On the Origin of Rights

Courtesy: kathleenallisonopinion.blogspot.com

Via Breitbart: In a rather contentious interview between CNN’s Chris Cuomo and Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore over the debate on gay marriage in America, the following was said:

MOORE: I believe that’s a matter of law because our rights contained in the Bill of Rights do not come from the Constitution, they come from God. It’s clearly stated –

CUOMO: Our laws do not come from God, your honor, and you know that. They come from man.

MOORE: Let me ask you one question. Let me ask you one question, Chris. Is the Declaration of Independence law?

CUOMO: You would call it organic law as a basis for future laws off of it?

MOORE: I would call it the organic law because the United States code calls it organic law. It is organic law because the law of this country calls it the organic law of the country means where our rights come from. And if they come from there, men can’t take it away.

CUOMO: Our rights do not come from God. That’s your faith. That’s my faith, but not our country. Our laws come from the collective agreement and compromise.

MOORE: It’s not a matter of faith, sir. It’s a matter of organic law, which states, ‘We hold these truths to be held equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ And the only role of government is stated in the next sentence is to secure those rights for us. The government starts taking those rights away from us, then it’s not securing and it is defiling the whole purpose of government.

Suspending the discussion over gay marriage, Mr. Cuomo is in desperate need of a lesson in civics and culture of the American variety.

The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence reads thusly:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.— That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…

We as Americans take these words (as well as the rest of our founding documents and rich history) so seriously that the Declaration, per se, has had its own history of safekeeping (as also implied by the lead amateur photo on this post).

No matter the subject, if we do not agree that American law has its basis in unalienable rights that come from God, then we do not understand the American experiment.

In fact, while some might argue that one cannot legislate morality, it is my view that America has already done so. In fact, to call something by law either right or wrong is, by definition, legislating morality; the question at that point is only whose morality is one codifying.

So, if a reporter or news anchor proceeds to vehemently defend their premise that our rights don’t originate in God, I don’t see how such an individual can be taken seriously on the subject of discussing American jurisprudence.

The real genius of the American Constitution is that while its basis is in the presumption of a Creator (an implication of personality, versus simply a god) who universally creates humanity with individual rights from whom it would be immoral to deny such rights, such a moral government has the duty and obligation to be the disinterested third party arbitrating individual disputes in such a way as to not disenfranchise individuals of their belief system nor each other, and that even such a government is beholden to the individual. This, by the way, is protection for the ultimate minority — that of the individual.

Any such discussion of rights, power and authority having to do with the American system of government must presume a basis in a moral lawgiver, otherwise there is no objective, transcendant frame of reference for moral conduct.

Scarily enough, going even further in this fundamental discussion, dare we say that such inalienable rights are not exclusively American?

In the end, the state of the Union comes down to the character of the people. I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there. In the fertile fields and boundless prairies, and it was not there. In her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits, aflame with righteousness, did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.

– (possibly) Alexis de Tocqueville

Fundamentalism versus Evangelicalism — There is a Difference

Courtesy: MudPreacher.org

Today, President Obama stated, in part, the following regarding religion:

“Unless we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ,” Obama said.

Also, in the same posting:

“We see ISIL, a brutal vicious death cult that in the name of religion carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism,” he said criticizing them for “claiming the mantle of religious authority for such actions.”

Earlier, Pope Francis stated the following commentary:

“What I would like to be clear on is one thing, I am convinced that the persecution against Christians today is stronger than in the first centuries of the Church,” the pontiff added. “Today there are more Christian martyrs than in that period. And, it’s not because of fantasy, it’s because of the numbers.” …

Asked about violence in the name of God in the Middle East, Francis called the phenomenon “a contradiction.”

“Violence in the name of God does not correspond with our time,” he said. “It’s something ancient. With historical perspective, one has to say that Christians, at times, have practiced it. When I think of the Thirty Years War, there was violence in the name of God. Today it is unimaginable, right? We arrive, sometimes, by way of religion to very serious, very grave contradictions. Fundamentalism, for example. The three religions, we have our fundamentalist groups, small in relation to all the rest.”

In relation to the French Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks:

“Religious fundamentalism, even before it eliminates human beings by perpetrating horrendous killings, eliminates God himself, turning him into a mere ideological pretext,” the 78-year-old pontiff said in an annual address to foreign diplomats accredited to the Vatican.

