Friday, July 31, 2009

The Rutherford Institute: Speaking Truth to Power

I became a member of the Rutherford Institute today. As I watch where our society and nation is going, I am becoming increasingly concerned about the loss of traditional civil Liberties in which both of the prominent political parties have been complicent. While our government is not explicitly Christian, our society and culture traditionally were Christian and this influenced politics in many good ways. I thought about this because of our church calendars recent commemorations of William Wilberforce, JS Bach, and Jane Austen. With the efforts to remove all religious references from public education, how can one really understand Wilberforce's tireless effort to end slavery, or Bach's music? What would a Muslim Jane Austen write? A true and lively faith informs all we do and touch.

Conversely, I am not comfortable with a church that associates too closely with the political power structure. The result of such alliances tend to corrupt the church, and the historical evidence for this can be seen from Tsarist Russia to the current timidity among some British Anglican leadership. The late historian Page Smith believed that it was a duty of the church to be the critic of society, especially a free capitalist one. That duty becomes difficult when the church is in the inner circle.

The Rutherford Institute is names after Rev. Samuel Rutherford, author of Lex Rex, one of the great landmark treatises in favor of human equality before the law. Rutherford was not a modern advocate of religious liberty (The concept of the freedom to be wrong had not been born yet). However, he realized the threat of tyranny in a government with unlimited powers, because he understood human nature.

"all kings, since the fall of the father, king Adam, are inclined to sin and
injustice, and so had need to be guided by a law, even because they are
kings, so they remain men. Omnipotency in one that can sin is a cursed

I spent a little time checking out the Rutherford Institute. While it is a specifically Christian organization, it has fought for the right of Muslim prisoners in the US to have access to religious material. Unlike the militantly secularist ACLU (Which seems to want freedom from religion) Rutherford has protected individual religious expression in public settings. The organization seem to have a consistent approach to Civil Liberties, including the lives of the unborn, concerns about the Patriot act,and Real ID. While not specifically a second amendment organization, I read enough of their material to believe they understand its proper role.

Supporting Membership starts with a modest $22. I would encourage others to learn about Rutherford and their work.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The "Offensive" Name of Our Lord and Saviour

The name of Jesus, offends the Pa General Assembly (Hat tip to the Beautiful and talented Mrs Powel).

This is more historic amnesia, as we see from this prayer to open the Continental Congress in 1774, taken from one of many sites from New York Patriot Hercules Mulligan. This is a beautful prayer in the Anglican tradition which Quakers, Deists, Presbyterians, and Independents were willing to join in:

King of Kings and Lord of lords: who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers upon earth and reignest with power supreme & uncontrouled over all kingdoms, empires and governments, look down in mercy,we beseech thee, upon these our American states who have fled to thee from the rod of the oppressor and thrown themselves upon thy gracious protection, desiring henceforth to be dependent only on thee. To thee they have appealed for the righteousness of their Cause; to Thee do they look up, for that countenance & support which Thou alone canst give. Take them, therefore, Heavenly Father, under thy nurturing care: give them wisdom in council, valour in the field. Defeat the malicious designs of our cruel adversaries. Convince them of the unrighteousness of their cause. And if they persist in their sanguinary purposes, O! let the voice of thy unerring justice sounding in their hearts constrain them to drop the weapons of war from their enerved hands in the day of battle. Be thou present, O God of Wisdom and direct the counsels of this honourable Assembly. Enable them to settle things upon the best and surest foundation, that the scene of blood may be speedily closed; that harmony and peace may effectually be restored, and truth and justice, religion and piety prevail and flourish amongst thy people. Preserve the health of their bodies and the vigour of their minds; shower down upon them and the millions they represent(13) such temporal blessings as Thou seest expedient for them in this world, and crown them with everlasting glory in the world to come. All this we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ thy son, Our Saviour, Amen.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Miss Jane Austen

