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Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards. With his first swallow of water, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take because some stupid commie liberal fought to ensure their safety and that they work as advertised.

All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer’s medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance – now Joe gets it too.

He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs. Joe’s bacon is safe to eat because some girly- man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained.

Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for the laws to stop industries from polluting our air.

He walks on the government-provided sidewalk to the subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation costs because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.

Joe begins his work day. He has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe’s employer pays these standards because Joe’s employer doesn’t want his employees to call the union.

If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, he’ll get a worker compensation or an unemployment check because some stupid liberal didn’t think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune.

It is noontime and Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe’s deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some godless liberal wanted to protect Joe’s money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression.

Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage and his below-market federal student loan because some elitist liberal decided that Joe and the country would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his lifetime. Joe also forgets that his in addition to his federally subsidized student loans, he attended a state-funded university.

Joe is home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards to go along with the tax- payer funded roads.

He arrives at his boyhood home. His was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers’ Home Administration because bankers didn’t want to make rural loans.

The house didn’t have electricity until some big- government liberal stuck his nose where it didn’t belong and demanded rural electrification.

He is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father lives on Social Security and a union pension because some wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberals made sure Dad could take care of himself so Joe wouldn’t have to.

Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn’t mention that the beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day. Joe agrees: “We don’t need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I’m a self-made man who believes everyone should take care of himself, just like I have.”-

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A long time ago, I can remember being ideologically drawn to the Republican party. Certainly as a youth this was a bit counter-culture to most my age. Yet, I saw the appeal of things that I admired: Values based platform, respect for state’s rights and less big government, balanced budget, discerned spending, and a sense of nationalism.  Republicans seemed to always be the more compassionate party, while Democrats were always the kooks. These were the things that Ronald Regan stood for and I was proud to support him in both terms. There hasnt been a finer example of Presidential-ism since.

But things have changed – drastically.  I think it more common to become more conservative as one ages, not the other way around. However, with the mass ideological shift of the Republican part, it just seems that they are out of touch with mainstream America, and as such, ineffective.

I came across an interesting perspective that seemed to hit it on the head…I paraphrase it here for brevity.  Think of these as the new, 21st century beliefs you must adhere to if you are to be in the Republican Party today:

1.  You must believe that being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime – unless you’re a millionaire right wing radio gasbag; then, it’s an “illness” and requires prayer for “recovery”. Right Rush?

2. You must believe that those born to privilege achieve success on their own, but that all of their customers are lazy and stupid. Sadly, I have to admit this has always been the case.

3.  You must believe that ethics are an inconvenience that only Democrats bother with, and that any way you raise money is okay, so long as you don’t get caught. Hence why in 6 years the Republican members of Congress have solidified against every ethics initiative brought before the bodies. And we dont need to talk about Rove, Libby, and other corrupt officials.

4. You must believe that folks who work for their money should be taxed at a high rate, but those who get their money for nothing should be exempt from taxation.  Sadly this has been the case for a while also. I dont understand why someone making $10,000,000 a year should pay less tax than a father of 2 trying to make ends meet and sending a kid to college, and not getting any tax break for it.

5. You must believe that being “morally upright” means hating gays and liberals, and anyone else who doesn’t hate gays and liberals.  When did it get to be national politics for your biases to become law and force them on everyone else, who also so happen to be citizens of this country.  Show me ANYWHERE in the U. S. Constitution that hints at this. If you dont like it morally, thats your business, work with your church to do whatever you wish – that is the proper vehicle for MORAL change, not the Federal government.

6. You must believe that, to rid the country of crime, you must rid the world of people not like you. You speak alot about terrorism, and yet the single thing that drives terrorists wild, is the idea that all citizens in this country can speak their mind, without fear of reprisal. Pluralism is the hallmark of democracy, yet Republicans feel otherwise. Shame on you.

7.  You must agree that racking up huge amounts of debt and handing it off to future generations is worth the few thousand extra in tax breaks given to your wealthy “investors.” Nuff said on that, review the last 6 years and see where the deficit and debt levels have gone!

8.  You must believe the US should pull out of the UN, at the same time you claim our highest national priority is to start a war to enforce UN resolutions. Something I never understood. In addition to starting a war on manufactured, deceptive information (and defrauding Congress). you ask the UN for permission to conduct an offensive, then ignore it, but wish to hold other countries to the resolutions. Is there ANY surprise that the US and Israel are the largest violators of UN resolutions in the history of the organization?

