Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος

This is a test of my Koine Greek capability, and the Greek keyboard viewer.  It either works, or it doesn’t work with WordPress.  We’ll see, and here we go.

There’s Nothing to Say, except, “Ouch” (or is that, “Okay”?).

It’s short, and it’s not sweet.  I’ve waited a long time to write this.

Four weeks ago I last posted, and today, having anticipated this anniversary date for a span of years, I find myself needing to post again, for whatever reason.  “This anniversary date” is, in fact, seven years to the day after my ex-wife from a distant location sent me a text message which she did follow up with action.  The content of that text message, which I received about 0630 on this date in 2016, was “We will be there today to get my things.”  That was 2556 days ago, not counting today, and we had been married 1957 days at that time; the arrangement was, as I came to understand, already ended before then, and once she had left, she was never going to return.  As I have repeated many times since, “Good riddance to bad trash.” Yes, that’s all of it.

Yes, but “What am I?”

Here it is, you see:  It is now March 31,2023, and exactly six years ago, which was March 31, 2017, was my last day as a full time employee.  (Someone, somewhere, had dropped a ball in some way, and my task order was not going to be renewed for “about three weeks”.)  All right, then, so it was going to be a short time for retirement practice, as I was at the time 65 years old.

My company was kind to me, and encouraged (required) me to apply for Family and Medical Leave Act protection to keep my job alive.  I was able to get that FMLA protection by the help of (oddly, a chiropractor rather than my so-called primary physician, the pill-pusher), but after the 12 meetings with the Christian psychologist and so forth, my employer no longer wanted me on the job, as I was far too weakened by things at that point in time.  Eventually that employer asked me to undertake a new job (“part-time on-call”) to handle certain arrangements between our on-site position and the local office, to which I readily and happily agreed.  (I would no longer be a systems analyst or system administrator, but in fact a “security assistant”, a job I certainly could do, as it required nothing more than common sense applied to a “security plan”.)  As mentioned, the company was kind to me:  they never reduced my hourly pay during the upcoming time.  A security assistant does not earn the same salary as a systems analyst!

So things went on, and things got handled, efficiently and effectively is my hope.  For a time.  I was able to help the company move to a new facility, which of course required a new facility security clearance to be approved.  I was given the task of collecting and writing the periodic reports of subcontractors, and submitting them to the company, a job I was happy to do and apparently able to perform.  Then it all ended.

The company human resources officer called on January 20, 2020, to tell me that the company would never bid for another contract requiring my particular skill set, and that, therefore, as of that day, I would be retired.  (I did not mention that “never” is a big old word, and rarely well-defined, but I’m still waiting for that officer to get the idea…)

Okay, that’s the way it went.  My income is only Social Security now, but I’d guess it is all right, since it has to be.  I’m not exactly complaining, you see.  But it leaves the question that is part of  the title of this piece, “What am I?”

Some Thoughts on Luke 15

(Updated 201402022058UTC-6: There were, as is most usual, things I missed at first, and there likely remain other things I missed, so here’s a little more to the story.)

(At our small group meeting next week, the focus will be on Chapter Fifteen of the Gospel According to Luke. As we have been encouraged to read the chapter daily, I’ve decided to put down some thoughts that have come to me ahead of time.)

The chapter contains three parables:

  1. The Parable of the Lost Sheep (vv. 4 through 7).
  2. The Parable of the Lost Coin (vv. 8 through 10).
  3. The Parable of the Prodigal Son (vv. 11 through 32).

Of course, everyone is familiar, to some degree, with each of the three parables, simply because they have been the texts of so many sermons through the years. There have been fights, divisions, and all manner of other evil through the centuries radiating from various interpretations of the stories; everyone has an idea about what one or more of them really means, what they are intended to teach. Many consider parables to be simple stories told with the intention of conveying simple ideas; others believe they are more complex because they teach more complex ideas than are readily apparent upon first reading or hearing. The truth, I believe, lies in the receptiveness and honesty of the hearer or reader at least as much as it does in the fabric of the stories.

In the first parable we have a shepherd, charged with care of one hundred animals. One wanders away from the flock, and the shepherd goes to find and rescue it. Upon meeting with success, the shepherd, after having left the remainder of the flock in “open country” and therefore vulnerable, to find the lost sheep, is thankful for the reclamation and demonstrates his gratitude by throwing a party for his friends and neighbors. End of story? Not quite, because this is a story being told by Jesus Christ, and he drives home a point:

I tell you that in the same way there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (NIV)

I notice that the lost sheep, now found and returned, is at this point being compared somehow with a repentant sinner. How do I suppose that the sheep represents a person who has repented? The silly animal had wandered away from the safety of the flock, and the shepherd had to leave the others behind, go and find the wanderer, and bring it back, “on his shoulders”! That honestly doesn’t sound like a very good picture of “repentance” to me. The thought occurs that this just might be a picture of grace.

The parable of the lost coin is short and concise, telling of a woman who has “lost” one of her ten silver coins, and finds it after a diligent and careful search. Upon finding it, she, like the shepherd, calls together friends and neighbors and invites them to rejoice with her over the recovery of the coin. And again, Jesus brings a close to the story:

In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (NIV)

Now, as if the idea of a repentant sheep is not strange enough, this coin, lost and found, is also held in comparison with a repentant sinner! The sheep is, at least, a living being, but this silver coin has never been alive for one instant! If the idea of a dumb animal performing such a feat as repenting is difficult to comprehend, that of a coin “repenting” is certainly off the scale of believability. The coin was, and is, and forever more shall be, a dead thing. Possibly another portrayal of grace?

Finally we come to the parable concerning the prodigal son, who also is lost, and gone to a far land, and in very dire straits. He finally comes to his senses and returns, repentant without doubt, to beg for a servant’s place in his father’s house. But his father sees him coming, and rejoices in compassion and forgiveness, and apparently completely ignores the boy’s confession in his haste to call in the whole countryside for a great celebration. This is clearly grace in action. But there is another demonstration of grace in this parable.

The boy, it seems, has an elder brother, one who has been faithful to his father, to the family, the work, in all ways. Who can not identify with his feelings at this point? He even refused to join the celebration! But their father tells him:

My son,… you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. (NIV)

And that is the first picture of grace we see in Luke 15 with utter clarity. Their father treats both graciously! We are not told if the elder brother did join the celebration, but he has been given the invitation, and the reason for it.

Now, here is point number one. The sheep, having wandered away from the protection of the shepherd (and the remainder of the flock), into the wilderness, was as good as dead. The coin never lived. The father described the younger son as having been dead, and having returned to life. Dead things do not choose. Dead things do not think. Dead things remain dead, unless life is given to them from another source. The shepherd gave life to the wayward sheep by finding it and returning it to the fold. The woman found and reclaimed her lost coin. The prodigal son was given enough life to turn from his lifestyle and return to a true life.

