About Corazon

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Cooking with Corazon: Episode XXVIII

Strawberry, Banana
and Chocolate Chip Muffin

So it has been a REALLY LONG time (like 6 months) since my last Cooking with Corazon installment. I am ashamed that I haven't been cooking more, but alas such is life. Despite my slothfulness in the kitchen I am proud to present today's AWESOME dish: strawberry, banana and chocolate chip muffins!!!

I don't have a lot of experience with baking and to be honest, I was a little hesitant to try. With that said, I am very proud of how these muffing turned out. They were delicious. Here is the recipe:

- 1/4 cup of butter, softened
- 3/4 cup of brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 3 overripe bananas
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 2 cups of flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1.4 tsp. salt
- 10-12 fresh strawberries diced
- 1/2 cup Ghirardelli chocolate chips (yes, any chocolate chip will do, I just happen to be partial to Ghirardelli).


1.) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2.) Coat muffin pans with cooking spray.
3.) Beat together the butter and sugar in a bowl until crealy, then add eggs, bananas and vanilla and beat until well mixed.
4.) In separate bowl, mix flower, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Once mixed, add the mixture to the banana/butter mixture. Add diced strawberries and chocolate chips and mix until well combined
5.) Scoop batter into muffin pans and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees.
6.) Remove and allow to cool.
7.) SCARF!!!

Again, this was an awesome little baking adventure. It even passed the six-year-old test (which is no small achievement in our house). See for yourself:

Buen Provecho!!!

"Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder..."

Our Family Trip to the
United States Air Force Academy

A few weeks ago, our family took an impromptu trip up to the United States Air Force Academy. Though we have been living in Colorado Springs for almost four years now, we had yet to see all that the Academy has to offer (shame on us). It was a wonderful experience. Take a look:

The Visitor Center:

The Air Force Academy has some unique history to it. Originally established in 1955, the Air Force Academy graduates roughly 1,000 cadets per year. These cadets endure four full years of intense academic and disciplinary training, so much so that roughly 500 cadets in each class end up dropping out before graduation. The Academy's intense training has helped to make the it one of the finest institutions of higher learning in the nation. In fact, Forbes Magazine has ranked it #2 (behind only Harvard), while US News ranked it #7. The Academy has even surpassed the status of West Point in a number of military reviews.

Here are some pictures of the INCREDIBLE Cadet Chapel:
Completed in 1962, the Air Force Cadet Chapel is a highlight of the academy. For over 50 years, the Academy has placed paramount emphasis on religious instruction, and the chapel is the embodiment of that emphasis. Standing over 150 feet tall, this chapel (or chapels since there are multiple meeting rooms for worship) supports a full Catholic center (which seats over 500), a Protestant worship area (the main chapel), a Jewish Synagogue, and several other multi-faith rooms. As evidenced from this chapel and the other worship areas on campus, the Air Force Academy really does practice what it preaches when it comes to the religious emphasis for their cadets.
The downstairs Catholic chapel.
The "Roll of Honor" just outside of the Cadet Chapel. Each name is of a graduate who has given his/her life in the service of the United States:
If you ever make out out to Colorado Springs, don't be silly and wait four years before visiting the Air Force Academy. It really is worth your time.

And a video:

Friday, May 27, 2011

Flags of our Fathers, Part I: The Gadsden Flag

A Small Portion of My Flag Collection:
Like many people I have, over the years, enjoyed collecting different types of memorabilia. During my youth I amassed (and still have) an impressive collection of baseball cards. Years later I made a brief attempt at collecting coins, but was never able to enjoy that collection as much as my baseball cards. And since then, nothing has been able to excite my interest in collecting the way baseball cards captured my youth.

That is until now. Over the past few years I have established a new collection that I enjoy even more than my childhood baseball card collection: historical flags! As a student of history, I have always enjoyed looking at how different events of the past were captured and brought to life by their participants, and the creation of flags is one of those fundamental symbols that help to encapsulate and internalize the past into the subconsciousness of later generations. As years pass, however, the important meanings behind these various flags (and the past they were meant to symbolize) are lost or often distorted, reducing the former glory of these banners to nothing more than mere cloth.

It is for these reasons that I have decided to share my love of historical flags and the history they represent. It is my hope that those who read this blog (or who might come across it in a Google search) will gain an appreciation for what these flags were meant to represent. After all, they can tell us a great deal about our nation's complex and fascinating heritage.