9. You must believe that government should stay out of people’s financial lives, but should socially engineer any behaviors deemed “unacceptable.” That the government should stay out of our checkbooks, but feel perfectly at home on our bedrooms and doctors offices.

10. You must believe that profitable pollution is perfectly ok, and that all science is bunk when it cuts into profits.  Now look where we are!

11. You must support prayer in schools, as long as no one prays to Allah or Buddha. Hyprocrites.

12. You must believe that rushing to Washington to vote to keep a dead woman’s tube in place is more important than seeing thousands of people drown in a hurricane.  Perhaps the single most embarassing, tragic and defiled abuse of governmental power in the history of the US.

13. You must believe that no Republican is crooked, as long as he says the right thing and writes you a big enough check.

14. You must believe that, while a woman cannot be trusted with decisions about her own body, huge multi-national corporations can be trusted to make decisions affecting all mankind with no regulation whatsoever. Irresponsible pharmaceutical companies that sell a drug for cents in Norway, sell it for hundreds in the US, just because the insurance companies can pay.

15. You must believe that Jesus loves you, but shares your hatred and distrust of the poor, homosexuals, and the Clintons.  If you dont believe this, please go listen to the ultra right wing, fundamentalist rhetoric in the past, and in this current election. Oh by the way, yes they are funded by donations that could be saving people all over the world, helping mothers make good moral decisions, and rendering aid to the underprivileged. But, lobbiests give more publicity.

16. You must believe that the best way to show appreciation to the troops is to charge them to fly home for leave, serve plastic turkey and cut their VA benefits.  Yes its thre Republicans that did this, all the while talking about “honoring their service”. Look it up if you dont believe it.

17. You must think that keeping sex education and birth control out of schools is the wisest course, because without them, teenagers will never have sex.  Yeah that will work. How about those churches using that money to build activity centers for kids to help teach them? Oh, no that wont work.

18.  You must think that the best way to fight terrorism is to alienate our allies and piss off the rest of the world at the same time we demand their cooperation and money. Do we really have any friends left?  Didnt the UK just announce the reduction of troops? Hmm.

19. You must believe that single-payer health care, in which everyone pays for and receives health insurance, would be a disaster compared to the current system, in which 40 million people are forbidden from paying into the system, but still receive emergency health care. You must also believe that insurance companies only care about giving you the best darn health care there is, damn the profit. You must also believe that providing health care to Iraqis is good policy, while providing it to Americans is a “Socialist plot.”

20.  You must agree that the link between tobacco and cancer is “dubious,” that claims of global warming are “junk science” and that creationism has a sound scientific basis that should be part of all school curricula.

21. You must agree that Saddam Hussein was a good guy when Reagan was sending him arms, a bad guy when he invaded Kuwait, a good guy again when Cheney did business with him at Halliburton, and then a bad guy again when Bush decided that a war in Iraq would be a very lucrative deal for his “investors.”

22.  You must believe that the Bill of Rights is absolute in the case of the Second Amendment, but negotiable with regard to the rest of the document.  Oh I’m sorry, if you are a Republican you have no idea what the Bill of Rights is.  Google to find out.

23. You must agree that the adulterous affairs of Democrats require public embarrassment and impeachment, while those of Republicans are a private matter, and excusable because, well, “boys will be boys” (or girls). I repeat… Hypocrites.

24. You must ascribe to the notion that the Clintons’ business deals were major breaches of the public trust, while the fact that Dick Cheney is still being paid by Halliburton, which is now getting billions of your tax dollars, is no big deal.

25. You must believe that everything that Democrats do should be public knowledge, but that the public has no right to know anything that Republicans do.

26. You must always deride a Democrat’s changes of mind and philosophy as a “flip-flop,” while referring to those of fellow Republicans as “growth.”

27. You must openly support “state rights,” except when John Ashcroft wants to force local libraries to turn over their records or Tom DeLay wants to impose new districts because he doesn’t like election results.

28. You must agree that income tax cuts for the rich are good for the economy, while payroll tax cuts for the working class are bad. Furthermore, you must believe that making sure that the rich have a few extra dollars in their pockets is good for the economy, while raising the minimum wage is detrimental.

