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Posts Tagged ‘United States’

Often America is called a melting pot, a place where people from different countries come with different languages, beliefs, and customs and are then made into one people.

However I don’t see this.   And don’t think I would care for what I saw if I did see it.

I don’t see this because in traveling through my home city, through America, in reading my local paper and listening to those friends and acquaintances at work, I can see that we are not melted into one people.

Just within my own hometown city I see many different communities – Latin American, black, Asian, Muslim, Hindu, Irish, German, and more.  All with their own celebrated customs and foods, dress and religion.  Many with voices leavened with accents, pronunciations, and words from their ancestral country.

I see people with short hair, long hair, no hair; people in jeans and in suits, in saris and burqas, in hijabs and short skirts, in robes and shorts. I hear people speaking in different languages, eating different foods, going to different houses of worship, or none at all. I hear people expressing different thoughts and views.

A melting pot implies that these differences are melted out and that we are all then just one homogenous people.  But we are not.  Instead we are a diverse people.

 

And that is good.

 

It is our diversity that gives us new ideas and new ways of doing things.  It promotes innovation and an ability to adapt to a changing world.  It provides us with a pool in which we can dip in order to better understand the world.

It is our diversity that makes us interesting.  Different foods, different and wonderful customs and ways of life.  New words to use. Different ways of thinking and viewing the world.

Instead of a melting pot we are an orchestra.  And the music we create together, that is America.

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Manchester International Roots Orchestra

Strings over here, woodwinds there, and drums over to the right.  Lets add the sitars next to the harps, the mandolins and banjoes next to the piccolos.  And the hurdy gurdy accordion next to the piano.  The Kora and Kalimba playing next to the tin whistle and kuuchir.

And let each play the music that is dear to them.  Let each play what they believe it means to be an American.

Oh, there is a framework for the music, a score if you will.   It is the Constitution and a belief in freedom and liberty. And of human rights. But the score is a loose and largely improvised one, one that is made to promote and protect diversity, not uniformity.

Of course the ideal would be that together we create a music that is beautiful and harmonious.  The truth is though that often there are discordances in the music – tones and notes out of key with others.  Differing rhythms and scales. During the worse of times each instrument, each player seems to be playing his own tune without regards to the others, and a cacophony is created instead of music.

But out of that cacophony, eventually,  a new music is created, a new variation on a theme of America.

 

 

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Finally, a short blog.  At least, shorter than the other two.

First and foremost:

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Next:

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Now, big broad dramatic actions, while nice, are not necessary and are not what is going to turn things around.  It will be the actions of millions of people working on mundane and often boring tasks that will turn things around.  It will be the actions of millions of people donating time and money to organizations that work to protect our rights, our economy, our schools, our environment, our nation that will turn things around.  It will be us, the majority, who will turn things around.

National groups are nice, but look local too.  The Republican conservatives who support Trump control too many states, and that needs to change.

Write letters to your local paper, to your elected representatives at all levels from city to state to national.  This means be aware of what is happening both nationally and locally.  Join in local organizations that are working to improve the environment, poverty, homelessness, civil rights, and all of those things that are most in danger now.   If you are up to it, get involved in local boards on different subjects and problems.  Volunteer to testify on issues that most concern you – locally in city councils to testifying before state committees.

 

For myself, I have never registered as a Democrat or Republican, preferring to be considered an Independent.  And early one there were Republicans who I could and did vote for.  However, those have vanished over the years as the Republican Party became more radically conservative and radically right religious.

So, for the first time in my life, I will become a registered Democrat and work with the local party here in Beaumont.  There are other things I will be doing, and there are a great many groups and organizations that you could become a part of.  Here is just a short and not even remotely exhaustive list of them linked to their websites, in no particular order.

 

Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Common Cause

National Center for Science Education

Texas Freedom Network –  for those living in Texas, this is a group I have worked with before and will become more active in now.

Planned Parenthood

Sierra Club

Friends of the Earth

National Organization for Women

League of Women Voters

American Civil Liberties Union

Southern Poverty Law Center

Center for Responsive Politics

Campaign Zero

Black Lives Matter

 

This is not a complete listing by far.  It barely scratches the surface in fact and doesn’t even cover all the areas of concern.  Look and find something that fits your interests and greatest concerns.

And, perhaps most important of all, remember we are all Americans.  We are all human.  Look at your neighbor, at your town, your city, your county, your parish, your state, and your country, and be aware of whatever threatens your neighbors well being whether it involves civil liberties and equal treatment under the law, the environment in which we all share, education or any of host of other areas that look like they may well be under attack during a Trump Presidency.

Because of this, of our shared humanity and identity as Americans, seriously consider even going beyond if things go badly.  If the Trump administration starts a registry for Muslims, register as Muslims.  If President Trump voids the Dream Act, write and call and protest – demonstrations and marches in solidarity with those who are most affected.  If you are white, go ahead and march in a Black Lives Matter protest.  If you are black, then demonstrate in support of that 18 year old American college student brought here from Mexico when she was 3 but being deported now, if you are an Atheist march with and in support of the American Muslims and the refugees.  Let your voice and presence be heard and seen in as many ways as possible.

Be aware and act.   And vote.  Vote in local elections.  In state elections.  And in National ones.  And, hopefully, we can blunt the damage that I fear is coming.  And in 2016 start to not only blunt but turn it around.

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I have seen several people express fears about Trump becoming a dictator and the US become something similar to what Nazi Germany was under Hitler.  That we will lose our freedoms; of speech, of religion, of assembly, to vote.  That our free press will become bound and gagged.

 

While I recognize the similarities between Trump and Hitler, and while acknowledging a dictatorship is a possibility, I strongly disagree on it being probable.  Many things are possible, only a few are really probable.  So, given the many concerns I have seen expressed about this, I thought I would first explain why I do not believe it will happen.  Then I will explain what I think are the more probable consequences of Trump’s election and give what I consider a more realistic worst case scenario Finally, I will go over  what needs to happen to prevent or at least mitigate this more realistic worse case scenario from happening.

 

This is going to be a long blog so I am breaking it down into each of these component parts to form three blogs on the same subject.

