Righteous Laws Do Not Make a Nation Righteous

I posted this a couple of years ago – but as we head into another election season and as the rhetoric again heats up as to our need to be a “Christian” nation, I thought I would share it again.

Grandma's Ramblings

For many weeks this post has been on my mind.  I have hesitated in writing it because the last thing I want is to offend anyone or cause more divisiveness than we already have in our nation.

But as the past few days have become so bad with clashes between different factions in our nation, I feel I must share what is in my heart.

First, a disclaimer here:  I am not pro-Trump or never-Trump.  I am not here to promote any political party.  I am also not here to even promote the Christian faith.  If you are Muslim, Jewish or atheist I am not speaking to you.  My words are to those who, like me, call themselves Christian.

When Trump ran for president he was strongly embraced by many in the evangelical world.  One of the main reasons for their support was that Trump promised to promote Christian principles…

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Friday’s Quotes For Laughter and/or Wisdom – Robert Frost

Robert Frost is one of my favorite poets.

One that I really love is “The Road Not Taken.” I feel the last
part of that poem in many ways sums up my life. Many times, I think I have
taken the “one less traveled by.”

Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference

Do I regret it? Never. It has made life interesting.

So here are a few of his quotes.  Hope you enjoy them.  If you have never read his poetry, I encourage you to do so.  I think you will enjoy them.

  1. Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.
  2. A diplomat is a man who always remembers a woman’s birthday but never remembers her age.
  3. Before I built a wall, I’d ask to know what I was walling in or walling out.
  4. Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it.
  5. The reason why worry kills more people than work is that more people worry than work.
  6. If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.In three words I can summed everything I have learned about life…”It goes on.”
  7. Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.
  8. The best way out is always through.
  9. The best things and best people rise out of their separateness; I’m against a homogenized society because I want the cream to rise.
  10. The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.

I Have My Rights!

Probably no country in the world has been more adamant about the rights of its citizens and the role of government in maintaining those rights. When the U.S. Constitution was written, three delegates to the Constitutional Convention did not sign it because it lacked a bill of rights.

Created in 1787 the Constitution became the official foundation of the USA in 1788 when New Hampshire became the ninth state out of the 13 to ratify it. Many states agreed to ratify it with the understanding that a bill of rights would be quickly added.

In 1789, 19 amendments were submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives. James Madison is given credit for writing them although it is believed others, including George Mason, who had refused to sign the Constitution without a bill of rights, had given input. Seventeen of the 19 amendments were approved by the House and sent to the Senate. The Senate approved 12 of them and in December 1791 the states had ratified ten of them.

Throughout the history of our country these amendments and the rights they gave have been debated and challenged in our courts. Today it is the Second Amendment that has produced so much disagreement and arguing.

The point of this post is not to argue for or against exactly what that amendment meant in regards to our right to possess guns.

But what distrurbs me is the role many evangelical leaders are taking in pushing an agenda of the “rights” of Christians. Many have been very hostile in speaking against those who do not agree with the “Christian” point of view. Sadly they seem to feel that their viewpoint is the “Christian” viewpoint and anyone who opposes that is clearly not a Christian.

The contrast between this militant voice of many evangelicals and the voice of Jesus shows that the Christian “right” has lost its Biblical connection.

Listen to the words of Jesus:

“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Jesus said we need to become a servant. To be a follower of Jesus does not mean you have no rights. It means you give up your rights freely in order to bless and help someone else.

Hear how Jesus was described:

“Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.”

Although Jesus had a “right” to be treated like royalty he gave up that right and make himself “like a slave.” In doing so He modeled exactly what He meant when He said “If any man desires to be first, let him be last and servant of all.”

Jesus ministered in a country that was under the rule of another nation, the Roman Empire. There was much that was unjust in that time. But Jesus said nothing about trying to change the political scene. He said his kingdom was not of this world. He had a plan that was much bigger and greater than any government, any nation, any political party.

The issues we as Christians face in our country today do need to be faced and legislated and thank God because we have rights, we have the right to express ourselves. But we must not invest so much of our time and energy in trying to make our nation Christian by trying to force our beliefs on others that we fail to introduce them to a different kind of kingdom, one based on the love of God. (Laws may change behavior, but they will never change hearts.)

