Wednesday, August 27, 2014

THYME Magazine: The Gift of Language

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue IX

The Gift of Language
How Sequoyah Gave His People Written Words

Perhaps the most remarkable man who has ever lived on Georgia soil was neither a politician, nor a soldier, nor an ecclesiastic, nor a scholar, but merely a Cherokee Indian of mixed blood. And strange to say, this Indian acquired permanent fame, neither expecting or seeking it." -- H. A. Scomp, Emory College

He was hardly someone you would predict would create such a significant contribution to his nation. George Gist was born to a Cherokee mother, Wu-teh, a member of the Paint Clan, and Nathanial Gist, an English fur trader near the village of Tushkeegee on the Tennessee River. The year was around 1760 but no one knows for sure. Learning the ways of the Cherokee, young George became a trapper and a fur trader himself. He would probably have lived out his days as a man of the forest, but he suffered a hunting accident (or possibly succumbed to a crippling disease, depending on which version of his story you read), but the young man was permanently disabled, unable to earn his living by the skills he had been taught in childhood.

George Gist developed a talent for metal working. He learned to be a blacksmith and silversmith. His disability became both a source of ridicule (Sequoyah means "pig's foot" in Cherokee) and a spur to greater things. The man was a good learner and became a competent craftsman. A man who purchased one of his pieces suggested that he sign his work, but he was unable to. He could not write! And here as well his story might have ended, but events in the greater world were to spur him to his greatest work. Sequoyah married a Cherokee woman and raised a family. They moved to Cherokee County in Georgia where George learned how to write his name from a local farmer. Later he joined other Cherokees who fought under Andrew Jackson against England in the War of 1812. Though he never learned to read or write English, Sequoyah was fascinated by the white man's ability to create "talking leaves" by making marks on paper.

As early as 1809, Sequoyah was exploring the creation of a Cherokee alphabet. Though scholars believe there may have once been a written Cherokee language that was later forgotten, there was no written Cherokee language when Sequoyah was a youth. People suspected that the white man's words "moved around on the paper," and the time was right for Cherokee to be able to read things for themselves. Cherokee soldiers could not write letters home, read military orders for themselves, or record events they wished to remember. When he returned home from the war, he worked in earnest on a phonetic alphabet of 86 letters to write the Cherokee Language. Sequoyah became something of a recluse. His friends and family ridiculed him. Some said he was insane or practicing witchcraft. Moving West to Arkansas, he continued his great work.

He found that his young daughter Ayoka could easily learn to use the syllabary and demonstrated this to his cousin, George Lowrey, who encouraged him to demonstrate the use of the syllabary to the public. In a Cherokee court case in Chattooga, he read an argument about a boundary line from a piece of paper. In 1821 the Cherokee Nation officially adopted Sequoya's alphabet and within a matter of months thousands of Cherokee learned to read and write! In 1824 the Cherokee National Council at New Echota, Georgia presented him with a silver medal. Sequoyah proudly wore it for the rest of his life. He was given a $300 annuity and his widow continued to receive it after he died.

By 1825 the Cherokee had the Bible in their own language along with hymnals and all sorts of educational materials. There was even a large group of Moravian Cherokee. Legal documents and books of every kind were available, all translated into the Cherokee Language. In 1827 The Cherokee National Council funded the printing of Tsa la gi Tsu lehesanunhi," the Cherokee Phoenix. It was the first Native American newspaper printed in the United States. It was produced in the Cherokee Capital, New Echota on a press shipped there from Boston. The paper had parallel columns in Cherokee and English, printed side by side.

Sadly, the discovery of gold in North Georgia, unscrupulous men and treachery in treaty would lead to the removal of most of the Eastern nation. Sequoyah moved to Oklahoma were he served as an envoy to Washington D.C. to assist the displaced Eastern Cherokees. He continued to serve his people as a diplomat and a statesman. Well into his eighties, he traveled West again, looking for a band of Cherokees who were said to have moved to Mexico. He took ill and died in 1843 and the location of his grave remains unknown to this day. Two species of giant redwood trees have been named in his honor, as has Sequoia National Park in California. He gave his people the gift of literacy. His contribution is unique, as he, an uneducated, seemingly undistinguished individual, created a totally new system of writing for his beloved nation. [1.]

J. Lanphier's Journey of Prayer
How A Nation Was Turned to G-d and Restored

Jeremiah Lanphier discovered the power of prayer in his own life.

By the middle of the Nineteenth Century, America found herself at a crossroads. Wild speculation and greed had built a house of cards. While a few became incredibly wealthy, the gap between haves and have-nots grew ever wider.   The economic crash had put 30,000 men out of work on the streets of New York City.  Churches languished as people explored Spiritism and other "new" ideas. We, of the Twenty-first Century, would find the condition of the culture strangely familiar.

Political corruption, shady dealings in business and a general moral decline were the norm.  "Atheism, agnosticism, apathy and indifference to God, to the church, and its message abounded on every hand. The decline was fourfold: social, moral, political and spiritual." -- Tom Shanklin

Then came the crash! Factories were shuttered. Banks failed and merchants were ruined. Thousands were destitute. Winkie Pratney, who chronicled the great revival, says: "A near socio-economic collapse jolted America away from her apathy into a national cry for spiritual reality." Chuck Balsamo presents a wonderful concise history of this revival in his book Make Me a Legend [click to read]. The story does not begin with a mighty move and thousands of conversions, rather it begins in a rather small way.

Jeremiah Lanphier was a middle-aged businessman caught in the crossroads. Having no children and no family, he was drawn to minister to the needs of those living in the dark slums of Hell's Kitchen. Leaving his business, he became a lay missionary with the North Dutch Church in Manhattan. Pouring his life into the lives of those he saw caught in hopelessness, he soon came to the end of his own strength. Physically and mentally exhausted, Lanphier discovered that just as the body needs food, the soul and spirit of a man need to be nourished in prayer.[1.]

Each day at midday, Lanphier would seek solace in the Church Consistory Building, where he would cry out to G-d for spiritual strength. He experienced G-d in a mighty way in these times and felt that others would benefit from prayer as well, especially the city's businessmen. He printed up and distributed 20,000 flyers advertising his first noontime prayer meeting, on September 23, 1857.

That day he prayed alone for thirty minutes before six others joined him. The next week there were twenty. The week after that forty people showed up. In time over 100 churches had noonday prayer meetings going throughout the city. G-d's powerful move was felt far beyond New York City. Newspaperman Horace Greeley wanted to get a count of the number of men  praying in New York so he sent a reporter out to the meetings. Racing around the city in a horse-drawn buggy, the reporter was only able to get to twelve meetings in the noon hour, but he counted 6,100 in attendance.

Spiritual awakening followed and Americans found strength in G-d for the turbulent days that followed. This Third Great Awakening not only revitalized the spirit of America's people, but led to missionary outreach around the world.  [2.]

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

THYME Magazine: The Mapmaker's Ethic III

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue VIII

The Mapmaker's Ethic III
Reliable Directions for an Important Journey

Maps are an important tool for navigating what is often to the user unknown regions. The users' success and ultimately their safety in the journey requires that the mapmaker strive to provide the most accurate depiction his or her art can produce of the ways of travel, their conditions, and possible dangers!

For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations." -- Psalm 100:5

Mapmakers strive for accuracy. Truth in the depiction of many details is essential to their work being trustworthy and safe. A wonderful old road atlas I acquired in my boyhood even went so far as to suggest a traveler make local inquiry before venturing onto some of the more obscure unpaved roads shown. After Hurricane Katrina I traveled to Waveland, Mississippi. The map said that U.S. 90 crossed Bay St. Louis on a bridge. We drove to the barricade at the end of route 90. The bridge had been washed away.

Many scholars, who would INSIST on accurate maps to guide them on the highway, scoff at the notion of "Absolute Truth" in the spiritual realm. They would NEVER seek to drive to Chicago subscribing to the notion that all roads are equally valid. Yet, when it comes to matters eternal, they reject the notion that there might indeed be specific direction available to them. Most likely they would find in Holy Writ some example of "Absolute Truth" similar to the now missing U.S. 90 bridge , and dismiss the veracity of ANY claim to "Absolute Truth." But they would be missing the mark.

No trucker, upon discovering the missing route 90 bridge, would throw his atlas out the window. Instead, he would probably take note that the atlas itself states that while every effort has been made to verify the information contained in the publication, errors or omissions are possible and contact information is provided for those observing such discrepancies to report them. The map, you see, is a hard record of an Earthscape that is changing. These changes are caused both by natural forces and the actions of mankind.

Yet the difficulty of documenting it in no way discredits the truth that an absolute set of conditions exists. Historical maps document well the succession of changes and if one will study maps, it may be argued, they will make wiser decisions as they travel. The very fact that maps are made argues that there is indeed a truth to be recorded. So it is, I would argue, with human history as well. If the Divine has indeed revealed eternal truths to mankind, and scribes have striven to record them accurately, as Jews and Christians have taught for centuries, then there must needs be maps for the world unseen as well.

Dismissing the validity of scripture because you find a prohibition on eating shellfish is similar to discrediting the use of maps because you fail to place it in context. A 1947 map of the United States will lack Interstate Highways, yet it would have shown you how to cross the country on the Mother Road, Route 66! That same route has been renamed I 40 in our times and is wider. Similarly Leviticus mapped a path for G-d's people in a time when eating shellfish was dangerous. In Leviticus 14, detailed procedures are given for dealing with mold in structures. I was tempted to conider such information 'archaic' until I attended a conference of the National Institute of Restoration.