Those are stories of grace.

There is a point number two. But first we should observe that there are two very basic principles one should observe in the matter of interpreting parables. To ignore either principle will ultimately weaken the teaching power of the story, or lead to unreasonable and unfounded interpretations and other confusion. These principles are:

  1. Each parable has a single audience. (It is not a corollary that all parables speak to the same audience.)
  2. Each parable teaches a single truth. (It is likewise not a corollary that all parables teach the same content, or teach in the same way.)

In Chapter Fifteen we have three distinct parables, or stories. The principles stated above require that there be onetwo, or three audiences, and some mixture of truth(s), whether they be onetwo, or three in number. From the complete narrative it appears that two distinct groups of people are involved in this chapter: the religious leaders (Pharisees and scribes), and the common people (tax collectors and “sinners”). Further, it is clear that the religious leaders were there to find fault with Jesus’ teaching, His methods, and His agenda, while the common people were there to learn from Jesus. Therefore it seems obvious that the number of audiences is either one or two. But which is it?

The English text provides an important clue with the introductory clause “So He spoke this parable to them, saying:” (v. 3). What is the antecedent of the objective pronoun “them”? Standard English usage would require that “them” refer to the most recently used nominal(s) in the text, and that would be “Pharisees and scribes” (v. 2). In the usual flow of narrative this would be the case as well, for verse one mentions the “tax collectors and sinners” who had come to hear Jesus teach, and verse two tells of an interruption of sorts brought by the religious leaders in their criticism of Jesus based on the “company” he was keeping. The conclusion is that what follows verse three was addressed to the Pharisees and scribes, so as to dismiss their interruption quickly and effectively in order to take up the matter of teaching those who had come to hear the Master.

But note the subjects of the two parables Jesus then tells the religious crowd. The first is a shepherd who seeks and finds a lost sheep, at the peril of losing others that have not left the flock. Those “religious” would have been familiar with the context of this parable, at least insofar as they considered themselves to be the “shepherds of Israel”, and they believed their criticism of Jesus to be an indication of their “care for their flock”. Even so, we find them here, not trying to reclaim the “lost sinners and tax collectors” who were eager to hear Jesus’ teaching, but preferring to leave them all lost “in the wilderness” rather than risk their elevated positions in society. Having completed the story with the joyous reclamation of the lost sheep, Jesus makes His point with verse seven:

I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. (NKJV)

Another short parable follows the first to make the point more strongly by telling of a woman who has lost one-tenth of her treasure, amounting to one small silver coin. With their emphasis on the Law as they understood it, the religious would have instantly thought of the tithe, the one-tenth portion they would have considered to belong “to the Lord”, and of the fact that this woman had misplaced that much. They would have been pleased, possibly, to hear the outcome, to know that the tithe was safe. But they likely did not notice that the sheep, being no more than a dumb animal prone to wander from the flock, represented some portion of the crowd of “sinners” who had come to hear Jesus; even less would they have noticed that portion of the crowd who, like the coin were utterly incapable of being aware of their lost condition, or to the duty and obligation of care owed to the entire crowd by those very same leaders. Further, they do not appreciate that they each are as much in need of repentance as is any of those “sinners”! Jesus again punctuates the matter with verse ten:

Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (NKJV)

Finally, here is point number two: Earlier in Chapter Fifteen we are told that the Pharisees and the scribes didn’t much care for the fact that Jesus Christ was spending time with what they called “sinners”; those “sinners” happened to be listening to him, and eagerly. While the three parables are possibly only stories, even if told to illustrate serious truths, we have the historical fact laid before us in verse three. Two of those parables were told for the benefit of these religious leaders who had not noticed that the “sinners” were under their care. Jesus took time to tell them these two stories, with the purpose of illustrating their own lost condition, while a large crowd of followers waited to hear their own parable.

Then Jesus told them this parable:

That is grace.

Symbols in the Day of Atonement

“What’s that?” you might have asked.

“Hamartiology” is a big word. It’s complicated. Dictionary consultation might be in order if you don’t know its meaning. (What? I have to look up a word I’ve never heard of, and one that looks like it’s just “made up” anyway? I think I’ll just piddle around looking at the pretty pictures and funny jokes all my dear friends posted on Gabba-Jabber in the last few minutes. Yeah, that’ll be a lot more fun!)

Of course, I’m not going to just let it fade away to nothing, because, see, I started getting this idea after hearing Rev. Jean F. Larroux’s sermon on Sunday, and the whole idea became very interesting to me after I thought it over for a while, read the text a few times, and thought about it some more. So, since I want to learn new things, and pass them on to others who might want to know them, well, no, I’m not going to drop it and forget the whole thing. Some things are worth thinking about, and I happen to believe this is one of them.

This bigcomplicated word is an Anglicized portmanteau word derived from two Greek words, hamartia (sin) and logos (word). It turns out to be the theological term for the doctrine of sin. I could not hope to compose one word per one hundred million words already written on this subject by those far superior to me in theological study and thought, and will probably add nothing to what is already known by the vast majority of those who might read this posting. So, if you’re certain you’ll learn nothing new by reading this, I invite you to employ your time more wisely than you would by continuing to read. Still friends, right? After all, even if you don’t read it, I have the privilege of writing my thoughts; that’s called a win-win.

I won’t argue the point that hamartiology is an important field of study. Either you believe that sin is a real and horrible thing, that all of humankind (and by incorporation all of Creation) are ruined and undone by sin and sinfulness, that God the Father Almighty hates sin in every single one of its manifestations, and that sin and sinfulness demand either a perfect payment or a permanent punishment, or you believe none of it. Either you believe that the breadth and depth of sin require an infinitely more effective satisfaction, or you don’t. I happen to believe all of these things, and think it would be a good thing for you to examine the ideas; but I won’t attempt to force you–that’s not my job. I just want to write about this interesting topic.

Still here? I appreciate it, because sometimes I take a while to get to my point. I will hasten to the second part of my title, the Day of Atonement.

Indeed, atonement is also a big and complicated word, but it is probably not of Greek origin. Some scholars believe William Tyndale derived it from an English phrase, atonen (“in accord”), for his English translation of the early Sixteenth Century to convey the idea of “agreement”. But this agreement is not something like a business deal, wherein two equal adversaries compromise from their disagreement to something like trust. This agreement is one that is between God and Humankind, but it is one of those special arrangements wherein God, being Sovereign, makes the deal, and the dealing is finished; that is called a covenant. Humankind, in its “ruined and undone” state, you see, had nothing to bring to the table, nothing to offer in return, no leg to stand on, so to speak. (That’s the way things tend to be when people deal with the Supreme Being.)

So now we’ve dealt, quite superficially, with the ideas of sin and atonement. But we’re not quite through to the “Day of Atonement”, or its connection with the doctrine of sin, or hamartiology.