And the list of rules grows everyday that Bush and Cheney run the government.

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Well, it took me some time to make the connection, but I guess I haven’t quite gotten to the point that I forget THAT easily.

Unless you have been stoned or living under a rock the last few days, Republican “Presidential” candidate John McCain, has received a lot of flack from Democrats, the Media and his own party for a blurb that was posted where he was speaking to a group and explicitly stated we should “Bomb Bomb Bomb Iran”. The video of this is on YouTube.com (just put in McCain Bomb Iran and you’ll see it). Well, not that this surprises me any actually. He is a Republican, and their solution to anything is always bomb first and ask questions later. Allegedly this is because most Republicans have not made in out of the first 4 letters of the alphabet in the dictionary so they only seem to know words like Bomb, Budget, Deficit, etc. It is obvious that they haven’t gotten to the “N’s” yet as the President still can’t pronouce the word “Nuclear” and has no idea about the word “negotiation”, but I digress.

Anyway, when McCain’s video started hitting the media, of course he began receiving questions about it. Many politicos on both sides of the aisle have asked McCain to apologize for such a stupid remark. To which he quickly reached into his immense wit and countered with that pithing reply “Get a Life”. Well, this was a first for the old man, as henceforth his rapid fire replies consisted of “Oh yeah?” and “So’s your old man”. We just cant wait for debates – that ought to be the best comedy since Laurel and Hardy.

However, this seemed somewhat disingenuous to me (oh wait for you Republicans that may be too big a word… but it is in the D’s in the dictionary). I thought I remember that McCain did somewhat of the same thing a few years back and sure enough I found it.

Back in October of 2006, many of you will remember when then Presidential Candidate John Kerry (Yeah he dont look so bad NOW does he) misspoke at at student rally saying the following:

“You know, education, if you make the most of it, if you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, uh, you, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”

OK, well, political faux pas it was. Its true of course, but not the kind of thing you say in a political contest. But guess what.. it was, YES, McCain that came back shortly after this and said the following”

“Senator Kerry owes an apology to the many thousands of Americans serving in Iraq, who answered their country’s call because they are patriots and not because of any deficiencies in their education.”

Oh how they have such a short memory. So, McCain, what’s good for the goose isn’t good for the gander I take it?

Well, as long as you have half-wits out there you’re safe. Veteran or no veteran, you are a disgrace and with any justice in the world, you’ll find yourself again on the losing end of a a presidential run.

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I’d like to once and for all, state, for the record, and it should be shouted from the mountaintops, that being anti-was does NOT mean that you are anti-troops.  There is NO reasonable person on earth that believes that. But, yet, you hear it everyday.

It seems that the corrupt BUSH administration would long and wish that you would believe this.  Well, gosh, I wonder why? Let’s investigate.

First, it is well proven through even government/administration investigations, that the Iraq conflict was initiated under great deception. The people of Iraq have not known such disarray and pain as they know today. While no one would argue that Saddam Hussein was the most wonderful person in the world, one thing his government DID do, was keep centuries-old religious factions from annihilating themselves. He did this by a variety of means, mostly coercive and militaristic, but those factions were kept in check. Of course, when Hussein was toppled, all deterrents were removed, and the three major factions resumed their civil war.  No “surge” from America will fix this. Its relgious war.. not against us, but Muslim against Muslim as it was in the early 1st and 2nd century.

Its a shame that now more American kids have been killed than lost at 9/11. Iraq has no more to do with terrorism, than the Los Angeles Dodgers do.  They never did. In fact, conservative think tank analysts have written just exactly that – that Hussein and Bin Laden were anything BUT friends.  They came from totally differnt ideologies.  ( See “Why Hussein Will Not Give Weapons to Al Quaeda”, Gene Healy, Cato Institute Senior Editor,  http://www.cato.org/dailys/03-05-03.html). You have to try to figure out exactly what kind of advice the President was getting, especially ignoring one of his own prime think tanks such as the Cato Institute. But I digress…

The fact that there are troops over in Iraq, is sad. The way they got there, through mass deception, shameful.  The fact that they are still there…unthinkable. There’s not one American citizen that doesn’t wish that every one of our kids could come home. And I resent the Bush Administration constantly minimizing these kids to a politicalization. Thats right, thats all it is, and its grossly immoral, and dishonorable.

