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November 22nd, 2014 by Fr. Greg
Today’s assignment in the blogger challenge (and make sure to check out the other participating blogs here) is Eden. Eden, if one thinks of it as having been a real place, has traditionally been associated with Mesopotamia – the land between rivers. Tonight we had our annual Marlborough-Hudson Interfaith Association’s Thanksgiving service. Normally at this event I do a prayer or hymn from our Orthodox tradition but I did something a little different this time. In light of what has been happening in Iraq and the Near East with ISIS, I thought I would talk about how we should be thankful that we are free to worship, talk about our faith, and gather with people of other faiths. To this end I read Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which was a predecessor of the First Amendment to the Constitution. Authorship of it, along with of the Declaration of Independence and founding the University of Virginia, were the three of his many accomplishments that Jefferson chose to put on his epitaph. I went to UVa and so I have a natural affinity for Mr. Jefferson, as we ‘Hoos are supposed to call him. He was also a philhellene and a supporter of the Greek revolution (although he considered the Orthodox Church to be monkish tomfoolery). Here is the complete text of his Statute:
An Act for establishing religious Freedom.
Whereas, Almighty God hath created the mind free;
That all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens, or by civil incapacitations tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and therefore are a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, who being Lord, both of body and mind yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do,
That the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavouring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time;
That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions, which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical;
That even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor, whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing from the Ministry those temporary rewards, which, proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labours for the instruction of mankind;
That our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry,
That therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence, by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages, to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right,
That it tends only to corrupt the principles of that very Religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments those who will externally profess and conform to it;
That though indeed, these are criminal who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way;
That to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy which at once destroys all religious liberty because he being of course judge of that tendency will make his opinions the rule of judgment and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own;
That it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government, for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order;
And finally, that Truth is great, and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them:
Be it enacted by General Assembly that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities. And though we well know that this Assembly elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of Legislation only, have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding Assemblies constituted with powers equal to our own, and that therefore to declare this act irrevocable would be of no effect in law; yet we are free to declare, and do declare that the rights hereby asserted, are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right.Go to post page
I owe that fun subject title to Fr. Peck – he coined that for today’s blogging assignment. His post has some cool facts about chickens – please check it out there. As he points out at the very bottom, chickens and other birds had some interesting ancestors – dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus Rex. Some years ago Douglas Preston wrote a wild page-turner called Tyrannosaur Canyon. The book is an adventure story set in the modern-day Southwest of the United States, but the main story is interrupted at several points with narrative about a female T-Rex back in the day. There are speculative but scientifically up-to-date descriptions of her feeding and mating and ultimately her demise along with the rest of the dinosaurs. There is a rather terrifying scene where two male (and therefore smaller) T-Rexs fight over who gets to mate with her. Her instinct would normally be to devour both of them but the drive to breed just barely wins out over the instinct to kill and eat every living thing she encounters. A great read, as are all of Preston’s books, both solo and written with Lincoln Child.Go to post page
Abraham Lincoln was assassinated…in his own backyard. In a field in Kentucky in May of 1786. Did I trip you up? Said Abraham Lincoln was the grandfather of the president. Today’s topic is log cabins, and based on Fr. John’s photo there is an association with Orthodox monks in Alaska or other suitable places. But to me the log cabin legend is forever associated with Lincoln and other presidents who lived in them, and seven were born in them. The log cabin theme came into play as a way of emphasizing the humble roots of politicians and their connection with the frontier spirit. Although it has been generations since we have seen a log cabin president, there always seems to be an attempt by candidates to downplay their upscale backgrounds when applicable. The noblesse oblige sense that people like FDR had is long gone. Why not own your backstory and use it to your advantage?
In any case, you can read the story of the elder Abraham Lincoln here. Note that his wife’s name was Bathsheba. Although I am of mostly Greek and Italian background, I did have an Anglo-Saxon great grandfather and have done the requisite genealogical research that is so easy to do for people of British descent but not at all for Mediterraneans. It seems that in the 1700s and 1800s Old Testament names were all the rage. At one point in my lineage there were three straight generations of the firstborn male having the obscure but classic OT name of Barzillai.Go to post page
I am catching up on my blogging topics this evening – it has been that kind of weekend. I was happy to see Christmas trees as a topic because I mentioned them as part of my intro story during my sermon today. While the Christmas tree became popular in America for several reasons, the single biggest factor was the publication of the below engraving, featuring Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and their tree, in 1850. Once the image started making the rounds, people wanted trees and decorations. At one point, Woolworth was selling $25 million a year worth of imported German Christmas ornaments.
When you read Rod Serling’s wiki bio one of the first sections is on his military service. This makes sense not just because it came chronologically right after his early life but also because of an incident that he experienced in the Pacific Theater of the war that helped inform his offbeat sense of creativity which shaped his best-known creation The Twilight Zone.
I have heard variations of the story (and used it as a lead-off in a sermon), but basically what happened – and you can read about it in the article – Serling and his fellow soldiers were on an island in the Pacific and, while maybe not starving, they certainly weren’t feasting (my current background photo on Facebook reflects something similar – British and Sikh soldiers operating a radio while in the process of destroying the Japanese army at the Battle of Imphal during the war). While out in the field a package containing food (k-rations, which included canned food, our assigned topic on this eighth day of the 40 Day Blogging exercise) was dropped from a plane and ended up killing his friend. Serling saw the irony in the whole situation – the package that was to save or sustain them ended up killing one of them. After hearing this story everything about The Twilight Zone made sense to me.
Here is a picture of Serling in uniform next to his dad:
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