It was there that I met a man who was severely disabled. He had been performing mold mitigation on a building and the work required him to go into many small spaces and resulted in exttended exposure to the mold. There are indeed different strains of mold (Leviticus describes this), and the kind this man encountered was the more dangerous kind. His heart had been severely damaged from his prolonged exposure to it. After meeting him I took the matter of mold in my own house, or that of a friend, very seriously. Scriptural guidelines on diet and hygene are actually quite helpful upon untering an unfamiliar culture.

The fact that Holy Writ comes in a series of books, all building upon previous revelation, might be analogous to the process of refining maps. Stop and think about it. There is so much information contained in historical maps that is still useful today. Moses shows you the beginnings of G-d's interactions with mankind. In Genesis we see the concept of IMAGO DEI, that mankind uniquely bears the image of his maker. Abraham is charged that through him: "All nations of the Earth shall be blessed." Redemption is seen in the calling out of an enslaved people to become a nation for that purpose.

History affirms the work of G-d in establishing a people, and yet read further. Isaiah 60 describes a road unseen that we have yet to travel. Just as Moses brought a promise that was fulfilled, the prophets bring more promise.

Can We Trust Our Maps?

As I was researching this article, I came across a very interesting article about Cartography as Wayfinding for the Soul [click to read]. Some may encounter such an article and scoff: "See, there is much that may be placed subjectively into maps." But consider this, just as my map of Middle Earth, created in my youth, described no actual country; but accurately represented the creation of J. R. R. Tolkien's fertile imagination. Even 'educational' maps may organize very real information in a subjective manner. Creating maps of Ice-Age Europe for CIVITAS, Kristina Elaine Riley and I placed icons of animals on them to describe the fauna of the time. Here the convention of icons might be seen to create an 'untruth,' for there are no Great Auks the size of New Jersey actually lying upon the landscape.

But is it an untruth? No. It is a convention that is understood across many cultures. Thus it may be useful to remember that Divine Revelation was handed to scribes who also inhabit their own set of cultural conventions in the use of language. Sometimes an honest exploration of idioms is necessary. I defy you to understand more recent writings, such as those of Shakespeare, without doing so.

Scripture 'scholars' at our great universities also are fond of "multiple authorship theories," that supposedly discredit Holy Writ. My own work as an artist suggested, however, a more plausible explanation. Looking back at my early attempts, I find they are often very different from my more 'mature' works. A mentor once scolded me for inconsistency. Writers as well will develop as they go along. Realizing that the writers of Holy Writ often began with no concept of the greater work intended by G-d, it is greater evidence for firsthand writing that it has not been 'smoothed.'

In fact, there is an 'Embarassement Factor' present in these works, for there is little or no attempt to smooth over those things that appear in Holy Writ that present a less than flattering picture of Kings, Prophets, Apostles and Patriarchs. You might want to remember this when randomly choosing passages to read to young children!

Importance of Investigation

Granted, there are scholars of the Bible who have taken it apart in their writings and present the conclusion that it is not truth. I would only ask them to go back and honestly check their work. The vast majority of those who resist the notion that faith is important have done little or no exploration on their own. Some honest seekers have indeed found themselves mired by the inexplicable problems of pain and evil. To them I would offer a piece of advice from a wise family member... that someone, somewhere in the household of faith has wrestled with these issues before you. Seek out their counsel.

G-d and Suffering

Isn't human suffering proof that a just, all-powerful G-d must not exist? On the contrary, says Boston College Professor of Philosophy Peter Kreeft. How can "suffering" exist without an objective standard against which to judge it? Absent a standard, there is no justice. If there is no justice, there is no injustice. And if there is no injustice, there is no suffering. On the other hand, if justice exists, G-d exists.An objective standard is indeed a solid mark on a map!

Boston College Professor of Philosophy Peter Kreeft.

The Mapmaker's Ethic Restated:

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." -- 2 Timothy 2:15

Paul the Apostle wrote these words to Timothy, his young apprentice in the Gospel ministry. I am priviledged to know a young man of our age who is not afraid to walk that same path. The young Minister stirs the soul as he clearly presents the Gospel from the classic texts on Faith. He is quick to reference good maps in doing so! Oh, the richness of Martin Luther's Preface to Romans!

This letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament. It is purest Gospel. It is well worth a Christian's while not only to memorize it word for word but also to occupy himself with it daily, as though it were the daily bread of the soul. It is impossible to read or to meditate on this letter too much or too well. The more one deals with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes. Therefore I want to carry out my service and, with this preface, provide an introduction to the letter, insofar as God gives me the ability, so that every one can gain the fullest possible understanding of it. Up to now it has been darkened by glosses [explanatory notes and comments which accompany a text] and by many a useless comment, but it is in itself a bright light, almost bright enough to illumine the entire Scripture.

To begin with, we have to become familiar with the vocabulary of the letter and know what St. Paul means by the words law, sin, grace, faith, justice, flesh, spirit, etc. Otherwise there is no use in reading it." [1.]

The young Minister is concerned today with the matter of Faith. Though Faith is often mentioned, few unroll the great charts to plot its implications. The young Minister has no fear in doing so. He references Luther's thoughts on this great Truth:

Faith is not that human illusion and dream that some people think it is. When they hear and talk a lot about faith and yet see that no moral improvement and no good works result from it, they fall into error and say, "Faith is not enough. You must do works if you want to be virtuous and get to heaven." The result is that, when they hear the Gospel, they stumble and make for themselves with their own powers a concept in their hearts which says, "I believe." This concept they hold to be true faith. But since it is a human fabrication and thought and not an experience of the heart, it accomplishes nothing, and there follows no improvement.

Faith is a work of God in us, which changes us and brings us to birth anew from God (cf. John 1). It kills the old Adam, makes us completely different people in heart, mind, senses, and all our powers, and brings the Holy Spirit with it. What a living, creative, active powerful thing is faith! It is impossible that faith ever stop doing good. Faith doesn't ask whether good works are to be done, but, before it is asked, it has done them. It is always active. Whoever doesn't do such works is without faith; he gropes and searches about him for faith and good works but doesn't know what faith or good works are. Even so, he chatters on with a great many words about faith and good works.

Faith is a living, unshakeable confidence in God's grace; it is so certain, that someone would die a thousand times for it. This kind of trust in and knowledge of God's grace makes a person joyful, confident, and happy with regard to God and all creatures. This is what the Holy Spirit does by faith. Through faith, a person will do good to everyone without coercion, willingly and happily; he will serve everyone, suffer everything for the love and praise of God, who has shown him such grace. It is as impossible to separate works from faith as burning and shining from fire. Therefore be on guard against your own false ideas and against the chatterers who think they are clever enough to make judgements about faith and good works but who are in reality the biggest fools. Ask God to work faith in you; otherwise you will remain eternally without faith, no matter what you try to do or fabricate." [2.]

Monday, August 18, 2014

THYME Magazine: A Call to Prayer

Hope and Promise for Our Troubled Times

Volume VIII, Issue VIIIa

War is ugly. The news in recent times has brought us it in its full ugliness as it destroys women and children and threatens to revisit dark times of the past century to which we once said "Never Again!" Would we join our hearts with our family in faith around the world in praying G-d's promise of protection, as found in Psalm 91, for persecuted Christians in Iraq. But let us expand our compassion to pray Psalm 91 for the people of Sderot and other towns in Southern Israel, who endure relentless attacks from Hamas. "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." -- Ephesians 6:12 But let us pray as well for the children of Gaza, being forced to participate in this dark warfare as human shields. And let us pray for our own youth as well, for they are being warred against as well by a culture that would reduce their purpose in life to self-gratification. It is time to raise our eyes heavenward: "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth." Psalm 121:1-2

Psalm 72

Give the king thy judgments, O G-d, and thy righteousness unto the king's son.

He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment.

The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness.

He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor.

They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations.

He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth.

In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth.

He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.

They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust.

The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts.

Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him.

For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper.

He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy.

He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and precious shall their blood be in his sight.

And he shall live, and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba: prayer also shall be made for him continually; and daily shall he be praised.

There shall be an handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon: and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth.

His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed.

Blessed be the Lord G-d, the G-d of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things.

And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen.

The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended."

Psalm 91

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my G-d; in him will I trust.

Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.

He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;

Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.

A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.

Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.

Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;

There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.

Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.

He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.

With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

THYME Magazine: The Mapmaker's Ethic II

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue VII

The Mapmaker's Ethic II:
Reliable Directions for an Important Journey

Maps are an important tool for navigating what is often to the user unknown regions. The users' success and ultimately their safety in the journey requires that the mapmaker strive to provide the most accurate depiction his or her art can produce of the ways of travel, their conditions, and possible dangers!

No one would in any seriousness suggest that the only place that was significant or real was the part of the landscape he could see from his house, and that the rest, because it was unseen, either didn't exist or was of no consequence. Indeed, if you encountered such a person, you might refer to the most accurate map you could find. Pinpointing his house, you would proceed to show him the main arteries, the rivers, mountains and towns that await him outside of the realm he can see. Yet a scholar like Richard Dawkins can essentially use the same reasoning in writing The G-d Delusion and be lauded as brilliant!

