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Monday, December 23, 2013

Joy to the World! The Lord has Come!

Christmas is that wonderful time of the year when we pause from all our hectic activities to celebrate the birth of Jesus, God’s Son. What was God’s purpose in sending Jesus to this earth?  It was to rescue us. Why do we need rescuing? What do we need to be rescued from?
Well, God has created heaven, a perfect place, with no squabbling, no anger, no pain, no disagreements, no relationship problems, no money worries, or any other problems. It is a place of peace and happiness. Sounds great, right? 
But, there’s a problem. I hate to tell you, but you’re not perfect. Neither am I, or any other man or woman that has ever lived. It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? We all fail, do bad things, think bad thoughts, and just plain sin. God is blunt about it. He says, “Because all people have sinned, they have fallen short of God's glory.” (Romans 3:23) And, “Certainly, there is no one so righteous on earth that he always does what is good and never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20) We are all in the same boat when it comes to righteousness before God. We stink.
The question is how do we imperfect human beings get to spend our next life in a perfect place? If we place imperfect people in a perfect heaven, it’s no longer perfect. That’s where Jesus comes in. Jesus was born in a manger in Bethlehem in very humble circumstances, and for 33 years he lived the perfect life that you and I cannot live. Finally, he took all our shortcomings, and failures—our sins—on himself as he went to the cross and died for us. But, he wasn’t finished. He rose victorious from the grave to send you and me a strong, clear message that death is not the end, it really is the beginning our life in heaven with Jesus. All he asks of us is to believe in Jesus as our savior and to acknowledge our failures, shortcomings, sins, and thus our need of a savior. In Ephesians 2:8 & 9 he says this very clearly… “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast.”
And, did you know that the birth and life of Jesus was precisely forecast hundreds of years before it happened?  The Book of Isaiah was written between 701 and 681 years before the birth of Jesus. This is what Isaiah wrote in Chapter 7, verse 14…
“So the Lord himself will give you this sign: A virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and she will name him Immanuel [God is with us].”
There are many miracles recorded in the Bible, but of all of them, Jesus’ virgin birth and his resurrection from the dead are the two greatest and two most important. Upon these two miracles hang all our hopes of passing through the portal of death to our next life in heaven.  That is why Christmas is celebrated and why it is so important.
This is how God describes the time leading up to the birth of Jesus in the Book of Luke…
The Angel Gabriel Comes to Mary
26Six months after Elizabeth [the mother of John the Baptist] had become pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a city in Galilee. 27The angel went to a virgin promised in marriage to a descendant of David named Joseph. The virgin’s name was Mary.
28 When the angel entered her home, he greeted her and said, “You are favored by the Lord! The Lord is with you.” 29She was startled by what the angel said and tried to figure out what this greeting meant. 30The angel told her, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. You have found favor with God. 31You will become pregnant, give birth to a son, and name him Jesus. 32He will be a great man and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33Your son will be king of Jacob’s people forever, and his kingdom will never end.” 34Mary asked the angel, “How can this be? I’ve never had sexual intercourse.” 35The angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come to you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy child developing inside you will be called the Son of God. 36“Elizabeth, your relative, is six months pregnant with a son in her old age. People said she couldn’t have a child. 37But nothing is impossible for God.” 38Mary answered, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let everything you’ve said happen to me.” Then the angel left her.
Mary Praises God
46Mary said, “My soul praises the Lord’s greatness! 47My spirit finds its joy in God, my Savior, 48because he has looked favorably on me, his humble servant. “From now on, all people will call me blessed 49because the Almighty has done great things to me. His name is holy. 50For those who fear him, his mercy lasts throughout every generation. 51“He displayed his mighty power. He scattered those who think too highly of themselves. 52He pulled strong rulers from their thrones. He honored humble people. 53He fed hungry people with good food. He sent rich people away with nothing. 54“He remembered to help his servant Israel forever. 55This is the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and his descendants.” 56Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.
Jesus Is Born
1At that time the Emperor Augustus ordered a census of the Roman Empire. 2This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3All the people went to register in the cities where their ancestors had lived. 4So Joseph went from Nazareth, a city in Galilee, to a Judean city called Bethlehem. Joseph, a descendant of King David, went to Bethlehem because David had been born there. 5Joseph went there to register with Mary. She had been promised to him in marriage and was pregnant. 6While they were in Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to have her child. 7She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger because there wasn’t any room for them in the inn.
Angels Announce the Birth of Jesus
8Shepherds were in the fields near Bethlehem. They were taking turns watching their flock during the night. 9An angel from the Lord suddenly appeared to them. The glory of the Lord filled the area with light, and they were terrified. 10The angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid! I have good news for you, a message that will fill everyone with joy. 11Today your Savior, Christ the Lord, was born in David’s city. 12This is how you will recognize him: You will find an infant wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13Suddenly, a large army of angels appeared with the angel. They were praising God by saying, 14“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those who have his good will!” 15The angels left them and went back to heaven. The shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see what the Lord has told us about.” 16They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph with the baby, who was lying in a manger. 17When they saw the child, they repeated what they had been told about him. 18Everyone who heard the shepherds’ story was amazed. 19Mary treasured all these things in her heart and always thought about them. 20As the shepherds returned to their flock, they glorified and praised God for everything they had seen and heard. Everything happened the way the angel had told them.”

This news of the birth of Jesus is the best news I will ever hear and it is the best news that you will ever hear.  Have a wonderful, joyous Christmas celebration!

Monday, December 16, 2013

One Word Made Nelson Mandela Great

I have truly enjoyed reading all the stories about the life of Nelson Mandela since his death just a few days ago. There have been fanciful ones by people who did not know him, interesting stories by people who did know him, and several very insightful stories by folks who studied him. I confess that my knowledge of Nelson Mandela was limited prior to his death.  I knew that he had communist leanings for many years. I knew that he suffered greatly in prison for 27 years, and, I knew that he became President of South Africa just a few years after his release from prison.

Mandela was born into the Thembu royal family. After attending Fort Hare University and the University of Witwatersrand where he studied law, he became involved in anti-colonial politics. He joined the African National Congress, a decidedly Marxist, Communist organization dedicated to the overthrow of the white South African government. Initially he was committed to non-violent protest, but after more than a decade of unsuccessful attempts to obtain a government controlled by the black majority, he gave up and formed the militant Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) that was affiliated with the South African Communist Party (funded in part by the Soviet Union).  The MK advocated violence and it led a sabotage campaign against apartheid. However, in no instance of sabotage did anyone die.  In 1962 Mandela was arrested and convicted of conspiracy to overthrow the state, and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Commentators have noted that Mandela was offered release 27 times if he would agree to forego violent acts. However, undoubtedly that was just a part of the conditions for his release from prison. In all likelihood, the other terms included nonparticipation in any activities, nonviolent or violent, seeking to end apartheid in South Africa. That was an unacceptable term to Nelson Mandela and one for which he was unwilling to compromise.

The Soviet communists saw in Mandela and the ANC an opportunity to establish a foothold in Africa.  That was the only reason that they supported his efforts. While Mandela was a socialist, however, and perhaps even a Marxist, he did not care about advancing Soviet communism, he only cared about freeing his people from apartheid.  He supported the communists only to the extent that they benefitted his cause.

For 27 long years Nelson Mandela was a prisoner. But, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela didn’t fade away. He became a symbol of white oppression and white racism. Mandela did, however, have lots of time to contemplate. Raised as a Christian, Mandela concluded that there was a conflict between his faith and his violent past. He realized that he could not be both a Christian and a communist or a Marxist.

While Mandela was still in prison, pressure continued to mount, both inside and outside of South Africa, for an end to apartheid.  One of those working to end apartheid was President Ronald Reagan.  As this excerpt from an article by Arnold Steinberg (used with his permission) points out, Reagan sought not to overthrow the government of South Africa, but to bring an end to apartheid. 

"In fact, the [Reagan] policy was strategic and allowed for Reagan’s philosophy…of seeking change within authoritarian regimes as opposed to isolating totalitarian regimes like the Soviet Union, which required full confrontation.  And, at that time during the Cold War, Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress was a Marxist, if not pro-Communist, organization, so prudence was required.

In 1986, Chet [Chester Crocker] recommended to Secretary of State George Shultz the appointment of Ed Perkins to be U.S. Ambassador to South Africa.”

This was significant because not only was Edward Perkins a career foreign service officer serving as U.S. Ambassador to Liberia, he was an African American. For President Ronald Reagan to send a black man as the US Ambassador was a crystal clear message to then President of South Africa, P.W. Botha, that the United States did not condone or approve of apartheid.

“In his book, Ed [Perkins] says, quite simply, that neither George Shultz nor Ronald Reagan have been given credit for their determination to change apartheid in South Africa. Shultz told Ed, ‘No one has the right to ask you or any other black person to go down there.’  Some thought the Afrikaners might try to assassinate a black ambassador. And ‘black leaders’ here, he was told, would attack Ed as a sell-out to a “racist” president…

…when it came to Reagan himself, Ed and the President had immediate rapport. Ed recollects how informed Reagan was on Africa and also Reagan’s moral clarity. …[Reagan] told Ed that he was personally appointing him U.S. Ambassador to South Africa and, almost unheard of, giving him authorization to make American policy from the embassy. Ed recalls that in subsequent meetings during his ambassadorship, Reagan was …thoroughly analytical and well engaged — hardly the detached caricature drawn by liberals.

