Thursday, October 14, 2010

God in America - Part 3

Last night was the final two hours of the PBS special God in America.

In Part 3 of God in America the dance of politics and religion in America continues with the fight against "Godless Communism" in the 1950's and '60's and abortion in the 1970's and '80's. The church's focus shifts from spreading the Gospel to political activism. Hot-button issues are used to mobilize christians as single-issue-voters.

But at the beginning of the 21st Century we are starting to see a new view of politics and religion, one in which all religions are respected and political action is guided by the "Golden Rule" rather than by hot-button issues.

The challenge to religious liberty continues, but if the church can regain its position as an agent of Christ's love and forgiveness, rather than an agent for political action, the Gospel's relevance will prevail.

You can find more info on the PBS God in America website. If you miss any of it you can watch it online or order a dvd copy.

Peace, Love, and Light!
Kevin (Cloud)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

God In America - Part 2

Last night the PBS special God in America provided two more hours of interesting, and sometimes a little less known, historical information about God and the American experience.

On one hand PBS went into great detail about Lincoln's personal religious struggles along with those of a divided nation during the Civil War... but on the other hand, as in Part 1, only a casual mention of the contributions made by the Quakers. There was also a great deal of material about the Jewish reform movement in the United States which I really had no knowledge of prior to last night.

In Part 2 of God in America it was clear that during the Civil War (as in all other wars before and after), the church was co-opted to be the mouthpiece of the government, both for the Union and for the Confederacy. Not a good thing to be in my opinion, the church is to be the mouthpiece of God!

The one take-away-point from last night was that religion in America was and is ever changing, yet never becoming a uniform system of belief for the whole nation. The Constitution protects and thereby fosters diverse religious expression in America... Thank God!

I am going to watch the last two hours tonight. You can find more info on the PBS God in America website. If you miss any of it you can watch it online or order a dvd copy.

Peace, Love, and Light!
Kevin (Cloud)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

PBS Special "God In America" - Part 1

The first two hours of God in America, a six-hour documentary series on PBS, aired last night.

My thoughts while watching the first part of God in America was God bless Anne Hutchinson and all of the other brave men and women who were led by the Spirit to challenge the Church-State power elite. We are truly a diverse nation of believers and thank God that our Constitution provides the place and protection for all us us to practice our personal faiths as our conscience dictates.

I am going to watch the next two hours tonight. You can find more info on the PBS God in America website. If you miss any of it you can watch it online or order a dvd copy.

Peace, Love, and Light!
Kevin (Cloud)

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

Well, it has been five years since we switched from being grandparents to being parents again. Our little girl has given us much joy in the midst of the sad circumstances that brought her to us when she was just two months old.

My Quaker friend asked me back then if given this second chance at parenting if I would do anything differently. At that time I was pretty sure that I wouldn't change much of how I did things twenty-five years earlier.... but now I know that in spite of my self confidence I've had to adapt to our little girl's unique needs.

I am also finding ways to enjoy her ages and stages more than I allowed my self to do twenty-five years ago. Now I am not in such a hurry to finish parenting, but rather learning to be in the moment of it. Besides, why would I want to hurry up being in my late 60's?

Now I am trying to figure out how to follow my quest into the un-programmed, silently-waiting style of worship practiced by Friends (Quakers) with our little girl who we suspect is on the Autism Spectrum. That is the subject of an upcoming blog post.

My secret hope is that she grows up to write a children's book titled "I Was Raised By My Hippie Grandparents"... but in reality she will probably write "A Guide To Backyard Entomology".

Here are some links:

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

God in America - PBS Special

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, FRONTLINE presents God in America.

October 11-13, 2010, 9-11PM ET on PBS.

First-of-its kind, six-hour documentary series explores 400-year history of religion in the public life of the United States.

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.



I am going to watch it! You can find more info on the PBS God in America website. If you miss the special, you can order a dvd copy for your self too.

Peace, Love, and Light!
Kevin (Cloud)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

America's True History of Religious Tolerance

In the October 2010 issue of Smithsonian Magazine author/historian Kenneth C. Davis goes into great detail illuminating America's True History of Religious Tolerance. The lead in to the Smithsonian article makes a bold (and perhaps unpopular) statement... "The idea that the United States has always been a bastion of religious freedom is reassuring—and utterly at odds with the historical record". Mr. Davis begins by questioning a long standing notion...


