A Walk to Remind us of Our Christian Heritage – The Capitol Part 1

We leave the magic of the Tidal Basin in cherry blossom time and head for the Capitol. The significance of the three “greats” we have just visited in our walk, Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson, will be even greater as we see the home of the Legislative Branch of our government. This branch was created to make certain that we remained “We the People.”  I thought about the arguments that were present as our Founders struggled and argued passionately about creating a government that would ensure a legacy of freedom. What was needed to insure the continuation of this great experiment in self-government?

They had no pattern; this was not a cookie-cutter government. They had no former path to follow. They knew that power had to always rest with the people; they knew that they had to have checks and balances. They also had to have a branch that adjudicated when differences could be settle no other way. They created our republic. They created this “shining city on a hill.”

They fought; they struggled; they died to create a new birth of freedom under God with justice for all, with the right to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. They declared their independence from tyranny and abused power. They created this government where the Executive Branch, the president, is one leg, but only one leg of three. The Capitol building we see ahead houses another one of the legs.  The arguments about this branch were vigorous and passionate. Some wanted a strong central government and others wanted the power to be decentralized.

The Founders finally decided on having two groups: to create equality between the small and large states, each state would have two senators; the second group would be based on the population of the state, the representatives.

Our next part of the walk is to explore the art in the Capitol that depicts our Christian heritage.

A Walk to Remind us of Our Christian Heritage – Jefferson Memorial

The stark reality of the Lincoln years do not fade away; the statue of the man decreases with the distance as we walk away. But the magnitude of his contributions to our nation do not. We approach the Jefferson Memorial.

Again our conversation moves to how we honor the past and recognize the lessons the past holds for us in the fast-moving-digital present, let alone the future.

When the cherry trees that surround the Tidal Basin are in bloom, it is a magnificent sight. The Jefferson Memorial rests on the south bank of the Basin. The neo-classical structure of the Memorial adds to the  beauty of the place.  As we climb the broad steps to the portico, we turn to marvel again at the reflections of the cherry blossoms on the water. We enter the dome of the monument to find ourselves surrounded by the words of Thomas Jefferson, the president, the architect, inventor, musician, and writer.

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, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. So avows our Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson was 33 when he authored this document.

We read on. Though there has been much effort to minimize the Christian beliefs of Thomas Jefferson, we see much evidence to the contrary. He was a strong advocate for religious freedom. He took great pride in authorship of The Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom passed in January, 1786. The Memorial reminds us: Whereas Almighty God hath created the mind free, that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishment or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and 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…

As we stand in the memorial, the words of the third President are etched in the marble. Jefferson’s words need to ring out again in our nation each year the cherry blossoms return to adorn the Tidal Basin and add extraordinary elegance to the beautiful edifice, the Jefferson Memorial.

May the return of the cherry blossoms each spring be a visible reminder of Jefferson’s words: we hold these truths to be self evident…

We descend the wide steps from the portico and breathe in the beauty of the cherry-blossom-lined Tidal Basin. Jefferson would approve of the site. His home, his beloved Monticello, was a beautiful result of his architectural skills. But his real passion was to give shape, substance, and essence to freedom for all in the new nation he was helping to bring into existence–this one-of-a-kind experiment known as our United States of America.

A Walk to Remind Us of Our Christian Heritage – Lincoln Memorial

The Washington D.C. sky is blue and as we leave the Washington Monument the monuments of the mall stand in relief against their background. The Washington Monument sends its tall, grand shadow across the water of the reflection pool. As you take a peek back to make certain that this obelisk is as significant as its reflection indicates, you are struck again with the majesty of the structure.

We turn our eyes toward our next stop–The Lincoln Memorial. Even from the distance the figure of Abraham Lincoln is as imposing in marble as it was in life. This tall man is seated in the sculpture, but remains large and impressive. As you approach the scene, the serenity of the place is in sharp contrast to memories of the horrible sights and sounds of the strife and struggles during Lincoln’s Presidency. We climb the expansive steps to the man and his words. The man sits surrounded by many of his most memorable words–statements and expressions of his fanatic search for justice and guidance.

Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address in 1861, was given when he was facing the secession of the South and the mammoth divide in the nation he loved. Inscribed is: Intelligence, patience, Christianity, and firm reliance on Him who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are yet competent to adjust in the best way all our present difficultiesIn God we Trust is all around us in the Capitol. Lincoln’s statement confirms his trust.