 

Why the United States will not go the way of Nazi Germany

While there are similarities between Hitler and Trump, and in how they rose to power, there are also differences.  However, more important than these differences is the difference between our country now and Germany during the rise of Hitler.  People such as Alexander the Great, Napoleon,  George Washington, and Hitler come to power not only by the force of their personality or by how they do things, but also as the result of their times.  Put those same people in another setting and they may, and probably will, fail.  Greatness or notoriety do not arise in a vacuum.

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Now, there are some similarities between Germany then and the US today.  Both peoples were and are frustrated with their government.   They feel and felt that it was ineffectual, that it could not address the problems of the times, and that things were getting worse.  And there is a similarity in that, while Hitler used the Jews as a scapegoat for many of the Weimar Republic’s problems, many of Trump’s supporters use the illegal alien and Muslims as scapegoats.  And for the more racist of Trump supporters, blacks.

 

However, the similarities are limited, both in number, in intensity, and in scope.  For example, in Germany then:

 

  • Germany became a democracy in 1919. In 1933, when Hitler rose to power and the Nazi Party won the most seats in the German Parliament, the German People only had 14 years of experience with democracy.   Their prior experience was with a dictatorial government, and that was what they were comfortable with.  Or at least more familiar with, and, more importantly, associated with a government that actually worked.  When democracy did not seem to be working and unable to solve the many problems the German people face, they set up no outcry with the onset of emergency powers and the suspension of rights.
    • The US has, counting from the ratification of the US Constitution, over 230 years of democratic experience. We have faced numerous challenges from the beginning.  And through each one, we, as a people, did not wave from our commitment to democracy.  Even in the midst of our worst crisis, the Civil War, we held open and honest elections.  Our expectations are different and backed up by over 200 years of democracy surviving through war, riots, the Great Depression, immense social upheaval, and all the other detritus that we have found ourselves in.
  • Even worse, democracy in Germany did not arise from the people as it did here in the US. It was imposed upon the German people by the victors of WW2.  Because of that most of the German people of the time did not trust or really believe in democracy.  It was never theirs, never their government.
  • To make matters even more difficult, their politicians had no experience with democracies.
    • Even at our start, the founders and the colonials had some experience in democracies. And we have had over 200 years more experience now.
  • The German people were humiliated by the very demeaning terms of the Versailles Treaty. The war reparations imposed on them were economically impossible and crippling.  In 1923 the Allies grew tired of Germany’s inability to pay these reparations and occupied the Ruhr Valley, Germany’s industrial heartland.  And, instead of blaming their wartime leaders for this, the German people tended to blame the German politicians that arose out of this humiliating defeat.
    • Our democracy did not arise out of defeat, but out of victory. And we have not been defeated in the manner that Germany was, and have never been humiliated in such a fashion.
  • To add to this, Germany faced a disastrous number of problems. We look back to our Great Depression as being a terrible time for the US.  However, Germany had it even worse (something I sometimes have a hard time convincing my parents of).   Unemployment in 1932 was almost 31%.   German citizens had to contend with hyperinflation (with many staples such a bread costing 100 billion marks) and millions lived in abject poverty and thousands of children died of hunger.
    • Our economy today, by contrast, is actually strong. Our economic numbers are good.  Now, the problem today for the US is that it is not strong everywhere, and that the recovery has left too many people behind.  Further, with the changes in society and business – mainly automation, the change from coal to natural gas, and globalization – many Americans are left feeling angry and frustrated.  Yet, most people in this country are actually doing better.  Our situation today is a far cry from Germany, and while there is enough frustration to allow the election of a Trump, there is not enough widespread frustration to allow him to dismantle our democracy.  Especially as the results of his policies become clear.
  • The German Constitution at that time had a provision allowing the President to take emergency measures and issue emergency decrees without the consent of the German legislature. This was supposed to be limited to certain emergencies. However, given the state of Germany at the time, emergencies were plentiful.
    • The US Constitution has no such provision. There is a provision for the declaration of martial law by the President or Congress in the Constitution.  However, nationally, it has only been used once.  During the Civil War Congress approved most of the martial law measures enacted by President Lincoln.  During WW2, there was a partial enactment of martial law- some of which were overturned by the courts and those arrested and held then released. Others though, lamentably, were upheld (the internment of US citizens of Japanese descent).

So, the US has twice used martial law, both times during war.  Yes, there have been other declarations of martial law, but they have been made by governors at a state level and not nationally by the federal government.

Further, while the President could declare martial law, Congress still has the power to deny it or overturn it. And the state of martial law is challenged the Supreme Court could overturn it too.  Such provisions and safeguards not present in the German Constitution in 1932.

  • In Germany at that time it was expected that laws did not have to conform to the Constitution as long as it had the support of two thirds of parliament. This made it easier to pass laws that limited rights and abridged freedoms.
    • The US has no such expectation. In fact, that is totally contrary to both our expectations and practice.
  • Finally, in terms of at least going over the differences between Germany then and the US today, Trump is not Hitler. He shares many of the same traits, but he is not Hitler.  For one, Hitler was motivated by an ideology.  Trump, by his ego.  While many bad things are likely to happen, I do not think Trump would take it to the extremes that Hitler did – state sponsored terrorism against certain groups of citizens –  since his motivation is different.

 

In addition to the above differences, there are some political and social realities which would keep Trump from becoming a dictator.

