Sunday, December 22, 2013

Ghost of Christmas Past

December 22, 1983.

Turning my memory toward the small town and the boys there the Ghost of Christmas past beckons me follow.

I recognize the streets. Cold rain from the night had frozen but I didn't notice. It was early in the morning and I had somewhere to go. I was starting down the two lane out of town and heading toward a sharp curve but why was the car in front of me going so slowly? Pulling out to pass quickly before the curve the other car suddenly speeds up, matching my speed. Is he trying to kill me?  My 1977 Mazda GLC strains but has nowhere near the power necessary for the task. I slam the brakes pulling behind the car. How could he do that?! I could have been killed! Anger instantly filling my mind I begin to chase the car. I WAS going to pass him. Turn after turn losing ground up the hills but making ground on the downside I pursue. Finally on a long downhill I slip beside the car and begin the pass.

Spinning, spinning. Darkness. Cold. Why am I lying in the grass? What are those people doing in the car? Warm blankets and pain. Writhing on the table my confused bruised mind is shallow. Why is Mr. West here? Saying nothing but grimacing and squeezing his hat.

The Ghost looks down the road. I know where he is going. Snowy hillside part way up just beyond the tree. I hesitate but cannot stop. Why are you tormenting me I scream in my mind! Now I want to stop but it’s too late. Pointing toward the grave marker this gray shadow looks at me. With deep heaviness I remember. I was not alone in the car that day. While anger was flowing through my veins sleep was covering my brothers’ outstretched limbs. Now sleep is all he knows.

On my knees crying out, “Dear God, forgive me!  Let me forgive myself! I have changed. Believe me, see me. I have changed. Anger rules me no more.”

Returning to the present, I see my children as they play.They are excited for Christmas so I stand and sing peacefully to them,

“Silent night, Holy night, all is calm, all is bright…”

“Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.”

Ecclesiastes 7:9

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Tombstone Worthy

With the Supreme Court recently agreeing to hear a case addressing the free exercise of religion, Hobby Lobby (and Conestoga Wood) v Sebelius, I could not help but think back to Thomas Jefferson.

Before he died on July 4th 1826, exactly fifty years after the Declaration of Independence was written, he would direct only three things to be inscribed on his tombstone -- the creator of that very same Declaration, the founder of the University of Virginia, and the author of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom. Many Americans today would know the first, some know the second, but few know the last. No doubt more than a small number, who have visited Monticello and looked upon his grave marker, have thought, “No mention of President? What was that Virginia statute about?”

You see, Jefferson was a free thinker. Living in the waning days of authoritarian civil and religious authority, he was among those who would feel the wrath of nonconformity. Often accused of being an atheist or deist    
(charges that remarkably persist to this day), he was in fact neither. He lived a long life and his thoughts changed through the years as he searched for truth. Toward the end of his days, he anticipated his death and looked past it. On April 11th, 1823, writing to his old friend John Adams, he said, “I join you cordially and await his [God’s] time and will with more readiness than reluctance. May we meet there again, in Congress, with our ancient colleagues, and receive with them the seal of approbation, “Well done, good and faithful servants.” Jefferson repeatedly claimed to be a Christian, believed in the resurrection and looked forward to it. He, however, held what was and still are considered unorthodox even heretical views on various positions. He tried to keep these views secret as it caused him much grief whenever the public became aware of his real or perceived views.

Which brings me back to his tombstone and that law he helped create as a young man in Virginia. Being greatly concerned with obtaining the freedom of conscience, the freedom to think and believe and act on those without fear of retribution, he pressed hard for this law. This was not just a man-made temporary law. It was natural law. A God given law. Listen to the words Jefferson wrote as a 34 year old man in 1777. Words that he would carry with him to his grave:

An Act for establishing religious Freedom.

Whereas, Almighty God hath created the mind free;

That all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens, or by civil incapacitations tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and therefore are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being Lord, both of body and mind yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do.

That the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time;

Be it enacted by General Assembly that no man shall be …enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities. And though we well know that this Assembly elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of Legislation only, have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding Assemblies…yet we are free to declare, and do declare that the rights hereby asserted, are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of a natural right.

Today, out of the thousands of letters he wrote, we remember only one of Jefferson’s quotes and it being misunderstood. The quote was from a letter to the Danbury Baptists in 1802, where Jefferson mentioned a “wall of separation of church and state”. We have forgotten the law he helped pass and had engraved on his tombstone.

