Separation of Church and State


There was a time about 10-12 years ago when I would hear someone mention “separation of church and state” and my blood pressure started to rise. I would think to myself, “How could anyone be so ignorant as to not understand the context of Thomas Jefferson’s intent when he wrote that phrase in a letter to a church that thought another church was going to be the official church of the nation?” Did I really think that way? Yes. Was I really that arrogant that I would smugly look down on liberals who spouted separation as if they were Untermensch. Sadly, yes. So what has changed?

The change came the way so many changes have come to me. By spending time trying to better understand the nature and character of Jesus Christ and being humbled every time I realize how far away I have wandered from the example he set for me and for all of us. I have been guilty of excessive pride on many occasions and it hurts to be humbled, especially when you have been humbled as many times as I have been. But it is with the humility that a heart is opened to transformation and the work of the Holy Spirit. I am being transformed, probably not as quickly as God would like, but I am being transformed.

So what does this have to do with the separation of church and state?

The attempt to force a marriage of church and state in America could be one of the biggest and most damaging mistakes in the history of the Christian church. I think that we Christians in the United States have deluded ourselves and that we are in violation of the nature of the Gospel of Christ. The church has been misled to believe that we are called to save the culture. Do we honestly think that God is pleased just because his name is mentioned on our money and monuments? Look out you heathens. You took prayer out of schools. God is really angry now. We behave as if our country is headed straight to Hell if we quit putting the label of God on everything because of political pressures.

The political freedoms that we Christians have enjoyed in this country are really a type of bondage. They have trapped us in a false sense of security and have given us a false belief that in order to affect real change in our culture we have to adapt to the political way of getting things done. Except for a remnant of revolutionary Christians the mainstream of Christianity in America has rejected Jesus Christ’s methods of change. We have accepted the notion that through politics and the election of “Christian” leaders who can exhort power and influence over people we can affect change that pleases God. This does nothing more than marginalize Christianity and leads us to believe that we can overcome the evil in our land with a vote. Can any of us honestly say that we have been successful in changing our culture for the better by adapting to the political methods of the world? I don’t think that the ballot box is what God had in mind as a way for us to confront the evil in this world.

I believe that many American Christians have been deceived into believing that God has blessed us because we claim to “trust” him on our currency. Similarly we seem to think he curses those nations that don’t “trust” in him. Do we really believe that because we call ourselves “a Christian nation” that we are blessed? The children of Israel were God’s chosen people and if my recollection of the Old Testament is correct, they were punished quite harshly more than once, yet they were “blessed” by God as his chosen people. We need to realize that our secular country that sometimes throws in a little bit of God in the mix won’t escape judgment. The political agenda of our country and the plan that God has for the church don’t mix. Why has that gone unnoticed by the church?

Is the United States “blessed” because we have material abundance? Some Christians may think so but I am not getting into prosperity gospel here. Will the United States cease to be blessed if we stop using the generic name of “God” on our money and monuments? What kind of God in Christ do we really have? We need to consider how God deals with kingdoms of Earth and how he deals separately with his church. If we apply the Word of God properly we see that God always used earthly kingdoms to suppress evil and carry out judgment on nations who became corrupt. These earthly kingdoms are agents of God’s wrath (Romans 13:4). But we should also consider how God always turns around and judges that nation for its own sin and corruption. In the 8th century B.C. God used Assyria as the rod of his wrath and then he punished Assyria and held her responsible for her actions and her sin.

The Children of Israel in the Old Testament and the Christian church of the New Testament are supposed to be set apart and operate under a different set of rules than the rest of the world. We are to be citizens of the Kingdom of God and he is jealous for our allegiance. Throughout the Old Testament when Israel would stray away from God he would eventually bring punishment on them and when they repented he would restore them. All God ever wanted was a relationship with his people. God still wants a relationship with his people. We are his people through the blood of Jesus Christ we have a personal, intimate relationship with the Creator of the Universe.

Jesus is our Lord. Not Caesar. Not the president. Not any other ruler on Earth. If Caesar wants you to pay taxes and obey the laws of the land, then do so. “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). In other words let the governments have the worldly things it claims but give to God what belongs to him: your spirit, soul, and body. We need to put our energy into things that are eternal rather than worrying about the political systems and causes that will not last into eternity. There is a finite amount of time left for these political systems and their effectiveness for change. We should concentrate our efforts on those things that will last into eternity.

