Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, October 4, 2020

Shavuah Tov *|FNAME|*,

Believers Could Decide Every Election for God’s Glory (Part 1)

By Dr. and Senator Raymond Finney

INTRODUCTION: On November 3, 2020, the United States will elect a president and other office holders. Elections may be embarrassingly messy, and candidates may sink lower than many of those who elect them. The result is that either Donald Trump or Joe Biden will be sworn into office on January 20, 2021. I will explain (following) that we Believers could decide every election for the glory of God, helping to fulfill 2 Chronicles 7:14, but we choose not to do so.

HUMANS’ RIGHT OF SELF-GOVERNMENT: God granted humans the right of self-government in the Third Dispensation (Noahic Covenant) – see Genesis 8:15 and following verses. God trusted us, but we humans have repeatedly failed Him by installing corrupt, sinful governments. In spite of our human failures, we, as dual citizens of Heaven and earth, are told to take interest in governmental matters (as in the following sample of verses, summarized):

** (Psalm 22:29): Every kingdom belongs to Adonai, and He rules the nations.

** (Daniel 2:21b): God removes and installs kings (leaders).

** (Mark12:17a): Yeshua taught us to give to Caesar (the ruling government) things that belong to government, but give to God things that are His.

** (Romans 13:1-7): Let every person be subject to governing authorities. All authority comes from God. God will judge those who resist God-appointed authorities. 

** (Philippians 3:20): Our citizenship is in Heaven.

** (1 Timothy 2:1-2): Make requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving on behalf of all people for kings and all who are in authority so that the people may live a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and respectfulness. 

** (Titus 3:1): Submit and be obedient to rulers and those in authority.

** (1 Peter 2:13-17): For the Lord’s sake (for His will), be subject to every human institution. Live as a free people, not for evil purposes but as a servant of God. Honor the “emperor” (the nation’s leader).

** And other verses.

CAN WE DISCUSS POLITICS AT SHOMAIR YISRAEL? Are America’s churches and synagogues, fearing loss of IRS tax-exempt status and/or ruffling feathers of congregants, remiss in not discussing political matters?

● The controversy: What I write in this paragraph is controversial. Many students  would have us believe that America’s Founding Fathers had little to no faith. If we read the speeches, letters, and diaries of these men, however, they hoped  the United States would become a strong Judeo-Christian nation. If I had more space, I would present evidence of the uncommonly strong faith possessed by these men, as they carved a new nation from the North American wilderness.

● False teachers, false doctrines, and apostasy: We have tolerated far too many church/ synagogue leaders who quake at the thought of mentioning God or Yeshua in their houses of worship. We have been forewarned this would happen, however. A sample of last-day warnings (summarized) follows: 

** Yeshua: false messiahs and false prophets will appear (Matthew 24:24).

** Yeshua: beware of false prophets (vicious wolves disguised in sheep’s clothing); recognize a prophet by his/ her fruit (works), whether good or bad (Matthew 7:15-20).

** The Apostle Paul: in the last perilous days, there will arise corrupt leaders who will never know the knowledge of truth, will be worthless in faith, and will have an outward form of godliness but deny its power (2 Timothy 3:1-9).

** The Apostle Paul: the people will abandon sound doctrine (teaching), gathering teachers to themselves who will give them what their “itching ears” wish to hear, abandoning truth for myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

** The Apostle Paul: savage wolves will come among Believers, not sparing the flock but distorting truth to draw out their own disciples (Acts 20:28-30).

** The Apostle Peter: agreeing with Paul, guard against error and lawlessness (2 Peter 3:14-18).

** And so forth.

● Constitutional right: The rights of assembly and worship are guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution, which reads in part: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech,…; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble….” During the COVID-19 lockdowns, we have witnessed bigoted attempts by local government officials to discriminate against people of Judeo-Christian faith. In some cities, church attendance has been banned, while other gatherings attended by many people– bars, clubs, BLM “protests” (riots), abortion clinics, and the like– have been deemed “essential” or constitutionally protected and have been spared lockdowns. In the eyes of “Caesar,” it is acceptable to kill a baby or get drunk, but not to worship God. Oy to those who call evil good and good evil, who present darkness as light and light as darkness, who present bitter as sweet, and sweet as bitter! (Isaiah 5:20).

● Separation of church and state? “Separation of church and state” immediately and predictably rolls from the lips of anyone who would suppress public expression of faith in Yeshua outside of a closed house of worship. Really? What does this phrase mean? Does the phrase have legal or constitutional standing? Are Americans required to separate church and state?