[The] South African press predictably blasted the appointment. …But Ed became, in his words, ‘a change agent’ from the moment he set foot in South Africa… …in the first official private meeting with South Africa’s President P.W. Botha, [Botha] directly insulted him and indirectly insulted President Reagan.  

…But the bottom line is that President Reagan’s personal envoy made policy from the moment he refused to accept segregated housing for the black State Department employees.  And, he reached out to all groups, from rigid Afrikaners to black Marxist revolutionaries, while making clear the U.S. position was against apartheid and against violent change and for a market economy.  

…By selecting a black American to be ambassador, President Reagan sent a message.  And by sending Ed Perkins, Reagan showed that his selection was not some politically correct symbol of diversity but the real deal. In South Africa, [Perkins] celebrated the U.S. Constitution and its genius of a democratic republic of limited, balanced powers.

At times, Ed even gave Embassy or consular sanctuary to political dissidents… When challenged by the South African government, Ed Perkins declared that the dissidents were on sovereign territory. And when Botha (who, ironically, would later become part of Nelson Mandela’s government) …repeatedly became belligerent, Ed Perkins replied with his ace-in-the-hole line — that he was acting on behalf of the President of the United States — Ronald Reagan.”

President Ronald Reagan was walking a fine line in South Africa. By instituting the Reagan Doctrine, he sought to bring down the dictatorship of the Soviet Union. The ties of the African National Congress to the Soviets only made that fine line even smaller. Other Presidents, like Jimmy Carter, in their haste to achieve human rights actually empowered harsh dictatorships that still plague us today, such as Iran. Without Carter’s bumbling, we would not have the danger of a nuclear war that is posed by the current Islamic fascist regime of the Ayatollah in Iran. It is not a stretch to say that without the quiet, but firm intervention of Ronald Reagan in South Africa at a critical time, that South Africa could have made the peaceful transition to a majority rule nation that exists today.

But, let’s get back to the story of Nelson Mandela and the one powerful word that made him a great leader. When Mandela eventually was released from prison in 1990, President F.W. de Klerk was serving as Prime Minister. It was a time of great civil unrest. Demands for an end to apartheid had reached a boiling point.

After so many years in prison, Nelson Mandela had a right to be an angry man, a man filled with bitterness and bent on revenge. But, he wasn’t. His commitment to his Christian faith overrode his potential rage against his mistreatment and abuse in prison. Instead of anger, Mandela did the unthinkable thing.

The then President of South Africa was F.W. de Klerk. While de Klerk was no saint, he was not the racist firebrand of his predecessor, P.F. Botha. Nelson Mandela had not given up the fight for justice and freedom, he had just rejected hatred, anger and violence as a means to that end. But, much more than that, his faith compelled him to do was Jesus did, forgive his enemies. He obviously knew these passages well…

Then Jesus said,

“Father, forgive them. They don't know what they're doing."—Luke 23:34

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked him, "Lord, how often do I have to forgive a believer who wrongs me? Seven times?" Jesus answered him, "I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy times seven.”—Matthew 18:21-22

The ability of Nelson Mandela, a man who had served 27 years in prison, to forgive his enemies was what made him a truly great man and a great leader.  His ability to forgive was a powerful force for good. With genuine, heart-felt forgiveness he united his nation, a seemingly impossible task. By being able to purge the anger from his heart, he was able to reach out to both blacks and whites with a message of reconciliation.

Amazingly, just four years after release from his long imprisonment, Nelson Mandela was elected President of South Africa. The times were still dangerous with a possible civil war rumbling just below the surface. While Mandela was willing to forgive, many black South Africans did not want to forgive, they wanted revenge. But, Mandela knew that vengeance belongs to the Lord, not to man. As it says in Romans 12:19

“Don't take revenge, dear friends. Instead, let God's anger take care of it. After all, Scripture says, "I alone have the right to take revenge. I will pay back, says the Lord.”

Once again, it was the wisdom of God that led to the wise and prudent decisions made by Nelson Mandela. It would have been oh so easy to give in to the demands of black South Africans to seek revenge against white South Africans. It would have been easy to take revenge on those white South Africans that insulted him and belittled him, but Nelson Mandela did not give in to his lower desires. Of course, it would have been so easy to do so and the result would have looked something like today’s Zimbabwe, a totalitarian dictatorship where everyone suffers, black and white.

The movie Invictus by Clint Eastwood, starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon, which by most accounts is an accurate rendition of what really happened, provides insight into the wisdom of Nelson Mandela. Here is an excerpt from a synopsis of the movie as told by Wikipedia…

“…[President] Mandela is particularly concerned about racial divisions between black and white South Africans, which could lead to violence.

While attending a game between the Springboks, the country's rugby union team, and England, Mandela recognizes that the blacks in the stadium are cheering for England, as the mostly-white Springboks represent prejudice and apartheid in their minds; he remarks that he did the same while imprisoned on Robben Island. Knowing that South Africa is set to host the 1995 Rugby World Cup in one year's time, Mandela persuades a meeting of the newly black-dominated South African Sports Committee to support the Springboks. He then meets with the captain of the Springboks rugby team, François Pienaar (Matt Damon), and implies that a Springboks victory in the World Cup will unite and inspire the nation. Mandela also shares with François a British poem, "Invictus", that had inspired him during his time in prison.

Many South Africans, both black and white, doubt that rugby will unite a nation torn apart by nearly 50 years of racial tensions, as for many blacks, especially the radicals, the Springboks symbolize white supremacy. Both Mandela and Pienaar, however, stand firmly behind their theory that the game can successfully unite the South African country.

Things begin to change as the players interact with the fans and begin a friendship with them. During the opening games, support for the Springboks begins to grow among the black population. By the second game, the whole country comes together to support the Springboks and Mandela's efforts.

Before the game, the Springbok team visits Robben Island, where Mandela spent the first 18 of his 27 years in jail. François mentions his amazement that Mandela ‘could spend thirty years in a tiny cell, and come out ready to forgive the people who put [him] there.’

Supported by a large home crowd of both races, Pienaar motivates his team. The Springboks win the match on an added time long drop-kick from fly-half Joel Stransky, with a score of 15–12. Mandela and Pienaar meet on the field together to celebrate the improbable and unexpected victory.”

In many ways, Nelson Mandela reminds me of another great Christian leader, Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn. Solzhenitsyn never became the President of Russia after the peaceful defeat of the Soviet Union, but like Mandela, Solzhenitsyn was a man of great leadership based on the strength of his ability to forgive. Because of their ability to forgive, both Mandela and Solzhenitsyn were able to heal. Those who bear grudges, who seek retribution and revenge, may gain power, but they will never be great. In fact, theirs will be a leadership that destroys, divides, and encourages envy, hatred, jealously, and even violence. It will be a legacy of failure and shortsightedness.

Let us celebrate the greatness of Nelson Mandela and his willingness to forgive.  He would, of course, point to the one who makes it possible for us to forgive, Jesus, the Savior of the world.  Nelson Mandela, RIP.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

The Thanksgiving celebration we celebrate this week is a remembrance of the Thanksgiving celebrated by the Pilgrims in the Colony of Massachusetts.  The Pilgrims had fled to America for religious freedom.  The celebration they held was for the express purpose of thanking God for preserving them through a harsh winter and blessing them with abundant crops.  These Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth on the Mayflower on December 21, 1620.  Here is the story of what happened according to the actual writings of the Pilgrims as narrated by Barbara Curtis, a contributing editor.

“In the early 1600s, the Wampanoag (Wam-pa-NO-ag) Indians covered the coast of what we now call New England. They raised crops, living close to the ocean in summer for seafood, moving inland in winter to set up hunting camps. Their encounters with Europeans over the years were mostly friendly.
One exception: In 1614 Captain Thomas Hunt captured several Wampanoag, along with a Patuxet named Squanto, to be sold into slavery in Spain. A Spanish monk purchased Squanto's freedom, taught him English, and introduced him to Jesus Christ. In 1619, Squanto returned to his native land, only to find his tribe wiped out by an epidemic. Thereafter he made his home with the Wampanoag.

Meanwhile, in 1608, a British group called the Separatists fled to Leyden, Holland. There they found religious freedom, but also poverty, grueling work hours and a secular culture that threatened to undo the values they had carefully instilled into their children. In 1620, they sold everything and indentured themselves for seven years to finance their journey to America.

On the Mayflower, the Separatists were joined by those seeking the new land for other reasons; these they called the Strangers. The two groups, 102 altogether, were called the Pilgrims.”
Their journey lasted nine weeks. In one of those "accidents" which change the course of history, the ship lost its course and landed far north of its destination at what we now call Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Once outside the territory covered by the King's Charter, the Pilgrims became responsible for their own government, and so they wrote a set of laws called The Mayflower Compact.

On December 21, 1620, they began their new life at the place they named Plymouth.
It was a devastating winter -- whipped with wind and sleet and snow. Half the Pilgrims died. Still the Separatists clung to their faith; not one chose to return to England with the Mayflower that spring.
But spring brought unexpected relief with the help of a noble and generous Christian brother -- Squanto. He taught them how to grow corn, use fertilizer, stalk deer and catch fish. William Bradford, the governor of Plymouth, wrote of Squanto that he was "a special instrument sent of God for good beyond their expectations."

And so their first harvest was good. Governor Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving to God and the Pilgrims invited their Indian friends. Chief Massasoit and 90 members of his tribe came, along with Squanto, bearing venison and wild turkeys for all to share. Together in harmony, the Pilgrims and the Indians feasted, played games, ran races and showed their prowess with bow and arrow and musket.

