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Nearly five years ago, in October 2012, I wrote about Michelle Obama’s awful school lunch plan, which left American children hungry, even when they managed to eat what was on their plates.

That post has videos of Michelle saying she loves fried food, which she forbade children from eating at school, not a place most of them want to be, anyway.

Now that Donald Trump is in the White House, readers of The_Donald hope that he will:

Hope springs eternal, boosted by a report in the Conservative Tribune, ‘BOOM: GOP Looks to Shut Down Michelle O’s lunches’ (complete with photos of the current offerings):

Donald Trump and the Republicans aren’t just making America great again. They’re making Taco Tuesday great again, too.

Just think, the new, tasty versions could even be called Trump Lunches: a stroke of branding genius we have come to know and love from the Donald.

They could include a taco bowl, possibly based on the Trump Tower Grill recipe. What’s nicer than a huge deep fried taco piled high with salad? Yum. Brings back fond memories of lunches I enjoyed as an adult in the 1980s.

Of their photographs, one of which has an industrially-stamped sandwich bun, the Conservative Tribune says:

Not exactly Anthony Bourdain we’re talking here. Little wonder, then, that even Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s prisoners ate better than some of our nation’s schoolchildren.

The report says that the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 was never going to work, even if it:

started out with the best of intentions. Who doesn’t want their children to eat healthier, after all? However, the legislation made two fatal assumptions.

First, it assumed that local school districts weren’t, for whatever reason, trying to make healthy food for their students. Second, it assumed that a one-size-fits-all series of laws and regulations could fix the problem.

Yet:

They wished to believe that, given time, these unworkable regulations would turn our nation’s lunchrooms into veritable Whole Foods cafeterias.

Unsurprisingly, it hasn’t worked. It’s time for Michelle Obama’s lunch rules to be tossed.

Fox News has more:

A document released by the office of Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., called for repealing certain aspects of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 – the legislation that helped put Michelle Obama’s hallmark program into law. The initiative is part of a broader plan released by Meadows titled, “First 100 Days: Rules, Regulations, and Executive Orders to Examine, Revoke and Issue.”

The document calls for the Trump administration to reverse nearly 200 rules and regulations, including the requirements of the 2010 law. 

A related report from the House Freedom Caucus shows:

The regulations have proven to be burdensome and unworkable for schools to implement. Schools are throwing food away that students are not eating.

Another report, released by the University of Vermont in 2015:

found even though students added more fruits and vegetables to their plates, “children consumed fewer [fruits and vegetables] and wasted more during the school year immediately following implementation of the USDA rule.”

The USDA rule mandating fruit and vegetables came into force in 2012, as a result of Michelle’s 2010 mandate (emphases mine below):

Titled “Impact of the National School Lunch Program on Fruit and Vegetable Selection,” the [Vermont] report noted that average waste increased from a quarter cup to more than one-third of a cup per tray. Observing students at two northeastern elementary schools during more than 20 visits to each, researchers took photos of students’ trays after they chose their items, as they were exiting the lunch line and again as they went by the garbage cans.

Admittedly, Vermont studied only two elementary schools in the Northeast, however, this tweet shows what a typical Michelle Meal looks like:

While her daughters enjoyed a daily choice of lunch items at the prestigious — and private — Sidwell Friends school, American children were left with unappetising selections resembling cat food.

Worse, the amount of food is paltry:

The Fox News report says that the documents they examined showed that:

some schools had to get creative in disposing of the food waste, feeding leftovers to pigs and other animals at nearby farms.

Before Michelle Obama got involved, many American high school students remembered yummy treats.

Several readers at The_Donald recalled lunch after 2010 (I’ve cleaned up the language in places):

They took away our French fries.

I know they removed soda from the machines and replaced with juice or some[thing].

Salt. My high school HAS NO SALT. There is plenty of pepper, but no salt to be found.

That’s funny considering you even get salt in jail

Underground privatized freedom cafe BTFO dystopian government tasteless “we’ll tell you what to like” food. Epic win.

At my school they started only letting kids have 1 condiment packet.

I graduated in 2015 and our lunches were so horrible that eventually the school didn’t make us pay for them

Ours were free too, and we still didn’t eat ’em.

The calorie restriction completely [mess]ed [up] athletes. Nothing says Lefty policy like bringing down the top performers.

Trump and the Republicans could really clean up with this for mid-term elections in 2018 and the next general election in 2020:

A lot of fifteen year old future Trump voters made today.

I imagine this will make quite a few Gen Z voters happy.

This will red-pill an entire generation. Crazy.

Some remembered luncheon delights before 2012, when the rules were fully implemented around the country:

I just graduated in ’16. The food my school was forced to serve after my freshman year was slop. We went from delicious stuffed crust pizza, bosco sticks, and food the great cafeteria cooks would make..to saltless garbage. I stopped eating it and so did many kids there. Its a shame too because I live in a decently poor rural area in TN so for a lot of kids it was their only meal, and it was complete garbage on a tray.

My school in Massachusetts once had a sandwich bar, nice white buttery pasta with Parmesan cheese, a la carte with fresh chocolatey cookies of several varieties.. Ice cream bars, Hoodsie cups.. Then it started to go [downhill]. My sophomore year, 2011, the subs, sandwiches were gone. Then the cookies lost their moisture, sweetness, and flexibility. The pasta became wheat. Dry, and hard. Then, the cookies and a la carte disappeared. Then, the pasta.. Students were left with utterly [awful] chicken patties, watered-down off-brand condiments, or the viscerally repugnant daily hot lunch.

Was Michelle’s programme confusion or conspiracy? Probably a bit of both, which is a bit rich coming from a woman who often enjoyed wagyu and kobe steak with her husband and friends over the past eight years.

In closing, here’s a brief flashback into history. Mao Tse-tung cut off trade routes to Hunan province, thereby increasing the price of salt. People in Hunan had to form co-operatives, pooling money to purchase it.

A reader at The_Donald posted this:

One of Mao’s biggest problems was the Chinese who would attempt to defect by swimming to Taiwan.

He restricted salt knowing that if these people did not have a certain amount of this necessary nutrient, they could not make the trip.

When I read that severe salt restriction was a part of Michelle Obama’s nutrition plan, again, I chuckled out loud.

They just couldn’t resist their tyrannical impulses.

In other words, ‘For me, but not for thee’. I would be disappointed, but not entirely surprised, to find that Michelle knew of the health implications regarding calorie and salt content of her lunches and implemented them anyway.

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Hundreds of thousands of people attended the March for Life in Washington, DC on Friday, January 27, 2017. This year’s theme was ‘The Power of One’.

Local Marches for Life took place around the nation, and a Marche pour la Vie in France attracted tens of thousands of people.

The exact number of participants in Washington is not yet known. However, that is unimportant.

For the first time, a vice president addressed the pro-life crowd. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W Bush telephoned in to the march during their tenure but never appeared in person.

Mike Pence said, in part:

I’m deeply humbled to stand before you today. I’m deeply humbled to be the first vice president of the United States to ever have the privilege to attend this historic event.

More than 240 years ago, our founders wrote words that have echoed through the ages.

They declared these truths to be self-evident that we are, all of us, endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

44 years ago, our Supreme Court turned away from the first of these timeless ideals.

But today, three generations hence, because of all of you, and the many thousands that stand with us in marches like this all across the nation, life is winning again in America.

That is evident in the election of pro-life majorities and the Congress of the United States of America. But it is no more evident, in any way, than in the historic election of a president who stands for a stronger America, a more prosperous America, and a president who, I proudly say, stands for the right to life – President Donald Trump.

President Trump actually asked me to be here with you today. He asked me to thank you for your support, for your stand for life, and for your compassion for the women and children of America.

President Donald Trump could not attend. He held a meeting and press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May. However, he sent this message:

Another speaker at the event, Christian talk-show host Eric Metaxas, explained Trump’s position to The Atlantic:

He’s been shockingly, and perhaps even ironically, the most pro-life president in the history of the republic. He is widely perceived as being anything but a social conservative. Somebody who has had three wives and who has been pro-choice most of his life … is not the kind of person you would expect to advocate for the unborn. But he’s 70 years old. I think he has a sense of the weight of his new position.

The Atlantic article also stated:

In just his first week, Trump has signaled that he will be loyal to the pro-life movement, whose members arguably helped him carry the White House. The March for Life showed that he’s not just amenable to pro-life policies—he’s aligning his White House with the culture of the pro-life movement, as well.

Trump’s senior counsellor Kellyanne Conway — the first woman to ever manage a winning presidential campaign in the United States — also spoke. Conway turned 50 on Inauguration Day. She is a married mother of four. Despite her hectic work schedule and responsibilities, she loves when her children call her ‘mommy’. None dare call this fearless woman — who gives interviews that male Trump advisers won’t — a feminist!

She told the crowd:

I am a wife, a mother, a Catholic, Counselor to the president of the United States of America and, yes, I am pro-life.

It is such an honor to stand with the vice president of the United States. And with so many leaders, families and students from places near and far, to defend the unborn. Your courage, your conviction, your resolve and your faith are impressive and consequential. This is a new day, a new dawn for life …

It is no coincidence that the first right cited in the Declaration of Independence is the right to life. It is a right. It is not a privilege. It is not a choice. It is God-given. It is unique and it is beautiful. This dismissive notion of out of sight, out of mind is over.

Science and medicine have joined religion and morality in causing many Americans to rethink just how fragile and how triumphant human life truly is.

Other speakers included Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), Rep. Mia Love (R-UT), Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Benjamin Watson, Tight End for the Baltimore Ravens, Abby Johnson, Former Planned Parenthood Director and founder of “And Then There Were None”, Karyme Lozano, Mexican telenovela star, and Bishop Vincent Mathews Jr., President at Church of God In Christ World Missions.

Look — no Democrats.

Mia Love said:

Every time we kill a child, all of us suffer. We lose a little of ourselves and a whole lot of our future. We strip a child from their God-given potential when we, as a society, accept abortion as health care. My fellow Americans, we cannot accept what might have been. We won’t know what might have been if we allow an organization to convince our pregnant women that they have no choice but to abort the life and the potential within them.

The night before, Pence met with pro-life leaders:

Earlier on Thursday, LifeNews.com reported that Trump bashed the media, predicting little to no coverage of the march:

Trump first slammed the media in an interview with ABC News. Then today during his address to the Republican Leadership Retreat, Trump said that the March for Life will have hundreds of thousands of people but the mainstream media will barely cover it if it all.

“You know, the press never gives them the credit that they deserve. They’ll have three hundred, four hundred, five hundred, six hundred thousand people, you won’t even read about it,” he said …

“When other people show up, you read big-time about it, right?” Trump asked the crowd, referring to the pro-abortion Women’s March …

Trump also defended his decision to sign the Mexico City Policy, defunding International Planned Parenthood.