But Dawkins as much as admits that he is 'not sure' if G-d exists in a discussion at Oxford University. [1.] It is time, I would say, to pull out the maps. Dawkins publicly dismisses religion because he feels it is the 'root of mankind's evils.' The problem is that if we look to history, we find a firm challenge to that mindset. In Why Religious Literacy Matters [click to read] we find that the evidence does NOT point us away from faith, rather it shows us instances where mankind has been lifted by something he clearly did not produce on his own.

One who wants to rest his argument on the premise that religion causes wars simply needs to look at the culture BEFORE the arrival of the religion he wishes to impune. In fact,honest history shows us that men's baser instincts resulted in a cycle of raiding and retribution LONG before white Christians ever arrived. Slavery existed for centuries where there was NO Christian influence, and succumbed to the influence of men like John Newton and William Wilberforce [2.] who were MOTIVATED by that faith.

The film: G-d's Not Dead [click to read] takes a look at the rational 'reasonable' men have for attacking faith. Indeed, the notion that unresolved evil discredits the existence of the Almighty is presented in a straightforward manner. The writings of great people OF faith, such as C. S. Lewis actually have much to say about this. The fact is that Lewis was as hard an Atheist as Dawkins, but guided by his friend and mentor: J. R. R. Tolkein, he found himself: "The most reluctant convert in all of England!"

The Catholic Tolkein had at his disposal a vast library of fine maps. The Christian recognizes Moses and the Prophets, just as G-d's Chosen do. Looking first to those texts that claim the authority of Divine Authorship through Inspired Writers, one then overlays them with good history to see what they reveal. It is not at all unlike the exercise employed in creating my historical map of Rockbridge County. [3.] One may wish to question the accuracy of the historic texts, but here more history witnesses to their reliability.

981 texts on scrolls discovered between 1946 and 1956 at Khirbet Qumran in the West Bank inside caves about a mile inland from the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Nabataean, mostly on parchment but with some on papyrus and bronze, are associated with the Essenes.What is fascinating is the fact that more modern texts are spot-on with these ancient manuscripts, save for a few punctuations and such.

The scribes who copied these documents worked to an ethic as rigorous as that of the mapmaker. A scribe would 'practice' reproducing texts and his work would be rejected for so much as a character omitted or out of place. Dawkins likes to claim that "we are all atheists" concerning most of the gods people have worshiped. Put it in the perspective though, that most such 'dieties' were slimly documented local gods associated with seasons, fertility and harvest. In 1 Kings 18:40 we see the prophet Elijah take on the priests of Baal. There were many such dieties, seemingly demanding that mankind placate them in return for good harvest.

Gods like Molech demanded the sacrifice of children by burning them. Indeed, if the G-d of Creation is like them then Dawkins has a point. But that the great body of revealed Scripture teaches a people that through them: "All the Nations of the Earth shall be blessed." and in a world of raiding and retribution teaches the new concept of kindness toward the stranger who lives in your midst, then we need to reexamine the wholesale dismissal of faith. The map will not allow us to.

Also, quite importantly, the Mapmaker's Ethic requires that we draw an accurate representation of faith as it runs through the landscape that we inhabit. We need to see the true course that it runs. That means we consider accurately the Crusades as well as Dorethea Dix and Florence Nightingale, who motivated by their faith, made strides in the care for the mentally ill and in the profession of nursing, respectively. We need to consider the very real occurrence of hypocrisy: those who speak in terms of faith but do not live as it requires. History is full of these as well.

But it must be noted that people of faith have often stood against the viler things. Slavery was maintained by professing Christians in the United States until the Abolition, but it was the teachings of Christianity itself that led to that Abolition. Martin Luther King's famous demand: "Let MY people go!" is a restatement of Moses' demand of Pharaoh.

Glimpses into a World Unseen

The electron microscope further reveals amazing patterns.

Vertical section of the human dna.

Evidence of Divine Design, Great and Small
"The Heavens Declare the Glory of G-d;
The Skies Proclaim the Work of His Hands." -- Psalm 19:1

Moth wing pattern.

I saw this little creature outside my studio one morning. It got me reflecting on the creative wonder, both large and small, that surround us.

M 51 Spiral Galaxy, NASA photo from the Hubble Space Telescope.

Detail of the 'X Structure' in M 51, NASA photo from the Hubble Space Telescope.

The artist is amazed. So much beauty and wonder in the very large cosmos and in the very small things as well! Can a G-d who spins galaxies into being be concerned with things small and personal? Such order and grace in the extreme scales of our world, yet often what we see before us is chaotic and makes no sense.

That is why we present here Lee Strobel's Case for a Creator. Also recommended are Strobel's Case for Faith and Case for Christ. You may view them Here [click to view]. If you had stepped into that Bethlehem stable many years ago, you would have not necessarily seen beauty and redemption. The smells of animals and the pain of labor and delivery would have overwhelmed contemplation. Yet Christians around the world will contemplate the wonder of that night; for what happened there ultimately made its mark on human history.

The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel.

(to be continued).

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

THYME Magazine: The Mapmaker's Ethic I

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue VI

The Mapmaker's Ethic I:
Why Accuracy Matters

The song still haunts... Gordon Lightfoot's "Ballad of the Edmund Fitzgerald" has an eerie hold on my generation, especially those of us who considered joining the merchant marine or heading to Alaska to seek our fortunes. I never went to sea on the Great Lakes, but the song became a part of me. I have been in storms on the Chesapeake Bay, so I can imagine somewhat the tempest that raged on Superior in mid-November of 1975. The song chronicles the actual voyage of the ship they called the "Big Fitz" as she mysteriously sank that year. The song talks about an extremely violent storm and a "main hatchway" giving in.  Many of the crew were the same age as I would have been, had I served among them. That such a great ship would simply vanish, and her crew along with her, was the stuff great mysteries are made of.

Discovery Channel Special on the Edmund Fitzgerald.

The discovery of this special program rekindled my fascination with this great ship and her lost crew. The assumption (in the Lightfoot song, and by the Coast Guard) was that she somehow took water from topside. The Coast Guard asserted that a main hatch was improperly clamped and the ship took water when the storm somehow caused the great hatch to come loose. That is not a very good explanation, however, and the documentary goes into some detail as to what the more likely cause was. The S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald was originally built by the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The contractor was Great Lakes Engineering Works of Ecorse, Michigan. Her keel was laid on August 7, 1957 as Hull No. 301. Named after the President and Chairman of the Board of Northwestern Mutual, the Edmund Fitzgerald was launched June 8, 1958 at River Rouge, Michigan. Northwestern Mutual placed her under permanent charter to the Columbia Transportation Division of Oglebay Norton Company, Cleveland, Ohio. At 729 feet and 13,632 gross tons she was the largest ship on the Great Lakes, for thirteen years, until 1971.

The huge ship was built for hauling iron ore pellets from Minnesota to the steel mills on the lower Great Lakes. Lake Superior, known to the Native Americans as Gitchee Gumee, is a great inland sea and known for its fierce Winter storms. Shipping on the St. Lawrence Seaway ceased in Winter, but tonnage bonuses, paid to ship's captains and crew, tempted them to try to squeeze in trips even as mid-November's harsh weather approached. So it was that the Fitzgerald, captained by Ernest M. McSorley took on a load of iron ore pellets November 9, 1975 at the Burlington Northern Railroad Dock No.1, Superior, Wisconsin. She was joined by the Arthur Anderson, captained by Bernie Cooper. The two ships set a course for Sault Ste Marie, at the Eastern side of Superior.

A severe storm caught the ships as they made their way down the main shipping channel in the center of the lake. The experienced captains decided to seek a more sheltered route along the Northern shore. The storm became even more violent as two storm cells merged over the great body of water. Large waves rolled up on the ships. As the Fitzgerald approached Caribou Island, her crew was unaware of the dangerous Six Fathom Shoal beneath her. The map was wrong! Pounded by the waves, her captain probably didn't notice the sound of her bottoming out. At 3:30 pm, however, he knew he was taking on water and had some sort of serious damage. McSorley radioed Cooper:  "Anderson, this is the Fitzgerald. I have a fence rail down, two vents lost or damaged, and a list. I'm checking down. Will you stay by me till I get to Whitefish?" The Big Fitz slowed her speed and the Anderson began to close the ten mile gap between the two vessels.

Now the injured Fitzgerald set a course for the shelter of Whitefish Bay. As evening set in two monstrous waves rolled over the Anerson. Cooper reports that this happened about 6:55 pm: "Then the Anderson just raised up and shook herself off of all that water - barrooff - just like a big dog. Another wave just like the first one or bigger hit us again. I watched those two waves head down the lake towards the Fitzgerald, and I think those were the two that sent him under." The First Mate of the Anderson, Morgan Clark, kept in radar contact and voice communication with the Fitzgerald:

"Fitzgerald, this is the Anderson. Have you checked down?"

"Yes, we have."

"Fitzgerald, we are about 10 miles behind you, and gaining about 1 1/2 miles per hour. Fitzgerald, there is a target 19 miles ahead of us. So the target would be 9 miles on ahead of you."

"Well, am I going to clear?" McSorley radioed back.

"Yes, he is going to pass to the west of you."

"Well, fine."

"By the way, Fitzgerald, how are you making out with your problems?"

"We are holding our own."

"Okay, fine, I'll be talking to you later." [1.]

