Monday, December 22, 2014

Hey, Jude!

The Book of Jude is only twenty-five verses long, yet so rich !

Theological conundrums, strange angelic tales of yore, a beautiful, oft overlooked prayer, and stern warnings for apostates with expressive little poetic denunciations.

Listen to his little series of similes, directed at the apostate teachers and infused with unexpected vividness:

They are like clouds carried along by the wind, but bring no rain.

They are like late autumn trees stripped clean of leaf and fruit, pulled up by the roots and completely dead.

They are like wild waves of the sea, with their shameful deeds showing up like empty foam.

They are like wandering stars, for whom God has reserved a place forever in the deepest darkness.

He closes his short epistle with a wonderful, short prayer. 

Clear your throat, muster up your best radio voice, and say this aloud:

"Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forevermore. "

Amen and amen.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Lonely Stranger

I must be invisible
No one knows me.
I look in the mirror
can't they see?

I'm a lonely stranger here,
Well past my day.
And I don't know what's goin' on,
so I'm sure you'll be on your way.

Where I am, stay away;
Don't get close to me,
'cause it's sure to end in tears,
So just let me be.

Some will say that I'm no good anymore;
Maybe I agree.
Take a look then walk away.

'cause I'm just a lonely stranger here.

Apologies to Eric Clapton

Monday, December 8, 2014

Little Boy

Breath comes slowly.

Like a clock slowly ticking down, the long years of life are coming to an end.

Reclining on the comfort of his own bed, Joe's body is discomforted as he feels the long arm of death reaching out to him. His heart too is uneasy as he recalls his past.

Gazing over to his left, he sees the young boy present by his bed side. So innocent, so pure.

"Little boy, murmurs Joe weakly----could you pray for me? His voice grows choked--I have gone astray, my little boy."

"Yes, sir. I would be happy to pray for you. What do you wish I ask for?"

"I wonder, could you ask our Lord... ask Him, little boy, to take my sins away?'

Sincerely, the boy reaches and grasps the hand of the old man. Clinging tightly, Joe closes his eyes and listens.

"Our Father, I love you. Oh, I love you! I know you love him too. Make him feel your love, oh God. Make him forget his mistakes. I know you do not remember them anymore, Jesus. I know you see snow."

Feeling comforted yet not at peace, Joe continues,

"What must I do to be holy again like you ?

Speak again, my child--I know my life has had wrong.
Speak again and help a sinner be strong."

The little boy leans closer and closer still. "He only sees me," he whispers softly in Joe's ear. "he only sees innocence."

Peering through failing eyes, he stares longingly at the portrait in his hand. His ten-year old self stares back at him with all the purity and joy of a little boy.

His arm grows faint, his breathing slows, his eyes drift upward, and Joseph Louis Vito closes his eyes at peace.

Heaven opens, and an angel departs. Sweeping down, he gently scoops up a cherry-faced little boy -- so innocent, so pure -- and, grasping him tightly, soars heavenward.

"See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are."--I John 3:1

"Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault." Jude 1:24

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Meteor Shining from a Clouded Sky

On this sesquicentennial of a forgotten battle from an increasingly forgotten war, I remember a forgotten soldier.

Patrick Ronayne Cleburne

Like so many who have gone before him and have followed since, this Irishman symbolically represents the manly attributes of every great warrior.

Born in the cold winds of County Cork Ireland, March 1828, he would emigrate to America as a young twenty-one year old in search of a future. Settling in Arkansas, he would come to love his adopted home state. Working hard, he obtained employment as a pharmacist and a lawyer. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, he unhesitatingly served with the people he had grown to love and in just over a year would be promoted to command of a division. He would see action from Shiloh to Chickamauga and beyond through the end of 1863. His personal success led many to recognize his valor with Robert E Lee calling him  "a meteor shining from a clouded sky".

Sitting in his winter quarters 1863-1864, Cleburne began to spend an inordinate amount of time alone in his tent.

