The Bible Tells Me So

Old Bible Cover“Yes, Jesus loves me… The Bible tells me so!”

Perhaps you sang those words just now as you read them because they are indelibly engrained upon your soul from countless repetitions in your early childhood. (And maybe you still sing them regularly with your own kids.)

It’s a great song, and it’s true.

The Bible does tell me that Jesus loves me. In many different ways, through all of the books; this central message reverberates: the God who is made me and loves me and invites me to Life with him.

Sometimes it’s fascinating to me how differently we apparently see and interact with the Bible.

What is the Bible? Is it a reference manual for Christian living? Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth? Those things have definitely been said of this collection of ancient books.

Rather than a Owner’s Guide or User’s Manual, might it be a collection of stories God wanted to tell us … with him as the main character? Does God reveal who he is through the story that weaves its way through dozens of authors over many centuries, even millennia?

Stories seemed to be Jesus favorite vehicle for communicating the meaningful.

How about this one: Is it infallible? Does it ever claim to be? Does it need to be?

I mentioned in my post about heretical thinking earlier this week that sometimes I have even questioned the reasons for inclusion of certain books in the cannon of what we call Scripture. The Catholics have additional books of “Scripture”, as do the Latter-Day Saints. (Though there are certainly differences there as the Catholic apocrypha was from a similar era as the books that are accepted as inspired Scripture while the Book of Mormon and other additional books included by LDS believers are from a later point in history—at least their translation.)

Here’s the thing, though… how much of all that matters?

I have been reading through the Bible, cover-to-cover for a little over a year now. (The slow pace due partly to meandering through various other points in Scripture simultaneously, as well as, of course, many other books. There’s only so much time in a day, you know!) In this current journey through its pages I am reading many familiar verses and stories, as well as many I don’t think I have ever actually read. (Certainly not in their proper context.)

What strikes me the most is the story. Flowing through the entirety of Scripture are small stories and big stories, all telling a larger story.

God so loved the world that before anything ever existed, he knew you intimately, and orchestrated a grand plan to allow us to realize his boundless love for all of mankind—and each individual Image Bearer—and to restore a friendship with him that we didn’t even know was irreparably damaged. (Irreparable from our vantage point.)

Story after story reveals the struggle between we of free will and limited knowledge, understanding, and vision … and he of limitless patience, kindness, mercy—our Father, who dearly loves his children. And we who only barely understand Love, struggle to understand Him—for He is Love.

I am re-learning that Scripture really can not be seen as a giant reference guide of proof texts. And it’s certainly not a how-to manual for bringing judgment upon the world, or even upon yourself.

Nor is it to be venerated or worshipped. It’s a book. (A library, might be more accurate.)

Anything we set up between us and our Creator (including the Bible, “Christian” discipline, and even “church” activities and involvement) can become an idol that ends up keeping us from the full life God intends for us when our eyes (and hearts) are fixed on him.

And one thing I have learned from this tour through the Old Testament: God does not like idolatry!

So we will take verses like:

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.—2 Timothy 3:16

Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.—2 Peter 1:20-21

And we say that these prove that the Bible is infallible. But do they? Paul is reminding Timothy, his student/disciple that Scripture is useful; I certainly agree there, don’t you? And Peter says that prophets were inspired by God. Again, no argument there.

But I’m not sure God himself (nor the pages of Scripture) claim infallibility nor inerrancy, do they? Perhaps the test of prophecies being that all will be proven true as a proof of the origin of the messages—that being from the Creator God, the God of Israel.

And still, I think I digress. As this topic of conversation is so wont to do.

When we make the Bible (and discussions of these books) about being right or wrong, we just get lost in endless quarrels. So many fractured opinions and vehement discourse to prove one point or another end up making Christians and their church look like it does today: silly.

I will maintain that all of Scripture is useful, even the giant sections that give every messy, gory detail of our own ugliness. Not just the things we proudly label sin like murder, lust, idolatry, rape, incest, greed, deceit and betrayal (and many more) … but our lack of faith in vividly displayed, our repeatedly running to idols and our own strength and knowledge rather than abiding in Father’s Life and Love.

This is why, as Christians, and living in the age we now inhabit, Jesus is the decoder ring. Everything else makes a bit more sense when we start with him.

The book of Hebrews1 says that God spoke in many ways through history, but his final and fullest revelation was through his son, Jesus. And also we learn and see that he is the full representation of God himself. The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us. God himself, as a man. We don’t get his messages second-hand through angels and/or prophets: he came to us.

Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me. Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do.2

If you’re reading the Bible like a manual, or an reference book—please stop. First, you’re missing out on the bigger, fuller story. You might even be missing out on Jesus:

“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! 40 Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.”—John 5:24

It’s so easy to do. I think we all do it. I mean, how magically incredible is this book we call the Bible? Really! Preserved nearly flawlessly over millennia, and with enemies trying to wipe it out: but it is the most ubiquitous book still today.

But the Bible is not our source of life, Jesus is.

And, it’s important to remember that we have a direct connection to Truth in Jesus’ gift of the Holy Spirit. Remember this?

But you have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true—it is not a lie. So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ.—1 John 2:27

Holy Spirit will teach us everything. It’s always nice to have a tutor. (Especially when the tutor is the finest teacher ever!)

The Bible is a beautiful story, and we can glean so much life through its pages, through the stories told there, and especially the central story told throughout of our God’s ever-present love and care for his people. (That’s all of us, not just those born into the family of Jacob, as they used to imagine.)

It’s not about rules, or doctrine. It’s about Him. I highly recommend reading it like a book, like a story…

And look for the signs of Life as they weave in and out of His story.

God’s story, with us.


For further reading, here’s an article I found a real long time ago: Why "The Bible is our Instruction Manual" is the Worst Metaphor in the History of the World | The Ruthless MonkThe Ruthless Monk.