“Passing laws to enforce morality serves a necessary function, to dam up evil, but it never solves human problems. If a century from now all that historians can say about evangelicals of the 1990’s is that they stood for family values, then we will have failed the mission Jesus gave us to accomplish; to communicate God’s reconciling love to sinners….Jesus did not say ‘All men will know you are my disciples…if you just pass laws, suppress immorality and restore decency to family and government,’ but rather ‘if you love one another.’ “

He made that statement the night before His death, a night when human power, represented by the might of Rome and the full force of Jewish religious authorities, collided head-on with God’s power. All his life, Jesus had been involved in a form of “culture wars” against a rigid religious establishment and a pagan empire, yet he responded by giving his life for those who opposed him. On the cross, he forgave them. He had come, above all, to demonstrate love: “for God so loved the world he gave his one and only Son…”

Philip Yancey in his book “the jesus I never knew.” i highly recommend this book

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The Wesley Garden

One of the favorite places I ever visited on our road trips is St. Simons Island. If I won the lottery (which I don’t play) I would have a home there. It is not only beautiful with the old oak trees and Spanish moss, but full of history.

One of the attractions there is the Wesley Gardens. Named for John and Charles Wesley, founders of the Methodist movement, the garden is filled with native trees and plants and is a beautiful place to just sit and enjoy God’s creation.

The oak trees are so massive and beautiful.

There are over 4,000 azaleas in so many different colors.

In the middle of the garden is an 18-foot Celtic cross honoring the ministry of John and Charles Wesley.

Charles Wesley came to the colony of Georgia in 1736 where he served as secretary for Indian Affairs to Georgia’s founder, James Edward Oglethorpe. He was also the chaplain at Fort Frederica on the island. This fort was built to protect the colony from Spanish attacks from the south (what is now Florida). Charles’ work as minister at Frederica did not last very long. His very strict rules did not sit well with the colonists and he left after only a few months. His brother, John Wesley, served as missionary to the colony of Georgia from February 1736 to December 1737. He also returned to England discouraged about his work there.

However, both brothers went back to England and continued a successful ministry there. John established a movement that later grew into the Methodist Church. Charles was a prolific hymn composer, and many churches even today sing some of his hymns. Here is a list of some that I remember singing as a child.

  • Christ the Lord is Risen Today
  • Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
  • Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
  • Jesus, Lover of My Soul
  • Oh for a Thousand Tongues to Sing

A Christian Nation?

As we hear a lot of debate now about whether or not we are/we should be a Christian nation, I would like to share the words of The Rev. Joseph Farnes, rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Boise. I think he gives us much to consider.

“But let’s ask a question: What would a Christian nation really look like?

A nation that gives access to health care to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay? Jesus healed a lot of people. He didn’t even ask whether they were employed or able to work.

A nation that supports education for all? Jesus taught the crowds openly and freely, and his disciples provided for material needs. Good thing Jesus wasn’t working on a teacher’s salary!

A nation that supports families and children — with access to nourishing food, clothing and community support? Where kids can go to school in safety, without fear of being murdered by someone with a gun? Imagine being eager to take care that there is no stumbling block for one of these little ones.

A nation that is slow to anger and abundant in steadfast love? Love toward neighbors and even enemies?

A nation that is quick to forgive crippling debts and burdens? “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors!” Uh-oh, what about personal responsibility?

A nation that embraces refugees, remembering that Jesus, Mary and Joseph sought refuge in Egypt when despotic Herod targeted them?

A nation that prizes goodness and righteousness over wealth? “You cannot serve God and wealth,” as it says in Matthew 6:24.

Now that’s an interesting image of a Christian nation. Even so, I wouldn’t want the nation to be conflated with Christianity. As a faithful Christian, I want all these things for people, no matter their religion, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, abilities or lack of economic power. An America for all Americans.

Christianity should always push for greater goodness, greater justice, greater mercy, not greater power. That’s a Christianity worthy of the name of Christ.”

Legend of the White Buffalo

Located in Jamestown, North Dakota is the National Buffalo Museum. They state that their purpose is “to advocate for the restoration of the North American bison through education and outreach.” It was an interesting stop on our road trip out west. The museum’s website states:

The National Buffalo Museum opened in June of 1993 and has since been dedicated to preserving the history of the bison and promoting the modern bison business.