Anyone even minimally aware of Jewish culture and history knows that the High Holy Day of the Jewish year is Yom Kippur, or in English “The Day of Atonement”; some prefer “The Day of Atonements”. I believe that most who are aware of even that much remain blissfully unaware of the importance of the Day, and of the activities of the Day, in Jewish cultural history. There is a huge amount of cultural history attached to the purpose and the activities of Yom Kippur, not least that the High Priest of Israel could do one thing on that day of the year, and on that day only, and that was to enter the Holy of Holies, the Holiest Place, within the Temple curtain (or the Tabernacle during the wilderness wandering period), for the most sacred purpose of making atonement for his own sins, and for those of Israel. And those are not the only things the High Priest is required to “make atonement for”…

Of course, that brings us to a critical point, for I am about to mention that thing very disliked, even despised, by most readers, The Bible, and in particular the Old Testament book of Leviticus, at chapter sixteen. It is at this critical point that many readers, having made it this far, will simply abandon the project. My temptation is to say, “That’s okay,” and continue with my writing. The fact is that I do not particularly think it is okay for you to stop reading simply because I’ve mentioned The Bible, but of course, it is your choice, your decision to take. Should you take leave of me at this point, I will only say, “Live long and prosper,” with all the sincerity of a Mister Spock. But there is some fascinating information in that sixteenth chapter of Leviticus, and I honestly believe you might profit from taking some note of it.

Exodus, chapters thirty-five through forty, describes the Wilderness Tabernacle’s construction details and layout in minute detail. A knowledge of these facts is helpful toward understanding the activities of the Day of Atonement, since such knowledge provides sense of movement and scale to the description in Numbers sixteen. From the outside it appeared to be a rectangular enclosure with a single entrance that also served as the exit, always placed in the center of the eastern end of the enclosure. The ratios of length to width to height of the external structure were 25:12.5:1, and the entrance occupied 40% of the eastern end.

Upon entering the courtyard so constructed and proceeding westward, one first encountered the bronze altar of offering, an elevated structure which served only one purpose: this was the place where animal sacrifices were slain. Further west was the laver, a large bronze bowl filled with water, in which the priests washed their hands and feet before entering the tent containing the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. The Holy Place contained, along with the Most Holy Place, three other objects. To the left stood the menorah, the seven armed stand whose lamps burned throughout the night and provided the only source of physical light within the tent. To the right was the table of showbread, set weekly with twelve loaves of bread which, having been consecrated, were consumed by members of the priesthood at the end of the week. Directly west, just before the veil protecting the Most Holy Place, stood the golden altar of incense, upon which was burned the consecrated spice mixture each day at the time of the morning and evening sacrifices on the bronze altar in the courtyard. Immediately to the west of the altar of incense stood the Holy of Holies, the place occupied by God Himself, and the place that only one man, the High Priest, could enter, and then only after suitable preparation and only on the Day of Atonement; the Holy of Holies was protected by its veil. Within the Holiest Place stood one piece of furniture, consisting of the Ark of the Covenant and the atonement cover, or mercy seat, which served as the lid for the Ark. Within the Ark were three objects of great significance in Jewish history: the pot of manna, the rod of Aaron, and the stone tablets upon which were written the Ten Commandments.

Here is a link to Leviticus 16, in the New International Version. This page will open in a new window or tab. (There is a handy drop-down menu at the site, by which many other translations may be found.) I will not attempt a verse-by-verse analysis of the chapter, as that is frankly above my exegetical abilities by many orders of magnitude. My purpose is to elucidate, in a very small way, some of the high points.

1 The Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron who died when they approached the Lord.

The first thing we notice is that this text provides historical context. Something had happened: the two sons of Aaron had died. This had happened for a reason: they had approached the Lord. Then Moses received a message, from that same Lord:

2 The Lord said to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die. For I will appear in the cloud over the atonement cover.

This explains the reason Aaron’s sons had died, for it proclaims that Aaron himself, the High Priest of Israel, would die for the same reason, should he come at the wrong time into the Holiest Place. Even the person of the High Priest was to be prepared suitably before encountering the presence of God Himself. This preparation is most explicit in detail, and the fine granularity of the detail requires complete adherence.

3 “This is how Aaron is to enter the Most Holy Place: He must first bring a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.

It is important to notice here that the first thing Aaron is required to do before entering the Holy of Holies is to prepare offerings, of the proper type, and to “bring” them. Aaron would have brought the animals through the entrance and presented them to the Lord, to be held at the bronze altar until the time of their sacrifice.

4 He is to put on the sacred linen tunic, with linen undergarments next to his body; he is to tie the linen sash around him and put on the linen turban. These are sacred garments; so he must bathe himself with water before he puts them on.

The preparations continue with the ritual washing and donning sacred clothing. Aaron has now brought the offerings, a job that might of itself have involved becoming dirty, so he must wash before he dons the priestly garments.

5 From the Israelite community he is to take two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.

Now, Aaron is already washed and clad in the sacred garments, so “take” here likely means “accept”. The High Priest is to receive the offerings from the Israelites, since he is acting in his capacity as High Priest, being the intermediary between God and the Nation. Possibly this requires that he leave the Tabernacle proper, even after the washing and donning the sacred garments, but this is not clear to me, particularly in light of verse seven; for the High Priest to exit the Tabernacle at this point implies a reversal of his progress toward the actions that are to follow. It seems more likely that the goats have already been brought inside the entrance prior to this time, and are being held there.

6 “Aaron is to offer the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household.

Now we learn the reason for the sin offering of the young bull. It is to atone for the sins of the High Priest himself, and for those of his household as well. Even the High Priest must not only be clean, and clothed properly, but his sins and those of the ones closest to him must receive atonement before he can continue the ritual. However, prior to the actual sacrifice of the bull, Aaron must deal with the two goats.

7 Then he is to take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 8 He is to cast lots for the two goats—one lot for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat. 9 Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the Lord and sacrifice it for a sin offering. 10 But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement by sending it into the wilderness as a scapegoat.

That at least answers the inevitable question: Why two goats? And why is one, the goat chosen by lot for the Lord, to be killed as a sin offering, but the other one driven “into the wilderness as a scapegoat”? More mysteriously, how is the one sacrificed to be a sin offering, but the one sent away, after being presented alive to the Lord, to make atonement? It begins to appear that there are two “atonements”, two different kinds of “agreement” in play at this juncture. I hold all of that in abeyance for now, for it may just come up again…

11 “Aaron shall bring the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household, and he is to slaughter the bull for his own sin offering.

It is very important, I think, to notice here that no sacrificial animal has been killed until now, when the High Priest must slaughter the young bull as “his own sin offering”, “for himself and for his household”. He cannot proceed until this crucial step has been completed.