“Losing their freedom, people become enslaved, whether to the latest fads, or to power, money, or even deviant forms of religion,” he said in his State of the World speech. …

The Pope blamed “the spread of fundamentalist terrorism in Syria and in Iraq” for much of the violence tearing apart the Middle East, saying that it had “chilling repercussions” such as the massacre of civilians and the persecution of Christians and other minorities.

He appealed to the international community to act on behalf of the minorities being hounded by Isil.

“A Middle East without Christians would be a marred and mutilated Middle East,” he said

I quote all the above as a reasonably good setup to discuss what I think is an exceptionally important topic — certainly within the Church — that our leaders are bandying about… without (in my opinion) proper context.

The topic is fundamentalism versus evangelicalism. I’ve framed the topic in the immediate context in terms of “versus” because I believe that the actual practice of these theological theories results in completely different consequences.

I had heard the Pope’s comments on fundamentalism prior to my taking a biblical studies course in Church History at my local church and knew — based on the syllabus provided — that we were going to discuss this very issue. The professor kindly re-forwarded me the PowerPoints that he used during our on-site time so that I could use them as the basis for this posting.

Let me first start out by saying that I’m a Christian (as defined by the Apostle’s Creed) who is also officially a member of the Wesleyan Church. The denomination isn’t supposed to mean much except to give the casual observer some personal context from which I’m opining. And this posting is certainly my opinion and isn’t meant to officially represent anyone else — unless you agree!

Let me also state that my journey in the faith had started from a staunchly fundamentalist viewpoint and has gradually (in practical terms) drifted in perspective towards my becoming an evangelical.

So! Enough of the setup; let’s get to the heart of the matter.

First, fundamentalism and then evangelicalism arose out of a response to liberalism, which itself was an attempt to deal with the Enlightenment’s criticisms of Protestant Christianity.

Using very general notes to describe what’s otherwise worthy of hours of discussion (that’s why it’s neat to get a general, accredited continuing education from seminarian professors!), here’s an overview of theological Liberalism:

  • Religion is not a set of beliefs
  • Religion arises out of a deep feeling in the soul
  • It is a feeling of absolute dependence on God
  • To be spiritual is to live constantly with “God consciousness”

Friedrich Schleiermacher, “On Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers”

Another general description:

  • The “gospel of Jesus” is his moral teaching, not his saving work on the cross
  • The gospel of Jesus defined:
    • God is our heavenly father
    • Every individual is of great value
    • The kingdom of God is coming on earth
  • We may disregard miracles and supernatural stories to find truth in Jesus’ moral teachings

Adolph Harnack, “The Essence of Christianity”

On the face of it, the above can show where the proverbial pendulum attempts to swing seemingly away even from orthodox (meaning apostolic) doctrines, much less any sort of denominational-specific beliefs in an attempt for theologians to help the Church figure out how best to deal with cultural influences.

Next, enter Fundamentalism in reaction. Generally speaking, a fundamentalist is defined as one who is a born-again believer who defines Christianity in terms of certain absolute truths found in the inerrant Scriptures. Such an individual is also likely to be a strict Dispensationalist.

Sounds pretty good, right? Well, even the swing “back” can get a little wobbly. As my Church History professor noted:

Am I a Fundamentalist?

Yes, if the following are true:

  • We believe that absolute truth exists
  • We believe in the authority of scripture
  • We believe that salvation comes in a new birth through faith in the atoning work of Christ
  • There are non-negotiable doctrines (i.e.: dogma)

No, if the following are true:

  • Scripture must be taken literally wherever possible (thereby ignoring literary context in many places)
  • That anyone who disagrees with our understanding of doctrine is “liberal” (maybe even within one’s own denomination/church…?)
  • That history is headed in an inevitable downhill slide (wait — doesn’t the Church actually win in the end…?)
  • That one must subscribe to a particular political/social view on all issues (There are no Democrats nor Republicans in heaven, nor are there capitalists nor communists — the Church is one in Christ!)

OK — then what is Evangelicalism? Here are its basic tenants:

  • Necessity of a personal relationship with Christ through new birth (born-again Christians)
  • Authority and primacy of scripture on all matters of faith (doctrine) and practice (moral conduct)
  • Obedience to the Great Commission by sharing the gospel with unbelievers

How is the above practiced in juxtaposition with Fundamentalism?