This is the true story of the origin of today’s American Thanksgiving holiday.  It is a unique holiday.  It’s not celebrated in Europe, and its origins are thoroughly American and Christian.  At this first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims gave thanks to God for their deliverance from the terrible winter weather, for the blessing of Squanto’s friendship, and for their abundant harvest. 
This Thanksgiving celebration created a tradition of Americans thanking God for their many blessings, even in time of war, time of devastation, and time of plenty.  Here is George 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 favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to "recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many 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 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service 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 sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, 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 diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Although President Thomas Jefferson declined to issue a Thanksgiving proclamation, the tradition of a Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation continued throughout the years.  On October 3, 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued this Thanksgiving Day proclamation…
“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”
Even in the midst of a great civil war that was tearing the nation apart, Abraham Lincoln found, as the Pilgrims found, time to thank God for their many blessings.  It was this perspective of America’s great leaders over the years that helped to keep Americans focused on the one to whom all thanks belong, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Thanksgiving Day Proclamations during the Great Depression, and during World War II.  In each case he gave thanks to God.  This is what he said on November 30, 1933 during some of the deepest days of the Great Depression…

“I, Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, do set aside and appoint Thursday, the thirtieth day of November 1933, to be a Day of Thanksgiving for all our people.
May we on that day in our churches and in our homes give humble thanks for the blessings bestowed upon us during the year past by Almighty God.

May we recall the courage of those who settled a wilderness, the vision of those who founded the Nation, the steadfastness of those who in every succeeding generation have fought to keep pure the ideal of equality of opportunity and hold clear the goal of mutual help in time of prosperity as in time of adversity.

May we be grateful for the passing of dark days; for the new spirit of dependence one on another; for the closer unity of all parts of our wide land; for the greater friendship between employers and those who toil; for a clearer knowledge by all nations that we seek no conquests and ask only honorable engagements by all people to respect the lands and rights of their neighbors; for the brighter day to which we can win through by seeking the help of God in a more unselfish striving for the bettering of mankind.”

On October 27, 1961 President John F. Kennedy said, in part in his Thanksgiving Proclamation... 

“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord.” (Psalm 92:1a)

“More than three centuries ago, the Pilgrims, after a year of hardship and peril, humbly and reverently set aside a special day upon which to give thanks to God for their preservation and for the good harvest from the virgin soil upon which they had labored. Grave and unknown dangers remained. Yet by their faith and by their toil they had survived the rigors of the harsh New England winter. Hence they paused in their labors to give thanks for the blessings that had been bestowed upon them by Divine Providence.

This year, as the harvest draws near its close and the year approaches its end, awesome perils again remain to be faced. Yet we have, as in the past, ample reason to be thankful for the abundance of our blessings. We are grateful for the blessings of faith and health and strength and for the imperishable spiritual gifts of love and hope. We give thanks, too, for our freedom as a nation; for the strength of our arms and the faith of our friends; for the beliefs and confidence we share; for our determination to stand firmly for what we believe to be right and to resist mightily what we believe to be base; and for the heritage of liberty bequeathed by our ancestors which we are privileged to preserve for our children and our children’s children.

I urge all citizens to make this Thanksgiving not merely a holiday from their labors, but rather a day of contemplation. I ask the head of each family to recount to his children the story of the first New England thanksgiving, thus to impress upon future generations the heritage of this nation born in toil, in danger, in purpose, and in the conviction that right and justice and freedom can through man’s efforts persevere and come to fruition with the blessing of God.

Let us observe this day with reverence and with prayer that will rekindle in us the will and show us the way not only to preserve our blessings, but also to extend them to the four corners of the earth. Let us by our example, as well as by our material aid, assist all peoples of all nations who are striving to achieve a better life in freedom.”

Continuing the long tradition of Presidential Proclamations, President Barack Obama will again this year issue a Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, giving thanks to God for our many blessings.  And, no matter our circumstances we can all enthusiastically thank God for his preservation of our free land, the abundance of our crops, and the many other blessings, both material and spiritual which we enjoy.

My wife, Kathi, and I and our children and grandchildren will join in that tradition again this year, giving thanks to the God of the Bible for his many blessings.  We wish you and yours a wonderful, warm Thanksgiving celebration.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Virginia Elects "Huey Long"

The Virginia off, off year election was a thud.  The left can’t crow because their guy barely squeaked through after reputedly spending more than $30 million to buy a four year stay in the Governor’s mansion, and the right can’t crow because their guy lost.  The only winners were the folks selling advertising and they won big.  The bad news is that Virginia just elected a modern day Huey Long, the long departed colorful, yet infamous governor of the great state of Louisiana.  If you are not familiar with the antics of Huey and his brother Earl, I recommend you read a little bit about him.  Like Terry McAuliffe, the Governor elect of Virginia, Huey Long was a shameless self-promoter.  The Long and McAuliffe view of government is as a source of power and personal enrichment.

I had the opportunity in late 1970 to give a speech on the campus of Louisiana State University (LSU).  I was living at the time in Port Arthur, Texas, so it wasn’t a long drive to Baton Rouge, where LSU is located.  I was driving there after work on a Friday, so I stopped for dinner along the way.  For some reason I had an opportunity to glance through some post cards and was intrigued by the fact that while Governor Ronald Reagan had to move out of the California Governor’s mansion because it had become a dangerous fire trap, the State of Louisiana had had three Governor’s mansions since the 1930s.  I thought it ironic that wealthy and prosperous California had not replaced its old Governor’s mansion that was built in 1877, yet Louisiana had three different Governor’s mansions in a period of less than 50 years.  It sounded like there must be a story behind these three executive residences in Louisiana, and there was.

Huey Long had accumulated nearly absolute power as the Governor of Louisiana.  He hired and fired at will and he continued to run the state even after he was elected to the United States Senate.  Huey successfully maneuvered his puppet, Oscar K. Allen, into the Governor’s chair.  There is a well-known apocryphal story that Allen was such a willing stooge of Long that one day a leaf floated through an open window and he picked it up and signed it.

Huey Long was just one of many in a long line of corrupt Louisiana politicians.  It was not too many years ago that Louisiana Governor, Edwin Edwards, proclaimed “Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez!” (Let the Good Times Roll!).  This has potential as the theme of the new McAuliffe administration.

In addition to being self-serving, Long and McAuliffe have many other traits in common.  Long was not above using State of Louisiana funds to politically benefit himself.  One of his favorite tricks was to pave a highway half way to another town and then tell the citizens that he wanted to pave it the entire way, but he was blocked by the state legislature.

Like Long, McAuliffe has used tax dollars to benefit himself and his cronies.  It was McAuliffe who came up with the scheme of selling a night in the Lincoln Bedroom at the White House during the Clinton Administration to raise funds for the re-election campaign.  Selling passports also became a specialty of McAuliffe, who is still under investigation for other shenanigans.  Huey would have applauded.

And, like Huey Long, McAuliffe is a man of the left.  During my trip to Baton Rouge many years ago, I had the opportunity to meet and talk with the grandmother of a friend who lived there.  Up in her eighties, she was a delightful person.  She told me lots of personal stories about Huey Long and about the grand celebration that was Huey’s funeral.  It was quite an affair.  The silver-tongued racist, Gerald L. K. Smith gave the funeral oration.  Smith was a leader of Long’s Share Our Wealth redistribution program that sought to tax and spend more to benefit the poor.  Of course, Huey and his cronies would not suffer financially either.  It was estimated that more than 100,000 people attended Huey’s funeral.  The elderly lady I meet in Baton Rouge said that she was there as a little girl, selling flowers.  She attested to the fact that it was more like a holiday celebration, than a funeral service.

Huey was gunned down in the State Capitol Building.  To this day they are not sure who it was that shot him.  A physician, Dr. Carl Weiss, certainly tried to kill Huey that day, but when he pulled out his gun, Huey’s body guards unleashed a fusillade of bullets that ricocheted off the marble walls inside of the Capitol building.  It may well have been these bullets that actually killed then Senator Huey Long.

Long was a demagogue among demagogues and, his funeral service reflected it.  He was buried right on the Capitol grounds, in front of the new state Capitol building.  Fittingly, carved on the side of the monument are images of rogues such as Earl Browder, an official of the Communist Party USA.

Now about those three Governor’s mansions.  The first one was built in 1887 and was used until 1929.  Huey planned on becoming President of the United States (no doubt McAuliffe has the same ambition).  Huey had his eyes set on running against fellow Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936.  When the legislature would not appropriate funds to build a new Governor’s mansion, Huey simply had it demolished.  The legislature then had no other choice but to build a new one and Huey designed it to look just like the White House.  He did it he said to get the feel of what it was going to be like living in the White House.  Please look at the picture at right and decide for yourself if Huey was successful in his attempt to build a model of the White House.

And, for the record, this Governor’s mansion was abandoned in 1963 for yet another Governor’s mansion built (with taxpayer funds, of course) by then governor  by Jimmie Davis, former country and western singer and the first Governor since Huey Long without any ties to the Long family.

So, let’s get back to the 21st Century Huey Long, i.e. Terry McAuliffe.  McAuliffe is best known as Bill Clinton’s bag man.  Like Long, with McAuliffe, politics and money always come first.  In fact, in his book, What a Party! he recounts a startling story.  It seems that McAuliffe is taking his wife and new baby home from the hospital, but he makes a stop along the way.  This is what he says in his book…

 “Dorothy [Terry’s wife] was starting to well up in the backseat.  She was having trouble understanding how I could be taking my wife and newborn baby to a fund-raiser on our way home from the hospital.  We got to the dinner and by then Dorothy was in tears, and I left her with Justin [Terry’s aide] and went inside.  Little Peter was sleeping peacefully and Dorothy just sat there and poor Justin didn't say a word.  He was mortified.  I was inside maybe fifteen minutes, said a few nice things about Marty [President of the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters who were hosting a Sons of Italy dinner], and hurried back out to the car.  I felt bad for Dorothy, but it was a million bucks for the Democratic Party and by the time we got home and the kids had their new little brother in their arms, Dorothy was all smiles and we were one big happy family again.  Nobody ever said life with me was easy.”