March for Life president Jeanne Mancini dismissed queries about crowd size. LifeNews.com reported (emphases mine below):

Mancini immediately dismissed any comparison to last week’s Women’s March on Washington, saying that the organizers were not concerned with crowd size or likes on social networks. Instead, Mancini said that the only number that she was concerned about was abortion’s death toll over the 44 years since the Roe vs. Wade decision.

“The only number I care about, and the only number that we all care about is – 58 million. Since 1973, 58 million Americans have died as a result of abortion. We stand here today for them – for the little innocent children who have lost their lives to abortion. We also stand here for the mothers who regret their abortion decision.”

I remember back in 1973 when women who supported Roe v Wade told me that very few women would seek abortions. I wonder what they think now that the number of aborted American babies is the size of a nation.

(We also have a figure in the tens of millions here in the UK.)

Now times are changing.

The Catholic League’s Bill Donohue wrote ‘March for Life Scares Death Industry’, which is an excellent article. Donohue says that Trump is sure to appoint a Supreme Court Justice who is pro-life. Last week:

the House passed a bill introduced by Rep. Chris Smith ensuring that the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal abortion funding, will be made permanent, thus vitiating the need for annual reapproval; the bill now goes to the Senate for a vote. On January 12, Rep. Steve King introduced a House bill that would ban an abortion after the baby’s heartbeat is detected.

He says that some states are also rethinking abortion:

Last year, Louisiana passed seven new laws restricting abortion. Texas introduced 17 new civil rights laws protecting children in the womb, and 2017 will see at least some of them enacted.

Kentucky just passed two pro-life laws, one of which bans abortions after 20 weeks. Just this month, lawmakers in Florida, New Mexico and Tennessee introduced bills that would also ban abortions after 20 weeks; New Jersey filed a similar bill last month. Moreover, Missouri legislators refiled 14 pro-life bills this month. And Iowa is considering a bill to defund Planned Parenthood.

Another worthwhile article is at American Thinker. ‘Obama and the Marxist/Communist View of Marriage and Abortion’, which appeared in 2012, is less about him than it is left-wing history from the 19th and 20th centuries, from Marx through to American communists in the 1950s. An excerpt follows:

The Bolsheviks advocated abortion.  It was one of the first things they legalized.  By the early 1920s, Bolshevik Russia had the most liberal abortion policies in the world.  And what happened?  Just like divorce, abortion exploded.  In fact, the proliferation in abortions was so bad that it shocked even Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger during a trip to Russia in 1934.  By the 1970s, when America was just getting around to legalizing abortion, the Soviet Union was averaging over 7 million abortions per year — dwarfing the very worst rates in America post-Roe v. WadeThe direct effect of this on the Russian population has been staggering.

For the record, Russia’s horrific abortion rates are common in communist countries, which to this day lead the world in abortions.

Marx, to my knowledge, did not deal with abortion — to think he would in the mid-19th century is unrealistic.  However, his disciples in the international communist movement a century later certainly did — including here in America.  To cite just one example, Whittaker Chambers noted how abortion “was a commonplace of Party life.”  He honestly and painfully wrote about his wife’s first pregnancy, when she had to plead for the life of their unborn child.  The blessed birth of that child changed Chambers completely, particularly regarding his views on God.  Interestingly, the termination of an unborn life was no mystery to Chambers’ nemesis, Alger Hiss.  Hiss’s wife, Priscilla, who aided him in his treason, had an abortion before she met him (for the record, it devastated her).

A final article worth reading on the subject is ‘Marxism and Abortion’, which recaps a 1988 article by an Australian Communist, Rebecca Albury, for The Tribune, the official newspaper for the Communist Party of Australia. It explains much of why Communists see no value in family. Excerpts follow, so please be sure to read all of it:

A Marxist believes that personality and human value are imparted by the external and economic environment, not by any inherent spiritual value, or even by biological processes.

The humanity of the fetus depends upon how the mother perceives the “social relationship” that exists between them. If the mother desires to keep the baby, then she “fantasizes” it into becoming a human being. But, if she does not want the pregnancy, “it is something else entirely.” Her opinion of the fetus thereby denies it of personhood.

According to Albury, “Material conditions of life change, and so do moral values.” This means that, to a Marxist, the unborn baby may be a human being for a time, but may then become depersonified and rendered ‘pre-human,’ all because his or her mother began to think differently about him or her.

That’s incredible. I now better understand how Communist regimes can go on killing sprees. They do not look at fellow human beings but rather at what they perceive as depersonalised objects.

This particularly struck me, because we Westerners have been pounded with this egregious message since the 1960s:

Material conditions of life change, and so do moral values.

Parents and church leaders would do well to make sure that youngsters in their care or congregations understand the background to modern immorality, abortion and the people who have supported both throughout modern history.

Sean Hannity is well known to Americans, even those who do not watch Fox News.

On Thursday, January 26, 2017, President Donald Trump granted him an interview which is well worth watching, especially for people overseas who are fearful of him.

Trump talks about the dishonest media (starting at 11:00), including the fake news about the inauguration crowds, his address to the CIA and the Martin Luther King Jr bust controversy.

He talks about terrorists (around 23:00) and says that opponents to his policies do not understand how violent and hateful radical Islamists are.

On the walk to the Oval Office (starting at 30:00), Trump tells Hannity that Inauguration Day was a ‘surreal’ experience. Unfortunately, he has not had time to take it all in. He has been too busy working. However, he enjoys working. Holidays bore him. He also said that Barron, his ten-year-old son, is finding it challenging adjusting to the glare of publicity. However, given time, he is confident that the boy will learn to take it in his stride. Trump strongly condemned Saturday Night Live‘s potshot at the first son on the January 21 show. Barron is aware of the egregious comedy they made at his expense. Here is another SNL comment, one which even Bernie fans and Green Party supporters found abhorrent. These are hurtful, especially to a child.

Once in the Oval Office, the discussion revolved around some of the furnishings which Trump has changed. The paintings are all of past presidents from the first century of the United States. Andrew Jackson has just been added. I’ll go into his story soon, as I see several similarities between Trump and Old Hickory. We also saw the bust of Martin Luther King Jr, which is unmoved and still on a table near the fireplace.

This is a thoughtful interview, more of a conversation between two men who know each other well. I highly recommend it.

Bible read me 1The three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Acts 5:7-11

After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you[a] sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.

————————————————————————————————

Last week’s post concerned the first part of this shocking episode: Ananias’s death, a sentence God carried out through Peter for deceiving Him and the Holy Spirit.

If you haven’t already read it, I strongly recommend doing so, because it concerns the sometimes fatal folly of humans trying to pull one over on the Holy Trinity. Not recommended. In the case of Ananias, it was his sin unto death: the last one before God decides to pull the plug on someone’s life in cases of egregious offence.

Acts 5:6 tells us that young men wrapped up Ananias’s body and carried it out — implying out of the city — for burial. Matthew Henry explains that they:

buried it decently, though he died in sin, and by an immediate stroke of divine vengeance.

Three hours later after the death of Ananias, Sapphira, his wife, walked in (verse 7). She did not know what happened nor that Peter, the Apostles and others present knew the two had consciously not given all the money from their property sale to the congregation. They kept some back for themselves.

Given those circumstances, both our commentators surmise that she thought she was in for a lot of love, given the donation. She was, in John MacArthur’s estimation:

expecting to get in on the laurels.

Henry tells us that all this took place at Solomon’s Porch of the temple in Jerusalem, because the next few verses took place there, the subject of next week’s entry about the signs and wonders done.

He thought that the original idea came from Sapphira herself:

perhaps … first in the transgression, and tempted her husband to eat this forbidden fruit.

Peter confronted her about the amount of money from the property sale. She agreed with what he said (verse 8) and, therefore, lied to him. He then asked her a question similar to the one he posed to Ananias (verse 9). How could the two of them have agreed to test the Holy Spirit? He then told her that the men who buried her husband were ready to take her body, too!

Henry explains the couple’s thought process (emphases mine):

Ananias and his wife agreed to tell the same story, and the bargain being private, and by consent kept to themselves, nobody could disprove them, and therefore they thought they might safely stand in the lie, and should gain credit to it. It is sad to see those relations who should quicken one another to that which is good harden one another in that which is evil …

That they agreed together to do it, making the bond of their relation to each other (which by the divine institution is a sacred tie) to become a bond of iniquity. It is hard to say which is worse between yoke-fellows and other relations–a discord in good or concord in evil.

Peter made sure that, before Sapphira breathed her last, she was aware of her sin — testing the Holy Spirit:

It seems to intimate that their agreeing together to do it was a further tempting of the Spirit; as if, when they had engaged to keep one another’s counsel in this matter, even the Spirit of the Lord himself could not discover them. Thus they digged deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, but were made to know it is in vain. “How is it that you are thus infatuated? What strange stupidity has seized you, that you would venture to make trial of that which is past dispute? How is it that you, who are baptized Christians, do not understand yourselves better? How durst you run so great a risk?”

Henry gives us examples from the Old Testament where people tested God:

That they tempted the Spirit of the Lord; as Israel tempted God in the desert, when they said, Is the Lord among us, or is he not? after they had seen so many miraculous proofs of his power; and not only his presence, but his presidency, when they said, Can God furnish a table? So here, “Can the Spirit in the apostles discover this fraud? Can they discern that this is but a part of the price, when we tell them it is the whole?” Can he judge through this dark cloud? Job 22:13. They saw that the apostles had the gift of tongues; but had they the gift of discerning spirits? Those that presume upon security and impunity in sin tempt the Spirit of God; they tempt God as if he were altogether such a one as themselves.

As soon as Peter made Sapphira aware of her sin, she dropped dead at his feet (verse 10). It could be a combination of being found out and the sudden knowledge that her husband dropped dead was too much for her. All this, in Henry’s words:

struck her as a thunderbolt and took her away as with a whirlwind.

The Holy Spirit was working powerfully through Peter, giving him the discernment, the right words to say and the most effective delivery.

Henry advises us not to consider every sudden death as being divine punishment:

We must not think that all who die suddenly are sinners above others; perhaps it is in favour to them, that they have a quick passage: however, it is forewarning to all to be always ready. But here it is plain that it was in judgment.

He also does not think they were eternally saved, either:

Some put the question concerning the eternal state of Ananias and Sapphira, and incline to think that the destruction of the flesh was that the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. And I should go in with that charitable opinion if there had been any space given them to repent, as there was to the incestuous Corinthian. But secret things belong not to us. It is said, She fell down at Peter’s feet; there, where she should have laid the whole price and did not, she was herself laid, as it were to make up the deficiency.

The young men, having just returned, came in to remove her body to bury it beside her husband’s. Henry points out:

it is not said, They wound her up, as they did Ananias, but, They carried her out as she was, and buried her by her husband; and probably an inscription was set over their graves, intimating that they were joint-monuments of divine wrath against those that lie to the Holy Ghost.

Not surprisingly, those who learned of these deaths from attempting to deceive God and the Holy Spirit were struck with ‘great fear’ (verse 11).

This whole event really should be in the three-year Lectionary. If it scares people — the clergy’s great and near-universal fear — so much the better!

