Uncommon History

An uncommon look at history

An Unadulterated Christian Holiday

Balthasar, Melchior, and GaspaIf you are among the growing number of Christians upset with the rapid materialism that is tearing apart one of our most sacred holidays, January 6th could be your redemption. Actually, according to tradition, that is exactly what many Christians around the world celebrate on this day.

January 6th is set aside by many Christians as the Day of Epiphany. While December 25th is marked by the birth of Jesus Christ, January 6th is celebrated as the culmination of Jesus’ birth, the visit of the Persian Priests (the Magi), all of his childhood, his baptism and including his first miracle at the wedding at Cana. These events are referred to in ancient texts as the: Illumination (Matthew 3:13–17), Manifestation (Luke 3:22), and Declaration (John 2:1–11).

I invite you to dig a little deeper to discover more about the Christian feast of the Epiphany. If you’d like to read about it, here is one good resource I have found:

Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamations

The Thanksgiving Proclamations given each year by the President of the United States of America can give us all a glimpse into the changing climate of and the role of religious belief in the highest office of the land.

Interestingly, the Thanksgiving Proclamation itself did not begin with our first President, George Washington. In fact, these annual addresses began in 1777 and were issued by the Continental Congress.

Subsequent articles on Uncommon History will provide these proclamations in detail, but a quick comparison between the very first proclamation sheds light on the dependence upon and deep reverence for God. In contrast, the latest Thanksgiving Proclamation delivered by President Obama only gives a passing remark about God, but not in his own beliefs, but in recollection of the first Presidential Proclamation given by George Washington.

For your own comparison, here are the first paragraphs from both George Washington and Barak Obama:

George Washington

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor – and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Barak Obama

What began as a harvest celebration between European settlers and indigenous communities nearly four centuries ago has become our cherished tradition of Thanksgiving. This day’s roots are intertwined with those of our Nation, and its history traces the American narrative. Today, we recall President George Washington, who proclaimed our first national day of public thanksgiving to be observed “by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God,” and President Abraham Lincoln, who established our annual Thanksgiving Day to help mend a fractured Nation in the midst of civil war. We also recognize the contributions of Native Americans, who helped the early colonists survive their first harsh winter and continue to strengthen our Nation. From our earliest days of independence, and in times of tragedy and triumph, Americans have come together to celebrate Thanksgiving.

There is an obvious, yet almost sublime shift in the wording of these proclamations which changes the emphasis. President Washington is calling the people of the United States to a dedicated time of prayer and thanksgiving. President Obama appears to be calling the people of the United States to celebrate the official holiday that is called “Thanksgiving.” The emphasis is now being drawn upon a focus on the day rather than the Creator.

For those of us who number ourselves among the faithful, this change in focus is quite troubling.

International Burn a Koran Day

©miguel ugaldeJust what does it mean? What does it signify? What will the end result be? On September 11, 2010, many of those questions will be answered when the small congregation at Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida make a huge statement.

If Terry Jones, pastor of Dove World, accomplishes his vision of burning copies of the Koran, there will no doubt be some measure of world-wide repercussion. The scale of which may not yet be fully understood, but it soon shall be.

But what, in the end will be the historical impact of such an event held at a remote location? This is in fact the only reason I feel compelled to include an article about it on Uncommon History.

Tensions between Christians and other faiths such as Islam are certainly nothing new. Endless wars have been and continue to be waged in the name of religion and the only real result has been that people have died and the respective religion’s reputations have been duly marred.

I predict such will be the result in this case. After all, there is no biblical precedent or tenet that points to burning the holy books of another religion. Jesus Christ himself performed no such act and in retrospect, it was the zealots that he concentrated much of his earthly ministry trying to turn back towards true faith. Paul too met with the leaders and pundits of various faith practices and he used the wisdom of words and the illustration of a life well-lived to turn people towards Jesus Christ.

While there is no doubt that tensions exist between members claiming Christianity or Islam, the faithful of both are the ones who suffer from the actions of the extremists. It is hard to imagine the true faith of the Dove World Outreach as their actions not only burn books, they will be burning bridges. Faith is not about destruction, it is about living out a life’s calling and serving the one who has called.

Let (Christian) Freedom Ring!

It has been some time since my last entry here on Uncommon History and there are a number of reasons. I do apologize for the delay, but I want to share with you one of the biggest reasons for my recent silence here.

