Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What the Government Really Has to Say About the Church



To put it simply, "Nothing."  The First Amendment says this.
  • 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.
In other words, any law the government may make which limits the right of churches or individuals who may belong to a church to meet together, speak freely or print their opinion or even to complain to the government, is unconstitutional.

In other words.  The government may not meddle with the church and the church can do or say what it likes without interference.  This is highly troubling to many, given that the churches of the United States are given by the Constitution, great freedom and latitude to do their work, while the poor government may only stand by and wring its hands if the pastors of the nation say mean things about it.

This was a revolutionary idea in the world of the late 1700s/early 1800s given that most of the nations of the world had a government-sponsored church. The key feature of such a system was that only the approved church was encouraged and all others, if tolerated at all, were repressed. Because the state church depended on the state largess for it's continued existence, most state churches were well-behaved towards their political masters. The First Amendment was a revolutionary idea because most nations were governed by the nobility. Churches, as any king worth his salt knew, could be quite troublesome if allowed to call out the princes for their bad behavior. After all, the princes believed that because of all the hard work they did governing the ignorant masses, a little moral leeway should be allowed them. That's probably why the bit of my family tree that strays into the noble classes has so many branches that grow together at the top or were lopped off by less-deserving branches. The noble classes were naughty boys and girls.

At any rate, the churches, because of those pesky commandments, often felt compelled to speak out against the behavior of their liege lords. This problem with mouthy churchmen has a long history, going all the way back to Nero's problems with the Christians, Herod's dust up with John the Baptist, Ahab's troubles with Elijah and Saul's problems with Samuel. Churches are troublesome anyway a despot looks at it. They have a bad habit of pointing out sins. The Founding Fathers wanted to hamstring any potential American despot who might wish to silence the conscience of the nation. Religion had, after all, played a key role in the success of the American Revolution.

So the Constitution, after it's fashion, limits government's power to restrict the rights and privileges of the people.
Our founding documents tell the government what it cannot do and tells the churches their rights are protected along with the rights of other peaceful assemblies of the people. It also took the time to create a second protected moral voice by protecting the freedom of the press which also was supposed to act as a curb on power-mongering.

The First Amendment says that the government, therefore, cannot set up its own exclusive church, nor can it compel people to worship in that church. Nothing else is implied and any attempt to project any sort of government power over the exercise of faith by Americans is therefore, unconstitutional. Nowhere does it say the churches may not speak out on issues which concern it's moral imperatives or religious practices. And for 240 years, the churches have been pretty good about not using government to establish religious practice with occasional lapses, of course. A lengthy experiment with Sunday Blue Laws was finally brought to an end within my lifetime, brought on, in part, by the lobbying efforts of churches concerned that such laws did, in fact, violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

Churches have recently spoken out against efforts by government to legislate the acceptance of gay marriage, in particular by churches which find the practice in violation of their principles.
Churches have also spoken out against abortion, which most find to be nothing less than murder of a human being. Because the issue of when a fetus becomes human is something of a philosophical or theological argument, the government has rightly left the decision with regard to abortion in the hands of the individual mother. Other aspects such as father's rights or the establishment of some sort of mutually agreed upon limit to how late an abortion can be performed might find some wiggle room for government legislation, but, again, this is something we as a nation can debate and churches have every right to put their oars into that debate.

Recently, laws regarding public restrooms have been challenged by churches on the grounds that such laws violate the establishment law by imposing secular standards upon the practice of faith by church members. More blatantly, laws which gag pastors from speaking out about political issues against the threat of IRS stripping them of the nonprofit status granted all religious organizations. If you're a strict constitutionalist, IRS sanctions would definitely fall under the establishment clause.

Remember, the Constitution tells the government it cannot meddle with churches. The right of churches to state their opinion or to advise their members on public issues, on the other hand, is protected by the Constitution along with the rights of individuals as well (under the right to petition for redress of grievances clause).