We in the West have such a blessing of creature comforts that we have forgotten the wrath of God! Woe betide us!

MacArthur says:

Oh, there are lessons here, what are they? God hates sin. Especi­ally sins in Christians’ lives. Second, God punishes sin. I Peter 4:17, says Judgement must begin at the house of God. And if God cares about the sins of the saints that much and punishes them that stringent­ly, I say to you who are unbelievers, beware of the judgement of God upon you. And so we see lessons, powerful, speaking to our hearts.

Some will wonder whether the Apostles kept the money that Ananias brought them. Henry thought so:

I am apt to think they did … What they brought was not polluted to those to whom they brought it; but what they kept back was polluted to those that kept it back.

The tone of Acts 5 changes in the verses that follow and we return to the glorious wonders that the Holy Spirit made possible in the earliest days of the Apostolic Era.

Next time: Acts 5:12-16

The Deep State is about to be dismantled.

Donald Trump and the good guys will begin taking it down piece by piece.

Few people question the non-stop anti-Trump media narrative that began running in the summer of 2015. In their ignorance — and nearly everyone I know fits into this category — they continue to work on the mistaken assumption that everything they hear and read from Big Media must be true!

Big Media are there to protect the Deep State. They are part of it.

Does anyone think Donald Trump could have become a billionaire if he were a racist? Could he have starred in 14 successful seasons of The Apprentice if he were a bigot or a sexual predator? As he said at the Al Smith (Catholic Charities) dinner in October 2016: all the guests there were his friends until he decided to run for president.

Why did they suddenly turn against him? Because he is the man who wants to take down the Deep State.

Thanks to The Conservative Treehouse, I read an absorbing essay by Mike Lofgren, a former congressional staffer who wrote a book about his experience, The Party is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted, which appeared in paperback in 2013.

Lofgren’s latest book is The Deep State, which went on sale in September 2016. One of the Amazon reviewers who gave it five stars says that Lofgren worked for John Kasich, a congressman at the time, now Governor of Ohio and the last Republican presidential candidate to drop out. Incidentally, Kasich is a never-Trump man. Lofgren went on to work for other Republicans in Congress but became disillusioned during the Bush II years — I can’t blame him — and retired.

What follows are excerpts and a summary from his February 2014 essay, ‘Anatomy of the Deep State’, which I highly recommend. Emphases mine below.

What is the Deep State?

Lofgren’s first footnote states:

[1] The term “Deep State” was coined in Turkey and is said to be a system composed of high-level elements within the intelligence services, military, security, judiciary and organized crime. In British author John le Carré’s latest novel, A Delicate Truth, a character describes the Deep State as “… the ever-expanding circle of non-governmental insiders from banking, industry and commerce who were cleared for highly classified information denied to large swathes of Whitehall and Westminster.”  I use the term to mean a hybrid association of elements of government and parts of top-level finance and industry that is effectively able to govern the United States without reference to the consent of the governed as expressed through the formal political process.

John Le Carre’s website has a synopsis of A Delicate Truth.

Qualifications for writing about it

Lofgren tells us he worked for 28 years as a congressional staff member and was on the fringes of the Deep State. However:

like virtually every employed person, I became, to some extent, assimilated into the culture of the institution I worked for, and only by slow degrees, starting before the invasion of Iraq, did I begin fundamentally to question the reasons of state that motivate the people who are, to quote George W. Bush, “the deciders.”

The reality of the Deep State

Lofgren gives this breakdown of how the Deep State works against the interests of the United States and the American people:

President Obama can liquidate American citizens without due processes, detain prisoners indefinitely without charge, conduct dragnet surveillance on the American people without judicial warrant and engage in unprecedented — at least since the McCarthy era — witch hunts against federal employees (the so-called “Insider Threat Program”). Within the United States, this power is characterized by massive displays of intimidating force by militarized federal, state and local law enforcement. Abroad, President Obama can start wars at will and engage in virtually any other activity whatsoever without so much as a by-your-leave from Congress, such as arranging the forced landing of a plane carrying a sovereign head of state over foreign territory. Despite the habitual cant of congressional Republicans about executive overreach by Obama, the would-be dictator, we have until recently heard very little from them about these actions — with the minor exception of comments from gadfly Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. Democrats, save a few mavericks such as Ron Wyden of Oregon, are not unduly troubled, eithereven to the extent of permitting seemingly perjured congressional testimony under oath by executive branch officials on the subject of illegal surveillance.

Shadow government

The Deep State is a shadow government. Using the word ‘establishment’ doesn’t begin to describe it:

Yes, there is another government concealed behind the one that is visible at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, a hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country according to consistent patterns in season and out, connected to, but only intermittently controlled by, the visible state whose leaders we choose. My analysis of this phenomenon is not an exposé of a secret, conspiratorial cabal; the state within a state is hiding mostly in plain sight, and its operators mainly act in the light of day. Nor can this other government be accurately termed an “establishment.” All complex societies have an establishment, a social network committed to its own enrichment and perpetuation. In terms of its scope, financial resources and sheer global reach, the American hybrid state, the Deep State, is in a class by itself. That said, it is neither omniscient nor invincible. The institution is not so much sinister (although it has highly sinister aspects) as it is relentlessly well entrenched. Far from being invincible, its failures, such as those in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, are routine enough that it is only the Deep State’s protectiveness towards its higher-ranking personnel that allows them to escape the consequences of their frequent ineptitude. [2]

Agencies and institutions involved

The Deep State does not consist of the entire government. It is a hybrid of national security and law enforcement agencies: the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Justice Department. I also include the Department of the Treasury because of its jurisdiction over financial flows, its enforcement of international sanctions and its organic symbiosis with Wall Street. All these agencies are coordinated by the Executive Office of the President via the National Security Council. Certain key areas of the judiciary belong to the Deep State, such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, whose actions are mysterious even to most members of Congress. Also included are a handful of vital federal trial courts, such as the Eastern District of Virginia and the Southern District of Manhattan, where sensitive proceedings in national security cases are conducted. The final government component (and possibly last in precedence among the formal branches of government established by the Constitution) is a kind of rump Congress consisting of the congressional leadership and some (but not all) of the members of the defense and intelligence committees. The rest of Congress, normally so fractious and partisan, is mostly only intermittently aware of the Deep State and when required usually submits to a few well-chosen words from the State’s emissaries.

Private enterprise is also part of the Deep State and increased its role after 9/11. This is, incidentally, why I do not like George W Bush. Not only did he say he wanted to be a dictator but he imposed the Patriot Act on the American people. The Act was never designed to protect them:

In a special series in The Washington Post called “Top Secret America,” Dana Priest and William K. Arkin described the scope of the privatized Deep State and the degree to which it has metastasized after the September 11 attacks. There are now 854,000 contract personnel with top-secret clearances — a number greater than that of top-secret-cleared civilian employees of the government. While they work throughout the country and the world, their heavy concentration in and around the Washington suburbs is unmistakable: Since 9/11, 33 facilities for top-secret intelligence have been built or are under construction. Combined, they occupy the floor space of almost three Pentagons — about 17 million square feet. Seventy percent of the intelligence community’s budget goes to paying contracts. And the membrane between government and industry is highly permeable: The Director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper, is a former executive of Booz Allen Hamilton, one of the government’s largest intelligence contractors. His predecessor as director, Admiral Mike McConnell, is the current vice chairman of the same company; Booz Allen is 99 percent dependent on government business. These contractors now set the political and social tone of Washington, just as they are increasingly setting the direction of the country, but they are doing it quietly, their doings unrecorded in the Congressional Record or the Federal Register, and are rarely subject to congressional hearings.

Lofgren adds that Wall Street is an indispensable link, providing cash and lawyers. Prosecution of big banks is risky, he says, not only because they are powerful but also because the American or the world economy can be adversely affected. Furthermore:

It is not too much to say that Wall Street may be the ultimate owner of the Deep State and its strategies, if for no other reason than that it has the money to reward government operatives with a second career that is lucrative beyond the dreams of avarice — certainly beyond the dreams of a salaried government employee. [3]

The Deep State also has an outpost on the West Coast, Silicon Valley:

While the government could simply dragoon the high technology companies to do the NSA’s bidding, it would prefer cooperation with so important an engine of the nation’s economy, perhaps with an implied quid pro quo. Perhaps this explains the extraordinary indulgence the government shows the Valley in intellectual property matters.

Cross-party involvement

Those involved in the Deep State, as we have seen over the past year in the presidential campaign, are from both political parties:

They are deeply dyed in the hue of the official ideology of the governing class, an ideology that is neither specifically Democrat nor Republican. Domestically, whatever they might privately believe about essentially diversionary social issues such as abortion or gay marriage, they almost invariably believe in the “Washington Consensus”: financialization, outsourcing, privatization, deregulation and the commodifying of labor.

Why few people speak up

As in the military, everybody has to get on board with the mission, and questioning it is not a career-enhancing move. The universe of people who will critically examine the goings-on at the institutions they work for is always going to be a small one

No wonder so few people are whistle-blowers, quite apart from the vicious retaliation whistle-blowing often provokes: Unless one is blessed with imagination and a fine sense of irony, growing immune to the curiousness of one’s surroundings is easy. To paraphrase the inimitable Donald Rumsfeld, I didn’t know all that I knew, at least until I had had a couple of years away from the government to reflect upon it.

Why this matters

The Deep State is the big story of our time. It is the red thread that runs through the war on terrorism, the financialization and deindustrialization of the American economy, the rise of a plutocratic social structure and political dysfunction …

We are faced with two disagreeable implications. First, that the Deep State is so heavily entrenched, so well protected by surveillance, firepower, money and its ability to co-opt resistance that it is almost impervious to change. Second, that just as in so many previous empires, the Deep State is populated with those whose instinctive reaction to the failure of their policies is to double down on those very policies in the future

If there is anything the Deep State requires it is silent, uninterrupted cash flow and the confidence that things will go on as they have in the past.

The past is now drawing to a close.

Where I disagree

At the beginning of his essay, Lofgren states:

As I wrote in The Party is Over, the present objective of congressional Republicans is to render the executive branch powerless, at least until a Republican president is elected (a goal that voter suppression laws in GOP-controlled states are clearly intended to accomplish).

He did not bargain on Donald Trump entering the race the following year. The GOPe have opposed him from the start and continue to do so. The latest is House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who says that he won’t be investigating voter fraud because it is non-existent. How can he say this after all the news stories past and present?! Chaffetz is protecting the Deep State. Trump will be investigating voter fraud through his own team.

Another part of the Deep State is the media, but, for whatever reason, Lofgren did not mention those institutions.

Ask yourself why they run such negative news on Donald Trump. They find him a threat. Stop believing what Big Media tell you.

Conclusion

Lofgren concludes:

What America lacks is a figure with the serene self-confidence to tell us that the twin idols of national security and corporate power are outworn dogmas that have nothing more to offer us. Thus disenthralled, the people themselves will unravel the Deep State with surprising speed.