A large driving force behind my desire to publish Uncommon History has been to illustrate and exemplify how God used people to create a wholly unique society in the world. The history itself is fascinating, but unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your point of view) our collective human nature is guiding us down a road that is one that seemingly would not be sanctioned by God.

My views on this area have been vastly challenged in the last few weeks and although I spend much of my time putting my thoughts into words, this point is difficult to fully express. The basic point is that I believe most of us are allowing societal pressures and political discourse to become a guiding force in the choices we make.

The truth is that I really do believe that this is a dangerous strategy. By giving into anxiety and fear that we may lose our Godly heritage, we are turning to worldly means to try to salvage what is left. I confess that I am not an innocent bystander to the fray and have spent/wasted ample hours fretting over what to write about here and how to help guide others towards a return to a righteous path.

“The answer my friend is blowing in the wind…” Actually, if you read your bible regularly, its within only a few inches of your face.  Instead of putting our trust in television personalities or in political ideologies, we should be returning to the Word of God and falling on our faces in prayer. Not in order to save our country, but to become the individuals that God wants US to be. We can’t fix other people and we certainly can’t trust politicians to guide us collectively towards God.

Ephesians 6:12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” -ESV

Our battle is not against Barak Obama, nor is it against the Democratic Party, Socialist Party, Republicans, Libertarians, etc… When it boils right down to the bottom line, God doesn’t care what political party you belong to, just as much as he doesn’t care what denomination you belong to. What God wants is your heart, mind and a servant’s attitude to worship him.

Yes, most of us love America, but there were Christians before there was an America and there will be Christians after there was an America (should that day ever come). We shouldn’t be lifting our Constitution above the Bible as a sacred text.

Romans 8:31-38: 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” -ESV

Now, with that said, do I think or advocate that we shouldn’t strive towards maintaining the blessings of liberty that God so graciously bestowed upon our nation? Certainly not! But that is not where we should start, it is not where we should live and it is not where we should plant our hopes. Only through reaching a lost and dying world for Jesus Christ and by living out the true liberty that can only come from God can we rest in the assurances of Constitutional liberty.

For the Christian, our liberty bell is not a cracked piece of bronze sitting within the walls of a museum. Our liberty bell is composed of 66 books and has been placed in our hands by the Creator himself. Let it ring!

1 Corinthians 10: 23-33: “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” 27 If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— 29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.” -ESV

I hope you will agree with me that we should not be a Christian Nation, but we should instead be a nation of Christians. Then, and only then, can our guidance be directed by God. Jesus Christ did not die for America, he died for sinners so that they may receive the gift of salvation through him. If you want to save America, ask God to save you first, and then your family and friends, then anyone else you meet.

No matter the history, keep first things first

I have spent much time in recent months researching and writing for various history related writing projects and I want to share some information I believe to be of the utmost importance. Simply put, no matter what connections you make between the history and the present, I have rediscovered the fact that unless you keep the first things first, you can get buried in the details and nuances that bury this world in struggle and turmoil.

No matter how much history repeats itself or how much you see the darker forces working toward grasping more and more power, it is essential to remain committed to God and hold on to His promises.

It is a valiant struggle to engage in battling the forces that try to drive our nations and organizations towards an undesirable end. That said, if you (and I) are not praying, reading God’s Word, and being a blessing to those around you for the Glory of God and our savior Jesus Christ, then to what end are you working towards?

I ask this because I have found myself wandering off the path of God’s righteousness towards a new path of self righteousness. Patriotism is a worthy and noble cause, but as citizens of Heaven, it is our utmost responsibility to remain committed to the one who makes ALL of it possible.

As we search and research we may begin to drift to the idea that God may just not be in total control after all. Please be rest assured that God is indeed in control. If you are having your own doubts, please…PLEASE…step away from the histories of the world for a while and return to the good book!