  • The majority of the voters voted for Hillary for President and more voters voted for Democrats than Republicans in the Senate. This indicates an already large group of people opposed to Trump and what he represents.  And provides the base for trying to limit the damage he and his administration does, and to ensure that he is, at best, a one term president
  • While the Republicans, especially of the Tea Party variety, are lining up behind him now, there are significant divisions within the party. Divisions which would create strong problems in regards to privatizing Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  Even the “dismantling” of Obamacare has to be handled with care.    Millions of Americans are already beneficiaries of it, millions are on the expanded Medicaid rolls.  Millions of people who would be hurt if it were just stopped.
  • Getting passage of controversial bills in the Senate is especially going to be challenging. There will be 46 Democrat Senators and 52 Republican ones (two Senators are independent).  This means on the issues that are really controversial, there are likely going to be some Republicans who will not go along.  They with the Democrats will be able to block some bills.  And nominees.
  • Trump has already backed off on some of his prominent promises – building he wall, prosecuting Hillary for example. And he is starting to receive criticism for it from those who supported him.  They are not dropping him yet, but they are starting to be unhappy with some of his decisions.  I imagine as it sinks in that most of his administration are not only rich and well connected, but extremely rich, and that they vote to their own benefit, this will become even more pronounced.
  • Those who elected him expect things from him.  For example, the coal miners.  Trump promised them they would all get their jobs back.  His method for doing this – do away with environmental regulations.  The problem, those regulations were not why the coal miners were not working.  They are not working because natural gas prices dropped as our supply increased.  How do you imagine those coal miners will feel about Trump when they realize that he did not keep his promise?   Then extend this to the economy as a whole, and what will happen if, as I expect, the economy goes bad under him.
  • I know that many are concerned about Trump and the Supreme Court. Currently there is one vacancy, which means it will probably be a conservative along the lines of Scalia.  But, that does not set us back any further than before since we have been living with that for years.  And that was a court that gave us gay marriage, upheld abortion rights, and decided that Obamacare was legal.
    • Now, if another vacancy comes up, that will be the time to worry. But, I do not look for any of the more liberal justices to be retiring until the next president comes along.  We might lose one due to health or death, but not retirement.  And, keep in mind, that there are enough democrats that they still can make it difficult to get too outrageous a candidate to become Justice.   It would not be good, but he cannot pack the court with Justices who would go along with him becoming a dictator (although they could go along with many other bad things though)
    • I would also note that on Trump’s idea to imprison those who burn the American flag, Justice Scalia had this to say: “If I were king I wouldn’t go about letting people burn the American Flag. However, we have a first amendment which says that the right of free speech shall not be abridged, and it is addressed, in particular to speech critical of the government.   I mean, that was the main kind of speech that tyrants would seek to suppress.”

I could go on for quite a bit longer.  We have a robust freedom of the press.  I am sure that Trump will try to limit that, and may well get a few victories.  However, there is still the independent judiciary.  Further, if you look at freedom of the press may go backwards many decades, but not to the point where the media becomes the puppet and totally under the control of the President.

 

In fact, overall, that is the more realistic scenario that I discuss in my next blog on this subject; that we will not have a dictator but instead many of the social gains and progress, many of the civil rights gains and progress will wind up being pushed back decades, possible even to a similar state as the turn of the 20th century in many ways.  That our economy is ruined and  taking the world’s economy with it.  And the increased possibility of wars.

 

Those are realistic worse case scenarios.  But, Trump becoming a dictator and the United States a fascist dictatorship, or a dictatorship of any kind – no, that is not realistic at all.

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Memorial Day, a day to remember the brave men and women who have died defending this country. We will remember them in various ways – parades, speeches, flags, and flowers. Articles have been and will be written about them and what their sacrifice means. And all of this is good.

However, I would like to add just one more way to honor their sacrifice. To my mind the best way to honor their deaths.

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Green Fields of France

Did they beat the drum slowly did they play the fife lowly,
did they sound the death march as they lowered you down
did the band play the last post and chorus,
did the pipes play the “Flowers of the Forest”

Well how do you do young Willie McBride?
do you mind if I sit down here by your graveside
and rest for a while ‘neath the warm summer sun
I’ve been walkin’ all day and I’m nearly done
I see by your gravestone you were only nineteen
when you joined the great fallen of 1916
Well I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean
Willie McBride was it slow and obscene

And the beautiful wife or the sweetheart for life
in some faithful heart are you forever enshrined
and although you died back in 1916
in that faithful heart are you forever nineteen?
or are you a stranger without even a name
enshrined forever behind a glass pane
in an ould photograph torn tattered and stained,                                                                                                               fading to yellow in a brown leather frame?

Now the sun shines down on the green fields of France
a warm summer wind makes the red poppys dance
The trences have vanished under the plows,
there’s no gas no barbed wire, there’s no guns firing now
but here in this graveyard it’s still No Man’s land,
the countless white crosses stand mute in the sand
for man’s blind indifference to his fellow man,
to a whole generation that was butchered and damned

Now Willie McBride I can’t help wonder why
Do those who lie here do they know why they died
Did they really believe when they answered the call
did they really believe that this war would end wars
Forever this song of suffering and shame
the killing the dying was all done in vain
for young Willie McBride it’s all happened again,
and again, and again, and again and again

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The best way to remember the brave fallen who have defended this country is to work hard to create a world in which they are the last of the brave who have to die to defend liberty and freedom.

An impossible dream you might say. Quite possibly. But some impossible dreams are well worth striving for, for although they may never be attained it is in the striving to do the impossible that the world is improved.

Of course, setting impossible goals is easy. Finding ways to even start to attain them is much more difficult. As a nation though we need to:

– Make sure that any conflicts and wars we enter into are for a good cause and real need; that they cannot be resolved in any other more peaceful way even if the peaceful way may take more time (something difficult for us as we are an impatient people).

  • Realize that we are too quick to war and too impatient in allowing the working out of non-violent solutions. Realize too that war is always evil, even in those few times it is necessary.
  • Truly take a look at our and others actions leading up to conflicts where lives are lost. Even those that had to be fought.There are reasons why wars and conflicts become inevitable and learning those causes can help us – if we are wise – to avoid making decisions today that will create the seeds of future wars.
  • Realize that while there is a horrifying glamour about war and violence and heroism, that what we need to be focused on is the more mundane, the more boring, the more frustrating path of diplomacy, of forging relations not only in terms of economics but also in culture and society.

But that is for nations. What can we as individuals do?

As individuals we must realize that part of the greatness of America is that we make up our government and influence it. With this in mind, look at who we vote for and what they stand for and how they mean to accomplish their goals.

Write letters and communicate not only to your representatives but also on social media about issues of the day.

Join and support groups of like minded people.

But, before the voting, before the communication, before the joining together and monetary support, spend the time to read and learn about the issues and problems facing us. Take the time to read both sides, and not just skimming the side you initially disagree with but read and understand fully. Forget what you know for a moment, set aside your certainties, and read to understand first and foremost. And then decide. And then act.

