Who and What is the Happy Warrior
This blog is a representation, in conversational form, of my voyage to wrap my arms around the world in which Mr. Worsdworth's warrior finds happiness.
(Standing disclaimer: Luckily tests of spelling accuracy ended in 4th grade otherwise I would still be in Elementary School. Be forewarned, spelling errors ahead. I subscribe to the wisdom of a great man who said, "I have utmost disdain for a man who can only spell a word one way." -Benjamin Franklin)
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Judge Crabb is quite correct and I'm surprised more religious people don't agree. Why do you want big government messing around in religion anyway? Do you want government to be deciding who should and should not offer prayers on the National Day Of? Do you want government to favor some religions and not others? (It would seem LDS have some experience in this area.)
Judge Crabb wrote "'It goes beyond mere 'acknowledgment' of religion because its sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function in this context. In this instance, the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience.''
I know readers can follow these conversations in the "Comments" section but I wanted to highlight this conversation and not leave it to chance that you would click on the "Comments" link. Here then is my reply (please everybody feel free to chime in on either side or on a third perspective):
First of all, thank you very much for your thoughtful comment and engaging in discussion. I have two fundamental answers to your concern that government should stay out of "religious matters". The first is the unanimously ignored elephant in the room: our republican democracy, as set up from the beginning, is and always has been tied to religious principles -specifically to the Judeo-Christian religious tradition. I know conservatives desperately try to avoid this reality because they think it is an obvious slam dunk for criticism by liberals, by the left, and by atheists. The truth is, the principles of government at the core of the United States are fundamentally tied to a faith in a soverign, extra-human Creator. Our claim to liberty, to freedom, to all things different than monarchy, theocracy, communism, dictatorship, etc. rests on the reality of a God. If there is no God then our republic must fall -it is a fiction no better than any other form of man-based governance. Revisionists have been busy during the last hundred years, but truth is difficult to hide. The most blatant example: "We hold these truths to be self-evident. That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by THEIR CREATOR with certain unalienable rights..."
The more we move the locust of these rights from the Creator to the government, the more perilous is the continuance of these rights. So, if God and the government of the US are "in bed together" I suggest that acknowledging Him through an official state ceremony is not just a good idea but is as much an exercise in reifying what we, as Americans, are based upon as is the statement on all our currency, as is the tradition of opening each Congress with a prayer and as is the case with a hundred other references to God in our governmental practices, buildings and proceedures.
Secondly, tell me whose political or civil rights are being infringed upon by this practice. If the National Day of Prayer mandated participation of even one citizen under threat of penalty I would be the first to object. Truth be told, the proponents of secularism and humanism (both of which are heavily influential in the sciences) have done more to limit the rights of citizens in the US over the past decade than any religious practice has. For example I am now mandated under threat of penalty to purchase health insurance... The odious Day of Prayer does not even come close to trampling my freedoms and my rights as a citizen as does the health care bill of 2010. Point is, 1)no one is being forced to practice a religion, and 2) no single religion is being sponsored by the government.
Do I want big government deciding who should or should not offer the prayer? Well, if big government prohibits a National Day of Prayer than aren't they decideing a bigger question? Namely that no prayer can be offered by an agent of government. Just another banishment of God from the public square and another infrigement on the rights of the majority of citizens who hold a belief in a Deity (case and point: many schools outlaw the invoking of God in their commencement speeches... but I suppose I should welcome that "protection" as well). In your scenario, government appears to be much less tolerant than religion. I could care less if we take turns having a Jew, a Christian, a Muslim, a Hindu, etc. offer the prayer on successive years (or give all who wish a chance to offer a prayer each year). As a Mormon I celebrate and encourage the exercise of faith of all my reigious counterparts irregardless of their particular beliefs.
I know I said I had two points but I cannot let the Judge's claim that this event/activity "serves no secular function in this context" go unchallenged. Really? That is an enormous logical leap that I cannot let stand. I again refer to the MANY previous statesmen, some of whom were hardly religious, who extolled the public virtue (and hence the political functionality) of a religious citizenry... and encouraged it. Why do so called progressives and liberals wish to banish God entirely from the public square and from American culture? I'll give you the answer: because God stands in the way of government being the people's ultimate soverign, rule giver and master.