Thank goodness for Donald Trump, the only American who can ‘drain the swamp’ and restore power to the American people.

This is going to be dangerous work. No one involved in the Deep State is going to go quietly. There are also nefarious activities going on within it that Trump and his team intend to uncover. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, please keep Donald Trump, his family as well as those working for him and the United States in your prayers.

Yesterday’s post addressed the First Amendment in the Constitution of the United States.

The post showed that, in terms of religion, the Founding Fathers envisaged it much differently than we do today. The numerous court cases from the Warren Court in the 1960s to the present have gradually redefined the relationship between church and state.

The First Amendment developed after a prolonged period of colonial and state churches — mandated denominations — which led to religious persecution and discrimination.

Furthermore, the Founding Fathers gave the United States Article VI of the Constitution which forbids a religious test for holding public office:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

Ultimately, these provisions and others protect the Church from undue federal influence.

Religion in the colonies

FacingHistory.org has an excellent, detailed article on religious practice in American colonies.

Excerpts and a summary follow, emphases mine.

Not surprisingly, given that the 17th century was a time when Christianity was taken seriously, eight of the 13 colonial governments mandated religious practice, sometimes within a designated Protestant denomination. Taxes collected went to the colonial church for upkeep and clergymen’s salaries.

Refusal to participate was problematic:

in those colonies dissenters who sought to practice or proselytize a different version of Christianity or a non-Christian faith were sometimes persecuted.

Even though the colonies were overwhelmingly Protestant, there was sometimes a lack of Christian unity. Naturally, colonists favoured their own denominations, just as Christians do today. Baptists resented having to attend and pay for the Congregational Church. Even Anglicans were split between mainstream members and the Puritans, a theological conflict which began in England and was transplanted to the colonies.

Between 1680 and 1760, the two main colonial denominations were Anglicanism and Congregationalism. The latter was a Puritan offshoot, which, until recently, held to Calvinistic doctrines.

However, after this period, more colonists arriving aligned themselves with other denominations:

such as the Baptists, Methodists, Quakers, Unitarians and many more, sometimes referred to as “Dissenters.”  In communities where one existing faith was dominant, new congregations were often seen as unfaithful troublemakers who were upsetting the social order.

ProCon.org has an excellent list of the colonial denominations and the adherence expected by colonists.

Virginia was Anglican and affiliated with the Church of England. In 1677, Governor Argall decreed:

Every Person should go to church, Sundays and Holidays, or lye Neck and Heels that Night, and be a Slave to the Colony the following Week; for the second Offence, he should be a Slave for a Month; and for the third, a Year and a Day.

Rhode Island was the opposite, supporting freedom of worship. The 1663 Charter of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations stated:

That our royall will and pleasure is, that noe person within the sayd colonye, at any tyme hereafter, shall bee any wise molested, punished, disquieted, or called in question, for any differences in opinione in matters of religion, and doe not actually disturb the civill peace of our sayd colony; but that all and everye person and persons may, from tyme to tyme, and at all tymes hereafter, freelye and fullye have and enjoye his and theire owne judgments and consciences, in matters of religious concernments…

It is interesting that the founder of Rhode Island, Roger Williams (c.1603-1683), was a Puritan minister who was banished from Massachusetts for supporting freedom of religion.

Even where colonial decrees allowed freedom of religion, their taxes often went to support the colony’s designated denomination. This is why the Danbury Baptists of Connecticut, Congregationalist, wrote to Thomas Jefferson in 1801.

Colonial penalties and controversies

The religious atmosphere, even among like-minded souls, was somewhat heated in colonial America.

Massachusetts

Returning to FacingHistory.org, in Massachusetts, a Congregationalist colony, a man complained in 1632 that:

fellows which keepe hogges all weeke preach on the Sabboth.

Massachusetts was the location of the Salem Witch Trials in 1692 and 1693. Although clergy frowned on deviating from Holy Scripture:

alchemy and other magical practices were not altogether divorced from Christianity in the minds of many “natural philosophers” (the precursors of scientists), who sometimes thought of them as experiments that could unlock the secrets of Scripture.

The Witch Trials were short-lived, however, religious conformity was expected in the years that followed. As late as 1768, a Boston resident wrote that:

the selectmen of Boston at last were able to “parade the street and oblige everyone to go to Church . . . on pain of being put in Stokes or otherwise confined”

Laws were instituted that forbade certain activities on a Sunday:

travel, drinking, gambling, or blood sports …

There were no church courts for punishing religious misdeeds. The civil courts handled that, sometimes harshly. In Massachusetts:

the civil government dealt harshly with religious dissenters, exiling the likes of Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams for their outspoken criticism of Puritanism, and whipping Baptists or cropping the ears of Quakers for their determined efforts to proselytize. Official persecution reached its peak between 1659 and 1661, when Massachusetts Bay’s Puritan magistrates h[anged] four Quaker missionaries.

Virginia

Virginia, as stated above, expected everyone to attend an Anglican service on Sunday.

In the mid-18th century, more Baptists moved there and were violently suppressed:

the colonial Anglican elite responded to their presence with force. Baptist preachers were frequently arrested. Mobs physically attacked members of the sect, breaking up prayer meetings and sometimes beating participants. As a result, the 1760s and 1770s witnessed a rise in discontent and discord within the colony (some argue that Virginian dissenters suffered some of the worst persecutions in antebellum America).9

England ends corporal punishment of dissenters

In 1682, England put an end to corporal punishment of dissenters in New England.

The English Parliament’s Toleration Act of 1689 granted religious freedom. It:

gave Quakers and several other denominations the right to build churches and to conduct public worship in the colonies. While dissenters continued to endure discrimination and financial penalties well into the eighteenth century, those who did not challenge the authority of the Puritans directly were left unmolested and were not legally punished for their “heretical” beliefs.

Elsewhere

Some colonies, like Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Delaware, were either founded on the basis of religious tolerance (the first two) or had no dominant denomination from the outset:

In the Carolinas, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware, Anglicans never made up a majority, in contrast to Virginia.  With few limits on the influx of new colonists, Anglican citizens in those colonies needed to accept, however grudgingly, ethnically diverse groups of Presbyterians, Baptists, Quakers, members of the Dutch Reformed Church, and a variety of German Pietists.

Catholics, of course, were universally looked down upon. Cecilius Calvert founded Maryland in 1634 as a safe haven for them. However, in 1649, Puritans took over the colony’s assembly. Fortunately, wise heads prevailed and mandatory taxes went to both Catholic and Puritan churches.

Something similar happened in New York, which began as a Dutch colony in 1614. The prevailing denomination was the Dutch Reformed Church. The English took over in 1664, and granted religious tolerance. However, they allowed the Dutch Reformed Church to retain their properties. The New York Charter of Liberties and Privileges of 1683 granted official acceptance of all Christians. In 1697, the English founded Trinity Church (Wall Street) by Royal Charter. The funds Trinity received from the Crown helped them to become a wealthy church.

Later developments

As time passed and more colonists arrived from different denominations, Anglican and Congregationalist colonies had to relax their religious laws.

Therefore, it is no surprise that the Founding Fathers wanted to ensure religious freedom in the newly-independent United States. For this, they relied on contemporary philosophers such as John Locke for input.

The Procon.org page shows that, by the time the colonies became states in the mid- to late-18th century, their new state constitutions granted freedom of worship.

However, where mandated colonial churches had existed, taxation continued to go to their support until the early 19th century. Even where there was no designated denomination — and even with the United States Constitution in force — there were still statutes for a religious test.

Connecticut stopped its support of the Congregational Church in 1818, 17 years after the Danbury Baptists complained to Thomas Jefferson.

Virginia repealed their religious test, along with the taxation requirement, in 1830.

Massachusetts ceased supporting the Congregational Church in 1833.

However, North Carolina did not eliminate religious references and requirements until 1875.  New Hampshire deleted its requirement that senators be Protestant as late as 1877.

Today, we wonder why this took so long and whether these states were in violation of the US Constitution. Conservapedia explains that the First Amendment was for federal not state use:

The first clause of the first amendments states “Congress shall make no law..”; demonstrating that it is a restriction on laws that the Congress of the United States can pass. Nowhere does the constitution restrict State and Local Legislatures from passing any laws respecting an establishment of religion.

However, when the colonies became states, they granted freedom of worship, although, as we see, they lagged behind when it came to repealing mandatory religious tax and removing religious restrictions on legislators.

In 1940, the Supreme Court made the First Amendment applicable to the states. Current judicial interpretation:

holds that the Fourteenth Amendment extended its scope from Congress to the state legislatures, since freedom of religion can be classified as one of the “privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States” mentioned therein.

Conclusion

From the founding of the 13 colonies to the present, America has had close links to Christianity.

It is only in recent years — starting in the 1960s — that secularists have been denying the nation’s history in this regard.

Since then, Supreme Court decisions have confused the situation. Although most have ruled against Christianity — most famously in school prayers — sometimes they rule in favour. Prayers in state legislature led by a publicly funded chaplain are constitutional and Christian groups may use state school property and town halls for religious purposes after hours.

However, the cases will continue to proliferate as the number of secularists continues to grow.

Church and state averypoliticalwomancomIn response to ‘Christian objections to President Trump’, the author of Pacific Paratrooper wrote in to ask:

Isn’t there a division of church and state?

The short answer is that the First Amendment protects religious freedom and prohibits the establishment of a national church and state churches. It was Thomas Jefferson who wrote of the ‘separation between church and State’ in 1802 in a letter to the Danbury Baptists. They were concerned about their tax money supporting the Congregational Church, the state church of Connecticut at that time.

There is more to the story, detailed below.

However, Conservapedia tells us that there was a constitution that had a division of church and state (emphases mine below):

A phrase close to “separation of church and state”, but used for malevolent purposes and expanded to name education, does appear in Article 52 of the constitution of the Soviet Union (1977): “In the USSR, the church is separated from the state, and the school from the church.”[6]

The First Amendment

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution reads as follows:

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.

Conservapedia makes the argument that the First Amendment has its origins in the Bible:

The protection for free speech was largely motivated to safeguard the preaching of the Bible. Several passages in the Bible, both Old Testament and New Testament, support a right of free speech, including Numbers 11:26-30 (Moses allowed free speech by declaring, “If only all the people of the LORD were prophets!”);[1] Mark 9:38-41 (admonition by Jesus not to stop strangers who cast out evil in his name).

George Washington’s farewell address

In his farewell address of September 19, 1796, George Washington said:

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labour to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men & citizens. The mere Politican, equally with the pious man ought to respect & to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private & public felicity. Let it simply be asked where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the Oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure–reason & experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

Ronald Reagan’s address to the Alabama State Legislature

Nearly 200 years later, on March 15, 1982, Ronald Reagan addressed the Alabama State Legislature:

And I know here that you will agree with me that standing up for America also means standing up for the God, who has so blessed our land. I believe this country hungers for a spiritual revival. I believe it longs to see traditional values reflected in public policy again. To those who cite the first amendment as reason for excluding God from more and more of our institutions and everyday life, may I just say: The first amendment of the Constitution was not written to protect the people of this country from religious values; it was written to protect religious values from government tyranny.