Also, one last note: For what it’s worth, I really do recommend reading in large chunks. There is certainly a place for detailed, intricate, line-by-line study, but there’s also great treasure to be found in reading through whole books at a time, or at least larger chunks. Then string books together back-to-back over a few days or weeks. When I read Scripture like this, the bigger story is much more evident, and I see God moving in his characteristic, Jesus-shown ways through the whole of history. Different voices, echoing the same story: God loves me.

  1. Hebrews 1-4 Yes… all four chapters! Reading in big chunks gives better context. 🙂
  2. John 14-17 (Again, read the whole thing. Chock full of greatness!)

Question With Boldness

Thomas JeffersonThough most people nowadays can conceive of no better poster child for agnosticism (or, at the very least, deism), Jefferson himself may have had a bone to pick with such people.

In a letter to his nephew, on the topic of forming his own views on religion (a topic which he labeled “important”), Thomas Jefferson wrote the following, now reasonably well-known words:

Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.

(Somewhat of an aside: My favorite quote from Thomas Jefferson’s autobiography regarding his own faith, “…I am a REAL CHRISTIAN…”. Well that about says it.) 🙂

There are (many) times when I think my being appropriately labeled a “Christian” might be questioned by those who determine such things. I believe I’ve written about my borderline-heretical thinking at least once or twice.

In fact, just the other day I was reading through the Old Testament book of Ezekiel and wondering things like, “Wow, this voice of God does not seem to be the same as even the book of Jeremiah, one book before—and he seemed pretty peeved in that book, too! I wonder if some of the books in what we call the Bible are even supposed to be in there? Who says that council got it right?”

Now, proceed with caution here. I am NOT SAYING that I unequivocally, irrevocably believe and hold to be fact that such questions even might be “true” (in the black-and-white sense of “true”) …

But perhaps my reason for such an emphasized statement above is that, in dealing with things of God, it’s sometimes considered heresy merely to question.

And, folks, that is plain wrong. Really, really wrong.

So, I may be a heretic, but I’m going to keep questioning.

Turns out, by the end of Ezekiel there was some really neat stuff in there kinda flipping the “rules and regulations” voice of God (being interpreted through Ezekiel) on its head. Chapter forty-seven has a really neat image of God abiding in a temple from which living water flows, giving life to everything it touches, including dead things. Hmm… the Living Water… giving Life… where have I heard those things before…?

I believe Thomas Jefferson had it right when he urged his nephew to throw away all bias and personal opinion and really dig into the facts, evidences, truths, and his own reason. Think. Don’t be afraid of the truth (or that it might not be the truth). Find, and know what is true. This is important! To know and understand the Creator is much more important than anything else.

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. —John 10:10

I am the way, the truth, and the life. —John 14:6

And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. —John 17:3

We believe in education in this home. Not school, or curriculum—although those can have their place.

Real education. Seek out original sources; find people who are not only knowledgeable but passionate about a subject and learn from them (whether in person, or through recorded words); then, find someone else and hear other voices. Putting all of these pieces together, along with your God-given intellect (reason), and asking the Spirit to guide the entire process. (He is the one who teaches us, after all.)

Question with boldness, even the very existence of God.

And the world—starting with you—will be better for it.

If you wondered about that “I am a REAL CHRISTIAN” quote from Thomas Jefferson, here’s the full text of his introduction to what some call the “Jefferson Bible” (but he titled otherwise). It should give an even more convincing context to that quote!

I have made a wee little book from the Gospels which I call the Philosophy of Jesus. It is a paradigma of his doctrines, made by cutting the texts out of the book and arranging them on the pages of a blank book, in a certain order of time or subject. A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen. It is a document in proof that I am a REAL CHRISTIAN, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus, very different from the Platonists, who call ME the infidel and THEMSELVES Christians and preachers of the Gospel, while they draw all of their characteristic dogmas from what its author never said nor saw. They have compounded from the heathen mysteries a system beyond the comprehension of man, of which the great reformer of the vicious ethics and deism of the Jews, were he to return on earth, would not recognize one feature. (Thomas Jefferson: In His Own Words, Maureen Harrison & Steve Gilbert, editors. ©1993 Excellent Books, New York, NY.)

Millard Fillmore: Underappreciated

Millard Fillmore - 13th President of the United StatesThis will probably surprise you, but … no one cares much about President Millard Fillmore. At least, not according to this article.

Since we’re just a week past President’s Day, I figure it’s still appropriate to honor one of the men who served in that capacity for this great nation of ours.

Did you know that Millard Fillmore is somewhat revered in Buffalo, one of his and my “hometowns”. President Fillmore was born in Moravia, NY—and I in Springfield, OH—but we both spent many years of our lives near the home of the Buffalo Bills. (Hmm… not sure if they were around when he lived there, though…)

His name can be frequently found around Buffalo. My wife was born at Millard Fillmore hospital! He helped to found the University at Buffalo! (One of the universities to which I matriculated!) There’s even a statue at City Hall! (Along with fellow former President—and Mayor of Buffalo!—Grover Cleveland.)

Millard Fillmore died at his home in Buffalo, NY on March 8, 1874. (I haven’t done that yet, either… the similarities keep dwindling…)

And the hits keep coming… He was the last President from the Whig party, though not elected to that position. (He assumed office upon the death of Zachary Taylor, with whom he served as Vice President.)

He was the only president to have the same double letters in both his first, and last name. (Fellow Whig party member, and 9th president of the US, William Harrison, is the only other to have double letters in both names, but as you can see, they don’t match.)


Actually, I did enjoy reading about this president. He had some very interesting accomplishments in foreign affairs, and sounds like a pretty decent fellow. He is least-remembered and often ranked as one of the worst presidents in US history, partly (or mostly) as a function of the time in which he served. He was president during the decade prior to the Civil War. Things in our Union were at a boiling point, and thus, I don’t think many of his accomplishments are remembered. (Well, I know they are not.)

History is so fascinating in this way. Fillmore fell out of favor with the public, and his party (and his party also fell out of favor to the point of dissolution shortly thereafter) and so he was unsuccessful in his bid for election following his first and only term as president. And with all of the massive changes in our Union that followed his presidency, much about him is forgotten.

