take a bold position. For instance, like most colonists, he entered the conflict with England in hopes of achieving an understanding with the British government that would allow the colonies to continue as subjects of the king. It did not take him long to determine that this outcome was not practical due to the remoteness of the colonies to London and the patronizing attitude of the British government. Therefore, Washington became one of the first men to champion a permanent break with England.

Throughout his career a theme repeated itself. He was never the most intelligent, most philosophical, or most educated man in a debate. However, he had an amazing ability to see the benefits that an independent republic would have on the rights of man. He may not have been a writer of great works that showed new ways of thinking, but he could envision the practical results of applying innovative concepts correctly better than any man who ever called himself an American.

The part of Washington that is perhaps the most unconventional is his character, which most men who encountered him called nearly perfect. Of course, he was not perfect. He was known to get angry at times. However, over the course of a lifetime he is described as having benevolence, dignity, generosity, honor, modesty, optimism, patience, perseverance, self-discipline, etc. In addition, he would always ask the advice of other men and after much deliberation would make his best decision. Once decided, he would tenaciously pursue excellence and overcome all obstacles as he executed his policy.

Washington was believed to be a follower of Jesus Christ.  It was well known that he spent much time in prayer and his impeccable character are the mark of a man who was striving to emulate his savior.  The Bible clearly teaches that we can identify Christians by the fruit that they produce.  Even if George Washington wasn’t a true believer, a man could not have a better example of Christian behavior in a secular setting than George Washington. I have certainly been inspired to emulate him.

Is The Constitution a Dead Letter?

I have an embarrassing confession to make.  I am tired of public discourse about the Constitution. Coming from a Christian conservative, this may be considered a shocking statement.  Because of that I want to clarify that I still consider the Constitution of the United States the greatest political document ever written by men.  The problem with our contemporary discussions is that they ignore reality and treat the Constitution as if it is still an effective document that is used to govern the United States.  It is time to have an honest discussion about the true state of this revered document.

The Constitution has been under attack since it was ratified.  In the first years of the republic the Republicans asserted that the Federalists were trying to establish a monarchical government in spite of the Constitution.  The 19th century arguments over slavery caused a constitutional crisis that nearly destroyed the union.  It was this crisis that many assert was the catalyst for the progressive movement in America because states’ rights were subjugated to the higher priority of ending slavery.  Eventually the 17th amendment was passed in 1913, which ended the election of senators by the state legislatures.

The passing of the 17th amendment could be the event that began the landslide that has resulted in the rights of men to be washed down the slippery slope.  Democrats for years have been referencing the Constitution when it is politically expedient for them, only to ignore it when it should be put to practical use. The fact is, most liberals believe what Obama believes about the Constitution. They believe that it limits the ability of the government to be active as a social justice warrior. They insist it must be used as an agent to promote and implement their world view, which is, of course, diametrically opposed to the world view of the men who created the document.

This can be seen in the countless legislative acts that are in direct conflict with the 10th amendment – Obamacare, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc. It can also be seen in Democrat opposition of 2nd amendment rights and attempts to limit political speech with policies like the Fairness Doctrine.

Dissatisfaction of  progressives with the Constitution can also be seen in the evolution of the judiciary over the last 80 years. The fact is that law students today are not taught the Constitution as the basis of American law, but are taught stare decisis, or legal precedent, instead. In other words, what some other lawyer or lawyers have ruled in a recent legal case is more important than what the Constitution states on the same topic. This explains how the unconstitutional legislation referenced above can pass the scrutiny of the courts. The progressives have been using this tactic since FDR’s administration and have accelerated the process in recent years.

They have also taken liberties with the verbiage in the Constitution to justify virtually unlimited expansion of government. For instance, the general welfare clause in Article 1 Section 8 has been used to uphold myriads of progressive legislation, when, in fact, James Madison himself made it clear in his writings that this is not what was intended.

The progressives would not have seen the success that they did if it had not been for an electorate that is illiterate when it comes to the Constitution.

Before Justice Gorsuch was nominated for the Supreme Court, many polls were taken to gauge the public feeling about the kind of person that should be nominated. For instance, a Marist poll published on Jan. 9, 2017 revealed that 80% of Americans want Supreme Court Justices to apply the Constitution as originally written.

