CHRISTIAN NATIONALISM

The Death of Separation of Church & State

Let’s focus on facts. After retirement I moved to Florida for the weather, not for the politics and viewpoints of many of my neighbors. I like living eight miles from the Gulf of Mexico, but normal conversations in this state can be frustratingly divided and unproductive. Here’s where I’ll bring in Thomas Jefferson.

I have always believed that Jefferson was a closet atheist, careful never to reveal his hand. If you follow his discussions, writings and letters, you will see that he was at best a skeptic, but also a highly intelligent farmer, inventor and writer. He was not good with money, so it’s safe to assume he was never a slave to math. Sir Thomas also had a strong memory of what happened in Europe when religious zealots got ahold of power and governments.

Germans, who were forced to decide between baptizing their babies or living free within their creeds and beliefs, left for America. What remains are the Amish and Mennonites of our communities. In Great Britain, all-powerful kings and queens were given command over the Church of England, and Catholics were harassed and persecuted. Millions of Brits moved to North America, drawn by the promise of our First Amendment.

“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.”

The down and dirty interpretation is the government cannot prohibit the “establishment” of any religion. This was severely tested when the Internal Revenue Service fought the Church of Scientology’s tax-free status. After decades of legal battles, the US government gave up and granted them a charter. So, if a bunch of people get together and say they are a church, there is nothing Congress can do to stop them. The state cannot prohibit people practicing their beliefs, but nowhere is it decreed that the government has to fund or tolerate illegal activities within the confines of a religion.

In its early days, the Church of the Latter Day Saints codified the practice of polygamy, which  is now outlawed in the Church. None of its faithful can practice plural marriage and remain a member. It was indeed a miracle when Gabriel appeared and ordered the head of the church to end the policy of men having multiple wives.

The reason Jefferson promoted the separation of church and state was simple and brilliant. To manage a population of vastly divergent views, beliefs and cultures, it was important for the government to operate above the mandates and myths of many groups. A nudist colony was certainly allowed to exist, so long as it didn’t hurt anyone who had no desire to be part of the cult.

If I don’t like something in America, I can protest with other likeminded souls. We are protected by the First Amendment as well: “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Although peaceful protest can escalate into property damage, disruptive melees and sometimes bodily harm, we still have the right to protest and petition for what we believe is right. For example, I don’t want my tax dollars to be handed over to dogmatic and religious institutions that suspend the Bible over my head.

Here in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis cares only about the power he derives from his “base,” whatever that is. He takes no advice from liberals, libertarians or librarians. If banning a book will get him a vote, he’ll do it. If he can bend a law or voting district to get reelected, he’ll do it. He never thinks about the millions of people who don’t agree with him, so there was no surprise when he took over the board of the New College of Florida, the state’s public liberal arts college. He’s now moving it toward becoming an academically rigorous but religious institution. This was part of his quest to prove to the far-RIGHT he is one of them. You can see the story here.

I believe that a constitutional scholar could argue that the actions of DeSantis are in violation of the US Constitution. By turning over the management of this state-funded higher education institution to religious zealots from Hillsdale College in Michigan, state taxpayer dollars will be used to convert the liberal arts school to a religious institution. In the end, the New College of Florida will be destroyed and get absorbed into the state’s educational myopic vision of one man. If they disagree with you, eliminate them.

The deity of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or Pastafarianism

Everyone and anyone should be free to believe what they want and worship any God or bowl of pasta they want, but please don’t justify taking my money to build what you envision as a Judeo-Christian notion and nation. We are best when we allow people to be free, productive and focused on important things.

What makes me most angry is those people who say their mission is a more moral and focused educational system, but they are taking it by force and misinformation. Below you’ll see a letter I wrote to Hillsdale College after receiving a letter asking for contributions. In my estimation, they are nothing less than outside agitators and 21st Century carpetbaggers wanting to get rich on large lies and heresy. They want you to believe what they believe and they will do anything they can to rope you in you. Be careful.

LETTER TO HILLSDALE COLLEGE

First, thank you for the copy of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States of America. I give them out to friends and neighbors who don’t quite understand what was declared and enshrined there.

Next, I would be remiss if I didn’t speak up and express my feelings and thoughts about your school and solicitation at this time.

Your opening pitch is false. You have no idea what the majority of democratically inspired citizens believe about America and the educational system.

Fact #1: Critical Race Theory, as developed and described by Derrick Bell and then studied by many experts over the years, has never been taught in public schools in America. Institutions, organizations and politicians, like yourself, are responsible for perpetuating this myth. If only you would take the time to read, study and understand what Mr. Bell was saying, you might see that passing laws and policies against “critical race studies” proves Bell was right. White lawmakers have consciously, or subconsciously, moved forward to construct laws that thwart the rights of minorities. What would Jesus say?

Fact #2: The US Constitution, as originally written, codified slavery and kept women out of the political process by prohibiting them from voting. We should teach this in our schools and, as your pitch indicates, you want to bring the document and its power into the classroom. Remember, only white men who were landowners could vote in this country and slavery was lawful for more than a century. As someone whose kin came to the Americas in the late 1600s, I am not proud of them owning slaves and fully recognize that FREE LABOR made this country great.

Fact #3: Religion and religious institutions like yours have been hijacked by FAR-RIGHT zealots and political operatives who want you to help them raise money and corral voters. You are corrupting the mission of Jesus and John the Baptist by pitting humans against other humans. You are the dividing force making it harder to discuss fundamental issues in America. You have cast a net over education, religion, poverty, gay rights, marriage rights, and even science itself. The separation between church and state was one of the reasons millions of people came to this land in the first place. It’s time for you to release the non-religious parts of your quest for power back into the pond of diversity that is the United States.

Your request for money is based on the fact that Hillsdale receives no federal educational funds. This is true because your institution has been accused of discrimination. Your marketing blatantly claims a desire to end diversity. Really? Again, what would Jesus say?

Please remove my name from your database and please stop bothering Floridians. A majority of the people here in Sarasota who really care about education are frustrated and infuriated by the hostile takeover of the New College of Florida. Your goal to convert the school to a dogmatic front for your political aspirations is a sin.

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FEAR OF FLYING

How to deal with dissent in the age of disinformation

Despite a fear of coming off as contrary or annoying, I must say that my default position is skepticism. You see, I’m inclined to question, and sometimes strongly doubt, accepted opinions.

Most of my friends were quite puzzled when I developed a fear of flying in the mid-1970s. My illogical dread began when I became obsessed with media coverage of several major air crashes at that time.

One of my friends, a true avionics enthusiast, took me by the hand and began a deprogramming process. We would meet for breakfast then go to the local airport observation deck to watch airplanes taking off and landing. Richard would point and mockingly say, “There, see that one? Didn’t crash!” He would do this routinely while interjecting his vast knowledge of aviation and how jet airplanes actually worked. The day finally came when he pointed out yet another plane that didn’t nosedive into the earth, and we both broke out in laughter.

I never forgot how much my friend helped me as this recovered-fear-of-flying human moved through life. Over the course of my more than fifty-year career, I flew millions of miles and was enrolled in numerous frequent flyer programs. My journey implanted a couple of points in my brain. One, never use a single incident or an anecdote to form an indelible conclusion, and two, without knowledge, facts and comprehension, human intellectual growth becomes stunted.

A racist who doesn’t know what racism means will never be able to cure their malady if and until they come to an understanding of what racism actually is. I remember learning the origin of the term “mulato” was a reference to a mule, the offspring of a horse and donkey. I then immediately deleted the word from my vocabulary, feeling embarrassed by my lack of realization.

Being diagnosed with attention deficit disorder in the mid-1990s, I was appalled when my personal physician told me, “You’re much too successful to have ADD.” He was wrong, and his lack of skill in identifying this simple ailment was astounding. I internally diagnosed my condition because all the data points lined up and confirmed the truth. With treatment, I have become more linear, more productive and decidedly happier.

Occasionally, I have faced someone who said ADD was a “made up thing” or an “excuse” for not working hard. I bristled, but with a calm voice and gentle smile began putting them to the test by asking if they knew the name of that spaced out sensation one encounters after a long airplane flight, “You know, that strange feeling when finding yourself in the grocery store but unable to remember why you are there?” They would chuckle and explain, “Oh, sure, that’s jet lag.”

I would thank them, then continue, “What about that peculiar feeling or having “been there before,” and not just the place but the circumstances of the situation?” Their answer came quickly, “Well, that’s déjà vu. Everyone experiences that.” And then I would say, “But it’s just a made-up thing, right?”

Once I nudged them into a defensive posture, I explained that ADD is a medical condition, primarily caused by a lack of sufficient dopamine in the frontal lobes. To be clear, jetlag and déjà vu have nothing to do with ADD, but prodding my listener to connect the dots of brain activity helped them understand their pronouncements were less than scientific or logical. Most experts believe the feeling you’ve been here before happens when there’s a bit of a miscommunication between two parts of the brain and that jetlag is a circadian rhythm sleep disorder caused by pushing the internal clock off schedule. Just observe what happens with people during a one-hour time change in spring and fall.

There’s a divide in our country based on a notion that no fact is secure. Sure, things change over time, but an openness that more data might require reversing or modifying one’s behavior is needed lest we sentence ourselves to a life of misery. I overheard a restaurant conversation where a man stated his reaction to a Covid-19 booster shot made him feel badly for a day. He said, “I will never get another shot. I don’t trust anything the CDC says.” Okay, that was one person, but I suspect he will vote for the political candidate who holds that same opinion, lacking any comprehension he would be more protected with the vaccine. If his doctor told him he has stage two cancer, would he walk out saying, “I don’t believe you,” and go home to await the third and fourth stages?

Science is not a one-night stand but rather a meaningful and ongoing relationship based on trust and truth. The more a loudmouth blowhard seasons an event with misconceptions, misinformation or disinformation, truth and trust become the victims. If a respected friend tells you that the CIA participated in the JFK assassination, it’s important that you examine and research the notion. When a person completely falls for a half-baked theory spouted by a TV talking head without any research, vetting or fact-checking, they are letting someone else program their brain. Is that a real thing? Surely.

One of the best pieces on the subject appeared in an article: The Social Dynamics of Conspiracy Rumors: From Satanic Panic to QAnon in Skeptical Inquirer magazine. The gist of that piece was use of the word “theory” after the word “conspiracy” should be eradicated forever. The word “theory” is simply wrong in that context. It’s not a theory, it’s a damn rumor. The term conspiracy rumor imparts less gravitas and more puffery.

By its very nature, a pre-conceived notion is an opinion formed without adequate evidence. We have all heard and used the phrase, “Well, that’s your opinion.” If using it ends a discussion and allows you to keep a friend, good for you, but if pushback makes the discussion escalate to an eruption, then the outcome was certainly not positive. It would be even worse to slam the door with, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” In July of 2021, when Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke those words to Senator Rand Paul, nothing was accomplished. Rand continued with his vitriolic, preconceived notions and millions of people refused the vaccine. Some of them died.

With mounting distrust of science, political manipulation of our educational systems and proclamations about everything being broken administered to millions by morally empty politicians, what can a reasoned thinker do to make the world better? You can either teach, talk to the crazy people, or leave the grid and turn off the TV.

I remember one of my kids being nervous about her first unaccompanied airplane flight. I told her, “You know, they don’t usually crash.” I’m sure my sarcasm didn’t help at all, and in hindsight I should have said, “They hardly ever crash.” Some suggest the odds of being in a plane crash are about one in eleven million. When the Powerball jackpot was over a billion dollars, it was said the odds of winning were one in 292.2 million. So, life imposes gambles, both bad and good.

Some celebrities claimed to have done research and decided not to get the Covid-19 shot. When probed about their information, they cited a whacko television talk show host or a website featuring lunatics-against-science. When asked if the 2020 election was rigged and the results invalid, a significant percentage of Americas said that is true, even though there are tons of data and documents to dispute that conspiracy rumor. How can we attain truth and trust again?

Most who fear flying will not make the effort to visit the airport for days on end to understand the vast number of verifiable data points proving planes rarely crash. Those who believe in the so-called deep state are ignoring that it is only real to the extent they embrace it. Once the poison of fixed position thinking takes ahold, the only path toward true liberation is the vaccine of truth. And you will probably need boosters along the way.

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