Freedom v. Religion?

Freedom v. Religion?

Freedom From ReligionThis blog continues a discussion started in my last blog and ties it in with my opinion that the United States risks turning a founding principle – freedom of religion – into freedom from religion.

Religious Freedom is a primary source of the unparallelled ascendancy of the US and of its influence in human affairs. Many seek to exercise this freedom in an effort to align the nation with the Will of God as expressed in the Bible. This anchors one side of the so-called “Culture War” which has been emerging for 150 years, and which in recent decades has given birth to the red/blue state divide.

Obergefell v. HodgesThe rainbow symbolizes two extremes. One side invokes Noah’s flood as described in Genesis 6:5: “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” In the wake of the US Supreme Court’s (SCOTUS) decision in Obergefell v. Hodges on same-sex marriage the President turned the White House into a rainbow.  Storm clouds are gathering over an epic battle for religious freedom.

Mormon Polygamists in PrisonBack in 1878 SCOTUS ruled in Reynolds vs. the United States that you can hold a religious belief in polygamy, but you can’t act on it. Why are polygamists jailed while same-sex couples are protected? What kinds of impulses qualify as those which can be acted upon, vs. those which can’t? Are there other cases which shed light on these questions?

Hobby Lobby ObamacareIn Burwell v. Hobby Lobby SCOTUS ruled that Hobby Lobby can ignore “Obamacare’s” birth-control mandate for religious reasons. “Americans do not lose their religious freedom when they run a family business” they said. A Huffington Post article assures conservatives nothing has changed.

Gay Wedding RingsThis rings hollow. An Oregon court fined Aaron and Melissa Klein $135,000 for refusing to bake a lesbian wedding cake. Is Sweet Cakes different than Hobby Lobby? Yes, because one was about an offering to all employees, the other about discriminating against certain customers. And Sweet Cakes’ owners acted foolishly and punitively, while Hobby Lobby can be said to have acted wisely, with restraint. Still, to determine the Sweet Cakes fine an employee discrimination case, in which one would expect higher fines, was used.  And some believe “militant gays” are using the new state and federal rulings to target a different minority – Christians with anti same-sex beliefs. The outcome of  Masterpiece Cake Shop v. Craig (Denver, CO) may shed light or throw fuel on the fire.

To help reflect on this I randomly picked a Virtues Card and came up with Hope – “looking to the future with trust and faith”. Interestingly, the card features the rainbow. Coincidence?

Noah's Covenant and Gay PrideI don’t believe in coincidence and I believe America’s roots tap into divine soil. She plays a pivotal role in the Creator’s purpose and I have faith she will continue to do so. The card says “The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance, but live right in it, under its roof.” This is one of the reasons I chose to tackle this thorny and potentially divisive topic in this blog. I have hope – and I hope that a discussion, a dialogue, will lead to answers, and peace, and reconciliation, and unity. After all, the motto on our great seal is “e pluribus unum”.

Mosaic Flag

 

Supporting the POTUS

Supporting the POTUS

ConstitutionIn a recent online discussion I voiced disagreement with the President of the United States (POTUS) and was reminded that since he is President of my country I must support him.

Yes, the POTUS is the President. But the US Constitution is built upon the separation of Powers – between the President, the Congress, and the Judicial system (the Law).

separation of powersThe President had Congress behind him, in an almost unprecedented way, upon his election 6 years ago. Under his leadership his party has lost “control” of congress, and he is now acting in opposition to Congress. This is one reason Congress invited Netanyahu to speak, to provide a counterpoint to negotiations the President is conducting which specifically do not have the support of a majority of the American population, which many, myself included, deem wrongheaded and reckless, and which endanger the security of America and the world. In the American democracy we have not only the right, but the obligation, to make these views known, in an effort to influence and moderate the President’s decisions.

Further, the global Nuclear Non-proliferation treaty is a legal document.