12 He is to take a censer full of burning coals from the altar before the Lord and two handfuls of finely ground fragrant incense and take them behind the curtain. 13 He is to put the incense on the fire before the Lord, and the smoke of the incense will conceal the atonement cover above the tablets of the covenant law, so that he will not die.

Finally the High Priest may, after he sacrifices the young bull, enter safely behind the veil, into the presence of the Lord, being properly prepared with the burning coals and the incense to cover himself, as it were, from the Holiness of God and His wrath, a wrath that is just even after an atoning sacrifice.

14 He is to take some of the bull’s blood and with his finger sprinkle it on the front of the atonement cover; then he shall sprinkle some of it with his finger seven times before the atonement cover.

Now the High Priest has brought the atoning blood of the young bull into the Most Holy Place, and he has sprinkled some of that blood directly upon the mercy seat as well as in front of it. Having completed this act, he may now proceed to the next steps in the ritual.

15 “He shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain and do with it as he did with the bull’s blood: He shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it. 16 In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been. He is to do the same for the tent of meeting, which is among them in the midst of their uncleanness.

Only after completing the act of atonement for his own sin, and for that of his family, the High Priest may now kill the goat set aside by lot for the sin offering of the people, but this requires that he go back into the courtyard, to the bronze altar, and there collect the goat’s blood. Having returned into the Holiest Place, he sprinkles the people’s sin offering upon the mercy seat.

17 No one is to be in the tent of meeting from the time Aaron goes in to make atonement in the Most Holy Place until he comes out, having made atonement for himself, his household and the whole community of Israel.

This is a very interesting and illuminating point, I think. Since there may be no others within the Tabernacle while the High Priest is performing the central duties of his office, and since the enclosure is quite large, the High Priest was alone, in human terms. God, the High Priest, and two goats are the only witnesses!

18 “Then he shall come out to the altar that is before the Lord and make atonement for it. He shall take some of the bull’s blood and some of the goat’s blood and put it on all the horns of the altar. 19 He shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times to cleanse it and to consecrate it from the uncleanness of the Israelites. 20a “When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the tent of meeting and the altar,…

A very startling thing is here. The bronze altar itself requires atonement. No, that is a stunning revelation. The altar “before the Lord”, the altar of sacrifice within the Tabernacle, has itself been tainted by the sin, the sinfulness, the uncleanness of the people. Every single horn on the altar must be covered with the blood of two animals. The altar itself must be “consecrated” for its holy purposes. This is demonstrative of the effects of humankind’s sin upon the whole of Creation, that even those things set aside for holy uses are affected by that sin. Even the tent of meeting, or the Tabernacle, must have atonement. Most incredible of all is the fact that the Most Holy Place, the sanctum sanctorum, the dwelling place of God Almighty, has required atonement. (N.B.: The lesson ought to be clear and plain to any reader.)

20b …he shall bring forward the live goat. 21 He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the wilderness in the care of someone appointed for the task. 22 The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness.

Notice that now is the time that the scapegoat, the live goat, receives its reward. It seems incredible to “modern” people, I’m sure, but after all of this sacrifice, all of this washing and dressing and going in and going out and sprinkling of blood and all of that, the goat that is left alive now has all of the sins of Israel laid upon it, and it is taken away to fend for itself, “in the wilderness”. The point is that the sin has not been destroyed, eradicated, has not been forgotten by God, is still a reality, even after atonement has been made. The live goat must still leave the camp, and go into the wilderness, never to be seen again, probably to die. Notice as well that the goat receives the sin of Israel in public, outside the Tabernacle enclosure, with witnesses observing. But even now, not everything is finished, for “life goes on”.

23 “Then Aaron is to go into the tent of meeting and take off the linen garments he put on before he entered the Most Holy Place, and he is to leave them there. 24 He shall bathe himself with water in the sanctuary area and put on his regular garments. Then he shall come out and sacrifice the burnt offering for himself and the burnt offering for the people, to make atonement for himself and for the people. 25 He shall also burn the fat of the sin offering on the altar.

The activities of the Day of Atonement are, for all intents and purposes, completed once the High Priest divests himself of the sacred garments, washes once more, and dons his usual clothing. He must still sacrifice both for himself and for the people! Was there no purpose for all of that preparation, all of that choosing of animals that were perfect, the rituals? Of course there was a purpose, but there is also a deeper truth in play.

26 “The man who releases the goat as a scapegoat must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water; afterward he may come into the camp.

This is part of that deeper truth. The handler who has taken the live goat away is now unclean and cannot re-enter the camp of Israel before he cleanses himself and his clothing. Why is he not clean? He has followed the formula, the ritual, done the Lord’s bidding, but still is required to make himself clean? My idea is that he has handled the goat who received the sins of Israel, and has himself been made unclean by that handling. But that is not all.

27 The bull and the goat for the sin offerings, whose blood was brought into the Most Holy Place to make atonement, must be taken outside the camp; their hides, flesh and intestines are to be burned up. 28 The man who burns them must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water; afterward he may come into the camp.

The remains of the young bull and the sacrificed goat must also be destroyed by fire, and that “outside the camp”, and the one who performs this holy service must likewise become clean again before he may return. The bull, the goat, and the one who burns them, have all performed a sacred service and duty during all of this, and they are still to be destroyed or cleansed. Sin has tainted the bodies of all concerned, and the remainder must be cleansed, in the one case by fire, in the other with water.

Then comes the final exclamation point upon the whole thing:

29 “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and not do any work—whether native-born or a foreigner residing among you— 30 because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins. 31 It is a day of sabbath rest, and you must deny yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance. 32 The priest who is anointed and ordained to succeed his father as high priest is to make atonement. He is to put on the sacred linen garments 33 and make atonement for the Most Holy Place, for the tent of meeting and the altar, and for the priests and all the members of the community.

We now have an ordinance for Israel that is to last for all time. The Day of Atonement is established, along with the rules for that day, and the priestly line of succession is defined. Furthermore, the text reiterates the reason for the Day of Atonement once more.

34 “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.” And it was done, as the Lord commanded Moses.

To finalize everything, the text then repeats itself, though with fewer words.

All of which leads one to ask about the idea of “secret sin”, the sin that supposedly “hurts no one but the sinner”. Can there be such a thing as a sin, or sinfulness itself, that does not infect all of Creation? In light of Leviticus, chapter sixteen, I would have to answer in the negative.