And one final thing – get to know those you disagree with. Personally whenever possible. And encourage programs that do the same between groups and nations.

So, yes, honor the fallen by placing flowers on graves and lights in windows. Set out the flag in front of your home, as I plan to do. Remember the dead and grieve for them and for our loss. Feel inspired by their courage and sacrifice. But go beyond that to work and make sure that the final verse of the Green Fields of France does not stay true for ever and ever, in conflict without end.

imagesNow Willie McBride I can’t help wonder why
Do those who lie here do they know why they died
Did they really believe when they answered the call
did they really believe that this war would end wars
Forever this song of suffering and shame
the killing the dying was all done in vain
for young Willie McBride it’s all happened again,
and again, and again, and again and again

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A bit over two years ago I posted “Gimme That Old Banned Religion”, about a t-shirt with the words “I am not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God the salvation of everyone who believes. Romans 1:16” on the front. On the back it stated, “This shirt is illegal in 51 countries.”

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Obviously I checked out the accuracy of this back statement and then used this to discuss the interesting fact that many Christians in America claim that they are persecuted, not only in other countries but also here in the United States.

This blog has gotten some interesting responses, including two that I did not allow due to their abuse of language. A few days ago I received in comment that made me want to briefly revisit the topic of the “persecution” of Christians in America. Before I do though, I realize that many if not most Christians in the United States do not believe they are persecuted. In fact, I received a couple of thoughtful comments from Christians to this effect.

However, while acknowledging the truth of this, it is still also true that a sizable number of Christians do believe they are persecuted in the United States. Now, I am not going to deal with all the problems in claiming that Christians are persecuted in the United States. Much of it stems from the fact that “They wish to elevate the loss of their religious privileges – which are forbidden by the United States Constitution – to the loss of their religious rights – which is very much protected by the Constitution.”

What I want to focus on instead is the claim of a commenter that “Christians are the MOST persecuted in the world”. Really?

Consider the following:

  • In every country in which Christianity is outlawed and expressing Christian beliefs illegal, so too are other religious beliefs, including atheists. Does the Most Persecuted Religion trophy go to the group with the most individuals being persecuted? If so, then Christianity has an unfair advantage in that they are the largest religious group in the world. A better measurement would be a proportional one in which you look at laws outlawing and restricting a religion. By this measure, Christianity is not the most persecuted religion in the world. At best, it is tied with many others.
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  • In Iraq  today a religious group is in danger of being totally wiped out by ISIS. Those who follow the Yazidi faith are being hunted and killed for their faith. Just because they are not as numerous as Christians does that mean that their persecution doesn’t count? Or perhaps it counts, but just not as much. How do you compare their persecution with their smaller numbers with that of Christians? After all, they are in grave danger of giving their all, just as the widow did in Mark 12: 41- 44

    41 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

    It seems to me that even though the Christians today might be persecuted out of their abundance, those who in their poverty of numbers are in danger of being wiped out are being the more persecuted.
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  • Does it count as persecution when those persecuting you are also a Christian, just of a different variety? For example, the Catholic persecution of Protestants, the Protestant persecution of Catholics, the persecution of Quakers by both, etc. It seems to me that this should not count towards the count for most persecuted religion. Instead, this should be reserved for persecution by those of a totally different religious belief.

jews-arriving-auschwitz-PSo, who do I think is the most persecuted religion? The Jews. They have been persecuted for far longer than Christians have, have suffered more deaths and restrictions than Christians have. What is of interest here is that the Jews have suffered deaths and restrictions frequently at the hands of Christians. In fact, this makes me wonder, does the fact that Christians persecuted other religions mean that they should be deducted points for most persecuted religion? This question is especially important in light of the fact that the religion that has engaged in the greatest amount of persecution of the Jews is Christianity.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYes, Islam has done so too. Both have anti-Semitic elements within their respective sacred books. However, for most of history,einsatzkids Islamic countries have been a safer place for Jews to live than Christian European ones. That is not to say that Jews were considered the equals of Muslims, nor that they did not suffer persecutions and extra taxations . They did. However, what the Jews experienced in Christian Europe was worse, on average, than what they experienced in the Middle East. Just consider, the greatest number of Jews being killed for being Jewish occurred during the First Crusade and in Nazi Germany during the Holocaust. Both of these were Christian countries and these actions carried out by Christians.

So, how does the fact that Christians have engaged in severe persecution fit into these Christians calculations for being the most persecuted religion?

A more basic question, though, is why do so many Christians seem to feel this is important. They seem to believe that if a religion can survive such persecution then that is evidence that that religion contains the truth and is the one correct religion. However, is this true?

Not really. Although my tone may have, at times, been slightly sarcastic in my questions and points above, the questions and points are all valid. Christians have been and in many countries are still being persecuted – along with atheists, Jews, and other religious groups.

Christians have also often been the persecutors.

And it is Judaism, not Christianity, which has suffered the greatest amount of persecution throughout history.

Yet this belief that being persecuted validates Christianity still permeates the thinking of many Christians. It is why they so often try so hard to twist and distort the reality of Christianity within the United States so as to claim that they are persecuted too. It validates, in some strange way, their belief in the ultimate and exclusive truthfulness of their religion. Never mind the reality.

And the reality is? Persecution is no measure of how true a religion is. It is the result of many other factors instead – politics and economics, geography, social norms and values, and the interactions with other religions. If persecution were the measure of a religion’s validity then Judaism would be the winner. Of course, the atheist would rank fairly high too. Not to mention the Yazidi. Or the many other religious groups.

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Instead of contemplating with joy how persecuted Christians are, even within the United States, these Christians should instead be working to protect all of those persecuted regardless of religious belief – atheist, Jew, Yazidi… all. They should be working to rid the world of persecution and discrimination for any reason whether it be for religion or race or gender or sexual orientation. They should, instead, be working to create a culture, a society, a world in which each is free to follow their conscience and to live their lives as they best see fit. That is a much more laudable goal than watching all their trials and tribulations sinking in a gentle pool of wine.

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Of Short Memories

Approximately 1.5 million children died during the Holocaust.