The church needs to distance itself from the endless cycle of partisan politics, corruption and worldly violence. Our work should be to engage the injustice in the world in ways that do not violate the principles of God’s Kingdom and do not cater to the ungodly political processes. Doing the work of God in all things should be first and foremost on our minds. Forget about the glory of Rome and Caesar. Yes, it is alright to honor Caesar but fear only God (1 Peter 2:13-17). Pray for our government and its leaders but we shouldn’t worry about seeking for ourselves power which can enslave us. It will take your heart captive and sow evil where pride, arrogance and all forms of hatred hide (Titus 3:1-7). We must fully engage our lives in an effort to end injustice in the world using the example of Jesus Christ. We need to realize that Jesus Christ is the only candidate worthy of our time and efforts in campaigning.

With that in mind, how silly is it to talk about “our country” using language reserved for the church? Our “country” and every other nation on earth have really only been instituted by God for the purpose of executing his wrath. God “bless” America? I won’t go so far as to agree with the awful words of Jeremiah Wright who said, “God damn America”, but in reality the true blessings of God are reserved for his church not a secular earthly kingdom. Could you imagine the apostle Paul and his friends saying “God bless Rome?” There is a certain absurdity that most Christians can’t seem to comprehend in statements that take such pride in earthly kingdoms.

As I write this the economy is stable but weak, having “recovered” from a dismal period several years ago. Leadership of our country has failed and there are culture wars boiling up across the United States. Are we as Christians prepared to say that the only way to save our culture and economy is to vote “God” back into the every day language of our country? We live in a pagan culture and efforts to “Christianize” that culture by worldly methods will only produce a pagan “Christian” culture that can talk of religious things and make healthy profits off of religious stuff. In reality, that is what we have been doing in our country for a very long time. Is that because we believe times are different now than they were when Jesus walked the Earth? Oh no! We better get out the vote and help fix this mess! Maybe on the other hand it is time that we give up the rights we are supposed to exercise and rely only on the wealth of riches and the security we have in Jesus Christ. If Christians lose political power, as if we really have any, what is the worst that can happen?

Of course we could exercise those rights and vote and feel good about ourselves knowing that we still have our rights and even though gay couples can now marry, our rights as Christians have not been infringed upon. And by the way, I have some very good friends who are gay and married. While I believe homosexuality is outside of God’s plan for his creation, I am not going to condemn those friends or anyone else who exercise their rights. After all, how does it hurt us if we truly do trust in God for our salvation? Does it really doesn’t matter if we stick a picket sign in the face of a pregnant teenager telling her she is going to hell instead of realizing that she really needs someone to take her in and help her?

It is so easy to be a cultural Christian and believe that we can advance the Kingdom of God through politics. Let’s elect good Christian leaders and pass “God-friendly” legislation to do the work of Christ so we don’t have to get our hands dirty actually working with people who have real physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. Hey, let government take care of it, as long as the money still says we trust in God. If we actually take Jesus seriously we may have to talk to some of these people. We might be asked to love them and through that love affect real change in their lives.

Government and laws can only suppress evil for a season. Laws don’t save people. Instead they only provoke the sinful nature of man. For those who do not know Christ the laws are needed to maintain some sense of order. We are not called to invoke laws that suppress evil. We are called to overcome evil. Why then is the church so fond of getting involved with politics and electing government leaders who rule by legislation designed by human wisdom and who enforce their will by the wisdom of military leaders and politicians? Are we too blind to realize that these same government leaders of our earthly kingdom, with whom we are infatuated are the same ones who will rise up against Christ on that last day?

In the last couple of weeks before you join the game of partisan politics, think about whether or not your vote really matters and where is Christ in it all. How did Christ engage the worldly systems of his day? I think the answer is much more clear than we would like it to be and therefore much less comfortable to we Christians in our “blessed” country. We have grown entirely too accustomed to our life in Corinth. What Paul said to the original Corinthians still applies to us today, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

There are real problems facing America today. How will the church respond? Will we trust in Jesus Christ and his example? Will we trust in the way of winning that happens by dying? Will we trust in a battle plan that calls for everyone to lay down their arms and fight with love? Will we accept God’s plan that we operate in a way contrary to the world?

Or will we call it foolishness and forfeit our inheritance?

The church in America may have an opportunity soon. Will the church be ready? For many I do not think so. Many will be shocked when the scales fall from their eyes and they can see nothing but the blinding light of the truth of Jesus Christ in the midst of suffering. I believe that the church will undergo a radical transformation when that time comes and we will finally understand what true freedom feels like. We will no longer be in bondage to the world.

“And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country– a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” Hebrews 11:13-16

Moving In

I’m not sure that I’m ready for this. My daughter is 25 and living at home. I don’t mind this at all because I want to protect her from all the bad guys out there who may try to take advantage of her. She can stay as long as she wants. 

