Friday, October 26, 2012

The Jeffersonian Ideal of Church-State Separation

There is no such thing. 

The Jeffersonian ideal was to separate the federal government from any particular Christian denomination - that is not not have an established church like the Church of England in 'England and Wales'. 

It did not proscribe a broad, civil, non-dogmatic, cultural Christianity as the moral bedrock and the least common denominator of economic and political life. (Tangentially, nor did Jefferson explicitly refer to established churches in the constituent states, although he was averse to that too.) 

Coming back to cultural Christianity, I do not share C.S.Lewis' objection to it as a watered-down religion that must be relegated to the trash bin.. You see, cultural Christianity beats cultural secularism as our 'political religion' any day. Yes, we should separate particular forms of Christian dogma and praxis from political life, but the USA is a Christian nation and it is is perverse misinterpretation of the constitution to divorce our politics from a broad Christianity, or to use the IRS to ban political discourse from the pulpits. 

Jefferson was a Deist but a Deist within a profoundly Christian culture, one who created his own bowdlerized New Testament whose value we can certainly dispute but whose Christian orientation we can in no wise deny. 

In other words, let our churches practice particular forms of Christianity and let not the federal or state governments interfere with that. But let us also acknowledge a least-common-denominator Christian culture as the bedrock of our civil life in lieu of the humanist, secular value system that has usurped its place. 

And let Jews and Buddhists and Hindus and Shamanists and Baha'is and Zoroastrians and UUs and Jains and Wiccans and Sikhs and Shintoists and Daoists and Agnostics and Athesits and Sufis and Animists be welcome in our midst by Christian sufferance, and not as itsy-bitsy tails that wag the dog.

The USA for the Lord Jesus Christ !!  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Perfect Recipe for Mental and Physical Health

Try this out and tell me if this does not work.

  1. Buy an iPOD shuffle or some other cheap MP3 player with a 'shuffle' capability.
  2. Download the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John free from this site. Free Bible Download
  3. Also download Revelation from the same site.
  4. Load these five books onto your iPOD shuffle or cheap MP3 player. Dedicate your player to these 5 books - let it have nothing else. Put your player in the shuffle mode.
  5. Buy a cheap digital watch and walk every day for 60 minutes as briskly as you can.
  6. While you do so, listen to to these 5 books in the shuffle mode. Do nothing else while you walk. If thoughts arise, do not pursue them. Listen to the recordings in a light, pleasant way without straining yourself. Do not theologize in your mind as you listen, unless theological thoughts pop up spontaneously.
  7. Watch the Lord completely change your mind and your life in 90 days.
This costs little and it works miracles - and the most important miracle of all: the renewing of the mind.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Marriage, Heaven and the Gospels

First, the scripture. Then, a comment from one Swedenborgian perspective:

Matthew 22:23-33

23 The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him,
24 Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.
25 Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother:
26 Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh.
27 And last of all the woman died also.
28 Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her.
29 Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.
30 For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.
31 But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying,
32 I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.
33 And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine.
When Jesus said there will be no marriage in heaven, he was referring to a very specific definition of marriage in which, according to Jewish law, which still holds for Orthodox Jews:
  1. A man could divorce a woman for any reason or no reason, and still be within the bounds of ethics and morality
  2. A woman could not divorce her husband. So if he left her without divorcing her, she could not marry another man.
  3. Adultery was something contingent on the marital status of the woman, and not of the man. A married man could consort with a whore if he wished and would not be guilty of adultery.
In short, marriage in the halakhic, Talmudic sense meant meant that the man possessed (owned) his wife as property. This is the kind of marriage you would not have in heaven. But you would have a marriage of equals, or the conjugial love that Swedenborg mentioned.
Also marriage includes reproduction and child rearing. That is the main purpose of marriage. A permanent male-female sexual relationship that did not include child bearing and child rearing would not be marriage in the strictest sense. You might call it permanent sexual companionship or marriage' (marriage-prime), and it would be holy in its own way. 

Here’s a link outlining the difficulties of a traditional Torah marriage, which has not changed since Jesus’ day.

