God in Government?

jesus and citizenship
When a Political Party “Represents” God

As a former Evangelical/Pentecostal/Protestant Clergyperson I always find it strange when Christians say things like, “God was taken out of public schools” or “You secular humanists want to keep God out of government.”  What nonsense.

They seem to have an awfully teeny tiny small lower-case lord.

And, of course, the truth is, religion is still freely running all over the public square.

Makes my head shake and eyes roll uncontrollably.

Somehow this relates to an article I just read on the Americans United blog regarding the Founders and their view on who could serve in public office.  Linking this with my recent post on the states that ban non-believers from public office, I find this a nice balance:

Why the Founders Were Not Fans of Preacher-Politicians

“Revolutionary War-era constitutions in North Carolina, New York, Georgia, South Carolina, Delaware, Tennessee, Maryland and Kentucky banned members of the clergy from running for office, says Fea.

North Carolina’s 1776 Constitution says “that no clergyman, or preacher of the gospel of any denomination, shall be capable of being a member of either the Senate, House of Commons, or Council of State, while he continues in the exercise of the pastoral function.”

The New York Constitution of 1777 is similar. It states, “And whereas the ministers of the gospels are, by their profession, dedicated to the service of God and the care of souls, and ought not to be diverted from the great duties of their function; therefore, no minister of the gospel, or priest of any denomination whatsoever, shall, at any time hereafter, under any pretense of description whatever, be eligible to, or capable of holding, any civil or military office or place within this State.”

Ready for it?  Common sense secular citizens would never support these laws, just as common sense people of faith would not support banning non-believers from office.

Here’s the real question though:  If “God” is in government (whatever that means), which God would that be?  A follow-up:  What party does God represent?  And, lastly, doesn’t He/She have anything better to do in the Universe than mess around in the government of one nation on one blue grain of sand spinning in space?

Sounds to me we have a problem:  One God Under Nation. . .

My Address is a (Reflective) River

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Rivers are good for Reflection

A few years ago, while living in a one-room cabin in a forest on an island in Washington State, I cut a trail system through the woods during the day, and cut sentences on wood sheets (paper) by the woodstove at night.  Those trails of words became books, including Meditations of Margaret Fuller, Meditations of John Burroughs, Life After Faith and the book I’m probably most proud of–because it tells the stories of 25 years of “wilderness living” as a chaplain–My Address is a River.

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Post-theological studies, post-church and post-faith, I “got schooling” from people who live on the edges of communities, consciousness and real rivers, streams and canals.  For six years, I was an ad hoc chaplain in a private school for adults with disabilities.  Then, for ten years, I “did my time” in a County Jail as a very rich county’s very first Interfaith chaplain.  For another ten years, I “hit the streets” to bring another form of “compassion in action” to home-challenged urban refugees (“homeless”) as an Interfaith street chaplain.

Needless to say, I learned a few things!

If you read the seventy odd (Very Odd) stories in My Address is a River, I can almost guarantee you’ll walk away with a smile, a tear, and a whole lot of wondering–wondering about all the wandering we all do, until we find someplace to call “home”–a place to belong.

A funny story about the making of the book:  when I submitted the photo above to the publisher, an email came right back:  “The photo is upside down.  Could you please send a corrected image.”

I laughed at that one! (the photo was taken by the Russian River in Sonoma County, CA)

You see, it’s really all about Reflection. . .and then, maybe, really, hopefully doing something hopeful, creative, meaningful!

I still go to the rivers, as much as I can.  There’s always something to get me thinking. . .or simply remind me to let the thoughts drift away. . .

 

Nature. . .or Nature’s God?

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The creative and destructive power of Nature

Terrible tragedy in Louisiana.  Historic floods.  Thousands displaced.  Awful human tragedy.

Disasters can bring people of all kinds together. . .and, sometimes not.

For example, take this story of Tony Perkins, President of the extremist Family Research Council.

The house of a man who has claimed natural disasters were sent by God as a message to punish members of the LGBT community has been flooded by 10-foot waters in Louisiana during the worst natural disaster since 2012.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council lobbying organization, told guest host Ken Klukowski on his Watch Washington Live podcast Aug. 8 his family had to vacate their house by canoe due to flooding.
“This is a flood of, I would have to say, biblical proportions,” Perkins said, adding water flooded his family’s house and cars. “We had about 10 feet of water at the end of our driveway.”