The very premise is sickening. The Admnistration has nothing to hold on to. Its a dead Presidency, and because of Bush, nothing will get done…he has no intention of doing anything with Congress but veto everything.  We must remember that this Congress was elected in a massive mandate in November to tame this corrupt President’s actions and a runaway Republican Congress that hijacked not only the will of the people, but the Constitution as well. But, this President will have none of that… damn the will of the people…I know what’s best, he mutters.  With an approval rating in the mid 30’s and declining, and more people today against the war in Iraq than ever before, this President had better begin listening.

He needs more than a ridiculous mantra to divert attention to his massive failure as a leader.   He is only writing the obituary for his party, and his legacy.

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As a father of three children, one of which is still in college, and one of which is packing up next year, today’s events at Virginia Tech came as a kick in the stomach. Oh, by the way, the other kid went to college for 5 years and is now married and in law school.

I can not even imagine the unbelievable grief and anguish of a parent that saw what unfolded on that campus today, and couldn’t get through to their child. In the next few hours and days, some of those parents will experience the unthinkable…the loss of a child.  As a parent I can only say, “May God be with you and His infinite grace and love surround you”, because there isnt anything else.

It would be too easy to jump on a soap box and preach for more gun control, but believe me, some will do that. Those that have no compassion, total insensitivity, and perhaps too obllivious to even know.  There will be those that say that Virginia Tech is not a safe place, after not one, but two shootings on campus. They, too. are misguided..

One has to pause and think, that it is a rareity that we experience such a National tragedy. But, for the life of me, I cant’t think of such things happening in other countries (at least those considered major countries in the world).  And it always seems that these dubious events take place on some school campus  whether it be a University campus in Texas in 1966, a high school named Columbine, or a campus named Virginia Tech, These thoughts ar troubling and need to be addressed.

But what is the answer? Is MORE gun control the answer? Is more screening the answer?  I would submit that no one has that answer, and furthermore, no one really cares, today, except the most callous.

What we need to remember, is that no matter whether its a campus in Virginia, a White House back room, or your local retail store, evil lives. It lives to dishearten, destroy and discourage.  What happened at VT, could have happened in upstate New York, Lawrence Kansas, or on a southern California campus. Evil is everywhere and as such, proof positive that we are NOT the rulers of this world, no matter how hard we try to think we are.

Pray compassionately and earnestly, that more people come to a realization that evil can be defeated…but only by light.  The light of hope, truth, fatith, and love. Against these, no forece of evil can contend.

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There is very little argument that most Americans are swayed by what they hear in sound bites on talk radio, television and their preferred media choices.  People today seem to be too busy to really find out the facts on any major issue, but prefer, instead, to have their favorite spokesman, be it liberal, conservative or independent,  spoon feed them what exactly they are to believe. If you belong in the category, skip over this, and go back to your lazy existence.

Ahh, decided to stay with me? Good for you. I congratulate your pursuit of knowledge. Let’s talk about stem cells.  For a moment, good reader, pretend you have absolutely no opinion one way or another on the political debate raging in partisan corners, and set your mind to the fact that the following is a primer on understanding what stem cells are, what their potential is, and the issues around their research.  At least afterward, you can make an informed decision on your own personal stance toward this area.  The predominant context of this entry is taken from several sources on line, but most especially the National Institutes of Health, Stem Cell Research Site at http://stemcells.nih.gov.  Some of the information will come from my own knowledge (after all I have a postgraduate degree in molecular genetics, and research experience in cellular biology). I welcome any constructive comments or corrections, but please cite links to sources in any follow ups.

For many years, scientists have been seeking new therapies that are more naturally or organically based. Diseases can be treated chemically (as in the forms of antibiotics, insulin, chemotherapy, or chemical supplements),  mechanically (as in surgery, physical therapy etc), or naturally (usually chemically stimulating certain portions of the body into producing natural substances  to fight diseases).  One of the newer avenues of therapy, is that of regenerative or repairative medicine, which is a treatment in which stem cells are induced to differentiate into the specific cell type required to repair damaged or destroyed cell populations or tissues. This latter area, in theory, carries a promise of enhanced regeneration without many of the side effects of chemical or mechanical therapies such as dependence, toxicity, and invasiveness.