As we feel the solemnity of this place, we read on. The Gettysburg Address carved in the wall speaks; one cannot read the words without remembering the images of the battle and the terrible toll, the field of dead bodies. Lincoln’s words are not only etched in the walls, they ring in our ears and the tears sting our eyes…that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom…  Yes, under God. This same God that our Founders knew provided the Divine Guidance for their deliberations. And it’s the same God we know from our Bible, the Book that has guided our Christian Heritage since its founding. It is the God in our national anthem and our Pledge of Allegiance. Its the God in our national DNA.

When anyone proclaims that we are no longer a Christian nation, they are saying what we see and know of our Christian Heritage is gone, fading away, a myth, or replaced. Has our tolerance for other religions and our unshakable belief in religious freedom made it easy to take our strength, our tolerance, and use it to erase our founding, our Christian beginnings?”

We finish reading the inscriptions on the walls; we stand beside the mammoth statue of Lincoln. The words of this great President fill the air of the chamber; they are carved in stone but they are alive in this place. The Emancipation President knew this nation could only survive the tidal wave of secession and the Civil War that followed with the help of continuing Divine Guidance.

We leave the sculpture of the giant behind us as we walk down the many steps, but we can never leave the teachings and the influence on us and our country of this man. It was during his Presidency that In God we Trust was placed on our currency. How many times a day do we touch a coin or bill that reminds us of that motto?

We take one look back at the enormity and significance of this American President as he looks out across the Capitol. We turn our eyes to the next stop in our journey and conversation about who we are. We make our way toward the Jefferson Memorial. Silence exists for most of the way; the Lincoln Memorial has that effect on its visitors.

A Walk to Remind Us of Our Christian Heritage – Washington Monument

There are constant reminders all around us that try to convince us that we are no longer a Christian nation. There is incessant denial of any Christian heritage to say that we had Divine Guidance at our beginning is ridiculed. Some of our national heroes are declared to be atheists or agnostics. Let’s just take a little walk around some Washington D.C., monuments to see what they still tell us.

As we make our way to the Washington Monument, our first stop, we discuss the spirit in a Christian White House. The many prayers and supplications of the first occupant of the White House, George Washington, must surely live in the walls of the rooms that heard those prayers.

We arrive at the Washington Monument. The magnificent obelisk stands tall against the morning sky. We touch the cornerstone; there the sacred Bible of the first President of these United States has been placed. Prayer was a cornerstone of the life of George Washington. And at the top of the monument is an aluminum cap that proudly bears the words Laus Deo. Those are the first words the sun touches as it shines on our Capitol. Praise be to God, those words say as they attest the presence of God to the sun, the raindrops, the fog, or snow that sometimes grace the monument grounds. But there they are, this declaration of our Christian heritage. If we were still allowed to climb the many stairs, we would witness Scripture. But we can feel the presence of our Creator in the majesty of this tall structure as it reaches toward heaven.

The Monument is a fitting reminder of the man, George Washington. This man was so popular following the Revolutionary War that he could have been King. Thankfully, he was the kind of man who just wanted to return to his plantation and be a farmer. But that was not to be; he became our first President.

From the time that his mother sent him off to war and commended him to the Providence of God and reminded him to private prayer, Washington continued to give testimony to his belief in the Providence of God. He became a legend as a warrior, even to the Indians; it seemed impossible to kill him. He believed that he ” was protected beyond all human probability and expectation, for I had four bullets through my coat and two horses shot under me, yet I escaped unhurt, although death was leveling my companions on every side of me.”

George Washington was a most remarkable man. He was a noble and pious gentleman. But there are many who have rewritten history, and our children may not even know what his birthday is. They have vacation “celebrating” presidents’ day. Yes, there are many efforts to deny, distort, or minimize our Christian heritage.

As we gaze at the beauty of the Washington Monument, I wonder if the president notices the Monument as Air Force One takes off or lands in his nation’s capitol. And if he could read the aluminum cap from the sky, what would it say?

We turn and walk toward the Lincoln Memorial. That will be our next stop on our walk. The cherry blossoms are gorgeous and the sky is blue; the Monument stands erect, proud and maintains its mastery of the sky. And at the top, the aluminum cap still says Laus Deo, Praise be to God.

We never have been anything but a Christian nation. That does not mean that we are all Christians; it means we have welcomed all other religions. We were founded because people sought and fought for religious freedom. Our Republic was established to secure and maintain freedom for all. May Providence forever protect our Christian heritage that was designed to keep us free.

