Friday, February 26, 2010

Peace, Seen from the Dark Side

Words from the one and only Brightest Corner of the Dark Side regarding PEACE. 'Hant Gona Study War No Mo (I wish).

In a 1948 letter to President Harry Truman, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote: "I cannot believe that war is the best solution. No one won the last war, and no one will win the next one."

Since the end of World War II, this rather odd statement could be repeated again today and be just as timely and true. Nothing is gained by one people killing another, one nation rubbing out another.

The day after President Franklin D. Roosevelt died, he was to give an address to a Jefferson Day gathering. In that undelivered speech were these words: "The work, my friend, is peace. More than an end of this war – an end to the beginnings of all wars."

Grantland Rice, sports writer of another era, put light on where wars come from. In his view all wars are planned by old men in council rooms apart.

When I write in favor of peace over war, I feel like British novelist Jean Rhys who described herself as "A doormat in a world of boots."

Will Rogers, humorist, wrote in his column in the New York Times, "You can't say civilization don't advance, however, for in every war they kill you in a new way."

George Bernard Shaw
wrote in Man and Superman, "In the arts of peace Man is a bungler."

Church-State Stand Makes Each Stronger

Church and State Separation makes each stronger

When it comes to forming a new government, none has yet been devised that surpasses what a few men of the late 18th century accomplished when they formed the United States of America.

It is evident they were not perfect men. They never made such a preposterous claim. They were facing untold dilemmas as they sought "to "form a more perfect union."

The union formed was as imperfect as the founders, and with adjustments to the changing situations, met the challenges of the times. They were more interested in commerce than human rights. After a bloody Civil War they got on the road to "equality" for slaves, except women's right to vote did not arrive until 1920. The Constitution and Bill of Rights still works well today.

The Founding Fathers wanted to avoid the mistakes of the Old World. They wanted no royalty --- kings and queens; no social classes --- just equality for citizens; and the best arraignment for religion and government --- what has been called separation of church and state.

A minority of citizens clamored for General George Washington to be made king. He wisely ignored such a backward step and served his time in government and retired to Mount Vernon. President Washington, because of this action, has sometimes been called American Cincinnatus.

(According to tradition in 458 BCE, Cincinnatus left his plowing when called to serve his country. After he quelled the invader's attempt on Rome, he refused honors and the dictatorship, returning to his humble farm.)

In every generation there are those individuals who raise the question: Why Church-State Separation? To find an answer requires mutual respect, common sense and study of what were the Founding Fathers thinking at the time.

"Many Christians wrongly believe that the Christian faith will flourish in a more Christian political environment," writes Derek H. Davis and Matthew McMearty in the Summer 2005 issue of "The Journal of Church and State" (Vol. 47, No. 3).

During the first three centuries of the Christian church, it was not recognized as a religion by any government from the British Isles to Arabia. Christianity grew at an amazingly fervent pace during these years. The more Christians were persecuted for not bowing the knee to Caesar, the more believers were born in God's Kingdom.

The Emperor Constantine, in 313 CE, declared Christians to be equal with other religious groups. This was followed in 380 CE when Theodosius made Christianity the official religion of the empire.

This designation for Christianity to legal status and respectability could have made them stronger in influence and power. But it proved the opposite.

Vigor and distinctiveness were lost and the church actually became weaker as it gained power. It grew in stone and in rules but not in spiritual matters as Jesus promised. Davis and McMearty: "Merged with government, Christianity became consumed with temporal affairs --- armies, police, crime, taxation, economics, etc. --- and less focused on the mission outlined for it by Christ and the apostles."

This kind of Christianity continued through the Reformations of the Sixteen century. The times of Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli, especially in Geneva and Zurich, churches were supported by the city states and largely controlled by the state. For example, a mayor could have a pastor removed at will. Wars were fought across Europe as kings took up holy causes to expand or protect the faith of their choice and earthly domain. Henry the VIII got his divorce and the Church of England to run. Jews, and Muslims (as far as they could) were regularly forced out of Protestant and Roman Catholic countries.

This Old World church custom of linking state with church spread to the American colonies, where witch trials were common in church circles. Christians killed or exiled from the some colonies for not going along with the Pilgrims view of scripture and custom.

The Founding Fathers knew that history. They were closer than we are to understanding the wisdom of the state not telling the church what to do, and the churches not telling the government what to do. When neither lord it over the other, they both do their job better.


USA's Christian Roots Not In Danger


David Barton, Founder of WallBuilders Internet web site, writes of his concern for America's Christian roots: "America's forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on our moral, religious and constitutional heritage," is largely ignored. It is his conviction America's Founding Fathers has been seriously attacked and undermined. Recently, Burton was named by Time magazine as one of America's 25 most influential evangelicals.

Considered an expert in historical and constitutional issues, he is often a guest on conservative religious television cable shows. He councils Texas and California revision committees on what should be in or out of new editions of public school textbooks. Rick Perry has loaded the Texas committee with conservatives who agree with most of Burton's presumptions.