  • Christian unity without organizational union (We can belong to different denominations but still be friends)
  • Outreach to the world without compromise or accommodation (In the world, not of it)
  • Moral absolutes without legalistic behavior (If you have a tattoo, I might not like it, but you’re more than welcome in my church and I can get over myself)
  • Social concern, but not social gospel (Shouldn’t the Church ideally ultimately replace governmental welfare?)
  • Faith and learning can be combined (Society prefers virtuous citizens over savage brutes any day)

More specifically, the Fundamentalist might also have issues with using anything but one translation of the Bible, certain styles of worship music, or perhaps even a given methodology of baptism or Communion, except and only what such an individual is used to, without question.

In other words, the true Fundamentalist is stuck in a rut, and no amount of education, spiritual enlightenment or anything else will move he or she. Unfortunately, this also means that they have a harder time forming relationships with anyone outside of their dogmatic persuasion, and may even look negatively on others and their beliefs.

This is why I am an Evangelical in terms of how my belief system is practiced. So, while I have no issues in believing (and having a small library of evidence to support) the Bible is God’s inspired word, I also know that there are many versions of the Bible, and that I don’t hold a monopoly on every conceivable interpretation of it.

On the other hand, while Fundamentalists and Evangelicals may differ on internal denominational methodologies, they both agree that boundaries have to be formed regarding good and evil. The only real difference here is in how such a boundary is presented.

Given the above, I believe that what Pope Francis is speaking of is regarding those who take a hard stance against any sort of change. Taken to an extreme, the inability to view one’s belief system as something that cannot grow (because of being stuck in a perpetual rut) is a very dangerous position to be in, and yet we see this all the time.

Some examples:

  • One large congregation splits into two separate congregations — existing within a bike ride of each other — over a disagreement of a particular biblical passage
  • A particular congregation effectively turns themselves into a country club by only allowing people of a particular status in the community (or dissuading those who are considered undesirable) to darken the church’s doorway
  • Character assassination — gossiping about or otherwise tearing down others either within the congregation or outside of it

When reaching out to others, the real question to be asked is, “Would I want to be a part of my own local congregation if I were acting the way I act?”

Now, regarding what President Obama stated, while there’s lots of history behind what he’s talking about, it is true that there were Crusades sponsored by the Church, just as there were Inquisitions. These activities were certainly not the Church’s proudest moments and, I would strongly advise, must be viewed within the cultural context of a world where Church and State were essentially one and the same (not to mention this was the Church’s way of attempting to recover lands that were taken over by Muslims). This doesn’t make certain actions right, but our historical viewpoint clearly shows that the Church has greatly matured, in general, since that point.

Perhaps other religions could learn from the same lessons?

Whitestone’s “Blood on My Name” Featured Song on NBC’s The Blacklist

Courtesy: Whitestone Motion Pictures

In March, 2011, Whitestone Motion Pictures created a short film for 12Stone Church — it’s original birthplace — of the same name, Blood on My Name.

Last Sunday, immediately after the Super Bowl, the song was featured during an episode of NBC’s show, The Blacklist.

Here’s the love:

From the show’s creator and screenwriter, Jon Bokenkamp:

A re-tweet by actress Megan Boone:

Hulu happens to have a 4-minute clip that conveniently contains the song:

…and the actual song :)

We’re all very proud of the song’s coverage. Personally, it’s also humbling that one of Whitestone’s cinematographers, Dan Marrero (who happens to have quite the impressive portfolio of work in his own right), volunteers his time as a camera operator at 12Stone’s Central Campus; as one of the Church’s camera directors, I get to tell him what to do!

Convention of States Update: Virginia Latest State to Consider Article V Application

ConventionOfStates.com recently reported that Virginia is the latest State (of twenty) that is shortly considering an application for Article V application.

A number of high-profile individuals are pushing hard for passage, including talk radio host Mark Levin, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, and former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

This collective movement appears to be the product of last year’s Assembly of State Legislatures.

A Texas Goodbye to Navy Seal Chris Kyle

I received an email from some folks this morning (and officially found a link to FreeRepublic) about an absolutely amazing story of how Seal Team 3’s Chris Kyle was honored and laid to rest in Texas.

As of this blog posting, I have yet to see the movie, American Sniper, but I’ve known from the trailers that I’ve wanted to see it, and when many who disagree with what Special Operations does began to brow-beat Mr. Kyle’s name and reputation (and worse, what his family wanted to promulgate as his legacy), I knew that this movie would be a definite part of my own movie collection.