That may have been unbelievable, but the story he tells about when his wife was in labor with another child is no better…

“We got there a little after noon and spent the whole afternoon in her room.  I was trying hard not to appear restless, but I am not one to sit still for long and soon I was going stir-crazy, which drove Dorothy nuts. 'Isn't there something you need to do?' she finally said.  I told her The Washington Post was having a party that evening for Lloyd Grove, who wrote the 'Reliable Source' column. 'Go!' she said. 'You're like a caged animal here.  I'll call you if I need you.'  I went flying out the door and drove to the party.  I kept calling Dorothy to make sure she was fine.  I made the rounds at the party and ran into Marjorie Williams, who was writing a story on me for Vanity Fair Magazine.  She was shocked to see me at the party.  'Isn't Dorothy having a baby today?' she asked.  'That's right,' I said, 'but she threw me out of the room.'  Marjorie just couldn't understand how I left Dorothy alone.  I almost told her about the night I was born and how my mother wanted my father to stay at home to watch Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, but decided against it.  I went back to the hospital after the Washington Post party and at 3:33 A.M. little Sarah Swann McAuliffe was born.”

What a creep!  Virginia didn’t just elect a Huey Long as its next Governor, we elected a creepy Huey Long.  And, let’s not forget that both Long and McAuliffe are from the party that brags about their compassion and caring.

So, what can we expect of Governor Terry McAuliffe (shown at right in an Edwin Edwards moment)?  Fortunately, the people re-elected a strong majority of Republicans to the Virginia House of Delegates, and they may yet retain control of the State Senate.  If the Republicans remain strong, they should be able to limit the damage of the McAuliffe administration.  But, there will be damage.  There will be new rules and regulations, there will be new taxes, and there will a loss of jobs.  Thomas Jefferson, the second Governor of Virginia said, “The government you elect is government you deserve.”

Indeed.  Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Redskins or Red Clouds?

It often puts a smile on my face when I hear the next liberal cause célèbre.  All liberal causes or crises have a pattern.  They are generally created for a specific purpose, most often political or ideological.  They are commonly of minor importance, and they often obfuscate a much more important issue.  The latest hand wringing over the name of the National Football League franchise in Washington, DC, certainly fits the pattern.

Is the term Redskins a racial slur?  Yes, I think it is reasonable to conclude that its usage in the 19th century was primarily as a derogatory slur of Indians (I’m not going to use the term Native Americans because it is inaccurate and confusing).  Is the term Redskins a slur today?  The answer to that question becomes a bit more difficult.  I remember being in Flagstaff, Arizona, and seeing an Indian (Hopi, I believe) who was wearing a Washington Redskins sweatshirt.  I asked him if he was a Redskins fan and he enthusiastically replied “Yes!” along with something like “Go Redskins!”  Clearly this fellow was not bothered by the term Redskins.

Of course, that is a sample of one that happened at least ten years ago, so I’m not asserting that his view is the commonly held view of American Indians.  It is interesting to note, however, that a 2002 poll of American Indians conducted on behalf of Sports Illustrated found that 75% of those surveyed had no objection to the Redskins name.

The story of how the Washington Redskins came to get their name is told this way by Wikipedia…
“The team was founded in 1932 and was originally known as the Boston Braves, for their landlords, the baseball team called the Boston Braves. In 1933 the name was changed to the synonymous Boston Redskins when the team left Braves Field for Fenway Park, the home of the Boston Red Sox. Some accounts state that the name "Redskins" was chosen to honor the team's coach, William "Lone Star" Dietz, who began coaching in 1933, and whose mother was allegedly Sioux. In 1937 the team moved… [to] Washington, D.C., [and] became the Washington Redskins.”
So here we are today, arguing about the name of a professional football team.  I think it is fair to say that the fans who love the Washington Redskins mean absolutely no animosity against Indians.  For them, the name embodies success, courage, endurance, perseverance and a great NFL football franchise.  An attack on the name of their team is interpreted by many of them to be an indirect attack on them.

And, so we have a lot of ink and paper and palavering being spent on the rightness or wrongness of an NFL team being named the Washington Redskins.  As for me, I don’t want to call anyone by a name that offends them.  That is wrong.

But, what a diversion of effort from dealing with real issues that Indians all across the nation have.  Those who live on reservations live in almost universal misery.  If you want to see the welfare state in action, visit an Indian reservation.

I have been on a number of Indian reservations, the largest of which is the Navajo reservation in Arizona that covers 27,000 square miles and encompasses parts of three states as the map shows.  The reservation has 3,000 more square miles than the entire state of West Virginia!  That makes the reservation larger than the states of Maryland and Massachusetts combined.  And, although it encompasses a very large geographical area, more than 77% of all the roads are unpaved, there are few telephones, and thus most of those living on the reservation live in isolation from each other and from the world.

The scenery on this reservation is spectacular and I have never seen more beautiful sunsets.  Unfortunately, however, most of these acres are desert, surrounded by more desert.  While it has been a number of years since I was on the Indian reservation that encompasses Page, Arizona, I seriously doubt that the situation has changed much.  I learned from asking questions of those who live on the reservation that the Tribal Council owns everything.  They own the land that includes a mountain of coal.  They own the electric train that brings the coal to the power plant that they also own.  They also control all revenues generated by the coal mine and the power plant.  But, much more than that they own all the sheep, the cows, and any other livestock on the land.  If a tribe member seeks to move to another part of the reservation they cannot take any livestock with them.  In this way, the Tribal Council rules supreme.

For instance, an Indian family may live on an assigned piece of land, but they do not own it.  Neither do they own the cow that they milk, nor the sheep that they shear, or any other livestock.  Most likely they live in a shanty like home with a satellite antenna on the roof.  On the vast Navajo reservation in Northeast Arizona, many, if not most do not have access to electricity (even though the Tribal Council sells off the electricity they generate!).

Worst of all, virtually no Indian living on the land has running water or access to a sewer system.  In addition, 60% of the Navajos have no telephone.  Almost every home has a pickup truck sitting outside of it with a big water tank on it.  They haul water for drinking and bathing, even though they are located not far from Lake Powell, the second largest man-made lake in the country.  Glen Canyon Dam that backs up Lake Powell was constructed entirely on the Navajo reservation.  It could not be built without agreement from the Tribal Council.  Instead of negotiating for acre feet of water that could be used for irrigation, the Council agreed to take more arid desert as compensation.  What a deal!  With millions of acre foot of water, the Council could have transformed the desert into high production farmland, just as the nation of Israel has done in the Middle East.  But, that opportunity is long past.

When I was last on this particular reservation there were signs posted that read, “Keep to the Old Ways!” and “Stay on the Reservation!”  Young Indians are discouraged from leaving the reservation, even though they are free to do so and many do leave.  The involuntary servitude that is inherent in a welfare state is not a pleasant place to live.  In many ways, living on an Indian reservation is similar to living in a socialist state.  And, all the personal problems that exist in a socialist nation exist on the reservation.

To live on a reservation is to live without hope.  Even though Indians do not pay any Federal income tax, there is no visible industry, unless you consider casinos or roadside curio stands an industry.  The mostly government run schools are poor and the opportunities are virtually non-existent.

The number of people living on the Navajo reservation in Arizona is 180,000 and the unemployment rate is 42%.  More than 43% of those on the reservation live below the poverty rate.  While approximately 31% of all Americans have a bachelor’s degree, just 7% of those on the Navajo reservation have a college degree. 
Another serious problem among the Navajo is alcoholism, as it is among all Indians on reservations.  In fact, alcoholism related deaths among American Indians is nearly 12%.  This is 5.6 times higher than among the U.S. population.

So, as you can see, American Indians, or Native Americans, if you prefer, have very real and serious problems.  These problems far outweigh the importance of the name of the NFL football franchise located in Washington, DC, i.e. the Washington Redskins.  To spend so much time and effort on something so relatively meaningless is simply a diversion.  Do what you want with the name.  If you wish, encourage Dan Snyder, the owner of the Washington Redskins, to change the name to the Washington Red Clouds (as has been proposed).  Red Cloud was a very famous, daring and cunning Indian chief.

But, have a little decency, show a little compassion for the real problems that have been created on the Indian reservations.  Just as alcoholism was an enduring problem behind the Iron Curtain, and in all socialist states because the people lacked hope, it will continue to be a problem as long as the Indians are segregated from the rest of society.  The Indians were forced onto reservations, but it doesn’t mean it has to stay that way.

Why don’t we abrogate the treaties that created the Indian reservations and turn all the property over to the Indians that live there, not just to the Tribal Council?  Let them be stockholders in any existing profitable enterprises such as hospitals, coal reserves, and power plants.  Let them be free to sell, trade and buy the shares of others.  Let them own their land and the livestock on that land, free to sell, trade, or buy more livestock.  Give them full rights as citizens, the opportunity to not only succeed and thrive economically, but also to pay taxes.  Their current situation is untenable and a disgrace.  Let’s worry about and solve real problems and then we can deal with the sidebar issues that the liberals love to distract us with.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Guest Blog: Should Chris Christie be the Republican nominee in 2016?