Monday, April 19, 2010
And while the government is providing all these things our citizenry is preoccupied with sit coms, video games, sexual experimentation, cosmetic augmentation and countless other forms of material acquisition, conspicuous consumption or appetite satisfaction.
This is the cultural context of the latest strike against what once was a great America (perhaps you are thinking I am too pessimistic in my analysis). The latest blow is the finding of a federal judge declaring the National Day of Prayer to be unconstitutional. As evidence for our slide from greatness, I submit the words of Abraham Lincoln who, according to this federal judge, was acting contrary to the Constitution:
"We have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness or our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too prod to pray to the God that made us."
-words spoken during the institution of a National Fast Day
Call me crazy but if I am to side with the great emancipator or some federal judge in the post-modern, progressive era.... I'm going to go with Mr. Lincoln. The stark contrast between the two views should cause us to consider how our values, our political perspective and our culture has flipped completely upside down. We are not the America we once were. Fundamental change... that is the proposed objective of some. That will take us where we have never gone before. What I suggest is principled reform and rededication to the principles of what made America great. That will take us back to the basics, back to principles that made the United States the most generous, the most prosperous, the greatest force for good in the world.
Friday, April 16, 2010
Here is the disturbing news report:
Federal Judge Barbara Crabb, who was nominated by President Jimmy Carter, ruled the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional Thursday, saying the day amounts to a call for religious action.
And here is a warning from one uniquly qualified to speak on legal and spiritual matters:
(full text here)
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Scientists Successfully Teach Gorilla It Will Die Someday
Welcome brave new world!
Thursday, April 8, 2010
I want to introduce you to one such immigrant and share a brief conversation we had about two weeks ago. This is Oliver.
I called a local company to clean our carpets while Mrs. Wicke was away with the children during Spring Break. Oliver knocked on my door and introduced himself as the representative from the carpet cleaning company and the person who would be cleaning our carpets. He had a familiar accent. He reminded me of a good friend and past client from Irvine, California: Alex. Alex was from the Ukraine, had become an American citizen and was the owner of Gulliver's, a high end steak house just across the street from John Wayne Airport (definitely eat there if you ever find yourselves in Orange County -they have the best steaks you will ever eat). He advertised in a publication I owned. Whenever I would call on him he would invite me to join whatever group he happened to be with -restaurant management, other vendors, family, it didn't matter. We would sit at a table in the restaurant and would talk about whatever topic was already being discussed. If it was just he and I we would talk about European news events (of which I was largely ignorant), of sports (he like I was a wrestler in our younger years), or of the Mormon church who owned the property where his restaurant was located. He always asked if I wanted something to eat. Alex was a big man (thick and brawney) and his Russian accent was beautiful to hear. Alex was an immigrant to America and had worked his way to his present position as owner of a successful restaurant. His ability to work hard and to take risks were two qualities of his success.
Back to Oliver standing in my doorway: I could tell immediately that Oliver came from somewhere in or near one of the old Soviet Union countries. As he unloaded his equipment I asked him where he was from. He said that he came to America eight years ago and was originally from Kazakhstan. He and his family were now Americans. He had several children in school and he worked as a carpet cleaner to support his family. He was effluent in his love for America. And here is the point of this blog. He said "don't change America. Don't become like Europe. Why does American want to become like Europe; Europe is dying." We talked about opportunities, freedom and self-determinism. He wondered why many American's do not understand the uniqueness, the specialness of their country; why they are now trying to be like Europe.
...Just a few days later President Obama and the Democrats passed their European-style health care reform. We took one great step away from leadership, from being different, from being a nation where citizens decide what is best for themselves rather than a nation where the government controls the details of our lives.