So, without further delay, I give you Part I in my new series, Flags of our Fathers Today's installment: the Gadsden Flag.

The Gadsden (Don't Tread on Me) Flag has played a unique role over the course of the past 200+ years. For a number of reasons, the flag has been a favorite for many generations of Americans, who have adopted the flag's coiled rattlesnake and inspiring words to fit their respective agendas. The yellow banner has been found on the masts of early revolutionary naval boats, at the vanguard of Civil War regiments and in the hands of common citizens, who find patriotic purpose in those four simple words: "Don't Tread on Me".

The origins of the Gadsden Flag are interesting to say the least. As I have pointed out in a previous post, early America's fascination with the rattlesnake is quite extensive. Benjamin Franklin's "Join or Die" political cartoon had effectively woven the rattlesnake obsession into the ongoing and ever-changing political discourse of the time. As a result, the image of the rattlesnake was incorporated into a plethora of different political broadsides, posters and yes, even flags.

In 1775, as war between Britain and her colonies became an inevitable reality, the Second Continental Congress authorized the creation of five companies of marines to accompany the naval forces that were already preparing to confront the British. These marines carried with them yellow-painted drums with the image of the coiled rattlesnake and the motto "Don't Tread on Me". This was the first recorded occasion of the rattlesnake and motto being used together. As one "anonymous" writer (later identified as Benjamin Franklin) stated to the Pennsylvania Journal in December of 1775:
I observed on one of the drums belonging to the marines now raising, there was painted a Rattle-Snake, with this modest motto under it, 'Don't tread on me.' As I know it is the custom to have some device on the arms of every country, I supposed this may have been intended for the arms of America.


I confess I was wholly at a loss what to make of the rattles, till I went back and counted them and found them just thirteen, exactly the number of the Colonies united in America; and I recollected too that this was the only part of the Snake which increased in numbers.


'Tis curious and amazing to observe how distinct and independent of each other the rattles of this animal are, and yet how firmly they are united together, so as never to be separated but by breaking them to pieces. One of those rattles singly, is incapable of producing sound, but the ringing of thirteen together, is sufficient to alarm the boldest man living.
It didn't take long for this image to catch on. While attending the Second Continental Congress, Colonel Christopher Gadsden (you guessed it, this is the guy whose name is associated with this flag), who was one of the commanding officers of the naval/marine venture, presented several delegates with his prototype for a flag that was to be flown on the mainmasts of their naval ships. From the South Carolina Congressional journals:
Col. Gadsden presented to the Congress an elegant standard, such as is to be used by the commander in chief of the American navy; being a yellow field, with a lively representation of a rattle-snake in the middle in the attitude of going to strike and these words underneath, "Don't Tread on Me!"
The Flag was an immediate success. In the early years of the Revolution, the infant Marines and Navy both flew the Gadsden Flag as their unofficial banner. And though eventually replaced by other more meaningful banners (i.e. the Betsy Ross Flag), the image of the coiled rattlesnake and its accompanying "Don't Tread on Me" motto remained popular and were included in later flags.

As for Christopher Gadsden, his story is one of those forgotten but incredible tales of bravery and duty. Gadsden rose to prominence during the French and Indian War, climbing to the rank of Captain. During the Revolution, Gadsden was a part of the Stamp Act Congress, First and Second Continental Congress, and was one of the founders of the Sons of Liberty in his native South Carolina. He was also elected to the position of Lt. Governor and helped to draft the state's constitution.

Gadsden also served with great distinction during the Revolution, climbing all the way to the rank of General. Gadsden was also a prisoner of war, and the tale of his time as such is a remarkable tale of bravery and defiance. From Wiki:
When the British laid siege to Charleston in 1780, John Rutledge, as president of the council fled to North Carolina to ensure a "government in exile" should the city fall. Gadsden remained, along with Governor Rawlins Lowndes. General Benjamin Lincoln surrendered the Continental Army garrison on May 12 to General Sir Henry Clinton. At the same time, Gadsden represented the civil government and surrendered the city. He was sent on parole to his Charleston house.