By William Shaker, President,

Governor Chris Christie’s recent landslide victory has immediately created a buzz. I don’t think it will last for two reasons: 1) He would not survive the Republican primary process and 2) If nominated, he could not win.

1) He would not receive the nomination: To win by a 20 percentage point margin in a hugely Democratic state, he moved so far to the left that he morphed into a Democrat—an Obama clone. He alienated much of the GOP primary voter base when he essentially endorsed Obama at the precise time when Romney was picking up momentum—thus squashing any chance that Romney had for victory. At least I believe this is the feeling of primary voters in the Midwest and the South. The NRA is still a powerful force and Christie insulted NRA supporters when he attacked NRA effort to place guards in schools. Christie attacked an NRA ad that pointed out the school attended by the President’s children employs more than a dozen armed guards. In calling this NRA ad irresponsible, Christie upset Second Amendment supporters. The NRA is so influential with independent voters that even Democrats are reluctant to criticize it. Christie continued to insult Tea Party sympathizers (who make up about one-third of the Republican primary base) by slamming conservative Republicans such Sen. Rand Paul. His appointment to fill the recent NJ Senate vacancy paved the way for victory of a Democrat in the special NJ Senatorial election. He appointed a Democrat as NJ Attorney General, who supports liberal democrat programs, including ObamaCare. And his stance on social issues has alienated self-identified Christian conservatives, another large block of Republican primary voters. Those Republicans who nominated candidates deemed electable—Romney, McCain, Dole—learned their lesson. These folks would vomit on this argument in 2016. A President who would simply do a little less in forwarding the agenda of the liberal left would not be acceptable—would not be able to pull American out of the abyss.

2) If he did receive the Republican nomination he would not win the general election. Many conservative and tea party leaning Republicans would simply stay home. Those pundits who think Democrat leaning voters would vote for Christie instead of a Democrat, such as Hillary Clinton, are not thinking clearly. Why vote for a Democrat light, when they could vote for the real thing.

I believe that Republican primary voters will nominate a candidate who indeed can win—and it will not be a candidate such as George W. Bush who said, “I’ve abandoned free market principles in order to save the free market system.” I believe it will be a candidate such as Dr. Ben Carson, a retired pediatric neurosurgeon. He is a conservative Black patriot who shares the philosophy of Ronald Reagan. He says he is not interested in running for office—he is not a politician, says he is not politically correct. But he does care deeply about our country, and I believe that he could be persuade to run for the nomination. Dr. Carson is speaking widely around the country in support of needed healthcare reform and in opposition to ObamaCare—and the fundamental principles of liberty. Analysis shows that if a Black nominee were to receive 17% of the Black vote, he would win (Herman Cain was polling at more than 30% of the Black vote before he dropped out of the race for personal reasons).

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Deists or Christians?

The story goes something like this.  The Founders of our nation were not Christians, they were Deists.  Let’s forget for a moment that nearly half of the signers of the Declaration of Independence had formal training in a Christian seminary.  Let’s also forget about the fact that the colonization of America in the 1600’s included men like John Winthrop and William Bradford who came to America for the specific purpose of religious freedom, specifically to worship the God of the Bible.  Let’s also ignore the preamble to the Treaty of Paris that concluded the Revolutionary War that begins with the words, “In the name of the most holy and triune God.”  We can also ignore George Washington’s active participation in the Anglican Church where he served as a vestryman.  And, let’s ignore the words of Patrick Henry’s Last Will and Testament which reads…

“This is all the Inheritance I can give to my dear family, The religion of Christ can give them one which will make them rich indeed.”

And, finally, let’s forget about these words by Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and one of the most influential Founders…

“My only hope of salvation is in the infinite transcendent love of God manifested to the world by the death of His Son upon the Cross.  Nothing but His blood will wash away my sins.  I rely exclusively upon it.  Come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly!”

No, instead, let’s just look at the Declaration of Independence itself.  After all, the Declaration is the founding document of our Republic.  The Constitution we now live under came years after the Articles of Confederation and the Declaration itself. 

Moreover, while the US Constitution serves as the law of the land, the Declaration of Independence is a manifesto.  It expresses the thoughts and ideas of the Founders as no other document does.  It tells us more about the thinking of the Founders than any other document of that time.  Created by a committee, Thomas Jefferson is given primary responsibility for its creation.

But, before we dive into the Declaration of Independence, let’s try to gain a better understanding of what it means to be a Deist.  After all, that’s what it is claimed that the Founders were.  My American Heritage College Dictionary defines Deism thusly…

“The belief, based on reason, in a God who created the universe and has since assumed no control over life, exerted no influence on nature, and given no supernatural revelation.”

The Bing Dictionary on my computer provides a similar description…

“Rational belief in God: a belief in God based on reason rather than revelation and involving the view that God has set the universe in motion but does not interfere with how it runs.”

And, just so we have three points of reference, the definition of Deism at is a…

1. belief in the existence of a God on the evidence of reason and nature only, with rejection of supernatural revelation (distinguished from theism ). 2. belief in a God who created the world but has since remained indifferent to it.

I checked several other sources and they all say essentially the same thing.  Some use the example of a watchmaker who winds up a watch and then forgets about it.  The idea being that God created the world, and then walked away and forgot about it.  He doesn’t intervene in it, he certainly didn’t send his Son to save it, and he doesn’t have any sort of personal relationship with people in the world.  He is a sort of absent God.

Now, let’s get back to the Declaration of Independence.  There are four references to God in the Declaration of Independence.  The question is, are these references consistent with a Deist God, an absent, uncaring, unconnected God, or are they consistent with any other sort of God, even a particular God such as the Christian God?

The first reference to God in the Declaration is in the preamble to the document and it reads…

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

In this instance, God is defined as the God of nature.  This could reasonably be interpreted as the watchmaker God in that God created nature.  But, there is a serious problem with that reasoning, because it goes on to say that God entitles them to dissolve their bonds with England.  A Deist would not believe that God was involved whatsoever.  He created the world and walked away.  He would not, in the Deist view, entitle the signers to anything because he would not care about what the signers or any other human believed.  He would be an absent, uncaring God.  So, the argument that the signers, i.e. the Founders, were Deists falls short right in the beginning of the Declaration of Independence.

The next reference to God in the Declaration is in the very next sentence that reads…

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

This is more bad news for those who assert that the Founders were Deists.  If God is an absent God, a watchmaker God, what does he care about rights?  How can a Deist God endow mankind with rights?  And, what would he care about creating humans as equal in his sight or under the law?  There is nothing in the first two references in the Declaration of Independence that is consistent with a Deist God, but both of these two references are consistent with a Christian God or a Jewish God.

The third reference to God is found after a recitation of all the grievances that the colonists expressed in regard to the King of England.  This is, in fact, the actual declaration of independence from the Crown, the line in the document that put their lives at risk.  It was an incredibly brave and daring statement that is virtually impossible to appreciate.  The Founders, men of consequence, of learning, and wealth, were putting their lives on the line so that they, their families, their fellow Americans from all walks of life, and you and I could live in freedom. 

This third reference to God reads…

“We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states;”

There is nothing in this statement, declaring their freedom and independence, consistent with a Deist God, nothing at all.  Why would the signers appeal to an absent, uncaring, watchmaker God?  That would have been silly, and these were not silly men.  Why would they have called God the “Judge of the world” if they believed that he was totally uninvolved with them and their lives?  However, if you were Christian or Jewish, and read the New Testament and/or the Old Testament, you would have understood that God is indeed the “Judge of the world.”  You would have believed that God was totally righteous, without fault.  And, if you were a Christian, you would have believed that this God sent his one and only son, Jesus, as prophesied in the Old Testament and written about in the New Testament, to rescue us from God’s judgment.  Once, again, this reference in the Declaration of Independence to God is totally inconsistent with a Deist God, but totally consistent with a Judeo-Christian God.

The fourth reference to God in the Declaration of Independence follows almost immediately on the heels of the third reference.  It reads…

“And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”

Those who assert that the Founders were Deists like to point out that almost all of the Founders used the term “Divine Providence” when referring to God, a term that is out of fashion today.  In fact, the idea of God as the “Divine Providence” comes from a number of Bible verses in the Old Testament such as Psalm 47:8 (God’s Word version)…

“God rules the nations. He sits upon his holy throne.”

It is the concept that while we have free will as Christians, God still mysteriously governs the course of nations and of men.  Or, as George Washington put it…

“It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible.”

But, the point is, if you are a Deist who believes God is absent and uninvolved, you can’t rely on “the protection of Divine Providence” since you don’t believe that God is involved in the world.  And, while this idea of an involved God is inconsistent with the definition of Deism, it is totally consistent with the Old and New Testaments.  It is totally consistent with the Christian and Jewish faiths.

In summary, the idea of the Founders being Deists is simply made up out of whole cloth.  It doesn’t stand up to even a cursory reading of the Declaration of Independence.  If you still believe that the Founders were Deists, you must first reject the Declaration as a statement of the Founders.  Second, you can cling to the belief that some of the Founders were Deists, and that may be true.  But, for all of the signers of the Declaration to agree with the wording of the Declaration, it has to mean that they were, by a vast majority, men who believed in a God who was personally involved in their lives.  And, if you dig deeper into the books they read, the churches they founded, the churches they attended, their writings, and their speeches it is difficult to rationally conclude that they were not Christians.  This is not to say that each and every Founder was a Christian, nor is it to say that anyone can say with absolute certainty what they believed in their heart.  That’s up to God.  What we can reliably conclude is that their faith was so important to them that they included references to a specific, involved God four times in the most important document they signed in their lives.