I hate this legislation and the trend toward bigger government. It is fundamentally contrary to the type of government that our founders established. Democracy holds, at its core, a deep distrust of government. It is a necessary evil that must be kept in check or else it will grow into an oppressive monster -a leviathon. This is not a contemporary conservative view but was at the heart of almost every enlightenment thinker (a la Thomas Hobbes, Leviathon). And so I have significant dissonance about the direction of our country. But I also feel bad for Oliver. I feel like I should apologize to him. He staked everything on leaving his old life and pursuing a dream in America. But now America is changing into the world he worked so hard to leave. Where can he go now. It may be somewhat trite, but it is nevertheless true: America is the last great hope of mankind. But what if America stops acting like America? There are those among us who believe America is not exceptional, that America should no longer lead, who think our cultural and political values are no better than Fidel Castro's in Cuba. Perhaps post-modern American's cannot see the value of being different but it is clear that immigrants still see something they want, something in America that is better than anywhere else in the world.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Sunday, April 4, 2010
The celebration of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread continues for several more days. There is an interesting element of the Passover celebration called the Feasts of the Firstfruits. It is something of a preparatory feast. It looks forward to the coming harvest and implores God for his advanced blessing of the coming firstfruits. It should not surprise you, by now, to learn that the Feast of the Firstfruits falls on the day after the Sabbath -timing that the God of Israel established way back in Leviticus 23:11. During the Passover celebration in which Jesus Christ was crucified, this fell on Nisan 16th... the day in which Jesus rose from the tomb to become the "firstfruits of those that slept." He is the first of many. He, being the firstfruits of the resurrection, is precursor to the great harvest which in some distant day, will include the entire family of man. All will bear the fruit of new life, of resurrection.
It is difficult to fault Mary, Peter or Thomas for not believing the report first given by the angels: why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, he is risen! In all the history of the world there was no precedent for these events. Even the symbolism of Passover, aside from the ambiguous element of "firstfruits" did not include something this dramatic. Deliverance, yes. Covenant people, yes. But a man with power to take up his own life and thereby extend that same promise to all others? This was unprecedented. It was a miracle. It changed everything. It connotes a new day, a bright future and some important expectations. If it is true, it means that the Messiah has come and has prepared not only for the deliverance of his people but also for their spiritual exhaltation. This, above all matters of earthly attention, is the most important matter to know. How about it, where do you stand?
Friday, April 2, 2010
As previously mentioned, the exact order and timing of this day -beginning in the earliest hours of the morning- are not known. It is also impossible to know for sure, but the account contained in the New Testament gopels, leaves very little time for Jesus to have slept. Beginning with his betrayal and arrest on the Mount of Olives he was led around as a common prisoner from one so called judge to another. The abodes of Annas, Caiaphas, Herod and Pilate caused him to walk from place to place. He was mocked and physically abused at every location. The text indicates that he was also placed in a dungeon perhaps while the specifics of the strategy to take his life were finalized.
Through most of these miscarriages of justice the Messiah remained silent. Perhaps because with the speaking of just a few words he could completely unravel their thin accusations and reveal them as the hypocrites he had so often done in the past. But the trajectory of his path was not his own liberation but the liberation of all mankind -two objectives that led to the cross and to the grave.
There is tremendous irony in the events of this day. Remember that Passover is in full expression. Jerusalem is overflowing with celebrants of this joyous time of the year. It is not a somber, forboding, tragic time. This is a season to celebrate deliverance. For Jesus and his followers there is no triumph but rather profound tragedy and unspeakable horror. This dark subscript was working beneath the general feeling of rejoicing that encompassed the vast majority of participants in Jerusalem.
Christians are well aware of the events that occurred prior to the setting sun: the inspection before Pilate, the offer to release Barabas or Jesus, the scourging, the mob, the via dolorosa and the crucifixion. We have no reason to doubt the timeline commonly holding that Jesus was nailed to the cross and the process of cruxifixion began at 9 AM. We understand that he suffered the pysical agaonies of crucifixion for about six hours -til what is known as "the ninth hour" (3 PM).