The President does NOT have the authority to unilaterally change that treaty, which (if the reports are accurate) he is undermining in his negotiations with Iran at this point in time. If he then proceeds to execute an agreement with Iran without congressional approval, he will be acting in violation of the law, and will serve to further destabilize the world which was made a safer place through the execution of that Non-proliferation treaty.

Already other nations are positioning themselves for the new “treaty-violated” world Obama is creating. Exhibit A is the agreement the Saudi’s reached with North Korea.

Thus, while my discussion partner made a valid point, it is pointless. I fully support the President of the US, so long as the President is acting within the constitutional rights we elected him to exercise and also uphold. To the degree he is acting outside those rights, or violating them, we need to support the Congress and the Judicial branch even if it means opposing the President.

That is the nature of the balance of powers which is what, even more than presidential leadership, has made this country great.

Nuclear NonproliferationObama betrayed that trust when he failed to take meaningful action to protect the sovereignty of Ukraine against the Russian aggression in Crimea, and he is apparently proceeding with a disastrous deal with Iran. I am very, very far from being a hawk. I think war is atrocious, and I do not wish to send American’s overseas to fight wars.

But I am also a student of history and geopolitics. As such, I know for an undeniable fact, that when we pursue the path of appeasement so infamously pursued by Chamberlain, vs. the path of opposition so famously advocated by Churchill, the result is more war, death, destruction and chaos, not less.

Unfortunately it has become very clear in the last 4 years that Obama is pursuing a path worse than that taken by Chamberlain. Obama is not only appeasing aggressor states, he is advocating for the expansion of their influence, power and even military capabilities, in the case of both Russia, which his “reset” and more importantly, the entire Muslim world, beginning with his support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which pushed that country towards the brink of chaos, from which it thankfully recovered, from his failure to adhere to his own “red line” in Syria, in favor of letting Russia’s role increase, his withdrawal from Iraq, leading to the rise of Isis, and now his overt efforts to empower, embolden and even encourage Iran to continue it’s aggressive regional expansion.

The story of The Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly comes to mind. We’re about to start choking on the Iranian horse intended to catch the ISIS cow we allowed by ignoring the Syrian dog when we swallowed the cat of withdrawing from Iraq.

The thinking that got us here einsteinDespite the president’s ludicrous claim, just a few months ago, that the world was a safer place, anyone who is able to assess the world objectively understands that nothing could be further from the truth.

Interestingly, the Virtue Card randomly chosen to conclude this blog was Initiative. Here are some of the quotes from the card: “Initiative is originality and creativity in action. When we have initiative we boldly express new ideas, discover a new method, or find a different way to solve a problem.”

We can fix this, America, but given how far we’ve strayed it’s not going to be easy. The time to take initiative is now.

The Mastermind

The Mastermind

The MastermindTurkish leaders have produced an Anti-Semitic movie called “The Mastermind”, which resurrects the old lie about Jewish domination of the planet. What can I say about such a topic that hasn’t already been said? Not much.

So I’ll just give voice to my opinion that there is a Mastermind – a divine Being who holds the whole world in His hand – and has foretold the future of mankind, and its segments, such as the Jews and the Muslims and the Christians, and the Nations that have formed around and out of these major religions.

Buchenwald

Was Buchenwald part of the Jewish masterplan?

So while the new movie “The Mastermind” tells one version of the story, here is, in my view, a snapshot of why that story seems credible to one set of religious fanatics. The verses below are not the evil master plan of world domination, written and followed by those tiny tribes known as The Jews and the minor regional player known then, and now, as Israel. History shows us that they were decimated by the Holocaust and that the world threw the handful of survivors, barely clinging to life, onto the destitute shores of the postage-stamp-sized piece of desert real-estate they have claimed as their homeland.

Yes, they have worked hard to build a nation for their tiny sliver of mankind on that tiny sliver of land. But now, as it has been throughout their history, they look to God to grant them what He wishes them to have, rather than take it by conquest. Those whom Psalm 2 calls “The Heathen” would do well to recognize and honor this version of the story.

