About Corazon

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Glenn Beck Check, Part I

For those of you who know me, you know that I LOATHE political parties. I cannot stand how some people are so willing to align themselves to one particular political ideology as if it is the sole guardian of all truth, justice and the American way. What I loathe more than political parties, however, are political pundits. You know, these "shock jock" talk radio and television personalities that have created a WWE style of entertainment by intertwining politics with apocalyptic doomsday prophecies and other emotionally-triggered nonsense.

Of all these political "shock jock" personalities, none disgusts me more than Glenn Beck. Now don't get me wrong here, I do not hate Glenn Beck the man nor do I disapprove of his conservative leanings. On some issues I agree with Beck 100%. What bugs me so much about Beck's radio and television programs are two things: first his almost complete reliance on apocalyptic, "doomsday" rhetoric, and second, his near complete historical illiteracy. Whether it's his bizarre rants on Thomas Paine, Theodore Roosevelt or Woodrow Wilson, or his strange description of the "evolution" of progressivism, Beck has -- time and time again -- demonstrated his woeful ignorance of American history. Now, only one of two possibilities are true: either Beck really is that historically illiterate or he is preying on the illiteracy of his audience. Either way it isn't a good thing.

Anyway, I have decided to install a new running series on my blog that will attempt to correct some of the "Beckisms" that are floating around out there on the internet. Now, I don't want people to think that I exclusively loathe Beck. On the contrary. No matter who the political "shock jock" is (Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Bill Maher, NealBoortz, etc.) I believe they are all in the business of one thing: RATINGS! These people are NOT the guardians of true American patriotism, nor are they the exclusive gatekeepers of truth, justice and the American way. Instead, as I have stated before, they are the "WWE wrestlers" of politics. Nothing more.

But in this arena of WWE politics, it is Glenn Beck that is the "Hulk Hogan" of the ring. As a result -- and because of his many ridiculous and incorrect rants -- I have chosen to single him out. It has nothing to do with his party or political leanings but exclusively due to his incorrect and misleading material. In fact, I believe that many Republicans/Conservatives (and I know many personally) are annoyed with Beck and would like to see him either go away or tone it down. So, without further delay, here is my first installment to the "Glenn Beck Check:"

On November 25th, Beck gave his "Thanksgiving Special" on Fox News:


Ok, sounds pretty typical of Beck. The video is filled with heart-warming rhetoric that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside, right?

Well, it's also ridden with quite a few historical errors. Let's point a few out shall we:

1.) Thanksgiving DID NOT begin on Clark Island. Beck is simply trying to give a pretty story (and yes, it is a beautiful story) of how some of the "pilgrims" on the Mayflower survived almost being shipwrecked. However, this WAS NOT the "first Thanksgiving." William Bradford, one of the original "Pilgrims" makes it clear in his account that the so-called first Thanksgiving was held during the Autumn of 1621...NOT 1620 like Beck states.

2.) Beck starts off by referring to the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780. And while it is true that the Mass. Constitution did state that it "was the duty" of its citizens to recognize God, Beck conveniently ignores the part which states that "No law shall be passed prohibiting the free exercise of religion." In other words, a CLEAR guarantee of religious freedom (a.k.a. a SEPARATION of church and state). This is an important point because, for whatever reason, many pundits like Beck succumb to the stupid notion that a separation of church and state will somehow eliminate religion from American society entirely. This couldn't be further from the truth. As James Madison pointed out:
The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe with blood for centuries.
And Thomas Jefferson:
Believing that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their Legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church and State. (Letter to Danbury Baptists, 1802).
For the Founding Fathers, the idea of a separation between church and state was THE ONLY way of maintaining religious freedom for all. Apparently this lesson is a little to hard for Beck to grasp.

3.) Next, Beck points to the Washington Monument, but he forgets that construction on the monument didn't even begin until 1832, thus the founders had NOTHING to do with it.

4.) Beck keeps pushing this "Moses" thing throughout the video. His reason for doing so it to somehow show that America's destiny is tied to Biblical prophecy, or that the founders clung to Biblical teachings. In reality, Beck is grasping at straws. Take for example the following picture of the statue atop the Supreme Court Building in Washington D.C.:

At first glance, this elegant statue of Moses standing guard over the Judicial Branch of America's republic seems to support what Beck is saying. But this is only half the truth. A closer look will also reveal that Moses is accompanied by a statue of Confucius (the great Chinese philosopher) and Solon (the great Athenian poet, statesman and leader in early Greece). Inside the Supreme Court building you are also likely to see the pagan statues of Britannia and Mars. Often referred to as the "Temple of Justice," the Supreme Court building illustrates that the founders were fond of ALL ancient civilizations. Their incorporation of Roman, Greek and Egyptian ideas are NOT evidence of their exclusive love for Moses and the Bible, but instead of their interest in all ancient civilizations and ideas.

Now, Beck is right when he points out that Benjamin Franklin suggested a national symbol/emblem of Moses and the fire separating Pharaoh's chariots, but this was in reference to the impending war with Britain, and Franklin thought the comparison of the small Israelites being liberated by the hand of God from the mighty British...er...Egyptians appropriate (it's also worth nothing that the suggestion was soundly defeated by almost everyone).

5.) Perhaps the strangest of Beck's faux pas are his references to Thomas Jefferson. Sorry Glenn, but you'd be hard pressed to find a more staunch supporter of church/state separation than Jefferson. But don't believe me, here's what Jefferson said on the matter:
"I consider the government of the U S. as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises. This results not only from the provision that no law shall be made respecting the establishment, or free exercise, of religion, but from that also which reserves to the states the powers not delegated to the U.S. Certainly no power to prescribe any religious exercise, or to assume authority in religious discipline, has been delegated to the general government."

"Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity."
-Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782

"History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes."
-Thomas Jefferson to Alexander von Humboldt, Dec. 6, 1813.

"Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law."
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814
Hmmmmm....sounds like a clear separation of church and state to me! But hey, he's Glenn Beck! He CAN'T be wrong because he's the TRUE voice of patriotism, justice and the American way, right?

I guess historical accuracy is overrated!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Early American Universities

An Evolution From Orthodoxy
To "Heresy."