However, when George W. Bush proposed partial privatization of Social Security in 2005, the electorate turned against him. Polling data from Gallup showed Americans disapproved of Bush’s handling of Social Security by a 64%-36% margin.

What most Americans obviously don’t understand is that the Social Security program violates the 10th Amendment of the Constitution, which states “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” This is merely one example of the reality that Americans say they want the Constitution, but they have grown dependent on government programs and oppose their elimination.

What about those who are truly serious about going back to the Constitution? We hear from these folks every election cycle, usually represented by someone like Ron Paul. I appreciate the principles that these people stand for, but I must question the practicality of their idealistic positions. One of the first things we must do is forget about the Constitution as the basic document of our country. Though we should always support the principles put forth in it, our country has departed too far from it to return without an extreme political event. To begin to restore liberty and freedom in a practical way we must embrace many of the tactics and strategies of opponents to human liberty and adapt to an environment that is forever changed from the Constitutional Republic that was established in 1787.  This means implementing tactics that themselves are not defensible via the Constitution, but are defensible when considering our obligation to defend the rights of men.

I must admit I have a hard time letting go of the Constitution. It has been an integral part of my intellectual life. I once had a crazy notion that our laws could be reviewed by an anointed group of originalist judges and the ones that do not adhere to the Constitution could be thrown out. Then I remember that the culture we live in has moved beyond our founding document and to move backwards toward a lost ideal is impossible.

Ben Franklin said, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”  A people that can’t identify gender and can’t determine that life begins at conception is no longer a virtuous people.  We must lovingly but aggressively work within culture and politics to reveal the truths that will allow America’s virtue to be restored.  Only then can our Constitution, or another in the same spirit, be established once again.

An Homage to Gunsmoke

It may seem strange to read a new review of a TV series that ran for 20 years and wrapped its last episode over 40 years ago.  Nevertheless, I am offering a critique of the TV show Gunsmoke, which ran from 1956 to 1975.  Perhaps you shouldn’t consider this a review as much as an homage to one of the greatest TV shows ever.

Not only does Gunsmoke allow me to enjoy the long lost western genre, but it is also full of gritty realism (tempered by production limitations of the time), and a morality that was part of the mainstream culture in the 1950’s but that is a breath of fresh air in today’s debauched society.

For those unfamiliar with the show, Matt Dillon is a US Marshall based in Dodge City, Kansas where there are plenty of bad guys to put in jail.  He is supported by Chester, his often irresponsible deputy, and also enjoys the company of Doc Adams and Kitty Russell, who owns a popular local saloon.  Dillon is one of the best around with a gun and faces down bandits, gun smugglers, gunfighters, crooked ranchers, and hosts of others.  On the surface, the show can seem cliché as Dillon’s victims pile up after scenes that are sometimes cheesy.  However, many of the shows deal with real problems resulting from the harshness of life on the plain in a very practical way.  For instance, in one episode a rancher catches a man he thinks is a horse thief and along with another rancher decides to lynch him.  In another, Dillon has to decide how to deal with a buffalo hunter that beats his wife.  While these plots aren’t necessarily original, they certainly depict real problems that existed in the old west.

Not only do I find the show believable, I also find it refreshing to watch men and women in more traditional roles.  The men treat ladies with kindness and chivalry, although sometimes admitting a lack of understanding of their ways.  When action becomes necessary, even the male characters less prolific than Matt Dillon do not shy away from danger.  They face problems head on because first and foremost they are men in a difficult environment and haven’t yet been feminized in the way most modern TV men have.

I also mentioned earlier that I like the morality that is portrayed on the show.  There is no moral relativism here.  Promiscuity is frowned upon.  The Bible is referenced.  You don’t have to feel embarrassed about watching this show with your kids.  Of course, I don’t want to give the impression that this is a reflection of the morality in the old west.  Like any show it represents the values of the time it was made, not the time in which it is portrayed.  These are the values of the 1950’s, not the 1870’s.