After General Sir Henry Clinton returned to New York, the new British commander in the South, General Cornwallis changed the rules. On the morning of August 27, he arrested about 20 of the civil officers then on parole. They were marched as prisoners to a ship and taken to St. Augustine, Florida. When they arrived, Governor Tonyn offered the freedom of the town if they would give their parole. Most accepted, but Gadsden refused claiming that the British had already violated one parole, and he could not give his word to a false system. As a result, he spent the next 42 weeks in solitary confinement in a prison room at the old Spanish fortress of Castillo de San Marcos. When they were finally released in 1781, they were sent by merchant ship to Philadelphia. Once there, Gadsden learned of the defeat of Cornwallis at Cowpens and withdrawal to Yorktown. He hurried home, to help the restoration of South Carolina's civil government.
As you can see, the Gadsden Flag represents much more than a simple rattlesnake. It embodies the spirit of the man whose name the flag carries, not to mention those early Navy and Marine soldiers who hoisted the yellow banner high on their mainmasts. Their defiance and stubbornness in the name of liberty stands as a greater monument than any flag could hope to capture. But perhaps those four simple words do aptly describe their zeal for independence:


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Influence of Franklin's "Join or Die" Cartoon

In 1754, Philadelphia printer Benjamin Franklin became one of the earliest political cartoonists in American history. As a printer, Franklin had regularly published political commentaries on various issues. His "Join or Die" publication, however, was uniquely different and would be remembered for generations to come.

During the early part of 1754, Franklin became gravely concerned about the security and future of the British colonies. As war between Britain and France loomed on the horizon, Franklin believed that colonial unity was becoming increasingly important. In Franklin's mind, each individual colony was going too far in its own direction, and thus neglecting the greater needs of the American colonies as a whole. As a result, Franklin created his "Join or Die" cartoon to serve as an appeal for unity. The cartoon (originally done as a wood carving) was posted not only in Franklin's paper, but was distributed across the colonies. The snake (each section representing an individual British colony), was purposely cut into pieces, suggesting that death would come not only to the snake, but to the colonies as well if they chose to stay divided. (It is also worth noting that 18th century society believed that a snake would come back to life if its pieces were all put together and buried before sundown).

During the French and Indian War, Franklin's "Join or Die" slogan was used as a battle cry, inspiring colonies to unite against the French. In the years prior to the American Revolution, Franklin would again use his "Join or Die" logo to promote union with the British (Franklin even suggested to Parliament that the colonies could be joined with Great Britain in the original Acts of Union, which had united Scotland and England). England's passage of the Stamp Act in 1765 gave Americans a cause to rally around. Naturally, Franklin's slogan was brought out of the closet, this time to rally against the British.

With the onset of the American Revolution, patriots from across the colonies used Franklin's "Join or Die" cartoon to promote the cause of independence. The slogan could regularly be seen in the windows of shops, on flags, and in newspapers.

Years later, Northerners would again resurrect Franklin's political cartoon to promote the cause of unity in the early years of the Civil War. There are even more recent instances of "Join or Die" being used to promote a political cause. During the 2000 presidential election, Republicans raised the banner of "Join or Die" to promote unity in the party. After President Obama's election, the "Join or Die" slogan (and the rattlesnake slogan in general) became a favorite for the Tea Party.

But why the fascination with rattlesnakes?

Early American society had a strange interest in the rattlesnake, so much that it was even considered a candidate (along with the turkey) for the national symbol of the United States. Americans loved the rattlesnake for several reasons:

1.) It was believed that the rattlesnake was indigenous to only North America.
2.) The rattlesnake has no eyelids and is therefore always vigilant.
3.) It was believed by colonists that the rattlesnake never picked a fight but also never retreated once attacked.
4.) Colonists believed that a den of rattlesnakes maintained more unity amongst its members than any other specie of animal life.

But like "E Pluribus Unum" and other early American beliefs, the rattlesnake went the way of the Dodo Bird. Much to the relief of many early American Christians, who saw the rattlesnake in the same light as the evil serpent from the Garden of Eden, the mighty American eagle soared to the top of the list and eventually became America's official symbol (much to the dismay of Benjamin Franklin, who called the eagle "a ravenous vulture of the sky."). Despite its fall from grace, the rattlesnake still maintains a popular place in American culture.

Tomorrow's post: The Gadsden "Don't Tread on Me" Flag.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Zakary's 4th Birdhay

This week was another milestone week in the Hart home. Zakary turned 4!!! Here are some pictures from the weekend's festivities:

On Saturday, we spent the day checking out some of Zak's favorite places. After having lunch at Rudy's Barbecue we traveled up to Woodland Park (beautiful area by the way) and visited the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Museum.