The supposedly vanishing "Christian roots," of our nation are a primary concern for Barton. In his widely circulated book, "The Myth of Separation," he argues that the Founding Fathers intended "that this nation should be a Christian nation; not because all who lived in it were Christians, but because it was founded and would be governed by Christian principles."

Barton's research is sketchy, leaving the reader with half-truths or outright lies. He writes: "Did you know that 52 of the 55 signers of the Declaration of Independence were orthodox, deeply committed Christians? The other three all believed in the Bible as the divine truth, the God of Scripture, and His personal intervention."

The names, birthdates and religious data of these men (there were 56, not 55) are easily obtained from the Library of Congress. There you learn that 77 percent of the signatories were religious or member of a Christian church.

"That leaves 23 percent," writes Derek Davis, former editor of Church and State Journal, "of the founders with no record of religious affiliation." From these facts and their letters, many considered themselves to be Deists (believe in a supreme being of creation, but one who does not intervene in the universe).

At another point, Barton writes, "Consider these words that Thomas Jefferson wrote on the front of his well-worn Bible: 'I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrine of Jesus. I have little doubt that our whole country will soon be rallied to the unity of our Creator and, I hope, to the pure doctrine of Jesus also.' (He was supposedly was a Deist – but not in the strictest mold.)."

Dr. Davis admits it has the hallmarks of Jefferson as the author, "but it is not found in any of his writings." Barton's interpretation of this passage from Jefferson's letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush, April 21, 1803, is the problem of reading too much into it. Reading the entire reference it is evident Jefferson was not promoting the Christian faith.

It is difficult 200 years later to say how these men regarded religion. Late in Jefferson's life, he life wrote a note to James Smith, expressing confidence that "the present generation will see Unitarianism become the general religion of the United States."

Jefferson was not an atheist, but neither does he appear to be an orthodox Christian. Davis writes: "He is perhaps best described as an enlightened Deist."

Another point Barton seems to have read with pre-conceived ideas of the life and words of our first president, General George Washington. Barton asks if Washington was a Christian? The words he quotes from Washington's personal prayer book are not likely his own.

Washington attended the Protestant Episcopal Church after his retirement. He had two pastors, Dr. Abercromble and Bishop White. Both shared what they knew of Washington's faith when asked. To one of these, the bishop replied by letter (Aug. 15, 1835): "Dear Sir: ... [T]ruth requires me to say that Gen. Washington never received the communion in the church of which I am the minister. Mrs. Washington was a habitual communicant." Church membership was low in 1780s, about 30 percent of the population.

America's "Christian roots" are not in danger. Such "roots" have developed by "wanting it to be so." For those who believe Christianity will flourish with more Christian political environment, will be disappointed. History has proven the exact opposite is true.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010



Sunday the Eurocentric world of English-language speakers will celebrate St. Valentine's Day. The day for lovers has as many "origins" as there are stars in the universe. We are familiar with many of how the said saint has his own special day.

There is even a Garry Marshall movie this year called "Valentine's Day." Marshall was the creator of the television classic series, "Happy Days." It stars two actors I never heard of, Jessica Alba and Jessica Biel. It also has actress Kathy Bates of "Misery" fame somewhere in the mix.

The history of St. Valentine's Day is shrouded in myth and mystery. Both the saint and origin contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. Who was Saint Valentine and how did he become associated with this ancient rite? Today, the Roman Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine. As fate would have it, all three of them were martyred.

One of the many legends has Valentine a priest in Rome. The Emperor Claudius II was of the opinion that single men made better soldiers than those with wives. So he outlawed marriage for young men. Priest Valentine, seeing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's loving-law breaking was discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

Next Sunday is also the first day of the Chinese Year of the Tiger. Chinatowns of Asia and rest of the world will celebrate the most important holiday of the year for them.

As the Year of the Ox waddles off the scene, one of the favorite animal-named years charges in --- The Tiger. The Lunar calendar has 12 animals designated on a 12-year cycle.

This courageous and fiery fighter is admired by the ancient Chinese as the sign that keeps away the three main tragedies of a household: fire, thieves and ghosts.

The Tiger is said to be lucky vivid, lively and engaging. Another attribute of the Tiger is his incredible bravery, evidenced in his willingness to engage in battle or his undying courage
Years of the Tiger

Tigers do not put much confidence in power or money. They will be completely honest about how they feel and expect the same of you. On the other hand, they seek approval from peers and family. Generally, because of their charming personalities. Tigers are well liked. Still, like all felines, Tigers always land on their feet, ready for their next act in life, pursuing it with unyielding energy.

Were you born during a Year of the Tiger? You were if you were born in one of these years: 1902, 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, and 1998.

Now, go out and be a good TIGER on this ST. VALENTINE'S DAY. OH, and remember: Next Chinese New Year, 2011, is the Year of the Rabbit. But will not be on lover's day.


(Britt Towery, former Baylor University Director of Asian Studies and Liaison for China Christian Churches, lives in San Angelo. His e-mail: