The First Amendment provision defining the separation of church and state stands as one of this country’s most valuable contributions to civilization. It allows everyone to worship; it forces no one to worship; it entertains diversity of faith; and it keeps the government to the secular business of governing for the welfare of its people. It is genius in a few simple phrases that limits the power of Congress in making laws respecting speech, faith, and other expressions of thought. The success of the doctrine has served as a model for developing countries as they sought ways to govern effectively in spite of deep religious divisions in their societies.
There is no constitutional provision that limits the expression of political views in religious services or within any of a church’s activities. That would contradict the free exercise clause. But, alas, there is the problem of taxation.
Churches that express political views or endorse candidates become subject to the federal income tax. And their donors, cannot deduct their gifts from taxable income. The rationale for the deduction recognizes the spiritual nature of the church and extends the favor of immunity from taxation only that far but not so far as any interest the church may express in influencing policy or in choosing the government. And, true or not, churches behave as though their institutional lives depended on being exempt from paying taxes and eligible for having their donors receive deductions.
Continue reading “III. Our Bitter Legacy: And a Mother’s Day Greeting from the United Methodist Church”
When my kids were growing up, a local television station ran a plug just before the ten o’clock news each evening that was meant to be offer some parental coaching:
“It’s ten o’clock. Do you know where your kids are?”
If only that had been enough for us to meet our responsibilities to them.
Instead, we leave them this bitter legacy. Rising sea levels. More extreme and more frequently violent weather patterns. Dysfunctional government. Deteriorating infrastructure. An ever-widening gap between rich and poor. Health care that fails to meet the needs of most people. The growth of the use of terror as a political tool. Refugees from many nations seeking asylum in an unwelcoming world.
Continue reading “II. Our Bitter Legacy: It’s 2018, Do You Know Where Your Kids Are?”
Sometime between the time I was a teenager (that would be the 1950s and 60s) and today, my perception of America’s social and political environment changed from one that seemed more sharing, loving and mutually supportive to one that is, today, almost terminally corrupted by fear, violence, and greed.
To be exact, I do not say things have actually changed in those ways, only that my perceptions have changed. It is an important distinction since the world of my teen years was viewed through a lens of privilege that blinded me to the violence, racism, sexism, and poverty that many people in our country already dealt with on a daily basis. Maybe things are not so different now, only the lifting of the curtain to allow the rest of us to see and share the suffering more directly.
There have been, however, some undeniably real changes that will have to be addressed by rising generations. Today’s ruling powers have proved unwilling and unable to lead changes that would save our world from choking its own greed.
Continue reading “I. Our Bitter Legacy: Politics for the Rising Generation”
In my post of April 12, I suggested that you wouldn’t hear much about politics from me. May I please recant and apologize for that? Politics is at the core of the American character and to avoid political discussion is to hand over control of our lives to others.
Over time, Facebook developed some unwritten rules of social media discourse which I found constraining and, I do not use this word often, un-American. Of course, Facebook has a particular problem with trolls so that any mention of a candidate, party or policy preference would bring them out to haunt your page.
Continue reading “Politics in Brief”
I began this journal after I deleted my Facebook account. I had been a dedicated Facebook user. There was no better communication tool available to fill that niche between mass media and face-to-face interactions. I shared a lot of photographs, mainly from our community theater, Brazosport Center Stages, and from our church youth group. I also did my share of celebrating our beautiful, talented grandchildren with occasional Facebook posts. They were, by my design, nameless and homeless in the eyes of strangers, although I was always careful to limit the distribution to “friends”.
I did the total wipe on Facebook. I don’t doubt the files are still out there as backups or as research data for some “university professor” serving a front for a marketing firm or Vladimir Putin. A blog offers only a bit more privacy. At some point, it will be open to the public and most of what I post will be there for all the honest world to see.
So there are some things you may as well know from the start. There is no need to go to all the trouble of developing a psychographic profile based on assumptions about my friends, likes, and ad clicking. So allow me to save you (and perhaps Mr. Putin) the trouble. I am a United Methodist Christian, born once and only once into the faith at the age of six kneeling at the altar with my parents in Jacinto City Methodist Church. I am a Democrat, have always been a Democrat and your suasions on behalf of some other party will probably be wasted on me. I do not hate or even mildly dislike Republicans. I live among them in Lake Jackson, possibly the most conservative 1,609 square miles in the country, and although they caused me lots of discomfort with barbs about Democratic presidents, I don’t hold that against them because I deliver a few aimed at their Republican heroes from time to time. Not feeling the safety in numbers that they feel, I deliver most of my barbs in the privacy of my home.
Continue reading “Goodbye Facebook”