In 1938, just after the German pogrom against the Jews known as Kristallnacht, Great Britain eased its visa requirements to allow children under the age of 17 from Nazi Germany, or from any of its annexed territories, to enter the country on temporary travel visas. From December 2, 1938 until May 14, 1940 between 9,000 to 10,000 children – about 7,500 of them Jewish – were rescued from Germany, Austria, Poland, and Czechoslovakia. This was done even though Great Britain was also experiencing the severe effects of the Great Depression – the value of British exports was halved, industrial output had fallen by a third, unemployment rose to 20% (with some areas reaching 70% unemployment). While some areas of the economy around London still prospered, poverty and unemployment devastated Northern England and Wales; and still they took in 10,000 children in need.

Between 1934 – 1945, in the United States 1,400 mostly Jewish children were rescued from Europe and the Nazi’s atrocities. Why did Great Britain wind up rescuing more than seven times as many children in just 1 and a half years than the United States did in 11 years?

  •  Great Britain’s program was well known (the Refugee Children’s Movement or kindertransport) and promoted. The American One Thousand Children effort was kept quiet and low key so as not to antagonize the isolationists and anti-Semitists in this country.
  •  Great Britain loosened the laws on immigration to allow these children to enter and stay. The United States did not, instead maintaining strict quotas even after the events of Kristallnacht made it clear the Nazi’s intentions towards Jews. Legislation was proposed, the Wagner-Rogers Bill, that would have admitted 20,000 Jewish refuges under the age of 14 to enter the United States. It failed to pass.

 

Of Ignorance

Guatemala – Due to crime cartels and gangs (often consisting of retired generals and police officers) there are 52 murders per 100,000 people every year. In the United States is it only five per 100,000, and only one per 100,000 for England. In 2009 6be84fda5cf0dc80a7c6b782ad45be3c_XLthe number of people shot, beaten, and knifed to death in Guatemala outnumbered Iraqi’s who died in the war zone in Iraq. More than 2/3 of homicides in Guatemala are unsolved. Police are both ineffective and corrupt.

Guatemala also has the fourth highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world. According to a study by the US based research institute The Fund for Peace, this will get worse.

Gangs in Guatemala force children to join, usually young teens. The average age of those recruited has been going down and as of 2012 was close to 12 years old. Girls are recruited to be “girlfriends” (although last year two girls – age 13 and 15 were arrested for assassinating a 20 year old man). Boys to be soldiers. Even some kindergarteners have been recruited. Schools are often just as much recruiting grounds as educational institutions. Refusal to be recruited often results in beatings at first, and then escalates from there. Extreme poverty also eases the decision, even in the face of unwillingness and fear for what they might have to do.

Honduras – In addition to being the poorest country in Latin America, the Honduras also are region’s most violent and crime ridden. It also has one of the most corrupt police forces in Latin America. Often the political and economic elites of this country are the ones directing the activities of the drug cartels and crime syndicates.

Gangs in Hondura force children to join, usually young teens. The average age of those recruited has been going down and as of 2012 was close to 12 years old. Girls are recruited to be “girlfriends”. Boys to be soldiers. Even some kindergarteners have been recruited. Schools are often just as much recruiting grounds as educational institutions. Refusal to be recruited often results in beatings at first, and then escalates from there.  Extreme poverty also eases the decision, even in the face of 1unwillingness and fear for what they might have to do.

El Salvador – According to the United Nations office on Drugs and crime, El Salvador is one of the most dangerous places in the world, having a homicide rate of 69.2 per 100,000 in 2011. Again, corruption among public officials and police is rampant.
Gangs in El Salvador force children to join, usually young teens. The average age of those recruited has been going down and as of 2012 was close to 12 years old. Girls are recruited to be “girlfriends”. Boys to be soldiers. Even some kindergarteners have been recruited. Schools are often just as much recruiting grounds as educational institutions. Refusal to be recruited often results in beatings at first, and then escalates from there. Extreme poverty also eases the decision, even in the face of unwillingness and fear for what they might have to do.

According to the Border Patrol, 3 out of 4 current unaccompanied children are from the Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

In 2008 the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act was voted on and passed by both chambers of Congress without issue or objection. This law was one of the last law signed by President George W. Bush before leaving office. Its purpose was to fight against human trafficking, including sex traffic of children.
Towards that end, any child entering the country alone who was not from Canada or Mexico was to be given the opportunity to appear at an immigration hearing to determine their status. It was also recommended in this law that they have access to counsel. Further, these children were to be turned over to the care of the Department of Health and Human Services, placed “in the least restrictive setting that is in the best interest of the child” and to explore reuniting these children with their family members.

This law was originally pushed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers as well as by evangelical associations concerned with sex trafficking. It passed unanimously.

Health – Despite the rumors, illegal immigrant children pose a very low health risk to the United States. Despite the rumor, they do not have the Ebola virus, which is an African disease and not one found in Latin America. Despite the rumors, dengue is spread by mosquitoes, not people.

679aa550c461b354cef4c5f72fe8c7ab_XLWhat these children do have are illnesses related to long journeys – diarrhea and respiratory illnesses – that do not pose a risk to Americans. In fact, although the U.S. has a 92% vaccination rate for our children, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras have a 93% vaccination rate for theirs. There is no danger of plague being unleashed upon American citizens by these children.

Gangmember Infiltration of US – Yes, there are gangs in the countries these children are fleeing from. That is why they are running after all. And yes, 16 children have been found with links to gangs. Sixteen out of over 50,000. And are these children trying to hook up to gangs here (unlikely) or are they trying to get out of the gangs by moving far away?

Here is a good article from Insight Crime on this.

Nevertheless, it is still possible that some of the youths are active gang members, but this is unlikely to pose a serious security threat to the United States.

Latin street gangs, especially the MS13, already have a presence in the United States and there is ample evidence that they coordinate criminal activities with counterparts in Central America, in particular in El Salvador. Gangs on both sides of the border likely have access to established networks for the movement of arms, drugs, people and money. It is therefore unlikely they would utilize the routes of common migrants, which are arduous, dangerous and risky, for any important gang operations.

The numbers support this; while the US authorities have discovered 16 gang members so far, if Townhall.com’s account is accurate, this is a tiny fraction of the tens of thousands of children crossing the border.