Proof of Biblical Exodus Not in Bible Alone

In line with the years of intentional re-writing of history for political gain, one event that has been under relentless attack in recent years is the biblical account of the Hebrew exodus from Egypt. In fact, a recent program on the history channel attempted to dismiss all of the plagues accounted in the book of Exodus. For explanation purposes, the following is the list of plagues:

  • Plague of Blood – Ex. 7:14–25
  • Plague of Frogs – Ex. 7:25–8:11
  • Plague of Lice – Ex. 8:16–19
  • Plague of Flies – Ex. 8:20–32
  • Plague of Livestock Death – Ex. 9:1–7
  • Plague of Boils – Ex. 9:8–12
  • Plague of Hail – Ex. 9:13–35
  • Plague of Locusts – Ex. 10:1–20
  • Plague of Darkness – Ex. 10:21–29
  • Death of the Firstborn – Ex. 11:1–12:36
  • When it comes to the subject of Biblical history, deterring from biblical text should only be done if the biblical text is referred to as the measuring rule of other proofs. This may seem like circular reasoning, but really, if you are trying to prove a hypothesis, the hypothesis itself becomes the measure. Similarly though, especially in the realm of historic research, multiple primary sources are necessary as “witnesses” to an event.

    When it comes to the exodus account and the biblical plagues, there is another primary source document that relates events in Egypt that very much resemble the accounts in the book of Exodus.

    One such text is known by historian circles as the “Ipuwer papyrus.” Within this narrative, there is a description of the following:

    “Plague is throughout the land, blood is everywhere — the river is blood … and the hail smote every herd of the field … the land is without light and there is a thick darkness throughout the land … the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt — from the firstborn of Pharoah that sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the prison…”

    Source: “Passover proof lies in Egyptian hieroglyphs

    While this text alone is not conclusive proof of the biblical account due to various disagreements relating to the age of the text, it would seem most plausible to line the two accounts side-by-side. While this is encouraging information to the believer, it does not override belief through faith.

    Eliza Rhea Anderson Fain

    Not too often in my internet travels do I come across articles that transcend the typical battle or leader profiles. More often than not, when I do come across articles centered upon the lives of soldiers or civilians, one of the typical themes left out is their religious mindset and beliefs. Readers at Uncommon History know that I come from a certain perspective that religion was a driving force, and to a large extent even continues to be so today.

    Today I came across an article that very much illustrates the religious passions of one woman during the Civil War that motivated her to exceedingly support the Southern view she and her family had adopted.

    Eliza kept a diary throughout the war and although I have not had the opportunity to read it, many of the extracted quotes I have read  speak very plainly that there were plenty of American citizens at the time that would, and did, sacrifice all for their religious convictions.

    Here are just a few quotes from her diary:

    “I am becoming more firmly fixed in my conviction concerning this war that religion will be more intimately interwoven in its history than any which had ever preceded it,” she wrote on October 13, 1862. “The men who have honored God are the men he has chosen to honor on almost every field.”

    “And I do feel the judgments of Almighty God will rest upon the heads of the Northern people for their unjust interference, thereby thwarting our plans for the elevation of our colored people in a moral point of view.” Slavery, Eliza Fain believed, was the cornerstone of the war effort – the very reason her kin had pledged to fight and die for the cause.”

    “When a band of Federal soldiers passed her home in October 1863, she challenged them to reflect upon their motives to wage war. “They have to acknowledge that slavery has been the inciting cause to this war,” she triumphantly declared.
    “They all tell me if they thought they were fighting to free the Negro they would quit and go home.”

    I can do no more justice at present on this intriguing woman than the fine writing of  Maggiemac at Civil War Women. You can read her article on Eliza at her blog.

    Further Reading

    [amtap amazon:asin=1572333138]

    A Knocking on the Door

    As many millions of parents and children prepare any number of costumes, from angels to zombies, a highly significant part of history is being forgotten. While October 31 has become widely accepted as a day and night to illicit questionable behavior, it was in the year 1517 that one man went knocking on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.

    On October 31, 1517, a man named Martin Luther attached a document to the doors of this church in the purpose of rebelling against his perceived distortions of the teachings of Jesus Christ.

    It is an interesting comparison to the traditions practiced on this day in modern times. Children wanting to satisfy their sweet tooth go from door-to-door seeking generous neighbors willing to part with some amount of sugar confection. Martin Luther too sought to satisfy a particular part of himself, but rather than a selfish desire of material satisfaction, Luther sought to bring to himself, and others, a spiritual satisfaction.

    Without going into great detail, Martin Luther had experienced the teachings of the church first-hand, but these rituals and rights seemed to have little-to-nothing to do with the actions and sayings of the savior and apostles in the bible. What followed was a revolution in religious thought and paved the way to a new future throughout the entire world.

    The following is the translated text of the controversial points that Luther nailed to the door:

    Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter.In the Name our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

    1.

        Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.