The Supreme Court hears the latest assault on the freedom of religion next year. I wonder, will they be the succeeding assembly that declares this right null and void? If they do, like Jefferson I declare:

The rights hereby asserted, are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of a natural right.”

A right, I must say, that is tombstone worthy.

#Thomas Jefferson #Hobby Lobby#religousfreedom

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Engraved with the point of a diamond

Long ago, in 587 BC, a man stood within the walls of a city that was being destroyed because it would not, could not do the right thing. He said with disgust, “From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain. 
All practice deceit. Sin…is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart.” His name was Jeremiah.

Fast forward 2,588 years. Has man's basic nature changed?

 In 2001, a company called Enron became enveloped in a scandal that would lead to its demise. The greed and hubris of the executives was finally made known. The supposed watchdog, the auditing firm of Arthur Anderson, was also brought low due to their complicit activity in covering for Enron. In response, a number of laws were passed in an effort to prevent such behavior in the future. One of these changes was to require that certified public accountants, who perform the auditing, undergo proper moral training. It was thought that would prevent what occurred at Arthur Anderson.

Recently, I attended an all-day seminar covering a variety of relevant topics - taxes, rule changes, etc. Many were scrambling to complete their eight hours of required "continuing professional education" before the end of the year so as not to lose their license to practice. I attended with two colleagues. After a couple of hours, one leaned over to me and said, "I am going to step out for a bit. I’ll be back."

The clock ticked and hours went by. Finally, one hour before the end of the day he reappeared. “Had to make a couple long phone calls” he said. Interestingly, the final hour subject ? Ethics. The instructor spoke of right and left turns and of - well - just doing the right thing. My colleague leaned over toward the end and said, “This is all just common sense.” The final session ending he picked up his certificate reading, “Eight Hours of Continuing Professional Education Achieved.”

Smiling, he casually walked out of the hall.

“Sin…is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart.”

Some things never change.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Bicycle Thief

Some time ago, I had watched an old foreign film called, “The Bicycle Thief”. This Italian film, made just after World War II, was about a poor man living in a difficult time who managed to
acquire a bicycle that he needed to work. He understandably treasured his bicycle. While working, someone stole his bike.
He spent the entire film chasing the thief and in the process he began to unravel. He began to abuse other people, including his son that was with him. Finally, in desperation, he himself became that which he abhorred -a bicycle thief.
He had lost not just his bicycle; he had lost his character and the respect of his son.

In an effort to spend quality time with one of my sons, he and I made a return trip to Washington DC. Due to health issues that make walking long distances difficult for me, I knew bringing our bicycles would be the only way I could handle this trip.  

We brought our own bikes and had them chained to a lamppost in front of the National Archives. As we exited the building and rounded the corner, I looked at the lamppost and froze. Recognizing my son’s bike and seeing no other, I was momentarily confused. I walked over and realized that my bicycle had been stolen. Standing there with the cut chain in my hand, anger began rising up in me—

Here? All of these people walking back and forth and someone had the audacity to cut the chain and just ride away?

My son instantly looked concerned. “Are we going to have to go home now?” he asked. “Can we find who stole it?” He knew my difficulty walking long distances and with the loss of my bike he presumed that would require our leaving. Disappointment flooded his face. In response to his questions, I looked down and, hesitating for a moment, the long narrative of the movie flashed through my mind...

Some time ago I had watched an old foreign film called “The Bicycle Thief”. This was an Italian film made just after World War II about a poor man living in a difficult time who managed to acquire a bicycle that he needed to work. He understandably treasured his bicycle. While working someone stole his bike.

He understandably treasured his bicycle. While working someone stole his bike.
He spent the entire film chasing the thief and in the process he began to unravel. He began to abuse other people,
began to abuse his only son that was with him and finally in
desperation he himself became that which he abhorred, a bicycle thief.
He had lost not just his bicycle he had lost his character and the respect of his son.

My momentary hesitation now past, I looked up at my son and said, “No, Ben, that hurts, but it is just a bike. We can take turns walking and riding."

We then proceeded to spend the remainder of the afternoon enjoying our time together smiling and laughing.

Bicycle gone, but this time at least, character and son maintained.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

That Name

Speaking just hours before He would depart from this world, He gave His final words of advice to his followers, saying,

“Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you… But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me. If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin.  I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

In the past two thousand years that Name, Jesus Christ, has caused denouncements, derision, division, and death. Even in America that Name has prompted fulfillment of its author’s prediction.