What Jefferson said

In 1801, a committee of the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut wrote Thomas Jefferson to ask about about their tax money supporting the Congregational Church, the state church of Connecticut at that time.

On New Year’s Day 1802, Jefferson replied, in part:

I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof thus building a wall of separation between church and State.

Connecticut did not change this mandate until 1818. That year, their constitution finally stated:

Article VII. Section 1. It being the duty of all men to worship the Supreme Being, the great Creator and Preserver of the Universe, and their right to render that worship in the mode most consistent with the dictates or their consciences, no person shall by law be compelled to join or support, nor be classed with, or associated to, any congregation, church, or religious association; but every person now belonging to such congregation, church, or religious association, shall remain a member thereof until he shall have separated himself therefrom, in the manner hereinafter provided. And each and every society or denomination of Christians in this State shall have and enjoy the same and equal powers, rights, and privileges; and shall have power and authority support and maintain the ministers or teachers of their respective denominations, and to build and repair houses for public worship by a tax on the members of any such society only, to be laid by a major vote of the legal voters assembled at any society meeting, warned and held according to law, or in any other manner.”

Jefferson worshipped in Capitol building

Atheists are fond of quoting Thomas Jefferson and have adopted him as their secular hero. However, three days after Jefferson wrote his ‘separation between church and state’ letter to the Danbury Baptists (italicised emphasis in the original here, purple emphases mine):

he attended church in the largest congregation in North America at the time. This church held its weekly worship services on government property, in the House Chambers of the U.S. Capitol Building. The wall of separation applies everywhere in the country even on government property , without government interference. This is how it is written in the Constitution, this is how Thomas Jefferson understood it from his letter and actions, and this is how the men who wrote the Constitution practiced it.

Worship in the Capitol ended only after the Civil War. Therefore, it lasted for five decades.

Conservapedia provides more examples of Jefferson’s support of Christianity in government:

David Barton, Founder and President of WallBuilders, states that Jefferson voted that the Capitol building would also serve as a church building, praised the use of a local courthouse as a meeting place for Christian services, urged local governments to make land available specifically for Christian purposes, set aside government lands for the sole use of religious groups, assured a Christian religious school that it would receive “the patronage of the government”, proposed that the Great Seal of the United States depict a story from the Bible and include the word “God” in its motto, and agreed to provide money for a church building and support of clergy. And that like support of religion by the federal government militates against the extreme separatist position.[26]

The Bible and American government

Conservapedia tells us that God is mentioned in all 50 state constitutions.

Until the 1960s, the Bible had a pre-eminent place:

in government, jurisprudence [11] and in over 300 years of American education[12][13].

Every new president has made a religious reference in his inaugural address. Dwight D Eisenhower wrote his own prayer. Dr Jerry Newcombe compiled a list of all of these references for the Christian Post just before Donald Trump’s inauguration. (He, too, mentioned God — more than once.) Here are a few:

1. George Washington said, “It would be peculiarly improper to omit, in this first official act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe….”

3. Thomas Jefferson prayed to “that Infinite Power which rules the destinies of the universe.”

6. John Quincy Adams quoted Scripture: “Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh in Vain.”

7. Andrew Jackson referred to “the goodness of that Power whose providence mercifully protected our national infancy.”

16. Abraham Lincoln stated, “Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust in the best way all our present difficulty.”

24. William McKinley declared, ” Our faith teaches that there is no safer reliance than upon the God of our fathers.”

25. Theodore Roosevelt thanked “the Giver of Good who has blessed us.”

32. Harry S. Truman referenced “that all men are created equal because they are created in the image of God.”

Dr Newcombe rightly concludes:

The atheists are the Johnny-come-latelies. Demands to ban God and the Bible from the Inauguration should be denied.

Interpretation

It is not surprising that many Americans and other people around the world now think that Christians in the United States are being unreasonable when they lament that the Ten Commandments have been removed from county courthouses along with Christmas crèches on government property.

I grew up with these displays. No one ever had a problem with them, other than the occasional crank.

However, all that changed in the 1960s. In addition to Madalyn Murray O’Hair‘s successful case against school prayer which effectively banned it — along with Bible readings — in state schools, the Supreme Court under Earl Warren dramatically changed the way all of us view the First Amendment (emphases in the original here):

Jefferson simply quotes the First Amendment then uses a metaphor, the “wall”, to separate the government from interfering with religious practice. Notice that the First Amendment puts Restrictions only on the Government, not the People! The Warren Court re-interpreted the First Amendment thus putting the restrictions on the People! Today the government can stop you from Praying in school, reading the Bible in school, showing the Ten Commandments in school, or have religious displays at Christmas. This is quite different from the wall Jefferson envisioned, protecting the people from government interference with Religious practice.

Therefore, one could make the case that over the past 50 years, America has been drifting in practice towards a Soviet-style restriction on Christian displays, the Bible and prayer outside the home on government property.

If you think I am exaggerating, stories have been appearing in local newspapers and conservative websites over the past 12 years about teachers who have taken Bibles away from children silently reading them during lunch hour. There was an instance in Texas in 2003 I remember where the teacher took a child’s New Testament away at lunch hour and threw it in the wastebasket. He was not allowed to retrieve it.

In June 2016, WND published an article about a school in Palmdale, California, where a seven-year-old got his classmates interested in the Bible verses and stories his mother gave him every morning. The mother intended for her son to have religious encouragement during the day. She was not attempting to proselytise. However, the child was so thrilled by these verses that he couldn’t help but share them with others at lunchtime. It wasn’t long before his friends asked him for copies of the verses and stories. One girl who received a story showed it to the teacher, commenting on its beauty:

Then, however, C [the boy] was reprimanded by his teacher in front of the whole class, twice, and told to stop talking about religion or sharing his mother’s notes, and he went home in tears, Liberty Counsel said.

Even as the crowd of students asking for the after-school Bible notes grew, on May 9, Principal Melanie Pagliaro approached Zavala [the mother] and demanded that the notes only be handed out somewhere beyond school property.

With the school not satisfied with only the banishment, Liberty Counsel said, “a Los Angeles deputy sheriff knocked at the door of C’s home, demanding that C’s note-sharing cease altogether because ‘someone might be offended.’” …

The letter to the district said Liberty Counsel, “having reviewed the above facts, district policies, and applicable law, it is clear that the actions of the district staff in this instance, in prohibiting voluntary student religious expression during non-instructional time; then completely banning such student expression from school property entirely, and finally calling the police to report the same are simply unconstitutional.”

“These actions must be disavowed and reversed, to avoid liability for civil rights violations,” the letter said.

It gave the district a deadline for responding of June 1, which was ignored.

I think this will change — somewhat — over the next four years. While the Ten Commandments might not make a comeback in courthouses, Christmas crèches are likely to reappear. And teachers might start to lay off students sharing the Bible at lunchtime.

Tomorrow: Religious persecution and state churches in American colonies

Donald Trump was inaugurated five days ago.

Some Christians are disconcerted. A few examples of essays posted last week on the subject follow. Emphases mine below.

1/ John MacArthur’s Grace To You (GTY) blog has an excellent post by staffer Cameron Buettel who reminds GTY readers about obedience to government, specifically Romans 13:1-5 and MacArthur’s sermon ‘Why Christians Submit to the Government’.

GTY readers — conservative Evangelicals — were most unhappy. How on earth could an immoral, unbiblical man become president? One surmises they would have preferred the scheming, conniving and possibly criminal ‘Crooked Hillary’. Bottom line: Trump isn’t Christian enough to be in the Oval Office! (As if abortion and single sex marriage advocate Obama was?!)

2/ Moving along to the Episcopalian/Anglican site, Stand Firm, one of their contributors, A S Haley, was, rightly, more concerned about what he calls the Sea of Political Correctness. In ‘A Wave of PC Crashes into a Solid Barrier’, Haley points out:

The Sea of Political Correctness, fed since November 9 by the tears of the self-righteous, is now engulfing its devotees and followers. Vainly casting about for safe spaces where they may continue to breathe air unsullied by what they perceive as the sulfurous emanations of their opponents, they are gasping, choking and sinking as wave after wave of fresh emotional outbursts crashes over their heads …

The politically correct crowd was so certain of its ability to name the next President that it shattered on the shoals of the Electoral College. It has been unable since then to re-form under a single, agreed leader. It is instead trying to coalesce under a common hatred of the successful candidate. Hatred, however, like fear, needs a crowd in which to dissolve, and a crowd needs direction—which is supplied by a leader.

Although I disagree with Haley when he says that Trump’s platform lacks

concrete programs of proposed legislation and executive actions

because those had been laid out in detail on Trump’s campaign website for over a year, he is correct in saying:

there is every reason to hope that a beginning has been made—is being made as I write—and that, with God’s grace, America may truly once more show the way in its humility, in its decency, and in its willingness to serve without expectation of reward.

One of Haley’s readers wrote about the protests during the weekend of the inauguration:

In fact, since one of the main complaints about Trump is his vulgarity, the vulgarity and viciousness of these speakers should negate any of those complaints.

I hope so. How can people — e.g. the GTY readers above — miss the stark contrast?

3/ From there, I went for a Reformed (Calvinist) perspective. Dr R Scott Clark of of Westminster Seminary California is the author of several books on the Reformed Confessions. He also writes the ever-helpful Heidelblog. He posted an excellent essay at the time of the inauguration, ‘A Reminder Of Why We Should Not Long For A State Church’.

The GTY readers moaning about Trump not being Christian enough should peruse it, but it looks at something anathema to conservative biblicists: history.

Excerpts follow:

… I am regularly astonished at the number of American Christians who seem to want a state-church. They seem not to understand the history of the post-canonical history of state-churches nor the difference between national Israel and the USA …

The governor of my state is a former Jesuit seminarian turned New Ager. I certainly do not want the Hon. Edmund G. Brown, Jr dictating what is to be preached or when it is to be preached. I am sure that Americans who advocate for a state-church do not want the Hon. Barack Hussein Obama or Donald J. Trump to meddle in the life of the institutional church.

Of course, when this objection is raised, the reply is an appeal to an eschatology of great expectations. This raises the problem of the chicken and the egg. Does the postmillennialist want to facilitate the coming earthly glory age through a state-church or is the state-church only to come about after the glory age has descended? This is not clear to me …

Under the new covenant and New Testament, there is no state-church. There is the state and there is the church. Calvin described these two realms as God’s duplex regimen (twofold kingdom). He rules over both by his providence but he rules the church, in his special providence, by his Law and Gospel revealed in holy Scripture. He rules over the civil magistrate by his general providence through his law revealed in nature and in the human conscience (see Romans 1–2) …

The visible church’s vocation is to announce the Kingdom of God in Christ, to preach the law and the gospel, administer the sacraments and church discipline (Matt 16 and 18) …

4/ I then sought another sensible Calvinist perspective, this time from Dr Michael Horton, who also teaches at the same seminary as Dr Clark. He is Westminster Seminary California’s J. Gresham Machen Professor of Theology and Apologetics.