But the words, "We are holding our own." spoken around 7:10 pm that evening, were the last communication from the Edmund Fitzgerald. As the seas calmed, an ill-equipped Coast Guard asked the Anderson and several other vessels to search for the Edmund Fitzgerald, but she had vanished. Bits of debris and the twisted half of a lifeboat were all that were spotted. The Gales of November had claimed the great ship and she rested in two parts on the bottom of Lake Superior. Her crew was not to be found.

The map used by Captain Ernest M. McSorley showed Six Fathom Shoal one mile off of its actual position.

A mile's discrepancy in a map! That is the most likely cause of the loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald. No doubt, the error lay in obscurity until violent weather forced two great ships into the area that was wrongly depicted. Comparison has been made to the sinking of the Daniel J. Morell in 1966 where the ship was probably slammed to the bottom by a wave as well and broke in two. One man survived the Morell. [2.] No one survived the Fitzgerald.

The fact that lives depend on their accuracy has always been the ethic guiding the making of maps. In ancient times, the far edges that were not very well charted often bore the legend: "there are monsters!" Such was the way of warning that there was no data for those particular waters. Satellite imagery and sophisticated survey methods have put the monsters to rest, but the need for accuracy is ever greater.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." -- Psalm 119:105

As a child I became fascinated with maps. Colorful representations of actual faraway places intrigued me. What lay over the horizon waiting to be discovered? Maps pointed the way. Drawings of places unseen, yet when I got my first car, they reliably pointed the way to many adventures. Sometimes it was fun to just get in the car and drive, but if you wanted to go to Rehoboth Beach or Ocean City, you consulted the map!

When I was in high school, I drew a detailed map of Middle Earth that probably still hangs in a closet in my sister's house. It was the accurate representation of a land in a legend, in my adult career I would go on to accurately represent architectural concepts... but somehow I always returned to the map! Researching for author Rob Hewitt, I discovered that you could overlay old maps on modern ones and that they would tell you a story. Modern roads closely followed old turnpikes. Old turnpikes followed the routes of Native American commerce and migration. The overlay of maps told a very true history of the regions they depicted. [3.]

Our studio produced educational maps for the Core Knowledge Foundation and a few years ago I collaborated with artist Kristina Elaine Riley to produce similar maps for the Civitas Foundation in Great Britain as they reproduced the Core Knowledge Series for a British audience. [4.] Over the years, creating maps, there has come to me an awareness of what I would call: The Mapmaker's Ethic! Simply stated it would be thus:

Maps are an important tool for navigating what is often to the user unknown regions. The users' success and ultimately their safety in the journey requires that the mapmaker strive to provide the most accurate depiction his or her art can produce of the ways of travel, their conditions, and possible dangers!

You would never accept as serious advice the notion that you could just get in your car and start driving; for "all roads will get you to Atlanta." Such would be a foolish waste of time and resources. Yet many who would never embarque upon a journey without carefully consulting maps scoff at the notion that there might be solid information about the unseen world as well.

Just as there are a sequence of historical maps and modern ones that tell us important information about the ways we travel, there exists documentation of the unseen world as well. To be sure, some of them are as fanciful as the map of Middle Earth that depicts a land of a story, but are there a succession of historical maps that overlay like those of a historical region, that might indeed point to direction both in our life here and now and in our life to come? And if indeed such charts exist, what is the ethic under which they are produced? Do they build upon prior revelation to provide a complete picture?

If indeed, mankind is eternal, the question is a good one, for if that is indeed so, then most of our 'journey' lies outside of the county we presently reside in! Some will assert that this world is all that is. I would only ask of them: "Are you SURE?" If not, then I would ask them to consider what charts they might need for a longer journey? Some are not ready to consider a journey of such magnitude. They may detrain here if that is so, and are welcome to come aboard again when they so desire. Some may simply be curious. To them I say: "Ride along for a while. It will do you no harm." Finally there are those who feel certain that there is more. To them I say: "Come sit at the head of the train and see where the journey might lead." (to be continued).

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

THYME Magazine: Seeking Solutions

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue V

An American Story

Dinesh D’Souza, In his film America, addresses the so-called 'historian,' Howard Zinn. Zinn is required reading on the university campuses but his 'history,' while it is quick to point out the very real sins of American history, is all to quick to omit the essential core of the American narrative, that of Redemption! This omission leads the uninformed consumer of Zinn to regard America as just the ultimate manifestation of conquering Colonialism, but the entire narrative tells a different story altogether. In the midst of human weakness, a nation crafted looking to G-d for guidance, was to be the stage for triumph over evil.

Slavery was indeed a vile evil. William Wilberforce fought to eliminate it in England, but the institution stubbornly remained in America until the middle of the Nineteenth Century. The seeds of its distruction, it must be noted, had already been planted in the Declaration of Inalienable Rights first drafted by the Patriots. The departure from John Locke's original "Life, Liberty and Property" was not accidental. It marks a moment of Divine inspiration. That inspiration would see its fruition only after the country's bloodiest war, fought within our own borders.

Zinn and his disciples omit the stories of triumph, such as that of C. J. Walker, because they do not bear out the oppressor/victim narrative at all. The sad truth is that many young people are not being told the wonderful stories that might inspire them. THYME would like to change that.

A Distinctly American Story

She was born Sarah Breedlove, on December 23, 1867, on a cotton plantation near Delta, Louisiana. She was the fifth child of Owen and Minerva, who had been slaves up to the Emancipation. She was orphaned at age seven and went to live with her sister, Louvinia, and her brother-in-law in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Sarah likely picked cotton and did other manual labor but when she was fourteen, she married Moses McWilliams. On June 6, 1885, their daughter A'Leila was born. Two years later, Sarah became a widow. She and A'Lelia moved to St. Louis, where Sarah's brothers were barbers. Working as a laundress, Sarah made enough money to send her daughter to the city school. She herself attended public night school whenever she was able to. It was in St. Louis that Sarah Breedlove met her second husband Charles J. Walker. He worked in advertising and would later become the promoter of her hair care business.

When Sarah Breedlove developed a scalp disorder that resulted in the loss of most of her hair, she experimented with home remedies and patent medicines in an effort to cure it. In 1905, she became a salesperson for Annie Turnbo Malone in Denver, who had developed a line of hair care products for African-American women. By 1907 she had developed her own line of products. Opening her first factory in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 1908, she also opened a beauty school to train her "Walker Agents," who instructed local operators in the best use of her products. She saw her mission as more than producing products. She saw her beauty care products as a means of elevating the status of Black women and became active in philanthropic work as well. The whole operation was later moved to Indianapolis, Indiana where the business continued to grow.

C. J. Walker them moved to Harlem in New York City. She and her daughter A'Lelia became an important part of the 'Harlem Renaissance.' She died on May 25, 1919. She was but 51 years old, yet her personal journey had taken her to such heights that she remains an inspiration to all who know her story.

A child plays in the rubble of Yarmouk. Photo by Jonathan Messing.

Children in a World of Troubles

Yarmouk was home to the largest Palestinian refugee community in the country before the conflict began. 180,000 Palestinian civilians called it home. Now only 20,000 remain. Food and medical supplies are routinely denied entry and starvation is one of the three main causes of death. Recently, in the Jarabulus area, 22 people were killed and thrown into the streets to instill fear in the population. Some of them were children." -- Jonathan Messing

Massacre at Yarmouk [click to read]

I was informed last Friday that there were Unaccompanied Child Immigrants (UCI) at the Shenandoah Juvenile Detention Center in Verona. Like most others, I had read the newspapers and heard the news reports about these children, but now they were here in my district. I called the detention center and set up an appointment to meet some of these children.

I arrived at the Juvenile Detention Center Monday morning at 8 am. I had the opportunity to meet five illegal immigrant children, look into their welfare, and hear their stories. It was a heart-breaking experience." -- David Karaffa

Illegal Immigrant Children in Verona [click to read].

The Islamic State last week issued an ultimatum to the Christians in the town of Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, ordering them to convert to Islam, pay a religious tax or face death. The statement by the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, warned that the Christians had until Saturday to “leave the borders of the Islamic Caliphate.” He added that, “After this date, there is nothing between us and them but the sword.” Messages warning Christians about the ultimatum were announced through loudspeakers on the city’s mosques. Church leaders advised the few families who wanted to negotiate with terrorist that they should also flee for their own safety. The exodus went on in Mosul throughout Friday, with all the Christians abandoning the town by the end of the day. “For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians,” said one man. "We have lived in this city and we have had a civilization for thousands of years - and suddenly some strangers came and expelled us from our homes," a woman in her 60s told media sources. “Hundreds were walking on foot,” said a bishop in the neighboring city of Tel Keif. He said many of them were bereft of all money or possessions - and that ISIS had robbed them of all of their belongings before setting off for refugee camps. (Israel National News/Reuters) Where is the outcry from the Christian world about what's happening to the Christians in Iraq? Where is the UN? Where are the evangelicals? Where are the Jews and the protesters who so quickly come against Israel!" -- JNN News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

THYME Magazine: Seeking Solutions

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue IV

Let's Try Solving REAL Problems

This is an open letter to everyone who aspires to leadership in the political process. Let's talk about America's REAL problems for a change. It is time to face real issues with real resolve and restore the very REAL promise of this great land. Let me explain. The last political cycle began with the proclamation of one party that the other party was guilty of waging a so-called "war on women." Never mind that women in America enjoy far more opportunity and freedoms than their sisters in places like Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia, there's a "war on women," and we'd better make it a priority to fight it. Most telling was the poster child of this so-called "war," a Georgetown University law student who claimed she was having an undue hardship placed upon her because her school, run by the Jesuits, wouldn't pay for her recreational contraceptives!