George Washington–Lest We Forget Who He Was

From the time that his mother sent him off to war and commended him to the providence of God and reminded him to private prayer, Washington continued to give testimony to his belief in the providence of God. He became a legend, as a warrior, even to the Indians; it seemed impossible to kill him. He believed that he “was protected beyond all human probability and expectation, for I had four bullets through my coat and two horses shot under me, yet escaped unhurt, although death was leveling my companions on  every side of me.”                           .

There is too much in Washington’s own pen and those who were close to him, for the revisionists version of him to have any credence. He prayed regularly. Each night at nine o’clock he would go to his library to pray; people who had to seek answers in case of an emergency would find him on his knees praying in front of his open Bible. He did the same thing early in the morning. Washington also kept the Sabbath; he attended church, he did only those things that were absolutely necessary. He was a pious man

 Washington even conducted worship services for his troops when there was no chaplain assigned. During the French and Indian War when he was in charge of the troops defending the country, he led the troops in religious services. He was a man of such honor, he conducted a burial service for General Braddock who died in the French and Indian War. Washington was just a Colonel, but he carried a small Anglican book of worship and prayer. Washington would retire to his tent each night for prayers, or go into the woods if he couldn’t get away from people.

 Washington believed in Divine Providence. When Washington became commander in chief of the American forces in the Revolutionary War, an order to the troops confirmed his belief.

 The General most earnestly requires and expects  a due observance of those articles of war established for the government of the army, which forbid profane cursing, swearing, and drunkenness. And in like manner he requires and expects of all officers and soldiers, not engaged in actual duty, a punctual attendance of Divine service, to implore the blessing of Heaven upon the means used for our safety and defense.

 This was a most remarkable man. He was a noble and pious gentleman. Assassination of character would seem impossible as you come to know this man. Perhaps it is because his life was lived in such a devout manner to religion and civility, that the efforts to destroy him are so brutal and untrue. He must become know again to our young, those in the middle who have learned the distortions, and a reminder must be given to those of us who are seniors lest we forget.

                          

 

 

Religious Freedom and Our Schools

One of the more amazing things that I have come to examine more and more is how cleverly the transformers have used “religious freedom,” one of the great tenets on which our Founders based everything. Diabolically, they have taken this great foundation of tolerance for all religions and turned it on its back. They used our deep desire for tolerance of religion to preach to us about tolerance in all areas. While they are extracting tolerance from us, they are free to practice intolerance. If we show the least bit of resistance, they know how to make most of us feel guilty. They have most certainly used all areas of our society when and how ever they could.

They have flooded our schools with multiculturalism. They have used our national instincts for tolerance to promote their agenda. While they have been removing more and more Christian ideas and ideals from our books, they have been putting more and more about other religions in our school books. While they are teaching our kids more and more about tolerating other religion, they have been distorting the historical facts about the religious content of our beginnings.

Universities, where I have spent much of my career, are the worst offenders. To find a conservative professor is quite a task. I have taught my classes during student strikes; I was told by my peers that I must not do that. Opposing the strike was not a good political move. I insisted that I was only conforming with what they were striking for—freedom of speech and assembly. If the students who were striking had the right to not attend class, then the students who wanted to attend class must have the same right. Oddly, no one seemed to be able to dispute that logic.

Universities are populated with boatloads of Marxists. Many don’t outwardly admit to the name, but they teach and indoctrinate their students with those ideals. Most young people who attend the liberal colleges, most are, come home after a short time to discuss with their parents if conservative, how wrong they are. “You don’t understand. Your way of thinking is old fashioned. There are more modern ways of thinking about our political system and our economy.”

The change in many, including my own, occurs when they get their first pay check and discover how little “they have left” after all the deductions are made. “Mom, this is not fair.” It’s a natural place to take them back to what you taught them in the first place. They find an eternal truth. Old doesn’t mean bad or outdated. So it is with our Founding Documents, our founding ideals, and our God given rights. They are no more out of style than the Bible is for a Christian. .

Churches have been used extensively to fight the battles of the transformers. The strange part of this is that one would expect most religions to want to keep Christ in Christmas, would want to keep our Christian beginnings in the textbooks and in our teaching, and our God given rights ever before our student’s eyes as God given rather than government given. I suspect that sometimes our church people are the most vulnerable to the tolerance pleas and the subsequent guilt that follows if they don’t succumb.