This past November 6th, the division caused by that Name managed to find its way into the highest court of the land, the Supreme Court. In the case Town of Greece v Galloway, two citizens filed suit demanding to end the regular prayer that this local municipality made prior to its proceedings.

Well, not exactly.

They recognized that the tradition of legislative prayer, from the inception of the Republic to the present, was unbroken. The clear precedent having been set from a prior case (Marsh v Chambers 1983), the lawyers knew that to claim that this act of prayer was a violation of the establishment of religion clause in the First Amendment would not work. So, if the act of praying could not be made an issue, then what?

Well, if you cannot stop the prayer the next best thing would be to make the prayer so innocuous and unoffensive that it would effectively cease to be a prayer. The Justices however would have none of this. When the attorney for Galloway asserted this necessity, they responded this way:

JUSTICE ALITO: Alright. Give me an example. Give me an example of a prayer that would be acceptable to Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus. Give me an example of a prayer, Wiccans, Baha'i...


JUSTICE SCALIA: And atheists. Throw in atheists, too.

Not surprisingly the attorney never gave an example.

What was really the issue here? Let’s go back to the outset of the arguments.

At the very beginning of the proceedings Justice Elena Kagan suggested a hypothetical prayer that invoked the name of Jesus Christ and asked if it would be permissible. The court debated for an hour. Near its close she asked the attorney for Galloway:

“Isn't the question mostly here in most communities whether the kind of language that I began with, which refers repeatedly to Jesus Christ…
will be allowed in a public town session like this one. That's really the question, isn't it?”

The attorney for Galloway responded, 

“That's the issue that actually arises in the case.”

Ahh—there we have it. THAT NAME.

What is it about that name that causes such consternation? Remember the words of Jesus long ago, 

“If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin.” 

Those who know the truth about Jesus know that sin, their sin, is made front and center with that man. And that is unacceptable. 

“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” 

They know His claim to truth was exclusive. And that is intolerable. So they try and have that Name banished from government proceedings.

The Supreme Court is expected to announce its decision next spring. What will they decide? I, for one, will be praying they retain this freedom to pray as we see fit and I will be doing so praying the only way I know how:

In the Name of Jesus Christ.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Falling Leaves

“Michael, Michael --- come outside and sit down with me. Let’s talk.”

Sitting down beside Sam in the fading sunlight, I ask, “How was the chicken dinner Sandy made for you?”

“Good. She cut up the chicken nice and small. You know these old mashers are worn out. Gotta have it that way.”

Having been away a week, I am curious as to his state of mind and heart. “How have things been this week, Sam? Has your sleep improved?”

“What? Speak up!”

I speak louder. “Your sleep. Any more dreams of Lilly?”

“Well, I wake up before the birds every morning, I tell you that. The dreams, though --- oh, the dreams. Nightmares, really. It’s hard, Michael. Sixty-two years together. We never argued.”

Wanting to help the man, I spur him on, “Tell me about the nightmares, Sam.”

“Same thing. Silver. A silver rope wrapped around and around Lilly and me. We were hugging closely, and” —his voice begins to crack and he stutters—“It, it breaks. The silver cord, the rope—it breaks…pancreatic cancer is a damnable thing, Michael.  I did everything I could!  Everything…”

 I grab his hand and he calms.

“It just rained yesterday, why are the clouds coming back? Ahhh, its getting dark too. Bring me the telescope. Let me look at the stars.”

I quickly bring him the telescope which he keeps out on his patio and he gazes up.

“Help me hold it, Michael. These old arms are weak.”

I hold the end of the scope and he tries to look.

“Is the lens clean? I can’t see anything!”

I take a look and tell him it is clear.

“These old windows in my head are dirty.” he chuckles. “Bring me in. Getting cold too.”

I gently help Sam stand. His legs have grown weak with his near ninety years. He uses a cane, still resisting a walker or wheelchair. Stubborn, but this trait is something I admire in the man.

As we enter his home, he asks me to take him to his bed, which I dutifully do. After getting him settled, he looks at my full head of dark hair and comments as he often does:

“Such a nice head of hair. My hair is almost gone now and all white. I’m getting old, Michael.”

“A little, Sam.” I smile.

“Did I tell you that before—about your hair?”

“Well, I do have all my hair!” I joke.

“Ahh, my brain. My brain used to be like gold. In fact, it made a lot of gold for me. My skull was like a golden bowl with a golden brain. Now it is breaking.” He paused. “Bring me some water. Put it by the bed. Water. Source of life, you know.”