    2. This word cannot be understood to mean sacramental penance, i.e., confession and satisfaction, which is administered by the priests.

    3. Yet it means not inward repentance only; nay, there is no inward repentance which does not outwardly work divers mortifications of the flesh.

    4. The penalty [of sin], therefore, continues so long as hatred of self continues; for this is the true inward repentance, and continues until our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

    5. The pope does not intend to remit, and cannot remit any penalties other than those which he has imposed either by his own authority or by that of the Canons.

    6. The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring that it has been remitted by God and by assenting to God’s remission; though, to be sure, he may grant remission in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in such cases were despised, the guilt would remain entirely unforgiven.

    7. God remits guilt to no one whom He does not, at the same time, humble in all things and bring into subjection to His vicar, the priest.

    8. The penitential canons are imposed only on the living, and, according to them, nothing should be imposed on the dying.

    9. Therefore the Holy Spirit in the pope is kind to us, because in his decrees he always makes exception of the article of death and of necessity.

    10. Ignorant and wicked are the doings of those priests who, in the case of the dying, reserve canonical penances for purgatory.

    11. This changing of the canonical penalty to the penalty of purgatory is quite evidently one of the tares that were sown while the bishops slept.

    12. In former times the canonical penalties were imposed not after, but before absolution, as tests of true contrition.

    13. The dying are freed by death from all penalties; they are already dead to canonical rules, and have a right to be released from them.

    14. The imperfect health [of soul], that is to say, the imperfect love, of the dying brings with it, of necessity, great fear; and the smaller the love, the greater is the fear.

    15. This fear and horror is sufficient of itself alone (to say nothing of other things) to constitute the penalty of purgatory, since it is very near to the horror of despair.

    16. Hell, purgatory, and heaven seem to differ as do despair, almost-despair, and the assurance of safety.

    17. With souls in purgatory it seems necessary that horror should grow less and love increase.

    18. It seems unproved, either by reason or Scripture, that they are outside the state of merit, that is to say, of increasing love.

    19. Again, it seems unproved that they, or at least that all of them, are certain or assured of their own blessedness, though we may be quite certain of it.

    20. Therefore by “full remission of all penalties” the pope means not actually “of all,” but only of those imposed by himself.

    21. Therefore those preachers of indulgences are in error, who say that by the pope’s indulgences a man is freed from every penalty, and saved;

    22. Whereas he remits to souls in purgatory no penalty which, according to the canons, they would have had to pay in this life.

    23. If it is at all possible to grant to any one the remission of all penalties whatsoever, it is certain that this remission can be granted only to the most perfect, that is, to the very fewest.

    24. It must needs be, therefore, that the greater part of the people are deceived by that indiscriminate and highsounding promise of release from penalty.

    25. The power which the pope has, in a general way, over purgatory, is just like the power which any bishop or curate has, in a special way, within his own diocese or parish.

    26. The pope does well when he grants remission to souls [in purgatory], not by the power of the keys (which he does not possess), but by way of intercession.

    27. They preach man who say that so soon as the penny jingles into the money-box, the soul flies out [of purgatory].

    28. It is certain that when the penny jingles into the money-box, gain and avarice can be increased, but the result of the intercession of the Church is in the power of God alone.

    29. Who knows whether all the souls in purgatory wish to be bought out of it, as in the legend of Sts. Severinus and Paschal.

    30. No one is sure that his own contrition is sincere; much less that he has attained full remission.

    31. Rare as is the man that is truly penitent, so rare is also the man who truly buys indulgences, i.e., such men are most rare.

    32. They will be condemned eternally, together with their teachers, who believe themselves sure of their salvation because they have letters of pardon.

    33. Men must be on their guard against those who say that the pope’s pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to Him;

    34. For these “graces of pardon” concern only the penalties of sacramental satisfaction, and these are appointed by man.

    35. They preach no Christian doctrine who teach that contrition is not necessary in those who intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessionalia.

    36. Every truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without letters of pardon.

    37. Every true Christian, whether living or dead, has part in all the blessings of Christ and the Church; and this is granted him by God, even without letters of pardon.

    38. Nevertheless, the remission and participation [in the blessings of the Church] which are granted by the pope are in no way to be despised, for they are, as I have said, the declaration of divine remission.

    39. It is most difficult, even for the very keenest theologians, at one and the same time to commend to the people the abundance of pardons and [the need of] true contrition.