History is written by the victors.

Thankfully, there are still records, and there is still history to be read and learned.

He may not have been the greatest, but he was lucky number 13!

Next time you’re in Buffalo, look him up, and you might be surprised by what you find.

Read more about Millard Fillmore at this Wikipedia page. It’s the shortest article written about any US President. Figures, right?

Constitutionally Speaking: The States Have It (as do the People)

Thomas JeffersonIf you are a fan of history, and perhaps also an American citizen—both of which I am—then I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at our Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, as seen through the eyes, words, and actions of the people who constructed it. It’s very interesting to see where we’ve come from, how it began, and even the direction we are going.

I am certainly no authority on this subject, but I’ve spent a good amount of time (even as I wrote these articles) studying original sources and commentaries upon those. I would definitely encourage you to do the same if you are made curious by what I’ve written, or find that you wholeheartedly disagree!

Regarding the pursuit of truth, even in regards to theology and religion, Thomas Jefferson advised:

“Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.”

It’s up to each of us to learn what we believe, and why we believe it. And never be afraid to question it.

In this series, we’ve looked at the initial question—whether or not the federal government has the authority to limit what laws an individual State can or can not pass—as well, we have considered whether the Bill of Rights grants rights, or protects them.

And now we come to the conclusion.

The central point to the current Constitutionally Speaking series (I, II, III) has been to understand the original intent of the Constitution. When it was written, the framers hoped to grant very limited powers to the federal government, while the states would each retain “numerous and indefinite” powers.

James Madison said as much in Federalist No. 45:

“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.” [ref]

In the first part of this series, I quoted Thomas Jefferson several times as I feel that he was a great example of this strong conviction that the Federal government should not have powers over the States, other than any specifically granted to it. Jefferson was an anti-federalist: he was opposed to a strong central government. The Federalists were the framers of the Constitution (thus the Federalist Papers, explaining the reasoning behind the Constitution) but one of the hallmarks of the document was that all members of the Constitutional Convention made every effort to come to complete agreement—Federalist and Anti-Federalist alike; consensus, rather than just a majority vote. Thus was born a limited, central (Federal, general) government, designed to function as the representative of all the states in four areas: common defense, preservation of peace (domestic and foreign), regulation of domestic (interstate) and foreign commerce, and diplomacy with other nations. [ref]

In this last edition of this series, I have one last Jefferson quote for you. This one is from The Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, when Kentucky successfully brought a grievance against the General Government for overstepping its authority:

That the several States composing, the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general government; but that, by a compact under the style and title of a Constitution for the United States, and of amendments thereto, they constituted a general government for special purposes — delegated to that government certain definite powers, reserving, each State to itself, the residuary mass of right to their own self-government; and that whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force: that to this compact each State acceded as a State, and is an integral part, its co-States forming, as to itself, the other party: that the government created by this compact was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself; since that would have made its discretion, and not the Constitution, the measure of its powers; but that, as in all other cases of compact among powers having no common judge, each party has an equal right to judge for itself, as well of infractions as of the mode and measure of redress. [ref]

And all of that is to say: the States, and the People, still hold ultimate, final, and also primary power.

The Constitution was written to bring together several autonomous states under one “general government”. It’s purpose was to spell out the compact between those states, and those people, to be one entity—one people.

Somewhere along the way (many places, actually) we moved from a place where we were many states joined as one (e pluribis unum?) to one very large “state”, commanding and governing from the central head: Washington.

That’s not what we were designed to be. The Constitution allows for, or more accurately, attempts to preserve a government closer to the people. Local and state governments, comprised of neighbors. True representatives. (We are not a democracy. The United States federal government is a federal republic. It is a group of representatives from other states/entities.)

This was fundamentally lost during the Civil War. It was, in fact, the primary cause and reason for the Civil War. The south, as wrong as they were about slavery, believed strongly in states rights and autonomy. The north believed more closely what the Federalists believed: a strong central government was essential to a strong Union. The north was victorious (which was good for preserving our union, and of course for finally abolishing slavery) and thus was cemented the United States of America in its current form.

Prior the the Civil War, the country was refered to in the plural: “The United States are…” Following the War, that phrase became, “The United States is…” [ref] Hear the difference? We are no longer one from many, we are just one.

When one examines the way our country was first established, and the intended separation of powers, it’s rather fascinating to see how much we’ve changed over time. It seems now rather commonplace to think that Washington or the federal government is our supreme authority. As we’ve seen, power was originally supposed to be remain more with the state and local governments—and of course, the People. This allows for a much more diverse—and free?—people overall.

But, as the saying goes, “Give an inch, and they’ll take a mile.”

When we first saw the need as a nation to cede some of our autonomy to a central government in order to exist and survive as a society or a nation, we allowed for the possibility of ceding more and more power to that created entity. Our Constitution provides amazing checks and balances, and separations of power, and multiple devices for ensuring, as best as possible, that the power remains first with the People. And yet today, the People generally operate as though the government has primary power and authority, which it then grants to the People (generally bypassing the States entirely).

This has occurred, in my opinion, simply as a result of that first “foot in the door” of drafting and ratifying the Constitution—great as that document may be. But it has progressed thanks to the desire within Man’s spirit to be led, to have a King. (See here, and here for more on that.)

Also helping us toward a view of our federal government as the more centralized authority are several Supreme Court decisions as well as constitutional amendments throughout the generations.

The Supremacy Clause (Article VI, Clause 2) of the Constitution has often been interpreted to grant primacy to Federal law (power) when any conflict with State law might exist. The First Amendment has often triggered the use of this Clause to determine where the authority lies, as far back as cases in 1803. Subsequent cases and rulings [example], as well as the Fourteenth Amendment, followed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal [ref], have all led us to a place where we see the Federal government as supreme, and continue to move it towards greater power, primacy and supremacy.

At some point we might discover that we have ceded too much power.