I get him water, put it by his bed, and hand him a cup. He brings it to his mouth but his trembling hands lose their grip and the water tumbles down onto his shirt and lands on the floor.

“G** D***it!!!” He curses loudly.

“Sam!  You can’t talk like that!” I cry.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. You are right. I am such a sinner! God forgive me! How can I ever face Him?”

“God has provided the way and you have accepted it, Samuel Bryan. I know you believe.”

“Yes, I believe. It is just hard for me … all those years … I want to see her, Michael. I so miss my Lilly.”

“And you will. The beauty is that you will see her again. You and Lilly will walk together again, Sam.”

His mood eases as I clean up the small mess.

 Soon after, I make sure all is in order and prepare to leave for the evening.

“Lock the door. Make sure you lock the door. I don’t want a surprise tonight.”

After a prayer by his bedside, I leave into the night.

On the drive home my mind runs back to an ancient bit of poetry written by an old man. Timeless poetry, as the ravages of age are not bound by time nor place.

“Remember your Creator
    in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
    and the years approach when you will say,
    “I find no pleasure in them”—
 before the sun and the light
    and the moon and the stars grow dark,
    and the clouds return after the rain;
  when the keepers of the house tremble,
    and the strong men stoop,
when the grinders cease because they are few,
    and those looking through the windows grow dim;
  when the doors to the street are closed
    and the sound of grinding fades;
when people rise up at the sound of birds,
    but all their songs grow faint;
  when people are afraid of heights
    and of dangers in the streets;
when the almond tree blossoms its white hue
    and the grasshopper drags itself along
    and desire no longer is stirred.
Then people go to their eternal home
    and mourners go about the streets.
 Remember him—before the silver cord is severed,
    and the golden bowl is broken;
before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
    and the wheel broken at the well,
  and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
    and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

Ecclesiastes 12

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Constitutional Debate III:The conclusion of the matter

A Bill of Rights

“Where is it Mr. Madison?

Where is the listing of inalienable rights such as the freedom of the press to speak without government influence, the freedom of the sundry faiths in our country to practice each as they see fit? You yourself have fought recently with the utmost vigor in defense of this in your remonstrance against the bill introduced in the Assembly of Virginia to levy a general assessment for the support of teachers of religions. Why are you silent? The blood spilt in the recent revolution must not be in vain sir. We cannot allow, we cannot approve a constitution that refrains from the specific guarantees that so valiantly motivated our cause. “

Firmly Madison stated “I have resisted the inclusion of a Bill of Rights because the constitution as constructed is a BILL OF RIGHTS. I go further, and affirm that bills of rights, in the sense and in the extent in which they are contended for, are not only unnecessary in the proposed constitution, but would even be dangerous. They would contain various exceptions to powers which are not granted; and on this very account, would afford a pretext to claim more than were granted. For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do? Why for instance, should it be said, that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained, when no power is given by which restrictions could be imposed? It is evident that it would furnish, to men disposed to usurp, a plausible pretense for claiming that power.”

Pausing with deep reflection Madison continued, “Robert, you have argued concerning the size of our proposed republic, the executive branch, the judiciary, the borrowing of money, and a Bill of Rights both now and in the future as unsustainable all grounded upon essentially one assertion. The nature of man. You lack faith in the future and lack faith in the goodness of man.

My good sir cannot you see that we share the same sentiment? We have endeavored strenuously to limit what history and common sense tell us is the antagonist. We cannot, as no man can, forever prevent the dire effects of human nature. The great republic of Rome lasted five hundred years before succumbing. If ours survives half of that I shall consider it a success. As Jefferson has said, ‘I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical’.

Our proposed Constitution is the right one Robert and at the right time.”

Sighing Madison said “If you must then a Bill of Rights you shall have. May future generations note my warning.”

“Are we agreed then?”

“Agreed,” said Robert Yates as he extended his hand.

Thus began the American Constitution.

Federalist #84 Brutus #8,12

Friday, November 1, 2013

Constitutional Debate II

As Madison and Yates entered the tavern they were seated in a corner where they could continue their conversation privately.

“James,” said Robert, “I have another specific concern. The Judiciary.”

“The Judiciary ?” said Madison. “This was not expected. Tell me what troubles you.”

“As you have constructed this branch, it has no authority greater. There should be a body greater of some sort tied to the people. As you have it, in due time this body will give the constitution a construction according to the spirit and reason as they see it and not to confine themselves to its letter.”