He recognized the state of affairs with his cause and knew it was inevitable that defeat would come. They simply had too few men, too few resources and time was not their friend. So this brave man assembled a remarkable proposal he felt was absolutely necessary if victory was to be had. He proposed arming the slaves, and subsequently giving them their freedom in exchange. Listen to some of his words,

"Our soldiers can see no end to this state of affairs except in our own exhaustion; hence, instead of rising to the occasion, they are sinking into a fatal apathy, growing weary of hardships and slaughters which promise no results. In this state of things it is easy to understand why there is a growing belief that some black catastrophe is not far ahead of us, and that unless some extraordinary change is soon made in our condition we must overtake it...
Like past years, 1864 will diminish our ranks by the casualties of war, and what source of repair is there left us?...As between the loss of independence and the loss of slavery, we assume that every patriot will freely give up the latter... It is said slavery is all we are fighting for, and if we give it up we give up all.  Even if this were true, which we deny, slavery is not all our enemies are fighting for.  It is merely the pretense to establish sectional superiority and a more centralized form of government, and to deprive us of our rights and liberties.  We have now briefly proposed a plan which we believe will save our country.  It may be imperfect, but in all human probability it would give us our independence.  No objection ought to outweigh it which is not weightier than independence."

Though a dozen officers signed on in support, his proposal was tabled. Too many in the South could not bear the thought of such dramatic change. The political consequences fell on him as he would never be promoted above division commander though he was often the clear choice for it.

For Cleburne, the rejection did not dissuade him from the call of duty. As he increasingly saw his prediction coming true the more determined he became.

In the fall of 1864, the Army of the Tennessee approached Franklin, Tennessee. In a desperate effort, its commander John Bell Hood made what would be a fatal decision for his army and so many of its soldiers. Assembling his commanders on November 30th, angry over what he believed to be cowardice on the part of Cleburne the day before (falsely so), he ordered a massive assault on the heavily fortified Union position. He placed Cleburne directly in the center of what would be a 20,000 man charge--a charge nearly twice the size of Pickett's charge instructing him "go over the main works at all hazards." Not a man to take an accusation of cowardice lightly, Cleburne's last words to Hood before leaving the house were"I will take the enemy's works or fall in the attempt."

Dismounting his horse to share the sober news to his brigade commanders Cleburne recognized the reality that he was going to die that day. Death for him as for all brave soldiers was of less concern than failing in your duty. He told a brigade commander, "If we are to die, Govan, let's die like men."

As the enormous assault was in full swing, Cleburne had his horse shot from under him and asked for another. An officer immediately gave up his steed which itself was promptly shot. Starting out on foot, waving his cap with sword drawn, Cleburne attacked. Fifty yards from the Union lines a single bullet pierced the noble heart of this brave man and he fell with his face to the enemy.

Later in eulogy it was said,

"Where his division defended, no odds broke its line; where it attacked, no numbers resisted its onslaught, save only once; and there is the grave of Cleburne"

A century later when General Douglas McArthur was giving his famous speech on "Duty, honor, and country" he described the good soldier,

"The soldier, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training -- sacrifice. In battle and in the face of danger and death, he discloses those divine attributes which his Maker gave when he created man in his own image. However horrible the incidents of war may be, the soldier who is called upon to offer and to give his life for his country is the noblest development of mankind."

#patrickcleburne #battleoffranklin

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Earn it

Approximately every three minutes a memory of World War II – its sights and sounds, its terrors and triumphs – disappears. Yielding to the unalterable process of aging, the veterans who fought and won the great conflict are now mostly in their 90s. They are dying quickly – at the rate of approximately 555 a day, according to US Veterans Administration figures.

They earned it--it's our turn.

"But freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. The only way they can inherit the freedom we have known is if we fight for it, protect it, defend it and then hand it to them with the well thought lessons of how they in their lifetime must do the same. And if you and I don't do this, then you and I may well spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it once was like in America when men were free"-Ronald Reagan

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Vanishing Point

When visiting the National Archives, as I was standing in line to view the great documents of the United States I noticed people leaning over very close to the glass. Is it that bad? I thought. As the line moved I finally got my turn to peer at the Bill of Rights. As I found myself nose to glass I understood.

The documents are fading into oblivion. Congress....shall make no law....closer to the glass I go...regarding what exactly?

Walking away that day I could not help but think that the physical reality of the disappearing Bill of Rights mirrored what was happening in the country. What once was so clear and unchanging was fast becoming faint and distant. How can this be? Let's step back a few years and look at an example.

In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled in Kelo v City of New London that a government could take personal property and give it to another private owner to further economic development. This was based on the Fifth Amendment that says:

"No person shall [have] private property...taken for public use, without just compensation."

This expansion of the meaning of "public use" to a taking from a private holder and giving to another private holder would have a result as Justice O'Connor said,

"Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."

Many were outraged and pressed their representatives to pass laws to prevent this from happening. I am happy to report that nine years later most states enacted laws that severely inhibited the takings allowed by the Kelo decision.