For now, we Americans are definitely one of the most free people and civilizations of all time. Our Constitution is still the basis for preserving and protecting that freedom. We are a people governed by Rule of Law, not a privileged class or other type of nobility. This ensures the opportunity of fairness and equal justice for all.

Many attempts are made to undermine that. (Lust for power is a strong force, as is the desire for comfort and safety.) Benjamin Franklin was asked, “Well Doctor what have we got—a republic or a monarchy?” His reply? “A republic, if you can keep it.” He is also credited with saying, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Freedom is our God-given right; unalienable. However, to coexist with others as a nation, as a republic—the United States of America—we must work to preserve that freedom. Knowledge of the original intent is essential, as well as a foundation in the understanding that neither we nor any government, whether of our own construct or forced upon us are ultimately in authority over us. God the Creator is our supreme authority, and one reason that our republic has survived is that He and the ways of his Kingdom were central to the worldview of the Framers.

But that’s for another series… 🙂

I encourage you to find the original sources mentioned or linked here. Own a copy if possible. Read, understand, and pass along.

And in that way, you can be part of perserving our liberties, from generation to generation.

Constitutionally Speaking: Freedom of Religion (not FROM religion)

Freedom From Religion? Or, Freedom OF ReligionToday we often think of the First Amendment as restricting all forms of any religion in the public forum; it being essential to our freedom of religion—that all may worship, or not worship, as they see fit, without being forced to do so by any government hand.

A simple reading of the actual amendment will clearly show that this was not its intent; rather it was included in the founding documents to allow unrestricted practice of any and all religion. So, the federal government can not say you can’t pray in schools. That’s the part we have backwards… it’s meant to allow greater freedom, not provide more restriction.

Let’s look at the Amendment again, focusing on the first sentence:

Amendment I

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.

Now, to the point of yesterday’s initial question: while a state would almost certainly never propose a bill mandating prayer in schools, a local, smaller community might? And the First Amendment protects them in that, at least, as I read it.

The words, “Congress shall establish no religion” do not prevent any religious symbol or words or ceremony from being present in any federal or state (or local) government event or edifice. So much the opposite. If the People want to express a religious belief or sentiment, they are protected in doing so by this First Amendment.

The biggest thing that so many of us have completely backwards in our general opinion of government today is where the power rests: with the People.

The federal government is granted very specific and limited powers by the Constitution. When the framers of the Constitution were determining the structure of our government, it was entirely without any “rights” specifically assigned to the People. That’s because, the government can not grant rights to the people.

Some argued that putting any rights in such a document implies that they do originate with the government, but in the end, the majority wanted to ensure that they were present in our foundational documents. The first ten amendments were added in 1791—two years after the ratification of the original Constitution in 1789. [ref]

James Madison warned against the idea of including a Bill of Rights in the Constitution thusly:

It has been accurately noted that bills of rights began as an agreement between a king and his subjects that limited the king’s powers in favor of privileges of his subjects; or in other words, they were a defense of the rights which had not been surrendered to the prince…

In this country the People surrender nothing, and since they retain everything, they have no need for a Bill of Rights. ‘We the People of the United States, to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America’: this is a better recognition of popular rights than all the many truths which represent the bulk of our state bills of rights… Federalist No. 84

Again, the Constitution which established the US Federal government can not grant rights to its citizens, since it is the People in the first place who hold the rights, and grant any power at all to their federal representatives.

Each state and local community should be free to establish their own laws (or, to have fewer laws) without the federal constitution limiting that.

It is really very interesting—so fascinating—how our thinking about government has changed over the two hundred plus years since our founding, and yet, the Constitution is still in place, and still holds us together; protecting all of our rights, at least for now.

We’ve all heard and seen the stories about guns. One side wants to eliminate senseless killing by removing the weapon (through legislation and even, in some cases, by government force), while another fights to protect a right which was spelled out by these amendments. (Maybe the framers were on to something with this hesitation to list specific rights?) Often the anti-gun people will allow for gun ownership for hunting, but the Second Amendment was written—as was most all of the entire Constitution—to greatly limit the powers granted to the Federal government, and ensure that it remained with the People.

That really can’t be stated too often, nor too strongly.

An interesting side note here involves a post-Civil War amendment to the constitution, which has been the grounds for many Supreme Court ruling which would seem to reverse the initial intent of Madison and the other framers of the Constitution. I will discuss more of the States vs. Federal powers application tomorrow, including how much of that was greatly—perhaps “officially”—shifted following the Civil War.

It is essential to remember that the Bill of Rights does not establish rights of the People; rather, it calls out some specific rights which are not to be abridged, abrogated, or breached. The emphasis was and must always be on the rights being inherent to We the People, not granted by any government or authority other than our Creator.

Also, proper context is always important. From our modern perspective, we must reconsider the definition of “religion”.

Today we hear that word and think of world religions like Christianity (in all of its forms, as one), Islam, Buddhism, etc. However, at the time of its writing, the first amendment was speaking more toward the various Christian denominations present in the individual States of the Union. (Though, not to the exclusion of any religions other than Christianity.) The amendment states that Congress (federal) was prohibited from establishing any one religion, thereby restricting in any way the “free exercise” of religion by the peoples of the States, whom were of many different “religions”; meaning, denominations.

Today we are quick to sound the alarm if any government representative does or suggests anything that smells like religion. However, it’s probably more of an affront to the Constitution to restrict such things, including prayer in schools.

Mandating is definitely a step beyond allowing, and, fourteenth amendment precedent would probably rule in favor of individual States not having the authority to mandate school prayer on the grounds that it might appear to be “establishing” one “religion” over any others.

Such was not the original intent of the Constitution.

Tomorrow will conclude this series, looking more in-depth at the separation of powers between State and Federal governments, and how it has changed over the two centuries of our existence. It’s quite a striking contrast, and very interesting to see what factors have pushed us more toward a centralized, more powerful federal government, and one that grants rights to People, rather than the other way around, and how that affects the way we view and interact with our government today.