Over the years I have been fascinated with the ongoing "Christian Nation" debate between secularists and religious conservatives. Watching this virtual tug-o-war over America's founding heritage is not only entertaining but enlightening. And though I find several kernels of truth in both camps, I am convinced -- based on my own study of the period and the studies of scores of professional historians -- that the founding of America -- at least from a religious perspective -- is anything but cut and dry. In reality, the truth lies somewhere between where the Christian nationalists and the secularists stand. This fact, however, does not dissuade the extremists on either end of the debate. The question of whether or not the Founding Fathers were Christians in the orthodox Trinitarian sense or not has continued to rage for generations. For many Christian nation apologists, this argument is paramount to their overall thesis. Proving that the founders, or at least the majority of founders, were orthodox Christians -- i.e. that they believed in the Trinity, incarnation, the Bible's infallible nature, etc. -- would in essence add credence to their notion that America was indeed founded as a Christian nation. In contrast, those of the secular persuasion maintain that by disproving the orthodoxy of the founders -- especially the key founders -- they effectively punch enough holes into the Christian nation argument, thereby proving that America was founded as a secular nation.

One of the more interesting tidbits of debate in this ongoing saga centers on the religious nature of the various universities of the founding era. After all, these universities became the central "breeding grounds" for the development of the clergy in their respective denominations. As a result, virtually every single religious denomination endeavored to establish their own university, which was then dedicated to the instruction of their future clergy. In his book, The Faiths of the Founding Fathers, David Holmes explains the nature and development of these universities:
Readers can gain a good indication of where religious groups were concentrated in colonial America by looking at its colleges. Because religious groups established all but one of the ten institutions of higher education in the colonies, the schools tended to be located where a denomination had strength. Thus in New England, Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth were Congregationalist, though Harvard later became Unitarian (a denomination that emerged from the liberal wing of Congregationalism). In Rhode Island, where several churches had strength, Baptists founded the College of Rhode Island (now Brown University). Since colleges were small, there were probably fewer than one thousand college students in America at any time. The colleges had the primary purposes of producing ministers and educated laity for their denominations, though in time all accepted members of other churches.

[...]

Upon entering the most northern of the middle colonies, New York, the visitors would have learned that the only college in the colony -- King's College (now Columbia University) -- was an Anglican institution. Its existence testified to the status of the Church of England as the colony's established church, though only in the area of densest population from Staten Island to Westchester County
(14-15).
Since the overwhelming majority of colonial universities were established by a particular religious denomination, Christian nation supporters maintain that those who attended such universities would naturally have received a heavy dose of religious instruction, thus increasing their devotion to Christian orthodoxy. In fact, David Barton, a popular Christian nation apologist, has seized upon the perceived orthodoxy of these various universities to defend his claim that 52 of the 55 signers to the Constitution were orthodox Christians. Barton defends this claim by pointing to the fact that roughly 27 of the signers attended one of the various universities of their day. As a result, Barton insinuates that these signers were, as a result of their education, prone to embrace and defend orthodox Christian teachings. This assertion has gained such wide notoriety among Christian nation advocates that even a former presidential candidate mentioned it in the course of a debate.

A large number of historians, however, are not convinced. For example, the Late Clinton Rossiter, professor of history at Cornell University had the following to say on the perceived orthodoxy of the founders:
Although it had its share of strenuous Christians ... the gathering at Philadelphia was largely made up of men in whom the old fires were under control or had even flickered out. Most were nominally members of one of the traditional churches in their part of the country ... and most were men who could take their religion or leave it alone. Although no one in this sober gathering would have dreamed of invoking the Goddess of Reason, neither would anyone have dared to proclaim his opinions had the support of the God of Abraham and Paul. The Convention of 1787 was highly rationalist and even secular in spirit (The Grand Convention, pp. 147-148).
In addition, Chris Rodda, author of the book, Liars for Jesus and passionate "Barton-debunker" gives the following rebuttal to Barton's claim:
All this means, of course, is that twenty-seven of the signers of the Declaration went to college -- twenty at a total of five different American colleges, and seven in Europe. Twenty-four definitely received degrees; three don't appear to have graduated. Almost all of the twenty-seven studied either law or business, and one studied medicine.

Only one of the fifty-six signers of the Declaration was a minister. This was John Witherspoon, the president of Princeton University (at that time called the College of New Jersey). There were two others, William Williams and Robert Treat Paine, who did seriously study of theology at some point in their educations, but neither pursued the ministry as a career. Williams studied under his clergyman father for a time after college, but ended up becoming a merchant. Paine became a lawyer. As for the rest, they may have had to follow the religious rules of the colleges they attended -- mandatory chapel attendance, strict observation of the Sabbath, etc. -- but since their only options were to attend a denominational school and follow its rules or not go to college at all, no conclusions about their religious opinions can be drawn from this.
Despite the criticism, David Barton and others remain steadfast in their assertion that the majority of the founders were orthodox in their Christian belief, and that most received such instruction from the major universities of their day. But just how orthodox were these colleges?

Historian Sydney Ahlstrom, author of the book, A Religious History of the American People, points out that a large number of these once highly orthodox universities underwent a religious metamorphosis, which adopted the "heretical" Unitarian teachings that were becoming quite popular at the time. With the rise of preachers like Charles Chauncy, Samuel Clarke, Richard Price and others, the traditional piety of American religion began to be challenged. As Ahlstrom points out:
The central doctrinal characteristic of this liberal movement was that which gave its early adherents the name "Arminian." They assaulted the Reformed or Westminster conceptions of God, man, and the divine-human relationship, stressing God's role as the Architect and Governor of the universe, though also placing an unmistakably Christian emphasis on his fatherhood...God's grace and mercy were needed, to be sure,; yet with regard to the nature of man and human ability, these liberal ministers showed perhaps a greater measure of confidence than any significant group of churchmen in the Reformed tradition. And what buoyed their confidence above all was the exhilaration of national independence, the economic and social advances of the American people, and the great destiny (already manifest) of this New World democracy. The idea prevailed that "this new man, this American" was a new Adam, sinless, innocent -- mankind's great second chance. Nowhere was it given so well-rooted a Christian interpretation as among these New England liberals, whose ideas on man were far more determinative than the ideas about the Godhead which later won the name "Unitarian." (391-392).
As these new teachings made their way into the various universities of colonial America, a shift away from tradition Christian orthodoxy occurred. Ahlstrom notes that American universities began hiring more liberal instructors of theology, who themselves adhered more to the principles of Unitarianism than traditional orthodoxy. The Reverend William Channing's remarks capture just how prevalent Unitarian doctrine was becoming in America's universities. In a letter to his colleagues, Channing urged the continuation of Unitarian teaching in Boston colleges:
Let them learn the distinction between Trinitarianism and Unitarianism. Many use these words without meaning, and are very zealous about sounds. Some suppose that Trinitarianism consists in believing in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But we all believe in these; we all believe that the Father sent the Son, and gives, to those that ask, the Holy Spirit. We are all Trinitarians, is this is belief in Trinitarianism. But it is not. The Trinitarian believes that the one God is three distinct persons called the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost; and he believes that each is the only true God, and yet that the three are only one God. This is Trinitarianism. The Unitarian believes that there is but one person possessing supreme Divinity, even the Father. This is the great distinction; let it be kept steadily in view...I am persuaded, that under these classes of high Unitarians many Christians ought to be ranked who call themselves orthodox and are Trinitarians...as such is the prevailing sentiment of our Universities (Ahlstrom, 395-396).
Even the case of James Madison reveals the changing nature in the religious teachings of American universities. From his youth, James Madison was raised in an orthodox Anglican home, where his father, James Madison Sr., was a vestryman in the church. When Madison was able to attend college, he and his family chose to send young James to the College of New Jersey (later Princeton). Instead of attending nearby William and Mary College, Madison chose to travel north and attend the College of New Jersey, because of its reputation for being “the principle training ground for American Presbyterian clergy” (Holmes, Faith of Founding Fathers, 92).