The Only Winning Move is not to Play

Aficionados of the teen angst, Cold War, rebel with or without a cause, give-peace-a-chance, et al., type of talkie will recognize, immediately and practically without apparent cognitive effort, the title as the conclusion reached by a supercomputer dubbed WOPR (War Operation Plan Response) by the MIC (Military Industrial Complex), or “Joshua” by its creator and others, in a hugely successful 1983 movie called War Games. The story is pretty simple:

  1. Military personnel, tasked with pushing the buttons, turning the keys, etc., and thereby starting the final conflagration of global thermonuclear war in simulations that have gone slightly awry, have refused to comply with their standing orders and have not unleashed the (admittedly simulated) war birds.
  2. An official, played by Dabney Coleman, has succeeded in instituting a program whereby a supercomputer can, through artificial intelligence and various simulations, “learn” to choose properly, based on probabilities of success, whether to continue with the order, or not.
  3. A less than stellar high school student (as far as high school goes) succeeds in hacking the school system’s computers and changing a few grades. Then he manages to discover something he finds odd and interesting in Silicon Valley. When he hits a wall beyond which he cannot go in his search, he proceeds to get himself into NORAD by certain expedients, and learns of the problems being caused by WOPR/Joshua, which/who has suddenly developed a desire (of some kind) to bring the game to an end state.
  4. Young student and his girlfriend embark upon an expedition, rushing to the Pacific Northwest to convince WOPR’s creator to return with them and lend a hand in bringing the unruly child under control.
  5. Because retired PhDs like Dr. Falken often accede in the wishes of adolescent trouble-makers, Falken returns to NORAD and convinces Joshua to play Tic-Tac-Toe against itself. Simultaneously, Joshua/WOPR is trying to “crack” the launch code to bring off a world ending war, and is running all of the simulations again.
  6. Before the code is cracked, WOPR/Joshua realizes that the “game” he is playing is one that cannot be won, and utters the words comprising the title of this piece. Then he offers to play “a nice game of chess”.

Silly in the extreme? Or prophetic? I think neither, but rather allegorical. For I think I see the same kind of thing playing out week after weary week, year after weary year, in our national demise, said demise accelerating rapidly over the course of time.

This week the big controversy is that one Phil Robertson, a cast member of a rather popular cable television show, has been placed on indefinite hiatus by the network that owns the franchise, called Duck Dynasty. In the way of most such controversies, boycotts have been urged by certain elements of the population, and the focal points of those boycotts have begun to grow outside the boundaries of the network and their presumably contracted employees, the cast of the show, and in particular the person who is now being called the “patriarch” of those contracted employees. One or more companies have apparently decided to suppress their involvement with the show by removing certain items from their store shelves, at least for now, or reducing their prices. So where’s the controversy?

A very few days ago, the big controversy was over a few events connected with the Nelson Mandela funeral, memorial service, etc. What was that all about? Oh, yes, it was that a sitting President of the United States and a sitting Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, indulged in taking “selfies” surrounding the very attractive head of the government of Denmark. The result was that the President’s wife apparently rearranged the seating, and just by the way did not look very pleased with some events or others.

Now, I’m wondering if anyone remembers the big controversy preceding the Mandela thing? No? I didn’t think so. How about Snowden and the NSA? That was last Spring. Lots of things between then and now. Uh, the “failed” “Obamacare” rollout, from the Website to the policy cancellations and everything else? The Presidential, Congressional, and other lies about the Affordable Care Act? Various shootings in public places, including elementary and high schools? Benghazi? September 11, 2001? The housing bubble? The dot-com crash? Don Imus saying silly and stupid things about a female college sports team, or Rush Limbaugh saying silly things about a professional law school student? The Grenada invasion, or Panama? The Bork or Thomas hearings? Maude worrying about abortion? Race and gender based quotas in everything there is?

Don’t the big controversies go back, uh, forever?

We, the people, are focusing on things that have very little real significance, all spoon fed to us by a willing and complicit media working busily for whoever their masters may be, and we are losing, ever more rapidly, the focus on the really important things, such as governance of the Nation.

I submit that, apart from a knowledge of and an adherence to, the Constitution of the United States, one is totally ignorant of just which “controversies” are of any importance at all. If some tempest in a tea-kettle doesn’t affect the Constitution, it’s just not worth much notice.

At the same time, I submit that whenever such tempests consume our energies and our time, we have already lost the central focus, and we really don’t give a tinker’s dam about the Constitution, our liberties, or the future.

You’d better choose. I hope you choose not to play.

George Washington Opposed Presidential Term Limitations?

As a Professor of History and Education in New York University’s Steinhardt School, Jonathan Zimmerman [4][5] should be much more honest and transparent in his treatment of the historical record regarding President George Washington’s imaginary opposition toward limiting the number of years a person might serve usefully and rightfully in the office of President. In his op-ed piece [2] of November 28, 2013 (revised on November 29, 2013), Professor Zimmerman quotes from a letter [1] written by the future President to the Marquis de Lafayette as follows:

I can see no propriety in precluding ourselves from the service of any man who, in some great emergency, shall be deemed universally most capable of serving the public.

For his reasons alone, the professor chose to omit the surrounding context from the quotation, which is as follows:

There are other points on which opinions would be more likely to vary. As for instance, on the ineligibility of the same person for President, after he should have served a certain course of years. Guarded so effectually as the proposed Constitution is, in respect to the prevention of bribery and undue influence in the choice of President: I confess, I differ widely myself from Mr. Jefferson and you, as to the necessity or expediency of rotation in that appointment. The matter was fairly discussed in the Convention, and to my full convictions; though I cannot have time or room to sum up the argument in this letter. There cannot, in my judgment, be the least danger that the President will by any practicable intrigue ever be able to continue himself one moment in office, much less perpetuate himself in it; but in the last stage of corrupted morals and political depravity: and even then there is as much danger that any other species of domination would prevail. Though, when a people shall have become incapable of governing themselves and fit for a master, it is of little consequence from what quarter he comes. Under an extended view of this part of the subject, I can see no propriety in precluding ourselves from the services of any man, who on some great emergency shall be deemed universally, most capable of serving the Public.

Please read that quotation much more closely than you might have. Please notice that George Washington, more than a year before he became President of the United States of America under the Constitution of 1787, expressed certain far-reaching qualifications toward his alleged opposition to Presidential term limitations. The most telling of those qualifications seems to be that Washington considered it impossible, under the conditions he desired, and possibly expected, to obtain, for a person to “continue himself one moment in office,…” He is explicit in describing the conditions he definitely desires not to prevail:

…but in the last stage of corrupted morals and political depravity.

Furthermore, at such a passage of events, he declares:

…any other species of domination would prevail.

To make the point in greater depth, he then adds:

…when a people shall have become incapable of governing themselves and fit for a master,

Then Washington caps his remarks with:

…it is of little consequence from what quarter he [the master: Ed.] comes.

First, please observe again that George Washington feared the last stage.

Please further observe that George Washington, when he uses the words “a master”, is most definitely and explicitly not referring to some person who would serve as President; to think of a President as a “master” rather than a servant would have been anathema to him. No, he refers instead to the would-be slave holder who holds in her or his hands the possibility of giving to someone, in Washington’s future, the unparalleled office of President of the United States of America, for the purposes of base gain, political motivation, and power over an entire population, its treasure, and its future in a time characterized by him as of “corrupted morals and political depravity”.