The Washington Post invited Horton to write an article on faith. On January 3, the paper published ‘Evangelicals should be deeply troubled by Donald Trump’s attempt to mainstream heresy’. It concerns one of the prosperity gospel preachers who prayed at the inauguration: Paula White.

On the one hand, I heartily agree that White is a very poor example of a Christian pastor. On the other hand, she and Trump found solidarity in the prosperity gospel which he grew up with under Norman Vincent Peale. Furthermore, White was helpful to his campaign in getting out the vote among this sector of misguided churchgoers.

Even more unfortunate than her praying at the inauguration is the news that she will head the Evangelical Advisory Board in the Trump administration. I suspect this had not been announced when Horton wrote his article. Still, Trump is no theologian. I refer readers to Clark’s essay above.

Horton points out that such preachers have been around the White House before and are popular among certain sections of American society:

Peale and [Robert ‘Crystal Cathedral’] Schuller were counselors to CEOs and U.S. presidents. Word of Faith has been more popular among rural sections of the Bible Belt, where faith healers have had a long and successful history. But in the 1980s, the two streams blended publicly, with Copeland, Hinn and Schuller showing up regularly together on TBN.

He goes on to explain the dangerous heresy:

Televangelist White has a lot in common with Trump, besides being fans of [Joel] Osteen. Both are in their third marriage and have endured decades of moral and financial scandal. According to family values spokesman James Dobson, another Trump adviser, White “personally led [Trump] to Christ.”

Like her mentor, T. D. Jakes, White adheres closely to the Word of Faith teachings. Besides throwing out doctrines like the Trinity and confusing ourselves with God, the movement teaches that Jesus went to the cross not to bring forgiveness of our sins but to get us out of financial debt, not to reconcile us to God but to give us the power to claim our prosperity, not to remove the curse of death, injustice and bondage to ourselves but to give us our best life now. White says emphatically that Jesus is “not the only begotten Son of God,” just the first. We’re all divine and have the power to speak worlds into existence.

Again, Trump doesn’t get this because his family left their mainstream Presbyterian church in Queens after his confirmation to worship at Peale’s Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan. After Trump married Ivana and became even more successful, he drifted away from the church. Although in recent years he has been attending Episcopal church services, his theological formation isn’t very good. But, again, echoing Calvin’s two-fold kingdom theology, voters did not elect Trump as Pastor of the United States but rather President of the United States.

I nodded in agreement to this comment, which is 100% true:

Trump is president not a theologian and Horton shouldn’t be holding him up to that standard. Where was Dr. Horton when Planned Parenthood and the Gay marriage thingy was going full steam under Obama. Yes, Horton, we realize you are not an evangelical fundie, but jumping on Trump for this?

Michael plays the ‘guilt by association’ card very well.

Correct. I do not recall Horton criticising Obama’s policies very much. I’ve been reading and listening to him since 2009.

5/ Finally, I found Dr Carl Trueman‘s article on First Things, ‘President Trump, Therapist-In-Chief?’

Trueman, a Presbyterian, is Professor of Historical Theology and Church History and holds the Paul Woolley Chair of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He is politically centrist but theologically conservative.

Trueman says:

I agree with Horton’s analysis but would take the concern a step further. All Americans, not just Evangelicals, should be worried that Paula White is praying at the inauguration, though not for particularly religious reasons. By and large, the rites of American civic religion are harmless enough, bland baptisms of the status quo by the application of a bit of liturgy emptied of any real dogmatic significance or personal demands.

That is what inauguration prayers are largely about. Rightly or wrongly, everyone is represented, especially those who were helpful to the incoming president during campaign season.

He concludes that the real shame is that Trump seems to be endorsing the notion of ‘Psychological Man’.

However, once again, may I remind Drs Trueman and Horton: voters did not elect Trump to serve as the nation’s pastor-in-chief.

6/ The best rebuttals to Trueman’s article is in the comments to his essay. The two comments that nailed it perfectly came from Mike D’Virgilio, whose website is called Keeping Your Kids Christian. It looks very good.

D’Virgilio is a Trump supporter and I agree with his assessments. Excerpts follow. First, from this comment:

I believe Trump is a net positive for Christianity because what he’s doing (including putting the huge “Merry Christmas” signs on his podium during his thank you tour) is potentially contributing to the re-building of the Christian plausibility structure of America. The term “plausibility structure” goes back to sociologist Peter Berger’s 1967 book The Sacred Canopy. In a more recent book he defines this simply as, “the social context within which any particular definition of reality is plausible”. In other words, what *seems* real to people. For the last 50 years the secularists have driven American culture off a cliff (via education, media, Hollywood, etc.) so that the dominant plausibility structure has been postmodernism/relativism/materialism/secularism (they are all logically intertwined). So God for many people (the rise of the “Nones” for instance) *seems* no more real than Santa Claus. Rarely, if ever, do people grapple with the evidence for the truth claims of Christianity; they just drift away or don’t see it as relevant at all.

So Trump, regardless of the content of his own faith, or those at his inauguration, is possibly making Christianity plausible again. Most Americans don’t pay attention to what these people actually believe, the theological content of their faith, such as it is. But all of a sudden with Trump this Christianity thing doesn’t seem like such the ugly cultural step-child anymore … None of this will change over night, but the arrival of Trump is the first time I’ve had hope in this regard since, oh, I was born!

… And I agree with pretty much everything Carl says here (I’m a graduate of Westminster myself), but I don’t at all agree that Trump is contributing to a therapeutic faith and the triumph of the psychological

This is from D’Virgilio’s second lengthy comment:

… There is no other candidate who has done what Trump has done, or could be doing what he’s doing. Cruz is closest of the bunch, but I’m afraid he’s just not a winsome fellow. Once you get beyond the caricature of Trump, he’s a very likable, appealing showman. Everyone who knows him likes him, says he’s humble (impossible to believe for many) and kindhearted.

The greatest thing he’s done is blow up political correctness. He’s taken that on, along with the shamelessly corrupt media that promotes it, in a way no other Republican can even get close. This is huge for a Christian plausibility structure because PC is antithetical to a biblical/classical (in the sense the objective truth exists) worldview …

And Trump was Trump before the Apprentice. Trump made the Apprentice, the Apprentice didn’t make Trump. So I totally disagree Hollywood had anything to do with making the man, The Man. I don’t disagree with your assessment of the secular materialism, which is one of the reasons I initially wanted nothing to do with Trump … He doesn’t have to be an orthodox, Bible believing Christian to fight for Christians, to appreciate and respect Christians, to love America and the Christian influence in its history. I leave the soul judgments to God. I’m just grateful he’s our next president, and not that other person.

I realise some readers are apprehensive about Trump, what he might do and what he represents. I hope this has given them some food for thought, especially in terms of Christianity in America.

Let’s remember that there were four other members of the clergy besides Paula White and a rabbi. Furthermore, in his remarks, Franklin Graham reminded everyone that there is only one God.

In closing, sensible Christians living in the United States should be relieved Trump is in the White House. This will be borne out in due course.

In the meantime, rather than sitting around carping, we can always pray that he becomes a better, more orthodox Christian.

Friday, January 20, marked the beginning of the Don of a new era for the United States.

As many have said, it is always darkest before the Don.

What follows are highlights of not only Inauguration Day but the whole weekend.

Far from being austere, as many of us expected, it was wall-to-wall activity from dawn to dusk!

Before the post unfolds, let’s remember that:

It is possible because Big Media are — and have been — plain contrary. That’s an archaic use of contrary, but, in that sense, it means stubborn and resistant to reason.

All credit to Bill Mitchell, he boarded the Trump Train just before or after the Republican National Convention. Even though he objected to Pepe the Frog, the unofficial Trump mascot, he duly apologised on Twitter. Pepe gained traction with Hillary Clinton, who even lambasted the cartoon frog in a campaign speech.

Bill Mitchell hosts and presents YourVoice™ Radio, likely to become more popular over the next four years.

Even more interesting is this quote from Pastor Robert Jeffress, a big Trump supporter:

Thursday, January 19

January 19 was a busy day for the Trump family.

Flight from La Guardia to Joint Base Andrews

Donald Trump’s flight with his family, including his two sisters and brother, would be the last one he would take before becoming president.

Fox 10 Phoenix has a great video of the plane landing at Andrews. The interesting bit starts at 10:55 when someone on board tells ten-year-old Barron to leave the plane first. Not surprisingly, Barron, unusually wearing his hair over his forehead, is reluctant. The future first couple disembark at the 13:00 point. The extensive motorcade departs at 17:07, complete with a first-responder truck and an ambulance. The black Chevy Suburban vans are reinforced just like armoured cars:

Inauguration Luncheon

Once in DC, the Trumps went to the Trump International Hotel (The Old Post Office), where the incoming president held an Inauguration Luncheon to honour Republican Party leaders:

Welcome Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial

That afternoon, the Make America Great Again Welcome Celebration took place in front of the massive — and grand — Lincoln Memorial, which is considerably larger than one imagines. Seeing it in person is awe-inspiring.

A variety of musical acts, including splendid military bands, performed. Trump gave a speech before a display from Grucci Fireworks ended the event in the early evening. Unfortunately, the last two displays let the whole thing down. ‘USA’ appeared as ‘USR’ and the American flag was, sadly, a blur. It is a pity, because their fireworks show before that was excellent.

This short video from Dan Scavino, Director of Social Media, gives a great summary of the event, including the fireworks. From left to right are Tiffany Trump (mother is Marla Maples Trump), Ivanka (Ivana Trump), the first couple, granddaughter Kai (Donald Jr’s daughter), Donald Jr (Ivana) with his wife Vanessa and son, then to the far right, Eric (Ivana) and his wife:

The first couple contemplated the larger than life statue of Abraham Lincoln:

The event ended with the new first couple thanking their supporters. Never mind the sentiment from a Twitter user. I wanted to show you just how ‘yuuge’ Lincoln’s statue is:

The Daily Mail has a comprehensive article, complete with photos and a video, about the concert and Trump’s address at the end, just before the fireworks.

Interestingly, Trump had a special meeting afterwards with a 23-year-old single father, Shane Bouvet, from Illinois who had given an interview to the Washington Post just days before. Trump saw the article and made sure he could meet the man, who is struggling to make ends meet. The billionaire had a private conversation with Bouvet and gave him a cheque for $10,000.

Campaign donors dinner

However, the evening had only just begun. A dinner to thank campaign donors took place afterwards at DC’s majestic Union Station. Both the Trumps and the Pences attended and addressed their guests.