Secular priesthoods are never kindly or benevolent. They are a tyranny
because they have no moral compass, nor any fear of God.
My own church has long fought for the principle of separation of church and state. How? By preaching about public issues like Blue Laws and religious discrimination, by lobbying, by printing a magazine on the subject and by raising funds to support lobbying efforts to protect religious liberty. At no time have we believed that separation meant that churches should be silent. You can call it "education" all you want, but what the religious liberty, pro-separation coalition is doing really is lobbying by the old definition. We just don't call it that anymore because the IRS gets all up in your business if a nonprofit lobbies the legislature. Apparently the IRS thinks lobbying has something to do with bribing politicians (and sadly, they may be right). 

There is a concerted effort going on right now to establish a new government-sponsored religion. This religion is being established by silencing and banning all other religions from any influence it might have with government. Therefore, by denying all other religions the right to petition for redress of grievances with the government, militant secularism establishes itself as the only government-approved belief system. No matter that secularism has every earmark of a religion. It has codes of conduct, fundamental beliefs and websites. It holds evangelistic meetings, sells books, and pamphlets. It has prophets and preachers. It proclaims loudly that God is dead and therefore must have no influence upon the government which must only recognize the tenets of secularism. Most of these tenets are rules of behavior and belief as ironclad as the ten commandments. And, it seems, the secularists are making up their tenets as they go, largely in the form of cultural laws and rules which gag preachers and hobble religious institutions from doing their work of influencing the culture for what they see as "good".

For an amendment with just 45 words total, the forces of secularism have certainly managed to wring a lot of meaning out of the establishment clause that doesn't appear to be present. Dylan Thomas once wrote, "Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light." I agree with the fiery Welshman as I watch the Christian church face enemies that would have its light extinguished. I do not believe we should go gently. As another great philosopher once said, "I'm tired of runnin'. I aim to misbehave."  I even bought the tee shirt.

I'm just saying,

© 2017 by Tom King

Sunday, February 5, 2017

If You Don't Have an Accent, You Ain't Speakin' English!

 
 
There's a meme going around about how the poster is an immigrant who is accepted because they are white and "don't have an accent". It's supposed to make us feel guilty about being white, of course because we "notice" people's accents if they are foreign or ethnic. Well, I'm here to tell you that if you don't have an accent, you ain't speakin' English. The truth is that everybody has an accident. Even TV broadcasters borrow their artificial accents from the American Midwest. Someone evidently decide that the people in the middle should be considered as having the average American language style. Now they teach this style of English at all the nice liberal journalism schools.

Sometimes I think God chose English for America's predominant language. After all, English is adept at absorbing the words of other nations and cultures and make them their own. Every language has words for things that other languages don't have. Unlike French which constantly obsessed with making itself pure, if English speakers see a word they like, they just steal it. English vocabulary is stuffed with words from everywhere in the world - thanks in large part to the fact that England was a sea-going empire and set up shop worldwide. Exposed to the local languages, the servants of the British Empire borrowed them at will - especially words for the various types of food they encountered.
 
All this word borrowing from impossible languages like Celtic, French, Latin and German, makes spelling English words a nightmare. Still, it also makes the language wonderfully adaptable.English speakers can say things that people have to spend paragraphs to say in other languages. There are probably a few foreign words it might take us a couple of sentences to translate, but that's only because we haven't borrowed them yet. Be certain we will. We may not have invented it, but schadenfreude (pleasure in the misery of others) has become a surprisingly popular sin in the English-speaking world.

I suspect that English has more and varied accents than any other language in the world. We're also a mobile race (and by race I mean a multi-cultured people united by a common language of sorts). We carry our speech patterns everywhere with us. Visit Newfoundland and you'll find a deep Irish culture. New York City has as many accents as it has boroughs. Television has spread the Valley Girl speech pattern into corners of every high school in the nation. It's become sort of the lingua franca of blondes. And as a Texan, most people can identify me by my speech, especially if I'm tired or have been talking to family members back home on the phone.
 
Our most recent presidents from FDR on, all had accents from New York, Missouri, Kansas, Massachusetts, Texas, California, Midwest, Georgia, TV broadcaster standard, Massachusetts, Arkansas, Texas, West Coast, and now New York standard. We don't notice the accent so much here because they come from all over. We simply assign the accent to the person the way we identify Obama's ears, Trump's hair and Hillary Clinton's dumpy wild-eyed hysteria.  Accents, at least in America, do not mark you the way they do in England or Germany. There is no high or low English. It's simply English and it always has an accent.