Does one not see that Washington is not referring here to the one who desires to be a slave “owner” whose morals are certainly corrupted and whose politics are depraved, but rather to a populace, and in particular to a populace having the inestimable privilege of suffrage, a populace largely consumed by material gain and power over their brethren in the body politick? The one who would be the master of other humans is already morally corrupt and politically depraved! But a populace which has become so is only a collection of “useful idiots” capable of transferring that power and gain to the actual slave holder through the elected puppet. But that populace derives from the slave owner the same corruption and depravity.

In President George Washington’s Farewell Address to the Nation [3], he spoke a most serious warning:

To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, a government for the whole is indispensable. No alliance, however strict, between the parts can be an adequate substitute; they must inevitably experience the infractions and interruptions which all alliances in all times have experienced. Sensible of this momentous truth, you have improved upon your first essay, by the adoption of a constitution of government better calculated than your former for an intimate union, and for the efficacious management of your common concerns. This government, the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support. Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true liberty. The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.

All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.

However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.

Now: Right now. Without waiting, please ask yourself if this body politick has not become the matter of the very worst of Washington’s nightmares, a populace which wants only material gain, and to that end will exercise political power to realize it. It is a very serious question, and an honest answer will require soul-searching and more. Ignore the question at the peril, not only of yourself, but of this once great Republic and of all who live here.

The question will not disappear.

May God Almighty bless the United States of America.


  1. http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=848&chapter=102006&layout=html&Itemid=27
  2. http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/end-presidential-term-limits/2013/11/28/50876456-561e-11e3-ba82-16ed03681809_story.html
  3. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/washing.asp
  4. http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/faculty_bios/view/Jonathan_Zimmerman
  5. http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/profiles/faculty/jonathan_zimmerman


Incapable of Annihilation

Having begun this first day of the 238th year of the independence of the United States of America in the way I have now practiced for forty consecutive Fourths of July, anything to follow will be denouement for the remainder of the day, for the tradition I follow on this anniversary centers upon a reading of the Declaration of Independence. At times I have added the original United States Constitution, including of course the Bill of Rights, the Articles of Confederation, and other documents, but the Declaration of Independence, adopted by the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia on this date in 1776, is for me the proper focus of attention today, as it expresses the genius of the Founders with a clarity and fullness unmatched in other merely human literature.

In some cases I have considered every word in the Declaration, reflecting upon each one’s meaning within its phrase or sentence and within the entire document. Today I thought about larger elements, and found myself drawn, several times, to the third through the sixth grievances against George III, and particularly to the sixth, with the utterly fascinating phrase:

“…incapable of Annihilation…”

Without context, this phrase is perfectly meaningless, for nearly everything is, in some sense, annihilable, or at least convertible to a form having a different character, other physical qualities, etc. Having read the Declaration many times, I trust not only its veracity, but its sensibility, implicitly. Furthermore, the Founders were educated men, many of whom had read their Empedocles (“For it is impossible for anything to come to be from what is not, and it cannot be brought about or heard of that what is should be utterly destroyed”) and Epicurus (“[T]he totality of things was always such as it is now, and always will be”), and almost certainly some had encountered Lavoisier’s work in the realm of conservation of matter and energy. The Founders were not discussing chemical and physical phenomena, though; this thing that is “incapable of Annihilation” was not for them, and is not for us, an object capable of responding to force, or a force capable of exerting influence upon an object.

This thing that can not be annihilated, obliterated, destroyed utterly once and for all time, is, in fact, a combination of many elements concerning natural law, humanity, governance, and justice, all existing for the Founders as realities having a fundamental nature transcending that of mere matter and energy. The realm of discourse of the Declaration of Independence is dual, the object is singular.

Idea, the Formal Basis of the Declaration of Independence

I humbly submit that the Founders would never have approached the heights they achieved apart from their lifetimes spent in struggle with the philosophies, the informing genius, the lofty ideas, of the giants of thought on whose shoulders they most assuredly knew they stood during the late Spring and early Summer of 1776. Their education, whether in schools or otherwise, had rewarded them with foundations in the Ancients, and the Schoolmen, and the Moderns of their age. This is not to say they were all equal geniuses of thought, but rather that the fortuitous combination of their lives at that time, in that place, facing that common enemy and crisis did mold them into a political force such as the world had never before seen, and probably would never see again.

The clear language throughout the Declaration, in the English indicative mood, bespeaks a reasoned civility balanced with a firm strength of character. It is difficult to imagine this harmony occurred by sheer chance, but however it came about, the proof of its existence is in the words of the Declaration itself. The Preamble, which I take to be in two sections, is almost apologetic in its preparation of the reader for that which is to follow: “When…it becomes necessary…to separate…a decent respect for the opinions of mankind requires” the kind but firm warning and challenge that will issue in the end.

With the somewhat apologetic language comes one step in the logical progression after another. “Self-evident” truths and “unalienable rights” lead directly to mankind’s place in the universe as a creature of “Nature’s God”, and thus the dependent but inherent value of humans, transcending by means of natural law any encroachment upon that truth, those rights, that value, by any government instituted by mankind; to the contrary, governments rule only “by the consent of the governed”. Because governments tend to hold the governed in low esteem, by depriving them of the means of seeking the happiness attendant upon realizing each person’s fullest potential rather than legislating or commanding that people be happy, the inevitable end of the conflict is either human slavery or human freedom. In order to be fully human, it therefore is always the right of “the people” to examine their government to determine if it is doing their will, and if it is failing in that regard, “the people” then have a duty to throw off even the accustomed and comfortable form of government and establish a “new government” they believe capable and desirous of supporting the ideals of liberty (“happiness”) and security in a perfectly balanced way.

King George III and his government having failed to meet the standard demanded by natural law, the Founders had no recourse but to follow their conscience, and that was a matter of established fact at the time, but they continued upon the path of civility and logic and set forth their grievances against the government then set over and against them. The list is twenty-seven items in length, each more serious and harmful to the common weal than those previously named, and it indeed does detail “a long train of abuses” whose end is the establishment of an “absolute tyranny” over the American Colonies of Great Britain. That list reads much more like a formal set of charges against a criminal than it does anything else, and the details become ever more tyrannical. But there is a breaking point in the list, in my mind’s eye, and that occurs in the third through the sixth grievance, wherein the detail is that the government of Great Britain, with George III at the helm, had arrogated to itself the power to annihilate that which is not annihilable: the right, under the Law of Nature and of Nature’s God, for humans to pursue happiness as they choose, and not as it is thrust upon them.