Mike Pence opened his remarks by saying the administration would repeal and replace Obamacare. Trump (2:59) said that choosing Mike Pence was one of the best decisions he’s ever made. He then went on to talk about the amazing election results where Republicans won in states they had lost forever. He mentioned Iowa. They had not won there since 1952. He then spoke about his cabinet nominees. The high point, however, was when he thanked Kellyanne Conway (18:28), the first successful female presidential campaign manager in American history. (I don’t understand what these feminists were protesting at the weekend in DC. Surely, Kellyanne’s success and the many women employees at the Trump Organization prove them wrong.)

Then it was time to turn in for some rest. The Pences returned to their house in Chevy Chase, Maryland, which they rented and moved to soon after the election.

The first couple and family members spent the night at Blair House, a complex of four buildings for guests of the president.

The photo below shows Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner at Blair House. Kushner will play a principal role as a presidential adviser. Both are practising Jews. Ivanka converted before her wedding. Kushner recently gave up holdings in his family real estate firm to be able to take on his new role:

Inauguration Day

Early in the morning, preparations for the inauguration ceremony began.

Meanwhile, Bikers For Trump were arriving in Washington, DC to form ‘a wall of meat’ in case the new president needed protection. Days earlier, Clinton family friend Dominic Puopolo, 51, was arrested by Miami Beach police for saying that he would be at the inauguration to ‘kill President Trump’.

This photo shows Donald Trump ready to leave Blair House in Washington, DC early in the morning of January 20. Trump’s granddaughter Kai (Donald Jr’s daughter) and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, former head of the Republican Party, are to the right of Trump:

Church service

From there, it was on to a morning service on Friday at St John’s Church (Episcopal) — known as the Church of the Presidents — in Lafayette Square, near the White House. The rector, the Reverend Dr. Luis León, greeted the first couple in front of the church.

They were joined by family and prominent well wishers. The first couple are on the far left centre of the photo. The Pences are in the lower left-hand corner:

The aforementioned Pastor Jeffress delivered the sermon:

Meeting at the White House

The first couple left St John’s for the White House, where they had coffee with the Obamas:

Melania Trump gave a large gift from Tiffany & Co to Michelle Obama. Presenting a gift is a tradition from an incoming first lady to a departing one.

Afterwards, it was on to the Capitol building for the swearing-in ceremony:

Inauguration ceremony

Trump quipped at the donor’s dinner the night before that he didn’t care if it rained on Inauguration Day, because at least people would see that his hair was real!

The incoming president awaited his cue inside the Capitol building:

All living former presidents are invited to attend the inauguration and are seated near the front. Former presidents Jimmy Carter and wife Rosalyn, William Jefferson Clinton and Hillary and George W Bush (Bush II) and Laura were in attendance.

George H W Bush (Bush I) and Barbara sent in their acceptance but were hospitalised days earlier. On Tuesday, January 10, he sent Trump a cordial, witty letter of regret.

Although Bush II tweeted the following earlier, at the swearing-in ceremony, he joked ad nauseam with the Clintons, seated next to him and Laura, signifying to the television viewer that he was closer to them than to Trump, his fellow Republican. But we all knew that the Bushes were NeverTrumpers because they said so.

Despite Trump’s sincerity, here’s the hypocrisy of it all. Dan Scavino Jr, rightly, took it sincerely. Then, the live coverage rolled and something else entirely was on display. Trump, no doubt, expected something different based on this (Bush I was the 41st president, by the way):

These were the prayers offered before the inauguration by clergy who were principal Trump supporters:

The Revd Franklin Graham did not hesitate to say there is only one God:

Please note:

Here is the swearing-in by Chief Justice John Roberts. The first couple’s son, Barron, 10, is to the right of the first lady. She held two closed Bibles, the Lincoln Bible (bottom) and Trump’s own, a gift from his mother (top):

Entertainment Weekly reports that Trump’s inauguration received the second highest television ratings for that event. Top-rated was Obama’s first swearing-in, which 37.8m Americans watched in 2009. Trump’s audience was 30.6m. However, Heavy points out that, in 1981, 41.8m people watched Ronald Reagan’s first inauguration. That places Obama in second place and Trump in third. Definitive online viewing figures are unavailable at this time.

Important lines from the inaugural speech included the following. First, on the elites, several of whom were present. Politico reported:

“Their victories have not been your victories,” he said. “Their triumphs have not been your triumphs and while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land. That all changes starting right here and right now because this moment is your moment. It belongs to you.” He also made a promise: “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.”

Also these (see here, here and here):

What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.

January 20th 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again.

The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer. From this moment on, it’s going to be America First.

The closing lines were the following:

To Americans: You will never be ignored again. Your voice, your hopes and your dreams will define our American destiny. Your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way.

Together we will make America strong again. We will make America wealthy again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again – and yes, together, WE WILL MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!

However, most important were Trump’s mentions of God, including:

We will be protected by God.

You can view the full speech here or here. You can find the transcript here and here.

WND‘s Garth Kant wrote of the contrast between Trump and his predecessor with regard to the inauguration speech:

Trump mentioned himself just three times in the 1,400 words he delivered in his speech lasting 16 minutes and 20 seconds. He referred to the American people 45 times.

By comparison, Obama, as is his wont, mentioned himself 207 times in 84 minutes while campaigning for Hillary during a November speech ostensibly about her.

And, to make sure it was crystal clear that there has been a sea change not just in style but also in substance, Trump emphatically uttered the Obama administration’s three forbidden words: “radical Islamic terrorism,” which, he promised, “we will eliminate from the face of the earth.”

Kant channelled JFK’s Camelot:

However, the speech wasn’t just about ending American erosion. It was about a bright new beginning. Just as did Kennedy, Trump envisioned a promising future. One in which:

“We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams.

“We will build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways all across our wonderful nation.

“We will get our people off of welfare and back to work – rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor.”

One could arguably call it Kenndyesque.

Kant was most complimentary of the first daughter but couldn’t say enough about the new first lady:

This was grace personified.

A stately, poised, and stunning elegance were certainly part of it. But there was more. It wasn’t just what she was wearing. It was her bearing. Her perfectly poised demeanor.

And the crowd could clearly sense it, even if they could no more articulate it than to say “wow” over and over, which was what so many were doing.

She was a regal presence.

There was nobility.

Not because of her new station in life, but because of her carriage. The way she carried herself. Full of poise and grace.

Congressional Lunch

Before lunch, President Trump had work to attend to at the Capitol, signing his cabinet nominations into law. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R, WI) is standing next to Barron. At the front are Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R, KY) and, on the right, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D, CA):

Trump spoke at the lunch and was gracious enough to publicly acknowledge his opponent Hillary Clinton, present with Bill. Trump’s daughter Tiffany sat at their table. You can see all the speeches here.

The DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) once again lent their Eagle Lectern for use at the luncheon.

Inaugural parade

The Trumps walked for two minutes in the inaugural parade:

After the walk along Pennsylvania Avenue, the motorcade drove up to the White House, where the Trumps, Pences and family members disembarked and walked to the reviewing stand.

Barron probably found the two-hour event overwhelming at times (I would have), but he enjoyed himself:

The military bands played and marched past, as did a myriad of high school and university bands and special groups representing American history and service.

One of the those groups was the Navajo Code Talkers. Only two were able to make it to the parade. One of my readers, the author of the Pacific Paratrooper blog, wrote about their invaluable role in the Pacific during the Second World War. Well worth a read.

The Talledega College Marching Tornado Band from Alabama participated for the first time. Talledega is an all black college founded by two former slaves after the Civil War. Their band director received threats when he said the college wanted to perform in the parade. Since then, they have received more than $1m in donations which will be dedicated to the band’s needs. Talledega are a special band, because the college has no football team, so they rely on band contests and big parades such as this.

The full video of the parade is below. New York Military Academy, Trump’s alma mater, are at 2:03. Talledega are at 2:09. The Navajo Code Talkers are at 2:14. Virginia Military Institute closed the parade.

But, for Barron, the big highlight was the Rural Tractor Brigade (2:22:00), magnificently souped up. Look at his face (2:23:00). He beams and says, ‘Yesss!’ At 2:24:00, it looks as if Mike Pence sees the lad’s enthusiasm. He probably thought, ‘We’ve got to get him to Indiana for a tractor ride!’ (Separate tractor video here.)

After the parade

President Trump was eager to do some work before attending the evening’s events:

The Daily Mail has more.

Inaugural balls

The president and first lady — and the Pences — attended three inaugural balls.

Two took place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The other was held at the National Building Museum.

Donald Trump Jr, his wife Vanessa and daughter Kai were ready to go:

This video shows President Trump and First Lady Melania at one of the balls dancing to My Way:

At the Armed Services Ball, the Trumps and Pences danced with military personnel (starts at 2:21):

There was also a magnificent cake for all to enjoy:

You can read press pool reports here and here.

First lady and first daughters attire

Melania Trump’s stunning inauguration outfit was a Ralph Lauren creation.

The first lady co-designed her striking silk crepe inaugural ballgown with Hervé Pierre, former creative director at Carolina Herrera. This stunning creation will help him launch his own couture house.

Pierre told Women’s Wear Daily:

“It was an amazing experience!” he continued, noting that Trump’s contributions were technical as well as aesthetic. “She knows what she likes. Our conversations were, and are, very easy. She knows about fashion, as a former model. She is aware about constructions, so we have already the same vocabulary when it comes to designing a dress.”

Ivanka Trump’s sparkling gown came from Carolina Herrera’s fashion house. Tiffany Trump purchased her gown from a Hollywood design house, Simin Couture. Ladies will enjoy full size photos and the article in the Daily Mail.

Saturday, January 21

Newspapers from around the world featured the inauguration on their front pages.

Saturday was a day of prayer and work for President Trump.

Prayer came first.

National Prayer Service

The National Prayer Service was held at the National Cathedral (Episcopal) in Washington, DC.

It featured 26 religious leaders. Most were Christian. Others came from world faiths such as Judaism and Islam as well as more diverse groups, such as the Navajo Nation.

The following are short videos and photos from the service:

This girl, Marlana Van Hoose, was born blind and given only a year to live. The video below is from the service. She received a standing ovation afterwardsled by the First Lady!

Marlana is a committed Christian, firm in her faith. God has blessed her with a beautiful voice. She praises Him in song splendidly. She is yet another argument against abortion. May God bless her parents for giving her life and good, loving care.

In the next photo we see the Trumps and the Pences in the front row. May God bless them and keep them safe in the years ahead.

Sunday, January 22

On a lighter note, one of Trump’s grandsons feels at home in the White House:

Later, there was serious work to attend to:

The Conservative Treehouse has an excellent post on this group of people, most of whom hold no political office (emphases in the original):

This afternoon President Trump and Vice-President Pence participated in swearing in the White House Senior Staff.  These are officials who represent the office of the President.  For the first time in modern political history, these are mostly ordinary citizen staff members from outside public office….

…A representative staff of outsiders, reflecting a

representative government for outsiders… Forgotten no more.

President Donald Trump has only selected a group of 30 people for commission to act as officers of the President and representatives of the White House.  Together with their families, the official ceremony to pledge an oath to their office took place this afternoon.