All's well that ends well--or is it?

What if a majority had NOT been outraged and no state laws were subsequently passed? How would politically weak minorities withstand abuse? The answer is they would not.

Our system of governance was designed for the majority to rule. However, to protect minorities from abuse or a "tyranny of the majority" a Bill of Rights was created. We acknowledged that certain rights should not be trampled on by the simple will of a majority. As Madison said,

"A pure democracy can admit no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will be felt by a majority, and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party."-Federalist #10
When the Supreme Court is derelict in its duty as it was in Kelo then there no longer remains constitutional protection. The only protection is a majority passing a law reinstating the lost right.

A minority can only gain protection if the majority allows thus turning the purpose of a Bill of Rights on its head.

This same effect has been seen with the First Amendment's religious freedom. When the Court weakened religious freedom as it did in 1990 in Employment Division v Smith (removing the highest level of protection called 'strict scrutiny') the only remedy was the majority passing a law (Religious Freedom Restoration Act) to reinvigorate that right.

Unfortunately, that leaves those with strong religious convictions, including committed Christians at the mercy of the majority. Make no mistake--Christians who are serious about their faith, and not simply cultural or familial Christians, are in a minority. Though about 75% of Americans claim the name of Christ the number who are committed are much less. Consider this information from the Pew Forum on religion:

"Most Americans also have a non-dogmatic approach when it comes to interpreting the tenets of their own religion. For instance, more than two-thirds of adults affiliated with a religious tradition agree that there is more than one true way to interpret the teachings of their faith, a pattern that occurs in nearly all traditions. "

Also consider a recent extensive Ligonier poll across America:

"This survey reveals theological confusion, as well as a blatant attitude of rejecting what God has revealed of Himself and His will. It also reveals a significant amount of theological ignorance."

All this and more led the Colson Center to recently proclaim:

"It’s time we recognized we are no longer the “moral majority” and embrace our identity as the 'missional minority.' "

If a majority were to appear in opposition to a sincerely held religious belief  the Bill of Rights would sadly provide limited protection. Only if the majority were to choose to grant an exemption would protection likely be granted.

A mere 11 years ago in 2003 a number of states had laws banning sodomy. That was overturned that year in a case called Lawrence v Texas. Justice Scalia warned that state laws against same-sex marriage would not prove sustainable as a result of that decision but Justice O'Connor disagreed saying that laws limiting marriage to heterosexual couples would pass constitutional muster.

Oh how quickly things can change!

Scalia is proved prescient as we stand on the cusp of the Courts mandating gay marriage to all 50 states. With marriage laws being pervasive in our system if this occurs a host of legal attacks will happen against those in the minority who are unbending in their convictions. Even now we have witnessed the beginning of these assaults.

In 2013 in Elane Photography v. Willock a photographer who declined to photograph a gay marriage was fined $6,637.94. One of the justices on the New Mexico Supreme Court said "the Huguenins 'now are compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives,' adding “it is the price of citizenship.” On April 7, 2014 the Supreme Court refused to hear the case thus letting the judgement stand.

The gas, temperature and humidity controlled enclosure around the Bill of Rights cannot erase the damage already done nor completely stop the effects of time. It is slowly, inexorably vanishing.

Are our rights also approaching the vanishing point?


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Solomon's Specter

"Cut the living child in two, and give half to one woman and half to the other!”

Then the woman who was the real mother of the living child, and who loved him very much, cried out, “Oh no, my lord! Give her the child—please do not kill him!” But the other woman said, “All right, he will be neither yours nor mine; divide him between us!”

Then the king said, “Do not kill the child, but give him to the woman who wants him to live, for she is his mother! "

What more effective government is there than an all-wise King ? Time has proven, however, that wise Solomons are inevitably followed by foolish Rehoboams.

The Framers of the American experiment knew their history. Carefully, and with deliberate forethought, they refused to enthrone the judiciary.

There is no liberty, if the judiciary power be not separated from  the legislative and executive. Were it joined with the legislative, the  life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control;  for the judge would be then the legislator. Were it joined to the  executive power, the judge might behave with violence and oppression.  There would be an end of everything, were the same man or the same body, whether of the nobles or of the people, to exercise those three powers,  that of enacting laws, that of executing the public resolutions, and of trying the causes of individuals.

Federalist #78

This balance of power is key to preventing tyranny. The allure of the wise and powerful Solomon, however, has proven difficult to resist.