It is important to understand exactly what stem cells are, and what their unique properties are in the human body, for this gives us the reasoning and information on which to understand the pending debates.  As most people know, the body is made up of many cells, which are the building blocks of any organism. The body consists of millions of cells, each of which is specific in its function. This specificity is called differentiation. Differentiation is what causes muscle cells to act like muscles, cardiac cells to act like heart cells, liver cells to act like liver cells, etc. You won’t usually find a liver cell in a cardiac muscle, because it has no place there.

Stem cells, are unique, however, and have two characteristics that distinguish them from all other cells in the body.  First, they are unspecialized cells (i.e. non-differentiated) that can renew themselves for long periods of time through cellular division.  In other words, these cells live and reproduce as non-differentiated cells – they aren’t specific to any particular function (i.e. liver, heart, nerve, muscle, etc).  The second, and most exciting characteristic in terms of medical promise, is that these cells under certain physiological or experimental conditions, can be induced into becoming differentiated cells – meaning that they can be transformed into heart, nerve, muscle, or liver cells.  The regenerative promise, then, is that if a person has a debilitating disease due to some cellular degeneration or malfunction, stem-cells could be placed in vivo (live), induced, and generate new, naturally functioning cells.

In this new field of regenerative medicine, scientists work with two basic kinds of stem cells:  embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells.  It is the former that has caused much discussion and debate.  Much hyperbole and fiction has been generated by both sides of the debate regarding this area, so it seems beneficial to attempt to clear the air a bit, and place facts in the discussion first, before moving to areas of controversy.

Embryonic stem cell research has been ongoing for over 20 years, first starting in the isolation of these cells in mouse embryos.  This research led to the eventual discovery in 1998 of how to isolate and grow human embryonic stem cells in the laboratory. These cells were orginally obtained through embryos that were created through in-vitro fertilization procedures. Scientists obtained the embryos through the donor’s informed consent.

Most people are unaware of this process so it makes sense to divert slightly here and present the process.  Many couples experience the frustrating and emotionally-traumatic experience of not being able to conceive their own children. Until most recently, there were few options for these couples. Adoption of course was a possibility.  While the technique of in-vitro fertilization was conceived and experimented as far back as the 1870’s, its place in alternative reproductive medicine didn’t really become reality until 1978. As a new technique, this procedure, where sperm cells from the male and egg cells from the female are isolated, and mechanically combined to form an embryo, met with major controversy, spawning the debates of “test tube babies”. The technique, however, is widely used today to enable many couples to achieve their dream of their own child.

During the process, many embryos are mechanically formed by the forced joining of sperm and eggs cells. These are then cultivated to a point, and then the embryos are harvested and placed in the mother’s womb for adhesion and, hopefully, normal pregnancy.  Breakthroughs in technique and technologies have increased the likelihood in this procedure. During the process, many embryos are created. Those that are not implanted are typically frozen in case of failure, so the couple has the option of repeating the implantation. However, upon successful implantation, many embryos are still left behind, frozen. The couple is usually informed as to the intent of these embryos. Embryos are typically not just kept around for someone else to use. Historically, the donors could authorize the embryos’ disposal, or their intent for them to be useful for scientific research.  Indeed the early research on embryonic stem cells came from donors informed consent in this way.

As previously mentioned, stem cells are unique in their properties, and naturally so. They are vitally important to organisms for many reasons. Following fertilization, the major events of the first week of embryonic development are cleavage, formation of the blastocyst, and implantation (this can vary in time, but generally true).  Cleavage occurs when the fertilized cells divides and divides again. This usually occurs, more often than not, in the fallopian tube. This continues to divide forming progressively reducing sized blastomeres, that continue to fall back toward the uterus at around day 3, at which time it has divided to around 12 cells known as a morula.  Shortly after, many changes begin to take place (we wont endure the detail here, but feel free to to your own reading at  http://sprojects.mmi.mcgill.ca/embryology/earlydev/default.html) for a detail discussion on embryological development).  The blastocyst forms and  continues its descent into the uterus.  It is at this 3-5 day old state that stem cells begin their magic.  They begin to cause their differentiation into the various kinds of cells such as heart, lung, kidney, liver, skin, bone, and other tissues.  It is because of their innate capabilities to be transformed into these various kinds of cells, that scientists hold great promise for their regenerative power.