Border Security – If they are being stopped and detained, then we are securing our borders at the entry point. What more would you have them do – shoot on sight? More boots on the ground would not hurt, but that is not the problem. The problem is that we have this massive flood coming in and we ARE stopping them. Now we have to figure out how to handle them after we have stopped them.

 

Of Illegal Immigrant Children

Today – July 15, 2014 – there are protestors in Tucson Arizona. They are protesting the bussing of 40 immigrant children to a nearby academy for troubled youths. Holding signs reading “Return to sender” “Take them away from here” and “Go home non-Yankees”, they plan to physically block the buses. Just as did:

July 1, 2014. Murrieta California. There protestors shouting “Go back home”, “Nobody wants you”, and “USA” physically blocked three buses carrying illegal immigrant children.Protesters-block-immigration-bus-jpg

July 14, 2014. Vassar Michigan. Protestors waving American flags, holding signs, and praying together protested the possible arrival of 120 illegal immigrant children to be temporarily housed there while they receive their vaccinations and basic education before either being re-united with relatives or going into foster care. The process is supposed to take 2-4 weeks. Hence the adjective “temporarily”. Yet even this temporary is seemingly too long.

Today I see too many voices yelling at children. I see too many people displaying hatred to children. Today I see too many Americans following in the mindset of the 1930’s. No, these children are not fleeing a holocaust. But they are fleeing for their lives. Dead is dead whether in a Nazi gas chamber or beaten to death by a syndicate crime soldier. The crisis is the same, the lives of refugee children.

I hear many asking why are these children sent alone. They point out, quite rightly, that it is a long and dangerous journey from El Salvador, from Guatemala, from Honduras. However they and their family know that dangerous as that journey is it is still safer than staying in an impoverished home and being recruited for a gang. Just as the mother of Moses launched him to an uncertain fate in a basket upon the waters of the Nile, so too have these parents launched their children fate in the US, knowing too well what their fate will be should they stay.

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras — Twelve-year-old Maynor Serrano points to the rows of houses where his friends and neighbors used to live. All are gone — many fleeing to the U.S.

Two of his friends were killed as 10-year-olds, their bodies chopped to pieces in a suspected gang vendetta.
He saw homes reduced to crumbling wrecks, their walls pockmarked with bullet holes. Entire neighborhoods were abandoned in hours — the result of monstrous gang violence.

Some houses became casas locas, crazy homes, for torturing families in this macabre city, which has the highest homicide rate in the world. Daily newspapers are filled with graphic photographs of bodies.

Like many, Maynor Serrano yearns to escape to the U.S., where he has relatives.

“It’s tough to live without hope,” he said. “If it’s not there, you go look for it.”

fu_children_detention123_140606_16x9_992Some call me a bleeding heart. It is a label that I willingly, proudly, and loudly embrace. After all, for atheists, isn’t empathy for others’ pain, suffering and problems an essential part of what we are? Isn’t this an essential part of why we create societies? Without empathy, without our acting on these impulses, we, eventually, lose what makes us human. Bleeding hearts help set goals that reason and logic then find ways to best achieve.

For the Jews and Christians, I have already mentioned Moses. For Christians, remember also that Joseph and Mary and baby Jesus were refugees too at one time. Remember to love one another. Remember your Bible and Jesus’ words in Matthew 25: 37-40:

“37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

For all those who are religious, isn’t concern for the unfortunate, the poor and suffering, the needy an essential part of your religion? From what I have read, whether Buddhist or Jew, whether Muslim or Sikh, almost all religions require one to help the other, to treat those in need as us and not them.

I am not saying that we should make all of these children citizens. No. What I am saying is that we have a law and a process set up to determine whether these children are refugees and in need of protection and shelter. Fund it so that those organizations set to implement this law and these processes can do their job quickly, efficiently, and effectively. And then if need be, if they would be in danger if returned, then we find homes for them here – just as we have for so many in danger and need, and just as we did not do for the Jewish children.

I am saying that they should have legal counsel during these proceedings to ensure that they do not become merely window dressings for a rubber stamp saying “Go Away”.

I am saying that while here, while waiting for the process to work itself out, they need to receive medical care, food, and a proper place to live.

I am saying that we should not let our bigotry, fear, hatred, uncertainty get the better of us and display our lack of humanity by picketing children and shouting hateful words towards them. They are not the source of your frustration and disagreements. They are merely seeking shelter from a harsh world. Treat them as children in need.

I am saying that we should find solutions that are true to what makes us human.

I am saying that instead of ignoring our bleeding heart, denying its existence, or killing it we should be healing that which causes it to bleed.

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The creation of the idea of separation of church and state, arguably one of the most important innovations in government, has many roots.   Most people tend to know only of the secular root.  However there is also a religious root to this idea, a root that goes as deep if not deeper into time than does the secular, and which actually came to full fruition before the secular one did.

separation

Most people, both religious and secular, are surprised upon finding this out.  I know I was when I found out.   However, upon a little reflection, what is really surprising is that Americans are surprised that Christian thought can lead to the separation of church and state, since most Americans are also already aware of one of the primary Biblical arguments for the separation of church and state.

 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”

18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

Matthew 22:17 – 21

Although I quoted from Matthew, the same story appears in Mark and Luke also. So, within the Gospels, from the mouth of Jesus, there is already Biblical support for the idea that there are two separate spheres – the church and the state.    However, within the Bible, these verses are not the only ones cited for support of this idea of two separate spheres – or domains, kingdoms, swords, or a host of other terms for this idea.   The Old Testament was also often cited as support for this idea.

For example, Exodus 18: 13-26 and Exodus 28:1 are cited as showing that the position of civil magistrate and that of priest are created separately, demonstrating, again, the existence of two separate domains.   Jehoshaphat, the righteous king of Judah, is another example that was often cited.  In 2 Chronicles 19:11 Jehoshaphat appointed one man to administer to matters “concerning the LORD” and another man to matters “concerning the king”.

11 “Amariah the chief priest will be over you in any matter concerning the Lord, and Zebadiah son of Ishmael, the leader of the tribe of Judah, will be over you in any matter concerning the king, and the Levites will serve as officials before you. Act with courage, and may the Lord be with those who do well.”