The show is not perfect.  It was at its best as a 30 minute show with sometimes trite dialog.  The longer shows tend to be more cliché and campy than the shorter ones that tell a very simple story.  It is difficult to produce 600 episodes of any show and not be repetitive at times.  There are multiple storylines about corrupt ranchers chasing farmers off their land, gunman who want to make a name for themselves, and others.  Matt Dillon is a larger-than-life character.  Sometimes too large.  No other protagonist in television has been shot so many times and lived. In 20 years he never met anyone he couldn’t outdraw or outsmart.  The fact is no matter what the story, you knew before it started Matt Dillon would make the best of the situation.

That is part of the fun as well.  This long-running is just a fun bit of escapism that will at times make you think.  For best results, I recommend the early episodes.

 

Russia and Wiretapping

In America today we are now neck deep in a battle of scandals involving Russian subterfuge and domestic espionage that we will not be able to extricate ourselves from for quite some time. The most important thing to keep in mind is that this is a battle taking place in Washington and not so much elsewhere. To be honest very few of the great unwashed care about this story. Trump supporters are not disturbed by his chumminess with the Russians because it is all part of his dealmaking persona. Liberals don’t care about Obama spying on Trump because anyone who disagrees with or opposes liberals deserves to be spied upon.

As someone who measures morality by the Biblical standard I have something to say about the behavior of both factions in this fight.

First, Trump is demonstrating political incompetence. In this day and age you can be fired from a job for the slightest sortie into the politically incorrect. Therefore, we have all learned to be very guarded about what we say and to whom we say it. I don’t particularly care for this state of affairs, but this was a reality in politics long before it became a reality around the water cooler. For a presidential candidate to be so careless about his associations is simply stupid. Merely having interactions with people in the Russian government creates the appearance of impropriety and allows the Democrat accusations to appear plausible. Mark Cuban tweeted today that Trump made some money in Russia and was merely pressing flesh without realizing the Russians were using him for their own purposes. This scenario has the ring of truth to me, although there is no evidence one way or the other to substantiate it.

Very little needs to be said about the activities of the Obama administration in this sordid affair. If what appears to be true is true – that Susan Rice was searching for Donald Trump and his team in recordings of agents of the Russian regime – it makes Watergate look like a silly misdemeanor. In a republic that was functioning properly, this would likely lead to a series of indictments.

As we all know, you can say a lot about our republic today, but you can’t correctly say it is functioning properly. As a result, I will make a bold prediction right here and right now about what will happen as a result of all these scandals:

NOTHING

First, the Democrats themselves know they have no evidence against Donald Trump as it pertains to the Russians. As much as they would like to be rid of him (as would their Repulican establishment friends), they will have to be happy with staging a gigantic distraction that will prevent Trump from governing with any effectiveness. This strategy has been effective so far and Trump has even assisted to this end.

As far as the Republicans are concerned, I don’t think there is anything that could get them serious about investigating their Democrat buddies short of Mitch McConnell’s murder. In other words, the Republicans lack the political courage to take on their beloved political establishment even if they would be morally right and gain from it politically.

This is yet another way that a legitimate third party could enter the scene and be the voice of sanity among the irretrievably corrupt. Somebody please tell me where to sign up.

How I Wish I Was Wrong…

I have just reread an entry I wrote in my personal journal last November after Trump’s stunning electoral victory.  I regret not having posted it on this blog at the time because it has proven to be prophetic after less than 3 months of the Trump presidency. I can’t take too much credit though, since these circumstances weren’t all that difficult to predict.

Here is an excerpt from that journal entry from November 19, 2016:

I have been surprised at some of the initial reaction to Trump’s victory among conservatives. There seems to be a relief that a Republican won the office and that Republicans control Congress. I am confused by this, since the Republicans have shown a marked paralysis when it comes to leading on any issue except saving themselves from criticism from the left. I think even the cautious optimism many people are urging is unjustified. It requires me to forget everything I have witnessed in politics over the last 20 years.

Additionally I made this prediction about Obamacare:

Trump will not repeal Obamacare. It would be foolish from a practical point of view unless it is packaged with a replacement the next day. All evidence from his past points to the fact that Trump is a Progressive, so I am fairly certain he won’t choose a free market approach on Healthcare.