A straightforward reading of the First Amendment should lead one to conclude only one thing: it exists to preserve the extant, natural rights of the People; rights that were never, and are never to be breached by the government established by the Constitution: the US Federal Government.

Note: The modernized version of the quote from Federalist No. 84 was taken from The Original Argument: The Federalists’ Case for the Constitution Adapted for the 21st Century., a book we highly recommend!

Communication Curmudgeon

texting-classI think I’m becoming ‘That Guy’. The old guy who laments the passing of the glory days of yesteryear, and lambasts the continuously degrading patterns of behavior exhibited by each successive generation. Yep. Sometimes, that’s me.

For example…

I find myself frequently commenting on my son’s tendency towards wearing his hat backwards, purposely wearing socks with plastic sandals, and other such “fashion trends”… (though, regarding the hat, I may not have a leg to stand on there, since I might have donned said headgear, in such a fashion, in my younger years.) 🙂

And perhaps the thing that most irks me of all the current trends in our culture (led predominantly by the younger crowd?) is the proclivity towards shortening phrases into acronyms or initialisms that somehow become words to all who are willing to accept such communication.

LOL is not a word, contrary to that very assertion by the Oxford English Dictionary!

My son has really taken a shine to expressing his creativity through writing. He’s always loved to read, and has an off-the-charts creative, outside-the-box mind, and lately he’s found an outlet for all of that in fiction writing. He’s working on several novels currently, and has completed a few short stories (including a Christmas-themed story just completed this week).

Good for him! He is definitely creative, full of ideas, and expresses himself fairly well for his young age. And he seems very willing to learn, receive instruction, and work towards bettering his technique and improving his craft.

One way he has chosen to do so is to connect with other writers in his age range. About a year ago, Ian invited several people he knew, as well as send out an open invitation via certain select channels, to gather monthly for the purpose of discussing current projects, receive honest/thoughtful critique, and also simply connect/network with people of a similar ilk. A small group of writing enthusiasts has formed and been a fun part of Ian’s and our life over the months since.

But, in that this group is comprised of youngsters aged 11-19, there have been occasions where the integrity of the English language has been somewhat compromised.

(Can you imagine?!)

“Words” such as ‘BTW’ and ‘LOL’ are frequently employed, when, I know on good authority that these young folks could certainly find much better ways to express their thoughts, if only just actually writing out what they are “saying” via the initialisms chosen. (Is it that hard to write, “By the way,”?)

I began this linguistic integrity campaign when my oldest son was first given access to a computer, set up with an instant messaging account, which he would use to communicate with me during my work days. (Interestingly, he’d message me at my desk, which is only two floors above where he was, in the same building…) I would remind him to use proper grammar, spelling, and sentence structure (as much as he knew), including capitalization and punctuation. There would often be do-overs, as well as instruction, and I think it has helped him form good writing habits.

And yet, ‘BTW’ is slowly becoming part of his lexicon. (By definition, can initialisms and acronyms be part of a lexicon?)

But I digress.

Here’s my main point: Words matter.

Should we care that texting shorthand, as well as probably all social media platforms, are pushing “words” like LOL, BTW, TTYL, BRB, etc into official English language dictionaries? I believe so. I know it’s probably overkill, overreaching, overreacting… over-everything. BUT, it seems to me that technology has made us lazy, and ignorant. I’m not suggesting that all who use popular slang acronyms/initialisms are ignorant; of course they are not. (Lazy perhaps, but not all ignorant.) So, with that knowledge, other than the obvious limitations of a device for informal communication—a cellphone with only a numeric keypad being one example—why would we use such ‘terminology’? (I use that word loosely.)

It surprised me to discover that such terms are actually being accepted into a respected, authoritative English dictionary. Insomuch as they are not actually words, rather a “word” created by using the first initial of a string of words (acronym/initialism), it seems paradoxical to include them there.

But, there they are. And I’m not sure anything I post here, will slow down the momentum of our technology-driven society towards “r” and “u” and numerals in place of their homonym (4, 2, 8, etc), and, the Oxford English Dictionary pronouncing “BFF” a word in the English language. One hundred forty characters, small (mostly unusable) keyboards, and instant communication leads us on towards a much lesser language, in my humble opinion. (Oh wait, I could just say, “IMHO”.) 🙂

An interesting observation in favor of embracing the evolution of our language was made in an article titled FYI: English language continues to evolve – OMG!, linked below. Here’s an excerpt from that:

The old fuddy-duddy in me wants to object to the inclusion of the likes of BFF and wassup (yes, seriously) in the most canonical record of the English language in existence. Meanwhile, the modernist in me recognises that language must always be a fluid thing. Where would we be if English was locked in a fixed state without the ability to introduce new words while others fall quietly into obsolescence? How would we describe PCs and CPUs? What cumbersome form of words would be required to explain the internet? Or a blog?

Indeed, such is the pace at which our inter-connected world changes, that it should be no surprise that our language continues to evolve with similar alacrity. New words and expressions should be cherished not cursed. After all, that William Shakespeare fellow invented new words – or converted verbs into nouns (and vice versa) – with regularity to serve his own purposes, many of which still exist in our contemporary vocabulary. It is thought that over 1,500 common words such as assassination, auspicious, bloody, fitful, invulnerable, obscene, road and suspicious were first used by the Bard. Not to mention expressions like ‘brave new world’ (The Tempest), ‘for goodness’ sake’ (Henry VIII), ‘hoist with his own petard’ (Hamlet), ‘star-crossed lovers’ (Romeo and Juliet), ‘pound of flesh’ (The Merchant of Venice) and ‘what the dickens’ (The Merry Wives of Windsor).

If it was good enough for Shakespeare, it’s good enough for me.

Certainly, as the world changes, new words are invented. However, shouldn’t they actually be words? Not unpronounceable initialisms? (One fine example of a new word from an acronym is the word laser, which was the shortened/simplified way of labeling the new technology Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.)