Madison seemed almost confused. “The simple view of the matter suggests that the judiciary is beyond comparison, the weakest of the three departments of power. Even the celebrated Montesquieu, whom you like to quote, said, ‘Of the three powers above mentioned, the judiciary is next to nothing.’

Your fears of judicial usurpation are unfounded. Until the people have, by some solemn and authoritative act, annulled or changed the Constitution, it is binding upon themselves collectively, as well as individually; and no presumption, or even knowledge, of their sentiments, can warrant the departure from it, prior to such an act.”

Yates shook his head, “As always your view of the nature of man is more promising than mine, James.”

 Let me ask you another that greatly concerns me. 

The power to borrow money.

The power to borrow money is general and unlimited, James. Under this authority, the Congress may mortgage any or all the revenues of the union, as a fund to loan money upon, and it is probably, in this way, they may borrow of foreign nations, a principal sum, the interest of which will be equal to the annual revenues of the country. — by this means, they may create a national debt, so large, as to exceed the ability of the country ever to pay it. I can scarcely contemplate a greater calamity that could befall this country, than to be loaded with a debt exceeding their ability ever to discharge.”

Madison was standing now. Having had enough of “Brutus”, he said, “The power of creating new funds upon new objects of taxation, by its own authority, would enable the national government to borrow as far as its necessities might require. No government can be sustained in any other way. I must take my leave.”

“There is one final subject—the most serious of subjects—and this one Mr. Madison must be answered or New York will not approve of your Constitution. “

“A Bill of Rights.”

James Madison sat down.

Brutus #8,#12, Federalist Papers #49,78,79

Monday, October 28, 2013

Constitutional Debate


“ Call me James, my good Robert, it is James. Unless you want me to call you ‘Brutus’?”

Robert Yates steps closer. “No. Robert will do well my fellow patriot. A privilege to cross paths with the honorable James Madison.”

“ Tis so ? Judging by your scathing rebuke of our efforts at reforming our Country and gaining approval for this Constitution it seems rather unclear to me. Why must you stand in the way of this reformation? A reform you know well, my good sir, is unquestionably necessary.”

“ Let us discuss, James. Pray tell—how can a republic succeed over so great a territory ? Remember the great Baron Montesquieu who said ‘It is natural for a republic to have only a small territory, otherwise it cannot long subsist.’ In due time, men of large fortunes and low character will rise thinking they can gain glory by oppressing their ‘subjects’.  In a large republic, the public good will be sacrificed to a thousand views. Whereas in a small republic, the public interest is easily perceived and understood. Abuses would be less and more easily dispensed with. This cannot succeed, James, it cannot.”

“Am I a schoolboy that you quote Montesquieu ? You overlook that the powers granted to the federal government in this proposed Constitution are few and defined. Those that remain in the states are many and indefinite. Further, what limited powers granted to the federal government are for foreign commerce, war—external objects, Robert ! The many that remain for the state and local governments concern all that pertain to the lives, liberties, and properties of the people—the internal objects. So—you see then how we have designed this with full knowledge of the astute observation of the venerable Montesquieu. The small republics of our great states remain thereby avoiding the real threats a republic of great size would no doubt involve.”

“At present our country contains three million souls, James, and is capable of ten times that number. With the distinct possibility of further expansion west, it is capable of, dare I say, one hundred times that number. Mr. Madison sir, in so extensive a republic, the great officers of the federal government would soon become above the control of the people and abuse their power to the purpose of making themselves great and oppressing the people.

 The executive offices, in a country the extent the United-States will someday become, will be various and multiplied. The command of all the troops and navy of the republic, the appointment of officers, the power of pardoning offences, the collecting of all the public revenues, and the power of expending them, with a number of other powers, will become expanded in the federal government. When these are attended with great honor and prestige, as they always will be in large states, so as greatly to interest men to pursue them, and to be proper objects for ambitious and designing men, such men will be ever restless in their pursuit after them. They will use the power, when they have acquired it, to the purposes of gratifying their own interest and ambition, and it is scarcely possible, in a very large republic, to call them to account for their misconduct, or to prevent their abuse of power. Your trust in the nature of man, James, is beyond reasonable.”

“Robert ! Where in the name of common-sense, are our fears to end if we may not trust our sons, our brothers, our neighbors, our fellow-citizens? What shadow of danger can there be from men who are daily mingling with the rest of their countrymen and who participate with them in the same feelings, sentiments, habits and interests?”