Where are we today?  There was hope among evangelicals that Trump, who does not appear to have many principles, would be malleable in the hands of good conservative advisors. Unfortunately, his choice of advisors was poor because it was made based on paying back support during the campaign. This is not unusual under normal circumstances, but we must remember this candidate ran as a populist who was going to “drain the swamp.”

To date Trump has been defeated on immigration and healthcare and has done nothing on religious freedom. The defeat on healthcare was a total humiliation. There are several things that went wrong. First, he let the Republican establishment lead him during the legislative process. This group has no incentive to make Trump look good. I also think Trump is a supporter of government run healthcare, so he was unable to see that this bill was disastrous for his base. In any case, he made it clear he didn’t care what passed as long as something passed and he could claim a political victory, as fleeting as it would be.

Everyone by now knows that no bill was passed. Trump and the establishment Republicans blame the Freedom Caucus.  The irony is that Trump is now attacking the very demographic that he relied on to win his election.  The Freedom Caucus is asserting that the Republicans including Trump are selling out the voters and they are right. Regardless of which side you are on, one thing has become obvious. The Republicans in charge of their party have very little in common with the conservatives in their base. They do not share the same value system. The Republican party has bought into the Progressive world view wholeheartedly, which is a large part of what the populist uprising in November was opposed to. Because the Progressive view is diametrically opposed to the views of conservatives, it is obvious there is not room in the party for everyone.

The statement above now seems so obvious to me that I am embarrassed that I didn’t include it in my November analysis.  Before the election, when we all knew Donald Trump was going to lose, the Republican party was tearing itself apart over the nomination of Trump.  For some reason, after he won we all held hands and sang folk songs for three months, deluding ourselves into thinking that the divisions within the Republican party did not exist any more.  We’ve all been rudely awakened from our dreams now.

So what happens next? Many were talking about a third party before the election. These latest events have galvanized some into believing it is a necessity. I only wonder if enough people who can make a difference have the courage to make a stand once they count the cost. Separating from the Republican party will likely be followed by many years in exile for conservatives, but perhaps afterwards they will have a new platform to convey their morally superior ideas to the people without being lost in the noise of intraparty squabbling.  For them it may be the best option, since they will not win a single battle with this president and this congress in power.

A Brief Review of Les Miserable

I recently completed reading Les Miserables and found that it highlighted some fundamental truths about life in general and the Christian Life specifically that are worth sharing.

Jean Valjean, the main character of the book, accepted Jesus Christ as Lord shortly after his release from prison.  Jean was not an evil man when he went to prison, but his experience there made him bitter against humanity.  This made him spiritually capable of committing almost any evil act, including stealing from a child.  After his conversion, Hugo paints Jean Valjean as an ideal Christian – kind, gentle, and generous, even to those who are the lowest of the low in society, such as a penniless prostitute.

The problem that Jean faced was the fact that, although his heart had been transformed from evil to good by the power of Christ, it was still he who had committed crimes that, in his age, were punishable by a long imprisonment.  In the end Valjean decided not to continue running from who he was.  His decision was to face the human judgment that was coming to him.

There are many Christians who have a similar story to Jean Valjean.  We did things before we were saved that make us ashamed or embarrassed.  Maybe we did something that was illegal.  The fact is that there are people out there that know who we were before we were Christ’s and those people may not care that we are living a better life now.  Perhaps, like Jean Valjean, we have been blessed with wealth or power.  These things will make you a target for those who are greedy or envious and you may have to give up the things of the world to show your complete submission to God.

les-misLes Miserables is filled with political commentary on the French criminal justice system and society’s treatment of the poor.  Most reviewers talk about this and say that Hugo provides a glimmer of hope in this pit of despair.  What most miss is that the form of this hope is kindness and gentleness of Jean Valjean, which is the result of Christ living through him.  Whether it is his adoption of Cosette, or saving the man pinned under his heavy cart, Hugo shows us how the life of the ideal Christian should impact the lives of all around him or her.  Jean Valjean demonstrates the principle of loving his enemy by sparing the life of Javert, the man who had hounded him ceaselessly.

Very few people will argue that Les Miserables is not a classic piece of literature.  However, it really is a classic piece of Christian literature.  It is written to demonstrate the change that Christ will make in your life and the impact that Christ will have on the world through you.