In yet another paralell between THE Pascal lamb and the practice of pre-paratory sacrifice where animals represented the final lamb without blemish, the time designated for sacrificing in the temple was during the exact time when Jesus hung on the cross. Likewise, in the killing of the sacrificial lamb, there are to be no bones broken. This practice directly contradicted the Roman practice of breaking knees so that the crucified could no longer raise themselves up and prevent suffication. But shortly after the 9th hour Jesus had already submitted his mortal life to the will and designs of the Father. He was dead when the Roman's checked on him. The innocent blood of the Pascal Lamb had been spent. The sins of the world had been answered on his head and he had righted the law of justice which demands a penalty for every broken law. The Messiah had fulfilled his role in mortality.
To maintain the laws governing the Sabbath, Jesus' body was removed and quickly entombed before sunset. There was not time to properly prepare his boyd for burial -this would have to take place following the Sabbath. So those closest to him delayed this work until Sunday morning when they would discover a truth about death that would change everything.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
This entry is going to focus mainly on the Passover seder and haggadah (translated as "the telling" as in the re-telling of the deliverance from Egypt).
There are several elements of the Passover that are important to realize.
-it is focused on children and communicating a spiritual heritage to the next generation. This should sound vaguely familiar: see 2Nephi 25:26, specifically the phrase "that our children may know..."
-the celebration is a family event that takes place in the home. Family units join together at the same time as the whole nation of families to participate in this religious exercise. The home was the center of religious life for Jews just as it is for the LDS.
-the meal was frequently several hours long and was not considered to be complete until everyone was asleep. I find this somewhat striking in light of the apostles condition in the garden of Gethsemane. Their sleep might indicate the final conclusion of Passover while/during the Savior's suffering indicated the beginning of "a new day" for the covenant children of God.
These are just the first three indications that symbolism runs very deep in Passover and specifically the Seder. I contend that the Seder --which is a ritual event involving food, songs and remembering God's delivering power-- transforms into the Sacrament. It connects the old with the new: old covenants with the new covenants, old ordinances with the new ordinances, old testament with the new testament. Jesus himself uses such words as he turns the eating of bread and drinking of wine into the ordinance of the sacrament.
Since I am not Jewish I do not claim to know the many symbolic meanings within the text and process of the Seder. In summary, their are four cups of wine which are partaken of as a group at different times and following different prayers/recitations. Unleavened bread (matzah) is eaten at various times as well. Herbs, including bitter herbs are dipped in sauce and eaten. All of these have meaning which are designed to tie the participant into their heritage AS IF they were themselves participating as slaves and then liberated from Egypt.
At one point it is the role of the youngest participant to ask the question, "What is different about tonight?". This is a profound question on several levels. Applied to the Passover shared by the Messiah and his apostles, this may be the point of departure where the Savior transformed the Seder into the Sacrament. This is speculation on my part, but I don't see a more perfect time for the Savior to provide an answer to that question and to begin to tell his apostles what is different about this night than all others in the long history of Passover celebration. This night would lead them to the garden of Gethsemane and the sacrifice of the Lamb of God.
Here is a description I came across during my study of the Passover and its meaning to both Christians and Jews:
"In Jesus' day, it was traditional that the last thing eaten on the nights of the seders was some of the sacrificial lamb. Why? So that the taste of the sacrificial lamb would remain all evening, a remembrance of God's wrath passing over the Israelites. Jesus broke this tradition when he ended the seder with again eating matzah and drinking wine. He explained himself by saying that he was the fulfillment of the sacrificial lamb: the matzah represented his body, and the wine his blood. It was the "taste" of him that should remain, a remembrance of God's wrath passing over those saved from the final judgment."
Here are two informative comparative charts created by this same source:
The gospel of John includes some power teachings that took place befor Jesus and his disciples walked from the upper room to the Mount of Olives. It is significant, to me, that as in birth, Jesus went through the lowliest of places when he should have been able to go to the temple -his house- during the working out of man's redemption. Jesus had to walk through the Kidron Valley to get from Jerusalem to the garden. I had always imagined in my mind a lovely valley just outside the walls of Jerusalem. The truth of the matter is that this valley was something of the public sewer system and indicative of the depths the Messiah would condescend to as he assumed the penalty for sin, the mistakes and the pains of every member of the human family.