The following skeleton is of a mid-sized female Tyrannosaurus Rex. The museum is currently in the process of putting together a very large male skeleton, which they say dwarfs this one. I don't know how that is possible. She looks pretty big to me.
Jaxson and Zakary "digging" for bones.
Jaxson and Zakary with T-Rex. Zak's favorite dinosaur has always been T-Rex, so needless to say, he was thoroughly impressed when he saw this skeleton.
Our future Paleontologists.
On Monday (Zakary's official birthday), we had a very unique dinner. Zakary wanted spaghetti, green beans, Mandarin oranges and root beer.
The dinosaur cake.
Talking with Grandma on the phone.

And here are a few videos:

The dinosaur museum:

Opening the gifts:

Cake time:

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Raptures and Raptors

Why Americans Replace
Sanity With Lunacy

So yesterday's end of the world prophesy turned out to be a massive dud (shocker). The day passed without so much as a single significant tornado, earthquake, flood or lightening bolt from a pissed off God who has decided that he aint' gonna take our crap anymore. And while the overwhelming majority Americans (both religious and non-religious) fully comprehended the utter stupidity of yesterday's bogus apocalyptic prediction, I couldn't help but notice just how much attention this ridiculous little story had attracted.

We live in a funny era. On the one hand the blessings of science, technology, medicine, etc. make our time better than any before it. People live longer, healthier and I believe happier than ever before. Gone (for the most part) are the days of peasantry, totalitarianism and general ignorance. Technology has brought our world together in ways that we still don't fully understand or appreciate. To borrow from the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." How very à propos.

On the other hand, however, we live in a time when apocalyptic, doomsday prophesies of all kinds seem to be constantly hovering about, reminding us that some catastrophe is lurking just around the next bend. They attempt to convince us that our society, despite its incredible achievements and advancements, is doomed to collapse under the weight of our pride, gluttony, wickedness, stupidity, or simply because we refuse to listen to Glenn Beck. Whether in the form of a Mayan calendar, global warming, economic collapse, Muslim terrorists, solar flares, killer asteroids, swine flu or those "evil liberals", we are literally inundated with a constant barrage of the crazy and the insane.

Now, I need to make it clear that as a practicing Christian I believe 100% in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. With that said, I also believe in Jesus' admonition in Matthew chapter 6: 33-34:
33.) But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

34.) Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
In other words, quit worrying about what you can't control. Yes, bad things may happen in the future but this should not be our focus. If instead we choose to "seek first the kingdom of God" by helping those who despise us, doing good to our enemies, caring for the sick, etc., etc., etc. we will discover that "the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself."

Of course Jesus isn't suggesting that we shouldn't prepare for a rainy day. Of course we should. Preparing for a rainy day is one thing (what any prudent, reasonable person can and should do). Giving into the mass hysteria of impending Muslim incursion, predicted Mayan destruction, pretended overthrows of our freedoms by evil communist fascists, and cataclysmic celestial events is quite another thing.

But apocalyptic, doomsday nonsense isn't confined exclusively to the end-of-days type rhetoric we have all come to "enjoy."

While Harold Camping and his followers were anxiously awaiting the commencement of the Rapture, I was with my family at the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Museum in Woodland Park, Co. While informally perusing the various collections of bones, fossils and teeth left behind by those massive animals I couldn't help but think of how these same Christian radicals (not to mention millions of other devout Christians across the nation) would be horrified to hear the things being told to my children. Dinosaurs living millions of years ago? I don't think so. Doesn't the Bible tell us that the earth is only 6,000 years old?

You mean the same Bible that Harold Camping used to predict yesterday's rapture? Or the same Bible used to justify slavery by the Confederacy?

Perhaps on the surface this seems like a ridiculous comparison to make but hear me out. In a 2010 Gallup Poll, Americans were asked whether or not they believed in evolution. The results were deplorable. Only 35% of Americans believed in (er, ACCEPTED the reality of) evolution, less than any other "modern" nation on the planet. In addition, 40% stated they believed God had created the world in 6 literal days and that the earth was no more than "a few thousand years old." In other words, most Americans reject the reality of our origins and a very large percentage (4 in 10) believe that dinosaurs walked with man despite all of the irrefutable scientific evidence to the contrary.