The latest effort is coming from the "equal protection" clause of the 14th Amendment. Passed in 1868, its sole purpose was to prevent freed slaves from being shackled again after the Civil War. They never meant for all people to be treated equally in all circumstances. If they knew Courts today would take their words and demand that homosexuals be granted the privilege of marriage, they would spin in their graves, haunted by Solomon's specter.

We discriminate regularly - for example, in employment, and disallowing felons the ability to vote and own guns. Have you looked closely at your tax return lately? We give tax breaks for various and sundry groups, thus denying it to others.

The 14th Amendment was never meant to enable the select few wise ones to substitute their own wisdom in place of the American people. Yet, that is what has happened. To quote Justice Harlan from Reynolds v Sims (1964):

"[the Court's] view, in short, is that every major social ill in this country can find its cure in some constitutional principle and that this court should take the lead in promoting reform when other branches of government fail to act."

If the law is to be created by the judicial branch, then where stands our republic? Is the law created by the representatives of the people, or created by five black robes? Are we a republic, or an oligarchy?

To quote Washington in his Farewell Address:

"If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed."

In the judges' attempts at playing Solomon and divining when it is correct to cut the baby in half and when it is not, they are destroying the republic.

Some will cheer when they achieve a political victory via the Court not able to be obtained via the Congress, President, and state governments. But, at some point in time, the Solomons will err too greatly in their divination and what will be finally and completely cut in half will be the republic itself.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Reservoir of Rights

On June 8, 1789 the little man with big thoughts, James Madison, rose from his seat to address Congress.
They were reluctant to hear him (pressing financial issues) but he knew the issue had to be addressed and proceeded anyway. What was so important?

The Bill of Rights.

Madison methodically went down his list explaining each item. Toward the end noting “the great object in view is to limit and qualify the powers of Government, by excepting out of the grant of power those cases in which the Government ought not to act”  he began to conclude. Before he could finish he needed to address an issue.

The issue was a problem people had with this list of “Thou shalt not’s” directed to the federal government. The Bill of Rights was not and on a practical level could never be comprehensive. So what about rights not listed? The objectors asked. Would they fall into the hands of the federal government? Madison responded by saying,

”It has been objected also against a bill of rights, that, by enumerating particular exceptions to the grant of power, it would disparage those rights which were not placed in that enumeration; and it might follow, by implication, that those rights which were not singled out, were intended to be assigned into the hands of the General Government, and were consequently insecure. This is one of the most plausible arguments I have ever heard urged against the admission of a bill of rights into this system; but, I conceive, that it may be guarded against. I have attempted it, as gentlemen may see by turning to the last clause of the fourth resolution."

 The “last clause of the fourth resolution” was this:

“The exceptions here or elsewhere in the Constitution, made in favor of particular rights, shall not be so construed as to diminish the just importance of other rights retained by the people, or as to enlarge the powers delegated by the Constitution; but either as actual limitations of such powers, or as inserted merely for greater caution.”

This would become the Ninth Amendment which would say:

“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

You see, the state representatives wanted to be clear—crystal clear. They further wanted to specify that the powers not enumerated would reside with the states. Seemingly an obvious thing  ("superfluous" said Madison) but let there be no dispute, the states said. So—they added the Ninth’s companion the Tenth Amendment.

“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 was the vast reservoir of rights explicitly left, not to the federal government, but to the people through the power of the states. The Framers thought it was impossible to make it any clearer. Now years later, we see the insidious way the sands of time can cover even the most prominent of markers. 

One hundred and seventy-six years after Madison rose to speak, in the case GRISWOLD V. CONNECTICUT the Supreme Court would quote the Ninth Amendment to remarkably do the precise opposite of what the Ninth tried to make crystal clear: The federal government cannot touch the reservoir of rights. If an unenumerated right was to be found and made into law and otherwise enlarged or restricted it would be done by the people through the states. The federal Supreme Court invalidating the state law was, not shockingly, considered a “broadening of the power of the Court”. Not to worry, said the Court.

“In determining which rights are fundamental, judges are not left at large to decide cases in light of their personal and private notions. Rather, they must look to the "traditions and [collective] conscience of our people"

Who becomes the discoverers and then subsequent arbiters of what the “traditions and collective conscience” of the people would be? Would it be the representative of the people in the states? Or even the representatives of the people at the previously forbidden federal level? Is this republicanism or is this an oligarchy? Who is creating the law here?

Five to nine people have waded into the deep waters of the reservoir and standing there along the edge like ministers of the Gospel in their black choir robes, they decide who should be baptized and who is, well, not worthy.