Before I conclude, I want to acknowledge a speech that my wife and I were recently privileged to hear that was given by Kirby Wilbur, the Director of the National Journalism Center ( a group operated by Young America’s Foundation (, a client of Eberle Associates (  It was from Kirby that I received the concept and inspiration for this blog.  I hope that you have found it to be enlightening.

You and I must not let the wishful and misguided thinking of those that reject our Judeo-Christian heritage alter history.  Volumes have been written by serious scholars on our American History.  These scholars do not skip over or minimize the powerful impact of Christianity upon our history.  To eliminate the influence of Christianity upon the Founders and upon their understanding of human nature is to totally and dangerously distort history.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Servants or Masters?

The concept of elected officials being public servants seems to be lost on the current incumbent of the White House.  That is unfortunate, because when elected officials begin thinking of themselves as the masters, and the voters who elected them as their servants, democracy has been turned on its head. 

The first Americans traced their freedom to the issuing of the Magna Carta in 1215.  Powerful feudal lords forced English King John to sign the Magna Carta.  This founding document established the rule of law as being above and over the rule of any man.  It established Englishmen as free men with defined liberties and it established that the rule of the King could not be arbitrary, that is, above the law.  Americans from the 1600s until the time of the American Revolution stood proud as British citizens whose individual freedom was protected by the Magna Carta.

In reality, although King John signed the Magna Carta, he and his successors did not adhere to it closely.  Nevertheless, this document established the concept of the rule of law, not the rule of man.  And, although Parliament had been established long before 1776, its power was limited and the power of the King of England was nearly unlimited.  Like Kings before him, King George ignored the Magna Carta whenever he found it desirable. 

At this time King George was a true Monarch.  He was the master, and the English people were his subjects.  As the American Declaration of Independence clearly documents, King George violated the letter and the spirit of the Magna Carta.  His intent and his actions were intended to bring the Americans to heel.  They were to do what he told them to do and they were to knuckle under as his servants.  Yes, the Parliament rubber stamped his actions, but make no mistake, they were the actions of a tyrant.

The Americans rebelled.  And, when they declared their separation from England, they set forth to create a new form of government.  It wasn’t just to be an Athenian democracy or a Roman republic, neither of which was very free or very republican or democratic in nature.  What the American Founders sought was to create a true republic that put almost all power into the hands of the people and that limited the power of those in public office.

President Obama has complained in a radio interview…

“…generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. Says what the states can’t do to you. Says what the Federal government can’t do to you, but doesn’t say what the Federal government or State government must do on your behalf…”

President Obama is right.  It’s not the state that needs protection from the people; it is the people who need protection from the government.  That was the clear understanding of the Founders.  They sought to create a new form a government where the people were all powerful, and the government was limited to specific, enumerated powers.

They knew from personal experience of the danger of an all-powerful monarch who could on a whim strip them of their freedom as British citizens.  They also knew from reading Montesquieu that the power of government must be limited and divided in order for freedom to survive.  Wikipedia says this about Montesquieu…

“Montesquieu was the most frequently quoted authority on government and politics in colonial pre-revolutionary British America, cited more by the American founders than any source except for the Bible. Following the American revolution, Montesquieu's work remained a powerful influence on many of the American founders, most notably James Madison of Virginia, the ‘Father of the Constitution.’ Montesquieu's philosophy that ‘government should be set up so that no man need be afraid of another’ reminded Madison and others that a free and stable foundation for their new national government required a clearly defined and balanced separation of powers.”

And, by relying on the understanding of the Bible as to the imperfect nature of man, the Founders set about creating a government framework wherein no one man or group of men could gain power over American citizens as monarchs had for ages past.  This message of the fallen state of man is repeated clearly throughout the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.  In Ecclesiastes 7:20 it is written, “Certainly, there is no one so righteous on earth that he always does what is good and never sins.”  In Romans 3:23 it says, “Because all people have sinned, they have fallen short of God's glory.”  Indeed, this truth of the imperfection of man is a theme that runs throughout the entire Bible, because the Bible is a rescue tale.  It is the story of God sending his only son, Jesus, to rescue fallen men and women from total separation from God.  If any man could obtain his own perfection, he would not be in need of God.  But, because all have sinned, the only path to heaven is through trust in Jesus. 

The Bible was, as Wikipedia notes, the most read book of the Founders.  There was no way to escape the message of man’s fallen state if someone reads it in even a cursory fashion.  It was this knowledge of the imperfection of man that drove the founders to limit the power of any man or group of men in government. 

As George Washington clearly put it… Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like a fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master.”  Washington and the other Founders clearly understood the reality of human nature.  They understood the danger of giving man through government too much power.  They understood, from their reading of history, that it is government and only government that enslaves men, and turns them into pawns of the state.

That’s why the United States Constitution is written giving the government negative rights, as Barack Obama put it.  It is those negative rights that protect you and I from tyranny.

The Founders were well aware of the concept of public service, the idea of someone elected to office being the servant of the people, not vice versa.  It was a concept strongly held by the Founders. 

But, the actions of the Obama Administration during the current government shut down belie their lordly attitude toward American citizens.  In fact, they are spiteful toward Americans.  There have been eleven shutdowns of the federal government since 1980.  Not one of these shutdowns has ever before included…

  • Blocking access to the Lincoln Memorial or any other memorial
  • Canceling all White House tours
  • Shutting down private businesses in or near federal parks
  • Threats to stop mailing out Social Security checks
  • Blocking access to the permanent residences of in holders inside of national parks.
  • Chaining off access to the World War II Memorial
  • Shutting down Ford’s Theater in Washington, DC
  • Closing down the Grand Canyon even though the state of Arizona agreed to pay all necessary costs to keep it open

These and many more outrageous and arrogant steps taken by the Obama Administration have been taken with one sole purpose, to cause pain to the American people.  Their goal is to frustrate and aggravate Americans by these closures, and blame it all on the Republicans.  These are the steps that a master takes to punish his servants.  This is the prevailing attitude of the Obama White House.  We are the servants, and he is the master.

Our President does not hesitate to fly off to Florida to play golf with Tiger Woods and spend $148,000 per hour riding in Air Force One, but he can’t seem to find the pittance needed to keep the White House tours open.

These aren’t acts caused by a shortage of funds caused by the Republicans.  It is the spiteful act of a President who refuses to negotiate with the Republicans over the  Continuing Resolution for funding the government.  These are arrogant and petty attempts by the Administration to punish and hurt the people it purportedly serves. 

Does the President care about you and me?  Does he care about the law of the land?  Does he care about the huge debt he has run up?  Does he understand that he is the servant and we are the masters?  No, he apparently does not.

The President absolutely refuses to negotiate, even though on 27 previous occasions riders have been attached to a Continuing Resolution for funding.  And, in each of those occasions, the then President worked with Congress to resolve their differences.  But, the principle of non-negotiation set forth by President Obama is understandable.  After all, he taught Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals and one of Alinsky’s rules is never negotiate with your enemy.  And, President Obama has made it clear on more than one occasion that you are I are his enemies.  In the 2008 election he identified Republicans as his “enemies.”

Rules for Radicals also explains his unnecessary punishment of American citizens during the government shutdown.  Rule 12 says, “Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (This is cruel, but very effective. Direct, personalized criticism and ridicule works.)”  This disciple of Saul Alinsky is our President of the United States.

President Obama is playing every card in Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, but it is not working.  He is blaming the Republicans for the hardships he has intentionally imposed on American citizens, but they are not taking the bait.  The Republicans’ own internal polling shows them winning the debate as long as they frame it accurately, i.e., the President refuses to negotiate, and the Republicans are willing to negotiate.  Even a dunderhead can understand that the President is an unfair bully and the Republicans are playing fair and above board.

But, of course, the President denies it all.  Barack Obama recently told CNBC host John Harwood…

“I think it’s fair to say that during the course of my Presidency I have bent over backwards to work with the Republican Party, and have purposely kept my rhetoric down.  I think I’m pretty well known for being a calm guy.  Sometimes people think I’m too calm.”

You have got to give it to him, the guy can tell a whopper with a straight face.

He must have forgotten his comments a few days earlier in Maryland where he said…

“The Speaker of the House, John Boehner…” is acting as he is only because… “…he doesn’t want to anger the extremists in his party.  That’s all.  That’s what this whole thing is about.”  The President also talked about… “…the Republican obsession with denying affordable health insurance to millions of American.  That’s all this has become about.  That seems to be the only thing that unites the Republican Party these days.” 

And, of course his surrogates in Congress and members of the White House staff have talked about the Republicans being “terrorists” who are “holding us hostage” with “bombs strapped to their chest.” 

And then, when Mr. Harwood mentioned that Wall Street, i.e. the stock market, was taking the government shutdown calmly, the President actually complained about it.  He seeks problems in the stock market so he can blame it on the Republicans.  The President responded to Mr. Harwood, “No, I think this time is different, they should be concerned.”  In other words, it’s just fine and dandy with Mr. Obama if the stock market is in an upheaval and millions of Americans lose money because of it.  No problem, as long as it advances his political agenda.  With Barack Obama everything is politics.  Nothing is about the good of the country.

But, make no mistake about it, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama would not be making such outrageous statements, and issuing such personal attacks if they did not think they are losing this debate.  The Republicans are willing to negotiate.  The President is not willing to negotiate.  They lose that argument every time.  Americans expect fairness, and when one party won’t negotiate, they see that as unfair.