Several other verses and examples were also used to support the idea that there are two different domains, one of civil government and one of the church.

Now, let me state here, that this is not separation of church and state yet.   However, it is the beginnings of it.   It is a recognition that the church does not control all and that the civil government does not control all – each has their own domain.   Without this basic concept there can be no separation of church and state.

And lest you wonder if this is a reading backwards from today’s views about church and state and imposing those views to the past, this doctrine of separate spheres of authority was introduced by Saint Augustine (354 – 430 CE) in his book City of God.   From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

A distinction between Church and State—more exactly, between the priesthood and the power of the emperor, each independent in its own sphere, though the priesthood has the higher function. The classic place for this doctrine is the canon Duo sunt. Another canon, Cum ad verum, gave reasons for the separation: mutual limitation of their powers would restrain the pride of priest and emperor, and those on God’s service (the clergy) should be kept free of worldly entanglements. This was also the force of the canons Sicut enim and Te quidem.

Just as a quick aside for those who do not think religion had anything to do with modern rights and freedoms, you might like to read more of this link than just the part I quoted.   Augustine also argues that the source of political power lies in the people who have then entrusted this power to kings and emperors.  Further he advances an argument for the natural rights of all men as well as a belief that all men are equal and because of this slavery was contrary to natural law.   Both ideas sound strikingly familiar to what later, secular, enlightenment philosophers would argue.

Getting back to the separation of church and state now, these ideas and arguments of Augustine were then developed by Pope Gelasius (Pope from 492 – 496 CE) into an explicit political statement.

“Writing to Anastasius, emperor in the east, Gelasisu stated, ‘There are, then, august Emperor, two powers by which the world is chiefly ruled, the sacred power of the prelates and the royal power. ‘”

Spheres of Sovereignty by Robert Joseph Renaud and Lael Daniel Weinberger in the Northern Kentucky Law Review.

So, the theory of two separate spheres has existed since very early in church history.  Theoretically these should be co-equal, each having total and complete dominion over their area.     However, as is usual, theory tends to get bent and broken upon meeting reality.  The reality is that there were times 800px-Schlacht_am_Weißen_Berg_C-K_063when the church was dominant and ruled over civil matters.  There were other times when the state was dominant and ruled on church matters.  This varied dependent on various political and social factors.

In fact, in the 11th century Pope Gregory VII morphed this doctrine into one of papal supremacy.   Pope Innocent III followed up by adding what had formerly been one of the emperor’s titles to his own, that of “Vicarius Dei”.   Pope Boniface VII openly declared that both spiritual and temporal power were under the pope, with temporal only being on loan, so to speak, from the pope.   In other words, while they were two separate spheres, the spiritual reigned over the civil, which was a modification of what had been originally understood.

It will probably surprise many to find that the Protestant Reformers also made this distinction between the two spheres.   John Calvin for one, despite his reputation and his actions in Geneva, believed in the separate jurisdictions of church and state.

“Calvin believed in an independent church supported and reinforced by a godly civil magistrate.   In this we see hints of a blending of roles, where church and state cooperate to maintain purity.   This is what most observers think of first when they think of Calvin’s contributions to church-state relations.   But what is often missed is that even when Calvin speaks of the cooperation of church and state, eh does not speak of the subordination of one to the other.   Calvin believed that the church and state coexisted as two forms of government separated from one another by God, but both under God and subject to his law-word….An example given in the Institutes illustrates what Calvin meant by this:

Does any one get intoxicated.   In a well ordered city his punishment will be imprisonment.   Has he committed whoredom?  The punishment will be…more severe.  Thus satisfaction will be given to the [civil] laws, the magistrates, and the external tribunal.   But the consequence will be, that the offender will give no signs of repentance, but will rather fret and murmur.   Will the Church not here interfere?

Spheres of Sovereignty by Robert Joseph Renaud and Lael Daniel Weinberger in the Northern Kentucky Law Review.

Here is another quote from Calvin about the relationship between church and state, again from Institutes:

Some…are led astray, by not observing the distinction and dissimilarity between ecclesiastical and civil power.   For the Church has not the right of the sword to punish or restrain, has no power to coerce, no prison nor other punishments which the magistrate is wont to inflict.  Then the object in view is not to punish the sinner against his will, but to obtain a profession of penitence by voluntary chastisement.   The two things, the fore, are widely different because neither does the Church assume anything to herself which is proper to the magistrate, nor is the magistrate competent to what is done by the Church.

Although not exactly the same, Luther’s views of church and state paralleled that of Calvin; Luther saw two realms, the church and state, both under God but each being institutional equals.  James Madison, one of the principle creators of our Constitution, the creator of our Bill of Rights, and one of the staunchest proponents of church/state separation, acknowledged that this idea of the two being separated came from religious sources first.   In a letter to F. L. Schaeffer dated Dec 3rd, 1821, Madison writes that, “It illustrates the excellence of a system which, by a due distinction, to which the genius and courage of Luther led the way,  between what is due to Caesar and what is due to God, best promotes the discharge of both obligations.”

Although Madison does not say so, I believe that he is referring to Martin Luther’s book On Secular Authority. From this work:

God has ordained the two governments: the spiritual, which by the Holy Spirit under Christ makes Christians and pious people; and the secular, which restrains the unchristian and wicked so that they are obliged to keep the peace outwardly…The laws of worldly government extend no farther than to life and property and what is external upon earth. For over the soul God can and will let no one rule but himself. Therefore, where temporal power presumes to prescribe laws for the soul, it encroaches upon God’s government and only misleads and destroys souls. We desire to make this so clear that every one shall grasp it, and that the princes and bishops may see what fools they are when they seek to coerce the people with their laws and commandments into believing one thing or another.

And later in the book,

We are to be subject to governmental power and do what it bids, as long as it does not bind our conscience but legislates only concerning outward matters…But if it invades the spiritual domain and constrains the conscience, over which God only must preside and rule, we should not obey it at all but rather lose our necks. Temporal authority and government extend no further than to matters which are external and corporeal.

Surprisingly modern in its ideals about separation of church and state, however, this is still not there yet.  That is because for the great majority, the church still has control over doctrine and what people should and should not believe.  While believing that the state should have no power to determine and enforce religious belief, most did believe that the church had this power and that, as the guardian of men’s souls, had a responsibility to do so.