“The same feelings, sentiments, habits and interests ? You are a man of Virginia and I of New York. Let us dispense with the empty rhetoric—we both know full well the seeds are present to rend our country apart. We cannot agree on matters today !

I believe, Mr. Madison, the future will well vindicate my predictions.  Human nature does not change.”

“Let us enter here and continue this debate Brutus. There is more to say.”

Federalist Papers #14,45,67-70. Brutus #1

Friday, October 25, 2013


Broken, crippled. 

Have you ever felt the truth of who you are ? There is one who wants to carry you, to bring you to that place of peace. Reach to him—reach and He will carry you.

Wounded and forsaken
I was shattered by the fall
Broken and forgotten
Feeling lost and all alone
Summoned by the King
Into the Master's courts
Lifted by the Savior
And cradled in His arms

I was carried to the table
Seated where I don't belong
Carried to the table
Swept away by His love
And I don't see my brokenness anymore
When I'm seated at the table of the Lord

I'm carried to the table.
The table of the Lord.--Leeland

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Rubicon River

Awakened by my children I look at the news and reading about the national government in partial shutdown I shake my head with thoughts running back to the beginning of our republic. What has happened ?

Many of our Founders were deathly afraid of the federal government. Yet here we are on the cusp of implementing a massive federal program and this after decades of other large increases in the national governments power. The anti-federalists of the Constitutional era argued that the new Constitution would eventually lead to the absorption of the state governments, the combining of the Union into “one great republic” under an unchecked national government, and as a result tyranny. Madison countered that the multiple checks and balances would prevent this and would also greatly slow the processing of the federal government reducing its power. Madison won the day after concessions in the Bill of Rights but 222 years later were the anti-federalists right ? Sadly, I am believing so.

The seed planted at Appomattox has 150 years later grown to result in many ways in the absorption of the rights of states as predicted thus greatly reducing this check. The acquiescence of the Supreme Court to the power of the federal government through the changing not of the checks put into place in the Constitution but instead through the insidious changing of the meaning of its words. The commerce clause, the “necessary and proper” clause have been expanded far beyond their original meaning to now being jokingly called “elastic”. I am not laughing. The Bill of Rights starts by saying “Congress shall make no law…” but through the changing of the meaning of the words in the fifth and fourteenth Amendments have allowed the national government to do the exact opposite of those words.

All this however cannot completely undo the checks. The House of Representatives and Senate must still agree on a bill before presenting to the Executive for approval before law is formed. The House still has authority to originate and approve funding as is evidenced by the current impasse.

 What is our future ?

 I cannot help but think back to another republic—the Roman. Towards its end Cicero famously said

“though the republic, when it came to us, was like a beautiful painting, whose colors, however, were already fading with age, our own time not only has neglected to freshen it by renewing the original colors, but has not even taken the trouble to preserve its configuration and, so to speak, its general outlines. For what is now left of the "ancient customs" on which ... "the commonwealth of Rome" was "founded firm"? They have been, as we see, so completely buried in oblivion that they are not only no longer practiced, but are already unknown. For it is owing to our vices, rather than to any accident that we have retained the name of republic when we have long since lost the reality.”

 As that republic weakened it fell when a strong man, faced with complicated circumstances, pushed the final protective walls of the republic down. He felt he had too of course. Julius Caesar. There was an old law that stated that only the elected magistrates (consuls and praetors) could hold imperium which was the right to command within Italy. To disobey was punishable by death. This was to protect the republic from overthrow.

Standing on the bank of the Rubicon River, about to enter Italy and break this law, Caesar knew the seriousness of his decision. He crossed the river. This would begin what would eventually be the death of the Roman Republic. 

Are we just one serious calamity, one strong leader, one “Caesar” moment away from the final walls of our Republic being torn down ? Is the slowness of the operation of our republic, the “running in mud” designed to prevent tyranny the very thing that would compel someone to cross their Rubicon all out of real or perceived necessity ? Perhaps the current situation is that moment or perhaps it is just another in a line of degradations, the future holding still that fateful moment.

Is there a Caesar standing on the banks of a river ?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Right to hunt deer ?

Have you ever heard/read someone ask that or why people want strong weapons in their possession ? Why they resist the government from tracking ownership ? I mean, if you just want the right to hunt, what is the big deal ?

Do you really think they needed to constitutionalize the right to hunt game with their muskets ?

Then why ?