While attending college in New Jersey, Madison witnessed two evangelical revivals, which split the student body into two groups. Steven Waldman, author of Founding Faith, notes that these two groups (known as the Cliosophical Society and the American Whig Society) differed in how they perceived religion. The “Cliosophes” were more evangelical in their sentiments, while the American Whigs were more cerebral and Unitarian. Madison took part in the latter (Founding Faith, 96).

The fact that Madison favored an intellectual and Unitarian perspective on religion may suggest that the orthodox teachings of his youth were beginning to change. After all, Madison had begun to investigate the teachings of Deism while under the tutelage of Donald Robertson and Alexander Martin.

Whatever their actual religious leanings were, it is clear that American universities, just prior to the founding, were embroiled in a religious "revolution" of sorts, which overturned much of the traditional orthodoxy of the day. As a result, American universities became a breeding ground for "heretical" interpretations of Christianity, which may explain why some founders kept orthodoxy at a distance.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Random Family Pics

Here's a pic of my crazy kids shoving themselves into our small entertainment cabinet:



The things kids do to entertain themselves!

Cooking With Corazon: **Special Thanksgiving Edition**

Thanksgiving is awesome! It's the perfect excuse to go buy the very best ingredients and immerse one's self in a glutenous smörgåsbord of culinary ecstasy!

This year, my family spent the holiday with some friends here in Colorado Springs. As a result, we didn't cook many of the traditional items that one would expect (i.e. turkey, pie, etc.). Instead we made some different items that we thought would go along nicely with our friend's dinner. Here are a few pictures (sorry that the food is not plated. Obviously we had to transport it):



Above is the bacon, brussel sprout, cranberry and pecan salad. It was pretty darn good. Here is the recipe:

-1 lb. brussel sprouts
-4 strips of bacon
-2 cups dried cranberries
-2 cups pecans (chopped)

Directions:
-Mix cranberries and pecans in bowl
-Blanch brussel sprouts
-Cook up bacon and then break into small pieces and add to salad
-briefly saute brussel sprouts in bacon grease (for like 30 seconds)
-Add sprouts to salad
-SCARF!

And here are a few other delicious items we ate:

The orange rolls are a family recipe from my wife (oh, and she cooked them so I cannot take credit). Absolutely delicious. You'll have to talk to her for the recipe. The noodles and steak are part of my steak gorgonzola alfredo recipe. Here it is:

-2 lbs. marinated steak (I used top sirloin)
-1 lb. pasta (I chose linguine)
-4 cups raw spinach (Chopped)
-1 cup green onions
-20 oz. alfredo sauce (I used Huntz Alfredo)
-16 oz. Italian dressing
-Fresh rosemary (about 2 tbs.)
-Tbs. lemon juice
-Gorgonzola cheese

Directions:

-Marinade steak (for at least 2 hours) in Italian dressing, rosemary and lemon juice.
-Heat alfredo sauce in large saute pan.
-Add onions, and spinach to alfredo sauce.
-Add three tbs. of gorgonzola cheese to alfredo sauce mix.
-Mix ingredients together.
-Cook pasta as specified on pasta box (usually a pasta box will give you instructions on how to cook their stupid pasta...it's pretty easy).
-Once cooked, add pasta to alfredo sauce and mix thoroughly.
-Grill steak to desired doneness.
-Slice steak into 1 inch cubes.
-Plate desired quantity of pasta/alfredo sauce on plate and top with desired number of steak cubes.
-SCARF!!!

Here's another look at the steak gorgonzola alfredo:


Thanksgiving was delicious! Not only was if fun to cook but it was even more fun to SCARF! Happy eating, everyone! BUEN PROVECHO!!!

Oh, and if you are interested in my recipe for the apple sauce click here.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Unitarianism and the Brahmo Samaj

It Didn't Just
Impact America


Over at my other blog (American Creation) we have discussed at great length how "infidel" or "heathen" forms of Christianity became a major player in early American society. Many of the traditional forms of Christian orthodoxy were challenged during the founding era -- and even before -- in a way that caused some of our founders to question the traditional forms of Christian worship of their day.

With that said, it would be a grave mistake to say that "Infidel" religion is exclusively the domain of Christianity. Of course all major religions have their "heretics" who, from time to time, challenge many of the traditional beliefs of their respective religions. Whether it's Islam, Christianity, Judaism, etc., all religions have had their "revolutionaries" who have sought to reform the long-held beliefs of their society and creeds.

It is in this light that I want to mention the case of the BRAHMO SAMAJ and its impact on modern Hinduism and Indian society. First, it is likely that most Americans are unfamiliar with the Brahmo Samaj. Until my recent grad school class on India I was also completely unfamiliar with it, but it has captured my attention and interest as of late. As a result, permit me to give a brief history and background on the Brahmo Samaj, which I hope will be of benefit and interest to the reader:

The Brahmo Samaj is arguably one of the most influential movements in the history of modern India. Simply put, it is a social order of people committed to a "metaphysical rigor and intellectual discipline of the Brahmo Religion." Their creed consists of the following fundamental beliefs:
1.) On God: There is always Infinite (limitless, undefinable, unperceivable, indivisible) Singularity - immanent and transcendent Singular Author and Preserver of Existence - He who is manifest everywhere and in everything, in the fire and in the water, in the smallest plant to the mightiest oak.

2.)
On Being: Being is created from Singularity. Being is renewed to Singularity. Being exists to be one (again) with Loving Singularity.