In simple terms, the 27 grievances are an indictment. The American Colonial citizens of Great Britain, acting corporately as a kind of grand jury, had produced a “true bill” of indictment against the government and King of Great Britain. In particular, since the King had illegally nullified their natural law right to self-government, they had understood correctly that the legislative power, intended to be representative, had in fact become directly the province of “the people”.

Furthermore, they had decided that their cause was anything but “light and transient”, the British crown and government were unfit to rule “a free people”, natural law and God the Lawmaker and Judge was the true source of their liberty and security, and on July 4 did declare, that they would take the matter to trial, not least on the battlefield and the high seas. In other words, they would take action commensurate with their findings and their judgment, having taken all possible steps to explain their judgment and findings to “a candid world”, and to effect that action did pledge, each and corporately, their “Lives, … Fortunes and … sacred Honor.”

Action, the Functional and Immediate Outcome of the Declaration of Independence

“The British Colonials in North America declared war against the British Empire on July 4, 1776.”

That is the popular view. It is also false. In point of fact, the war had been engaged more than a year earlier, particularly on April 19, 1775, in the Battles of Lexington and Concord, and on June 17, 1775, in the Battles of Bunker Hill and Breed’s Hill. These were respectively the beginning and end of significant military action during the Boston Campaign of September 1, 1774, the date of the “Powder Alarm”, through March 17, 1776, when British Troops abandoned their occupation of Boston following George III’s royal assent to the Massachusetts Government Act vacating the royal charter of the Province of Massachusetts Bay.

Patrick Henry delivered his “Give me liberty or give me death” speech to the Virginia Convention at St. John’s Church in Richmond on March 23, 1775. Here is the final paragraph of that speech, which leaves no doubt that a state of war existed long before July 4, 1776:

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace–but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

Another commonly repeated idea is as follows:

“By proclaiming the independence of the United States of America, the Colonists became rebellious Subjects of the Crown.”

That is a similarly popular view, and it is likewise false. On August 23, 1775, George issued A Proclamation for Suppressing Rebellion and Sedition in response to British losses in the Battles of Bunker Hill and Breed’s Hill. In the text of that proclamation King George charged the colonists with “traitorously preparing, ordering and levying war against” the Crown. The official stance of the British Empire at the time the Declaration of Independence was adopted was that the Colonies had already been in a state of rebellion for more than ten months.

If war and rebellion were not the functional, structural outcomes of the Declaration, then what was it the Founders started on July 4, 1776? The answer is strikingly simple. The Founders began the long struggle to ensure that human liberty would always be framed within the lattice of Law, Reason, and Civility based upon worth naturally inherent to mankind; that human endeavor would gain benefits forever precisely because it would be forever protected from tyranny, either of an aristocracy, an oligarchy, or a bureaucracy; that the paradigm of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” would forever remain the sole pursuit of human governance.

Liberty, the Ultimate Object of the Declaration of Independence

The ultimate objective of the Founders was the continuance of liberty. Before a thing may continue in fact, it must exist in reality, and when opposition arises to this end, war is the inevitable result. During the long history of humanity, the war has raged without interruption, in one way or another, because, as the Founders knew fully well, mankind will forever partition itself into two groups: those who desire to live within a framework of respect, and righteousness, of growth and advancement, of maximal effort for maximal good; and those who desire to control and own other people. There is no other way to divide the thing.

If the Founders had left us nothing else, the Declaration of Independence would stand forever as the finest achievement of human governance. But they left us something else, of at least equal importance, and that is the legacy of their common resolve and good-will in the face of daunting and overwhelming force. That common purpose was not then, 237 years ago, a common thing, and it is likely not nearly as common today as it was then.

But there are Sons and Daughters of the Revolution, of Patrick Henry, of Thomas Jefferson, and all the others among us in these degraded times. We desire nothing more than the promise of Micah 4:4, “…but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid…” But we must remember and cherish and practice the words of our Founders in order to reach that estate in this life:

Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

…with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Finally, we must remember and cherish and study the words of President Abraham Lincoln following the Battle of Gettysburg, paraphrased as follows:

We here highly resolve that [what has been is not] in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

When we have met that challenge, we will indeed have become

Incapable of Annihilation

The Genius of the Electoral College

The Constitution is clear in its appointment of an Electoral College to serve after each Presidential Election for the sole purpose of choosing, if possible, the President and Vice-President of the United States. There is no less clarity in definition of the operation of this Electoral College, or the handling of their function if they should be unable to determine the question to which their hands are set. There remains great confusion and even frustration with the Electoral College after every Presidential Election, for one reason or another. This article will attempt to clarify some of the misunderstandings, and possibly to answer some of the questions, that occur every quadrennium in the United States.

Without a doubt the best place to begin looking for answers is in the words of the United States Constitution, particularly in one Article and one Amendment that replaces some of the original language of the Article. Accordingly, that is where we will begin.

Each State shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector. (U.S. Constitution, art. 2, sec. 1, cl. 2.)

The Congress may determine the time of choosing the electors, and the day on which they shall give their votes; which day shall be the same throughout the United States. (U.S. Constitution, art. 2, sec. 1, cl. 3.)

The Electors shall meet in their respective States and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same State with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the Government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate; the President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted; – The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by States, the representation from each State having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the States, and a majority of all the States shall be necessary to a choice. (U.S. Constitution, amend. 12, sec. 1)

The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such numbers be a majority of the whole number of electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States. (U.S. Constitution, amend. 12, sec. 3)

In order to gain a thorough understanding of the purpose, composition, and importance of the Electoral College as defined and required by the Constitution, we must understand that the Articles of Confederation adopted in 1781 provided for no “president of the United States”. This omission of an executive branch, and of a judicial branch, and of any means of defraying the expenses of government, was among the chief reasons that soon after the Articles were adopted, they came to be seen as ineffective for the governance of a free people. With all federal power, such as it was, housed in a single entity, the Congress, there was entirely too much likelihood that an oligarchy would arise from within the Congress or by action of conspirators who had gained control of Congress, and the democratic experiment would certainly fail. The Electoral College design overcomes every possible danger envisioned by the Framers in the vital area of selecting a Chief Executive for the “more perfect Union” they envisioned.

It is also crucial to understand the importance the Framers placed upon limited and representative government, separation of powers, and a guaranteed system of checks and balances toward the end of ensuring the endurance of the young American Republic. The very ideas themselves balance each the others, for when any one part of the government is limited in its relation to the others, the others are thereby strengthened relative to the weakened member, necessitating that the powers of government be separated by the firm and unbreachable walls of the Constitution, and furthermore that even within the different spheres of governments, including federal branches, States in relation to the federal government, and States in relation to each other, there be restraints upon overwhelming power, lest a faction, or a combination of them, gain an upper hand and dilute or quench the others in their proper spheres of influence.