[Perkins said], “Is God trying to sending us a message?”

Nature is no “respecter of persons.”

Maybe there’s a “message” in this. . .

But probably NOT what Mr. Perkins would care to consider.

 

All Nature Breathes

Humboldt
Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1759)

I am not a Pantheist. . .or a Theist of any kind. . .but I find enjoyment in these almost spiritual passages in early scientists like Humboldt, Darwin, Muir and others, down to Sagan and Hawking in our day.

Students in the class on Freethinkers I taught last Spring gave me Andrea Wulf’s book on the explorer Alexander von Humboldt (The Invention of Nature).  I highly recommend it.  I knew he was an important naturalist and scientist, one who inspired Darwin, Muir and many more, but Wulf has introduced a central figure in naturalism whose shadow remains extensive. Wulf quotes this amazing description from his Personal Narrative (1814-1829), when he was in South America, that reveals this great student of the cosmos as an intimate participant-observer in Nature:

“How vivid is the impression produced by the calm of nature, at noon, in these burning climates! The beasts of the forests retire to the thickets; the birds hide themselves beneath the foliage of the trees, or in the crevices of the rocks. Yet, amidst this apparent silence, when we lend an attentive ear to the most feeble sounds transmitted through the air, we hear a dull vibration, a continual murmur, a hum of insects, filling, if we may use the expression, all the lower strata of the air. Nothing is better fitted to make man feel the extent and power of organic life. Myriads of insects creep upon the soil, and flutter round the plants parched by the heat of the sun. A confused noise issues from every bush, from the decayed trunks of trees, from the clefts of the rocks, and from the ground undermined by lizards, millepedes, and cecilias. These are so many voices proclaiming to us that all nature breathes; and that, under a thousand different forms, life is diffused throughout the cracked and dusty soil, as well as in the bosom of the waters, and in the air that circulates around us.”

I’ve now added Mr. Humboldt to the Hall of Freethinkers to listen more closely to–as I listen for those “breathing voices” of the natural world.

E Natura Unum

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In Nature We Trust?

My wife and I drove the Blue Ridge Parkway yesterday and hiked gorgeous green trails down to some amazing waterfalls (photo:  Crabtree Falls).  At each tumbling falls, we stood with people of different ethnicities, nationalities, ages, sizes, abilities and, no doubt, religious beliefs.  Did it matter at all?  Of course not.  Nature was the most glorious thing on anyone’s mind.  A young man passed us with a t-shirt that said, “Jesus,” but all he wanted to preach is how beautiful it was at the falls.

Leaving the parkway, we stopped for dinner in a rather depressed little town with a bit of charm here and there.  After dinner we walked the main street and saw this on the City Hall/Courthouse:

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“In God We Trust”

You know you’re surrounded and squeezed by the big leather bible belt when you see this prominent “preaching” of the so-called “National Motto.”

It made me think more (always a good thing, right?).  I remembered this divisive “motto” was added in the 1950’s when everyone was scared of the Godless coming to steal America’s God, or something.  The holy mantra was even added to The Pledge which only made us more Divisible rather than “One Nation Indivisible.”

The Department of Treasury has a little reminder for us,

“[A theme for the US Department of Treasury is] E Pluribus Unum – Out of many, one. Just as the 13 colonies came together to form our Union, the many Treasury departmental offices and bureaus operate in unity to serve the American people.

The Latin phrase E Pluribus Unum is found in the Journals of the Continental Congress, June 20, 1782, where it was used to describe the Great Seal adopted that day. From the Great Seal’s earliest depiction, E Pluribus Unum has appeared on coins since 1795 and has graced the back of $1 notes since 1935. The phrase has been required on all U.S. coinage by law since February 12, 1873.”

It would mean much more, and be more historically accurate, to put E Pluribus Unum over public doorways.  That sure seems better than “making a God statement” that just happens to make non-theists (and many non-Christians) feel like second class citizens.

Personally, I prefer “In Nature We Trust.”  But that’s because I also like “One Nation (World) Under Nature.”


btw:  the “godly” courthouse pictured is in a county where, according to Americans United, ALL magistrates are refusing to follow the law and perform same-sex marriages.  Free to believe (in discrimination) and uphold (God’s) law.