3.)
On Intelligent Existence: Righteous (worshipful, intelligent, moral) actions alone rule (regulate[preserve]) Existence against Chaos (loss [decay, return, pervading emptiness]). Knowledge (Intelligence[reason, sentience, intuition]) of pure Conscience (light within) is the One (Supreme) ruler (authority[law, dharma]) of Existence with no symbol (creation [scripture, book, object]) or intermediary (being[teacher, messiah, ruler]).

4.)
On Love: Respect all creations and beings but never venerate (worship) them for only Singularity can be loved (adored, worshipped).
The origins and development of the doctrine of the Brahmo Samaj are complex to say the least. As a result, we must travel back to the early 1800s -- to the beginnings of the Samaj -- in order to appreciate its unique development as a legitimate religious influence in modern India.

Originally born in the Hindu-dominated society of India, the Brahmo Samaj was the "brain child" of Ram Mohan Roy, a young man who had been exposed to a plethora of religious ideas while in his youth. During his early years, Ram Mohan Roy had adopted a preference for monotheism, predominantly the result of his exposure to Islam. In addition, Roy worked closely with several British Christian missionaries who used Roy to "upset" some of the traditional Hindu believers in the region -- must to the benefit of the East India Company and British investors of course. It was during this time that Roy became close allies with Baptist preacher William Carey, whose influential book, An Enquiry Into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens was a stereotypical pro-British, xenophobic work of his era. The book presents an ultra-pro Christian perspective while at the same time condemns the "heathen" religions of India as "idolatrous," "works of the devil," etc.

It was while under the tutelage of Carey that Roy not only learned English, but continued to harden his personal devotion to monotheism. In fact, his insistence on monotheistic belief became so dominating that it caused Roy, with the help of Carey and others, to manufacture the fraudulent work, Mahanirvana Tantra (Book of Great Liberation), which was passed off as ancient scripture that supposedly upheld the belief in "the one true God" -- an idea that obviously flew in the face of traditional Hindu doctrine. Naturally, both Carey and Roy had opposing motives for creating the fraudulent document. Carey hoped to use the document to promote Christianity and its one true God -- Christ. Roy, however, hoped to expose what he saw as lasciviousness, laziness, and idolatry on the part of the Hindu clergy.

So you are probably asking yourself, "why in the world are we talking about India on a blog devoted to the American founding? The reason centers on the doctrine of Unitarianism -- a topic that we have regularly discussed on this blog. As many of our former posts have pointed out, Unitarianism became a powerful and very influential doctrine during the founding era, and many of the key founders found its creed to be to their liking. As historian Sydney Ahlstrom points out in his book, A Religious History of the American People:
God’s grace and mercy were needed, to be sure; yet with regard to the nature of man and human ability, these liberal ministers showed perhaps a greater measure of confidence than any significant group of churchmen in Reformed tradition. And what buoyed their confidence above all was the exhilaration of national independence, the economic and social advances of the American people, and the great destiny (already manifest) of this New World democracy. The idea prevailed widely that “this new man, this American” was a new Adam, sinless, innocent – mankind’s great second chance. Nowhere was it given so well-rooted a Christian interpretation as among these New England liberals, whose ideas on man were far more determinative than the ideas about Godhead which later won them the name “Unitarian.”
It is the doctrine of Unitarianism, born in Europe and exported to the United States...AND INDIA that shaped and solidified Roy's Brahmo Samaj. For example, John Morrison -- a British writer who observed many of the social and religious changes brought to India in the 19th century -- stated that Roy, "had taken to Unitarian doctrine with such vigor that he even set up a church of his own which he called 'the Hindu Unitarian Church.'" In addition, historian Lynn Zastoupil's masterful article, Defining Christians, Making Britons: Rammohun Roy and the Unitarians from Victorian Studies, demonstrates just how powerful Unitarian teachings were on Roy. In fact, Zastoupil points out that Roy was specifically courted by various Unitarian ministers -- in both Britain and the United States -- for his devotion to human rights issues like the removal of the Indian Caste system, the dowry system, and the doctrine of Sati.

Even by comparing the two sets of doctrine -- from the Unitarians and the Brahmo Samaj -- one can gain an appreciation for just how influential Unitarian ideology was on Roy and the B. Samaj:
- Brahmo Samaj embraces truth, knowledge, reason, free will and virtuous intuition (observation) as guides.
- Brahmo Samaj embraces secular principles but oppose sectarianism and imposition of religious belief into governance (especially propagation of religious belief by government).
- Brahmo Samaj embraces the co-existence of Brahmo principles with governance, but oppose all governance in conflict with Brahmo principles.
- Brahmo Samaj rejects narrow theism (especially polytheism), idolatry, ascetism and symbolism. - Brahmo Samaj rejects the need for formal rituals, priests or places (church, temple, mosque) for worship.
- Brahmo Samaj rejects dogma and superstition.
- Brahmo Samaj rejects scripture as authority.
- Brahmos reject revelations, prophets, gurus, messiahs, or avatars as authority.
- Brahmo Samaj rejects bigotry and irrational distinctions like caste, creed, colour, race, religion which divide beings.
- Brahmo Samaj rejects all forms of totalitarianism.
- Brahmos examine the prevalent notion of "sin".
- Brahmos examine the prevalent notions of "heaven" or "hell".
- Brahmos examine the prevalent notion of "salvation"
.
[Click here for link].
And now, for comparison, here are some of the basic beliefs of Unitarianism:
- The inherent worth and dignity of every person
- Justice, equity and compassion in human relations

-Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations
- A free and responsible search for truth and meaning
- The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large

- The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all
- Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part
Unitarian Universalism (UU) draws from many sources:
- Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit
- Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.
Simply put, the development of the Brahmo Samaj is anything but a native movement within India. In the same way that Unitarianism influenced the founding generation in America, Ram Mohan Roy and the Brahmo Samaj were, arguably, even more influenced by Unitarian ideology. Unitarianism's influence throughout Europe, the United States, AND India demonstrates just how powerful its doctrine was during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Putting up the Christmas Tree

Last night we decided to officially begin the holiday season by setting up the Christmas tree and other decorations. This was an event that Jaxson and Zakary have been eagerly anticipating for quite some time, so last night was a a lot of fun. Here are a few pictures:

Zakary setting up the nativity (he usually makes the animals fight).

Zakary with some "Jingle bells." He was infatuated with these stupid bells.

Jaxson was very particular about which ornaments went where (pretty typical for those of you who know Jaxson).

More "Jingle Bells."





Two pretty cool brothers! Lately Jaxson has been making really funny faces when he smiles, so that is what he is doing in the following pictures.




Did Abraham Lincoln Meet Joseph Smith?