Maybe I am making a mountain out of a mole hill here but I doubt it. Take for instance the "Creation Museum" in Petersburg Kentucky, which attempts to explain the world's origins within the context of the Holy Bible. Then there is the group "Answers in Genesis", an organization created by Evangelical "scientist" Ken Ham (who is also responsible for the Creation Museum). Answers in Genesis does exactly what its name suggests: they attempt to explain man's origins based on the Genesis story (i.e. Garden of Eden, world-wide flood of Noah, etc.). And speaking of Noah, one cannot help but grimace in pain at the thought of a Noah's Ark theme park being funded by taxpayer dollars (and let us not forget that Kentucky Governor Beshear defended its construction, not to mention the inclusion of DINOSAURS being present on the ark. After all, the world is only 6,000 years old). Make no mistake about it, religious conservatives (and they are a huge segment of this nation's populace) have declared war on science:

Now, it would be one thing if this war on science centered around small, seemingly insignificant tidbits (i.e. is the earth 4 billion or 5 billion years old). But when you claim that fundamental concepts of modern science are wrong simply because "the Bible says so", you are being willfully idiotic. When you claim that carbon dating, quantum physics, biology, geology, paleontology are all wrong and you are right, you have gone down a VERY slippery slope. As Martin Luther King Jr. stated, "Nothing is more dangerous to the world than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."

It is with all of this in mind that I return to my original point. How can Americans be so willing to believe in crazy, apocalyptic predictions? How can we as a society be constantly chasing phantoms that don't exist, while at the same time having more technology and information at our disposal than at any other time? Could it be because we are unwilling to accept reality? We are so scared of the unknown; so uncertain of what lies ahead. We cling to ancient stories of long ago as the basis for our lives instead of simply appreciating the fundamental messages of said stories: that faith, love and charity conquer all. Of course Noah didn't load all the animals on his ark, nor was there a global flood as so many desperately continue to claim. Instead of getting hung up over these obvious falsehoods, let us appreciate Noah's incredible faith in the face of ridicule and scorn. After all, isn't that the main point?

And on that same note, of course God will return in his own due time and in his own way. Do we really need to fret over when and how this is to come to pass? Is stressing over economic turmoil, political strife or killer asteroids really going to change anything? Again, I appeal to the teachings of Jesus:
33.) But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

34.) Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
Everyone take a deep breath. Things are going to be just fine.

Right, Glenn Beck?

Family Outing to Garden of the Gods

It has been a while since I posted some family pictures, so I thought I would throw this post together. A few months ago my family took a trip to the Garden of the Gods here in Colorado Springs. And to make matters even better for Jaxson and Zakary, Grandma and Grandpa tagged along. Here are a few highlights:

Grandma, Grandpa, Jaxson and Zakary in front of the Garden of the Gods Trading Post. If you ever make it out to Colorado Springs, you MUST visit this trading post. It's an absolute blast.
Some of the awesome scenery surrounding Garden of the Gods. Keeping the kids from falling off the rocks was quite a chore for the parents and grandparents.
Brothers to the bone.
Sometimes it does take the entire family working together to lift mountains, but together there is NOTHING we cannot do.
Hanging out with Grandpa.

If you love the outdoors but don't want an expensive or long getaway, Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs is just for you!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

It's the End of the World As We Know It (Yet Again)

And I Feel Fine

Today is the Rapture! That's right, in only a few hours time the world's righteous will be called up into heaven while the rest of us heathen, Theistic Rationalist, infidels are forced to roam the earth, lamenting our foolish choice to not believe in Harold Camping's apocalyptic prediction. Let the weeping and gnashing of teeth begin!

This rapture hype has been a unique anomaly to follow. I guess that in light of the other apocalyptic predictions that are hovering about (i.e. the Mayan calendar, climate change, the swine flu, etc., etc., etc.) none of us should be all that surprised when we see Camping receiving all kinds of media attention. And even though the overwhelming majority of us accept the reality that Camping is an obvious fraud and that we can all expect to return to work come Monday, I am amazed at how many "experts" are weighing in on such a silly little story. Everyone from historians to scientists, theologians to sociologists have added their $0.02 to the ongoing rapture dialogue, providing detailed insight as to why we can look forward to yet another Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas season.

But none of this is new.