"Wading into the controversy surrounding an Islamic center planned for a site near New York City’s Ground Zero memorial this past August, President Obama declared: “This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are.” In doing so, he paid homage to a vision that politicians and preachers have extolled for more than two centuries—that America historically has been a place of religious tolerance. It was a sentiment George Washington voiced shortly after taking the oath of office just a few blocks from Ground Zero.

But is it so?"


Kenneth Davis' article in the October 2010 Smithsonian Magazine states, in a much better way, what I posted here on Friday September 10, 2010 in my blog post Religious Intolerance.

Read the complete Smithsonian article: America's True History of Religious Tolerance

Peace, Love, and Light!
Kevin (Cloud)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Groves Were God's First Temples

"The groves were God's first temples...

...As now they stand, massy, and tall, and dark, fit shrine for humble worshipper to hold Communion with his Maker. "

This excerpt from William Cullen Bryant's A Forest Hymn describes how I feel each time I go to the Redwoods. We took a few days off last month from our busy lives to drive up the coast highway to Big Sur. Always inspiring and breathtaking, Big Sur is one of our favorite places to vacation.

I couldn't help but notice the effects of recent fire, flood, and our crippled state budget on the area. In a way, the magic of Big Sur seemed distant to me on this visit. But, I know that Big Sur has survived thousands of years and this is just a moment in time. The Redwoods have the scars of past fires and floods and yet they still stand, pointing ever upwards, directing the finite towards the infinite.

"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead..." ~Romans 1:20


Peace, Love, and Light!
Kevin (Cloud)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Religious Intolerance

I just finished reading A Declaration of the Sad and Great Persecution and Martyrdom of the People of God, called Quakers, in New-England, for the Worshipping of God written in 1661 by Edward Burrough. The introduction by Paul Royster gives an overview of the events in Colonial Massachusetts:

"From 1656 through 1661, the Massachusetts Bay Colony experienced an “invasion” of Quaker missionaries, who were not deterred by the increasingly severe punishments enacted and inflicted by the colonial authorities. In October 1659, two (William Robinson and Marmaduke Stevenson) were hanged at Boston; in June 1660, Mary Dyar (or Dyer) became the third; in March 1661, William Leddra became the fourth (and last) to suffer capital punishment or “martyrdom” for their Quaker beliefs."


How 'Christian' was it for the authorities in both Plymouth Colony and Massachusetts Bay Colony to whip, jail, fine, and kill innocent men and women because their beliefs were not the same as the state approved religion? After reading about the religious intolerance of colonial government I had to find out if the United States of America was truly established as a 'Christian' nation.

A great set of articles over on Helium tackles the question of the Founding Fathers' original intent. One in particular by Michael Ellement is well worth the read... Non-Religious Founding of the US: Exposing America's Christian Foundation Myth. While it is true that the colonies were set up, in varying degrees, as religious settlements and that most of the colonial settlers were Christians, Michael brings out one important distinction, that the founding of the Colonies was not the founding our our Nation.

It is an undeniable truth that religion and faith played an important role in seventeenth and eighteenth century America, but by the time our nation's founding documents were being drafted a growing understanding of the importance of religious tolerance was emerging. In the Declaration of Independence, July 1776, God is only mentioned three times:

"...the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God..."


And...

"...that they are endowed by their Creator..."


And...

"...with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence..."


The Articles of Confederation, the first document forming the government of the United States of America on November 15, 1777, only mentions God twice:

"And Whereas it hath pleased the Great Governor of the World to incline the hearts of the legislatures we respectively represent in Congress, to approve of, and to authorize us to ratify the said articles of confederation and perpetual union."


And...

"...in the Year of our Lord..."



Thomas Jefferson drafted The Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom in 1779, just three years after he wrote the Declaration of Independence and eight years before the convening of the Constitutional Convention. Although this document was drafted for the state of Virginia, it gives us insight to the Founder's intent and the framework for our religious freedom later enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

"...That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities."