Also symbolic is the idea forwarded by Truman Madsen regarding the location of Gethsemane in relation to the temple. Passover takes place each year during the existence of a full moon. It is very possible that the shadow cast by the spire of the temple would have fallen in the garden of Gethsemane. The atonement was wroght literally in the shadow of the temple, in a garden called "the olive press". The Prince of Peace answered the laws of justice and then fell vicitim to one of the most violent exercises known to man (crucifixion) in and just outside the City of Peace. We can see evidence that Jesus was, in fact, the Messiah at almost every turn.
Thursday ended and Friday began sometime during the Savior's hours in Gethsemane, as or after he was betrayed into the hands of the Jews or during the sham trials in front of the Sanhedren.
Passover began at sunset "today". As with our current calendar system, the date and the day of the week varies year to year (for example Christmas -Dec. 25th- is sometimes on a Thursday, sometimes a Friday, sometimes a Saturday). As far as we can tell, during the last week of Jesus' life, Passover began on Thursday at sundown. While this estimation is widely held by gospel scholars there is some ambiguity in the recokoning that does not have a definitive solution. One of the difficulties is in the variation between the timeframe set forth in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke compared with the account in St. John. Matthew, Mark and Luke identify the Passover/last supper as taking place on Thursday but John seems to indicate that it took place on Wednesday evening. Beyond the exact timeing of the the events in the last days of the Savior's life, John varies in many instances from the other three. This is not to infer contradiction, but rather John seems to focus and record events or teachings that the others do not. John, for example does not record the establishment of the sacrament of bread and wine during the last supper as do the other three. On the other hand, the magnificent teachings recorded in John 14, 15, 16, 17 are not found in the three other gospel accounts. One of these is the "high priestly" or "intercessory" prayer offered by the Savior just before retiring to the Mount of Olives (John 17). The different writers focus on different elements and observe the Messiah from different perspectives. This is an enriching element of their accounts -a strength and not a weakness.
So there is some ultimate question about what day Jesus actually ate the Passover with his apostles. One idea is that he ate the Passover meal a day prior to the official start of the celebraton so that the timing of his own suffering and sacrifice would correspond with the offering of the sacrificial lambs. This simultaneous coordination could still have occurred if, as I am inclined to believe, Jesus observed the Passover on Thursday night. It appears that the Passover meal and seder could have taken place on two days due to the large number of observers and the length of time it would have taken to sacrifice the lambs in the temple. In one respect the question of exact timing is not so vital until the events on the cross. At this point, all the gospel authors come into accord. The import, the vital element concerning the events preceding the moment of his death, is that they all happened. When we come to a certain knowledge of their exact timing I am confident they will perfectly allign with the symbolic nature of the Passover ceremony of which he was the author a millenia previous. He wrote the script, literally, that foreshadowed the events which began on Thursday night. He directed the symbolism inherant in the blood of a flawless lamb. He drew the connection between leaven, herbs, the dialog, washing of hands and the breaking of bread. He even inspired the halells (the hymns or psalms) which are part of the seder. He instructed his people to participate in this grand preparatory celebration on a yearly basis in order for them to recognize him when it finally came to fruition. For us who live in the future, he operates the same way. The symbols which were transformed from the Passover to the sacrament are for us to recognize and to remember him. Everything before him pointed to these final few hours and everything after him points us back to these final few hours. He is the middle, the center. We speak of the meridian of time. These next few hours were the middle, the turning point, the center of all of time and of all existence. And they come together in the Passover and the sacrament of the Lords supper. Both of these --the former as recognized by the Jews and the latter as recognized by Christians-- are in remembrance of the Messiah's sacrifical gift of redemtion for mankind. This sacrificial gift takes place in Gethsemane, on the cross and at the garden tomb.