For someone of my background and sensibilities, it is very easy to become depressed with the state of religion, politics, and culture in our country. I tend to hang onto any hope I encounter. A large source of such hope is provided by the young people I am privileged to worship with every Sunday. When I find out that these young adults are reading Jane Austen, I have a renewed hope for our nation and Christian civilization. I often feel like my generation messed up in so many ways; theological liberalism that destroys the chance to know both ourselves and God, unrestrained greed masquerading as economic liberty, and the sexual "revolution". In short, my generation of both extended adolescence and adolescents (60+ years for some of us) broke the chains of restraint that bound us to both our ancestors and our progeny. We partied on 401ks, easy credit, easy divorce, and rootlessness. The rebuilding is now up to the young. Reading Jane Austen is as good a start to reconstruction as I can think of. For those young men who might eschew Ms. Austen as "girlie lit", I would offer Peter Leithart's, advice that "Real Men Read Jane Austen". If Rev. Leithart is not "manly" enough, how about a half-educated redneck gun nut, sheepherder, and woodcutter who reads and profits from her?

My wife shares a birthday with the anniversary of the death of Miss Austen. While she is not considered a saint officially on any church calendar, many revere her memory as a woman who lived a Christian life and left an exemplary body of writing behind her. At least one Roman Catholic layman, prolific historian Paul Johnson, directly invokes her in his prayers. Anglicans are divided on this devotional practice, but we agree on revering the memory of the faithful departed by thanking God for their lives and contributions. In that spirit, Nicholas from the Comfortable Words recently composed and published this collect.

O ALMIGHTY God, who granted unto Jane Austen varied charms of character, and ennobled her by Christian faith and piety; to whom thou didst give grace to open her mouth in wisdom, and upon whose tongue thou didst set the law of kindness; Grant also unto us both to perceive and know what things we ought to do, and also grace and power faithfully to fulfill the same. For the sake of Thine only Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

I offer it here in the hopes that it may be of use to others, and trust that Nicholas will not mind it becoming a well worn prayer of thanksgiving for this remarkable young woman. I also commend his recent essay on her, found here, as well as prayers she composed, found here.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Summer Season/July 4th Tea Party

This is a very busy time of year. It is haymaking time, garden work is at its peak.
The bantams are hatching chicks,and best of all the wild black raspberries are here. I am getting about 2-3 quarts per hour when I pick. It looks like the blackberries will come on strong this year as well. I love picking wild berries because it was my first agrarian employment. From the time I was about 5, I loved going off to the woods, eating my fill, and bringing berries back for my mom or Granny to make pies and jelly. I still eat at least a pint every time I pick.

It has been a funny spring. We had a very late frost and the past few nights have been very cool (down to about 50 degrees at night. Some of the warm season vegetables are not doing well, not sick-just lacking "bloom". The cabbage and onions are excellent, the broccoli is fair, and the green beans have been ravaged by deer. We will still get some, but myself or someone else will have to get those beans back in the fall-- after they are converted to protein.

There is not a lot of volume in anyone's first cut hay in this area. Many blame the late frost.

I have also been training Bob, a new farm dog we got from the Venango County Humane Society. He is about 2, and I think he is either part English Shepherd or Australian Shepherd. He has been here for three weeks and is still learning basic commands and just being with us. He is just starting to work ducks a bit, helping me pen them each evening. While I would not necessarily start a cowdog on ducks, They are a much quieter way to start a sheepdog.

I did get away from the farm to attend the July 4th Tea party in Mercer Pa. I could not think of a better way to honor our founders than to take advantage of our First Amendment Rights in this manner. There were perhaps 600 people there. I got there a bit late, so I did not get the main speakers name. His main topic was the Constitution and how both parties have been ignoring it for too long on so many basic matters. It was very heartening to see 600+everyday Americans listen attentively to a one hour lecture on our Constitution. They also gave anyone in the audience three minutes to speak so I got to plug the RWVA and Appleseed. The great thing about this event was that the career politicians did not steal the limelight or co opt the agenda. This was pure everyday Americans who know that the Republic is in trouble. By just being there, they were beginning to educate themselves so that once again we might become a people fit for self-government.

As we pass another independence day, I am reminded that our liberties are a gift from God. This does NOT mean that we as Christians seek temporal power as a means in itself. I was privileged to hear Rev. Dr. T David Gordon preach at Grace today, and when I think about Christians and government I always remember this excellent essay of his on the subject. However, we do have some very specific things to say to this culture and place, as Fr. Robert Hart reminds us in this very good sermon.