However, like many aspects of the human body, scientists dont know all the details at the cellular level, as to what causes these cells to undergo those changes. While scientists have been able to cause differentiation to occur in-vitro (in the lab), much research is needed to continue the exploration these mechanisms. The ultimate promise of such research would be to find cellular, natural ways of curing diseases such as diabetes, parkinson’s, alzheimers, and other debilitating illnesses. In order to continue research, however, scientists must be able to harvest stem cells and conduct cellular level research. This particular aspect was highly curtailed in August, 2001, when U.S. President George Bush placed a moratorium on federally funded programs that supported embryonic stem cell research,  limiting research only to the then existing 60 stem cell lines existing in the world. This might seem a decent compromise, but what most people do not know, is that cell lines deteriorate after many cultivations. New cell lines must be obtained to ensure reliable, predictable experimentation. The issue, of course, has grown into a major political  issue also.

It is hoped that with this “primer” on stem cell biology, perhaps you’ll do your own research in the efforts to try to determine fact from fiction.  The issue certainly promotes almost as many ethical issues as it does related scientific challenges.  I caution all to keep an open mind, and listen more to your own sense of reason than the hyperbole that is generated from BOTH sides of the debate.

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I think it terribly interesting, in light of recent events, that religious extremists seems to get more and more play in the American media.

Did anyone else find it severely ironic, that when the REVERAND Al Sharpton invited Don Imus to his radio show to apologize for making racial slurs (which by the way he graciously did) that the REVERAND Sharpton followed by saying he wouldn’t forgive him?  I guess that was left for the target of the attack, the Rutger’s Women’s Basketball team who, after meeting with Imus, publically said they were hurt, but specifically said they “forgave” him. It always seems that true Christianity is found in those that walk the walk,  rather than talking the “racist” talk.  REVERAND Sharpton, you should be ashamed.

But, to be honest, this is getting to be quite the game with the religious right. They seem to not be very happy, and willing to spend their multitudes of cash on trying to set a political course, rather than truly helping people in need, and walking their supposed walk. As a Christian, I find this all this politicking very annoying and frustrating.  First because I think its a total and complete waste of money, and secondly because it SHOULD be a total and complete waste of money.

I have to wonder how much money that is donated (even in the name of political contribution) should really be placed toward political lobbiests and agendas.  Christians dont seem to have much of a sense of what is democracy and what is religion. They absolutely can not exist simultaneously.  The founding fathers assured this in the strongest of terms when they wrote and adopted the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. ”

Notice that the VERY FIRST clause of that amendment implores the Congress to make NO law respecting an establishment of religion.  Most fervent religious fundamentalists, only seem to memorize that the first amendment “protects my freedom of religion”. In fact that “protection” is quite limited.  The first clause is the most important, and rightly so. Without the founding father’s insight in including that clause, they would have left open the possible formation of a theocracy (government by religion) which they were very intent on avoiding. A brief history lesson will prove why.

British law came to the American colonists with the first settlers, most of whom brought with them a fierce determination to protect the rights of English “freemen” against the religious and political persecution that many had suffered as dissenters in their native land.  However, not all those who joined the growing wave of immigrants shared this particular respect for British law.  Many rejected it entirely. They sought to dispose of this idea of “secular” law, and instead, sought to impose on their fellow colonists, a “theocracy” of Biblical law, while others were “outlaws” who had been exiled for violating criminal or civil laws in England. In the mainstream, however, the colonists wanted to retain the basic forms and substances of a legal system that had governed them and their predecessors for centuries. However this proved difficult in a new land.

Legal structures and rules that reflected a feudal system of land tenure and servitude in England could not easily by adapted to colonies in which land was plentiful and laborers could bargain with employers over terms of work and wages.  This required changes in both the social structure and the laws under which people lived.  Many traditions and structures were copied from English laws, but many just had to be locally and socially altered to fit a new society. The colonists, for instance, protected their right to trial by jury, a practice often ignored or dismissed in England, where summary decisions by justices of the peace displaced a right first stated in the Magna Carta. This right was sometimes used and other times not depending on the various circumstances (the foundations of jury nullification for instance became apparent even as early as pre-constitutional American), promoted by such legal juggernauts of the time as Andrew Hamilton and John Adams.