I’m concerned about what will happen in two weeks when my son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter move in with us. I love them to bits and I’m looking forward to them being here, but I also have some concerns. We have our routines and they don’t know them. They have their own family routines and we don’t know them. It may be a little awkward for awhile. 

I’m not sure how long they will stay but I hope it works out so they can stay until they get on their feet in the States. Moving from Canada will be a big culture shock for my daughter-in-law. I’m not sure how well she will adapt.

Still, I’m glad they are coming and super glad I will get to watch my granddaughter grow up…at least for awhile. 

Can’t Believe I love Pokémon Go

The game that has enthralled tens of millions of people around round the world is just plain amazing. According to the Android Market, which won’t release exact numbers, as of last week there were between 50-100 million downloads for the Pokémon Go app. Apple won’t release exact numbers with, but they have said that Pokémon go has crushed every other app in downloads, including the previously most popular app, Candy Crush Saga.

I was camping with my family and 500 of our closes friends when Pokémon Go was released. My nephew started playing right away even though there were few of the little creatures to be had in our camp. By Sunday the 10th when we started down the mountain and stopped for lunch, he went crazy in the small mountain town where there were dozens of Pokéstops (where you gain items to help you play). He also found a lot of new Pokémon that he hadn’t seen while camping. I was intrigued by his excitement but didn’t really give it a lot of thought. The following weekend my daughter was playing and I asked her about it. I used to play Pokémon Snap with the kids when they were young and loved playing it with them. So I decided to give the game a try.

I downloaded it to my iPhone 6 and got my first Pokémon, a Squirtle. I really didn’t know what to do so I messed around a little then set it aside and deleted the app. I didn’t have time for a game like that. Or so I thought. I watched as more and more people started playing and then I heard it became more popular than Twitter, then Facebook and I decided to try it again. I have to admit the game is fun and something my daughter and I could do together. Then my wife got in on it and we started playing together. And play we have.

We went to a wedding last weekend in San Juan Capistrano. During the hours of spare time we had on Saturday after the Friday night wedding, we walked the town and had a lot of fun chasing these little buggers. We stopped at Dana Point on the way home to see if we could catch different Pokémon that were water based and different than we could get at home. We did. It was a long day of playing around catching Pokémon and just spending a fun time together. My wife is my best friend and I love spending time with her, even if it is just doing something silly like playing a kids game.  On Sunday evening…after the 106 degree day began cooling off, we went down to Fresno State University and had our first battle to try to take over a gym, which is a kind of fortress and training facility to gain experience points. From there we went to Woodward Park in north Fresno. There were hundreds of people gathered around three areas with a lot of Pokéstops collecting both Pokémon and items to make the game more playable.

We have played it a bit since but I have set it aside during the week as it can be a tremendous time bandit and I have work to do. But this weekend we will probably go hunting again if the heatwave dissipates a bit. I still can’t believe I am playing this game but it really is fun and addicting. My son from Canada is moving down here in September and he is excited to play the game when I get him a new iPhone. It will kind of be like the old days of playing Snap with the kids. I love me some nostalgia with my family.


No More Politics 

I have hundreds of friends on Facebook. I don’t know all of them in real life but with a subset of over 300 I have a special friendship based on a common experience from years ranging from 1955-present. These are my brothers from the Madison Scouts. I cherish their friendship and our brotherhood and I don’t want to risk any of these friendships over petty political squabbles. I’m not going to do it. 

If you have read any of my previous posts from many months ago I blasted both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I can’t stand either of them and no matter who wins America is screwed. There is nothing I can do to change the outcome or sway friends away from their deep seated beliefs. 

So today I spent 20 minutes going through my Facebook wall and deleted every political post I put up going back to the first of the year. I just don’t need that kind of negativity in my life. 

Sure, some of you may say that I am putting my head in the sand, but I’m not. I will work to get my preferred local candidates elected as mayor, city council members, county supervisors, and school board members. Those are races where I can possibly have an impact on the results. 

Even then I won’t get political on social media. Oh, and to help with that, and the fact I don’t need it, I have deleted my Twitter account, where I had over a thousand followers, and I deleted my Instagram account too. Time bandits and not anything that improves my quality of life so why have them?

It’s a new day. Maybe it’s time to change the name of my WordPress site too. Barely Right of Center reflects my political views. Hmmm, now to rebrand myself on here. Well that should be a fun challenge. 

Peace out!

The Proper Response for Cops

Police Chief Jerry Dyer of Fresno, California is a class act. Recently there was a large Black Lives Matter protest that blocked one of our major cross town streets for hours. His department did not harass the protesters in any way. Instead they took pictures of the protesters, recorded license plates of cars involved in the march, and kept anti-protesters from causing any trouble. 