    40. True contrition seeks and loves penalties, but liberal pardons only relax penalties and cause them to be hated, or at least, furnish an occasion [for hating them].

    41. Apostolic pardons are to be preached with caution, lest the people may falsely think them preferable to other good works of love.

    42. Christians are to be taught that the pope does not intend the buying of pardons to be compared in any way to works of mercy.

    43. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better work than buying pardons;

    44. Because love grows by works of love, and man becomes better; but by pardons man does not grow better, only more free from penalty.

    45. 45. Christians are to be taught that he who sees a man in need, and passes him by, and gives [his money] for pardons, purchases not the indulgences of the pope, but the indignation of God.

    46. Christians are to be taught that unless they have more than they need, they are bound to keep back what is necessary for their own families, and by no means to squander it on pardons.

    47. Christians are to be taught that the buying of pardons is a matter of free will, and not of commandment.

    48. Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting pardons, needs, and therefore desires, their devout prayer for him more than the money they bring.

    49. Christians are to be taught that the pope’s pardons are useful, if they do not put their trust in them; but altogether harmful, if through them they lose their fear of God.

    50. Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the pardon-preachers, he would rather that St. Peter’s church should go to ashes, than that it should be built up with the skin, flesh and bones of his sheep.

    51. Christians are to be taught that it would be the pope’s wish, as it is his duty, to give of his own money to very many of those from whom certain hawkers of pardons cajole money, even though the church of St. Peter might have to be sold.

    52. The assurance of salvation by letters of pardon is vain, even though the commissary, nay, even though the pope himself, were to stake his soul upon it.

    53. They are enemies of Christ and of the pope, who bid the Word of God be altogether silent in some Churches, in order that pardons may be preached in others.

    54. Injury is done the Word of God when, in the same sermon, an equal or a longer time is spent on pardons than on this Word.

    55. It must be the intention of the pope that if pardons, which are a very small thing, are celebrated with one bell, with single processions and ceremonies, then the Gospel, which is the very greatest thing, should be preached with a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.

    56. The “treasures of the Church,” out of which the pope. grants indulgences, are not sufficiently named or known among the people of Christ.

    57. That they are not temporal treasures is certainly evident, for many of the vendors do not pour out such treasures so easily, but only gather them.

    58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the Saints, for even without the pope, these always work grace for the inner man, and the cross, death, and hell for the outward man.

    59. St. Lawrence said that the treasures of the Church were the Church’s poor, but he spoke according to the usage of the word in his own time.

    60. Without rashness we say that the keys of the Church, given by Christ’s merit, are that treasure;

    61. For it is clear that for the remission of penalties and of reserved cases, the power of the pope is of itself sufficient.

    62. The true treasure of the Church is the Most Holy Gospel of the glory and the grace of God.

    63. But this treasure is naturally most odious, for it makes the first to be last.

    64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is naturally most acceptable, for it makes the last to be first.

    65. Therefore the treasures of the Gospel are nets with which they formerly were wont to fish for men of riches.

    66. The treasures of the indulgences are nets with which they now fish for the riches of men.

    67. The indulgences which the preachers cry as the “greatest graces” are known to be truly such, in so far as they promote gain.

    68. Yet they are in truth the very smallest graces compared with the grace of God and the piety of the Cross.

    69. Bishops and curates are bound to admit the commissaries of apostolic pardons, with all reverence.

    70. But still more are they bound to strain all their eyes and attend with all their ears, lest these men preach their own dreams instead of the commission of the pope.

    71. He who speaks against the truth of apostolic pardons, let him be anathema and accursed!

    72. But he who guards against the lust and license of the pardon-preachers, let him be blessed!

    73. The pope justly thunders against those who, by any art, contrive the injury of the traffic in pardons.

    74. But much more does he intend to thunder against those who use the pretext of pardons to contrive the injury of holy love and truth.

    75. To think the papal pardons so great that they could absolve a man even if he had committed an impossible sin and violated the Mother of God — this is madness.

    76. We say, on the contrary, that the papal pardons are not able to remove the very least of venial sins, so far as its guilt is concerned.

    77. It is said that even St. Peter, if he were now Pope, could not bestow greater graces; this is blasphemy against St. Peter and against the pope.

    78. We say, on the contrary, that even the present pope, and any pope at all, has greater graces at his disposal; to wit, the Gospel, powers, gifts of healing, etc., as it is written in I. Corinthians xii.