This has been a topic of intense debate for decades now. And though the evidence available is circumstantial at best, I think it's still an interesting question.

Contrary to popular belief, Abraham Lincoln's personal religious beliefs were anything but orthodox. The man never officially joined a church during his life and rarely if ever openly supported any major religion. With that said, this should not automatically insinuate that Lincoln was a man without faith.

In a recent email from a friend of mine was a link to an interesting piece regarding Joseph Smith and Abraham Lincoln. And while these two men share very little in common, I was struck by some of their similarities. As most of you know, Smith was himself a bit of a religious rogue, who never joined any one church. Instead, Smith founded his own religion, which as my fellow American Creation co-blogger, Jon Rowe has pointed out on numerous occasions, can be compared to the religion of many of the key Founding Fathers. This comparison is not made in the sense that the founders shared the same beliefs as Mormons (though there are a few similarities with a select few founders) but from the fact that both Mormons and many founders are/were seen as "heretics," due to the fact that they are not followers of traditional orthodox Christianity. In this respect, the same can be said of Lincoln, who in the following article (you an access it by clicking here) may have met the Mormon prophet on more than one occasion. If so, did Lincoln develop an interest (albeit a very loose one) in Mormonism? From his writings, Lincoln was quite kind to the "Mormon plight." In fact, one of the last books he read before being killed was The Book of Mormon. Could Lincoln have developed a sympathy for a religion that was as unorthodox as the 16th President himself?

In any case, I hope you will enjoy the article!

Cooking With Corazon, Episode XIV

Tilapia (Yakitori Style)
with Onions and Peppers


Tonight I decided to use up the extra fish (tilapia) that has been sitting in my freezer for a couple weeks. Since I really love Japanese food, I thought it would be fun to make it yakitori style:



Not bad, though I admit that my previous yakitori was better. Maybe this is because I am not a huge fan of tilapia. Anyway, here's the recipe:

-2 fillets tilapia
-6 tbs. soy sauce
-4 tbs. mirin
-2 tbs. sugar
-A little honey
-1 green pepper
-1 white onion

Directions:

-Grill tilapia fillets (I used a little thyme and basil as seasoning)
-Mix soy sauce, mirin, sugar and honey and heat until boiling. Mix together and simmer on low.
-Chop onions and peppers and fish to desired size
-Mix peppers, onions and fish with sauce and simmer for a few minutes.
-Skewer and SCARF!

***I also put a little sriracha (the red sauce) on my plate to give it a little "kick."***




Monday, November 23, 2009

Pictures from Cripple Creek

***The following pictures were taken in 2007 just shortly after we moved to Co. Springs.***
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The train at Cripple Creek, which is located about 45 minutes from Colorado Springs. Cripple Creek was one of the biggest mining towns in America during the Gold Rush, and finished 4 votes behind Denver in an 1876 election to decide the State's capital.

Waiting for the train! Jaxson has always been a major train boy. Needless to say, this was the highlight of the trip.

Jaxson has already started digging for "GOLD."
Mom hanging out with baby Zakary.

The awesome scenery around Cripple Creek. Amazing mountain ranges!

Cripple Creek is an awesome mining town! If you like history and don't mind the altitude, Cripple Creek is a fun town to visit.

Early Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamations

A Textbook Example of
Christian Neutrality


With Thanksgiving just around the corner I thought that this might be an appropriate way to embrace the theme of the season. As we all know, Thanksgiving has become an extremely important event in American culture. For the religious and non-religious alike, Thanksgiving brings opportunities to recognize our nation's good fortune and a communal hope in its future prosperity. For many devout Christians, Thanksgiving takes on an additional measure of significance as a day in which praise is rendered to the God of the early Pilgrims and Founding Fathers, who bravely established a new -- and in their opinion Christian -- nation.

So what did these early Founding Fathers think of celebrating a national day of thanksgiving? Well, while they certainly did not celebrate Thanksgiving in the same manner as we do today, a few of our earliest presidents did decree that certain days be set aside and dedicated to national prayer and thanksgiving. Here are a few of those early presidential proclamations:

George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1789 -- October 14, 1789 to be exact -- has been lauded by Christian nation sympathizers for decades as proof positive that America's first Commander-in-Chief was a devout believer in Jesus Christ. And while I am in 100% agreement with their assertion that Washington was a devout man of faith and prayer, I also recognize that the historical record -- as it applies to Washington's religion -- is far from concrete in labeling him a devout Christian.

Let us look at the Thanksgiving proclamation itself for additional evidence on Washington's faith. First off, most anti-Christian nation advocates routinely point out the fact that the actual author of the proclamation was not President Washington, but William Jackson, the President's personal secretary. And while it is true that Washington did not himself pen the proclamation, it is reasonable to assume that he read and gave consent to the document's contents, thus the actual authorship of the piece has little to no relevance. What is relevant, however, is the wordage that was chosen to pay homage to God. Does Washington actually invoke the blessings of the Christian God as so many Christian nation apologists insist? Below is a copy of Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation:
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 favour; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requefted me "to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLICK THANSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and assign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of thefe States to the fervice of that
great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our fincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the fignal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the courfe and conclufion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have fince enjoyed;-- for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to eftablish Conftitutions of government for our fafety and happinefs, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;-- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffufing useful knowledge;-- and, in general, for all the great and various favours which He has been pleafed to confer upon us.

And also, that we may then unite in moft humbly offering our prayers and fupplications to the
great Lord and Ruler of Nations and befeech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions;-- to enable us all, whether in publick or private ftations, to perform our feveral and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a bleffing to all the people by conftantly being a Government of wife, juft, and conftitutional laws, difcreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all fovereigns and nations (especially fuch as have shewn kindnefs unto us); and to blefs them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increafe of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind fuch a degree of temporal profperity as he alone knows to be beft.

GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New-York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand feven hundred and eighty-nine.

(signed) G. Washington
As noted in bold above, Washington's proclamation contains five specific references to deity. Contrary to what many anti-Christian nation advocates claim, the document is clearly religious in its content and purpose. However, does it support the Christian nation's assertion that Washington was a devout Christian? I would argue that it does not. Washington's "God talk" is both extremely neutral and noticeably absent of any typical Christian references. With that said, it is more than clear from this document and others that Washington was a man of faith. What TYPE of faith is the real question we must endeavor to answer.