OK, (Uh oh! Another not-real-word!) enough curmudgeoning for the day. I do hope that you’ll take some time to browse the articles I found on this subject, listed below. I found them to be interesting, thought-provoking reading. And, of course, I will continue to strive to preserve the integrity of our language (both in verbal and even more so in print) despite cultural trends.

I guess that really does make me a Communication Curmudgeon.

Maybe I’ll make myself a t-shirt…

Related reading:

Conditional Libertarianism

I have been enjoying Ron Paul’s book, Liberty Defined. Enjoying, and finding myself becoming frustrated by it.

See, there’s no doubt in my mind that I am mostly a libertarian. Mostly. I’m not completely one because I understand that people—you, and me—are sinful. We have a natural bent towards doing the wrong thing. (Or, not doing the right thing.) The Bible tells us so, and, well, so do our eyes and our reasoning. So a completely free society, with little to no rules/laws to govern our actions towards others… well, it just can’t work.

And the whole book that thought keeps returning. I keep thinking, You know, he’s so right on! We should have the freedom to choose what we want to do, not be made to conform to some behavior through some law or system of laws and regulations… But quickly on the heels of that thought are the reminders that the hearts of men are selfish and self-serving and devious. (I believe the word is “sinful”.)

George Washington mentioned the importance of morality and religion to society. (Basically, they can’t exist without those foundations.) Many others from the Generation of 1776 expressed similar sentiments. They knew that you can’t divorce liberty from responsibility, and they knew that our natural condition was fallen, sinful. (All of the restrictions built into our system of government are for precisely this reason!)

Does that mean Ron Paul is wrong? No, I still think he’s right, but since we can’t do away with sin, it’s mostly just a utopian view of life together as a nation, that can’t ever be fully realized.

I believe Mr. Paul realizes this, too, and he’s not truly advocating a completely lawless society. (I know he’s not wanting anarchy.)

And he does make some good points.

I recently read his thoughts on Marriage. (Each chapter of the book is essentially a short essay on issues that affect our freedom, and one of them tackled marriage.) I can’t quote the whole chapter, but I do wish you could/would read the whole chapter. (Just click the book cover at the top of this post to purchase a copy of the book, or check it out from your local library!)

This paragraph stuck out to me:

The supercharged emotions are on both extremes of the issue, because neither extreme accepts the principles of a free society. One side is all too willing to use the law to force a narrow definition of marriage on everyone without a hint of tolerance. The other side—a minority opinion—wants the law to help them gain social acceptance even though this is impossible for law to achieve. Those who seek social acceptance of gay marriage are also motivated by the desire to force government and private entities to provide spousal benefits. When dealing with government benefits, this becomes an economic redistribution issue—a problem that would not be found in a truly free society.1

“Neither extreme accepts the principles of a free society.” Wow is that true. We just can’t leave each other alone. We all have our various agendas, and we fight hard to make sure that the state—the law—makes everyone else think and act like we do. I said in yesterday’s post that this definitely won’t work.

So in a free society, each person should be allowed do as their conscience allows or instructs them to, unless it is somehow (actually) injurious to another. Instead, we must fight to be right, or to be accepted.

Paul concludes:

This issue hardly justifies an amendment to the Constitution; passage or even a heated debate only serves to divide us and achieves nothing. It is typical of how government intervention in social issues serves no useful purpose. With a bit more tolerance and a lot less government involvement in our lives, this needless problem and emotionally charged debate could be easily avoided.

His recommendation is to make marriage a private matter. “Though there may be a traditional dictionary definition of marriage, the First Amendment should include allowing people to use whatever definition they’d like.”

I concur. And I concur with much that Ron Paul has to say. (Remember? I am conditionally libertarian.)

If you are looking for a good, thought-provoking, conversation-starting read, I recommend, “Liberty Defined”.

And, in the end, I will continue to agree with people like Ron Paul, who believe in allowing for the maximum amount of freedom possible in a society. Just remember that there must be limits—a conditional libertarianism, thanks to the “condition” of sin.

(Good thing Jesus took care of that in the long run!)

1 – Liberty Defined, Ron Paul, ©2011 Grand Central Publishing, p. 184

What Elections Mean

I Voted stickersAnd so it ends. Or, begins? Continues?

The elections are over, and the American people have chosen. Whether state representative, Senator, Mayor, local judge, or President of the United States—we have chosen.

If your guy (or gal) won, you’re elated. Your confidence in the American people is restored or confirmed, and you’re glad that the majority of your neighbors are “thinking straight”.

If your guy (or gal) lost? Well, we’re in for it. We’ll get what’s coming to us. We have made our bed and now we get to lay in it. We can try again in a year or two or four, if there’s still a country left!

No matter which way the elections turned out, this is how the day after would have been. One group or the other celebrating or complaining, depending upon the results.

A Quick Lesson from History

What I have said for so long (here on this blog site, and in many conversations) is that elections are not where changes are made. They aren’t. Elections reveal where we already are. And what I see is that we are a very divided, and even confused nation.

In one way, that’s what we’re supposed to be. In what we call the Federalist Papers, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison laid out the reasoning behind the Constitution, so that everyone in every state could understand the idea of the Union that was being proposed. (There already was a Union, but it was so loose that it really almost wasn’t a Union.) One of their arguments for stability in such a diverse group of people—yes, even when we were only thirteen states, we were very diverse—was that there would be enough “factions” that no one majority group would dominate any minority groups. The more diverse the opinions and “passions” of the group (or faction, as Madison called them) the greater the likelihood of there being compromise; working together for their common good.

Listen to these words from Federalist 10:

The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts. But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government.

Doesn’t that sound like us today? Intriguing.

I’m getting slightly off track here. Please click through to Federalist 10, though, and read the rest. (And 9, too, since 10 is “part two”.) Better yet, read all of the Federalist Papers. It’s a great way to understand where we came from, who we are supposed to be (as a nation) and just republican/representative government in general. We recommend The Original Argument, a collection of these papers, “Adapted for the 21st Century” (says the publisher). We read it together with our 13- and 10-year-old sons. Very interesting history/civics lessons!