Ever since our conception as a nation, Americans have been anxiously awaiting the end of days that have been prophesied of since the beginning of Christian theology. Whether it has taken the form of Christopher Columbus' bold prediction that Jesus Christ would return after the "savage" Indians of the New World were converted to Christianity, The Shakers, who predicted that the world would end in 1792, or Charles Wesley (one of the founders of Methodism) who declared the end of the world to take place in 1794, apocalyptic predictions have been a major component to American religious DNA. Heck, even some of our nation's most skeptical founders couldn't help but be interested in all the end-of-days rhetoric whirling around them:

Although you and I are weary of Politicks, You may be surprised to find me making a Transition to such a Subject as Prophecies. I find that Virginia produces Prophets as well as the Indiana Territory...they are not much more irrational than Dr. Towers who wrote two ponderous Vollumes...to prove that the French Revolution was the Commencement of the Millennium, and the decapitation of The King of France but the beginning of the series...the King of France who had been executed, was the first of the Ten Horns of the great Beast...Napoleon is Antichrist...the City of London is or is to be the Head Quarters of Antichrist.(John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, February 10, 1812).
And though the list of former doomsday practitioners could go on for volumes, I would like to focus on one particular apocalyptic prediction that seems to have a few similarities to the one we have today.

The Story of William Miller

Most Americans have probably never heard of William Miller. Miller (whose teachings eventually led to the creation of Seventh-day Adventists, Advent Christians, Millerites and even Jehovah's Witnesses) was a Baptist preacher from the early 19th century. While living in New York during the era we call the Second Great Awakening, Miller became deeply troubled by the Christian doctrines surrounding death and the afterlife. As a result, Miller actually spent a brief period of his life juggling between the doctrines of deism and Protestant Christianity. After a few years of sincere study, however, Miller became convinced that Jesus Christ was indeed the Savior of mankind. As he stated in hisApology and Defence:

Suddenly the character of a Savior was vividly impressed upon my mind. It seemed that there might be a Being so good and compassionate as to Himself atone for our transgressions, and thereby save us from suffering the penalty of sin. I immediately felt how lovely such a Being must be; and imagined that I could cast myself into the arms of, and trust in the mercy of, such an One.
In addition to accepting the entirety of Jesus Christ's human sacrifice for the sins of mankind, Miller also came to the conclusion that the Bible itself foretold of his eventual return to the earth; his "Second Advent" as it was called. In a manner similar to that of Harold Camping today, Miller somehow deciphered the hidden chronology inside of the Bible, which revealed the date that Christ could be expected to return. Relying on a passage from the Book of Daniel (8:14 to be exact), Miller eventually came to the conclusion that Jesus Christ's Second Coming would take place in the year 1844. Eventually Miller and his "Millerites" would narrow it down even further, hailing October 22, 1844 as the official date.

Of course nothing of note happened on October 22, 1844. In what became known as "The Great Disappointment", Miller and his followers were forced to accept the reality that Jesus Christ had not returned to the earth. Long story short, Miller's credibility was shot and he and a large number of his followers faded away into oblivion (it is worth noting that Miller never gave up on his hope for the "Second Advent". He vehemently defended his beliefs all the way to his death in 1849).

What is interesting to note about Miller's end of the world prediction is how even its utter failure inspired scores of Millerites to break off and create their own movement. Instead of recognizing the failure of Miller's prediction, many came up with alternative interpretations for what had happened on October 22, 1844. In what became known as the doctrine of Divine Investigative Judgement (which is still a fundamental component of Seventh-day Adventist theology to this day), Hiram Edson and a few others taught that the judgment of God's professed people began on October 22, 1844 when Christ entered the "Holy of Holies in the heavenly sanctuary." Using scripture to defend their position (see Daniel 7:9-10, 1 Peter 4:17 and Revelation 20:12), Edson & Co. were able to "vindicate the saints" before God.

In addition to this unique interpretation, others came up with the "shut door" doctrine, which juxtaposed the events of October 22, 1844 with Jesus' 10 Virgins parable. The "shut door" suggested that the sincere followers of Christ (those who truly waited for him as the brides waited for the bridegroom) would be accepted into the kingdom, while the foolish brides would be cast out. In other words, Christ had seen and recognized those who were waiting for him on the date predicted, and their efforts would not be in vain. In many ways, this interpretation would be repeated at a later date by another Miller break off (the Jehovah's Witnesses) who also had specific dates for Jesus' return to the earth. When he didn't appear in person, leaders were quick to make the assertion that Christ had "returned in spirit."

In conclusion, regardless of whether or not you believe in the Rapture today, a future date or not at all, American religion is likely to continue to employ the end-of-days doctrine that has become so very popular in our society today. And keep in mind this: Harold Camping may seem like just another geriatric nut-job but the movement he has created may lead to even bigger things.