Thomas Jefferson was the primary author of the Declaration of Independence and the third president of the United States, among other accomplishments. Jefferson was said to be “religious,” although he believed religion should be a personal matter, privately known only to each individual. Jefferson believed in Yeshua as a remarkable teacher and philosopher. However, he cut out with a razor the parts of the B’rit Chadashah with which he agreed, discarding the rest. He pasted the parts acceptable to him into his personal “bible,” a book now known as The Jefferson Bible (full name: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth). Jefferson discarded all of Yeshua’s miracles and most passages that mentioned Yeshua’s supernatural or divine qualities. In other words, Jefferson accepted Yeshua as a good Man, but not part of the Godhead.

The Danbury (Connecticut) Bible Association was a minority denomination, which feared their much-larger, neighboring denominations. The Baptists wrote Jefferson in October, 1801, complaining that their religious liberties seemed to be viewed by the state as “favors granted,” not as immutable rights.

Jefferson’s reply (January 1, 1802) stated his view of the nation’s response to the question of religious liberties, as articulated in the newly adopted Constitution. His letter contained the phrase “wall of separation between church and state.” 

I quote a relevant portion of Jefferson’s letter (as he wrote it) to the Danbury Baptists: “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, 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 & State….” Jefferson’s views on religion are complicated, and probably only he knew what he believed at any given time. Jefferson apparently believed in the the principle of government hospitality (openness) to religious activity, as long as such activity was voluntary and offered equally to all citizens. The phrase “wall of separation of church and state” is, I believe, Jefferson’s construction and is not part of the Constitution. 

The First Amendment contains two clauses– the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause– which, combined, grant an American the right to worship or not worship in any manner he/ she wishes. This amendment, as written, could be interpreted as a restriction of only one Branch of the federal government– the Congress– from legislating any worship restrictions. However, it is understood and practiced that the constitutional provisions of religious liberty extend to the other two Branches of federal government (Executive and Judicial) and to all state and local governments.

The United States is a constitutional republic. Our republican part of governance has been finally* established on democratic participation (“one man, one vote”) through elections. (* I write “finally” because, at one time, non-landowners, non-whites and women could not vote, but all can now vote.) Strong Judeo-Christian faith dominated proceedings, as the Founding Fathers and Constitutional Framers labored to create the United States. However, we are not a “Christian nation.” That is, we are not a theocracy. Jews, Christians (Protestants and Catholics), Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, and others of all faiths are equal before the law.

SIDELIGHT: At one time, the Tennessee Constitution (TC) banned “ministers of the Gospel” from being elected to the State Legislature. Article IX, Section 1 of the TC (adopted in 1796) stated: “Whereas ministers of the Gospel are by their profession, dedicated to God and the care of souls, and ought not to be diverted from the great duties of their functions; therefore, no minister of the Gospel, or priest of any denomination whatever, shall be be eligible to a seat in either House of the Legislature.” This gobbledygook provision stood for nearly two centuries until a Chattanooga minister led a challenge, resulting in overturn in 1978 of this obviously discriminatory provision. END sidelight.

WE POTENTIALLY COULD CONTROL EVERY ELECTION: Believers/ Christians have traditionally poor voting records. For many elections, it was stated that approximately one-third were not even registered, one-third were registered but stayed home, and only one-third actually voted. Elections were decided by the multitude of Believers/ Christians who did NOT vote. In the 2016 presidential election, there was a different turnout. Barna research (https://www.barna.com/research/notional-christians-big-election-story-2016/ ) indicates that there was an unexpectedly high turnout of evangelical Christians in 2016, who predominantly voted for Donald Trump (against Hillary Clinton?),  proving to be the margin of victory. Pollsters and pundits were “certain” that Clinton would win readily, and were surprised (shocked) that Trump won.

If voters of faith would ever study the issues, determine who was the better (more Godly) candidate, and vote for that candidate, we could begin to turn this nation around. We could build a more Godly nation. We could begin to see God heal our nation, as promised in 2 Chronicles 7:14 (“if My people…”). We Believers/ Christians have the power to make our nation into a God-fearing, God-honoring nation by actions at the voting booth, but we tend to be too lazy!

● Effect of Johnson amendment: Faith organizations depend on financial contributions to meet their budgets. Because these organizations have been recognized for their many charitable contributions in almost all communities throughout the nation, they are classified as 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations. Contributions to 501(c)(3) organizations are eligible for deductions to reduce the  income basis for federal income tax computation.

In 1954, then Senator Lyndon Johnson (D-Texas) pushed through Congress, without debate, H.R. 8300, which was enacted into law as part of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954. This amendment disallowed any contribution (deduction) to a 501(c)(3) organization (including churches and synagogues), if that organization  in any way promoted or opposed a political candidate.

Church/ synagogue leaders were, of course, greatly concerned about losing a major source of income, although it was clearly unfair. Religious organizations were muzzled, while labor unions, PACs, individual citizens, and others could donate great sums of political contributions. America’s pulpits were silenced by a vindictive Lyndon Johnson. (Senator Johnson, facing political opposition– especially from churches in Texas– found an easy way to silence his opposition.)