Come on! This woman will make more money in a year, upon graduation, than I make in several. Seriously? She can't afford nine dollars a month at Wal Mart? Ahh, such must be the burden of student debt. That a national party would have her as a featured speaker at their national convention makes my point: We are being manipulated to respond to manufactured crises while true dangers lie neglected. The true crisis is the very real fact that structural flaws in our economic situation remain unaddressed while people likely to vote for the party "get their goodies." This cannot go on. It is the road to Greece, economically speaking and we're careening down it at a dangerously fast clip! Politicians are notorious for telling us: "You don't understand it. We HAVE to do something and you have to trust that we know how to do it best."

That was essentially the argument used to force the 2000+ page so-called: "Affordable Care Act" down our throats. The grain of truth is that healthcare spending and insurance premium costs ARE a very real problem. Pre-existing conditions do not fit the definition of "insurance," yet a compassionate society needs to find a way to provide care for these individuals. In many cases market forces could lower costs and make healthcare more affordable. Tort reform and other legislative means could as well. But rather than openly address these individual issues, Congress was pressed to ram through the bill that: "we had to pass so we can see what's in it," per Nancy Pelosi. Altough we were promised by the President himself that: "if you like your plan, you can keep your plan!," the results of this legislation to date have actually been quite disruptive.

Included in the legislation was the creation of staggering new bureaucracies, a 600 MILLION dollar "Marketplace" website that didn't work, contracted to an old school chum of Mrs. Obama! and the very real cancellation of thousands of plans that didn't meet the "standards" of Obamacare. Rather than promote "Choice and Competition," the new law actually regulated minutia about what an "acceptable" plan would cover. Fortunately for some people, older individial plans that were "grandfathered" in were not affected. But the legislation ran afoul of the Constitution when it REQUIRED employer provided plans to cover abortion inducing drugs. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Products sucessfully mounted a challenge that was decided by a narrow margin in the Supreme Court.

While the law MANDATES coverage of contraceptives and a number of issues considered important to young voters, it provides for bureaucracies making decisions about when to end care for older people. It empowers the IRS to 'fine' people for not having insurance. Many analysts see it as simply a preliminary framework for a future single-payer system like they have in Great Britain or Canada. It has already had the very real effect of ELIMINATING coverage for many responsible people who kept their insurance and needed it to pay for cancer treatment or heart problems. Sure, a few individuals have been able to obtain subsidized policies (with much regulated coverage and fewer options than what they replaced), but that begs the question: "Couldn't that have been accomplished with tax credits without taking apart the whole system?"

In fact, we SHOULD have been having a discussion of high deductable policies, medical savings accounts, tax credits, competition and true portability all along. Each of these issues, coupled with an understanding of how insurance companies negotiate discounts with hospitals and doctors, could STILL give us the means to give Americans access to the best health care system in the world. We NEED to repeal Obamacare, but we need to REPLACE it with a system that utilizes TRUE market forces to provide for most people while providing real protection for those who fall through the cracks. We've done this as a society before, and if we will place the discussion of PROBLEMS over POLEMICS, we will do so again. Make no mistake, Obamacare is not "too big to fail," it is too cumbersome to work. There needs to be a trustworthy replacement crafted in the open by honest statesmen.

We need to limit the size and scope of government to its Constitutionally mandated functions and allow for economic opportunity if we are to survive. We need to exploit our own energy resources as a part of a strategy to maintain our national security in a very volatile world. We need to secure our borders and maintain an orderly immigration policy that favors those seeking the freedom and opportunity of this great land. We do not need to use illegals to dilute the vote of the people who have built this country!

We need to stop legislating away "being offended." If you don't like the fact that there are Christians and Jews openly living in the dictates of their Faith in the public square (alongside Sikhs, Hindus Muslims and people who have no faith), you have options. If you desire to be bound by Sharia Law, there are options. If you want to live in a totally secular state, simply migrate to Europe and choose the degree. We began this nation with "An Appeal to Heaven."[1.] The First Amendment was crafted in light of that freedom. We cannot create a state church, but we cannot stop our citizens from BEING the Church. We, as a nation, have always respected CONSCIENCE. That overrides your "offense" at some baker or photographer refusing the job of your wedding!

We face some very real problems. We need to become energy independent and produce our own goods again. We need to strengthen our dollar with real value. We need to train our own replacements and render obsolete a University system that tears down the fabric of our culture. We need to protect the environment from REAL threats and produce good food. We need to pass along to our children and grandchildren the great nation that was given to us.

The Middle East Problem

Dennis Prager Explains the Region's History

The Biggest Obstacle to Peace

In The Nakba Obsession [click to read] Sol Stern in City Journal presents a clear-headed analysis of the Palestinian problem and why it needs to be better understood.

"There is only one just compensation for the long history of suffering, say the Palestinians and their allies: turning the clock back to 1948. This would entail ending the “Zionist hegemony” and replacing it with a single, secular, democratic state shared by Arabs and Jews. All Palestinian refugees—not just those still alive of the hundreds of thousands who fled in 1948, but their millions of descendants as well—would be allowed to return to Jaffa, Haifa, the Galilee, and all the villages that Palestinian Arabs once occupied.

Such a step would mean suicide for Israel as a Jewish state, which is why Israel would never countenance it. At the very least, then, the Nakba narrative precludes Middle East peace. But it’s also, as it happens, a myth—a radical distortion of history." --Sol Stern

Read More [click to read]

Apollo 11: The Untold Story

Forty-five years ago men landed on the moon. Neill Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins faced a few unforseen challenges in their mission. Aldrin, at one point, used a ball point pen to repair a broken fuse on the Lunar Excursion Module. Without that inventive repair, the crew might not have been able to leave the lunar surface to return home.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

THYME Magazine: What Makes a Nation Great?

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue III

What Makes a Nation Great? II

In the end, the state of the Union comes down to the character of the people. I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there. In the fertile fields and boundless prairies, and it was not there. In her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits, aflame with righteousness, did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.
-- Attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville, though it is not a direct quote from his work: Democracy in America.

In the quest to restore and revitalize our great land, one often hears great solutions proposed but often very little in the way of addressing the real problem. We can create all the great economic models we want to, but if we allow greed and self-serving policies to prevail, we will see ever more of the type of destruction we saw in the mortgage crisis. If we attempt to spend our way out of our problems by creating more money, we will end up as a vassal to China. We need Revival! THYME has looked at the problem of Restoring the American Dream [click to read] before. Whether or not we can definitively find the quote in de Tocqueville's writings, the work of Alvin Schmidt [1.] and others documents well the evidence for Faith as a force in making better the human condition.

That is not to say that we don't need to seek and consider better ways to conduct our affairs. There is a practical side to problem solving that cannot be ignored. Consider how George Müller changed the lives of thousands of orphans in Bristol, England. First let us set the stage. The elimination of the slave trade by William Wilberforce in the Nineteenth Century destroyed not only a vile institution, but as an unintended consequence the city of Bristol, a major slave port, was thrown into decline. G-d had two chosen instruments to revitalize Bristol. There was Isambard Kingdom Brunel, [2.] who built bridges, railroads and great steamships to link Bristol to the world! But Bristol needed more than just economic development!

The city's decline had led to thousands of children either losing their parents or being put out on the streets by their desperate parents. George Müller was G-d's next instrument in the revitalization of Bristol. Young Müller came to the city as a minister of the Gospel. As he sought to minister to the soul of a great city, the plight of her orphans tugged at his heart. He, depending on G-d alone, was able to provide five large houses for these unwanted children. He apprenticed all the boys in various trades but took great pains to educate the young women as office workers, nurses, teachers and housekeepers. They stayed at the homes until they were seventeen. This was a practical policy that kept them from being exploited by those engaged in viler trades.

Those who seek to revitalize our own nation would do well to do no less. We must first address the poverty of our national soul before we set into the very necessary business of restoring her fortunes!

A Case for Faith 

On page 563 of his latest biography — John Quincy Adams: American Visionary — author Fred Kaplan (biographer of Abraham Lincoln, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, and Gore Vidal among others) cites this insight of the sixth president:

Christianity had, all in all, he believed, been a civilizing force, “checking and controlling the anti-social passions of man.”

That insight is pretty much all an American needs to know in order to understand why the American Founders considered religion — specifically ethical monotheism rooted in the Hebrew Bible — indispensable to the American experiment; and why the America we have known since 1776 is in jeopardy." -- Dennis Prager.

In an article entitled: America Won't be Good without G-d [click to read] Prager lays out a pretty compelling argument. He writes:

"It is easy to respect secular Americans who hold fast to the Constitution and to American values generally. And any one of us who believes in God can understand why some people, given all the unjust suffering in the world, just cannot believe that there is a Providential Being.

But one cannot respect the view that America can survive without the religious beliefs and values that shaped it. The argument that there are moral secularists and moral atheists is a non sequitur. Of course there are moral Americans devoid of religion. So what? There were moral people who believed in Jove. But an America governed by Roman religion would not be the America that has been the beacon of freedom and the greatest force for good in the world."