Our School Boards that succumb to the distortion of the holidays, who don’t follow what’s in their textbooks or what is being taught in their classrooms, are also at fault. It is difficult at that level to know. Often you are “protected” from knowing for the fear of “micromanagement.” Our young people are in school many hours a day during their formative years. The battle that Texas and other states fought and are fighting, belongs to all of us. The inclusions and exclusions in our textbooks are critical to our future. As McBrien said in America First many years ago, “There must be the right material on which the American youth may settle their thoughts for a definite end in patriotism if our country is to have a new birth of freedom and if “this government of the people, by the people, and for the people is not to perish from the earth.”  This is so true for this day.

 

 

 

 

The Pesky Establishment Clause

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The Bill of Rights was passed in 1769 following the Revolutionary War. Freedom was won from the United Kingdom where the Anglican Church was the state religion.  The First Amendment, quoted above, has been and remains a social and political football.

The arguments center around three philosophical points of view. There are those who believe that the establishment clause prevents any government support or endorsement of religious establishments. A second point of view holds that the establishment clause prevents the formation of a Church of America, a national church, and maintains that the Founders were clear in their endorsement of Christianity. There is a third point of view that maintains that the government may support  or even endorse religious establishments as long as it shows equal treatment.

Thomas Jefferson is often quoted to suggest a wall of separation between church and state. “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.”

It is certainly an indication of intent of the Founders that the same First Congress that proposed the Bill of Rights opened its legislative day with prayer. It must be noted that this same Congress voted federal dollars to establish Christian missions in the Indian lands.

Supreme Court interpretations of the Establishment Clause began in 1947 with Everson v Board of Education. The Court, in a 5-4 vote, upheld a state law that reimbursed parents for the cost of busing their children to parochial schools. It was thought that if the reimbursement had taken place, that the state would clearly have violated the Establishment Clause. Subsequent cases would indicate that even small factual differences make a difference in the outcome. Justice Black stated with one case that the Constitution did not require, “callous indifference to religion.”

It wasn’t until the 1960’s that prayer in the schools was outlawed with a new interpretation of the Constitution. Prayer and Bible readings were used in many public settings including the public schools. In 1782, the United States Congress passed a resolution recommending and approving the Holy Bible for use in all schools.

The question of school sponsored prayer has been and still is a hot item. Schools have done away with baccalaureate services even when the service is conducted in a church and attendance is optional. That is a narrow interpretation as a result of the assault on Christian beliefs using the Establishment Clause.

The McGuffey Reader was used for over a 100 years in the public schools of the United States. McGuffey declared the Christian religion to be the religion of our country. Many passages in the Reader were drawn from the Scriptures. Lincoln called McGuffey the “Schoolmaster of the Nation.” McGuffey spent his lifetime trying to instill his strong beliefs on the next generation. He believed that religion and education needed to be related to have a  healthy society.

The Readers were filled with stories that reflected the importance of religious values. The stories were about allegiance to the country, the importance of work, the need for an independent spirit, strength, character, and truth. The Readers helped to shape America’s character and standards for morality for more than a century.

The Readers followed the values and moral character found in many of the early documents of our Country. Some founding State documents talk of integrity, trust,  industry and mirror the standards of the Bible from which the ideas came. The importance of the Readers was extensive; it is estimated that 120 million Readers were sold between 1836 and 1960. They remained in use in some schools until 1978.

Clearly, there was not an issue with the Establishment Clause. To the contrary, it was deemed necessary to co-mingle education and religion to maintain the tenor of our nation, to maintain the principles upon which we were founded. ,

The history of these issues and decisions surrounding the Establishment Clause are co-mingled with the freedom of speech issue in the same amendment. Both are protected by the First Amendment that prevents the government from establishing religion and also prevents government interference of privately initiated religious speech and activities. Finding the clear distinction between the two is not always easy. The Supreme Court has made clear, however, that private religious speech and secular speech are equally protected

The Establishment Clause has been used for different causes and reasons to eliminate the use of religion and the practice of religion in any public situation. It is being used to try to remove God from any public area. There are efforts to remove “Under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance. Perhaps the largest effort now is to remove “In God We Trust” from our currency.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Deadly “Ds”

The Deadly “Ds”

Sometimes you can make friends of your enemies. But sometimes you better get to know your enemies better than you know yourself  when you  know that their main goal, their purpose is to destroy you.