It soon became clear that the Articles of Confederation was not a strong enough document for the new nation, so the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787. The Convention gave us our nation's Constitution on September 17, 1787. God is not mentioned in the Constitution except for the common practice of expressing the date as "...in the Year of our Lord...", which was used in both religious and secular contexts.

The only religious provision in the Constitution is the prohibition of the use of any religious tests for holding office in the United States:

"...no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."


The first ten amendments, commonly known as the Bill of Rights, were all ratified at once on December 15, 1791. The First Amendment to the Constitution includes the "Establishment Clause" preventing the government from any involvement in religion and the "Free Exercise Clause" providing our cherished freedom of religion:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."


We are a nation that is neither uniformly, nor exclusively, "Christian". What we do have is a nation where the freedom to believe and worship how one chooses is guaranteed without the involvement of the government, and I for one would not want it any other way!

"I do only what the Lord God requires of me. Do not mourn my passing, for I am filled with happiness. I am already in Heaven." ~Mary Dyer, Martyred for her faith June 1660


Peace, Love, and Light!
Kevin (Cloud)

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

War Is Over!... Sort Of... Well, Not Really!


Last night President Obama announced the end of the combat mission in Iraq. With the last of the combat troops leaving Iraq just days ago there still remains about 50,000 brave US service personal, brave men and women who will be there for some time trying to help the Iraqi people rebuild their country.

According to one news story earlier this year, the number of US troops in Afghanistan are scheduled to peak later this year at about 98,000 as the final detachments of 30,000 reinforcements ordered by President Obama arrive.

As one conflict fades from the view of the American public, another "surge" is under way.

We must not forget to pray for the leaders in Iraq as they pull their country back together.

We must remember to pray for peace in Afghanistan.

We must pray for the safe return of all of our troops.

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
~The Apostle Paul, (1Timothy 2:1-2)


Peace, Love, and Light!
Kevin (Cloud)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Glenn Beck's Restoring Honor Rally

Well I watched the Glenn Beck Restoring Honor Rally on c-span yesterday... all 4+ hours... not that I am a Beck fan, but I had to see what all the hubbub was about. Mr. Beck was much different at the Restoring Honor Rally than his usual radio and television persona. He was more evangelist than the "blood-squirting-out-of-my-eyes" wild man that we all have come to know him as.

I can't fault much of what transpired during those four hours. I was pleased to here Mr. Beck urge us to seek God and his guidance in pursuit of "Faith, Hope, and Charity" in our daily lives, the apparent theme of the rally.

I do have a cautious attitude about the mix of religion and politics that Glenn Beck seems to be promoting. I am worried about a resurgence of the Theocratic Right. I believe that our political choices and our daily actions must be directed by our religious values, but I fear the move to create a Theocracy in America is on the rise again as a backlash to the Obama Presidency.

The last time we mixed religion and politics here in America it was 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, and that didn't go well for one of my wife's ancestors and nineteen others who were convicted of witchcraft. I am sure no one at the rally would accept Sharia Law or the Taliban, but those are examples of what a Theocracy looks like.

"At a time when we see around the world the violent consequences of the assumption of religious authority by the government, Americans may count themselves fortunate... Those who would renegotiate the boundaries between church and state must therefore answer a difficult question: Why would we trade a system that has served us so well for one that has served others so poorly?"
~Sandra Day O'Conner, Supreme Court Justice


"Be afraid! Be very afraid!"
~Wednesday Addams, The Addams Family movie

Peace, Love, and Light!
Kevin (Cloud)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Simple Church, Simply Everywhere

When there is a gathering of at least two people who call on Jesus, there is a church. The church is not a building, or a place, or an event that happens at a special time. The church is not a thing, the church is people! When Jesus said that he would be present in a gathering as small as two believers it was a revolutionary concept. The Jewish tradition was that there had to be at least ten adult male Jews in a village before a synagogue could form. Jesus is giving us the permission to form fellowships any time and any place two or three of his followers gather.

The Greek word translated as "church" in the New Testament is ekklesia, meaning "called out from". Jesus is calling people who would follow him and become part of his ekklesia, his called out ones. It is interesting that this same word translated as "church" when talking about believers is also translated as "assembly" when referring to a crowd of people. The word "church" simply means a called-out group of believers gathered together in Jesus' name - no more, no less! Please read Church Is Not In The Bible for further study.