Further, many of the sects and denominations had no problem integrating the two domains; others could not resist the lure of having the state support the church.   Nor could the state resist using the church in this way.  So, the elements were in place for a modern understanding of the separation of church and state, it only needed someone to put it together and add the individual’s right to determine his own spiritual belief, without coercion from either church or state.

Now, there were many who started to piece this together and started to promote an ideal of separation that more closely approached our own.   But in the interest of keeping this from getting too long, let me jump to the fruition of religious thought on separation of church and state, the writings and actions of Roger Williams.

Religious Argument for Separation of Church and State 

Roger Williams, in his book The Bloody Tenet of Persecution, for Cause of Conscience, was the first person, either secular or religious, to forcefully argue for the total separation of church from state.  Being a roger-williams-2Protestant Theologian, a Puritan, and the founder of the Baptist church in America (although he did not stay a Baptist for long), his arguments were, of course, religious; building on all the elements I mentioned above, from the Bible and the works of such men as Luther and Calvin.   What is even more important, he did not just talk the talk, but he walked the talk too. To all of this he also added in his own critical look at both the current state of affairs and recent history.

Williams was also the founder of Rhode Island, and he managed to convince King Charles to let him set it up along his principles as set out in The Bloody Tenet.  Rhode Island thus had the first government in which state and government were fully separated; a much more thorough separation than ours is today.  And this was well before a similar secular case was made for the separation of church and state.  Williams founded Rhode Island in 1636.  The Bloody Tenet was published in 1644.   John Locke, widely considered the chief proponent of the secular argument for the separation of church and state, was born in 1632.   In fact, John Locke was influenced by the religious arguments for the separation of church and state, either directly through Williams or indirectly through John Milton, who knew Williams and was much influenced by him.

Williams agreed with Augustine, Calvin, Luther and the others that the civil magistrate had no power and jurisdiction on matters of faith, belief and the church.  Where Williams disagreed with most of his fellow Christians though, is that he extended this to the church, parting company with them on the power of the church over individual beliefs, the power or the church to enforce doctrine and beliefs, and over the link between the state in supporting one religion over another.  He believed that the church, far from being an instrument of God was a creation of man, and thus flawed.    After all, there is plenty of Biblical support for this – view the Bible’s condemnation of the religious institutions of their times in both the Old and New Testament, how they all fall short – as well as historical support in the form of religious wars, religious persecution, and competing doctrines.

From an article on the Smithsonian site:   

Williams’ main purpose was to prove, “It is the will and command of God that, since the coming of his Sonne the Lord Jesus, a permission of the most Paganish, Jewish, Turkish, or Antichristian consciences and worships, bee granted to all men in all Nations and Countries.” Over hundreds of pages he lays out his case, expanding upon his view that the state will inevitably corrupt the church, rebutting Scriptural arguments for intolerance with Scriptural arguments for tolerance.

Then he countered the almost universally held view that governments received their authority from God, and that in the material world God favored those who were godly and punished those who were not. If it were that simple, then why did He subject Job to such an ordeal? And Williams noted that at that very moment in European conflicts, Catholics had “victory and dominion.” If “successe be the measure,” then the evidence proved that God had chosen Catholics over Protestants.

What caused Williams to make this next step was his understanding of his religion, both of the Bible and theology, and his critical examination of the world he lived in.   At that time religious wars and persecutions were common, and often bloody.   Williams had himself been persecuted for his beliefs, both in England and in America.  There were numerous varieties of Christianity, all claiming to be doing by Jan Luyken what God wills.   Given that this was not possible, then there was something wrong with the idea that the Church had been entrusted by God to keep men from straying.   Roger Williams identified that wrongness by use of standard Christian theology.   Man was a sinful and fallen creature living in a sinful and fallen world.   That means that all of the institutions he created, both secular AND religious would be flawed and imperfect.

Further, one could never be certain of anyone else’s salvation other than one’s own.   God and God alone is the final judge.  Given the flawed nature of man, no man is going to be correct all the time, and their judgment on another’s soul could well be in error.   Given this, then best to let that be between the individual and God.  He believed that only individuals could be redeemed, not nations, not institutions, but individuals.  So there was no such thing as a Christian nation or Christian school, only Christian individuals.

Taking this even further, if one could never be certain about the state of another person’s soul, and if all persons and all human institutions are flawed, then should any institution try to force another to believe against their conscience?   What if the Puritan church were wrong and had forced people for all of its years of existence to believe wrongly.   Now, all of those souls damnation was their fault.  Far better to let each person choose to believe as they wished, to relegate all conversion attempts to words only and not to government strictures and force; “The civil sword may make a nation of hypocrites and anti-Christians, but not one Christian”.   In fact, this extends not only to those professing to be Christian but to all of humanity.   Jew, Muslim, Catholic, Quaker, Atheist…. all.

I would like to point out that Roger Williams separation of church and state was even more absolute than that of John Locke’s.   Locke would have limited the freedoms of conscience for Catholics and atheists (although he did later back of outlawing atheism).   Williams allowed all of whatever faith or of none to enjoy full civil and personal liberties.

Further, building upon the thoughts of Augustine (that I had earlier briefly alluded to) and other theologians about human rights and the source of political power, “I infer that the sovereign, original, and foundation of civil power lies in the people.” The governments they establish, he wrote, “have no more power, nor for no longer time, than the civil power or people consenting and agreeing shall betrust them with.”

So, far from being a purely secular ideal, the separation of church and state came first from religious thought, with the goal of preserving the integrity of both the church and of the individual believer, and then influenced the secular thinkers to argue the same, but from the view of the benefits such an ideal provided to the state, and also the individual.

While it is easily understandable why secularists today might have forgotten this history, being focused on the secular, Enlightenment thinkers who directly influenced the men creating the first nation with separation of church and state and ignoring those who came before them; but it is truly a shame that so many Christians have forgotten this important part of history too.    The separation of church and state is one of those areas where there are both good religious and good secular reasons for not only maintaining, but jealously guarding.  It is an institution that protects both the state and the church and, most importantly of all, the individual.

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