In 1991, the North Dakota Buffalo Foundation (NDBF) (d.b.a. the National Buffalo Museum) formed to start a herd of bison that would graze in the pasture just below the “World’s Largest Buffalo” monument in Jamestown, ND. Around the same time, the National Buffalo Foundation was looking for a facility to house and display numerous accumulated bison-related objects, artwork, and historical memorabilia from the bison business. Thanks to tireless advocacy from the founding board members of the NDBF, many of whom were themselves bison producers, the first five animals in this herd came from Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the site of that first small herd became the home of the National Buffalo Museum.

Paul standing below the “world’s largest buffalo”

We saw three white buffalo. The first one was White Cloud born in 1996. She gave birth three times before giving birth to Dakota Miracle in 2007. The next year another buffalo gave birth to an albino buffalo named Dakota Legend. These three very rare animals were quite a draw for the museum in Jamestown.

I wanted to get closer for this picture but decided I should probably stay outside the fenced area after I saw this sign.

This very rare animal is seen as sacred by many Native American plains Indians. The Lakota believed that the White Buffalo Calf Woman brought them the first sacred pipe. There are apparently different versions to the legend but this is the one we were told.

The legend states that two scouts were out looking for bison when they saw a white cloud coming toward them. As it came closer, they saw a young Indian woman dressed in white buckskin and carrying a bundle. She was the most beautiful woman they had ever seen.

One of the scouts had bad thoughts about her and shared them with his companion. He responded “That is a sacred woman; throw all bad thoughts away.” She knew their thoughts and said “If you want to do as you think, you may come.” When the scout with the bad thoughts came close to her a white cloud covered them both. The young woman came out of the cloud, blew it away and at her feet lay the bones of the foolish scout with the bad thoughts.

She then told the other scout to go home and tell his people that she was coming and they should build a big tipi for her. Four days later she came to the village. As she sang, a white cloud came from her mouth that was good to smell. She then gave the Chief a pipe with a bison calf carved on one side to mean the earth that bears and feeds us, and with twelve eagle feathers hanging from the stem for the sky and the twelve moons.

She told the Chief, “With this pipe, you will be bound to all your relatives. All these people and all things in the universe are joined to you who smoke the pipe. With this, you shall muliple and be a good nation.”

She stayed with them for four days showing them how to prepare the pipe and how to smoke it. This is how the pipe came to the Lakota tribe.

When the left she promised to return in times of need. She walked in the direction of the sun stopping to roll over four times. The first time she got up as a black buffalo. The second time she became a brown buffalo, the third time a red buffalo and then finally a white buffalo. The white buffalo walked on, stopped, bowed to each of the four directions and then disappeared over the hill.

This legend also led to the white buffalo umbilical cord pouch. When a baby was born, the umbilical cord was dried and put in a beaded pouch which was often turtle or lizard shaped. They believed the cord was the connection to life before birth and after death. When the person died, the pouch would be buried with him/her.

I recently discovered that Dakota Miracle died from injuries he sustained when he fell down a ravine. The Museum said his lack of pigmentation included poor eyesight and they believe this contributed to his fall.

If you make a trip to North Dakota this museum is worth planning a stop to see.

A List for Wisdom and Laughter – In Honor of Mothers

I have shared some of the one sentence (or two) quotes that I have found either good for a laugh – or serious reflection.

So – in honor of our mothers, let me share some quotes that I hope will make you laugh – but also appreciate your mother.

Things mother would NEVER say:

  1. “How on earth can you see the TV sitting so far back?”
  2. “Yeah, I used to skip school a lot, too”
  3. “Just leave all the lights on … it makes the house look more cheery”
  4. “Let me smell that shirt — Yeah, it’s good for another week”
  5. “Go ahead and keep that stray dog, honey. I’ll be glad to feed and walk him every day”
  6. “Well, if Timmy’s mom says it’s OK, that’s good enough for me.”
  7. “The curfew is just a general time to shoot for. It’s not like I’m running a prison around here.”
  8. “I don’t have a tissue with me … just use your sleeve”
  9. “Don’t bother wearing a jacket – the wind-chill is bound to improve.
  10. You don’t want to eat your vegetables – just grab a hand of M&M’s.

A New Look at My Childhood Songs

On a trip south we visited the Stephen Foster Museum.

The house and museum is located in the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center Park on the banks of the legendary Suwannee River. This river was made famous by Foster’s song “Old Folks at Home.”

The grounds are beautiful with majestic old trees.

As wandered the grounds we headed down to see this famous river.