Has the ill effects of time slowly doomed the American experiment?

Tyranny, Tocqueville warned, need not announce itself with guns and trumpets. It may come slowly. So slowly that we will barely notice when we become one of those countries where there are no citizens but simply subjects. So quietly that a well-intentioned foreigner might say, “Maybe you should do something about your oppression.” And we would look up confused and say,

“What oppression?”

#ninth amendment

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Living Sacrifice

Lord God--

I look and see the truly wonderful life you have given me

In picture frames I see my beautiful wife

Always smiling and full of life

I see their faces, look in their innocent eyes
I'm trying hard, I pray Father let them be fine.

I know they are asking me to lead them
They want me to stand for them and provide for them
My dreams call out to me, but what about them?

Oh Father this dying while living !

sometimes I  feel so alone

Abba, help me be what you have called me to be

Show me the way
Give me the strength

Jehovah Jireh, stand with me

I cannot do this alone

#Sanctus Real life inspired

Monday, September 1, 2014

Blind Spot

This summer, Justice Ginsburg, in response to a question about the recent Hobby Lobby decision accused the male members of the Supreme Court of having a "blind spot" in regards to the rights of women.

Do you believe that the five male justices truly understood the ramifications of their decision?” Couric asked Ginsburg this week. “I would have to say no,” Ginsburg replied.

This comment falls in line with the accusation of a "War on women", an insensitivity and lack of consideration toward the plight and concerns of women.

Reading this comment of hers I could not help but think back just a few years to a case called Kennedy v Louisiana (2008), a  case before the Supreme Court concerning the brutal rape of an 8 year old girl. What follows is the abbreviated detail on the case present in the majority opinion itself.

"Petitioner’s crime was one that cannot be recounted in these pages in a way sufficient to capture in full the hurt and horror inflicted on his victim or to convey the revulsion to society...When police arrived at petitioner’s home between 9:20 and 9:30 a.m., they found L. H. on her bed, wearing a T-shirt and wrapped in a bloody blanket. She was bleeding profusely from the vaginal area. Petitioner told police he [stepfather and actual perpetrator] had carried her from the yard to the bathtub and then to the bed...L. H. was transported to the Children’s Hospital. An expert in pediatric forensic medicine testified that L. H.’s injuries were the most severe he had seen from a sexual assault in his four years of practice.

The little girl had denied her step-father had committed the crime, protecting him, but the evidence was overwhelming that he had in brutal fashion raped his step-daughter. In response and pursuant to the law in Louisiana he was sentenced to death.

The Court decided that the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against "cruel and unusual punishment" prevented the man from receiving the death penalty. This, in spite of the unequivocally clear allowance for the death penalty in the Constitution in the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments that state no person shall be deprived of life without due process of law and in the Fifth's Grand Jury Clause that guarantees that no person shall be held for a capital crime without a grand jury indictment. If you can be deprived of life (after due process) then capital punishment was clearly not "cruel and unusual punishment.'

The Court cast aside the plain meaning of the Constitution and instead based on "our own independent judgment" and the "evolving standards of decency (!) that mark the progress of a maturing society" overruled the Louisiana law. This Supreme Court ruling explicitly allowed for the death penalty to remain in place for crimes against the state (like espionage or treason) but not for a brutal rape of an underage girl. So if an Edward Snowden were apprehended he could receive the death penalty but not the perpetrator of this type of crime.

What caused me to think of this case was that of the five Supreme Court members making this decision in 2008 was a single woman--Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The same woman who six years later in 2014 would opine that the male members of the Court were insensitive to the plight of women in not mandating that an employer violate their religious beliefs and pay for a select few drugs they considered abortifacients.

                                                 Who here has the blind spot?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Sirens will sing

                                           Yes, it's empty in the valley of your heart

The sun, it rises slowly, but you will walk
The fears, the failures, will no longer take part

I have seen the same
I know the shame in your defeat

The sirens will sing but I will tighten the rope and we will hold onto hope

Bind me tight-- I'll find strength in pain
I will change my ways
I'll know my name as it's called again

You will have other things to fill your time
You will take what is yours and I'll take mine
Know the truth and refresh your broken mind

The sirens will sing but I will tighten the rope and we will hold onto hope

Oh! Block my ears!  I can see the widow and orphans through my tears!

The pain and anguish I can no longer stand!

Let me die with mine own hand!