I have such faith in the goodness, compassion and integrity of people that I may seem gullible,  like a person easy to deceive. When I was teaching at the high school level, I recall teachers telling me that they didn’t trust students until they proved their trustworthiness; my philosophy and behavior were witness to students that I trusted them until they proved otherwise. I knew in my heart that when I distrusted every teenager I met because some had caused me great distress  anxiety and thoughtful introspection, I no longer could serve students or for that matter, anyone else in any category. I had to believe in a sane world.

Back to friends and enemies. I was in Jerusalem immediately prior to the six-day war. Our group was evacuated fromAmman, Jordon. We had not yet gone toIsraelbecause we could not go toIsraeland then to Jordon, so our plan was to go toIsraelafter our stay in Jordon was finished.  I stopped in Greece and continued on to Germany. By the time I reached Germany where my brother was stationed, the war was over.Israel had won a decisive victory. How?

When you can’t make friends with your neighbors and you’re quite certain that they mean to diminish or worse destroy you, you better find out more about them than you know about yourself. Yes, I said that before.

And Israel did. They knew the numbers and the conditions. They had to know everything about their enemies to the minute details of their eating, sleeping, coming, and going.

So it is in our lives. We do not want enemies; we do not need enemies. And we are stunned when they appear in our lives. It seems to be when we are filled with joy, with anticipation for the future, busy with good and useful tasks, and, as we say, when things are going swimmingly well.

Up crops the devil. Yes!  Literally. It happens in families; it happens in organizations; it happens in schools; it happens in churches. And so it is in my church as it has been in other places I have been. But it hurts the most when it happens in the place where you expect integrity, truth, kindness, compassion, joy, humility, friendship, and faith.

When you see pride and power replace humility, joy and laughter leave with the children and young families who leave, and the energy around you feels palpably negative, you are stunned and saddened. The positive energy that you expect in the house of God that feeds you spiritually has turned sour. You are confused and discouraged. You want to fix it, but those in positions who could aid, won’t. You just want to get away.

It is classic evil at work. It is harder to recognize in the sanctuary because we have come to believe that place is immune to such behavior.

We don’t want to see, hear, or believe that it could happen in our church when we are doing so well. Evil doesn’t have to work in evil places; it just sends a maintenance team.

But happy, successful, honest, and compassionate places require the big guns–the big “D’s”– DIVISION. DECEPTION. DESTRUCTION. DENIAL.    DISCOURAGEMENT. All are DEADLY potions for trust, togetherness, friendship, faith, family, spirituality, and growth. All are a slippery slope to DISASTER and DESPAIR.

 

A Seed and the Tree of Liberty

As I sat at the end of my driveway this morning, I contemplated the beauty of the scene before me. I take this grateful walk each morning to make certain that I am grateful for the blessing that I have before I ask for any more. It helps me to remember that I have seen given another day to make a difference because I have that day to serve.

But as I thought about the beauty and blessing of my surroundings, I found my thoughts mingled with the happenings of yesterday. My day was mixed with Scripture, Olympic games, and political rallies and announcements.  Hope and faith were prevalent and prominent. I always find hope, faith and joy in the Scriptures. Certainly hope, faith, and joy were prominent in the faces and beings of the athletes of the world in the closing ceremonies. And I heard a political candidate or two say that this great country, my republic, was built on an idea: our rights come from our Creator, not the government.

When we relate the true history of our beginning, we find this truth in our founding documents. Our Founders were very clear about the government they created. The Liberty Tree that this idea created is filled with the shining ornaments of freedom. These are not ornaments or adornments that lose their luster with time. The more we practice freedom and the liberties given to us in our founding documents, the more precious and priceless they become.

Their was purpose and meaning in every word in our Constitution. That great document is not just language that does not fit with the times. Our Founders chose and fought for every word. Every phrase was purposeful. Every sentence was meant to secure and guarantee these freedoms for the future.  We do not have a situational constitution. We have a Constitution of theUnited States of America. We are the lucky ones born in the country of this noble experiment in government, an experiment that was never tried before nor since our founding anywhere else in the world.

Take the time today to read this great document. Then say no to those who believe that it is a “living document” that should be changed to ”fit our modern times.”  Don’t let anyone tarnish the ornaments on the liberty tree created for you and your posterity. I intend to polish those ornaments every day that I am given, so that my childdren and  my grandchildren may enjoy  the fruit of the liberty tree created by our Founders.