Just look at what William Miller's prediction caused.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Huck Gets His History On (Or Off)

So Mike Huckabee isn't running for president in 2012 (hard to believe that candidates are ALREADY starting to jockey for position in the 2012 race when 2011 is still just getting started).

But that doesn't mean that he hasn't been making waves.

Over the past couple of months, Huckabee has been focusing his attention on history, "positive" American history to be exact. Huckabee's newest project, entitled "Learn Our History", attempts to present an "objective", pro-American interpretation of our nation's past, free from the smears and errors of current historical revisionists:

Many of our schools and teachers today haven't found ways to make history for kids fun. Instead, they’re teaching with political bias that distorts facts for the sake of political correctness. As a result, our national pride and patriotism are in jeopardy.
And on his Fox show:

Of course this isn't the first time Huckabee has been caught in a historical tug-o-war. It was only a couple months ago that Huckabee stated made the claim that all Americans needed to listen to pseudo-historian and Christian Nation Apologist David Barton at gunpoint if necessary. And during the 2008 presidential primaries, it was Huckabee who regurgitated the Barton myth that "The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave people, most of whom, by the way, were clergymen." In addition, it was Huckabee who asserted his belief that the Constitution needed to be amended to fit the standards of God's holy word (the Bible).

And though I personally have no problem with Huckabee's desire to promote patriotism and a love for America's beautiful heritage, I do question his objectivity. After all, isn't it both necessary and appropriate for historians to point out the negative aspects of our past? This is where Huckabee is, in my opinion, in error. The perceived "attacks" on Huckabee's new project are not exclusively based on a hatred for America but rather on his clear bias. Maybe Huckabee's intentions are pure but it's hard to believe he is free from the "political bias" he laments. When his presentation praises all things Reagan, but never make mention of FDR in his WWII cartoon, one has to wonder how he came to such conclusions.

Of course this is all to be expected. Since when has a political pundit NOT used history to further his/her agenda? It's just further evidence that the culture warriors lack the true historical integrity needed to sustain any legitimate discussion on our nation's TRUE history.

I guess the old adage is true: political history isn't history; it's politics.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Christian Restorationism in America

From Three Unique Perspectives

First off, my deepest apologies for my lengthy absence from this blog. I have been very busy as of late and unfortunately haven't been able to engage in blogging. I have really missed everyone and look forward to rekindling my blogging habit.

One of the interesting components of American religion is how the doctrines, traditions and creeds of traditional (and dare I say European) Christianity were given a uniquely American flavor once they crossed the Atlantic. This natural evolution of American religion fused the traditional liturgies, customs and doctrines of the Old World with the emerging democratic, capitalistic practices of the New World, creating new and exciting interpretations of what it truly meant to be Christian.

Today I want to present three unique viewpoints from three very different individuals (Roger Williams, Thomas Jefferson and Joseph Smith), each of whom attempted to discover the "original" version of Christianity as outlined by Jesus Christ himself. By asserting the need for a RESTORATION of Christ's original gospel (or the original meaning behind his message), these three individuals were essentially able to detour around traditional European Christianity, thus creating a doctrine unique to their respective viewpoints. Of course, these three individuals are far from being the exclusive competitors in the quest for Christ's Christianity. Virtually every religious leader, movement and church has attempted to stake such a claim for themselves in the hopes of attaining legitimate credibility for their movement. With that said, these three individuals represent three important general movements in the story of American religious history, and I believe their stories help to shed light on the complex yet beautiful tapestry that is American Christianity.

Roger Williams

As our first test subject I offer up the infamous rogue Puritan preacher, Roger Williams. As we all know, Williams was a deeply inquisitive man. His knack for questioning everything around him (particularly the religious beliefs and practices of his day) caused Williams to constantly push the envelope in Puritan America. 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 on their part. 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 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 continues his argument:

"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).
What is interesting about these comments (which eventually led to Williams' exile from Massachusetts) is how similar they are to those made nearly 200 years later by Mormon Founder Joseph Smith (to be discussed later). His call for a restoration of the holy apostleship essentially attempts to negate the Christianity of Europe, which in Williams' mind was never legit to begin with.

Thomas Jefferson

Up next is America's favorite founding skeptic, the author of the DOI itself. As most already know, Jefferson was no friend to traditional Christianity. His altering of the Bible and statements in opposition to the doctrines of the Trinity, Incarnation, etc. are all evidence that Jefferson disapproved of traditional Christianity. Yet with that said, it is also important to remember the fact that Jefferson called himself a "true Christian." How exactly did he justify this claim?