I’ve reprinted the contents of the story here under the auspices that whomever originally authored the comments stated that “it should be shared with as many as possible.

Chris Kyle was Derek’s teammate through 10 years of training and battle. They both suffer/suffered from PTSD to some extent and took great care of each other because of it.

2006 in Ramadi was horrible for young men that never had any more aggressive physical contact with another human than on a Texas football field.

They lost many friends. Chris became the armed services number #1 sniper of all time. Not something he was happy about, other than the fact that in so doing, he saved a lot of American lives.

Three years ago, his wife Taya asked him to leave the SEAL teams as he had a huge bounty on his head by Al Qaeda. He did and wrote the book “The American Sniper.” 100% of the proceeds from the book went to two of the SEAL families who had lost their sons in Iraq .

That was the kind of guy Chris was. He formed a company in Dallas to train military, police and I think firemen as far as protecting themselves in difficult situations. He also formed a foundation to work with military people suffering from PTSD. Chris was a giver not a taker.

He, along with a friend and neighbor, Chad Littlefield, were murdered trying to help a young man that had served six months in Iraq and claimed to have PTSD.

Now I need to tell you about all of the blessings.

Southwest Airlines flew in any SEAL and their family from any airport they flew into… free of charge.

The employees donated buddy passes and one lady worked for four days without much of a break to see that it happened.

Volunteers were at both airports in Dallas to drive them to the hotel.

The Marriott Hotel reduced their rates to $45 a night and cleared the hotel for only SEALs and family.

The Midlothian, TX, Police Department paid the $45 a night for each room. I would guess there were about 200 people staying at the hotel, 100 of them were SEALs. Two large buses were chartered (an unknown donor paid the bill) to transport people to the different events and they also had a few rental cars (donated). The police and secret service were on duty 24 hours during the stay at our hotel.

At the Kyle house, the Texas DPS parked a large motor home in front to block the view from reporters. It remained there the entire five days for the SEALs to congregate in and all to use the restroom so as not to have to go in the house. Taya, their two small children and both sets of parents were staying in the home.

Only a hand full of SEALs went into the home as they had different duties and meetings were held sometimes on an hourly basis. It was a huge coordination of many different events and security. Derek was assigned to be a Pall Bearer, to escort Chris’ body when it was transferred from the Midlothian Funeral Home to the Arlington Funeral Home, and to be with Taya. A tough job.

Taya seldom came out of her bedroom. The house was full with people from the church and other family members that would come each day to help. I spent one morning in a bedroom with Chris’ mom and the next morning with Chad Littlefield’s parents (the other man murdered with Chris). A tough job.

George W Bush and his wife Laura met and talked to everyone on the Seal Team one on one. They went behind closed doors with Taya for quite a while. They had prayer with us all. You can tell when people were sincere and caring.

Nolan Ryan sent his cooking team, a huge grill and lots of steaks, chicken and hamburgers. They set up in the front yard and fed people all day long including the 200 SEALs and their families. The next day a local BBQ restaurant set up a buffet in front of the house and fed all once again. Food was plentiful and all were taken care of. The family’s church kept those inside the house well fed.

Jerry Jones, the man everyone loves to hate, was a rock star. He made sure that we all were taken care of. His wife and he were just making sure everyone was taken care of….Class… He donated the use of Cowboy Stadium for the services as it was determined that so many wanted to attend.

The charter buses transported us to the stadium on Monday at 10:30 am. Every car, bus, motorcycle was searched with bomb dogs and police. I am not sure if kooks were making threats trying to make a name for themselves or if so many SEALs in one place was a security risk, I don’t know. We willingly obliged. No purses went into the stadium!

We were taken to The Legends room high up and a large buffet was available. That was for about 300 people. We were growing.

A Medal of Honor recipient was there, lots of secret service and police and Sarah Palin and her husband. She looked nice. This was a very formal military service.

The service started at 1:00 pm and when we were escorted onto the field I was shocked. We heard that about 10,000 people had come to attend also. They were seated in the stadium seats behind us. It was a beautiful and emotional service.

The Bagpipe and drum corps were wonderful and the Texas A&M men’s choir stood through the entire service and sang right at the end. We were all in tears.

Courtesy Stripes.com

The next day was the 200-mile procession from Midlothian, TX to Austin for burial. It was a cold, drizzly, windy day, but the people were out. We had dozens of police motorcycles riders, freedom riders, five chartered buses and lots of cars. You had to have a pass to be in the procession and still it was huge.