Back to my point: Elections reveal who we are, they don’t change who we are.

This is very important. Elections are in place because, one, we are a free people who have chosen to elect our representatives/leaders from amongst ourselves, and two, they occur “at regular intervals” to ensure that we remain a free people, and no one elected leader (or group of them) can usurp and retain that power indefinitely.

Elections are definitely important, but it’s not really where (true) change comes from.

Legislating Morality

Do you believe that too many people are being overlooked and forgotten by the systems in place, having to go without good food or medical care because those with money are not doing their fair share to correct this injustice? Do you know that what God cares about most is that we care for those who need it the most? Do you also feel that so many people are just blind to this!? “Why can’t they see how wrong they are!?”

Do you believe 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? Do you feel that economy, commerce, and thus, communities will thrive if only they are free of heavy—and unnecessary—government intervention, regulation, restrictions, and especially taxing. (AND, do you feel that the money being collected for taxes is not only exorbitant, but equally wastefully spent or more so?) Then, with these truths being so obvious to you, do you feel incredulous that so many people are just blind to this!? “Why can’t they see how wrong they are!?”

So, do you truly believe that “those people”—either side—will change if you or someone who agrees with you is given a place of power that would allow them to force—by law—the actions that you wish them to take? Will that actually foster the change you desire?

You can NOT legislate morality. (But… we should stop people from killing each other. It’s rather difficult to co-exist when murder is an acceptable response to a grievance.)

It is right to want to help people, especially the ones who can’t help themselves.
It is right to hate greed, and to stop any actions that are a result of it.
It is right to love freedom.
It is right to encourage personal responsibility and education, and an active love for our neighbors.

But you can’t make that happen by electing someone, or passing a law.

I Think We’ve Been Here Before…

There is a post I’ve not yet finished called “The Tytler Cycle” (the attribution of the “cycle” to Alexander Tytler is questioned, but the veracity of the words are not in doubt, proven by history again and again.)

A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:

  • From bondage to spiritual faith;
  • From spiritual faith to great courage;
  • From courage to liberty;
  • From liberty to abundance;
  • From abundance to selfishness;
  • From selfishness to complacency;
  • From complacency to apathy;
  • From apathy to dependence;
  • From dependence back into bondage.

OK, so, different folks will place us (the United States) at various places on that cycle, but most will place us somewhere in the lower part of that list. Where would you say we are?

Regardless, it does seem to be a cycle that we (human beings) can not break out of. It happened many times in the Bible—just read the book of Judges. Every time I read that book I can’t help but think, WHAT are they thinking?? It has happened through history, and it will keep happening.

I do believe we are somewhere on the lower part of the list, but not to the bottom. And I think we, as a society, keep wanting to go further towards bondage. We don’t WANT liberty. We want to be told what to do, what to think… and we want to have everything we need (or want), without the cost or effort it should take to get it.

I believe that was revealed by our elections. We voted for other people to take care of stuff for us: “the rich”, the federal government. I think that is our mindset, worldview, paradigm. (Not all of us, but a majority of us.) It was evidenced by not only the choice for president, but many other elections as well, including various proposals (legalization of marijuana, gay marriage, etc.) albeit in somewhat different applications.

I’ll say it once more: Elections reveal who we are (and what’s important to us), they do not change who we are.

Education, education, education.

A free society, who chooses their own leaders—and also their own laws and codes of conduct, which are based on some commonly understood and agreed upon moral foundation—must be educated. We have public education, higher education, lower education? There’s no shortage of talk about education. But the “short” of it is that we are not educated.

(This—history of education, current state of education—is an enormous subject that I will not attempt to cover here. There are many books… and I have brought it up from time to time already. Browse this tag and this tag, if you’d like.)

The only way real change comes is through generations and generations of education and choices/action. Slavery was outlawed in the U.S. on January 1st, 1808—following generation after horrible generation of a reality that never should have been—but it took until 1865 to officially set all of the slaves free. And then it took another one hundred years to allow equal rights to the descendants of those who had been slaves.

Today we think it’s a “choice” to end a life begun in a woman’s womb. Certainly it is, as much as slavery was a “choice”. We think it’s a choice to marry someone of your same gender (well, some would say it’s not a choice…) and of course that is true, too.

We are all given choice. Free will. We can do whatever we’d like, really. The issue is the consequences, and the previously agreed upon “standards” that will govern a society, and our interaction with our neighbors. Clearly there are different thoughts, opinions, and “passions” regarding that currently in our society, and I think there will continue to be. (Partly I think we’re becoming less diverse because of the way we are educating our younger generations: teaching them what to think, rather than how to think.)

In the end we get to decide, and then we get to live with those choices. Nothing will change regarding abortion no matter which candidate we select. And if you believe that we as a society should mandate caring for the poor (or the not-wealthy) by taxing “the rich”, you’re not going to win over those who disagree simply by electing a candidate who will enact such policies.

Ultimately you can only “win” (read: enact true change) by educating people to the strengths of what you believe. People are smart, and can be trusted when given the facts. We are all endowed by our Creator with freedom to know and to choose. Whether we won or lost an election, nothing changed because of that. The only real change happens inside someone’s heart, and mind, and then spreads outward from there. (In their home/family, to their community, and beyond.)

(Note: I’m not sure that we want to make it our goal to change other people’s thinking. But, that is my inner libertarian coming out…)

We will not transform America (one way or another) by an election. Any election, with any result. But, God willing, we Americans will return to the One whom so many of the Founders knew and trusted, and repeatedly credited with the formation of this Great Experiment called the United States of America. I don’t see the majority of us being founded in our trust of Him. We are still a free people choosing and being our own government, though, not by force or lineage. That is unique in history, and was greatly celebrated when we accomplished it just two hundred thirty-six years ago.

It still should be today. Elections are wonderful. But don’t put too much stock in them for “accomplishing your mission”. They’re a good barometer of who we are, and what we think.