Here Dennis Prager is spot-on in his analysis of the nature of man. The academy may tell us that we can effectively control the passions that drive us, but history, honestly pursued, tells us otherwise. Prager points out that: "Our prisons are filled with people whose consciences are quite at peace with their criminal behavior. As for reason, they used it well — to figure out how to get away with everything from murder to white-collar crime.

But our prisons are not filled with religious Jewish and Christian murderers. On the contrary, if all Americans attended church weekly, we would need far fewer prisons; and the ones we needed would have very few murderers in them."

Prager goes on to describe the wreckage of the great socialist experiments of the Twentieth Century, and the wreckage of "anything goes" philosophies that encourage casual sex and tell us that fathers are "unnecessary!" Indeed, if the academy would produce more honest studies of the results of the philosopies they have espoused, they might recoil at the burden they have placed on society.

Prager concludes with this sobering thought: "For proof of the moral and intellectual consequences of the secularization of America, look at what has happened to the least religious institution in America, the university. Is that the future we want for the whole country?"

The film: 'Expelled' is a pretty powerful documentary. G-d is getting some pretty bad press these days from esteemed writers such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. The Intelligent Design movement, though it is not specifically theistic, is uniformly vilified in the academy. Why is an inquiry into the observable order of the universe so dangerous, especially when open inquiry is such a cherished part of scientific investigation? Perhaps such 'open inquiry' inevitably leads to the 'wrong' conclusions.

Theodore Dalrymple writes in City Journal: "What the New Atheists are Missing." Himself a non-believer, he points to a time when a teacher's hypocrasy led him to question. Dalrymple does not, however, reject the realm of faith as a force in creating and ordering societies. He see's naturalistic explainations and philosophies quite insufficient for dealing with all of human existence. Richard Dawkins' assertions that religious education is tantamount to child abuse, for example seem to Dalrymple no more than the rebellious ranting of a child who's just learned that his parents are not perfect. All of us have experienced some sort of disillusionment in our youth. I remember a time when a nun of the 'Sisters of Mercy' punished me for some infraction I had not [at least in my recollection] committed. I too questioned a lot of things. The Cuban missle crisis fueled more unanswered anxiety as I careened into adolescence.

But something happened in my teenaged years that is etched firmly in my memory. It was a dark and stressful winter day when I decided to walk in the woods near Triadelphia Reservoir. Something spoke to me that afternoon that was more eloquent than the ranting of hormones and the perceived unfairness of life. The buds of the trees were growing fat. here was the hope of spring and new life. Clearly spring would come. The buds gave evidence of an event hoped for. They were indeed the substance of something yet unseen!

"For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:" -- Romans1:20 KJV

Holy writ makes the point that the order and beauty of the creation speaks eloquently of the creator. Thus Intelligent Design, though it merely points out the complex mechanisms of nature, leads one to seek the source of such wisdom. I look to that time in the trees as an affirmation of personal faith in a creator. Though at that point it was pretty detatched and intellectual at best.

"...for he that cometh to G-d must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligenly seek him." Hebrews 11:6b KJV

As a young adult I embraced faith in Christ as redeemer and rewarder. The journey of faith had begun with the fat buds years before though.Therefore I must conlude that those who consider the design of the universe dangerous information have good reason if they fear that others may follow the path I have walked. Dawkins would prefer me to credit space aliens with seeding life to this planet and thus push the hard questions of origin to another world.

Darwinism, in its purest form, rejects the idea that this world is some sort of intentional creation. Of course this leads to the rejection of theism and ultimately the rejection of certain absolutes. 'Expelled' takes a good look at 'eugenics' and how it is supported by a darwinian world view. In the first half of the Twentieth Century certain proponents of eugenics sought to speed evolution along by eliminating the reproduction of certain undesirable types of persons. The results were forced sterilization of the mentally ill and the holecaust. Contrast that movement with Dorethea Dix and others who, motivated by Christian faith, improved conditions for the mentally ill.

Alvin Schmidt makes a good case in his book 'Under the Influence' that faith is a builder of society rather than a force to destroy it. Dalrymple the non-believer would concur. Thus the danger of Intelligent Design leading to dangerous conclusions is much inflated. One might even conclude that the free discussion of order and design,wherever it is found, is wholesome. Certainly there is no basis for its exclusion from the academy.

The argument will no doubt be made: "what about the crusades, what about jihad, religion is dangerous?" Yes, it is certainly something that may be misused, but that must be countered with an honest look at how the so-called "good" science of evolution was the foundation of eugenics. Millions of people were killed in this misguided attempt to improve humanity. Ironically, such brilliant men as Albert Einstein met the criteria for elimination. We reduce the world to only naturalistic explainations at our own peril. The argument for open inquiry stands.

Autumn Leaves. Photo by Bob Kirchman

"When through the woods,and forest glades I wander,
and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
when I look down,from lofty mountain grandeur,

and hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze"
-- "How Great Thou Art" Verse 2

A Case for Summer Vacation
By Bob Kirchman

How does one nurture the creative genius of a Brunel, or the vision of a Wilberforce or a Müller? I would suggest that men and women of that ilk are often found walking on the "road less traveled!" Walking home alone from a prayer meeting along a quiet street, the great designer, R. G. LeTourneau says he was inspired with the design for a rather complex machine that had stymied his most brilliant designers for weeks. Could it be true that not only should we hold off on 'formal' education a bit, but we should make sure children are not scheduled to the point of losing free, creative time.

If indeed the creative muse shows up in the quiet times, if problems are indeed solved through the exploration of play, wouldn't it make sense for us to esteem these times in the sense their descriptive originally suggests: re-creation?! The 'other' Weekly News Magazine [click to read] once argued that Summer Vacation is over romanticized and merely stands in the way of the kids retaining all that book-learning they'll need so they can work for the Chinese some day. OK, I'll give you the point that a certain amount of knowledge is 'lost' as kids pursue other activities... but as one who's life and career was shaped by Summers of 'other activities' I'll raise a clear protest: "Not so fast!"

I spent my Summers drawing, building things, going to camp and playing for hours in the woods. I was Lewis and Clark when I set off to explore the woods surrounding Triadelphia Reservoir... with no Sacajawea to help with directions. Mom got a big bell to ring when it was time to come in for dinner. Sometimes I actually heard it. More often than not my appetite finally brought me back to a plate of cold food. Now I loved my groceries as much as any young boy, but didn't Simon Kenton eat cold biscuits while he was exporing the Ohio Valley?

When my younger siblings were old enough, Dad loaded us in Mom's VW Microbus [Mom was there first when it came to the minivan] and we took road trips. Man, I loved road trips. We'd go to places like Gettysburg and crawl into sniper's nests. We'd imagine what it must have been like rushing up the hill in Pickett's Charge. Then we'd go to Antietem and wonder some more. When I turned sixteen, Dad actually let me drive on the trips. Oh the white-knuckle thrill of the Capital Beltway! The endless perspective of NC Route 12 heading to Hatteras and the rollercoaster ride down US 29 to Grandma's. Life was good in the Summer. I hired myself out to the local farmers to bale hay and other jobs. Hot, nasty work is good for the teenaged soul.

One farmer had a wife who'd make us grape juice and lemonade. I've never found sweeter refreshment in all my life.

One Summer Dad decided I needed to build a greenhouse. He let me draw up the plans and he took them to the county... I was thirteen at the time. He gave me a budget and set me loose. I learned to lay block, build walls, buy old storm windows and pretty much whatever it took. The guys at Talbott's Lumber Yard in Ellicott City gave me lots of free advice. They pretty much convinced me I could do it. I wonder how much Dad was paying them?

I was not a licensed electrician... that presented a problem for hooking up the power. Dad said it wasn't a problem. He had a buddy who was licensed and came out and did the whole job in exchange for a bottle of Jack Daniels [Black Label] that Dad cheerfully 'donated' to the building fund. In addition to the electric heater, we got the brilliant idea that it would benefit the plants with both heat and moisture if we ran the dryer vent in there.

What to do about lint? Well, here's where it got really interesting. When we discovered that a discarded nylon stocking fit over the vent and caught the lint while allowing air to flow, we had our problem solved. Dad enjoyed the 'conversation piece' that resulted too.

The greenhouse, built of redwood, served our family for many years. Finally it succumbed to termites after I was gone and married. It's lessons are still with me today.

Cover Photo: Dark Hollow Falls Rainbow by Bob Kirchman.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

THYME Magazine: What Makes a Nation Great?

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume VIII, Issue II

What Makes a Nation Great?

The 'other' Weekly News Magazine [click to read] once asked: "What makes a school great?" THYME asks: "Why stop there, what makes a NATION great?" As we seek to teach our children the foundations of our Nation, we can agree with the 'other' magazine that it takes great teachers.