The early church didn't have any buildings for nearly three hundred years. In fact one of the major teachings in the first century church was that God didn't dwell in temples or buildings. Throughout the New Testament the early church met in homes, in the town square, and in the marketplace (John 4:21-24, Acts 7:48-50 & Acts 17:22-29).

Church happens when two friends have lunch together at school and talk about Jesus. Church is in a cafe as a few gather to read the Bible while sipping coffee. Church is at the bus stop when a person prays for someone with a heavy burden while they wait for the bus together. The church is wherever and whenever people gather in Jesus' name.

Not only did Jesus say that he would be present in our gatherings, Jesus also declared that he had "all authority in heaven and earth" and that he would be with us "always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:18-20). This is a powerful truth, this same Jesus who healed the blind and raised the dead is alive today and with us even in our smallest of gatherings!

Jesus promised in Matthew 18:20 to be present in every gathering, large or small, giving us permission to be the Church everywhere believers go. We can tap into the existence of the ever present Christ and his Church at any time, in any place, on any day of the week. Jesus made Church so simple that anyone can do it, it is as simple as two Christians gathered together.

The First Century Church is an example of how simple Church can be and at the same time be powerful enough to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ around the known world. The First Century Church met every day in everyday places - living rooms, markets, work, town squares. The First Century Church was relational, they gathered together regularly, they ate together, they shared what they had with those in need. The First Century Church not only sent out "missionaries" to take the Gospel to the far ends of the earth, they spread the Gospel themselves as they were scattered abroad by persecution. The First Century Church was able to make such an impact that they were accused of turning the world up-side down in less than thirty years - all without cathedrals, professional preachers, seminaries, denominations, missions boards, worship bands, ushers, budget committees, non-profit corporations, etc., etc., etc.

The leaders of the First Century Church were "unschooled, ordinary men" whose only qualifications were that they "had been with Jesus" (Acts 4:13). The Church was filled with regular folk who were not "wise by human standards" or "influential", and few were of "noble birth" (1 Corinthians 1:26). But those who call on Jesus Christ are declared to be "a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation" (1 Peter 2:9). Each one is considered to be a member of God's priesthood, a minister with a personal ministry to fulfill, "As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." (1 Peter. 4:10)

"For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them"
~Jesus (Matthew 18:20)


Peace, Love, and Light!
Kevin(Cloud)

The painting at top is "Four People On A Bench" by Vincent Van Gogh, September 1882

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Most High Does Not Dwell In Temples

I support the First Amendment right of any and all faith groups to worship where and how they choose, given that they do not practice human or animal sacrifice, which are prohibited by US Supreme Court rulings.

Now, having said that, my personal belief is that building any place of worship, be it Christan, Bahia, Buddhist, Universalist, Jewish, Muslim, Wiccan, or what ever, is a total waste of money! Look at the price tag of any of these edifices and ask yourself "Could those funds have been used more wisely?"

Would not the cause of any religion be better served if the poor were fed and housed rather than a house of worship built? Would not the sick and the lame think more highly of one's god if there were a hospital to get well in rather than a church to pray in? How many more hearts and minds would be won if scriptures were printed in one's native language rather than a shinny new church with neatly arranged song books lined up in each pew?

"However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says: 'Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. What house will you build for Me? says the LORD, Or what is the place of My rest? Has My hand not made all these things?'" ~Saint Stephen, Acts 7:48-50

"Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" ~The Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 3:16


Peace, Love, and Light!
Kevin (Cloud)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The First Amendment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


The first ten amendments to the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights, is the keystone document of our free society. Over the years they have been dragged through the courts in various attempts to interpret, expand, or limit the scope of their application. I am amazed at the current situation in our country where some are concerned that their Second Amendment right to "keep and bear arms" is in danger of being taken away, but at the same time advocating the suspension of the First Amendment right to "free exercise" of religion for Muslims.

My Quaker ancestors came to America in the 1600's to escape religious intolerance. The Bill of Rights was written to protect those freedoms my ancestors came here to find, the same freedoms my father and my grandfather thought they were fighting to protect in two world wars. Now the fear mongers want to selectively apply those freedoms.

