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)