He did so by insinuating that Jesus himself was not the savior of mankind but instead a marvellous (perhaps the greatest) philosopher of all-time. As Jefferson stated:

"It is the innocence of his [Jesus'] character, the purity and sublimity of his moral precepts, the eloquences of his inculcations, the beauty of the apologues in which he conveys them, that I so much admire."
This was the lost truth of Christianity that Jefferson hoped to RESTORE. As he stated in an 1818 letter to Wells and Lilly of the Classical Press:

"I make you my acknowledgement for the sermon on the Unity of God, and am glad to see our countrymen looking that question in the face. it must end in a return to primitive Christianity" [my emphasis].

And on another occasion:

"The religion-builders have so distorted and deformed the doctrines of Jesus, so muffled them in mysticisms, fancies and falsehoods, have caricatured them into forms so monstrous and inconceivable, as to shock reasonable thinkers...Happy in the prospect of a restoration of primitive Christianity, I must leave to younger athletes to encounter and lop off the false branches which have been engrafted into it by the mythologists of the middle and modern ages." [my emphasis]. (Thomas Jefferson, The writings of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 7, H.A. Washington, ed., pp210, 257).
Later in his life, in a letter to Francis van der Kemp, Jefferson stated:

"I trust with you that the genuine and simple religion of Jesus will one day be restored: such as it was preached and practised by himself. very soon after his death it became muffled up in mysteries, and has been ever since kept in concealment from the vulgar eye" [my emphasis].
For Jefferson, the restoration of Christ's true message was not the reinstitution of the holy apostleship as Williams and Smith desired, nor was it found in Williams' Puritan doctrine of God's supreme grace. Instead, it was the simple message of doing good to others with out the fanfare of ceremonial rituals and communion with the Holy Spirit:

My fundamental principle would be the reverse of Calvin's [doctrine], that we are to be saved by our good works which are within our power, and not by our faith which is not within our power.
(Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Parker, May 15, 1819).
As evidenced above, Jefferson's love for Jesus came not from a pious devotion to orthodoxy, but from a sincere appreciation of his message of love. In this respect, Jefferson's restoration subverts all of traditional Christianity by eliminating the divinity of the child of Bethlehem and placing him with the likes of Plato and Aristotle.

Joseph Smith

And last but not least, we look at the founder of Mormonism, whose interpretation of Christian restorationism embodies the fundamental doctrine of the church he helped to create. As a young man in western New York, Smith was a first-hand witness to the excitement and fervor brought on by what historians now call the Second Great Awakening:

There was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion. It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that region of the country, indeed the whole district of the Country seemed affected by it and great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties, which created no small stir and division among the people…Priest contended against priest, and convert against convert so that all their good feelings one for another were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions (Joseph Smith, Jr., “1839 History,” The Papers of Joseph Smith, vol. I, 269-270).
For Smith, this state of religious fervor caused deep concern, so much so that he eventually prayed to God for guidance, only to receive a heavenly manifestation that eventually culminated in what Smith called the Restoration of Jesus Christ's pure gospel:

To find ourselves engaged in the very same order of things as observed by the holy Apostles of old; to realize the importance and solemnity of such proceedings, and to witness and feel with our own natural senses, the like glorious manifestations of the power of the priesthood; the gifts and blessings of the Holy Ghost; and the goodness and condescension of a merciful God, unto such as obey the everlasting gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, combined to create within us sensations of rapturous gratitude, and inspire us with fresh zeal and energy, in the cause of truth.
For Smith and the Mormon movement in general, this restoration of the priesthood and the apostleship became the cornerstone of their faith; a faith that was able to side-step the Christianity of old Europe by exposing its lack of authenticity. Like Williams and Jefferson before him, Smith's version of Christian restorationism did not rely on the pillars of traditional orthodoxy but still made a claim to legitimacy. It is therefore no wonder why Mormonism has been able to survive and thrive in the "New World" for over a century.

In conclusion, though Roger Williams, Thomas Jefferson and Joseph Smith may share little in common with regards to their personal religious convictions, their quest to arrive at the true nature of Christ's teachings, without the aid of traditional European doctrines, helps us to see a small segment of the uniqueness of American Christianity. Whether it takes the form of revamping traditionally held beliefs (Williams), removing long-held superstitions (Jefferson), or rewriting the story altogether (Smith), Christian Restorationism in America has given the masses a plethora of beliefs to choose from.