My only problem with the book is how at Jean Valjean’s death, and other places in the book, he glorifies the man who led him to Christ, rather than Christ Himself, which may reflect the fact that Hugo was a Catholic like most people of France at the time.  Though of theological importance, this flaw does not detract much from the pleasure of reading this classic.

 

Was Joe McCarthy right?

We have been trained by our culture to respond in a certain way when we hear a particular term or phrase.  There is no more stark example of this than the term McCarthyism.  For decades this term has been a synonym for demagoguery, false accusations, and heavy handed prosecution.  While there are some good reasons to draw these comparisons, there is a lot more to the story than our modern culture has been willing to reveal to us.  Any modern discussion of Joseph McCarthy and the events of his time in the Senate always seems to focus on the methods used by McCarthy and the presumption that he was universally condemned.  There needs to be more discussion of the fact that he garnered considerable support for quite some time, and that arguably the fears he exploited may have been justified.

When Joe McCarthy entered the public consciousness, it was at the point of the Cold War where post-WWII posturing by the Soviets and Americans were leading to action, namely the war in Korea.  The recent Chinese revolution was also a major source of concern.  McCarthy began criticizing the government for tolerating Communists within its own ranks when the sensitivity of the public to this sort of thing was at a very high level.  As he became more well known, the support he had from the American people hovered around 50%.  As long as he was a Republican criticizing a Democrat administration for tolerating Communist infiltrators he could depend on the support of his own party.

Unfortunately McCarthy was either not very pragmatic or not very good at estimating his political capital.  In spite of the Republican Eisenhower winning the 1954 presidential election, McCarthy did not relent in his criticism of the executive branch.  This caused his support within his own party to ebb.  It did not help that he launched investigations into places where no direct evidence of wrong doing could be found, which earned him the infamy that his name continues to suffer to this day.  However, it is important to understand that McCarthy was undone by political circumstances and positioning within the Republican Party as much as his questionable methods, which means he was a non-partisan man of principle, whether you agree with him or not.

In researching this post, I found that after 60 years there is still a shortage of objective information about the substance of the accusations McCarthy made.  We are either told that McCarthy was a hater who was corrupt and ready to exploit the fears of the American public, or we are told that he was an American patriot that was suppressed by forces that were already under the influence of Communism.  Neither of these explanations is very satisfying to me.

Here are some things we do know:

  • The Venona papers, which were declassified in 1995, clearly supported McCarthy’s accusations that there was evidence of Soviet infiltration of the US Government during and immediately after WWII.
  • President Eisenhower, though withdrawing support from Senator McCarthy, did, in fact, make significant changes to policy in response to suspected Soviet infiltration
  • The accusation by Democrats that McCarthy could not decide on how many Communists there were in the State Department was actually debunked shortly after it was leveled
  • Senator McCarthy did all he could to protect the names of the accused from being released in case they could be cleared, contrary to public perception.  This can be clearly seen in the transcripts of the hearings.
  • Of the 159 persons investigated, 9 were found to have involvement in espionage
  • Anecdotal evidence suggests that McCarthy’s claims about security problems at the Ft. Monmouth, NJ top secret facility were correct

Given these facts, it is difficult to argue that McCarthy was merely a demagogue.  Why then does history condemn him?  When I consider the character assassinations that have occurred in my lifetime, such as Robert Borque, Dan Quayle, and Clarence Thomas, I can begin to understand that McCarthy was simply one of the first victims of character assassination by leftists through a process that has been repeated hundreds of times.  For me, this is further evidence that he was on to something.

Perhaps you are not convinced that McCarthy was merely an innocent victim of propaganda.  Let’s study a different angle then.  Let’s pretend it is 1950 and think about what America would be like in 60 years if McCarthy was right and Communists had infiltrated the American Government.  This is not that difficult to do considering the abundance of dystopic novels that were published around this time, such as 1984, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, Atlas Shrugged, etc. Also, in 1963 the Communist Party published a list of goals they needed to achieve to subvert America.  This can be easily found on the internet and is yet another way of evaluating if the Communist infiltration was successful.