Two helicopters circled the procession with snipers sitting out the side door for protection. It was the longest funeral procession ever in the state of Texas. People were everywhere. The entire route was shut down ahead of us. The people were lined up on the side of the road the entire way. Firemen were down on one knee. Police officers were holding their hats over their hearts, children waving flags, veterans saluting as we went by.

Every bridge had fire trucks with large flags displayed from their tall ladders, people all along the entire 200 miles were standing in the cold weather. It was so heart-warming. Taya rode in the hearse with Chris’ body so Derek rode the route with us. I was so grateful to have that time with him.

The service was at Texas National Cemetery. Very few are buried there and you have to apply to get in. It is like people from the Civil War, Medal of Honor winners, a few from the Alamo and all the historical people of Texas. It was a nice service and the Freedom Riders surrounded the outside of the entire cemetery to keep the crazy church people from Kansas that protest at military funerals away from us.

Each SEAL put his Trident (metal SEAL badge) on the top of Chris’ casket, one at a time. A lot hit it in with one blow. Derek was the only one to take four taps to put his in and it was almost like he was caressing it as he did it. Another tearful moment.

After the service Governor Rick Perry and his wife, Anita, invited us to the governor’s mansion. She stood at the door, greeted each of us individually, and gave each of the SEALs a coin of Texas. She was a sincere, compassionate, and gracious hostess.

We were able to tour the ground floor and then went into the garden for beverages and BBQ. So many of the Seal team guys said that after they get out they are moving to Texas. They remarked that they had never felt so much love and hospitality. The charter buses then took the guys to the airport to catch their returning flights. Derek just now called and after a 20 hours flight he is back in his spot, in a dangerous land on the other side of the world, protecting America.

We just wanted to share with you, the events of a quite emotional, but blessed week.

Punch-line:

To this day, no one in the White House has ever acknowledged Chris Kyle!

However, the President can call some sport person and congratulate him on announcing to the world that he is gay??? What the hell is happening to our society, our honor and our pride??

Why Jonathan Gruber and Obamacare Matters

For those who either don’t know or are confused over a certain MIT economics professor Jonathan Gruber and his architectural association with Obamacare, LegalInsurrection.com has a great catch-all posting. Further, an organization called American Commitment has created a video montage of political and other responses to Mr. Gruber’s comments that have recently surfaced (by way of DailySignal.com):

While this makes a great setup for those of us who are against Obamacare, to be perfectly honest, anyone who has observe the process of how Obamacare actually became law had to have discerned a very large, rhetorical dead fish the size of 100 Jonah whales (!) being hoisted upon the American people. Therefore, while the above is interesting and makes great fodder for the talking heads, I think even the brightest of the talk show folks has missed the all-important question.

Why does it now matter — after a few years’ worth of hand-wringing over this law — that the law’s architect has been shown to be truthful about the bill? Why is it that the coverage over this issue is overwhelmingly and predominantly by cable channels, specifically those construed as right-wing, and not the alphabet soup of “mainstream” media (e.g.: NBC, CBS, ABC, etc.)?

To me, the answer is simple.

In spite of the fact that Mr. Gruber called the American people “stupid” (albeit — if you really listen to what he actually says — under the auspices that most Americans really don’t pay attention (at least they didn’t used to) to the proverbial sausage-making process that is legislative business), I think that if people saw this gentleman truly explain the intricacies of the law as it stands now, Washington, D.C. would likely see such a blow-back against the law that the 114th Congress could potentially have veto-proof majorities against the President if Congress decided to pass a total repeal and the President vetoed it.

And, frankly, I think that has a lot of politicos very nervous about the whole situation. Being brutally honest, I believe that both Democrats and Republicans have significant power to gain if they can stave off enough of the push-back against the law by keeping the majority of the law in place.

Not only this, but imagine if Obamacare can be significantly changed or even repealed — what does that say to the American people regarding other aspects of the federal government? It would say that yes, things can change.

Dems Caving to GOP-Backed Issues Already?

That didn’t take long.

With federal officials already lining up to take action on various issues (and with a majority of Americans now wanting to see the GOP govern), it could be the Keystone XL pipeline that rears its head first.

Why? Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) wants to show that she doesn’t always agree with the President.

Personally, I don’t care about the rationale, as long as the initiative gets its day in Congress.

Per reporter Jamie Dupree:

Elections always have consequences. And now things seem to be moving in the right direction.