The purpose of the Bill of Rights is to protect the citizens from the government, the job of the government is to protect its citizens! I say keep the First Amendment intact for all, regardless of the collective pain brought on by September 11th, and let Homeland Security, the FBI, and New York's finest do their job of protecting us from possible terrorists.

"You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the other man's freedom." ~Clarence Darrow

"Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets" ~Jesus, Matthew 7:12

Peace, Love, and Light!
Kevin (Cloud)

Sunday, August 08, 2010

War Is The Complete Opposite Of The Gospel!

"The Church of Christ is continually represented under the figure of an army; yet its Captain is the Prince of Peace; its object is the establishment of peace, and its soldiers are men of a peaceful disposition. The spirit of war is at the extremely opposite point to the spirit of the gospel"

~Charles H. Spurgeon from "The Vanguard and Rereward of the Church" December 26, 1858


Peace, Love, and Light!
Kevin(Cloud)

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Peace Cannot Be Kept By Force

"Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding."
-Albert Einstein

Peace, Love, and Light!
Kevin (Cloud)

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Common Sense


I just finished reading "Glenn Beck's Common Sense - The Case Against An Out-Of-Control Government". In it Glenn Beck puts forward a compelling argument for fiscal responsibility and for taking political action against big government. Except for a minor comment about the effects of war on the economy Mr. Beck seems to ignore Thomas Paine, who he claims as the inspiration for his book, who said...

"War involves in its progress such a train of unforeseen and unsupposed circumstances that no human wisdom can calculate the end. It has but one thing certain, and that is to increase taxes." -Thomas Paine, Prospects on the Rubicon, 1787


For each dollar of federal income tax we paid in 2009, the government spent about:

33¢ Pentagon for current and past wars
26¢ Supporting the Economy ie: Bailouts
17¢ Health Care
11¢ Responding to Poverty
9¢ General Government
2¢ Energy, Science and Environment
1¢ Jobs
1¢ Diplomacy, Development and War Prevention

Source: FCNL www.fcnl.org/09taxchart (calculations based on estimated expenditures reported by the White House Office of Management and Budget. This analysis covers the $3,184,888 million “federal fund” budget, which is the spending supported by income taxes, estate taxes and other general revenues. Not included are trust funds, such as Social Security, medicare, which are supported by dedicated revenues.)

"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" ~JESUS, Matthew 6:21

Peace, Love, and Light!
Kevin (Cloud)

Sunday, August 01, 2010

War - The Enemy Of Public Liberty

"Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few... No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."

— James Madison, Political Observations, 1795


Peace, Love & Light

Kevin (Cloud)

Saturday, July 31, 2010

M.I.A.


Well, I have been Missing In Action (M.I.A.) for a little over a year now. My journey lately has been a difficult one filled with loss, grief, and inner conflict... a "mid-faith crisis" as I call it.

Memorial Day marked the one year anniversary of my father's passing, a passing that has brought me much personal reflection over the last year. I always thought that my faith would ground me and my basic beliefs would become more cemented in a time of loss, but my whole theology and view of life has been challenged by my father's death.

My dad was not a religious man, but he was spiritual. Although he never joined any faith community he embraced a Unitarian Universalist view of God. When asked by my wife if he was at peace with God he claimed that he was. He always said that he had lived a full life and was not afraid of death.

My dad rejected "Evangelical Christianity". He didn't reject Christ, just the modern "American" version of the "Church". Although I have not been as dogmatic lately as I was in my know-it-all youth, without my father having a formal conversion experience I was still left with mixed feelings about my father's spiritual condition.

I had lunch recently with Timothy, a monk I have known for several years. Timothy is dealing with an illness that will eventually take his life. He is going through some of the same debilitating experiences that my dad went through and he is embracing his mortality with strength, dignity, and grace. Timothy and I talked about my dad's death and my personal mid-faith crisis. We talked about a greater grace that transcends the theologians understanding of God.

I am convinced that a greater grace exists, that my finite understanding of God does not limit His love. I am convinced the narrow minded religious zealots will be surprised when they meet God face to face and find that God Is Love!

I miss my dad, but I now have hope that we will meet some day at the Father's feet.

"He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love." (1 John 4:8)

Peace, Love, and Light!

Kevin (Cloud)