If you read any of these, you will find it quite frightening how successful the Communists have been in the United States.  For example, one desire of Communists is a society that has discarded Biblical moral standards.  Does that sound familiar?  How about excessive government regulation with the purpose of controlling the economy?  One of the predictions that is common to the novels listed above is the corruption of the media and its collusion with the government.  Whether it is the perpetual entertainment in Fahrenheit 451 or the doublethink of 1984, it is disturbing how closely this parallels the America we know today.

The history and social upheaval that has occurred over the last 60 years is undeniable evidence that not only did Communists desire to infiltrate America, but they were quite successful, and continue to succeed today.  In the end McCarthy was right, whether you agreed with his tactics or not.  The final piece of evidence that he was right is our own government, that has failed its citizens in order to pursue its own utopic vision of equal outcomes (i.e. misery) for all.  Sounds like Communism to me.

The Meaning of American Independence

My wife and I were out today and a very kind lady wished us a “happy 4th.” At that moment I was determined to write this post because most Americans seem to have forgotten the reason we observe Independence Day, or have never been taught the reasons at all. There has been some discussion lately in our anti-American pop culture about the Constitution and ideas of liberty being “obsolete,” so I want to provide some facts related to Independence Day and the founding of this nation. I will attempt to be as impartial as possible, but I must disclose that I find the Constitution to be the greatest political document created by man and the revolutionary period in history to be the most unique.

What is Independence Day?

Independence Day was created as a federal holiday only in 1941, but Americans had been celebrating their Independence dating all the way back to the Revolution.  In fact, Independence Day was celebrated in Philadelphia in 1777 by setting off fireworks.  The reason we celebrate Independence Day is to commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  This was the significant political event that brought the relationship between the American colonies and Great Britain to a breaking point.  Though the war with Great Britain had been going on for more than a year, signing this document effectively changed a fight for colonists’ rights as British citizens into a war of independence from Britain.

Why do we celebrate Independence Day on July 4th?

Like most political processes, the political act of independence did not occur in one day.  Only the final passage and signing of the Declaration of Independence took place on July 4th, which is why we celebrate the event on that day.  On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee presented a resolution in Philadelphia to absolve the colonies from allegiance to the King.  This resolution was much discussed, but not acted upon immediately.  However, the resolution was the impetus to enlisting Thomas Jefferson to pen a formal document that would sever the political ties between Great Britain and the colonies for good.  On July 2, 1776,  Lee’s resolution was adopted by 12 of 13 colonies.  After some minor revisions the Declaration of Independence was adopted and signed on July 4th, after 9 of the colonies voted in favor of it.

Why is the historical significance of Independence Day?

To many, this may seem like a very broad and basic question.  However, the fact is that most Americans today do not dwell on this question as much as they did 100 years ago, or even 30 years ago.

While the American Revolution was unquestionably the most significant historical event of the 18th century, it is important to understand the evolution of the idea of liberty in European and Christian thought before the Revolution.  Most scholars trace the idea of liberty back to the Magna Carta, signed in 1215, which gave the English nobility rights in exchange for service to the King.  While this seems like a small concession today, in the context of the feudal society of the time, it was a major concession by King John, whose supporters considered it the greatest of many failures by this weak king.

During the Reformation in the 16th and 17th centuries, one of the issues at stake was an individual’s right to have freedom of conscience.  While we as Americans take this right for granted, at the time few governments were willing to openly allow their citizens to choose a religion other than the state sanctioned religion.  As a result of the multitude of brutal wars of the period, governments began to tolerate people of other denominations within their borders, but almost always with limitations that those who practiced the state religion did not have to contend with.  There was also very limited freedom of speech.  Because of these limitations, many people, such as Pilgrims and Puritans, left for the New World, where they could have greater freedom to practice their religion as they chose.

Because of the circumstances of their emigration from Europe, the culture and traditions of the colonists started to differ in significant ways from the home country.  Individual rights were enjoyed by the colonists due to the inability of the government to exercise very much control.  Several generations enjoyed this liberty, which caused early Americans to have an expectation of individualism and self determination.  When King George tried to raise money by levying new taxes on the colonies after the Seven Years War, he discovered a large percentage of the population would resist any additional taxation without being given a voice in their government.  This he was not willing to give, and it ultimately led to the signing of the Declaration 240 years ago today.