Getting closer to the water I saw the sign warning of alligators and beat a hasty retreat.

Inside the building were many beautiful old pianos and paintings depicting many of Foster’s songs.

Foster wrote over 200 songs and was called the “Father of American Music.”

His song “My Old Kentucky Home” is the official song of the state of Kentucky. It is believed he wrote his famous song “I Dream of Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair” as an attempt to win back his wife who had left him. While many of his songs are about the South he never lived there and only visited it once on his honeymoon.

While I grew up singing many of Foster’s folk songs both at home and in choir at school, I doubt that many of his songs would be used today. They clearly depict a world of southern white culture and its ties to slavery.

As a child I sang “Oh Susanna” but it was only when I did more research of Foster that I heard the second verse. On my!

“Massa’s in the Cold, Cold Ground” talks of how the “darkeys” are crying because their master is dead and how he made them love him because he treated them so kindly.

The State of Florida’s official song is “The Old Folks at Home.” Thankfully they have changed some of the offensive words;

Original words: All up and down the whole creation, Sadly I roam. I’m a still a-longin’ for the old plantation, Oh, for the old folks at home.

New version: All up and down this whole creation, Sadly I roam, Still longing for my childhood station, And for the old folks at home.

Original words: All the world is sad and dreary, Ev’rywhere I roam. Oh, darkies, how my heart grows weary, Far from the old folks at home.

New version: All the world is sad and dreary Everywhere I roam. O dear ones, how my heart grows weary, Far from the old folks at home.

On the grounds there is a 97-bell carillon and his songs are played throughout the day. This carillon is one of the largest musical instruments ever produced in the Western Hemisphere, and the world’s largest tubular carillon in number of bells.

The park itself is beautiful with hiking, bicycling, canoeing and wildlife viewing for visitors. There is also a full-facility campground and cabins to rent.

While I enjoyed the beautiful grounds and recognized many of the songs from my childhood as I took a closer look at many of the lyrics I left with mixed feelings about the place.

You’re Going to Employ Women

Before WWII most of society frowned on women working outside the home. Most of the working women were from lower working classes doing menial jobs. With WWII there became a shortage of workers as so many men were in the armed forces plus there was an increased demand for wartime production.

In 1943 Secretary of War Henry Stimson said, “The War Department must fully utilize, immediately and effectively, the largest and potentially the finest single source of labor available today – the vast reserve of woman power.” To encourage employment of women, on April 1, 1943 the U.S. War Department published a pamphlet entitled “You’re Going to Employ Women.”

I found a copy of the pamphlet and I had to laugh at some of the advice given to potential employers of women. Here is just some of the statements in the pamphlet:

  • Women are pliant – adaptable
  • Women are dexterous – finger-nimble
  • Women are accurate – precision workers
  • Women are good at repetitive tasks
  • Women are fine color and material observants
  • Women can be trained to do almost any job you’ve got

Further instructions were:

In some respects women workers are superior to men. Properly hired, properly trained properly handled, new women employees are splendidly efficient workers.

In spite of the government’s propaganda campaigns to employ women, there was still some resistance. Some worried women would become too masculine, would take jobs from men, would upset home life, would have negative effects on children.

Minority women faced even more challenges to working. Black women found it hard to obtain a job. Women from Japanese and Italian backgrounds found widespread prejudices.

One of the main stars of the propaganda campaign was Rosie the Riveter. Rosie was a fictional icon representing women who worked in the WWII munitions and war supplies industries. She was designed to look strong enough to handle the manual labor, yet also feminine enough to reassure men that women working would not lose their feminine appearance. Rosie’s picture was seen in newspapers, magazines, posters, and even music.

Hitler used America women working in his own propaganda campaign noting that the German women’s job was to have babies and be good wives and mothers to the Third Reich.

Women found it difficult to balance work and child care. Eleanor Roosevelt encouraged her husband, President Franklin D Roosevelt, to create childcare facilities. She also encouraged employers to provide childcare facilities for their workers.

Women entering the work force changed much of the fashion for women. High-heels were out. Clothing had fewer adornments. Khaki jackets and blue jeans became popular. Following Rosie’s picture, slacks and headscarves was the fashion thing to wear. Wool and silk were rationed due to the need for military uniforms and parachutes. Manufactured fibers such as rayon and viscose became popular. When nylon was also restricted, women were forced to not wear stockings.