No doubt, some will insist that it is a simple matter of perfecting institutions. Some will venture so far as to address the character of man himself, but it is quite evident that those who crafted the original documents our nation is founded on saw a need for a hand greater than their own to guide them. Their own writings give us a clear indication that they did,  so here are some thoughts from our Founding Fathers:

John Adams and John Hancock:
We Recognize No Sovereign but God, and no King but Jesus! [April 18, 1775]

John Adams:
“ The general principles upon which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principals of Christianity… I will avow that I believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of G-d.”
“[July 4th] ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.”
–John Adams in a letter written to Abigail on the day the Declaration was approved by Congress

"We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." --October 11, 1798

"I have examined all religions, as well as my narrow sphere, my straightened means, and my busy life, would allow; and the result is that the Bible is the best Book in the world. It contains more philosophy than all the libraries I have seen." December 25, 1813 letter to Thomas Jefferson

"Without Religion this World would be Something not fit to be mentioned in polite Company, I mean Hell." [John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, April 19, 1817]

Samuel Adams: 
He who made all men hath made the truths necessary to human happiness obvious to all… Our forefathers opened the Bible to all.” [ "American Independence," August 1, 1776. Speech delivered at the State House in Philadelphia]

“ Let divines and philosophers, statesmen and patriots, unite their endeavors to renovate the age by impressing the minds of men with the importance of educating their little boys and girls, inculcating in the minds of youth the fear and love of the Deity… and leading them in the study and practice of the exalted virtues of the Christian system.” [October 4, 1790]

John Quincy Adams:
“Why is it that, next to the birthday of the Savior of the world, your most joyous and most venerated festival returns on this day [the Fourth of July]?" “Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? That it forms a leading event in the progress of the Gospel dispensation? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer's mission upon earth? That it laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity"?
--1837, at the age of 69, when he delivered a Fourth of July speech at Newburyport, Massachusetts.

“The Law given from Sinai [The Ten Commandments] was a civil and municipal as well as a moral and religious code.”
John Quincy Adams. Letters to his son. p. 61

Elias Boudinot:
“Be religiously careful in our choice of all public officers . . . and judge of the tree by its fruits.”

Charles Carroll - signer of the Declaration of Independence
" Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure...are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments." [Source: To James McHenry on November 4, 1800.]

Benjamin Franklin:
“ G-d governs in the affairs of man. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured in the Sacred Writings that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this. I also believe that, without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel” –Constitutional Convention of 1787 original manuscript of this speech

“In the beginning of the contest with Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for Divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered… do we imagine we no longer need His assistance?” [Constitutional Convention, Thursday June 28, 1787]

In Benjamin Franklin's 1749 plan of education for public schools in Pennsylvania, he insisted that schools teach "the excellency of the Christian religion above all others, ancient or modern."

In 1787 when Franklin helped found Benjamin Franklin University, it was dedicated as "a nursery of religion and learning, built on Christ, the Cornerstone."

Alexander Hamilton:
Hamilton began work with the Rev. James Bayard to form the Christian Constitutional Society to help spread over the world the two things which Hamilton said made America great:
(1) Christianity
(2) a Constitution formed under Christianity.
“The Christian Constitutional Society, its object is first: The support of the Christian religion. Second: The support of the United States.”

On July 12, 1804 at his death, Hamilton said, “I have a tender reliance on the mercy of the Almighty, through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am a sinner. I look to Him for mercy; pray for me.”

"For my own part, I sincerely esteem it [the Constitution] a system which without the finger of G-d, never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests." [1787 after the Constitutional Convention]

"I have carefully examined the evidences of the Christian religion, and if I was sitting as a juror upon its authenticity I would unhesitatingly give my verdict in its favor. I can prove its truth as clearly as any proposition ever submitted to the mind of man."

John Hancock:
“In circumstances as dark as these, it becomes us, as Men and Christians, to reflect that whilst every prudent measure should be taken to ward off the impending judgments, …at the same time all confidence must be withheld from the means we use; and reposed only on that God rules in the armies of Heaven, and without His whole blessing, the best human counsels are but foolishness… Resolved; …Thursday the 11th of May…to humble themselves before God under the heavy judgments felt and feared, to confess the sins that have deserved them, to implore the Forgiveness of all our transgressions, and a spirit of repentance and reformation …and a Blessing on the … Union of the American Colonies in Defense of their Rights [for which hitherto we desire to thank Almighty God]…That the people of Great Britain and their rulers may have their eyes opened to discern the things that shall make for the peace of the nation…for the redress of America’s many grievances, the restoration of all her invaded liberties, and their security to the latest generations.
"A Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer, with a total abstinence from labor and recreation. Proclamation on April 15, 1775"

Patrick Henry:
"Orator of the Revolution."

This is all the inheritance I can give my dear family. The religion of Christ can give them one which will make them rich indeed.”
—The Last Will and Testament of Patrick Henry

“It cannot be emphasized too clearly and too often that this nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religion, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason, peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.” [May 1765 Speech to the House of Burgesses]

“The Bible is worth all other books which have ever been printed.”

John Jay:
“ Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.” Source: October 12, 1816. The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, Henry P. Johnston, ed., (New York: Burt Franklin, 1970), Vol. IV, p. 393.

“Whether our religion permits Christians to vote for infidel rulers is a question which merits more consideration than it seems yet to have generally received either from the clergy or the laity. It appears to me that what the prophet said to Jehoshaphat about his attachment to Ahab ["Shouldest thou help the ung-dly and love them that hate the Lord?" 2 Chronicles 19:2] affords a salutary lesson.” [The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, 1794-1826, Henry P. Johnston, editor (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1893), Vol. IV, p.365]

Thomas Jefferson:
“ The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend to all the happiness of man.”

“Of all the systems of morality, ancient or modern which have come under my observation, none appears to me so pure as that of Jesus.”

"I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus."

“God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift from God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, and that His justice cannot sleep forever.” (excerpts are inscribed on the walls of the Jefferson Memorial in the nations capital) [Source: Merrill . D. Peterson, ed., Jefferson Writings, (New York: Literary Classics of the United States, Inc., 1984), Vol. IV, p. 289. From Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVIII, 1781.]

Samuel Johnston:
“It is apprehended that Jews, Mahometans (Muslims), pagans, etc., may be elected to high offices under the government of the United States. Those who are Mahometans, or any others who are not professors of the Christian religion, can never be elected to the office of President or other high office, [unless] first the people of America lay aside the Christian religion altogether, it may happen. Should this unfortunately take place, the people will choose such men as think as they do themselves.
[Elliot’s Debates, Vol. IV, pp 198-199, Governor Samuel Johnston, July 30, 1788 at the North Carolina Ratifying Convention]

James Madison:
“ We’ve staked our future on our ability to follow the Ten Commandments with all of our heart.”

“We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We’ve staked the future of all our political institutions upon our capacity…to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of G-d.” [1778 to the General Assembly of the State of Virginia]

• I have sometimes thought there could not be a stronger testimony in favor of religion or against temporal enjoyments, even the most rational and manly, than for men who occupy the most honorable and gainful departments and [who] are rising in reputation and wealth, publicly to declare the unsatisfactoriness [of temportal enjoyments] by becoming fervent advocates in the cause of Christ; and I wish you may give in your evidence in this way.
Letter by Madison to William Bradford (September 25, 1773)

• In 1812, President Madison signed a federal bill which economically aided the Bible Society of Philadelphia in its goal of the mass distribution of the Bible
“ An Act for the relief of the Bible Society of Philadelphia” Approved February 2, 1813 by Congress

“It is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity toward each other.”

• A watchful eye must be kept on ourselves lest, while we are building ideal monuments of renown and bliss here, we neglect to have our names enrolled in the Annals of Heaven. [Letter by Madison to William Bradford [urging him to make sure of his own salvation] November 9, 1772]

At the Constitutional Convention of 1787, James Madison proposed the plan to divide the central government into three branches. He discovered this model of government from the Perfect Governor, as he read Isaiah 33:22;
“For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver,
the LORD is our king;
He will save us.”
[Baron Charles Montesquieu, wrote in 1748; “Nor is there liberty if the power of judging is not separated from legislative power and from executive power. If it [the power of judging] were joined to legislative power, the power over life and liberty of the citizens would be arbitrary, for the judge would be the legislature if it were joined to the executive power, the judge could have the force of an oppressor. All would be lost if the same … body of principal men … exercised these three powers." Madison claimed Isaiah 33:22 as the source of division of power in government
See also: pp.241-242 in Teaching and Learning America’s Christian History: The Principle approach by Rosalie Slater]

James McHenry – Signer of the Constitution:
Public utility pleads most forcibly for the general distribution of the Holy Scriptures. The doctrine they preach, the obligations they impose, the punishment they threaten, the rewards they promise, the stamp and image of divinity they bear, which produces a conviction of their truths, can alone secure to society, order and peace, and to our courts of justice and constitutions of government, purity, stability and usefulness. In vain, without the Bible, we increase penal laws and draw entrenchments around our institutions. Bibles are strong entrenchments. Where they abound, men cannot pursue wicked courses, and at the same time enjoy quiet conscience.

Jedediah Morse:
"To the kindly influence of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom, and political and social happiness which mankind now enjoys. . . . Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government, and all blessings which flow from them, must fall with them."

John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg:
In a sermon delivered to his Virginia congregation on Jan. 21, 1776, he preached from Ecclesiastes 3.

Arriving at verse 8, which declares that there is a time of war and a time of peace, Muhlenberg noted that this surely was not the time of peace; this was the time of war. Concluding with a prayer, and while standing in full view of the congregation, he removed his clerical robes to reveal that beneath them he was wearing the uniform of an officer in the Continental army! He marched to the back of the church; ordered the drum to beat for recruits and over three hundred men joined him, becoming the Eighth Virginia Brigade. John Peter Muhlenberg finished the Revolution as a Major-General, having been at Valley Forge and having participated in the battles of Brandywine, Germantown, Monmouth, Stonypoint, and Yorktown.