Are the principles in the American founding documents obsolete?

The war of independence from the British Empire that was fought over 200 years ago may seem like ancient history to many people.  However, there was a more general enemy that many of the founders fought against.  This enemy they named tyranny, which is defined as “oppressive force exerted by government.”  The writers of the Constitution not only were protecting us from their enemy – the British Empire – but any other enemy that will pick up the mantle of tyranny.  That is why the Bill of Rights is such a frustration to those who would exert tyranny in the United States.  The Bill of Rights was written to clearly define what government should not do.  Barack Obama calls this a list of “negative liberties,” because he clearly desires the government to do more than the Bill of Rights allows.  Consider the following incomplete list of government activities that are in violation of the Bill of Rights:

  • The enforcement of political correctness is a violation of the First Amendment (freedom of speech)
  • Gun control is in violation of the Second Amendment
  • The Fourth Amendment is violated daily by the NSA (illegal search and seizure)
  • The welfare state is a violation of the Tenth Amendment

Before you consider the founding documents obsolete, consider carefully the implications of lifting protections on liberty and limitations on government.  Even though the Constitution is still credited as “the law of the land,” our unwillingness to hold our leaders accountable to it has caused the erosion of many of the liberties we greatly value.  Even if you consider the present government worthy of your trust, and you are willing to accept their encroachment upon our Constitutional rights, how long will it be before someone takes power who does not have your best interests in mind?

Thank you for taking time to read. I wish you all a wonderful Independence Day

Communication Pitfalls

One of the real tragedies of the human condition is our inability to effectively communicate with one another.  I am not referring primarily to communication of our daily activities, although we all know that there are endless difficulties with communicating these simple thoughts.  We have all been on the giving and receiving end of communications that were misunderstood because we heard the wrong word, thought of it in the wrong context, or any number of other miscarriages.  Knowing we have so many problems with these simple communications, it is amazing we are ever successful in conveying our deeper philosophical and spiritual thoughts.

In fact, there are many instances when we are given a chance to communicate, but we decide not to, or we decide to communicate somewhat less than we could. As an example, let’s say you are going through a difficult trial and a friend approaches you and asks how you are doing. Here you have two choices. The first choice is to suppose that this person is trying to be kind and doesn’t really want to hear about your problem (this supposition could in itself be a mistake). In that case you answer the question “Fine.” This could also be the answer if you don’t want to talk about the problem. Of course, if they know anything about you they probably know you are not fine. The second option supposes the friend is really interested in the true answer to the question and you are in the mood to share. In this case you may describe your trial and some of the reasons for it or some of the things you are doing to get through it.

At this point the communication can really derail. When we get to talking about ourselves there is no stopping us, so we can easily say something self serving. The listener might hear your communication and agree with it. Or disagree. How many times during our conversations do we disagree with a point that someone makes, but we don’t say anything because it is not worth compromising the friendship over a minor point? Yet you walk away from the conversation holding something against the speaker. The speaker walks away from the conversation feeling better, not realizing that the relationship has suffered.

A wise man once told me “when we speak we only convey a small part of what is on our mind.” The human mind is so complex, and can evaluate a subject from so many angles, that language is very limited in its ability to convey thoughts, which are laced with impressions and nuances and emotions, etc. I find that more often than not I fail to get across the entirety of my thoughts on a particular subject. It is either misunderstood by the listener, or it comes across as fragmented.

On the other hand there are many different ways through language to convey a fragment of a thought. For those that are multilingual this fact is even more apparent when translating between languages.  Depending on our personality and our experience, the communication choice can either be heavy handed, subtle, or somewhere in between.

How do we minimize the damage caused by these communication pitfalls? First, honesty is the best policy. Sounds obvious, but we humans can be so unwilling to confront others even when doing so will help the people we care about.  Secondly, etiquette and manners can be a great enemy to honest conversation. It causes us to put our guard up and makes us think “this is not the time or place for this conversation.” These barriers need to be removed for us to be able to be the best servants we can be to our fellow man.  Finally, our ability to forgive is crucial to maintaining good relationships. It is easier too destroy a relationship through conversation than to build one, so our default position must be to believe the person speaking to us means well, even if they say something stupid.