I’m his television appearance about the protest Dyer said their plan was to just issue citations the next day to the organizers who were listed on the application for the demonstration as well as others who were identified from photos and from license plates. 

Why did he do this? Because their permit was granted to assemble peaceably on the sidewalks of the biggest intersection in town. Instead they took to the streets and blocked traffic and shut down businesses for hours. 

They could have easily been arrested but that would have just added fuel to their ridiculous fire of protest. Instead he handled it with zero violence against the protesters.
I’m glad we have a police chief with such wisdom and dignity to allow people to say their words that are protected by the First Amendment yet won’t tolerate it when they break the law. Jerry Dyer is a role model for his department, the community, and for other police departments across the country. 

It was my pleasure to buy him a cup of coffee this morning at Starbucks and to thank him for all he does for this city. 

Back Pedaling on Trump

Several times over the last nine months I have railed against Donald Trump, calling him a demagogue and a terrible threat to our country. I still believe those things but I believe Hillary Clinton would be am even bigger disaster for America. She is a lying, unethical, corrupt, and evil witch who would continue us down the destructive path that Obama has us careening down. We cannot afford another four or eight years of these horrible people leading America to hell. 

So I will say it now for the first time: I am voting for Donald Trump. God that was hard to say without throwing up a little bit in my mouth. 

OK, I said it, but there is a method to my madness. I hope he wins and that he will have selected a great vice presidential running mate. I hope it is someone like Newt Gingrich. Why? Because I am counting on a Republican House to have a short leash for Trump and that the first time he does something truly stupid they will impeach him and that a Republican held Senate will convict him. That will ensure that a legitimately qualified president will be sitting in the White House, hopefully within a year. I think America can withstand a year of Trump but I cannot say the same for the lying sack of crap Hillary Clinton. We have to elect Trump and then get his ass out of there as quickly as possible. 

So yes, I am going to back pedal from my previous position and vote for Trump. I know, it is a brilliant idea. Thanks for recognizing that. But seriously, get out there and vote for the Trumpmeister and then pray for hisimpeachment. I truly believe that is the best hope for America to survive the next four years. 

May God help America out of this train wreck we are heading for. 

Fitness in Process 

A month ago I decided it was time to get serious about my fitness, or lack thereof. Thirty-six years after I started I finally graduated from university. With that milestone attained I realized that it was time to finally grow up and start adulting. With that came a new commitment to fitness. So far, so good. 

I am one month into my physical fitness regimen; going to a gym with a private trainer three days a week and walking 5-6 miles on alternating days. I also started a new food intake pattern I learned about from my trainer: intermittent fasting. With this style of fasting I only eat between the hours of 12:00 noon and 8:00pm. That means I am fasting for 16 hours each day. I was skeptical at first because I had been eating small meals five times a day, which had been recommended by a dietician several years ago. I have to say that despite eating in constrained hours, I am rarely hungry, I eat an average of 400 calories less each day, and I have much more energy and my mind is clearer.

My trainer told me that intermittent fasting has some great benefits and I researched it to see if he was on point or just spouting a trendy new mantra for weight loss. What I found was really interesting. Recently, a study in the journal Cell Metabolism showed intermittent fasting may decrease risk factors for diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, for example. I call that good news. But there was more. 

Intermittent fasting allows the body to use fat as it’s primary source of energy instead of sugar. Many athletes now use fasting as means to hitting low body fat percentages for competitions.
Intermittent fasting gives your digestive system a rest, and this can energise your metabolism to burn through calories more efficiently. If your digestion is poor, this can effect your ability to metabolize food and burn fat. Intermittent fasts can regulate your digestion and promote healthy bowel function, thus improving your metabolic function.

Fasting has shown to improve brain function, because it boosts the production of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF.) BDNF activates brain stem cells to convert into new neurons, and triggers numerous other chemicals that promote neural health. This protein also protects your brain cells from changes associated with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Intermittent fasting improves the immune system because it reduces free radical damage, regulates inflammatory conditions in the body and starves off cancer cell formation. In nature, when animals get sick they stop eating and instead focus on resting. This is a primal instinct to reduce stress on their internal system so their body can fight off infection. We humans are the only species who look for food when we are ill, even when we do not need it.

More research is ongoing to back up these benefits seen in early research. All I know is that I feel better, feel sharper, and I have lost 8 pounds in the past month. Forty more pounds and I will hit my goal weight of 235, which is down from an all time high of 417 about thirteen years ago. The plateau I hit and couldn’t break through has finally been broken and the weight loss is happening again. 

OK, coffee time is over and it’s time to take the three mile walk home!