This same neutral "God talk" can also be found in the thanksgiving proclamations of President James Madison. In both his 1814 and 1815 proclamations, Madison, like Washington, urges Americans to give thanks to God but does so in a very unitarian tone. In Madison's 1814 decree he writes:
The two Houses of the National Legislature having by a joint resolution expressed their desire that in the present time of public calamity and war a day may be recommended to be observed by the people of the United States as a day of public humiliation and fasting and of prayer to Almighty God for the safety and welfare of these States, His blessing on their arms, and a speedy restoration of peace, I have deemed it proper by this proclamation to recommend that Thursday, the 12th of January next, be set apart as a day on which all may have an opportunity of voluntarily offering at the same time in their respective religious assemblies their humble adoration to the Great Sovereign of the Universe, of confessing their sins and transgressions, and of strengthening their vows of repentance and amendment. They will be invited by the same solemn occasion to call to mind the distinguished favors conferred on the American people in the general health which has been enjoyed, in the abundant fruits of the season, in the progress of the arts instrumental to their comfort, their prosperity, and their security, and in the victories which have so powerfully contributed to the defense and protection of our country, a devout thankfulness for all which ought to be mingled with their supplications to the Beneficent Parent of the Human Race that He would be graciously pleased to pardon all their offenses against Him; to support and animate them in the discharge of their respective duties; to continue to them the precious advantages flowing from political institutions so auspicious to their safety against dangers from abroad, to their tranquillity at home, and to their liberties, civil and religious; and that He would in a special manner preside over the nation in its public councils and constituted authorities, giving wisdom to its measures and success to its arms in maintaining its rights and in overcoming all hostile designs and attempts against it; and, finally, that by inspiring the enemy with dispositions favorable to a just and reasonable peace its blessings may be speedily and happily restores.

Given at the city of Washington, the 16th day of November, 1814, and of the Independence of the United States the thirty-eighth.
JAMES MADISON
And Madison's Proclamation of 1815:
The senate and House of Representatives of the United States have by a joint resolution signified their desire that a day may be recommended to be observed by the people of the United States with religious solemnity as a day of thanksgiving and of devout acknowledgments to Almighty God for His great goodness manifested in restoring to them the blessing of peace.

No people ought to feel greater obligations to celebrate the goodness of the Great Disposer of Events of the Destiny of Nations than the people of the United States. His kind providence originally conducted them to one of the best portions of the dwelling place allotted for the great family of the human race. He protected and cherished them under all the difficulties and trials to which they were exposed in their early days. Under His fostering care their habits, their sentiments, and their pursuits prepared them for a transition in due time to a state of independence and self-government. In the arduous struggle by which it was attained they were distinguished by multiplied tokens of His benign interposition. During the interval which succeeded He reared them into the strength and endowed them with the resources which have enabled them to assert their national rights, and to enhance their national character in another arduous conflict, which is now so happily terminated by a peace and reconciliation with those who have been our enemies. And to the same Divine Author of Every Good and Perfect Gift we are indebted for all those privileges and advantages, religious as well as civil, which are so richly enjoyed in this favored land.

It is for blessings such as these, and more especially for the restoration of the blessing of peace, that I now recommend that the second Thursday in April next be set apart as a day on which the people of every religious denomination may in their solemn assembles unite their hearts and their voices in a freewill offering to their Heavenly Benefactor of their homage of thanksgiving and of their songs of praise.
As noted in Washington's proclamation, Madison's tone is noticeably neutral and intentionally sensitive in recognizing ALL brands of faith.

And while Washington and Madison's presidential proclamations are clearly absent any clear Christian language, it is worth pointing out that President John Adams' proclamation of 1798 for a "Day of Fasting and Humiliation" (not Thanksgiving) does contain specific Christian wordage that cannot be applied to any other belief system:
I have therefore thought fit to recommend and I do hereby recommend, that Wednesday, the 9th day of May next, be observed throughout the United States as a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that the citizens of these States, abstaining on that day from their customary worldly occupations, offer their devout addresses to the Father of Mercies agreeably to those forms or methods which they have severally adopted as the most suitable and becoming; that all religious congregations do, with the deepest humility, acknowledge before God the manifold sins and transgressions with which we are justly chargeable as individuals and as a nation, beseeching Him at the same time, of His infinite grace, through the Redeemer of the World, freely to remit all our offenses, and to incline us by His Holy Spirit to that sincere repentance and reformation which may afford us reason to hope for his inestimable favor and heavenly benediction.
For the complete text of President Adams' proclamation, click here.

As is obvious above, Adams' petition to "the Redeemer of the World" is clearly a Christian petition and cannot be applied to any other religion. So this must mean that John Adams was a devout orthodox Christian, right?

Well, not so fast. Several years later, Adams admitted to a friend his regret in issuing what he saw as an ultra-orthodox declaration of Christian piety, which he believed cost him the election with Thomas Jefferson. Adams writes:
The National Fast, recommended by me turned me out of office. It was connected with the general assembly of the Presbyterian Church, which I had no concern in. That assembly has allarmed and alienated Quakers, Anabaptists, Mennonists, Moravians, Swedenborgians, Methodists, Catholicks, protestant Episcopalians, Arians, Socinians, Armenians, & & &, Atheists and Deists might be added. A general Suspicon prevailed that the Presbyterian Church was ambitious and aimed at an Establishment of a National Church. I was represented as a Presbyterian and at the head of this political and ecclesiastical Project. The secret whisper ran through them “Let us have Jefferson, Madison, Burr, any body, whether they be Philosophers, Deists, or even Atheists, rather than a Presbyterian President.” This principle is at the bottom of the unpopularity of national Fasts and Thanksgivings. Nothing is more dreaded than the National Government meddling with Religion.

~John Adams to Benjamin Rush, June 12, 1812. Old Family Letters, 392-93; taken from Hutson’s The Founders on Religion, 101-02.
And while the founding generation -- the earliest presidents in particular -- did strive to maintain a neutral prose when recognizing deity, it would be a dire mistake to assume that such declarations are evidence of a desire for secularism to thrive over religion. Even if the language is noticeably absent any specific Christian references, the fact remains that ALL of these proclamations do call for the national recognition of the role of providence in America's prosperity. Such a petition appeals to Franklin's declaration of an American "public religion" and Jefferson's belief in "the Laws of Nature."

At the same time, Christian Nation apologists would be wise to recognize the reality that our earliest presidents did not favor a uniquely Christian heritage:



So, no matter which side of the fence you fall, try to remember that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Sometimes "fence-sitting" isn't such a bad thing!!!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

"So Help Me God"

Here's another fun question: Did George Washington add the words, "So help me God" to the conclusion of his Oath of Office? Pop culture and legend say yes. Bud did he? After all, no president is on record having said those words until Rutherford B. Hayes took the oath and insisted on adding, "So Help Me God" in 1876.