However, even though the colonists took pains to provide fair and impartial legal procedures for those accused of criminal behavior, the substance of their laws reflected the stern morality of their Puritan faith, tempered by concern for the rights of “freemen” to be treated equally.  The settlers of Plymouth Colony enacted the first legal code in 1636 and were followed by their neighbors to the north, the Massachussets Bay Colony, who adopted a “Body of Liberties” in 1641 that added protections for freemen (these Liberties actually forshadowed the protections against arbitrary governmental power that were later placed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights). These were written by Nathaniel Ward, who was both a lawyer and an outspoken Puritan pastor. So, not surprisingly, the Body of Liberties were awash with Puritanical tenets. Some of these live today, in the name of “cruel and unusual punishment” and laws against double jeopardy. However others were purely Puritanical laws based on the Mosaic Code and the Old Testament scriptures. Indeed it was stated by Governor Winthrop (of the Mass Bay Colony) that the intent was to base laws on “the fundamentals which God gave to the Commonwealth of Israel..” and to punish “anything that can be proved to be morally sinful by the word of God”. Ward, in fact, when writing the laws, placed notes in the margins of each law pertaining to Biblical chapter and verse.

This might seem to bolster the modern day Christian into saying … “See!”  But one should be cautious.  For instance, at the top of the list of captial crimes was that of idolatry: “If any man after legal conviction shall have or worship any other god, but the Lord God, he shall be put to death (see Deut 17). Second on the list of capital crimes was witchcraft, a law applied with a vengence in the Puritan town of Salem in 1692. Records from the era have been recovered regarding these cases, and suggest that their crimes had less to do with Biblical injunctions against sorcery or “calling up the dead” than with challenges to male control of the Puritan faith and state which subjugated women to men in churches and governement. However, it is well documented thatn 19 women and one man were hanged on these charges.

The Body of Liberties also prescribed capital punishment for secual practices that were condemned in the Mosaic Code. These included bestiality, homosexuality, and adultery, all punishable by death. I find it amazing that most Christians are apalled by countries’ such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, etc, for treating women similarly, having religious-based law and calling them religious extremists, and yet forget that we are separated by a mere 200+ years from the same behavior.  This is not only religious elitism at its highest form, but also hypocrisy of the highest order.

The founding fathers, when drafting the Constitution and the Bills of Rights, did so with the thought and determination of wanting to separate this kind of persecution, from the new nation’s form of government. They did so by establishing the first clause of the first amendment of the Constitution forbidding ANY state established religion. What that means is that where the government and its laws are applied, the promotion of any religion over another or even the hint of government sponsored religion must be removed.

So is there NO place for our religion in politics. Well, yes there is. All Christians should take an active role in the political choice process. Find out about those for which you cast your vote. Certainly there is a process by which one searches his/her own beliefs and establishes tenets on which to base decisions. Christians are no difference than anyone else in this regard. And if there is a candidate you feel meets those tenets, it is certainly within your responsibilities as an American and a Christian to lend support to that candidate in time, effort and money.  After all, these are the people that make the laws, and those people have to answer to you..which is the way the society works.

However, Christians should NOT expect that the government should be in the business of legislating moral behavior over that which is necessary and specified in the Constitution.  Christians many times have a very narrow view of the law and only want it to pertain to THEM and not everyone else. Laws that allow your church to print its bulletin or advertise a Gospel meeting, are the same laws that allow pornography.  Laws that protect you in your church to assemble and worship, are the same laws that allow protestors to picket against abortion. Laws that protect your privacy of your credit and identity (privacy) are the same as those the protect a woman’s right to choose.  You cannot expect freedoms to be sacrificed in the name of religious fervor.

Think about it.  Do you REALLY want the Federal Government telling you what you can do behind closed doors? Do you REALLY want the Federal Government telling you what is moral and what is not?

Isnt’ that the responsibilty of our churches, synogogues, and parents?  Why are Christians so intent on divorcing their responsibility and giving it to the government? Do we REALLY think that’s the best for society?

I wonder what the story of Jesus would have been if instead of meeting one on one with people, healing them, caring, and showing his love, he had gone to the government and asked them to force in on the people. Surely he could have. But he didnt. Our Saviour personally came to each of us. He individually died for our debts. No, he didnt give that responsibilty to the governement to do.

Thank God.

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