Along with women entering the work force at home, approximately 350,000 women joined the military. They served as nurses, truck drivers, mechanics and clerical workers. Military groups for women organized in WWII were:

  • Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps – later named the Women’s Army Corps (WAC)
  • Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services (WAVES)
  • Women’s Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs)

Over 1600 female nurses received military honors and decorations for courage under fire. Women could only serve in the military in times of war until 1948 when Congress allowed women to serve as full-fledged members of all branches of the military.

Many feared after WWII that women in the work force would take jobs needed by the men returning from war. Many women gladly returned back to the home and many were laid off. However, WWII opened the door to women in the work force and this source of labor has only increased since then.

Checking the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, I found that in 2019 57.4 percent of all women participated in the labor force. And, as expected, women still made less than men. According to the Bureau in 2019, women who worked full time in wage and salary jobs had median usual weekly earnings of $821, which represented 82 percent of men’s median weekly earnings ($1,007).

The final page of the pamphlet I found gave me a last laugh:

A woman worker is not a man; in many jobs she is a substitute – like plastics instead of metal – she has special characteristics that lend themselves to new and sometimes superior uses.

After reading that, I had to wonder what superior uses they thought women would bring to the labor force. And I love their statement that a woman worker is not a man – just a substitute. They opened the door for women to be in the work force – and here we are – hardly a substitute.

First Woman in Congress

Hard to believe that it has been less than 100 years since women were granted the right to vote. The 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified on August 18, 1920, granting women the full rights of citizenship.

What is ironic is that four years before women were granted the right to vote, a woman had already been elected to the United States Congress. Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first woman to serve in Congress. While most of the USA did not allow women to vote until this amendment was ratified, some states had permitted voting by women.

Montana granted women the right to vote in 1914 and they soon elected Rankin to represent them in Congress. Rankin declared “I may be the first woman in Congress, but I won’t be the last.

She was right. Today there are 24 women in the Senate (24%) and 121 (27.8) in the House of Representatives.

While in Congress, Rankin proposed the formation of a Committee on Woman Suffrage, of which she was appointed leader. After WWI ended and her committee had issued a report for a constitutional amendment granting women the right to vote, she asked the congressmen:

“How shall we explain to them the meaning of democracy if the same Congress that voted to make the world safe for democracy refuses to give this small measure of democracy to the women of our country?” 

While serving her first term in Congress, she voted, along with 49 men, to not enter World War I. After serving two years in Congress, she did not run to be elected for another term. Some historians believe her vote against the war led her to realize she could not get reelected. Her brother, Wellington Rankin, who was a prominent Republican in Montana, advised her not to run. He said “I knew she couldn’t be elected again if she did vote against the war. I didn’t want to see her destroy herself.” Many of the suffragists leaders felt she betrayed their cause by her vote.

Although she opposed the war, once we entered the battle, she voted for war-time appropriations to fund the troops and supported the government taking over the mines to gain resources for the war effort.

After leaving Congress, she continued to be active working for pacifism and social welfare issues. She worked for better health care for women and children. She became a speaker for the National Council for the Prevention of War and attended the Women’s International Conference for Peace held in Switzerland. She purchased a small farm in Georgia that had no electricity or plumbing and worked with others in the state to organize a study group on antiwar foreign policy. This group eventually became the Georgia Peace Society.

In 1940, at age 60, she returned to her home state of Montana and ran again for Congress. This time she was not alone – there were six other women in Congress.

After America was attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan. When the House opened debate on the resolution, Rankin tried to speak. Speaker Sam Rayburn declared her out of order and members of the House began calling for her to be silent. Members pressured her to vote for the war or abstain. She refused to do either. She said “As a woman I can’t go to war, and I refuse to send anyone else.” She was the only vote against the war.

After the vote she huddled in a phone booth in the Republican cloak room until security could escort her to her office. She did not run for reelection but she said “I have nothing left but my integrity.”

Leaving Congress, Rankin spent time on her ranch in Montana and her cabin in Georgia. She continued her stand against war leading a 5,000 person protest march on Washingtn in 1968 where she offered a peace petition to House Speaker John McCormack.

The House honored her on her 90th birthday with a reception and dinner. In 1972 she was named the “World’s Outstanding Living Feminist” by the National Organization for Women.

When she died in 1974 she was thinking of running again for the House so she could protest the Vietnam War. Today there is a statute of Rankin in the Montana State House.