Contrary to popular belief, the Founding Fathers did not put "So help me God" in the Constitution. In fact, here's what the Constitution says the president is supposed to say:
"I (name) do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Nothing more is required.

So where does this legend come from? Hard to say. There are no historical records affirming OR denying that Washington added, "So help me God" to his oath of office. Despite the lack of "smoking gun" evidence on the matter, Washington's alleged "So help me God" remark has caused quite a stir in recent years. Both secular and religious groups continue to lock horns on this issue hoping to convince others of the validity of their case. In fact, this issue was THE biggest source of conflict during the filming of the HBO John Adams miniseries that recently aired. Here's HBO's depiction of Washington's inauguration and oath of office. It was one of the more stirring scened of the whole miniseries. Place your bets now on Who won: the secularists or the religious? Let's find out:



Very stirring recreation! For the most part, it was pretty accurate. However, Washington did not raise his right hand. Instead, he placed it over his heart. It is true that the crowd was unable to hear him. Washington had a cold at the time and couldn't speak very loudly. And yes, he did kiss the Bible. Even the outfit is accurate, along with all the people on the podium. Robert Livingston, however, did not say, "God Bless George Washington" at the conclusion of the oath. Instead, he said, "Long live George Washington."

Now, here's the secularist interpretation of Washington's oath of office:



And then of course there is Chief Justice John Roberts completely and totally messing up the Oath of Office for Barack Obama. In fact, they had to redo it later that night:



Way to screw it up Roberts! You can see Obama's face thinking, "this guy is the CHIEF Justice???" Perhaps Justice Roberts was busy thinking, "hey, this is the guy who so vehemently opposed my nomination to the Supreme Court."

Either way, you gotta love presidential inaugurations!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cartoon Propaganda/Racism: Volume XI

The Three Little Pigs in, "Blitz Wolf." 1942:

U.S. Presidents and the Mormons

Here are some interesting quotations from several U.S. Presidents on the Mormons that are often forgotten or never mentioned. Enjoy:

Martin Van Buren: Personal Correspondence with Joseph Smith. "I can do nothing for you. If I do anything, I shall come in contact with the whole state of Missouri." (Letter from Joseph Smith to Hyrum Smith. Dec. 5, 1839, from History of the Church, vol. 4, pg. 40). This was regarding Smith's petition for federal protection against the anti-Mormon mobs in Missouri. Van Buren knew that giving aid to the Mormons would virtually equate into political suicide so he chose not to. So much for preserving, protecting and defending the rights of others!

James Buchanan: First State of the Union Address, 1857. "The people of Utah almost exclusively belong to this [the Mormon] church, and believing with a fanatical spirit that he [Brigham Young] is governor of the Territory by divine appointment, they obey his commands as if these were direct revelations from Heaven. If, therefore, he chooses that his government shall come into collision with the Government of the United States, the members of the Mormon Church will yield implicit obedience to his will. Unfortunately, existing facts leave but little doubt that such is his determination. Without entering upon a minute history of occurrences, it is sufficient to say that all the officers of the United States, judicial and executive, with the single exception of two Indian agents, have found it necessary for their own personal safety to withdraw from the Territory, and there no longer remains any government in Utah but the despotism of Brigham Young. This being the condition of affairs in the Territory, I could not mistake the path of duty. As Chief Executive Magistrate I was bound to restore the supremacy of the Constitution and laws within its limits. In order to effect this purpose, I appointed a new governor and other Federal officers for Utah and sent with them a military force for their protection and to aid as a posse comitatus in case of need in the execution of the laws."

Rutherford B. Hayes: State of the Union Address, 1880. "The power of Congress to enact suitable laws to protect the Territories is ample. It is not a case for halfway measures. The political power of the Mormon sect is increasing. It controls now one of our wealthiest and most populous Territories. It is extending steadily into other Territories. Wherever it goes it establishes polygamy and sectarian political power. The sanctity of marriage and the family relation are the corner stone of our American society and civilization. Religious liberty and the separation of church and state are among the elementary ideas of free institutions. To reestablish the interests and principles which polygamy and Mormonism have imperiled, and to fully reopen to intelligent and virtuous immigrants of all creeds that part of our domain which has been in a great degree closed to general immigration by intolerant and immoral institutions, it is recommended that the government of the Territory of Utah be reorganized. "

James Garfield: Inaugural Address of 1881. "The Constitution guarantees absolute religious freedom. Congress is prohibited from making any law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The Territories of the United States are subject to the direct legislative authority of Congress, and hence the General Government is responsible for any violation of the Constitution in any of them. It is therefore a reproach to the Government that in the most populous of the Territories the constitutional guaranty is not enjoyed by the people and the authority of Congress is set at naught. The Mormon Church not only offends the moral sense of manhood by sanctioning polygamy, but prevents the administration of justice through ordinary instrumentalities of law."

Chester A. Arthur: State of the Union Address, 1881. "The fact that adherents of the Mormon Church, which rests upon polygamy as its corner stone, have recently been peopling in large numbers Idaho, Arizona, and other of our Western Territories is well calculated to excite the liveliest interest and apprehension. It imposes upon Congress and the Executive the duty of arraying against this barbarous system all the power which under the Constitution and the law they can wield for its destruction. Reference has been already made to the obstacles which the United States officers have encountered in their efforts to punish violations of law. Prominent among these obstacles is the difficulty of procuring legal evidence sufficient to warrant a conviction even in the case of the most notorious offenders."

Benjamin Harrison: State of the Union Address, 1890. "The increasing numbers and influence of the non-Mormon population of Utah are observed with satisfaction. The recent letter of Wilford Woodruff, president of the Mormon Church, in which he advised his people 'to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the laws of the land,' has attracted wide attention, and it is hoped that its influence will be highly beneficial in restraining infractions of the laws of the United States. But the fact should not be overlooked that the doctrine or belief of the church that polygamous marriages are rightful and supported by divine revelation remains unchanged. President Woodruff does not renounce the doctrine, but refrains from teaching it, and advises against the practice of it because the law is against it. Now, it is quite true that the law should not attempt to deal with the faith or belief of anyone; but it is quite another thing, and the only safe thing, so to deal with the Territory of Utah as that those who believe polygamy to be rightful shall not have the power to make it lawful."