My best guess is that since the entire apparatus of the new Obamacare online system has broken down the President will use it as an excuse to postpone enrollment for six months or a year.  He never will, of course, admit that the GOP won, but it will be their victory.  It will be yours and mine too.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Retribution or Reconciliation?

Earlier this year, on February 27, 2013, the United States Supreme Court heard an argument by a lawyer representing Shelby County, Alabama, in regard to the applicability and current accuracy of the premise upon which the 1965 Voting Rights Act was based.  The 1965 Voting Rights Act was passed by Congress over opposition from Democrats (primarily in the South) yet signed into law by President Lyndon Baines Johnson.  It was a landmark decision in the vein of the Reconstruction laws that applied to the Southern states following the Civil War.  Prior to that, it was generally understood that all federal laws had to apply equally to all citizens and to all states.  Article IV, Section 2 of the United States Constitution states…

"The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States."

The Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the US Constitution specifically protect the rights of African Americans and serve as the bedrock of protections of all citizens against discrimination, especially the right to vote.  Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment specifically states

"The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation the provisions of this article."

While the intent and the letter of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments is abundantly clear, they alone did not solve the problem of discrimination in the South.  As noted in a previous blog, the election of our first Progressive (i.e. liberal) President, Woodrow Wilson, dramatically reversed the progress in race relations and economic advancement in the South.  Wilson, an outspoken racist who grew up in the deep South (born in Virginia, but raised in Georgia), helped to engineer the re-segregation of the South.  Wilson, a student and disciple of Richard T. Ely [an influential founder of the Progressive movement], first re-segregated the Federal Government, reversing the policies of Republican Presidents before him.  Ely and others, who believed that African Americans had not sufficiently progressed ethically, then went about encouraging and achieving the re-segregation of the South.

The re-segregation of the South led to the infamous Jim Crow era that lasted from the time of Ely until the 1960s.  Through the use of poll taxes, threats, and physical harassment, African Americans were denied the right to vote.  It was a sad era in American history.  Repeatedly, Republicans in Congress tried to pass civil rights legislation, but it was continually voted down or watered down by the Democrat majorities in Congress up until 1964.

Finally, in 1964, a strong Civil Rights Act was passed by Congress over the objections of Southern Democrats and Democrats from as far North as Montana.  Similarly, in 1965, the historic Voting Rights Act was passed.

The argument made by Shelby County, Alabama, was that today, 48 years after the Voting Rights bill was passed, race relations, economic opportunities, and voting access to all citizens in that county are dramatically different than they were in 1965.  In other words, they argued before the Court that the premise upon which the Voting Rights Act was based, that Alabama and other Southern states actively discriminate against African Americans, is no longer true today. 

The Supreme Court ruled in June 2013, that it is unjustified to assume that no racial progress has been made in the states to which the 1965 Voting Rights legislation applies.  However, the Court did not state that no restrictions could apply, but simply that the Congress should evaluate the current status of these states and form a new basis for applying the Voting Rights Act.  Moreover, the Court did not view the requirement for government issued photo identification as discriminatory.

This ruling set off a firestorm of outrage on the left by many who had been active in the civil rights movement back in the 1960s, and those of other motivations.  But, before I get into that outrage, let me provide you with a quote from USA Today on the ruling…

"Declaring that 'our country has changed in the past 50 years,' Chief Justice John Roberts and the court's four other conservatives said the 1965 law cannot be enforced unless Congress updates it to account for a half-century of civil rights advances."

Apparently, Americans from all walks of life, all political parties, political philosophies, all ages, and both men and women agree with Chief Justice Robert's appraisal that racial progress has been made over the past 50 years.  A survey taken by Elon University in North Carolina of North Carolina residents (I picked this one because it is in the South) showed these amazing results…

Now, remember this is a poll of North Carolina citizens only.  In each and every category, no matter how you slice it, every group favors the use of government issued photo identification cards as a requirement to vote.

Similar national polls show support for government issued photo identifications voter cards to be above 70%.  This includes all categories shown above, plus folks who identify themselves as liberals! In all cases and in all groups the support is above 50%.

So the question crosses my mind, if African Americans living in the South support government issued ID voter cards, is there any doubt that "our country has changed in the last 50 years?  Is there really any likelihood that photo identification cards will negatively impact minority voting?  If all minority groups support government issued voter identification cards, they must not feel that the requirement that a voter show a government issued photo identification card will dissuade them from voting.

So, then, what is the objection to using ID cards to provide integrity in the voting system?  Why the opposition to securing the validity of the voting franchise?  Why the outrage at the Supreme Court ruling?

The Alabama law and most other voter security laws (they exist in 34 states), allow everyone one to vote, even those without a government issued photo ID, on a provisional basis.  In other words, even if you do not have an ID card, you can cast your ballot provisionally until it has been verified that you are who you claim to be.

And, frankly, virtually everyone has a government issued photo ID card today.  Such cards are required to receive food stamps, drive a car, purchase liquor or cigarettes, etc.  Moreover, in those states that require a photo ID to vote, you can get one for free from a local state office.  How much easier can we make it to vote?

But now, let's talk about the outrage. 

I have worked with a lawyer in New York City.  Although we have never met, I have talked with him on several occasions on the telephone in regard to a legal matter in which both he and I were interested.  I believe he is a very sincere man with strong principles.  I do not agree with him politically, but I believe he is honest, competent, and desires justice.

When the US Supreme Court first heard the Shelby County, Alabama, case my acquaintance in New York City was outraged.  He sent out a news release on the comments made by the Judges during oral arguments and he was livid.  This is, in part, what his news release said…

"In August 1968, three years after the Voting Rights Act was passed, Henrietta Wright began her testimony on August 10th in the first voting rights damage suit in a Federal United States District Court in a Mississippi courtroom. She was suing Sheriff John Wages, the Sheriff who brutally beat her, hospitalized her and jailed her because she tried to register to vote on August 25, 1965 -- 20 days after the historic act was passed.

When the first voting rights suit was filed by the Department of Justice, Winona County, Mississippi, had 7,639 white persons and 7,250 Negroes of voting age. At least 5,343 white persons were registered to vote.

I was Mrs. Wright's lawyer."

My friend goes on to explain how Henrietta Wright was beaten up and mistreated by the police in Winona County, Mississippi, just because she tried to register to vote.  It is a very emotional and, I am sure, absolutely true story.  It describes a shocking case of voting rights abuse.  For this lawyer, it was just yesterday that this trial took place.  He story is vivid and his passion for justice shows through as he tells the story…

"Henrietta Wright's handcuffs were removed. She spent that night in jail, with no offer of dinner. The next morning Wages, Miller, Morgan, and Cross[the Sheriff and his deputies] entered her cell, dragged her off the cot, and slammed her head and back against the concrete floor. They kneed her in the stomach, thighs, and mouth, knocking out two front teeth, her mouth filling with blood. She resisted as best she could. They tried to handcuff her to keep her from fighting back, but they were not able to get more than one lock snapped on.

Her damage trial lasted a week. A constant angry white crowd congregated each day, all day, outside the courthouse. Mrs. Wright and I were surrounded, cornered, bumped and threatened as we came and went to the courthouse. I got phone calls at my hotel threatening, 'Slick, you won't leave town alive'.

The all-white jury deliberated for two hours. We lost the case, but we won. Mrs. Wright won first by trying to vote, then by merely bringing the suit and making the Sheriff face her lawyer and her cross examination, and by the fact that an all-white jury needed two hours to deliberate and did not return an immediate verdict against Mrs. Wright.

Mrs. Wright was cheered as she left the courthouse by some of her neighbors who, after hearing of the verdict, came to support and protect her after she left the courthouse.

It is now 45 years after Mrs. Wright's trial. On February 27, 2013, the Supreme Court heard Alabama's attack that the voting Rights Act could no longer stop states from discriminating against black voters. The lawyers for Shelby County, Alabama, argued that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was no longer necessary in 2006 for times had changed."

You can see from reading his news release that he is still infuriated by what happened to Mrs. Wright, and he honestly believes that nothing has changed in the South.  This is what he said about the oral arguments before the Supreme Court in the Shelby County, Alabama, case…

"Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., in support of Alabama's position, rhetorically asked whether 'the citizens in the South are more racist than citizens in the North.' Justice Roberts tried to show it was unfair to single out the South for racial discrimination and that the law was now being unequally applied; and that this unequal application may be more troublesome than the racial discrimination itself. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, whose vote was known to be critical, then rhetorically asked the government lawyer whether Alabama today is an 'independent sovereign' or whether it must live 'under the trusteeship of the United States government.'

But it was Justice Antonin Scalia who had the temerity to say that the Voting Rights Act, a great civil rights landmark, now amounted to a 'perpetuation of racial entitlement.'"

In my friend's eyes, nothing has changed in nearly 50 years.  The South is today, in his mind, just as racist and bigoted as it was 45 years ago.  I can almost understand his ire, but his position is clearly one based on his personal experience, and not on facts.

I think we can trust African Americans living in North Carolina when it comes to whether or not the requirement for government issued photo ID cards to secure the integrity of the ballot box will keep them from voting.  And, as far as nothing has changed is concerned, African Americans are returning to the South from the North, for jobs and for retirement.