    79. To say that the cross, emblazoned with the papal arms, which is set up [by the preachers of indulgences], is of equal worth with the Cross of Christ, is blasphemy.

    80. The bishops, curates and theologians who allow such talk to be spread among the people, will have an account to render.

    81. This unbridled preaching of pardons makes it no easy matter, even for learned men, to rescue the reverence due to the pope from slander, or even from the shrewd questionings of the laity.

    82. To wit: — “Why does not the pope empty purgatory, for the sake of holy love and of the dire need of the souls that are there, if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a Church? The former reasons would be most just; the latter is most trivial.”

    83. Again: — “Why are mortuary and anniversary masses for the dead continued, and why does he not return or permit the withdrawal of the endowments founded on their behalf, since it is wrong to pray for the redeemed?”

    84. Again: — “What is this new piety of God and the pope, that for money they allow a man who is impious and their enemy to buy out of purgatory the pious soul of a friend of God, and do not rather, because of that pious and beloved soul’s own need, free it for pure love’s sake?”

    85. Again: — “Why are the penitential canons long since in actual fact and through disuse abrogated and dead, now satisfied by the granting of indulgences, as though they were still alive and in force?”

    86. Again: — “Why does not the pope, whose wealth is to-day greater than the riches of the richest, build just this one church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the money of poor believers?”

    87. Again: — “What is it that the pope remits, and what participation does he grant to those who, by perfect contrition, have a right to full remission and participation?”

    88. Again: — “What greater blessing could come to the Church than if the pope were to do a hundred times a day what he now does once, and bestow on every believer these remissions and participations?”

    89. “Since the pope, by his pardons, seeks the salvation of souls rather than money, why does he suspend the indulgences and pardons granted heretofore, since these have equal efficacy?”

    90. To repress these arguments and scruples of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the Church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christians unhappy.

    91. If, therefore, pardons were preached according to the spirit and mind of the pope, all these doubts would be readily resolved; nay, they would not exist.

    92. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Peace, peace,” and there is no peace!

    93. Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Cross, cross,” and there is no cross!

    94. Christians are to be exhorted that they be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths, and hell;

    95. And thus be confident of entering into heaven rather through many tribulations, than through the assurance of peace.

    Political Activism and the Social Gospel

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    In relation to my study of the issue of Separation of Church and State, much more should be said. Both for the purpose of clarifying my own views as well as bringing to light some uncommonly known historic facts of the issue itself.

    Mankind in general has always been inclined to either join into the religious, intellectual and political endeavors of others, or to bring others into line with their own. This is neither proper or improper, it just is a fact of the human condition. We are created beings of want for community and justice with varied degrees of participation and philosophy. It is just this sense of motivation and selfish desire for common ground at any cost that has driven the governments and economies of the nations since the beginning of time.

    No less affected has been the democratic government of the United States of America. Our government was designed to be shaped over the centuries by opinion, persuasion and debate. It is no great suprise that since the ratification of the US Constitution that our citizenry has been engaged in the perpetual swing of fluctuating thought.

    The first great swing of this pendulum hinged on the subject of African Slavery in the United States and was led primarily by religious, moral philosophers, preachers and teachers. When the issue was ultimately resolved at the end of the US Civil War, these same thinkers continued their combined drive to bring equality to the new population of freedmen.

    Politics had always been a welcome place for groups and individuals to debate their concerns and interests. Up to that point however, religion remained a largely separate venue; not that men of religion were not given to political service, but specific issues of religious and moral debate were not commonplace in the new government. Most issues centered on foreign relations, economic concerns and territorial ambition.

    As the nineteenth century drew to a close, the political landscape became the new home for religious activism and promotion of what would become known as the “social gospel.” This social gospel took the moral tenets of the bible and applied them to common societal woes such as assisting the poor as well as increased pressure upon the population at large to accept the teachings of the church and in doing so to promote social righteousness.

    In a sense, the initial leaders of this movement were driven with good intentions, but it seems that somewhere along the way they lost an integral part of the very message they were trying to promote. Their methods focused on educating government officials of the laws, commandments and rituals of holy scripture rather than understanding the separate roles laid out by the very savior they wanted to emulate.

    This blog format is limited in its ability to maintain a reader’s attention for a lengthy discourse and deep research. Because of this, I implore anyone interested in this subject to search out these facts and implications for themselves in the Word of God and derive their own interpretation based wholly therein.