This also explains the Gospel’s restriction of divorce (no divorce except for infidelity) - Jewish law allowed men to divorce their wives for any reason, and it did not allow women to divorce their husbands. This law is almost identical in orthodox Judaism and in Islam today - divorce is something that men do to women, and not vice versa. If wives are their husbands’ property, then it is up to the husband to release (or not release) his property. Property does not release its owner!

So the question regarding the woman who married seven brothers, each dying after the others was - whose property will she be in the afterlife? And Jesus' answer was - no one's. Per the definition on marriage in the minds of the audience, there would be no marriage in the afterlife. Not their kind of marriage. Not even an egalitarian, earthly marriage since that implies childbearing and child rearing. We're like the angels in the afterlife. Do angels marry? Do they exist in space? In time? No, no and no. But they do have something else equivalent to marriage - let's call that marriage-prime, for want of a better word. And they ave their own equivalent of the spatial and temporal dimensions - let us call those space-prime and time-prime.

The problem is reading Jesus' words without understanding the historical context.

Snakes and Ecology

I wonder why St. Patrick chased the snakes out. They are a necessary part of our ecological balance.

As are, perhaps, the snakes of hell. Without evil to test us, we would not grow.  So evil is a necessary part of our spiritual ecology.

The trick is to keep it within balance. Yes, the right word is ecological balance. An ecology or an Ireland that is overrun with snakes is toxic to other species of flora and fauna.

So if St. Patrick had not been drunk with green beer, he would have probably not chased all the snakes out of Ireland. But they didn't know of ecological balance then, did they?

Even our fearless hero Swedenborg talks of draining marshes and getting rid of frogs willy-nilly. I guess he did not know that if we drained all the marshes, killed off the bats and the toads, and planted lovely gardens with swans we would be unbalancing the environment - as we often do with the lovely green lawns of suburbia.

Why the Physical Universe will not end - though the earth and the solar system will

One Swedenborgian perspective...

Heaven is just part of the "God's body". The physical universe (not just the earth) with its trillions of habitable earths is God's feet. As Dr. Jonathan Rose said, God will not destroy his feet. Even when this earth dies a natural death when the Sun turns supernova, there will be other earths. Indeed, the Sun is a second-generation star. Who knows that the material from an earlier sun and an earlier earth was recycled into our present solar system? Also, will the physical universe - Carl Sagan's billions and billions of galaxies - end in a big crunch or will thin out into nothing? Not if there are multiple big bangs going on all the time as singularities spew new matter all over the place. In other words, God is not going to cut his feet off and his feet are the physical universe

Swedenborg's "Natural Heaven"

Personally, I see the natural heavens as comprising of the vast number of people who when given the chance would lead decent, orderly and other-friendly lives, perhaps with a lot of good and kind 'feelings' but without going that extra mile to translate Christian faith and love to proactive action targeted at the good of the others or of the community. These are people who, when loved will love back, but who do not actively create love in their environment.

Jesus Resurrection was physical--

- and it all makes sense. Here's why:

Some might say that the God-Man Jesus will not need a carbon-based body in the spiritual realm. However, being God,  Jesus needed to "dispose off" his carbon body on His own terms, and not on the terms of His tormentors. He would do that at the time of the Ascension into substantive, spiritual reality and not following the crucifixion. Hence, the need for a physical resurrection, empty tomb and a newly-wounded carbon body with wounds visible on the hands and on the side (the doubting Thomas episode).  And though there is no carbon-based Jesus's body in the spiritual realm at this time, if and when the Risen Christ wishes to re-project himself into the physical realm, he can do so by enacting His Ascension in reverse i.e. by re-materializing His carbon-based body which, while He is not physically present in the physical realm, still exists as a pattern or thought-form in His mind. All in all, the physical resurrection documented in the Gospels makes perfect theological and spiritual sense  and need not be attributed to the alleged carnal thinking of those first century Jews and Noahides (God-fearers) who accepted the ascended messianic kingship of Jesus of Nazareth.