Grover Cleveland: State of the Union Address, 1885. In the Territory of Utah the law of the United States passed for the Suppression of polygamy has been energetically and faithfully executed during the past year, with measurably good results. A number of convictions have been secured for unlawful cohabitation, and in some cases pleas of guilty have been entered and a slight punishment imposed, upon a promise by the accused that they would not again offend against the law, nor advise, counsel, aid, or abet in any way its violation by others.
The Utah commissioners express the opinion, based upon such information as they are able to obtain, that but few polygamous marriages have taken place in the Territory during the last year. They further report that while there can not be found upon the registration lists of voters the name of a man actually guilty of polygamy, and while none of that class are holding office, yet at the last election in the Territory all the officers elected, except in one county, were men who, though not actually living in the practice of polygamy, subscribe to the doctrine of polygamous marriages as a divine revelation and a law unto all higher and more binding upon the conscience than any human law, local or national. Thus is the strange spectacle presented of a community protected by a republican form of government, to which they owe allegiance, sustaining by their suffrages a principle and a belief which set at naught that obligation of absolute obedience to the law of the land which lies at the foundation of republican institutions…


John F. Kennedy: Address at Mormon Tabernacle, Sept. 26, 1963. Of all the stories of American pioneers and settlers, none is more inspiring than the Mormon trail. The qualities of the founders of this community are the qualities that we seek in America, the qualities which we like to feel this country has, courage, patience, faith, self-reliance, perseverance, and, above all, an unflagging determination to see the right prevail. I know that many of you in this State and other States sometimes wonder where we are going and why the United States should be so involved in so many affairs, in so many countries all around the globe. If our task on occasion seems hopeless, if we despair of ever working our will on the other 94 percent of the world population, then let us remember that the Mormons of a century ago were a persecuted and prosecuted minority, harried from place to place, the victims of violence and occasionally murder, while today, in the short space of 100 years, their faith and works are known and respected the world around, and their voices heard in the highest councils of this country. As the Mormons succeeded, so America can succeed, if we will not give up or turn back.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Roger Williams: Christian Restorationist

Nearly every student of early American history has heard the tale of Roger Williams. His story is usually told from the perspective of his being a religious anomaly of sorts, who defied the Puritans of Massachusetts and established a community of religious toleration in Rhode Island. While this version of the Williams story is generally true, there is a deeper saga that is often omitted from the Williams chronicle.

As we all know, Williams was a deeply inquisitive man. His knack for questioning everything around him -- particularly in the religious arena -- caused Williams to constantly push the religious envelope. Though he originally embraced Puritan theology, Williams' concerns that Puritanism still maintained an attachment to the Church of England -- which he saw as a continuation of Roman Catholic dominion as the Antichrist -- caused him to adopt a more Separatist perspective. Inspired by these anti-Church of England sentiments, Williams embraced the admonition of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:17 to, "come out from among them, and be ye separate."

Williams not only decided to completely separate himself from any attachment to the Church of England, but also chose to separate from the home world itself. Upon his arrival to the "New World," Williams took his religious views even further. Instead of following the traditional beliefs of the early Puritans in Massachusetts, Williams chose to criticize his new neighbors for what he saw as a lack of penance. While Massachusetts Puritans were happy to accept both the godly and ungodly in their worship services -- with an exception being made for the Lord's Supper -- Williams believed that those outside of God's grace should not be permitted to worship with God's elect. In other words, those who had not yet experienced God's saving grace could not even attend the same services as those that had received God's grace (See The Hireling Ministry None of Christs). In addition, Williams also believed that any person who had not repented for his/her former association with the Church of England was in danger of losing their salvation. As Williams stated:
"why although I confesse with joy the care of the New English Churches, that no person be received to Fellowship with them, in whom they cannot first discerne true Regeneration, and the life of Jesus: yet I said and still affirm, that godlie and regenerate persons are not fitted to constitute the true Christian Church, untill it hath pleased God to convince their soules of the evill of the falce Church, Ministry, Worship etc. And although I confesse that godly persons are not dead but living Trees, not dead, but living Stones, and need no new regeneration, yet need they a mighty worke of God's Spirit to humble and ashame them, and to cause them to loath themselves for their Abominations or stincks in Gods nostrils..." (The Complete Writings of Roger Williams, vol. 1, 350).
These religious views, which eventually landed Williams in trouble with the Puritans of Massachusetts, only tell part of the story. Williams' departure to Rhode Island actually caused him to further question his faith. Williams began to question the validity of his baptism and those of his followers, which eventually helped to spawn the Anabaptist movement. As Williams continued to ponder the Bible and its teachings, he eventually came to the shocking conclusion that no church had the authority to assemble in Christ's name. His reasoning was simple: The apostles commissioned by Christ had been his personal ministers on earth. Until Christ returned to the earth and renewed the apostleship, no person/persons had the right or authority to gather as a Christian Church. In other words, Roger Williams began to believe that a complete and total RESTORATION of Christ's gospel, complete with the authority of the holy apostleship, had to return to the earth, or no religion could rightfully act in the name of God. Williams makes this belief clear when he writes:
I desired to have been dilligent and Constant Observer, and have been my selfe many ways engaged in City, in Countrey, in Court, in Schools, in Universities, in Churches, in Old and New-England, and yet cannot in the holy presence of God bring in the Result of a satisfying discovery, that either the Begetting Ministry of the Apostles or Messengers to the Nations, or Feeding and Nourishing Ministry of Pastors and Teachers, according to the first Institution of the Lord Jesus, are yet restored and extant" (The Complete Writing of Roger Williams, vol. III, 160).
Williams further adds credence to his argument when he writes:
"If Christs Churches were utterly nullified, and quite destroyed by Antichrist, then I demande when they beganne againe and where? who beganne them? that we may knowe, by what right and power they did beginne them: for we have not heard of any new Jo: Baptist, nor of any other newe waye from heaven, by which they have begunne the Churches a newe" (John Winthrop Papers, vol. III, 11. Quoted in Roger Williams: The Church and the State, 52, by Edmund Morgan).
By first separating himself from Puritan thought both spiritually and literally, Williams was free to explore the full scope of his radical views on Christianity. Through intense scripture study and personal reflection, Williams came to the conclusion that Christianity, in all of its forms, was a distortion of Christ's actual gospel taught in antiquity. In much the same way that Thomas Jefferson believed that the original doctrine of Christ had been changed over time, Williams believed that the religion and authority of Christ was not on the earth, and would not return until Christ's Second Coming. In essence, Williams' religious beliefs should be classified as those of a RESTORATIONIST. In this sense, Williams can be compared with the Restorationist beliefs of Thomas Jefferson, Joseph Smith, Jemima Wilkinson, etc.

***On a side note (which is sure to appeal to all Mormons), guess who is a direct descendant of Roger Williams? Jeffrey R. Holland.***