The Framers had these specific objects in mind when they devised the Electoral College. In Federalist #68, Alexander Hamilton explained that, while the people’s vote would ultimately determine the outcome of the Presidential Elections, it could not be left to a plebiscite for the reason that the people, being of many temperaments, levels of moral development and education, and other distinctions, were not to be tempted by base greed in the matter of choosing the Chief Executive. Rather, the people would choose electors, persons who had proved that they were above crude motivations for the sake of power or riches, and the electors so chosen by the people would cast the votes to select the President and Vice-President. Further, “no Senator or Representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector” (U.S. Constitution, art. 2, sec. 2, cl. 2), thereby excluding the basest ambitions of the electors themselves.

Notice that, even with these guards in place in the matter of choosing a President and Vice-President, the Constitution makes it perfectly clear that it is completely within the purview and power of the States, under the control of their respective Legislatures, to appoint the electors who will be sent to the Electoral College. And then, so as to punctuate this separation of powers, the Constitution again makes it perfectly clear that these electors, and the Electoral College derivatively, must meet within their respective States, to further deny any power or force from outside each State, for the purpose of casting their votes for the offices they will determine. They may not meet in combinations of States, either regional or national, but must meet in their respective States. It is a perfect and sublime example of the separation of powers in a federal system of representative government. The Congress may only decree three matters, and those are the “time of choosing the electors”, “the day on which they shall give their votes”, and that this must occur on the same day uniformly throughout the United States. Again, these provisions are exemplary of true federalism in action within a representative and republican framework.

We must notice, and give heed to, the totality of the language in the Constitution, which by means of its own provisions includes its Amendments, to this vitally important matter of ensuring the continuity of civil government. It was not without accident that these words were chosen, for these words follow upon long and sober reflection, and upon the decisions of the several States in the ratification of this Supreme Law of the Land. Is there not more of restriction upon the unbridled power of a federal government, and upon the powers of the States, and upon the powers of the federal and State Legislatures, and upon the powers of elected and appointed officials, and finally upon the powers inherent to the people themselves, than there is upon the Rule of Law itself? The Framers most certainly understood that mankind were then, and are now, predisposed to take the easier course, the baser course, than to choose to elevate themselves to a higher course, and they codified that understanding into our Constitution. More particularly, the States chose, through their several devices of governance, to ratify that Constitution in its entirety. In so doing, they chose the Electoral College system for determining the person who would be, or could become, Chief Executive.

We, who live in this 21st Century, are yet bound by this legal document, which many would disparage simply because it is “legal”; but even so, we are held to it. Those Framers, and the States which ratified this Constitution, are in the position known as “federal head” to all of those who live today. Their actions represent us. Their decisions affect us. We are held to the decisions taken in 1787, until such time as we, or a later generation of Americans, choose to change the effects of those actions and decisions.

A Prayer for President Obama

By Dan Delzell , Special to CP

November 8, 2012|6:21 am

As Christians, it is our duty to pray for our president and for all those in positions of authority. (see 1 Timothy 2:1-4) As Christians, we obviously are deeply concerned about the sanctity of human life, the institution of marriage between a man and a woman, and the moral necessity of paying off our national debt for the sake of future generations.

With those matters and other moral issues in mind, here is a prayer which many of us can pray regularly in sincerity and in truth.

Almighty God,

Thank you for giving us your Son as our Redeemer. Thank you that His kingdom shall have no end. Wash away my sins Lord Jesus, and give me O Holy Spirit a love for the things you love….and a hatred for the things you hate. Help me not to grieve you by my words, my behavior, or my daily agenda.

Thank you Lord for all the blessings which you have poured out upon our nation over these many years. We are not worthy of your blessings….but we humbly and graciously thank you for your goodness and mercy to us.

Look down upon President Obama and grant him your wisdom O Lord. In his profession of faith in Christ, show him clearly what his profession calls him to do….first as a believer, and secondly as president. Lead him to trust in Christ’s death on the cross for his sins, and not in his own efforts or religious deeds. Teach him the Gospel message of salvation through faith in Christ alone. Bring him to that spiritual place where his soul is born again through faith in Jesus….and empower him to share with others his love for you O Lord.

Give President Obama a love for the Scriptures, and for prayer. Grant him faith to trust you everyday in every situation. Give our president and his wife and daughters a strong prayer life together, and daily discussions about how Christianity transforms our life and our decisions.

Teach President Obama that the killing of unborn children is every bit as evil as the slavery which white men forced upon black men in our nation’s history. Encourage our president to keep his thoughts not only on those outside the womb, but also on those inside the womb. Lead him to become obsessed with the ultrasound images of unborn babies, and to become convinced of the immorality of inflicting pain and death upon unborn children. Give him a passion to protect and to free these innocent black, white, and brown babies from the cruel and barbaric practice of abortion.

Change his heart O Lord not only on the issue of life, but also on the biblical issue of marriage. Teach him to take the Scriptures literally, not only in those passages regarding salvation….and heaven and hell….and the blood of Jesus….and the need for righteous living….but also on your clear teaching concerning marriage. Show him O Lord that a promotion of same-sex marriage is a promotion of sin, and that it is his duty as a Christian never to promote sin of any kind….whether it be lying, stealing, oppression, adultery, injustice, greed, or homosexuality. Teach him O Lord that “righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” (Proverbs 14:34)

Give our president a love for all people regardless of their lifestyle, and the Christian conviction about biblical marriage which is held by black, white, and brown believers in Christ all over the world. Show him how to love the sinner, without embracing the behavior and promoting the sin.

Help President Obama to make wise financial decisions as well. Teach our president that it is wrong to pass on this huge financial debt to future generations. Wake him up to the dangers which this enormous debt presents to our nation. Give him wisdom in the area of financial responsibility, and in all other areas which require common sense and “sanctified sense.”

Thank you Lord that we have not elected a “Pastor-in-Chief,” and that our president does not need to be a full-time theologian. But help him Lord to understand the necessity of turning to the Bible everyday for wisdom, strength, and direction. Show him his responsibility in this critical area as a professing Christian.

Help me Lord to trust you even when things in this world seem confusing or alarming. My hope is in you Jesus, and not in any elected official. Thank you Lord for being such a faithful friend and Savior, and for granting me the free gift of eternal life through faith in Christ. Help President Obama to develop a strong friendship with you, an eternal trust in you, and a life of daily obedience to your commands.

Protect and deliver us today in America O Lord. Turn my heart and millions of hearts to you this day through repentance and faith in Christ. And in so doing, we will be led to serve and follow you, our King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Come quickly Lord Jesus. We need you in our lives and in our nation now more than ever, and we rely upon your forgiveness, your blessing, and your guidance.

I pray all of these things in the name of Jesus, my Savior and Lord. Amen.

Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/a-prayer-for-president-obama-84600/#MDydOz5VFi9KpFL5.99

(Reposted with the gracious permission of the author.)