Find strength in pain
God will change your ways
You’ll know your name as it's called again

The sirens will sing but I will tighten the rope and we will hold onto hope

Homer's Odyssey, Mumford & Sons-"The Cave", and my own experiences.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Hello my name is...

I’m pretty sure we have met
I’m the whisper inside
That won’t let you forget
Every single day of your life


I know you recognize me
Just when you think you can win I’ll drag you right back down again
‘Til you’ve lost all belief

These are the voices, these are the lies
And I have believed them, for the very last time…

Child of the one true King

I’ve been saved, I’ve been changed, and I have been set free
I am no longer defined
By all the wreckage behind

The one who makes all things new
Has proven it’s true

I am a child of the one true King

Adapted from Matthew West

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Heels on the Cliff

With the Burwell v Hobby Lobby case being decided this past week, I was thinking of the concept of rights and their limits.

"No right is absolute."

This is a common legal statement mentioned frequently in opinions. A well known application is:

"The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic."-Oliver Wendell Holmes in the 1919 Schenck v United States decision.

This means that the Courts must "construe" or interpret the rights found in the Bill of Rights -- they must decide the limits.

Recognizing the importance of religious freedom the Court had in the past applied its highest level of protection, strict scrutiny to it. This means the government cannot violate a sincere religious conviction unless it can show it has a compelling interest in doing so, the law is tailored as narrowly as possible to achieve its goal, and the law must be the least restrictive way of doing it.

In 1990, in the case Employment Division v Smith the Court surprisingly discarded this high standard. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in her opinion disagreed sharply with this saying,

"The compelling interest test effectuates the First Amendment's command that religious liberty is an independent liberty, that it occupies a preferred position, and that the Court will not permit encroachments upon this liberty, whether direct or indirect, unless required by clear and compelling governmental interests 'of the highest order,'...Only an especially important governmental interest pursued by narrowly tailored means can justify exacting a sacrifice of First Amendment freedoms."

In response, a law was overwhelmingly passed, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), that explicitly restored the highest legal standard. That was 21 years ago and the political winds have shifted. In what legally should have been a relatively easy case to decide based on RFRA, there remarkably were four justices, one shy of a majority, who were willing to construe this "preferred independent" freedom to the point of disappearing. What was so important to have them do so? 

A competing Constitutional right, perhaps? Where in the Constitution is the right that employers must pay for contraception? for abortifacients?

They are willing to take a non-Constitutional statutory "right" and give IT absolute protection, something even Constitutional rights do not enjoy. If there are 20 different products the FDA approved then by God or without your God you must pay for all.

As I type away just a day after July the 4th, I remember those immortal words,

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights..."

I am sobered when I consider that though this basic unalienable right thankfully still stands it does so with its heels on the cliff.

Is this First Freedom really this close to falling away?

#hobbylobby #religiousfreedom

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Shepherd's Voice

When I was fresh from God
the sound of fear rang in my ear
my own voice as life hit me and I cried.

As I grew through the years
the chorus of temptation
beckoned me to come and sing a part.

The confusion that the bustle brings,
the pretty song the siren sings,
the sound of teeth against forbidden fruit.

                                                                                    A fallen man who screams in pain;
a groaning earth beneath the strain.

Who could hope to ever hear the truth?

But Jesus was the name
that rolled from my mother's tongue...    
...and settled in my heart.

So you see what I'm listening for,
through all the noise,
a whisper in my ear--

The Shepherd's Voice

adapted from Ricky Skaggs

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The fire burns

As I am finishing shaving I remember my friends statement about his wife--

"The fire is gone but shoulder to shoulder, we walk through this life."

I walk softly over to the edge of the bed and watch as you quietly breathe.

Unable to resist I slowly run my fingers across your serene face. The strand of hair curling behind your ear runs across your alabaster cheek and through my hand.  My eyes focus as I lean closer amazed at your beauty.

Does the fire of romantic love have to die with time?

My fingers feather down your gently curved leg slowly to your toes. The effleurage deepens your slumber so I whisper in your ear, “Come my love.  Open those emerald eyes.”

As I lightly tug at your fingers you slowly slip your smooth feet onto the floor and reach for my shoulders. Resting your head  across my chest your soft auburn hair cascades down. I feel your heart beating next to mine.

As you ease open your eyes, I gaze into them closely trying to plumb their depth but it is like the boundless mysterious ocean.  I can only stand in amazement and quietly say,

 “Good morning, my princess. "

"Happy eighteenth anniversary.”