    With that said, I believe what anyone willing to look with due diligence, will find that Jesus Christ did not go to the temples of government in order to induce the leadership to accept and endorse his teachings. Instead, Jesus was found teaching in the religious centers of the day imploring those leaders to rescind their grasp on political power and instead hold tightly to the teachings of liberty, grace and compassion. Over the three year course of his ministry, Jesus came in contact with many individuals involved in varying degrees of the political and governmental processes. Jesus did not instruct these men to go back to their respective caucuses and implore them to accept his ways. Instead, Jesus drew these men to Him, taught them his ways and they themselves, by their own convictions and instincts allowed his teachings to inform their decisions. This, in a sense, was the activism of Jesus Christ. It was not intended to instruct political leaders to enforce and protect grace. It was intended to lead mankind into His grace and protection and from there spread to the masses from which leaders emerged with their own ability to discern the Christian precepts of leadership.

    So when did this radical shift in civic-religious activism really kick into high gear? I believe the best place to start is with the Men and Religion Forward Movement that began around 1912.

    One such example of this rise in political activism can be found in Volume 2 of “The Messages of the Men and Religious Forward Movement” (1912)

    Messages of The Men and Religion Forward Movement – Volume 2 (Social Service):

    The subject was the rising issue of prostitution in Chicago, but the call to action was unlike any recorded in Holy Scripture. The following is the preacher’s call to action:

    ” The new publicity in regard to prostitution in itself forces the church into radical action; understanding of the sinner has ever been essential to his forgiveness, knowledge of conditions has ever preceded social reforms. If it is discovered that the brothels are filled with over-fatigued and underpaid girls, procured by young men ‘too poor to marry,’ then it is obviously the business of the church to secure legal enactment which shall limit the hours of labor, fix a minimum wage, and prescribe the conditions under which young people may be permitted to work.”

    The sermon delivered goes on to say:

    “If it is found that degenerate children born of diseased and viscious parents, become and easy prey for the brothel, it is clearly the obligation of the church to challenge all applicants for marriage and to work out through modern eugenics the admonitions of the Hebrew teachers as to the responsibility unto the third and fourth generation.”

    The plight of the exploitation of children, that continues even today, is without a doubt a travesty, but I believe this message approaches the problem with incorrect theology.

    In the beginning of this message, the love and forgiveness of Christ for sinners is pronounced and most evident, but by the end of the sermon, the legalistic practices of the Hebrew nation are invoked. These are the very entanglements that Jesus Christ came to reverse the Children of God from. It comes as no surprise to the scholar of this movement to realize that it put into high gear, the manipulation of politics, moral codes and methods of business designed for capitalistic success in order to bring about a religious segment’s social views into fruition through legislation.

    It is my view that it is beyond for Christians to embrace the founding father’s view of Separation of Church and State and set about doing the Lord’s work in the harvest fields and not in the halls of government bureaucracy.

    Separation of Church and State – Part 1

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    Recently I began reading about the topic of Separation of Church and State for a US Government research paper. I have come to no firm conclusions as of yet as I am still in the middle of my study on this most interesting topic.

    There are probably few people out there that are actually not interested in this subject in some way or another and for good reason. This essential tenet to the United States Constitution is shrouded in controversy almost as old as the country itself.

    In fact, I came across this very subject years ago while researching different aspects of spirituality and faith before, during and after the US Civil War. It is most interesting to me that the first political figure to seriously contend for a more liberal religious tolerance was none other than Geroge Washington. General Washington, at the time, strongly pressed for the incorporation of Christian Chaplains into his Continental Army. While this practice was soon adopted and little challenged at first, it became a hot-button item for debate upon ratification of the United States Constitution and the subsequent Bill of Rights.

    I also encountered the topic while researching different Christian seminaries being established in Illinois. There were several Constitutional challenges to initial charters based on this establishement and free excercise of religion in the newly formed country.

    The Constitution was ratified and adopted on September 17, 1787 and the original 10 amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, were ratified on December 15, 1791.  By 1830 however, the First amendment religious rights began to experience their first legal challenges in the United States Supreme Court.

    I won’t go into detail here and now, as that is the central point of my research paper, but over time I will discuss several areas of the challenges, victories and defeat of the rights proclaimed in the First Ammendment to the United States Constitution.

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