“The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them” so said Justice Joseph Story in his commentaries on the Constitution in 1833; Commentaries that his contemporary Justice John Marshall (who participated in the Constitutional Convention in 1791) said “It is a comprehensive and an accurate commentary on our Constitution, formed in the spirit of the original text.”

The Founders knew the history in the Colonies and in England where the government would attempt to remove weapons in order to pacify the people. They were well acquainted with the philosopher John Locke and his views on natural law and the right to resist tyranny with force if the government acted against the interests of the citizens. They of course acted so themselves and wanted to preserve this essential and fundamental right for all time by putting it in the Constitution.

This is why we have the Second Amendment today—not simply for self-defense and personal use (like hunting) which are secondary purposes.

Let me be clear I am not advocating rebellion. I believe I am a free man today and am grateful for it. As the Founders knew however that may not always be the case so I reserve the right, my natural God given right, to resist tyranny.

May it never be needed.

Sunday, August 25, 2013


Stolen from, cursed, manipulated yet the record shows no wrong.

Thirty years of vagrancy, incarceration and false hope but faith never lost.

Enduring through every circumstance this is the love of the good mother and good father.

Welcome home prodigal. Welcome home.

Tomorrow my brother will enjoy the fatted calf after returning from one year in jail in Florida, repentance all over his spirit. May it be so Lord.

The future is always so uncertain but one thing I know, one thing I have learned the arms of my mother and father are always open, their love never fails. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Patrick Henry Parody

No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the house. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The question before the house is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of safety or death.

Mr. President, it is natural for man to indulge in the illusions of freedom. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for life? Are we disposed to be of the numbers of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so clearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am a man who knows the whole truth, knows the worst, and seeks to avoid it.

Writs of Assistance you cry ! Writs of assistance ! The Crown mandates entrance to your homes, forcing examination of your papers and correspondence ! But what is to fear ? Are you a lawbreaker? You know the express purpose of our most dear Sovereign is simply the capture and suppression of acts of terror ! If not so engaged then why must you force the risk of that which is most precious to all men—the ability to live without fear, to live in security for ourselves and our children ?

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of life. I know of no way of judging except through the lens of the living. And judging by this lamp what conclusion must one reach ? What is the sole thought of a reasonable man ?

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Freedom , Freedom—but what is Freedom ? What is it that gentlemen wish ? What would they have ? Is liberty so dear, or freedom so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of fear and death ? Forbid it, Almighty God ! I know not what course others may take; but as for me,

Give me Safety--do not give me Death !!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Playing Solomon

The recent Supreme Court decision striking down the heart of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)was received like virtually all other decisions they make which is without real objection. Why should we ? Just that pesky Constitution having its way…right ?

I am reminded of a quote from Professor Frankfurter in a letter to President Roosevelt, who would later appoint him a Supreme Court Justice. “People have been taught to believe that when the Supreme Court speaks it is not they who speak but the Constitution, whereas, of course it is they who speak and not the Constitution.”

Are they in fact following the Constitution or are they simply playing Solomon?

In the DOMA decision the majority opinion stated clearly that supporters of conjugal marriage are motivated by bigotry or hatred — a sheer desire to “harm,” “demean,” or “humiliate” others. Justice Kennedy referenced thirteen times “dignity” as in loss of for proponents of homosexual marriage. Are these legal arguments rooted in the Constitution ?

Justice Alito in dissent stated correctly “The Constitution does not guarantee the right to enter into a same-sex marriage. Indeed, no provision of the Constitution speaks to the issue.” Where are they getting this then ? They took the Fifth Amendment’s clause that says “No person shall… be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

What does this “due process” mean ? It is rooted in the ancient Magna Charta and means that a person’s Life, Liberty or Property can’t be taken away from him except by the judgment of his peers via a fair trial. People could not be punished except by the judgment of their peers after a fair trial where they could appear, cross-examine witnesses and put up a defense. Due process of law refers only to trials - to judicial proceedings in courts of law. It does not involve judicial power to override Acts of Congress!

This was not a legal judgment---it was a moral judgment. This was not a dispassionate rendering of our great Constitution but five individuals usurping the legitimate role of what should be left to the representatives of the people. This win for a particular political objective is only a loss for our Republic. Solomon in his wisdom managed to give a disputed baby to the correct mother.The Supreme Court instead of giving the baby to the proper mother has only succeeded in cutting in half something precious—our Constitution.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Hobby Lobby

Hobby Lobby received temporary relief (via the Judiciary) from the enormous fines imposed by the Obama Administration yesterday for its refusal to violate their conscience with the morning after pill requirement.

This requirement of Obamacare has been relentlessly pursued by Obama with retreats only when faced with considerable opposition. Obama however has not retreated from requiring privately held companies like Hobby Lobby to violate their conscience. With the Executive Branch determined to violate the First Amendment the last line of defense (in our governmental system at least) is the Judicial Branch. How sure a line of defense would that be ?

Not very.

Due to the number of cases in the system and potential split opinions by the Circuit Courts of Appeal this stands a good chance of going to the Supreme Court.

With this issue and other issues there is increasing pressure on that Court to at some point decide if the First Amendment's Freedom of Religion is to go the way of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause which is to say bye bye.

Step by step, year by year the erosion of constitutionally protected religious freedom continues.

At what point will Christians find themselves in a land truly hostile to our faith?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Fight or Flight

In 1631, John Winthrop, an early Pilgrim who would become many times Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony gave multiple reasons why He would leave his homeland and lead the first large wave of immigrants to the New World. Interestingly, religious freedom was not one of them.

Listen to some of his reasons—
--This Land grows weary of her Inhabitants, so as man, who is the most precious of all creatures, is here more vile & base than the earth we tread upon, & of less price among us then a horse or a sheep.
--All other churches of Europe are brought to desolation, & sins
---All arts & trades are carried in that deceitful & unrighteous course, as it is almost impossible for a good & upright man, to maintain his charge & live comfortably in any of them.
-- The fountains of Learning & Religion are so corrupted as most children (even the best wits & of fairest hopes) are perverted, corrupted, & utterly overthrown by the multitude of evil examples & the licentious government.

Winthrop’s response was not to fight the culture he found himself in, nor strive to change his country but instead to “fly into the wilderness” as he said.

So they flew.

Reading today Winthrop’s reasons I cannot help but see parallels with our own day. There are differences certainly but one stands out to me. Where could we fly if one day we felt the need to do so as He did ? The earth is filled and if you look carefully across the globe (I confess I have) you will see no such option available.

What then ? I think back and remember that one flag early American patriots used picked up again by some in our own day—the Gadsden Flag. The coiled snake that Franklin said about it “She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders”

We must fight.

The “city on a hill” that Winthrop envisioned is now the fort under assault.

Pick up the sword, it is time.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Paths of Glory

I recently watched "Paths of Glory" a 1957 Stanley Kubrick film considered a classic anti-war polemic. This loaded moniker however is unfortunately given as it is in fact not a film against war but instead a film against the self-centered egoism often displayed by humanity in various ways--this time from the intense and ultimate experience of death that is war.

Jesus at one time said  "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." War, because it involves the most serious and intense experience of death, provides the opportunity for this very greatest love. It also provides opportunity for one of the classic and deadly of sins--pride. 

As is often the case the real questions are this--where is your heart ? what are your motivations ? For example, many instances of genuine bravery during war for the right reasons are known. Also instances of war and death simply for the pride of vain men on their "path to glory" are also known. 

An ancient example from history is this: King David of Israel, due to his own lust, instructed his general to engage in a battle that would create a murderous scenario. Engage and then withdraw leaving a certain loyal soldier to be killed. This soldier (Uriah) had found himself unfortunately caught in a web of lust, power and pride. 

Where is our heart ?  

Are we seeking something out of our love and concern for another?

Are we seeking our own "path to glory" ?

Sunday, June 16, 2013



Something for which the evidence is unseen--nebulous yet without it marriages fail, governments collapse, humans cannot touch the Face of God.

The currency of nations which if largely devalued destroys. Benjamin Franklin worried that "Much of the strength and efficiency, in procuring and securing happiness to the people depends on the general opinion of goodness of that government."

President Obama opined that "If people can't trust not only the executive branch but also don't trust Congress, and don't trust federal judges, to make sure that we're abiding by the Constitution with due process and rule of law, then we're going to have some problems here."

The trust truly has been seriously eroded in our government due to its lack of goodness, its lack of virtue.Where does this virtue come from ? How do we regain it ? When the government derives its powers ultimately from the people is it really the government that has lost its virtue--or the people themselves ? We tend to want to spill our venom on particular figures in government while ignoring the fact that we elected them. Has America lost its virtue ? Are our government officials simply a reflection of ourselves ? Can our society long continue when there is no trust in one another, in our institutions, due to a lack of virtue ?

Can America learn to trust again ?