Thomas Paine:
“ It has been the error of the schools to teach astronomy, and all the other sciences, and subjects of natural philosophy, as accomplishments only; whereas they should be taught theologically, or with reference to the Being who is the author of them: for all the principles of science are of divine origin. Man cannot make, or invent, or contrive principles: he can only discover them; and he ought to look through the discovery to the Author.”
“ The evil that has resulted from the error of the schools, in teaching natural philosophy as an accomplishment only, has been that of generating in the pupils a species of atheism. Instead of looking through the works of creation to the Creator himself, they stop short, and employ the knowledge they acquire to create doubts of his existence. They labour with studied ingenuity to ascribe every thing they behold to innate properties of matter, and jump over all the rest by saying, that matter is eternal.” “The Existence of God--1810”

Benjamin Rush:
• “I lament that we waste so much time and money in punishing crimes and take so little pains to prevent them…we neglect the only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government; that is, the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by means of the Bible; for this Divine Book, above all others, constitutes the soul of republicanism.” “By withholding the knowledge of [the Scriptures] from children, we deprive ourselves of the best means of awakening moral sensibility in their minds.” [Letter written (1790’s) in Defense of the Bible in all schools in America]
• “Christianity is the only true and perfect religion.”
• “If moral precepts alone could have reformed mankind, the mission of the Son of God into our world would have been unnecessary.”

"Let the children who are sent to those schools be taught to read and write and above all, let both sexes be carefully instructed in the principles and obligations of the Christian religion. This is the most essential part of education”
Letters of Benjamin Rush, "To the citizens of Philadelphia: A Plan for Free Schools", March 28, 1787

Justice Joseph Story:
“ I verily believe Christianity necessary to the support of civil society. One of the beautiful boasts of our municipal jurisprudence is that Christianity is a part of the Common Law. . . There never has been a period in which the Common Law did not recognize Christianity as lying its foundations.”
[Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States p. 593]
“ Infidels and pagans were banished from the halls of justice as unworthy of credit.” [Life and letters of Joseph Story, Vol. II 1851, pp. 8-9.]
“ At the time of the adoption of the constitution, and of the amendment to it, now under consideration [i.e., the First Amendment], the general, if not the universal sentiment in America was, that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the state, so far as was not incompatible with the private rights of conscience, and the freedom of religious worship.”
[Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States p. 593]

Noah Webster:
“ The duties of men are summarily comprised in the Ten Commandments, consisting of two tables; one comprehending the duties which we owe immediately to G-d-the other, the duties we owe to our fellow men.”

“In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government ought to be instructed...No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.”
[Source: 1828, in the preface to his American Dictionary of the English Language]

Let it be impressed on your mind that G-d commands you to choose for rulers just men who will rule in the fear of God [Exodus 18:21]. . . . If the citizens neglect their duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted . . . If our government fails to secure public prosperity and happiness, it must be because the citizens neglect the Divine commands, and elect bad men to make and administer the laws. [Noah Webster, The History of the United States (New Haven: Durrie and Peck, 1832), pp. 336-337, 49]

“All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.” [Noah Webster. History. p. 339]

“The Bible was America’s basic textbook
in all fields.” [Noah Webster. Our Christian Heritage p.5]

“Education is useless without the Bible” [Noah Webster. Our Christian Heritage p.5 ]

George Washington:
Farewell Address: The name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion" ...and later: "...reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle..."

“ It is impossible to rightly govern the world without G-d and Bible.”

“What students would learn in American schools above all is the religion of Jesus Christ.” [speech to the Delaware Indian Chiefs May 12, 1779]

"To the distinguished character of patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian" [May 2, 1778, at Valley Forge]

During his inauguration, Washington took the oath as prescribed by the Constitution but added several religious components to that official ceremony. Before taking his oath of office, he summoned a Bible on which to take the oath, added the words “So help me G-d!” to the end of the oath, then leaned over and kissed the Bible.

Nelly Custis-Lewis (Washington’s adopted daughter):
Is it necessary that any one should [ask], “Did General Washington avow himself to be a believer in Christianity?" As well may we question his patriotism, his heroic devotion to his country. His mottos were, "Deeds, not Words"; and, "For G-d and my Country."

“ O Most Glorious G-d, in Jesus Christ, my merciful and loving Father; I acknowledge and confess my guilt in the weak and imperfect performance of the duties of this day. I have called on Thee for pardon and forgiveness of my sins, but so coldly and carelessly that my prayers are become my sin, and they stand in need of pardon.”
“ I have sinned against heaven and before Thee in thought, word, and deed. I have contemned Thy majesty and holy laws. I have likewise sinned by omitting what I ought to have done and committing what I ought not. I have rebelled against the light, despising Thy mercies and judgment, and broken my vows and promise. I have neglected the better things. My iniquities are multiplied and my sins are very great. I confess them, O Lord, with shame and sorrow, detestation and loathing and desire to be vile in my own eyes as I have rendered myself vile in Thine. I humbly beseech Thee to be merciful to me in the free pardon of my sins for the sake of Thy dear Son and only Savior Jesus Christ who came to call not the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Thou gavest Thy Son to die for me.”
[George Washington; from a 24 page authentic handwritten manuscript book dated April 21-23, 1752
William J. Johnson George Washington, the Christian (New York: The Abingdon Press, New York & Cincinnati, 1919), pp. 24-35.]

"Although guided by our excellent Constitution in the discharge of official duties, and actuated, through the whole course of my public life, solely by a wish to promote the best interests of our country; yet, without the beneficial interposition of the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, we could not have reached the distinguished situation which we have attained with such unprecedented rapidity. To HIM, therefore, should we bow with gratitude and reverence, and endeavor to merit a continuance of HIS special favors". [1797 letter to John Adams]

James Wilson:
Signer of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution
Supreme Court Justice appointed by George Washington
Spoke 168 times during the Constitutional Convention

"Christianity is part of the common law"
[Sources: James Wilson, Course of Lectures [vol 3, p.122]; and quoted in Updegraph v. The Commonwealth, 11 Serg, & R. 393, 403 (1824).]

Source: Quotes of the Founding Fathers.

Photo by Nick Page.

School Starting Age: The Evidence
by David Whitebread

Earlier this month the "Too Much, Too Soon" campaign made headlines with a letter calling for a change to the start age for formal learning in schools. Here, one of the signatories, Cambridge researcher David Whitebread, from the Faculty of Education, explains why children may need more time to develop before their formal education begins in earnest.

"In the interests of children’s academic achievements and their emotional well-being, the UK government should take this evidence seriously" -- David Whitebread

In England children now start formal schooling, and the formal teaching of literacy and numeracy at the age of four. A recent letter signed by around 130 early childhood education experts, including myself, published in the Daily Telegraph (11 Sept 2013) advocated an extension of informal, play-based pre-school provision and a delay to the start of formal ‘schooling’ in England from the current effective start until the age of seven (in line with a number of other European countries who currently have higher levels of academic achievement and child well-being).

This is a brief review of the relevant research evidence [1.] which overwhelmingly supports a later start to formal education. This evidence relates to the contribution of playful experiences [2.] to children’s development as learners, and the consequences of starting formal learning at the age of four to five years of age

There are several strands of evidence which all point towards the importance of play in young children’s development, and the value of an extended period of playful learning before the start of formal schooling. These arise from anthropological, psychological, neuroscientific and educational studies. Anthropological studies of children’s play in extant hunter-gatherer societies, and evolutionary psychology studies of play in the young of other mammalian species, have identified play as an adaptation which evolved in early human social groups. It enabled humans to become powerful learners and problem-solvers. Neuroscientific studies have shown that playful activity leads to synaptic growth, particularly in the frontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for all the uniquely human higher mental functions.

In my own area of experimental and developmental psychology, studies have also consistently demonstrated the superior learning and motivation arising from playful, as opposed to instructional, approaches to learning in children. Pretence play supports children’s early development of symbolic representational skills, including those of literacy, more powerfully than direct instruction. Physical, constructional and social play supports children in developing their skills of intellectual and emotional ‘self-regulation’, skills which have been shown to be crucial in early learning and development. Perhaps most worrying, a number of studies have documented the loss of play opportunities for children over the second half of the 20th century and demonstrated a clear link with increased indicators of stress and mental health problems.

Within educational research, a number of longitudinal studies have demonstrated superior academic, motivational and well-being outcomes for children who had attended child-initiated, play-based pre-school programmes. One particular study of 3,000 children across England, funded by the Department for Education themselves, showed that an extended period of high quality, play-based pre-school education was of particular advantage to children from disadvantaged households.

Studies have compared groups of children in New Zealand who started formal literacy lessons at ages 5 and 7. Their results show that the early introduction of formal learning approaches to literacy does not improve children’s reading development, and may be damaging. By the age of 11 there was no difference in reading ability level between the two groups, but the children who started at 5 developed less positive attitudes to reading, and showed poorer text comprehension than those children who had started later. In a separate study of reading achievement in 15 year olds across 55 countries, researchers showed that there was no significant association between reading achievement and school entry age.

This body of evidence raises important and serious questions concerning the direction of travel of early childhood education policy currently in England. In the interests of children’s academic achievements and their emotional well-being, the UK government should take this evidence seriously.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. [1.] The original article appears Here [click to read].