And there’s another one coming soon.

Last Words

Finally, for those who follow Jesus, I leave you with these two thoughts:

Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.

Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority. —Romans 13:1-7

And, most importantly…

…the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. —Micah 6:8

On Electing A President (And Other Election Day 2012 Thoughts)

Today is the first Tuesday in November, and that means we’re voting here in the U. S. of A.!

(But, if you’re alive, you are probably aware of that.)

And, every four years we get a little more excited because we are voting for the President! That’s big stuff!

While I will admit that it is, in a way, “big stuff”, I keep feeling like, it shouldn’t be.

Voting is definitely something we should be glad that we are able to do. We have a full voice in so many different races for so many different government positions (and various proposals, as well). That is not something we should dismiss, nor forsake.

But I keep thinking that the whole President thing gets so blown out of proportion. We treat our president as somewhat of a “king”. (Although, we are glad he’s only “king” for four years at a time, and for a maximum of eight years… except for FDR.) We presume and grant authorities to the Executive Branch that were not intended for one person to have. (There’s just something in us that longs for a king…)

It’s been going on for a while. And not just one party’s man. Executive orders, “czars”, budget proposals, laws, etc.

(Note: George W Bush and Ronald Reagan had such “officers” in abundance as much as Barack Obama, who is oft-criticized for his “czars”. From what I can tell, referencing posts appointed by the Executive as “Czars” goes as far back as Woodrow Wilson.)

These are not things the President/Executive is meant to be doing.

The Congress shall make the laws… The President will be the Commander in Chief of the armed forces, and has the power to convene and adjourn sessions of congress, and even make treaties, if two thirds of the Senators approve. And, well… I’m just going to quote it:

and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

So, here’s the thing. When the first thirteen states decided to form the union we were all born into, they really didn’t want a king. They put nearly ALL of the power for everything in the hands of (1) the states, (2) the two branches of congress of those states, with equal and population-based representation, and (3) they checked that power with a very limited Executive officer (President), and a judiciary branch. But the true power was in the State and Local governments. (NOT in the Federal government.)

And really, that is what we have lost, and why we put SO much emphasis on this quadrennial election of one man (or woman).

They used to refer to our country in the plural, “The United States are …”, but of course, we have been ever-increasingly a large, amorphous single entity, “The United States is…”

And so, we spend millions of dollars, listen to endless debates, go through nearly two years of campaigning … for the one office of temporary king.


The REALLY fascinating thing is, we still do the electoral college! Seriously? 🙂

For some reason, though we think “is” rather than “are” regarding our nation, we still rely on the Electors from each state to grant all of the votes from that state to one candidate (in theory) of their choosing. I don’t know (and am not going to look it up right now) if an Elector or a state has ever gone against the popular vote in that state since we have had popular votes, but… well, I guess they could?

Did you know there were Presidents elected who were not voted on by all the people? That was another indication in the Constitution of the limited role the President would play.

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot for two Persons, of whom one at least shall not be an Inhabitant of the same State with themselves.

And then, if there was a tie, the House of Representatives would vote to choose the President, with the second person on that vote being elected as the Vice President, with a tie there being broken by a vote by the Senate.

Again… fascinating.

In a republican government (please note the small “r”), the emphasis was on the representation in smaller units. First in a local community, choosing a representative in their state government, and then those representatives choosing some from among them to represent their state in congress with the other states of the union. Thus, in theory, you are actually represented. (With a lesser emphasis placed on the representation the further away from you it got.)

Somehow today (over many generations) we have slid into more of a view that the further away representative is the more important choice. I think there is some correlation between our love for big box stores and franchised/chain restaurants, but… I’m too tired to flesh that out. 🙂

I will vote today as soon as we can get to the polls. I look forward to it. I like voting for the people we know in our small town. I like voting for people who have similar views of government to mine.

I just like voting. I’m glad that we can.

And I hope you will. And encourage everyone you know to vote, too. (If they don’t know who to vote for, don’t just tell them who to vote for! Give them a quick overview of the options, and what they stand for. As unbiased as possible?) 🙂

Get out today and vote. It may not be a perfect system (or what the writers of the Constitution envisioned) but it’s still likely the best in the world, and we’re privileged to be part of it.

(And if you don’t like the results, then hit the campaign trails earlier next time! Either for your preferred candidate/representative, or YOU could be the representative! You never know …)

The Declaration

Declaration of Independence

We’ve begun something of a new tradition here in the Campbell home. On the 4th of July, we read through the Declaration of Independence. It’s pretty amazing how the truths stated in this 236-year-old document are just as true now. Sadly many of the reasons given for “throwing off” the government under which those people found themselves could easily be said of the government we find ourselves “under” today. (Though, according to our constitution, We the People are not under the government… we are the government!)

For the record (though you can find it in many other places, too):

The Declaration of Independence

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitles them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

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. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly, all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of governments. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these States. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved representative Houses repeatedly for opposing with manly firmness his invasion on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

He has obstructed the administration of justice by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has made judges dependent on his will alone for the tenure of their offices and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of new offices and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to the civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our consent:

For depriving us in many cases of the benefits of trial by jury:

For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to ren-der it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:

For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have we been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They, too, have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity which denounces our separation and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in general Congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name and by the authority of the good people of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent States, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliance, establish commerce, and do all other acts and things which independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.

Signers of the Declaration of Independence
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

MASSACHUSETTS: John Hancock, John Adams, Samuel Adams, Robert Treat Paine

RHODE ISLAND: Elbridge Gerry, Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

CONNECTICUT: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

NEW YORK: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

NEW JERSEY: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

PENNSYLVANIA: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

DELAWARE: Ceasar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

MARYLAND: Samuel Chase, Thomas Stone, William Paca, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

VIRGINIA: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

NORTH CAROLINA: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

SOUTH CAROLINA: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Authur Middleton

GEORGIA: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

For further reading, there’s a great collection of original documents available online here at, from David Barton.