In May, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order to relax enforcement of the Johnson Amendment. Trump claimed he “got rid” of this amendment, which is untrue. A president cannot cancel an enacted law by executive order. Without reading more about this amendment than I care to do, I believe the Johnson Amendment is still part of the U.S. tax code, but may not be enforced. Rabbi Weiner should seek counsel of a competent attorney or accountant about this matter, rather than relying on anything I write in this RR.  (Rabbi’s note: And I will.)

TWO PERIODS OF AMERICAN GENIUS: I will discuss in next Sunday’s RR the remarkable advice of one of America’s greatest patriots. He lived during one of the United States’ two periods of genius– periods marked by uncommon, extraordinary events and accomplishments. I believe these periods might more appropriately be designated as “God’s blessings,” rather than “America’s genius.” These two periods, which each lasted only a few years, are:

FIRST PERIOD OF GENIUS– FOUNDATION OF A NEW NATION AS A CONSTITUTIONAL REPUBLIC: A few men, often called the “Founding Fathers,” assembled in Philadelphia to determine whether Great Britain’s North American colonies (which later became states) should sever their relationship with and dependency upon the British crown and establish an independent nation. Under British law, such action would be treason, punishable by hanging.

The Founding Fathers, all uncommonly wise and learned men, had long pondered, debated, and written about what government should be. Through their dedication and defiance of what they considered an immoral British government, they and the Constitutional Framers who followed them crafted the best form of government ever devised. We have lost their vision. The present American government– too often populated by corrupt, self-serving, mental and moral dwarfs– is but a poor shadow of the original plan for our government.

Because of the work of this handful of men, primarily in the late eighteenth century, the United States of America was born. A remarkable covenant– the Constitution– between the people (the governed) and the government was drafted by the Constitutional Framers. Peoples the world over recognize the brilliance of our Constitution, wishing their nations had similar protections. All of our laws must be based on this great document. There are attempts to erode or abolish the Constitution with, say, Islamic (Sharia) law and international (United Nations, World Court) law. The future Antichrist must be laughing, as he sees his future goal of a one-world government gaining support.

No longer do we have the genius of a group of citizens of the caliber of the Founding Fathers and Constitutional Framers. Or, if present, their voices are drowned out by Hollywood celebrities, television pundits, narcissistic politicians, partisan media, smug professors, lackadaisical citizens, and others who have no vision for or love of the United States. Many accept their nonsensical noise.

SECOND PERIOD OF GENIUS– DEFEAT OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION AND WORLD WAR II VICTORY: During the 1930s and first half of the 1940s, two overwhelming dangers beset the United States and the rest of the world– the Great Depression and World War II.

The Great Depression was far more devastating than recent recessions. Grinding poverty gripped America and the rest of the world. At the same time, America and her allies (Great Britain, USSR, and others) fought a world war against the Axis Powers– the Third Reich (Nazi Germany), led by Adolf Hitler; Fascist Italy, led by Benito Mussolini; and the Empire of Japan, led by Hirohito. Global civilian and military carnage experienced in that war was horrendous (70 to 85 million deaths). World War II, which ended in 1945, is the last war won by America. In multiple wars over the following seventy-five years (1945 to 2020), America has not experienced a military victory despite expenditure of trillions of dollars and sacrifice of lives and limbs of so many young men and women!

Through the dedication and hard work of millions of Americans, America survived the Great Depression and defeated the Axis Powers. The generation alive at that time has appropriately been called the “Greatest Generation.” Surely this generation was the greatest of all American generations. Who cannot marvel at their accomplishments and sacrifices? Most chose to say little about their efforts when life returned to normal, as they quietly took jobs, resumed education, bought little homes, married, and started families.

Most men and women of the Greatest Generation are no longer with us. Having laid down their rifles, plows, and rivet guns, they are now at eternal rest. America has truly lost a Greatest Generation treasure in our communties. I am certain America could not now overcome the challenges faced by Americans in the 1930s and 1940s. Present-day Americans do not have the work ethic and character of this earlier generation. **SARCASM ALERT: As a society, we Americans are regressing, but, rejoice, we do have social media and handheld communication devices.

SIDELIGHT: If you know a member of America’s Greatest Generation, warmly, genuinely thank him or her for his or her service to our nation. You and your family owe your liberty to this generation. Unfortunately, Americans tend to treat elderly people shamefully. They are not shameful; they are national treasures. END sidelight.

TO BE CONTINUED: In next Sunday’s RR, I will discuss George Washington’s Farewell Address to our nation. This address is one of America’s most important historical documents. The United States would be a much greater nation, if we had heeded Washington’s loving advice– advice based on his patriotism, love for America, experience, fears for the actions of selfish men and women, and deep faith in God, but we have ignored him. Until next Sunday, Shalom and Maranatha.