Psalm 2 – King James Version: Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.

bytdvd house of david City of David Commons

Biblical Zion – the City of David. Per Turkey a building block of the Mastermind’s evil plan

I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.

Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

The random Virtue card I pulled to close out this blog with was Purposefulness.  Honestly. Seriously. After fully drafting the above. As is the case with Psalm 2, and its fulfillment in broad daylight today – you simply can’t make this stuff up.

“Purposefulness is being aware that each of us is here for a reason. We value our lives by discovering the part we are uniquely meant to play. We discern our intention and focus on it mindfully”.

Amen.Celestial Signs of the Covenants

Shabbat Nowruz

Shabbat Nowruz

Shabbat Shalom / Happy Nowruz

Nowruz Nah RuzNowruz is the new year celebration for Iranians which comes on the Spring Equinox – which is today. It is a time for joy, hope, celebration, presents. President Obama called out “Happy Nowruz” yesterday, as this day arrived in the region formerly known as Persia, due to the Earth reaching that designated place in its orbit around the sun. This day is also significant to the Zoroastrian Faith, The Baha’i Faith, and others.

Lunar Eclipse 2015 / Blood MoonToday also, however, happens to be the first Jewish Sabbath after the recent elections in Israel. And it comes during a cycle of Blood Moons that many believe have historic prophetic significance. In other words, this day is at the center of a swirl of real-world and symbolic happenings. Let’s take stock of the situation

Israel faces greater uncertainty in the region, including the fear that the $5B in funds to rebuild Gaza, and the efforts of Abbas at the UN continue to pose an existential threat to the Jewish state. The Middle East Forum recently published an excellent summary of this – a balanced representation of the challenges facing the new government in Israel. Obama and IranHere in America the President and other elected representatives are at odds over what is to be done in the region as he pursue negotiations with Iran that many feel will lead to disaster. One reason this seems to be a valid concern is related to the New Year beginning now in Iran. Their New Year holiday coincides with that of the Baha’i Naw-Rúz, and they are a sizable religious minority in Iran, to which I happen to belong. And yet Iran has a long history of persecuting the Baha’is – including murder, terror, torture and incarceration. This does not bode well for the future of mankind.

Thankfully, there is a God in heaven who will see to it that His Will is ultimately fulfilled.

The random virtues card I drew was cooperation. “Working together for the good of all… the willingness to stand side by side and use the different gifts each of us has to offer.” Though force can protect in emergency, only justice, fairness, consideration and cooperation can finally lead men to the dawn of eternal peace.” General Dwight David Eisenhower, 34th President of the U.S.A.

Amen.

Dwight D. Eisenhower EisenhauerFrom the linked article above “The Eisenhauer (German for “iron hewer/miner”) family migrated from Karlsbrunn, Germany, to North America, first settling in York, Pennsylvania, in 1741, and in the 1880s moving to Kansas. Accounts vary as to how and when the German name Eisenhauer was anglicized to Eisenhower.”

Two thoughts come to mind. Christ was to return with a Rod of Iron, to set up 1,000 years of peace. And and “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks:” which would require an Eisenhauer.

Netanyahu has been referred to as a modern Churchill, who also comes to my mind in this context, but I had not thought to compare him to Eisenhower, who served in WWI and was the supreme allied commander in WWII. It was the US entry in WWII that ultimately saved what was left of the Jewish population in Europe and elsewhere, enabling the establishment, in 1948, of the Jewish state, which collected the desperate and dying remnant of the people still clinging to the Covenant of Moses.Juif

There is much in the news about Netanyahu’s approach to cooperation, and a two-state solution. The controversy is related to whether more pressure should be put on Israel or its enemies to cooperate. Many feel that a certain minimal standard of cooperation needs to be applied to both parties, rather than the path taken by my heritage-nation, Sweden for there to be more cooperation by the Israeli’s.

Beat their Swords into PlowsharesThese are important topics, because, to reverse the Iron hewer’s quote,  only justice, fairness, consideration and cooperation can prevent the need for force, as men look towards the dawn of eternal peace.