Lie for a Lie, Truth for a Truth

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Believe My Bubbles?

I was raised to tell the truth. . .and if I didn’t, or I “sassed back” at my mom, I’d get my mouth washed out with soap!  Thankfully, that didn’t happen much.  I learned my lesson pretty early and pretty fast!  I don’t like the taste of soap.

Don’t you wish there was some soap around for a few of our public leaders sometimes?

Sure seems people are getting caught in fibs, flubs, stumbles and slips a lot these days–even outright, who-cares-if-I-lie kind of “Un-truths.”

Just listen to our presidential candidates–and those who take sides and jabber about them.

Not sure how long I would last having my Every Word grabbed by the Gotcha Squads constantly on the prowl for a Big Lie.  But, I think I might watch my mouth–so it wouldn’t get Washed Out with Soap.

So, is it Lying Hillary or Trumping it Up Trump?

Kristof of the Times lays it out fairly clear. . .and it ain’t pretty (esp. for Mr. Trumpery):

Clinton’s Fibs vs. Trumps Huge Lies

Who do YOU think blows the most bubbles?

Wish my mother was here!

Wilderness at the Door

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It wasn’t easy to leave California where I lived for half of my life.  We always felt we were living in the middle of a big park.

But our new state–North Carolina–is sending quite a parade of wildness to greet us!

Black bears wandering across the patio (one with 3 cubs); black rat snakes in the trees (THAT was a surprise); turkeys and rabbits and box turtles running around (turtles not running so much); and an endless variety of songbirds with feathers and songs I’ve never seen or heard.

Not to mention the WILD thunderstorms, summer rains and the incredible variety of colorful flowers.

I’ve lived in Three Amazing Green States (when there isn’t a drought)!

And. . .as I write. . .it’s raining again. . .on August 2. . .stronger than I remember seeing even in wet and soggy Washington–the Evergreen State!

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Greening Rains of August

To paraphrase John Burroughs, wait long enough and Nature will come to your door!

Those Who Speak for God

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What do you hear?

Let me tell you what God–aka, the Almighty Lord of the Universe–is thinking and feeling.  Here’s what “He” (maybe She) has to say to YOU. . .

Well, do you believe me so far?   Are you waiting to hang on each word from my mouth as coming directly from the mouth and mind of the Creator?

I doubt it.

And that hurts!

Why wouldn’t you believe that I can speak for God because I tell you I am intimately familiar with God’s mind and heart?

{after all, I have a Master of Divinity degree from a respected theological school, studied the Bible–and other “Holy Books”–for many years, and served in ministry for a long time}

Believe me!

You don’t?  You don’t hear the Voice of the Spirit in my voice?

Damn you!  I mean, Bless you!

Ok, I’ll get to my point here. . .

Billions are listening every day to millions of their fellow humans, believing those “special and chosen” few speak for the Great One Who Can’t Speak for Him/Herself.

Today I read the expected “advice” from evangelist Billy Graham (whose “My Answer” column appears daily in the local paper, right under the comics, across from the horoscope!).  He “answered” a child’s question, “Where did God come from?”  Such an easy answer for Billy.

“The Bible says. . .”

Great.  I’ll bet THAT satisfies the kid.

Then, a few pages later I read these words from God’s Vicar on Earth, Pope Francis, telling people in Poland:  “Trust the memory of God:  His memory is not a hard disk that saves and archives all our data, but a heart filled with tender compassion.”

Nice.

Thank you.  Good to know there is someone who regularly checks God’s Memory Skills.

Isn’t it comforting and reassuring to know we have so many who “know the mind of God”?

We hear it from pulpits and altars, from churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and meeting houses across the planet, day after day, week after week.

Here’s what I think (No, not what God thinks):  People hear what they wish to hear and believe what they really want to believe, from just about anyone who convinces them they have a direct line because they are Special.  Preachers and popes think they know more than “ordinary” and “common” folk, when they don’t, but people look to them, and listen, and believe.

You know what I think?

Nature, including our own natural reason and common sense, is all the “Voice” we need.

Don’t believe me.  No, seriously, don’t you DARE believe me.

Go and listen for yourself.

Maybe there’s no “voice” at all. . .just the sounds and the silence in the great open sanctuary where “scriptures” can be freely read by all.  No mediators necessary.