Then:

Like millions around the world, I am praying in thanksgiving for the new president’s safe inauguration. We were very worried something would prevent it from taking place.

Now we look ahead, remaining prayerful for success.

How blessed America is! How blessed the world is!

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.                      2 Chronicles 7:14

In His infinite mercy, God heard our prayers and acknowledged our repentance by giving us Donald Trump. Those were words I never thought I would write, yet, here we are.

Bible read me 2The three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Acts 5:1-6

Ananias and Sapphira

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.

———————————————————————————————–

The story of Ananias and Sapphira is one of the most dramatic and instructive in the New Testament with regard to Christian living.

In last week’s post, I cited the final verses of Acts 4, which concluded a description of the generous spirit of giving among the new Christians, filled with the Holy Spirit on and after the first Pentecost. No one was in need or want.

Those who could do so volunteered to sell property and give the proceeds to the disciples to be used for the benefit of the quickly growing community of converts, which, thanks to Peter’s bold evangelism, probably exceeded 20,000 at this point. Scripture gives us the numbers of men. John MacArthur asks us to add on extra for women and children.

Acts 4 ends with this:

36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

Of this gentleman, MacArthur says (emphases mine):

Now Joseph was, verse 36, by the apostles nicknamed or surnamed Barnabas. Now Barnabas means the son of consolation, encouragement or exhortation. Apparently Barnabas or Joseph had the gift of exhortation, so they just called him, son of exhortation. And he plays an important part. You remember Barnabas was the man who accompanied the apostle Paul later on in his first miss­ionary journey. Barnabas in chapter 11 verses 22 and following is giv­ing a little counsel, and it’s kinda a beautiful thing to see. Apparent­ly a beloved fellow, you remember he and Paul had a little falling out over John Mark and they parted ways, ’cause Barnabas was such a loving soul, he just couldn’t give up on John Mark. So apparently he was a very dear, a very precious man, and so here he is, his name is Barnabas and he was a Levite and that’s interesting because the Levites were the priestly family, they couldn’t own any property. You say, well how did he get this property? Well, I think it’s another indication that the Old Covenant had passed away. The Old Covenant passing away, then freed the Levites from the bondage of the old law, and he had the right then to own property. And so apparently he’s purchased this, now if he was a Levite he wouldn’t be very wealthy ’cause a priest didn’t make any money, they pretty much lived off of what other people supplied them. And so this was a big thing to him and perhaps he had saved and scrimped and all the way along to be able to have this. He was from the country of Cyprus. Well it says in 37, “Having land, he sold it, and he brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” Isn’t that interesting? That was something that probably was his whole lifetime investment, if any history of the Levites is any indic­ation. And he sold it and just said here, you do with what you want.

That brings us to today’s verses. Note that verse 1 begins with ‘but’. Think in terms of ‘however’, signifying something of an opposite nature to come. Matthew Henry explains:

The chapter begins with a melancholy but, which puts a stop to the pleasant and agreeable prospect of things which we had in the foregoing chapters; as every man, so every church, in its best state has its but.

We discover that Ananias and his wife Sapphira sold a piece of property. Furthermore, both husband and wife knew that Ananias was going to withhold some of the proceeds for themselves (verse 2).

When Ananias brought the portion of the proceeds for the apostles to do with as they saw fit, Peter asked why he lied to the Holy Spirit because his heart was now filled with Satan (verse 3).

Both MacArthur and Henry say that the couple wanted to appear to be as good as Barnabas. It seemed they thought they were on to a win-win situation — a deceptive one. They pledged to the apostles they would donate all the proceeds but knew from the start they would hold some back for themselves. No one would ever know, right?

Henry contrasts the rich young man who encountered Jesus and this couple:

It was commendable, and so far it was right, in that rich young man, that he would not pretend to follow Christ, when, if it should come to a pinch, he knew he could not come up to his terms, but he went away sorrowful. Ananias and Sapphira pretended they could come up to the terms, that they might have the credit of being disciples, when really they could not, and so were a discredit to discipleship.

MacArthur describes what probably happened before the sale:

You see, they had vowed to the Holy Spirit and publicly in front of the congregation that they were going to sell this thing and give it all to the Lord. That was the physical action; it was a lie, they lied to God and to men, and ah, that’s really what Peter says at the end of verse 4, is that you didn’t only lie to men, but you lied to God. So they just put a big lie on. That was really the physical act sin, but behind every physical act sin, watch this, is a mental attitude sin, and the mental attitude sin was, was the secret sin, you know like Lewis Sperry Chafer says, secret sin on earth is open scandal in heaven. They thought they were sneaky. And the mental attitude sin was this, hypocrisy based on a desire for spiritual status. I’ll say it again, hypocrisy based on a desire for spiritual status. You see they wanted to be elevated in the minds of everybody else, spiritually, they wanted everybody to think they were super spiritual. And they believed that they would be applau­ded for sacrifice and they could save a little cash at the same time.

By the way, Ananias is alone before Peter. (We’ll get to Sapphira next week.)

Peter asked Ananias why he contrived in his heart to lie — not to man but to God (verse 4). Henry says that the Holy Spirit drove Peter to this truth and to say it aloud:

The Spirit of God in Peter not only discovered the fact without any information (when perhaps no man in the world knew it but the man and his wife themselves), but likewise discerned the principle of reigning infidelity in the heart of Ananias, which was at the bottom of it, and therefore proceeded against him so suddenly.

Some may ask if Ananias changed his mind after making the sale. Henry surmised that if such were the case:

Peter would have taken Ananias aside, and have bidden him go home, and fetch the rest of the money, and repent of his folly in attempting to put this cheat upon them …

However:

he knew that his heart was fully set in him to do this evil, and therefore allowed him not space to repent.

Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, could discern that Satan had entered Ananias and could corrupt the new, fledgling set of Christians. MacArthur explains:

Hypocrisy was the dirty sin, hypocrisy was the mental attitude sin, the core sin, creating the impression they were giving all, and they were really pious, and they were really spiritual. And dear ones, this is Satan’s initial move to the inside, to corrupt the church, the sin of hypocrisy among Christians.

Peter’s words were true, because when Ananias heard them, he dropped dead (verse 5). Furthermore, those who heard of what happened were struck with ‘great fear’.

Peter convicted Ananias of lying to the Holy Spirit (verse 3) and of lying to God (verse 4).

Ananias received divine judgement — death sentence — for his grave sins.

MacArthur says:

You say, how did he die? I’ll tell ya how he died. He died by judicial act of God’s judgement. You say, well what were the physical causes? I think the shock of the whole thing just stopped his heart, right then. I think his conscience was so struck with the horror of what Peter had just said that he just stopped living.

Had Ananias received the Holy Spirit previously? Henry thought it possible:

1. … Some think that Ananias was one of those that had received the Holy Ghost, and was filled with his gifts, but, having provoked the Spirit to withdraw from him, now Satan filled his heart; as, when the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, an evil spirit from God troubled him. Satan is a lying spirit; he was so in the mouth of Ahab’s prophets, and so he was in the mouth of Ananias, and by this made it appear that he filled his heart.

2. The sin itself: He lied to the Holy Ghost; a sin of such a heinous nature that he could not have been guilty of it if Satan had not filled his heart.

Some will wonder if this really took place. MacArthur gives us an example from English history:

English history records for us the account of the Dean of Saint Paul’s who went in to see Edward [I], and Edward [I] was so mad, he looked at him with a glare that struck him so hard that he fell over dead. Now if Edward [I] can do that, I think God can do it

Therefore:

I think God just brought to the attention of Ananias such a flagrant, blatant act of sin at such a shocking moment of time and he was so discovered, that instead of having to go out and kill himself, he just stopped his heart, dead. In sheer fear and terror.

MacArthur cites other examples in the New Testament whereby God takes people out when they are sinning against Him egregiously. I have broken these up into separate paragraphs so that we all can read them more easily:

Does God actually kill Christians? Yes, He does. Not always though, but He does. You say, you mean that God would actually take the life of a Christian? Yes. You say, What gives you belief in that? I’ll tell you, it’s simple; it’s right in the Word of God. And if the Bible says it, I believe it, and as somebody said, that settles it. [I] Corinthians 11, and you listen well, talking about communion, the Lord’s Table, “He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgement to himself.” You come to the table of the Lord as a Christian and your heart’s not pure, you’re com­ing and you’re going to eat and you’re going to do it unworthily, unless your heart is clean and there’s no open sin in your life. Listen, he says some of you are doing this and, “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.” … actually taken the lives of some of you Corinthians because of the way you come to the Lord’s Table.

Let me give you another one. It’s [I] John 5:16 says this, “If any man sees his brother (Christian) sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death; I do not say that he shall pray for it.” You say, what is the sin unto death? It’s that last sin that a sinning believer commits when God says, that’s it, I’ve had it, you’re comin’ home. It’s the straw that broke the camel’s back, and sometimes a Christian lives in sin, and God finally just says, I’m sorry, that’s all, and takes him outta the world. That’s ultimate discipline.

Let me show you one other passage, maybe you never thought of it in this light, but I read it to you in this light. James 1:18, “Of His own will begot He us (he says) with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of His creatures.” God begot us, to be a living example to the world of what His creatures oughta be, you see? We’re to be examples, that’s why He saved us and left us here, now watch, verse 21, well verse 19, let’s go right through it, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, (now to whom is he speaking when he uses those words, Christians or non-Christians? Christians, he says my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, and slow to speak, and slow to wrath; For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. (listen) Wherefore, (here you are beloved brethren, God has called you to be examples, so do this) put away filthiness overflowing of wickedness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.” Do Christians need to do something to have their souls saved? No, that’s a problem isn’t it? It’s not a problem if you understand the Greek word for “souls” is also the word for lives. You know what he’s saying? Put the wickedness out of your life, put the filthiness out of your life, receive the Word, or you’ll die. That’s what he’s saying. That’s how strong God spoke in the early church. If you want to save your lives, ya better get into the Word and put away the filthiness. Now that’s serious stuff.

God will not be mocked.

Atheists do not have a get-out clause by saying, ‘Well, I don’t believe in God. I’m okay.’ No, they are not ‘okay’. Divine judgement concerns everyone.

Verse 6 tells us that Ananias’s corpse was wrapped up and the young men removed it from the congregation to bury it.

MacArthur says they took him out of the city for burial.

To be continued next week.

This really should be in the three-year Lectionary. Can’t you just imagine theologians and clergy saying, ‘Well, we don’t want to scare anyone off’?

Christians have it too easy these days. We ignore or rationalise the hard truths of Holy Scripture because ‘they’re not nice’.

I would suggest that if clergy actually preached from the Bible as John MacArthur does, our mainline denomination churches would have the attendance they did in the 20th century. It sounds paradoxical, but MacArthur proves my case with his huge congregation. No church growth malarkey for him, just the word of God.

Next time: Acts 5:7-11

 

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