In an article for the Pittsburg Post-Gazette, Daniel DiSalvo, an assistant professor of political science at the City College of New York, wrote of the remigration of blacks from the North to the South.  Other major publications have also taken note of this phenomenon.  This is some of what Professor DiSalvo reported…

"A century ago, nine of 10 African-Americans lived in the South, primarily in formerly Confederate states where segregation reigned. Then, in the 1920s, blacks began heading north, both to escape the racism of Jim Crow and to seek work as southern agriculture grew increasingly mechanized. 'From World War I to the 1970s, some 6 million black Americans fled the American South for an uncertain existence in the urban North and West,' wrote author Isabel Wilkerson in [her book] 'The Warmth of Other Suns.'

Principal destinations in the Great Migration, as the exodus came to be called, included Chicago, Detroit and New York City, and carried tremendous political implications, both good and bad. It helped spur the civil rights movement, but it also trapped many blacks in urban ghettos. More recently, the Great Migration has reversed itself, with blacks returning to the South."

He goes on…

"The New York Times noticed in the early 1970s that, for the first time, more blacks were moving from the North to the South than vice versa. Last year, the Times described the South's share of black population growth as 'about half the country's total in the 1970s, two-thirds in the 1990s and three-quarters in the decade that just ended.'

Many of the migrants are "buppies" -- young, college-educated, upwardly mobile black professionals -- and older retirees. Over the last two decades, according to the Census, the states with the biggest gains in black population have been Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, Texas and Florida. New York, Illinois and Michigan have seen the greatest losses. Today, 57 percent of American blacks live in the South -- the highest percentage in a half-century."

Professor DiSalvo sums the remigration of blacks from the North to the South this way…

"The first is the push and pull of job markets. States in the Northeast and on the West Coast, where liberalism has been strongest, tend to have powerful public-sector unions, high taxes and heavy regulations, which translate into fewer private-sector jobs. In southern locales, where taxes are lower and regulations lighter, employment has grown faster; the fastest-growing cities for job creation between 2000 and 2010 were Austin, Raleigh, San Antonio, Houston, Charlotte and Oklahoma City. For upwardly mobile blacks, the job-creating South represents a new land of opportunity.

The second reason for blacks' southward migration is the North's higher housing prices and property tax rates. The 2010 median single-family home price in northeastern metro areas was $243,900, compared with $153,700 in southern metro areas, according to the National Association of Realtors. Overall cost of living is an issue, too: Groceries, utility bills, housing and health care cost less south of the Mason-Dixon Line. High costs in the North make life difficult for the middle class regardless of color, but they pose a particular challenge to black families. From 2005 to 2009, according to a Pew survey, inflation-adjusted wealth fell by 16 percent among white households but by 53 percent among black ones.

Third, high taxes in northern cities don't always translate into effective public services. Public schools are a prime example: Though class sizes have shrunk and average per-pupil spending has increased markedly over the last three decades, schools with large black populations continue to perform poorly. In search of a solution, blacks have become far more amenable than other groups to experiments with vouchers and charter schools.

Finally, many blacks moving to the South are retirees who, like other older Americans, are seeking better weather. Over the past decade, Florida has attracted more black migrants than any other state. Sociologists Calvin Beale and Glenn Fuguitt have found that black retirees are moving not only to classic retirement destinations in the South but also to 'a cross-section of southern counties from which thousands of blacks migrated during the exodus from farming in the 20 years or so after World War II.' Many may be responding to what anthropologist Carol Stack describes as a 'call to home.'"

From this data it is impossible for anyone to conclude that nothing has changed in the South over the past 50 years.  Can anyone seriously argue that tens of thousands of African Americans would willingly move from the North to the South for jobs and for retirement if they thought they would be discriminated against, especially in the voting process? 

I am confident that my lawyer friend is sincere in his beliefs.  He is just wrong.  There is no logic, and there are no facts to support his argument.  But, I understand how and why he clings to these false ideas.

Sadly, my friend is not alone in his false conclusions.  No less than the Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder, is throwing about wild accusations that the required use of government issued photo ID cards is designed to suppress the black vote and that those behind this movement are racists.  In the Wall Street Journal editorial of October 8, 2013, the editors say in regard to his lawsuit against North Carolina's photo ID law…

"According to Holder, this [the law requiring a government issued ID as a requirement for voting] amounts to a shocking return to the Jim Crow era.  He describes these modest measures to secure the integrity of the ballot as 'aggressive steps to curtail the voting rights of African Americans.'  And he is suing the state to bring it back under the federal supervision of the Voting Rights Act for all of its future voting-law changes."

What a disaster this would be.  According to J. Christians Adams, a former attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ, attorneys in that division not only refused to enforce the law, but stood by as politicians to their liking corrupted the voting process.  Attorney General Holder is defying the ruling of the Supreme Court with his lawsuit, which is sure to be the first of many if he is successful.  To again quote the Wall Street Journal editorial…

"Under Section 3 of the Act [1965 Voting Rights Act], states can be required to get federal preclearance if a court finds that the state has intentionally discriminated against minorities in its voting laws.  That's a high legal bar that the Justice Department will find hard to prove, especially since many of the states' [North Carolina and Texas] voter ID provisions are widespread in other states."

Beyond the unsubstantiated charges that the requirement of photo IDs will result in minority voter suppression, the argument is made that there is no need for ballot security because instances of voter fraud are rare and insignificant.  As WSJ contributing editor John Fund has documented in his book, Stealing Elections, voter fraud is a real and significant danger across our nation.  Voter fraud is widespread and has undoubtedly changed the outcome of many close elections.

In fact, former and very liberal US Supreme Associate Justice John Paul Stevens supported the constitutionality of a strict Indiana voter ID law designed to combat fraud. Justice Stevens, who personally encountered voter fraud while serving on various reform commissions in his native Chicago, spoke for a six-member majority. In a decision two years earlier clearing the way for an Arizona ID law, the Court had declared in a unanimous opinion that…

"…confidence in the integrity of our electoral processes is essential to the functioning of our participatory democracy. Voter fraud drives honest citizens out of the democratic process and breeds distrust of our government. Voters who fear their legitimate votes will be outweighed by fraudulent ones will feel disenfranchised."

To sum it up, there are five reasons used to oppose enhancing the integrity of the voting process via government issued photo identification cards…

  1. Nothing Has Changed.  Nothing has changed in the South in regard to discrimination of African Americans.  It is just as bad today as it was in 1965.
  2. ID Cards Will Suppress Black Voting.  The very existence of requiring photo identification in order to vote will unfairly discourage black and other minority voting.
  3. No Danger of Voter Fraud.  There is no credible evidence or danger of widespread voter fraud.
  4. Political Advantage.  There is a political advantage in accusing the Republicans of wanting to suppress black and other minority voting by requiring voter ID cards.  It enables Democrats to scare black voters into believing that Republicans are racists.
  5. Impediment to Vote Theft.  The dishonest and crooked see voter ID cards as an impediment to vote theft.

If you believe nothing has changed, you are certainly entitled to your view, even though it runs totally counter to objective data.  Yes, racism exists and it will always exist.  It is a matter of the heart, not a matter of the law.

If you believe that voter ID cards will suppress black voting, there is just no evidence to support that belief.  Those affected directly do not fear voter ID requirements.  If you want to promote this idea, you need supporting evidence.

If you oppose voter ID cards for political advantage, shame on you.  You are a part of the problem, not a part of the solution.  You seek to divide Americans for political gain, not unite them for the common good.  You are driven by anger and seek revenge, not reconciliation.  You seek power over honesty and integrity in government. 

And, if you oppose voter ID cards because you want to encourage vote theft, you belong behind bars.  You are a crook.

Of all the bad policies promoted by our President and his Administration, I despise his conscious efforts to divide Americans the most.  Leaders do not divide, they unite, they encourage harmony.

The message of Christianity is reconciliation.  Through Jesus' death on the cross, man is reconciled to God.  Jesus died for our sins on the cross, so that we can live with him in perfect harmony forever in heaven.  As a Christian, I am to forgo retribution and instead forgive.  I am to forgive not only my friends, but also my enemies.  America is known as a nation that forgives, thanks to our Christian heritage.  When someone in public office admits their guilt, we are quick to forgive.

If we only had a leader in the White House whose goal was to reconcile black and white Americans, much progress could be made toward unity and harmony in our land.  Everyone would benefit.  Instead, we have a President and an Attorney General who either believe that nothing has changed and/or they encourage division for political gain.  Shame on them!

A few years ago, the late Chuck Colson wrote about a predominately white Baptist Church in the deep South.  I think it was in Montgomery, Alabama, but it really makes no difference.  The story he related took place in the late 1980s or early 1990s. 

Members of the church slowly, but firmly, came to the realization of their sin in resenting their black brothers and sisters, and of not working with them and for them in spreading the Gospel of Jesus.  One Sunday morning, the entire church went to a nearby predominately black Baptist church and expressed their repentance for their sinful attitude and actions.  On that Sunday morning true reconciliation occurred.  And, from that point forward, the two churches have worked together, socialized together, and prayed together.

This is just one anecdote, but there are many more of a changed and repentant South.  As a Christian, I know that in God's eyes to hate someone is to make me guilty of murder (1 John 3:15).  Racism is just another name for hatred.  Being a racist and being a Christian are incompatible.

Retribution may feel good at the instant of impact, but it damages the soul.  Reconciliation breeds love and understanding and friendship.  Yes, we have made great progress in race relations over the past 50 years and it should be celebrated.  And, no, we should not overlook or condone racism of any kind. 

And, we should insist that any office holder or political appointee eschew any policy or statement that divides Americans, instead of uniting them.  This should be a minimum expectation of any office holder, Republican or Democrat.  It's written on our coins and on the Great Seal of the United States—E Pluribus Unum.  It means out of many, one.  Diversity is nice, but unity is critical.