So anybody who doesn't have an accent is trying too hard to be something he or she can never be - an unaccented American. We all carry around in our voices, the echoes of our ancestry and our home. You know, I quite like it that way. It's very American.

© 2017 by Tom King

Friday, February 3, 2017

Religious Freedom is Slavery - Doublespeak Rears It's Ugly Head



There was a breathless piece in The Nation this week. claiming that a new executive order by Donald Trump would legalize discrimination and somehow grants religious freedom in too broad a fashion.
It claims the EO would make one specific religion exempt from obeying a wide range of federal laws. The draft order, they say, seeks to create wholesale exemptions for people and organizations who claim religious or moral objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion, and trans identity, and that it seeks to curtail women’s access to contraception and abortion through the Affordable Care Act.  


In other words, under Trump's Religious Freedom Executive Order, if, say, my church's pastor politely refuses to perform a gay marriage, then my church wouldn't lose its non-profit status. I kind of think this is a good thing after the scandals with IRS witch-hunts for Obama opponents lately. Some left wing pundits have even suggested that churches should be punished if pastors expressed any opinions about political issues at all.  This would be ironic in America, where the churches played a key role in driving the American Revolution during the dark days of our war with the British. Progressives who dream of the establishment of a proper progressive government love the idea of suppressing religion, free speech, assembly and anything else that might interfere with the great collective's work.
 

Trump's EO would likely save religious folks a lot of money on litigation defending themselves for not baking cakes and planning weddings. If, say, Hobby Lobby doesn't want to pay for abortions through its health insurance, then under the Trump EO, they would have a right to do so and not face crippling legal costs from constant lawfare. It sounds like the EO protects religious beliefs, rather, than threatens the right to hold religious beliefs as far too many of the Obama Era new regulations and EOs demanded. Under Trumps executive order all government departments would stop harrassing churches, forcing them to accept and believe in the current "cultural norms" as espoused by progressive liberals.  Hillary Clinton, during her campaign, hinted that this would have been expanded under her administration, stating that Christians would have to modify their beliefs somewhat under the new era of hope and change.





How is an executive order reinforcing the idea that you may not be forced to violate your religious beliefs a threat to religious freedom as some of my liberal friends suggest? Seems to me it reinforces the First Amendment's establishment clause rather than threatens it. It seems that what's been coming down from our insect overlords for the past few years has been more of a threat to religious liberty to me.


Democrats have for the past 8 years been steadily eroding religious freedom. Democrat politicians have been doing things like demanding copies of sermon notes (Democrat Houston Mayor) to check them for anti-gay marriage rhetoric) and threatening to remove nonprofit status from any churches where it is preached that homosexual or virtually any other sexual perversion or misbehavior is a sin. The left is wailing loudly about Trump's thwarting of their agenda to normalize adultery, homosexuality, transgenderism, and whatever other sort of Biblically forbidden behavior anyway. It's just one more complaint that their ideological march to the sea has been stalled.

It reminds me of George Orwell's classic "1984" (which I have been told that liberals are rediscovering lately).  In his book the fictional (very Soviet) totalitarian government had a whole agency that changed the definition of words so they meant the opposite of what they meant before.  War meant peace, slavery was freedom, ignorance is stregth and stuff like that. Sounds like the left has been reading that book for some time now and borrowed a few ideas.Newsflash guys:  That book was supposed to be a warning, not an instruction manual.

Every time I hear this kind of inverted virtue signaling and longing after progressivism's ideological vision for the future, I am reminded of Revelation. In Revelation 13:3, John said that the whole world "wondered after the Beast." It's kind of strange when protecting the beliefs of religions is considered threatening religious freedom - very like Orwellian doublespeak.

The Declaration of Independence says we are guaranteed life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as a God-given right. As long as a religion's beliefs don't threaten those things, the government has no claim to interfere. And it's funny how that same left doesn't mind overlooking a religious belief system that murders homosexuals, stones adulterers and rape victims and cuts the heads off nonbelievers and people who try to leave their religion, and believe that all others religions must submit to theirs, when it's time to decide who gets awarded tax-exempt status and who doesn't.

© 2017 by Tom King